The “I can make it better at home” Cauliflower Salad

Roasted Cauliflower Salad

One of my pet peeves is going to a restaurant and being charged a ridiculous amount for a dish that I know I can make just as well, if not better, myself at home. Case in point: I recently ate out at a very trendy little Tel Aviv restaurant near Carmel Market where portions were small and prices were inversely proportional. One of the little dishes that arrived at the table was a roasted cauliflower side, with a blob of tehina and some fresh tomato sauce on top. It was delicious, but for the price, it infuriated me. I was paying the price of a main course at any other good restaurant for a few small florets of cauliflower, very simply cooked and served. For that price I could have bought about 10 heads of cauliflower at my local expensive supermarket.

So with thoughts of  the Neiman Marcus chocolate chip cookie recipe urban legend at the back of my mind, I decided to replicate the dish at home, and share the recipe. The fact is that unlike a cookie recipe, it’s not very difficult to figure out what went into the over-priced side dish. This is such a simple dish that you’ll be making it whenever you entertain, and it won’t be very expensive, and this isn’t an urban legend.

ROASTED CAULIFLOWER SALAD

Ingredients

1 large head of cauliflower cut into bite sized florets, washed and dried

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

Ground kosher salt

¼ cup of tehina paste

Cold water

1 clove of garlic crushed

Juice of half a lemon

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley

Salt and pepper

3 large very ripe tomatoes

How to do it

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (350°F)
  2. Line a large baking tray with baking paper and drizzle the olive oil evenly over the surface. Toss the florets through the olive oil so that they are coated lightly and grind the salt over the cauliflower.
  3. Bake for about 10 minutes, then give the cauliflower a stir around so it bakes evenly. Bake for another 5 minutes or just until starting to yield when you stick a fork into a piece. Don’t overcook the cauliflower or it will be mushy. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool to room temperature.
  4. Mix the tehina paste with the lemon juice, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper, and add the water slowly until you get to a slightly runny consistency – you don’t want it too watery – but it should flow off the spoon. Set aside.
  5. Wash the tomatoes and chop each one into about 8 pieces (no need to peel them). Place them in a food processor with a pinch or two of salt and process them until you have an even sauce (do not liquify). Set aside.
  6. Assemble the dish on a platter. First the cauliflower, then drizzle the tehina over the cauliflower and end off with the tomato sauce drizzled over the tehina. You can put as much of the sauces as you want.

Serve at room temperature. Serves about 8 as a side dish or salad.

Fish Pie Made Easy

Fish Pie

I tend to whine about fish. Not all fish, mainly fish in Israel. It’s just not great, and you can see in my archives that I don’t have a whole lot of recipes because I’m never very inspired by the fish available here. The flipside is that I love eating fish.

Watch any British cooking show and the famous Fish Pie will often make an appearance. I’ve always like the idea of a fish pie because it’s a good way to disguise fish that isn’t magnificent. The classic English fish pie features wonderful smoked haddock. It’s easy to find in the UK and in South Africa, but certainly not in any stores in Israel, and I imagine that you’d have to go to a specialty store in the US to find it. Having been put off from trying to make a fish pie for this reason for years, I recently decided to just give it a go. I messed about with a few recipes, and the result was a very tasty and colorful fish pie. I happily now have an additional fish dish in my repertoire and it’s a crowd pleaser too.

With winter just around the corner, this is a good recipe to have on hand and it firmly fall into the comfort food category.

Ingredients

1 kg potatoes

3-4 tablespoons butter

1 carrot very finely diced

2 sticks celery very finely diced

Olive oil

150 g good-quality Cheddar cheese

Juice of 1 lemon

½ fresh red chilli finely chopped

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

400 g skinned salmon fillets

400 g skinned fillets of a firm white fish – hake/bass/meagre (if you live in a country where you can get smoked haddock, use haddock)

200 g fake shrimp (optional). If you can’t get hold of this product in your supermarket, increase the quantity of the fish in equal parts.

2 ripe tomatoes , quartered

Salt and Pepper

1 beaten egg

How to do it

  1. Peel and cut the potatoes into chunks. Add them to a large pot of cold salted water. Bring the water to a boil, and simmer until the potatoes are fully cooked through (when you pierce them with a fork they will easily yield.  Drain the water off. In the same pot, add the butter, salt and pepper and mash together until smooth. You can also use olive oil instead of butter if you’re feeling healthy. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, saute the vegetables in a pan in some olive oil until soft.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F)

    Fish mixture

    Fish mixture

  4. Lightly grease a deep oven proof dish. Cut the fishes into bite size chunks and mix them in a large mixing bowl. Add the sauteed vegetables, cheese, chilli, parsley, lemon juice, tomatoes and a drizzle of olive oil over all of it. Grind some black pepper and salt over the top and mix it all together. Spread evenly into the baking dish.
  5. Spread the mashed potatoes over the top of the fish mixture. Brush the top of the potato with some beaten egg.
  6. Bake for 40 minutes.

