Tasty recipes and more

Armenian Meat Pie (Lahmajoon) with Quick Yogurt-Spelt Dough Ronit Penso

Lahmajoon, or “dough with meat”, is a well known Armenian dish, with many variations all around the Middle East and the Mediterranean. It is traditionally made with yeast dough, shaped into a circle, like cheese pizza.

Here, I’ve decided to use dough that is quicker to make, made with yogurt and olive oil, instead of the traditional yeast dough.
To make things even easier, I rolled the dough over a cookie sheet pan and baked it as a large rectangle pie. I also added some pine nuts on top of the meat layer, for extra flavor and crunchiness.

The result is crispy dough, with tasty-spicy meat topping. Served with a green salad, it makes a nice quick lunch or dinner.

* If the amount here is too much for your needs, you can easily cut all the amounts in half and prepare a smaller pie.

Makes: 12
Prep time: 30 minutes
Baking time: 20-22 minutes
Ingredients:
For the dough:
2 cups flour
1 cup Spelt flour
1 Tbs baking powder
1 Tbs salt
17.6 oz (500 grams) thick 2% yogurt
½ cup Kefir or buttermilk
2 Tbs olive oil
For the meat layer:
0.9 lb (400 grams) lamb shoulder (or beef), cut into small cubes
1 small onion, cut in half
6 cherry tomatoes
1 tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp olive oil
¼ cup washed and dried cilantro, packed
¼ cup washed and dried parsley, packed
½ jalapeno or according to taste
2 Tbs pine nuts

1. The dough: in a large bowl, mix the flours, baking powder and salt. Add the yogurt, kefir and olive oil. Knead to a fairly sticky dough (add flour only if too sticky to shape, otherwise the dough will be too dense). Shape into a round, cover and set aside.
Armenian Meat Pie (Lahmajoon) with Quick Yogurt-Spelt Dough Ronit PensoArmenian Meat Pie (Lahmajoon) with Quick Yogurt-Spelt Dough Ronit PensoArmenian Meat Pie (Lahmajoon) with Quick Yogurt-Spelt Dough Ronit PensoArmenian Meat Pie (Lahmajoon) with Quick Yogurt-Spelt Dough Ronit Penso
2. Line a cookie sheet pan (18”x26” (45cm x 66cm)) with foil and baking paper. Turn the oven to 500F (260C).
3. The meat topping: place all the ingredients for the meat layer – except for the pine nuts – in a food processor, with the metal blade. Process to a paste.
Armenian Meat Pie (Lahmajoon) with Quick Yogurt-Spelt Dough Ronit PensoArmenian Meat Pie (Lahmajoon) with Quick Yogurt-Spelt Dough Ronit Penso
4. Roll the dough on a lightly floured working space, to a rectangle a bit larger than the pan. Place the dough in it  and prick it all over with a fork.
Armenian Meat Pie (Lahmajoon) with Quick Yogurt-Spelt Dough Ronit PensoArmenian Meat Pie (Lahmajoon) with Quick Yogurt-Spelt Dough Ronit PensoArmenian Meat Pie (Lahmajoon) with Quick Yogurt-Spelt Dough Ronit PensoArmenian Meat Pie (Lahmajoon) with Quick Yogurt-Spelt Dough Ronit Penso
5. Spread the meat paste evenly on top. Bake for 17 minutes. Scatter the pine nuts on top of the meat layer and bake for another 3-5 minutes, until golden.
Armenian Meat Pie (Lahmajoon) with Quick Yogurt-Spelt Dough Ronit PensoArmenian Meat Pie (Lahmajoon) with Quick Yogurt-Spelt Dough Ronit Penso
6. Transfer to a large cutting board. Cut into squares with a large, heavy knife.
Armenian Meat Pie (Lahmajoon) with Quick Yogurt-Spelt Dough Ronit Penso

Candied Quince with Rosemary and Honey Ronit Penso
The Jewish New Year is about to start on Wednesday, and this brings back memories of traditional foods even to an agnostic such as myself.
One of these culinary traditions is to dip a slice of apple in honey, and eat it as a symbol for a sweet New Year. Many other sweet dishes are added as well, in order to emphasize this hope for a sweet New Year.

