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I almost want to hide the fact that the theme of this post is “Gluten Free”

Let’s not get into a big debate about gluten hype. You all know I adore the stuff. But my daughter, who I love more than bread, has recently become (thanks to a nasty virus), gluten intolerant. We are all hoping it is temporary, but in the meantime, life, and a delicious one, must go on.

My baking adaptations have been…uneven. I have determined that the best two “all-purpose” gluten-free flours are Bob’s Red Mill BLUE LABEL (the red label one is pretty icky), and Maison Canelle All-Purpose.

So far, I can say that both flours can be used exactly as my regular wheat AP, and things turn out ok. Anything cakey is perfect the first day, but gets gritty if it sits around. Cookies are fine.

This week I have decided to make Gluten Free Hamentashen, Challah, and Sticky Toffee Cake. The cookies and cake are regular recipes, and the “Challah” is one specifically for Gluten Free flours.

I am intrigued to see how restaurants adapt to this food restriction. Whether it is to beat wheat bellies, or to accommodate true allergies and intolerances, many restaurants and bakeries are offering “glutard” options (no, it isn’t politically correct, but come on, it is kinda funny).  A few weekends ago in NYC, we noticed Les Halles offers a gluten-free (I will just use GF, ok?) menu. Great – we sat down, and looked at the breakfast selections. Eggs and toast. French toast. Um, server, are we missing something? “You can have a fruit cup”. NEXT…

Friedman’s Lunch (one in Chelsea Market and one on W. 31st.) does it right. Can you say chicken and waffles? Pancakes? GF reuben sandwich (yes, the toast did crumble).

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Want something a little less sinful? Bistango offers a full selection of Italian-esque GF deliciousness. Meatballs without breadcrumbs, great GF pastas, and yes, desserts. All choices were seriously good, on their own merits, and not just because they had GF options.

Perfect GF pasta

Perfect GF pasta

If budget is not a concern (to put it mildly) , 11 Madison Park (3 Michelin stars) makes GF adaptations of everything they serve.

One of these things is NOT like the other...

One of these things is NOT like the other…

my baking report: the hamentashen were ok, but not easy to fold. Nice thought, not worth redoing. Or taking a photo!

The sticky pudding cake recipe is a winner – gluten free or not. Here is the original recipe from Bonnie Stern:

STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING WITH BUTTERSCOTCH SAUCE

3/4 lb pitted dates (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 cups boiling water
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3  eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (regular or gluten-free)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Butterscotch sauce:

3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 1/4 cups whipping cream
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed

The recipe mentions serving it with additional whipped cream, but I never do!

Butter a 9″ springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper, or bake individual cakes in 12 muffin pans

  1. Combine dates and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Add baking soda and let rest 5 minutes. Puree. Let it cool.
  2. Cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Beat in eggs one at a time. Whisk flour with baking powder and salt. Gently fold into batter alternately with dates, starting and ending with the flour. Transfer to prepared pan.
  3. Bake in a preheated 350F/180C oven for 35 to 45 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean. (Muffin sized ones usually take about 25 -30 minutes.)
  4. Meanwhile, while cake is in the oven, make the sauce by combining sugar, cream and butter in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Simmer gently 5 minutes until slightly thickened.
  5. When the cake comes out of the oven, let it cool for a few minutes, then prick holes and drizzle half the sauce over the top
  6. When serving,  drizzle with remaining butterscotch sauce and if you want to, some whipped cream.

 

Makes 10 to 12 servings

and now…..

GLUTEN-FREE CHALLAH

The following recipe is courtesy of www.glutenfreegirls.blogspot.ca so thank you.

