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Monday, September 26, 2011

Contdown continues.....

Of course I failed in my attempt to post every day. I'm always too ambitious and unrealistic, but I still want to write about what I'm cooking this week.
I feel excited, nervous and hopeful for the year that is about to start, for our life to renew, and for the current cycle to end and another one to begin. Food is what I do, and through it, I would like to invoke all good things: sweetness, health, peace, merits,and why not? wealth and strength.
I might not be able to post the pictures of the finished dishes, especially because some last-minute orders for desserts just rang in, the electrician is here for the second day in a week trying to fix something that the plumber messed up upstairs, the doorman just called: they're turning off the water in the building for 2 hours, I need to get kids from school, well, you get the point, but here are the recipes...

I'm keeping with the symbolic foods theme. Everything is dairy free, and there are also some dishes with no nuts, eggs, soy or gluten.
This recipe, in the amazing Cannelle et Vanille blog--which is pure food poetry--sounds incredible and uses carrots and apples. I don't have d'Espelette peppers, but a pinch of Cayenne will do the trick. The coconut milk will make it creamy and will add a touch of sweetness and depth.
Carrots encourage our merits to increase, while apple orchards smell like Gan Eden, and apples are related to the hope for wealth and power.

Carrot and Apple Soup with Cumin and Coriander
Serves 4 to 6
2 tbs olive oil
1 large shallot, peeled and minced
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
1 lb (450 g) carrots, peeled and diced
2 Gala apples, peeled, cored and diced
3 sprigs thyme leaves
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/8 to 1/4 tsp piment d'Espelette
2 3/4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk

In a stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallot, garlic and carrots. Cook for 5 minutes. Add the apple, thyme, salt, cumin, coriander and piment d'Espelette. Stir and cook for 1 minute.

Add the chicken stock, bring liquid to a boil, reduce heat to medium low, cover the pot, and cook for 15 minutes ot until the vegetables are tender. Puree with a blender. Add coconut milk and adjust seasoning if needed.

  • Miso-tahini chicken with a touch of honey
This is the recipe I developed for Kosher Inspired magazine, that made it to the cover (I was over the Moon when I saw it, I just hope someone else sees it as well!!!).

It's very easy and really tasty. The honey in it is an augury for sweetness.
Ingredients:
½ cup white (sweet) miso
¼ cup honey
¼ cup rice wine vinegar (unseasoned)
4 teaspoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons tahini
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
Few drops toasted sesame oil
3 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts (chicken pieces with skin and bones could be used, just note the roasting time would be longer)
Toasted sesame seeds (optional)
Fresh cilantro (optional)

Method:
In a medium bowl, whisk miso, honey, vinegar, soy, tahini and mustard until well mixed. Set aside ½ cup of this sauce in a small serving bowl. Add to it cumin and about four drops of sesame oil. Cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve, this will be the finishing sauce.

Place chicken in a large Ziploc bag, add the remaining miso sauce and seal, pressing out excess air. Put bag in a large bowl (in case it leaks) and marinate in refrigerator for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.

To roast: preheat oven to 400˚F.
Place chicken with its marinade in a large baking dish in one layer. Roast uncovered for 25-30 minutes, until fully cooked.

Place on a serving platter and cover with finishing sauce, sprinkle with toasted sesame and fresh cilantro.
Makes 8 servings.


Photo by STSTUDIO.CA

  • Roasted squash with date syrup and pepitas
It's not a secret what a big fan of dates I am. Date syrup is a common ingredient in Middle Eastern cuisine, and it has a similar taste to maple syrup. It can be made at home by simmering the same amount (in volume) of water and pitted dates and once the mixture thickens, a bit of lemon juice can be squeezed into it (other recipes call for vanilla and cinnamon instead of the citrus), and then blended. I bought a jar of Israeli date syrup at Fairway, and although it does have some sugar added, the home-made version will have to wait until the electrician is done fixing the lights and the water runs again. 
Dates are an omen to avoid having enemies and gourd (squash, in this case) will hopefully help our merits to be proclaimed before God. 


Ingredients
1 (1 1/2-pound) butternut squash, peeled and diced
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons date syrup
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds), shelled
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds (optional)

Method

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Place the butternut squash on a parchment-covered sheet pan. Add olive oil, the date syrup, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and toss.

