Fruity Noodle Kugel (Vegan)

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So I think that the world is divided into two kinds of people – those that like potato kugel and those that like noodle (lokshen) kugel. I am clearly Team Noodle Kugel. What is kugel (or kigel, depending on your country of origin) you ask? It is essentially a baked pudding or casserole that is frequently made and eaten for Shabbat and holidays. It can be sweet or savory. And there now exist many, many varieties.

However, most noodle kugels that I have eaten – and in 70+ years, that’s a lotta kugel – I generally find them too rich, too sweet and just too much.

To be honest, I had forgotten about this Fruity Noodle Kugel. I used to make it quite frequently and then somehow it went out of rotation. But since we are in the midst of the Super Bowl of Jewish holidays, I started to look for recipes to make and share with you. Browsing through The New Jewish Holiday Cookbook by Gloria Kaufer Greene for ideas, I came across her Fruity Tofu Lokshen Kugel. Instantly I knew that I would be making it with a few of my own tweaks to make it vegan and more creamy.

This Fruity Noodle Kugel is fruity, creamy (dairy free) and never sacrifices flavor. And if you choose a non-egg noodle, this kugel is vegan. It also is high in protein and low in fat.

I have always been interested in nutrition, but not if it meant sacrificing flavor. And as my husband and I get older, a healthy diet is even more important. Our meals fall clearly into the “blue zone” by both preference and design. I want to make those calories count. But I also want to make Shabbat and other holidays truly special and allow for some splurging.

Tofu replaces the dairy in the meal and is a wonderful vehicle for absorbing all of the delicious flavors in this kugel. I use both a silken tofu and an extra-firm tofu to mimic the desired texture that you would achieve if using eggs, cheese and sour cream. My version makes for a much less fatty kugel with lots of healthy protein. And you won’t feel any regret for having indulged. Left-overs are great eaten at room temperature or gently rewarmed. I even eat this as breakfast.

Since if like me, you are not a purist about being vegan, I also have included two other wonderful lokshen kugels that I have blogged, which I still enjoy making – and eating! And while kugel is considered a quintessential Jewish food, you don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy it.

Jerusalem Kugel

Apple Cinnamon Noodle Kugel

Recipe

Yield: About 8 servings

Ingredients

8 ounces medium-wide noodles

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/4 cup mild vegetable oil (Canola, Avocado, Safflower or even a fruity EVOO)

1/2 cup maple syrup, agave or brown sugar (I used brown sugar as I like the molasses, caramel taste)

1/4 cup orange or apple juice

2.5 rounded teaspoons of ground cinnamon (or sweet Hawaij, baharat or pumpkin spice mix)

1/2 teaspoon of kosher or fine sea salt

14 ounces extra-firm tofu, well-drained and crumbled

1 pound silken tofu

1 large flavorful baking apple (Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Jonagold, MacIntosh, Golden Delicious etc.), finely diced or grated. No need to peel the apple first.

1 cup of raisins of choice, softened in warm water for about 10 minutes unless they are fresh and plump (Other dried fruits or a mix of dried fruits, e.g. dates, apricots, prunes, pears could be used instead. Just cut any larger pieces to approximate size of large raisins.)

1/4 cup, coarsely chopped, lightly toasted walnuts

Directions

Heat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease (or vegetable spray) a baking dish (about 10 to 11-cup capacity – mine is a 7-inch x 11-inch rectangle). However an equivalent capacity round or square pan works just as well. Make sure that the pan sides are at least 3-inch deep.

Cook the noodles according to the package, but one minute less than the minimum recommended time since these will also bake in the oven. Drain the noodles.

While the noodles are cooking, place the silken tofu, brown sugar, sweet hawaij (or other spice mix), salt and apple sauce in a blender. Whooz it up until smooth. Then add in the oil and OJ and whooz again until the mixture has emulsified. Using a spatula and with the blade removed, add in the raisins and walnuts.

Once the noodles have been drained add them back to the pot. Pour in the mixture from the blender and fold it through the noodles until evenly distributed. Crumble in the extra-firm tofu and mix through.

Pour everything into the prepared baking pan. If you like, you can sprinkle the top lightly with more of the spice you used mixed with a bit of sugar (any kind will do.)

Bake for about 45 minutes or until set. I like the top to darken and the top noodles to get slightly crisp. However, if you prefer the noodle mixture to be lighter and to remain soft, cover the casserole with foil after 25 minutes. This can be served warm or at room temperature. Leftovers should be refrigerated or can be frozen or rewarmed gently.

Harvest Chicken (with Japanese Sweet Potato and Dried Fruits)

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As with many recipes of mine, it started out as one thing and developed as I began rooting through my cupboards and fridge. When I am unable to sleep, which is all-too-often, I grocery shop in my head and make up recipes and menus. And over time and as I actually begin to grocery shop and cook, the dishes morph.

This Harvest Chicken recipe is one such. Delicious, fragrant, fruity and with a bit of tang, it is also perfect for the upcoming Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot. It’s a one-pot meal that can be adapted to the ingredients on hand. And it is prepped in about 30 minutes with the remaining time spent in the oven while you go do other things. And don’t we all have other things to do?

The recipe below is how I made it, with some suggested alternative ingredients. Strict measuring is not essential here – this is home cooking, not baking! Depending on appetites or sides, this recipe would generously feed 4 but could also feed more if you are serving younger children or dieting women. Feel free to increase the amount of chicken but that ultimately might require two pans.

Over the years, I have observed that cuts of meat or poultry and varieties of fruits and vegetables seem to go in and out of fashion and availability. For instance, the “saddle” of chicken was once a quite common cut, easily found in every grocery. But I almost never see it now. So if you cannot find chicken thighs with the legs attached, the “saddle,” then use just thighs or thighs and legs. I do not recommend white meat. It can dry out and birds are bred with enormous breasts these days that I believe are rubbery and generally tasteless.

And while Japanese Sweet Potatoes are flavorful and packed with nutrition, regular sweet potatoes or yams can be used. I am using prunes and dried apples soaked in a combination of prune and orange juice. Why? because that’s what I happened to have. But dried apricots or pears would be lovely too. And if you only have apple juice, pineapple juice or orange juice – well use that.

