Crispy Tofu with Cashews and Blistered Snap Peas

9 Mar

Here’s another winning recipe from the New York Times. The intro to the recipe says it will work well with small pieces of chicken instead of tofu, if that’s what you prefer. And if you don’t like or don’t have snap peas, use grean beans, broccoli or asparagus — anythng that’s fresh and green. The colors in this dish are almost as nice as the flavors. I confess I did not have the mint leaves it suggests sprinking on top; after waiting several weeks while hoping to find some, I just gave up.

Ingredients:

1 (14-oz.) block firm or extra-firm tofu, drained and pressed
3 Tbs. vegetable oil
kosher salt and black pepper
¾ lb. snap peas, trimmed
1 (2-inch) piece ginger, peeled and grated (about 2 Tbs.)
2 garlic cloves, grated
1 (13-oz.) can unsweetened coconut milk (light or full-fat)
1 Tbs. soy sauce
2 tsp. molasses, dark brown sugar or honey
½ cup toasted cashews
1 Tbs, rice vinegar
4 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
¼ cup mint leaves, torn if large
½ to 1 tsp. red pepper flakes, optional

Directions:

In a medium skillet or cast-iron pan, heat 1 Tbs. oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Season both sides of the tofu with salt and black pepper, place it in the pan and sear without moving until tofu is browned and golden on both sides, turning once halfway through (about 8 minutes total). Move the tofu to a plate.

Add 1 Tbs. oil to the pan and add the snap peas. Cook, stirring occasionally, until blistered and just tender, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and move to a bowl.

Heat the remaining 1 Tbs. oil, add the ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour in the coconut milk, soy sauce and molasses. Simmer, stirring frequently, until the sauce reduces and its color deepens to a dark brown, about 6 to 8 minutes. It should coat a spoon without running right off.

Stir in the cashews, break the tofu into 1-inch pieces and toss in the pan to coat with the sauce. Remove from heat, taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Toss the snap peas with the rice vinegar, scallions, mint and red-pepper flakes if you use them. Divide among plates with the tofu and cashews. Serve with rice or any steamed grain.

Serves 4

Thai-Spiced Sweet Potato and Cashew Soup

28 Feb

Here’s a recipe for something a little different! It comes from the MediterrAsian.com blog.

I confess I used salted roasted cashews — and the soup was a little on the salty side. So use unsalted it you can, especially if you don’t like a lot of salt.

I also confess I used the whole can of coconut milk because I didn’t have anything planned to use the remaining amount after I used a cup and saved a little for garnish. I don’t think this was a bad thing. The soup was really tasty!

I pureed the soup using an immersion blender. It worked great on the sweet potatoes but it was hard to get every last cashew ground up this way. Using a blender or food processor might be a little messier, but it would probably do a better job.

If you don’t have cilantro or don’t like the taste, use a little parsley for garnish.

Ingredients:

1 Tbs. peanut oil
2 scallions, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1½ Tbs. Thai red curry paste
28 oz. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
5 cups stock: vegetable or fake chicken
1 cup coconut milk, plus 4 Tbs. for garnish
½ cup roasted unsalted cashews, plus extra for garnish
3 Tbs. fish Suce
2 tsp. brown sugar
1 Tbs. lemon juice
1 Tbs. fresh chopped cilantro for garnish

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

Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little.

Puree the soup in two batches in a blender or food processor until smooth. Return to the saucepan to reheat and stir in the lemon juice.

Serve in bowls with a swirl of extra coconut milk, and garnish with cilantro and reserved cashews.

Serves 6 to 8

It’s hamentasch time!

11 Feb
Hamentaschen

The Jewish holiday of Purim is in just two weeks, so I thought I’d reprise my recipe for hamentaschen, the three-cornered fruit-filled cookies that are popular for this holiday. (One cookie is a hamentasch.)

Instead of the usual photos, this year I have a video for you, thanks to my very talented future daughter-in-law, Grace Vant Hof. My synagogue, Congregation Beth Shalom, asked if I would do a Zoom cooking demo for their online Purim carnival this year. I’m not confident enough of my Zoom skills to do this “live” so I offered to enlist Grace and make a short vid.

