Lazy Day Noodle Soup

Baby, its cold outside and winter lethargy has set in. You need something hot and you need it right now.

OK, well in reality, it is December and freakishly warm where I live. And although it has been 70 degrees for the last few days, my body knows it is soup season.

This will never replace your mom’s chicken soup recipe, which of course is the best. But it is better than anything canned, packaged, or processed. It is simple and honest and easy and fast. And you probably already have everything in the house.

I am a big fan of slaving away over a hot stove any day of the week. I love wielding knives, mixing, measuring, mashing, stirring, kneading, etc. But this is not that recipe.

All you do is throw a few things in a bowl, stick it in the microwave, and walk away. Of course you can go back and sit on the couch, or in front of the fireplace, the TV, the wall, or whatever you like to stare at. When your work is done, you will be rewarded with a hot bowl of chicken noodle soup.

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Quick Chicken Noodle

  • 1 medium carrot, sliced thin
  • 1 stalk of celery, sliced thin
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme, crushed up a little
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 chicken flavored bouillon cubes and 4 1/2 cups water (or you can use 4 cups broth and ½ cup water)
  • 1 generous cup fine egg noodles, slightly broken up

1.  In a large microwave-safe bowl, place all of the ingredients.

2. Cover and cook the soup in the microwave for 15 minutes.  Let cool for 5 minutes.

3.  Ladle the soup into 4 bowls and serve with crackers, if desired.

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Cloud Cookies, aka Chocolate Chip Meringues

It is just after Thanksgiving and probably best to take it a little easy when it comes to eating dessert.  If your family served nine kinds of pie—This. Means. You.

I don’t mean anyone should skip dessert entirely—I would never suggest anything as radical as that—but here is an opportunity to eat something a little lighter.

I wouldn’t call this healthy or good for you, but honestly, it is not too bad, as far as desserts go.

These are easy to make, so if you just spent days cleaning and cooking for T-Day, then this is surely the way to go. And you probably have all of the ingredients in your house already, since there are only four. But note: don’t make these on a rainy or humid day—ironically these Cloud Cookies won’t turn out.

It starts off simply–first you take three large eggs and leave them at room temp for about an hour or so. If you don’t have time to spare, then take your three eggs and put them in a bowl of hot tap water for 5 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 275° F and line a large baking sheet or two with parchment paper and set aside.

Next, you crack the eggs, and separate the white from the yolk using any one of the following methods:

Continue reading

Sriracha Challah


Yep, in fact I am doing a little dance right now.  The Sri-ra-cha-cha!
We had always seen the bottle in stores, at restaurants, at friend’s houses, but somehow, never thought to try Sriracha Sauce. I am not sure how we overlooked it, but the important thing is that we have it now..

 


And we will always be together.
I’d heard mention of “rooster sauce” but never before had we heard anyone openly gush about it, until we professed our new found love on Facebook—since then, friends have been coming out of the woodwork to tell us how much they love it too!
Now, we have had hot chili sauces before, many kinds, many times. In fact I would go as far as to say that my father-in-law is a connoisseur of hot sauce and he has probably never missed an opportunity to try a new kind, no matter the hotness—it doesn’t scare him.
Well, I have to confess, that I guess I was a little intimidated by the fiery red color, the thick viscous texture, and the size of the bottle–Tabasco is tiny in comparison!  The rooster looked a little suspicious to me, as if to warn me: danger, danger ahead, danger of ruining your already spicy food with more spice.

 

Maybe size does matter…

But I am a gal who can admit a mistake. And I was wrong.

Oh, Sriracha, how I misunderstood you!
Now my whole family is addicted to it, with no end of things to try it on! As a dip for fresh spring rolls, on chicken quesadillas, in vegetable soups, and now baked into bread. Instead of having a meal and thinking we can add Sriracha to it, we have been planning our meals around what we can put the sauce on.
Our world revolves around Sriracha. Here is our new philosophy:

 

My husband, is in a rock band called The Mack Daddyz.  He is very particular about the T-shirts he will wear at a performance and bought a Sriracha shirt to proudly display his new obsession. He is rockin’ that T, let me tell you, and he has as many fans compliment the shirt as they do his guitar shredding, 80’s rock style of course!

 


So, as a cook, and a creative-type at that, I think like this: how many things can I do with this that maybe no one has thought of before! And the carb-a-holic in me, well, my mind goes straight to bread.
And what a bread it was!
Soft, fluffy, warm, orange, like a summer sunset, flavorful, reminiscent of Thai chilies, deep, and complex, and then, the slow pleasant burn begins. It will leave you wondering: is it bread, or is it a miracle?
And now I bring you….drumroll please…my recipe for Sriracha Challah!!!

 

 

Sriracha (Bread Machine) Challah

 

  • 2 cups bread flour (King Arthur is the best!)
  • 1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour (Ditto)
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoon active-dry yeast
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup Sriracha Sauce
  • 1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water, set aside

1. Place all ingredients into your bread machine in the order that your manufacturer specifies. Set to dough cycle and press start. For the first five minutes or so, stand there with a rubber spatula helping to incorporate the ingredients. If it is too dry, add a little more warm water. If it is too wet and sticky, add a little more flour. Stop when the dough is nice and smooth, not too sticky and no longer clunking around hitting the sides, then shut the door and walk away.


2. When the dough is finished rising in the bread machine it will be a little smaller than regular challah dough, but no worries, just let it sit in the machine another 15 minutes or so, until it almost fills the pan. Remove the dough from the bread machine and transfer it to a lightly floured board.


3. Fold it over a few times, pat it into a rectangle and flour it lightly. Using a scissors, a sharp knife, or a bench knife, cut it into 6 even pieces. Braid 3 strands together, tucking the ends underneath. Then repeat with the other 3 strands. It is okay of the strands aren’t smooth ropes–it will all work out perfectly after the next rise, so braid away.


4. Using a baking stone or baking sheet lined with parchment paper, place the loaves onto the parchment paper and then lightly brush the tops of the challot with the egg wash.


5. This part is a little different but it really works! Preheat oven to 170 degrees F for exactly one minute to warm it, and then shut the oven off immediately. Place the baking tray into the middle of the oven and shut the door. Let it rise for about 40 minutes and DONT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR!


