Eggplant!

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Whenever I teach a class about the culinary traditions of Diaspora jews, my favorite stop is the Balkan countries.

Yes, I love North African  and Middle Eastern cuisines with their spice blends and aromas – how could you not?

But the Balkans for me are about peppers and eggplant, creamy cheeses and flaky pastries. Whenever the flavors of the Mid East combine with the ingredients of the Balkans – I just can’t resist!

 

So on this dreary mid-winter, early spring (depending on whether you are a half full or half empty person) here is a great recipe for Balkan eggplant and pepper dish.

It is extremely versatile: eat on a cracker for a snack or appetizer (topped with a little feta – how could you go wrong with that?), over pasta or rice.

You can even poach some eggs in it for a Balkan variation of Shakshooka.

 

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Baby eggplant at the Carmel Open Air Market in Tel Aviv

 

Balkan Eggplant, Pepper and Tomato –Serves 8 – vegetarian

Recipe Adapted from: “My Balkan Kitchen” by Shai-Lee Lipa

Ingredients:

2 medium Eggplants, sliced into 0.5″ rounds

6-8 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips

1 medium green bell pepper, sliced into thin strips

6 medium ripe tomatoes, diced

100 grams tomato paste

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1-cup water

1.5 teaspoon granulated sugar

1.5-teaspoon paprika

1/4-teaspoon cayenne

1/2-teaspoon cumin

Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

Roast the eggplant: Heat the oven to 400F. Place the eggplant slices on a rimmed cookie sheet, drizzle tablespoons olive oil over them and season with salt and pepper.

Bake in the hot oven for 30 minutes until golden brown.

Prepare the Sauce: Heat a wide deep skillet on medium heat and add 3 tablespoons olive oil and the pepper slices. Salute the pepper for about 5 minutes until the pepper turn golden.

Add the tomatoes, paste, garlic, water and sugar, then season with the rest of the spices and salt and pepper. Mix well and bring to a boil.

Lower the flame and cook on low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring often, until the sauce thickens.

Cook the eggplant: Add the roasted eggplant slices into the sauce, stir them in and cook for 5 minutes longer, for the flavors to meld. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Serve: Serve hot or at room temperature.

Store: Keep in the fridge in an airtight container for about 1 week.

 

Not Your Mother’s Tuna!

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The tuna salad most Americans have grown up with was a stranger to me when I first moved here. You know, the mayo based, bland white-ish schmear – uh, uh! not what I grew up with!

 

My school lunch was often prepared by my mother: a soft roll from the local bakery, stuffed with a lemony, spicy, red hued flaked tuna with slices of ripe tomatoes and hard boiled eggs. This classic Tunisian sandwich is often referred to as Fricasse.

 

As I would unwrap my roll, my mouth would water at the sight of the red tinged spicy olive oil-lemon dressing that soaked into the rolls. One bite and those same juices would be running down my chin and I would close my eyes on a sigh of sheer contentment.

Bursting with flavor and color, prepared with love and care – I felt my mother’s love in every bite.

 

So, try your hand at this tuna salad and your sandwich will not be same – promise!! Perfect for lunch on the go, a quick dinner or a satisfying snack on crackers or celery. You choose the moment!

 

If you’d like to join me in any of my upcoming classes check the offering below. 

Hope to see you there!!

 

Tunisian Tuna Sandwich

Yields 4 sandwiches

Ingredients:

2 cans canned tuna, (8oz each, packed in olive oil)
2 tablespoons arissa, (or to taste)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons minced garlic
3 medium Israeli pickles, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
For the sandwich:
4 medium torta rolls, (or baguettes/hoagies) cut in half
2 medium avocados, peeled and sliced into thin wedges
4 medium roma tomatoes, sliced
4 large hard boiled eggs, peeled and sliced
4 tablespoons mayonnaise

Directions:

1. Make the tuna salad: Drain the tuna lightly and then combine it in a bowl with the lemon juice, garlic, Harissa and pickles. Season with salt and pepper and flake with a fork to create uniform, wet mixture.

