Nigella Lawson’s Sheet Pan Chicken, Leeks and Peas

Over the past year I have become a HUGE fan of sheet pan meals. They are simple to put together, clean-up is minimal if you line your pan with foil (I mean who wouldn’t line their pan with foil?!) and once you have the hang of the timing and amounts of liquid etc. there are almost infinite possibilities. I’ve even gotten my husband making the occasional dinner now. I do think that most of the chicken recipes work best with the thighs even though I otherwise am a breast meat person. The thighs retain their moisture, flavor and tenderness while allowing the chicken to cook long enough to get a wonderfully blistered skin which just cries out to be eaten. This recipe is no exception. If you are looking for a delicious and easy vegan sheet pan meal try Sheet Pan Honey(Agave) Sesame Tofu and Green Beans. We made this last night for dinner and substituted sugar snap peas for the green beans and added 8 ounces of thickly sliced Cremini or Baby Bella mushrooms. Everything cooks the same. Just add the mushrooms with the peas. If you are feeling especially lazy, use a good store-bought teriyaki sauce in place of the sauce in the recipe.

But back to Nigella Lawson’s “Traybake” chicken. If you are not in love with leeks or dill, you could probably substitute another vegetable with a similar texture like baby bok choy. The point is to make dinner easy, delicious and even fun. The chicken in this dish is amazingly moist and I defy anyone to throw out the skin instead of breaking into that crackling goodness. Go ahead – it really won’t kill you to have it once in awhile. You know you want to….Nigella Lawson Sheet Pan Chicken2

Serve the chicken with rice or some gorgeous smashed potatoes. Nigella Lawson Sheet Pan Chicken6

Nigella Lawson’s Sheet Pan Chicken, Leeks and Peas

Yield: 4-6 servings

Ingredients

7 cups (about 2 pounds) frozen petit pois (baby peas)

4-5 medium to large leeks trimmed and washed well, cut into 1-inch slices

3 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

1/4 cup dry white vermouth or other dry white wine

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling

2 teaspoons sea salt flakes or kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling

1 small bunch dill, torn into pieces

6-8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (If they are on the large side then you only need 6)

Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 400° F and spill the frozen peas into a large roasting pan (Nigella says not to go smaller—measuring inside from inside rim to inside rim—than about 15 by 11 inches, and a little larger is fine), followed by the leeks, garlic, vermouth, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, 2 teaspoons of salt, and most of the dill. Toss everything together in the pan—breaking up any large clumps of the frozen peas—until well mixed.
  2. Arrange the chicken thighs, skin-side up, on top, then drizzle them with a little olive oil and give them a good sprinkling of salt, before roasting in the oven for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven, give the peas a small stir or tamp down, so that the few that are sitting on the surface and drying out a little are submerged in the liquid.  Put back in the oven for a further 30 minutes, by which time the peas and leeks will be soft, and the chicken tender and cooked through, its skin golden and crisp.
  3. Tear off the remaining dill fronds, and scatter over the top to serve. Nigella Lawson Sheet Pan Chicken

 

Carrot, Orange, Ginger and Walnut Dip

Carrot, Orange, Ginger and Walnut dip

I’m always looking for something that my guests can nibble on with drinks that will stimulate their appetite but which won’t overwhelm my main meal. I came across this dip which is adapted from Feasts: Middle Eastern Food to Savor and Share by Sabrina Ghayour. While I haven’t explored the actual book or any other recipes, based on this I am anxious to see what else Ms. Ghayour has in store.

I made this dip for Passover but it would be excellent anytime. And since it is vegan, it can be used at any meal if you observe food restrictions for whatever reason. If you are unfamiliar with nigella seeds, they are definitely worth trying. They can be found at any decent spice store or online and will be used in Indian as well as Middle Eastern recipes. Nigella is also known as black caraway, black cumin or fennel or kalonji seeds. Any left-over dip will easily last a week in the refrigerator.

Carrot, Orange, Ginger and Walnut Dip 

Yield: 8-10 servings

Ingredients

1 pound carrots, peeled and very roughly chopped

5.3 ounces of walnut pieces, very lightly toasted in a dry pan on the stove (As soon as you begin to smell the nut, remove it immediately from the heat!)

1 small bunch fresh cilantro, chopped

1 well-rounded teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

4-inch piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and finely grated

3 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

2 Tablespoons of Agave syrup or honey

Zest and juice of 2 large unwaxed oranges

About 4 Tablespoons (1/4 cup) EVOO

3 Tablespoons nigella seeds

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Garnish

Coarsely chopped cilantro

Whole walnuts

Directions

  1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and add the carrots. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the carrots are just tender (about 10 minutes). When a sharp knife inserted into a carrot chunk comes out without any resistance, the carrot is done. Immediately drain under cold water to halt the cooking.
  2. In a food processor combine all of the ingredients up through the EVOO. You want a course puree. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle in a little more EVOO if you prefer a slightly looser consistency. I did not. Pulse through the nigella seeds and serve with a whole walnut and/or some coarsely chopped cilantro on top.

