Lamb Korma at Home

Preparing Indian cuisine does take some time and lots of spices. But the rewards are worth the trouble. This lamb korma at home recipe comes from the same source as the oven-baked chicken tandoori that I posted previously.

What is korma and how does it differ from curry? Korma is a mild curry made with yogurt and nuts and includes lots of coriander. It is rich in flavor and texture with many layers.

As I have mentioned before, while Indian recipes call for lots of spices, the same ones are used often in both Indian and Mediterranean cuisines. I like to buy the whole spice and grind them as needed, which takes only minutes if you use and inexpensive coffee or spice blender. The difference from the pre-ground spices that you buy in stores is huge and will make or break these dishes. Once you get in the habit of grinding your own spices you may never go back to buying them ground again.

As with many cuisines, organizing your ingredients before you actually begin to cook is essential. Things get added quickly and there is no time to suddenly start chopping or blending ingredients once the cooking commences. Preparing these recipes with someone else to help makes short work, but they can be done by one person.

For some ideas of how to put together a complete Indian meal, check out the suggestions I give on my post for tandoori chicken. And always be sure to have some good naan, roti or other bread and basmati rice to soak up the delicious sauces. Even if you only serve the lamb korma at home with a simple rice and a veg, you won’t be disappointed.

Recipe

Yield: About 6 to 8 servings as part of a full Indian meal

Ingredients

2 ounces of garlic cloves (about 8 large)

2 ounces of fresh ginger root, peeled and cut into small pieces

1/2 cup of milk

2 ounces of raw cashews

2 teaspoons poppy seeds

1/2 cup butter or ghee

1/4 cup of Canola or vegetable oil

1 pound (about 1 large) onion, finely chopped

2 pounds of lean lamb, cut into 1/5 inch cubes

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1.5 teaspoons curry powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/4 teaspoon ground green cardamom

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 pound tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1/2 cup plain whole-milk yogurt

Directions

Puree the garlic and ginger in a processor or blender and set aside.

Combine all of your spices and the salt and set aside.

Mix the milk with the cashews and poppy seeds in a blender and process until smooth. (I found that this worked best if I first ground the cashews and poppy seeds in my spice grinder.)

Melt the butter or ghee in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until lightly browned. Increase the heat to high and add the garlic/ginger puree. Brown lightly.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the lamb pieces. Saute until lightly browned on all sides, turning as needed. This takes about 8 minutes. Scrape the skillet as necessary to prevent sticking. You can add a few drops of water to loosen any brown bits, but I found that the butter and oil was sufficient.

Add the spices and mix well being sure to coat all of the lamb pieces. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 10 minutes until the lamb is nicely glazed.

Add the tomatoes, yogurt and cashew, poppy seed milk mixture and stir through.

Serve garnished with chopped cilantro, if desired.

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Oven-Baked Tandoori-Style Chicken at Home

Now anyone can make delicious Oven-Baked Tandoori-Style Chicken at home. If you follow my blog it’s easy to tell that my favorite cuisines are Indian and Mediterranean. Both are incredibly varied, complex and have some huge regional differences. That said, however, these cuisines are lively with spices and use lots of vegetables and pulses. The spices are similar, albeit in different combinations and quantities. The meals are accompanied by salads and pickles and both have wonderful flat breads. And its easy to feed both vegetarians and omnivores since there are so many great non-meat options.

Because spices are at the heart of these cuisines, I have relatively recently started grinding my own as I use them. It is incredibly simple and quick to do with a coffee grinder and the difference is incomparable. Smell freshly ground coriander versus store bought and you won’t even recognize them as the same spice. And while the spice list may appear long in many Indian dishes, if you do this kind of cooking, they are spices that I always have on hand in my pantry. If you purchase the whole spice or seed – only grinding what you need – the fragrance and flavor will last longer too.

But I digress. My husband and I have found that eating out is very expensive and often a less than totally satisfying experience. And, of course, I enjoy cooking and my husband and family are such an appreciative audience that I have chosen to learn how to prepare many of our favorite foods at home. And the aromas! There is nothing like walking into a house where the air is redolent of spices or the smell of fresh bread.

All of this is by way of introducing Oven-Baked Tandoori-Style Chicken at home. This recipe dates back to a May, 1980 Bon Appetit article on the cuisine of northern India. The chef is Paul Bhalla and his recipes do take some preparation, but they are all well worth the effort. I hopefully will be blogging his recipe for Lamb Korma and Alu Gobi in the coming weeks. The only change I have made in the Tandoori Chicken recipe is to reduce the quantity. This can easily be doubled. The other slight change is that my oven unfortunately shuts down if I try to heat it to 500 degrees F. So I have slightly reduced the temperature to 475 degrees F. at the beginning of the cooking time and will zap it under the broiler at the end to get that caramelized look.