 

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2. Assemble the sandwich: Spread mayonnaise on both sides of the torta and line the bottom with the avocado slices. mound the tuna mixture over the avocado and pack it down lightly. Top the tuna with the egg slices, followed by the tomato slices. Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper and then top with other half of the torta.
Cut the sandwich in half and serve.

 

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Here are my Upcoming Classes:

Cooks of Crocus Hill

Mediterranean Classics: Wednesday, March 16

Moroccan classic tagine complemented by a zesty salad and fragrant baklava rolls.

Menu:

Fattoush Salad; Chicken-Apricot Tagine; Herbed Couscous; Baklava Rolls.

 

Nordic Ware  

Spice It Up! Middle East Spice Mix Primer: Tuesday, May 24

Explore Middle Eastern spice mixes and their uses to introduce flavor and variety in your food.

Menu:

  1. Za’atar Chopped Salad
  2. Ras El Hanut Roasted Butternut Squash
  3. Shawarma Roasted Chicken
  4. Baharat Basmati Rice (with Apricots and Mint)
  5. Hawayej Chocolate cupcakes

Welcome Y’all! Southern picnic Dinner: Tuesday, July 12

Nothing like classic fried chicken and its sidekicks to make a summer day feel complete – This time with updated appeal and flavor!

Menu:

  1. Southern Fried Chicken
  2. Fantastic Potato Salad
  3. Marinated Vegetables
  4. Southern Caramel Cake

Summer’s Glory – Minnesota’s Farmers Markets Bounty: Tuesday, August 9

Make the most of the Minnesota fleeting summer abundance with fresh and crisp vegetable focused meals.

Menu:

  1. Basil & Bell Pepper Focaccia
  2. Rainbow Root Vegetable Salad
  3. Fresh Herb Roasted Salmon
  4. Peach Pie

Upcoming Classes:

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Entertaining – Tapas for Everyone: Tuesday, January 26 @6pm, Cooks of Crocus Hill, Edina.

Registration: http://store.cooksofcrocushill.com/index.php?route=product/product&path=59&product_id=5493

 

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Tapas & Aperitif

 

Valentine’s Class: Tuesday, February 2 @ 6:30pm, Nordic Ware Outlet Store. On the brunch menu: Citrus punch, Heart shaped crust-less individual quiche w/ fresh tomato salsa, Banana-Nutella brioche Panini, Minted mango-Blueberry fruit salad, Double chocolate dipped cupcakes w/ raspberry and whipped cream garnish.

Registration: (952) 924-9672

 

 

Beyond Hummus: Contemporary Israeli Salatim (Vegetarian appetizers): Saturday, February 6 @ 7pm, St. Paul Talmud Torah.

Registration: Beth at bfriend@stpauljcc.org

 

Zahav Salatim

Zahav Salatim 

 

 

Cooking Class series: Diaspora Culinary Tour: Beyond Gefilte fish: Explore the culinary richness and diversity of Jewish communities from around the world. Take your taste buds on a journey to the Balkans, Middle east and North Africa. Every Sunday morning in February, each class will focus on a region, highlighting its history and character. Recipe packet and tastings included.

Registration: Temple of Aaron 651-698-8874

 

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Carmel Market – Tel Aviv

 

 

Oreo Truffle Time!

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Going to yet another holiday party? bringing some goodies along? Running out of ideas? How about quick, pretty and delicious Oreo truffles? They are a jiffy to make with the aid of a food processor, include accessible, inexpensive ingredients and make about 35-40 of these little gems (depending on the size you make them).

 

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A quick search for these popular truffles on Pintrest will yield plenty of results with a similar basic recipe: one package of crushed Oreos blended with one package of cream cheese, shaped into balls and dipped in coating. So my Daughter, Orielle and I followed the recipe and tasted the batter. Honestly – pure blah… Just plain sweet and sugary. These are supposed to be TRUFFLES! Where is the depth of chocolate flavor, smoothness of the batter? What’s a cook to do?? So we played – and yes, confession: we had WAY too much fun tasting…

We were set on flavor and texture enhancers. We first blitzed the Oreos in the food processor until they were a very fine powder, then made sure that our cream cheese was at room temperature and blitzed it again with the Oreo crumbs until it was spreadable consistency. Then came the flavor enhancers: vanilla, cocoa powder and espresso powder (or instant coffee granules). Add to the bowl of the food processor – and you guessed – blitzed again… (If it’s too crumbly, you can always add a tablespoon or so of cream).

