Sunday, November 25, 2012

Eggplant Mocked Liver

One of my favorite parts of an Israeli meal is the mezze otherwise known as the salatim- the numerous salads and dips accompanied by fresh delicious pita or laffa that start the meal. In fact, to me that is the meal because I can barely eat anything after all that bread and spread. I like to start my Shabbat lunch meals off with an assortment of such spreads and I am always looking for new ones to try. My first rule of thumb is that I will try any spread that involves eggplant. I love eggplant in any shape or form and when I come across a new recipe for something eggplant-y it is the first thing I go to. That is how I opted to try this spread which combines my love of two things- eggplant and chopped liver. I've seen many recipes for mock chopped liver using a whole range of ingredients- from peas to walnuts and I've always been doubtful of it's taste. But I have to say, this truly did look and taste the part minus albeit with a milder flavor because it is obviously lacking that strong liver-y taste.  It does require a little effort to fry the eggplant but it makes a ton and the results are worth it. Enjoy!

2 medium eggplants
2/3 cup flour
canola oil for frying
1 onion chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 hard boiled eggs
salt and pepper

In a frying pan heat the oil Slice the eggplant and brush both sides with flour. Fry the eggplant on both sides until the eggplant is dark brown. Remove, sprinkle with a little salt and drain on paper towels. When all the eggplant is done frying add the onion and garlic to the pan and saute until the onion is translucent. Place the eggplant, onion and garlic and eggs in a food processor. Season with salt and pepper and puree until desired consistency.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Recipes

Thanksgiving is my favorite time of year in America. The weather, the foliage,  the shopping sales and  of course the turkey and cranberry sauce feast. Here in Israel I never have time to make my turkey meal on Thursday night because I am too busy preparing for Shabbat so we try to have our traditional meal on Friday night or Shabbat Lunch. Here are a few Gush Gourmet favorites to help enhance your Thanksgiving meal.

Glazed Turkey Breast with Rhubarb Apricot Chutney

Orange Scented Cranberry Sauce

Sweet Corn Zucchini Muffins

Spiced Sweet Potato Hummus

Cran-Pumpkin Muffins

Red Lentil and Pumpkin Soup

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Snow Ball Cookies

Can you tell that I'm ready for winter? These cookies go by many names- Mexican wedding cookies, Butterballs, Russian tea cakes and are a favorite during winter holidays because of their wintery look. Underneath the covering of snow however, is an all butter pecan cookie that is crisp on the outside and almost flaky  on the inside with delicious little bits of pecan and just the right amount of sweetness. The cookies can be made with pecans or almonds but I prefer pecans and most recipes call for finely ground pecans but I prefer to grind them myself in a food processor and to grind them coarsely so that you get the texture of the pecans in every bite. These were our Shabbat morning coffee treat one week and since then I've been begged to make them more often. They are simple to make, and absolutely heavenly to eat. These cookies are going in the repertoire- there's no way I'm only saving them for winter!
(And Happy Birthday to the best Mother in Law Ever!)

2 sticks butter ( or one large bar israeli butter), room temperature
4 Tbl ( 1/4 cup) sugar
2 cups ground pecans
2 cups flour
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups confectioners sugar

Preheat oven to 350.  In a mixer cream the butter and sugar until well blended and then add the pecans, flour and vanilla. The mixture may be crumbly but should stick together when trying to form it into balls. Roll the dough into small balls and place on a baking sheet. Bake for about 8-10 minutes until they are lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes. While still warm roll in confectioners sugar. Once they have cooled completely roll them again in the confectioners sugar.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Nutella Banana Turnovers

What do you do on a hectic Friday afternoon when you have no time to breathe but have a defrosted roll of puff pastry sitting in your fridge? You make Nutella Banana Turnovers, that's what you do! And then you look at them longingly while they cool wishing you were dairy so you could devour them, but alas, you have to wait an agonizing hour to sample the deliciousness. This is all a hypothetical scenario of course.
I have already proclaimed my devotion to Nutella here- Usually Nutella is eaten in my house very simply- spoon in jar when chocolate hazelnut fix overtakes but I am also happy to incorporate it into any recipe I can. So take some all butter puff pastry and load it up with Nutella, bananas (to make me feel this is a somewhat healthy dessert), peanut butter and some crunchy stuff and then top the buttery pastry with lots of cinnamon sugar. Does that not sound heavenly to you? The best part of it all is how easy it is to make. If you want to make it pareve just use non-dairy puff pastry and either regular chocolate spread or pareve chocolate hazelnut spread- it will be good but nothing can compare to the authentic taste of spreadable Ferrero Rocher- enjoy!

