brunch

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.

Banana Bread with Cherries

fullsizeoutput_9095.jpeg

This summer's cherries have been especially delicious. I've been buying (and eating) tons of them.

So, when I had to think of what to do with the usual leftover bananas, I decided to use some in a new version of Banana Bread. I also added some orange (peel and juice) -- just a hint to bring out the best in both of the fruits.

Pitting cherries can be a real drag. But there's an easy way to do it and you don't even have to buy a cherry pitter. Look here.

Banana BREAD with cherries

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh orange peel
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 medium very ripe bananas
  • 1/3 cup orange juice 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup cut up fresh cherries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9”x5”x3” loaf pan. Mix the flour, orange peel, baking soda, baking powder 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 well blended. 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. Fold in the cherries. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 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

Sweet Soaked Summer Fruit

fullsizeoutput_92ad.jpeg

A few years ago I learned how to make khoshaf, a Muslim (primarily Egyptian) version of compote -- what my grandma called "kumput," (which she made by cooking dried prunes and apricots with sugar, lemon and cinnamon). Kumput was delicious, but sometimes a bit mushy.

Khoshaf isn't cooked -- you pour simmering, seasoned, sweet syrup over the dried fruit and let it macerate for a while. The fruit becomes tender but never gets soggy.

The khoshaf was such a success that I never went back to "kumput."

So, I figured that the soaking/macerating method would work on fresh fruit too.

I was right.

This simple dish -- cut up fruit steeped in a seasoned, sweetened syrup -- is the perfect ending to a meal on a hot summer day, especially when you want a dairy-free dessert. Of course you could always top the fruit with ice cream or whipped cream. But sorbet would be fine too.

I like it plain, as-is, with a small amount of boiled-down, thickened syrup.

 

SOAKED SUMMER FRUIT

  • 2 pounds stone fruit (peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots), approximately
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 vanilla bean, broken
  • 2 orange slices, about 1/4-inch thick
  • 4-5 slices crystallized ginger

Cut the fruit in half and remove the pits. Cut the fruit into bite-size chunks and place in a dish deep enough to hold the pieces plus liquid. In a saucepan, combine the water, honey, vanilla bean, orange slices and crystallized ginger and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Pour the contents of the saucepan through a strainer over the fruit. Let soak for at least 2 hours. Serve as-is or strain the fluids, boil the fluids for 6-8 minutes or until thickened, and pour over the fruit (or let cool first).

Makes 8 servings

 

 

Cream of Asparagus Soup

fullsizeoutput_8f13.jpeg

I know asparagus are available all year, but they have the most depth of flavor right now, when you can get the local ones that taste like springtime. Like asparagus are supposed to taste.

On the other hand, although I would suggest making this soup now, it's good any old time because its very simplicity gets the most out of the asparagus taste.

The dish is versatile too: make it dairy or dairy-free (see the recipe options).

And easy: 8 ingredients including salt, pepper and garnish.

Makes a lovely first course for summer dinner.

Cream of Asparagus Soup

  • 2 pounds asparagus
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, butter or a mixture of olive oil and butter
  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 1/4 cup white rice or a small, chopped all-purpose potato
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 13/ to 1/2 cup cream or coconut milk
  • chopped chives, scallions or Aleppo pepper for garnish

Wash the asparagus and chop the spears into chunks. Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the shallot and asparagus and saute for 1-2 minutes to soften the vegetables slightly and coat them with oil. Stir in the rice, pour in the vegetable stock and season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and cover the pan. Cook for about 25 minutes or until the vegetables are soft. Puree the ingredients in a blender or with an immersion blender. Stir in the cream, reheat and serve garnished with chives, scallions or a sprinkle of Aleppo pepper.

NOTE: this may be served chilled OR hot.

Makes 4-6 servings

White Asparagus with Tomato Vinaigrette

fullsizeoutput_9071.jpeg

Among the delicious foods I feasted on on our recent trip to Eastern Europe were these: white asparagus, which is in season NOW. In the U.S. too. 

I found these beautiful spears at Fairway and prepared them exactly as I had them for dinner one night in Vienna.

Yes, these were dinner.

Ok, ok, I had a few rolls with a lot of butter too.

And strudel with schlag for dessert.

If you've never tasted white asparagus, you are in for a treat. They are milder and sweeter than the green ones and take a few minutes longer to cook because they are usually thicker. But, if you can't find these, use regular green asparagus (adjust cooking time depending on thickness of the spears).