You don’t see leeks at the store, then use onions or shallots or some combination. The important thing to remember is that we eat with all of our senses. So cook with gusto and use your eyes and nose when creating a dish. And, of course, your tastebuds. But you can tell A LOT about spices and seasonings that would work simply by smelling them. It’s as if you are creating your own food “perfume.”

I hope that you will try this Harvest Chicken recipe soon.

Recipe

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

About 2.5 pounds of chicken saddles (thigh with leg attached) or thighs and legs with bone in and skin on

4 Tablespoons Canola, Avocado or other neutral oil

1 small onion, peeled and chopped

1 large leek, well washed and thinly sliced – white and light green parts only

8 ounces moist dried fruit (I used prunes and apples, but you could also use apricots, peaches or pears or a combination)

About 1.5 pounds of sweet potatoes or yams (I used Japanese sweet potatoes this time), peeled and cut into pieces (I did this lengthwise, but you also use a large cube, if you prefer. Just try to make the pieces fairly equal in size.) You could also use a butternut squash if you like.

1.5 cups of dry white wine or chicken stock

1 cup of juice (prune, orange or apple)

8 to 10 large cloves of peeled garlic

1 rounded teaspoon of each: kosher salt, freshly cracked black pepper and ground turmeric

Rounded 1.5 teaspoons baharat

About 2 teaspoons of tamarind paste

Chopped flat-leaf parsley for serving

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Pour the juice over the dried fruit and warm the mixture. Cover and allow to steep for about 30 minutes.

Take chicken out of fridge one hour before you start cooking. Make small deep slits in the meaty part of the chicken. Generously salt and pepper both sides of the chicken parts and also dust with 1 teaspoon of ground turmeric. Gently rub the spice mixture into the skin of the chicken. Set aside.

In the largest, heaviest oven-proof pan you have (or use two, if necessary), heat the 4 Tablespoons of oil until it shimmers. Add the chicken front-side down and brown for 8 minutes at a medium high heat. I like to add a spatter screen at this point, which helps keep clean-up manageable.

Once the chicken has gotten nicely seared, it should release easily from the bottom of the pan. Turn the chicken over and add all of the remaining ingredients, including the soaking liquid from the dried fruit. Scatter the garlic cloves, fruit, sweet potatoes, leek and onion around the chicken. try to push the sweet potatoes into the liquid as much as possible.

Cover the pan and place in the oven. Cook for 40 minutes. Then crank up the oven heat to 375 degrees F. Uncover the pan and continue cooking for another 20 to 30 minutes. You can give a stir to distribute the ingredients into the liquid. Everything should be beautifully browned. That’s it! Garnish and serve.

This can be made ahead and gently rewarmed. There is no need to add a grain because of the sweet potatoes, but if you want to serve this over rice, by all means. You do you.

L’shana tova u’metukah!

Banana Protein Muffins

Now with bonus recipe for my best yet high protein muffins: Applesauce Walnut Protein Muffin variation. See recipe at the end of this post.

Due to the unprovoked, criminal and seemingly endless brutal war of annihilation against Ukrainian civilians by Vladimir Putin and his army and the worsening humanitarian crisis, please consider helping by following the link below. There are a number of reputable aid agencies from which to choose. Many of these agencies will also help victims suffering the devastating effects of natural disasters.

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Banana Protein Muffins are high in protein and flavor with a texture that is light and fluffy. Being healthy never tasted so good! I have also included a variation below made with applesauce, walnuts and cranberries that is equally delicious.

A couple of weeks ago, I posted an Oatmeal Protein Muffin. And while I liked it, being an oatmeal fan, I was still searching for a high protein muffin that looked and tasted just like a regular muffin. This Banana Muffin takes the cake! There is protein from multiple sources: whey protein powder, peanut butter powder, eggs and almond flour.

This is definitely my new go-to breakfast or afternoon snack with a cup of tea or coffee. You can give this delicious treat to your kids without guilt and zero compromise of flavor. And because of all of the protein baked in, one muffin will carry you through a busy morning.

Banana Protein Muffins come together very quickly and freeze well with no special equipment needed. So even with a busy life, these can be put together and baked in less than an hour.

I came across these muffins in a search of the web and then added a few tweaks of my own, which added both flavor and additional protein. And while I am NOT gluten-free, for those who are interested, these Banana Protein Muffins are GF. Definitely give these muffins a try.

Recipe

Yield: 12 muffins

Ingredients

1¾ cups almond flour (I have made these with both blanched almond flour and natural. They were equally delicious.) For me, the perfect ratio is 1 cup of natural almond flour and 3/4 cup blanched almond flour.

¼ cup coconut sugar OR any other light brown sugar such as Demerara

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp fine sea salt

½ cup vanilla or plain protein powder (I used a grass-fed whey powder, but if you wish to avoid dairy, there are multiple options available, such as soy.)

1.5 Tablespoons peanut butter powder

2 large bananas mashed banana

3 large eggs (at room temperature)

¼ cup coconut oil (melted but not hot)

1 tsp vanilla (Use even if using vanilla protein powder)

4 Tablespoons dark mini-chocolate chips or coarsely chopped and lightly toasted walnuts – or more. No judgement here! (Optional, but highly recommended)

Directions

Heat the oven to 400° and line the wells of a muffin tin with parchment paper or foil muffin cups or spray well with a vegetable spray.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the almond flour, coconut sugar, baking soda, baking powder, sea salt, peanut butter powder and protein powder. Set aside.

In another mixing bowl, mash the bananas until smooth with almost no lumps. Add in the coconut oil, vanilla extract and eggs and stir everything well to combine. Stir through chocolate chips, if using.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Be sure not to overmix!

Divide the batter into the lined muffin tin wells.

Bake for 5 minutes at 400° then reduce the heat to 375° and continue baking for 10-13 minutes. The tops should spring back when pressed and a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean.

