2013 - The Year of Top Three Favorites

2013 was the year of top three favorites.

2013 top three favorite food cities:
1. NYC, revisited
2. Seattle, Washington (1st visit)
3. Portland, Maine (1st visit)

Cheese Blintzes & Ivan Ramen & Russ & Daughters Books GIVEAWAY!

As you read in my NYC series, some of the highlights of my trip to NYC over Thanksgiving weekend were discovering Ivan Ramen and Russ and Daughters. One a new establishment launched first in Japan vs. the other that is a part of the history of the Lower East Side, Manhattan. The books however both telling us about their journey which I find fascinating. Great reads with some recipes.

Jewish Lower East Side, Manhattan: Russ & Daughters

Walking into Russ and Daughters felt like homecoming. It transported me back to my cultural and culinary roots. Oh wait, wrong ancestry.

French Bread

French bread as a holiday classic?! Yep, always. I am a big fan of late-mornings holiday-weekend Shakshuka (poached eggs in tomato sauce) brunches. Without fail, we always have it with French bread or baguette, otherwise it's just not the same.  On Holidays and New Year's Eve cocktail parties, toasted bruschetta or crostini with various toppings, I always make with day old French bread or a baguette. Besides, since this French loaf is best the day of, if by any chance you've got leftovers, you can make bruschetta or crostini as appetizers before dinner the following evening.

Vegan Butternut Dill Soup

Imagine four full days of gluttony in New York City. It was well worth every calorie, as each and every one of them settled comfortably, without much discrimination, in every cell of my body. On the other hand, as we were heading back home, I was dreading the empty calories at the rest stops on the road. So…

Panettone & The New Artisan Bread in Five Cookbook Worldwide GIVEAWAY

When I received my review copy of The new Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, I didn't know which recipe to tackle first. Initially I wished to feature the olive bread to illustrate our day to day life. We always have bagels with cream cheese, multi grain and multi seed bread toasted with jam in the morning, pita with hummus as a snack and olive bread with feta and sliced tomatoes on top with a dash of salt as a lazy lunch.

The Ramen That Won Us Over

Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop in Gotham West won both me and Jonathan over. The Barista at Blue Bottle Coffee Co. got such a kick out of me when I was trying to tell him about our magical ramen discovery when I was ordering coffee the next morning.

Brunch at Sylvester's in Western MA

Holidays make me think of brunch and brunch thoughts made me think of Sylvester's in Western Mass. This Oreo Latte above, Jonathan's niece ordered and so well modeled, looks sensational. I am not a big fan of commercially made cookies and sweets, but I have a weak spot for Oreos. I never eat them myself, but with S's allergies, growing up, it was one of the only commercially made cookies he could have and he absolutely loved them. I think he still does.

Brussels Sprouts Potato Latkes & CA Olive Ranch EVOO Trio GIVEAWAY gift pack

I developed this recipe for California Olive Ranch's 'Holiday Classic re-invented with EVOO' campaign. It was a no brainer since the miracle of Chanukkah was all about this little jug of olive oil that could. Besides, olive oil is a large part of my cooking on any given day not just the holidays. In addition to shallow frying latkes (potato pancakes) in olive oil, I also wished to re-invent the latke this year. 

Freekeh with Brussels Sprouts, Apple, Dried Cranberries, Honey & Pomegranate

When Freekehlicious approached me about a professional collaboration featuring this ancient grain, Freekeh,  I said yes without a shred of hesitation. What better way to celebrate this ancient grain with fall/winter seasonal ingredients on this momentous occasion, Thanksgivukkah ! This hybrid of Chanukah and Thanksgiving holiday comes around only once in a lifetime. This year the first day of Chanukah falls on Thursday, November 28, 2013, Thanksgiving. Next time these two holidays will collide will be in 77,798 years.

Minced Onion Celery Seed Savory Cheese Rolls

When I spotted the Savory Cheese Rolls recipe on Red Star Yeast's site I immediately thought they would be great rolls for Thanksgiving and a (Parve) Chanukah. I also thought that on a balmy wintery day they would go perfectly with a piping hot bowl of chili. Seems like Red Star Yeast was thinking summer BBQ rolls, so really these Minced Onion Celery Seed Savory Cheese Rolls are a year-round crowd pleaser.