 

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Most of the recipes we encountered used candy melts for coating, which I admit that I am not a fan of. The alternative? Ghiradeli melting chocolate! Melts beautifully, sets quickly and of course tastes – DELICIOUS! The results speak for themselves! By now, I have made them again 3 more times and Orielle has made them by herself. Her friends, who have come over to work on school projects or to simply hangout, have gotten in the habit of checking out our truffle stash first…

So, what are you waiting for? Get going making these truffles – and try to eat just one… I dare you!

 

Oreo Truffles

Yields about 35

Ingredients:

1 package oreo cookies , (14.3 oz)
8 ounces cream cheese, (1 package) at room temperature
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tablespoon espresso powder, (2 T if using instant coffee granules)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoon whipping cream , if needed
2 cups Chocolate melting wafers, dark chocolate
1 cup chocolate melting wafers, white chocolate

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Directions:

1. Make the batter: Place Oreos in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until cookies transform into fine powder. Drop in cream cheese cut into pieces and process to a fine and smooth paste.
Add cocoa, vanilla and espresso powder and pulse again until well combine. If mixture is too crumbly add some whipping cream, one tablespoon at a time.

 

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2. Form the truffles: Using a cookie scoop, portion out the batter and then roll into small balls. (i used a 1” cookie scoop).
Place balls on a tray topped with wax paper, cover truffles with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to overnight.

 

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3. Coating: Place 2 cups of Ghiradeli melting wafers of your choice in a microwave safe bowl and melt on medium-low heat. (I used both dark chocolate and white chocolate for contrast).

 

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Gently place one truffle at a time in the melted chocolate and roll it around to coat. Lightly slide a fork under the truffle and lift out of the chocolate, letting the excess chocolate drip back into the bowl. Place the coated truffle on a clean wax paper or a sheet of tin foil to set. repeat with rest of truffles.

 

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Once the chocolate is set, melt 1 cup of contrasting chocolate color in a similar way, place in a piping bag and drizzle narrow lines of contrasting color on the set truffles.

 

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4. Storage: Once the chocolate has dried, place the truffles in a single layer in an airtight container.
Truffles will last 3 days on the counter and about 1 wee in the fridge.

 

So… Do you really think they’ll last that long???

 

 

Hanukkah – Festival of Lights

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No wonder I had doughnuts on the brain in my last post – Hanukkah was around the corner beckoning withe smell of all good things fried… Growing up in Israel not only did we have latkes (which we called Levivot), but also Sufganiot. Soft pillows of fragrant doughy deliciousness, coated with snowy powdered sugar and filled with strawberry jelly, or if you were lucky – chocolate! Are you drooling yet?

 

Today, Israeli bakeries boast a vast selection of toppings and flavors, keeping up with the times and the sophisticated Israeli palate. Me? I am kind of a traditionalist that way. Still love that simple but yummy sufgania (singular), though I do like the cinnamon sugar coating and the chocolate filling. So, sue me…

 

Gourmet Sufganiot

Gourmet Sufganiot in Israel

 

Carine Goren is a well known and much loved Israeli baking guru with her own TV show and multiple cookbooks. Here is an adaptation of her recipe that we all enjoyed on the first night of Hanukkah. A little elbow grease… BIG reward!!

 

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Even adult children can resist sinking into one of these…

 

Bakery Style Sufganiot

Recipe adapted from Carine Goren

Yields 16 medium Sufganiot

Ingredients:

18 ounces AP flour
0.05 ounce dry active yeast
150 milliliters Lukewarm whole milk
2 ounces granulated sugar
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons brandy
1 teaspoon lemon zest
For frying:
canola oil
Finishing:
Powdered sugar
jelly, for filling
nutella, or other choices

Directions:

1. Prepare the dough:

In a mixer bowl with dough hook attachment mix about half of the flour along with the yeast. Add milk, sugar, eggs, brandy and lemon zest and knead until a smooth liquid batter is formed. On low speed add the rest of the flour gradually, then increase the speed and knead for 5 more minutes until a smooth and shiny dough is formed.

