May 292010
 

As the weather get warmer here, I like to start lightening up the dishes. My husband just returned from a two week trip where he only had fish, so I had to make a chicken dish before he started growing scales and gills. After the first successful attempt at making a hamin, I decided to try a summer recipe from Sherry Ansky’s Hamin cookbook.

This recipe just calls for chicken legs, israeli couscous, onions, and water, which sounded too bland for our taste, so I kicked it up a notch and added garlic, slices of butternut squash, Hungarian paprika, and ras el hanut. The dish was delicious and the sweetness of the butternut squash was a perfect addition. This dish can be made overnight or you can cook it for 4 hours and serve it on Friday night like I did. The best part of this dish is that you line the pan with parchment paper, so there is easy cleanup; no muss and no fuss.

Chicken Hamin with Israeli Couscous and Butternut Squash

Serving Size: 4 to 6

Adapted from a recipe in Hamin (in Hebrew) by Sherry Ansky

1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces

1 small butternut squash

1/4 cup olive oil or canola oil

2 large onions, coarsely chopped

6 whole cloves garlic

2 rounded tablespoons Hungarian paprika

1 rounded tablespoon ras el hanut

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

500g (1lb) Israeli couscous (ptitim)

4 cups of water and another 1/2 cup

Preheat oven to 100C (200F) for overnight cooking or 150C (300F) for 4 hours cooking.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan that has a lid over medium high heat. Add the onions and saute until lightly brown. Add the whole garlic, paprika, ras el hanut, salt and pepper; stir for a couple of minutes. Add the Israeli couscous and lightly toast it, stirring constantly. Add the water, cover, and cook the couscous for 8 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed.

Meanwhile, cut the butternut squash in half vertically, keeping the peel on, and seed it removing all of the stringy parts. Then, cut the squash horizontally into 6mm (1/4 inch) slices. Set aside.

Line a large clay pot, or other large roasting dish that has a cover, with parchment paper. Place half of the couscous mixture in the bottom of the pan, patting it down to make sure you have an even layer, and then add a layer of butternut squash slices. Add all of the chicken on top of the butternut squash, and then layer with rest of the butternut squash. Place the rest of the couscous mixture on top and add the remaining 1/2 cup of water. Place a piece of parchment paper on top of the pan and cover tightly with the lid.

Place in the oven and cook overnight or for 4 hours at the higher temperature. Invert on a platter for presentation.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2010/05/29/chicken-hamin-with-israeli-couscous-and-butternut-squash/

May 162010
 

Chocolate is most people’s guilty pleasure, but my guilty pleasure is ice cream. And not just any ice cream, but luscious Italian gelato, preferably eaten in Italy at one of my favorite gelateria, Perche No!, in Firenze, or in Israel at Gelateria Siciliana on Ibn Givrol in Tel Aviv.

I also enjoy making my own ice cream and sorbet at home, which I have blogged in several posts here.

The final course for the dinner party last week was a recipe for semifreddo that intrigued me from the moment I saw it on the Food52 website. Semifreddo literally means “half-frozen” and is a frozen dessert that has a mousse-like texture from equal parts of ice cream custard and whipped double (heavy) cream.

I didn’t deviate from the recipe at all and even made the salted-honey hazelnuts, but in the rush of trying to serve the dessert, I forgot to plate them. It was actually better in the end because it would have been too much of a taste contrast with the mini almond-orange financiers I served on the side. The dessert was a huge hit, which made me very happy since Mimi was afraid that some of the guests might not like the taste of saffron. I used a very high quality saffron that I had been keeping for a special occasion.

Sarah, from Foodbridge, brought a large bag filled with Surinam Cherries, also known as Pitanga in Brazil. They were a perfect decoration for the top of the semifreddo and were also quite delicious. I had never had them before but they  remind me of cherries, which as my faithful readers know is one of my favorite fruits.

Mimi suggested that we serve an alternative to the semifreddo, so I decided to make mini financiers which I baked in a silcone chocolate mold that can withstand up to 220C (425F). Financiers are a light teacake, similar to sponge cake, and are usually made of almond flour, a beurre noisette (brown butter), egg whites, icing sugar and flour. Financiers are often baked in rectangular-shaped molds which are suppose to resemble a bars of gold. You can find these molds in cooking shops, such as 4Chef, in Tel Aviv.

The dessert was a huge hit and I will definitely make this again. I made the semifreddo a couple of days in advance and made the financiers the day before, but you could easily make these several days before and freeze them.

The dessert was served with Mimi’s delicious homemade liqueurs. On offer were lemoncello, geranium, apricot, strawberry and coffee. I love all of them, but my personal favorite is apricot.

