Purple Balloons and Pickled Onions

And then in a blink of an eye, my baby turned two! For Beatrix Louise’s second birthday party we filled the playroom with two dozen purple balloons to match the purple balloons on the invitation, and set up tables topped with play dough and oodles of stickers. I served the kids pizza and a massive pot of boxed macaroni and cheese.

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My father came in from Jerusalem to see his grandchildren. So, in addition to Bea’s friends and family, we also had over some of our older relatives, including Aunt Sydney, who I’ve mentioned is basically our grande doyenne when it comes to food. Although my cousins assured me I could definitely serve her pizza, I took this as an opportunity to make a spread worthy of a small bat mitzvah. We had:

It was from his weekly column in The Guardian; this one focused on quick pickled onions. I actually didn’t use his pickled onion recipe – I love my own too much to cheat on it – but followed the rest of his recipe, coated with allspice and sugar, roasted, and topped with cilantro lime salsa and goat cheese. I kept the almonds on the side, as per Aleza and Sylvie’s suggestion. Nut allergies are no joke.

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The amount of cilantro salsa is small, and he recommends doing it in a spice grinder. My own grinder – a coffee grinder I picked up for $15 at Ocean State Job Lot years ago – is used so much for cumin that it reeks of the spice. To clean it, I used a trick I just read about (but can’t for the life of me remember where): grind up a piece of bread. And it worked!

For dessert we made a Princess Leia cake, per the birthday girl’s request, plus the frozen banana peanut butter pie, and Needhams, a chocolate-coconut treat from Maine that’s a little bit like a Mounds Bar. But that’s another recipe for another day. Definitely before the third birthday!

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Roast sweet potatoes with pickled onions, coriander and goat’s cheese

Ingredients

Pickled Onions
2 tsp sugar
Salt and black pepper
5-6 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into roughly 5cm x 3cm chunks
1/3 cup olive oil
½ tsp ground allspice
¼ cup cilantro leaves

Zest of 1 lime
¾ cup soft mild rindless goat’s cheese, broken into rough 2cm pieces
1/3 cup roasted salted almonds, coarsely chopped

Directions

Heat the oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7. In a large bowl, combine the sweet potatoes with three tablespoons of oil, the allspice, the two teaspoons of sugar, half a teaspoon of salt and plenty of pepper. Transfer to a large oven tray lined with parchment paper, and make sure the sweet potato chunks are spaced apart. Roast for 20 minutes, until crisp and golden-brown, then toss in any oil left on the tray and leave to cool.

While the sweet potatoes are cooking, blitz the coriander [cilantro], grated lime zest, the remaining three tablespoons of oil and an eighth of a teaspoon of salt to a smooth, bright green salsa. Use a spice grinder to do this (don’t use a food processor – the quantities involved are too small); if you don’t have one, very finely chop the coriander and mix the salsa by hand.

Once the sweet potatoes have cooled, arrange them on a platter and dot evenly with the pieces of cheese. Drain the pickled onions, and scatter on top. Finish with a drizzle of salsa and a sprinkle of almonds.

 

So Hot Right Now

Passover is almost here, but before I start sharing my growing stash of Pesach recipes, I need to talk about these spiced cauliflower muffins I became slightly obsessed with last month. I’d been looking for something interesting to bring to the Tot Shabbat potluck, and since Lilli was the cover girl in the article in the local paper about the program, I felt like I needed to bring it.

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This recipe taps into two hot food trends right now: cauliflower and turmeric. It seems 2016 was the year of the cauliflower, with recipes for its meaty “steaks” and cauliflower flatbreads. (More to come on those). But it was also the year of turmeric. I admit to being a little late to this one. My Aunt Bev brought my mom an enormous stash from her recent trip to Israel. She talked all about its healing properties, all of which I was completely unaware of. My only associations with turmeric up to that point had been stained clothes from Indian food. But then I started seeing recipes calling for it all over, and then the inevitable backlash as the wave crested. Sigh.

I made this recipe the very day I clipped it. It’s by the Israeli couple Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich, who helped Yotam Ottolenghi grow his empire and now run the bakery Honey & Co. in London. Their second cookbook Golden: Sweet and Savory Delights from the Ovens of London’s Honey & Co. reminded me that I have a sweet spot for Israeli-run bakeries, be it the Tatte empire in Boston, or Breads in New York City. The recipes, like the shops, are a mix of savory and sweet, with flavor touches like tahini and cardamom that I love.

This recipe is dead simple; no heavy equipment needed. Although the recipe calls for six enormous “trees” for six muffins, I used small florets and ended up with many more. The first time I baked these I used a mini muffin pan, and the batter was the perfect amount for all 24. I had more steamed cauliflower left after that batch, so I made a second round in regular-sized tins. That made nine perfect regularly-sized muffins.

