Salads for Every Meal

Due to the unprovoked, merciless war on Ukraine 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.

Support Humanitarian Efforts in Ukraine

Whether you are vegan, vegetarian or an omnivore, there is a salad here for you. Every Shabbat I make at least four salads and dips, several of which we will enjoy throughout the week. It’s a delicious habit that I adopted after spending time in Israel where salads are eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Aside from being delicious, they add so much color to any meal. And don’t we eat with all of our senses?

There are fresh salads, roasted vegetable salads and salads with a profusion of herbs and grains. Some of the salads are made with beans which add protein and heartiness. Almost any veg and many fruits, legumes and grains can be made into cold or warm salads. And when I want to make a light meal of salads I simply add some feta cheese or a piquant provolone and delicious bread, like the flaky flatbread or focaccia. The more I make these flatbreads the better I get at it. My last batch were nice and poufy and round! I simply refrigerate leftover breads and warm them in the toaster. They also freeze well. Yummmmmmmmmm!

Over the years, I have posted a number of salads and will link to some of them below. But here are three new ones (for me) that hopefully you will enjoy as well. They are guaranteed to brighten up just about any meal. The inspiration for this post comes from Sonya’s Prep. She is lovely young Orthodox Jewish vlogger that I have recently begun following. Her energy, charm and creativity make watching her a delight. And if anyone is looking to be more organized, she is someone to watch.

The three new salads are: Roasted Eggplant Peppers and Red Onion Salad; Shredded Carrot and Red Cabbage Salad; and Wheatberry and Barberry Salad

When you are feeding a crowd these salads can be doubled or tripled. And most people will enjoy these salads so much that you can go easy on the meat, if serving. Better for us and better for the planet.

I will give suggested measurements, but please don’t get too bogged down with being exact. When preparing these, I almost never truly measure, especially when it comes to adding fresh herbs. Taste as you go along, especially with the salt and dried spices. You can always add more but it is difficult to impossible to remove them once added.

For those interested in other delicious salad ideas here are just some of the ones available through my blog:

Twice-Cooked Eggplant Salad

Moroccan Carrot Salad

Green Fattoush Salad with Mint Vinaigrette

Farro Salad

Lentils du Puy and Potato Salad with Tarragon

Spiced Butternut Squash and Farro Salad

Red Cabbage, Walnut and Goat Cheese Salad

Armenian Lentil Salad

Moroccan Beet Salad (Barba)

Sunshine Kale Salad

Roasted Tomato and Olive Pearl Couscous Salad

Lentil Salad with Raisins, Tomatoes and Tarragon

Get your Freekeh on – with this lemony, herbed salad

Apple, Goat Cheese and Pecan Salad

Watermelon and Feta Salad

Moroccan Beet and Orange Salad with Pistachios

Horta Salata: Fancy Salad

Beet and Chickpea Quinoa Salad

Easy Feta and Roasted Tomato Salad

Herbed Farro Salad

Orange and Radish Salad

Recipes

Roasted Eggplant Peppers and Red Onion Salad

1 medium eggplant – about 1.25 pounds

2 smallish bell peppers in different colors

1 medium red onion

kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

About 1/4 cup EVOO

About 1/4 cup of white wine or apple cider vinegar

2 to 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed or grated

1/4 cup chopped cilantro or flat-leaf parsley

3 to 4 scallions, thinly sliced including dark green stems

1/4 cup chopped fresh dill

Directions

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F.

Chop the eggplant, onions and peppers into a large dice of approximately equal size. Place on a baking sheet and toss together with the EVOO and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread the veggies across the baking sheet in a single layer. (If you want to use foil for easier clean-up, go ahead. But it does end up in a landfill….)

Roast the vegetables for about 30 minutes, turning the pan once. They should be golden and tender but not mushy. Ovens vary so check after 25 minutes or it could go as along as 35.

When cool enough to handle, transfer everything to a bowl and toss with the remaining ingredients. Taste to see if you need to add any additional salt or pepper.

Shredded Carrot and Red Cabbage Salad

Shredded Carrot and Red Cabbage Salad

Ingredients

About 6 ounces pre-packaged shredded carrots OR about 4 cups carrots that are trimmed and julienned

About 1 cup of shredded red cabbage

1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced into pieces about the size of the carrot shreds

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed or grated

1.5 teaspoons granulated or Demerara sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper or Aleppo pepper

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 Tablespoons EVOO

1 to 2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar

Juice from 1 lemon

3 Tablespoons chopped fresh dill or 1.5 Tablespoons dried dill

3 Tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or cilantro

Directions

Place everything in bowl large enough to comfortably hold the ingredients. Mix everything well, preferably with your hands. You want to massage the carrots to soften them a bit. Taste to adjust seasonings. Yup, that’s it!

