Shanah Tovah: Rosh Hashanah Dinner

Despite the balmy 80 degree weather this weekend in New England, fall is upon us.  And with it comes apple picking, pumpkin everything, and the Jewish high holidays.  While no one really looks forward to Yom Kippur (although it is fun to stuff your face with bagels and lox after 24 hours of fasting…and I suppose to pray and ask for forgiveness), Rosh Hashanah is always an exciting holiday.  Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish new year and also the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve.  There are a lot of religious customs but what most people remember and look forward to is the tradition of eating apples dipped in honey to welcome in a “sweet new year”.

While the main event of this holiday is praying and reflecting at synagogue, blowing the shofar, and beginning the first of ten days of repentance, the celebratory meal often takes central focus.  I have been hosting Rosh Hashanah dinner for the past several years for my busy co-workers and friends who often don’t have time to make it to a synagogue or celebrate the New Year.  It’s a way to get my close friends together to celebrate Rosh Hashanah in our own way (with good food!).

Scroll down for pictures from this year’s dinner along with some recipes.  L’shanah tovah!

Rosh Hashanah cocktail from Union Square Cafe in NYC.

Ronda’s Challah

(This recipe is from my childhood best friend’s mom, you won’t find a better challah around!)

1 cup very warm water
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup honey
1 egg
1 tsp salt
4 cups flour
1 package Fleishman’s rapid rise yeast (important that this be rapid rise and not active)
1 egg
sesame seeds (optional)
2 apples chopped, cinnamon and honey (optional for making apple and honey challah)

Add the first 6 ingredients into a bread machine in order listed. Make a hole in the top of the flour and add the yeast. Set bread machine to dough cycle (approximately 1 to 1.5 hours depending on the machine). Take out dough and place on well floured surface. Punch down the dough several times and then make into 3 ropes. Braid the challah and place on greased baking sheet. If you want to make apple and honey challah then roll challah into one long rope, flatten and stuff with a mixture of apples, honey and cinnamon.  Roll into a bun shape.  Cover challah with towel and let rise for 1-2 hours. Beat egg and paint onto challah. Sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired. Bake in preheated 350˚F oven for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown.

Recipe for spiced brisket with apricot and leeks.

I have been making this recipe for almost 8 years and it is always a hit!  I’ve found that it is best to start it 2 days ahead of time and cook it the day before- leftover brisket always tastes better!

Now to the desserts…

Peanut swirl brownies

Rich and fudgey brownies with peanut butter, proclaimed by some to be the “best brownies in the world”!  I cut the recipe by half and make it in a 9×13 inch pan.  Be careful not to over bake!

Apple Crunch Galette that I served with lavender goat cheese honey ice cream.  The ice cream is a spin on the honey ice cream I made last year with an added twist:  I infused the milk/cream with dried lavender and substituted the cream cheese for 2 oz of goat cheese.

Apple Crunch Galette

(from the Kosher by Design cookbook)

Crust:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbs sugar
2 sticks (1 cup, 16 Tbs) unsalted butter, cold, cut into about 8 pieces
4-5 Tbs ice water

Streusel:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup old fashioned oats (not quick cooking or instant)
6 Tbs melted butter

Apple Filling:
5-6 medium apples
1/2 cup sugar
3 Tbs all-purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt
3 Tbs apricot preserves
1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 tsp water or milk

For the crust:

In a food processor, pulse flour, salt, and sugar 2-3 times until mixed.  Add the diced, chilled butter.  Pulse until mixture resembles peas.  Add the ice water 1 Tbs at a time until the dough comes together.

Turn dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper.  Knead briefly to bring together in a ball and flatten slightly into a disc.   Refrigerate for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

For the streusel:

In the meantime make the streusel by combining all ingredients in a small bowl and mixing with a fork until it comes together.  Set aside.

For the apples:

Peel, seed and slice the apples.

In a large bowl, combine the apples, flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt.  Toss gently to coat.  Set aside.

To assemble the crostata:

Preheat the oven to 375.  Remove the dough from the refrigerator and set on a lightly floured piece of parchment paper.  Roll the dough into a 14-15 inch circle.