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I ground the cumin and coriander seeds together in a spice grinder I picked up for $15 at Ocean State Job Lot a decade ago. I have the white pepper in the house specifically for hot and sour soup, so I was happy to finally have another use for it. I have seen turmeric everywhere from “international” stores, Whole Foods, and even Target. I have yet to find my pumpkin seeds since we moved, so I skipped them. The muffins were great without.

The muffin is this wonderful mix of warm spice and sweet, and then there’s the soft bite of cauliflower. I stored these in a plastic container on the counter but I have no idea how long they are good for because they fly pretty quickly when they’re around.

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Spiced Cauliflower Muffins from Golden: Sweet and Savory Baked Delights from the Ovens of London’s Honey & Co. by Itamar Srulovich & Sarit Packer.

1 small head of cauliflower
3 cups (700 grams/milliliters) water
1 teaspoon table salt

For the muffin batter
2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (175 grams) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (40 grams) granulated sugar
½ teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon table salt
A pinch of white pepper
4 eggs
5 ounces (150 grams) unsalted butter, melted

For topping (if you like)
3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
3 tablespoons grated pecorino or Parmesan cheese

1) Break the cauliflower into florets, making sure there are at least six large “trees.” (You will most likely have more than six; cook them all and save the unused florets to eat another time or use them for more muffins.) Put the water and salt in a large pan and boil the cauliflower in it until soft (this will take 5–10 minutes). Check to see whether it is done by inserting a knife tip into the stem; it should penetrate without resistance. Drain well and set side.

2) Preheat the oven to 375°F/350°F convection and butter six muffin molds. Mix all the dry ingredients for the batter together. Add the eggs and use a spoon or spatula to mix until combined, then slowly mix in the melted butter and fold until it has all been incorporated.

3) Place a spoonful of batter in the center of each mold and stand a whole floret stem-down in each. Cover with batter to fill the molds to the top. Mix the pumpkin seeds and cheese, if using, sprinkle on the muffins and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the tin and eat while still warm — they are best this way.

 

Teach Your Children Well

My mother’s family is German-Jewish. They lived in a small village in Germany for hundreds of years. They were successful and a part of the fabric of the community. Some owned shops; one served as the headmaster for the entire town. My grandfather was a scholar, earning his PhD in Classics and Archaeology before he was 27. One of his brothers was a chemist; the other, a doctor.

One day in the early 1930s, my grandfather woke up to find he was no longer allowed to sit on park benches. So they left. During World War II my grandparents hid in Provence, France, taking on the roles of French peasants and ran a silk worm farm. That’s where my uncle and mother were both born. Thankfully, they survived, but the Vichy turned in my Great Uncle Freidl.

After World War II they were blessed with the opportunity to come to America in the late 1940s. My grandfather, who had two PhDs at this point, spent his days working in a factory. At night he taught Classics at Yeshiva University. Eventually, he secured a job as head of a language department at a small college in Springfield, Mass.

When I was a little girl, my sister and I would spend Shabbat with my grandmother, my Oma. I will never forget hearing her screams in the middle of the night. We’d run into her room, and she would say that she had a nightmare that the Nazis found her. “You’re safe, Oma. You’re in America.”

It’s been just about a week since Donald Trump was awarded the electoral votes he needed to become the President-Elect of the United States. Yesterday he appointed Steve Bannon, an avowed anti-Semite and white nationalist, as his Chief Policy Advisor.

And I am terrified.

I keep on thinking about my grandparents, my grandmother’s screams, and my own children’s safety. I worry about my sister, a gay Jew, and the status of her marriage and the status of her wife’s adoption of their son. I worry about my fellow Jews, Muslims, people of color, and especially women of color.

There are petitions going round, people encouraging others to take a stand and sign. But I won’t sign anything. I’m too scared to have my name on a list.

The recipe I have for today was chosen for a few reasons. The first is because it’s from Yotam Ottolenghi, a gay Israeli who is married with two sons and has a Palestinian business partner. I would worry about him if he lived in the United States right now, but he’s currently based in the United Kingdom, a country that is also going through a hard right turn.

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The second reason I am sharing this recipe is because it features sweet potatoes. When my family hid in France, they ate what they grew and had access to. Apparently sweet potatoes were a daily part of their diet. After they made it to America, my Uncle Marcel vowed to never eat another sweet potato. As far as I know, he has kept his vow for nearly 70 years.

I can only assure him that this dish is very delicious and the roasting of the fresh thyme and rosemary sprigs fills the house with a warm, lovely scent – very comforting after a terrible week.

