I remember last Channuka well. My friend Sharon Kitchens asked me to submit a few paragraphs about the holiday for her blog, based out of Maine, to give readers a feel for the winter season here in Israel. Mustering all the positive feelings I could regarding the cold and rain that had recently befallen us, I wrote what I hoped was a cozy little piece , that more or less summed up the ambiance ’round the festival of lights in my neck of the woods.
It was a strange week, being so far away from the ultimate fall holiday — fall being my favorite season in New England, and Thanksgiving being the culmination of that crisp, delicious time of year. Life in Israel is about as normal as it gets at the moment, with the craziness of the high holidays well behind us and Hannuka still weeks away. Things at the cafe are steady, stable, normal and routine — which feels great (although we are about to have a long-time waiter leave us for the cleaner air of Tiberias. If you know anyone who loves food, speaks Hebrew and English fluently, and wants to work full-time with a great staff for decent pay, let me know!) I have been finding ways to fit cooking in at home, although sometimes it does feel a little redundant to close up the kitchen at work and then come home, pull out my cutting board and start chopping….
Some of the week’s eats:
Carrot Coconut Milk Curry Soup, from Gourmet. This is one of my favorite carrot soup recipes and we made it at the cafe this week. The recipe is actually for a chilled soup, but I think it is better hot. As you will see, they call for lime juice, which is hard to find in Israel — we substituted lemon juice, with great results.
My favorite oven-baked brown rice with the addition of apples, pumpkin, onions and mushrooms. Just saute some chopped onion with the pumpkin (cut into chunks), add chopped apples and halved mushrooms and saute until everything is slightly softened. Put the mixture on top of the raw rice (I used long grain this time), add the water as the recipe indicates, cover with foil and bake for the allotted time. Top with chopped walnuts and shaved pecorino.
Baked apples, from Simply Recipes. (I did mine without sugar.)
And some things we’ll be eating very soon:
Coconut Pumpkin Bread – with a few of my own adaptations for what we have available here.
Vegetarian Shepard’s Pie, from What She’s Having
Lebanese Lemon and Vanilla Cake from Bon Appetit with thanks to Amy for the link!
We’ve been doing some serious eating lately, it being the holiday season here in Israel. Sukkot is up next and we will be having at least two meals with friends, and others at home in our own sukkah. Although there is a lot of meat and fish on holiday tables, the emphasis on fresh vegetables here ensures that even at a barbecue, vegetarians are unlikely to walk away hungry (stuffed is more like it).
Israel and the Mediterranean region at large are quite famous for its selection of pre-meal salads, known as mezze. Nearly every Shabbat and holiday meal begins with a wonderful selection of small, colorful salads made from legumes, grains, and fresh or roasted vegetables. The salads a host/ess puts out is a reflection of their ancestry, cooking influences, and personal taste.
Since my own palate is the result of quite a culinary jumble — mixed Ashkenazi-Sephardi heritage, American and Israeli identities, New England and Middle Eastern flavors — I don’t really have a standard when it comes to mezze, and I am always open to new and tasty salads making their way onto our table.
This one is welcome!
Roasted Red Peppers with Walnuts and Raisins, from Gourmet Today
Unlike another red-pepper favorite, muhammara, this recipe does not require a food processor and is more of a salad than a spread.
8 large bell peppers, halved lengthwise, cored and seeded
1/3 cup plus 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbs sherry vinegar
1 Tbs walnut oil
1/2 tsp finely chopped garlic
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
3/4 cup raisins (I recommend less, too many raisins make this salad a bit sweeter than I like)
Preheat broiler. Line two large baking sheets with foil. Rub or brush skin sides of bell peppers with two Tbs. olive oil and put 8 pepper halves, skin side up, on each baking sheet. Broil (in two batches) about 2 inches from the heat until skins are blistered and charred, about 15 minutes per batch. With tongs, transfer pepper to a bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let steam until cool enough to handle.
Meanwhile, whisk together the remaining 1/3 cup olive oil, the vinegar, walnut oil, garlic, cumin, salt, and pepper in a large bowl until the salt is dissolved.
Peel peppers. Teal lengthwise into 1-inch pieces. Add peppers, walnuts, and raisins to vinaigrette and toss until well coated. Cover and marinate at room temp for at least 30 minutes.
This salad tastes best at room temperature.
