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a worthy trial

Happy Passover!

My first seder this year had all the familiar comforts of traditional Ashkenazi fare surrounded by family. We ordered dinner from the same caterer we’ve been relying on for over 30 years since the first Passover my Bubbie hosted after her husband, my Poppie, passed away. The menu’s remained virtually identical over all those years (though this time we went crazy and got mashed potatoes instead of roasted), and we like it that way.

For the second seder, I returned to New York and went to the James Beard House where Chef Raffi Cohen of Raphael in Tel Aviv prepared a Sephardic feast. While I don’t typically eat kitniyot – legumes, grains, and seeds – on the holiday, I was happy to partake and experience another way of celebrating. The room was filled with flowers – not in vases, but adorning hair and lapels with headbands and boutonnieres that the organizers had woven together in the weeks leading up to dinner.

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The flowers and the menu – fresh fava beans, artichokes, young lamb, corn “couscous” – reminded me that Passover is also known as “chag ha’aviv,” the holiday of spring.

I’ll be spending the last days of Passover with my Atlanta family and baked a few sweet snacks to bring along. While I never got around to trying Claudia Roden’s almond orange cake like I said I would, I have developed a mandel bread recipe.

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One of the fun things about Passover cooking is the challenge that ingredient limitations bring. Granted, I’m lucky enough not to have to pull off entire meals, so I can find joy in making just a few special dishes. I love biscotti and thought that mandel bread would be a worthy trial of my own self-inflicted Passover baking restrictions: no matzah meal, no cake meal, no potato starch.

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Mandelbrodt in Yiddish means almond bread, and I was determined to come up with a recipe that only uses 100% almond flour. Extensive searching yielded few results (thanks Molly and Jessica for helping me on my quest) and both of those recipes used little to no egg. Eggs are important for biscotti and their double-baked brethren. Which brings us to a little science and how I worked out this recipe. I’ve done enough experimenting with biscotti to have figured out a few tricks to yield cookies that are crispy and crunchy but not tooth-shatteringly hard. (Remind me to tell you about the job I clinched with a  presentation about biscotti).

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Mandel bread typically contains oil which results in a moister, crumblier cookie compared to biscotti, but since I was using almond flour which has a lot of its own oil, I figured I could hold off on the oil and see how things turned out. (Plus, I didn’t feel like going out to buy Passover vegetable oil.)

To prevent the cookies from becoming leaden, I whipped the eggs with sugar for a good five minutes. This aerates the dough and helps the mandel bread stay light and airy. I learned this trick from Joanne Chang of Flour Bakery.

Most mandel bread recipes call for baking powder, but I substituted baking soda (doesn’t require special Passover certification, plus, I didn’t feel like going to to buy Passover baking powder – are you sensing a theme here?) and then added a little bit of lemon juice as an acid to activate the chemical leavener.

Bored yet?

No worries. I’ll just leave you with the recipe.

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Chocolate chunk mandelbrodt/mandel bread

Makes 4 dozen

– 3 eggs
– 1 C sugar
– 1/2 t almond extract (optional)
– 1/2 t baking soda
– 1 t lemon juice
– 4 C almond flour
– 1 C raw almonds, chopped
– 5 oz dark chocolate, chopped or 1 C semi-sweet chocolate chips

Prep. Heat the oven to 350ºF. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Whip. Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or a hand-held mixer), beat together the eggs, sugar, and extract on medium-high for 5-6 minutes, or until the mixture is light and thick and lemon colored.

Mix. Switch to the paddle attachment on your mixer or grab a large spoon or spatula. Mix in the baking soda and lemon juice. Gently fold in the almond flour just until it’s incorporated – the mixture will be thick and sticky. Mix in the nuts and chocolate.

Bake. Form the dough into two long, skinny logs on the baking sheet, about 16 inches long and 2 inches wide, making sure to leave space between them because they will spread a bit. There will be a lot of patting and nudging, but eventually you’ll wrangle it into the right shape. Wet your hands to keep the dough from sticking to them too much. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the logs are golden brown, cracked, and firm to the touch in the middle.

Lower heat. Reduce oven to 300ºF.

Cool. Allow the loaves to cool on the baking sheet for about 20 minutes until they’re cool enough to handle.

Slice. Transfer the loaves to a cutting board and, with a sharp serrated knife, slice on a diagonal into 1/2-inch cookies, approximately 2 dozen per loaf.

Bake again. Return the slices, cut side down, to the baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the sheet, flip the slices, and return to the oven for another 15 minutes.

Cool. Let cool completely.

