Crostata di Ricotta

Crostata di Ricotta is a prized cheesecake from the Garfagna region of Tuscany. This post was supposed to have been ready ahead of the Festival of Shavuot, which commemorates the spring harvest and the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. It is customary to eat dairy meals during the holiday so I thought this wold be perfect. However, I’m afraid that I was only able to actually get it made in time for us to enjoy it for the holiday. So keep this in your pocket for next year.

But who am I kidding? This delicious cheesecake, permeated with raisins soaked in Marsala and redolent of the grated zest of an orange is perfect any time. The recipe comes from Carol Field’s book The Italian Baker. She got the recipe from Joyce Goldstein who was a chef at Cafe Chez Panisse. I know – two Jewish women and not an Italian name in sight!

But when you smell this tart with its buttery melt-in-your-mouth sweet crust and bite into the airy, custardy Marsala-scented filling, you will think you are in Tuscany. I was brought up on and love a really good New York cheesecake – so dense and rich that a fork could stand up in it. This Crostata di Ricotta isn’t that. So rid yourself of any preconceptions and enjoy this ricotta tart for what it is – amazing.

Making the Crostata di Ricotta isn’t difficult and it is one of those things where you can make the pastry the day before. I really urge you not to use bought pastry dough for this recipe. Yes, it’s a little more work but the result is so worth it. And if you have a food processor, it actually comes together in no time.

There are many different pastry doughs that would work here as long as they are a rich, sweet dough. I normally like to use a Pâte Sucrée with eggs, but since I was running low on eggs, I made a Pasta Frolla from The Italian Baker that didn’t require any. That is the recipe below. It was not a recipe like any I had made before, but it did come together easily. And while rolling it out proved to be a bit problematic, I was able to pat it into place with my hands and knuckles. The finished product is beautiful and delicious.

My husband and I LOVED this. The crust is fragrant and incredibly delicate – just melting in your mouth with every bite. It is so delicate that it seems to disappear before you even have time to swallow. Oh and let’s not forget the filling. Ahhhhhhhh, the filling. It’s like eating the most flavorful, custardy cloud you can imagine. I’m really not doing justice to how delicious this is. Many things I think are too fussy and not worth the effort. This is absolutely worth the effort.

Carol Field suggests eating the Crostata when still warm or at least the day it is baked. However, if you make it ahead and refrigerate it, she says that it can be warmed in a 350 degree F oven for 20 to 30 minutes. Truthfully, I’m not sure that I would like it warm, but it was amazing eaten a few hours after it had come out of the oven. And even eating it right from the fridge was still pretty great. But your first bites should be from the fresh tart.

Recipes

Yield: One 9.5-inch cheesecake; 8 to 10 servings

For the Pasta Frolla

Ingredients

1.5 cups (200 grams) all-purpose, unbleached flour

3/4 cup plus 1 Tablespoon (100 grams) potato starch

1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar

Pinch of kosher or fine sea salt

1.75 sticks (200 grams) unsalted butter, at cool room temperature and just malleable

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Grated zest of 1 lemon

Grated zest of 1/2 navel orange (the other half will be used for the filling)

Directions

Place the flour, potato starch, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse once to mix.

Cut the butter into small chunks and scatter over the flour. Process with about 6 long pulses until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the vanilla and grated zest. Process until the dough just starts to come together but before it forms a ball. Knead the dough by hand very briefly until it comes together in a ball that is no longer sticky. I did not have to add any flour to my surface to do this, but if you must just add a small amount. Form a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour or up to overnight.

When you are ready to roll out the dough, remove it from the fridge for about 10 minutes so you can work with it.

For the Crostata di Ricotta

You will need a deep-sided tart pan with a removable bottom that measures 9.5 inches across the top. Absent that, you could use a spring-form pan but it won’t be quite as pretty as if you have the fluted sides.

Ingredients

1/2 cup (80 grams) golden or other raisins

4 Tablespoons Marsala (I only had a very fine dry Marsala instead of a sweet Marsala. It worked out fine.)

1 pound (450 grams) whole milk ricotta

1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar

1 Tablespoon unbleached, all-purpose flour

4 large eggs, separated, at room temperature

1/4 cup heavy or whipping cream (I only had half & half so used that)

1/4 cup sour cream (I actually only had creme fraiche which has a higher fat content than sour cream. I figured it made up for not having heavy cream.)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Zest of 1/2 navel orange

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt or kosher salt

Directions

Soak the raisins in the Marsala for at least 15 minutes (I did overnight). Drain and reserve the Marsala.

Roll out your dough (Mine kept breaking but it actually was quite malleable and I was able to work it with my hands into the pan with the end result being beautiful!) Refrigerate the pan with the dough until you are ready to fill it. This keeps the dough from shrinking.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the ricotta, heavy cream and sour cream (or creme fraiche) in the processor and pulse until smooth. Add the flour and sugar and pulse until mixed. Now add the egg yolks, reserved Marsala and vanilla. Pulse until well combined. Add the raisins and pulse once to mix through. Pour the mixture into a large bowl.

