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Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

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.

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Its Shavuot, the holiday that commemorates God giving the Torah to the Israelites, and we celebrate it by wearing all white and eating dairy. That might seem odd, but somewhere, someone, had an argument good enough to make others agree, and therefore I wear white (actually I wore purple) and eat cheese. And I can’t complain, as I LOVE dairy in most of its edible forms.

Earlier this week I visited Liat and was handed a bag full of passion-fruit, different from most fruit, the best passion-fruit are the dark and wrinkly looking ones. I love Passion fruit, and it’s Shavuot, what else was I to do?

Short side story, while visiting Hawaii last year I was introduced to the local version of Passion-fruit, Jamaican Lilikoi, a yellow-orange colored fruit, that looks very much like the familiar passion-fruit, but is much sweeter. During that trip I became slightly obsessed with the idea of topping a cheese cake with this wonderful, delicious, tropical fruit, but that never happened. With the combination of the fruit in my bag and the arriving holiday the outcome was inevitable.

Passion-Cheese cake it is.

The recipe is easy as can be, but it is made with an Israeli soft cheese that doesn’t have an American equivalent… You can buy it in Israeli/Jewish supermarkets if you really wanna give it a go or use kwark or fromage blanc instead.

For the dough base:
1/2 cup (100g) sugar
2 cups (280g) AP flour
3 egg yolks
200g cold butter, diced

mix all ingredients together until a uniform dough is formed, placed in a buttered baking dish and shape to make an even base.

Bake on medium heat (180°c, 350°f) for 30 minutes.
once the dough is baked scrape it with a fork to make crumbs, cool down and place in an air-tight box.

For the cheese cake, mix 500 ml heavy cream and 1/3 cup (70g) sugar whip to form a thick cream, then mix in 500g white cheese (Israeli soft, white cheese, should be drained in a cheese cloth over a bowl, in the fridge, for at least two hours prior to mixing in the cake), and some lemon zest.

once the base is completely cool, pour the cheese mixture over the dough and place in the fridge for at least 4 hours to set.

Before serving let stand in room temp for 15 minutes, then, either sprinkle with the crumbs or top with passion fruit, or berries.

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On Christmas day I was invited to the Pacheco’s to take part in their traditional Christmas feast. Soon as I walked in I was handed a glass of bourbon and egg-nog ,I was expecting a delicious meal and so I wasn’t surprised to see turkey and ham, brussel sprouts, mashed potato, home baked bread and some stuffing on the table, but nothing would have got me prepared for dessert.

A brown, mountain shaped cake was placed in the middle of the table, so far nothing extraordinary,and then our host started pouring whiskey right on top of the cake, now we are talking A LOT of whiskey, so at this point my attention was only on this cake.

As expected, after the liqueur came the match

Now let me tell you a little about this cake; it is at least 2 years old (no joke) and was made by the sister of our host, this cake is made of different fruit, plump up with whiskey and/or rum, steamed and then left to age for a few years, it was sitting in her fridge for at least 2 years and according to her “these will last forever”. Oh wow, all I know at this point is that my taste buds are ready!

The cake was delicious! It was moist and fruity with a strong yet not over-powering flavor of the whiskey and was served with a light home-made cream.  I don’t have the recipe since it was made in Ireland by a relative of a family I only pretend to be related, but it is might mean I have to join them on their next trip over.

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When it comes to pasta I must admit, I am pretty spoiled. Ever since I got a pasta maker as a birthday gift a few years back I had a really hard time going back to the pre-packaged dry version. Now don’t think that every time I want pasta I pull it out and start rolling, but I definitely prefer buying fresh pasta if I’m too lazy to make my own.
Lasagna is one of those wonder dishes that allows you to, pretty much, put whatever you want in it, and know that it will come out delicious.
Today’s Lasagna was constructed from a spicy lamb meat sauce, ricotta bechamel, kale and some Parmesan-Gruyere to top it off.

