Monday, July 16, 2018

Pickled Watermelon and other "Zakuski



As written for The Nosher

When you are invited to a Russian person’s home you’ll likely enter the dining area to see a table laden with small plates of food. This type of spread is known as zakuski, which translates to “something to bite after.” Zakuski are essentially snacks that are meant to be eaten while drinking shots of vodka or other alcohol. Popular zakuski include smoked fish, cured meats, salads generously dressed with mayonnaise, blini and caviar, marinated mushrooms, and at least one kind of pickle. Pickled cucumber or cornichons are common, but so are all kinds of other pickled vegetables and fruits.

Russians and Slavic people love pickles. Like many great culinary traditions, the practice of pickling and preserving was born out of necessity. The growing season for fresh fruit and vegetables is relatively short and it became essential to preserve the bounty of fresh produce for the dark cold days of winter. Historically, much of the food preservation used salt to pickle and/or ferment as opposed to using vinegar-based brines; this results in a saltier but less sour pickle. Pickled and fermented produce are also valued for their health benefits. Fermented foods can aid digestion and help with good gut bacteria. This is particularly welcome when you’re eating rich and hearty foods. Most importantly, pickles are flavorful. Pickled foods were particularly popular in Jewish communities in Russia and Eastern European, and often because they added bright acidity and strong flavors to complement staple bland foods like bread and potatoes. In fact, Eastern European Jews introduced dill pickles to America during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s when they began arriving in New York.

The practicality of preserving summer food for the winter is clear, but these pickled fruits are equally refreshing on a hot summer day, preferably eaten with a meal outdoors. I’ve picked three of my favorite zakuski recipes to share: pickled sour cherries, watermelon, and peppers. The sour cherries only show up for a short time every year, and I try to get a big bag whenever I see them available. They are great for pie or for compote, but I love them pickled with a little cardamom. They end up tasting like an elevated maraschino cherry - tart, not too sweet, and complex. They’re great in a cocktail, and just as good as a side to BBQ. Pickled watermelon is a classic in Russia, Ukraine, Georgia and other Soviet countries. Russians typically add garlic, bay, and dill to the brine, which makes the watermelon a savory treat. I love to serve it alongside cured meat or grilled sausages, and it also goes well as a pre-meal bite to eat alongside salty snacks served with ice cold vodka (or beer). The pickled peppers are easily my favorite. My grandmother called them “marinated peppers” and they were a staple dish in her home. She served these peppers at the first course of every dinner, and they always managed to stay on the table throughout the meal. I especially loved to have them along with chicken schnitzel and potatoes.

The techniques described in these recipes can be used on just about any kind of produce. The process for the watermelon quick pickle is simple and would work well for tomatoes, cauliflower, green beans, and more. First you make a brine with a combination of salt, sugar, and any aromatics you’d like. You pour the brine over the fruit or vegetables, and then refrigerate. The pickles are ready the next day, but the longer they sit in the fridge, the deeper the flavors are developed. The tangy vinegar based marinade for the peppers would be excellent with mushrooms. And the sweeter brine for the sour cherries would be great with plums or peaches. These pickles last for months stored in the fridge… if you can go that long without eating all of them or sharing them with friends. There’s nothing quite like arriving at a table with many colorful dishes already laid out waiting for you to dig in. It’s an invitation to enjoy, relax, and eat.


Pickled Watermelon
  • 1 3-4 lb. watermelon
  • ½ bunch of dill, stems on
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 3-4 bay leaves (fresh if available)
  • 2 small Serrano chilies (or 1 jalapeno), halved
  • 6 cups filtered water
  • ¼ cup kosher salt
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons white or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon peppercorns
Wash the watermelon very well, and then slice into desired pieces. I like mine about ¾-1” thick, and cut into small triangles with the rind still on.
In a large glass jar or ceramic crock big enough to hold the watermelon slices, place the dill, garlic, a few of the bay leaves, and the Serrano chili in the bottom. Layer the cut watermelon on top. If necessary, divide these ingredients among jars, and place the aromatics on the bottom of each jar.
In a medium pot, combine the water, salt, sugar, vinegar and peppercorns. Bring up to a simmer, and heat until the salt and sugar is just dissolved. Pour the liquid over the watermelon in the jar(s). Top with the remaining bay leaves and a little more dill if desired. If the watermelon is floating above the liquid, you can weigh the fruit down by placing a small plate inside the jar with something heavy on top.
Allow the mixture to fully cool, and then refrigerate. The watermelon is ready to serve after 24 hours, but it is best if you wait 3-4 days before serving.


