Nutritious Comforting Khichari

Comforting Khichari is nutritious, delicious and perfect for a Meatless Monday meal. It’s also a great pantry meal and easily adaptable. Like most of the world, my husband and I are sheltering inside until the Covid 19 pandemic is defeated.

We are eternally grateful to the brave and heroic healthcare workers, grocery shoppers, delivery people and others who are putting their lives on the line so that we can be cared for and fed. There cannot be enough shout-outs to those who are risking their own lives during these extraordinary times.

In order to help in some small way, we are trying to limit grocery deliveries. But we also know how important it is to so many families living on the edge to have any income coming in. So if you are receiving deliveries, please be generous with the people who are making them. Every little bit helps. For those lucky enough to have jobs that can be performed remotely and the incomes to go with it, be very generous.

So why Khichari? The most basic is comprised of a lentil, rice and some seasoning. Not only are these pantry staples for many, but it is loaded with nutrition for those who are following a vegetarian or vegan diet. While not a vegetarian, my husband and I often eat vegetarian or vegan meals. I came across this particular recipe recently and knew that I had everything on hand. Well almost. I didn’t happen to have the Thai chile or cauliflower. But I did have a butternut squash and a jalapeno pepper.

I made up a simple raita (yogurt and cucumber) to eat alongside with some pita that I had in my freezer. If you are vegan, a chutney of some sort or some other vegetable dip would be appropriate. And if you don’t have either of those, this dish is comforting and delicious on its own.

I simply peeled, cubed and roasted my butternut squash with EVOO, salt and pepper at 425 degrees F. for about 20 minutes. And I added a cup of frozen peas to the end of the cooking time as much for color as anything else. What I am trying to say, is don’t stress if you are missing an ingredient or if you want to substitute something. I had mung dal in my pantry and curry leaves in my freezer. If you don’t, then double up on the split red lentil and just leave out the curry leaves. Maybe add some lemon or lime zest if you have it or a bit of asafoetida.

This is not a traditional recipe so don’t be afraid to play with it a bit. Now is a great time to be a bit fearless with cooking. However you end up making Khichari, just keep the proportions of grains and lentils to liquid. And if you are not using a split lentil, the cooking time might increase a bit along with the liquid. You can always add liquid as you go if necessary. Assuming you can receive deliveries, most of the ingredients are available online and keep well stored in airtight containers. After that, go for it!

For other great dal and side ideas:

Chana Dal Kichadi

Punjabi Chana Dal

Indian Side Dishes with Something to Please Everyone

Recipe

Yield: About 4 servings

Ingredients

¼ cup red split lentils

¼ cup yellow split mung dal

¼ cup basmati rice

¼ cup white quinoa

2 tablespoons ghee or melted virgin coconut oil

½ teaspoon ground turmeric

6 fresh curry leaves or 2 dried cassia leaves (optional)

1 1-inch piece ginger, peeled, very finely chopped (about 1 tablespoon)

1 small green Thai chile, finely chopped

2 cups chopped cauliflower florets and/or peeled daikon

1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds

1 teaspoon (or more) Himalayan rock salt (or kosher salt)

Optional

Cilantro, basil, lime slices, black pepper, and olive oil (for serving)

Directions

Cover lentils and mung dal with water in a small bowl and let soak 30 minutes. Drain. Meanwhile, rinse rice and quinoa and drain well.

Heat ghee or oil in a large pot over medium-low. Add turmeric and toast just until slightly darkened, about 10 seconds. Add curry leaves, if using, ginger, and chile and cook until very fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add drained lentils, mung dal, rice, and quinoa and cook, stirring, until nearly dry, 1–2 minutes. Add cauliflower, fennel seeds, 1 tsp. salt, and 4 cups water. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and skim off any foam that forms on the surface, then simmer covered until grains and vegetables are very tender, 30–40 minutes; the khichari should be thick, very soft, and just loose enough not to stick to bottom of the pot (add water as needed to loosen). Season with more salt, if needed. Note: I did not have the cauliflower so I roasted my butternut squash separately and added it on top for serving.

Divide among bowls. Top with cilantro, basil, black pepper, and limes. Drizzle with oil.

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One-Pot Pasta Puttanesca

This One-Pot Pasta Puttanesca is a game changer! Everything cooks in one pot and is delicious and cooked exactly right. I already am a fan of sheet-pan cooking, but when I tried this pasta I became an evangelist. It’s absolutely brilliant. No more worrying about if your sauce and pasta are both ready at the same time.

Since we are all confined to our homes, I am spending even more time than usual looking at recipes. I saw this recipe on one of my favorite food blogs, the kitchn.com. Apparently it was developed by a Martha Stewart chef and it truly is magical. Even in these days of difficult-to-come-by groceries, I had all of the ingredients on hand. I did make a couple of changes to the original. The recipe called for 1 Tablespoon of salt which was too much especially when adding olives and capers. And for some reason, the original recipe said to only use 12 ounces of pasta when most boxed dry pasta come in 1 pound increments. Those were easy fixes to make.

This definitely is something that will make it into my regular rotation of dinners. It is just so easy, with minimal clean-up – ONE POT! And everything was cooked perfectly. I had baked bread earlier in the day so along with a glass of delicious red wine, my husband and I feasted. Really, you MUST try this.