 

West African Peanut Stew with Chicken

Peanut Stew with Chicken2

Over the years I have seen recipes for peanut soup or stew but somehow never got around to making them. So when I saw a recipe this month in our local paper, I decided it was finally time to give it a whirl. I cannot say whether this recipe is absolutely authentic, but I can say that it is delicious. I made a few tweaks to the original recipe which was by Ellie Krieger. Assume that all of my spice measurements mean “rounded.” It’s colorful, delicious and something you can eat guilt-free. Served over some plain boiled rice or other grain of choice and you have one stick-to-the-ribs meal.

West African Peanut Stew with Chicken by Ellie Krieger and tweaked by me

Yield: 4-6 servings

Ingredients

1.5 pounds of boneless skinless chicken (breast or thigh) cut into 2-inch pieces

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

About 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

2 Tablespoons of Peanut or Grapeseed oil

1 large onion, peeled and coarsely chopped

3 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced

2 Tablespoons grated, peeled ginger (I use the stuff that I get in the jar in the produce section)

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 cups of low-sodium chicken broth (you could use vegetable broth if you prefer)

1 can (14.5 ounces) of diced tomatoes with juice (I like “fire-roasted” but any will do)

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 2-inch dice

1 bunch of collard greens with the leaves torn off of the tough rib into medium pieces

2 large sweet bell peppers (red, orange or yellow), seeded and cut into 2-inch dice

1 or more large dried Arbol pepper (optional)

1 cup natural-style peanut butter – chunky or smooth

About 6 Tablespoons of roasted and salted (or unsalted if you prefer) peanuts, roughly chopped

Directions

  1. I prefer to use dark meat chicken and I trim off any excess fat. I find it has more flavor than white meat and doesn’t get tough or stringy in the way that white meat chicken does. It’s your choice, however. Once the chicken has been cut, season it with about 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and the pepper. In a 4 quart (or larger) heavy pot with a lid, add one Tablespoon of the oil and heat it to the point where the chicken will give out a nice hiss when added. Cook the chicken until all of the raw look is gone and the chicken is opaque. Move it around in the pot while it cooks. This will take about 4-5 minutes. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, remove the mostly cooked chicken to a plate or bowl, lightly cover it with foil and set it aside.
  2. Add the remaining oil to the same pot. Don’t worry if there is a little liquid in the pot or if there are bits of chicken that stuck. Heat the oil and add the onion cooking until it is softened – about 3 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic, and the spices as well as the remaining salt. Cook stirring for about 30 seconds or until the spices start giving off their fragrance.
  3. Stir in the chicken stock, tomatoes with their juices, the sweet potato, collard and bell peppers. Add the Arbol pepper if using. Bring the mixture to a boil. Partially cover the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes.
  4. Add the peanut butter and stir through the pot until it is incorporated.
  5. Return the chicken to the pot and mix through. Cook for another 5 minutes. Taste to adjust seasonings and serve hot with roughly chopped roasted peanuts on top.

 

Death by Chocolate Vegan Passover Cake

I LOVE Passover. I love that it means Spring is here. I love the story of my People’s deliverance from slavery to freedom. I love sharing our table with family and friends and I love the food. Baking for Passover was always challenging but not insurmountable and I make wonderful cookies and cakes that would be delicious anytime, but which I save for Passover to keep them special. However, our godson is deathly allergic to eggs and THAT is a real challenge.

Sephardic Jews i.e. Jews who originated from Spain, always considered legumes (pulses) and rice Kosher for Passover, but Ashkenazi Jews i.e. Jews from Eastern European traditions considered these foods forbidden. Thankfully in the last couple of years this has changed if you follow the Conservative or Reform Jewish traditions. Some Orthodox Jews now eat quinoa during Passover and others do not. Yes, it’s complicated, so before you get too excited about this cake, find out if your community’s traditions allow for the use of quinoa and aquafaba (the liquid from cooked chickpeas). Some allow one and not the other. I am not a rabbinic authority. However, if you follow Sephardic traditions or the Conservative or Reform movement then this cake may just be a revelation to those of you who cannot or do not eat eggs but wish to observe Passover traditions.

