Kale Butternut Squash Stew over Polenta

Kale Butternut Squash Stew

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Kale Butternut Squash Stew over Polenta checks every box for a delicious fall dinner. This vegetable forward meal is bright with the beautiful orange of the butternut squash, the bright green of the kale and the pale yellow of the creamy polenta. The small amount of pancetta is just the right amount to add a salty, crunchy topping to this thoroughly delicious meal. If, however, you wish to keep the meal vegetarian/vegan, I would make some mushroom “bacon” or crispy shallots as a topping instead.

I served this over a creamy, slightly cheesy polenta, but it would be equally delicious over millet, rice or your grain of choice. The polenta added just the right contrast – and color – for me. And if you are going vegan, nowadays you can find vegan cheeses at many mainstream grocery stores. And an unsweetened plant-based “milk” and “butter” would substitute well for the dairy versions.

It always pleasantly surprises me when I come across a recipe that seems almost an afterthought to a magazine that I’m checking out. This one was in the November 2022 issue of Chicago. The recipe by Sarah Grueneberg from her cookbook Listen to Your Vegetables is served as a Thanksgiving side dish. However, after reading it, I thought that by playing around a bit with proportions, and serving it over polenta, Kale Butternut Squash Stew would make a satisfying main meal. And I was right!

This is such a happy dish. Just looking at the beautiful colors makes me smile. And with just a few simple ingredients – and a glass of a nice red wine – we ate well and felt great doing it. The only ingredient that proved a little tricky to find was an Italian pancetta. The grocery stores all sold “pancetta” from Wisconsin. Finally, after a visit to Eataly, I was successful in sourcing the real thing. A good thick-cut “bacon” of any variety would also produce a delicious result, but I was determined to use pancetta.

Kale Butternut Squash Stew

It was amazing how a such a small amount could impart so much flavor. If you choose to leave it out, then I would definitely use EVOO with some minced garlic and sage thrown in at the beginning. In addition, I would serve the dish with a flavorful topper like a mushroom “bacon” for just the right amount of punch.

Kale, Butternut Squash Stew is an uncomplicated dish to make. But I have found that some of the best meals I have ever eaten are simple dishes made well. This dish encompasses everything I love about autumn in one dish. And my husband raved about it. The next time I make this, I think I’ll make an apple pie for dessert….

Recipe

Yield: 4 generous portions with polenta or other grain

Ingredients

1/2 cup pancetta or thick-cut bacon, diced

2 teaspoons EVOO

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into large dice

1 medium red onion, peeled and coarsely chopped

kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

1.5 Tablespoons fresh thyme leaves (I used Lemon Thyme)

1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes in juice

2 large bunches of Tuscan (also called Lacinato or Dino) Kale, washed, stems removed and torn into 3-inch pieces.

2 cups of vegetable or chicken stock

Directions

In a large, heavy pot or deep, wide pan (cast iron is great here) cook the pancetta in the EVOO over medium heat until the fat is rendered and the pancetta is golden and crispy. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside. Do NOT wipe out the pan!

Return the pan to medium heat and add the squash and onion. Season well with salt. Start with 1 teaspoon. You can always add more. Mix through coating the vegetables with the oil and fat from the pancetta, if used. (If you chose not to use pancetta or bacon, then add 2 more teaspoons of EVOO to the pan before adding the squash and onion.) Cook until the vegetables are softened and beginning to caramelize. This will take about 10 minutes.

Add the thyme and stir through with a wooden spoon, scraping up any brown bits on the bottom of the pot.

Kale Butternut Squash Stew

Pour in the tomatoes and cook until thickened and the liquid has reduced – about another 10 minutes.

Stir in the kale and cook just until it begins to wilt. Add the stock, reduce the heat to medium low. You’ll want to cook the mixture for about 20 more minutes or until it has thickened and everything has had a chance to make friends and meld. Taste and adjust your seasoning and add lots of fresh, cracked black pepper.

While the stew is cooking, make your polenta, according to your preferences and the package instructions. I like to cook mine in a mix of milk and water and I add plenty of butter and black pepper. At the end of the cooking time, I stir in some freshly grated Pecorino or Parmesan. For this dish, you want the polenta to be soft and creamy.

Top the servings with the bits of polenta or mushroom “bacon.” A nice red wine and some flatbread or other crispy bread is all that is needed to have a small feast.

Pumpkin Coffee Cake

Pumpkin Coffee Cake

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Spicy, sweet, moist and fragrant, Pumpkin Coffee Cake says autumn bliss in every bite. Warming cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg and cloves and sweetened with brown sugar and maple syrup. With toasted pecans in a streusel topping covered with just the right amount of sweet, vanilla icing. Can you smell how it perfumes the whole house?

I can easily resist the siren call of “pumpkin spice latte” and “pumpkin spice” scented candles and room sprays. Don’t even get me started! However, I am a sucker for the real thing. And this lovely coffee cake actually contains real pumpkin and not merely “pumpkin” spices.

When I was searching for a recipe for a pumpkin cake or muffin, I came across this from Sally’s Baking Addiction. Initially I meant to make the recipe exactly as written – truly, I did. However, I immediately started thinking of ways to make it more my own. It’s safe to say that my version of Pumpkin Coffee Cake is only “inspired” by Sally’s.

