Lisa’s Pumpkin Bread

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I had planned on surprising my husband with my Ricotta Rum Pound Cake when I realized that my ricotta cheese, which had been shoved to the back of the fridge, had gone bad… I hate when that happens! It was too late to go to the store to buy more and it also was raining heavily. I could have scrapped the whole idea of baking but I was all psyched to make something so decided to experiment with what I already had in my pantry. I tried to think of what I had that was a similar texture and consistency as whole milk ricotta and remembered that I was bullish on pureed pumpkin. At first I was going to try making the same recipe just substituting the pumpkin for ricotta but then decided that the pumpkin deserved its own special bread. I tinkered around and came up with this delicious pumpkin bread with a twist.

Lisa’s Pumpkin Bread 

Yield: One 9 x 5 inch loaf

Ingredients

1.25 cups cake flour

1/4 cup of toasted wheat germ

2.5 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature

1.5 cups granulated sugar

2 Tablespoons unsulphured dark molasses

3 large eggs

15 ounce can pureed pumpkin

2 rounded Tablespoons orange marmalade

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon ground clove

2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 strips of cooked bacon (any kind) cut into small pieces (Optional but recommended)

3/4 cup lightly toasted, chopped walnuts

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. You can toast the walnuts in the oven or in a dry frying pan on the stove top. Either way, be sure to watch them carefully. You really just want to barely toast them – just enough to bring up the flavor.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, wheat germ, baking powder, spices and salt and set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Then add the pumpkin, molasses and marmalade and mix well on low speed. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping the bowl and mixing until well combined.
  4. Add the dry ingredients in batches, mixing through on low speed so you don’t make a mess or over mix. Add the walnuts and bacon pieces and just mix through on low speed or fold in by hand.
  5. Spray a loaf pan with baking spray with flour or grease the pan well and line the bottom with waxed paper, which you then also grease. Pour the mixture into the pan and gently shake the pan to even things out. Place the pan in the center of your oven and bake for about 75 minutes or until browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry. The outer edges make get quite brown which is not a problem. If it bothers you, carefully wrap some foil around the edges after 45 minutes to an hour to keep it from getting too browned. (I didn’t bother doing this.)
  6. Remove the pan from the oven rack and allow it to cool enough to handle – about 20 minutes. Then turn the bread out onto the rack and allow it to cool until just slightly warm before cutting.

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NOTE: The bread is delicious as is, but it can also be spread with cream cheese or butter. The bacon adds a subtle flavor and makes for a wonderful texture. You could leave it out if you really are averse but it really made this special in my opinion. Wrap any left-overs well and it will keep for up to a week, getting a bit moister and with the spices becoming more intense each day. While delicious at room temperature, it tastes even better when eaten slightly warmed. My husband likes to have some for dessert with a little vanilla ice cream….

Moroccan Style Sweet Potato Stew

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I came up with this recipe about 20+ years ago when my son went through a period of not eating any meat. I was looking for something that screamed “autumn” to me so I could serve it for the holiday of Sukkot, which we recently celebrated. If you do a lot of North African/Mediterranean and Indian cooking, as I do, then you will always have these seasonings on hand. The main ingredients can be varied to taste, substituting cauliflower for the eggplant for example. Just keep in mind textures, colors and cooking times for the different vegetables that you may use. And, of course, this can be doubled or tripled if desired. Left-overs are delicious but keep in mind that after a time some of the vegetables will get mushy with aggressive reheating. I usually serve this over cooked millet, couscous or rice but you can use any grain or bread that you prefer. My husband is not a big fan of very hot/spicy foods and neither was my son when he was little; however, if you do wish to add some heat to this otherwise well-seasoned dish, you have a few options. You can serve harissa on the side for diners to add their own level of heat individually or if you know that your crowd likes it hot, you can add some hot peppers along with the sweet bell pepper and/or add some cayenne pepper to the spice mix. There are no strict rules here.

Lisa’s Moroccan Style Sweet Potato Stew

Yield: 4-6 servings     IMG_3683

Ingredients

1 large onion, peeled and coarsely chopped

4 large cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

2 Tablespoons EVOO or Canola oil

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into large dice

1 large red bell pepper, cut into large dice

1 long Japanese eggplant, cut into large dice

15 ounce can of chickpeas, drained (save the liquid for aquafaba!)

