Break-the-Fast

Applesauce Yogurt Coffee Cake with Oat Streusel

fullsizeoutput_9ba2.jpeg

I cooked a lot of applesauce lately. We ate some. I froze some.

There was still more, so I used some of it for cake and muffins.

This was one of the best. Crunchy on top, moist underneath, not too sweet.

Applesauce Yogurt Coffee Cake with Oat Streusel

cake:

  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 tablespoon baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/3 cup sugar

  • 1/4 cup butter

  • 1/2 cup applesauce

  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt

  • 1 large egg, beaten

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1/3 cup milk

Streusel:

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats

  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar

  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Mix the oats, flour, brown sugar and salt in a bowl. Add the butter and work it into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease an 8” square cake pan. Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon and set aside. Beat the sugar and butter together with a hand mixer or electric mixer at medium speed for 1-2 minutes or until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Add the applesauce, yogurt, egg and vanilla extract and beat for 1-2 minutes or until smooth. Add half the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and beat until well blended. Add half the milk and beat until well blended. Repeat until all the ingredients are used up. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Prepare the streusel and sprinkle over the batter. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan 10 minutes then invert onto a cake rack. Turn the cake right side up to cool completely.

 

Makes 8-10 servings

 

Grandma Mac and Cheese

FullSizeRender-1.jpeg

All of my grandchildren think that I make the absolute most wonderful, bestest, most delicious mac and cheese. And they expect at least one mac and cheese dinner when they come for a visit.

No worries. I always have one in my freezer, just in case there is ever a surprise knock on my door from one of them.

Of course I thought my grandma made the best mac and cheese too. Hers came out of a box and the cheese part were some granules that came in a separate foil package. She was supposed to mix the granules with milk and butter I think, but she never did. She just opened the package and sprinkled it on top of the cooked elbows. 

That's the way all of us grandchildren thought mac and cheese was supposed to taste. And of course, grandma made it best.

It's the way I made it for my kids. Because that was the best.

Somewhere along the way I tasted actual homemade macaroni and cheese. It was a revelation. It was wonderful. Which is NOT to say that grandma's wasn't good. It was just a whole different dish. I still think of it with fond memories. My daughters think of it with fond memories. And, btw, they also made the packaged kind and sprinkled the dry cheesy granules on top for their children. And their children love that too and probably will have fond memories of that dish.

But when they come to visit me, it's the other kind they expect and love. The from-scratch kind.

They're also pretty clear about how they like it too: moist but not overly sauced, with a combo of American and cheddar cheeses and a crispy top. No added things like tomato or cooked vegetables. No crust -- just maybe some extra grated cheese.

This is the one:

 

Grandma Macaroni and Cheese

  • 1 pound small pasta such as elbows

  • 3 tablespoons butter

  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 3 cups milk (preferably whole milk)

  • 14-16 ounces mixed American and cheddar cheeses plus extra for garnish, shredded

  • salt to taste

Cook the pasta according to package directions, rinse under cold water, drain and set aside. In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. When the butter has melted and looks foamy, turn the heat to low-medium, add the flour and cook, stirring with a whisk, for 2-3 minutes, but do not let the mixture become brown. Gradually add the milk, stirring with a whisk to keep the sauce smooth. Cook for 4-5 minutes or until the sauce has thickened slightly. Add most of the cheeses, leaving some to top the dish as garnish. Add some salt and continue to whisk the sauce until all the cheese has melted. Add the pasta and mix to coat all the pieces. Eat as is, sprinkled with extra cheese, OR place in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes to crisp the top. 

Makes 6-8 servings

 

Best Hummus

fullsizeoutput_8689.jpeg

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.

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 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  

Eggplant, Mashed Potato and Portobello Gratin

Whenever I need a meatless or dairy meal -- for a meatless Monday (or any other day of the week when I am not in the mood for meat), or for during the Nine Days, or a Yom Kippur Break-the-Fast, or during Passover -- this is one of the recipes I turn to. It's filling enough for dinner (served with a salad) yet not heavy.

Another benefit? Set it up ahead and bake just before you need it.

I change the recipe occasionally, because -- why not! This dish is versatile. Sometimes I use zucchini instead of or together with eggplant. Sometimes I add feta cheese or a layer of cooked kale or spinach or some cooked carrots. But basically this is it.