 

White Asparagus with Tomato Vinaigrette

  • 1 pound white asparagus
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 small tomato, chopped
  • 1 hard cooked egg yolk, sieved or mashed
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Remove the fibrous bottoms of each asparagus spear. Poach the asparagus in lightly salted water for 8-10 minutes, depending on thickness, or until tender. Drain under cold water and set aside in a serving dish. Whisk the olive oil and wine vinegar together until well blended. Add the tomato and egg yolk, stir and pour over the asparagus. Toss to coat every spear. Sprinkle with parsley, salt and pepper. Let rest for at least 15 minutes before serving. 

Makes 4 servings

Zucchini Pancakes

fullsizeoutput_898b.jpeg

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

 

 

Kedgeree with Salmon

fullsizeoutput_8834.jpeg
IMG_0018.jpg

My cousin has all sorts of fabulous and interesting eating and serving utensils. She is the only American woman I know who has a set of kedgeree forks.

She and her husband, world-travelers that they are, pick up things here and there and once, while in Scotland, they happened into an antique store and saw the unusual piece in the second photo. 

Now, these two people are not dolts! They know a sardine fork from a herring fork. But they had no idea what this thing was.

The proprietor told them it was a kedgeree fork.

They didn't know what that was either, but learned that it is a Scottish/British dish, basically rice with fish (usually smoked haddock) and seasoned with curry. An old import from India (dating back to "the Raj") and now a standard item throughout the U.K.

Apparently, the original Indian dish (called khichri) was a hodgepodge of cumin-scented rice and lentils (sounds very much like Middle Eastern mujadarah), sometimes with vegetables mixed in. The British added fish and hard cooked eggs and that's the way it's served today. Mrs. Patmore made it for the Crawleys in Downton Abbey and served it to them on a silver, dome-covered tray for breakfast.

Recently I decided to make kedgeree. It was all because I had a lot of salmon leftover from dinner. OK, I know salmon isn't exactly smoked haddock or even close in taste, but so what! I made Salmon Kedgeree. It made a terrific leftovers dinner and I ate the rest for breakfast the next two days (alas, no sterling silver serving utensils, no kedgeree forks and no person to serve it to me).

I've never tasted kedgeree so I have no idea if what I made was the way it's supposed to taste. All I can say is: it was absolutely delicious and I wish I had more and will make this again. 

Salmon Kedgeree

  • 1 cup white rice
  • 1-3/4 cups water
  • 2-3 large eggs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom (or 4 whole cardamom pods)
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped (or 1 cup cut up cherry tomatoes)
  • 2 cups cooked leftover salmon (or smoked haddock)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Place the rice in a saucepan, cover with the water and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil for one minute, stir with a fork, turn the heat to low, cover the pan and cook for 18 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed. Set the pan aside off heat. Cook the eggs and bay leaf in simmering water for about 10 minutes, or until cooked through. Peel, cut into quarters and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 2-3 minutes or until softened. Add the curry powder, salt and cardamom, cover the pan and cook for 5-6 minutes or until the pieces are golden. Add the tomato and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Remove the bay leaf from the rice and add the rice to the pan. Stir to distribute the ingredients evenly. Add the salmon and lemon juice and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the ingredients are hot. Spoon into a serving bowl. Place the quartered eggs on top. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Makes 4 servings

Cherry Muffins

fullsizeoutput_87d4.jpeg

Today is George Washington's actual birthday (also my grandmother's) and when I was a kid, we used to celebrate on this day. It was always when we ate something with cherries because, well, as far as Washington was concerned, everyone knows the story about the cherry tree and all. And also my grandma loved cherry-vanilla ice cream.

I just happened to have a jar of cherries in the house so I figured I'd make something with it to wish happy birthday to my grandmother and also our first president.

These muffins.

Fortunately Purim is only a few days away, so I can give them away for mishloach manot. Otherwise I might eat all of them and that wouldn't be very good.

 

Cherry Muffins

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1- 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt or dairy sour cream or buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup fruit juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped fresh cherries

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease 12 muffin tins. Melt the butter and set it aside to cool. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and lemon peel in a large bowl. In another bowl, mix the eggs, melted, cooled butter, yogurt, juice and vanilla extract. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ones and mix to combine ingredients. Fold in the cherries. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Makes 12