 

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Place the dough in a greased bowl, lightly coat top of dough with oil to prevent drying, cover with plastic wrap or tea towel and let rise until doubled in size.

Note: I created a proofing box in my oven by placing on the bottom a pan with boiling water and placing the dough to rise in that moisture filled warm part of my oven.

 

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2. Forming:

Place the dough on a very lightly floured surface (you do not want the dough to dry out).
Divide the the dough into 16 equal pieces and roll each one into tight and smooth balls.
Place the balls on parchment lined baking sheets, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size again.

Note: I returned the balls of dough to the oven and poured in freshly boiled water to recreate the heat and moisture.

3. Frying, filling and topping:

In a wide heavy pot, heat about 3” of the canola oil to 350F (using a candy thermometer).
Fry the sufganiot 4-5 at a time, making sure not to over crowd them, about 2 minutes per side.
Remove Sufganiot from oil and place on paper towel to absorb some of the oil away.
Cool slightly until easy to handle, inject with jelly and top with powdered sugar.
Serve warm.

 

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Little crowns of Jelly! Yum!

 

4. Options:

1. While Sfganiot are still warm roll them in cinnamon sugar.
2. Either of these fillings can work as well: Nutella, Dulce des Leches, ganache, buttercream, custard.
3. top with ganache, caramel, etc.

 

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Hanukkiah – The Hanukkah Menorah

 

May this holiday season bring light into all of our lives and usher a year of peace.

 

 

Doughnuts – the OTHER Comfort Food!

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So, my daughter and I made corn dogs at home. Yep! from scratch! (not the hot dogs, though… there’s a limit – even for me!) Perhaps I’ll write about that in another post. Then why do I mention them, you might ask? Well, I had this pot of oil sitting on my stove top – and my mother did raise me well – I just could not toss all that barely used oil out. So then… What else can I fry??

 

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A quick shuffle through my newly arrived package from Amazon, uncovered “Hand Forged Doughnuts” from Top Pot Doughnut shop in Seattle. (Since my oldest daughter has moved there, I confess that I have developed a soft spot for the city.) So, my youngest daughter, who’s not so little anymore (high school senior -ughhh!) rolled up her sleeves and along with a friend (and under my supervision) measured ingredients, mixed up the fragrant dough and we set it to rise.

 

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The recipe calls for ground mace, which is the webbing that grows over nutmeg. Since we did not have it on hand, I figured that nutmeg was a close enough substitute. The process was surprisingly quick and the results pretty delicious!

 

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However, just like Russian Babushka nesting dolls, I used the left over oil from the corn dogs, but now I had 3 egg whites with no recipe to call home. Quick Pintrest search to the rescue! Voila! Nutella Meringue cookies!

 

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See? Miracle of miracles! 2 recipes in one post!!

 

