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.

Welcome Summer with an Italian Inspired Salad

Italian Flag Pasta Salad

Finally! Summer seems to have broken through the grip of the nasty winter. This means a return to colder food, and of course, salads are on the menu.

I recently had to prepare a filling dish that was easy to transport. Nothing like a good old pasta salad to fit this bill. Bored with my regulars, I decided to come up with something new, pretty much hauling out whatever was in my fridge, and it worked!

I was so inspired by the colors of my favorite country in the world to visit – Italy. The red, white and green are covered by the pasta and zfatit cheese (white); roasted red peppers and cherry tomatoes (red); and rocket and basil (green). With a few additional colors abd tastes to round out the flavor, this salad is just yummy, and looks great on a table. You can also adjust the quantities of the vegetables and cheese according to your own preferences.

ITALIAN FLAG PASTA SALAD

Ingredients

500 g (1lb) penne pasta (or any other sturdy noodle)

1-2 cups of roasted pepper pieces (if you’re in a hurry, you can used bottled roasted peppers, or for a more tasty option, roast them yourself – click here for the “how to”).

200 g (7 oz) Tzfatit cheese cut into small cubes (I recommend the Meshek Tzuriel brand – very creamy) If you can’t get Tzfatit, use a very mild feta cheese. For the parev version, just omit the cheese.

½ cup of chopped black olives (I buy the pre-cut olives – saves tons of time)

¾ cup corn kernels

About 15 cherry tomatoes cut into quarters

A large handful of rocket leaves

A small handful of fresh basil leaves chopped

Dressing

¾ cup olive oil

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 heaped teaspoon grainy Dijon mustard

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon sugar

Salt and pepper

How to do it

1. Roast the peppers (if you’re not buying). You can prepare them ahead of time and refrigerate. Cut the peeled roasted peppers into small pieces.

2. Prepare the pasta according to the directions on the box. When you drain the pasta, rinse with cold water to cool down quickly and set aside. Rinsing also stops the pasta from sticking together.

3. In a large bowl, combine the pasta, peppers and all the rest of the ingredients and gently toss.

4. Whisk the dressing ingredients together and pour over the salad and mix

Serves about 12 as a side dish.

 

 

A Respite from Rosh Hashana Overeating with Salmon

Asian Aalmon

Asian Salmon

This year, Rosh Hashana is a doozie – two days of chag and then Shabbat. What this means in a nutshell is a lot of eating. The number of meals ahead of us from Wednesday evening until Shabbat is over is better left uncounted. So much to cook and so much to eat begs for at least one simple and light dairy meal to be added to the mix.

If you’re looking for a ridiculously quick, easy and very delicious main course, here’s a recipe for a side of salmon with light Asian flavors that is in constant demand in my house. I’m glad it is because it takes minutes to prepare and in less than half an hour it’s cooked. Try to find a nice meaty piece of salmon and make every effort not to overcook it. Don’t forget that the delicate flesh of the salmon will continue to cook a little on the hot baking tray after  you’ve removed it from the oven, so remove it in plenty of time.

Add this to your repertoire and I guarantee that you’ve be making this over and over again.

ASIAN SALMON

Ingredients

1 whole fillet (side) of salmon (about 1 kg/2 lbs)

4 tablespoons Mirin

4 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons brown sugar

How to do it

1. Line a large oven baking tray with tin foil – make sure the foil is large enough to wrap around the whole salmon with space to spare. Place the salmon in the middle of the foil

2. Mix the rest of the ingredients together in a small bowl till combined and pour over the salmon. Gather up the sides of the foil, leaving space above the fish so the fish can steam when cooking. Seal all the sides very well. Leave to marinade for 10-15 minutes or even up to an hour.

3. Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 180°C (350ºF).

4. Bake the fish in the oven for 20 minutes. Then open up the foil and allow the fish to cook for another 5 minutes so the top can caramelize slightly. Do not overcook – test the fish by sliding a fork into the meatiest part of the fish and if it’s still just slightly under-cooked in the middle, remove the fish and let it sit for a few minutes before serving. Save the sauce to spoon over the fish when serving.

Serves about 5 as a main course.

Gumbo in a Pot for that Summer Chaos

Kosher Chicken Gumbo

Chicken Gumbo served with Rice

The summer vacation is now starting to weigh heavy on all us parents. Let’s face it, as much as we love having our kids around, trying to keep working, getting them ferried around to their various venues of entertainment and cooking many more meals than usual is tiring. This is when the “meal in a pot” comes in handy. Even if it’s not always child friendly, it means you can make something delish for the grownups in no time, and throw a schnitzel in the oven for the young ‘uns on those days where you’ve just run out of steam.

This gumbo is one of my husband’s great “one pot” finds. Living in Israel exposed me to the joys of okra, or bamia as it’s known here, which is a main ingredient. While I am a huge proponent of “fresh, fresh, fresh”, this is one of those veggies that is a bit of a pain in the rear end to deal with fresh, and the frozen version is just wonderful and super easy to use. This also ties in with the “easy meals for summer” concept. So use the frozen version and make your life easy. This is a recipe from the local chef and author Gil Hovav, who has made it his life’s work to eat his way through the back alley restaurants of Israel in his search for really authentic local cuisine. Try this out and taste one of the gems he’s discovered.