Candied quince is one of these dishes in the Sephardic table, and is well worth preparing, regardless of any religious practices.

As with last weeks’ celeriac dish, here too the quince is cooked slowly, until the slices soften and change their color from yellow into a beautiful orange-radish, most of the liquids reduced and the sugar and honey caramelizes.
Once again, patience and keeping an eye on the dish is needed, especially in the last stage of cooking: you want the quince to caramelize a bit, but not too much, so that it will still be soft.

Traditionally, the candied quince slices are served on their own, but don’t hesitate to add a scoop of vanilla ice cream, nuts or other toppings to it.

Another option is to serve the candied slices with fresh goat cheese, as shown here, or with blue cheese.

For more quince recipes – check out THIS and THIS posts.

Makes: 6
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour
Ingredients:
1 large quince
2 cups water
Fresh lemon juice, from ½ large lemon
1/3 cup sugar
3 Tbs honey (preferably orange blossom)
1 small sprig of rosemary (optional)

1. Cut the quince into quarters and then cut each quarter into 3 fairly thick slices. With a small sharp knife, carefully remove the seeds and the hard core around them. (Do not peel, or the slices will lose their shape while cooking.)
Candied Quince with Rosemary and Honey Ronit PensoCandied Quince with Rosemary and Honey Ronit PensoCandied Quince with Rosemary and Honey Ronit PensoCandied Quince with Rosemary and Honey Ronit Penso
2. Mix the water, lemon juice, sugar and honey in a bowl and stir to dissolve.
3. Place the quince slices in the pot, in one layer and add the liquid mix. Cover and bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for about 10 minutes.
Candied Quince with Rosemary and Honey Ronit PensoCandied Quince with Rosemary and Honey Ronit Penso
4. Uncover the pot and add the rosemary. Lower the heat to medium-low and keep cooking for about 20 minutes. Carefully, turn the slices to their other side. Keep on cooking for another 30 minutes, or until the quince changes color to orange-red and most of the liquid is absorbed in the quince.
Candied Quince with Rosemary and Honey Ronit PensoCandied Quince with Rosemary and Honey Ronit Penso
5. Let cool in the pot before carefully transferring to a serving plate.
Keep on cooking for another 30 minutes, or until the quince changes color to orange-red and most of the liquid evaporated.Keep on cooking for another 30 minutes, or until the quince changes color to orange-red and most of the liquid evaporated. Keep on cooking for another 30 minutes, or until the quince changes color to orange-red and most of the liquid evaporated.

Sweet and Sour Celeriac Sephardic Style Ronit Penso

Celeriac is mostly known as a root used to flavor stocks or soups. However, it is a wonderful ingredient on its own right, and an amazing alternative to potato. It can be eaten raw, pickled, shredded to a tasty salad, or cooked in various ways.

The recipe here is once again from the fabulous Sephardic cuisine. (To learn more about it, check out the introduction to THIS POST). The dish is part of every Sephardic household for generations, and is served on its own as a tasty appetizer course, as side dish, or as a salad.

As with most dishes in Sephardic cooking, the idea is to let the main ingredient shine and not mask it with too many other ingredients. The dish is cooked gently, letting the celeriac absorb the flavors of the lemon, salt, sugar and olive oil, and at the same time develop its distinctive yet subtle celery flavor.
Cooking it in one layer, without stirring, is the key to the beautiful transformation of color from opaque-white to translucent, and to keeping the pieces shape.

The dish is at its best the day after cooking, so make sure to prepare it ahead of time. Once you’ll prepare it, you’d be amazed by the silky-smooth texture and delicate flavor that such a simple preparation can produce. Patience is the key here, and I’m sure you’ll find out that the reward is well worth it.

Note: when choosing celeriac root, make sure to choose a plump and heavy one. The small roots are not suitable for this dish.

