Saturday, April 30, 2011

You know you've been reading way too many fancy French cookbooks when you start splitting your garlic cloves in half to remove the germ. I mean, who does that in real life?

Apparently Dorie Greenspan does. Almost every recipe in Around my French Table, one of my favorite new cookbooks, states that you should.

So I have been, recently, and I am not quite sure how to confirm that it's worthwhile. Does my food taste good? Well, yeah, but I thought it was just fine before I started picking apart garlic cloves and obsessing over the bits of green in the center.

Anyway, this pizza was a winner. So maybe picking out the garlic germ is a good thing. I'll never know for sure if it's worth the effort, but please feel free not to do it yourself when you try this recipe. You have my permission. (Thanks, Annie's Eats for the great pizza recipe. I made some changes but based it on your original. Thanks!)

Thin Crust Cheese Pizza (adapted from Annie's Eats)
Makes 2 pies; 1 hour prep plus lots of waiting 

2 cups white flour 
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/3 cups ice water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1½ teaspoon salt

1 (28 oz.) can whole peeled tomatoes, thoroughly drained
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, split in half, germ removed, and then minced
1 teaspoon salt
some fresh basil
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

Olive oil, for brushing
½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups shredded whole-milk mozzarella
canned mushrooms, sauteed onions, olives, or any other favorite pizza veggies 

First, make the dough. Combine the flour, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse to combine and then, with the machine running, add the water. Process just till combined and then add the oil and salt. Process until it forms a smooth ball, about a minute. Remove the dough from the bowl and transfer to a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to 3 days.

Now, make the sauce. Simply combine all of the ingredients in a food processor (no need to even wash it from the dough prep! Yay.). Blend until smooth. Transfer to a small saucepan and cook on medium-low heat for about 1/2 hour, to reduce and thicken. Refrigerate until ready to use.

One hour before baking the pizza, remove the pizza dough from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature on the counter.

About 15 minutes before baking time, adjust an oven rack to the second highest position and place a baking stone on the rack to preheat. Preheat the oven to 500*. 

Assemble the pizza. Divide the dough in half. Transfer one of the balls of dough to a VERY well floured work surface. Flatten into an 8-inch disk, leaving a slightly thicker edge around the rim. Gently stretch the dough to a 12-inch circle. Lightly brush the thicker edge of the disk with olive oil. Sprinkle the Parmesan over the crust and then spread ½ cup of the pizza sauce over it. Sprinkle evenly with the shredded mozzarella and any desired toppings. 

Carefully transfer the pizza to the preheated baking stone. Bake until the cheese is bubbling and slightly browned, 12-14 minutes. Let cool a few minutes before slicing and serving.

Linking this up to My Meatless Mondays

Posted on Saturday, April 30, 2011 by Rivki Locker


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Here's a Chocolate Mousse recipe that I came up with for Pesach which is great year-round too. During the year, you can replace the wine with rum.

3 eggs
1 cup chocolate chips
3 tablespoons sweet red wine
3/4  cup sugar, divided
1 16-oz. container heavy whipping cream, divided

Separate the eggs, saving all three whites and just two of the yellows.

Whip the whites into a snow and set aside.

Put the chocolate chips into a heatproof bowl set over a pot of water on the stove. On medium heat, melt the chocolate chips. Add the two eggs yellows, wine, 1/2 cup sugar, and 2 tablespoons of the cream. Stir well and continue heating until the mixture is nice and hot but not boiling. Set aside to cool.

Whip the remaining heavy cream to create whipped cream. Add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and whip.

Put about half of the whipped cream in a large mixing bowl. Fold in the chocolate mixture and the egg whites.

Use the remaining whipped cream for serving, to top the mousse.

Posted on Saturday, April 16, 2011 by Rivki Locker


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The finished dish: Roast Chicken and Root Veggies

During the winter, Wednesday is roast chicken night.  I look forward to Wednesdays because I know the kids will eat well (and even ask for doubles) and that none of them will whine or request peanut butter sandwiches.

The chicken is good quality protein, and the vegetables are full of flavor and vitamins. And, extra credit: it's a great Pesach dish!

A wide range of root vegetables
I love how our entire meal fits neatly into one large roasting pan. It feels efficient and orderly, somehow.

I spread the vegetables across the bottom of the pan and leave space
for the chicken in the center.
Roast Chicken with Root Vegetables (serves about 6)
Serves 4-6 people; 2 hours prep time

Feel free to vary the vegetables to suit your liking. Celery root and onion make good additions. 

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in 1-inch cubes
3 carrots, peeled and cut in 1-inch chunks
1 parsnip, peeled and cut in 1-inch chunks
2 white potatoes, peeled and cut in 1-inch cubes
10 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
1 teaspoon olive oil
8-10 chicken thighs
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon curry powder

Preheat the oven to 425*.

Toss the vegetables with the oil and then layer them along the bottom of a large roasting pan.

Layer the chicken on top of the veggies and sprinkle the spices evenly over all.

