Slow Cooker Asian Short Ribs (galbi-jjim)

While you will never catch me sitting down to eat a rare steak or roast beef, I do enjoy eating meat – especially when it is slow roasted or braised. I recently bought some beautiful short ribs on the bone even though I wasn’t quite certain what I wanted to do with them. I came across this recipe for Korean slow-cooker short ribs and decided that in honor of Frances I had to try them. Only Frances or her mother can tell me if this is authentic; I can simply say they are delicious! This is real Korean comfort food. The flavors only get richer the more you eat!

If you are feeling lazy, just serve it over some cooked rice so you don’t lose a drop of the yummy sauce. If you are feeling more ambitious, you could choose to add some carrots and potatoes or water chestnuts, dried red dates and ginkgo nuts to the slow cooker about half-way through the cooking time or serve with sugar snap peas that simply have been steamed or stir-fried. This is a wonderfully easy and delicious dish to make for a relaxed dinner with friends. And wouldn’t you rather be taking part in the evening instead of stuck fussing in the kitchen?

Slow Cooker Asian Short Ribs by Chungah Rhee from Damn Delicious and Eating Korean by Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee

Yield: 6 to 8 servings, depending on the number of banchan served

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup reduced sodium soy sauce

1/2 cup beef broth

1/4 cup brown sugar, packed

3 cloves garlic, minced, about 1 good tablespoon

1 rounded tablespoon freshly grated ginger

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional

5 pounds bone-in beef short ribs, cut crosswise into 2″ pieces (Although don’t fret if the short ribs are cut differently. Do try to get them on the bone, however, as the bones lend flavor and gelatin to the sauce.)

1/4 cup water or broth

2 tablespoons cornstarch

Optional Additions

1 pound baby carrots

1 pound red baby bliss or other small potato

For Garnish

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

1 teaspoon sesame seeds

3 scallions, thinly sliced

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together soy sauce, beef broth, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, sesame oil and red pepper flakes, if using.
  2. Place short ribs into a 6-qt slow cooker. Stir in soy sauce mixture until well combined. Galbi jjim3
  3. Cover and cook on low heat for 7-8 hours or high heat for 3-4 hours.*
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch and 1/4 cup water or beef broth. Before stirring in the slurry of cornstarch, use a spoon to carefully skim off as much of the fat that has risen to the top as you can. Then stir the cornstarch mixture into the slow cooker. Cover and cook on high heat for an additional 30 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. If you don’t remove the fat first, your sauce will never appear to get thicker – to say nothing of the fact that the fat has done its job of keeping the meat moist and adding flavor, but eating all of it is neither tasty nor healthy.
  5. Serve immediately, garnished with parsley or scallion and sesame seeds, if desired. Galbi jjim1

NOTES:

*To test for doneness, pull on a bone as it should slide out freely. In a Korean home, this dish would be served with the ubiquitous kimchi and a choice of banchan. Left-overs will keep in the fridge for up to a week. Simply gently reheat.

Apple Pecan Bourbon Bundt Cake

As someone who has hosted Thanksgiving dinners for over three (YIKES!) decades, I can tell you that in order to be successful and to also enjoy yourself, it takes a battle plan. You don’t have to be like me and start dreaming about what you will make six months in advance, but it makes all of the difference in the world if you are organized and plan to have a menu that mixes do-ahead dishes along with make-the-day-of dishes. It is the only thing that keeps you sane and relaxed, particularly if, like me, you have a small kitchen and limited storage.

Everyone who comes to my house has their favorite dishes and I do try to always have some if not all of them on hand. I can’t even imagine having a Thanksgiving dinner that didn’t include my Curried Butternut Squash Soup, Orange Cranberry Relish or Vegan Pumpkin Pie and, of course, my Bourbon Pecan Pie. However, I don’t want to get bored and this year I am not only hosting Thanksgiving dinner for the family, but the Shabbat dinner the next night. So I make a point of slipping in something new every year. One thing I have learned over the years is that no matter what mistakes you may make in the main part of the meal, all will be forgiven – and forgotten – if you have great desserts. So in addition to the pumpkin and pecan pie, I will have an Apple Almond Paste Tart and this Apple Bourbon Bundt Cake that I am trying out this year. Sounds like a lot? I guarantee that with 13 people over two nights, there won’t be a crumb left!

