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Mindy Segal's strawberry rhubarb rugelach with oatmeal streusel

Just a few days after I made only a small dent in my coconut stash, I started another baking project. This one was a bit of a potschke, a bit of a fuss, that required several steps over the course of two days. I was reviewing Mindy Segal’s Cookie Love for the Forward and found myself deep in the rugelach chapter. That’s right, people, an entire chapter on rugelach and their similarly-made, differently-shaped Polish cousins, kolatchkes. (Don’t the Kolatchkes sound like a nice family you’d like to have over for dinner? I would definitely invite them.)

In the introduction to her book, Mindy writes “Spring is here only after I’ve made strawberry rhubarb rugelach.” With the weather we were having, I was ready to do anything to will spring on. Anything. Even spend two days making cookies.

So, I picked up a few pounds of strawberries. No, not the ones below – these I snagged this morning at the farmers market (!!!) – but a plastic box of uniformly red, decent enough berries.

strawberries

I grabbed a couple stalks of rhubarb, also from the grocery store, and heated them up with the berries. Everything mushed together, eventually slumping into a soft pot of preserves, sweet with berries, tart with rhubarb, and just enough sugar to help the grocery store produce along.

strawberry rhubarb preserves

Want a closer look?

strawberry rhubarb preserves

Whoa, that’s close.

I pulsed together an oatmeal streusel crumble.

Mindy Segal's oatmeal streusel

And made a cream cheese dough that I covered with fruit and sprinkled with streusel.

 Mindy Segal's strawberry rhubarb rugelach with oatmeal streusel

I sliced the dough into triangles. OK, officially, those are trapezoids.

Mindy Segal's strawberry rhubarb rugelach with oatmeal streusel

Then rolled them up.

Mindy Segal's strawberry rhubarb rugelach with oatmeal streusel

And covered them with more streusel.

Mindy Segal's strawberry rhubarb rugelach with oatmeal streusel

And popped them in the oven.

Through the glass, I could see the dough puffing and browning and falling. The pink fruit bubbling and leaking from its spiraled home.

Mindy Segal's strawberry rhubarb rugelach with oatmeal streusel

Out of the oven, the rugelach cooled, and dribs and drabs of caramelized preserves hardened into edges of brittle.

Mindy Segal's strawberry rhubarb rugelach with oatmeal streusel

The dough was soft and flakey, ribboned with pucker-y berries, and punctuated by nubbins of crispy streusel.

I thought about eating them all. Myself. But I didn’t. I shared.

Mindy Segal's strawberry rhubarb rugelach with oatmeal streusel

Strawberry rhubarb rugelach with oatmeal streusel

From Mindy Segal’s Cookie Love. I’ve modified the order of the steps and some of the language to best reflect how I made the rugelach. The recipe is long, so make sure to read through the whole thing through before starting.

There are a lot of components to make here and many ingredients require chilling, so I made these over the course of two days. On the morning of day 1, I macerated the fruit and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours. Later that evening, I cooked down the fruit preserves and then prepared the cream cheese dough, chilling it overnight. On day 2, I made the oatmeal crumble and then assembled and baked off the rugelach. 

Makes 48 rugelach

For the cookies:

– 1 recipe Classic Cream Cheese Dough (see below), divided in half and chilled
– 1 recipe Strawberry Rhubarb Preserves (see below)
– 2 cups Oatmeal Streusel (see below)
– cooking spray
– 1 egg white, lightly beaten
– ¼ cup granulated sugar

Roll out. Put a sheet of parchment paper the same dimensions as a half sheet (13 by 18-inch) pan on the work surface and dust lightly with flour. Remove one dough half from the refrigerator (it should have been chilling for at least 2 hours and should be pretty solid) and place on top. Using a rolling pin and a pastry roller, roll the dough half into a rectangle, leaving a 1-inch border from the edge of the parchment paper. The dough should be just shy of ¼-inch thick. If the edges become uneven, push a bench scraper against the sides to straighten them out. To keep the dough from sticking to the parchment paper, periodically dust the top lightly with flour, cover with another piece of parchment paper, and, sandwiching the dough between both sheets of parchment paper, flip the dough and paper over. Peel off the top layer of parchment paper and continue to roll. Repeat with the second dough half.

Chill. Stack both sheets of dough on top of each other and refrigerate until chilled, approximately 30 minutes.

Heat. Heat the oven to 350°F. Line a few half sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly coat with nonstick cooking spray.

