Cast-Iron Garlic Naan

Cast Iron Naan Copyright ©ShulieMadnick

Naan in Persian means bread. The name goes by several variations, including non and nān, throughout central and southeast Asia. It's a leavened flatbread made with yeast and white flour traditionally baked in tandoor, a rounded cylindrical clay oven with a round opening at the top. The rolled-out dough is slapped onto the tandoor walls, puffs, and beautifully blisters from the coal embers at the bottom radiating 900 F/480 C heat throughout.

Naan was first mentioned in English in a 1780 travelogue,  'Russia: Or, A Compleat Historical Account of All the Nations which Compose that Empire,' written by the English clergyman William Tooke. In his travelogue, Tooke covered central Asian eating habits where he wrote, "The most common dishes are onoschi, or vermicelli; plav, or boiled rice; nan, pancakes, and the meats which the law permits."

Earlier, in 1300 AD, "naan-e-tanuk (light bread) and naa-e-tanuri (cooked in a tandoor oven) at the imperial court in Delhi" were noted in Amir Kushrau's, an Indo-Persian poet's writings. 
Copyright ©ShulieMadnick

The naan arrived in India with the Muslim conquerors. First in the 13th century with the Sultanate and in the 16th century with Mughals. It was un-refutably the beginning of naan's massive popularity today. However, the naan was first the food of sultans, royals, and imperial Mughals. It was consumed in the mornings with kheema (minced, no sauce, meat) and kebobs.When the royals were done with their feast the leftovers were distributed to the poor.
 Copyright ©ShulieMadnick

Notes: 

The naan dough is more supple and sumptuous, enriched with milk, ghee (clarified butter), and yogurt. It comes in many regional variations, oven-baked, traditional teardrop-shaped, and modern twists, which I will share in upcoming posts in this naan series.

The round-shaped naan fits the cast iron better. You can use a non-cast-iron pan. Ghee (clarified butter) is a traditional Indian ingredient, but often I like to use olive oil. If you keep kosher, serve naan with parve, non-meat vegetarian or fish, dishes, like daal.

Cast-Iron Garlic Naan
makes 8

This is recipe can be easily doubled 

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 - 3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil or ghee (clarified butter)

Madagascar Vanilla Bean Ice Cream


Madagascar Vanilla Bean Ice Cream Copyright ©ShulieMadnick

Not an ice cream bit but a vanilla bit:

This past week Martha Stewart making green chocolate brownies with Snoop Dogg came across my Instagram feedWatch minute 3:20 when they add in the vanilla. I just died. Snoop Dogg goes: "Which one is the vanilla?" Martha points to the vanilla: "It's over there." Snoop Dogg: "Vanilla is burgundy (I think he said burgundy. Watch and let me know.)?" Martha Steward: "Brown. Yeah." Snoop Dogg: "Why they call it vanilla when it's..." Well, watch the rest yourselves. It's hilarious. 

Now a bit about the ice cream:

I realized that although I have posted several ice cream recipes on Foodwanderings, I haven't posted a straightforward vanilla ice cream here. Though the vanilla is the base for many of the ice creams appearing in this space. 

I will switch it up at times and use a teaspoon of pure vanilla extract instead of a vanilla bean if the ice cream is, say, rum raisin. I don't see the point of going through an entire process of splitting the bean and scraping the vanilla seeds, etc., when the end flavor I wish to achieve is rum raisin or coffee or banana-flavored ice creams, for that matter. Besides, the vanilla bean pods are super expensive. Though prices for the pure extract aren't cheap either. If I keep the ice cream a pure vanilla flavor, I use a vanilla bean. Once I didn't go and buy vanilla beans when I ran out but used the extract due to the prohibitive cost. 

But I must admit that I was at times extra fancy (which now I don't see the point) in the past and made rum raisin, salted caramel, and other flavors by adding the extra step of splitting and scraping the bean.

And if you want to learn further why vanilla is so expensive, read this piece about the politics behind vanilla and why the prices are spiked. 

I also want to discuss a bit photographing ice cream. 