Cool in the pan for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Applesauce Walnut Protein Muffin variation

Lightly toast 1/3 cup of coarsely chopped walnuts

1/4 cup of dried cranberries or raisins

Replace the banana with 1 cup of unsweetened applesauce

1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon OR sweet hawaij

Follow all of the directions for the banana muffins except swap out the applesauce for the banana. Add the walnuts, cranberries and spice to the dry mixture. I left out the lemon zest, but you could include it. Bake it the same way. Delicious!

Sweet Hawaij

Yield: About 1/2 cup

1 Tablespoon ground cloves

2 Tablespoons freshly grated nutmeg

2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon

2 Tablespoons ground ginger

1 Tablespoon ground cardamom

This will last in a cool, dark place kept in a small glass air-tight jar for up to a year. Mine gets used up waaaaaay before that!

Black Bread with Walnuts

Due to the unprovoked, criminal and seemingly endless brutal war of annihilation against Ukrainian civilians by Vladimir Putin and his army and the worsening humanitarian crisis, please consider helping by following the link below. There are a number of reputable aid agencies from which to choose. Many of these agencies will also help victims suffering the devastating effects of natural disasters.

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This dark, savory Black Bread with Walnuts is the perfect sandwich bread. It can be sliced thickly or paper thin and will hold up to any filling without overpowering it. With a few surprise ingredients, this bread has a long fermentation giving it a depth that no store-bought commercial bread can have. And it will hold up for over week if well-wrapped and left on a counter.

We love bread in our house and bake different kinds every week. My husband has gotten into baking and now makes the best challah hands down. It’s my recipe but his work that makes it so delicious. Andrew is more of a scientific baker, which is not surprising given his background in astrophysics. But I am an instinctual baker. I go by look and feel and smell and can’t be bothered to weigh out ingredients (except when making cakes) or to measure so that each strand of dough is the same size from week to week. Don’t misunderstand. I completely appreciate when someone can standardize things so that they will always work.

I do have a sort of formula that I follow when cooking or baking from my own recipe – just as I do when I make my salad dressings. But like a jazz musician, I’m not afraid to riff on it and go where the music – uh recipe – takes me.

Therefore, I hesitated writing down how I make my weekly bread. It’s never quite exactly the same. But I love that freedom and innovation. However, this bread was so delicious and has such a wonderful crumb that I felt I should try to make it replicable.

My flour comes from an organic farm in Illinois that I began buying from during the pandemic when flour and other staples had disappeared from grocery shelves. I love it so that I buy 25 pound bags of it now. And they have heritage flours that you might not see anywhere else.

As any bread-maker will tell you, there are many factors that can affect your finished product. The flour, the water, the yeast, the humidity, your oven and on and on. So can I say that your bread will turn out exactly like mine? In all honesty, I cannot. But if it inspires you to make your own delicious bread, then it is worth the journey. And this one is just too good to pass up.

You will need a Dutch oven to make this bread as well as parchment paper. I know that some people are put off from baking bread because it seems to be so labor and time sensitive. But it doesn’t have to be. The actual amount of hands-on time for this bread is under an hour. There is no long kneading and the bread rests overnight while you are sleeping or doing whatever it is you do at night. Then the bread is formed and has a second shorter rise while your oven heats up. It bakes for about 40 minutes and you have a gorgeous loaf of bread and a house that smells AMAZING.

There are many wonderful bread recipes on my blog so if this one doesn’t float your boat or if you are looking to expand your repertoire, please check them out.

Recipe

Yield: One large loaf

Ingredients

1.5 teaspoons Active (or instant) Dried Yeast

3 cups of lukewarm water (You may not need all of it)

3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, lightly pan-toasted

Rounded 1/2 cup dark rye flour

2 Tablespoons diastatic malt powder

1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

1 Tablespoon instant espresso coffee

1 Tablespoon Kalonji (Nigella) seeds

2.5 teaspoons kosher or sea salt

1/4 cup Black Emmer flour (This is an ancient grain, high in protein and with a wonderful depth of flavor. You could substitute another whole grain flour, but I encourage you to try using this wonderful flour.)

2.5 cups Artisan Bread Flour ( I use Janie’s but Bob’s Mill Artisan Flour is also good)

2 cups whole kernel bread flour (Use whole wheat if you are not buying specialty flour)

Flour for dusting the counter and bread

You will need a Dutch oven to make this bread as well as parchment paper.

Directions

Mix together all of the dry ingredients (including nuts and seeds) either using a whisk or your hands (nature’s whisk!) There is no necessity to proof your yeast even if using active dry yeast as I do. Unless your yeast is really old, there shouldn’t be a problem. Most of the fermentation is achieved slowly and naturally overnight. This slow fermentation also gives exceptional depth of flavor and allows the bread to hold up well for days.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Add 2 cups of the lukewarm water and slowly start to gather in the dough, adding water as necessary to allow the dough to come together. As the dough begins to form, remove it to a board or counter and knead just enough so that all of the flour is incorporated. When you can form the dough into a smooth ball with no visible signs of dry flour – STOP. That’s it. Place it back in the bowl and cover it.

Place the bowl in a draft-free place and let it rest overnight. The dough can rest for anywhere between 10 to 14 hours. You have leeway.

In the morning, place a Dutch oven (at least 6 quarts) in the oven and preheat the oven and pot to 485 degrees F. You want the Dutch oven and your oven to be hot.

Gather the dough from the bowl, lightly flouring it if it is sticky and form it into a ball. If you have a 9-inch banneton flour it and place the dough ball inside. If you don’t have a banneton, just use a stainless or other bowl that will hold the dough ball with only a little room to expand.

Cover the dough and allow to rise to the top of the banneton or bowl. This takes anywhere from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours depending on how warm your place is and the amount of yeast spores floating around your place. The more you bake, the more of these spores exist and the faster (generally) your bread will rise. I have made certain of these slow-rise breads with as little as a 1/2 teaspoon of active yeast.

When the dough has risen, remove the very hot Dutch oven from the oven. Carefully turn the dough out onto a lightly floured piece of parchment. Carefully place the parchment and dough into the HOT Dutch oven.

