Monday, October 10, 2016

Fresh and Festive


Many people have an antiquated view of traditional, Ashkenazi cuisine, or in the United States, simply "Jewish Food". The term evokes visions of  gefilte fish, chopped liver, brisket laden in a heavy sauce and of course kugel. But in preserving the old, you can also lighten up your meal with some new favorites to present your guests with a revised view of Jewish Food.

For Rosh Hashana, it's traditional to eat certain foods (simanim) that are thought to represent good fortune in the New Year. Included are fish, dates, pomegranate, fenugreek and of course apples and honey for a sweet new year! This year I was inspired to create a fish appetizer (it could be a main course too) with the assorted simanim. I obtained fresh fenugreek leaves at a local Indian food store, where it is called methi.The result was a really fresh tasting appetizer that kicked gefilte fish back to Eastern Europe. The interplay between the tartness of the pomegranate, bitterness of fenugreek and sweetness of honey balanced really well, without any of the flavors overpowering the beauty of the fish. If you prefer an even sweeter taste (missing that gefilte fish already are we?), you can finely dice about 1/4 cup of pitted dates and add them to the mixture.

For some more fresh flavors this holiday season and beyond, check out the contemporary kosher cookbook, The Silver Platter by Daniella Silver and Norene Gilletz. The authors bring contemporary tastes within the bounds of kosher cooking to deliver updated and enlivened recipes for your special occasion or everyday. It's beautifully photographed and the recipes are clear. I recommend the Red Cabbage and Kale Salad as a great accompaniment to this dish (cabbage is a siman too!)

I used salmon fillets, but you really can use any thick or thin white fish as well. You should reduce cooking time to 20 minutes if you use a thin fish like Tilapia.

Pomegranate-Fenugreek Salmon 

4 salmon fillet pieces or steaks
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1 cup fresh fenugreek, washed, inspected and roughly chopped
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
1/4 cup honey (more to taste)
Juice of 1 small orange (may substitute a mandarin or tangerine)

Pre-heat oven to 350F degrees.  

Spray a rectangular baking pan with non-stick cooking spray or line with parchment paper. Set aside.

Check salmon for small bones, and remove. Rinse and pat dry. Place side by side in prepared pan.  

Sprinkle salmon with salt and pepper to taste.
In a small bowl, mix remaining ingredients. Pour over salmon.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until pinkness in center just disappears. 

This dish may be served hot or cold.

For appetizer sized portions divide each piece of fish in half.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Almond Joy


I've been trying to incorporate almond flour into more of my baking because of the fiber and protein content as opposed to the "white" gluten free flours.  As well, I recently used olive oil in a chocolate cake as a sub for canola oil, and it was totally fine in regard to taste and texture in the finished product.  I've done a lot of research on the best types of fat and I always seem to come back to olive oil, so I was thrilled that this cake worked out well!

If you're not a fan of orange flavor, omit the orange zest in the cake and zest and juice in the glaze. Substitute non-dairy milk or water for the liquid in the glaze. For a mocha flavored variation, omit orange as just mentioned, and add 2 Tablespoons instant coffee granules to the almond milk mixture.

Almond-Orange Vegan Bundt Cake

2 cups almond milk (or any other non-dairy milk)
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups all purpose gluten free flour blend with xanthan gum (such as Better Batter brand)
1cup almond flour
2 cups granulated sugar (or Florida Crystals)
2/3 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt (or regular table salt)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup olive oil
zest of half a medium orange

Orange Glaze
1 cup confectioners sugar, sifted
1-2 tablespoons orange juice
zest of half an orange

Pre-heat oven to 350F degrees.

Spray a standard sized bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.

Mix together the vinegar and milk and let stand for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl (may be done in an electric mixer) whisk together all the dry ingredients.

Slowly add the milk, vanilla and oil. Stir well to combine (if using an electric mixer, beat on medium speed until silky), until batter is smooth and silky in appearance.  Stir in orange zest until combined.

Pour batter into bundt pan, smoothing top with a spatula.

