Sunday, September 27, 2015

Tomato Burrata Toast and a #WholeFoods #Giveaway

This warm September morning I had this for breakfast. Yesterday I had this for dinner. And I also had it for lunch. To say I am obsessed with this tomato salad would be true. It is good Manservant is away, because he would not be obsessed with this. He prefers his tomatoes in salsa form. As a child I hated tomatoes. I did like them in ketchup form and of course that was way back before I'd even heard of salsa. So other than eating them as spaghetti sauce or chili, I really never ate tomatoes. Even tomato soup wasn't on my radar screen.

My mom did buy tomatoes. I think even back then they were the cold, refrigerated kind. Except when it was summer. Summer found us at the little farm stand on Court Street with the sand floors. It was always cool in side even though it was an open air stand. The front door always had bunches of gladiolas in every color of the rainbow to greet you. They came in bunches of a dozen for 99 cents. It was always hard to choose my favorite color. We also bought fresh corn there. My guess is that they were 99 cents a dozen also, but I don't remember. I think the hardest thing and that which took the longest, was when mom chose tomatoes. She would pick up each one and check for bruises. Then she would smell them as if she was choosing her favorite perfume. Then she would set them aside and get a brown paper bag and start placing them carefully inside. As we got into the car we were always told to, "Watch the tomatoes!"

Upon arriving home the tomatoes were gently placed on the window sill where upon they sat until she sliced them into giant rounds and sprinkled salt and pepper on them . Sometimes she served them with cucumbers and sliced onions. Sometimes she just ate them straight. And all this time I wouldn't eat them. They did not cross my lips. Even when she started growing them herself, I never ate a tomato. I didn't even eat fried green tomatoes which my mom made once a year. I mean really! I didn't eat something fried? I am sure that my mother never wanted us to like tomatoes because some things you just want all to yourself. It really wasn't until a few years ago that I ate tomatoes. It probably came about in the form of a caprese salad. It is hard to resist cheese, even if it is served with tomatoes. I guess it was all over for me then, as I quickly discovered what I'd been missing for some 50 years.

And don't even get me started on green peppers. I hated green peppers and there was no such thing as red ones back then. Really. I don't think I saw a red pepper until I was 23 and in Israel, where I don't believe they have green peppers! I know they all come from the same plant but it's very funny how people prefer their peppers. Still to this day I don't like green peppers, unless it smells like a green pepper. It needs to smell just picked and pungent and then and only then, will I eat it. I've had good luck this year finding really good green peppers. Just always look for those that smell. My guess is that they are the freshest and the others have probably been refrigerated.

Now it's the end of summer and it's time to get your tomatoes in. Whole Foods has some of the best I've seen. They have the heirlooms and the red and yellow pear tomatoes and the green zebras and the early girls, the romas, and the beefsteaks and the brandywines. I even love the names of the tomatoes. They are all so pretty I hate to eat them. The amazing thing is that each have their own individual taste. So get them while you still can. Summer's bounty will soon be gone.

My salad toast is about as simple as it gets.Yes you could eat this just as a salad, but there is nothing like a good hunk of bread to soak up all that tomato goodness. Please make sure everything is at room temperature. Even the cheese! And please never refrigerate tomatoes. That is a no no! Make sure you have good artisan bread. This is a salad of flavor and texture and is pleasing to the eye. And we all know that we eat with our eyes, don't we?

Whole Foods is giving away 1 $25 gift card to help fill your basket. This post is sponsored by Whole Foods but  opinions expressed are mine. Open only to US residents. No compensation has been given but products have been provided. Giveaway closes on October 31, 2015. Winner will be chosen by Random Number Generator.

How to Enter:

· Enter once by leaving me a comment and telling me your favorite way to use tomatoes.
· Enter twice by subscribing to This is How I Cook
· Enter again by following me on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. 

Tomato Burrata Toast
Serves 4
Time to Make: About 15 minutes
1/2 c chopped onion
1/2 c chopped green pepper
1 1/2 c rough chopped or sliced assorted tomatoes
1/2 c sliced pimento olives
3 grinds of black pepper
1/4 to 1/2 t salt
1 T rough chopped fresh parsley and basil
1 T balsamic vinegar

Olive oil to drizzle
4 slices of artisan bread toast
2 balls of Burrata sliced in half
Pinch of chile flakes, if desired

In a bowl combine onions, green pepper, tomatoes and olives. Add pepper, salt, parsley and basil. Toss gently with vinegar. Let sit while toasting bread. By now some of the juices of the tomatoes have collected in the bottom of the bowl. Take a spoonful and drizzle over toast. Place a large spoonful of tomatoes on top of that. Then half of the Burrata ball. Drizzle with a little olive oil and a bit more pepper. Serve with a knife and fork.

