Indian food is one of my favorite cuisines. It’s also becoming quite trendy. In New York, Whole Foods has even included a hot bar/buffet of Indian Food in their prepared food section. There is still room for improvement in the quality of mainstream Indian food but I think my grandmother would have been as pleased as I am to see this flavorful cuisine take off. There are a few Indian style recipes in her book, “The Art of Good Cooking,” such as Curried Carrots and Peppers and Indian Beef Curry which I’ve done for this blog. Like many of her international recipes, these were unique and practically ground breaking when they were written in the 1960’s – before what some may consider the food revolution. The availability of spices like ground coriander, turmeric, cumin seeds, or garam masala have come a long way since then. I, however; didn’t begin to enjoy Indian food until my late teens when my step mother introduced healthy and flavorful north Indian style recipes such as this vegan coconut green bean and peas dish.
Before you discard this post because you don’t celebrate Hanukkah or understand why potato pancakes/latkes are so tasty, let me assure you that you don’t have to be religious to enjoy this simple (and vegetarian) side dish. I have an affinity for the sweet and savory combination of shredded potato and onion with cinnamon apple sauce. This may have started when I was was a child, with our attempts to celebrate Hanukkah by re-creating this traditional dish. It’s beyond that now. These pancakes actually follow the basic no-fail culinary combination of sweet, salt, fat, and acid – practically guaranteeing its tastiness.
This basic recipe was adapted from “The James Beard Cookbook,” by James Beard. It’s strange that James Beard published a potato pancake recipe but my grandmother did not. With her Jewish background, it seems only natural that she would have a recipe for such a common dish. But it appears she made Spinach Pancakes more frequently than potato pancakes (based on “The Art of Good Cooking”). Nonetheless, this is a great base recipe, and paired with my homemade Honeycrisp apple sauce, it’s even better. Simply grate potato and onion into a strainer and squeeze out some of the liquid. This is then mixed with egg, a small amount of bread crumbs (feel free to use gluten free!), and salt. Saute in butter (or blended butter and oil) and you have a crispy pancake that includes the salt and fat required for the dish.
The apple sauce makes up the acid and sweet components of the culinary combo. Just boil honey crisp apples (I like the juiciness and sweet honey flavor of honey crisps) in a little water with a tablespoon of honey, a tablespoon of sugar, and a touch cinnamon. Finish with lemon juice (for the acid and to help keep the color). You will have a delicious apple sauce and as you can see here, I almost prefer equal parts apple sauce and pancake. Each bite should have a good amount of both. Sour cream can also be added but I’ve never found it necessary. Whether you celebrate Hanukkah or not, these Potato Pancakes with Honey Crisp Apple Sauce make a satisfying lunch or snack.
4 medium potatoes
1 1/2 medium onions
2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs (or gluten-free bread crumbs)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
Honey Crisp Apple Sauce
6 honey crisp apples
1 cup water
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Wash and peel the potatoes. Grate with a grater and drain off all the liquid that collects in the bowl. Grate the onion into the potato and mix in the egg, breadcrumbs, salt, and pepper. Heat two tablespoons of butter in a large skillet. Put in four large spoonfuls of the mixture. Pat down slightly to create pancakes, about 2 inches wide. Cook gently until brown on the bottom, turn, and brown on the other side. Add more fat and continue cooking until all of the mixture is used.
To make the Honey Crisp Apple Sauce:
Peel and core the apples. Halve lemon and rub on apple halves to prevent browning. Dice apples. Place apples in a large pot with 1 cup water. Bring to a boil. Stir in honey and sugar. Simmer for 30 minutes or until apples are soft and create a sauce. Stir in cinnamon and lemon juice.
Serve pancakes with large spoonfuls of apple sauce.
