Archive | January, 2013

Amish Cabbage Casserole

28 Jan

Amish Cabbage CasseroleOne day I wanted to make a spinach and cabbage salad, so I sent Joe to the store to buy a small cabbage. Alas, all they had was a large cabbage, so after I made the salad, I still had about three-quarters of the cabbage left. I didn’t want to make another slaw, and I didn’t want to just boil it up, although I do like plain, buttered boiled cabbage. I wasn’t in the mood for the old standby sweet-and-sour cabbage and tomato soup. So I looked online and found this recipe for a cabbage casserole, which turned out to be quintessential comfort food, perfect for a dreary winter day like today. It’s also very easy to make, though you’re left with a lot of pots to wash. If you don’t like the idea of using canned cream of mushroom soup, you can make your own sauce using fresh mushrooms and a very thick white sauce (you’ll want it to be as thick as canned cream of mushroom soup). The original recipe called for American cheese, but I think cheddar or Colby cheese gives a better flavor. This can be served as a side dish or as a main dish.

Ingredients:

1 medium head cabbage, shredded (about 12 cups)
1 can cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
1 medium onion, chopped
5 Tbs. butter, divided
6 oz. cheese, shredded or cut in cubes
¼ cup dry breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Boil a large pot of water and cook the cabbage until it’s tender, about 10 minutes. Drain thoroughly.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large skillet, sauté the onion in 4 Tbs. butter until soft and golden. Add the soup and cheese and heat, stirring frequently, until the cheese is melted. Place the cabbage in a greased 2-quart baking dish and pour the sauce over it; stir well. Add salt and pepper if you want to (most cheese is salty enough that you don’t have to add additional, but a little pepper is good.)

In a small skillet, melt the remaining 1 Tbs. butter and stir in the breadcrumbs. Continue stirring until the breadcrumbs are lightly browned. Sprinkle over the casserole.

Bake uncovered for 20 to 30 minutes, until the casserole bubbles and the breascrumbs are browned.

Serves 6

Uh-oh: A typo in a previous post!

27 Jan

Oh dear, a loyal reader just informed me of a typo in my post with the Chocolate Mousse recipe. My original directions called for 1 16-oz package of chocolate chips, and it should have been 1 6-oz. package of chocolate chips! I have corrected it in the blog, so if you want to make this wonderful and easy recipe, it is now correct. And I apologize to anyone who tried to make it with the original instructions!

Here is the corrected recipe:

Ingredients:

1 6-oz. package semisweet chocolate chips
⅓ cup boiling water
4 eggs, separated
2 Tbs. coffee liqueur (or another liqueur that goes well with chocolate)
½ tsp. cinnamon

Directions:

In a blender, or with an immersion blender, mix the chocolate chips and boiling water for about 10 seconds. Add the egg yolks, liqueur and cinnamon and blend another 5 seconds. Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Fold the chocolate mixture into the egg whites until no streaks or lumps of white are visible. Spoon into dessert dishes or a 1-quart serving bowl. Chill for one hour or more. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream.

Serves 4 to 6

Green Beans Supreme

25 Jan

Green Bean SupremeIngredients:

½ lb. green beans
2 Tbs. olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic
¼ lb. mushrooms, sliced
½ red, yellow or orange pepper, diced

Directions:

Snap the ends off the green beans, but unless they are very long, leave them whole. Boil water in a medium saucepan and parboil the beans for 1.5 minutes; drain. Wipe the pan dry and heat the oil. Saute the garlic and mushrooms until the mushrooms release their liquid and soften. Add the pepper and cook for a minute or two, until the peppers soften somewhat; they should not be mushy but should retain a little crunch. You can do everything up to this point ahead of time. When you’re ready to serve, heat the vegetables until they start to sizzle, then add the green beans and cover the pot. Cook for just a few minutes, until the green beans are heated through.

