Monday, December 26, 2011

More Than Soup

The Tuesday after the holiday of Sukkot, there were no fresh vegetables in the kitchen. Coming off of a week-long vacation, there had been no time to make an order and stock the pantry shelves. Now generally, our daily menu includes a protein, a carbohydrate and a vegetable. Serving a vegetable is a little difficult when you have no fresh vegetables available. Luckily, we have a freezer and that freezer is often stocked with frozen vegetables-peas and carrots and corn and such. We didn't have enough to serve the frozen vegetables as a dish on their own, but we threw the veggies into a big pot and cooked them to death (which is how the head of the kitchen likes them- don't know why, don't ask questions) and then mixed them with potatoes to supplement. So, lunch was a bit carb heavy that day. It could be worse. In fact I find the combination of potatoes, peas and carrots to be quite comforting. It reminds me of my mother.
My mother is a child psychologist and works more than pretty much any other person I know (with the possible exception of my sister who has inherited her workaholic tendencies). She (my mother, that is) has a small office in the back of the house, and many of my memories from childhood involve running from the top floor (family zone), passed the closed doors of her office to the kitchen (family zone) as quickly and as quietly as I could so as not to disturb her patients. But no matter how busy my mother was, no matter how many patients she was seeing that day, she always made dinner. Somehow, she always found time to put something up in between clients, and we always found time to sit down together. Sometimes she made broiled chicken, sometimes, when she had more time, we ate shnitzel, or a lasagna she had thrown together earlier in the day and sometimes, when she was really busy, we used to eat mashed potatoes with peas and carrots. Much like we do in the kitchen, she would boil some potatoes and then throw in some frozen peas and carrots and mash. Only, unlike in the kitchen, she would add a nice pat of butter into the mix and I am convinced that this is what made the dish. It was one of my favorite suppers. During the cold and dark Chicago winters there was nothing quite like a warm bowl of mushy carbohydrate, rich with butter.
My parents have been visiting for the past week and half and it has been lovely. However, that also means that a) I have been a bit MIA (meant to comment on your post, Molly. Sorry!) and b) that I haven't been cooking much. Mostly it has been restaurant, eat with friends, restaurant, friends, etc. It's nice to get a small break from the kitchen. But, one evening, my parents were off doing something with my sister and I had an order to fill, so I found myself alone in my kitchen, hungry, but with not much time to prepare dinner. What I did have was a few small turnips and some really good bread. So I winged it. Earlier that day I had seen a recipe for Turnip Puree on Food52 and was inspired. I didn't really follow checker's recipe, but I did get the idea from her. I diced the turnips, smashed a few cloves of garlic and then just let them hang out over a low flame with some melted butter, salt and pepper. When they were soft, I added a dash of ground mustard and mashed. I ate the mash warm, slathered over good, fresh crusty bread and it was good. Very good. Just as good as potatoes with peas and carrots. The turnips were somehow simultaneously sweet and bitter, nicely offset by the richness of the butter and the tang of mustard. Later my mother stopped by and had a taste. I'm proud to say she liked it too.

Turnip Mash
Inspired by checker's Turnip Puree on Food52

3 smallish turnips, diced
2 cloves garlic, smashed
a pat of butter
salt, pepper
a dash of ground mustard
good, crusty bread

1. Put the pat of butter is a small saucepan over low heat. When melted, add the turnips, garlic and some salt and pepper. Cover the saucepan.
2. Cook, covered, over medium-low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the turnips look like they are getting dry, add a bit more butter. This is not likely as turnips release quite a bit of water.
3. When the turnips are soft, add a dash of ground mustard. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Mash roughly with a fork. It's ok if there are bits of whole turnip or garlic. It builds character, as my dad might say.
4. Eat over good bread.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Mango Muffins

Mango muffins are done for the year. Keep an eye on the menu. Replacement flavor to come soon,

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Fennel Musings

I love fennel. There I've said it. After years of hating it, I am now overcome with joy at the prospect of fennel season. I walked into the kitchen a few weeks ago, a little late and shaking off the cold and the rain. I was greeted by the mellow smell of steaming fennel and zucchini. I immediately knew it was going to be a good day. Fennel was back. And it was a good day. Nothing extraordinary happened. It was just a good day. There's something about fennel that lends an elegance and warmth to things, so the whole day felt warm and elegant. It felt good to be serving it- like I was at some fancy restaurant, and I could say, "Here, ma'am, you must try the fennel." It made me cheerful.

