Earlier this week I had the pleasure of speaking to the wonderful Women of Hadassah in Southern California. This group of women’s entire focus is to connect and empower women to effect change. They are in fact #WomenWhoDo. They are on the frontlines for healthcare and cures for cancer and advocating for women’s rights.
These women are intelligent and engaging so I took a page from my friend, Robert Schueller’s, playbook. I talked about “sexy veggies” and aphrodisiac vegetables. I was surprised to learn, from Robert, that some vegetables have genders. Things like eggplant, avocado and bell peppers have a male and female fruit. These are plants that you need to have both to flower and bloom in your garden. The best way to insure that is to ask at your local nursery.
We also talked about aphrodisiac vegetables. There is a lot of talk about this on the internet. I have a very simple philosophy about it. If a fruit or vegetable evokes a “feeling” in you because of the way it looks, smells or tastes, it is an aphrodisiac. If it evokes a memory in you that can cause an arousal, it is an aphrodisiac. Very simple!
My daughter has been after me to buy an Air Fryer. I did look at a few of them, but when I started asking how they work, it sounded suspiciously like convection ovens. Turns our I was almost right.
Both ovens use fans to circulate hot air around the food. Both ovens cook faster than a conventional oven. The one main difference is that the air fryer keeps the food in a smaller space. SO I started to look around my kitchen to see if there was a way I could create that small space when my eye was drawn to my Cuisinart Toaster/Convection Oven. That’s a small space. That’s a convection oven. Hmm…?
There are these pita chips at my local Farmer’s Market. I love them. They are deep-fried and seasoned with a yummy lemon pepper seasoned salt. I wanted to re-create them.
When you use an air fryer it advises you set the fryer to 360°. So I set the oven to convection at 350° (there wasn’t a 360°). I let the oven preheat with my pan in there.
While the oven was preheating, I cut a whole pita into 8 wedges. I brushed each wedge, on both sides, lightly with olive oil. I also sprinkled each wedge with lemon pepper and salt.
I baked the wedges for 5 minutes and then turned them over and baked for another 5 minutes. Watch them closely. Temperatures vary by oven.
I love them!! they are crispy and that little brush of olive oil is all I needed to get that “fried” flavor. I finished the chips with another quick sprinkle of salt.
The verdict is, you can buy an air fryer, if you’d like. But if you don’t want to buy another small electronic or your counter space is almost full, this is a great option.
Have fun! enjoy!
As promised on Instagram here is the recipe for that delicious Caramel Apple Upside Down Cake. I used store bought Caramel Sauce (Mrs. Richardsons). You can easily make your own. Here is a quick recipe:
1 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup unsalted butter, 1/4 cup whole milk, and 1 tsp. vanilla
Stirring constantly bring all ingredients to a boil and cook until thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. You can use right away or store in an airtight jar in refrigerator.
On another note can you do me a favor? I am trying to get a book deal and need to up my Instagram followers. If you aren’t already following me, will you please go to @diaryofalostchef on Instagram and give me a follow? I really appreciate it. As soon as I have my book deal I will give away books to the first ten of you that follow me.
People are always asking me, “What is your specialty?”. Recently, I’ve been saying baking. As I was reminded, I did write a cookbook about cakes (coming soon). However, one of my most favorite things to do is to have a fabulous meal out and then go home and recreate it. I especially love great finds when I’m traveling and can meet with the chef and get their recipe or tips for re-creating it at home.
I just got back from a fantastic trip to New York City, with girlfriends, and I brought home some great ideas and a couple of tips. One of my friend’s son is the Head Sommelier at the Standard Grill, Rocco Di Spirito’s newest endeavor, at The Standard Hotel, in the Meat Packing District. We had an amazing meal and lots of wine! There were the things we ordered and the things that were sent to the table, by our favorite sommelier. Let me just whet your whistle a little. We had an amuse bouche of Hamachi (yellow tail) and caviar. We had Beet Tartare, Jamon Iberico, and Asparagus with a Creamy Cashew sauce. We had Rocco’s Risotto that is so special only he can make it!
I am working on cracking the code for that risotto but I think I have come close to his Beet Tartare. It is so delicious and fresh. I recommend serving it with a hearty cracker. I made it for friends the other night and one of the guys who “doesn’t like beets” ate almost the whole bowl! Think outside the box, try it.
This dip is sweet and savory and so easy to eat. You definitely get a hit of horseradish but the rest of the ingredients play a magnificent game of hide and seek. It wasn’t at all salty but there was salt. The heat was too subtle to be pepper. Was the tart flavor lemon or vinegar? My investigation began.
