Archive for the ‘parve’ Category

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

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

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

parve cornbread mushroom stuffing

Parve Cornbread

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

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

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

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

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

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

parve cornbread

Parve Cornbread and Mushroom Stuffing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

sweet potato chickpea stew

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

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

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

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

Thanks, Nachama, for the recipe and inspiration!

Sweet potato chickpea stew

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

Makes 12 servings.

For the sweet potato broth:

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

For the stew:

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

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I’m not sure how it is that we’ve already hit the end of October with sweater weather and coats upon us and I still have sundresses hanging in my closet. This happens every year. The Jewish holidays make a whirlwind out of the change of seasons, and I always feel like I wake up one morning shivering and wondering where the summer went. I rummaged through my winter clothes over sukkot, pulling out layers to pack for a short trip to Denver for a food conference. The conference was at Devil’s Thumb ranch a few hours from the airport and even though I left behind mostly green trees in New York, fall announced itself in the bright yellow Aspen leaves that punctuated the long winding drive through the verdant mountains.

And here we are, a month later, and this week I was nearly knocked over by wind and rain blowing dead leaves from the sidewalk. I guess it’s time to put those sundresses in storage and drag out a few sweaters.

Anyway, I’m one soup and a chili into the season, but don’t have much to show for it. Neither was particularly imaginative.  Instead, I have a few recipes from a recent review of the new Zahav cookbook. I’ve written about the Philadelphia restaurant Zahav here before and have made a few of Chef Mike Solomonov’s recipes as well. So, when I learned about their cookbook, I wrote to my editor at the Forward to call dibs. I received a super advanced copy – the kind that’s paperback with black and white photos and captions that all begin with lorem ipsum dolor, which was just a tease for the real thing.

I interviewed Mike (he’s a first name kind of guy) for the article and he couldn’t have been nicer. He invited me to spend some time with him at the bread station that is the hearth of the restaurant the next time I’m in Philly and encouraged me to make laffa at home right after we got off the phone. I did. Make a few loaves of laffa, that is. I’m practicing for my trip to Philly!

Zahav's laffa

Zahav laffa and pita in the home oven

Recipe adapted from Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking by Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook.

Here are a few of Solomonov’s notes from the book: “Laffa is an Iraqi-style flat bread — a little bigger than pita (and minus the pocket) and crispier too, but still with a great chew. Laffa is traditionally cooked in a taboon, a clay oven with an opening at the top and a[n 800-degree] fire in the bottom, very similar to a tandoor… I knew it would be tough to incorporate an authentic taboon into a commercial restaurant in Philadelphia, but when I discovered the hand-built brick oven in a vacant Italian restaurant, I knew I was standing in the future Zahav…Both laffa and pita are remarkably easy to make from the same dough and bake in your own oven. A pizza stone works well, but even a baking sheet turned upside down and preheated in a hot oven will produce beautiful laffa and pita that forms its own pocket.”

Makes 8 breads

– 1½ C water, divided
– 2½ t active dry yeast
– 2 t sugar
– 2 C all-purpose flour, plus more if needed
– 2 C bread flour
– 1½ t kosher salt
– 2 T olive oil

Mix together ½ cup water, the yeast and sugar in a small bowl and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.

Combine the all-purpose flour, bread flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix on low speed until blended. Add the yeast mixture, another ½ cup water and the oil and mix on low until the dough forms a ball that pulls clear of the sides and bottom of the bowl. (If after a minute the mixture doesn’t form a ball, add a tablespoon of water.) At the moment the dough starts to pull clear of the bottom of the bowl, add ½ cup water and continue mixing until incorporated. The dough should feel tacky when slapped with a clean hand, but it should not stick. (If it sticks, add more flour, a tablespoon at a time.)

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about an hour. Alternatively, let it rise in the refrigerator overnight.

Preheat the oven to 500° F, with a rack in the upper third. Place a baking stone or an inverted baking sheet in the oven to preheat as well.