Makes: 6
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 35-40 minutes
Chilling time: overnight
Ingredients:
1 large, plump and heavy celeriac
1 medium carrot
1½ cups water + more if needed
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
2 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs salt
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

1. Cut the celeriac into 4 pieces and peel. Cut each quarter into thick slices (0.4”, 1cm). Peel and cut the carrot to the same thickness.
Sweet and Sour Celeriac Sephardic Style Ronit PensoSweet and Sour Celeriac Sephardic Style Ronit PensoSweet and Sour Celeriac Sephardic Style Ronit PensoSweet and Sour Celeriac Sephardic Style Ronit Penso
2. In a wide pot, add the water, lemon juice, sugar and salt, and mix to dissolve. Add the celeriac slices, in one layer, and place the carrot slices on top. If the water doesn’t slightly cover the pieces (but not more than that), add a bit more water. Pour the olive oil on top.
Sweet and Sour Celeriac Sephardic Style Ronit PensoSweet and Sour Celeriac Sephardic Style Ronit Penso
3. Cover the pot and bring to a gentle boil on a medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 25 minutes.
Uncover the pot and keep cooking for 10-15 minutes, until the celeriac is translucent and the sauce reduces and thickens a bit.
Sweet and Sour Celeriac Sephardic Style Ronit PensoSweet and Sour Celeriac Sephardic Style Ronit PensoSweet and Sour Celeriac Sephardic Style Ronit PensoSweet and Sour Celeriac Sephardic Style Ronit Penso
4. Bring to room temperature. Cover and place in the fridge overnight.
Serve the next day, at room temperature.
Sweet and Sour Celeriac Sephardic Style Ronit Penso

Apple-Cherry Semolina Crisp Ronit Penso

Fruit crisps are traditionally made of a layer of fruit topped with a crumbly mixture. In the recipe here, I’ve decided to change the original idea a bit and divide the topping mixture in two: half for a base layer and the other half for the topping. The result is more cake-like than the familiar crisp, but as easy and as quick to make as one.

I’ve also decided to use semolina instead of my regular quick oatmeal. Semolina is a favorite ingredient of mine for baking, and here it produces a sand-like crunchy and crumbly topping, while the base becomes a moist, dough-like layer, that enables cutting the crisp into nice squares, something which is usually not possible with traditional crisps.

The crisp is at its best on the day of baking, but can be kept, covered, in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Variations:
* I didn’t add any spices or nuts here, in order not to mask the fruits’ aroma and flavor, but feel free to experiment according to your taste.
* If you don’t have cherries, you can use other fruits, such as plums or berries, or use raisins instead.
* I usually prefer less sweet desserts. If you’re into sweeter ones, you can increase the amount of sugar to 1 ½ cups.

Makes: 20
Prep time: 20 minutes
Baking time: 1 hour
Ingredients:
1 cup flour
1 cup semolina
1 cup sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 stick (115 grams) butter, cold, cut into large cubes
For the fruit layer:
4 ½ cups coarsely grated peeled Granny Smith apples (from 5-6 medium ones)
1 cup sliced cherries

1. Preheat the oven to 350F (175C). Line a 7”x11” (17.5cm x 28cm) baking pan with baking paper.
2. Place the flour, semolina, sugar, salt and butter in a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Process to a crumbly mixture. Spread ½ of the mixture on the baking paper.
Apple-Cherry Semolina Crisp Ronit PensoApple-Cherry Semolina Crisp Ronit Penso
3. Mix the grated apples and sliced cherries in a large bowl. Spread evenly over the crumbs mixture. Top with the rest of the crumbs mixture.
 Spread ½ of the mixture on the baking paper. Spread ½ of the mixture on the baking paper.
 Spread ½ of the mixture on the baking paper. Spread ½ of the mixture on the baking paper.
4. Bake for 1 hour, or until the top is golden. Turn off the oven and leave the pan in it until it reaches room temperature.
 Spread ½ of the mixture on the baking paper. Spread ½ of the mixture on the baking paper. Spread ½ of the mixture on the baking paper.