My Pumpkin Coffee Cake gets its spicing from my Pumpkin Pie. I like a really well-spiced pie. It means adding a few cracks of fresh black pepper to my spice mix. This is a trick I learned a number of years ago. It isn’t enough to notice on its own. But it just enhances the spicy nature of the ginger, allspice and cloves.

I’m not sure why using the word “moist” to describe a cake has become a dirty word. For me, it means that the cake will melt in your mouth and the crumbs will stick together on the fork. It also means that the cake will likely be delicious even after a couple of days. So, yes, this Pumpkin Coffee Cake is beautifully and unashamedly moist! This, of course, also means that you can slice off mere slivers of the cake every time you happen to pass on by. No crumbling here.

Lately, I’ve noticed a curious correlation between bad news and my sweet tooth. The worse things are in the world, the more I crave quality sweets. So for me, the amount of icing was the perfect balance for the spiced cake and the streusel topping. But if you prefer the Jackson Pollack look of lacy lines or even no icing at all, that’s okay too. This is a humble coffee cake – not a fancy pastry.

Pumpkin Coffee Cake

The coffee cake was baked in a 9-inch springform pan. However, it could easily have been baked in an 8-inch springform or a 9-inch square pan or loaf pan. It just means that the baking time will need to be adjusted depending on how deep the cake is.

Pumpkin Coffee Cake uses ingredients that most of us have in our pantry. It’s always nice when my urge to bake doesn’t require an extra trip to the grocery store. But using fresh spices is always important for optimal flavor. So don’t get seduced into buying spices in bulk. Unless you are running a bakery or restaurant, most of us cannot use up these bulk spices quickly enough before the flavors are lost. Of course, the more whole spices you buy and grind yourself, the longer the spices will last. And the flavors will be more intense.

As with most coffee cakes, you can eat this from breakfast until dessert following dinner. And the cake can be frozen. I simply wouldn’t add the glaze until just before you are ready to use it.

But enough talk – let’s bake!

Pumpkin Coffee Cake

Recipe

Yield: One 9-inch cake

Ingredients

Streusel Topping

1/2 cup (63g) all-purpose, unbleached flour

1/2 cup (100g) packed dark brown sugar

1.5 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 cup chopped pecans

1/4 cup (4 T or 59g) unsalted cold butter

Pumpkin Coffee Cake Batter

2 cups (250g) all-purpose unbleached flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon double acting baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon each: ground allspice, nutmeg and cloves

1 teaspoon ground ginger

3 good cracks of freshly ground black pepper

1 cup (230g) pumpkin puree

1 large room temperature egg

1/2 cup (100g) packed dark brown sugar

1/2 cup (120ml) canola or other neutral vegetable oil

1/4 cup (82g) pure maple syrup

1/4 cup (60ml) dairy or non-dairy milk

Vanilla Icing

1 cup (120g) confectioners’ sugar

2 to 3 Tablespoons of milk or half & half

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C). Grease a 9-inch non-stick springform or square baking pan. If you are using a square pan, you can line it with parchment leaving a 2-inch overhang. This will make it easy to remove the cake from the pan. You could also choose to serve it directly from the pan. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the streusel ingredients using your fingers, a fork or pastry blender. Mix just to create clumps and large crumbs. Set aside.

Place all of the dry ingredients (flour and spices) in a large bowl and whisk them together. Then add in the pumpkin, egg, brown sugar, maple syrup, oil and milk. Stir just until everything is smooth and combined. Do not over mix. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly. Add the streusel topping across the batter, gently pressing it in slightly.

Ovens vary as do the pans used. I baked mine in the springform pan for 40 minutes. I then turned the oven off, cracked open the door and left the cake in the oven for 10 more minutes. The center didn’t sink and the cake was perfectly baked. You can also check with a toothpick in the center to see if it comes out dry with a few crumbs attached. I find that less reliable. I go by smell and how the cake looks. By turning off the oven and keeping the cake in there for a few additional minutes, I know the cake will be just done without risk of over-baking.

Remove the cake to a wire rack to cool. If necessary, run a thin knife or spatula around the inside edge of the pan before releasing the outer ring of the springform pan.

Once the cake has cooled to warm, you can prepare the icing, if using. Depending on how thick you like the consistency of the icing, will determine how much liquid you use. You can always add a little more sugar if you went too far with the liquid. How you choose to ice the cake is up to your inner artist. You can also choose to spread it across the top and allow it to run down the sides. This is a cake that can be eaten warm.

Italian Apple Cake

Italian Apple Cake

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Autumn and the Jewish New Year always mean sweet/tart/crisp, juicy apples and cinnamon to me. I can’t get enough of them in every and any iteration. My blog has several apple cake examples and you could be excused in thinking that are many more really needed.

But when I came across this recipe for an Italian Apple Cake, I knew I would try it right away. Of course, I tweaked it a bit! The result is a beautiful, fragrant, appley cake that is even better the second day. Every time I lift the lid on the cake plate, I am hit with a waft of apple scent. It’s delicious before I even taste a bite!