Serves about 6.

A Decadent Lemon Cake for your Succot Entertaining

Triple Layer Lemon Cake

Succot is almost here. It’s the week of non-stop entertaining, or, if you’re lucky, getting invited out and maybe having to make one thing for the meal. I love it when that happens to me because that’s when I get to invest a lot of energy in one dish that takes too much time to make when you’ve got a whole meal on your cooking agenda.

Lemon cakes are a favorite of mine. Their sweet tartness is the perfect way to round off a meal. This is a cake I eyed in the Better Home and Gardens New Cook Book for a very long time before taking it on because it is quite a bit of work. But if you’ve got something to celebrate, it’s a winner. I made this as a birthday cake for my father-in-law’s 80th birthday. It’s that kind of cake. I had made a dairy meal, which after all the meat eating we’ve been doing over Rosh Hashana is not a bad idea at all, and it was the perfect dessert.

Don’t be put off by the fact that it’s 3 layers – it makes it fun and it just means an extra round of baking if you have a European-sized oven, as I do. Make your own lemon curd – it’s not difficult and it’s so good when it’s fresh and home made. You can make it ahead of time and refrigerate it.

The result is a large, festive and delicious cake that feeds a whole bunch of people.

TRIPLE LAYER LEMON CAKE

Lemon Curd

Ingredients

½ cup sugar

1 tablespoon corn flour

1½ teaspoons lemon zest

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

3 tablespoons water

3 beaten egg yolks

¼ cup butter

How to do it

Le,on Cake Stacked and awaiting frosting

Stacked and awaiting frosting

  1. In a small saucepan, stip together the sugar, cornflour, lemon juice, zest and water until you have a smooth mixture.
  2. Cook over medium heat until the mixture has thickened and is bubbling.
  3. Beat the yolks in a small bowl. Add half the lemon mixture to the bowl while stirring vigorously so that the yolks don’t curdle. When well combined, add the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat while constantly stirring until the mixture comes to a gentle boil (medium-sized bubbles). Continue cooking for a another 2-3 minutes until the mixture is nice and thick.
  4. Remove from the heat and add the butter, stirring until it’s fully melted.
  5. Cover the whole surface of the curd with plastic wrap – the plastic should be touching the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Chill for an hour or overnight if you want to make this ahead of time. If you do, when you take it out the next day, give it a good stir to loosen it up again.

Cake

Ingredients

1 cup butter

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

2 1/3 cups flour

1½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

Pinch of salt

2 teaspoons lemon zest

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 cup buttermilk

How to do it

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC (350ºF)
  2. Line 3 20 or 22 cm (8 or 9 inch) round cake pans with baking paper and spray them with non-stick spray. If you only have 2 then prepare them and you will keep aside one third of the cake mix and bake the third layer separately.
  3. In an electric mixer beat the butter for 30 second till softened. Add the lemon zest, juice and sugar and beat until well combined.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time on high speed till very well mixed – mixture should be fluffy.
  5. Turn the mixer down to low speed, add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt alternately with the buttermilk, beating until just combined.
  6. Spread the mixture evenly between the baking pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool the layers on a cake rack for 15 minutes then turn them out and cool completely so they are ready for assembly.

    The cut lemon cake

    The cut cake

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients

180g (6 oz) cream cheese (at least 25% fat)

½ cup softened butter

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Up to 4¾ cups powdered sugar

How to do it

  1. In a mixer, beat the cheese, butter and lemon juice on medium speed until light and fluffy
  2. Slowly add the powdered sugar until you have a good spreading consistency – the mixture should clump around the beater but be soft to the touch. It must not be running in any way.

Assembling the cake

  1. Turn out two of the cake layers, bottom side up (flat side). Give the lemon curd a mix so it’s spreadable and spread half the curd on the first layer. Place the second layer of cake round side down on top of the first. Spread the rest of the curd on top of that layer. Place the third layer round side up on top of the 2 layers.
  2. Frost the top and sides of the cake.

Antipasti Lasagna – a Vegetarian Feast

Antipasti Lasagna

Traditional lasagna is not something you’ll be seeing recipes for on this blog. But the lasagna framework is a fun one for trying new things. This recipe is not so new to me. I’ve been making it for years. A couple of months ago I opened by blog to get the recipe (for me, this blog is where I store all my favorite recipes) and I was shocked to find that I had never posted this one. So it’s time to rectify that error.

I cannot say that this recipe is a quick fix dish – it has a few steps and does require time and effort. but the result is just spectacular. The roasted vegetables lighten up the dish and make it a great summer pasta main course, great for vegetarians. Don’t be shy with the vegetables – use your favorite antipasti veggies – the more the merrier.