Click below for more summer recipes:
Peach, Green Chile and Sage Bites
10 Heirloom Tomato Ideas from Whole Foods
Farro Salad with Grilled Vegetables
Calabacitas Tomato Sandwich

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Fresh Fried Rice with Jerky and Potato Chips

I don't know about you, but when I'm searching for a recipe or creating one, finding a new technique and keeping it simple and full of flavor, is high on my list. Fried rice is something I always enjoy, but way too often, I don't have the chilled rice on hand to make it. That seems to be a prerequisite for fried rice, which is a great way for you and the Chinese restaurants to use up all that leftover rice. Planning ahead is not always my virtue, so when I saw this recipe tucked away in the sidebar of the latest Bon Appetit, I pounced on it.

Here is a fried rice recipe that uses freshly steamed rice. No planning ahead and no need for take outs-fried rice is mine. Now I must admit that one other ingredient caught my eye. Yes, if something calls for potato chips as an ingredient in a recipe, well I'm all over it. As an ingredient potato chips are no longer junk food, don't you know? I've made tortillas espanola with potato chips. I've made jian bing with potato chips. I've put potato chips on sandwiches. But I've never made fried rice with potato chips. SO. This dish doesn't require cold rice, but it does require potato chips. Well, truth is it really doesn't, but it called for potato chips and usually when I make a recipe for the first time I try to do what is specified. So now I found out that potato chips are kind of cool, but bean sprouts work well, too, if you need some crunch!

Fried Rice with Potato Chips

Before I found this technique, my go to fried rice recipe was from an old cookbook of mine. It is a classic for Chinese food and I believe I bought it in college. Yes Craig Claiborne and Virginia Lee and "The Chinese Cookbook", still rock. It is there that I discovered oyster sauce. Oyster sauce gives fried rice a sweetish taste which is needed to balance the salty. It calls for peas, scallions, Chinese sausages (though I always used fresh ground pork), and baby shrimps. It is a good one, too but it still calls for cold, cooked rice. Now I know. Cold cooked rice is so 70's!

I have always wanted to eat at Mission Chinese Food in San Francisco, but right now this fried rice is about as close as I'm getting. I love Danny's use of fresh rice and his use of potato chips and jerky, but I was so missing the oyster sauce. Well, that is until I added it. Call me old fashioned, but I like my fried rice with oyster sauce! However, no more cold rice for me. This will be my go to method from this day forward, forever more. And the best part is, I don't have to plan ahead!

Fresh Fried Rice with jerky and potato chips is a new take on an old recipe. The best part is this is made with fresh rice and you don't need to make it ahead. Really, really good! www.thisishowicook #Chineserecipes #Fried Rice

Fresh Fried Rice with Jerky and Potato Chips
From: Bon Appetit, September 2015
Serves 4
Time to Make: About 20 minutes prep and 20 minutes for cooking the rice (As with all Chinese recipes, have your ingredients ready before you start cooking.)
3 cups warm cooked Jasmine rice (cooked according to package directions)
3 T grapeseed or peanut oil
1 c sliced mushrooms
2 beaten large eggs
1 t sugar
1/2 c chopped white onion
1/2 c crushed kettle-cooked potato chips
1/2 c sliced jerky (I used teriyaki turkey)
1/2 c chopped scallions
2 T oyster sauce (optional, but see above)
Salt to season
2 T chicken broth
For garnish: Sliced Red onion, cilantro, potato chips, 1/2 c bean sprouts (optional)

Heat 3 T of oil in a large nonstick or cast iron skillet on high. Cook 1 c sliced mushrooms, tossing until just brown, for about 1 minute. Pour in the beaten eggs and stir for about 10 seconds. Add the rice. Pat down into an even layer, then vigorously start tossing everything together. (I will tell you this made a mess of my stove, but that's the way it goes!) Continue tossing until grains dry out and separate, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar, onions, chips, jerky and scallions. Season with salt. Cook until onion is slightly softened, about 2 minutes. Season with salt or oyster sauce. Toss together. Pour 2 T of chicken broth around edges of skillet, tossing until broth evaporates. Garnish with red onion, cilantro, and more potato chips or bean sprouts.

