Shabbat

Matbucha

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Spring has sprung and for me, that means more salad.

So I got to thinking about that word salad, which I realize means so many things that I was never able to fit all of my salad recipes into a file folder simply marked “salad.” I had to sub-categorize them into files such as “grain salads,” “tomato salads,” “fruit salads” and so on.

Over the years I’ve made salads of all sorts. Some based mostly on greens and some that had no greens at all.

I’ve made beet salads, dinner salads, fish salads and quinoa salads.

I could go on. But really, there is no one way to describe “salad,” even though a dictionary might say something like “a mixture or raw and cooked vegetables served with dressing.”

No.

Because recently I prepared some Matbucha, which is in an entirely different salad category.

Matbucha is a “salade cuit” — that is, “cooked salad.” In fact the word Matbucha, is an Arabic word that means “cooked salad".”

Cooked salad may seem odd to Western thinking except for the fact that most of us actually eat lots of cooked salads, such as potato salad and egg salad too. We just don’t think of them as “cooked salads,” but that’s what they are.

Matbucha is a Moroccan dish, especially popular in the Moroccan Jewish community, which was once large and thriving in North Africa. When good numbers of Moroccan Jews migrated to Israel, they brought their love of this dish with them and it is now wildly popular in Israel too.

For good reason: Matbucha is vibrantly tasty, easy to cook and is ideal for Shabbat because, even though it’s cooked, you can serve it at room temperature. Use it as a salad course or as a side dish with dinner. I’ve always served it with hors d’oeuvre, as a topping for crackers or pita wedges (it works well with other Middle Eastern nibbles and dips such as hummus, raheb, baba ghanoush and so on).

You can make Matbucha 3-4 days ahead. That’s handy isn’t it?

Matbucha

  • 2 large red bell peppers

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 serrano pepper, deseeded and chopped

  • 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped

  • 6 medium tomatoes peeled and finely chopped

  • 1-1/2 teaspoons paprika

  • 1 teaspoon sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste

Preheat the broiler. Place the peppers under the broiler, about 4-6" away from the heat, and broil for 2-3 minutes, until the skin has blistered. Turn the peppers and repeat this process until the entire surface is blistered and lightly charred. Remove the peppers and place them in a paper bag. Let rest at least 10 minutes. Remove the peppers from the bag, peel off the skin and discard the stem and the seeds. Cut the peppers into pieces. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the peppers, serrano pepper and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, paprika, sugar and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cook for 30-35 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the mixture is thick.

 Makes 1-1/2 to 2 cups

 

Banana Bread with Raisins and Almonds

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Whenever I bake with raisins and almonds, I am reminded of the old Yiddish lullaby “Roshinkes mit Mandlen,” sung by so many Jewish bubbes to so many babies over so many decades. It’s a lovely song about a goat going to market while an infant sleeps in his young mother’s arms. I remember my parents playing a recording of it sung by Jan Peerce, who at one time was a famous opera tenor. The lullabye is so enchanting, I once made a challah-type yeast bread that included raisins and almonds (in Germany it is known as Hefezopf) and called it Lullabye Bread.

But the other day I had too many bananas. Again. And so I made banana bread with roshinkes und mandlen.

Perfect any time you need a lightly sweet snack. Fitting for Tu B’shevat (which begins at sunset on January 20, 2019).

If you’d like to hear the one and only Jan Peerce singing the lullaby, click here.

Banana Bread with Raisins and Almonds

 

  • 2-1/2 cups flour

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh orange peel

  • 3 large eggs

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 4 very ripe bananas, mashed

  • 1 cup buttermilk

  • 1/2 cup raisins

  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a (10-inch) 8-cup bundt pan. Mix the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and orange peel together in a bowl and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the eggs and sugar at medium speed until thoroughly combined and thick. Add the vegetable oil and vanilla extract and beat the ingredients until thoroughly combined. Add the bananas and buttermilk and beat the ingredients until thoroughly combined. Fold in the raisins and almonds. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about one hour or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove to a cake rack to cool completely.

Makes one bread, serving 12-16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plum Streusel Cake

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Even though it happens every year, somehow I am always sort of surprised that the Jewish holidays come in such a jumble. We celebrate one holiday on top of another and are busier than ever, observing and celebrating.

Not to mention — LOTS of food. 

I don't want to even count the calories.

And there's still Sukkot to come. 

This year I didn't make my usual Plum Torte for Rosh Hashanah. I needed a change of some of my menu items.

But I still can't resist those once a year Italian-style prune plums (President/Empress plums), so I decided to use them for this Plum Streusel Cake. It turned out to be one of my favorites during the holiday.

If you are still looking for a fabulous dessert for Sukkot -- try this one. Btw, you can make this with any variety of plum. But plum season is almost over, so do take advantage while you can.

 

Plum Streusel Cake

Streusel:

  • 1/4 pound unsalted butter

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar

  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Melt the butter and set it aside to cool. Place the sugar, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl and mix until well blended. Pour in the butter and blend it in. Let stand for 4-5 minutes, then crumble the mixture using your fingers. Set aside.

Cake:

  • 1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 1 tablespoon baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon peel

  • 2 large eggs

  • 1 cup milk

  • 6-8 Empress plums, sliced, pit removed (President plums, 10-12 Italian prune plums)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Make the streusel and set it aside. Lightly grease a 9-inch springform pan. Melt the butter and set it aside to cool. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and lemon peel in the bowl of an electric mixer. In another bowl, combine the eggs, milk and melted butter. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ones and stir only to combine: do not overbeat. Turn the batter into the prepared cake pan. Top with the plum slices. Cover with the streusel. Bake for about 45 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove the outer ring from the pan and let the cake cool completely.