For a complete Indian meal, check out some of these ideas:

Indian Sides with Something to Please Everyone

Red Lentils with Ginger

Punjabi Chana Dal

Moong Dal and Lemony Ground Lamb

Eggplant Raita

Eggplant Pate (Bharta)

Karhi (Yogurt Sauce)

Indian Rice Pudding (Kheer)

Carrot Halwa (Gajar ka halwa)

Be sure to have plenty of naan, roti or one of the other many Indian breads on hand for all of the wonderful sauces and dips. If you cannot locate these breads easily and don’t feel like making them, the ubiquitous pita and wheat flour tortillas are acceptable substitutes. And definitely cook up basmati rice.

And if you don’t eat meat, check out Salmon in Bengali Mustard Sauce. These wonderful recipes are just a sampling of delicious Indian foods on my blog.

Recipe for Oven-Baked Tandoori-Style Chicken at Home

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

1 whole chicken, cut-up and skinned

1/2 teaspoon saffron threads

1 Tablespoon boiling water

4 large garlic cloves

4-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into about 8 pieces

1/2 cup plain yogurt (I do not use Greek yogurt here. Find a good plain, whole milk yogurt to use instead like a Bulgarian yogurt.)

1/4 cup beetroot color extract (See note)

A couple of drops of red vegetable food coloring (optional)

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Rounded 1/2 Tablespoon ground coriander

Rounded teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon whole cumin seed

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Garnishes (Optional)

Lemon or lime wedges and lettuce leaves and sliced onions.

Directions

Remove the skin from the chicken. I find it helps to use a paper or cloth towel to gran and pull off the skin in one piece. Cut 4 to 5 slits (almost to the bone) in the thighs and breasts. Place in a glass or stainless bowl.

Soak the saffron in the water for about 5 minutes. I heat the water and saffron in the microwave for about 20 seconds or you can simply boil water and then add the saffron. Brush the mixture generously over the chicken pieces on both sides and into the slits. Cover and allow to stand for 20 minutes at room temperature.

In a blender, puree the garlic, ginger and then add the yogurt, beet extract and spices. Continue pureeing until you have a smooth liquid. Using a pastry brush, generously paint the chicken pieces with the spice mixture, making sure that it gets into the slits. You can also just place everything in a heavy duty plastic freezer bag. Massage the chicken pieces once you have gotten out as much air as possible and the bag is sealed. Refrigerate for at least 12 hours or overnight.

Remove the chicken from the fridge about an hour before cooking. Heat your oven to 500 degrees F if you can or 450 to 475 degrees F if your oven doesn’t go that high.

Use some of the melted butter to coat a shallow roasting pan. Add the chicken pieces and drizzle with remaining butter. Roast for 10 to 12 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and continue roasting until the chicken tests done and is a poppy red color – the perfect Oven-Baked Tandoori-Style Chicken. This will take about an additional 25 to 39 minutes. Arrange on a platter with lettuce leaves and the garnishes of your choice. [I did not use the red food coloring and my beets were a bit anemic in color this time, so my chicken was not that lovely poppy red. It does NOT, however have any effect on the taste.

NOTE: To make beet extract, cut in eighths 1 large or quarter 2 to 3 small beets. Combine in a saucepan with 1/2 cup water. Cover and boil until the beet is fork tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain well, reserving the liquid. Use the cooked beets for salad. The reserved liquid is your extract. You can also buy canned beets and use the liquid from the can.

Tarte Citron Mama

Tarte Citron Mama appeared in the June, 1979 Bon Appetit magazine. It was described as a 14th century French dessert and wasn’t quite like any other dessert I had ever seen or tasted – then or since. I have not been able to find anything like it online, although it does sound as if it may be similar to a recipe found in The Lutece Cookbook. Thankfully I wrote the recipe down years ago because I can no longer locate the magazine in my bookcase….

This is a lemon and almond tarte but without conventional pastry or custard. And while I am not normally a huge fan of meringue, when it is mixed with the ground almonds, I found it transformed. The resulting tarte is just a little bit sticky, a little bit chewy, incredibly moist, bright and light with the fresh taste and fragrance of citrus and almonds. Tarte Citron Mama is the perfect ending to a rich meal.

While it is easy to come by ground almonds these days, I like to grind my own for this recipe. The almonds won’t be quite as fine when I do it, but that is part of their charm. Making this dessert takes a bit of patience, but the steps are easy to follow. And unlike a lemon meringue pie, the meringue here is a relatively thin layer. On the day I made it, there is a little crispness to the meringue and each of the layers is easily discernible, whereas on the second day some magical alchemy takes place and all of the layers meld together. However you enjoy it, this luscious tarte won’t last long.

