Chopped Salad with Chick Peas, Feta Cheese and Zatar Vinaigrette

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For us, summer means salad. Not just leafy greens and tomatoes for starters to a meal. We eat bulky filling salads for dinner. Like this chopped salad, which of course could be served with other salads or as a side dish to grilled fish. But it’s also satisfying on its own, just like this. Add a crust bread and some fabulous olive oil for dipping and that’s all you need (except for dessert of course).

Chopped Salad with Chickpeas, Feta Cheese and Zatar Vinaigrette

  • 1 large cucumber, peeled, deseeded, and chopped

  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped

  • 2 large ripe tomatoes, chopped

  • 3–4 scallions, chopped

  • 1 (15-ounce) can chick peas, rinsed and drained

  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese

  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

  • 1/2 cup tangy black olives, pitted and halved

  • 3–4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

  • 1/2 teaspoon zatar

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  • Pita bread or crisps, optional

Place the cucumbers, bell pepper, tomatoes, scallions, chick peas, cheese, parsley, and olives in a bowl and toss ingredients gently. Just before serving, mix together the olive oil, lemon juice, and zatar. Pour over the salad. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Salad tastes good with Pita bread or crisps.

Makes 4 servings.

 

Food You Want

Cauliflower Crunch Tabouli from Food You Want by Nealy Fischer

Cauliflower Crunch Tabouli from Food You Want by Nealy Fischer

I don’t often write about cookbooks, but every once in a while I find one that I like so well that I want to spread the news. Agents and publishers do send me books for review from time to time but I only recommend the ones that I find truly useful. “Food You Want” by Nealy Fischer, The Flexible Chef (DaCapo 2019) is one of those.

Most of the time it’s the recipes that catch my eye and stimulate my taste buds. But I like “Food You Want” because it has much more than good recipes. It is more or less a book that helps any home cook — novice or experienced — become comfortable in the kitchen, be unafraid to cook, enjoy planning meals and preparing food.

That has always been one of my life’s goals. My Mom made me comfortable in the kitchen. I have passed the lessons on to my children, grandchildren and numerous students who have shown up over the years for cooking lessons.

Fischer’s book sets out several ways to make meals easier and to gear recipes to one’s particular tastes and lifestyle. Her goal is to make home cooks feel “unshackled” to recipes and to use one’s creativity to suit preferences and limitations. The recipes are gluten-free because that suits her diet, but of course, for those who can tolerate gluten, she tells you how to switch.

The “flexible flips” at the end of the recipes show various ways to add or leave out an ingredient or two — substitutions; changing a dish from dairy to parve; what to do with leftover ingredients, etc. “Nail this” tips offer strategies for cooking each recipe you choose — what can be done in advance; temperature guides; when to let food cool before storing; when to drizzle rather than smooth ingredients with a spoon, and so on.

There are lots of kitchen hacks, advice on pantry, fridge and freezer staples and even advice on essential kitchen gadgets.

There’s advice on how to make a plan so that cooking becomes less chore, more joyous. Recipes for side dishes that don’t require recipes! Quickie 10-minute dinners! How to make baking flops into successes!

Did you know you could substitute chopped green olives for capers?? The book is filled with stuff like that.

So many wonderful sounding recipes too. I especially love the salads, especially the Cauliflower-Crunch Tabouli, which is perfect for summer; Minted Pea Soup with Roasted Beetroot; Showstopping Herb-Crusted Salmon; Guiltless Zucchini Fritters; Date-Bar Bites.

All in all — this is a wonderful guide for how to enjoy cooking, how to become more creative, how to adapt recipes, how to find joy in preparing meals — plus some delicious recipes!

CAULIFLOWER-CRUNCH TABOULI

STEPS: CHOP, TOSS! / Serves 6

 There’s nothing ordinary about this stunning herb-specked, grain-free tabouli. Raw cauliflower and pine nuts take center stage and combine to add an unexpected and essential nuttiness and color that elevate the dish. This recipe takes just minutes to whip up and seconds to devour. It’s crunchy, fresh, and the very definition of craveable clean food that makes you want more. I really shouldn’t play favorites, but this salad may well be my favorite!