The beauty of this apple cake is that it is best made at least one to two days ahead. That allows the Bourbon, sugar, lemon glaze to really penetrate the cake and it will bring out the apple, ginger and spice flavors. And while I may be using some of those same flavors in other desserts, they appear in different guises with a different emphasis in each case. By using a palate of ingredients, you guarantee that everything will complement everything else.

You don’t have to wait for Thanksgiving to make this lovely cake, but definitely keep it in mind for the holiday. It takes a little work but there are no special or difficult techniques involved. Just follow the steps and even a novice baker can have success.

Apple Pecan Bourbon Bundt Cake by Melissa Clark in The New York Times

Yield: 10 to 12 servings

Apple Bourbon Bundt Cake4

INGREDIENTS

2 sticks unsalted butter 226 grams, at room temperature, plus more to grease pan

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour 315 grams, plus more to dust the pan

3 tablespoons (30 grams) plus 1/2 cup (80 grams) bourbon 

½ cup (90 grams) candied ginger, chopped

1 ¾ cup (330 grams) brown sugar

4 large eggs, at room temperature

2 teaspoons (8 grams) baking powder

1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking soda

1 ½ teaspoons (3 grams) ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon (5 grams) fine sea salt

½ teaspoon grated nutmeg

1 cup (227 grams) sour cream

1 tablespoon (15 grams) vanilla extract

1 ½ teaspoons (5 grams) finely grated lemon zest

2 medium Granny Smith apples (about a pound, 454 grams) peeled, and coarsely grated

1 cup (120 grams) coarsely chopped, toasted pecans*

½ cup (100 grams) granulated sugar

Juice of 1/2 lemon (20 grams)

PREPARATION

  1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 12-cup bundt pan. (Or use one of those cooking sprays that already has the flour in it.) In a small bowl, combine 3 tablespoons bourbon and the candied ginger. Let stand 10 minutes.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the brown sugar and remaining butter on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, until incorporated.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining flour with the baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sour cream and vanilla. Pour in the bourbon from the ginger mixture (reserve ginger) and whisk until smooth. Stir in zest.
  4. With the mixer on medium speed, add the dry mixture and sour cream mixture to the wet mixture in three additions, alternating between the two. Fold in the ginger, apples and pecans. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the cake is golden brown and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out dry, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Cool in the pan 20 minutes, then run a paring knife around the sides of the pan to release the cake, if necessary; cool, flat side down, on a wire rack.
  5. While the cake cools, combine the 1/2 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 cup Bourbon in a small saucepan. Over low heat, gently stir until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the lemon juice and take off the heat.
  6. While the cake cools, make 10 slits on top with a paring knife and pour half the Bourbon-sugar mixture on the still-warm cake. When the cake is fully cool, flip it and pour the rest of the glaze on the other side, then flip again to serve.

NOTE: While the cake is wonderful on its own, adding a good dollop of freshly made whipped cream or vanilla ice cream makes it amazing. Did I mention that you could even add a bit of Bourbon to the whipped cream??

Apple Bourbon Bundt Cake1 (2)

To toast the pecans (or any nuts), preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Lay the nuts on a baking sheet or pan in a single layer. Toast in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the nut used. You should just begin to smell the nuttiness. You should check the nuts about halfway through and jiggle the pan a bit.

 

Onion Turbans

I am a true advocate for eating bread. There is nothing that beats the aroma or taste of bread that has just come from the oven. The entire house just smells delicious and warm and safe. As soon as the temperature outside begins to cool down, I turn my thoughts to cooking big pots of soup, stews and fragrant bean dishes. I love to make these things and to eat them. And best of all, they only improve with rewarming so that I always make enough for left-overs during the week ahead. This relatively simple but hearty fare really only needs some good bread to soak up the pot liquor and to fill my home with the most wonderful smells.

I own several books on artisan bread baking but a book that I often return to is a slim volume called Betty Crocker’s Breads. I have owned this cookbook for decades and it is completely unpretentious with zero snob appeal. It also is entirely accessible and when the simple instructions are followed, the result is always a perfect loaf of bread. This is a perfect book for the novice or anyone who wants to bake without intimidation. Unfortunately, it appears to be out of print with only ridiculously priced copies available online. However, if you manage to come across a copy in a used bookstore – grab it!