Cover the Dutch oven and place it in your HOT oven for 40 minutes. Then partially uncover the Dutch oven and bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes. The internal temperature should be about 205 degrees F. (I rarely check by temperature but use the smell and knock test. I take a wooden spoon and knock on the bread. If it sounds hollow, the bread is done.) Turn the dough out onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely. Then enjoy.

Oatmeal Protein Muffins

Due to the unprovoked, criminal and seemingly endless brutal war of annihilation against Ukrainian civilians by Vladimir Putin and his army and the worsening humanitarian crisis, please consider helping by following the link below. There are a number of reputable aid agencies from which to choose. Many of these agencies will also help victims suffering the devastating effects of natural disasters.

Support Humanitarian Efforts in Ukraine

Satisfying and super healthy Oatmeal Protein Muffins are my new go-to breakfast. While I love breakfast foods, unless I am hiking or in Israel (where breakfast is an experience), I seem only able to have milky coffee and something very small to eat first thing. For some time now, I have been eating a single medjool date and a few almonds or pistachios along with my coffee and 8 Greens.

But I have realized that I am just not consuming enough protein in the morning to keep me going strong throughout the day. So I decided to look for something that is relatively high in protein, low in calories and unnecessary fat or sugar that would satisfy me without making me feel too full. And because while I may love to cook, I generally do not want to cook at breakfast. So something I could make ahead.

After checking out several recipes – and reading the comments – on line, I came across a recipe for Protein-Packed Oatmeal Muffins. I decided to give them a try, with a couple of my own tweaks.

They came together easily, but I was highly skeptical of how they would bake up. The batter seemed soooooo liquidy that I thought it would never come together as a muffin. Even when they had baked for the suggested amount of time, I thought, well this is a noble failure. Thankfully, I was wrong.

These are not the most beautiful muffins you will ever see and the texture, while fine, is not a traditional muffin. So don’t go in with that expectation. These muffins are gluten-free since only oatmeal is used as the base. I personally do not have a problem with gluten so I did not choose them for that reason. But if you do limit or cut out gluten from your diet, these muffins are for you as well.

The muffins are very tender and moist (why do people have a problem with that word??). I upped the spicing and used some fresh berries as a topping. The Oatmeal Protein Muffins are very open to changes in spicing and toppings. You could use hemp or pumpkin seeds on top and use pumpkin spice or any other mixture you like. For an afternoon snack, you could even go a more savory route. But below is what I did.

These should be stored in an airtight container in a cool place or frozen for future use. They rewarm in the microwave in about 10 seconds. I ate mine with a bit of almond butter on top for an extra hit of protein.

The waiting time before removing them from the muffin tin is essential. The oatmeal continues to absorb the liquid after they come out of the oven and this allows the muffins to firm up. Mine were baked directly in the well-PAMed muffin tin, but I might use paper or foil muffin cups next time to make it even easier to remove from the pan.

Give them a try if you want a muffin that is actually healthy for you.

Recipe

Yield: 12 muffins

Ingredients

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (Do NOT use quick-cooking oats)

3 scoops vanilla protein powder (I used a whey protein powder, but plant-based is fine, too)

1 tsp baking powder

1 rounded teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom or nutmeg

Zest from one medium lemon

1/2 tsp fine sea or kosher salt

2 large eggs

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce OR one ripe banana, peeled and smushed

1/2 cup plain 0% Greek yogurt

2 tbsp coconut oil, melted

1/4 cup honey, maple syrup or Agave

1 cup unsweetened soy or other plant-based milk

2 tablespoons pumpkin or hemp seeds (OPTIONAL)

Berries or mini dark chocolate chips (OPTIONAL but recommended)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl combine oats, protein powder, baking powder, cinnamon and sea salt.

In a separate bowl combine eggs, vanilla extract, applesauce, Greek yogurt, coconut oil, maple syrup, lemon zest and soy milk.

Add wet ingredients to dry and stir to combine. The batter will be VERY wet!

Grease a muffin pan very well with vegetable spray or coconut oil. You could also line the muffin tin with paper or aluminum muffin cups.

Divide batter evenly across the muffin tin. (I used a cookie scoop to do this evenly)

Lightly press in your toppings of choice into each muffin. You can alternate toppings. There is no need for them to ll be the same.

Sprinkle hemp or pumpkin seeds evenly across cups, if using. (I did not)

Bake for 15-20 minutes (mine took 20 minutes)

Allow to cool in the pan for at least 20 minutes. The muffins will firm up during this time. Then using a tin spatula or spreader, remove the muffins to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container on the counter or in the fridge for up to 5 days. OR freeze for up to 3 months. Warm in a microwave or oven before eating for best taste.

Lemon Cardamom Semolina Cake

Due to the unprovoked, criminal and seemingly endless brutal war of annihilation against Ukrainian civilians by Vladimir Putin and his army and the worsening humanitarian crisis, please consider helping by following the link below. There are a number of reputable aid agencies from which to choose. Many of these agencies will also help victims suffering the devastating effects of natural disasters.

Support Humanitarian Efforts in Ukraine

So a Persian Semolina Cake and a Lebanese Semolina Cake walk into a bar…. But seriously, I took two delicious cakes with certain common elements, made some tweaks and came up with this single wonderful Lemon Cardamom Semolina Cake. Bright and lemony with that unique texture that you get with semolina cakes. The finished warm cake is soaked in a simple syrup perfumed with lemon and rose water. This permeates the entire cake, resulting in a dense, moist delicious bite. I topped it off with some lightly toasted pistachios and edible dried rose petals. For utter decadence, I served it with strawberries macerated in a bit of sugar and some lightly sweetened crème fraîche on the side. Do I have your attention yet?

This Lemon Cardamom Semolina Cake should rank right up there with the best of the semolina cakes. And while I admit to tarting it up a bit with strawberries and crème fraîche, it is wonderful all on its own. No embellishments are needed to enjoy this utterly lovely cake.

