Spare No Detail

If you’re anything like me when it comes to food, and you probably are if you’re reading this blog, then you love a good meal recap. What they served at Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding? Tell me more! You just had an incredible meal at a farm-to-table spot in Nashville? Spare no detail, please. With that in mind, I hope you will appreciate hearing about the meals we had over Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot. Perhaps they will inspire your own menus. This is going to take a while, and there’s no formal recipe at the end, but I do describe how I made some of the dishes as I go.

First Night of Rosh Hashanah

The first night of Rosh Hashanah was just us four, so I kept the meal small. This was also because I was putting so much effort into the second night’s meal. But for first night, I took the caramelized onions I’d made in the crock pot and made them into a caramelized onion and blue cheese whole wheat tart. The butter from the crust dripped onto the floor of the oven, setting off the fire alarm. I roasted an acorn squash from the CSA with olive oil, salt, pepper and brown sugar, which dripped off the squash and set off the fire alarm when it wasn’t going off because of the tart. Those two, along with a simple salad, is how we started the new year. (Shout out to Rich who oversaw the oven’s self-cleaning overnight to get ready for the main event.)

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Second Night of Rosh Hashanah

For second night, we hosted my parents, my friend Dan, and some friends in town, whom I put in charge of the first fruit. They did a stellar job, bringing rambutan (a cousin of the lychee) and a durian fruit. (For better or worse, the durian was frozen and we didn’t get a chance to open it, but we will later this month. I’m so excited!)

For dinner we had, roughly in order:

Dates stuffed with Goat Cheese. Lilli is 100% completely in charge of this dish. She’s become very adept at using a butter knife to pit the dates.

Potato leek soup, with a dollop of crème fraiche. If you’re going to gild the lily one night of the year, it might as well be Rosh Hashanah.

Baked brie peach chutney in puff pastry. The same friend who brought the wacky fruit had a few weeks earlier collected peaches from her neighbor’s yard, which I made into peach chutney. I sliced off the top of a round of Camembert cheese, piled a few tablespoons of the chutney on top, wrapped it in puff pastry, applied an egg wash and baked it at 400F for 20 minutes — without setting off the smoke alarm! It was marvelous with the round challah from Small Oven Bakery.

Pickled cherry tomatoes. From a new cookbook by Leah Koenig I borrowed from the library that week.

A salad of mesclun, fresh figs, red grapes, blue cheese and candied pecans. I sautéed the grapes with a sprig of fresh rosemary and salt and made a sweet balsamic dressing I made with the local honey we dipped our apples in.

Delicata squash with thyme bread crumbs. Also from Leah Koenig.

Caprese salad with a balsamic reduction.

Farro with honeyed apples. Definitely worth cooking the honey in sweet apple cider.

Baked haddock. Don’t ever overlook Old Bay spice; there are entire states whose cuisines are based on it. I threw together a quick and easy tartar sauce with relish, mayonnaise, kosher salt and fresh lemon. My parents requested a non-dairy dressing to bring to their Shabbat dinner the following night, so I turned the tartar sauce into Thousand Island by adding 2 tablespoons ketchup, a teaspoon white vinegar; I forgot the half minced white onion, but I think it was fine.

Roasted mushrooms. I served these specifically because I thought Bea would eat them. She did!

Roasted carrots. Super low key, just coconut oil, kosher salt and pepper.

Dessert was plum cake, apple and walnut bars, and honey cake.

Special shout out to Thuy, who brought the spectacular new fruits and cleared the table and washed every dish in a matter of 20 minutes. You’re welcome back any time!

Sukkot

First night Sukkot was small, just us four and my parents. Still, the meal is still worth talking about. We had:

Carrot ginger soup

Baba ganoush (more to come on this)

Slow-roasted plum tomatoes. These looked like canoes when I took them out of the oven, so I filled with dollops of ricotta and chives.

Leek-artichoke tarts topped with blue and parmesan cheeses.

Radish and tonnato

Kale salad with roasted delicata squash and pomegranate

Peanut butter mousse ganache pie (recipe to come, soon!)

And ice cream, courtesy of Oma and Zayde.

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I’ll be following up with full recipes for the baba and peanut butter pie. But now I’m going to take a break. Just recapping all that cooking has made me tired. Happy new year, everyone!