In a clean bowl, whip the egg whites with the salt until stiff peaks form. Stir 1/3 of the whites into the ricotta mixture and then gently fold through the remaining whites. Don’t overdo this. You don’t want to deflate the whites.

Remove the tart pan with the pastry from the fridge. Place the pan on a baking sheet or aluminum foil to catch any butter drips. Fill the pastry with the ricotta mixture and even out the top. Place in the oven and bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until the pastry is golden and the filling just barely wobbles. Turn off the oven and open the door part way. Leave the cake in the oven for 30 minutes to cool down slowly. This prevents too much cracking and allows the cake to fully set. After 30 minutes remove the cake to a wire rack.

Once it is cool enough to easily handle, you can remove the tart from the baking ring. The easiest way is to place the tart pan over a large can. The outer tart ring falls off and the tart remains on the bottom. Be standing by to hold onto the Crostata. Then mangia!

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Chocolate Walnut Bourbon Pie

You don’t have to be from Kentucky to go nutty over this Chocolate Walnut Bourbon Pie. The Kentucky Derby is the most legendary of all American thoroughbred horse races. It takes place every year at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, on the first Saturday in May – except for this year. Because of Covid-19, this year’s race has been rescheduled for September.

Dubbed The Run for the Roses, because of the blanket of roses draped over the winning horse, it is also known as the “The most exciting two minutes in sports.” The Kentucky Derby is the first of three races that make up the American Triple Crown Races. Traditions that have become indelibly linked to it: knockout hats for the women, much like the Ascot Races; mint juleps; betting; the singing of ‘My Old Kentucky Home’; and bourbon chocolate walnut pie.

Now you might be forgiven for thinking that I am a) a gambler; b) interested in horses and horse racing or c) from Kentucky. Actually, none of the above. But I do so love a good pie. And while Thanksgiving in my family just wouldn’t count without my wonderful Bourbon Pecan Pie, I was curious to see how this pie would stack up.

It’s REALLY good. I mean seriously good. Now like another Southern favorite, pecan pie, it is sweet, but the Bourbon and my use of a 70% cacao chocolate chip cut through that sweetness so it wasn’t cloying – just delicious. Tradition calls for the pie to be eaten straight, but I won’t tell if you want to add a little whipped cream or vanilla ice cream when serving.

I make my own crust but if you use store-bought crust, this pie comes together in no time at all. So don’t wait until September or next May for the Kentucky Derby. Make this scrumptious Chocolate Walnut Bourbon Pie this week.

The recipe for the original “Derby Pie” is a secret and the name is trademarked. However, I found the recipe for this delicious Kentucky Derby Chocolate Walnut Pie here.

Recipe

Yield: About 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs (lightly beaten)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (melted). Allow the butter to cool slightly.
  • 2 tablespoons Kentucky bourbon
  • 1 cup walnuts (chopped)
  • 1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch kosher or sea salt
  • 1 un-baked pie crust (for 9-inch pie)

Directions

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place your dough in a 9-inch pie plate and ideally refrigerate it until you are ready to fill it.

Combine the flour and sugar in a bowl and then add the eggs and melted butter and mix to combine.

Stir in the remaining ingredients.

Pour into the unbaked pie shell and bake for 65 to 75 minutes or until the filling is set and the pastry is a lovely brown.

Allow to cool before serving. If you eat it as soon as it cools, the filling will still be ooey gooey. By the next day, the filling is totally set and will make very clean cuts. You can’t go wrong either way. This is primarily a chocolate pie with walnuts. It doesn’t beat my Bourbon Pecan Pie, in my humble opinion, but it is another great Southern pie.

Mexishuka (Mexican Shakshuka)

This Mexishuka (Mexican Shakshuka), a delicious twist on Mediterranean Shakshuka, will send your tastebuds spinning. By now, most everyone knows and has eaten some version of shakshuka. And like everyone who has tried it, I love it too. But in an effort to use up (down) my pantry, I recalled a recipe that I had come across years ago but never tried. Months into sheltering-in-place – it was time.

I had just received my grocery delivery which would last me for two weeks. Now I have a minor pet peeve. When I am watching cooking shows – not competitions – that are based in someone’s home, I am always amazed at how totally empty their refrigerator and freezer are and how clean their ovens are. Come on! No one who cooks all of the time as such an empty fridge or an oven that clean! I especially love the one who lives in the middle of nowhere North Dakota on a farm – IN WINTER – with an empty fridge and freezer. THIS is what my fridge looks like after my most recent delivery. Keep in mind that I won’t shop again for two weeks.

But I digress. While I had not ever made the recipe for Mexishuka (Mexican Shakshuka) before, I already saw that I wanted to adjust the recipe and I made some significant seasoning changes. I had everything I wanted on hand, including some cans of vegetarian, fat-free refried beans from – well, I don’t actually know, but since the cans were still okay, I’m using them. I did try to buy some Queso Fresco with this last order but nothing was available. So I will substitute with a shredded mozzarella. A shredded cheddar also will go well with this. This dish is vegetarian so is perfect for a Meatless Monday dinner, although it would also make a delicious Sunday brunch. It is loaded with serious attitude and yet tastes soooooooooooo comforting. My version is very well-seasoned but not crazy hot.

