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.

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/

Georgian Meatballs with Walnuts and Sour Cherries

Georgian food is not widely known, but it has a mixture of Eastern European, Central Asian, and Middle Eastern influences. They make dumplings like you find in Poland and Russian and  Khachapuri, which is similar to Turkish pide with kashkaval cheese. One of their famous dishes is chicken with walnut sauce and you will find numerous different recipes for walnut sauce. Some of them contain garlic and herbs, such as Satsivi,  and others contain red wine vinegar or pomegranate molasses, such as Bazhe.

I decided to make a delicious and easy Georgian kebab or meatball recipe. It contains dried sour cherries and walnuts. You can add pinenuts instead of walnuts, but I like the earthy taste of the walnuts. Don’t leave out the mint in this recipe because it really adds to the flavour of the kebab.

Georgian Meatballs with Walnuts and Sour Cherries

Serving Size: 4

7 ounces ground veal

7 ounces ground chicken

1 onion, peeled and finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

1/4 cup dried sour cherries, chopped

1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped and lightly toasted or toasted pinenuts

1/2 teaspoon Hungarian paprika

1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1 egg white, lightly whipped

1/4 cup of fresh parsley, finely chopped

2 tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

Georgian Kebab

Combine the veal and chicken in a bowl, then add the onion, garlic, sour cherries, pine nuts, paprika, allspice, and cinnamon. Mix well, then add the egg white and mix again. Finally, add the fresh herbs and salt and pepper to taste and mix thoroughly.

Shape the mixture into small balls the size of golf balls. Heat the oil in a frying pan, then sauté the meatballs, a few at a time, turning occasionally, until cooked through and brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2009/06/14/georgian-meatballs-with-walnuts-and-sour-cherries/

Rosh Hashana 5768

Chag Sameach everyone! I hope you had a nice meal with your family. We went to my cousin’s house for the first night of Rosh Hashana and had a lovely time.

We invited some friends of ours for dinner last night. My husband made a Rosh Hashana favourite and I introduced several new surprises to our repertoire. Everything was delicious.

The cake calls for sour cream and one of my guests has a dairy allergy and can only tolerate butter in baked goods, so I substituted a non-dairy yogurt in its place. It worked fine.

And in case you are wondering about why I served a dairy cake, we keep kashrut according to the Italian tradition which is one hour between meat and dairy.

Our menu was:

Cocktails


Provence des Papes Savoury Biscuits


Rosemary Cashews
Cocktails

First Course
Apples with honey
Pomegranate seeds


Ducklava with Chestnut Honey

Main Course


Clay Pot Festival of Fruits Chicken
Couscous
Green beans


Round Challah with dried fruits and nuts
Golan Winery Sion Creek red wine

Dessert


Beekeeper’s Honey Cake
Mango-Nectarine sorbet

Provence des Papes Savoury Biscuits

Yield: 24 biscuits

Recipe from Restaurant: La Garbure (Châteauneuf du Pape) Chef: Jean Louis Giansilly

5 garlic cloves

3 sprigs of basil

5 tbsp olive oil

50g (3.5 tbsp) pine nuts

300g (1.3 cups) flour

10cl (.4 cup) warm water

10cl (.4 cup) olive oil

2 tsp salt

25g (1.7 tablespoons) baking powder

4 egg yolks

Ground pepper

Prepare a pesto by crushing the garlic cloves with the basil, olive oil, and pine nuts.

Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, virgin olive oil, egg yolks, warm water, and some ground pepper. Add the pesto and blend well to obtain a smooth dough.

Roll into a long snake and slice the into 1/4 inch (6mm) wafers and bake at 180C (350F) for about 10 minutes (depending on size).

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/09/15/rosh-hashana-5768/

Clay Pot Festival of Fruits Chicken

Serving Size: 4 to 6

This recipe was created by my husband for the Jewish festival of Rosh Hashana. It is a fruity, but not an overly sweet dish.