More to try:
                                                           Chinese Noodles with an Angry Egg


                                                                           Dan Dan Sliders


                                                                Thai Chicken Larb Salad


Fresh Fried Rice with jerky and potato chips is a new take on an old recipe. The best part is this is made with fresh rice and you don't need to make it ahead. Really, really good! www.thisishowicook #Chineserecipes #Fried Rice

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Simple Spicy Sweet Salmon

Weekends are the time to shop sales. Well, at least in my opinion. This weekend Whole Foods has a great deal on King Salmon. Get it while you can, because today and tomorrow are the last days of the sale. King salmon is a chinook salmon, the largest of all Pacific salmon. Well, king fits this guy to the T; this was one spectacular piece of fish. It was rich and luscious and a great way to spoil myself.

Most of us also love easy and quick to make dinners on the weekend. Check and check. This is easy and quick to make. It is a perfect way to cook salmon. The slow roasting means you have time to throw a salad together, make some rice and bingo, the salmon is ready and it is time to eat! There isn't a way to overcook this fish, unless you forget about it and leave it in the oven too long. Slow roasting means this is moist, with a soft, not dry texture. Now you could also grill this fish, but I wasn't prepared to man the grill, so that meant oven for me.

The spicy sweet flavors of this salmon match well with rice. I fried mine, but steamed is perfectly OK. I used a Gochujang garlic sauce to make this but a chili garlic Chinese sauce would be a good substitute. I found that at Whole Foods, too! I used apricot jam and because it wasn't the sweetest of jams, I added a touch of honey. You may or may not want to. Peach jam would also be superb.

Now get on your scooter and hop on over to Whole Foods. Bike over to Whole Foods. Yes, you could even drive to Whole Foods. Just do it! This salmon is so worth it.

"This is a sponsored post by Whole Foods. All opinions expressed are mine. Product was supplied, but no compensation was given."

Simple Spicy Sweet Salmon
Time to Make: 5 minutes Time to Bake: 30 minutes
Serves 2-3
1 lb King Chinook salmon
1/4 c apricot or peach jam
2 1/2 T Gochujang garlic sauce
1/4 t smoked paprika
1 t honey (optional)
Chopped Green Onions and Sesame Seed for garnish

Preheat oven to 250. Line a baking pan with foil. Mix  the jam, Gochujang sauce, smoked paprika and honey together. Spread over the salmon on all sides, except the bottom.

Place in oven for 30 minutes. Test if fish is cooked to your liking. Garnish with green onions and sesame seeds. Enjoy!

Other great fish recipes:
Moroccan Fish with Saffron Lime Aioli
White Fish with Mushrooms and Browned Butter
Orange Cacao Rub Roasted Paiche
Roasted Salmon with Roasted Fennel
Cajun Fish with Browned Butter and Pecans

The winner of the last Whole Foods giveaway according to random number generator is: the incredible Adam J. Holland!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Honey Glazed Chicken with Lemon and Olives

Honey Glazed Chicken with Lemon and Olives is filled with flavor and perfect for a family meal. Glazed with a bit of honey and the zest of lemon this is on regular rotation at our house. #chicken #recipes

I don't know about you, but I'm always on the lookout for a good chicken recipe. As the weather becomes cooler, my cooking has increasingly moved inside. I will miss the aroma of grilling, but filling the house with warm, comforting bouquets has its appeal. Fall has always meant Friday night dinners, signaling the end of the week and the beginning of Shabbat. Yes, it is Shabbat even in the summer and all year round; it comes every Friday night! Somehow summer always finds me lazier and I neglect my duties, when it comes to welcoming the Sabbath bride. But Fall puts things back into perspective and reminds me to light the candles and get a challah, have some wine and to find some new, good, chicken recipes!

Manservant has been working nonstop and when he finds time to eat, I like to give him something nourishing and comforting. This honey glazed chicken is cooked with lemons and olives and onions. It is browned on the stove and finished in the oven. A luscious sauce of white wine with the essence of onions and lemons, and the saltiness of olives, makes it a perfect compliment to the honey glazed chicken. I pulled this recipe from Joan Nathan's cookbook, "Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous." This book is her journey about searching for Jewish recipes in France. What a journey it was! I'm sure I would have gained at least 10 lbs!

