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Archive for the ‘parve’ Category

a potschke

My Passover cooking philosophy – with the exception of matzah brei and matzah ball soup – is to avoid matzah in all of its permutations (farfel, matzah meal, cake meal). Rather than attempt to construct a facsimile of a leavened sweetie (or even worse, use a boxed cake mix), I like to find ways to use naturally Passover-friendly ingredients in ways that I’d gladly eat the rest of the year.

Which is why I found myself nodding as I read “Don’t Make Passover Too Easy,” the New York Times op-ed that my friend Jeff Yoskowitz wrote last week. In it he makes a compelling argument that  “embracing the holiday’s tedious dietary restrictions, not working around them, is critical to appreciating this holiday on a deeper level. And to eating well.” He encourages readers to go back to basics, to cook the way they did generations ago before there was a Passover aisle with its ersatz cookies, its pizza and s’mores kits. To turn to seasonal produce and cook from scratch and have fun with the challenge.

Yes!

Or, if I were cooler, I’d probably say yaaaaaaasssss!

The article reminded me of how when I met Jeff with his beard and skinny jeans and artisanal gefilte fish company where his title is “chief pickler,” I knee-jerk dismissed him as a hipster and joked that he probably lived in Brooklyn. He does. He then guessed that I lived in the conspicuously Jewish enclave known as the Upper West Side. I do. Touché, Jeff, touché. (I have no idea whether Jeff remembers this conversation, but we’ve moved past any early awkwardness.)

In the article, Jeff doesn’t use the word nostalgia, perhaps because it’s gotten a bad rap in its association with hipster-ism* or its tendency to devolve into excessive sentimentality. But in my book, Passover is the nostalgia-ist of all holidays because it requires a week of stringent food restrictions, and a reliance on recipes passed down through the generations is often the only way to make it through. Even more, the preamble to the seder dinner involves a retelling and symbolic reliving of our communal history. What better way to relive an experience than by immersing ourselves in the foods that our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents ate**, and if you go back far enough (or, in many cases, not that far at all) what our ancestors ate in the country they came from that’s not our current country, because weren’t we all – Jews, Americans – immigrants at some point?***

It’s not surprising, then, the holiday prompted my friend Gabi to coin the term “granny chic” in another recent Passover food-related article in the Boston Globe. Gabi writes about her first time making her mother’s version of her grandmother’s favorite spongecake (10 eggs!) and dried fruit compote. In the article, she addresses the nostalgia issue head on, sharing Jewish cookbook author (most recent: King Solomon’s Table, more on this as soon as I can get it down on paper) and food storyteller Joan Nathan‘s perspective that strict adherence to authenticity can be overrated and improving upon the nostalgic recipes of our past is the way to go.

The Passover recipe that’s most nostalgic for me, that most reminds me of my own Bubbie, is her Passover “bagels.”  They are essentially dense heavy rolls with a thumb print in the middle, heavily sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon (so their belly button fills with the sweet mix), and baked for at least an hour until they finally dehydrate enough to hold their shape and develop of crust. I’m not sure why we didn’t just call them doughnuts, but tradition is tradition and my mom continued making them until just a few years ago when we opted for lighter fare. I can’t help but wonder if we should bring them back next year, keeping the cinnamon sugar but using some non-matzah meal flour alternatives to free them from their hockey-puck heft.

All this has been a really long-winded introduction to the recipe that I have for you today. And perhaps an explanation – to myself at least, since writing and reading often help me figure out what’s behind what I do – for why I opted for such a potchke (translation: fuss in Yiddish) of a recipe for this year’s seders. All the talk of nostalgia got me thinking about what Bubbie might have wanted after dinner and before the afikoman. She was a woman who orchestrated setting the cloth-covered table with dishes for every eventuality, a thematic centerpiece, and pitchers to hold seltzer. Never, ever were we to have a plastic bottle displayed.

So I decided to make a showstopper of a dessert: a lime curd tart on a coconut crust. Something that, after the dinner plates had been cleared and everyone had sat down again, could be presented to the table on a special platter. The Passover equivalent to my bubbie’s Thanksgiving Jell-o mold.

This was a major departure from my tendency to make petite sweets – chocolate cakelets, macaroons, mandelbread. And in my quest to develop a recipe that would work, I followed the advice of Anna Gershenson (she’s Gabi’s mother and has a lifetime of catering and teaching experience) and did something I’ve never done: I broke down and bought potato starch. Using an ingredient that I wouldn’t normally use during the rest of the year was hard for me to stomach, and I stubbornly researched recipes for over a week to avoid it. Eventually I realized that to make the dessert I wanted without laborious recipe testing would require borrowing a failsafe technique developed over many Passovers: potato starch to provide structure to both the crust and curd of the tart I had been dreaming of.

Sure, the crust takes an hour and a half to make, but most of that time is waiting. And, yes, the curd requires a lot of zesting and juicing and tedious stirring over the stove. But the result was exactly what I was looking for. The potschke is worth it and I think I can pat myself on the back and say that Bubbie would have been proud.

FOOTNOTES (seriously, who writes a blog post with footnotes?):

* My working definition of a hipster as someone who “manifests nostalgia for times he never lived himself” comes from an opinion piece in the New York Times that I read back in 2012. Here, Christy Wampole (a Princeton professor of French literature and thought) argues that living ironically (as exemplified by hipsters) is a form of frivolity (my words, not hers) that is worth reconsidering in favor of seriousness. I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole of reading a bunch of Wampole’s articles and interestingly, after last year’s election, she wrote a follow-up essay about the political destructiveness of this ironic living and the importance of “good” seriousness in the face of a current administration that demonstrates an unapologetic, un-self-reflective, taking-itself-too-seriously brand of seriousness.

