Carpe Diem

Let’s see, it’s been a month since we celebrated Lilli’s birthday party, and I have just a few weeks before Passover starts. Apologies for those expecting a gluten-free recipe for the holiday, but I’ve wanted to share these whole-wheat chocolate chip cookies for years on the blog. It’s 6:51 am, and it’s the weekend. Carpe Diem, my friends.

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This year Lilli made it clear she did not want a cake, but rather these cookies by Kim Boyce that made the rounds, let’s see, oh, nine years ago. We baked dozens and froze them two weeks before the party, along with these spectacular and very simple blondies. We also made these halva tahini brownies that were so simple, and so so delicious, that really, the only thing you should be doing right now is melting some chocolate into olive oil.

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But yes, these cookies. They are a fan favorite. The whole wheat makes for a deeper, nuttier taste. The butter remains cold so you don’t have to plan in advance to made them as you do with most cookie recipes that call for softened butter. I promised my friend Ben a care package, and I do plan on mailing some to him. We got up early the day of Lilli’s party and made the smaller sized ones into ice cream sandwiches because, well, Carpe Diem, my friends.

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We had about 50 people in total to the house that day. A mix of current kindergarten friends, friends from PreK, friends from my Hebrew school class that Lilli comes to every Sunday with me, and a few pals from around town. Parents were invited to drop off or stay. Most stayed once they saw the spread in the kitchen.

This year I served: Michael Solomonov’s hummus (we used the Instapot for the first time to (intentionally) overcook the chickpeas; caramelized onion dip;  butternut squash and chickpea salad (which was kind of eh); Brussels sprouts with leeks, parmesan and chestnuts; Vietnamese tofu; peanut butter noodles; farro with dried apricots, mushrooms and hazelnuts; marinated roasted red peppers served with fresh mozzarella and crusty bread. You know, the usual fare for a six-year-old’s party

There was also the usual chips, dip, Pirate’s Booty, Lilli’s stuffed dates, pizza, and crudite for nibblers.

The kids clearly had a blast playing dress-up, doing art projects, and for some of the boys, playing tag inside the house. There may have been a lightsaber that needed confiscation.

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We sang happy birthday and enjoyed the aforementioned desserts, along with a Panda chocolate chip cookie cake by Papa, and some melon. It was a great party. And I still have about a dozen cookies in the downstairs freezer, despite Rich’s best efforts to finish them.

Kim Boyce’s Whole-Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients

Dry Mix

3 cups whole wheat flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt

Wet Mix

8 ounces (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch pieces

1 cup dark brown sugar

2 eggs

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

8 ounces chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Place two racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Although you can butter the sheets instead, parchment is useful for these cookies because the large chunks of chocolate can stick to the pan.
  2. Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl, pouring back into the bowl any bits of grain or other ingredients that may remain in the sifter.
  3. Add the butter and the sugars to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. With the mixer on low speed, mix just until the butter and sugars are blended, about 2 minutes. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until each is combined. Mix in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture to the bowl and blend on low speed until the flour is barely combined, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  4. Add the chocolate all at once to the batter. Mix on low speed until the chocolate is evenly combined. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, then scrape the batter out onto a work surface, and use your hands to fully incorporate all the ingredients.
  5. Scoop mounds of dough about 3 tablespoons in size onto the baking sheet, leaving 3 inches between them, or about 6 to a sheet.
  6. Bake the cookies for 16 to 20 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through, until the cookies are evenly dark brown. Transfer the cookies, still on the parchment, to the counter to cool, and repeat with the remaining dough. These cookies are best eaten warm from the oven or later that same day. They’ll keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

 

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Cooking for a Crowd

I feel a little silly coming to this space to tell you about a recipe that took the internet by storm  (checks notes, squints eyes) TEN YEARS AGO. I’ve been making it for years without a peep on this blog, but this fall I learned it’s very easy to double, triple, and even sextuple the recipe. So now I’m here to share the gospel of chickpea and butternut squash salad with tahini dressing.

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A local friend who I met through this blog has developed a crew of kiddush makers for the Conservative synagogue in town. Our volunteer group gathers in the kitchen every few weeks when it’s our turn to get the meal on the table. I’ve been tapped to do the menu planning, and it’s been a learning process. I think December’s Chinese food themed luncheon, with lo mein, magic tofu, Asian slaw, and gingery roasted broccoli salad, all served on top of white rice, was the best one we’ve churned out so far.

