For Rich’s birthday (not to be confused with Father’s Day or our anniversary, all which happen within a week of each other) I made strawberry-peach-basil shortcakes and shared the recipe for it in this week’s There is a Season column.
There is a Season
This summer started with a furlough. It’s not an ideal situation, but I’m trying to make the most of it. Introducing my new cooking column – There is a Season – in the Daily Hampshire Gazette. My column runs on Saturdays, but you can find me online any day. If you like what you see, consider buying a subscription and helping me support local journalism.
If you were wondering, it was my editor who came up with the name. He offered me a few, but I loved There is a Season because it’s punny and so true. It also reminds me of Ecclesiastes, and since one of my degrees is actually Bible, it makes me smile.
For my first week I did a variation on an old Cheap Beets favorite: a savory galette. I’m not going to reprint the full recipe here, but it’s really more a template that you can fill with whatever vegetables you have coming your way this summer.
Ready for my close up
I’ve received a number of requests for recipes I’ve posted to my Instagram account with some folks even asking for video demonstrations. I took vacation time for Passover, and today I offer you Cheap Beets’ first ever video. It’s for zucchini ricotta fritters, something I make every year for Passover. Enjoy!
When I dip you dip we dip
The new year has come and gone, and so has Chanukah and Christmas, two holidays that filled our house with guests and lots of gifts for the girls. We had our bathroom floor replaced before the break, and now we, and the contractors know, that the pipes are in the wall, rather than the floor. Live and learn.
We hosted a latke bash for the last night of Chanukah, and served latkes made with veggies from our winter CSA: sweet potato, potato, and celery root and carrot. We also used potatoes Lilli planted with her kindergarten at the farm at her school last year. They weeded and composted, and cared for the potatoes since last April.
We served the latkes with your choice of sour cream or apple sauce. For those wanting to guild the lily, you could also have creme fraiche, chives and caviar I found in my pantry when we were cleaning up from the aforementioned bathroom floor incident.
I also made a gluten-free mac and cheese, with local milk, cheese and butter. (At Sylvie’s suggestion, I used corn starch in the roux; it was very easy to work with.) We had a big Greek salad, and this spinach and artichoke dip.
I’ve been serving this dip for years, and it’s always a hit. Apologies for not sharing it sooner. The combo of fresh spinach and garlic, chopped artichoke hearts, cream cheese, cheese, a touch of mayo, and more cheese on top, is a winner, regardless of the gathering.
It has about a pound of fresh spinach in it. That may seem like a lot, but as we say in this house, spinach is a lie. Plus, when you realize how much dairy the recipe calls for, the spinach seems to shrink even more than it has already.
I tend to make this and bake it hours before serving, and then pop it into a hot oven for a brown crust on top right before serving.
Amazingly, we had some left over from the party, and this weekend Rich put it in the waffle iron with batter for breakfast. Proof that you really can waffle anything!
Spinach and Artichoke Dip
1 lb. fresh spinach, cleaned
2 cloves garlic, slivered
1 can, chopped artichoke hearts
⅓ cup mayonnaise
1 package cream cheese, softened
2 cups shredded cheese (think mozzarella or provolone)
1.5 cups shredded parmesan
Preheat oven to 350F
In a very large pot, heat a tablespoon of olive oil. Add garlic, and a pinch of kosher salt. Add the spinach, in batches if you have to. Cook it down – add a little water to help it cook down. This should take about seven minutes.
While the spinach cooks, chop your artichoke hearts and cut up the cream cheese.
Once the spinach has shrunk, add the artichoke hearts and cook for about 30 seconds. Remove from heat and add the rest of the ingredients, except for the parmesan. Stir until everything is combined and soft.
Pour mixture into a lasagna pan and bake in the 350F oven for 20 minutes.
Before serving, raise the temperature of the oven to 400, sprinkle the parmesan on top, and bake until golden and bubbly.
Serve with tortilla chips, pita chips, or cut up vegetables. Up to you, really.
Rich and the girls went on a corn maze adventure last Sunday, and somehow brought home EIGHT pumpkins at the end of the day. Two were painted by the girls, and we’re halfway through carving the two big ones into jack-o-lanterns:
But the small sugar pumpkin, whose stem Lilli accidentally broke off, was roasted immediately and is now pumpkin pudding. I suggest you do the same with your sugar pumpkins.
