Tasty recipes and more

Lemon, Poppy Seeds and Cornmeal Cookies Ronit Penso

These thin and crunchy cookies are perfect for a summer day: their fresh lemony flavor goes great with cold iced tea or lemonade, and with ice cream or sorbet.
In addition to all that, the cookies are very easy to assemble, require short baking time and can keep in the freezer for up to a month.
So it’s definitely worth it to prepare the whole amount and bake as many as you need whenever you feel like it.

Makes: about 90 thin cookies
Prep time: 15 minutes
Chilling time: 1 hour
Baking time: 12-14 minutes
Ingredients:
1 stick (115 grams) butter, soft
1 ½ cups sugar
2 XL egg yolks
2 Tbs lemon zest
3 Tbs fresh lemon juice
1 cup flour
½ cup coarse cornmeal
½ cup poppy seeds
½ tsp cardamom powder
½ tsp baking powder
Dash salt

1. In a mixer bowl, combine the butter, sugar, egg yolks and lemon zest. Mix well, on medium speed.
Lemon, Poppy Seeds and Cornmeal Cookies Ronit PensoLemon, Poppy Seeds and Cornmeal Cookies Ronit Penso
2. Scrape the sided of the bowl and add the lemon juice, flour, cornmeal, poppy seeds, cardamom, baking powder and salt. Mix on medium-low speed, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally.
Lemon, Poppy Seeds and Cornmeal Cookies Ronit PensoLemon, Poppy Seeds and Cornmeal Cookies Ronit Penso Lemon, Poppy Seeds and Cornmeal Cookies Ronit PensoLemon, Poppy Seeds and Cornmeal Cookies Ronit Penso
3. Take out of the mixer bowl and knead a bit by hand, and form the dough into a ball. Cut the dough into 4 equal portions.
4. On a work space, roll one portion of the dough into a log about 12” (30 cm) long. Wrap in wax paper. Repeat with the rest of the dough. Place in the freezer for 1 hour and up to 1 month.
Lemon, Poppy Seeds and Cornmeal Cookies Ronit PensoLemon, Poppy Seeds and Cornmeal Cookies Ronit Penso Lemon, Poppy Seeds and Cornmeal Cookies Ronit PensoLemon, Poppy Seeds and Cornmeal Cookies Ronit Penso
5. To bake: preheat the oven to 350F (175C). Line a cookie sheet with baking paper. Take one log from the freezer and slice, with a heavy knife, into 0.8” (2 cm) thick slices. You should get about 24 slices from each log.
Lemon, Poppy Seeds and Cornmeal Cookies Ronit PensoLemon, Poppy Seeds and Cornmeal Cookies Ronit Penso
6. Place the slices on the cookie pan, leaving enough space for the cookies to expand. Bake for 12-14 minutes. The cookies will seem pale on top, so it’s best to lift one gently with a spatula and check if the bottom is golden-brown.
Lemon, Poppy Seeds and Cornmeal Cookies Ronit PensoLemon, Poppy Seeds and Cornmeal Cookies Ronit Penso
7. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. The cookies will harden as they cool. Keep in an airtight container for up to a week.
Lemon, Poppy Seeds and Cornmeal Cookies Ronit PensoLemon, Poppy Seeds and Cornmeal Cookies Ronit Penso Lemon, Poppy Seeds and Cornmeal Cookies Ronit Penso

Colorful variation on Caprese Salad Ronit Penso

It’s hot outside, so I thought about preparing a nice quick salad that doesn’t require cooking, and yet is filling like a cooked dish. Caprese is exactly this kind of salad.

The original Caprese salad was created in the 1950′s in Capri. It consisted of only sliced tomatoes and fresh Mozzarella cheese, dressed in olive oil.
Since then, other versions were created. Most had basil in them, which resulted a more “patriotic” looking salad, as it has the colors of the Italian flag: green, red and white.