Roast (uncovered) for 45 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350* and roast for another hour or so, until done to your liking (we like ours nice and crispy).

Serve immediately.

Linking this up to Ultimate Recipe Swap

Posted on Wednesday, April 13, 2011 by Rivki Locker

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Monday, April 11, 2011

My absolute favorite Pesach dish is egg noodles, lukshen in Yiddish. Lukshen are, essentially, thickish egg crepes rolled up and sliced so they are shaped like fettuccine.

Lukshen are the highlight of the seder meal for me; they always have been. I remember looking forward to the meal for what seemed like hours, anxiously awaiting the once-a-year bowl of chicken soup with special Pesach lukshen. I always appraised everyone else's bowl as my mother brought out the soup. If anyone had even a strand more than me, I felt unloved. Deprived. (Never mind that there was no shortage and I could always get doubles if I asked.)

Now that I'm in charge, I make a quadruple recipe of lukshen so I can have at least three bowls of chicken soup filled to the brim with lukshen. I don't normally make labor intensive recipes like this one, but this is one of the few foods I'll go to this kind of trouble with.

Here's the recipe, and please accept my apologies again for the lack of photos. I'm feeling very guilty about that.... I'll be back in full swing after Pesach, I promise!

Pesach Lukshen
This is a single recipe, which makes enough noodles for about 6 bowls of soup. If you're cooking for a crowd, or for anyone who likes these as much as I do, make a double, triple, or quadruple recipe. Yes, it's labor intensive. But it's worth every bit of work in my book. 

1 cup cold water
1/3 cup potato starch
3 eggs
dash of salt
cottonseed oil (or any other basic Pesach oil)

Combine the water and potato starch in a cup. Mix very well. Pour them into a mixing bowl and add the eggs and salt. Use an electric mixer to mix the ingredients well.

If you have time, refrigerate the batter for about an hour. It'll thicken up a bit and become easier to work with.

When you're ready to prepare the crepes, heat a non-stick frying pan on medium-low heat. Brush with a bit of oil and heat again. Mix the batter well again with a fork.

When you think the pan's hot enough, test it by putting on a drop of batter - it should cook up immediately without burning.

Pour a small ladle full of batter into the pan. Lift the pan off the flame and tilt it this way and that to spread the batter over the entire pan. Put the pan back on the flame and let it heat for about a minute, till the crepe looks totally set and the edges are beginning to curl away from the pan.

Gently use your fingers to lift the crepe away from the pan and flip it over to cook the other side. Let it cook for just a few seconds before flipping the pan over and removing the crepe to a dry, clean plate or serving dish.

If the crepe seems too thin, add a little potato starch to the rest of the batter (dissolve the starch in some water first). If it seems too thick, thin the batter with a bit of water. The crepes should be firm enough that they handle well without falling apart, but not so thick that the insides don't get done.

Repeat with the remaining batter, replenishing the oil in the pan between every few crepes. Depending on the thickness of the crepes, you should end up with 6-8 crepes.

Let the crepes cool completely and then roll a small stack of them up, jelly roll style. Use a knife to cut the jelly roll into wide strips to make your lukshen!

Refrigerate for a couple of days, or freeze for longer. Defrost fully before using.

Posted on Monday, April 11, 2011 by Rivki Locker


Sunday, April 10, 2011

I've been in the throws of a food blogger's dilemma. On the one hand, my followers are relying on me to share a flood of simple Pesach recipes in anticipation of the upcoming holiday. Salads, soups, cakes. Fish, meat, poultry.

On the other hand, I am but an ordinary person - a working mom with way too little time on her hands. What with my job, my kids, and Pesach a week off, I barely have time to sleep, let alone photograph and blog and share my recipes. What's a blogger to do?

So, here's my compromise. I'm going to share my recipes this week. I'll post my favorites online, and hope you come back for more. But no photos. For one thing, my Pesach pots and dishes are none too glamorous. (We love them for what they are, but they're really not blog-worthy.) For another, I don't have the time to setup my equipment and shoot every dish. I've got to make it through the week with my sanity somewhat intact.

So, there you have it. Hope y'all understand. And if you have any favorites, please email them to me or share them by commenting below. I'm always looking for new recipes to add to my repertoire.

Super Simple Pesach Chocolate Cake (NOT GEBROKTS)
This recipe is my sister-in-law's and I owe her great thanks for it. I usually make three or four of these over the week of Pesach. They whip up in a snap and get eaten almost as quickly. A good basic chocolate cake. 

5 eggs
1/2 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup oil
1 pinch instant coffee grains
1/2 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup potato starch
1 1/2 cups sugar

Preheat the oven to 350*.

In a large bowl, mix the vinegar and baking soda till foamy.

Add the remaining ingredients and beat well with an electric mixer. Pour the batter into a 9x13 baking pan. (I use disposable aluminum.)

Bake for about 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Eat within a few days, or freeze for later.

Posted on Sunday, April 10, 2011 by Rivki Locker


Thursday, April 07, 2011

A friend of mine has this cooking rule that never made much sense to me: don't spend more time preparing a dish than you do eating it. Uh. If I followed that rule, we'd pretty much never have any food.