Bake in pre-heated oven for 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool completely on a wire rack. Run a knife around edge of cake. Place serving plate on top of bundt pan and slowly flip over.

Drizzle with glaze or sprinkle with powdered sugar (or do big whoop)!

Orange Glaze:

In a small bowl, stir together confectioner's sugar and 1 tablespoon orange juice. If the mixture is too thick, add the second tablespoon of juice. Stir in orange zest. Drizzle over cooled bundt cake.

Yield: 12 servings

Friday, March 18, 2016

Feeling dumpy


At the end of this there's a really easy recipe for Vegan-GF Chocolate Chip Cake...I promise. But you'll have to put up with one of my poems first...

Now that the days are longer, time seems shorter.
So much to do, gardening, biking, Pesach prep,
obligations yet unmet.
I needed a dessert in haste,
I had no time to waste.
A dump cake I wondered,
not many have blundered,
with this ingenious dish,
would it fulfill my wish?

The answer is worked! And it's gluten-free and vegan. I subbed a container of non-dairy yogurt (Trader Joe's coconut yogurt) for the eggs, and somehow it gave the chocolate chip cookie dough mix I used an added lift, and it came out cake-like instead of like cookie bars.  All the mixing can be done in the pan, and there's no it's super easy!  So you can have your spring fun and eat your cake too.

 I used Betty Crocker Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookie mix for his recipe. You can try other brands, just add the ingredients they direct you to on the box,  and sub the 1 yogurt (6-8 oz) for eggs called for in the instructions.

Vegan-Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Dump Cake

1 box (19 oz.) Betty Crocker Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix
1 stick (1/2 cup) margarine (I use Earth Balance), melted*
1 capful vanilla extract (1 teaspoon)
2 shakes cinnamon (approx. 1/2 teaspoon)
1 container (6-8 ounces) non-dairy vanilla or plain yogurt (coconut, soy, almond, etc.)
Optional Toppings: chopped nuts, chocolate chips, or dried fruit

Note: I used a Pyrex baking dish, so I was able to melt the margarine in the microwave directly in the dish. If you use a metal baking dish, melt the margarine in a small, microwave safe bowl.

Pre-heat oven to 350F degrees.

Spray an 8x8 or 9x9 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.

Dump all the ingredients, except the topping, into the baking dish and stir until well combined. Spread out evenly in baking dish. Sprinkle with toppings, if desired.

Bake for 35-40 minutes in pre-heated oven, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with few or no crumbs.

Cool on a wire rack.

Yield: 12 servings

Friday, February 5, 2016

Sushi Sensei


With one major storm behind and another predicted for next week, the activities for snow days can wear thin. A popular thing to do is bake and decorate cookies with your kids, but after awhile that activity can become tedious. I've found my kids really enjoy making homemade sushi rolls. Truth be told, it might not technically be sushi, as I'm reluctant to actually use raw fish at home as fish for sushi should be a very premium quality and ultra fresh...something I'm not able to source easily where I live. However, I use a variety of vegetables, fake crab sticks, homemade lox or any type of cooked fish I have on hand. I have even on occasion made "gefilte sushi"! 

The act of preparing all the veggies and rice, as well as making sure your mix-en-place (when you lay out all your ingredients and equipment before you start cooking) is an activity in itself. The only special equipment you will need is a bamboo sushi mat. But you can also substitute a flexible silicone cutting board, or even parchment paper if you don't have a sushi mat. I've seen the bamboo mats sold in the Asian food section of my local chain supermarket. All the ingredients are generally readily available at your local supermarket, kosher specialty store, or health food store, and you will find the cost of making your own is majorly cheaper than buying prepared sushi.

Since learning to make sushi rolls is a very visual experience, I prepared a video with Rosie to show you how easy it is to make sushi rolls. Sensei is a Japanese word for teacher, I hope I can be your sensei in your sushi making experience. The biggest tip I can give you is to not overfill the rolls, and to roll them tightly. Once you get the hang of it you'll never want to buy that stale looking supermarket sushi again!