Roll the dough into 8 balls the size of baseballs. Cover with a cloth and let rise until they are about the size of softballs.

For laffa: Roll each dough ball as thin as possible (less than 1/8 inch is ideal — the laffa should be the size of a Frisbee) with a floured rolling pin in a floured work surface. Drape one laffa over your outstretched hand and quickly invert it onto the baking stone or baking sheet, quickly pulling any wrinkles flat. Bake the laffa until puffy and cooked through, about 1 minute. Serve immediately.

For pita: Roll each dough ball to about a ¼-inch thickness (about the size of a hockey puck) with a floured rolling pin on a floured work surface. Place one or two at a time on the baking stone of baking sheet and bake until puffed and cooked through, about 3 minutes. Serve immediately, or let cool.

Zahav simple sumac onions

Recipe adapted from Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking by Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook. I like to make a big batch of these and throw them in salads or on top of soups for a piquant crunch. When we spoke over the phone, Solomonov explained the genesis of this recipe to me: “When you go to a hummusia, those little hummus places, they have little pieces of raw onion that you can dip in the hummus. But you don’t have snake breath for weeks and weeks after because the onions in Israel are so much more fresh and they’re picked pretty young. They’re not sitting on the back of a truck for days or week.” “We wanted to express that, but serving huge amounts of raw onions with sumac doesn’t necessarily translate to the America palate — we’re not used to it. So the quick-pickle treatment is really attractive. You can eat a bunch of it. It’s nice, it’s refreshing, but it’s still got crunch and a little bit of savory robustness.”

Makes about 1 cup

– 1 red onion, thinly sliced or finely diced
– 1 T red wine vinegar
– 1 t ground sumac
– ½ t kosher salt

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and toss to combine. Serve immediately.

‘Zahav’ Kale, Apple, Walnut and Sumac-Onion Tabbouleh

Zahav kale, apple, walnut and sumac-onion tabbouleh

Recipe adapted from Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking by Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook.

Serves 4-6.

– 2 C (packed) shredded stemmed kale leaves
– ¾ C finely chopped walnuts
– ½ C diced apple (about ½ apple)
– ¼ C simple sumac onions (see above)
– ¼ C pomegranate seeds
– 3 T lemon juice
– 3 T olive oil
– ½ t kosher salt

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Toss to combine and serve.

Zahav Mango, Cucumber and Sumac-Onion Israeli Salad

Zahav mango, cucumber and sumac-onion Israeli salad

Recipe adapted from Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking by Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook.

Serves 4–6

– 2 mangoes, peeled and cut around the pit into small cubes (3 C)
– 1 large English cucumber or 3 smaller Persian cucumbers, diced (3 C)
– ¼ C simple sumac onions (see above), plus more for topping
– 3 T chopped fresh mint
– 3 T olive oil
– 2 t lemon juice
– 1 t kosher salt

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, toss to combine, and serve with additional sumac onions on top.

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I’ve promised to write more on my time in Sicily, a week at the Anna Tasca Lanza cooking school and a few more days at the beach in Cefalu. I’ve found so much inspiration in the course, the school, the landscape of the island that I’m writing a short series of articles for The Forward, tied to several Jewish holidays. Since so many of our holidays are tied to an agricultural calendar, it makes sense that spending time cooking directly from the land would provide a catalyst for recipes to celebrate.

In this first piece (pasted below), I get my first taste of Sicily in the form of figs so ripe that every attempt to photograph them slumped into a puddle of juice. No worries, I drew the best out of grocery store figs to create a sorbet coupled with honeycomb candy, perfect for launching a new year of adventurous travel and delicious experiences.

fig sorbet with honeycomb candy

Until recently, what little I knew about Sicily came from Sophia Petrillo’s stories on “The Golden Girls.” Spending a week at the Anna Tasca Lanza cooking school last June, though, gave me a proper introduction to the rich landscape of this large island. I was there for a course on food writing and found myself smitten with Sicilian culinary heritage.