And while I made use of 21st century appliances, since this dates back to the 14th century it can be made entirely by hand – and with a LOT of elbow grease! So when you have a little time and you want to give your friends or family a delightful and totally surprising dessert, try this 14th century tarte.

I don’t know what lemons were like in the 14th century, but I find that most lemons these days – even organic ones – tend to have thick skins, a lot of pits and pith and not a great deal of fruit. Meyer lemons are sweeter, thinner skinned and less acidic, which is perfect for this recipe. It’s seeking them out if you plan to try this. And I encourage you to do so.

Recipe slightly tweaked by me

Yield: One 9-inch tarte (about 6 generous portions)

Ingredients

3 extra large eggs, separated

1 cup granulated sugar

grated zest of one lemon

1.75 cups raw almonds with skins, finely ground with 2 teaspoons of the sugar

1 Tablespoon of flour

Generous pinch of kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract

Approximately 6 lemons (Meyer lemons work best, in my opinion), with all of the skins and pits removed and cut into thin slices

2 extra large egg whites (Use the left-over yolks in your next omelette)

1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract

For garnish (Optional but really nice)

Strips of lemon peel with all of the white pith removed (I use a boning knife to achieve this) from 1/2 a lemon

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup water

2 Tablespoons granulated or castor sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. VERY generously grease a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Pay special attention to the inside rim.

Combine the 3 yolks and 3/4 cup of sugar in a large bowl and whisk until the yolks become very pale and will “ribbon” when you lift up the whisk. Add the lemon zest, salt and 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract and mix through.

Blend in 1 cup of the ground almonds and the Tablespoon of flour.

Beat the 3 egg whites until stiff. Stir 1/4 of the whites into the yolk and almond mixture to loosen things up. Then carefully fold in the remainder of the whites.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes or until the cake is lightly browned.

Remove the base of the tarte from the oven, but leave the oven on to maintain the temperature.

Cover the top of the tarte base with the lemon slices, overlapping them slightly.

Beat the remaining 2 egg whites until soft peaks form, Gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of almond extract. Continue beating until stiff peaks form. Gently fold in the remaining ground almonds.

Using a spatula dipped in cold water, carefully spread meringue evenly over the top, covering the lemon slices completely.

Return the tarte to the oven for about 20 to 25 minutes or until the meringue becomes golden.

Remove the tarte from the oven and allow it to cool for at least 20 minutes before trying to remove it from the tart ring. Don’t worry if the meringue cracks. When completely cooled you can add the garnish to the tarte.

For Garnish

Make a simple syrup by combining equal parts sugar and water in a small pot on a medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Add the thin strips of lemon peel and cook on a low heat for about 10 minutes. The peel should have softened.

Remove the peel from the syrup and roll the pieces in the granulated or castor sugar. Spread the sugared peel on a piece of waxed paper to dry. This same process can be used to candy orange peel. The remaining flavored simple syrup can be refrigerated to use later in a variety of mixed drinks or even added to homemade lemonade.

Caramelized Corn and Tomato Tarte Tatin

After seeing four separate blog posts come up on my Google feed for Tomato Tarte Tatin, I figured I had to try one of them. The caramelized corn and tomato tarte tatin simply was too pretty not to try it. And as farmer’s markets and grocery stores are stocking a bounty of tomatoes and corn, this recipe seemed a natural to make.

The most difficult part of the recipe for me was lifting the heavy cast iron pan to turn out the finished tarte. My husband had to perform that task. But everything else really only took minutes to prepare and none of the ingredients is hard to find. Of course, I had to tweak it to my tastes. This particular version called for Everything Bagel Spice and I preferred to use Za’atar. You can make your own or buy very good ready-made versions online and in many grocery stores. It is a Middle Eastern spice mix that can be used in so many ways that I really recommend keeping it on hand. Lately I have been having farmer’s cheese on brown rice cakes with halved grape tomatoes liberally sprinkled with za’atar for breakfast and I’m not tired of it yet.

Next time you have pita or naan, brush it with some EVOO and sprinkle on za’atar. Pop in the oven for a couple of minutes and enjoy. It’s also great on grilled meats, over eggs and on yogurt.

The tarte is best eaten warm from the oven. And if it sits too long, the pastry will get a bit soggy from the tomato juices. It makes a great appetizer or summer luncheon or dinner with a green salad. The flavor is both sweet from the corn and tomatoes and savory from the cheese and spices. The corn lends a nice bite to each mouthful. This simple preparation is loaded with umami.

My husband and I did get distracted and we left my tarte in the pan too long before inverting so the tomatoes continued to cook. If you turn it out after only 5 minutes the result will be brighter looking than my finished product. It was, however, still delicious.

