Bene Israel Fish Curry with Fresh Ginger, Tamarind and Cilantro

I mentioned in an earlier post that I made this dish for the Shabbat meal during Passover. Unfortunately, we did not take any photos. However, this is so delicious, I want to share it with you anyway. And to be perfectly honest, it does not make the most spectacular visual presentation, but the taste is amazing and even picky eaters enjoyed it. I saw the recipe  in the Washington Post just before the holiday and because Frances and her sister were also observing Lent, I knew that I needed to make fish as my main course. Since we also wanted to observe the laws of Kashrut where we didn’t mix milk with meat, this opened the door for me to make my Parsley Soup as a starter and to allow dairy in some of my appetizers.

The story of the Bene Israel is an interesting one and I encourage you to read about them. The community, mostly residing in Mumbai, is small, but their food traditions are definitely worth exploring. Some people believe that they are one of the Lost Tribes of Israel.

The only ingredients that you might have to spend a bit of time searching out are tamarind paste and fresh curry leaves. They are both available online and at any good Indian grocery store. Curry leaves have no good substitute and are not the same as curry powder. I bought mine through Amazon and froze what I didn’t use. Since this dish was so popular, I feel confident that I will make use of them in the future. All this dish needed was Basmati rice and some chutneys to accompany it.

Bene Israel Fish Curry with Fresh Ginger, Tamarind and Cilantro from Joan Nathan

Yield: 6 servings (I made enough for 12 people, using 4.5 pounds net of fish – after skinning and boning)

Ingredients

2 pounds whiting, black sea bass or other firm, light-fleshed skinned fillets, cut into 4 ounce chunks (I used halibut)

1/2 teaspoon salt, or more as needed

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon chili powder (I like the one I get from Rancho Gordo)

Juice of 1 lime

3 large cloves garlic

1-inch piece peeled ginger root, coarsely chopped (I would use about 1 Tablespoon of finely chopped or pureed fresh ginger)

1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems

2 or 3 small green chiles, such as serrano, stemmed and seeded if you want less heat (I used jalapeno. Here is where you can control the heat to your personal tastes)

3 fresh/frozen curry leaves

1 Tablespoon tamarind paste

1/4 cup vegetable oil (I used Grapeseed oil)

1 medium onion, chopped (1 cup)

2 vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into small dice (I used grape tomatoes cut in half – for this amount of fish, I would probably use 1/2 pint, but being exact isn’t that important)

1/2 cup water

Directions

 

  1. Place the fish in a nonreactive bowl or container. Sprinkle with the 1/2 teaspoon salt, turmeric, chili powder and lime juice. Gently toss to coat, then cover and refrigerate for no more than a few hours, but at least 2 hours.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the garlic, ginger, cilantro, green chilies (to taste), curry leaves, and tamarind paste in a food processor or blender. Puree to form a paste; transfer to a bowl. It is not the prettiest color but don’t be put off by that!
  3. Line a plate with a few layers of paper towels. Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the fish (working in batches, as needed). Cook for about 2 minutes per side until golden. Use a slotted spatula to transfer the fish to the lined plate. Be gentle with the fish so you don’t break up the pieces.
  4. Wipe out the skillet, then add the remaining tablespoon of oil and heat over medium heat. Add the onion and tomatoes; cook for 5 to 8 minutes until the onion has softened, then stir in the garlic-tamarind paste. Add the water and stir through. Reduce the heat to medium-low; return the fish to the skillet and gently stir to incorporate, trying not to break up the fish pieces.
  5. Once the mixture has warmed through, the fish curry is ready to serve.

Parsley Soup

Parsley soup

As I mentioned in my previous post, I made Parsley Soup as part of our Passover Shabbat dinner. Obviously, this can be made anytime, but the lovely bright green color and fresh vegetal taste just say “spring” to me. The fact that no part of the parsley is wasted is a plus for those who care about creating as little waste as possible. The first step is admittedly a bit tedious if you are making enough for a crowd, but if you have someone to help you and you get busy chatting, the effort passes quickly. It’s something that is also fun to do with children since no knives are needed – nor is perfection. Please use real butter and milk for this dish. It simply won’t taste the same with anything else. Since I was serving fish as my main course, there was no problem in meeting the laws of Kashrut. If you have an immersion blender (EVERYONE should have an immersion blender – greatest gift ever!) preparing the rest of the soup is a snap.

I found this soup on the internet years ago and did not take down the attribution so my apologies to the original author. I did make several changes in the proportions, so here is my version.

Parsley Soup for a Crowd

Yield: About 20 cups

Ingredients

6 large bunches of flat-leaf parsley

2 sticks (16 Tablespoons) of unsalted butter

2 large onions, coarsely chopped

7 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and chopped into large cubes

8 cups of chicken stock (Whether you use stock with salt will depend on how much additional salt you use.)