I'm pretty fast in the kitchen. I can peel and slice a potato - almost as well as a mandoline can - in a minute or three. When I get home from work late and have four whining hungry kids begging for food, I can get dinner on the table pretty quickly.

But it still takes me longer to prepare the food than it does to eat it. So I'm thinking. Maybe the problem is that I eat too fast. Maybe I need to chew more. Relax and enjoy the flavors and tastes of the fruits of my labor. Put my feet up while I savor the taste of my home cooked food.

I'll have to try that sometime. Maybe when my kids are married off. In the meantime, though, I'm resigned to spending more time cooking than I do eating. The good news is that I enjoy my time in the kitchen. I like peeling, chopping, and sauteing.

Now, my disclaimer. This recipe isn't super speedy. You've got to peel a few potatoes and then slice them super thin. But it's brainless work. Good for when you just need a relaxed 20 minutes in the kitchen. And it makes a super rich, elegant, classy dish that will be a hit with adults and kids alike. Oh, and a bonus - it's Kosher for Passover! (I plan to make this for one of our dairy lunch meals.)

Potato Cheese Gratin
Serves 4-6; about 1 hour 15 minutes prep
Vary the cheese to your liking. This would be amazing and more adult with Swiss cheese. I used half mozzarella and half cheddar and it was perfect. 

1 tablespoon butter
3 lb. Idaho potatoes, peeled
1 cup heavy cream (the real, dairy stuff, please)
1 cup milk
1 cup shredded cheese, like cheddar, mozzarella, swiss, parmesan or a combination
salt and pepper

Heat the oven to 375*. Put the butter into a large glass baking dish and let it melt - but not brown - in the oven.

Meanwhile, heat the cream and milk on the stove or in the microwave. Get it nice and hot but try not to let it come to a boil.

Slice the potatoes as thin as you can. Sure, you can use a mandoline if you have one. (Hey, no need to rub it in!)

When the butter is melted, remove the pan from the oven and spread the butter all around the bottom. Create a nice cozy layer of potatoes along the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with some salt and pepper, and with about half the cheese. Add another layer of potatoes, season, and sprinkle with the rest of the cheese. Add a third layer of potatoes. Now, pour the hot cream over the potatoes.

Bake the gratin, uncovered for about 50 minutes, until the potatoes are nice and cooked and everything is melted and bubbling. Serve immediately or allow to come to room temperature before refrigerating and putting away for later. (If you put it away, you should rewarm it before serving.)

Posted on Thursday, April 07, 2011 by Rivki Locker


Saturday, April 02, 2011

I do lots of experimenting in the kitchen and my family has learnt to put up with it. Earlier this year, I went on a mission to find a new chulent. They went right along with the experiment. I like to cook weird vegetables and have even gone so far as to create a meatball recipe with no meat or tomatoes. They've stuck with me through it all, and have even learned to like some new foods.

But there is one thing I hadn't dared to mess with. Challah. I have been making the same homemade challah for years. It's eggy. It's sweet. It is just right. 

Yeast. Look carefully and you'll see my reflection!
My kids have warned me. "Ma," they say. "Experiment with anything you like. But DON'T mess with the challah. Don't experiment with it. Don't change the recipe. And whatever you do, don't make it healthy." 

Well, folks, I went and did it. I made my challah with part whole wheat flour this week. And it came out really nice. A bit more dense and earthy than the all-white challah. A lovely, healthier version of our favorite Shabbos bread.

Honey Wheat Challah
Makes 6 large loaves; 5 hours prep time

4.5 tablespoons dry yeast (5 small packets)
3 1/4 cups water
6 eggs
11 cups white flour
8 cups whole wheat flour (or use one 2-lb. bag)1/2 cup sugar
1 cup honey
3/4 cup oil
3 tablespoons Kosher salt

Mix the yeast and water together in a large mixing bowl. Add a drop of honey. Let sit for about 5 minutes till it starts bubbling.

Add the remaining ingredients. Mix well. If you're using a mixer (I use a Bosch mixer which handles five pounds easily), mix for about five minutes until smooth. If you're kneading by hand, it'll take more like ten minutes (sorry!) but you'll get such satisfaction it'll all be worth it. 

Find a warm toasty spot (I use my bedroom!) and let the dough rise for 1-2 hours, till doubled. Take challah, with a blessing. Braid into six or seven loaves (I make mine with four strands of dough), lay the loaves on baking sheets, and then let rise for another hour. 

Prepare an egg wash using 2 eggs and about 1 tablespoon of water. Brush the loaves with egg. Preheat the oven to 350* and once it's hot, bake the challah for about 45 minutes until golden. Let the Challah cool completely on cooling racks before wrapping in bags and using or freezing.

See my post on Yeast Spotting.

Linking this up to KOAB Recipe Exchange and Real Food Digest.

Posted on Saturday, April 02, 2011 by Rivki Locker