To rescue the broken pumpkin, we cut it in half lengthwise and removed the seeds and stringy guts with an ice cream scoop. Then we roasted the pumpkin, cut-side down and brushed with olive oil in a 400F oven, for about 50 minutes.
The recipe couldn’t be simpler; everything goes into a blender. The cookbook – The L.L. Bean Book of New New England Cookery, by Judith and Evan Jones – was inherited from Nana Parr. A friend commented on the photo of the pudding, noting how she also had inherited cookbooks and recipes. “It’s so special to pass on that love.”
As for this recipe, I skipped the amaretto liqueur. I know a cup is a lot of honey. I personally made a point not to use the expensive kind I own for this recipe. I used golden raisins for my raisins. I find the pudding tastier a little warm, so I’ve been scooping myself servings, then heating it up in the microwave for about a minute before serving. This would be great with whipped cream, although we have been enjoying it with plain yogurt with a little maple syrup drizzled in. This is a pumpkin pudding that tastes like autumn without tasting anything like pumpkin spice.
Put your kettle on for the water bath before you start making the pudding; it comes together that quickly.
Pumpkin Pudding from The L. L. Bean Book of New New England Cookery by Judith and Evan Jones
2 cups pumpkin puree
½ cup water
1 cup honey
½ cup raisins
½ cup currants
4 Tablespoons flour
Preheat the oven to 350F. Heat a kettle of water.
Put all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and mix thoroughly.
Pour the batter in a shallow, lightly buttered baking dish, and place the dish in a pan containing about 1 inch of hot water.
Bake in a 350-degree oven for 50 to 60 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Serves 6 to 8.
Rings a Bell
It was a Baker’s Dozen at our house for first night seder. I recently eliminated fish from my diet, making this year’s seder completely vegetarian. For those curious, I served quinoa stuffed mushrooms; this mushroom and spinach egg bake; beet, orange and pickled fennel salad; roasted asparagus; roasted Japanese yams with an herby yogurt sauce; and matzo pizza for the kids. My parents brought a broccoli kugel and roasted potatoes to round out the meal.
But I’m not here to talk about dinner. Nope, we’re going to focus on the gluten-free dairy dessert that was a big hit at dinner, and on the Internet, this weekend.
Sometime last month I decided on doing a pavlova: a bed of airy meringue, topped with fresh whipped cream with fresh berries piled on top. This gave me ample time to find a good recipe. I cruised the Internet to find a reliable kosher-for-Passover pavlova recipe. I settled on one from Jamie Geller’s The Joy of Kosher. I made her tahini halvah brownies back in January, and they were superb.
As a lucky bonus to my quest for the perfect pavlova, this week I caught an episode of Simply Ming on PBS Create, in which he made pavlovas with Joanne Chang of flour bakery fame. I watched it carefully, taking notes as to how, why, and when Joanne added her sugar to the egg whites a spoonful at a time, and how long she cooled her meringue after it baked in a very low oven.
The big changes for a kosher-for-Passover pavlova were using potato starch instead of cornstarch and adding a smidge of vinegar; this helps with drying the meringue out. Although this recipe isn’t such a big deal to put together, you do need time. I did this at night so I could let the meringue dry out overnight in the oven as it cooled. I’d suggest you do the same.
The hardest part of this recipe is separating five egg whites, but then your machine does the rest of the work. Although I have hand-held egg beaters for Passover, it took me until this year to realize my Kitchen-Aid Mixer’s attachments are metal and could easily be kashered with some boiling water. If you can chill your bowl and whisk ahead of time, so much the better. The eggs are supposed to be cold, as well, so they can come right out of the fridge.
I made this Thursday night and whipped up the cream Friday midday, stuck that in the fridge, and put the dessert together during the seder. The whole process was simple and fuss-free. The results were no less than spectacular.
Mixed Berry Pavlova, adapted from Jamie Geller
For the Pavlova
5 cold egg whites
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons potato starch
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
Whipped Cream (recipe follows)
Garnish: Mixed Berries (I used blueberries, raspberries and blackberries)
Preheat oven to 250°F. Using a dinner plate, trace a 9-inch circle on a piece of parchment paper. Flip the paper so ink does not get on the meringue and set aside.
