Golden & red beets, ruby red grapefruit and green baby leaves Winter salad

Just this week I used a food analogy, actually a drink analogy, drink being water, to a real life situation, by saying to someone, who was not familiar with this expression or idiom, it's like 'grinding water' לטחון מיים which loosely means 'we are getting nowhere' (in this 'discussion'). In this entry I am doing the reverse, using a real life expression and using it as an analogy related to food. There is an idiom, or an expression, from Hebrew as well, that loosely translates as follows, 'the same lady with a different mane'  אותה הגברת בשינוי אדרת. It's very true with regard to this salad, I change the ingredients around to reflect the season, and dress the Wintery salad up, with the same universal vinaigrette I am so obsessed with. I shared the vinaigrette with you in one of my earlier enrties  'Arugula addiction'. In this case, ironically, dressing up the vinaigrette with a different mane!! I find the contrast of the red and golden beets and pink grapefruit against the green of the salad stunning, not to mention delicious!! Served double batch of this salad yesterday at my blog launching girl only cocktail party, my friend was gracious to host, and it went fast!!

Winter salad

1 bunch red beets
1 bunch golden beets
1 Pink grapefruit
2-4 handfuls baby greens, arugula, mache or mixed baby greens
1/2 red onion

1. Peel beets and half  (see peeling and cutting beets tip at bottom)
2. In two separate pans, one for golden and one for red beets, cook beets until soft
3. While beets are cooking, peel grapefruit and separate pulp in whole sections as much as possible
4. Peel onion and slice into thin rings, separate rings to individual ringlettes
5. Wash and dry greens
6. Quarter beets and assemble salad in a way that is visually satisfying to you. See pics for an idea
7. Moments before serving toss with Vinaigrette
Always a huge success, enjoy!! Recipe can be doubled!!

Peeling and cutting beets tip or 'a tip about tips':
Cut leafy greens off from top, but at the bottom of the beet, do not cut the tail off completely.  Leave the tip of the tail in tact and then proceed to peel skin off with a potato peeler. Visually it's appealing and it does not compromise the original shape of the beet and character. The beet does not get lost anonymously  into oblivion among the other vegetables and ingredients, just as a general rule!!
See pics of salad for illustration of how the tips are in tact and it creates playfulness and a sensation for the eyes!

Saffron and Lamb

Not politically correct but I LOVE me some Icelandic lamb!! New Zealand has a more 'lamby' taste similar to Mediterranean chops on the grill, good option when Icelandic is not available, but my first choice would be Icelandic.  In 2009 Whole Foods had Icelandic come in October, Mid Fall.  In September 2009, around the holidays when I really need lamb shoulder for the Moroccan lamb dish I make every year, it was a bit early in the season for Icelandic.  Got some New Zealand, and the butcher was trying to promote some locally raised, and gave me couple of lbs to sample, in the hopes that I would come back and buy locally raised, sustainable organic lamb.  Let's back up a bit, yes the butcher at Whole Foods, you would think I were at the local butcher shop, impressed?? You should be!!  I surely was!! I do try to buy organic, local and sustainable food most of the times, especially when it comes to produce, but I've got my limits too....I hit my threshold when it came to lamb. Grassfed Icelandic lamb has a tenderly mild flavor to it, falls off the bone when cooked and is truly a luxurious delicacy. Although fat content is enormous in lamb, the local one, although chances are might have been Icelandic or New Zealand origin, was, believe it or not, fattier, with a flavor I can't really pinpoint, or articulate.  It was neither traditional like New Zealand lamb nor mild like Icelandic one,  it also had gummier texture and taste to it even when cooked.
Back home in Israel, I almost blocked out childhood memories of the pre holiday preparations and cooking, with one ritual and a special holiday treat, my mom, and even to this day, a friend of mine will exercise once in a while.  Couple of families will get together and decide to share a freshly butchered lamb for their Indian holiday delicacies....a lamb they chose, like picking a fresh lobster from an aquarium, or daily fresh catch in fish joints sort of way. I remember, when my friend, in anticipation of her Northern Africans holiday dishes, approached a Bedouin shepherding his flock, between the refuged undeveloped hills, where new neighborhood sprouted all around, and the Bedouin and his flock were remnants of days gone.  Surprisingly enough this was just South of Tel Aviv and a deal was made. There will be lamb for the holidays at my friend's house.  Talk about grass fed, organic, local and sustainable!! No clue of the origin of the poor little lamb, I doubt it had biblical ancestry.
This recipe I usually save for very special occasions, but as it turns out, I was running low on everything, and it was the one of only couple of things left in the freezer.  I grabbed some Icelandic lamb shoulder (both cuts, blade chops and arm chops) when it was on sale, and stuck it in the freezer.  I use onion, cilantro and honey liberally in this recipe.  Use this as a guideline and adjust according to your taste.  I am heavy handed with honey to get that instant sweetness, under the assumptions that there will be no leftovers.  Leftovers will be way too sweet the next day if you are heavy handed with honey, but not on the day of cooking. Do not be heavy handed with the saffron!! This time around when carmelizing the garnish, apples in honey, I used Meyer lemons for the lemon juice.  It was delicious bite together with a bite of lamb.

