Candied Apple Crescent Roll Challah for Rosh Hoshannah

I’m never going to be a master baker, okay?

The Coupe du Monde de la Patisserie will have to proceed without me next year.

But the problem is…I LOVE homemade bread. Just like Cher, I love to smell something baking in the house.

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And this Rosh Hoshannah, I was determined to make it happen for my family.

In about an hour. With almost no ingredients in the house.

Lo and Behold…

Candied Apple Crescent Roll Challah

Ingredients:

1 tube crescent rolls

1/2 apple, diced into tiny pieces and mixed with a hefty hand of pumpkin pie spices and sugar.



IMG_1544 1. Take that crescent roll dough out of the package and smooth it into one thin rectangle. you want it as thin as possible – thinner than I made it – without the dough ripping.  IMG_1547 2. Add the apples in a thin line all the way down the middle of the dough. You want a thin line so it doesn’t burst open too much as it bakes. Also be sure to extend it pretty far to the end of the dough, leaving just 1/4 of an inch or so naked without apples.

IMG_1552 3. Pinch the dough tightly around the apples to make a dumpling-like seam. Be sure to really push those edges together – they will burst apart as they cook  anyway, so take as much precaution as possible.
IMG_1558 4. Now coil that dough into a cute little snail.
IMG_1566 5. Bake for about 30 minutes, then cover with foil and cook for about 7 minutes more to prevent over browning.
IMG_1574 6. When the round is golden brown, serve immediately or wait and serve room temperature.

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This isn’t real challah – that wonderful, airy, eggy, brioche-like bread – but it’s a damn good substitute. It’s buttery and dense with a thin ribbon of soft, sugary apples. It’s delicious with butter or dunked into tsimis.

And it’s the sweetest possible to begin the new year.

The Farewell to Summer List

It’s almost the end of summer…oh, who am I kidding? Summer is over, people…it’s OVER. It’s all I can do not to sit shiva for it, for heaven’s sake. Before the weather becomes chilly and the leaves start to turn, it’s time to live it up. Here is a list of six summer items you simply have to enjoy this next week, before people start going Pumpkin Spice Latte crazy already. I’m NOT READY YET…Summer, don’t LEAVE ME!

Gazpacho

Okay, I’m cheating starting with this one because this is actually the perfect time to enjoy this – summer is by far the best time to eat tomatoes. This gazpacho is obviously my favorite, but do whatever you like with the juiciest, sweetest, 1 day away from starting to rot tomatoes that you can find. No need to cook these beauties. 


Eggplant and zucchini

This ratatouille, these spicy zucchini sticks, or this casserole will use up the end of summer’s bounty in ways that may require a larger pants size, but it’s worth it. Unlike tomatoes, these veggies really can use a heavy hand with the seasoning and cheese, so go for broke!

Ice cream for lunch

Because what sadist is going to judge you as long as the weather is in the high 70s? Next week you may not be able to pull this, so take the plunge now, while you can!


Watermelon salads
 
Let’s just stop pretending that watermelon should be eaten for dessert. It’s sweet, juicy, flavor and slightly spongy texture are so ideal in savory dishes. Coat it in salt and pepper, serve it with mint and feta in a salad, and then pickle the rind to eat with spicy Asian pork.

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Rose
 
This much maligned wine is at its best in the final balmy days of summer – shortage be damned! Find a rose that you like with a good balance of sweet and crisp flavors. It is ideal to drink alone (not as in by yourself, but as in without any food alongside) or to with small, salty nibbles like clams on the half shell or salted nuts

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Stone fruit
 
Because all too soon, it’s going to be apples and squash. While you can, eat nectarines, peaches, and plums by the pound. Toast them, grill them, serve them with honeyed crème fraiche, and eat them fresh from the farm. Pit cherries, freeze them, and then drop them in wine for the ultimate ice cube and flavor enhancer.