Roast the squash for 15 to 20 minutes, turning once, until tender. Add the pepitas to the pan for the last 5 minutes. Once out of the oven, sprinkle pomegranate seeds on top, before serving.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Countdown

As I recover from the daze of my kids' return to school, I realize that Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is only ONE week away.
I will try to start preparing tomorrow and for once in my life, plan and organize before everything turns into madness.
Many years ago, my dear friend SG suggested me to include the symbolic foods of the holiday in the celebratory meals to attract good omens for the starting year. Since then, I began designing my menus based on those foods, which are:
  • Honey- To welcome sweetness into our next 12 months
  • Apples- To bring in blessings of wealth and power
  • Carrots- To hope that our merits increase
  • Leeks or cabbage, beets and dates- To avoid having enemies
  • Gourd-To get our merits be proclaimed before G-d
  • Pomegranate and Fenugreek- To increase our merits
  • Fish-To be fruitful and multiply
  • Head of a sheep or fish-To be as the head and not as the tail
All of them super ingredients, they allow for some really delicious dishes. I'm cooking with all of them, except the head of the sheep or fish, as my husband threatened me if I made him eat that one. He's even willing to bite into a microscopic portion of beets, but that's where he draws the line. Therefore, our family tradition is to eat the fish heads from artificially colored and flavored gummy (spelled gummi in the package...) fish that we decapitate before serving. I'm hoping this brings the omen of openmindness into our family, as that kind of candy is one of the foods that make me cringe.
My kids react in the complete opposite way: they can't wait for the blessing of the head of fish to be recited. You'd think they are the most religious children in the planet.
And talking about hopes for the New Year and my kids, I'm really wishing my son would stop his transformation into a hobo.

Always a hurdler, he's lately taken onto pushing ALL his possessions in a supermarket cart. I've had to extract his dirty pajamas, my dental floss, the new crayons, a summer camp art project, the kitchen twine and my husband's Metrocard from under a flotilla of airplanes and an entire collection of Cars 2 die casts. In there also are bouncy balls, puzzle pieces, gifts from a dentist's visit, and more cherished randomness. Did he learn that by walking the streets of New York or is it a very efficient way of keeping all his property at hand?

Aspiring that my son would choose an alternative profession to homlessness and to invite sweetness, wealth and power and avoid having enemies, I'm starting my menu--as always-- with dessert:

HONEY-APPLE SPICE CAKE

With honey, applesauce, dates and the secret ingredient--Kombucha, this is a moist and delicious cake, that will definitely spice up the new year, but if you'd like it milder tasting, omit ginger, cloves and pepper. It stays fresh for a couple of days, so it makes a great breakfast treat.
Kombucha, which is an ancient cultured tea (a yeast and a good bacteria are the cultures used) is rich in antioxidants, B vitamins and when consumed raw, probiotics. Although all sorts of health claims are made about this drink, more clinical research is still needed to prove them. In the meanwhile, I love drinking it and I do feel amazingly recharged after doing so, and I've found that it is an incredible baking ingredient that brings great texture, moisture and taste into recipes, similar to when buttermilk is used in baked goods. I only use commercially made kombucha to avoid possible contamination of the culture.
  • Super ingredients: honey, applesauce, dates, kombucha and spices
  • Vegetarian (uses honey) 
  • Dairy, egg, wheat, soy and nut free
INGREDIENTS

11 ounces (2 3/4 cups) whole spelt flour
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons cocoa powder
2 teaspoons nutmeg (freshly ground preferably)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (optional)
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper (optional)
3 ounces expeller-pressed sunflower oil
12 ounces (3/4 cup) honey
5 ounces date paste
1/3 cup unsweetened apple sauce
8 ounces (1 cup) Kombucha (not flavored), I like GT's brand in "original" flavor

METHOD
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Oil a 9-inch round baking pan and line bottom with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, cocoa, spices, salt and baking soda until well blended.

Add in oil, honey, date paste and apple sauce and whisk until a well mixed batter forms. Add kombucha and whisk until incorporated, but don't overmix.



Pour batter into pan and bake for about 45 minutes, until cake bounces back when lightly pressed in the center.
Let cool 15 minutes, unmold and let finish cooling.
Makes 1 9-inch round cake (serves about 12 slices).


Happy and sweet New Year!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Farewell to Summer Redux

First of all, I want to share with you, that the new issue of Kosher Inspired magazine is out and that the story on the cover was written by yours truly!!! I developed 4 original recipes using honey to inspire a sweet Rosh Hashana for everyone. I learned some fascinating facts about the sweetener while researching it. I'd love if you read it and told me what you think! 

Now, let's get to Farewell to Summer Redux:

I was maniacally running at the end of last week, and I ended up at Manhattan's Flatiron district on Friday morning after school drop off. I bought the tools I needed for the cake order I was working on and took a detour to the Union Square market with no menu in mind and some guests coming over for dinner that night.
As always, I got ridiculously excited at the sight of all the produce displayed and couldn't contain myself (left my camera home, so I'll share pix next time I visit...).
I spent all the cash I had on me and ended up paying three of the farmers by check, and the nice lady at the last stand gave me a price cut that I fulfilled with coins.
I nostalgically bought some of the last summer corn, heirloom tomatoes, huge peaches, baby zucchini, fresh edamame, raw honey, concord grapes, tiny strawberries, sweet potato greens (which were AMAZING. Creamy, mild, and very pleasant sauteed in extra virgin olive oil, and just some salt and pepper), and to keep the fever going, some small, round and dark-skinned eggplants.
My arms and back were killing me all the way home, and when I finally rested my heavy purchases, I got to work. I settled on a purely vegetarian meal. My meat-lover husband wasn't that thrilled when he heard the news, but at the end, dinner was not as terrible as his vegan nightmares had pictured it.
Everything was so fresh and flavorful, that it was easy to enjoy.
I revisited my last post (Sep, 14) to work on the crisp recipe and turned it into a savory dish.