For the recipe to work, you need a large shallowish pan like the Staub Heritage All-Day Pan or this Lodge enameled cast iron pan. I love my Staub pan and use it constantly. These pans are perfect for braising and go from the stove-top to the oven. If you are setting up your kitchen or looking to replace pots and pans, you can’t go wrong with either of these. (And I receive no remuneration for saying this.) You also need to use pasta made from wheat. The starch from the pasta will combine with the water to thicken and form a creamy sauce. This won’t happen with a vegetable-based pasta and the cooking time would be off.

Make this One-Pot Pasta Puttanesca for your next Meatless Monday.

How we’re managing isolation

My husband and I are in that vulnerable category of over 60 and with underlying health issues. So we are being very careful about social distancing. In addition to our normal home activities and chores, we have added some things. We are each taking advantage of free online lecture series, some of which are quite wonderful.

Not being able to use the gym in our building has meant getting creative with workouts. You can find us walking our long hallways (we live in a condo) and running stairs. Not much competition with our neighbors so far. And I have started a weights program and actually am developing arm definition! We do crossword puzzles together and I just started a wonderful 1,000-page biography of Winston Churchill by Andrew Roberts. That will clearly keep me busy for some time to come. Our beautiful, sweet cat is getting very, very spoiled having us constantly at her beck and call.

And I do needlepoint and my husband is a “maker.” None of this makes up for the loss of social interaction or the freedom of movement, but maybe I’ll come out of confinement a little smarter, healthier and having created something beautiful.

Recipe

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

1 pound of dry pasta like a linguine

About 12 ounces of grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half

1/2 cup pitted and halved olives (I used a mixture of Kalamatos and green olives)

1/4 cup capers, drained

1/2 cup chopped fresh, flat-leaf parsley

2 Tablespoons EVOO

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon (or to taste) red pepper flakes

4.5 cups warm tap water

Optional

Grated Parmesan, Asiago or Pecorino Romano cheese

Directions

Put all of the ingredients into the pot and bring to a boil on high heat.

Boil rapidly for 10 minutes, swishing the pasta around to keep it from sticking and to distribute the ingredients. I find that using tongs is best for this.

Turn off the heat and mix thoroughly. Add some additional chopped parsley and the cheese, if using to serve.

Note:

My husband requested that I add a protein and I happened to have some shrimp in my freezer. I added about a dozen shrimp during the final three minutes. Personally, I would have been fine without it so this would make a perfect meatless Monday meal.

African Peanut Soup

Rich in flavor and robust with sweet potato chunks and kale, this creamy, spicy soup is sure to please. This African Peanut Soup is a riff on the West African Maafe or peanut stew. A perfect Meatless Monday meal that comes together in no time.

As we are all sheltering in place trying to avoid contracting and spreading the Novel Coronavirus, eating healthily and satisfyingly has become even more important. Grocery shopping has become increasingly difficult so it is good to find delicious recipes that make use of as many pantry staples as possible. And the vivid colors and flavors of this African Peanut Soup can cheer anyone out of their boredom.

I searched the web and found many variations for this ground nut soup, although many of the ingredients were the same, appearing in different quantities. There also were versions with chicken or beef, but I wanted something meatless, that was easy to put together and packed a punch. Ultimately, I made a few changes to the recipe, in part, because it turned out that I was missing an ingredient and wasn’t about to go to the store to get it. With a couple of tweaks, I was able to make an acceptable work-around. But you be the judge. Give this soup a try.

We can all get through this pandemic.

For more healthy pantry soup ideas:

Lentil Soup

Mediterranean Style Lentil Soup

Karhi, a Yogurt Sauce (Also eaten as a soup over rice)

Greek Red Lentil Soup

Carrot and Harissa Soup

Recipe

Servings: 4 to 6 with rice

Ingredients

1.5 tablespoons peanut oil oil (or high heat oil such as Canola or Grapeseed)

1 large onion, diced

3 large garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

4 cups vegetable broth, plus more as needed (I didn’t need more)

3/4 to 1 cup creamy or chunky natural unsweetened peanut butter

1 cup finely chopped or ground canned tomatoes

2 tablespoon maple syrup

1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes, diced (about 20 ounces total weight)

1 bunch curly kale leaves or collard greens, torn off of the stem into bite sized pieces

1 to 2 rounded teaspoons Sriracha or other hot sauce or to taste

Salt and pepper, to taste

For Serving

Cooked rice

Roasted peanuts, roughly chopped

Fresh cilantro or parsley

Directions

  1. Coat the bottom of a large pot with the oil and place over medium heat.
  2. When the oil is hot, add the onion. Saute the onion, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, until soft and translucent.
  3. Add the garlic, ginger, cumin, cardamom and jalapeno. Cook everything for about 1 minute more, until fragrant.
  4. Add the broth, peanut butter, chopped tomatoes and maple syrup to the pot. Stir well to fully blend everything. Add the sweet potato, raise the heat, and bring the liquid to a boil.
  5. Lower the heat and allow the soup to simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the sweet potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. You can thin the soup with some extra broth or water if it becomes too thick. Mine didn’t.
  6. Stir in the kale. You may need to add a bit at a time and let each addition wilt to make room for the next.
  7. Let the mixture continue simmering for 5 to 10 minutes, until the kale is tender and the soup is thick.
  8. Remove the pot from heat and season the soup with salt, pepper and Sriracha to taste. Adjust any other seasonings to your liking.
  9. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with a scoop of rice, chopped peanuts and cilantro. Serve.