Fill. Invert the sheets of dough onto the work surface and peel off the top sheet
of parchment paper. For each sheet of dough, spread ¾ cup of strawberry rhubarb preserves in a thin, even layer across the surface. Sprinkle approximately ½ cup of streusel per sheet over the preserves. Trim the edges.

Slice. Using a dough cutter or a pizza cutter, divide the sheet in half lengthwise into two long strips. Working with one strip at a time and moving crosswise, cut out triangles with flat tips, with each base approximately 1½ inches wide and each tip approximately ¼-inch wide. Shoot for 12 triangles per strip.

Roll up. Using an offset spatula or dough cutter, separate a triangle away from the rest of the dough. Starting from the base, roll the dough 
up like a crescent roll. Place tip-side down on the prepared sheet pan and repeat with the remaining triangles, spacing them on the pans 1 inch apart. Brush the tops with the egg white and sprinkle with the sugar. Sprinkle the tops generously with the remaining
 1 cup streusel.

Bake. Bake one pan at a time for 15 minutes. Rotate the pan and bake for another 
8 to 10 minutes, or until the streusel is golden brown.

Cool. Let the cookies cool on the sheet pan for 1 to 2 minutes (do not wait too long or the preserves will stick to the parchment paper). Using an offset spatula, transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Store. Rugelach can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days. Rolled, unbaked rugelach can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.

***

Classic cream cheese dough

From Mindy Segal’s Cookie Love. This is the basic cream cheese dough that Mindy uses for rugelach, kolachkes, and even her own version of fig newtons. The dough really needs to stay cold, so I popped it back in the fridge a few times while I was rolling it out if it started to feel too delicate. I saved half of the cream cheese dough and brought it to a friend’s house – her daughters and I rolled out the dough and stuffed it with a combination of peanut butter, chocolate chips, and butterscotch chips. 

Makes 2 (13 by 18-inch) sheets of dough

– 1 C (8 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
– 1 C (8 oz) cream cheese, at room temperature
– 1/3 C plus 1 T granulated sugar
– 1 t pure vanilla extract
– 2 C unbleached all-purpose flour
– 1 t kosher salt
– 1 teaspoon sea salt flakes

Mix. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter on medium speed for 5 to 10 seconds. Add the cream cheese and mix on medium speed to combine, 10 to 15 seconds. Add the sugar and beat on medium speed until aerated, approximately 3 minutes. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula to bring the batter together.

Mix some more. On medium speed, add the vanilla, mixing briefly until incorporated. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula to bring the batter together. In a bowl, whisk together the flour and salts. Add the flour mixture all at once and mix on low speed until the dough just comes together but still looks shaggy, approximately 30 seconds. Do not overmix. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer. With a plastic bench scraper, bring the dough completely together by hand.

Chill. Stretch two sheets of plastic wrap on a work surface. Divide the dough in half (each half will weigh around 14½ ounces) and place a half on each piece of plastic. Pat the dough into rectangles, wrap tightly, and refrigerate until chilled throughout, at least 2 hours or up to 1 week.

***

Strawberry rhubarb preserves

From Mindy Segal’s Cookie Love. To get one pound of hulled strawberries, you’ll need to start with about 1.5 pounds of unhulled berries. These preserves are definitely puckery – which works nicely for the regulach since the streusel adds another sweet element and baking seems to intensify the fruit’s sweetness – but you might want to add more sugar to taste. Any leftover preserves are great mixed with yogurt or poured over ice cream. 

Makes about 2 cups

– 2 C finely diced rhubarb (approximately 2 large stalks)
– 1 lb washed, hulled, and dried strawberries, finely diced
– ¾ C granulated sugar
– 1 T freshly squeezed orange juice

Macerate. Combine the rhubarb, strawberries, granulated sugar, and orange juice in a bowl and let macerate for at least
 4 hours at room temperature or cover and refrigerate overnight.

Heat. In a high-sided, heavy pot, heat the fruit mixture over medium-high heat until the juices start to boil and foam. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally to prevent the bottom from scorching, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the rhubarb has broken down completely, approximately 30 minutes. You will have close to
 2 cups. Transfer to a storage container and refrigerate until completely chilled, at least 2 hours.

