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the chase

This recipe.

This recipe.

I’ve been chasing it for a long time.

It started with a birthday (Alyson‘s) and a pan that I had bought over Thanksgiving last year. Last year, folks.

It continued with a pâte sucrée that took months to perfect.

There were few false starts. The caramel burned. The pâte fell apart. The caramel burned again. And then.

And then one tarte had the potential for greatness. The wine and sugar caramelized. The pears softened. The pâte rolled out and tucked in beautifully.

But then.   

But then it fell short.

Note to self, peel and cut more pears to fill the center.

And finally, finally last week, perfection. Or pretty damn close.

Or course, when the tarte cooperates, the sun does not.

I actually placed the tarte on a rolling cart and chased the sun around my apartment. I finally got one good shot of the whole tarte in all its glory. Scroll back up to the top if you want to relive this shining moment.

Ilana came over to “taste” this year’s version of the tarte.

There wasn’t very much left over.

Tarte Tatin aux Poires et Vin

Serves 6-8. (Or 1 hungry Ilana.)

This tarte was inspired by a recipe in Food & Wine but unfortunately I found the proportions, use of puff pastry, and cooking time to be off target, resulting in a burnt mess on my first attempt. Instead, I adapted the tarte tatin recipe included with my tarte pan to incorporate red wine into the caramel and replace traditional apples with pears. This is a recipe that is not for the faint of heart. There’s a crust to make from scratch. Caramel to try not to burn. A breath-stopping flip of a juicy tarte. This is a special occasion dessert.

- 2 C red wine (I’ve made it with house red, Bordeaux, and Cabernet)

- 2 cinnamon sticks

- 1/4 C butter (or margarine)

- 1/2 C sugar

- 3-4 Bartlett or d’Anjou pears

- 1 batch pâte brisée or sucrée (see below) or prepared pie crust

Preheat. Preheat oven to 400°F

Reduce. Bring wine and cinnamon sticks to a boil, reducing down to about 1/4 C of syrup. This takes about 10 minutes. The kitchen will start to smell like cinnamon.

Caramelize. In the tarte tatin pan, melt butter/margarine with the sugar and stir frequently over low-medium heat (I use #3 – 4 on my induction stove) until it starts to turn a golden brown. Watch carefully. Really carefully. The second it starts to turn brown, take it off the heat. Turn down the heat and return the pan to the burner and let it get a little more golden. Watch it like a hawk. Add the wine syrup and simmer on low.

Cut. While the wine is boiling and then the sugar is caramelizing, peel and core the pears. I used a mini melon baller to help core them. I have made this with halves and quarters and find that while halves may look prettier, quarters are easier to slice and eat.

Cook. Arrange the halves (cut side up) or quarters (on their sides or belly side up if they’ll balance) in a circle around the pan (still on low heat) with thin ends pointed in. Cook for 15 – 20 minutes over low heat. The caramel will bubble up as the pears soften and pear juices seep out.

Roll. Take cold pâte sucrée out of freezer/fridge and roll between two sheets of wax paper into a circle about 1-2 inches larger than your tatin pan. Remove the top sheet, flip the crust over the fruit, and peel away the wax paper, tucking the dough in around the edges. Cut a few slits into the crust so steam can escape.

Bake. Bake 30 minutes until crust turns a nice brown.

Unveil. After cooling the tarte for a few minutes, place a plate (slightly larger than the tatin pan) over the pan, hold your  breath for a second, and carefully flip the tatin on to the plate. Excellent warm or at room temperature. Try it with vanilla ice cream or gelato.

For  pâte sucrée crust:

- 1 1/4 C flour

- 2 T confectioner’s sugar

- 1/4 t salt

- 6 T butter/margarine, partially frozen

- 1 egg yolk

- 3T cold water

Pulse. Add flour, sugar, and salt to food processor and mix. Add frozen butter/margarine and pulse ~ 10 times until the consistency of corn meal.

Pulse again.  Add egg yolk and 1T cold water, and pulse ~ 5 times.

Pulse again. Add 1T cold water, and pulse ~5 times.

Get the picture? Add the last 1T cold water, a little at a time, pulsing in between additions, until the dough starts to come together, but is still a bit crumbly.

Wrap. Gather the dough into a ball, flatten out, and wrap in plastic wrap.

Freeze. Freeze for 20 minutes before using. Or freeze until the next time you want to make a galette or pie or tart or tarte tatin – and then defrost at room temperature for about 15 minutes before using.