Italian Polenta Cookies

Everyone is looking for comfort right now, as well as ways to fill unaccustomed time at home. Baking makes your house smell absolutely safe, warm and inviting. But even after the aromas have dissipated, the delight of eating something delicious that you made lingers on. These Italian Polenta Cookies fit that description perfectly.

Grocery shopping has become challenging in the Time of Coronavirus. Many items are out of stock and getting deliveries scheduled can now take days (if at all) instead of hours. And who knows what will actually arrive when the delivery comes? I admit it. My pantry could probably survive the Zombie Apocalypse, but even I need to buy certain fresh staples like eggs, milk and produce.

In looking for some treat to make for my husband and me (because don’t we all need a little sweetness in our lives?) I came back to this recipe from David Lebovitz that I had seen about 18 months ago. I really love the not-overly-sweet variety of Italian cookies and I especially like cookies made from cornmeal or polenta. They just have this extra somethin’ somethin’. There is the zing of lemon with that slight crunch and flavor of the polenta. These Italian Polenta Cookies are perfect for afternoon tea, with a glass of Vin Santo or a cup of coffee.

Recipe

Yield: About 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients

3 tablespoons water

3/4 cup (90g) dried currant or another dried fruit, such as chopped cranberries or cherries

3 tablespoons eau-de-vie or grappa (I used Amaretto since I had neither grappa nor eau-de-vie)

1 3/4 cups (250g) flour

1 cup (160g) fine (or instant) polenta

3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar, plus more for finishing the cookies

1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

8 tablespoons (4oz) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Grated zest of 1 lemon

Directions

Heat the water in a small saucepan until it starts to boil. Turn off the heat and add the currants, or other dried fruit, and liqueur. Set aside for 30 minutes to 1 hour. (They can be plumped a day or two in advance.)


In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the flour, polenta, sugar, salt and baking powder. (You can also make this dough in a large bowl, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula.)

In a medium bowl, mix together the egg and the egg yolks, then stir in the melted butter and lemon zest.

Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and stir together for about a minute, until they’re well-combined. Add the currants and any liquid, and beat them in at medium speed for about 30 seconds.

Remove the dough from the bowl, wrap it in plastic wrap, flatten it into a disk, and chill until firm, about an hour. (The dough can be made 2-3 days in advance, and baked later.)

To bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

On a lightly floured counter top, pinch off tablespoon-sized pieces of dough, roll them into little logs (you may need to flour your hands as the dough can be slightly sticky), then press the logs gently to flatten them a bit, and pinch the ends to taper them. Place them on the baking sheet about an inch (3cm) apart, to allow for some spreading. Sprinkle the tops with granulated sugar.

Bake the cookies until golden brown across the top, about 15 minutes, rotating the baking sheets in the oven midway during baking. Let the cookies cool for a few minutes, then transfer them to a cooling rack.

Storage: The cookies can be kept up to one week in an airtight container at room temperature.

For other wonderful cookie options:

Lavender Mint Shortbread Cookies

Vegan Italian Chocolate Cookies

Tahini Cookies

Salted Chocolate Chip Tahini Cookies

Chewy Molasses Cookies

Tehina Shortbread Cookies

Vegan Oatmeal Raisin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies

Indian Spiced Lentil Burgers

Like many people, my husband and I try to eat healthily. Since we cook and eat almost all of our meals at home, this is fairly easy to do. We also try to keep a balance of vegetarian vs. meat-based meals. These Indian-spiced lentil burgers will make Meatless Mondays anything but boring.

As it happens, Andrew and I have both been home sick for the past 10+ days. No Novel Corona Virus, but very bad colds and coughs. It’s pretty easy to get down and out right now, so I am paying special attention to creating interesting and healthy meals. And as anyone who has had a terrible cold knows, the taste buds are one of the first casualties.

So when I came across this recipe for Indian Spiced Lentil Burgers with a Cilantro Chutney, I immediately perked up. I figured, rightly so as it turned out, that there would be enough flavor here to break through even my currently stuffed nose. I had all of the ingredients needed for the burgers, but unfortunately was short on ingredients for the chutney. The ingredients for the chutney can be found below, but I actually used a delicious onion chutney that I happened to have on hand instead. You can also purchase Indian Cilantro or Mint Chutney which should be equally delicious and one less thing to have to put together yourself. When you are coming home from work or are not feeling your best, simplicity is key.

I happen to love Indian food and the particular mix of seasonings given here. However, the recipe is pretty flexible. It is really the method and proportions that count. So if you prefer a more Mediterranean set of flavorings, just swap out the cumin, turmeric and coriander for the seasonings of choice. And instead of a delicious chutney, use a tomato-based or pesto spread on your bun. If you are going the Asian route, spread on some Teriyaki sauce or Peanut Sauce.

By using a food processor to do the main chopping, and the speed with which red lentils cook, this dish comes together pretty quickly. You do need to refrigerate the patties before cooking them, however. Because of that, you can either throw these together in the morning before you leave for work or make the patties the night before.