I didn't find the following recipe at a  fancy restaurant-but I could have. It's the type of recipe that, theoretically one would taste in a restaurant and say- hey, I want to make that- and then adapt for the home kitchen, except in this case the "restaurant" is Food52. Food52 is an awesome website/database of community sourced recipes run by Amanda Hesser and Merril Stubbs. It really has become the first place I look when I am looking for a recipe. singing_baker's recipe for Roasted Fennel and White Bean Dip  on the sight caught my eye a while ago. It's a great elegant party dish. Roasted fennel is pureed with cannelli beans, lightly roasted garlic, lemon and rosemary and then placed in a baking dish, topped with Parmesan and baked until golden and bubbly. It is pure wonderfulness. But sometimes, its Friday, and you're rushing around as you are wont to do, and you realize that a) you have no white beans in the house and b) you don't have time for the last baking step. So this is what you do. You grab a can of chickpeas and throw them in the food processor with some roasted fennel, garlic, rosemary and lemon. You dump the whole mixture in a tupperware, mix in some grated Parmesan, run into the shower, light  Shabbat candles and sprint out of the house. (What? Doesn't everybody have Fridays like that?) Then, you present the dish to your hosts, slightly breathlessly (because you are late), sans white beans and sans bubbly cheese. And it is delicious.

So, first of all, I implore you, check out Food52 and singing-baker's original recipe. Then, when you are rushed, or slightly lazy and want to skip a step, make this.

Roasted Fennel and Bean Dip
Adapted from singing_baker at Food52

Notes: I use canned chickpeas because that's what I usually have on hand. If you have canned, frozen or cooked white beans, please, go ahead and use them. For that matter, if you have frozen or cooked chickpeas you can use those as well.

For the roasted fennel:
1 large, or 2 small bulbs of fennel, cut into 1 inch pieces
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
salt, pepper

For the beans:
3/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chickpeas, or white beans (canned is fine)
1 tablespoon rosemary, chopped
1 tablespoon  freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated.

1. Roast the fennel: Preheat the oven to 400 F. Toss fennel and garlic with olive oil, salt and pepper and spread on a baking sheet. Roast for 30-40 minutes, tossing occasionally. Remove from oven and let cool. Once cool, squeeze the cloves of garlic out of their skins. This step can be done ahead.

2. Heat 1/2 cup of olive oil in a pan. Add the garlic and cook until lightly golden. Add the rosemary and beans and cook one minute more.

3. Combine roasted fennel, bean mixture, lemon juice and remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil. Puree until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and mix in cheese. Serve.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Since the King James Bible

I was caramelizing onions in the kitchen one week when I realized that there was a huge, gaping hole in my blog. There was a salad; a salad that had been bugging me since Passover and I still hadn't figured it out well enough to post about it. What salad, you may ask. THE salad. The Passover salad. The spinach and caramelized onion salad. The "tastes-like-steak/best-thing-done-by-committee-since-the-King-James-Bible" salad. Let me explain. No, there's too much. Let me sum up.
One of the many Passover traditions in my parents house is this-on the last night of Passover, after we've eaten way too many amazingly gluttonous meals, we go light. We eat salad and fish and matzoh brie. (Granted, that's not so light, but relative to what we spend the rest of the week eating, its light). So on the last night of Passover this past year, we shooed my mom out of the kitchen, and we second generation cooks went to work. I busied myself with Jamie Oliver's Trout with Horseradish, Creme fraiche and Potatoes (which is wonderful, let me tell you, but not the subject of this post), while my sister, sister in law, and non-biological kinda sister huddled up to make the salad. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw them caramelizing onions and washing spinach. They toasted some pine nuts and sliced tomatoes. Some sort of vinaigrette was whipped together. We sat down to eat.
"Tastes like steak", my brother said, his mouth full of spinach. My father, a bit more eloquent, deemed it the best thing done by committee since the King James Bible. The salad was, simply put, out of this world. The caramelized onions had sort of melted and sunk into the slightly wilted spinach, lending a sweetness, and yet, at the same time bringing out the rich, iron, meatiness of the greens.  The tomatoes were a bright compliment, as tomatoes would be on a steak sandwich, and the pine nuts gave it all a woodsy tinge. And coating it all was a perfectly paired vinaigrette, highlighting every flavor.
It was excellent, and also, it seems, utterly unreproduceable. For reasons unknown to anybody, nobody wrote down the recipe after the holiday. So, as I embarked on the project of writing about the salad for the blog, I was thwarted by quite a large roadblock. I consulted my sister, my sister in law and non-biological kinda sister. They remembered the ingredients of the salad-spinach, caramelized onions, tomatoes and pine nuts- but not one of them could remember what went into that vinaigrette. The only ingredient identified was balsamic vinegar. Everything else was a blank.
So here is a challenge for you, dear readers and friends. Let's find this vinaigrette. This is what I know about it. It contained balsamic vinegar. When I tried to reproduce the salad in my own I used a simple vinaigrette of balsamic, olive oil, a drop of brown sugar, salt and pepper, but that was not it either. So, maybe no olive oil, or maybe I just got the proportions wrong. Also, because it was Passover, there are a number of things we can rule out- being Ashkenazi Jews, we don't use any soy sauce, mustard or corn oil-so none of those either. Possibly there was honey. Maybe walnut oil was involved. I just don't know. You experiment and I'll experiment and somehow we'll get it. Great food is like great art, you'll know when you see it. Write to me, or even better, leave a comment and let me know what you come up with. The best thing done by a committee since the King James Bible deserves a recipe.