6. After the 4o minutes, turn the oven back on to 350 F and set the timer for 30 minutes. The challah will continue to rise a little more and then bake into the golden-orange beauties you see in the photos. Check them after the 30 minutes (you may open the oven door now) and if you like them a little more golden, continue to cook for 5 more minutes.
7. Remove from the oven and let them cool on a rack. Eat now or later, or freeze for another time. Enjoy!

My son loves this bread with all of his “heart!”

One Fish, Two Fish: How to Make Whole Fish

What dish is so delish? It’s a fish dish! So, if you have one wish, miss, wish for a fish dish as delish as this!

–My take on Dr. Suess

Dinner for Dr. Suess?

I grew up in a family that ate a lot of fish:

Ok, maybe not that much.  🙂

Before the world was heralding the health benefits of omega-3’s; before words like sustainable and over-fished were swimming around, my parents and I were dedicated fish eaters.

Back in the 70’s and 80’s, when steak was king, we stuck true to our roots–not just fish, but whole fish, head and tail and all:

As sushi made its debut in mainstream culture, there was John Hugh’s The Breakfast Club to document it– Molly Ringwald brings sushi for lunch in a bento box. Judd Nelson taunts her, saying she “won’t accept a guy’s tongue in her mouth but she would eat that!”  That comparison made quite an impact on me at 14! It would be 7 more years before I would have the opportunity to try sushi, and no comment on the tongue!

Breakfast Club Lunch Scene, 1985, the first time I had heard of sushi!

But I digress…I am not blogging about sushi, which I also love, but about whole fish and fully cooked at that!

My mom would make more than one kind of fish at a  meal. This is eons before moms complained about being short order cooks to accommodate every whim, and saw it as necessity: whole fish for my dad, filet for my mom and me.

My mom would go to the local fish store, a magical place. It was icy and cold inside, kind of like the penguin house at the zoo (ok, not exactly). Truthfully, I am surprised my neighborhood even had a fish store considering we had AWESOME take-out–I mean who the heck was even eating fish in the Bronx in 1980 when the pizza from the local pizzeria was so damn good!

I will save pizza for another blog…

She would come home with bundles of small butcher paper packages, and our dinner would unfold.

My father would get the porgies,  with their light flaky meat, the eye white and bland looking, staring at you throughout the meal. He would put a few steaming forkfuls onto my plate. To fully enjoy my bites I would have to tune out his shouts of “Aura, be careful! The bones, don’t choke on the bones!” (I didn’t.)

My mom would make flounder seasoned with nothing but a dab of butter for me (probably Parkay margarine circa 1980 at my house). Filets, being boneless would calm my dad’s hysterics.

Now as a grown up I feel I must confess that when I order fish in restaurants I will opt for the the whole fish 9 times out of 10 if that is a choice, which it isn’t often enough in St. Louis.

One week-and- half- long trip home to New York to visit my in-laws in Brooklyn could yield in at least ten dinners out at amazing restaurants, two of which might be in Sheepshead Bay at Liman and Yiasou, which would mean, yep, you guessed it,two opportunities for whole-fish dinners!

I have become adept at navigating the fish comb skeleton, the tiny jaw frowning, under-bite and all, and delving into the delicious and tender cheek–a morsel so yummy I can never decide to eat it first or save it for last.

Since I haven’t been back home to New York lately, I need to be able to make it myself.

And as often as I can get whole fish, which isn’t often enough, it doesn’t really matter what kind– once drizzled with good olive oil, bedazzled with glimmering flakes of course  kosher salt, dotted with freshly ground pepper, stuffed with slices of lemon and slivers of garlic, sprinkled with handfuls of greens, and slipped into a hot oven– cooked like this–it is perfection!

One fish:

Two fish:

Roasted until the flavors of garlic and lemon permeate the fish, the bones infusing their meaty goodness into the delicate white flesh.

Aaaahhh…nice and opaque:

When dinner is served, it is man against fish, just the two of us, and concentration is necessary.

Moving aside the skin, eating the whole top side, peeling the whole skeleton, up and away in one slow but mighty swoop and depositing it in the trash. This reminds me of childhood cartoons, like Tom and Jerry where a roll in the trash wasn’t complete without fish bones and banana peels.

Now my garbage is complete:

And of course throughout dinner, my own words ring out, although softer and sweeter than my dad’s booming voice: “The bones! Be careful not to choke on the bones!” And my children, fascinated, eat dinner in silence, wide eyed and slightly gaping in awe like the fish on their plates.

Dinner is served:

Roasted Whole Fish

  • 2 whole fish, any kind (I used red snapper above, but bass would be m y first choice)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt
  •  freshly ground pepper
  • 2 sliced garlic cloves
  • 1 sliced lemon
  • a handful of arugula or  parsley leaves, or any herbs you like
  1. Preheat oven to 450 F. Wash and dry fish, inside and out, patting with paper towels.
  2. Generously brush with the olive oil, inside and out.
  3. Seriously sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper, inside and out–it can take it–it (possibly) came from the sea! ;).
  4. Open up the fish an place a  layer of lemons, slightly overlapping, into the cavity.
  5.  And then add slices of fresh garlic tossed here and  there (the more the merrier).
  6. And a handful or so of arugula or parsley leaves strewn about on top of the lemon and garlic inside the cavity.
  7. Place in oven and roast for 15 minutes and serve hot. But first, look it in the eye, if you dare.

Roasted Vegetable Torte, Not as Easy as Pie

Roasted Vegetable Torte, Not as Easy as Pie

(But let’s face it–pie isn’t so easy anyway!)

The Roasted Vegetable Torte. There it was. Every time I opened the cookbook the picture would be there, waiting for me. I would check it often, to see if it still had that same effect on me: longing.

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It was too beautiful for words, too pretty to make. How would I ever cut into it? And which friends liked roasted veggies enough for it to be worth the effort?

But I could wait no longer.

I bought the most beautiful veggies I could find. Cheerful red and yellow peppers, a glossy red onion, a shiny black eggplant. I sliced them with care and brushed them generously with extra virgin olive oil, generous pinches of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. I lay them all out on large baking sheets to wait their turn in the oven to roast. The veggies turned dark and soft in the oven.

I prepared a spring form pan and layered the veggies with cheese. I placed a plate on top to weigh it down and a plate on the bottom to catch the juices.

And then I waited another day.

When dinnertime came, I opened the fridge to find the veggie tart waiting patiently for me in the fridge. I can’t say I displayed the same virtuous trait, but now, the time had come!

Time to un-mold…top view:

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I put it on a cake stand, something worthy of its beauty, and left it on the counter to come to room temperature.

