Archive for the ‘Events/Promotions’ Category

4
May

Ova Elixa – Eggs dressed with fish sauce

   Posted by: Livia

This is another Roman recipe. I made it for Noisemakers IX.

So a lot of SCA events just have a bowl of hard boiled eggs in the shell – pretty much for people to fill up on when they aren’t adventurous for weirder dishes. So I found a recipe that would make hard boiled eggs one of the adventurous dishes.

These were served cut into quarters and already drizzled with the sauce, and a side pitcher so you could add more sauce, if desired.

Ova Elixa: liquamine, oleo, mero vel ex liquamine, pipere, lasere – Apicius VII, xix.2

Boiled eggs with a sauce containing fish sauce, olive oil, red wine, black pepper, asafoetida

So for the fish sauce, I ended up being convinced by my favorite cheese mongers to try . And I chose this dish to use it on because I thought the woodiness and the eggs would go well together.

We strewed the plate with baby arugula so the eggs wouldn’t shift in transport from the kitchen to the buffet.
The pitchers with the sauce were made by Brunissende.

And this was at the very start of the buffet so that it would be like the sources in a Roman dinner party – from eggs to nuts – but I forgot to put out the nuts in the end.

11
Nov

Laterculi: Poppy Seed Pop Tarts

   Posted by: Livia

Okay, so this is not an accurate redaction. Or, well, it’s about (slightly less) as likely to be accurate as anything else.

There’s a play by Plautus (Poenulus 325-6) there’s a reference to laterculi with the only description being that they are composed of sesame seeds, poppy seeds, (wheat) flour, and nuts.

Okay, so the name is also descriptive. It’s the word for bricks or tiles.

Some people take this description and match it with gastris, a food from Crete described by Athenaeus as walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds and poppy seeds, with fruit, honey, pepper and white sesame seeds. That will lead you to redactions both simple and amazing.

Now that last gastris redaction – which looks to me like a seedy fruitcake – would be perfect to make in an 8″ x 8″ x 2″ shape that was not unlike a common Roman brick shape.

On the other hand, Athanaeus’ gastris recipe has fruit and no flour. But Plautus was very clear that flour was involved in this project. Flour would be easy to add to the gastris because the nuts are working in a similar way. But it’s also leeway to go in a completely different direction.

One could make candies out of the honey and seeds with just a bit of flour.

Or! And here’s what came to my mind as being kinda fun – you could make pop tarts and call them tiles.

Okay, so pop tarts. First place to go is Smitten Kitchen‘s homemade pop tart recipe.

Next the filling. I liked how La Spelonca separated the poppy seeds and the sesame seeds. It both made them look more dramatic and kept the flavors clear and less like bagel toppings. So tentative working plan is to have two different flavors of pop tarts: Poppy Seeds and either almonds or walnuts or both; and Sesame Seeds and either hazelnuts or pistachios or both.

Okay, so poppy seed filling is a thing. But my first google search yielded only recipes that called for milk… but the Romans mostly ate their dairy in the form of cheese. It just didn’t feel right.

So I kept looking and loved this one that described the method and thought process beautifully and clearly – cook poppy seeds with a minimal amount of water, grind, cook again with honey and sugar.

Okay, so first I have to find the poppy seeds. So off I go to Amazon. And the first review right off the start informs me that real bakers look for unwashed poppy seeds for a richer, nuttier flavor and a better texture. Well, okay. So off I go looking at the unwashed poppy seeds and their reviews. And then things started to get weird. There was some division, but also some overlap, between the bakers and the people making poppy seed tea. And some of the people making the poppy seed tea seemed more interested in the color of their tea than the flavor, but others loved the flavor. Erm… And then I got to the ones talking about how ‘effective’ their tea and/or baked goods were. And there was the one who assured people that the reviewer really could tell that these poppy seeds were unwashed because there was plant material included as well. Ummm… I object! Because if I’m baking and there’s plant material, don’t I then need to wash the poppy seeds? But it wasn’t all double entendre and drug references, because there were still people staunchly championing the unwashed seeds while listing their preferred baked good and their baking credentials. But then I got to the one that was all, “I just made the best batch of muffins ever. Now I’m off to take a nap.” And I just. Now I have no idea whether kolaches is actually a baked good or just a wink and nod drug reference in the land of amazon reviews. So I still haven’t what to buy for making a large quantity, but I picked up half a pound of what are definitely washed seeds at a spice shop in the Italian Market.

So poppy seeds and water in a small saucepan. Check. Going well. The poppy seeds take on moisture, darken, and swell.

Grind the poppy seeds… doesn’t go so well. I put some in my mortal and grind it with the pestle… and it goes okay, but every time any utensil touches the poppy seeds there’s mess left behind. And so after a few desultry grinding attempts I figure I might as well see if I might like the consistency of it not ground all that much. So I put it all back in the saucepan and add the honey. And then add more honey because honey was more common that sugar back in the day. And then panic! Because the honey just liquifies and everything becomes sloshy. And cooking it more doesn’t make it any drier. And what if I really needed sugar to get a good paste because of how honey is like an invert sugar? Eh, whatever – let’s refrigerate what I have and see how it moves tomorrow. Plus I’m going to add nuts to it.

And the paste is fascinating! I used a fork to move it and it’s sort of a non-Newtonian liquid. Woo!

Okay, so crust. Filling. Assembly!

I got a friend with skills and a marble rolling pin to help with the first set of rolling out (I’m hoping I can use my pasta roller when I’m on my own). I rough guessed a size that’s smaller than pop tarts. My goal is to find a size that stretches my supplies while still being large enough to not get grabbed by the handful. One or two should be an intuitively obvious portion size. These ended up about 4″ x 3″ (and I think I could go a smidge smaller and have them about the size of poker cards).

I did one batch with just an egg white wash for sealing and one with a beaten egg. I think I’ll go with the beaten egg for future versions (because simpler to brush and more efficient use of stuff).

About 2 teaspoons of filling lumped in the center. And then I spread it out with my fingers because everything else seemed to just get coated in seeds more than helping to move them where I wanted. I left 1 cm margin. I can try getting a narrower margin, but too narrow might lead to disaster. And then I crimped the edges sealed with a fork and poked holes in the top.

I started the oven at 350F. And then after 10 minutes with no obvious cooking I popped it up to 425F. Total cooking time was 25 minutes, and that was a little too much (very brown, some corners just starting to burn, still entirely edible and hella tasty). Then I looked at the recipe, which was 350F for 30 minutes. So I just panicked too early.

When they were cooking, there was enough butter in the dough to lead to puddles of bubbling fat that were almost frying the pop tarts. So not okay for a toaster! But it was kind of sexy on a lined sheet pan.

When you bite in, the first taste is browned butter. And the second bite is also butter with a bit of pastry. When you get to the filling, it’s amazing. The nuts and poppy seeds are a lovely texture among the crispy pastry flakes and I’m not going to worry about grinding the poppy seeds at all for the future. And the honey is a great balance to the butter. It’s sweet, but not too sweet. They’re going to make the best breakfast.

So plans for the future:

* reduce butter per 2 cups of flour from 1 cup to 3/4 cup (12 tablespoons)

* try rolling out with pasta roller

* Cut to 3.5″ x 2.5″

* Poppy seed & almond is great. Also try sesame seed & hazelnut.

* Make 75 of each flavor; 150 total. Freeze before baking.

9
Oct

More Roman food

   Posted by: Livia

Fair warning – there might be a lot of posts all in a row. I’m planning a ancient Roman menu and am going to be putting my thoughts together here.