I cubed tomatoes, baby zucchini and round eggplants without even bothering to peel anything and shucked one ear of corn. I threw it all in a large baking pan, sprinkled the mixture with organic corn starch, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and a splash of balsamic vinegar.

I made the topping by mixing whole spelt flour, sliced almonds, grapeseed oil veganaise, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. I spread the mixture on the veggie filling and into the oven it went.

It was delicious, really. I'm thinking of using the same recipe over and over, just changing the veggies depending on the season. I'm sure it would be great with carrots, squash, turnips, sweet potatoes, etc, and maybe ground Parmesan cheese, lemon zest, spices and/or fresh herbs mixed in the topping.
Again, if you'd like to skip the almonds, you can always substitute them with seeds like pepitas or sunflower seeds.

SAVORY SUMMER VEGETABLES CRISP
  • Super ingredients: Antioxidant, vitamin, mineral and fiber charged tomatoes, eggplants, zucchini, corn and almonds
  • Vegan, egg, dairy, and wheat free
Filling:
2 large ripe tomatoes (preferably heirloom), cubed
2 small Japanese eggplants, cubed
4 baby zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch rounds
1 corn ear, shucked
1 Tablespoon organic corn starch
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Topping:
5 ounces (1 1/4 cup) whole spelt flour
5 ounces (1 1/4 cups) sliced almonds*
3 ounces (1/3 cup) grapeseed Veganaise

1 ounce (2 Tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Farewell to Summer...

As Halloween decorations make their apprearance at Duane Reade and into covers of lifestyle magazines, it hits me that summer is slowly fading, despite yesterday's heat. It was a nice, hot, fun and original summer for us. Once a water-phobe, my daughter learned to swim, and once a completely silent man, my son transformed into a little parrot.
Last week we got together with our friends T and J (or Y), and their kids into a "family playdate" sort of thing. The kids played with their good friends while the adults got dinner going.
It was a wonderful afternoon. One of those dreamy ones (at least for me) that look like the photos of a cookbook where everyone is cooking, talking, tasting and laughing. And enjoying!
Our hosts had bought produce at the green market, so there were some very fun-looking cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes of many colors, crispy salad greens and a couple of eggplants.
Once dinner was served, we started talking about the different possibilities of eggplants, how they are a bit intimidating and underused (sorry, but I hate conversing about politics. Food is way more interesting, delicious and genuine). I couldn't help but thinking of the amazing Ottolenghi's Plenty vegetable cookbook, that Kim Kushner had recommended to me a while back. Some gorgeous eggplants with pomegranate seeds grace its cover, and the author embraces the versatility of the fruit (yes, it's botanically a fruit) in more than 10 recipes, that I read when we got back home. They are very tempting and I'll make my way through them, but since there was no dessert, I went on my own.
The next day, while food shopping with the kids, I spotted some "grafitti" eggplants. Since Rio de Janeiro's streets are all decorated with grafitti, I thought my children would enjoy the fact that some produce was named after the word they had just learned and seen, so I threw some in the cart (of course they weren't even slightly interested in eating it).

Grafitti in Rio

Then as I decided what to do with the bicolored eggplant, I remembered reading somewhere, that produce from the same season pairs very well with each other in different dishes, even if the combinations may sound odd (for example, tomatoes with watermelon, corn and zucchini, apricots and basil, etc) so I thought: eggplant and peaches and berries...
And that's how it happened: the Eggplant Crisp was born and devoured by curious guests, uninformed children and an incredulous husband who's always paranoid I will hide beets--his nemesis--in his dessert (in all fairness, I did earn such fear). 


Grafitti eggplant, summer peaches, blueberries and lime

EGGPLANT CRISP
The sponginess of the eggplant allows it to absorb the flavors of the other ingredients and turns into delicious, fruity pillows.
Eggplants come in many colors, sizes and shapes.  They are all a great source of fiber and contain high levels of chlorogenic acid, one of the most powerful antioxidants.