Purim is described in the Book of Esther, which is short and easy to read, and you should get out your Bible if you’re not familiar with it. The day celebrates the deliverance of the Jews of Persia from an evil plot to exterminate them (something that pretty much sums up most of Jewish history). The cookie’s name comes from the story’s villain, Haman, and is said to mimic the shape of his hat, though in Yiddish the word means “Haman’s pockets” (and in Israel, they call them “oznei Haman,” Haman’s ears.)

On this holiday it’s customary to exchange gifts of food. When our kids were younger and we distributed dozens of food packages, each with four to six hamentaschen, I would double this recipe and make at least two double batches. This year we are pretty much foregoing the package distribution – it’s part laziness and part realizing that most of our friends, like us, do not need gifts of sweets this year – so I only made the one batch.

I still think this recipe makes the best hamentaschen! We have received many different versions of these cookies, and to my mind there’s only one friend whose recipe (quite different) rivals this one in taste.

Watch the vid to hear the stories about where this recipe came from, as well as some tips on how to make them. It’s just under 13 minutes.

Ingredients:

2½ cups flour
2½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
⅓ cup vegetable shortening
½ cup sugar
¼ cup honey
1 Tbs. lemon juice
2 eggs
1 can Solo fruit 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 stickyDirections:

Preheeat oven to 350 degrees.

Roll out on a floured board, cut out rounds using a cookie cutter or glass (dip edge into flour). 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

Caramelized Shallot Pasta

19 Jan

Here’s another tasty pasta recipe from the New York Times — it was one of their most-requested for 2020. It took me awhile to make this after I clipped it, because shallots and fresh parsley are not things I normally have on hand and I had to wait until I got to a store that carried them. Peeling and slicing the shallots and garlic and pulling the leaves off the parsley stems were the most labor-intensive parts of this effort! (I chopped the parsley in the food processor after de-stemming it.)

The recipe for the sauce makes enough for two four-person servings of pasta, using 10 oz. of pasta. Since we’re only two here, and the recipe didn’t look like it would make a huge amount of sauce, I divided it into three instead of two, and used 6 oz. of pasta, saving the other two portions of sauce for another time. I had already chopped up and measured out the parsley by then, so I used the whole cup, setting some aside for future meals.

Ingredients:

¼ cup olive oil
6 large shallots, very thinly sliced
5 garlic cloves – 4 thinly sliced, 1 finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
1 (2-oz.) can anchovy fillets, drained
1 (4.5-oz.) tube or (6-oz.) can tomato paste
10 oz. pasta
1 cup parsley leaves, chopped
Flaky sea salt

Directions:

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add shallots and the thinly-sliced garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots have become totally softened and caramelized with golden-brown fried edges, 15 to 20 minutes.

Add the red pepper flakes and anchovies. Stir until the anchovies melt into the shallots, about 2 minutes.

Add the tomato paste and season with salt and pepper (though the anchovies are so salty I did not add any additional salt). Cook, stirring constantly to prevent scorching, until the tomatoe paste has started to cook in the oil a bit, caramelizing at the edges and going from bright red to a deeper brick color, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer half to a reusable container. Use these leftovers for another batch of pasta, or with roasted vegetables, over fried eggs, or under crispy chicken thighs.

Cook the pasta according to the package instructions until very al dente (a bit more than usual). Save 1 cup of the pasta water before you drain it. Transfer the pasta to the Dutch oven or a skillet with the shallot mixture and the cup of pasta water.

Cook over medium-high heat, swirling the skillet to coat each piece of pasta and scraping up any bits of sauce at the bottom, until the pasta is thick and the sauce has reduced, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Combine the parsley and the finely chopped garlic and season with flaky salt and pepper. Divide the pasta among bowls or transfer to one large serving dish, and top with parsley mixture and a little more red pepper flakes if you like.

Serve 4

Baked Spinach-Artichoke Pasta

8 Jan

Here’s a nice recipe I got from the New York Times. It’s not a dieter’s delight, that’s for sure, with heavy cream and lots of cheese. But it sure is good! The recipe suggests cooking the pasta until just shy of al dente, because it will continue to cook in the sauce as it bakes.

The red pepper gives the sauce a little zing, but not enough to make it spicy.