The Caprese purists claim the salad should not have any other seasoning but the olive oil, as the cheese is too delicate for any dressing. Yet, after tasting a few of these salads, I’ve decided that with all due respect to the classic version, it could benefit from a bit more flavor and texture.

I’ve decided not to slice the cheese, but rather “pull” it. I was surprised to see that the cheese actually tasted different (and I believe better) this way. I also liked the rustic presentation it created.
Other changes I’ve made were the use of colorful cherry tomatoes, adding a light touch of sweet/sour aged Balsamic vinegar and pomegranate molasses, and raw pistachios on top, for a crunchy texture and even more color.

Served with rustic bread or fresh focaccia, this salad is a perfect dish for a hot summer day.

Makes: 2
Prep time: 10 minutes
Ingredients:
Fresh basil leaves, washed and dried in a salad spinner
About 4.5 oz (130 grams) high quality very fresh mozzarella
10-12 assorted cherry tomatoes
Sea salt
Freshly ground 4 pepper mix
A drizzle of aged Balsamic vinegar
A drizzle of pomegranate molasses
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
A handful of raw peeled pistachios

1. Arrange a few basil leaves on a large plate. Chop a couple of leaves roughly and set aside.
2. Pull the cheese into long stripes and place on top of the basil in the plate.
3. Slice the cherry tomatoes lengthwise, and add to the plate.
4. Season lightly with salt, pepper. Drizzle lightly the Balsamic vinegar, pomegranate molasses and olive oil. Scatter the chopped basil and the pistachios on top and serve.
P1050002P1050002 P1050002P1050002Colorful variation on Caprese Salad Ronit Penso

In this version, I’ve also added a few pieces of prosciutto. Worth repeating!
2. Slice the cherry tomatoes lengthwise, and add to the plate. 3. Season lightly with salt, pepper. Drizzle lightly the Balsamic vinegar, pomegranate molasses and olive oil. Add the pistachios on top and serve.

American Buffalo (Bison) Steak Tartare Ronit Penso

4th of July weekend was dedicated mainly to BBQ, and it feels like it’s time for the very opposite of BBQ – Steak Tartare.

Steak tartare is a classic dish made of fresh chopped meat, seasonings and egg yolk, served raw. It is traditionally made with beef, yet, as it’s still 4th of July weekend, I’ve decided to use American Buffalo (actually Bison) meat instead of beef. The result was even better than the original.

Originally, the chopped meat was served with the condiments or Tartar sauce on the side (hence the name). Here I use a version in which the meat served already seasoned, as I think it is more flavorful this way. You can, of course, switch back to the original and serve all the seasonings on the side.

Bison is raised mostly in the free-range farms and is grass-fed, therefore has leaner meat compared to beef, that can dry fairly quickly when cooked. So steak tartare is actually a great way to keep its unique texture and flavor.

If you’re using vacuum packed meat, take it out of the vacuum bag about an hour before serving. Wash quickly and pat dry with paper towels. Cover and keep in the fridge until ready to use.

Alaea, Hawaiian red salt, adds an earthy flavor to this earthy meat, but can be replaced with any other salt you like.

Makes: 2
Prep time: 15 minutes
Ingredients:
8 oz (225 grams) Top sirloin Buffalo (Bison) steak
1 medium size shallot
2 Tbs capers, drained
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp salt (I use Diamond Kosher salt)
½ tsp Hawaiian red salt (Alaea)
½ tsp freshly ground 4 pepper mix
2 high quality egg yolks
To serve: toasted baguette slices or crackers

