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Archive for the ‘parve’ Category

the burn of sun

I woke up this morning well before my alarm. I forgot to close my curtains last night and the sun, as it rises over the city, pokes around the neighboring building and eventually finds my face. I thought about burrowing under the covers to hide, but instead I just let the sun shine bright, my eyes squinting in protest.

I’ve been leaving a notebook by my bed for morning pages, so I shimmy to a sitting position, pulling an extra pillow behind my back, and reach for my pen. The window is open and the fan is on, my hair blowing before I tie it back into a knot. My phone is already pre-set with a twelve-minute timer. Ready? Start.

I write about how overcast it’s been and how nice it is to feel the burn of sun on my skin again. I shift on the mattress and angle myself so that my face hides in the shade of one of the narrow window panes. The shadow of my pen, tall like a skyscraper, drags across the paper, its point meets my script with the beginning of each word. I work out the exact angle to hold the notebook, the pen so that the shadow lifts and creeps back on to the page. I write really small and the shadow stays nearly still, a silent ventriloquist. Then, with a sweeping gesture, the shadow flies across the paper.

These are the shadows I avoid in photos, I write, but I think this morning that it might be fun to use them.

hot silane on feta toast, in the shadows

Breakfast was feta on rye toast with silan, also known as date honey. Less cloying than the bee-made stuff but with a similar viscosity, silan is a commonly-used sweetener in Israel and I’ve been playing around with it of late. A few weeks ago, a bunch of us from the restaurant did a pizza crawl that started at Rubirosa in Little Italy and ended in Brooklyn at Paulie Gee’s where I tried hot honey for the first time. A few days after I got back from Italy, I decided to try my hand at making my own version of this sticky spicy mess.

The impetus was laundry avoidance, an upcoming barbecue, and a large bag of tiny dried peppers. I had picked up the peperoncino piccante intero at a grocery story in an effort to use up my last few euro coins before heading to the Palermo airport. Given how small the peppers were, ranging in size from a half- to a full inch, I figured they’d be mighty spicy. But a tablespoon scooped into a pot of simmering silan barely registered as heat on my tongue. So I kept adding and tasting, adding and tasting, until I landed on a sweet mixture with a slow tingling burn that builds in the back of your mouth.

I’ve mostly been eating it as you can see in the photos, drizzled on salty cheese. I’ll be bringing some to Meira‘s this weekend and I imagine it’ll end up getting splashed into a drink or two, perhaps with some lime and gin.

Here are a few more photos, out of the shadows this time.

hot silan

hot silan

Spicy silan

I reviewed a few recipes (here, here, here, and here) and came up with some tips for making my own hot honey. Here’s what I’ve learned:

Temperature. You want to get the silan/honey hot enough that the peppers will infuse their heat without burning the sugars. Several recipes using actual honey recommend keeping the temperature under 150°F to maintain the health benefits of raw honey, so I pulled out my candy thermometer to see what was going on. Since i’m not concerned about honey as a healing food and I was using silan anyway, I ignored the 150-mark and focused more on making sure that it didn’t exceed the boiling point of water (212°F) at which point evaporation would begin (resulting in a change in the consistency – I didn’t want to make candy) and above which the sugars themselves would eventually burn (starting at about 230°F). Essentially, if the mix starts to bubble and froth, turn the heat down. If you’ve got a candy thermometer, try to keep the temperature around a safe180-200°F. 

Spiciness. The commercial hot honeys i’ve tried are really hot. Really hot. I believe they use fresh chili peppers and may add vinegar. Mine is more of a medium hot.  I’ve tried this recipe with both silan and honey, with small whole dried peppers and with pepper flakes. As I’m sure you know, the smaller the pepper, the spicier, so use your judgment. Start with 1 or 2 teaspoons pepper, especially if you’re using flakes and taste as you go. 

Tasting. After each addition, let the peppers simmer in the honey for 10 minutes before tasting. To taste, drip a little honey onto a plate and let it cool down for at least 30 seconds before tasting. You do not want to put nearly boiling sugar anywhere near your body.

Makes 1 1/2 cups

– 1 1/2 C silan (or honey)

– 3-4 T dried red chili peppers or 1-2 T crushed red pepper

Heat. Bring silan and 1 tablespoon peppers to a simmer (180 – 200°F) in a medium-sized pot. After 15 minutes, taste for spiciness (see note). Add more pepper and continue simmering until you reach the heat level you want.

Filter. Allow the silan to cool for at least 5 minutes. Pour the cooled silan through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean jar.

Store. Store at room temperature.

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morning pages

I just got back from that big trip I mentioned a few weeks back. I started with two days in Paris. Then, Sicily where I spent a week at Anna Tasca Lanza cooking school for a food writing course taught by Luisa Weiss and Rachel Roddy and rounded out the rest of my trip with a few beach days in Cefalu on the northern coast of the island. There’s so much to process and write about the past two weeks – in short it was vacation far dreamier than I could have imagined – but for now, you can check out my Instagram for some photos. Here’s one of my favorites.

aprons

I came home yesterday to bagels and lox. My parents had been in town while I was gone and spent their last night at my place, so when I walked into my apartment with my suitcase on its last legs, er wheels, my mom was there with a true New York welcome. There were also some take-out leftovers, including a container of rice.