Pickled Sour Cherries
  • 4 cups pitted sour cherries
  • ¾ cup white vinegar
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
  • 6-7 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
Place pitted cherries in clean jars.
Combine the vinegar, sugar, water, salt and cardamom in a small pot. Bring to a simmer and heat until the sugar is just fully dissolved. Pour the brine over the cherries. Allow the mixture to fully cool, then securely cover the jars and refrigerate.
They are ready to serve after 24 hours in the fridge, but they will develop deeper flavor the longer they sit.


Marinated Red Bell Peppers
  • 4 large red, yellow, or orange bell peppers
  • 1 clove of garlic, sliced thin (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon sugar or honey
  • ½ -¾ cup white vinegar (depending how much you need to cover the peppers)
  • ¼ cup water
  • 3 Tablespoons good extra virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Lay your peppers out on a lined sheet tray or baking dish. Place the peppers in the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until blackened, softened, and until the skin gets wrinkly and starts to peel off. It helps to flip the peppers over halfway through the cooking process. You can also do this directly over a gas flame or on a grill, turning the peppers until they are blackened and cooked on all sides.
Once cooked, transfer the peppers to a heatproof bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow the peppers to continue to steam and cool for 20-30 minutes.
At this point, the peppers should peel easily. Over a bowl, peel the peppers, and remove the stems and seeds. If any juice escapes while you are peeling the peppers, save the juice. It is gold.
Slice the peeled peppers into strips, about an inch thick, or however you prefer. Add the peppers to the bowl of their reserved juices. Add the sliced garlic if using, peppercorns, salt and sugar to the peppers. (If you do not like strong garlic flavor, omit the garlic entirely.) Mix everything together gently. Cover the peppers with white vinegar and water. Add the olive oil. Let the peppers marinate in the fridge overnight before serving. Peppers last in the fridge for about a week.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Raspberry Danish Twist - Entenmann's Style


For the full article, head over to The Nosher!

Entenmann’s Style Raspberry Danish Twist
Makes two danishes, or one large one
Ingredients: 
For the danish-
  • 1 cup milk, warmed
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 1 packet (7 g) active rise yeast
  • 3 cups (450 g) all purpose flour, plus more for dusting or as needed
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla powder, or 1 vanilla bean (split, and seeds scraped out)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature
  • 1 cup raspberry jam
  • 1 egg yolk plus one teaspoon of water, for the egg wash
For the icing-
  • 1 cup sifted powdered sugar
  • 1½ Tablespoons milk or water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla powder or ½ a teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions:
Grease two 8 x 6 baking dishes and line with parchment paper. You can also make one large danish in a 9 x 11 baking dish.
Heat the milk until warm to the touch but not too hot, about 100°F. Add the sugar and active dry yeast to the milk, and allow the yeast to proof for 5-10 minutes. The yeast will get foamy and bubbly, if it doesn’t your milk may have been too hot or too cold and it is best to start again.
In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, combined the flour, salt, and vanilla powder. Alternatively, you can make the dough by hand, you will just need to mix and knead for longer.
Add the milk and yeast mixture to the dough, along with the two eggs. On medium, mix until a very shaggy dough is formed. Next, with the mixer still on medium, add the room temperature butter one cube at a time; allow each piece of butter to incorporate before adding the next. Once all of the butter is incorporated, the dough will appear smoother and stickier. Switch the paddle attachment for the dough hook, and mix on medium speed for 5-6 minutes, or until a soft, smooth, elastic dough is formed. It will start out looking very sticky and wet, but will ball around the dough hook towards the end. If it looks too wet and does not start forming a ball, you can add a few tablespoons of flour to help with the consistency.
Gently transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl (it will be very soft and pour out), and cover it with a damp clean kitchen towel. Allow the dough to rise until roughly doubled in size,1-2 hours, depending on the temperature in your kitchen.

Once the dough has risen, punch it down and divide it in half. You can make two 8 x 6 raspberry danish twists at this time, or freeze half the dough for future use (just allow it to defrost and come up to room temperature). Dust a clean surface with flour, then take one half of the dough and divide it into three equal balls. Roll each ball into a strand that is about an inch longer than the length of the baking dish, then gently twist each strand and fit them in lengthwise into the baking dish. Cover with a lightly damp clean kitchen towel, and let the dough rise again for another 15-20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Add the jam to the danish. Between the 3 strands of dough, you’ll make two strips of jam, each about a ¼ cup of worth of jam, or ½ a cup per danish (if using a larger dish, simply evenly add jam between each strand). I gently nudge the stands apart, and with a spoon, fill with jam between the strands. Brush the top of the dough with the egg wash. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until deep golden brown on top. Rotate once halfway through baking.
Once baked, allow to cool on a rack. While the cakes are cooling make the icing. Once mostly cooled, you can ice the cakes by drizzling the icing free form with a spoon, or you can fill a small ziplock back with the icing, and snip off a small piece of the corner to ice in any design you prefer.