** The Jewish Food Society, founded by Naama Shefi, has as its mission to honor and revitalize Jewish culinary traditions. I wrote about their first public event, “Schmaltzy,” which was a Moth-like evening during which five different people shared food stories and their favorite dishes. The organization and event were also covered in NPR and Food and Wine.

*** Here’s another article that seems particularly relevant these days: David Sax of Save the Deli argues for welcoming immigrants at the very least for the sake of dining diversity.

Coconut macaroon crust

Adapted from Tori Avey. This is essentially one big macaroon that dries out in the oven to get completely crispy. I initially tried to use my own macaroon recipe but I didn’t make enough to fill the tart pan, and while cooking the egg white coconut mix on the stovetop first is helpful for shaping the macaroons, it’s not necessary for this crust. I scooped it into macaroons.

My crust was very difficult to remove from pan. Next time I plan to line the removable bottom with heavy duty aluminum foil so the tart can be easily removed (like I do for brownies). I’ll report back once I do this to update the recipe.

– 3 C shredded unsweetened coconut

– 4 egg whites (reserve yolks for lime curd filling, below)

– 1/2 C sugar

– 1 T potato starch (or cornstarch)

– 1/4 t salt

– Coconut oil for greasing

Preheat. Preheat oven to 325° F.

Stir. In a bowl, stir together coconut, egg whites, sugar, potato starch, and salt until thoroughly combined.

Wait. Allow the mixture to sit for 20-30 minutes so that the coconut soaks up the liquid.

Press. Grease with coconut oil a 9- or 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the coconut mixture into the pan. Use a measuring cup of the bottom of a glass to smooth out the coconut and to press it into the sides of the pan. Wet the bottom of the cup or glass if it’s sticking to the coconut.

Bake. Place the pan on a cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes or until the edges turn a light golden brown, but the center is still white. Allow to cool for a few minutes until you can gingerly handle the pan, and cover the edge with aluminum foil to stop the browning.

Bake again. Return the pan to the oven and bake for another 30 minutes or until the center turns golden brown. The center might be a bit darker than the edge. Allow to cool. If you’re going to make the whole tart, keep the oven on.

Lime curd filling

Adapted from Gourmet. I amped up the lime zest and replaced the butter with a quarter the amount of coconut oil. This curd is on the puckering side which is how I prefer it, but you can add a bit more sugar if you’d like. 

Makes approximately 1½ cup

– 4 large egg yolks (leftover from the crust)

– 3/4 C fresh lime juice (my limes weren’t very juicy, so I needed 9)

– 2 T lime zest (if you have any left over, use it for the tart topping)

– 3/4 cup sugar

– 1 T potato starch (or cornstarch)

– 1/2 teaspoon salt

– 2 T coconut oil

Whisk. In a 2-quart heavy sauce pan, whisk together egg yolks, lime juice and zest, sugar, potato starch, and salt until the potato starch is dissolved.

Cook. Whisk the mixture over medium-low heat, using a silicone spatula to reach into the corners and scrape the sides and bottom of the pan until the mixture is thickened and beginning to bubble around the edges, about 5 minutes. Whisk for another minute and remove from heat. At this point, the curd should be thick and jiggly.

Strain. Place a strainer over a bowl. With the spatula, scrape the curd into the strainer, pressing gently on the solids – this will remove any egg that might have cooked as well as most of the zest. Scrape any curd clinging to the underside of the strainer into the bowl. This whole process may take a few minutes.

Store. If not using right away, store the curd in the fridge.

Coconut lime curd tart

While the crust is baking, you can make the lime curd, or use whatever curd you’d like – either homemade or store bought.

I played around with a lot of decorating ideas, particularly since lime curd is really yellow from the egg yolks and I wanted to make sure you could tell it was lime rather than lemon. I initially candied lime peel but I allowed the peel to boil for too long (boiling removes the bitterness) before shocking it, so it turned an ugly shade of khaki. I was going to sprinkle it over the curd after the tart baked, but I didn’t feel like making a second batch. Ugly or not, I managed to eat almost the entire batch. In the end, I toasted some coconut and mixed it with lime zest and a little sugar – next time I’d probably sprinkle it over the entire tart so it doesn’t look like a fried egg.

– 1/4 C shredded unsweetened coconut (optional)

– 1 T lime zest (optional)

– 1 T sugar (optional)

– 1 coconut macaroon crust, baked (see above)

– 1 ½ C lime curd (see above)

Preheat. Assuming you’ve just made the crust, the oven should already be at 325° F, but if it’s not, turn up the heat.

Toast. While the crust is baking, pop the coconut into the oven to toast, no more than 2 minutes until it just starts to brown. Watch closely because coconut burns very quickly.

Mix. In a small bowl, mix together the coconut, lime, and sugar.

Fill.  Spread the curd evenly across the crust. Sprinkle liberally with coconut-lime mixture.

Bake. Keeping the pan on the baking sheet, bake for 10-12 minutes until the curd is just set and no longer wobbles if you tap the pan.

Chill. Once the tart comes to room temperature, carefully wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. I like it right out of the fridge.

 

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Way back in December – doesn’t that feel like an eternity ago? – I woke up early one Friday morning, dressed in darkness, and tiptoed out the front door. I needed two pounds of butter (for the cookies that kept on giving) and another of margarine, and my friend Nachama was in town, fast asleep on the sofa. It was Alyson’s birthday and she had invited both of us over for shabbat dinner. As usual, I offered to make dessert.

