Posts tagged passover
Friday, November 5, 2010

quinoa with pine nuts and cumin-lime vinaigrette

quinoa with dried fruit

Can I tell you how hard it is to write a post about quinoa? I’ve been staring at the screen all morning, trying to figure out how to drum up excitement for something perceived as uber-boring. Let’s face it, “health” food isn’t sexy, it doesn’t come with the same cache of chocolate, or caramel, or homemade ricotta. Quinoa is that ingredient you read about in fitness magazines (yawn) and it’s told in health food stores (another yawn). In other words – boring, snooze-inducing, what-your-mom-would-want-you-to-eat food.

quinoa with dried fruit

The fact that there’s no mysterious dark side to quinoa is true. You even feel wholesome eating it – there’s absolutely no guilt associated with it (crazy, right?). There is no food coma afterward. You feel satiated, alert and healthy – it’s kind of boring, really. I’ve only been eating it at the Whole Foods’ salad bar and while always enjoying it, feeling a little bit unexciting afterward; it always tempted me to reach for a piece of bacon post meal (if only there was a piece of bacon to be found!). It might be why I had never previously purchased quinoa for the home.

sunshine yellow pepper

So why am I telling you about something that’s boring? Well, because it happens to be delicious, and shockingly exciting. After we got tired of rice, pasta, and potatoes (did I just write I got tired of potatoes? Someone please check to see if I’m running a fever!) – I decided to look elsewhere for our grain fix. And while reorganizing my pantry, I found a box of red quinoa sitting pretty on one of my shelves. Unsure of how it got there, I checked the expiration date and it seemed fine. And after trying to figure out how it snuck into the apartment, I assumed it must have been something a visitor brought in with them – as this apartment has served as a mini-hotel for so many. Perhaps my mom brought it with her, or maybe it was another sneaky house guest. There it was, staring me squarely in the face, as if issuing a silent challenge, “Can you handle me?”

Continue reading quinoa with pine nuts and cumin-lime vinaigrette.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

dandelion greens with shaved fennel, celery and parsley

dandelion salad with shaved fennel, celery and parsley

There was a time when fennel made me gag. In fact, I can’t believe the 180 I’ve done here, going from unadulterated hatred of all things fennel, to actually craving it. I’ve been told these things are not uncommon, that your palate does a shift every seven years or so, and I thank mine for letting me enjoy fresh fennel, shaved thinly in salads.

The salad is deceptively simple and yet it is a bit genius – everything in it works and does so beautifully. Sometimes, I fall deeply in love with a dish and can’t stop making it. I become a bit like a broken record as I cook the same thing over and over. Such is the case with this salad. I’ve had versions of it in a few places, most recently over glasses of wine at Lela Bar in the West Village, but their version didn’t offer dandelion greens or celery. Generously doused with olive oil, lemon juice and sprinkled with sea salt, shaved fennel mixed with parsley. Elsewhere, and quite some time ago, I had something that was shaved celery and parsley with sea salt and olive oil and lemon juice. The salad was celestial, but it disappeared off the menu after a week and I never saw it again. I kept thinking about making it at home, but of course, with so many things in the Sassy Radish kitchen, we’re on a bit of a time delay. The comforting glow of office fluorescent lighting has a particular allure.

shaved fennel

I know I blame everything on work and am afraid must use my my-work-ate-all-my-free-time-and-is-keeping-me-busier-than-imaginable excuse again. I love you, dear readers, and love that you come in this little space to read my somewhat fragmented thoughts, but work, being that it allows me to pay rent and have a roof over my head and have this wee site for you and me to congregate around, takes precedence over time in the kitchen. Or writing. Le sigh.

In any case, this salad. Run, don’t walk to make it. Unless you think fennel is vile. In which case, maybe try it without fennel? But if you do like fennel, this salad is for you. Also – a word about dandelion greens. Have you ever had them? I’ve been eating them since I was a child, but they haven’t caught on in the US until fairly recently. Please try them – they’re like a chewier and more exciting version of spinach. No, I’m lying – they’re nothing like spinach – they are way, way better. I wouldn’t think of using anything else here to offset the fennel and the celery.

dandelion greens

I made a very generous portion of this for my Sunday supper, which was the same night that this cake and this chicken made an appearance. The whole dinner was a home run. It all worked. And this salad – disappeared in minutes. Nothing left. Second plates for all. I mean, who does that with salad and gets into a tizzy over a bit of green on your plate? Right? It’s got to be good to have this kind of appeal. And it is.

Now, I won’t tell you how much olive oil and lemon juice to add. That is between you and your taste buds, my lovelies. I think that more dressing is lovely, but a restrained amount can work too. Personally, I use one lemon and juice it, but you might find that too acidic and opt for half a lemon. That’s okay too. I also just pour my olive oil over it for a few seconds, add lemon juice, sprinkle some salt and then toss. The trick is to use the best olive oil you can get your hands on. And that stuff can get expensive. While normally I wouldn’t tell you to go and spend lots of money on such things, here’s where it’ll really make a difference. Good olive oil will transform your salad into something totally different so you might want to use more of it. You might want it to coat your salad a bit thicker, or not. Either way, you can’t screw this up. Unless you use bad oil. In which case, you might wonder why I’m jabbering about a plateful of greens for six paragraphs.

dandelion salad with shaved fennel, celery and parsley

I was only sad I didn’t make more of it. I mean (suppressed sob!) I only got one (one!!!) plate and let my guests have seconds. But secretly, in my own head, what I really wanted to do was grab the salad bowl and steal away into the bedroom and eat the whole thing by myself. So much for fennel and gagging.

