Monday, October 31, 2011

Inviting Judaism to the Thanksgiving Table -- A Talk on November 13 in Oakland

If you are in the Bay area, I hope you will come hear me (as well as a panel of other speakers) talk about how to add layers of understanding to your Thanksgiving meal.  I'll be exploring some of the roots of this very American tradition and explore how we can bring use some of our experiences with Passover, Sukkot and other holidays to add ritual and meaning without necessarily remaking the holiday as "Jewish" since many of us share the holiday table with friends and relatives of different backgrounds.

We'll also discuss (and sample) some Thanksgiving foods with a Jewish twist.

The event is from 3 to 5 p.m. at Temple Beth Abraham, 327 Euclid Avenue, Oakland, CA.  The event is free to members of Women of Temple Beth Abraham, $18 for others.

Please email me at clickblogappetitATgmailDOTcom if you would like more information or to RVSP. 

Update:  See my post here for the recipes and links to the trivia contest and resource guide I created.
Photo credit: MS Clip Art

Friday, October 28, 2011

Tomatoes, Basil, Olive Oil and Silken Tofu

The above is not ricotta or mozzarella, it's Hodo Soy brand silken "soy custard" tofu with sliced heirloom tomatoes, basil, sea salt, fresh ground pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. I made it my whole dinner one recent hot night, but it would make a lovely appetizer.  The Hodo tofu comes in a tub and is not "pressed" into a cake.  You can also find tofu like this in some Asian markets. (Hodo's tofu is handmade and is really only available now in northern California and is worth seeking out.)

Delicious, simple, healthy and good.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Gift of Apples II -- Roasted Apple Sauce with Warm Spices and a Childhood Memory

I've written before about the gift of the bag of apples from our friends the Gombergs.  The bounty they shared (it must have been more than 25 pounds) was astounding and I had several reactions.  The first was gratitude. I was so delighted that they thought to give us some. The next was a personal challenge -- how many ways I could I use the fruit and what recipes could I create.  The last and most surprising was the memory the apples stirred.

It is not even a real memory or my own memory. It is a memory of mother's.  She once told me that when I was about two she, dad, my grandparents and I went to an apple orchard in upstate New York.  Supposedly, I lifted up a full bushel of apples and hoisted it in the air. Perhaps I even walked a few steps with it.  There are no photos of me doing this, only this hazy memory from my mom, my memories of her in danger of going wispy around the edges as she left us much too young with her mind and senses slowly fogged by disease and dementia.

In my mind's eye it is a breezy but warm day.  The trees around us are filled with Macintoshes, the favored apple of my New York youth.  A small, dark-haired girl in a short white dress with browned arms and legs is lifting a bushel basket full of the apples up into the air, surprised at the attention the adults she loves are giving her for such a simple thing.  She is only trying to help. The basket, probably almost as big as her, is loosely woven out of thin slats of shaped wood and is worn and well used with bits of scuffed green and red paint in spots. The handles cut into the toddler's pump hands.  She takes a few steps towards the adults. Someone reaches to take the basket from her and she plops down on the ground as the weight suddenly shifts.  Before she can cry or even laugh as the grass tickles her thighs, her mom scoops her up and hands her an apple.

The bag of apples from the Gombergs
I can see it so well, it is like it is a snapshot in my mind but it isn't. It is only a story I heard once from my mother who used it as an example of how strong I was as a baby.   Everyone else in that scene is gone now, there is no way to corroborate or color in more details or correct wrong impressions.  I think I prefer it that way.  The story of being strong, being independent and wanting to help others has become part of my definition of myself.  When I think of my re-imagined memory and feel the swoop of feeling for my mother, young and slim, I remember how in kindergarten,  I used to feel sorry for other kids in my class that they did not have a mother like her.  She made me feel like I was the apple of her eye. 

Roasted Apple Sauce with Warm Spices
Serves 4-6

The apples in this sauce retain their shape and just receive a slight mashing.  If you want a more traditional texture, peel the apples before cooking or put the cooked apples through a ricer or food mill. 
By "warm spices" I mean that to me the spices in this recipe (which were inspired by a gift from the McCormick at BlogHer Food 2010 of jars of McCormick's roasted coriander, ginger, cumin and cinnamon) have an essential warming essence.  To substitute for the McCormick products, pan toast the seasonings in a small, hot, dry fry pan for about 20-30 seconds, stirring constantly, until the aroma is released.

