Archive for category Recipe

Huevos Haminados (Sephardic Eggs)

We eat soft and hard boiled eggs year-round, but only at Passover do we go Sephardic.  The results are so beautiful and delicious, that I always wonder why we don’t bake our eggs in onion skins and coffee grounds on a regular basis, especially since they are so easy to make.  But then I forget until the next year, and so it goes.  I first found the recipe in Mollie Katzen’s “Sundays at the Moosewood Restaurant” and tried them on a whim.  When you peel them, they have a bit of a “brown eggs and ham” look about them, but the whites (now browns) have a rich but subtle flavor.  Add some salt and you are in egg heaven.  With the first seder just days away, I thought I would share the recipe with you.  You start them at night and they are finished by morning:

Huevos Hamidados (Sepharidic Eggs)

Heat oven to 200º

Line a casserole dish with dried onion skins

Place up to 1 dozen eggs in the dish.

Sprinkle 2-3 T. ground coffee over the eggs.

Add 1 T. olive oil and 1 t. kosher salt.

Pour water over the eggs until they are just covered.

Cover the dish, place in the oven for 6-8 hours.

Go to sleep.  Wake up to the delicious smell of eggs, coffee and onions.

Happy Pesach!

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Curried Butternut Squash Soup

The weather is chilly again. Time for soup.  It has been a month since we terminated our experiment in virtuous eating –  ending it with a Dim Sum bang followed up by a heavy festival of schnitzel.  Now we are back to the conventional arc of caffeine to wine that makes us better parents.  Well, sort of.  We still begin our day with a delicious smoothie.  And sometimes we end it with this butternut squash soup, the result of a triumphant attempt on the part of my husband to convert our standard recipe  – Bon Appetit’s Butternut Squash Soup with Cider Cream (which I also highly recommend) – into something essentially vegan. The key is the curry powder, a pinch of cayenne,  and the inspired addition of coconut kefir to finish. It’s both comforting and wholesome – perfect for this gloomy weather.

Vegan Roasted Butternut Squash Curry Soup

1 medium to large butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped
1 sweet potato, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/2 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1-2 teaspoons curry powder
Salt and pepper
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ – 1 cup plain coconut kefir (cultured coconut milk)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Toss squash, sweet potato, carrots, onion, curry powder, and salt and pepper to taste in a large mixing bowl with enough oil to coat well. Roast in a large cast iron skilled or roasting pan until very soft and slightly caramelized (45-60 minutes).

Cool slightly and transfer vegetables (in batches, if necessary) to a blender or food processor. Add cinnamon and cayenne. Puree while adding kefir and enough water to desired consistency. Correct seasoning.


This week in Dairy: DIY String Cheese

Making mozzarella at home is a fairly straightforward and satisfying process.  Making delicious mozzarella – the kind that practically melts in your mouth and is served best with the tiniest bit of salt and olive oil – is an art form I have yet to master. The first challenge is to get the hang of curd forming: finding the right milk, making sure the temperature is accurate. Nine times out of ten it works, and sometimes it just doesn’t.  The second challenge is knowing when to stop stretching so that your cheese is light and creamy. This, I think, takes years.

I must admit, most of the fresh mozzarella I make ends up with a consistency that is great for pizza, but a little too rubbery for straight up eating.  The truth is, while I would like to spend my time drizzling fancy olive oil on my perfectly stretched ball of fresh mozzarella garnished with the basil leaves I just pulled off that plant over there, the kind of cheese that gets eaten the most in my house these days is the lowly string cheese. And as it happens when it comes to cheese stretching, it is easier to overstretch than to under stretch (particularly when you are doing this activity with small children) –  and overstretching leads, happily, to string cheese.

To get to string cheese, you start out with the same ingredients you would use if you were going to make the finest mozzarella:  Whole milk that has been lightly pasteurized (this is highly important as ultra-pasteurized milk will not form a curd), citric acid, rennet and distilled water.

You can buy your rennet and citric acid online from the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company. In fact, you can buy a mozzarella starter kit that comes with enough supplies for 30 batches and includes a thermometer.  Their site also has a lot of great instructions on various cheesemaking techniques, but the basic series of events is this:

  1. Disolve 1/4th of your rennet tablet in 1/4 c. of distilled water. Set aside
  2. Disolve 1 1/2 t. citric acid in 1 c. distilled water. Set aside.
  3. Pour one gallon of the best (non-ultra pasteurized) milk you can find into a very clean, non-reactive pot.
  4. Put the pot on the stove and stir vigorously as you add the citric acid.
  5. Keep stirring until the milk reaches 90º.
  6. Take the milk off the heat.  Add the rennet mixture slowly while stirring the milk in an “up and down” fashion for 30 seconds.
  7. Cover the pot and let the milk sit undisturbed for 5 minutes.