The Challah is worth tweaking – next time I will replace some of the sugar and water with honey, just so it tastes a bit more like my “standard”.  That said, it is probably the tastiest “white bread” I have eaten in a long time. It is delicious toasted, and incredibly, it is NOT crumbly!

seriously rising

seriously rising

IMG_3486IMG_3487

 

2 cups rice flour (I used almost half and half brown and white rice flours)

1 3/4 cups tapioca flour

1/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons sugar

3 teaspoons xanthan gum

1/2 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup lukewarm water

1 cup lukewarm water

1 1/2 tablespoons yeast

4 tablespoons melted butter

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

4 eggs

sesame seeds, poppy seeds or my favourite, pearl sugar (optional)

 

  1. In mixer, combine the flours, 1/4 c sugar, xantham gum, and salt.
  2. Dissolve the 2 tsp sugar in the 2/3 cup of water and mix in the yeast. In a separate bowl combine the butter with the additional 1 cup water and vinegar.
  3. With mixer on low speed, blend the dry ingredients. Slowly add the butter/water mixture. Blend in the eggs, 1 at a time. The dough should feel slightly warm. Pour the yeast mixture into the ingredients in the bowl and beat at the highest speed for 2 minutes.
  4. Place the bowl in a warm spot, cover with greased plastic wrap and a towel, and let rise approximately 1 hour.
  5. Return the dough to the mixer and beat on high for 3 minutes. Spoon the dough into a greased, floured loaf pan. Fill 2/3 full, you may bake the remainder in greased muffin tins, etc. (or make all rolls~about 18). Sprinkle tops with sesame seeds. Let the dough rise until it is slightly above the tops of the pans, about 45-60 minutes.
  6. Preheat the oven to 400 F and bake the large loaf for approximately 1 hour. Bake the rolls 25 minutes.

Personally, I think the bigger loaves taste much better, but try it out and see!

 

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Montreal…. Hip vs. Hype

I hope I don’t offend anyone here, but I have some laundry that needs airing, and the only way I know how to speak is honestly.

There is a LOT of NEW on the Montreal food scene, and to simplify, I will skip the new restaurants (yes, Vin Papillon is the best addition to the scene!) and go straight to the new places to BUY food.

This summer, I excitedly subscribed to Lufa Farms. It is a great story!  Veggies organically grown on Montreal rooftops and local farms, delivered to collection points across the city. Too bad my boxes had either wilted and bruised produce, or were underweight (some items are sold by weight).  I sadly unsubscribed.

I am a breadie.  My nickname is “Carbie Barbie”. I have tasted Jeff Finklestein’s breads over the last few years, at restaurants and they are, good.  I just don’t understand why people love them so much, and what the buzz is about.  Wanting to feel the magic, I passed by the new bakery, Hof Kelsten this weekend.  A small point, but I don’t understand the décor. A place that offers a chopped liver sandwich and borscht seems incongruous with a precious bakery case and a huge open eating space.

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The sourdough bread was soft, the crust chewy, and it had few air pockets.  Maybe I should have bought a rye bread instead, but it looked kind of sorry.

just can't get excited about this.

just can’t get excited about this.

The oatmeal raisin cookie was good, but that should be the case. The raspberry rogelach was passable. Granted, rogelach are very hard to come by in this city, but they were too sweet and needed some cinnamon.

I am really sad that the bread isn’t better.  All the ingredients are there – a well- trained baker, great media coverage and a killer oven. I really hope I passed by on an “off” day, and will give it another try in a few weeks.

We continued up St. Laurent to Boulangerie Guillaume, where I bought one of their “fancy” breads to nibble– a baguettine with figs and cheddar. It was tasty, but I got grossed out when I witnessed one of the bakers blow her nose and then go back to work without washing her hands. I KNOW disgustingness happens in kitchens, but I really don’t like seeing it.  Guillaume’s breads are good, but it has been too long since I tasted one of their uncomplicated varieties to be able to comment on the actual “bread” quality.

