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.

Magic Tofu

I did a quick glance through the past few posts that I managed to get up on this site, and I’m slightly embarrassed to realize they are all desserts. And what’s more, I came to tell you about our local and sustainable Rosh Hashana, with a recipe for a scrumptious carrot cake. 

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Lest you think we eat dessert all day long, I will instead share a recipe I’ve been meaning to post for months now. It’s actually a recipe that I’ve already shared, but with enough tweaks that it is a completely different beast. It’s now the best darn tofu I’ve had in my life. 

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Remember the special, special tofu that people flipped for last year? Well, I’ve made it better. And instead of a three-day marinade, this is now a less-than 20 minutes from start to finish recipe. First you’re going to blot dry your tofu, then cut it up, toss it with some corn starch, then fry it in a nonstick pan. Flip it, fry the other side, pour the sauce on top of your golden, crisped up tofu. Soon enough, you’ll be looking at the prettiest, glossiest tofu. And it tastes even better than it looks. 

There is one thing about this recipe that has stopped me from posting: It tastes best right out of the pan. I can’t figure out how to reheat the leftovers, so you’ll need enough people to eat all the tofu. Unless you want to stuff yourself, but please don’t do that!

The Best Tofu You’ve Had in Your Life, adapted from Saladish by Ilene Rosen

Ingredients 

1 (14 oz [400 g]) block extra-firm tofu 

2 to 3 Tablespoons (16 to 24 g) cornstarch

1 Tablespoon  (15 ml) oil, for pan

Sauce

2 Tablespoons mirin

3 Tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar

4 ½ teaspoons flavorless vegetable oil

1 Tablespoon Tamari

1 Tablespoon honey 

Directions

Drain the tofu and squeeze it between your hands over the sink to get the excess water out. Slice it into cubes, or slabs. Sprinkle 1 heaping Tablespoon (about 8 to 12g) cornstarch into a large container, add the tofu in a single layer , then sprinkle another heaping tablespoon (8 to 12g) of cornstarch. If you can, cover the container and shake to coat the tofu with cornstarch.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the tofu in a single layer and fry, flipping once when golden, until crispy on both sides, about 4 minutes per side. (While the tofu is frying, prepare the sauce.) Lower the heat to medium and pour in the sauce. Let the sauce simmer and thicken for a couple of minutes, flipping to tofu to coat it on both sides. 

Serve immediately. 

 

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’s the End of the World As We Know It

And how’s everyone’s week going so far? Let’s see, at noon on Friday, January 20, I closed my computer, stepped away from my desk, and got my ears repierced. I realized I’d rather have someone insert large needles through my body than watch the end of American Democracy. I’m so sickened by what’s going on that I’ve laid low on all forms of news media since November. Off went my radio, television, and most news. I listen to Lite Rock and only read the local newspapers. I spend a lot of time on Pinterest – I owe you all photos of the girls’ play room.

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Rich needs to pay attention for work, but he’s been distracting himself with house décor as well, sifting through vintage shops around town. No, seriously, there are now five chairs in my living room. To make sure we get in a laugh every day, we watch an episode of My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend every night, now that it’s finally on Netflix.

Despite my best efforts, I’m still not missing much. If it’s important, it still floats to the top. I know about “alternative facts,” Bad(ass)lands Twitter, the muffling of the EPA — you know, the crumbling of American Democracy. I’m sure there’s even more, but I’m not going there.

I’ve also dug deep into my cookbooks as most of them had been boxed up since last May. The girls and I made cumin meringues, an old Ana Sortun recipe (I enjoyed them; my mother did not.) I delved into a really great cookbook my dad sent me for my birthday last year that was boxed up pretty much right after I received it. The New Mediterranean Jewish Table is actually pretty academic, as cookbooks go. There’s always background and history for each recipe, which I love.

And when I came to the mint vinaigrette that is “ubiquitous” in “Italy, Greece, Turkey, Morocco, and the countries of the Arab world,” I perked up immediately. This had to be the mint dressing they serve at Amanouz Cafe, the incredible Moroccan restaurant in town. Seriously, though. Aleza came for a visit, and we went here, and I made her eat my salad in hopes that she could pin down what exactly was in it. Well, it turns out she couldn’t, but agreed that it was very nice.