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Infused honey from Herb Lyceum

Rosh Hashana, falling around the beginning of the scholastic year, always feels more like the start of the year than the New Year according to the solar calendar. Like last year, I will be hosting my parents and sister as well as a bunch of other guests and will be cooking up a storm. As I prepare for the days of feasts, I’ve been collecting recipes and want to share my research, decision-making process, and menus. Please feel free to send me your favorite holiday recipes as well, either in the comments section or by emailing me directly.

By “holidays,” I am referring not just to Rosh Hashana, but Yom Kippur, and Sukkot. This year, RH and Sukkot fall on shabbat and Sunday so much of the food needs to be prepared in advance if you keep shabbat.

This Year’s Rosh Hashana Mealsthis is the one time of year that I make food that is more traditional. I will be dinner for 8 (basri, or meat), lunch for 8 (basri), dinner for 4 (chalavi, or dairy), and lunch for 4-8 (basri leftovers)

Included in all meals: the most beautiful challah in the world (challah à la danois, pic below, recipe is my bread machine challah, and braiding technique to come soon; I’ll make it into a ring for RH), apples and honey*, new fruit (kumquats? baby kiwis? star fruit?)

challah a la danois

Dinner 1 (for 8-9, basri)

- Soup – possibly Cauliflower Turmeric with Hazelnuts (parve) or Chicken Soup

C&Z's Soupe de Chou-Fleur, Curcuma, et Noisette - NOTE, mine is much yellower than Clotilde's

- Tomato and Onion Braised Brisket – I made this last year and have had special requests for it from my family — they particularly like the crusty bits; this year I will be making it in my new cocotte

- Moroccan-style Roasted Pomegranate Chicken – Another winner from last year and really easy, works for boneless-skinless chicken breast; Alternative chicken dish is Pomegranate Chicken Kebabs (pic and link to recipe below)– good on a grill or George Foreman and great served hot or room temperature

pomegranate chicken kabobs cooling, ready to pack up

- White Bean Salad or Black Bean and Corn Salad

- Quinoa Salad with lime cumin dressing or with sundried tomatoes and basil (pics and link to recipes below)

quinoa mango salad with lime cumin dressing

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

- Starch: Mashed Potatoes (my sisters favorite) OR Orzo or p’titim/Israeli CousCous with Garlic Scape Pesto (I froze much of my batch; pictured below on perciatelli)

scape pesto on perciatelli

- Large Salad (to be brought by our guests)

- Fruit Salad (to be brought by our guests)

- Apple Tarte Tatin or a Gateau Pomme-Poire – to use Not Derby Pie’s “The Easiest Cake Ever” recipe with apples and pears

Lunch 1 (for 6-8, basri)

- Leftover Soup

- Leftover Brisket and Chicken

- Smoked Fish – sable, tuna, salmon from Nantucket Wild

Nantucket's hot- and cold-smoked wild tuna

-Haricots Verts aux Noisettes (pic and link to recipe below)

close-up

- Kibbutz Herb Salad: arugula, spinach, herbs – mint/cilantro/basil, tomatoes, toasted almonds (pic and link to recipe below)

kibbutz herb salad

- Bistro Chocolate Cake (recipe just posted)

Bistro Chocolate Cake

- Honey Madeleines (pic and link to recipe below)bowl of madeleines

Dinner 2 (for 4, chalavi)

- Cucumber Gazpacho (recipe sent to me by Chef Chris Parsons, from Catch Restaurant, and using the Oikos Greek yogurt that Stonyfield Farm sent me)

- Pea Shoots Salad – pea shoots, tomatoes, roasted corn-off-the-cob (pic and link to recipe below)

pea shoots, tomato, and corn off the cob

- Salmon – recipe TBD…suggestions anyone?

- Baked Brie – another repeat request from last year (pic and link to recipe below)

baked brie sans croute, missing a slice

- Lemon Mascarpone Tart (pic and link to recipe below)

slice from above

Lunch 2 (6-8, probably basri)

- Whoo, I’m fresh out of ideas…last year I made deli wraps by the time we got to the 4th meal!

* Tapuchim U’dvash: Apples and Honey

It is traditional on Rosh Hashana to eat apples dipped in honey. Round apples (like round challahs) represent the world and cyclical nature of life. Honey is symbolic of a sweet new year. I found an article about different types of apples to help choose the best ones to eat and cook. My personal faves for eating are Fuji and Braeburn (and they are usually available and crispy year-round) and Crispins in the fall. For cakes/pies, I often use a mix of eating apples, more tart ones like Granny Smiths, and more soft ones like Golden Delicious for a variety of tastes and textures. I love buying apples at farmers markets when possible.