These burgers are not going to fool you into thinking you are eating meat. So junk that notion and enjoy them for the deliciousness that they are.

Recipe

Yield: 4 burgers

INGREDIENTS

For the Chutney:

  • 1/2 small bunch cilantro, stems and leaves coarsely chopped to make 2 packed cups 
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice, from about 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon oil 
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt

For the burgers:

  • 1 cup dry red lentils 
  • 2 teaspoons table salt, divided
  • 1/2 red onion, thickly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced
  • 2-inch piece ginger root, unpeeled, cut into thin slices
  • 1 medium carrot, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for broiling the burgers
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 large eggs
  • 6 tablespoons fine, dry breadcrumbs

Garnishes: Optional

  • 4 hamburger buns or similar rolls
  • 4 tablespoons Greek yogurt
  • Chutney (Onion, Mango, Mint, Coriander)
  • 1 cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 4 lettuce leaves, a handful of sprouts, or greens of your choice
  • Quickly pickled onion

Make the chutney, if using: In a food processor, puree the cilantro, jalapeno, lime juice, 1 tablespoon oil, and 1/4 teaspoon salt until smooth “ish”, scraping down the sides of the bowl two or three times. The mixture will still have some texture but should be predominately smooth. 

Transfer to a small bowl. Don’t wipe out the food processor. You’ll use it again in a second.

Pick over the lentils: Spread the lentils on a baking sheet and pick out small stones or pieces of dirt if there are any. Place them in a sieve and run them under cold water to rinse them. Drain. 

Cook the lentils: In a large saucepan, bring 4 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt and the lentils to a boil. Adjust the heat to a low boil and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, or until tender, but not mushy. 

At this point they should still hold their shape somewhat, though you will notice that the outer husks may have separated. Drain well in a fine-mesh colander or sieve. 

Chop the vegetables: While the lentils are cooking and draining, pulse the onion, garlic, ginger, and carrot in the food processor until finely chopped. (If you are using a different flavor profile, you can omit the ginger.)

Cook the vegetables and spices: In a large skillet over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the chopped vegetables and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until softened. Add the turmeric, coriander, cumin, and 3/4 teaspoon salt and cook for 30 seconds to bloom the spices. Turn off the burner and remove the pan from the heat.

Mash the lentils: Stir the well-drained lentils into the still-warm vegetables in the skillet. With a fork or potato masher, mash about half the mixture, leaving the other half intact.

Clear a space on one side of the skillet and add the eggs. Beat them well with a fork, and stir them into the lentils. Add the breadcrumbs and stir again. Let the mixture cool enough for you to handle and form into patties.

Form the patties: Form the lentil mixture into 4 patties that are about 4-inches across. Brush lightly with oil. Refrigerate the patties, uncovered, for 30 minutes or overnight.

Cook the burgers: Set a rack 4 to 6-inches from the broiler element and preheat the broiler. Using a well-seasoned cast-iron pan or a baking sheet lined with foil, heat the pan in the hot oven. Brush the tops of the patties with oil and place onto the hot pan. There should be a nice sizzle. Broil for 6 to 7 minutes, or until golden brown. Turn carefully, brush with more oil, and brown on the other side (another 5 to 6 minutes.)

Serve the burgers: You can lightly toast the buns if you like. Then spread some of the yogurt and chutney/sauce on the two halves. Place the burgers on top. Top with sliced cucumbers and lettuce or greens of your choice. And while these certainly didn’t need it, I could see adding a slice of cheese on top if I were going with a Mediterranean profile.

For other Meatless Monday ideas:

Cauliflower Fried “Rice” with Tofu

Butternut Squash and Arugula Pizza

Roasted Tomato Soup

Sheet Pan Honey(Agave)-Sesame Tofu and Green Beans

Heirloom Tomato and Ricotta Tart

Tofu Coconut Curry

Hamantaschen and Purim

It’s almost Purim! Bring on the noisemakers, costumes and treats! And Purim wouldn’t be a celebration without Hamantaschen. Imagine a flavorful dough, shaped like a triangle and stuffed with all kinds of delicious fillings. Traditionally, these sweet treats were filled with poppy seeds or lekvar (prune paste). But now, anything goes. Growing up, my son’s favorite filling was (and remains) Nutella. I also love apricot, almond paste, or even blueberry with lemon zest. Whatever you choose to fill your hamantaschen with, just enjoy them.

I’m not usually boastful, but these are simply THE BEST Hamantaschen that you will ever eat.

Why Hamantaschen?

The name, Hamantaschen, which is Yiddish, translates as Haman’s Pockets. It’s not really known why these treats came to be associated with Purim. But one story is that Hamantaschen resemble the tri-cornered hat Haman wore. Or maybe his pockets filled with bribes to spies. In Hebrew these delectable sweets are referred to as Haman’s “Ears.” But who was Haman and why do we remember him? The evil Haman was the royal vizier in the court of the Persian King Ahasuerus. He was out to exterminate the Jewish People.

When Do We Celebrate Purim?

