Sides & Salads

Stuff that goes along the with the main meal. I’m a traditionalist, sue me.

No Knead Challah

There are a lot of Challah recipes out there.  They range from sweet to savory and cover a wide range of origins.   Growing up, I found challah to be a somewhat dry and flavorless bread that was usually served with no butter or topping, and very often at the point when I was at my hungriest (it is a tradition to slice a challah at the end of the Saturday morning services) and I would have eaten anything.   I never thought too much about it, but as I got older, I was introduced to Challah French Toast, which was a revelation that made me realize I must have challah in the house at all times.  This led me to Cheryl Ann’s (of Brookline) challah, which some fans have noted is more like a Mardi Gras King Cake than a traditional challah, as it so sweet, fluffy and eggy.

Challahs from other institutions like Whole Foods are good but have a strange smell when toasted.  (This is kind of a turn-off, and I will refrain from my opinions of the smell)

This recipe below is modified from the King Arthur No-Knead Challah recipe, which I have modified slightly over the years.   I have also made it Vegan, using Earth Balance, Egg Replacer and Agave.  Still pretty good.

The recipe (and tradition) call for the challah to be braided.  While I very much enjoyed learning how to do this (the indispensable but short video here), I found that the key to a light and fluffy challah (or any yeasted, baked product) was to handle it as little as possible once it was in it’s near-final form.   Since the holiday challahs are round (to convey and celebrate the circular nature of life, etc.) I decided rolling out the dough into a log and baking it in a 9″ round was infinitely easier and resulted in a better final product.

Also, a bread thermometer is a good investment, but I have found that at 35 minutes at 350 degrees, this comes out perfect every time.

Challah

  • 7 3/4 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water (plus more, if necessary)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup melted and cooled unsalted butter  (you can substitute oil or margarine if you need it to be dairy free or kosher, but I have found it has much less flavor). 

Topping

  • 1 egg (any size) beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water
  • Poppy seeds to cover (about 1/3 of a bottle).

Directions
(I never use the bread mixer attachment on my stand mixer or the like alternative. I always do this by hand).

  1. Combine your dry  ingredients and whisk thoroughly.
  2. Make a well, and add the wet ingredients.
  3. Use a spatula to mix the ingredients until you have a cohesive dough; finish with your hands.  You should have a craggy, sticky ball of dough.  You may need to add water if it’s too dry, or a bit of flour to make it easier to handle.
  4. Cover the bowl, and let the dough rise for at least 2 hours.
  5. Refrigerate the dough overnight if possible.
  6. Remove from fridge and separate into two. (King Arthur says it can be made into three, but I like bigger 9″ rounds).
  7. Roll into a log and coil into a 9″ inch (Pam-sprayed) round cake pan.
  8. Allow the challah to rise for about 2 hours.
  9. Preheat the oven to 350°F.   Prepare the topping.
  10. With a pastry brush, brush the challah over every visible surface.
  11. Lay on the poppy seeds, heavy.
  12. Bake the Challah for 35 minutes. Don’t open the oven.   Use a bread thermometer to ensure it’s at 190°F.  Once that’s the case, you can put away your bread thermometer, you won’t need it.
Let cool (until you can hold it to slice it), about 15 minutes.  Serve warm with butter, hummus, apples and honey or other toppings.      Great for toasting, and for making Challah French Toast a few days later.

Arugula Salad, The Best Ever

If you are a reader of this blog you know that I never claim to completely invent my recipes, and that this blog is simply an expression of ideas that may make regular or standard issues easier or more appealing than they are from existing popular or standard recipes.   But very often, if not always, the recipes begin somewhere else.  This salad was created by my wife, and I don’t know if she was just feeling inspired but it is my single favorite salad of all of time and I never want another salad if it’s not this.  OK, I will eat other salads, but if you ask me it will be this all the time.

Ingredients

  • Arugula (1 bag, bunch)
  • olive oil
  • 2-3 shallots, carmelized
  • ~4 tablespoons of sunflower seeds
  • ~ 1 cup feta cheese
  • Juice of half/whole lemon (to taste)
  • Balsamic vinegar (to taste)  (I like Fini but don’t use cheap supermarket stuff).