Moroccan lamb with prunes and honey and carmelized apples with Meyer lemon
Recipe adapted from Paula Wolfert's
Couscous and other good things from Morocco

3-4 lbs lamb shoulder (both cuts, blade chops and arm chops, see each featured in raw and cooked pics)
4 tablespoons canola oil
Pinch or two of saffron
Touch of salt
1/2 plus teaspoon fresh black pepper
1 scant teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 medium or large grated onion
1/4 -1/2 bunch cilantro leaves, chopped
1/2 lb pitted prunes
1 cup finely diced onion
1/4-1/2 cup honey
2-4 granny smith apples

1. Add grated oil, onion, cilantro, saffron, salt, pepper, ginger 1/4 teaspoons of the cinnamon and let it cook on low medium, until it incorporates a bit, for couple of minutes, and releases great aromas
2. Add chops and dip in mixture, coat both sides and let cook both sides for couple of minutes on each side
3. Cover the meat with water and bring to a boil.  Reduce to low, medium and simmer for 1/2 an hour
4. Add cup of diced onion and remainder of cinnamon along with honey and continue simmering for half an hour longer
4. Soak prunes in cold water and let sit for half an hour, drain and add to tagine.  Cook until puffs...I actually cook for 20-30 minutes longer for a total of an hour and twenty minutes for the tagine
5. Minutes before serving, peel, core and slice apples and immediately place in frying pan with honey and Meyer lemon juice.  Mix and cook until soft.  It a real quick toss, the apples soften really fast

Serve with couscous and garnish with apples!! 

My mom's best kept secret - Dahl!

This one is a true heirloom recipe.  Sagie and I guarded it over the years carefully, but decided it's time to share it.  Over the years it was our pleasure to host and serve this to our friends and family and for all those who were curious, here is the recipe that goes along with it! Goes really well over plain basmati rice or with Indian bread (chapati or Bahkri) on the side.  These vibrant orange red lentils will turn yellow as they cook.  Rich in protein, fiber, iron and some essential amino acids. Great for a vegetarian diet, budget meal or vegerarian Mondays which I try to adhere to, sometimes not too successfully. It's low fat and tastes delicious.  Serve it along with Mango chutney as a condiment. All ingredients can be found in local supermarkets. This is dedicated to my son Sagie, and future shared memories and traditions for generations to come, and for my adopted daughter Sarah, who is crazy about Dahl!! 

My Mom's Dahl 

1 cup washed and drained red lentils
1 large onion, diced
2-4 tablespoons canola oil
Salt to taste
1 large tomato, diced
5 garlic cloves, peeled
1/4-1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4-1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 jalapeño, sliced into thin discs (1/2 jalapeño or seeded depending on taste)
2-4 cups plus water*

On medium heat, in a large pot, drop the cumin and mustard seeds in oil for couple of minutes. Let it quickly sizzle so the essential oils and aromas release. Immediately after sizzle add the onions and jalapeño and sauté together with the seeds for until the jalapeño and onion are soft and translucent. Add the tomato and cook for a few minutes longer. Stir throughout the process and adjust heat if needed so your ingredients don't burn. Add lentils, garlic, water*, turmeric and salt to taste. Bring to a boil and turn to medium heat, cover with lid, and cook until lentils are very soft and fall completely apart. Stir occasionally. Mash with a potato masher for smooth creamy consistency. If you like texture, mash only the cooked garlic with a fork and mix.

Serve over simply steamed basmati rice. Can also be served along with Indian Bahdgi and Mango Chutney. Recipe can be doubled!!