Recipe

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

15 oz. can of refried beans of choice ( I used a fat-free, vegetarian version) [Delicious but optional so don’t fret if you don’t have any.]

15 oz. can of pinto or kidney beans, rinsed and drained

About 2 Tablespoons EVOO (Canola oil is fine too)

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

4 garlic cloves, crushed and finely chopped

28 oz. can of whole tomatoes, crushed (or diced)

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

1 large jalapeno chili pepper, finely diced (or a hotter chili if that is how you like things)

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1.5 teaspoons mild chili powder

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

1 Tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon paprika (preferably Spanish smoked Paprika)

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

1 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste

4 to 6 large eggs

Large handful of loosely packed greens, coarsely chopped ( kale, Swiss chard, spinach, watercress or a mixture)

Garnish (Optional, so take your pick or use them all)

fresh cilantro

sliced avocado

lime wedges

shredded cheese

salsa of choice

Tortillas, pita or other bread that you have around

Directions

Warm the EVOO on medium heat in a heavy (preferably cast iron) large skillet. Add the onion and jalapeno and stir frequently until the onion begins to turn golden, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook for one minute, stirring. Then add the spices and tomato paste and cook for one minute, stirring until the spices release their fragrance and the tomato paste just begins to brown.

Add the tomatoes, pinto beans, apple cider vinegar and greens and stir through. [NOTE: when you add your greens depends on the greens being added. Baby spinach takes almost no time to cook so I would only add that just before adding the eggs. Kale takes longer so I would add it here.] Cover the pan and lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat.

Make 4 to 6 indentations (depending on the number of eggs you are using) in the mixture. Carefully crack each egg into an indentation, being careful not to break the yokes. Using a knife or spatula, carefully pull on the egg whites (being careful not to disturb the yolks) to mix them with some of the sauce.

Turn the heat back on to a gentle simmer and cook for about 10 minutes, basting the egg whites with sauce from time to time. Now cover the pan and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, depending on how you like your eggs.

In a separate pan or the microwave, heat the refried beans. For serving, place a good dollop of refried beans on the plate/shallow bowl alongside the Mexishuka. Garnish and enjoy!

Farro Salad

It’s been a long winter and a rather dismal spring. Coronavirus aside (okay, is there REALLY anything “aside” about COVID-19?), the weather here has been chilly, damp and most of all – gloomy. I definitely need something to perk me up that has bright colors, loads of flavor and is easy to make. My shopping has changed thanks to COVID-19 and I am at the end of my two weeks since my last delivery. That means that fresh vegetables are sparse. But the idea of a dinner without some great veg dish is unthinkable. Farro Salad makes the perfect side for any grilled or roasted meat, poultry or fish. And since farro is a grain, one dish serves a dual purpose.

This Farro Salad is perfect as I made it, but don’t get too bogged down in specifics. If you don’t have red onion, use shallot, yellow onion or scallion. If you don’t have parsley, use cilantro, basil or even chopped spinach. Need to turn this into more of a main dish? Add some crumbled feta or queso fresco and chickpeas. And if you don’t have farro – well, I can’t help you there. Actually, that’s not true. Use another hearty grain like freekeh, barley or wheat berries. If you have none of those, try this with orzo. The important thing is to cook whatever grain/pasta that you are using according to the directions given on the package until al dente (With some “bite.”)

Farro comes in three forms: pearled, semi-pearled and whole. They each cook for different amounts of time and it is suggested that you soak the whole farro overnight. Any one of the types will work here. And if you are looking to stock your pantry with something other than beans and pasta, you can’t go wrong with farro, which is also delicious hot.

So even if you are living in a sunnier clime, we can all use every bit of the brightness, color and flavor we can get. Try this soon.

Recipe

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

1 cup of uncooked farro, cooked according to directions

2 Persian or mini-cucumbers, diced (If you don’t have these cucumbers, English cucumbers are a good replacement.) (Radishes would also work.)

About 1/2 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved and coarsely chopped

10-12 Kalamata or other flavorful black olive, chopped

Zest of one lemon

Juice of one lemon

1/2 of a small red onion, chopped

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Kosher or sea salt to taste (I used about 1 teaspoon)

Cracked black pepper, to taste (Or Aleppo pepper if you have it)

A generous 1/4 teaspoon of ground Sumac (optional)

About 4 Tablespoons (1/4 cup) good EVOO

Rounded teaspoon preserved lemon paste (Optional but delicious and great to have around!)

Directions

Cook the farro according to directions, but add the preserved lemon paste to the water if using. I added my salt to the cooking farro, but you can add it after the salad is pulled together. Drain and cool the farro.