Fridays are greenmarket day in my neighborhood and I went a little overboard with all the goodies that hadn’t been in season when I left: zucchini, cherries, garlic scapes! There will probably be a raw summer squash something coming out of my kitchen in the next day or two; the Short Stack that arrived before I headed out should come in handy right about now.

Until then, there’s soup. Yes, it’s summer. But while we were in Sicily at Case Vecchie (the name of the courtyard where the school is located), we ate soup several times, including a smooth fava bean concoction called macco and a more rustic minestra di tennerumi made from the tender vines of long cucuzzo squashes. So, back in my kitchen, I got my cooking sea legs back with a simple soup of rice leftovers and canned tomatoes and not much more.

No food photo today, though. One of things we discussed during the course was morning pages, a discipline of writing every morning – before coffee, before checking any technology – on paper, and for 12 minutes. We did a lot of timed writing exercises and I found I enjoyed writing in concentrated spurts. So now, as I settle back into real life, I’m committed to doing morning pages. I’ve set a notebook and pen by my bed and started this morning. As an extension of that, I’d like to do some more spontaneous writing here. That will probably mean more posts and recipes with fewer photos, but I think that’s a fair trade.

PS – I’ll probably take some photos tomorrow and post them after the recipe. Some habits are hard to break, but this way I’ll at least get things on proverbial paper rather than waiting for the right light and perfect angle.

Tomato rice soup

Adapted from Mark Bitman’s recipe in the New York Times. The wine is optional, but this soup was good enough reason to uncork a red; a big (but not huge) California cabernet worked well here. Feel free to play around with herbs (cilantro or parsley would be nice) and spices (I’m thinking cumin, or thyme). Or keep the soup as is and top with a sprinkling of parmesan. Or not. This soup is lovely in its utter simplicity. 

UPDATE 6/27: Last night, I ate the soup with shredded parmesan, but this morning I buzzed it with an immersion blender and sprinkled some fresh cilantro. Today’s version feels a bit fancier and could be served as a non-dairy cream of tomato soup. Yes, I ate it for breakfast with my coffee. The soup does thicken overnight as the rice absorbs more liquid, so I’ve modified the below recipe to increase the amount of water. 

Makes about 1o cups

– 2 T olive oil

– 1 onion, chopped

– 2 cloves garlic, minced

– 2 T tomato paste

– 1/3 C dry red wine

– 2 C cooked rice

– 4 C water

–  1 28-oz can (about 3 C) chopped tomatoes

– sea salt, to taste

Cook. Heat olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook until softened and golden, about 8-10 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another 2 minutes – lower the heat if the garlic starts to brown too much. Add the tomato paste and cook for another 5 minutes. By this point, the bottom of your pot should be nice and brown.

Pour. Deglaze the pan with the wine, scraping up all those brown bits.

Stir. Add the cooked rice and a generous pinch of salt. Stir to break up the rice. Taste, adding a bit more salt if necessary.

Simmer. Add the water and chopped tomatoes. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat. Simmer for 10 minutes until the rice is heated through. Add more water to get the soup the consistency you’d like. Optional: buzz with an immersion blender.

UPDATE 6/27: a photo!

tomato rice soup

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The jar that I’ve just filled with dressing and covered with a twist of my wrist slips from my fingers and onto the floor. The glass splinters in half, the bottom still cradling a tablespoon or so of the golden liquid, the top still wound to the lid. It has splattered on my bare feet and up my legs.

I crouch to collect shards of glass, dropping them into a paper bag filled with the week’s recycling. I wipe up the dressing with a towel, leaving oily streaks on the floor, on the fridge, on the oven, on the cabinet, under the fridge, under the oven, under the cabinet.

***

It was three weeks ago yesterday that I learned the news. The news itself isn’t important and it wasn’t really new news, but old news just in a different way.

I found myself in the kitchen with a mortar on the counter and a pestle in my hand. I pounded anchovies – they smelled of the sea, and of briny tears – into cloves of raw garlic, pungent and stinging my eyes. A spoonful of Dijon, tempered with lemon, rounded out with a whisk of olive oil. In the oven toasted a pile of crumbs, rubbed from the heel of day-old baguette against the largest holes of my box grater.

Even as I was, I managed to iron a linen and flatten it on a large cutting board by the window. The mortar in the middle, the pestle just so, surrounded by empty lemon halves and a glass canister of fish filets. I crushed fleur de sel to complete the tableau.

Snap. A photo from the side.

I drizzled dressing over a pile of arugula littered with bread crumbs and Parmesan shavings.

Snap, snap. A few photos standing on a ladder.

I jarred the rest and labeled it with green painters’ tape and a sharpie: “anchovy dressing 5/28”.

You know what happened next.