This is your moment of truth.

After 5 minutes, you take off the lid and hope that your curds have separated from your whey.  You can tell when you press down with a spoon and it feels like custard.  Take a long knife and cut the curd in two directions to make squares.  Put the pot back on the stove and heat the curds to 110º while gently agitating the curds.  This is tricky because you will get a different temperature reading depending on where you stick your thermometer, but you don’t want to heat beyond 110º, plus you are stirring with one hand, so pay attention. I highly recommend using an instant read thermometer – worth the investment if you are also making yogurt.  Once you have reached the desired temperature, turn off the heat and continue stirring for 2-5 more minutes.  Next, separate the curds and whey with a slotted spoon, placing the curds in a bowl.

At this point there are two methods you can use to heat the curds for stretching: the water bath method or the microwave method.  The goal of both is the same: to get the curds to 135º so they will stretch.  I have done both and I have to admit, the microwave is easier.  But either way, you heat the curds a bit at time, take their temperature, and squeeze out the whey (without squeezing too hard) to get the cheese to the point where it melts together for stretching. At this point, you may also want to add a bit of salt to taste.

And then you stretch!  I recommend wearing gloves because the 135º is hot to the touch and can make the cheese difficult to handle.  This is where the art comes in.  Like kneading bread, you get to know the feel of the cheese and when it is ready to be finished (at which point, you place it in the ice bath you prepared earlier).

Or, you keep stretching and your children keep stretching until you pull off smaller pieces to form into logs and place them in the ice bath.  One gallon of milk will yield about a dozen “stringles”, which actually makes this endeavor kind of economical.  Plus, given the choice, what kid wouldn’t want to bring his or her homemade cheese sticks wrapped in wax paper to school?  Okay, don’t answer that.  It is, hands down, more delicious than packaged string cheese, though, and my kids love making it.

So, there you have it: string cheese.  Make it on Sunday, eat it all week!

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Like many people, I have a file folder full of clippings and handwritten recipes. Despite my professional inclination toward classification,  it has no organization at all, so that when I want to find a recipe I once made back in 1994, I need to sort through the entire unruly pile.  The question is: why keep this stack of ephemera at all when there is no shortage of beautiful websites devoted to conjuring the perfect recipe in an instant?  I could spend all day on sites like Gojee, My Cooking Diary and FoodGawker,  but I can’t quite get myself to dump my pile of papers that serve as tangible memories of what I’ve made over the past 25 years.  Represented there is the vegetarian nut-loaf phase, the risotto phase, the experimental holiday dinner phase, among others.  If I had the time, I suppose I could scan them into Evernote, or at least put them in a binder – it’s on the list.

My friend Forest, who is always a source of inspiration, found a beautiful solution to bridging the gap between the analog recipe card and the digital recipe database.  When his grandmother –  the matriarch of a large family – passed away last year, there was some discussion about who was to receive her much coveted recipe box, full of meticulously handwritten cards containing the key to so many dishes she was known for.  Forest took on the project of scanning and organizing the cards so that anyone in the family could have access to Ruth’s recipes, and through the process has started experimenting with making foods he hadn’t had since childhood.  All he has to do is prop up his iPad in the kitchen and he can scroll through the culinary history of his family.

We have gotten together a few times this year to try some of these vintage gems that call for ingredients that are so not 2011.  When was the last time you used Karo syrup?  This fall, we tried our hand at making seafoam candy, something that Forest remembered fondly from childhood particularly because the making of it is like a wacky science experiment.  Our attempt, however, was a failure when we let the sugar and syrup overheat and suddenly it was a sticky inedible mess.  I kept meaning to try it again with the girls, but never got around to it and I was left wondering what it would be like if it actually turned out.

On Monday, I received one of the best DIY holiday gifts ever.  I came home to the little box pictured above filled with salted caramels and seafoam candy from the kitchen of Ruth Evashevski. The caramels were to die for and the seafoam was better than I even imagined it could be.  I can’t think of a better way to honor a beloved grandmother than through preserving her recipes this way and actually making them!

Which of your grandmother’s recipes do you still make?



The Recipe Project

Hi there.  It’s been awhile.  A month of no posts, to be precise. Sigh.  But a lot has been happening:  kitchen cosmetic experiments,  window farming trials and tribulations, computer mishaps, terrariums.  All to be posted shortly, I hope.  But in the meantime, I wanted to share this link to The Recipe Project.  I have always had a soft spot for One Ring Zero – how can you not love a band that features the accordion in their line-up, as well as instruments like the claviola, theremin, and the cajon?  The latest in their concept album series has them partnering with well-known chefs to put their recipes to music.  Holiday gift, perhaps?

