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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Simple Basbousa

Simple Basbousa

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Simple Basbousa is an easy version of this beloved Levantine sweet treat. This recipe requires no special equipment and because no eggs are called for, it can easily be veganized.

There are many versions of this delightful dessert, including one on my blog with pistachios and coconut. However, all of the recipes for basbousa utilize semolina and a sugar syrup. This means that the cake flavors intensify over time and remains incredibly moist even after several days. Because the Simple Basbousa is dense and sweet from the sugar syrup, a little goes a long way. But it is the perfect complement to well-spiced foods and strong coffee fragrant with cardamom.

I did make a few tweaks to the original recipe, but the changes do not make this Simple Basbousa any more complicated. Generally baked in a rectangular pan. I made mine in a 10-inch square pan because that was what I had on hand.

For Americans who are unfamiliar with basbousa, this Simple Basbousa version reminded both me and my husband of a moist cornbread with honey. Nothing fancy to see here. Just a delicious, simple cake. And in the summer, who wants to slave over dessert?

For more delicious semolina cakes:

Orange Semolina Cake

Lemon Semolina Almond Cake

Simple Basbousa

Recipe

Yield: 25 squares

For the cake

2 cups of coarse semolina (My so-called coarse semolina proved to be only slightly less refined than my fine semolina, so don’t fret if you can’t find both.)

1/4 cup of fine semolina

1 cup of plain whole milk natural yogurt OR plant-based such as coconut

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup of unsalted butter or a plant-based vegan “butter,” melted

1/4 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon each of pure almond and vanilla extract

25 whole blanched almonds

For the syrup

2 cups of granulated sugar

2 cups of water

4 to 5 cardamom pods

1 teaspoon of orange blossom or rose water (I used orange blossom as my husband is not a fan of rose water)

Simple Basbousa

Directions

For the cake

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix together the sugar and melted butter. Then add the yogurt and mix until smooth and well combined.

Combine the semolina, salt and baking soda and then add to the yogurt mixture. Stir well. The mixture will be fairly thick.

Place the batter into a greased pan (9 X 12 or 10 X 10). Smooth out the mixture using the back of a spoon or an off-set spatula. Score the basbousa with a knife into the squares that you see above.

Add an almond to the center of each square, pressing down gently into the batter.

Bake 35 minutes or until golden brown. Ovens vary so it may take longer or shorter.

Meanwhile, make the syrup. Bring the water, sugar and cardamom pods to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 8 to 10 minutes. Then remove the syrup from the heat, discard the cardamom pods and mix through the orange blossom or rose water.

As soon as the basbousa comes out of the oven, pour the syrup gradually over the top. It will be absorbed almost immediately. Allow the basbousa to cool and then cut through the score lines and enjoy!

Libyan-Style Fish (Chraimeh)

Libyan-Style Fish

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Libyan-Style Fish (Chraimeh) is to Libyan Jews – and many Israelis – what gefilte fish is to Eastern European Jews. And while my family origins are strictly the Pale of Settlement, I am a bigger fan of chraimeh than gefilte fish. This sweet and savory (sometimes fiery) dish is bound to become a tradition in your house too.

Normally made with a firm-fleshed non-oily white fish such as sea bass or amberjack, salmon steaks are more readily available where I live and also more affordable. You can also make this with thicker fillets of a white fish with the skin still on. I have even eaten made from catfish.

There are as many recipes for Libyan-Style Fish as there are people who originated from Libya. And each family prides itself on its version. While comparing recipes (and I must have looked at at least 6) it seems that all have in common: garlic; paprika, caraway seeds, cumin and chiles. The recipe I finally landed on comes from Jerusalem a Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. But, of course, with a few tweaks by me.

Whether you choose to use this recipe or some other, just be sure to have plenty of good bread on hand for dipping into the sauce. The sauce is what this dish is all about! While normally served as a starter to the Shabbat or holiday meal, my husband and I ate it as our main course on Shabbat.

