Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Summer Farro Salad

No, I didn't spell Pharaoh wrong and this salad has nothing to do with Egypt. Farro is just the fancy Italian word for wheat berries, a barley like grain with a great nutty and naturally al dente texture. I only discovered farro a couple of years ago but I have been sold ever since. The best thing about farro is that the longer it sits the better it is and it will not lose its crunchy texture. Farro is like a blank canvas- you can put practically anything in it and it will taste good and its much healthier for you than pasta, especially if you get whole grain farro. The weather outside was glorious this week, it felt like what I wish summer would feel like- warm with a breeze but not too hot- so in honor of the weather I made this version featuring vibrant colors and the taste of summer. Enjoy!

3 cups farro
1 can chickpeas
2 ears corn, grilled or boiled and then cut the kernels off the cob ( or 1 can sweet corn)
1 large sweet potato, cubed into small cubes
2 zuchinni, cubed
2 leeks, slices
1/4 cup craisins
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar 
1/4 cup oil
3 Tbl agave nectar or honey
1 tsp granulated garlic powder
salt, pepper to taste

Place the farro in a pot and cover with water by three inches and add some salt like you would for pasta. Bring to a boil and cook for about 30 minutes or until it is cooked through-it should have the mouth feel of al-dente pasta when ready. Meanwhile, in a saute pan, cook the leeks for 2 minutes, then add the sweet potato cubes and zuchinni and cook until the sweet potato is just cooked through. While the farro is still hot add the vinegar, oil, agave and garlic and mix well, seasoning with salt and peper to taste. Dressing the salad while its hot will allow the flavors to absorb into the wheat. Add the vegetables from the pan and the chickpeas, corn and craisins. Mix well, let it cool and serve. If you are making it in advance, check the salad for seasoning before serving- you may need to add a little more vinegar, salt and pepper to perk up the taste.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Cajun Chicken Linguine

My mother used to use cajun seasoning in everything when I was growing up so it is a flavor I am used to and really love. Cajun seasoning is typically a mixture of salt, garlic, onion, cayenne and paprika and usually an herb such as oregano or thyme. The cayenne gives it heat and so cajun seasoning is usually spicy although how hot depends on the brand. Here the chicken is coated in cajun and browned which really brings out the flavor of the seasoning but beware that this dish has some heat-not enough to stick your tongue in the freezer but just enough to make things interesting. Of course another reason I loved this was because it was a meal in a pot again- can't get enough of those!

4 chicken breasts, cut into small cubes
11/2  tsp cajun seasoning
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp granulated garlic powder
1 onion, sliced
2 zuchinni, sliced
1 red pepper, sliced
1 yellow pepper, sliced
3 ripe tomatoes, cubed
4 cloves garlic, minced
cajun seasoning
2 cups chicken broth
1/2  cup white wine
1 cup non-dairy cooking cream or 1 cup tofutti sour cream
1 tsp cornstarch
1 lb linguine

Boil the linguine and set aside. Season the cubed chicken with the cajun, paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Heat a little oil in a frying  pan and "blacken" the chicken cubes over high heat in batches until cooked through. You want the chicken to look dark and well seasoned. Remove the chicken from the pan and add the vegetables and garlic. Sprinkle some cajun, salt and pepper over the vegetables and cook over high heat for about 2 minutes. You want the vegetables to still have a little crunch. Remove the vegetables and place with the chicken. In the same pan, heat the broth and wine scraping up all the bits on the bottom and cook for about 5 minutes until it reduces a little. Add the cream and whisk well and add the cornstarch and whisk well and cook for another 2 minutes or until it thickens. Taste the sauce for seasoning and re-season with salt and pepper if necessary. If you want it spicier add some cayenne pepper or more cajun. Add the chicken and vegetables back into the pan and add the linguine as well. Cook all together over medium heat while mixing everything together for about 3 minutes so that the sauce can absorb into the pasta. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Cheese Lat-cakes

What do you get when you cross cheesecake, pancakes and latkes? Cheese Lat-cakes! I have come to the end of my Shavuot recipe-a-thon and I decided to end with these which also doubled as Gourmet Brunch Wednesday. I can't think of a bad thing to say about the delectable lat-cakes- they taste basically like the inside of the most delicious cheese blintz but pan fried in a pancake- how can you go wrong with that? The only thing missing were some fresh berries like strawberries and blueberries which are not in season here to serve with them but I improvised with a strawberry jam topping. Make these and prepare for rave reviews!!

