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.

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Almond-Orange Financiers
Servings: 21 5 x 10-cm (2 x 4-inch) financiers or 50 mini
Ingredients
  • 30 g 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, for buttering 21 financier molds
  • 140 g 1 cup almond flour or finely ground blanched almonds
  • 210 g 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
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 220C (425F).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let the financiers cool in the molds for 10 minutes. Unmold.
  6. (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.

 

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Almond-Orange Financiers
Servings: 21 5 x 10-cm (2 x 4-inch) financiers or 50 mini
Ingredients
  • 30 g 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, for buttering 21 financier molds
  • 140 g 1 cup almond flour or finely ground blanched almonds
  • 210 g 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
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 220C (425F).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let the financiers cool in the molds for 10 minutes. Unmold.
  6. (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.

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.

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Georgian Meatballs with Walnuts and Sour Cherries
Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions
  1. Georgian Kebab
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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

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Clay Pot Festival of Fruits Chicken
This recipe was created by my husband for the Jewish festival of Rosh Hashana. It is a fruity, but not an overly sweet dish.
Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Server with nut-studded rice or couscous.
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Clay Pot Festival of Fruits Chicken
This recipe was created by my husband for the Jewish festival of Rosh Hashana. It is a fruity, but not an overly sweet dish.
Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Server with nut-studded rice or couscous.

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

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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.
Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions
  1. 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.

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

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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.
Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions
  1. 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.


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.

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Ducklava
Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions
  1. 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.
  2. Preheat oven to 375F (190C).
  3. Warka
  4. 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.
  5. Making Ducklava
  6. 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.
  7. Rolled up Ducklava
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
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