This year I’ll be celebrating the Jewish holidays with an eye toward incorporating into my own traditions the foods I tasted in Sicily.

Early on a Monday morning I flew to the island’s largest city, Palermo, and took a bus into town. There I met up with Susie, another student attending the workshop. We shook hands, awkwardly hugged, dropped our luggage in a storage room at the train station and set off to explore the city. With only a few hours before our connection, sightseeing options were limited, but no matter: Our only goal was gustatory.

Susie navigated us to Mercato del Capo, the souk-like market that’s a testament to Sicily’s long-ago Arab rule. We stopped in front of the largest jar of Nutella I have ever seen, a beckoning hand dipping strawberries and offering them up. Our loyalty was easily bought. At the sight of a 10-euro banknote, the vendor filled a paper cone with berries and another with plums.

I pointed to a pile of green fruits, shaped like Hershey’s kisses, each about the size of my fist. The vendor held one up — “ Fichi !” he said. “Figs,” Susie whispered — and ripped it open, swiping each half in the chocolate spread before handing them over. While we chewed, he piled figs into two more cones. “ Basta, basta !” Susie cried, holding up her hands like a crossing guard stopping cars. Our vendor indicated that he had no change for our bill and emptied a box of cherries into a final cone, making sure we got every last cent’s worth.

After wandering the stalls, Susie and I plopped ourselves down in a shady spot. I fished out a fico and weighed it in my palm, its bottom felt heavy like a water balloon and I saw a few crystallized beads of sugar escaping from a small crack in the skin. I tore it open and lapped up the dripping flesh, feeling the seeds crackle between my teeth, and letting the sweet juice pool in the dust at my feet. Until that point, I had never actually enjoyed eating a fresh (or dried) fig. I found myself mumbling a shehecheyanu and explaining to Susie the Rosh Hashanah tradition of saying a blessing over a new fruit that you hadn’t eaten all year.

We retrieved our luggage at the station and met a few more classmates on the bumpy train. Mario, one of the chefs, picked us up in the small town of Vallelunga and drove us to the school where, after washing off the travel, we launched right in to what would become an evening tradition: aperitivo hour in the courtyard outside the kitchen. Next to a tray of bubbles in stems and several plates of bruschetta, Susie laid out the remains of our market fruit picnic. Over this abbondanza of food and drink and against the setting sun, we introduced ourselves. Against this backdrop, I was ready to begin.

As I prepare for the New Year, I wanted to re-create that first taste of fruit in the heat of the Sicilian sun by making a refreshing sorbet.

fig sorbet

Fig sorbet

This recipe is inspired by the decadent fresh figs I ate in Sicily this summer and is adapted from sorbetto di fichi in Fabrizia Lanza’s Coming Home to Sicily. I used green Calimyrna figs, but black ones will do just fine as well. The step of peeling the figs is important – my first batch I included the peels and the texture was strangely slimy. At the Anna Tasca Lanza cooking school they serve the base sorbet recipe with freshly whipped cream. 

For Rosh Hashanah, I wanted to add in some honey elements. The fig and honey swirl provides some textural contrast, as it is thicker than the sorbet itself, like a ribbon of fudge in a decadent chocolate gelato. You’ll need a scant three pounds of figs total if you’re going to make the sorbet and the swirl. For a nice crunch, crumble the honeycomb candy over top.

Makes about a quart of sorbet

– 2 pounds figs
– ½ C port (or water)
– ¾ C water
– 2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
– 1 C sugar
– Fig and honey swirl (see below)
– Honeycomb candy (see below)

Peel. Slice the stem off the figs. Peel by sliding the tip of a knife under the top layer of skin and grasping it with your thumb, pulling towards the opposite end in long strips. You’ll be left with a thin layer of white pith around the pink flesh. You’ll end up with 1½ pounds or about 3 cups of peeled figs.

Puree. In a blender, puree the peeled figs, port and/or water, lemon juice and sugar until very smooth.