Wheatberry and Barberry Salad

Wheatberry and Barberry Salad

Ingredients

1 cup uncooked hard winter wheatberries (You could use farro or barley if wheatberry isn’t available; however, they will not have that unique chewy nuttiness that a properly cooked wheatberry has.)

1/2 of a small red onion, peeled and chopped

4 to 5 thinly sliced red radishes

2 Persian cucumbers cut in to quarters and diced

1/2 cup dried barberries (You could use currants instead but they won’t be as flavorful.)

2 generous cups, finely chopped fresh herbs (I used dill, cilantro and parsley, but mint would also be good)

1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed or grated

Juice of 1/2 fresh lemon or more to taste

1 teaspoon of kosher salt or more to taste

1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

2 to 3 Tablespoons flavorful EVOO

Directions

Soak the wheatberries for at least 8 hours or overnight. Bring 3 cups of water or broth with a glug of olive oil to a boil in a medium pot with a tight-fitting lid. If using water or unsalted broth, add 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Drained the wheatberries and add to the boiling liquid. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 1 hour. This can be done a few days ahead. Just refrigerate the cooked wheatberries in their liquid.

You want the wheatberries to be cold or no warmer than room temperature. Place them, drained of any accumulated liquid, in a bowl and add all of the other ingredients. Gently but thoroughly toss well. Now enjoy!

Chickpea Spinach Curry

Chickpea Spinach Curry

Chickpea Spinach Curry, is ready in under 45 min. and packs a punch of flavors and nutrition. This vegan curry is a great option for nights when everyone is hungry and you are short on time. Or if you are trying to eat more plant-based meals and want a delicious option. It’s an easy-to-prepare dish that comes together with mostly pantry items. While I generally cook my own beans and almost always have them in my fridge, canned chickpeas (garbanzo) would work well here. We did eat this with a dollop of plain, whole milk Bulgarian-style yogurt. However, it can be eaten as is or by using a plant-based yogurt. Serve it over rice (brown rice pictured here) or any other grain you prefer.

Chickpea Spinach Curry came onto my roster because I had just bought a box of spinach for something that it turned out I wasn’t in the mood to make. I didn’t want it to go to waste. I always have chickpeas on hand and the spices in my pantry so I searched online until I found this recipe. As always, when preparing to make something new, I look at 5 or 6 versions online or in cookbooks and then pick and choose the parts I like best. I only made a couple of tweaks to this recipe to suit our tastes. While I wasn’t familiar with the website, I’ve become quite good at knowing if a recipe will work just from reading it.

As I have mentioned many times, my husband and I eat and both bake a lot of bread in our house. So I served this with store-bought naan, warmed in the oven. If you are in the mood or made it ahead, my Flaky Flatbread would also be a wonderful accompaniment. I love to make the flaky flatbread or a stuffed spinach flatbread, which I hope to post soon. They freeze beautifully and also keep well wrapped up in the refrigerator. So when I have the time and am in the mood, I make a stack to have on hand.

A simple winter dessert of spiced fruit compote that I made last week, with some gingersnaps on the side made for a satisfying and mostly very healthy meal. Every winter I prepare compote made from dried fruits in a spiced sugar syrup. It lasts most of the winter in a glass jar in the fridge. Wonderful as is or over any simple pound cake or olive oil cake, it makes a lovely end to a simple meal. It is especially great after a spicy meal, balancing out the spiciness to perfection.

Whether you are going for a meatless Monday or are vegetarian or vegan, this meal will not disappoint!

Recipe

Chickpea Spinach Curry

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

3 tbsp sunflower or canola oil
1 large onion finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
1 inch ginger, finely grated (No need to remove the skin)
1 Tablespoon ground coriander
1/2 Tablespoon ground turmeric
1/2 Tablespoon ground cumin
1/4 – 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper or chili flakes
1.5 cups crushed tomatoes (400g) (An average 14.5 oz. can)
3 cups cooked chickpeas (500g) (About 2 average cans. Exact amounts are not essential here)
3/4 cup vegetable stock (177 ml) or 1 bouillon cube dissolved in 3/4 cup of water.
1 cup frozen chopped spinach or 142 gm fresh/frozen chopped spinach (5 oz. box)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp garam masala
1 tablespoon lemon juice or to taste (I used 1/2 of a juicy lemon)


OPTIONAL:

About 5oz. full-fat coconut milk or unsweetened coconut creme (148 ml) (The coconut creme available to me comes in a 5 oz. can which was perfect. If you use up coconut milk pretty quickly then leftover milk from a larger can is no problem. You can also freeze leftover coconut milk in an ice cube tray and pop them out whenever needed.)

Garnish
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro leaves (coriander leaves)

Yogurt (milk or non-dairy)

Directions

Chickpea Spinach Curry


Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium-high setting. Sauté the finely chopped onion until golden, about 10 minutes.