Directions

  1. Add Arugula to salad bowl, add lemon.
  2. Add feta cheese.
  3. Sprinkle sunflower seeds.
  4. Heat olive oil in frying pan, about four tablespoons (this is the only oil in the salad).  When hot, add sliced shallots.  Carmelize.
  5. Add contents of pan (oil, shallots) to salad bowl.
  6. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar.
  7. Toss and serve.

Perfect Bread, Easy as Pie

bread loaves

Three perfect loaves of almost no knead bread.

My first adult baking task was completed on the advice from a friend who suggested I could turn a great pie with off-the-shelf supermarket ingredients like frozen pie dough and minute tapioca, and he was right.   “Easy as Pie” was true.   Over the decade and half since, I have occasionally challenged myself to be a better baker and nothing is more challenging (or more rewarding) than making good bread.   Of course, making bread is an art people dedicate to their life to, but it starts with a good recipe and good ingredients.  The recipe from Cook’s Illustrated (via the NY Times ‘where it was titled “No Knead Bread”) is so good, so nearly flawless, that it is continually reprinted again and again, cited everywhere and all over the Interwebz is the go-to bread recipe for people who want something more interesting than bread machine bread but less complicated than San Francisco sour dough bread starter in a jar.

It has just enough steps to ward off the casual bread baker and is probably a wee too simple for the artisan.  However, it’s perfect for me, because I know how to make them efficiently and good, and I always share.

This recipe has five ingredients, so MAKE THEM GOOD.  In a rare commitment to quality, I am actually listing the brands I use, because I do think they make a difference.  Perhaps not much, but enough.

  • King Arthur All-Purpose Flour
  • Morton’s Kosher Salt
  • Heinz White Vinegar
  • Fleischman’s Yeast
  • Sam Adams Summer Ale, Harpoon UFO White (beers I use)

I use a 6-qt Le Cruset cast-iron dutch oven, which is darkened from bread baking.    I make two loaves at a time because, honestly, I didn’t want to waste the beer, and the bread never ever gets thrown away, it always gets eaten.  (And the beer is consumed too, but there’s only a little left if you make two loaves).

Ingredients

  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (15 ounces), plus additional for dusting work surface
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons mild-flavored lager
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water  at room temperature

Directions

  1. Whisk flour, yeast, and salt in large bowl.
  2. Measure out liquid ingredients.  Ensure you use room temperature water– the only thing you really can mess up is by killing your yeast by pour hot water or inhibiting it by pouring water that’s too cold on it.
  3. To avoid this issue, I pour the vinegar and beer on the dry ingredients first, allowing the mixture to get bubbly, and then add the water and mix.
  4. Mix with a rubber spatula just until mixed (you’ll have the ‘shaggy ball’).
  5. Cover with saran wrap and leave for at least 8 hours.
  6. Lay a long sheet of parchment paper inside a shallow work bowl and spray with PAM.
  7.  Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface and knead a dozen times. Shape dough into ball by pulling edges into middle. Transfer dough, seam-side down, back to bowl.
  8. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size.  This is a minimum of two hours, but longer can be better, depending on the temperature of your house at the time of baking. 
  9. Place your empty dutch oven, in the oven at 500 degrees for 30 minutes.
  10. Lightly flour top of dough and, using razor blade or sharp knife, make one long, slit along top of dough.
  11. Carefully remove pot from oven and remove lid.
  12. Pick up dough by lifting parchment overhang and lower into pot (let any excess parchment hang over pot edge). Cover pot and place in oven.
  13. Reduce oven temperature to 425 degrees and bake covered for 30 minutes.
  14. Remove lid and continue to bake until loaf is deep brown and instant-read thermometer inserted into center registers 210 degrees, 25 minutes.  (I have found that you don’t actually have to take its temperature, it’s reliably this temperature unless something is very wrong).
  15. Cool as long as you can, but you might have to cut into it and slather it with salted butter and enjoy.
Best Simple Bread Recipe

So simple, so delicious, I always make two at a clip.

home made new york style bagels,

Home Made Bagels

Homemade bagels, montreal bagel recipe, NY bagel recipe, bagels at home

This is a home-made bagel with poppy seeds, sesame seeds and salt.