If you are looking for another wonderful use of summer’s bounty, check out the tomato and plum galette. This recipe seemed like a surprising combination to me and yet it worked perfectly. After all, tomatoes are fruits.

Recipe

Yield: 6 to 8 portions

Ingredients

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon EVOOl
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved if large
  • 1 small shallot, thinly sliced
  • kosher salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, plus more for serving
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar or Pomegranate Molasses
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 ears yellow corn, kernels removed from cob
  • 1/2 cup shredded Havarti or provolone cheese
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons Za’atar

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a 10-inch heavy duty oven-proof skillet set over medium heat, add olive oil. When the oil shimmers, add the tomatoes, shallots, thyme, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Cook until the tomatoes begin to pop, about 4-5 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and honey and continue cooking another 1-2 minutes until the sauce thickens a bit. Remove from the heat and gently push the tomatoes into an even layer, covering the surface of the skillet. Sprinkle the corn over the tomatoes and then add the cheese. 

Place the pastry over the top of everything and press down gently to secure, tucking the sides of the pastry under the tomatoes as best you can. Brush the top of the pastry lightly with water and sprinkle with Za’atar spice. Using a sharp knife, make 3 small cuts in the center of the pastry.

Transfer to the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to rest in the pan for 5 minutes and then place a serving plate over the skillet. Carefully invert the skillet and allow the tarte tatin to fall out onto the plate.  Garnish with thyme. Slice, and serve warm. Enjoy! 

Vegan Italian Chocolate Cookies

Lumpy. Bumpy. Chewy. Deeply chocolaty with an undertone of spice. And easy – so easy.

As anyone who reads my blog knows, I am not a vegan. However, I always like to have some good vegan recipes – especially desserts – in my back pocket. Whether you keep kosher or eschew dairy products for ethical reasons or because of food allergies, vegan desserts can be a wonderful option.

However, I will not serve a vegan dessert unless it is just as good as a non-vegan one. I came across this recipe and after a few tweaks, the result is a delicious cookie that chocolate lovers will adore. The hint of exotic spices gives a Mediterranean flavor that marks it as unique.

This recipe comes together quickly and requires no special equipment or techniques – and I had everything on hand in my pantry. Do use a really good quality unsweetened Dutch Processed cocoa like Droste or Valrhona when making these. Chocolate and cocoa powders each have their own unique flavor profile so find one that you like and use it in all of your recipes.

I confess that I made my cookies with unsalted real butter, but they absolutely will not suffer if they are made with a buttery vegan solid such as Earth Balance.

My husband and I tried the cookies still slightly warm from the oven and after a day in an airtight tin. While both were good, we agreed that the flavors and texture were at their peak after sitting overnight. The cookies will easily keep for a week, if stored properly, and are luscious with a glass of milk (dairy or non), a cup of coffee or with a sweet dessert wine.

Because the cookies are such a deep, dark brown, it can be difficult to tell when they are fully baked. I made three batches and baked each one for a different amount of time – from 14 minutes to 20 minutes. All worked, but the one that baked for 14 minutes was the best. The dough does not spread during baking so however the cookies go onto the baking sheet is pretty much how they will come out at the end. Try one of these deeply satisfying and not overly sweet cookies soon.

Recipe

Yield: 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients

1/2 cup of unsalted, solid vegan buttery margarine or unsalted real butter (1 stick)

2/3 cup unsweetened Dutch Processed Cocoa

2 cups light or dark brown sugar

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup strong coffee (the liquid and NOT granules!)

2.5 cups whole wheat flour

1.5 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup coarsely chopped, lightly pan-toasted blanched almonds or walnuts

1 cup of raisins tossed with 1 teaspoon of flour

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets or pans with parchment paper or a non-stick silicone mat like Silpat.
  2. Combine first five ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium/low heat. Allow the mixture to melt until it resembles chocolate syrup. Do not allow it to boil. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.
  3. Combine the flour with the baking powder, spices and salt in a large bowl.
  4. Pour the melted chocolate mixture into the flour mixture and stir to combine until no flour is visible. Add the almonds and raisins and work through the batter so that everything is evenly distributed.
  5. Lightly spray a 1 Tablespoon cookie scoop or measuring spoon with a non-stick spray. Scoop out slightly rounded Tablespoonfuls and place on the prepared baking pan. The cookies do not spread during baking so they can be fairly close together.
  6. Bake for 14 minutes, turning once if your oven bakes unevenly like mine!
  7. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 3-5 minutes before transferring the cookies to a cooling rack. Allow the cookies to cool completely before storing.