Purim is celebrated according to the Hebrew calendar on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Adar (this year on March 9-10). This is the day following our deliverance from the evil decree. It is a time of merriment and satire much like April Fool’s Day. There is often a carnival and both adults and children dress up in costumes and swing noisemakers to scare off our enemies. In addition, the Book of Esther (Megillah) is recited publicly and we all boo every time Haman’s name is mentioned.

The Purim Story in Brief

Why does the Purim story resonate today? The Megillah is perhaps, the first written story about classic anti-Semitism. In the 4th century B.C.E., Ahasuerus, chooses the beautiful and brave Esther, a Jew, for his wife and queen. Haman, arrogant and egotistical, starts whispering in the king’s ear that because the Jews are different, they must be suspect and should be killed. Thankfully, Haman’s plans are foiled by Mordecai, an advisor to the king and Esther‘s cousin and adopted father. The day of deliverance was celebrated with a day of feasting and rejoicing for Jews.

So in addition to eating many special treats and reading the Megillah, Jews are commanded (Esther 9:18) to send out gifts of food or drink, and to make gifts to charity. 

While my son never wanted to dress up for Halloween, he always donned costumes for Purim as did I. And like so many Jewish girls, I always wanted to be Queen Esther, the brave and smart savior of our people.

Relevance today

Unfortunately, anti-Semitism was not wiped out along with Haman. Even after 6 million Jews were butchered during the Shoah, our enemies are still whispering lies and committing acts of violence and hatred against our people. So while Jews everywhere will celebrate Purim this year, we will also remain vigilant against the Hamans of this world.

Recipe

I always look first to Gloria Kaufer Greene for my Jewish Holiday recipes. I have tweaked the original recipe and those changes are reflected below.

Yield: About 2 dozen (Can be doubled)

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter or non-dairy buttery sticks, softened

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Zest and juice of one medium navel orange (Up to 3 Tablespoons of juice, as needed)

1.5 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

Do-Ahead

Cream the butter (non-dairy sticks) with the sugar using a food processor or electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, zest and vanilla until well combined.

Add the flour, salt, baking powder and baking sugar and mix until mixed through. Add orange juice, as needed. (If the dough seems really dry and won’t form, I add the juice to get a smooth dough.)

Form the dough into a thick disk, wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours. (You can make the dough up to 3 days ahead.)

Baking

When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Then roll out the chilled dough on a lightly floured surface until it is about 1/8-inch thick. (I like to roll out 1/2 of the dough at a time to make it easier to handle.)

Cut out circles that are 3-inches in diameter. You can use a clean, empty tuna can or a glass if you don’t have a cookie cutter. Re-use scraps until almost all of the dough is used up. I wouldn’t re-roll more than once.

Scoop a generous teaspoon of whatever filling you are using into the center of each circle. (I like to set things up like an assembly line, with my fillings all lined up and ready to go to make this go more quickly.)

Fold up the edges of each circle in thirds to form an open triangle with some of the filling showing. Using my finger and some cold water, I then “paint” the pinched edges both to seal them and to smooth them. You don’t want your hamantaschen opening up in the oven. They may taste fine, but the look will be disappointing.

Place the hamantaschen on baking sheet lined with a silicon baking sheet or parchment paper. Bake for about 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

Fillings

I am happy to use bought fillings which I then add special touches to. You want a filling that is thick enough to hold up to baking without running all over. I like to use either Solo brand or Love N’ Bake. Some of my favorite fillings are Nutella, apricot pastry filling, almond pastry filling and Lekvar or prune filling.

I always add a bit of orange zest to my apricot and prune filling and place a few sliced almonds on top of the almond filling. Nutella needs nothing added, but on occasion I have been known to add a few mini-chocolate chips.

Below is a wonderful poppy seed filling, which I will make from scratch. Obviously, if you are using multiple fillings, you will either have left-over filling or gee, I dunno, you may need to make additional batches to hand out to lucky friends and family! (Left-over filling can be used in yeast-based pastries or in little tarts.)

Best Poppy Seed Filling – Ever

1 cup (About 5 ounces poppy seeds

1/2 cup dairy or non-dairy milk

1/2 cup honey or agave

1/4 cup dark raisins

1 Tablespoon butter or non-dairy buttery sticks

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Directions

  1. Grind the poppy seeds using a coffee or spice grinder. You can do this with a mortar and pestle, but it will be more work.
  2. Place the ground poppy seeds into a small saucepan with the remaining ingredients.
  3. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently for about 10 minutes or until the mixture is very thick and almost all of the liquid has been absorbed.
  4. Remove the filling from the heat and allow it to cool slightly. Chill the filling before using for best results. This can be made up to 3 days ahead as well.

Amish Bob Andy Pie

If I have to choose between pie or cake, pie wins every time. So when I was looking for a pie to make this weekend, I went strolling through some favorite old cookbooks. And I found this recipe for Amish Bob Andy Pie. It’s roots are in the Midwestern Amish communities but the origins of the name may be somewhat apocryphal. Supposedly a farmer comes in from the field, tastes this delicious pie and declares it to be as good as his favorite plow horses, Bob and Andy! What’s not to love in a spiced custard pie named after two prized geldings?

Amish Bob Andy Pie is custardy (something my husband adores) with hints of warming winter spices. It’s not fussy to make and if you have neither the time nor the inclination to make your own pie dough, this recipe comes together in no time.

