Tag Archives: recipes

Spring Review

13 Mar

springreviewIt’s time for a Spring Review since beginning my blog in 2010. I’ve written more than 300 entries and wanted to share the best with you. Because of instantaneous access to one another via the Internet, the “world’s table” is now on public view. It is my goal, then, as a journalist, chef, author, restaurant consultant and food trends junkie, to help set the table with decades of perspective. When Vladimir Nabokov got around to writing his memoir, he called it “Speak, Memory.”  When writing my blog, I issue a similar command to myself:  “Taste, Memory!” I seek ways to connect the reader emotionally to his or her own gastronomic wavelength.

Just as Anna Quindlen writes about her keen observations about life – tying together politics, family, and one’s inner experience, often with whimsy — I have written my voice into daily, and weekly, connections to food, dining, cooking, history, biography and memoir. Each entry is a deliberate serving of the past, present and future – whether connecting the uprising in Egypt to my respect for Naguib Mafouz and my fondness for Egyptian cooking (with a contemporary photo of a young man preparing an ancient dish of ful mudammas); or experiencing the soul of Philadelphia-chef Marc Vetri through his singular approach to food and cooking and told his story by deeming him a “culinary bodhisattva.” A posting about “white carrots” informs the misinformed (which at times can be most of us), with an observation backed up with a bit of history, some speculation, and a few recipes to make the point. Included is a mesmerizing photo of carrots.

I believe that a younger generation of “food passionistas” – a term I coined for the group of dedicated, enthusiastic, and obsessively curious types about the world of food, chefs, and cooking – are in need of less hype, and more information, in an accessible  way. Inspired by the daily experiences of life in my kitchen, life in other people’s kitchens, learning at the hands of some of the industry’s most influential tastemakers, the purpose of my blog is not to attract advertisers or lure masses of readers; rather, it is an intimate, highly personal, often funny view of the world of food. Every blog posting puts my readers in-the-know about something timely. As a bonus, there’s always a “goody bag” in which one finds original recipes, ways to use new ingredients, food and wine pairing ideas, tips for entertaining, news about the coolest chefs and hottest restaurants. Or something more personal – a taste experience (ever try bitter chocolate, Parmigiano-Reggiano and sweet red grapes?); a mind stimulant (what about making marmalade from carrots?), or a new technique (like my deconstructed “wined-and-brined turkey,” or making cream cheese via “drip irrigation”).

Cooking is not merely about measurement and temperature, and the culinary world is not merely about gastronomy or nutrition. Food has deep historic and emotional resonances, and profound historical connections — think about “feast” or “famine” or “bread riots.”

Food is familial and simultaneously social: We break bread together and then divide the world into pig-eaters or pig-shunners.

When one writes well about food, all these factors come into play, consciously or not. One should know that The Gleaners in Millet’s famous painting reach backward historically to biblical injunctions not to harvest to the corners of the field, but to leave food for the poor. One should know that without the discovery of the Americas, there would be no tomatoes in Naples, no paprika in Budapest, no chocolate in Zurich. One should know something about why certain foods connect to certain religious festivals – why, for example, we serve lamb at Easter and also at Passover, and why both “feasts” relate to activities around the table.

What my mother cooked for the her family is different from what my readers’ mothers did then or do today, but they all set standards for how we view not just what’s on our plate, but how we will relate to a larger world – one in which even the present seems to vaporize in an instant.

Please take a moment to enjoy the posts below, and I encourage you to search the archives for others that may be of interest to you.

Cooking in Silence

Chocolate Dirt: Is it Art or is it Dinner?

Insanely Delicious Fresh Figs

Oscar Gold: Red Carpet Recipes

1 Mar

Whether you are hosting an Oscar party tomorrow night or simply want to make yourself a festive feast, here are some recipes that I put together for Lenox that are sure to delight.

tumblr_mhv3ppzdQt1rsdtszo1_1280SMOKED SALMON HORS D’OEUVRES

Here, three simple ingredients become bite-size luxuries: smoked salmon rosettes and smoked salmon pinwheels. Festive and sophisticated, these are the perfect match, in flavor and color!