Summer has definitely arrived and there are so many beautiful things at the shuk right now, it’s tough to know where to begin…
There are cherries. Mountains of them. Beautiful, deep red ones, as well as the Rainier cherries with their mottled red and yellow skins.
There are piles and piles of sweet and tangy nectarines, peaches, apricots and plums of all shades.
And there are these hunks of bright orange-fleshed pumpkin with thick white skin.
Let’s start with the pumpkin.
Roasted Pumpkin with Lentils and Wheat Berries
2-3 cups middle eastern white-skinned pumpkin, or butternut squash, cut into cubes
1 small onion, cut into wedges
good-quality olive oil
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground anise
1/2 tsp paprika
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup dried brown lentils, soaked for a day, then cooked until tender
1/2 cup wheat berries, soaked overnight (you may need to also simmer them briefly)
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup finely chopped cilantro
juice from 1/2 a lime (optional– sadly, we don’t have limes here in Israel right now, their season is brief, at the tail end of summer)
Toss cubed pumpkin with onion wedges, olive oil, spices, salt and pepper. Roast in a shallow pan at 375°F until pumpkin is fork-tender.
After pumpkin and onions are roasted, add cooked lentils and soaked wheat berries to the pan. Sprinkle everything with a little more olive oil and mix. Put into a 325°F oven and heat through. Sprinkle with cilantro, lime juice, and chopped walnuts before serving.
Tomorrow is the day we ship our stuff off across the seas. That will include nearly all my kitchen equipment so this is likely my last post before Tel Aviv!
My sister came by yesterday evening, bearing Thai Food (we never turn Thai-food bearers away) and bringing her usual witty banter, smudged eye-make-up, and hilarious anecdotes from another day of waitressing. There are not a lot of people who are allowed to see the state of physical and emotional affairs up here on the third floor, in the final days before our departure, but Alissa is one of the privileged exceptions.
Post-noodles, dumpling-making seemed like a good idea to my slightly manic, pre-move self. After all it was only 9pm- the night was young! These apple cider dumplings were an apt choice since they remind me of Here… of cold weather, and New England flavors and cooking for people I love.
Cinnamon Dumplings with Apple Cider Syrup, adapted from Martha Stewart Living, September 2005
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used 1/2 cup all purpose and 1 cup whole wheat pastry)
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
2 cups sugar
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter/vegan margarine, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 tablespoons whole milk/soy milk
4 cups apple cider
Creme fraiche, for serving (optional)
Sift flour(s), baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Stir together sugar and 3/4 cup water in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook, without stirring, until sugar begins to melt and turn light amber, about 14 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar has melted and mixture turns medium amber, about 2 minutes more.
Meanwhile, work butter/margarine into the flour mixture using your fingers or a pastry blender until flour is incorporated but mixture is still crumbly. Whisk together egg, egg yolk, and milk in a medium bowl. Form a well in the center of flour mixture; pour in egg mixture. Stir gently with a fork until combined.
Remove sugar mixture from heat; slowly whisk in cider. Return to heat; bring to a simmer. Using your hands or a small spoon, divide the dough evenly into 12 pieces, and roll into balls about 1 1/2 inches in diameter.
Carefully drop 6 balls of dough into the simmering cider syrup. Cook, turning once or twice to coat fully, until dumplings have tripled in size and are deep golden brown, about 20 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer dumplings to a platter, and cover. Repeat with remaining balls of dough. Divide dumplings among 6 bowls, and drizzle with the remaining cider syrup.
Serve with creme fraiche/whipped cream or just as they are.
I found these unusual sweet potato latkes at the food52 blog. Food52 is a collaboration that includes Amanda Hesser, the woman responsible for compiling and editing over 1000 recipes from the past 150 years of New York Times’ food journalism, and recently creating the much talked about, Essential New York Times Cookbook. Since these latkes are from the site’s blog — which includes readers’ recipes — I doubt they are featured in the cookbook. They are a home cook’s attempt to replicate the famous latkes from Orna and Ella’s Bistro in Tel Aviv, and involve a different method (and very different result) than traditional latkes. Don’t wait until next Hannuka to try these savory winter treats, they are delicious!
Orna and Ella’s Sweet Potato Pancakes, contributed by Jonaz to Food52.com
2.75 pounds Sweet Potatoes
2 tablespoons Soy Sauce
3/4 cups Flour (I used 1/4 cup all purpose and 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry)
1 teaspoon Sugar
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Fresh ground black pepper
butter (I used margarine– and pan spray would work as well)
Peel sweet potatoes and cut into large pieces. Remove any dark spots.