Wilted Spinach Salad with Caramelized Onions, Tomatoes and Pine Nuts (with mystery vinaigrette)

1 bunch of spinach, washed, dried, etc etc
olive oil
salt, pepper
2-3 onions, halved and thinly sliced
A nice, red tomato, sliced
A handful, or so of pine nuts.
mystery vinaigrette

1. Heat a heavy bottomed skillet, or frying pan over medium heat. Put the pine nuts in the hot pan, and toast, shaking the pan occasionally. Keep an eye on them as pine nuts go from nicely toasted to burnt in the blink of an eye. Once brown, remove from pan and set aside.

2. Add a few glugs of olive oil to the pan. When it the oil is warm add the onions and turn the heat down to medium low, or low. Season with salt and pepper, give the onions a good stir and then walk away. Slice the tomatoes. Think about the vinaigrette. Put away your groceries. Have a cup of coffee. Read the newspaper. Make vinaigrette. Have a peak at the onions. Give em a stir. Walk away again. Take a shower. Do some work. Put the spinach in a serving bowl.  Caramelizing onions is an exercise in patience. When the onions are soft and golden and melty,(this may take up to 45 minutes) remove from heat and immediately scatter over the spinach.

3. Place the tomatoes over the spinach and onions and drizzle a bit of vinaigrette over the salad. Taste, adding more vinaigrette as needed. Top with toasted pine nuts.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A small victory

Rule number one is, don't have favorites. And for the most part, I don't have favorites. I pretty much love all the people I feed- the impossibly skinny girl, who gleefully announces while rubbing her stomach that, "she ate it all; everything that was on her plate"; the guy who calls everyone נשמה (Neshama-soul- a Israeli term of endearment) and likes nothing more than avoiding his work by coming down to the kitchen to take our cartons out to the trash; the woman who gives me kisses by licking my hand (don't worry, they get washed), which is entirely endearing; the young man who takes such pride in helping to wheel his friends who are in wheelchairs into the dining room- I love them all. All of those listed above, and those I haven't mentioned. But if I'm going to be completely honest, I'm gonna have to say that N. is my favorite. N. is tall and skinny and dark and has the most heartbreakingly wonderful smile. He doesn't talk, but he does communicate. He'll stand by the entrance to the kitchen and rock on his heels (or, on rare, wonderful occasions, do a little dance) and wait until one of us will ask him what he wants. Then he'll smile his smile and point. Unfortunately, the only thing he wants is ketchup. For the longest time the only thing he would eat was ketchup. It was a source of dismay for everybody. We take pride in our cooking. We want to feed people. We want to feed N. And all he would eat was ketchup.
Then one day while I was doing service, just at the end, I noticed that N has returned to the serving station. I thought he wanted more ketchup, but no, when I asked he pointed to the schnitzel. I literally jumped. There was only one piece of shnitzel left, I gave it to him and then ran into the kitchen, grabbed a frozen schnitzel and stuck it in the microwave, just in case N. wanted more. There was general happiness in the kitchen that day. N. ate! Sure, it was schnitzel, warmed in the microwave and doused in ketchup. But it was food, real food. A small victory indeed. Since that day, we been trying to sneak N. food whichever way we can. Now, ketchup only comes with bread and we always stand  by with an extra schnitzel or two, just in case. We don't get N to eat every day, but the days we do are good days.

The following cake from Alice Waters is a small victory cake. It's not intricate. It doesn't call for fancy ingredients. No bells or whistles. Its just a simple, very, very good cake- they type of cake you would make to celebrate a small victory.