I saw a recipe for Paula Shoyer’s Chocolate Quinoa Cake on the Food52 website and was intrigued. I wondered if I could take the recipe and “veganize” (is that a word?) it. I made the cake 3 times until I was able to get what I wanted. And unlike the original, I did not make this in a bundt pan but chose to make it as a layer cake. I then went on the hunt for a vegan Kosher for Passover option for a chocolate mousse and purchased a Passover chocolate spread. Just follow the steps and this works. There are no tricks or special skills required, but it does take some patience. Thankfully I worked out all of the kinks for you. I made the cake layers a few days ahead of when I needed them but I didn’t assemble the cake until the morning of the Seder. Please use only the best baking chocolate and cocoa. There are many excellent Kosher chocolate options available now. I used a 70% cacao chocolate from Elite but there are others. I wouldn’t go below 60% cacao or above 70% for best results. Assuming you have any left-overs, they will last refrigerated for several days. This can easily be made a couple of days ahead.

I wish that I could have had this recipe ready sooner, but keep this in your file for next year and/or make it during one of the remaining nights of Passover. Why do you think there are 8 days in which to celebrate?!

Death by Chocolate Vegan Passover Cake (Good anytime!)

Death by Chocolate Cake1

Yield: One 8-inch layer cake (It’s rich so this should feed at least 10 people.)

Ingredients

For Cake:

3/4 cup (130 g) quinoa

1 1/2 cups (360 ml) water

Coconut cooking spray or melted coconut oil, for greasing the pan

2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa, for dusting the pan

Zest of one large orange (optional)

1/3 cup (80 ml) orange juice

Aquafaba from one 15.5 ounce can of chickpeas, beaten until it turns white and has begun to thicken but before real peaks form

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (or other vanilla if for Passover)

3/4 cup (180 ml) melted coconut oil

1 1/2 cups (300 g) sugar

2 Tablespoons of strong black coffee

1/4 cup matza cake meal

1/4 cup almond or hazelnut meal (ground nuts)

1 cup (80 g) dark unsweetened cocoa

1 Tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3.5 ounces (100 g) bittersweet chocolate

Vegan Chocolate Mousse by the Minimalist Baker and tweaked by me

1/2 cup plus 1 Tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa or cacao powder

3/4 cup chopped cocoa butter 

3.5 ounces dark chocolate (64-70%)

1 14-ounce can of full-fat coconut milk or coconut creme

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Pinch of Kosher salt

3/4 teaspoon of Powdered or Confectioner’s sugar (Kosher for Passover)

6 pitted medjool dates (you could substitute maple syrup but the mousse will be thinner)

Garnishes (Optional)

2 Tablespoons 70% dark mini-chocolate chips

2 Tablespoons finely chopped walnuts

Directions

For the cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 2 8-inch cake pans (preferably non-stick) and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper. Sprinkle with unsweetened cocoa powder. Set aside.
  2. Either use quinoa that has already been rinsed or rinse your quinoa. If you don’t, there can be a slightly bitter aftertaste. Place the quinoa and water in a small pot with a lid. Bring to a boil, turn the heat to simmer and cook covered for about 15 minutes or until all of the liquid is absorbed. Open the pot and allow the quinoa to cool. This can also be made a day ahead.
  3. Melt the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high for 45 seconds. Give it a stir and then microwave for an additional 38 seconds. Set aside.
  4. Place the quinoa in the bowl of a food processor and process until the quinoa is broken down almost to a paste. Now add the sugar and pulse a few times. Add the zest, if using and coffee and pulse a couple of times.
  5. Add the cocoa powder and pulse about 5 times. Then add in the baking powder and salt and pulse twice. Add in the orange juice, melted chocolate and vanilla extract and pulse a few times. Now add the melted coconut oil and pulse until incorporated. Lastly add the matza cake meal and nut meal. Just leave everything in the food processor, covered while you prepare the aquafaba.
  6. In the bowl of a standing mixer, add the strained liquid from a 15.5 ounce can of chickpeas. I like the ones that have salt. It just always seems to work better for me. Using the whisk attachment, beat the aquafaba on high until the liquid turns completely white, has increased in volume and begun to thicken. This takes about 15 minutes so be patient. You do not need to beat until actual peaks form.
  7. Add the aquafaba to your food processor and process until it is completely incorporated. This can be done by hand if your processor isn’t big enough. Divide and pour the mixture into the prepared pans and bake for about 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out with just a couple of crumbs on it.  Remove the cake to a cooling rack and allow it to cool in the pan for about 12 minutes or until you can touch the rim of the pan with your fingers.
  8. Place a cooling rack over the pan and flip out the cake. Allow it to finish cooling completely. This can be made a couple of days ahead or even earlier if well-wrapped and frozen. If frozen, defrost the cake layers before assembling. 

For the Mousse

  1. In a small saucepan, combine cocoa or cacao powder, cocoa butter, chocolate, salt, and (180 ml) coconut milk. Begin warming over medium-low heat, whisking to combine.
  2. Once the mixture is melted whisk until fully combined. Then remove from heat and add vanilla and confectioner’s sugar to taste (or just add more dates). I found 3/4 teaspoon sugar to be perfect.
  3. Transfer the mixture to a blender. Add dates and blend on high until creamy and smooth. 
  4. Taste and adjust flavor as needed, adding more cacao powder for rich chocolate flavor, dates for sweetness, or salt for saltiness.
  5. Transfer to a bowl and cover. Refrigerate until cold and thickened – at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
  6. To serve on its own, divide between serving glasses and top with coconut whipped cream, raspberries, and chopped vegan dark chocolate or cacao/cocoa powder (optional).
  7. Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator up to 5 days. 