 Tools: Food processor (optional)

 

Ingredients:

·      1/2 head purple or white cauliflower, core removed

·      3 Persian cucumbers, chopped

·      2 medium tomatoes, chopped

·      1 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves, chopped

·      1 cup loosely packed fresh parsley leaves, chopped

·      2 tablespoons finely diced red onion

·      3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

·      3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

·      1 garlic clove, pressed (optional)

·      Salt, to taste

·      Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

·      1/2 cup chopped pine nuts, toasted

 

Directions:

1.     In a food processor, chop the cauliflower into 1/4-inch pieces. Do not overprocess. Alternatively, chop it by hand.

2.     In a large bowl, stir together the cauliflower, cucumber, tomato, mint, parsley, and red onion.

3.     Toss the vegetables with the olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic (if desired). Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top with pine nuts just before serving.

4.     Serve immediately, or it may be made an hour ahead. If making in advance, toss the pine nuts in right before serving so they stay crunchy.

 

nail this:

·      Because the fresh, raw ingredients are the centerpiece here, only make this recipe when you have access to the freshest herbs and cauliflower.

·      Nuts are crucial. They add an essential favor and crunch that are unexpected and should be included.

 

flip it:

·      Use any color cauliflower you can find.

·      Substitute another nut for the pine nuts. Toasted would be yummiest.

Add chopped anything! Red bell peppers and olives are favorite flavor profiles.

Apple Streusel

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My grandma made her own strudel dough. I remember how deftly she stretched and smoothed the paper-thin pastry over the kitchen table before filling it with all sorts of stuff: usually apples, tender and tart, but gently sweetened and seasoned with cinnamon. Sometimes she filled the dough with mashed potatoes bound with shmaltz-fried golden-brown onions. Like some giant knish!

Whatever was inside, those rolls baked to perfectly perfect crispy-crustedness and all was well with the world.

OY! Those were delicious days.

When she got older she bought packaged strudel dough at a Hungarian grocery near her house. She just couldn’t manage preparing this most delicate of doughs anymore.

I’ve looked for real Hungarian strudel dough but it’s difficult to find. So I made my own dough once. It was good, but not worth the work! So, when I make strudel now I use phyllo dough, which is not quite the same thing and is a terrific product, but not exactly right for strudel.

Anyway, I thought of all this because National Apple Strudel Day is Monday, June 17th. And I thought about making some, but decided to make Apple Streusel instead.

They sound almost the same, right?

And it tastes just perfectly perfect.

Apple Streusel

  • 5-6 baking type apples, peeled, cored and sliced

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 1/3 cup sugar

  • streusel

 Streusel:

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1/4 cup oats (any kind)

  • 3 tablespoons sugar

  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

  • 6 tablespoons butter, cut into chunks

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the apple slices in a bowl. Add the flour, lemon juice, flour, cinnamon and sugar, toss the ingredients and set aside. Spoon the streusel mixture on top of the apples. Bake for 45 minutes or until crusty and golden brown.

Combine the flour, oats, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the butter and work it into the flour mixture with fingers or a pastry blender, until the mixture resembles crumbs. (You can use a food processor: 24-30 short, quick pulses. If so, if you use quick oats, stir them in to the flour crumbs after pulsing.)

 Makes 8 servings

 

 

 

Coffee Ice Cream with Hawaij Spices

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Shavuot is the “dairy holiday” right?

So that means ….. ice cream!

Here’s a new flavor for you: Hawaij-infused coffee ice cream. It’s like an ultra-rich, coffee-lover’s version of plain old coffee ice cream except that it has a splash of spice. Hawaij spice blend to be specific. A few months ago Pereg sent me some samples of their new Hawaij spice combos.

I used the savory blend for an absolutely fabulous chicken curry (plus several other recipes that I’ll post about some other day).

But the coffee blend (which includes inger, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom) I figured would be useful beyond simply spicing up my afternoon cuppa.