Roasted Parsnips and Sweet Potatoes with Caper Vinaigrette from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

Ingredients

4 parsnips (1 ½ lbs. total – I just used the entire bag)

4 medium red onions

2/3 cup olive oil

4 thyme sprigs

2 rosemary sprigs

1head garlic, halved horizontally

Salt and black pepper

2 medium sweet potatoes (1 ¼ lbs. total)

30 cherry tomatoes, halved

2 Tbsp lemon juice

4 Tbsp small capers (roughly chopped if large)

½ Tbsp maple syrup

½ tsp Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds (optional)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375F. Peel the parsnips and cut into two or three segments, depending on their lengths. Then cut each piece lengthways into two or four. You want the pieces roughly two inches long and ½-inch wide. Peel the onions and cut each into six wedges.

Place the parsnips and onions in a large mixing bowl and add ½ cup of the olive oil, the thyme, rosemary, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt and some pepper. Mix well and spread out in a large roasting pan. Roast for 20 minutes.

While the parsnips are cooking, trim both ends of the sweet potatoes. Cut them (with their skins) widthways in half, then each half into six wedges. Add the potatoes to the pan with the parsnips and onion and stir well. Return to the oven to roast for further 40 to 50 minutes.

When all the vegetables are cooked through and have taken on a golden color, stir in the halved tomatoes. Roast for 10 minutes more. Meanwhile, whisk together the lemon juice, capers, maple syrup, mustard, remaining 2 tablespoons oil and ½ teaspoon salt.

Pour the dressing over the roasted vegetables as soon as you take them out of the oven. Stir well, then taste and adjust the seasoning. Scatter the sesame seeds over the vegetables if using and serve at the table in the roasting pan.

I’ve Had My Eye On This One

Elijah the Prophet visits us on Passover, but Yotam Ottolenghi was at our table on Rosh Hashana. I already told you about the fish we had on first night from his cookbook Jerusalem. But I cracked open both Plenty and Plenty More for our vegetarian guests the second night.

first day of daycare

I know I should be talking about the fresh corn polenta and eggplant because it’s September and both of those foods are pretty much perfect right now. But my guests and I both agree that it’s the roasted red onions with walnut salsa that needs to be talked about.

I’ve had my eye on this salad for as long as I’ve had this cookbook in my collection. Roasting the red onions until they’re golden on top and near translucent in the rings takes the bite out of them and renders them almost sweet. The arugula provides a nice contrast, and the goat cheese connects the two with its tang. And the walnut salsa. Oh, the walnut salsa.

The third thing is a slice of mushroom tart that I whipped together.

Because I know a lot of you are wondering — it’s a mushroom tart.

Ottolenghi recipes are often pretty labor- and time-intensive, but not this one. Yes, the roasting of the onions will take about 40 minutes, give or take, but everything else comes together very quickly – you put the walnut salsa together while the onions roast to give them some time to get to know each other. I set the half cup of parsley in two rounds of cold water to clean it. As per usual, I only used about half a hot pepper, but how much you use is entirely up to you. Where it says to brush the onions with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, I just tossed everything in a large bowl and then lay them out on a baking pan covered in parchment paper.

hula hoop

I have a five pound bag of red onions, a 10 lb. bag of walnuts from Costco, a second log of goat cheese, two bunches of parsley, leftover arugula and the remaining half of hot red pepper. So, basically, I’m making this again for dinner tonight. I couldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t.

Red Onions with Walnut Salsa from Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi

Ingredients

4 medium red onions (1 1/3 lb/600 g)

1 ½ Tablespoons olive oil

1 cup/20 g arugula

½ cup/15 g small flat-leaf parsley leaves

2 oz/60 g soft goat cheese broken into 3/4-inch/2-cm chunks

Salt and black pepper

Salsa

2/3 cup/65 g walnuts, coarsely chopped

1 red chile, seeded and finely chopped (use your discretion)

1 clove garlic, crushed

3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 Tablespoon olive oil

Salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425F/220C

Peel the onions and remove the tops and tails. Cut each crosswise into 3 slices, about 3/4-inch/2-cm thick, and place on a baking sheet. Brush the slices with the olive oil, sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt and some black pepper, and roast in the oven for about 40 minutes, until the onions are cooked and golden brown on top. If they haven’t taken on much color, place under a hot broiler for a few minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.

While the onions are cooking, put all of the salsa ingredients in a small bowl, add ¼ teaspoon salt, stir and set aside.

To serve, put the arugula and parsley in a large bowl. Add the warm onions, the cheese and half the salsa and toss carefully so the onions don’t fall apart. Divide among shallow plates, spoon the remaining salsa over the top, and serve.

