Lentils with Roasted Squash and Dried Cranberries

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It’s all turkey talk when it comes to Thanksgiving.

But really – it’s the side dishes that everyone stresses about, right?

What to serve with the turkey.

Back in the day my Mom served the same menu every year: candied sweet potatoes (fabulous but with more sugar than I can even imagine using now!); baked cranberries (spiked with brandy); a green vegetable of some sort; her famous “filling” made with barley-shaped pasta, mushrooms, onions and celery.

I like to mix it up every year, although I stick to tradition too. So we always have some sort of sweet potato dish (sometimes – yes --- with marshmallow, sometimes not); the same baked cranberries my Mom made; lots of vegetables; and stuffing (the kids got tired of Nana’s “filling”).

We also have a vegetarian entrée, usually mujadarah or koshary. And I must be aware of allergies, so, no nuts in the stuffing, plus I try to make an additional vegetarian stuffing.

This year I am serving this lentil side dish also. It’s sort of like a salad but also like a casserole. And it can be made ahead. It’s a beautiful dish, filled with colorful, seasonal ingredients. It’s vegetarian. It’s a side-dish. It’s nut-free.

 

Lentils with Roasted Squash, Spinach and Cranberries

  • 2 cups diced winter squash (such as butternut)
  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup green French lentils
  • 3 cups water, lightly salted
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2-3 tablespoons orange juice
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the squash and shallot on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Pour one tablespoon of the olive oil over the vegetables, toss and bake for about 20 minutes, tossing the vegetables occasionally. Remove the vegetables from the oven and set aside. While the vegetables are roasting, place the lentils and water in a large saucepan over medium heat. Bring the liquid to a boil, turn the heat to medium-low and cook uncovered for about 20 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Drain the lentils and place them in a bowl. Stir in the vegetables, cranberries and parsley. Pour in the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and toss the ingredients. Add orange juice, season to taste with salt and pepper and toss the ingredients. Add more orange juice if needed for moisture.

Makes 6 servings

Brussels Sprouts with Apples and Dried Cranberries

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Our Thanksgiving feast has all the usual stuff -- turkey, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and so on.

Also -- Brussels sprouts. We are a Brussels sprouts-loving family.

This is this year's version, with cranberries and apples. I like the seasonal aspect of the dish and the ingredients add some color and glamor to the plate alongside pale slices of turkey, rich sweet-potato-orange and crusty-brown stuffing.

 

Brussels Sprouts with Apples and Dried Cranberries

  • 1 pound Brussels Sprouts
  • 2 tart apples
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon or orange peel
  • salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Wash and trim the Brussels Sprouts and, if large, cut them in half. Place the vegetables on the baking sheet. Peel and core the apples, cut them into chunks and place on the baking sheet with the Brussels Sprouts. Pour the olive oil over the ingredients and toss to coat them. Sprinkle the brown sugar, shallot and lemon peel on top, toss the ingredients. Sprinkle with salt to taste. Bake for about 12-15 minutes, tossing the ingredients once. Add the cranberries, mix them in and bake for another 5 minutes or until the Brussels Sprouts are tender.

Makes 4 servings

Pumpkin Sour Cream Coffee Cake

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I used to bake a fresh pumpkin when it was time to make the usual seasonal pumpkin pies and cakes. I'd buy one of those small, round, sweet "sugar" pumpkins, carve it up, sprinkle the pieces with salt and give it a roast until the flesh was tender.

It was all good. The house smelled like autumn, the pumpkin was nice and dry -- perfect for baked goods.

But.

I got busy. And sometimes I couldn't find the right variety of pumpkin.

So I switched to canned.

You know what? We didn't even notice the difference when it came to my favorite pumpkin coffee cake.

So, make it easy on yourself. Use canned pumpkin if you wish (but not pumpkin pie mix, which is pre-seasoned). Or fresh baked pumpkin of course, if you can find a good variety and have the time to roast it. 

Either way, this cake is rich and gently fragrant. It has a wonderful salty-sweet balance.

You can freeze it too.