Just a few weeks shy of the winter solstice, sundown (the start of shabbat) was around half-past four and with at least a thirty minute drive up to Alyson’s new place in Riverdale, and a downtown physical therapy appointment, I wanted to get dessert into the oven early. This is all a long-winded way of saying that I was tired and in a rush.

Back home from the store, I ground fresh beans and made a pot of coffee. Either the sound or the smell dragged Nachama out from under the covers. She sat on a pouf that she dragged across the floor to my kitchen doorway – the kitchen’s barely big enough for one, let alone two bodies – and we caught up on each other’s travels, work, and lives.

The day before, I had found a few tart recipes to use up a bag of cranberries left over after Thanksgiving. While Nachama and I chatted, I compared three printouts and calculated how to mix and match the recipes in the right proportions. I was convinced that the area of a circle was 2πr which slowed down the process considerably. Once I remembered it was πr2, things went a bit more smoothly.

Math all figured out, I set to work, mixing together a dough and pressing it into little tart pans (how cute are they??).

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While the crusts baked, I started in on the curd. Melting down the cranberries into a compote. Pureeing. Cooling. Adding the eggs and yolks. While the cranberries cooled and I cracked and separated eggs, Nachama squeezed past me and sliced up some onions for an omelette to use up the four egg whites leftover from the curd.

I did double duty at the stove – stirring the cranberries with eggs, lemon, sugar, and a pinch of salt and slowly caramelizing the onions with the other. Once the curd set, I strained it. Once the onions caramelized, I added the eggs. I filled the tartlet crusts with curd and popped them in the oven, and Nachama and I sat down to breakfast.

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When the timer went off, I pulled the tartlets out of the oven and put them on the counter to cool. Right next to a stick of margarine. The stick of margarine that I forgot to add to the curd. Shit! 

Too late to do anything about it, I trotted off to PT and rushed back home. After an hour or so in the fridge, the tartlets firmed up and though the curd was a little looser and the texture a little less decadent than I’d have liked, Nachama and I decided that no one would know that an ingredient was missing.

And so I have for you some winter tartlets. Just in time for spring.

(If you want to be all seasonal about it, fill the crust with rhubarb curd instead.)

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Cranberry curd tartlets

The idea for these tartlets came from the New York Times, but eventually I used the crust from my lemon bars (originally from Alice Medrich) and a slightly less sweet (and lower fat if you forget the 1/2 cup of margarine/butter) cranberry curd from The Kitchn. If you do want to add margarine/ butter, stir it into the strained cranberries. Now that it’s Spring, you can make the curd with rhubarb instead (double this recipe from Not Derby Pie) for an slightly less pink dessert.

Make sure to line the bottom of your tart pans with rounds of parchment paper. If you don’t want to make tartlets, you can make two 8- or 9-inch tarts or a 9X13-inch pan. The recipe makes 2 cups of curd. 

Makes 10 4-inch tartlets.

For crust:

– 1 1/2 C sifted flour

– 1/2 C yellow cornmeal

–  large pinch salt

– 1/4 t baking soda

– 1/4 C unsalted butter or margarine (room temperature)

– 2/3 C sugar

– 2 egg yolks

– 2 T light mayonnaise or yogurt

– 1/3 t vanilla extract

For topping:

– 12 oz (about 3 C) fresh cranberries

– 1/2 C water

– 2/3 C granulated sugar

– 4 eggs

– 4 egg yolks

– 2 T lemon juice

– 1/4 t salt

Prepare. Preheat oven to 350ºF and put rack in lower 1/3 of the oven. Cut 10 circles of parchment paper the size of the removable pan bottoms, and then grease and line the pans. Pick out any squished or blemished cranberries and remove any stems and then rinse the berries.

Make crust:

Mix. Stir together the flour, cornmeal, salt, and baking soda. In a stand mixer, beat the mayonnaise/yogurt and margarine/butter until creamy. Add the sugar and beat for about a minute. Beat in egg yolk, mayonnaise/yogurt, and vanilla. Add in the dry ingredients and beat on low until just combined. It will be crumbly. Scrape bowl and knead briefly with hands.

Press. Press a generous 1/4 cup of dough into each tartlet pan, making sure to cover the sides. Use the bottom of a measuring cup to smooth everything out and nudge the dough into the fluted edges. Prick the dough all over with a fork.

Bake. Arrange the pans on a cookie sheet for easier transport. Bake for 20 minutes until the edges just start to brown.

Make curd:

Cook. While the crusts are baking, place the cranberries and water in a medium-sized pot over medium-high heat and stir. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until all the cranberries have popped and become mushy, about 5 minutes. Puree the cranberries with an immersion blender until as smooth as possible.

Cool. Remove the pot from the stovetop and allow the cranberry puree to come to room temperature. This is an important step because if it’s too hot, it will cook the eggs.

Mix. To the pot with the cranberry puree, add the sugar, eggs and yolks, lemon juice, and salt. Stir thoroughly.

Heat. Return the pot to the stove. Stir the curd continuously, making sure to scrape the bottom and corners of the pan. Cook until the curd starts to thicken, coats the back of a spoon, and registers about 150° on an instant-read thermometer if you have one, about 10-12 minutes.

Strain. Pour the curd through a strainer into a clean bowl – this will get rid of any tough cranberry bits or cooked egg. This is when you should stir in the 1/4 cup of butter or margarine until it melts.

Put it all together:

Bake. Pour the strained cranberry curd (it’s OK if it’s warm) onto the baked crust, a scant 1/4 cup per tartlet. Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes, until the curd has set. It shouldn’t wobble when you tap the pan. Cool completely and refrigerate before serving.

