Ricotta Tart with Lemon and Coconut

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Cheesecake? Wonderful! 

But how about cheese pie? Tart?

For Shavuot.

Or anytime at all!

This recipe started with a nut streusel top but I needed something nut-free, so substituted shredded coconut. You can change that to chopped almonds if you prefer.

You need to start ahead on this one so that the cheese can drain and become dry-ish. This gives the filling a tender texture and also helps assure the crust won't get too soggy too soon.

Ricotta Tart

For the filling:

  • 1 pound ricotta cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon or orange peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut

For the crust:

  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon or orange peel
  • 1/4 pound butter, melted

To make the filling:

Place the ricotta cheese in a strainer set over a bowl and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, to drain as much liquid as possible from the cheese. Pace the drained cheese in a food processor bowl. Add the eggs, honey, citrus peel and cinnamon and process until the ingredients are well blended and smooth. Set aside while you make the crust.

To make the crust:

Place the flour in a bowl. Mix in the sugar, salt and citrus peel. Pour in the melted butter and mix the ingredients to form a soft dough. Press the dough onto the bottom and sides of a 9-inch tart pan. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Prick the dough with the tines of a fork. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line the dough with aluminum foil and weight it down with pie weights. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil and weights, turn the oven heat down to 375 degrees and bake the crust for another 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Spoon the filling in baked crust and sprinkle the coconut over top. Bake for about 25 minutes or until crispy looking and the center is set. Serve slightly chilled or at room temperature.

Makes 8 servings

Pumpkin Cheese Cake

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I love to innovate when I cook and to experiment making riffs on recipes. But for me, some foods are best left plain because they're too good to patchky around with.

Vanilla ice cream.

Matzo balls.

Mashed potatoes. Baked potatoes.

Leave these alone. They just don't get better with more.

Or, if you must add more, call them something else.

And yet ..... I used to think the same thing about plain, New York cheesecake. In my opinion, cheesecake doesn't get any better than that. But then I began to play around with some recipes and, wouldn't you know, this one for Pumpkin Cheesecake was simply awesome.

Just in time for the annual cheesecake holiday: Shavuot, which begins this year at sunset on May 19th.

 

PUMPKIN CHEESE CAKE

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons gingersnap or graham cracker crumbs (or ground almonds)
  • 1-1/2 pounds cream cheese
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh orange peel
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup mashed pumpkin (canned is fine)
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek-style yogurt
  • confectioner’s sugar, candied ginger, etc. for garnish, optional

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter an 8-inch or 9-inch springform pan (or cheesecake pan). Sprinkle with the crumbs and twirl the pan to lightly coat the sides and bottom with the nuts. Beat the cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer set at medium for 2-3 minutes or until smooth. Add the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, orange peel and vanilla extract and beat the ingredients for 2-3 minutes or until well blended. Add the eggs one at a time beating after each addition. Mix in the pumpkin and yogurt, blending thoroughly.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan. Place the pan in a larger pan. Fill the larger pan with enough water to come up about 1-inch on the sides of the springform pan. Bake for about one hour or until set. Remove the springform from the larger pan and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before removing the cake from the pan to cool completely. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar or candied ginger if desired.

Makes one cake, serving 8-10

Banana Applesauce Cupcakes

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One of the greatest pleasures in life is cooking with children.

Children are enthusiastic, creative and joyful abut anything they've cooked or baked.

These cupcakes are a melange of my grandchildren's ideas about what to make for dessert. It had to be dairy free. We had a few bananas and some leftover applesauce that we wanted to use.

The cupcakes were yummy. Even the adults thought so.

Decorations, including the one lone banana slice in the center, by the kids, of course, .

 

Banana Applesauce cupcakes

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/4 cup apple juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 12 muffin tins. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon and whisk the ingredients to blend them thoroughly. Place the sugar, vegetable oil and applesauce in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat the ingredients at medium speed for 3-4 minutes or until well blended. Add the eggs and beat them in. Add the bananas, apple juice and vanilla extract and beat at medium speed for about 2 minutes or until well blended. Spoon equal quantities of batter into the muffin tins. Bake for about 20 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. 

Makes 12

frosting

  • 1 cup margarine, shortening or mix of coconut oil and margarine 
  • 1-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • apple juice as necessary

Place the margarine, confectioners' sugar and vanilla extract in a bowl (or use an electric mixer) and beat with a hand mixer at medium speed for 2-3 minutes or until well blended and creamy. If the mixture seems too thick to spread as frosting, mix in a teaspoon or two of apple juice.

