Chocolate Midnight Pie

Chocolate Midnight Pie

Chocolate Midnight Pie is dark, seductive, rich – an adult chocolate pie that we all need now. Just the other day my husband was enjoying a perfectly delicious dessert, but he said “This is great, but you know, it isn’t chocolate.” And sometimes nothing else quite will do. Chocolate Midnight Pie is for those times. It actually comes together quite easily. While it may not be the most visually stunning pie you will ever see, I have found that pies and cakes that have amazing decorations rarely taste as good as they look. Form over substance.

My father was in the candy business, so I grew up early on knowing good chocolate from bad. And I developed a taste for quality dark Dutch-process cocoa as well. Don’t cheap out on these ingredients. Make something else if you don’t want to pay for quality bittersweet chocolate or cocoa. My father also taught me (long before celebrity chefs were touting it on TV) that adding coffee to chocolate enhanced the dark, earthy, rich flavors. This Chocolate Midnight Pie hits all of the right notes.

Chocolate Midnight Pie

Some have called it a chocolate chess pie and I think that may have been what initially caught my eye. I do love a great chess pie – chocolate or otherwise. This pie forms a crackly, crispy almost meringue-like chocolate crust. The filling is a deep chocolate truffle with coffee notes and the not too-sweet crust is a lovely counterpoint that melts as soon as it hits your tongue.

You can, of course, use any pie dough that you prefer, but I will say that the one in the recipe is very easy to handle. I made mine in a food processor and it probably took longer to clean the machine than it took to make the dough. It rolled out like a dream and I don’t often say that.

Orange and chocolate are a favorite combo of mine so I went with the Grand Marnier as the liqueur. When grinding chocolate, I always find that adding about a teaspoon of granulated sugar helps the process by adding just the right amount of friction, while preventing the blades from over-heating. Also be sure to pulse the blades rather than letting them run on. You don’t want to end up with chocolate paste although obviously the chocolate will melt in the end product.

If, however, for some reason you are not a chocolate lover (How is that possible? I can’t quite trust people who don’t like chocolate.) or you just want a non-chocolate dessert, try these wonderful chess pie recipes:

Perfect Lemon Chess Pie

Thomas Jefferson’s Chess Pie

Amish Bob Andy Pie

Chocolate Midnight Pie

Now while it’s true that I do love a great chocolate dessert, we are now in apple season. And the smell of apples, sugar, cinnamon and other warm winter spices makes me happy that fall is here and winter is coming. The house always smells so inviting. So in the coming weeks, expect to see lots of apple breads and cakes coming your way.

Recipe

Chocolate Midnight Pie

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Ingredients

Crust

1 1/4 cups (149g) unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4 cup (28g) confectioners’ or icing sugar

rounded 1/4 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt

6 tablespoons (85g) unsalted butter, cold, cut into pats

1/4 teaspoon instant espresso powder

3 to 5 tablespoons (43g to 71g) milk or cream (half & half, light, heavy, or whipping)

Filling

4 tablespoons (57g) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 1/2 cups (298g) granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 large eggs

1/4 cup (21g) Dutch-process cocoa

2 tablespoons (28g) coffee liqueur* (e.g., Kahlua), or substitute strong brewed coffee

1 tablespoon (14g) cold milk or cream (half-and-half, light, heavy, or whipping)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon instant espresso powder,

2 tablespoons (18g) yellow or white cornmeal (Try to find one that is finely ground if you can.)

2/3 cup (113g) bittersweet chocolate chips

*Frangelico (hazelnut), Amaretto (almond), Grand Marnier (orange), Sabra or Framboise (raspberry) are all wonderful, in place of the coffee liqueur.

Chocolate Midnight Pie

Directions

To make the crust

Stir together the flour, sugar, and salt.

Work the butter into the dry ingredients (using your fingers, a pastry blender or fork, or a mixer) until the dough is unevenly crumbly.

Dissolve the espresso powder in 1 tablespoon of the milk/cream. Sprinkle up to 5 tablespoons (I only needed 4 Tablespoons) of the milk into the dry ingredients (beginning with the tablespoon of espresso milk), continuing to mix until the dough is cohesive. Grab a handful; if it holds together willingly, and doesn’t seem at all dry or crumbly, you’ve added enough liquid. (If you are using a food processor, stop the machine as soon as the dough starts to come together. Don’t allow it to form a ball.)

Shape the dough into a disk. Roll its edges along a floured work surface (as though the disk were a wheel), in order to smooth them out. Pat the disk until it’s about 1″ thick, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or overnight.

To make the filling

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Allow it to warm a bit and become flexible, 15 to 30 minutes

Flour your work surface, and roll the dough into a 12″ circle. Transfer the dough to a regular (not deep-dish) 9″ pie pan that’s at least 1 1/4″ deep. Trim and crimp the edges. Place the crust in the refrigerator to chill, while you’re preparing the filling.

Beat together the butter, sugar, and salt until smooth.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating slowly but thoroughly after each addition; you want to combine them with the butter and sugar, but not beat in a lot of air.

Stir in the cocoa, liqueur, milk, and vanilla.

Use a food processor (mini, if you have one) to grind together the espresso powder, cornmeal, and chocolate chips. Add to the batter. Pour the batter into the crust.

Bake the pie for 45 minutes, adding a crust shield after 20 minutes. The middle should just wobble as in a pumpkin or good custard. The pie does form a kind of crust on top. You want that.

If the temperature has reached 165°F right in the center, the pie is done. (I don’t use that method but feel free.) Note: If you’re baking in a stoneware or glass pan, the baking time will almost certainly be a bit longer. Go by how the pie looks, not by your timer, especially since all ovens are different. I like to allow the pie to sit in the oven with the temperature turned off and the door cracked open for 10 to 15 minutes before removing it to a cooling rack. It helps to cut down on cracks and will continue to solidify the center.

Remove the pie from the oven, cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate overnight before serving.