Store. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

the bialys

At the end of last year, I baked from and wrote about The Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook and never posted the link or photo here. So, this afternoon, just a mere few days before Passover, I’m remedying that with author Jessamyn Waldman Rodriguez’s bialys. Sorry folks, I know it’s cruel, but if you keep scrolling down, I’ll link to a few of the Passover sweets that I’ll be bringing to the seders.

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But first, let’s talk about this cookbook and the bialys. The Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook combines so much of what I love about the food industry in one place and is a reflection of the great work that Hot Bread Kitchen does. HBK is a commercial bakery that turns out a variety of breads reflecting the ethnic diversity of the largely immigrant staff who participate in and graduate from the Bakers in Training program, the social enterprise side of the business. HBK also houses an incubator that helps build out new food companies. HBK is all about great food driven by a mission and supportive of entrepreneurship.

As further proof of its special-ness, the cookbook won Food52‘s The Piglet tournament of cookbooks this year, edging out some of my other faves including those that have showed up on these very pages: Modern Jewish Cooking (Leah Koenig‘s hamantashen dough is the best I’ve ever worked with) and Zahav: A world of Israeli cooking (salads! laffa!).

As for the bialys, before I even attempted to bake a batch, I read Mimi Sheraton‘s The Bialy Eaters, the story of the author’s journey across the world to find a truly authentic version of these onion- and poppy seed-flecked rolls. Rodriguez and her team used Sheraton’s parameters to develop their signature bialy and, shortly after launching this product, the bialy aficionado called with praise.

Like many recipes in the book, the one for bialys had several sub-recipes, which can be (and was to me) daunting. Nonetheless, I overcame my intimidation, set aside a day when I could work on other things at home while the dough was undergoing multiple risings, and followed the detailed instructions. The result: a dozen airy bialys with a crisp crust and a deep well of golden onions and poppy seeds. I burnt my fingertips on the first couple, brought a few to a friend’s shabbat dinner (I was unabashedly stingy and greedy when it came to my bialys), and stashed away the rest in the freezer. My frozen supply has dwindled, and Friday morning I plan to pop the last one into a warm oven, slather it with salted butter, and enjoy my last bite of leavened bread for a week.

In the interim, I’ll be baking up a slew of Passover desserts: these macaroons with lime zest instead of orange, chocolate hazelnut cake-lets, and some version of Claudia Roden’s almond orange cake (more on that later once I get the recipe right). And don’t forget matzah brei.

And for a little bit of Passover reading, check out Dan Barber‘s piece in last weekend’s NY Times: “Why Is This Matzo Different From All Other Matzos?“.

Bialys

Adapted from The Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook by Jessamyn Waldman Rodriguez.

This recipe requires some advance planning since the first step is to make a pâte fermentée – a pre-ferment dough and allow it a slow rise in the fridge overnight. The bialys really are best straight from the oven, but after a day or two, I just pop them in the oven for a few minutes to crisp up the outsides. They freeze nicely too. 

When I spoke with HBK’s Jessamyn Waldman Rodriguez, she recommended dipping the flattened dough disks (step six) into a bowl of cornmeal before placing them on the baking sheets. This will result in extra crunch along the bottom and sides of the bialys, achieving an ideal texture.

Makes 12 (5-inch) bialys

Bialy dough 
1⅓ cups/320 g lukewarm water
3½ cups plus 2 tablespoons/465 g bread flour, plus more for shaping
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons/150 g (risen and deflated)
Pâte fermentée (see below), cut into walnut-size pieces
¾ teaspoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon kosher salt

Filling
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 medium yellow onions, finely diced (6 cups/900 g)
½ cup/60 g fine dried bread crumbs
1½ tablespoons poppy seeds
½ teaspoon kosher salt

1) To make the bialy dough: Put the water and flour in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, and mix for 2 minutes. Let rest for 20 minutes.

2) Add the pâte fermentée, yeast, and salt and mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are completely combined. Add a little more water if this hasn’t happened in 3 minutes. Increase the speed to medium to medium-high and mix until the dough is smooth, pulls away from the sides of the bowl (and leaves the sides clean), has a bit of shine, and makes a slapping noise against the sides of the bowl, 5 to 7 minutes. Do the windowpane test* to check to see if the gluten is fully developed.

3) Dust a clean bowl lightly with flour and transfer the dough to it. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap (or put the whole bowl in a large plastic bag) and let stand at room temperature until doubled in volume, about 1 hour and 30 minutes.

4) Meanwhile, to prepare the filling: Heat the oil in a large skillet set over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring now and then, until they just begin to brown and have reduced to about a third of their original volume, about 20 minutes. Transfer the onions to a bowl and stir in the bread crumbs, poppy seeds and salt. Set aside to cool.

5) Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces (each weighing about 2¾ ounces/80 g). Form each piece into a small bun, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest for 5 minutes. Proceeding in the same order in which you shaped the pieces into balls, flatten each ball with the heel of your hand into a disk about 4 inches/10 cm in diameter.

6) Line the backs of 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Put the disks on the baking sheets, evenly spaced and at least an inch apart. Loosely cover with plastic wrap. Let stand until the rolls are very soft and hold an indentation when you touch them lightly, 1 hour to 1 hour and 30 minutes.

7) Put a pizza stone on the middle rack of the oven and preheat to 500°F. Let the stone heat up for at least 30 minutes.

8) Uncover the bialys and, using the pads of both your index and middle fingertips, make a depression in the center of each disk of dough. Put about 2 tablespoons filling in the center of each bialy, spreading it out so it fills the center.

9) In one swift motion, slide the bialys and the parchment onto the pizza stone. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for a few minutes (discard the parchment).

10) Serve immediately. Leftovers can be kept in an airtight plastic bag at room temperature for 2 days.

* Windowpane test: Whether you mix your dough in a mixer or by hand, the final check to make sure the gluten in your dough is properly developed is called the windowpane test. Tear off a small piece of dough about the size of a golf ball. If it is sticky, dredge it through a little extra flour to make it easy to handle. Use your hands to gently stretch the dough from all sides until it forms a thin, nearly transparent layer that you can see the light through if you old it up to an actual window or light. If you can stretch the dough to that state, it means the gluten is developed and your bread is ready to rise. Simply press the small dough ball back into the large one and proceed. If, on the other hand, your dough tears before you can stretch it thin enough to see the light through it, keep kneading it until it passes the test.

Pâte Fermentée

Makes about 1¼ cups (risen and deflated)

Pâte fermentée is an ingredient in many recipes in the lean and enriched doughs chapters. You need to make it eight to twenty-four hours before you bake your bread. This extra step extends fermentation time and allows you to achieve a light, flavorful loaf with less yeast. Pâte fermentée contains the ingredients of simple French bread dough—flour, water, yeast, and salt—so, in a pinch, you could bake and eat it. Unlike other types of pre-ferments, such as levain, pâte fermentée does not impart a sour flavor to the bread. Instead it adds depth of flavor and extends the shelf life of your bread. If you make bread often, you can save the trimmings from lean doughs to use in your pâte fermentée. More likely, if you are making a rustic batard, traditional challah or any number of the breads in “The Hotbread Kitchen Cookbook,” you will mix a batch of the pâte fermentée the day before, then refrigerate it until you are ready to bake.

½ cup plus 1 teaspoon/120 g
Lukewarm water
⅔ teaspoon active dry yeast
1⅓ cups plus 1 tablespoon/180 g bread flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt

1) Put the water and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, then add the flour and salt. Mix on low speed for 2 minutes until combined into a shaggy dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

2) Refrigerate the mixture for a minimum of 8 hours and a maximum of 24. (There is no need to return it to room temperature before using.)

3) If you’re measuring the pâte fermentée rather than weighing it, be sure to deflate it with a wooden spoon or with floured fingertips before measuring.

 

 

 

snippet

One afternoon last week, I walked uptown to a doctor’s appointment. (No worries, nothing’s wrong – it was just an overdue checkup.) The air was supersaturated, the sky overcast, and the humidity forced me to remove first my scarf, then my jacket until all I was wearing was jeans and a T, the scarf stuffed in my purse, the jacket tied around my waist like a college ex-boyfriend’s flannel button-down. It wasn’t my best look.

I arrived at the office and plopped down in the waiting room, piling my superfluous winter gear onto the chair next to me. The receptionist fanned herself with one hand while she entered my insurance information with the other. Eventually I made it into the examination room, where the air conditioning was blasting and where, of course, I had to remove the rest of my clothing and slip into a paper gown.

An hour later, reclothed, I walked outside to find the pavement darkened with the rain that had fallen while I had been inside, oblivious. The air was cool, the sun bright, the sky blue. It felt like another day.

While this might be an overshare, this snippet of my day made me think of two dressings that I’ve been alternating between. They’re united in their use of turmeric, but otherwise couldn’t be more different. One feels like a winter dressing: its base is tahina and it has so much turmeric in it that it looks like a cheap mustard. I’ve been drizzling it over baby kale, sumac-pickled onions, and chicken breast (pound thin a few room temperature boneless skinless breasts, douse with olive oil, add salt and pepper, and roast at 450°F for about 15 minutes).

