kosher

Chocolate-Banana-Applesauce Cake

fullsizeoutput_97d5.jpeg

When I was a kid my mother sometimes made macaroni-and-cheese using somewhat older, hard-around-the-edges American cheese that didn’t look fit to eat. I thought it was appalling.

But she told me that these cheese wasn’t spoiled, just hard because maybe it wasn’t wrapped quite so well, and that in any event she would never make any dish for us using an ingredient that could be harmful.

Of course.

And also, why waste perfectly good cheese that’s going to melt anyway. So if it isn’t perfect to eat cold, as is, it is perfectly fine for macaroni and cheese.

And it was. She made delicious macaroni and cheese.

My children are appalled if I use an ingredient that’s past its sell-by/expiration date. I feel the same way my mother did. I would never use an ingredient that is spoiled or harmful. But some of those expiration dates are meant more as a “use them soon because the flavor or texture won’t be perfect” than “do not eat this EVER!”

So recently, I noticed that in addition to some fresh bananas turned black-spotty, my snack packages of applesauce were a month beyond their expiration date. Rather than give the applesauce to my grandkids and have my daughters feel appalled, I used it in chocolate cake, in the place of eggs.

Not only was I able to use up a perfectly good ingredient, the cake was delicious and also a good vegan choice.

So there.

Chocolate-Banana-Applesauce Cake

  • 3 ounces semisweet chocolate

  • 1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 2 medium ripe bananas

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 1/2 cup applesauce

  • 1/3 cup apple juice (or orange juice)

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8”x8” cake pan. Melt the chocolate and set it aside to cool. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Set the flour mixture aside. Mash the bananas and place them in the bowl of an electric mixer (or use a hand mixer and bowl). Add the sugar and mix at medium speed for a minute, or until well blended. Add the applesauce, juice, vanilla extract and melted chocolate and beat for 1-2 minutes, or until thoroughly blended. Add the flour mixture and beat for 1-2 minutes, or until throughly blended. Spoon the batter into the prepared cake pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Makes 9 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.

Baked Apples with Date Honey

fullsizeoutput_86c8.jpeg

If you've never tried date honey, you've been missing something delicious in your life. I've been using it for years in all sorts of dishes from Rosh Hashanah Honey Cake to the Thanksgiving sweet potatoes.

It isn't bee honey. Date honey (known as Silan) is a syrup made from dates. It's thick and sweet like honey, but bee honey has more hints of spice, nuts or flowers, date honey is richer and more mellow.

I have tried several brands and like Date Lady* because of its smooth texture. Last summer, at the Fancy Food show I tasted the company's new California Date Syrup and absolutely loved it. The California syrup has a buttery taste, while the classic middle eastern variety is more molasses-y. Both are wonderful but I preferred the California syrup for delicate dishes such as baked apples and the bolder syrup for breads, cakes and muffins.

The California syrup works perfectly for baked apples, one of our traditional Rosh Hashanah desserts.

*I was not paid for this post. I just happen to love this product.

Baked Apples with Date Honey

  • 4 baking apples
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup diced dried figs
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh orange peel
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup date honey
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons sugar, optional

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Wash the apples and remove the core with an apple corer or small knife, leaving about 1/2" on the bottom.  Peel the apples halfway down from the top and place them in a baking dish. Mix the raisins, dates, orange peel, cinnamon, nutmeg and date honey. Stuff this mixture into the apple hollows. Mix the juice and water (plus extra sugar if desired) and pour over the apples. Bake for 45 minutes, basting occasionally with the pan juices, or until the apples are tender. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 4 servings

 

 

 

 

 

Roasted Salmon with Chive Flowers

fullsizeoutput_9087.jpeg

On a recent trip to an Asian supermarket in Queens, New York, I bought a lot of interesting vegetables. Greens -- Chinese broccoli, bok choy, yau choy and cabbage -- and some herbs, including chive flowers (pictured above). 

Chive flowers are just like ordinary chives, except they've been allowed to mature and produce an actual flower. As a result, they are thicker and have a somewhat bolder flavor than regular chives.

I used them to season salmon one night. This dish couldn't be simpler. Takes about 5 minutes to prepare and 15 minutes to cook.

How easy is that!

Roasted Salmon with Chive Flowers

  • 24-32 ounces salmon
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Place the salmon in a baking dish. Mix the mustard, olive oil and garlic together in a small bowl and spread this mixture evenly on top of the fish. Sprinkle with the chives, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Roast for about 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish, or until the fish is cooked to desired doneness and the top is crispy-browned. 