PUMPKIN SOUR CREAM COFFEE CAKE

STREUSEL TOPPING:

  • 1/3 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons cold butter

CAKE:

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup mashed pumpkin (canned is fine; not pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated orange peel
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup milk

 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease an 8" square cake pan. Make the streusel: place the oats, flour, brown sugar and salt in a bowl. Add the butter and work it into the dry ingredients with your fingers, a pastry blender or two knives until the mixture is crumbly. Set the streusel aside.

Make the cake batter: beat the sugar and butter together with a hand mixer or electric mixer set at medium speed for 1-2 minutes or until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Add the pumpkin, sour cream, egg and orange peel and beat the ingredients for 1-2 minutes or until they are smooth. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg and salt in a bowl. Add 1/2 of the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and beat the ingredients until they are blended. Add 1/2 of the milk and beat this in until it is well blended. Repeat this process again until all the flour and milk have been used up. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Sprinkle the streusel over the batter. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes then carefully invert the cake onto a cake rack, carefully flip it right side up. Let cool completely.

Makes one cake serving 8-10 people

Pumpkin Sour Cream Coffee Cake

I used to bake a fresh pumpkin when it was time to make the usual seasonal pumpkin pies and cakes. I'd buy one of those small, round, sweet "sugar" pumpkins, carve it up, sprinkle the pieces with salt and give it a roast until the flesh was tender.

It was all good. The house smelled like autumn, the pumpkin was nice and dry -- perfect for baked goods.

But.

I got busy. And sometimes I couldn't find the right variety of pumpkin.

So I switched to canned.

You know what? We didn't even notice the difference when it came to my favorite pumpkin coffee cake.

So, make it easy on yourself. Use canned pumpkin if you wish (but not pumpkin pie mix, which is pre-seasoned). Or fresh baked pumpkin of course, if you can find a good variety and have the time to roast it. 

Either way, this cake is rich and gently fragrant. It has a wonderful salty-sweet balance.

You can freeze it too.

Pumpkin Sour Cream Coffee Cake

STREUSEL TOPPING:

  • 1/3 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons cold butter

cake:

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup mashed pumpkin (canned is fine; not pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated orange peel
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup milk

 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease an 8" square cake pan. Make the streusel: place the oats, flour, brown sugar and salt in a bowl. Add the butter and work it into the dry ingredients with your fingers, a pastry blender or two knives until the mixture is crumbly. Set the streusel aside.

Make the cake batter: beat the sugar and butter together with a hand mixer or electric mixer set at medium speed for 1-2 minutes or until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Add the pumpkin, sour cream, egg and orange peel and beat the ingredients for 1-2 minutes or until they are smooth. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg and salt in a bowl. Add 1/2 of the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and beat the ingredients until they are blended. Add 1/2 of the milk and beat this in until it is well blended. Repeat this process again until all the flour and milk have been used up. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Sprinkle the streusel over the batter. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes then carefully invert the cake onto a cake rack, carefully flip it right side up. Let cool completely.

Makes one cake serving 8-10 people

 

Bones and Blood

Last year my daughter Meredith (a board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) who provides services for expectant and new parents), made these Hallowe'en snacks. Although I do not have young children at home, nor would I ever pass these out to trick-or-treaters, they were too cute to pass up. So I made my own. Just for us, for TV watching time.

Hers were baked with biscuit dough. I didn't feel like making dough, so I took the easy way out -- used packaged pizza dough. They looked the same as these, just a bit browner.

A cute snack for Hallowe'en and really easy to make:

Bones and Blood

  • one pound pizza dough
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • sea salt to taste
  • 2 cups marina sauce

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the dough into 10 equal pieces and roll each piece into a rope about 8 inches long. Cut a slit at each end of each rope, and curve the slit part out slightly to make the bone shape. Place the bones on the baking sheet. Brush with the melted butter, sprinkle with the cheese, oregano and salt. Bake for about 15 minutes or until vaguely tan. Serve with the marinara sauce. 

Makes 10

Pumpkin Raisin Muffins

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A few days ago someone on social media alerted the world to Oscar Mayer Pumpkin Spice Bologna.

No.

