Pumpkin Pisto

Pisto is the Spanish version of ratatouille. There are many versions of this dish, and this vegetable stew is sometimes used as a filling for empanadas. I am not usually a fan of ratatouille because I find that most restaurants or people cook the dish to death and the vegetables just end up a slimy mess. But when I found a recipe for pisto using pumpkin and butternut squash, I had to try it.

I used a Delicata pumpkin that I bought at the Orbanics market, and a butternut squash for this recipe. The pumpkin had a yellow flesh, that is not as sweet as the orange fleshed pumpkin we can buy here to use primarily in soup and couscous. I loved this recipe. It is full of flavor and goes well with chicken and lamb. I served it with roasted chicken with sumac, onion and pine nuts. You could also serve it as a main dish with rice.

Pumpkin Pisto

Serving Size: 4

Recipe from Moro East by Sam and Sam Clark

800g (1-3/4lb) peeled and seeded pumpkin or butternut squash or a combination of both, cut into 2cm (3/4 of an inch) chunks

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

6 tablespoons olive oil

1-1/2 large or 3 medium onions, roughly chopped

1 red pepper, seeded and cut into 1 cm (1/3 of an inch) chunks

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

4 bay leaves, preferably fresh

1-1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or marjoram

A few grates of nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

12 tablespoons (180ml) passata

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar and a pinch of sugar, mixed with 4 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted

Sprinkle the pumpkin with the salt and set aside. In a large, deep frying pan (about 30cm or 11 inches in diameter), heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions with a pinch of salt and stir until the onions are soft and light brown.

Add the red pepper and saute for an additional 10 minutes. Add the garlic, bay leaves and rosemary, and continue to cook for a couple of minutes. Add the pumpkin and reduce the heat; saute for about 20 minutes or until the pumpkin is barely soft. Add the oregano or marjoram, nutmeg, cumin and the passata. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until the pumpkin is tender. Add the vinegar-water, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm, with the toasted pine nuts.


Chicken with Garlic, Pinenuts, Raisins and Saffron

It is very rare that I buy a cookbook and want to make 90% of the recipes in the book….very rare. So, when Moro: The CookbookDavid Lebovitz recommended all three Moro cookbooks, I had to check them out. It took me about 2 minutes to decide to purchase all three:

Moro is a restaurant in London that specializes in Moorish cuisine, which has Moroccan and Spanish influences. It is owned by Sam and Sam (Samantha) Clark, who met at the River Cafe, married, and went on a three-month honeymoon in their camper-van to Spain, Morocco, and the Sahara desert. When they returned with a slew of ideas, they opened Moro in 1997 and have been enticing customers with their delicious offerings ever since.

So far, I have made two recipes from this cookbook and I can’t wait to make more. Even though there are some seafood and pork recipes in the cookbook, you can easily replace them with fish, lamb, beef, or chicken. There are also quite a number of vegetarian recipes in all three books, especially Moro East, which is based on the allotment they had at the famous Manor Garden Allotments, which were unfortunately bulldozed in 2007 to make way for the 2012 Olympics. The allotments were started in 1900 and had 80 plots which were owned by a diverse ethnic population. Some of the recipes in Moro East were inspired by the Clarks’ allotment neighbors from Turkey and Cyprus.

For Shabbat, I made a delicious chicken dish with saffron, whole garlic cloves, raisins and pinenuts. The sauce is creamy with a subtle hint of saffron. It is very important that you use high quality saffron for this dish. I served it with a Persian short-grained brown rice mix of herbs, pistachios, almonds, and raisins, and French green beans. It is easy to make and could even be made a day ahead.

Mr BT was in heaven over this dish. Now I have to convince him to take me to the not cheap (!) Moro restaurant next time we go to London.

Pollo Al Ajillo con Piñones y Pasas y Azafrán - Chicken with Garlic, Pinenuts, Raisins and Saffron

Serving Size: 4

From Casa Moro by Sam and Sam Clark

6 tablespoons olive oil

12 garlic cloves, peeled

1 medium chicken, cut into eighths

150ml (2/3 cup) light white wine or fino sherry or half white wine and half sherry

50 threads saffron, infused in 7 tablespoons boiling water

100g (2/3 cup) golden raisins, soaked in warm water

75g (1/2 cup) pinenuts, lightly toasted

Salt and pepper

In a dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat until hot. Add the garlic, fry until golden, remove from the pan and set aside. Season the chicken with salt and pepper (pepper only if using kosher chicken) and place the breasts, skin-side down in the pan. Cook on both sides until the skin is crispy and a deep golden brown. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add the rest of the chicken pieces and cook until golden brown.