Store. Keep refrigerated. The crust will soften after a day, so these are best eaten the day they are made.

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no time to sleep

A friend once told me that if you nap on Rosh Hashanah, you’ll sleep through the upcoming year. Bubbameister or not, it’s always bugged me as I’ve crawled onto the sofa for a post-services, post-lunch, pre-dinner schluff. Clearly it never bothered me enough, but it did always give me pause.

So a nap-free 5777 was a first. There was no afternoon curling up under a blanket, no slurping coffee and then resting my eyes for a few more minutes because synagogue will go until 1 or 2 so going late won’t make much of a difference, no reading on a hammock, its swaying lulling me to sleep.

This year, though, I started a new tradition. While I have in the past hosted my immediate family for Rosh Hashanah, this is the first time I’ve ever cooked for my extended family. It’s not a huge family – we had ten around my table on Sunday evening – but it felt monumental for me to add a new holiday to our biannual Thanksgiving-Passover gathering repertoire. I guess now it’s triannual. It made me feel like a real grownup.

It worked out that I was between projects, so I had the luxury of being able to plan, shop, and then cook for five days straight. Of course, my refrigerator stopped working, so in the middle of it all, a couple of repairmen breezed through my kitchen and came up with a temporary solution that required two visits. I’m still waiting for some parts to come in for a full repair. I can’t help but wonder whether the fact that I offered them cookies during their first visit resulted in their needing to return not once, but twice.

Most of the recipes were tried and true and straight from the blog. For the main event (i.e., the first night – Sunday), after the traditional challah (from Breads), apples and honey, and new fruit (dragon fruit one night, rambutan the next), we dipped into muhammarah, chopped liver, and eggplant tomato salad alongside a big dish of pickles. After making over eleven pounds of Ana Sortun’s tamarind-braised short ribs, I worried that someone might not want beef, so I threw together an Ottolenghi recipe for za’atar roast chicken that was demolished. As far as sides, we went with butternut squash with balsamic onions, green beans with hazelnut and orange, and arugula salad with pear and pomegranate (a variation on this one). Dessert? Fruit and then I went overboard and baked four sweets: honey cake, the easiest apple cake in the worldchocolate chip cookies, and pine nut and rosemary biscotti. More on those in a moment.

Lunch after synagogue was bagels and lox. Dinner Monday was at my friend Meira’s,  and my mom made Nach Waxman’s brisket and her matzah ball soup. Our final lunch was mushroom soup followed by leftovers.

There was no time to sleep between cooking and setting up and eating and cleaning up and going to synagogue and starting everything all over again, four times over two days. So, perhaps it’s a harbinger of the year to come, a busy one with lots to do and little time to nap.

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As for the recipe that was new to my table and blog: these biscotti. They’re from my friend Rachel Roddy‘s cookbook Five Quarters (the US version is My Kitchen in Rome) – she was one of the teachers at the food writing course I took at Anna Tasca Lanza in Sicily last year. They have pine nuts and rosemary, the combination of which feels just so Italian. And Rachel’s technique is so different from my mine whereby I whip the eggs and sugar until very aerated to prevent the cookies from being tooth-shattering.

Rachel’s directions are simple. Essentially, just use your hands. You mush everything together in one bowl, letting the dough squish between your fingers and lodge itself under your nails. It feels rustic, like a technique handed down from someone’s nonna’s nonna’s nonna. I was skeptical the first time I tried the recipe and made a bunch of modifications. I used my mixer. I added an extra egg because the dough seemed too dry. I added some flour and wrestled with the dough. And the biscotti came out great. The next time, I used water instead of egg to control the amount of liquid. I still needed to wrestle with the dough. And they came out great.

So finally, in the rush to get everything done and no time to waste second guessing myself, I did what I should have done the first time – I followed the recipe as it was written. And they came out great.

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Biscotti di mondorle e pinoli (Almond, pine nut, and rosemary biscotti)

Adapted from Rachel Roddy’s Five Quarters (the US version is My Kitchen in Rome). Rachel makes these with 1 teaspoon fennel seed, but I’m not a fan of licorice flavors, so I latched on to her suggestion to use fresh rosemary instead. The raw dough tastes a bit too sweet and floury when raw, and is a little squirrel-y when you’re trying to form it – don’t worry, dig your hands in to wrestle it into shape and it bakes up just fine. Well, better than fine. 

Makes about 3 dozen

– 2 C (250 g) all-purpose flour

– 1 C (250 g) sugar

– 1/2 t baking powder

– 1/2 t salt

– 1 t finely chopped fresh rosemary

– 1 C (100 g) sliced or slivered almonds

– 1/2 C (75 g) pine nuts

– 2 eggs, beaten

Prep. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

Mix. Sift the flour into a large bowl and add the rest of the ingredients except the eggs. Mix well. Add the beaten eggs and use your hands to bring the ingredients together into a ball of firm dough, making sure the nuts are well distributed.

Shape. Cut the ball of dough in half. Shape both halves into sausages about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and place them on the baking tray. If the dough is a bit crumbly, squish it together as best you can and then wet your hands and smooth out the top.

Bake. Bake for 20-25 minutes, by which time the dough will she spread out and should still be soft in the middle, but firm enough to cut into slim slices.

Slice. Take the rolls out of the oven and reduce the temperature to 325ºF. Let the rolls cool a little, then carefully lift or slide them to a chopping board. Using a sharp, serrated knife, cut them on a slight diagonal into slices about 1/3 inch wide.