1 chicken, cut into eighths

1 onion, thinly sliced

4-5 whole garlic cloves

2 cm fresh ginger, grated or chopped finely

1 quince, cored and cut into eighths

10-20 majhoul dates, pitted and cut into quarters

10 dried figs, stem removed and cut into eighths

10-20 dried sour apricots, cut into quarters

20 walnut halves

Couple of pinches of black pepper

1 tsp. cayenne pepper

2 tsp. cinnamon

2 tsp cloves

1 tsp. ground allspice

1 tsp. ground nutmeg

1 cup dry red wine

1 cup water

½ c pomegranate molasses

½ tbsp balsamic vinegar

Olive oil

On a low heat, place the olive oil in the clay pot, just to cover the surface. Add the onions when the oil is hot, but not sizzling. When the onion is soft, add the garlic. When the onion is lightly brown, turn up the heat and add the chicken pieces, stirring constantly until browned, approximately 10 minutes.

Reduce the heat and add the rest of the ingredients. Cook on a low flame for approximately 1 ½ hours, stirring every 15 minutes and checking that there is enough remaining liquid for a nice sauce.

Server with nut-studded rice or couscous.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/09/15/rosh-hashana-5768/

Spring Has Sprung

The weather is so strange; I know… global warming. I experienced 30C (86F) in Germany last week without air-conditioning and I come back to Israel and it is 22C (72F).


Spring is in full bloom here in Israel. The bougainvillea are in bloom and the wildflowers are showing their beauty. There are about 2,800 different species of flora in Israel. A great place to see some of this flora is at Ramat Hanadiv (the Hill of the Benefactor) in Zichron Yaacov. Founded by the Rothschild family, it has been open since 1954. Baron Edmond de Rothschild and his wife Adelheid are buried there.

Friday before last I decided to make a variation of a favorite of ours, Nigella Lawson’s Georgian Stuffed Chicken. This dish calls for dried cherries and rice, but I decided to add dried blueberries and substitute couscous for the rice. It was delicious. I also added a few other goodies, such as ras el hanut and pomegranate molasses.


But before I started preparing the meal, we began the late afternoon with a cocktail of Campari and freshly squeezed Jaffa orange juice.

Ingredients: I didn’t have enough pinenuts, so added some sliced almonds

Georgian Stuffed Chicken

Serving Size: 4 to 6

Adapted recipe from Nigella Lawson

For the stuffing

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 small onions, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic

1 cup couscous, cooked according to the package

1/4 cup dried sour cherries, roughly chopped

1/4 cup dried blueberries

1/4 cup pinenuts

1 tablespoon ras el hanut or cinnamon

For the chicken

1 2kg (approximately 4 lb) chicken

2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Process or finely chop the onion and garlic, and add to the pan, frying over a medium heat until the onion softens and begins to color.

While the onion mixture is cooking, preheat your oven to 350°F (180°C).

Berry Mixture

Add the chopped cherries, blueberries, pinenuts and ras el hanut or cinnamon and mix well. Add the fruit and nut mixture to the precooked couscous and combine well.

Couscous Stuffing

Spoon the fruit-studded couscous into the cavity the chickens. Place the remaining stuffing under the chicken or around the sides.

Ready for the Oven

Drizzle the pomegranate molasses all over top and sides of the chicken.

Georgian Chicken

Roast in the oven for approximately 1-1/2 hours. The skin should be golden and crispy and the meat cooked through; test by piercing the bird between thigh and body and if juices run clear, the chicken's ready.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/05/01/spring-has-sprung/

If you do not have access to a Middle Eastern market, you can make your own ras el hanut.

Ras el Hanut

This recipe is from Paula Wolfert's "Couscous and Other Good Food From Morocco".

Because these spices are quite strong, Paula suggests that you grind some sugar cane in your blender after making this to get rid of the strong smell.

Recipe #1 is for those of you that have access to an excellent spice shop.

Recipe #1

4 whole nutmegs

10 dried rosebuds

12 cinnamon sticks

12 blades mace

1 tsp aniseed

8 pieces tumeric

2 small pieces orris root

2 dried cayenne peppers

1/2 tsp lavender

1 T white peppercorns

2 pieces galangal

2 T whole ginger root

6 cloves

24 allspice berries

20 white or green cardamon pods

4 black cardamon pods

Recipe #2:

1/2 oz allspice berries

1 oz black peppercorns

1/2 oz galangal

1/2 oz mace blades

1-1/2 whole nutmegs

10 cardamon pods

1-1/2 oz dried ginger root

1/2 oz stick cinnamon

1/4 oz tumeric

3 dried rosebuds

1 clove

Place all the ingredients of either recipe #1 or #2 in a blender and grind until fine. Sift the mix and place in an airtight jar.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/05/01/spring-has-sprung/


I served steamed artichokes and roasted cauliflower with the chicken.


