Salt of the Earth

Lately I’ve been appreciating my college classmates. They are all such good people. If they’re a lawyer, chances are it’s at Legal Aid. If they’re a therapist, they dropped everything and moved to New Orleans to counsel child Katrina victims. Heck, even my horrible ex-boyfriend of whom I have nothing kind to say about has somehow ended up working at Habitat for Humanity for years.


I have been thinking about this because a few weeks ago, a classmate of mine was killed in a car crash in Baltimore. Her name was Neely, and she was one of the best out of a group of wonderful classmates. She had devoted her career to informal Jewish education, including founding an LGBT program for Jewish teens in Baltimore.  She leaves behind her husband – another classmate of ours who’s now a rabbi – and three little girls.

I went to Seminary for college. We also attended secular university and learned words like hegemony and read The Iliad. But mostly, it was Seminary, so yes, I also have classmates who are now rabbis, Jewish camp directors and teachers. With everyone earning two degrees – some days started with Hebrew at 7:45AM and didn’t end til Music Humanities at 9PM – we weren’t on a meal plan. We had kitchens and cooked all our own meals. So when my college friends Carly and Mike (now married) came for a visit last week, Carly remarked, as I greeted her wearing an apron, that it seemed like not much had changed at all.

corn and mushroom and fixins

I was hosting during my first week back to work, so I wanted to make it really easy on myself. I served fish and vegetarian tacos. Whenever we have fish tacos it’s always the right choice, and they’re not a ton of work, either. The vegetarian tacos were a recipe from Modern Jewish Cooking: Recipes & Customs for Today’s Kitchen by Leah Koenig, given to me by my dad this past birthday. I’d had my eye on it, and had really come to enjoy Leah’s recipes found in many publications. It’s actually really strange that I don’t know her, as we have nearly 20 friends in common on Facebook, and a couple of her recipe testers for this cookbook are good, good friends of ours. People who show up on my blog are good friends with her.

As with most cookbooks, I’ve stuck to the vegetable recipes. I enjoyed the miso roasted asparagus back in April, as well as the garlic marinated zucchini and the roasted broccoli with shallots and lemon. I am strongly considering the potato leek kugel for Rosh Hashana. I also have my eye on the black bean and sweet potato chili. Some of her recipes are inspired by the cuisine of the Roman Jewish community, and she helpfully labels dishes for Shabbat dinner, Rosh Hashana and other holidays.

fish taco fixins

The vegetarian tacos in question comprised balsamic roasted mushrooms and corn, which could be a great side dish but served as a main dish when I followed Leah’s suggestion to wrap it in a warm tortilla and top it with “a little grated cheese, fresh baby spinach and sliced avocado.”

Dinner was delicious, but Lilli seemed a little off during the meal. Rich took her temperature and found she’d spiked a fever. As I flitted about, taking care of Bea, Mike and Carly silently got up and cleared the table. Mike stood and washed every single dish and pot and pan and loaded the dishwasher as Carly rummaged in my Tupperware cabinet and put away leftovers. She also offered to fold any laundry if I needed any help. We ended the meal with treats from Mike’s Pastry, which they’d picked up in Harvard Square.

Like I said, I went to college with great people.

Balsamic-Roasted Mushrooms and Corn from Modern Jewish Cooking by Leah Koenig

Leah compares the partnership of balsamic vinegar and cremini mushrooms to the one of peas and carrots: They just work well together. I love that they use fresh late summer corn. “Earthy and deeply flavored, with a hint of sweetness from the honey and roasted red onion, this dish makes a great side for steak, chicken or tofu.” Or, as I mentioned earlier, do as we did, and wrap it in a warm tortilla and top it with a little grated cheese, fresh baby spinach, and sliced avocado.

Although Leah has you drizzle the balsamic mixture on top of the vegetables, as written here, I just tossed everything in an enormous mixing bowl with my hands.

