Sunday, April 24, 2011

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

My Apologies

I'm temporarily on hiatus as we deal with the death of a very close family friend. 
Thanks for your patience.  More later.

Friday, April 15, 2011

"Shredded" Pastry with Nuts -- Make Room on Your Passover Table for a Turkish-Style Delight

This recipe has so many back stories I don't know where to begin.  But I do know how it should end -- making this dessert filled with chopped walnuts and raisins and soaked in a lightly sweet lemon syrup for a Seder or other event this Passover. 

First back story -- when I was in Turkey I saw lots of shredded phyllo (filo) dough pastries and sampled quite a few, all with a sweet syrup and most filled with chopped nuts and or dried fruits.  I also had my share of the more familiar baklava.

Second back story -- when I returned from Turkey, I needed to create some Passover recipes for my weekly j. column and since I was still enthralled by the dishes I ate in Istanbul, Cappodocia, Esphesus and elsewhere, I decided to recreate some of the food I ate there for Passover. I thought I would try to make a matzo baklava.  When I went shopping I saw the very fine, thin Pesach egg noodles and I had one of those recipe creation a-ha moments.  What if I used the egg noodles instead of the matzo and made the dish more like the shredded phyllo pastries I saw and ate?  I tinkered a bit in the kitchen crossing some ideas for individual shredded phyllo pastries with some I saw that used the ingredient in more of a pie and came up with this recipe.  My testers could not believe it was a Passover dessert.  It was a hit.

Third back story -- there was no room in the column for this fabulous recipe and it had to be cut.  So for the first time anywhere, here is my Passover "Shredded" Pastry recipe.  Enjoy.

Passover “Shredded” Pastry
Makes 16 pieces

Cutting the dessert into 16 pieces before cooking makes it much easier to serve. This sugar syrup is not as sweet as the traditional Turkish style one would be.  (FYI - Passover fine egg noodles are made with matzo meal and are a few inches long and about 1/8th of an inch wide.)

1 ½ cups cold water
½ cup sugar
Juice of one lemon

1/3 cup of raisins
4 oz. parve Passover margarine or butter plus extra for greasing pan
3 ½ oz. (about 1 cup) shelled walnut halves
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ cup sugar
1-12oz, bag of Passover fine (very thin) egg noodles, uncooked
1 cup hot water
16 walnut halves for garnish

Make sugr syrup by combining water, sugar and lemon juice in a heavy pot over high heat. Stir until mixture boils, then stir occasionally, boiling for about 15-20 minutes until mixture is reduced by half. Let cool then chill.

Soak raisins in boiling water to cover until softened, about 20 minutes. Drain and discard water.

Grease 8”x8” pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine drained raisins, walnuts, cinnamon and sugar in food processor or blender. Chop until coarsely ground. Set aside.

Melt margarine or butter. While still warm toss with the fine (thin-style) egg noodles and 1 cup hot water.

Press half of the noodle mixture into an even layer in the prepared pan. Top with layer of raisin and walnut mixture. Pat another layer of the noodle mixture evenly on top of the filling. Distribute any extra margarine mixture evenly on top of the final layer of noodles. Cut into 16 squares.

Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden and toasty. Immediately pour cold sugar syrup evenly over top.

Rest to let pastry absorb the syrup. Top each piece with walnut half. Serve warm or at room temperature.

UPDATE: 3/12 -- Several brands of Passover noodles are now gluten free.  Look for those and this recipe is appropriate for those on a gluten-free diet.

IMPT UPDATE 4.12 -- The gluten-free noodles do not seem to work as well.  Suggest using boiling (not hot water) and let soak awhile before using.  I couldn't find regular only gluten-free Passover noodles, so I'll have to update and revise recipe completely.  FYI - you need 12 ounces of noodles, but the new-style only come in 9 oz. packs.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

A Taste of Turkey -- Easy Baklava Recipe

I'm still working out the kinks on my versions of the different foods and dishes I tasted in Istanbul, Cappadocia, Esphesus and elsewhere in Turkey.

In the meantime, here is the baklava recipe I usually use.  It is adapted from Paula Shoyer's excellent The Kosher Baker: Over 160 Diary-Free Recipes from Traditional to Trendy. (Brandeis University Press) Her version is vegan, has more filling and is not as sweet as many others I’ve tried. Turkish versions would omit the orange blossom water, but for other cultures it is traditional and it gives the pastry a floral essence.

I first wrote up this recipe for my friend Anna Mindess' wonderful blog, East Bay Ethnic Eats, for her post on handmade filo (phyllo) dough.

Layered Baklava with Orange Blossom Syrup
Serves 20

The mix of nuts gives the baklava a very complex taste. This recipe is adapted from Shoyer’s book. This recipe is written for defrosted, commercial filo dough. It is even more spectacular made with fresh. If you’d like, brush canola oil on the filo dough layers rather than spraying them with the spray oil as Shoyer does.

1 2/3 cups shelled, unsalted pistachios
1 cup slivered almonds
1 cup walnut pieces
2 ¼ cups of sugar, divided
Canola oil spray
1 package frozen filo dough, thawed according to package directions
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup water
2 tsp. orange blossom water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put pistachios, almonds, walnuts and ¼ cup of sugar in food processor with metal blade. Process until ground into tiny pieces but not pulverized.