Chilled Corn and Basil Soup

Corn is good right now. No, I’m sorry. It’s actually great. This is not the time that you want to cream it or mix it with a ton of bacon. This is the time that you want it tos hine on its own. You want to enjoy the last, few, fleeting days of warmth and sunshine. You want a cool soup that isn’t overly heavy and you want the corn to be as sweet and buttery as possible without over seasoning it.

You want this soup.

Chilled Corn and Basil Soup

Ingredients:

4 ears corn, shucked off the cob like this

1 medium russet potato, peeled and sliced thinly

1 onion, diced

1 bunch of celery hearts, diced

4 carrots, peeled and diced

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 large bunch basil, washed and chopped

Tabasco to taste

1 glug balsamic vinegar (maybe 2 tsp.)

4 cups of chicken or vegetable stock

Salt and pepper to taste

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1. Saute the mirepoix (onions, celery, and onions) in the olive oil until the veggies are translucent. This should take about 7 minutes.

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2. Add the corn and all of the corn milk that is with it. Now it looks a horrible frozen mixed veg medley. But, I promise…it’s going to be better than good.

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4. When the corn starts to release its buttery, fragrant scent, add the potato and the stock. Then, cover and let it cook for about 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft.

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5. Taste and add Tabasco, salt, and pepper. Let it cook for another 10 minutes, or until the bite of the Tabasco has worn off.

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6. Add the basil and vinegar and puree with a stick blender or blender.

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7. Chill overnight (VERY IMPORTANT to let flavors decelop), then taste for seasonings and serve.

I can’t believe summer is over. I’m just not ready to say goodbye to healthy, refreshing meals like this. Not ready to say farewell to sweet summer produce. This is a sweet, a little spicy, and incredibly satisfying with a dollop of goat cheese on top or a grilled cheese sandwich alongside. The basil is a really unexpected fresh, sharp addition that doesn’t overtake the sweet corn. Next soup on the blog will probably be pumpkin something, so make this while you can.

I know I will…as I sob into my sun lamp. Aah, winter, you are coming all too soon.

Corn and Tomato Panzanella

I haven’t been eating anything new this week. I cooked a little something new, but y’all have to wait to see that – don’t worry, it’s coming!

In the meanwhile, I thought that I should dust off one of my favorite end of summer recipes.  Enjoy the old fashioned (lack of) formatting and the always scrumptious taste.

Corn and Tomato Panzanella

No matter the time of year, it’s always best to cook in season. The food tastes fresher, the cost is often less and it leaves less of a carbon footprint.
And it’s important to care about things like that, because…well I don’t really know WHY but I know that it IS.
And nothing is more seasonal that a Corn and Tomato Bread Salad.
Ingredients:
8 ears corn
2 pints cherry tomatoes
1 onion
2 loaves bread, stale if possible
1.5 cups olive oil, plus more for croutons
3/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 tbsp.  mustard
salt and pepper to taste
1. First, the corn: Grasp the top of the green husks
 and just strip them away from the cob.
 Be careful to strip all the corn silk away from the cob, too. A few errant strands won’t kill you, but more than that and you might feel like you are eating handful of hair.
2.  Once the cobs are all husked, toss them into a huge pot of boiling water
and boil to taste, JUST until it is tender. You do NOT want to overcook  this corn.
Also, preheat the oven to 350 Fahrenheit.
 3. Take your tomatoes and cut them in halves, quarters, pieces…any bite-sized pieces will do.
4. Now dice the onion very finely. You want to use a whole sweet Vidalia onion or half of a red onion. The point here is to accent the flavors of the corn and tomatoes, not to add an incredibly biting or abrasive component.
5. Cut the bread into bite size pieces and drizzle additional olive oil over the whole thing before you pop it in the oven for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.
You want to really pour the olive oil on thickly here, because you want a crispy, slightly greasy crouton.
Greasy in that good way…is there any other way?
6. Now make the dressing with the olive oil, vinegar, and mustard. Taste and adjust or add seasoning as you prefer. 
7. Now combine the tomatoes, onions and dressing in a large bowl and toss.
 8. Now, you are going to stand a small bowl upside down in a larger bowl and balance the corn cob on top of the bottom of the small bowl. Scrape a knife down the cob, and all the kernels will fly off into the surrounding bowl. This is absolutely the ONLY way to scrape the kernels off the cob without them flying all over the kitchen.
I speak from experience.
It takes awhile, but you end up with the most fabulous bowl of delicious corn.
9.  Now you add the corn (which should still be slightly warm)
 and the croutons(which should also still be slightly warm) to the salad. Toss and let it marinate for at least 2 hours or up to 12 hours.
 When you are ready to serve it, taste it for salt and pepper, and take a bite of one of the most delicious salads you have ever eaten. The juice from the tomatoes release while the salad marinates and tempers the pungent salad dressing, making it sweet with it’s juices. The corn is milky and toothsome, the tomatoes are soft and sweet, and the onion gives the dish just a touch of bite. The bread is crunchy on the outside but gets wonderfully soft and soaked with that vinaigrette, delightfully creamy yet light from the mustard. This is a perfect side dish for steak or fried chicken, and the best part is…it gets even better as it sits in the fridge.
Not that we ever have any leftovers here.