Top Pot Raised Glazed Doughnuts

Adapted from DinnerDelish.com

  • 3 Tbs (4 1/4oz packets) active dry yeast
  • 1 cup very warm water (about 105)
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus 1 Tbsp
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground mace (or nutmeg)
  • 2 tsp iodized salt
  • 4 – 4.5 cups bread flour
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • canola oil, for frying
Vanilla Glaze (Prep during the 2nd rise):
  • 3.5 cups confectioners sugar, sifted (measure first, then sift)
  • 1.5 tsp light corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp iodized salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup hot water, plus more if needed
Doughnut Directions:
  1. Whisk yeast, water, and 1 tbsp of sugar in work bowl of stand mixer and set aside for 5 minutes
  2. In large bowl, whisk remaining 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, mace, salt and 4 cups of bread flour
  3. Add shortening, egg yolks and vanilla to the foaming yeast mixture. Mix with paddle attachment on low for 1 minute to break up shortening. Add about 1/3rd of dry ingredients and mix until blended on low speed, then repeat with second 1/3rd of the dry ingredients
  4. Switch to the dough hook and add the remaining dry ingredients, mixing on low speed until no white spots remain each time, adding additional flour as necessary until the dough is dry enough to clan the bottom of the bowl. Increase the speed to medium and knead for 2 more minutes. (It should be smooth like bread dough, but still a bit tacky)
  5. Transfer dough to a baking sheet sprinkled with 1 tbsp flour. Shape into a flat disk 6 inches in diameter and dust lightly with flour and cover with a dish towel and set aside.
  6. Create a proofing box in your oven. Bring 8 cups of water to a boil, pour water into a 9×13 dish set on the floor of your oven. Place sheet tray with covered dough in the middle rack. Close the door and let rise until doubled – about an hour.
  7. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface and roll into a roughly 12 inch circle, about 1/2 inch thick with lightly floured rolling pin. Cut into 12 doughnuts and transfer doughnuts to baking sheets arranging them 2 inches apart and let rise in the oven (with new boiling water) uncovered for another 30 to 45 minutes until doubled in size.
  8. Using a candy thermometer to measure the temperature, heat oil in a deep fryer or large pot over medium heat to 350 degrees. When the doughnuts have doubled, carefully place a few in the oil, taking care not to overcrowd them, and fry for a bout 30 seconds. (Note that the doughnuts will look more brown when they’re done than they do in the oil). Carefully turn the doughnuts and fry for another 20 to 30 seconds until golden. Transfer to a cooling rack set over a layer of paper towels to cool.
  9. While doughnuts are very warm, dip the rounded side of each into the glaze. Let dry on cooling racks for 10-15 minutes.
Vanilla Glaze directions:
  1. Place confectioners sugar, corn syrup salt, vanilla and hot water in a large mixing bowl. Using a whisk, blend until mixture is smooth and all of the sugar is incorporated. If glaze is too thick, add more hot water a teaspoon at a time.

 

Nutella Meringues

From CookiesandBiscuits.com
Makes : 15 to 20 meringues (depends on how big you make them)

Ingredients

  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • a pinch of cream of tartar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon, granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup Nutella

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Make sure you have one oven rack in the bottom third of your oven and one in the upper third of your oven.
  • Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  • Set up a double boiler (a pot with another pot on top or a heat-proof bowl on top) and put the Nutella in the top of the double boiler. Warm the Nutella through and then set aside while you make the meringue. (You could warm the Nutella in a microwave but I don’t own one so you’re on your own if you do use one.) Let the Nutella cool as you make the meringue.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, place the egg whites. Beat on medium-high speed until they are completely foamy.
  • Add the cream of tartar and the salt and continue whipping at medium-high speed until when you lift the whisk attachment, soft peaks form. This should take a few minutes.
  • Once you have reached the soft peak stage, increase the speed to high and begin adding the sugar a few spoonfuls at a time (this should take a few minutes).
  • Once all the sugar is in, the meringue should be very thick (almost stiff) and when you left the whisk firm peaks should remain.
  • Remove the bowl from the mixer and drop in all the Nutella. With a rubber spatula, gently fold the Nutella into the meringue three or four times. You’re aiming for a swirled effect so don’t overmix. This will also help avoid deflating the meringue.
  • Using two spoons, drop the meringue onto the parchment-lined baking sheets in large dollops.
  • Place in the oven for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, immediately lower the heat to 200 degrees F. and rotate the trays. Bake for an hour.
  • After an hour, check the meringues. If they are completely dried out then turn the oven off and leave the meringues in the oven for a few hours to cool with the oven. If the meringues still look a bit “wet”, then continue baking for another 20 minutes or so. Either way, once fully baked, turn off the oven and leave the meringues in there for a few hours.
  • When you remove the meringues from the oven they should be completely dry and cool and will sound hollow when you tap the bottoms.
  • The meringues will keep in an airtight container for a week.

Fall’s Comfort Food – One Pot Mac & Cheese

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The trees in my yard are completely naked, shivering in the chilly wind, despite the sunny day. The inevitable is around the corner… Minnesota’s winter is approaching and we are all getting ready.