Author's Notes:  *Traditionally dahl has a thicker stew-like consistency and served over rice. Throughout the years I added more water and made it my go to soup year-round. The range of 2-4 cups of water reflects stew-like soup-like the consistency. Make sure to stir the dahl once in a while when cooking, so it won't burn at the bottom. Servings depending on consistency and portions. 

Coleslaw massage!!

Yes, cabbage massage sounds crazy!! Think of it as a sort of a method or technique?! to tenderize the cabbage and massage the flavors into the vegetable, as
if you are kneading dough. If you are timid about massaging cabbage with your bare hands, even after washing your hands properly, wear surgical gloves, kitchen gloves, and proceed to massage. Massaging cabbage is the most critical step in this recipe!! I know that coleslaw brings back memories of Summer barbecues, but the deep violet color reminds me of Winter, deep, complex, although the irony of this recipe that it's the easiest simplest Mediterranean vinaigrette of oil, lemon and salt to top the finely julienned slaw. I use canola, not olive oil to keep the flavor mild.  You can substitute olive oil for the canola, for an absolute authentic Mediterranean simple vinaigrette flavor. For variety's sake I changed things around a bit one day, and used mayonnaise in this recipe, similar to the American coleslaw recipes, it did not go over very well with my crowd, I guess old habits die hard, and they are healthier anyways!! Quickest recipe you ever put together, adds instant color and flavor to your lunch or dinner with family or friends. 

Mediterranean Slaw
1/2 red cabbage finely julienned
1/2 lemon juice plus according to taste
Canola oil

Add to julienned cabbage lemon, canola and salt to taste and massage for few seconds. Chill before serving, excellent the next day. How easy??!!

Meyer lemon creme brulee, now that's my favorite one!!

This Creme brulee is now officially my new favorite custard!! Make it only when Meyer lemons are in season, just in time for the holidays. It brings a dainty, soft, delicate, subdued and sophisticated flavor and fragrance to your elegant Holiday parties! Meyer lemon, although of Chinese origin, should be the eighth to the following seven species: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates.
Adapted from 'Elegantly Easy Creme Brulee and Other Custard Desserts' by Debbie Puente.

Meyer lemon creme brulee

2 eggs
6 egg yolk
3/4-1 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh squeezed Meyer lemon juice, I used 3 Meyer lemons
Zest of 3Meyer lemons, finely zested
2 cups heavy cream (16 oz)
1/4 cup sugar in the raw (for carmelization about 1-2 tablespoons for each custard)

Preheat oven the 300F. Boil some water in a pot on top of stove and keep it hot. Whisk two eggs, egg yolks and 3/4-1 cup sugar and beat until light yellow and firm. Add heavy cream, Meyer lemon zest and lemon juice, 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 to cook in, 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 bath. Refrigerate. 2 hours prior to serving, place ramekins in ice bath, add 1-2 tablespoons of sugar in the row on top of each custard, swirl sugar to coat custard completely, and carmelize in broiler mode until sugar bubbles. Can carmelize with a torch as well for a deep golden sheen.Refrigerate prior to serving!!

New Year's Eve Table, Yellow split peas soup with pepitas

Yellow split peas soup with pepitas

1 small bag (1 lb) of dried yellow split peas
2 ribs plus leaves of celery, diced
1 large onion, diced
2 small carrots diced
2 medium tomatoes, grated
3-4 garlic cloves, peeled, whole
1/3 bunch of flat leaf parsley, chopped
Canola oil
pepitas (pumpkin seeds), shelled for garnish
Saute onions, celery and carrots in little canola oil until soft.  Rinse yellow split peas in cold water and add with water to cover few inches above peas.  Add the rest of the ingredients other than pepitas and bring to a boil, watch it so it won't overflow, reduce to medium once reached boiling point and stir occasionally.  Add water as necessary, as the soup will thicken....cook split peas until very very soft.  Can run through blender or mash slightly with potato masher. Serve with pepitas (pumpkin seeds) on top as a garnish.
Can toast pepitas in a bit of canola and salt to add extra dimension!!
I make identital soup with dried green peas.  You can shred the carrots for different texture instead of dicing.  The soup will thicken....depending on consistency desired, you can always add water and reaheat for next day leftovers!

Soups are easy, every day you can make your own original recipe.  This is one I make consistently without failing same way every single time!! It's easy, low fat, high protein, high fiber and delicious!!