***

At first, I tread carefully in the kitchen to avoid stepping on any last few glass splinters. I need to wear shoes when cooking. Then flip-flops. And now, I’m back to socks or nothing at all. Every once in a while, I find a speck of glass. I lift my foot to see a dot of blood. With the flick of a nail, I nudge out the chip and go about my day.

anchovy dressing

Anchovy dressing

 Adapted from Melissa Clark’s New York Times recipe for red and green salad with anchovy mustard vinaigrette. I’ve increased the amount of lemon juice to balance out the saltiness; depending on how juicy your lemons are, you may need up to two. Use a decent brand of anchovies packed in oil, but don’t go overboard on the fancy stuff.

I like to use a mortar and pestle – mostly because I have a few and a pestle has a nice heft to it. That said, you can do your smashing with a fork in a bowl. If you want a really smooth dressing, you can even use a small food processor or an immersion blender. 

I serve this with peppery arugula; other bitter greens such as radicchio or endive would be nice as well. Add crunch with toasted bread crumbs (use a box grater to make crumbs out of stale baguette, drizzle with olive oil, and toast in a 350°F oven until very brown). Shave some parmesan over the top. Eat immediately.

Makes about ¾ cup

– 6 anchovy fillets

– 2 garlic cloves, minced

– 1 T Dijon mustard

– ¼ C fresh lemon juice, more to taste

– ½ C extra-virgin olive oil

– Kosher salt and black pepper, as needed

Smash. Line the bottom of a mortar or bowl with anchovies. Add the minced garlic and using a pestle or fork, smash the fish and garlic into a paste. It’s OK if there are bits of anchovy still peeking out. Stir in the mustard.

Whisk. Drizzle in the olive oil slowly while whisking until combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste, adding a bit more lemon juice as necessary to balance everything out if it’s too salty for your liking.

arugula with anchovy dressing

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on its own

Up until recently, I’d never been much of a coconut fan, but a brief glance in my cabinets might convince you otherwise. In a bit of overzealous, absent-minded Passover grocery shopping, I ended up with several pounds of shredded and flaked coconut. I do things like this more often that I’d care to admit. I bet you do too. (Please, tell me you do.) Baking up a half-dozen batches of macaroons over the holiday barely made a dent in my coconut stash. After Passover, I toasted up some for granola and sprinkled a bit more on lentils, and this cake is where I suspect the rest of that coconut will end up.

Coconut tea cake

It’s a simple loaf cake strewn with shredded coconut and laced with coconut milk. I found it in Dorie Greenspan‘s Baking: From My Home to Yours and the time that passed between my reading the head note and pulling out my mixer couldn’t have been more than three minutes. Four, tops. Dorie describes it as a “dry cake” – the kind that her Austrian friend grew up with, the kind without frosting or fuss, without too much going on, the kind you can eat any time of day (or night). Now this is my kind of cake.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while now, you might have noticed that I don’t really decorate cakes. This stems less from laziness per se (though that definitely factors into the equation) and more from a strongly-held belief that a cake should be good enough to stand on its own with no frosting, glaze, or sprinkle in sight. In fact, if I have to choose between a cupcake and a muffin, I’ll almost always go with a muffin. I think this stems from the fact that the special occasion cake we ate growing up was my mom’s chocolate chip pound cake – with a dense crumb and pockets of chocolate, this bundt cake just as good straight from the freezer as out of the oven. And my mom usually made a double batch, so more often than not, there was a chunk of frozen cake wrapped and re-wrapped in plastic, sometimes hidden in the ice cube maker.

But back to the coconut. I made just a few tweaks to Dorie’s original recipe, adding lime zest as Dorie suggests and substituting vegetable oil for melted butter to make a non-dairy version. Since a can of coconut milk is typically just under two cups, each time I’ve make this cake, I’ve doubled the recipe, making up the remainder of the second cup with water.

As Dorie says, the cake is a little dry and has a thin sugary top crust that shatters under the gentle pressure of a knife. Like biscotti, a slice pairs perfectly with a cup of coffee or tea. Like all good pound cakes, it lasts several days on the counter, tastes even better a few days in, and freezes easily. It’s coconut-y without being too coconut-y, if you know what I mean. And what I mean is that a few self-proclaimed coconut-haters liked the cake. By which I mean that I didn’t tell them there was coconut it in and they happily ate several slices each. If you want, you can bake the cake in two rounds, frost it, and cover it with toasted coconut for the birthday of a special coconut loving friend. But Meira, the birthday girl, and I agreed that the cake is best on its own.

Coconut Tea Cake 

Adapted from Dorie Greenspan‘s Baking: From My Home to Yours. Make sure to use regular unsweetened coconut milk rather than the light stuff which leaves the cake a little rubbery. 

Makes 2 8- or 9-inch loaf pans (the original recipe calls for a 9- to 10-inch bundt pan)

– 2 C flour

– 1 t baking powder

– pinch salt

– 2 limes for zest and juice

– 2 C sugar

– 4 large eggs, preferably at room temperature

– 1 t vanilla extract

– 3/4 C shredded unsweetened dried coconut

– 1 C canned unsweetened coconut milk (stir before measuring)

– 1/4 C vegetable oil, plus more for greasing the pans

Prep. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease 2 8- or 9-inch loaf pans.

Sift. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together.