It's darn frustrating. Especially if I don't use any artificial components (which I don't)  and food stylists' bags of tricks. Often the ice creams you see in magazines aren't edible. Even though I am not very happy with the photograph above. It's out of focus, in all honesty (I've been working on it all morning and gave up eventually). And artistically, I preferred the pre-cropped version of this image. But the cropped one here gives you guys a closer look at the various textures and dark speckles of the vanilla seeds. 

Madagascar Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

Moroccan-Inspired Orange Fennel Seeds Sablé Cookies

Moroccan-Inspired Orange Fennel Seeds Sablé Cookies Copyright ©ShulieMadnick

I rarely bake or buy cookies throughout the year, so it's a real treat to bake and devour cookies once a year in December. Even though we don't celebrate Christmas, I like to join the baking cookies tradition. It is so much fun, and the house smells amazing. 

This year, I was inspired by the reifat, traditional Moroccan anise and sesame cookie. My Tunisian Israeli friend special ordered super-sized jars full of these simple yet addictive cookies from her Moroccan neighbor and I couldn't help but sneaking in one more. The reifat is thin, perforated with a fork or a dough docker cookie, It's made with baking powder and oil and is best dunked in tea, otherwise it's too dry. I wanted to give my all-time favorites, buttery sablé cookies a twist, and a Moroccan-Inspired Orange Fennel Sablé Cookies were born. 
Moroccan-Inspired Orange Fennel Seeds Sablé Cookies Copyright ©ShulieMadnick

Moroccan-Inspired Orange Fennel Seeds Sablé Cookies
makes about 32 

Ingredients:

2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar

Dave's Chili

Dave's Chili Copyright ©ShulieMadnick

We have made our mid-western friend's, Dave's, chili recipe for over three decades. Our son Sagie, who has now lived in Israel for the last 5 years, made Dave's chili in his new apartment in Tel Aviv this past week. It's not the first time Sagie made Dave's chili. It's the chili he grew up on during regular rotation, especially during the winters, in our home in a suburb in Northern Virginia.

Jonathan met Dave in grad school in DC. Dave and Cathy, Dave's girlfriend at the time, were one of the rare handful of couples in a mostly singles' crowd. We hosted each other for small gatherings. I made Indian and Israeli foods, and Dave made chili. Little did I know that Dave's chili would be one step closer to my coronation into Americanhood more than any green card and citizenship could. Cranberries and maple syrup were the first.

As the story goes, Dave and his buddies would have chili throw-downs and challenge each other to the spiciest versions. Hang on, scratch that; it never happened. I am mixing it up with Bobby Flay's throw-downs. 

Dave doesn't know how he really came to chili. It might be when he visited his brother in Texas. He doesn't count the hamburger in tomato sauce chili version of his childhood in Iowa as the 'coming to chili' pivotal moment of his life. Along the way, his recipes changed, and on vacations with his large extended family, he puts 3 pots on the stove; spicy, medium, and a small one he dubs "ketchup." His Illionoisans in-laws could only handle the "ketchup" chili, and his BILs would have the medium and add spice according to their level of tolerance. 

A couple of years ago, we met Dave and Cathy and their young adult kids at a restaurant in NYC. To my "we have made your dad's chili recipe for years now," they responded: "but he (Dave) makes chili differently each time." 
 
But the chili recipe Dave gave us on the fly when I pressed him for it (he never had a chili recipe written down) struck us and stuck with us, and became a family favorite. The cumin, the cayenne, chili powder, and jalapeños were a (good) punch in the face boldness that appealed to our Indian senses. It's the only chili I am willing to have. It was identical to the version he made for us. 

Dave agrees that next day chili always proves to be better even when we can't help ourselves and dig in and have it the day of. Always served on a bed of Frito Lays for what is known as Frito pie.  The very Frito pie topped with cheese and sour cream that Gary, the husband of another grad school friend Jeannie, was looking forward to at his school cafeteria lunches while growing up in Texas. 

