Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Braised Red Snapper With Lemon and Wine

The store had some beautiful red snapper for sale before Rosh Hashanah, so I took it home and braised it in wine, lemons and parsley, with just a little bit of salt and pepper. It turned out great and froze well too, because I didn't serve it until the second day of Yom Tov.

2 red snapper filets (about 2 pounds)
1 cup white wine (preferably a non-oaky Chardonnay)
2 lemons, juice only
Fresh parsley, roughly chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Place the snapper filets skin side up in a wide saucepan with a lid and add the liquid and the salt and pepper. Cover and braise for 10 to 15 minutes on medium heat until the sides curl up. Garnish generously with fresh parsley and serve either immediately, or freeze and defrost overnight in the refrigerator. Heat up just before serving.

No-Fail Yummy Sugar Cookies

I had a pound of these cookies yesterday, but my niece and three nephews came for an overnight visit and I don't know what happened to them! Time to bake again since they're coming again for Simchas Torah!

1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup shortening (I use Earth Balance natural shortening, O-U pareve)
2 eggs
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/4 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
(Plus: half a cup of sugar set aside in a small bowl)

Mix the sugar and the shortening until smooth, and add the eggs and wet ingredients. In a separate bowl, mix your dry ingredients well, and slowly add to your wet mixture. When the dough comes together, shape into a square log, cover with plastic wrap and stow in the fridge for at least two or three hours, or overnight. These also freeze well.

When you are ready to bake, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Unwrap, slice or roll out and make shapes, and dredge on both sides in sugar. Cook 8 minutes, and take out immmediately for a softer cookie, or a little longer for a crispy cookie (Wait until the top browns a little). Cool the cookies on racks. Makes a lot (about 65 cookies), so keep half of your dough in the freezer for the next time your favorite cookie monsters visit.

Almond Horns of Plenty

Our favorite local bakery, Butterflake, went nut-free this summer, leaving my husband bereft of one of his favorite treats, the almond horn. I worked with my original sugar cookie recipe, candied some almonds and melted some chocolate chips, and came up with what Alexander referred to as "better than Butterflake." Well, I don't know, because those dudes are expert bakers and I dream often about their Cinnamon Challah, but I am happy I was able to approximate the almond horn at home.

This is a wonderful dessert that can be made several days in advance. Either the dough or the finished product can be frozen, so it is a perfect dessert for Sukkot when you get tired of perfect honey cake, and delicious with tea or coffee.

1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup shortening (I use Earth Balance natural shortening, O-U pareve)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon almond extract
3 1/4 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
For topping: 1 cup chocolate chips, melted in the microwave for 30 to 45 seconds
For candied almonds: 2 cups sliced almonds (not slivered!)
1 additional cup sugar
1 squirt almond extract

Mix the sugar and the shortening until smooth, and add the eggs and wet ingredients. In a separate bowl, mix your dry ingredients well, and slowly add to your wet mixture. When the dough comes together, shape into a log, cover with plastic wrap and stow in the fridge for at least two or three hours, or overnight. This dough also freeze very well.

When you are ready to bake, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Unwrap, and roll about two tablespoons worth of dough by hand into snakes about five inches long and about 5/8ths of an inch thick. Set aside.

To candy the almonds, make sure you take precautions to be careful, because melting sugar is very, very hot! In a dry saucepan, add a couple of handfuls of sliced almonds to 3/4 cup of sugar. Add a squirt of almond extract and turn the fire on to medium low, and then raise it if you need to. Mix the items constantly, it will take only a couple of minutes for the sugar to melt. Make sure each almond piece is coated with candied sugar and turn off the fire. Transfer the almonds to a plate. They will stay hot for at least ten minutes so be careful!

Now, roll your dough snakes in the almonds, and place on a parchment paper-lined sheet pan. Tilt the ends toward each other so it resembles a horseshoe. Bake at 400 degrees for at least ten minutes, or until lightly browned.

