Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Chewy Quinoa Bar Cookies (pareve, gluten free, Kosher for Passover)

This recipe was inspired by a number of recipes I've recently seen that call for cooked quinoa as one of the ingredients. Most caution that the cookie in question is not gluten free. I realized that if I could work out a recipe that is gluten free it would also be kosher for Passover. Because it's gluten free it doesn't have the "matzah cake-meal" taste that some members of our family complain about. If you are allergic to tree nuts, this recipe is definitely not for you.

The batter is very easy to make and requires no exotic baking equipment or hard to find ingredients.

The batter is prepared in a large bowl and mixed by hand. It is heavy and sticky, so make sure to line the pan with parchment. This will allow you to remove the baked cookie bar and cut the bar into smaller cookie squares. Baking parchment can be purchased in most supermarkets and is available on line. I often purchase my baking parchment from Plastic Container City, an on-line source for disposable baking pans and baking accessories.

kitchen scale (optional)
large mixing bowl
mixing spoon
silicone spatula
measuring cups, spoons
9x9 baking pan
baking parchment

1/4 c olive oil
1/2 c (3.8 oz) brown sugar (pack it well into the measuring cup)
1/4 c (2.5 oz)  honey
2 extra large eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 tsp almond or hazelnut extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
1.5 c (4.5 oz) finely ground nuts or nut flour (I used hazelnuts, but almonds would will work as well)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 c  (3oz) cooked and cooled quinoa
1/2 c  (3oz) chocolate chips
1/3 c (1oz) coconut flakes (sweetened or unsweetened)

1. Preheat oven to 370 degrees, the baking rack should be in the top 1/3 of the oven. Line the pan with parchment paper. Measure all of the ingredients.
2.Combine the oil, brown sugar, honey and eggs in the large bowl. Mix well.
3. Add the extracts and mix.
4. Add remaining ingredients, mixing after each addition. You will have a thick sticky batter.

5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Slip the pan into the oven, lower the heat to 350 and bake for 20 minutes. Lower the heat to 325 and bake an additional 20 minutes. Test to make sure cookies are done. 6.Shut off the oven and leave cookie bar in the oven to cool completely.
7. Lift the entire bar (using the sides of the parchment paper) and place on a flat surface. Cut into 16 squares. Using a flat edge spatula, slide the edge of the spatula under the cut bars and separate from the parchment. Place the cookie square on a dish or in a storage container.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Last Minute Vegetable Soup (Yellow version) - a no-recipe-recipe

Onions, winter squash and just about anything else you have in the kitchen mixed with vegetable stock or water or bullion......an all purpose soup (or veggie stew).  So easy you can do this with your eyes closed.

Full "recipe" on food52.com


Monday, December 16, 2013

Lemon Blueberry Biscotti (Mandelbread)

Lemon Blueberry Biscotti is a twice-baked cookie that has the tingle of lemon and the sweetness of blueberries.  Because the recipe uses dried blueberries you can enjoy this summertime taste in the dead of winter. 

For more information on twice-baked cookies follow this link. 

Fred is not a fan of the winter and so I thought that a lemon-blueberry something or other might make him momentarily forget that winter has arrived. This is an easy-to-bake one bowl recipe that can be mixed, baked and finished in about 2 hours (most of which is passive baking). Clean up is easy since there is no mixer and I suggest the use of parchment paper to line the pans. Baking parchment is available in the supermarket, although I've purchased pre-cut sheets at a better price from Plastic Container City (a web-based source).  