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Kitchen Cosmetics: Honey Lemon Body Butter

It all started innocently enough… with an article about the Environmental Working Group’s study on kids and sunscreen.  As I possess both of those things, I was curious.  One thing led to another and soon I was looking up ALL our products in their extensive database, Skin Deep.  I am a big fan of the EWG and their efforts to demystify information about toxins in our environment. I’m also a big fan of databases, so Skin Deep was perfect for me.  Maybe too perfect.  Down the rabbit hole I went, tossing out shampoos, lotions, and makeup along the way.  This is not to say I went “no poo” or started wearing patchouli, but over the past year I have radically changed what we apply to our skin and hair in this house.  Thanks in part to an excellent book, No More Dirty Looks,  that outlines the history of the cosmetics industry, the primary toxins in our products, and how to avoid them, I streamlined what I actually buy and started making some things myself.

There is a wealth of information and recipes on the web for DIY cosmetics, but let’s face it – many of them are either too complicated (calling for ingredients more suited to science experiments than organic beauty products) or result in the cosmetic version of clothes you sewed yourself when you’re just not that good at sewing.  They do the job, but are a little off. Or some just don’t do the job. Like DIY mascara.

But lotion is a different story.  I had a hard time finding something I liked that rated lower than a 3 (moderate hazard) and was game to try a recipe. For awhile, I was just using coconut oil –  which I loved –  but left me feeling like a macaroon. Lotion is something you use almost every day and your skin is your biggest organ, so it seems logical to try not to slather chemicals all over it on a near constant basis. Just sayin’.  Plus, my youngest daughter has sensitive skin and I wanted to try making something she could use, too.  The answer came from Pure Natural Diva, a website devoted to non-toxic living.  This recipe uses only 5 basic ingredients and can be made in 20 minutes.  Here’s how:


STEP 1:Gather your ingredients.  You will need:

2 Tablespoons of Beeswax (You can buy cosmetic grade beeswax from Amazon – the pellets are easier to work with than the blocks).
1/2 Cup of Grapeseed Oil
1 Capsule of Vitamin E Oil
2-3 Tablespoons of Distilled Water
10 Drops of Citrus Essential Oil – or to preference

STEP 2: Combine the grapeseed oil, beeswax and vitamin E oil and heat until the beeswax has just melted.  You can either do this in a double-boiler on the stove, or in a pyrex bowl in the microwave (2 minutes).

STEP 3: Aerate!  Using a hand mixer, beat the oils on high while adding the distilled water a little bit at a time.  After a few minutes, a curious transformation will take place:

The mixture will turn from oily to milky!  You can control the thickness of your lotion by how much water you add, but the recommended amount is 2-3 Tablespoons.  Once you have achieved your desired consistency (after about 5 minutes of beating) add 10 drops of whatever essential oil you choose (I tend toward lemon).  Turn off the mixer and let the lotion sit for 15-20 minutes before putting it into the container of your choice.

It’s that easy and makes roughly 1 cup of lotion.  Although it is recommended to store the lotion in the refrigerator (which is nice in the summer), I have kept it in my bathroom for up to 2 months without it spoiling. This winter, when it is really dry, I suspect we will use up each batch in well under a month. It’s cheaper than any lotion I like and I know exactly what’s in it.

I must add that the success of this endeavor has been somewhat of a gateway drug for me.  Just last week I was boiling up flax seeds to squeeze through knee-high panty hose on my way to making a hair product that didn’t turn out so well on the first try – more on that later.  And my friend, Alexa Wilding, who has her own alchemical kitchen of potions loaned me her copy of Pratima Raichur’s book, Absolute Beauty, which is chock full of recipes made from ingredients you should have in your kitchen (if you don’t already). “Hurricane weekend” was spent mixing up powders and oils – the perfect thing to do in your kitchen when you don’t actually feel like cooking.

Lotion is easy.  Believe me, it’s the hair products that are a challenge!  Any advice?

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What’s better than a freshly baked loaf of Challah?