***

Oatmeal streusel

From Mindy Segal’s Cookie Love

Makes 2 cups

– 6 T (3 oz) cold, unsalted butter, cubed
– 6 T firmly packed light brown sugar
– 1¼ C unbleached all-purpose flour
– 6 T old-fashioned oats
– 1/2 t kosher salt

Pulse. In a food processor, pulse together the butter, sugar, flour, oats, and salt until it forms a fine meal, and the butter is evenly incorporated. Do not over-process.

Chill. Transfer to a storage container and chill completely, approximately 1 hour. Or freeze and use within 1 month.

on its own

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

Coconut tea cake

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

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

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

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

Coconut Tea Cake 

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

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

– 2 C flour

– 1 t baking powder

– pinch salt

– 2 limes for zest and juice

– 2 C sugar

– 4 large eggs, preferably at room temperature

– 1 t vanilla extract

– 3/4 C shredded unsweetened dried coconut

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

so too

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Well. Now that I’ve gone all “screw seasonal cooking” on you, I finally found spring nirvana in the farmers market this week. On Wednesday, I picked up a fistful of wild leek-y ramps whose scent lingered in my office well after I left for home and whose floppy leaves and hairy bulbs taunted me from the fridge this morning. So too did the bundle of asparagus – so fresh that there were no tough ends to snap off and whose raw taste can be only be described as green.

Inspired by Rivka‘s asparagus toast and a warm asparagus salad with ramps, I whipped up my own quick salad, just barely wilting the ramps and asparagus and tossing with mint and a mild feta. Best warm, great on toast, and sure to pop up in my own kitchen at last once more this Spring.

I’ll keep this post and recipe short – approximately the length of ramp season.

Asparagus and ramps with mint and feta

Because of the salted butter and feta, I didn’t add any salt. The dish tastes best warm or at room temperature.

Makes 2 – 4 servings

– 1 lb young asparagus

– 1/3 lb ramps (approximately 20)

– about 20 leaves mint

– 3 T salted butter

– 1/4 C feta, preferably sheep’s milk (I like Pastures of Eden brand – you can find it at Trader Joe’s)

Cut. Trim the asparagus and and slice into approximately 2-inch . Clean the ramps well and remove the hairy root ends. Roughly chop the bulbs and white/purple stems. Chop the leaves into 2-inch strips and set aside. Chifonnade (or tear) the mint leaves.

Heat. Melt over medium heat the butter in a skillet large enough to hold all the vegetables. Add the ramp bulbs and stems, sautéing for 3 minutes until softened, but not browned. Add the asparagus and stir everything around to coat the asparagus with the butter. Cover for 3-5 minutes to allow the asparagus to steam a bit – it’s ready when the stalks are bright green but still firm. Add the ramp leaves and stir gently to wilt.

Serve. Toss with mint and crumbled feta.

As far as seasons go, spring is typically just a means to an end. It’s the March that comes in like a lion and out like a lamb. It’s the April showers that bring May flowers. It’s just a few quick subway stops until we reach our favorite destination: summer. But in the food world, we celebrate each stop along the way. We are just as excited by early spring ramps (they’re finally here, at least in restaurant kitchens and on foragers’ Instagram feeds) as we are by mid-summer tomatoes and late summer plums and early autumn apples. We look forward to each and every new item that hits the market, eat too much until it disappears, and then move on to the next new thing. Seasonal, local farm-to-table eating and restaurants are becoming the norm. And this is a really good thing.

But sometimes seasonality is over-rated. Or, more accurately, at least for this blog post, cooking out of seasonal is under-rated. With the winter we had and the spring we’re having in this neck of the woods, and despite ramps and asparagus and pea shoots popping up on restaurant menus, I haven’t seen anything in the market other than stray root vegetables, collard greens, and scallions. But ever since the Passover seder, I’ve been making what I can only describe as a spring salad. Regardless of the weather.

Spring salad

The salad was inspired by a dish at Santina, a restaurant that laughs in the face of strict adherence to seasonality. (Have you been? If not, you should. If you don’t believe me, ask Pete Wells.) What’s remarkable about Santina is that it creates a transformative experience: in a glass box along the Highline with indoor palm trees, servers in white pants and Easter egg-colored polos, and tropical drinks, it evokes a sunny afternoon in a Mediterranean seaside town.

My first visit to Santina was on a grey February evening when my father was in town. It was so cold that he made a pitstop en route to buy an extra hat and a pair of gloves. I could talk about the whole meal, but what I want to discuss now is the salmon and heirloom radish salad that, to me, screamed sunshine on a plate. It matched the vibe of the restaurant, which I’d characterize as: “it doesn’t matter what’s going on out there, it’s all good in here.”