Choreography and Equipment: 
Measure (measuring cups, spoons and small bowls) all of the ingredients 
Mix ingredients in a large bowl with a large mixing spoon
Line a heavy baking sheet with parchment (the cookies may burn on a thin baking sheet) 
Form three logs along the width of the sheet
Bake for about 30 minutes, slice, sprinkle with a sugar/citric acid mixture (for additional sweet-tart flavor) and bake again for 20 minutes
Cool completely while in the oven 

1 cup  (8 oz) neutral flavored oil (canola, corn) 
1 cup (7 oz) granulated sugar 
3 extra large eggs 
1/2 cup (1 oz) nut flour or nut meal (almond or hazelnut).  
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp lemon oil * (you can use lemon extract, the flavor will not be as sharp)
zest of 1 lemon
1/4 tsp Kosher salt 
1/4 cup (2 oz)  minus 2 TBSP water 
5 cups (20 oz) unbleached, all purpose flour 
1 1/4 tsp baking powder 
1 cup (6 oz) dried blueberries 
For sprinkled topping:  1/4 c demerara sugar mixed with 1/4 tsp citric acid*

* Lemon Oil and Citric Acid (also called Sour Salt ) are available in supermarkets with larger baking sections. You can also find these ingredients on-line. A good internet source includes LorAnn Oils and Flavors . 

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Measure all of the ingredients.

2. Using a large mixing bowl, combine oil and sugar. Add the eggs and mix well. 

3. Add the nut meal, flavorings, zest, salt and water. Mix well 

4. Combine the flour and baking powder (either sift together or mix well) . Add to the oil/egg mixture. 

 5. Add the blueberries and mix.

6. With the dough, form 3 logs along the width of the baking pan. Slightly flatten the top of each log.

7. Bake the cookie logs for 30-35 minutes until they begin to slightly brown. While the logs are baking, combine the demerara sugar and citric acid.

8. Remove the partially baked cookie logs from the oven. Allow to cool for 4-5 minutes and then carefully slice the logs to form cookie slices (about 1/2- 3/4 inch thick).

9. Turn the sliced on one side and sprinkle with the demerara sugar mixture.

10. Return the baking sheet to the oven, lower the heat to 325 degrees and bake for an additional 20 minutes.  Shut the oven off and cool the cookies completely in the oven.
11. Store the cookies in a closed container. They will stay crisp at room temperature for several days. For longer storage, wrap the container and freeze for up to one month.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Mafrum : meat stuffed vegetables cooked in a spicy tomato sauce

Mafrum is a fabulous stuffed vegetable dish originating in Libya.  

We learned to prepare it from Shalom H., an Israeli friend whose family comes from Egypt. Watching Shalom cook is a treat - he has an innate talent for cooking - we slowed him down by asking him to actually measure and describe what he was doing as he cooked. We look forward to sitting in his new kitchen to continue learning from him.....

Mafrum, I have recently learned from a colleague, has some similarities to a Puerto Rican/ Latin American dish called Rellenos de Papa  or Papas Rellenas (stuffed potatoes). Perhaps Mafrum, a North African/Middle Eastern dish has Spanish roots as well.  Maybe all roads making use of nightshade plants (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers- sweet & hot) lead back to Christopher Columbus.

From my limited research Libyans favor stuffing eggplant for their mafrum (eggplant is a nightshade plant originating in India), Israelis favor stuffing potatoes; Shalom said we could also stuff sweet potatoes, eggplant or plantains.

Preparation of mafrum is time consuming, but not difficult. It can be frozen for a short period, but is best served fresh. Since it doesn't require the use of chometz (Shalom instructed us to use matzah meal OR bread crumbs in the meat) we've made mafrum for Passover - an interesting addition to our Ashkenazi table.

This recipe is an amalgam of Shalom's recipe combined with a few ingredients and preparation elements from Jerusalem Cookbook (Ottolenghi & Tamimi, Ten Speed Press, 2012).  Mafrum is traditionally simmered in a covered pot and traditionally the potato is "almost" sliced in half and the slit filled. In Jewish homes it was prepared as a Shabbat lunch dish, meaning that it would simmer overnight in a communal oven or be kept warm on a "platta" (hot plate) overnight. We prepare mafrum using a lightly oiled baking dish, adding a bit of additional water to the sauce covered stuffed vegetables, covering tightly with foil and baking it in a moderate oven for 1 1/2- 2 hours. For those who are Shabbat observant, the tightly covered dish can be transferred to a hot tray and kept overnight if you want to use it for a very impressive Shabbat lunch. The longer the mafrum cooks the creamier the potatoes (or eggplant or plantain) will become. Be careful not to allow it to dry out.