Blueberry Galette

So what’s a galette, you say? Very simply, it is a free-form tart. It can have a sweet or savory filling and is usually referred to as “rustic.” The galette is unfussy. But my favorite aspect of a galette is the lovely filling that gets hidden under the part of the crust that is folded over. So when I take that bite, I get all of the luscious, fruity filling nestled into the buttery, sugary crust. It’s kind of like a pop-tart – if it were made by the goddess Hestia.

Now nothing says summer like fresh, gorgeous, purpley blueberries. I have been using them in my yogurt, on cereal or right out of the box. So, of course, it followed that the next dessert I made would include them. And since I recently discovered this wonderful and easy to work with pastry dough, a galette was the perfect response. It’s the same dough that I used for my apricot frangipane tart. This dough was a revelation.

I have been making pie dough for decades. Now don’t get me wrong. My Crisco vegan crust still makes a wonderful pie crust – but it is a bit temperamental. A LOT of patching is frequently involved and occasionally a few tears.

But this all-butter crust is tender and crispy with sugar crystals on top and just plain yummy. And BEST of all – it is fool-proof. I have made it several times this summer and it works out perfectly each time. The dough comes together easily and rolls out beautifully – no patching involved! Valerie Bertinelli deserves all of the credit and I am happy to give it to her.

Throw the dough together in the morning or the night before and bake up this luscious galette for dinner.

Note: Yes, that is an apricot in the middle of the galette. I discovered it in my fruit drawer as a left-over from my Apricot Frangipane Galette. It was past the point of eating fresh so I decided to throw it on top so it wouldn’t go to waste. It is NOT essential to the tart although the color contrast was nice and the apricot was delicious when baked. That dark brown on top is simply caramelized butter and sugar.

Recipe

Yield: About 8 servings

Ingredients

For dough

1.5 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour

1 Tablespoon granulated sugar

1 stick (8 oz.) cold unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon distilled or apple cider vinegar

4-5 Tablespoons ice water (I used 5 T every time)

For filling

18 ounces blueberries, washed and dried

1 apricot cut into quarters (Optional)

Zest of one lemon

Juice of 1/2 lemon (About 2 Tablespoons)

pinch of kosher salt

1/3 cup granulated sugar plus 2 Tablespoons

1 rounded Tablespoon berry jam

2 slightly rounded Tablespoons cornstarch

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 cup crushed amarettini cookies

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking pan or sheet with parchment.

For the dough

  1. Pulse the flour, sugar and salt together in a food processor. Add the butter cubes and give 10 quick pulses. The mixture should resemble coarse crumbs with some lumps of butter.
  2. Drizzle in the vinegar and 4 Tablespoons of the water. Pulse just until the dough comes together and begins to ball up. If necessary, add up to 1 more tablespoon of the water but use as little as possible. [I used 5 T every time.] Gather the dough into a ball on a piece of plastic wrap or waxed paper. Flatten into a thick disk and refrigerate for at least one hour but up to 3 days.
  3. When you are ready to bake, roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to a 12″ round. Transfer the dough to a baking sheet or pan lined with parchment.

For the filling

  1. Gently toss the blueberries with the zest, lemon juice, cornstarch, salt, jam and 1/3 cup of sugar just before you are ready to fill the pastry.
  2. Scatter the crushed amarettini cookies over the dough leaving about a 2-inch border. Carefully pour the blueberries over the crushed cookies. If you are using an apricot, place the quarters in the middle of the blueberries. Dot with 2 Tablespoons of the butter.
  3. Fold up the edges of the dough, gently pleating them where necessary to close the “circle.” Melt the remaining Tablespoon of butter and brush it all over the pastry edges. Sprinkle liberally with the remaining 2 Tablespoons of sugar. If you have a coarser-grained sugar, you can use that.
  4. Bake for 35 minutes or until the pastry is golden and the fruit is bubbling. Remove the pan to a cooling rack and allow to sit for at least 20 minutes before cutting. This gives the juices time to be absorbed. It’s wonderful on its own or with a little vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream.

Watercress, Spinach & Chickpea Soup

Easy Does It

We recently hosted our nephew and his girlfriend for Shabbat dinner. Since I hadn’t been cooking for anyone but the two of us for awhile, I decided to go all out on a Mediterranean feast. I baked challah and made hummus, baba ghanoush, several salads, lamb with apricots and basmati rice and an apricot frangipane tart. With so many different pieces to the meal, I wanted something that was flavorful and bright for the soup but which wasn’t overly complicated. Surprisingly, I found it in my Jerusalem Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.