Thursday, May 10, 2018

Rhubarb Strawberry Galette




Galettes are just about my favorite thing to bake. I like the ratio of dough to filling. I like that the results of most galettes aren't too sweet. And I love the beauty of the arrangement of fruit against a browned flaky crust.

I use my go-to crust recipe/ratios for every galette, but for the filling I rarely use a recipe. I'll use fruit that's in season, toss them with sugar, vanilla/lemon zest, and let them hang out for an hour while the dough is chilling in the fridge.

This galette was no different. I had a bunch of rhubarb that I brought home from work, and I had a handful of good strawberries too. I also had some rye flour I wanted to use up. The rye flour went into the dough, and the fruit got added to the filling. A short time later, the galette came out of the oven, warm and fragrant. This galette is perfect for any beautiful spring day.

Rhubarb Strawberry Galette
For the crust:
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup rye flour (or all purpose flour)
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 sticks butter, cold and cubed
  • 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 3-4 Tablespoons ice water
  • 1 egg yolk + 1 teaspoon of water (for the egg wash)
  • Turbinado sugar, to sprinkle on top
For the filling:
  • 1 lb rhubarb, cut into equal-sized pieces
  • 1 cup strawberries, halved or quartered depending on size
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the crust:

In a food processor: pulse the flour, rye, sugar, and salt together. Add the cubed cold butter and pulse until pea-sized crumbs form. Add the apple cider vinegar and ice water and pulse until the dough just gets combined and forms a ball. Be careful not to over-mix.

By hand: whisk together the flour, rye, sugar and salt. Add the cubed cold butter and combine with the flour with a pastry cutter or by hand until pea-sized crumbs of dough form. Add the apple cider vinegar and ice water and incorporate quickly with your hands until a ball of dough is formed. Be careful not to over-mix.

Form the dough into a round disc shape, and tightly cover with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to chill for at least 1 hour, or overnight.

For the galette:

Combine the cut rhubarb and strawberries with the sugar and vanilla. Allow to sit for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Roll out the dough into a circle about 1/4" thick. The edges don't have to be perfectly round, and the dough doesn't have to be a perfect circle either. Transfer the dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet

Add the macerated fruit to the dough, leaving a 2-3" border around the perimeter. Fold over the dough over the fruit, overlapping as you fold each piece.

Brush the dough with egg wash and sprinkle with Turbinado sugar. You can sprinkle the inside of the galette with sugar if you like it extra sweet, too.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until golden brown with tender rhubarb.

Serve warm or at room temperature. Keeps at room temperature. covered, for 1 day. 


Monday, March 5, 2018

Mukmura (or Mahmoora) Chicken




For the full article, head over to The Nosher ...


There are three distinctive Jewish Indian groups that happened to be largely isolated from each other: the Cochin Jews of Kerala in South India, the Bene Israel Jews of India’s West Coast and Mumbai, and the Jews of Kolkata in East India (formerly known as Calcutta). In The Book of Jewish Food, Claudia Roden recounts how Shalom Cohen from Aleppo was the first known Jew to settle in Kolkata in 1798. Soon after, Syrian and Iraqi Jews followed and developed a strong community there, where they worked as merchants and traders, and lived in harmony with their neighbors. Things changed in 1947 when India gained independence, and again in 1948 with the creation of the State of Israel; anti-Semitism grew as the Jews became associated with the colonial British power. During that time, most of the Jews from Kolkata immigrated to Israel, the US, England, and Australia. This once vibrant Jewish Indian community is now all but gone from Kolkata.