Assembly

  1.  Place one cake layer on a cake plate or cake board with the flat side facing up. (The flat side will have sunk slightly as it cooled but don’t worry since it will be filled with mousse and won’t show.) Spread with softened chocolate or chocolate hazelnut spread. How thickly you do this is between you and your cardiologist. I used about 10 ounces. 
  2. Now spread half of the chocolate mousse over the chocolate spread. If you like, you can sprinkle about 2 Tablespoons of shopped walnuts and 2 Tablespoons of mini-dark chocolate chips over the chocolate spread for a bit of extra decadence. Place the next layer with the flat side facing up over the first layer and the fillings. Cover the top of the cake with the remaining mousse. Using an off-set spatula, just smooth around the sides of the cake to catch any bits that may have oozed. You should see the filling, but it shouldn’t be oozing out. You need to refrigerate the cake at this point to keep things from softening and to make cutting the cake easier.
  3.  Add chocolate curls or sprinkles or piece of candied orange to the top if you wish but frankly nothing more is needed. Take the cake out of the fridge about an 45 minutes to an hour before you wish to serve it. This incredibly rich and decadent cake reminds me of a Chocolate Marquise cake that a wonderful French Bistro in Chicago used to make. No one eating this will think that they settled either for a Passover dessert or for a vegan dessert. This is  one INTENSE chocolate experience.

Passover Sephardic Wine Cookies

I do all of my own baking for Passover and the treats I make are not just “good for Passover stuff” but are delicious – period! I’m always looking for new cookies to try and am especially pleased when I find recipes that I don’t have to adapt to bake them without eggs, which our godson can’t eat. I came across these very easy-to-make cookies in one of my many cookbooks and am only sorry that I didn’t discover them sooner. They won’t replace my all-time favorite Passover Florentine Cookies or Passover Orange Ginger Spice Cookies or my son’s favorite Passover Vegan Chocolate Chip Buttons or Passover Almond Coconut Macaroons but why should we have to choose? Let’s make them all!

Passover Wine Cookies3 (2)

Sephardic Wine Cookies (Masas de Vino) by Gil Marks in The World of Jewish Entertaining

Yield: About 2 dozen 3-inch cookies

Ingredients

1.5 cups matza cake meal

3/4 cup ground almonds (with skins) or almond meal

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

1 cup (2 sticks) of non-dairy buttery sticks at room temperature

1/2 cup granulated sugar plus about 1/8 cup for pressing cookies

1/2 cup sweet Kosher red wine

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets or pans with parchment or Silpat. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl combine the matza cake meal, almond meal, cinnamon and salt.
  3. Cream the non-dairy buttery vegan sticks with the 1/2 cup of granulated sugar. (I used a standing mixer but this can be made by hand.) Add the dry ingredients and the wine and mix well until everything is well combined and you have a moist dough.
  4. Form the dough into 1.5-inch balls. Place them on the ungreased parchment or Silpat. Place the remaining sugar in a bowl or shallow dish. Dip either the bottom of a large glass or a round meat tenderizer into the sugar and then use that to flatten each dough ball into a cookie that is about 3-inches in diameter.
  5. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the edges just barely begin to turn brown. Allow the cookies to stand for 2 minutes on the cookie sheet before removing them to a cooling rack. You want these cookies to cool completely so they can firm up. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container or in the freezer until you are ready to use them.

 

 

Spiced Apple Cake

I grew up with a mother who cooked and baked and while we did, of course, buy things from a wonderful neighborhood bakery, there was nothing like walking into a house with that smell of fresh baking. I wanted my son to have this experience as well and so even though I volunteered and went back to graduate school and then eventually worked full-time while he was growing up, I still tried to bake as often as possible. When I had time, I might make something more difficult but I always had some easy recipes up my sleeves for those days when time was at a premium. Since both my husband and son were – and still are – such appreciative audiences, it was a pleasure to make this extra effort.

I found this recipe in a wonderful cookbook that I have gone back to over and over again and it was one of my first gifts to Frances and Matthew when they had their own apartment. Not only are the recipes incredibly accurate and easy to follow, but the stories that go along with the recipes are fun – and often enlightening – to read. This is a great cake to make any time but is a wonderful last minute dessert for Shabbat. You could also prepare the topping (except for the apples) the night before along with measuring out your dry ingredients. It will be a snap to throw this together before dinner. Left-overs are great the next day with a cup of coffee, tea or milk.