The second is more spring-like and a close relative of the carrot-ginger dressing that is probably the only reason that iceberg lettuce is still sold. While the turmeric deepens the dressing’s golden hue, its really the miso that makes this a star. I love it over arugula or a salmon filet (broiled for about 12 minutes). Or, if I’m being completely honest here, slurped from a spoon.

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Turmeric-tehina dressing

Adapted from Bon Appetit. I doubled the recipe and added some honey to round out the bitterness of the large amount of turmeric in the dressing.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

– 1/2 C tehina
– 6 T fresh lemon juice
– 1/4 C olive oil
– 1 T honey
– 1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric
– 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
– 1-2 t kosher salt
– 1/4 t freshly ground black pepper

Mix. Whisk together tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, honey, turmeric, cayenne, and ¼ cup water until smooth. Add 1 teaspoon salt and pepper. Add more salt to taste.

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Miso-turmeric dressing

Adapted from Bon Appetit. I didn’t have mirin, so I increased the amount of rice vinegar and added a spoonful of sugar to balance the acidity and bring a sweetness that miring would have supplied. I used a small cheese grater for both the carrot and ginger. 

Makes about 1 cup

– 1/2 C unseasoned rice vinegar
– 1 t sugar
– ¼ C vegetable oil
– 2 T finely grated carrot
– 2 T white miso
– 1 T finely grated peeled ginger
– ½ t ground turmeric
– 1 T toasted sesame oil
– A few drops hot sesame oil

Mix. Whisk all ingredients in a small bowl.

I thought I’d go Russian with the head of cabbage that had been rolling around in my fridge. Tall stems of dill lounged on the door, ends wrapped in a dampened towel, spiky fronds snuggled in a plastic bag. My initial thoughts veered towards a sharp vinegary slaw, with perhaps a pile of thinly shaved cucumbers à la The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. Basic, simple, easy. But also a little predictable.

Then I contemplated cabbage soup – maybe shchi, which might possibly be as fun to say (think of ski, but with an sh) as to eat. But it was snowing out and I was in kitchen-clean-out mode and didn’t want to have to buy additional basics, though next time I have a spare carrot or two and a handful of potatoes, I’m coming after you, shchi.

Friends suggested other, more ambitious projects: sauerkraut, kimchi, stuffed, poached and roasted. Or slaw, sans dill, to top fish tacos. These days, simple seems to be the name of the game, though I owe you a bialy recipe that makes for a fun Sunday activity, if your idea of a fun Sunday morning is waking up 5 hours before everyone else wants brunch (sneak peek over here and here).

I carefully considered all of my options, thanked my friends for their contributions and inspiration, and as is typical for me, went in a completely different direction. I turned to Ottolenghi and found a miso-braised cabbage with only a handful of ingredients that I had (or had close-enough options) within easy reach. Like most braises, this is a pretty set-it-and-forget it recipe; you may recall that the trick with braising is low and slow. So with my current work-from-home schedule, these types of dishes do the trick with a gently warming oven and snow outside.

Ottolenghi introduces the recipe talking about the magic of this type of cooking as one “of simple transformation – of an ingredient changing from one thing to another as a result of little more than the application of time and heat.” Cabbage is sliced into wedges and bathed in a miso-broth mixture.  After several hours, the cabbage is a study in contrasts – spoon-tender core with thin crispy leaves that Ottolenghi likens to delicate, flaky, paper-thin phyllo dough.

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Miso-braised cabbage

Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi in the Guardian. Bear in mind that the recipe is mainly hands-off, but does take about four hours start to finish.  

The recipe calls for two tablespoons of brown miso which has a very intense umami flavor. I used the milder white miso that I had in my fridge, and increased the amount to 3 tablespoons. I also drizzled the end product with soy sauce to up the umami factor. One morning, I topped a few wedges with an egg and called it breakfast. 

Makes 4 servings as a side. 

– 1 small white cabbage, trimmed and cut into 2-inch wide wedges (approximately 8 pieces)
– 1 1/4 C unsalted vegetable broth
– 3 T white miso paste
– Salt
– 1 lemon, quartered
– optional: 3/4 C sour cream (I used Greek yogurt)
– optional: soy sauce

Heat. Heat the oven to 390F. Put the cabbage wedges in a small high-sided roasting tray or baking dish, so that they are packed closely together.

Boil. Pour the stock into a small saucepan with the miso paste and a quarter-teaspoon of salt. Bring up to a boil, stirring constantly so the miso dissolves, then pour over the cabbage: it should come halfway up the sides of the pan.