Continue reading dandelion greens with shaved fennel, celery and parsley.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

spring salad with roasted asparagus

spring salad with roasted asparagus

Who else, besides me, was lulled into thinking that spring is swiftly on its way? Is everyone raising their hands? Yep, that was me too, in sandals and tank tops. You know, I even moved my winter clothes into storage and pulled out the summer ones. And then, just like that, the weather decided that it was toying with us and pulled a switcheroo. This weekend, in New York – HOLY COLD! I mean, winter cold. I had to dig in my closet again for the puffer jacket and the Uggs. Oh weather, stop being so fickle, will you? This, of course, now means that my closet has stuff splayed out all over the place. Winter and summer stuff all mixed together in complete disarray. I just don’t know what to do with it all, but the mess is killing me.

asparagus

I know that East Coast folks are waaaaay overdue for their spring. We had a long winter and we’re ready. Ready for summer dresses and flip flops and going outside with our hair wet. We’re ready for picnics in the park, for lazy strolls at night after dinner, for not having to wear a dozen layers. Please. Let. Spring. Come.

asparagus, ready for roasting

In celebration of the false spring (because we know now we’ve been had), but of course believing this was true spring, I made this roasted asparagus salad because what else says spring like asparagus? It was lemony, it was fresh, it had the bite of watercress. And it was the perfect way to usher in the new season, which, of course, turned out to be a cruel joke.

asparagus, ready for roasting

You could make this tomorrow night for the first night of the Passover and omit the cheese if you’re serving a meat course following. Honestly, it works either way. And I often find that what is missing from the Passover table is a healthy dose of greens. Greens I sorely miss and crave right about this time of year. The salad is refreshing and subtle and kind of everything you want a salad to be. Plus the horseradishy bite of the watercress is a bit reminiscent of maror.

watercress, hydroponic


If you’re looking for more Passover ideas, here are a few from the archives:

Chicken Soup with Matzo Balls
Beef Brisket with Merlot and Prunes
Almond Lemon Torte with Fresh Strawberry Puree
Haroset
Citrus Salad with Cilantro & Mint
Wine Stewed Prunes and Mascarpone

And so for those celebrating, I hope your Passover Seder is warm and wonderful; full of joy and introspection.

Continue reading spring salad with roasted asparagus.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

beef brisket with merlot and prunes

beef brisket with merlot and prunes

I’ve a soft spot for humble meals made quietly, slowly, with nothing more than basic ingredients. Dishes that cook over slow heat for hours, particularly meat. Meat, that when you cut into it, slowly falls apart, so soft you hardly need to chew it. Meat that comes with a rich, thick sauce. Meals like this – I could eat on an almost-daily basis.

brisket. hello, gorgeous!

Sadly, I do not. Partly because I try to be thoughtful about meat consumption, partly because I work hours that don’t allow me, upon getting home, make a meal, that cooks over several hours (albeit, sort of happily cooks itself as time goes by) because that would mean, I would eat at midnight. Or later. And while I’ve fond memories of making and eating goulash at 1 am in college, college this is not, and somehow showing up for work late isn’t the same as skipping your 8am accounting class. The tardiness policy at work just isn’t very lenient.

brisket mise

Beef brisket is just one of those meals that if you’re spending a few hours at home puttering around, or expecting company for dinner, can be made with minimal effort and some glorious results. The concept is rather simple. You take a fatty slab of meat, brown it to lock in the flavor, brown the vegetables, and combine everything with something like wine, pomegranate molasses (with which I’ve been having a decade-long love affair!) and some dried fruit. In this case, the fruit of choice is prunes.

browning the brisketbrowning the brisket

Wait, come back! I know I just said prunes and I know they’re about as sexy as granny panties, but, please give them a chance. Cooked in stews, or slow-cooked in wine, sugar and spices, they transform themselves into something incredible lush and luxurious. I know, I just called prunes “luxurious”, when nothing could be more pedestrian. But, have I ever lied to you? Well then!

ready for cooking

I learned, pretty late in life, that brisket is sort of this traditional Jewish meal served during holidays or Shabbat meals. I didn’t grow up with it, so I felt it was my cultural duty to master the craft. Of course, I was cooking dinner with which I was hoping to impress, and I chose a dish that I’d never cooked before. Smart? I’d say not really. Was I a bit nervous? Absolutely. But everything came together without a hitch and the meat cooked perfectly and didn’t resemble pressed sawdust neither in looks nor in taste. If you’re looking for a centerpiece dish for Passover – look no further than this. And while it is always recommended that you do a practice run with a holiday meal beforehand, I’m pretty certain you will succeed with this one because the building blocks of a great dish are already included in the ingredients and the cooking process. If you cook it patiently and slowly, you will get a “humble” meal that will delicious and festive enough to be fit for a king.