Add the farro to all of the other ingredients and serve in a pretty bowl at room temperature. Left-overs can be covered well and left in a cool place overnight. You can refrigerate left-over salad but fresh tomatoes are never as good once they have been refrigerated.

Roasted Cauliflower Soup

Roasted Cauliflower Soup is the perfect Meatless Monday dish that is good any time. I didn’t even know that I wanted it until I needed to save a head that I had bought.

My Pandemic food delivery arrived two days ago and it is meant to last me for 2+ weeks. I’m still getting used to thinking about food shopping in those terms. It is particularly challenging when it comes to fresh produce. Cauliflower is so versatile that I knew I wanted to have some even if I hadn’t decided yet how I would make it. The cauliflower that came was a gorgeous, large head. (My food shopper must have been an out-of-work restaurant worker because he really made great choices, especially when it came to produce. I am so grateful to him and all of the workers who are taking risks to keep us safe during this pandemic. Please be generous with them when you can.)

Unfortunately I didn’t have room left in my fridge for it once I put everything else away, so I placed it on my windowsill and hoped for the best. This morning I noticed that it was starting to get those icky black spots and knew that I had to do something fast. Roasting it seemed the best quick option, but then what?

I have cooked cauliflower in many ways and some options can be found below, but I wanted to use this opportunity to try something different. It had to be fairly easy to make and could use ingredients that many of us have on hand or are easily accessible. My vegetarian cookbooks were my first resource, but nothing appealed to me so I turned to the source-of all- knowledge. This recipe by COOKIE + kate caught my eye and after making it, there is no looking back. Delicious, creamy and utterly satisfying! Roasted Cauliflower Soup is the perfect Meatless Monday dish that is good any time. Use it as a first course or as a light meal with some good crusty bread and a salad if you want (and have the ingredients!)

PS: My husband REALLY LOVED this soup.

For more great cauliflower recipes:

Cauliflower Fried “Rice” with Tofu

Valerie’s Roasted Cauliflower Steaks

Valerie’s Roasted Cauliflower Steaks

Lamb Meatballs with Cauliflower

Cauliflower and Peas (Ghobi Aur Matar)

Spiced Lamb with Cauliflower Tabbouleh

Rich Bean, Mushroom and Cauliflower Stew

Recipe

Yield: 4 servings (more if using as a first course)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large head cauliflower (about 2 pounds), cut into bite-size florets
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • kosher or sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped (You can use a yellow onion if that is all you have)
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
  • 4 cups (32 ounces) vegetable broth (Chicken broth works if keeping it vegetarian/vegan isn’t an issue)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (Can substitute non-dairy buttery sticks to keep it vegan)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or more if needed (Optional)
  • Scant 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • For garnish: 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, chives and/or green onions or roasted pumpkin seeds and a drizzle of EVOO (And if you don’t have any of these, sprinkle with a little paprika)

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. If desired, line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper for easy cleanup.

On the baking sheet, toss the cauliflower with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil until lightly and evenly coated in oil. Arrange the cauliflower in a single layer and sprinkle lightly with salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Bake until the cauliflower is tender and caramelized on the edges, 25 to 35 minutes, tossing halfway. (I did not actually bother measuring the EVOO or the salt. I drizzled, sprinkled and tossed. Don’t get bogged down with measurements when cooking. This isn’t baking.)

Once the cauliflower is almost done, in a Dutch oven or soup pot, warm the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened and turning translucent, 5 to 7 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then add the broth.

Reserve 4 of the prettiest roasted cauliflower florets for garnish. Then transfer the remaining cauliflower to the pot. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a simmer, then reduce the heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 25 minutes, to give the flavors time to meld.

Once the soup is done cooking, remove the pot from the heat and let it cool for a few minutes. Then, carefully transfer the hot soup to a blender, working in batches if necessary. (Do not fill past the maximum fill line or the soup could overflow!) OR Use an immersion blender right in the pot! My choice is always for less work and less clean-up!

Add the butter and blend until smooth. Add the lemon juice, if using, and nutmeg and blend again. Add additional black pepper and salt, to taste (I added another 3/4 teaspoon, because my broth was unsalted.) Don’t go crazy, but you do need to properly salt the soup to bring out the flavors. You can also use a little more lemon juice, if it needs more zing. I ended up using the juice of a half lemon. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think it would have been delicious without any lemon so don’t stress if you don’t have it. Stir well.

Top individual bowls of soup with 1 roasted cauliflower floret and a sprinkle of roasted pumpkin seeds, chopped parsley, green onion and/or chives. Drizzle with a bit of EVOO. This soup keeps well in the refrigerator, covered, for about four days, or for several months in the freezer.

Anzac Biscuits with Cranberries

I enjoy reading David Lebovitz’s blog and as soon as this recipe came through this morning, I knew that I had to try it. Anzac Biscuits with Cranberries (Cranzac Cookies) is the perfect Covid 19 treat. This sweet cookie which is popular in Australia and New Zealand doesn’t require any eggs or out-of-the-way ingredients. And if you don’t have cranberries or don’t like them, swap in raisins or other moist dried fruits. Don’t have Golden Syrup, use corn syrup. No dark brown sugar, use light brown sugar.