Kosher salt and white pepper to taste

1 cup of whole milk

Directions

  1. Separate the leaves from the stems. Place the leaves in a large colander and pour boiling water over them and then run cold water over them. This will blanch the leaves, while retaining the lovely bright green color. Gently squeeze any water out of the leaves and wrap them in a kitchen towel and squeeze out any excess water.
  2. Melt butter in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic and parsley stems and cook uncovered over low heat until the stems have begun to soften – about 20 minutes.
  3. Add the potatoes, stock, salt and pepper and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes more. Remove from the heat and allow to cool until it is simply warm. Once the soup has cooled some, add the parsley leaves and with an immersion blender, puree the soup. This can also be done in batches in a food processor, but aside from creating more clean-up, it’s much more time consuming. Get an immersion blender! You will thank me later.
  4. Once the soup has been pureed, add the milk and adjust your seasoning. Reheat the soup gently over a low heat when you are ready to serve. If it is not Passover, you can garnish this with some croutons. Otherwise, a sprig of parsley is all you need. The soup can be served chilled as well, but I prefer it hot.

Passover 2017

Table setting

Today is the final day of Passover and Matthew and Frances have returned to New York. We had a wonderful week of family and good food and already the house seems way too quiet. As I mentioned in an earlier post, we hosted the first Seder and Shabbat. We were also blessed to have Frances’ sister and her boyfriend joining us for Shabbat along with my niece, nephew, their two children, my cousin and sister. Unfortunately, we were so busy preparing and eating that we neglected to take photos for our Shabbat meal. However, I will be including a recipe for our soup and main course anyway since they were such a hit with everyone. Hopefully I can add photos once I make the dishes again.

Passover Shabbat Menu

Beet Caviar

Minty Sweet Pea Spread

Parsley Soup (recipe to follow)

Bene Israel Fish Curry with Fresh Ginger, Tamarind and Cilantro (recipe to follow)

Basmati Rice

Kohlrabi Salad

Viennese Chocolate Hazelnut Torte (recipe to follow)

A Tower of Vegan Desserts

Tower of desserts

The morning after Matza Brei with almond butter and melted chocolate

Matza Brei3Matza Brei2

Passover Menu

IMG_1497

Passover 2017 begins at sundown on Monday, April 10th. Matthew and Frances will be coming in for the week and we will be celebrating with Chicago family at our house for the first Seder and the following Shabbat. Thankfully our niece and nephew are hosting the second Seder.  I always work on my battle plan and menu for weeks ahead of the holiday, checking my serving dishes, wine etc. to note what needs to be ordered or polished. Today my Shmura (“guarded”) matza was delivered by our wonderful Chabad Rabbi along with my new wine fountain, which I ordered from Israel, so I am in full Passover mode now.

Because I am hosting two holiday nights and my niece and nephew are making lamb, I have decided on a beef main course for the first Seder and a fish main course for Shabbat. The Shabbat choice was also partly informed by Frances, who is observing Lent and will not eat meat on Friday. While I am an Ashkenazi Jew on both my mother and father’s side (and proud of it), my palate tends toward Sephardic foods. One challenge that I face, in addition to producing delicious, Kosher for Passover foods, is that I need to have at least some kid-friendly desserts that don’t include eggs, since my niece’s son is allergic. I will post my Passover Shabbat menu during the interim days of Pesach. In the meantime, hopefully this will get you started on a few ideas if you are hosting a Seder of your own. Chag Pesach Sameach!

First Seder Menu

Seder Plate with my classic Ashkenazi Charoset

Egyptian Ground Fish Balls – Bellahat

Syrian Kibbe Gheraz

Kohlrabi Salad

Moroccan Beet Salad – Barba

Green Beans with Tomatoes

Passover Florentine Cookies (A Frances favorite)

Vegan Almond Coconut Macaroons

Vegan Chocolate Chip Meringue Buttons

Chocolate Almond Bark

Chocolate Covered Orange Peel

Assorted Grapes

Yarden Heights Wine

French Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Glaze

flourless-chocolate-orange-almond

If you have two hours you can make any day Valentine’s Day! The recipe is from an old “The Best of Bon Appetit” cookbook and can even be adjusted to be made for Passover. Nothing spells L-O-V-E like chocolate and this cake is rich without being overly sweet or cloying. If you missed out on Valentine’s Day, then make any night special with this dessert. The actual prep and baking time is under an hour, but the cake needs to cool before you can glaze it. It is easy enough for even a novice to make and wow a certain someone.

French Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Glaze

Yield: one 8-inch cake

Ingredients

For cake

1 cup raw almonds, skin on

4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (I actually used a 64% Valrhona because I like my chocolate a little darker; however, go too dark and it won’t work)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature

2/3 cup granulated white sugar

3 eggs (regular or smaller “large” eggs)

1/4 cup fine dry breadcrumbs

Zest of 1 large navel orange

Chocolate Glaze (See recipe below)

For glaze

2 ounces of unsweetened chocolate

2 ounces of semi-sweet or 64% chocolate (I don’t like things too sweet)

1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened

2 teaspoons of honey

Directions

For Cake

  1. Butter or use a spray like PAM on the bottom and sides of an 8-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom with parchment, spray that and set aside.
  2. Grind almonds in a blender or food processor with 1 Tablespoon of sugar and the breadcrumbs to prevent the almonds from forming a paste. Set aside.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  4. Melt chocolate in a bowl set over hot but not boiling water. Be sure that the bowl does not actually touch the water. Stir occasionally with a rubber spatula. Remove from the heat, just before all of the chocolate is melted. Stir to melt the remaining chocolate.
  5. Using a hand or standing mixer beat the butter until soft and fluffy. Gradually add in the sugar and beat constantly. Once the sugar has been incorporated, add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Don’t worry if things haven’t quite come together at this point. Everything will be fine.
  6. Add the breadcrumbs, almonds and orange rind. Mix through. Now add the chocolate in a stream, with the mixer on low. Mix thoroughly.
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and gently shake the pan to even out the batter.
  8. Bake for about 30 minutes and allow to cool on a cake rack for 30 minutes. The center of the cake will be fairly moist still so you may have to give the cake a good bang with your knuckles to get it to fall out. Discard the parchment and allow the cake to cool completely. Don’t worry if the center sinks a bit. This is part of the cake’s charm.
  9. Once thoroughly cooled, place the cake on a rack or cake decorating plate over waxed paper. Pour the glaze over the top, carefully tipping the cake so that the glaze runs evenly over the top and sides. If necessary, smooth the sides with a metal spatula. If you wish, you can garland the rim with toasted slivered almonds.

For Glaze

  1. Combine the two chocolates, butter and honey in a bowl set over hot water. Melt, stirring.
  2. Remove from the heat and beat until cool but still “pourable” – just until it starts to thicken.

 

Vegan Apple Raisin Cake with Applejack Sauce

vegan-apple-cake6My niece and nephew hosted Friday night dinner and I agreed to help by making dessert. Because of dietary restrictions, the dessert needed to be vegan. I decided to use this as an opportunity to come up with a new apple cake recipe that would be good enough for Thanksgiving or anytime you wanted something special for a crowd. I am using the Smitten Kitchen Apple Cake and my own Vegan “Honey” Cake as the source for this inspiration. This cake will not only feed a crowd, but is actually better made ahead so the flavors can fully develop. I find when I am preparing for a big holiday dinner, I like things that I can make ahead so I am not exhausted on the day when everyone descends. This cake could even be frozen without the Applejack sauce which could then be made the morning of or the night before you are going to serve it. Just defrost the cake fully before serving. And if you don’t want the Applejack sauce, you could simply dust this with confectioner’s sugar when you get ready to serve it. After a day, the center of this cake takes on an almost bread pudding-like consistency, fragrant with apples, raisins and spice.

Vegan Apple Raisin Cake with Applejack Sauce

Yield: About 10 servings  vegan-apple-raisin-cake

Ingredients

For the cake

5-6 flavorful baking apples (There are so many varieties out there and they differ locally so choose something other than Granny Smith. It could be McIntosh, Honeycrisp, Jazz, Jonagold, Braeburn, Ambrosia…) I used Jonagold and because they were on the biggish side, I used 5 apples.

1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon

2 cups plus 5 Tablespoons granulated or Demerara sugar

3 cups all-purpose unbleached flour

1 Tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon finely ground sea salt

1 cup Canola or other vegetable oil

Zest of one lemon

1/4 cup apple cider or apple juice, preferably fresh

1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

3/4 cup raisins soaked for at least 1 hour in 1/4 cup Applejack, Apple Brandy or Apple Cider

Aquafaba from one 15.5 ounce can of chickpeas (This is the liquid from the can that has been strained. Use the chickpeas for a wonderful salad or in homemade hummus.)