Ingredients

Antipasti

2 tablespoons oil

4 large  red peppers cut into quarters (I slice the cheeks off the core of the pepper to avoid using the white bits)

1 medium sized eggplant peeled cubed into 2 cm pieces

1 large onion peeled and cut into 8 segments (cut the onion in half then with the round side down, slice from the middle outwards at an angle so you get 4 crescents from each half)

3 medium sized zucchinis cubed into 2 cm pieces

6-7 large mushrooms washed and stemmed cubed into 2 cm pieces or 2 cups of small fresh mushrooms washed,stemmed and quartered

1 whole head of garlic (remove the loose papery skins on the outside by hand but leave the inner layers on)

Coarse salt

(Make sure you have enough cubed vegetables to amply fill a large (European) oven baking tray – about 10 cups full)

Lasagna

1 batch basic tomato sauce without the onion

18-20 lasagna noodles (the ones that don’t require pre-cooking – I use Barilla)

 

250 g (12 oz) ricotta cheese

1 egg

Salt and ground black pepper

400 g (14 oz) grated mozzarella cheese

100 g (3.5 oz) grated Parmesan cheese

How to do it

Antipasti

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (350°F)

2. On an oven tray lined with baking paper, sprinkle the olive oil and place all the cut vegetables in an even layer, turning them through the olive oil so they are lightly oiled. Make sure the peppers are skin side down. Sprinkle lightly with salt.

3. Place in the upper part of the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Then, using tongs, turn over the peppers and stir the rest of the veggies around. Bake for another 20-25 minutes, or until the pepper skins start blackening.

4. Remove the peppers from the oven (leaving the rest of the veggies to roast if they are not yet cooked through for another about 10 if required). Place the peppers in a small plastic bag, seal and leave them for about 15 minutes while the rest of the veggies cool. Then remove the pepper skins – they should slide off easily.

Lasagna

1. Prepare the tomato sauce as per the recipe, including the red wine but omitting the onion

2. Beat the egg in a medium-sized bowl and add the ricotta cheese, salt and pepper and mix till smooth. Add the cooling antipasti vegetables to the ricotta mixture and gently mix together.

3. Grease a large Pyrex lasagna pan.

4. Spread about 4-5 tablespoons of tomato sauce on the bottom of the dish, just barely covering the whole surface.

5. Arrange one layer of lasagna noodles on top of the sauce (make sure there are no spaces). Break up one of the noodles to fill any gaps.

6. Carefully spread half the antipasti mixture over the noodles, then spread one third of the tomato sauce on top of the antipasti. Sprinkle just under half of the mozzarella over the sauce.

7. Then another layer of noodles, the rest of the antipasti mixture and another one third of the tomato sauce, followed by most of the remaining mozzarella – leaving about half a cup for the top.

8. Add the last layer of noodles and cover with the rest of the tomato sauce. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and the Parmesan cheese evenly over the top.

9. Place the lasagna in a pre-heated 180°C (350°F) oven for 30-35 minutes (or until the cheese on top is golden – don’t let it burn).

This serves about 8.

 

Meatballs – Great Comfort Food

Meatballs in Sweet and Sour Sauce

There’s something about meatballs in a thick and hearty sauce that makes a the cold and rain of a chilly winter’s day feel like perfect weather. For years I’ve been making a traditional Italian style meatballs in tomato sauce that goes perfectly with spaghetti. I decided to mix it up a bit this winter and make a sweet and sour version. I get a little worried when introducing change into family favorites, but this one went down a treat.

When you have a family like mine that likes to eat, especially my son who’s an athlete and needs his protein, you’ll want to make this recipe with about 1.5 kg of ground beef at least. Don’t be shy! They reheat very easily and well, if there are any leftovers.

Ingredients

Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion finely chopped

4-5 cloves of garlic crushed

1 800g (28 oz) can of crushed tomatoes (you can also use whole peeled tomatoes and crush them yourself)

2 cups of beef or chicken broth

 

½ cup brown sugar

Juice of half a small lemon (about 1 tablespoon or so)

Meat Balls

1kg (2 lb) fresh ground beef

2 large eggs

4 tablespoons ketchup

½ teaspoon meat spice (preferably BBQ flavor)

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh parsley

Salt and ground black pepper

About ½ cup of bread crumbs (preferably freshly made)