The Times suggests you can use kale or mustard greens instead of the spinach, use other cheese combos, add mustard or carametlized onions, or top with crumbled bacon (which, being kosher, I would never do!)

Ingredients:

Kosher salt
8 oz. medium pasta shells
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
10 oz. fresh baby spinach or frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and drained
1 (14-oz.) can artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped
2 cups heavy cream
4 oz. grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 cup)
Black pepper
4 oz. grated mozzarella cheese (about 1 cup)

Directions:

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the package directions until 2 minutes short of al dente. Drain and reserve.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the spinach little by little until wilted, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes. Stir in the chopped artichokes.

Stir in the cream and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Stir in the Parmesan until melted.

Remove from the heat and carefully stir in the cooked pasta (or transfer the pasta and the sauce to a large bowl to mix). The liquid might appear wet and loose but it will thicken as it bakes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer the pasta to a 2-quart casserole dish or individual casseroles or ramekins. Sprinkle with the mozzarella and bake until bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes. If you like you can broil for a few minutes until the cheese is browned in spots.

Cool slightly befoere serving.

Serves 4 to 6

Date-Nut Bars

17 Nov

This is a nice recipe to indulge yourself with while you’re blue about having to stay indoors and isolate yourself during the pandemic. Especially if you were ever seduced by those big bags of pitted dates at Costco and are now wondering what the heck to do with all of them. They’re easy to make and really delicious.

Ingredients:

¾ cup flour
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
2 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup chopped nuts
1 cup sliced dates
1 tsp. vanilla

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Sift flour, salt and baking powder together. Beat eggs, and beat in sugar gradually. Stir in the nuts, dates and vanilla, and then the dry ingredients.

Grease an 8 x 8-inch baking pan and line the bottom with a piece of waxed paper or parchment paper. Spread the batter in the pan. Bake about 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Invert onto a wire rack and peel off the waxed or parchment paper. Cut into strips about 2 inches by 1 inch.

Makes 32 bars

A new roasted butternut squash soup

2 Nov

A few weeks ago I told you about a humongous butternut squash that I used to make a vegetable dish with onions and za’atar and a vegetarian chili. I froze the rest to use in soup. Well, last week I made the soup, and it is dee-lish! It has fewer spices than many such soups, so the flavor of the squash really comes through.

The recipe is adapted from one by Lindsay Funston, deputy editor at the “delish” online food magazine.

I didn’t have fresh thyme so I used dried. I had only small potatoes so I used three (and because they were “new” potatoes I didn’t peel them). The recipe called for chicken broth but I used vegetable broth, and I found I needed more like 6 or 8 cups, rather than the 4 cups the recipe called for, to get the soup the right consistency; it was still nice and thick.

Ingredients:

1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed (about 3 cups)
2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs. butter
1 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
1 large carrot, chopped
1 Tbs. fresh thyme (or 1 tsp. dried thyme) — plus more for garnish
6-8 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a large baking sheet, toss butternut squash and potatoes with 2 Tbs. olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Roast until tender, 30 minutes.

In a large pot over medium heat, melt butter and remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Add onion, celery and carrot and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Season generously with salt, pepper and thyme.

Add the roasted squash and potatoes and then the broth. Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes until all the vegetables are soft. Blend until creamy using an immersion blender (or do in small batches in a blender), adding additional brtoth or water if it seems too thick.

Serve garnished with fresh thyme. A dollop of sour cream on top would also be nice.

Serves 6 to 8

Roast Chicken with Garlic, Lime and Cranberry Onions

25 Oct

This is delicious, but it’s not a dieter’s delight. The onions and cranberries soak up all the tasty chicken fat that you would normally discard (or save for another use) after roasting the chicken.

Ingredients:

  • 8 to 12 chicken pieces (any combination)
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. fresh minced garlic
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt (ignore if using kosher chicken)
  • ½ tsp. fresh ground pepper or to taste
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp. dried thyme
  • 4 cups chopped onions
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • ¼ cup lime juice

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread the onions over the bottom of an oiled roasting pan.

Place the chicken pieces in a large bowl and rub with the olive oil, then the garlic. Combine the spices and rub all over the chicken pieces. Arrange the chicken skin side up over the onions and roast, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the roasting pan and stir the cranberries into the onions. Place the chicken back in the pan, skin side down and roast for 10 minutes more.