A Small Victory Cake (or, 1-2-3-4 Cake)

Adapted from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters

Ms. Waters calls this cake 1-2-3-4 cake in reference to the amounts of butter, sugar, flour and eggs, respectively called for in the original recipe, which makes two 9-inch round cakes. However, unless you're making a birthday cake (and this caked, frosted, does make a lovely birthday cake) one 9-inch round is enough.

2 eggs, seperated
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cup flour, sifted
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Butter the paper and then dust the pan with flour, tapping out the extra into the sink

2. Stir together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

3. In another bowl, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar to the butter, and cream. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time and then add the vanilla.

4. Add the flour mixture and the milk, alternately, beginning and ending with the flour.

5. In (yet) another bowl, beat the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Stir a bit of the egg whites into the batter to loosen it a bit and then carefully fold in the rest.

6. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for about 30-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool on a rack.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Just the two of us

For a while this fall, Kol Ha-Isha, the organization that funds the kitchen, was having financial troubles. This meant cuts in the kitchen- both in terms of supplies and in terms of personnel. So for a few weeks it was just me and C in the kitchen. The first week it was the two of us, I was quite nervous. I thought it would be all chaos and pressure. But it wasn't. Not at all. It was a good, quiet day. If the kitchen was experiencing cuts, so were we. We did only what we needed to do. We cooked foods that were low-fuss. We prepared almost nothing for the next day. We went back to basics. So while I was glad when we returned to our three person team, I was also a little sad to say goodbye to our pared down kitchen. I liked just the two of us.

My sister, who is also my roommate, is in Russia for business this week and I'm missing dinners with her. (My little sister travels to foreign countries for work- how did that happen?) We don't eat dinner together every night, my sister and I, as our schedules differ quite a bit. But we do try to sit down together once or twice a week. Our meals aren't long, or complicated affairs. We eat pasta, shakshuka, fish, polenta, leftovers-whatever we can pull together from what we have at hand. I enjoy these meals. I like touching base with my sister, having just a moment to talk with her and share a beer. I like simple, everyday food.

I make this recipe- or some version of it-all the time. It's really the epitome of "holy-cow, I have nothing in my pantry/ I really don't want to fuss" cooking. All you need is some pasta, an egg or two, some Parmesan, maybe some herbs, maybe some zucchini. And there you have it, dinner. Good dinner.

And oh, yes. Happy birthday, sister of mine. Hope this year's a good one.

Mark Bittman's Spaghetti with Zucchini

Adapted from Quick and Easy Recipes from The New York Times

As with most things Bittman, this recipe is more of a guideline than a recipe. In fact, I almost never use zucchini, due to the fact that I often don't have it in the house when I'm making this. Sometimes, I'll add a bunch of frozen peas to the pasta water and use those instead of zucchini. Sometimes, I crispify a few sage leaves in olive oil and add those to the final version. Sometimes, it's just pasta, egg and Parmesan, green things be damned.

3 tablespoons olive oil
3-4 small zucchinis, sliced
2 eggs
1 cup grated Parmesan
1 lb spaghetti
1/2 cup herbs (parsley, basil, mint, etc), roughly chopped

1. In a skillet, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the zucchini and cook, stirring occasionally for about 10-15 minutes, until lightly browned. Add salt and a bunch of black pepper.

2. Beat the eggs with about 1/2 of the cheese. Cook the pasta al-dente (or as you like. I try not to judge.). Drain and immediately combine with the egg-cheese mixture*. Toss until the egg appears cooked. Stir in the zucchini and the herb. Serve with remaining Parmesan.

*I quote Bittman's note: "The eggs will cook fully from the heat of the pasta. If this makes you nervous, however, do the final tossing of the eggs, cheese and pasta in the cooking pot, over the lowest heat possible" End quote.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Last class

One of the aspects of the program that I have not written about much was a four month course in small business management. The course has not been part of the blog because it does not have to do with the kitchen per say, but it has been a large part of my life. We were about 15 women all together. Different ages. Different backgrounds. All glad to be there. We took the class seriously, but it was also a sort of  "girls night out". There was a lot of laughter, a lot of joking, some crying, and a lot of sharing of food.
For the last class we all brought our best. Homemade bourekas, quiche made the way only a French woman can make it, cake, etc. I brought my Deep, Dark Chocolate Tart, because it is the most extravagant thing I make, and I felt that the situation called for it. Parting is bittersweet. I'm glad I met these women. Every single one of them. Some of them I have remained in contact with. Others, less so. But I am happy I know them, and sad that I do not see them on a regular basis anymore. So, bittersweet.