Serve each slice topped with a layer of whipped cream and a sprinkle of chocolate curls, if desired. It’s nice, but you don’t have to get crazy to enjoy this pie.

Note

Even if the pie is somewhat wobbly when you pull it out of the oven, don’t panic; an overnight rest in the refrigerator solidifies it and gives all the flavors a chance to mellow.

Cheesy Cornbread

Cheesy Cornbread is moist, flavorful and with a wonderful texture to accompany chili or soup. While many parts of the country – and world – are experiencing record heat waves, fall nevertheless has started. Cooler days and nights and trees turning golden turn my thoughts to earthy chili, stews and soups. And what better side than this delicious, Cheesy Cornbread.

Cheesy Cornbread

The addition of corn kernels give this cornbread a marvelous texture, With every bite you get a little pop from the kernel. I used canned corn, but you could use fresh or frozen. And while I didn’t put any cheese on top, go ahead if you want a bit of extra cheesiness.

I used a cheddar jack cheese, but for a more pronounced flavor, use the sharpest cheddar you can find. No matter which cheese you use, though, this cornbread comes together quickly and can be eaten right out of the oven. Since it is just my husband and me these days, I had left-overs which kept for several days, wrapped well and refrigerated.

Cheesy Cornbread is made with ingredients that are easy to keep in the pantry and fridge, so you can whip up a batch with very little notice. It is almost instant gratification and a wonderful thing for novice cooks or making with children.

While this recipe is clearly not vegan, you can check out my Vegan Corn Muffins for another delicious cornbread option. And here are some delicious ideas that would all benefit from Cheesy Cornbread as an accompaniment. So rather than dreading those long, chilly winter evenings, relish all of the rich and wonderful foods that make those months bearable.

Corn Muffins – Vegan

Lamb and White Bean Chili

Vegetable Chili Con Carne

Beef Stew

Crock-Pot Beef Stew

Split Pea Soup with Smoked Turkey

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Short Ribs with Brown Ale and Buckwheat Honey

Recipe

Yield: About 9 servings

Ingredients

1 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground

3/4 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3 large eggs

1 can (about 15 ounces) corn kernels, drained well or 1.5 cups of fresh or frozen kernels

1 cup buttermillk’2 Tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

1 generous cup grated Cheddar cheese (4 ounces) or any grated cheese you prefer (Cheddar Jack, Pepper Jack or shredded cheese blends)

1/4 cup, seeded and finely chopped jalapeno, Serrano, Shishito or even bell pepper (how spicy you like things is up to you)

Directions

Grease a 9-inch square or round baking pan or 9-inch cast-iron skillet. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Using a separate medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs and combine them with the corn, buttermilk, melted butter, cheese and peppers.

Heat the greased pan for about 5 minutes.

Stir the wet mixture into the dry mixture just enough to combine the ingredients, but do not over mix. Pour the mixture into the hot pan. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 25 minutes or until the bread is golden and a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.

You can eat this straight from the pan or turn it out onto a cutting board for presentation.

Persian Herbed Stew (Ghormeh Sabzi with Beef)

Ghormeh Sabzi

Persian Herbed Stew is aromatic, hearty and satisfying. Okay, it’s not the most beautiful dish and will never win any food-porn prizes. But close your eyes and smell the parsley, cilantro, mint and leek all vying with the rich beef, black-eyed peas and Persian dried limes. Come on – what’s not to love?

Persian Herbed Stew (Ghormeh Sabzi) is a quintessential Persian dish with many variations. The version that I’m using was a typical Friday night meal for a Jewish family that made their way from Tehran to Tenafly, New Jersey. I came across it while delving into the wonderful Jewish Food Society website. It is citrusy, peppery and herbaceous and sure to wake up any jaded palate.

Black-eyed peas are used here, but dark red kidney beans are a more common ingredient. You can’t go wrong with either, however. Many recipes include potatoes, some use lamb and apparently whether you use fenugreek says where your family came from in Iran originally. What you cannot skimp on, however, is the massive amount of fresh herbs or the Persian dried limes. It simply would not be Persian Herbed Stew (Ghormeh Sabzi) without them.

Herbs, Herbs and More Herbs

I admit that I was skeptical when I first ordered the limes and opened the bag. They do not look very promising, but oh, the aroma! Some people grind the dry limes up and use the powder to sprinkle on just about anything where a pop of citrus would brighten things up. While not a big drinker, I could imagine rimming a glass for a Margarita with ground up Persian limes.

This dish does take some preparation although no single element is that difficult. It would go faster in a pressure cooker, but I will freely admit that those things scare me; I don’t own one and have no plans to change that! It can be served simply over Basmati rice and with the typical Middle Eastern salads and dips for a truly remarkable meal fit for the Sabbath Bride.

Salatim

I’ve actually been wanting to make this dish for some time now, but it has been impossible during the pandemic to get all of the fresh herbs that I needed. Finally, my order arrived with everything that I needed so here we are.

Now while this dish is clearly made with meat, I could imagine it being made with tofu and more beans for a vegan version. Obviously the cooking time would be reduced and the tofu would be added after the beans had cooked and become tender. I would use firm or extra firm tofu and would press it under weights for 30 minutes before cutting it into chunks. It wouldn’t be authentic, but it would be delicious.

For more recipe ideas:

Moroccan Carrot Salad

Carrots and Spicy Harissa Yogurt

Moroccan Beet and Orange Salad with Pistachios

Moroccan Beet Salad (Barba)

Ghormeh Sabzi (Chicken and Kidney Bean Stew)

Recipe

Ghormeh Sabzi

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

12 small, dried Persian limes (Some limes are bigger than others, so you may use fewer.)