Pizza Eggplant

I was inspired to make this after seeing a droolworthy recipe on Serious Eats.

Of course, when I look at a recipe, I just generally look at the title and the picture of the final product, then kind of make up all of the in between steps on my own.

This is a GREAT pasta free lasagna type recipe. It’s rich but not greasy and filling but not uber heavy. It’s a great way to use up those late season eggplants and tomatoes.

And it’s especially tasty for a vegetarian crowd.

Pizza Eggplant

2011-07-25 tomatoes aspic and pasta salad Ingredients:

3 eggplants, skinned and sliced into thin slices, lengthwise

1 lb or so fresh, low moisture mozzarella

2-3 cups your favorite tomato sauce

1/2 cup fresh parmesan cheese

1 cup olive oil

A ton of salt…no, really, a ton of salt.

IMG_1380 1. Lay your eggplant on a couple layers of paper towel on a sheet pan and salt the hell out of them. No reall…mountains of salt. This isn’t to season the eggplant (thought it does), it’s to both draw out the bitterness and the moisture, so the final dish isn’t too soggy. Do it anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours. When you are doing this, there may be droplet of moisture on the tops of the eggplant and the paper towel will become soaked. That’s all okay, full steam head.

IMG_1388 2. Then, rinse the eggplant WELL and dry it even better. You don’t want it to be a a salt lick and you DON’T want to get hit with water-meets-oil splatters in the next step.

IMG_1389 3. Preheat the oven to 350 F, then fry the eggplant over medium high heat in a pan with olive oil. You don’t want the eggplant to be brown, the point here is to make it lightly golden and flexible – a minute or 2 per side should do it, and you should do it in batches so they can fry in an even layer.

A word about flying eggplant: eggplant is a sponge. It soaks up moisture immediately. So, use just a little oil at a time – a  few teaspoons at first. If you need more go for it, but just use a little at a time, because you will have to re-oil for each batch.

IMG_1403 4. Drain the fried eggplant well on a few paper towels - it will be really greasy and you are gonna want to dry them off as well as possible. If they tear a little while you drain them, it’s okay. Now, the layering starts:

IMG_1409 5. Sauce…

IMG_1411 eggplant…

IMG_1420 cheese, and repeat until the eggplant is al used up. I threw some tomatoes in there because they were going bad - feel free to use the same. Now, bake it for about 30 minutes, or until the cheese is totally melted, the dish is bubbling, and you are drooling.

IMG_1421 6. Let rest for 15 minutes for the juices to redistribute and serve.