Middle Eastern semolina cakes, like basbousa are very common – and VERY delicious. They are usually soaked in some kind of simple syrup or a syrup sweetened with honey. Not only does the syrup add wonderful flavor to the cake, but it also makes the cakes able to last longer, particularly in warm climates where refrigeration wasn’t common until relatively recently.

These cakes stay moist for days and the flavors only intensify with each passing day. And as each grain of semolina soaks up the syrup, the cake takes on such a lovely, creamy texture. I find that if possible, I always make semolina cakes one or two days ahead of serving. This allows all of the wonderful flavors and aromas to meld into one delicious bite.

As anyone who reads my blog knows, I love Middle Eastern and South Asian cuisine. and I also love a great dessert. This Lemon Cardamom Semolina Cake is the perfect make-ahead dessert for Shabbat or any special dinner – especially if it has a Middle Eastern/Mediterranean theme.

And because this cake uses olive oil instead of butter or margarine, a whisk and a spatula is really the only equipment needed. There is no heavy creaming of the butter and sugar or tedious beating to incorporate air into the mixture.

But don’t wait for an “occasion” to make this delicious cake. Take it on your next picnic. It will travel well and requires no refrigeration or special treatment.

For more semolina cake recipes:

Orange Semolina Cake

Lemon Semolina Almond Cake

Basbousa (Semolina, Coconut and Pistachio Cake

Simple Basbousa

Recipe

Yield: About 8 servings

Ingredients

Yield: About 8 servings

Ingredients

For the Cake

1.5 cups almond flour or almond meal

1.5 cups semolina flour

1.25 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons ground cardamom

1/2 teaspoon grated/ground nutmeg

1 cup fruity Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Use a Lemon-flavored oil if you can. It will give even more punch to the lemon flavor.)

1 cup granulated sugar

2 lemons, zested

Juice of one lemon (Be sure to zest your lemons first!)

3 large eggs

Simple Syrup

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup water

1 lemon, juiced (From the 2 lemons zested in the cake)

1 to 2 Tablespoons rosewater (Optional, but desirable, but use a really good quality rose water so it doesn’t taste like pot pourri!) Alternatively you could use Orange Blossom Water.

Garnish

About 1/3 cup coarsely chopped and lightly toasted pistachios or blanched slivered almonds

about 2 Tablespoons dried, edible rose petals

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350 F.

Grease an 8-inch springform pan and line bottom and sides with parchment paper. (You could use a 9-inch pan for a flatter cake. Decrease the baking time by about 10 minutes.) Grease parchment. Whisk together the almond flour, semolina flour, salt, cardamom, nutmeg and baking powder in a medium bowl.

In a large bowl, whisk the oil, sugar, and lemon zest from 2 lemons together until combined. (This can also be done with a hand mixer.) However, you are not trying to beat a lot of air into the mixture. You just want everything well combined.

Then gradually add the eggs, one at a time, beating to incorporate, about 1 minute. Next add the dry ingredients and the juice of 1 of your lemons and whisk just until everything is combined. Do not over-mix. Semolina cakes are meant to be fairly dense.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Place the cake on the middle rack, and bake until golden brown, approximately 45 to 50 minutes. (If you use a 9-inch springform pan, check your cake after 35 minutes.) Ovens really vary, so you can tell the cake is done if you lightly press the top of the cake — it should feel lightly springy when done. (I baked mine a few minutes longer than I should have ideally, although with the syrup it is fine.) Allow to cool for 20 minutes or so in the pan before removing the ring and transferring the cake to a cooling rack.

Using a toothpick, poke holes all over the top of the cake. Spoon or brush ALL of the simple syrup (See below) over the cake. (I like to put a pan covered in foil under the cooling rack to collect the inevitable dribbles and to make clean-up easier.) It might look like a lot of syrup, but it will all get absorbed into the cake after a few minutes. Not only does the syrup add flavor but it is necessary for keeping the cake moist and contributes to the overall texture of the cake.

Simple Syrup

  1. In one easy step, combine water, sugar, juice of 1 lemon, and rosewater, if used, in a pot. Cook it over medium-heat until the sugar is fully dissolved, for 4-5 minutes.
  2. Then continue cooking the syrup on medium-low heat for an additional 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Mixed Berry Galette

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Berries, berries and more berries! While it’s true that these days berries are available in grocery stores pretty much all year long, summer is indisputably berry season. If you are like me, we can’t get enough of them. And I love them all – blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, watermelon berries….

As I mentioned in my previous post, I also really enjoy a good dessert. Nothing cloyingly sweet mind you, but definitely dessert. A galette is perfect. It’s simple to make and by its very nature its rustic and unfussy. A basic pastry rolled out, filled with the fruit of your choice and folded up. If the juices run over a bit, no problem. Eaten warm straight out of the oven with a bit of ice cream or crème fraiche or just at room temperature.

This Mixed Berry Galette used the berries that can almost always be found in my fridge. The proportions don’t really matter too much as long as the weight is about the same. I do think that the majority of the berries should be of a slightly firmer variety such as blueberry, strawberry or blackberry. Raspberries are very soft and are fine to use as an accent, but are likely to bake into jam. But don’t overthink this. Just make it and enjoy.

The amount of sugar is pretty minimal and the lemon zest and juice brightens up the berry flavor. While you can use a pastry from your store’s freezer section, it really is simple to make this dough. I did experiment just slightly by adding a teaspoon of a raspberry balsamic vinegar that I had on hand to the dough instead of the usual apple cider or distilled vinegar. Just to layer in the berry element. It didn’t make a huge difference, but it just added a certain sumpin’ sumpin’.

As with any berry dessert, you want to bake the pie, galette or cake until the berries begin to bubble and ooze some liquid. If you don’t do this, the juices will continue to run once the finished product has cooled. Not horrible, but generally not desirable.

This Mixed Berry Galette is soooooooooooooooooooo delicious, with it’s crispy, flakey crust and bursting berries that I decided to forego ice cream and crème fraiche. Don’t wait – just make this!