Fajita-Style Quesadillas: Better Homes and Gardens Delish Dish Blog

Quesadillas are one of those quick fun foods, on the run for young and old alike. It's comforting, nutritious and delicious all at once. You quickly toss it together after a late soccer practice car pool run. Easy midweek or weekend lunch or dinner and a great game day snack for a crowd of friends watching football, baseball or soccer.

Brussels Sprout Gratin with Potatoes & Spinach & Mollie Katzen's 'The Heart of the Plate' GIVEAWAY!

As promised in my article For the Love of Avocados and Other Vegetables: Mollie Katzen - The Heart of the Plate, I am giving away a copy of Mollie Katzen's newly released cookbook, The Heart of the Plate. The giveaway and my review cope are a courtesy of Mollie Katzen, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Katzen's wonderful publicist who made it all possible. Thank you, Carrie.

I am sharing below a second recipe, Brussels Sprout Gratin with Potatoes and Spinach, from The Heart of the Plate, in addition to the Avocado-Grapefruit-Mango Saladita I posted earlier. I wrote about how much I adore Mollie's recent book. If I didn't own it already, I would wish to win it. The recipes, the illustrations and the photos are simply phenomenal.

In Season: Classic American Concord Grape Jelly & A Concord Grape Tart

My all time favorite jelly on toast is an American classic, the Concord grape.  The Concord grape was developed in Concord, MA by Ephraim Wales Bull. The original vine still grows in his original home.

I even like the commercially produced, sample size, mini glass jar grape jellies at indistinct hotel breakfast bars. You can just tell it's Concord by its signature deep magenta color. Homemade Concord grape jelly is even more tantalizing in flavor and color than commercial brands. It's not only tastier when home-made, but also healthier, without all the preservatives, artificial flavors and colors and added pectin.

Shakshuka (Poached Eggs) & 'Food Memory' Guest Post at Cake Duchess

When I wrote my very first post, Shakshuka, For Every College Kid's Hot Plate, I didn't really contemplate whether or not four years later, coming this November 4th, I would still be here at this space or not. Beginning this journey was a way of purging, cleansing. I had no idea if anyone would read it nor did the thought even cross my mind at the time. The writing of my stories and recipes were healing. A cathartic process. It was my therapy of sorts. Little had I known I would have you all with me on this journey and it makes mine the more special.

Seattle Eats & IFBC: Final Post

The highlight of IFBC two weeks ago was meeting my old social media buddies IRL and making new friends. Dorie Greenspan's keynote speech was super inspiring. Andrew Scrivani's photography sessions were very helpful. I have watched him online before, but it was nice to get the reinforcement in a real, not a virtual, room. Present. What brought this conference full circle for me, oddly enough, was the last session. As the conference was wrapping up on Sunday, I scurried back for Kim O'Donnel's session from a cappuccino, pastry and photographing at Pike Market. It's appalling to think that I almost missed the session. Pike Market was winking at me to linger just a moment longer. What left me in awe was the enormity of the talent these very friends I made over the weekend possess. You had to hear some of the exquisite writings. I also left encouraged to write even when un-inspired and when I have ten minutes at the doctor's office, waiting.

Avocado-Grapefruit-Mango Saladita: Mollie Katzen's 'The Heart of the Plate'

A version of this article was published in The Washington Jewish Week today 10/10/2013 with the Brussels Sprout Gratin with Potatoes and Spinach recipe from Katzen's 'The Heart of the Plate'. If you are a subscriber, or pick up a copy at newsstands in the DC metro area, find the article on page 30-31. You can also click the links above to access it.

For the Love of Avocados and Other Vegetables: Mollie Katzen - 'The Heart of the Plate'

Traveling from her home in Northern California, Mollie Katzen (62) kicked off her 12th cookbook, 'The Heart of the Plate' (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) whirlwind of a cookbook tour at Sixth and I Historic Synagogue in DC on Sept. 17th. The Heart of the Plate dropped the same day. Katzen, with over six million copies of her books in print, is best known for 'The Moosewood Cookbook' (1977) and with it introduced, some say single-handedly, America to vegetarian food. Katzen, modest, waives her hand at these claims.