For the Applejack Sauce

1.5 cups of confectioner’s sugar

4 Tablespoons Applejack (Hard cider) or apple cider

2 to 3 Tablespoons apple juice or cider OR reserved liquid from apple-raisin mixture

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Directions

For the cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Either butter and flour a 10-inch tube pan with straight sides or use one of the cooking sprays with flour (Baker’s Joy or Pam – these have been a revelation for me and have made cake baking so much easier!)
  2. Peel, core and chop the apples into 1/2-inch dice. Toss them with the cinnamon, 5 Tablespoons of sugar and the lemon zest.
  3. Using a large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together. In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, apple cider, vanilla and remaining 2 cups of sugar.
  4. Drain the chickpeas, placing the liquid in the bowl of a standing mixer. Using the balloon whisk attachment, whip the aquafaba on high for 10 minutes. You should have soft white peaks.
  5. Stir the oil mixture into the dry ingredients. The result will be quite stiff. Drain the raisins and add them to the apples. Pour the remaining liquid into the batter. Now scrape all of the whipped aquafaba into the stiff batter and mix thoroughly with a heavy spoon until you have a smooth, workable batter. This takes a little elbow grease!
  6. Pour 1/2 of the batter into the prepared pan. Using a spoon or your hands, take 1/2 of the apple-raisin mixture, straining any liquid that may be in the bowl and reserving it and place the apples-raisins over the batter in the pan. The reserved liquid can be added to your Applejack sauce. Cover the apples with the remaining batter and gently smooth it out so the batter is even. Now take the remaining apples-raisins and cover the top of the batter, gently pushing the mixture into the batter.
  7. Place the pan in the hot oven and bake for about 1.5 to 1.75 hours or until a tester comes out clean. Transfer to a rack and cool completely. The top will sink down some but don’t worry – it’s fine. When you are ready to serve, turn out the cake and carefully flip it over onto a serving platter so that the apples are now on top again. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and serve the sauce on the side, if you are using it.

For the Applejack Sauce

  1. Sift the sugar to get rid of any lumps.
  2. Whisk all of the other ingredients together. Taste and adjust the sweetness by adding more confectioner’s sugar, if desired. Just before serving, give it a good stir with a fork or whisk. You can zap it in the microwave briefly, if you like- just enough to warm it without killing off the alcohol.  vegan-apple-cake5

Lisa’s Vegan “Honey” Cake

vegan-honey-cake

The Jewish New Year is almost here and I am always challenged to produce delicious, traditional food that also includes a vegan dessert. While I am neither vegan nor keep Kosher, my niece’s family keeps Kosher and her son (my godson) is deathly allergic to eggs and sesame. I could always make an apple tart or even my delicious vegan frangiapane apple tart, of course, but I get bored always making the same thing. I decided to experiment and came up with this Honey Cake recipe. Full disclosure – I actually used honey; however, to keep it vegan you could substitute date syrup and it would be delicious. I have included a link to a simple date syrup recipe below, although you can also find it online and in Middle Eastern grocery stores (look for Silan.)

Because honey cake tends to be pretty heavy and I am not using eggs, I needed to figure out how to lighten it up. I hope that you will agree that my version is delicious and will make a wonderful addition to any holiday table. I only wish you could smell how good this is!

Lisa’s Vegan “Honey” Cake

Yield: About 10 servings

Ingredients

3 cups of all-purpose unbleached flour

1/2 cup unbleached cake flour

1 Tablespoon baking powder

1.5 teaspoons baking soda

1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

1.25 cups granulated sugar

1.25 cups Canola Oil

1/2 cup sweet dessert wine (I used Ferrari Carano Eldorado Gold, but if you wish to keep it Kosher there is Yarden Heights Wine or even the gucky sweet extra heavy Malaga wine would work here)

1/2 cup slivered almonds, very lightly toasted

1/2 cup of raisins, soaked in 1/4 cup dessert wine or orange juice for at least 15 minutes

zest of one orange

Aquafaba from one 15.5 ounce can of chickpeas (That is the liquid from the can that has been strained. You can use the chickpeas for a wonderful salad or homemade hummus.)

2/3 cup honey or date syrup

1/2 cup strong brewed coffee, cooled to room temperature

1/2 cup fresh orange juice

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Sift your dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Whisk in all of the wet ingredients EXCEPT for the aquafaba.
  3. Add the orange zest, almonds and raisins and mix through to distribute everything evenly.
  4. In a standing mixer, add the strained aquafaba and on high speed, whip the liquid for about 20 minutes. The liquid will first foam and then will whip up to resemble egg whites. You want them to be as stiff as possible so beat them until when you pull up the beater, the aquafaba holds onto the beater. (Do NOT make the aquafaba ahead – it will not hold.)
  5. Quickly fold the beaten aquafaba into the flour/raisin/nut mixture. Don’t worry that it will collapse.
  6. Spray a 10-inch straight-sided, non-stick tube pan with a non-stick spray with flour and quickly pour the batter into the pan, spreading it evenly.
  7. Bake for about 1.25 hours or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. It may take a little longer. Allow to cool in the pan for 20-30 minutes and then carefully turn it out onto a wire rack to finish cooling completely.
  8. This can be made ahead and frozen. If you are not planning on freezing it, wrap it well once it is fully cooled or keep under a cake dome. The flavors will improve if made at least one day ahead. This should keep for several days.