Bake again. Put the slices back on the baking tray, and cook for another 15 minutes, or until dry, firm, and crisp.

Cool. Cool on a wire rack, then store them in an airtight tin.

 

 

 

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My mother keeps packets of Gulden’s spicy brown mustard in her purse.

There used to be a kosher grocery store in Maryland that my parents frequented and, in the front of the store was a hot dog stand. The stand only provided bright yellow mustard, but my dad likes his mustard deli-style spicy. So he would slip a jar of mustard from the store into my mom’s cart to squirt on the one dog that he’d eat. After this happened a few times, my mom got smart. Even thought the store and the hot dog stand are no longer around, she still stashes my dad’s favorite mustard for hot dog emergencies.

It shouldn’t come as such a surprise that I homed in on the recipe for spicy whole-grain mustard in The Gefilte Manifesto: New Recipes for Old World Jewish Foods. I spoke to co- authors and Gefilteria co-founders Jeffrey Yoskowitz and Liz Alpern last month, and you can find our discussion over on The Forward. The conversation and article is peppered with words like gospel and ambassador, and this book gives even more evidence that these two are leading the next generation of Jewish food historians, champions, makers, and fressers.

Their approach to recipe development is as deliberate as their philosophy and, if you wanted, you could buy the book just for the instructions (but why would you?). As someone who has reviewed my fair share of cookbooks, it was clear to me that the recipes were double, triple, quadruple tested and the abundant notes and variations make the book approachable to anyone. That’s not to say that the dishes are quick and easy – in fact, many of them are quite involved – but you can rest assured that if you read the recipes all the way through (beware of long fermentation, soaking, and rising times), you’re in safe hands.

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Before we get to the recipe, a few notes. This mustard is sinus-clearingly intense, and I’ll be giving a jar to my parents over Rosh Hashanah. The recipe requires an overnight soak and then two days to mellow, so prepare for that. If you want to lower the heat, I’ve done a little research and think that substituting milder yellow mustard seeds for brown will help; Jeffrey also suggested upping the honey or trying a more delicate vinegar.

Spicy whole-grain mustard

Reprinted from The Gefilte Manifesto: New Recipes for Old World Jewish Foods

Mustard is a key player in Ashkenazi cooking. The mustard plant, a member of the Brassica family, has some pretty important relatives in cabbage and horseradish. Can you imagine eastern European Jewish cooking without them? Probably not. And you also probably can’t imagine a hot deli pastrami sandwich without spicy ground mustard. Personally, I can’t fathom life without a hot deli pastrami sandwich.

Why make your own mustard? Some store-bought mustard contains thickeners and unnamed “spices.” But more important, homemade mustard is just really good. Liz and I cooked a four-course pop-up dinner one January night at Barjot, a restaurant in Seattle. We made almost everything ourselves, from the schmaltz to the pastries. But we didn’t make mustard because Barjot makes its own. After the meal, a guest pulled me aside and said, “Everything was great, but the mustard is out of this world.” Oof. It was time for us to make our own. This recipe is inspired by Barjot’s.

Ashkenazi mustard should have bite and texture. Smear it on Home-Cured Pastrami (page 210) and Home-Cured Corned Beef (page 207), eat it with savory Roasted Garlic Potato Knishes (see page 195), and use it for salad dressings.

1 cup whole brown mustard seeds

1¼ cups apple cider vinegar

¼ cup mustard powder

2½ tablespoons honey

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1. Place the mustard seeds and vinegar in an airtight glass container and let sit at room temperature until the seeds absorb the vinegar and plump up, at least overnight or up to 24 hours.

2. Pour the seed mixture into a food processor and add the mustard powder, honey, and salt. Process for a minute or two until a paste forms.

3. Scoop the mustard into a glass jar, seal, and refrigerate for about 2 days to allow the flavor to mellow out. Don’t be alarmed if the initial smell is rather pungent. The mustard will keep in the refrigerator for 4 to 6 months.

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I went back to Buvette last week where I ordered the carottes râpées and croque forestière, a grilled mushroom sandwich wrapped in gruyere. As you may recall, I do have a thing for carrot salads from France.

This time, the date showed up but he asked to split the bill. So we’re on to the next one.

Then I spent the weekend downtown, cat sitting or a friend, and took advantage of the new surroundings and colorful cookware to try out a recipe. Buvette’s carrots were on the menu and even though most of my meals took place in restaurants (my parents were in town), I managed to squeeze in a salad and a few fun shots.

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Speaking of new surroundings, I’m actually traveling right now. At the last minute, I booked what I’m calling a creative retreat to Bermuda. I’ve wanted to come here since my friends and I were subjected to a emergency landing on the island, trapped for several hours in the airport with only one vending machine, and tortured with a view of pink houses. I know it may seem extravagant given that I’ve just returned from Iceland. And yet, a bunch of projects over the past month have made it nearly impossible to catch up on a pile of writing – both here and over at the Forward. With the Jewish holidays and several upcoming cookbook releases on the horizon, I wanted to dedicate a little time to my “craft.” I’ve also brought my real camera and hope to play around with photographing things that aren’t food.

You can follow my travels over on Instagram. Today, there were bus rides (including an impromptu sunbathing session sitting on a stone wall at the bus stop, my feet mere inches from the cars, trucks, and bikes – but no bus for nearly an hour – winding their way towards me), reading on a beach that slowly disappeared as the tide came in, and a massage by the pool while the sun set. When I finish posting this, I’m taking a night swim.

And now, before y’all hate me, the recipe.