9 cups water, divided
1 cup black eyed peas, soaked overnight
3 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1½-inch pieces
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons canola oil
3 bunches parsley (8 cups leaves and tender stems), washed, dried, and roughly chopped
3 bunches cilantro (8 cups leaves and tender stems), washed, dried, and roughly chopped
1 bunch mint (1½ cups leaves), washed, dried, and roughly chopped
1 leek, green part only, sliced into ⅛-inch strips and washed
3 tablespoons dried savory (I didn’t have savory, but I did have fenugreek, so used that instead since it was in so many other versions that I found.)
3 tablespoons dried mint
2.5 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 Tablespoon ground cumin

Directions

1. Place dried Persian limes in medium heatproof bowl. Bring 1 cup of the water to a boil in a small saucepan and pour over the dried limes. Let sit until ready to use. After they soak, you should halve the limes around the middle and remove any seeds before adding to the stockpot. This prevents excessive bitterness.

2. In large stockpot, place the beef chunks and cover with the remaining 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil and skim the foam off the top. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook for 1 hour, skimming the foam as needed.

3. Add the beans to the pot and increase the heat to a boil for 5 minutes, continuing to skim any foam off the top. Add the dried Persian limes with their soaking liquid and reduce the heat to a low simmer, cover and cook for another hour.

4. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook without any oil until they begin to sweat, 5 minutes. Add the canola oil and continue to cook until they begin to brown, 5 to 8 minutes more. Now add the greens and dried herbs and spices. Saute until they turn dark green in color, are tender and very fragrant, another 5 to 10 minutes.

5. Once the beans are tender, add the onion and herb mixture to the pot and stir to incorporate. Cover and continue to cook until the greens have wilted and the stew is fragrant, 20 to 30 minutes. Adjust seasoning with salt as needed and serve.

Jerusalem Kugel

I am convinced that there are two camps of kugel followers – those who favor potato and those who favor noodles. Jerusalem Kugel is for lovers of a savory sweet noodle pudding and I am firmly in this camp.

In actuality there are many different types of kugel even within these two camps. A kugel can be sweet or savory, or, as in this case – both. So what is a kugel anyway? It is a baked “pudding” originating with Jews from Eastern Europe and Germany that is traditionally served on Friday nights (Shabbat) and holidays. It can be eaten hot, cold or at room temperature and is especially wonderful as an accompaniment to brisket and roast chicken. I have been known to even eat it for breakfast on Shabbat morning….

Jerusalem or  Yerushalmi Kugel is a specialty of Haredi Jews from the Mea She’arim neighborhood. Think Shtisel, that international phenomenon depicting a close knit community of ultra-Orthodox Jews. The kugel is sweet with a peppery bite that is irresistible. Most recipes don’t vary much, but there are small subtleties. The trick to a perfect Jerusalem Kugel is in caramelizing the sugar in the oil. You want to go just far enough to get a really good caramelization but no so far that you burn the sugar. It happens, though. If so, there is no saving it, so throw it out and start again. Once you have done it right once, the rest is a snap.

Some variations add caramelized onions, but I like mine without, which is the most common version. I put pudding in quotes because it isn’t a pudding in the sense that most people (Americans especially) think of. The finished result is solid and there is no dairy or dairy substitute – just eggs. And because it is meant to be eaten following the laws of kashrut, oil is used in place of butter.

Make sure that you use a big pot to caramelize your sugar and oil. When the noodles are added it can spatter and sugar burns are just the worst. I know. There is no special pan needed for the baking and you can use a square, rectangular or round pan. I have made it in a bundt (tube) pan which produces a very pretty finished product. This time I used an 8-inch spring-form pan. The smaller the pan, the higher the kugel. If you don’t have an 8-inch round pan, use a 9-inch. Your finished product will be a little thinner but just as delicious.

I used 1 teaspoon of freshly cracked black pepper, but I have seen recipes with as little as 1/2 teaspoon and as much as 2 teaspoons. It all depends on your tolerance. Same goes for the amount of sugar. The proportions below make what I believe is the perfect balance between sweet and savory.

For another wonderful noodle kugel try my Apple Cinnamon Noodle Kugel.

Recipe

Yield: 8 Servings

Ingredients

1 pound (16 ounces) thin egg noodles (The thinner the better for the ultimate crust on the outside.)

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup neutral oil such as Canola

4 large eggs

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper or more, to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C)

Bring a large pot of water to the boil and salt it well as you would for cooking any pasta. Cook the noodles to al dente according to the package directions. Drain well and set aside. My noodles said to cook for 4 minutes, so I did 3 minutes. Remember, they will bake in the oven.

Add the sugar and oil to a large pot on medium heat. Just stir the sugar through the oil and then don’t touch it. As the sugar melts, it will start to turn a lovely dark amber color. You need to watch this because nothing happens, nothing happens and then – boom, it’s too late. Once the sugar burns, it becomes bitter and is unusable.

As soon as the sugar gets to the right color, remove the pot from the heat and add the noodles. Don’t worry if they got a bit sticky. They will separate as you stir them through the sugar/oil mixture. I like to use either a wooden spoon or tongs for this. If the sugar hardened in a few spots, don’t worry. It will melt again in the oven.

Now mix through the salt and pepper. Allow the noodles to cool for about 5 minutes. In the meantime, lightly beat the eggs to break them up. Now add them to the noodles and stir through. If you added the eggs too soon to the hot mixture, the eggs might scramble which is not what you want.

Pour the mixture into a greased pan of your choosing and smooth out the top. Bake for one hour. The finished product should be a really rich brown and the noodles should look somewhat crisped. Allow to cool slightly and then it can be removed from the pan if using hot. The kugel will cut most easily if allowed to cool to room temperature, which is how I like my kugel.

Rosh HaShanah 5781

Rosh hashanah -traditional symbols: honey jar and fresh apples with  pomegranate and shofar- horn on white wooden. | Premium Photo

Rosh HaShanah 5781 begins at sundown on Friday, September 18th this year. Wherever Jews live, we will be celebrating the New Year. The Jewish People – my People – have survived intact for 5,781 years. Despite wars, the Crusades, Spanish Inquisition, the Holocaust and the denial of Israel’s right to exist, we have survived. Its pretty remarkable by any measure. But this year with the Covid Pandemic, we will face another challenge.