Most of the ingredients are always on hand so I was able to pull it together without a trip to the grocery store. There is nothing fancy here or cloyingly sweet. Every bite is chock full of apple chunks and the flavor is clean and apple-forward with a hint of lemon and cinnamon.

While I did use a hand mixer for beating the eggs with the sugar until airy and light, this cake can be made by hand if you have a strong arm. Other than that one task, no special equipment is required. And while I chose to lay some additional apples on top, dotted with butter and sprinkled with Demerara sugar, you could opt to leave that off and simply dust the cooled cake with confectioner’s sugar for presentation. I did also brush the finished cake top with a light coating of apple jelly for a bit of shine.

Italian Apple Cake

With so many varieties of apples available, choose one (or a variety) that is tart/sweet and will hold its shape when baked. No applesauce here!

The holiday of Sukkot begins Sunday night and lasts all week. This is a perfect treat for the coming 8 days. But you don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy this Italian Apple Cake. Perfect as is, a dollop of freshly whipped cream or crème fraîche would not go amiss, however. And the cake cuts beautifully.

And if you are like me, and can’t get enough of apples, consider some of these other delicious recipes:

Italian Apple Cake

Apple Cake – Take 2

Whole Wheat Apple Cake

Vegan Dessert to die for – Apple Frangipane Tart

Apple Bread Pudding

Tarte Aux Pommes – Apple Tart

Apple Walnut Bread with Rum-Soaked Raisins

Caramelized Apple Pancake

Apple Pecan Bourbon Bundt Cake

Apple Cinnamon Noodle Kugel

Spiced Apple Cake

Amish Apple Pie

Plum (or Apple)and Almond Paste Tart

Vegan Apple Raisin Cake with Applejack Sauce

Apple Tarte Tatin

Apple Crumble

Apple pie with cheddar cheese crust and hard sauce

Recipe

Italian Apple Cake

Yield: One 9-inch cake

Ingredients

Italian Apple Cake

2.5 to 3 medium apples, peeled, cored and cut into small chunks (I used 2.5, but I could have even had a few more chunks)

1 large apple if using the decorative topping, peeled, cored and thinly sliced

Zest of one small lemon

2 cups (240 g) unbleached, all-purpose flour

3 teaspoons (14 g) double acting baking powder

1 rounded teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt

1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar

1 cup (245 g) whole milk plain yogurt

1/2 cup (113 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 large eggs at room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 tablespoon unsalted butter for dotting apples on decorative top, if using

A light sprinkling of Demerara or sanding sugar for decorative top, if using

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a non-stick 9-inch spring form pan with a vegetable spray.

Rub the lemon zest into the sugar and set aside while you measure out your other ingredients.

In a medium bowl, mix together the dry ingredients and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, using a hand mixer, cream the lemon/sugar and eggs until they are light in color and VERY fluffy. This takes between 5 and 8 minutes.

Stir in the yogurt, butter and vanilla extract until smooth. Do this by hand with a spatula. Do NOT use the hand mixer.

Add the dry ingredients and stir through gently until everything is well combined. Then add in the apples and gently stir through.

If you are using the optional decorative topping, layer the apple slices in an attractive over-lapping pattern. Then sprinkle the apple slices with the sugar and dot with the butter.

Place the spring form pan on top of a baking pan to catch any oozing from the bottom of the pan. Bake until nicely browned. Ovens vary as do apples. So start checking after 45 minutes but don’t be surprised if the cake takes at least an hour. I always then turn off my oven, leaving the door ajar with the cake inside. This will ensure that the cake really is done and won’t sink. The apples and yogurt will keep the cake moist.

Allow the cake to cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes. Using a thin spatula, carefully run it around the inside of the pan’s rim to make sure that nothing stuck anywhere. Then you can open the ring and remove it. Cool the cake fully. The cake should easily come off of the bottom of the spring form pan. However, you could also leave it on it and serve from there, just being careful not to cut into your pan.

Place the cooled cake in a covered cake plate. Italian Apple Cake is even better the next day, making it a great do-ahead recipe. Now enjoy!

My Best Oatmeal Cookies

My Best Oatmeal Cookies

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There aren’t too many things that beat a great cookie. And My Best Oatmeal Cookies are a truly great cookie! Chock full of flavorful dried fruits and nuts and seasoned with just the right amount of sugar and spice. Lumpy and bumpy – just the way an oatmeal cookie should be.

My Best Oatmeal Cookies are simple to make, but do use fresh dried fruit for maximum flavor and chew. And please, please, always toast your nuts before adding them to the mixture. For years I would just add nuts straight from the fridge or freezer without toasting them first. What a difference a little bit of toasting makes. Since your oven is already heating up for the baking, just toss your nuts on a baking tray and toast for about 12 minutes or until fragrant while you are prepping the cookies. The nuts go in last so the timing is perfect.

While you could just go with cinnamon and nutmeg in this recipe, I strongly urge you to make up a batch of Sweet Hawaij. I’ve begun using it in most recipes that call for cinnamon. Included below is a recipe for Sweet Hawaij from the cookbook Shuk by Einat Admony and Janna Gur. This Yemeni spice blend is magical. I often use it to replace anywhere you might use cinnamon, pumpkin or baharat spices. It will take coffee and roasted vegetables to the next level. Try it in pumpkin pie. I guarantee you will be converted. I make up my own but it is also available online and at spice stores.