While only a handful of Jews still live in Kolkata, the food from this community has travelled with its people. Their style of cooking involves a combination of ingredients and preparations from the Middle East, with the spices and techniques of Indian cuisine. There are several cookbooks and articles devoted to Sephardic foods and Indian Jewish cookery that have documented some of the dishes of the Jews from Kolkata. I was first struck by a recipe I found in both Copeland Marks’ book, Sephardic Cooking, as well as in Indian Jewish Cooking, by Mavis Hyman. Mukmura (or Mahmoora) is a dish of chicken and almonds in a slightly sweetened tangy lemon sauce. I like any recipe that looks like it is simple to prepare but still offers big flavors, and this was clearly that. This chicken dish calls for easy to find bold ingredients like ginger, garlic, ground turmeric, lemon juice, and fresh mint. The chicken is braised, which means the meat won’t get dry, and it can easily be made in advance for entertaining, Shabbat, and holidays. By slowly simmering all of the ingredients together you develop a slightly sweet and sour sauce with all those warm spices and aromatics. After making the dish a few times, I experimented with some tweaks to the original method to boost the flavor even more, like browning the chicken before braising it, and being generous with the lemon juice and ginger. This dish is simultaneously comforting and exciting. It is the type of food that makes you feel like you’re eating something exotic and new, but with the benefit of having accomplished that from the comfort of your own home kitchen.




Mukmura
Kolkata-Style Chicken and Almonds in a Lemon Sauce
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 4-5 lb. chicken, cut into 8-10 serving pieces
1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
2-3 tablespoons oil
1 medium white or yellow onion, chopped fine (about 1½ cups)
2 large garlic cloves, minced fine
1 Tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1½ teaspoons ground turmeric
1 cup water
¼ cup raisins, rinsed
¼ cup sliced or slivered unsalted almonds, without skin
¼ cup fresh lemon juice, about 2 lemons
1½ Tablespoons agave syrup or 2 teaspoons sugar
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh mint, or to taste
lemon wedges, for garnish

Directions:
  1. Cut the chicken into 8-10 pieces; reserve the backbone for chicken broth if desired. You can also find a pre-cut whole chicken, or you can use 4-5 lbs. of your preferred bone-in skin-on chicken parts. Season the chicken pieces with a teaspoon of kosher salt.
  2. On medium high heat, heat a large Dutch oven or deep skillet with a lid. Add a drizzle of oil to the pot and then brown the chicken pieces on each side, about 2-3 minutes per side or until golden brown. Brown the chicken in batches if needed so as not to overcrowd the pot. Remove the browned chicken and reserve.
  3. Over medium heat, add the diced onions to the same pot so the browned bits that remain on the bottom can flavor the onion. Add an additional drizzle of oil if there is not enough remaining chicken drippings. Sauté the onion until softened and beginning to turn golden but not browned, about 5-6 minutes.
  4. Add the minced garlic, grated ginger, and turmeric to the onion mixture. Sauté for another 1-2 minutes, or until fragrant.
  5. Add the reserved browned chicken back to the pot in a single layer. Pour the water over the chicken.
  6. Bring the liquid up to a simmer and then lower the heat and cover the pot. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  7. Add the raisins, almonds, lemon juice, and agave syrup to the pot. If your water has significantly reduced, add a little more water so there’s liquid in the pot. Cover the lid again and simmer an additional 15-20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through with an internal temperature of at least 165°F. Taste and season with more salt if necessary.
  8. Transfer the chicken to a serving dish, pour the sauce over the chicken, and top everything with freshly chopped mint and a few lemon wedges. Serve with rice or your favorite side.
  9. Chicken can be made a day in advance and reheats well.



Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Tahini Chocolate Chunk Cookies (with Rye Flour)


For the full article, head over to .alma

...What I love most about these cookies is that they’re endlessly versatile. I like to add rye flour to the batter for extra nuttiness, and flake salt before baking for a pop of flavor and crunch, but you could easily use entirely all purpose flour and leave the flake salt out completely. If you’re not into chocolate, you could substitute the two cups of chocolate chunks with two cups of chopped dried fruit or chopped nuts. If you’re feeling adventurous (or frisky?) you can even use all three. In keeping with romantic cliches, just as in matters of finding true love, these cookies benefit from patience. If you chill the batter overnight the cookies taste even better when you bake them off the next day. But between you and me, you can break the rules and succumb to instant gratification and make the cookies the same day and they’ll still work out just fine.

I always hope that Valentine’s Day can be less a celebration of coupledom and traditional forms of romantic love, and more of a an excuse to celebrate all love-filled relationships, including with one’s self. I can assure you that whether these are made for your partner, secret crush, lonely hearts club band, or for you yourself and only you, making these cookies in all their tahini-chocolate goodness is a rich expression of love and all things good.