Check out my videos for preparing sushi rice with ease, and prepping your nori.

California or Veggie Sushi Rolls

6 sheets Nori (dried seaweed wrappers'd be surprised but many supermarkets carry them in the Asian foods section)
2 cups prepared sushi rice (prepare according to package directions)
2 medium avocados, pitted, peeled and thinly sliced
1 large cucumber (I prefer English for this), peeled and cut into 2-inch long thin strips
12 pieces of imitation crab sticks (I like Dyna-Sea brand--make sure it is gluten free and allergen free as needed)
Optional veggies:
scallions, cut in thin strips
lightly steamed carrots, cut in matchstick size strips
Daikon radish, cut in matchstick size strips

For serving:
gluten free soy sauce
prepared wasabi (optional)
pickled ginger (optional)

First lay out all the ingredients and tools. Place a piece of plastic wrap over your sushi mat. Put out a small bowl of warm water nearby in case your fingers get sticky from handling the rice.  Line up all the cut sushi ingredients in front of your mat. Have a tray or plate ready for your completed rolls.

If you have a gas burner, turn it to medium, and wave the nori a few inches from the flame for about 30 seconds to 1 minute, set aside.

Place nori sheet flat on the plastic covered bamboo sushi mat. Spread about 1/3 cup rice over the nori, leaving a 1-inch margin at either end.  

At the end closest to you, layer your fish and vegetables in a single layer no wider than 2-inches.  Spread with a thin layer of wasabi, if desired, for a hotter taste.

Slowly flip the end of the mat closest to you up and slowly roll the filling inside the nori.  You are using the mat to nudge the roll along, the mat will not roll up in a cylinder (refer to video). When the roll is complete, cover it with the end of the mat you used to roll it up, and press along the length of the mat with your hands in a "c" shape, in order to firm up the roll.  

If I'm rolling the sushi in advance, I like to wrap it in the plastic wrap that covered the mat, and use a new sheet of plastic wrap for each roll. Otherwise, using a sharp knife, slice sushi roll into 1-inch thick pieces and lay on a plate.

To serve: place soy sauce in small individual bowls for each person. Arrange sushi on a plate or tray, garnished with wasabi and pickled ginger, if desired.

Serves: 6 for a main course; 12 for an appetizer

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Short and Sweet


This post is short and sweet,
but it will provide your guests with
a bite to eat.

Whether it's Chanukah, X-mas, Kwanza or Naw-Ruz
Your precious time... you won't lose.

3 ingredients no more,
OK, if you wish maybe four.

No fuss, no wait,
soon you'll dig into the chocolate.

So I needed a quick dessert, and the crunchy, salty and sweet combination of pretzels and chocolate seemed an appealing twist on my family's favorite Chunk-a-Chews.  You can substitute up to a cup of other mix-ins, like nuts, peppermint candy or mini-marshmallows as you see fit.  A sprinkle of coarse sea salt on top is an option for those true lovers of the salty-sweet dessert (non-dairy dessert). 

I recently came across two varieties of chocolate by the company California Gourmet that makes both a non-dairy, vegan as well as a soy chocolate chip. They taste great and seem very high quality in terms of the chocolate. Enjoy!

Chocolate-Pretzel Bites

1 bag  (10-12 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 Tablespoon softened coconut oil or pure vegetable shortening (e.g. Earth Balance) or vegetable  or olive oil (non-virgin)
2 cups gluten free pretzels* (coarsely crushed)
Coarse sea salt or colored sprinkles, to garnish, if desired

Place the chocolate chips and vegetable shortening in a medium sized microwave safe bowl. Cooking time varies based on wattage of your microwave. Microwave on high heat 1-1 1/2 minutes. Remove bowl and stir until smooth. If chips aren't melted, return to microwave for 15 second intervals, stirring in between.  Allow to cool for 10 minutes.

Place two dozen paper mini-muffin cup liners on a large cookie sheet. If you don't have these, you can line the cookie sheet with waxed or parchment paper, and drop the chocolate right onto the paper.