Just no. Just absolutely no.

Pumpkin spice doesn't belong in bologna. It doesn't even belong in the same sentence.

In fact, there is way too much "pumpkin spice" out there, in everything. 

However, pumpkin spice in muffins is a pretty good idea. It is pumpkin season, after all. And spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice do give the batter a welcome warmth and fragrance.

So, instead of even thinking about that terrible idea of pumpkin spice bologna, try these muffins, which are quite wonderful.

Btw, there really is no such thing as Oscar Mayer Pumpkin Spice Bologna. It's baloney! Watch out for the real #fakenews. (http://www.wusa9.com/news/local/verify/verify-pumpkin-spice-products-whats-real-and-whats-not/481457725)

 

Pumpkin Raisin Muffins

  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1-1/4 cups mashed pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins

 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease 10 muffin tins. Mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice together into a bowl. Beat the sugar, eggs, vegetable oil and mashed pumpkin together in an electric mixer set at medium for 2-3 minutes or until thoroughly blended and smooth. Add the flour mixture and beat at low speed for one minute to blend ingredients. Fold in the raisins. Pour the batter into the prepared tins. Bake for about 20 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Makes 10

 

Modern Jewish Baker by Shannon Sarna

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When I got Shannon Sarna’s new book, Modern Jewish Baker, I wanted to run into the kitchen and start baking. It’s that kind of book – based on a few beloved, classic, Jewish bakery basics (challah, bagels, babka and so on) plus an amazing number of inventive variations that sound too seriously compelling to miss.

Exactly my kind of cooking.

One problem. I have to lose weight and get my glucose at normal levels before my doctor’s appointment next month.

OY! Which of these fabulous bakery items should I make and still be on the straight and narrow path until the doctor thing is over?

Challah was out because, ok, I had tasted Shannon’s pull-apart spinach-cheese version at the book launch party and had to stop myself from eating more only because it would have been rude and gluttonous not to leave some for the other guests.

Bagels? No way, because then I’d eat a couple of those fat, crispy-crusted, puffy-inside things, load them with cream cheese and lox and then have to promise to start my diet “tomorrow.”

Rugelach or babka? Tell me the truth -- could you eat just one piece?

Me either. I had several samples at that launch party and – see above for thoughts on my ability to control myself if I had this stuff in my kitchen.

So it was down to either matzo or pita.

I chose pita because matzo means butter. Lots of it, or matzo brei loaded with sour cream, so, no.

Pita it was, because then I could have it with the hummus I could make with the recipe from the book and that’s healthy, right? Also, how much pita can one person eat? It's plain old bread, no chocolate or cheese or other extras.

Believe it or not, one person can actually eat quite a bit of plain old pita when it’s this good. Plus, it is really a thrill to see those yeasty rounds come out of the oven and actually look like packaged pita! (But taste much fresher and better). I felt like a triumphant teenager who had baked her first cake. Who knew you can make pita at home?! I’ve been at this cooking thing for years and years and never did it before.

But I will again! This stuff is not only tasty, but fun to make.

And the hummus was quite good too!

I’ll start the diet tomorrow.

This book is a winner.

Bonus recipe from the book -- Classic Hummus (Modern Jewish Baker):

  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and shells removed
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 whole garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup olive oil plus additional for serving
  • 2-3 tablespoons water
  • Paprika (optional), for garnish
  • Za'atar (optional), for garnish

Place chickpeas, tahini, cumin, salt and garlic cloves in a food processor fitted with a blade attachment. Puree for 30 seconds. Add olive oil and process until smooth. Add water one tablespoon at a time until desired smoothness. Spoon onto plate or into a bowl. Top with paprika or za'atar and an extra drizzle of olive oil for serving.

Can be kept in an airtight container for 5-7 days in the refrigerator.

Makes 4-6 servings

 

 

Spinach Gnocchi for Break-the-Fast

We never have a traditional smoked fish break-the-fast because one of my daughters is allergic to fish. Instead, we have a vegetarian-dairy feast. My friend Susan brings her famous, not-to-be-missed kugel. Another friend brings dessert, although I usually also make rugelach

The rest is up to me. For years I've served Mujadarah, either made with brown rice or bulgur wheat. Other usuals are Spinach Pie, a tomato salad of some sort, egg salad and hummus.