CHICKEN GUMBO WITH OKRA

Ingredients

6 skinless chicken thighs cut into the thighs and legs (it’s important to have them skinless)

Black pepper and salt

4 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons flour

500 g (1 lb) okra – if they’re small, leave them whole otherwise cut into bite sized chunks

2 medium sized onions chopped

4-5 garlic cloves crushed

1 red or green pepper chopped

2 stalks of celery chopped

2 large ripe peeled tomatoes chopped

2 cups of chicken broth

1 teaspoon spicy paprika or 1 teaspoon paprika + ½ a teaspoon cayenne pepper

500 g (1 lb) chopped spicy chorizo or cabanos sausage (small bite sizes)

How to do it

1. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and seal them in 2 tablespoons of the oil that you’ve heated in a large pot, Remove the chicken and saute the onion until it’s transparent. Then add the garlic and saute for another minute making sure it doesn’t burn.

2. Add the pepper, celery, okra and paprika (and cayenne pepper if using) and stir over a medium heat for about 3 minutes.

3. Add the tomatoes and continue to stir every now and again for about 25 minutes.

4. Meanwhile in a small pot, (I know it’s another pot, but it’s small), mix together the remaining oil with the flour, cook over a low flame, stirring, until the mixture takes on a light brown color – do no burn.

5. Add a little of the chicken stock – about a ¼ cup – to  the flour mixture, mix and then mix it in to the pot with the vegetables. Add the rest of the stock and the chicken pieces and bring to the boil, reduce the flame to low, cover and simmer for about an hour. If the liquid starts to disappear,, add a little more water to the pot to get a stew consistency.

6. After it’s been cooking for an hour, add the pieces of sausage, cover and simmer for a further 30-40 minutes on low heat.

Serve on rice.

Serves about 8 people.

“Welcome back to my own blog” skewers

Sweet and Spicy Skewers

Sweet and Spicy Skewers

When life gets crazy, I believe in the barbecue. I’ve been away from my blog for a while, crazy busy with work and other things that take up my time. We all go through these kinds of periods where time becomes your most precious commodity, and you start looking for delicious recipes that don’t take terribly long to prepare. And that’s when barbecues come in so handy, mainly because it’s easy to hand off the cooking side of things to your significant other. And now that it’s summer, the time is right!

But that doesn’t mean the meat should be bland. I love barbecued meat or chicken that’s spent lots of time soaking in a marinade before meeting up with the grill. Here’s a really excellent recipe for chicken breast skewers in a beautiful marinade. Get your meat guy to cut the breasts into cubes to save you even more time.

SWEET AND SPICY CHICKEN SKEWERS

Ingredients

About 1 kg chicken breast cubed (about 1 inch on each side)

4 tablespoons oil

1/3 cup honey, silan or Golden syrup (available in specialty stores that stock English or South African products)

1/3 cup soy sauce

2-3 cloves of garlic crushed

1 teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon cumin powder

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 bay leaves

Juice of half a lemon

How to do it

1. Mix all the ingredients (except for the chicken) together in a medium sized bowl.

2. Add the chicken pieces, mix through thoroughly, cover and leave overnight in the fridge or for at least 6 hours.

3. Thread onto wooden skewers that you’ve soaked for about 5 minutes in water (this prevents them from burning on the grill)

4. Place on the grill for a few minutes each side, until they are cooked (don’t overcook, but make sure they are all cooked through)

Serve with lots of fresh salads.

A new take on an old kugel

Spinach and Salty Cheese Kugel

Spinach and Salty Cheese Kugel

WordPress was misbehaving when I wanted to post this last week, so I posted it directly to Facebook, and  now I can finally add it here. So it’s a bit late for Shavuot here, but you really can serve this whenever you want with any dairy meal. It’s a modern twist on the old fashioned kugel. Instead of the traditional sweet elements like sugar and raisins, this version uses spinach and salty cheese for a slightly healthier take. Don’t worry – it’s still full of starch and oil, so the Ashkenazi cuisine markers are still present.

Spinach and Salty Cheese Kugel

Ingredients

500 g (1 lb) fettuccini (or any other flat) noodles
600 g fresh spinach
1/3 cup olive oil
4 large eggs (or 5 medium)
250 g (1/2 lb) feta or Bulgarian cheese (feta is saltier…) cut into small cubes
200 g ricotta cheese
Salt and pepper to taste (adjust depending on the saltiness of the cheese you use)

How to do it
1. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C (325°F).
2. Cook the pasta in salted water according to the instructions will just al dente. Strain and add some olive oil and mix so the pasta doesn’t stick together. Set aside to cool.
3. While the pasta is cooking, rinse and chop the spinach finely. In a large unoiled skillet or wok, saute the spinach until soft. Remove from the heat and place in a strainer to get rid of excess liquid.

Mix the spinach with the pasta and eggs

Mix the spinach with the pasta and eggs

4. In a very large bowl, beat the eggs. Add the oil, cheeses, salt pepper and mix. Add the pasta and the spinach and mix so that the spinach is evenly mixed throughout.
5. Grease a large deep baking dish. Place the kugel mixture into the dish and flatten with a spoon. Cover with foil. Bake for between 1.75-2 hours. Remove the foil. If the kugel hasn’t slightly browned, then increase the temperature of the over to about 200°C (400°F) and bake for another 5 minutes. Otherwise remove from the oven, cut into small wedges or squares and serve.

Serves about 12-15 as a side dish.