Leaving a 3 inch border, spread the apricot preserves over the center of the dough.  Sprinkle evenly with 3/4 of streusel topping.  Next, starting at the outer edge and working your way into the center, lay the apple slices in concentric circles, going around and adding layers until the apples are used.  Sprinkle with remaining streusel.  Using the parchment to help, fold the dough border over the apples, turning as needed.  The dough will cover 2-3 inches of filling.  Slide crostata carefully on the parchment paper onto rimless baking sheet.  Brush exposed dough with beaten egg yolk.

Bake for 25 minutes.  Remove from oven and carefully cover dough with foil to prevent burning.  Bake for another 20-30 minutes until crust is golden brown and apples are tender.  Let cool for about an hour before cutting and serving.

And finally, what to do with leftovers..

brisket hash…

or…

Challah french toast with apple syrup! 

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Cooking Lessons: Curry Risotto with Tandori Chicken

My cooking lessons continued last week with a slightly more complicated dish.  My friend had just gotten back from vacation and had tried an unusual dish while abroad: chicken curry risotto.  I love risotto and I love Indian food so it made perfect sense to combine these two into one dish: Italian-Indian fusion? Might just be the next new thing…

Risotto is classic Italian comfort food.  It is a rice dish from northern Italy that is cooked slowly until it develops a creamy consistency.  For those who like to constantly be doing something while they cook, this is the dish for you.

It starts by sautéing an aromatic element such as onion and garlic- we also used ginger to add an Indian flavor.  You then add the arborio rice (a short grain rice with capacity to absorb a lot of liquid) and wine to deglaze the pan.  Once the wine has reduced the fun begins!  Little by little, you add broth to the pot and stir constantly until all the broth is absorbed.  You repeat this process until the rice is “al dente” and creamy.

We made a curry broth by adding spices to chicken broth but you can use any flavor variation to make a risotto of your choice: vegetable, beef, mushroom, seafood, etc.  Oftentimes the risotto is finished off with lemon juice, cheese (goat cheese, parmesan, blue cheese), fresh herbs, or cream.  Make sure to season as you go and serve immediately or else the risotto will continue to cook and become a mushy mess! (and if you have any leftovers save it to make arancini the next day!)

Curry Risotto with Tandori Chicken

(serves 6)

For the Tandori Chicken (from Fine Cooking):

8 bone-in chicken thighs
1 cup plain nonfat yogurt
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2 medium lemons)
1 Tbs. peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger
1 Tbs. finely chopped garlic
2 tsp. ground coriander
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. garam masala
1-1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. cayenne
1 lemon, cut in half

For the curry risotto:IMG_1377

6 cups of chicken broth
1 can (14 oz) coconut milk
3 Tbs curry powder
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cinnamon
5 Tbs tomato paste
2 Tbs sugar
4 Tbs butter, divided
1 Tbs olive oilIMG_1374
1/2 of a sweet onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbs ginger, minced
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
2 cups arborio rice
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 lemon, juiced
salt and pepper to taste
cilantro, chopped for garnish (optional)

For the Tandori chicken:

Remove the skin and trim excess fat from the chicken. With a sharp chef’s knife, cut three or four long, diagonal slits on each thigh against the grain, almost to the bone.

In a large, shallow bowl, mix together the yogurt, lemon juice, ginger, garlic, coriander, cumin, garam masala, kosher salt, and cayenne. Add the chicken, turning to coat and making sure that the marinade gets into all of the slits in the chicken. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator, at least 2 hours and up to 12 hours.

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375ºF. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil. Transfer the chicken from the marinade to the baking sheet, spacing the thighs evenly. Discard any remaining marinade. Roast until the juices run clear when the chicken is pierced and an instant-read thermometer in a meaty part of a thigh registers 170°F, about 45 minutes

Squeeze the lemon halves over the chicken. Let it cool for about 20-30 min before using for the risotto. (may be refrigerated at this point if making ahead) Once cooled, remove chicken from bones and cut into bite sized pieces.

For the curry risotto:

Make the broth by adding the chicken broth, coconut milk, curry powder, cumin, cinnamon, tomato paste, and sugar into a medium pot and whisking until blended.  Heat to a simmer and cover.

Meanwhile, heat 2 Tbs butter and the olive oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute.  Add the mushrooms and cook for another minute.  Add some salt and pepper to taste (I like to season as I go to add layers of flavor).