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A Sukkah of One’s Own

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I’m teaching Hebrew School this year at the Reform Temple in town, where we go to Tot Shabbat every month. Last week we had our Open House where I met seven families whose children, ages Pre-K through second grade, will be in my class this year. I somehow convinced the rabbi we could definitely handle making a really easy plum cake recipe – with each family. We ended up making 10!

One of the bonuses to teaching Hebrew School, I mean, on top of making my parents unbelievably proud, is to fulfill my dream of having a sukkah.  (Daycare costs are KILLING us, so I used this extra income to purchase a sukkah kit we found online.) Well, on Sunday we hosted a sukkah building and decorating party for our friends and neighbors. It kind of reminded me of the Christmas tree decorating party I held back in Boston, mostly for my Jewish friends who’d always wanted to decorate a tree.

 

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Rich filled a cooler with cider, beer and seltzer, and I set up a craft project: build your own sukkah out of cream cheese, graham crackers and pretzel rods. I covered a table in arts and crafts projects: sequins, pre-cut paper for a colorful chain, popsicle sticks, beads, fishing line, pipe cleaners, paint, brushes, stickers. Just a ton of materials, much of which ended up in the grass courtesy of Beatrix.

 

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I filled a second table with tons of baked goods: blondies, whole wheat chocolate chip cookies, apricot bars with an oat and whole wheat crust, one of the plum cakes from last week (defrosted that morning). I also made chive and cheddar scones because Sylvie thought I needed something savory in the mix. I adapted a sweet scone recipe, using 1 Tablespoon of sugar instead of 3, and sprinkled shredded cheese and chives, cut with kitchen shears, when it called for currants to be added.

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So, yes, that’s a lot. In fact, one of the reasons I didn’t post last week was I was too busy baking! But the recipe I’m most excited to share with you are the salted fudge brownies. I realized as I made them last week I don’t have a brownie recipe in my collection. But I think these are going to be my go-to brownies because they’re wicked easy to make, and quite tasty.

They’re from Desserts, from the editors and writers of Food & Wine which, as you all know, is my favorite of the food magazines. (Moment of silence for Lucky Peach, please.) The first thing I cooked from the book is a recipe that both Rich and I singled out: a chocolate chip cookie for one. It was terrific, took five minutes to put together, and cooked up nicely in my toaster oven. I’ve bookmarked the salted caramel pie, but I need to find the time to cook the sweetened condensed milk. And I’m going to need a few hours to put together the pumpkin pie bars.

One feature about the cookbook I’m really appreciating is that it tells you an estimate of how long a recipe is going to take to put together, bake and also cooling down time. Very helpful as I plan projects with the girls.

These brownies, however, are great because they were so easy to put together. It only took a few minutes, and it’s all done in one pot, so there’s very little to clean up. You start by melting baker’s chocolate and two sticks of butter in a pot. Once everything has melted together, you add the rest of your standard brownie ingredients, stir it up, then put it in a brownie pan that’s been covered in foil and then buttered. Couldn’t be easier. It is worth mentioning that I only had 1 ounce of baker’s chocolate and used chocolate chips for the other ounce, so I cut down the sugar from 2 cups to one. It didn’t seem to make a difference, and I’m sure they’re even better if you follow the recipe.

Salted Fudge Brownies from Desserts by Food and Wine

Ingredients

1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, plus more for greasing

2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped

¼ cup plus 2 Tbs. unsweetened cocoa

2 cups sugar

3 large eggs

1 ½ tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ tsp. Maldon sea salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9-inch square metal cake pan with foil, draping the foil over the edges. Lightly butter the foil.

In a large saucepan, melt the 1 ½ sticks of butter with the unsweetened chocolate over very low heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat. Whisking them in 1 at a time until thoroughly incorporated, add the cocoa, sugar, eggs, vanilla and flour. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface. Sprinkle the salt evenly over the batter. Using a butter knife, swirl the salt into the batter.

Bake the brownies in the center of the oven for about 35 minutes, until the edges are set but the center is still a bit soft and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out coated with a little of the batter. Let the brownies cool at room temperature in the pan for 1 hour, then refrigerate just until firm, about 1 hour. Lift the brownies from the pan and peel off the foil. Cut the brownies into 16 squares and serve at room temperature.

The brownies can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to a month.