Pike Market, Seattle

Almost two weeks ago I attended my first ever food bloggers conference organized by Foodista and Zephyr Adventures. The conference couldn't have had a better backsplash than Seattle for the food loving crowd that attended, myself included. Every chance I got, every spare moment, I put my flat walking shoes on, sometimes flip flops and zipped over to Pike Market, just a few walking blocks from the W hotel, where IFBC 2013 (International Food Bloggers Conference) was held. I often arrived before the stalls were opened, or as the vendors were just about to unpack their wares, so I wouldn't miss out on sessions held at the hotel.

Baking with Heritage: Kakaós Csiga {Chocolate Snails} by Cake Duchess

While Lora, Cake Duchess, is one of my oldest and dearest friends for the last four years on social media, this is the first time she's been a guest on Food Wanderings. I am squealing with glee here. With Lora being such a gifted avid baker I am super excited she is sharing with 'Baking with Heritage' her Hungarian family's heirloom Kakaós Csiga {Chocolate Snails} recipe.  I switched to consistently using heat resistant glass and ceramic bowls to proof my dough because of Lora. Her dough in the photos always seems to rise so effortlessly.

Chocolate Cardamon Plums 'Clafoutis'

This is a new 'Seasonal Sweets' column written and photographed by me over at Serious Eats. I am happy to be on board as a writer for the fine folks at Serious Eats. I hold them in high regard. Their delicious food postings are always well researched and superbly written.

I hope you enjoy this simple yet decadent, classic French dessert I infused with some, no surprise, Indian cardamon. I confess I made this clafoutis just in time for Rosh HaShanah and went directly for dessert before dinner, not once but twice. I wish you could see IRL (in real life) the pudding-like consistency and how during the baking process the plum's skin bled fuscia red into the yellow flesh. This clafoutis version has subdued intricate textures and colors and a sensational flavor. I baked it within a week four times for different holiday parties and entertaining at home. Super easy to whip together in literally moments time.

DC Eats & Food: My Lunches with Jeanne; Daikaya Ramen Shop

While some of the lunches in this series were with my friend Jeanne, the others were my outings with my hubby Jonathan. Same difference both names begin with the letter J, ahahaha. I am looking forward to my renewed DC food explorations with Jeanne this fall after our summer hiatus. This summer Jeanne has been out of town mostly and entertaining her brood of three.

Going to IFBC, Seattle, Sept. 20-22, 2013

In recent days I've been distracted. Deadlines looming, Labor Day Weekend and Rosh HaShanah around the corner but what I have been obsessing about is IFBC (International Food Bloggers Conference) in Seattle, my first ever food conference. Surprising it took me four years of food writing and photographing to take the leap. When I registered and booked hotels and flights a while back it did not phase me, but this week suddenly it dawned on me and I am all jittery with excitement.

Olive Oil Poached Salmon With Lemon Dill Aioli; 5774 Recipe

If I served this poached salmon to my family in Israel, they would be certain I had lost my marbles. Not that they don't think so already, but this innocently swimming wild Coho, that was sacrificed for the sake of holiday symbolism, would seal the deal and I would be shipped off to an asylum. In comparison to my family's full of punch Indian and Israeli table, this poor little Coho fellow would be considered anemic. I thought so too years ago, until I developed the idiosyncrasies and appreciation for the delicately subdued.

Rosh HaShanah (Jewish New Year) 2013/5774; Favorite Recipes Recap

These are some of my favorite Rosh HaShanah recipes that I've posted over the years. This small sample encapsulates the way we celebrate the holiday. Bringing the essence of the fusion of cultures that we are to our Rosh HaShanah table. You have here from top left, clockwise, from the NYT Apple Bourbon Bundt Cake, my newly adopted Rosh HaShanah boozy dessert. Artichoke Bottoms Filled with Carp 'Meatballs' in Ouzo and Fennel Sauce, a delicious departure from gefilte fish and to change things around from my staple spicy Moroccan fish. My mom's original, Lamb Biryani is quite a feast. Probably the best biryani I have ever tasted. I of course make it nut-free. Last but not least, a sensational Golden and Red Beet Tartare with an Apple Cider and Dill Vinaigrette as a prelude to your holiday meal festivities.

Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread

I am super excited to share Red Star Yeast's Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread with you today. I conquered both my fears of baking with 100% whole wheat flour and sourdough at once. Sourdough and whole wheat baking might seem daunting to most, but in all honesty it turned out to be a breeze. A little boost from active dry yeast goes a long way while still achieving the distinctly desired sour notes in sourdough breads. The sourdough starter pretty much sat there on the counter, while once in a while I stalked it with a chemist-like excitement.

Lemon Poppy Seed Sable (Sand) Cookies

Just when I thought I couldn't possibly outdo myself, I came up with a twin cookie to keep the spectacular Polenta Citrus Sable (Sand) Cookie Snaps company.

The flavor combination is inspired by the Poppy Seed Lemon Chiffon Cake I posted back in 2010. While my diet growing up was predominantly Indian based, this classic cake was a part of our Israeli repertoire. Poppy seeds and anything citrus are part of Israeli culinary identity among other foods. Jaffa citrus does not need an introduction and poppy seeds are traditionally used in March, during the Jewish holiday, Purim, when making Hamantaschens.

Maine, Part III: Portland To Acadia: Lobster Confessions & Traveling With Allergies

These are the final images, we carry with us, of our last morning heading out of Portland. It was our 26th wedding anniversary b'fast date, July 12. Yes, 26. It's mind boggling. Standard Baking Co. would be my daily routine if I lived in Portland. I would be light reading, avoiding any dreary daily news, outside, under the grapevines pergola, with coffee and my daily whim, pastry. It is exactly the pastry and bakery shop I wish I had in my own neighborhood. I've seen a review that read 'quite possibly Standard Baking Co. might be the best bakery/pastry shop on the East Coast'. I concur.

Chocolate, Chocolate Chip 'Sable' Cookies

As far as accidents go, some end up with awesome results. These Chocolate, Chocolate Chip Cookies are a prime example of that.

I saved this well known chocolate sable cookie recipe to bake when my son is back from college. I love sable cookies and he loves chocolate, but the cookie dough was too crumbly and dry. I double and triple checked my steps. It was not me, this time the recipe was way off. I even tried to shape the cookie dough into a log as instructed, hoping that the warmth of my palms would mold it into a cohesive cookie dough, but my efforts were proven futile. I had incredible quality ingredients sitting here in the mixer bowl and I was not about to toss the crumbly chocolatey mess away. I had to think fast.

Photographic Essay & Stuffed Portabello With Melting Tallegio Links

This is mostly a photographic journey through mushrooms and cheese that I find to be fascinating subjects. Not long ago, I saw someone on social media pleading, in no specific direction, to bring to a halt this stinky cheese trend. My guys too turn their noses up at Tallegio, Bleu Cheese and other stinky cheese varieties. I, on the other hand, could care less, for tarragon. Its liquorish tones remind me of  Anise-y Arak, which I abhor, well that might be too strong of a word. However Arak's Greek equivalent, Ouzo, worked beautifully in this Artichoke Bottoms Filled With Carp 'Meatballs' And Fennel Sauce dish.

Blackberry Chia Seed Jam & Health Warrior Chia Seeds & Chia Bars Giveaway

As you already know, we are leading a balanced diet, eating in moderation, and if I can help it, infusing our breakfast and baked goods with healthy elements. If you are a frequent visitor here, you know of my love of anything oats. Chia seeds, I am mostly unfamiliar with, though a few months back, I baked chia seed muffins which I liked, but never ended up posting. So when Health Warrior approached me about this collaboration, I was curious to explore this relatively new to me ingredient's traits in baking and cooking and its health benefits.

Portland, Maine - Part I: Booze, But No Moose To Go With It

We were still all groggy when we woke up in the morning, after a long drive and a late arrival from the DC area the night before, in Portland. Our spirits were not lifted as our outdated navigation system was leading us astray in pursuit of coffee and bagels at Scratch Baking Co., in South Portland.

As we finally descend on our destination, we spy a whimsical storybook store front in the middle of a modest residential neighborhood. There is a calm rhythm to it, as opposed to a touristy rush, as local patrons walk or bike to it and order their usual. Truly a gem.