When the cookies have cooled, dip the ends into some melted chocolate chips, and voila, we have almond horns! You should always make more of these than you think you have to, because they seem to mysteriously disappear around my house.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Healthier, High Fiber Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Who doesn't dream of a healthy chocolate chip cookie? Well, I do. Here, I am making an effort to incorporate whole grains and healthier oils into a super-basic, super-simple cookie recipe, without compromising anything on taste. Here's my Classically Kosher promise: if these cookies aren't of the best you've ever had, I will eat them for you! Just bring them over! Or send them in the mail!

1 cup Earth Balance shortening (O-U Pareve)
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups rolled or steel cut oats
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, cream together the shortening and both types of sugar. Make sure there are no shortening lumps. Add eggs one at a time, then vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl; stir into the creamed mixture until just blended, do not beat. Once combined, add the oats, and chocolate chips. Roll into one tbsp (or smaller) balls and place at least one inch apart on a parchment papered cookie sheet. Bake for 25 minutes until crisp and brown, and let them sit for at least five minutes before removing from the pan, to allow them to solidify. Makes 20 scrumptious cookies.

Jewish Roast Chicken

1 whole fryer chicken
1 tbsp Hungarian paprika
1 tbsp granulated garlic
1 bulb garlic cut in half crosswise
2 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 lemon, sliced in quarters

Combine the spices. Wash and dry the chicken, stuff the lemon quarters and garlic bulb in the cavity, and rub, top and bottom, with the spice blend. Bake for one hour uncovered, at 425 degrees. Check the color and bake for an additional half hour if needed. Pierce with a fork in the thigh and when the juice runs clear, it's done. For best results, serve immediately or keep covered and warm until ready to serve.

French Country Chicken

For an alternative to schnitzel or classic roast chicken (recipes coming soon) on Rosh Hashanah, this recipe guarantees moist chicken even on the second day of a two-day yom tov. I have made it for years, but I think the recipe was originally given to me by my friends Anna and Josh, big DC gourmands and experts in all things fleishig. This is definitely going on my Rosh Hashanah table this year!

1 whole chicken fryer, cut in 8ths.
1 entire head garlic, peeled (16 cloves approx.)
1 bottle dry white wine (I recommend California Chardonnay or , but not too oakey, and not too expensive. Try Baron Herzog, Chardonnay 2007
1 bunch fresh thyme
2 lemons, cut in eighths.
1 tsp herbes de provence spice blend (optional)
salt and pepper to taste.

Arrange raw chicken in a deep baking pan. Salt and pepper chicken generously. Distribute garlic cloves, thyme sprigs, sliced lemons and herbes de provence evenly among the chicken pieces, and bathe in white wine. Cook covered at 375 degrees for 1 hour. Remove covering and bake uncovered for an additional 1 hour. Can be easily refrigerated, in the wine sauce, and reheated again and again. The flavor just gets better, and the chicken only more moist.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Kosher Beef Bourguignon (a.k.a. Rosh Hashanah Brisket!)

Someone said to me recently that I should think about kosher-izing Julia Child's famous beef bourguignon recipe, which has bacon in it. But when I looked on the Internet for the recipe, I realized that beef bourguignon really includes most of the flavors of what us Yids know simply as brisket. It's perhaps not on the Shabbat table every Friday night, beef costs being what they are these days, but it's certainly something that graces the table on special occasions, like Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year.

So here's a way to fancy up your brisket recipe this year. I like add some layers of flavor to meals on the Chagim anyway, to make the holiday more special. A few simple additions to a basic brisket recipe can really dress it up and add that Julia Child-esque flair. I suggest adding red wine and fresh thyme to your regular brisket recipe, which you can certainly leave out if you want that traditional brisket taste. I also did not include tomato paste when I cooked mine, but it is certainly a welcome staple that adds a lot of traditional flavor.

Also, another major difference between brisket and beef bourguignon is that beef bourguignon is usually identified by the beef cut, which is in stew-like chunks. And of course brisket wouldn't be brisket if it weren't sliced very thinly, and as always, against the grain.

