Monday, June 11, 2018

Drunken Noodles

I sometimes find making Asian recipes at home a bit frustrating, because they never seem to get the same depth of flavor that they have in a good restaurant. So this particular recipe blew my mind, because it really had that complexity you want from a satisfying noodle dish.

The source of the recipe was a surprise in itself: the cookbook "Cravings", by Chrissy Teigen. I got this book on a whim, and it has proven to be one of the best cookbooks I've seen in a long time. I've already made five or six recipes from it, and they were all a smashing success. The book does have one disadvantage, which is that it has almost no vegetarian recipes. This recipe is no exception, using chicken and oyster sauce in the original version. But here I give you my own vegetarian twist on Chrissy's recipe. Since the original recipe included egg, I decided to just leave it there as my source of protein. But you can also use some tofu seasoned with salt and sesame oil and stir fried in oil until crispy, and either use it with the egg for a vegetarian recipe, or without it for a vegan version.

A Note for the Gluten Free about Whisky: 
Grain alcohols and gluten are a tricky thing. In theory, distilled grain alcohol (like vodka) shouldn't contain any gluten (or at least less than the requisite 20 ppm), due to the distillation process. Nonetheless, some celiacs still say they have reactions to such alcohol. Whisky is even more complicated, because some whisky producers add a bit of the mash back into the product after distillation. For our version of this recipe, we used Jack Daniels bourbon, because they have a very clear and unequivocal Gluten Free statement on their website. However, if you're still concerned about using a grain-based drink, you can replace it with rum or brandy, or just skip the booze altogether.

Drunken Noodles 

Ingredients (for 5-6 satisfying portions): 

- 6 tbsp light brown sugar
-  1/2 cup soy sauce (make sure to use GF for a gluten free version)
- 1/4 cup teriyaki sauce (again, make sure to use GF)
- 2 tbsp of whisky (see note above)
- 1 tbsp mirin
- 1 tbsp sriracha sauce
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped

For dish: 
- 350 grams/12 oz of rice noodles, preferably the wide kind, softened according to the package instructions 
- 3 tbsp canola or vegetable oil
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 4 scallions (green onions), chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp minced fresh ginger
- 4 cups broccoli florets
- 1/2 cup vegetable broth

1. Combine all of the sauce ingredients in one bowl.

2. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a large wok, add the eggs, and cook, stirring, until just cooked. Set aside in a bowl, and give the wok a quick wipe to clean some of the egg residue.

3.  Heat the remaining 2 tbsp of oil in the wok, and when it begins to smoke, add in the scallions, ginger and garlic. Cook, stirring, for about 20 seconds. Add the broccoli and broth and cook, stirring, until the broccoli turns a bright green and the broth is mostly gone, about 3-4 minutes.

4. Add the softened noodles and the egg back into the wok, and add the sauce. Cook for another 4-5 minutes, stirring or tossing the mixture, until the noodles are fully cooked, everything is warm, and the sauce thickens.

5. Served, optionally topped with some more scallions.


Saturday, June 9, 2018

Knish (Onion and Potato Pastries)

A curious fact about Israel is that a lot of the foods typically associated with Jewish cuisine in the US, are virtually unknown to Israelis. For example, until a few years ago, you couldn't get a bagel in Israel to save your life, and even now supermarkets rarely sell them. Knishes are a similar deal. You can find Burkeas in every store, but I can't remember the last time I saw a knish anywhere.
So when a recurrences of pop-culture references to Knish made me crave some, there was no choice but to make them myself.

I opted for a version in which the potatoes and onion are mashed together to make a smooth filling, because I have a kid who will happily eat these just as long as there are no visible oniony-bits. If you prefer a bit more texture, add the onions in after you mash the potatoes.

The knishes can be made gluten free (the ones in the picture are!), but it does require having an excellent gluten free all purpose flour that you trust, as you do need to make a dough that is flexible enough to roll and delicious enough to eat.


