You can never have too much caulifower

Frequently, if I am at a loss for what to serve as a side dish with dinner, I opt for cauliflower. There's always a head in the house. I can clean it quickly while the oven preheats. It's one of the milder cabbages, so everyone in the family likes it. And it is so incredibly flexible that, after a rubdown with olive oil I can squirt it with lemon juice or some other liquid, like maybe wine. I can season it with just about any spice or herb. I can give it a final flourish of cheese if I wish. 

I can break the cauliflower head into small chunks or cut it into thick slices, like "steak" (a recipe from The Modern Kosher Kitchen). Or roast it whole.

Saute it instead of roasting it in the oven.

Make it into salad.

And so on.

This is the latest version. Quick. Easy. Goes with everything.

 

Roasted Cauliflower

  • 1 small cauliflower
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or marjoram
  • salt to taste
  • ½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper (substitute ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Wash the cauliflower, trim the ends and break the head up into smaller pieces. Wipe dry with paper towels. Mix the olive oil and white wine vinegar in a large bowl. Add the cauliflower pieces and toss the pieces to coat them on all sides. Place the pieces on the prepared sheet, drizzling them with oil left n the bowl. Sprinkle with the oregano, salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes, turning the pieces occasionally, or until the pieces are crispy and lightly browned.

Makes 4 servings

Cranberry Cheese Cake

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Many years ago I was one of three judges at a cheese cake contest sponsored by a local cookware shop. We were told that 50 people had entered and would be bringing their cakes over.

Fifty cakes!

Fortunately only 32 people showed up. My first thought was about what might have happened to those other people. Did they just decide not to bother or had their cakes not come out right?

My second thought -- how am I going to eat -- even small samples -- of 32 cakes!

But, I was younger and thinner then and so I soldiered on.

There were some incredibly elaborate versions -- one was swirled with gorgeous white chocolate leaves, another was drizzled with thick, viscous drippings of autumn-leaf-colored caramel.

But frankly, we all thought the best cakes were the simplest ones. The ones where you could actually taste the cheese in the cheese cake. Like classic New York Cheese Cake. Or, if adorned, only simply, with some glazed fresh fruit.

And so, in this season of cheese cakes (it's the number one food for Shavuot), I offer a simple cheese cake. You can absolutely taste the lush, creamy cheese. It isn't overloaded with sugar or chocolate. There is a fruit top, made with fresh cranberries, which are tart and acidic and do a fabulous job balancing out the dense, rich cake beneath.

Or, you can serve the cake plain, maybe garnishing with a sprinkle or two of confectioner's sugar.

 

Cranberry Cheese Cake

  • 1-1/2  teaspoons butter
  • 1/3 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1-1/2 pounds cream cheese (3-8 ounce packages)
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange peel
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup dairy sour cream or unflavored yogurt

 Topping:

  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in one tablespoon water
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange peel

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the butter on the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Sprinkle the inside of the pan with the graham cracker crumbs. Shake the pan to coat it evenly. Beat the cream cheese in an electric mixer at medium speed for 1-2 minutes or until softened and smooth. Add the orange peel, vanilla, cream and sugar and beat for 2-3 minutes or until the mixture is smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally with a rubber spatula. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in the sour cream. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Place the springform pan inside a larger pan. Fill the larger pan with enough hot water to come at least 1-inch up the sides of the baking dish. Bake for 70-75 minutes or until the top of the cake is tanning lightly. Remove the springform pan from the water and let the cake cool. When the cake is at room temperature, refrigerate it at least 4 hours or until thoroughly chilled. Remove the sides of the pan. Spread the topping over the cake.

 Topping:

Place the cranberries, sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, for about 3 minutes or until cranberries start to pop. Stir the cornstarch mixture and add it to the pan. Mix for about one minute or until the topping thickens. Stir in the orange peel. Let cool.

 Makes one cake serving 8-10

Cream Cheese Cookies

While cleaning out/purging my files recently, I rediscovered this recipe for these Cream Cheese Cookies. It was on an old index card, in my mother's handwriting. I'd always wanted to try these, but never did because after the list of ingredients there was this instruction: "bake and freeze."

I don't remember watching my Mom bake these cookies and I had no clue what "bake and freeze" meant other than that I had to chill the dough before doing anything with it. She also never wrote down the oven temperature.

So I tried several versions. I rolled clumps of dough into 1-inch balls and baked them. I made some crescent shaped. The best ones were when I rolled the dough into two long logs, refrigerated them overnight and cut the logs into 1/4-inch slices, baked at 325 degrees.

My mother never said to dust the baked cookies with confectioners' sugar. I tried them with and without and think the cookies taste better and look nicer with that final garnish.

Glad I finally tried the recipe! The cookies are rich and tender, lightly sweet (only 2 tablespoons of sugar!), a perfect snack for a coffee or tea break.