While it is true that much of our rituals are home-based, we also require a community. We do not live in isolation from one another no matter how that community is counted by different streams of our religion or where our family originated. My husband and I had looked forward to sharing these High Holidays with our son, daughter-in-law and first grandchild. But alas that is not to be. They are in San Francisco and we are in Chicago.

The Days of Awe are a time for deep personal reflection and repentance. It is a time to review how we conducted ourselves during the past year and our goals for the coming year. This year, instead of taking part in our community services, we will be at home – just the two of us. I will miss the beloved liturgy and melodies that provide so much comfort each year. And I will miss the sense of community and the affirmation of our People.

Cooking has always been a way for me to connect with others and to express my love. I enjoy searching for recipes that reflect our People’s different traditions since we come from all across the globe. And I love to read the stories that go along with them.

So even though nothing is quite as it should be this year, I am still planning a special meal for Rosh HaShanah. Below are some recipe ideas for the holiday. And remember, it won’t just be a meal that you are sharing, but our heritage.

I wish all of you a Shana Tova U’Metuka – a sweet New Year! A year of good health and peace.

Rosh HaShanah Menu Ideas

Yemenite Chicken Soup

Aromatic Chicken and Vegetable Soup (Koli)

Lisa’s Challah Revisited

Lisa’s Vegan Challah

Gefilte Fish Loaf

Garlicky Beet Spread

Moroccan Beet and Orange Salad with Pistachios

Moroccan Beet Salad (Barba)

Moroccan Carrot Salad

Fruit and Vegetable Tzimmes – a perfect introduction to autumn

Another Brisket

Apple Cinnamon Noodle Kugel

Apple Cake – Take 2

Lisa’s Vegan “Honey” Cake

Whole Wheat Apple Cake

Apple Pecan Bourbon Bundt Cake

Vegan Apple Raisin Cake with Applejack Sauce

Plum Kuchen (Butter cake)

Italian Prune Plums Take Two

Savory Meat Pie

This Moroccan style savory meat pie will wake up your tastebuds. It was Thursday evening and I had nothing planned for Shabbat dinner. I could, of course, always make a chicken dish, but my husband was beginning to cluck. So I searched my freezer for some hidden gem and found a package of ground beef. But then what? In the back of my freezer was a long-forgotten package of phyllo dough and from that I created this dish.

Using my knowledge of Moroccan/Middle Eastern cooking and knowing what we like to eat, I started to put together what turned into a delicious Shabbat – or anytime – dinner. All I needed to add were some beautiful roasted tomatoes with fresh herbs from my terrace garden and a mix of Middle Eastern salads for a delicious and satisfying summer dinner.

The beauty of this kind of dish is that you can make it in virtually any pan and depending on how you cut it and your sides, it can easily feed between 8 to 10 people. The only slightly tricky part is dealing with the phyllo dough. If you have never worked with phyllo before there are a few things you need to know in order to have a successful outcome.

You need two damp towels to keep the phyllo leaves from drying out. Once they do, you might as well throw it in the garbage. You also need some kind of fat to brush on the dough as you layer it. Since this was for Shabbat, I used a vegan buttery spread. Butter and even EVOO would also work. When I make baklava I generally prefer to use butter, although will also use good buttery vegan spread.

You also cannot skimp on the melted fat or try to speed up the process by plopping on too many layers of dough at once. Not if you hope to have a finished product with those lovely flaky layers that epitomize puffed pastry. I never add more than two thin layers at a time. Once you have mastered the phyllo, making baklava or spinach pie are a breeze.

And while I made this recipe with lean ground beef, you could easily use ground lamb, which frankly I prefer, but didn’t happen to have on hand. I used the spinach because I had it, but you could leave it out or use parsley or kale instead. The point is, don’t get bogged down. If you don’t have pine nuts, but you have blanched slivered almonds, use those.

Ras el Hanout was used because I have it on hand, but you could just as easily have used hawayij to change the flavor profile. If you have never used Ras el Hanout, I definitely recommend that you try it. You can buy it at any good spice shop or online or you can make it yourself. It’s a wonderful warm spice that is perfect with pumpkin or other squashes and gets you in the mood for fall. So have fun and get cooking!

This dish can be eaten hot or at room temperature and is wonderful for a buffet. You can reheat any leftovers in a 350 degree F. oven for about 10 to 12 minutes. It will nicely crisp up the pastry and warm it through.

I hate waste. The phyllo dough came in a one pound package and I didn’t want to refreeze what was left over. So I took some apples that were beginning to wrinkle, sliced them very thinly without peeling them and layered it with a good cheese that would melt easily. It was all nestled between layers of phyllo in a shallow rectangular tart pan. I treated the phyllo with butter and baked it at 375 degrees F. for about 40 minutes. It made quite a treat for a light dinner or lunch with a bowl of lentil soup or a salad. If you wanted to add a very thin slice of a jamon, prosciutto or other smoked ham, that would work well too. And if you don’t have apples, but do have fig jam (I always keep a jar around) that would be just yummy.

Recipe

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Ingredients

1.5 pounds very lean ground beef or lamb

About 2 Tablespoons EVOO

1 pound blanched spinach, squeezed dry and roughly chopped

2 fat cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 large onion (I used yellow but red or white onion would work), finely chopped

1/3 cup raisins

1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly pan toasted

2 teaspoons kosher salt

Rounded 1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (freshly cracked black pepper is fine)

1.5 teaspoons Ras el Hanout

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

8 ounces tomato sauce

1/2 pound of phyllo dough (although you could use more if you want a LOT of pastry), defrosted in the fridge if previously frozen

6 to 8 ounces of butter or vegan buttery spread, melted

Directions

Butter (or use other fat) a 9 X 12-inch pan that is about 3-inches deep. Set aside. Almost any deepish pan or oven-proof skillet will work. This happened to fit my phyllo dough exactly.