So what are Anzac Biscuits exactly? They are an oatmeal cookie that supposedly was sent by loving wives, mothers and sisters to their soldiers serving abroad during WWI. The cookies held up well to naval transportation. Some stories claim that the cookies were not sent to soldiers but instead were sold at home to raise funds for the war effort. Whatever the true story, everyone will agree that they are a lovely cookie, as we Americans would say, that are perfect for a lunchbox, afternoon tea or healthyish dessert. I love them with a glass of milk but they go equally well with tea or coffee.

Anzac Biscuits with Cranberries has a wonderful toasty, almost nutty flavor even though there are no actual nuts in the recipe. The cranberries lend just the slightest amount of tartness which plays off perfectly with the sweetness. Each flavor element is present with every bite. You have the coconut, the oatmeal, cranberry and that slight hint of molasses from the brown sugar. I would definitely recommend using the Golden Syrup if you can find it although Corn Syrup should work. Golden Syrup is made from pure cane sugar and has a wonderful, clean taste. Don’t get me wrong. I am not one of those who thinks that Corn Syrup is nothing short of devil worship. I swear by it for my Bourbon Pecan Pie. But I have also come to appreciate Golden Syrup.

Aside from the fact that these cookies are absolutely delicious and don’t require any eggs, they also can easily be put together by hand. I even ended up using my hands (immaculately clean, of course) to do the final mixing and forming. There is not a lot of binder in this recipe and so in order for the cookies to form, I found that I needed to pack them a bit by hand. Children should love helping with this part. The resulting cookie is surprisingly moist, with just the right amount of chewiness.

Make these wonderful Anzac Cookies with Cranberries as a treat for your family (or just yourself) or as a special thank you for our soldiers on the front lines of the fight against Covid 19. Bake a batch tonight.

PS: My husband said to be sure to tell you that these cookies taste way better than they even look!

NOTE: While David didn’t mention it and I didn’t try it this way, I really don’t see why the cookies couldn’t be made with a good quality non-dairy buttery product to keep them vegan.

Recipe

Yield: 26 cookies

Ingredients

1 cup (95g) old-fashioned (rolled) oats, not quick-cooking

1 cup (200g) packed dark brown sugar

1 1/4 cups (175g) all-purpose flour

1 cup (90g) unsweetened shredded coconut

1/2 cup (60g) dried cranberries

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons water

4 tablespoons (60g) unsalted or salted butter, melted

1/4 cup (60ml) golden syrup

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350ºF (175ºC.) Line a baking sheet or two with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. (If you want to bake them all off at once, you can using two baking sheets, although there will likely be enough dough left to bake more. Since I was able to fit 1 dozen cookies/pan, my last batch was only 2 cookies.)

In a large bowl, mix together the oats, brown sugar, flour, coconut, dried cranberries, baking soda, and salt. Add the water, melted butter, and golden syrup and stir until everything is well combined. (I ended up using my hands to fully combine things since there isn’t a lot of binder here. It will come together but the dough is a bit crumbly.)

Using your very clean hands, or a spring-loaded ice cream scoop, shape the dough into 1 1/4-inch (3cm) balls. Place them evenly spaced apart (about 1- inch/3cm) on the prepared baking sheet(s) and use your hand to flatten each mound of dough so they are about half as high as they originally were. (About 2- inches/5cm.) (As mentioned above, I ended up packing the dough firmly with my hands and then slightly flattening the cookies. They do not spread a great deal.)

Bake the cookies, rotating the baking sheet(s) in the oven, until they are lightly browned across the top, about 12 to 14 minutes. Remove from oven and when cool enough to handle, use a spatula to transfer them to a wire rack.

Storage: The cookies will keep for up to five days in an airtight container at room temperature. The dough can be refrigerated for up to 5 days or frozen for up to three months.

What I’m Buying Now

Root Vegetables | Co+op, welcome to the table

Like most of the world, my husband and I are confined to our apartment. And because we are in the vulnerable age category and I have asthma, we are being especially cautious. Therefore, we have not gone to a grocery store for a month and are relying on the brave individuals who will shop and deliver goods to us. And in order to cut down on the number of deliveries, I have to think very carefully about what I’m buying now.

Being an American of moderate means, I have been spoiled. We live in the land of plenty and I have never lacked for anything of importance. And I had become careless. Yes, I recycled before it became fashionable. But I also wasted food and used toilet paper without a thought. Covid19 has changed all of that. And hopefully, some of the rationing that I have been practicing will continue once we get past this epidemic. And I believe that we will, just as previous generations got past polio and the Great Flu Epidemic. Not unscathed. And not without tremendous and gut-wrenching loss. But this too will pass.