I use fresh pasta sheets, ground lamb meat, kale and half and half, you can change those basic ingredients and still follow the recipe.

In a sauce pan cook 1 1/2 cups of half and half with 1/2 an onion, 1 bay leaf and 2 cloves, simmer for 15-20 minutes, don’t let it boil!
While the cream is cooking dice 1 big onion, and 2 chopped cloves of garlic, in a cast iron or your favorite “meat sauce making” pan, sauté the onion and garlic in some oil (I like a combination of high heat oil, like sunflower oil, and some bacon fat) for 2-3 minutes, add 1 T salt, 1/2 T fresh pepper, 2 T paprika, sweet or spicy or both, 2 T dry oregano and a bay leaf or two. Cook for 1-2 minutes then add the meat and break into small chunks with a wooden spoon, cook for a few more minutes. Add 1/3 Cup red wine and cook for 8-10 minutes until the alcohol is cooked off.

Add 1 cup of diced tomatoes, either fresh, blanched and peeled or out of a can, 2 T of tomato paste and a pinch of sugar. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
Wash the kale and saute it in a wok for a few minutes until soft.

Remove cream from heat, discard the onion, cloves and bay leaf. In a second sauce pan on low heat melt 1 T butter add 1 T flour and whisk together until well blend, slowly add the cream, whisking constantly until all incorporate, remove from heat. Add 1 cup of ricotta, salt, pepper and a few shaving of fresh nutmeg.

Assemble the lasagna (yum):
Pre-heat oven to 400°F.
Pick a deep, large baking dish, first layer should be meat sauce, not too much, just a thin layer at the bottom, follow by a layer of pasta, then kale, ricotta sauce, another layer of pasta, some meat sauce, etc. The order is completely optional, just make sure to start with a layer of sauce before the pasta, or else you might have a dry bottom. I never boil my pasta before layering it, not the fresh nor the dry.
Top the whole thing with some grated cheese, Parmesan and Guryere are my choices. Stick it in the pre-heated over covered with baking paper and topped with foil for 20-25 minutes if using fresh pasta, 10-15 minutes longer if using dry pasta, then remove the foil and baking paper and cook for 10 more minutes or until the cheese is nicely crisped and golden in color.

Let cool for at least 10-15 minutes, its hard, I know, but you can do it. I find that taking it out of the oven before sitting down and then starting with some soup or salad is usually enough time, but it is most delicious the next day (like I can wait…)

Enjoy with some fresh arugula and red onion salad.

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Another pound of Chestnuts miraculously found its way into my kitchen, it seems like that is all I want to eat this days, chestnuts and soups. There is something so comforting about roasting chestnuts in the winter, and the fact that they are so cheap right only makes it easier for me to buy them.
I saw this recipe last week, when browsing through the smitten kitchen, and been dreaming of these cookies since.

I always favored food that requires some sort of getting your hands dirty, some peeling action, breaking and cracking, and chestnuts are exactly that. In the last few weeks, while slowly realizing I’m obsessed with chestnuts, I noticed how easy it is to over roast them, at least two batches were dried out because I left them in the oven too long (thankfully they are only $3 a lb these days), but 20-25 minutes, on 450°F is all it takes, you can also shake them once or twice while roasting, to get an even spread of the heat.
A shallow X cut on top helps you to later crack and peel the skin off as it will start rolling back during the roast.

Start with a pound of chestnuts and cut an X on top of each one, with a sharp knife or a bread knife, try not to cut too deep into the “meat” but deep enough that the skin will peel back while roasting. Start with a pound, even though you will need less for the recipe, sometimes the chestnuts end up having rotten middles.
After roasting, let them cool and then peel them, chop coarsely and measure one cup, place in a food processor and pulse until very fine, add 2 sticks of soft butter and pulse to combine, add 1/2 cup powdered sugar, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon salt, a few fresh shavings of nutmeg and 2 cups all-purpose flour. pulse until even dough is formed.
If you don’t have a food processor chop the chestnuts as fine as you can, whip the butter and sugar in a mixer bowl, add vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, chestnuts and flour and beat to form dough.

