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.

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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.

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.

Kissed with Garlic

I’m not sure if more people go to the Middle East in Cambridge’s Central Square for the food or the live music, but for me, the draw to the night club and restaurant was always the whipped garlic. They serve it in a miniscule bowl, smaller than a saucer, with triangles of pita, served in a small wicker basket, on the side for dipping.

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I think the owners are Egyptian – they also make a terrific fool – but it took me years to learn that the zippy sauce I craved was actually Lebanese. It’s called toum and if you go into, literally, any Lebanese falafel and shwarma shop it will be an option next to the tahini sauce as they build your dish. Toum was once described to me as a “very strong kiss of garlic,” by another Lebanese restauranteur.

And even though I have spent hours of my life thinking about this sauce, it wasn’t until this winter as I stockpiled garlic from my Winter CSA that it ever occurred to me that I could skip the lines and make my very own jar of toum. I should add the reason I had so much garlic on hand is because I was sent an Israeli product, Dorot, which packages frozen cubes of garlic, ginger and a few other herbs, and has simplified my life so much. Making a soup and want some garlic? Putting together a curry and you want a ton of ginger and garlic? Toss in some frozen Dorot cubes. They are a life changer. But that means my garlic pile on the counter kept on growing and I barely touched it.

 

 

20180129_081217.jpgIt wasn’t until I got the February Bon Appetit that I finally made my way to the kitchen. I ended up using an amalgam of recipes, rather than the one in the magazine. The best advice I’ve read about making this sauce is to put your bottle of oil in the fridge while you prep the garlic, which takes time because you really want to remove any green stems as that will cause your dip to be bitter. Trust me, I’ve had bitter toum and it really was awful; definitely take the time to clean your garlic thoroughly. The recipes also warn that this is an emulsion, so go s-l-o-w-l-y when adding the chilled oil. It’s best done in a food processor.

This made a canning jam jar of the sauce, and I put it on everything while it lasted in the fridge. It’s great on roasted potatoes — and roasted sweet potatoes. I spread it on Friday night challah, dolloped it in red lentil and potato stew, and even used it as a dressing on salad greens.

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Although the recipe calls for 4 cups of oil, I think mine hit the right consistency, like a thin mayonnaise, before I poured in 2 cups. They say it lasts up to 4 weeks in the fridge, but trust me when I say you’ll use it up long before then. 

Toum (Lebanese Garlic Sauce)

Put your bottle of oil into the fridge as you gather the rest of your ingredients and prep the garlic

Ingredients

Up to 4 cups grapeseed, avocado or extra virgin olive oil

½ cup of peeled garlic cloves

Juice of 1 lemon, divided

½ cup of ice water, divided

Kosher salt

Directions

Before you begin, place your oil in the freezer or refrigerator so that it is chilled, but still liquid. While the oil chills, remove the ends from your garlic cloves, split them in half and remove any green layers from inside.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine garlic cloves, a hefty pinch of salt, juice of half a lemon, and 1/4 cup of the ice cold water.

Process until smooth, then stop and scrape the sides of the food processor with a spatula.

Turn the food processor back on and drizzle the chilled oil through the top as SLOWLY as possible, one cup at a time.

Scrape down the sides of the food processor as necessary. Be sure that your processor does not get too hot, as this can cause your sauce to separate.

Juice the second half of the lemon, and add the rest of the ice water.

 

Add oil until you’ve reached the texture you desire. The final result should resemble a thin mayonnaise. Store toum in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four weeks, although it will be long gone before then.  

 

Apply to everything.

Oops.

 

20171210_144218.jpgAnd sometimes you have such an overwhelming week that you accidentally email your food blog subscribers the newest Hebrew School post. My apologies for my subscribers, all 17 of you, half of whom are related to me, for the error. But now you know why posts this season have been fewer; it’s because I’ve been working a second job and tending to a second blog for it.