Wood for the fireplace – check!

Coats, hats and mitts brought up – check!

Knitting basket reloaded – check!

Gym membership renewed – check!

Comfort food list compiled – double check!

 

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Mac & cheese tops many people’s list of comfort food, but so many recipes require making a roux, using 2 pots… and I want my macaroni – NOW!

So here’s a recipe I developed, inspired by 2 blogs: tortillasandhoney.com and blessthismessplease.com.

This is a one pot dish that comes together pretty quickly thanks to one fantastic trick – wait for it…

You cook the pasta in the milk!

How about that??

This will become your go to mac & cheese – promise!

Even my mother in law, who HATES asking anything from anybody, requested I make this for her as she was recovering from surgery…

Like I said – MAJOR comfort food!

Oh and my guy (for the past 27 years!!)  – he couldn’t even wait for a plate – I have evidence!!

 

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One Pot Mac & Cheese   

6 servings

Adapted from blessthismess.com and tortllaandhoney.com

Ingredients:

1 pound elbow pasta
5 cups whole milk
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon dry mustard
2 tablespoons sriracha
6 ounces shredded sharp cheddar
6 ounces shredded monterey jack, or gruyere
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

1. Cook the pasta: In a large pot, combine pasta, milk and butter.

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Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until path is al-dente and milk has reduced and thickened.

 

 

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2. Flavoring: Add dry mustard and Sriracha and mix well. Add cheeses and stir gently to combine, until all cheese is melted and sauce is smooth and creamy.

 

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Taste and season with salt and pepper to personal taste.
3. Storage: Keep in fridge in an airtight container, reheats well in microwave or on stove top on LOW HEAT.

 

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Yum! Dig right in!!

 

Fall Update!

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Thanks to all of you who have continued to show interest and support as I explore what’s next for Zecooks and Mideast to Midwest!

So here is a quick update:

  1. So far, I have had 3 trial runs with a Kosher production kitchen in St. Paul and we are tweaking the recipes, flavors and quantities. On the menu we have the Hummus, Hatzilim (Middle Eastern eggplant), 3 types of soup and a dinner menu for 4 that will include three choices each of: a chicken dish, a vegetable and a grain/starch. My hope is to have a soft opening mid-November. Wish me good luck and a smooth road!!
  2. Celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, the season and more with an in home private cooking class: menu planning tailored to your needs, minimum of 3 hours, $100 per hour.
  3. Cooking classes with a Mediterranean or Middle Eastern focus as well as other cuisines are coming up in the next weeks:

 

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Cooks of Crocus Hill: Thursday, Nov. 12 – Spiced Up Thanksgiving: Menu: Roasted Eggplant Dip       with Pita Wedges; Honey and Ras el Hanut Turkey; Cranberry, Saffron Rice; Cumin-Braised Green Beans and Tomatoes; and Honeyed Orange Blossom Dried Figs over Ice Cream. To sign up: https://store.cooksofcrocushill.com/product/classes?path=59&month=0&keywords=&chef=Zehorit+Heilicher&location=All

Nordic Ware Kitchen: Tuesday, Dec. 1- Holiday Cooking: Menu: White Bean, Sundried Tomato and Fresh Herbs Bruschetta,  Spiced Honey Roasted Lamb Chops, Cranberry and Currant Herbed Basmati Rice, Butter Lettuce Salad with Roasted Beats and Hazelnuts in a Roasted Lemon Vinaigrette, Individual Vanilla-Chocolate Berry Trifle

Feel free to contact me with any questions or comments!

Looking forward to seeing you in upcoming classes, enjoy this golden Fall and…. Happy Cooking!!

 

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Beyond Baklava

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Baklava may still be considered exotic, but it has become a household name – you know, those layers of delicate phyllo sandwiching crunchy walnuts or pistachios dripping with rose water-honey syrup. The smell, the crunch, that sweetness – need I say more? But… what other Middle Eastern sweets crossed over? Have you ever heard of Basboosa? S’finge? Sohan? Those are respectively, from Egypt, Morocco and Iran.