In a large saute pan, soften the onion and garlic. Then add the ground meat, breaking it up in the pan. Cook until the meat loses its redness. Now add the tomato paste, tomato sauce, spices, raisins and spinach. Stir everything through to mix well. Add the pine nuts and mix through. Taste to adjust your seasonings.

My Ras el Hanout could have been a little fresher so I oomphed things up a bit with a little additional allspice and ground clove. There should be very little liquid. A bit of liquid is fine and will absorb into the meat as the mixture cools slightly. Too much liquid will make for a gummy end product. Set the mixture aside while you heat the oven to 375 degrees F. and prepare the phyllo dough.

Lay the phyllo dough out onto one of the damp tea towels. Then cover with the other towel. Working quickly, peel off two thin sheets of phyllo. If the sheets break, don’t worry. You can always patch. Lay the sheets in the pan that you have oiled. I chose 9 X 12 because it fit the dough perfectly but make your dough fit the pan. You can even fold it over. As soon as it is in the pan, brush the dough with the melted butter. Keep repeating this until you have laid down 8 sheets.

Now spoon in your meat mixture and spread it evenly. You can do this in one layer or you can divvy it up, which was what I did. So I placed half of the meat mixture down, then added more layers of phyllo (brushed with butter), then more meat. Frankly, it doesn’t really matter.

Once all of your meat mixture is in the pan, add the remaining phyllo dough two sheets at a time and spread with butter between layers. I used about 8 sheets but you can use more if you want more pastry. Take a very sharp knife and pre-cut your dough. I then sprinkled some additional Ras el Hanout on top, which is why my finished product looks so dark. It’s up to you. Bake for about 40 to 45 minutes. Ovens vary so check it. As long as your pastry is puffed and the desired brown, the dish is done. The filling is really cooked before it goes in the oven. Now – enjoy!

Bakewell Tart

I am a sucker for frangipane. So when I saw this recipe I knew that I had to try it. Bakewell Tart with its custardy frangipane and jam filling topped with flaked almonds is my idea of heaven. It uses a short-crust pastry or pasta frolla which just melts in your mouth. And while this could be made in a springform pan, it is so much prettier if made in a fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Just be sure to use a deep pan that will accommodate all of that luscious frangipane.

There is no one single recipe for a Bakewell Tart and I did have to tweak the instructions somewhat to make them easier to follow. Whenever choosing a recipe to make for the first time, I check out several variations to see which ones are well-written and whenever possible have photos and comments. Some recipes had fancy glazes on top and others (like this one) used only flaked almonds. The dessert only dates back to the 20th century and is associated with the town of Bakewell in Derbyshire, England.

Butter is a significant ingredient to this dessert, so please don’t skimp on a cheap butter and do not use salted butter. Salted butter may be fine for cooking but I never use it in my baking. While not above using substitutions in some recipes, there are also times when only the real thing works. People always used to ask me for recipes and then would tell me later that it didn’t taste the same as when I made it. The implication was that somehow I had deliberately left out my “secret” ingredient. However, with a little detective work, I found that it was simply a case of poor substitutions being used or things left out.

And while butter is a primary ingredient, so are almonds in several forms. Please do not use artificial extracts. They spoil the end result. One substitution you can make is in the kind of preserves you use. If you don’t make your own jam (and I don’t) just use a quality brand that lists the fruit as the first ingredient. I made this with strawberry jam this time because that is what I had on hand, but I want to try it with raspberry curd the next time I make my Bakewell Tart. And there will be a next time!

Bakewell Tart is a rich dessert so is the perfect end to a lighter meal when a little decadence is called for. Stored properly, it will last for several days. Unless your house is quite warm, it does not need to be refrigerated. Just enjoy this deceptively simple dessert, redolent with almonds and butter.

A Note:

This is an English recipe and the ingredients were given by weight. I have been using weights vs. measure lately when it is called for and find that it is more accurate. No matter how you fill or pack a measuring cup, 200 gr will always be 200 gr.

And while I don’t use store-bought pastry dough (other than puff pastry) you can use it if you really want. It won’t melt in your mouth the way homemade will, but I get that not everyone wants to fuss with dough.

For other delicious frangipane dessert ideas:

Apricot Frangipane Tart

Rhubarb Frangipane Galette

Vegan Dessert to die for – Apple Frangipane Tart

Recipe

Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients

For the pastry

200 gr. unbleached, all-purpose flour

1 Tablespoon confectioner’s or icing sugar plus more for garnish

125 gr. cold unsalted butter

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 large egg yolk

For the filling

180 gr. unsalted butter, at room temperature

100 gr. granulated or caster sugar

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3 large eggs

180 gr. finely ground almonds

1 teaspoon pure almond extract

226 to 283 gr. good quality preserves (raspberry, strawberry, cherry etc.) [I used 8.5 oz. but would be happy to use 10 oz. next time.]

25 gr. sliced (flaked) almonds

Directions

For the pastry

Sieve the flour and confectioner’s sugar into the bowl of a food processor (this can also be done by hand). Cut the butter into small cubes and add to the flour. Pulse a couple of times to coat the butter. The pieces should be about the size of English peas. Add the egg yolk and 2 tsp. of cold water. Mix until the dough just begins to form a ball.

Press the dough into the pan, being sure to go about 2/3 of the way up the sides of a 9-inch (23 cm.) fluted tart pan (measured across the top) which is at least 2.5 inches deep. Chill for 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. (180oC, fan 160oC). Dock the pastry (prick it all over with a fork) and line the shell with foil. Use either dried beans or pie weights to fill the pastry shell on top of the foil. Bake for 15 minutes. Then carefully remove the foil and beans (the beans can be used again and again) and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Do not turn off your oven but remove the partially baked pastry shell to a wire rack to cool for about 20 minutes.

While the pastry is cooling, make the filling.

For the filling

Using the food processor cream the butter and sugar. Add in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Add the salt, ground almonds and almond extract. Pulse until fluffy and smooth.