Honey Glazed Chicken with Lemon and Olives is filled with flavor and perfect for a family meal. Glazed with a bit of honey and the zest of lemon this is on regular rotation at our house. #chicken #recipes

 I served this chicken with baked sweet potatoes and some roasted Brussels sprouts. Yes, this may not beat barbeque, but it sure makes one linger over the dinner table. That's always a good sign to me that the dish was a hit! And our day in the mountains was glorious also. It allowed us to regenerate and fill our senses with something other than work. It may sound silly but being in God's glory is always rejuvenating to me.

Rosh Hashonah began with  photos via Whats App, from Alex. He attended services at the Ohel Moshe synagogue in Shanghai. 

This was the first time since WW2, that the synagogue has been used for Jewish services. It is not commonly known that Shanghai accepted over 30,000 Jews during WW2. When Japan invaded China in 1943, the Jews were held in the Shanghai Ghetto. There were only two places in the world that did not close their borders to Jews; Shanghai and the Dominican Republic.

 It then continued with photos from Zoe. She went to the oldest synagogue in Philly. It is quite beautiful.

 And then Manservant sent a photo out. He  replied to Zoe, "Cool Zoe. But our place is older...just saying. " Ahh. The beauty of What's App!

And so it is-our new year. May it bless us all with health and happiness. And of course, peace for all and for allowing us all to reach this season. Happy New Year! Now go eat chicken!

Honey Glazed Chicken with Lemon and Olives is filled with flavor and perfect for a family meal. Glazed with a bit of honey and the zest of lemon this is on regular rotation at our house. #chicken #recipes

Honey Glazed Chicken with Lemon and Olives
Adapted from: Quiches, Kugels and Couscous (Joan Nathan)
Serves 6
Time To Make: About 45 minutes to prepare and 40 minutes to bake
2 T olive oil
1 large onion, cut and peeled in rings
1 4.5 lb chicken, cut into 10 pieces
Salt, pepper, paprika
1/2 c of honey
2 c white wine
1 jar of preserved lemons from Trader Joe's or just use 2 whole lemons, sliced
1/2 c of black pitted Nicoise olives
1 handful of chopped cilantro or parsley

Preheat oven to 375. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven and fry the onions until golden. I cover these and it goes faster. Remove from Dutch oven and set aside.

Season the chicken with salt, pepper and paprika. Brown in the Dutch oven. Set aside. Place onions back in a 13 x 9 roasting pan and place chicken, skin side up, on top of onions. Now smear some honey on top of each piece of chicken. Pour the wine and remaining honey into the Dutch oven and bring to a boil. Reduce by half and pour around the chicken in pan. Scatter the lemon slices and olives around the chicken.

Bake uncovered about 40 minutes, or until the chicken pieces are cooked through. Sprinkle with cilantro or parsley before serving. I also garnished this with some fresh lemon slices!

More Great Recipes:
Chicken Soup Chicken
Chicken, Artichoke and Mushroom Casserole
Saffron Baked Chicken
Lemon Garlic Spatchcock Roast Chicken

Honey Glazed Chicken with Lemon and Olives is filled with flavor and perfect for a family meal. Glazed with a bit of honey and the zest of lemon this is on regular rotation at our house. #chicken #recipes

Friday, September 11, 2015

Honey Cake with Apples and Toasted Walnuts

Every year I make honey cakes. Every year I always think it can be improved upon. BUT NOT THIS YEAR! Maybe that's a sign that this year, will be a good year. However, it could have started with better news. I just heard from a dear friend of mine (who is really family) that she had a stroke. She doesn't live in this country, so I am feeling totally helpless about what to do. It is painful just sitting here, wishing I could be there to help. She sounds good on the phone, but I know she will have a lot of recovery to do.

I could become all philosophical, but I will spare you. Let's all appreciate what we have and be grateful. Life can change at the drop of a hat. For better or for worse though, life does have a way of moving on. Sometimes it may seem that it is standing still, but that's when the joke is on us. I'm grateful that I've reached this season and I hope you are too. And I said I'd spare you!

As a child, honey cake was never my favorite. In fact, the only way I remember honey cake was from a Manischewitz boxed mix and baked in a foil pan. I didn't like it. My mom always made taiglach. Now that was my favorite. I used to make it when the kids were young, but they didn't like that. So what is taiglach you may ask? Taiglach are baked cookie dough pieces that after baking, are then cooked in a mixture of honey and ginger. My mom always made hers like strudel. She'd roll the dough out thin and then sprinkle raisin and nuts on top. Then it would be rolled up jelly roll style, sliced, pinched together and then baked. After that it would be cooked in the honey syrup. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water. I really must make these again, but the problem is that I know I will be the one eating them all. And lest you forget, I am on the Costa Rican beach diet!