ROSETTES

- 1 hothouse cucumber
- 8 ounces best-quality, thinly sliced smoked salmon
- 1/2 cup whipped cream cheese

Wash cucumber but do not peel; slice into 1/4-inch thick rounds, about 24. Slice the smoked salmon into 24 strips that are 1-inch wide by 3-inches long. Roll each piece loosely. Curl back the edges and flatten slightly so that it begins to look like a rose. Spread about 1 teaspoon of cream cheese on each cucumber slice and place rosette on top. Arrange on a platter.

MAKES 24

PINWHEELS

- 8 ounces best-quality, thinly sliced smoked salmon
- 8 ounces cream cheese
- 4 kirby cucumbers, sliced 1/4-inch thick

Put 2 slices of smoked salmon slightly overlapping. Spread with a thin layer of cream cheese to cover completely. Roll up like a jelly roll (beginning with short edge) and place in a piece of plastic wrap. Twist the edges so that you have a small tight sausage shape. Chill well. Slice thinly and place a slice on a cucumber round.

MAKES 24

SEARED SCALLOPS ON SWEET PEA PUREEtumblr_mhv48ztfEe1rsdtszo1_1280

This is great any time of the year as frozen peas are always available. Trendy pea shoots can be found at this time of the year in many farmers markets. You can make the pea puree ahead of time and reheat while you’re cooking the scallops.

- 2 10-ounce packages of frozen petits pois
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 18 very large sea scallops
- 6 tablespoons dry vermouth
- Handful of pea shoots or microgreens

Put the peas in a saucepan with salted water to just cover. Boil 2 minutes. Drain well and save 3/4 cup cooking liquid in a blender. Process until very smooth and thick (adding more liquid if necessary.) Add salt and pepper and return to saucepan.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large frying pan. Season scallops with salt and pepper and sear over high heat for 2 minutes per side, until golden and cooked through. Reheat pea puree until hot; spoon a mound onto each of 6 warm plates. Arrange 3 scallops on puree.

Add the vermouth and the remaining 2 tablespoons butter to the pan. cook 30 seconds over high heat until syrupy. Pour over scallops and top with pea shoots.

SERVES 6

tumblr_mhv5pluiI81rsdtszo1_1280FILET OF BEEF WITH WASABI-GARLIC CREAM

Kiss your butcher and ask him (or her) to cut you a nice 3-pound filet of beef and tie it like a roast. You can buy wasabi paste in a tube in most supermarkets and Asian food stores.

Serve with black rice tossed with a bit of grated ginger and your favorite vegetable: I’ve chosen diced carrots sauteed in sweet butter with fresh thyme.

- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3-pound filet of beef, tied
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 2 very large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
- 1 tablespoon prepared wasabi

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Drizzle the oil on a rimmed baking sheet and toll the beef in the oil. Combine the sugar and 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Rub into the top and sides of the filet (but not the bottom or it will burn.) Roast 25 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer reaches 125 degrees for rare. Meanwhile, bring the cream and garlic to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce the heat and cook stirring until reduced to 1 cup, about 15 minutes. Push the softened garlic through a press; whisk back into the sauce. Add the wasabi, cook 1 minute, and remove from the heat. Add salt. Transfer the beef to a cutting board. Let rest 10 minutes. Gently reheat the sauce. Remove the strings from the beef and thickly slice.

Serve with the sauce.

SERVES 6

AWARD-WINNING CHOCOLATE MOUSSE CAKEtumblr_mhv7mjvQM21rsdtszo1_1280

This is the world’s simplest and moistest cake: just be sure to remove it from the oven while the center is still quite soft. Edible gold leaf is available in food stores specializing in Indian food products and in specialty baking shops.

