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Posts Tagged ‘winter’

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.

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I promised Debbie about a month ago that I will make some lentil soup and put the recipe up, but this entire time I just wasn’t inspired to cook any lentils, then I saw these green french lentils at the coop and knew that today is the day.

Like other legumes, lentils are low in fat and high in protein and fiber, but they have the added advantage of cooking quickly and they don’t require any soaking.
Green lentils are usually the ones I go for, the french ones are more delicate and take longer to cook. all lentils should be rinsed and picked through for stones before cooking. Oh, and by the way, they will take longer to cook if they are combined with salt or acidic ingredients, so add these last.

for the soup you will need:
1 medium onion, diced
5-6 cloves of garlic
1 medium carrot, sliced
1 stick of celery
1 small turnip
1 large potato
1 1/2 cup of lentils, picked and rinsed
5-6 cups of chicken stock or water
1 tomato, chopped
2 tablespoon cumin
2 tablespoon paprika
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper
1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice
chopped parsley for garnish

start by sweating the onion, carrot, celery and turnip in 2 tablespoons of oil, add black pepper and a pinch of salt just to get some liquid out of the veggies, add garlic, potato and lentils. Add liquid, cumin, paprika and a bay leaf. bring to a boil and lower to simmer. cook for 40 minutes to an hour, depending on the lentils you are using. Keep checking that there is enough liquid in the pot,  the lentils soak up a lot of liquid as they cook and the soup will slowly turn thicker, its up to you to decide how thick you want it to be. Taste a few lentils after the first 40 minutes and see if they are completely cooked and soft, make any adjusting to the flavor if needed, if the lentils are ready add the lemon juice, salt and the chopped tomato, cook for 5-10 more minutes discard the bay leaf and serve, garnished with chopped parsley.

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As a kid, just like many, I didn’t eat brussels sprouts, I’m not sure if it was the smell, the look or simply the name that made me abstain from it, either way it wasn’t until recent years when I started eating it. One of the first times I truly felt like we might have a future was at Alta restaurant in NYC a few years ago, they were roasted and served with apples, pistachios and creme fraiche, as I’m writing these words I am wondering “how could it be that I have never tried to duplicate that dish?”

Brussels sprouts get a delicious sweet flavor when caramelized and even slightly burnt, I like starting them in a hot pan and then finishing it in the oven.

There are many ways to roast these little green beauties, some include the addition of bacon, pancetta, chorizo or other cured pork products, it sure does add some fatty goodness to the dish and if you chooses to use any of the above, start by rendering the meat for a few minutes to get some of the fat melted in the pan, then add to the same pan your cleaned and washed sprouts, cut in halves or quarters.
If you chooses a vegetarian dish, heat up some oil and/or butter and throw them in on a medium-high heat, then add salt and pepper and cook for a 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Place pan in a pre-heated over, at 375° F, for about 10-15 minutes, or until brussels sprouts are soft and nicely roasted. you can add some roasted nuts once out of the oven, my favorite are sliced almonds but if I don’t have any I’ll use pine nuts instead.
This simple dish can be easily adjusted to your liking, you can spice it up with some chili or serve with fresh granny-smith apple slices and some lite drizzle of honey or reduced apple cider.

Either way its hard to go wrong.

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fennel is one of the earliest food i can remember, it seems like it was always on our dinner table, for the most part served chopped, raw in a lemon dressing. i always liked the flavor of fennel and its hairy leafy part as well, it has that anise like flavor, and though i’m not at all into licorice i am very much into fennel.
there are many dishes you can make with fennel, i have been dreaming on fennel ice-cream ever since someone at the coop was telling me about her experiments with an ice-cream maker, but on my plate today, something a little less time-consuming: braised fennel.
braised fennel is delicious, charring it before you braise it will bring out some hidden sweetness and will take it to a much happier place.

i start by taking the tops off, saving the leafy part for garnish, then slicing it length wise in order to keep the bulb sort of intact, then i gently toss it in olive oil, salt and pepper and place it in a hot cast iron to grill it, flipping about 4 minutes in or when it turned brown, for a total of 8-10 minutes. if you need to work in batches do so, don’t over-crowed the pan.

once all pieces are nicely charred place them back in the pan and add about 1/2 cup of white wine, let it boil for a minute or two and add equal amount of chicken or veggie stock, salt, pepper, some chili flakes, a few threads of saffron and the juice of half an orange or 1 meyer lemon.
cover and let simmer for about 15 minutes until fennel is soft.

garnish with some beautiful fronds.

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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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As a kid Hanukkah was my favorite holiday (not because you get tons of gifts, this Americanized tradition is an adaption of Jews, who I believe wanted  to keep up with the Christmas gifting mania) but because it usually comes around my birthday and you also get to eat as many donuts as you desire.
The story of Hanukkah is about a group of people who got tired of being suppressed under the government of Antiochus IV and stood up to reclaim and rededicate the temple, that was desecrated by the Greeks. There was a little oil left in the temple, enough to keep the menorah lit for only one night, miraculously though, it burned for eight days, the exact time it takes to press a fresh supply of oil. sigh. Don’t you just love it when that happens?
In commemoration of this miracle we light 8 candles and eat goods that are deep-fried in oil, here’s to you another reason why Hanukkah is so great. Big puffy donuts filled with jam and covered with powdered sugar, and potato cakes (latkes or as Israelis call them: levivot). Yum, yum and yum!
I didn’t eat either of those today, but the holiday has just began and I have 7 more days to deep fry and eat anything that can remind me of the brave and glorious Maccabbes.

Not too long ago I was working with a group of guys in the kitchen of one NYC restaurant, and they loved playing the: “what should we fry for dinner” game. Anything from poached eggs to a whole shepherd’s pie got dipped in those fryers and luckily I was always able to make myself a sandwich and could just watch their experiments and get entertained.
For the next seven days I promise to try and find some goodies for you to deep-fry, at the top of this never ending list there is definitely some butter, personally I have no desire to try any deep-fried butter soon, but if you do, here is a recipe for fried butter balls by the queen of southern cooking, Paula Dean. Honestly, I bet these are banging!

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks butter
  • 2 ounces cream cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • Peanut oil, for frying

Directions

Cream the butter, cream cheese, salt and pepper together with an electric mixer until smooth. Using a very small ice cream scoop, or melon baller, form 1-inch balls of butter mixture and arrange them on a parchment or waxed paper lined sheet pan. Freezer, form until solid. Coat the frozen balls in flour, egg, and then bread crumbs and freeze again until solid.

When ready to fry, preheat oil in a deep-fryer to 350 degrees F.

Fry balls for 10 to 15 seconds until just light golden. Drain on paper towels before serving.


The Israeli answer to Dunkin Donuts. Picture from halooser.com

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