It’s been a little while since I’ve posted. Returning from my summer hiatus, it may seem strange that I selected a pickle recipe – but I absolutely love pickles. And apparently, I’m not the only one. They seem to be growing in popularity and I continue to see more and more specialty pickles at regular grocery stores. The basic dill and bread n butter pickles still remain the staples but now there are garlic dill, horseradish dill, spicy dill, half sour, and sour, just to name a few. There are also different and trendy, often hipster like brands that specialize in..well…specialty pickles. They are delicious but usually expensive, often charging $8-$9 for a small jar. This is why making homemade pickles seems so well worth it. Not only can you add and adjust the spices to your liking, but with just a few ingredients, you can make enough pickles for a year, at less than half the price.
I made quite a few modifications to this recipe, originally from “The Art of Good Cooking.” Most notably, I eliminated the whole cup of olive oil my grandmother instructed to use. I find that vinegar and water works perfectly fine and is both healthier and less expensive. I also added sprigs of dill and adjusted some of the spices. The actual process of making the pickles is very basic and despite what some may believe, no special canning equipment is needed. Just a big pot and canning jars are sufficient. The most important part of the process is salting and chilling the sliced cucumbers and onions. This seems to help ensure a crunchy pickle, which in my opinion, is the key to a good pickle. I’m not a fan of the soft ones, with little or no resistance when you bite into them. The crunchier, the better. A crisp crunchy pickle is a reminder of the fresh cucumber it was made from. That tasty tang from the brine and vinegar makes it the perfect add on to any end of summer barbecue dish – especially hamburgers!
12 large kirby cucumbers (about 4 lbs)
1/2 cup coarse salt
4 onions, thinly sliced
whole garlic cloves (as many as you have jars)
fresh sprigs of dill (as many as you have jars)
bay leaves (as many as you have jars)
2 quarts cider vinegar
1 quart of water
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
2 tablespoons black mustard seeds
2 tablespoons pickling spices
2 tablespoons celery seeds
4 quart jars or 8 pint jars, sterilized (see note)
In a large bowl, make alternate layers of sliced cucumbers, salt, and sliced onions. Let stand in refrigerator 5 hours. Rinse in ice water and drain well, pressing out as much liquid as possible. Return vegetables to bowl. Place a clove of garlic, a sprig of dill, and a bay leaf in each jar. Pack jars with vegetables.
Pour cider vinegar and water into a pot. Add sugar, mustard seeds, pickling spices, and celery seeds. Bring to a rolling boil. Pour mixture into each jar to cover vegetables. Cover tightly. Store in the refrigerator for two weeks or to make pickles shelf stable, place jars in a canner or pot of boiling water for 5-10 minutes or until the lid does not move up or down when pressed in the center.
Note: To sterilize jars and lids, simply boil them in a large pot of water for 5 minutes.
Adapted from “The Art of Good Cooking,” by Paula Peck.
Catching the tail end of eggplant the season, this eye-pleasing dish showcases the juicy late summer (or fall) vegan favorite. I previously posted a couple of my grandmother’s vegetarian dishes. Paula Peck was not known for cooking vegetables and when she did, there were often whole sticks of butter or cups of olive oil involved. As a veggie lover though, I’ve managed to revise some of these dishes so that the flavor is maintained, but with less fat. In this case, the eggplant is stuffed with a fragrant mixture of garlic, onion, celery, tomato puree and herbs. These flavors soak into the eggplant as it roasts with just enough olive oil to keep it moist. The resulting succulent meaty flesh will make you forget that you’re eating an almost guilt-free and healthy dish.
So what does this strange recipe title “Imam Byaldi” have to do with eggplant? Well according to my grandmother’s introduction to this recipe in “The Art of Good Cooking,” the old Armenian title means “’the Holy Man fainted’- of shock because the eggplant tasted so good!” Ok so nobody is going to faint when they eat this stuffed eggplant, but it is pretty tasty.
4 small eggplants
1/3 cup olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped celery leaves
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup tomato puree
1/4 teaspoon crumbled bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon oregano
2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint
1/2 teaspoon sugar
salt and pepper to taste
Cut eggplant lengthwise into halves. Salt cut sides generously and let stand for about a 1/2 hour (this draws out the bitterness from the eggplant).