Serves 4 to 6


1/3 cup/80ml balsamic vinegar

1/3 cup/80ml soy sauce or tamari

1/3 cup/80ml extra-virgin olive oil

2 Tablespoons honey

4 garlic cloves, minced or pushed through a press

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 ½ lb/680 g cremini mushrooms, stemmed and halved or quartered (if large)

2 small red onions, halved through the root and cut into ¼-in/6mm slices

2 ears sweet corn, kernels removed, or 1 ¼ cups/205 g thawed frozen corn kernels

Freshly ground black pepper

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh mint or flat-leaf parsley (I skipped both these herbs, given the components of the rest of the meal)


Preheat the oven to 400F/200C and line two large rimmed baking sheets with aluminum foil.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the vinegar, soy sauce, olive oil, honey, garlic and cayenne.

Divide the mushrooms, onions, and corn evenly between the prepared baking sheets. Drizzle each vegetable mixture with half of the vinegar mixture and gently toss with tongs to coat. Season with pepper. Roast, stirring once, until soft and tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Using tongs (I used a slotted spoon) transfer the vegetables to a serving platter or bowl; pour over 1 to 2 tablespoons of the cooking liquid and discard the rest. While still warm, toss with the mint and serve.

Notes on our fish tacos

The reason this is such a fast weeknight meal is because all of the ingredients pull together quickly and can also be made beforehand.

Shredded cabbage

Thin discs of radish

Sprigs of cilantro

Pickled onions from Ultimate Nachos by Lee Frank & Rachel Anderson

And crema, also from Ultimate Nachos – I halved the entire recipes

Basic Crema

1 cup sour cream

1 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon salt

In a small bowl, mix all of the ingredients together.

Cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit at room temperature for about 1 hour.

If not using right away, keep the crema covered and store in the refrigerator. Crema will keep for as long as the expiration dates stated on the back of the sour cream and heavy cream. Before using it, bring the crema back to room temperature.

I actually  have a trick for the fish which works reasonably well. I grab a few frozen fillets of cod from Costco that I keep on hand, fill a sided pan with water, and poach the frozen fish in the pan for about 10 minutes. Because you’re going to be shredding the fish, it doesn’t have to be pretty at all. Remove the fish using a slotted spoon.

To serve, place fish, shredded cabbage, radish discs, pickled onion, drizzled with crema and sprigs of cilantro in a small tortilla. If you have limes, slice and serve on the side.

Eating My Words

This week I did something I’m not proud of: I flipped through Jessica Seinfeld’s cookbook Deceptively Delicious in the cookbook section of my local library. When her book came out not quite 10 years ago, I scoffed at its premise. Hiding vegetables in foods? I shook my head at parents who served their children pizza and chicken fingers for dinner. Just feed them what you eat; enough with the coddling of palates.

Of course, now I look back at the childless me and shake my head at my ignorance and naiveté. My toddler subsists on a diet of Cheerios, fruit, yogurt, cake, cheese, pizza, fish, rice, farro (?!), and plain pasta. It has to be plain: last week Rich deigned to put a pat of butter on her noodles and Lilli promptly announced it was now “garbage.”

mac and cheese

Oh look, a toddler eating mac and cheese.

I asked the pediatrician for advice. And you know what she said? Make sauces of things and hide them in foods she will eat. So there I stood in the library, looking through Mrs. Seinfeld’s cookbook. Let me be clear: Lilli loves helping out in the kitchen. She loves going to the grocery store with me and requesting mushrooms and broccoli and carrots. She loves choosing cookbooks off the shelf and bringing me photos of recipes that look good to her. She loves pulling up her Kitchen Helper to watch me slice summer squash and helps move it into a bowl. She just won’t eat what we cook.

But then it occurred to me: She loves learning about new foods, loves preparing vegetables and adores baking. Why not combine those things into one dish? And that’s how I found myself having her press the “on” button on my food processor as we grated zucchini for a very nice chocolate zucchini cake.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: is chocolate cake really the right sort of thing to be sneaking veggies into? But my approach was validated this week by our Shabbos dinner guests. Ellie, a very bright political science student at UMass, exclaimed that her mother Deborah used to do the exact same thing when she was a kid. Considering that Ellie seems poised to run the government some day, I think I might be on to something.

