Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Make it quick!


This post, like the recipe, is short and sweet,
 as this week I have a hectic schedule to keep.

Shavuos is very near,
and before that Shabbat will be here.

Making delicacies with cheese and dairy;
I need to take out the gluten so they won't be scary.

Enjoy this cake,
as it's so easy to make.

Apologies to Rosie as it is not vegan,
alas, I'm a cook, not a magician.
Oh, but I cannot forget my sweet little "pet"
so I made her a vegan sherbet!


This recipe makes a very light and airy cheesecake that is popular in Japan, where desserts are not heavy.  It is diametrically opposed to the New York style cheesecake, which is characterized by it's denseness.
Lime Kissed-White Chocolate Japanese Cheesecake

1/2 cup white chocolate chips, or white chocolate, chopped
3 eggs, separated
4 1/2 ounces cream cheese
zest of 1 small lime
Optional garnishes: whipped cream, lime zest curls, powdered sugar or white chocolate curls

Pre-heat oven to 325F degrees. Spray a non-stick 8-inch round springform pan with non-stick cooking spray, or grease with butter.

In a microwave safe bowl, heat white chocolate for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Stir until melted.  Note: White chocolate burns easily, so heat for shorter time first, stir and heat again if needed. Set aside to cool.

Beat egg whites in a medium sized mixing bowl with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together cream cheese and melted white chocolate until well blended and creamy. Add egg yolks and lime zest, and beat until well combined.  Gently fold in one-third of egg whites. Repeat with remaining whites in two additions. Spoon into prepared pan, smoothing top.

Bake for 15 minutes at 325F degrees. Lower oven temperature to 300F degrees and bake for 15 minutes. Turn oven off and leave cake in the oven for 15 minutes.  Remove cake from oven and cool on wire rack. 

Chill for 2 hours before serving. Garnish as desired.

Serves: 6-8


This reminds me of a popular, and personal favorite, juice drink in Israel called Toot-Banana (Toot is strawberry in Hebrew).  It's creamy and fruity and so refreshing!
Toot-Banana Pops

2 cups strawberries, washed and hulled
1 very ripe banana
1-15 ounce can coconut milk
2 Tablespoons agave nectar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Process all ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth.

Pour into 12 small ice pop molds and freeze until firm.  Or, pour into an ice cream maker and follow manufacturers directions for sherbet.

Yield: 12 servings

Thursday, May 7, 2015

For Mom and From Mom


Image result for mother's day gift

So Mother's Day is coming up at the end of this week, and I always find it's a pressing question, "what to buy". For the woman we love and who loves us most, you would think it's a simple proposition. But, coupled with her birthday, anniversary and winter holiday gifts, it's not always so easy to come up with something original.

If you have a mother, grandma, aunt or wife with celiac Disease, then the new Jax Peters Lowell book The Gluten Free Revolution is a fabulous gift option this year. It caught my eye in the New Releases section of my local library. A mammoth among the other health and wellness books. I always enjoyed Ms. Lowell's articles in gluten free magazines, which tended to have a poetic air about them, as opposed to the straight forward scientific manner in most such writings. So I was excited to see her new, comprehensive book. And, it doesn't disappoint, beginning with a poem on a glutenous subject!  Her previous publication The Gluten-Free Bible, was amongst the earlier group of books in the gluten free trend in the past decade.   Her name is familiar to any celiac, or those that love them!

The new tome is rather encyclopedic, ranging from such topics as dining out to school bullying. It contains five chapters of recipes from such luminaries as Alice Waters and Thomas Keller.  The chapter titles stay true to Ms. Lowell's voice, with such whimsical titles as "Sprechen Sie Gluten?' and "Your Cheating Heart". Topics range from practical, such as where to buy gluten-free foods and how to ask for gluten-free food in Korean (including handy cards in foreign languages to take with you on your travels), to emotional issues like dating and dealing with holiday family dinners.

Overall the book is comprehensive, well referenced, varied and an excellent addition to any household with a celiac/gluten sensitive individual.

Image result for ANZACApril 25th is a remembrance day in Australia and New Zealand for those soldiers that lost their lives in the invasion of Gallipoli during World War I. Almost as many soldiers died in this campaign as did the entire number of US troops during the Vietnam War.   They have a special cookie sold during this time of year called ANZAC biscuitsWhat's an anzac? I wondered as I stared at the recipe in Beatrice Ojakangas' Great Holiday Baking Book Maybe like anisette? Or something unknown like anadama bread. But no, ANZAC stands for Australian New Zealand Army Corps. And these cookies were popular to send to the troops when they invaded Gallipoli (which coincidentally is a new Russel Crowe movie that just came out), because of  a lack of eggs (in short supply during wartime) they stayed well.  The lack of eggs and chocolate, or anything "fragile" in them, were a good choice for this sturdy cookie to travel halfway around the world in a time before FEDEX and air mail!  I fortuitously came across the recipe, when flipping through a recipe book on April 25th! I felt the coincidence was too great, and was equally compelled by the fact the recipe was naturally egg free. There is a small amount of flour, and I felt it would adapt well to subbing out all-purpose gluten free flour--and it did! Of course, you have to add a pinch of love, like the mom's (ok mum' was the British Commonwealth after all), who lovingly made and packed these to their dear boys (and let's not forget the nurses...maybe some gals too), so far away, accompanied by hope and prayer that they would see them again.