I am not going to post the recipe for Deep, Dark Chocolate Tart, because, I'm not. I am however going to post the recipe for 101 Cookbooks wonderful No Bake Chocolate Cake. This cake isn't really a cake, it's more like a slab of chocolate truffle goodness, tinged with coffee and spice. It's easier than a tart ( again, no-bake) and particularly great when you're running late and have to throw something together. I heartily approve.

No Bake Chocolate Cake

From 101 Cookbooks

butter, to grease pan
8 ounces / 225 g 70% chocolate, well chopped
8 ounces / 225 g heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon allspice (optional)
2 teaspoons finely ground espresso (optional)
1/4 teaspoon fine grain salt
cocoa powder, to serve

Lightly butter a 6-inch / 15cm springform pan or equivalent

Melt chocolate over double boiler.

In another pan heat the cream over gentle heat. Stir in the allspice and the espresso, if using. When the cream is very warm remove from heat and stir in the salt.

Pour the chocolate into the cream, and very slowly and steadily stir until everything comes together smoothly. Pour into the pan, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled throughout, a few hours, or overnight.

When ready to serve, remove from the pan, let set at room temperature for ten minutes or so, dust with a bit of cocoa powder, and slice. Alternately, you can slice and serve from the pan.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Here comes the sun

Winter is here and so are citrus fruits. This means one thing and one thing only: it's time for a little bit of sunshine cake. Check out the menu. Order a cake.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Public Service Announcement

I am going on vacation and so is Hungry Souls. Blog writing and baking will recommence when I return next week. Have a good week y'all.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Rolling with the Punches

R. has had a busy summer. She had a steady gig cooking for a group of teenagers who were in Israel for the summer on an educational program. She flitted in and out of the kitchen. Roasting chicken wings and cooking meatballs. Her daughter would also sometimes come along, griping, the way only a pre-teen can gripe about spending her summer vacation helping her mom, but secretly enjoying it. We would also lend a hand, when we could.
On one particular week she was heading out the door, when she realized that she had completely forgotten to chop the Israeli salad that was meant to be served that day. Within seconds, her daughter grabbed some tomatoes, I grabbed the cucumbers, C. ran for the peppers and minutes later R. was on her way.

One of the things I have learned from both C and R is how to roll with the punches. Because, the punches, they will come. Inevitably, you will forget the salad, your car will stall, you will run out of vegetables, or, if you're me, you'll take a test bite of cookie you made the day before and realize that they really do need to be eaten the day they are made and cannot be sold as such. So, (if you're me) you pull your extra dough out of the freezer and curse yourself for not storing it the refrigerator instead as you hack off pieces with a knife. And everything will work out. An hour and half later, your customers will show up and the cookies will be ready and cooled, and packaged. You give yourself leeway, be prepared to eat your losses and rely on your friends. There's no other way to do it.

But enough about me, and more about Israeli salad. A good Israeli salad is one of the most simplest, purest pleasures there is. In the kitchen it is a mainstay of our little family meals that we eat together between rounds of service. I am always surprised at how much I crave the bright freshness of the salad. After hours of standing on my feet it gives me a little jolt. The king of Israeli salad among our little group is our dishwasher, M. He chops the vegetables almost impossibly small and always somehow achieves the perfect lemon-salt-olive oil balance. It is truly a great salad. My Israeli salad is not quite as impressive but it is still very good. Here are a few guidelines:
1) Use the nicest and freshest vegetables you can find. Tired vegetables make for a tired salad
2) Do try and find Persian cucumbers if you can. Don't peel them.
3) Try and dice the vegetables as finely as you can.
4) I like a lot of cucumber and not so much pepper. Feel free to mess around with the ratios.