Spiced Apple Cake by Gloria Kaufer Greene from The New Jewish Holiday Cookbook.

Yield: About 9 servings

Ingredients

Filling and Topping

2/3 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 rounded teaspoon ground cinnamon

A pinch of Kosher salt

1 large or 2 small/medium sweet baking apple(s), like a Golden Delicious, peeled, cored and thinly sliced. Squeeze a few drops of fresh lemon juice over the apples to keep them from darkening.

Batter

1/2 cup of unsalted butter or margarine, at room temperature

3 large eggs at room temperature

1 rounded teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 cup apple cider or richly-flavored apple juice

2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour (or half whole wheat flour)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease or spray a 9-inch (preferably non-stick) square baking pan.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together the dry ingredients for the topping. I found that throwing the spices, sugar and nuts into a blender and pulsing the mixture to chop the nuts makes fast work of this. Set the mixture and the apple slices aside.
  3. This can be done by hand but I find it makes for a lighter batter if I use an electric mixer. Cream the butter and 3/4 cups of sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs. one at a time and stir until well-combined. Add the spices and beat well. In a medium bowl, mix the flour with the baking soda, baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Alternately add the cider and flour mixture to the batter, beating well after each addition.
  4. Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the batter with half of the nut topping. Arrange all of the apples over the topping. Spread the remaining batter carefully over the apples and sprinkle the remaining topping over the batter. Gently press the nut topping into the batter with your fingertips.
  5. Bake the cake for about 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire cooling rack. Cut into large squares. This can be eaten still warm, but not hot. Cover any left-overs with foil. For extra decadence, serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream.

 

Mediterranean Turkey Burgers

I have been making these burgers for the last year and they are juicy and incredibly flavorful. Make these and say goodbye forever to boring turkey burgers. In fact, personally, I will take these over a beef burger any day. I’m serving these with Israeli couscous, roasted asparagus and a fresh fruit salad with Mandarin Napoleon Brandy .

I am giving measurements below to give you a starting place but normally I just eyeball everything except for the bread crumbs. Do not skip the breadcrumbs. They give the burger just the right mouth-feel, giving that lovely caramelized char that a good burger has.  Please note that NO EGG is needed as a binder for these burgers.

These burgers are also delicious with a simple tahini or yogurt sauce. While normally I like 1/3 pounds of ground meat per burger, I only need 1/4 pound here because of all of the wonderful other ingredients. I like to make enough for left-overs because even reheated in the microwave these burgers stay moist and delicious.

Lisa’s Mediterranean Turkey Burgers

Mediterranean turkey burgers8

Yield: 6 burgers

Ingredients

1.5 pounds ground turkey, preferably 93% lean

1/3 cup finely chopped onion, shallot or scallion

1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, coarsely chopped

1/3 cup sweet, roasted red pepper, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup chopped parsley or cilantro

1/4 cup lightly toasted pine nuts

4 ounces coarsely crumbled goat or sheep’s milk cheese – a feta or even something a bit creamier like a chevre will work

1/4 cup fine dried bread crumbs

1/2 Tablespoon Harissa – green or red (optional)

3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (or fresh, cracked black, but buy yourself Aleppo pepper – you’ll thank me!)

1/4 teaspoon Baharat, hawayij or ground cumin

Hungarian paprika for dusting

EVOO or Grapeseed oil

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven and pan to 425 degrees F. (I like to use a grill pan, but you can use any heavy baking pan, covered with foil for easier cleanup if you wish. This time I roasted my asparagus first, then removed them to a serving platter and using the same pan, including the same foil, I cooked my burgers. I didn’t get the nice grill-marks this way, but they still were delicious and it was one less pan to clean!)
  2. In a glass or stainless steel bowl combine well all of the ingredients listed up until the Hungarian paprika. I find that using my hands works best. If you don’t enjoy touching raw meat then wear disposable gloves. (Whenever I work with raw meat or fish – especially ground meat or fish – I use glass or stainless steel because I know they will clean properly and there will not be any cross contamination with other foods.) 

  3. Using slightly damp hands (cold water) form the patties and place them on a piece of lightly oiled parchment or waxed paper. Dust with the paprika. Then turn the burgers over and repeat.Mediterranean turkey burgers5Mediterranean turkey burgers9When the pan is HOT, add the burgers. No other oil is needed. (If you cook them on a pan that already had oil like I did this time then simply don’t add any oil to the side that you flip over.) Cook for 9 minutes on the first side, then flip the burgers and cook for another 9 minutes on the second side. Turkey burgers are ONLY eaten fully cooked. No rare burgers here. Allow to sit out of the oven for about 3-5 minutes before serving to retain the juices. If you decide you REALLY want a bigger burger, you will have to adjust your cooking times. Mediterranean turkey burgers2
  4. Now eat.

