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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!

 

 

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.

oh my god, these are the yummiest little things!!!

Amy B was here this weekend for a very short minute, and that was a great reason to cook and celebrate. On Sunday as a part of our way to convince Roi to come and help us with an ongoing bathroom renovation, and since Amy was in town, I cooked an elaborate brunch featuring these little cheesy puffs, called gougères, savory cheesy pastry puffs. oh my, they are so delicious.Being the gruyere lover that I am its sorta hard to be objective about any food that has this fantastic swiss work of art in it, but pairing these little yummies with some poached eggs was simply delightful, and it didn't require too much work either (it is rare for me to go for recipes that do...). It doesn't require using a mixer, nor it won't break your hand mixing it.

makes 8-10 servings

1/3 cup (3 oz/90 g) unsalted butter 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper pinch of cayenne pepper 1 cup (5 oz/155 g) all-purpose flour 4 large eggs 3 + 1 for brushing 1 1/2 cups (6 oz/185 g) shredded Gruyere cheese

pre-heat oven to 425°F (220° C), line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. in a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the butter, salt, white pepper, cayenne, and 1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) water and bring to a boil. cook, stirring, until the butter melts, 3-4 minutes. Add the flour and, using a wooden spoon, mix vigorously until a thick paste forms and pulls away from the sides of the pan, about 3 minutes. remove from heat. break 1 egg into the pan, using the wooden spoon, beat it into the batter until combined. repeat with additional 2 eggs. whisk in 1 cup (4 oz/125 g) of the cheese.

dip a teaspoon into a glass of cold water, then scoop up a generous teaspoonful of the batter and push it onto the prepares baking sheet with a fingertip. repeat with the remaining batter, spacing them 2 inches (5 cm) apart and dipping the spoon each time to prevent sticking. brush the tops off with an egg and sprinkle with the remaining of the cheese.

bake for 10 minutes, reduce oven temp to 350°F (180° C) and bake until golden and crisp, about 15 minutes. remove from the oven, pierce each one with a wooden skewer, and then return to the oven. turn off oven and leave the gougères in the oven for 10 minutes. serve at room temperature

Bon Appetit!

blueberry french toast

I learned this one from Jules, shortly after he had learned it from Matt and Kayla. This delicious variation of a french toast is simple and doesn't require frying, it's perfect if you are having some friends over for brunch.

You will need: 1 loaf of challah bread, sliced the night before and left out or lightly toasted in the oven - this step is important to help the bread soak up as much liquid as possible. 4-5 eggs, scrambled 2-3 cups of milk 1 pint of blueberries 2 Tbsp cinnamon 1 Tbsp cardamon 1 teaspoon vanilla extract pinch of salt powdered sugar for dusting maple syrup

baking dish, buttered

pre-heat oven to 400° in a bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and spices, cut the bread into pieces and soak in liquid, mix it with your hands to insure the bread is completely soaked. Mix in the blueberries, I like to use a lot of berries, about 3/4 of a pint. transfer the mixture into a baking dish, fluff it with your fingers and sprinkle a few more berries on top. place in the oven for about 30 minutes, covered, then remove cover and bake for 10 minutes more or until lightly golden in color. finish with some powdered sugar.

serve warm with pure maple syrup.

Brussels love

Last week while making brussel sprouts I was wondering how come I never tried to recreate my favorite brussel sprouts dish yet, that one I have every time I go to Alta, charred sprouts served with apples, pistachios and creme fraiche.Well, luckily It's still the season for brussel sprouts!

You will need about a pound of brussel sprouts, an apple (I like to use Fuji), 1/4 cup of apple cider, 1-2 tablespoon creme fraiche and a 1/4 cup pistachios, I used almond since I didn't have any pistachios. pre heat oven to 425°F Cleaning them is simple, if you cut the bottom part of the leg and therefor the bottom of the top few leaves they will come off easily. Then, cut them in half, length wise and add to a very hot cast iron with about 1 tablespoon of oil, a little salt and pepper, toss them around and place in the oven. I like to burn them a little, I find that it adds sweetness and a much-needed crispiness to this veggie. In the mean time, over a medium heat in a small sauce pan, reduce 1/4 cup of apple cider to about 2 tablespoon worth, slice half an apple to thin slices and cut to desire size and chop a hand-full of almonds.

Once the brussel sprouts are out of the oven arrange them in a serving dish, sprinkle the almonds/ pistachio over, mix in the apples and drizzle the apple cider reduction. top it off with some creme fraiche and that's it! enjoy this delicious treat.

french lentils soup

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.