Before Rosh Hashana, I try to  buy a new jar or two of honey. This usually lasts me an entire year. Last year, I  bought Granja San Francisco Blossom Honey imported from Spain. This year, I bought some mint honey and some lemon verbena honey from the Herb Lyceum stand at the Copley Square Farmers Market (picture at top).

Yom Kippur Pre-Fast Menu – can’t deal with this yet and I’ll probably do something small, going to a friend’s for the Break-Fast

Sukkot Menus – can’t deal with this yet either

NOTE, the one meal I do love to make on Simchat Torah is late brunch post-hakafot. Sometimes I put my waffle iron on a timer. This year, I might make pancakes.

stacked

The Best of the Web (friends, Tweeps, Chefs, and Strangers): Feasting

- My friend Joel Haber (aka “Fun Joel” — seriously, Joel arrives and fun ensues ) wrote an article for the Jewish Journal (LA) with a bunch of internationally-inspired Rosh Hashana recipes. The article is entitled “Embodying Unity in Your Rosh Hashana Meal” and includes a recipe for sweet and savory Carrot Kugel that I just may try (coming from me, that’s saying a lot because kugel scares me!)

- Rosh Hashana Top Ten from Janna Gur, author of The Book of New Israeli Food (and whom I met a few months ago): check out the Beetroot and Pomegranate salad (I learned how to make it the class I took from her so I can personally vouch for it), Spicy Moroccan-style Fish, and Apple and Calvados Cake (I’d probably leave off the walnuts).

- NY Times article by Joan Nathan: “Rosh Hashana, Circa 1919″, including a recipe for poppy seed cake (9/16/09)

- LA Times article: “Rosh Hashana, Tunisian Style” with recipes from Got Kosher? Provisions take out and caterer in the Pico-Robertson area of LA. I was excited to find this article and accompanying recipes, including one for artichoke hearts with harissa salad, provided by Alain Cohen because he is related to the owner of Les Ailes in Paris — one of my favorite kosher North African restaurants, butcher, bakery, and take-out counter located next door to Folies Bergère. No trip to Paris for me is complete without at least one visit to the 9e arrondisement to grab a sandwich or salads to keep me going for the day or provisions for an overnight train to Berlin!

- 11 Holiday Menus from Epicurious for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur – I’ve chosen my favorite menus (and excluded the ones that are not kosher)

- Rosh Hashana Menus: Israeli, Sephardic, “Elegant”, Hungarian (by Joan Nathan – Jewish Cooking in America), and Italian (by Joyce Goldstein – Cucina Ebraica)

- Yom Kippur Break-fast Menus: Traditional Buffet (bagels and fish), Another Buffet (including apple spice cake and quiche – with non-kosher options, but quiche got rave reviews)

The Best of the Web: Imbibing

Every year, various publications put out top lists of kosher wines for the holidays. Sometimes these come out before Passover when every seder participant is required to drink 4 glasses of wine. My personal preference runs to Bordeaux and Bordeaux-style reds (including some of the nice ones coming out of Israel), but my family likes lighter white wines, including the infamous Moscato, which we call Sprite. Among whites, I also like a spicy Alsacian or German Gewürztraminer (Abarbanel makes a great one).

Here are a few lists that I have found recently (I have tried to post ones with prices when possible).

- Erika Strum’s Top 10 Kosher Wines – from March 2009, after attending the Kosher Wine and Food Expo and ranging in price from $15-$100; I attended this event in 2007 and first tried some of the wines that have become my faves and that Erika and I agree on. They include Domaine Du Castel Grand Vin 2005, Judean Hills (I actually prefer the Petit Castel and not because it’s less pricey but because it’s a bit of a softer Bordeax-style), Flor de Primavera Peraj Ha’abib, Capcanes 2005, Montsant Spain (I also like the Petita), and Hai, The Patriots 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Judean Hills, Israel (I recently bought this to try). As you can tell, I’m a red fan. Tasting notes and links are in Erika’s article.

- The Wine Spectator’s Kosher Wines for the High Holidays – referenced on HaKerem and including a few Gewürztraminer options in case I can’t find the Abarbanel one.

