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Archive for the ‘savory snacks’ Category

Well, I’ve had a sourdough starter for about four months now and have used it for its intended purpose exactly once. The loaves were fine, nothing special, not particularly sour, way too dark, sorta spongy. Clearly I have lots of practicing to do but I haven’t felt up to the dedication and attention necessary to master a perfect sourdough loaf. Gosh, I haven’t even named my starter yet. (But I have named my robot vacuum the Noonoo. Any Teletubbies fans out there? Anyone? Naughty Noonoo!)

Despite my sourdough sloth, each week I diligently feed my starter. When I’ve filled a quart container with discard, I use it up. Luckily, because discard is typically a 1:1 ratio (by weight) of flour to water, recipes aren’t much different than others requiring flour and water, though with the addition of a little tang. I started with muffins and quickly moved on to crackers. And crackers are where I’ve gotten stuck. Stuck in the sense that I just can’t move on and see no reason to move on. Friends swear by pancakes and English muffins, so perhaps I’ll branch out one of these days, but for now, I’m happy right were I am. Every time I bake up a batch, I think to myself, “who am I? Have I become that annoying person who makes her own crackers?” Apparently I have. (Also, granola. Who seriously makes granola? I do, that’s who.)

While I’ve made some crazy shit — Sachertorte (one of only two multilayer, frosted cakes I’ve ever attempted), a Passover tart (who makes a coconut macaroon pressed crust on Passover), zwetschgendatschi (yeasted Bavarian plum tart), Cassatelle (ricotta turnovers , the dough rolled out in a pasta machine) — what amazes me the most is when I make in my own kitchen something I’d normally buy. Case in point: chocolate covered graham crackers like the ones my Bubbie used to bribe me to drink milk. Also, now, whole wheat crackers.

Before I get all in awe of myself, I have to come clean: these crackers are dead easy. The hardest part is rolling them out thinly and evenly. The dough itself is a dream to work with — the vegetable oil makes it smooth and pliable. So, when I’ve collected a quart of discard, I make a quadruple batch. When I’m in the mood for crackers, I measure out two chunks of dough, roll as thinly as I can over a piece of parchment, and decorate with whatever flavors and textures I’m in the mood for.

Slice the dough with a pizza wheel, prick each square with a fork, and they’re ready for the oven.

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Sourdough whole wheat crackers

Adapted from King Arthur Flour. I like to top with a flavor and a texture. In this recipe, I used garlic powder (I have Leah Koenig to thank for my recent embrace of the spice) and flax seeds. I’m also a huge fan of za’atar, sumac, and sesame seeds or just some oats. Next, perhaps nutritional yeast? Pepitas? Maybe brush with a different oil – how about a sesame-miso mix, maybe if I use rice flour instead of whole wheat. And I can’t help but wonder if I might make some faux cheez-its by mix sharp cheddar into the dough.

I make a triple or quadruple batch and either separately wrap single batches or write the weight required for a single batch on a ziptop bag so I can measure out the right amount for next time. Normally I wouldn’t be so picky about how much dough you’re rolling out, but I’ve found that if you try to roll out too much, it’s just that much harder to get the dough thin or even.

Makes about 100 crackers

– 1 C whole wheat flour

– 1/2 t fine sea salt, plus 1 t for sprinkling on top

– 1 C unfed (“discarded”) sourdough starter

– 3 T vegetable oil, plus more for for brushing

– 1/2 t garlic powder for sprinkling

– 1 T flax seeds

Mix. Mix together the flour, salt, sourdough starter, and oil to make a smooth cohesive dough. If the dough is to sticky, add a little flour. Too dry, add a tiny bit of oil. Still too dry, a tiny bit of water. 

Chill. Divide the dough in half, and shape each half into a small rectangular slab. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes, or up to a couple of hours, until the dough is firm.

Preheat. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Roll. Very lightly flour a piece of parchment, your rolling pin, and the top of the dough. Working with one piece at a time, roll the dough to about 1/16″ thick – essentially as thinly and evenly as you possible can. The dough will have ragged, uneven edges; that’s OK. 