Try this bread for a family Sunday supper or surprise your guests for Thanksgiving. No one has to know how easy it is to make.

Onion Turbans

Yield: Two 8-inch round loaves  Onion Turbans

Ingredients

4.5 teaspoons of active dry yeast (2 packets if using packets)

2 cups warm water (105 to 115 degrees F. or simply water that feels quite warm but not hot to your fingertips)

1 envelope onion soup mix (about 1.5 ounces)

1/4 cup additional fried onions (the kind from a can) (Optional)

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 Tablespoons unsulphured molasses

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

1 large egg

1/3 cup (5 Tablespoons) solid shortening

About 6 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour

About 4-6 Tablespoons of melted butter

Directions

  1. Dissolve yeast in warm water in the bowl of a large standing mixer with the dough hook attachment. Add soup mix and stir to dissolve. Add the sugar, molasses, salt, egg, shortening, fried onions (if used) and 3 cups of the flour. Beat for about 1 minute on the lowest speed, scraping down where necessary in order to mix.
  2. Add 3 cups more of flour. Increase the speed to 2 (or the next lowest speed up) and continue beating with the dough hook, scraping down the dough as necessary, for about 7 to 8 minutes more. I did not require any additional flour, but if your dough seems too sticky, add up to another 1/2 cup, a Tablespoon at a time until the dough no longer sticks. The dough should be gathering up on the dough hook and will be smooth and supple (elastic) to the touch. [You can, of course, make this by hand, in which case you will have to knead the dough for 10 to 12 minutes.] Turn the dough into a greased bowl and roll it around to cover all of the surfaces. Cover the dough and allow it to rise until doubled in a warm, draft-free spot. (I use my oven, turned off, of course.) This takes just about an hour. The dough is ready if an indentation made with two fingers remains.
  3. Punch down the dough and divide it in half. Roll each half into a rectangles that is 24 x 5 inches. Tightly roll up each rectangle (I do them one at a time.) from the long side. You want to end up with a long, even log.
  4. Grease two 8-inch cake or pie pans. Beginning at the outside edge of the inside of the pan with the seam facing down, coil the rope of dough ending in the center of the pan. Brush each coil with melted butter. Allow to rise uncovered on a draft-free counter for 50 minutes or until doubled. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. while the dough rises to ensure a nicely heated oven.
  5. At the end of the rising, bake the turbans for about 40 minutes or until they are well-browned and sound hollow when rapped with your knuckles or a wooden spoon. Remove the breads from the pans to a cooling rack and brush with additional melted butter if desired.

Vegetable Beef Barley Soup with Lemon and Kale

Autumn is here and that means hearty and flavorful soups that are one-pot meals. I came across this soup on the New York Times website and decided to give it a try, with a few modifications. The most difficult step in this recipe is browning the meat, which means that pretty much anyone can make this soup. It takes some chopping and a bit of time to cook, but there are no special techniques or skills needed. However, it is not a pantry soup. It does require a fair amount of fresh ingredients, but is well worth the effort. And unlike traditional beef mushroom barley soups (which I love, by the way) this soup manages to be both hearty AND bright, with a lightness not usually associated with beef barley soup.

The original recipe called for one pound of meat cut into tiny pieces that would serve eight people. If I am going to the trouble and expense of serving meat in a soup that will serve as my dinner, then I both want to taste and see the meat. I also like to trim and cut my own meat into the size pieces I want that are almost totally devoid of any fat or gristle. I don’t happen to find it a bother to do this and I know exactly what I am serving. If you want to cut down on the work, then please go ahead and use prepared stew meat from the meat department. You won’t have the control over the cut or quality of the meat, but it will definitely simplify things for you. Otherwise, buy good quality chuck roast and cut it yourself. Make this soup on a day that you plan to be at home and you will be rewarded with quite a treat. It will take a 7 quart or larger stock pot or Dutch Oven.