Counting Blessings

We had some scary moments this weekend, which culminated in an overnight stay at Children’s Hospital. They are very nice there, but it’s a place you’d rather never be. Thank goodness, it was all just a scare, and I have two healthy daughters.

Bea at Children's

Mostly it was a lot of waiting for test results, and so I found myself with something I haven’t had a lot of: time. (Big sister was with her grandparents.) I got to read two back issues of Food and Wine, something I just don’t have the time to do right now. Sylvie and Miriam actually had Indian food delivered to our room on Saturday night, and I enjoyed the leftovers this morning as my Sunday brunch. It was great Indian food — my stepdad calls it the $10,000 meal.

I kept in contact with my family via text. This morning, as I texted Sylvie a third time to thank her for the for the awesome food, we fell into a discussion about Rosh Hashana meal planning. I’m hosting for the first time in my life next week, and I’m busy plotting my menus and testing out recipes. Soon we moved to the phone to really have a conversation about the meals.

We are in a book

One of my guests first night is a pregnant woman allergic to quinoa. (Apparently this is an allergy they find they need to mention when they are hosted by Jews.) The second night there will be a vegetarian allergic to soy. I don’t do a ton of soy things, although I did just break the code on stir fried green beans of my adolescence last week. (More on that in a future post.)

I’m still figuring out a lot of the menus, but I am pretty sure I’m going to make this Ottolenghi fish dish. It’s tradition to serve fish on Rosh Hashanah — fish head, actually, but close enough. Ottolenghi calls its sweet and sour fish, but it’s more sweet than sour —  perfect for the new year, and very delicious. Ottolenghi suggests “serving it at room temperature, preferably after resting for a day or two in the fridge, with a chunk of bread.” I can confirm this, so I plan on making this on Saturday night for Sunday.

It's good to be home

When I tested this recipe last week I used four pieces of frozen cod from Costco that I always keep on hand. “Small whole fish are also good here: red mullet, sardines, or a small mackerel, scaled and gutted,” writes Ottolenghi. The peppers and tomatoes are end of summer foods at their finest hour.

Marinated Sweet & Sour Fish from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi

Ingredients

3 Tablespoons olive oil

2 medium onions, cut into 3/8-inch/1cm slices (3 cups/350 g in total)

1 Tablespoon coriander seeds

2 peppers (1 red and 1 yellow, halved lengthwise, seeded and cut into strips 3/8 inch/1 cm wide (3 cups/300 g total)

2 cloves garlic, crushed

3 bay leaves

1 1/2 Tablespoons curry powder

3 tomatoes, chopped (2 cups/320 g in total)

2 1/2 Tablespoons sugar

5 Tablespoons cider vinegar

1 lb./500 g pollock, cod (sustainably sourced), halibut, haddock, or other white fish fillets, divided into 4-equal pieces

seasoned all-purposed flour, for dusting

2 extra-large eggs, beaten (I used large)

1/3 cup/20g chopped cilantro

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375F/190C

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large ovenproof frying pan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and coriander seeds and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the peppers and cook for a further 10 minutes. Add the garlic, bay leaves, curry powder and tomatoes, and cook for another 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the sugar, vinegar, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and some black pepper and continue to cook for another 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a separate frying pan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the fish with some salt, dip in the flour, then in the eggs, and fry for about 3 minutes, turning once. Transfer the fish to paper towels to absorb the excess oil, then add to the pan with the peppers and onions, pushing the vegetables aside so the fish sits on the bottom of the pan. Add enough water just to immerse the fish (about 1 cup/250ml) in the liquid.

Place the pan in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes, until the fish is cooked. Remove from the oven and leave to cool to room temperature. The fish can now be served, but it is actually better after a day or two in the fridge. Before serving, taste and add salt and pepper, if needed, and garnish with cilantro.

The Halvah “Problem”

I’ve made no secret of my love of halvah, and how Lilli, who seems to be vying to at least place at the picky toddler championship, loves to munch on it, too. This is a known fact in my family, and so when everyone assembled for Beatrix’s baby naming, I found myself with a curious problem: a surplus of halvah.

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She arrived, and so did a whole a mess of halvah

First, my dad brought two huge chunks of it, which he purchased at the shuk in Jerusalem. (He also brings those candied pecans, possibly my most favorite thing in the entire world. The only place I’ve located them stateside that actually taste like the Israeli version is at Russ & Daughters on the Lower East Side. A store that sells smoked fish and those pecans is my heaven on earth.)

Then my mom came to town with a bagful of food for our first week home from the hospital: salmon, pesto, asparagus, and an enormous brisket. And she brought halvah as a special treat for Lilli and me. Finally, I rescued some from Sara’s kitchen, as no one in her house enjoyed it. (Sylvie’s comment: “I’m sorry, but I don’t understand that sentence.”)