Further reading:

Dave's Chili Copyright ©ShulieMadnick

Dave's Chili

This is the recipe I follow but feel free to reduce the spices and jalapeño to tame this chili

Ingredients:

2 lbs beef, chuck (medium cubed)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium/large onions, cubed

Quince Challah Knots

Quince Challah Knots ©Shutterstock

I first published this Quince Challah Knots recipe in The Washington Post Lifestyle and Food sections on October 6, 2011, under the 'Challah with Quince, an Unexpected Holiday Treat' headline. With some edits, I am republishing the Quince Challah Knots recipe just in time for Rosh HaShanah 2021, which falls on the eve of September 6 this year. 

Turns out, I initially baked these delicious beauties for Yom Kippur break-the-fast 2011, but they are a real treat for Rosh HaShanah as well. 

My son was still in High School and I completely forgot that I used him and his soccer buddies as my guinea pigs. And below is what I wrote back in 2011 for The Washington Post:

Challah with Quince, an Unexpected Holiday Treat

For our Yom Kippur break-fast this year (which will take place Saturday night), I was looking for an alternative to my usual apple-filled challah when I hit upon using quince, the firm-fleshed fruit sometimes known as golden apple. It can smell of pineapple or guava, and it looks a little like a plumped-up pear.

In this recipe, I’ve used it to fill knots of my very own challah dough — something I’ve strived to perfect over the years. The unfilled knots seemed to go over well when I served samples to my son’s college soccer teammates.
Quinces ©ShulieMadnick

The dough can be swirled to look like a snail instead of “tied” into knots.

Here’s how to fill and create the knots; the recipe for my Quince Challah Honey Knots follows on the next page.

The quince is a fruit whose firm flesh needs to be cooked before it is eaten. Here, it is used as filling for lovely challah rolls that are nice to serve at Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Quinces are usually available at larger Asian markets.

Make Ahead: The dough needs to rise two times, for a total of about 2 hours. The baked knots can be individually wrapped in aluminum foil, then stored in resealable plastic food storage bags and frozen for up to 3 months. Reheat the foil-wrapped knots on a baking sheet in a 350-degree oven for 10 minutes.

Quince Challah Knots
Servings: 16 rolls

Ingredients:

For the knots:

About 7 cups (2.2 pounds) flour
About 5 1/2 teaspoons (7/8 ounce; 3 packets) active dry yeast
1/2 cup sugar in the raw

Date, Walnut, Silan and Sesame Challah

Date, Walnut, Silan and Sesame Challah ©ShulieMadnick

The Date, Walnut, Silan and Sesame Challah recipe originally appeared in Bonnie Benwick's  "How to make your challah lovelier and sweeter for the Jewish New Year," published in The Washington Post on September 8, 2015. I am republishing the Date, Walnut, Silan and Sesame Challah recipe, with some edits, just in time for Rosh HaShanah 2021 falling on the eve of September 6 this year.

In the Marzipan Almond Challah Crown recipe and post I published recently, I shared some feel-good quotes and testimonials written by Bonnie in the article above. Here I would like to share some of the heartwarming feedback on the Date, Walnut, Silan, and Sesame Challah recipe shared by a reader who baked it:

In 2015: 

"The Eastern Shore is a fancy food desert. I had no hope of finding silan out here, so I substituted golden raisins and walnuts. The bread came out great, and I also thank you for teaching me a new braiding technique. I usually do the long four-strand braid.

Tonight, I happen to be in Nashville, and there's a Middle Eastern market less than a mile from my hotel. So I went in there, showed the proprietor a picture of the product, and he took me to...a display of strawberry jam. Is it possible a Middle Easterner doesn't know what silan is? If someone here knows where in Maryland to get this stuff, maybe Wegmans, I'm all (virtual) ears. Nashville's Whole Foods didn't have it, either, which I was surprised at."

A year later by the same reader: 

"So, a year later, I'm here to tell you I learned how to make silan from scratch. I also found it in international stores in Chicago, Ft. Lauderdale, and Salisbury (!). This is now my go-to challah every year. Thanks for running this recipe!"

Date, Walnut, Silan and Sesame Challah

If you have a 9 1/2-to-10-inch springform pan, use it to bake this challah; it will help keep the bread's shape.

Make Ahead: The dough needs to proof twice: first for 1 hour, and again for 30 to 40 minutes after the dough has been filled, braided and shaped into a pan. The baked challah can be wrapped in aluminum foil, then plastic wrap, and frozen for up to 1 month. To reheat, discard the plastic wrap but keep the bread wrapped in foil; warm through in a 350-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes.

