Break-the-Fast

Chick Pea and Carrot Salad

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Of course, of course we will be slicing apples and dipping them in honey on Rosh Hashanah. (which begins at sunset on September 29th).

But chickpeas are on the menu too. In his Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, the late rabbi and food authority Gil Marks wrote that “chickpeas are a traditional Rosh Hashanah food, a symbol of fertility, abundance and a wish for a well-rounded year to come.”

I usually make chickpeas into hummus, but sometimes I serve them whole, as a snack, roasted, the way my mother made them when I was growing up – a recipe called nahit. She coated the chickpeas with vegetable oil, sprinkled them with salt and paprika and baked them until crispy.

I changed her recipe somewhat -- I use olive oil, kosher salt and fresh thyme, or sometimes za’atar, as seasonings. Nahit is a delicious snack and a healthy one too: chickpeas are a good source of protein, minerals (including calcium) and fiber.

For this coming holiday though I’ll be making a chickpea and carrot salad to serve with dinner. Carrots are another symbolic ingredient of the holiday, so this recipe is a double-up of special ingredients of festive food for the holiday table. It’s a dish that can be made in advance, which makes it a good choice at such a busy time. And it is colorful too, fit for any celebration, including Break-the-Fast. 

Chick Pea and Carrot Salad

  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas

  • 4 medium carrots, sliced thin

  • 1/2 chopped red onion

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice

  • salt to taste

Rinse the chickpeas under cold running water; let drain and place in a bowl. Add the carrots, onion, parsley, mint, cumin and cayenne pepper and toss to distribute the ingredients evenly. Pour in the olive oil and lemon juice. Toss to coat the ingredients evenly. Taste for seasoning and add salt to taste.

Makes 6 servings

Chocolate Oat Bars

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Back in the day — when I was a kid, that is — my brother and I walked home from school at 3:00 and knew it was our responsibility to practice the piano (our teacher required an hour a day), do our homework and get dinner ready.

Ours was a working Mom; she taught us how to set the table; she prepared the food and we put it in the oven at the appropriate time.

She was responsible for making sure there were cookies and milk when we got home — to feast on before said chores and stuff.

Sometimes she left us store-bought cookies. I have memories of fig bars, Hydrox and shortbread.

But mostly she baked. Butter cookies. Peanut butter cookies. Oatmeal-Raisin.

By the time I had my own children, life was very different. They took a school bus home and walked down the hill to our house. I was a working Mom, but my job as a food writer meant I worked at home.

I didn’t usually give them cookies and milk. Food styles had changed, so snacktime meant granola bars or those peanut-butter filled cheese crackers (I bought those because I mistakenly thought they were healthy). Sometimes a frozen burrito.

Looking back — I really like the milk and cookies thing. I miss those days. I miss the milk and cookies. Especially the dunking of cookies in the milk and then trying to bite off a soft milk-drenched piece before it fell into the bottom of the glass.

Cookies really are much better than frozen burritos and peanut-butter filled cheese crackers.

So, for all the parents of all the kids who are coming home from school now that the new term has begun — here are some cookies to consider for snacktime after school, before the piano practice or homework or whatever they have to do before the day is done.

Chocolate-Oat Bars

Cookie layers:

  • 1 cup butter

  • 2 cups packed brown sugar

  • 2 large eggs

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • 3 cups quick-cooking oats

  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

chocolate layer:

  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk

  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

  • 2 tablespoons butter

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • 1 cup raisins

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 15-inch x 1-inch jelly roll pan.

To make the cookie layers: beat 1 cup of the butter with the brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer set at medium for 2-3 minutes or until smooth and well blended. Add the eggs and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and blend them in thoroughly. Add the oats, flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon. Beat for 1-2 minutes or until the ingredients are evenly distributed. Press about two-thirds of the mixture into the prepared pan.

To make the chocolate layer, place the condensed milk, chocolate, butter and salt in a saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring frequently, for about 2-3 minutes or until the chocolate has melted. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the vanilla extract and raisins. Spread this mixture evenly over the cookie layer. Sprinkle with the remaining cookie crumb mixture. Bake for 20-24 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool and cut into squares.

 Makes about 48

 

 

Zucchini Bread

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When we were first married, Ed promised me 50 years. That was in 1969. We were young and 50 years seemed like a REALLY REALLY long time.

Grandparent stuff.

But here we are. A few months short of 50.

Wasn’t it yesterday that I fit into that long white dress?

We wanted to celebrate with two other couples, all close friends, who are also at 50.

But we didn’t want to have a big party. Not even an intimate dinner party for six. Although those are lovely, it seemed like the same-old, same-old. 50 years deserved something special.

So we decided to have a 150th Anniversary Afternoon Tea.

It was festive, fun and celebratory.

We started with champagne and tea sandwiches.

Then: scones, clotted cream and jams.

Finally, dessert: several kinds of cookies, Lemon Buttermilk Cake, Pumpkin Spice Cake and this: Zucchini Bread, (made with zucchinis from my garden!).

Just us 6. It was a good day.

We all talked about how amazing it is at how quickly 50 years go by.

Zucchini Bread

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda

  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder

  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

  • 3/4 cup brown sugar

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 2 large eggs

  • 1/2 cup applesauce

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 2 cups grated fresh zucchini

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9”x5”x3” loaf pan. Place the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl and whisk the ingredients until they are evenly distributed. Place the brown sugar, sugar, eggs, applesauce and vanilla extract in the bowl of an electric mixer (or use a hand mixer) and beat at medium speed for 2-3 minutes, until thoroughly blended. Add the flour mixture and stir just until blended. Fold in the zucchini. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Invert the muffins onto the rack to cool completely.