- 10 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 5 extra-large eggs
- 16 ounces best-quality semi-sweet chocolate
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, espresso powder, or fresh orange zest
- 2 pints fresh raspberries, washed and dried
- A few sheets of edible gold leaf, optional

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper. butter the sides of the pan with 1/2 tablespoon butter. Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs with a pinch of salt until tripled in volume, about 8 minutes. Melt the chocolate with the remaining 10 tablespoons butter slowly over low heat in a medium saucepan; stir until smooth. Fold the chocolate mixture into te egg mixture with a flexible rubber spatula until completely incorporated. Add the vanilla (espresso or orange zest). Pour into the pan. Bake 18 minutes; the center will be quite soft. Let cool. Arrange the raspberries side by side on top of the cake. Top with gold leaf, if using.

SERVES 8

Olympic Gold: Veal Steaks “Stroganoff” with Shiitakes & Portobellos

20 Feb

AFP 520158322 S SPO SPO RUS -I hope you have been enjoying watching the Olympics as much as I have. I’ve found myself wanting to indulge in a few hearty Russian classics, but how about a new-fashioned Veal Steaks “Stroganoff?” Priyatnogo appetita!

Veal Steaks “Stroganoff” with Shiitakes & Portobellos
(Radically Simple, Rodale, 2010)

Flavors of fino sherry, espresso, and lemon “lift” an old-fashioned dish, generally made with beef, to something lighter and special.

4 thick veal steaks, about 9 ounces each
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 cup heavy cream
6 tablespoons fino sherry
8 ounces baby Portobello mushrooms, sliced
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh lemon thyme
¼ teaspoon espresso powder
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh chives

Preheat the broiler. Rub the veal with the olive oil. Season with the paprika and salt and pepper and arrange on a broiler pan. Heat the cream in a large skillet until bubbly. Add 3 tablespoons of the sherry and all the mushrooms. Cook over high heat, stirring, until the mushrooms soften, 4 minutes. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons sherry, thyme, espresso powder, and salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the mushrooms exude their liquid and then absorb much of the sauce, 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, broil the veal six inches from the heat for 3 to four minutes on each side, until just cooked through. Let rest 5 minutes; thickly slice on the bias. Top with the mushroom sauce and sprinkle with chives. Serves 4

Super Bowl Recipe Countdown (Day 4)

31 Jan
Photo: Linda Greene

Photo: Linda Greene

Shrimp Veracruz with Rice, Corn & Green Olives

This is fabulously easy to make and so good to eat.  Serve with warm flour tortillas or crispy tortilla chips.

Prepare the components of the salad early in the day, then toss in the shrimp just before serving.  Serve with wedges of lime and hot sauce – green and red. Drink beer or tequila or make a pitcher of pomegranate margaritas.

Easily doubled for a crowd.

2 cups uncooked long-grain brown rice (or basmati rice)
1-3/4 cups fresh corn kernels, cut from the cob (or 10 ounces frozen corn, thawed)
6 scallions, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 cup coarsely chopped pimiento-stuffed green olives
1 pound very large cooked shrimp
16-ounce jar thick and chunky salsa (mild or medium)
1/3 cup olive oil
1 large lime, grated zest and juice
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Put 6 cups water, 2 cups rice, and 1-1/2 teaspoons salt in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook 30 minutes until rice is just tender. Stir in corn, then drain. Transfer rice mixture to large bowl. Refrigerate 1 hour, stirring occasionally.  Mix in scallions, bell peppers, and olives. Blend salsa, olive oil, lime zest, 1 tablespoon lime juice, cumin and smoked paprika. Stir half of the dressing into rice mixture. When ready to serve, add shrimp and remaining dressing to rice salad. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serves 8

Super Bowl Recipe Countdown (Day 3)

30 Jan

wingsRosemary-Lemon Chicken Wings (From Little Meals, Little, Brown 1993)

Move over, Buffalo; here’s a Tuscan-style recipe for chicken wings bathed in olive oil, rosemary and garlic, resting on a bed of escarole. The marinade makes a quick dressing for the crunchy, bitter greens.