Chill. Cool in refrigerator for 2–3 hours.

Freeze. Freeze the cold mixture in an ice cream maker. Once the sorbet has finished churning, dribble in the cooled fig and honey swirl and gently stir to distribute it but not so much that it disappears. Transfer to an airtight container and put in the freezer to firm up for a few hours or overnight.

Serve. Scoop into bowls and sprinkle with crumbled honeycomb candy.

fig sorbet


Fig and Honey Swirl

This fig and honey compote is also great over vanilla gelato or mixed into your morning yogurt.

Makes 1 cup

– ¾ pound figs, quartered (1½ cup)
– 2 T honey

Heat. Over a low flame, heat the figs and honey for approximately 10 minutes until the figs break down into a thick syrup. Pulse with an immersion blender until only small pieces of fig remain. Cool in refrigerator for 2–3 hours.


honeycomb candy

Honeycomb Candy

In the restaurant, we crumble honeycomb candy over vanilla gelato drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil in a twist on affogato. This candy is also known as seafoam, hokeypokey, and, when coated in chocolate (I prefer dark), is similar to Australian Violet Crumble. It’s fun to have a jar of it in the kitchen for sweet honey snacking over the Rosh Hashanah holiday.

– 2 t baking soda
– 1 C sugar
– 2 T honey
– 1 T water

Prep. Line a half sheet pan (18” X 13”) with parchment paper. Sift the baking soda into a small bowl. If you don’t sift, you might happen upon a nubbin or two of unpleasant tasting baking soda in the middle of your candy.

Heat. In a large pot (the mixture will expand about four-fold, so make sure your pot is big enough!) over medium heat, mix the sugar, honey and water. Clip a candy thermometer to the pot. Over the span of about 5–7 minutes, the syrup will bubble gently and then darken to a golden brown at around 290° F. Stand over the pot because the last stage goes quickly and you don’t want burnt sugar.

Pour. Once the syrup hits 300° F, pull out the thermometer and pour in the sifted baking soda. Stir 2–3 times with a rubber spatula (not too much or you’ll deflate the mix) and the syrup will lighten, turn opaque and quadruple in size. Carefully tip the bubbling mess onto the lined sheet pan — it will look like a big blobby monster crawling out of the pot. Let it spread out on its own and resist the urge to touch it — it’s hot and can burn and also too much fussing will break the bubbles.

Store. When completely cool, break into pieces and store in an airtight container.

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a chaotic tumble

Just a quick hello and recipe for you. I’m having friends over for shabbat dinner tonight and am keeping it easy. There will be watermelon salad with a touch of feta and a mint dressing, salmon with a quick Italian green sauce to spoon on top (more on that in a sec), carrots, and roasted potatoes. Also, an apricot amaretti cake that’s a variation on my Rosh Hashanah staple.

This month I’ve been able to get out of the city quite a bit – a day baking with Dorie Greenspan and her husband Michael (just like last year), a day at my friend‘s pool in Atlantic Beach, and another weekend at another friend‘s place in Huntington. I’ve been doing a fair amount of cooking and writing, but haven’t had a chance to sit down, here, to tell  you about it. Fear not, there will soon be sorbet and a smattering of recipes from tonight’s dinner.

For now, that green sauce. I’ve been reading through my friend Rachel’s book – it’s really a combination of recipes, photos, and musings that’s satisfying to read in bed. Yes, I read it before I fall asleep, but I’ve also found myself waking up and sneaking a few peeks before morning pages. Her writing is infectious and it helps that I can hear her clipped accent in my head. I was looking at her blog yesterday and randomly skipped to August of 2012 to see what she was making a few summers ago. Seasonal blog roulette, you might call it. The recipe that popped up was for green sauce – Rachel describes a version she had in a restaurant as “a chaotic tumble of parsley, capers, onion, anchovies, breadcrumbs, garlic and olive oil.” I love that. A chaotic tumble. It’s how I feel my entertaining comes about. It’s how I feel my life comes about sometimes as well.

