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Rosemary – Fig Hangover Hamentaschen

Yeah, I know, I was supposed to write this last week and now Purim 2013 is just a blur — except for these little beauties! Dainty little things filled with whatever you want; in this case creamy sharp cheese combined with macerated figs, rosemary and vodka.


Here is what you need for:


  • 2 cups flour (whole wheat or all-purpose are fine)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 2 eggs
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • zest and juice of one lemon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 stick butter, (8 Tablespoons, ½ cup) melted


  • ½ cup dried black Mission figs
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • scant pinch sea salt
  • splash vodka
  • small wedge manchego (or similar aged sheep’s milk cheese)

For the filling: Slice the figs and throw them in a glass jar or tall plastic container. Add the rosemary, vodka and tiny pinch of salt. Add just enough water to cover the figs. Give the container and shake (after putting on the lid, of course!) and set aside for 30 minutes or a couple of days.

In a large shallow bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt. Form a well in the centre of the bowl and add the eggs, sugar, lemon and vanilla extract. Begin to slowly stir, without breaking the walls of flour. Gently incorporate the butter and eventually all the flour in the bowl. Knead the dough just until combined. If the dough is too sticky, add small amounts of flour as needed. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes or a few hours.

Preheat oven to 360F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Sprinkle some flour on a clean surface to lay the cool dough. Then sprinkle some flour on your rolling pin and use it to roll out the dough into a large flat expanse. As the expanse grows, sprinkle some more flour on it, then flip the dough and sprinkle flour on the second side, which then gets rolled out some more. Supposedly they say as thin as 1/8th of an inch.

Using an upside down mug or glass, cut out as many rounds as you can. The remainder of the dough can be kneaded into a new ball and rolled out again a couple of times, but try to handle the dough as little as possible.

Add a small piece of the cheese and a couple of fig slices to the centre of each dough circle. Have a cup of water nearby and with wet fingertips and pinch three corners together to form an overall triangular shape. Transfer to the prepared tray and bake until golden, about 12 minutes.

Happy Shushan Purim!

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Crispy Fried Porgy

Serves: Five as an appetizer, two as a main.

Prep time: 5-10 minutes. Cook time: 6-7 minutes.


Any whole fish, fried and breaded, (the smaller the better) is my fatty food of choice. Everyone has their version this – whether it’s cupcakes, caramel, ice cream or chips – fried fish with crispy skin, so crispy that the tail and even some or all of the bones are edible is my version. Yesterday, with kids in tow on the way back from school, I realised I didn’t have anything prepared for dinner and I needed to think of something quick, easy and hopefully kid-friendly. My kids were semi-excited about this, one of them just wanted to eat the skin, but it was a gamble and at least I enjoyed it! P.S I don’t care whether this dish is trendy or in-the-moment of health conscious Americans or even if you’re surprised that I’d ever post a dish like this, I’ve had a busy week and not only is this dish so easy to prepare and write about, did I mention that it’s really good as well?

Here is what you need:

  • 2lb fresh porgy, cleaned and cut into three (head, middle & tail) or any small fish (really small fish should be kept whole)
  • 1/2 a lemon
  • A generous ¼ cup organic cornflour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 or 2 teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (or 2 grinds black pepper)
  • 1 cup grapeseed oil (approximately)

Directions: Rinse each piece of fish thoroughly under cold running water and drain well. Place the fish in a bowl and squeeze the lemon over the fish. Heat oil in a small heavy bottomed pot or frypan (you can choose to deep fry or to shallow fry, the only difference is in the amount of oil you use and whether you need to flip the fish. I personally shallow fry and flip, so that’s what I’ll share). While the oil is heating (please don’t leave unattended because if you do you will probably forget and then your house will burn down, so just don’t leave it) mix the flour and spices together in another bowl. One at a time, coat each piece of fish with the flour mixture, then let it rest on a plate until all are done. Once the oil is very hot, add all of the fish to the fry pan, or as many as you can fit. Fry until browned, about three or four minutes, then flip using two forks and continue frying for another two or three minutes until those fish have turned into golden crispy goddesses. Drain well. Better eaten fresh and hot but still good cold the next day.

Serve with tzatziki or a very lemony sauce.

