Hamentaschen

13 Mar

(It’s that time of year again! I thought it might be a good idea to reprise my blog about hamentaschen.)

Hamentaschen 4

These fruit, nut or poppy-filled cookies are popular on the Jewish festival of Purim, which commemorates the events told in the Book of Esther. This year, Purim falls on March 21

The cookie’s three-cornered shape is supposed to represent Haman’s hat, though the word means “Haman’s pockets” in Yiddish, and in Hebrew, they’re called “oznei Haman” — Haman’s ears!

My mother wasn’t much of a cook, but she baked these hamentaschen every year. She got the recipe from our neighbor in Northeast Philadelphia, Ida Silver.

In 2007, I read a Hadassah magazine article by Judy Davis called “My Mother’s Hamentaschen” and I realized Judy Davis was the married name of Ida Silver’s oldest child, a few years older than me. But the recipe in the magazine was not my mother’s recipe!

I hadn’t seen Judy in at least 40 years but I tracked her down – she worked at the University of Massachusetts – and emailed her. In her response she admitted the recipe was not her mother’s, which she either never had or lost. “I must have had a copy at some time, though I have no memory of it,” she wrote. “I love the idea of your mother having used her recipe (it means my mother must have shared some of them with her), and I love that it is being handed down to the next generation.”

Indeed it is! My children always enjoyed my hamentaschen – at some point, each of them served as my baking assistant. Now they are making the same recipe. And in all humility, I say that I know only one friend who has a recipe for hamentaschen as good as these. The cookie is tender, and the honey and lemon give it a nice flavor.

I usually double the recipe, though now that the children are out of the house and we are retired (with no office colleagues to share goodies with), I am going back to making a single batch. I don’t use a board to roll out the dough. I do what my mother did: cover the kitchen table with an old sheet and work some flour into it and use that as my workspace.

Use Solo brand pie filling or similar; regular pie filling is too runny and will make the hamentaschen soggy.

Ingredients:

2½ cups flour
2½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
½ cup sugar
⅓ cup vegetable shortening
¼ cup honey
1 Tbs. lemon juice
2 eggs
1 can Solo fruit, nut or poppy pastry filling

Directions:

Sift dry ingredients together. Cream shortening and sugar. Add honey and lemon juice and mix well. Add part of flour, then eggs, then rest of flour. Dough should be soft enough to form a ball but not sticky

Hamentaschen 3

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Roll out on a floured board, cut out rounds using a cookie cutter or glass (dip edge into flour to prevent sticking). Place a half-teaspoon of filling in the center of each piece, then pinch into a three-cornered shape. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet for about 15 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool on wire rack.

Makes 2-3 dozen cookies

 

 

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Oven “fried” zucchini

5 Mar

zucchini oven friedHere’s a nice way to make zucchini that even vegetable haters will love! You’ll want to slice the zucchini about a quarter-inch thick. That sounds really specific, but it doesn’t have to be. I was trying to figure out how to say “not too thin, not too thick” so I looked on a ruler and a quarter-inch seems about right. The point is, you want the slices to not fall apart when they’re baked, but you don’t want them to be so thick that they won’t cook all the way through quickly.

For the breadcrumbs, a mixture of panko and regular breadcrumbs is good. If you don’t have seasoned breadcrumbs, just add some parsley, a grind of black pepper, a sprinkle of garlic powder, a pinch of paprika, and a pinch of any other herbs you like.

Ingredients:

2 medium zucchini, sliced diagonally
1 egg, beaten
½ cup seasoned breadcrumbs
non-stick cooking spray or olive oil in a spritzer

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray it with non-stick spray or oil. Place the breadcrumbs on a plate.

Dip each zucchini slice in the egg, drain off excess, and then roll the slice in the breadcrumbs and place it on the baking sheet.

When all the slices are on the sheet, spray the tops lightly with oil.

Bake for about 20 minutes, turning after 10 minutes. Baking times may vary, depending on your oven. Both sides should be golden brown.

 

Hot Fudge Pudding Cake

19 Feb

hot fudge pudding cake

You may be wondering why I don’t share recipes more often. There’s a simple explanation. This is a blog of my favorite recipes. I’ve been writing it for several years. Most days, there are just two of us for meals. Over the course of this blog’s life, I’ve used most of my actual favorite recipes. (If you’re new to the blog, go back and look at some of the older entries.) Most of my recent posts have not been old standbys but new recipes that I like a lot (and remember to photograph).