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Catching you up on the girls: here’s Bea at her ballet recital from December.

But for one of our earlier meals this fall, I made this chickpea and butternut squash salad with a tahini dressing using six butternut squashes I had piling up in my kitchen from the end of the fall CSA. I made it again this week in my own kitchen with tahini I picked up from Buy Nothing Northampton. As you can see in the photo, Rich tossed his with arugula we had in the fridge for a little something extra.

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And here’s the birthday girl Lilli at school this past Friday!

I think this is technically supposed to be served warm, but since it travels well and makes great leftovers, I’m not too picky about the temp it’s served at.

Butternut and Chickpea Salad with Tahini Dressing (Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

Ingredients

For salad:

1 medium butternut squash (about 2 to 2 1/2 pounds), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

2 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt

One 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (1 1/2 cups)

1/4 of a medium red onion, finely chopped

For tahini dressing:

1 medium garlic clove, finely minced with a pinch of salt

Juice from half a lemon

3 tablespoons well-stirred tahini

2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

In a large bowl, combine the butternut squash, olive oil, and a few pinches of salt. Toss the squash pieces until evenly coated. Roast them on a baking sheet for 25 minutes, or until soft. Remove from the oven and cool.

Meanwhile, make the tahini dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic and lemon juice. Add the tahini, and whisk to blend. Add the water and olive oil, whisk well, and taste for seasoning. You might need to add more water to thin it out.

To assemble the salad, combine the squash, chickpeas, and onion in a mixing bowl. Add the tahini dressing to taste, and toss carefully.

Anytime Tofu

I just sat down to share my Rosh Hashana menu from last month, but then had second thoughts because that was 12 dishes, plus three desserts. I will say this about that meal: The unsaid goal of the meal I set for myself was to build up to such a crescendo that by the time dessert was served, the vegans would want to eat the all three cakes served. Mission accomplished.

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Making Chocolate Granola.

But I worry I would bore you with all the details. I will instead, in honor of the vegans who were willing to eat the honey, share this tofu dish which I now have to keep in a Google Doc because people keep asking me for the recipe. It started, as it does quite frequently, at a Tot Shabbat. A little boy enjoyed the tofu so much that he declared that tofu was now his favorite food in the world and demanded his mom track down the recipe. I tripled the recipe at Rosh Hashana and have been pleasing folks right and left, since.

It’s from Saladish, which I wrote about last time I found my way here, and I’m OK still talking about this cookbook because it is such a good one. I marinate my tofu in a gallon-size Ziploc bag for a good three days before roasting and serving it. It’s actually part of a salad that I’ve never completed because I’m so stuck on the tofu.  

20181008_104047.jpgI always skip the sambal oelek to make sure young mouths won’t find it too spicy. I also cut up my tofu before putting it in the marinade, although the recipe is written to soak it whole.

Tofu (From a recipe called “Vietnamese-Style Tofu Salad” from Saladish by Ilene Rosen)

Marinade

2 tablespoons mirin

2 tablespoons sambal oelek (skip this because I skipped it. Too spicy for little ones.)

3 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar

4 ½ teaspoons flavorless vegetable oil

1 tablespoons tamari

1 tablespoon honey

Directions

Marinate the tofu: Whisk all the ingredients for the marinade together in a bowl. Transfer to a covered container or plastic storage bag. Add the tofu and turn it over several times so it is well coated. Cover or seal and refrigerate for at least 1 day, and up to 5 days – the longer the better – turned the tofu (or bag) occasionally.

Preheat the oven to 425F.

Set the tofu on a sheet pan, reserving any excess marinade. Swipe the tofu around to grease the pan. Cut the tofu horizontally in half, then cut the still stacked halves into quarters. Cut the quarters in half to form triangles and spread them out on the pan. [Or, you can cut the tofu before marinating.]

Baste the tops with the reserved marinade and bake for 10 minutes. Then flip the tofu over and return the oven for another 10 minutes. Let cool, then serve.

It Only Looks Fancy

Tell me I’m not the only one who went into Marshall’s last month in search of Father’s Day gifts and walked out with a 2 lb. bag of sunflower seeds. No? Only me? Oh well. I had a purpose in mind for the sunflower seeds – a Thai-inspired sauce – but I’m so taken with this recipe for Baby Carrots with Carrot-Top Pesto that I haven’t managed to find time to work on that other recipe.