- Epicurious Top 5 Kosher Wines (date unclear, but probably recent as I have had some of these wines recently): I can personally vouch for the Gonzalez Byass Tio Pepe Palomino Fino Sherry for drinking and cooking and the Goose Bay 2007 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (my friends and I used to order this all the time last year at Clubhouse Cafe). I am looking forward to trying the Flechas de Los Andes 2007 Gran Malbec (Argentina) and generally enjoy Segal’s Cabernets

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you had me at lamb

spoon lamb with brown rice

If you’re a foodblogger, do you sometimes find that you cook more for your blog than you do for your friends?

Well, I was clearly doing that on Friday.

What was I thinking? The below menu for two people? Please, feel free to laugh. That’s what I did! You can see what I planned and then what really happened.

Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread, as reported by Mark Bittman in the NYT and as brought to my attention by Jess at Sweet Amandine - baked it at 425º instead of 450º — recipe not yet perfected

Unió olive oil for dipping — this stuff is good enough plain (there’s a pic of it in my kibbutz herb salad) 

Roasted garlic forgot to serve

Warm za’atar olives forgot to make

Spicy carrot tortellini with lemon-cumin sauce- a hit!

Bean and walnut paté – recipe in the Ana Sortun link, not seasoned enough, a bit unctuous, and we didn’t even touch it despite its being on the table

Vic’s salad: Israeli-style salad with olivesdidn’t serve because I had made it earlier in the day and  it was not fresh enough for my Israeli friend’s palate…that’s OK, we had WAY too much other food

Green salad (maybe) - nope

Spoon lamb (see below) - FABULOUS!

Couscousno couscous in pantry, made brown basmati rice with caramelized onions instead

Roasted asparagus

Blueberries and golden raspberries with mint simple syrup (or a splash of lemon juice + mint) √ fresh from Harvard Yard farmers market near the Science Center

If I have time: Almond butter cookies with just almonds (no chocolate chunks)no time

Just in case: a slice of apple strudel and mini fruit tart from Catering by Andrew (the only place I know of around here to pick up good kosher patisserie) √ thank G-d for plan B, and the tart had a nice almond frangipane base

***

Ummm, in case you couldn’t quite follow that, here’s what we actually ate:

Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread

Unió olive oil for dipping

Spicy carrot tortellini with lemon-cumin sauce

Spoon lamb (recipe below)

Brown basmati rice with caramelized onions

Roasted asparagus

Blueberries and golden raspberries with mint simple syrup

A slice of apple strudel and mini fruit tart from Catering by Andrew

While impressed with the variety and ambition of the meal, my friend said that I could have made only the lamb and tortellini, and he would have been just as impressed. And thrilled with dinner. I said next time, I’m just making spaghetti and meatballs…

But, honestly, this lamb was amazing. I’ve never made lamb before and this could not have been easier (most of the time is spent with the lamb in the oven). I was a bit apprehensive because I know that lamb is fatty, but this recipe came out not only exquisitely tender (hence the name “spoon lamb”), but the fat cooked off into the braising sauce, and you then skim it off after refrigerating. For a first attempt at a recipe, this was incredibly rewarding.

Ana Sortun’s Spoon Lamb

Spoon Lamb

The recipe is adapted from Ana Sortun’s Spoon Lamb in “Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean,” as quoted in Julia Moskin’s NYT article entitled, THE CHEF: ANA SORTUN; Spices by the Handful, Not by the Pinch” (June 14, 2006). The main modification I made is that I halved the recipe, and have reflected that in my quantities here. I did however keep the amount of vegetables the same. Time: 3 hours plus at least 1 hour’s chilling.

Serves 2 with lots and lots of leftovers.

- 1T canola oil
– 3 lamb shoulder chops, 10 to 12 ounces each
– 1 1/4 cups dry red wine (I used an excellent Bordeaux)
– 2 t ground cumin
– 3 cloves garlic, smashed
– 2 carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
– 1 large onion, peeled and quartered
– 1 T pomegranate concentrate – I used Sadaf brand (RCC), purchased at Tabrizi Bakery in Watertown, MA (original recipe called for pomegranate molasses, sold in Middle Eastern markets)
-2 T cold unsalted margarine, cut into 2 pieces (original recipe called for butter, but I substituted margarine to keep the dish kosher)
– Salt and pepper to taste
– 1 lemon, halved
– 2 tablespoons finely chopped mint (optional – I fogot this!)

