Sunday, April 27, 2008

Passover No More

Passover is (finally!) over. It seemed much harder than usual this year, but I suspect that had more to do with some interview induced cookie cravings than anything else. Here is my first post-Passover meal. I had spinach-cannellini dip with toast rounds, radishes straight up from the Farmers' Market, and corn cakes topped with spicy cinnamon tomatoes. Oddly enough, the radishes were the best part of the meal. They're still tiny, so they aren't too pungent. The man who sold them to me gave me an extra bag for free, so I'm sure I'll be enjoying them all week. (Free produce is only one benefit of being a lie-abed.)

I had high hopes for the cinnamon tomatoes, but they were only so-so. I'm hoping the flavors will do that mingling thing and they'll taste better tomorrow morning. If they do, I'll post the recipe. If not, they'll have a second life as pasta sauce.

The tomatoes were a bust. It was this recipe from the Kitchn. They made a great spaghetti sauce though. Tomato sauce cooked with cinnamon and bay leaves actually ended up being my favorite back when I tried to make all of Bittman's pasta sauces.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Passover Seder

Passover is a meal of symbols. Each food eaten has a meaning. Before the meal, a service is read to explain the meaning of each food and to retell the story of the exodus from Egypt. (In fact, the word "seder" means order.) Here's my seder plate: beets with horseradish sauce, carrot tops, asparagus, a carrot, haroset (apple-walnut salad), and roast potatoes. At the top left of the photo you can just see my whole-wheat matzah peeking out.

The haroset represents the mortar used by Jewish slaves to piece together the bricks of the pyramids. Every Jewish family has a recipe for haroset. In Egypt, they use dates and raisins for the fruit. Persian recipes use pistachios and almonds. My family makes a pretty traditional Ashkenazik recipe.


3 apples (I used gala, but anything sweet is good)
1/3 cup walnuts
1 tablespoon agave nectar or sugar
3 tablespoons sweet red wine
a sprinkle of cinnamon

Peel the apples and cut them into small chunks. Crumble the walnuts into the apples. Add the agave, wine, and cinnamon. Mix everything together and refrigerate until ready. Haroset is one of those foods that gets better with time. The wine soaks into the apples and turns them a rosy red.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Toffee bars

These bars are a beloved family tradition passed on to me from my mother who got the recipe from her mother who probably got it from a newspaper or magazine. Or maybe the back of bag of chocolate chips. But three generations in the U.S.? That's tradition. After this weekend, I can now testify that they even taste good when baked on a Wednesday in one state and consumed on a Sunday in a different state. Magic.

When I cook, there's one thing I always keep any eye out for: dishes. Any recipe change that lets me spend less time washing dishes is an improvement for me. So this method is slightly different from the way my mom (and grandmother) make it, but they'd never know it.

A Lazy Person's Toffee Bars
1 cup non-dairy margarine
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 drops maple or rum flavoring OR 1 tablespoon maple syrup
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup walnuts

Combine margarine and sugar in a bowl. Mix in flour and flavorings (or syrup). The batter will be dense. Spread in a pan and smooth with a knife or the back of a spoon. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top of the bars and bake an additional 5 minutes, or until the chocolate is spreadable. Take the bars out of the oven and quickly smooth over the chocolate. Crumble the walnuts evenly over the chocolate. (A less lazy person might use pre-chopped walnuts.) Refrigerate the bars until the chocolate cools enough to maintain its shape (about 15 minutes). Cut and serve.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Peanut Cauliflower Soup

This soup was a Friday night soup. Saturday is my day for grocery shopping, so that makes Friday my day to use up odds and ends in the fridge. One Friday, I had celery, carrots, part of an onion, and half a head of cauliflower to use up. The celery and carrots weren't good enough to be eaten raw, so soup it was. I remembered seeing a recipe for Virginian Peanut Soup in Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. The soup called for potatoes. Pureed potatoes make for a pretty creamy soup. People make mashed cauliflower in place of mashed potatoes all the time. So I figured why not?

Peanut Cauliflower Soup
oil for sauteeing
half an onion, minced
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 cup cauliflower, chopped
salt and pepper
2 bay leaves
enough vegetable broth (or water) to cover
1 cup of soymilk (optional)
1/2 to 3/4 cup peanut butter
cayenne pepper

Sautee the onions until soft (about 3 minutes). Add the celery and carrots and cook another 3 minutes. Add the cauliflower, bay leaves, and enough broth or water to cover everything. Bring to a boil and simmer covered for 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and discard. Puree the soup with a hand blender (or in batches in a regular blender). Stir in peanut butter and soy milk and season to taste with salt, pepper, and cayenne. Warm the soup on the stove without letting it boil. Serve with a dollop of peanut butter and a sprinkle of cayenne.