Archive for August, 2011

The food at our resort in the Dominican Republic was…

…well, it was there.

To be fair, it was plentiful. And there were some nice mangoes. And I had some lovely crêpe Suzette (the chef let me flambé them myself). But by day 2, and every day thereafter, I found myself stuffing a zip lock bag full of the corn bread served at breakfast to sustain me on the beach until dinner. Because we skipped lunch. Because there just wasn’t anything worth leaving that hammock and sunshine for.

So, let’s talk about that cornbread. Cornbread? Not really. It was more like a buttery pound cake with some corn meal thrown in for good measure. There were chocolate and strawberry versions as well, but I stuck with the original. I could fit 4, sometimes 5 slices into a zip lock bag. Bubbie would be proud!

So, imagine this. I’m wearing a little bikini, lying on a hammock on a tropical island, warmed by the sun … and eating pound cake. Actually, better to not imagine me. But you get the picture.

Cornmeal pound cake

I tried a few poundcake recipe and landed on Chocolate and Zucchini’s yogurt cake (“gateau au yaourt”).  It takes longer to pre-heat the oven than it does to mix together the ingredients.  I replace some of the flour with cornmeal to approximate the breakfast cake I had in the DR. The key here, like with pancakes, is not to overmix the batter. The cake is not nearly as rich and butter-laden as the original — and I like it even better. It’s especially great toasted and buttered.

– 1/3 C melted buter

– 2 eggs

– 1 C nonfat plain yogurt – don’t use Greek yogurt….it’s too thick

– 1 C sugar

– 1 t vanilla

– 1 1/2 C flour

– 1/2 C fine ground corn meal

– 1 1/2 t baking powder

– 1/2 t baking soda

– good pinch of salt

Prep. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease loaf pan (I used a 9X5) with spray oil (or whatever you like). Melt butter (to minimize dishes, I microwaved it right in my large mixing bowl).

Mix. Gently combine butter, eggs, yogurt, sugar and vanilla until well incorporated.

Fold. Sift into the mixing bowl flour, corn meal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Fold the ingredients together until just mixed. The batter should be somewhat thick and bubbly.

Bake. Bake cake 30-35 minutes until top is golden brown and toothpick comes out clean.

Cool. Cool in pan for 10 minutes and then transfer to rack. Don’t cut until fully cool.

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Just a quick hello and recipe.

I  bought a few cool colored veggies a few days ago at the farmers market. Green zebra tomatoes. Purple beans.

Granted, the star here really was the corn. You might need to click on the link to see the beads of steam clinging to the kernels after a quick oven roast.

The purple beans were the coolest part. A quick online search for recipes ended in disappointment. These beauties turn a dull green with cooking. Boo! A bit more digging, mystery solved, and a potential solution discovered.

Are you ready for your science lesson? Don’t remember too much plant biology? Don’t worry, I’ll be gentle.

Purple beans, like other purple veggies contain anthocyanins, a water soluble vacuolar pigment. Vacuoles are organelles that “eat” proteins and are responsible for maintaining the acidic pH in plant cells. Anyway, anthocyanins in vacuoles give color to different berries and vegetables (beets, red cabbage, eggplant). Anthocyanins are very pH sensitive and require an acidic environment to maintain their purple color. Raise the pH (more basic), and they disappear along with their color. Heat breaks down anthocyanins directly and bursts the plant cells apart, diluting the acidity of the beans. The green, previously masked by the anthocyanin, emerges and takes over. Dull green beans.

I like a challenge. I read about cold shocking to keep the purple beans purple. About cooking in vinegar to raise the acidicty. About butter braising. Better yet, a butter bath. It’s unclear to me how the butter helps, but seriously, pamper the purple pods in a bubbling bath of butter? What could be bad about that?

I decided to start with a lemon juice dunk followed by the butter bath. I watched the beans carefully and the second they started to turn color, I poured them in a bowl and stuck them into the freezer. Ice water shock? I don’t think so. I wan’t about to throw out the beans babies let alone the bath butter!