Recipe

Yield: About 6 servings

Ingredients

For pastry

1.5 cups (188 g.) unbleached, all-purpose flour

1 Tablespoon granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt

1 stick (8 Tablespoons or 114 g.) cold unsalted butter or vegan butter cut into 16 cubes

1 teaspoon of vinegar (distilled, apple cider or raspberry balsamic)

4 to 5 Tablespoons of ice water

For filling

4 cups (750 g.) cleaned berries (I used about 500 g of blueberries and filled in with blackberries, strawberries and raspberries to get to 750 g.)

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 Tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour

Zest of 1 medium lemon

Juice of 1/2 a medium lemon

1/4 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt

For brushing the pastry

1 egg mixed with 1 Tablespoon of cream OR just brush with some non-dairy “milk” and leave out the egg

A sprinkling of either granulated or castor sugar (Demerara would also work)

Directions

For the pastry

This can be done by hand, but I used a food processor. Pulse the flour, sugar and salt (or mix with a whisk or even your hand).

Add the butter or vegan butter, and pulse just until the mixture resembles coarse meal with some pea-sized pieces of flour-coated butter. If doing this by hand, you can use a pastry cutter or two knives.

Drizzle in the vinegar and 4 Tablespoons of the ice water. Pulse just until the dough starts to come together. If doing by hand, mix until you take a Tablespoon of dough between your fingers and if you squeeze it, the dough holds together. Since flour and room humidity vary, you may need to add a bit more water. I didn’t, but it’s okay. Only add the absolute minimum! Using plastic wrap or waxed paper, push the dough together to form a disk. Wrap the dough and refrigerate it for at least an hour or up to overnight.

When you are ready to make the galette, remove the dough from the fridge. Allow it to sit for about 15 minutes. This should make the dough more malleable and will prevent cracking when you roll it out.

For the Galette

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (218 to 220 C).

Mix the sugar with the salt and lemon zest. Rub the zest into the sugar with your fingers.

Gently mix the berries with the flour, sugar mixture and lemon juice.

Roll out the dough onto a Silpat or parchment paper dusted with flour until it is an approximate 12-inch round. You can trim the edges for a more “finished” look or leave it rough if you prefer a more rustic look. Place the Silpat or parchment onto a baking sheet and carefully fill the center with the berry mixture. Push the berries out to about two inches from the edges. Then start folding over the dough, pleating it as you go around. The center should be left open.

Brush the pastry with either the egg wash or use the non-dairy “milk.” Sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the berries are bubbling and the crust is browned. Now enjoy!

Strawberry Cake (Kuchen)

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“Summertime and the livin’ is easy

Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high”**

Or perhaps

“It’s too darn hot

It’s too darn hot

I’d like to sup with my baby tonight” ^

You get the point, right? No one wants to slave over a hot oven or be stuck inside when summer calls. And thanks to climate change, the world is suffering increasing heat, with temperatures reaching dangerous levels. But I do enjoy a nice dessert, especially on Shabbat.

This easy Strawberry Cake doesn’t require any special equipment – not even a mixer. It can be made with pretty much any available fruit and is good just as is. This is not a showy cake – kuchen, a simple butter cake, never is. But, it also can be dressed up with some crème fraîche, ice cream, whipped cream or simply a snow of confectioner’s sugar.

I’ve taken to making my own crème fraîche, which is easy to do, and some generally can be found in my fridge. I flavor it with vanilla and some confectioner’s sugar – not too much. Just enough. But, of course, crème fraîche is available in many grocery stores ready-made these days.

The butter and sour cream keep the cake moist. And the lightly macerated strawberries ooze their delicious juices into the cake. I macerated more strawberries than I needed to cover the top of the cake and used the leftovers when serving. The batter is lightly perfumed with freshly grated lemon zest and nutmeg, a delightful combo.

A springform pan was used for easy presentation, but the cake could also be baked in a square baking pan and served right from the pan. The original recipe called for a 9-inch round pan, but I made mine in an 8-inch round. It makes for a slightly higher cake and took a bit longer in the oven, but I was happy with the results.

Strawberry Cake (Kuchen) will keep for a few days covered. The cake will become more a bit custardy as time goes on and the fruit juices permeate the batter. My husband would say, “And this is a bad thing?” But, I would be very surprised if your cake lasted that long once people have enjoyed a taste.

For another delicious and adaptable kuchen recipe:

Plum Kuchen (Butter cake)

^ It’s Too Darn Hot from Kiss Me Kate. Songwriter: Cole Porter

** Summertime from Porgy and Bess. Songwriters: Ira and George Gershwin, DuBose and Dorothy Heyward

Recipe

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

Strawberry topping

2 cups (334g) strawberries, sliced into 3 slices each (I made more to use as a topping when serving)

2 tablespoons (25g) granulated sugar, divided

pinch of salt

Cake

1 1/4 cups (150g) unbleached all-purpose flour

1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt

6 tablespoons (85g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup (198g) granulated sugar

Zest of 1 lemon

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg, preferably freshly grated

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1/2 cup (113g) sour cream

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the center. 

Grease an 8” or 9”- inch round springform pan or an 8”- inch square. Line the bottom with parchment and lightly grease. 

To make the strawberry topping

In a medium bowl, toss the strawberries, 1 tablespoon of the sugar, and the salt to combine. Set aside while you prepare the rest of the cake. (Reserve remaining 1 tablespoon sugar for topping the assembled cake. I added probably another cup of strawberries, but did NOT add any additional sugar.) 

To make the cake

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. 

In a large bowl, cream the butter, sugar, lemon zest, and nutmeg until creamy and homogenous but not necessarily light or fluffy. You can use a hand or standing mixer but if your butter is at room temperature, why create more dishes than needed?!

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping the bowl as needed. 

Add the sour cream and vanilla; beat to combine. 

Add the flour mixture and beat just until everything is combined. Do not over-mix or your cake will be tough.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and spread evenly. Distribute the strawberries over the batter in a tight, single layer, leaving behind the juices in the bowl. Save any leftover liquid and strawberry slices for snacking or for serving with the cake.  

Sprinkle the cake all over with the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar from the topping. 