If you know me and you have ever heard me talk about bagels, you know that I have a very strong opinion that bagels made outside of NYC Metro- literally anywhere else in the United States are not as good.   People say “but…” but it’s clear and demonstrable that there is an environmental advantage to being in New York.  Nature or nurture? I assume some of both, but instead of arguing, which is useless, I decided to do something about it, which entails of course, making my own bagels.

Now as anyone who either made bagels professionally or has tried at home can attest, this is not for the weak or faint of patience.  It requires a good deal of concentration and stick-to-itiveness, and even when the job is done the tasks are not over.  Bagels fresh out of the oven are doughy, hot and delicious but not like their crispy, toasted and topped counterparts.

This recipe is adapted from Homemade Baking, a beautiful appointed 12-year old book gifted to me by my sister-in-law Jane, who first made these with me. On my first flight solo it took the better part of a day to make a baker’s dozen.  The recipe is based on trying to create Montreal-style Bagels, which I have never eaten fresh (though I have eaten the frozen kind) but except for the size,  these are very much like the New York bagels I miss (in NY they would be called mini-bagels, which are prized for their slightly lower carbohydrate payload).

Bagels rising on parchment paper

It’s fun to make bagels. Especially this part.

bagels bathing, bagel bath, steam bath, water bagels

Bagels need to be boiled (or water-bathed) before baking to be real; otherwise they are ROLLS.

The recipe says it will make 32 bagels because after quartering the dough when ready, it assumes you can make 8 from each quarter.  Thinking those would be too small, I made 3 out of each quarter (with enough remaining bits to make a 13th, satisfying my NY-er need for a baker’s dozen).   You can obviously make them any size you want but 32 seems like a lot more work at every step- bagel shaping, water bathing, topping and baking.  I might even double the recipe and make them larger, depending on the occasion.

Overall, the enterprise is very simple, but the process did take about four hours of work.   Like any yeast-based product, you’re going to have to walk away for a few hours and find something else to do.  The longer you’re away, the more volume (and if you don’t overdo it, the delicious tender chew) you can expect.

Homemade Bagels baking on a pizza stone.

Making the bagels on a pizza stone. Unglazed quarry tiles were not available at the time. Likely a cookie sheet with parchment paper would work.

The recipe suggests a few steps that I ignored.  It is likely this bad attitude that made the bagels more New York-style.  The author directs you to use ‘unglazed quarry tiles’ which I didn’t have, so I baked them on my pizza stone. This was adequate, but there was just barely enough room to bake them all and keep them moving through the process of their bath to topping.  She also suggested ‘flattening them’ which I didn’t do either.  This would have resulted in kind of a mini-bialy or ‘flat bagel’, aka ‘flagel’, which I didn’t want.  I wanted a more traditional roundish product.   Lastly there was a suggestion to cover the finished-but-not-bathed bagels with a cotton cloth for 15 minutes.  By that time, covered in dough and flour, hot in the kitchen, and with bowls and seeds everywhere, I regarded that as a low priority.

Lastly, because they were bigger, they needed more time to get golden brown. (The original recipe called for about 7-8 minutes on each side, but probably these take more like 20-25 minutes).

I insist you bake them until golden brown, and don’t ask me, you’ll know when they’re done. That’s what makes them CRISPY on the outside and chewy on the inside.

Just so you know before you get started, there are a few other recipes out there that promise to be easier, and use less ingredients.  Both are found here.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Some kitchen equipment to make sure you have:

  1. 4-6 quart stockpot
  2. Pizza stone, baking tiles, etc.
  3. Slotted spoon or something you can pick up bagels from pot with
  4. Long tongs for above and moving around on the baking dish
  5. Metal spatula for variations on the same
  6. Baking rack for cooling

Ingredients

First bowl of stuff:

  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast

Second bowl of stuff:

  • 2 tablespoons malt syrup
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt (might want to go a wee bit heavier here, unless you planning to add sea salt as a topping)
  • 4 cups all purpose flour (and more for shaping and rising)
  • sesame seeds (uncooked), poppy seeds and kosher, sea or your favorite edible-sized salt

For the boiling bagel-bath water

  • 3 tablespoons malt syrup
  • 1 tablespoon of salt

 

A Bowl of Poppy Seeds for Homemade bagel topping.

