Apple and Walnut Charoset


Happy Passover!!  I know it’s a bit belated, but I still managed to sneak in this recipe before the end of Passover.


Passover is one of my favorite Jewish holidays; actually one of my favorite holidays, period.  I love how it centers around family ritual and retelling the story of Moses and the early Israelites.  Plus there are many ways to tie in current events and generate discussions with the girls about freedom, slavery, persecution, and other social justice topics.


The Passover celebration centers around the seder meal with its seder plate.  The plate holds symbolic foods – a lamb shank signifying the sacrificial lamb, a hard-boiled egg representing new life, etc.  Charoset represents the mortar used by Israelite workers while enslaved in Egypt.


It’s components are pretty simple – apples, walnuts, sweet wine, cinnamon and sugar.  There are many variations, but the fruit/nut/wine combo is pretty essential.  You can either chop the apple and walnuts for a chunkier version or you can get it to resemble true mortar by blitzing in the food processor.


It’s one of our favorite Passover foods, and a food that I always say I’ll continue to make after Passover.  It’s a great snack, spooned onto matzo crackers or any cracker for that matter.  It’s also a nice accompaniment to pork or chicken.

1 year ago: Pineapple Pecan Muffins

Apple and Walnut Charoset (makes about 4 cups)

Note:  If you prefer a more spreadable, mortar-like charoset, all the ingredients can be combined in the food processor and processed into a rough paste.  If you chose this method, be sure to roughly chop the apples before adding them to the food processor.

3 medium red apples, peeled and cored

1 1/2 cups (150 grams) walnuts, roughly chopped and toasted

1/2 cup (120 ml) sweet red wine, such as Manischewitz, ruby port or any dessert wine

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon brown sugar, packed

Chop the apples finely.  You can use a food processor for this – just make sure not to overprocess.  Combine apples with the other ingredients.  Store, covered, at room temperature until ready to serve.  Store any leftovers in the refrigerator for a few days.

Adapted from Epicurious


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Filed under Appetizers and snacks, Holidays, Side Dishes

Sweet Potato Fries with Creamy Cilantro Dip


Hello!  Sorry about the lapse between posts.  We were enjoying a two-week adventure in Iceland.  Unbelievable scenery – glaciers, mountains, basalt cliffs, bubbling mud pools, a geyser, geothermal pools, whales, dolphins, lava formations – and some of the freshest fish, lobster and lamb I’ve ever had.


But I can say I didn’t see a single sweet potato…take that back, we did have sweet potato soup once.  After being away for so long and not cooking, I always crave something comforting and homemade and involving vegetables.  As much as we try to eat healthy while on vacation, we always are a bit deficient on the vegetable intake.  So the body was seriously craving some veg.


These sweet potato fries are baked rather than fried, so they’re good for you!  They’re tossed with a spice mixture prior to baking which gives them a bit more interest and a little kick.  But my favorite part is the creamy cilantro dip.  OMG, I never want to ever have a fry without this stuff again.


No matter how many fries I make, they never last long.  So if you have hungry eaters, consider doubling the recipe.  These go great with burgers or sandwiches or pretty much anything…embarrassingly enough, I have made a meal out of them on a few occasions. Enjoy!


1 year ago: Roasted Vegetable Thai Curry

Sweet Potato Fries with Creamy Cilantro Dip (serves 3-4)

For the sweet potato fries:

2 large sweet potatoes (about 600-700 grams or 1.5 lbs)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon black pepper


For the creamy cilantro dip:

1/2 cup (120 grams) sour cream or creme fraiche

1/2 tablespoon lime juice

1/4 teaspoon minced garlic

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro / coriander

Preheat oven to 425º F (220º C).  Cut sweet potatoes into skinny matchsticks, about 1/4″ (0.5 cm) thick and no longer than 4″ (10 cm) long.  In a large bowl, toss the sweet potatoes with olive oil to coat.  In a small bowl, combine the cumin, chili powder, paprika and black pepper.  Sprinkle over the sweet potatoes and toss to evenly coat.

Place sweet potatoes in a single layer on a baking sheet; separate between two baking sheets, if necessary.  (Note that the potatoes will shrink while cooking, so they can be fairly crowded on the baking sheet, though still in a single layer.)  Sprinkle with salt.  Bake for 15 minutes, remove from oven and turn potatoes with a spatula.  If you are using two baking sheets, rotate the sheets at this point.  Bake for another 10 minutes.  Potatoes should be browned and a bit crisp at this point.  If not, turn potatoes again with a spatula and return to oven for 5 minute increments until done.