  • Super ingredients: eggplant, peaches, blueberries, almonds*, cinnamon 
  • Vegan
  • Soy, dairy, wheat, and egg free
INGREDIENTS

Filling:
2 small eggplants, peeled and cubed
2 large or 3 medium organic peaches, cubed (not peeled)
4 ounces organic blueberries (1 small container)
1 lime, zest and juice
3 Tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) sucanat
1 Tablespoon organic corn starch

Topping:
5 ounces (1 1/4 cup) whole spelt flour
3 1/2 ounces (1/2 cup) sucanat 
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
5 ounces (1 1/4 cups) sliced almonds*
4 ounces (1/2 cup) virgin coconut oil, melted (I like Spectrum brand)

METHOD
Filling
Preheat oven to 400 F.
In a large bowl, mix in cubed eggplant, peaches, blueberries, lime juice and zest (it's fine to use your hands to do so!). Sprinkle corn starch and combine well.

Place in a large baking pan and set aside.
Topping

In the same bowl previously used for the fruits, mix spelt flour, sucanat, cinnamon, and salt with a wooden spoon or a spatula. Mix in almonds* and later add coconut oil.

Mix gently, but until it's all well incorporated.
Spread topping to cover the filling.
Bake for about 40 minutes, until filling bubbles..
Serve warm or at room temperature (it can be reheated just before serving).



*To all my Three Tablespoons customers/readers with nut allergies: I do not use the same equimpent nor utensils for nut and nut-free preparations. Instead of almonds, you can substitute a mixture of seeds such as: sunflower, chia and hemp.

 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Never forget the date!

I remember getting to school one morning and greeting my friend Karla as any other day. She said hi with a funny smile, as if hiding something or like a child caught in the middle of mischief. Very suspicious... and after chasing me around with the weird expression for a while, I had enough and asked what was wrong with her. As it turned out, there wasn't anything wrong with her but with me. It was her birthday and I had completely ignored her. We were 17 at the time, so I couldn't blame motherhood--as I do now--for my stupidity. I guess forgetting dates is in my nature, as I accidentally keep overlooking everyone's birthday. It was devastating to apologize to my adored grandmother after her 85th one.
However, in cooking, there's the date I hope I never forget. Almost no one remembers it, but I believe it's completely underestimated. Yes, the date, that ugly-looking brown oval (someone once told me they look like roaches, bon appetite!!!) can do magic in the kitchen. Dates are so amazingly sweet, that I use them to substitute sugar bringing in sweetness, moisture and fudginess into recipes without empty calories. 

This fruit, that comes from the date palm is mostly found in its dried form, therefore, keeps really well and it is as nutritious as it is unattractive.
Dates are rich in fiber, contain a nice variety of antioxidants, as well as potassium, sodium, manganese, copper, vitamin K, vitamin A, folates, niacin and 20 different amino acids, phosphorus, calcium iron and zinc.
For the following recipe I was inspired by the British technique to make toffee pudding, where they boil dates it in water with baking soda, and my Three Tablespoons recipe for chickpea icing.
Nowadays, I always keep home-made date paste in my freezer, and use it as a sweetener in lots of preparations.
I prepare the paste by bringing plain water to a boil (enough to cover whatever amount of dates I'm using). I remove the pot from the heat, add in whole pitted dates, cover the pot and let the dates rehydrate for 10 minutes. Then I puree them in the food processor with a bit (just a little, as you don't want to make a soup!) of the water they were soaked in. I place the puree in small containers, let it cool, cover it with a tight fitting lid and then into the freezer they go. I just thaw the puree (it takes about 5 minutes at room temperature) as I need it.

As I mentioned, the Three Tablespoons product line includes a chickpea puree, kind of a sweet hummus. I had been wanting to make a chocolate version for a long time, but I hadn't been happy with the results. Finally, yesterday I got it right. My daughter ate it by the spoonfuls.
It can be spread on whole grain toast, graham crackers, fruit or eaten straight from the container. It can be enjoyed frozen, at room temperature, or warmed up.

The combination of the legumes (chickpeas) in the icing with a whole grain product, turns such as snack into a complete protein source.

CHOCOLATE HUMMUS
  • Super ingredients: chickpeas, dates, mesquite flour, lucuma powder
  • Vegan
  • Gluten, soy, nut, dairy, wheat, and egg free
INGREDIENTS

4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips (I like "enjoy life")
5 Tablespoons expeller-pressed sunflower oil
91/2 ounces cooked chickpeas (canned are fine, I use EDEN brand, which is BPA-free)
1/4 cup date puree
1 Tablespoon mesquite flour
1 Tablespoon lucuma powder
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

METHOD
Melt chocolate chips and oil over a double-boiler.

In a food processor, puree chickpeas, date puree, mesquite, lucuma, vanilla and salt. Add in the melted chocolate-oil mix and continue processing until completely smooth. If it's too hard, just add some drops of water until the desired consistency.

Makes awesome cookie sandwich filling!!!