Rosh Hashana 5772: Tarte à la Compote de Pommes

Tarte à la Compote de Pommes

For erev Rosh Hashana I tried another recipe from Joan Nathan’s new cookbook, Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France, and it was a perfect ending to a lovely meal. Apart from the wonderful taste, what I loved about it is that it was easy to make. I made the apple sauce and the tart dough a couple of days ahead and baked it the morning of the dinner. The apple sauce is delicious on its own and the best part is that this dessert has very little sugar in it. I used Granny Smith apples for the apple sauce because I prefer their tartness and for the slices on top, I used Gala, a lovely delicate apple that is perfect for a French-style tart.

Tarte à la Compote de Pommes

Serving Size: 8

(French Apple Sauce Tart) Slightly adapted from Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France by Joan Nathan

1-1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

130g (9 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter or margarine, cut into small cubes

2 cups of thick apple sauce (recipe below)

2 Gala apples, peeled and thinly sliced, preferably with a mandoline

In the bowl of a food processor, put the flour, salt and sugar, and pulse for a few seconds to combine. Add the butter or margarine and pulse until the mixture has the consistency of coarse cornmeal. Add 2 tablespoons of water and pulse until the dough pulls away from the sides and forms a ball. Shape the dough into a disk, wrap in cellophane, and put in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 220C (425F). Roll the dough into a circle 25cm (10-inches) in diameter. Place the dough into a 22cm (9-inch) tart pan with a removable bottom. Prick the bottom and sides of the dough with a fork and bake blind for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Set aside to cool slightly.

Lower the oven temperature to 200C (400F). Spread the apple sauce over the tart base and place the sliced apples on top in a circular pattern. Bake for 30 minutes and serve at room temperature.

Compote de Pommes

Yield: 2 cups

1 kilo (2 pounds) Granny Smith Apples, cored, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

250 grams (1/2 pound) Italian blue plums or red plums

1/8 cup of sugar

1/4 cup pomegranate juice

1/3 cup white wine

Place all of the ingredients in a heavy saucepan, cover, and cook over low heat for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the apples are mushy. Set aside to cool.

Happy 2010!

The first year I moved to Israel I invited a few friends over to my flat for a nice New Year’s dinner. I bought sparklers and really bad champagne in  Shouk HaCarmel in Tel Aviv. A few minutes before midnight we went out to my rooftop terrace, lit the sparklers and started yelling out “Happy New Year!”. Much to my chagrin, a neighbor yelled out of his window “Sheket!”, which means “shutup!” I never really celebrated New Year’s Eve again.

New Year’s Eve is not celebrated in Israel like everywhere else. Religious Jews do not recognize it as the new year because the start of the new year in the Jewish calendar is Rosh Hashana, which falls during the early autumn. So, even though you will see people celebrating in restaurants, pubs, and discos around the country, most people do not celebrate it.

Mr BT and I had a quiet dinner at home.

I knew I wouldn’t have a lot of time to cook on Thursday, so I had to find some dishes that I could make quickly, but were gourmet. I found an interesting salmon recipe from Chef Eric Ripert, who is chef of the famous Michelin three-star restaurant, Le Bernardin. I have never eaten there, but I have seen him on few cooking shows and his dishes always looked delicious. The recipe called for the salmon to be wrapped in phyllo pastry, so I went to the supermarket to buy a package of phyllo the day before. I took the box out the night before and when I came home to start cooking I discovered, to my annoyance, that I had bought puff pastry! The dessert I was making also called for phyllo, so what was the Baroness to do?! I improvised, like any good chef would do. I had a package of rice paper wrappers that I hadn’t used yet. I had Mr BT check on the internet if rice paper would crisp up like phyllo, and he reported that it was crispier than wonton wrappers. So,  I  replaced the phyllo  with the rice paper and it was a huge success. The dish is light and delicious and I will definitely make it again. We began the meal with a steamed artichoke with aioli, then I served the salmon on a bed of sauteed mushrooms with a side of Creole Orange Rice. The rice is spicy with a nice hint of fresh orange. It was perfect with the salmon.

Rice Paper Wrapped Salmon with Sauteed Mushrooms

Serving Size: 2

The Salmon:

2 (250g or 1/2 lb) salmon fillets, boneless and skinless

4 large round sheets rice paper

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

The Soy-Mustard Vinaigrette:

1-1/2 tablespoons soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

4 tablespoons lemon juice

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon cut chives

Salt and pepper to taste

Sauteed Mushrooms:

1/2 lb mixed mushrooms

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

1 small shallot, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup white wine

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Salmon wrapped in rice paper

For the Salmon:

Season the salmon fillets with salt and pepper. Soak two sheets of rice paper, one at a time, in warm water for 20 seconds. Place the sheets on top of each other and place one fillet of salmon in the middle. Wrap the rice paper around the salmon like an envelope. Repeat with the next two sheets of rice paper and salmon fillet. Set aside.