We found our recipe in Marcel Desaulniers Death by Chocolate Cakes: An Astonishing Array of Chocolate Enchantments. This book was handed off to me by my friend Gayle, who, if I’m not mistaken, just posted a recipe for chocolate zucchini cake on her own blog. I’d never heard of this baker, but Rich tells me there used to be a television show with the same name.


The recipe is called Mimi Montano’s Chocolate Zucchini Cake, and it is pretty simple to throw together, although you have to wait a bit for it to cool down. Although the recipe says to bake for about an hour and 50 minutes, I found it was done in about an hour. I suspect it meant to say bake for 50 minutes to an hour. Whenever I see the direction to sift dry ingredients, I always whisk them in a bowl a few times. Works like a charm every time. I melt by chocolate in a glass in the microwave in 20 second spurts. If you use Earth Balance instead of butter this recipe can be parve.

And did it work? Did we succeed in Lilli eating food with zucchini folded into it? Not really, and really chocolate cake is not a healthy vehicle for even the most virtuous of vegetables. But Rich and I enjoyed slices for breakfast, trimmed slices whenever we walked by it in the kitchen, and were also happy to have it on hand when friends stopped by unexpectedly.

If you don’t need to sneak any vegetables, consider this a recipe to get rid of some of the zucchini your neighbors have been leaving on your front porch.

Mimi Montano’s Chocolate Zucchini Cake


1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 large zucchini (about ¾ pound), washed and stem removed

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

4 large eggs

1 ½ cup vegetable oil

3 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate, coarsely chopped and melted

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (one 12-ounce package)


Preheat oven to 325F. Liberally coat the inside of a 9 ½ x 4-inch nonstick Bundt pan with the 1 tablespoon melted butter. Set aside.

In a sifter combine 3 cups of flour, 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1 teaspoon salt. Sift onto a large piece of parchment paper (or wax paper) and set aside until needed. (Or, just mix all these ingredients in a bowl and stir with a whisk a few times.)

Grate 1 large zucchini in a food processor fitted with a medium grating disk (or use a box grater). Set aside.

Place 1 ½ cups sugar and 4 eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle. Beat on medium-high speed for 2 minutes until light in color and thickened; then use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Operate the mixer on medium while slowly adding 1 ½ cups vegetable oil in a steady stream (it’s a good idea to use a pouring shield attachment or to cover the top of the mixer and sides of the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap to avoid splattering oil outside of the mixing bowl). Combine to mix until the batter is yellow in color and thick, about 1 ½ minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the melted chocolate and mix for 30 seconds on medium speed.

Continue to operate the mixer on medium speed and slowly add the sifted dry ingredients. Mix until incorporated, about 1 minute. Add the grated zucchini and mix on low for 15 seconds. Add 2 cups chocolate chips and mix on low for another 15 seconds. Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a rubber spatula to finish mixing the batter until thoroughly combined. Transfer the batter to the prepared Bundt cake pan, using a rubber spatula and spreading evenly.

Place the pan onto a baking sheet with sides on the center rack in the preheated oven. Bake until a wooden skewer inserted, between 50 minutes and an hour. Remove the cake from the oven and cool in the pan for 30 minutes at room temperature. Unmold the cake from the pan. Place the cake, baked top facing up, on a cake circle (or onto a cake plate) and cool at room temperature for 1 additional hour before slicing.

To Serve: Heat the blade of a serrated slicer under hot running water and wipe the blade dry before cutting each slice. Serve immediately, or wrap in plastic wrap and take a piece or two of cake along for the ride.


It Won’t Make it to the Table

Back in the early 90s, in between her gig as the Easter Bunny and selling Madame Alexander dolls at FAO Schwartz, Sylvie worked at a green grocer in Brighton Center. Johnny’s is still around. It’s small, just a touch bigger than a walk-in-closet. It’s cash only, but if you’re a regular they’ll put your name on the wall and you can pay once you get your paycheck.

wiped out

And almost every day that Sylvie worked there, little Italian grandmothers, wearing kerchiefs knotted at their necks, would come in and buy heads of cauliflower. Every. Single. Day. After a while, Sylvie’s curiosity got the best of her – I mean how much cauliflower can one person eat? So she asked them what they were doing with all the cauliflower.