Add the white wine or sherry and the saffron in its liquid to the pan, shaking the pan until the oil and the wine are emulsified. Reduce to a simmer and cook the chicken legs and thighs for about 15 minutes. Add the chicken breasts, garlic, drained raisins, and pine nuts. Season with additional salt and pepper, and cook with the cover on for an additional 10-15 minutes or until the breasts are fully cooked.

The sauce should have the consistency of single cream. If the sauce is too thick, add a little water or reduce the sauce if it is too thin. Serve with rice or roasted potatoes and a salad or a green vegetable.


Tiramisu – A Little Pick Me Up

There are many stories about the origin of this recipe, but the Italians from the Veneto region claim this luscious dessert as their own. I learned to make it from a drop-dead gorgeous chef at a 3-day cooking course I attended in Riva di Garda, Italy almost 20 years ago. Don’t tell Mr BT, but between you and me, the chef could have made boiled newspaper and I would have left that course a happy woman. I have been promising to make this dessert ever since Mr BT and I met almost 10 years ago, and I promised I would make it for Shavuot, but alas he had to go on a business trip abroad. So, I made it, just because.

Tiramisu is a dessert that you make to wow a new boyfriend, bring a smile to your family or friends, or for that romantic candle-lit  dinner with the one you love.

Traditional tiramisu is made with raw eggs and no alcohol, so if you are elderly, sick, or pregnant, you can make a zabaglione, cool it, beat in the mascarpone, and then fold in whipped cream. It is not authentic, but it will still be creamy and delicious.


Serving Size: 6 to 8

5 very fresh, organic eggs, separated

5 tablespoons icing (powdered) sugar

500g (18oz) Mascarpone cheese

1 package of Savoiardi biscuits

300ml (1-1/4 cup) very strong espresso coffee, cooled

3 tablespoons Marsala wine, sweet sherry, or rum

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

Whisk the egg yolks and the icing sugar until they are double in volume and pale. Add the mascarpone and beat until combined.

Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks and fold into the mascarpone mixture. Mix the cooled coffee and Marsala in a medium size bowl. Dip both sides of the Savoiardi biscuits into the coffee, arranging them in a single layer in a medium size square dish. Cover with half of the mascarpone mixture, repeat with a layer of biscuits and cover with the remaining cheese mixture.

Cover with plastic film and refrigerate for 3-4 hours or overnight. Sift cocoa powder on top before serving.


Shavuot Ideas – Saffron Semifreddo with a Dried Cherry-Cardamom Sauce and Almond-Orange Financiers

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.



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.


Malfatti di Spinaci e Ricotta Keeps the Vampires Away

Well, not really, but fresh garlic on your front porch does!

This past Friday I went to Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem with two foodie girlfriends, Mimi from Israeli Kitchen and Sarah from Foodbridge. We had a great time exploring the market finding all sorts of goodies to try. I came home with fontina, mahleb, pear cider from Normandy, a loaf of currant and walnut bread, artichokes, and 6 kilos of braided fresh garlic. I thought Mr. BT was going to kill me for buying so much garlic, but his Hungarian side was pleased as a peasant in the countryside. I thought my car was going to smell like a Romanian kitchen, but it wasn’t too bad, or maybe I just like the smell of garlic. We hung the beautiful braid on our shady front porch to dry.

I am always looking for quick dishes to make during the week and I had some ricotta and spinach I bought to use during Passover, but never got around to using. So, I used them to make a very quick, light and delicious Italian dish called Malfatti. It is a Tuscan dish made with ingredients that are used to fill ravioli. In fact it was probably concocted when someone had made too much ravioli filling. There are various versions of this dish, including one served with a brown butter and sage sauce, but I served mine with a tomato and fresh garlic sauce. They are like little soft pillows in your mouth, but without having to pick the feathers from between your teeth.