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When my dinner guests arrived I let it sit on the counter in the center of all of the hubbub.

Surrounded by the sounds of clinking glasses and laughter, I let it bask in admiration and let it get the ooohs and aaahs it deserved.

I’m ready for my close up:

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I carried it to the dinner table, gingerly, and placed it down amid other loved dishes, the spice rubbed roasted salmon, the tomato-feta salad, the warm homemade bread.

It was hard to make the first cut. But well worth the wait.

Adapted from Barefoot Contessa’s Roasted Vegetable Torte

  • 2 zucchini, cut into 1/4 inch slices (sometimes I skip zukes and double up on the other veggies I like more)
  • 1 red onion, cut in half lengthwise and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus another few tablespoons for brushing veggies
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 red bell peppers, halved, cored, seeded
  • 2 yellow bell peppers, halved, cored, seeded
  • 1 eggplant, unpeeled, cut into 1/4 inch slices ( 1 1/2 pounds or more)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (but I like to switch this our for soft herbed-goat cheese)

1. Preheat over to 400 F.
2. In a large saute pan, place 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and cook the zucchini, onions, garlic for 10 minutes or until tender. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Brush the bell peppers and eggplant with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and roast on a baking sheet for 30-40 minutes, until soft, but not browned.
3. In a 8 inch round cake pan (I used spring form but either way it works), place each vegetable in a single overlapping layer, sprinkling cheese, salt and pepper to taste, between each layer of veggies. Begin with half of the eggplant, then layer half of the zucchini and onions, then all of the red peppers, then all of the yellow peppers, then the rest of the zucchini and onions, and finally the rest of the eggplant.
4. Cover the top of the veggies with a round of wax paper. Place a plate on top so that it is sitting right on top of the veggies, and weigh it down with a heavy jar. Place the whole thing on top of a larger plate to catch the juices in case it leaks (it will), and place it in the fridge until it is well chilled (might as well make it the day before).
5. When ready to serve, drain the liquids, un-mold and serve at room temp. Cut it into wedges like a cake and enjoy!

Oh, and leftovers make an awesome sandwich the next day! See for yourself…Image

Can’t talk right now…gotta go!

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Penne al la Vodka: Better than the Restaurant

Sometimes you want it, need it, have to have it. Even though it is decadent, you won’t rest easy until the deed is done. It will consume your thoughts, until you consume it. And you can go out of the house to get it, or you can get it at home. No, silly, I am talking about Penne al a Vodka, the ultimate cream-based pasta dish.

The secret to delicious restaurant cooking is that they add way more butter-cream-salt-sugar-oil than you would ever dare to do at home.  You are pretty much paying someone else to NOT tell you how much fat-salt-sugar is on your plate. These ingredients go directly to the pleasure center of your brain, and helps bring you to the conclusion that you’ve just had a great meal out.  It’s cheating, actually.
This restaurant “don’t ask don’t tell” policy is universal. Unless you go with my mom, then she interrogates the waiter until he goes back to the kitchen and asks the chef EXACTLY what is in the dish and in what amounts. But not me–if I am eating in a restaurant, and not eating sushi or a salad, then I want this pure primal fat-salt-sugar hit, and I don’t want to discuss it.
When cooking at home, I wouldn’t dare add as much fat-salt-sugar as they do in a restaurant.  I am conscious of keeping things healthy for my friends and family with the “special occasion” clause, otherwise known as a “treat.”  Once in a while I will make this Penne al a Vodka for that at-home restaurant fat-salt-sugar hit, and I tell myself it is still slightly better for you than anything at the local Italian-American Pasta Restaurant.
In fact, this recipe is so good, that we would never ever think to order it in a restaurant anymore because it is BETTER.
Now, I know you think I am always telling you, my loyal readers and fellow foodies, that my recipe is BEST. But I kid you not, once again, this is not just good, not just better, but the best.
As my grandmother used to tell me, “Good better best, never let it rest, until the good is better and the better best. “ And this recipe my friends is, the best.
The Best Penne al la Vodka
·         1 pound of penne pasta
·         2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
·         1 medium onion, diced
·         2 cloves garlic, minced
·         ¼ cup vodka, any quality
·         1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper (1/4 if you like it spicy)
·         28 ounces tomato sauce (see blog Getting Sauced, or you can use jarred such as Trader Joes’s or Barilla, (marinara, tomato basil, garlic, etc.)
·         ¾ cup cream
·         ½ cup shredded parmesan cheese
·         ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
 
1.       Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook penne according to package directions.
2.      Meanwhile, in large sauté pan heat the olive oil over medium heat and sauté the onion until tender. Add the minced garlic and cook for about a minute, keeping the garlic moving in the pan.
3.      Add the vodka and crushed red pepper and cook until the vodka is reduced and seems to disappear.
4.      Add the tomato sauce and bring to a simmer. Stir in the cream and the parmesan cheese and stir well until incorporated into the sauce.
5.      When the pasta is finished cooking, drain and add it to the sauce and mix well. Add the fresh chopped basil and serve hot. Enjoy!
 
 

Thursday Night Chicken Bolognese

Talk of eating Spaghetti Bolognese has been going on in my house for days.

My boys are reading a book called The Uglies in which a character named Tally goes on a treacherous journey and packs 41 packets of instant Spaghetti Bolognese.

Even though by the end of her trip Tally is sick of it, the Spaghetti Bolognese comes up again and again, causing my boys to clamor every night to eat some, clutching their empty grumbling bellies and crying out for Spaghetti Bolognese.

They have only two questions: “Mom, what is spaghetti Bolognese? And can we eat some RIGHT NOW?”

I didn’t remind them I made it twice last fall—a delicious recipe from Epicurious that everyone liked—but there was nothing to help them remember it. It was eaten, swooned over, and, no sooner than the dish hit the sink, immediately forgotten.

But thanks to this book, The Uglies, it has been an obsession all week.

“Mom, can you make spaghetti Bolognese? Now? PLEASE?”
“Um, ok. Let me look around the kitchen and I’ll let you know.”

Now admittedly, my pantry and fridge are what we can call “well stocked.”

I can whip up a meal with nothing but the scraps in the veggie crisper and some jars in the cabinet, and for company at that.  I had the ingredients for a faux Bolognese and my boys didn’t know any better, thanks to short term food memory.

But when it was done, I realized that what I’d made tasted just as good as, and maybe better than, the original, complicated recipe—and I didn’t have to spend 2 hours in the kitchen stirring.