1 kilo puff pastry, defrosted and cut into squares or 18 puff pastry squares (preferably all butter)
1 cup Nutella
1/2 cup peanut butter
3 bananas thinly sliced
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts, optional
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350.
In the center of each puff pastry square place about a Tablespoon of Nutella, a teaspoon of peanut butter and 3 slices of banana. Sprinkle with a few chocolate chips and a little chopped hazelnuts and close the pastry to form a triangle. Combine the cinnamon and sugar in a cup. Brush the top of the pastries with beaten and then sprinkle liberally with cinnamon and sugar. Bake for about 12-15 minutes until the pastry is a light golden brown

Inside view....

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Creamy Cheesy Polenta with Wild Mushrooms

Polenta, or finely or coarsely ground cornmeal is one of  those ingredients that are transformed with just a little loving. Most people would consider polenta a peasant food, something hearty and cheap that can be put together to add bulk to a meal but add some butter and cheese to it and it become a thing of creamy beauty. Then add some sauteed wild mushrooms on top and you've got yourself a rockin' dish. Don't be alarmed by the amount of full fat dairy that goes into the polenta because the recipe makes a ton- so much that I put aside half to re-purpose for a different meal. Serve the polenta as soon as possible after making it otherwise it starts to congeal and firm up. Make this as a side dish for  fish or eat it by itself for a vegetarian main course- either way, just eat it- Peasant food never tasted so good!

For the Polenta:
6 cups of water
3 cups of vegetable stock (or just use all water)
1 Tablespoon of salt
2 1/2 cups of polenta or corn meal
1 1/2 cups whole milk
10 Tbl butter (150 grams), cut into cubes 
3 Tbl cream cheese
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
3/4 cup Cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Bring the water, stock and salt to a boil. Lower the flame to medium and add the Polenta slowly while whisking and whisk constantly until the mixture thickens and the cornmeal is cooked through- about 10-15 minutes. Remove from flame and add the butter, cream cheese, parmesan, cheddar and milk and whisk till the cheese and butter melts. Add the parsley and salt and pepper to taste.

For the Mushrooms:
3 Tbl butter
2 leeks, cleaned and sliced
1 clove garlic crushed
2 pounds assorted wild mushrooms (shimeji, oyster, shitaki, portabella), cleaned and sliced
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the butter in a pan and saute the leeks and garlic until almost tender. Raise the flame to high, add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and cook (trying not to mix it too much, you want the mushrooms to get some color) for 2-3 minutes. Continue cooking until the mushrooms are tender and the liquid has evaporated. Serve over the polenta.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Cinnamon Roll Pancakes

When I used to shop in malls in America, inevitably as the shopping winded down and my hunger was at its peak (with the only kosher options usually being a very over priced Haagen Daz shake) I would find myself walking by a Cinnabon store with the smells of butter and cinnamon wafting toward me and the giant, over sized cinnamon buns winking at me with their generous slather of cream cheese icing. Isn't it amazing what hunger can do to your mind? The point of the above ramble is that cinnamon buns are something that I crave but often can't have. I could make them myself but that just isn't as fun and takes lots of time although apparently a kosher Cinnabon has opened in Tel Aviv and surprisingly I was not the first in line at the grand opening. So recently, to indulge my cinnamon bun craving I made these pancakes that are all over Pinterest. They look more complicated then they are and they taste just so darn good. So if you have a few extra minutes for breakfast on a lazy Sunday morning (or Friday in Israel) make them- you will not regret it!

Recipe Courtesy of the The Recipe Girl
Check out her site to see great step by step pictures of the process 
Cinnamon Filling:
1/2 stick butter, melted
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbl light brown sugar
1/2 Tbl ground cinnamon

1 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1 large egg, beaten
1 Tbl canola oil

Cream Cheese Glaze:
4 Tbl butter
2 oz cream cheese, room temp
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Prepare the cinnamon filling by mixing together the butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. Scoop into a small ziplock baggie and refrigerate for 10 minutes for it to firm up a little. 