Roast. Cover the pan tightly with foil and roast for 20 minutes.

Lower heat. Turn down the heat to 300F, and cook for two hours more, turning the cabbage over halfway through. Remove the foil, baste the cabbage and cook for an hour and a half longer, until almost all of the liquid has been absorbed and the cabbage is crisp and a deep golden-brown.

Eat. Serve the braised cabbage warm, with a dollop of sour cream alongside and a wedge of lemon, to squeeze over. Drizzle with soy sauce to taste.

We got quite a bit of the white stuff around here this weekend with a little over two feet in Central Park. It started snowing much earlier than expected (or at least much earlier than I expected), so I ended up having to struggle home from dinner Friday night in a pair of high heels. Not my best move. I’ve now swapped them out for boots, so I’m all good. My home town of Maryland was also hit pretty hard, from what I can tell, my friends are are still digging out, schools are cancelled, and government offices are closed.

In the days leading up to the storm, I’d been working from home, laid up with a case of the sniffles and a sore throat and a general achy-ness, and I made a soup that helped me muddle along and, since it’s one of those clean-out-your-pantry dishes, I figured it would be good for those of you still stuck inside with limited access to fresh anything until the stores restock. I intended to post it before the storm, but, well, sometimes life gets in the way, so you can think of this as preparation for the next snowfall.

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This red lentil soup is admittedly not dissimilar from one that I made on this blog almost 5 years ago. I even photographed it in the same bowl! You let the lentils melt in piles of onions and tomatoes and spike the whole lot with cumin, coriander, and a healthy pinch of cayenne. I amped up the tomato flavor using estratto di pomodoro – an intense tomato paste made by concentrating tomato pulp in the sun – that I toted home from Sicily. You can obviously use regular tomato paste if you didn’t have the luxury of having one of the best vacations of your life over the summer. This soup is a savior if you’re sick or holed up or just want dinner.

Red lentil tomato soup

Adapted from the New York Times. I didn’t have whole cumin and coriander seeds, so I used about half the measure of ground. 

Makes approximately 3 quarts

– 2 T vegetable oil
– 1 large onion, chopped
– 4 garlic cloves, minced
– salt to taste
– 1 1/2 t ground cumin
– 1 t ground coriander
– 1 1/2 t curry powder
– 1/2 t cayenne
– 2 T tomato paste
– 1 28-oz can chopped tomato with juice
– 1 lb red lentils, washed and picked over
– 8 C vegetable stock or water (I actually used half stock, half water)
– 1/4 – 1/2 t ground black  pepper
– juice of 1/2 lemon
For garnish:
– yogurt
– chopped parsley or cilantro
– lemons, cut into wedges

Cook. Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes, and add the garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, cumin, coriander, curry powder, and cayenne. Stir together for about a minute, until the garlic is frangrant. Lower the heat if the garlic starts to brown too much. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for another 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes with their juice.

Simmer. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes, until the tomatoes have cooked down slightly. Add salt to taste (I added another 1/4 teaspoon).

Simmer more. Stir in the lentils and stock or water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, covers and simmer 30 minutes. Add salt to taste (I didn’t feel like it needed any more at this point) and continue to simmer for 15 to 30 minutes,  until the lentils have fallen apart and thickened soup.

Puree. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup. Add the pepper, taste, and add cayenne if you want more spice. Taste and adjust salt. Stir in the lemon juice.

Serve. Top each bowl with a swirl of yogurt and a generous sprinkling of parsley or cilantro. Squeeze a lemon wedge over top.

caught up

Hello, 2016. It’s going to be a good year, I’m convinced of it.

I was in DC for New Years with my friends Nachama and Ilana. It was a chill weekend – we saw Kiss Me Kate at the Shakespeare Theater (free tickets!): nothing like a little musical (blatant misogyny aside) to get the year started right. We went to synagogue (!!), something I’d like to do a teeny bit more of going forward, and walked a lot and ate a lot and caught up a lot.

salmon farro grain bowl

Based on this photo, you might think I’m starting the year off with a cliche: a healthy looking grain bowl as an antidote for holiday gluttony. But I’m posting it on behalf of Nachama who asked for help with easy lunch ideas for her microwave-free office. Even though I sent her a few articles on mix-and-match grain bowls (here, here, and here), she asked for more specific instruction.

