A Family Affair

I’m doubting that Lilli will remember her first Fourth of July with her cousin Leo (son of Sylvie and Miriam, and now about 13 weeks old), but we certainly will. Each year we head up to York Harbor, Maine, to stay with Syl’s in-laws. As you might expect, this year involved many cute photo ops with our babies.

Lilli examines Leo

I like to bring a nice baked good whenever we head up (you’ll remember I sent them the date nut bread for Chanukah this year), but because Sylvie is deathly allergic to walnuts, and Miriam is allergic to all nuts, I went to work on a fruity dessert.

Super Baby!

I found my solution in a gift bag I received last week at a blogger lunch. I don’t usually go to such events, and rarely do they make their way onto my blog, but it was a great meal and I’m really happy with the product. Briefly, there is a family-run Hawaiian bakery called King’s Hawaiian. They bake a sweet bread, like one of those Portuguese breads — which, I read, is where the grandfather who started the company found his inspiration.

Cousins!

They are a West-Coast brand and are just getting started on the East-Coast, so they invited some local bloggers to a meal at the Cambridge restaurant Catalyst. Chef William Kovel did all sorts of incredible things with the bread: white gazpacho sips with marcona almonds and King’s Hawaiian garlic chips; a Greek salad with grilled ahi tuna and olive crostini. He even did a little chef demo at the end with a white chocolate bread pudding with caramel sauce.

It was the first time I was really away from Lilli for an afternoon of fun, and I got a little carried away with the guava mimosas. And so, of course, I took zero photos of my meal, and only took shots of the magnificent centerpieces. I was pretty psyched to win one as a door prize, and I actually brought it up to Maine.

centerpiece

I also brought a loaf of the sweet round bread and used it to make this red, white and blue bread salad. It features strawberries from the CSA, and Syl gets special props for suggesting the addition of blueberries, making this a perfectly delicious patriotic dessert.

strawberry bread salad

Because our holiday barbecue featured meat and this bread is dairy, we had to eat our dessert first, before dinner. Unlike most of the recipes I share, this one takes some time; the bread needs to dry out overnight, so plan ahead.

Red, White and Blue Bread Salad aka Patriotic Panzanella

Ingredients

1 King’s Hawaiian Original Sweet Round Bread

1 quart strawberries

1 Tablespoon white sugar

¼ cup plus 2 Tablespoons brown sugar

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter

Pinch of kosher salt

1 cup blueberries, washed

Directions

The night before you want to serve this, slice the round bread into one-inch cubes. Set them aside on the counter overnight on a large baking pan.

The next day, clean, hull and quarter your strawberries. Macerate them by putting them into a medium sized bowl and sprinkling a tablespoon of white sugar on them. While you do the other steps of this recipe, make sure to poke them every 10 minutes or so.

Preheat the oven to 275F. (Yes, I know it’s July, but this oven temp isn’t exactly sultry.)

In a small saucepan, melt the stick of butter with the brown sugar and pinch of kosher salt. After it melts, pour the sauce on top of the dried out bread. Toss as if you were making a salad, with some large serving spoons. Make sure everything gets coated.

Put the pan in the oven for approximately 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes, remove the pan, scraping all the bread and the pan’s sugar bits into a large bowl. Now add the macerated strawberries and their juices to the bowl. Add the cup of blueberries. Toss everything real good. Maybe even use your hands to make sure this is done.

Serve and enjoy.

So Much More To It

For the past month, I’ve read piles of Passover recipes from all sorts of bloggers who have explained about chametz and unleavened things, and maybe some people have even talked about kitniyot. But what I haven’t read about is that, in order to make Pesach (that’s what I’m going to call Passover from now on) it’s much more than just not cooking with unleavened things. Every pot and pan and knife and cutting board and plate I use in my kitchen all year long is chametzdik – contaminated, basically. So everything I use to cook and eat all year long cannot be used during the eight days of the holiday. Think of them as chametz cooties.

In my basement — and I promise you, in Jews’ basements all over the world — lives an entire separate kitchen of pots and pans, cutting boards, tablecloths, dishes and a teapot. In my case, this includes a Pesadik pressure cooker. And remember, Jews don’t mix milk and meat, so it’s really double of everything – the meat pots, pans, knives, cutting boards and dishes, and the dairy pots, pans, knives, cutting boards and dishes. To simplify things, I keep vegetarian during Pesach, so I only have to deal with half as much stuff as other people.

So the kitchen is brought up, box by box. And then you have to “turn the kitchen over” for Pesach: scrubbing down the oven and stove, cleaning out the whole refrigerator and locking up the the cupboards. Those countertops you prepare your food on all year long are also chametzdik, so you have to cover those counters. Thankfully, I have granite countertops so I just have to pour boiling water over them to kasher them. But if you walked into my kitchen tonight you would see a stove covered in tin foil and each burner wrapped in foil as well. Like I said, chametz cooties.

And then there is the shopping. Just as the dishes and pots and pans have to be specially set aside for Pesach, everything you cook that has been processed has to also be kosher l’Pesach. Your favorite olive oil, your favorite vinegar, your favorite Aleppo powder and your favorite vanilla extract might be fine the rest of the year, but you need to make sure all those things are kosher for Pesach. For some unexplained reason Ocean State Job Lot has been selling kosher l’Pesach olive oil all year long for the past few years, so that’s one less thing to worry about.

I always grumble about having to take off vacation days to prepare for Pesach, as I spent Thursday’s “vacation” morning pushing through the crowds at Russo’s to pick up my produce for this week. My cart was piled high with zucchini, mangoes, avocadoes, mushrooms, and a jicama, to which I decided I’d make a nice citrusy salad with a little kick of hot pepper to it.