An interesting final tidbit, the Australian Minister for Veteran's Affairs must give permission for the term "ANZAC" to be used, and the cookies must be produced in accordance with the original recipe when sold commercially.

If you want to make this recipe vegan, use margarine instead of butter, evaporated cane juice and the corn syrup as listed. The original recipe did not call for Craisins, but I thought they were a nice addition.

ANZAC Biscuits
based on "ANZAC Cookies", p. 59, Beatrice Ojakanga's Great Holiday Baking Book

2 cups uncooked old fashioned gluten free oats
1 1/2 cups all-purpose gluten free flour blend with xantham gum
1 1/2 cups sugar or evaporated can juice (i.e. Florida Crystals)
1 1/2 cups flaked sweetened coconut
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
pinch sea salt
1 cup unsalted butter or non-hydrogenated margarine (such as Earth Balance Buttery Sticks)
1/8 cup (2 Tablespoons) honey or light corn syrup or Lyle's Golden Syrup
6 Tablespoons boiling water
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sweetened, dried cranberries

Pre-heat the oven to 300F degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper, set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, stir together the first 7 ingredients.  Add the butter and honey, and beat on medium speed until well combine. In a small bowl, mix together the water and baking soda.  Add to the mixture and stir until combined. Stir in the dried cranberries.

Drop rounded tablespoonfuls of dough 2-inches apart on prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until light brown.  Cool on baking sheets 10-30 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container.

Yield: Approximately 4 dozen cookies

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Snow Day Recipes


So we've been having a lot of unseasonably snowy days here in the Northeast. Purim plans were sent askitter with an unseasonal snow storm, and on Friday, the first day of spring ("yeah, right, sure!"), another one.

So our plans to join family in New York for Purim were turned topsy-turvy. This was especially appropriate for Purim, the holiday that celebrates unlikely outcomes through the infinite hand of G-d. So I adapted, pulled a brisket out of my freezer, and was inspired by an item I received in a shaloch manos (one of the gift baskets of food that are customarily exchanged on Purim). The magic ingredient? Root beer! I recalled a very good barbecue sauce prepared by a local chef that used root beer, and decided to give it a go.  The result was delicious, and our Purim meal was saved.

As the snow blanketed the yard outside my kitchen window on Friday afternoon, my  mind turned to the very delicious harbinger of spring, asparagus I had purchased earlier in the day. Running out of time before Shabbat settled in, I decided to use a very easy and flavorful method I like for vegetables...roasting.  I can prep the dish in about 5 minutes, and leave it to cook in the oven and put my efforts elsewhere. Served hot fresh out of the oven, or cold the next day it was delicious, and did remind me that there would be greener, brighter days to come.

I hope you enjoy these recipes, even without the snow!

This brisket recipe can be used for the upcoming Passover holiday if you omit the dried mustard and switch out the root beer for cola, as you probably won't easily find kosher for passover root beer.

Snow Day Root Beer Brisket

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 onions (any type), thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1-4 to 6 pound beef brisket
1/4 cup powdered onion soup mix
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard  
ground black pepper, to taste
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
1-12 ounce bottle barbecue sauce (I used hickory flavor)
1-12 ounce can root beer or cola (not diet)
1/4-1/2 cup water

Heat a large stock pot to medium-high heat. Add oil, when it begins to shimmer add the onions and salt.  Cook until translucent. Reduce heat to medium-low and saute until onions begin to brown.

Rub brisket with soup mix, brown sugar, dry mustard, black pepper and garlic.  Place over onions in stock pot.  In a medium sized bowl, stir together barbecue sauce and root beer or cola.  Pour over brisket so that's it's totally covered. Put lid on pot. And bring up to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cook for 3-5 hours until tender. Check pot after an hour of cooking, and add water around brisket if the sauce looks too thick. Turn brisket and baste halfway through cooking time.

Remove brisket from the pot and allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Thinly slice against the grain. Serve "smothered" with onions and pan gravy. You may slice beef in advance, return to pot and reheat for 30 minutes before serving. Make sure any sliced meat is covered with gravy before storing.

Serves: 8-10

This is the perfect elegant vegetable side dish for any festive spring meal. The amounts of the herbs and olive oil vary depending on how many bunches of asparagus you use.