Once the pastry is mostly cool, spread the preserves evenly on the bottom of the pastry shell. Then carefully dollop the frangipane on top so as not to disturb the preserves. Smooth the frangipane with the back of a spatula or spoon. Scatter the sliced almonds over the top.

Baking times can vary, but you want the frangipane to just set. Start checking it after 35 minutes. Mine took about 45 minutes. It was still a bit more jiggly than I wanted so I turned off my oven, slightly opened the door and left the tart in the oven for another 8 minutes. It was beautifully browned and just set. The tart will continue to set as it cools.

Cool completely on a wire rack before you try to remove it from the pan. Once it is thoroughly cool you can decorate it with a bit of sifted powdered (confectioner’s or icing) sugar.

French Walnut Tart

While travel to France may not be in the offing anytime soon, try this French Walnut Tart with a glass of Montbazillac for a taste of the Perigord. This region of France in the Dordogne is known for its truffles, foie gras, Montbazillac and walnut tarts. While I have never visited this region of France, I have become an armchair traveler there though the books of Martin Walker. I love the Chef Bruno, Chief of Police books because they spend as much time on food as they do on the mysteries to be solved.

While I have eaten both foie gras and wild boar on a trip to Alsace during my college years, I have yet to experience Montbazillac or a French Walnut Tart. I decided to correct at least part of that omission. There are a number of recipes out there for this tart but I chose one on offer from the Boston Public Television station.

The recipe called for crème fraîche which I didn’t have on hand. However, I did have heavy (double) cream and buttermilk and was able to create my own creme fraiche. I had made crème fraîche this way in the past but had forgotten how easy it was to produce. All that was required was a glass container, 1 cup of cream and 2 Tablespoons of buttermilk. Mixed together and left covered in a warm place for 24 hours and Voila!

Normally I would have made the pastry that was in the recipe, but I had some dough in my freezer that I didn’t want to go to waste so used that. The dough that is listed below is somewhat richer than the dough that I used. It uses an egg yolk in the dough. However, if you have a favorite pastry dough or wish to use store-bought, feel free.

The French Walnut Tart is a more subtle and sophisticated cousin of my beloved Bourbon Pecan Pie and is quite a lovely dessert. The ratio of nuts to filling is very high and the tart is not overly sweet. It manages to be both sophisticated and earthy. I served it with a dollop of crème fraîche flavored with a bit of vanilla bean paste and a small amount of confectioner’s sugar. Yummy!

Since all of my traveling is via armchair for the foreseeable future, it’s fun to try some new culinary endeavors. While I may not get to mingle with the locals or smell the unique smells that every town and country village has, my armchair travels require no long lines at TSA or cramped plane rides. So don’t wait for the pandemic to be over. Visit this delicious corner of France from the comfort of your own home.

Recipe

Yield: One 9-inch tart; 8 to 10 servings

Ingredients

For the tart shell

87 grams (2⁄3 cup) all-purpose flour

46 grams (1⁄3 cup) whole-wheat flour

40 grams (3 tablespoons) white sugar

1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt

6 tablespoons (3⁄4 stick) salted butter, cut into 1⁄2-inch cubes

1 large egg yolk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the filling

107 grams (1⁄2 cup) white sugar

1⁄4 cup honey

1⁄3 cup crème fraîche

4 tablespoons (1⁄2 stick) salted butter

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 large egg yolks [You can save the whites for a meringue or to add to an omelette.]

230 grams (21⁄2 cups) walnuts, roughly chopped and lightly toasted

Directions

Heat the oven to 325°F with a rack in the lower-middle position. Mist a 9- inch tart pan with removable bottom with cooking spray. Line a rimmed baking sheet with kitchen parchment or a silicon pad.

To make the tart shell, in a food processor, process until combined both flours, the sugar and salt, about 5 seconds. Scatter the butter over the mixture and pulse until it resembles coarse sand, 10 to 12 pulses. Add the egg yolk and vanilla, then process until the mixture is evenly moistened and cohesive, 20 to 30 seconds; the mixture may not form a single mass.

Crumble the dough into the prepared tart pan, evenly covering the surface. Using the bottom of a dry measuring cup, press into an even layer over the bottom and up the sides; the edge of the dough should be flush with the rim. Use a fork to prick all over the bottom, then freeze until the dough is firm, 15 to 30 minutes.

While the dough chills, make the filling. Pour 1⁄4 cup water into a medium saucepan. Add the sugar and honey into the center, avoiding contact with the sides. Cook over medium, swirling the pan frequently, until the mixture is amber in color, about 8 to 10 minutes. Off heat, add the crème fraîche, butter, vinegar and salt, then whisk until the butter is melted and the mixture is well combined. Let cool until just warm, about 30 minutes.

While the caramel cools, set the dough-lined tart pan on the prepared baking sheet. You want to blind bake the dough before adding the filling. Line the dough with parchment or foil and weight it with dried beans or pie weights. Bake for 15 minutes and then carefully remove the foil and weights. Return the tart shell to the oven for another 15 minutes until the crust is a light brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack for about 5 minutes. Increase the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

Whisk the yolks into the warm honey filling, then add the nuts and stir until evenly coated. Pour the filling into the warm tart shell, then gently spread in an even layer. Bake until the edges of the filling begin to puff and the center jiggles only slightly when gently shaken, 25 to 35 minutes. Then turn off the heat, open the oven door slightly and leave the tart in the oven for 10 more minutes.

Let the tart cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack for about 1 hour. Remove the pan sides. Serve warm or at room temperature. The tart is superb accompanied by lightly sweetened crème fraîche or whipped cream.

Notes: Don’t overcook the caramel. Aim for an amber hue; if it gets much darker than that, the finished tart will taste bitter.

Whole-wheat flour in the crust plays up the earthiness of the walnuts. To toast the walnuts, spread them in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 325°F until fragrant and just starting to brown, about 8 minutes, stirring just once or twice; do not over toast them or they will taste bitter. The dough-lined tart pan can be prepared in advance; after the dough is firm, wrap tightly in plastic and freeze for up to two weeks.

