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Hagarita -  the love of cooking and sharing food

Vegan Gratin, purple potato,

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!

 

 

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.

eat your sprouts

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.

A two years old cake, goes up in flames.

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.

happy holidays, braised fennel

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.

mouth watering layers of meat sauce, ricotta and pasta, or as some call it : Lasagna

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.

Apple pie.

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...

Butternut squash Pie

In the spirit of Thanksgiving and so I will have an excuse to use my new KItchenaid I made my first squash pie yesterday. Squash and pumpkin pies are not as popular in Israel as they are here, in face the first time I had one was probably two or three years ago. Needless to say I fell in love immediately and now that I know how easy it is to make I finally have an excuse to buy all sort of funky looking pumpkins and squashes.

yum.

Below is the recipe, modified from a pumpkin pie recipe, found on Allrecipes.com

Ingredients (makes 2 pies)

  • 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 3 cups mashed, roasted butternut squash
  • 1 (12 fluid ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  2. Prepare pie crust by mixing together the flour and salt. Cut shortening into flour, add 1 tablespoon water to mixture at a time. Mix dough and repeat until dough is moist enough to hold together.
  3. With lightly floured hands shape dough into a ball. On a lightly floured board roll dough out to 1/8 inch thickness. With a sharp knife, cut dough 1 1/2 inch larger than the upside down 8 to 9 inch pie pan. Gently roll the dough around the rolling pin and transfer it right side up on to the pie pan. Unroll, ease dough into the bottom of the pie pan.
  4. In a large bowl with mixer speed on medium, beat squash with evaporated milk, eggs, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. Mix well. Pour into a prepared crust. Bake 40 minutes or until when a knife is inserted 1 inch from the edge comes out clean.