Cornish Hens with Fruits, Walnuts and Honey Apple Glaze

This recipe is lovely any time of the year, but it seems particularly appropriate for the holiday of Sukkot, a harvest festival which is one of three great Jewish Pilgrimage festivals. According to rabbinic tradition, these flimsy sukkot represent the huts in which the Israelites dwelt during their 40 years of wandering in the desert after escaping from slavery in Egypt.

There used to be an Israeli restaurant in Chicago that made Cornish Hens similar to these. I always ordered it whenever I was there, so when it went out of business, I was forced to find a way to recreate the recipe at home. I came across this recipe in Food and Wine and used it as a jumping off point. The original restaurant version used to stuff the birds with some of the dried fruit and nuts instead of having the birds simply sit on top of them.  While this still is not quite as wonderful as what I recall eating, this version is  close and is absolutely delicious.

Cornish Hens available in the grocery store often seem to run around 2 to 2.5 pounds each, which is huge. I was fortunate to come across these Cornish Hens which are only about 1.25 pounds each – the perfect size. The were available in the freezer section and because of their size, they will defrost quickly. This recipe only requires either a wild rice or bulghur wheat pilaf to accompany it and, of course, a salad.  While the amount of meat isn’t huge, the richness of the fruit, nuts and sauce means that a little goes a long way. This can easily be doubled or tripled. If you don’t observe Sukkot, just enjoy this dish as the perfect autumn meal.

Cornish Hens with Fruits, Walnuts and Honey Apple Glaze from Food and Wine, September 2012 and tweaked by me

Yield: 4 portions

Ingredients  Cornish Hens with Fruit, Walnuts and Honey Glaze3

2 tart apples, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored, and diced

2/3 cup dried apricots, cut into thin slices OR half apricots and half prunes

2/3 cup raisins

1 cup walnuts, chopped

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon  Cornish Hens with Fruit, Walnuts and Honey Glaze2

1/4 teaspoon each ground: cumin, turmeric, coriander, ginger, cardamom

1/8 teaspoon ground clove

1 teaspoon crushed garlic

2 tablespoons melted butter

1/4 cup apple juice [If you don’t have apple juice or cider, you can just as easily use orange juice.]

2 tablespoons honey or date honey

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

About 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

2 Cornish hens (about 1 1/4 pounds each), halved

1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 400°. In a roasting pan, combine the apples, apricots, prunes, raisins, walnuts, spices, garlic, and butter. Spread the mixture over the bottom of the pan.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the apple juice, honey, thyme, and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt to make a glaze. Sprinkle the Cornish hens with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and the pepper and set them breast-side down on top of the fruit-and-nut mixture. Cornish Hens with Fruit, Walnuts and Honey Glaze1Brush the hens with some of the glaze and then cook for 20 minutes.   
  3. Remove the roasting pan from the oven. Stir the fruit-and-nut mixture and turn the hens over. [I found that this worked best if I placed the hens on a platter while I stirred through the fruit and nuts.] Brush them with more of the glaze, return the pan to the oven, and cook for another 10 minutes. Glaze the birds again and continue cooking them until just done, about 10 to 15 minutes longer. Glaze the hens one final time and serve them with the fruit-and-nut dressing and a bulghur wheat pilaf.
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Apple Cinnamon Noodle Kugel

As we prepare to complete the 10 Days of Awe with the observance of Yom Kippur, the Day of Repentance, Jews everywhere not only each reflect on how they could become a better person in the coming year, but also on what they will eat to break the fast.  I don’t know about you, but if I have been fasting for more than 24 hours, I don’t want to wait while something heats up in order to break my fast. Some people set out an elaborate dairy spread, but I also want something traditional, quick and delicious. So while I likely will have bagels and lox for my husband, I want kugel. People tend to fall into two camps – those who like potato kugel and those who like noodle kugel. Some swing both ways, but I’m not one of them. And while I always say that I never met a potato that I didn’t like, I’m actually not a fan of potato kugel.

This simple and wonderful recipe is perfect for a “break-the-fast” or as a side to the pre-fast meal. It is sweet and flavorful without being cloying and can be eaten hot or at room temperature. I’ve been known to snack on it right from the fridge. Unlike many noodle kugels, especially the kind you find at synagogue functions, this does not contain cheese or vanilla. While those make perfect-looking pieces to serve, I personally find them overly sweet, overly heavy and often with a phony vanilla taste. This kugel doesn’t require any of that. The natural apple flavor is clean, naturally sweet with just a little “bite” from the cinnamon. The pineapple adds a very subtle background note.

The recipe was passed down to me from the actor Mandy Patinkin’s Aunt Ida – a lovely woman who attended my synagogue and was a neighbor for many years. I have made a few small tweaks, but the essential recipe is from the Patinkin family. It pairs beautifully with roast chicken or brisket and is also ideal for a brunch. Left-overs never last long, but it does also freeze well. I make several different noodle kugel recipes throughout the year, but this one is still my favorite. And you don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy it!