Iraqi/Indian Shabbat Chicken (Spayty)

Iraqi/Indian Shabbat Chicken blends cultural food influences deliciously. Now more than ever, I have become an armchair traveler. My world has narrowed down to our apartment and so I take every opportunity to bring the world safely to us. This fragrant dish conjures up spice markets in India and the Middle East. Perhaps a little history is called for in order to understand the origins of this curried coconut chicken dish.

While we Jews are small in number, we can be found in pockets all over the world. In part this is because we have been driven out of so many places over the millennia. But it is also because of the trades that we were limited to practice as merchants of goods ranging from spices and cloth to diamonds. And as we have traveled and changed our homes, we have adopted local cuisines.

This Iraqi/Indian Shabbat Chicken (Spayty) originates with a small community of Baghdadi Jews living in India. “The community, according to professor Shalva Weil of Hebrew University who has written on the Baghdadi community, traces its origins to 1730 when a man named Joseph Semah moved from Baghdad to Surat, a city north of modern day Mumbai. By the mid-19th century thousands of Jews from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria migrated to India, escaping persecution under the rule of Daud Pasha and seeking business opportunities.” Most of this community left when India gained independence from the British.

I came across this recipe for Iraqi/Indian Shabbat Chicken on a Jewish heritage food website called Naama. It documents our varied and deep food traditions from Jewish communities all over the world. And there are always fascinating family stories to go along with the recipes.

Influences from whatever country Jews lived in were absorbed and adopted while making changes that allowed them to continue to observe the laws of kashrut. For example, this delicious curry is made with coconut milk rather than yogurt in order to honor the prohibition to not mix milk and meat. But you definitely don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy this traditional Iraqi/Indian Shabbat meal.

Don’t be frightened off by the relatively long list of ingredients. If you do much South Asian and Middle Eastern cooking, you should have most of the spices on hand. Iraqi/Indian Shabbat Chicken isn’t difficult to make, but I do urge you to use fresh spices and whole spices that you grind yourself when cooking these cuisines. It is the spices that make the dish.

Since I was making this only for me and my husband, initially I did not also cook up a rice pilau to which I would have added English peas and carrots for additional color. I did serve this with a simple Moroccan beet salad and a Jerusalem salad along with a fresh mint chutney that I made. [See recipe below] Mint grows like weeds and I happen to have it in my terrace garden. You can also buy mint or coriander chutney. While normally I enjoy Indian food with naan or roti, Shabbat challah actually went beautifully with this dish and along with the potatoes served to sop up the delicious sauce. Served with some ripe cantaloupe and cherries – a perfect Friday night meal.

Since I had plenty of left-overs, the second time I served this with dal and a rice pilau. For some ideas of Indian side dishes to make, check out these suggestions.

While very well-seasoned, this dish is not at all spicy so is a perfect introduction for those who are heat averse. And the bonus in making this dish is that your house will smell absolutely amazing!

For another Iraqi chicken dish:

Iraqi Chicken over Red Rice

Recipe

Yield: 6 to 8 servings, depending on sides

Ingredients

2 pounds chicken breasts, cut in half if large
2 pounds of chicken saddles (thighs with legs attached)
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground turmeric, divided
4 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used Canola)
5 whole cloves
5 green cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
5 generous teaspoons ground coriander
3 generous teaspoons ground cumin
About 2 pounds of small-medium potatoes, peeled [I used Yukon Gold and cut the potatoes in half so they would fit into my pan.]
1 large onion
1 piece of fresh ginger (2 tablespoons)
4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon paprika
14 oz. can of unsweetened coconut cream
2 teaspoons white distilled vinegar
1/4 to 1/2 cup water
1 8-ounce can of bamboo shoots, drained and cut into thin slices lengthwise (Optional)
1 teaspoon garam masala 

Directions

1. Place the chicken pieces into a large bowl or plastic freezer bag and sprinkle and rub all sides with 1½ teaspoons of kosher salt, ½ teaspoon of fresh cracked black pepper and ½ teaspoon of turmeric. Set aside for about 30 minutes. [This can be done hours ahead and refrigerated.]

2. Place the vegetable oil into a large pot over medium heat. Add the cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, and cumin. Fry for about 30 seconds or until fragrant.

3. Place all the chicken pieces into the pot with the skin side down. Sear the chicken until golden brown, about 5 minutes on each side. Transfer the chicken onto a plate. 

4. Place the potatoes into the pot with the oil and spices and fry the potatoes until golden brown on all sides, flipping them occasionally.

5. Meanwhile, place the onion, ginger, and garlic into a blender or food processor. Process the mixture until a paste is formed, about 2 minutes. [This can also be done ahead and refrigerated.] Add the paste to the pot with the fried potatoes. Add the paprika and remaining ½ teaspoon of ground turmeric. Cook until golden, about 4 to 6 minutes. Place the chicken pieces back into the pot with the skin side up. Add the coconut cream, vinegar, water and bamboo shoots (if using) into the pot. Cover the pot and cook on medium-low heat for about 40 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. The dish can be made several hours ahead and gently reheated. I didn’t add the garam masala until just before serving.

6. Sprinkle garam masala over the curry and serve hot. 

Mint Chutney (Phodino) Recipe

1 generous cup of packed fresh mint leaVES

1/2 cup of roughly chopped scallions, including green stems

1 Tablespoon finely chopped or grated fresh ginger

2 fresh hot green chili peppers, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Juice of one lemon or up to 2 limes (I used limes)

Directions

Blend everything together. Unlike commercial chutney which almost certainly has food coloring added, the green of the mint will darken some if made ahead. The taste will be fine, however. If you wish to have that vibrant green, add a couple of drops of a vegetable food coloring. I store this in a glass container in my fridge and it will perk up any meat, chicken, fish or vegetarian meal.

I actually was unable to get any hot peppers in my most recent grocery order so I substituted some Gojuchang. You could use other hot sauces like Sriracha or harissa and while possibly not quite authentic, the taste will be great.