Vegetable Beef Barley Soup with Lemon and Kale by Melissa Clark and tweaked by me

Yield: About 8 dinner servings

Vegetable Beef Barley with Kale and Lemon1

INGREDIENTS

2.5 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 2-inch cubes

1 Tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon black pepper, more as needed

4 tablespoons olive oil or grapeseed, more as needed

3 small or 2 large leeks, thinly sliced

3 celery stalks, sliced

1 fennel bulb, diced

4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 rounded teaspoon ground coriander

3/4 teaspoon ground cumin

3/4 teaspoon sweet paprika

Large pinch cayenne, optional

2 quarts beef stock, divided

3 sage sprigs 

2 rosemary sprigs

2 bay leaves

2 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch rounds

2 parsnips, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch rounds

2 large turnips, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

¾ cups pearled barley

1 large bunch of kale, torn into large, bite-size pieces

1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Finely grated zest of 1 large lemon, plus juice 

Thinly sliced jalapeños or other chilies, for serving (optional)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Season beef generously with about 2 teaspoons of salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Let mixture stand for 30 minutes to 1 hour at room temperature.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large, hot pot over medium-high heat. Add meat and cook in batches, turning occasionally, until well browned, 8 to 10 minutes per batch. (Do not crowd the pan or the meat will steam but won’t brown.) Drizzle in additional oil if the pan seems dry. Transfer the browned meat to a plate and cover lightly with fol to keep it warm. Don’t worry about brown bits that are stuck to the pan. All will be well – I promise!
  3. Add leek, celery, fennel and garlic to the pan; cook until soft, about 7 minutes, adjusting the heat if necessary to prevent burning. Push the vegetables to one side, and, if the pan looks dry, add a bit more oil. Add tomato paste and spices to the cleared spot and cook until tomato paste is darkened and caramelized, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir together vegetables and tomato paste.
  4. Return meat to the pot. Pour in 1 quart of stock and 8 cups water. Using kitchen string, tie sage, rosemary and bay leaves into a bundle and drop into pot. (I like to wrap my herbs in cheesecloth and then I tie the bundle to the handle of the pot which makes fishing it out later easier. The cheesecloth also keeps the herbs from breaking off and floating in the soup.) Bring the liquid to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, partly covered, for 1 hour.
  5. Stir in the carrots, parsnips, turnips, barley, 1 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Simmer until barley is cooked through and meat is tender, about 1 hour more. Pull herb bunch from pot and discard.
  6. Stir kale and parsley into pot until wilted, 2 to 3 minutes, then stir in lemon zest and juice. If soup is too thick, thin it with the additional quart of stock. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary. Serve with chilies, if you like. We found the chilies completely unnecessary – perhaps because I chose to use a large lemon which provided all of the kick that I needed.

NOTE: You can make the soup ahead through Step 5. Then you can turn off the heat. Add the kale, parsley, lemon zest and juice. Cover the pot and allow it to just sit. I then gently heat the soup to serve. The alternative is to add the kale, parsley, lemon zest and juice to the pot after it has been reheated and just prior to serving. Barley does tend to soak up whatever liquid it gets near so the longer the soup sits, the more the barley will expand and soak up the liquid. You can always add additional water or stock to thin it down if you wish. The kale will lose its vibrant green the longer it sits, but left-overs are still delicious.

Spaghetti Pancake or Baked Pasta alla Norma

When my son was little he had a VERY limited palate that largely consisted of one form of pasta or another. In an effort to expand his horizons and to keep me from getting incredibly bored, I would make individual spaghetti pancakes for him out of left-over pasta. It didn’t really matter if I had made a pesto sauce or a red sauce – pretty much any left-over pasta would work, including just butter, garlic, pepper and cheese.

The other day I was looking at one of the food blogs I follow and I saw a recipe for “Baked Pasta alla Norma.” I thought, wow, this is a great name and is sure to be something that I would want to make. When I actually got down to reading the recipe, I realized that it was just a fancy version of my old friend, the spaghetti pancake! Give it a try and if you have picky eaters, leave out the eggplant, hot pepper flakes and capers and simply add some extra cheese. It’s kind of hard to go wrong with a dish like this. So if you want sausage in your version, add some cooked, crumbled sausage or try zucchini instead of eggplant or add some sliced cured black olives. Use left-over pasta instead of making pasta just for the dish and make individual portions in smaller oven-safe frying pans or do it on your stove-top, flipping the “pancake” over half-way through until you have a nice crust on top and bottom and the egg is cooked through. Just have fun with it and if you want to tell your significant other that it is Baked Pasta alla Norma, I won’t tell them that it really is just spaghetti pancake.