“Ah,” they replied. “We’ll tell you what to do.” First thing was to break the head into florets. Next, toss the florets with olive oil and salt, and put in a roasting pan. And, here’s where it get special: Take a sheet of tin foil, and tent it over the pan. Slide it into a hot oven, and about half way through, remove the tent and keep on roasting for another 25 to 35 minutes. When the white florets turn golden, and then a deep mahogany, remove the pan from the oven. Some of the women liked to sprinkle cheese on top and put the foil back on to help everything melt. Others ate it as is.

Sylvie taught me how to make the cauliflower at some point. Over time I made it my own. Instead of tenting the foil, I take a big sheet and cover the pan (I tend to use a lasagna pan) and pinch it over the sides, so the florets are still steamed for the first step. (I actually now use this trick with most root vegetables I roast.) I forgo the cheese and often eat it plain. And sometimes I toss the browned florets with small, briny capers and sweet gold raisins.

sleeping at mt. auburn

Here’s the thing about roasted cauliflower, and this recipe, in particular: It doesn’t make to the table. I guarantee you’ll remove your pan from the oven, have a floret to test how things turned out, and you will then continue to eat the entire pan while standing at the stovetop. It happens Every. Single. Time. I make this dish. Last week I ate three heads of cauliflower. In the process of writing this blog post, I ate another head. I have one more head in the fridge – there seemed to be a glut of cauliflower recently, so heads have been two for $3 in every market I’ve been to in the past week. I really hope to make the final, and fifth head, for Rich. It will be tricky, but I don’t think he’s ever had this dish — kind of like the eggplant salad he still doesn’t know about.

I doubled the recipe to see how things would turn out, dividing the florets between two pans and alternating racks and rotating them in the oven. Honestly, this recipe works best with just one head and pan on the middle rack. Of course, nowadays you can buy a package of cauliflower florets already broken up. I think I’d be doing that as well if the whole head hasn’t been so reasonably priced. Preparing the cauliflower is much less daunting than it seems. Rip off the green leaves, then take a large knife and cut away the thick stalk. The cauliflower is then easy to break up into florets.


I tried to measure all the ingredients when I roasted the fourth head last week. My suggestion is to use your best judgement. You want to coat the florets with olive oil and give it all a good toss with a pinch of salt. If three tablespoons seems like too little or too much, add or reduce accordingly.

One other small detail: I like to prep my aluminum foil before I start preparing the cauliflower. That way I won’t be digging in the drawer with salty, oily hands.

Roasted Cauliflower


1 head or 1 bag of cauliflower, cut into florets

3 Tablespoons olive oil

1 hearty pinch of kosher salt

If you’re using the golden raisins and capers

Up to 1 Tablespoon golden raisins

Up to 3 teaspoons capers, depending on which size you use


Preheat oven to 425F

In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower florets with the olive oil and kosher salt

Pour the florets into a lasagna pan or something of similar size, with sides

Lay the tin foil on top of the pan, pinching the foil over the sides of the pan, nice and snug

Place on the middle rack of the hot oven

About 35 or so minutes in, carefully remove the foil and slide the pan back into the hot oven

This final roast should take about 35 minutes. Every 15 minutes or so, stir the cauliflower with a wooden spoon. You’ll know it’s done when all the florets are soft and come apart easily when poked with the wooden spoon. The tops of the florets will be deep brown.

Remove from oven. If you are using the capers and the raisins, pour those into the pan and give everything a good stir.

Taste one small piece. Continue to eat the entire pan standing at the stovetop.

Serves one.