Portland, Maine, Part II: The Holy Mother Of Donuts & Chasing Lighthouses

I quickly abandoned the 7am rise and shine, hitting the hiking trails, with this being Jonathan's only kick back, relaxing time in a while.  Add to the mix traveling with a twenty year old young adult, and our 13 year old beagle, Wizard. As temperaments, interests and physical thresholds (Wizard's, not mine:), vary, flexibility and spontaneity play a key role in making a family vacation successful for all. 

Maine with so many land locked waters is known for its lake side vacations. An entire week lounging, inviting some friends, swimming, boating and playing volleyball sounds beguiling, if only this wasn't our first 'expedition' of sorts into this land of pines. 

Strawberry Basil Sorbet

Just quickly, I would like to share with you this refreshing sorbet I churned a couple of weeks ago. The basil adds such a POW of freshness to the strawberries. Imagine an intermezzo, a brief interlude, in between courses to cleanse your palette with aromatic cooling freshness. It's also, or more accurately, primarily, a great delicious summer frozen treat. This particular sorbet didn't come out icy, though I had to stick the scooped cone in the freezer, so it wouldn't melt quickly as I photograph it. The consistency was a smooth, idyllic, epitome of a sorbet.
I will be somewhat absent in the next couple of weeks but follow me here. I will be Instagram-ing. Wishing you all a great summer and to those of you who are experiencing winter, take solace that you are not enduring the humidity here.
Strawberry Basil Sorbet

1 lb strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/2 cup sugar (adjust according to sweetness of strawberries*)
1/2 cup fresh basil, julienned (adjust according to taste)
1-2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (optional)

In a bowl with a lid, add the sugar and the basil to the strawberries, mix, cover with a lid and let macerate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. Best to macerate overnight. Stir once or twice while macerating. Add to a food processor and whizz to a smooth consistency. Churn according to manufacturer's instructions, scoop to a container with a lid and freeze for at least a few hours. Let thaw a tad before serving.

*I wouldn't recommend using less than 1/2  a cup of sugar as it contributes to the smooth consistency of the sorbet.

More frozen treats:
Cardamon Cherry Ice Cream
Strawberry Swirl Vanilla Ice Cream
Dairy-Free Coconut Chocolate Ice Cream
Capitolina's Indian Kulfi Ice Cream
Frozen Strawberry Yogurt
Rum Raisin Ice Cream
Persimmon, Kaffir Lime, Lemongrass and Purple Basil Sorbet
Madagascar Vanilla Bean Banana Ice Cream
Coffee Ice Cream
Lemondrop Melon Limonana Sorbet
Fig Gelato - Two Ways
Mango Sorbet
Pineapple Sorbet

Granola Crunch Coffeecake

I love everything breakfast and brunch, and this coffeecake is a great addition to the repertoire. In fact we had it yesterday afternoon with tea. I haven't made granola in a while so it was a great excuse to make a double batch, this time with dried blueberries. A wonderful recipe brought to you by the great folks at Red Star Yeast as you are heading into the 4th of July weekend. I hope you enjoyed your time yesterday BBQ-ing and watching the fireworks with family and friends.
This post is a part of my professional collaboration with Red Star Yeast. See the entire series in the links at the bottom.

Granola Crunch Coffeecake
adapted from Red Star Yeast recipe

3 cups flour* (I needed 3 3/4 cups flour)
4 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup granola (store bought or granola recipe here. I made it with dried blueberries this time)
1/3 cup Sugar (I used Sugar in the Raw)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup butter
2 eggs

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1 teaspoon cinnamon (I used only 1/2 teaspoon)
1/4 butter, melted

In a large mixer bowl with a dough hook attachment, combine 1 1/2 cups flour, yeast, sugar, salt and granola, mix well. Heat up milk, water and butter in a small saucepan to 120-130F. Butter does not have to completely melt. Add to the flour mixture and beat on low for 2 minutes. Add the eggs and continue beating for 3 minutes longer. Scrape the sides of the mixer bowl with a rubber spatula throughout the process. Gradually add the remaining flour and beat for a few minutes on low speed until nicely incorporated and dough is smooth, moist and supple. Transfer to a heat resistant large glass or ceramic bowl, cover with saran wrap and let rise for approximately 45 minutes in a warm place. Mix all the topping ingredients. In a 13x9 pan spread the dough evenly with your fingers. Spread the topping on the dough evenly. With a back of a teaspoon press randomly into the dough to make some indentations. Cover with saran wrap and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375F. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Oven temperatures vary so watch your coffeecake. It took me only 30 minutes.