I’m fortunate in that I get to share my isolation with my husband and best friend. I simply can’t imagine what it would be like to go through this alone. But we are missing our first grandchild who was born in November and lives across the country. At this age, she changes daily. And while our son and daughter-in-law have been great at sharing photos and videos, it just isn’t the same as being there to hug and kiss her, read and sing to her. She’ll probably be walking by the time we get to see her in person again.

And like many of you, my husband and I have gotten a little scruffy around the edges. No trips to get haircuts. And I have given myself permission to dress in my favorite overalls and to wear my curly, fuzzy hair down with my dangly earrings. It will be difficult to return to taming my unruly locks and dressing like a respectable adult again.

So what do I do each day? Like many of you, I turn to hobbies and even prayer. I grocery shop and plan meals in my head and make adjustments according to my pantry and what’s actually available at the store when I place an order. Fresh produce has always filled my shopping cart, but I need to think of what foods will hold up well since I am trying to shop only once every 10 days. So what I’m buying now are loads of root vegetables: carrots, radishes, potatoes, turnips, parsnips and beets. Onions, shallots and garlic. And cabbages like kale (curly and lacinato), red cabbage, broccoli and kohlrabi. These are all great for soups, salads, pickles etc.

And while I always bought lots of fresh herbs (which I grow on my terrace in the summer) I was admittedly wasteful. Now, as soon as my parsley and cilantro or dill arrive, I wash the herbs in cold water and dry them well in my salad spinner before putting them away. The same goes for my kale, which I remove from the stems, chop up, wash and dry well. I am amazed at how long these all last now in my fridge and I have almost zero waste from rotting greens. With these in my fridge, and the spices in my pantry, I can make almost anything from plain rice to potatoes to pasta to pulses (lentils) taste delicious as well as being nutritious.

And don’t forget the lemons! Without the zest and bright, fresh juice life would definitely be a much duller place. Other citrus fruit is also good if you have it available.

The further challenge for this week is that it is Passover. And while certain of the rules around eating have relaxed over the years for many adherents, it still is not anything goes. I grew especially anxious when buying eggs became challenging. So many Passover desserts and special treats like matza balls and matza brei rely on eggs as the permissible leavening. And while I have developed a number of delicious vegan options over the years, it’s still a challenge.

Some Passover Options for Vegan and Non-

I am not a rabbinical authority and depending on where your family is from and the traditions you follow, some of the vegan desserts may not be permissible. Options are presented that are now allowed by many who follow the Reform and Conservative Movements and/or Sephardic traditions. It is up to you to decide whether they fit into your permissible Passover foods. And depending on the ingredient that you may be missing, don’t stress. Get creative and use what you do have on hand.

Death by Chocolate Vegan Passover Cake

Passover Sephardic Wine Cookies

Chocolate Chip Vegan Meringue Buttons for Passover

Passover Almond Coconut Macaroons

Passover Florentine Cookies

Passover Orange Ginger Spice Cookies

Moroccan Beet Salad – Barba

Orange and Radish Salad

Roasted Asparagus and Bell Peppers

Parsley Soup

Yemenite Chicken Soup

Aromatic Chicken and Vegetable Soup (Koli)

Garlicky Beet Spread

Moroccan Beet and Orange Salad with Pistachios

Beet Caviar

Vegan Stuffed Vegetables Mediterranean Style

Chicken Thighs with Garlic and Olives and Kale Salad with Lemon Anchovy Dressing

Chicken Thighs with Mushrooms, Eggplant and Tomatoes

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Fennel & Lemon

Nigella Lawson’s Sheet Pan Chicken, Leeks and Peas

Roasted Chicken with Clementines and Arak

Harissa Chicken with Leeks, Potatoes and Yogurt

Chicken Legs with Wine and Yams

Crock Pot Short Ribs

No matter what traditions or religion you observe (or even don’t), we are in this together. So please make smart choices, think of others, especially those less fortunate, and stay healthy. Be generous to those who are helping to make our lives safer and to those families and individuals who have lost their jobs, their loved ones and their sense of security. Remember to call those who are older or alone. Keeping in touch by phone, email or video chatting has never been more important – or easier. It is especially difficult for those who are celebrating holidays this year without their friends and family. Stay connected. And find a way to laugh every day.

Nutritious Comforting Khichari

Comforting Khichari is nutritious, delicious and perfect for a Meatless Monday meal. It’s also a great pantry meal and easily adaptable. Like most of the world, my husband and I are sheltering inside until the Covid 19 pandemic is defeated.

We are eternally grateful to the brave and heroic healthcare workers, grocery shoppers, delivery people and others who are putting their lives on the line so that we can be cared for and fed. There cannot be enough shout-outs to those who are risking their own lives during these extraordinary times.

In order to help in some small way, we are trying to limit grocery deliveries. But we also know how important it is to so many families living on the edge to have any income coming in. So if you are receiving deliveries, please be generous with the people who are making them. Every little bit helps. For those lucky enough to have jobs that can be performed remotely and the incomes to go with it, be very generous.