Pay to Play

As happy and proud as I would be if Lilli were one day president, or perhaps another rocking female senator from Massachusetts, I’m a little concerned about how well she responds to bribes. Then again, I don’t know of any other way to get a two and a half year old to do anything without the promise of a sticker, or perhaps a special treat.


“If you let me brush your hair, I’ll give you a sticker.”

“If you get into bed I’ll give you a sticker. You have to stay in the bed to keep the sticker, though.”

“If you let me rest next to you while you quietly watch Mr. Maker, you’ll get a surprise!”

The surprise turned out to be baking chocolate cupcakes, something Lilli asked to do several times last week. And because she sat and quietly watched Mr. Maker until 7AM, we tied on our aprons and got to work.

Finding a good chocolate cupcake recipe proved much more challenging than I would have expected. For instance, Joanne Chang’s version from her first cookbook,flour, was inspired by a dump cake, where you dump all the ingredients into a bowl. I know, sounds easy, but then you have to let it sit at room temperature for at least an hour, or store it in the refrigerator for up to three days. I can’t do anything with a two and a half year old for an hour, so that one was out of the question. Oh yeah, and Chang’s magic frosting calls for three sticks of butter.

ferris wheel

I found the perfect chocolate cupcake recipe in Greg Patent’s Baking in America: Traditional and Contemporary Favorites from the Past 200 Years. I have to admit this isn’t my book. A former co-worker brought in the book to show me a recipe for an Election Cake, a yeast bread flavored with nutmeg, mace, brandy and Madeira, with a pound of dried fruit kneaded into it. Election cakes date back to the 1600s and were served at musters, election-day picnics and other festivities.

I think my co-worker must have brought it in for the 2012 elections, or one of the innumerable special elections we have had here recently. If I was your colleague, I’d warn you against lending me any cookbooks. Then again, I might bring you in cupcakes on Monday morning.

Sleeping Bea

The recipe is for “Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting” and it’s a terrific cupcake. The headnotes say it makes 12 cupcakes, but I made 24 mini ones. I kept out six of them, and put the rest in the freezer. They’ll go into Lilli’s lunch bag, and probably be served to her as an afternoon snack.

I actually didn’t use the frosting recipe in the book, but used my go-to: Deb’s frosting recipe, which is made in the food processor.  Patent says to bake these cupcakes for 22 to 25 minutes, but they took 15 minutes on the dot as mini ones.

This weekend Lilli had her first carousel ride, rode a ferris wheel, went to a sand castle competition, and flew a kite. But when I asked her what was her favorite part of the weekend, her response was, “chocolate cupcakes.”

Chocolate Cupcakes


1 ¼ cups sifted all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ Dutch-process cocoa

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

¾ cup sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 large eggs

½ cup milk


Adjust an oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 350F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners, or a 24 mini muffin pan with liners; set aside.

Resift the flour with the baking soda, salt and cocoa; set aside. (Please note: I “sifted” all dry ingredients together at one time by whisking them in a bowl.)

In a medium bowl, beat the butter on medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat on medium-high speed for 3 to 4 minutes, until smooth and fluffy; stop to scrape the bowl as necessary. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating for about 1 minute after each.

With a rubber spatula, stir in about one third of the flour mixture, just until incorporated. Gently stir in half the milk. Stir in half the remaining flour mixture, then the rest of the milk, and finally the last of the flour, stirring after each addition just to combine well. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups; each cup will be about half full. Don’t bother to smooth the batter; it will level itself during baking.

Bake for 22 to 25 minutes (or 15 if you’re doing mini), until the cupcakes spring back when their centers are gently pressed; do not overbake. Cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then remove from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.

Fish Sauce Junkie

My shoulder has really kept me from the kitchen, but last week I went to Russo’s for the first time in months. There were plums and peaches and pluots, although the apricots were still a touch more than I wanted to spend. And the radishes were a vivid pink, so much so that I couldn’t leave them behind. I started plotting a salad using plums and radishes. Rich was skeptical, but I pushed forward, throwing in cucumber and tomatoes, and a touch of butter lettuce.

I bought plums, but Lilli got a cupcake.