Malfatti di Spinaci e Ricotta

Serving Size: 4 to 6 serving as a light main course and 6 to 8 a

(Spinach and Ricotta Malfatti)

500g (1lb) ricotta

2 cups chopped frozen spinach, thawed and moisture squeezed out

100g (1/2 cup) butter, melted

1/4 cup semolina, plus more for shaping

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

4 large egg yolks

1 large whole egg

Freshly ground black pepper

Parmesan cheese

Put a teaspoon of semolina into a narrow wineglass. Drop in a ball and swirl until it forms an oval. Repeat. (You may need to add more semolina) You can freeze them at this point.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Drop in the malfatti and cook until they float, about 8 minutes. (If frozen, 10 minutes.) Drain malfatti and place on plates or in a flat bowl. Serve with tomato sauce or a brown butter and sage sauce, and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padana


Roasted Lamb Shoulder with Baby Artichokes

We have had a lovely Pesach with family and friends. We went to a powerful and moving play at the Susan Dellal Center for Dance and Theatre in Neve Tzedek, called Silver Spoons. It is performed by members of non-profit group called Knafayim (‘Wings’). This organization provides an opportunity for artistically talented people with special needs to train to be actors, dancers, musicians and artists.

The play is about a group of actors who are mentally disabled, mainly with Down’s Syndrome. Each actor tells a true story about themselves, some of them quite disturbing, such as the women who spoke about being raped. I laughed, I cried, and I cheered for their courage and their amazing talent. But, the most important thing you walk away with is that they just wanted to be respected like any other human being. They have dreams just like you and me. They dream of being a professional dancer, a taxi driver, an actress,  and a bride. I think everyone in Israel should attend the wonderful play and more importantly help this organization realize their dream of  having a center for the arts.

For the final evening of Pesach, I made a delicious, melt-in-your-mouth, roasted lamb shoulder with baby artichokes. I marinated the lamb for over 24 hours in red wine, fresh herbs, cinnamon and white wine vinegar. Mr. BT is a very happy man tonight. I hope that you all had a lovely Pesach or Easter celebration with your family.

Roasted Lamb Shoulder with Baby Artichokes

Serving Size: 6

2.5kg (6lbs) lamb shoulder, cut into 4 very thick chops, about 1/2kg (1.5lbs) each

2 medium carrots, cut in 2.5cm (1-inch) chunks, (about 2 cups)

2 medium onions, cut in large chunks (about 3 cups)

1 cinnamon stick, 7.5cm (3-inches) long

6 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled

4 small branches of fresh rosemary

8 fresh sage leaves

3 sprigs fresh thyme

3 sprigs of fresh za'atar

1/2 teaspoon coarsely black pepper

1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

2 cups dry red wine

1/2 cup white wine vinegar

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 cups light chicken stock

12 baby artichokes


Trim most of the fat from the chops, leaving only a very thin layer on the outside surface. Put the meat in a large bowl with all of the ingredients except for the stock and the artichokes. Toss well to distribute all of the seasonings, and submerge the meat in the marinade. Seal the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours. Turn the meat occasionally.


Heat the oven to 180C (350F). Arrange the meat in a roasting pan, spread the marinade all around them, and pour in the stock. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and roast for 3 hours, basting and turning the meat every 30 minutes or so. Remove the pan from the oven, turn the oven up to 200C (400F).

Cut the artichokes in half, removing the choke and place them in the pan. Put the pan back in the oven, cover with foil, and cook for another hour or until the lamb is tender. Serve with the pan juices.


P is for Patience and Passover

Spring has sprung all over Israel. Almond trees, hollyhocks and other indigenous wildflowers are all in bloom. And spring means we have moved our clocks forward and are now frantically preparing our homes for seven days of Passover, which starts tomorrow night. A time where we have to get rid of every little speck of bread, flour, etc. that may be still hanging around the house. It is a holiday where you need a lot of patience; something that I have a lack of, I must admit. Yes, Mr. BT, I really am admitting that I, Baroness Tapuzina, am impatient.

We are going to be spending the seder with my cousins and so I don’t have to prepare a full seder this year, which is a good thing since I have spent the last several days coughing up both lungs. Yes, my body picked the worst time to have an upper respiratory infection. The good news is that this evening is the first time I haven’t had numerous coughing fits, so I think I am on the mend.