Poppy seeds, sesame seeds and salt were great bagel toppers. Sunflower seeds are popular in NY. Onion and garlic are good, but anecdotally not too popular.

Directions (are you sitting down?)

  • Combine first bowl of stuff: 1 cup water and sugar and then yeast.  (If you have supreme confidence in your yeast, you can proceed but I like to wait till there’s some bubbling and puffiness).
  • In a separate bowl, combine the second bowl of stuff: dissolve the malt into the 1/2 cup water. Add the egg, oil and salt. Stir.  Don’t put the whisk away, you’ll probably need to whisk again before combining as things with oil can separate.
  • Using a stand mixer with a dough hook, add the first bowl of stuff and two cups of flour; mix for about one minute at the lowest speed.
  • Then add the second bowl of stuff and the next 2 cups of flour and mix for about 3 minutes at the same speed.
  • Then, prepare to separate the dough like you peel an advertising or price label off something you’re giving as a gift– slow, careful pulling.  You’ll need some extra flour to make dough handleable, and then you can knead it a bit before throwing it into a bowl and covering with plastic wrap (I suggest you either spray the plastic wrap with PAM or throw some more flour on the dough, or you’ll have to de-tangle the plastic wrap from the dough when it’s done rising).
  • Let rise for about 2 hours.  Take out, punch down and let rise again for about 2 hours.
  • When you’re ready for the whole thing to begin, take out the dough and cut into quarters.  See my earlier note about size.  There are lots of ways to ‘make bagels’ out of dough and they have been written about in detail at Serious Eats.  I chose the rope method, which suggests you toss a thin log over your hand, pinch together voila- bagel shape.
  • Prepare your boiling water.
  • Turn your oven to 450 degrees and place your stone/tiles in it to warm up.
  • Slip in three-four bagels at a time and let them fall and resurface-  leave them in for about a minute (when accidentally leaving them in longer I didn’t notice any appreciable difference in texture).  Add toppings
    • About Toppings: It is easiest to attach toppings when the bagels are wet, but I noted that sesame seeds are great for having in a bowl and flopping the moist rings in.  Poppy seeds not as much.  It’s just an opinion, but too many poppy seeds on your bagel gets in the way of seeing the golden brown deliciousness of the bagel, and also makes them look like amateur New England bagels instead of professional NY style bagels.   So I recommend sprinkling the poppy seeds (and Salt) on top of the bagel rather than dipping/dredging.   And of course, ‘do you do both sides?’ is a personal question that you’ll have to answer for yourself.
  • Transfer topped bagels to baking stone.   Bake for about 12 minutes per side, or until golden brown.  Really golden brown, not just golden.
  • Remove and cool on baking rack.
  • Devour. Cut and freeze remaining bagels, they store well and toast well.

I like mine with cream cheese (Zausners), Lox, a lemon squeeze and a sprinkle of dill weed and crushed pepper.  But these are so good, you can just eat them with a little salted butter (Kate’s)

Lox and bagels

This is how I like them– with a ‘shmear’ of cream cheese and lox, lemon dill and pepper.

Potato Pancakes You’ll Eat Standing Up

Potato Latkes, Potato Pancakes, Hanukkah Food, Chanukah Food, Jewish Party Food. Latke Recipe

Potato Latkes (aka Pancakes) that are crispy on the outside, heavenly on the inside, and delicious all over

If you are like me and spend most of your year avoiding potatoes and fried foods, then you will certainly love this potato latke recipe for Chanukah.

Most Jewish kids I knew regarded Chanukah as a special time, but somewhat less special than Christmas. And for many good reasons.  One, it often didn’t happen when there was no school.    Two, there weren’t any TV special cartoons about it.  And three, nothing that amazing to put in your mouth came out of it.  Sure, there was great food but nothing that made your head explode.   (I was somewhat shocked to realize that donuts are a traditional Chanukah food since they were never ever made or served when I was growing up).   Potato pancakes were served, but after you make these you’ll realize why not often.  They take a lot of work and they cause a lot of suffering (crying from onions; bleeding from the grater; burning from the oil; heartburn from inability to stop eating them).  And, they are by no means health food.   But they do remind us of one of the central ideas of Chanukah—which is that the oil we thought would last for one night actually lasted eight nights.   A great way I’ve found to make one night of oil last is to consume it by frying potatoes and onions in them and then they stay with me for at least eight days (or five if you go to the gym a lot).