And then I had to get everything into the house. I’m much stronger than I have been in months, but I’m not allowed to wear a purse – thankfully I’ve been able to find a cute backpack – so the 17 bags of groceries I picked up at the market had to be carried in one-at-time from the car, which itself took about 20 minutes to do before I could even unpack everything into my empty refrigerator.

Friday morning Rich and I flew down to DC because Sylvie hosted seder this year. I poked around in her kitchen and discovered that she had picked up zucchini, mangoes, avocadoes, mushrooms and a jicama – pretty much everything I had, and probably with the same dishes in mind.

Jicama – which is pronounced Hee-Kah-Mah – is a Mexican yam or turnip. Its flesh is white and its taste is crisp and fresh and just screams for a contrast of heat and tart. I’ve noticed people tend to serve it sliced in matchsticks although Sylvie pointed out it’s much easier to spear a cube of it with a fork then maneuver smaller pieces of them.

She made her salad with a supremed grapefruit, but if that’s too bitter for you, try it with orange. Even still, if your reflux is acting up, skip the massive amounts of citrus and replace it with just a squeeze or two of lime juice.

Jicama Salad with Grapefruit

Ingredients

1 jicama, peeled and cubed

1 grapefruit, supremed – make sure to supreme the fruit directly over the bowl so all the juices are caught

1 small chili pepper, minced

1/4 of a small red onion, chopped

1 large handful of cilantro — about 2 Tablespoons — chopped

3 teaspoons red wine vinegar

1 scant teaspoon salt

Several healthy grinds of fresh black pepper

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and stir to combine. Refrigerate the salad for at least an hour before serving, allowing the ingredients to get to know each other and marinate.

With A Little Help From My Friends

When Sylvie was in college, she was co-founder and president of her house’s fruit club. I’m not sure if they had to officially apply to be fully recognized by the administration, but I do know they held their meetings following the house’s Friday afternoon wine and cheese hour, which followed the Friday afternoon tea. (And we wonder why college costs $55,000 a year.)

Because they went through the bother of founding a fruit club, she and her co-members steered away from eating the everyday apples and bananas. They enjoyed some fruits one usually reads about in Saveur magazine, like the Asian mangosteen and the New World custard apple, which has quite a striking resemblance to an artichoke if I do say so.

They also loved enjoying fruit that was complicated in its preparation, like the pineapple, the pomegranate and the pomelo. I’m going to assume you’ve probably heard of the first two, but chances are you might be unfamiliar with the third. The pomelo is a rather large citrus fruit from Asia, and oftentimes Israel. (You can find it locally at Russo’s.) Sometimes its skin is green, sometimes it’s more yellow, and it looks like a grapefruit on steroids.

However, if you picked up this mammoth citrus fruit, you’d be very surprised as to how light it is. The actual amount of fruit in a pomelo is more akin to a clementine or maybe a tangerine. And it takes a good 10 minutes to actually get to the fruit. First there’s the thick skin to cut through. Then there’s an almost impenetrable bitter pith that surrounds the fruit. I hope I haven’t scared you away from trying a pomelo, I promise you it’s a very nice refreshing fruit when you finally get to it.

That fruit, in particular, creates a lot of refuse. As Syl likes to kid, “If it wasn’t all compostable, I’d call the EPA about it.” But my friend Sara came up with a wonderful solution: candying it. Using a Martha Stewart recipe meant for the common orange, or maybe a grapefruit, Sara had the genius and foresight to do the same with the pomelo skin. I thought I would then dip the candied citrus in a ganache and make a pomellete (orangette, but with pomelo) but, honestly, it’s great as is.

Full disclosure: This was all Sara. She did all the legwork on this one, from coming up with the idea, to patiently paring away the thick pith, to taking the photographs. I’m just not up to doing the standing that’s necessary to get a good angle on paring away the pith. Sara’s also got infinite amounts of patience for other extremely time-consuming, detailed tasks, like making blood orange marmalade or cultivating her own yogurt or baking sourdough bread from scratch every week. Oh, and being a lawyer and a mommy.

Don’t worry, I reciprocated as best I could this weekend, hosting her boys to enjoy some cupcakes I’d won off a blog contest. As you can see, H really enjoyed his.

Candied Pomelo Peels, adapted from Martha Stewart Living December 2008

Please Note: Sure, you could also use this recipe for grapefruit or oranges, but try and find a pomelo. If you ask me, there’s nothing more exciting than trying a new food.

Ingredients

One pomelo (two grapefruits or three oranges or four lemons)

4 cups sugar, plus more for rolling

4 cups water

Directions

Using a paring knife, make 6 slits along curve from top to bottom of the pomelo, cutting through peel but not into fruit. Using your fingers, gently remove peel. Reserve fruit for another use. Slice each piece of peel lengthwise into 1/4-inch-wide strips. Using a paring knife, remove excess pith from each strip and discard.

Place strips in a large saucepan, and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then drain. Repeat twice.

Bring sugar and water to a boil, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves, then stop. Wash sides of pan with a wet pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming. Add strips to boiling syrup, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer gently until strips are translucent, about 1 hour. Remove from heat, and let strips cool in syrup. (Strips in syrup will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 3 weeks.)

Using a slotted spoon, transfer strips to a wire rack placed on a rimmed baking sheet. Wipe off excess syrup with paper towels, then roll strips in sugar. Arrange in a single layer on a wire rack, and let dry for at least 30 minutes.