Starting off with 2 main sources – Apicius, which I’m familiar with, and Mark Grant’s Roman Cookery (which references ancient sources and then sometimes veers pretty far off, and I’ll need to go back and check his translations)

Outline (links to specific posts for each recipe to come later)

First thematic group

So this Roman Cookery book has a recipe for Ham in a red wine and fennel sauce (p.124-125) that’s described in the “Heidelberg Papyrus” which I haven’t tracked down yet. But it looks simple and tasty, and more importantly looks like it can be served on the side of either sliced ham as a preserved meat or ham as a cut of meat, cooked and sliced cold.

If the latter, there is an easy recipe for pork boiled in water with dried figs and bay leaves in Apicius (VII, ix, 1 & 2)

This would be lovely near Cabbage Salad that Grant (p.142-143) cites from Mnesitheus of Cyzicus, quoted in Oribasius’ Medical Compilations. Possibly also hard to track down. But it’s sliced cabbage in vinegar and spices. The closest recipe in Apicius (III, ix, 1) has you dressing the cabbage with salt, old wine (not vinegar), and oil. But most of his recipes have you cooking tha cabbage.

this group: gluten free, dairy free, fish free

second thematic group

Cucumbers in a quick refrigerator pickle (Apicius III, vi, 3) – I’ve made this before, and it’s pretty easy. Recipe does contain liquamen.

Olives & Celery – another Mark Grant recipe (p.74) from Columella – which should be significantly easier to double check. I want to take the serving of this as an olive and celery tapenade piped into celery logs

Hard Boiled Eggs – quartered and dressed with liquamen, pepper, and asafoetida (Apicius VII, xix, 2) and I figure there will be some plain eggs held back for less adventurous people and children

Patina of Anchovies – wash the anchovy, and steep in oil. Arrange in an earthenware saucepan, add oil, liquamen, and wine. Make a bouquet of rue and origan, and put it in. When cooked, remove the bouquet. Sprinkle with pepper and serve. (Apicius IV,ii, 11) – they were available for a good price and seem iconic for Roman food.

notes for this group: gluten free, dairy free, contains egg and fish

thematic group 3

Moretum is in Grant (p.72-73) citing pseudo-Virgil, but I’m also pretty sure the Apicius listserve has had copious discussions of this cheese, herb, and garlic spread with more than one ancient source.

Goat Cheese and Rice in Vine leaves – Grant (p.94-95) from a commentator on Aristophanes. Rice and cheese wrapped up in leaves, browned and fried in honey. For some reason the directions include unwrapping the rice as a stage, and that’s weird. So I need to look into that (and find an excuse to skip that step). This is a labor intensive reach recipe I might ditch. My plan is to make it a month or so ahead (possibly host a workshop to have several people help) and take it as far as browning the wrapped packets, and then freezing them. And then on the day of they can be reheated by frying them in honey.

Selection of white brined cheeses. Totally influenced by my trip to Istanbul, but I’d like to offer a couple different feta-like cheeses that have different flavor profiles.

Selection of crudite

  • carrots
  • asparagus (blanched – Grant p.142 from Anthimus)
  • endive
  • celery
  • broccoli rabe (if fresh and affordable)
  • sliced mushrooms

Lucanian Sausage (Apicius II, iv, 1) if my sausage making friend can get it done in time to smoke and age. This is supposed to contain fish sauce, and I’m torn between leaving it out and offering versions with and without… or making people suck it up and only try if they’re willing to have some fish sauce. Whatevs. Also considering whether it would be a good idea to have this on the table with the other pork products, but I like it with this group of food items more… will think about dietary restrictions.

Almond-stuffed dates (Apicius VII, xiii, 1) – which I’ve made often and are always well received

notes: gluten free, (possibly fish free – see sausage)

thematic group 4

Sesame Crackers – yeah… there are 2 drastically different hypotheses in Grant (p.154-155) from a short line in Athanaeus, so the end product is totally unreliable, but I’ve had an Alton Brown recipe for sesame crackers that I’ve been meaning to try for months now.

Honey & Sesame Flatbread (Grant p.97 from Athanaeus) would be a performance piece made hot the day of. Only if I’m feeling up to the added stress. One of the reach goals

Mushroom-shaped Bread (Grant p.53-54 from Athanaeus) is again pretty damn hypothetical. The sources just specify the shape and the things that make it different from a standard white bread recipe. But we don’t know their standard recipe. I’m willing to do some experiments and make some educated guesses, but this is something supported by archaeology as well as text, and the redaction looks like it would be easy to make in foil tins, which would make it super easy for this sort of setting.

Fried Dough with honey & seeds (Grant p.57-58 from Cato) is the performance piece my sausage-making co-conspirator wants to make. And since several people have offered friers it wouldn’t be too logistically complicated.

And then maybe some not roman at all honey butter for the bread, and olive oil with herbs.

notes: 2 recipes are dairy free, all the gluten, fish free, vegetarian, some dairy

breakfast set up

Coffee, Tea

Hydromel (Grant p.82-83 from Bassus) actually looks like it would make a good weak hot apple cider
1 part cider | 2 parts honey | 3 parts water

