Apple, Honey and Almond Tartine for Rosh Hashanah

half with almonds 2Apples and honey go together on Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), like cookies and milk, every other day of the year! We dip apples in honey to symbolizes our wishes for a sweet year for family, friends and all the Jewish people. While this explanation makes sense, I have often wondered why specifically apples and honey?  Why not figs dipped into date syrup?

In researching this question, the interpretation I discovered on the website torah.org, resonated quite strongly with me. Their insight regarding the apple part of the equation, is explained this way:
“On most fruit trees the leaves appear before the fruit, thus providing a protective cover for the young fruit. The apple, however, makes a preemptive move by appearing before the leaves. The Jewish people are compared to an apple because we are willing to live out our Jewish lives even if this seems to leave us unprotected. “

The choice of honey was brilliantly explained with this insight:
“A bee can inflict pain by its sting, yet it also produces delicious honey.  Life has this same duality of potential. We pray that our choices will result in a sweet year.”

And so apples and honey it is again, this year on my holiday table. I usually place a big platter of apples on the table with a little knife and cutting board and a bowl of honey for dipping to start the meal. What results is a table littered with hacked up apples, band-aid wrappers (someone inevitablly cuts themself) apple cores and lots of gooey drippings everywhere.

Leave it to Martha to come up with a tidy, delicious and very beautiful solution to this sticky mess. It truly is a good thing. slice close up 625 sqMy take on Martha’s idea starts with my ultimate braided challah, sliced lengthwise into 1 inch thick planks. The slices of bread are lightly spread with honey and then covered with thinly sliced apples. A scattering of toasted sliced  almonds and a final drizzle of honey makes a very special start to your holiday meal. braidingbrushing with eggwith toppingThese open faced sandwiches really should be assembled just before serving. This is not usually a problem since there are always those guests who hang out in the kitchen, asking if they can help. Set up an assembly line and assign apple slicing, honey spreading and almond scattering. Your tartines will be ready in no time at all.

Wishing you all a sweet and healthy New Year.

Click here to print recipe for Rosh Hashanah Apple and Honey Tartine sliced 2

Rosh Hashanah Round Challah

a slice with honey 2FHaving baked over 1000 loaves of challah in my life, I think it’s fairly safe to say that I know a thing or two about this Friday night Shabbat dinner staple. 51 weeks of the year, I make a simple 3 strand braided challah covered with a crumble topping. (If you want to be really humbled, check out Rivka Malka Perlman’s you tube video, where she braids 6 strands! That is punching way above my weight!)  However, one week each year, for Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) , I make a round challah. The round challah of this holiday symbolizes continuity and the endless cycle of life.

My challah recipe has not changed in over 8 years. The dough recipe comes from my friend Margo and the topping, crafted from sugar, flour and butter (or margarine), comes from my sister’s cousin’s friend, Elaine. As far as I know, Margo and Elaine do not know each other, but I am sure if they met, they would become great friends as the marriage of their recipes is a beautiful and delicious thing to behold.

The dough uses 2:1 ratio of white to whole wheat flour. I love the nuttiness that whole wheat adds to the finished bread. l make the dough on Wednesday or Thursday, cover it and put it in the fridge until Friday morning. The slow rise in the fridge really helps to develop the flavours of the bread. And, as a bonus, there is less to do on Friday! We always add raisins to our challah, you raisin haters can leave them out. mise en placemixing doughI remove the dough from the mixer and push the raisins in by hand. They are more evenly distributed this way.poking in raisinsThe dough will double in about 90 minutes on the counter at room temperature, or you can cover and refrigerate for up to 48 hours.proofing doughIf you are making a round challah, a kitchen scale will make your life much easier. if you have ever been on Weight Watchers, then you have a scale lurking in the back of a cabinet somewhere. use a scaledivide by 9assembleready for second rising

egg washsprinkling toppingA slice of this, drizzled with some honey is a very sweet start to the New Year. L’Shana Tova.round with apples 2 625 sq

Click here to print the recipe for Rosh Hashanah Round Challah.