The first thing you should do is open a bottle of wine.  Maybe this is how you start cooking every meal anyway.  An inexpensive red would do (head to Trader Joe’s), something appropriate for a Thursday no-company sort of night.

You are going to use only a little bit of wine for the recipe, so pour yourself a glass—might as well get this weeknight non-party rolling. Besides, it will make helping with homework a little easier.

Take a sip and you may notice immediately that the kids’ voices seem softer and further away. And by voices I mean whining, crying, screaming, fighting. If this isn’t your household skip ahead to the next paragraph. If it is your house, pour a little more wine—you only need 3 tablespoons for this recipe.  By the way, I’m not saying if it is my house or not.

Begin cooking now. Put up a pot of water for the pasta. You can use any kind of long noodle you have. Trader Joe’s has taglietelle, which I love, but feel free to use linguini or spaghetti, and when the water boils, salt the water well.

Once the stress of your day starts to melt away, you will begin to hone in on the smell of the olive oil: green, deep; the onions: sweet, savory; the garlic: buttery, warm; the thyme: earthy, strong. Brown your ground chicken (or any ground meat you’d like), add the luscious tomato sauce (see previous my blog, Getting Sauced), and simmer away.  

When this comes together, the sauce simmering simultaneously with the pasta boiling, it will transform your Thursday night supper into something special. So, pour some more wine for you, put out extra grated parm for the kids, and enjoy.

And you never know what treasures your kids’ book hold.

Thursday Night Chicken Bolognese

·         2 tablespoons olive oil

·         1 large onion, chopped
·         4 cloves garlic, sliced
·         3 tablespoons red wine, whatever you like to drink
·         1 teaspoon kosher salt
·         3 cups tomato sauce, homemade or jarred
·         Freshly ground black pepper
·         ½ teaspoon dried thyme
·         1 pound ground chicken (not lean or ground chicken breast)
·         16 ounces tagliatelle, linguini, or spaghetti
·         Grated Romano-Parmesan blend, for sprinkling

1.       In a large pan, heat the oil and cook the onion over medium-high heat until tender.

2.      Add the garlic and cook while stirring for one minute. Add the wine and cook stirring for 2 minutes. Add the ground chicken and cook until browned while breaking up the chunks of meat with a wooden spoon Add the tomato sauce, salt, pepper, and thyme, simmer for 15 minutes.
3.      Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions taking care not to overcook. Drain (it is okay to leave a little pasta cooking water clinging to the noodles), and toss the noodles with the sauce. Serve with grated parmesan-Romano blend or whatever you have handy.

Sublime Lime Salad

I am a salad lover, it’s true. But admittedly, no matter how delicious I think the veggies are, I am really in it for the dressing. The greens are merely a vehicle to get the dressing from plate to mouth, the best way, second only to a spoon.

 

I have a friend, whom I will call “C,” who is very wise, and also pretty healthy. She loves to hike, bike, and camp, and goes out of her way to make sure her meals are healthful and beautiful, flavorful and simple. C also goes out of her way to make sure that lots of children in our community eat well by connecting them to local, organic, fresh ingredients, and instilling in them a deep appreciation for what comes from the earth. And she also has a talent for this salad, amongst other things.

 

Over the years I have tried to duplicate C’s salad, and although she has shared the list of ingredients, if without exact amounts (a little of this, a little of that), it just wasn’t the same. The juice of a lime (what size?), grapeseed oil (I tried canola and olive—I doubted her and am humbled), a little salt, and some nice spoonfuls of sugar. Those things combined with tender lettuce, thinly sliced cukes, bits of cilantro, some creamy avocado, and there you have it—light, crunchy, soft, fresh, and very, very green.

 

Start with the softest most buttery greens you can find: Bibb or Boston lettuces are ideal. Second best would be red or green leaf lettuce, if you must, but try to steer clear of any crunchy or spicy greens such as romaine, or arugula. Not that it would be bad, but it would counter the delicateness of the dressing.

 

After much tinkering, here is as close as I can come to C’s Sublime Lime Salad:

 

      ·         Juice of one large fresh lime, ¼ cup (pulp in, seeds out)

·         ¼ cup grapeseed oil (such a light delicate flavor, worth buying just for this salad)
·         ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
·         2 to 3 tablespoons sugar (I add 3 but do what you will)
·         Butter and/or Bibb lettuce, a few of the tiny heads, chopped into bite-sized pieces
·         1 long English cucumber or a few small Persian cucumbers, skin on, sliced very thinly
·         Fresh cilantro; I throw in a nice handful of leaves and sometimes I leave them on the stems
·         A large ripe avocado, cut into small chunks
 

      1.       Assemble the lettuce, cukes, cilantro, and avocado in a salad bowl.

2.      In a small bowl, mix together the lime juice, salt, sugar, and then slowly whisk in the grapeseed oil.
3.      Toss lime dressing with greens. Experience the sublime, or enjoy a great salad at the very least.
 
 

Heavenly Chocolate Ganache Cake Balls for Passover

Here it is folks, up to the minute breaking news from right here in Aura’s Test Kitchen and pomegranatesandhoney.com! I’ve been in the kitchen trying to reinvent Passover. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it can be done. No more matzo flavored chocolate cake. No more weird tasting egg-puffed chiffon cakes. No more getting dessert out of a can.