Of course, I loved the latkes I ate growing up (with apple sauce), but I could never replicate them.  They would come out too fat, too potato-y, too flavorless.  After years of experimenting, I realized that when they are made right, latkes should resemble a crispy hash brown that you are invited to eat without silverware, ketchup or a side of eggs.   At my house, they never make it to table unless I have the discipline to start a long time before company comes.  Otherwise, we all just eat them as soon as they’re ready, and then no one wants to eat brisket, soup, or anything else (until later, when the donuts are served).

There was a post I found a few years ago called “Possibly the Best Latkes We Have Ever Eaten” by a NY Nosh (whose site was inexplicably replaced by a large picture of a leaf).  That recipe, (reposted here) called for boiling half of your potatoes which is a great concept but one that I believe results in some kind of crazy knish-latke hybrid which is delicious but not a latke.   So if you’re having friends from the Midwest in who’ve never eaten a potato pancake, by all means, go ahead make that one.  If you want a more traditional latke, this is the one for you.

On a tip from a friend, I started using half sweet potatoes.  I know that sounds like a crime, but it’s not.  They have almost the same exact consistency and a little bit of a sweet flavor.  It also makes them look more interesting, with their orange-and-white stripes.  If you can’t bear the violation of tradition, then use all-white potatoes.

Recipe  

  • 2 3/4 pounds potatoes (half sweet)
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 1.5 tablespoons matzoh meal or flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Canola oil, for frying
  • Salt for seasoning afterwards.

Directions:

In large bowl, grate potatoes and onion together.  This will help the potatoes not turn brown.

Once you’re done grating, you’ll need a separate bowl with which to squeeze EVERY BIT OF LIQUID OUT OF THE POTATO ONION MIXTURE.   So, you will have three bowls: one that currently has your wet mixture in it.  One that you will squeeze the liquid in to; and one where you will put the dried mixture.

This is important, because the one thing my mother-in-law taught me was that after you squeeze out the onion/potato mixture (and you wait) you’ll note that a white substance, like wet flour, forms and will remain, after you pour out the liquid.  THAT IS MAGIC STARCH. Scoop that up and mix it in to your now dry potato-onion mixture.

Then, add the egg, matzoh meal, salt and pepper.

Lots of recipes call for patties but I prefer using an ice cream scooper.  You pick the size, it’s your diet.

Drop scoops into hot oil.  It should sizzle when this happens.  Try a sample scoop to make sure.  You want your oil hot but not smoking.  It will take one or two (which you, the cook, will be forced to eat) to get it right.

I like to flip over the latkes and press them flat.  But you don’t have to.   When done, the latkes will have a crispy light brown look.  Remove them with a slotted spatula or tongs and dry on a paper bag (some people call for paper towels but I find them inefficient).    Salt them when they come off.    Hand to people who are standing near by.

Follow with a shot of apple sauce, or don’t, the latkes have already made the celebration special.

Perfect Corn Bread with Grilled Corn

Corn bread, east coast grill recipe, robert deutsch, corn muffins

Perfectly baked corn bread; after about 1 hour in the oven. Smells great, tastes great.

When tasked with making corn bread for the 4th of July Ribs cookout, I was terrified.  There are so many corn bread recipes with so many different ingredients (Google lists 11 million just for Corn Bread recipes)!  Even after you solve for inclusions (jalapeños, bacon, etc.) you still have to address the recipe for the regular ingredients. Do you use milk or buttermilk? Corn oil or vegetable oil? Creamed corn? Sugar or maple syrup?  No sweetener at all?

When that’s settled, there is a running discussion between the South and the North in this country about whether corn bread should have sugar in it, what it should be called (corn cake?) and whether it is to be served with something (honey butter, butter, etc.).  Get that right and you’re still faced with the issue of texture: crumbly or moist? Bread-y or cake-y?  See? Terrifying.  So many ways to go wrong.  You can go wrong 100 different ways with chocolate chip cookies and still people want to eat them.  Corn bread has a much greater success-to-cliff chasm.