16 chicken wings (about 2 1/2 pounds)
1/2 cup fruity olive oil
1/2 cup lemon juice
3 bay leaves
3 tablespoons whole fresh rosemary leaves
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1 head of escarole
8 thin lemon slices

Remove wing tips and discard. Cut chicken wings in half. In a bowl, mix oil, lemon juice, bay leaves, rosemary, garlic, salt, and Tabasco sauce for marinade. Add chicken wings and cover. Refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove wings from marinade. Pat dry. Put on baking tray and cook in oven for 25 minutes. Put under broiler for 5 minutes until golden brown.

Heat marinade just until it boils.

Line platter with escarole leaves. Pile chicken pieces in center. Drizzle platter with warm marinade and garnish with lemon slices.

One-a-day Great Superbowl Recipes (Day 1)

28 Jan
Photo by Hans Gissinger

Photo by Hans Gissinger

Three-Cheese Pimiento Mac with Parmesan Crumbs

I created this recipe for Bon Appétit magazine and it became the cover photo. It’s a comforting, American-styled baked pasta loosely based on a southern favorite – pimiento cheese – whose red bell pepper-cheddar-y taste profile is totally satisfying. The secret ingredient is sweet-and-spicy peppadew peppers. The components can be prepped ahead of time, assembled, and baked 20 minutes before serving. The recipe is easily doubled or tripled for a crowd and perfect for a Superbowl gathering.

1 large red bell pepper, 7 ounces
2 large garlic cloves, peeled
12 peppadew peppers, drained
1 tablespoon peppadew brine
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
¼ teaspoon ancho chile powder
5 ounces extra-sharp yellow cheddar, in small pieces
1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
4 ounces shredded whole-milk mozzarella
8 ounces gemelli or medium shells
½ cup panko
3 tablespoons slivered fresh basil

Cut the pepper in half and remove seeds. Cut pepper into 1 inch pieces and put in a small saucepan with 1/2 cup water and 1-1/2 cloves garlic. Bring to a boil, lower heat to medium and cover. Cook 15 minutes until peppers are very soft. Transfer contents (with water) to a food processor. Add the peppadews, brine, 2 tablespoons butter, chile powder and remaining ½ garlic clove. Process until smooth. Add cheddar and ¼ cup parmesan and process until very smooth.

Boil the pasta in salted water until tender, about 11 minutes. Drain under cold water and pat very dry. Toss pasta with the red pepper sauce. Stir in the mozzarella. Add salt to taste. Pack into a large soufflé dish.

Stir together the remaining ¼ cup parmesan and panko. Add the remaining tablespoon butter and, with your fingers, thoroughly moisten the crumbs. Add salt to taste. Sprinkle on pasta and bake 20 minutes until golden. Scatter basil on top. Serves 4

Day 2: Lamb Shanks Provençal with Cabernet & Rosemary

17 Dec

lambLamb shanks are a fabulous way to feed your guests during the holidays. You can prepare the recipe one to two days in advance allowing the flavors, and textures, to deepen. Just yesterday, a colleague told me she made this recipe, tossed the lusty leftover sauce with basmati rice, and ate it in bed while reading the rest of the cookbook. She then decided to make her entire New Year’s Day menu from Radically Simple. (Last year she used the wonderful Jerusalem cookbook.)  I like to serve this with creamy polenta (and open a bottle of Barolo) or with a rich potato gratin layered with Gruyere (and raid our cellar for an old Côtes du Rhône.)  For the Christmas table I poach tiny kumquats in simple syrup until they collapse: They make a festive accompaniment and taste amazing with the lamb.

Lamb Shanks Provençal with Cabernet & Rosemary

This is nice and easy for a complicated-sounding dish. I simplify the process by quickly searing the seasoned shanks under the broiler. The lusty flavors come from dried porcini mushrooms and herbes de Provence. At the last minute, I dust the hot dish with freshly grated orange zest — the aroma is wonderful.

