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. 

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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.

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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!
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Spinach and Artichoke Dip 

Ingredients

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 

Directions

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. 

Snack-O-Lantern

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.”

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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 

Ingredients 

2 cups pumpkin puree 

4 eggs

½ cup water

1 cup honey

½ cup raisins

½ cup currants

4 Tablespoons flour 

Directions

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.

 

20190419_194511.jpgSometime 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.

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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

Ingredients

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)

Directions

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.

WHIPPED CREAM

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.

 

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.

 

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.