As I finish typing up this recipe, the purple beans slowly turn green. A reminder that my little break is over and it’s time to turn back to work.

Summer succotash

Remove silks from an ear of corn and rewrap it in its husk. Throw it right onto the rack of a hot oven and cook until the husks start to brown and and the scent of corn fills the air (less than 10 minutes). Meanwhile, rinse and trim a handful of purple beans and douse with a few tablespoons of lemon juice in a bowl. Let the beans sit for about 5 minutes. Heat a few pats of butter in a skillet until bubbling. Pour the beans and juice into the bubble, er, butter, bath. Quickly sauté beans, moving pan constantly over the heat. Did you know that the French verb, sauter, means to jump? Keep those babies jumping back and forth in the pan. At the first sign of green, pour the beans, juice, and  butter back into the bowl and race it over to the freezer. Shave corn kernels off the cob, and toss them with two tomatoes, coarsely chopped. Pour the now chilled green beans mixture on top and be sure to scoop out all that butter and lemon juice as a vinaigrette. A few pinches of salt and toss. Eat quickly. Write a blog post.

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late to the party

I went to Thinking Cup Cafe the other day before settling in for a picnic and a little Shakespeare on the Common with my friend Dee. One sip of their cold-brewed iced coffee had me begging for the recipe and buying a 12-ounce bag of Stumptown Egyptian Mordecofe, medium grind.

I had heard about cold-brew in the past, but never thought to make it myself until my friend Chavi started asking around about it.

A quick search online pulled up the 2007 NYT recipe that may indeed have started it all.


Where was I four years ago when the rest of the world made this discovery? My excuse – I only get the Times on weekends.

Cold-brewed iced coffee

Since Thinking Cup’s recipe is scaled to make several gallons of coffee at a time, I opted for the widely available NYT recipe tested by trustworthy Deb of Smitten Kitchen.

The nice thing about cold brewing is that it isn’t bitter the way hot coffee or espresso poured over ice can be. I’m not entirely sure why that is – does the heat draw out the bitterness? Does the heat draw out good stuff that masks the bitterness? Does anyone know the science behind this? Anyone?

Anyway, on to the recipe…

– 1/3 C medium ground coffee beans (you can ask your store for a medium or french press grind)

– 1 1/2 C cold water

Brew. In a jar or liquid measuring cup, add 1/3 C coffee to cold water. Cover and let sit 12-20 hours at room temperature.

Filter. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve. This filters out the grounds.

Filter again.  Strain again through a paper filter this time. This second filter helps remove any remaining sediment.

Drink. Pour equal parts concentrate and cold water over ice (or to taste – I like mine pretty strong, so I don’t add much water). Add milk and/or sugar.

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oh my, indeed!

As I write this, I’m snacking on a handful of blueberries fresh from this Monday’s farmers market. It’s where I get most of my food these days. I’ve stocked up on berries and plums (remember this? have you made it yet?) and greens, oh my! Heirloom tomatoes, spring onions, oh my! Green beans and pea shoots and mint, oh my! 

Oh my, indeed!

But oy my … the past two Mondays, I’ve gotten drenched in massive downpours. And the weather has been so chilly and rainy that I could swear it was Fall. I’ve been turning on my oven and stove far too much for a summer day in August. Chard. Roasted corn and roasted zucchini.  Schnitzel. Muffins.

And then today arrived. Bienvenue le soleil. Bienvenue les ciels bleus. Bienvenue la chaleur. Au revoir le four!

Unable to fathom turning on the oven in this gorgeous heat, I turned to a no-cook salad with the zucchini in my fridge.

Oh my, indeed!

 Zucchini ribbon salad with Middle Eastern spices

Admittedly, long strands of shaved zucchini are impressive to look out, but difficult to eat. I’d say definitely not first date material! I used an inexpensive mandoline to shave the zucchini, but I’ve heard you can also use a vegetable peeler. This recipe is similar to another favorite zucchini recipe – I used the same spice mixture and added labne to the dressing for a nice creaminess. If you want to be really fancy, make a zucchini cage over baby arugula — I’ll show you how at the end of the recipe.

