Archive for the ‘Shavuoth’ Category

Cookbook Review: Dairy Made Easy & “180 Cal (or Less!) Cheesecake” Ramekins

May 26, 2014

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Disclosure: Artscroll provided me with a copy of this book to review. Opinions are my own.

Leah Schapira and Victoria Dwek have released another book in their “made easy” series in time for Shavuoth. Like the earlier books in this series, Dairy Made Easy is a slim book, very attractively designed. The target audience for this book seems to be cooks who already have plenty of comprehensive, basic cookbooks and are looking to freshen up their dairy menus with recipes that are creative but not too much of a patchke.

The recipes in Dairy Made Easy are clearly explained and reasonably do-able for most cooks.  While most of them look fairly easy to make, not all of them are dead simple. Recipes that sound delicious but a little involved: Arancini (deep-fried cheese-stuffed rice balls), chocolate croissants, and cheese buns/babka.

This being a dairy cookbook, the recipes feature lots of butter, cream and cheese. Most don’t have over-the-top amounts, but some do. The Three Cheese Quiche has a pint of sour cream and almost two sticks of butter in the crust and over 2 1/2 lbs. of cheese in the filling. The Cajun Creamy Pasta, the Penne a la Vodka, the Pesto Cream Sauce and the Alfredo sauce all use about a pint of heavy cream.

The authors do include a “Make it Light” page that lists the lighter recipes in the book and provides tips for lightening up some of the richer recipes. A sidebar explains how to use Greek yogurt as a substitute for higher fat ingredients like cream cheese or sour cream. (Throughout the book, the authors suggest using a particular brand of Greek yogurt and another brand of hard cheese.) There is also a “Make it Pareve” page.

Another thing to bear in mind: the book emphasizes pasta and bread, not whole grains and legumes. The main dishes in this book are primarily divided between the chapters “Pizza,” “Pasta,” and “Soups, Salads & Sandwiches.”  There are ten pasta dishes, five pizza/calzone recipes and four sandwich recipes. Besides these bread or pasta main dishes, there is one fish recipe, one quiche recipe and one frittata recipe.

All that being said, the bottom line with any cookbook is whether or not the recipes are appealing and actually work. On this count, the authors definitely deliver. I have liked everything that I have made from this book and there are a number of other recipes I want to try. Here is what I have already made from this book:

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Cheese Blintzes

May 19, 2014

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Blintzes are not really all that hard to make. A blintz is just a thin pancake (crepe or bletlach) wrapped around a filling and then sauteed in butter until golden brown on the outside.

There are two aspects that intimidate people: (1) making the crepe and (2) wrapping the crepe around the filling.

Mostly, making crepes is a matter of practice and adjusting your standards. You are rolling the crepes up, so they do not need to look perfect. A tear here or there can usually be worked around. As you make the crepes, you will improve your technique, figuring out how much batter you need for your pan and the best way to swirl the batter around to evenly coat the pan. You will fall into a rhythm, with each succeeding crepe looking nicer and being easier to make.

Rolling up blintzes is the same as rolling burritos. You put a line of filling on the bottom of the crepe, fold over the bottom of the  crepe to cover the filling, fold in the sides, and then roll it up.

 

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Cinnamon Challah Croutons with Berries and Cream (Decontructed Blintzes)

May 20, 2013

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Apparently, dessert croutons are a thing, lately. There are places that sell toasted cubes of cake to eat as snacks or use in desserts or salads. The LA Times recently published a recipe by Nancy Silverton which featured bread croutons as a garnish for a rich chocolate dessert (Bittersweet Chocolate Tartufo with Olive Oil Gelato and Olive Oil Fried Croutons). And there are recipes featuring fruit, ice cream or some other creamy mixture, and sweet croutons (see here and here).

Anyway, I was thinking about a recipe from Maida Heatter’s Book of Great American Desserts called Top Secret Topping. It is nothing more than plain or lightly sweetened cottage cheese, which is somehow transformed by being pureed in the food processor into a luscious creamy smooth topping for fresh fruit. Maida said she swooned when she first tried it over strawberries, and her friends couldn’t guess what it was (yogurt? sour cream? creme fraiche? cream?) (here is her original description, reprinted in Maida’s Heatter’s Pies and Tarts).

She says you can use 1% or 2%, but you really need to use 4% to get the full effect. The extra fat in the 4% makes it possible for the mixture to whip up and increase in volume. The increased airiness as well as the smoothness of the pureed cottage cheese creates the impression of creme fraiche or whipped cream.