So why Khichari? The most basic is comprised of a lentil, rice and some seasoning. Not only are these pantry staples for many, but it is loaded with nutrition for those who are following a vegetarian or vegan diet. While not a vegetarian, my husband and I often eat vegetarian or vegan meals. I came across this particular recipe recently and knew that I had everything on hand. Well almost. I didn’t happen to have the Thai chile or cauliflower. But I did have a butternut squash and a jalapeno pepper.

I made up a simple raita (yogurt and cucumber) to eat alongside with some pita that I had in my freezer. If you are vegan, a chutney of some sort or some other vegetable dip would be appropriate. And if you don’t have either of those, this dish is comforting and delicious on its own.

I simply peeled, cubed and roasted my butternut squash with EVOO, salt and pepper at 425 degrees F. for about 20 minutes. And I added a cup of frozen peas to the end of the cooking time as much for color as anything else. What I am trying to say, is don’t stress if you are missing an ingredient or if you want to substitute something. I had mung dal in my pantry and curry leaves in my freezer. If you don’t, then double up on the split red lentil and just leave out the curry leaves. Maybe add some lemon or lime zest if you have it or a bit of asafoetida.

This is not a traditional recipe so don’t be afraid to play with it a bit. Now is a great time to be a bit fearless with cooking. However you end up making Khichari, just keep the proportions of grains and lentils to liquid. And if you are not using a split lentil, the cooking time might increase a bit along with the liquid. You can always add liquid as you go if necessary. Assuming you can receive deliveries, most of the ingredients are available online and keep well stored in airtight containers. After that, go for it!

For other great dal and side ideas:

Chana Dal Kichadi

Punjabi Chana Dal

Indian Side Dishes with Something to Please Everyone

Recipe

Yield: About 4 servings

Ingredients

¼ cup red split lentils

¼ cup yellow split mung dal

¼ cup basmati rice

¼ cup white quinoa

2 tablespoons ghee or melted virgin coconut oil

½ teaspoon ground turmeric

6 fresh curry leaves or 2 dried cassia leaves (optional)

1 1-inch piece ginger, peeled, very finely chopped (about 1 tablespoon)

1 small green Thai chile, finely chopped

2 cups chopped cauliflower florets and/or peeled daikon

1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds

1 teaspoon (or more) Himalayan rock salt (or kosher salt)

Optional

Cilantro, basil, lime slices, black pepper, and olive oil (for serving)

Directions

Cover lentils and mung dal with water in a small bowl and let soak 30 minutes. Drain. Meanwhile, rinse rice and quinoa and drain well.

Heat ghee or oil in a large pot over medium-low. Add turmeric and toast just until slightly darkened, about 10 seconds. Add curry leaves, if using, ginger, and chile and cook until very fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add drained lentils, mung dal, rice, and quinoa and cook, stirring, until nearly dry, 1–2 minutes. Add cauliflower, fennel seeds, 1 tsp. salt, and 4 cups water. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and skim off any foam that forms on the surface, then simmer covered until grains and vegetables are very tender, 30–40 minutes; the khichari should be thick, very soft, and just loose enough not to stick to bottom of the pot (add water as needed to loosen). Season with more salt, if needed. Note: I did not have the cauliflower so I roasted my butternut squash separately and added it on top for serving.

Divide among bowls. Top with cilantro, basil, black pepper, and limes. Drizzle with oil.

One-Pot Pasta Puttanesca

This One-Pot Pasta Puttanesca is a game changer! Everything cooks in one pot and is delicious and cooked exactly right. I already am a fan of sheet-pan cooking, but when I tried this pasta I became an evangelist. It’s absolutely brilliant. No more worrying about if your sauce and pasta are both ready at the same time.

Since we are all confined to our homes, I am spending even more time than usual looking at recipes. I saw this recipe on one of my favorite food blogs, the kitchn.com. Apparently it was developed by a Martha Stewart chef and it truly is magical. Even in these days of difficult-to-come-by groceries, I had all of the ingredients on hand. I did make a couple of changes to the original. The recipe called for 1 Tablespoon of salt which was too much especially when adding olives and capers. And for some reason, the original recipe said to only use 12 ounces of pasta when most boxed dry pasta come in 1 pound increments. Those were easy fixes to make.

This definitely is something that will make it into my regular rotation of dinners. It is just so easy, with minimal clean-up – ONE POT! And everything was cooked perfectly. I had baked bread earlier in the day so along with a glass of delicious red wine, my husband and I feasted. Really, you MUST try this.

For the recipe to work, you need a large shallowish pan like the Staub Heritage All-Day Pan or this Lodge enameled cast iron pan. I love my Staub pan and use it constantly. These pans are perfect for braising and go from the stove-top to the oven. If you are setting up your kitchen or looking to replace pots and pans, you can’t go wrong with either of these. (And I receive no remuneration for saying this.) You also need to use pasta made from wheat. The starch from the pasta will combine with the water to thicken and form a creamy sauce. This won’t happen with a vegetable-based pasta and the cooking time would be off.