1 lb Farmer's cheese ( I used 2 pkgs of Tuv Taam cheese or even better, 1 package of Tuborg cheese)
5 Tbl Cottage cheese
4 Tbl Cream Cheese
1/4 cup milk
4 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup + 2 Tbl sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 cup strawberry Jam
2 Tbl water

 Mash the farmer's cheese until mostly smooth (it's ok if there are a few lumps). Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until it resembles a pancake batter but thicker. Fry by quarter cupfuls in either oil or cooking spray about 2 minutes on each side. Mix the jam and water over low heat in a sauce pan until it is sauce consistency about 2 minutes. Serve with the pancakes.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Tropical Carrot Cake with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing

Talk about decadent! I gained 5 pounds writing the title! But I can assure you it is worth every calorie and every minute on the treadmill afterwards. While many people go the way of traditional cheesecake on Shavuot, I think this cake is original and decadent enough to pass muster with even the biggest critics. What makes the cake tropical is the addition of delicious things like shredded coconut, chopped macadamia nuts (instead of the traditional walnuts or pecans), crushed pineapple and just a little hint of ginger- but what puts the cake over the edge and onto your plate in a big hunk is the icing. Cream cheese icing enhanced with white chocolate? I'll take two to go!! Best of all the cake is pretty simple to put together (in one bowl!), and you can make the icing thin enough that you just need to pour it over the cake- alternatively these would be great baked as cupcakes and iced individually. Enjoy!

For the cake:
3 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
11/2 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
2 tsp good quality cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground ginger
3 1/4 cups grated carrots (about 4 big carrots)
3 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup chopped toasted macadamia nuts
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup crushed pineapple

In the bowl of a mixer mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and ginger. Slowly add the oil, vanilla, and eggs one at a time. Fold in by hand the pineapple, carrots, nuts and coconut. Grease two 8 inch round pans and divide the batter between the two of them. Bake for about 30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool before frosting.

For the Icing:
4 oz  or 100 grams of white chocolate
2- 8 oz bars cream cheese or about 450 grams
1 cup butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla
8 cups confectioners sugar
4 Tbl milk

Melt white chocolate in the microwave on low making sure it doesn't burn. Beat cream cheese and butter in a  mixer until smooth. Beat in chocolate and vanilla and gradually add in sugar until combined. Add the milk and mix in adding more if necessary until you achieve good frosting consistency. You can make the frosting easily spreadable by leaving out the milk or you can do what I did which was add the milk to make more of an icing that you pour over the cake.

 look at that icing just ooooooooozing!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Penne ala Vodka

I always used to love to order Penne ala Vodka in restaurants but I was never motivated to make it at home  because the vodka just made it seem like it was too annoying to make- especially the thought of shlepping to the liquor store. I could not have been more wrong! Not only is it so easy to make but  they sell vodka right here in the super market! If you are familiar with Israeli markets that should not really surprise you since they usually sell the most random things- you can find your frozen fish next to the display of kippot and your peanut butter next the to the kid's underwear (this is only a slight exaggeration).
 I'm really not sure what the vodka does here but one thing I know is that it elevates a simple salsa rosa sauce to something spectacular. This is a pasta that needs to be sauced right before serving so if you are making it for chag I recommend making the sauce and keeping it hot on a plata until ready to serve and then tossing it with the pasta last minute. While the vodka is the "star" ingredient you don't need to use the best quality vodka to impart the great taste, any will do (obviously just avoid the flavored vodkas). Enjoy!