Add the crushed or minced garlic and grated ginger and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently, until the garlic doesn’t smell raw anymore.

Mix in the next four ingredients (ground coriander, turmeric, cumin, and cayenne) and toast for two minutes stirring often.

Add the crushed tomatoes, chickpeas and vegetable stock. Increase the heat to high and
once boiling, lower to medium-low to maintain at a simmer for 10 minutes, stirring every now
and then.

Add 1/2 tsp salt, the sugar, and the spinach. If the spinach is frozen increase the heat until the
curry is bubbling away again. Simmer for an additional five minutes.

Add the garam masala, lemon juice and coconut milk and stir. Sprinkle over the chopped
cilantro leaves and serve hot.

Easy Peasy Vegan Shawarma

Easy Peasy Vegan Shawarma

This Easy Peasy Vegan Shawarma is a great weeknight meal with lots of bold flavor. And it’s ready in under an hour. It is a feel-good meal that even meat lovers can enjoy. The thick-cut Portobello mushrooms can be purchased pre-sliced in most stores these days to speed up the process even further. And their meaty texture and taste have just the right mouthfeel for a satisfying dinner.

Easy Peasy Vegan Shawarma is wonderful stuffed into a pita with all the toppings. It would also be equally delicious on a bed of steamed Basmati rice or couscous with the salad on the side. And let’s talk about those sides. You are only limited by your time and imagination. Some things are easily bought if you are really short on time or inclination and others are quickly made while the shawarma cooks.

I always like to have a number of salads and dips on hand. With pre-cooked beets (canned or from the produce section) you can easily have Moroccan Beet Salad ready in minutes. And while nothing beats my homemade hummus, there are a number of respectable options available in grocery stores. Persian cucumbers diced with cut-up tomatoes, olives and lots of mint, dill and fresh cilantro is another easy option.

If you have lentil or chickpea salad on hand, these are also great accompaniments.

Below you will see that this recipe includes a quickly pickled cabbage to put on top of the shawarma. Fresh arugula would also be delicious or pickled onion instead or in addition. The salads and sides lend bright colors and textures and we do eat with our eyes as well as our mouths. So if you think going meatless has to be dull, think again! This is a great Meatless Monday option, but also great any day of the week.

Salatim

Recipe

Easy Peasy Vegan Shawarma

Yield: 4 Servings

Ingredients

12 ounces Portobello mushrooms, sliced 1/2-inch thick

1 medium red onion, halved and cut into 1/3-inch wedges

3 Tablespoons EVOO

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper (to taste)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground paprika (sweet or smoked)

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

For Serving

4 pitas (I like whole wheat) or cooked basmati rice or couscous

Easy yogurt (dairy or non-dairy) topping mixed with turmeric, salt and pepper OR tahini mixed with lemon juice, garlic, salt and ice water

Pickled cabbage (See below)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Raise the oven rack to the next to highest level so that it is about 6 to 8 inches from the heat element.

Place the mushroom slices and the onion wedges on a rimmed half sheet pan. Mix all of the spices, salt and pepper together in a small bowl. Using clean hands (or tongs), toss the mushrooms and onion with 3 Tablespoons of EVOO and the spice mixture. Arrange in a single layer.

Easy Peasy Vegan Mushroom Shawarma

Roast until tender and browned. About 20 minutes. However, ovens vary so check it at 18 minutes.

Warm the pita for serving.

Pickled Cabbage

Thinly slice about 3 cups of cabbage. Red or green cabbage works and you can usually purchase these pre-sliced if you prefer. Place in a bowl and toss with 2 teaspoons of EVOO, juice of 1/2 a lemon and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. If you have it, sprinkle with ground sumac and some freshly chopped cilantro. This can be made earlier in the day or while the mushrooms cook.

Pickled Cabbage

Garnish with freshly chopped herbs – whatever you have on hand works. Now eat!

Easy Peasy Vegan Shawarma

Vegan Mushroom Walnut Pâté

Vegan Mushroom Walnut Pâté

Vegan Mushroom Walnut Pâté makes a delicious addition to your holiday table. Once upon a time I used to make a vegetarian mushroom pâté. It wasn’t beautiful, but it was delicious. Frankly, it was a bit of a pain to make in the pre-food processor days. However, it went very well with roast turkey or chicken and was worth the extra effort for holidays and special occasions. And it was especially yummy in sandwiches the following day. But those of you who follow my blog know that I am trying to prepare more vegan dishes. I initially got interested in vegan cooking because my godson was deathly allergic to eggs AND his family keeps kosher, which means they won’t mix milk and meat – among other things. So finding – or developing – great vegan recipes became an imperative.