Zest. In the bowl of a stand mixer, zest the limes over the sugar. With your fingers, rub the zest into the sugar until it’s aromatic.

Whisk. In a small bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, oil, and lime juice (2-3 tablespoons).

Beat. With the whisk attachment of your stand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar/lime zest at medium-high speed until pale, thick, and almost doubled in volume, about 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, scraping down the sides of the bowl and needed and stopping just when the flour disappears.

Mix. Keeping the mixer on low, add the dried coconut, mixing only until it’s blended, then steadily pour in the hot milk. When the mixture is smooth, stop mixing and give the batter a couple of turns with a rubber spatula, just to make certain that any ingredients that might have fallen to the bottom of the bowl are incorporated.

Bake. Pour the batter into the pans and give them a few back-and-forth shakes to even the batter. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown and a thin knife or cake tester inserted deep in the center comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and cook for 10 minutes before unyielding onto the rack to cool to room temperature.

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It’s a mid-March Friday night in an Irish pub, and three girls are perched on stools padded by their heavy winter coats. They rustle for wallets in their over-filled bags, settle their tab, and drain the last drops from their glasses – two beers and a cider. As they turn on their stools and scramble to gather their coats purses hats gloves, an elderly gentleman enters the bar.

Cap pulled over his eyes, an oversized jacket hanging off his shoulders, a plaid scarf wrapped around his neck, he introduces himself as Nick. “Ladies, where are you going?”

“We’re heading home.”

“Why? You’re going to leave me here all alone?”

“We have to get home…it’s been a long night. We need our beauty rest.”

“What were you doing before you got here?”

“We were at a shabbat dinner.”

“Oh, you’re Jewish? You’re Jewish!”

“Yes, we are.”

“Have you seen Fiddler on the Roof? I love Fiddler on the Roof. Have you seen it?”

“Yes, we have.”

“I love Fiddler on the Roof! Do you know what else?”

“What?”

“I love matzah. I eat it all year.”

He reaches into his coat pocket and pulls out a few shards of matzah. Then into his shirt pocket for a few more. And his pants pocket for another handful. He hands a piece to each of the girls.

“I always keep matzah in my pockets. I have to have it with me all the time, I just love matzah so much. I love Fiddler on the Roof too.”

The girls smile and take a few steps backwards towards the door, tightening scarves and adjusting hats, all while holding on to their matzah gifts.

“Now girls, don’t leave me here all alone.”

“We have to go. It’s late.”

“Please don’t go.”

They smile again and turn away. He grabs the hand of the closest girl and swoops in with a peck on the cheek.

The girls giggle and walk into the wind, leaving behind the warmth of the bar and Nick with his matzah.

True story.

Happy holiday of matzah. Whether you celebrate this week or all year round or not at all.

Here’s some dessert. No, it’s not remotely related to the story. orange  blossom macaroons OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Orange Blossom Macaroons

Adapted from Alice Medrich’s recipe, new classic coconut macaroons 2.0, in her book “Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies.” The key is to buy the largest unsweetened coconut flakes (sometimes called coconut chips) instead of shredded coconut. I replaced vanilla with orange blossom water and added orange zest. Medrich suggests a half-dozen variations, including pressing a square of dark chocolate into the still-warm macaroon, adding lime zest and cinnamon, or mixing in pecans, chocolate and dried sour cherries.

I first published this recipe in The Forward‘s Passover 2015 section.

Makes about 30 cookies

– 4 large egg whites

– 3 1/2 C unsweetened dried flaked coconut (also known as coconut chips, not shredded)

– 3/4 C sugar

– 1 t orange zest

– 2 t orange blossom water

– a generous pinch salt

Mix. In a heavy stockpot over very low heat or a large stainless steel bowl set directly in a wide skillet of barely simmering water, combine all of the ingredients. Stir the mixture with a silicone spatula, scraping the bottom to prevent burning and lowering the heat if it starts to brown. Initially the mix will be really sticky, glossy and stringy. Continue to stir for about 5-7 minutes until mixture is very hot to the touch and the egg whites have thickened slightly and become opaque. At that point, there will be no more strings. Be careful because hot sugar can burn.

Wait. Set the batter aside for 30 minutes to let the coconut absorb more of the goop.

Prep. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350°F. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.

Scoop. Drop heaping tablespoons of batter about 2 inches apart on the lined baking sheets. The piles of coconut will look a bit shaggy and may fall apart a little bit. Keep a small dish of water nearby and use wet fingertips to neaten things up.

Bake. Bake for about 5 minutes, just until the coconut tips begin to color, rotating the pans from top to bottom and from front to back halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking.

Keep baking. Lower the temperature to 325°F and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, until the cookies are a beautiful cream and gold with deeper brown edges, again rotating the pans from top to bottom and from front to back halfway through the baking time. If the coconut tips are browning too fast, lower the heat to 300°F. Set the pans or just the liners on racks to cool — the macaroons will still be a bit soft, but will crisp up as they cool. Be careful handling the macaroons at this point because hot sugar can burn. Let cool completely before gently peeling the parchment away from each cookie.

Store. The cookies are best on the day they are baked — the exterior is crisp and chewy and the interior soft and moist. Although the crispy edges will soften, the cookies remain delicious stored in an airtight container for 4 to 5 days.