1/2 a stick of butter 
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 cup vodka
270 grams 22x tomato paste + 2 1/2 cups of water - in America use a 28oz can of tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes
1 cup heavy cream
salt to taste
3/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 lb penne pasta

Prepare the pasta and set aside. Melt the butter in a large sauce pan and add the garlic and onion and dried basil and cook for about 3-4 minutes until the onions are softened. Mix in the tomato paste and water, bring to a simmer and add the vodka cooking for a good 5 minutes until the alcohol evaporates and the sauce thickens slightly. Stir in the cream and salt and cook on low another few minutes until the sauce is significantly thickened. Turn heat to low and stir in the cheese. Add the pasta to the pot and mix together over the heat for  2 minutes until the sauce is absorbed. 

(a totally under-sauced and anemic looking sample picture that is making me drool nonetheless)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Pesto Halibut with Roasted Tomatoes

This is an easy and elegant fish dish that presents beautifully and is a great alternative to salmon. Pesto has strong flavor but compliments white fish nicely and pesto and tomatoes are just a match made in heaven. Typically pesto is made with toasted pine nuts but I used walnuts here instead which I happened to have lying around and I think their richness goes really well with the pesto. Pesto is also a great think to make in bulk- double or triple the recipe, put it in a glass jar, cover with a little olive oil and seal it well and it will last at least a week-or even better, divide it up in an ice cube tray and freeze it into pesto cubes to be used later on- enjoy!

4 pieces halibut or other firm white fish
2 cups fresh basil
1/3 cup toasted walnuts 
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
salt, pepper, granulated garlic powder
2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
1/3 cup Parmesan grated

In a food processor place the basil, walnuts, Parmesan and garlic and pulse until its chopped well. While the machine is running stream in the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Spread some of the pesto on each piece of fish and lay the slices of tomato over lapping on top. Sprinkle the top of each tomato with salt, pepper, and granulated garlic powder. Broil for about 10 minutes until the fish is done and the tomatoes are slightly charred. Remove, sprinkle with some Parmesan and broil for another minute. Enjoy!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Broccoli and Cheese Stromboli

I love saying the word Stromboli. It makes me feel so Italian and I can't help saying with the most over exaggerated fake Italian accent. Stromboli is basically just a wrapped pizza, almost similar to a calzone and is simple to make, yummy and impressive to present. Like pizza you can change up the fillings inside but I went for broccoli and cheese because that is what I had lying around. Anything you like on your pizza you can put in the stromboli including sauce. If you make this in advance and want to re-heat it make sure to do so uncovered in a toaster or oven so that the bottom does not get soggy. Enjoy!

1 recipe pizza dough
2 10 oz boxes chopped broccoli, or big bag frozen broccoli defrosted and chopped
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1 cup Mozzarella
1 cup parmesan
1/2 tsp granulated garlic powder
salt, pepper to taste
1 egg, beaten
sesame seeds

Pre-heat the oven to 350.Make the dough and roll it out into a rectangle. Mix the rest of the ingredients making sure it is well seasoned. Spread the mixture on the dough leaving an inch border around. Brush some beaten egg on the side of the dough you are not starting from and starting from the other side gently roll up the dough and tuck in the sides. Transfer to a baking sheet seam side down, brush with egg yolk, make a few slits in the dough for air to escape and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for about 35- 45 minutes or until golden brown.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Shavuot is around the corner and that just makes me happy. It is my favorite holiday from a culinary perspective and I love experimenting with all sorts of new dairy dishes. So the next few blogs will be some new things you can try this Shavuot starting with Tiramisu which would be a great alternative to cheesecake. It is an Italian dessert that is creamy, sweet but not too sweet, and delicious and is sort of like the whole dessert experience in one- coffee and cake together! Traditionally it is made with Mascarpone cheese but it is super expensive and not so easy to get and so I used a mixture meant to mimic the taste and texture and it came out great. The result was so good that it was practically all devoured by too few people in one sitting. Make this soon and you will not be disappointed!