Stir the pretzels (or other mix-ins) into the chocolate. Drop by tablespoonfuls into liners. Sprinkle with sea salt or colored sprinkles (if desired).  Place into refrigerator until firm. Store in covered container.

Yield:  24 candies

*You may substitute up to 1 cup of crushed or chopped nuts, peppermint candy, mini-marshmallows, cut up caramels, dried fruit, etc.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Donut Delights



So in general I'm not a "fly by the seat of your pants" type of person, but when it comes to my yearly Chanukah donut making forays I tend towards experimentation. Each year I try to come up with the best gluten free donut recipes--generally using something not originally intended for donut batter. So far I've used pizza dough, Bisquick and now pancake mix.

My outlook is to sort of go into the recipe experimentation process like one who jumps backward off a high-dive...not really seeing where you're going, but trusting it will all turn out ok in the end.  I approached the process intuitively, setting out to turn my box of Trader Joe's Gluten Free Buttermilk Pancake and Waffle Mix into something more.  I added ingredients one would usually add to donut batter: milk, eggs, and cinnamon. The mix already had xanthan gum, baking powder and soda, salt and buttermilk (so I didn't fret about not adding actual buttermilk into the mix). The end result was a crispy outside and a lovely "cake like donut" texture inside---similar to an Entenmann's style donut.  In addition, the dough can be tweaked and used for other donut variations like churros or olibollen. Happy Chanukah and Happy Frying!


Substitutions for egg-free and dairy-free (hence"mostly" vegan depending on how you feel about granulated sugar) versions are included below.  Toppings are only limited by your imagination, you can use powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar, chocolate ganache, maple glaze, etc.  If you make a ball shape with the dough it can be filled with jelly or custard.  I indicate additional sugar (than what is in the store bought mix) is optional, as some people prefer a less sweet donut with the sugar serving as your "sweet source" on the outside.  See my frying tips video at the end of the recipe.

 Gluten Free Buttermilk Donut Recipe

3 cups Gluten Free Buttermilk Pancake Mix (I used Trader Joe's brand)
1/4 cup granulated sugar (optional)
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup milk mixed with 1 Tablespoon cider or white vinegar (stir and allow to sit for 10 minutes)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4-6 cups vegetable or canola or peanut oil for frying
Confectioner's sugar or cinnamon sugar

Cinnamon Sugar:
1/4 cup granulated sugar tossed with 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Create a well in the center with a wooden spoon, and add eggs, milk mixture and vanilla extract. Stir until liquid is totally incorporated. Allow mixture to sit for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saucepan or Dutch Oven to medium-high heat (about 375).  Add a piece of carrot or baby carrot, if desired, to the oil--this helps prevent over browning.  Add a teaspoonful of batter to oil to test if it is hot enough. If the oil is ready small bubbles will appear around the batter.

To shape the donuts you can either scoop the batter into the oil in batches (about 3-4 at a time) using an ice cream scoop or 1/4 cup measure, or fill a pastry bag or gallon sized Ziploc with a 1-inch opening snipped off of one corner.  Pipe donuts into circles on individual pieces of parchment and drop into oil for most perfect circles. Once donut cooks, remove parchment from oil. Or, just pipe circles, squiggles, or lines right into the oil.  For donut holes, use a tablespoon measure to scoop batter, or a cookie scoop. 

Fry donuts for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side, until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack set over a brown paper shopping bag or paper towels set in a rimmed baking pan to catch the drips. 

Cool for 10 minutes, then finish as desired. Add powdered or cinnamon sugar to a brown paper bag or bowl and toss donuts in sugar to coat.  Or, finish with a chocolate, maple or caramel glaze.



Dairy and Egg free version:
Substitute your favorite egg substitute for 2 eggs (Ener-G egg replacer, flax eggs, etc.) or 1-6 ounce container vanilla or plain non-dairy yogurt (such as soy or coconut milk).