Oh, this is gooood. This is big bowl on the couch with comfy pajamas and trash tv good. This is cold for breakfast he next day good. This…is…good. It will seem quite watery when it is first finished, but I promise that the juices get soaked right back up. Though, truth be told, I spooned up those juices and ate them as an appetizer before they even got a chance to redistribute. This is so delicious.

IMG_1423 The eggplant is silky but still firm enough to stand up to the tomato sauce, the salty Parmesan, and the stretchy mozzarella. It’s pizza without the dough and lasagna without the ricotta. It’s easy to make (Even though it’s time-consuming), and any meat eater will be shocked that they can feel so satisfied with nary a pork product in sight. Make this stat and thank me tomorrow.

Or don’t. Because you will be too busy stuffing your race with leftovers.

BBQ Oven Fries

Did you know that if you keep potatoes in your fridge, they will last for, like, months?

I’m serious…I found a couple of potatoes in my fridge that I must have bought in 2012. They weren’t shriveled. There were no eyes growing – not one! There were no brown or mushy spots. It was like I had just bought them earlier that week. Wow.

So, I made a recipe that I haven’t ever made for the blog, even though it’s been in my repertoire since I was in elementary school. It was on my kitchen table growing up at least once a week. It’s the kind of homey, comforting food that is perfect for any weeknight meal. It’s not a fast recipe, but it’s almost stupidly easy.

And, oh, I make it with bbq sauce because my husband is WEIRD and doesn’t like ketchup.

BBQ Oven Fries

Collages Ingredients:

2 russet potatoes, washed, dried, and cut into about 8 long strips

1/2 cup of bbq sauce

2 tsp. olive oil

sprinkling of salt and pepper

IMG_1427 1. Preheat the oven to 425F. That hot temperature is very important, unless you want to be cooking for 8 days and nights. Drizzle  the potatoes with the olive oi, season lightly, and put them on a baking sheet. Then, pop in the oven for about 40 minutes or…

IMG_1432 2. Until they are golden brown on the bottom, when flipped over. They should have a nutty, savory aroma, and come on…you know what fries look like, right? Flip them and cook them for another 10 minutes or so, and then…

IMG_1436 3. Add the bbq sauce. Just pour it on then flip the fries over and pour a little more on those suckers. I like mine pretty saucy. Cook for another 10 minutes, or until the bbq sauce caramelizes and gets sticky and then…

IMG_1449 4. Serve.

Sorry there isn’t another photo, but these were gone in seconds – they always are. And why not? They are crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. They are covered in a sticky-sweet sauce that clings to the fries and eradicates the need for any dipping sauce. And…msot of all…they are homemade. Even if you get a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and a salad in a bag, this is so wholesome and homey that you will feel like you made the whole damned meal from scratch.

Refrigerated potatoes FTW.

Stuffed Poblano Peppers

As you know, I’m from Southern California.

And the best thing about growing up in Southern California isn’t the beaches, the weather, or even In-n-Out.

It’s Disneyland Grad Night.

That’s right, an entire night where  the theme park is open just for the seniors in a few CAlifornia high schools. It’s all churros, Space Mountain, and shoppin on Main Street until the sun comes up. So, of course, you need to have a good foundation of food for the night ahead.

That night, my mom made me chile rellenos. I’m going to have to make those for the blog – deep fried smoky poblano peppers, stuffed with oozy mozzarella and cheddar cheeses encased in puffy batter. They are labor intensive, but so insanely delicious and great fuel for a night of running around.

But, for those times when you want a little less deep fried and a little more protein, you can go for these slightly easier versions, that you may like even better.

Stuffed Poblano Peppers

stuffed peppers

Ingredients:

4 poblano peppers

1-1.5 cups cooked long grain rice or orzo

1 lb. ground meat

1 small can Mexican style diced tomatoes

Assorted taco seasonings (oregano, cayenne, coriander, cumin, etc)

1 clove diced garlic

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, plus more for topping

hot sauce, salsa, guacamole, sour cream for serving

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1. Put the peppers on a pan and put them under the broiler for about 7 minutes per side, or until they are TOTALLY charred on the outside. We are talking black, burned, and they might pop in the oven. That’s okay. You need to get them completely charred. Dont forget to turn them so all sides get blackened.