We are free, so let’s eat like it! No need to be enslaved to your grandmother’s fruit compote recipe forever.
Every year I consider it my personal mission to come up with one or two never seen before Passover recipes. I have fond memories of my mom’s Passover desserts from childhood. But let’s face it, Passover desserts taste odd. Maybe some of you look forward to that matzah cake meal flavor, but I say let’s leave matzah where it belongs—on the seder table. On your dessert table, put these, because, well, why not?
I bring to you my latest creation…
Heavenly Chocolate Ganache Cake Balls
·          One and half 8 ounce packages pre-made Passover cake, such as Osem marble cake or pound cake (12 ounces total)
·         ¼ cup cream (dairy-free creamer is ok too)
·         ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
·         ½ teaspoon almond extract
·         10 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate  plus 1/2 cup cream for the coating, or if you want a hard chocolate shell use 10 ounces of chocolate almond bark candy coating
·         1 ½  tablespoon finely chopped almonds
1.      Crumble the cake into a large bowl. You will get about 4 cups of cake crumbs.
2.      Put the cream and chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl and cook for 1 minute. Stir until smooth. Add almond extract and stir again.
3.      Pour the chocolate mixture into the cake crumbs and stir until well combined.
4.      Line a baking sheet with wax paper. Using a small cookie scoop (will make 36 truffle sized balls) or a medium cookie scoop (will make 18-2 ½ inch cake balls) scoop out the batter and roll into balls. Place on tray and place tray into freezer. Note: it is quicker to make the balls larger, but it is cuter to make them smaller. It’s your choice, and may it be the toughest decision you’ll make all day.
5.      Melt the 10 ounces of chocolate and the half cup cream in a dish in the microwave; let stand for a few minutes then whisk together until smooth, or for a hard chocolate shell melt 10 ounces of chocolate almond bark or chocolate candy coating.
6.      Dip each ball in the melted chocolate using 2 forks, and give them a gentle shake before removing from the bowl to remove excess chocolate.
7.      Place on wax paper and sprinkle each with a pinch of chopped almonds as you go along, so the almonds stick to the still-wet chocolate. If you wait too long the chocolate will harden and the almonds won’t stick.
8.      Let the chocolate harden or stick them in the freezer and remove 30 minutes before serving. Feel free to double the recipe—I would if I were you. These are over-the-top delicious and you won’t taste any matzo in this dessert.

Notes:
*A small cookie scooper will make 36 truffle sized cake balls, and a medium one will make 18-2 ½ inch cake balls. It is quicker to make the balls larger, but it is cuter to make them smaller. It’s your choice, and may it be the toughest decision you’ll make all day.
**If you wait too long the chocolate will harden and the almonds or sprinkles won’t stick.

Aaaaahhh, heaven!!!

Hamantaschen, The Ultimate Purim Schpiel, De-Mystified

Hamantaschen are classic Purim cookies.  Tradition says, large ones represent Haman’s hat; small ones represent his ear or his pocket, literally translating to “Haman’s pocket.”  Another story tells us that the three corners represent Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the founding fathers of Judiasm.

Blah. Blah. Blah.

If you ask me, I will tell you that hamantaschen represent the thing that really saved the Jews from destruction, and that my friends is this–Queen Esther’s, um, er, how to put this delicately, please tell me you know what I am going to say.
My very smart husband has cautioned me against using any overly-specific words in this blog, although I want to. If I write the word, my name will be forever linked to it, thanks to Google algorithms. My heart is pounding as I type this—I have waited years in which to come out with this and go public with such a shocking statement.
oprfuHH Hopefully by now you have figured out that I am referring to Queen Esther’s special pocket and not Haman’s.
Queen Esther!
The day I realized this, was the day my life as a Jewish girl ended and my time as a Jewish woman began. Stories are told to us as children are glossed-over versions of the real thing, packaged prettily to keep us innocent, and this is a good thing. Sometimes, a person has to come to their own conclusions when the time is right. And then they never look at things the same way again.
I am not alone in my belief–there are feminist Jewish writings on what the hamantaschen really means at websites such as lilith.org. The more you think about it, the more you know I am right. As shock wears off, acceptance sets in.
Sure, in medieval times it was the custom to make a pastry in the shape of your enemy and then to eat it to make the enemy disappear. And yes, this is what I will swear to publicly at any of my Purim-themed cooking classes, and anyone within earshot will be amazed at this fact because it is very interesting. But this is not the only reason we eat them.
It is un-Jewish to focus on war, violence, killing when it comes to holidays. Instead, we focus on food, playful traditions, and fun-filled folklore for children. No, the story of Hanukkah is not really about the miracle of the oil. It is a story about war and oppression, and one has to wait until adulthood to realize that the atrocities that go with any war also happened there. Same with the story of Purim—there are secrets within secrets as the plot unravels, some not to be revealed until we are ready to hear them.
The joke goes, “They tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat.” Does this sound like a reason to make pastry in the shape of a triangle hat—he wasn’t a Colonial American, or a pirate, and not a wizard either. Pointed ears? Come on, Spock, Vampires, Elves of the Woodland Realm, yes, but a person working for the King of Persia, nope, don’t think so.
Try this recipe, my favorite, and as you are making your 10th hamantashen and filling it with poppy seeds or raspberry jam, you will start to have a moment of enlightenment. And by the time your 40th is done, you too will know my words ring true.
Here is to Queen Esther, who did what any good queen would do to save her people. The greatest power she had saved us all, and to celebrate, we eat it.
I completely understand if you can’t bear to look me in the eye after reading this one. Don’t worry, you’ll come around. So have that celebratory Purim drink, and be happy for goodness sakes, it’s Purim!
Queen Esther’s Hamantaschen
        ·       1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
·         1 cup margarine or unsalted butter, very soft
·         4 large eggs
·         1 tablespoon juice and all of the zest of one  orange
·         1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
·         4 cups unbleached flour
·         2 teaspoons baking powder
·         Pinch of salt
·         Filling suggestions: seedless blackberry or raspberry jam, lemon curd, strawberry, apricot or blueberry preserves,  Israeli chocolate spread or Nutella, pie filling, pastry filling, any flavor you’d like, even poppy seed or prune if you are a traditionalist, which I am not.
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper and set aside.

2. Place sugar and butter in a large bowl and cream together with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each one is added. Add vanilla extract, orange juice and zest, mixing well. Add flour, baking powder and salt, and mix until a soft dough forms and all ingredients are incorporated, making the softest, most beautiful dough you have even seen.

3.  On a floured board, using a rolling pin, roll out a portion of the dough to approximately ¼ inch thick. If dough is too soft or too sticky sprinkle a little extra flour on the board and on the rolling pin. With a three-inch cookie cutter, cut out circles. Place a teaspoon of filling in center of each circle. 

5. To shape, fold up the left and right sides and pinch it together into a corner.  Fold up the third side and pinch the last two corners to make a complete triangle.

6. Place on cookie sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes.  Let cool before eating if you can.

Gettin’ Sauced: Homemade Winter Tomato Sauce

I get a little restless this time of year.  Winter has me longing for things I can’t have or do, such as: spending warm, late nights outdoors sipping iced tea while the kids play ball; leaving the house with my hair wet without freezing half to death; having a backyard full of herbs and tomatoes at my disposal. *Sigh.* That last one is the one that always gets me. 
 