Next stop: Boucherie Lawrence. It is rare that a butcher shop smells good, let alone clean. Knowledgeable, friendly (hip too) butchers prep orders beautifully, washing hands between every activity.  The sandwich corner is kept completely away from the raw-meat area. Everything looks fresh and inviting.  And now, onto our steaks: 30 day aged waygu. Have you ever unwrapped steaks and noticed how delicious they smell? That they smell nutty and buttery? Me neither, until now.  I am not a steak lover, but I could be converted.  I read an article recently about how it is always a good idea to befriend your butcher. I have just found my “guy”, and I look forward to going back soon.

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Whenever I am at the Jean-Talon market, I pick up a bread at Joe La Croute. It is always decent, and sometimes, even really good. There is a certain voodoo with bread, and sometimes it is better than others.

There have been some other noteworthy additions over the past year or so, like KemCoBa (the best ice cream in town aside from Joe Beef), and Rustique Pie Kitchen (my go-to if I don’t have time to bake and need a great dessert), but this rant/post is limited to a few kilometers along the Main.

I have heard a lot about breads at Les Pains Aux Voiles, and Les Touriers. I will let you know how they fare. In the meantime, I am preheating my oven to bake 2 sourdoughs at home to satisfy my craving.

To me, this is what bread should look like:

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If tomatoes were lemons, I would be making lemonade

I would never have imagined, when I stood sweating in the garden last week, that there would be frost warnings this week. Seriously – it is the beginning of September. So, what to do?

HARVEST ALL THE TOMATOES.  THEN, PANIC.

Will they ripen on the counter? Maybe.  But I’m not a gambler, so I have done some canning (pickles), some freezing (green tomato salsa), and some discovering (read on).

Pickled Green Tomatoes
(these quantities make 1 quart, so double as needed.)

For every quart jar, you will need approximately 1 1/2 pounds of green cherry tomatoes.

Brine
1 cup white distilled vinegar (5% acidity)
1 cup water
1 tablespoon kosher salt

A few Options for flavouring your pickles:

No Garlic Pickling Spice:
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole allspice
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

Garlicky Dill Pickling Spice:
2 teaspoons dill seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
4 garlic cloves, peeled

optional: a few crushed chilis

Wash and halve tomatoes.

Bring all the brine ingredients to a gentle boil.

Fill hot, clean quart jars with the pickling spice mix. Add tomato halves and pack the jar tightly.

Pour the hot brine over the tomatoes, covering them completely and leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Use a chopstick, moving it around to release any trapped air bubbles.
Wipe the rim clean, seal with a lid and ring, and process in a boiling water bath. Time depends on altitude, so please check yours.  15 minutes is the minimum.

Remove from heat – your lids should suction as the jars cool.

Store jars in a cool, dark place. The tomatoes will be perfectly pickled in about three weeks.

Roasted Green Tomato Salsa (or Faux Salsa Verde)

3 lbs. green tomatoes (about 12)
2 onions, peeled and halved
3 hot peppers, seeded and halved
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup packed cilantro, chopped
1/3 cup lime juice
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Fresh ground pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 475°F.  Use convection if you can.

Wash the tomatoes and remove stems. Cut tomatoes in half. Place tomatoes cut side down on a parchment lined baking sheet brushed with olive oil. Brush outsides of tomatoes with a small amount of olive oil.

Place onions, garlic and hot peppers on a second roasting pan. Brush with olive oil.

Roast at 475°F until tomatoes, onions and hot peppers just begin to blacken, about 10-15 minutes. If you are not using a convection oven, switch oven to Broil for the last 5 minutes, or until slightly blackened.

Place tomatoes, onions, garlic and hot peppers in a food processor. Pulse until coarsely chopped.

If you like a thicker salsa do not use the liquid from the bottom of the roasting pan. If you like a thinner salsa, add it.

Pour salsa into a bowl and add chopped cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper.

This salsa can be easily frozen, but since it does not have a high acid content, do not preserve using a boiling bath canner.

Unscientific Oven Dried Green Cherry Tomatoes

Preheat oven to 300°F, or 275°F with convection.