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The carrot recipe comes from Saladish: A Crunchier, Grainier, Herbier, Tastier Way with Vegetables by Ilene Rosen with Donna Gelb, and I can’t stop/won’t stop cooking from it. All the recipes can be made beforehand, put in the fridge, then taken out, and are all still fantastic. My own take on this cookbook is that it’s a lot like Ottolenghi’s vegetable platters but not as ridiculous in their finishing details.

 

20180708_164536.jpgI made these carrots again tonight with my CSA carrots. I’ve also enjoyed the Rice Noodles with Lots of Asian Herbs and Lime Dressing, Roasted and Pickled Cauliflower, and tossed the Basil Dressing with a farro salad with summer squash and fresh corn. There are a ton more things I’m looking forward to making before this book has to go back to the library. Honestly, it’s looking more and more likely that I will actually buy this book, it’s that good.

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Although this looks like a fancy dish, it takes less than a half hour to put together, and most of that time is carrots roasting. While the oven preheats, I cut off the greens tops and plop them in a huge bowl of cold water to give them a clean. I scrub the carrots in cold water with a vegetable brush instead of peeling them. Although her recipe calls for 2 bunches of carrots, I used one with no negative results.

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Ilene suggests using the carrot top pesto as “a spread for crostini with anchovies, pickled carrots and sliced radishes; as a dressing for a wedge salad of iceberg or romaine hearts with crumbled blue cheese, spiralized or grated carrots, or as a garnish swirled into warm or chilled carrot soup.” Or you can put them on top of the roasted carrots themselves, with the aforementioned sunflower seeds, which you can get at Marshall’s while picking up presents for your next birthday/Father’s Day/Mother’s Day, etc.

Baby Carrots with Carrot-Top Pesto from Saladish by Ilene Rosen

Ingredients

1 bunch baby carrots, scrubbed, tops attached

2 to 3 tablespoons flavorless vegetable oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Carrot Top Pesto

About 2 cups loosely packed green carrot tops (stems discarded), from carrots above

¼ cup sunflower seeds, toasted (I didn’t toast mine)

1 small garlic clove

1 ½ teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 ½ tablespoons white wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice

1 ½ teaspoon honey

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons flavorless vegetable oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Fruity olive oil for thinning the pesto

3 tablespoons queso fresco, crumbled

2 tablespoons canned or jarred pickled jalapenos, minced (I did not have any on hand)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400F

Trim the carrots, leaving ½ inch of the green tops attached. Reserve about 2 cups of the remaining frilly tops for the pesto, plus several of the nicest-looking tops for garnish. Cut any fatter carrots lengthwise in half so they are all about the same thickness and place them on a sheet pan. Toss with enough oil to coat, spread them out in the pan, and season with salt and pepper. Roast the carrots for 18 to 25 minutes (depending on the size), turning occasionally, until nicely browned and tender.

Meanwhile, make the pesto: Put the carrot tops, 3 tablespoons of the sunflower seeds, and the garlic in the bowl of food processor or in a blender and grind to a paste. Add the mustard, vinegar, and honey and blend throroughly. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the oil and process until the pesto is thick but still retains some texture. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (You’ll have some pesto left over; store it tightly covered in the refrigerator, and use it within the next day or two, while the color is still bright.)

Arrange the carrots on a serving dish. Thin the pesto with olive oil until it can be drizzled. Spoon some pesto lightly over the carrots, and transfer the remaining pesto to a small serving bowl. Top the carrots with the cheese, followed by the jalapenos (if using), and finally the remaining 1 tablespoon sunflower seeds. Serve the remaining pesto on the side.

 

Picnicking from Here

We celebrated our anniversary this year with a very hot night at Tanglewood, for the season finale of Live From Here with Chris Thile. To be honest, Garrison Keillor always made me feel a little uncomfortable, so I was happy when Chris became the host. He’s made it a much more music-centric show. Lake Street Dive, The Punch Brothers and Emanuel Ax were all guests our night. We were only scolded once by management because of the girls’ behavior. I actually am getting over a muscle strain so I couldn’t chase the girls around with Rich. He’s been exhausted since, although running and riding his bike in this heat probably doesn’t help.

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We had a wonderful picnic and ended up sitting with my Cousin Roz, who was there with a friend. We didn’t manage to find my cousin on the other side, Brian, who was also there that night. (Half my readership is my family who will delight in knowing the family was together in the Berkshires.)