 

Eggplant, Mashed Potato and Portobello gratin

  • 2 large Yukon gold potatoes
  • 3/4 cup grated Swiss cheese
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 large eggs
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 medium eggplant (or 2 medium zucchini)
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large Portobello mushroom caps
  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Preheat the oven broiler or outdoor grill. Peel the potatoes, cut them into chunks and cook them in simmering water until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes and mash them in the pot. Stir in 1/2 cup of Swiss cheese, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and the eggs. Season lightly with salt and pepper. While the potatoes are cooking, trim the ends from the eggplant. Slice the eggplant lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices. Brush both sides with the olive oil. Broil or grill the eggplant for 2-3 minutes per side or until softened and lightly browned. Place half the eggplant slices in a rectangular baking dish. Cover with the mashed potatoes. Layer the remaining eggplant on top. Slice the mushroom caps about 1/4-inch thick and place them on top of the eggplant. Slice the tomatoes and place them over the mushrooms. Scatter the basil and parsley on top. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cook for 45 minutes or until crispy and lightly browned on top.

Makes 8-10 servings

 

Herbed Feta Cheese with Sundried Tomatoes and Olives

fullsizeoutput_846b.jpeg

A few weeks ago I took a quickie trip to Berlin with my daughter. We took a stroll through the Turkish outdoor market, where I saw someone selling a gorgeous hunk of feta cheese, scattered with sundried tomatoes and olives, seasoned with herbs and sprinkled with a drizzle of olive oil.

I noted the ingredients and took a photo. 

It looked so delicious that the moment I saw this cheese thing I knew I had to make it at home.

I did.

It is as good as I thought it would be. I served it to guests last weekend.

They raved.

Here's the recipe. 

Herbed Feta Cheese with Sundried Tomatoes and Olives

  • 1/2 pound feta cheese
  • 3 sundried tomatoes in oil
  • 8-10 imported black pitted olives
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Aleppo pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Cut the feta cheese into thick slices and place on a serving dish. Chop the sundried tomatoes and scatter them over the cheese. Scatter the olives around the cheese and dish. Scatter the parsley over the ingredients and sprinkle with the oregano and some Aleppo pepper to taste. Drizzle the olive oil on top.

Makes 8-10 servings

 

Lullabye Bread

DSC08114.jpg

A few years ago Ed and I were in Berlin and checked out KaDeWe, the city's famous department store that has the biggest food halls in Europe and maybe in the world. They sell every kind of food you can imagine. Gorgeous cakes and pastries. Bountiful, beautiful fruit. Different kinds of eggs, dairy products, chocolates. 

It was all familiar. Pineapples. Peaches. Sachertorte. Macarons. Freshly butchered chickens, and so on.

We stopped counting the different kinds of sausages after we reached 100. Apparently they sell sausages from every region in Germany. 

But we were there for lookin', not cookin' -- so, in the two hours we walked through this place it was more like a visit to an art gallery. 

But then we came to the bakery and there, in the case, was a beautiful, braided loaf called Hefezopf, which is like a challah, but with raisins and almonds.

It was a vision. All at once my mind filled with memories of a lovely shabbat challah mixed with grandma singing rozhinkes mit mandlen, that hauntingly beautiful, classic Yiddish lullabye.

Oh my. My eyes well up even thinking about it.

This was something I had to try at home and get right.

I did, but it took several tries. At first I used my challah recipe and sweetened it a bit, but that just tasted like sweeter challah. The consistency wasn't right.

After doing some research about Hefezopf I realized it was more like brioche -- dense, buttery, dairy-laden, so I started tinkering with my brioche recipe.

Yes. 

A taste is worth a thousand looks.

Try this. It's called Hefezopf, but like to call it Lullabye Bread.