Oatmeal cookies happen to be a favorite of my husband’s. The last recipe I tried was for a pumpkin bread that didn’t work the way I had hoped. So I really wanted to make something he and I would love. While I am a huge chocolate lover, everything does not need chocolate to be great. A tendency I have noticed is that people put chocolate chips in EVERYTHING. Please just leave these cookies as is and enjoy them with a glass of milk or a cup of coffee or tea.

You can enjoy My Best Oatmeal Cookies, still slightly warm from the oven or they will keep for days in an airtight tin with a slice of bread in it.

My Best Oatmeal Cookies

Recipe

Yield: About 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients

1.5 cups of unbleached, all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons of sweet hawaij

1/4 teaspoon of kosher or fine sea salt

1 large egg, well beaten

1/2 cup melted butter or vegan butter

1/2 cup melted solid vegetable fat (I like Crisco)

1.75 cups “Old Fashioned” Rolled Oats

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1 Tablespoon dark molasses

1/4 cup dairy or non-dairy milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup toasted chopped pecans

1/2 cup toasted chopped walnuts

1/2 cup moist raisins

1/2 cup moist medjool dates, coarsely diced

1/2 cup moist dried sour cherries

Directions

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Line 3 baking sheets with Silpat or parchment. Set aside.

Sift the dry ingredients (first 4 ingredients listed) into a large bowl. Add all of the remaining ingredients and mix through until everything is distributed evenly.

Using a 1.5 Tablespoon cookie scoop (or a spoon) place dough on the prepared baking sheet. The cookies do not spread a great deal but I still keep them about 2 inches apart. I do not flatten the scoops. This keeps the centers chewy and the edges crisp-ish.

My Best Oatmeal Cookies
My Best Oatmeal Cookies

Bake, turning half-way (unless you are lucky enough to have a convection oven) for about 16 to 18 minutes. Ovens vary but the cookies should have flattened out somewhat and are brown around the edges. Allow the cookies to cool for about 3 minutes (more is fine) on the baking sheet before removing them to a cooling rack.

Sweet Hawaij

Yield: About 1/2 cup

1 Tablespoon ground cloves

2 Tablespoons freshly grated nutmeg

2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon

2 Tablespoons ground ginger

1 Tablespoon ground cardamom

This will last in a cool, dark place kept in a small glass air-tight jar for up to a year. Mine gets used up waaaaaay before that!

Persian Red Lentil Tamarind Soup (Dal Adas)

Persian Red Lentil Tamarind Soup

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Persian Red Lentil Tamarind Soup bursts with warming spices and the fruity tang of tamarind. Eat it as a satisfying soup with naan or over rice as a stew. While it may not be traditional, add some torn kale, spinach or chard for extra flavor and nutrition. This hearty vegan one-pot meal is perfect as we enter into fall.

While many of us are still facing summer temperatures thanks to climate change, the shorter days and some cooler nights are harbingers of the autumn and winter that really will finally arrive. We love soup anytime of the year and when it contains beans, lentils or pulses – so much the better. These perfect little nutrition bombs that come in so many guises are a superfood that we all can enjoy. Everything from creamy cannellini beans to dal in colors of the rainbow, runner beans, pinto, black-eyed peas…. I could keep going – and likely have tried most of them.

Persian Red Lentil and Tamarind Soup

Some legumes, like the masoor dal (or split red lentil) used here, cook up in under 30 minutes. You may see some in your stores that are much brighter, orangey red. This is because of added food coloring. Try to always buy organic dried beans.

These days I mostly cook from dried beans. They store beautifully in an airtight container and even older beans will revive with a long soak and slow cooking. They define comfort food, are budget friendly, nutritious and appear in almost every culture in one form or another. Everything from a cassoulet to frank and beans, Hoppin’ John and chili. South Asians wouldn’t think of a meal without some form of dal. And if you are trying to eat more vegetarian or vegan meals, there is no single food that packs a more nutritious power.

Now I’ll admit, that it can sometimes be challenging to take food-porn worthy photos of cooked lentils. This is especially true if they are the main ingredient without the benefit of other colorful produce. However, once you give them a taste in one of the myriad ways that they can be prepared, I think you’ll come to agree that delicious things occasionally come in slightly less attractive packages. What the French might refer to a person as “jolie-laide” or beautiful-ugly.

Persian Red Lentil Tamarind Soup

So whether you call these Nature’s gifts lentils, dal, pulses, or legumes, be sure to incorporate them into your diet.

For two other delicious red lentil soups that will give you dinner in under an hour:

Red Lentil Soup With North African Spices

Greek Red Lentil Soup

Recipe

Yield: 6 Servings

Persian Red Lentil and Tamarind Soup

Ingredients

3 Tablespoons EVOO

1 large yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped

6 large garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

A 3-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped

About 12 to 15 fresh cilantro stems, finely chopped

1.5 teaspoons kosher salt (Diamond Crystal preferred)

2 rounded teaspoons ground cumin

1 rounded teaspoon turmeric

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo Pepper

1 Tablespoon tomato paste

2.5 cups split red lentils (masoor dal), rinsed well and drained

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 Tablespoons tamarind paste (more or less depending on brand) or fresh lime juice

Lamb Merguez and Chicken Tagine

Lamb Merguez and Chicken Tagine

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Lamb Merguez and Chicken Tagine is aromatic, visually striking and oh so satisfying. Served with a whole wheat couscous with barberries and nuts, the dinner was ready in about an hour. While the couscous may not have been steamed over the tagine as a traditional couscous would be, it had the virtue of being ready in about 6 minutes. Here’s how this flavorful tagine came about.