1. Place the meat on a cutting board and trim off the silver skin, if needed. Cut with a heavy, sharp knife, into small cubes and place in a bowl.
American Buffalo (Bison) Steak Tartare Ronit PensoAmerican Buffalo (Bison) Steak Tartare Ronit Penso American Buffalo (Bison) Steak Tartare Ronit PensoAmerican Buffalo (Bison) Steak Tartare Ronit Penso
2. Small dice the shallots and roughly chop the capers. Add to the bowl, with the rest of the ingredients, expect the yolks. Mix gently. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
American Buffalo (Bison) Steak Tartare Ronit PensoAmerican Buffalo (Bison) Steak Tartare Ronit Penso
3. Shape into two patties and place in a serving plate or wide bowl. Press the center gently and place the egg yolks on. Sprinkle with a bit of Alaea salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
American Buffalo (Bison) Steak Tartare Ronit PensoAmerican Buffalo (Bison) Steak Tartare Ronit Penso American Buffalo (Bison) Steak Tartare Ronit Penso

Baked/Steamed Chilean Sea Bass Ronit Penso
Chilean Seabbass is actually a commercial name for the Patagonian Toothfish, which is a type of Cod. The fish has a wonderful firm, yet smooth texture. A short cooking will turn the opaque flesh into a beautiful deep white color fillet and enhance its natural sweetness.

The taste is fresh and delicate, yet it benefits from bold flavors in moderation. In order to keep the beautiful white color visible, I’ve decided to add the sauce only on parts of the fish slices; enough to flavor it, while creating an interesting contrast of colors.

Covering the baking pan tightly creates natural steaming that delicately cooks the fish without drying it. It is a great method for any type of non-fat fish.

Makes: 4
Prep time: 10 minutes
Baking time: 10 minutes
Ingredients:
1.25 lb (600 grams) Chilean Sea Bass
2 large limes
2 garlic cloves, finely grated
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
½ Jalapeno
A handful of cherry tomatoes

1. Preheat the oven to 410F (210C). Line a deep baking pan with foil and baking paper. Wash and pat dry the fish. Cut into 12 thick slices and place in one layer, side by side, in the baking dish.

Baked/Steamed Chilean Sea Bass Ronit PensoBaked/Steamed Chilean Sea Bass Ronit Penso
2. Slice thin ½ lime and keep on the side. Zest and juice the remaining 1½ limes (you’ll get about 2 Tbs zest and 4 Tbs lime juice) and place in a small bowl.
3. Add the garlic, cilantro, salt, pepper and olive oil and mix well. Slice the jalapeno and keep a few slices for garnish. Chop the rest and add to the bowl. Mix and adjust seasoning.
Baked/Steamed Chilean Sea Bass Ronit PensoBaked/Steamed Chilean Sea Bass Ronit Penso Baked/Steamed Chilean Sea Bass Ronit PensoBaked/Steamed Chilean Sea Bass Ronit Penso
4. Keep about 2 Tbs of the lime mixture on the side. Spoon the rest on the sliced fish, in between the slices, at the center. Add the cherry tomatoes, lime and jalapeno slices.
Baked/Steamed Chilean Sea Bass Ronit PensoBaked/Steamed Chilean Sea Bass Ronit Penso
5. Cover the pan with baking paper and foil. Press well all around the pan edges, to seal it tightly.
Baked/Steamed Chilean Sea Bass Ronit PensoBaked/Steamed Chilean Sea Bass Ronit Penso
6. Bake/steam for 10 minutes. Take out of the oven and keep it in a warm place, covered, for 5 minutes before serving.
Best served with white Basmati rice, with the remaining fresh sauce on the side.

Baked/Steamed Chilean Sea Bass Ronit Penso
Baked/Steamed Chilean Sea Bass Ronit PensoBaked/Steamed Chilean Sea Bass Ronit Penso Baked/Steamed Chilean Sea Bass Ronit Penso

Berries and Orange Coulis and Popsicles Ronit Penso

When I see nice fresh berries at the store, I usually end up buying more than needed, and as they don’t keep fresh for long, I always try to find ways to use the extra amount.

A crumble or crisp is always a nice quick option that doesn’t require too many ingredients (click HERE for recipe), but if you’ve made too many of those, cooking a nice coulis is also a great way to utilize the extra berries.