Buvette’s carottes râpées with pistachios and coriander vinaigrette

Adapted from Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food. Jody Williams calls this vinaigrette “an assertive lemon dressing” and it’s bracing in its acidity on its own, but mixed with sweet carrots and salty pistachios, it works. This makes a little more dressing than you’ll need. You can use a food processor to grate the carrots, but I prefer to use a julienne peeler for longer, thicker pieces. 

– ¼ C freshly squeezed lemon juice (my lemons were a little sad, so I needed 4; typically you can get ¼ cup juice from 2 lemons)

– ½ C extra virgin olive oil

– 1 medium garlic clove, grated on a Microplane (or finely minced)

– Large pinch sea salt

– Large pinch red chili flakes

– 1 t coriander seeds, toasted

– 4 C grated carrots (approximately 6 carrots hand grated)

– ½ C shelled pistachios (I used roasted salted nuts)

– Handful fresh cilantro leaves

Whisk. Whisk together the lemon juice, oil, garlic, salt, and chili flakes. 

Crush. With a mortar and pestle (I used the other end of a wooden spoon) or the flat side of a knife blade, gently crush the coriander seeds and add them to the dressing.

Marinate. Pour the dressing over the carrots, pistachios, and cilantro. Allow to sit for at least half an hour before serving.

Chill. The salad will keep, well covered, in the refrigerator for a few days.

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Happy 4th from Central Park!

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I write to you from an old sheet spread out on a patch of grass just a few steps outside my apartment. Surrounding me (cross-legged with a laptop) are kids flying kites, a woman in an American flag inspired tutu, calypso music soaring out of an old-school boombox, and smoke from competing barbecues. I’ve been having my own little staycation here in Manhattan this long weekend.

Yesterday, my sister and I did some bargain hunting at Century 21 on the tip of the island  followed by our first attempt at Citi Biking along the river. It took a little while to get used to being on two wheels again – I don’t even spin – and we ended up on a pedestrian-only path, which a kindly gentleman pointed out to us in a voice loud enough for lady liberty to hear. We were pedaling along the (correct) biking path when I heard a rip: my favorite summer pants had given out. I muttered a few choice works and pouted. We dismounted, found the nearest dock, and returned our bikes. Still pouting, I covering my behind with my shopping bag and quickly found a place to change into a newly purchased dress. We went straight to dinner.

Two glasses of champagne in, I received a text from Citi Bike: “You’ve had your bike out for a while and are being charged for extra miles…” There were a few more choice words followed by more pouting. We weren’t too far from the naughty bike and walked along the Highline to find and adjust it. Despite the mishaps, I’d totally Citi Bike again. But in leggings.

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But let’s back up a bit so we can talk about an actual recipe. That sheet that I’m sitting on is already spotted with grass stains and food drips (appetizing, I know) from Saturday afternoon when, after a lunch capped off by today’s crisp, some friends and I picnicked on snacks and watched a flamenco guitar and dance performance in Riverside Park.

The origin of that crisp goes back to last weekend. Well, actually, it goes all the way back to Memorial Day weekend, if I’m going to be absolutely thorough. And, as you probably know, I do like to be thorough.

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I spent Memorial Day with Meira and her family. Knowing that her husband Alan’s favorite “fruit” is rhubarb – he’s so British! – I loaded up on the first stalks of the season and schlepped them out to their house on Long Island. In discussing what to do with the rhubarb, Alan requested something sweet but on the healthier side and without anything that would get in the way of the rhubarb taste. Before I had a chance to look up any recipes though, I got sick and had to cut my visit short, leaving the bright pink beauties behind.

Last weekend, my parents came to town and we went out to Long Island for Shabbat dinner where I redeemed myself with a crisp with some end-of-season rhubarb. The filling was super tart – just rhubarb, lemon juice and zest, and a sprinkle of sugar – and the topping sweet like a crispy oatmeal cookie. Everyone, including Alan and my chocoholic father praised it (on the blue plate up top, you can see it’s a little runny), but I thought it could be slightly improved upon.

With a revised crisp in mind, I organized a potluck Shabbat lunch as an excuse to test the tweaked recipe. I skipped the lemon, upped the sugar in the filling and dropped it in the crust, and reduced the amount of coconut oil.

Only one farmer at my market had rhubarb on Friday and he told me that this is the last of the season, so I bought extra and there are now a few pounds of chopped rhubarb in my freezer. So, if you see some rhubarb, grab it while you can and throw together this crisp. Or muffins. Or rugelach. Or compote.

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Rhubarb crisp

Serves 8-10 

The filling is based on a recipe of Mark Bitman’s and the topping is adapted from a recipe I tested for a friend. My first take had a sweeter topping (a full cup of sugar) and tarter juicier rhubarb (1/4 cup sugar, one lemon for zest and juice, and no flour), so play with the proportions to get the balance that you’d like. When the fruit bakes down, you end up with a 1:1 ratio of filling to topping.

I use a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate (7 1/2 inches on bottom) for a pretty thick crisp. You could also use an 8-inch square or, for a thinner crisp, a 10-inch tart or cake pan (not with a removable bottom). If you only have whole or slivered nuts, pulse the topping dry ingredients in a small food processor until nuts are chunky, then add egg and pulse a few more times until incorporated.

This is best about 30 minutes after it comes out of the oven (or is reheated). Any leftovers? Top with a big scoop of yogurt, and you have breakfast. 

For the filling:

– 2 – 2 ½ lbs rhubarb (6-7 cups chopped)

– 6T white sugar

– 2T flour

For the topping:

– ½ C all-purpose flour

– ½ C oats

– ½ C sliced almonds

– 1/3 C white sugar

– 1/3 C brown sugar

– 1 t baking powder

– 1/2 t salt

– 1 egg, beaten

– ¼ C melted (liquid) coconut oil

Prep. Heat the oven to 350°F.