Makes 4 servings

Tahini Turmeric and Mjadra

WILD RICE MJADRA_PHOTO.png
9780738220109.jpg

I have made mjadra (mujadara) so often I can't even count the ways. It's a family favorite that I serve on special occasions (the #1 item at my Yom Kippur Break-the-Fast), at somber times (the Nine Days), for holidays (my Thanksgiving vegetarian entree) and sometimes just for any old meatless meal. 

I've made mujadara using bulgur wheat and brown rice, barley and kaniwa

But I never made it with wild rice or with white rice. In fact, I hadn't even thought about that possibility until I got Vicky Cohen and Ruth Fox's new cookbook: tahini & turmeric; 101 Middle Eastern Classics Made Irresistibly Vegan.

This is one gorgeous book, stuffed with recipes that anyone who loves good food, or who is kosher or a vegetarian or even a hearty carnivore and even a vegan-skeptic would find -- yes -- irresistible.

There were (still are) so many recipes I want to try. I've followed Vicky and Ruth's blog for years and have cooked many of the dishes in their posts, every one of them a winner.

But when I saw the recipe for Mjadra, I knew that had to be the first from the book.

It was as delicious as any version of this dish I have ever tried. The addition of pomegranate molasses to the onions gave the dish a faint, lush tang. The authors suggest one of two sauces to accompany the grains. I prepared the (vegan) Cucumber Yogurt Sauce (which is also paired in the book with Zucchini Fritters -- a delicious-sounding recipe that I will try next to see how the taste compares with my own, non-vegan version).

Every recipe sounds and looks tempting. Over the summer I will try my hand at the Tangy Roasted Carrot Hummus -- a quick and easy hors d'oeuvre for the company I am sure to have. And because I love all versions of Shakshuka, I will definitely try the interesting Chickpea and Pepper Shashuka -- with rounds of polenta taking the place of the traditional eggs! (It's the recipe on the book cover.) Before the High Holidays I am going to try the spectacular-sounding Creamy Tahini Cheesecake with Pistachio Crust and Fresh Pomegranate. 

I could go on and on. I rarely post about cookbooks, but this one is special, and comes in handy particularly this week, when the Nine Days begin and observant Jews will be eating meatless meals. 

Good luck with the book Vicky and Ruth!

WILD RICE MJADRA

Our take on this classic Middle Eastern dish incorporates wild rice and sautéed on-ions, as opposed to fried, for a healthier version. We also cook the rice, lentils, and onions separately, and then mix them together right before serving. This is a fool-proof method to prevent the mjadra from becoming mushy.

Traditionally, this dish is served topped with a cucumber yogurt sauce, which we made using nondairy yogurt (see Zucchini Fritters with Cucumber Yogurt Sauce, page 26). While we were growing up, our dad always ate it with his favorite Spicy Israeli Salsa (page 62), made with freshly picked tomatoes and cucumbers from his garden.

Store in the refrigerator for up to four days.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 50 minutes

Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

WILD RICE:

½ cup uncooked wild rice

½ teaspoon salt

LENTILS:

1 cup dried French green lentils,

picked over and rinsed well

½ teaspoon salt

WHITE RICE:

1 cup uncooked basmati rice

1 teaspoon salt

SAUTÉED ONIONS:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large onion, sliced

¼ teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses

            (see page 132 for homemade)

Cucumber Yogurt Sauce (page 26) or Spicy Israeli Salsa (page 62), to serve

Prepare the wild rice: Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium-size saucepan over high heat. Add the wild rice and salt. Bring again to a boil, lower the heat to low, and simmer, covered, for 40 to 45 minutes, or until tender. Remove from the heat, drain well, and set aside.

Prepare the lentils: Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add the lentils and salt. Lower the heat to medium and cook, uncovered, for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the lentils are soft but not mushy. Remove from the heat, drain well, and set aside.

Prepare the basmati rice: In a medium-size saucepan, bring 1½ cups of water to a boil in a separate medium-size saucepan over high heat. Add the basmati rice and salt. Return to a boil, lower the heat to low, and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes, until the water has been absorbed and the rice is tender. Remove from the heat and set aside, covered.

Prepare the onion: Heat the olive oil in a large, nonstick skillet. Add the sliced onion, salt, and pepper, and cook over high heat for 5 minutes, stirring often. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook for 15 minutes. Add the pomegranate molasses and continue to cook for another 5 minutes, or until the onion turns dark golden brown.