Seed stuffed buns (Grant p.106-107 from Plautus) Again, a very oblique mention. I’m thinking of these like miniature pop tarts stuffed with poppy seeds & almond or sesame seeds & pistachio – or something like that. And these would be something where we’d make it way ahead and freeze and then just pop them in the oven first thing when we go to set up. **expanded here**

~~~~~~~

Prep timeline

4 months – 1 week ahead
Cabbage salad (refrigerate in jars)
stuffed dates with nuts (freeze)
Lucanian sausage (hang dry / refrigerate)
Stuffed leaves (freeze)
Cucumber pickles (refrigerate in jars)
Seed stuffed buns (freeze)
make signs and labels for everything with all ingredients

week before
boil pork / find where to buy ham (vacuum pack and refrigerate)
hard boil eggs
make olive/celery tapenade
moretum
sesame crackers
double check your signs/labels

1 day ahead
crudite
– celery, carrots, mushrooms
– blanch asparagus
– cook sauce for ham/pork
– bake mushroom-shaped bread (maybe reserve a couple to bake on site for delicious smell and hot bread-ness)
– mix dough for flatbreads
– thaw frozen things
– triple check your signs and labels

Day of event

  • start coffee and hot water
  • bake seed buns
  • make hot cider hydromel – serve in crock pot
  • is there a mini crock pot for the ham/pork sauce?
  • fry dates in honey (can be done in a tray in the oven)
  • peel hard boiled eggs
  • fry stuffed leaves in honey (can probably be done in a tray in the oven)
  • quarter eggs and dress with sauce
  • slice ham/pork
  • fill celery logs with tapenade
  • arrange crudite and cheese plates, arrange all the other things, too, why don’t you?
  • how are we feeling about the fried dough and flat breads?
26
Apr

Passover

   Posted by: Livia

So now I’ve taken long enough to write this post, that I can also tell you what I did with the leftovers afterward! Whee!

Okay, so I made my own haggadah this year because I wanted the people at the seder to feel more interested in having the discussions invited by the text without rushing along because they were starving. So at every opportunity, I added small courses within the service.

In related news: I now have enough dishes to serve more than 1 plate and 1 bowl course without resorting to disposables!

Bitter Herbs and Salty Tears
Kale and Carrot Salad

This dish was inspired by wilted kale salads in general and this one in particular, but I’ve never actually wilted my kale and this was one of the last things I made, so I didn’t have time to pull up a recipe at the moment I was making it.

So I shredded some curly kale. And I sliced some carrots in half and then thinly on a diagonal so that I had long, thin half-ovals. And I sliced some raw garlic.

I put some of the kale in a bowl, sprinkled liberally with salt, poured olive oil, massaged it all together for a few seconds, added carrots and garlic, and then repeated the pattern.

I didn’t massage enough or I didn’t wait enough or something – but the kale never seemed particularly wilty. It was very salty! In any other circumstance, it would have been way oversalted, but it was perfect for this particular situation.

The bitter greens mixed with tears aren’t really supposed to be easy to eat.

leftovers

Finely dice some onion and cook it down in a little olive oil.

Once the onion is soft, add the leftover salad.

Do not even think of adding more salt. You can, however, add a teaspoon of manischewitz wine.

Crack an egg on top. Cover to steam poach. Eat with a spoon.

I put the matzoh ball soup in after the breaking of the afikomen.

Now last year I was deeply intimidated by the judgement of the matzoh balls, so I put off making them until after guests had started to arrive. I had never made them. So my girlfriend, who had never even eaten them before, offered to give it a shot. I gave her the only advice I knew (from my grandmother): “Use the recipe on the matzoh meal box, and handle them as little as possible.”

They were okay that year. The outsides were fluffy, and the insides were a little dense and had a richer flavor. My mother spent the entire year after talking about how heavy they were. My mother, the convert from Mississippi (Okay, so fine – she’s been a jew for more than forty years and has had my grandmother’s matzoh balls, but still).

But I was fairly sure it wouldn’t be fair to pass them onto someone else again this year. I did have enough worries, though, that I bought a mix this year instead of using plain matzoh meal. Again, just as people were sitting down, I was throwing gobs of dough into the boiling water (just gobs, not even fully formed balls). I turned it down to barely a simmer and covered – and by the time the soup was to be served, they were perfect and the fluffiest I have ever eaten. Some completely fell apart, but there were plenty of balls for everyone’s soup.

Chicken Soup (for matzoh balls)

I have no idea why, but for some reason chicken soup is incredibly challenging for me. It does not come intuitively.

But I bought a whole chicken just for the stock, since trying to make chicken soup with less has failed me in the past.

So I cooked together a chicken, some onion peelings, carrot peelings, garlic, parsley, and stuff with water coming all the way up to the top – as if I were making stock. Then I strained the stock. The chicken got broken down for meat and all of the other strained solids were frozen for garbage (don’t compost the vegetable matter because it has had enough meat contact to lead to insects in the compost).

Clean the pot.

Then I melted a Tablespoon of chicken fat and cooked down a diced onion, three diced carrots, and three diced parsnips. Once they were flexible, I dusted them with a Tablespoon of matzoh cake flour, and stirred that in to make a pseudo-roux. Then I poured in the chicken stock. Any of the chicken meat that had ended up in smaller pieces, was shredded into the soup as well.

For seasonings, I ended up adding ground thyme, savory, black pepper, and a dash of cayenne pepper.

To serve: spoon a matzoh ball or two into a bowl and then pour the chicken soup over top.

Next thing I did in the service was to put welcoming Elijah way up earlier so that we’d sit with the door open welcoming people to come and have food.

We talked about Philadelphia’s new ban on feeding the homeless in city parks.

For the next dish, instead of a plain boiled potato and boiled egg, I served potato salad brought by my mother (so I don’t know the recipe), and deviled eggs. These were some deeply yellow egg yolks from Livengood Farm’s chickens.

Deviled Eggs

Boil eggs, then put them in cold water to stop cooking them, and immediately peel them.

If you have done this a day or so ahead and have refrigerated your eggs, warm them a bit in warm water before going on to the next step – because I think cold deviled eggs are no longer pleasing.

Slice the eggs in half and pop the yolks into a bowl (make enough eggs that it’s okay to discard 2 or 3 egg white halves that are the lest pretty).

For measurements here, let’s say I’m using 8 eggs.

Break up the egg yolks with a fork and splash them with a capful (1/2 tsp?) of white vinegar. Add
a Tablespoon of yellow mustard (in my callow youth, we used French’s, but I was really pleased with a slightly more upscale dijon) and a forkful (3-4 Tablespoons) of mayonnaise (we used Hellman’s). Mash together with a fork until completely smooth.

That’s it!

Fill the egg white hollows with forkfulls of yolks. And sprinkle with paprika.

And then came the dish I’ve been thinking about all year. MMmm a year of thinking about this next thing.

So after last year’s seder, I had a bag full of trimmed lamb fat from the shoulder roasts I’d been using. I rendered these down to yield a quart! of creamy pale lamb fat.

But what does one do with a quart of lamb fat? The only thing I could possibly come up with was confit – which led to rillettes.

Lamb RillettesAs I was dicing this year’s lamb shoulder, I kept aside all of the uneven and fattier bits to confit. I ended up with somewhere between two and three pound of lamb for the rillettes.

In a small dutch oven, I melted 1 pint of rendered lamb fat and fried up a finely diced onion until golden. Then I turned down the heat and added some water to moderate the temperature.

I tossed in a bay leaf, some peppercorns, an inch of soft cinnamon, a little ground cloves, ground thyme, ground savory, and a dash of ground oregano. A splash of wine, and it was all set to simmer for hours. 20 hours? (It didn’t need to cook that long, but I was able to keep it going overnight instead of making room in the refrigerator so I went for it – by adding a little more water to make sure there wasn’t a grease fire in my sleep because I worry, though in retrospect there might have been too much water to fat in the cooking ratio)

By then the liquid was reduced and the meat exceedingly tender. So I strained out the meat and shredded it with the stand mixer’s paddle. So while it was a time intense process, I was able to do other things during almost every stage of making it. As the meat turned to paste, I added more of the cooking liquid back into the meat until it was a spreadable paste. Salt to taste (took more than expected). I packed it into wee little 4oz jars, and then I melted more lamb fat to pour over top to seal it.

And then everything got stacked in the refrigerator (but I took them out two hours before serving so they could come up to room temperature and the fat on top could soften).