This tumble must have been stuck in my head – an earworm of a recipe – because I found myself grabbing herbs by the fistful right after I bought the fish with no plan other than to wrap it in paper and cook it over a bed of lemons.

Italian salsa verde

There was a lot of chopping and scraping and a few glugs of oil and I ended up with a peppery sauce – saline from capers and anchovies, sharp from raw garlic, fresh from the herbs –  that will be great over the salmon. I’m also envisioning mixing it with tuna. Spreading it on bread and topping with roast beef. Drizzled on eggs. Oh, there’s so much I can do with this sauce. I may have to hide some of it before setting it out on the table at dinner tonight.

Shabbat shalom and happy weekend, all!

Salsa verde (Italian green sauce)

Adapted from Rachel Roddy here and here. Measurements are approximate.

Makes approximately 1 1/2 cups

– 1 fistful of flat-leaf parsley, approximately 1/2 C chopped

– 1 fistful bunch cilantro, approximately 1/2 C chopped

– 20 leaves mint, approximately 1/4 C chopped

– 2 T capers in salt (don’t rinse)

– 2 cloves garlic

– 4 anchovy fillets in oil, drained

– 3/4 C extra virgin olive oil

– 2 T lemon juice

Chop. Chop the herbs finely and put in a large bowl. Roughly chop the capers and add to the herbs.

Scrape. Rub garlic on a microplane into the bowl. Roughly chop the anchovies and then scrape them against the cutting board with the edge of your knife until it forms a smooth paste. Scoop into the bowl.

Mix. Add the oil and lemon juice and mix everything together. Let the flavors meld in the fridge for a few hours.

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When I came home from Sicily, zucchini (and its family) season was in full swing. Tender, thin-skinned squash was everywhere. Yellow and green, solid and striped, eight-ball and pattypan.

There were squash blossoms too, and I picked a few myself when I spent the day out in Brooklyn with Edible Schoolyard NYC (check out this photo of my colleagues here), weeding a border along the fence separating the school garden from the street. There is an art to collecting these long yellow flowers, I learned. You only take the male ones (the females, with a bulb of an ovary along the stem, when fertilized form the fruit, er, squash) and you have to give each a good shake to scare any bees out. Otherwise you’ll end up with a bag of buzzing blossoms. Now you know.

This year, I’ve gone sweet with my squash, baking up a zucchini cake with two types of chocolate – cocoa and bittersweet shards. The recipe comes from Chocolate & Zucchini, one of the first blogs I ever read and a huge inspiration for my own. The cake itself is more rich than saccharine, with a deep dark chocolate flavor and a crumb moist with flecks of zucchini. I like to bake it in a loaf pan – which is how I like to bake most of my cakes – but you can fancy it up in a round or bundt if you’d like.

Before we get to the recipe, a little reading. First off, Luisa wrote about the language of food workshop that I attended at Case Vecchie in Sicily last month. And Rachel, our other teacher, has written so convincingly about the importance of a good tomato sauce that I’m considering buying a food mill to make my own smooth silky sugo to coat a bowl of (homemade, hopefully soon) pasta. Finally, women talk about balancing motherhood with the realities of restaurant life.

chocolate and zucchini bread

Chocolate and zucchini cake

Adapted from Chocolate & Zucchini. I use olive oil to make the cake non-dairy. The batter is very thick and you may need to use some strength to smooth out the top once you’ve wrestled it into the pan. 

If you do want to go savory with your zucchini, try it raw, roasted, or tucked into a frittata

– 1/2 C olive oil or room temperature butter, plus more for greasing the pan

– 2 C flour

– 1/2 C unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder

– 1 t baking soda

– 1/2 t baking powder

– 1 t fine sea salt

– 1 C granulated sugar

– 1 t pure vanilla extract

– 2 T strong cooled coffee or 1 t instant coffee granules

– 3 large eggs

– 2 C unpeeled grated zucchini, from about 1 1/2 medium zucchini

– 6 oz good-quality bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped (about 1 C)

olive oil

Prep. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch by 3-inch loaf pan.