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Lilli practicing “gentle”

As delighted as I am that my parents clearly read my blog and have both gotten the memo about halvah, I have about three pounds of it in my kitchen right now. A fridge full of vegetables actually provided the answer for what to do about my halvah dilemma. I was on the hunt for something new to do with broccoli and was flipping through Ottolenghi’s latest, Plenty More, the sequel to his extraordinary vegetable bible, Plenty. And there they were: a recipe for halvah and walnut cake, followed by a recipe for halvah ice cream. (For those wondering what I did with the broccoli, I made Heidi Swanson’s broccoli gribeche salad from Super Natural Every Day.)

So Lilli and I grabbed our aprons — or kitchen smocks, as she calls them — and got to work on the ice cream. The cake will have to wait because it’s too darn hot to turn the oven to 400F. The result was excellent if you’re into halvah and ice cream — so, pretty much everyone.

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Lilli in her “kitchen smock”

This is a traditional custard-based ice cream, with heated eggs, making it safe for pregnant women. You drizzle in tahini, then add halvah at the very end of the churn. I’m including the directions for those without an ice cream maker, but honestly, do what we did five years ago, and buy one off of Craig’s List for $25. This reminds me that I was sent a no-churn ice cream cookbook which I need to take for a spin. Will report back soon.

Three small things: I couldn’t find my jar of vanilla beans, purchased for cheap in the gourmet food section at Home Goods, so I used a teaspoon of extract, as a classmate/baker once taught me to do. Two: I also didn’t have  superfine sugar, so I made some by whirling regular white sugar in the food processor. Three: place the container you’re going to freeze the ice cream in before you get going, because Ottolenghi only mentions this as you finish up the churning.

The full recipe is actually for halvah ice cream with chocolate sauce and roasted peanuts. Ottolenghi likens it to a “luxurious Snickers ice cream: sweet, nutty, and comforting. The chocolate can mask the halvah flavor a little, so better not drench it with sauce; just drizzle lightly.” Since the point here is halvah, we skipped the chocolate sauce – for now.

me as a little girl

I think Lilli is the spitting image of me as a little girl in this picture, and not because she’s chowing down on halvah ice cream

Halvah Ice Cream with Chocolate Sauce and Roasted Peanuts from Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi

Ingredients

1 cup heavy cream

1 1/2 cups/350 ml whole milk

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped – alternatively, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 egg yolks

Scant 3 1/2 tsp/40g superfine sugar

2 tbsp/30 g tahini paste

3 1/2 oz/100 g halvah, cut into 1/4-inch/5-mm dice

Scant 1/2 cup/60 g salted roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped (store bought are best)

1tsp black sesame seeds (or white, if available)

Chocolate sauce

2/3 cup/150 ml heavy cream

Scant 3 oz/80 g dark chocolate (70 percent cacao), finely chopped

1/2 tsp brandy

Directions

Heat the cream, milk, and vanilla bean and seeds (or teaspoon vanilla) in a saucepan over medium heat until the mixture just comes to a boil. Remove from heat.

In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until combined. Use a ladle to spoon a little of the hot cream mixture into the egg mixture, whisking the whole time. Continue with more cream mixture until it is all incorporated. Return to the saucepan and place over medium heat. Stir with a wooden spoon continuously for 10 minutes, until the sauce thickens to a light custard consistency. Remove from the heat and whisk in the tahini. Leave to cool for 20 minutes, then remove the vanilla bean pods if using.

Pour the custard into an ice cream machine and churn for about 35 minutes, or according to the manufacturer’s instructions (for my machine it’s about 20 minutes) until semifrozen but creamy.

Alternatively, transfer it to a freeze-proof container and place in the freezer for 4 to 5 hours, removing it every 30 to 45 minutes and beating it vigorously with a spatula or whisk to break up the frozen areas. Stir in the halvah halfway through freezing.

Remove from the machine and stir in the halvah pieces. Place in a prefrozen container and freeze. Remove from the freezer 10 minutes before serving to let it soften.

Make the chocolate sauce just before serving. Place the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a gentle boil. Immediately pour this over the chocolate and stir until soft and uniform. Stir in the brandy. Divide the ice cream among bowls and drizzle some warm sauce over the top. Sprinkle with peanuts and sesame seeds and serve immediately.

Perfect for the Fall

The first week in November is a pretty big deal when you’re married to a political pollster. I’m sure some, but not all, of you reading this were frustrated with the week’s results, but Rich’s firm came closest of any in predicting the governor’s race here in Massachusetts, which is a good thing for them professionally.