Continue reading beef brisket with merlot and prunes.

Monday, March 22, 2010

almond-lemon torte with fresh strawberry puree

almond-lemon torte with fresh strawberries

I don’t know about you, but Passover baked goods fail to excite me for the most part. The sponge-cake I’ve been used to eating for the holiday is dry and boring with barely any flavor to offer. And we are talking about dessert here, people. The period at the end of the sentence. Because that is what dessert is. Without it, a meal feels incomplete somehow, ending with an ellipsis, waiting for more.

egg shells
almond-lemon torte with fresh strawberries

But before I get carried away about punctuation and how it relates to dessert, let me say this: my Passover dessert woes are over. Completely, totally, wholly over. This cake you see here below comes together fairly quickly and doesn’t need much fussing. The olive oil makes the cake moist, giving it a delicate crumb. It’s not a dry and boring sponge cake that I remember eating in the past. Instead of flour, you use almond meal, which, if you cannot find it in your grocery store, you can make at home by taking almonds and pulverizing them in a food processor until the mixture becomes a fine meal. Some lemon and orange zest brighten up the flavors – whispering, “Spring is here!” and if that’s not enough – a homemade fresh strawberry puree takes this cake to a whole new level. When I tasted it, the bright, clean berry flavors made me want to take a leap in celebration of the brand new season and the most amazing weather New York has enjoyed since autumn last year. Immediately, I decided this is what I’ll make for our family Passover Seder this week.

almond-lemon torte with fresh strawberriesalmond-lemon torte with fresh strawberries
almond-lemon torte with fresh strawberriesalmond-lemon torte with fresh strawberries

Baking for my family is a tricky proposition. My mother, who is diabetic, can’t eat most baked goods and so I almost never bake at my parents’ house, because I hate the idea of her not being able to partake in it. But this cake here, without flour and low on carbohydrates (did I just write the word “carbohydrates” or what?) and a moderate amount of sugar – this is something she can have a slice of along with the rest of the family. And it makes me very happy to know that this time around, she’ll be able to have dessert after the Seder.

almond-lemon torte with fresh strawberriesalmond-lemon torte with fresh strawberries

Lastly, the recipe on the web advises a 10-inch spring-form pan, which I didn’t have. I had a 9-inch cake pan, left a bit of batter in the bowl and adjusted my baking time accordingly – it worked for me. Be carefully cooling the cake – it’s delicate and might sink if you move it around too much before it cools completely.

almond-lemon torte with fresh strawberriesalmond-lemon torte with fresh strawberries
almond-lemon torte with fresh strawberriesalmond-lemon torte with fresh strawberries

Continue reading almond-lemon torte with fresh strawberry puree.

Friday, March 19, 2010

haroset

haroset

All right folks, this will be short and sweet here. Work’s been crazy and I am actually writing this to you on my lunch break – the nerve. I keep trying to sit down and put my thoughts together, but there’s just so much to do during the day and after work, that by the time I get home, I’m a bit spent. I also need to apologize for these hideous photos. The night I took these – my photo mojo was seriously off. I tried so many different angles, lighting options, camera settings, and in the end, it just wasn’t happening. I had to accept the fact that on some nights, your photos will look disgusting. Like these.

However, what’s exciting is that Passover is right around the corner. I like to think of Passover as sort of a Jewish Thanksgiving of sorts. Done right – you have amazing food, memorable meals with family and friends and an opportunity to get a little creative in the kitchen with all the holiday dietary restrictions. It’s a challenge to get so creative that you wind up not missing chametz, or the “forbidden” foods. And with all the cooking to be done for the holiday week, this dish should be the least of your worries. It practically makes itself and it’s also incredibly delicious. Make lots because everyone will want to spoon some on the side of the plate and kids will be eating double that. Allowed to sit overnight, the flavor meld better and develop. Ideally, you’d make this ahead.

haroset

The traditional Ashkenazi haroset is little more than apples, walnuts and honey with a few other ingredients, all mixed together. Apples and honey are nothing new in the Jewish tradition – it’s the thing to eat on Rosh Hashana – for a sweet and prosperous New Year. As for the haroset preparation, there’s really nothing to it – you simply toast some walnuts for a few minutes until they’re fragrant and crunchy, and chop them up finely. You then peel a couple of apples, core them and chop those as well. Some folks prefer their haroset minced, but I like mine on a chunkier side. That way you can really taste the apple texture. And while a lot of versions like to add a few glugs of Manishewitz, or a fortified kosher wine, I prefer to add pomegranate molasses, which gives my otherwise Ashkenazi haroset a Middle Eastern twist. A pinch or two of cinnamon and your haroset is done – provided, of course, you let it sit in your fridge overnight.

haroset

And with that, I shall return to my spreadsheets and Power Point slides. I know what you’re thinking – lucky duck! Don’t be jealous now – sometimes life just isn’t fair.

Continue reading haroset.