For dessert, I served Iraqi date biscuits called Baba Beh Tamur. I purchased these parve biscuits at a fruit and vegetable market in Ra’anana. The sweetness comes from the date filling. I will definitely buy them again or try to make them myself.

Yafo, Yafa, Jaffa, Joppa

Whatever you choose to call Yafo, it will always be that magical place on the sea. I love the Arab architecture, the amazing sea views and cultural mix.

Don’t get me wrong, Yafo is not a perfect place, but there is something that draws me to the old city of Yafo. Maybe because it reminds me of some of the villages David and I visited in Provence.

I would love to buy an old house there and fix it up.

David’s uncle and aunt lived in the middle of the old city of Yafo. His uncle was a painter, potter and stained glass maker. The menorah outside in the courtyard of the Ihud Shivat Zion Synagogue in Tel Aviv was made by his late uncle, Peter Rozsa, and the stained glass windows in the synagogue were designed by his aunt, Claire Szilard and built by his uncle.

Yafo also has some very nice art galleries, restaurants and a Yafo institution, Abulafiya.

Abulafia is open 24 hours a day. There is always a line to buy fresh pita and other wood fired bread straight from the oven, some sprinkled with za’atar or kashkaval cheese.

I try not to do this very often, but I love to go to the Arab pastry shoppes and look at all the beautiful pastries. Okay, sometimes I buy one or two pieces. The best Arab pastries come from a shop in Nazareth. My boss is from there and sometimes she brings us treats when she goes to visit her family. They are not as sickeningly sweet as you find at Greek restaurants in the States.

The best baklava that I ever had was in Istanbul. However, the best baklava is suppose to be from Lebanon. Maybe one day I will be able to cross the border and try some.

Since we are on the subject of baklava, I found a savory baklava recipe some years ago that I would love to try, but the main ingredient, duck, is just a little too expensive here to play with. This definitely is a special occasion dish. Perhaps for an anniversary…..

I finally made the Ducklava and it is delicous. However, I have to call it Clucklava, because I made it with boneless chicken thighs instead of duck and I also made it with very large dried cranberries (I thought they were cherries) instead of the dried cherries. I also used round warka leaves, fried the cigars in a frying pan instead of baking them, and drizzled chestnut honey on the outside of the cigar instead of adding it to the filling. It was a perfect first course and I will definitely make it again.

Ducklava

Serving Size: 6 as an appetizer

2 c (500g) cooked duck meat

1/2 c (113g) almonds, pecans, pistachios or walnuts

1/4 c bourbon

1/2 c (113g) dried sour cherries

2 T minced shallot

1 T honey (optional)

1/2 pkg phyllo, thawed

1/2 c melted butter or olive oil

Chestnut honey or similar strong honey such as Greek Fir, for drizzling

Soak cherries in bourbon for 30 minutes. Grind the nuts and duck meat in a food processor or chop by hand until combined. Add cherries to duck mixture, reserving the bourbon. Briefly pulse to combine. Add shallots and three tablespoons of bourbon, pulsing to incorporate. Add more bourbon by the tablespoon until the mixture is thick and chunky. Season with salt as needed and add honey, if desired.

Preheat oven to 375F (190C).

Warka

With a pastry brush, brush butter or oil on the top layer of two sheets of phyllo. Fold in half to form a long rectangle. Brush top lightly with more butter or oil.

Making Ducklava

With your hands, use 1/2 cup of duck mixture to form a log to place at the short side of the phyllo dough, leaving about 1/2-inch on either side. Roll the short end with the duck mixture into a thick cigar.

Rolled up Ducklava

Place the cigar, seam-side down on baking sheet, tucking in the phyllo on either end. Brush lightly with butter or oil. Repeat this five more times.

You can refrigerate the ducklava for up to 6 hours by wrapping the cigars in plastic wrap. Bake for approximately 20 minutes until golden, or according to the phyllo package directions. Remove from oven and slice cigars diagonally into two-inch sections, if desired. Drizzle with honey. Serve hot.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/03/05/jaffa-view/

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