I happen to be an advocate for making your own pie dough and have never used store-bought. It’s not difficult – really. Find one recipe you like and stick with it. But as a realist, I understand that for a host of reasons, you may wish to purchase your dough. No judgement here.

Another great thing about the Bob Andy Pie is that you should have just about all of the ingredients already on hand. There are variations that use only cinnamon as a spice and in different quantities. I really enjoy the smell and essence of cloves in small doses, so was happy to see it in the recipe that I chose.

My Bob Andy Pie comes from Cooking from Quilt Country, Hearty Recipes from Amish and Mennonite Kitchens by Marcia Adams. The spicy notes from the cinnamon and clove are winners and put me in mind of pumpkin pie. A warning, though, this pie is very sweet. If that isn’t your jam then this may not be your pie. I found that just a little bit of whipped cream actually balanced out the sweetness.

For some other delicious pies, check these out:

Perfect Lemon Chess Pie

Amish Apple Pie

Vegan Chocolate Cream Pie

Thomas Jefferson’s Chess Pie

Bourbon Pecan Pie

Pumpkin Pie – and it’s vegan!

Classic Blueberry Pie

Recipe

Yield: About 8 servings

Ingredients

1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup dark brown sugar

2 Tablespoons all-purpose, unbleached flour

1/2 tesapoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs

2 cups of whole milk

1 Tablespoon of butter, melted

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Roll your dough out and place in a 9-inch pie pan (not deep-dish).

In a large mixing bowl, combine the next 6 ingredients. Using a separate bowl, beat the eggs well. Add the remaining liquid ingredients.

Blend the liquid mixture into the flour mixture. Beat until incorporated. Then pour the combined mixture into the unbaked pie shell. Bake for about 45 minutes. The filling should just be slightly jiggly when you remove it from the oven and the center will have puffed up. It levels off as the pie cools. If you feel that the crust is browning too much, you can cover the crust with a pie ring or a bit of foil.

I actually left my pie in the oven with the heat turned off and the door ajar for an additional 10 minutes because it was nowhere near set. That did the trick. However, everyone’s oven is different so definitely check it after 45 minutes.

Because the cinnamon rises to the top, the finished pie is a lovely brown. Allow the pie to cool and serve it at room temperature. When you cut into it, you will see that natural layers form. I don’t think that it requires ANY embellishment and it is unlikely that the Amish would decorate it. However, as a homemade whipped cream fan, a little fresh cream on top never goes amiss!

For more great pie ideas, check these out:

Perfect Lemon Chess Pie

Amish Apple Pie

Vegan Chocolate Cream Pie

Thomas Jefferson’s Chess Pie

Bourbon Pecan Pie

Pumpkin Pie – and it’s vegan!

Classic Blueberry Pie

Smokey Chickpea Chorizo Soup

Smokey Chickpea Chorizo Soup is a hearty one-pot meal perfect for damp, chilly fall or winter days. This will warm your hearts and your stomachs and needs nothing more than some good bread. Add a salad and you have a veritable feast.

The texture of the soup is creamy but it comes from pureeing the veggies with an immersion blender. So the rich flavor and texture is actually healthy. And while the soup can be a bit spicy, the level of heat is all within your control. And did I mention that there is also kale?

The most difficult part of this recipe is remembering to soak your chickpeas the night before. In the winter, my husband and I love to spend Sundays snuggled at home with our beautiful, sweet cat. It’s the perfect day for making a big pot of soup or stew that will last all week for lazy lunches or dinners. While the soup slowly simmers, we will work on a crossword puzzle or two or just listen to some good music while we read. Somehow it’s even better if we can have some snow or rain while we are toasty and comfy with each other inside. And, of course, a fire crackling completes the picture.

The Magic of Sundays

The Smokey Chickpea Chorizo Soup only requires a minimum of prep and then you are pretty free to spend those 2.5 hours while it gently bubbles away in any pursuit that you choose. If you are feeling particularly virtuous maybe a workout is in order. Then again, Sundays are great days for watching a game. Buy a crusty country bread or make Socca.

This recipe makes a large quantity. And while I am happy to have it for lunch all week, you can also freeze the soup if it is more than you want. Better yet, invite some friends over to share this. You can thank me later.

The original recipe stemmed from a Bon Appetit October 2019 post by Carla Lalli Music. After reading the reviews and the recipe, I decided to make a number of changes.

Recipe

Yield: About 10 to 12 servings

Ingredients

1 pound dried chickpeas, soaked to cover for 8 hours or overnight

4 quarts of water

1 Tablespoon kosher salt

1 Tablespoon bouillon (I like Better than Bouillon chicken or vegetable)

2 very large carrots, coarsely sliced

1 large onion, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 head of garlic, with cloves separated and peeled

1 smoked turkey leg or wings or a smoked ham hock (I prefer turkey)

1/4 cup EVOO

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or to taste

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 rounded teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika

Freshly cracked black pepper

A good chunk of Parmesan rind (Optional)

1 large bunch of curly kale, leaves torn from the stems

7 to 8 ounces of Spanish chorizo, thinly sliced (I prefer “original” style, but you can also buy “picante” which is spicier. I did not need to go any further than my local grocery store to find this.)