Rice Pudding (Kheer)

Kheer2My husband LOVES rice pudding. In fact, when I first met him almost 35 years ago, one of the very few things that he knew how to cook was a CrockPot version of rice pudding. My father also loved rice pudding and my mother made a wonderful custard-style baked rice pudding. However, a number of years ago, I came across this Indian version of rice pudding that did not use any eggs and is cooked on a stove-top. I won’t lie to you – it’s definitely labor-intensive (although not difficult) because it needs to be stirred very frequently for almost 1.5 hours. But if you love rice pudding and cannot use eggs for health or ethical reasons, then this is the recipe for you. Indians would eat this somewhat more liquidy than I personally like, but I will let you know in the directions when to stop cooking for a traditional kheer and when to stop for a somewhat more custard-like consistency. My husband prefers to eat this warm, although I personally prefer it cold. This is one time when I can report that we are both right! It is often made for special occasions since rice is a symbol of both happiness and good fortune. And who couldn’t use a bit of both?

While this time I did not make this a vegan version – using milk, butter and honey – I have successfully made it using non-dairy milk, sugar or agave syrup and either a non-dairy buttery spread or coconut oil. (My preference is for vanilla soy milk but any creamy non-dairy milk will work.) This version uses Indian flavorings, which we happen to love, but you can easily swap out the cardamom and saffron with 1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract, zest of one lemon or orange and a few drops of a vegetable-based food coloring. Pistachios can be used in place of the almonds or the nuts can be left out entirely. In that case I would double the amount of raisins or whatever dried fruit you preferred.

Rice Pudding (Kheer) from Flavors of India by Shantra Nimbark Sacharoff and tweaked by me

Yield: 8-10 portions

Ingredients

1 cup of uncooked long-grain, white rice (I like Basmati)

8-10 cardamom pods

1/2 teaspoon crushed saffron threads

2 quarts milk

1 cup of sugar or honey (I like to use a nice Greek honey, but any lighter floral honey will do.)

3 Tablespoons of unsalted butter, ghee or coconut oil

1/2 cup of golden raisins (also known as Sultanas)

1/2 cup of slivered blanched almonds (plus about an 1/8 cup additional that have been lightly toasted for decoration (optional))

Directions

  1. Cook rice according to directions in a heavy pot that will be large enough to take the 1/2 gallon of milk that you will be adding to the cooked rice. I like to just under-cook my rice slightly, but mostly you just don’t want it to stick to the pot.
  2. In the meantime, remove the cardamom seeds from their pods and using a rolling pin or bottle turned on its side, crush the seeds. Set them aside with the crushed saffron threads. In a small skillet, melt the butter and saute the almonds and raisins in the butter just until the nuts begin to gain a bit of color. 

  3. As soon as the rice is finished cooking, add the 2 quarts of milk. Turn the heat to medium high, continue cooking with the pot now uncovered and using a non-metallic spoon, stir the milk and rice from the bottom of the pan to prevent the rice from clumping and sticking and the milk from forming a skin. This needs to cook for 1 hour, stirring every 2-3 minutes. (I know it can be a bit tedious, but the end result is worth it. Read a book while you cook!) At the end of the hour, the volume will be reduced by about one third and the milk will have thickened. Kheer10
  4. Now add in your cardamom and saffron and stir well to distribute the seasoning and to color the milk and rice evenly. Then add in your sugar or honey and the nuts and raisins along with any butter to the pan. 

    Continue to cook, stirring frequently for 10-15 more minutes. The rice pudding is done at this point. However, since I like mine to be a bit thicker, I continue cooking for an additional 15 minutes (total of 30 minutes after adding in the raisins and nuts). Kheer3Immediately pour the pudding into your serving dish (glass is best I find) and decorate the top with the optional lightly toasted almonds. Even if you want to eat this warm, it is best if it sits for at least 2 hours before serving. It will continue to thicken some as it sits. Refrigerated it can last up to a week. Kheer

 

Cracked Wheat Onion Bread

Cracked wheat onion bread

The weather wasn’t that great this past weekend so the idea of spending some time reading Ron Chernow’s book on Ulysses S. Grant and baking bread while my husband put up some shelving seemed like a good idea. I wanted to make sandwich bread and none of the recipes I looked at got me excited so I decided to experiment. I wanted a bread that was flavorful, had some bite to it and would make wonderful toast; I came up with this cracked wheat bread with fried onions. While you could make fried onions, I bought mine from nuts.com. They also are available at most grocery stores.

This is a heavy dough and since I have arthritis in my hands, I find that I no longer can do all of the mixing and kneading by hand that I once did so I use my KitchenAid mixer with the dough hook attachment. Feel free to go at it by hand if you want a good workout. I am not vegan and do not keep Kosher, so I used butter and dairy milk in the recipe. However, if you wish to keep this vegan, I see no reason why you couldn’t use unsweetened non-dairy milk (my personal preference is for soy but any other creamy non-dairy milk should work) and a non-dairy buttery spread.

