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

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.

Get Adventurous with Gnocchi

Home made gnocchi with tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese

Home made gnocchi with tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese

Having read the headline, some of you are probably mentally throwing schnitzel hammers at me. But just hold onto them for a moment…

The thought of making your own gnocchi may be daunting, but don’t let it daunt you. It’s actually not very difficult to make, but needs a little patience and self-belief. The fact is, there is nothing that taste quite as delicious as home made gnocchi fresh out of the pot. This first time I made these was years ago, after seeing them being made on a TV cooking show. I was amazed by how well they worked. I made these again a few weeks ago, thinking I’d get two batches out of them and freeze one batch for another meal. My family raged against the thought after I served the first round, and insisted that I take the second batch out of the freezer and cook them as well. Fortunately, like all fresh pasta, they cook really quickly.

There are some points to note before embarking on your gnocchi journey. First, the drier the baked potatoes, the better. To this end, in Israel, where potatoes are notoriously watery, the best course of action is to bake the potatoes the day before and leave them in the fridge overnight. This will dry them out.

Secondly, because the water content of potatoes varies from potato to potato, the flour measurements I have here are very approximate. The trick is to slowly add flour, first stirring with a spoon and then using your hands, until your dough just reaches the consistency that will allow you to roll it into a sausage for cutting. But don’t allow it to become too tough – the softer the better.

Thirdly, and this is based on trial and error, popping the gnocchi into the freezer for about an hour before you boil them will make it a lot easier to throw into the pot and will ensure that they don’t fall apart when boiling. They freeze really well, so you can cook them ahead of time and throw them straight into the pot from the freezer. The cooking process is very short, so it will really save you time.

I serve this with a simple tomato sauce and some shaved Parmesan cheese on top. But you can serve it with any sauce you like.

HOME MADE GNOCCHI

Ingredients

3 large baking potatoes

3 egg yolks

1½-2 cups flour (or as much as you need to get to a soft rolling consistency) – use “00” flour, which is available in supermarkets in Israel now.

1 teaspoon salt

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (as much as you want!)

How to do it

Very soft dough

Very soft dough

1. Take a deep breath and believe that this isn’t as difficult as you think.

2. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F) and place the unpeeled, washed and dried potatoes on a baking tray. Bake for about 1 hour or until completely soft – a fork should very easily slide into a potato. If you have time, allow the potatoes to cool and refrigerate overnight (recommended).

Cut the gnocchi into small pillow shaped pieces

Cut the gnocchi into small pillow shaped pieces

3.  Cut the potatoes in half and scoop the potato out of the skin. Place in a bowl and mash until smooth. Add the yolks and salt and mix, and then add the flour, slowly mixing with a spoon until the dough reaches a soft but pliable consistency, and then use your hands to mix (the dough may be a little uneven, and not necessarily completely smooth like bread dough – this is fine.)

On a baking tray and ready for cooking

On a baking tray and ready for cooking

4. Divide the dough into four pieces. Dust a rolling surface and a wooden rolling pin with flour, and dust your hands with flour as well. Roll each piece into a long sausage of about a 2 cm (just under 1 inch) diameter. The dough should be quite soft, so be gentle. With a small, sharp knife cut pieces that are about 1 cm long (half an inch). Don’t stress about exact sizes – this is a rustic dish and doesn’t have to look magnificent. Repeat the process for all the dough.

5. Place the gnocchi pieces on trays lines with baking paper and place in the freezer for about an hour (or longer as needed – they freeze well for a few days).

6. In a large pot, bring about 2 liters of salted water to the boil. Drop about half the gnocchi in the water. When they all rise to the surface of the water, remove them carefully with a slotted spoon allowing all the water to drain, and place in a dish. This will take only a few minutes. Repeat with the rest of the gnocchi.

7. Serve with a simple tomato sauce.

Serves about 4.

Recipes for Pesach – Part VI

My final post before I go off on vacation before the chag! I hope I’ve managed to give you an assortment of recipes that will add a little spice and variety to your Pesach menus. Here are a few more recipes for you, and with this, I will sign off until after Pesach. I wish you all a “pesach kasher ve’sameach” (a kosher and happy Passover), and I also wish you all easy cleaning and fun cooking. Don’t forget to put your feet up as well, because after you’ve made all the delicious food that will delight your family and friends, you will really deserve it.

Easy Roasted Onion and Lettuce Salad

Easy Roasted Red Onion and Lettuce Salad– When you’ve been toiling all day in the kitchen making all that seder food, the last thing you want to do is slave over a salad. How about this easy stand-by? You can roast the onions in advance, and throw it all together in minutes. You will want to double this recipe if you’re having a big crowd.

Quiche for Pesach– When I make this quiche during the year, I use a butter crust. For Pesach, here’s an alternative that is very delicious, but does require more work (which is why I don’t make it very often, but once a year, I will.) It’s from the wonderful Moosewood Cookbook, and stands the test of time. While the crust has to be completely different to be kosher for Pesach, the filling is virtually the same as usual, only using potato flour instead of regular flour. Seeing as you’ll be working a little harder on the crust, you may want to opt for one of the easier fillings…

Upside-Down Lemon Meringue Cake

Upside-Down Lemon Meringue Cake for Pesach– The first time I made this I was so excited because I saw that it could also work for Pesach with no adaptations and it can be made parev. This is one of my favorite desserts for any time of year, so being able to serve in at a Seder table is a huge bonus. Watch your guests gasp with delight when you bring this onto the table. It will give them the strength to make it to Chad Gadyah with ease.