Makes enough for 12 cupcakes

 

Herb Roasted Potatoes

American politics is driving me crazy!

And I know, based on everything I've been reading for months and on conversations I've had with a zillion people, that a lot of other people feel the same way.

Therapists have been extra busy since November 2016.

This is the kind of stress that -- for me -- only a potato can help. Potatoes are my main comfort food. 

But what kind? 

Maybe homemade potato chips?

Only if you feel like frying food.

Warm weather's here so maybe potato salad

Not if you're in the mood for something hot and crunchy.

So -- it's time for these lemony-roasted potato chunks, which are crispy, tangy and satisfying. You can prepare them ahead and pop them in the oven just before you want to serve dinner (and also keep them nicely in a warm oven).

Lemon-Dill Roasted Potatoes

  • 2 pounds Yukon Gold or all-purpose potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dlll
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Peel the potatoes and cut them into small chunks. Place the potatoes in a bowl. Add the olive oil and toss to coat the chunks. Add the lemon juice, garlic, dill and lemon peel. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss the ingredients to coat the potato chunks evenly. Place the pieces in a single layer on the parchment paper. Bake for 50-60 minutes, turning the pieces occasionally, or until the pieces are crispy.

Makes 4-6 servings

 

Banana Crunch Cake

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I am always amazed at the amount of fruit that I buy -- and that is consumed -- when my children and grandkids come. Quarts of berries of all kinds. Mangoes, pineapples, grapes and kiwi fruit. In season, also stone fruit such as peaches, fresh apricots, plums and so on.

Plus oranges, clementines, grapefruit.

Apples of course.

And bananas. Lots of bananas.

Usually I am left with nothing, which is why I am always amazed, just at the sheer quantity of what has been eaten.

And I am not complaining at the lack of leftovers! Eating fruit is a good thing. Glad my family is good with that.

IF and when I have leftover bananas I use them for banana bread or cake. I have so many different recipes it's difficult to choose one or another, so I often come up with something new.

Like this. The crunchy crust gets it one step beyond homey, making this suitable for company.

 

Banana Crunch Cake

Crust:

  • 1 cup crushed raisin bran or similar flakes
  • 1 cup quick oats
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 6 tablespoons liquid coconut oil (or use melted butter)

Combine the cereal, oats, brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Pour in the coconut oil and mix until the dry ingredients are thoroughly coated. Set aside. 

Cake:

  • 1-2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 mashed bananas
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-inch square baking pan. Make the crust and set it aside. Mix the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda together in a small bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the vegetable shortening and sugar together at medium speed for 2-3 minutes or until creamy and well blended. Add the eggs and bananas and beat the ingredients for another 2-3 minutes or until thoroughly blended. Mix the water and lemon juice together. Add the flour mixture alternating with the lemon-water and blend in ingredients thoroughly. Stir in the vanilla extract. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Cover the top evenly with the crust mixture. Bake for 22-25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Makes 12-16 servings

 

Roasted Chick Pea and Carrot Salad

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This dish, which I have made many ways, with many variations over the years, is a nice post-Passover treat for those who don't eat chick peas or beans during the holiday.

It's also an easy dish to do and goes with just about everything and anything else you might be serving at any time during the year -- roasted chicken, grilled fish, steak.

It's a colorful, filling dish for a meatless Monday or vegetarian meal.

I'd use it (have used it) for Thanksgiving dinner.

All in all, a pretty useful recipe.

As I said, versatile too: use white beans instead of chick peas, wine vinegar instead of lemon juice. Add some red onion, thawed frozen peas. Like that.

 

Roasted Chick Pea and Carrot Salad

  • 2 cups cooked chick peas
  • 1 pound carrots, sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3-4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or chives

Cook dried chickpeas according to package directions (or drain canned chick peas). Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the chick peas and carrots on a baking sheet. Pour 2 tablespoons olive oil over the vegetables. Sprinkle with salt and cumin and toss to coat the vegetables. Roast for about 15 minutes or until crispy and lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let cool. Spoon the vegetables into a bowl. Pour in the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and the lemon juice. Toss. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with parsley, toss and serve.

Makes 4-6 servings

Roasted Chick Pea and Carrot Salad

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This dish, which I have made many ways, with many variations over the years, is a nice post-Passover treat for those who don't eat chick peas or beans during the holiday.

It's also an easy dish to do and goes with just about everything and anything else you might be serving at any time during the year -- roasted chicken, grilled fish, steak.

It's a colorful, filling dish for a meatless Monday or vegetarian meal.

I'd use it (have used it) for Thanksgiving dinner.

All in all, a pretty useful recipe.