verdict: Erm… not as good as I’d hoped. I do not know if this would have been solved by using Even More Fat. Maybe. Also, I managed to undersalt them as well. Failing at sinful food, apparently. They weren’t inedible, but they didn’t taste… expensive. They tasted a bit like canned meat. ~shrug~

Chicken Rillettes

Some people coming to the seder, however, did not eat lamb. So after having seen how little time was taken up in making them, I decided to do a few chicken ones once the mixer was clean again.

I took the meat from the soup chicken – using mostly thighs – and sliced that into 3/4″ slices across the grain before putting it in the mixer with some rendered chicken fat. Once that was shredded, I added some seasonings (cinnamon, ground thyme, maybe a couple other things) and salted to taste.

Packed that in little jars and poured over with melted chicken fat to seal.

verdict: tastier! They were still a bit like chicken salad with extra schmaltz, but that’s yummy.

So… I ended up with about a pint of leftovers from the lamb rillettes (aside from the 2 untouched jars of each, which I set aside for the next Philly Food Swap) and no desire for that much plain fatty bread on toast points. So I tried adding a little to salads or the kale breakfast, but the best thing ever to do with the leftovers was to add it to pasta sauce!

Grill down another onion in some lamb falt, melt the rillettes into the pan, pour over with a basic tomato sauce and a hearty glug of red wine. Add some crushed red pepper. Best meat sauce ever!

Charosets

Quarter, core, peel, and finely slice 7 apples (4 roma, 3 empire in this case – I picked the ones with the best crisp snap to the texture). Then slice across to make a small, but distinct, pieces. Squeeze 1 lemon as you go – the single lemon was sufficient to last me through all of the apples.

In between each apple or two, add a dash of cinnamon and a handful of toasted pecan pieces (walnuts are more traditional for my family, but I’d already used up all of my walnuts by the time I made the charosets and had already shopped enough).

When you have a container full of apples and nuts, pour a cup of Manischewitz over and then tighten the lid you your container and shake well. Mix up the apples a few more times while they sit and absorb the flavors.

And then we had the meal proper! This year, my mother’s kidneys have started to fail. Following the writings of a doctor from Johns Hopkins, my mother has been eating an extremely low protein diet. (This is not the forum to discuss the effectiveness of this choice, nor am I a doctor, but I am supporting her dietary choices and cooking to suit her needs) So her food is almost exactly a vegan diet… only with an allowance for plenty of animal fats (since they tend to not contain much protein). (instead of the lamb rillettes, I made her a special vegetable one by running bits of some of the other vegetable dishes and some jarred artichoke hearts through a food processor)

My father, however, must have meat. And one of my guests doesn’t eat any meat other than pork or chicken, but he’s very picky about vegetables. This menu reflects enough variety to feed all of them. So there.

Dinner:
Braised Lamb with Horseradish and Parsley

Same dish I made last year – I used smaller horseradish roots and cooked them with longer, and this year they gave a most distinctly horse-radishy flavor to the meat. It was good, but almost too much. And if I do this again, I’m not going to bother with the parsley sauce. It’s not that tasty and it never gets used.

Mashed Potatoes

For the lamb juices. Just yukon gold potatoes (available as cheap seconds from the farmers’ market, so I yoinked them all) and butter – they were amazing and fluffy when just made, but lost some of their joy by the time all the talking and stuff was over. If I do mashed potatoes again, I’ll have to pay attention to keeping them warmer.

Lemon Rosemary Chicken

Again, same as last year, only I used rosemary instead of thyme. I also used a lot more olives this year because the store has switched from letting me just buy 10 from an olive bar to selling them in a pre-packaged container. I don’t think the chicken suffered from the abundance of olives, but I did have to dispose of more waste at the end of the meal.

Imam Bayildi

Working from the same recipe I’ve enjoyed before, I took three small-ish eggplants and cooked them filled with scallion, parsley, diced (canned because of the season) tomatoes, and a bit of lemon juice (and a lot of olive oil).

Braised Summer Squash

The eggplant didn’t fill the entire serving plate, so as soon as they came out, I sliced rounds of zucchini and yellow squash, sprinkled them with herbs, and covered with a little excess diced tomato and parsley mixture and set them to braising as well.

Braised Scallions

Many people have praised the braised scallion recipe from All About Braising by Molly Stevens. I was a bit confused, though, about the yield – since a pound of scallions (5 bunches) was only supposed to yield 2 servings.

So I bought 8 bunches (and used most of one of them in the eggplant dish) and figured I had a lot of other dishes as well.

I also figured that what this dish really needed in it was a swirl of tomato paste in with the braising water. I didn’t do that, but instead I drained the liquid from a can of tomatoes (again, for the eggplant) into the casserole dish and used that as my liquid component. Well, that and a stick of butter!

Roasted Asparagus

My usual recipe

Dessert
Walnut Date Torte

This was great last year, but this year I overcooked it a little (10 minutes!) and while it wasn’t burned, it was drier than last year and not as good. I soaked it in a bit of orange liquer, and that did not hurt it one bit. I could have probably added a lot more liquid, if I’d started on it a day or two earlier (week? What are the physics of fruit cakes?)

Nutty Dates

I was intending to fry these in oil with salt and pepper, but since the dates were softer than the average dried dates you get around here, I figured they didn’t need cooking. Instead, I just tucked walnut quarters (half of a half) in the pitted dates and left them for people to pick at.

Oh and the leftover charosets!

I made pie crust for the first time (yes, I waited until after Passover)!

Saga of the Pie Crust!

So I’ve been reading up on pie crust for about 2 years too scared to actually make it. Especially since I like Pillsbury and why would I make for myself something where I’d be aiming toward a goal I can buy for $2.50?

Then I found a friend whose pie crust is even better… so she’s talked me through it while I watched her. But I still haven’t bought a pastry cutter (because for some reason flat blades, instead of thick wires, are all you can find these days – and sure they cut better, but it’s harder to clear the gummed up butter caught in them)…

But I didn’t have any pie crust in stock, and honestly it was feeling like cowardice not to give it a try.

So on the first day of talking myself into it, I researched pie crust recipes on the internet and then I took a stick of butter and cut it into quarters lengthwise and then slices along the length. And then I wrapped it back up in the paper and put it in the freezer to forget about it.

On the next day, I decided I’d be more likely to do make crust a second time if things were simpler, so I grabbed Ratio and my food processor. And I put 6oz of flour and the 4oz (1 stick) of frozen butter in. Once I’d pulsed that into pieces, I was sure everything would suck because the processor made a much finer texture than my friend goes for in her amazing crusts. But I added the few splashes of cold water (from the filter pitcher I keep in the fridge, rather than making ice water) so that it would just barely hold together if I squeezed the stuff in a fist. And then I packed it tightly into a container and left it in the fridge overnight.

Finally, on the third day – I rolled it out. And it rolled out in a rectangle and refused to curve at all. (I used a wine bottle from my refrigerator, which had the benefit of being cold and heavy, but it was also a bit damp… but that didn’t hurt things as much as I was worried it would) Oh – and this is important – I rolled it out on a silicon mat. If got to be about the right thickness before it started trying to pull back in on itself.

Then I put the leftover Passover charosets in the middle, studded it with butter, wrapped the dough up and around and pleated it in place (for a galette), pressed some large-crystal sugar into the top of the dough, and baked it for a guestimated amount of time.

And it turned out much better than I expected! Real live flakiness and everything. The foodie guy who brought over funky cheese complimented me on the crust especially even though he thinks I could make pie crust all the time. Woo!

12
Mar

Cooking with Catladies – March 10, 2012

   Posted by: Livia

cartoon kitteh holding a knife and fork, ready to nom!

Okay, here’s the final – all polished up – version of what was served at the Cooking with Cat Ladies dinner to benefit City Kitties.

General Condiments

Appetizers

Soup