Cook the sweet potatoes in boiling water until soft.
Leave in a strainer or colander for at least 1 hour to drain completely of water (I left mine in a colander, in the fridge overnight)
Place the sweet potatoes in a large bowl and mix with soy sauce, using your hands** (do not overmix, or the mixture will get too sticky to work with).
Add flour, sugar, salt and pepper and mix with hands. Remove any hard or black parts.
Keep mixing with hands (I started mixing with my hands then switched to a rubber spatula) until you get the right consistency. The batter should be soft, even and a bit sticky. If it is watery add some flour. DON’T OVERMIX!
Put the batter into a sandwich bag or other plastic bag, tie off the end and puncture on one end to make an icing bag.
Warm up a non-stick pan and add butter/margarine/pan spray
Make two-inch pancakes on the frying pan. Fry on both sides on medium heat.
Jonaz suggests using an herbed sour cream as accompaniment- which I am sure would be delicious. I made my favorite tahini sauce, which is just a couple tablespoons of pure tahini paste, a little tamari or soy sauce, some rice vinegar and water to thin- you can also add a little sugar or brown rice syrup.
Last week the Brookline Patch asked me to contribute a recipe that utitlizes Thanksgiving leftovers, and I came up with these mashed sweet potato ravioli. The truth is however, that these starchy little pillows of pan-fried goodness, are too tasty to be made solely as an afterthought. And although the recipe is already posted at The Patch, here I am including some photos for those of you who like a visual with your recipes (who doesn’t?). Enjoy!
Ari’s Sweet Potato Ravioli
This recipe may sound complicated at first, but look more closely and you will see that by using wanton wrappers as a stand-in for pasta dough, you save time and labor (they are even pre-cut to the perfect size), and by adding just a couple ingredients to your sweet potatoes, you have a gourmet dish that is simple to prepare. The recipe makes enough filling for 2 packages of wanton wrappers, you can freeze extra uncooked ravioli for up to a month.
2-3 cups mashed sweet potatoes 1 vidalia onion, thinly sliced 2 cups sliced cremini mushrroms 2-3 Tbs dry white wine, or verouth salt and pepper to taste
2 packages of wanton wrappers (the brand I buy contains 48 sqaure wrappers per package) fresh sage, chopped butter for pan frying, or a margarine/olive oil combo (I use Earth Balance brand) grated manchego or other hard sheep’s milk cheese
3/4 cup toasted, chopped pecans
Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a wide shallow sautee pan over moderate heat. Add the sliced onion and cook until onions until soft, 5 + minutes. Add mushroom and cover for a few minutes. Allowing mushrooms to release their juices. Uncover, cook juices off and sautee until onions and
mushrooms are very dark but not burnt. Deglaze pan with a couple tablespoons of vermoutth or dry white wine. Take off the heat ad cool slightly. In a food processor, combine sweet potatoes, onion mixture, salt and pepper, until fairly smooth (alternately you can mash everything together by hand).
Set up your ravioli-making station with your filling, a small spoon, the wanton wrappers, small bowl of water, a cookie sheet and some wax paper for layering between the raviolis. Put one square wrapper flat in front of you and place a tablespoon (scant- do not over stuff!) of filling in the center. Dip a finger into the water bowl and dampen the edges of the wapper. Place a second wrapper over the top and press edges together using your fingers or the tines of a fork (using a fork is easier and makes a pretty patterned edge). Do not attempt to fold the edges of the wrappers over one another.
Place prepared ravioli on a baking sheet or in a wide tupperware and a continue assembling, placing wax or parchment paper between layers of completed ravioli. When you are ready to cook ravioli, heat a few tablespoons of butter or margarine/olive oil combo in a non-stick or cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add chopped sage and as many ravioli as can fit without overlapping. Lightly fry on one side, then flip and fry the other side (2-3 minutes on each side). The ravioli should have a golden brown, mottled appearance.
Serve with grated manchego and chopped pecans.