While I like the foods that appear in this cookbook, I generally find that the recipes are overly complicated with unnecessary steps. This one was pretty simple and since I already happened to have the Ras El Hanout spice mix and rose water in my pantry, I didn’t even have to buy any special ingredients. You can, of course, make your own spice mix, but it is also perfectly acceptable to buy it. Any good spice shop such as Kalustyan’s should have it or it can be ordered online.

Herbaceous, Bright and Vegan

This creamy, bright green soup is perfect as part of a meat, vegetarian or vegan meal. And while I mentioned in an earlier post that my husband thinks foods with rose water taste like fancy hotel soaps, the amount used here is small. He was unaware that it was even in there. The rose water does lend the soup some indefinable, slightly exotic flavor, but the soup would still be delicious if you left it out.

Recipe

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

2-3 medium carrots, cut into 3/4-inch dice

3 Tablespoons of EVOO, divided

2.5 teaspoons Ras El Hanout

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

15 ounce can cooked chickpeas, well-drained

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

2.5 Tablespoons, peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger (I used the stuff in a jar)

2.5 cups of vegetable stock

7 ounces of fresh watercress

3.5 – 4 ounces fresh spinach leaves

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon rose water (optional)

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F

Mix the carrots with 1 Tablespoon of the EVOO, the Ras El Hanout. cinnamon and a generous pinch of salt. Spread in a single layer on a pan lined with parchment paper. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes and then add 1/2 of the drained chickpeas. Mix well and continue roasting for 10 more minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside. This can be made ahead and refrigerated over-night.

Place the remaining 2 Tablespoons of EVOO in a large saucepan and add the ginger and onions. Saute for about 10 minutes over medium heat, until the onion is softened and becomes golden at the edges.

Add the remaining chickpeas, stock, watercress, spinach, sugar and 3/4 teaspoon of salt and a few cracks of black pepper. Stir well and bring to a boil. Cook for only about 2 minutes or just until the leaves wilt. You want the greens to remain bright.

When the soup has cooled somewhat, blend it until smooth in a food processor or blender. Add the rose water and check to see if you want more salt and pepper. This can also be made ahead and gently reheated.

To serve, divide the soup among four bowls and top with the carrot, chickpea mixture.

Apricot Frangipane Tart

Summer Fruits

I enjoy fruits in whatever season, but there is just something about summer fruits that sets my baking heart singing. These gorgeous apricots were in the market and immediately I knew what I was going to make for Shabbat dessert.

Apricots pair beautifully with almonds – as do many fruits. And having always been a sucker for marzipan and frangipane, I knew what I had to do. So I looked up a few different recipes and then came up with this lovely tart.

Putting a Recipe Together

The pastry comes from Valerie Bertinelli and is an all-butter crust. It is very easy to prepare and even easier to work with. While you could use this dough any time you are making a pie, sweet tart or galette, feel free to use any favorite pastry crust you prefer, including a vegan crust. There is no need to be afraid of making your own pastry, but if you must, you can use a good store-bought pie dough.

Almond paste (which is different from marzipan) can be purchased and used instead of the frangipane here. However, the frangipane will give you more of a custardy filling. I have several frangipane recipes, and lots of almond flour in my freezer. In the lead-up to Passover, I always go a bit overboard in stocking up and then search for ways to use up the extra nut flours for months! After checking out David Lebovitz for a summer galette, I tweaked his frangipane recipe, which didn’t have enough oomph for me after trying it out with a blueberry galette.

Don’t get scared off by the length of the recipe. The different pieces can be made ahead or at different times. No single piece of the recipe is difficult. And the actual assemblage is fairly quick. The frangipane prevents even juicy fruits from reducing your crust to a soggy mess.

Changing it up

This Apricot Frangipane Tart is perfect. But use it as a jumping off point to experiment. Switch out the apricots for cherries or blueberries or apples or pears in the fall and winter. Make a free-form galette instead of the slightly more fussy tart. The point is that you too can learn to look at recipes to create your own signature desserts.

Recipe

Yield: One 9 or 10-inch tart or galette

Ingredients

For the pastry

1.5 cups of all-purpose, unbleached flour

1 Tablespoon granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 stick (8 Tablespoons) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 teaspoon distilled or apple cider vinegar

4-5 Tablespoons of chilled water (I always have used 5 Tablespoons)

For the frangipane

3/4 almond flour

4 ounces room temperature almond paste (Left-overs can be wrapped well and stored for another use)

1/4 (4 Tablespoons) cup granulated sugar

2 Tablespoons all-purpose, unbleached flour

Generous pinch of kosher salt

4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract

1 large or extra large egg

For the topping

About 1.5 pounds of apricots, halved and pitted

3 Tablespoons apricot jam, melted

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1 Tablespoon almond slices (optional)

Directions

For the pastry

Pulse the flour, sugar and salt together in a food processor. Add the butter cubes and give 10 quick pulses. The mixture should resemble coarse crumbs with some lumps of butter. Drizzle in the vinegar and 4 Tablespoons of the water. Pulse just until the dough comes together and begins to ball up. If necessary, add up to 1 more tablespoon of the water but use as little as possible. Gather the dough into a ball on a piece of plastic wrap or waxed paper. Flatten into a thick disk and refrigerate for at least one hour but up to 3 days.