Serves 4

Jerusalem Noodle Kugel

24 Jan

ImageA kugel is a pudding. A Jerusalem kugel uses caramelized sugar, which gives it a nice, deep, brown color, lots of oil, and lots of black pepper, which makes it both sweet and spicy. Most recipes call for cooking the noodles first, then caramelizing the sugar and pouring it over the noodles, then adding the eggs. I used to do it this way, but it was a little tricky, because when the caramelized sugar hit the noodles, it tended to form chunks and not coat the noodles evenly. This problem was solved when I found a Jerusalem kugel recipe in the New York Times. It’s a little time intensive, but it’s easier to get a good result.

You still have to be careful when caramelizing the sugar. If you let it go even 30 seconds too long, it will burn. And if you’ve never done it, you may not know what to expect. This is what happens when you mix the sugar with the oil and heat it: First the sugar will seem to dissolve, but much of the oil will remain separate. As the mixture continues to cook, it will seem to solidify as the oil is absorbed, and you’ll have clumps of moistened sugar. Keep stirring. Finally the sugar will start to melt and turn brown. Stir it constantly and watch it like a hawk. As soon as the color is golden brown, almost as dark as you want, pull it off the flame – I say “almost” because the hot syrup will continue to cook for short while.

I make it a little differently than the original New York Times recipe, which calls for 12 ounces of noodles (actually, they call for a mixture of angel hair pasta and fettucine), ½ cup oil, 1½  cup sugar and 4 eggs. The Times also suggests baking the kugel in a Bundt or tube pan. but I prefer an oblong pan.

This makes a very large kugel, enough to feed 12 or more. To make a smaller kugel, use 8 ounces of noodles, ⅓ cup oil, 1¼ tsp. salt, ½ tsp. black pepper, 1 cup sugar and 3 eggs, and bake in an 8-inch square pan.

Ingredients:

1¾ cups sugar
5 fluid oz. vegetable oil, plus a little more for greasing the pan
6 cups water
2½ tsp. salt
¾ to 1 tsp. ground black pepper
16 oz. package egg noodles
5 large eggs, well beaten

Directions:

Place 1 cup of sugar and the 5 fluid oz. of oil (between 1/2 cup and 3/4 cup) in a heavy 8-quart saucepan or Dutch oven. Stir constantly over medium heat until the sugar caramelizes, about 10 to 20 minutes. (See comments above for helpful hints.) Remove from heat and cool for about 15 minutes; the sugar will harden. (Be sure to take your wooden spoon or other stirring implement out of the pot before the mixture cools!)

Pour 6 cups of water into the pan with the sugar mixture and bring to the boil. The hardened sugar will slowly dissolve. Add the salt, pepper and remaining sugar. When the water boils, add the noodles. Cook until the water is almost completel absorbed/evaporated, stirring occasionally so that the noodles don’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Remove from heat and cool slightly, stirring occasionally to release the heat.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

When the oven is ready, add the eggs to the noodles and stir well. Pour into a greased 9 x 13-inch pan. Bake for about an hour, until the top is nicely browned. Cut into squares to serve.

Tuesday Tip: Make and store lemon (or orange) peel

22 Jan

ImageMy microplane is one of my favorite kitchen gadgets! It enables me to very quickly get that “rind of half a lemon” — or orange — that many recipes call for. Before I bought it, I would use a regular box grater, which was less than satisfactory because the rind tended to be mushy, and half of it would get stuck in the grater, which was then very difficult to clean.

If you’re like me, though, you often don’t have an orange or lemon on hand when the recipe calls for rind — or peel or zest, it’s all the same in recipes. I used to buy little jars of dried lemon peel and orange peel in the spice aisle of the supermarket. A jar containing 42 grams — less than 1.5 ounces — cost about $6. Then I realized how fast, easy and relatively inexpensive it was to make my own. I buy a few lemons when they’re on sale mainly for the peel.

Use a microplane to take the zest off all the lemons and leave the zest on a piece of waxed paper overnight. The next day it’s dry enough to store — I keep it in the same bottle the overpriced store-bought lemon peel came in. (The zest from four good-sized lemons will fill half the jar.) It can last many months. Use it in the same quantities you would use fresh zest.

As an added bonus, juice the lemons and use the juice instead of that stuff in the green bottle. My husband likes to drink hot water with lemon juice and says there’s a noticeable difference in the taste. In the summer, you can make fresh lemonade — yum!