Make this One-Pot Pasta Puttanesca for your next Meatless Monday.

How we’re managing isolation

My husband and I are in that vulnerable category of over 60 and with underlying health issues. So we are being very careful about social distancing. In addition to our normal home activities and chores, we have added some things. We are each taking advantage of free online lecture series, some of which are quite wonderful.

Not being able to use the gym in our building has meant getting creative with workouts. You can find us walking our long hallways (we live in a condo) and running stairs. Not much competition with our neighbors so far. And I have started a weights program and actually am developing arm definition! We do crossword puzzles together and I just started a wonderful 1,000-page biography of Winston Churchill by Andrew Roberts. That will clearly keep me busy for some time to come. Our beautiful, sweet cat is getting very, very spoiled having us constantly at her beck and call.

And I do needlepoint and my husband is a “maker.” None of this makes up for the loss of social interaction or the freedom of movement, but maybe I’ll come out of confinement a little smarter, healthier and having created something beautiful.

Recipe

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

1 pound of dry pasta like a linguine

About 12 ounces of grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half

1/2 cup pitted and halved olives (I used a mixture of Kalamatos and green olives)

1/4 cup capers, drained

1/2 cup chopped fresh, flat-leaf parsley

2 Tablespoons EVOO

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon (or to taste) red pepper flakes

4.5 cups warm tap water

Optional

Grated Parmesan, Asiago or Pecorino Romano cheese

Directions

Put all of the ingredients into the pot and bring to a boil on high heat.

Boil rapidly for 10 minutes, swishing the pasta around to keep it from sticking and to distribute the ingredients. I find that using tongs is best for this.

Turn off the heat and mix thoroughly. Add some additional chopped parsley and the cheese, if using to serve.

Note:

My husband requested that I add a protein and I happened to have some shrimp in my freezer. I added about a dozen shrimp during the final three minutes. Personally, I would have been fine without it so this would make a perfect meatless Monday meal.

African Peanut Soup

Rich in flavor and robust with sweet potato chunks and kale, this creamy, spicy soup is sure to please. This African Peanut Soup is a riff on the West African Maafe or peanut stew. A perfect Meatless Monday meal that comes together in no time.

As we are all sheltering in place trying to avoid contracting and spreading the Novel Coronavirus, eating healthily and satisfyingly has become even more important. Grocery shopping has become increasingly difficult so it is good to find delicious recipes that make use of as many pantry staples as possible. And the vivid colors and flavors of this African Peanut Soup can cheer anyone out of their boredom.

I searched the web and found many variations for this ground nut soup, although many of the ingredients were the same, appearing in different quantities. There also were versions with chicken or beef, but I wanted something meatless, that was easy to put together and packed a punch. Ultimately, I made a few changes to the recipe, in part, because it turned out that I was missing an ingredient and wasn’t about to go to the store to get it. With a couple of tweaks, I was able to make an acceptable work-around. But you be the judge. Give this soup a try.

We can all get through this pandemic.

For more healthy pantry soup ideas:

Lentil Soup

Mediterranean Style Lentil Soup

Karhi, a Yogurt Sauce (Also eaten as a soup over rice)

Greek Red Lentil Soup

Carrot and Harissa Soup

Recipe

Servings: 4 to 6 with rice

Ingredients

1.5 tablespoons peanut oil oil (or high heat oil such as Canola or Grapeseed)

1 large onion, diced

3 large garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

4 cups vegetable broth, plus more as needed (I didn’t need more)

3/4 to 1 cup creamy or chunky natural unsweetened peanut butter

1 cup finely chopped or ground canned tomatoes

2 tablespoon maple syrup

1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes, diced (about 20 ounces total weight)

1 bunch curly kale leaves or collard greens, torn off of the stem into bite sized pieces

1 to 2 rounded teaspoons Sriracha or other hot sauce or to taste

Salt and pepper, to taste

For Serving

Cooked rice

Roasted peanuts, roughly chopped

Fresh cilantro or parsley

Directions

  1. Coat the bottom of a large pot with the oil and place over medium heat.
  2. When the oil is hot, add the onion. Saute the onion, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, until soft and translucent.
  3. Add the garlic, ginger, cumin, cardamom and jalapeno. Cook everything for about 1 minute more, until fragrant.
  4. Add the broth, peanut butter, chopped tomatoes and maple syrup to the pot. Stir well to fully blend everything. Add the sweet potato, raise the heat, and bring the liquid to a boil.
  5. Lower the heat and allow the soup to simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the sweet potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. You can thin the soup with some extra broth or water if it becomes too thick. Mine didn’t.
  6. Stir in the kale. You may need to add a bit at a time and let each addition wilt to make room for the next.
  7. Let the mixture continue simmering for 5 to 10 minutes, until the kale is tender and the soup is thick.
  8. Remove the pot from heat and season the soup with salt, pepper and Sriracha to taste. Adjust any other seasonings to your liking.
  9. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with a scoop of rice, chopped peanuts and cilantro. Serve.