6 tablespoons olive oil
6 large lamb shanks, 12 to 14 ounces each
2-1/2 cups chopped leeks, white and green parts
6 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
2-1/2 cup Cabernet sauvignon
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes with puree
1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1-1/2 tablespoons herbes de Provence
1 pound slender carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch batons
1 tablespoon arrowroot

Preheat the broiler. Rub the lamb with 3 tablespoons oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on a broiler pan; brown several minutes on each side. Wash leeks and pat dry. Heat the remaining 3 tablespoon oil in an 8-quart Dutch oven. Add the leeks and garlic; cook over high heat until softened, 5 minutes. Add the shanks, wine, tomatoes, mushrooms, and herbes de Provence. Stir to coat. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer 1 hour. Add the carrots, cover, and cook 30 minutes.  Uncover and simmer 15 minutes, until the lamb is tender. Spoon off the fat. Dissolve the arrowroot in 1 tablespoon water and stir into the sauce. Season to taste and simmer several minutes until the sauce thickens. Serves 6

Recipes 1-2-3 Redux

30 May

61RS7HCMYMLYes, it’s possible to buy a cookbook today for 1 cent!  And it could be one of mine.  No matter, I love this review that just came in from “Sandy.”  The unexpected critique is of the first book in my 1-2-3 series, Recipes 1-2-3: Fabulous Food Using Only Three Ingredients, written more than 18 years ago.   The book was published in Turkish, Czech, Hebrew, and in metric for the UK and Australian audiences.  The simple concept gave rise to the Minimalist column in the New York Times which was based on this work.  Some of my favorite recipes from this book include Seared Salmon with Pancetta and Sage; Mahogany Short Ribs; Turnip and Havarti Torte; Chocolate-Banana Terrine; and Lemon Buttermilk Ice Cream.  Many thanks to Sandra Lee Smith for taking the time to rediscover a golden oldie.

RECIPES 1-2-3 by  Rozanne Gold is one of those cookbooks that will surely knock your socks off (or your oven mitts, at least).

There have been, you must have noticed if you automatically scan all the cookbooks in book stores and in particular, the flurry of cookbooks devoted to just a few ingredients—there are many great cookbooks on this topic.  Rozanne Gold was one of the first to take this concept a step further. First of all, RECIPES 1-2-3 is a beautiful hardcover cookbook by Viking Press, with photographs by Tom Eckerle.

“Time is not on our side,” explain the publishers. “Not only don’t we have time to cook, we often don’t even have time to shop for food. Imagine being able to choose from more than 250 dazzling recipes that contain only three ingredients.”

Rozanne Gold is the author of the award-winning “LITTLE MEALS: A GREAT NEW WAY TO EAT AND COOK”. She is also consulting chef to the Rainbow Room and the new Windows On the World. First chef to New York City mayor Ed Koch, she is now Culinary Director of the world-renown Joseph Baum and Michael Whitman Co., and if that were not enough, she is also culinary counselor for Dunnewood Vineyards in California.

In the Introduction to 1-2-3, Gold writes “Think of the transparent sound of a small chamber orchestra; or the compressive clarity of haiku. When it comes to the senses, less is often more. So it is with our palates and the way we taste. The Western vocabulary contains only four descriptors for how we experience a morsel of food: salty, sour, bitter, and sweet. The Japanese posit a fifth sensation, called umami, a beeflike essence of wild mushrooms.

It was this realization, she says, that led her to develop RECIPES 1-2-3. She says that in her twenty years as a professional chef, she has “imposed dozens of ingredients onto a single dish, used paintbrushes and squeeze bottles to decorate plates; piled food so precariously as to challenge gravity…”

To read the full review, please click here.

“Rozanne Gold is the leader of a minimalist sect, one that uses the fewest possible ingredients to produce dishes that are not just credible but delicious.”

–Mark Bittman, The New York Times

“Inspired recipes from three top-quality ingredients – it just couldn’t be easier or better than this!”

–Jacques Pepin

“Recipes 1-2-3 is fantastic!  It shows a pure understanding of how a great chef wants to and will cook at home.”