This one, however, is an oldie-but-goodie. We rarely make desserts except when we have company. Most of our company meals feature a chicken or meat main course; in our kosher home, that means no dairy desserts. So while I love this recipe, I don’t make it very often. (You can make it vegan, but I don’t think it would taste as good.)

The directions will probably sound odd. While the cake bakes, the top layer turns into a rich pudding that sinks to the bottom of the dish. When you serve it, invert each piece onto a serving plate and it will be topped by a yummy, fudge-y sauce. Serve it warm, even right out of the oven. It’s terrific with a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Ingredients:

1¼ cup flour
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup plus 2 Tbs. unsweetened cocoa, divided
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
½ cup milk, soy milk or water
3 tbs. melted butter, margarine or vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla, divided
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup boiling water

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Stir flour, sugar, 2 Tbs. cocoa, baking powder and salt together in a mixing bowl. Stir in the milk, melted butter or margarine and 1 tsp. vanilla and blend well. Pour into a greased and floured 8-inch square pan or a small casserole dish and spread evenly.

In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar and ¼ cup cocoa; sprinkle the mixture over the cake batter. Combine the boiling water and 1 tsp. vanilla and pour over the top of the cocoa-brown sugar mixture. Do not stir!

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Serve warm topped with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Serves 6 to 8

 

Thai-Spiced Sweet Potato Soup

28 Jan

img_4880 (2)

Here’s an absolutely delicious soup from my recipe blogger friends at MediterrAsian.com. It’s smooth and creamy without being heavy (because it uses coconut milk instead of cream), and it has lots of beta carotene and fiber.

“Thai-spiced” here means flavorful, not spicy.

The recipe calls for 8 oz. of coconut milk, plus a little more for garnish. The can had 13.5 oz. What was I going to do with a half-cup of leftover coconut milk? I just threw it all in.

The original recipe calls for chopped cilantro on top. We don’t like cilantro, so we used chopped scallions. You could also use chives or parsley. And I whizzed it with an immersion blender. I used chopped cashews on the top, but then I noticed that the MediterrAsian folks used whole cashews for garnish. I also had roasted salted cashews on hand so I used those, and the soup was not at all salty, so if that’s what you’ve got, I say use ’em!.

Ingredients:

1 Tbs. peanut oil
2 scallions, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1½  Tbs. Thai red curry paste
28 oz. (800g) sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup coconut milk, plus 4 Tbs. for garnish
½  cup roasted unsalted cashews, plus extra for garnish
3 Tbs. fish sauce
2 tsp. brown sugar
1 Tbs. lemon juice
1 Tbs. finely chopped cilantro for garnish (or parsley or scallion or chives)

Directions:

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the scallions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and curry paste and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.

Add the sweet potato, stock, coconut milk, cashews, fish sauce and brown sugar, stir to combine, and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are very soft. Remove from the heat and cool a little.

Puree the soup until smooth in two batches in a blender or food processor, or use an immersion blender.

Return to the pot to reheat, and stir in the lemon juice.

Serve in bowls with a swirl of the reserved coconut milk, and garnish with cilantro (or parsley, scallion or chives) and reserved cashews.

Serves 4 to 6

Smoky Brussels Sprouts

30 Nov

brussels sprouts, smoky

As long-time readers of this blog will know, I get a lot of my best recipes from Cooking Light magazine, which I have subscribed to for years. So I was devastated to see a notice in my most recent issue that it would be the last issue! Because my subscription still has about two years to go, I will instead get something called Eating Well, which they promise will have lots of the same features as Cooking Light. Color me cynical.

Meanwhile, try this easy and delicious recipe. I happened to have all the ingredients on hand, even smoked paprika. The sprouts came out crunchy and with a very nice flavor from the almonds, paprika and vinegar.

Combine the garlic, brown sugar, paprika and salt ahead of time in a small dish; you may want to measure out the vinegar too. This will make it easier to add them at the right time.