Mr. BT spent a good portion of the morning making his top secret, often imitated, but never duplicated, unbelievably delicious haroset. If the Pharoah had tasted this, he would have let our people go for the recipe, but I fear that Mr. BT wouldn’t have given it up. Would you believe that he won’t even let me watch him make it? And, I am the one who educated him about other haroset than the standard Ashkenazi ones.

I was tired of making the same almond flour-based cakes that I make every year, so I decided to challenge myself and make something I have been wanting to try for years, but was afraid that I wouldn’t have the patience to make them successfully: the French macaroon. I know, I am crazy to make something new for something as important as the Seder, but I really needed the challenge. What I didn’t need was a challenge when I felt like crap, but I had already bought the ingredients and I knew my loving husband would help me, wouldn’t you honey?

So, I read every blog post I could find about making macaroons. Some said to stay away like the plague (they didn’t say which one of the ten), others said after the 9th try you will get them right and don’t make the batter too thick or too thin. But, I didn’t let them scare me.

One of the most important things you must have to make a macaroon is a scale. It is very important to have exact measurements for this recipe. Scales are relatively inexpensive now. I purchased a nice digital scale for 55NIS/10GBP/15USD.

I cracked four eggs the day before I made the macaroons and let the egg whites “rest” in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Some people let them sit on the counter for 24-48 hours, but I was not too keen on leaving them out even though it is still cool enough to do that here. Every post, including Pierre Herme’s recipe, says that you should use old egg whites, meaning ones that have not been separated the same day you make the biscuits.

The other important part of making the perfect macaroon is to have feet on the outside of the biscuit. My macaroons did not have happy feet or any other kind of feet. I guess that will happen on my 9th try. And there will be another try. I must have my feet.

The macaroons turned out okay and surprisingly they did not try my impatience.  No, they don’t have happy feet and some of them wouldn’t come off the silpat, but I was able to salvage 40 out of the 70 I ended up making. I filled them with Rosemarie chocolate filling that I purchased at one of my favorite cooking shops, Touch Food.  I am presenting these macaroons as a gift for the host and hostess, instead of serving them as dessert for the seder.

We want to wish you and your family a happy, healthy and peaceful Pesach. And also Happy Easter.

Chag kosher v’sameach,

Baroness Tapuzina and Mr. BT

P.S. – Keep checking the blog. I am going to make a few new dishes during the week.

French Macaroons

Yield: about 25 filled or 50 unfilled

225g icing sugar

125g ground almonds

125g egg whites (from about 3 large eggs, but do weigh it out)

A few drops of lemon juice

25g caster (granulated) sugar

Food coloring of your choice (follow directions on box)

Place the egg whites in a bowl and refrigerate for 24-48 hours. Bring them to room temperature before you start making the macaroons.

Put the icing sugar and ground almonds in a food processor until you have a fine powder. Stop halfway through and loosen any bits that may have clumped in the bottom of the processor bowl.

Sift the almond mixture into a large mixing bowl several times, removing any of the chunky almond bits in the sifter.

Put the room temperature egg whites into a clean metal mixing bowl and whisk until they start to hold their shape. Add a few drops of lemon juice, then gradually whisk in the caster sugar in two lots until the whites form stiff peaks. Finally, whisk in the food coloring until well combined.

Mix one-third of the whites into the dry ingredients. Then tip the rest of the whites on top and, gently fold them in with a spatula, using a figure-eight motion. It will be stiff at first, but it will gradually loosen. You want it to be smooth and glossy, but not too liquidy. The texture is very important and tricky to judge: when you fold the mixture, it should form a ribbon on the surface. Too runny, and you’ll end up with flat crisps; too stiff, and it’s meringue.

Take your piping bag, fitted with an 8mm plain nozzle and fill the bag with the macaroon mix. Then turn up the sides and twist to seal the mixture inside to get rid of any air so that when you squeeze the bag, a solid stream of mixture comes out of the nozzle.

On about three baking trays that have been lined with silpat liners or parchment paper, pipe a round, 2cm-diameter (1-inch) blob (by squeezing the closed end of the bag). Lift the nozzle sharply to finish the blob. Repeat, leaving about 2cm (1-inch) around each one to allow for spreading (they should spread to about 3cm (1-1/2-inches). Continue until all the mixture has been piped – you should have about 50-60 blobs in all.