Brush and top. Transfer the dough and parchment together onto a baking sheet. Lightly brush with oil and then sprinkle the salt, garlic powder, and flax seeds over the top of the crackers. Sprinkle from high above the dough to ensure it’s evenly distributed rather than clumping. Gently roll the pin over the dough to press the seeds into the dough (as you can see in my photos, I didn’t press down hard enough this time).

Slice and prick. Use a pizza wheel to cut the dough into into squares between 1 and 1 1/4 inches. Doesn’t have to be perfectly exact. Prick each square with the tines of a fork.

Bake. Bake the crackers for 15-20 minutes, until the squares start to brown around the edges and are lightly golden in the center. At the 7- to 8-minute mark, turn the baking sheet 180 degrees to ensure the crackers bake evenly if your oven has hot spots (mine clearly does).

Cool. Remove the crackers from the oven, and transfer them to a cooling rack. Store airtight at room temperature for up to a week, if they last that long; freeze for longer storage.

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I’ve got a lot to tell you about – some amazing travel and a skyr dessert from last year’s Iceland adventure – but this recipe has been sitting in my draft pile since May and despite these long sticky days of summer when all you want to do is crawl into your freezer, I’m here to encourage you to turn on your oven and sweat it out.

There’s no backstory to this recipe, no seasonal ingredients, no science, but I’ve made it more than a handful of times and it’s a keeper. I call it tofu candy because the brown sugar in the teriyaki marinade caramelizes during a long bake in the oven, and I can’t help but paw little cube after little cube into my not-so-little mouth and end up eating an entire block of tofu (nearly a pound of the stuff) before I realize. I mean, seriously, these are the Jelly Bellies of the hippie dippie crunchy granola world.

Roast some broccoli at the same time if you want to call it dinner.

Teryaki tofu (aka, tofu candy)

Adapted from Cooking Light. If you want to add some vegetables, slide a baking sheet of broccoli (tossed in olive oil, salt, and pepper) in the oven ten minutes into the baking process – it should be ready around the same time as the tofu. Double or triple the marinade so you can toss in some pressed tofu and have candy on a whim (plus about 40 minutes of oven time).

Serves 1 or 2 as dinner

– 1 (14-oz) package extra-firm tofu, drained

– 1 T brown sugar

– 1 t grated fresh ginger

– 1 garlic clove, minced

– 1 T low sodium soy sauce

– 1 t rice wine vinegar

– 1 t toasted sesame oil

– dash hot sesame oil

– cooking spray

– 1 T toasted sesame seeds

Drain. Cut the tofu crosswise into 5 (1-inch-thick) slices. Place slices on several layers of paper towels and cover with additional paper towels. Place a cutting board on top and weigh down with several cans. Let stand 20 minutes, pressing down occasionally.

Whisk. While the tofu is pressing, whisk together the sugar, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, vinegar, oils, and sesame seeds.

Cube. Cut each tofu slice into 1/2-inch cubes.

Soak. Add tofu to marinade and toss to combine. Let stand for 10 minutes. Heat oven on to 375ºF.

Bake. Arrange tofu in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375°, stirring periodically, for 30 – 40 minutes or until tofu is browned on all sides. Toss with sesame seeds.

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Fall is the season for baking cookbooks. Between the chill in the air and the upcoming holidays, people are ready to rev up their ovens. This year is no exception and I’ll be discussing a bunch of them for The Forward.

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First up, Breaking Breads. Written by Uri Scheft, co-owner of Breads in New York and Lehamim in Israel, this cookbook offers bakery specialties like the best chocolate babka in New York and beautiful (and tasty) challah that graced my Rosh Hashanah table this year. There are tons of recipes that reflect Uri’s Israeli and Danish heritage and his wife’s Yemenite and Moroccan background, including strudel, kubaneh, several marzipan pastries, krembo, and different salads and dips.

I first met Uri at Union Square Cafe, where he used to eat a late lunch at the bar. The restaurant was across the street from Breads, and the bakery supplied the sesame crusted Jerusalem baguette (recipe in the book) that filled the bread baskets and were my usual mid-shift break-time snack. No surprise that I was also in Breads a few times a week and I really miss working nearby.