Ingredients:

1 Tbs. olive oil
1 lb. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved if large
1 Tbs. chopped garlic
2 tsp. light brown sugar
1 tsp. smoked paprika
¼ tsp. kosher salt
3 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
2 Tbs. chopped salted smoked almonds

Directions:

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the Brussels sprouts and cook, stirring often, until browned, 10 to 12 minutes.

Add the garlic, brown sugar, smoked paprika and salt. Cook, stirring often for another minute, then remove from heat. Stir in the vinegar. Sprinkle with the chopped almonds and serve.

Serves 4

Roasted Eggplant with Garlic Tahini

8 Nov

eggplant-tahini-sauce.jpgThis is a good dish to serve as an appetizer, salad, or to accompany a main dish.

If you’ve never used tahini paste, be aware that it behaves in a very weird fashion. Usually the oil separates from the rest in the jar, so before you measure it, be sure to stir it well.

When you add liquid to tahini paste, it gets very stiff. Keep stirring and keep adding liquid (usually water or lemon juice) slowly while stirring until you get the consistency you want. It should be easily spreadable but still thick, a little like sour cream.

You can prepare this several hours in advance of serving and just keep it at room temperature.

Ingredients:

1 large clove garlic
Pinch salt
⅓ cup tahini paste
2 Tbs. lemon juice
⅓ cup water
4 to 6 small eggplants (“Italian” are good, or baby eggplants)
¼ cup olive oil, plus a little more for drizzling
4 sprigs rosemary
¼ cup chopped parsley
Kosher or coarse salt and ground black pepper
2 to 4 Tbs. toasted pine nuts

Directions:

Mash garlic and salt with a mortar and pestle until it forms a puree.

Combine tahini paste, garlic and lemon juice; the tahini will become stiff. Whisk in the water until it reaches a sauce-like consistency. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Roast the eggplant: cut each eggplant in half and score the flesh with the tip of a paring knife in a cross-hatch pattern at 1-inch intervals.

Place eggplant halves on a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet, cut side up, and brush each with oil, letting each brushstroke get absorbed before brushing on more. Season with salt and pepper and put a piece of rosemary on each.

Roast eggplant until completely tender and well charred, about 25 to 35 minutes.

Toast pine nuts in a few tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently (be careful, they burn easily).

Arrange the eggplant halves on a serving platter and spread with tahini sauce. Sprinkle with the pine nuts, parsley and rosemary, and drizzle with a little additional olive oil (optional).

Serve at room temperature.

Serves 6 to 8

Minestrone

20 Oct

minestroneThis yummy recipe is adapted from The Italian Kosher Cookbook, published in 1965 by Ruth and Bob Grossman. It’s actually part of a larger volume called The Kosher Cookbook Trilogy, which also includes Chinese and French sections. The recipes originated with Ruth’s Grandmother Slipakoff, who collected recipes for Chinese favorites and figured out how to make them kosher. Then she did the same for classic Italian and French dishes.

The authors say Grandma’s favorite Yiddish saying was “As men lebt, d’lebt men alles” (“As I live, I see everything.”)

The recipes all have cutesy Yiddish-inflected titles. This one is called “Minestrone Della Contessa Goldfarb.” And cutesy Yiddish-inflected directions, like “Let it cook for another 20 minutes and it’s ready to serve to an army. But don’t worry, it keeps nice in the refrigerator.”

I make this with vegetable stock, but you can use beef stock if you prefer.

The hardest part of the recipe is making sure you have all the many vegetables on hand.

Ingredients:

2 Tbs. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 quarts meat or vegetable stock
1 cup cut-up green beans
1 small can tomato paste
a handful of fresh spinach leaves, chopped
1 Tbs. fresh chopped parsley, or 1 tsp. dried parsley
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 can light red kidney beans or cannellini beans
2 small zucchini, sliced (if using a larger zucchini, dice it)
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced (no need to peel new potatoes)
¼ small cabbage, shredded (or use a cup or two of packaged shredded cabbage)
“Enough salt and pepper so it will have a taste”
1 cup elbow macaroni, soup shells or other small pasta

Directions:

In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, saute the onions until soft. Add the stock and everything else except the pasta.  Stir well to make sure the tomato paste gets blended in.

Bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally. Add a little water if the soup seems too thick.

Add the pasta and cook at least 10 minutes longer, until the pasta is tender, then serve.

Serves at least 12