Divide the dough and wrap each half in plastic, cool in the fridge for about an hour.
Preheat the oven to 350°F . Working with each half of the chilled dough at a time start rolling out balls, about two teaspoons in size and place on a baking sheet, they won’t spread so you don’t have to leave more than 1/2 inch between the cookies.
Bake for about 14 minutes, until just lightly golden in color on top. The cookies will very easily go from buttery and creamy to dry, so be careful not to overbake them. I always like testing out 2 or 3 first, every oven is different and many times I find that I need to adjust the baking time or temperature from the original recipe.

Let the baked cookies cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet and then roll them in 1 cup of powdered sugar mixed with a few pinches of cinnamon, and allow to cool completely.
Be aware! These cookies are a buttery creamy goodness and they are addictive (I had 5 while writing this, 3 more when taking pictures and 2 just because).

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Taking a baking sheet full of hot cookies out of the oven beats opening a package of cookies, every time!
If you didn’t notice it until now, I love simple recipes, it doesn’t appeal to me to bake a cake that calls for 8 hours in the oven or that is so complicated you must follow a long list of specific directions. I like simple and delicious food, now that being said, I don’t mind working hard for good food, I just believe that a difficult recipe does not necessarily produce a good meal.
With those intentions I decided to bake some molasses cookies today, and as soon as the word cookies left me mouth and reached the ears of Tacuma, he started jumping up and down. That’s it, there is no going back now…

* The recipe below is modified from a few different recipes I found online, Martha’s recipe and Brenda hall’s were the most influential.

Ingredients.

  • 3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks), melted
  • 1 cup unrefined sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup  sugar

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, mix together the melted butter, 1 cup sugar, and egg until smooth. Stir in the molasses. In a bowl combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and ginger; blend into the molasses mixture. Cover, and chill dough for 1 hour.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Roll dough into walnut sized balls, and roll them in the remaining white sugar. Place cookies 2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets.
  3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, until tops are cracked. Cool on wire racks.

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Apple pie is a quick and easy desert that I always love making, and I love it even more now that I have a kitchenaid and I can make a crust in 5 minutes.
That was pretty much the first thing I did this morning and it came out perfect. I just love easy, delicious food.

Crust:
Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cup All purpose flour
  • 10 tablespoon cold butter, cut into cubes
  • 3 tablespoon vegetable shortening
  • 3 tablespoon sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup cold whole milk

in a mixer bowl mix all dry ingredients together until combine, add butter and shortening and mix on low-speed until butter pieces are pea size. add milk slowly and mix until dough is formed. Do not over mix!
Divide the dough to two pieces, wrap in plastic and let rest in fridge for 15 min.

Filling:
Ingredients:

  • 7 medium granny smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 8 pieces
  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 cut chopped pecan
  • 3-4 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 oz whiskey

Directions:

  1. preheat oven to 350 degrees (175 Celsius)
  2. in a sauce pan melt butter, add apples, sugar and cinnamon, mix together and cook until apples are soft  (about 10 minutes)
  3. remove from heat and into a bowl, add vanilla, whiskey and pecans and mix together
  4. take dough out of the fridge and roll out of a floured surface till dough is about 1/4 inch thick – .5 cm
  5. butter a 9″ pie pan and place dough in the pan, pour the apples into the crusted pan
  6. you can cover the pie with the second ball of dough by rolling it out and placing over the apples or cut stripes of dough and create a lattice
  7. brush the edges and top of the crust with milk or cream and sprinkle with sugar
  8. bake for about an hour-75 minutes until apples are soft and the crust is golden
  9. allow the pie to cool before serving

Best enjoyed warm with some good vanilla ice-cream…

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