1 top of the rib beef brisket (1/2 pound uncooked per adult)
5 shallots or 2 large onions (chopped)
3 parsnips (roughly chopped)
3 carrots (roughly chopped)
3 cloves garlic
2 cups beef stock or beef broth (low sodium preferred)
2 cups red wine (burgundy or a similar deep ruby red wine: I used a Teal Lake Petit Verdot/Cab mixture, because of the price point and because I personally don't use it as a drinking wine, but think it's great for cooking).
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
5 oz. can of tomato paste (or tomato sauce, or chopped tomatoes)
1 cup frozen or canned pearl onions
1 box baby bella or sliced portobello mushrooms
salt and pepper to taste

Saute your onions or shallots in a large deep pot with garlic. Add your meat and brown it on both sides, until there is a crust but not burned. Remove the beef and let it sit while you add your chopped parsnips, carrots and let them infuse some flavor and color. Then add back your meat, and add your beef stock, wine, thyme, bay leaf and tomato product. Simmer on the stove, covered for one hour. Transfer the pot to the oven (at 300 degrees for a least two hours). Make sure it's tightly covered. About half an hour before it's done, take the meat out and slice it and add it back to the gravy. Add your mushrooms and pearl onions and return the whole thing to the oven for at least a half hour.

Bon Appetit!

P.S. The longer brisket sits on a hot plate, the softer and more moist it becomes. That's why it's a perfect dish for a holiday meal!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Perfect Honey Cake

An article I wrote about the precise art and science of honey cake came out today (click here to read it), but here is the recipe, with my original notes.

Honey cake is a traditional dessert served around the high holidays, to encourage a Shanah Tovah, a sweet new year.

This is my mom's easy recipe, altered extensively from The Taste of Shabbos, originally published by Feldheim in 1987.

Among other tweaks, what my mom stressed in changing the recipe is to add the ingredients in the correct order, and above all, don't overmix the batter. Just combine the ingredients until there are no lumps of flour. Otherwise you run the risk of the cake becoming tough. There are two leavening agents already in this recipe (baking powder and baking soda), so there is no need to develop the gluten in the flour.

2 eggs
1 cup sugar
¾ cup canola oil
¾ cup honey
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp cinnamon
2 cups flour
1 cup strong brewed decaf or regular coffee
½ cup golden raisins (coated first in flour) (optional)

Sift dry ingredients and set aside. Beat eggs in mixing bowl. Combine slowly with sugar, oil and then honey. Add coffee alternating with your dry ingredients, taking care to mix only until the dry ingredients are combined. Sprinkle in the flour covered raisins at the end, by hand.

The mixture can be poured into one 9 by 12 cake pan, or two loaf pans, or in mini-loaf or cupcake pans. Fill the pans halfway or a little more. Bake at 375 degrees. The baking time can be anywhere from 15 to 35 or 40 minutes, depending on the depth of your pan. Test for doneness by piercing with a toothpick; If the toothpick comes away clean, the cake is done. If you don't have a toothpick, just wait until the middle of the cake doesn't jiggle when you move the oven rack. The recipe doubles well and freezes well.

Honey on Foodista

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Savory Tea Biscuits

These biscuits were an overall winner, and incredibly easy to make. Plus, they're adorable!

Alexander and I split them in half and filled them with smoked salmon and sliced onions.

2 cups sifted flour
2 tsp baking powder
4 tablespoons shortening (I use Earth Balance)
1/2 tsp table salt
3/4 cup water or milk
1/4 tsp dried rosemary or thyme (optional)
kosher salt for sprinkling

Combine dry ingredients. Mix in shortening with a fork. When that is fully combined (no lumps), add the liquid. Mix until it just comes together.

Turn the dough out and roll out and shape into 1/2 inch rounds (a shot glass works great for this). Sprinkle with kosher salt and bake in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Sukkot Salads, Part II

(click on the photo for a larger image)

Amazing seasonal salad made today, with yellow grape tomatoes, arugula, butter lettuce, red leaf lettuce, cranberries and chickpeas. Toast some pine nuts to put on top!

The dressing was as follows:

3 tbsp basil oil (or Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2-3 tbsp olive oil (to make 3 parts oil to one part vinegar)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced (I buzzed the shallot and garlic bulbs together in the food processor for a few seconds)
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)

For more Sukkot Salads, click here for Sukkot Salads III, or here for Sukkot Salads I.