Maybe it is because I grew up in a NYC apartment that I am so in awe of things that grow. It is a wondrous thing for me to be able to open my backdoor and pluck good things to eat. It is nothing short of a miracle that the simple combo of soil-seed-water-sun can produce, well, produce.
Don’t get me wrong—I love winter. It is one of my four favorite seasons. But there are things that I long for that make me stare wistfully out the back window, knowing it will be a while before anything green appears.
The grocery store tomato is in a sad state these last few months—mealy, green, and tasteless, despite its rosy red hue, probably genetically engineered to trick the buyer. But I am not fooled.
This last week I did three television segments on local news shows involving tomato products. Oh, how I wished it was summer so I could proudly use fresh tomatoes but instead I shamelessly used canned in my demo. Why? Because there is no dishonor in using canned tomatoes, especially in the winter. They are picked, processed and canned in their height of ripeness; preserved with all of their summery goodness, their flavored locked in. If I had any desire to can I would have done it myself months ago, but I am not so much of a country girl.
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Instead, the freezer is my idea of a cold pantry, already filled with pesto, strawberry jam, and curry sauce, made with things so glorious in their season that I wished to hold on to the moment for as long as possible. The mason jars line my freezer shelf like a small army.  Filled with my favorite pesto—made with basil I’ve grown and picked, spoonfuls of lovely green-tinged extra- virgin olive oil, toasted pistachio nuts, sheep’s milk Italian cheese, fresh garlic, and mounds and mounds of sweet young basil leaves, all taken for a whirl in my Cuisinart, and  encapsulated in jars in the freezer. Strawberries–picked by my little ones in the summer heat, mashed, sweetened, and thickened with pectin, held in jars, ruby red and gleaming, also nestled in the depths of the freezer. And a large batch of bright yellow curry sauce with vegetables, sunny-hued, and sprinkled with Penzey’s Sweet Curry, given a few hours notice to defrost, waiting to be poured into a pan with sliced chicken and served over fluffy basmati rice.
But recently, I longed for tomato sauce, rich, and deep, and flavorful. There is no jarred sauce on the shelf at the store that could live up to my craving. At first I made a smaller batch using organic canned tomatoes and it was heavenly. But then it was gone.
So I greedily purchased restaurant sized tins of tomatoes, both whole and crushed, and went to town. I lugged my giant All-Clad pot up from the basement.  The pot, which I save for special occasions such as soup or chili or pasta for a crowd, is always a happy sight waiting on the stove. And then I went to work.
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I poured in the luscious olive oil, sautéed the onion, the garlic, the dried herbs, the crushed red pepper, just a touch, and added a generous sprinkle of kosher salt. I poured in the juicy crushed tomatoes, the bright red whole tomatoes and their juices, the tomato paste, and brought it all to a lively bubble. The transformational moment however, was when I poured in some leftover Cabernet Sauvignon, and within minutes my house smelled like my favorite Italian restaurant in Queens and I realized I discovered their sauce’s secret–wine!
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I happily let the concoction simmer away for an hour and a half while my windows became steamy and fog-coated, shutting out the grey day outside, and for a while, it was just me and the sauce. Stirring occasionally I began to see a change—the whole tomatoes melted into the voluptuous rosiness , the molten liquid thickened, even the sound of the bubbling changed. I started to see the world differently as a place where time travel is possible, to go back to summer, or to launch ahead, but unnecessarily so, as the present was a mighty fine place to be in too.
Letting the sauce cool and ladling it into seven quart-sized mason jars felt like I’d won the grand prize. Admiring my efforts, bright and cheery, awarding me with simple joy, jars sitting on the counter waiting for their marching orders.
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Well, six, into the freezer they went, and the seventh stayed behind to be devoured that very night for dinner by the five of us spaghetti-slurpers. The rest will have to patiently wait their turn for their moment of glory at my table.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The recipe below will make a nice sized batch of sauce, but to prolong your happiness, triple the recipe and store in the freezer for long winter days to come.
Homemade Winter Tomato Sauce
  •        ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  •        1 medium onion, chopped
  •        6 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
  • ·         1 teaspoon each: dried oregano, basil, and marjoram
  • ·         1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • ·         1-28 ounce can whole plum tomatoes packed in juice
  • ·         1-28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • ·         2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • ·         ½ cup red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon
  • ·         3/4 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
1.      In a large saucepan heat the olive oil on medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until tender and translucent but don’t let it brown (lower the heat if it begins to brown). Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes stirring often. Add the oregano, basil, majoram, and crushed red pepper, stirring to combine.
2.      Add all of the tomato products: the whole tomatoes, the crushed tomatoes, and the tomato paste. Stir combine. Add the wine and stir again.
3.      Bring the sauce to a lively simmer and keep it there on medium-low heat, stirring often to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. (If you have a mesh splatter guard put it on top of the pot. If you don’t have one, just wipe up any tomato splatter later.)
4.      Cook for about an hour and a half or until all of the whole tomatoes have broken down and the sauce starts to look thick and smooth. Puree with an immersion blender.
5.      Pack into two quart-sized jars and let cool. Eat some, freeze some, awesome, sauce-some!

ALL HAIL KALE!!!

We live in a world where green+leafy=good, while white+ fluffy=bad.  So although cake, cookies, bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes are quite possibly the most delicious things a person could eat, they have a reputation for being less than healthy. In fact, I have quite a few friends that hold up a hand in classic “stop” position and say, “No carbs.” Well, hi, my name is Aura, and I’m a carb-a-holic (but no need to pity another’s dietary choices.)