  • Coconut Chutney Butternut Squash Soup (to improve on the first version, I swapped 2 cans of full fat coconut milk for 1 can of full fat, 1 lowfat, and a quart of vegetable stock. I also ended up adding several kabocha squash (which I’d roasted to make peeling easier for the winter squash vindaloo but found that made them too soft and went back to try that one starting from raw) and the proportions were about 2 butternut : 1 kabocha by volume. I did not add any chutney or garlic. Huh… and no brown sugar. Oh, and there was lime juice because I’m on a kick where lime juice makes everything better. But other than that, it was exactly the same. And I debated between blending it smooth and leaving it chunky and decided that while smooth might feel more ‘professional’ that I really did prefer it chunky)

Mains

  • Vegetable Biryani (link to sauce base) (Only changes I made were using brown basmati rice instead of white and omitting the saffron… and I think I’d completely run out of ginger by the assembly of the dish but the sauce base had ginger since I’d made that the night before)
  • Winter Squash Vindaloo (made with Kabocha and a packet of vindaloo mix from Parampara – which turned out to be a very pleasing mix that made a paste from whole spices)
  • Chana Masala
  • Parippu (I used the recipe from The Food of India by Priya Wickramasinghe, but the recipe I’m linking is almost verbatim as you’ll see if you compare with the recipe I wrote out in the last post – followed faithfully except for the lack of curry leaves)
  • Did I mention the Baked Achari Baingan?
  • Hazelnut Tamarind Rice

Salad – Another year when people were too stuffed for a salad course. I count that as a win.

Dessert

  • Vegan Carrot Cake (to which my father said, when I took him leftovers, “That’s not carrot cake; I don’t like carrot cake.”) (So this was an amazingly resilient recipe in which many things went wrong but I never doubted it would be delicious. The batter was delicious. I used a 9″ round cake pan, instead of a 9″ square one and didn’t think of increasing the cooking time until the middle fell out in unmolding even though the toothpick had come out clean. Well, only some of the middles (so they ended up a bit concave). And I didn’t unmold until after they’d cooled a bit, so I ended up cooking them for another 10 minutes after they’d quit cooking… and yet they were still moist and compliant. So changes I made on account of ingredient supply – I used 3/2 cups of all purpose and 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour; 1/4 cup of almond oil and 1/2 cup of olive oil; and I used pecans instead of walnuts. And then I had already made candied blood orange slices, and I had found some pretty Tangelos and candied them, too, and was a little worried since they ended up pretty bitter despite the sugar coating. But I took them to friends to sample, and they all approved me using them. So to tie in the citrus, I made a lime syrup to drizzle on the cakes before making an artistic citrus slice arrangement on top. Hopefully, someone will send me pictures.)
  • Nutty Buttered Applesauce (and for the person with celiacs, I just whipped out a selection of my home canned applesauces (huh – which I’ve never blogged about.), and felt all swank offering to just whip up something easy. We went with the one with chai-themed seasonings. Put that in a ramekin, put some broken pecans on top, and a pat of butter to melt in – and that went in the over for as long as it took me to get everything else out and coffee started.)
5
Mar

Planning for City Kitties

   Posted by: Livia

Monday, March 5
morning:
set coconut milk for truffle ganache to steep (lime&coconut, Orchid Oolong tea)

evening:
empty dishwasher
reheat coconut milk
make ganache for truffles
coat candied tangelo slices in sugar and leave to dry longer
set yogurt to drain

clean downstairs bathroom
sweep front room
open tables and start setting up chairs

dinner:
onion, ravioli, meatballs, asparagus with pasta sauce

Tuesday, March 6
morning:

Shopping:
eggplant
butternut squash
1 lb of carrots
jalapenos
red bell peppers
chocolate chips
low fat coconut milk
whole milk (not ultra pasteurized)
soda water
vindaloo seasoning
2 packages of pita bread
paneer

empty compost into compost bin

breakfast:
last of the kale, tomato,

evening:
shape lime & coconut truffles
second sugar coat for tangelo slices and put up for storage – consider candying lime or lemon next
Make 1 cup of brown basmati rice
Make tzatziki
Roast butternut squash and bell peppers
Make raita (started)
Make black bean dip
Make matbucha

vacuum LiLi’s room

dinner:
chili

Wednesday, March 7th
morning:
coat truffles
Make paneer
wash dishes

breakfast:
nibblies?

evening:
unload dishes
Make Chana Masala
Make Biryani Sauce Base
First attempt vegan naan vs dairy naan
Make 1 cup brown basmati rice
thaw frozen spinach in a container

dinner: product test the chana masala

Thursday, March 8th
Gah! 7am yoga?
early day at work

get supplemental dishware from friend?

8pm play?
Make 2nd batch of chana masala
Make Spicy white bean dip
Slice and oil pita bread
set 1 pt lentils to soak
Drain thawed spinach (and reserve liquid)

Friday, March 9th
Bake dessert – either carrot cake or Lemon or Lime Cake (which would be better topped with candied tangelo and blood orange slices?)
Peel winter squash, cube, and marinate in vindaloo seasoning
buy, chop, and prep vegetables for the vegetable biryani (cauliflower?, string beans?, bell pepper, zucchini? – also more string beans and a bag of potatoes. Oh, and the lettuce for salads.)
Make naan dough
Make chapati / roti dough
Make first iteration of

lentil dish – Parippu

225g masoor dal (red lentils)
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 ripe tomato, roughly chopped
50g creamed coconut, mixed with 250ml water (or 250 ml coconut milk)
2 green chillies, chopped
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander

2 Tbsp oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
1 onion, very finely chopped
10 curry leaves

Put the lentils in a heavy-based saucepan with 500ml water. Add the roughly chopped onion, tomato, creamed coconut or coconut milk, green chilli, turmeric, ground cumin and coriander, and bring to a boil. Simmer and cook, stirring occasionally until the lentils are cooked to a soft mush (masoor dal does not hold its shape when it cooks). This will take about 25 minutes. If all the water has evaporated before the lentils are cooked, add 125 ml boiling water.

For the final seasoning (tarka), heat the oil in a small saucepan over low heat. Add the cumin and mustard seeds, cover and allow the seeds to pop. Add the finely chopped onion and curry leaves and fry over low heat until the onion is golden brown. Pour the seasoned onions into the simmering lentils. Season with salt to taste, and cook for another 5 minutes.

– source The Food of India by Priya Wickramasinghe

Peel and boil potatoes

Make

Make pita chips!

soak more lentils
soak hazelnuts

Saturday, March 10th
remove dough from refrigerator and bring to room temperature
Put white wine in the refrigerator

make salad dressing
toast nuts for salad

Cut up crudite

put vegetable biryani in a dutch oven and cook it.
Make soup (rosted butternut squash or carrots – coconut chutney esque)
Make more lentils

Take a break and buy fresh herbs: cilantro, parsley, methi, and curry leaves (if you can find them). Also buy some pre-made breads so you can quit worrying. They’ll freeze. Anything else pretty for crudite?

knead doughs

Assemble all components of saag paneer – cook and puree spinach, brown paneer

Puree soup smooth

When you panic about there being too little food – make some string beans with mustard seed and some methi potatoes

Roll out bread.

35 minutes til – Make tamarind rice with hazelnuts, pine nuts, and mustard seeds

20 minutes til – Put chips, dips, and crudite on the table; put as many condiments as you can wrangle on the table; pull white wines from the refrigerator; open a bottle of red;
Clear any surfaces possible in the kitchen; start oven preheating to 500F for bread optimism; Make plain basmati (burner 1); cook the Squash vindaloo! (burner 2) (soup = burner 3)

10 minutes til – (assemble saag in a pan ready to go on the stove)

Start: remove rice from burner, set squash to simmer, start cooking the saag paneer. Act social; offer beverages; (have place to stash coats!!); tell people to go visit your foster cat

Start + 10 minutes: Assemble the tarka for the soup; first batch of bread?

Start +20 minutes: Serve soup; Second batch of bread

Start +30 minutes: Add paneer to saag; Is the bread plan doomed?

Start +35 minutes: Serve dinner (if bread is awesome, cook a few more rounds of it)

An hour later – offer a salad course and see if people blanch

Boil water and make tea; offer scotch
Serve dessert

1 load of dishes before bed

Sunday, March 11
sleep
load of dishes in the morning

Mail truffles to recipient?

2:30 – Latin translation group?

22
Feb

Food swapping

   Posted by: Livia

Went to the 3rd Philly Food Swap this evening.

I traded some packets of my amazing pita chips, quarts of vegetable stock, and the last three half pints of uninspiring sour cherry sauce (that refused to be jam) from last season.

In return, I got

  • 6oz homemade dried linguini in 3 flavors
  • homemade frozen spinach ravioli
  • (let’s just assume homemade for everything and be gleeful) pasta soup
  • spicy mustard
  • caramelized onion confit with balsamic vinegar, honey, brandy, and rosemary
  • cranberry chutney
  • blackberry infused vinegar
  • a pint of pickled peaches with a cinnamon stick
  • 2 frozen babka loaves to be baked at my leisure