Bourekas

Bourekas are little pockets of goodness, made from puff pastry and filled with mushrooms, potatoes, cheese or really whatever you want to fill them with.For dinner last night we decided to go light, we had a bag of mushrooms that needed attention, left over from NYE when we never got to cook them, and two frozen sheets of puff pastry. Bourekas can be served in different ways, I like serving them with a hard boiled egg, pureed tomato and some Labane with za'atar.

Potato, mushroom and onion Bourekas: makes 18 pieces

you will need 1 potato, 1 onion, about 15 mushrooms of your liking, thyme, parsley, 1,4 cup white wine, 1/8 cup half and half,  butter, oil, salt and pepper and egg wash. I also like to sprinkle some sesame seeds on top.

Start by cooking the potato and then mashing it add some butter (1 tablespoon) and set aside. Take the dough out of the freezer and set your oven to 400. Slice the onion and saute in a pan until starting to color, add slices mushrooms and 1 tablespoon of butter, add thyme, salt and pepper, cook for a few minutes and add wine. cook the alcohol off and add cream, cook together, adjusting taste, for a few minutes until most of the liquid is gone. mix together the potato with the mushrooms and add about 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley, taste and adjust.

If the dough is still frozen let it sit until completely thawed, then sprinkle with some flour, and cut into 9 squares, try to keep the at the same size. Place about 1 tablespoon of filling on one side of the square, away from the edges, brush edge with egg wash, fold over and press sealed, first with your fingertips and then with a fork. once all the bourekas are ready, place on a baking sheet and brush tops with egg wash, sprinkle with sesame seeds and place in the oven for 15-17 minutes. keep an eye on them as baking time may vary, once the are puffed and golden in color take them out and let cool.

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.

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.

Mushrooms in paper (Mushrooms en Papillote)

Another recipe from the new french cook book I got last week, mushrooms baked in paper. yum.

  • preheat the oven to 375°F ( 190°C)
  • cut  a baking paper to a rectangular 18-by-11-inch ( 45-by-28-cm).  fold the paper in half crosswise, open the paper and coat with butter, place in a baking sheet.
  • cut 1 lb of mixed mushrooms into bite size and place in a bowl, add 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, 1 tablespoon of butter cut into pieces, 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice and 2 tablespoons chopped parsley and toss well. spread the mushrooms on half the paper and fold the second half over the mushrooms, fold the edges over twice, working your way to the edges, ending with a twist on both ends.
  • place the package on the baking sheet and bake until the package is puffed and the mushrooms are cooked through 15-20 minutes, carefully open the package and serve at once.

Anna's earth apples (Pommes Anna)

For my birthday last week, I got a sweet cook book from my close friends  R and N: "Essentials of French Cooking" that is divided by the regions of France, and has an incredible selection of recipes, with classics like Coq au Vin,  Beef Bourguignon and Tart Tatin, as well as less known dishes like Blue Cheese and Walnut soufflé and Sausage and Choucroute (sauerkraut). Everything in this book looks amazing and everything calls for a lot of butter!! Today I finally decided to stop drooling over the pictures and cook a recipe from it. Looking at the selection of available produce in my kitchen, I decided to use the potatoes, I bought a hand-full of blue potatoes about a week ago and a fresh load of Yukons yesterday, and it was time to make something out of them.Pommes Anna- Anna's potatoes, is a potato gratin named after Anna Deslions by the Cafe des Anglais in Paris, it is tasty and easy and looks beautiful. Bon Apetit!

Ingredients:

  • 5 tablespoons (2 1/2 oz/ 75 g)unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 lb (750g) potatoes
  • salt and fresh black pepper

Directions:

  1. preheat the oven to 375° F (19o° C). Coat a 9" (23-cm) pie pan with 1 tablespoon of butter
  2. peel the potatoes, rinse and dry. Using the thin slicing blade on a mandolin or a sharp knife cut the potatoes into slices 1/8 " (3mm) thick.
  3. in a sauce pan melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter until in foams and set aside.
  4. arrange some of the potatoes in a single layer in the prepared pan, overlapping them just slightly. lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with the melted butter. Repeat the layering process with the rest of the potatoes.
  5. bake in the oven until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork and the top is crisp and golden, 45-60 minutes, transfer to a wire rack and let stand for 5 minutes.
  6. run a knife around the edge of the pan, then place a plate over the top and invert the pan and plate together to unmold.