My Israeli Salad

3 cucumbers
2 ripe tomatoes
1 red pepper
1/2 red onion
freshly squeezed lemon juice
good olive oil

1) Cut your vegetables into a small dice and combine
2) Juice half a lemon and pour it over the vegetables. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle on the salt and pepper. Give it a good mix and let it sit for a few minutes.
3) Taste to see if it requires more lemon juice, olive oil or salt and pepper. The salad should taste bright and lemony, but not lip-puckeringly tart. Adjust accordingly. Eat with bread to sop up the juices.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

More Rosh Hashanah (and a Reminder)

The reminder is this: Hungry Souls has opened its doors. Muffins! Chocolate Tart! Honey Cake! Cookies! Take a look at the menu and order now for break-fast, Sukkot, or just to have in the house.
In other news-some pics from Rosh Hashanah prep:

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Rosh Hashana Interlude

This year has been a year of changes. At this point last year I was a Master's student in Jewish history with a part time job at an academic research project. Now, I am no longer a student, but a magistra. I am leaving my job at the project. I edit, translate and write. I work in a kitchen. I'm opening a business. I have a food blog. It has been a year in transit.
Change is wonderful. And stressful. And wonderful. It's helpful to have absolutes. My absolutes have been my family and my friends. They tolerate my highs and lows. They buy my muffins and give advice. They are shoulders to lean on, both literally and figuratively. For that I thank them.
The recipe for stuffed fish below is another absolute in my life. For as long  as I can remember it has been my favorite thing that my mother makes on Rosh Hashana. And when, earlier this week, I called my mother for some menu-planning advice, the only two things we could think of that she consistently makes on the Jewish New Year is this fish and my great-aunt's honey cake. (Which is entirely weird, because if there's one thing that my family does it's food traditions).  Because this is a traditional sort of recipe, the measurements are sort of vague. We've been making it for so long, that by now, we can do it by sight and feel. If you find yourself slightly flustered by the lack of measurements, take a deep breath and trust yourself. It's a good dish, this. It won't lead you wrong.
May the coming year be a year of peace and blessings and as sweet as honey.

My Mother's Stuffed Fish

1 largish firm fleshed whitefish, butterflied.

vegetable oil
 white button mushrooms, sliced (as much, or as little as you like)
2 onions, chopped
freshly ground pepper
a bit of water
1 egg

5 tbl mayonaisse
7 tbl ketchup
1 tbl lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350

Saute the onions in the oil until translucent. Add the mushrooms. Cook until they are browned. Add salt and pepper to taste, and then deglaze the pan with a bit of water. Transfer to a bowl and let cool a bit. Beat an egg into the mushroom-onion mixture. Add the breadcrumbs in slowly (I'd say start with about a 1/2 cup) until the mixture begins to hold together and look like stuffing. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.

In a seperate bowl, mix together the ingredients for the sauce.

Loosly fill the cavity of the with stuffing. Close the fish and brush the sauce over the top.

Bake for an hour* until the fish is translucent and the stuffing has set.

* My mother usually stuffs a big fish- one that fits into an 11x13 pan. If you are using a smaller fish (or two smaller fish), adjust the time accordingly.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Battle Wounds

"...they come not single spies, but in battalions" Claudius, Hamlet IV.5

I do not speak of sorrows, but of life. I find that Claudius's maxim on the sorrows of the world, applies also to life in general. When life happens, it happens all at once. It comes in battalions. Life in the kitchen is no exception.

There are two sinks in the kitchen- a small one in the fore-room where we wash our private dishes- the mugs we use for coffee, etc- and a fairly large one in the prep room where we dump  our loads of vegetables to be washed and sorted. The big sink is a little bit essential. That week, it was also a little bit broken and by a little bit broken I mean the handle snapped off and couldn't be reattached. We would have to manage with one small sink. On a normal day, that would be difficult but within the range of not-chaos inducing. On that particular day, R. happened to be in kitchen prepping for a private catering event that she had later that day. This meant we had one more hand in the kitchen, which was useful, but it also meant that there was a whole lot more produce to wash and general stuff to be done than there usually is. We were all a tad bit uptight that day. Our dishwasher was testier than usual.  C. cut herself. And then, after, having been instructed to keep an eye on some cooking vegetables, I completely forgot and ended up with a nice pot of burnt. Broken sink. Burnt vegetables. Bleeding cook.  At that point I excused myself to the front to do service, both to avoid the wrath of the dishwasher, who hates nothing more than burnt pots, and to minimize my ability to screw something else up.

While doing service, as often happens, I ran out of whatever protein we were serving that day. I called to the dishwasher to pull me another pan out of the oven. He complied. He leaned in. I moved my arm back and felt a sharp pain on my upper arm. At first I thought I had cut myself on the sharp edge of the pan. I lifted my other hand up to feel. No blood. I continued service. Later, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and realized what I thought was a cut, was really a nice long burn. My first real kitchen burn. My first battle scar. For a few weeks I walked around in short sleeves as often as I could, showing off to myself a little bit. For all my tough-guy posturing though, I soon discovered, that a) it was uncomfortable and b) it was also healing quite nicely. I barely have a scar.