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early or late

Well, Purim has already come and gone, and while I planned to publish a recipe for hamantashen before the holiday this year, it’s now so late that I think it’s reasonable to say I’m really really early for next year’s celebration.

pistachio rose hamantashen

I’ve never had much luck with hamantashen, but I was inspired by Breads‘ apple and marzipan varieties of the three-cornered treats and decided to have a go at it. My first instinct was to commandeer a recipe for sweet tart dough (pâte sucrée) and wrap it around diced apples and cinnamon, like little triangular apple tarts. But despite my best efforts to fold and seal the edges, the dough wouldn’t hold together and there just wasn’t room for enough apple filling for the pastries to taste like much of anything.

Frustrated, but not defeated, I made a pistachio filling, based on a recipe for frangipane almond cream. I flavored the pistachio with rose water as an ode to my favorite Persian flavor combination; last year, I made pistachio rose biscotti for my mishloach manot.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

pistachio rose paste

After a bit of research, I turned to my friend Leah‘s dough recipe and everything quickly came together. (Check out her cookbook that will be released tomorrow – it’s a keeper!) After a few practice runs, I figured out a few tricks for hamantashen success that I’m sharing now so you’ll have more than enough time to practice before next Purim rolls around.

First, make sure to roll out the dough quite thin – Leah suggests 1/8-inch. I initially had a difficult time getting my dough thin enough. It’s not that I measured, but after baking off the first few tashen, I noticed that the cookie to filling ratio was too high and the cookie part was nicely golden on the outside but undercooked in the middle. I found it much easier to roll out no more than a quarter of the batch at a time. Then smoosh the scraps back together and roll it out again, adding a knob of dough, bit by bit, until you finish the batch. As a general rule, I like to roll dough on a sheet of parchment (or between two sheets) so I don’t need to use extra flour.

Now, let’s chat about the fillings. Most importantly, only use a teaspoon of filling for each 3-inch round.  You will want to add more. Don’t or you’ll have a difficult time folding the dough and and the filling will leak out any which way it can. If you use jam that’s liquidy, like my jam was, no matter how good you are at folding, the jam will make a mess.

hamantashen with jam OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

strawberry rhubarb hamantashen

I like the caramelized jam, and was peeling it off the parchment and eating it like candy, but it would have been nice if it had stayed put. So either use a thicker jam, or strain some of the juice out. The pistachio filling that I made was pretty thick, and baked up almost cookie-like, so once I got the folding down, it behaved and even rose a bit as it baked, filling out the hamantashen. I suspect brownie batter would work quite well too. Just saying.

pistachio rose hamantashen

As for closing up the hamantashen, I vote for folding up the sides and weaving the three flaps one over another as if closing a cardboard box without tape. Then pinch the points to seal everything in. Also, while you’re folding up your hamantashen, I highly recommend humming La Kova Sheli Shalosh Pinot / לכובע שלי שלוש פינות (check out this stylized version) or, in English, My Hat It Has Three Corners.

Before we get to the recipe, here’s a little fun reading for your week.

If you give a dude a kale chip.

The New York Times on shooting food porn.

In case you’re *ahem* still trying to organize your kitchen more than a month after moving to a new place. And on a related note, tidying up.

pistachio rose hamantashen

Pistachio rose hamantashen

Makes about 36 hamantashen (depending on size)

– 1 batch hamantashen dough (below)

– 1 batch pistachio frangipane (below)

Prep. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Roll and cut. Remove a quarter of the dough from the refrigerator, making sure to wrap the remaining dough well. Roll the dough out on a sheet of parchment (or between 2 sheets) to 1/8-inch thickness. Use a 3-inch round cookie cutter – I actually used a 3 1/2-inch glass because that’s what I had – to cut out as many circles as possible and transfer them to the parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover the circles with plastic wrap or a sheet of parchment paper to prevent the dough from drying out. Re-roll the scraps and additional dough from the refrigerator until you fill the baking sheet.

Fold. Spoon 1 teaspoon of pistachio filling into the center of each dough circle. Fold the left side over on an angle, followed by the right side. Fold the bottom flat up, tucking one end under the side flap to make a triangle-shaped pocket. The filling should be visible in the center. Pinch the seams firmly to seal.

Repeat. Repeat the process with the remaining dough and filling.

Bake. Bake until lightly golden and browned at the corners, about 15 to 18 minutes, until the cookies are cooked through. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly.

Store. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

***

Hamantashen dough

From Leah Koenig via Food52. Just one bowl! No stand mixer required! 

Makes enough dough for about 36 hamantashen (depending on size)

– 2 eggs

– 1 T water, plus more if needed

– 1/4 C vegetable oil

– 1/2 C sugar

– 2 1/2 C flour, plus more if needed

– 1 t baking powder

– 1/2 t kosher salt

Whisk. In a large bowl, lightly whisk the eggs. Continue whisking in the water, vegetable oil, and sugar until combined.