Whisk. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

Mix. In the bowl of a mixer (or by hand in a large mixing bowl), beat the sugar and oil or butter until fluffy. Add the vanilla, coffee, and eggs, mixing well between each addition.

Combine. In a large mixing bowl, combine the zucchini, chocolate chips, and about a third of the flour mixture, making sure the zucchini strands are well coated and not clumping too much. This will help make sure that the zucchini and chocolate don’t just sink to the bottom of the cake.

Fold. Add the rest of the flour mixture into the egg batter. Mix until just combined; the batter will be thick. Fold the zucchini mixture into the batter, and blend with a spatula without overmixing. Pour into the prepared cake pan, and level the surface.

Bake. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer onto a rack to cool for 10 minutes, run a knife around the pan to loosen, and turn on to a cooking rack.

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shabbat table

Shabbat shalom from my apartment!

Well, this photo was actually last shabbat, but one week later, I get to say the same thing! If you look closely, you’ll notice that nothing really matches, but most of the stuff sort of “goes.” When I left Boston, a friend helped me pack and, more than anything else, she helped me purge. She convinced me to get rid of my service for twelve and only bring down six meat plates and four dairy plates. She said that I’d never have an apartment large enough to entertain more than six people.

Well shame on me for listening. Last Friday, I cooked for seven (and a baby). If you look closely, you’ll see there’s only enough for six on the table. One of my friends is typically late and I didn’t expect her until dessert. When she showed up pretty close to on time, I had to scramble. I managed to assemble a blue, white, and yellow mishmash of a table.

The menu took shape when I decided to make my favorite carrots. Then, still thinking of Paris and my favorite foods from the late great Les Ailes restaurant, I decided to make chreime – a spicy Tunisian fish stew – as the main event since I had a few non-meat eaters in the crowd. I rounded things out with haricots verts tossed in garlic scape dressing and roasted potatoes, straight from the farmers market.


We started out with bowls of cucumber gazpacho, a cross between this recipe and this one, essentially cucumbers, onion, avocado, sherry vinegar, yogurt and bread.

As usual, I was afraid that I wouldn’t have enough food, so I burnt a few eggplants and mixed the flesh with a dash of tahini and pomegranate molasses à la Ottolenghi.

burnt eggplant

It’s hard to make mushed eggplant look good, but a sprinkle of parsley helps.

Ottolenghi's burnt eggplant with tahina

After dinner, we retired to the couch and ate dessert clustered around my coffee table. I spread out a cloth and piled on the desserts. There was a magnificent almond cake, a chocolate zucchini loaf (I promise to share), and a massive plate of watermelon and berries.

Have a great weekend, all!

Burnt eggplant with tehina and pomegranate

Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty. You can also add some chopped cucumber and/or halved cherry tomatoes. If you have pomegranate seeds, they would be lovely to sprinkle on top. Since this was a last minute addition to my dinner, I just used what I had. 

Makes about 2 cups

– 3 medium eggplant

– 1/2 C tehina

– 1/3 C water

– 2 T pomegranate molasses

– 2 T lemon juice

– 2 garlic cloves, crushed

– 1/4 C chopped parsley

– salt and pepper

Burn. Poke several holes in the eggplants with a fork or sharp knife. Put them on a foil- or parchment-lined tray and place directly under a hot broiler for about an hour, turning them a few times, The eggplants need to deflate completely and their skin should burn and break.

Drain. When the eggplant is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh into a colander, avoiding the blackened skin. Leave to train for at least 30 minutes.

Mix. Chop the eggplant flesh roughly and transfer to a medium mixing bowl. Add the tehina, water, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, garlic, parsley, a pinch or two of salt, and a grind of pepper. Mix well. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more garlic, lemon juice, or molasses if needed. You want the salad to have a robust sour/slightly sweet flavor.