6  large egg yolks
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 cups whipping cream
8 oz cream cheese
3 Tbl sour cream
2 Tbl heavy cream
2 pkgs lady fingers
1 cup strong brewed coffee
cocoa powder, for garnish

Mix the cream cheese, sour cream and heavy cream in a bowl and set aside. In another bowl place the yolks and sugar and place over a double boiler over simmering water mixing constantly for about 7-10 minutes. Remove from heat and beat the yolks with a whisk until thick and light yellow in color. Add the cheese mixture to the yolk and mix well. Using a mixer whip the cream and fold into the cheese mixture. Lightly dip each lady finger cookie into the coffee and line the bottom of a glass dish with them. Cover with cheese mixture and continue layering until the mixture and cookies are finished ending with the cheese mixture on top. Cover and let it sit in the refrigerator at least 4-5 hours to set. Serve with a dusting of cocoa powder on top. 

Eat your heart out cheesecake!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Bat Mitzvah Menu

This is the adapted menu from a Bat Mitzvah I did recently. How good does it sound?! Even I wish I was a guest!

For the Adults:
Cream of Potato Leek Soup
Pumpkin Soup
Poached Fillet of Salmon with Herb Aioli
Eggplant Parmesan Stacks
Assorted Mini Quiches
Salad Bar
Pasta Pesto Salad with Sun dried Tomatoes and Pine Nuts

For the Kids:
Tuna Croquettes
Mac n' Cheese
Crudite and Dips

Viennese Table:
The Gush Gourmet Signature Fruit Tarts 
Cheesecake Sampler
Assorted Bar Cookies
Hot Chocolate Chip Pies with Ice cream
Fruit Platters

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Chinese Chicken Meatballs

It seems like there are lots of ingredients to these meatballs but they're actually pretty quick to put together and well worth it. I made these as a main course so I rolled the meatballs bigger but you can also make them as an  appetizer and make cocktail size meatballs. The inspiration behind these was the kilo of ground chicken I bought for Pesach but then forgot to use- coupled with the abundance of Asian ingredients I have in my house (My pantry looks like Aisle 4 at Shop-Rite, if you know what I mean). The key is to not over bake the meatballs to ensure they stay nice and moist because the chicken itself does not have that much fat which also makes this a nice low-fat alternative to beef meatballs. Enjoy!

For the meatballs:
1 kilo ground chicken
2 Tbl oil
2 eggs
1/2 cup bread crumbs
3 Tbl Hoisin sauce
1 scallion, finely chopped
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp toasted sesame seeds
3 garlic cloves, grated
2 tsp grated ginger

Mix all the ingredients together taking care not to over mix so they do not toughen. Roll into balls, place on a baking sheet and bake in a oven that is pre-heated to 350 for about 15 minutes or until they are just cooked through.  Dip them in sauce and serve.

For the Sauce:
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup orange juice, (optional, but I like the added flavor it gives)
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup water
3 Tbl soy sauce
1 Tbl sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, grated
1 tsp ginger, grated
Toasted sesame seeds for garnish

Mix all the ingredients for the sauce. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 5 minutes. Pour over the meatballs and serve.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Fattoush Salad

Fattoush salad (pronounced like fat-tush, no offense) is a Lebanese salad that is sort of a combination of Israeli salad and Italian Panzanella salad. What makes this salad so good are the garlic rubbed pita croutons that are placed in the salad and that absorb the juice of the tomatoes and the dressing. I was in the supermarket this week and for the first time in months found tomatoes that looked like tomatoes should look like and not like turnips. ONLY make this salad with beautifully ripe tomatoes because their flavor is crucial to the salad. Fattoush salad is traditionally enhanced with the spice Sumac but since I don't particularly like it I left it out but feel free to add some to the dressing or sprinkle it over the salad. Feta is not typically used in this salad but since I had some lying around I threw it in and it was delicious. Enjoy!