Mix. You could mix the flour, baking powder and salt together in a second bowl. But rather than dirty another bowl, just pour about half the flour into the bowl on top of the egg mixture. Sprinkle the baking powder and salt over the flour and use a fork to mix together the dry ingredients without disturbing the wet ingredients  below. Then, with a spatula or large spoon, stir everything together. Add in the remaining flour and mix until the dough begins to come together. Turn the dough out onto a flat surface and knead a few times with your hands until it is smooth, but not sticky. (If the dough appears too dry, knead in more water, 1 teaspoon — and no more! — at a time. If it looks too wet, knead in up to 1/4 cup more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until you reach the right consistency.)

Chill. Gather the dough, then divide it in half with a knife and form into two flat disks (to make it easier to roll out later). Wrap each disk tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or up to overnight.

***

Pistachio frangipane

Frangipane is an almond pastry cream. Here I replaced the almonds with pistachios and added rose water for a baklava-like flavor. I based the recipe off of my pear frangipane tart and Cannelle et Vanille‘s mini peach and pistachio frangipane tarts. You can make the recipe parve by replacing the melted butter with vegetable oil. 

Makes about 2 cups

1 3/4 C unsalted shelled pistachios

2/3 C sugar

1/2 t salt

2 eggs

2 t rose water

3 T melted butter

1/4 + 2 T C flour

Pulse. In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, pulse the nuts, sugar, and salt until the mix is ground to the consistency of a fine cornmeal. Don’t let the nuts turn into a paste just yet.

Process. Add the eggs and pulse to combine. Then add rose water and melted butter and mix until the consistency of cake batter. Add flour 2 tablespoons at a time and mix until all the flour is integrated and the paste starts clumping up over the blade and rolling around the bowl.

Store. Keep the pistachio paste in the refrigerator. If  you have any left over, you can bake up tablespoonfuls of paste into cookies (350ºF for about 12 minutes).

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Now that I’m getting settled in my new place, it’s time to get back to making something other than salads. First up: lentils.

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While they might not be lookers, these belugas are nothing short of delightful. They hold their shape nicely, are the color of dark dark chocolate, and keep you warm with cumin and a pinch of mustard seed. They make the type of homey, comforting dish that you want to eat on a snowy day, and lord knows we’ve had more than enough winter weather opportunities to sup (or breakfast) on these lentils.

Best part? They’re the first thing I cooked on my new stove in my new kitchen in my new apartment. I poured oil in a pot (yeah, I found a pot!) and dropped in spoons of spices (yeah, I found spices!), swirling the mix over the front right burner. With the first few whiffs of cumin, I dragged the edge of my knife across my cutting board (yeah, I found a cutting board!) and scooted onion and garlic into the pot. After a few minutes, I poured in the lentils and broth, brought everything to a boil, lowered the heat, and balanced a lid on the pot at an angle, with just enough room for delicate wisps of steam to escape. Every once in a while, I checked on my lentils, lifting the lid with a yellow striped towel and peeking inside at the gurgling mess, adding a dribble of broth if the pot was looking a little dry.

The afternoon was going so well until the acrid stench of smoke replaced the scent of cumin and I rushed to the kitchen to find that the yellow-striped towel that I had left on the lid had slid down a bit and caught fire. I grabbed another towel – this one with red stripes – and yanked the pot off the burner, tipping the lid and towel into the sink. I checked inside – yup, the lentils were fine, but not quite done. I turned on the faucet and doused the flames, flung open the windows and door to air out the apartment, and returned the lentils, with another splash of broth, to the stove for a few more minutes.

I ate the warm lentils under a dollop of yogurt, with the winter air whistling through every open window and a smoldering towel in the sink.

Now that I’ve mastered, er, broken in, the stove-top, I’ll turn my attention to the oven. Stay tuned…

Cumin-spiced beluga lentils

Adapted ever so slightly from Bon Appetit. If you can’t find beluga or black lentils, substitute French (du Puy) lentils – both hold their shapes and don’t break down or get mushy when cooked. If  you want a bit more  heat, add 1/2 teaspoon or so cayenne pepper or hot paprika with the other spices. Top with thick Greek yogurt or a fried or poached egg – the extra fat and creaminess complement the texture of the slightly dry lentils. 

Makes 4-6 servings

– 1 t cumin seeds, crushed with a mortar and pestle

– ½ t mustard seeds

– 2 – 3 T olive oil 

– 1 small onion, finely chopped

– 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

– 1 C black beluga lentils

– 3 – 4 C vegetable or chicken broth 

– 1 T sherry vinegar or lemon juice 

– kosher salt, freshly ground balck pepper

Saute. Stir crushed cumin, mustard seeds, and 2 tablespoons oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until sizzling, about 1 minute. If the pot looks dry at this point, add an additional tablespoon of oil. Then add onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until just softened, about 5 minutes.

Simmer. Add lentils and 3 cups of broth and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, adding broth as needed to keep lentils covered, until lentils are soft, 30–40 minutes. I found I needed a total of 4 cups of broth. Remove from heat, stir in vinegar or lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper.

Serve. Serve warm under a scoop of Greek yogurt, a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkle of cumin. Or top with an egg. Whatever.