Chef’s tip on purchasing fish:

I always suggest buying your fish from a dedicated fish market and choosing each fish yourself. Look for something with bright clear eyes and blood red gills. Tell your fishmonger how you want your fish; whether cleaned, filleted, cut or whole they will do it all right there. It might take more time compared to buying pre-cut and filleted fish in a supermarket, but it makes a huge difference in freshness. Also, you can absolutely buy kosher fish from a general fish market even if it was right next to the catfish, swordfish, shrimp and calamari. The rule is that as long as you personally observe the simanin (fins and scales) and request the knives and board to be washed, (which would probably happen regardless) you’re in the clear.

On Tzatziki:

Here are two recipes I found for tzatziki: the first one is the quick and easy version but I prefer the second one, because it’s basically the exact same thing and there are images that show you how to turn your regular store bought or homemade yogurt into greek yogurt, simply by draining it.

Photograph by Itta Roth

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Celebrating the Birthday of the Beetroot (and Her Greens!)

A little part of me feels sad when I see all those beetroots with their tops removed. Did you know that beetroots were originally cultivated in Ancient Egypt BECAUSE of their greens? The actual beet was more of an afterthought. That is why us Australians, and many other countries, refer to “beets” as beetroot – referring to the root, rather than the vague term “beets”, which refer to the whole vegetable, greens and all, I suppose.

I prefer to leave an inch of the stem on my beets because it looks so pretty. One thing I love about this recipe is that it lets me use every single part of this vegetable.
I prefer to leave an inch of the stem on my beets because it looks so pretty. One thing I love about this recipe is that it lets me use every single part of this vegetable.

So, here’s a recipe, right in time for Tu Bishvat, the birthday of the trees – to honour the beet – root and greens. Here is what you need:

  • 2-3 bunches of small beets with gorgeous and fresh greens attached  (for a visually eclectic and pretty salad try for red, golden and chioggia beets)
  • 3 tablespoons grapeseed oil
  • ¾ cup toasted walnuts, crumbled or shelled hazelnuts, chopped

The star of this salad is certainly the beets, but feel free to add some or all of these ingredients below:

  • ½ cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • ¼ cup good quality kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
  • ¼ red onion, sliced and marinated in red wine vinegar for 15 minutes or more
  • ½ cup fresh pomegranate seeds

Pomegranate/Silan dressing

  • 2 Tablespoons pomegranate molasses or silan (date honey)
  • ½ cup red wine vinegar (feel free to use the red wine vinegar from the onions)
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 grinds pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line two baking trays with parchment paper. Separate the tops from the beets leaving about 1.5 inches of the stem. Clean and peel the beetroots and slice them into quarters, right through the roots and remaining stems. In a mixing bowl, toss the grapeseed oil and the beets (if you’re using gold and red beets, keep them totally separate so the golden colour stays golden). Roast for about 25 minutes, but check them every ten minutes, until they are tender but with some resistance and a bit of bite.

To serve, take a bunch of the beet greens, roll them up and slice thinly (or chiffonade). When the beets have cooled to room temperature, toss all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Combine all the dressing ingredients into jar or well sealed container and give it a good shake. Pour some of it over the salad, and leave some to spare. You want just enough to coat the vegetables, rather than take them swimming in dressing. I purposely got you to make extra dressing so you can use it for another salad and stop buying that crappy bottled stuff! Toss the salad well and serve at room temperature.

Chef’s tip: To skin hazelnuts easily, right after roasting, transfer all the nuts to a clean kitchen towel and wrap well. Rub the nuts through the towel for a minute or so, you should feel the skins come off. Open the towel and remove the nuts with loose open fingers, so most of the brown skins stay on the towel.

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The Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie: Four Levels of Chocolate with Lavender

Chocolate chip cookies are a truly American invention, and they’re still a treat this country knows how to do well. Better than me, perhaps, until I recently figured out some of the secrets behind a truly great cookie. I’m not a native, but I’m definitely a full-fledged immigrant Brooklynite, and that really must count for something. Another thing I must admit – I’m not a huge chocolate lover. I’ll eat chocolate sometimes, and I know when it’s quality. I’ve always been one of those people who choose white chocolate over “real” chocolate. That’s actually one of the reasons why I love this recipe. I use 100% crunchy cocoa nibs mixed with chunks of the whitest, least-chocolatey chocolate. And, of course, everything in between. Eating one of these cookies speckled with purple lavender or green tarragon and chunky grey salt is like going on a tour of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. It takes you for a ride. You’ll see.


