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Rugelach

This one brings me back to high school – I had an after school job working at Noah’s Bagels with a bunch of friends.  I have awesome memories from that time – escaping to the walk-in cooler to down a Yoo Hoo during breaks, blasting one of the two CDs that was kept in the back prep room (I remember The Police’s Greatest Hits always being on), soaping up the floors at night with dish soap so we could slide around, and seeing all the fun we could have with customers (“okay, with this person, you have to work in the word ‘penguin'”).

In addition to the mountains of bagels eaten during this period (this is where I discovered my perfect peanut butter and honey bagel, and no one else has been able to fix one quite the same way), I also used my employee discount on kosher snacks from the bakery case – Mrs. Maltz’s knishes, lox in all different shades and flavors, hamantaschen and rugelach.

I found a recipe for rugelach in my favorite baking book, and had to set aside some quality time to recreate the memories.  As great as they were back then, this recipe blows them out of the water – they’re crispy and flaky without being dry, studded with little morsels of fruit, nuts and chocolate.  I tried to convince Chris that they’re best eaten in 4 bites, but he just chalked it up to my OCD food habits and downed them all in one snap.

Rugelach, from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking:

For the dough:
4oz cold cream cheese, cut into 4 pieces
1 stick cold butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt

For the filling:
2/3c jam (I used apricot)
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4c chopped nuts (I used walnuts)
1/4c dried currants
4oz finely chopped bittersweet chocolate or 2/3c mini chocolate chips

For the glaze:
1 large egg
1 tsp cold water
2 Tbsp coarse sugar

Let the cream cheese and butter rest so that they’re softened but still cool.  Put the flour and salt in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, scatter over the butter and cream cheese and pulse 6-10 times.  Then process just until the dough forms large curds, not so long that it forms a ball on the blade.

Turn the dough out, gather into a ball and divide in half.  Shape into discs, wrap in plastic wrap and refridgerate for at least 2 hours (I froze my dough for a month before I was able to motivate for the next project day).

Prepare your filling – liquify the jam in the microwave, and stir the sugar and cinnamon together.

Pull one disc of the dough from the fridge and roll it into an 12″ circle.  Brush a thin layer of jam over the dough and sprinkle with half of the cinnamon sugar.  Scatter over half of the nuts, currants and chocolate, and press the filling into the dough.

Cut the circle into 16 wedges.  Starting at the base of each triangle, roll up the dough (just like you would with those addictive Pillsbury crescent rolls).

Arrange them on a baking sheet with the points tucked under and refrigerate at least 30 minutes before baking.  Repeat the rolling, brushing, sprinkling, scattering, pressing, cutting, rolling and refrigerating on the second dough disc.

Stir together the egg and water, and brush the glaze over each cookie.  Sprinkle them with the coarse sugar and bake at 350° for 20 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back after the first 10 minutes, until they are puffed and golden.

Somehow I never caught a picture of the finished product – must’ve disappeared too quickly.  I’m telling you – four bites a piece!  Instead, I’ll leave you with a picture from those lovely times with the one Noah’s item I never tried – chubs.

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Planning

Reaping

Our winter harvest has been a big one this year – typically we’ll pull some scrawny beets and carrots, clip a couple of chard stems and be done with it.  I never expect the winter harvest to give us much produce, which is why we supplement with a CSA box.  With the extra San Diego rain this year, we’ve got Pacific-Northwest-sized veggies coming out of the ground, so it’s been a little bit of a battle to stay ahead of the produce!

Luckily, God invented the internet.  I’ve been scouring CSA websites that are conveniently organized by vegetable for ideas.  A few of my faves:

Live Earth
Anchor Run

Tuscon

I yanked 1/3 of the beet harvest and realized that I had a serious issue on my hands – big beets, and lots of ’em!

I found a recipe that could be easily adapted to what was already in my cupboard, and got to work.

Roasted Beets with Quinoa, Caramelized Onions and Sausage

3-4 large beets, including their greens
1 large onion, diced
olive oil and butter
1c quinoa
balsamic vinegar
sausage (I used half of  a kielbasa, about 1 cup sliced into 1″ slices)

Separate the beets from their greens and make sure they’re well washed.  Roast the beets, wrapped in foil at 400° for about 1 hour or until a knife enters them easily.  While they’re roasting, get to cookin’ on the other pieces.

Add enough olive oil and butter (in equal-ish parts) to a medium pan to coat.  Put on medium heat and toss, then cook them down to their most lovely yellow caramelized state.  Stir occasionally while they cook – it should take about 45 minutes until you start drooling.

Rinse the quinoa and put it in 1-1/2c salted cold water in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cover the pan.  Let it cook, covered, for about 30 minutes (the liquid should all disappear), then fluff with a fork.  Set aside.

You can return your attention to the onions now – at the end of their cooking time, add a good splash of balsamic vinegar (I had some pomegranate balsamic, which was heavenly!).  This will reduce and glaze the onions, adding a little extra sweetness and bite at the same time. Add the sliced sausage and stir to combine.

Separate your beet greens from their stems and chop both into bite-sized pieces, keeping them separate.  The stems will take a couple of extra minutes, so add them to the onions first.  Add the beet greens and cover for a minute or two, allowing them to steam into the dish.  Remove from heat, salt and pepper to taste.

Peel and chop the roasted beets and, depending on your red-food-squeamish-factor, you can either stir the whole mess together (greens, beets and quinoa), or serve them buffet style.


This dish was hearty and comforting without being heavy, and was even better the next day for lunch.  Next time I’ll try tossing some red pepper flakes in the mix as a contrast to the sweetness of the onions and beets.

Now to tackle all this lettuce…

Ris-asta

If only I could live like Norman, who’s found her new favorite spot – whenever I step away from the heating pad, she’s commandeered it as her own.  Looking at me like “bitch, please – this is mine now”…

Instead, I’ve been left looking for inspiration on these strangely cold and windy San Diego days.  Since I’d been banished from the couch, I picked up the Zuni Cafe cookbook and this recipe struck me – pasta cooked like risotto then baked for a crunchy top and creamy, noodley middle?  Sounds like perfect comfort food.  I deem it Risasta.  Or maybe it’s pastoto.  Anyway, it’s really called fideus, and it’s delicious.  It’s a bit of a process, so reserve a Saturday afternoon or plan to complete the dish in stages.

Zuni Fideus with Wild Mushrooms and Peas

Onion base:
3c finely diced yellow onions
6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt
1/4c chopped drained canned tomato or 1/2c chopped peeled, ripe tomato
A few garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 small dried chiles, broken in half (I had a couple that I’d dried from last summer’s harvest, and wish I’d stuck with just one – they packed quite a punch!  Next time I’ll start slow and adjust from there)
a pinch of saffron threads

Toasted noodles:

10 oz cappellini, broken into 1/2″ pieces (initial attempts at cutting with a knife were disastrous, and breaking them by hand was no picnic either – let me know if you come up with a sneaky way to do this pleasantly)
2 tsp olive oil

For finishing the dish:
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil, divided (you may need less, see below)
4-6 oz chanterelle, porcini or morel mushrooms, cleaned and sliced about 1/4″ thick
salt
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
6c chicken stock
1c shucked sweet english peas or shucked sugar snap peas (I used frozen as our pea harvest just never quite produced this year)
handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

Onion base:
The base is a true winner in this dish – I had to stop myself from spooning it directly onto toast and devouring right away.  Next time – double batch.

Place the onions and olive oil in a 2 qt saucepan, set over medium-high heat and stir to combine.  Let the onions on the bottom color, then stir again and reduce the heat to medium-low. Continue to cook, stirring regularly, until the onions have reduced by about half and are generally golden, about 15 minutes. Salt to taste.

Reduce heat to low, stir in tomato, garlic, chili and saffron and cook, stirring occasionally, for another hour or so on the lowest heat: when the mixture is ready, it will be suave and jam-like with no trace of acidity.  If it starts to dry out or look oily around the edges, add a few drops of water or stock to re-emulsify the mixture.  You should get about 2 cups (onion jam will keep 1 week or so, covered and refrigerated).

Toasting the noodles:
Preheat oven to 325. Toss noodles in the olive oil just to coat, then spread evenly in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Toast until the color of cornflakes, about 20 minute; stir the noodles or rotate the pan if not browning evenly.  Set aside.  If you plan to finish the fideus in the oven  (which you should because it’s awesome), raise the heat to 475.

Finishing the dish:
Warm about half of the olive oil in a 3 qt saute pan over med heat.  Add the mushrooms, salt them and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are tender but only slightly golden on the edges, 3-8 minutes, depending on variety and moisture content.  Stir in the garlic.  Taste a mushroom – it should be delicious already; if at all bland add a little more salt or garlic, or cook little longer to concentrate the flavor.
Add the onion base, toasted noodles, and about 1-1/2c of the stock.  Let the risasta making begin.  Bring to a simmer and stir as the noodles absorb this first dose of stock, about 2 minutes. Add the peas and another 1-1/2c stock and bring to a simmer. Stir until the stock is absorbed, another 3 minutes or so, then add another 1-1/2c stock.  Continue to cook, just simmering, until this dose is absorbed, another few minutes.  Check a noodle for doneness – it should be chewy. Add the parsley, the final 1-1/2c stock and the remaining olive oil (I found my dish had enough oil at this point – proceed as you wish).  Taste for salt.