On our last day there, we were enjoying Chelsea Market. It’s one of my favorite places in NYC. There is lots of cute places to shop and it feel a little like a foodie paradise with the kitchen shops and artisan food places. Plus the New York Food Network Studios are at Chelsea Market so I feel close to my people when I’m there.
We stumbled in Miznon the Chelsea market outlet of Israeli Chef, Eyal Shani. You may not know the name but you can pretty much give him credit for the cauliflower craze. His famed roasted cauliflower boasts only four ingredients but it is special. When I first looked at the menu and saw “Lavan”, a pita sandwich with cauliflower as the star , I couldn’t have imagined the specialness that awaited me.
The cauliflower had lost all the sulphur aroma and was simply sweet. It was creamy and buttery. There was a small kick of heat but just on the tip of the tongue, nothing overwhelming. The tahini was perfect! Not too much garlic, not too much lemon. Once I figured this recipe out, I knew it would be in regular rotation! I’ve also included a recipe for Schwarma “style Chicken. It makes a great meal with the cauliflower. Have the beet tartare as you’re appetizer.
I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as I do. Next up I am going to recreate The Lamb’s Club Pastrami. This may take some time but man was it good. If there is a restaurant recipe you want me to try and recreate message me. I always love to hear from you!
There is a movement happening in the food world and beyond. We are all looking at waste and how to prevent it. James Beard House has put out a book called, Waste Not. Websites such as The Feed Feed and Food 52 have posted articles and recipes and magazines like Cooking Light and Food & Wine have also featured articles on food waste prevention. Kitchens for Good is even hosting an event directed at using “waste and scraps”.
Many years ago my sister was at my house and I mentioned that I had nothing in the house to eat. She replied that she could live in my house a month with what I had in my house! A self-challenge was born. At least once a week I try to do a “clean out” of my refrigerator and pantry. I like to challenge myself to make meals using just those ingredients. A few weeks ago I made a great “Pantry Pasta”. I had two half full boxes of pasta and a half a jar of sun-dried tomatoes, in oil, and some hard salami, my husband got in a gift basket. I always have fresh vegetables (and frozen) and I have fresh herbs in my garden. I keep good butter, olive oil and parmesan cheese in the house too. Voila, great pasta! I am fortunate that I have a great garden and have a bounty of lettuce and cucumbers so a salad is an easy addition.
This past week was July 4th and so I had a lot of leftovers in the house. The challenge was easier in the respect that I had a lot to work with; but harder because I wanted to use specific recipes, with said leftovers. Our meal was eclectic but delicious. My husband had picked up the Street Taco package at Costco. It was great and the chicken had a little smoky flavor, like it was fresh from the street grill. I recommend trying it the next time you are there. It’s also great to buy and keep in the house for unexpected guest or a last minute appetizer or dinner.
In addition to the tacos, I had been to the farmers market and kept my carrot tops on, so I made a delicious carrot top pesto, based on a recipe from Chalkboard Magazine, served over more half boxes of pasta. I am testing a salad recipe, which I can’t share yet, so we had that. We had a ton of fruit so I made a version of a Deb Perelman’s Strawberry Summer Sheet Cake.
What I love about all these recipes is that you can really change them up to fit what you have in your home. Add more fruit, use different fruit. If you don’t have carrot tops use whatever herbs you have or even a green like arugula. If you don’t have pasta serve the pesto over chicken or steak. You can even make it thick and serve on crostini. Get creative with what you have in your home already.
You know I love to hear from you. Let me know what you are “not wasting”!
I recently came across a small blurb about buying fresh bay leaves from a French purveyor. It caught my eye because the photo made it appear that you could tie some kitchen twine around the stems and hang this aromatic in your kitchen. I wanted to learn more about this ubiquitous herb, that I use but don’t much about. Here’s what I learned.
Apparently there is “good” bay laurel from Turkey and Central America and then there is the bay laurel from California. The California version is more minty, a little oilier and can be bitter. If you are allergic to bay leaves, or have had allergic like symptoms, it is the California version. Bay Leaves are native to the Mediterranean and have a natural oil that has a similar nose to eucalyptus or clove but a lot more mellow. When you do start to cook with either the fresh or dried versions, remember you don’t need much to reap all the benefits.
