Archive | September, 2013

Jewish Apple Cake

24 Sep

Jewish apple cakeThe Jewish holidays are almost behind us (Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are Thursday and Friday) but apples are right in season, — and it’s a great year for them, at least in Michigan. So this seems like a good time to share this a classic recipe. It’s excellent for Shabbat dinner, Rosh Hashanah or any festive occasion.

As a variation, you can substitute sliced prune plums for the apples, which I almost like better because it gives the cake a lovely dark  purple ribbon. But I haven’t seen prune plums in the market yet, and apples are tried and true!

The hardest part of this recipe is peeling and slicing the apples. After that, you just mix the batter in one bowl and assemble the cake in the baking pan. I keep a  shaker of cinnamon and sugar in my cupboard to make cinnamon toast — if you do the same, you can skip the part about mixing cinnamon and sugar and just sprinkle some of the mixture from your shaker over the  apples.

This cake freezes nicely too!

Ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, beaten well
⅓ cup orange juice
2 tsp.vanilla
1 tsp. salt
3 tsp. baking powder
3 large, tart apples (Granny Smith are great), pared, cored and sliced thin
1 tsp. cinnamon mixed with ½ cup sugar
Confectioners’ sugar (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Measure everything into a mixing bowl except for the apples and the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Beat until smooth.

Pour one-third of the batter into a greased and floured Bundt pan. Arrange half the apples over the top of the batter (overlap the slices slightly) and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Pour on half of the remaining batter, then add the rest of the apples and some more of the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Pour the rest of the batter over the top of the apples. Bake for about an hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack.

If you like you can sprinkle the top with confectioners’ sugar.

The Best Cheese Quiche

18 Sep

Cheese QuicheFor years I struggled to make a decent quiche. It would always come out of the oven looking beautiful, but then as soon as I cut it, the filling would start to “weep.” The bottom crust would get soggy, and I would inevitably be very disappointed.

This problem was solved by my friend Elaine Webber, who taught me this foolproof method. By putting the cheese right on the piecrust and then putting hot vegetables on top of it, you melt the cheese slightly and form a bit of a barrier between the crust and the egg-and-milk mixture that keeps the crust from getting soggy. The result is delectible.

You can easily vary the vegetables — leave out the onion and use chopped spinach, for example, with or without mushrooms. The only essential steps are to cook the vegetables and assemble the quiche while the vegetables are hot.

Of course you can make your own piecrust, but it’s much easier to use frozen. Be sure to get  the deep-dish variety, and even then you may have too much custard. If that’s the case you can save the leftovers and make crustleess mini-quiches by  combining cooked vegetables, grated cheese and the custard in cupcake tins and baking until they are puffed and set.

Ingredients:

1 frozen deep-dish pie crust (or make your own if you’re energetic)
1½ cup chopped or sliced onion
¼ lb. mushrooms, sliced
4 large eggs
1½ cups milk
2 Tbs. flour
½ tsp. dry mustard
Pinch dried thyme
Pinch black pepper
1½ cups (packed) grated sharp cheddar cheese
Paprika

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Saute the onions and mushrooms until soft and the mushroom liquid is evaporated. Whisk together the eggs, milk, flour and seasonings. Spread the cheese on the unbaked piecrust, then spread the vegetables on top. Wait a few minutes, then pour the egg mixture over. Sprinkle paprika on top. Bake 45 to 60 minutes until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Serves 6

Tuesday Tip: A Bonanza of Basil

10 Sep

Basil freshI bought a pot of basil at the beginning of the summer, separated the three little stalks in the pot and plonked them in my garden. As they grew, I cut off the growing tips so the plants would branch out. They became bushy and lush! But there’s only so much caprese salad* one can eat.  And I already made and froze some pesto — I’ll give you that recipe later.

So what do you do at the end of the season with all that basil?

Here’s a tip that I got from my sister-in-law Rhonda that works for basil and just about any other fresh herb. We’ve done this very successfully with parsley and rosemary as well.

Pick the nicest leaves — avoid any that are bug-eaten or discolored — and put them in a brown paper lunch bag. Don’t fill the bag more than half-full. Roll the top down to close it, but leave as much air space as possible in the bag. Put the bag in the bag of your refrigerator and forget about it — except once a week or so, take it out and give it a shake.

Basil driedAfter about three weeks, the basil will have dried. (If it’s not completely dried, put the bag back in the fridge for another week.) Crumble it up on a piece of wax paper and store it in a plastic or glass spice jar.

Meanwhile, here are a couple of ways you can use fresh basil.

*For a caprese salad, slice a couple of large, ripe, red tomatoes and lay them out nicely on a plate. Slice some fresh mozzarella cheese and place over the tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place several perfect fresh basil leaves on the top. Drizzle with olive oil and enjoy.

Another thing I like to do with fresh basil is serve it with pasta. Boil up some spaghetti, toss it with a bit of olive oil after you drain it, then add some basil leaves cut into thin ribbons, fresh chopped tomatoes, a clove of chopped garlic and cubed or shredded mozzarella.  Season with salt and pepper. I’m not providing quantities because you can really play it by ear .

A Honey of a Cake

4 Sep

honey cakeWith apologies to those of you who also read my Feed the Spirit blog, where this ran last week, I’m posting my Honey Cake recipe here as well. Just in case you haven’t finished your Rosh Hashanah planning and cooking — ha!

As you may have guessed, the reason I’m taking the lazy way today is that I’m up to my eyeballs in kitchen chores, getting ready for the big day tomorrow when we’re hosting a lunch. Honey cake will be on the menu. Not everyone likes honey cake,  which is actually more of a spice cake.  Honey cakes tend to be dry. This recipe is quite moist, especially if you add a maple syrup glaze on the top. It has a nice, spicy taste, and the coffee balances out the sweetness of so much sugar and honey.

You can halve the recipe if you want only one loaf. Or you can freeze one loaf and save it for another occasion.

I wish my Jewish friends everywhere a shanah tovah u’metukah, a very happy, healthy and sweet New Year.

Ingredients:

1 cup strong coffee
1¾ cups honey
4 eggs
¼ cup vegetable oil
1¼ cups dark brown sugar
3½ cups flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground cloves
¼ tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. ground ginger
½ cup chopped walnuts, optional
Maple syrup, optional

Directions:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Generously grease and flour two 9 x 5-inch loaf pans.

Combine the coffee and honey in a large bowl or saucepan and bring to the boil in the microwave or on the stovetop. Let cool.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, then stir in the oil and brown sugar. In another bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger and nuts if you use them.

Alternately add the flour mixture and honey-coffee mixture into the egg mixture and mix well. Pour the batter into the prepared pans.

Bake 70 minutes until the top of the cake springs back when touched lightly. If you want a sweet glaze on the cake, drizzle maple syrup over the top as soon as the cake comes out of the oven.

Cool in the pan. Let the cake stand for 24 hours before serving.