Coulis is a thick strained cooked fruit or vegetable sauce. It usually has a short ingredients list and isn’t cooked for long, so that the fresh flavor or the fruit is kept. It is great on top of pancakes, leftover cakes, fruit salads, rice puddings and more. A tablespoon of the coulis in a glass of lemonade or soda is a wonderful way to elevate the drink. Another tasty option is to use it as a perfect base for quick homemade popsicles.

Here I’ve added orange zest and juice to the berries, and sweetened the coulis with a fairly small amount of sugar and pure maple syrup – and the result is a fresh, not overly sweet and fragrant coulis. If you have a sweeter tooth, you can add more sugar, but do try not to add too much, or you’ll end up with a jam instead of a light and refreshing coulis.

Makes: about 4 cups
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Ingredients:
1 lb (450 grams) assorted berries (I used blueberries, blackberries and raspberries)
1/3 cup fresh orange juice (from 1 large orange)
2 Tbs orange zest
3 Tbs sugar
¼ cup pure maple syrup

1. Place the berries, orange juice, orange zest and sugar, in a wide pot. Mix gently, cover the pot and cook on medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, so that the berries will release their liquids and the sugar will dissolve.
Berries and Orange Coulis and Popsicles Ronit PensoBerries and Orange Coulis and Popsicles Ronit Penso Berries and Orange Coulis and Popsicles Ronit PensoBerries and Orange Coulis and Popsicles Ronit Penso
2. Lower the heat to medium. Uncover the pot and cook for about 5 minutes longer, until the berries are soft. Add the maple syrup and stir gently. Turn off the heat and let cool to room temperature.
Berries and Orange Coulis and Popsicles Ronit PensoBerries and Orange Coulis and Popsicles Ronit Penso Berries and Orange Coulis and Popsicles Ronit PensoBerries and Orange Coulis and Popsicles Ronit Penso Berries and Orange Coulis and Popsicles Ronit PensoBerries and Orange Coulis and Popsicles Ronit Penso
3. Blend the mixture with a hand blender, or in a blender, to a thick sauce, and strain through a fine sieve.
The coulis will keep, in an airtight container in the fridge, for up to a week.
Berries and Orange Coulis and Popsicles Ronit Penso

Use on cakes, rice pudding, fruit salads or to make tasty all-natural popsicles.

Berries and Orange Coulis and Popsicles Ronit PensoBerries and Orange Coulis and Popsicles Ronit Penso Berries and Orange Coulis and Popsicles Ronit PensoBerries and Orange Coulis and Popsicles Ronit Penso

 

Berries and Orange Coulis and Popsicles Ronit PensoBerries and Orange Coulis and Popsicles Ronit Penso Berries and Orange Coulis and Popsicles Ronit Penso

Crispy Spelt and Semolina Pizza Ronit Penso

I’m always looking for the ultimate pizza dough – one that will produce crispy pizza without having to use pizza stone or other professional gadgets.

I’ve tried a few good and tasty recipes, but still thought they lacked in crispiness and texture. So I’ve decided to experiment a bit with other types of flour and came up with this tasty and crisp version for thin crust pizza.

A bit about the flours used: the basis for the dough is white flour, as we need its gluten to help the dough rise. I prepared the dough once with all-purpose unbleached flour and once with bread flour (which contains more gluten), and actually liked the all-purpose one better. However, if you prefer thicker crust, use bread flour as your base. The semolina adds a crunchier texture, and the spelt flour adds extra crispiness, nutty flavor and a nice golden color.

The dough keeps well in the fridge for up to 5 days, and is even easier to roll after a day in the fridge. So it makes sense to prepare a larger batch. Just remember to bring the dough to room temperature before rolling.

As for rolling, while many prefer to stretch the dough, using a rolling pin is quicker and easier, especially if you like thin crust. So here too, take your pick.