I have always loved corn bread that is more like a corn muffin—especially those with corn in them like at Au Bon Pain and others–even though I certainly don’t go there any more except for coffee and definitely don’t buy corn muffins out at all. Not only because they’re not that great for you—they are cake, after all—but they so often disappoint.

So my challenge was to find just the right mix of bread vs. cake and sweet vs. savory.   To no one’s surprise, I found the ol’ reliable East Coast Grill recipe. I made a few changes.   First, I doubled the recipe exactly, because my cast iron pan broke and I was making it for a party, necessitating a 9 x 13 pan.    Secondly, I substituted buttermilk for milk.  I did this mainly because I had extra buttermilk from making my chocolate cake recipe.  Thirdly, I mixed the sugar with the wet ingredients as I always do, which is different from the recipe, which suggests mixing it with the dry ingredients.   Lastly, I did not butter or grease the pan at all, and it was all fine.   Next time I might adjust the salt a bit, as I like it a teensy-weensy more savory, but otherwise, this was perfect.   Well, it became one more perfect after it was cooled and then toasted with butter.

East Coast Grill Corn Bread  (adapted from the NYTimes version

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1.5 cups white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoon baking powder
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3  cups buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 2-4 cups grilled kernels.
Corn Bread, perfect corn bread recipe, grilled corn added to batter, robert deutsch's corn bread

The corn bread is nearly perfect, but grilled corn puts it over the top.

Directions

I made this version with corn grilled the previous day.  If you don’t have grilled corn you can substitute regular frozen or fresh cooked corn. Therefore, one of the steps should be “acquire corn in some non-raw state.”

1. Preheat oven to 350. Place a 9×13 pan into the oven to heat it up.

2. Melt the butter and let it cool.  (Generally you don’t ever want to add hot butter to something with eggs in it).

3. In a large bowl, sift and mix together the dry ingredients: flour, cornmeal, salt and baking powder.

4. In a standing mixer,  mix together the sugar, eggs, milk and oil.

5. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients, then add the melted butter and the corn and stir together until just mixed. DO NOT OVERMIX!

6. Remove the pan from the oven and pour into it the batter, then give the pan a smack on the countertop to even it out.

7. Return pan to oven and bake, approximately 1 hour, until the corn bread is browned on top and a toothpick or a thin knife inserted into the top comes out clean.

Try to resist eating it all because it looks bad when you bring only half a sheet of corn bread.  Alternatively, cut into squares and eat half.

Grilled Lettuce for the 4th— Celebrate America!

Totally by accident, I discovered grilling lettuce.   I had had grilled romaine in some hifalutin’ restaurants in a treatment of Caesar salad, but it was always something that made you think “why did they grill this lettuce?”    One day however, during an obsessive grill-a-thon, I found myself adding olive oil, salt and pepper to some washed romaine heads that had been previously trimmed for salad.

Lettuce on the grill

Amazingly simple way to add something green to your 4th of July Celebration.

After tossing them, I threw them on the grill, and in about 30 seconds, turned them, and then served them 60 seconds later.   To my surprise, the lettuce was the first thing to disappear from the table!  The next time I made two heads, and then three until I now have to “stock up” on romaine lettuce when people come over because it is such a popular dish.      Besides being easy to prepare and make, it takes almost no time, so it’s easy to make after everything has been taken off the grill (for those of you who have aggressively manage your grill space).

It’s also been very, very popular with kids– even those who wouldn’t normally eat salad.    I have experimented with adding things before and after the grill– parmesan, lemon, lime, spices, but by far simply olive oil and salt have been the most popular version.

 

Ingredients

  • 1 Bag of Romaine with three heads (unless you despise bags of romaine, in which case substitute two heads of romaine that don’t come from a bag, it’s about the same volume)
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper, Parmesan and Spice (Optional)
4th of July, Robert Deutsch, Grilled Lettuce

Red, White and Blue and GREEN? Add lettuce to your cookout!

Directions

Trim the bottom and tops of the romaine head, and discard brown or dilapidated outside layers.   Wash thoroughly and dry.   When dry, place into a big bowl and add about four tablespoons of olive oil (depending on the size of the lettuce and your desire for the texture to be wet or crispy).  Mix well and salt.   On a hot grill, add all the lettuce in a direction opposite of the grill (naturally) so the smaller leaves don’t fall in. Use tongs to flip, and remove when edges are browned.  Add parmesan, lemon or pepper and serve.