All the while, R., old hand that she is, was calmly prepping chicken wings, laying them in pans, pouring on sauce and sprinkling them with sesame seeds. Save her car breaking down on the side of a busy highway while transporting food to an important event (another story for another time), there is very little that rattles R. So in honor of the unflappable R, chicken wings.

Grilled Chicken Wings in Sumac
As usual adapted from The Book of New Israeli Food  by Janna Gur
(what can I say, I like this book)

Sumac is widely used spice in Middle East. Less so, in the States. It is deep, ruby red in color and sort of salty and tart. You can use it in marinades and dressings, as its used here. Or sprinkle it over hummus, or fatoush salad. It pairs nicely with thyme. You can probably find it in your local Middle Eastern grocery store.

For about 25 wings:

1/2 C olive oil
3 tbl sumac
Salt and pepper

1. Clean and prep your wings. Remove stray feathers and break off the tips. Save them for stock.

2.  Mix together the olive oil, sumac, salt and pepper and pour over the wings. Cover and marinate for at least 4 hours.

3. Heat your grill until quite hot. Grill the wings for 10-15 per side, about 30 minutes total, until they are done and nice and crispy on the outside. Alternatively, if you do not own a grill, do not wish to grill or are a non-Chicagoan in a Chicago winter (real Chicagoans don't let a little bit of snow stop them) you can grill the wings under a broiler of an oven set to 425 F.

Monday, September 12, 2011

At last!

Hungry Souls' menu has been posted. Available muffins include Peach-Oat (with brown butter and vanilla), Mango-Cardamom and Whole Wheat Apple.
I will be accepting orders starting Oct. 2.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Peeling beets is cooking too

So, dear readers, remember how last week I mentioned a deadline? Well, that deadline ate my life. It kicked my butt. All the grand plans I had for the week, menu posting included, got entirely decimated. I am a deadline zombie. But the menu will get posted. Promise.
* * *
B. is the head of the entire נשים מבשלות program. She co-teaches a course on business management, but mostly her job is to urge us, cajole us and nudge us into opening a business. Sometimes, when I am not in the mood to be urged, cajoled or nudged, it can be annoying. But the honest truth is that without B. I would not be doing this. I would have given up ages ago. But B. has pestered me and pushed me. She won't let go. She won't let go because it's her job not to let go, and she won't let go because she absolutely and completely believes in me and my dream. I tend to think that B. has an unshakable faith in the ability of women to do what they set their minds to. But more than that, she believes in the importance of women doing the things the set their minds to.
B., ironically enough, is not a cook. She stops by the kitchen almost every day just to see what's going on and to make sure that things are moving smoothly, but she would much rather have someone cook for her, than do it herself. One week I was standing in front of a tub of beets, staining my hands red as I peeled them, B. popped her head into the kitchen. 
"Why is she peeling beets?" she asked, referring to me. "She should be cooking. She needs the practice." 
So, I reluctantly removed myself from beet duty and went to do something else. What it was I can't really recall, but I'm sure it was more cooking-y. I was sort of irked, but only afterward, when I was in the pool (doesn't everybody do their best thinking in the pool?), did I realize what I had wanted to respond to B.-peeling beets is cooking too. 
Prep work is an integral part of cooking. There's no way around it. Those beets need to get peeled one way or another. To be honest, I don't much mind it. (Except for washing lettuce. I hate washing lettuce.) I find the repetitiveness soothing. I like to touch my food, to feel its texture and weight. To get a sense of it. Part of cooking is learning your food. Part of cooking is prep. 

I have been wanting to tell you guys about this salad for forever, but was holding out till pomegranate season. Lo, and behold, pomegranate season is upon us now and so here it is- my absolutely favorite recipe from the oft cited Book of New Israeli Food, by Janna Gur.

Beetroot and Pomegranate Salad

As usual, notes: While pomegranate concentrate sounds like a very exotic ingredient, it can actually be found in almost any Israeli supermarket. It'll be near the ketchup and other sauces. Also, Gur calls for the beets to be boiled, but I vastly prefer my beets roasted. If you have a fear of roasted beets, by all means, boil the suckers.

3-4 medium beets
2 tbl pomegranate concentrate
2-3 tbl freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 (or to taste) dried chili peppers, crushed
coarse sea salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
1 cup pomegranate seeds

Preheat the oven to 375

1. Wrap each beet individually in its only little tightly-sealed packet of tin foil. Place in the oven and roast for 45 minutes to an hour, until the beets can be pierced easily with a knife (exact cooking times will vary). Remove beets and when they are cool enough to touch, hold each beet (one at a time) between your hands, and pull the tin foil down, scraping the peel as you go. The peel should slip right off. Let the beets cool completely and then cut into a small dice.