Whip whites, salt, and vanilla on high in a mixer until firm. With the motor running, add sugar, a spoonful at a time, until whites are glossy and very stiff.
Gently fold potato starch and vinegar into meringue with a spatula.
Transfer meringue to prepared parchment paper. Form meringue into a rustic bowl. It’s not necessary to make it perfect. Just be sure to make the center thick enough to support the filling.
Bake pavlova at 250°F for 1 ½ hours. Turn off the oven and do not open the door for at least 6 hours or, better yet, overnight. The residual heat will crisp up the meringue and keep humidity out.
Place pavlova on a serving platter. Pile whipped cream on pavlova. Add berries.
With a mixer, or by hand, whip cream and sugar in a chilled bowl will chilled beater until soft folds form.
Whip until soft peaks form.
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.
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.
I 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)
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Easy As Pie
We live in walking distance of the Florence Pie Bar, which is so quaint and hip and perfect that NPR featured it in their story last month about how hip and full of Hygge pie has become. As adorable as the shop is, with its orange door and seating area the size of a postage stamp, the $5-a-slice price tag keeps our visits infrequent. Lots of people do go; some people hang out there. Just not us.
Still, I follow them on Instagram and last February, when they posted a peanut butter pie topped with a crown of fudgy chocolate, I picked up Lilli (who is perfectly capable of walking) snapped her into her car seat, and zoomed over. You know how I am about the holy marriage of chocolate and peanut butter. The slice was amazing, but that’s the one and only time I’ve been.
But with their slices in my feed, I get a challesh, a hankering, for pie pretty regularly. So when I was flipping through What Can I Bring? Southern Food for Any Occasion Life Serves Up, by Today Show regular Elizabeth Heiskell, I was stopped in my tracks by the Peanut Butter-and-Banana Pudding recipe. Inspiration struck: What if I took just the peanut butter mousse part of the recipe, made myself a pie crust with all the leftover Graham crackers I had in the house from Sukkot art projects, and topped it with ganache? I mean, that’s what cooking and baking is all about, right? Inventing, and reinventing and borrowing, and building off a great idea.
So that’s exactly what I did. After consulting with Sylvie and my mother who both agreed there needed to be a layer of ganache in between the crust and mousse, to prevent the pie from getting soggy. And it was glorious! Just glorious! Sylvie has been given explicit instructions to serve this at my shiva if I go first (hopefully a very long time from now.) It’s a very rich pie, so a thin slice is all I need to get my fix.
This is a dead simple recipe which takes minutes to put together. You honestly don’t need fancy chocolate for the ganache; I just used the chocolate chips I keep in my freezer. The ratio of heavy cream to chips was 1:1 so it made for a very thick layer – key for me because I do love that combination of chocolate and peanut butter. I have no allegiance to peanut butter brands, but for this recipe don’t use the natural stuff.
We still have tons of Graham crackers leftover, and I’m still creating new pies. I made this lemon pie that I’ll share with you soon. That was even easier to make, if you don’t think you’ll get sick of eating pie. I don’t think I will!
First, make your Graham cracker crust:
1 sleeve Graham crackers, broken
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
¼ cup light brown sugar
Preheat oven to 350F.
In a food processor, pulse the graham cracker into crumbs. Add the melted butter and light brown sugar until 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.
Make the Peanut Butter Mousse
3 cups creamy peanut butter
8 ounces (1 cup) butter, softened
1 cup (about 4 ounces) powdered sugar
Beat the peanut butter and butter with an electric mixer on medium high heat until smooth, about 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to low, and slowly add powdered sugar, beating until smooth.
Make the Ganache
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup chopped chocolate (chocolate chips are fine by me)
Bring heavy cream to simmer on stove top, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Turn off heat
Add chocolate chips to the cream. Let them sit, undisturbed, for 5 minutes.
Stir. It will turn velvety. Let cool slightly.
Assemble the Pie
Once your pie crust has cooled down, pour on a thin layer of ganache. Let cool. You should still have ¾ of the ganache left.
Once the ganache has cooled, spread all the peanut butter mousse on top of the chocolate layer, and spread evenly with a spatula.
Pour the remaining ganache on top of the peanut butter mousse.