For the frangipane

In a small bowl, using the back of a spoon, smush the almond paste until it is softened. Add the almond flour, 3 Tablespoons of the sugar, softened butter and the flour. Mix it as much as possible and then add the egg and almond extract. Mix through until you have a fluffy, creamy product. If you wish to make this ahead you can refrigerate it. Bring it to room temperature when you are ready to assemble the tart.

Assemblage

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment to catch any drips and to make clean-up easier.

If you are using a tart pan with a removable bottom, roll out the dough to about 1 to 2-inches larger than the pan. Roll the dough back onto the rolling pin and unroll it into the pan. Fold over about 3/4-inch of the excess dough and either smooth the top or slightly flute it. There are many places online where you can see how to prepare pie/tart dough if you have never done it before.

Using a spatula, spread the room temperature frangipane across the bottom of the tart shell. Then depending on the size of your apricots, either place halves, cut-side down nestled on top of the frangipane, or cut the halves into quarters or thickish slices. You want the fruit to pretty much completely cover the top of the frangipane. You can also add cherry halves in the spaces in between if you like.

Dot the apricots with the butter and sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of sugar over the fruit. 

Bake for about 50 minutes or until the pastry is browned and the fruit is cooked. Allow the tart to cool for about 10 minutes. Then using a pastry brush, carefully brush the fruit with the warmed apricot jam. Scatter the almond slices over the top, if using.

Carrot Halwa (Gajar ka halwa)

Indian Cuisine

To say that I have been doing some Indian cooking lately is like saying that I picked up a granule of sand on the beach. Indian cuisine dates back over 5000 years and each region has its own traditions, religions and culture that influence its food. Hindus tend to be vegetarian and Muslims tend to have meat dishes, although pork is forbidden. Indian food has been influenced by Mongolian, Persian and Chinese cuisine, among others. It is rich and varied and I love it.

While I have done some Indian cooking before, I had only made Kheer as a dessert. I was intrigued by what I had read about Halwa – not to be confused with the Middle Eastern halva.

Like semolina cakes in the Middle East, there is no one single recipe for making Halwa. They all share the same basic ingredients of carrots, ghee, sugar, cardamom and a dairy milk, but the quantities, cooking times and additions make each one unique. And probably each Indian family believes that their version is the best. One thing that they all have in common is patience.

This is not a difficult recipe but like Indian rice pudding (Kheer), it takes time and almost constant stirring to end up with an amazingly velvety, fragrant and utterly satisfying treat. Make this when someone is around that you want to share a nice long chat with while you stir. It is so worth it.

While I think this is a perfect dessert anytime of the year, in India, it is especially relished during Diwali and the colder, wetter months. It is the perfect comfort food.

In order to come up with this version, I read at least 4 different recipes from Indian and vegetarian cookbooks and watched over 6 YouTube videos. Some versions were made with sweetened condensed milk and others were cooked down to form almost a cake-like consistency that was cut into little diamond shapes. I’m sure that they are all wonderful and I’d be happy to eat any of them. However, this version is my amalgam of what I believe to be the best halwa and one that made my husband incredibly happy. Okay, it made ME incredibly happy too! It won’t disappoint.

Recipe

Yield: About 8 servings

Ingredients

6 cups peeled and finely shredded slim carrots (DO NOT use large, thick woody carrots. They are fine for soup and feeding horses, but will not have the sweetness and tenderness needed here.)

3-4 Tablespoons ghee or unsalted butter

3/4 cup raw or granulated sugar

About 1.25 cups of whole milk (Exact amounts are not essential. Pour in enough to almost but not quite cover the carrots. You can always cook this longer if you added a bit more than you had intended.)

1/4 cup half and half (or additional whole milk) mixed with about 1/8 teaspoon of saffron threads

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground green cardamom

2 Tablespoons coarsely chopped blanched almonds

2 Tablespoons coarsely chopped pistachios

2 Tablespoons coarsely chopped cashews

3 Tablespoons raisins (preferably golden/Sultanas)

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground green cardamom

Directions

In a large, preferably non-stick skillet, melt 2 Tablespoons of the ghee. Add all of the carrots and mix through. Add up to an additional Tablespoon of ghee, if needed to coat the carrots.