May you all be sealed in the Book of Life.

Apple Cinnamon Noodle Kugel Apple Cinnamon Kugel

Yield: About 10 to 12 portions

Ingredients

8 ounces medium/broad egg noodles

1 stick (4 ounces) of unsalted butter (or margarine if you need it to be pareve) melted

1/2 cup of granulated sugar mixed with 2 teaspoons cinnamon or to taste (It will partly depend on how sweet your apples are, but this is generally what I use.) [Reserve about 2-3 Tablespoons for the topping or just make an additional amount which is what I generally do.]

1 lemon cut in half for rubbing on apples to prevent them from turning brown

6 medium flavorful apples peeled, rubbed with a cut lemon and thinly sliced (Macintosh is traditional, but pretty much any good baking apple except for Granny Smith, which I think gets too woody.)

Kosher salt to taste but about 3/4 to 1 teaspoon should be right

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

8.5 ounces of canned, crushed pineapple in juice or syrup (It depends what I can find. Syrup was in the original recipe, but my preference is for pineapple in juice. If it is in syrup, I might go a little lighter on the sugar.)

About 1/4 cup of unsalted butter, melted  for drizzling over the top (Optional)

The original recipe called for crushed cornflakes tossed with cinnamon sugar which was very big in the 1950’s. It goes over the top of the kugel before baking. I don’t use it myself. I simply sprinkle with a bit of cinnamon sugar most of the time, and if I’m getting fancy, I sometimes add chopped nuts or crushed amaretti cookies. 

Apple Cinnamon Kugel1

Directions

  1. Prepare your apples while the water is boiling and the noodles are cooking. Place them in a very large bowl. Squeeze a bit of the lemon juice over the apples to prevent them from browning.
  2. Cook the noodles according to the shortest cooking time on the package directions – usually 8 minutes. Drain the cooked noodles very well.
  3. Heat your oven to 400 degrees F.
  4. Mix in all of the remaining ingredients to the apples, including the drained noodles and melted butter. Save adding the eggs for last. If you forgot to set aside some of the cinnamon sugar, don’t fret. This is a very forgiving recipe and you can just make a little more to add at the end, which is generally what I do. It will look as if the mixture is too much for the pan, but trust me – it fits. Do NOT skimp on the apples!
  5. Pour the mixture into a buttered (margarined or PAM’d) 11 x 9 x 2-inch rectangular pan and spread it evenly. If you are using the cornflakes topping, add it now. Otherwise just sprinkle with the reserved or additional cinnamon sugar. This would be when you add your nuts or amaretti cookies if you are using them. I like to drizzle a bit of additional melted butter on top, but you don’t have to. It’s just better if you do!
  6. Bake for 20 minutes uncovered. Then reduce the heat to 350 degrees F. and continue baking for about another hour or until well-browned. Allow it to cool a bit before cutting in order for the “pudding” to set. If you plan on serving it at room temperature, this won’t be an issue. And no matter how it looks, it tastes AMAZING. My father always used to tell my mother when her incredibly flaky pie crust would crumble when cut that we weren’t making a dress out of it. He would then proceed to eat a huge piece of her apple pie and say that it was a nice sample and cut himself another slice which he also devoured.

 

 

 

Apricot Almond Cake

My husband is 6’3″ and weighs 170 pounds. So let’s just say he is quite thin. His idea of watching his weight is to eat 2 desserts instead of three in the course of a day. I’d hate him, except for the fact that I love him so much. On the other hand, I never feel guilty for baking because I know that I’m not leading him astray. His weight, blood pressure and cholesterol are all textbook wonderful.

He truly enjoys having a piece of cake or some cookies with his morning coffee and after dinner. We are just about finished with my most recent cake so I was looking for something to make that didn’t require me going to the store. I looked through my well-worn copy of Beard on Bread for inspiration and came across his Apricot Bread. However, when I read the recipe it just seemed lacking somehow to me and so I made a few tweaks. This lovely coffee (or tea) cake is easy to make and stores well. In fact, the flavors improve and intensify each day, so if you want it at its peak for serving to guests, I would recommend making it a couple of days ahead. It is not uber-rich or sweet and you will notice that the only fat comes from the 2 eggs and the almonds. My husband likes it best slathered with butter and toasted under the broiler! I enjoy it straight.