I bought plums, but Lilli got a cupcake.

But what really made this salad was the dressing, the recipe for which has been sitting in my drafts folder for well over a year. I think it’s from Gwyneth Paltrow. I borrowed her cookbooks from the library last year and was happy I did. Think what you will about GOOP, but her dressings are great.

It’s called Vietnamese Salad Dressing, and I think it’s wonderful. Rich does not. I’m an admitted fish sauce junkie, and I know that’s not everyone’s cup of tea. If you like Vietnamese food, you’ll probably love this dressing, too.


My friend Caitlyn, who lived in Thailand, advises that Squid is the brand of fish sauce you want to use. I don’t own spicy sesame oil, just regular, so I used that, instead. I keep mine stored in the fridge, by the way. Agave nectar isn’t as healthy as once thought to be, so I use honey; I think palm sugar would actually be perfect for this recipe if you have it on hand.

Vietnamese Salad Dressing

¼ cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
¼ cup fish sauce
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon hot pepper sesame oil
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced ginger
2 tablespoons finely diced red onion or shallot

Combine all ingredients in a jar. Screw on lid, give it a good shake, and go for it.

The Halvah “Problem”

I’ve made no secret of my love of halvah, and how Lilli, who seems to be vying to at least place at the picky toddler championship, loves to munch on it, too. This is a known fact in my family, and so when everyone assembled for Beatrix’s baby naming, I found myself with a curious problem: a surplus of halvah.

bea in maine

She arrived, and so did a whole a mess of halvah

First, my dad brought two huge chunks of it, which he purchased at the shuk in Jerusalem. (He also brings those candied pecans, possibly my most favorite thing in the entire world. The only place I’ve located them stateside that actually taste like the Israeli version is at Russ & Daughters on the Lower East Side. A store that sells smoked fish and those pecans is my heaven on earth.)

Then my mom came to town with a bagful of food for our first week home from the hospital: salmon, pesto, asparagus, and an enormous brisket. And she brought halvah as a special treat for Lilli and me. Finally, I rescued some from Sara’s kitchen, as no one in her house enjoyed it. (Sylvie’s comment: “I’m sorry, but I don’t understand that sentence.”)


Lilli practicing “gentle”

As delighted as I am that my parents clearly read my blog and have both gotten the memo about halvah, I have about three pounds of it in my kitchen right now. A fridge full of vegetables actually provided the answer for what to do about my halvah dilemma. I was on the hunt for something new to do with broccoli and was flipping through Ottolenghi’s latest, Plenty More, the sequel to his extraordinary vegetable bible, Plenty. And there they were: a recipe for halvah and walnut cake, followed by a recipe for halvah ice cream. (For those wondering what I did with the broccoli, I made Heidi Swanson’s broccoli gribeche salad from Super Natural Every Day.)

So Lilli and I grabbed our aprons — or kitchen smocks, as she calls them — and got to work on the ice cream. The cake will have to wait because it’s too darn hot to turn the oven to 400F. The result was excellent if you’re into halvah and ice cream — so, pretty much everyone.


Lilli in her “kitchen smock”

This is a traditional custard-based ice cream, with heated eggs, making it safe for pregnant women. You drizzle in tahini, then add halvah at the very end of the churn. I’m including the directions for those without an ice cream maker, but honestly, do what we did five years ago, and buy one off of Craig’s List for $25. This reminds me that I was sent a no-churn ice cream cookbook which I need to take for a spin. Will report back soon.

Three small things: I couldn’t find my jar of vanilla beans, purchased for cheap in the gourmet food section at Home Goods, so I used a teaspoon of extract, as a classmate/baker once taught me to do. Two: I also didn’t have  superfine sugar, so I made some by whirling regular white sugar in the food processor. Three: place the container you’re going to freeze the ice cream in before you get going, because Ottolenghi only mentions this as you finish up the churning.