–Daniel Boulud

Valentine’s Day 2013

14 Feb

childrens-valentines-fortune-cookie-sayingsHappy Valentine’s Day. I got my love of cooking from my beautiful Hungarian mother, Marion, who made meatloaf in the shape of a heart. Not until I was much older did I ever realize it didn’t always come that way! Her secret to the meatloaf was putting a few small ice cubes into the mixture to keep it extra moist. More precious than gifts were the edible expressions of love she would prepare: my favorite comfort food — cabbage and noodles or ultra-thin crepes known as palacsintas filled with jam. The tradition continues with my 16-year old daughter Shayna who helped me write my cookbook for teens “Eat Fresh Food: Awesome Recipes for Teen Chefs.” The book, to our delight, was reviewed in the Science section in the New York Times, helping us spread the secret about healthy eating. There you will find another style of meatloaf — made with sun-dried tomatoes, grated carrots and chives, but today I am sharing my mother’s original recipe…complete with ice cubes and seasoned breadcrumbs.

And while you might swoon from my intensely delicious and ridiculously simple chocolate mousse, you might also consider making palacsintas, thin Hungarian crepes, and fill them with scarlet red strawberry jam and dust with powdered sugar. It’s a simple and sexy way to finish a Valentine’s dinner. What to drink? Consider the selections in Wines for Valentines.  And just what do farmer’s give their wives for Valentine’s Day?  Hogs and kisses!  Enjoy the day.

A Heart-Shaped Meatloaf (adapted from Little Meals)

1-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onions
1-1/2 cup ground sirloin (or a combination of sirloin and chuck)
1/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
5 tablespoons ketchup
1 clove garlic
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons ice water plus 2 small ice cubes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Melt butter in a medium pan.  Add onion and cook until soft and lightly browned, about 10 minutes.  Set aside.  In a medium bowl put chopped meat, breadcrumbs, mustard, 3 tablespoons ketchup, and the cooked onions.  Mix lightly.  Add egg yolk, 1/2 teaspoon salt, black pepper to taste, and ice water and ice cubes.  Mix well with hands and form into a large heart shape that is 1-1/4 inches high.  Place on rimmed baking sheet.  Glaze top with an even coat of remaining ketchup.  Bake 35 minutes.  Serves 4

Palacsintas with Scarlet Jam & Powdered Sugar (adapted from Eat Fresh Food))
Use the best quality strawberry you can find or a variety by Tiptree called Little Scarlet.  You can also top the rolled crepes with fresh raspberries, lightly sugared.

1 cup whole milk
1 cup plus 2 tablespoon flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon melted butter
2 tablespoons cold butter
1/2 cup strawberry jam
powdered sugar for dusting
optional:  fresh raspberries

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Blend milk, flour, sugar, eggs, melted butter, and a large pinch of salt in a blender.  Process until smooth.  Melt 1 teaspoon butter in an 8-inch skillet until ti sizzles.  Coat bottom of pan with batter so that you have a very thin layer.  Let crepe brown lightly and turn over.  Cook 30 seconds.  While still in pan, put 1 tablespoon jam in a line down center of crepe and fold like a jelly roll, pressing down as you roll.  Remove to a baking sheet and keep warm in oven until you have made 8 crepes.  Serve 2 per person on large warm plates.  Dust with powdered sugar and garnish with raspberries, if desired.  Serves 4