Reheat. Whether you reheat the lentils on the stovetop or in the microwave, make sure to add in a tablespoon or two of broth or water so that the lentils don’t dry out. Once warmed, add a splash of vinegar or lemon juice to add a bright kick.

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in new ways

I have moved again —  yes, again! — and there’s not much to say other than I love my new digs! Hopefully this post and the next will be the final in a too-long series of last mealfirst meal combos.

In the weeks leading up to the move, I did my best to clear out pantry and fridge – I mean, there’s nothing sillier than hiring movers to transport frozen barbecue brisket (chopped it up and made it into chili) and a big bag of almond flour (orange-glazed polenta cake, anyone?), right? As my ingredients dwindled and my take-out consumption rose in those last few days before a trio of big strong men would arrive at my door, I found myself missing the kitchen but unable to muster any creativity or inspiration. I suspect that many people feel this way about dinner most of the time.

With most of my kitchen in boxes, I turned to one of several meal subscription service that delivers pre-measured ingredients and provides recipes that you can turn into dinner in under an hour. Before this starts to sound like an infomercial, let me explain. Over the past few months, three companies in this space — PlatedBlue Apron, and Hello Fresh — kept showing up on my Facebook feed with discounts and trial offers. I had clicked on each of them several times, adding imaginary meals to my basket with no intention of purchasing. But when I couldn’t face another sushi roll or pizza slice, I took the plunge. I eventually decided on Plated because it allowed me to pick and choose which meals I wanted whereas the other two prescribe both the number of meals and the recipes. My kitchen is ingredient kosher, so I was able to pick out a mix of vegetarian, dairy, and fish options. I took advantage of a four-free-meals offer — I only paid for two of the six meals I ordered — but this post is not a sponsored one.

I never planned to write about the recipes here. I figured they’d be a fun low-risk, low-stress, no-planning way to get some home-cooked food into my belly and that would be that. In the end, though, the meals gave me a few ideas that made me think about using ingredients in new ways. For example, one recipe had me roast oranges alongside potatoes and then mix the whole lot with spinach and liberally douse with a North African chermoula herb mix. The charred slices provide a rich orange flavor that’s not too sweet, though I wasn’t sure what to do with the bitter peel. Despite my plate looking like a graveyard of orange skeletons, I’m ready to give citrus roasting another shot. The next day, I made a simple arugula salad tossed with apple and celery. Celery? Yes, celery! That stringy stalk that’s usually cooked to a pulp in soup, chopped up and hidden in tuna fish, or covered with a thick coat of peanut butter. But the crunch really freshens and brightens the salad – and fresh and bright is what we need during a winter like this.

apple celery arugula salad

Arugula, apple, and celery salad

Adapted from Plated. This is a very simple salad and the surprising ingredient is celery. Afraid that the strings would get caught up in a mandoline, I sliced the celery with a really sharp knife instead. I amped up the celery flavor with a smidge of celery seed. If your celery still has its leaves, throw them in to the salad too!

Serves 2-4

– 2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 lemon)

– 1 T honey

– 3 T olive oil

– 1/4 t celery seed

– salt and pepper

– 4 C arugula

– 1/4 C coarsely chopped parsley

– 4 stalks celery, thinly sliced on a bias

– 2 apples (I used Braeburn), thinly sliced

Shake. Fill a jar with lemon juice, honey, oil, and celery seed and shake until well mixed. Dip an arugula leaf in the dressing and taste for salt and pepper.

Toss. Toss the arugula, parsley, celery, and apples in a large bowl with half the dressing. Add more dressing as needed.

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There’s nothing more cliche than a salad on the first day of a new year with talk of healthy eating, resolutions,  and *gasp* detox. Unless it’s a salad on the first day of a new year with protestation that it’s not a detox salad to launch your healthy-eating resolutions.

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So I guess this January first salad is jam-packed with cliche. But it’s also layered with shredded vegetables – two colors of cabbage and kale. And then tossed with a tangy lime dressing and sprinkled with peanuts.

The salad – well, I think it technically counts as a slaw – followed a circuitous route to my kitchen. It comes from a Southern cookbook via a New York blogger who linked to the recipe in a post about oatmeal pancakes that I clicked open this past Sunday night after coming home from dinner at friends who made pad Thai. I had Thai flavors on my mind and, when I saw the slaw, I immediately threw on my coat and headed back outside to the grocery store to buy cabbage and limes and peanuts and peanut oil.

The slaw takes a little advance planning because it includes the brilliant step of wilting the cabbage with salt for a couple of hours and then draining any released liquid. The resulting brassica retains its squeaky crunch but is softened enough to eat as is. That said, I hope my encouragement to prep a bunch of vegetables in advance will not further cause you to relegate this salad to a guilt-ridden, resolution-addled quickly-forgotten list of things to do to start the new year right.

Without further ado, explanation, or protestation, here’s the recipe.

Cabbage, lime, and peanut slaw

Modified from The Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern via Smitten Kitchen. I used kale instead of spinach and salted roasted peanuts instead of unsalted. I added parsley to brighten things up – cilantro would be amazing here too if you want to amp up some Thai-inspired flavors.