Strawberry Dutch Baby

I love breakfast – for dinner. In the mornings, I simply can’t eat that much unless I have a day of hiking ahead of me. But my husband Andrew has been treating me to this Strawberry Dutch Baby for the last several weeks and it is soooooooooo yummy. Sometimes it is accompanied by breakfast meat and other times we just eat it on its own. And the great thing about it is that I don’t crave dessert afterwards. So have this Strawberry Dutch Baby for breakfast, brunch or dinner.

I thought that Andrew couldn’t improve on his Caramelized Apple Dutch Baby, but I was wrong. Well, actually I wasn’t. While that was perfection, so is this. And while it’s true that we can now eat strawberries all year long, take advantage of the summer fruit while you can. It will never have more flavor than it does now. And as the strawberries roast in the skillet while the Dutch Baby cooks, the flavor intensifies.

So what is a Dutch Baby? Well, for those of you who don’t know, it’s a cross between a very large popover and a Yorkshire pudding. It’s also called a German pancake. It can be plain or with fruit. And I suppose there is no reason why you couldn’t make a savory Dutch Baby, although I have not had it this way. The name has absolutely nothing to do with the Netherlands and likely is a mangling of the word Deutsch, meaning “German.” However you say it, just enjoy this marvelous creation.

My husband, as guest blogger, will now continue the post.

Hi! It’s me again, Andrew, and today I’m writing about a Strawberry Dutch Baby. It was inspired by a recipe from thekitchn.com (for details about how it was changed, see the Q&A below). Here’s the far superior and delectable result! [Okay, this is actually Lisa giving her critique. Andrew is much more modest.]

Recipe

Yield: 2 for dinner

Ingredients

  For the strawberry filling

    1/3 cup granulated sugar

    Zest of 1 medium lemon

Juice of 1/2 of medium lemon

    1 lb. strawberries, plus a few more for garnish

    3 tbsp unsalted butter

  For the batter

    1 cup all-purpose flour

    1 tsp baking powder

    1/8 tsp baking soda

    1 tbsp granulated sugar

    ½ tsp kosher salt

    ½ tsp ground cardamom

    4 large eggs

    1 cup buttermilk

    1 tsp vanilla extract

  For serving (optional, but recommended):

  Powdered sugar or confectioner’s sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F

Put a 9” cast iron skillet on the stove on medium heat

Strawberry filling

Place 1/3 cup granulated sugar in a medium bowl. Finely grate the zest of 1 medium lemon onto the sugar. Rub the zest into the sugar with your fingertips until fully combined and gritty. If no one is watching, then by all means, lick your fingers.

Hull and cut 1 lb. of strawberries in half and place them in a large bowl. Cut an additional 3 to 4 strawberries into quarters and set aside. Squeeze the juice of half of the zested lemon onto the strawberries and toss to combine.

Batter

1. Place 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/8 tsp baking soda, 1 tbsp granulated sugar, ½ tsp kosher salt, and ½ tsp ground cardamom in a bowl and whisk to combine.

2. In a different bowl, add 4 large eggs and whisk until frothy. Add 1 cup buttermilk and 1 tsp vanilla extract and whisk to combine. 

3. Gently add the dry ingredients, and then add the quartered strawberries, whisking the batter just enough to get everything moist. Do not over mix.

4. Cut 3 tbsp of unsalted butter into 3 pieces, then put them into the skillet. Once the butter is melted, add most of the lemon sugar mixture to the skillet and stir to combine, then arrange the 1 pound of cut strawberries on top and sprinkle with the remaining lemon sugar mixture. 

5. Working quickly, pour the batter all over the berries. Put the skillet in the oven, baking at 400°F until puffed and golden-brown, about 20 minutes.

6. Remove and let cool for 5 minutes. Garnish with a few sliced strawberries, if desired. Serve dusted with powdered sugar.

——————-

Q. and A.

Q. If I start heating up the skillet at the beginning, by the time I finish making the filling and batter I think it will be way too hot and the butter will heat up too fast!

A. You may be right. Here’s the deal: just after we finish the batter we want to pour it onto the strawberries in the skillet. We don’t want the mixed batter to hang around too long waiting for the strawberries, but we also don’t want to overheat the butter or overcook the strawberries (they’ll become too mushy).

So how about this: while you’re preparing the batter, just before you add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, go back to the skillet and melt the butter, heat up the lemon sugar mixture, and add the strawberries, then finish the batter.

It really all depends on how quickly you do the different steps, how quickly your skillet heats up, etc. Play around with the steps and do what works best for you. 

Q. Hypothetically, what if I poured the batter over the strawberries, and only then realized I’d forgotten to stir in the reserved strawberries. What should I do?

A. Funny you should ask. When that happened to me I just sprinkled the strawberries on top of the poured batter and put the skillet into the oven. It turned out fine.

Q. Can I serve this with whipped cream, instead of powdered sugar?

A. Of course! 

Q. What about vanilla ice cream?

A. See previous answer.

Q. What did you mean about this recipe being “inspired by” another recipe?

A. Well, the first time I followed the recipe exactly as it was on thekitchn.com the batter didn’t puff up, the strawberries were mush, and no one liked the result. So Lisa said, why don’t you make it more like our Apple Pancake recipe? So I reduced the amount of butter, added more flour, replaced the milk with buttermilk, removed one egg, and cooked the strawberries in the skillet less. It turned out better, but there was room for improvement. Third time around I added ¾ tsp baking powder and a few quartered strawberries to the batter, and I just barely cooked the strawberries before putting the skillet in the oven. The result was pretty good! Finally I upped the baking powder to a full teaspoon, threw in a bit of baking soda, and arranged to get the strawberries into the oven as quickly as possible. The batter ended up light, puffy, and delicious. That’s what’s printed here.

Q. Do you have to be some sort of cookbook author expert to make those sort of changes to a published recipe?

A. Nah. You just have to be willing to listen to good advice (from Lisa) and also willing to try making it more than once.