 Ingredients (for 20-30 small knishes): 
For filling: 
- 3-4 potatoes (about 500 grams/1 lb), peeled and chopped into medium chunks.
- 1 large onion, diced.
- 3 tbsp oil, for frying.
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar (optional, although it gives a nice richness of flavor)
- 1/2 tsp black pepper 

For dough:
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 1/4 cup oil
- 1/2 tsp salt

For finishing: 
- 1 egg yolk beaten with a bit of milk

1. Put the potatoes in a medium pot, cover with salted water, and cook on medium heat until the potatoes are soft. Drain.

2. While you wait, put frying oil in a pan, add the onions and cover. Sautee over medium-low heat until the onions are soft and translucent, then remove the lid and allow the onions to become golden-brown. Remove from heat.

3. Mash together the potatoes, onions, salt, sugar and pepper, either in a food processor, using a stick-blender, or using a masher, until very smooth. Remember: if you want to keep the onion texture, add the onions after the mashing process. Check for taste. The seasoning should be quite strong (stronger than you would want in mashed potatoes that you eat straight up), because there's only a bit of filling in each knish.

4. Prepare the dough: Preheat oven to 175 C/350 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  In a large bowl, beat the egg and water together, then add the oil and the salt and mix. Gradually add the flour, about 1/2 cup at a time, and mix thoroughly. When it starts to come together as a dough, start kneading, first in the bowl, then out on a well floured surface. The dough should feel smooth, not sticky, and elastic. If it's too sticky to knead comfortably, add some more flour. Knead for a few minutes to develop the gluten (or just until you have a usable nice dough, if you're making this GF).

5. Divide the dough into two balls. On a well floured surface, shape the first ball into a flat rectangle, and roll until very thin and quite large (about 30X20 cm, or 13X9 inches). Do the same with the other ball of dough.

6. Cut each rectangle into two, lengthwise (so you have two long and narrow pieces). Place about a quarter of the filling lengthwise along the center of each piece, then roll the dough (like a swiss roll) around the filling. Repeat for all the pieces.

7. Using a sharp knife, slice each roll into pieces, about 2.5 cm/1 inch long. Carefully lift each piece and place it, cut side down, in the baking tin, then gently push together the top section over the potato filling to slightly "close" the knish. This is a bit messy, and don't worry if it doesn't close altogether. The results are meant to be rustic.

8. When all of the knishes are placed on the baking tin, with a bit of distance between each one, brush them with the egg/milk mixture. Place in the over and bake for about 35-40 minutes, until the knishes are golden and fully baked.



Sunday, March 4, 2018

Creamy Corn and Squash Pasta

This pasta was delicious enough to get me back to posting. It's a delicious, rich pasta with butternut squash, corn kernels, a bit of heat from spicy peppers, offset by the creaminess of the sauce

The recipe is inspired by one in the book Gourmet Meals in Minutes. The original recipe uses zucchini and creme fraiche, but I don't care for zucchini and had no creme fraiche on hand, so I used butternut squash and sour cream instead, to excellent results.

Use gluten free pasta for a GF version, and ditch the cream for a still-satisfying vegan version.

Creamy Corn and Squash Pasta 

 Ingredients (for 2-4 portions): 
- 250 grams/ 0.5 lbs dried pasta, preferably a long shape like spaghetti or fettuccine
- 2 tsp olive oil 
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 of a medium butternut squash, very finely diced
- 2 cups corn kernels, frozen or fresh
- 1 jalapeno or other mildly hot pepper, de-seeded and finely diced
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 1/2 cup sour cream or creme fraiche (optional)
- one bunch of fresh cilantro, finely chopped (optional)
- salt and pepper, to taste


1. Fill large pot with salted water and bring to a boil. Cook pasta according to instructions.

2. While the pasta is cooking, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and the squash, and saute, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent and the squash is tender. This should take about 8 minutes, so have patience.  The squash has to be very finely diced or else it will take forever to soften this way.