Since I didn't use 1 1/2 lb of potatoes they didn't go all the way to the top of the pan, which made it very hard to invert and unmold, I did, however, use a cake pan that opens with a spring, and simply opened it up and transfer the whole thing to a serving dish.

Eat more pie!

Yesterday Aoife and I decided on a trade, she will make me a very needed cake/pie serving dish and I, in return, will make her pies. Sweet and savory pies. First pie to be exchanged: leek, goat cheese and mushrooms (with a little bit of sun-chokes).I bought a beautiful Leek at the coop a few days ago that has been begging to be cooked, and so as soon as I got up I started working on it. Tart dough is simple to make and it is by far more rewarding then buying a frozen pre-made crust. The fun thing about baking pies is that you don't have to be so accurate, often when baking there is not much room for making up stuff as you go. With pies, however, I find that I have a lot more room to play with quantities and ingredients and that is exactly how I like to cook. I actually had some sun-chokes that needed to be used and so I peeled them, sliced them, cooked them in some milk and stuffed them in the bottom of the tart.

Stay tuned for more pie recipes over the next few weeks, and feel free to suggest ideas for pies I should make for the clay master and her chef lover.

Dough ingredients:

  • 2 cups All purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup cold butter, cut to cubes
  • 6 tablespoons ice cold water

Mix flour and salt in a bowl, add butter and mix until the butter pieces are pea-size. Add the water, one tablespoon at a time and mix with your fingertips. Do not over work the dough or it will become hard. Wrap in plastic and let rest in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Make the filling:

  • 3lbs leek, white part, thinly sliced
  • 15-20 mixed mushrooms, cremini, oyster, shiitake, brushed cleaned and chopped coarsely
  • 3 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 oz goat cheese
  • 3 oz creme fraiche
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock

* if you want to use potatoes or sun-chokes as well, peel and slice them and then cook in milk or cream for about 20 minutes until soft.

In a frying pan melt the butter and add the leek. Cook until leek is translucent, about 5 minutes, add thyme, bay leaf, 1/2 the salt, 1/2 the pepper and the chicken stock. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Make sure not to brown the leeks. Uncover and cook for about 15 more minutes until all juices are almost gone. In a separate pan melt the remaining butter and add the mushrooms and, salt and pepper. Cook for about 10 minutes until the mushrooms have released their juices. Place the leeks in a bowl, discard the nay leaf and mix in goat cheese and creme fraiche.

On a floured surface roll out the dough. Butter a 9" pie pan and line with rolled dough, fill with the leek mixture and bake for 15-20 minutes until the crust and leeks are starting to turn golden. Place mushrooms on top and bake for 10-15 minutes more. Place on a wire rack and let cool for 10-15 minutes. Serve warm.

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...

Fighting the cold - chinese style

As the weather in NY drops below the freezing point, soups seems to be the only natural thing to eat.I was told by my acupuncturist yesterday that I need to push out something that is still external , but may become internal if left untreated, and so I should eat a lot of Miso. According to Chinese tradition exterior diseases first affect the body surfaces that are exposed directly to the environment - the skin, the mucous membranes of the nose, throat, and lungs. The most prevalent exterior conditions are the common cold and flu, the sooner ones notices these conditions and take action, the more likely their interior progress can be reversed. Food that promotes sweating is recommended for treating such conditions - miso soup, ginger and peppermint tea are my favorite remedies.

Miso is a fermented soybean paste thought to have originated in China some 2,500 years ago. It is made by combining cooked soybeans, mold, salt and various grains and then fermenting them together for six months to two years. There are three basic types of miso: soybean, barley and rice, and 40-50 other varieties. Each type has its own distinctive color and flavor. Healing properties of miso: 13%-20% protein; it is a live food containing lactobacillus (the same in yogurt) that aids in digestion; it creates an alkaline condition in the body promoting resistance against disease. According to tradition, miso promotes long life and good health. In my miso soup I like using a lot of ginger and scallions, along with kombu, wakame, tofu and shiitake. Kombu (kelp) -  moistens dryness; increases yin fluids; softens hardened areas and masses in the body; helps transform heat induced phlegm; benefits kidneys; diuretic; anti-coagulant effect on the blood; is a natural fungicide; relieves coughing and asthma; soothes the lungs and throat; eradicates fungal and candida yeast overgrowths. Wakame - diuretic; transforms and resolves phlegm; high in calcium; rich in niacin and thiamine; promotes healthy hair and skin; soften hardened tissue and masses; tonifies the yin fluids; used in Japanese tradition to purify the mother's blood after childbirth. Tofu - benefits the lungs and large intestine; relieves inflammation in the stomach; neutralizes toxins. Shiitake