1 large Granny Smith or other tart apple, cut into large dice (no need to peel it)

14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes with liquid

1/2 cup of raisins

15 ounce can of pumpkin puree

About 1.25 cups of vegetable broth

About 3 Tablespoons apple juice or cider

1 teaspoon each of turmeric and cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon each of curry powder, ground cumin, salt and either freshly cracked black pepper or Aleppo pepper (my preference)

1/4 teaspoon each of ground nutmeg and ground sumac

2 teaspoons of tamarind paste

Optional Garnishes

Chopped cilantro

Lightly toasted pumpkin seeds, cashews, pine nuts or almonds

Greek Yogurt

Harissa (red or green)

Directions

  1. In a 4 quart heavy saucepan or Dutch Oven, heat the oil and saute the onion and garlic until softened. Stir in the spices and add enough of the apple juice to keep the spices from sticking and burning. Stir for about 3 minutes or until the spices become fragrant.
  2. Add all of the vegetables except for the eggplant. Add the tomatoes, tamarind paste, apple, pumpkin puree, broth and raisins and stir through. Bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pan and cook for 20 minutes.
  3. After 20 minutes, add the eggplant, re-cover the pan and continue cooking for another 15-20 minutes or until the sweet potato is tender and cooked through. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve over a cooked grain of your choice and with one or more of the optional garnishes.

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Plum (or Apple)and Almond Paste Tart

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The French and Italians learned a long time ago that more does not always mean better. While I love a really good “mile-high” apple pie (and my mother still made the best, in my opinion) there is definitely something to be said for a simple fruit tart with just a thin, but very flavorful filling. This recipe (and I use the term loosely) is very flexible. I made it with golden delicious apples for Rosh HaShana and it would also be delicious with other stone fruit such as apricots or peaches. It is easy to throw together and the resulting tart will draw surprised looks and oohs and aahs with that first bite. The surprise comes from the layer of almond paste that lines the pastry shell and makes this seemingly simple dessert so decadent and satisfying. This tart was made with some end of season plums that were available in the market.

Lisa’s Plum (or Apple) and Almond Paste Tart

Yield: One 9-inch tart that serves 6-8 (A little goes a long way)

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Ingredients

One unbaked 9-inch pastry shell (This is my go-to crust, which is also vegan)

About 4 medium plums or about 3-4 apples

7 ounces of almond paste (I like Odense brand)

1/4 cup of granulated, raw, or Demerara sugar

2 Tablespoons sliced natural almonds (optional)

1 Tablespoon of Amaretto (optional)

2 Tablespoons of good margarine or unsalted butter (My preference is for butter, but a good margarine will do)

About 2 Tablespoons apple or red currant jelly

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Line a shallow pie plate or fluted tart pan with a removable bottom (If you are going to be baking , you really should buy one of these.) Roll out the almond paste into a 9-inch circle. Don’t worry about being perfect. A little patching won’t show. Refrigerate or freeze the dough while you prepare the fruit.
  3. Wash, dry and slice the fruit into thin (but not so thin that you see through!) slices – between 1/8 and 1/4 inches. Remove the dough from the fridge or freezer. Lay out the slices of fruit so that they slightly overlap and form concentric circles. Sprinkle with the sugar and scatter the almonds, if using, and then generously dot with the butter.
  4. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet to catch any oozing that might occur. Bake for about 45-55 minutes. Ovens vary so watch the tart. You want the fruit giving off some juice and the pastry should be golden.
  5. Remove the tart from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Sprinkle the tart with the Amaretto, if using. While the tart is till warm, carefully brush the fruit with a little of the apple or red currant jelly. It isn’t essential to do this step, but this not only adds a bit more fruit flavor but it also gives the tart that gem-like glisten you see in professional tarts. I was able to buy a wonderful apple jelly online that is very clear and which just melts beautifully over the fruit. If you can’t find a really clear jelly you might need to heat and strain the jelly before using it.
  6. Allow the tart to completely cool before removing it from the tart ring. You should slice relatively small wedges for serving. It may not look it, but this is quite rich and a little goes a long way.

Creole Black Bean Soup

Creole Black Bean1

Autumn is truly a transitional season in Chicago. One day it is summer temperatures and humid and the next may be crisp and bright or chilly and damp. I enjoy soup at any time of the year, but this season requires a little more thought when deciding just what soup to make. I clearly don’t want a cold soup if the next time I go to serve left-overs it is now in the 50’s and raining and I don’t want a super hearty soup if the temperatures are climbing into the upper 70’s. This black bean soup seems the perfect compromise. It is rich and satisfying yet not overly heavy. I found the recipe in an older cookbook of mine and with a few adjustments, it was a delicious make-ahead Sunday meal accompanied by a salad and crisp bread. After a long walk along our beautiful lakefront, it was good to come home to this simple and homey meal.