Chreime (Spicy Tunisian fish stew)

Just barely adapted from Lior Lev Sercarz‘s recipe in Saveur. I doubled the recipe and added some crushed tomatoes so make a soupier dish. I couldn’t find small red Thai chilis, so I substituted larger serranos and added the seeds to the mix – the result was only a little spicy, so I might add more next time. I made the sauce first in a large skillet, then divided it between two skillets so the fish would have enough room to cook.

Serves 8 – 10

– 3 lbs fish such as sea bass or grouper, cut into 4- to 5-ounce filets

– 1/4 C fresh lemon juice

– kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

– 1/2 C olive oil

– 20 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

– 5 serrano chilis, stemmed and finely chopped

– 1 6-oz can tomato paste

– 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes

– 2 C water

– 3 C minced cilantro

Marinate. Combine fish, juice, salt, and paper in a bowl; set aside.

Cook. Heat oil in a large (at least 12-inch) skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and chiles (including seeds); cook, stirring until soft 1-2 minutes. Add paste; cook, stirring until slightly caramelized, about 5 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, cilantro, and water; boil. Reduce heat to medium; cook until sauce is slightly reduced, 6-8 minutes.

Simmer. Split the sauce between two large skillets. Divide fish between the two skillets, skin side up, with its juice and cover; cook until fish is done, 18 – 20 minutes.

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Last month, en route to Sicily, I stopped in Paris for a few days. I hung out with my good friend Laurence and we visited some of my old haunts from when I spent the summer of 2007 taking dance classes. I wrote about that summer and my brief return for The Forward, and published a recipe for the spicy Tunisian carrot salad that I discovered nearly a decade ago.

It’s funny – I had an abnormally difficult time writing this article. In general, I’m a harsh self-critic and I think that when I’m close to a topic, like writing about a time that holds special meaning to me, I have a hard time creating editorial distance. That’s how I’m feeling about my most recent trip to Sicily. I’ve committed to writing a few articles for the Forward about my travel, and I’m really excited about them (fig sorbet, anyone?) but I’m having trouble writing anything here. I’m hoping with enough distance, and perhaps in dribs and drabs, I’ll be able to really capture what was so amazing about my trip – why it came at the perfect time for me, what it meant, what it means to have given myself such a luxurious gift.

In the interim, I’ve copied below my article about Paris, the month that I spent there, and the carrots that I prepare to take me back.

spicy Tunisian carrot salad

Say Paris, and most people envision the Eiffel tower, a pyramid of colorful macarons , a bicycle ride with a baguette poking out of the front basket. But Paris for me is captured in a bowl of spicy shredded carrots. A cross between traditional French carottes râpées (a grated carrot salad mixed with little more than lemon juice, olive oil, parsley, and a pinch of sugar) and Middle Eastern harissa-spiced cooked carrots, this Tunisian raw carrot slaw screams summer in Paris to me.

Picture this: It’s Saturday afternoon, July 2007, and I’m sitting in Luxembourg Garden, nestled between the student-filled Latin Quarter where I’m subletting for the month and the trendy Saint-Germain-des-Près where the great intellectuals of France once congregated in cafes. I’ve made the Kiddush blessing over wine at the flat and brought the rest of my lunch for a picnic in the park.

The lawns are lush and manicured, people mostly sitting on chairs rather than sprawled out in the grass, obeying the signs saying “ interdit .” In awe of this politesse , I grab my own brightly-painted green seat and pull up a second as a table. A portable chreime, the fiery Sephardic fish stew, concentrated into boulettes de poisson (much more appealing to say than fish balls) and a thickened sauce, smushed onto a baguette. Merguez sausage. Plastic containers of cold salads: spicy shredded carrots, roasted eggplant and peppers, potatoes. A tart of concentric berries. A wedge of chocolate cake. All for me.