So I used it to make ice cream.

Oh my is all I can say.

If you love coffee ice cream, this one’s for you.

Coffee Ice Cream with Hawaij Spices

  • 1 cup coffee beans

  • 2 cups half and half

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

  • 4 egg yolks

  • 1-1/2 teaspoons Pereg Hawaij coffee spice

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1 cup heavy cream

Place the coffee beans in a paper or plastic bag and gently tap with a rolling pin or meat mallet to break the beans coarsely. Not all of the beans need to be broken. Place the beans in a saucepan and pour in the half and half. Turn the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and let steep for at least one hour. Strain the liquid, discard the beans and set the liquid aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the sugar, salt, egg yolks and Hawaij together at medium speed for 4-5 minutes or until thick and pale. Pour in the strained, steeped cream. Beat the ingredients, starting at low speed and gradually to medium speed, for 3-4 minutes or until the mixture is well blended and a uniform color. Pour the mixture into the saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 8-10 minutes or until the mixture has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. Stir in the heavy cream. Place the mixture in the refrigerator to cool completely. Stir in the vanilla extract. Freeze in an ice cream maker until thick and cold. Spoon into a container and freeze until firm.

Makes about 5 cups

Sauteed Strawberry Strawberry Shortcake

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My birthday is in a few days and usually we get together with the kids and grandkids to celebrate at my house. There’s always an apple pie for dessert at some point because I prefer homemade apple pie to birthday cake. And I always have apple pies in the freezer.

But this is an unusual year for our family: graduation and bat mitzvah celebrations, along with several birthdays, Father’s Day and so on — and so — no birthday get-together at my place.

(Actually, at some point during the week I will invite my sister-in-law Eileen and brother Jeff — and I’ll take out some pie for us to enjoy.)

In the meantime, for the two of us, I will celebrate with individual strawberry shortcakes. I made the biscuits already (they’re frozen). Whipped cream takes about 2 minutes in the mixer. I am hoping to find great strawberries — they are in season, so it should be easy.

Last week I actually couldn’t find wonderful berries, even at the Farmer’s market.

So I bought what they had and gave them a quick saute.

Which is what I will do again if the berries aren’t perfect.

This was quite delicious. Here’s the recipe, for strawberry shortcake when you can’t get the best berries.

Sauteed Strawberry Shortcake 

  • 2 tablespoons butter

  • 4 cups cut up fresh strawberries

  • 1 teaspoon sugar

  • 2 tablespoons orange flavored brandy or rum

  • Shortcake biscuits

  • Sweetened whipped cream

  • Fresh mint for garnish

Heat the butter in a saute pan over medium heat. When the butter has melted and looks foamy, add the berries, stir to coat them with butter and cook for one minute. Sprinkle with the sugar, toss and pour in the brandy. Stir, cook briefly and set aside. Cut the biscuits in half. Place the bottoms of each on dessert plates. Layer with some of the berries and some of the whipped cream (reserve some whipped cream for the top). Cover with the biscuit tops. Garnish with a blob of whipped cream and some mint leaves.

 Makes 8 servings

 

Biscuits 

  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 cup cake flour

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel, optional

  • 8 tablespoons cold butter

  • 2/3 cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. Mix the flour, cake flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda into a bowl. Stir in the lemon peel, if used. Cut the butter into chunks and add it to the bowl. Work the butter into the flour mixture with your fingers or a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs (or use a food processor on pulse). Pour in the buttermilk and mix until you can form a soft ball of dough. The dough will be slightly sticky. Place the dough on a floured surface and knead a couple of times. Roll the dough gently to 1/2-inch thickness. Cut out circles with a doughnut cutter or the bottom of a glass. Place the circles on the cookie sheet. Bake for about 20-23 minutes or until they have risen and are lightly browned.

 Makes 8

Blueberry Crisp with Oat-Streusel Crust

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Where I live (Connecticut), Memorial Day Weekend is the “official” start of outdoor grill/BBQ season. Sure, some people use their grills all year, even in the depth of winter. And some start around April. But the weather has been crummy, so — no grilling for me until this weekend.