A lot of the Caesar salads develop the dressing that goes inside a diner-style ketchup container so it can be squeezed out, artistically on the lettuce, with croutons or toasted garlic bread added or as a layer.   However you serve it, enjoy it!

Some folks in my household have derided romaine lettuce as having little nutritional value, but that’s actually not true!   It does pack a significant Vitamin K punch, and is certainly a worthwhile alternative!

Sweet Potato Crisps

Sweet Potato Crisps Chips Healthy Snack

Amazing, nearly healthy snack that kids will fight over.

My daughter got an assignment to bring a lunch to a trip to Ye Olde Schoolhouse.   One of the conditions of the lunch was that it be carried in authentic containers from the 19th century, like a burlap sack or such.  The other more pertinent condition was that all lunches had to be made from foods that were available back then.  No juice boxes (which is OK since I never give my kids juice; it is liquid candy), no zip lock bags, no single-serving packs of snacks.    Fine, I said.  I’m going to bake a loaf of bread for a sandwich, make ginger bread cookies, and add a piece of fruit.   But what about the crunch?   I felt like I needed to have something to go crunch.   Of all the problems of leading a carb-free or low carb life, having crunchy things is at the top of the list.

So I thought, “Sweet Potato Chips!”  Clearly something they had back in the old days.    I read a lot of food sites about the historical eating habits of 19th century Americans and I must tell you that it was all very upsetting.  Stuff about mutton heads was enough for me to get back to what I had in my kitchen.

I finally found a recipe I liked— at the Minimalist Baker.   Really, all the recipes said the same thing, but that was the best version of it that I found.  There were a lot of recipes out there that advocated adding paprika, parsley, garlic, etc, but I think the sweet potato oil and salt, when crispy, is so good it doesn’t need anything else.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Sweet Potato
  • 2 Tbs Olive Oil
  • Kosher Salt

 

Directions

As directed, I sliced the sweet potato as thin as I could, which is not to say papery-thin so it couldn’t be held up as a slice, but more like a thin radish slice (only bigger and a lot more orange).  Make sure all slices are covered in oil and salted.

Lay on a baking sheet (I used foil) and bake for 2.5 hours at 250 degrees.   Let sit for about 30 minutes.  The longer it sits after baking the crispier they get.  So don’t worry if they’re not all crispy when you take them out of the oven.

No Risk Hummus!

Best Israeli Hummus Ever Recipe

Hummus served to me in Israel. Delicious, creamy, complex and so satisfying

I have sworn off ever buying mass-produced hummus again, and this was BEFORE THE LISTERIA RECALL from Trader Joe’s and Target (you can read about that here, if you want). Why? Because when I do try them, they almost all have the same problem: no taste, or a taste so very weak it’s not worth eating.     For me, the key difference in hummus is whether you want it to be the consistency of a creamy dip, that drips off your carrot after dunking, or of a peanut-butter like paste that holds its shape and can hold a piece of celery upright.   Though I think hummus should be creamy, the best reviews I’ve gotten have been from making it more paste-like. I love hummus because it’s within the parameters of a diet, and aside from its fat grams, is one of the healthiest things you can eat with vegetables.

My mind was totally blown on a recent trip to Israel by how world-rockingly different and delicious their hummus was.   Like my experience in Seattle where ALL Kale Caesar salads were terrific, even the worst hummus in Israel was fantastic.  It’s a mystery— how is it so simple and so complex at the same time?   Why do I want to put it on absolutely everything?   Why was I so sad when the bowl was empty?   It should also be said that the Pita there was warm, strong and doughy, with incredible body and texture:  i.e.,  NOTHING at all like the thin, flavorless soft-particleboard they pass off here.

Determined to create an incredible hummus to match my experience in Israel (hint: don’t serve it cold) I searched for Middle Eastern recipes, though the one I found and tweaked was from a non-Middle Eastern health blog, the Amy Layne Paradigm Blog   I had to keep it tweaking it to my liking, but I finally found the secret ingredients that made me (and my friends from Israel) happy.