Place in fridge to firm, about 2 hours.
City of Angels
When the girls are older, and we’re done paying for school and daycare, we will travel the world and have culinary adventures. It’s going to be a few years before anything like this happens, but I’ve been working on my list since long before they were born.
It might surprise you to learn that it’s not Europe at the top, but North America. And the top line belongs to Oaxaca, Mexico. It’s in the southwest of the country, and because of its mountains and differing climates, the food there is varied and amazing. Chocolate is grown there, and its best known for its seven moles. I would probably skip the edible insects, though.
I know, there isn’t a ton of Mexican food on my blog, but my dream is to make Chiles en Nogada, minus the pork, in a Mexican village. This summer, I started making my own chilaquiles with the tomatillos Lilli and I would pick at the farm. They were perfect and surprisingly simple to make and I’m sorry I didn’t find the time to blog about them. Next summer, I promise.
The second destination on my list is Los Angeles. Silver Lake, yes, but also the places that Jonathan Gold writes near-poetry about. I’ve always been about places tucked away. I had a gastronomy professor who used to say to look to a city’s suburbs, where rent is more affordable, especially for newer immigrants trying to run a restaurant.
So when I was contacted and offered the book L. A. Mexicano: Recipes, People & Places by James Beard winner Bill Esparza, I jumped at the opportunity. A book, about Mexican food culture in Los Angeles? Yes, please!
And it’s a wonderful book! Yes, there are recipes, 65 of them. But the book also profiles L.A. Mexicano community activists and politicians. It’s also a guide to L.A.’s best markets, vendors, taquerias, bakeries, and more. It’s essential reading for someone planning a trip to Los Angeles to eat. It’s also a primer on Mexico’s culinary regions, and there’s also a dictionary of Mexican culinary terms. The writing is wonderful and the photos are crisp and vibrant.
Sure, there’s a ton of stuff, like wild boar chilaquiles, that I’m skipping, but I settled on a papaya cream soup to test first. It’s actually not a Oaxacan specialty, but is based on the food served by Mexico City’s grand masters of Mexican haute cuisine, made by modernist chefs using Mexican techniques and ingredients.
To be honest, I’m not the biggest papaya fan, so I made it with the idea of giving it to my mom, who loves it. It was a lovely soup, light and sweet. And I’d never made a sofrito (onion, celery and green pepper) before. With its additional herbs and spice, it’s a little different than the Holy Trinity of Southern cooking I had to make for the summer vegan jambalaya.
I am not a drinker, so I can’t give you definitive directions on what white wine to use for the sofrito. I think the one I bought was from Portugal and cost $8. I bought my papaya from Trader Joe’s for $3.50. There’s a Mexican store in Hadley I’ve been dying to check out but haven’t had a chance to. Someday soon, I hope.
I’d meant to have this post up before Day of the Dead, so you could have a nice Mexican recipe to celebrate, but a migraine has been hounding me all week. Next year, hopefully.
Papaya Cream Soup from L.A. Mexicano by Bill Esparza
1 papaya, about 3 to 4 pounds, peeled and cut into chunks
½ carrot, peeled and cut into chunks
½ cup Sofrito (recipe follows)
½ cup sugar
5 cups stock (I used Better than Bouillon)
1 cup half and half
Sea salt and white pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 450F. Wrap papaya and carrot in aluminum foil with a tight seal and roast in the oven until both ingredients are cooked through, about 30 minutes.
In a medium saucepan, combine papaya, carrot, Sofrito, sugar and stock. Bring to a gentle boil and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour soup into a blender, blend for a minute, and then pour through a strainer back into the saucepan. Whisk in half and half and return the soup to a gentle boil for another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.
Sofrito This flavor base is useful for many soups, stews and sauces. Consider doubling the recipe to keep more on hand.
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
½ onion, diced
½ stick celery, diced
½ green pepper, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
Pinch of thyme
Pinch of oregano
1 bay leaf
½ cup white wine
Set a medium saucepan over medium heat and add oil, onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic, thyme, oregano and bay leaf. Cook, stirring until onion turns translucent, about 5 minutes. Add wine, increase the heat to simmer briskly, and cook until the sauce reduces, about 5 minutes. Discard bay leaf. This will keep in the refrigerator, covered, for a week or more.