While the sweet potatoes are baking, make the creamy cilantro dip.  Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and stir to combine.

Serve the sweet potato fries hot along with the creamy cilantro dip.

Adapted from


Filed under Appetizers and snacks, Side Dishes

Egg Salad with Tarragon and Shallots


With Easter weekend fast approaching, I thought it a perfect time to share my instructions for perfect hard-boiled eggs.  You can have beautifully dyed eggs that actually taste as good as they look.


Egg dying isn’t really a thing here in the UK, probably because most eggs are peach and not white, as evidenced in the pictures.  I’ve also noticed differences in the Easter candy.  UK seems mainly about big chocolate “statement” pieces – big bunnies, Darth Vader, large elegantly decorated chocolate eggs stuffed with smaller chocolate eggs.

So back to the eggs….this method is completely foolproof and very easy.  Perfectly cooked yolks every time.


Now that you’ve dyed a dozen or so eggs, they’ve been hidden and hopefully all found (don’t want those lingering in a corner), what to do with them??  Make a batch of the most delicious egg salad ever!  Before this recipe, as a big fan of egg salad, I made it quite often but it consisted of eggs, mayo, salt and pepper.  But then I started making this fancier recipe many years back and it’s amazing how the addition of tarragon, shallots and white wine vinegar transformed it.  It’s now something I regularly crave.


When all the Easter festivities have winded down, put those lovely dyed eggs to use and make a batch of Egg Salad with Tarragon and Shallots.  Happy Easter!!


1 year ago: Slow-Roasted Chicken in Sweet-Soy Braising Sauce

Egg Salad with Tarragon and Shallot (makes 6 sandwiches)

Note:  If using dried tarragon, crush the dried herbs between your fingers before adding to the egg salad in order to release more of the flavor.  If you’re looking for some other uses for that package of tarragon, try Butternut Squash Soup with Tarragon

8 large eggs

1/2 cup (120 grams) mayonnaise

3 tablespoons finely chopped shallots

2 tablespoons finely hopped fresh tarragon or 2 teaspoons dried tarragon

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

Salt and pepper

To hard-boil the eggs:  Combine eggs and cold water to cover the eggs by 1 1/2 inches (4 cm) in a 2-quart heavy saucepan and bring to a rolling boil, partially covered.  Reduce heat to low, cover pan completely, and cook eggs for 30 seconds.  Remove pan from heat and let eggs stand in hot water, covered, for 15 minutes.  Drain the water from the pan and fill pan with cold water and ice cubes.  Let sit for 5 minutes to stop the cooking.  Once cool enough to handle, peel eggs and chop.

Stir together eggs and remaining ingredients in a medium bowl with a fork.  Served on toasted bread, my preference is rye, but use what you prefer (or have on hand).

Adapted from Gourmet

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Filed under Sandwiches

Chicken Thighs with Fennel, Orange and Green Olives


I very rarely use my oven’s broiler.  Last time was most likely to brown the cheesy topping on French Onion Soup.  But a few weeks back I came across an article in the New York Times food section that made me give it a second thought.


It’s a great alternative to grilling.  You toss your meat and veg and any other ingredients in the pan and essentially have a one-dish dinner.  Another bonus is the time factor – it cooks relatively quickly (again, similar to grilling).


This broiler recipe starts with chicken thighs.  Many people shy away from thighs in favor of the more popular boneless skinless chicken breasts.  Though convenient, I’ve been going off them in favor of more flavorful parts such as thighs or legs or even using a whole roaster chicken.  Plus thighs are juicier than breasts.


Lots of bold flavors come into play in this recipe – salty green olives, fresh zesty oranges, the licorice taste of fennel and a bit of smoke and spice from paprika and red pepper.  The juices of the chicken and the water released from the onions, fennel and orange create a lovely sauce, which can be mopped up with crusty bread….or serve it over couscous.


So dust off the old broiler (ok, not literally, but you get what I mean) and discover an old kitchen tool that’s new again.


1 year ago: Sautéed Cabbage with Onions, Ginger and Coconut Milk

Chicken Thighs with Fennel, Orange and Green Olives (serves 4-6)

1 bulb fennel, cored and thinly sliced

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

2/3 cup pitted green olives, sliced in half

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 teaspoons paprika

1/2 – 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

3 tablespoons olive oil, separated

Salt and pepper

1 orange, cut into eighths, but not peeled

8 chicken thighs (bone-in, skin-on preferred), about 2 1/2 pounds or 1 kilogram

Heat the broiler (to high, if you have that option).