Directions

Drain your chickpeas after they have soaked. Place them in a large stockpot (9 quarts, if possible) with the 4 quarts of tap water. Season with 1 Tablespoon of salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook, skimming any foam that rises to the surface for about 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and bring to a simmer.

While you are waiting for the water to boil, prepare your veggies. Once the liquid has been skimmed of foam, add in all of the veggies EXCEPT for the kale. Add in the seasonings, bouillon, Parmesan rind, if using and smoked turkey. When the liquid has returned to a simmer, cover the pot and cook for 2.5 hours.

Turn off the heat and using tongs, remove the turkey or ham hock to a cutting board. Fish out the Parmesan rind, if using. Using a slotted spoon, scoop out about two+ cups of the chickpeas and set aside. Don’t worry if a few veggies fall in. Using an immersion blender, blend the mixture left in the pot until smooth. (If you don’t own an immersion blender, BUY ONE! Mine was a gift from my son and daughter-in-law and it is now a cherished and essential piece of kitchen equipment. I don’t know how I managed without one. Fortunately, they are easy to come by and inexpensive. They also don’t take up much room, which is good because I have a small kitchen.)

By now the turkey should be cool enough to handle. Using your clean hands, strip the meat from the bones, cartilage and skin. If you use a turkey leg, there will be a fair amount of meat, but there will only be a small amount with the wings or ham hock. Add the meat back to the pot along with the whole chickpeas that you had set aside. You can make the soup ahead up to this point.

When you are ready to serve the soup, add the chorizo (which is fully cooked and only requires heating) and the kale. Return the soup to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes more. Honestly, it’s difficult to over-cook this as long as it is on a low heat. The soup just gets better each day.

Valentine’s Day Cake

Celebrate your love with this deceptively simple yet extravagant Valentine’s Day Cake. Once you have tasted this luscious cake made with dessert wine and olive oil, you will forget all about chocolate.

I’ve been married for over 35 years. And during that time, my husband a and I send each other love notes and texts daily. So I tend not to get too worked up about Valentine’s Day, if I’m being honest. We usually buy or make cards for each other and maybe I’ll make a special dinner or dessert. If I’m in the mood.

However, when I came cross this recipe in the Wall Street Journal by Aleksandra Crapanzano a few weeks ago, I knew that it was going to be my Valentine’s Day Cake this year. It’s everything that I love in a cake. It uses top ingredients but there is nothing fancy or precious about it. There are no sprinkles or cloyingly sweet, artery-clogging frostings. This is a cake for adults. And best of all, it comes together quickly!

Dessert Wines

I became a fan of dessert wines when I was introduced to them on a cruise throughout the Mediterranean years ago. They still haven’t taken hold in the United States the way they have in Europe and that’s a shame. While some can be very pricey, there are lovely and affordable ice wines, Tokaji and Muscat wines. The worst are overly sweet and syrupy, but the best are as light as a kiss on a summer’s breeze.

For this cake, don’t choose a dessert wine that is too light in flavor. You want something that is lovely and fruity. So if you are unfamiliar with dessert wines, ask your local wine store for suggestions. While delicious immediately, the flavors of the wine and the citrus will develop even further if you make this a day ahead of serving.

Moments of Perfection

So go ahead and take a bite. Then just close your eyes for a moment and inhale the amazing flavors and wonderful moist texture. Remember, if your dessert is wonderful, it’s okay if the rest of the meal isn’t perfection.

If you simply cannot imagine Valentine’s Day without chocolate, however, try this Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Glaze or this Chocolate Amaretti Torte.

Cupid Cutout Image #1

Recipe

Yield: About 6 Servings

Ingredients

For the cake:

2 cups flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

1¼ cups sugar

3 large eggs

¾ cup mild extra-virgin olive oil (I actually used an orange EVOO to bump up the orange flavor)

½ cup Sauternes, ice wine, Tokaji or Muscat de Beaumes de Venise (I used Beaumes de Venise)

¾ cup whole milk

Zest of 1 lemon, preferably organic

Zest of 1 orange, preferably organic

For the syrup: SEE NOTE

½ cup sugar

½ cup Sauternes or alternative

For topping:

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup crème fraîche OR 1 additional cup of heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Splash of Sauternes

1 to 2 Tablespoons of Confectioner’s sugar (to taste)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 for convection). Grease a 9-inch springform pan and line with parchment. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt.

2. Use an electric mixer to beat together sugar and eggs until pale yellow, about 5 minutes. Add oil, wine, milk and zests, and beat to combine, 1-2 minutes. Then add sifted ingredients and beat until just combined, about 1 minute. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until a knife emerges clean, 35-45 minutes. After 12 minutes open the springform and remove the outer ring. Allow the cake to cool completely on a wire rack before inverting onto a cake plate.

3. Make the syrup: In a small pot over low heat, dissolve sugar completely with a few spoonfuls water. Bring syrup to a simmer and cook until almost golden. Resist the urge to stir the syrup! You are trying to lightly caramelize the sugar and that simply won’t happen if you stir. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and stir in the wine.