Here's the recipe, with instructions.

MY MOTHER'S CREAM CHEESE COOKIES

  • 1/2 pound butter
  • 1/2 pound cream cheese
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • confectioners' sugar

Beat the butter and cream cheese together in the bowl of an electric mixer set at medium (or use a hand mixer) for 2-3 minutes, until softened and completely blended. Add the egg yolks, sugar, salt and vanilla extract and beat them in thoroughly. Add the flour gradually, beating it in until a smooth, uniform dough has formed. Cut the dough in half and roll each half into a long log about 1-inch in diameter. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 4 hours, or until firm and cold. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Slice the logs into 1/4-inch slices and place the slices on cookie sheets. Bake for 23-25 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let cool. Dust with confectioners sugar (best if sifted over the cookies).

Makes about 60 cookies

 

 

 

 

Aunt Kate's Cheese Cake

My Mom always talked about what a good cook Aunt Kate was. She'd say "Kate could make franks and beans taste like a gourmet dinner."

Truth is, Aunt Kate (Kate Winter) was actually not my biological or married-in aunt; she was our neighbor when I was a little girl in Bridgeport, CT. In those days it was the custom to call your parents' good friends aunt/uncle, out of respect. My parents and the Winters remained close friends, even after my parents moved away.

Recently, while going through a purge of my recipe files, I came across Aunt Kate's recipe for cream cheese cake. It was on an index card, in her handwriting, complete with instructions, including the reminder to place the finished, cooled cake "in the ice box."

Naturally, I had to try it.

My Mom was right. This was one fabulous recipe. Creamy, rich cheesecake -- but lighter and fluffier than most. It doesn't need anything but itself, although Aunt Kate apparently garnished it with strawberry topping (frozen strawberries mixed with cornstarch and sugar). I preferred to use fresh berries so I changed that part.

Otherwise, in all its delicious glory, here is the recipe for Aunt Kate's wonderful cheese cake.

AUNT KATE'S CHEESE CAKE

  • 2 teaspoons butter or margarine
  • 1/3 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 pound cream cheese
  • 1 pound cottage cheese
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Topping

 TOPPING:

  • 2 cups dairy sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 GARNISH

  • 12-15 strawberries
  • 1/4 cup apricot or currant preserves

 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spread the butter on the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Sprinkle the inside of the pan with the graham cracker crumbs. Shake the pan to coat the bottom and sides of the pan completely. Beat the cream cheese and cottage cheese in an electric mixer at medium speed for 1-2 minutes or until they are thoroughly blended. Add the sugar and blend it in. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and beat the ingredients for 2-3 minutes or until the mixture is smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 20 minutes.

While the cake is baking, make the topping by mixing the sour cream, sugar and vanilla extract together until well blended. When the cake has baked for 20 minutes, remove it from the oven and carefully spoon the topping over the cake. Return the cake to the oven. Bake for 10 minutes. Turn the heat off but leave the cake in the oven until it has cooled to room temperature.

When the cake has reached room temperature, (“place it in the ice box”) refrigerate it at least 4 hours or until it is thoroughly chilled. Wash and trim the berries and cut the in half. Place the halves attractively on top of the cake. Heat the preserves in a small saucepan and brush the melted preserves over the berries. Remove the sides of the pan to serve the cake.

Makes one cake serving 12-16

 

 

 

Roasted Chermoula Spiced Parsnips

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I realize most people never get to say this but I had some Chermoula Dressing left over from some experimenting with recipes for a Grilled Goat Cheese Panini.  

Chermoula, a Moroccan style sauce made with spices and fresh cilantro, is a condiment that goes with so many foods it actually pays to have some stocked in the fridge. Like ketchup or mustard or Sriracha. 

My latest using the stuff? Roasted Chermoula Spiced Parsnips. Terrific side dish with chicken, lamb or beef. Nice with scrambled eggs too. Or part of a vegetarian dinner.

Roasted Chermoula Spiced Parsnips

Chermoula Dressing:

  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1/3 cup minced fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Combine the garlic, paprika, cumin, cayenne, parsley and cilantro in a small bowl. Stir in the lemon juice. Add the olive oil gradually, beating it into the other ingredients. Set aside. (You may use a small food processor to combine the ingredients.)

Parsnips:

  • 2 pounds parsnips
  • salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Peel the parsnips and cut them into strips about 4-inches long, 1/2-inch wide and place them on a baking sheet. Pour 1/4 cup of the Chermoula Dressing over the vegetables and toss them to coat each piece. Sprinkle with salt. Roast for about 20 minutes, turning them once or twice, or until the vegetables are tender and lightly crispy.