Whisk the flour, b.p, and salt together in a bowl. Whisk in the milk, egg and oil. Do not over mix!
Heat up a skillet or griddle and spray with cooking spray or rub with butter. Add about 1/3 cup size batter portions to the pan. Snip the bottom of your filling bag and when the pancakes start to bubble squeeze a swirl of the filling onto the pancake. Cook another minute and then flip the pancakes over. Repeat with the rest of the batter and glaze.

For the Glaze:  In a microwavable bowl melt the butter. Whisk in the cream cheese until smooth and add the powdered sugar and vanilla. Drizzle over warm pancakes.

Look closely to see the swirls of buttery cinnamon goodness.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Almond Crisps

These are an ode to the almond horns of yore. If you have ever stepped foot into a Brooklyn bakery you will find ginormous horse-shoe shaped cookies sprinkled with slivered almonds and with the ends coated in chocolate. They are made from almond paste and very few other ingredients so they taste super almond-y and they are crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside. They are divine. I have been wanting to make them for such a long time and my almond paste has sat forlorn in my cabinet for ages and this week I just decided it had to be done. Instead of making the huge horns though I made them more like cookies though they still have the nostalgic crisp and chewy texture. Dipping them in chocolate is crucial for both aesthetic purposes and the chocolate breaks up the intense almond flavor. Instead of using almond paste which is hard to come by and expensive you can use plain marzipan which is more readily available and so that is the recipe I provided below. Enjoy!

280 grams or 10 oz marzipan, broken into small pieces
1/2 cup finely ground almonds
2 Tbls sugar
1 large eggwhite
1 1/2 tsp good quality almond extract
1 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup dark chocolate

Preheat oven to 375. Line a baking pan with parchment paper. In a mixer mix the marzipan, almonds and sugar till combined (mixture will look dry and crumbly). Add the egg and extract and mix till smooth.
Lay the sliced almonds on a flat plate.
Make balls out of the dough and shape them into a horse shoe shape while rolling them in the almonds. Bake for about 7-10 minutes until light golden brown. Let cool completely.
Melt the chocolate and dip the edges in the chocolate and cool.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Cream of Roasted Cauliflower Soup

Cauliflower has earned a reputation over the years as a  humble, lowly vegetable but I'm not sure why. Because it's colorless? Because it looks like a brain? Because it wreaks havoc on the digestive system? Well, I'll never understand because I think cauliflower is delicious- and versatile, and healthy and pretty much my go to vegetable for roasting when I get sick of potatoes. Because throw some cauliflower florets in the oven with a little oil and just a little bit of salt and pepper and you get heavenly caramelized delicious nuggets of cauliflower goodness without very much effort (see picture below). One of my favorite ways to eat cauliflower is in a creamy soup. I make cauliflower soup a lot but this time I decided to roast the cauliflower first to really get intense sweet cauliflower flavor and then proceed as usual. I have to admit, it was a great idea (minus the fact that half the cauliflower on the tray was eaten before it made it into the soup) and really added great depth of flavor to the soup. You can make this pareve by omitting the cream and substituting oil for the butter if need be but I highly recommend the dairy version because that little bit of cream adds a heck of a lot. Enjoy!

2 heads of cauliflower, broken into florets
2 Tbl oil
2 Tbl butter
3 carrots, sliced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 large starchy potatoes, chunked
8 cups vegetable stock ( or enough to cover all the vegetables and cauliflower by an inch)
1 cup cream
salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat your oven to 375. Toss the cauliflower with the oil and season with salt and pepper. Lay them in one layer on a pan and roast until they get slightly caramelized. In a soup pot, heat the butter. Saute the onion, garlic, celery and carrot until the onions are translucent. Add the roasted cauliflower, potatoes, and vegetable stock and season well with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and let the soup for about 35-40 minutes. Puree the soup with an immersion blender and re-season if necessary. Add the cream while the soup is on a low flame and cook another 5 minutes. Enjoy!

                       Sorry, soup was all gone before I could get a picture.
                                           (not my picture but a good one none the less)