You can use a grater or food processor to shred the cabbage, but I just sliced everything with a nice sharp knife so that the pieces would be a bit larger. If you want to keep things pretty, salt the cabbages separately so that the red cabbage doesn’t bleed all over the green and result in a pink salad. This does require two colanders, or in my case, a colander and the basket from my salad spinner. Because the cabbage is pre-softened, you can just toss it with the dressing right before serving. I didn’t find the need to add any additional salt to the dressing because the cabbage was plenty salty (but not too salty).

– 1/2 small red cabbage, trimmed, cored, and shredded (about 6 cups)

– 1/2 small green cabbage, trimmed, cored, and shredded (about 6 cups)

– 1 T kosher salt, plus more to taste

– 1/4 C fresh lime juice (about 2 small limes)

– 1 T Dijon mustard

– 1/2 t ground cumin

– 6 T peanut oil

– 1 large bunch lacinato kale, stemmed and cut into 1/2-inch wide ribbons (about 4 cups loosely packed)

– 1/2 cup roasted salted peanuts, coarsely chopped

– 1/4 C chopped parsley

Wilt. In two separate bowls, toss the green and red cabbages with a half-tablespoon of salt each. Transfer each transfer to a colander to drain for 2 hours.

Whisk. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the lime juice, mustard and cumin together. Add the peanut oil in a thin stream, whisking constantly until the ingredients are thoroughly emulsified. Or just throw everything in a jar and shake it.

Toss. Put the salted, drained cabbage in a large bowl and add the kale. Toss the salad with the dressing and add the roasted peanuts and parsley.

Eat. This salad is best served immediately.

Store. If you want to make a big batch of this salad to eat during the week, keep each component separate in the fridge and then mix everything together at the last minute. I’ve been layering the salad in a jar with the dressing on the bottom and then shaking to mix at lunchtime. Works great, as long as you don’t overfill your salad container.

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nibbles and bubbles

So, about that little birthday shindig.

Muhammara

It was a totally last minute thing. I sent out an email to a whole bunch of friends and bought several bottles of bubbly – prosecco, franciacorta, and champagne – from the restaurant the day before my birthday. I spent the morning of the big day scrambling to get everything together.

I gathered a selection of cheese and then paired each one – aged cheddar with pear slices, brie with spicy schug, and manchego with tart cherry and apricot jam. I’m partial to the thin crackers these days, particularly those from Waterwheel34º, and Finn Crisp.

And then, to keep things healthy, I sliced some peppers and pulled apart a bunch of endive leaves for dipping.

As far as the dips, I made two.

The first is muhammara, If you haven’t yet met, let me get you properly acquainted. Muhamarra is a Syrian red pepper spread, thickened with walnuts and bread crumbs. It’s tangy with pomegranate molasses and has a smoky heat that builds bite by bite. I add a little silan – date honey – for sweetness. It’s one of those throw-everything-in-the-food-processor-and-push-a-button recipes. It’s a nice alternative to hummus

And speaking of hummus, twenty minutes before my guests were slated to arrive, I decided I didn’t have enough food, so I rinsed out my food processor and threw together a quick batch.

It was nice having an open house rather than a full-out dinner. People popped in for some nibbles and a glass (or two) of bubbles; some stayed, others rushed home to relieve babysitters, and friends from different parts of my life had a chance to meet.

Even after making a care package for my sister to take home, I had enough leftover muhammara for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I spread it on toast and topped it with egg. I slathered it on a baguette with grilled chicken breast. I tossed it with pasta. And once I exhausted my supply, I made a batch to bring to the restaurant to share with my team. So, Cat, this recipe is for you, but please bring back my bowl!

Muhammara

This recipe is adapted from Claudia Roden‘s The Book of Jewish Food, Gourmet, and Sweet Amandine. I like my muhammara smooth and the consistency of hummus, but I typically see it more coarsely ground. Depending on the consistency that you’d like, you can thicken with extra walnuts and breadcrumbs or thin with olive oil. Bear in mind that the muhammara will thicken in the refrigerator and as the breadcrumbs absorb liquid. 

Muhammara is not the prettiest of spreads, so I like to swirl it into a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of pomegranate arils and parsley.

Makes 2 1/2 cups

– 1 16-oz roasted peppers in jar, drained

– 1 1/2 C walnuts, toasted

– 1/2 C panko breadcrumbs

– 3 T pomegranate molasses

– 2 T lemon juice

– 2 t silan (date honey) or honey

– 1 1/2 t cumin

– 1/2 t cayenne

– 1/2 t sweet paprika

– 3 cloves garlic, minced

– 1/2 t salt (to taste)

– 2 – 4 T olive oil

– chopped parsley and pomegranate arils for garnish

Mix. In a food processor, blend together the peppers, walnuts, breadcrumbs, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, silan, spices, garlic, and salt until smooth. With the motor running, pour in 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a steady stream until creamy. Tweak the consistency – if too thick, add more oil; if too thin, add more nuts and/or breadcrumbs.

Serve. Garnish with olive oil, pomegranate arils, and parsley.

Store. Muhammara keeps in the refrigerator for 3-4 days and it freezes beautifully.

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