Now, though, I try to cook vegetarian and vegan meals for me and my husband several times a week. While my reasons are for better health as well as the welfare of the planet, I wouldn’t do it if I couldn’t make meals that were delicious and satisfying. It doesn’t hurt that my favorite cuisines are Mediterranean/Middle Eastern and South Asian, both of which have a rich heritage of vegetarian and vegan dishes.

You certainly don’t have to be vegan to enjoy this Vegan Mushroom Walnut Pâté. It’s a wonderful make-ahead side or appetizer that can be enjoyed by anyone – unless allergic to mushrooms or walnuts that is. So if you are looking for something a bit different to try for the holidays, give this Vegan Mushroom Walnut Pâté a go. It still isn’t pretty (but what pâté is?) and it still is delicious! Spread it on crackers or some Melba toast and enjoy it with a Crackling Vermentino or other sparkling wine. Mmmmmmmmm!

For an alternative Vegan Mushroom Pâté that is not baked try:

Mushroom Walnut Pâté

You can’t go wrong with either one.

Recipe

Vegan Mushroom Walnut Pâté

Yield: About 10 servings

Ingredients

2 Tablespoons EVOO

1 pound of mushrooms, white, cremini or baby bellas, quartered

1/2 cup chopped walnuts, lightly toasted in a dry pan

1 shallot, peeled and chopped

1 cup chopped fresh fennel or celery

Handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1.25 cups fine, dried bread crumbs – plain or seasoned

1 pound silken tofu

1 Tablespoon nutritional yeast

1 teaspoon each: dried thyme, basil and oregano

1.5 teaspoons kosher salt

generous pinch of cayenne (Optional)

Directions

Oil or use a cooking spray to coat an 8 X 4-inch loaf pan. Line the pan with cooking parchment and oil that as well. Cut a piece of parchment large enough to sit on the top of the pâté mixture in the pan. Set the pan aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat the EVOO in a large sauté pan and add the chopped shallot and fennel or celery. Sprinkle with about 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt. Sauté until the mixture begins to soften. Then add the chopped parsley and bread crumbs. Stir through to moisten everything. Turn off the heat.

While the vegetables were sautéing, place the mushrooms and silken tofu in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse the mixture until everything begins to break down. Add in the nutritional yeast, dried herbs and the veggie/breadcrumb mixture. Pulse until smooth.

Add in the walnuts and just pulse 3 or 4 times quickly. If you prefer not to have bits of walnut in the finished product, you can pulse the mixture a few more times, until it is smooth throughout.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Add the oiled parchment on top of the mixture so that it is right against it. Give the pan a tap on the counter to make sure that everything is even and there are no air bubbles. Place in the hot oven and bake for 1.5 hours. Allow to cool completely.

Vegan Mushroom Walnut Pâté

If you are not going to serve it as soon as it is cool, refrigerate it in the pan. Remove the pan from the fridge about an hour before you are ready to serve. Carefully remove the piece of parchment that is on top and invert the pan onto your serving plate or board. Peel off the remaining parchment paper. Garnish as desired.

Lisa’s Challah Revisited

World’s Best Challah

When the Good Angel Visits

I’ve decided to take another look at some of my recipes and this week it is Lisa’s Challah Revisited. It isn’t always about blogging something new, but instead, it’s reminding people just how good a recipe is. Shabbat may come every week, but it still is the most important holiday in the Jewish calendar after Yom Kippur. It is an island in time where we don’t answer the phones or watch TV. No matter how busy and hectic the week was, we always sit down as a family, to a table set with our best glasses and dishes and a lovely meal. We light the Sabbath candles, sing songs and b’rachot (blessings) and take the time to really be present for one another.

When my son was little he would help me clean up and prepare the table. Like all children, he would sometimes balk. So I told him the story about how two angels would come to our house each week – a good angel and a bad angel. If the bad angel saw us fighting and the house not ready to welcome Shabbat, he would tell the good angel that he had won control and that our family would have a bad Shabbat and following week. But if our house was in order, the table set and we were into the spirit of Shabbat, including giving tzedekah for those less fortunate then she would turn to the bad angel and say that she had won control. Our house and family would be blessed with a peaceful Shabbat and a good week. Not surprisingly, the good angel won more times than not. These are precious memories and traditions that we built and ones that our son now continues with his family.

So why am I revisiting my challah recipe if I had made it for decades? Well for a long time now I was only making my Vegan Challah. We would celebrate Shabbat with my niece’s family and since her son is deathly allergic to eggs I developed a challah recipe that everyone could enjoy. I never wanted my great-nephew and godson to miss out on anything because of his allergies. If you are vegan or have a food allergy, this is a great recipe. However, as good as that recipe is, it simply is not the same as traditional egg challah. Now that my niece has moved away and we have our first grandchild, I wanted to ensure that she would grow up with the absolute best traditional challah. Lisa’s Challah Revisited delivers. It is everything an eggy, tender, sweet challah should be.