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2. When they are charred all over, put them on a plate in a single layer and cover tightly with cling wrap. Leave until the peppers are cool enough to handle. Now, the skins should just slip right off.

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3. While the peppers cool, prepare the filling. Sautee the beef, garlic, and spices until the beef is cooked.

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4. Add the tomatoes….

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5. The rice, and the cheese. Taste for seasonings – the rice absorbs a lot of flavor, so you may need more salt or hot sauce than usual.

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6. Now split the peppers lengthwise and stuff them with the stuffing. I mean overstuff them. Pregnant with twins stuff them. It’s okay if they tear a little and are overflowing – that’s what you want. And yes, I top mine with extra cheese.

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7. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the cheese is totally melted.

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8. Serve.

These are the perfect weeknight meal. Healthy, inexpensive, and tasty. The peppers are smoky and mild. However, when cooked with the rice and cheese, they really assert their flavor. It’s a great way to use up leftover rice – and if you have any canned black beans or corn, throw those in there, too! Fresh scallions – even better! It’s a great way to use up leftover rice and other stuff that’s about to go bad, in a way that is so tasty that no one will guess that it’s a leftovers meal.

And I can’t help but think of Disneyland every time that I eat them.

Creamy Moroccan Carrot Soup

I have been on a carrot streak lately.

Roasting them with hot chile paste. Shredding them into coleslaw mix. Dipping them into blue cheese dressing, au naturel.

And making them into this decidedly un-summery soup. It’s vegetarian and extremely easy to make – in an hour or so, you have a homemade, creamy, comforting soup with zam-pow punch that will knock you off your feet.

Creamy Moroccan Carrot Soup

2011-12-18 tsimis brisket liver hummus latkes Ingredients:

1 lb. peeled and roughly chopped carrots (yes, I used the baby ones…it’s easy, so kill me.)

1 tbsp. veggie oil

1 onion, 1 garlic clove, 1 bunch celery, chopped

2 tsp. grated ginger, fresh or frozen but not dried

2 tsp-1 tbsp. harissa paste (no tomato in the mix)

2 good glugs of ketchup

2 tbsp. ras el hanout

6 cups chicken stock

cream, salt, and pepper to taste

cilantro to garnish

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1. Get those onions, garlic, and celery, in the olive oil over medium heat. Saute for about 10 minutes, or until the onions are softened and start to turn translucent.

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2. Add the carrots, the chicken stock, harissa paste, ras el hanout, and ketchup. Yes, ketchup. Trust me, it’s the secret star ingredient. Stir and cook, covered, for about 30 minutes, or until the carrots are soft. Check once, halfway through, to make sure that he veggies aren’t burning to the bottom of the pan.

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3. Using an immersion blender, bend the carrots when they are mushy and falling apart. Add some cream and taste for seasonings. I always add a lot of pepper and just a touch of salt.

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4. Garnish with cilantro and serve

This soup will cure what ails you. It takes ginger carrot soup to the next level. Ras el Hanout is a North African spice mixture that includes ginger, cumin, corinader, and many other spices. It’s floral, earthy, and fragrant. It is flavorful but not at all spicy – that’s where the harissa comes in. Just use a little because it’s quite potent! And the ketchup….oh, that’s the ticket. It provides a totally unidentifiable sweet, bright backnote. It’s sweet, bright, and brings  a whole new flavor dimension to the creamy soup. Don’t skimp on the cilantro at the end – I thought it was optional, but then I added it and was like – oh. Yeah. This is very important. Mhm.

And this soup altogether is very important for making my carrot obsession seem totally legit. Mhm.