1 head Romaine Lettuce, chopped
2 cucumbers, chopped
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 small red onion, sliced
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 Tbl chopped mint (optional)
1/3 cup Feta cheese or Bulgarian cheese, crumbled (optional)
2 pitas
1 large clove of garlic

Split the pitas in half and toast them in a toaster or in the oven till golden. While they are still warm, rub one side with the clove of garlic. Cut the pita into pieces. Place the lettuce, vegetables and herbs in a bowl and top with the feta cheese. Dress the salad and top with the pita.

For the dressing:
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 lemons, juiced
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper

Whisk all together until emulsified and pour over the salad.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Braised Red Cabbage

The inspiration for this side dish came from... Ikea of all places!  We were there a while ago and tasted some of their Swedish braised cabbage which comes in a jar and is served either cold or warm and it was so unusual yet so tastily addictive-sort of like sweet and sour. Sweden and Germany each have their own versions of this dish but they are both very similar and I took elements of both to make this one. I was pleasantly surprised how a list of strange ingredients I wouldn't normally  put together became something so good. Be warned- it smells quite pungent while its cooking because of the vinegar but it mellows throughout the cooking and don't bother looking for the apples- they melt beautifully into the cabbage and you won't find them. This goes really well as a side dish to meat or chicken and even tastes great spread on a cracker. Enjoy!

1 Large head red cabbage, thinly sliced
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced thin
1 onion, sliced
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
1 Tbl oil
2 whole cloves
salt and pepper
2 tsp cornstarch, optional

In a large pot place the cabbage, apples, onions and oil and let it it cook for a minute. Add the sugar, vinegar, water and cloves and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and then lower the flame and let it cook covered for an hour and a quarter to an hour and a half. If you want to thicken the cabbage, mix the cornstarch with an equal amount of the liquid from the cabbage and mix it back into the pot. Cook for another 5 minutes.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Chock full of Vegetable Pizza

It certainly has been a while since I made pizza and I've been craving a good slice with lots of vegetables. When I go to the pizza stores here in Israel I am always disappointed in the toppings- corn (Israeli's seems to think you should put it on everything including ice cream!-ok, not really but I wouldn't put it past them), olive, or spongy canned mushrooms (why can't they just use fresh!) and only one topping on each slice. The toppings, or lack of them, make me think nostalgically of the pizza stores I grew up with where the options seemed endless and you could get them all piled up on a piece of pizza to make a hearty vegetable slice. That is what I was going for here. Spinach, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, onions, FRESH mushrooms, zuchinni, ricotta and Mozzarella-YUM! Of course, Feel free to add whatever other veggies you want including the much maligned corn and olives or peppers, eggplant, or even grilled vegetables. Enjoy!

For the dough: ( I doubled the recipe to make the size I made)
1 packet dry yeast (about 2 1/4 tsp)
2 3/4 cups flour (divided into 2 1/2 and 1/4)
3 tsp. sugar
1 Tbl oil
1 tsp salt
1 cup warm water

Mix the yeast,  2 1/2 cup flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Add the oil and water and mix together. When it forms a dough, knead for a couple of minutes adding some of the 1/4 cup of flour if necessary. Spread the dough into a greased pan pushing up the sides a little and top with toppings.

For the Pizza with doubled amount of dough:
 1 1/2 cups Marinara sauce (home made is preferable but store bought is good too)
1 box frozen spinach leaves, defrosted and drained ( about 6 cubes of Israeli spinach)
1 box frozen broccoli spears, defrosted and drained
1/2 of an onion, sliced
1 box mushrooms, sliced
10-15 cherry tomatoes
2 zucchini
1/2 cup ricotta
2 cups shredded Mozzarella
Salt and Garlic Powder to taste

Preheat the oven to 350. Spread the marinara sauce over the dough leaving an un-sauced edge. Put the spinach, broccoli, mushrooms, tomatoes, onion and zucchini over the sauce and dollop the ricotta all around. Sprinkle the whole top of the pizza with salt and garlic powder and top with the Mozzarella. Bake at 350 for about 30-35 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and the crust is golden.