So, here’s one of the first lunches of 2016. If you’re going to buy pre-washed greens (arugula, baby kale, etc.), find some that are in plastic clamshell boxes rather than bags – in my experience, they tend to last longer.  I make a batch of grains to last a few days, and they’re even better if you drizzle them with a little olive oil and lemon juice for . Sometimes I even cut up two days worth of veggies to make salad assembly easy. One thing I left off this bowl was crunch – mostly because I forgot, but on other days, I’ve toasted a bunch of pumpkin seeds to throw on top.

Roasted salmon for one

Adapted from the New York Times’ recipe for salmon roasted in butter. This is a versatile recipe – Mark Bittman suggests making it with butter and dill or parsley, olive oil and thyme, or peanut oil and cilantro or mint. I didn’t have any fresh herbs, so chose to use some mustard seeds to go with a mustard vinaigrette. I adapted the recipe for a single small fillet of wild salmon, but I’ve also made this recipe in a larger skillet for several pieces or one large piece – you may just need an extra minute on each side. 

Heat oven to 450ºF. Place 2 teaspoons olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds in a roasting pan or skillet just large enough to fit your salmon and place it in the oven. Heat about 5 minutes, until seeds start to pop. Add a 5- or 6-ounce piece of salmon to the pan, skin side up. Roast 3 minutes. Remove from the oven, then peel the skin off. (If the skin does not lift right off, cook 1 minute longer.) Sprinkle with salt and pepper and turn the fillet over. Sprinkle with salt and pepper again. Roast 2 to 3 minutes more, depending on the thickness of the fillet and the degree of doneness you prefer.

oven-roasted salmon

Salmon freekeh grain bowl

There are infinite variations on grain bowls and I typically grab whatever I have in the fridge and pantry. For the first grain bowl of 2016, I topped 2 handfuls of arugula with 1 Persian cucumber (cubed), 3 radishes (thinly sliced), 1/3 cup freekeh (cooked in a pressure cooker), and a fillet of salmon. Then I drizzled the whole thing with a few tablespoons of mustard vinaigrette (1/2 t whole grain dijon mustard, 2 T red wine vinegar, 1/4 C olive oil, salt, and pepper). I work from home these days, but you can keep a jar of the vinaigrette in the fridge at work – it should be enough for about three salads.

 

I just lit the candles on my menorah and want to wish you a happy Hanukkah if you’re celebrating. You can make latkes or sufganiyot if you’re feeling traditional, or, you can fry up something a little different this year. Recently I made panelle, chickpea fritters eaten as street food all over Sicily, often stuffed into a bun for an on-the-run lunch. Sounds a little like falafel, right?

panelle sandwich

I first learned of panelle when I was in Sicily over the summer, taking a food writing workshop at Anna Tasca Lanza Cooking School. We made these crispy snacks during our last kitchen lesson and ate them with abandon as a pre-dinner snack. With wine, of course.

panelle

For more on our cooking lesson, head over the Forward where I’ve written about the experience. Otherwise, just jump right in with the recipe below.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Panelle chickpea fritters

You can prepare the recipe (adapted from Fabrizia Lanza’s Coming Home to Sicily) in advance cutting the dough into wedges and then refrigerate the raw panelle in a zip top bag with a few paper towels to absorb any moisture, pulling out the dough when you’re ready to fry.

Serves 6

– 2 1/3 cup chickpea flour, preferably Sicilian (or Bob’s Red Mill)
– 3 cups cold water
– Fine sea salt
– Black pepper
– Vegetable or olive oil for frying

Cook. Combine the flour, water and a pinch of salt and pepper in a medium saucepan and whisk until smooth. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens considerably (like a very stiff polenta). Reduce the heat if necessary to keep from burning. Cook for a few more minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan.

Dry. Working quickly, spread the mixture with a wooden spatula onto 4 or 5 dinner plates so that it is about ¼-inch thick. Cool for 15 to 20 minutes.

Cut. When the dough is cool, loosen the edges with a small, sharp knife. Peel the dough off the plates and place on a work surface, stacking one on top of another. Cut the stack into 12–16 wedges.

panelle, ready to fry

Fry. Heat 2 inches of oil in a large, heavy skillet. Add the chickpea wedges in batches, and fry, flipping occasionally, until golden and crisp, about 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Serve hot.

panelle

 

her Roman sink

Rachel has started a weekly column in The Guardian called “Kitchen Sink Tales.” Each column starts with a photo of her Roman sink, filled with the freshest of produce straight from the market. Already her stories and recipes have sent me out to the store and then to the stove to cook up warm, inviting, homey dishes. Most recently I created a mishmash of two of her recipes: broccoli ripassati and white beans with wilted greens.