Mix together the soy sauce, mustard, lemon juice and olive oil in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste, and stir in the thyme and parsley. Set aside.

Place the oil in a medium frying pan and heat over medium heat. Add the two fillets of salmon and saute for about 4 minutes on each side, until the rice paper is lightly browned or crispy to the touch.

For the Mushrooms: Trim the ends off the mushrooms and cut them in half, depending on size. Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the minced shallot and garlic and saute until soft. Add the mushrooms and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the white wine and reduce adding the butter to create a silky delicate sauce. Add the herbs to the pan and remove from the heat.

To plate, place a fillet on top of a bed of mushrooms. Sprinkle the soy-mustard vinaigrette on top of the salmon.


Creole Orange Rice

Serving Size: 4 to 6

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup chopped onion

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 medium navel orange, peeled and chopped

1 bay leaf

1 cup rice

2 cups water

Saute the onions in the oil until translucent. Sprinkle the salt and cayenne on the onions. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer, cover and cook the rice for 20 minutes.

I wanted to make individual cranberry strudels for dessert, but I didn’t have any phyllo, so I decided to make bourekas instead. Mr BT suggested that I serve them to guests and not tell them what is inside. I would say that I didn’t have time to make dessert and thought we could have a savory dessert instead.

Cranberry Bourekas

Yield: 10 to 12

1 cup cranberries, fresh or frozen

1/3 cup water

2/3 cup Granny Smith apple, peeled and finely chopped

1/4 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon chopped candied orange peel

1 package puff pastry

Preheat oven to 180C (350F). Line a baking sheet with silicone and set aside. Put the cranberries and water in a small pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, about 3 minutes or until the cranberries pop. Drain them, discarding the liquid and return the cranberries to the pan.

Add the apple, raisins, walnuts, sugar, cinnamon, and orange peel; toss gently until mixed.

Cranberry-Apple Bourekas

Unroll the puff pastry and cut strips about 5cm (2 inches) wide. Place a rounded tablespoon of the cranberry mixture near the bottom edge of the puff pastry.

Cranberry Bourekas

Take the bottom right corner and wrap it over the filling and roll the filling up into a triangle. Repeat with the remaining strips.

Cranberry Bourekas

Place on the baking sheet and bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until the bourekas are golden. The bourekas make leak slightly during baking. Transfer the bourekas to a wire cooling rack and cool completely.

Grumpy Scrumpy and Kurdish Kubbeh

This past Friday, Mr. BT, Mimi from Israeli Kitchen and I embarked on an adventure to a town a few kilometers from Jerusalem to crush apples  and press them for scrumpy, otherwise known as farmhouse hard cider. Mr. BT and I are virgin hard cider makers, but we knew that with Mimi, who makes some very nice red wines, fruit wines, and mead, that we had the potential to produce something great.

When we arrived at our destination, Mimi, also a great forager of wild edible plants, spotted a flowering caper bush. I had never seen a caper flower and as you can see in the picture above, they are quite beautiful. She also found a few leaves of  purslane for us to munch on.

Our host was already busy crushing apples when we arrived and we happily offered a helping hand. He had purchased 1600 kilos (3,500 lbs) of apples to crush. No, the apples were not all for us: we only purchased 20 liters (5 US gallons) of apple juice, which was probably the result of crushing 50 or 60 kg of fruit.

Mimi and I grabbed a crate of Granny Smith and a crate of Golden Delicious apples to crush. It was important to have a 50/50 mix of the apples in order to get the right balance of tartness and sweetness, and Israel doesn’t have the same variety of traditional cider apples that you find in Somerset or Herefordshire, the two main cider-producing counties of  England.

We then handed the crushed apples over to the strong, brawny men to do the hard part, pressing the crushed apples. We only pressed them once although some press twice in order to extract the maximum possible amount of juice.

The men, Mr BT included, took turns pressing the apples. This hard labor produces the lovely apple juice that we needed to make our hard cider.

Mr BT gave me a small cup of the juice to taste and it was lovely.