So Shabbat was coming – as it does every week – and I had nothing planned. Feeling a bit lazy, I didn’t want to go to the grocery store again to pick something up. These days we pretty much only eat meat on Shabbat and later in the week if there are left-overs. It seemed like a good time to check out my freezer. It’s mostly filled with nuts, frozen fruit, ice cream and veggie sausages so I wasn’t very hopeful. However, in the very back under some bags of fruit, I found one pound of chicken tenders and some lamb merguez sausage. Hmmmmmm….

I always have plenty of grains, legumes, olives and veggies around as well as great spices, so I figured I could come up with something. After spending a bit of time Googling and deciding that I wanted to make a tagine, I found one that used both merguez sausage and chicken. I made some tweaks and the resulting Lamb Merguez and Chicken Tagine exceeded all of my expectations.

While the end result was absolutely delicious, when I make this again – and I will – I would choose boneless chicken thighs instead of breast meat. Not only do the thighs have more flavor, but they stay juicy and are more forgiving than breast meat. But if the pandemic taught me anything, it is that we make do with what’s on hand.

I eat with all of my senses. While I may sacrifice aesthetics on occasion for flavor, ideally a meal is attractive as well as delicious. It is an extra treat if my apartment is permeated with lovely spices. There is just something so comforting. While this dish as made is well-seasoned, it is not spicy. Frequently a tagine will be accompanied either by zhug or harissa for those who desire more heat.

Although I only used a little over a pound and a half of meat, the meal, with side salads and dips, could easily feed six people. Four people if my son is one of them! As I have mentioned in earlier posts, I always have four to six salads and dips for shabbat, which we then enjoy throughout the week.

This wonderful Lamb Merguez and Chicken Tagine does not require a tagine to successfully make this dish. I use my favorite Staub enameled cast iron dome-covered every-day pan – well, every day. You do want to use a heavy pan with a wide bottom.

Definitely give this a try. It makes for a delicious meal any time. But remember, it is the spices that make this dish. So be sure to use fresh ones.

For some salad and dip ideas

Salads for Every Meal

Spinach Avocado Hummus

Moroccan Beet Salad (Barba)

Moroccan Beet and Orange Salad with Pistachios

Garlicky Beet Spread

Twice-Cooked Eggplant Salad

Mushroom Walnut Pâté

Moroccan Carrot Salad

Recipe

Lamb Merguez and Chicken Tagine

Yield: 4 to 6 generous portions depending on sides

Ingredients

Spice mix

1 rounded teaspoon ground cumin

1 rounded teaspoon paprika (sweet or smoked)

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

3/4 teaspoon ground coriander

3/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon cayenne or Aleppo pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the tagine

1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 2 to 3-inch pieces

8.5 ounces of lamb merguez sausage, cut into 3-inch pieces (See photo above)

1/4 cup good olive oil

2 large carrots, peeled and cut on an angle into 2-inch pieces (See photo above)

1 large zucchini, cut on an angle into 2-inch pieces (See photo above)

1 large yellow onion, peeled, halved and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices

1 15.5 ounce can of chickpeas, drained (I cook up my own chickpeas and then used the cooking liquid in the tagine instead of broth.)

1 rounded Tablespoon garlic ginger paste OR 4 cloves of garlic minced and 1.5 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

1.5 cups of salted chicken or vegetable broth OR the cooking liquid from home cooked chickpeas

1/2 cup of pitted green olives (I like Castelvetrano olives)

1/2 of a preserved lemon, the peel only sliced into julienne (I make my own, but these are available nowadays in many stores and online)

For the couscous

2 cups whole wheat or regular couscous (Not the Israeli couscous which is bigger and takes longer to cook)

1/2 cup dried barberries, raisins or dried cranberries

3 Tablespoon EVOO

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

4 cups of chicken or vegetable broth

1/2 cup toasted coarsely chopped pistachios or sliced almonds

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh parsley

Directions

For the tagine

Mix together all of the spices for the spice mix. Pour 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil into your pan over a low heat. Add the spice mix and cook for 2 to 3 minutes in order for the spices to bloom and become fragrant.

Once the spices have bloomed, add the garlic ginger paste (OR the grated ginger and garlic) carrot, zucchini and onion and bathe with the oil and spices. Cook for a few minutes or just until the vegetables begin to soften.

Now add the chicken, merguez sausage and chickpeas. Gently toss so that everything is coated with the spices and oil. Next add in the preserved lemon and the olives and then add the broth over everything. Increase the heat to bring everything to a boil.

Cover the pan and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 40 minutes or until the chicken and sausage are cooked through.