The World’s Best Cheesecake

*I had another post lined up for today when I discovered that this blog post was devoid of pictures. Somehow, in the great blog transfer, this post’s pictures disappeared into thin air! Plus there was a dead link right in the first sentence! Sacre bleu! So, this is reposted because it is one of my favorite recipes ever…thanks  to my sous chef mom, and thanks to my favorite food group DAIRY!*
 Remember the best cheesecake on earth? What a crock! This…THIS is actually the best cheesecake. I decreased the size of the cake, added a touch of sour cream to the batter, and put gingersnaps in the crust. Quite frankly, this is the best cheesecake on the face of the planet. It is rich, creamy, sweet, perfect fresh or frozen…but wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go through the recipe first, shall we? The World’s Best Cheesecake Ingredients: 4 packages cream cheese 1/2 cup sour cream 1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups total sugar
2 eggs Juice of 1 lemon 1 Tbsp. vanilla 12 gingersnaps or graham crackers, crushed into crumbs 6 cups of crushed nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts, or whatever you like) 1 stick butter, melted Special Equipment: Springform pan, lined with tinfoil.

 1. Preheat your oven to 350 F and combine 1 cup of sugar with the crushed nuts and cookies. Mix well.

2. Drizzle the butter over the crumbs and mix well until all the crumbs are moistened and become a thick sort of paste. You may not use all of the butter – you want it to be just a bit moist, not sopping wet.

 3. Pat the crumbs into an even layer in your tinfoiled springform pan. Set aside.

 4. In a large bowl, combine your cream cheese,

 sweetened condensed milk, 

 vanilla, lemon juice, 

the rest of the sugar, the eggs, and the sour cream.   images (1) 5. Mix with your hand mixer or stand mixer for at least 7 minutes or until the mixture has increased in volume by about 1/3 (yes, Christina Tosi, you have convinced me that a prolonged mixing time really makes an outstanding cake).

 6. Pour the cheesecake batter into the crust. Take a quick lick of the spatula. You won’t get salmonella. Probably.

 7. Place the cake on a sheet pan with a lip and put it in the oven. Pour water into the sheet pan to create a water bath. Cook the cheesecake for about 45 minutes, or until the outside is firm but the center is still somewhat jiggly. If the cheesecake starts to become golden around the edges, take it out at once. When the cake is done, cool it for at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

 10) Serve. You are going to love this cake – I bet my blog’s credibility on it. It isn’t one of those fluffy, sugary, preservative laden cakes. This is dense – like a glorious brick in your stomach. The first taste is of cream and pure, clean dairy. Then there is the sweet and gingery crunch of the crust – like a buttery, nutty graham cracker. Then there is the gentle tang of the lemon and sour cream, the aromatic, floral vanilla and the sweetness of the sugar. Pushing your knife through this is like running your fingers through wet sand. It is slow, it is sensual, it gives you some resistance. And it’s so damn satisfying.

Without a doubt, the best cheesecake ever.

Orange Zest Gremolata

So you have some short ribs? A pot roast? Roast chicken, veal shank, or roast pork?

Those are all delicious, but they aren’t what I would call light. They are a little heavy, a little rich. They might need something to cut through the fat.

Something like this:

Red Wine and Tomato Braised Shor Ribs with Gremolata: Part Two

IMG_1059 Ingredients:

zest of 1/2 orange

1 clove garlic, pasted with salt

2 tbsp. finely minced flat leaf italian parsley

IMG_1062 1. Mix it then use it liberally.  I had heard of this but had never used it before and had to consult a couple of recipes to develop my own, so this absolutely counts as a recipe in my book – albeit a super fast one. I made it like pico de gallo, with equal proportions of all ingredients. It’s salty, fragrant, grassy, and a little spicy. It perks up any slow cooked meat instantly, and as the heat of the protein hits the gremolata, the sweet orange scent wafts up and the garlic instantly mellows and becomes savory. I can’t recommend this enough – in fact, I would even use it with poached salmon and tartar sauce or broccoli and béarnaise.
IMG_1067 So simple, but it makes a great meal a gourmet one.