Baked Pasta alla Norma or Spaghetti Pancake by Claire Saffitz from Bon Appétit, October 2018 Baked Pasta alla Norma

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS

1 medium globe eggplant, peeled, cut into ½” pieces

2 pints cherry tomatoes

8 garlic cloves, smashed

¼ cup EVOO, plus more for skillet and drizzling

½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, plus more for sprinkling

Kosher salt

2 large eggs
1 Tbsp. cream or milk

2 Tbsp. tomato paste

4 oz. finely grated Parmesan, divided (You could also use Asiago or Pecorino Romano or any combination.)

1 lb. spaghetti, linguine or other pasta

2 Tbsp. drained capers

½ cup torn basil, plus a few whole leaves

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 425°. Combine eggplant, tomatoes, garlic, ¼ cup oil, and ½ tsp. red pepper flakes in a large ovenproof skillet, preferably cast iron. Season generously with salt and toss to combine. Roast, shaking skillet once or twice, until eggplant is tender and tomatoes burst, 25–35 minutes. Let vegetables cool while you prepare the pasta (watch out for the hot handle when you take the skillet out of the oven). Reduce oven temperature to 400°. Baked Pasta alla Norma6

  2. Whisk eggs, cream or milk and tomato paste in a medium bowl until smooth, then whisk in about three-quarters of Parmesan. (Truthfully, I just eye-balled how much cheese I used and put more on top to form a nice crust.)

  3. Cook spaghetti in a pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Immediately drain pasta in a colander and shake to remove excess water; transfer pasta back to pot.

  4. Add cooled vegetable mixture to pot with pasta. Wipe out skillet and drizzle in a little oil; roll around in skillet to coat. Add egg mixture to pasta and toss vigorously with tongs until pasta is evenly coated. Add capers and ½ cup basil and toss again to combine.

  5. Transfer pasta mixture to skillet and press gently into an even layer. Top with remaining Parmesan, a few whole basil leaves, and an extra sprinkle of red pepper flakes, if desired. Drizzle with EVOO.

  6. Bake pasta until surface is nicely browned, 30–35 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before cutting into wedges for serving. Baked Pasta alla Norma5You can top with a few fresh basil leaves for a bit of color.

Chicken Shawarma with Tahini Sauce

As anyone who reads my blog knows, I LOVE Mediterranean/Middle Eastern food. I could happily eat it every day and have for weeks at a time. So when I came across this recipe for chicken shawarma that you could make at home,  I simply had to try it. This recipe did not disappoint. Is it exactly like the shawarma you get off of the spit at a restaurant? No, but it is really, really close and truth to tell, I undoubtedly used a much better quality chicken then most shawarma stands would. It’s a fun weeknight dinner that can be prepped the night before. Serve it casually stuffed in a pita or alongside some dill rice or cauliflower tabbouleh, accompanied by salads and a tahini sauce. Left-overs can be easily re-warmed.

Chicken Shawarma with Tahini Sauce by Tori Avey

Yield: About 6 servings

Ingredients

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 2 large breasts)

1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs (about 4 large thighs)

8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided

2 tsp cumin

2 tsp paprika

1 tsp allspice

3/4 tsp turmeric

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste

Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

About 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

For Tahini Sauce

1/2 cup good quality tahini like Soom brand

1 teaspoon garlic powder

Juice of 1 lemon

About 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

About 1/4 to 1/2 cup of cold water

Directions

Prepare Marinade

  1. Slice the chicken breasts into 5-6 pieces each and the thighs into 3-4 pieces each. Place them in a glass or stainless dish or large plastic zipper bag.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together 6 Tablespoons olive oil, the spices, 1 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp black pepper (if you are salt sensitive or are using Kosher chicken, reduce the amount of salt). Pour the spice marinade over the chicken pieces. Stir with a spoon till all the chicken pieces are evenly coated in the marinade.
  3. Cover the dish with plastic wrap, or seal the zipper bag. Place chicken in the refrigerator and let it marinate at least 1 hour, up to overnight. [For maximum flavor, allow to marinate for 8 to 12 hours.]