The cracked wheat bread made incredible toast slathered with fresh butter, but it would be equally great with smushed avocado on top. However you decide to eat this bread, you can’t go wrong. It is the perfect slice – crunchy, moist, great crumb and full of flavor.

Cracked wheat onion bread3

Cracked Wheat Onion Bread

Yield: Two 9 x 5-inch loaves

Ingredients

1 cup coarse cracked or bulghur wheat

2 cups of water

1/3 to 1/2 cup of fried onions

1 cup of milk

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter

1/4 cup unsulphured dark molasses

1.5 Tablespoons Kosher salt

2.5 teaspoons active dry yeast

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1/3 cup warm water

2 cups of whole wheat flour, preferably stone-ground

3+ cups of bread flour

1 Tablespoon neutral oil, butter or ghee for the bowl plus more for the bread pans

Cracked wheat onion bread1

Directions

  1. In a medium pot with a tight-fitting lid, add the bulghur wheat and 2 cups of water. Bring to a rapid boil. Reduce the heat to a low simmer, cover the pot tightly and cook for 12-14 minutes. The time might vary according to the cracked wheat you use. It is done when the water is absorbed and the wheat is fluffy.
  2. Turn off the heat and add the butter, salt, milk and molasses and stir through well. Allow to cool until the mixture is just warm.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl or the bowl of a standing mixer, add the yeast, 1/3 cup of warm water and one teaspoon of sugar. Mix lightly and allow to stand for about 10 minutes until the yeast has eaten the sugar and the mixture is foamy.
  4. Add the bulghur wheat mixture and stir through with a heavy wooden spoon. Add the whole wheat flour one cup at a time, stirring after each addition. Now add 2 cups of the bread flour one cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. The mixture will likely still be quite wet. Start adding more bread flour 1/2 cup at a time until the mixture starts to resemble dough. As the dough gets heavier, you can mix in the flour on the lowest speed of the standing mixer, scraping down the sides as necessary.
  5. Start kneading the dough once it is no longer too sticky and begins to come away from the sides of the bowl as an intact dough. I use the second lowest speed on my mixer for this. Add flour as needed about 1/4 cup at a time so that the dough will pull away cleanly from the sides of the bowl. I cannot give you an exact amount of flour to use since humidity and different brands of flour will lead to different amounts. The dough will be soft, but should not be sticky. I kneaded it for 11 minutes with the standing mixer set on Speed 2. I added flour in small amounts so that as the dough kneaded it came away cleanly from the bowl. After 11 minutes, I turned the dough onto a lightly floured counter and kneaded by hand for about 2 minutes. The dough should feel warm, supple and “alive.” Roll into a large ball or disk.
  6. Coat a large bowl (I use the one from the mixer to cut down on dishes!) with about 1.5 Tablespoons of ghee, butter or oil. Place the dough in the bowl and roll it around to coat with the oil. Cover the bowl with a tea towel that was rinsed in warm water and rung out or use plastic wrap. Place in a warm, draft-free place and allow to rise until doubled – about 1 to 1.5 hours. This dough proved to be very fast-rising in my apartment which I usually keep on the cool side.
  7. Coat 2 bread pans generously with oil, ghee or butter. Punch dough down and divide in half. Form each half into a shape to fit the pan. Some people like to roll the dough into a rectangle and then tightly roll the piece up from the short end, pinching the dough along the seam at the bottom. (I don’t personally find that makes my crumb any better than when I simply shape it with my hands into a fat oblong. I then pull the two ends under and pinch the bottom seam.) Place the dough into the prepared pans seam-side down and cover lightly. Allow to rise until the dough reaches the top of the pans. This only took about 40 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Allow the oven to continue heating unopened while the dough has its second rise. When the dough has risen, place both pans in the oven side by side with a couple of inches between the two pans. Bake for about 35 minutes or until the breads are nicely browned and sound hollow when tapped with a wooden spoon or your knuckles. Turn the breads out onto a rack. While the breads are still hot, brush them with some butter, ghee or oil. Allow to cool completely. The bread will last for a week or it can be wrapped well and frozen. This bread is a real winner.

Chocolate Hazelnut Babka

Chocolate Babka1

One of the many joys of attending a Shabbat morning service is the Oneg Shabbat that follows (literally “Sabbath delight”). This can be as small as a few cookies or slices of poppy seed cake or can encompass an entire luncheon. There are usually songs and blessings and sometimes a lecture or discussion as well. It’s a nice time to catch up with people and it’s especially nice if you attended an entire service, which in the Conservative and Orthodox traditions will have lasted for several hours. My personal favorite of all the possible Oneg offerings, though, is a really good chocolate babka or krantz cake. This is a yeast cake with swirls and swirls of chocolate running through it. There is nothing like eating it still warm from the oven when the chocolate is a bit oozy, but since observant Jews do not do any cooking on the Sabbath, it is usually eaten at room temperature.