Rather than using multiple pots and pans (the original recipe calls for at least one skillet and a roasting pan), I made the entire dish in a single large deep Calphalon skillet that went pretty easily from stovetop to oven. I covered the plastic-coated handles in aluminum foil to protect them in the oven.

Heat oven to 325ºF. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add lamb chops and brown on both sides, about 4 minutes a side. Remove chops to a plate.

lamb chops in skillet

browned 4 mins, each side

Pour off any fat from skillet and deglaze with 1/4 cup red wine, scraping up browned bits.

Replace chops in skillet roasting pan and sprinkle cumin over lamb. Add garlic, carrot, onion, remaining 1 cup wine and enough water to reach halfway up chops (I always add a bit extra water, actually reaching about 3/4 up the chops). Cover with two sheets of aluminum foil and seal tightly with lid of skillet. Braise in oven 2 1/2 hours, until falling off bone.

after 2.5 hours braising

Remove lamb and carrots from pan. Strain juices (pressing remaining solids through cheesecloth) into a bowl. Refrigerate braising liquid until fat rises to surface and can be skimmed off and discarded, at least 1 hour or up to 2 days. (Lamb and carrots can be refrigerated separately.)

090 sharp square
In a skillet big enough to hold lamb (I used the same one that I initially browned the lamb chops in), simmer liquid until reduced by about half and thickened but not syrupy (~7 minutes). Stir in pomegranate concentrate and margarine, and season with salt and pepper. Squeeze in one lemon half. Taste and add more lemon and salt, if necessary. Reheat lamb and carrots in sauce over low heat, turning occasionally, for 10 minutes. Serve, sprinkled with mint, if desired (I forgot), and with rice.

no knife or fork necessary

A special thank you to Anu from Swirl Savvy for some last minute wine tips, and the staff at the Butcherie for their assistance in choosing three beautiful bone-in shoulder chops for this dish, explaining how to identify quality cuts with a good ratio of meat, bone, and fat (beginning to redeem themselves via quality customer service, despite some of my initial reservations about their hours).

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006-copy

The first time I made sangria sorbet, it was a bit of a happy accident. And, I figured, no better time to make it than Passover when there is tons of wine floating around. And who better to share the recipe with than you, chers amis. Well, things did not quite go as planned. I started a happy little blog entry that went something like this:

After you’ve finished your Passover seder, you probably have some extra open bottles of wine left over. You could drink them, but I love turning them into this surprising dessert that’s a twist on the Spanish favorite. It is a great use of leftovers and I made it after last week’s pre-Pesach shabbat dinner with some remaining fruit and half a bottle of Merlot. I’ve given some guidelines below, but use whatever you have around and like.

Remember to make it a bit sweeter than you might normally drink.

Here is the lovely picture of my heaping cup of berries, macerating in the juice of a lime for about 10 minutes, ready to add the wine, orange liqueur, and simple syrup.

berries macerating with lime juice; merlot, mandarino liquour, and simple syrup ready to pour

I then added the equal amounts of wine (Baron Herzog 2005 Merlot), simple syrup (1.5:1 parts sugar:water) — 2 C each — and 2 shots of orange liqueur (Bartenura Mandarino). And stuck in the freezer. But, alas, when I was ready to aerate with my immersion blender as I had in the past, the mixture was not even slushy. This, after 4 hours. Back in the freezer for another few hours. Still liquid.

I expected a slushy mix due to the high alcohol and sugar content, but this was ridiculous. So, I added a cup of water. A few hours back in the freezer, and voilà– a little better. Mind you, it’s now been freezing for over 12 hours.

Well, I added a tray of ice cubes and whipped with my immersion blender. Back to the freezer overnight. Next morning – still a liquidy slush, but it tasted pretty good.

a liquidy slush

Not content and seeing a little more room in the container, I added a final cup of water to help it freeze, crossed my fingers and headed South to see my family for the seders. And go South indeed the sorbet went.

When I got home last night, I was pleased to see that the sorbet had FINALLY frozen somewhat solid. I aerated again with my immersion blender, hoping for the best, but the flavor is less intense than I like and the texture is still a bit gritty. It tastes like a mediocre, watered down berry granita with a slight off-taste that is the alcohol. I’m done with the doctoring. Into the trash it will go. But I did get some half-decent pictures.

<sigh>

I’ll have to work on this for next time. More fruit, no water, add orange juice. Because the first time I made it, c’était si bon. The second time – too much doctoring. Third time will have to be the charm … bon courage à moi! Because I need a little encouragement after this little disaster.

007-cropped1

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