Fast forward a few weeks to Passover in Miami where it was gorgeously sunny and 80 degrees outside. It was also 80 degrees inside our apartment due to a broken air conditioner and construction preventing us from opening all but two windows.

Now here’s where things get a bit wonky. I couldn’t stop thinking about that salad, but my mind swapped oranges in for the salmon. I mean, same color, right? Sort of. Also, we had a huge bowl of Florida citrus sitting on the counter. Anyway, I popped over to the grocery store for radishes, but the only ones I could find were shrink-wrapped in plastic and buried in the far corner of the produce section. Undeterred, I grabbed a bag of fluorescent pink orbs, a similarly wrapped tray of Persian cucumbers, and a big head of Boston lettuce in a clamshell container. Seasonal or not, local or not, I was fixated on my memory of that sunshine salad.

As for the salad itself, it’s a combination of winter citrus and early spring vegetables. I first layered a wide bowl with large floppy lettuce leaves. Then I used a mandoline to slice thin discs of sharp radish and crisp cucumber. I noticed that the cut surfaces of the cucumber beaded up with water. I removed the peel from an orange and then cut it into full or half moons. A little lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper and we were ready to eat.

When I brought the salad out to our seder table, I thought I felt an ocean breeze in our overheating apartment. (Perhaps it was Elijah the prophet sneaking by for a sip of wine.) And back in New York, I’ve made the salad a half dozen more times.

Having eaten batch after batch, I’ve come up with the perfect way to apprecaite it. The salad itself is a delicate, dainty start to a meal – in sharp contrast with the shredded kale and hardy greens, laden with soaked-up dressing that we’ve just left behind. Don’t cut up the leaves when they hit your plate. Keep them whole and use your knife to pleat each one onto your fork, folding in a radish here, a cucumber there, topping it off with an orange segment.You’ll find that a few big juicy bites encourage you to appreciate the flavors and colors of the season you want it to be, wherever you are.

Spring salad

Spring salad

Serves 3-4

Rinse one large head of Boston or butter lettuce a few times until the water runs clear to remove any dirt. Gently pry each leaf off the core and lay on paper towels to dry. Line a wide, shallow bowl with the leaves. Use a mandoline to thinly slice two or three radishes and one small Persian cucumber – I prefer my radishes a tad thinner than my cucumber – and sprinkle over the lettuce. Use a small sharp knife to remove the peel from one orange, leaving behind no white pith. Slice the orange into circles or half-circles and scatter over the salad. In a cup, whisk together the juice of half a lemon (about 2 tablespoons), a quarter cup of olive oil, a generous pinch of kosher salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Pour half the dressing over the salad and then add more to taste.

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

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

“We’re heading home.”

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

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

“What were you doing before you got here?”

“We were at a shabbat dinner.”

“Oh, you’re Jewish? You’re Jewish!”

“Yes, we are.”

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

“Yes, we have.”

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

“What?”

“I love matzah. I eat it all year.”

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

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

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

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

“We have to go. It’s late.”

“Please don’t go.”

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

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

True story.

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

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

Orange Blossom Macaroons

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

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

Makes about 30 cookies

– 4 large egg whites

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

– 3/4 C sugar

– 1 t orange zest

– 2 t orange blossom water

– a generous pinch salt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

a final spin

This winter is the boyfriend who keeps coming back after you categorically told him you’ve moved on. And winter vegetables are the ones you have a hard time turning your back on no matter how much you want them in your rear view mirror. Since winter’s being so persistent this year and until spring produce makes an appearance in the market, you might as well hold on to the best of winter – his beets, carrots, cabbages, and brussels sprouts – and give them a warmer weather treatment. We’re talking bare legs with booties here.

brussels sprouts, apple, and hazelnut salad

For starters, take these brussels sprouts for a final spin around the block in a convertible. Take the top down, but keep the seat warmers on. While you do turn the oven on to toast a handful of hazelnuts, the sprouts themselves are raw, crunchy, and bathed in a bracingly sharp lemony vinaigrette. Tossed with tart apples and and a generous sprinkle of parmesan, the sprouts are a perfect bridge from winter to spring.

brusselss sprout, apple, hazelnut salad

For a few more ideas on how to get the most out of the last days of winter vegetables, check out this Epicurious article and the late Gil Mark’s recipe for spicy Moroccan carrot salad.

