Dec 292007
 

My 95-year-old Grandmother has not been well lately passed away Saturday 29 December in the USA, which had me thinking of all of the wonderful times we had cooking together. I owe a lot of my cooking skills to her. She encouraged me to take cooking lessons and taught me how to make all of the family holiday recipes. During December, we always baked all of the special goodies for family near and far. Family would always come to visit during the Christmas vacation, and even though we did not celebrate Christmas, we always had special goodies around, such as her chocolate cake, 1-2-3-4 cake, her amazing butter cookies, Rose’s apricot tarts, and her schnecken. But the baked goods that she always looked forward to was the big package of German goodies that family friends in Germany sent my grandparents. The package came from the famous Lebkuchen Schmidt bakery in Nürnberg. She would open the package and take a deep whiff, and then delicately open the packages. We would stand there in excitement smelling the spicey goodness and salivating, waiting to take a bite of the lovely Elisen lebkuchen and speculaas cookies. You could smell the cardamom, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg all over the house.

I usually buy lebkuchen when I am in Germany, but this year I was unable to make a trip there before Christmas, so I decided to do the impossible and try to make some myself. I knew that they would not be as good as Lebkuchen Schmidt, who have been making these amazing biscuits since 1927. My first attempt resulted in overbaked biscuits because I had spread the dough too thin on the oblaten wafer. However, the second time round I managed to get it right and even my famously critical other half drooled every time he came close to one. I decided to leave my lebkuchen natural and used square oblaten instead of round. If you cannot find oblaten wafers, which are similar to communion wafers, then use rice paper.

I couldn’t find candied orange, so I made it myself using thick-skinned navel oranges.

Mama, I made these for you and if I didn’t live so far away, I would have brought you some to savour.

Nürnberger Elisenlebkuchen

Yield: 75 pieces of five centimeter (2 inches) diameter

470 g (2-1/3 cups) sugar

4 eggs

1 teaspoon of vanilla sugar

400 g (14 ounces) hazelnuts (one-half milled rough and the other fine)

80g (3 ounces) whole almonds, finely chopped

50 g (1.7 ounces) roughly chopped walnuts

100 g (3.5 ounces) of finely cut candied orange and lemon peel respectively

Freshly grated untreated orange and lemon peel

1 teaspoon of finely chopped ginger root in syrup

1 teaspoon of the following milled spices: cinnamon, cloves, allspice, coriander, mace, cardamom, nutmeg

Oblaten Package

2 packets of oblaten wafers (5 cm (2 inches) diameter)

Punch Icing

130 g (1 cup) icing sugar, sifted

2 teaspoon of rum

2 teaspoons of red wine

Chocolate Icing

20 g (.7 ounces) of bittersweet chocolate (preferably 70%; high quality)

For decoration:

A selection of nuts and candied fruit

Use the egg whisk attachment of an electric beater to beat sugar, eggs and vanilla sugar so that the foamed mass has doubled and the sugar is dissolved.

Ground Hazelnuts and Almonds

Candied Orange Lemon and Ginger

Then add the nuts, candied and fresh orange and lemon peel, ginger and spices. Cover the batter and leave it in a cool place for 24 hours.

Oblaten Sheets

Unbaked Lebkuchen

The next day form small, approx. 15 g (1 rounded tablespoon), balls from the mix with wet hands and place each on a wafer so that a 3 to 5 mm broad margin remains. Place the wafers on a baking paper lined baking tray and bake until light brown for 10 to 12 minutes at 200C (400F) in a preheated oven.

The Lebkuchen should be well risen but not quite finished inside because they have to further develop and remain soft inside. The finished Lebkuchen should be slid onto a drying rack to cool. Place one-third of the cookies to the side: they should remain natural, e.g. without icing.

For the punch icing:

Mix the sifted icing sugar and to a smooth consistency with rum and red wine. Then dip the upper surface of a further third of the Lebkuchen (not the wafer side) into this icing.

For the chocolate icing:

Melt and temper the chocolate, and then dip the upper surface of the remaining Lebkuchen. Leave the iced Lebkuchen on a drying rack to dry.

Decorate the lebkuchen with nuts and candied fruit while the icing or natural cookie is still soft.

Store the completed Lebkuchen in an airtight tin. Cover the cakes with greaseproof paper and lay a few apple peelings on top. This keeps them soft and moist. Try to let the cookies mature for about ten days before serving them.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/12/29/baking-for-mama/

Dec 212007
 

One of the things that I really like about winter is chestnut season.

I remember fondly when my grandmother would splurge and buy chestnuts every december. They were quite expensive when I was a child, but the house smelled so nice when she was roasting them in the oven. My first experience of eating fire roasted chestnuts was not until I lived in Europe. I couldn’t wait to see the vendors rolling their carts yelling “Roasted Chestnuts” in German, Italian or French. I loved biting into their floury goodness and now I enjoy finding recipes in which they can be used to accent a dish.