Mix filling. In the pie plate, toss the filling ingredients until evenly coated.

Mix topping. In a bowl, mix together flour, oats, almonds, sugars, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center of these dry ingredients and add the beaten egg. Stir mixture with a fork until it gets crumbly, the consistency of cornmeal.

Bake. Crumble the topping evenly over the rhubarb and drizzle the coconut oil evenly over it. Bake until the top turns golden brown and fruit juices start to bubble up on the sides, 40 – 45 minutes.

 

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Once you’ve lived in a city for long enough, you develop a grocery shopping routine. Here’s how mine goes, a mix of highbrow and low, seasonal and, well, less so.

On Fridays, I go to the farmers market a few blocks from my place. It’s open year-round and even in the snow, I try to pick up at least a few apples. These days, my must haves are radishes and young lacinato kale from J&A Bialas farm, a boule from She Wolf (I’m partial to their sprouted spelt and polenta), and salted butter from Ronnybrook Farm.

In contrast, there’s also my corner fruit and vegetable guy. I get from him bags of lemons and clamshells of berries and the occasional mango. The quality is about the same as a middling store, and the cart’s selling point is convenience, price, and lack of a long line. I eat enough raspberries in a single sitting that even if they’ve been sitting outside, under an umbrella but still subject to the elements, they’ll last long enough to make it a day in the fridge before I gobble them up.

There’s a Whole Foods just behind my corner guy, and a mere 3 blocks from my apartment, and for sheer proximity it’s my primary source for fridge, freezer, and pantry. My wallet has seen happier days.

And then there’s the slightly sketchy Associated across from my apartment. Based on appearance alone, I avoided the place for the first year, but when I was looking for off-season plums for a project I was working on, my friend Adeena suggested I pop in to the store because she said that strangely enough, they always have plums. And she was right. No matter the season, there’s always a huge pile of plums in the center of their fruit display, if you can call it that. Sure, they’re often hard as a rock, but they’re there when you need them.

I also found another use for the store: cheap produce that is just about a minute past its prime. If I want to make a compote (which these days I mix into my morning yogurt), they usually have just the thing: slightly squashed blueberries, bruised apples, and the like. Sure, you have to heat up your pot the moment you get home, but 30 minutes later, you’re all set. Soups and sauces lends themselves to ragtag tomatoes. And, finally, today’s recipe, tomatillo salsa. You can’t choose your tomatillos at my Associated – they’re prepackaged on a small styrofoam tray for a dollar – and you’ll probably have to chuck 2 out of every 10 for being a bit squishy, but the rest are perfect.

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A little time blistering in the broiler alongside jalapeños and garlic, a quick whir with citrus and cilantro, and the tomatillos are transformed into something you will want to douse on everything. Spread it on an avocado and roast beef sandwich? Yup. Mix it with a little oil and lime juice and make a slaw? Yup. Top sunny side up eggs? Yup. Yup. Yup.

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Roasted tomatillo salsa

Adapted from Epicurious/GourmetThis salsa is quite spicy, so if your palate runs mild, start with  half the number of jalapeños. This would be great with some lime juice.

Makes 4 cups

– 1 1/2 lbs fresh tomatillos (about 8 medium)

– 6 fresh jalapeño

– 3 garlic cloves, unpeeled

– 1/2 C cilantro

– 1 large onion, coarsely chopped

– 1 T kosher salt

Broil. Preheat broiler and line a shallow pan or baking sheet with aluminum foil. Remove tomatillo husks and rince under warm water to remove stickiness. Broil tomatillos, jalapeños, and garlic on the pan/sheet 1-2 inches from heat, turning once, until tomatillos are softened and charred, 7-10 minutes.

Puree. Peel garlic and pull tops off of jalapeños. Puree all ingredients, including onion and salt, in a blender.

 

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full on

Get out the basket, because it’s picnic weather. My windows are thrown open and all the fans I own are whipping around the grass-scented fresh air to the tune of the roaring lawnmowers outside. I’m resisting the urge to turn on the air conditioning just yet. While there’s nothing more boring than discussing the weather, this year’s been a weird one, with an unseasonably warm winter, an unseasonably cold spring, and now, full on sticky summer. Luckily, the garbage lining the streets hasn’t yet started to stink. Ahhhh, life in New York City. No wonder it clears out once the temperature rises. And I have a few escapes planned myself, thanks to a couple of friends with pools in the ‘burbs and an upcoming trip to Iceland (!!). Tomorrow, I plan to pick up a few stalks of rhubarb at the green market and bring them out to one of said friends with a pool and bake us something sweet (this? this? or perhaps a variation on this?).

Anyway, I want to pass along a quick recipe for the hibiscus drink that I made a few weeks ago (spiked with alcohol) and have not been able to stop drinking (sans alcohol) as the mercury’s inched up. It’s an agua fresca (“fresh water”), traditionally a mix of fruit, flowers, or seeds with water and a little sugar served in Central America. I had my first sips of the fruity variety a few years back in Panama – one morning papaya, another morning watermelon – and since them have tended to make floral versions, almost like a lightly sweetened herbal iced tea, which more properly would be called a tisane or infusion.

I buy the flowers in tea bag form for ease and laziness, but you can always use dried flowers if you prefer and strain them out after steeping. No recipe is needed for these: 2-4 tea bags per quart of hot water (depending on how strong you want your tea), steep for a long time, add some sugar (or agave) to taste, and chill. Lavender works great (4 bags) and I love to drink a relaxing glass before bed. Also fresh mint, which is obviously not a flower. Next up: elder flower because I love St-Germaine.