But back to honey cake. Honey cake is really a spice cake made with honey. It isn't a rich cake. I bake mine in a loaf pan, but it could also be baked in a rectangular pan. It is not meant to be frosted. Honey cake is made with oil instead of butter. If one does keep kosher, it means you can eat this with either a dairy or a meat meal. It is made to be served with coffee or tea and coffee or tea can be used interchangeably in the recipe. You could add raisins or chocolate chips. This year I added apples. After all, apples and honey, that may sound funny, but they will make the new year, sweet and sunny. OK. That was a kid's song we used to sing, and I guess I still do. Every frickin' year!

This really is the best honey cake I've made. I used bourbon in it and strong Earl Grey tea. I added a grated apple which though you can't taste it, it did make this very moist. Oh. I also upped the honey. Love the extra honey in this! I also love drizzling more honey on top. And I added toasted walnuts. I could have added chocolate chips but I stuck with tradition. One slice is perfect with afternoon tea and one slice is perfect for breakfast. And yes, you can rearrange the spices in this. I'm sure pumpkin spice would taste great and if you aren't a huge fan of cinnamon, then just decrease it.

Honey cake is moist and homey. Perfect for Fall. Great toasted and slathered with butter; just be careful it doesn't fall apart. It is full of flavor and improves with age. (Just like me!) It makes a great snack and makes 2-3 cakes so one can always be waiting in the freezer. This is so much better than the honey cake of my youth. But it sure doesn't beat teiglach!

L'Shana Tova to all my friends and family. Happy New Year and may this year be a blessing.

My inspiration:
Baking Bird - Earl Grey Honey Cake
Smitten Kitchen - Majestic Honey Cake

Honey Cake with Apples and Toasted Walnuts
Time to Make: About 30 minutes to make and 40 minutes to bake
Yield: 2 - 9 x 5 inch loaf pans and 1 4 x 6
Servings: 16-20
3 1/2 c flour
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
4 t cinnamon
1/2 t ground cloves
1/2 t ground allspice

1/2 c canola or sunflower oil
1 1/2 c honey (your favorite flavor)
1 c sugar
1/2 c dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 t vanilla
3/4 c strongly brewed Earl Grey tea, cooled or cooled coffee
1/4 c bourbon, orange  or apple juice
1 Granny Smith apple grated
1 c toasted walnuts, chopped (I place nuts in a pie tin and then bake them for about 10-15 minutes at 350, until you smell them. That means they are getting close to toasted, so watch carefully!)

Combine dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Whisk oil, honey, sugars, eggs, vanilla, tea and bourbon together. Slowly stir into dry ingredients. Mix well. Stir in grated apple and nuts. Let batter sit about 1 hour before filling pans.  Preheat oven to 350. Grease your loaf pans well. Fill greased loaf pans about 1/2 way. Bake for about 40-45 minutes. A toothpick inserted into center of cake should come out fairly clean and cake should be pulling away from sides. Let cool on rack. Run knife around edges and turn out onto serving plate. Drizzle with more honey and serve with apple wedges. Have a sweet year!

Other sweet things:
Honey and Cream Baked Bread
Halvah Stuffed Baked Apples
Apple Brown Sugar Sharlotka
Mandel Bread or Jewish Biscotti
Salted Honey Rose Tart

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Easy Cheese Blintz Casserole Souffle

Yes, it took me longer to write that title than it does to make this dish. This is a super recipe to have in your repertoire because it is fast, simple and satisfying. It is one that I use a prepared product in, so you know I don't cook everything!  A cheese blintz casserole, which some often call souffle, (hence my title for those notorious SEO's that I read about and never understand) is another Jewish dish, that is served at a Jewish dairy meal. We often break the fast on Yom Kippur with this dish and lox and bagels. It is traditional, but  my famous frozen cheese souffle, that is not, is often on the table, too.  Traditional that it isn't. It is superb and it you want something more savory, rather than sweet, than that is the way to go. I really should take some new photos of it.

But we are on to blintz souffle. If you wanted you could make your own crepes and filling. It isn't hard, but why bother? I buy the Golden blintzes in the frozen section of my grocery and Costco is selling some petty good blintzes now, too! You end up topping the frozen blintzes with a sweet sour cream and egg topping that puffs up over the blintzes. That is why I believe some call this a souffle. Whatever!