Bake the strawberry cake for about 1 hour or until the top is deeply golden brown. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer it to a wire rack. Run a thin flat blade around the inside of the springform, if using, and open the spring. Remove the ring and using a spatula, lift the cake onto the cooling rack to cool completely. Once cool, you can sprinkle the cake with confectioner’s sugar, if desired.

To make Homemade Crème Fraîche

In a clean glass jar, pour one cup of heavy cream (preferably with no thickeners added). Add 3 Tablespoons of any cultured milk milk product such as buttermilk, kefir or even whole milk yogurt. Leave in a dark, room temperature place, shaking the jar occasionally until desired thickness. Depending on the warmth of the room and the quality of the cream, this can take between 24 to 36 hours. Once the desired thickness is achieved, you can add a healthy teaspoon of pure vanilla bean paste and about 3 Tablespoons of confectioner’s sugar. Stir through and refrigerate. This will keep for up to 2 weeks in the fridge.

Black Bean Beet Walnut Burgers

Due to the unprovoked, and seemingly endless brutal war of annihilation against Ukrainian civilians by Vladimir Putin and his army and the worsening humanitarian crisis, please consider helping by following the link below. There are a number of reputable aid agencies from which to choose. Many of these agencies will also help victims suffering the devastating effects of natural disasters.

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If you follow my blog, you know that we eat a lot of vegan and vegetarian meals. Never a huge meat eater, I like that these options are healthier for us and the planet. But, I’m no purist and if something doesn’t taste great, I don’t care how healthy it is. So for some time now, I’ve been on a quest for a really great veggie burger. And I’ve made a few good ones, which I will link to below.

However, none of them quite is “THE ONE.” And this isn’t either, although that is not a reason not to make it. The flavor profile is great! Spicy and just the right amount of natural sweetness. The burgers just didn’t have enough bite for me. Perhaps I should have left more texture to the black beans. (I’m thinking out loud here.) And perhaps if I had made thinner burgers (think smash-burgers) and browned them more giving a crispier edge, it would have been closer to being “THE ONE.” I’m going to keep working on it. But in the meantime, these did make a delicious dinner with all of the trimmings added.

While I do use some meat substitutes, I am very selective. And with the exception of a few sausages (Field Roast brand are the best I’ve eaten so far and “NO, I am not compensated for saying that), I simply don’t like the taste of the substitutes when they are the main focus of the dish.

Veggie Burgers are tricky. If you are looking for this to taste “just like meat” you will be sorely disappointed. On the other hand, if you are looking for a delicious veggie burger, taken in its own context, then these are for you. And no animal had to die to make them. Serve on a perfectly toasted bun with your condiments of choice, and I think you will be a happy, healthier camper. We accompanied our burgers with Vidalia onion, Sir Kensington Chipotle Mayo, homemade pickled veggies, corn on the cob and sweet potato chips. Come on – what more do you need?!

These Black Bean Beet Walnut Burgers are a riff on a recipe that I saw in a flyer put out by my grocer store. They are pretty easy to make, but do require fridge time to hold their shape when cooking. And if you don’t happen to have left-over rice on hand, then you also need to cook up some rice.

The Black Bean Beet Walnut Burgers can be cooked on a grill outside or on the stove. We don’t have a grill. I used canned beets, which I always have in my pantry, but you can also use the fresh, prepared beets in the vacuum sealed pouches. The liquid in the canned beets is always a very vibrant purple and I saved it to use in some tandoori chicken later this week.

These burgers are an easy place to go if you are starting to try out some vegan recipes. And if you aren’t ready for the full vegan experience, I won’t tell if you melt a slice of your favorite cheese on top before serving!

Other vegan burger recipes:

Chickpea Quinoa Burgers

SD* Chickpea Burger

Indian Spiced Lentil Burgers

Recipe

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

2 cans (15 0z. each) of black beans, drained and rinsed well

15 Oz. can or 1 pound of fresh prepared beets, drained and cut into quarters

1.25 cups of cooked rice (any kind will work, but I used short-grain brown rice)

Generous 1/2 cup of coarsely chopped walnuts, pan-toasted

1 Tablespoon of chili powder

1 teaspoon of ground cumin

1 teaspoon of dried mustard (I like Colman’s)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon fresh, cracked black pepper

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Neutral vegetable oil for cooking (I am using Avocado Oil these days when pan frying because of its high smoke point and health benefits.)

Directions

In a bowl of a food processor fitted with the “S” blade, pulse the black beans and beets until well mixed. Leave some texture to the beans – unlike the photo below.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl and add all of the remaining ingredients EXCEPT for the oil.

Form the mixture into 6 patties and place on a rimmed baking pan lined with parchment paper. I used a quarter sheet pan but a glass dish is fine if that is what you have. Place another sheet of parchment lightly over the top and place in a plastic bag. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, but overnight is best.

When you are ready to cook, preheat your grill to medium high heat. If you are using a pan or griddle on the stovetop, brush the pan with the oil and heat on medium high heat until the oil begins to shimmer. Cook the patties for about 6 minutes or until the bottoms are lightly browned. Then using a spatula, carefully flip the patties over. Continue cooking for about another 5 to 6 minutes. One of the beauties of vegan burgers is that everything is safe to eat BEFORE they are cooked. So unlike meat burgers, you don’t have to worry about undercooking the patties.

Now have fun and garnish at will. I toasted some buns, used arugula, Vidalia onion, with sliced heirloom tomatoes on top. A squirt of some chipotle mayo (and there are vegan versions) or your condiment of choice and yummmmmm! We had homemade pickled veggies, corn on the cob and some sweet potato chips. Come on – what more do you need?

Roasted Strawberry Cheesecake

Due to the unprovoked, and seemingly endless brutal war of annihilation against Ukrainian civilians by Vladimir Putin and his army and the worsening humanitarian crisis, please consider helping by following the link below. There are a number of reputable aid agencies from which to choose. Many of these agencies will also help victims suffering the devastating effects of natural disasters.