Saffron Semifreddo with Cherry Cardamom Syrup and Salted Honey Hazelnuts

Serving Size: 6

For the Saffron semifreddo:

5 large egg yolks

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon high quality saffron threads

1 tablespoon sweet vermouth

1 cup double (heavy) cream

For cherry-cardamom syrup:

1/2 cup dried, unsweetened cherries

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon ground cardamom, toasted

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup filtered water

For the salted honey-hazelnuts:

1/2 cup hazelnuts

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 teaspoons honey

For the Saffron semifreddo:

Bring a small saucepan or double boiler with water to the boil and then reduce to a simmer. Have an ice water bath big enough for the base of the double boiler or mixing bowl on standby.

In a medium glass bowl or the pan of a double boiler, combine the egg yolks, sugar, and saffron threads. Place the bowl or pan over the simmering water and whisk constantly until the mixture is thick and doubled in volume.

Remove from heat and submerge in the ice water bath, continuing to stir to bring down the temperature. If the mixture gets too cold and is sticking to the bottom of the pan, it will release easily if you run hot water on the outside of the bowl.

Beat the heavy cream in a mixer until soft peaks form. Set aside.

Place the egg yolk mixture and the sweet vermouth in the bowl of mixer with a whip attachment, and whip until the mixture becomes thick and pale in color.

Add a third of the whipped cream to the egg mixture and stir together gently. Fold in the remaining whipped cream into the egg mixture. When this is done, you can spoon the mixture into 6 individual ramekins, or place it in a plastic cellophane lined loaf pan, or decorative silicone mold of your choice. Cover the ramekins or other container with plastic wrap and freeze until firm, at least 6 hours. To serve, run a butter knife under hot water and cut around the edge of the ramekin to invert the semifreddo onto individual plates. Serve with the cherry-cardamom syrup and salted honey-hazelnuts (recipes to follow).

For cherry-cardamom syrup:

Combine all of the ingredients into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the syrup is reduced by half and coats the back of a spoon. Set aside to cool.

For the salted honey-hazelnuts:

Preheat oven to 180C (350F) degrees.

Place the hazelnuts in a small mixing bowl and toss with the olive oil and sea salt. Add honey and toss once more to coat. Transfer the nuts to a silpat-lined baking sheet and bake, stirring at least once, until the nuts are golden, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely.

Once the hazelnuts have cooled, roughly chop the nuts and serve alongside the semifreddo.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2010/05/16/shavuot-ideas-saffron-semifreddo-with-a-dried-cherry-cardamom-sauce-and-almond-orange-financiers/

 

Almond-Orange Financiers

Yield: 21 5 x 10-cm (2 x 4-inch) financiers or 50 mini

30g (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted, for buttering 21 financier molds

140g (1 cup) almond flour or finely ground blanched almonds

210g (1-2/3 cups) icing (confectioner's) sugar

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Zest of one large orange

Pinch of salt

5 large egg whites

185 g (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Preheat the oven to 220C (425F).

With a pastry brush, butter the financier molds with the 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Arrange them side-by-side, but not touching, on a baking sheet. Place the baking sheet with the buttered molds in the freezer to re-solidify the butter and make the financiers easier to unmold.

In a large bowl, combine the almonds, sugar, flour, orange zest and salt. Mix to blend. Add the egg whites and mix until thoroughly combined. Add the 3/4 cup of butter and mix until blended. The mixture will be fairly thin and pourable.

Spoon the batter into the molds, filling them almost to the rim. Place the baking sheet in the center of the oven. Bake until the financiers just being to rise, about 7 minutes. Reduce the heat to 200C (400F). Bake until the financiers are a light, delicate brown and begin to firm up, about another 7 minutes. Turn off the oven and let the financiers rest in the oven until firm, about another 7 minutes.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let the financiers cool in the molds for 10 minutes. Unmold.

(Note: If you are using metal Financier molds, then wash them immediately with a stiff brush in hot water without detergent so that they retain their seasoning.) The financiers may be stored in an airtight container for several days.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2010/05/16/shavuot-ideas-saffron-semifreddo-with-a-dried-cherry-cardamom-sauce-and-almond-orange-financiers/

May 142010
 

Planning a dinner party can be quite daunting, but it helps if you are the “planning type” like I am. I was a meeting planner, by profession when I lived in the States and was responsible for planning meetings, conferences, and special events for anywhere from 10 to 10,000 attendees. My parents and grandparents also entertained a lot, so I learned everything I know about dinner party planning from my Dad and paternal grandmother who both loved to host grand gourmet dinner parties. So, planning this dinner for 11 was not a problem for me.  Here are a few good tips:

  1. Plan the menu before anything else and try to make sure that each course is a good marriage for the next.
  2. Check your wine stash or cellar and liquor stash or cabinet to see if you need to purchase a few more bottles.
  3. Make sure that your oven and Shabbat hot plate (if you have one) will be free for each course you need to make at the last minute or for those courses that need to stay hot before serving.
  4. Check that you have enough plates, silverware, glassware and serving pieces.
  5. Check that the tablecloth you want to use is ironed and doesn’t have that annoying wine stain from the last dinner party.
  6. Don’t overdo on the hors d’œuvre or your guests won’t eat your star attraction, the main meal.