Wash, dry then slice tomatoes in half. Toss in olive oil. Spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet cut side up. Sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for 3 to 4 hours until most of the liquid has evaporated and tomatoes have begun to shrivel up.

If the tomatoes seem bitter, sprinkle a bit of sugar on top when you take them out of the oven.  That made my batch irresistible.

Keep in the fridge.

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And now, the BEST one so far, and it takes NO TIME…

Grilled Green Tomatoes

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

4 medium-size green tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (about 2 lb.)

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

fresh basil or oregano

Combine first 5 ingredients in a large zip-loc  bag; add tomatoes, seal, and slosh around to coat. Let sit for up to 1 hour.

Preheat grill to medium-high.

Remove tomatoes from marinade, reserving it to use as a dressing.

Grill tomatoes (covered with grill lid) 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until tender and grill marks appear.

Drizzle with reserved marinade; season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with basil or oregano.

I tossed in some red tomatoes, but wouldn't next time. The green ones are great on their own.

I tossed in some red tomatoes, but wouldn’t next time. The green ones are great on their own.

By the way, there was frost, so I’m glad I picked everything, and of course, it is now back up to a million degrees outside.

Spring Odd(itie)s and Ends

How weird and wonderful is it to know every time you eat rhubarb, that while the stalks are delicious, the leaves are poisonous. Every spring, as I take a spoon of freshly cooked rhubarb, or shovel in a mouthful of rhubarb crisp, I find myself saying to whoever is in earshot “I wonder how people figured this one out”. Who ate the leaves, got sick, and went back to nibble the stalks?  It turns out that the leaves are high in oxalic acid, while the stalks are not.  Cooking further reduces its concentration.

Now for more veggie science.  I am not a huge zucchini fan. It is o.k., but it isn’t something I crave.  Its blossoms are a different story. Every spring I look forward to stuffing the blossoms, and enjoying them with a glass of wine. That is my “official spring” moment.  That, and getting bitten by blackflies, but I’d rather not discuss that.  This year, I learned something new.  There are male and female blossoms. Only female squash blossoms mature into squash. Male blossoms are there to fertilize the females, and outweigh and outnumber the female flowers. So, if you buy male blossoms, you are not directly sacrificing future squash.  Interestingly, the female blossoms taste different. Raw, they are sweet and delicious. The male blossoms must be cooked, and I remove the pollen because it is bitter.

He is on the left, and she is on the right!

He is on the left, and she is on the right!

Being a reluctant fry-er, here is a recipe for baked zucchini blossoms, and rhubarb crisp.  Science is so yummy.

Baked Zucchini Blossoms

1 cup Ricotta Cheese

zest of 1 Lemon

1/4 cup Chopped Basil

Salt And Pepper, to taste, a pinch of nutmeg

12 whole Medium Zucchini Blossoms

a drizzle of olive oil and ¼ cup Parmesan Cheese

Rinse the blossoms if necessary and remove the pollen.  Try to open the blossoms without tearing them.

Mix the cheese, zest, basil, salt, pepper and nutmeg, and put into a piping bag or ziplock bag, and snip the corner.

Stuff the blossoms, leaving enough space at the top of each blossom to twist them closed.

Place in baking dish, drizzle with oil and sprinkle with parmesan.

Cook for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees until tender.

Add some fresh tomato sauce if you like!  THIS TASTES SO MUCH BETTER THAN IT LOOKS!

Add some fresh tomato sauce if you like! THIS TASTES SO MUCH BETTER THAN IT LOOKS!

Rhubarb Crisp

1-1/2 lb rhubarb stalks, cut in 1/2-inch dice (about 6 cups)

3/4 cup granulated sugar (I usually use a bit less, but I like it tart)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Topping:

1 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

3/4 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup melted butter

In large bowl, toss rhubarb, sugar, flour and cinnamon. Transfer an 8-inch square baking pan.