Brussels sprout salad with apple and hazelnut

Inspired by 101 Cookbooks and Love and Olive Oil. The dressing here is very lemony, with an almost 1:1 ratio of lemon to oil. The main tool you need is an a mandoline (throw out the guard and just buy a pair of cut resistant gloves). It’s important here to toast the hazelnuts twice – the first time to remove the skins, the second time to give the nuts some crunch. Make sure to let the salad sit for at least 30 minutes before serving. It’s also great the next day – the lemon in the dressing prevents the apples from browning. 

– 1/4 c lemon juice

– 1/4 C + 1 T olive oil

– 1 t honey

– 1/2 t salt

– a few grinds pepper

– 4 oz parmesan (3/4 C shredded)

– 1 C hazelnuts

– 1 1/4 lb sprouts = 4 generous cups shredded

– 2 small granny smith apples

Shake. In a small jar, mix the juice, oil, honey, salt, pepper, and 3 tablespoons of cheese. Let sit.

Toast. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Spread hazelnuts on a parchment-lined baking sheet and toast for 7-10 minutes until they are flagrant (but not burned) and the skins begin to peel off. Use the parchment to pour the hot hazelnuts into a glass jar or container with a cover. Keep the oven on.

Shake. Holding the jar with a towel (it will be hot), shake the bejesus out of it. Pretty quickly, the skins will steam off, leaving  you with mostly naked hazelnuts.

Chop. Once the nuts are cool enough to handle, remove the from the jar, leaving the skins behind. With a sharp knife, roughly chop the hazelnuts and put back in the oven to toast for a another 5-7 minutes or until fragrant and lightly golden. Allow to cool.

Shave. Rinse the sprouts and remove the outer layers. Over a very large bowl, holding the stem end, shred each sprout (I use the widest setting on my mandoline – 3 mm) about half way until you hit the core, then tilt sideways to shred the remaining leaves.

Shave. Cut each apple in half and cut out the core. Keeping the mandolin on the same 3 mm setting, and thinly slice the apples into half-moons.

Mix. With your hands, mix the sprouts and apple pieces. Add at least 1/2 of the dressing and keep mixing. Allow the sprouts to wilt over about 30 minutes. Add more dressing as necessary. You can store the salad like this overnight.

Serve. Top the salad with the remaining parmesan and toasted nuts right before serving.

early or late

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

pistachio rose hamantashen

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

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

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pistachio rose paste

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

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

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

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strawberry rhubarb hamantashen

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

pistachio rose hamantashen

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

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

If you give a dude a kale chip.

The New York Times on shooting food porn.

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

pistachio rose hamantashen

Pistachio rose hamantashen

Makes about 36 hamantashen (depending on size)

– 1 batch hamantashen dough (below)

– 1 batch pistachio frangipane (below)

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

Hamantashen dough

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

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

– 2 eggs

– 1 T water, plus more if needed

– 1/4 C vegetable oil

– 1/2 C sugar

– 2 1/2 C flour, plus more if needed

– 1 t baking powder

– 1/2 t kosher salt

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

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

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

***

Pistachio frangipane

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

Makes about 2 cups

1 3/4 C unsalted shelled pistachios

2/3 C sugar

1/2 t salt

2 eggs

2 t rose water

3 T melted butter

1/4 + 2 T C flour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cumin-spiced beluga lentils

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

Makes 4-6 servings

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

– ½ t mustard seeds

– 2 – 3 T olive oil 

– 1 small onion, finely chopped

– 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

– 1 C black beluga lentils

– 3 – 4 C vegetable or chicken broth 

– 1 T sherry vinegar or lemon juice 

– kosher salt, freshly ground balck pepper

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

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

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

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

in new ways

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

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

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

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

apple celery arugula salad

Arugula, apple, and celery salad

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

Serves 2-4

– 2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 lemon)

– 1 T honey

– 3 T olive oil

– 1/4 t celery seed

– salt and pepper

– 4 C arugula

– 1/4 C coarsely chopped parsley

– 4 stalks celery, thinly sliced on a bias

– 2 apples (I used Braeburn), thinly sliced

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cabbage, lime, and peanut slaw

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

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

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

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

– 1 T kosher salt, plus more to taste

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

– 1 T Dijon mustard

– 1/2 t ground cumin

– 6 T peanut oil

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

– 1/2 cup roasted salted peanuts, coarsely chopped

– 1/4 C chopped parsley

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

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

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

Eat. This salad is best served immediately.

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

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