Substitute the buttermilk pancake mix with a non-dairy mix or Gluten Free Bisquick.

Substitute the dairy milk with equal amount soy, rice or hemp milk with vinegar added, as above.

For Churros: A favorite Mexican street food, which has become a favorite in American stadiums and fast food restaurants. Omit nutmeg and use 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Use a large star piping tip (if you have) or just snip the end of a gallon sized ziploc or piping bag one inch. Pipe 4-inch lengths of batter into oil. Careful not to crowd pan. When cooled about 10 minutes, toss in a bag with cinnamon sugar to coat. Serve with chocolate and /or caramel sauces for dipping.

Oliebollen: A Dutch version of donuts generally made at New Year's. The literal translation, as you may have guessed is "oily balls".  Add 1 cup raisins or currants and 1/2 teaspoon cardamom to the batter.  Drop by small ice cream scoop or 1/8-cup measure into the oil. Drain as above. Check to make sure the center is cooked through as they are thick.

Check out my YOUTUBE Video with frying tips:


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A Very Vegan Thanksgiving


Hosts seem to panic when they have to prepare food for guests with special dietary needs. They wring their hands and furrow their brows in worry. It can be especially troublesome when the holiday is very meat centric like Thanksgiving---I mean how many times have you heard the holiday called "Turkey Day"?! If the big bird isn't the focal point of the meal, then what will fill the void?

Well, the answer varies by vegan or vegetarian in question. Some are content filling up on side dishes, others like a protein based entrée such as a bean dish or tofu.  Ersatz meat-looking products are a must for some. 

My best suggestion is open up a dialogue with your guests that have special dietary needs. If you feel their meal requirements are out of your wheelhouse, don't be afraid to say so. This is especially true when someone has a food allergy or celiac disease. If you are honest that the task of assuring each ingredient is free of their off limits food, or you feel the whole cross-contamination thing is too overwhelming--then tell them! Better safe than sorry.

Arrange for them to bring their own food and heat it up in a manner that is "safe" for them. This can alleviate the worries of both host and guest on many levels.  In any case, take their lead. If your guest says "I'm happy munching on the salad and some of the veggie sides." Trust that they really are happy with the salad and sides, and don't spend the whole meal being apologetic, and saying that you're so sorry you don't have more for them, etc.  Most people on special diets have come to an internal realization (even if it was an uneasy one to achieve) that they have to look beyond the food as the focal point at social gatherings. Provide a warm reception and sparkling conversation to make your guest feel included in the meal.

For some great vegan recipe ideas check out Isa Chandra Moskowitz's book Isa Does It. Although she uses wheat flour, I found her baked goods come out well when I sub all purpose gluten free flour blends. Her marble banana cake (half plain-half chocolate) is one great example of this!

The following salad is great because it has a complete vegetarian protein (legumes and rice), so it can serve as an entrée or side dish. Additionally, it is good both warm or chilled.  This is also my tribute to Trader Joe's--a store that clearly marks vegan and gluten free offerings on their packaging.  All the items are easily found at Trader Joe's both in their traditional forms (i.e. raw rice or whole sweet potatoes), and convenient forms--pre-cubed and peeled sweet potatoes and frozen pre-cooked brown rice.  It doesn't get any easier than this!

Lentil and Sweet Potato Salad

1 cup green lentils (it's important to use this variety, as they hold their shape and don't turn to mush when cooked), cooked according to package directions
2 cups prepared brown rice
1 large sweet potato, peeled, cubed and boiled or steamed until fork tender
3 stalks scallions, chopped

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 Tablespoons honey or 2 Tablespoons agave nectar
1 garlic clove crushed
1 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 Tablespoon fresh chopped thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried sage or 3 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
sea salt, to taste
fresh ground pepper to taste

Gently toss all salad ingredients in a large mixing bowl. 

Whisk together dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Pour over salad ingredients and mix gently to coat.

The salad may be served warm or covered tightly and chilled. May be prepared and refrigerated up to 3 days in advance.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings