Thursday, December 31, 2009

Orange confetti and cardamon speckled creme brulee

An elegant New Year's Eve dessert, a fusion between exotic but familiar flavors of cardamon, images of sunshine,orange blossoms and citrus groves.
I am generous with the orange zest and cardamon, do not be tempted to add more sugar to custard, the carmelized sugar on top will add sweetness to the brulee.  I use sugar in the row for carmelizing. Instead of finely grated orange zest I zested strands, either one will work out.
Adapted from 'Elegantly Easy Creme Brulee and Other Custard Desserts' by Debbie Puente

Orange cardamon creme brulee:
Ingredients:
6 egg yolks
4-6 tablespoons granulated white sugar
2 cups whipping cream
2 tablespoons orange liqueur (Grand Marnier)
2 tablespoons finely grated orange zest
1 tablespoons vanilla
1 teaspoon cardamon seeds, finely crushed in mortar ans pestle
1/4 cup sugar in the row for carmelized tops (about 2 tablespoons for each custard)

Directions:
Preheat oven the 300F.  Boil some water in a pot on top of stove and keep it hot.  Whisk egg yolks and 4-6 tablespoons of sugar and beat until light yellow and firm. Add whipping cream, orange liqueur, orange zest, vanilla and cardamon and mix with a spatula gently, in folding motion, until mixed well. Consistency will be liquidy. Line a deep baking dish with a paper towel, place six ramekins inside on top of paper and ladle mixture evenly between ramekins. Pour water into baking dish as a warm water bath for the custard, halfway up the ramekins and place in the middle rack of the oven for 40-50 min.  Edges should be firm when done, but middle should be wobbly.  Take out and let cool outside in water.  Refrigerate.  2 hours prior to serving, place ramekins in ice bath, add 2 tablespoons on top of each custard and carmelize in broiler mode until sugar bubbles.  Can carmelize with a torch but be weary of the alcohol in the dish, so use extra caution.  It is recommended to eat this custard within three days, but I like it the next day the best.

Look closely at the creme brulee pics and you will see the cardamon speckles and orange peel confetti!!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Amish beet pickled deviled eggs and old wives tales

New Year's Eve continued, Apparently if you frequent Pennsylvania bars, you will see these brined pickled eggs displayed in jars lining the shelves....I was fascinated with this recipe when I saw it at Epicurious.com, mostly because of the natural dye of beet and the possibilities it presented me for future experiments with the beet dye.  I was never one to use food coloring even in the days when eco friendly, health food and organic did not even cross my consciousness. Food colorings seemed fake and unhealthy to me and the couple of ventures into unnatural dyes failed miserably and put an end to that phase. We obviousely need to be conscious of what we eat to keep healthy but a little luck, maybe?! Which brings me back to New Year's Eve, recently I've read about lucky foods for the New Year's and unlucky ones we should avoid eating on New Year's Eve. One surprising discovery I made, never heard of it before, to avoid eating chicken, so that your luck won't fly away. Jonathan says chicken don't fly, but still, here goes the chicken skewers I was planning on serving, the duck and any other fowl that was on the menu.  Heard before of fish as being a lucky food, although theoretically could swim away, but not only in Jewish tradition but also in oriental and other cultures fish established itself as a lucky food.  For us fish head, although have never seen a fish head on an American Jewish table, symbolizes being the head and not the tail, being a leader and not a follower. In other cultures there are other interpretations to this custom.  I altogether decided I am sticking to fruits and vegetables they are deep rooted in the soil and our luck won't fly away for 2010!! Can't shake that deeprooted superstitious Indian upringing of mine!!