– 1 medium to large sized zucchini

– 1 lemon

– 2-3 T olive oil

– good pinch of cumin

– small pinch of aleppo (or cayenne) pepper flakes

– 1T labne (Middle Eastern savory yogurt)

– salt and pepper

Shave. Using a mandoline or vegetable peeler, shave zucchini lengthwise to make long thin ribbons. Arrange ribbons on a plate.

Whisk. Zest and juice the lemon into a bowl. Add olive oil, cumin, aleppo and whisk. Then add the labne and whisk until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Pour. Drizzle dressing over the zucchini ribbons. Let the zucchini marinate for a few minutes before serving.

Get a little fancy. When you really want to dress to impress, here’s what you do. Weave a cage of zucchini and serve with arugula. Cut the zucchini ribbons in half. Create a basket weave in a cereal-sized bowl – starting in the middle, weave the zucchini strips under and over each other. Cut the ends with scissors around the edge of the bowl. Fill the bowl with baby arugula and place a plate upside down over the bowl. Flip. Suround with arugula to cover up any imperfect spots. Drizzle dressing over the top. Await oohs and aahs.

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I’ve got a lot of stuff. I’m convinced it’s hereditary (that way, I have someone else to blame).

My Bubbie used to say, “even my dishes have dishes.”

See her waving there in front of the hutch? She’s the one in the frilly apron. The hutch is that huge piece of furniture piled with three tea and coffee pots. And a pile of mismatched tea cups. Yeah, that’s the one. With all of her dishes and her dishes’ dishes.    And see me having a very important conversation with Poppie? Same hutch of course. Not entirely sure why I’m wearing PJs to dinner.Here I am at Bubbie’s Rosh Hashana table. She really liked napkin rings. At least this time I dressed for the occasion.

Over the past few weeks and under Meira‘s tutelage, I’ve started implementing the “one in one out” rule, starting of course with one out. Well, more like 8 bags of clothing out. 2 bags of shoes out. 2 boxes of dishes out.

Those dishes, they were my Bubbie’s dishes (no, not the good china … the set she received as a gift for opening a bank account). I did keep one teacup and saucer from the set. I think Bubbie would have been proud.

There are some obvious benefits of the purge. Emptying my closet of clothing that no longer fits. Donating the dishes I always hated for their gold painted rims that could never be microwaved. Smiling every time I can reheat a piece of chicken without turning on the oven (except of course for schnitzel – that is best thrown right onto an over rack to crisp back up in about 10 minutes).

I’m already hard at work on one wrap dress in. One pair of python heels in. One set of new dishes in. A second set of new dishes. A black bustle pencil skirt in.

I’m good at the in.

Another benefit was that I unearthed a light-filled corner of my desk, previously covered in piles of files and books, that is a great canvas for photography. No more chasing the sun and hopping around shadows on my big wood table. This is a whole new playing field.

Check it out.

Oh yeah! Notice also, the  all-white, unrimmed plate.

There was one glitch. The other night, some uninvited visitors tried to help, cleaning out my place on their own. All of the photos I have taken since May have disappeared along with my laptop. The one picture I had uploaded only an hour before leaving for dinner is the photo above. I guess we can call these green beans the silver lining.  

At least they didn’t wipe out the fridge.

Green beans with mustard seed vinaigrette

Rachela made this recipe from Gourmet 2001 for dinner a few weeks ago and I just had to replicate it for myself. The steps are a little fussy, but the fuss elevates the green beans beyond the everyday. The most cumbersome step is cooking the mustard seeds which have potential for major mess – they’re squirrely little rascals that roll all over if you drop them and cook very fast, so  you need to keep a close eye on them. Rachela skipped the mustard seeds and used moutard à l’ancienne (a dijon mustard with whole mustard seeds that you can see) for a similar flavor and visual effect. You can make extra vinaigrette and keep it in the refrigerator for the next time you want a few green beans.