I started with the broccoli. In the original recipe, you boil a couple heads until they’re almost water-logged cafeteria fare. I know that doesn’t sound appealing, but bear with me; luckily you don’t stop there. You cook the broccoli even more, this time in a pan with a nice glug of olive oil, garlic and red pepper until it forms a creamy sauce excellent for tossing with pasta or topping toast (with a fried egg for good measure). I made the broccoli and stopped just shy of sauce for a chunkier version.

I mixed the broccoli with a can of cannelini beans spiffed up, à la Rachel’s wilted greens recipe, with some celery and onion that I had chopped but didn’t need for stuffing. Sure, it might be better with dried beans, lovingly soaked overnight and simmered for an hour or two, but I had what I had and I was thrilled with the results. What ended up in the bowl wasn’t company fare, really, but perfect for a hearty stay-at-home lunch.

white beans and broccoli

White beans with broccoli

Adapted from Rachel Roddy’s recipe for broccoli ripassati and white beans with wilted greens.

– 1 lb broccoli, separated into florets

– 4 T olive oil, separated

– 1/2 C onion, chopped

– 1/2 C celery, chopped

– 2 15-oz cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

– 3 cloves garlic, minced

– 1 – 1 1/2 t red pepper flakes, to taste

– salt and pepper

Boil. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a fast boil – depending on the size of your pot, this may take quite some time. Get started on the rest of the recipe while you wait (and wait and wait).

Cook. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large deep frying pan over a medium flame. Cook the onions and celery until softened and fragrant and the onions turn translucent, about 7-8 minutes. Drop the flame to low and add the beans, a 1/2 teaspoon salt, a few grinds of pepper and 1/4 cup of the boiling water. Heat the beans, stirring gently, until warm, about 5 minutes. Empty into a bowl and set aside. Taste for for salt and pepper and adjust seasoning. Don’t clean the pan – you’ll be using it in just a moment.

Keep boiling. By now, your huge pot of salty water is vigorously boiling. Add the broccoli and cook until they can easily be pierced by a fork, around 5-7 minutes.

Saute. While the broccoli is boiling, in the frying pan that you just cleared the beans out of, warm the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over a low flame. Gently saute the garlic and 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (you can always add more later) for 3-4 minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic.

Cook. Use a slotted spoon to lift the cooked broccoli from the water into the frying pan with the garlic. Raise the flame to medium-low and move the broccoli around the pan so each piece is well-coated with the garlic-pepper mix. Allow the broccoli to stew for a few minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon, during which time it will break up, taking on an almost creamy aspect with a few stalks still recognizable.

Stir. Add the bean mixture to the pan with the broccoli and stir to warm everything up again, another couple of minutes.

Serve. I ate this as is, but I imagine it would be great with a squeeze of lemon and a shower of parmesan.

 

It’s T minus six days to Thanksgiving and I’ve got a quick recipe to share: mushroom stuffing made with cornbread. First, I tweaked the cornbread I’ve made here before, mainly upping the amount of corn and sugar. It’s so good that I was worried that my nibbles here and there (and here and there) were going to require me to make up a second batch for the stuffing, but I restrained myself and had just enough left after an overnight stale that the one batch sufficed. But it was touch and go for a while there.

I’ve used the cornbread in a sweeter stuffing before, mixing it with apples, aromatics, and some turkey-friendly herbs. But I think I prefer this year’s version – it’s got the same aromatics (celery and onion) and a whole lot of mushrooms. It takes its flavor cues from how my mom prepares the Pepperidge Farm crouton mix that we traditionally use (and love).

Anyway, the Forward published this recipe yesterday, and I wanted to put it here too. Enjoy!

parve cornbread mushroom stuffing

Parve Cornbread

Adapted from Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2004 Cookbook and updated an older recipe on this blog. Pureeing corn with water in a blender for a couple of minutes creates a thick non-dairy substitute for the milk that’s normally in cornbread. Baking it in a pre-heated, very hot skillet results in an nice brown bottom crust. 

– 2 cups frozen corn, thawed
– ¼ cup vegetable oil, plus more for greasing skillet
– 1¼ cup water
– 2 eggs
– 1½ cup flour
– 1½ cup cornmeal
– 6 tablespoons sugar
– 1½ teaspoon salt
– 1½ teaspoon baking powder

Prepare. Preheat oven to 450˚F. Place a 9-inch round cast iron skillet into the oven.

Blend. In a blender or food processor, blend the corn, oil and water for two minutes until smooth. Add the eggs and pulse a few times until combined.

Mix. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt and baking powder. Add the wet mixture to the bowl and stir until incorporated.