For topping, toss together flour, sugar and oats. Drizzle in butter. Mix well with fork. Sprinkle over rhubarb mixture.

Bake in preheated 375F oven until top is golden brown and you see juices bubbling, about 30 minutes.

looking for a spoon.

looking for a spoon.

Guest post!

Today I’m treating all of you to a poem written by my mom, Helen.  This is her first blog post, ever!

 

“How To Be An Olympian” was written sometime ago, for my delightful grandchildren when they were still in their younger childhood years. But by the time I had trashed, renovated, edited and printed it, my darlings had grown into “foodies” with exciting, cosmopolitan food choices of their own on their curious, sophisticated palettes. But the concepts are still prime, and so I dedicate this now to young families who want to start training their Olympians from the inside out.

 

How to be an Olympian

 

I want to grow up smart!

I want to grow up strong!

I know that junk and bunk foods

Will grow me up all wrong!

I’ll grow tubby in the tummy

And jello-y in the head

I know the junk and bunk is full

Of sugar and fat instead

Of – vitamin A’s and B’s and C’s

D’s and a little bit of E’s!

 

I want my hair to squeak and shine!

I want my teeth to be mine, all mine!

I want my body to fight, fight, fight

Against the wheezes and the sneezes that hachoo in the night!

I want to be an Olympian not a Blimpian, not a doubt!

I want to be as healthy on the inside as the out!

Junk belongs in the garbage can

And not in our intestines

If you want to know how Olympians grow

I can give you some yummy suggestions –

 

Well, eggs and milk and fishes

Are Olympian-eater dishes –

Meat and fruit and whole wheat bread

Will feed the brains inside your head –

And veg-e-ta-bles too

For lunch to crunch and chew

Will fill you full of vigour and vim

To grow a stronger her and him

And you –

It’s true – it’s absolutely true!

And if you munch

On a freshly-washed bunch

of grapes – they’re as sweet as honey

Your nose will never honk or close

Or get red and runny and gummy!

Eating your potatoes baked

With the good stuff wrapped in the skins,

Will keep away the misery

Of sprouting double chins

That often tend to show up and stay

When too many fries are put away!

And please, please, please

Remember that low-fat cheese

With a crispy crunchy salad of greens –

And tomato – on your plate-o –

Is ever so good to munch on

While mom is preparing your luncheon!

 

Remember, too, vitaminly greens

Like broccoli spinach peas and beans

Or cauliflower and cucumber

With lettuce and sprouts

Might make you slumber

From exercising your jaws, to chew

And chew and chew and chew and chew –

But will absolutely keep the sparkle

In your eyes

For you!

And you might like to know that carrots –

Though orange, not green – have merits

And are perfect for chomping away on

When you’re colouring with your crayon!

 

Brown rice is nice

With nuts and spice

And is eaten lots from family pots

In the East –

What a feast!

 

And hey – have you already found the knack

Of a super, super Olympian snack?

Well apple slices spread with cheese

Are definitely designed to please

You and your daddy and mommy –

M-m-m-m scrump-ti-ous-ly yummy!

 

Almond butter or hummus

Spread on carrot sticks

Or whole wheat bread

Or celery

Is swellery!  Do tellery!

Unsugared cereal cold or hot,

Will add to your go-power quite a lot

With milk and nuts and raisins and seeds –

It’s what an Olympian’s body needs!

And have you tried for a nibble of sweets

Dried apples or figs or dates as treats?

They’re munchy and scrunchy

You’ll like them lots

And wait ‘til you taste dried apricots –

They’re es-pe-ci-a-ly nice

And better than candy for the price!

Pretzels, popcorn and sunflower seeds

Are absolutely fine –

Pita and pickles and rice cakes

And coconuts

Are sublime!

Oranges and yogurt

And almonds are delicious

Olympian stuff is neater stuff – than junk

And so nutritious!

You’ll never get a cavity

From anything that grows on a tree

That’s edible – wow – incredible!