3. Add the garlic, corn and hot pepper, and stir, then add the broth and bring to a boil. When the pasta is ready, drain it and add to the sauce. Stir well, and season with salt and pepper. Add the cilantro.

4. Serve in bowls, topping each portion with a large dollop of cream.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Pepper, Spinach and Cheese Lasagna

A delicious and easy recipe for lasagna that can be modified and adapted to suit your needs and your tastes.  I made it with roasted peppers and spinach, but you can change those up to pretty much any vegetable you like (eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms etc.).

To save time and effort, I didn't bother making a proper tomato sauce, using good quality crushed tomatoes as they are. The flavors and seasoning from the cheese and the vegetables were more than enough.

To make it gluten free, just use gluten free lasagna. You could probably also make a vegan version by replacing the cheese layer with some baked beans or something similar. 

Pepper, Spinach and Cheese Lasagna

Ingredients (for 4-6 portions): 
 - 1 package of non-cook lasagna noodles (you may not need the whole package, but good to have one in hand)
-  1-2 bell peppers (or pre-roasted peppers)
- 1 package fresh spinach (or a small package of frozen spinach, defrosted and sieved)
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1 small can (400 grams) of good quality crushed tomatoes
- 1 container of cottage cheese
- 1 container of soft white cheese, low fat cream cheese, or plain Greek yogurt
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup grated cheddar, mozzarella or other cheese of your choice + a few handfuls for topping.
- Salt, pepper, oregano, garlic powder.

1. Roast the peppers (you can skip this and put fresh pepper slices instead, but I think this tastes better):  Cut the peppers into several large pieces, getting rid of the ribs and seeds. Place them skin up in a baking dish, and place in a hot oven or under a broiler until the skin is charred and cracking. Take out the over and allow to cool down. Peel the skin off as best you can (don't worry if some skin is left over).

2. Prepare the spinach: heat the olive oil in a large pan on medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until lightly golden. Add the spinach, stir and allow to wilt (if fresh). Take off heat.

3. Preheat oven to 350 F/180 C. Combine the cheese mixture: put the egg, the cottage cheese, the white cheese, and 1/2 cup of grated cheese in a bowl and stir well. Season with salt, pepper, oregano, garlic powder and any other Italian-style seasonings you enjoy.

4. Put the lasagna together: take a smallish lasagna dish, and coat the bottom of it with a few tbsp of crushed tomatoes (this should be a thin coating, not a big layer, so about 1/4 of the total amount of tomatoes). Place a few lasagna leaves on the tomatoes, to cover the dish. Top with a layer of the cheese mixture, then arrange a few pieces of pepper and some of the spinach, so that most of the area of the lasagna has some vegetable on it. Top with a few more tablespoons of tomato sauce (another 1/4), and sprinkle with a bit more grated cheese.  Add another layer of lasagna leaves, and repeat the process one more time. Top with one more layer of lasagna leaves, and coat these with the rest of the tomatoes (1/2 of the can), and as much grated cheese as you like.

5. Cover the lasagna with tin foil, and place in a hot oven for about 40 minutes, or until a knife slices easily through the soft noodles. You can remove the tin foil and allow the lasagna to bake a little longer to get some nice browning on the cheese. 

6. Enjoy! Like most lasagna, if you slice it right away it will be soft and become a mess. If you allow it to cool down a bit, then it will settle and become easier to slice into nice pieces after reheating.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Savory Sweet Potato Tart Tatin

This is a savory recipe for tart tatin taken from here. It involves layers of caramelized sweet potatoes combined with goat cheese in a puff pastry shell.

Sadly, this recipe cannot easily be made gluten free unless you have access to gluten free puff pastry. In some places this is readily available. In other places it doesn't exist.

The original recipe is garnished with tahini, but I didn't find that a good flavor combination with this, so up to you. 