As you can imagine, he was very busy this entire fall, especially in the weeks leading up to that Tuesday. This meant hosting guests for Shabbat dinner, or even having someone over to watch a game, came to a standstill.

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But after every vote was counted and recounted, we opened our home back up to guests. First up was a Shabbat dinner guest – a neighbor of my aunt and uncle’s who’s moved to town for work. We had eetch, and eggplant with capers, roasted salmon, a broccoli kugel, and this Brussels sprouts salsa. That Sunday night a friend came for a visit to watch The Simpsons and the Patriots. He’d been MIA all year long working on two campaigns. (One had a very happy ending; the other, not so much.) He’s a strict vegetarian, so no leftover salmon for him, but he went gaga over these Brussels sprouts.

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Ottolenghi tweeted this recipe, so obviously it’s fantastic. The sprouts are tossed with sumac and maple syrup, so they’re perfect for the fall. He serves them as a side to charred grilled butternut squash he has you toss with cinnamon and feta. I have yet to make that part of the recipe, and have just been concentrating on the sprouts.

Because this is a British recipe, the measurements are weighted. I suggest cleaning a small pile of them and then doing some weighing as so much of the exterior is just going to end up in the trash. The recipe calls for the sprouts to be finely shredded, but I find that shredding them in a food processor shreds them too much. I sliver each sprout by hand and I think it’s worth the time to do that extra step. I used half a larger red onion last time I made this because a whole one would have been too much. Two large red chiles, even if they are deseeded and thinly sliced, is far too much spice for me, so I use about one half a chile. I’ll leave that up to you.

I’ve started serving this as a side to salmon, but maybe you’ll end up serving them next to turkey on Thursday. Ottolenghi thinks “…this makes it an excellent vegetarian choice for the Christmas meal.” Whatever you serve it with, it’s a great vegetable dish for this time of year.

Brussels Sprouts Salsa from Yotam Ottolenghi

1 medium red onion, peeled and very thinly sliced

Up to 2 large red chiles, deseeded and thinly sliced on the diagonal

1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed

2 tsp. sumac

1 Tablespoon cider vinegar

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

2 Tablespoon olive oil

2 tsp. maple syrup

230g Brussels sprouts, trimmed and finely shredded

Salt and black pepper

Directions

Put all ingredients for the salsa in a bowl with a quarter-teaspoon of salt. Mix and set aside for 30 minutes to marinate.

 

 

CSA Support Group

I’m here! I’m here! And, I come bearing recipes. Yes, it’s CSA time, and I know there’s a bunch of you peering into your box, wondering what to do with garlic scapes and that crazy kohlrabi. Of course, it’s still early in the season, so we’ve also been working our way through lots of lettuces and greens. For the salads, these pickled onions are working out really well.

With the cilantro that’s come, we had a dressing from one of Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbooks (I borrowed it from the library) that had me whirling the herb up with some yogurt, green garlic, also from the CSA, scallions, jalapeno and fresh lime juice. I used the rest of the cilantro tonight in this rice. Good stuff.

kohlrabi and cabbage

As for those aforementioned kohlrabi and scapes, I drew inspiration from an extraordinary meal Rich and I had at Ribelle last week to celebrate Father’s Day and his birthday. (I chose the restaurant and just asked him to trust me.) One of the dishes I had featured both kohlrabi and pickled garlic scapes. It was really terrific, and I plan on pickling the scapes in my crisper in the next day or two.

We did a separate fruit CSA this year, which was smart because Lilli basically eats her weight in strawberries daily. I was able to wrestle a few of the berries away from her and tossed those with some maple syrup and roasted them in a hot oven for about 20 minutes. Feel free to swirl those into some plain yogurt.

Strawberry

 

But the main recipe for this week is for kohlrabi. If there’s anything I’ve learned about vegetables, when in doubt, reach for Ottolenghi. Yotam has yet to let me down, and his cabbage and kohlrabi salad is no exception. The cabbage in this recipe is the boring kind that is probably growing old in your crisper. At least that’s what was happening with mine. (If you have napa cabbage, drizzle this buttermilk dressing on it and enjoy it raw.)

Rich was skeptical about a recipe that called for alfalfa sprouts like this one does, but he had thirds. Thirds! I had white pepper in the house from this hot and sour soup. I think dried cranberries will work as a substitute for the dried whole sour cherries, and will make this recipe very affordable in case you don’t have a surplus from your local Ocean State Job Lot.

It turns out a friend of mine from college also just made this, and they added fresh fennel and its fronds to their salad which sounds like a great addition. If you have it, go for it.