For the brine:
3 cups water
1 cup distilled white vinegar
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon sugar
1 shallot, diced
1 small beet, peeled and sliced

For the eggs:
12 hard boiled eggs,shelled
up to 1/3 cup mayonaise
2-3 pickles diced
Salt and pepper to taste
Dill for garnish (optional)

Directions:
Put all brine ingredients in a sauce pan, bring to a boil, turn down once hit boil and simmer covered for 20 minutes.  bring to a complete cool and move to large air tight container.  Add hard boiled eggs to brine and move eggs gently every couple of hours for even dying. Keep refrigerated.  I hard boiled the eggs and kept them overnight in the fridge, the next morning it was picture perfect. I suggest, make brine the night before and add eggs the morning of New Year's eve.  Devil the eggs and hour prior to serving. Half the egg, take egg yolks out and mix with Mayonaise, diced pickles, salt and pepper slightly.  You can add fresh dill into the mixture or as a garnish.  You can devil the eggs million different ways!!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Year's Eve mock salmon cake

This mock deep salmon colored cake is deceiving....it's all vegetarian sweet potato pancake toppped with a touch of Meyer lemon jam and a fresh mint leaf.   Perefct, smart and sophisticated  for a small New Year's Eve bite and entertaining.  As you can see many recipes can be modified easily and once you make sauces,
spreads and jams, they can become handy, take a new, refreshed and vibrant look every single time.To beautify the plate drop three drops of Meyer lemon jam with out strands of Meyer lemon peel, on the plate in a circular pattern around the cake, as illustrated in photograph above.

This is an identical recipe from  'A tale of parsnip pancake' of Dec. 9.  Substitute parsnip with sweet potato, bake at 400F as directed. I now always bake these cakes instead of frying.  The Jam recipe is from the post 'Meyer lemons and other citrus in the snow' of Dec. 1.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Perfect Holiday Brunch, Indian twist to French crepes, pancakes the theme continues....

This is our ritual Sunday morning brunch if we are around, but perfect for a lazed opening presents snowy mornings.  Hot chocolate and crispy at the edges French crepes filled with mini chocolate chips, maple syrup, homemade clementine or Meyer lemon jams (see Dec. 1 Meyer lemons entry), or just dusted with confectioners sugar.  Some citrus compote, citrus salad, or halved grapefruit and orange juice on the side. Sunday morning French crepe brunch makes grand memories for a small family like ours and hopefully brings some warm memories to yours. For those of you who opt for Chinese take-out Christmas Day it's about time to start a new tradition!! This recipe is adapted from a vegetarian cookbook I bought years ago, The Complete Vegetarian Cuisine by Rose Elliot (1988). Just looked it up on Amazon and saw the new revised version of 1996. I must admit, although I am certain there are many great recipes in this cookbook, page 299, pancakes, is worn out due to repetitive use. I double the recipe and use only three eggs instead of four when doubled, otherwise it tatstes too eggy.  I also use only half a teaspoon of salt for the doubled recipe instead of a full teaspoon.  I add sugar to the batter according to taste for sweet crepes. If deciding on making savory crepes do not add sugar to batter.  My mom makes very similar Indian crepes at home but she has an Indian twist to greasing the pan, I absolutely savor the dimension it brings to sweet or savory crepe, only if my guys would agree....My mom halves an onion, unpeeled, with stem, spreads margarine (margarine?!, explaination follows) at the bottom of the stemmed halved onion, holds on to the stem of the onion, and rubs the onions inside the hot frying or crepe pan to grease it, it will sizzle!! Use papertowel to rub off excess oil from pan. It's absolutely divine served with sprinkled granulated sugar inside and dusted with confectioners sugar outside, that is still to this day the way I like it!!  My mom also uses a cup of orange juice instead of milk in order to keep the recipe parve, which brings me back to the margarine, which is used for the same exact reason instead of butter or ghee (Indian clarified butter). After years of making French crepes my mom's way, just like at home growing up, the guys, especially Sagie nudged me gently to cease with the onion rub. I still feel my mom's method is the best!! One last tip, do not overwork the batter, it will toughen up.  Best to beat with a whisk and strain through a sieve for a smooth lump free batter. Oh, forgot to mention that the first pancake, feed to the dog, it won't come out perfectly, trust me!!