But yes, the picnic! Oh my, it was a wonderful one. I had a lot to work with from our CSA, and lots of recipes I wanted to try out. In addition to this week’s recipe, I used the zucchini in a frittata, along with caramelized red onion and feta. Lilli made a caprese salad all by herself. There were also sundry items, including chips and guac, garlic and lemon green olives (found at the Co-op for half the price as Whole Foods), some stinky cheese, crackers, and yogurt and honey for the girls. Rich brought a Rye Saison by Bear and Bramble, brewed by one of our neighbors here in Florence.

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I had a hard time choosing what recipe to post because there have been so many good ones lately, and I have a few more lined up, but I am going with this fennel and white bean salad. Fennel is happening right now and the summer squashes will be around all summer.

We enjoyed this salad last summer as well, and I had meant to share it then, but there was kimchito tend to, and ice cream to eat. The idea of the salad comes from Julia Turshen and her wonderful cookbook, Small Victories, which earned a spot on the top shelf. I say “idea” because it’s a “Spin-Off” suggestion on from a recipe for a Chopped Chickpea Salad: “MIX WHITE BEANS WITH FENNEL, chopped fresh parsley, a little chopped fresh oregano, and shards of Parmesan. Dress with fresh lemon juice and olive oil.” That’s it.

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I forgot the fresh herbs in mine, and added red onion, which I soak in lemon juice as I get everything else prepared. Yes, the fennel would benefit being sliced paper thin on a mandolin, but I just used the same very sharp chef’s knife I used to cut my onion and lemon. My fennel were medium-sized ones. I see enormous ones in the regular grocery store, and I’ve had teensy ones from the farm share. These were the right size for Goldilocks. I clean mine by peeling off the icky, wrinkly first layer and giving the rest a wash.

I didn’t end up using my entire can of Northern White Beans for this recipe – about ⅓ of a cup of them are sitting in my fridge right now, waiting on their destiny.

This is a great salad to pack, be it on a picnic or for a work or school lunch.

Fennel and White Bean Salad

Ingredients

⅓ red onion, sliced thin

1 half fresh lemon

3 Fennel bulbs, cleaned and shaved on a mandolin or thinly cut with a sharp knife

⅔ can of Great Northern Beans, rinsed and dried

Hunk of Parmesan

Kosher salt

Extra virgin olive oil

Fresh parsley

Directions

Thinly slice the red onion and place it in a bowl. Juice some of the lemon half, but not all of it. This will take the bite out of the onion. Sprinkle a pinch of salt on top of the onion and lemon juice.

Thinly slice the fennel. Add that to the onions.

Rinse and drain the beans. Add to fennel and onions.

Stir everything in the bowl. Squeeze the rest of the lemon into the bowl. Drizzle a little olive oil, up to two tablespoons, into the mixture. Add another pinch of salt. Shave about a tablespoon of fresh Parmesan into the bowl. (Or skip it, and keep if vegan.) Add parsley, if using.

If you’re going on a picnic or packing this up, let the salad sit in its own juices for at least 10 minutes for everything to settle. Then pack up.

 

Compote Season

Well then. Now that I’m done teaching Hebrew school for the year, I can get back to ye olde blog. But honestly though, March is such a let down in terms of food. Then it was Passover, which I meant to write about, because let me tell you, we ate like kings every day of the holiday. But then April was unusually cold, which meant that the asparagus was late this year. It’s always the first week of May, but it was closer to a week and a half in before stalks started popping in my front yard.

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Rhubarb was also late this year, but has now officially started taking over people’s yards. Someone had so much of the plant that they put out a call on my beloved local Buy Nothing Facebook page, where my finds so far have included a nightstand, a bathroom clock, curtains, pizza, children’s snow pants, and, today, four free duck eggs.

I picked about 2 pounds worth of the ruby and emerald stalks, and was going to make it into a rhubarb compote, then use that to make a rhubarb spoon cake in Rich’s cast-iron skillet. But I only had a quarter cup of flour in the house, so compote was all I made in the end.

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However, inspiration struck as I was chopping up the rhubarb, and I added about 2 cups of cleaned and quartered fresh strawberries (bought for and rejected by the girls). I think if I’d had some fresh ginger on hand it would have rocketed this compote out of the stratosphere. All that being said, this brand new compote recipe is divine, and I even got the girls to bed a half hour earlier than usual tonight  because I needed to share this with you that badly.