Herb Roasted Asparagus

1-2 bunches of asparagus, washed and checked for bugs
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Fresh ground black pepper
Marjoram or basil
Fresh lemon juice

Heat oven to 450F degrees.

Hold each asparagus stalk in one hand, with the other hand,  hold the bottom of the stalk and snap off the hard part. It usually snaps at the appropriate spot naturally. Repeat for all stalks.

Lay stalks in a thin layer in a non-stick 9x13 baking pan or cookie sheet.  Drizzle with a thin layer of olive oil. Sprinkle with herbs and spices to taste.  Toss to coat evenly. Bake in pre-heated oven for 20-30 minutes, until just fork tender.  Turn once or twice during baking.

May be served hot or cold. Drizzle with lemon juice before serving.

Serves: 6-8

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Thanks a Lox!


So there are some things in cooking you try to make at home because you're adventurous and because you want to see if you can actually do it and have it come out right. Choux pastry, macarons and cured fish would be in this category.

From a most unlikely source I was inspired to make lox at home. I recalled from my adolescence that my mother made gravlax from scratch once, presumably inspired by the same spirit of adventure as me. I recall it involved putting the salmon in vodka and turning it daily for almost a week. As a child, I recall wondering why this dish was taking so long to be ready!

But the recipe I came across only takes 2-3 days. While flipping through a really great Thai cookbook (Thai Food and Cooking by Judy Bastyra and Becky Johnson), I saw a picture of something that looked like the lox I've been eating on my Sunday bagel my whole life.  I always thought of this iconic pickled salmon dish as a Jewish, Russian and Scandinavian specialty. So it turns out, it's not actually part of Thai cuisine, but the authors used traditional Thai spices such as lemongrass, red chili and kaffir lime leaves to make a Thai inspired version of "Gravadlax".  As it turns out, on the snowy day I decided to make this dish, I did not happen to have lemongrass or kaffir lime leaves in the house.  But I did have some of the other items, and combined them with my knowledge of the traditional gravlax flavor profile. When the dish actually turned out o.k., and looked decidedly "loxy" to boot, it was sort of a like doing a cartwheel for the first time and feeling surprised you landed on your feet---then throwing up your hands in triumph.

This version differs from traditional gravlax, in that it only utilizes a dry rub, and no liquid in the form of vodka or Aquavit is added. As the dish sits for several days, liquid from the fish leeches out into the dish. 

The preparation takes just about 15 minutes, and then you have to commit to flipping the fish over once a day for 2-3 days (I suggest 3). So, although from a distance making lox at home seems daunting, it's really quite easy. And, quite economical. You should absolutely use fresh fish, but even so, fresh salmon costs about half that per pound of store bought smoked salmon or lox (if you want to know the difference between these two click on this link). The spices are all pantry staples, and I estimate cost less than a dollar total.

I made maki sushi rolls with my fresh lox:

Remember to use a non-reactive container like Pyrex or ceramic for this dish, as it contains acidic ingredients that can react with metal over the several days it is curing.

Homemade Citrus-Ginger Lox
 (adapted from Salmon Marinated with Thai Spices, Thai Food and Cooking by Judy Bastyra, et. al., p. 163 ,)

1 1/2 pounds of tail piece (skinny end) of salmon
4 teaspoons coarse sea salt or kosher salt
4 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger, peeled (do not use powdered)
grated rind of 1 medium lemon
1 teaspoon black peppercorns crushed*
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, or 1 scant Tablespoon dried
2 dried bay leaves

*The easiest way to do this is zip them into a plastic sandwich bag and pound them with a mallet until broken into coarse pieces

Rinse and pat dry salmon. Run your fingertips over the salmon and pull out any bones with a pair of pliers.  Place in a non reactive baking dish. 

In a small bowl, combine remaining ingredients except bay leaves.

Rub spice mixture evenly over both sides of the salmon. Place bay leaves in baking dish.

Place a piece of plastic wrap directly over salmon, and a second piece over baking dish.  Weigh down salmon either by placing a cutting board (or piece of wood) that fits inside baking dish over salmon and placing a brick or several heavy cans on top of board.  Or, Place large cans (such as 28 ounce cans of tomatoes), that cover most of the surface of the salmon, directly over plastic wrap.

Refrigerate for 3 days. Remove weight and plastic wrap and flip salmon pieces once a day.

When curing process is completed, remove the salmon from the baking dish and scrape off any spices. Rinse in cold water and pat dry. The finished salmon will keep for 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator, or you can seal it tightly in plastic wrap, or vacuum pack and freeze.

To serve:  Slice salmon very thinly holding a sharp knife at an angle, in the same direction as the white "zig zags" on the salmon. Tightly seal remaining salmon in plastic wrap.