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For my article for The Forward, I made Uri’s cheese burekas because stuffed food is traditional for Sukkot. I baked them on Sunday morning, stuffed three in my mouth straight from the oven, got a few pictures in, and then brought the rest to my friend’s: her four-year old sons loved them. You might be tempted to skip the nigella seeds because they’re not as easy to find as sesame seeds, but it would be a mistake (and they’re really inexpensive at Whole Foods). Their flavor is hard to describe – it’s a little bit like burnt onion, but in a good way, and it really complements the cheese mix (feta, cream cheese, and sour cream).

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Breads Bakery’s Cheese Burekas

Recipe by Uri Scheft from Breaking Breads. I used Dufour brand all-butter puff pastry, which comes in packages of 14 ounces, but Uri notes that this is close enough to a pound for the recipe to work. Even though my unbaked burekas looked a bit of a mess, by the time the pastry puffed browned and the cheese melted, they came out pretty nicely. If you want,  you can fill and fold the burekas and them freeze them so you can have a fresh burekas whenever you want – they might just need a few extra minutes in the oven. 

Makes 8 burekas

2/3 cup (135 grams) cream cheese (at room temperature)
3/4 cup (30 grams) feta cheese, crumbled
1/3 cup (70 grams) sour cream
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons (25 grams) all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling and shaping
1 pound (455 grams) store-bought puff pastry, thawed if frozen
1 teaspoon water
Pinch fine salt
1/3 cup (50 grams) sesame seeds
1/3 cup (50 grams) nigella seeds

1) Place the cream cheese and feta cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium-low speed until smooth. Add the sour cream and mix until well combined. Add 1 egg and beat to combine, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary. Add the flour and mix until combined.

2) Set the puff pastry on a lightly floured work surface and roll it into a rectangle approximately 8½ by 16½ inches and about 1/8 inch thick. Trim the edges so you have a nice, clean rectangle, then divide the dough into eight 4-inch squares. In a small bowl, whisk the remaining egg with the water and salt; brush some of this egg wash over 2 adjacent edges of each square. Reserve the remaining egg wash.

3) Place about 3 tablespoons of the cheese filling in the center of each square and fold the non-egg-washed side of the dough over to meet the egg-washed edge—but do not press the edges to seal. Instead, lightly tap the sides together about 1/8 inch in from the edge; then use your finger to press down and seal the triangle along this line (this is so the edges puff when baked, letting you see the layers of the pastry at the edge of the burekas).

4) Set the burekas on a parchment paper-lined sheet pan and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes and up to 24 hours (if refrigerating them longer than 1 hour, cover the sheet pan with plastic wrap).

5) Preheat the oven to 400° F.

6) Remove the burekas from the refrigerator and brush the top of each one with the remaining egg wash. Stir the sesame seeds and nigella seeds together in a small bowl, and sprinkle each bureka generously with the seed mixture. Bake the burekas until they are puffed and golden brown, about 25 minutes. Try to cool the burekas slightly before eating—if you have the willpower!

 

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I made an E(ggplant)BLT. You can read about it here.

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The eggplant bacon – essentially spiced and smoked (with liquid smoke) eggplant chips – may not taste naughty, but the combo of juicy tomato, crisp lettuce, creamy mayo, and smoky salty crispy strips between lightly toasted pullman slices made me feel a little sacrilegious.

While the recipe says that the bacon loses its crispness quickly, I found that it kept well in an airtight container and was delicious the next day crumbled over a salad with chicken for a faux cobb.

PS – please ignore my reflection in the photo of the colander!

Eggplant Bacon for an EBLT

Recipe by Raquel Pelzel in Eggplant.

The key to making thin strips of eggplant crisp like bacon is time. First, salt the eggplant and let it sit for at least an hour so it lets go of all of the excess water. Then marinate it with high-octane stuff like maple syrup and liquid smoke (just a little won’t kill you, I swear) overnight. Then slowly bake it in a barely warm oven. The result is kind of like smoky-sweet eggplant chips, and yes, they can totally stand in for bacon in a BLT or even for chips with baba ghanouj.