So Why the Need for a New Recipe?

I returned to my original challah recipe that I had developed over two decades. The only problem was that it no longer worked for me. I couldn’t put my finger on the problem, but after several less than stellar attempts, I decided to go back to the drawing board and start from scratch. Thus Lisa’s Challah Revisited. My husband and I now make this every week. We recently returned from visiting our beautiful granddaughter in San Francisco and we passed on this improved version to our son, who is the challah maker in his family.

Making Challah When You Work

Clearly it is easier to bake bread when you are at home all day. But there still are ways to enjoy homemade challah even if you work outside the home. You can start it the night before and then refrigerate the dough to slow down the rising process, completing the last rising and baking after you return home. I used to prepare my dough before I left for work and then brought a sealed plastic bucket of dough with me to the office where I could punch it down as needed until I was able to leave for the day. Bread can be pretty forgiving and an extra rising will just make for a finer crumb. Of course the first time I did this my supervisor came into my office and asked if I had been drinking beer! The yeasty smell had permeated the office. After that, though, my co-workers used to like to come into my office to check out the dough and even to punch it down on occasion. So if you don’t work from home, you can still bake your own challah. Nothing gets me in the mood for Shabbat quite like the smell and taste of fresh baked challah. If you can’t do it every week (and the bread can be frozen as well so you can make a big batch) at least make it for a special Shabbat or holiday.

I believe that welcoming and observing Shabbat is the most beautiful tradition we Jews have. And in this crazy world we live in it is actually a necessity for keeping our sanity and bringing families and loved ones together. But the truth is, you don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy this bread.

Tradition

A word about tradition. When it comes to food, I am all about tradition. I understand that with the plethora of food blogs and bloggers out there, everyone is looking for the new “it” recipe to fill space and gain new followers. Over time, I have even tried many of these recipes and rarely do I find that they are an improvement. New is not necessarily better, especially when it comes to food. So you can take your stuffed challah and challah using all kinds of different grains and strange ingredients. For my money and my family, Lisa’s Challah is the one that will stand the test of time. The only tweaks that I will allow are whether to use raisins or not (my husband loves them; my son – not so much) and to add sesame or poppy seeds to the glaze or to leave it plain. Okay, I did once make my vegan challah using chocolate chips instead of raisins as a special treat for the children.

The Pupil Surpasses the Teacher

And while this recipe and method is mine, I will happily admit that the student has surpassed the teacher. My husband retired a few years ago and has taken an interest in doing some cooking. And after 35 years of preparing three meals a day, I’m very happy for him to occasionally cook a meal for us. He started helping me to bake bread when the arthritis in my hands got bad and now he has become the challah maker every week. Our son also is making his family’s challah and I couldn’t be prouder. And while I am always on hand to give advice and check the dough, I have to give credit where it is due. My husband is way better at braiding than I ever was and he creates a beautiful and consistent challah week after week.

Lisa’s Challah Revisited

I am including this recipe exactly as my husband has written it down. Since he was a complete novice at bread baking, he needed to have the recipe make sense for him. If he could learn to make THE best challah, you can too. We enjoy this bread every shabbat and all week long. Left-overs make great toast with butter and cinnamon or honey or french toast. You can also make next week’s dessert using left-over challah for the best bread pudding. This recipe makes one large loaf. It can be doubled or divided into two small loaves. If you do the latter, you will have to reduce your baking time by about 12 to 15 minutes,

Recipe

Yield: 1 large loaf

Ingredients

2.25 teaspoons active dried yeast

1/3 cup warm water (It should feel warm to your finger, but not burning)

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

½ cup warm water

2 X-tra large eggs, at room temperature

1.5 teaspoons kosher salt

¼ cup canola oil

1/8 cup honey

3+ cups flour – either all-purpose, unbleached flour or bread flour (I prefer to use bread flour, but all-purpose will work too)

1/3 cup raisins, tossed with ¼ tsp. all-purpose unbleached flour (Optional)