Preheat oven. Rinse eggplants and dry with paper towels. Brush cut sides with some olive oil. Place eggplants on a baking sheet, cut side up. Bake until centers are soft and lightly browned.
While the eggplants are baking, prepare the following stuffing: sauté onions, green pepper, celery, and garlic in remaining olive oil until vegetables are soft but not brown. Add chopped celery leaves and parsley. Stir until leaves are wilted, then add tomato puree and herbs. Add sugar then salt and pepper to taste. Cook a few more minutes. Set stuffing aside until needed.
When eggplants are tender, allow them to cool so they can be easily handled. Raise oven heat to 350 degrees.
With a small knife, make an incision lengthwise, down the center of the cut side, being careful not to cut all the way through the eggplant. With your fingers, press soft pulp away from the incision on the 2 long sides so that a good-sized hollow is formed. Fill the hollows with the prepared filling, using a spoon.
Arrange stuffed eggplants on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with additional olive oil if filling looks dry. Bake for 45 minutes, basting with olive oil as necessary.
Note: To speed up this recipe, cut eggplant 1/2 inch thick and after it has been baked until tender, place slices of eggplant in a casserole. Arrange them alternately with the stuffing. Bake 30-40 minutes.
Given that I just did a post on Gazpacho a few weeks ago, a tomato soup recipe may seem redundant. Besides the tomatoes though, this soup couldn’t be more different. Those hot and humid evenings may have only been a couple of weeks ago, but fall seems to have arrived without hesitation here in New York. It’s as if Mother Nature looked at a calendar and scheduled the cooler weather immediately as August ended. These chilly evenings call for soup, and this unpublished fresh tomato soup recipe struck me as the perfect way to use up some of the delicious ripe tomatoes leftover from summer.
The most intriguing part of this recipe is the addition of a raw egg. Cracked directly into the serving bowls, the hot soup cooks the egg just enough so the yolk remains runny. This of course requires the soup to be very hot when served and the serving bowls to be warmed (throw them in the oven for a minute restaurant style or cheat and use the microwave). The runny part of the egg can then be enjoyed with not just the soup, but a large parmesan crouton – the other jewel of this dish. Slices of crusty bread are sautéed in butter until toasted and crunchy, then topped with grated parmesan cheese, and briefly browned under the broiler. Each bowl of soup is then topped with a slice..or two.
It seems my grandmother had yet to name this recipe because the faded typewriter written version just reads, “Another Tomato Soup, But Very Good” – the “another” referring to an unpublished recipe for a non-vegetarian or beef tomato soup that she also wrote. I considered coming up with a fancier name that would hint at the unique addition of an egg and the large crusty parmesan croutons. However, those can always be excluded and the basic soup is perfectly satisfying on its own or with good old grilled cheese.
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
5-6 large fresh tomatoes, diced
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon dried basil
freshly ground black pepper
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 baguette, sliced
1/2 stick butter
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
6 very fresh eggs
Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat. Add the onions and saute for about 10 minutes, until very tender. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomato paste, tomatoes, salt, sugar, basil, pepper and stock and stir well. Bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, uncovered, for 30 to 40 minutes, until the tomatoes are very tender.
While the soup simmers, prepare the parmesan croutons. Preheat broiler. Heat butter in a large skillet over low heat. Add baguette slices. Saute a few minutes on each side until lightly browned. Remove croutons from heat and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle croutons with cheese. Place under broiler just until cheese melts.
When tomatoes in soup are tender, remove from heat. Blend by using an immersion blender or by transferring soup to a blender, a few cups at a time. Return to pot, check seasoning, and bring to a boil. Return to a simmer until ready to serve.
Heat serving bowls. Crack an egg in each bowl. Ladle soup into bowls, allowing it to “cook” the egg. Top with parmesan crouton.
Serves 6 small bowls or 4 large.