One thing I recommend not to change is using semolina when rolling the dough and on the baking pan, rather than flour.The semolina makes the rolling easier and adds even more crunchiness to the dough.

One last thing: make sure that the oven is really hot before you place the pizza in it. This is crucial if you want a crisp crust.

Spelt and Semolina Pizza Dough:
Makes: 4 x 11” (28cm) pizza
Prep time: 20 minutes
Proofing time: 2-3 hours
Baking time: 10-12 minutes
For the starter:
1 cup flour
1 package (1/4 oz, 7 grams) dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1 Tbs sugar
For the dough:
1 ½ cups warm water
2 cups flour
1 cup spelt flour
1 cup fine semolina
1 Tbs salt
¼ cup olive oil + 2 Tbs for the bowl
Suggested toppings: Cherry tomatoes sauce (recipe below), sautéed onions and peppers, sautéed oyster king mushrooms, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil leaves, sliced Andouille sausage

1. Mix the ingredients for the starter in a mixer bowl. Let sit for 10-15 minutes, until it foams.
Crispy Spelt and Semolina Pizza Ronit PensoCrispy Spelt and Semolina Pizza Ronit Penso
2. Add the rest of the dough ingredients. Fit the dough hook and mix on low speed, scraping the sides occasionally, for 2-3 minutes. Turn the speed to medium-high and knead for about 10 minutes, until the dough is elastic and playable. The dough should be fairly sticky, so add flour only if you think it’s really necessary.
Crispy Spelt and Semolina Pizza Ronit PensoP1070952Crispy Spelt and Semolina Pizza Ronit PensoCrispy Spelt and Semolina Pizza Ronit Penso
3. Oil a large bowl with olive oil and place the ball of dough in it. Turn it so it will be covered with oil all over. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm place for about an hour. (Inside the oven always works for me.)
Crispy Spelt and Semolina Pizza Ronit PensoCrispy Spelt and Semolina Pizza Ronit Penso
4. Take out, punch the dough and knead by hand for 1-2 minutes. Cover again and place in a warm place for about 2 hours.
Crispy Spelt and Semolina Pizza Ronit PensoCrispy Spelt and Semolina Pizza Ronit Penso
5. Punch the dough again and knead by hand for 1-2 minutes. Cut into 4 equal portions and let rest for at least 15 minutes before rolling.
Crispy Spelt and Semolina Pizza Ronit PensoCrispy Spelt and Semolina Pizza Ronit Penso
6. At this point you can roll the dough and bake your pizza, but if you have time, wrap each portion with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for a day and up to 5 days. The dough will be easier to roll after refrigeration – just remember to bring it to room temperature before rolling.
Crispy Spelt and Semolina Pizza Ronit PensoCrispy Spelt and Semolina Pizza Ronit Penso
7. To bake the pizza: have on hand the tomato sauce and toppings. Preheat the oven to 500F (260C). Sprinkle semolina on the work surface and roll one portion of the dough on it, to a round, thin disc of about 11” (28cm). Sprinkle some semolina on the baking pan and place the disc on it. Add a few tablespoons of sauce all over and add the toppings.
Crispy Spelt and Semolina Pizza Ronit PensoCrispy Spelt and Semolina Pizza Ronit Penso Crispy Spelt and Semolina Pizza Ronit PensoCrispy Spelt and Semolina Pizza Ronit Penso Crispy Spelt and Semolina Pizza Ronit Penso
8. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the bottom is golden-brown and crisp and the cheese bubbly and golden. Cut with a large knife to 6 and serve immediately.

Crispy Spelt and Semolina Pizza Ronit PensoCrispy Spelt and Semolina Pizza Ronit Penso Crispy Spelt and Semolina Pizza Ronit Penso

Cherry tomatoes sauce:
Cherry tomatoes are great for a quick and tasty tomato sauce. I like to use a variety of colors and shapes, both for their flavor and for nutritious reasons. Since they have finer skins than regular tomatoes, it’s easy to process them whole, which will add an interesting texture and fiber to the sauce.
As tasty as the sauce is, try not to spread too much of it on the dough, so that your pizza will not end up soggy.