Red Star Yeast series:
Cinnamon Buns
Yeast Pancakes
Multigrain Oatmeal Bread
Marbled Rye Bread
Dark Pumpernickel Rye Bread
Jalapeño Cheddar Bread
Date and Orange Tea Ring
Finnish Pulla
Banana Bread

Breads Bakery's Cheese & Olive Straws

It's that time of the year. Summer. Last year, today, we were in Israel, on an intoxicating sensory overload. It's that time of the year when you need to step away to get perspective. I read it somewhere. It's true. Whether you fly over oceans to exotic places or just get in the car, turn on the engine and drive.
That is exactly what I decided to do with the guys this coming July when my fantasies of the Greek Isles dissipated into thin air and transformed into daydreaming about lighthouses on the charming coast of Maine. An American road-trip. We don't do it enough or barely at all.
The single most profoundly powerful experience I had while traveling in the United States, and it might sound completely predictable and corny, was at The Grand Canyon. I was faulted in the past for being a doubter, but when I saw its enormity, its powerful stillness and shimmering beauty, I knew there was a higher cosmic power, beyond us mere humans.
Summer vacations are synonymous with Israel and visiting with family there. While summer brings mad craving of the flavors of Israel, this year I hope to add some other sensory stimulations and memories catalogued in my brain cells. Maybe, just maybe in the summer of 2014, I will reminisce and have burning yearnings for the flavors of Coastal Maine. Lobster shack images and freshly caught haddock...and if I still get longings for these cheesy, garlicky olive straws, rugalach and babka, I can get in the car, turn on the engine and take a road trip to New York City's Israeli Breads Bakery. Then again there is this tiny issue of inner city parking, speaking of perspective.
Breads Bakery's Cheese and Olive Straws
original recipe in Hebrew here
makes 16 straws

3 3/4 cups unbleached white flour (500gr)
3/4 cup rye flour (100gr)
1 2/3 cups water
1/2oz plus a little quick rise yeast (15gr), 2 1/4oz packets plus
1 tablespoon salt (15gr)
1 cup olives, pitted, halved and drained (1 packed cup)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons semolina/durum flour (40gr)
7oz mozzarella, gouda or cheddar, shredded (approx. 200gr)

For brushing:
1 egg, whisked

In a large bowl add the white flour, rye flour and salt. Set aside.

In an additional large bowl add the olives, garlic, semolina and cheese. Mix and set aside.

Add the yeast and water into a mixing bowl with a hook attachment and let sit for a few minutes.

Gradually add the dry ingredients flour mix into the yeast and water and knead on a low speed for approximately 5-7 minutes until the dough is elastic and soft.

Add the olive mix into the dough and continue kneading on low for another minute or so. It's ok if not all the olives and cheese are completely incorporated into the dough.

On a lightly floured surface, form the dough into a ball. Ideally, put it in a heat resistant glass or ceramic bowl, cover the bowl tightly with saran wrap and let rise in a warm place for approximately an hour or until the dough doubles itself.

Preheat oven to 428F. Line 3 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Divide the dough into 16 equal parts (I weigh each one). Roll out each part to an approximately 10 inch straw (25cm, a little less than 10 inches).

Place straws on parchment paper lined cookie sheets and cover with clean kitchen towels and let rise in a warm place for 40 minutes - 1 hour.

Gently brush the straws with the whisked egg and bake for approximately 15 minutes, until golden on top. Take out of the oven and cool on a wire.

Recommended to be served on the same day with an assortment of cheeses and along with a salad and dips. Pictured: Labneh, A Mediterranean yogurt cheese, with zaatar.

Cook's notes: Maybe these are not what traditionally we know as straws, but I saw somewhere that is what they called them. My favorite olives pictured above are Kalamata.