Oven Cooking Method

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with a nonstick cooking oil. Place the chicken pieces on the sheet, evenly spaced.
  2. Place the chicken in the oven. Let it roast for about 15 minutes until cooked through, turning the chicken pieces once with tongs halfway through cooking.
  3. Take chicken out of the oven and let it cool slightly. Use a sharp knife to slice the meat into small, thin shawarma-like pieces. [You could do this first cooking ahead and then do the next step when you are ready to actually sit down and eat.] 
  4. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a skillet on the stove-top over medium high heat. A cast iron pan is great for this step. Pour half of the chicken into the skillet and sauté for 3-4 minutes till the smallest pieces of chicken turn brown and crisp.
  5. Remove the cooked chicken from the skillet. Heat another 1 tbsp of oil and sauté the remaining chicken in the same way. Serve warm.

For Tahini Sauce

  1. Mix all of the ingredients together. Use 1/4 cup of water to start and mix it through. Here’s where it gets personal. I like a thick sauce so I may only use a little more water, but if you prefer a thinner sauce with the consistency of heavy cream – and also because different brands of tahini differ in density – use water, mixing until you get the consistency you want. The tahini will actually thicken when you first add the lemon juice and then you thin it with water. Extra sauce (should you have any) will keep for a day or two in the fridge and can be used to make salad dressing or with any other grilled meat or poultry.

Roasted Tomato Soup

While my family and I eat meat, we don’t eat it every night. And since it is generally just me and my husband now, we often like something a little bit lighter for dinner yet still full of flavor. This is a lovely, herbaceous, slightly smoky soup that really only requires some well-toasted, crusty bread topped with smushed avocado or hummus if you are keeping it vegan or adding some cheese if you just want it vegetarian. The original recipe claimed that it served four, but unless you are also serving a large salad or are very, very tiny people with very, very small appetites, we found that it was just right for two people with one of them having seconds. Of course, if this is just a first course, it will obviously serve more. Should you have any left-overs, they can be gently re-heated.

This recipe relies on having access to really flavorful tomatoes and I think that Roma/plum tomatoes are best here. And while I suppose you could use dried herbs, please, please use fresh. It’s just that kind of fresh, herbal flavor that makes this dish. There are no fancy techniques here and it is wonderful as is, but when I make it again, I very likely will also add a couple of roasted red peppers – just because I can.

Roasted Tomato Soup by  

Yield: 4 small or 2 generous servings

Ingredients

2 lb tomatoes

2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp Kosher salt or to taste

1/4 tsp cracked black pepper or to taste

2 cups vegetable broth, preferably low sodium

3 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion chopped – about 2 cups

3 cloves garlic minced

1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped plus extra for garnish

1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped plus extra for garnish

2 tbsp all-purpose, unbleached flour

1 tbsp brown sugar

2 tsp Balsamic vinegar

1 tsp Spanish smoked paprika  

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F degrees.
  2. Cut the tomatoes in half length-wise. Add the tomatoes to a 9 x 13 baking pan and drizzle with 2 tbsp of olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Bake for about 30 minutes or until tomatoes start to char slightly.Roasted Tomato Soup 3Roasted Tomato Soup7

  3. Add the tomatoes (with skin on) to a blender along with 1 cup of vegetable broth. Blend until tomatoes are smooth. [I found that the tomatoes blended just fine without adding the broth at this point. Your choice.]

  4. In a Dutch oven or heavy soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.

  5. Add the chopped onion and garlic cloves and cook for 5 minutes or until the onion is soft and translucent.

  6. Add chopped fresh basil and thyme and stir. Roasted Tomato Soup8Sprinkle the flour over the onions and stir. Add remaining 1 cup of vegetable broth and whisk, just to make sure there are no lumps from the flour.

  7. Pour the blended tomatoes into the pot and stir.

  8. Add brown sugar, Balsamic vinegar, smoked paprika and season with salt and pepper if needed.

  9. Simmer uncovered for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  10. Serve with some additional chopped fresh herbs, grated cheese and/or toasted bread or any combination. Roasted Tomato Soup1

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.

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