Make sure the lemons are at room temperature before you start. After you take off the zest, roll each lemon on a counter before you juice it; this releases more juice.

My recipes don’t seem to call for grated orange rind as often as lemon, but when I start to run low, I just zest an orange, dry the zest and save it in my little bottle. Then I just eat the orange or use it in a salad.

By the way, an average lemon will yield 2 to 3 tablespoons of juice and 2 to 3 teaspoons of zest.

Michigan Baked Oatmeal

20 Jan

ImageWe had a great breakfast today! I don’t make this too often because it takes about an hour (most of it for baking), but it’s just the thing for a lazy winter Sunday.

I first saw this recipe for Michigan Baked Oatmeal in a newspaper. I cut it out and tried it, and then lost the clipping, so I searched online for it. The same recipe appears on many recipe sites – probably because it’s so good! With oats, apple, nuts and dried cherries and lots of milk, it’s very healthy and may be a good way to get picky kids to eat a healthy breakfast!

Since there are only two of us at home most of the time, I usually halve the recipe; the only tricky part is finding a small apple or using only half of a large apple. If you don’t have dried cherries handy, you can easily substitute Craisins or any other dried cranberries. And you can vary the recipe by using vanilla or cinnamon instead of almond flavoring and use different dried fruits or nuts.

This recipe is quite sweet, so you can cut back on the brown sugar if you like it less sweet. Michigan Baked Oatmeal keeps well for a few days in the refrigerator and can be reheated in the microwave with a little additional milk.

Ingredients:

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
½ tsp. almond flavoring
½ cup sliced or slivered almonds
1 large apple, unpeeled and grated
¼ cup brown sugar
½ cup dried cherries
Pinch of salt

4 cups milk

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a 3-quart baking dish or casserole with cooking spray. Combine all the ingredients in the baking dish (add the milk last) and stir well. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes and serve hot.

Serves 6 – 8

Beef and Eggplant Ragout

17 Jan

ImageI got this recipe from my friend Ruth Marcus and altered it a bit. She called it moussaka, but it’s not like traditional Greek moussaka that is topped with a custard or béchamel sauce and baked. No matter, it’s delicious. I’m calling it Beef and Eggplant Ragout so moussaka lovers won’t be disappointed. The eggplant disappears in the cooking, so it’s a good recipe to serve to kids who like meat and hate veggies. This recipe freezes very well.

Ingredients:

1 medium eggplant, peeled and cubed
2 onions, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 additional bell pepper, any color, diced
2 Tbs. olive oil
1½  lb. ground meat (beef, chicken, or turkey)
14 oz. can diced tomatoes
8 oz. can tomato sauce
Fresh or dried oregano
Fresh or dried parsley
Fresh or dried mint
Salt and pepper

(Ruth didn’t give quantities for spices. I use about 1 Tbs. dried oregano, 2 Tbs. dried parsley and 1 tsp. dried mint. If you use kosher meat, you probably won’t need additional salt, but a few grinds of black pepper – maybe about ½ tsp. – is very nice.)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and bake the eggplant until it starts to soften, about 15-20 minutes.

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven and sauté the onions and peppers a few minutes, then add the eggplant and cook until the vegetables are soft. Add the meat, stirring to break up clumps, until browned. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce and spices. Simmer one hour on low heat.

Serve with rice or couscous. It’s also nice served over spaghetti.

Serves 6

Chocolate Mousse

14 Jan

ImageI got this very easy recipe from Judith Baskin, who is the distinguished director of the Jewish studies program at the University of Oregon. We met  at Antioch College, and we were roommates during our year abroad at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem. We lived in a damp, cold, moldy basement apartment in an otherwise toney neighborhood (we referred to our apartment as “the slum of Rehavia”). After college, my husband and I lived in Philadelphia and we visited Judy and her husband, Warren Ginsberg, a few times in New Haven while they were  graduate students at Yale. On one visit, they served us this wonderful dessert, which we have been making ever since.