2 medium eggplants (about 1 pound total)
1 tablespoon puls ½ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
¼ cup apple cider
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons soy sauce
½ teaspoon liquid smoke (optional, but c’mon, just do it)
1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Nonstick cooking spray or oil for greasing the rack

1) Cut the ends off of the eggplants, then slice a sliver off of one side lengthwise so the eggplant doesn’t roll around when you slice it. Cut each eggplant into think planks, about 1/8- to ¼-inch thick (use a mandoline if you have one), so you have at least 20 slices (some will break). Place the eggplant in a colander and toss with 1 tablespoon of the salt, then set the colander in the sink and let it drain for about 1 hour. Pat the eggplant slices dry with paper towel.

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2) In a large bowl, mix together the apple cider, maple syrup, soy sauce, liquid smoke (if using), rosemary, smoked paprika, cayenne and the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt. Add the eggplant and toss to combine, then transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate overnight, shaking the container (make sure that lid is on tight!) every now and then.

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3) Preheat the oven to 225° F. Lightly coat a wire rack with nonstick cooking spray (or brush with a little oil) and set inside a rimmed baking sheet. Lay the eggplant slices on the rack and bake until they’re dry, crisp and golden brown, about 1½ hours.

Note: The eggplant bacon loses its crispness quickly, so eat it up tout suite.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Roasted tomatillo salsa

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

Makes 4 cups

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

– 6 fresh jalapeño

– 3 garlic cloves, unpeeled

– 1/2 C cilantro

– 1 large onion, coarsely chopped

– 1 T kosher salt

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

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

 

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It’s been over a month since I’ve found my way back to this place. During that time I’ve been preoccupied with a promotion to maitre d’ (!) and completion of my “trail.” Restaurant speak for training, the trail was harder and longer than I expected.

When my manager approached me about the MD role (double entendre duly noted), he warned me that it is one of the most difficult jobs in a restaurant. On par with expediting, he said, it’s crucial for ensuring a great experience for guests and for the team. I laughed off his warning, mostly because of the uncomfortable audacity of accepting a role that was acknowledged by him as one of the most important in the place.

But I was also lulled into a false sense of confidence by the ease and grace with which the other MDs did their jobs – they remind me of dancers who seem to effortlessly float midair while leaping – and by my own hubris that the job would come naturally.

A few trails in, I realized that it didn’t come naturally. I had memorized “the book” – the rules for organizing the dining room and reservations as well as the exceptions to those rules – but I wasn’t sufficiently comfortable with my level of knowledge. And it showed.

One afternoon when a large crowd descended upon the restaurant at noon, hungry for lunch and intent on sitting down immediately, I froze. Afraid to make a mistake, I was afraid to do anything. In a moment of panic, I viewed our guests as the enemy and wanted to duck behind the podium to shield myself from their bullets of inquiries, requests, and expectations. But I put on my best forced smile and welcomed them through the doors with the sole intent of getting them into the dining room and away from me as quickly as possible. There I stood, in the bastion of hospitality, praying that everyone would just go away so that I could breathe. After the first rush, I escaped to the coatroom for a few moments of quiet. I muddled through the rest of the afternoon and somehow finished out the service, ego bruised but otherwise unscathed.

I was embarrassed then, and I’m embarrassed now as I write this. Luckily, there’s a happy ending.

asparagus picklesd

To build back my confidence, I hunkered down and studied my job as if I were in school. Just as my father solidified my knowledge of math by pushing me to derive formulas from first principles rather than merely memorizing them, I dissected the book and figured out how and why it was set up the way it was, approaching it as if I were building it from scratch.

A visual person by nature, I drew out a timeline of each lunch and dinner service, each table and when it turned for the next, how many people could sit down in the restaurant at each fifteen-minute interval in a way that wouldn’t overload the servers and kitchen. I made a Gantt chart of each activity an MD needs to accomplish by what time and the activities of other team members that are dependent on those milestones. In other words, I geeked out.

Like a consultant, I spoke with servers to find out the best way to handle different situations, for example, when I might need to double-seat them – should I try to provide at least a five-minute buffer interval? Give them a heads up? Ask the host to provide a menu? – yes, yes, and maybe. I wrote long lists of useful phrases – how to explain to guests if we were running behind, if we couldn’t seat them at a seemingly available table, if there was a waitlist for the bar.

As you might have guessed, my approach worked and I started having fun in the restaurant again. I’m now officially an MD (our general manager calls me MD2 ), still building up my muscle memory, but approaching the job with confidence and a genuine smile.

While all of this has been going on, the greenmarkets have exploded and my earlier MD schedule (I finish at 3 pm when I work lunch) has allowed me to wander through an expanding and bustling Union Square each market day. The market now snakes around the north end of the square in two parallel rows that span about three blocks.

While I rejoiced in new produce – asparagusfiddleheads! rhubarb! strawberries! – and filled my fridge with color, MD trailing left me with no mental energy to cook. The result? These quick pickled asparagus – a good snack after a stressful shift. Or at least a way to get in a few vegetables before sticking a spoon into a pint of ice cream.

I’m back in the kitchen these days, so next up: rhubarb muffins! See you back here soon.

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Asparagus pickles

Adapted from Food & Wine. The pickles take just moments to prepare and are ready after a night in the fridge. They’re sharp and spicy and their flavor intensifies the longer they sit in their vinegar bath.

– 3/4 – 1 lb asparagus

– 10 sprigs dill

– 1 C white vinegar

– 1 C water

– 1 T kosher salt

– 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

– 1 t black peppercorns

– 1/2 t red pepper flakes

Fill. Snap the woody ends off the asparagus and trim them so that they will fit into a wide-mouth 1-quart jar. Fill the jar with the asparagus and dill.

Heat. Heat the vinegar, water, salt, garlic, and peppers until the salt dissolves. Allow to cool.

Pour. Once the vinegar mix is lukewarm, pour it in the jar. Top off with a 1-to-1 mix of vinegar and water to cover.

Chill. Refrigerate overnight and eat within three days.

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I was just scrolling through the blog today and realized that we haven’t had salad in a while. If you don’t count the that kale and barley deal from earlier this month (Is it salad? Or is it a side? I categorized it as salad on the recipes tab, but I’m rethinking that one), the last salad we ate together was on July 13. If you’re curious, that was eighteen weeks and three days ago. I was curious.

That Friday the 13th salad was unusual in that I had veered from my standard dressing of a drizzle of oil, a squeeze of lemon, salt, pepper, and I’m done. Instead, I made an orange blossom dressing that I actually call liquid gold, it’s that good. Well, my friends, I’ve found another dressing that just might just give that dressing a run for its money.

This Monday the 19th one centers around pomegranate molasses. You’ve seen pomegranate molasses (also called pomegranate syrup) all over this blog. It’s in lamb and meat sauce and a roast. It glazes carrots, decorates roasted vegetables, and caramelizes tarte tatins. It has also found itself atop a bowl or two of vanilla ice cream.

Pomegranate molasses is just very concentrated pomegranate juice. You can buy it in Middle Eastern (and sometimes Indian) grocery stores or make it yourself by reducing pure juice in a sauce pan until it thickens into a sticky syrup. It’s sweet and puckeringly sour. If you like sour candies, you might want to run out to buy a bottle of this stuff. Or two.

But it never occurred to me to turn it into a salad dressing until my friend Jess suggested it. And now I can’t get enough of it. The first time I made, I licked the last few drops off of my plate when I ran out of bread for sopping up. Luckily I was alone at the time. Though, I might very well have done it in a restaurant full of strangers.

Arugula salad with pear, goat cheese, pomegranate, and walnuts

Serves 4

– 3 C loosely packed arugula

– 10 sprigs of parsley, minced

– 1 scallion, sliced on a bias

– 1 pear (I used Bosc), cubed

– 2 T goat cheese, crumbled

– 1/2 C pomegranate seeds

– 1/3 C spicy candied walnuts (see below)

– pomegranate molasses dressing (see below)

Pile. Mix together the arugula and parsley and arrange on a large plate. Sprinkle with scallion, pear, and goat cheese.

Tap. To remove the seeds from the pomegranate, slice the fruit in half, hold a piece cut side down over a large bowl, and hit the outside skin with a wooden spoon. Most of the seeds will fall out and you can gently pry out any remaining ones. Juice will splatter, so don’t wear white.