NOTE: Okay, full disclosure. I had a terrible time with this syrup and I have caramelized LOTS of sugar. As soon as I added the wine, the sugar formed into the ball stage and I had to rewarm the mixture to dissolve the sugar crystals. It also spattered everywhere, burning me slightly in the process. SO BE CAREFUL! Honestly, I thought the cake was delicious on its own with just the whipped cream, but after eating it with the syrup, it puts things over the top.

4. Before serving, whip cream(s) until billowy with a heaping tablespoon or two of confectioner’s sugar, vanilla and a splash of Sauternes. Sprinkle cake with confectioner’s sugar, if using. Serve slices with a generous drizzle of syrup and a dollop of whipped cream.

FURTHER NOTE: While this cake is wonderful as set forth, it would also be great with some sort of stewed or roasted fruit or with some fresh berries.

Iraqi Chicken over Red Rice

Iraqi Chicken over Red Rice is a savory, succulent, budget-friendly dinner worthy of company. Also known as Plau B’Jeej, this dish contains subtle layers of flavors and textures. I cooked chicken thighs with tomato paste and spices to make the broth which I then used later to cook the rice. Chicken thighs are more flavorful than breast meat and they retain their moisture. Onions (LOTS) were slowly sauteed until just short of caramelization. When I added an exotic blend of spices along with almonds and raisins I was immediately transported to the market places in Israel.

We ate the Iraqi Chicken over Red Rice for a satisfying, lovely Shabbat meal. A cup of Greek Red Lentil Soup, along with side salads of Moroccan Beets, Baba Ganoush and a watercress, Persian cucumber, tomato and olive filled out the menu. And, of course, my husband’s beautiful challah!

While I know that some people eat the same special meal every Shabbat, I have always tried to vary it. With a wonderful library of cookbooks, I’m never short of inspiration. As anyone who follows my blog knows, I especially love Middle Eastern/Mediterranean food as well as Indian. They both use lots of fresh herbs, pulses, vegetables and spices and it’s fun to mix and match cuisines. These palate pleasers also create a feast for the eyes with their colorful blends. This recipe comes from the Jewish Soul Food From Minsk to Marrakesh cookbook by Janna Gur.

Recipe

Yield: 6 servings, depending on sides. Any leftover rice can be used with other grilled, or roasted meat, chicken or fish.

Ingredients

2 to 2.5 pounds of bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (or saddles , which includes the legs)

5 cups of water

7 ounces of tomato paste

1 slightly rounded teaspoon of ground cumin

1 slightly rounded teaspoon sweet paprika

Generous pinch of cayenne (optional, but I used)

Kosher salt

2 cups long-grain white rice (I used Basmati)

3 to 4 Tablespoons vegetable oil such as Canola

3 large yellow or white onions

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 slightly rounded teaspoon baharat spice mix (easily available online, but a recipe for making it at home will be included at the bottom)

1 cup of blanched slivered or halved almonds

1/2 cup of raisins (I used unsulphured Sultana Raisins)

Directions

Place the chicken in a medium saucepan. Mix the water with the tomato paste, cumin, paprika and cayenne. Pour the liquid mixture over the chicken. Partially cover the pot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for one hour. Toward the end of cooking, add a 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside until it is cool enough to handle (about 15 minutes). There should be just about 3.5 cups of liquid remaining, which you will use in a bit to cook the rice.

While the chicken is cooking, rinse and then soak the rice in cold water, using a sieve or colander over a bowl. The rice should soak for at least 15 minutes and up to 30 minutes. Then drain the rice.

Once the chicken has cooled enough to handle, remove the skin and shred the meat off of the bone. Set the chicken meat aside.

Peel and thinly slice the three onions. Don’t get scared off by the seemingly large amount. It cooks down and is all necessary. In a 12-inch pan (preferably cast iron) heat the vegetable oil. I ended up using about 3.5 Tablespoons of oil. Add the sliced onions and saute over medium heat, only stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes+. You want the onions to become softened and just beginning to turn golden and caramelized. Season with salt to taste and add the turmeric and baharat. Mix through. All of this can be done ahead if you wish.

Twenty minutes or so before you are ready to eat, bring the tomato liquid to a boil. Add the drained rice. Cover the pot tightly and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 20 minutes, but check it after 15 since different brands of rice cook different times. You want the liquid to be absorbed and the rice to be tender. Fluff the rice with a fork, re-cover the pot and allow the rice to stand for 5 to 10 minutes.

Heat the onion mixture if you made it ahead. Add back the chicken and mix it through. Add the almonds and saute for about 5 to 6 minutes more, gently tossing the almonds through the mixture. Now add the raisins and cook for one more minute.

This can be presented on a platter with the rice on the bottom and the chicken, almond, onion, raisin mixture mounded on top. Be sure to leave some of the rice visible. You can also serve this in a similar presentation on individual plates. Top with a bit of fresh parsley or cilantro for color contrast.

Baharat Spice Mix

There is no one single recipe for Baharat. Every family and spice vendor has their own blend. The following recipe also comes from the Janna Gur cookbook and is one option for making Baharat at home. I used a commercial blend this time which I received as a gift.

1 Tablespoon ground cardamom

1 Tablespoon freshly ground balck pepper

1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 Tablespoon ground ginger

1.5 teaspoons ground allspice

1.5 teaspoons ground nutmeg

Combine and keep stored in an airtight container in a cool dry place.