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Tri-coloured Cauliflower with Fresh Oregano

Cauliflower is one of the more versatile stars of the vegetable kingdom. It’s delicious raw, marinated or pickled, but when cooked, cauliflower takes on an almost meaty flavour. When baked with cheese, it’s so hearty and satisfying that it’s easy to forget you’re eating a vegetable at all. Aesthetically, it’s a cousin of broccoli, but beyond that, completely different. Roasted until brown and very colourful in this recipe, cauliflower takes on a new enticing dimension. Serve with a rich fatty fish like salmon, or with brisket and lightly steamed leafy greens.

Here is what you’ll need:

  • 3 heads of cauliflower, cut or broken into florets (If you can get a variety, available right now in the New York area, it will look gorgeous, I’ve seen purple, orange, green and romanesco.)
  • 1 small bunch fresh oregano
  • 1 cup chopped parsley (optional)
  • Soft butter or/and oil (¼ cup approximately)
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 red chilli or habanero peppers

Directions: Preheat oven to 400 F or 205 C. Line two large baking trays or cookie sheets with parchment or baking paper. Place florets into a large mixing bowl. Strip the leaves off five oregano sprigs and throw them over the cauliflower. Discard the stems. Throw the rest of the oregano sprigs over the cauliflower as well. Put two sprigs aside for presentation. Pour the oil into the bowl or add the butter (or both). Sprinkle the salt, about two tablespoons, but err on the side of less because you can always add more later. Grind a bunch of black pepper, maybe six grinds total. Throw in the peppers whole. Toss the veggies and the herbs well. Spread in a single layer over both baking sheets and roast until “al dente”, soft, but with a bite, about 20 minutes.

Chef’s tip: If you need more space either roast in shifts or get another tray. If you pile up the cauliflower, it will steam instead of roasting.

Photograph by Itta Werdiger Roth

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Autumn Borscht

There are more versions of borscht than I can list or even know about, most of the recipes originating from various Eastern European countries. Hot or cold, as a drink or as a soup over hot potatoes, or as a warm meaty stew, borscht is one of the most argued-over dishes. People are often consumed with the question of “what is the REAL original recipe?”, so here’s what I think: I’m a cook, not an archaeologist, and I couldn’t care less whether Russians would use caraway seeds in borscht! This recipe is delicious and very autumnal; enjoy!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 3 Tablespoons of grape-seed oil (or/and butter)
  • 2 onions, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 head of garlic, thinly sliced/minced
  • Generous pinch of caraway seeds
  • 4 medium carrots, chopped
  • 2-3 yukon potatoes, chopped
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and chopped
  • 1 bunch red beets, peeled and chopped
  • 4 cups water (approximately)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 of a squeezed lemon (juice)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup chopped parsley and/or dill & beet greens
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Sour cream or plain yogurt to serve

Directions: heat the oil in a large stock pot. Add the onions, and saute until translucent. Add the garlic and caraway seeds and stir until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots, potatoes and beets. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until the vegetables have started to soften. Add the water, salt, sugar, vinegar and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes until all the vegetables are tender. Stir in the greens and lemon juice, simmer for a minute, and then add black pepper to taste.
Serve warm with fresh dill and sour cream.

Chef’s tips: Please feel comfortable to measure very approximately. This is a rustic village-style dish and exactness is not necessary. You can make it more soupy or more stew-like depending on how much water you add. This recipe can easily be adapted to be made with beef (Jews: without the sour cream of course!). You can brown small pieces of beef stew on the side and throw them in at the same time as you add the beets.

