Plum Streusel Cake

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Even though it happens every year, somehow I am always sort of surprised that the Jewish holidays come in such a jumble. We celebrate one holiday on top of another and are busier than ever, observing and celebrating.

Not to mention — LOTS of food. 

I don't want to even count the calories.

And there's still Sukkot to come. 

This year I didn't make my usual Plum Torte for Rosh Hashanah. I needed a change of some of my menu items.

But I still can't resist those once a year Italian-style prune plums (President/Empress plums), so I decided to use them for this Plum Streusel Cake. It turned out to be one of my favorites during the holiday.

If you are still looking for a fabulous dessert for Sukkot -- try this one. Btw, you can make this with any variety of plum. But plum season is almost over, so do take advantage while you can.

 

Plum Streusel Cake

Streusel:

  • 1/4 pound unsalted butter

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar

  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Melt the butter and set it aside to cool. Place the sugar, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl and mix until well blended. Pour in the butter and blend it in. Let stand for 4-5 minutes, then crumble the mixture using your fingers. Set aside.

Cake:

  • 1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 1 tablespoon baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon peel

  • 2 large eggs

  • 1 cup milk

  • 6-8 Empress plums, sliced, pit removed (President plums, 10-12 Italian prune plums)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Make the streusel and set it aside. Lightly grease a 9-inch springform pan. Melt the butter and set it aside to cool. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and lemon peel in the bowl of an electric mixer. In another bowl, combine the eggs, milk and melted butter. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ones and stir only to combine: do not overbeat. Turn the batter into the prepared cake pan. Top with the plum slices. Cover with the streusel. Bake for about 45 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove the outer ring from the pan and let the cake cool completely.

Makes one cake serving 8

Best Hummus

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Despite the fact that hummus is the most popular snack and you can buy dozens of different kinds in every supermarket, I still make my own. And every time, a different recipe, always trying for perfection.

I served a version seasoned with zatar and garnished with toasted pine nuts once for an election night get-together.

I've made hummus using dried chick peas and canned.

One year the guests at my annual Break-the-Fast declared that year's hummus the best they ever tasted.

But apparently last year's Break-the-Fast version topped even that! 

So here is the recipe: easy to make, terrific for entertaining, for snacks, as a sandwich spread. Perfect all year, perfect for break-the-fast.

 

Lemony-Garlic Hummus

  • 1 can chickpeas (about one pound)

  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

  • 1/2 cup tahini

  • 2 large cloves garlic

  • 1 teaspoon paprika

  • 1/2 teaspoon zatar

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • cayenne pepper to taste (I use 1/8 teaspoon)

  • chopped parsley, optional, about 2-3 tablespoons

  • zatar, optional

  • pita bread or chips

Drain the chickpeas but reserve the liquid. Place the chickpeas, lemon juice, tahini, garlic, paprika, zatar, salt and cayenne pepper in a food processor. Process until you reach the texture you like, adding 3-4 tablespoons of the reserved chickpea liquid if you prefer it smoother and softer. Spoon into a serving bowl. Sprinkle with optional parsley and zatar. Serve with pita bread or chips.

Makes about 1-1/2 cups.

Roasted Carrots with Balsamic Vinegar Glaze and Chives

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Carrots are always on my menu for Rosh Hashanah dinner. 

This recipe, the one I'm serving this year, is so easy. And you can set it up ahead -- peel and cut the carrots 2-3 days before you have to cook them, and store them in a plastic bag in the fridge.

This dish will go with practically any main course you might serve for dinner. 

 

Roasted Carrots with Balsamic Vinegar and Chives

  • 1 pound carrots
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • kosher salt to taste
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Peel the carrots and cut them lengthwise in half or quarters, depending on thickness. Place the carrots on the baking sheet. Pour the olive oil over the carrots and toss to coat them completely. Sprinkle with kosher salt and a pinch of cayenne. Roast the carrots, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Pour the Balsamic vinegar over the carrots, toss and bake for another 8-10 minutes or until they are tender. Sprinkle with chives and serve. 

Makes 4 servings

Baked Apples with Date Honey

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If you've never tried date honey, you've been missing something delicious in your life. I've been using it for years in all sorts of dishes from Rosh Hashanah Honey Cake to the Thanksgiving sweet potatoes.

