The Gift

One of the loveliest, most heartwarming traditions of Purim is mishloach manot, the act of giving gifts of edible food (and drink) to our friends, neighbors and those in need.

Every year I bake or cook something to give away. This year it was Banana Double Chocolate Swirl Cupcakes. But other times I've given Dried Apricot, Pear and Raisin Chutney, Banana Mango Bread with Chocolate Chunks, Candied Kumquats and lots more.

Yesterday, I got mishloach manot from an unexpected source: NoMoo Cookies!

There, on my front porch was this box of one dozen giant Choco-lift with Cherry Cookies! Just for me.

Now, you may have read my review of NoMoo cookies a while ago. If not, take a look. These are fabulous, dairy-free and kosher.

The Choco-lift with Cherry is a limited edition cookie. I have to say, the cherry part made me think of blooming spring cherry trees, which is quite a lovely image today as more snow is falling on the already 2 or 3 feet of it in my backyard. The chocolate part was rich and not too sweet (over-sweet is one of my pet peeves with most packaged cookies).

I've already finished one. My husband finished one. The rest went right into the freezer because even though these cookies are terrific, fresh from the package, we also like them hard and cold.

That's a good cookie.

Thank you NoMoo. Chag Purim Sameach.

My Husband is Addicted to Celery

For some reason Ed has been devouring celery lately, so I've had to buy a few bunches at a time just to keep up.

I guess sometimes you just get a hankering for some food or other. I remember a time when I had a craving for Banana Cream Pie. 

Celery is healthier than cream pie, of course.

Still, it can become boring to eat it as is, splashed with olive oil and freshly ground black pepper, which is the way Ed prefers to eat it. So I decided to embark on a few celery-based side dishes. Here's one for braised celery that went over well.

Consider this one for Passover because it goes so nicely with just about any main dish you might serve, and also makes a good side dish for vegetarians.

 

Braised Celery with Toasted Hazelnuts

 

  • 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts
  • 1 bunch celery
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh marjoram or oregano
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3/4 cup sweet white wine
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and roast for about 25 minutes or until the nuts are golden brown and tasty. Set aside. Wash and trim the celery, peel the stalks and slice them. Set aside. Heat the vegetable oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the celery and shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, for 6-7 minutes, or until golden brown. Sprinkle the ingredients with the marjoram, salt and pepper and pour in the wine. Lower the heat, cover the pan and cook for 8-10 minutes. Remove the cover, raise the heat to medium–high and cook for another 4-5 minutes or until the sauce is reduced to a glaze. Dish out and sprinkle with chives and the toasted nuts.

Makes 4-6 servings

 

My goose is finally cooked!

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Every year, sometime during the Hanukkah holiday, I make a roast goose dinner for our family. The menu is almost always the same: goose, braised red cabbage, potato latkes and some green vegetable or other.

Unfortunately, for one reason or another, we just never got to it last December and so, when my kids and grandkids came up for Ed's birthday weekend, we had our Hanukkah meal. 

I cooked the bird a little differently this year, basting it with sweet white wine several times as it roasted. That tiny change sweetened up the pan juices.

A good meal was had by all.

PLUS, I made stock with the bones.

PLUS, I strained all the fat, which is snow-white when it hardens, and froze it all.

If you've never had roasted potatoes in goose fat or matzo balls made with goose fat, well, folks, you've been missing something awesome.

Looking forward to that Passover matzo ball soup.

 

Roasted Goose

  • 1 10-12 pound goose
  • lemon juice
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup sweet white wine

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Rinse the goose and remove excess fat. Rub the goose with lemon juice and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Prick the skin all over with the tines of a fork. Place the goose, breast side up on a rack in a roasting pan. Pour the water into the pan. Roast for 45 minutes. Lower the oven heat to 325 degrees. Turn the goose breast side down. Pour the wine over the goose. Roast for 45 minutes, basting once during this time. Turn the goose breast side up again and roast for another 30-60 minutes, basting once or twice, or until the juices run clear when you prick the thickest part of the thigh with the tines of a fork (a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast should read 165 degrees). Let rest for 15 minutes before carving. 

How Many Servings Was That?

Last night my sister-in-law Eileen and brother Jeff were supposed to come over for dinner and watch the Oscar show with us, but she has a cold and needed to stay put at home.