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There’s something sweet about it, and there’s some citrus to it, given all the lemon. As the author Joyce Goldstein explains, this dressing is “excellent on spinach salad, bean and grain salads, citrus salads, and on cooked carrots, beets, asparagus, and potatoes, and it can be delicious spooned over cooked fish.” In my own kitchen, I served it on a salad of spinach, pickled red cabbage (another Ana Sortun recipe), beets, carrots (I’m really into using a peeler for preparation these days), feta, green olives, cucumbers, and avocado.

You’ll need to make an infusion of mint and lemon juice, which honestly takes about 10 minutes, with most of that time hands off. Although the recipe says it will last two to three days, it will last a little longer than that. Just be sure to refrigerate it.

I’ll be back soon with many more recipes. The kitchen has been a great distraction, and we’re going to run out of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend episodes before the end of February.

Mint Vinaigrette from The New Mediterranean Jewish Table: Old World Recipes for the Modern Home by Joyce Goldstein

Ingredients

INFUSION

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

¼ cup chopped fresh mint

1 ¼ cups mild, fruity extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup red wine vinegar

2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

½ cup packed chopped fresh mint

1 teaspoon honey

½ teaspoon salt

Directions

To make the infusion, combine the lemon juice and mint in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat and remove from the heat. Let steep for about 10 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl, pressing against the mint to extract all of the liquid. You should have about ¼ cup. It will no longer be green because of the lemon juice, but it will be intensely minty.

To finish the vinaigrette, whisk the oil, vinegar, lemon juice, mint, honey and salt into the infusion. Leftover vinaigrette can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days. Bring to room temperature, then whisk in a little fresh mint. Taste for salt and acidity and adjust if needed.

 

 

 

Sick Days

Sorry to disappear there for a few weeks. We’ve been sick. All of us. No real diagnosis, except the girls’ coughing still sounds pretty terrible, and we always need to have tissues close at hand for little noses. (Update: Lilli was up all night with what clearly is a stomach bug.) The best way to describe how I’m doing is that I sometimes feel hungover, which is pretty frustrating as I cut out all alcohol last year. The migraines aren’t worth it, but boy could I go for a gin and tonic this week.

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When I feel a cold coming on I cook up a different sort of tonic. It’s one from my childhood friend’s mom. This and her Salad Olivier are pretty essential to my life. My friend is originally from Latvia; I think her mom is from Lithuania, so I guess we can call it Baltic? Soviet? Eastern European? From the Old Country?

Despite being tasty and having magical healing powers, it hadn’t occurred to me to even share it here. But I was reading one of my new cookbooks given to me over the holidays – Small Victories by Julia Turshen – and she totally shares her “Cold Elixir” on page 255! I skip the cinnamon and cayenne pepper and use lemon, instead. She makes a big batch of it then keeps it in the refrigerator for up to two days and heats it up as she needs it. I make mine one glass at a time, though I see the benefit of cooking up a large batch. But I promise you, if you drink this right when you feel a cold coming on, it stops it in its tracks.

When I woke up last week feeling meh, I made myself a mug of this and settled down with a pile of my cookbooks. “Be careful, please,” Rich said as he saw me with a hot liquid and all the new books. Obviously I spilled my drink within 35 seconds of that. The books were fine, and Lilli actually jumped up from the couch, saying she would refill my glass. I heard her pushing her Kitchen Helper around the kitchen, turning on the faucet and collecting the ingredients; granted I was a little nervous for her to be using the microplane, but I knew she was psyched to use the reamer for the lemon. When she brought it to me, my heart basically melted all over the floor. It was quite possibly the best thing I’ve ever had in my life.

I made her the same drink the following week, but skipped the vinegar because I thought it would be too bracing. Her reaction? “Yuck!” Which is the same thing her sister said when she licked the cat a couple days ago. But that’s another story.

I measured this out so I could share the recipe here. As always, I recommend keeping your fresh ginger root in the freezer; just use a microplane to grate it into the hot water. If you have access to local honey, use it; among other things, like supporting a local business, you will be ingesting local pollen and lessening any allergies you might have to your surroundings.