Ingredients:

  • 1 can (15 oz) chick peas (also called garbanzo beans)
  • 4 peppadews, hot or sweet
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce (I use tamari)
  • 3 super-heaping teaspoons of tahini
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup of reserved chick pea water (to taste– you may need only a little bit)
  • juice of 1 lemon (or more, again, to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • salt an pepper to taste

I make this in stages, by adding ingredients and then blending.   You are obviously free to put everything in and hit blend all at once. First, after draining chickpeas, rinse them.  I find this is a very important step in using canned chick peas. I am told that in the Middle East (where I doubt they ever use canned chick peas) they remove the outsides of each chick pea (the skin) for an even creamier consistency.  I have tried this, and it does make a difference, but not one that warrants the effort. Place the peeled garlic and peppadews in a cuisinart.   Blend.   Add the olive oil and soy sauce.  Blend.    Add the tahini and blend.    Add the chick peas and blend till mixed and pasty.   Then add the chick pea water, and juice of one lemon.   Blend.   Add the spices and blend.   Let the cuisinart run for a while. Spoon into a bowl; in Israel it was customary to serve hummus in a bowl with whole chickpeas and olive oil, sometimes with parsley and paprika, too.  You may need to step away from the bowl, or get your own bowl.   But whatever you do, don’t go back to the store.

UPDATE: After I published this recipe, I got a lot of flak from various corners of people claiming it was “inauthentic” and “preposterous” for its use of soy sauce.   Both of those things may be true, but I am telling you that it is hands down one of the most popular things I make.   Besides the approval of Israelis, I recently encountered a woman who had been experimenting with hummus to get “just the right flavor” but to no avail.   She was so happy when she tried mine— she had been going authentic and not getting the results she dreamed of.

Now let me clear—I do not advocate making cake from a box mix or mac and cheese in a microwave (a shanda), but I stand by this recipe, with all of its flaws.

The Kale Caesar Salad Secret of Seattle

Kale Caesar Salad Seattle

Massaging the kale is the secret to unlocking its full yumminess.

In 2013, I went to Seattle for three nights and had occasion to eat a Kale caesar salad not once or twice, but three times.  And every time it was fantastic beyond my wildest expectations.   How, I wondered, could they make Kale, the Castor Oil of salad greens, so delicious that I wanted to eat it every night?   I kept crawling the Internets but could never find anything.  Then I found two different recipes, one from Emmy Cooks (which was adapted from the Skillet in Seattle, where I first had the salad) and Serious Eats.   Emmy Cooks is nearly perfect except it left out parmesan; Serious Eats called for anchovies. Both of them call for croutons, which I skip because I am in constant war against carbs, but between them I figured out one great recipe.   Though it is common to cut the kale into ribbons, I don’t do that since I buy the ‘washed and cut’ bag from Whole Foods which I don’t feel the need to cut.   The secret is to massage the kale with olive oil and add a sprinkle of salt about 30 minutes to an hour before serving.  This makes a HUGE difference in the texture of the kale, which most people remember as plant-like with an unforgiving chew.    Once you’ve broken it down via olive oil massage, it is pleasantly crunch like the crisp end of a romaine, which is why it makes such a perfect Caesar.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • The juice of one lemon
  • 1/4 tsp. dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp anchovy paste
  • 1 cup of parmesan cheese, (half sprinkled on the kale, and half for the dressing)
  • salt and pepper to taste, but definitely pepper

I originally used the Cuisinart for this dressing, but soon discovered that because only the garlic needed “smashing” that crushing it with a press meant I could hand whisk the dressing, which makes it faster and easier to clean up. You may find you need to adjust any of the given ingredients, particularly the lemon and parmesan, depending on consistency preferences.   Very often I will try to use less mayonnaise, as it is the least heart-healthy ingredient of the bunch.   I also find that if you oil up your kale, you can go without too much dressing.    Lastly, a few times I’ve had the oiled-up kale in bowl, people have come by, grabbed a piece and said ‘delicious,’ indicating that the dressing may be unnecessary?   Certainly from a caloric load it is. I will never ever go back to romaine.  Unless, that is, it’s grilled.  Thought it’s pretty obvious, you can see my recipe for Grilled Romaine Lettuce here.