If any of the macaroons have nipples, smooth them gently with a wet finger. Let the macaroons rest for 45 minutes. This helps them to form a smooth shell when baked. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 130C (260F) fan (or 140C/280F).

Bake the macaroons in the middle of the oven, one tray at a time. After 5 or 6 minutes, they should start to rise, forming a lacy collar around the bottom. Cook for a total of 12-15 minutes – don’t let them burn. Remove from the oven and let them cool on the trays. You should then be able to remove them gently by moving the silpat liner away from the macaroon. If not, carefully ease off with a knife.

Pair macaroon shells of similar size and sandwich together with 1-2 tsp of the filling of your choice. Eat immediately, or keep in the fridge for a day to enable the flavour of the filling to enhance the macaroon.


Greek Lemon Chicken and Potatoes

I haven’t really talked about my life before Mr BT, meaning my single girl days, because it is not really a subject that is relevant to this food blog. However, when I decided to make a dish from my single girl past, it brought back memories of living in the quaint German town of Schwaebisch Hall. It is a time where I expanded my cooking repertoire: I learned how to make Kaesespaetzle from a local friend, and Zimtsterne from my landlady.

I also learned about Turkish cuisine thanks to my Turkish boyfriend at the time. He took me to his aunt and uncle’s house for an authentic meal. I remember every dish his aunt made was delicious. I used to hang out at a lovely Turkish restaurant that made the most delicious Turkish Pide. The Turkish family that owned the little restaurant were from Eastern Turkey and they would stuff the flat, long oval-shaped dough to order. They filled it with feta and aubergine or my personal favorite, ground lamb. I think they had a couple of other varieties, but I don’t remember. They made them on a long wooden paddle and then put them directly on the oven floor to bake. I am going to have to try and make them sometime.

I shared a flat over a bar with two Greek guys  from Thessaloniki, an Italian guy from Genoa, and an Italian girl from Friuli. The two Greek guys ran the bar. We had a lot of fun at the bar, especially when we would sweet talk our two Greek roommates into having a “Greek Night” in the bar with dancing and plate throwing. On the rare occasion when the bar was closed and we were all home together, we would take turns making dinner. One time the Italian guy made pasta with his mother’s homemade pesto. You haven’t had pesto until you have had Genovese pesto. One night the female Italian roommate and I made pasta with my marinara sauce. And one night, the Greek guys made Kotopoulo me Lemoni sto fourno me Patates or roasted lemon chicken with potatoes. It is a very simple dish, but bursting with lemony goodness. It is better if you make this with fresh oregano, but you can use dried. I used fresh zaatar, which is a distant cousin, because I did not have any oregano on hand.

Kotopoulo me Lemoni sto fourno me Patates - (Roasted Lemon Chicken and Potatoes)

Serving Size: 4 to 6

1 chicken cut into eight pieces

3-4 medium-size red potatoes, cut into quarters

Juice of 3 large lemons

2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano or 2-3 teaspoons of dried oregano

1 head of garlic, separated into cloves, with skins left on

1 large onion, sliced thinly

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Place the onion, garlic cloves and potatoes in a roasting pan, sprinkle half of the oregano, salt (omit if using kosher chicken) and pepper. Drizzle olive oil over everything in the pan and then gently toss until the potatoes are coated with the oil and oregano. Place the chicken on top of the potato-onion-garlic mixture and the rest of the oregano on the chicken. Pour the lemon juice over everything in the pan, and bake at 180C (350F) for 1 hour or until the chicken and potatoes are a nice golden brown.


Sgonfiotti di Castagne (Hannukah Chestnut Puffs)

If you have been following me for a while, you know by now that I like to try something different each year for Hannukah as well as other holidays in the Jewish calendar. Most of the time they turn out great and sometimes they don’t turn out so great. Usually I don’t blog about the disasters. I tried making pumpkin fritters for the first night of Hannukah. They smelled great, they looked good, but they tasted like fried goo. Thank goodness I had a lovely gargantuan fresh mango for Plan B.

I had bought chestnut flour a while back and kept forgetting to make something with it. I found all sorts of interesting recipes only to find out they tasted terrible. Either they were dry and tasteless or wet and gooey. I found an Italian recipe for chestnuts puffs and thought I would give them a try. The worst that could happen was that I will never buy chestnut flour again.