Combine the fennel, onion, olives, garlic, paprika, red pepper flakes and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large bowl, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss gently.  Spread mixture in a medium roasting pan (e.g. 9 x 13 inch or 23 x 33 cm) and scatter orange sections on top.

Add the chicken and the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the now-empty bowl, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat.  Place thighs on top of fennel mixture, skin-side down (if chicken has skin).

Place under broiler with pan about 4 inches (10 cm) from the heat source.  After 4 minutes of cooking, turn chicken skin-side up and rotate pan.  Continue broiling for another 3 minutes and then rotate pan again.  Continue broiling until the chicken is fully cooked, about 7-10 minutes more (rotating individual chicken thighs, if necessary, to ensure even cooking).  Chicken is fully cooked when juices run clear and/or temperature is 165º F (75º C) on an instant-read thermometer.

Serve with couscous or crusty bread.

Adapted from The New York Times


Filed under Main dishes

Nutty Professor (Banana Peanut Butter Smoothie)


One of the things I like most about traveling is the food.  Getting exposed to new restaurants, new dishes, new ingredients, etc.  Sampling everything from the simple to the exotic: from grilled tomato toast in Spain to reindeer meatballs in Finland.


Upon returning home from our trips, I am inspired in the kitchen and try to replicate some of the more accessible dishes (won’t be making reindeer meatballs anytime soon).

When we visited Edinburgh, Scotland our first year in the UK we did try haggis and black pudding (or at least I did, no one else was up for the challenge….and it was all delicious!).  But the dish that we loved most and that we made as soon as we returned home and continue making each week, as a favorite after-school snack or sippable breakfast, is a Nutty Professor.


We had it at Hula Juice Bar, a cafe featuring healthy, fresh ingredients and amazing juices and smoothies.  So what is this Nutty Professor?  Simply a banana and peanut butter smoothie.  But these simple ingredients, combined with a bit of honey and milk, create something deliciously satisfying.


Plus it’s a great way to use overripe bananas.  Don’t throw them away!  Just chuck them in the freezer and pull them out whenever you’re struck with a Nutty Professor craving.


1 year ago:  The Best Lazy Margherita Pizza

Nutty Professor (makes 1 large smoothie)

Note:  If your blender or NutriBullet has the capacity, you can easily double the recipe.

1 frozen banana

2 tablespoons (40 grams) peanut butter

3 teaspoons honey

1-2 ice cubes

1/2 cup (120 ml) milk

Remove banana peel.  If peel doesn’t come off easily, allow banana to thaw slightly or place in the microwave for about 10 seconds, then remove peel.

Combine banana, peanut butter, honey, ice and milk in a blender or NutriBullet.  Process until smooth and serve.

Adapted from Hula Juice Bar in Edinburgh, Scotland

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Filed under Appetizers and snacks, Breakfast and Brunch, Drinks

Cinnamon Walnut Streusel Coffee Cake


I’ve been teaching cooking classes out of my home for about three years now.  A few years back I did a brunch class which included a recipe for coffee cake.  I am a sucker for all kinds of sweets, but when they have a moist cakey interior topped with a crunchy brown sugar cinnamon walnut streusel, I really can’t help myself.

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So I’m demonstrating the recipe and about to pop the coffee cake into the oven, when someone says “but you forgot the coffee”.  What?


I didn’t realize that coffee cake doesn’t quite translate to the UK.  What the Americans define as a cake to be accompanied with coffee, typically eaten for breakfast (ok, maybe not the official Webster definition, but that’s how I see it), the Brits thought it was literally a cake made with coffee.  We all got chuckle out of that one.


Definitions aside, here is one of my favorite recipes for coffee cake.  It’s not the one I taught at the class – that one is a huge, layered ordeal that feeds an army.  I find myself making the recipe below more often as it’s less time-consuming and makes a smaller amount – for our family of four we can get two breakfasts out of it.  Served up with coffee, of course.


1 year ago: Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Cinnamon Walnut Streusel Coffee Cake (serves 8-10)

Note:  The batter is quite thick, and does require a bit of muscle to whisk it all together.  If you prefer you can make it with an electric mixer.