French crepe ingerdients (doubled already):
Makes 12-14 crepes
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
2-4 tablespoons sugar or according to taste
4 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup milk
1 cup water
Canola oil, or melted butter for greasing pan
Nestle's mini morsels chocolate chips
Homemade celementine and Meyer lemon marmalade
Confectioners sugar and granulated sugar
Maple syrup grade A medium
 
Directions:
Mix first seven ingrediens, flour, salt, eggs, sugar, canola oil, milk and water.  Beat with a whisk, keep strokes to 10-15 strokes until blended well, or put seven ingredients in food processor for a quick whizz. Strain through a sieve.  Heat up a non stick pan or a crepe pan on medium, grease pan once hot, shortening should sizzle, and ladel batter. twirl batter around pan for a thin layer. Gently pry edges with a knife around the pan. Cook until golden and flip with a spatula, see bubbles in picture, once flipped. It takes few seconds only to cook after flipping crepe.  Once you take pancake out, while still warm, sprinkle mini chocolate chip morsels and fold.  The heat will melt the chocolate morsels. See two folding methods I used in photographs,  to distinguish the plain crepes from the chocolate chip filled ones. Serve with Maple syrup, jams, confectioner's sugar, granulated sugar, chocolate chips and more.  Can make a day ahead and reaheat at 350F oven until warm.  In that case, add fillings after reheating. Enjoy!! Wishing you a Happy and Tasty Holiday Season!!

REMEMBER: first one will come out 'messed up'....do not despair, the rest will be perfect!! I feed the first to Wizard.  Pancake is one of his much varied vocabulary, Jonathan is doubtful and questions Wizard's intellectual abilities!!
Variation: dessert crepe suzzette, recipe coming soon!!
 
Must admit the pattern of golden in the pancakes today came out picture perfect!!
 
Allergy note: Even chocolates which do not contain nuts might be processed on the same equipment as chocolates made with nuts.  Luckily labelling in the Unites States is strict. Cocoa powders are one, Hershey's chocolate chips are another as well as Nestle's real semi sweet chocolate mini morsels. Always, always check labels, things can change from day to day!

Parve suggestions: Substitute orange juice for milk and use canola oil or margarine for greasing pan instead of butter.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Indian, pancake and salsa?!

This Indian onion bahdgea (pancake, latke) and mango chutney are my mom's recipes. My mom was born and raised just south of Mumbai, India.  In the 1960's about 60,000 of India's Bnai Israel Jewish community emigrated to Israel.  There is a very good book titled "Who are the Jews of India" by Nathan Katz, which covers the subject well. I have read few books on the subject and feel this one is by far the most authentic and true to source. My mom is gifted with that touch only few posses.  Even her sisters come to her for advice, and when they marry off their daugthers, they pre-order all the traditional dishes of Indian goodness, only few world artisans are capable of duplicating.  Fortunately, I am one of four sisters carrying on the tradition and has the recipes for safekeeping.  Although I do not have a daugther, I am fortunate enough to have a son who appreciates these heirloom recipes, hopefully for generations to come.
Chickpea flour in recipe can be found in many ethnic isles of your local supermarkets or local Indian grocery stores. At least in the metro Washington area, MD, DC and VA you can find Indian grocery stores sprinkled throughout the suburbs. Also, use spices according to taste, this is just a guideline and make this recipe your own!!

Indian Bahdgea (pancake, latke) ingredients:
Makes about 12-14 pancakes (depending on size of onions)
3 medium onion, peeled, halved and sliced thin
1-2 jalapenos sliced thin
1/3 bunch cilantro leaves chopped
1/2 cup plus chickpea flour (called gram flour)
water
1 egg
1/2 plus teaspoon Salt according to taste
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon red pepper
4 plus tablespoons canola oil

Directions:
Take 1/2 cup chickpea flour and add some water and mix until it's thick batter consistency. Whisk the egg in a small bowl and beat lightly, then add to Chickpea flour mixture. Add turmeric, cumin, red pepper and salt to chickpea flour mixture. Peel onion, half and slice onions very thin, add sliced jalapeno and cilantro to onions and add to chickpea mixture. Mix until batter mixture coats onions well, add flour and water if necessary. Heat up oil, spoon batches of pancakes batter into oil and fry in oil until deep golden on both sides. Remove from oil and put on paper towels lined plate.
Serve warm but surprisingly tastes very well next day as well. Can reheat in the oven at 350F.