Serve Libyan-Style Fish (Chraimeh) warm or at room temperature. I did tone down the heat a bit to suit our tastes. This can get pretty fiery in some versions. But the beauty of making these foods at home is that you are the boss. YOU control the heat. Because the spices make the dish, I encourage you to only use the freshest dried spices. Better yet – grind your own. And the end product should be a perfect balance of sweet and savory.

Libyan-Style Fish (Chraimeh) is a great make-ahead dish and can easily be doubled or tripled to serve a crowd. Fish cooked in a sweet or savory tomato-based sauce is ubiquitous across the Mediterranean and North Africa. The Moroccan version is a bit more subtle in its flavorings but not terribly dissimilar. While served year-round, it is a perfect summer make-ahead meal. Add some rice or couscous and you have dinner!

For another great Shabbat and holiday fish starter, try my Egyptian Ground Fish Balls in a tomato-based sauce. My family loves these for Passover. And if you truly cannot live without gefilte fish (And who says you have to choose?!) try my Gefilte Fish Loaf.

Recipe

Yield: 3 to 4 servings as dinner. About 6 servings as a starter

Ingredients

Libyan-Style Fish

About 5 Tablespoons of neutral oil (I use canola)

2 medium vine-ripened tomatoes, coarsely chopped OR 1 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes

3 to 4 salmon steaks (about 1.5 to 2 pounds), rinsed and patted dry

6 large cloves of garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped

2 teaspoons sweet paprika

1 Tablespoon of caraway seeds, dry toasted in a pan and then ground

rounded 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1.5 teaspoons of ground cumin

rounded 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (preferably Ceylon cinnamon)

1 green chile, coarsely chopped with or without seeds depending on the level of heat you are looking for

About 2/3 cup of water

3 Tablespoons of tomato paste

2 teaspoons of granulated sugar (I actually used Demerara)

1/3 cup diced roasted peppers ( I had homemade, but jarred are fine)

Juice of 1/2 of a lemon plus 1 lemon cut into 4 wedges

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or flat-leafed parsley

kosher salt and Aleppo pepper (or freshly cracked black pepper) to taste

Directions

Place the garlic, spices, 2 Tablespoons of oil and chile in a blender or food processor (Mortar and pestle would also work) and blitz to a thick paste. I needed to add another Tablespoon of oil to get the right consistency.

Libyan-Style Fish

In a large, heavy, flat-bottomed pan with a cover, add remaining 2 Tablespoons of oil and heat to shimmering. Add in the garlic spice mixture and stir for 30 seconds until fragrant.

Garlic Spice Mixture

Immediately add the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, roasted peppers, fresh lemon juice, water and sugar and stir well. Bring to a simmer and cook partially covered for about 10 minutes or until the tomatoes have softened and the sauce has thickened some. Taste and add more salt as needed and Aleppo or black pepper.

In the meantime, rinse and dry your fish. Liberally salt and pepper both sides of the fish and set aside.

When the sauce has melded, add the fish steaks, pushing them gently into the sauce. The sauce will not cover them. My salmon steaks were quite thick, so I simmered them for 9 minutes on the first side, spooning sauce over them occasionally and then turned them over to cook for another 8 to 9 minutes. Depending on the thickness of your fish you may not need to turn the pieces over. You want to cook the fish to the flake stage. Spoon sauce over the fish.

Allow the fish and sauce to cool down to warm before serving. Garnish with chopped fresh herbs. Libyan-Style Fish can be served warm or at room temperature. Serve over rice or with LOTS of delicious bread like fresh challah. Left-overs can be refrigerated and gently reheated.

Upside Down Nectarine Pancake

Upside Down Nectarine Pancake

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Upside Down Nectarine Pancake

This Upside Down Nectarine Pancake makes the most of these luscious stone-fruits. The delightful, juicy nectarines are enhanced by the melding of cardamom, nutmeg and caramelly jaggery. Of course, if you don’t have jaggery available, Muscovado, light brown sugar or even plain old granulated sugar will do.