1/3 cup of granulated sugar

1 egg, beaten for the glaze

Directions

  1. Place yeast, 2 teaspoons of sugar and 1/3 cup warm (to the touch) water in a large bowl and mix well. Allow the yeast to proof for 8 to 10 minutes.
  2. Once the yeast is bubbly, add the remaining 1/2 cup warm water, eggs, salt, oil, honey and 1 cup of flour. Using a wooden spoon, stir the mixture for 100 strokes.
  3. Add 1 more cup of flour and the raisins and stir through.
  4. Add 1/3 cup of granulated sugar and one more cup of flour and mix using a wooden spoon or a dough scraper until there are no more visible shreds of dough. If the dough still looks wet, add another 1/4 to 1/3 cup of flour and stir or knead to incorporate. Cover the bowl with a tea towel or plastic wrap and allow it to rest for 12 minutes. (This allows the gluten to begin to form and prevents you from adding more flour than is needed, which would make for a heavier bread.)
  5. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it for about 10 minutes, adding flour by the tablespoonful only as needed to keep the dough from sticking (usually about 1/4 cup). You want to use as little as possible to produce a supple, unsticky dough. You know you have kneaded enough when you poke two holes in the dough with your fingers and it springs back quickly.
  6. Form the dough into a tight ball and place back in the bowl which has been coated with about 1 to 2 teaspoons of canola oil. Roll the dough in the oil to coat and then cover the bowl. I use a towel, but plastic wrap also works.
  7. Place the dough in a draft-free spot like the microwave and allow it to rise for about 1.5 to 2 hours. The dough will have doubled and you know it is ready when you poke two fingers into the dough and the holes remain.
  8. Punch down the dough, removing any air bubbles. Turn out onto a clean surface and pat the dough into a rectangle. Using your dough scraper or a knife, cut the dough in half lengthwise and then cut each half lengthwise in half again until you have 4 mostly equal strands. Try not to stretch the strands too much.
  9. Lay the strands lengthwise next to, but not touching one another. Place the top ends of the strands together.

Braiding the Challah

There are many videos and instructions out there on how to braid challah using 3, 4, 5 and 6 strands. Find one that works for you and go with it. My husband followed this video and so far it has consistently produced a beautiful 4-strand braid.

We now have four strands of dough. The left-most is in position 1, the next one is in position 2, the next is in position 3, and the right-most is in position 4. When we say “pick up strand 1 and move it to position 3” we mean that you should pick up the left-most strand (at position 1), move it to the right –  jumping over two strands – and then put it down.  The strands you jumped over are now in positions 1 and 2, your strand is now in position 3, and the right-most strand is in position 4.

  1. Without pulling (just lift) pick up strand 1 and move it to position 3. Then pick up strand 4 and move it to position 2. Finally, pick up strand 3 and move it to position 2. Keep repeating this pattern until you come to the bottom.
  2. If it starts to narrow too much, simply fold the dough underneath.
  3. Press the bottom strands together. Press the top strands together. Carefully move the braid (using the dough scraper to help) onto a baking sheet covered with parchment or a silicon mat. Spray lightly with cooking spray, cover with a tented piece of waxed paper and allow to rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  4. While the bread is rising, heat your oven to 350 degrees F. Beat the remaining egg.
  5. When the dough has risen, paint it several times with the egg mixture. If you are adding sesame or poppy seeds, sprinkle them across the painted dough. Then carefully paint them one more time to be sure they adhere as much as possible. Discard any remaining egg. Place the dough in the oven and bake for about 45 minutes, turning halfway if your oven is uneven like mine. Bake until the bread is a beautiful brown and sounds hollow when tapped with your knuckles or a wooden spoon. Remove the bread to a cooling rack.

Italian Prune Plums Take Two

img_2167This cake just oozes plums. Unlike the polenta pound cake where the plums are a delicious accent, here the plums are the star. I took Deb Perelman’s mom’s apple cake recipe and adapted it slightly to make this luscious, moist, plummy cake. You can’t go wrong with either plum cake. Next year – plum frangiapane tart!

Italian Prune Plum Cake adapted from Deb Perelman’s Mon’s Apple Cake

Yield: 1 large cake that serves 12 to 16

Ingredients

3 pounds of Italian prune plums

1 rounded Tablespoon ground cinnamon

2 cups plus 5 Tablespoons of granulated sugar

2.75 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1 Tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

1 cup Canola oil

1/4 cup vanilla soy milk (or other milk)

2.5 teaspoons vanilla bean paste

4 large eggs

1 generous cup chopped walnuts

1 generous Tablespoon Cognac or other brandy

Zest of one lemon

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Using a non-stick spray with flour, generously spray a 10 inch tube pan with straight sides.
  2. Halve, pit and chop the plums into about 12 pieces. Toss them with the cinnamon and 5 Tablespoons of the sugar and set them aside.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, soy milk, remaining 2 cups of sugar, vanilla bean paste and the eggs.
  4. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ones,scraping down the bowl. Stir in the walnuts.
  5. Pour and spread about half of the batter into the prepared tub pan. Spread half of the plums on top of the batter. Pour and spread the remaining batter over the plums and then the remaining plums over the batter, gently pressing down on the plums.
  6. Bake for about 1 hour and 50 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Ovens vary so start checking the cake after 1.5 hours.When ready, remove the pan to a rack to cool completely. Then flip the cake out onto the rack and using a plate, flip the cake again so the plums are now on top. When ready to serve, you can dust with confectioner’s sugar if you like. It’s pretty, but not necessary. The plums will have a wonderful tart/sweet plummy taste and the cake towards the top will almost have a slight custardy texture. The cake will keep well for several days if wrapped properly or if kept under a cake dome. Treat yourself! They are so pretty and actually useful.