How to do it

  1. Prepare the sauce by heating the olive oil in a large pot. Saute the onions until they are soft (they will just start to color, don’t brown them). Add the crushed garlic and stir around in the pot for a few seconds until they just start to get some color (do not let them brown otherwise they will burn). Add the tomatoes, sugar, lemon and seasoning. Bring to the boil and then turn the heat down to low and let the sauce simmer uncovered for a few minutes. Turn the sauce off while you prepare the meatballs.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the egg, add the spices and ketchup, and mix together. Add the ground beef and mix well until combined. Add the breadcrumbs and mix well. Check to see that you have a consistency that allows you to shape a ball that retains its shape. If the meat mixture is too soft, add some more breadcrumbs, but don’t make the mixture too dry or your meatballs will be dry.
  3. Bring the sauce to the boil. Make small golf-ball sized meatballs (I use a heaped tablespoon to give me a consistent amount of meat per ball) and drop them carefully into the sauce. Shake the pot occasionally to ensure the meatballs are all covered with sauce. If you find that there isn’t enough sauce, then top up the pot with a little more stock, making sure you don’t add too much so as not to dilute the flavor.
  4. When all the meatballs are in the pot, turn the heat down low, cover the pot and allow the meatballs to simmer for about an hour.

This makes about 20-25 meatballs.

Serve with brown or white rice.

 

Decadence is Best Served with Chocolate

Chocolate Eclair Cake

Whenever I make cream puffs, they get snapped up. I love making them, but they are a little time consuming. So here’s a way to enjoy the decadent taste experience of a cream puff without a lot of the finicky work that’s involved. Behold, the chocolate eclair cake. Looks great, feeds a whole bunch of people and is simple to put together. It also works very well as a parev dessert.

CHOCOLATE ECLAIR CAKE

Ingredients

For the pastry

8 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine

1 cup water

1 cup flour

4 large eggs

For the cream filling

4 cups milk or soy milk

3 sachets. instant vanilla pudding

1 container cream cheese, softened (225g/8 oz) (for parev you can use one container of Tofutti cream cheese or you can add one more sachet of vanilla pudding)

1 cup sweet cream or non dairy cream

Chocolate topping

300g (12 oz) dark chocolate

100 g (4 oz) butter or margarine

How to do it

  1. Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F)
  2. In a large heavy saucepan, heat butter/margarine and water over medium-high heat until it comes to a boil. Add flour all at once. Reduce heat to low and stir quickly until the dough forms a ball and pulls away from the pan (this will take a few seconds only). Make sure all the flour is stirred into the liquid mixture.
  3. Allow the mixture to cool for about 5 minutes. Then beat in eggs, one at a time, combining well after each egg.
  4. On a large oven tray covered with baking paper, spread the dough into a large round shape, creating a lip around the sides. The base will expand in baking, so leave space around the sides. Bake for 35 minutes. Cool completely.

    Dough ready for baking

    Dough ready for baking

  5. To make the filling, beat the cream cheese with a mixer until smooth and add the milk slowly while still beating. Add pudding powder and beat until thickened. Spread over cooled shell and allow to set – at least half an hour in the fridge.
  6. To make the chocolate topping, melt the chocolate and butter/margarine over low heat, stirring constantly until smooth. Very carefully spread over the top of the vanilla pudding, making sure not to mix the chocolate with the vanilla filling.
  7. Keep refrigerated until serving. Serve on the same day.Serves about 20.

The Yellow Salad that isn’t Yellow

Yellow Couscous Salad

Sometimes you find good food in the most unlikely places. This is the story of such a dish, a salad to be exact, that I found in the most unlikely of places – a small gas station convenience store called Yellow.

I was rushing around one day, and coming from Jerusalem and on my way to Petah Tikvah, with no time for food in between. I was hungry and needed sustenance. The only place for miles was a Yellow store at a gas station. On the shelf, between the sandwiches was a small salad that looked like it may not kill me. That’s just about all I could hope for at that point – this was a gas station after all. So I bought it, closed my eyes, and started eating. This one one of the best surprises, and a real “don’t judge a book by its cover” or in this case, “don’t judge a salad by its surrounding” moment.

It was fresh, tasty and most of all, an original combination of salad ingredients that prompted me to recreate it that very week. So while I call this my Yellow Salad, it’s really a couscous based salad with a lot of added, tasty ingredients.

YELLOW COUSCOUS SALAD

Ingredients

1 500g (1lb) bag of instant couscous – large grain

1 cup finely shredded red cabbage

2-3 small cucumbers finely cubed

1 cup of garden peas (I recommend frozen)

1 cup roughly chopped walnuts

¾ cup dried cranberries

2 stalk of fresh celery finely chopped

Dressing

½ cup olive oil

¼ cup red wine vinegar

Juice of half a lemon

A dash of garlic powder or granulated garlic

Salt and pepper

1 teaspoon sugar

How to do it

  1. Prepare the couscous according to the instructions on the bag. Allow the prepared couscous to cool down to room temperature. (You can prepare this the day before as well, but it doesn’t take very long)
  2. Add the rest of the salad ingredients to the couscous and mix.
  3. Shake the dressing ingredients together well and pour over the salad. Allow the salad to sit for a few hours before serving. If you are keeping it in the fridge, remove the salad about half an hour before you serve it so it isn’t too cold.

Serves about 8.