But what about the no-no’s

The dumb things,

The “doh-doh’s”

That do not help at all

To make a champion mighty and tall?

 

Well, gobs and gobs of ice cream

Chocolate and whipped cream

Are really bad for mom and dad

And you – too!

 

Gum and candies, cookies and cake

Are no-no things that help to make

The pimples on your dimples

The black holes in your teeth

The stickies on your fingers

And the bulgies on your beef!

And do you know what not to drink –

What is wrong –

To grow strong?

Well, sugared pop is sure to give you grief

In the teeth!

Cola drinks contain, me-thinks

Ingredients that are not good sense

To thrive on

Or to jive on

Or for kids to feel alive on!

 

Artificial stuff like colour

May not make us dull or duller

But will not feed our brains a bit

Not a wit!

So Quit!

And here is some news

You might have refused

To score –

Before –

Surprisingly –

Sports drinks are full of sugary stuff and no use –

Drink juice, drink juice – unsugared, natural juice!

Hey what would you say produces

That special oomph for Olympian uses?

It’s the fruit and veg-e-tables – in juices!  You gooses!

And have you tasted tofu yet?

It’s a food from Asia your mom might get –

Lots of folks who tofu eat

Say that it can taste like meat

But unlike meat, it’s white!

Are you brave enough to try a bite?

And goodness please, let’s not forget about water –

‘Cuz when you’re really thirsty, then you ought-er

Glug, glug, glug a glass or two

For sports or the stuff you want to do

‘Cuz it fills you up with pep and more

To play and shoot and make the score!

 

So now – hey wow –

Take a trip to your kitchen cupboards – with mom

I’m sure she’ll be glad to explain what she keeps in some

And I bet you’ll discover with mom or yourself

A treasure chest on every shelf

Of awesome edibles – just for you

That will help you grow up

Tall and true!

 

And if you follow the ABC’s
Of what to eat and what not

You’ll be much too strong and much too smart

To ever find your self caught

With straggly hair

Or a shape like a pear

Or teeth that go rot in the night!

Olympians feel good

Like Olympians should

From chowing down

What is right, right, right!

Because we need red corpuscles

To put energy in our muscles,

And – each – right – bite  –

Turns into – might – might – might!

 

So Bon Appetite – it was really a treat

For us to discuss – how Olympians eat!

I’ll recognize you forever – because

You’ll be the coolest a kid ever was –

And the strongest champion under the sun

Growing up – an Olympian!

 

The poet, Helen (Appy)

The poet, Helen (Appy)

Don’t pass over Passover desserts..and hey, they are all dairy free!

Move over disgusting jelly rolls and dusty cookies!  Here are 3 fantastic recipes.  CMC, you know which one is yours!

try to eat just one

try to eat just one

Secret Weapon Merengue Cookies

1 cup  melted chocolate chips or any other semi-sweet chocolate

2 egg whites

½ cup sugar

½ tsp. vanilla

½ tsp. white vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Melt chocolate chips.

Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt until foamy. Add sugar slowly while beating and beat until peaks form (I don’t always succeed in getting peaks, and it doesn’t matter).  Add vanilla and vinegar. Fold in chocolate.

Drop onto ungreased cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake 10 minutes. Cool on rack. Devour.

“Oatmeal” Cookies

These are so good you may decide to make them all year long.

2 cups matzoh meal

2 cups matzoh farfel

1 – ½ cups sugar

2/3 cups oil ( you can reduce a bit and replace with orange juice if you want to cut fat)

4 eggs

2 tsp. cinnamon

½ tsp. salt

½ cup raisins and/or chocolate chips

combine everything, drop onto parchment lined cookie sheet and bake at 30 – 35 minutes.

If you want to make these “biscotti”, add some orange rind, bake in logs, cut after 15 minutes and dust with cinnamon and sugar.