– 3 T olive oil, divided

– 2 T mustard seeds

– 1/3 C red wine vinegar

– 1 T sugar

– 1 medium or 1/2 large onion (red or white)

– 1 1/2 lb green beans

Pop. Heat 1 T of the oil in a skillet over moderate heat until hot but not smoking. Add the mustard seeds and stir. Quickly cover the skillet – a glass lid, plate, or splatter screen works great. In less than a minute, the seeds will start to pop. Like popcorn. Really. They will also turn slightly darker. Remove the skillet from the heat after 1-2 minutes. Try not to let the seeds get too dark. Pour seeds and oil into a large bowl.

Simmer. Simmer vinegar and sugar in saucepan stirring, until sugar is dissolved. When heated, the vinegar lets off a strong vapor that may bother your nose and eyes if you catch a whiff – be forewarned not to lean over the pan as the mix is simmering. Let cool 5 minutes in the pan.

Saute. Heat the remaining 2 T oil in the skillet you used for the mustard seeds over moderate high heat until hot but not smoking. Slice onion thinly. Saute the onion, stirring, until golden brown, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat.

Mix. Add vinegar mixture to the onions in the skillet. Then add this mix to the large bowl with the mustard seeds and oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Boil. Set a pot of water to boil. Trim ends of beans (if you want to be French, take off the little tails too). When water has boiled, add a generous pinch of salt and add green beans. Prepare a large bowl of ice water. Cook beans for about 5 minutes until they are tender but still crisp. Drain and plunge into ice water to stop cooking. Drain well.

Mix it all up. Toss beans with vinaigrette. Serve at room temperature.

Variation. Throw dressed beans on top of oil-packed tuna for a light lunch.

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First, I invited Alyson over for a very low key shabbat dinner. She just moved into a new apartment and and was waiting for her stovetop to be replaced. She would bring salad.  And she had an extra french roast in her freezer — she gave it to me to braise along with some recipe guidelines.

Then Shoshana invited both of us over – she also has a new apartment. I offered to host because I have a dishwasher. She offered to bake challah.

Then Rachela invited all three of us over for an impromptu shabbat dinner. She was going to make fish. I opted for meat at my place and invited her and her husband Gedalia over as well. They brought 2 side dishes, one green, one carb.

I decided to top everything off with a fruit galette with a few farmers market finds.

No one left hungry.

 French Roast, Middle Eastern style

I used the flavors of Ana Sortun‘s spoon lamb mixed with recommendations for cooking a roast from Alyson and few of my cookbooks. While the lamb recipe and other braising recipes call for first browning the meat, most roast recipes do not. This is one of those recipes where you put everything in a pot and come back in 1.5 hours to find it almost done. Another an hour or two in the fridge, and then 15 minutes on the stove top, and dinner is ready to go.

– 2-3 T canola or grapeseed oil

– 5 lb french roast

– 1T (or more) ground cumin

– 3 cloves garlic, smashed

– 6 carrots, peeled and thickly sliced

– 1 large onion, peeled and quartered

– 2 C dry red wine (I used an Israeli red: Yogev 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon – Shiraz)

– 2 T pomegranate concentrate

– 4T cold unsalted margarine, cut into 2 pieces

– Salt and pepper to taste

– 1 lemon

Preheat. Preheat oven to 325°F.

Braise. Cover bottom of a large (make sure there is enough room for the roast to sit comfortably) dutch/french oven/cocotte with half the oil. Settle roast into the cocotte, rub with remaining oil and cover with garlic and cumin. Surround with the onion and carrots. Pour wine around the roast, adding enough water so liquid comes up 1/2 to 3/4 of the way up the meat. Cover tightly and braise for 1.5 – 2 hours. Use a meat thermometer to check the meat – an internal temperature 130°F for medium, 155°F for well done. Mine came out at ~150°F and was a bit too well done for my taste.

Strain and skim. Remove roast and carrots to a plate. Strain braising liquid through cheesecloth into a bowl. Refrigerate until the fat rises to the surface and can be skimmed off and discarded.