It isn't bee honey. Date honey (known as Silan) is a syrup made from dates. It's thick and sweet like honey, but bee honey has more hints of spice, nuts or flowers, date honey is richer and more mellow.

I have tried several brands and like Date Lady* because of its smooth texture. Last summer, at the Fancy Food show I tasted the company's new California Date Syrup and absolutely loved it. The California syrup has a buttery taste, while the classic middle eastern variety is more molasses-y. Both are wonderful but I preferred the California syrup for delicate dishes such as baked apples and the bolder syrup for breads, cakes and muffins.

The California syrup works perfectly for baked apples, one of our traditional Rosh Hashanah desserts.

*I was not paid for this post. I just happen to love this product.

Baked Apples with Date Honey

  • 4 baking apples
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup diced dried figs
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh orange peel
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup date honey
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons sugar, optional

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Wash the apples and remove the core with an apple corer or small knife, leaving about 1/2" on the bottom.  Peel the apples halfway down from the top and place them in a baking dish. Mix the raisins, dates, orange peel, cinnamon, nutmeg and date honey. Stuff this mixture into the apple hollows. Mix the juice and water (plus extra sugar if desired) and pour over the apples. Bake for 45 minutes, basting occasionally with the pan juices, or until the apples are tender. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 4 servings

 

 

 

 

 

Grilled Corn Salad

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Now's about the time of year when local corn is at its best. So of course, while corn-on-the-cob is always a good bet, there are reasons to cut the kernels off the cob too:

  • your child or grandchild wears braces
  • your parent or grandparent wears dentures
  • you hate the mess and fussiness of eating corn-on-the-cob
  • you've had your fill of corn-on-the-cob
  • you want a pretty dish to go with whatever else you're serving

Here's what to do: salad. Like this easy one:

Grilled Corn Salad

  • 2 cups grilled or otherwise cooked corn kernels (about 2 large ears of corn)*
  • 1 cup cut up grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon chopped chili pepper, optional
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place the corn kernels, tomatoes, red onion, parsley, thyme and chili pepper, if used, in a bowl and toss the ingredients to distribute them evenly. Pour in the olive oil and toss the ingredients to coat them with the oil. Pour in the wine vinegar and toss. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, toss and let stand for about 15 minutes before serving.

*You can also use raw corn kernels

Makes 4-6 servings

Rhubarb Oat Bread

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You know how, when you have company for dinner and you make a lot of food, you sometimes forget to serve one (or more) of the dishes you cooked?

I did that recently. I made stewed rhubarb because my brother was coming to my house for dinner and it's one of his favorite things to eat.

Not only did I forget to serve it, I forgot about it in the fridge for a couple of days.

It was still good, of course, and we ate some, but there was some left over too.

So I made banana bread but used the stewed rhubarb instead of mashed bananas. (Also added some lemon peel which I thought would work nicely with rhubarb.)

Voila! This is sometimes how good recipes are born. It was well-loved.

And if you don't have stewed rhubarb, you could use applesauce or mashed banana.

 

Rhubarb Oat Bread

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup quick cooking oats
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons grated fresh lemon peel
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1-1/3 cups sugar
  • 1-1/3 cups stewed rhubarb
  • 4 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch (8-cup) bundt pan. Mix the flour, oats, baking soda, salt and lemon peel together in a bowl. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the coconut oil, vegetable shortening and sugar at medium speed until well blended, about one minute. Add the rhubarb and blend it in thoroughly. Add the eggs and beat the ingredients well. Add the flour mixture and beat until batter is well blended. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 55-60 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove to a cake rack to cool completely.

Makes one bread, serving 12-16

 

 

Peach (or Nectarine) Galette

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At the end of every September I buy a bushel of Rhode Island Greening apples and bake at least a dozen pies over the course of a few days. It's a ritual for me, as constant as making mujadarah for my annual break-the-fast or makfrying latkes on Hanukkah.

But right now, it's the height of stone-fruit season and I bought so many peaches and nectarines! Way too many to have just as a snack. So of course I could make pies.

But I don't feel like baking pies.

I might make a crisp or two. Or maybe some chutney or barbecue sauce. Maybe make a roasted dessert or soaked fruit for weekend company.

Or maybe a pie-like but much easier galette. Yep, that's it! 