Apple Cake – Take 2

apple cake

Frances and I always tell each other what we are making and recipes that we discovered. We send each other photos and our respective husbands drool. So when I heard that Frances was making an apple cake for the holidays, I decided that it sounded like a good idea. Mine is adapted from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman. Frances turned me on to her website about a year ago and she is often a fun read for me when work is less than exciting. I have to admit that I prefer reading her blog than making her recipes, but I already knew that Frances had made this cake with great success. Since I am almost incapable of NOT changing a recipe, I made several tweaks – and one BIG mistake, which turned out to be actually quite a good discovery. Here is my version.

Apple Cake – adapted from Deb Perelman’s Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Yield: 12 – 16 servings

Ingredients

6 baking apples like MacIntosh, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2 to 3/4 inch cubes ( I happened to be at the Farmer’s Market, so was able to purchase some heirloom baking variety apple to use)

1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon

2 cups plus 5 Tablespoons granulated sugar (See NOTE below. You can use less sugar if you want. I would think that 1.5 cups is perfect plus the 5 Tablespoons)

2.5 cups all purpose unbleached flour

1/4 cup toasted wheat germ (I like Kretschmer’s)

1 Tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

1 cup Canola oil

1/4 cup orange juice

2.5 teaspoons vanilla bean paste

2 Tablespoons brandy or cognac

Zest of one orange

4 large eggs

1 cup walnuts, chopped

Confectioner’s sugar for sifting over the top

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and generously butter or coat with nonstick spray a 10 inch tube pan with straight sides (think Angel Food cake pan).
  2. Peel, core and chop the apples and toss them with the cinnamon and 5 Tablespoons of the granulated sugar. Add the orange zest.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Then add the wheat germ, which won’t go through the sifter. In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, orange juice, remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, vanilla bean paste, brandy and eggs.
  4. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ones, scraping down the bowl to make sure that everything is thoroughly combined. Stir in the walnuts.
  5. Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan. Spread half of the apple chunks over it. Pour the remaining batter over the apples and arrange the remaining apples on top. Bake for about 1.5 hours or until the tester comes out clean. You can learn to smell when baked goods are ready. Set your timer, but try seeing if you can smell when the cake is done. It’s a good skill to learn because every oven is different and timing can be off.
  6. When the cake is finished, transfer it to a rack to cool completely. When it is completely cool you can flip it out of the pan and then over onto a serving platter with the apples facing down. Dust with confectioner’s sugar. This cake will get moister as it ages. It will last for about 3 days if covered.

NOTE: I have a confession to make. I got distracted when I was making the cake and only realized AFTER I had put everything nicely into the pan that I had forgotten to add the 2 cups of sugar to the batter. I didn’t panic and I didn’t want to lose the good ingredients or time I had already put into it. I suppose I could have taken everything out of the pan and mixed the apples through the cake along with the sugar, but I didn’t. I took 1/4 cup of sugar and evenly poured it over the top layer of apples. I then hoped for the best. The result was delicious apple bread. There was extra sweetness from the confectioners sugar on top. Cake would need to be somewhat sweeter in my opinion, but the texture and look was wonderful. My husband had the great idea of using Frances’ baked French toast recipe using the apple cake in place of the challah and adding 1/2 cup of raisins (no blueberries) to the mix. The point is, stuff happens – even with people who cook and bake a LOT. Don’t panic – think it through. Sometimes the experiment is great – sometimes not.

slice of apple cake

Whole Wheat Apple Cake

There’s something about adding whole wheat to cakes and cookies that always make them seem “healthier.”  If nothing else, it tends to add a subtle textural difference to the average cake.

_MG_5955

I came across this recipe from the same book that the Siniyeh came from as I wanted to make something with apples for the holidays.  This was before we went apple picking, but we were able to find some beautiful apples at the farmer’s market that I lugged on the subway home, just to make sure this turned out right!

_MG_5951

I wish I could bake cakes and cookies more, but as there are only two of us to consume them, we’ve been trying to pace our sweets.  I’ve always loved cooking and baking with apples, and it’s fun to have an excuse to look for new, inventive ways to use apples in a sweet dish.  I did substitute the EVOO for the canola oil, and it turned out delicious all the same!

This was great because I didn’t need to make a separate crust or peel the apples, and I was able to throw it together in a jiffy.  We drizzled some honey on the slices, and it was perfection.