Just two days earlier, I had landed at Charles de Gaulle airport with a backpack stuffed with a computer, flip flops, a pair of tap shoes, and ballet slippers. My luggage stranded in London, my summer waiting in France. First thing Friday morning, I made a beeline to the grands magasins department stores on Boulevard Haussmann for a shopping spree courtesy of the airline.

A few basic outfits in hand, I set out to find some of the kosher restaurants I had marked on my map with big red Xs. Several were on Rue Richer and I found the street by following historic landmark signs directing me to the Folies-Bergère cabaret music hall. There was a line in front of the iconic building’s art deco marquee, but rather than looking for tickets, the crowd was queuing to pick up their Shabbat feasts from Les Ailes, the Tunisian-owned restaurant and traiteur take-out counter next door.

I took my place after the last person and quickly found myself face-to-face with a (luckily very patient) waiter. We were separated by my elementary vocabulary and several meters of glass-encased salads, vegetables, meats, fish and pastries. With a lot of pointing and stammering, I managed to amass two bags full of food. In an act of generous hospitality, my new friend threw in a few extra challah rolls and a big container of unassuming-looking shredded carrots.

My luggage eventually found its way to me, and for the remainder of the month I took classes in the mirrored studios of Centre de Danse du Marais with a view of the Centre Pompidou on one side and the old Jewish neighborhood on the other. Every week, I made my Friday trek to Les Ailes, eventually narrowing down my order to my favorite choices (which I could now request with confidence) and always asking for an extra serving of the spicy carottes râpées . The piquant salad would last all week in the teeny-tiny frigo in my apartment. Some mornings, I took a few nibbles before heading out. Many nights, I ate a bowl before a late-night crêpe with lemon and sugar. The carrots quenched any type of hunger I had.

Last month, I returned to Paris and visited good friends and old haunts. We had lunch in le Marais and walked past Notre Dame to lounge on chairs in the Luxembourg Gardens. One night, we went to see a cirque de soleil-like performance at the renovated and gilded Folies-Bergère. I knew that Les Ailes next door had closed, but it was still a shock to see its rainbow of salads replaced by a whole new storefront.

In the intervening years, I sought to recreate the carrot salad that carried me through that summer. I collected recipes and compared techniques. How best to prepare the vegetables: Cooked in chunks? Sliced thin on a mandolin? Shredded in a food processor? Should the salad be sinus-clearing spicy? What about using raw garlic? In the end, I believe I have perfected my own interpretation of Les Ailes’ spicy carottes râpées , so whenever I want to remember my summer in Paris, I pull out a few ingredients and I am transported.

Spicy Tunisian Carrot Salad (Carottes Râpées à la Tunisienne)

Adapted from the late Gil Marks’ Moroccan raw carrot salad (shlata chizo) published in Olive Trees and HoneyI’m not sure of the actual provenance of this salad — Moroccan? Tunisian? — but since it uses harissa and was inspired by the Tunisian restaurant Les Ailes in Paris, I’ve decided to call it Tunisian. You can use a food processor to grate the carrots, but I prefer to use a julienned peeler, which results in long, uniform carrot strands that soften just enough when absorbing the spicy liquid to become a little floppy; when I’ve used a food processor or box grater, the carrots quickly become a droopy soupy mess.

Wrapped well, the carrot salad keeps in the refrigerator for several days.

Makes about 2 cups

– 1 pound carrots, peeled and grated
– ¼ cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
– ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
– 2 teaspoons cumin
– 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
– ½ teaspoon hot paprika
– ½ teaspoon sumac
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 2 teaspoons silan or honey
– 1-2 teaspoons harissa, to taste
– 2 tablespoons chopped parsley and/or cilantro

Mix. In a very large bowl, mix the carrots, lemon juice, oil, spices, salt, silan/honey and 1 teaspoon of harissa. Taste and adjust heat with more harissa if you’d like.

Sprinkle. Just before serving, sprinkle with herbs.

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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.


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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