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Also new this season: we’re using a Winter CSA. The vegetables were so extraordinary from our summertime CSA at Mountain View that we decided to do their Winter CSA, which is biweekly. They promised more than 30 lbs. of root vegetables. I wasn’t expecting nearly 15 lbs. each of carrots, sweet potatoes and potatoes. But sometimes you’ve just got to go with it.

Not that I’m complaining, but I did turn to Facebook last month in hopes of some new carrot ideas. My two best takeaways were roasting them with honey and lots of Aleppo pepper, then drizzling yogurt and sprinkling fresh mint on top. The second was this carrot bread that a Boston friend, Amy, posted straight to my page. She has always served me top notch baked goods, so I took notice and got out the food processor that same night.

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This carrot bread is reminiscent of carrot cake, my favorite cake, so that’s a good thing for me. It’s made with oil, making it dairy-free. If you use Earth Balance to butter the pan it stays that way. It’s great sliced in the morning, with maybe a swipe of cream cheese or butter, but it’s great plain, too. It freezes like a dream. I served this alongside some dried cranberry cream scones, jelly doughnut muffins and cut up pineapple for the parent coffee schmooze at services yesterday morning, and it was very much appreciated.

20171120_201224.jpgThe recipe makes two loaves which means one automatically goes into the freezer. Bake this tomorrow and have one at the ready when friends stop by unexpectedly.

I’ll be back soon with a kale recipe for Chanukah. Yes, really.

Carrot Bread

4 eggs

2 cups sugar

1 ¼ cup oil

3 cups flour

2 teaspoon baking powder

1 ½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoon cinnamon

2 cups finely shredded carrots

Beat eggs, add sugar, beat, add oil. Beat. Stir in dry, mix until smooth. Stir in carrots. Bake at 350F for 1 hour until toothpick comes out clean.

Hot Crock Time Machine

I’m about to make your holiday cooking about 10 times easier. Seriously. Those caramelized onions you need for that potato kugel or chopped liver?  What if I told you you can do them in your sleep — literally?

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It had never occurred to me to caramelize onions in a crockpot, which is genius. The credit goes to someone named Barbara L. who submitted the recipe to Stock the Crock, a follow up to Phyllis Good’s bestselling Fix-It and Forget It series. The recipes are crowd sourced and compiled by Ms. Good. One of the cookbooks was sent to me a few years ago, and I made a very disappointing sweet potato curry from it. But reading that these books have outsold Ina Garten, Giada De Laurentis and Jamie Oliver, combined, had me picking up this newest with renewed curiosity. Here she’s compiled 100 recipes, as well as 200 easy-to-follow variations for dietary preferences including gluten-free, paleo, and vegan.

Given that this is a Crock-Pot cookbook, there’s a ton of meat recipes, but I immediately bookmarked the Indian Lentil Soup and Butternut Squash and Kale Gratin. But it was the onions, melted down ostensibly for French Onion Soup, that stopped me in my tracks. You mean I can do this in my sleep? While I’m at work? If this worked, I thought, this book is worth its weight in gold delicious oniony goodness.

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Turns out it did work, and the house now smells like caramelized onions. The hardest part of all was slicing up all the onions. Rich came into the kitchen this morning and saw me weeping at the counter and asked what was wrong.  Then he looked down and saw the onions. If you can, the recipe suggests you stir the onions after the first and third hours, but it does also say they’ll be fine if you can’t. The onions give off so much liquid that there’s no way they’ll scorch on the bottom of the pot.

So consider this a Rosh Hashanah present, from me to you, or an early time-saver looking ahead to Thanksgiving, etc.

Caramelized Onions for Soup (Or Sandwiches. Or Kugels.) from Stock the Crock by Phyllis Good

Ingredients

2 ½ lbs. red onions

1/3 cup avocado oil or olive oil

½ teaspoon kosher salt

A few peeled garlic cloves, optional

Directions

Grease the interior of the 6 qt. slow cooker crock with nonstick cooking spray

Cut the onions in half on a cutting board, place them flat sides down, and cut them into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place the sides in the crock. If they come almost to the top, don’t worry. They’ll sweat and shrink down.