Yield: makes about 3 dozen


  • 1 ¼ cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 sticks butter, room softened (1 cup, 8 oz., 226 grams)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon molasses (regular, unsulphured or blackstrap)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups assorted chopped chocolate (a combination of white chocolate, milk chocolate, bittersweet, unsweetened & cocoa nibs)
  • 2 heaping teaspoons dried lavender (or fresh tarragon)
  • Pinch of Maldon, Sel Gris or Murray River Salt


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 2-3 trays lined with baking paper. In a small bowl whisk together both flours, the baking soda and the regular salt. In another bowl (or, an electric mixer would make life easier) beat together the butter, sugar and molasses until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, eggs and mix well. Then add the flour and lavender. Stir in the chocolate.

Using two spoons, drop heaping tablespoon of the dough about 2 inches apart on the trays. Add 1-3 flakes of your choice of fancy salt on the top of each cookie.

Bake until cookies are golden around the edges, but still soft in the center, 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on baking 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

These cookies won’t last long, but just so you know, they can last in a container for a few days and they also freeze well.

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Pumpkin Sage Quiche

Fresh sage adds an irresistible flavour to this quiche. Come join The Hester’s event this Thursday, to get a taste of this fabulous food.

For the Pastry:

  • 1 1/2 cup whole grain pastry flour
  • good pinch salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cubed
  • 3-4 tablespoons ice water – or as much as you need for the dough to come together
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme

Instructions: place the flour, butter and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse several times, until the mixture is uniform and resembles coarse meal. (If you don’t have a food processor, use a pastry cutter or 2 forks instead).

Transfer the crumbled almost-pastry to a mixing bowl and using a spatula, add the water one tablespoon at a time while working it in to the mixture until it comes together, forming into a dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and gather it gently into a ball.

Roll the dough into a circle 11 inches or so in diameter (slightly bigger than a 10-inch round). Lift the dough and ease it into a 9-inch pie pan or 10-inch springform tart pan, nudging it gently into the corners. Form a generous, even edge all the way around the sides. Cover with plastic and refrigerate (or freeze) until ready to use.

For the Filling:

  • 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
  • 1 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems trimmed and large caps sliced
  • 1 pound cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup shredded raw pumpkin
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
  • ¾ cup shredded tasty cheese (cheddar, muenster, gouda etc.)
  • 2-3 cups sour cream
  • 5 large eggs, lightly beaten

Directions: preheat the oven to 350°. In a very large skillet, heat the oil. Add the mushrooms and sage cook over high heat, stirring, until starting to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the grated pumpkin, reduce the heat to moderate. Add the butter, onion and thyme and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are tender, about 12 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper and let cool.

Scatter half the cheese on the prepared crust. Beat the eggs with the sour cream. Add the vegetable mixture and pour it over the cheese. Scatter the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese on top.

Bake the quiche for about 1 1/2 hours, or until richly browned on top and the custard is barely set in the center. Enjoy!

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Root Vegetable Latkes with Lemon-Saffron Yogurt

Two nights left to cook = Two Way Latkes!!

Beet Latkes with Lemon Saffron Yogurt & Rutabaga Latkes with Horseradish Taramosalata

I’ll be the first to admit that potato latkes are really the best kind of latkes! Especially when they’re made well – crispy, thin and fresh out of the fry pan. Here are a couple of recipes using an assortment of other vegetables you can use to perhaps boost your intake of vitamins and minerals, and to add some variation, colour and seasonal freshness to your plate.


  • 1lb mixed raw root vegetables such as rutabaga, golden beets, red beets and parsnip (other turnips, celeriac and carrots are also fine, although I haven’t tried them) peeled and shredded by hand or using a food processor.
  • 1 small or ½ a red onion, minced
  • 2-3 eggs
  • ¼ c flour (almost any flour, all-purpose, whole wheat, spelt and probably many gluten free flours are also fine)
  • 2 teaspoons salt (or just a pinch of salt if using mostly beets, too much salt will stifle their natural sweetness)
  • 3 grinds black pepper
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ C peanut or grapeseed oil, (approximately) for frying

For the Beet Latkes: 1 bunch lightly cooked beet greens, squeezed and chopped, 2 tablespoons of fresh mint and parsley, zest of ½ lemon,1 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp tahini.