2. Mix the beets with the pomegranate concentrate, lemon juice, chili peppers and salt. Set aside for about 15 minutes. 

3. Add the cilantro and pomegranate seeds. Drizzle olive oil on top. Serve.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Bigger than my head

What you see above is not a distended watermelon; it is a pumpkin. It is the pumpkin that was bigger than my head. We conquered that pumpkin. It was actually a lot easier than it would seem. Pumpkins are surprisingly soft on the inside. How we came to acquire said gourd is no mystery either. The kitchen has suppliers. Sometimes they supply us with pumpkins bigger than my head. We made soup with it. The type of soup that goes over couscous. It's a good soup, made with summer squash, chickpeas, onions, cilantro and turmeric. But that soup is not the subject of this post.
There are a few other things in my life right now that feel bigger than my head and one of them is this: in a few days time there will be a new page on Hungry Souls entitled "Food For The Eating". On that page there will be a menu and some rules (no kicking, no biting, etc). The baked goods on that menu, which will include muffins, cookies, cakes and tarts will be for sale. The menu will change with the seasons, but the basic outline will remain (there will always be muffins).

I've been planning this for a while. After all, the point of my work in the kitchen is to prepare me for the world of culinary businessdom. And yet, (things one probably shouldn't admit in public), I don't feel at all prepared. It feels entirely bigger than my head; more than I can chew; water up to my neck. So this morning, after having spent most of my week ensconced in front of my computer working on an urgent translating project (deadlines!), I went into my kitchen and made Kim Boyce's Strawberry Barley Scones. I bruised butter into soft flour. I felt the smoothness of the rich dough between my hands. I moved slowly. I ate two scones with my coffee, hot and buttery, directly from the oven. I remembered why I love this and why I want to do this. So here it is, Hungry Souls' other page, Food For The Eating. Let me feed you.

Strawberry Barley Scones lightly adapted from Good to the Grain  by Kim Boyce

Here's the thing about Kim Boyce's wonderful book. Sometimes it is a pain in the butt, because sometimes you get it into your head that you really, really need to make Chocolate Chocolate Cookies, but you don't have any spelt flour in the house and you don't feel like dragging yourself all the way to the shuk to get some. Sometimes, you realize you have no idea what kamut flour is, nor have you ever seen teff flour despite the large Ethiopian population in Israel. Usually, in situations like that, I just say screw it, and make the recipe with whatever I have on hand. But not with Kim Boyce's recipes. When she says use barley flour, I use barley flour.  It just so happened that I had barley flour in the house since I have been playing around with barley-mango muffins, so I was able to make these scones. If you find yourself in a similar situation, that is to say with barley flour in the house, please do make these. They are spectacular.
One more thing (ok, two more things)- I find that Boyce's recipes often have too much salt. This may have to do with Israeli coarse salt versus American coarse salt. It just seems saltier. I've left the salt as written, but if you're in Israel you may want to cut it down significantly.  The second thing is that though these are Barley Strawberry Scones, I didn't use strawberry jam. But that's really neither here nor there.

Dry Mix:

1 cup plus 2 tbl barley flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp kosher salt

Wet Mix:

4 oz (1 stick, 113.4 grams) cold, unsalted butter
1/2 cup buttermilk or yogurt
1 egg

1/2 cup Strawberry Jam (or any other jam that suits your fancy)
1 tbl butter, melted
1 tbl sugar

1. Place rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350. Rub a baking sheet with butter. Sift together dry ingredients
2. Cut the butter into 1/2 inch pieces and add them to the dry mixture, rubbing the butter between your fingers until it is in small bits (somewhere between grains of rice and small peas). Do this quickly so the butter doesn't soften too much
3. Whisk together the buttermilk/yogurt and egg and pour into dry mixture. Mix until barely combined.
4. Turn the dough onto a well floured surface, and fold it together a few times. Divide the dough into 2 pieces. With floured hands, pat each piece into a disk about 3/4 inch thick and 7 inches in diameter.
5. Cover one disk with jam and top with the other disk. Press down lightly. Brush the dough with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 8 wedges and carefully place them on the baking sheet.
6. Bake the scones for 22-26 minutes.
7. Eat warm with coffee (or tea, if that's your thing).