Bake. Using an oven mitt, pull the cast iron skillet out of the oven and drizzle with oil, swirling to cover the bottom and sides of the skillet. Add the corn bread batter to the skillet and bake until the top is golden and a toothpick comes out clean, about 25 minutes.

parve cornbread

Parve Cornbread and Mushroom Stuffing

Adapted from the New York Times. Prepare the cornbread recipe and then crumble and spread out on two sheet pans, allowing to dry overnight or longer or for at least 20 minutes in a 150˚F oven.

– 6 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for greasing pan
– 2 cups chopped yellow onion (2 medium onions)
– 1½ cup celery (4–5 stalks)
– 3 garlic cloves, minced
– ¾ pound white button mushrooms
– ¾ pound cremini mushrooms
– ¾ teaspoon fresh thyme
– Salt and pepper to taste
– ½ cup chopped parsley
– 8 cups crumbled, stale cornbread (see recipe above)
– 3 cups vegetable or chicken stock

Prepare. Preheat oven to 325˚F. Grease a 9- by 13-inch or similarly sized (12-cup) shallow baking pan.

Saute. In a large, deep skillet, heat butter over medium heat. Add onion, celery and garlic. Sauté, stirring for 5–7 minutes, until tender. Add mushrooms and thyme, and season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking until the mushrooms release their liquid (about 5 minutes) and then resorb it (another 10 minutes). Taste for salt and pepper.

Mix. In a large bowl, combine the mushrooms, parsley and cornbread. Mix in the stock to moisten the cornbread. Transfer to greased baking pan.

Bake. Cover the pan with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake until the top is lightly browned, another 15 minutes. Serve hot.

I received an email the other day. The subject: Made this soup and thought of you.

sweet potato chickpea stew

The message was from my friend Nachama who I met in Boston several years back. We lived just a few blocks from each other and used to go to the gym together. It’s hard for me to motivate to exercise, so it was great having a buddy. She’d run on the treadmill, I’d swoosh along on the elliptical, and we’d meet up at the end to stretch.

Nachama now lives in DC. In her email, she described the soup: “It was warm, simple but tasty, smooth and thick, and had just a pinch of kick – reminded me of the times we would bunker down in the Boston cold and watch movies at your place.”

This was all the impetus I needed to pull out a large pot and get cooking this chickpea soup that, according to recipe, hails from Madagascar. Its base is a sweet potato broth that you make from scratch (or buy in a box). Toast a handful of spices (including types of red chile) with garlic, then add the broth, a splash of coconut milk, and a big pile of spicy mustard greens, and chickpeas.

After an hour and a half, the greens wilt into the broth and the whole mess thickens to a stew. I invited over some friends and we crowded around my table to finish most of the pot. We ate it with spoons, but forks would have worked just as well.

Thanks, Nachama, for the recipe and inspiration!

Sweet potato chickpea stew

Adapted from this recipe. If  you don’t want to make the broth from scratch, either substitute with sweet potato broth, or make a semi-homemade broth by simmering 3 sweet potatoes in 8 cups of vegetable broth and then pureeing with an immersion blender. 

Makes 12 servings.

For the sweet potato broth:

– 3 tablespoons olive oil
– 1 medium onion, sliced
– 3 celery ribs, chopped
– 3 carrots, chopped
– 3 large sweet potato, peeled and quartered
– Kosher salt
– Freshly ground black pepper
– 8 cups water

For the stew:

– 4 garlic cloves, chopped
– 2 T olive oil
– 2 t dried crushed red pepper
– 2 t ground red pepper
– 2 t ground coriander
– 1/2 t ground turmeric
– 8 C Sweet Potato Broth (recipe above)
– 2 C unsweetened coconut milk
– 1 bunch fresh mustard greens, chopped
– 3 (15-oz.) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Make broth:
Cook. Heat olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add onion, celery, and carrot. Cook, stirring often, 8 to 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add sweet potato, desired amount of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, and water. Increase heat to high, and bring to a boil.
Simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 30 to 35 minutes or until sweet potato is tender. Discard cloves. Let mixture stand 15 minutes.
Puree. Use an immersion blender to puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Use immediately, or cool completely, and refrigerate in an airtight container up to 5 days.
Make stew:
Toast. Sauté garlic in hot oil in a large saucepan over medium heat 1 minute; add red peppers, coriander, and turmeric. Cook 1 to 2 more minutes or until fragrant.
Boil. Stir in sweet potato broth, coconut milk, and greens. Bring to a gentle boil; add chickpeas.
Simmer. Reduce heat to low, and simmer about 1 1/2 hours or until greens are soft. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
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