Lullabye Bread (HEFEZOPF)

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 3-inch piece of cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • 2 2-inch strips of lemon peel
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 3-1/2 cups all purpose flour, approximately
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup raisins, optional
  • 2-3 tablespoons chopped almonds, optional

 

Lightly grease a baking sheet. Pour the milk into a saucepan. Add the cinnamon stick, lemon peel, butter and sugar cook over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar, until bubbles form around the edges of the pan and the mixture is hot. Set aside to cool to lukewarm (about 105-110 degrees). Sprinkle the yeast over the milk mixture and whisk the ingredients to dissolve the yeast. Let rest for about 5 minutes or until thick bubbles form. Place the flour and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. Remove the cinnamon stick pieces and lemon peel from the yeast mixture and pour the liquid into the mixer bowl. Add one egg and mix the dough with a dough hook for about 2 minutes. Add the raisins, if used, and mix for another 2 minutes or so, or until the dough is smooth. If the dough is sticky, add more flour as needed. (Kneading can be done in a food processor or by hand.) Cover the bowl and let rise in a warm place for about 1-1/2 hours or until doubled in bulk. Punch the dough down and cut it into 3 equal pieces. Working on a floured surface, roll the pieces to make strands of about 12-inches long. Braid the strands and place them on the baking sheet. Beat the remaining egg with one teaspoon water and brush the egg wash over the surface of the braid. Sprinkle with almonds, if used. Let rise again for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake for about 30 minutes or until puffed and golden brown.

Makes one bread

Passover Spinach Pie

_DSC8890 2.jpg

I can't imagine Passover without this dish. Spinach pie which, during the year I top with buttered phyllo sheets and sometimes with puff pastry, depending on the occasion.

On Passover it gets a matzo crust -- like this one, ready for the oven.

It's a versatile dish too. You can make it plain or add mushrooms or make it with cheese. You can also switch to kale or other greens if you prefer.

Nice for a meatless dinner too.

 

SPINACH PIE with MATZO CRUST

  • 2 10-ounce packages frozen whole leaf spinach, thawed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cups cut up mushrooms, optional
  • 8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled, optional
  • 6 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese, optional
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 sheets matzo

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Squeeze as much water out of the spinach as possible and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 2-3 minutes or until slightly softened. Add the mushrooms, if used, and cook, stirring often, for another 2-3 minutes or until the mushrooms are softened. Stir in the spinach and mix well. Remove the pan from the heat. For dairy, add the feta and Parmesan cheeses and mix them in. Add 3 of the eggs, the dill, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well and place in a baking dish. Soak the matzo in cold water to cover for 1-2 minutes or until softened but not mushy. Shake off excess water. Place the matzo on top of the spinach mixture. Beat the remaining egg and brush over the top of the matzot. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes 4-8 servings (as main course or side dish)

Passover Butter Cookies

fullsizeoutput_8136.jpeg

As far as I know, my father's Aunt Fanny didn't have any child named after her, but, in keeping with our Ashkenazi tradition, she does have something that bears her name: the family recipe for butter cookies.

We call them Fannies, because these butter cookies were her creation and somehow calling them Fanny's just didn't seem right to anyone but the English majors in our lives.

I have made these cookies so often I can mix the dough and shape them without even looking at what I'm doing. My kids make them. My grandkids even make them. 

Fannies are the ultimate butter cookie. You need look no further to find a better one.

But of course, not during Passover.

Which got me to thinking that -- this recipe is so good, why not try a Passover version?

After a few tries -- voila!

Thank you Aunt Fanny. I named them after you too.

 

aunt fanny's Passover Butter Cookies -- Passover Fannies

  • 1 cup matzo cake meal
  • 1/2 cup ground toasted almonds
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 15 tablespoons unsalted butter, slightly softened, cut into chunks
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • chocolate chips (about 50) (or use lekvar)

Place the matzo cake meal, ground almonds, sugar and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer and mix on low speed for about a minute until the ingredients are evenly combined. Add the butter and mix on medium speed for about 3 minutes. The mixture will be crumbly. Add the egg yolks and vanilla extract and mix for another minute or so until a soft, uniform dough forms. Place the dough in the refrigerator for 30-40 minutes or until somewhat chilled and slightly firmer. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Take small chunks of dough and shape into balls about one-inch in diameter. Flatten the balls in the palm of your hands into disks that are about 1/4-inch thick. Place the flattened balls on ungreased cookie sheets, leaving some space between each cookie (they will spread slightly). Place a chocolate chip in the center of each dough disk (they hold better if you place the chips upside down). Bake for 10-2 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes about 50.

Note: if you use lekvar, make a thumbprint in the center of each cookie and fill the hollow with a small amount of apricot or prune lekvar