What a healthy, cold fighting soup this is going to be! *most of this information is based on the book "healing with whole foods" by Paul Pritchard Miso soup recipe Ingredients:

  • 10-12 cups of chicken stock or water - I prefer using chicken stock, got to give grandma's remedies some credit too.
  • about 2-3 tablespoons of dark miso
  • 1/4 cup dry Wakame, soaked in 2 cups of water
  • 1 big piece of Kombu, cut into small chunks (use scissors)
  • 1/2 pack of tofu, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon of bonito (or any other) dry fish flakes, optional
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • ginger, at least 3-5 inch long, peeled and sliced
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 1 bunch scallions, sliced
  • 10 shiitake mushrooms, leg removed, cut in 4

Directions:

  1. in a soup pot, sautee garlic onion and ginger for about 4-5 minutes
  2. add wakame and the liquid it was soaked in and stir
  3. add mushrooms, 3/4 of scallions, kombu, tofu, bonito fish flakes and chicken stock
  4. bring to a boil and reduce to simmer, cook for about 30 minutes
  5. add miso, stir and cook for 10 more minutes
  6. serve hot with fresh scallions on top
  7. optional addition: hard-boiled or fried egg is a delicious addition to this soup.

*Miso, Kombu, Wakame and Bonito flakes can be found in Chinese or Japanese supermarkets.

Baked Asparagus and Potato cakes

Last Night we had Aoife and Greg over for dinner, on the menu: some bread, cheese and olives, baked asparagus, chicken in red wine and chestnuts and potato cakes (latkes).Baked asparagus is one of the easiest side dishes to make, and it is always delicious. Aside from the fact you have  to peel the skin of the asparagus, a task that can get a bit tedious at times, it is a quick and easy winner.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch Asparagus
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 pint heavy cream or half and half
  • 2 tablespoons Paprika
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Gruyere cheese, or a mix of both
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon or chili flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste

Direction:

  1. preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. gently peel off the skin of the Asparagus with a vegetable peeler, making sure you are not taking off to much of the flush
  3. in a bowl mix together cream, garlic, paprika, half of the cheese, chili, salt, pepper and half of the bread crumbs
  4. place Asparagus in a shallow baking dish and pour mixture over it, mix with your hands to insure the mixture is coating the asparagus in all layers
  5. mix the remaining cheese and bread crumbs together and sprinkle on top
  6. cover with baking paper and foil and bake for about 30 minutes
  7. take off foil and bake uncovered 10 more minutes or until the cheese is nice and golden

In the spirit of Channukah we also made some potato cakes, these little fried devils are so tasty its is basically impossible to stop eating them. They are pretty simple to make, the one thing you must pay attention to is squeezing as much of the liquid out as you can, that will assure you will get a nicely crisped potato cake. As far as a recipe goes for these ones, I usually sort of eye-ball everything when I make them, mostly because  you have to adjust the amount of the eggs and flour according to how wet the potatoes are, but here is a basic recipe to give you an idea of what to do.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups peeled and shredded potatoes, stored in cold water until ready to use. I use either white, russet or Yukon gold, you can use any kind of potatoes you like
  • 1 medium onion, shredded
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • black pepper
  • I had some Parmesan and Gruyere , mix left over from the baked asparagus so I added it in as well
  • vegetable oil for frying

Directions:

  1. drain potatoes and squeeze as much of the water as you can
  2. in a bowl, mix all ingredients together
  3. heat oil, about 1/2 inch in depth, in a cast iron or your preferred frying pan
  4. take a spoonful of the mixture in your hand and squeeze it to get as much of the liquid out, then place it in the hot oil and flatten it a little with a spoon or your fingertips
  5. flip the cake over once it start browning
  6. take out of the oil and place on a cloth or paper towels to soak access oil
  7. serve warm with creme fraiche or sour cream

Jerusalem artichoke and chestnuts Gratin

When it comes to grocery shopping I do 99.9% of it at the Park Slope Food Co-op, I say 99.9% because every once in a while I'll get lazy and buy some pasta or chicken at the neighborhood's Italian market. The co-op's selection of fresh produce is so great that often I buy things without having a plan as for what to do with them. That was the case with the Jerusalem Artichokes I pulled out of my fridge today, I bought them last Saturday simply because they looked so fresh and beautiful and because I love Jerusalem artichokes (or Sun chokes as some call them). I looked at the artichokes and then around my kitchen, I spotted some Chestnuts and tried to figure out how to pair the two, a short online search yielded a few recipes but non involved Chestnuts, and then I found it, thank you Martha Stewart.