We are at the height now of stone-fruit season. It doesn’t last long enough for me. So I have a tendency to get a bit carried away when I see beautiful nectarines, peaches and plums at the store or farmer’s market. And unfortunately, they all seem to achieve their peak eating at exactly the same moment. That’s what happened with these gorgeous nectarines. Thankfully, my husband had the brilliant suggestion of taking my absolute favorite Upside Down Blueberry Pancake and tweaking it to use up the nectarines. The photos don’t quite do it justice.

You could also substitute or even mix ripe peaches or plums here. And of course, nectarines and blueberries also make for a great combination. The beauty of nectarines is that they have no fuzzy skin like peaches that needs to be peeled. In fact, the peel in the Upside Down Nectarine Pancake seems to absorb so much of the flavor and is so tender that it was an integral part of the dish. The liquid in the pan is all syrupy deliciousness which also means that there is no need for maple or any other syrup. I soak up every drop with the spongey pancake. And if there is any leftover, I eat it up with my finger.

Be sure to check out the the Upside Down Blueberry Pancake.

Upside Down Nectarine Pancake

Recipe

Yield: 2 to 4 servings

Upside Down Nectarine Pancake

Ingredients

For the nectarine filling:

    1/3 cup jaggery, Muscovado, light brown or granulated sugar

    Zest and juice of 1 medium lemon

    26 ozs. of whole nectarines or other stone-fruit (A bit more is fine), cut into slices/wedges about 1/2-inch thick

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

    3 tbsp unsalted butter

  For the batter:

    1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

    1 tsp double acting baking powder

    1/8 tsp baking soda

    1 tbsp jaggery, Muscovado, light brown or granulated sugar

    ½ tsp kosher salt

    ½ tsp ground cardamom

1/8 tsp grated nutmeg

    4 large eggs at room temperature

    1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup plain, whole milk kefir)

    1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F

Place a 9” cast iron skillet on the stove. Put 3 tbsp unsalted butter, cut up, into the skillet.

Dry ingredients:

Place 1 cup flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/8 tsp baking soda, 1 tbsp jaggery, Muscovado, light brown or granulated sugar, ½ tsp kosher salt, and ½ tsp ground cardamom and 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg in a bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.

Filling:

Place 1/3 cup sugar in a small bowl.

Finely grate the zest of 1 medium lemon onto the sugar.

Mash the zest and sugar together with a rubber spatula, or rub the zest into the sugar with your fingertips until the zest and sugar is fully combined and gritty. (If using jaggery, the sugar will melt into almost a paste.) If no one is watching, then by all means, lick your fingers.

Start heating the skillet on medium heat to melt the butter. Reduce the heat to low.

Juice one half of the lemon onto the nectarine. Add one half of the sugar/zest mixture. Gently toss to combine.

Juice the other half of the lemon into butter in the skillet. Add the remainder of the sugar/zest mixture. Stir to combine.

Pour the nectarines into the skillet. Use a spatula or spoon to even them out in the skillet. The butter should be gently bubbling under the nectarines.

Batter:

Place 4 large eggs into a large bowl and whisk until frothy. Add 1 cup buttermilk (or kefir) and 1 tsp vanilla extract and whisk to combine.

Gradually add the dry ingredients to the eggs/milk, stirring the batter just enough to combine them.

Remove the skillet from the heat.

Pour the batter evenly all over the nectarines, by swirling from the middle of the pan outwards into a circle.

Put the skillet in the oven, baking at 400°F until puffed and golden-brown, about 20 minutes. You want this to be well browned or the batter will be under-done.

Remove and let cool for a few five minutes.

Serve and enjoy! And don’t forget to spoon all those delicious juices onto the plate. They are perfect for dipping the poufy pancake in.

Upside Down Nectarine Pancake