This recipe will easily serve 12-14 as a main dish.


  • Prepare the sauce, simmer while you are working with the meat and stuffing vegetables 
  • Mix the meat filling 
  • Prepare the potatoes or other other vegetables for stuffing 
  • Stuff the vegetables, place in a baking pan
  • Pour sauce over the stuffed vegetables 
  • Cover tightly and bake for 1 1/2 - 2 hours
  • Serve warm with cous-cous or rice 

The sauce:
(Adjust spices to your taste, use measurements as a starting point.)
1 large onion, diced    
1-2 tsp finely diced garlic
3 stalks celery, chopped
2-3 carrots, diced
small amount of olive oil for sauteing the vegetables
1/4-1/2 tsp chili powder (start slowly, you can always add more)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp caraway seeds (grind or pulverize in a mortar & pestle)
2 Tbsp tamarind paste (can be purchased at Middle Eastern grocery stores)
3 small cans tomato paste (plus 7-8 can-fulls of water, plus more if needed)
2 tsp granulated sugar

The bits of potato or other vegetable centers can be chopped and cooked in the sauce.
Optional sauce additions, according to Shalom, can include zucchini, mushrooms and dried figs. 

Meat Filling: 
(Adjust the spices to your taste)
3 lbs ground beef
1 tsp salt (omit if you are using kosher meat)
1 large onion, diced
1-2 tsp finely diced garlic
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2-1 tsp sweet paprika
1/4-1/2 tsp cumin
1/4-1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4-1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp thyme
1- 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2-1 tsp chopped mint leaves
1/2 cup chopped parsley leaves
4 large eggs
1/2 c matzah meal or bread crumbs
a small amount of lemon zest for any meat being stuffed into plantains

Stuffing Vegetables:

Choice of vegetables to be stuffed:
Yukon gold potatoes, sliced in half and hollowed out with a melon baller
Plaintains, sliced lengthwise and scraped out a bit. Shalom noted on his instructions to add a bit of lemon zest to the meat used for stuffing the plantains
Asian style eggplant, sliced lengthwise, scraped out
Sweet potatoes, sliced lengthwise in half, hollowed out with a melon baller

1. Prepare the sauce by sauteing the onions until translucent, adding the garlic until it begins to slightly brown, adding the carrots and celery. Stir and cook over low heat until the carrots begin to soften (about 4-5 minutes). If you are adding other vegetable you can add them at this point, or if you are using the vegetable bits after hollowing out the stuffing vegetables, you can add that them after you hollow out those vegetables and simmer the sauce for about 10 additional minutes to make sure the flavors meld.
2. Add the spices and tamarind paste. Stir and bring to a slow simmer.

3. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer. Continue to cook for 10-15 minutes. Add a bit more water if necessary. The sauce should be thick, but spoonable.

4. Prepare the filling by adding the listed ingredients to the ground beef. Mix well and set aside.
5. Prepare the potatoes or other vegetable you plan to fill. Press the meat firmly to fill the cavity, filling each vegetable with enough meat to create a domed top. Place the meat-filled vegetable in the baking dish.
filled potato halves

filled plantain halves

6. Spoon a generous amount of tomato sauce on top of the filled vegetables, add a bit more water to the pan.
7. Cover tightly with foil and bake in the oven, preheated to 350-360 degrees for 1 1/2- 2 hours. Do not open foil, cool in the oven if not serving immediately. 

8. NOTE: Shalom also instructed us that you can make a layered casserole with the same ingredients, omitting the more time consuming step of hollowing out and stuffing the vegetables. Spoon sauce as one of the layers and then again on the top. Cover tightly and bake for 1 1/2- 2 hours. Remove the foil for the last 1/2 hour.