  • a loaf of yogurt cake with orange zest
  • vegan spicy chocolate cookies that are nothing like the ones I know how to make
  • vegan chai cookies
  • orange ginger curd
  • chocolate covered potato chips that aren’t particularly good
  • chocolate dipped cookie dough balls, which are
  • candied walnuts, which I gave to my neighbors hanging out on their steps as I came home

I love food swapping!

But! Let me tell you!

It didn’t fully register at the time, but someone looked at my labels on the pita chips and said, “Oh! You’re Nocounterspace.”

As in recognizing, not just reading the label.

From someone who doesn’t know me at all.

Wheee!

20
Feb

Cooking with Cat Ladies – March 10, 2012

   Posted by: Livia

Upcoming Event: Cooking with Cat Ladies

Cooking with Cat Ladies logo - cute cartoon grey/white cat with a pint nose holding an knife and fork and all ready to eat tasty food

After a long hiatus, one of City Kitties’ favorite fundraising events is back! Cooking with Cat Ladies is a delicious way to show your support for stray cats and kittens. This fine dining experience will be held the evening of Saturday, March 10th at a volunteer’s West Philadelphia home.

How It Works
I am preparing a mouth-watering menu for Cooking with Cat Ladies guests. A $50 ticket purchase reserves your seat at the table, where you will enjoy a five-course vegetarian feast and the company of other cat lovers and City Kitties volunteers. The menu is not yet set in stone, but it will be vegetarian with vegan and gluten-free options (see below).

Seats are limited, so don’t delay in purchasing your ticket! All proceeds benefit City Kitties. (And it goes without saying that this event is open to anyone — not just ladies as the title may imply!) NOTE: If you are unable to attend but would still like to support this event, you may purchase seats to the event and we will offer it to our dedicated foster homes to go as your guest. Just note your intention to donate your seat to a foster parent in the paypal notes section when you purchase the tickets.

rough menu (with recipes to follow)

Appetizers
tzatziki (dairy)
red wine and ginger black bean dip (vegan)
pita chips (vegan, gluten)
carrots and cauliflower (vegan)

Soup
Coconut Chutney Butternut Squash Soup (vegan)

Entree
vegetable biryani (vegan, gluten free)
hazelnut tamarind brown rice (vegan, gluten free)
Winter Squash Vindaloo (vegan, gluten free, spicy)
Chana Masala (vegan, gluten free, moderate spice)
Palak Paneer (dairy, vegetarian, gluten free, mild; possibility of home made paneer) or something else mild and vegan
assorted chutney (vegan) and raita (dairy)

Salad
Arugula and/or baby spinach
Nuts and cheeses
Lemon dressing

Dessert — to be announced

Go to the main event page for purchasing details

Bake Sales are a challenge for me, as I’m new to baking. I’ve been calling myself new and baking for a couple years now, and it’s going to continue for a few years more because it’s still feels like a risky adventure every time.

I came to this recipe over the winter, when my friend Smittywing made a double batch for the Death Bi Chocolate bake sale. It was quick to put together and the ingredients were rather straightforward.

Having lost the recipe, I googled around and found several people with the recipe, and Post Punk Kitchen even attributed it to having come from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, so I’m mentioning that.

I am, however, changing almost half of the ingredients… slightly. And I’ve changed the name.

Ever since Chocolat, I have been aware of the adding of chili to chocolate and calling it exotic, and frequently also calling it Mexican. Also, I’m lucky enough that one of my local supermarkets has a good selection of Mexican and Central American food items. And, really, Mexican chocolate comprises a wide variety of spices and blends, and it’s also more about the processing of the original chocolate, as far as I understand. And I’d rather have my cultural appropriation from long dead people… I don’t know, actually. I just know that I wasn’t comfortable re-using the title this time. Your mileage may vary. (here, have David Lebovitz’s write up of Mexican Hot Chocolate)

Spice Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles

Preheat oven to 350F

Dump into the bowl of the mixer: 1 cup almond oil (being sure to use the 1/2 cup measure twice), 1/2 cup sorghum syrup (which now pours smoothly out of the greased measuring cup), 2 cups sugar, 6 Tablespoons unsweetened unflavored soy milk, 5 teaspoons spiced rum, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon kojinte cinnamon*, 1 teaspoon aleppo powder*.

Start the mixer going slowly, and then incorporate as you go: 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour, 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda.

Voila! Dough! (Okay, so it’s still a good idea to stir a little by hand and scrape the sides to make sure the edges and bottom are fully mixed). The end result is very stiff.

Mix together come cinnamon sugar in a small dish. I didn’t measure. If you do, the proportions in the recipe were: 1/3 cup sugar | 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Now I was going to present these in snack sized bags… and I thought they’d be lovely to dip into coffee… so I made thick, stumpy cylinder shapes. Don’t do this. Once they are flattened and baked, they look distinctly unappetizing. But they were very tasty, fit into the baggies, and would have been good dipped into a wide variety of beverages. You should make them round! The recipe suggests walnut-sized, rolled in sugar, and then flattened a bit. Mine did not spread much, so what you see is pretty much what you get.

On the other hand, what you feel is not what you get. It says to bake each batch for 10-12 minutes. And I ended up putting the first batch in for another 5 minutes because a quick poke test had them feeling exactly the same as when they went in. Apparently that’s perfectly normal for snickerdoodles, and they ended up being delightfully cookie-like when cooled, even though they seemed like they were still doughy fresh from the oven.

*I’ve bumped the spices up higher in the order, because my dough didn’t end up evenly mixed and some cookies were definitely spicier than others. (also those flavor varieties are chosen simply because they were what I had on hand, not because they’re better than any other cinnamon or hot pepper powder)

Also a note if you are making them for a bake sale, too – obviously, you don’t want to put them inside a bag until after they have fully cooled. Otherwise, the steam will condense on the inside of the bag and turn your cookies soggy and your sugary coating to slimy syrup. Luckily, I had 14 little labels and ingredients lists to write up while these not-so-pretties cooled.

Growing up, Passover was one of 2.5 Jewish holidays my family would celebrate.

My uncle, while he was alive, was a strong presence leading the seder with charisma and a mischievous delight in tradition. After his death, my aunt was more thoughtful and pursued discussion and commentary. Passover was the time of year I spoke most openly about Judaism at my public school, taking in butter, matzoh, and salt, and sharing with my classmates. In college I learned even more about it during that one year I was dating someone more observant than I (and she has since gone on to become a rabbi). The first time I got drunk was at Passover, and I’ll still argue passionately in favor of the richness of the cheap, sweet, syrupy Passover wines of my youth (and have so argued on this blog).

It’s a holiday that has a strong emphasis on food. On problematic food. On being rushed and hurried and fleeing servitude so that bread could not rise. It’s a holiday of learning rules through food and exploring the Jewish way of reasoning from text to law through centuries of debate and logic. It’s about learning logical discourse and boolean algebra through food. And unlike my approach to gluten free cooking (bread? Whatever – let’s eat rice! And all sorts of things are fun without wheat!), this holiday requires that you deal with the matzoh. It’s not enough to eat leavened bread, but it is also required encouraged that you partake of the food that is problematic. And that leads to creativity and weirdness and often some rather dry and tasteless food.

But you know me, and creativity and weirdness are favorites of mine. I love this holiday, but I’ve never cooked for it before. I love this holiday, but I’ve never hosted it before. But now I have a house.

And I had a friend who pinged me and mentioned that she really, really liked matzoh and could there be acquiring of it? And I took that question and replied, “Well, I guess I could host Passover.”

So I invited some friends…

And had 21 RSVPs. Including my parents, jews and non-jews, the proudly child free and three children, people who keep kosher and people who only vaguely know that ham and cheese sandwiches are problematic, vegetarians and people who refuse to eat vegetables, and also the neighbor who has taken to asking for food from me (and her boyfriend).

From them, there were the following contributions: My mother made her signature chopped liver and brought a fruit bowl; Lulu brought coconut macaroons; Redwizz brought his secret family recipe charoset; another friend offered stuffed mushrooms and spinach kugel (but they ended up canceling); and my boss kindly dropped off her leftovers from the first night’s seder she hosted. All the rest was up to me. I did end up at the last minute get some amazing help from Geeksdoitbetter and Carrie, and the seder would not have gone nearly as well without their (especially Geeksdoitbetter’s) help.