But this year I'm not doing the Spinach Pie.

No particular reason other than it's time for a change.

But not a huge change.

I decided to make Spinach Gnocchi. It's already in the freezer, ready-to-bake.

Spinach Gnocchi

  • 2 10-ounce packages thawed, frozen chopped spinach
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon grated fresh nutmeg
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Butter a baking dish. Squeeze the spinach to extract as much liquid as possible. Place the olive oil and butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. When the butter has melted and looks foamy, add the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally for 2-3 minutes, or until softened. Add the spinach and cook for 1-2 minutes. Spoon the spinach mixture into a large bowl and let cool slightly. Add the ricotta cheese and mix thoroughly. Add the flour and mix thoroughly. Add the eggs, the 6 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Mix thoroughly to blend the ingredients. Refrigerate for at least one hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. With floured hands, shape the spinach mixture into balls about 1-1/2-inches in diameter. Gently drop the balls into the water. Keep the water at a simmer. Cook for 6-7 minutes or until the balls rise to the top and look fluffy. Lift the balls with a slotted spoon and place them on paper towels to dry slightly. Place the balls in the buttered baking dish. Drizzle them with melted butter and the 1/2-cup Parmesan cheese. Bake for about 18 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and lightly crisped.

Makes 24

 

Carrot Soup with Cloves

Carrot soup is a classic for Rosh Hashanah. One year I cooked some with harissa and coconut and my husband said it was the best soup he ever tasted. There's a slightly different version in my cookbook, The Modern Kosher Kitchen.

But I'm always trying new recipes -- because for us, carrot soup is beyond holiday festive. It's a healer, a comforter. Ok, not like chicken soup.  But still -- it's a dish I make for new moms or when someone isn't feeling up to par or when anyone I know is a little grumpy or sad.

This carrot soup recipe welcomes even before you taste it with its scent of cloves and cinnamon. I used Aleppo pepper for heat, but if you don't like spicy, you can leave it out.

 

CARROT SOUP WITH CLOVES AND PEPPER (P)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium all-purpose potato, peeled and chopped
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh ginger
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1-inch piece cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (or crushed red pepper)
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes, or until softened. Add the carrots, potato, ginger, cloves, cinnamon stick and Aleppo pepper. Stir to mix the ingredients. Pour in stock. Bring the liquid to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes or until the carrots are tender. Remove the cloves and cinnamon stick. Puree the soup. Add the coconut milk, stir to blend the mixture until it is uniform in color and heat through.

Makes 4-6 servings

 

Carrot Bread with Raisins for Rosh Hashanah

Somehow Labor Day is over and the food thoughts in my head go straight from tomato salad and grilled chicken to pumpkin soup and baked apples

Of course there's still time to enjoy the last of the summer fruits and vegetables, still time for outdoor-cooked grilled, marinated steak

But I'm thinking forward. It's almost a new season and -- yikes! -- the High Holiday season is only two weeks away.

Which leads toady's food thoughts to: carrots, because carrots are traditional during Rosh Hashanah. I usually cook them in soup -- one version or another. But last year I decided to experiment with a few recipes for carrot quick bread.

This is the one we like best. It's moist and sweet, so it can be dessert, and because it is parve, it is a good choice after a traditional holiday meat meal.

But also makes a good snack either by itself or smeared with cream cheese (softened is best and maybe even mixed with some lemon juice).

CARROT BREAD(P)

  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
  • 1-1/2 cups grated carrots
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-1/2”x4-1/2” loaf pan. Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg into a bowl. Set aside. Beat the brown sugar, white sugar and vegetable oil in the bowl of an electric mixer set at medium speed for 2-3 minutes, or until well blended. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in the lemon juice and peel. Add the dry ingredients and blend them into the egg mixture. Fold in the carrots and raisins. Pour the batter into the loaf pan. Bake for about 50 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a rack to cool completely. 

Makes one loaf