Apricot Almond Cake from the Beard on Bread cookbook and tweaked by me

Apricot Almond Cake3

Yield: 1 bundt cake – 10 to 12 servings

Ingredients

1 cup boiling water

1.5 cups of dried apricots

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

Zest of one orange

1 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

2.75 cups of all-purpose, unbleached flour OR 2.5 cups of flour and 1/4 cup of stone ground corn meal

3 teaspoons (1 Tablespoon) double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract

1 cup coarsely chopped almonds (I used mostly blanched almonds but threw in a few raw almonds since I didn’t have quite enough)

Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

Directions

  1. Heat your oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Pour the boiling water over the apricots and allow them to stand until just tender. Since my dried apricots were very moist already, I only let them stand for 10 minutes. Drain off the water, reserving it. If the reserved isn’t quite a cup, add enough cold tap water to make one cup.
  3. Roughly chop the apricots. Toss the apricots with 1/4 cup of flour and set aside.
  4. Pour the liquid into a large mixing bowl and add the baking soda, salt, sugar and eggs and mix well. Then add the orange zest, vanilla and almond extract and mix through.
  5. Add the apricots, remaining flour, baking powder and nuts and mix until everything is well mixed.
  6. Butter and flour (or use the baking spray which has flour in it and works amazingly well) a large 10 cup bundt pan, preferably non-stick. Pour the batter, which is fairly thick, into the pan and even it out. Bake for about 45 minutes or until the cake is a lovely golden brown and a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean when inserted. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan on a rack and then turn out the cake to continue cooling completely. Apricot Almond Cake4Dust with powdered sugar if desired. Wrap tightly or store in a covered cake plate.

Apricot Almond Cake2

Herbed Chicken Breasts

I love things that can be prepped ahead and then cooked quickly. I also like to feed my family as if they are guests so when I make these lovely, light and flavorful chicken breasts, I’m happy to make a weekday dinner into an occasion. There is no careful measuring and I can make as few as two chicken breasts or as many as a dozen. These could be grilled or made in the oven as I do since I do not own a grill. The chicken is best prepped so that it sits overnight in the fridge, but even a few hours ahead of cooking will work. The flavors and aromas are so bright and the chicken is so tender and moist that you forget that it is simply a boring boneless, skinless chicken breast. I serve them with herbed roasted potatoes and a crispy veg like barely steamed broccoli, but the sides are up to you. I would only make these with fresh herbs. And the added bonus to this dish is that the preparation is a wonderful way to work out any of your aggression from the day!

Herbed Chicken Breasts

Yield: That is up to you!

Ingredients for 2 chicken breasts

Roasted Herbed Chicken6

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2-3 Tablespoons of roughly chopped fresh herbs (My favorites are rosemary and Greek Oregano, but thyme is also good. I would not use a softer herb like basil for this.)

1-2 lemons, with the ends trimmed off and thinly sliced

2 fat garlic cloves, thinly sliced Roasted Herbed Chicken3

Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

EVOO (flavored if you have it – I used Meyer lemon EVOO)

Hungarian sweet paprika for sprinkling (optional)

Directions

  1. Place your chicken breast about 3 inches apart between two sheets of parchment that is placed over a cutting board (the board will absorb some of the pounding). Roasted Herbed Chicken5Using a meat tenderizer (the round flat kind pictured above) or a small, heavy frying pan, pound each breast until it is flattened and even in thickness. The breast should be about twice the size of the original. Use even pressure so as not to tear the meat. A little tearing is no big deal, but you want one nice, flat breast.
  2. Salt and pepper each side of the chicken Roasted Herbed Chicken4and carefully place in a plastic zip-lock bag or in a glass dish. Drizzle with EVOO – about 1-2 Tablespoons.
  3. Add the thinly sliced lemons, placing half on one side of the bag and the other half on the other side. Distribute the herbs and garlic in the same manner. Roasted Herbed ChickenSeal the bag, getting out as much of the air as you can. With your hand, gently massage the herbs, lemon, garlic and EVOO into the breasts. Place the bag in the fridge, keeping it flat if possible.
  4. When you are ready to cook the chicken, heat your oven to 425 degrees F with the pan in the oven. If you have a grill pan, this would be a great use for it. Otherwise, a shallow baking pan covered with foil will work. When the oven and the pan have come to temperature, drizzle a little EVOO in the pan. Using tongs,  place the chicken breasts,without any liquid that may have collected in the bag, on the pan. Place the lemons around, but not on the chicken. Distribute any herbs and garlic.  Sprinkle with a bit of paprika if you like. Drizzle with EVOO. Roast for about 9 minutes a side, turning once. You will have to watch the chicken since the sizes of the breasts these days are so variable and tend to be large. They could take a little longer or shorter, but you want the chicken to be totally cooked through without being over-cooked. If you have a broiler in your oven, I like to turn it on for the final few minutes of cooking to give a really good color to the chicken and lemons. If you don’t have a broiler, just cook the chicken until nicely browned. When you are plating the chicken, place a couple of slices of the lemon along with some of the herbs and garlic on each piece. I love to eat the roasted lemon, but that is up to you.

Roasted Herbed Chicken8