Nectarine or Peach Galette

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 8 tablespoons butter, cut into chunks
  • 2 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening
  • 6 tablespoons milk
  • 4 cups sliced nectarines or peeled peaches
  • 6 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

For the crust: mix the flour, sugar, salt and lemon peel together in a bowl or food processor. Add the butter and shortening and cut the fat into the flour mixture with your hands or a pastry blender or by processing on pulse until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Add 5 tablespoons milk and mix to form a soft dough. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap and let rest in the refrigerator for at least one hour. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll the dough on a lightly floured board into a circle about 14-inches in diameter (about 1/8-inch thick) and transfer the circle to the prepared baking sheet.

For the filling: slice the fruit into a large bowl. Add 6 tablespoons of the sugar, salt, lemon juice and flour and toss the ingredients to completely coat the fruit. Place the fruit on top of the dough circle, leaving a border of about 1-1/2-inches. Fold the dough over the fruit but not completely; leave a circle of fruit showing, about 7-8-inches. Pleat the dough to give it a rustic look. Brush the dough with the remaining tablespoon milk. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 teaspoons sugar. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Let cool for at least 15 minutes. Best when served warm.

Makes 8 servings

Banana Bread with Cherries

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This summer's cherries have been especially delicious. I've been buying (and eating) tons of them.

So, when I had to think of what to do with the usual leftover bananas, I decided to use some in a new version of Banana Bread. I also added some orange (peel and juice) -- just a hint to bring out the best in both of the fruits.

Pitting cherries can be a real drag. But there's an easy way to do it and you don't even have to buy a cherry pitter. Look here.

Banana BREAD with cherries

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh orange peel
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 medium very ripe bananas
  • 1/3 cup orange juice 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup cut up fresh cherries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9”x5”x3” loaf pan. Mix the flour, orange peel, baking soda, baking powder 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 well blended. 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. Fold in the cherries. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 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

Sweet Soaked Summer Fruit

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A few years ago I learned how to make khoshaf, a Muslim (primarily Egyptian) version of compote -- what my grandma called "kumput," (which she made by cooking dried prunes and apricots with sugar, lemon and cinnamon). Kumput was delicious, but sometimes a bit mushy.

Khoshaf isn't cooked -- you pour simmering, seasoned, sweet syrup over the dried fruit and let it macerate for a while. The fruit becomes tender but never gets soggy.

The khoshaf was such a success that I never went back to "kumput."

So, I figured that the soaking/macerating method would work on fresh fruit too.

I was right.

This simple dish -- cut up fruit steeped in a seasoned, sweetened syrup -- is the perfect ending to a meal on a hot summer day, especially when you want a dairy-free dessert. Of course you could always top the fruit with ice cream or whipped cream. But sorbet would be fine too.

I like it plain, as-is, with a small amount of boiled-down, thickened syrup.

 

SOAKED SUMMER FRUIT

  • 2 pounds stone fruit (peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots), approximately
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 vanilla bean, broken
  • 2 orange slices, about 1/4-inch thick
  • 4-5 slices crystallized ginger

Cut the fruit in half and remove the pits. Cut the fruit into bite-size chunks and place in a dish deep enough to hold the pieces plus liquid. In a saucepan, combine the water, honey, vanilla bean, orange slices and crystallized ginger and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Pour the contents of the saucepan through a strainer over the fruit. Let soak for at least 2 hours. Serve as-is or strain the fluids, boil the fluids for 6-8 minutes or until thickened, and pour over the fruit (or let cool first).

Makes 8 servings

 

 

Roasted Salmon with Chive Flowers

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On a recent trip to an Asian supermarket in Queens, New York, I bought a lot of interesting vegetables. Greens -- Chinese broccoli, bok choy, yau choy and cabbage -- and some herbs, including chive flowers (pictured above). 

Chive flowers are just like ordinary chives, except they've been allowed to mature and produce an actual flower. As a result, they are thicker and have a somewhat bolder flavor than regular chives.

I used them to season salmon one night. This dish couldn't be simpler. Takes about 5 minutes to prepare and 15 minutes to cook.

How easy is that!

Roasted Salmon with Chive Flowers

  • 24-32 ounces salmon
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Place the salmon in a baking dish. Mix the mustard, olive oil and garlic together in a small bowl and spread this mixture evenly on top of the fish. Sprinkle with the chives, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Roast for about 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish, or until the fish is cooked to desired doneness and the top is crispy-browned. 

Makes 4 servings