Appetizers

mystery dip
So my boss’s husband makes a vegan mushroom/artichoke mousse mold thing to offer vegetarians instead of gefilte fish. I plan to get his recipe. But also included with their leftovers were little matzoh sticks, so I knew there had to be dip! This was my mother’s job. It was rapidly determined that either cream cheese or sour cream would be likely to overwhelm the delicate flavor of the mousse, so it was thinned with mayonnaise. Then, because it was dip, the flavor needed to be boosted a bit, so she added oregano, hot pepper, black pepper, and salt. The result was pretty tasty but not perfect.

chopped liver with little matzoh crackers

(not included were the pitted dates I split up the side and stuffed walnut quarters into. I was going to toss them in the over with honey, salt, and pepper, according to an ancient roman recipe, until just warm enough to be soft and pliable. Instead, a few were nibbled just stuffed.)

Seder

Charoset Okay, so my family’s recipe is hand cut apples with crumbled walnuts, cinnamon, and red wine. Redwizz’s family recipe is apples, dates, orange juice, almonds, and cinnamon, mixed in a food processor until it looks like mortar. Oddly, they don’t taste all that different, and his is easier to eat on matzoh (as well as being acceptable to those who do not imbibe).

First Course

I gave the diners a choice among potatoes (roasted leftovers from my boss – and surprisingly tasty), hard boiled eggs (using these directions from Coconut and Lime with great results), and gefilte fish from a can.

Second Course

Chicken Soup with Matzoh Balls and/or Noodles – I make stock all the time. I make flavorful stock! And I had a bag of vegetable ends in desperate need of a round of stock making. What is more, when I was out in the Italian Market questing for chicken fat (which can not be found there!), I happened to be in line behind someone buying a quantity of chicken wings and asking for the tips to be thrown away, so I managed to acquire them for free. But I was using a larger pot than I’m used to, and even though I increased the amount of vegetables and spices accordingly, it still tasted like water after hours of cooking. Like water! So I ended up getting a (small) whole chicken just for the stock. And then it had flavor! But that was surprisingly stressful.

The matzoh balls were also a little scary. I was sure I could do it, but I kept being sure I could do it later and procrastinating it farther and farther off. Until Carrie showed up and offered to help, and I managed to talk her into making them even though she’d never seen nor tasted them before. I gave her all of the directions I’d accumulated from my grandmother (who made amazing ones) – use the recipe on the matzoh meal box and don’t handle them much) and set her to it. And they turned out a little dense, but they floated and were tasty

The noodles were storebought and standard. I’m glad I didn’t make them too far ahead because by the time the meal was over and we went to clean the pot they had turned into a gelatinous mess.

Main Course

I decided to go with both dairy and meat options (just nothing mixed) and let people choose their own adventures. I had also planned several parve/vegan dishes, but those (accidentally, I swear) ended up being the ones cut from the menu once it was clear there was plenty food.

Meat

Mark Bittman’s Braised Lamb with Horseradish and Parsley

I love that this dish incorporates food mentioned as historically relevant in the service, and I love that it’s braised – eliminating the holiday’s tendency toward dry meats. The lamb shoulder was sourced from Esposito’s, and they were willing to remove the bone and package it separately for me. They also had special seder plate lamb bone sections, but since I was already buying a lamb bone, I just went with the shoulder piece. I bought three shoulders – two in the 3 pound range and 1 in the 5 pound range. And there was a lot of painstaking trimming of fat from that cut that I’m not sure was necessary, but the end product was succulent and beautiful.

Right, so the first step was taking all of the bones, roasting them, and them adding them to a pot with some vegetables to make stock (and then cleaning them and roasting the three prettiest for the seder plate).

Then I took the huge dutch oven my mother bought me as a housewarming present (my first one of my own! At the time I wasn’t sure I’d use one that big, but I’ve already used it a lot) and browned the lamb cubes in batches, sprinkling with salt and pepper. Even with the olive oil, the lamb still stuck a bit – and I suspect it might have released if I’d waited for a proper sear, but I could not resist stirring the meat a good bit.

When I was on the last batch for browning and it was looking just about done, I added the slivered garlic and let that cook for a bit together. Then in went a glug of manischewitz concord grape (the recipe allows for white wine, but I love cooking with the manischewitz too much) and the lamb stock. And then the rest of the meat… which possibly should have gone in before the stock because I had to be very careful not to splash.

And I simmered the lamb for several hours and then didn’t add the peeled fresh horseradish (because I was scared and it was incredibly tasty without) until the last half hour of cooking, overnight, and the reheating on the day, but it didn’t end up changing the flavor much at all.

I almost forgot the parsley sauce, and few people used it – but I made it thick, with just a minimal amount of oil and vinegar (done by sight, so I have no measurements for you). It was delicious, and I’ve enjoyed using it up at leftovers – stirred into sour cream dip for chips and mixed in with egg salad)

Lemon Thyme Chicken

I feel a bit bad about this one. It has been so long since I’ve paid money for meat, that I’d planned to only spend money on ethical meat. And there I was at the farmers market staring at the $14/pound meat when this was already the most expensive meal I’d ever made and I’d been buying tables and chairs and a sink! And I walked away (after buying 4 dozen eggs) and bought cheap meat at the grocery store, where I bought enough thighs and breast meat to feed everyone for about $14. Next year I’ll do better.

Right, so step one was to peel and thickly slice an onion or two and to lay them in the bottom of the casserole dish (this adds moisture and keeps the meat from cooking to the dish, making cleanup easier).

Then I took a jar of pre-peeled garlic and shook enough into the dish to give more even coverage for the bottom – it doesn’t have to be perfect. And I tossed in about 10 oil-cured black olives to round out the flavor.

I arranged the chicken so that the thighs (with skin and fat) were around the outside and the breasts (skinless and cut into thigh-sized pieces, so three pieces per half) were filling in the center.

On top of that came freshly cut thyme (on the stem) and roughly-cut chunks of lemon. I usually make this dish with rosemary, so I used too little thyme to affect the chicken as much as I wanted, so in future I’d recommend really piling the stems on or/and also dusting with powdered thyme.

If you have more of the breast meat, you can also add a swig of wine and start the cooking process with aluminum foil over to keep it from drying. There were enough thighs (roughly half the meat) in this batch that no additional liquid was needed and it was fine uncovered. It went into the 350F oven right before we started reading, so let’s say it cooked for an hour and a half. I have, however, accidentally overcooked this dish by as much as an hour and had no ill effects or drying of the meat.

Dairy

Kale and Feta Matzoh Pie

This recipe was inspired by Gourmet’s Spinach and Matzoh Pie, but I was already supposed to have someone bringing spinach kugel and I love the more bitter greens. Really, this recipe was begging for some kale!

I bought three spring tops of curly kale from Landisdale Farm at the farmers market. The day before, I shredded the kale and cooked it down with a pinch of salt (so that I’d have more room in my refrigerator).

The next day, I assembled the lasagnas.

I mixed up a pound of fresh farmers cheese (from mexico, featured in my local supermarket… tasted like try, crumbly sour cream with a bit more culturing), 2 cups whole milk, 3 eggs, freshly ground nutmeg, and some salt and pepper, in a bowl with a fork. It was fine, even without the blender.

And I ended up with two casserole dishes almost exactly the size of a piece of matzoh, so I used one to soak the pieces in the 2 cups of the mixture while assembling in the other… and then just laid the rest of the pieces on top to assemble the second one. There didn’t seem to be any difference between the dish that had been oiled and the one that hadn’t when it came time to serve.

Then I finely diced an onion and reheated the cooked kale, squeezing out the moisture as I went. I also minced and threw in about a quarter cup of fresh dill.

Once the moisture was mostly evaporated, I stirred the kale into the remaining egg/dairy mixture and crumbled in a good half of the pound of feta I’d bought from my local halal.