The full recipe is actually for halvah ice cream with chocolate sauce and roasted peanuts. Ottolenghi likens it to a “luxurious Snickers ice cream: sweet, nutty, and comforting. The chocolate can mask the halvah flavor a little, so better not drench it with sauce; just drizzle lightly.” Since the point here is halvah, we skipped the chocolate sauce – for now.

me as a little girl

I think Lilli is the spitting image of me as a little girl in this picture, and not because she’s chowing down on halvah ice cream

Halvah Ice Cream with Chocolate Sauce and Roasted Peanuts from Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi


1 cup heavy cream

1 1/2 cups/350 ml whole milk

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped – alternatively, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 egg yolks

Scant 3 1/2 tsp/40g superfine sugar

2 tbsp/30 g tahini paste

3 1/2 oz/100 g halvah, cut into 1/4-inch/5-mm dice

Scant 1/2 cup/60 g salted roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped (store bought are best)

1tsp black sesame seeds (or white, if available)

Chocolate sauce

2/3 cup/150 ml heavy cream

Scant 3 oz/80 g dark chocolate (70 percent cacao), finely chopped

1/2 tsp brandy


Heat the cream, milk, and vanilla bean and seeds (or teaspoon vanilla) in a saucepan over medium heat until the mixture just comes to a boil. Remove from heat.

In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until combined. Use a ladle to spoon a little of the hot cream mixture into the egg mixture, whisking the whole time. Continue with more cream mixture until it is all incorporated. Return to the saucepan and place over medium heat. Stir with a wooden spoon continuously for 10 minutes, until the sauce thickens to a light custard consistency. Remove from the heat and whisk in the tahini. Leave to cool for 20 minutes, then remove the vanilla bean pods if using.

Pour the custard into an ice cream machine and churn for about 35 minutes, or according to the manufacturer’s instructions (for my machine it’s about 20 minutes) until semifrozen but creamy.

Alternatively, transfer it to a freeze-proof container and place in the freezer for 4 to 5 hours, removing it every 30 to 45 minutes and beating it vigorously with a spatula or whisk to break up the frozen areas. Stir in the halvah halfway through freezing.

Remove from the machine and stir in the halvah pieces. Place in a prefrozen container and freeze. Remove from the freezer 10 minutes before serving to let it soften.

Make the chocolate sauce just before serving. Place the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a gentle boil. Immediately pour this over the chocolate and stir until soft and uniform. Stir in the brandy. Divide the ice cream among bowls and drizzle some warm sauce over the top. Sprinkle with peanuts and sesame seeds and serve immediately.

New arrival!

I’d like to introduce you to Beatrix Louise Parr. Lilli’s little sister joined us on June 6, and has done an exemplary job of being a newborn: sleeping, eating, and filling up diapers. I wish she’d had gotten the memo about being an ace burper, but I’ll give her a pass on that one for a few more weeks.11401510_10102174805364411_4153459263116242899_n

For those wondering about her name, she was named for my Oma’s sister Bertel (a nickname for Bertha). As some of you may recall, Lilli was named for Oma, so we decided to reunite the sisters. Louise is for Nana Parr – Lois – and yes, we did distribute copies of her amazing cookie recipe at her naming ceremony. Beatrix’s Hebrew name is Bayla Ruth, Tante Bertel’s Hebrew name, and the Ruth in honor of Rich’s Grams as well as his Aunt Ruthie who just passed.

We’re still working on her nickname. I find myself calling her “Bea” although there is definitely a vocal Trixie faction, with one friend even giving us a copy of Mo Willem’s Knuffle Bunny to hammer the point home. Most amazing of all: Our neighbors welcomed a daughter on May 19 and we just found out her name – Ramona. So Bea or Trixie, she will forever be known as Beezus when she goes next door to play.

Having a toddler and a newborn is hard work, so this site has been unusually quiet these past few weeks. Added to the mix is a shoulder injury that has really kept me off the computer as well as being in the kitchen. (This is being written on my Galaxy S5 with additional help from Rich). Thankfully I finally started physical therapy for it last week – they couldn’t treat me until I had a baby – so I should be back in the kitchen soon.11428543_10101893535127222_3839312636187220219_n