I decided to add cinnamon challah croutons to Maida’s combination of strawberries and top secret topping. The result: a taste I can only describe as deconstructed cheese blintz. I also tried the croutons on strawberry spinach salad with my fat-free orange dressing. It was nice, but I liked the combination of creamy cheese, berries and cinnamon croutons a bit more.

The cinnamon challah croutons remind me a bit of those mock blintzes made from toast stuffed with cream cheese. Made with coconut oil, they are pareve, but taste dairy, almost buttery.

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Spinach Quinoa Salad

May 17, 2013

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This is a fusion of spinach salad and quinoa salad, with an equal balance of the greens and the grains. The dressing is a super simple mixture of lime and lemon juice, with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper. A drizzle of honey is entirely optional, but a very nice addition to the dressing. Pecans, sliced pears, scallions and red onion add crunch and color. If you are serving this with a dairy meal, crumbled feta cheese is a delicious topping.

The spinach doesn’t get so soggy, so you can take leftovers to work the next day.

I made this for Shavuoth and served it along with a do-it-yourself salad bar, a cheese platter, roast salmon, yellow rice, stuffed shells and eggplant parmesan. Dessert was fresh fruit, plus low-fat cheesecake and regular cheesecake.
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Claudia Roden’s Les Fila au Fromage (Cheese Triangles, or Filikas)

July 27, 2011

Rich little (and medium sized) phyllo cheese triangles.  Perfect for entertaining.

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Eggplant Parm, The Easy Way

May 29, 2011

I love Eggplant Parmesan, but I hate frying . . . So, I was thrilled to discover how well the breaded slices “fry” in the oven. All you need for this recipe is five ingredients: sliced eggplant, eggs, breadcrumbs, tomato sauce, and shredded cheese. And you don’t need exact amounts, either.

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Super Easy Delkelech, Dairy-Free

May 15, 2011

I was wondering if I could apply the principal behind the dairy-free cheese danishes to delkelech. With those pastries, a dip in a lemon-vanilla syrup gives the cheese-less crescent rolls a dairy taste.

For my dairy-free delkelech, I filled puff pastry squares with frangipane–a French almond cream. I also added some black currant jam to some of the pastries. After baking, I dipped the pastries in the lemon-vanilla syrup.

Chilling in the fridge helps bring out the dairy flavor, but this combination of frangipane and pastry is so classic, it does not depend on simulating cheesiness to be delicious. (Note: some like these better warm, or at least room temperature)

My husband loved these so much, I made the recipe again, but filled some of the pastries with a Tofutti “cream cheese”-based filling.

I had lots of filling towards the end, so I turned the last eight delkelach into mini-cheesecake tarts. These tasted the most like delkelach because there was the highest ratio of filling to pastry, and the moisture from the pastry softened the puff pastry so that it was less flaky/crisp and more flaky/chewy like real danishes.

This recipe is super easy because it relies on puff pastry.  And, yes, you can make cheese danishes with puff pastry. This is what the Barefoot Contessa used to do at her Hamptons store, and it is a shortcut even some old-fashioned bakers have taken. In a discussion of Mindel Appel’s recipe  for  delkelech (first printed in a Joan Nathan, NYT article), a Chowhound confessed: “‘I hate to tell you this, but my Hungarian mother – who passed away at 93 just a few years ago – used to make delkelekh with frozen puff pastry dough. The filling was similar to the NY Times recipe, though. I have had delkelekh very much like what was described in the article, but we all liked the puff pastry version so much better. I don’t know when she adopted this shortcut, but it didn’t seem to faze her a bit.” (more…)

Shavuoth Menu

May 22, 2010

Here is what I made for Shavuoth:

For an appetizer, homemade cheese blintzes with strawberry compote and sour cream

The rest of the meal consisted of oven poached salmon, asparagus with lemon dressing (Judy Zeidler, The Gourmet Jewish Cook), quinoa with mint and tomato, cucumber salad, leaf salad (Salad with a Crunch), and penne with smoked mozzarella and basil for one meal and macaroni and cheese for another meal.

Dessert was cheesecake, of course.

Oh, and for another meal, I served lentil soup and a quiche made from farmers cheese, jack cheese, and sauteed mushrooms and shallots. The lentil soup was from Judy Zeidler’s book, and the quiche was also (but I swapped out the scallions called for in the original recipe with the mushrooms and shallots because that is what I had in the fridge).

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