Finish. Scatter the pomegranate seeds and walnuts over the salad. Drizzle with dressing. The dressing is intense, so drizzle sparingly.

***

Spicy candied walnuts

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen. You’ll have leftovers, which you’ll probably end up eating by the handful. 

Makes 2 1/2 cups

– 1 egg white, room temperature

– 1 T pomegranate molasses

–  1/3 cup brown sugar

– 1/3 cup white sugar

– 1.5 teaspoon kosher salt

– Generous pinch of cayenne pepper

– 1/2 t cumin

– 1/2 lb (2 1/2 C) walnut pieces

Preheat oven to 300ºF.

Whisk. With a fork, whisk the egg white and pomegranate molasses in a large  bowl.

Mix. Add the sugars, salt, cayenne, and cumin, and mix everything together. Stir in the walnuts and toss until evenly coated.

Bake. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper, and spread the  sugared nuts in a single layer on top. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Cool. Remove from the oven, and separate nuts as they cool. When completely cool, pour the nuts into a bowl, breaking up any that stick together.

***

Pomegranate molasses dressing

Inspired by Sweet Amandine. You’ll have leftover dressing, but it keeps in the fridge for at least 2 weeks.

Makes 1/2 cup 

– 6 T olive oil

– 1 T pomegranate molasses

– 1 T lemon juice

– 2 t brown sugar

– salt and pepper

Shake. Put everything in a jar and shake to mix. The sugar may stick to the bottom, so use a fork to dislodge it and keep shaking.

Taste. Dip an arugula leaf into the dressing and adjust the seasoning.

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six million

6 million

Tonight and tomorrow mark Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance day. This memorial day holds special significance to me as the grand-daughter of survivors.

me with my grandparents

Tonight I participated in a  special seder, originally developed by Rabbi Avi Weiss, to ritualize remembrance of the Holocaust. We read from a short book, sitting on the floor as mourners in a darkened room around six candles to represent the 6,000,000 Jews who perished. The evening had four sections: physical destruction, spiritual destruction, destruction of children, and resistance. An important part of the seder is to pass the first-hand experiences of survivors to future generations so that the memories never extinguish and can continue to be passed l’dor va dor (from generation to generation).

Since no survivors were able to join us, I asked my mother to share with me some stories from her mother so that I could re-tell her experience as part of the “resistance” portion since my Bubbie’s attitude, wit, and courage is what helped her survive. Here is what my mother wrote as if she were speaking as her own mother:

I was born in a small town named Sandz (Novisoncz (sp?) in Polish), Poland. Since my mother was busy working in the family business, I was sent to live with my older sister in a larger city Katowicz. I went to school there and because at some point this was a town in Germany (borders changed a lot in those days) the schools taught German as well as Polish and I learned a “high German.” Who knew that it would later help save my life.

Money and diamonds helped some people live through the war if it wasn’t taken away from them by the Germans; knowledge/education was something that they couldn’t take away from you.

I was sent to a labor/work camp when the war broke out. I was in my late teens and thin and pretty; I always looked taller than I was so they thought I was older and would be a good worker. I worked in the kitchen, mainly peeling potatoes for the “potato soup” to be fed to the worker Jews in the camp — peels and water for the Jews, real hearty potato soup for the Germans. There was an adjacent men’s work camp and I could see young teenage boys, 11-12 years old, skin and bones, through the barbed wire fence. They were working hard too and quite hungry. One evening I was leaving the kitchen and stole a pail of potatoes, intended mainly for the teenage boys to keep them alive. On the way back to the barracks with the pail of potatoes, I was seen and stopped by a German guard. He asked me what I had in my hand and I answered in German that it was some potatoes and I was hungry. He said that I was carrying way too many potatoes just for myself and asked what was I going to do with them. I answered him in the best High German that I knew and said, ” They are just for me. Did you think I would be so stupid to just take a few every day and risk getting caught each time? ” He answered, “Verschwind!” in German meaning disappear, and said that I should get out of his sight quickly and never do that again.

My wise-ass German answer helped save my life.

One story that my mother had never heard, but that Bubbie shared with my younger sister was that in addition to working in the kitchen, she also worked in the laundry. This afforded her the opportunity to actually cook the potatoes in hot water under cover.