Check back later this week for a clever, beautiful and very delicious new idea on how to serve apples and honey!

 

 

 

Confessions of Home Alone Diners…and Comfort Eggs

plated 1 625 sqWhen you are used to cooking dinner for a family of five every night, finding yourself alone for supper comes as a bit of a shock, a pleasant one, mind you, but still, quite a jarring change to the system. Having solitary meals quite frequently this past summer got me curious about what other people fix for dinner when they are flying solo.

Out to dinner this week with a bunch of friends, I posed the question to the table. Almost every man at the table said they ate a bowl of cereal or picked up some take-out, while practically every woman said they made a salad with some fish, chicken or eggs mixed in for protein.
Really???

Are my sister Faith and I the only ones to conduct a frantic search for our spouse’s hidden chocolate stash, dump the Party Size pack of peanut M&M’s into a bowl (because our mom raised us right, and eating out of the bag is for animals), guzzle a diet coke from the can (because it tastes better that way, right?), and call it dinner?

The late Laurie Colwin, wrote about this very subject in her book, “Home Cooking.”
“Dinner alone is one of life’s pleasures. Certainly cooking for oneself reveals man at his weirdest. People lie when you ask them what they eat when they are alone. A salad, they tell you. But when you persist, they confess to peanut butter and bacon sandwiches deep fried and eaten with hot sauce, or spaghetti with butter and grape jam.”

I suspected that because I posed the question in public, where answers would not be anonymous, that not everyone was being 100% honest with me (just a hunch!). So I sent out an email to about 40 of my closest friends and relatives and posed the question, with the promise of zero judgement and total anonymity.

The replies came flooding back almost immediately. I was so relieved. Yes, these were my peeps. I knew they wouldn’t let me down. Here is a sampling of some of my favourite confessions.

  • Entire bag of baby carrots (but he/she only did this once because their skin turned orange)
  • Stacy’s Pita Chips with guacamole (Impossible not to finish entire bag as they are laced with some secret substance that causes addiction)
  • Frozen Purdy’s Mint Meltie Bars (had never heard of these and I think I am going to be very sorry I learned about them!)
  • Pint of Ben and Jerry’s half baked
  • Large bowl of Miss Vicki’s Sea Salt and Vinegar Potato Chips followed by either 2 “Healthy Choice Fudge Bars” or 2 PC Honey Greek Yogurt Smoothie Bars (This person imagines that the “healthy choice bars” or “yogurt bars” cancel out the chips!)
  • Entire bag of Ace Bakery Rosemary Artisan Crisps (see Stacy’s chips above!)
  • Large cinnamon bun with an ice water chaser!
  • Bowl of oatmeal and blueberries with a white wine chaser!
  • Chef Michael Smith’s olive oil popcorn with a Diet Coke Chaser!
  • Large glass of red wine. (not chasing anything)
  • Baked Beans (eaten straight from the can).
  • $1.39 Double Cheeseburger from the McDonald’s extra value menu (I think this person was putting me on…I don’t believe it for a second!)
  • Turkey hoagie and a bag of chips (That’s a sub sandwich for those of you not from Philly!)

Now, lest you think that I subsist on a steady diet of Peanut M&M’s and Diet Coke, rest assure, I mix it up. Sometimes it’s a bowl of Kettle Brand Baked Sea Salt Chips (the only baked potato chips that do not taste like baked cardboard) with a chaser of Villa Sandi Prosecco.

I think that we are looking for comfort when we are dining alone at home. Cooking for yourself should feel slightly indulgent and not at all a chore. After all, you only have yourself to please, no spouse or picky kids! Sometimes, comfort means something warm. When that craving hits, this is what I make myself:a bite goneI always have eggs, cheese and tomatoes in the house.Ingredients 2 

eggs into panready for oven

I’d love to hear what you eat for dinner when you are home alone!  Leave me a confession comment.

Click here to print recipe for Comfort Eggs.