I had already prepared dinner -- breaded some turkey cutlets, cleaned some string beans, mixed the batter for vegetable fritters and fried them to a crisp.

Ed came in to the kitchen and sampled a hot fritter fresh from the pan and declared it fabulous.

About a minute later he came back for two more.

I was about to say something trite like "you know, these are for dinner," but realized we had plenty and why should it matter if he eats them first instead of with ....

The recipe makes about 10 pieces, (serves 4-5 people) and now there would only be the two of us to eat the remaining 7.

We finished them all. 

Vegetable Fritters

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup vegetable or chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-1/2 cups chopped cooked vegetables (I used carrots, broccoli and sauteed mushrooms)
  • vegetable oil for frying

Mix the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a medium bowl. In another bowl, beat the egg, stock and olive oil. Pour the egg mixture into the bowl with the dry ingredients and stir until smooth. Fold in the vegetables. Heat about 1/8-inch vegetable oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Pour about 1/4-cup of the batter into the pan for each fritter, leaving about 1-inch space between the pieces. Cook for about 2 minutes per side or until browned and crispy. Do not crowd the pan. Repeat with remaining batter. Drain the fritters on paper towels.

Makes about 10 pieces

 

 

 

 

Does Making it Three-Cornered Mean it's Hamantaschen?

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In short, yes! 

Last year Soom Foods, who produces absolutely fabulous tahini, sponsored a contest which was basically to come up with an unusual or new riff on an old Purim favorite: hamantaschen.

I won!

I won with this idea: Spiced Lamb in Phyllo Hamantaschen with Lemon-Tahini Sauce. Sure, it's not classic cake-dessert hamantaschen with prune or poppyseed filling. But, although I love those (all year, not just on Purim), I don't think hamantaschen has to be a sweet, cakey version in order to qualify. 

My prize for winning was a jar of Soom sesame butter. What could be better when you want to make hummus or tahini sauce or anything else using sesame paste (butter, tahini)?

I've gone through a few jars of the stuff since then.

So here, folks, just in time for Purim, is:

 

Spiced Lamb in Phyllo Hamantaschen with Lemon-Tahini Sauce

  • olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons finely chopped ginger
  • 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1-1/2 pounds ground lamb
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup currants or raisins
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 12 sheets phyllo dough, approximately

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion, ginger and garlic and cook for about 2 minutes, or until slightly softened. Add the lamb and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes or until the meat is completely brown. Stir in the mint, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, currants and pine nuts. Set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. 

Place the phyllo sheets on a cutting board and cut out circles using a 3-inch cookie cutter (work with about 6 layered sheets at a time; you'll need about 12 sheets in all; some will crinkle and dry and need to be discarded). Keep the cut out phyllo circles in a pile, covered with plastic wrap. Working with three circles at a time, brush each circle with a small amount of olive oil and place a heaping tablespoon of the lamb filling in the center of the circle. Bring up the sides to form a triangle and press the edges together. Place each triangle on a baking sheet. Repeat the process until all the lamb has been used (about 24 filled triangles).

Bake the triangles for about 35 minutes or until browned and crispy. Serve hot with Lemon-Tahini Sauce.

Makes about 24

Make the sauce while the triangles are baking:

 

Lemon-Tahini Sauce

  • 1/2 cup tahini (sesame paste, sesame butter)
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • salt to taste

Stir the tahini in the jar to blend in any oil that has risen to the top. Spoon the 1/2 cup tahini into a bowl. Add the lemon juice and blend it in. Add the water, olive oil, garlic and salt to taste. Blend thoroughly (use a food processor or immersion blender).

Makes one cup

 

 

 

I think I could make banana bread in my sleep.

Because I make banana bread so often it's like watching "Dave" for the umpteenth time. I know exactly what's coming next. I know what to expect. I like it.

I always buy bananas and then no one eats them except for maybe on a rare occasion, and then the bananas get brown and then no one eats them ever and I don't want to throw them out.

So, banana bread.

Also, banana bread baking in the oven smells wonderful.

Here's my latest version (I do make a different one each time!). I love how lovely the streusel top looks. Sets it apart from any old banana bread.