Pour the oil and spoon the salt over the onions. Add the garlic cloves, if desired. Stir. Cover. Cook on High for 6 hours.

If you are home, stir up from the bottom after the first hour of cooking and again after another 2 hours. But if you’re away or cooking overnight, it’s not a problem.

After 6 hours you have caramelized onions. I personally waited for mine to cool down, then I wrapped them up and stuck them into the freezer to be used later this week.

Kitchen Helper

“What’s your house like?” asked a little girl Lilli was on a playdate with. “It’s…messy. Really messy.” I’d actually found myself in a similar conversation with a rabbi I’m working with days before. There are always projects going on — not renovations, more like this morning’s empty milk carton is about to become a robot’s head. And used toilet paper and paper towel rolls are clearly supposed to be arms and legs of figurines waiting to be made. Empty pizza boxes are dragons’ mouths; close your eyes and you can practically already see their teeth.

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And then, of course, are the kitchen projects. Nowadays Lilli is always by my side, armed with a butter knife, ready to cut anything soft enough. Ripe stone fruit work. So do tomatoes and some cheeses. And then there is the veggie sausage she cut for the vegan jambalaya, made with the okra Lilli and I would hand pick at the farm each week. That sausage came from a Western Mass company called LightLife, which invited me to enjoy some of their vegan sausages and hot dogs this summer.

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They also sent us a cute little portable grill, with a case that doubles as a cooler; a very handsome set of grilling tools, and Sir Kensington condiments. Beatrix, as it turned out, is a Lightlife hot dog fanatic. She gobbles them up, then asks for more while smashing her hands to sign “more” to hammer home the message. I ended up sending cut up pieces of the fake dogs in her lunch box this summer.

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I can report that Rich grilled the hot dogs successfully on the tiny grill, though he felt slight ridiculous with his Weber kettle standing at the ready. But let’s talk about this jambalaya recipe I developed this summer and love making. It starts with New Orleans Holy Trinity flavor base of onions, green peppers and celery. I add a healthy dose of tomato paste, which I keep flattened in a plastic Zip Loc in the freezer, to bolster the flavor.

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Once the veggies are softened, I browned the sausage, then added the okra, a small can of tomato sauce, then stock or water. My personal choice is water and the vegetarian Better Than Bouillon. To keep things simple, I use a can of black beans, drained. And instead of rice, which is totally fine to use, I tend to reach for the 10 Minute Farro from Trader Joe’s. That really cuts down on the prep time, making this an easy weeknight dinner. Because there is always squash in the fridge, I’ll sometimes quarter one and add it to the pot when I add the okra.

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This makes an immense amount of food. It can serve four adults as a main, with leftovers for days. It also freezes well; I have some in the freezer now.

Vegan Jambalaya

Ingredients

1 package Lightlife sausages, cut into ½ inch pieces

1 green pepper, seeded and chopped

1 small white onion, chopped

1 celery stalk, chopped

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

8 fresh okra, chopped or 1 cup frozen

1 small yellow summer squash, quartered

1 8 oz. can of tomato sauce

1 14.5 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup Trader Joe’s 10 minute farro or 1 cup brown rice

2 cups vegetable stock (I use Better Than Bouillon)

Salt

Directions:

In a very large, lidded skillet with sides, soften the pepper, onion and celery in the tomato paste. Sprinkle liberally with Kosher salt.

Once softened, add the chopped sausage; brown it. Add the okra and summer squash; cook until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, black beans, farro and stock. Stir and salt. Bring to boil. Reduce to simmer.

Cook the stew until the farro or brown rice has softened. If you’re using the Farro, check it in 15 minutes. If you’re using the brown rice, it will be closer to an hour.

Check to see if the farro has cooked. Serve.

This post was sponsored by Lightlife. Opinions are my own.