Last weekend we hosted an in-house tag sale in an attempt to purge some of our belongings before the holiday hullabaloo goes into full swing. In our usual fashion it was a bit thrown together and chaotic, but that’s just… the way we are. When the doorbell began ringing on Sunday morning hardly anything was priced, there was a very tall pile of dirty dishes in the sink, Auralee and I were both half dressed and Jeff was in bed with a fever, BUT I did manage to have a lovely array of homemade tasty tag sale treats baked, and a fresh pot of coffee brewed. (My priorities are clear.)
These moist and delicious apple muffins were a huge hit and even though the Joy Of Cooking recommended making them the day they are served, I don’t think they suffered very much from being baked the night before (I also suspect they would freeze wonderfully). I cut down on the amount of sugar originally called for by a third and the muffins were still very sweet.
Apple Walnut Muffins, adapted slightly from The Joy of Cooking, 1997 edition
1 1/2 c. flour (I used almost all whole wheat pastry and a little bit of all purpose)
2 t. baking powder
1 1/2 t. cinnamon
1 t. baking soda
scant 1/2 t. salt
2 large eggs
1/2 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. coarsely grated or finely chopped peeled apples (about 2 medium), with juice
5 T. warm melted butter/magraine
1/2 c. coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a standard 12-cup muffin pan or line with paper cups.
Whisk eggs and sugar together; stir in apples with their juice and let stand for 10 minutes.
Whisk flour, baking powder, cinnamon, soda, and salt together thoroughly.
When the apple mixture has stood for 10 minutes, stir in butter and nuts. Combine with dry ingredients, stirring just until mixed. Batter will not be smooth.
Divide mixture between muffin cups. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, 14-16 minutes. Let cool for 2-3 minutes before removing from pan to a cooling rack.
Comfort food is a very subjective thing. While macaroni and cheese or mashed potatoes with butter may be classic examples of foods that warm both hearts and stomachs, a lactose intolerant person would probably feel quite differently. A midwestern American’s idea of home cooking could be a large juicy hamburger or a steak with potatoes, while someone from Vietnam might crave a big bowl of pho. In our house there are two foods that we uphold as soothing standbys through thick and thin, summer and winter. They are, chocolate and garlic.
One happy fact about these two ingredients is their versatility. I cannot imagine ever getting sick of this or these for example, and I am delighted to share two new recipes that feature the amazing talents of roasted garlic and dark chocolate, exploiting their abilities almost beyond what you may have previously thought possible. Fasten your seatbelts people — this is serious.
The following soup and cookies are brought to you by a wonderful brunch I had today with well-known blogger and all-around fabulous woman, Sharon Kitchens. During our power-catch-up session we discussed cookbooks, as we tend to do, and I realized that when Sharon asked me to list my five favorites for her blog a couple weeks ago, I neglected the wonderful old standby, The Joy of Cooking. Shame on me.
The Joy of Cooking, though dated in some ways, will never cease to be an incredibly useful tool for home cooks. Simple and straightforward recipes for pie dough, sugar cookies, vegetable stock, potato salad, brownies, pumpkin pie, stuffing, sandwich bread, vinaigrette, stir fry, miso soup, white cake and waffles are just a few of the (literally) thousands of recipes contained in this treasure of a book. And although its author, Irma Rombauer, was depicted in a less-than-flattering light in the movie Julie and Julia (hey- we can’t all be Julia Child for goodness sake), I can assure you that I have rarely had one of her recipes fail me — MANY of them adapting very well to vegan and vegetarian substitutions. Yes, this is a cookbook I stand by.
Friday Night Comfort Food….
Roasted Garlic Soup with Spinach and Manchego and Chocolate Cherry Chunk Cookies with Sea Salt, both adapted slightly from The Joy of Cooking, by Irma S. Rombauer
For the Soup:
6 heads of garlic (yes entire heads)
2 quarts of vegetable stock (I like the Whole Foods 365 brand)
3 slices of wheat bread, cut into small cubes
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp hot paprika
black pepper to taste
juice of half a lemon
A few handfuls of baby spinach (my addition)
gated parmesan or manchego cheese (optional)
Preheat oven to 325ºF
Cut off the top thirds of all 6 garlic heads and drizzle each one with a little olive oil. Wrap the heads individually in foil and place on a baking sheet. Roast for 45 minutes, remove from oven and when cool enough to handle, unwrap and let the heads cool for a few minutes. While garlic is roasting, you can whip up your cookie batter (below).