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It is traditional for Jews to eat dairy foods on the holiday of Shavuot (The Feast of Weeks). This Jewish holiday commemorates the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai and occurs seven weeks after Passover. It also celebrates the Summer grain harvest and is one of three “Pilgrimage” holidays observed in Judaism. There a number of theories as to how the dairy tradition started, but cheesecake and blintzes are very popular at this time of year. However, you don’t have to be Jewish to make (and love) this Roasted Strawberry Cheesecake which is liberally flecked and perfumed with orange zest.

While I did not make my cheesecake in time to post ahead of the holiday, you can (and should) make this delicious, creamy, berry intense cheesecake anytime. And there is always next year to celebrate the holiday! So keep this Roasted Strawberry Cheesecake at the ready!

In 1973/1974 I lived and worked on Kibbutz Kissufim in the Negev. Yep, that’s me in the photos below. I was in charge of the calves.

When it came time to celebrate the Festival of Shavuot, everyone on the kibbutz went out to the field where children with flower wreaths on their heads, danced among the rows of golden wheat ready to be harvested. It really brought home this holiday to me in a way that was impossible to see living in a city.

Growing up in New York, wonderful cheesecakes were ubiquitous. My mother made a fabulous mocha cheesecake. But the problem with most of these is that they generally are geared to feeding at least 12 people! And while I LOVE a good cheesecake, it is just for me and my husband these days. So this recipe uses a 6-inch springform pan and makes 6 generous portions – enough for us or a small group of family or friends to enjoy without more left-overs than we want.

The recipe may seem long, but it is actually quite simple to make. And as for the Roasted Strawberry topping, I make a big batch of this ahead of time and store the unused portion in my fridge for weeks. It will turn any simple cake or ice cream into a special dessert. It can even be spread on toast in place of jam.

A note about the photos this time. They simply don’t do justice to the finished cheesecake. I was rushing, doing several other things at once, and as a consequence made a couple of esthetic mistakes. The taste was fabulous but my cake looked a little raggedy. If you follow the instructions, yours should turn out beautifully.

For other cheesecake options, I have created three additional variations on this recipe and they are all wonderful. You can’t go wrong with any one of these. And as an extra bonus, these cheesecakes do not require any eggs! Given the price of eggs these days, that’s a plus.

Blueberry Cheesecake

Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake

Coconut Macadamia Cheesecake

Recipe

Yield: About 6 servings

Ingredients

Crust (This is the amount in the original recipe which makes a delicious but fairly thick crust)

200 g of crushed biscuits (Digestive, Oreos, Biscoff or graham crackers)

5 Tablespoons melted butter (salted or unsalted) (You might need 1 Tablespoon more if using a plain biscuit rather than an Oreo cookie.)

Filling

8 oz. (225 g) full-fat cream cheese in a block, softened

1/2 cup (120 g) heavy or double cream

1/4 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt

2 Tablespoons cornstarch

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup (10g) freeze-dried strawberries, pulverized into a powder

Zest of one large orange

14 oz. can (396 g) of Sweetened Condensed Milk

Directions

NOTE: If you want to serve the cake completely off of the springform pan, lightly oil the bottom of the pan and line it with parchment paper. Once the cake has cooled and you break the suction with the bottom of the springform, the cake should release easily. This time, I was rushing and chose to serve it directly on the bottom section of the pan.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F or 160 C.

Blitz the biscuits in a food processor or with a rolling pin until you have fine crumbs. Pour the melted butter over the crumbs and mix through so that all of the crumbs are moistened. If you use a plain biscuit, the crumbs should resemble wet sand. If you are using Oreos, which have a cream filling, the mixture will be wetter than if you use a plain biscuit. I liked that it made for a lighter, less compacted base, but a traditional Graham Cracker or Digestive Biscuit are also great. Press the mixture into the bottom and slightly up the sides of the 6-inch springform pan. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.

Using a hand beater or the food processor beat the cream cheese and salt until light and fluffy.

In a smallish bowl or measuring glass, whisk the heavy cream and corn starch until smooth. Add this to the cream cheese. Add the vanilla, sweetened condensed milk, freeze-dried strawberry powder and citrus zest. Blitz until the batter is completely smooth and a lovely pale shade of pink. Pour the batter into the pan over the crumb base.

Wrap the bottom of the pan in two layers of aluminum foil to prevent any leakage. Set the pan in a baking dish large enough to hold it. I used a 9-inch square pan. Carefully add hot tap water to the pan until it comes up about half-way up the sides of the springform mold.

Place in the oven and bake for about 1 hour or until the center just slightly jiggles. Turn off the oven and leave the door ajar with the cheesecake inside. Keep the pan in there until your oven fan turns off or the cheesecake cools down. This prevents the cheesecake from cracking and will finish off the baking. If it does crack, don’t worry. The topping will cover it and it will taste just as great!

Completely cool the cheesecake on a wire rack. Then add the cooled slow-roasted strawberry mixture to the top of the cheesecake while still in the mold. Allow the cake to be refrigerated for at least 4 to 6 hours. but longer is even better if you have the time.

When you are ready to serve, run a thin sharp knife around the inner rim of the mold. Carefully unlock the springform and remove the ring. I leave the cake on the bottom and place the whole thing on a serving platter. Now enjoy!

Michelle Polzine’s Slow-Roasted Strawberries

Yield: About 1.5 cups (450 gr.)

Ingredients

2 pounds (900 gr.) of fresh, ripe strawberries (I double the recipe because it is THAT good)

1/2 cup (100 gr.) of granulated sugar (You can add 2 additional Tablespoons if the strawberries are not especially sweet on their own.)

Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 250 degrees F. Rinse and hull the berries. Leave any tiny ones whole and either quarter or halve the rest so the pieces are all about the same size.
  2. In a non-reactive pan (I used a stoneware baking dish) that will hold all of the berries closely packed in a single layer, gently toss the strawberries with the sugar.
  3. Roast slowly in the oven, uncovered for 3 to 6 hours, gently moving them around occasionally with a wide spatula. Mine took 5 hours. They are done when the juices have reduced to a syrup but not darkened into caramel and the berries are jammy. They can be stored in the fridge in an airtight jar or container for at least two weeks.