Finally,…I usually don’t like Nigella, but this recipe is a winner:

this photo is crying for drizzled chocolate!

this photo is crying for drizzled chocolate!

Nigella’s Cinnamon Almond Cake

Don’t worry – the cake comes out of the oven very high but eventually falls to about a 1” thick with a wonderful moist texture and almond paste taste.

8 egg whites

3/4 cup fruit sugar*

a few drops almond extract 9optional)

grated zest of 1/2 orange

1/2 cup mild olive oil

1 1/2 cups almond flour

1 tsp baking powder (yes it is fine for Passover or omit)

3/4 cup sliced almonds

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tbsp Passover-friendly icing sugar (approx)

* You can buy fruit sugar – sometimes called instant blending – or make it by processing granulated sugar about a minute in the food processor.

1. In a clean, grease-free bowl, whisk egg whites until opaque and start to hold their shape. Slowly add sugar and continue to beat until thick and shiny. Beat in almond extract (if using) and zest.

2. Combine almond flour and baking powder. Add oil and almond flour alternately in three additions each whisk after each addition.

3. Pour mixture into a greased 9″ springform pan that has been lined with parchment paper on the bottom. Combine almonds with cinnamon and sprinkle over the top.

4. Bake in a preheated 350F oven 35 to 40 minutes (start checking at 30) until top has risen and is set, almonds are golden and a cake tester comes out clean.

5. Cool cake on a rack. When cool, open the sides and cool completely before removing cake.

6. Push or shake icing sugar through a small strainer over the cake, or do it my way, and drizzle melted chocolate over the top!

Makes 10 to 12 slices

And I’m back.

Ok, it has been a while. I have experienced what experts call “February”. Symptoms include lack of creativity and a sense of humour. Thankfully it can be cured with a dose of Israel with a side of London.

North Americans do some things well. Even really well. But we need some international assistance in the hotel breakfast department. Sorry Germans, your salty meat displays don’t count. The Brits try hard, but offal before noon is a bit hard core for me.

I’m talking about salads, that although on first glance seem questionable at 7 a.m. are the perfect way to start the day, mixed in with a blob of labne topped with zataar, beside a mini frying pan of shakshuka. All that salad goodness certainly justifies a rugellach or 3 to follow! Funny how that halva is cut in the perfect size to grab as you waddle from the breakfast room…..

That is a breakfast of champions

That is a breakfast of champions

How can cukes, tomatoes, olive oil, lemon and salt taste that good?

How can cukes, tomatoes, olive oil, lemon and salt taste that good?

Here’s a recipe in case you still need convincing:

Shakshuka

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  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
  • 4 cups ripe diced tomatoes, or 2 cans (14 oz. each) diced tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 5-6 eggs
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley (optional, for garnish)

 

Heat a deep, large skillet or sauté pan on medium. Slowly warm olive oil in the pan. Add chopped onion, sauté for a few minutes until the onion begins to soften. Add garlic and continue to sauté till mixture is fragrant.

Add the bell pepper, sauté for 5-7 minutes over medium until softened.

Add tomatoes and tomato paste, and stir till blended. Add spices and stir well, and allow mixture to simmer over medium heat for 5-7 minutes till it starts to reduce. At this point, you can taste the mixture and spice it according to your preferences.

Crack the eggs, one at a time, directly over the tomato mixture, making sure to space them evenly over the sauce. Place 4-5 eggs around the outer edge and 1 in the centre. The eggs will cook “over easy” style on top of the tomato sauce.

Cover the pan. Allow mixture to simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the eggs are cooked and the sauce has slightly reduced. Keep an eye on the skillet to make sure that the sauce doesn’t reduce too much, which can lead to burning. (You can put it into a 350 degree oven if you want to, as long as your pot and lid are oven-safe)

If you prefer your eggs runnier, let the sauce reduce for a few minutes before cracking the eggs on top then, cover the pan and cook the eggs to taste.

Garnish with the chopped parsley, if desired.

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