A blintz souffle is perfect for brunch. It comes together quickly. It is comfort food and I love it even for brinner. My mother never made it. In fact I'm not sure I even had blintzes when I was a kid. I think I probably discovered them at  a Haddassah luncheon way back when. The good thing is that I discovered them! They can be served with maple syrup but I like mine with home made jam. My raspberry rose or strawberry black pepper jam tastes awesome with these. One can buy fruit filled blintzes, but I prefer the cheese, because that way I can choose my own topping.

So that is it. My mom wanted this recipe and now she has it. Two stars for this please!

Easy Cheese Blintz Casserole Souffle
Serves 3 (2 per person) This recipe is easily doubled.
Active Time: 10 Minutes Baking Time: 30-45 minutes
1 pkg of 6 cheese blintzes (found in the frozen foods section at groceries or in the refrigerated at Costco)
2 T melted butter
1/4 c sugar
3/4 c sour cream
1 t vanilla
2 eggs

Maple Syrup or jam for serving

Preheat oven to 350. Place melted butter in a 7 x 10 casserole dish and then roll each blintz in the butter and place seam side down in pan. Arrange them in one row. Mix sugar, sour cream, vanilla and eggs together. Whisk well for a few minutes until lightened. Pour over blintzes in pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon if you desire. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes until lightly browned or you can place this under the broiler to brown for a few minutes. Serve with syrup or jam!

Other Brinner Ideas:
Everything But the Bagel Scrambled Eggs
Frozen Cheese Souffle
Shakshuka in Purgatory
Green Chile Egg Souffle

Friday, September 4, 2015

Onion Crusted Potato Kugel Casserole

Onion Crusted Potato Kugel Casserole is a potato kugel that tastes a lot like a knish. So good! #kugels #potatoes

September may mean fall leaves and back to school for many, but for me it also means a New Year. The Jewish New Year falls in September and since we follow a lunar calendar, that means this year, Rosh Hashonah begins on the evening of September 13th, which means I better start getting ready. There really isn't much to do since family is elsewhere, but I do like to  have a holiday meal before going to temple.

The day of Rosh Hashonah, for those of us that are lucky enough, is spent in the mountains at 10,000 feet celebrating the New Year. Our temple has a camp that is located in the most gorgeous spot high in the Rockies, where every year I feel privileged to look over the horizon and see the aspens turning golden, as I sit and pray in front of the rushing stream. Not every one has the chance to go because there is only room for about 100 people. We always send in our reservation the minute it is announced because scoring a seat is first come, first served! It is glorious praying in our jeans and in most cases the weather is glorious, too. That is not to say that every year is perfect. Some years it has snowed or rained and sitting in a cabin decorated with kid's murals is our only option.

But what do we eat on this holiday? I mean really. Let's cut to the chase! The holiday 10 days after Rosh Hashonah is Yom Kippur. That is a very serious holiday where we atone and have to fast for 24 hours. After that typically a dairy meal is served, much like a breakfast, except for dinner. We all know about brinner right? But Rosh Hashonah is easy. And sweet. And I do not say that jokingly. We are always praying for a sweet new year, so honey plays a big part in many of our recipes.

Onion Crusted Potato Kugel Casserole is a potato kugel that tastes a lot like a knish. So good! #kugels #potatoes

Serving apples (because of the season) with honey, and saying a prayer thanking God for allowing us to reach this season, is a commandment for us. It is not taken lightly and always causes me to stop and look around and feel grateful for my family and the world around me. So yes, apple dishes are important, too. Other than that, traditional Jewish foods are in order.

Last April for Passover, I made a new twist on potato kugel. Now I'm going to tell you flat out that potato kugel should be in everyone's repertoire. We are basically talking about potatoes, eggs and onion. Nothing wrong with those ingredients. I have written about another potato kugel recipe that is quite uncommon, which was Ilse's recipe. It is very unique and tastes like a potato custard with a crisp golden crunchy crust. Thanks be to God.

No, this potato kugel is different than that. It is still potatoey and has a golden crust, but it isn't as thick as Ilse's. It is basically a casserole and serves a lot of people. You can take this girl places, know what I mean? A traditional kugel consists of grated  raw potatoes, mixed with eggs and grated onions. Season it. Throw it in a 13 by 9 pan and bake until  done. Nothing wrong with that. That is the simple version and it can also be baked in muffin cups for individual servings. Often though I have  looked for a bit lighter, more flavorful version, and I think I've found it with this recipe.