Grease a 9”x13” pan with spray oil. Cut sheets of filo to size if necessary. Lay 1 sheet in pan, spray with oil. Repeat 4 times until you have a stack of 5 sheets. Scatter ¾ cup of the nuts mixture evenly on top. Repeat until you have 5 filo layers of 5 sheets each and 4 nut layers. Finish with the filo on top. Spray the top sheet heavily with oil.

With a sharp knife, make diagonal cut through all the layers across the pan, about 1 ½” apart. Then make diagonal cuts in the other direction. Place on middle rack in the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes or until lightly browned.  As it bakes, if it looks like the top sheet is drying out, spray again with oil.

While the baklava is baking, make the syrup. Place remaining sugar, lemon juice and water in a small pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook uncovered for 5 minutes. Turn heat to low and simmer for 7 minutes. Take pan off heat, add orange blossom water and stir.

When the baklava is baked, remove from the oven and immediately pour the syrup over it. Let cool in the pan.

This recipe and information also appeared in the j. weekly in a review of the Shoyer book.  Additional recipes are included.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

3 Sandwich Recipes Help Make the Tea Plus Clotted Cream Wannabe

“A simple tea, maybe just some egg salad sandwiches.”
Those words by the chair of the fund-raising event I was handling the food for haunted me as I worked on developing some recipes for a recent tea for 50. In my opinion, nothing is that simple when you have to peel dozens of eggs.

Luckily, there was a volunteer crew to help make the food, which focused on classic afternoon tea goodies. In addition to the sandwiches, one member made delectable scones (served with our version of clotted cream) and another provided gooey brownie bites. Fresh strawberries, purchased chocolate truffles and meringues, and a selection of fresh brewed teas rounded out the menu. (With thanks to a friend who oversaw the brewing of something like 25 pots of tea through the event.)

We offered three types of sandwiches (egg salad with watercress and cucumbers, smoked salmon with a flavored cream cheese, and olive and goat cheese) and all were popular. I’ve adapted the recipes to make a more manageable amount of sandwiches, but they all multiply well if you need to feed a crowd. Recipe yields refer to thin tea-style sandwiches.

Egg Salad Sandwich with Watercress and Cucumbers
Makes about 8 sandwiches

Egg Salad with Watercress
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbs. lemon juice
2 chopped green onions, greens and whites
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground mustard seed
6 hard boiled eggs, peeled and diced
2 Tbs. chopped watercress OR parsley leaves

Combine mayonnaise, juice, green onions, pepper, salt, mustard and mix well. Mix in eggs and mash slightly to combine. Mix in watercress. Taste and correct seasonings if needed.

For Each Sandwich
2 slices white or other bread
Softened butter
2-3 Tbs. of Egg Salad with Watercress
4-5 thinly sliced rounds of cucumber, peeled

Lightly butter each piece of bread. Spread egg salad on one buttered side, top with cucumber slices to cover. Place remaining bread buttered side down on top. Press firmly down on sandwich to flatten slightly. Trim off crusts if desired and cut into halves or quarters.

Smoked Salmon Sandwich with Lemon Zest and Caper Cream Cheese
Makes about 8 sandwiches

Lemon Zest and Caper Cream Cheese

1 tsp. finely minced lemon zest
8 oz. whipped cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 tsp. chopped jarred capers
1/4 tsp. juice from capers bottle

Beat together zest, cream cheese, capers and caper juice until well mixed.

For Each Sandwich
2 slices light rye or other bread
Softened butter
2 Tbs. of Lemon Zest Cream, at room temperature
1-2 thin slices of smoked salmon (to cover)
1/4 tsp. chopped fresh dill

Lightly butter one piece of bread. Spread cream cheese on other. Lay salmon slice(s) on top of cream cheese. Sprinkle with dill. Place remaining bread buttered side down on top. Press firmly down on sandwich to flatten slightly. Trim off crusts if desired and cut into halves or quarters.

Goat Cheese and Olive Sandwich
Makes About 8 Sandwiches

At the event I used a purchased green olive tapenade instead of the sliced olives specified in the recipe. 

Goat Cheese Spread

8 oz. fresh goat cheese, at room temperature
4 Tbs. whipped cream cheese, at room temperature
2 Tbs. chopped walnuts

Mash goat cheese with cream cheese until spreadable. Mix in walnuts.

For Each Sandwich
2 slices multi-grain whole wheat or other bread
Softened butter
2-3 Tbs. Goat Cheese Spread, at room temperature
2 Tbs. sliced, pitted olives OR green pimento stuffed olives

Lightly butter one piece of bread. Spread goat cheese mix on other. Press sliced olives into goat cheese. Place remaining bread buttered side down on top. Press firmly down on sandwich to flatten slightly. Trim off crusts if desired and cut into halves or quarters.

“Besotted” Cream
Makes about 1 1/4 cups

No tea is complete without scones and no scone is complete without clotted cream, traditionally made from long cooking unpasteurized milk and difficult and expensive to find. The idea of combining mascarpone cheese with cream as a replacement is not unique, but it is very tasty. It also is easy to make and its taste left me “besotted.”

8 oz. mascarpone cheese
6 Tbs. heavy cream
1/4 tsp. powdered sugar

Combine cheese, cream and sugar. Whisk together until very thick. Keep cold. Remove from refrigerator about a half hour before serving.
A version of this article first appeared in the J. weekly.