Most of these mouth watering sweets have a few things in common, mainly they do not require a mixer and they do not need to be refrigerated. Mixers were non existent in the not so far past of the Middle East and refrigeration was hard to come by… They utilize what was familiar or easily accessible: lemons, nuts and rose water to create such deliciousness!

 

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My friend Sima is from Shiraz in Iran and her cooking is legendary. In the Minnesota land of hot dish we bonded over saffron and cardamom, elaborate meals and cultural exchanges. She followed the sun to establish her family and catering business in San Diego, but left her mark on the Minneapolis culinary landscape. One of the easiest and most delicious sweets she taught me how to make is the Iranian candy Sohan.

Think of delicately crunchy caramel almond brittle, flavorful with rose water and saffron. Unique, fast and stores well – Perfect for a quick company fix! The ingredients can now be found at most grocery stores, even the rose water and saffron. So live dangerously (and sweetly) – try your hand at making Sohan!

Sohan

32 small pieces

1.5-cup sugar
4 tablespoons honey
6 tablespoons canola oil
2 cups unsalted slivered blanched almonds
½ teaspoon ground saffron
4 tablespoons rose water
5 tablespoons unsalted, roasted, finely chopped pistachios

Directions:

Prepare a cooling surface by spreading a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet. In a heavy saucepan combine the sugar, honey and oil together over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring often. To the pot add the slivered almonds, and continue stirring for additional 2 to 3 minutes, the mixture should turn golden and become smoothly incorporated.

Combine the ground saffron and the rose water in a small bowl. Add the mixture to the syrup and stir occasionally with a wooden spoon until the mixture reaches a deeper golden brown color (about2 to 4 minutes more). A candy thermometer takes the guesswork out of this process: mixture should be between “soft crack” stage, at 285° F, and “hard crack” stage, at 302° F.

Mixture will be very hot! So carefully place one teaspoonful of the mixture on the parchment paper at 1-inch intervals. Top immediately with the finely chopped pistachios.

Allow the candies to cool thoroughly, and then remove them from the paper and store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Adapted from The Gilded Fork & Sima Ross

One more Passover dish…

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Sick of Matzah yet? Hang in there – just a couple more days left! At this time of the holiday I always pull out a special recipe, which was shared by my dear friend EllenSue. This cheesy, spinachy, dish for a crowd is filling and hearty enough to be the main dish in a meal. EllenSue got this recipe from her 89-year-old mother, Esther, who is a famed cook and baker in our community.

So, you can see, this recipe comes with credentials…

Hints for success:

  1. The cheesy goodness of this dish is achieved by using 4 different cheeses: cottage, mozzarella, feta and Munster. So don’t skimp!
  2. Make sure to squeeze out as much moisture from the spinach as you can: wrap the thawed spinach in a towel and wring out the liquid. Crumble the spinach over the mixing bowl to ensure even distribution.
  3. Cover the dish after 30 minutes with a piece of greased tin foil – or you will have a sticky mess on your hands when you try to unwrap the pan.
  4. Cook the dish for the full length of time and let it rest for 5-10 minutes before cutting – or else – again, you will have a gooey mess on your hands…
  5. Wrap any leftovers – they heat beautifully!
  6. Let me know how it turned out and enjoy!

 

FARFEL CHEESE BAKE

For Passover and all year round

  • 1 c. farfel softened in hot water (start with this and add everything else afterward)
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 8 oz. feta cheese, grated
  • 16 oz. cottage cheese
  • 4 oz. grated mozzarella cheese
  • 3 T. melted butter or olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. onion powder

12-14 Slices of Muenster cheese

2 tomatoes sliced into thin circles

Mix all cheeses, farfel, eggs, spinach and seasoning in a large bowl until well combined.

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Pour the mixture into a greased 9” x 13” pan.

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Top with slices of Muenster cheese and top that decoratively with slices of tomato.

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Bake at 350 degrees for 30 – 45 minutes. When the top is turning golden

brown, cover with greased foil and bake for an additional 15-30 minutes

(Bake for 1-hour minimum).

Cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, slice into squares and serve immediately.