Tzimmes – the Heart of the Seder Table

At the heart of every Seder in my family sits a large carrot tzimmes.

Every year, I take out the fading pieces of fax paper (remember that?), which my late mother sent me in 1994 from South Africa, with her recipes for tzimmes. I tear up every time I read her wishes to me for Pesach from far off South Africa. For me, the sweetness of this dish is the sweetness of my late mother, who would make this tzimmes every year and for every chag, with great love. While we would eat this all year round, it was mandatory fare for Pesach.

She wasn't making tzimmes in this picture, but it's a great shot of my mother in action - she always pursed her lips when she was concentrating. (Taken in 1979)

Tzimmes actually means an ado or an uproar in Yiddish, but in the kitchen it refers to pretty much any sweet casserole of vegetables, fruit, and even meat. But almost every family of Eastern European decent has its own version, using various combinations of carrots, potatoes, prunes, sweet potatoes, and more. Our traditional family recipe involves cooked sweet carrots with a kneidel mixture on the inside. In addition, we also make what’s know as Flaumen Tzimmes, which is potatoes cooked with prunes (flaumen in Yiddish) – delish!!! I have adapted both recipes – I add sweet potatoes and regular potatoes to my carrot tzimmes, my sister-in-law Ruth’s contribution; and while I haven’t messed with the wonderful Flaumen Tzimmes recipe’s ingredients, I have adopted an overnight slow cooked method (not necessarily requiring a slow cooker), which results in the most amazingly moist and flavorful potatoes, into which the sauce has completely permeated.

So of course I will share both recipes with you.

LIPSCHITZ FAMILY CARROT TZIMMES

Ingredients 

Carrot tzimmes

Vegetable Mixture

About 1½ kg (3½ lb) carrots peeled and evenly sliced

2 sweet potatoes peeled, halved down the middle and cut into slices

2 large potatoes peeled, quartered length-ways and cut into slices

3 tablespoons potato flour

About ¼-½ cup honey or silan – date honey (I don’t measure this one – I just pour! Add more if you prefer it sweeter and less if you don’t – it will taste good no matter what.)

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ginger powder

2 tablespoons oil

Salt and pepper

Oil for greasing the dish

Kneidel Mixture

4 beaten eggs

4 tablespoons margarine

1 1/3 cup boiling water

½ teaspoon KFP baking powder (if you can get it – can be left out if you can’t)

A pinch of cinnamon and ground ginger

Salt and pepper

Very roughly 150 g (5 oz) matza meal (see how to do it #5)

How to do it

1. Cook the carrots in a large pot of water until soft. Remove the carrots with a slotted spoon and cook the potatoes in the same water for about 30 minutes or until cooked through (or in a separate pot if you don’t mind the extra wash up). Once they are done, remove with a slotted spoon and cook the sweet potatoes. Note: I cook them separately to make sure they are all properly cooked in their own time, as each of these vegetables cooks at a different speed. You can of course cook them in separate pots all at once.

2. Pre-heat the oven to 190°C (375°F).

3. Drain all the vegetables and mix together in the large pot. In a small dish, mix the potato flour with a little water to make a runny,smooth mixture, and add it to the vegetables and mix. Add the honey/silan, cinnamon, ginger, oil, salt and pepper and mix together.

4. Grease a deep baking dish with oil. Pour about two thirds of the vegetables into the dish and make a well in the center, bringing the carrots up the sides of the dish, almost to the top.

5. Make the kneidel mixture: Beat the beaten eggs, margarine and boiling water together until the margarine is melted. Add the cinnamon, ginger, salt and pepper and beat. Then SLOWLY, stir in the matza meal with a spoon until you reach a runny consistency (the mixture should slowly, but not too slowly, pour off the spoon.) Pour the kneidel mixture into the vegetable well in the dish. Cover the kneidel with the remaining vegetables.

6. Bake covered for 30 minutes and then uncovered for another 30 minutes (I use a Pyrex dish and cover, and leave the cover on throughout the baking process). When the carrots start browning remove from the oven – don’t let burn.

Serves…a lot! Can be made in advance and reheated.

FLAUMEN TZIMMES

Ingredients

16-20 medium-sized potatoes, peeled (work on about 2 per person with a few extra “for the pot”)

1 large onion peeled and sliced

3 tablespoons onion soup powder (if you can’t get KFP onion soup powder, add an extra tablespoon of chicken soup powder and add an extra onion)

2 tablespoons chicken soup powder

1 bottle of Coke (yes, I know…not an original shtetl recipe…)

2 teaspoons ginger powder

Salt and pepper

About 15 dried, pitted prunes (more if you want)

3 tablespoons honey, silan (date honey) or sugar

How to do it

1. Pre-heat the oven to 100°C (210°F)

2. In a large oven proof pot, fry the onions until soft. Add all the rest of the ingredients, making sure the liquid covers the potatoes. If not, top it up with water. Cover, bring to the boil and reduce the heat, letting the potatoes simmer for about 30 minutes. While the mixture is simmering, take strips of foil and line the rim of the lid to create a strong seal on the pot. Return the lid to the pot, making sure it’s properly closed.

3. Place the pot in the oven, and leave it overnight (at least 12 hours).

Slow cooker option: If you want to cook these in a slow cooker, fry the onions in a pan, and then add them with all of the other ingredients to your slow cooker, and cook on low for 8-10 hours.

Serves about 8. Prepare to overeat!!