Serves 4 as main course, 6 as an appetizer

Photograph by Itta Werdiger Roth

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Pumpkin White Bean Dip

I always love to create new dips with seasonal ingredients. Once you learn the base behind making pestos, bean dips and salsas, you are really set to turn almost anything into a dip. This white bean dip uses almost the exact same logic behind making a traditional chickpea hummus. I start with a cooked bean, something to make it smooth (oil), something acidic to cut the fat (lemon juice) something to give it an edge (garlic), something to make it creamy (pumpkin; in hummus/tahini would be used) and lots of fresh herbs and spices. I used a food processor for this recipe many times and it does make for a very smooth and delicious dip, but lately I have much preferred this more rustic version. Some of the beans get mashed, some stay whole and I really enjoy being able to identify all the different ingredients that make this dip so intensely flavourful.

This is what you will need to make this delicious dip:

  • 3 cups navy beans (or other white beans) pre-soaked and cooked with salt until very soft.
  • 2 cups cooked, Japanese pumpkin aka kabocha squash (or other winter squash.)
  • 1 head garlic, wrapped up in foil and roasted until soft.
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • A few grinds of fresh ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes

All or some of the herbs listed below:

  • ½ cup chopped parsley
  • ¼ sliced scallions
  • 4-6 sprigs of thyme, leaves pulled off stems.
  • 1 fresh sage leaf or 1 sprig of fresh oregano finely chopped.

Directions: place the soft beans, peeled garlic and cooked squash into a large mixing bowl. Mash with a potato masher or fork. Focus on the cloves of garlic, as the rest will figure itself out. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix. Serve on a plate, make a little well in the center of the dip with the back of a spoon and put some more olive oil and red pepper flakes.

Chef’s tip: I usually cut the squash in half and bake it flat on a tray until soft, about 30-40 minutes on 350F/180C. When it cools enough, I either peel it or spoon out the flesh. I also throw the garlic wrapped up on the same tray with the pumpkin and take it out when soft, for about 25 minutes. Peeling the roasted garlic can be messy. I usually put gloves on, slice off the top of one end and squeeze the base. Most of the cloves will ooze out, but some will need serious intervention.

You can serve this with pita chips, celery sticks, radish wedges, or on the Shabbos table with Challah. Enjoy!

Photograph by Itta Roth

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Apple Thyme Tart!

This apple tart is divine! Here is what you will need:

For the Pastry:

  • 1 ¼ cup whole grain pastry flour
  • 2  teaspoon sugar
  • 1 salt pinch
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into about 10 pieces and put in the freezer for about 10 minutes.
  • Approximately 4 tablespoons ice water (or vodka!) – or as much as you need for the dough to come together.
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme

For the Filling:

  • 4 apples (to fill the pie plate, adjust amount as needed), cored and thinly sliced.
  • 2 tablespoons butter, chopped or melted.
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1salt pinch
  • Grated parmesan or similar sharp cheese (about ¼ cup)

Simply like this: the dry ingredients (sugar, salt and flour) for the pastry go in the food processor with the cold cold butter. Pulse pulse pulse. A few more times. You want everything to look very choppy. If you over-pulse, your crust will not be flaky. When the flour has the look and consistency of breadcrumbs, tip the flour/butter mixture into a bowl and using a spatula, add just enough ice water (or vodka) for the dough to come together. Knead into a ball, wrap with plastic and put it in the fridge to get it nice and cold. About an hour or less if you’re short on time.

Butter a tart or pie pan (or you can use parchment paper). Make sure the room (and your hands, if you have any control over that) are both on the cool side, and then quickly roll out the dough into a roundish circle. Put flour on the rolling pin and on the top of the pastry so it doesn’t stick. Flip it once before it gets too large to easily flip and then transfer it straight into your chosen dish. Later, you can fold any excess dough back over the apples or cut it off using the back of a knife and crimp the edges. Refrigerate while you slice the apples.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Toss the apples with the sugar, salt, thyme and butter. Take the crust out of the fridge, pierce it a few times with a fork. Arrange the apples really neatly so it looks just perfect or chuck them all in and call it rustic. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the pastry is firm and the apples start to turn brown. Serve warm or room temperature. Possibly with a scoop of ice cream.