Meanwhile pour broth into soup pot. Squeeze garlic into the pot– it should be squishy– (this is messy and takes little time) and bring stock and garlic to a simmer, while whisking. Add cubed bread when stock is hot, and whisk to break up. Add salt, pepper, paprika and fresh lemon juice. Whisk everything into a slurry and add baby spinach (soup should not be boiling). When spinach has wilted, ladle into bowls and top with grated cheese, if desired.
For the Cookies:
The cherries and the sea salt were my additions, feel free to omit them or substitute nuts for the cherries. Makes about 30 cookies.
1 cup, plus 2 Tbs flour (I used a mix of all purpose and whole wheat pastry)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup Earth Balance Vegan Buttery sticks (or any margarine or unsalted butter of your choice)
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar (she called for 1/2 cup of each, but I like my cookies, like my men, just subtly sweet)
1 large egg
1/4 tsp table salt, plus coarse sea salt for sprinkling
1 1/2 tsp vanilla, plus a dab or two behind your ears
1 cup dark chocolate, chopped (I used a mixture of Scharffenburger bittersweet and Sirius 56 %)
3/4 cup unsweetened dried cherries
Increase over temperature to 375º F
Whisk flour and baking soda together, set aside.
In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars until well blended. Add egg, vanilla and table salt. Slowly mix in flour mixture, then add chocolate and Cherries.
Drop heaping teaspoons of cookie batter onto to greased sheets and sprinkle sparingly with sea salt. Bake for 8-10 minutes and sprinkle with sea salt again if desired. Cool on racks.
I’ve been in a less-than-charming mood for the last couple of weeks and as The Skeptic pointed out, it appears to be an acute case of ‘November in Boston’. I know it’s trite to complain about the season so I’ll tell you what I’ve been enjoying now that the charm of the fall has… well, fallen.
Things that can be made in a slowcooker: I have the most wonderful little Rival brand crockpot, purchased for just $19.99 a few years ago at The Home Depot. Best 20 bucks I ever spent. In it, I make recipes from this unsung gem of a cookbook, Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker.
Baking Breads, such as this one has made it’s annual comeback in my kitchen. Don’t forget to check your yeast’s expiration date if you haven’t used it in a while.
Movies that make New England winters look charming, and at the very top of that list will always be, Beautiful Girls (that’s a link to one of the scenes that makes the movie so great).
Hurray for soup! This recipe, adapted from the November issue of Bon Appetit, is healthy, hearty and flexible. Embellish, substitute, puree half, or leave it all chunky, it gets even better after a day or two and you can make the croutons ahead and leave them in a sealed tupperware out of the fridge.
Kale and Cannellini (Chard and Kidney Bean) Soup, heavily adapted from Bon Appetit, November 2010
When I got to the supermarket with my soup-shopping list last Thursday I was dismayed to find that they had neither lacinato kale, nor dried cannellini beans. So, after wandering around the store for a few minutes, wondering if I should abandon the project all together, I decided to use chard and kidney beans. In the end, I deviated from the original recipe quite a bit and was perfectly happy with the outcome.
1 Tbs olive oil
1 medium carrot chopped
chard stems from 2 large bunches, chopped (see below)
2 cups water
2 cups vegetable broth
3 1/3 cups cooked kidney beans (I do this by soaking the dried kidney beans in cold water overnight, then putting them into my slow cooked with fresh water and a bay leaf and cooking on low all day)
1 – 15 oz can diced tomatoes
3 Tbs hard sheep’s milk cheese (you can also use parmesan), optional
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
2 large bunches of rainbow chard (washed well), stems removed and chopped separately, leaves halved and cut into ribbons
8 – 1/2 inch slices of baguette, toasted
additional olive oil, salt and pepper
Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add carrot and onion and sautee until the start to soften (about 5-7 minutes). Add the chard stems and saute a bit longer. Next add tomatoes, garlic and seasoning and bring to a low simmer. Add cooked beans, water, broth and cheese and simmer, uncovered for 20 minutes. Add chard ribbons and simmer, covered for another 10 – 15 minutes.
While soup is simmering, slice up your baguette. I cut my slices into squared to make soup croutons, but if you would rather top your soup with a mini-toast, that’s fine too. Toss baguette slices/cubes with a few tablespoons of olive oil and some salt and pepper and spread onto a baking sheet. Toast for 7 or 8 minutes, at 375, until they are golden and crunchy.
Puree 2 cups of soup in a blender and return to pot (optional).
Ladle soup into bowls and top with croutons and additional cheese.