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The rhubarb compote and spoon bread recipe is from Erin French’s The Lost Kitchen, which I wrote about last summer, because her custard with freshly picked blueberries and basil, remains one of the tastiest and most elegant desserts I have ever served.

I’ve enjoyed this on Greek yogurt (full fat, please) as well as on local vanilla ice cream. Yes, both; don’t judge, it needed to happen. The compote now sitting in a glass jar in my fridge and will last about a week. I mean, the compote will be good for about a week. I don’t see this lasting past Friday.

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Rhubarb and Strawberry Compote

Adapted from Erin French’s The Lost Kitchen

Ingredients

3 cups chopped rhubarb (1-inch pieces)

⅔ cup sugar

Zest of one lemon

Juice of one half lemon

2 teaspoons cornstarch

2 cups cleaned and quartered fresh strawberries

Directions

In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the rhubarb, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and cornstarch. Bring to a summer over medium heat, stirring constantly until the rhubarb becomes tender and sauce-like, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cleaned strawberries and cook for about 4 more minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. This will keep in the fridge for up to a week.

Every Day Pie

My Cousin Larry is moving to the South of France in just about a month. He’s looking forward to leaving Trump and all his madness behind. He makes a point to say that Trump is not the cause, but a symptom of much larger problem. I don’t disagree.

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Cousin Larry is probably the best family member to do “family.’’ He can be counted on to attend all family simchas, like weddings, baby namings, and bat mitzvahs. And he was key to the Weinberg Family Reunion in London back when I was pregnant with Beatrix. In August, when Lilli and I cat sat in New York City for a week, we met up one afternoon and saw the Calder exhibit at the Whitney. Afterwards, we took Lilli to a candy shop, and then journeyed to Dominque Ansel Bakery during which Cousin Larry and I discovered that our behavior around baked goods — and as it turns out, cruise ship buffets — was shockingly similar. It was as if we were related or something!

Larry’s also the family genealogist. So a few weeks back, when he was visiting Aunt Sydney to review old photos and the family tree he’s painstakingly put together, he made a point afterwards to come to our house for a meal and a nice long afternoon visit.

Because his wife Ashley is allergic to nightshades, I made a point to serve all sorts of things he usually has to avoid, like cauliflower stew and marinated roasted peppers with fresh mozzarella. We also had a farro salad with Castelvetrano olives, walnuts and golden raisins, and roasted broccoli.

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And then we had this lemon pie for dessert. As I’d mentioned back in the fall, I’ve been on a pie kick, and this has become my go-to “I’ve got nothing in the house, but I can make fantastic a pie in no time flat” recipe.  I’ve taken to keeping sweetened condensed milk and graham crackers on hand for this recipe. Lemons are something you should always have on hand. Limes will work too.

The crust is the same as for this peanut butter chocolate pie, and is originally from Food and Wine’s Desserts cookbook. I use it all the time now. I even purchased Kosher-for-Passover Graham crackers and brown sugar for the holiday. Now I can whip up pies on a moment’s notice for unscheduled visitors. Or just because.

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Because every recipe I’ve read for this sort of pie has you add room temperature eggs to the mix, do yourself a favor and take two eggs out of the fridge and place them in warm water as you make the crust. It will make things move along that much faster.

At some point we will make it to France to see Cousin Larry in his chateau. He’s already scoped out the best place to buy pastry for when we come.

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Lemon Pie

For the crust

One plastic package Graham crackers, broken

4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

¼ cup brown sugar

For the filling

1 can sweetened condensed milk

Juice of 2 lemons, plus their zest

2 eggs, room temperature

For the topping

1 cup heavy cream (Or use 2 cups if you want a very dramatic pie.)

2 Tablespoons sugar

Directions

Before you begin making your crust, place 2 eggs in warm water to bring to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

In a food processor, pulse the Graham cracker crumbs with the melted butter and light brown sugar until the crumbs are moistened. Press the crumbs evenly into a 9-inch glass or metal pie plate. Bake the crust for about 10 minutes, just until lightly browned. Let cool.

Meanwhile, make the filling. In a large bowl, whisk the lemon juice with the lemon zest, condensed milk and eggs until smooth.

Pour the filling into the cooled crust and bake for about 20 minutes, until set around the edges and slightly jiggly in the center. Let pie cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until you serve it, at least two hours.

Make the whipped cream: Using a mixer, beat the heavy cream until soft peaks form, 2 minutes. Beat in the sugar until stiff peaks form, 1 minute. Mound the whipped cream on the pie.

Serve.