We worked up quite an appetite after we crushed and pressed a ton of apples, so we put the juice in a fermentation bucket, said our thank yous and goodbyes, and headed for a famous little hole-in-the-wall in Or Yehuda.

On our way to Or Yehuda, Mr BT, Mimi, and I were trying to come up with a clever name for our cider. I suggested Grumpy Scrumpy because Mr BT was a little grumpy that day. He wanted to name it Humpy Scrumpy after his beloved animal, the camel, but I told him it had a whole other meaning and didn’t think it was a good idea. So, Grumpy Scrumpy it is! I will keep you updated on the progress of our cider.

I know you are going to say haven’t you had enough kubbeh this month, well…! I have been trying to go to Pundak Moshe for the past three years and every time I wanted to go, we had something else we had to do that was more important. This time when I suggested going there, I wasn’t going to take no for an answer. We didn’t have the address with us, so we stopped at a petrol station to ask the attendant where “the kubbeh restaurant is”. Actually, there are two of them, but he immediately said, “you want to go to Pundak Moshe?”. Of course, we said yes and he gave us directions. It looks like a tiny shack from the outside, but once you enter the restaurant it is actually quite deep.

As we entered the building, I had thoughts of my grandmother coming with me to this restaurant: she would have walked in and immediately walked out. It is not dirty, but there are pots everywhere and it would have been too messy looking for my neat-freak grandmother (z”l).

I knew from the long line of people waiting to take home a variety of kubbeh that was bubbling away in huge pots, that this was going to be worth the three-year wait.

As we inched up closer to the rainbow of colors in the pots, I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy decision figuring out which pot to choose from. The pots contained kubbeh and a variety of other traditional home-cooked dishes, such as stuffed vegetables and meat stews.

They also sell charcoal-grilled meats.

But then I saw a beautiful pot of pumpkin bubbling away with bits of hot red pepper floating around and it had my name on it.

Moshe dished up the pumpkin with semolina kubbeh and put it in a bowl filled with plain white rice. Mr BT decided to have the same.

Mimi also got the same kubbeh, but over yellow rice and she also took some intestines stuffed with meat and rice that were flavoured with cardamom.

The kubbeh and the stuffed intestines were delicious. It is a good thing I don’t live in Or Yehuda because I would weigh 400 lb (180kg) from eating at Pundak Moshe every Friday.

Passover Preparations 2009

Spring is in the air and that  means it is time to start preparing for Passover, which begins on 8 April. I am not going to be doing a lot of preparation this year, but I have gathered a few interesting recipes for you to consider for your own meal. First, here is a link to all of my Passover recipes from the last couple of years. And, here are some interesting ones for you to try:

Italian Passover recipes from Chef Chaim Cohen and Dr. Eli Landau

Kodredo Relleno al Forno (Roast stuffed lamb with egg/lemon crust)

Slow Roasted Lamb Shoulder with Almond-Mint Pesto (Omit the cheese from the recipe)

Syrah-Braised Lamb Shoulder with Olives, Cherries and Endives

Roasted Poussins with Pomegranate Sauce and Potato Rösti

Bolo de Amêndoa (Almond Torte) from David Leite

Walnut Date Torte

Baked Apples Marsala

I will add more as I find them.

Mimi at Israeli Kitchen is having a Pre-Passover Cooking Event. Email her recipes for your favorite Passover dishes – any variety, savory or sweet – and she will cook and blog about the most interesting ones. See her blog for more details.

Pre-Rosh Hashana Breakfast

I love weekend breakfasts. It is our time to talk about something interesting or just look at each other lovingly without saying anything at all for a couple of minutes. It is our time to read an interesting story or listen to early music. It has become our weekend ritual. So, in preparing for Rosh Hashana last week, my husband decided to make a lovely herb-potato frittata to go with the Whole Wheat Apple-Walnut Batard I made for the weekend.

My mother is a addicted to cookbooks and every time I go back to the States for a visit, I usually find one or two new ones on her cookbook shelves. She had the shelves custom made when she renovated her kitchen umpty-ump years ago. One visit, I spied a new cookbook that I quickly fell in love with. It is called The Cook and the Gardener: A Year of Recipes and Writings from the French Countryside. The author, Amanda Hesser, wrote a lovely book about her year adventure that she spent as a cook in a seventeenth-century chateau in Burgundy. What I love about the book is that it is separated into the four seasons. She is a beautiful writer and really takes you on a visual trip to the French countryside. The recipes are quite precise and I find them easy to follow.