When my sister was in Israel a few years ago, she took some photographs in Yad VaShem‘s Valley of Destroyed Communities of the cities where my grandparents grew up: Poppie was born in Chrzanów and grew up in Krakow; my Bubbie learned the German that saved her life in Katowice.

Krakow - photo by RySq

Krakow – photo by RySq

picture by RySq

Katowice – picture by RySq

I am proud to say that though my grandparents are no longer alive, they worked hard all of their lives, passing on the legacy of higher education to their children and grandchildren, and even managed to save a few dollars to help provide for future generations. They had “made it” in America. And they did make some investments in jewelry and left this necklace to me which I cherish and wear regularly.

bubbie's necklace

In preparation for the seder, I thought about the potato peels that my grandparents often sustained themselves on. To help reenact part of the resistance experience, I made potato peel crisps.  Don’t be mistaken – this is NOT a dish to remember my grandmother by — I think of her when I eat grapefruit or Chinese food (we used to take her out to Kosher Chinese in Miami and she would always order a hamburger, insisting that she didn’t like Chinese food, and then proceed to pick from all of our plates, exclaiming how much better our dishes were…).

Potato Peel Crisps

I chose russet potatoes for this “recipe.”

Preheat oven to 500°F.

Wash potatoes well to remove any dirt. Peel potatoes and soak in water. Spread in single layer on baking sheet and spray with oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Roast for 20-25 minutes until crisp.

potato peel crisps

Zachor. Remember.

[Thank you to Elisha for sharing this special ritual with me and other members of our community, and encouraging my family to document our stories.]

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spinach-apple-feta

 

One of my favorite salad toppers is freshly toasted nuts. And if it’s an extra special occasion (or just a regular evening that you want to turn into something special), the nuts get coated in sugar and even spice. You can buy them like this already (e.g., at Trader Joe’s) and some places have even started marketing them, for example “Meshuga Nuts” (I could not find the link), but I like to buy the raw shelled nuts and make my own to add whatever spices and level of sweetness I fancy on a given day.

This recipe is pretty easy, but does make a little bit of a mess. The nuts are great to snack on and are wonderful as an appetizer, with cheese, or served in pretty little bowls alongside dessert.  They also make nice gifts

I find pecans work best because they have nice little grooves that capture all the flavors. Walnuts should work equally as well from this grooved perspective; almonds might not have great grooves, but they are another favorite of mine in salads.

Pecans

nice grooves on the pecans, ready for a coating

 

Sugared and Spiced Nuts, some guidelines

Don’t be afraid, there’s a lot of verbiage here and it looks scary, but I’m just walking you through the process and warning you about all of the mistakes that I have made along the way so you won’t make them!

Any nuts will work, but my preference from a texture perspective is pecans. I also like making plain sugared almonds. Any spice mixture will work — experiment on what you prefer. I have listed here my favorite and detailed how I make these nuts in such a way that they do not end up one huge sheet of nut brittle, rather separate nuts with a slightly crumbly spicy-sweet, slightly gritty texture. These are not sticky.

Makes ~2.5 C

1 lb pecans

1/3 C white sugar

1/3 C brown sugar – this helps with the texture, but you can use all white sugar

Basic mild spice mixture:

1/2 t hot chili powder

1 t curry powder

1/2 t cumin

2 T water to help spread spices

I like mine a bit more spicy and sweet and salty, so I added the following (after tasting the initial coating): additional 2 T sugar; 1/2-1 t cayenne pepper; additional 1/2 t curry powde; 2 large pinches kosher salt; additional 1-2 T water to help distribute spices

Prepare foil-lined baking sheet to catch nuts when the are ready to cool.

Dry toast pecans (1 lb) on large skillet set at medium heat. Constantly move skillet around to avoid burning the nuts — this takes about 5-7 minutes.

Add sugars and spices and continue to move the skillet around to help sugar melt and liquify. Adjust your flame/heat between low and medium to your own comfort.  Again – do not let the sugar or nuts burn. This can and will set off your smoke alarm (I’ve done it before!) and you might have to throw out the whole batch! You have to watch pretty carefully. One moment you have a pile of sugar and a few spices, the next, a column of smoke. But, with practice, it gets easier. If you add water early, burning is less likely, but I don’t find the texture works out as nicely. So, keep moving the pan/skillet around and eventually the sugar will melt into a nice light brown (very hot – DON’T TOUCH!) liquid.