The dough did not rise very much and I didn’t have high hopes on the dough puffing up at all, but lo and behold, the dough did work. The taste is very interesting, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. They have the faint sweetness of fresh chestnut. Mr BT loved them. They are not very sweet, they almost taste like a fried graham cracker, but not. I am still on the fence about whether I really like them or not, but buying more chestnut flour is a great excuse for going to Umbria on another holiday. Maybe I do like the puffs after all.

Sgonfiotti di Castagne - (Hannukah Chestnut Puffs)

Yield: Approximately 40 puffs

1/2 cup warm water

2-1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

1-1/4 chestnut flour

1/4 icing sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

1-1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for dusting

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

1 large egg

1 teaspoon salt

Vegetable oil

Mix the warm water and yeast in mixing bowl of an electric mixer. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.

In separate bowl, mix 1/2 cup of chestnut flour, the icing sugar and cinnamon; set aside.

In the mixing bowl, add the remaining 3/4 chestnut flour, all purpose flour, granulated sugar, butter, egg, and salt. Beat at medium speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest for 45 minutes.

Heat about 7cm (3 inches) of oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat.

Divide the dough in half. On a lightly floured surface, roll one piece of dough to 3mm (1/8-inch) thick. Cut rounds using a floured 38mm (1-1/2 inch) round cutter.

Fry the rounds, about 10 at a time, turning once until puffed golden, 30 to 45 seconds. Drain on a paper towel. Dust with the reserved chestnut-sugar mixture and serve warm or a room temperature.


Keftes de Espinaca con Muez

There is something cathartic telling someone that you are sorry if you hurt them or caused them pain in any way. My husband  and I say we are sorry after every fight because my grandmother always told me to never go to bed angry. This was one of the many pieces of advice she gave me as a key to a successful marriage and I took them to heart because she and my grandfather were married almost 65 years. Every year, before Yom Kippur, my husband and I look each other in the eye and say, “I am sorry if I hurt you or caused you any pain this past year.” All of this and asking friends and neighbors for forgiveness is essential because the religious part of Yom Kippur only relates to what we sins between man and G-d. In other words, breaking commandments to do with Shabbat or keeping kosher, and so on.

The first time I said this to my husband I just welled up with tears and felt a huge weight lift off of me. It was a very strange feeling, catharsis.

Now we are celebrating the week long holiday of Sukkot. I do not have beautiful pictures of a Sukkah this year, but I will be posting about a lovely adventure with Mr. BT in the next few days.

Last night, I roasted chicken that I had stuffed with garlic, lemon, fresh thyme, and fresh rosemary. I placed the chicken on a bed of sliced butternut squash, drizzled on pomegranate molasses, and sprinkled turkish pepper all over. I served this with a wonderful Sephardic spinach patty that I made with ground walnuts. They are lovely and light, and could also be served as a main dish with another vegetable or salad.

Chag Sameach to everyone. I hope you are having lovely meals under the stars.

Keftes de Espinaca con Muez

Serving Size: 4-6 as a main course or 8-10 as a side dish

(Sephardic Spinach Patties with Walnuts) Adapted from Olive Trees and Honey: A Treasury of Vegetarian Recipes from Jewish Communities Around the World by Rabbi Gil Marks

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, crushed

2-1/2 cups thawed frozen chopped spinach, squeezed dry

About 1 cup freshly ground walnuts

1/2 cup whole wheat dried bread crumbs or matza meal

About 3/4 teaspoon table salt

Ground black pepper to taste

1/2 teaspoon cayenne

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Flour for dredging

Vegetable oil for frying

Lemon wedges for serving

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and the crushed garlic. Sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the spinach, ground walnuts, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Stir in the eggs. If the mixture is too loose, add a little more bread crumbs and if the mixture is two dry, then add another egg. The mixture can be stored in the refrigerator for a day.

Shape the spinach mixture into patties 7.5cm (3 inches) long and 4cm (1-1/2 inches) wide, with tapered ends. Dredge the patties in flour and lightly pat off the excess. In a large skillet, heat a thin layer of oil over medium heat. Fry the patties, turning, until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels. Serve warm, accompanied with lemon wedges.


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