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Two years ago I published a recipe for a Jerusalem and chestnut gratin, it is one of my favorite recipes and a go to whenever Jerusalem artichokes are in season. This year I had a new challenge, as my friend became vegan I decided to make a different version of this fabulous gratin.
I used purple potatoes, for their beautiful color, Jerusalem artichokes (also known as Sunchokes), shallots and pre cooked and packaged chestnuts. To replace the milk, cream and cream fraiche I used my new favorite creamer: Cashews!
For the best cashew cream I soak them over night in water, and then puree to a smooth “milk”, but if you are pressed for time place a handful (about 1/2 a cup) of raw cashews in a bowl of hot water, replace the water as they cool down, or keep on a low simmer for an hour – two. The nuts are ready when they are soft and juicy, then you can puree them in a blender. start with a little water and add more if needed, you want it to be thick, not runny.

ingredients:potatoes, Jerusalem artichoke, chestnuts (cooked and peeled), shallots, thyme, cashew cream, paprika, salt, pepper, juice of half a lemon and bread crumbs 

 

pre heat the oven to 375
start by slicing all vegetable as thin as you can, then mix all ingredients but bread crumbs  in a large bowl.adjust seasoning and layer in the dish you intend on using for baking.  if you want to make distinct layers, you can mix the cashew cream in as you layer the vegetable, make sure it gets all the way in between the pieces and layers.sprinkle crumbs on top, cover and bake for 35 min, remove cover and bake about 15 min more or until golden in color.let the gratin cool down a little before digging in. 

enjoy!

 

 

Passover in NYC

It’s been more than a month that I had 18 of my dearest friends and family gather in my Brooklyn apartment, for an evening of food, wine and lots of laughing.
Passover has always been a very significant holiday to me, and one that I highly favor. It was also my grandmother’s holiday so this year’s celebration was, to me, in her memory.

We started by reading the Haggadah, but didn’t read the whole thing, there was just too much going on and 20 minutes were plenty..

With the help of my good friends, Ben and Greg we worked out quite a feast: to start we had the traditional matzo ball soup, followed by a grouper and flounder ceviche, served on a base of eggplant cream:

Then we served an insane amount of food, fingerling potatoes in duck fat, crispy brussel sprouts, white rice with an accent of wild black rice and nuts, roasted root vegetables, herb roasted chicken and the star of the evening, Ben’s braised leg of lamb served with parsley and horseradish puree.

The best part was the dessert, my sister made, in the spirit of our beloved grandmother, many kinds of fruit and vegetable shaped marzipan, and set up an incredible display, that was as beautiful as it tasted.

And Matt, with the help of Kayla, iced a hand full of hand shaped passover cookies for our enjoyment.

As you can see, I was highly excited for dessert…

This was a very happy passover, Thanks to this lovely NY family I got.

Cherimoya

Cherimoya?
I came across this weird looking fruit at the co-op earlier this week, and as always, I felt an obligation to try it.. I ran a quick Google search while shopping and came up with the following “The cherimoya is often considered one of the best-tasting fruits in the world“. well, now you see, I had NO choice but to get me one.

After a short research I found out that its a type of Anona, native to the Andes and that when ripe it should feel like one’s elbow.. hmm..
It has been resting on my kitchen counter for a few days and today I picked it up and WOW, it felt like an elbow!! well, not really, but it had a softness to it, while still maintaining it’s firmness. That’s good enough for me. let’s cut it open:

It has a fleshy white insides, with big brown seeds, it’s sweet and delicious, with a firm texture that can explain the nick name “custard apple”. Not sure that it stands up for the “best testing fruit” title earlier claimed, but its definitely tasty, and reminded me of a jack fruit both in texture and flavor.

buen provecho !

Ramps and kumquats

Its Spring (!!!) and with it comes a lovely selection of fresh fruit, vegetable and herbs. Just like these beautiful ramps.

Ramps are wild leeks, they look a lot like a scallion with a strong garlic flavor and have a very short season, about 3-4 weeks a year. I had to get some, not really knowing what to make with it.
kumquats are delicious tiny citrus, that has a tangy and sweet flavor.
I have just bought both, without a plan on how to use them, along with a beautiful rack of lamb…
Perhaps a chimichurri style sauce to accompany the lamb?

I Started by coring the Kumquats and dicing them small, then chopping up the ramps the same way, including the white bottoms.

Add garlic, lemon and orange zest and a little of their juice, salt, pepper, chilli flakes and olive oil.

I then made a critical mistake, trying to get the mixture to be finely chopped, I put it in the blender, that wouldn’t be so bad if I was holding back on the olive oil but I didn’t, and once I turned on the blender the oil emulsified, resulting in a creamy sauce rather than a chimichurri… it was still delicious, but had a completely different look and texture from what I was going for.

It looked a lot like Guacamole.. but had a wonderful taste of a the green garlicky ramps, with a nice side kick from the kumquats.