Turn the chicken over again, drizzle with the lime juice, and roast for 20 to 30 minutes more, until the top is nicely browned.

Serve immediately with the chicken arranged on a serving platter on a bed of the cranberry onions.

Serves 6 to 8

Roasted butternut squash and red onion with tahini and za’atar

13 Oct

Here is a great recipe from the fabulous Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. I love this cookbook, because everything I have made from it has been delicious – but I admit I have not made too many of the recipes because a lot of them are very involved and use a lot of sometimes-hard-to-find ingredients.

This one is relatively simple, and these days, tahini and za’atar (a Middle Eastern herb/spice blend) are relatively easy to find. If you don’t have a Middle Eastern grocery in your area, you can order them online.

The book calls for the squash to be roasted with the skin on. I did not do this because I started with a gigantic butternut squash. In addition to this dish, I made a batch of Three-Bean Vegetarian Chili and froze a bunch of squash cubes to make another soup when the chili is gone. So I used butternut squash cubes instead of wedges and they work perfectly fine. You can save some time and energy by buying pre-peeled and pre-cut squash cubes.

The dish has an interesting combination of flavors, colors and textures. It works well as an appetizer or as a side dish.

I changed the directions slightly, because the onions take less time to roast than the squash, so rather than starting them at the same time, I suggest roasting the squash alone first, then adding the onions.

Ingredients:

1 large butternut squash (about 2¼ lb.), cut into ¾-in. x 2.5-inch wedges
2 red onions, cut vertically into 1¼-inch wedges
3½ Tbs. olive oil
3½ Tbs. light tahini paste
1½ Tbs. lemon juice
2 Tbs. water
1 small clove garlic, crushed and chopped fine
3½ Tbs. pine nuts
1 Tbs. za’atar
1 Tbs. coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.

Put the squash in a large mixing bowl, add 3 Tbs. of the oil, 1 tsp. salt and some black pepper and toss well. Spread on a baking sheet with the skin facing down and roast for 30 to 40 minutes (peeled cubes may take a little less time).

After 15 minutes, add the onions, and stir well to get the onions coated with the oil. Stir frequently so everything cooks evenly. When the squash and the onions are fully cooked and have browned somewhat, reove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Make the sauce: place the tahini in a small bowl and add the lemon juice, water, garlic and ¼ tsp. salt. Whisk until the sauce is the consistency of honey, adding more water or tahini if necessary.

Put the remaining 1½ tsp. oil into a small frying pan and place over medium-low heat. Add the pine nuts and ½ tsp. salt and cook for about 2 minutes until the nuts are golden brown (be careful, because they can burn really easily!) Remove from the heat and transfer the nuts and oil to a small bowl to stop the cooking.

To serve, spread the vegetables out on a large serving platter and drizzle over the tahini. Sprinkle the pine nuts and their oil on top, followed by the za’atar and parsley.

Serves 4


Peanut kale

18 Aug

Kale is super-plentiful right now, maybe in your backyard garden, in your friends’ gardens, or — if you must — in farm markets and supermarkets. This easy and tasty recipe can be served either as a side dish or as a salad, either warm or at room temperature. It’s adapted from a recipe by Kathy Patalsky that I found online when I was looking for something to do with a big bunch of kale.

Ingredients:

4 cups of kale, chopped, stems removed (1 large bunch)
1 Tbs. peanut butter
2 tsp. soy sauce
1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. brown rice syrup, agave nectar, honey or maple syrup
Ground black pepper to taste
½ cup red or white sweet onion, thinly sliced|
Optional (but recommended):
½ tsp. chopped ginger
A few dashes cayenne pepper
½ tsp. chopped garlic

Directions:

 Put all ingredients except kale in a large pot and stir to combine. Add the kale, cover the pot, and heat over high flame for just a minute or two until the small amount of liquid starts to boil. Turn off the heat, and shake the pot a few times with the lid on. Wait a minute, then remove the lid and stir well (but gently). The steam will have wilted the kale enough to make it tender; stir just enough to make sure all of it has come in contact with the sauce.

Serve immediately or keep for a few hours and serve at room temperature.

Serves 2