My agua de jamaica, i.e., hibiscus drink, has a few more ingredients than flower + water + sugar. I like to add lime juice and blueberries – after a few hours, those berries are reminiscent of the fruit at the bottom of the sangria jug. You can also cold brew or add ginger and cinnamon.

Happy summering, all!

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Hibiscus agua fresca

This recipe is incredibly easy, but you do need to prepare it far enough in advance to let the drink cool. When I made this for a crowd (6 quarts!), I boiled the flowers in a large pot and then stuck the whole thing in the freezer because my guest were arriving in less than 2 hours. Then I added the blueberries and poured it over glasses full of ice.

Hibiscus is pretty potent, so you don’t need to use too many tea bags. If you want your drink more of a spritzer, seep the tea bags in just 1 cup of water, pour the concentrate into a glass and fill with seltzer. You can also spike your drink with vodka, tequila, or gin.

Makes 1 quart

– 3 1/2 C water

– 2 hibiscus herbal tea bags

– 1-2 T sugar

– 1 lime for juice (1 1/2 – 2 T)

– 1/2 C rinsed blueberries

Steep. Boil water and pour it over the tea bags and sugar in a pitcher that can withstand the heat (or use a pot). Let steep for 30 minutes. Remove bags.

Juice. Squeeze the lime into the infusion and taste for sweetness, adding more if necessary.

Chill. Allow the mix to come to room temperature and then put it into the fridge (or freezer) until very cold.

Serve. Once cold, add blueberries (the berries might get mushy if you put them in the infusion hot) and serve.

 

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On Sunday, I watched the documentary film In Search of Israeli Cuisine as part of a celebration of Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s independence day. Afterwards, a friend and I followed our grumbling stomachs to a nearby Israeli restaurant for an early dinner. (And, of course, dessert.) If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that I have a lot of wonderful things to say about Michael Solomonov, the film’s guide through the country and its restaurant and home kitchens.

Unable to get the food porn out of my head, I made a late lunch today inspired by sabich, an Iraqi sandwich often sold in Israel alongside falafel and schwarma. It’s a pita stuffed with fried eggplant, hard boiled eggs, chopped vegetables, hummus, and tehina, all drizzled with amba, a pickled mango sauce seasoned with turmeric and fenugreek.

Before we go any further, there’s some fun etymology to discuss – and you know how I like my etymology. First off, sabich. There are a few theories about the origins of the name of this sandwich introduced to Israel by Iraqi Jews who fled anti-Semitic violence in the 1040s and 50s. It may be a variation on sabah which means morning in Arabic and refers to the fact that Iraqi Jews eat cold eggplant and eggs and the mezze on shabbat morning. Or perhaps it’s a Hebrew acronym for the main ingredients – salat (salad), beitzim (eggs), chatzilim (eggplant). Or even the first name of an enterprising gentleman who opened a sabich stand soon after immigrating. As for the word amba, it is Sanskrit for mango and the ingredient is thought to be a version of mango chutney brought back from India by Baghdadi Jewish merchants.

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For my sandwich, I used what I had in the house. A hunk of rye. A small eggplant that I sliced and broiled. A few hard-boiled eggs that I guillotined with my newest gadget. Some tehina that I picked up at Seed + Mill. (Have you been yet? No? Well, what are you waiting for? Unless you don’t like fresh tehina, funky flavors of halva, and goat milk soft serve.) And a jar of amba. I ate it open faced and call it a tartine because I’m fancy like that.

For more history on sabich, read what Saveur published a few years back. For a more authentic recipe, see what Yotam Ottolenghi has to say on the topic. And if you live in New York and just want to eat, head over to Taim (kosher).

Sabich tartine

Not really a recipe, here are some guidelines to make a simplified sabich-style open-faced sandwich.

In my experience, sabich always makes a mess – probably because it’s usually served in over-stuffed pita – but a particularly damning one since amba stains whatever it drips on. Though a bit precious, I ate one of my tartines with knife and fork. The second one I folded in half, wrapped in several paper towels, and ate on the run as I rushed to pilates class. Classy, I know. You can also roll the ingredients into a tortilla. To make this Iraqi sandwich more traditional, chop up some tomato and cucumber salad salad, slice a  few pickles, and stuff everything into a pita with hummus. 

Makes 2 open-faced sandwiches

Turn on your broiler.

Put 2 eggs in a pot of cold water, bring to a boil, and then remove from heat, cover, and let sit for 10 minutes to cook (or just hard-cook them however you’d like). Run the eggs under cold water until cool enough to touch and remove shells. Thinly slice.

While the eggs are cooking, slice a small eggplant (mine was a petite 5-inch American/Italian variety) into ~1/4-inch rounds. Arrange the eggplant on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and brush each side with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Broil for 3-8 minutes (depends how close your pan is to the broiler) until starting to brown, and then flip and broil for another 3-8 minutes.

Mix 1/4 cup tehina with about 2 tablespoons cold water. It will seize up and thicken – that’s OK for now. Squeeze in half a lemon (about 2 tablespoons juice) and keep mixing. Stir in more cold water, teaspoon by teaspoon, until you reach the consistency you want. I wanted more of a spread (as opposed to a sauce), so I used about 3 tablespoons of water total.

Spread tehina on two slices of rye bread (I like Balthazar’s rye boule). Layer the eggs and eggplant. Drizzle with amba (I found mine at Holyland Market on Saint Mark’s Place).

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