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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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.

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.

 

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.

Change of Schedule

I truly thought my next post was going to be about fruit, or the next few posts, when I really think about it. With three sour cherry trees out back, countless blueberry bushes, and brambles of thick black raspberry bushes, a fruit post only made sense.

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But life moves pretty fast. Tonight I texted Rich, “I hope you’ll be home any minute, because dinner is amazing and I’m worried there won’t be any left by the time you get home.” I thought it best to share the dish with you all, if only so I have a record to go back to.

The dish in question is Radishes with Tonnato, Sunflower Seeds, and Lemon. It’s from Joshua McFadden’s Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables, a book I’d read about and finally got from the library last week. When I saw this recipe, I knew it was a keeper. Honestly, this whole book is a keeper. I was on page 46 out of 396 when I remarked out loud, to no one in particular, that I thought I was going to need to actually purchase this book, rather than keep it out until the library hunted me down. I still have to make the Caper Raisin Vinaigrette, and since I’ve already earmarked this week’s CSA summer squash for a summer squash cake for Tot Shabbat, the Squash and “Tuna Melt” Casserole will have to wait until next week.

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Today’s recipe is technically in the Spring section, even though I think we are now in Midsummer. But considering that asparagus keeps growing in my front yard, I think I get a pass. Tonnato is a tuna sauce, and here it’s spiked with fresh lemon, then tossed with fresh radishes and toasted sunflowers. The recipe also calls for a small handful of fresh mint. I didn’t have any on hand, but I’m thrilled with the dish, as is.

I’m a tuna fanatic, be it on a bed of sushi rice or mashed with mayo in a salad with celery, bread and butter pickles and handfuls of fresh herbs, but this here might be my new favorite way to enjoy it. Last year I’d gotten into buying tuna in oil, to toss with fresh pasta and chopped olives and capers, so I’d had a can in the house. Although the basic tonnato recipe calls for two cans of tuna, the radish salad says to use half the recipe, so the one can I had on hand was perfect.

I served this alongside this fresh cherry and herb salad. I actually couldn’t find the hot pepper I swore I had in my crisper, so I used a pinch of Aleppo pepper in its place. The whole dinner felt fresh and amazing — the first of many to come with all the fresh fruits and veggies coming my way.

Radishes with Tonnato, Sunflower Seeds, and Lemon by Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables by Joshua McFadden

Serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side

Ingredients

½ recipe Tonnato (to follow)

Juice of ½ lemon

2 bunches radishes, greens trimmed off and reserved for another dish, radishes halved or quartered

1 small handful of mint leaves

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

¼ cup sunflower seeds, lightly toasted

1 small handful sunflower sprouts, optional

Directions

Put the tonnato in a large bowl, squeeze in a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice, and stir to mix. Add the radishes and toss to coat.

Add the mint and season well with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust with more salt, pepper or lemon juice.

Add half the sunflower seeds and sprouts (if using). Toss, then top with remaining seeds and sprouts. Serve soon.

Tonnato

Makes about 1 ½ cups

Two 5-ounce cans oil-packed tuna, drained

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

About 1/3 cup good quality mayonnaise (such as Hellmann’s or Best Foods)

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

About 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Directions

Put the tuna and salt in a food processor and pulse until it’s blended. Add 1/3 cup mayonnaise and pulse until the ingredients are getting creamy. With the processor running, drizzle in the olive oil and lemon juice and process until the tonnato is very smooth and creamy.

Taste and add more mayonnaise, olive oil, lemon juice, or salt. Store in the fridge for up to 1 week.

More Ways to Use It:

Use as a dip for any raw, grilled or roasted vegetables.

Spread of slices of veal.

Thin it out with more lemon juice and toss with boiled and smashed new potatoes or add it to a romaine salad.

Spoon it on bread and top it with Soft-Cooked Eggs, tomatoes and capers.

Use it in a charred broccoli dish.

 

 

Lemonade was robbed.

Returned to my office after a short meeting this morning to discover that my colleague, who’d made the mistake of offhandedly remarking that there was too much rhubarb in her yard, had hung an enormous bagful on my door knob.

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With the temperature today and tomorrow soaring into the 90s, it’s far too hot to crank up the oven for the rhubarb spoon bread I’d bookmarked. But, as luck would have it, I stumbled across the perfect hot day recipe for rhubarb: Rhubarb lemonade.

It’s from the Sqirl cookbook, one of my Christmas/Chanukah gifts from Rich. I’d set the book aside in late December when I was annoyed to discover that every recipe that piqued my interest called for a food processor. I took the book out over this weekend in anticipation of my missing piece being replaced by Cuisinart. And yes, it finally came this week!

(Speaking of food processors: Do yourself a favor and put five ripe bananas in a large Ziploc bag and toss that in the freezer – I have a terrific dairy-free, gluten free pie coming your way. Peel them first!)

I have a lot to say about this cookbook, but I honestly can’t give it a fair shake until I test a few more of the recipes. But for now, let’s have pink lemonade.

The recipe calls for ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, from about 3 lemons, although two did the trick for me. Most of the prep time is hands off. The rhubarb syrup simmered away on a back burner while I made dinner. (Yay induction stove not heating up the kitchen!) The drink is sweet and refreshing and not at all tart.

Rhubarb Lemonade from Everything I Want to Eat: Sqirl and the New California Cooking by Jessica Koslow

Ingredients

1 1/3 cups (200 g) chopped rhubarb

2/3 cup (135 g) sugar

½ cup plus 1 tablespoon (135 ml) fresh lemon juice (from about 3 lemons)

Directions

Put the rhubarb, sugar, and 1 and 2/3 cups (400 ml) water in a pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat so that the syrup simmers. Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring every once in a while, until the rhubarb has fallen apart and imbued the liquid its color.

While the syrup is still hot, pour it through a fine-mesh sieve into a large measuring cup or bowl. Use a rubber spatula to really press on the rhubarb mush and squeeze out every last drop. Let cool.

There should be about 1 ¼ cups (300 ml) rhubarb syrup. If there is more, save it for adding later on. Pour the rhubarb syrup into a 1-quart (1-L) jar. Add the lemon juice and 2 cups plus 1 tablespoon (495 ml) water into a large jar or pitcher. Stir our shake well.

Serve chilled over ice.

Makes 1 quart.

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.