Ingredients

  • 4 medium Golden Delicious (or any good baking apple) apples
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup EVOO
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • Honey, for drizzling (optional)

Directions

  1. Grease a 12 cup Bundt pan or tube pan well.  Coarsley chop the apples into 1/2″ pieces.  (Not necessary to peel the apples).  Preheat the oven for 350 degrees.
  2. Put the eggs, sugar, brown sugar, and oil into a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until light.  Beat in the vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg.  Mix in the all-purpose and whole wheat flours and baking soda until just combined.  Batter will be very thick.
  3. Stir in the fruits and nuts by hand.
  4. Turn out the batter into the prepared pan, and bake at 350 degrees for about 80-90 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  5. Cool on a pan on a rack for 15 minutes, then turn the cake out of the pan to cool completely on a wire rack.
  6. Serve with drizzled honey or sprinkling of confectioner’s sugar.

Adapted from The New Jewish Holiday Cookbook by Gloria Kaufer Greene

Greek Red Lentil Soup

finished red lentil soupThe days are so changeable now. One day its 90 and humid and the next it’s in the 60s. Soup is the perfect meal for days like that and this simple, and very flavorful Greek red lentil soup is vegan and totally satisfying. However, if you wish to add some sausage to it or a dollop of Greek yogurt when serving it, I certainly won’t complain. All this needs is good bread and a simple green salad. This soup is so quick and delicious, I have even made it before leaving the house for work! What’s not to love? Afterall, Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of these delicious lentils.

Greek Red Lentil Soup adapted from soup served at George’s Restaurant in Astoria, NY

Yield: 6 -8 first course servings or 4 dinner servings

Ingredients:

2 Tablespoons EVOO

1 large onion, chopped (1 cup)

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

Kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste

2 carrots diced or cut into rounds about 1/8 inch thick (about 1 cup)

2 stalks celery, sliced thinly or diced (about 1 cup)

4 cups vegetable stock or chicken stock

1 cup water

2 bay leaves

1.5 cups dried red lentils, picked through and rinsed (try to buy the really small red lentils, although either large or small will work) dried red lentils

1 28 ounce can or 1 large box of Pomi chopped tomatoes, with the liquid

1 teaspoon dried basil, crushed

1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed

Fresh basil leaves or fresh thyme for serving (optional)

Directions:

  1. In a 5-6 quart pot with a lid, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until translucent – about 3 minutes
  2. Add the garlic, salt and pepper and saute for another 3 minutes, stirring occasionally (How much salt you use will depend on several factors: tomatoes and celery are high in natural sodium and I use unsalted stock. I don’t like things heavily salted becasue I want to taste the food not the salt. However, your tastes may be different and you may use stock that is already salted. You can always add salt later.)
  3. Add the celery and carrot and saute for another 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. lentil soup stage 1
  4. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover the pot partially and simmer for 35 minutes, or until the lentils and vegetables are tender. Remove the bay leaves before serving.

NOTE: The soup is ready to go at this point, but if you are serving it as a first course to company and you want it to be a bit more elegant, take an immersion blender (thank you Matthew and Frances for that wonderful GIFT!) and puree the soup to the desired consistency. You can do this in a blender but make certain that the soup is cool and you do this in batches. I learned the hard way about the mess that blending hot soup can make. Garnish with fresh basil leaves or fresh thyme if you have it.

Lentil Salad with Raisins, Tomatoes and Tarragon

Lentil Raisin salad with tarragon

I absolutely love lentils – any lentils. The red ones or the tiny lentils de puy or even the lowly but versatile green lentil. I love them in salads and soups and mixed in pilaf. They are a wonderful source of protein, especially when eaten with whole grains.           Lentils uncooked

In Israel, every meal, including breakfast starts with salads – multiple salads. While this lentil salad doesn’t come directly from any particular cuisine, it is certainly inspired by Mediterranean cooking. If you can find fresh tarragon, I encourage you to use it. If not, this salad will still be delicious using only a good French dried Tarragon. it will lose a bit of its lustre if kept for a couple of days, but none of its taste or texture. It’s a great way to get children to eat this magical legume because of the raisins. Try it.                            raisins

Lentil Raisin Salad

Yileds: 6-8 generous servings

Ingredients:

1.25 cups dried green lentils

1 teaspoon dried tarragon

1 teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons Fig Vinegar or white wine vinegar

1/4 cup EVOO

1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered

1/2 of a small onion thinly sliced or chopped

1/2 cup raisins (dark, light or mixed)

1 Tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped or 1 additional teaspoon dried

Freshly cracked black pepper

Directions:

  1. After picking through the lentils to make sure that there are no tiny stones or grains, place them in a medium pot and cover with water by about 2 inches. Add the dried tarragon. I like to layer my seasonings so not only do I put tarragon into the mixed salad but I cook the lentils with tarragon. You can also add a little salt if you want but I don’t. Bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat to a strong simmer and cookuncovered for about 18 minutes. Drain well and run cold water over the lentils to stop the cooking.
  2. While the lentils are cooking, prepare the other ingredients in a bowl and toss well. Add the lentils once they have cooled. Enjoy!Lentil raisin sald stage 1