Cook over a low heat, stirring FREQUENTLY for 40-45 minutes. This is tedious but necessary to prevent burning and to get the carrots to a velvety texture.

Now add the milk and half & half mixture and stir through. Add the 1/2 teaspoon of cardamom and mix through. Cover the pan and on low heat, cook the carrots for 20-25 minutes more. Stir OCCASIONALLY. You want to cook until the milk is just absorbed but the carrots are not dried out

While the carrots cook, melt the remaining ghee in a small skillet and lightly cook the nuts, raisins and remaining cardamom. You just want the raisins to swell and the nuts to release their oils. Set aside.

Uncover and add the sugar and mix through. Now add the nuts and raisin mixture and stir through. Continue cooking for about 5 minutes more. The resulting mixture is incredibly moist, velvety and unctuous. It can be eaten warm or at room temperature. This is quite rich and satisfying and 3-5 ounces per person is more than enough. While the halwa does not need any garnish, you can add a little lightly sweetened whipped cream for serving.

Indian Side Dishes with Something to Please Everyone

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

I’ve said it before but it’s worth repeating. My two favorite cuisines are Mediterranean (in all of its forms) and Indian. Both share a wonderfully brilliant use of spices and are vegetarian-friendly.

I have also found that the two can often complement one another and I use the bread from one or the salad from the other when I am putting together a meal. And if you just go easy on the cayenne and other hot peppers, I have also discovered that they can be very kid-friendly.

Vegetarian vs. Vegetarian-Friendly

In my house we are all omnivores. Of course, we each have our pet peeves, but basically we eat everything and think that all food is sacred. Over the years, I have hosted many people for holidays and other dinners. I have had to deal with food allergies, kashrut, vegetarians, vegans and just plain-old picky eaters. But at least one of the side dishes presented here likely will appeal to someone on that list. And while I enjoy putting together an entire Indian meal, these sides are equally good with just about any roast meat, chicken or fish or as part of a vegetarian or vegan meal.

Recipe for Chana Dal Khichadi (Rice with Yellow Split Peas) from Flavors of India by Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff

Yield: 4 Servings

Ingredients

1/4 cup yellow split peas

3/4 cup short grain brown rice

1 Tablespoon Canola oil or butter

5 whole cloves

1 large clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped

1 fresh green chili, seeded and chopped (If you don’t want the heat but just the color, use a sweet green or red pepper)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

3 cups of water

Directions

Look through the chana dal (Yellow Split Pea) and remove any pebbles or grains. Mix the dal with the rice and rinse well and then drain.

In a medium pot with a cover, heat the oil or butter over a low temperature. Add the whole cloves, chopped garlic and pepper. After 2 minutes the cloves will begin to swell and release a wonderful fragrance. Immediately add the washed dal and rice and stir for 5 minutes.

Add the salt and turmeric and stir through for another 3 minutes. Now add the water and bring to a boil. Partially cover the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 45-50 minutes until both grains are soft and the water is almost entirely absorbed. If there is still water after 50 minutes, uncover the pot, turn the heat up a bit and continue cooking. (The time may be more than this depending on the actual dal used and the kind of brown rice.)

Cucumber Salad, North Indian Style from At Home with Madhur Jaffrey

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

3 cups Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

freshly ground cracked black pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne or Aleppo pepper (Aleppo Pepper is not as hot as cayenne but lends zing.)

1-2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

10 fresh mint leaves, chopped or chiffonade

Directions

Thinly slice the cucumbers. If they are a bit thick, then cut the cucumber in half lengthwise first so that you end up with half moons.

Toss the cucumbers with the remaining ingredients. Adjust the seasonings. This salad can be made immediately before serving. The longer it sits, the more it “pickles.”

Spinach Raita (Yogurt and Spinach Dip)

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

2 Tablespoons Canola or EVOO plus more for drizzling

1/4 teaspoon whole brown or yellow mustard seeds

1 small clove garlic, peeled and thinly sliced

5-6 ounces fresh baby spinach

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

1 cup plain yogurt (I used a Bulgarian yogurt but almost any plain yogurt will do)

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or Aleppo pepper)

Directions

Pour the oil into a medium to large frying pan and set over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds. As soon as they start to pop (it only takes about 30 seconds), add the garlic. Cook for a few seconds and then add all of the spinach. I like to use tongs for this next part. Stir the spinach around and cook for 5 minutes. Add about 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and mix it through. Turn off the heat and remove the spinach to a strainer set over a bowl.

When the spinach has fully drained, coarsely chop it up and set aside.

Put the yogurt in a serving bowl and whisk it with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and the cayenne or Aleppo pepper. Just before you are ready to sit down, mix through the drained and chopped spinach mixture. Drizzle with a little EVOO.