The result of the roasting and spicing is a complex, not too sweet apple sauce that works well as a snack or dessert (topped with yogurt or whipped cream and a dash of cinnamon) or as a side dish for grilled or roasted meats or poultry or even a savory bean stew.
The Gombergs gifted us with apples of the Beverly Hills variety, which have a yellow-green skin and are slightly tart.  Pippins or Gravensteins would make a good substitute.

Oil to grease baking dish
3 lbs. apples, unpeeled and cut into 1"-2" chunks (about 8 cups)
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp. roasted ground coriander
1/4 tsp. roasted ground cumin

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 10"x14" baking pan, set aside. In a large bowl, toss the apples with the apple cider vinegar, and then mix with the coriander, cumin, ginger and cinnamon.  Place in prepared pan and put in the oven. Bake uncovered for about 1/2 hour, stirring occasionally.  Cover with aluminum foil, stirring occasionally and bake until the apples are tender (about 1 hour or so more, timing will vary.) Mash lightly.  Taste, add sugar to taste if desired.
For other recipes featuring the Gombergs' apples see:
Apple and Cranberry Pie with Granola Streusel

For a collection of other recipes featuring apples, click here -- including baked, salads, candied and caramel.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Gift of Apples Leads to Apple-Cranberry Pie

The pie all started with a (very) large bag of apples from our friends' tree.  Mo said the apples were a type known as Beverly Hills.  I did a little research and found this is a California-born and bred variety known for its ease of growing and smallish yellow-green skin fruit.  It is crisp, sweet-tart and not as robust flavored as some other apples but ideal for cooking and baking.

And cooking and baking I did.  I hope to post all the recipes here, but we all know how slow I am to do that.  A number of folks have asked for this apple-cranberry pie recipe, so that prompted me to sit down and at least write this post up.

So far I have turned the apples into:

  • Apple, Sauerkraut and Bean Saute served over noodles
  • Roasted Applesauce with Warm Spices -- eaten warm, cold and at room temperature, by itself or with soy yogurt or regular whipped cream as a snack or dessert or plain as a side dish to grilled, smoked turkey. 
  • Shredded Green Apple Salad with Thai Flavors -- as a side dish to the Thai Vegetable Curry Baked in a Pumpkin
  • Apple-Cranberry Pie with Granola Streusel
And I still have some more apples to go. Gary is asking for more of the applesauce and I have some other ideas that are, shall we say, the apple of my eye, to experiment with.

Apple-Cranberry Pie with Granola Streusel
Serves 16 (Makes 2 deep-dish pies)

Use a sweet-tart apple good for baking such as a Granny Smith, Pippin or the northern California favorite - Gravensteins.  I prefer to leave the peel on, which makes the pie preparation very quick.  I had a cup of cranberries leftover from another recipe and tossed them into the pie recipe with very pleasing results.  Gary had just made a batch of his granola and I borrowed some for the streusel topping.  If your granola has raisins that get a bit overcooked when the pie is cooking, just pick them out.

Frozen cranberries are fine, just don't defrost before using.  Be sure to pick a granola that has a cinnamon flavor (as opposed to mango, pumpkin or some of the other versions out there right now).  Better yet, make a batch of Gary's and use some in this recipe.

Feel free to use commercially prepared pie crusts.  If frozen, use without defrosting.

6 cups 1/2" chunks of apple (see note above)
1 Tbs. lemon juice
1 cup fresh, whole cranberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 prepared deep-dish 9" pie crusts

4 Tbs. butter (or non-dairy margarine if desired)
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 and 1/2 cups granola (see note above)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss apple chunks with lemon juice. Combine with cranberries, sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, cloves and nutmeg.  Mix well.  Divide into 2 pie crusts. Make topping. Cream butter (or margarine) with the sugars. Using a fork, mix in flour and cinnamon until crumbly then thoroughly mix in granola.  Scatter streusel topping evenly atop the two pies.  Place pies on baking sheet in middle section of oven.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake another 20-30 minutes until the apples are tender and the filling is bubbling.  Cool in pie pans on rack.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Celebration of Six Years - Thai Vegetable Curry Cooked Inside a Pumpkin

This is Blog Appetit's sixth blog-o-versary. I like to mark my blog's anniversary with either mawkish sentiment or a celebration recipe.  This year I did both. You can read the sentimental part here. Now on to the recipe.