I had some goulash meat in the freezer that needed to be cooked and I started looking at recipes I hadn’t made yet. And since winter has begun here in Israel, and I had just bought a big bag of chestnuts, I started craving a hearty winter dish. I found an amazing recipe bursting with flavour. I am not sure where this dish originates from, but I know that it is from somewhere in the Caucasus. The spices, the walnuts, the pomegranate juice impart an amazing, dare I say orgasmic flavour to the dish and the house smelled like a spice market. I highly recommend this recipe and I will definitely make it again and again.

I didn’t have any sour apricots on hand, so I used dried sour cherries, but they were lost in the dish. I served it over a brown rice.

Beef Stew with Chestnuts and Pomegranate

Serving Size: 6

455g (1 lb) chestnuts roasted and shelled

2 medium onions

1/4 cup canola oil

800g (1-3/4 lbs) goulash or stew beef, cut into 1/2-inch cubes ( I used frozen goulash meat that I thawed out)

1/4 teaspoon turmeric ground

1/4 teaspoon saffron threads crushed

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon ground

1 cup walnuts, minced fine

1/4 - 1/2 cup of sour apricots, cut into quarters

1 cup pomegranate juice

2 tablespoon tomato paste

3 tablespoon lemon juice freshly squeezed

1-1/2 cups chicken stock

1 teaspoon honey or date honey

1 teaspoon salt

1 garlic clove, minced fine

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 cup fresh parsley as garnish (optional)

Heat the oil in a heavy casserole over medium heat. Saute the onions and garlic for 10 minutes. Raise the heat to high, add the meat, turmeric, salt, pepper, and brown meat on all sides. Stir in the saffron, cinnamon, walnuts, sour apricots, tomato paste, and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1-1/2 hours.

Note: Depending on the cut of meat, you may need to cook this for 2 hours. Just make sure you check it half way through because you may need to add a little more liquid.

Add the lemon juice, pomegranate juice, and chestnuts. Stir well, cover and simmer for 10 more minutes. Serve over a bed of saffron rice.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/12/21/chestnut-heaven/

Dec 152007
 

I really like finding interesting recipes that may not be holiday-specific, but fit in with the types of foods that are typically served for the holiday. And I like to mix cultures in a meal. I think it makes the meal more interesting. So, for this meal I decided to serve a Spanish potato fritter which is also made in Italy, and an Argentinian cut of meat with Indian spices. I just love global cooking!

Try it some time, instead of having a themed dinner party where the entire menu is from one country or region, try making the menu diverse by making a Swedish appetizer, Middle Eastern main dish, Thai side dish and a Brazilian dessert.

I decided to make another variation of the Ashkenazi potato latkes and make something a little more Sephardi, so I made potato and sage fritters. These are quite light and are perfect for a hot appetizer. They are very easy to make and can be made a few hours ahead of time and reheated in the oven. The recipe only called for one tablespoon of sage. I like a nice sage flavour, so I added two tablespoons. I probably could have added more. The lemon is rather pronounced, so if you don’t like a strong lemon flavour, you could put in only one teaspoon of lemon zest.

Potato and Sage Fritters

Yield: 40 fritters

For the sponge:

1/4 cup warm water

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 envelope (1-1/8 teaspoon) active dry yeast

For the fritters:

450g (1lb) pound russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

Cold water

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons sea salt

2 large eggs

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage leaves

2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

4 to 6 cups peanut oil, for deep-frying

To make the sponge:

In a small bowl, combine the water, flour and yeast. Mix well and set aside in a warm place until yeasty-smelling and covered in very small bubbles, about 45 minutes.

In a medium saucepan, cover the potatoes with cold water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, add 1 tablespoon of sea salt. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook until the potatoes are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain and mash the potatoes with a fork. Allow them to cool.

Potato and Sage Fritters

In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and olive oil until thoroughly combined. In a bowl, combine cooled potatoes with the sponge, flour, sage, lemon zest, pepper, and 2 teaspoons of salt. Mix to evenly distribute the ingredients. Add the egg mixture to potato mixture, and stir until thoroughly combined. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl. You should have a thick, sticky batter. Add a bit more flour, if needed. Cover the bowl with a towel and set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Heat the oil in a deep-fryer or heavy pot to 190C (375F).

Potato and Sage Fritter Batter Risen

Scoop 1 tablespoon of the risen batter at a time, and use another spoon to scrape it into the hot oil. Don't crowd the fryer. Fry fritters until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes, turning them over occasionally. Drain the fritters on paper towels to absorb any excess oil. Sprinkle with salt and serve warm.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/12/15/spanish-and-indian-inspired-hannukah/

We got a great deal on Argentinian asado, or short ribs as they are called in the States. The best part was that they had relatively little fat on them. Slow cooking is a must for this cut of meat, so when I saw this recipe and it didn’t call for slow roasting, I was a bit skeptical. I didn’t have time to marinate them for three days, so maybe that makes the difference. I marinated the ribs for a full 24 hours and then slow roasted (roasting pan, 2 cups of water, covered with foil) them in the oven at 150C (300F) for 1-1/2 hours and then grilled them. They were outstanding and I can only imagine what they would be like if I had marinated them for three days.