Note: you will need an oven-safe skillet 26 cms/10 inches in diameter.

Savory Sweet Potato Tart Tatin

Ingredients (for a 26 cm/10 inch tart): 

- 500 grams/ 1 lb puff pastry.
-  3-4 medium sweet potatoes (or 2 large), peeled and thinly sliced. [You should have about 500 grams/1 lb after peeling]. 
- 1 "log" (approximately 200 grams/7 oz) of fresh goat's cheese, thinly sliced.

For the Caramel:
- 1/2 cup sugar 
- 1/4 cup boiling water
- 2 tbsp olive oil 
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground black pepper

1. In a 26 cm/10 inch oven safe skillet, prepare the caramel. Place the sugar in the skillet on a medium heat and melt the sugar to a dark caramel. Do not stir with a spoon. Instead, gently swirl the skillet around to stir. When the sugar is melted and fairly dark, add the boiling water 1 tbsp at time, swirling the skillet constantly. Add the olive oil, salt and pepper. Again, stir by swirling, not with a spoon, or the caramel will seize up. 

2. Preheat oven to 200 c/400 f. Put the sweet potato slices in a large bowl and add the caramel, tossing them together so that the potatoes are coated. In the same oven safe skillet, arrange the potatoes like roof tiles to cover the skillet, drizzle with a few tbsp of the leftover caramel. Put the potatoes in the hot oven and roast for 10 minutes. 

3. Remove the skillet from the oven and place the goat cheese slices on top of the sweet potatoes. Roll out the puff pastry to a round/square about 1 inch/2 cm larger than the skillet. Carefully cover the skillet with the pastry, tuck in the pastry sides to form a tart shell, and prick with a fork all over to make holes for steam. Return the tart to the oven and bake for about 35 minutes, until the pastry is golden-brown and cooked through. 

4. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Take a large serving plate and place it upside down on the pastry, then carefully flip the pan and plate, and then remove the pan, so that the tart is on the plate, pastry down. Serve warm.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Tortilla EspaƱola (Omelet with Potatoes)

The Spanish word "tortilla" translates simply into "small cake". In Mexico it is used to describe the familiar breads from corn or flour used as the basis for burritos, enchiladas and the like. In Spain, it is used to describe this omelet with potatoes, the Spanish equivalent of a fritata. It's a filling, delicious dish that can easily be used for a hearty breakfast or a light lunch or dinner.

One note: don't skimp on the oil, or you'll never get the crispy golden crust. 

The Book: The Culinary Institute of America's Breakfasts and Brunches.

Description: This book comes from one of the top cooking schools in the United States, and it offers an impressive array of breakfast and brunch choices, complete with a few menu suggestions at the beginning. The recipes range from breakfast drinks through to salads and sandwiches, and from the simplest items (such as soft boiled eggs) to more sophisticated takes on familiar foods. The book definitely leans towards the American view of breakfast, with plenty of recipes for pancakes, waffles, muffins and pastries. However, there are also some other offerings. While the book is geared towards breakfast, many of the recipes in it can easily be used for a light meal at other times of the day.

Language: English.

Genre: breakfast, pastries, light meals.

Veg Status: the majority of the book is vegetarian friendly, although definitely not vegan-friendly. There is only one section dedicated to meat, and even that one also offers a wide range of vegetarian potato recipes such as hash browns. The other sections contain very few recipes with meat, and most of those easily convertible to vegetarian.

GF Status: Not great. Most of the book is dedicated to pastries of all sorts, obviously heavy on the gluten.  You will find some fine options in the egg section as well as the salads, and an experienced GF baker armed with a good flour alternative can probably make most of the other recipes work, but I wouldn't buy this book as a gift for the celiac in my life.