Makes 6 servings

Rich, Dense, Cream Cheese Pound Cake

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I've been experimenting with cream cheese lately, mostly because I had some extra left over from creating and testing recipes for Philadelphia Cream Cheese at JoyOfKosher.com. (You can find the recipes here, where there are recipes also from Tamar Genger and Jamie Geller).

But also because the Jewish holiday of Shavuot is coming and this particular holiday usually involves a lot of cream cheese.

I've made several cheesecakes. You'll read about them here soon.

But I decided to make a pound cake too. With the addition of cream cheese, this plain old cake is outrageously dense, moist and rich.

You don't need to add frosting, powdered sugar, any sort of glaze, accompaniments of any kind like ice cream or fresh fruit. Although, of course, none of those would hurt.

But this one is good just the way it is.

Cream Cheese Pound Cake

  • 1-1/2 cups butter
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 2-1/2 cups sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Grease a 10-cup bundt pan. Beat the butter and cream cheese together in the bowl of an electric mixer set at medium for about 2 minutes, or until well blended. Add the sugar gradually and beat for about 2 minutes or until thoroughly incorporated. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally to keep the batter smooth and uniform. Add the vanilla extract and lemon peel and stir them in. Add the flour, baking powder and salt and beat the ingredients for about 1-2 minutes or until smooth, uniform and well-blended. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 1-1/2 hours or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Makes one cake serving 16 people

Cheesecake Cookies

I usually bake the same cookie recipes over and over. Butter cookies. Grand Finale (chocolate chip) cookies. Peanut Butter cookies

But recently I decided to branch out with some Chinese cookies. And a few other recipes I'll post about here soon.

I got my inspiration straight from the "cookies" folder in my file cabinet on one of those days when I decided to do a purge of unnecessary stuff. This particular folder includes recipes clipped from magazines and newspapers. I should have known as I collected them that I would probably never actually make most of them.

But there were a few handwritten recipes that I just couldn't resist. A few from my Mom and my Aunt Beck. A few recipe cards that are sentimental for me because they are from friends and relatives that have passed away.

There was also this recipe for Cheesecake cookies from someone named Rose. I have no idea who she is, or was. My Mom had a friend Rose. Maybe it was hers. I don't recognize the handwriting on the index card. It isn't my Mom's handwriting. Or my Aunt's. 

Unlike most of the hand written recipes from women of my mother's generation, this one was complete with a list of ingredients (though not in the right order) and instructions on how to make the cookies. I've edited the recipe to conform to our more modern style of recipe writing. But below is the recipe for the most fabulous, tender, salty-and-sweet, tangy with cheese, creamy centered but crusty sandwiched cookies you can imagine.

Nice idea for Mother's Day.

Thanks Rose, whoever you are. These are great! 

Rose's Cheesecake Cookies

  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons milk or cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter and set it aside. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, nuts and brown sugar and mix to distribute the ingredients evenly. Add the melted butter and mix until the mixture is crumbly. Remove one cup of this mixture and set it aside. Place the remaining mixture inside an 8-inch square baking pan. Press the crumbs down firmly to cover the bottom of the pan evenly. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until firm. Remove the pan from the oven and set it aside. Beat the cream cheese and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer set at medium speed for 1-2 minutes or until well blended. Add the egg, lemon juice, milk and vanilla and beat the ingredients for another minute or until thoroughly blended. Spoon the cheese mixture evenly over the baked crumbs. Top with the remaining, reserved unbaked crumbs. Bake for about 25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool. Cut into small squares (16 pieces).

 

Makes 16 cookies

How to Make Fish More Appealing

My Mom, good cook though she was, was not an ace at making fish. Her broiled salmon was delicious, but beyond that, well, .... let's just say she didn't love fish, didn't want to experiment with it and so we didn't have a lot of fresh fish for dinner.

Same for my grandmother, except for once a summer when my father, uncles and assorted other men would go for their once a year fishing trip and come back with either mackerel or bluefish.

Now, everyone knows that if you come from a family that doesn't particularly love fish, mackerel and bluefish are not the ones you would pick for the once-in-a-while fish dinner. But that's what the men caught during the summer (when we would always be at my grandmother's place).

My grandma did her best with what -- and who -- she had to work with. I was -- and remain -- a devout fish lover, along with my cousin Leslie, but we were the only ones. 

For everyone else, grandma had to be creative.  Even as a child I realized that what she did to make the fish more palatable was to smother it with other ingredients that would not only distract from the strong flavor of those oily fish, but also make the dish more attractive so that we would all want to eat the dish placed in front of us.

It worked every summer. Everyone regarded that fish dinner as a winner.

You can make this recipe for the darker, oilier fish such as mackerel and bluefish, but it's also wonderful with plain old mild cod, which most people prefer.