Mango Chutney (salsa) ingredients:
1 green mango, peeled and diced
1/4 of large red onion diced
1-2 minced garlics (optional)
4-8 fresh mint leaves chopped
Handful cilantro leaves chopped
1/2-1 seeded jalapeno, diced
Touch of lime juice (1 tablespoon or more according to taste)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-2 teaspoons sugar
Coconut flakes (optional)
1-2 tablespoons oil if keeping for few days in fridge

Directions: My mom puts all ingredients once or twice through a meat grinder.  The consistency with the garlic, jalapeno, coconut and the rest of the ingredients is unparalleled but a food processor or mortar and pestle are other options as well. I like the consistency of a salsa for an updated  look.  In the salsa version I mix all ingredients but the coconut flakes and garlic. I do add coconut flakes and garlic if I use my mom method and run the chutney through a meat grinder or mortar and pestle. That make more of an authentic Indian chutney. Can interchange garlic, red onion or shallots according to desire. My mom uses garlic.

A tale of a parsnip pancake - from a Thanksgiving appertizer to the Chanukah table















This parsnip pancake was the first bite I had this past Thanksgiving dinner. It was such a pleasantly surprising, dainty, delicious bite, that even if that would have been my first and last bite that evening, I would still deem that holiday dinner gathering a great success!! Don't want to set up your expectations too high since I came with none and discovered a treasure. Try it for yourselves and hopefully you'll get as much enjoyment out of it as I did. My friend Geri found this recipe somewhere out in cyberspace and instead of cooking parsnips in water, she microwaved them. At the risk of losing some of the goodness and vitamins in the parsnip, I would still suggest boiling them. She also mashed them which gave it a nice creamy consistency, but for those who like texture, grate!! Either way works out well. I personally eat my pancakes plain, no sour cream, no apple sauce, with one exception....if you happen to find the apple mango sauce Trader Joe's carried for years, and to my disappointment disappeared this year, buy it!! It will be a great pairing with any pancake. As you can see this particular parsnip pancake can make a journey into any Holiday cocktail party as an appetizer and the center of attention at the Chanukah table!! Enjoy!! BYW, for those of you who do not know a parsnip, it looks like an extremely pale carrot, not a tinge of orange in sight, but wonders of flavor (see pics).

Parsnip pancake/latke:

Ingredients:
2 lbs parsnips (peeled)
1 teaspoon salt (can even do without, a first for me!!)
1 medium onion grated
1 egg beaten lightly
up to 1/2 cup flour (do not want the pancake to be too cakey).
2 tablespoons plus chopped chives
4 plus tablespoons canola oil

Directions:
Peel parsnips and add with 1/2 teaspoon salt to a pot full of water. Bring to a boil and turn down heat to a medium, cook parsnips until soft but not mushy. Grate (I like texture) or mash parsnips. Add salt (remaining 1/2 teaspoon), grated onion, egg, flour and chives. Heat up oil in a non stick frying pan and drop small or medium batches of pancakes according to desire. I keep them small 'cause' they are surprisingly sweet but dainty in flavor and a small bite suits it!! Cook in oil until golden on both sides and drain on paper towels. Serve warm with a dab of sour cream, and a dab of apple sauce immediately on top of the sour cream. Garnish with extra chives on top.
I used more than 4 tablespoons oil but for a real low fat, practically oil free version, two options:
1. Geri used an electric frying pan, coated it with thin layer of PAM spray and fried it until golden. I never ever use PAM, don't intend to, but honesty speaking Geri's came out grease less and delicious!!
2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, brush parchment paper with a layer of canola oil. Form pancakes, line on parchment paper and brush lightly with canola on top. Bake at 400F about 30-45 minutes until golden and flip, takes shorter amount of time to golden on other side, once flipped. For the last night of Chanukah this year, I made a batch in the oven to bring over to a friend's Chanukah party. The golden sheen was so beautiful that you wouldn't even know the pancake wasn't fried.
Variation, potato/parsnip pancake:
Second batch I made, I had only 1 lb parsnips left, I peeled two medium potatoes, added them to water with peeled parsnips, cooked, drained and mashed them together with parsnips. Most definitely add salt to this version, and follow rest of ingredients and directions from original recipe.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Meyer lemons and other citrus in the snow, or Food Wanderings: jelly, jam, confit, pickle, preserve or marmalade?!