Banana Streusel Bread

Streusel:

  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon butter, margarine or coconut oil

Bread:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 medium very ripe bananas
  • 1/4 cup fruit juice such as mango, orange or apple
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9”x5”x3” loaf pan.

Make the streusel: mix the brown sugar, flour and cinnamon in a small bowl. Add the butter and work it in with fingers or a knife until mixture is crumbly. Set it aside.

Make the bread: Mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a bowl and set it aside. Beat the sugar and vegetable oil with a handheld or electric mixer set at medium speed for 2-3 minutes or until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Mash the bananas and add them to the sugar mixture. Beat thoroughly until the ingredients are well blended. Add the flour mixture and beat for 1-2 minutes to blend the ingredients thoroughly. Stir in the juice and vanilla extract. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Scatter the streusel on top. Bake for 1 hour or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the bread in the pan 15 minutes. Remove the bread from the pan and let it cool on a cake rack.

 Makes one bread serving 10-12

 

Happy Birthday, Valentine's Day and Chinese New year

Today is Ed's birthday and I was thinking about what to make for dinner. We used to go out to eat because there was a restaurant nearby that served chocolate cake with apricot filling, which he loved, but the restaurant closed. These days he doesn't eat cake, so there goes that.

No dessert, okay, that's his choice. But what about the main course? 

He'd appreciate stuffed cabbage. Or braised short ribs.

But mostly he likes Chinese food. Cantonese egg rolls or Sichuan Hot and Sour Soup. Mild or spicy.

Any kind of Chinese food.

I can't go wrong with Chinese food. Which he would also choose for Valentine's Day. Or to celebrate Chinese New Year (February 19th).

Here's one he loves: 

Beef with Orange

  • 1 large or 2 small navel oranges
  • 12 ounces beef steak
  • 1 large egg white
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • Sauce: 
    • 1 tablespoon Mirin
    • 1 tablespoon water or beef stock
    • 1-1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
    • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
    • 1 teaspoon sesame seed oil
    • 1 teaspoon sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 thick scallions, chopped
  • 1 small serrano or jalapeno chili pepper, deseeded and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 large clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

 

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Peel the oranges, then cut the peel into bite size pieces and place the pieces on a baking sheet. Bake for about 25 minutes or until the pieces have dried. Remove from the oven and set aside. While the orange peel is baking, slice the meat and place the pieces in a bowl. Add the egg white and cornstarch and mix the ingredients thoroughly to be sure every slice is coated. Set aside.

Prepare the sauce by mixing the Mirin, water, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame seed oil, sugar and cornstarch in a bowl. Set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a stirfry pan or wok (or large saute pan) over medium-high heat. Add the meat and cook, stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes or until the meat is completely brown. Remove the meat to a dish and set aside. Add the remaining tablespoon vegetable oil to the pan. Add the scallions, chili pepper, ginger, garlic and orange peel and stirfry briefly. Return the meat to the pan and stirfry to distribute the ingredients evenly. Sprinkle the ingredients with sugar and stirfry briefly. Stir the sauce to be sure the cornstarch (which may have settled to the bottom) is completely incorporated. Pour the sauce over the ingredients and stirfry for about a minute until the meat is glazed. 

Makes 2 servings (or 4 with other dishes)

 

 

 

 

 

Roasted Arctic Char with Meyer Lemon and Rosemary

Arctic char is one of my favorite kinds of fish to eat. It's delicate but has lots of flavor and besides, Ed likes it too, though fish is never his first choice for dinner. 

It's also easy to dress Arctic char up and it takes very little time to cook. This entire recipe required about 15 minutes from start to finish. That's a good thing for busy midweek isn't it?

I used Meyer lemon because they're available now, but regular lemon would be just good for this recipe.

 

ROASTED ARCTIC CHAR WITH MEYER LEMON AND ROSEMARY

 

  • 20-24 ounces Arctic char
  • 2 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon grated Meyer lemon peel

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the fish on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Set aside. Combine the Meyer lemon juice, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, rosemary, Dijon mustard and Meyer lemon peel in a bowl and mix to combine the ingredients. Spread this mixture evenly over the fish. Roast for about 10 minutes or until the top is lightly crispy.