Of course, it always helps to have a partner in crime and Mimi is a great friend, and a great co-hostess to work with. She was gracious to offer her home for the event and allowed me to share her kitchen with her. Her account of the “behind-the-scenes” is hysterical and quite accurate. There was a lot of swearing and “oh, I forgot to put that on the plate” going on in the kitchen.

For our main course, Mimi and I served beautiful fresh sea bass fillets that we bought from my favourite fish mongers, Dubkin Brothers. Mimi made the marinade, which was made with fresh herbs, lemon juice, and hot chilies. It was cooked perfectly and tasted good, but I would have preferred it to be spicier. We erred on the side of caution because some people do not like or cannot tolerate spicy food.  Mimi posted the fish recipe on her blog, Israeli Kitchen.

To accompany the fish, we served fresh, steamed green beans and I made individual fresh corn puddings that are made with corn cut from the cob and quickly pulsed in a food processor, fresh herbs, and a little fontina cheese for an added kick. This can be served as a first course, a vegetarian main course, or as we served it, as an accompaniment. I really like this dish, it is not too heavy and is best made with the sweetest, freshest corn you can find. I would have loved to have made it with Silver Queen corn, but sadly we do not have that variety here in Israel. I have heard that Silver Queen is all but a dying variety in the States, which is very sad because it is a sweet and creamy variety of corn. It was the best corn to use for everyone’s southern favorite, creamed corn.

Fresh Corn Pudding

Serving Size: 8

6 ears fresh corn, shucked

1/2 cup double (heavy) cream

1/2 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

50g (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cool

3 large eggs, beaten lightly

2-3 tablespoons mixed fresh herbs: sage, thyme and chives

1/4 cup grated Fontina or other sharp, good melting, cheese

Preheat oven to 180C (350F) and butter eight 1/2-cup ramekins.

Cut the corn off the cobs and place in a food processor. Pulse the corn about three times, until you have a very coarse mixture. Do not pulverise it!

Put all of the remaining ingredients in a large bowl and whisk until combined. Add the corn, and mix thoroughly. Ladle the mixture evenly into the ramekins and place them in a baking pan just large enough to hold them. Place the tray in the oven and add enough hot water to reach halfway up sides of the ramekins.

Bake the corn puddings in the middle of oven for 50 minutes, or until tops are slightly puffed and golden and firm to the touch. Remove ramekins from water and cool slightly on a rack for about 5 minutes. Run a knife around edges of ramekins and invert each pudding onto a serving plate.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2010/05/14/shavuot-ideas-fresh-corn-pudding/

May 142010
 

We served this salad between the amuse bouche and main course as a light refresher, but you can also serve this before the dessert course. Irene chose Dalton Winery, Fume Blanc, 2008 to serve with the salad. This wine is aged in oak barrels and was a lovely crisp wine that I have also served with a fish course.

Baby Lettuce Salad with Pears, Blue Cheese and Candied Walnuts

Serving Size: 6

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

1 teaspoon minced shallot

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons walnut oil or avocado oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 bag assorted baby lettuce

1 bunch of arugula (rocket), trimmed

1/2 cup whole walnuts

2 tablespoons date honey (silan)

1 medium Bartlett pear--halved, cored and thinly sliced

1/2 cup crumbled Maytag or Danish blue cheese

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F). Place the walnuts on a baking tray and drizzle the date honey over the nuts and mix until they are completely coated. Add more date honey, if necessary. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combine the vinegar and shallot. Whisk in the olive and walnut oils and season with salt and pepper. Add the lettuce, arugula, walnuts and pear slices, season with salt and pepper and toss well. Crumble the blue cheese on top and serve.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2010/05/14/shavuot-ideas-baby-lettuce-salad-with-pears-blue-cheese-and-candied-walnuts/

May 092010
 

Mimi of Israeli Kitchen and I gave a dinner party for a few Israeli bloggers this past Thursday. It was a lovely event which included a wine tasting given by Irene, who happens to be a wine steward for two well known Israeli wineries, Golan Heights and Galil Mountain. The next several posts will feature some (in italics) of the recipes and wines that were served at the dinner.

The dishes we served at this dinner would be perfect for an elegant Shavuot meal. The menu was as follows:

Amuse Bouche
Grilled Baby Portobello Mushroom with Tomato Sauce and a Mini Potato Pancake

Salad
Baby lettuce leaves and rocket with Blue Cheese and Silan (Date-Honey) Candied Walnuts


Main Course
Grilled Fish in a Spicy Citrus Marinade (recipe at Israeli Kitchen)

Sides
Corn Pudding with Fresh Herbs and Fontina
Fresh Green Beans with a Shallot Butter
Mimi’s Homemade Bread

Dessert
Saffron Semifreddo with a Dried Cherry Cardamon Sauce
Miniature Orange-Almond Financiers


Mimi’s Homemade Liqueurs

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