Brigita’s Cold Elixir

Ingredients

8 oz. boiling water

Juice of ¼ lemon (or half of one if you think it’ll help)

½ or up to 1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, grated or chopped

1 Tablespoon honey

A splash, or up to 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Directions

Combine the water, ginger, vinegar, honey and lemon in a mug and stir until the honey dissolves. Drink soon as it’s cooled down enough to sip.

Twenty Years in the Making

Lilli has taken to carrying her stepstool around the house to help her reach things she isn’t supposed to reach. Of course, she rarely uses it for its intended purpose, which is to reach the sink to wash her hands after she uses the potty. She does, however, use it to reach the stickers that are supposed to be rewards  for when she does use the potty.

bea at 4.5 months

Last night Rich made the unfortunate decision to walk away from the bath he was drawing, and set down the bottle of bubble bath on a shelf. He came back to find her holding the bottle upside down and dumping it into the bath. All of it. She used up the whole bottle, and yes, it was like in cartoons with bubbles floating around the bathroom. She was in heaven, but the joke’s on her because this means no more bubble baths for a while.

The silver lining to the bubble bath debacle was that it reminded me that I’d wanted to share this recipe for green beans I finally nailed down. Of course, right now you’re probably asking yourself what an out-of-control bubble bath has to do with green beans, and I’m getting there.

When I was in high school my mom used to make these wonderful stir fried green beans. They were full of fresh garlic and ginger and tossed with a mixture of soy sauce and honey. The soy’s saltiness was balanced out by the sweet honey glaze. They were great. My best friend, who was originally from Latvia, would come to our house and eat them directly from the serving dish. That was fine by me because I would go to her house and eat insane amounts of beet vinaigrette, Salad Olivier and napoleon cake.

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I called my mom this summer to get the recipe. “I have no idea what you’re talking about. It was 20 years ago.” Undeterred, I set out to recreate the dish. I remember the beans being very limp, crinkly and blistered by the time they were served, so I started by steaming the beans for a few minutes. I used chunks of shallots and fresh ginger and garlic – I actually even took a photo to so you could see for yourself. But I could not figure out the glaze at the end. I consulted Aleza who suggested corn starch. It didn’t sound right, so I called my mother again. “Still with the green beans?”

But then I had a flash to when I would make these in college. It was a vision of me holding the bottle of honey directly above the pan, just like Lilli held the bottle of bubbles over her bath. And it worked! Glaze achieved. When I posted the finish photo to Facebook my best friend chimed in immediately saying she loved those beans when we were teenagers. Success!

Lilli on hayride

A few things: I worked in half pound batches to nail down this recipe. I know it will double and triple just fine. The garlic, ginger and shallot pieces should be much bigger than a mince (see photo); you want to really taste the flavors with each bite. If you’re up for it, make it a tablespoon and a half of each. A little heat would be a nice contrast to the sweet honey. I steamed my green beans in the microwave, but if you feel prefer the stove top, go right ahead. My mom always used a wok, and even though I have one, I rarely, if ever, use it. A large saute pan will do just fine. I am convinced red pepper strips often made their way into this dish, and sometimes walnuts topped it. My mother, again, swears she has no idea what I’m talking about, but feel free to experiment.

Green Beans with Soy-Honey Glaze

½ lb. green beans, cleaned

1 heaping Tablespoon chopped shallots

1 heaping Tablespoon chopped ginger

1 heaping Tablespoon chopped garlic

3 Tablespoons honey, plus about a Tablespoon-and-half more for the pan

3 Tablespoons soy sauce or tamari

1 teaspoon sesame oil

2 Tablespoons canola oil

Directions

Steam the green beans for four minutes.

In a large sauté pan or wok, heat the oils until they shimmer. Once they are shimmering, add the shallots, garlic, and ginger. Stir them for about a minute. Add in the green beans and toss them with the contents of the pan.

In a small bowl, stir together the three tablespoons of soy sauce and three tablespoons of honey. Pour the mixture into the pan and over the green beans. The whole pan should be sizzling. Cook everything down for about 7 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds or so. But please use your best judgement – if it looks like something is going to burn, cut off the heat.

The beans will begin to wrinkle. At this point, grab your bottle of honey and pour about a tablespoon and a half directly into the pan. The heat of the pan will have the honey sizzling. The glaze should form in about a minute.