Creole Black Bean Soup from The Peasant Kitchen by Perla Meyers

Yield: 6-8 servings  Creole Black Bean2

Ingredients

1 pound of dried black beans (2 cups)

1 pound of thick-cut or slab bacon (you can use any kind – turkey, duck, lamb, beef or pork; it is the smoked flavor that you want) cut into 2-inch pieces

About 1 pound of smoked meat (I like smoked turkey legs but ham hocks or any other good smoked meat will work)

2 Tablespoons EVOO

2 large onions, peeled and chopped in small dice

5 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

2 large leeks, well-washed, trimmed and thinly sliced (include some of the lighter green)

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon ground coriander

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

8 cups of chicken or vegetable stock

1/2 cup dark rum OR 1 cup of Madeira (I used the rum) (This is NOT optional!)

2-3 Tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice

Directions

  1. Soak the beans overnight. Drain them the next day.
  2. In a heavy stockpot or Dutch oven large enough to hold everything, add your bacon and brown the pieces until almost crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove the cooked bacon to a strainer or plate lined with paper towels.
  3. Wipe out the pot leaving just a shimmer of fat. Add the EVOO and heat on medium high heat. Add the onion, leeks and garlic and cook the mixture until it has softened and just begun to brown. Add the herbs, beans and smoked meats. Add the stock and bring the mixture to a boil, skimming any of the scum that may rise to the top. Once you have removed most of the scum (a little bit left won’t matter), reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pot tightly. Simmer at a very low heat for 4 hours.
  4. At the end of the four hours and after the soup has cooled enough to easily handle it, remove the turkey leg or other smoked meat and pick out the meat, discarding the skin, bones and any other detritus. Using an immersion blender, coarsely blend the soup in the pot. You don’t want a perfectly smooth end product; you just want to puree some of the soup, leaving chunky bits of bacon, vegetables and beans. Add the meat back to the mixture and taste. Add your salt, pepper, rum and lemon juice.
  5. To serve, gently reheat the soup. DO NOT allow it to come to a full boil! It can be served with cooked rice, but I preferred a fresh, warm country-style bread with a good crust.  IMG_3667

 

Aromatic Chicken and Vegetable Soup (Koli)

Koli Soup

My niece and nephew and I divide all of the Jewish holiday celebration dinners and since most holidays are over multiple days, this makes hosting more manageable, especially since we all live in apartments with limited space. For Rosh HaShana I agreed to host the first night and my niece and nephew did the second night. They wanted to make brisket (which was wonderful) and so I happily decided on lamb for my dinner. In keeping with my love of most things Indian, I decided to make lamb biryani as a main course along with a delicious lentil dal. Jews were living in India since at least the 12th century as reported by a Spanish traveler, Benjamin Tudela. The Jews he came across were in Cochin, and were one of three Jewish groups living in that southwest city on the Arabian Sea. Known as “Black” Jews, they lived in a joint family system, much like conservative Hindu families, that was seen as a way to protect the very young and very old. For more on Cochin Jews check out this article in Wikipedia or on My Jewish Learning.

Koli Soup was often made for Shabbat and while not spicy hot or particularly exotic looking, it is quite aromatic and seasoned in a way that is surprising to Western tastes. My sister, who professes to not like Indian or spicy food, nevertheless loved this soup.

Aromatic Chicken and Vegetable Soup (Koli) from Sephardic Cooking by Copeland Marks and tweaked by me

Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients

8 cups of water

1 whole chicken with extra fat discarded

2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch thick “coins”

1 medium potato (I used a Yukon Gold), peeled and cut into large dice

1 large, ripe tomato, coarsely chopped (do not bother peeling it)

About 1 cup of cauliflower florets

2 stalks of celery, thinly sliced (with leaves if you have them)

a handful of chopped, Italian flat-leaf parsley

a handful of chopped fresh cilantro

5 whole cardamom pods (Green or Black)

1 cinnamon stick (3 inches)

6 whole cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt or more to taste

2 bay leaves

4 whole allspice

6 whole black peppercorns

10 curry leaves (If you have them. They can be bought online fresh through Amazon and then frozen. DO NOT substitute curry powder!)

Directions

  1. Bring the water to a boil in a pot that is large enough to hold everything. Add the chicken and simmer covered for 30 minutes. Skim off the scum that rises to the top before covering.
  2. After 30 minutes, add all of the other ingredients and cook, covered on low heat for 45 minutes. Allow the soup to cool. The soup can be made ahead up to this point and gently reheated when you are ready to serve.
  3. When the soup is cool enough to handle, remove the chicken and take the meat off of the bones, discarding the skin and bones. Return the meat to the pot.
  4. When ready to serve, reheat the soup and either add the parsley and cilantro to the pot or garnish each bowl with the fresh herbs as you ladle it out. IMG_3647