As I said, versatile too: use white beans instead of chick peas, wine vinegar instead of lemon juice. Add some red onion, thawed frozen peas. Like that.

 

ROASTED CHICK PEA AND CARROT SALAD

  • 2 cups cooked chick peas
  • 1 pound carrots, sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3-4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or chives

Cook dried chickpeas according to package directions (or drain canned chick peas). Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the chick peas and carrots on a baking sheet. Pour 2 tablespoons olive oil over the vegetables. Sprinkle with salt and cumin and toss to coat the vegetables. Roast for about 15 minutes or until crispy and lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let cool. Spoon the vegetables into a bowl. Pour in the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and the lemon juice. Toss. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with parsley, toss and serve.

Makes 4-6 servings

Roasted Mushrooms and Tomatoes

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My Seder menu has been more or less stable for the past few years. I change a recipe occasionally, add a new one now and then, but for the most part it's been mostly the same.

Until this year.

I changed quite a bit this Passover. I was bored with some of the old stuff.

Chicken soup with matzo balls? NEVER BORING! Of course I served that!

Also, I served turkey (like my grandma and mother before me) as well as brisket. I also made my old favorite, spinach pie with matzo crust.

But, there was a new haroset (nut-free).

And lots of new vegetable dishes. Like this one, which was incredibly easy and I set it all up in advance and just popped it into the oven minutes before it was needed.

Of course, this dish is a year 'round thing. And it was so well-loved that I know it will be on my menu throughout the year.

 

Roasted Mushrooms and Tomatoes

  • 12-14 medium-large mushrooms, cut into chunks
  • 16 grape, cherry or mini-Kumato tomatoes
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Place the mushrooms, tomatoes, scallions and garlic in a bowl, pour the olive oil over the vegetables and toss to coat all the pieces. Spoon the vegetables onto the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for about 20 minutes, turning the vegetables once or twice during baking, or until tender. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Makes 4-6 servings

 

Zucchini Pancakes

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If you're looking for a good mid-week Passover meal -- here it is! I actually make these year round, but they're ideal during the holiday.

And versatile: for a dairy meal add about 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese to the mix. For more substance -- serve with sunnyside eggs. I accompany them with mashed avocado, but sometimes with dairy sour cream or plain yogurt (any of these mixed with a squirt of lemon juice).

Zucchini Pancakes

  • 2 medium zucchini (10-12 ounces each)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup matzo meal
  • vegetable oil for frying

* for a dairy meal you can add 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Shred the zucchini in a food processor (or grate by hand). Place the shreds in a bowl, sprinkle with salt, toss the shreds and let rest for 10-12 minutes. Squeeze he shreds to extract as much liquid as possible. Return the shreds to the bowl. Add the scallions and egg and mix the ingredients. Add the matzo meal and mix thoroughly. Heat about 1/8-inch vegetable oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Spoon portions of the mixture into the pan to make pancakes about 2-inches in diameter. Leave some space between each pancake. Cook for about 3 minutes per side or until crispy and golden brown. Remove to paper towels to drain. Repeat with the remaining zucchini mixture. Serve with mashed avocado, dairy sour cream or plain yogurt (mixed with some lemon juice).

Makes about 12 pancakes

 

 

Nut-Free Dried Fruit and Apple Haroset

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Passover has it's culinary challenges, it's true, but if you're like me, and have a kid with food allergies you are used to reading labels and figuring out substitutions throughout the year. I actually never minded this part. The fears of what could happen to my daughter if she ate fish or certain nuts, plus the medication and trips to the ER when it did happen were enough to motivate me.

Looked at it in a positive way, the Passover prohibitions plus the allergy no-nos are actually ways that have made my cooking more creative.

I like that.

Obviously, we do not have traditional Ashkenazi haroset at our Seders. My daughter can't even be in the same room as a walnut. She can eat pistachios and almonds, so our usual family haroset with dried fruit includes these.

But -- why take any chances? Because it's possible that one nut allergy could be a warning against all others, my daughter doesn't eat any nuts, in haroset or anything else. On Passover I always serve a second version that's nut-free.

Here is this year's:

Nut-Free Dried Fruit and Apple Haroset

  • 1/2 cup chopped dried figs
  • 1/2 cup chopped dates
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup apricot preserves
  • 4-5 tablespoons sweet red Passover wine
  • pinch of cayenne pepper 

Combine the figs, dates, apricots, raisins and apple in a bowl. Add the nutmeg, preserves, wine and cayenne pepper and mix until the ingredients are evenly distributed. Let the mixture stand for at least one hour before serving. 

 Makes about 2-1/2 cups