Makes: 2 cups. Prep time: 10 minutes. Cooking time: 10 minutes
In a medium size flat pot, mix 2 Tbs olive oil, 2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped and 1 sprig rosemary. Cook on medium-low heat until the garlic turns white. Add 1 lbs (450 grams) assorted cherry tomatoes, quartered, 1 tsp salt, ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper and pinch of sugar. Mix and bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Lower the heat to medium and cook for about 10 minutes, until the tomatoes are very soft. Take the rosemary sprig out, but leave a few needles in. Blend in a food processor to a thick sauce. Adjust seasoning if needed.
The sauce can keep, in an airtight container in the fridge, for up to 5 days. Bring to room temperature before using.

Cherry Tomatoes Sauce Ronit PensoCherry Tomatoes Sauce Ronit Penso Cherry Tomatoes Sauce Ronit PensoCherry Tomatoes Sauce Ronit Penso Cherry Tomatoes Sauce Ronit PensoCherry Tomatoes Sauce Ronit Penso

Banana Cake with Purple Apricots Ronit Penso

When I was requested to prepare a low fat cake, my solution was to rely heavily on mashed ripe bananas. Their creaminess is an excellent replacement for fats, and their natural sweetness helps reduce the sugar levels, all while still ending up with a very tasty cake.
The fact that the cake is also very easy to make, and can be prepared in one bowl, makes it even more appealing.

As I was planning to top the cake with these beautiful purple apricots I’ve found at the store, the cake needed a denser texture, so that the fruits will not sink to the bottom. For this reason, I’ve ended up lowering the amount of liquids to minimum. I was happy to discover that despite this, the cake did not come out dry at all. In fact, it was so tasty and aromatic that I plan to make it again, with different fruits and other additions.

Variations I’m thinking of so far include other seasonal fruits on top, chocolate chips or chopped nuts in the batter.
Another option is to bake the batter without any additions, in a loaf pan, and use it as breakfast bread. The texture is perfect for slicing and lightly toasting.

So, you are invited to use this cake recipe as is, or as a base for your experiments. I’ll be happy to hear about your take on it!

Makes: 16
Prep time: 15 minutes
Baking time: 45 minutes
Ingredients:
8 medium firm purple apricots
1 2/3 cups mashed very ripe bananas (from 4 large)
2 XL eggs
3/4 cup sugar (can be increased to 1 cup if you prefer the cake sweeter)
¼ cup real maple syrup
¼ cup oil
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 Tbs baking powder
Dash salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350F (175C). Line an 8” (20cm) X 11” (28cm) baking pan with baking paper.
2. Cut the apricots in half and remove the pit. Set aside.
Banana Cake with Purple Apricots Ronit PensoBanana Cake with Purple Apricots Ronit Penso
3. Place the mashed bananas in a large bowl. Add the eggs, sugar, maple syrup, oil, cinnamon and vanilla and mix well. Add the flour, baking powder and salt and mix well to a thick batter.
Banana Cake with Purple Apricots Ronit PensoBanana Cake with Purple Apricots Ronit Penso Banana Cake with Purple Apricots Ronit PensoBanana Cake with Purple Apricots Ronit Penso
Pour the batter into the pan. Place the apricots halves on top, cut side down.
and pour the batter into the lined pan. Place the apricots halves on top, cut side down.and pour the batter into the lined pan. Place the apricots halves on top, cut side down.
4. Bake for 45 minutes, until the batter is golden and the fruit soft. Place on a rack to cool before cutting.
and pour the batter into the lined pan. Place the apricots halves on top, cut side down.Banana Cake with Purple Apricots Ronit Penso
Banana Cake with Purple Apricots Ronit Penso

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