A Radically Joyous Hanukkah

1 Dec

NEWEdible.Latke.hiresThis year Hanukkah is going to be a little different.  First of all I’m going to be a judge at a big deal latke competition with other Brooklyn foodies at BAM on December 10th.  I was honored to be asked by Liz Neumark, creator and impresario of Great Performances and owner of Katchkie Farms and Sylvia Center.  Everything she touches is magical and meaningful. I’m thrilled to be joining Leonard Lopate, Gabriella Gershenson from Saveur, and Lee Schrager from the New York Wine and Food Festival. We will be sampling 17 different kinds of latkes and you can join me!  Just reserve your spot by clicking here.  Even though I’m not a maven, Hanukkah has always been special.  My family was once featured in a cover story in Gourmet Magazine about my three-ingredient Hanukkah celebration at home.  This month, I have written a story about Hanukkah in my Cooking Light column called Radically Simple.  You can check out the recipes below.  And on December 14th, along with the true food maven Arthur Schwartz, I will be a judge at an applesauce! tasting at Park Slope’s very cool synagogue Congregation Beth Elohim.  As most of you know, Hanukkah is a holiday filled with illuminating rituals:  Eight nights of candle-lighting and gifts, and foods fried in olive oil!   The former refers to the miracle that happened during the rededication of The Temple in Jerusalem in 165 BC, when a tiny bit of oil, enough to last only one night, lasted eight. The latter are edible expressions of the miracle:  Crispy potato pancakes, known as latkes, and jelly doughnuts (known as sufganiyot), traditionally top the list.  But this year, a few new dishes will grace our table at home: nuggets of cauliflower fried in olive oil and served with tahini & pomegranate seeds, and radically simple latkes made with three root vegetables.

Every household prepares latkes differently but grating a little of one’s knuckle into the mixture is often a reality!  Once upon a time, latkes were made from potatoes only but this year, ours include sweet potatoes and parsnips, and a bit of exotic perfume provided by ground cumin.  Another twist?   Instead of ubiquitous applesauce as an accompaniment, I serve these crispy latkes with a dazzling beet puree meant for dipping or drizzling.

For dessert, there is no simpler offering than fleshy dried Calimyrna figs and Medjool dates served…frozen!  They taste like candy and are a delicious with morsels of bittersweet chocolate or gold-foiled Hanukkah gelt, to be eaten one-by-one. Come to the latke tasting!  Try my latke recipes in Cooking Light!  And enjoy.

Photo: Johnny Autry; Styling: Cindy Barr

Photo: Johnny Autry; Styling: Cindy Barr

Crispy Root Vegetable Latkes with Beet Puree
Get the latkes going first, and while they cook, puree the sauce.

2 cups grated peeled sweet potato
2 cups grated peeled baking potato
1 cup grated peeling parsnip
3 ounces all-purpose flour (about 2/3 cup)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
2 large eggs
1 cup grated onion
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon chopped dill (optional)
1 cup chopped, peeled apple
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 (8-ounce) package precooked red beets, drained

1. Preheat oven to 325°.

2. Place first 3 ingredients on paper towels; squeeze until barely moist. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, cumin, 1/4 teaspoon salt, eggs, and onion in a bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until blended. Add potato mixture; beat with a mixer at low speed until combined.

3. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 2 teaspoons oil; swirl. Heap 3 tablespoons potato mixture into pan to form a patty; flatten slightly. Repeat procedure 5 times to form 6 patties. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook 6 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Place latkes on a baking sheet; keep warm in oven. Repeat procedure twice with remaining oil and potato mixture to yield 18 latkes total. Sprinkle latkes with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Garnish with dill, if desired.

4. Combine apple and remaining ingredients in a food processor; process until smooth. Serve with latkes. Serves 6

Photo: Johnny Autry; Styling: Cindy Barr

Photo: Johnny Autry; Styling: Cindy Barr

Fried Cauliflower with Tahini and Pomegranate Seeds
Cilantro gives this a bright, zippy taste and lovely color; the leaves are especially festive when strewn with pomegranate arils over the cauliflower. Serve with hot sauce and cut lemons, if you wish.

1/3 cup cilantro leaves, packed
1/3 cup tahini (roasted sesame seed paste)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves
6 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 cups cauliflower florets (about 1 large head)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup pomegranate arils

1. Preheat oven to 375°.

2. Combine first 4 ingredients in a food processor; process until smooth. Add 6 tablespoons water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until mixture is the consistency of a creamy salad dressing. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt; pulse to combine.

3. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add cauliflower; cook 10 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Place cauliflower on a jelly-roll pan lined with foil. Roast cauliflower at 375° for 18 minutes or until tender, turning once. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Add pomegranate arils; toss to combine. Serve with tahini mixture. Serves 6

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