Makes one loaf

Chopped Salad with Chick Peas, Feta Cheese and Zatar Vinaigrette

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For us, summer means salad. Not just leafy greens and tomatoes for starters to a meal. We eat bulky filling salads for dinner. Like this chopped salad, which of course could be served with other salads or as a side dish to grilled fish. But it’s also satisfying on its own, just like this. Add a crust bread and some fabulous olive oil for dipping and that’s all you need (except for dessert of course).

Chopped Salad with Chickpeas, Feta Cheese and Zatar Vinaigrette

  • 1 large cucumber, peeled, deseeded, and chopped

  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped

  • 2 large ripe tomatoes, chopped

  • 3–4 scallions, chopped

  • 1 (15-ounce) can chick peas, rinsed and drained

  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese

  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

  • 1/2 cup tangy black olives, pitted and halved

  • 3–4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

  • 1/2 teaspoon zatar

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  • Pita bread or crisps, optional

Place the cucumbers, bell pepper, tomatoes, scallions, chick peas, cheese, parsley, and olives in a bowl and toss ingredients gently. Just before serving, mix together the olive oil, lemon juice, and zatar. Pour over the salad. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Salad tastes good with Pita bread or crisps.

Makes 4 servings.

 

Banana Oat Marble Bread

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So, okay, as usual — the family was here for Mother’s Day. I bought a ton of fruit. All gone.

EXCEPT for a few bananas.

And so: Banana Bread. This one with oats and chocolate. It’s moist and gently sweet. Could do as dessert or just with some coffee as a snack. A little nosh.

Freezable too.

Banana Oat Marble Bread

  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate

  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 cup quick oats

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 3/4 cup sugar

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil

  • 2 large eggs

  • 3 medium very ripe bananas

  • 1/4 cup fruit juice such as mango, orange or apple

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9”x5”x3” loaf pan.

Melt the chocolate and set it aside. Mix the flour, oats, baking powder, cinnamon 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 light and fluffy. 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. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Spoon the melted chocolate on top and use a knife to swirl the chocolate into the banana batter. Bake for 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

Roasted Vegetable Galette

Roasted Vegetable Galette

Roasted Vegetable Galette

Everyone who knows me or has read a few Mother’s Day posts on my blog knows we don’t celebrate the usual way. We don’t go out to a restaurant or club.

We stay home and have a cookoff.

Yes, we cook and it’s work and a mess but we have the best time ever. Everyone participates (except that some years I am just in charge of the beverages).

We choose a theme, form into teams and each team chooses a recipe. I buy the ingredients a couple of days before and then, on Sunday, my two daughters, their husbands, my husband and my grandkids all get cooking.

Last year our theme was dips. I prepared a tropical salsa.

One year it was chocolate chip cookies.

We’ve done tomato sauce, eggs and so on.

This year we decided on PIE. Each team will make some sort of pie.

There are no rules. They interpret the word (pie) however they wish.

So — apple pie? Sure!

Pizza pie? Of course!

Pot pie? Yes!

The only limit: this will be a vegetarian/dairy meal. So, no beef pot pie.

But — quiche? Why not — it’s a type of open face pie, right?

How about a potato/olive/onion empanada? YUM!

Cabbage pastie? ok!

I am thinking of this though: roasted vegetable galette. I make it with pie dough so it qualifies, doesn’t it?

A good Meatless Monday (or any other day) choice.

 

Roasted Vegetable Galette

  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives or scallion tops

  • 6 tablespoons butter, cut into chunks

  • 2 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening

  • 3-4 tablespoons milk

  • 2 medium yellow squash, sliced

  • 4-5 plum tomatoes, sliced

  • 1 large Portobello mushroom, sliced

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil

  • salt to taste

  • 1 bunch spinach, washed and dried

  • 2 tablespoons chopped basil

  • 1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded Mozzarella cheese

  • 2-3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

  • 1 egg, beaten, optional

For the crust: mix the flour, salt and chives together in a bowl or food processor. Add the butter and shortening and cut the fat into the flour mixture with your hands or a pastry blender or by processing on pulse until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Gradually add 3 tablespoons milk and mix to form a soft dough, adding more milk as needed. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap and let rest in the refrigerator for at least one hour. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll the dough on a lightly floured board into a circle about 12-13 inches in diameter (about 1/8-inch thick) and transfer the circle to the prepared baking sheet.

For the filling: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the squash, tomato and Portobello slices on the baking sheet and brush on both sides with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Roast for 20-22 minutes or until tender. Remove from the oven. Heat the remaining tablespoon olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the spinach and cook for 2-3 minutes until softened. Drain any liquid, chop the spinach coarsely and set aside.

Reduce the oven heat to 400 degrees. Scatter the circle of dough with 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese, leaving a border of about 1-1/2 inches. Mix the vegetables together with the basil and place over the cheese. Scatter the remaining mozzarella cheese and the Parmesan cheese on top. Fold the dough over the vegetables but not completely; leave the center open, with 7-8 inches of the vegetables showing. Pleat the dough at the edge to give the galette a rustic look. Beat the egg and brush it onto the dough for a glazed look, if desired. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.

Makes 8 servings

Applesauce Yogurt Coffee Cake with Oat Streusel

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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

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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

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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