Apple-Walnut Batard

The texture of the batard is really nice. The only complaint I have is that either the bread did not rise enough or the recipe calls for too much filling. Next time I am going to gently knead the filling into the dough and see if it works out better. It turned it out more like apple-walnut stuffed bread. In spite of that, the bread is still appley and delicious, and it goes especially well with a thin slice of Gouda.

Apple-Walnut Batard Slice

Whole Wheat Apple - Walnut Batard

Yield: 1 Batard

Starter after 12 hours

Simple Bread Starter

1/2 teaspoon dry yeast or 25g (1 teaspoon) fresh cake yeast

2 tablespoons warm water

1/2 cup water, at room temperature

1 cup all-purpose flour

Whole Wheat Dough

1/2 teaspoon dry yeast or 25g (1 teaspoon) fresh cake yeast

1 tablespoon warm water

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 tablespoon milk

1 recipe Starter (see above)

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon coarse or kosher salt

1/2-3/4 cup rye flour

Bread Dough

1 recipe Whole Wheat Dough (see above)

6 tablespoons raw sugar

2 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced thin

1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

All purpose flour, for shaping

Whole wheat flour, for rising

For the bread starter:

Make the starter one day ahead. In a small bowl, stir the yeast into the 2 tablespoons of warm water and let the mixture stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. Stir in the remaining water and the flour, and stir with a wooden spoon until smooth, 2-3 minutes. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let ferment in a cool place, 8-12 hours.

For the dough:

n a medium mixing bowl, stir the yeast into the water and let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. Then stir in the olive oil, milk, and Starter, stirring to break up the latter.

Thick as Paint

Dough Forming Ball

he texture should be that of house paint. Add the whole wheat flour, stirring to mix, then the salt and the rye flour, adding it 1/4 cup at a time and stirring to mix with a wooden spoon until the ingredients begin to clump together in a large ball.

First Knead

Turn out onto a floured board and knead, incorporating the remaining flour, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Use a pastry scraper to help lift and clear the dough from the work surface so you don't need to add to much flour. Make sure to work quickly, as whole wheat flour tends to stick more readily than white, and slap the dough against the work surface from time to time - this develops tenacity in the dough. Place the dough in a tall oiled bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled, 2 to 2-1/2 hours. Then proceed with filling the bread dough.

Caramelised Apples

Prepare the filling. In a skillet (preferably an iron skillet) large enough to hold the apples, heat half of the sugar over medium-high heat until it melts and begins to bubble. Carefully, add the apple slices, spreading them out to cover the base of the pan. Saute until the apple begins to color, but is not cooked through, about 3 minutes. You should do this over medium-high heat because you want the apple to color as quickly as possible without burning the sugar. Adjust the temperature as necessary, and remember the sugar holds its heat well, especially in an iron pan. Sprinkle the uncooked sides with the remaining sugar and turn them over. Once they are well browned on the other side, 5 to 7 minutes, remove to a plate or bowl to let cool.

After the first rising, punch the dough down and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Shape into a loose round loaf and let rest for 15 minutes. Lay a dish towel on top of a baking sheet and rub a thick layer of whole wheat flour into to it so the dough will not stick to the towel.

Apple-Walnut Filling

Using as little flour as possible to keep the dough from sticking to the board and your hands, pound out the loaf into an oval, 1/2 inch thick. Spread the cooled walnuts and apples evenly over the dough.

Batard Second Rise

Working lengthwise, roll the dough into a log, as tight as possible. Pinch the seam to seal it, and transfer to the dish towel, seam-side up. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled, 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

A half hour before baking, heat the oven to 220C (425F), and place the baking stone in the lower third of the oven. Place a small pan of water on the lowest rack.

When the dough is ready, invert the risen loaf onto the baking stone and bake until risen and browned, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove the pan of water after the first 15 minutes. Test the loaf by tapping on the bottom of it with your knuckle. If it sounds hollow, it's done. Remove to a baking rack and let cool completely before slicing.

Your Great-Great Grandfather’s House is Still Standing!

These are the words of an email that I read in shock last April.

I received an email via JewishGen from a man from my paternal great-grandmother’s hometown, Giershagen, Hochsauerland, Nord Rhein-Westphalia, Germany. He asked if he could be of assistance and I wrote him back. We exchanged a few emails and after I explained who I was and which relative lived in Giershagen he proceeded to tell me that my great-great-grandfather’s house and the synagogue that he attended are still standing. I cried. I lived in Germany for two-half years, rather close to Giershagen and never went there. Okay, I was young and stupid.