There's a lot of background on this pumpkin curry dish. First I love Thai pumpkin curry in all of its guises and wanted to create my own version.  Next I love baking things in pumpkins -- to date I've made custards, South American corn stew, turkey chilis and soups in pumpkins, so I've got a theme going on. (Unfortunately, none of these dishes are on the blog. Yet.)  I also like cooking with pumpkins and winter squash so you'll find lots of recipes and how tos on the blog for that.  And when it comes to cooking savory dishes in a pumpkin my preference is for the tasty, nutty flesh of the kabocha, also called Japanese pumpkin and a type of winter squash that is reportedly used in Thailand.

Also, aside from whacking off the pumpkin "lid" and cleaning out those pesky strings and seeds (really it should just take you a few minutes), it is a very easy recipe but has a wonderful wow factor making it a perfect celebration dinner dish.  Like for a blog-o-versary.

Thai Vegetarian Curry Baked in a Pumpkin
Serves 4-6

You may be able to “harvest” the cup of squash chunks for the stir fry during your pumpkin prep. If not, use the sweet potato pieces instead. (If you need tips on cutting and cleaning a pumpkin, please check out my pumpkin "boot camp" post.) If you are avoiding animal products, be sure to read the ingredient label of your red curry paste. Some are made with shrimp and many have fish sauce. The level of spiciness varies between brands of curry paste, so you may need to increase or decrease the amount accordingly. This recipe will serve about 4 people if it’s the only main dish but more if there are other entrees or a lot side dishes. I served this over red jasmine rice, but regular white or brown jasmine or other rice would work well.

1 large kobacha pumpkin
15 oz. can regular or light coconut milk
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 ½ cups chopped onion
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. minced fresh ginger
1 large carrot, cut into ¼” rounds
1 cup of ½” red pepper chunks
2 cups of ½” chunks of Asian, Thai or Italian eggplant (unpeeled)
1 cup ½” winter squash or sweet potato chunks
2 cups quartered button or crimini mushroom caps
1 Tbs. (or to taste) prepared red curry paste
2 cups ½” cubes of wheat gluten and or pressed, firm tofu
½ cup fresh Thai or Italian basil, divided.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut top off pumpkin, reserve. Clean out seeds and strings. Pour can of coconut milk into pumpkin. Cover with reserved lid. Put on a rimmed baking dish or pan. Bake for 35-45 minutes until just tender.

While the pumpkin is baking, make the curry. Heat oil in wok or large fry pan. Sauté onions, garlic and ginger until the onions are beginning to brown and soften. Add the carrots and peppers and stir fry or sauté for a few minutes until slightly charred and browned. Add eggplant and squash chunks. Stir fry or sauté until eggplant and squash have begun to soften and brown. Add mushrooms. Stir fry or sauté for a minute then add the red curry paste. Mix well. Add the wheat gluten or tofu and continue to stir fry or sauté for a few minutes. Take off heat and reserve until the pumpkin is ready.

Once the pumpkin’s flesh is just tender (test with a fork), remove the baking pan from the oven, but keep the oven on. Wearing oven mitts, remove top and carefully pour coconut milk into stir fry vegetable mixture. Be careful not to rip or tear the pumpkin shell. Bring vegetables and coconut milk to a simmer, stirring frequently until the vegetables are almost cooked through and the liquid has reduced to a thick sauce. Taste and add more red curry paste if desired. Stir in ¼ cup of the basil, cooking for an additional minute. Spoon curry inside pumpkin until packed, replace pumpkin lid and return to the baking dish and place in the oven for about 30 minutes or until pumpkin flesh is soft all the way through and curry is heated through. To serve, remove the lid, sprinkle with remaining basil and scoop out some of the pumpkin flesh with the curry.

A note about pumpkin size and integrity. If your squash proves to be too small (which has happened to me), just reheat your extra veggie curry and serve alongside the pumpkin encased version, or refill your pumpkin as the contents diminish. I did have an unfortunate tear when I poured out the coconut milk from the pumpkin in the photo above but was able to “mend” the rip with skewers and the squash held together admirably during cooking.

My Blog-O-Versary

Today is my 6th anniversary of Blog Appetit.
I don't know the exact number because I changed over stat aps, but I'm closing in on or have just passed something like 300,000 page views.  It is humbling to have been able to share my ideas, recipes, appetites and passions with so many readers.