Right at this moment I have an abundance of citrus in the fridge. Clementines, grapefruits, Pomelo, limes, lemons and Meyer lemons. Jonathan and Sagie in Phoenix until Tuesday night, there is no one around to cook for. It's snowing outside (December 5, 09), for the first time this Winter, not many friends will be venturing off in the snow to come and taste my cooking, so I have decided on a very befitting, Winter weekend citrus preserving, one person extravaganza. Sweet jams and Moroccan preserved (pickled) lemons, with a touch of bay leaves and peppercorns. I find the flavor of regular Moroccan preserved lemons to be sharp when adding to Moroccan dishes. I can already tell when slicing Meyer lemons and tasting them that they will give the preserved lemons a more delicate sophisticated flavor. Skipping on paprika, but adding couple of bay leaves and few peppercorns, keeping end result as pure as possible.

Clementine jam:
Ingredients:
2 lbs Clementines (can substitute clementines with oranges, grapefruit, lemons, any citrus, always use with peel as it extracts pectin for gelling).
Juice of one lemon
2 lbs sugar
Directions: Wash Clementines, half and squeeze juice into a glass dish and keep in the fridge, discard the seeds. Boil clementine peels in boiling water for 20-30 minute and scoop to cold water bath. Keep for two hours to overnight to get rid of bitter taste, can replace cold water 2-3 times. Take pulp out of the peels and sliver peel to thin strips. In a pan add slivered peel, sugar, tangerine juice and half the lemon juice. Cook for 1/2 -3/4 hours while mixing occasionally, add remainder of lemon juice, mix and turn of heat. Let cool slightly and pour into canning jars and top when cool. Seal jars according to directions of canning jars for storage outside or keep in refrigerator.
Can use Clementine jam/marmalade for desserts, as a breakfast or brunch jam or holiday gifts (mine fit into five 8oz jars).
On a side note: got many compliments on the clementine marmalade, it's absolutely DELISH but the Meyer lemon one I made is my absolute favorite! Just to die for!! They are now officially entered and have a place of honor on my FOOD for ROYALTY list, among Pomegranates and figs and now....Meyer lemons

Meyer lemon preserves:
Ingredients:
2 lbs Meyer lemons
3-4 extra Meyer lemons, juice only
4-6 tablespoons salt
1/4 cup canola or olive oil to seal top
2 bay leaves
Few peppercorns
Directions: Wash jar in dishwasher or bath of boiling water. Wash lemons, take tips off and slice into 1/4 inch slices. Salt lightly and layer in a jar, squeeze 3-4 lemons until juice covers slices. Add bay leaves and peppercorns and pour oil on top to seal. Keep in a shaded cold corner in the kitchen. Preserves will be ready in a month. Once opening jar keep it in the fridge, pickles will last for a year. I went easy on the salt since I want to use the lemons for cooking Moroccan dishes, but feel free to use more salt and keep jar in a cool place outside or use salt as directed in recipe and keep it in the fridge. You can also use pickled lemons as a layer in sandwiches, appetizers. Also can use in 8oz jars as holiday gifts!!