Where to Buy: Silan, often labeled date molasses, is available in Mediterranean markets. You can find roasted sesame seeds in the international aisle (Asian section) of large grocery stores.

Illustrated crown and round challah braiding techniques.

Ingredients:

For the challah:

1/2 cup lukewarm filtered water, plus 1/4 to 1/2 cup filtered water
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 packets (3/8 ounce) active dry yeast
17 ounces (scant 4 cups) all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface

Marzipan Almond Challah Crown


Marzipan Almond Challah Crown ©ShulieMadnick

This sublime Marzipan Almond Challah Crown recipe first appeared in Bonnie Benwick's "How to make your challah lovelier and sweeter for the Jewish New Year," published in The Washington Post on September 8, 2015. I am republishing the Marzipan Almond Challah Crown recipe, with some edits, just in time for Rosh HaShanah 2021 falling on the eve of September 6 this year.

I baked with then Deputy Editor of the Washington Post food section, Bonnie Benwick, some of my challahs at her home that year before Rosh HaShanah. And amidst the couple of tumultuous years we had with COVID-19 and the looming Delta variant, these are much needed feel-good quotes and testimonials I re-visited from Bonnie's article above: 

"The Washington area food blogger and travel writer bakes challah every Sabbath, as was the practice in many of her friends’ homes when she was growing up in an Indian-Israeli community in Ashdod, south of Tel Aviv. Looking to complement her Rosh Hashanah dishes — lamb biryani, veal-and-beef-stuffed artichoke bottoms in a spicy red sauce and the cornstarch-thickened, sweetened milk custard called halwa — Madnick figured out a way to capture fruit and/or nut fillings within each rope of dough. She braids those ropes in such appealing ways as to create almost a new class of High Holiday challah."

"Madnick worked on her base challah dough over many years. It’s not too eggy and, like others, not so fussy. Her flavor combinations can be seasonal: apples and quince in the fall; cranberry, orange and nigella seeds in the winter; cherry and oats in the spring. Rosh Hashanah stuffed challahs call for something sweet: chopped dates, fresh figs, even marzipan. Each sub-portion of dough that might have been a simple rope in a braided loaf of challah is first rolled out to a thin rectangle, then swabbed lightly with a syrup or jam to help hold the chopped fruit or nuts in place. Once the dough is rolled up, the filling stays contained, allowing for the usual braiding and shaping."

"Except Madnick’s techniques rise above the norm, appropriately. She’ll do a four- or six-part braid, winding it in on itself like a nautilus.."

Marzipan Almond Challah Crown

Make sure the center vessel you use is both heatproof and freezer-safe (the latter if you plan to make the challah in advance).

Using a 9 1/2-to-10-inch springform pan will help the bread keep its shape, but you can bake on a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet as well.

Make Ahead: The dough needs to proof twice: first for 1 hour, and again for 30 to 40 minutes after the dough has been filled, braided and shaped into a pan. The baked challah can be wrapped in aluminum foil, then plastic wrap, and frozen for up to 1 month. To reheat, discard the plastic wrap but keep the bread wrapped in foil; warm through in a 350-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes.

Illustrated crown and round challah braiding techniques.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup lukewarm water plus 1/4 - 1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 packets (3/8 oz) active dry yeast
17 oz (scant 4 cups) all purpose flour, plus more for rolling

Fig, Olive Oil, Sea Salt and Spelt Challah

Fig, Olive Oil, Sea Salt and Spelt Challah ©ShulieMadnick

The Fig, Olive Oil, Sea Salt and Spelt Challah recipe originally appeared in Bonnie Benwick's "How to make your challah lovelier and sweeter for the Jewish New Year," published in The Washington Post on September 8, 2015. I am republishing the Date, Walnut, Silan and Sesame Challah recipe, with some edits, just in time for Rosh HaShanah 2021 falling on the eve of September 6 this year.