We actually had a problem with this recipe because the way the asado is cut here in Israel, the pieces of bone (rib) embedded in the meat are almost three inches long, which means that the thickness of the meat is considerably greater than in the States. This means that you can’t expect to cook it through with just a few minutes on the grill, however hot. In a typical South American grill in Israel (we have quite a few of them just up the road in Kfar Saba, where there is a big Argentinian immigrant community), the asado is often slow grilled for more than an hour on a vertical stand placed a few inches from the fire, which brings out the full flavour in this rather fatty cut of meat.

This marinade is also great on chicken. You can put it directly on the chicken and cook it straight away if you want.

Indian-Style Grilled Short Ribs

Yield: 4

Recipe from Chef Floyd Cardoz

6 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger

1/4 cup dry red wine

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons pure maple syrup or honey or date honey

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon rosemary leaves

1 tablespoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons thyme

1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

8 beef short ribs on the bone (about 450g (1lb) each), trimmed of excess fat

In a blender, combine the garlic, ginger and red wine and puree. Scrape the wine puree into a medium bowl and stir in all of the remaining ingredients except the short ribs. Pour the marinade into 2 resealable plastic bags and add the short ribs. Tightly seal the plastic bags and refrigerate the short ribs in the marinade for 3 days.

Indian-style short ribs

Light a grill. Remove the short ribs from the marinade, scraping off any excess. Grill the short ribs over moderately high heat until they are lightly charred and medium-rare, about 5 minutes per side.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/12/15/spanish-and-indian-inspired-hannukah/

Dec 122007
 

As most of you know, the holiday of Hannukah is all about oil. So, the foods that we eat during this time are fried and oily. This year we decided that we wanted to try and have a more healthier Hannukah. We did have potato pancakes, but I thought we should try a lower carbohydrate latke that wouldn’t make us feel like we were missing out on having yummy carbohydrate-laden potato latkes.

I decided to make cauliflower latkes. Okay, you don’t quite get the crunch of a regular potato latke, but they were very good. They certainly tasted like potato latkes because I put most of the same ingredients that I put in the potato version. My husband gives them a high rating and so do I.

Cauliflower Latkes

Yield: 20 latkes

1 (about 1kg or 2 pounds) large cauliflower, trimmed and chopped into 1-inch pieces

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs or whole wheat breadcrumbs

1 teaspoon fresh or 1/4 teaspoon dry thyme

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

2 green onions, sliced, including the green part

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Salt to taste

Freshly ground pepper to taste

4 Tablespoons vegetable oil for frying

Steam the cauliflower until tender, but not mushy. Mash to the consistency of mashed potatoes with 1/4-inch lumps. Drain any excess moisture.

Meanwhile, gently saute onions in vegetable oil over medium-low heat until soft and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool about 5 minutes.

Combine the mashed cauliflower, sauteed onions, bread crumbs, thyme, parsley, green onion, eggs, salt, and pepper with a wooden spoon.

Heat about 4 tablespoons of oil in a deep skillet.

Scoop out a heaping tablespoon of the cauliflower mixture into your hands and compress into a patty about 1/2-inch thick. Place patty in hot oil to fry. Repeat with remaining cauliflower, cooking 4 to 5 patties at a time, flipping when golden on the first side. Do not crowd pan or they will not brown and crisp properly. Drain cauliflower latkes on paper towels and keep warm in the oven at 250 F. until all are completed.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/12/12/healthier-hannukah/

Dec 082007
 

The first night of Hannukah we were invited to a friend’s house to celebrate with their family. We had a nice meal of mushroom soup, potato latkes, butternut squash and curry latkes, salad, homemade Merlot wine and peapod wine. It was a delicious dinner.

I volunteered to bring dessert and instead of bringing soufganyiot, I decided to make an Italian holiday dessert, Panettone in honor of my Italian ancestry. A couple of years ago, I found an interesting take on this sweet bread which is usually made with raisins and candied fruit. The one I made is called Cranberry Pistachio Panettone. It is an eggy, buttery sweet bread, but not too sweet. I like it better than the panettone I used to buy in Milano and Lugano. It is really easy to make, just a little time consuming because of the rising time, but well worth the wait. You can freeze it, just make sure you wrap it well.

I baked it in a tall, narrow cooking pot that I use to cook pasta or asparagus. If you can find a paper panettone form, then use that. I could find one in any of the baking shops. You can also be decadent and make this with dried tart cherries instead of cranberries.

Dec 062007
 

I would like to wish everyone Chag Hannukah Sameach! Happy Hannukah!

I have a lot of catching up to do. I am going to interrupt the Italy posts and write about Hannukah. There will be lots of frying and a few goodies to post about in the next few days.  I am making Hannukah goodies from Italy, Morocco and Germany.

So, watch this space …. I will be posting every night starting tomorrow.

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