Beef and Beans

Last week I was requested to make a Cholent at work, a Cholent (if you are not familiar with the term) is a slowly cooked mixture of beans, potatoes, meat, barley and sometimes whole eggs. The beans need to be soaked in water for a few hours prior to cooking, and so the first thing I did that morning, was to soak 1lb of mixed beans. 6 hours later, just as I was about to start cooking the Cholent, a man walked into the kitchen, carrying two large aluminum pans with, guess what?, Cholent.
Now I have a pound of soaked beans, and clearly no need for Cholent…

I called South Africa immediately and I asked my second dad for his famous bean soup recipe, growing up I remember this soup as a special treat, it’s perfect for cold weather, to eat while snuggling next to the fire watching the winter out of the window. Funny how subjective life is, today I know that those cold winters back home, weren’t really cold, and that 40 degrees is a nice day if you are wintering in NYC…

Back to the soup now:
500 gr of pre soaked beans (preferably over night)
250 gr of beef or lamb meat, cubed
120 gr of tomato paste
350 gr fresh peeled tomatoes, cubed
15 garlic cloves, sliced
2 tbsp sweet paprika
1 tsp hot paprika
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp tumric
8 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp salt
1.5 liter water

If you have a pressure cooker now will be the time to pull it out and use it, I don’t have one, which is why this soup was cooking for about a week (at least that’s what it felt like, in real life it was about 8 hours).

Heat the oil in the pot you are intending on using for the soup, add the meat and sear it, add all ingredients BUT the beans along with 2 cups of water and stir well.
Add beans and remaining of water and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to simmer, if using a pressure cooker you will have your soup ready in an hour. if not… oh well, good things are worth waiting for.

Served best with fresh bread.

meet the delicious monster

I came across this interesting looking fruit at the food co-op a few times before, and every time I picked it up and found myself puzzled from its appearance and the simple fact that it came with an instructions page.
Last week I finally decided it was time to give it a try, so I took one home and placed it in a cup, bottom up, allowing it to do its thing.

The monstera deliciosa is native to Mexico and Guatemala, and supposedly tastes like a combination of banana and pineapple. The fruit must ripen and peel itself, as it contain oxalic acid, so you place it in a cup or jar and just wait. A day or two went by and then one morning it happened, the scale looking skin cracked open, exposing a white flash and releasing an addicting tropical scent.

This is the first time I have seen anything like this fruit, and I was fascinated by it. In the course of one day this little tropical monster peeled itself completely, exposing its white moist flesh and shedding, along with its green scales, hundreds of tiny black seeds.

When it was finally done, that evening, it was time to slice it up and see what this fruit is all about. We were all very curious as to how it is going to taste, the internet was telling up it taste a little like banana, pineapple, kiwi, jack fruit and mango… an interesting mix of flavors…

Once slices, it looked a lot like a cross between a corn and a kiwi with a very strong tropical odor.
It was delicious, just as the name suggested, very sweet and very tropical, indeed a mix between a few more familiar flavors with a soft flesh. However after eating a few pieces from it, the mouth starts to tingle and you get that funny feeling that tells you not to over indulge. As the name suggested, once again, this is a monster we are talking about after all.

Tahini and Silan cookies

It’s been months that I have been planing on making these cookies. It all started after I had Thini cookies at Sugar-Daddy in Tel Aviv earlier this year. I was talking about making these cookies for so long that it seemed like it wasn’t going to happen.
After looking up recipes online and in my cookbook collection and not coming up with anything that seemed promising, I tried to improvise… The first batch of cookies was too hard, so I added some butter and replaced a 1/3 of the spelt flour with almond meal. And here you go, a winner recipe, the cookies came out tasty and crumbly, perfect served with tea or on their own. So good!
Thini is basically ground up sesame seeds and Silan is a date syrup, the combination of these two flavors is unreal.
First thing is making sure you are using high quality Thini paste, I prefer Thini that comes from the middle east, it just seems to be better than any local brand I tried. The Silan should be as natural as possible, and without preservatives.

1/2 cup raw Thini paste
1/2 cup date syrup
8 tablespoon of butter (1 stick)
1 1/2 cup flour, I used spelt and almond meal, 1 cup spelt and 1/2 almond.
1/4 cup chopped pistachio
cinnamon, cardamon, vanilla and a pinch of salt

Pre-heat the oven to 355 (180 Celsius)
Start by placing the thini and butter in a sauce pan over low heat, mix until well combined.
In a large bowl mix the thini-butter paste with the silan, chopped pistachios, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, a few drops of vanilla extract, 1/2-1 teaspoon of ground cardamon and the salt.
Slowly add the flour and mix by hand until a soft dough is formed.
Using your hands, form small balls and place on a baking pan, since the dough is soft the cookies will spread, so make sure they are spread out.


Bake for 10-12 minutes, just until slightly brown and take out. Let cool before trying to move the cookies or they will fall apart.
The cookies are extremely soft at first but they will harden as they cool down.

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