 

Wild Blueberry Cream Cheese Scones

split with butter 3 625 sqChances are, unless you live in the northeastern area of North America, it is unlikely you have ever experienced the wonder of a fresh from the bush wild blueberry. They differ wildly (pun intended!) from their sibling, the cultivated blueberry. They are smaller, sweeter and more flavourful. The majority of them are frozen and used by commercial bakers all over North America. But, if you are lucky to live in The Maritime provinces, Ontario, Quebec or Maine, you will understand why I squeal with joy when they finally arrive in late July each summer.

In our increasingly global economy, where you can get anything at any time of year, fresh wild blueberries remain one of the few holdouts! They are only available late July-September. And for that I am grateful. There is something to be said for delayed gratification. Sure, you can get cultivated blueberries all year long, from other parts of the world, but nothing compares to the sweetness and burst of blueberry flavour that explodes in your mouth when you eat the wild ones.

There are those who believe that it is a crime to bake with wild blueberries. They are purists and feel that the wild ones should be saved for eating raw and that coercing them into a baked good is heresy. They postulate that only cultivated blueberries should be used for baking. To that group of extremists I say, “Try the grey stuff, it’s delicious!” If you have ever created a muffin or cake with cultivated blueberries, you know of the baking fiasco I refer to. They burst during baking  turning the whole cake a disgusting shade of greyish blue. Wild blueberries are well behaved. They hold their shape perfectly during baking and do not explode.

While each summer I certainly I eat more than my body weight in raw wild blueberries, mixed with Greek yogurt and Double Coconut Granola, I defend the right to use them in baked goods  as well.

I recalled a blueberry cream cheese scone I used to make many years ago, but could not find the recipe, so I did a google search. The blueberry cream cheese scone from Honolulu restaurant Diamond Head Market & Grill kept popping up in my search. Studded with blueberries and chunks of cream cheese,everyone raved about it. Although the bakery refuses to share their secret recipe, Hawaii food blogger Bonnie has cracked the code. Thanks Bonnie! We loved these scones fresh from the oven, but they were even better, split and toasted the next day! mise en place 1The key to these scones is to mix in the blueberries very gently and then carefully push small chunks of cream cheese into the dough. I scooped the dough with a spring loaded ice cream scoop and lightly pressed them with my palm to flatten. A brushing of cream and a sprinkling of turbinado sugar, and they were ready for baking.

gently fold in berries 2piled up 2

Click here to print recipe for Wild Blueberry and Cream Cheese Scones.

cooling 2

 

 

 

Sunny Summer Salad

oval platter 1Had I presented this salad to Mr. Langley, my former culinary school instructor, I would have miserably failed the assignment. His mantra of “Balance, in colour, texture, size and shape” plays in the soundtrack of my memories, right before Stacy and Clinton’s “Colour, texture, pattern and shine!” (Anyone else mourning the end of WNTW, as much as me?) This all yellow salad would not have pleased him. Thankfully, I’m not in Culinary School anymore and I just cook to please myself. This sunny summer salad pleased my daughter and I greatly!

We were rummaging around in the kitchen trying to figure out what to make for lunch last week. I suggested our usual standby; tomato, watermelon and feta salad but we had no watermelon. We did have some gorgeous ripe nectarines, with wildly blushing skin and flesh reminiscent of goldenrods. They got chopped up, along side some tiny sun gold tomatoes and some mini yellow pear tomatoes. Of course I sautéed some corn (fresh corn goes into every salad I make in the summer!) We diced up some feta cheese and chopped up some fresh basil and mint for brightness.raw ingredientsThe sweet crunch of the sautéed corn played so well next to the creamy salty tang of the feta. Mildly acidic tomatoes balanced the lushly sweet nectarines. Harmony in every bite, despite the  monochromatic ingredients. I think if we blindfolded Mr. Langley and gave him a taste, he would give this salad an A+.2 plates 625 sq

Click here to print recipe for Sunny Summer Salad.