For the Couscous

Place the couscous, barberries, cranberries or raisins, olive oil, turmeric and salt in a glass or ceramic serving dish Stir through so that everything is evenly distributed. Bring the broth to a boil and pour over the couscous mixture. Cover tightly with a lid, foil or plastic wrap. Leave covered for 6 to 8 minutes or until all of the liquid is absorbed and the couscous is fluffy. Add the chopped nuts and parsley and stir through. Now enjoy!

Frangipane Fig Tart

Fig Frangipane Tart

Due to the unprovoked, continuing brutal war of annihilation against Ukrainian civilians by Vladimir Putin and his army and the worsening humanitarian crisis, please consider helping by following the link below. There are a number of reputable aid agencies from which to choose. Many of these agencies will also help flood and tornado victims suffering the effects of climate change.

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It’s fresh fig season! Frangipane Fig Tart pairs luscious almond cream with ripe gorgeous figs to create this beautiful and delicious dessert.

I am an absolute sucker for frangipane and marzipan. When I am in Europe I always search for the beautiful marzipan offerings. Some women look for shoes – I shop marzipan. Shaped to resemble delicate fruits and vegetables – they are almost too pretty to eat. But somehow I always do! And don’t get me started on dark chocolate covered marzipan. Yummmmmmmmmmmm!

Frangipane uses the same flavors as marzipan but in a delicate custardy cream that just melts as soon as it hits your tongue. It is a wonderful filling for all kinds of fruit tarts and is especially delicious paired with apples, apricots and pears. Here I am pairing it with fresh ripe figs while they are in season.

Frangipane Fig Tart takes bits and pieces from other recipes I have made. After 5 plus decades of cooking and baking I have learned that everything is built on something that came before. So if you come across a tart dough that you like, use it again and again in different tarts. Maybe you will add a new flavoring like almond extract or a bit of whole wheat flour to make it fit the new filling.

Frangipane Fig Tart takes the frangipane recipe that I use in my Bakewell Tart. It gets the crust from the Perfect French Walnut Tart with the addition of pure almond extract. The use of Dalmatia Fig jam is a riff on the jam also used in the Bakewell Tart and Linzer Torte. Whenever I cook something new, I search for five or six different versions and take what I like from each. It’s not magic. Anyone can do it.

When you cut open a ripe fig, it has a beautiful natural design that makes the tart a work of art. While I am willing to sacrifice looks for taste on occasion, that is not a compromise I need to make here.

Fig Frangipane Tart

For a delicious vegan frangipane recipe:

Vegan Dessert to die for – Apple Frangipane Tart

For another delicious way to use the ripe figs now in season:

Fresh Fig and Walnut Bread

Fig Frangipane Tart

Recipe

Yield: One 9-inch tart About 8 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 (85 g) unsalted butter, cut into 1⁄2-inch cubes 

1 large egg yolk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

For the filling

175 g soft butter (About 13 Tablespoons)

 175 g caster sugar (3/4 cups)

 3 large eggs, at room temperature

 175 g ground almonds (1.5 cups)

 40 g all-purpose flour (1/3 cup)

1/4 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt

 1 tsp pure almond extract

10 to 12 fresh figs (You won’t use all of them but some will be nicer when cut open than others and some mistakes in cutting also happen….)

3 T Dalmatian Fig Jam (This is widely available in most large grocery stores and online)

Directions

Heat the oven to 325°F with a rack in the lower-middle position.

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 or until the dough just starts to come together. Do not wait for it to form a ball.

Crumble the dough into 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, 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 (dock) all over the bottom, then freeze until the dough is firm, 15 to 30 minutes. You can also refrigerate the dough for at least one hour or up to overnight.

Bake the tart pastry for 30 to 35 minutes or until lightly browned and set. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack or heat resistant surface. While the pastry is still warm, spread 3 Tablespoons of the fig jam over the bottom of the pastry. Left-over jam is wonderful on toast and with cheese.


Fig Frangipane Tart

While the tart shell bakes, make the frangipane filling. The amount given is generous and you may have a little leftover. It will keep in the fridge for several days and can be used to make some small tarts or in a baked french toast or almond croissants.

Once the tart shell with the layer of fig jam has cooled slightly, carefully spoon dollops of the softened frangipane into the shell without disturbing the jam. Spread it into an even layer that comes just under the rim. You want to leave room for the weight of the figs.

Prepare the figs. There is no magic one way to cut the figs. Experiment a bit to make a pleasing pattern. The frangipane will puff up some in the oven and will then settle down as it cools. So be sure to leave some spaces uncovered with the fruit for the frangipane to puff up.

Fig Frangipane Tart

I always buy a few extra figs. Failures happen and some figs just look better when they are cut open than others.

Mistakes Happen

Sprinkle the cut figs with a little Demerara or sanding sugar. Place in the 325 degree oven and bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the frangipane is just set with a little jiggling in the center. I like to then turn off the oven but leave the tart in there for 8 to 10 more minutes. That really sets things without over-baking.

Fig Frangipane Tart

Allow the tart to cool completely on a wire rack before removing it from the ring.

[I don’t think it is necessary but if you want to give the tart a totally professional glistening finish, you can lightly and carefully brush the top with a warmed and strained apple or apricot jelly.]

Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberries

Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberries

Due to the unprovoked, continuing brutal war of annihilation against Ukrainian civilians by Vladimir Putin and his army and the worsening humanitarian crisis, please consider helping by following the link below. There are a number of reputable aid agencies from which to choose. Many of these agencies will also help flood and tornado victims suffering the effects of climate change.

Support Humanitarian Efforts in Ukraine

If you are a fan of bold citrus in a melt-in-your-mouth cake, Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberries is for you. What this cake lacks in ‘curb appeal’ it more than makes up for in flavor. After all, isn’t that what crème fraîche or whipped cream are for? And this humble cake requires no equipment more complicated than a whisk. Oh my goodness this cake is wonderful!

As I often do, I was clicking through recipes when I came across a recipe for yogurt cake by the well-known author, Claudia Roden. I was about to make it for Shabbat when I decided to read the comments. They were very, very mixed leaning towards the negative. By that time, however, I had it in my head that I had to make a yogurt cake – so I kept on clicking. I came across one titled French Grandmother’s Lemon Yogurt Cake. It looked simple and the reviews were universally positive.

Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberries

Now I meant to make it exactly as written – really I did. However, my husband, who recently has gotten into cooking and baking, said “Why don’t we add blueberries?” So I figured, why not? But then he said “What if we zest lemon into some sugar and roll the blueberries in that like for the Upside Down Blueberry Pancake?” Trying to be encouraging in his nascent dive into cooking, I said “Sure, why not?”

And, thus was born the Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberries!

Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberries

This unpretentious cake can be eaten for breakfast, coffee or tea break or as dessert. It’s easy to make and even easier to eat. And the cake will only get more flavorful and moister as the days go on. Assuming, of course, that it isn’t all eaten up in one go! Serve just as is or with a little crème fraîche or whipped cream.

Recipe

Yield: About 8

Ingredients

For the Cake

1/2 cup whole milk plain natural yogurt

1 cup granulated sugar plus 3 teaspoons, divided

3 large eggs at room temperature

1.5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt

Grated zest of one medium to large lemon, divided

1/2 cup of a neutral oil (I used canola)

1/2 cup of blueberries

For the syrup

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

3/4 cup powdered, icing or confectioners sugar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Spray an 8-inch springform or round cake pan with a neutral spray. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment and lightly spray that. Set the pan aside.

Using your fingers, rub about 1 teaspoon of the lemon zest into the 3 teaspoons of sugar. Add the blueberries and toss through. Set aside.

Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberries

In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, 1 cup of sugar and the eggs. Stir or whisk until well blended.

Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberries

Add the oil to the egg mixture and stir through.

Sift the flour and baking powder over the egg mixture. Now add the lemon zest and stir just to combine. Add the blueberries and gently fold through.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the top is nicely browned and the cake feels springy to the touch. Depending on the oven, this can take 40 to 50 minutes.

Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberries

While the cake is baking, combine the sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl. This should be more of a runny syrup than a sugar glaze. Set aside.

Cool the cake on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberries

Then, if you are using a springform pan, just run a thin knife or spatula around the cake and release the outer ring. If you are using a cake pan, turn the cake out of the pan onto the rack. Don’t worry if the cake sinks a bit in the center. Place a pan or some newspaper under the rack to brush on the syrup.

Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberries

While the cake is still warm, use a pastry brush with the syrup. Generously brush the syrup over the top and sides of the cake. You may have some extra glaze which you could use when serving the cake. Allow the cake to cool completely before serving.

Perfect French Walnut Tart

Perfect French Walnut Tart

Due to the unprovoked, continuing brutal war of annihilation against Ukrainian civilians by Vladimir Putin and his army and the worsening humanitarian crisis, please consider helping by following the link below. There are a number of reputable aid agencies from which to choose. Many of these agencies will also help flood and tornado victims suffering the effects of climate change.

Support Humanitarian Efforts in Ukraine

Are you looking for something new for Rosh Hashanah? This luscious French Walnut Tart is perfect. A short bread cookie-like pastry shell gets filled with toasted walnuts, each piece coated in a honey, buttery caramel. It is a perfect balance of sweet and salty with the earthy richness of walnuts. Yes, please!

Try this Perfect 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.

The recipe calls for crème fraîche, a naturally soured cream. It can be purchased in many grocery stores these days. However, it is so simple to make your own crème fraîche. You just need to plan one day ahead of using it. My husband loves it on so many desserts that I almost always have a jar in my fridge. I love homemade whipped cream, but crème fraîche adds a certain umph to what might be an otherwise overly-sweet or blah dessert – neither of which this is.

While this recipe calls for unsweetened crème fraîche, I often add some confectioners sugar and vanilla when I am serving it with a simple cake. Crème fraîche is incredibly easy to produce. All that is required is a glass container, 1 cup of cream and 2 to 3 Tablespoons of buttermilk or whole milk kefir. Mix them together and leave the jar covered in a warm place for 24 hours and Voila! If you plan on adding sugar or vanilla to the crème fraîche, only add it after the mixture has soured and thickened.

The cookie-like crust is a dough that anyone can work with. It’s not fussy to make, comes together quickly and there is no need to roll out any pastry!