Stir and cook the fideus over slightly higher heat until the stock is fully absorbed and the noodles are tender through or, to finish the dish in the oven, slide the juicy noodles into a shallow flameproof 3pt baking dish (my pan was ovenproof, so I just popped it right in), bring to a simmer, and place the pan in the top half of the oven.  Bake uncovered until the stock is completely absorbed, about 10 min. Apparently this last step is not following in fideus tradition, but pshaw – it makes for a great texture contrast.  Love this last statement in the recipe: “Though purists may scoff, I like the variety and contrast of the al dente surface noodles, which are especially caramelized and crisp at the edges of the pan, with the remainder underneath, cooked to tender, slippery succulence”.  That’s definitely the risasta definition in my upcoming made-up-words dictionary: tender, slippery succulence.

Multi-Grain Scones

I’ve been cooking a lot of the old favorites these days, getting my recipes from the trusty box rather than finding new and exciting things.  Something about the comfort of the known.

The freezer is stocked full of bierocks, I’ve got spring rolls all prepped and ready to assemble this afternoon, and whipped up a pan of THE BEST CANDY BARS EVER last night.  Seriously, have you made those yet?  I heard them referred to as vegan crack, and I can’t agree more.  They’re actually the perfect companion piece to these scones, as you may have some grains and nuts left over to throw in.

Maybe I’ll have one to get me started today…

Okay, on to the new.  Well, new to the site, but these scones are another staple in our household.  They’re relatively healthy, as scones go, full of grains and goodness.  I’ve made them with different combinations of ingredients, using whatever extra grains I may have in the cupboard.  Feel free to experiment and let me know of some winning combinations!

Multi-Grain Scones (adapted from a Dr. Andrew Weil recipe)

1 egg
1/2 cup sugar (I’ve used honey here, and it’s lovely)
1/3 cup grapeseed oil (if you don’t have it, use canola)
zest from 1 lemon
1/2 cup oats
1/4 cup wheat bran or wheat germ
1-1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp millet (or quinoa, amaranth, flax seeds, etc – any small grain that will give you a little crunch)
2 Tbsp poppy seeds (or sesame, or… you get the idea)
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup milk (soy or rice milk works fine here also)

Topping (optional): raw cane sugar or a lemon glaze (juice of 1 lemon whisked with 1/4 cup powdered sugar)

Whisk the egg, sugar and oil together, then add the dry ingredients (lemon zest through cinnamon).  Stir until combined, then add the milk and mix well.  Let the dough sit while you preheat the oven to 375°.  The dough comes out a little wet, and the extra time will soften your grains while soaking up some of that moisture.

Scoop out the dough onto a greased baking pan, allowing a little room for spreading.  You can make them as big or as small as you’d like – I used a large soup spoon and came out with about 12 scones.  Or, as I’ll be telling Chris when he gets home, 10.

If desired, sprinkle with some raw cane sugar and pop in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until just golden brown and dry to the touch.  If you’re using a lemon glaze, let these cool for about 15 minutes, then drizzle the glaze over top.

Mmm, good enough to eat two in one sitting!  They’re not crumbly like some scones, but are more of an oatmeal-cookie-consistency, with all of those great little grainy bits inside to crunch on.

These freeze well, so I plan to pick up a baggie of bierocks and a baggie of scones each morning on my way to work, enjoying those old standbys.

New Digs!

I’d like to submit for your consideration that I have the most generous mother in the entire world – some may disagree, but can your mom do this?

House?  Painted.  By hand. In a week.  Done!

Her most recent demonstration of badassitude came last month, when she and her remodeling partner-in-crime Jim came down to renovate our kitchen.  They installed Chris’ new favorite toy, the all-mighty dishwasher, and installed new cabinets all around.  It’s our new sanctuary, and it’s getting me back in the kitchen to play!

Aah, new cabinets, countertops, sink, everything!  We’ll get to the backsplash and the drawer pulls in a bit, but it’s heaven even now.

I hopped right in when they were done and made some old standbys: whole wheat biscuits, sauteed chard and mushrooms, and our fave, the  Zuni Cafe Roast Chicken (sans bread salad).  We sat in the kitchen and gazed at our new digs as we ate, savoring the blessings of family.

I think I’ll rest my case there – the evidence is overwhelming.

It’s In The Blood

My grandpa, growing front yard ‘chokes in Las Vegas!