Assemble the mjadra: Combine the cooked wild and basmati rice, the cooked lentils, and the onion in a large bowl, and toss well. Serve warm, topped with Cucumber Yogurt Sauce or Spicy Israeli Salsa.

Referenced recipes:

CUCUMBER YOGURT SAUCE:

½ cup plain unsweetened coconut or CASHEW YOGURT

1½ teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

¼ teaspoon salt

1 small cucumber, peeled and cut into small dice

SPICY ISRAELI SALSA:

1 pound assorted colored tomatoes, diced small

5 to 6 Persian cucumbers, diced small

2 to 3 jalapeño peppers, diced small

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

¼ to ½ teaspoon salt

HOMEMADE POMEGRANATE MOLASSES:

6 cups pomegranate juice

1 cup sugar

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Combine all the ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the temperature to a low boil and cook, uncovered, for 2 hours, or until the liquid has reduced to about one third. Keep an eye on it, so it doesn’t overflow.

Remove from the heat, let cool, and transfer to a glass jar with a tight lid. The molasses will thicken once cooled.

Store in the refrigerator for up to six months.


Excerpted from Tahini and Turmeric: 101 Middle Eastern Classics—Made Irresistibly Vegan by Ruth Fox and Vicky Cohen. Copyright © 2018. Available from Da Capo Lifelong Books, an imprint of Perseus Books, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

Baked Beans. Real American Food for the 4th.

fullsizeoutput_924f.jpeg

I was thinking about which "real American" foods to serve on July 4th. Not just the usual icons: burgers, apple pie, lemonade. I wanted something that represented the "mongrels" that we are: Americans may be tribal in some ways, but we are also an odd mix-and-blend of a zillion cultures.

And so is American food.

For example, some say that Baked Beans are originally from France -- some sort of easy version of cassoulet. But the countries where they eat baked beans the most are English speaking: England, Ireland, Canada and Australia.

And yet ... baked beans are also a favorite in Holland and Hong Kong.

And of course beans themselves are native to South America, so who knows?

The original Puritan colonists in New England made baked beans often and for the same reason as observant Jews make cholent -- the dish cooks slowly in a pot so there's no work to be done during the Sabbath. Baked beans have been popular ever since, and particularly so after the canned versions first came along at the turn of the 20th century. 

Green labelled Heinz Vegetarian baked beans were a standard item at my house when I was a kid.

So, baked beans it is.

I like making my own because when they're homemade I can season the beans the way I like, make them spicy or not, use more or less sugar (or sugar substitutes such as honey or maple syrup), make them vegetarian or with meat.

I recently had a couple of slices of flanken left over, so I decided to use them in a new recipe.

My husband usually likes my cooking and there are some dishes he thinks are so good he brags to people about them. Like my recipe for Carrot Soup with Harissa and Coconut.

These beans? He told me several times that they are among the best foods he has ever tasted. In fact, one night he only had baked beans (and a few of the chunks of flanken in them) for dinner. 

So, this recipe is a yes for July 4th.

Baked beans take time. But you can make them several days ahead. They last for a week in the fridge. If you don't have flanken you can use chuck, smoked turkey or some kind of sausage.

 

Baked Beans for the Fourth of July

  • 1 pound dried navy or great northern beans
  • water
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 6-8 ounces beef chuck or flanken , cut into chunks
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon powdered mustard

Place the beans in a large saucepan and cover them with water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat and cook for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the beans soak for one hour. Drain the beans and return them to the pot. Cover the beans again with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat and simmer for 45 minutes. (Alternatively, cover the beans with water and let them soak for at least 8 hours.) Drain the beans and place them in an oven-proof casserole. While the beans are cooking, heat the vegetable oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the meat and cook for 5-6 minutes, turning the pieces occasionally, until they are browned. Remove the meat from the pan and add to the beans. Add the onion to the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes to soften. Add to the drained beans and meat. Place the brown sugar, honey, ketchup, salt and mustard in a bowl and mix thoroughly to blend the ingredients. Stir in 2-1/2 cups water. Pour the mixture over the beans and meat. Cover the casserole and put it in the oven. Set the temperature at 300 degrees and cook the beans at least 5 hours, or until they are tender.

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

Banana Crunch Cake

fullsizeoutput_89cd.jpeg

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

fullsizeoutput_8a59.jpeg

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