I hope to post a special anniversary post with a special recipe or two, but my time for blogging is a bit more limited now than it has been in the past.  Regardless if I get to write that post, I wanted to be sure to take time to thank those of you who read, comment, use my recipes, and support my causes for your time and consideration.  A special thank you to my regular readers and all those who follow me, subscribe to my RSS feed or have me bookmarked and the food bloggers with sites small and large for the support and inspiration they have given me throughout the years.

Thank you all so much.

Update: I did indeed post a celebration recipe -- Thai vegetable curry baked in a pumpkin. Hope you'll try it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Recipes for Side Dishes from Pre-Packaged Produce - Broccoli Slaw, Kale and Bean Salad, Sweet and Sour Squash

Sweet and Sour Butternut Squash
These side dishes were developed to be easy and portable for potlucks or family dinners.  I got the idea for using prepackaged produce as a starting point for some colorful, flavorful and tasty recipes from my friend Yen, who served me a version of the Broccoli Slaw Salad below.

Container sizes vary between brands and small variations won’t matter, but if there is a difference of more than a few ounces adjust the amount of the other ingredients. If you prefer, skip the prepackaged ingredients and cut and prep your own veggies for the recipes. The recipes all multiply well. Larger batches of the kale should be sautéed separately and then combined.

These recipes can be made a day or two in advance and store well in the refrigerator. I think they taste best at room temperature, though.

Sweet and Sour Butternut Squash
Serves 4 as a side dish

If you can make this a day in advance, the flavors have a real chance to meld.

1 lb. package fresh, peeled butternut squash cubes
1/3 cup raisins
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 and 1/2 cups thinly sliced onions
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. salt or to taste
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. dried mint flakes
1/2 tsp. sugar or to taste

Cook squash according to package directions. Soak raisins in vinegar for 20 minutes. Heat oil in sauté pan and cook onions over medium low heat, stirring often until very soft, sweet and darkened to golden brown. Add cooked squash, raising heat to medium high and sautéing for a few minutes. Add raisins, vinegar, red pepper, salt, black pepper and mint. Sauté, stirring occasionally until flavors have melded and squash and raisins are heated through. Taste. Add sugar as needed and correct seasonings. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Kale and White Bean Salad
Serves 6-8 as a side dish

I love this with cooked cranberry beans if you have the time to cook some up. The beans have an almost chestnut-like earthy flavor to them that works well with the strong-tasting greens and garlic.

10 oz. package pre-cut kale
2 Tbs. oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
15 oz. can of white kidney (cannelloni) or great northern beans
1 Tbs. minced lemon zest
1/2 cup red wine vinaigrette salad dressing

Rinse kale and let drain. Heat oil in large fry or sauté pan over medium high heat. Sauté garlic until just golden. Add kale, stir well until coated. Add in 1/2 cup water, stir, cover and let kale steam until leaves are cooked through but not limp or soft and stems still have a bit of crunch, adding more water if needed. Remove lid, add salt, black pepper and red pepper and cook stirring occasionally until water has evaporated. Let kale cool. Rinse and drain beans. Mix drained beans, lemon zest and vinaigrette with kale and gently stir to combine. Serve at room temperature.

Yen’s Broccoli Slaw Salad
Serves 4 as a side dish

When Yen served this salad, I just couldn’t stop eating it. She had adapted the recipe on a container of the shredded broccoli stem and carrot mix and I tweaked it a bit more. Pomegranate seeds are sometimes available packaged if you don’t want to tackle seeding a whole fruit. Dried cranberries make a quick and tasty substitute.  I used a light, low-calorie salad dressing and the agave when I made this last.

1/2 cup balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing
1 Tbs. honey or agave syrup
1 small Fuji apple
8 oz. package of broccoli slaw (shredded broccoli stems and carrots)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds OR dried cranberries

Combine salad dressing with honey and mix well. Cut unpeeled apple into 1/2” chunks (about 1 cup). Toss with dressing. Add dressing and apples to slaw mix. Stir in walnuts and cranberries if using (if using pomegranate seeds instead, stir in just before serving). Serve cold or at room temperature.

A version of this post appeared in j. weekly. The recipes were created to for easy transportation and serving under the sukkah, part of the Sukkot celebration.