Typically, bay leaves are used in vegetarian stocks, brines, and longer cooking dishes like soups and stews. I was intrigued with the idea of adding them to your coals for barbecue like you mesquite wood chips. You can also light a couple on fire and toss them into a covered dish, right before serving, to impart a smoky, aromatic flavor. Bay leaves pair well with anise, lemon, onion, oregano and white pepper. As a matter of fact you can grind dried bay leaves with any of these and make your own spice blend. Stay tuned. When I try this I will let you know.
Fresh bay leaves are usually available in the produce section of your local market or can be found at your farmer’s market. I even found a link to buy them from Amazon, of course. When buying fresh make sure they are Laurel.
Here’s a couple of fun facts about bay leaves. They are a good source of magnesium, potassium, calcium, Vitamin A, C and iron. They are great for digestion and are a natural anti-inflammatory. Food with benefits. I love it!
Here are a few recipes that use bay leaves in a more forward way.
You can serve these together. I think the bay leaf flavors show up very differently. But you can also dip your toe in slowly with one or the other. As always please let me know what you think of these recipes or how you are using bay leaves other than in soups and stews.
I had never had it, Blum’s Crunch Coffee Cake, but it appeared in my feed in December 2017 and then appeared in Sunset Magazine in December 2018. What is this cake that everyone seems to craving?
Blum’s was a pastry shop located in the Bay Area. Most notably its flagship was situated in Union Square, in the days when a shopping trip was special. It usually meant getting dressed up and was finished with a treat in the form of a special luncheon place.
Blum’s started as candy shop and was passed down through a couple of generations until Jack Levy was at the helm. He realized that they were selling “the same old candy” they had for decades. He challenged his candy makers to make a new candy every day to find “the next great thing.”. One day a candy maker over boiled what was to be a soft coffee candy, like a taffy, and it was too hard. Rather than throw it away, the baker crushed the “useless” candy and used it to decorate a chiffon cake. An icon was born!
Since then people have been clamoring to get the recipe; the flavor and textures evoke memories for so many. Martha Stewart published a well respected version on her website and Valerie Gordon, of Valerie’s Confections, has a very popular version on her menus in Los Angeles.
As I said above, I have never had the cake. Here is my adapted version of a recipe that was published on Tasting Table in December 2017.
I made a few adjustments, with all respect, to the recipe.
1- I didn’t have Cream of Tartar, so I added 1 Tbs. vinegar instead.
2-While I did use light corn syrup, in this recipe. I prefer not to. An easy substitution is dissolve 1 1/2 cups sugar in 1/4 cup hot water. and then measure out what you need accordingly. Please remember this is now almost 4 cups of sugar in just the candy. You can also use Lyle’s Golden Syrup (Treacle). I found it on Amazon very easily.
3- When preparing your pan, I suggest make an elevated rim with parchment paper. The cake batter rises quite nicely and this will help keep that height.
4- Once you pour the batter into your prepared pan, gently run a sharp knife through it to remove any large air pockets.
5- When making the candy, if you have them wear oven mitts. The mixture gets quite hot. Remember the temperatures in the recipe matter.
I hope it brings back great memories for you. Please share your comments below when you make it!
I could barely write that title without laughing. You see Babka has been around at least as long as I can remember and really even longer. Jewish housewives started making it, in the 1800’s, with extra challah dough. It wasn’t the chocolate cinnamon version we know today. It was usually filled with jam or fruit and topped with some kind of streusel. Chocolate Babka hit the scene in the 1800’s and mostly here in America, not so much the “old country”.
When I was growing up, it was one those desserts that was always out on Friday night, Saturday lunch and Sunday dinners. It was easy to bring to somebody’s house and I’m sure my mom ate her share with a cup of coffee while playing bridge and gossiping. As a kid it was a take it or leave it dessert. If there was nothing else on the table then I would take a slice or not.
When babka was first made in Russia and Eastern Europe, it was usually a Pareve, or neutral, dish. This was for the kosher home and meant it could be served with milk or meat dishes because it was made mostly with water and oil. This made for a little bit of a drier cake. Once in America, bakeries started adding butter for a moister, richer cake with a brioche like density.
I knew Babka was having its moment in 2016 when Trader Joes started selling it. It seems only natural that I would share a recipe now. This is one of those that are not super hard to make but will make great impression. You may even bring back some memories and tears for your older friends and family.
As are all my recipes, this Babka recipe is a compilation of lots of recipes. However, I want to give specific credit for technique to Paula Shoyer, http://thekosherbaker.com . in addition to twisting the babka, she opens it before twisting which really allows the flavors to meld together beautifully. Each bite has a little bit of all the flavors.