I need a nice, summery dessert for after, right?

Here it is. Blueberry Crisp. Really simple and easy. Oaty, lightly sweet and with a gently crispy crust. You can make it dairy or parve. Goes well after anything you might have grilled for dinner. Good stuff for Father’s Day too. And July 4th.

Notice that there isn’t too much sugar in either the filling or the crust. Doesn’t need more.

Blueberry Crisp with Oat-Streusel Crust

Filling:

  • 4 cups fresh blueberries

  • 3 tablespoons sugar

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

  • 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Crust:

  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1/3 cup quick cooking or rolled oats

  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 cup cold unsalted butter, vegetable shortening or margarine, cut into chunks

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the blueberries, sugar, lemon juice and flour in a baking dish. Set aside. Place the flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a bowl and mix ingredients to distribute them evenly. Add the butter and work it into the dry ingredients with fingertips or a pastry blender until the mixture looks like coarse meal (or pulse in a food processor). Place the oat mixture over the fruit. Bake for 30 minutes or until the crust is crispy and brown.

Makes 4-6 servings.

 

 

Banana Oat Marble Bread

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So, okay, as usual — the family was here for Mother’s Day. I bought a ton of fruit. All gone.

EXCEPT for a few bananas.

And so: Banana Bread. This one with oats and chocolate. It’s moist and gently sweet. Could do as dessert or just with some coffee as a snack. A little nosh.

Freezable too.

Banana Oat Marble Bread

  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate

  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 cup quick oats

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 3/4 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

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

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

Melt the chocolate and set it aside. Mix the flour, oats, 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. Spoon the melted chocolate on top and use a knife to swirl the chocolate into the banana batter. 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

Roasted Vegetable Galette

Roasted Vegetable Galette

Roasted Vegetable Galette

Everyone who knows me or has read a few Mother’s Day posts on my blog knows we don’t celebrate the usual way. We don’t go out to a restaurant or club.

We stay home and have a cookoff.

Yes, we cook and it’s work and a mess but we have the best time ever. Everyone participates (except that some years I am just in charge of the beverages).

We choose a theme, form into teams and each team chooses a recipe. I buy the ingredients a couple of days before and then, on Sunday, my two daughters, their husbands, my husband and my grandkids all get cooking.

Last year our theme was dips. I prepared a tropical salsa.

One year it was chocolate chip cookies.

We’ve done tomato sauce, eggs and so on.

This year we decided on PIE. Each team will make some sort of pie.

There are no rules. They interpret the word (pie) however they wish.

So — apple pie? Sure!

Pizza pie? Of course!

Pot pie? Yes!

The only limit: this will be a vegetarian/dairy meal. So, no beef pot pie.

But — quiche? Why not — it’s a type of open face pie, right?

How about a potato/olive/onion empanada? YUM!

Cabbage pastie? ok!

I am thinking of this though: roasted vegetable galette. I make it with pie dough so it qualifies, doesn’t it?

A good Meatless Monday (or any other day) choice.

 

Roasted Vegetable Galette

  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives or scallion tops

  • 6 tablespoons butter, cut into chunks

  • 2 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening

  • 3-4 tablespoons milk

  • 2 medium yellow squash, sliced

  • 4-5 plum tomatoes, sliced

  • 1 large Portobello mushroom, sliced

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil

  • salt to taste

  • 1 bunch spinach, washed and dried

  • 2 tablespoons chopped basil

  • 1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded Mozzarella cheese

  • 2-3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

  • 1 egg, beaten, optional

For the crust: mix the flour, salt and chives 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. Gradually add 3 tablespoons milk and mix to form a soft dough, adding more milk as needed. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap and let rest in the refrigerator for at least one hour. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll the dough on a lightly floured board into a circle about 12-13 inches in diameter (about 1/8-inch thick) and transfer the circle to the prepared baking sheet.