Reduce. In the cocotte, simmer the liquid until reduced by half and thickened (~10 minutes). Remove from heat. Stir in pomegranate concentrate, lemon juice, and margarine. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Reheat. Add the roast and carrots to the sauce and warm over low heat.

Eat. Slice roast against the grain. Serve with all that great sauce.


Plum Blueberry Galette

A galette is a free-form tart, similar to a crostada. The crust I use is a pâte sucrée – a regular tart/pie crust (pâte brisée) plus an egg yolk and sugar. Whenever I have extra yolks, I put each one in a small bag in the freezer and then use them to make this pâte. I try to keep an extra crust in the freezer in case galette or pie or tart or tarte tatin inspiration strikes. I used the recipe for a summer fruit galette in Paula Shoyer‘s The Kosher Baker but added yolk and sugar to make a sweeter crust. I also added a sprinkle of almond flour/meal (finely ground almonds) before adding the fruit to keep the crust from getting soggy. It worked really well, but you can skip this step if you want. To keep this recipe parve, I used margarine intead of butter.

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 30 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 for about 30 minutes before using.


For galette:

– 1 pâte sucrée crust

– 3C fruit – I used 2 Csmall red and yellow plums and 1 C blueberries

– 1T lemon juice

– 3T sugar

– 2T corn starch

– 1-2 T almond meal/almond flour (optional)

– 1-2T sugar in the raw

Preheat. Preheat oven to 425°F and place place rack on lowest shelf.

Cut and mix. Quarter plums (no reason to peel). Gently mix fruits with lemon juice, sugar, and corn starch until sugar dissolves.

Roll. Remove dough from freezer and sandwich between two large pieces of wax paper. Roll dough out to a 12- to 14-inch round. Trim any rough edges, throw them in the middle, and roll to incorporate. Transfer to a parchment-lined cookie sheet.

Sprinkle. Sprinkle center of crust with almond flour (if using), leaving a 1.5- to 20-inch edge.

Pile on. Pile the fruits onto the crust, leaving at least a 2-inch edge.

Fold. Lift the parchment to help fold edges one at a time towards the center of the galette. Allow edges to overlap, and pinch the overlapping edges together to seal the crust.

Sprinkle again. Brush the crust very lightly with water and sprinkle with sugar in the raw.

Bake. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Transfer galette on parchment to rack to cool for 15 minutes before serving.

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in the works

Hi there.

Summer’s going by fast, isn’t it?

There’s a lot of stuff in the works over here.

What started out as a little project to catalog my recipes has turned into something I’m incredibly proud of.

That’s about all that I can say right now. More later.

Blueberry oatmeal muffins

These muffins are based on the raspberry oatmeal muffins in The Hadassah Everyday Cookbook. I’ve been involved with Hadassah on and off for the past few years through their Young Hadassah International group, including traveling to Rome with them for a conference. I was even asked to contribute a few recipes to the cookbook – how cool is that?! This recipe made exactly a dozen muffins.

– 1/2 C (1 stick) unsalted butter

– 1/2 C brown sugar

– 1 egg

– 1/2 C milk (I used skim)

– 1 t vanilla

– 1 C flour

– 1 t baking  powder

– 1/2 t baking soda

– 1/4 t salt

– 1 C instant/quick cook oats

– 1 C fresh blueberries

Prep. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line cupcake tray with cupcake liners.

Melt and Mix. Melt butter on stovetop or in microwave. Mix with brown sugar until fully combined (I used my mixer). Add egg, milk, and vanilla and mix until thoroughly combined.

Mix again. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet in a few batches, mixing in between. Add oats and mix again. Add the blueberries now and mix very gently. If you want your muffins a bit neater, add the blueberries to the batter once it’s been scooped into the tins and press them down into the batter.

Scoop and Bake. Scoop the batter equally into the 12 cupcake liners. I used a 1/4 C scooper which made this a cinch. Add a few extra blueberries if you’d like. Bake 18-20 minutes. You can try to use a toothpick to test whether the muffins are done, but mine just came out blue. If the muffins are dry on top and a little bit springy, they should be good. Cool on a rack.

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