Makes 4 servings

Bugs Bunny: How a Generation Learned to Appreciate Classical Music

  Roasted Rainbow Carrots

 

Roasted Rainbow Carrots

If you think Bugs Bunny is just a character in a bunch of silly cartoons in which a grown man goes around trying to shoot a pesky rabbit but the rabbit usually wins, you're only partially right.

My friend's son says that he learned to love classical music from these cartoons. I remember that once, when it was my carpool day and I drove him to school, I had tuned in to WQXR on the radio and this little boy, who was all of 6 years old said "Hey, that's Franz Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody #2!"

I was totally impressed! Because his mother listened to classical music in the house and I figured it all just rubbed off on the kids. But NO! I asked how he knew and he said he heard it in a Bugs Bunny cartoon.

It seems as if an entire generation also heard and learned to appreciate classic music -- and opera -- from Bugs Bunny (okay, also Tom & Jerry, Minnie Mouse and assorted others). Ask around!

And, as if to underscore the point, the New York Philharmonic is presenting three concerts featuring BUGS BUNNY cartoons for children to watch on a huge screen as the orchestra plays the music!

We are taking our 4-year old grandson. It's never too soon to hear a piece from The Barber of Seville.

But of course, I am a food writer. So what do I think of when I hear "Bugs Bunny?"

Carrots of course!

Bugs Bunny was always munching a carrot. Always an orange one or course. To the best of my knowledge, he never tasted rainbow carrots. And, although raw carrots are always a fine snack, sauteed carrots are awesome. And are especially pretty made with rainbow carrots.

Thanks for helping a generation of children appreciate music Bugs! And here's hoping that in make-believe, you can feast on these:

Roasted Rainbow Carrots

  • 1 pound medium rainbow carrots
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange peel
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Peel the carrots, trim the ends and halve the carrots widthwise. Cut each half lengthwise into 2 or 4 pieces. Place the carrots on the prepared baking sheet. Heat the olive oil and honey together over low heat, briefly, until the thick honey has softened a bit and is easy to combine with the olive oil (about one minute). Pour the honey mixture over the carrots. Sprinkle with the scallions, orange peel and salt and pepper to taste. Toss the ingredients to coat the carrots completely. Roast for about 20-25 minutes, tossing the carrots once, or until they are tender and lightly crispy. 

Makes 4 servings

 

 

 

 

You can never have too many Baked Apple recipes.

Baked Apples with Dried Fruit and Jam

On days like this when it can't decide whether it is snowing or raining freezing rain and it's dark and you have to wear 10 pounds of clothing to keep warm if you're going out and you think the weather will never be better, it's nice to know that in other parts of the world it is sunny and wonderful.

It's summertime in Buenos Aires, where my brother lives. 

It's sunny and warm in Johannesburg where my friend Sharon Lurie lives.

In Israel, the first of the fruit trees are beginning to bud, the first hopeful sign of the renewal of the life cycle. Soon everything will be in full bloom. This is worth celebrating and, in fact, that is what the Jewish holiday of Tu B'shevat is all about. Celebrating a new year of trees, plant life, fruits and vegetables, the earth in all its bounty. It starts at sundown on February 3rd this year.

On Tu B'shevat it is traditional to eat fruits, vegetables and grains.

For those of us in places like Connecticut, where I live, and where it's cold and gloomy and the only thing blooming are the orchids on my kitchen windowsill, I'm thinking about celebrating with Baked Apples. To me, this is a celebratory dish because it is so easy to cook, so comforting and so tasty.

Here's one of my latest recipes:

Baked Apples with Dried Fruit and JaM

  • 4 large baking apples
  • half a lemon
  • 1/4 cup chopped dates
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries or raisins
  • 2 tablespoons raspberry or strawberry jam
  • cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons coconut oil, optional
  • 1 cup mango juice

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Wash the apples and remove the core with an apple corer or small knife, leaving about 1/2” of the core on the bottom. Peel the apples halfway down from the top and rub the peeled surfaces with the cut side of the lemon. Put the apples in a baking dish. Mix the dates, cranberries and jam. Stuff this mixture into the apple hollows. Sprinkle the apples with cinnamon. Dot the tops of the apples with equal amounts of coconut oil. Bake for 20 minutes. Pour the juice over the apples. Bake for another 35-40 minutes, basting occasionally with the pan juices, or until the apples are tender. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

Makes 4 servings