Carbohydrates, mainly in the form of breads and cakes, are my first love in the world of sustenance. Although I often restrain myself and opt for protein (beans, nuts, etc), a bright green salad, or a beautiful piece of fruit (not hard to find in Israel), most of the time, when my stomach tells me it is time to eat, my immediate thoughts are of tea cake, whole wheat bread with peanut butter, chocolate cake, apple muffins, or pita stuffed with hummus. When the end of the week rolls around and I have finished making my favorite challah recipe, my thoughts immediately turn to dessert. Usually, by 2 or 3 pm on Friday, I am patting myself on the back for having everything done. The house smells like freshly baked bread, the dessert is cooling on a rack and it’s time to relax and catch up with what the rest of the world has been up to…. But then I remember: dinner. Right. Challah and cake are all well and good, but we are supposed to eat something in between. Darnnit. Back to the kitchen I go.
Although Jeff, Auralee, and I are not huge eaters, and certainly do not expect a multi-course feast when it is just the three of us, I understand the importance of a well-balanced meal. Luckily, there are many vegetable and veggie protein dishes in the pages of my cookbook collection that come to the rescue on the Friday afternoons when the preparation of dinner catches me off guard.
Egyptian Eggplant, adapted slightly from Claudia Roden’s, Cooking of the Mediterranean
This really could not be much easier. A kind of lazy-man’s moussaka, if you will. Accompanied by a freshly-made tabbouleh salad, this was the perfect simple, summer Shabbat dinner, and left plenty of room for Chocolate Amaretto Cake and Lemon Semolina Cake (see below)
3 medium eggplant
3 tomatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 cup goat cheese of your choice
salt & pepper
Broil the whole eggplants in the oven (pierce each on a couple time with a fork), until completely roasted, and cooked through. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before peeling and slicing into rounds or half-rounds. Spread the eggplant into a greased baking dish that has been dusted with bread crumbs and top with the diced tomatoes and diced/crumbled goat cheese. Season with salt and pepper and bake at 350°F for 30-35 minutes. Sprinkle baked dish with fresh, minced mint leaves. Serves 4
Chocolate Amaretto Cake, adapted from Vegan with a Vengeance, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz.
The original recipe calls for light rum, which I have used before when making this cake. This time, amaretto (almond liqueur) was what I had on hand. Both are delicious.
1 cup all purpose flour (I use 1/2 whole wheat)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar, divided (original recipe calls for one cup, but I think it’s plenty sweet with a little less)
1/2 cup dutch-process cocoa powder, divided
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup soy milk (I used 1/4 cup soy and a 1/4 cup yogurt)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp amaretto
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup amaretto
1/2 cup boiling water
Boil some water in a teakettle, preheat oven to 350°F (175°C), and grease a 9-inch round springform cake pan.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1/4 cup of the cocoa powder. Add the soymilk, oil, and extracts and mix into a thick batter (it will be very dense). Spread the batter into the prepared cake pan and sprinkle the top evenly with the remaining cocoa powder and sugar. Pour 1/2 cup of boiling water into a glass measuring cup, add the maple syrup, and amaretto to the water, and pour this mixture on top of the cake batter.
Place the cake on a cookie sheet in case of pudding overflow (mine did leak) and bake for 30 minutes. Let cool just a bit and then release the sides of the pan while it’s warm (over a plate to prevent spillage– this is one moist, messy dessert).
Lemon Semolina Cake, from Gourmet Today, edited by Ruth Reichl
12 blanched, whole almonds, finely ground in an electric spice mill, or food processor
3 large eggs, separated
3/4 cup superfine sugar (if all you have on hand is regular granulated sugar, you can give it a quick whirl in the spice grinder as well)
3/4 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1 Tbs fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup, plus 1 Tbs semolina (I used whole wheat semolina)
1/2 cup cold heavy cream
1 1/2 cups berries
Put a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 325°F/149°C. Grease a cake pan and line the bottom with a round of buttered parchment paper.
Separate eggs, putting yolks in a large bowl and whites in a slightly smaller one. Add sugar to yolks and beat with a whisk or an electric mixer until pale yellow and very thick. 3-5 minutes.
Beat whits with cleaned beaters (they need to be completely free of yolk/oil) until they just hold stiff peaks. Fold gently but thoroughly into the yolk mixture (try to not over-mix, it deflates the whites, which are your leavening agent in this recipe).
Transfer batter to a pan and smooth top. Bake until a wooden pick comes out clean, 25-30 minutes, then run a thin knife around the edge of the pan and invert cake onto a cooling rack (you do not want to let this cake cool in the pan because the edges will cling to the sides of the pan while the middle deflates and you will have a concave cake). Carefully remove paper and cool cake completely.
Beat cream in a small bowl (with electric mixer or a strong whisk-arm) until it just holds stiff peaks.
Top/serve cake with berried and cream. Serves 6-8