In fact when I do eat cake-cookies-bread-pasta-rice-potatoes (and that would be every day), I try to see them for what they are, and when I offer my family seconds I try to say “would you like more noodles?” instead of, “another helping of carbs, honey?” I envy other cultures on a carb-based diet (otherwise known elsewhere simply as “food”): China comes to mind—rice, the foundation for every stir fry if not the meal itself; and Italy too, with piles of fresh pasta on every plate. In fact, the gorgeous Sophia Loren has famously said, “everything you see I owe to spaghetti.” ‘Nuff said.
But the topic for today is both green and leafy, and more specifically: kale. Notice how I ramble on about “carbs”– like eating my veggies, I am avoiding the topic of kale. But it turns out I love greens, too. Even if my fork will first reach for the carb, uh, I mean pasta, before the broccoli, don’t hold it against me.  It is very European to end on the salad (but very French to end on cheese, but I will save that for another blog entry).
I have embraced kale as the sovereign of all greens. It packs a nutritional punch and been given the name “superfood.” It is hearty and will last in the crisper for days as I try to avoid making it for my family. But when I do we are all surprised every time how much we don’t hate it. We even like it. A lot.
Kale chips, although trendy, haven’t given me the kind of success I hoped for. High temp, low temp, no matter—they are always a combo of yummy-crunchy-crispy-flaky, burned-bitter-brown, and raw-chewy-stringy. I admittedly can’t get them right (if you can please message me the recipe immediately, although I have probably already tried it).
I have enjoyed a friend’s kale, stewed with large white beans and some kind of barbeque sauce.  I suppose what I’ve been looking for in a kale recipe is not something that masks it, or something that uses it as a healthy ingredient while making me feel like I have taken a dose of medicine (kale smoothie anyone?). I’ve been looking for the “Holy Kale” of recipes that will make me stand up and shout “ALL HAIL KALE, THE MIGHTIEST TASTIEST GREEN THAT EVER WAS!” and I have found it.
It is simple: you whisk up a very simple dressing (in this case I would even call it a marinade), you chop up the leaves, or shred them really, you combine the two and let it sit, 30 minutes , but even better the next day, as it does its own hard work of softening up in the fridge.
You can use any kale you’d like: Lacinato or dinosaur kale, or basic supermarket variety labeled generically “kale” (which could be curly or plain leafed). Just wash-dry-shred-marinate-eat.
It just sits on the kitchen counter for about ½ an hour cooking itself while you slave away at all of the other things you are preparing. Make it first before you make your pasta-rice-potato side dish and let it smugly wait it out. Let it sit while you roast your chicken or cook your fish or heat up those beans to go with your rice. In fact make it the day before, or even two, shocking as it may seem. While other lettuces will wither and wilt having to bear the weight of dressing too long, these greens only get better. Have it tonight for dinner, pack it tomorrow for lunch, and the next day as well. You can count on this salad to be waiting for you when you get home and won’t have to wash-chop-dress your dinner when you are tired. And if Popeye is any indication of what one is like after eating their greens then you will feel as strong as he after chowing down.
Put this out for company or bring it to a potluck—unlike cole slaw that cannot take a hot summer’s day out on a picnic table, this can. And guest will say, oh is that…kale?” And they will ask, “how do you make that—I hear it is good for you.”  And you will say,” it is, in more ways than you know.” 
“ALL HAIL KALE” SALAD
·         ½ pound kale
·         ¼  cup each shredded carrots and purple cabbage
·         ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
·         ¼ cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
·         1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
·         2 teaspoons sugar
·         2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds or chopped peanuts
·         ½ teaspoon kosher salt
·         ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
1.       Wash and dry the kale. Strip the leaves from the stems and discard the stems. Shred the leaves into thin ribbons. Place in a bowl with the carrots and cabbage.
2.      In a medium bowl whisk together the remaining ingredients and pour over the kale salad.
3.      Let marinate for a minimum of 30 minutes and up to two days.
 
 

Not-For-Cookie-Monster Chocolate Chip Cookies

That’s right, you heard me. I wouldn’t in a million years share these with Cookie Monster. Now, before you jump to conclusions, wondering what kind of person would say such a thing, I can explain. 
 

Cookie Monster will eat ANY cookies. He does not have a discriminating palate and likes them all equally: oatmeal raisin, peanut butter, sugar cookies. He shovels them in with wild abandon and shows no respect for either the cookie or the cookie maker.  About now, you, the reader, are thinking that you have much more in common with Cookie Monster than you do with an elitist like me. Perhaps you think I am cruel to speak ill of the precious puppet that defined the eating habits of a generation. But stick with me.
Cookie Monster does not taste his food. Tasting involves biting, chewing, and swallowing, and he does none of those things. He is not, shall we say, a monster in the moment.
The cookies don’t make it far into C.M.’s mouth and make a mighty mess that I am sure makes his mother feel blue. Not to mention it is a waste of perfectly good cookies on the floor.
Now of course we can all relate to the joy he feels; the kid in all of us knows what this is like. But it can be done with dignity.
Even my four-year-old will take time to savor a cookie. And my eighty-three-year-old dad, who bears more resemblance to Cookie Monster than I should admit, in appearance, eating habits, and voice, who will tell you he came to America to eat cake for breakfast, appreciates when a cookie, these cookies in particular, are (in your best Cookie Monster voice) mmmmm…good!
Now, if you like fluffy-thick-cake-like cookies, these are not the ones for you. Although I will argue that you cannot help but love these too. These cookies, like me, try their darndest to make everyone happy: thin, crispy, chewy, chunky. When I eat them, I wonder how one cookie can be all things to everyone, but this one can.
And when you make and eat these, you will see that this is a simple cookie, and whether you eat one or one hundred and one, these are meant to be savored.
There are a few guidelines to making these, but they are very simple:
 First, have all ingredients at room temperature. The butter and the egg will not perform correctly if taken straight from the frigid climate of the refrigerator. It really is no effort at all to leave them on the kitchen counter for an hour or so while they keep each other in good company.
Second, use good quality ingredients. Sure you CAN use any flour, butter, vanilla, and chocolate but just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you SHOULD do something. Instead, and if you want to these to live up to my promise of perfection, then you must heed my words. European style butter, such as Plugria, will do wonders for the taste and texture of this cookie. The vanilla matters too—none of that imitation stuff here. Whether you use McCormick or Penzey’s, Nielson Massey or Watkins, just make sure it is the real deal. The flour must be unbleached, and preferably King Arthur, but Gold’s will do. And for chocolate, you are expecting me to say here that the better the chocolate the better the cookie, but instead I will tell you that the secret weapon is using a mixture of chocolate chips (pick 2): minis, chunks, chips, dark, milk, semi-sweet, and you will wow even the most jaded chocolate chip cookie eater. You might even make good ol’ C.M. stop in his tracks to taste this cookie.
The last couple of words of wisdom here: have all ingredients measured and close at hand. And while baking these, one tray at a time (none of that double rack rotating halfway through business), don’t leave the kitchen. Be there for your cookies to remove them right on cue.
So, stop and smell the cookies, but be sure to really savor them too.
For the cookie monster in all of us:
Not-For-Cookie-Monster Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ½  teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, at room temp.
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 large egg, at room temp.
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup assorted chocolate chips (see above)
  • 1 cup chopped nuts, optional (pecans are my fave!) 
1.      Preheat oven to 350°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
2.      In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, and the salt.
3.      In a large bowl, place the butter and both sugars and cream together using an electric mixer for about 3 minutes until smooth and fluffy. Add the egg and the vanilla and mix well.
4.      Add the flour mixture and mix well. Add the chocolate chips and nuts and mix until just combined.
5.      Using a medium sized cookie scoop drop dough onto the baking sheets, leaving a couple of inches between them. Bake for about 10 minutes or until golden.
6.      Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for a minute or two and then remove them to a cooling rack. Eat them warm or cool, but for the love of cookie monster, eat them slowly.
 