2 cups (250 grams) plain, all-purpose flour

2 cups (400 grams) granulated sugar

1 teaspoon salt

10 tablespoons (140 grams) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 cup (180 ml) buttermilk (or low-fat plain yogurt)

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup (85 grams) finely chopped walnuts or pecans

1/2 cup (100 grams) packed dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven 350º F (175º C).  Grease the bottom and sides of a 10-inch/25 cm springform pan (if you don’t have a springform pan, then a round cake pan will do, but just grease it very well and flour it too).

Whisk flour, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl until blended.  Add butter and cut with a whisk until mixture resembles coarse crumbs, using a butter knife to remove clumped butter from the whisk.  Remove 1 cup (150 grams) crumbs to separate medium-sized bowl.

Whisk baking powder and soda into mixture remaining in large mixing bowl.  Add buttermilk, egg and vanilla; whisk vigorously until batter is thick, smooth, fluffy and frosting-like, 1-2 minutes.  Using a rubber spatula, scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth top.

Add nuts, brown sugar and cinnamon to reserved crumbs in the medium-sized bowl, toss with a fork or your hands until blended.  Sprinkle crumbs over batter, pressing lightly so that mixture adheres.  Bake cake until center is firm and cake tester comes out clean, 50-55 minutes.  Transfer cake to rack; remove pan sides.  Let cake cool completely, about 2 hours, before serving.  When completely cooled, cake can be slid off pan bottom onto serving plate. (Note: The texture firms up a bit as it cools, so it is best to cool completely….however if you don’t have two hours to spare and it’s still warm and you can’t stop yourself I can vouch that your coffee cake will still be ok and taste delicious).

Adapted from Cooks Illustrated


Filed under Breakfast and Brunch

Eggplant Ricotta Penne Pasta


One of the things I like best about where we live is the plethora of neighborhood restaurants.  At the end of our block you’ll find Japanese, two Italian, Chinese, Korean BBQ, Thai, two pubs, Indian and Rock ‘n Rose (not sure how to describe this last one, but their tagline is “food, passion, glamour”).  No chains; all local, mostly family-run, unique places.


But our favorite is Cafe Mamma, one of the Italian restaurants.  Every time we walk in the door we’re greeted by a kiss on the cheek and a hearty “ciao” and made to feel like family.  The food is traditional Italian – like eating in mamma’s kitchen.


We’ve been regulars for nearly four years and yet I only tried their eggplant ricotta penne for the first time last week.  My daughter ordered it and it looked so good I snatched some off her plate (bad manners, I know).  It was delicious!  I was annoyed that I only discovered this dish now.


Plus we are moving back to the US in four months.  There will no longer be a Cafe Mamma at our corner…sniff, sniff.  I need to bring a little of it back with me (won’t be the first time…at Christmas I brought back limoncello I made at the restaurant with Jose, the owner).  So I set about re-creating the lovely eggplant ricotta pasta from last week.  Now I don’t think I got it as good as Cafe Mamma, but it’ll stand in when this favorite restaurant is no longer just down the block.


1 year ago:  Whole Wheat Pancakes, Tuna Nicoise Sandwiches

Eggplant Ricotta Penne Pasta (serves 6)

Note:  This is a nice, simple weeknight kind of pasta dish.  The eggplant and ricotta, quite mild flavors, are given a bit of oomph with the parmesan and basil.  However if you want to punch up the flavor even more, feel free to add olives or capers.

1 pound (450 grams) penne or rigatoni pasta

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 pounds (900 grams) eggplant, peeled and cut into 3/4″ cubes

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

28 ounces (800 grams) canned/tinned chopped tomatoes, undrained

1/2 cup (10 grams) chopped fresh basil, separated

1 cup (250 grams) ricotta

Freshly grated parmesan

Cook penne pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water until al dente (or however you prefer your pasta cooked), then drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a 12″ nonstick skillet over high heat until just smoking.  Add the eggplant and 1/2 teaspoon salt (skillet will be quite full, but it will cook down) and cook until lightly browned and softened, about 15 minutes, gently stirring every few minutes or so.

Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds.  Stir in the tomatoes.  Bring to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

In a large serving bowl, combine the cooked penne, eggplant/tomato sauce and half of the basil.  Add the ricotta in spoonfuls and gently stir, so that ricotta is incorporated slightly but there are still “blobs” of it visible.  Serve topped with the remaining fresh basil and grated parmesan.

Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

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Filed under Main dishes, Vegetarian