The answer is: nothing.  Nothing. is. better.  Perhaps I am overstating, but as general rule, you can’t go wrong if you show up on someone’s doorstep with a freshly baked challah in hand.  Challah, the ritual egg bread that is the cornerstone of every Shabbat meal, is also a delicious and impressive bread to make any day of the week.  When I started baking bread way back when, I quickly added challah to my repertoire and I find few things are as satisfying to make and eat.  There are about a million variants on the recipe, but all call for flour, water, yeast, eggs and some kind of sugar.  I have always used the same recipe, published by the inimitable Mollie Katzen, in her book, The Enchanted Broccoli Forest.  Recently, a friend expressed frustration at the results of her challah-making attempts, so we decided a tutorial was in order.  When I arrived at her house, she pulled out her copy of the Enchanted Broccoli Forest and – lo and behold – the recipe was completely different from the one I had been using!  Apparently, somewhere between the 1982 edition and the 1995 edition, the recipe was radically updated.  The earlier version called for less water, more yeast and lots of kneading – no wonder she was frustrated!  The newer version is almost the opposite,  double the water, half the yeast and less kneading.  Go figure.  In any case, of the many challah recipes in the world, I am still loyal to this one (available on Mollie Katzen’s website) and it is virtually no-fail if you make it like this:

STEP 1:  The recipe says to dissolve one package of yeast (about one scant tablespoon) into 2 1/2 cups of “wrist temperature water”.  If you are unclear as to the temperature of your wrist, you can use a thermometer.  For yeast to activate, the water should be between 105° and 115°, which is actually warmer than you might think.  Too hot, and the yeast will die, too cold and it will just sit there, infuriating you with its indifference.  Once the yeast is relaxing in its perfectly calibrated bath, it will want something to eat:

STEP 2: All yeast needs some kind of sugar to activate. Feed your yeast 1/2 cup of honey for this recipe.  Mix it in with a wire whisk and then add the rest of the liquid ingredients: 2 room-temperature eggs (I like to beat them a bit before adding them) and 4 T. melted butter or oil.  If you want a kosher challah, use oil, but I think the butter adds to the flavor.  Just make sure it isn’t too hot when you add it or it may harm the yeast. Last but not least, a tablespoon of salt to help it along.

STEP 3: With your liquid ingredients all mixed together, it is time to add the flour (8-9 cups total), one cup at a time.  Use a wooden spoon to stir (otherwise the dough will get caught in the whisk) and thoroughly mix in one cup before adding the next.  By about the 6th cup, the dough will start to look like the sticky bread dough it’s meant to be, and you can knead it in the bowl with your hands.  While it is still loose, you can pour it onto a floured surface for kneading:

STEP 4: Knead dough for about 5 minutes, adding the last cup or two of flour as you go.  Once your dough is firm and not sticky, it will be ready to rise.

STEP 5: After the dough has risen for 1 1/2 hours, it should have doubled in size.  To prepare it for braiding, you need to punch it down. This is fun and if you have any kids around, ask them to do it:

STEP 6:  Turn the deflated dough onto a floured surface (this is my unnecessary, yet arty photo):

STEP 7: Knead for a few minutes and then cut into two halves.  Knead each of those two halves for a few minutes, these will be your loaves. Take each half and divide it into three equal parts to make a basic braid.   Roll each piece into a long snake, letting it rest awhile.

STEP 8: Braiding.  For this challah, we are doing a simple 3 part braid, but there are a bunch of fancy ways to shape your bread. For better directions on braiding, check out “The Secret of Challah” website (there are also a myriad of YouTube videos on this topic).  But suffice it to say that if you know how to braid hair, challah is no different.  Normally, I just braid it into a simple loaf, but at Rosh Hashanah – the Jewish New Year – the custom is to shape your challah into a round loaf to symbolize the circle of life.

STEP 9: Second Rise and Egg Bath:  Once the loaves are braided, place them on a parchment covered baking sheet, cover with a towel and let them rise for another hour or so.  During this time, you can preheat your oven to 375°, spacing the two racks to accommodate rising loaves. (note: when I moved into a new apartment, I noticed that my challah seemed dry and a bit burned on the bottom, although I hadn’t altered the recipe.  When I finally bought an oven thermometer, I found that my oven is a full 50° hotter than the dial says – so I now set my oven for 325° and wish for a new oven). Once the dough has risen a second time, beat an egg and paint the bread:

STEP 9:  Bake!  Place your loaves in the oven.  Set the timer for 15 minutes.  At that point, take the half-baked loaves out and rotate them so the top is now on the bottom.  Set the timer for another 20 minutes.  The bread is ready when the crust is hard and makes a hollow sound when you tap on it.  Take it out of the oven and place it on a cooling rack for at least 30 agonizing minutes while you wait to slice it.

Voilà! Time for the payoff.  You have two loaves of warm bread – one to eat and one to give away.  Take a slice, dip it in some honey and take a bite.  At that moment, there really is nothing better than a freshly baked loaf of challah.

L’Shana Tovah!

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