Cabbage and Kohlrabi Salad from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

Ingredients

1 medium or ½ large kohlrabi

½ white cabbage (8 to 9 oz)

Large bunch of dill, roughly chopped (6 heaped tablespoons)

1 cup dried whole sour cherries (or dried cranberries)

Grated zest of 1 lemon

Juice of one lemon (he actually calls for 6 Tablespoons, but whatever)

¼ cup olive oil

1 garlic clove, crushed

Salt and white pepper

2 cups alfalfa sprouts

Directions

Peel the kohlrabi and cut into thick matchsticks that are about ¼ inch wide and 2 inches long. Cut the cabbage into 1/4-in-thick strips.

Put all the ingredients, apart from the alfalfa sprouts, in a large mixing bowl. Use your hands to massage everything together for about a minute so the flavors mix and the lemon can soften the cabbage and the cherries. Let the salad sit for about 10 minutes.

Add most of the alfalfa sprouts and mix well again with your hands. Taste and adjust the seasoning; you’ll need a fair amount of salt to counteract the lemon.

Use your hands again to lift the salad out of the mixing bowl and into a serving bowl, leaving most of the juices behind. Garnish with the remaining sprouts and serve at once.

It’s About Time

As longtime readers of this blog could probably tell, my pressure cooker is my indispensable kitchen tool. There is no way I could write this blog, work 40 hours a week, spend any real time with Lilli and write my weekly Four Questions without it. I was a fan before having a baby, and now I’m even more of an evangelist.

Lilli and the literature

I felt I had to tone down my pressure cooker propaganda after two idiot brothers filled a pair of them up with ball bearings and explosives and used them to terrorize the finish line of the Boston Marathon this past April. I wasn’t alone; Williams Sonoma stores in Boston pulled the pots from their shelves in the aftermath of the attacks. But it’s been 5 months now. We’ve had concerts and benefits, and things have mostly returned to normal. It’s time to get back on the pressure cooker band wagon.

Take this wheat berries, chard and pomegranate molasses recipe from Sami Tamimi and Yotam Ottlenghi’s Jerusalem.  In fact, that’s actually what I’m cooking in the photo from that Globe article about said cookbook. What you cannot see, including Lilli’s Exersaucer as she is my kitchen pal, is that I made the recipe in my pressure cooker. As the recipe is written in the cookbook, you need to cook the dish for 60 to 70 minutes. A Sunday afternoon recipe, as I would say. But, if you have a pressure cooker, the recipe will take you 20 minutes. And there you have it: Like magic, a quick weeknight meal.

There is one thing I would change within this phenomenal dish: Soak the wheat berries overnight. I’m not sure why the authors don’t instruct you to, but you really need to soak wheat berries. I clean my chard by soaking the leaves (and stems) in a large bowl of cold water on the counter as I assemble the rest of my ingredients. If your chard is very dirty, remove the leaves from the bowl of water, then tip the gritty water into the sink, give the bowl a good rinse, and repeat the cold water soak. You can do this second soak while you prep your leeks.

wheatberries and chard

Lilli gets very upset when I release the pressure cooker’s valve, so I have to wait until she’s out of the room to do that step. And, unfortunately, I’ve been having some trouble lately with the sealing ring – turns out they break after constant use over a six-year period. So of course, the pot depressurized too soon when the Globe photographer was here and I ended up sending him home with, um, extremely chewy wheat berries. The dish was still delicious; just too chewy.

On Sunday we brought some friends who just had a baby some lasagnas, a Caesar salad and a plum torte. We sat and visited while she nursed and were entertained by her older children. We talked about getting food on the table at a reasonable hour, after school and playdate pick-ups. ”Pressure cooker, pressure cooker, pressure cooker,” I told her. “It will change your life.” Risotto in seven minutes. Soup in six. Dried beans cooked in under 15. You wouldn’t be reading this blog if I didn’t own a pressure cooker. I wouldn’t have the time to write it if I didn’t.

But just in case you don’t own a pressure cooker and want to make this dish, I’m including the original instructions as well as my own variation on the recipe.

Wheat berries & Swiss chard with pomegranate molasses from Jerusalem

1 1/3 lb/600 g Swiss chard or rainbow chard

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter

2 large leeks, white and pale green parts, thinly sliced (3 cups/350 g in total)

2 Tablespoons light brown sugar

About 3 Tablespoons pomegranate molasses

Scant 1 ¼ cups/200 g hulled or unhulled wheat berries

2 cups/500 ml stock

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Greek yogurt, to serve

Directions

The night before you make this recipe, soak your wheat berries in a bowl of water on the counter.

Separate the chard’s stalks from the green leaves using a small, sharp knife. Slice the stalks into 3/8-inch/1cm slices and the leaves into ¾-inch/2 cm slices.