Roasted Cod

  • 4 6-8 ounce chunks of fresh cod
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 4 plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 12 pitted olives (green or black), cut in half
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 1/2 cup matzo meal or bread crumbs

 

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the fish in a lightly oiled casserole dish. Pour the vegetable oil over the fish chunks and rub to spread the oil on the top surface of each chunk. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Scatter the garlic and shallot on top. Scatter the plum tomatoes and olives on top, then sprinkle with parsley and dill. Finally, scatter the matzo meal or bread crumbs on top. Roast for 12-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish, or until the fish is cooked through.

Makes 4 servings

Street Food

Why is it that "street food" and "food truck food" are always so intriguing?

Take shwarma, for instance, which I first tasted in Jerusalem many years ago. I absolutely couldn't resist, especially after my daughter Meredith, who had been living in Israel for several months, told me that I would fall in love with this particular dish.

I did. I can still remember that first awesome bite.

I am not tempted by all street food of course. I would never, never try one of those greasy-looking hot dogs that sit in cloudy water with those awful fat globules floating on top. 

But when we traveled to Egypt I was fascinated by this wonderful looking/aromatic dish called koshary. Fortunately Ed and I were on a Nile cruise ship and, just our luck! the chef knew how to make it. 

Lucky us. He prepared the dish for lunch one day and also told me the basic ingredients, which I have worked with several times to try to make koshary that tasted the way we like it.

That's it in the photo. This is a dish that takes some time and has several parts (unlike most of my recipes). But it is worth the effort. 

Koshary! Street food. Food truck food. Meatless Monday food. Vegetarian food. Filling. Fabulous, even when it's reheated.

 

Koshary

 

Tomato Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 2-inch cinnamon stick
  • 28 ounce can Italian style tomatoes, including liquid, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger and cook briefly. Add the cinnamon stick and cook briefly. Add the tomatoes, cumin, coriander and cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes or until thick. Remove the cinnamon stick, puree the ingredients (I use a hand blender) and set aside.

 

The Grains:

  • 6 ounces small pasta (elbows, farfalle, etc.)
  • 1/2 cup lentils
  • 1/2 cup Basmati rice
  • 3-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 1 cup canned chick peas, rinsed and drained

Preheat the oven to warm (about 225 degrees). Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and set aside. Cook the lentils in lightly salted water for about 20 minutes or until tender. Drain and set aside. Combine the rice with 1 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat to low, cover the pan and cook for 18-20 minutes. Remove from the heat but keep the cover on the pan to keep the rice warm. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large sauté pan over low-medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove the onions to a bowl and set aside in the oven to keep warm.

 

Final Assembly:

Reheat the tomato sauce. Add 1/2 tablespoon olive oil to the sauté pan used for the onions. Add the cooked macaroni and cook over medium heat without stirring, for about 2 minutes, or until the bottom is crispy. Stir and cook for another 2 minutes to crisp the pasta. Remove the pasta to a serving platter. Add 1/2 tablespoon olive oil to the sauté pan. Add the lentils and cook for 1-2 minutes or until lightly crispy. Spoon the lentils on top of the pasta. Top with the rice. Add 1/2 tablespoon olive oil to the pan. Add the chickpeas and cook briefly to warm them. Spoon the chick peas over the rice. Spoon the tomato sauce on top. Top with the caramelized onions. 

Makes 8 servings

Warning! These cookies are irresistible.

WARNING!

Do not make these if you are on a diet.

Even if you aren't, hide them from yourself. As for me, as soon as they're cool I store these in my basement freezer so that if I am tempted to get one I at least have to walk down and up a flight of stairs.

These ultra-buttery, pleasurably sweet, satisfyingly crispy cookies are monstrously difficult to resist. 

The inspiration for the recipe -- Dutch Butter cookies -- thanks to a friend, Ro Dekker, z"l, who passed away many years ago. She was a brave, smart, funny, good and righteous woman. She and her children escaped on the last boat out of Holland to America in World War II. (Her husband Mauritz, z"l, was already in the United States.) Everyone else in her family stayed behind and perished in the Holocaust.

I will always think of Ro when I eat these.

 

dutch butter cookies (Jan Hagels)

  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13”x9” cookie sheet with parchment paper and butter the parchment paper. Beat the butter, brown sugar, lemon peel and 1 tablespoon of the egg in the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix at medium speed for about 2 minutes or until well blended. Add the flour and beat at medium speed for 2-3 minutes or until a uniform dough has formed. Place the dough on the parchment paper and press to completely cover the entire pan. Be sure to make the dough as even as possible. Use a small rolling pin or tumbler to make the dough even. Brush the entire surface of the dough with the remaining egg. Scatter the almonds evenly on top of the dough. Mix the sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar evenly over the almonds. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, or until the surface is golden brown. While still warm, cut the cookies in 4 equal parts lengthwise and widthwise, to make 16 large cookies. (Or cut into smaller pieces.)

 

Note: pizza cutter works well for cutting

 

Makes 16 cookies