Add the rice to “toast” it, and stir for about 1 minute.  Add the white wine and let reduce for about a minute, while stirring constantly.  Reduce heat to medium-low.  Ladle about 1 cup of the curry broth into the rice and simmer until absorbed, stirring frequently.  Once the liquid is absorbed, continue adding broth, a 1/2 cup at a time, allowing broth to be absorbed before adding more, stirring frequently the whole time.  Continue this until rice is creamy and tender, and most of the broth (if not all) is used, about 25-30 minutes.

Stir in lemon juice, remaining 2 Tbs butter , salt and pepper to taste and finally the chicken to rewarm it.  Serve immediately and top with cilantro.

Edible Exposure: Food and Photography Class

I think I’ve missed my calling: food photography (aka food pornographer).  As I mentioned in my last post, my research fellowship has given me quite a bit of free time that I have been filling with both old (cooking/baking/eating) and new (photography) hobbies.  In my quest to completely fill my free time with something meaningful, I turned the to Boston Center for Adult Education’s (BCAE) fall curriculum of food related classes.  I had taken a few classes at their old location on Commonwealth Ave. but had not had the time to try out a class at their gorgeous new space on Arlington St.  I was excited to see that they had a “celebrity chef” series with well-known Boston area chefs taking charge of the classes.  I was of course immediately drawn to the class entitled Edible Exposure: Food and Photography with Michael Scelfo.  Not only did I want to learn more about food and photography, but Michael Scelfo is the owner and chef at one of my favorite local restaurants, Alden and Harlow, nominated for one of Bon Appetit’s best new restaurants of 2014.  I immediately signed up and was lucky to get a spot in this intimate class for 12.

The class started on a Tuesday evening at 6PM and we were greeted by representatives from 90+ Cellars wine who immediately poured us glasses of wine, picked especially for this dinner.  Once we were settled in (and slightly more relaxed), Michael gave a brief overview of food photography.  The class was geared towards using an iPhone (or smart phone) and various iPhone apps to edit the photos.  I, of course, couldn’t resist bringing my new “toy” (Nikon D5300) but learned a lot about different apps that can be used to edit the photos. I was pretty impressed that he does all the photography and editing that he posts on social media himself (Twitter: @mscelfo, @aldenharlow; Instagram: @mscelfo, @aldenharlow)- he takes some amazing food photos!

He then introduced his 2 sous chefs that he brought along to make our dinner that night.

On the menu:

I’ll admit, I was a little disappointed that we didn’t actually get to make any of the dishes (or at least get the recipes!), but it would have been an ambitious feat for a 3 hour class.  Plus, how can you complain about a private dinner and photography lesson (with wine) from Michael Scelfo?

The first dish was the spicy shishito peppers…and spicy they were!  Normally 1 in 10 peppers are spicy but I got “lucky” and at least 75% of mine were hot!!!!  For this photo with lots of shades of green, he showed us how to improve it’s appearance by turning down the “warmth” feature in Instagram. Decreasing the warmth brought in more blue tones to deepen the green color.

The next course was the charred broccoli with squash hummus.

This may have been my favorite dish of the night.  (My next mission will be to try to recreate that hummus!)  With this dish, he showed us how to use the app “color splash” which allows you to highlight one or two colors in a photo while leaving the rest black and white to really emphasize the main focus of the photo (in this case the food).

(photo courtesy of Michael Scelfo)

The final dish was the trenne pasta (a triangle shaped penne type pasta), a new menu item at Alden and Harlow.  The pasta was perfectly cooked and paired with guanciale, cherry tomatoes and finally anchovy crumbs for a texture contrast and umami type flavor.  This dish was full of color and therefore perfect for photos.  After taking photos of this final course, he showed us how to use the app “pic frame” to create a collage of the night’s dishes (see above).

Overall, this was a super fun (and tasty) class full of great food and helpful photo tips.  I can’t wait to try them out for my blog photos…and to return to Alden and Harlow for the amazing food!

