Spring Meal with Friends

Pasta with Sauteed Cherry Tomatoes and Garlic

As I started describing in my last blog post, Mr BT and I went to our friends Cassia and Massimo for a festive Yom Ha’atzmaut meal: we brought the lamb and dessert and Massimo made the primo piatto, pasta with sauteed cherry tomatoes and garlic. The cherry tomatoes were sauteed in a lovely extra virgin oil oil from our favorite olive oil producer, the Jahshan family in Kalanit near Tiberias, and he also added about six cloves of fresh garlic that we bought at Shuk Ramle a week before. The cherry tomatoes were bursting with sweetness and the garlic gave the sauce a slight fiery touch. It was bellissimo!

Cassia and Massimo also provided the wine we all bought at the La Terra Promessa Winery in Kibbutz Gat. The winery is run by Sandro and Irit Pelligrini. Sandro is originally from Parma, Italy and his wife Irit’s family is originally from Cochin, India. The winery is in southern Israel near the buffalo farm that we like to visit to buy their delicious buffalo yogurt, cream and cheeses, which are now available a some supermarkets around the country. La Terra Promessa wines were a pleasant surprise: fruity, full-bodied with a wonderful bouquet, and featuring grapes that are relatively uncommon here in Israel, such as Primitivo. They also had a very interesting Emerald Riesling that was dry, instead of the usual semi-sweet Israeli wines made from this grape. Sandro and Irit also have a restaurant that has received good reviews, featuring dishes from both their Italian and Cochin heritages.

Buttermilk, Raspberry and Almond Cake

For dessert, I made a soft almond and buttermilk sponge cake filled with raspberries which we served with Massimo’s homemade limoncello. His limoncello is some of the best I have ever had and he has promised to show me how to make it when I can find some unwaxed organic lemons.

Buttermilk Raspberry Cake and Lemoncello

Raspberry-Almond Buttermilk Cake

Serving Size: 8

This is a quick and easy dessert that is perfect for Shabbat or anytime.

140g (1-1/2 cups) ground almonds or almond flour

140g (1 stick or 10 tablespoons) butter or margarine

140g (3/4 cups) sugar

140g (1 cup) self-raising flour

1 egg or 2 eggs for a parve cake

3/4 cup buttermilk (omit for parve cake)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

300g (2 cups) raspberries, fresh or frozen or any other berries

2 tablespoons flaked almonds

Preheat oven to 180C (350F).

Place a piece of round parchment in the base of a 20cm (8-inch) springform tin and grease the tin with butter or margarine. Place the ground almonds, butter, sugar, flour, egg, buttermilk and vanilla in a food processor and blitz until combined.

Spread half of the mixture in the cake tin and then scatter the raspberries over the batter. Dollop the remaining batter on top and spread with a pallet knife. Sprinkle the top with the sliced almonds and bake for approximately 50 minutes or until golden brown on the top.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2012/05/12/spring-meal-with-friends/

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.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2010/03/29/p-is-for-patience-and-passover/

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