For the filling: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the squash, tomato and Portobello slices on the baking sheet and brush on both sides with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Roast for 20-22 minutes or until tender. Remove from the oven. Heat the remaining tablespoon olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the spinach and cook for 2-3 minutes until softened. Drain any liquid, chop the spinach coarsely and set aside.

Reduce the oven heat to 400 degrees. Scatter the circle of dough with 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese, leaving a border of about 1-1/2 inches. Mix the vegetables together with the basil and place over the cheese. Scatter the remaining mozzarella cheese and the Parmesan cheese on top. Fold the dough over the vegetables but not completely; leave the center open, with 7-8 inches of the vegetables showing. Pleat the dough at the edge to give the galette a rustic look. Beat the egg and brush it onto the dough for a glazed look, if desired. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.

Makes 8 servings

Pizza with Spinach, Tomatoes and Cheese

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Has pizza become the official post Passover food?

I don’t remember that being the case when I was growing up. After Passover, we were full-on with bagels, challah and sandwiches.

So when did this well-loved dish become so extraordinarily popular?

In the first half of the 20th century there were only a few pizza parlors in the United States, all in urban centers such as New York and Boston (and in New Haven, where, in 1925, Frank Pepe set up the still-famous Pepe’s Pizza). But most of the clientele were folks in the local Italian immigrant community.

Pizza became a “thing” in the late 1940s, spurred on by former GIs who had been to Italy during World War II and tasted it there and didn’t want to do without.

Can you blame them?

Pizza has since become an iconic American dish, with toppings way way beyond the classic, original Italian Marhgerite.

We have homemade pizza post Passover, because why not!

Also, when we want a meatless meal, because why not!

For Shavuot, the “dairy” holiday, because why not!

As an hors d’oeuvre for a dairy or fish dinner, because why not?

Pizza with Spinach and Eggs 

  • 1 pizza crust (about 10-inches)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 large garlic clove, minced

  • 1 bunch fresh spinach, washed and dried (about 6 ounces)

  • 2 medium plum tomatoes, sliced

  • 4 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded or chopped

  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Place the crust on a pizza stone or lightly oiled pizza pan or parchment-lined cookie sheet. Heat 1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook briefly. Add the spinach and cook for 3–5 minutes or until wilted and all the liquid has evaporated from the pan. If necessary, press the spinach in a sieve to extract liquid. Spread the spinach evenly on top of the crust. Place the tomato slices on top. Sprinkle with the mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and oregano. Drizzle with remaining half tablespoon olive oil. Bake for 10-13 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the crust is beginning to brown.

 Makes 2 servings

 

 

 

Matzo Cheese Pancakes

Matzo Cheese Pancakes

Matzo Cheese Pancakes

People sometimes laugh at me because we are a year-round matzo family, year-round matzo-brei family.

I mean -- when something is delicious, why wait for Passover?

On the other hand, when Passover comes, I like to branch out from the usual matzo-brei breakfasts -- for instance, with pancakes like these, which are rich and holiday-festive, and also substantial enough for breakfast, lunch and even dinner. 

 

Matzo Cheese Pancakes

  • 1 cup cottage cheese

  • 1 cup dairy sour cream

  • 4 large eggs

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel or one tablespoon grated orange peel

  • 1/2 cup matzo cake meal

  • 2 tablespoons sugar

  • 1 teaspoon potato starch

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • salt to taste

  • 1/2 cup raisins

  • butter for frying

In a bowl, combine the cottage cheese, sour cream, eggs, vanilla extract and lemon peel and whisk together until well blended. In a second bowl combine the cake meal, sugar, potato starch, cinnamon and salt. Spoon the liquid ingredients into the bowl with the cake meal and whisk until the batter is smooth and uniform. Fold in raisins, if used.

Heat about a tablespoon of butter in a large sauté pan or griddle over medium heat. When the butter has melted and looks foamy, add batter by heaping tablespoonsful and cook for 1-2 minutes or so until browned on the bottom. Turn the pancakes over and cook for a minute or so on the second side or until lightly browned. Add more butter to the pan as needed to prevent sticking.

Makes about 16