Coat the nuts evenly with this mixture of sugars and spices in the pan with a non-stick spatula. Don’t worry if the sugar starts to re-crystallize or if the spices haven’t distributed perfectly evenly … that’s what the water is for. Add the 2 T water to essentially deglaze and get all the bits that are stuck to the pan to unstick. This also helps with give the coating the desired texture — a little gritty rather than smooth. BUT, note, when you add the water, it will splatter a bit (see the bits of my stove top that I just couldn’t crop out of the picture…), so stand back.

pecans in pan, not quite sugared and spiced enough for me

pecans in pan, not quite sugared and spiced enough for me

Allow nuts to cool a bit and taste to see if any additional spices, sugar, etc. is necessary.  After tasting, I decided to increase the sugar, spices, and add some salt (as outlined above).  Note, the salt enhances the sweetness in the mix (as in fleur de sel caramels). Again, allow the sugar to caramelize and melt as the spices get fragrant. I added 1-2 T water to help distribute the dry ingredients evenly across the nuts.

Spread nuts out evenly on the foil-lined cookie sheet and allow nuts to cool for 5-10 minutes. They should not be sticky.

Nuts can be stored in an airtight container for about a week, but they typically don’t last that long in my home. 

 

sugared and spiced pecans, ready to munch

sugared and spiced pecans, ready to munch

OTHER SPICES MIXTURES TO TRY:

– cinnamon, sugar (this is a simple one that can work for Passover)

– cumin, sugar, cayenne or other peppers

 

SALAD SUGGESTIONS:

These nuts are wonderful on a classic salad of spinach or baby greens, beets (even from a can if you’re in a rush!), pears, pickled onions or regular shallots, and chèvre. Salt, pepper, olive oil, and balsamic to dress.

I’ve also thrown them on a similar salad of whatever  I had in the fridge – spinach, apples, and feta. Since the feta is pretty salty, no need to put salt in the dressing. Not as good as the first combo, but the nuts made it taste pretty special.

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Walking home tonight through the most recent snow and ice storm (I predict at least 1-2 mini storms before the flowers push through), I got lost listening to my iPod and dreaming about leftovers from last night’s squash and bean salad. So, my 15 minute walk took 40. I entered my home cold, dripping, glasses foggy. After dropping my bag and coat and hat and scarf and gloves, I raced to the fridge, grabbed the lemon-painted mixing  bowl that I made yesterday’s salad in, and popped it in the microwave for a minute. No fire. No atmosphere. Just food.

Sitting on the counter were the now-dried squash seeds that I had cleaned the night before. I recalled really enjoying making and eating roasted pumpkin seeds when I was in kindergarten. (I went to one of those Montessori Schools so we did a lot of hands-on experimentation and practical things. Why they needed to take a school picture of me polishing silver is a whole other discussion….) So, I prepared them quickly and threw them in the oven as a second experiment in as many days.

Less than an hour later, after virtually licking my dinner bowl clean, I pulled the seeds out of the oven, put them in a little Japanese dipping  bowl and could barely take a few pictures before eating all of them in a few minutes flat, licking the salt off my fingers between the warm crunchy bites.

roasted squash seeds

Roasted Squash Seeds

Serving size depends on number and size of squash. 1 medium acorn squash yields 1/4-1/3 C seeds.

Cut squash in half and remove seeds and pith. Rinse seeds under water to free seeds from strings. Let dry overnight (you can probably skip this step).

Toss with oil (or just coat with spray oil such as Pam) and salt and lay in single layer on cookie sheet covered with aluminum foil.

Roast in oven at 300ºF for 30-40 minutes until golden brown and dry.

There are tons of other options for spicing the seeds, but since I haven’t done this before, I stuck with the basics and they were fantastic. Other thoughts:

– sweet and salty: toss with sugar and salt

– sweet and spicy: sugar, cayenne and salt

– curry powder and salt

– rosemary and salt

– lemon pepper, salt and citrus zest

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