It is delicious!!

Here is the recipe, slightly modified from Martha's recipe:

Ingredients

Serves 6 to 8

  • 1 pound Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch-thick and reserved in cold water until ready to use
  • 3 cups milk
  • 8 ounces creme fraiche
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon Chili flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 pound Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch-thick
  • 5 ounces shallots, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 5 ounces peeled chestnuts, halved lengthwise
  • 1 cup bread crumbs

Directions

  1. In a large saucepan, combine Jerusalem artichokes and milk. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes. Drain, reserving 3/4 cups of the milk.
  2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk creme fraiche, reserved milk, lemon juice, 1/4 cup Gruyere, thyme, salt, chili and pepper. Add artichokes, potatoes, chestnuts, shallots; gently mix to combine. Transfer to a 6-cup shallow baking dish, and cover tightly with parchment-lined aluminum foil. Place on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake until artichokes are tender, about 1 hour. Remove foil, and sprinkle with breadcrumbs and remaining 3/4 cup cheese. Bake, uncovered, until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Serve warm.

Shiitake

I had to slice a lot of mushrooms at work today, Portobello, Oyster, and My favorite, Shiitake.Shiitake mushrooms with their rich, smoky flavor are  used in many recipes and different cuisine, they are relatively new to our western taste buds (Americans been eating them since 1972) but have become very popular over the years. I was first introduce to Shiitake about 11 years ago, when my step grandfather was diagnosed with cancer of the liver and decided to fight it with a meticulous diet that involved a lot of Shiitake (along with many other things). Why Shiitake? There are a few answers to this question, I'll try to keep it short: Early investigators were skeptical of mushrooms because they appeared to have properties similar to those of cancer - parasitical, fungus-like, and fast growing. It now seems that these qualities might be an indications that mushroom are useful for treating cancer. Shiitake mushrooms have been used in Chinese medicine for centuries, they are said to be a natural source of interferon, a protein which appears to induce an immune response against cancer and viral diseases. They are also thought to tonify immunity and appears to have strong effect against tumors and cancers.  Mushrooms are also a good source of germanium, an element that improves cellular oxygenation and enhance immunity. * (based mostly on information from the book "Healing with whole foods" Paul Pitchford and from various online sources).

Oh wow, it sounds like we all should be eating more Shiitake... Living in a city filled with pollution and being exposed to all these cancerous threats is pretty harsh on our bodies, and if adding Shiitake to my diet can boost up my odds, even just a bit, I'm in! You can buy them fresh, dried or even powdered, you can soak them in hot water and drink as a tea or fill your on capsules and take as a supplement, personally I like to eat them, raw, or cooked.

Convinced yet? Let's get down to business: First make sure that when selecting fresh mushrooms they are firm and clean, if they look soft, sticky or have dark spots, you should not eat them. Fresh ones are best stored loosely in a paper bag inside your fridge and the dried ones in an air tight container in your pantry. As for cooking them, you can be creative and add them into soups, sautéed veggies, rice dishes, pastas, sushi, salads and so on ( please share any recipes and/or ideas) I really like adding them to my porcini and shallots when making a risotto (see recipe below) but if you feel like cooking something that simply screams "healthy" here is a recipe for Barley with vegetables:

Ingredients

  • 1 cup barley, soaked
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup carrot, diced
  • 2 shiitake mushrooms, sliced (soaked for 15 minutes if dried)
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 3 cups water (can be substituted with stock for extra flavor)
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Directions

  1. saute vegetables in sesame oil
  2. dry roast barley lightly
  3. place barley and vegetable in a pot with water and salt
  4. cover and bring to a boil
  5. reduce heat to low, simmer for 40 minutes

Mushroom risotto:

Ingredients

  • 6 cups chicken broth, divided
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 pound Porcini, Shiitake and baby Portobello mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • sea salt to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped chives
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. In a saucepan, warm the broth over low heat.
  2. Warm 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the mushrooms, and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Remove mushrooms and their liquid, and set aside.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to skillet, and stir in the shallots. Cook 1 minute. Add rice, stirring to coat with oil, about 2 minutes. When the rice has taken on a pale, golden color, pour in wine, stirring constantly until the wine is fully absorbed. Add 1/2 cup broth to the rice, and stir until the broth is absorbed. Continue adding broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring continuously, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente, just about 22 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat, and stir in mushrooms with their liquid, butter, chives, and parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Bon Appetite !

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.