Tahini Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Makes 24 cookies

Ingredients:
¾ cup all purpose flour
¼ cup + 2 Tablespoons rye flour (optional, can substitute this with all purpose flour)
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ cup tahini
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup brown sugar
¼ cup sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 cups (8 oz) chopped chocolate chunks or chips
Flake salt, as needed (optional)

Directions:
1.     In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, rye flour if using, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Reserve.
2.     Using a stand-mixer or handheld electric mixer, cream together the tahini, butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. You can also do this by hand, but it will take slightly longer.
3.     Add in the egg, and mix until well incorporated.
4.     On a low speed, slowly add in the flour mixture to the tahini mixture. Mix until just incorporated, be careful not to overmix.
5.     Stir in the chocolate chunks until just incorporated. Ideally, refrigerate the cookie dough for 24 hours or overnight. If you can’t wait that long, let it chill in the fridge for at least one hour.
6.     Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
7.     Scoop out the dough, one heaping tablespoon at a time, and roll into equal-sized balls. You can also use a small ice cream scoop to do this. Place the dough balls on the baking sheets a few inches apart - they will spread as they bake. Sprinkle the dough with flake salt, if desired.
8.     Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until golden around the edges. Allow the cookies to cool for 2 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.
9.     Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.


Saturday, February 3, 2018

Spiced Pomegranate Molasses Wings




As written for The Nosher

What do I want in a wing? Something that is crispy with a sauce that packs tons of flavor. Pomegranate molasses is a perfect base for wing sauce. Pomegranate molasses isn’t a molasses at all, it’s actually just pomegranate juice that is reduced until it is thick and syrupy. You can even make it yourself at home, but it is easy to come by at any Middle Eastern or Persian market, as well as online. I’ve even spotted it at Whole Foods. Pomegranate molasses is tangy, a little sweet, and with the dark and shiny sheen of real molasses. It’s a common ingredient in Middleeastern cooking, where it’s added to all kinds of dishes from stews, to dips, to glazes for meats, and more. If you’ve ever read an Yotam Ottolenghi cookbook, than you know it’s also one of his favorite ingredients to add to vegetable dishes.

Years ago, I first got inspired to add pomegranate molasses to wings when I saw Aarti Sequeira make a version of this dish on Aarti Party, her Indian-themed cooking show. Since then I’ve reworked the dish to skew it towards my own preferences, and in a slightly more Middle Eastern direction. These wings get generously marinated in a spice mixture of coriander, cumin, cardamom, allspice, and pepper. The pomegranate molasses sauce gets Sriracha added to it for heat, which is a decidedly un-Middle Eastern ingredient, but a perfect compliment to the dish with its peppery garlicky spiciness. To make cooking for a crowd a little easier, the wings are baked not fried; they still crisp up nicely, but you don’t have to deal with the mess, work, or the extra calories that comes with deep frying. Spiced pomegranate molasses wings have become a staple party food recipe in our house, Superbowl Sunday or otherwise.



Spiced Pomegranate Molasses Wings
Serves 4-6 (recipe can be doubled and tripled to serve a larger crowd)

For the wings-
2 lbs. chicken wings
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon ground allspice

For the pomegranate molasses sauce-
⅓ cup pomegranate molasses
3 tablespoons maple syrup or agave, or to taste
2 tablespoons Sriracha, or to taste
1 tablespoon oil (coconut, safflower, or canola)
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons vegan butter

Directions:
1.     Pat the chicken wings dry and place them in a large bowl.
2.     In a small bowl, combine the salt and spices. Add the spices to the chicken, and toss the wings until they are all well coated. Cover and refrigerate the wings for 1 hour to allow the chicken to marinade in the spice mixture.
3.     Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place a rack on a baking sheet and spray or brush the rack with oil. If you don’t have a rack to cook the wings on, you can place them directly on a baking sheet, they will just get slightly less crisped. Add the marinated wings to the baking sheet, leaving ½” of room between each wing.

4.     Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until cooked through with an internal temperature of at least 165°F. Flip the wings once after 15 minutes of cooking time.
5.     While the wings are in the oven, prepare the pomegranate molasses sauce. Add the pomegranate molasses, maple syrup, Sriracha, and a tablespoon of oil to a small pot. Heat on medium low, and allow the sauce to simmer for 10 minutes, or until the sauce has slightly thickened. Taste and add salt & pepper as needed, or more Sriracha/maple syrup depending on your preference and the tanginess of the pomegranate molasses.
6.     Once simmered and slightly reduced, remove from the heat and add the vegan butter; this will add a smooth richness to the sauce.

7.     Once the chicken is cooked, transfer it to a large heatproof bowl, pour the warm sauce all over the chicken, and toss until everything is well coated. Serve hot with your favorite sides or dipping sauces.