For the Rutabaga Latkes: 1 tsp caraway seeds toasted over the fry pan before you start your frying, 2 tablespoons dill and/or parsley.

Lemon Saffron Yogurt Sauce for the Beet Latkes courtesy of Yotam Ottolenghi


  • 1 big pinch saffron threads
  • 250g Greek yoghurt
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • Salt

First make the sauce. Soak the saffron in two teaspoons of hot water for five minutes. Transfer this to a bowl, add the yogurt, oil, lemon juice, and salt to taste, and stir to combine. The sauce will keep well in the fridge.

Horseradish Taramosalata for the Rutabaga Latkes


  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated horseradish
  • 2 tablespoon freshly chopped dill
  • 3 tablespoons carp roe or salmon caviar (vegetarians, just leave out. The dip is great either way).
  • Zest and juice from ½ a lemon (only if using the roe or caviar).
  • Salt
  • Combine everything and refrigerated until needed.

To make the latkes: Place all your ingredients into a mixing bowl and mix thoroughly. I put disposable gloves on and get down and dirty. I use three eggs; the resulting mixture is lighter, fluffier, and will give you crispier latkes, but it will work fine with fewer eggs, or egg whites if cholesterol levels are a concern. Heat a fry pan with a good amount of oil on a medium flame, and drop spoonfuls of the latke mixture, flattening them with a spatula. When you jiggle the pan and the latke loosens and seems to hold its shape, it’s ready to be flipped. I like to press them thin and cook them quickly on a higher flame.

When deciding what vegetable to use with which sauce, the answer is that it doesn’t really matter. You could use the exact same mixture of root vegetables for either the “beet” or “rutabaga” latkes, and as long as you pair the right herbs and spices with the sauces, they’ll taste great.

A Freilachen Chanukah

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Baked Cinnamon Doughnuts with Quince Cardamom Preserve

For years now, Chanuka has been synonymous with doughnuts. While gentiles are stringing up their lights, saddling up reindeer, and racking up huge electricity bills, we Jews are probably more focused on our usual preoccupation: food. Yes – miracles and wonders, olive oil, lights, transcending the physical too, but mainly food – deep fried food. We’re imaging the crispy and salty latkes and the moist creamy doughnuts. Many years ago, some clever person had the great idea to connect every single Jewish holiday to different foods, and these foods have become rituals in their own right. The whole idea at it’s core is pure outreach (so I guess a Lubavitcher thought of it?): the lost Jewish soul comes back to his grandparents’ Shabbos table with one good bowl of chicken soup.

The only thing that really connects doughnuts with Chanuka is the fact that doughnuts are deep fried, which is supposed to remind us of the miracle of the oil in the Temple. Considering the recipe I’m about to give you is for baked doughnuts, not fried ones, which might seem sacrilege to some, let me just defend myself in advance; I would never choose to deep-fry something if I could make it just as good another way. Deep-frying is messy, costly and when it’s all over, the smell lingers, and someone needs a facial.

If you’re thinking that you’d be better off just buying doughnuts, then yes, you have a point. It would be so much simpler if I could just bite into a commercial doughnut and taste good quality jam or REAL custard filling, but anyone who eats discerningly knows that most of the time, food you buy just isn’t all that great. It’s one of the big reasons I bother to cook at all (unless you thought it was the calluses and burns!).

If you make your own doughnuts and fillings this year, no matter which recipe you use, let your mind wander back to the story of Chanuka, and add some personal meaning to your own recipe. Think about the heroes of the story: The Maccabim, the people that physically cleaned the desecrated Temple, and the heroine Yehudit who seduced the Syrian-Greek general Holofernes with cheese and wine before beheading him. Deep fried food? We can be more creative than that – just the same way we are probably capable of deep-frying anything, I am almost certain we are capable of attributing connection and meaning to absolutely anything.