In the Marzipan Almond Challah Crown recipe and post I published recently, I shared some feel-good quotes and testimonials written by Bonnie in the article above. I also shared here a recipe for the Date, Walnut, Silan, and Sesame Challah recipe and heartfelt feedback from a reader who baked it. The Date, Walnut, Silan, and Sesame Challah became this reader's new favorite for their Rosh Hashanah table. 

Fig, Olive Oil, Sea Salt and Spelt Challah
12 servings

Spelt brings a rich, earthy quality to this braided holiday bread, filled with fig jam and chopped fresh figs. It’s nice to cut this challah into long slices, which also makes for great toast.

Using a 9 1/2-to-10-inch springform pan will help the bread keep its shape, but a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet will work, too.

Make Ahead: The dough needs to proof twice: first for 1 hour, and again for 30 to 40 minutes after the dough has been filled, braided and shaped into a pan. The baked challah can be wrapped in aluminum foil, then plastic wrap, and frozen for up to 1 month. To reheat, discard the plastic wrap but keep the bread wrapped in foil; warm through in 350-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes.

Illustrated crown and round challah braiding techniques.

Ingredients:

For the challah:

1/2 cup lukewarm filtered water, plus 1/4 to 1/2 cup filtered water
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 packets (3/8 ounce) active dry yeast
8 4/5 ounces (scant 2 cups) all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface
8 4/5 ounces (scant 2 1/4 cups) spelt flour

Nut-Free Haroset

Haroset opposite the butter lettuce on the Seder Plate Copyright ©Shuliemadnick

It's been a year since our flights to Israel were canceled. We were headed to spend Passover with our son, who lives there. It's been a year since the global pandemic changed our lives, and we yet again find ourselves for the second year in a row having the Seder all by ourselves.

But do not despair. I cooked for a tribe, anyway. I made our traditional Passover lamb biryani, the only matzah ball soup that I like, a Moroccan carrots salad, a version of this beet salad (without the sugar), haroset, hazeret (horseradish), egg salad, and many other side dishes and starters. For dessert I made kosher for Passover brownies. 

Believe it or not, but this haroset is nut-free, and no Manischewitz wine was used in the process of making it. It is a hybrid Sephardic and Ashkenazi haroset I came up with, on the fly, years ago, and it stuck with us for over a decade, maybe longer. It's better than the nut and wine version in my humble opinion. I posted a recipe for haroset in the past but planned on re-photographing it. It was also an excuse to show you our Seder plate and tweak the language of the recipe. The haroset is opposite the butter lettuce. Not a beauty but delicious on its own on matzah, or layer it with hazeret (horseradish) on the matzah. 

Jonathan, uncharacteristically, guzzled down two glasses of wine before we had a chance to arrive at the second cup of wine blessing. He was determined to read every single word in the Haggadah. Thank goodness that Jonathan somewhat lost steam after dinner. He insisted on opening the door for Elijah. While I was concerned about the critters and fox in our jungle outdoors gravitating towards the light and inviting scents of food indoors. Red wine was (accidentally) spilled on the white tablecloth, and we pounded the table at Dayenu or was it another song (?!). In short, chaos ensued. 

If you haven't caught my recent "Why do the Jews of India call Passover' The holiday of the covered clay pot with the sour liquid'?" article, head over, it's a quick and fun read. And if you want to learn more about India's largest Indian Jewish Community's Passover traditions, head over to "Discovering the Passover Traditions of India's Largest Jewish Community."

Nut-Free Haroset

Ingredients:

1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and cut into few pieces
14 dried apricots

Why do the Jews of India call Passover ‘The holiday of the covered clay pot with the sour liquid’?

iPhone screen shot by Shulie Madnick from The Forward from page

On Thursday, March 25, 2021, just before Passover on Saturday, my article, "Why do the Jews of India call Passover' The holiday of the covered clay pot with the sour liquid'?" was published in The Forward.

Today, March 29, 2021, the article was on The Forward's front page, in the News, since the morning and still now, at 3:40 pm as I am writing this post.

It's a quick, fun read. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as it was fun researching and writing it. It felt like an anthropological detective work trying to get to the bottom of the meaning of 'Anashi Dhakaicha San,' the name the Bene Israel Indian Jewish community for Passover and the tradition of the clay pot with the sour liquid.