Tortilla EspaƱola

Ingredients (for 4 servings): 

- 1 large onion, minced or very finely diced
- 1 green bell pepper, finely diced
- 2 large potatoes (or 3-4 smaller ones), medium dice
- 8 eggs
- 1-2 tbsp chopped cilantro (optional) 
-1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp of olive oil, divided


1. In a large frying pan, heat about 2 tsp of olive oil over medium heat and add the onion and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent. 

2. Add the potatoes and salt, stir, lower heat, and cover. Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are fairly soft. Remove from heat and allow to cool for about 5 minutes.

3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the chopped cilantro (if using). Add the vegetable mixture to the eggs and stir. 

4. Add the rest of the oil to the pan over high heat, and make sure the pan is very hot before adding the egg mixture. Allow the eggs to cook until set, without stirring. When the bottom of the eggs becomes golden brown, carefully flip the eggs over with a spatula and cook until they get the same color on the other side. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Saag Tofu/Paneer

This is a relatively mild Indian dish, made with loads of lovely spinach. It can be made vegan using tofu, or non-vegan using paneer cheese (For a simple recipe for homemade paneer, see the end of my paneer tikka masala post). I made some changes to the original book recipe to simplify it.

The book: Indian Home Cooking by Suvir Saran and Stephanie Lyness 
Description: This book is, as the title suggests, a guide to cooking Indian food in your home kitchen, and specifically in an Western kitchen. This means that while there is some use of specialty ingredients, often the book will offer alternatives or simply supply a simplified version of a recipe that makes it easier to cook at home. It works really well if you are living in the UK, or in  a fairly large American city with access to places like Whole Foods or other retailers that will carry Indian spices and the like. It can require a bit more creativity to make it work if you live somewhere where such items are more difficult to locate.

Language:  English
Genre: Indian food 
Veg Status: The book is by no means exclusively vegetarian, and it has large sections dedicated to meat and fish. However, because Indian food is very vegetarian friendly, this book has lots of vegetarian and vegan recipes. Moreover, most of the meat recipes can be easily converted to vegetarian or vegan by substituting tofu, paneer, or cooked chickpeas for the meat. 
GF Status: Indian food is very GF friendly. While there are some breads and pastries that would be difficult to convert to GF, some Indian classics are GF by virtue of using chickpea flour or lentil flour instead of when flour. And of course the vast majority of the recipes for curries and the like are naturally gluten free. In other words, you will be able to find enough GF recipes for your heart's content in this book. 

Saag Tofu/Paneer


Ingredients (for 2 large portions or four small ones): 
- 1 package (about 300 grams) firm tofu or paneer, sliced into cubes
- about 500 grams/ 1 lb fresh spinach or frozen spinach 
- 1.5-2 tablespoon ghee, butter or oil
- 3 whole dried chilis
- 3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 7 green cardamom pods
- 7 whole cloves
- 3/4 teaspoon fennel
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped or grated ginger
-1/2 teaspoon salt 

1. Heat 1/2 tbsp of oil to a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Add as many cubes of paneer/tofu as will fit comfortable and brown them on all sides. Drain the tofu/paneer on paper towels and continue until all of the tofu/paneer is browned, adding more oil as needed. (I needed only one batch). Set aside. 

2. Boil about 2 inches/5 cm of water in a large pot. Add the spinach (frozen or fresh), cover and cook stirring for a few minutes until the fresh spinach is wilted or the frozen spinach is thawed. Drain, and either puree in a blender with some of the cooking water, or simply chop finely. 

3. Heat the ghee, butter or oil with the red chiles, cumin, cardamom, cloves and fennel seeds in a large wok or frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring, until the cumin turns a golden-brown color, 1-2 minutes. Add the ginger and cook, stirring, 45 seconds. Add the spinach and the salt. Cook, uncovered, over medium heat for about 5 minutes. 

4. Place the paneer/tofu squares on top of the spinach. Cover and cook gently 5 more mintes. Halfway through the cooking, use a spatula to gently turn the paneer in the spinach. Taste for salt. 

5. Serve with rice and/or Indian bread.