Then I assembled: matzoh, filling, matzoh, filling, matzoh – matzoh, filling, matzoh, filling, matzoh. And I had just enough filling left to put a very thin layer on the top of both – perfection. And I crumbled almost all of the rest of the feta on top (let’s say 3 ounces per dish).

This was baked ahead and served only slightly warmed. It was delicious! I love the body of the kale in this, and I can’t image spinach being nearly as good.

It even freezes and reheats well! I love this dish! Such a success.

Greens and Quinoa Pie

This was my very first time tackling quinoa. I know that’s delinquent of me, but still. The grains were smaller than I expected, and there was no way they were going to be cooperative in a strainer for rinsing and draining – so I soaked them. Only then the toasting process was unfortunate, and I had to give up on that step. Perhaps toasting them dry and then soaking them next time.

So I cooked 3/4 of a cup of quinoa (because I’d eyeballed the amount and had no use for a quarter of a cup, so I went ahead and cooked it all) and set it aside until I was ready to deal with making the dish.

In my largest skillet, I cooked the romaine and some other lettuce-y head that was pale and spiky (but not frissee) and bitter enough to be related to chicory. Then I tossed them into a strainer in the sink and squeezed them occasionally as guests started trickling in and milling about the kitchen.

The last thing I did before settling people into the dining room to start the seder was to assemble the skillet of cooked onions, green onions, dill, cooked quinoa, and squeezed cut up lettuces.

Once we started taking turns reading the story of Passover, I sneaked back a couple times into the kitchen (and hid the afikomen) to get it cooked, the three eggs beaten and added, and the cheese – the remaining 2 ounces of feta and the last of the stichelton from my cheese tasting. And then I popped it into the 350F oven (in the skillet, not juggling the whole transfer to a pie plate) to finish cooking evenly.

It turned out pretty tasty, froze well, and received praise from the one guest who claimed to love quinoa. While filling and sturdy, I’m not sure it was exceptional enough to make next year.

Golden Gratin – Yam & Apricot Casserole (could have been vegan)

There is no good reason why this dish isn’t parve and vegan! No good reason! But for some reason the recipe is made for it to be meat, and there’s a tendency among the commenters to make it dairy, too. Having made it, I say that it would lose nothing from being vegan.

So you peel your orange-fleshed sweet potatoes or yams and cut them into chunks.

Then you make a base syrup out of apricot nectar (I was planning up substitute orange juice, but my coop just happened to have a bottle of apricot nectar across from the check out – and I just used the one bottle, which was less than 4 cups, but whatever)… and then the recipe calls for a cup of chicken broth. Why, recipe? Why? I happened to have a quart jar of oolong tea hanging out, so that was a perfect substitution. Other substitution options would be orange juice, white grape juice, water, or vegetable stock.

The recipe then called for 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted pareve margarine. I used 3 Tablespoons of butter because I don’t believe in margarine. Honestly? I could have skipped the butter entirely, and that might have improved the dish.

Then 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots. I had bought Turkish Apricots from nuttyguys.com on a Groupon without a purpose a while back, and they went into this. Geeksdoitbetter cut them into quarters (and she peeled the yams and washed the kale and did all kinds of things to make this dinner go).

So the apricots cook with the nectar and tea with some cinnamon and black pepper and then you add the yams and cover and cook until the yams are fork tender. At this point, I put them up until the next day.

I was careful to keep the chunks of sweet potato intact in the repackaging so they’d still be individual pieces the next day, and they were delicious.

On the next round, when I served the leftovers a few days later, I mashed them into a smooth yamy puree and topped them with a crumble topping of 1/4 cup rolled oats (not kosher for passover), 1/4 cup matzoh meal, 1/8 cup matzoh flour, 1/4 cup brown sugar, and as much olive oil and neccessary to get it the right amount of crumbly. Baked for 40 minutes, and it was de-light-ful. Well, it was a (potentially vegan, and it would have been fine) sweet potato casserole with a crumble topping – what’s not to love?

Parve / Vegan dishes

Asparagus

The Soup Vixen helped me acquire half a flat of asparagus from the Italian Market. I was going to roast them right before serving… and that didn’t happen. So now I have a pickling and canning project. Woo!

Dandelion Greens

Come on – what says bitter greens and spring time so much as dandelions? These were (again last minute, so didn’t happen) going to be quick sauteed with olive oil and vast quantities of garlic.

Carrot Casserole

These were going to be cut into coins in the food processor and baked with a little liquid (probably vegetable stock) and some za’atar seasoning. This was the first recipe to be abandoned because I found the golden gratin, but I still bought the carrots

Savory Red Pepper and Onion Matzo Brei (not vegan)

Also would have been tasty, but was a dish that sounded best made last minute.

Dessert

Coconut Macaroons

My friend has a quest to find the perfect coconut macaroon recipe, so I made doe eyes at her for many of them for Passover. And it worked – she made 4 batches.

Only there was an error in the handing down of the familial coconut macaroon recipe, and this try called for 2 egg whites per package of coconut (instead of the 1 called for by the condensed milk people)… and that made the recipe harder for her than it should have been. Apparently the extra egg pools out into eggy feet around the base of each macaroon, and she had to tear them off individually. (also, her dishwasher broke mid macaroon making)

That said, the macaroons were soft and sinfully delicious and way better that the dusty, dry ones from the boss’s Passover leftovers. I brought the leftover macaroons to work, and there was so much praise!

My friend, however, is still looking for an even more perfect recipe. The condensed milk flavor was more noticeable than she wanted and there was the egg issue, but the ease of the recipe was a big plus.

Walnut-Date Torte

Whooo! So my stand mixer is also new so me, so this was my first time whipping egg whites. It was amazing. It was a miracle that I didn’t eat the sugar/whipped egg white mixture with a spoon. I can see meringues in my future. Pavlovas with summer fruit.

Right, so the walnut stuffed date appetizers (which didn’t happen) and the dates for this cake were prepped at the same time. I just took my measuring cup and every time the date was dry or not pretty or didn’t split easily, it was cut into bits (quarters the long way, and then 4-5 slices down the length). I ended up with slightly over a cup and a half from that method, which was exactly what the recipe called for. Then I added the half a cup of boiling water and let it sit to hydrate.

For the walnuts, I just learned that the way that entry is written explicitly means you measure the 1 1/2 cups of walnuts, then toast them, and then chop them. Done!

And then I got out the food processor my sister got me (which I absolutely did not steal from KitchenMage) as a housewarming to chop the walnuts with 1/4 cup light brown sugar until finely ground. Then the recipe calls for 2/3 cup matzoh meal, but I’d misread the recipe before shopping and also bought matzoh flour for just this recipe, so I was determined to use it! So in went 1/3 cup matzoh meal and 1/3 cup matzoh flour, 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom, and a pinch of salt.

Instead of orange zest, I just happened to have some orange peel soaking in water in my fridge awaiting accumulating enough to candy… so I minced up an eighth of a cup of blanched, soaking (so much milder than fresh) orange peel and added it to the dates. I really liked this change.

I beat the egg whites until the looked like they were thinking about peaks, and then I started slowly adding the remaining 1/2 cup white sugar. And the volume didn’t increase as much as I was expecting, so I might have beat slightly longer than requested, but they were holding stiff, glossy peaks and looking lovely when I did stop. They made that lovely crinkly sound when you fold into them.

But first – the 4 yolks get mixed into the dates and orange peel. First the dates were added to the egg whites and folded in, and then the nuts and flour were folded in. This was seriously one of the most delicious cake batters ever! (And I’m a devoted batter eater. I find the batter is almost always significantly tastier than the end product, and this was no exception).

I had enough batter for two medium (8″?) pie plates. It baked at 350F for 40 minutes until a toothpick came out clean (I didn’t notice the springing away from the edge of the pan phenomenon), and I served it in the pan.

It was okay and definitely decent on the first day.

By the second day, however, it was nice! You should definitely make this 1-3 days ahead. You know what was also nice? Drizzling it with cointreau! It’s in the good fruitcake family, and it does well being treated that way.