Rustic Peach Crostata

 

This July I started a 2 year hiatus from the craziness of residency to pursue a research fellowship in surgical oncology.  It has been quite an adjustment to go from running around the hospital for 24 (often 30) hours straight without eating, drinking or sleeping to sitting at a desk and reading and entering data.  I also get to wear “normal” clothes now (aka not scrubs) and people around the hospital no longer recognize me (I’m not sure what this says about my general appearance for the past 3 years…).  This “slower” pace of life as given me A LOT more free time that I have been filling with spinning and barre classes, cooking/baking, going to the beach, exploring as much of the Boston restaurant scene as my waistband and wallet will allow, and catching up with friends I’ve neglected for the past 3 years.  But alas, I decided I still didn’t have enough to do so I decided to pick up a fancy new hobby- photography!

I have always had an interest in photography and took a black and white photography class in high school where we developed our own prints.  However, recently my idea of photography has been my iPhone and instagram.  While I have taken some great pictures this way, I decided it was finally time for an upgrade.  For my 30th birthday present, my parents and I joined forces to purchase a DSLR camera.  After much research, I settled on the Nikon D5300- a compact and relatively lightweight, higher end entry-level DSLR camera.

I’ve been experimenting with it for the past week all over Boston and so far I love it!

 

 

After a week of experimentation, I decided it was finally time to put it to the test for my blog.  I threw around a few ideas for my camera’s debut blog entry and finally settled on something that was both seasonal and aesthetically pleasing: a rustic peach crostata. Not only were the peaches fun to photograph, but the spiral design of the crostata, which gets hidden a bit in the final product, is actually quite beautiful.

What’s great about crostatas is that if you have trouble with pie crusts (like I do), you don’t have to worry- the whole point of the crostata is to look a bit rustic and imperfect.  This recipe is adapted from an apple crostata recipe that actually comes from a Kosher cookbook (Kosher by Design).  Feel free to substitute other firm fruits (such as apples, pears, plums) for a variation.  My favorite thing about this recipe is that it adds a streusel layer (both on the bottom and top) for extra crunch and flavor (mmmmmm butter and brown sugar).  It is best served warm with a side of ice cream (try corn, mascarpone, or salted caramel ice cream to create an interesting flavor contrast).

Rustic Peach Crostata

(adapted from Kosher by Design)

Crust:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbs sugar
2 sticks (1 cup, 16 Tbs) unsalted butter, cold, cut into about 8 pieces
4-5 Tbs ice water

Streusel:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup old fashioned oats (not quick cooking or instant)
6 Tbs melted butter

Peach Filling:
5-6 peaches medium peaches (6 if you’re like me and eat about the equivalent of one peach in peach slices that weren’t pretty enough to photograph)
1/4 cup sugar
4 Tbs all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp salt
3 Tbs apricot preserves
1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 tsp water or milk

For the crust:

In a food processor, pulse flour, salt, and sugar 2-3 times until mixed.  Add the diced, chilled butter.  Pulse until mixture resembles peas.  Add the ice water 1 Tbs at a time until the dough comes together.

Turn dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper.  Knead briefly to bring together in a ball and flatten slightly into a disc.   Refrigerate for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

For the streusel:

In the meantime make the streusel by combining all ingredients in a small bowl and mixing with a fork until it comes together.  Set aside.

For the peaches:

Peel, pit and slice the peaches.

In a large bowl, combine the peaches, flour, sugar, ginger and salt.  Toss gently to coat.  Set aside.

To assemble the crostata:

Preheat the oven to 375.  Remove the dough from the refrigerator and set on a lightly floured piece of parchment paper.  Roll the dough into a 14-15 inch circle.

Leaving a 3 inch border, spread the apricot preserves over the center of the dough.  Sprinkle evenly with 3/4 of streusel topping.  Next, starting at the outer edge and working your way into the center, lay the peach slices in concentric circles, going around and adding layers until the peaches are used.  Sprinkle with remaining streusel.  Using the parchment to help, fold the dough border over the peaches, turning as needed.  The dough will cover 2-3 inches of filling.  Slide crostata carefully on the parchment paper onto rimless baking sheet.  Brush exposed dough with beaten egg yolk.

Bake for 25 minutes.  Remove from oven and carefully cover dough with foil to prevent burning.  Bake for another 20-30 minutes until crust is golden brown and peaches are bubbling.  Let cool for about an hour before cutting and serving.