If you have ever had a knish, well, this new kugel kind of tastes like a knish in a dish, minus the  pastry crust. I love it fresh, not reheated, but that is up to you.This is a lighter kugel because you are mixing mashed potatoes with the raw potatoes and then adding cooked onions. I know it is a bit more of a potchke (making more of a fuss) but if you have the time, it is worth it. Even if you aren't looking for a Jewish recipe, this would suit any holiday buffet. Serve it with a roast or ham and most folks would think you were really going gourmet, when the truth is that this is pretty much a staple in most Jewish homes every Friday night. It really is just a casserole, according to Wikipedia, and since most of you know what that is, I'm going to call this a potato kugel casserole.  After all, who knows what a kugel is? Except for maybe 1% of us!

Onion Crusted Potato Kugel Casserole is a potato kugel that tastes a lot like a knish. So good! #kugels #potatoes

Onion Crusted Potato Kugel Casserole
From: Jewish Holiday Cooking (Jayne Cohen)
Serves 8-12
Time to Make: About 45 minutes Time to Bake: About 60 minutes
2 lbs onions, sliced very thin
Kosher Salt
6 T Olive oil
2 t minced garlic
Fresh black pepper
6 large or 8 medium russet potatoes peeled
4 large eggs
1 t baking powder
1-2 T rosemary or thyme leaves, chopped and optional

Separate the onions into rings. To extract moisture, toss in a large bowl with 2 t salt and set aside for about 20 minutes. Stir from time to time. Dry the rings between paper towels, pressing down to soak up as much moisture as possible.

In a large skillet, heat 3 T oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook while stirring with a spatula as they soften and become golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. Season with lots of salt and pepper. Set aside to cool. No eating!

Cut 2 or 3 of the potatoes into chunks and place in a pot of salted water. Bring to a boil and simmer until potatoes are tender. Mash them with your preferred method and place in a large bowl. Stir in about 1/2 of the fried onions, setting the rest aside.

Preheat oven to 400. Grate the remaining potatoes in your food processor or over the holes of a large grater. Place the shredded potatoes in a colander and rinse well under cold water, to remove the starch. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible then add to the mashed potatoes. Beat the eggs until thick and light and whisk in the baking powder. Add to the potatoes and make sure this is seasoned well with salt and pepper.

Pour 3 T of oil into a 13 x 9 pan, preferably metal or cast iron. Rub the oil around the bottom and sides and place in the oven until sizzling hot, about 5-10 minutes. Do not let this get to smoking. Transfer potato mixture to pan and spread with a spatula, Top with remaining onions. Sprinkle with the herb of your choice. Drizzle with a little extra oil and a bit more salt and pepper.

Bake for 30 minutes on the top rack of your oven. Then turn down oven to 350 and continue baking for 25-40 minutes or until kugel is firm, the top is golden and the onions are crisp. Let kugel cool until set. This can be reheated, but I prefer it fresh.

Other Holiday Foods:
Chopped Liver
Chicken with Figs, Pumpkin and Red Wine
Lemon Garlic Spatchcock Roasted Chicken
Roast Chicken with Saffron, Hazelnuts and Honey
Kasha Varnishkes
Matzoh Ball Soup
Salted Honey Rose Tart
Apple Brown Sugar Sharlotka
Halvah Stuffed Baked Apples

Onion Crusted Potato Kugel Casserole is a potato kugel that tastes a lot like a knish. So good! #kugels #potatoes

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Triple Cherry Chocolate Skillet Pie

It was my lucky weekend! For some that might mean winning the lottery or getting the closest parking spot. To me it meant strolling in the farmer's market with good friends. I adore gazing at summer's bounty and tasting samples along the way. I always come home with too much, but that's OK by me. Let's see. Some how I have to squeeze in making plum jam and some refrigerator pickles. And one big heirloom tomato salad. Certainly the farmer's market is no place to save money, but it is fun to buy things that often can't be found elsewhere.

And luck was with me when I found sour cherries.  I thought I'd missed the season. For some folks life is a bowl of cherries but for me-well-I'd rather have pie! I love cherries and always take great pleasure when  baking a cherry pie in the middle of winter.They always taste like summer and remind me of the tree that used to be in our yard. (I think that's why we bought the house!) Yes, I bought an 8 pound frozen container of pitted sour cherries which gives me enough for about 5 pies. My mouth is watering.