This is a cake that takes some time to make and involves a number of steps. If I were living in Israel – or in a community with a really good Kosher bakery – I probably would simply go out and buy my babka. But since I live in downtown Chicago and my current synagogue doesn’t go in for this treat, I have to make it myself if I am going to indulge in all of its chocolaty, yeasty goodness. I originally made the version by Yotam Ottolenghi in his cookbook Jerusalem. I thought this time I might try a different recipe that I found online for a Nutella Babka. It killed me to do it, but the dough got thrown out. I just knew that it was simply NEVER going to rise. It was like lead. So I went back to Ottolenghi. I made just a couple of adjustments, including adding a chocolate hazelnut spread which caught my eye in the other recipe. If you don’t mind a bit of a project, this is really worth making. Otherwise, get yourself to synagogue and hope for a great Oneg!

Chocolate Hazelnut Babka

Yield: Two 9 x 5 inch loaves

Ingredients

 Dough
4 1/4 cups (530 grams) all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons active dried yeast
Grated zest of 1 small lemon
4 large eggs
1/2 cup tap water
Rounded 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
2/3 cup unsalted butter (150 grams or 5.3 ounces) at room temperature
Canola or other neutral oil, for greasing the pan

Filling
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
About 19 ounces of a good quality chocolate hazelnut spread like Nutella

Syrup
2/3 cup water
1.25 cups granulated sugar

Make the dough: Combine the flour, sugar, yeast and zest in the bottom of the bowl of a stand mixer. Add eggs and 1/2 cup water, mixing with the dough hook on low speed until it comes together; this may take a couple of minutes. With the mixer on low, add the salt, then the butter, a bit at a time, mixing until it’s incorporated into the dough. Then, mix on medium speed for 10 minutes until dough is completely smooth; you might need to scrape the bowl down a few times. I added a Tablespoon or 2 of flour to the sides of the bowl to make sure that all of the dough came together and pulled away from the sides.

Coat a large bowl with oil and place dough inside, cover with plastic and refrigerate. Since it is the middle of winter and rather cold here, I simply left my dough on the windowsill next to the cold glass. Leave in fridge (or by the windowsill) for at least half a day, preferably overnight. [Dough will not fully double, so don’t fret if it doesn’t look like it grew by more than half. It should, however, be puffy.]

Assemble loaves: Coat two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans with oil or butter, and line the bottom of each with a rectangle of parchment paper, which is also then oiled. Take half of the dough, leaving the other half chilled. Roll out on a lightly floured counter to about a 10 by 15 inches. The long side should be facing you. Trim the dough to be an even rectangle.

Spread half of the hazelnut chocolate spread evenly over the dough, leaving about a 1/2-inch border all around. Scatter half of the chocolate chips over the spread. Brush the end farthest away from you with tap water. Roll the dough up tightly with the filling into a long, tight cigar. Trim the last 1/2-inch off each end of log so that they are even.

Using a serrated knife, gently cut the log in half lengthwise and lay the strips next to each other on the counter, cut sides up. Pinch the top ends gently together. Lift one side over the next, forming a twist and trying to keep the cut sides facing out (because they’re pretty). Don’t worry if this step makes a mess, just transfer the twist as best as you can into the prepared loaf pan folding extra underneath to fit. Repeat process with second loaf.

Cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rise another 1.5 hours at warm room temperature. Since I tend to keep my house on the cool side, I heated my oven to the lowest setting (in my case, 170 degrees F.) and when the oven came to temperature I turned it off, while I finished forming the second loaf. I then placed the loaves in the warm oven to rise for 1 hour. After an hour, I removed the loaves to the counter to preheat the oven for baking.

Bake and finish cakes: Heat oven to 375°F (190°C). Remove towels, place each loaf on the middle rack of your oven. Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the dough comes out clean. Because of all of the chocolate, this is not a perfect process so also use your nose and eyes to tell if the babka is fully baked. If your babka needs more time, put it back, 5 minutes at a time then re-test. If it browns too quickly, you can cover it with foil. Chocolate Babka22

Preparing the syrup: While babkas are baking, make the syrup. Bring sugar and water to a boil and mix until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool somewhat. As soon as the babkas leave the oven, brush ALL of the syrup over each loaf.

It will seem like too much, but it will all absorb into the warm loaf and will leave the babka glossy and moist. Let the loaves cool in their pans until just warm and then transfer the loaves to a cooling rack to cool the rest of the way before eating (this is a suggestion from Ottolenghi but I defy you to not eat it when it is still warm!) Cut with a serrated bread knife and prepare to be amazed.

Do ahead: Babkas keep for a few days at room temperature. They also freeze well.