Serve over rice.

As Tends To Happen

in the trees

My office is close enough to the Watertown Free Public Library that I can spend my lunch break there and know I can make it back to my desk with time to spare. It’s a great library – full of sunlight and helpful librarians. The children’s department looks massive and I keep on meaning to take Lilli there on the off chance we get to spend the day together. Best of all, it’s part of the Minuteman Library system, a consortium of more than 30 local towns’ libraries. So if for some reason the Boston Public Library – a place that a librarian friend calls a library “on steroids” – doesn’t have what I’m looking for, I have 30 more chances that the book, or movie, or album, can be found.

This past summer I went in search of travel books to Montreal. I remembered that Watertown’s collection was more up-to-date than the BPL’s when I planned our trip to Europe a few years ago. And as tends to happen, I found myself in the cookbook section where I was excited to find The Mile End cookbook, the cookbook of the deli in Brooklyn founded by Montrealers who missed their hometown’s smoked meat.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, the cookbook also featured a walking map of their favorite food joints in the Mile End. And this was on top of a book devoted to smoked and pickled things, two of my favorite ways of preparing foods. I bookmarked and Xeroxed recipes that piqued my interest. There’s an olive oil cake recipe I plan on baking for Chanukah, but first up is this honey cake.

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This honey cake is divine. It’s moist. It’s warm and spiced up because it is by their parents’ old neighbor, baker extraordinaire Marcy Goldman, who based it on a gingerbread recipe. It calls for a cup of honey, which sounds like a lot, but the bear on my counter still has honey in his belly. I only had dark brown sugar in the house, which gives it an extra nice molasses feel.

The first step is something I’ve never done before, which is combine orange juice and honey in a saucepan then add baking soda to it. It fizzles and bubbles like a fourth grader’s volcano, and it gets set aside. I actually baked this cake in a number of steps, in between dinner, bath time and post-bedtime, so I can confidently say it’s OK if you set aside the saucepan for an hour to tend to something. This recipe is machine-free, just calling for some whisking and stirring. Place your eggs in a bowl of warm water if you forget to take them out ahead of time.

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Two caveats with this recipe: I’ve baked it twice and can report that the bake times the recipe calls for need to be just about doubled, at least with my oven. Also, I’ve oiled and floured the Bundt pan very well, but this cake does not flop out when flipped. Just cut out the pieces to serve. It still tastes delicious.

Best wishes for a sweet and happy new year. L’Shana Tova Umetukah!

Honey Cake from the Mile End Cookbook: Redefining Jewish Comfort Food from Hash to Hamentaschen by Noah Bernamoff and Rae Bernamoff

Ingredients

1 cup orange juice

1 cup honey, plus more for drizzling

½ teaspoon baking soda

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup (packed) brown sugar

1 cup sugar

¾ cup canola oil

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoons ground cloves

1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Toasted almonds (optional)

Powdered sugar (optional)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350F. Combine the orange juice and honey in a large saucepan. Place it over medium-low heat, bring it to a simmer, and simmer until the liquids have come together and you can no longer feel any honey sticking to the bottom of the pan, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add the baking soda; stir to combine, then set the pan aside.

In a large bowl, combine the eggs and sugars and whisk vigorously until smooth. Then add the oil and whisk until the mixture is completely emulsified and smooth. Pour the reserved orange juice mixture into the egg mixture and whisk for a few seconds to combine.

In another large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt; mix together with a spatula. Pour the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients and whisk, scraping down the sides with a spatula, until any lumps are eliminated, 10 to 15 seconds.

Grease a Bundt pan with oil or cooking spray and dust the pan liberally with flour, tapping out any excess. Pour the batter into the pan and bake on the middle rack of the oven until the surface starts turning a golden brown about 15 minutes. (Or longer, depending on how badly your oven needs to be recalibrated.) Rotate the pan 180 degrees and tent it lightly with aluminum foil. Continue baking until a thermometer inserted reads 200F and a knife comes clean. Another 20 to 25 minutes. (Or more, depending on how badly your oven needs to be recalibrated.) Cool the cake completely on a wire rack. Invert it onto a serving plate and drizzle it with honey. Top with toasted almonds and powdered sugar, if you like.