Heat the oil and butter in the bottom of your pressure cooker, or, a large heavy-bottomed pan. Add the leeks and cook, stirring, for about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the chard stalks and cook for 3 minutes, then add the leaves and cook for a further 3 minutes. Add the sugar, 3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses, and the wheat berries and mix well. Add the stock, ¾ teaspoon salt, and some black pepper. Close the lid on the pressure cooker. When it pressurizes, cook for 20 minutes, then release the valve. Alternately, bring to a gentle simmer, and cook over low heat, covered, for 60 to 70 minutes.

The wheat should be al dente at this point.

Remove the lid and, if needed, increase the heat and allow any remaining liquid to evaporate. The base of the pan should be dry and have a bit of burnt caramel on it. Remove from the heat.

Before serving, taste and add more molasses, salt and pepper if needed; you want it sharp and sweet, so don’t be shy with your molasses. Serve warm, with a  dollop of Greek yogurt.

Man, Go Make These Noodles

I feel like I’m as busy as I have been in a long time, what with a full-time job, a weekly column at JewishBoston.com, and a teething 7-month-old who is already standing and seems to be on her way to walking any moment now. (I can barely take the time to write this for fear she’s discovered some part of the house we haven’t yet gotten to baby-proofing.) And yet, even though I have zero time these days (even to call people back or email them in a timely fashion; sorry about that, and you know who you are) I have found the time to make these noodles which take well over an hour to prepare, and then need a good two hours of marinating.

Lilli-approved

I passed over this recipe at least a half dozen times in the past year, laughing at how long it took and how many steps there were to it, but then last week, when I miraculously had all the ingredients in the house, I decided to go for it. And my goodness, the outcome was so glorious, I found myself making them AGAIN less than a week later.

It’s an Ottolenghi recipe, from his vegetarian cookbook Plentyso you know it’s a keeper. I’m reminded of a few winters ago when I had his first cookbook out of the library and I found myself grating — by hand, no less, because I’d lost the stem of my food processor — raw rutabaga and celery root for a slaw. A slaw so good, I made it twice in less than a week. Do you see a pattern here?

First comes the marinade, which you need to heat and let cool before adding the lime zest and its juice. Then comes the shallow frying of two eggplants. (Oh, August and your perfect eggplants.) Then comes the cooking of the noodles. I actually love Ottolenghi’s tip about laying the noodles out on a dishtowel to dry them out completely and will be using that all the time now. As for the mango, that was the one place where I cut corners and bought one already cut up from Trader Joe’s. (You can do the same at Costco.)

These noodles are SO GOOD

These noodles defy a good description except to say they are extraordinary. When I served them to my sister-in-law last week, she emailed me the next day because she’d been thinking about the noodles. It honestly wasn’t such a strange email to receive; I’d been thinking about them, too.

Brief note: The first time I made this dish I used the soba noodles as suggested, but when I went back to Ocean State Job Lot they had run out of soba, and all that was left were udon and somen. All you want for this dish is a cold buckwheat noodle; any type will do. As for the frying oil, I just used the canola I had on hand. This recipe makes a ton of noodles. I ended up breaking down the noodles into four or five Tupperware containers that Rich and I took for work lunches for almost an entire week.

Soba Noodles with Eggplant and Mango from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty

Ingredients

½ cup rice vinegar

3 Tbs. sugar

½ tsp. salt

2 garlic cloves, crushed

½ fresh red chile, finely chopped

1 tsp. toasted sesame oil

Grated zest and juice of 1 lime

1 cup sunflower oil

2 eggplants, cut into ¾-inch dice

8 to 9 oz. soba noodles

1 large ripe mango, cut into 3/8-inch dice or into 1/4-inch-thick strips

1 2/3 cup basil leaves, chopped (if you can get some, use Thai basil, but much less of it)

2 ½ cups cilantro leaves, chopped

½ red onion, very thinly sliced

Directions

In a small saucepan gently warm the vinegar, sugar and salt for up to 1 minute, just until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and add the garlic, chile and sesame oil. Allow to cool, then add the lime zest and juice.

Heat up the sunflower oil in a large pan and shallow-fry the eggplant in three or four batches. Once golden brown, remove to a colander, sprinkle liberally with salt and leave there to drain.

Cook the noodles in plenty of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally. They should take 5 to 8 minutes to become tender but still al dente. Drain and rinse well under running cold water. Shake off as much of the excess water as possible, then leave to dry on a dish towel.

In a mixing bowl toss the noodles with the dressing, mango, eggplant, half of the herbs and the onion. You can now leave this aside for 1 to 2 hours. When ready to serve add the rest of the herbs and mix well, then pile on a plate or in a bowl.