Since my job takes me to Germany every 3-4 months, I decided on the next trip I would drive up to Giershagen. Fortunately, my husband was able to join me for the weekend.

David and I drove for almost 3 hours to the beautiful Hochsauerland village of Olsberg and stayed at a lovely hotel recommended by our host, Wolfgang.

Olsberg is 30km from Giershagen. While we were driving on dark winding roads at night, my husband remarked, “Leave it to your family to live in the middle of nowhere!”, but when he woke up the next morning and saw the beauty of the area, he said that he understood why our family lived here. It is green and hilly and really picturesque.

Wolfgang met us at our hotel for breakfast and then our journey began. First, at his lovely home, where he showed me letters, newspaper clippings and photographs of the area. Some of the letters were quite humorous. One of them was from a woman originally from Giershagen who heard from a distant relative that one of my great aunts had grown very fat! It reminded me of living in my hometown.

We then stopped in the village of Padberg to see the synagogue where my great-great grandfather, nicknamed Chicken Opa, prayed and had to walk 7km one way to get to. I found out that he would walk to synagogue and walk right back. Walking 7 km was “no big deal” back then. We walk 2 km to our synagogue.

The synagogue is the oldest half-timbered (fachwerk) synagogue in Westphalia, first mentioned in 1751, and is on the property of a local farmer. The Jews in Beringhausen, Giershagen, Helminghausen, Madfeld, Messinghausen and Roesenbeck were all members of the Padberg synagogue.

The synagogue is so tiny. Maybe 30 men could sit on the ground floor and 15 women on the top floor. It was quite emotional being in the synagogue, I could almost see people praying there…I felt their presence. The synagogue survived Kristalnacht in 1939 because the building was sold in 1932 when the congregation could no longer get a minyan together. The synagogue was made into a memorial and small museum in 1999. Some of the prayer books, a mezuzah and other artifacts are on display.

After looking at all of the pictures, architectural drawings and prayer books in the synagogue we headed to the cemetery in Beringhausen where some of my family are buried. The cemetery is located on a hill in the middle of the forest. It is a beautiful resting place.

The cemetery has 38 tombstones dating from 1862 to 1932. Some of the tombstones were turned over during the war, but the town of Marsberg put the stones in their proper place after the war.

Our first stop in Giershagen was to see the Jewish path. The 7 km path through forest and up and down hills to the Padberg synagogue. It wouldn’t have been fun to walk that in the rain or snow, but I want to go back and do the walk. It must be a beautiful walk in good weather. Unfortunately, we didn’t get any photos of this. There is even a marker at the beginning of the path that says Judenpfad or Jewish Path.

We went to visit a neighbor of Chicken Opa who was about 6 or 7 when my great-great grandfather left in 1937. Chicken Opa baby-sat him from time to time while his parents tended their fields. He had nothing but fond memories of going to his house. He told us that Chicken Opa had the largest apple tree in the village and that he could play and make as much noise as he wanted, except when Opa was praying. He also told us that when the house was sold to someone else, he went over and got a sausage hanging rack that Opa used to hang the beef sausages he made.

He then asked to be excused for a minute and he came back to the room with this:

He explained that Chicken Opa bought a Leica camera before he left Germany and he gave him the box with some money before my great-great grandfather, one daughter and my grandparents left for Alabama in December 1937. I was quite moved that he still had this box. It was all I could do to keep from crying. I was speechless. He was also teary when he told us how sad he and his family was when Chicken Opa left. He then gave me a glass with the crest of Giershagen on it and we said good-bye. It was really a lovely meeting and I hope to spend more time with him the next time I go back.

Then, we left his house and stood in the street and saw the one thing that brought me here in the first place, the house:

The house has been completely renovated and looks nothing like the original one in the picture below, but I know that the heart of the home is still there and Chicken Opa is smiling somewhere knowing that I went back to see where his life began.

Solomon Freibaum, a.k.a Chicken Opa, left his home and all his possessions at the age of 81 to go to a country where he didn’t speak the language, that didn’t have kosher food for him and didn’t pray like he did. But he lived to the ripe old age of 88. My grandfather told me a lovely story about him. Chicken Opa was Orthodox and he always wore a kippah and a hat when he went to synagogue in Germany. The first time he went to the ultra-reform (at the time) synagogue in my hometown he wore his kippah and hat. He noticed that no one was wearing a kippah let alone a hat and he removed them. My grandfather said, “Opa, it is ok; you can keep your hat on.”, to which he replied, “Child, I pray with my heart, not with my hat.”

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