So you know I couldn't just refreeze the cherries without baking a pie. Now pie making skills are not my strongest suit but recently the Denver Post published a story about a younger than me girl, that bakes fabulous pies from her trailer named Stella. I saved the article and you know what? She is good. This girl rocks! I feel like pie crust and I finally came eye to eye! Yes, it was a revelation and I finally feel secure baking a pie crust. Hallelujah! And Hurray for the Long I Pie Company! (Tricia if you ever came to Denver, I think we need to start a bakery in an Airstream! Check out her flavors.)

But a good pie crust is only as good as what it is filled with. Yep. That's where these cherries step in. Glory, hallelujah! This pie is so cherrylicious, but it does have my one favorite ingredient in it that makes this pie subtle, smooth and rich. This ingredient gives sweetness that balances the tartness of the cherries without overtaking them. Oh My. Out with it. You know I'm talking about my best babe, chocolate.  I have to admit to having an aversion to those chocolate cherries that come in a box, but oh my, not these that come in a pie. This is one splendid pie. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

So what else did I do out of pure impetuousness? Is that a word? I decided to bake this pie in a skillet just like the Long I Pie Company. I have a great pie dish that I love. But baking the pie in a skillet gave me a thicker pie crust and I love pie crust. I can never decide if I love it more than the filling. Let's call it a toss up. Baking it in a skillet allowed me to have a thicker bottom and top crust. I just love that word crust, don't you? I always think of flaky, but crispy and golden brown, kind of salty, simply but slightly sweet, as being the perfect crust, don't you? Who knew crust could be so complex?

And the cherries. I added some dried sweet cherries. And I added some dried sour cherries. So really this is a Triple Cherry Chocolate Skillet Pie. I've never added dried cherries to a pie. I must say it was a great move on my part. These cherries added texture and bite and such incredible flavor that I think even if I skip the chocolate, I'll always add dried cherries. Now I know my photos weren't the best, but you need to trust me on this. This pie was without a doubt, over the top incredible. Well. As long as you like cherries and chocolate!

Triple Cherry Chocolate Skillet Pie
Serves 8
Time to Make: About 15 minutes for the crust plus 2 hours to chill/30 minutes for filling and rolling/50-60 minutes to bake

The Very Best Pie Crust (from the Long I Pie Company)
2 1/2 c unbleached flour
1 T sugar
1 t salt
1 c frozen butter cut lengthwise down the middle and then sliced into 8 and then each slice in half
3/4 to 1 c ice cold water (I put ice cubes in the water and pour from there)
Mix all dry ingredients into a large bowl. Use a pastry blender, not your food processor because the friction will heat the butter ad cut the chunks too small. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients until butter is divided into marble sized pieces. It is these pieces that melt into the crust and create air pockets which make a flaky crust. Do not cut them too small.

After butter is cut in, slowly add water and mix with your hands until dough sticks together  and can be formed into a ball. You may need more or less water. Once shaped into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for two hours before rolling. When you roll out your crust after chilling you then will cut it in half. You should see butter striations in the crust. These are kind of like the gold veins in a gold mine. It means flaky crust, people!

Cherry Chocolate Pie Filling
4 c pitted sour cherries
1 1/2 c dried cherries, sweet and tart combined
1 c sugar
1 T flour
2 1/2 T cornstarch
1 1/4 c finely grated bittersweet or dark chocolate finely grated (I did mine on a microplane)
1-2 T heavy cream

Combine everything but chocolate in a large bowl. Mix and set aside until crust is rolled out. Cut dough in half. I used a 9" cast iron skillet but feel free to use your favorite pie plate. Preheat oven to 400.
I roll out my pie crust between two pieces of plastic wrap. Take one half of the dough and beat it with your rolling pin until it forms a thick circle. Now roll from the center of the circle to the outside, but don't use your full weight when you get to the edges, or the edge of the crust will get too thin. Always roll from the center and in 1/4 sections until the pie crust is the size you need it. Then peel off the top sheet of plastic wrap and turn it upside down over your pie dish. Gently press into place. Do this again for top crust.

Now fill bottom with cherry filling and then pour your chocolate shavings over the top. Smooth it around evenly. Now place the top crust on top and tuck it into the sides of your skillet with the bottom crust on the inside. Pinch lightly. Brush crust with heavy cream and sprinkle with some leftover chocolate shavings.

Bake at 400 for 50-60 minutes. Let cool for as long as you can stand it!

More to Try:
Not My Mama's Cherry Pie
Strawberry Spiral Biscuit Pie
Triple Berry Hand Pies
Salted Honey Rose Tart
Kale Salad with Cherries, Almonds and Feta