The Perfect French Walnut Tart is a cousin of my beloved Bourbon Pecan Pie and is a lovely dessert any time. But nuts and honey? Perfect as a High Holiday treat. The ratio of nuts to filling is very high, giving it an almost toffee-like texture. Total, unadulterated yumminess!

Perfect French Walnut Tart

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 (You could use a non-dairy “butter” if you wanted to eat this with meat on the holiday.)

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 (If you need to keep this non-dairy, there are non-dairy sour “creams” on the market.)

4 tablespoons (1⁄2 stick) salted butter (Or a good quality non-dairy “butter” like Earth Balance)

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 Tablespoon cornstarch, sifted

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

230 grams (2.5 cups) walnuts, roughly chopped and lightly toasted

A sprinkle of Maldon Sea Salt as a garnish

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.

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 or until the dough just starts to come together. Do not wait for it to form a ball.

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 (dock) all over the bottom, then freeze until the dough is firm, 15 to 30 minutes. You can also refrigerate the dough for at least one hour or up to overnight.

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, egg yolks, butter, vinegar, cornstarch and salt, then whisk until the butter is melted and the mixture is well combined. Then add the nuts and stir until evenly coated. Let cool until just warm, about 30 minutes.

While the caramel cools, you want to blind bake the dough before adding the filling. (Because this is essentially a short bread crust, there is no need to line the pan or to use weights.) Bake for 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes.

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. You might want to put some foil or a baking sheet under the pan to catch any spill-over. (Do NOT be alarmed when you first see the baked tart coming out of the oven. It will bubble up and look kind of messy at first. Trust me – it settles down as it cools.)

Let the tart cool on a wire rack for about 1 hour. Remove the pan sides. Serve warm or at room temperature with a sprinkling of Maldon Sea Salt. 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 to 12 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.

Summer Garden Pasta

Summer Garden Pasta

Due to the unprovoked, continuing brutal war of annihilation against Ukrainian civilians by Vladimir Putin and his army and the worsening humanitarian crisis, please consider helping by following the link below. There are a number of reputable aid agencies from which to choose. Many of these agencies will also help flood and tornado victims suffering the effects of climate change.

Support Humanitarian Efforts in Ukraine

This simple Summer Garden Pasta makes the most out of the tomato and basil harvest. With only a few ingredients, this delicious pasta comes together in under an hour. If you have the time, pair it with one of these wonderful focaccia.

When choosing a pasta to use for this Summer Garden Pasta, I like to use a fusilli, but any pasta with ridges or twists will be great. They are both sturdy enough and have loads of nooks and crannies to hold the sauce. You want want to miss even a speck!

I made this dish one night when I had some heirloom tomatoes to use up and a flourishing basil plant. My husband LOVED this simple Summer Garden Pasta so much that he ate seconds and thirds! While I used heirloom tomatoes the first time, any good ripe tomato will work. This time I used organic Roma and grape tomatoes.

This is a sort of non-recipe recipe. Don’t get too bogged down in exact measurements. Another clove of garlic? Great. You like things really spicy. A few more red pepper flakes? Fine. More than a pound of tomatoes to use up? Go ahead. The basic recipe is below but be free to tailor it to your preferences. Just keep it simple.

Summer Garden Pasta is wonderful for those steamy summer days when turning on the oven is unthinkable. So buy your bread and feast!

Recipe

Summer Garden Pasta

Yield: 4 generous servings

Ingredients

Summer Garden Pasta

About 1.25 pounds of ripe tomatoes, coarsely diced

5 to 6 large cloves of garlic, peeled and left whole

2 to 3 anchovies in oil

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes or to taste

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

4 Tablespoons EVOO (I used a Mediterranean flavored oil, but any good EVOO will do )

2 Tablespoons Canola or other neutral oil

1 cup roasted bell peppers (homemade or from a jar), rinsed, patted dry and coarsely chopped

1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar (it balances the acidity of the tomatoes)

1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese

1 cup of pasta water

1 pound of dry pasta like a fusilli

Lots of fresh basil leaves (a large handful), with about half kept for garnish

Directions

In a large pan with a tight fitting lid, add your oils, garlic cloves and anchovies. On a low heat, cook the garlic until it is golden, bathing it occasionally in the oil. The anchovies will have broken down and become indistinguishable from the oil. This took me about 15 minutes.

Once the garlic is golden (do NOT burn the garlic!) add the chopped tomatoes, roasted red peppers, salt, balsamic vinegar and red pepper flakes, if using. Cook on gentle heat, covered for about 12 to 15 minutes or when the tomatoes have broken down and become saucy. You don’t want mush. I like to still see some of the tomato chunks.

Up to this point, you can make the sauce ahead if you choose. The other ingredients will be added when you are ready to eat.

When you are ready to cook your pasta, bring the sauce to a simmer. Crumble in the goat cheese and mix through. Add the pasta water just before draining the pasta and half of the basil. The leaves can be torn or left whole. Your preference.

Mix everything through and simmer uncovered for about 2 minutes. Drain your pasta and add it to the sauce, mixing it well. Alternatively, add the sauce to the plated pasta. Garnish with lots of basil that has been chiffonaded and some grated parmesan or pecorino, if desired. Mangia!