Makes one cake serving 8

Sweet Soaked Summer Fruit

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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

 

 

Roasted Salmon with Chive Flowers

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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

Baked Beans. Real American Food for the 4th.

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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

Chicken with Figs and Grapes

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Tu B'Shevat may not be the most well-known Jewish holiday but it always conjures up good thoughts and fond memories for me.

First: it was when my parents gave money to plant trees in Israel.

Second: it was when my Mom would buy dried figs that came in a wreath of sorts, the figs tied together with string, and I ate at least half of them.

Third: it was when my Mom made her famous Date-Nut Bread.

And more: spring is coming soon!

And finally: it is one delicious holiday, featuring foods that include lots of fruits and vegetables. 

So, this year, to celebrate I am making this chicken dish, which includes figs and grapes, and served on cooked, fluffy bulgur wheat.

 

Chicken With Figs and Grapes

  • 1-3/4 cups apple cider
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 6 bone-in pieces of chicken
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh ginger
  • 1/2 cup diced dried figs
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (or use 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup halved fresh grapes
  • chopped fresh mint
  • cooked bulgur wheat, optional

Boil the cider for about 5 minutes or until it has reduced to 3/4 cup.  Heat the vegetable oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until lightly browned, turning the pieces occasionally. Remove the chicken pieces and set them aside on a plate. Add the shallot, ginger and diced figs to the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes over low-medium heat. Return the chicken to the pan. Sprinkle the ingredients with curry powder, Aleppo pepper and salt and black pepper to taste. Pour in the reduced cider. Turn the pieces of chicken to coat all sides with the pan ingredients. Cover the pan, turn the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. Add the grapes and cook for an additional 10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Sprinkle with chopped fresh mint. Serve on a bed of cooked bulgur wheat if desired.

Makes 4-6 servings

 

 

Short Ribs with Barbecue Gravy

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Lots of people find January a big disappointment. It can be cold and dreary and sometimes seems like a letdown after months of holidays and celebrating.

But the food is good.

I like to call January cuisine. Filling, nourishing, comforting stuff.

Like short ribs.

 

Short Ribs with Barbecue Sauce

  • 5-6 pounds beef short ribs 
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 medium onions, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped chile pepper
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 stalks celery, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 cup ketchup 
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1 cup beer or ale
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar 
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar 
  • 2-3 thyme sprigs (or 1 teaspoon dried thyme)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Dry the surface of the meat with paper towels. Heat the vegetable oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Working in batches, cook the meat, turning the pieces to brown them, for 4-5 minutes or until lightly browned. (If the oil seems too dark, discard it, wipe the pan and add 2 fresh tablespoons vegetable oil.) Remove the meat and set it aside. Add the onions, garlic, chili pepper, carrots and celery to the pan and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the ketchup. Pour in the stock, beer, cider vinegar and soy sauce and stir the ingredients. Stir in the brown sugar. Return the meat to the pan and spoon some of the sauce over them. Place the thyme sprigs and bay leaf in the liquid. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Bring the liquid to a boil. Lower the heat, cover the pan and cook at a bare simmer for about 4 hours or until the meat is fork tender (or place in the oven at 225 degrees).

Makes 6-8 servings

 

Stuffed Squash with Thanksgiving Leftovers

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Turkey leftovers? 

Sure, there's sandwiches, salad and so on. 

How about a one-pot meal-in-one you can get ready way ahead and pop it into the oven a few days after Thanksgiving? Something tidy, compact, with a profusion of appealing color? That includes so many food groups?

Like this Stuffed Acorn Squash.

Note: you can make the squash and filling ahead separately. These are good hot or at room temperature.

STUFFED ACORN SQUASH

  • 4 small acorn or carnival squash
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped yellow squash 
  • 1-1/2 cups finely chopped cooked turkey
  • 1 cup chopped fresh spinach
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries or raisins
  • 1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional
  • 2 large eggs
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the squash about 1/4 to 1/3 of the way down and remove the cap (you can bake it and serve it for decoration). Scoop out the seeds (you can rinse them off and roast them separately to use as a snack). Wrap the squash in aluminum foil and bake for about 35-45 minutes or until tender. Set aside. Reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees. While the squash is roasting, heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and carrots and cook for 3-4 minutes, to soften them slightly. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the squash, turkey, spinach, cranberries, breadcrumbs, parsley, thyme and cayenne pepper (if used) and toss the ingredients to distribute them evenly. Mix in the eggs and salt and pepper to taste. Spoon equal amounts of the mixture into the baked squash hollows. Bake for about 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes 4 servings

Zucchini Bayildi

Every year, at every Passover Seder, I serve a side dish called Imam Bayildi, which is basically stewed eggplant, leeks and tomatoes, though sometimes I've made it with onions instead of leeks.

Somehow the occasion wouldn't seem right without this traditional dish.

And yet, last year my kids said that maybe it was getting a little boring. One of them doesn't care for eggplant, so -- there was no Imam Bayildi this year. 

But during the week I will serve a kind of "bayildi" (which means "fainted" -- because it tastes so good that the Imam who first tasted it fainted).

This new dish is colorful and chock full of vegetables. It's spring-like and refreshing, so it is perfect for Passover's sometimes heavy meals. But it's also an all-year round dish that goes with any meat, poultry or fish you might serve. Or serve it as part of a vegetarian dinner.

It also takes much less time than the original recipe.

Zucchini “BayIldi”

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 medium leeks, cleaned and sliced
  • 2 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 large zucchini, cut into bite size pieces
  • 3 large tomatoes, chopped (or 10-12 campari tomatoes)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons water

Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the leeks and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes. Add the zucchini and cook for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, parsley, sugar, salt, lemon juice and water. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently, or until all the vegetables are tender. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

Makes 6-8 servings