Ingredients:

1 6-oz. package semisweet chocolate chips
⅓ cup boiling water
4 eggs, separated
2 Tbs. coffee liqueur (or another liqueur that goes well with chocolate)
½ tsp. cinnamon

Directions:

In a blender, or with an immersion blender, mix the chocolate chips and boiling water for about 10 seconds. Add the egg yolks, liqueur and cinnamon and blend another 5 seconds. Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Fold the chocolate mixture into the egg whites until no streaks or lumps of white are visible. Spoon into dessert dishes or a 1-quart serving bowl. Chill for one hour or more. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream.

Serves 4 to 6

Cheater’s Chicken Soup

10 Jan

Chicken Soup

(I’m posting this so soon after my last post by popular demand!)

Making chicken soup from scratch can be expensive (especially with kosher chicken). Making it from powdered soup mix is disgusting. Here’s a cheap and easy way to get home-made flavor!

Start by making roast chicken (see my post from January 9, 2013). After you remove the chicken from the roasting pan, pour the “juice” into a glass or plastic tub with a lid. Add a half-inch of water to the roasting pan and swish it around to deglaze the pan, then add that liquid to the tub. Cool a bit, cover and refrigerate. The fat will rise to the top and harden and you can scrape it off. (You can throw it out, or save it to use in place of margarine in cooking.)

Use the “juice” within a week or freeze it. It makes a great base for soup — enough for two. Add some cut-up carrot and/or celery, fresh or dried dill, salt and pepper and cook till the carrots are soft, then add cooked noodles and you’ve got a great chicken soup! Or use it as a base for another soup that calls for chicken or vegetable stock.

Want more soup? After you’ve carved up the roast chicken, freeze the carcass. When you’ve accumulated three or four carcasses, thaw them and place them in a large pot with a cut-up onion, a peeled, cut-up carrot, a stalk of celery and some fresh or dried dill. Bring to the boil and simmer, covered, for a few hours. Cool slightly, then strain in a colander lined with cheesecloth. Add salt and pepper to taste, and add any chicken “juice” (see above) that you’ve saved from roasting a chicken.

With three chicken carcasses, you can make more than a half-gallon of soup. If it tastes a little weak after you first strain it, cook it down a bit to concentrate the flavor. Or you can add a bit of powdered chicken stock to strengthen it — it won’t spoil the flavor.

Note: you can cook this soup a long time. Once I put it on the simmer burner at 6 p.m., planning to finish it at 9 when I returned from a meeting. Well, we both totally forgot about it until the next morning, so it had simmered more than 12 hours. No harm done – the soup was very flavorful.

Roast Chicken

9 Jan

Roast ChickenThis is more a method than a recipe. The cooking time will depend on the size of the chicken. For a Cornish roasting hen – 2½ to 3 pounds – you’ll need 1½ to 2 hours. A proper roasting chicken of 5 or 6 pounds will take longer. The cooking time also depends on whether you use a regular oven or a convection oven. I recommend convection (my oven has a “convection roast” setting) because the cooking time is shorter and the chicken comes out juicier.

Rinse the chicken and shake it dry. Spray cooking spray on a roasting pan that is just a little bigger than the chicken and put the chicken in the pan while you preheat the oven to 350 degrees for convection and 375 degrees for a regular oven.

Sprinkle the chicken with garlic powder and rub a few tablespoons of zaatar over it. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, zaatar is a herb blend commonly used in Middle Eastern cooking. You can get it at Middle Eastern grocery stores or in well-stocked spice or bulk-food stores. If all else fails, order it online. (It’s great on pita and in scrambled eggs too!)

If you can’t find zaatar or don’t like it, you can use another herb blend or a little paprika.

The key to getting a juicy, nicely browned bird is to baste it frequently. Baste after the first half-hour and then every 15-20 minutes.

You will know it’s done when a) the bird is nicely browned b) the drumstick feels loose when you wiggle it and c) the juices that run out of the cavity are brown, not red. You can also prick the chicken in the thickest part of the thigh to see if the juices are running clear – but I prefer not to because I’d rather keep those juices in the chicken! When the chicken s done, remove to a platter and let it rest about 15 minutes before you carve it. Cut off the wings, drumsticks, thighs and breast meat, but leave the carcass intact. You’ll use it for chicken soup, which I’ll write about in my next post.