The idea of ‘transcending the physical’ stems from the fact that the miracle of Chanuka features the number 8. To explain; a 7-day week is the norm, and the bane of our existence, but the miracle of the oil burning lasted for a full eight days. Eight is not just any random number, it is just one more than seven. 8 teachers us to try and go beyond our comfort zones and our natural state of being.

So, as this Chanuka approaches, ask yourself, “do I want another average doughnut from an average bakery, or am I going to go beyond my usual limitations and make it myself?”

For the Doughnuts (adapted from 101 Cookbooks):

  • 1 1/3 cups warm milk, 95 to 105 degrees (divided)
  • 1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour (I use a blend of whole wheat and white or whole spelt)
  • A pinch or two of nutmeg, freshly grated if possible
  • 1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon

Directions: place 1/3 cup of the warm milk in the bowl of an electric mixer. Stir in the yeast and set aside for five minutes or so. Be sure your milk isn’t too hot or it will kill the yeast. Stir the butter and sugar into the remaining cup of warm milk and add it to the yeast mixture. With a fork, stir in the eggs, flour, nutmeg, and salt – just until the flour is incorporated. With the dough hook attachment of your mixer beat the dough for a few minutes at medium speed. This is where you are going to need to make adjustments – if your dough is overly sticky, add flour a few tablespoons at a time. Too dry? Add more milk a bit at a time. You want the dough to pull away from the sides of the mixing bowl and eventually become supple and smooth. Turn it out onto a floured counter-top, knead just a few times (the dough should be barely sticky), and shape into a ball.

Transfer the dough to a buttered (or oiled) bowl, cover, put in a warm place for an hour or until the dough has roughly doubled in size.

Punch down the dough and roll it out 1/2-inch thick on your floured countertop. Use an upside down small drinking glass or a 2-3 inch cookie cutter to make circles. Transfer the circles to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover with a clean cloth and let rise for another 45 minutes.

Bake in a 375 degree oven until the bottoms are just golden, 8 to 10 minutes – start checking around 8. While the doughnuts are baking, place the butter in a bowl and the sugar and cinnamon in another bowl, plate or ziploc bag.

Remove the doughnuts from the oven and using a pastry brush (or you can actually dip the doughnut into the bowl of butter) brush butter over each doughnut, then a quick toss in the sugar. Depending on how many you’re making, you can just throw all the doughnuts together in the ziploc bag and give it a shake. When I’m making a ton of these I spread the sugar mixture onto a baking tray and after brushing the butter, I turn the doughnuts around once to get coated.

Makes 1 1/2 – 2 dozen medium doughnuts.

For the Quince Cardamom Preserve:

  • 3-5 quinces, peeled and chopped
  • 3-4 apples and/or pears, chopped (no need to peel if you plan on blending).
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • zest and juice of one lemon
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 vanilla bean cut lengthwise
  • 3 cloves
  • 4 cardamom pods.

Here’s how: add everything to a heavy-bottomed pot. (Don’t mess around with the numbers of the spices unless you have a really good memory! Remember, whatever you put in, must come out so this way you have 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5…). Add enough water to barely cover the fruit, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Stir often, keep reducing the liquid and be careful not to let it burn. Some people use a crock pot and cook the fruit overnight and you can do that, but you can also just let it bubble for as little as an hour. The longer you let it cook, the thicker it will be. When enough is enough, remove all the spices (1, 2, 3, 4!) and blend if you prefer a smoother consistency.

You can preserve the fruit by doing the whole mason-jar 10 minute hot water bath but don’t bother with that right now. When the fruit has cooled, just slice ⅓ of the way through the doughnut and spread the fruit with a knife. You can also inject it like I did one year, getting very sticky hands and wasting a lot of time.

An Optional Glaze (rather than the cinnamon and sugar):

  •  1 cup unfiltered apple juice (“cider”)
  • 2, 1 inch pieces ginger
  • 1 cup powdered/icing sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon

Like this: put the apple juice and the ginger into a small pot and boil. Keep reducing until less than half is left. When cooled, prepare the icing by combining the sugar and cinnamon and slowly add tablespoons of the reduced apple ginger mixture. Whisk until smooth. Place a wire cooling rack over a piece of parchment paper. When doughnuts are cool, dip tops into the glaze and let them rest on a wire rack until the glaze hardens.

Happy Chanukah!


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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