 

We Go Together Like Orange-Olive Salad with Cumin-Garlic Dressing

When itcomes to recipes in cookbooks I am like a talent scout and can spot a starrecipe from a mile away. No, really. I can pick a recipe out of a cookbook like nobody’s business. And this recipe is a showstopper. You can see for yourself:

Photo by my friend Yana Hotter at Spoonful of Sugar Photography

I found it by accident. There was a cooking class I was scheduled to teach to promote the cookbook section at a local library and not 24 hours before, after all was planned, I received a phone call that we couldn’t actually “cook” at this cooking class, that the kitchen was not up to fire code. Well, what could I do but go back and look in the cookbooks for recipes that didn’t need “cooking” per se, as much as assembling.
 
Now, that being said I am a big fan of COOKING at my cooking classes, but I took a risk, without testing it, or ever having anything like it cross my lips, I made this at the class and like I told you, a star was born.
 
Since then I have made it many times, with run-of-the-mill thin-skinned brightly-hued navel oranges, with lovely sweet pink-fleshed Cara Caras, with gorgeous Valencias so heavy with juice I thought they would burst in my hand, and all were amazing.
 
The secret to this is the red wine vinegar which brings out the flavor of the oranges while taming their sweetness.
 
There is nothing like the surprise element of this salad, when you watch your dinner guests, take a bite of this and are expecting cloying sweetness, or the tang of olives, but instead see how well the flavors meld. 
 
They will think, “Garlic-cumindressing on FRUIT!!! No!” And then you will pull it off like a magic trick, you a sorcerer of taste, conjuring all of the magic you have to make this work.
 
But actually, it goes together like ramma-lamma-lamma-ka-dinga-da-dinga-dong (whatever the heck that means, thank you very much Danny and Sandy).
 
The only way to convince yourself and others is to spread the good word and to make this and eat it as often as possible with as many people as possible as often as you can.
 
Because baby, it’s a STAR!
 
MoroccanOrange and Olive Salad with Cumin-Garlic Dressing 
 
4 oranges, Cara Caras, Valencia, Blood Oranges, or Navel
¼ cup oil cured black olives, pitted and halved
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon cumin
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
 
1.      In a medium bowl, whisk together vinegar,honey, garlic, paprika, cumin and oil. Set aside to let flavors blend.
2.      Remove the skin and pith of the oranges using a serrated knife: cut the ends off of the orange and then startingat one cut end, slice away the peel curving the knife around to the other end. Then slice the orange horizontally into ¼-inch rounds.
3.      Arrange orange slices on a serving platter and scatter with olives and parsley.
4.      Drizzle the garlic-cumin dressing over the oranges and olives sprinkle with sea salt and pepper to taste. 
 
Note: This dressing is also delicious poured over couscous, chicken, and pasta. Just sayin’.

Sangri-ahhh

Admit it, you are rolling your eyes at the title of this blog entry.  But that is because you haven’t tried this recipe.  Yet.

Sangria comes from the Spanish word sangre which means blood, perhaps referring to the glorious color and warming qualities of this refreshing drink.
I’ve heard it said that sangria is meant to be a warm weather drink (it originates in the temperate climate of Spain), but I beg to differ. It turns out that December 20th is National Sangria Day, right around the time I became obsessed. Coincidence?  I think not.
There is nothing more lovely to drink when the winter weather is bleak than luscious dark red wine infused with magenta stained fruit.
 You will find it a wonder that an inexpensive wine can be transformed by a few simple ingredients: Triple Sec, sugar, oranges and a lemon. Plus citrus is in season right now, which is the best way to eat, er, I mean drink.
Usually I am the type of light drinker who thinks a bottle of wine serves 6 people (see, no worries mom), but this recipe, which uses a whole bottle of wine, seems to be perfect for 4 to each have a glass (maybe even while catching up on episodes of True Blood–just sayin’). And I really enjoy wine but this goes down even easier with its sweet fruity flavor and robust taste.
You should make it in the morning–It takes a whole day of sitting to mellow and let the flavors blend, but it is worth waiting for.
You might find yourself opening the fridge mid-morning to grab some milk for your coffee and will wonder if you shouldn’t have a nice refreshing glass right then (you shouldn’t). Instead, it will make the whole day more bearable knowing what is waiting for you at the end. So plan ahead to raise a glass or two with a friend and enjoy.
The first thing you need to know is that you don’t need to buy anything fancy at the wine store. Spend under $10 for a fruity Merlot and you’ll know you have the right one. I used Trader Joe’s Coastal Merlot ($4.99) and was very pleased with the results. 

 Next, get a pitcher, preferably with a rounded bottom for easy stirring, and if you are going to double or triple the recipe get a very large pitcher or even a punch bowl to make this in.

 Last, you will be tempted to throw in other fruit, perhaps at someone else’s recommendation (like the checkout person at the supermarket), but try to refrain from altering perfection. Although at the end, feel free to add a splash of sparkling water if you want something fizzy and festive. 

Here is the recipe straight from America’s Test Kitchen which needs no embellishments from me:
 
Sangria 
2 large juice oranges, washed; one orange sliced and the other juiced within an inch of its life
1 large lemon, washed and sliced
¼ cup sugar, not level, just measure and give it a shake
¼ cup Triple Sec
1 (750-ml) bottle inexpensive, fruity, medium bodied wine, (see above recommendation) 
 
1.      Add sliced orange, lemon, and sugar to large pitcher; mash and stir gently for about 1 minute, using a wooden spoon until fruit releases some juice (but is not totally crushed) and sugar dissolves. 
 
 
2.      Stir in orange juice, triple sec, and wine; refrigerate for at least 2 hours (but  seriously try to wait longer) and up to 8 hours (for perfection).
 
 
 
3.      Before serving, add 6 to 8 iced cubes and stir briskly to redistribute settled fruit and pulp; serve immediately.
Sangri-ahhh!!!