Three Crunchy Celery Salads Ronit Penso

Celery is mostly known as an ingredient for flavoring soups and stocks, but in summer, I find myself using it more on its own right, as a base for great tasting fresh and crunchy salads. I just love the salty-sweet-juicy flavor and crispy texture of fresh celery, combined with other vegetables and fruits.
Here are a few of my favorite summer salads. Try them, and feel the crunch. :)

Waldorf salad with red grapes
Originated in the Waldorf hotel in NYC around 1896, the original version contained celery, apples, walnuts and mayonnaise. Many variations followed, but the base is always celery and apples. Here I’ve added red grapes to the salad, for color and taste. It’s a wonderful salad to serve for brunch, with roasted meats or fish, or on its own as a first course.

In a large bowl, mix about 6-7 stalks celery heart, with a bit of the leaves on, sliced thin, 2 large granny smith apples, peeled and grated, 1 cup red grapes, deseeded and cut in quarters, juice of ½ a lemon,1/3 cup good quality mayonnaise, 1 tsp sugar, 1 tsp salt, a handful of chopped pecans, ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper. Mix well. Cover and place in the fridge for an hour, to let the flavors develop. Mix again before serving. Serve cold.

Three Crunchy Celery Salads Ronit PensoThree Crunchy Celery Salads Ronit PensoThree Crunchy Celery Salads Ronit PensoThree Crunchy Celery Salads Ronit Penso

Celery and radish salad:
The flavors and colors of celery and radishes go so well together. This very simple salad is great when freshly made, but if you have leftovers, keep them in an airtight containers in the fridge overnight and you’ll get tasty pickled salad.

In a large bowl, mix equal amounts of chopped fresh celery and thinly sliced radishes. Add fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper, and extra virgin olive oil. Mix well and serve, or keep overnight in the fridge, for quick pickles.

Three Crunchy Celery Salads Ronit PensoThree Crunchy Celery Salads Ronit PensoThree Crunchy Celery Salads Ronit PensoThree Crunchy Celery Salads Ronit PensoThree Crunchy Celery Salads Ronit PensoThree Crunchy Celery Salads Ronit Penso

Colorful chopped salad:
So simple and so tasty, and even healthy – can’t ask for more… :)

In a large bowl, mix together: diced celery, carrots, apples and mini peppers. Add fresh lemon juice and season with salt, black pepper and extra virgin olive oil. The salad is great fresh, but will keep well in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Three Crunchy Celery Salads Ronit PensoThree Crunchy Celery Salads Ronit PensoThree Crunchy Celery Salads Ronit PensoThree Crunchy Celery Salads Ronit PensoThree Crunchy Celery Salads Ronit Penso

Bread Roulade with Bacon-Onion Chutney
This tasty bread is the result of an inspiring post by Nancy from the lovely Feasting with Friends” blog, combined with some leftover spelt and semolina pizza dough I had in my fridge (recipe for which was posted here a couple of months ago).

I loved the idea of Nancy’s bacon-onion chutney beer bread, but as I already had the ready dough, I’ve decided to make only the chutney and use it in a different way.  I made a few small changes, such as using dried thyme instead of fresh, which I didn’t have (I kept the fresh thyme in the recipe below, as no doubt it would be so much better with it) and also decided to add to the chutney some chopped sun dried tomatoes, as I love them and tend to make too much of them (as you can see HERE).

So, the result was a very tasty bread, with a wonderful crispy crust and a mouthwatering filling. As the dough recipe makes four portions, I was happy to discover it also works great as a loaf of bread with stuffing.
I will definitely make this bread again. Thank you Nancy, for a very tasty inspiration! :)

Bread Roulade with Bacon-Onion Chutney
Makes: The dough: 4 loaves or pizza; The chutney: enough for 1 loaf
Prep time: 20 minutes for the dough, 30 minutes for the chutney
Proofing time: 2-3 hours
Baking time: 35-40 minutes
Ingredients:
For Spelt and Semolina Dough:
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 and pan
For the Bacon-Onion Chutney (for 1 loaf)
1/2 pound bacon, diced
1 large onion, roughly diced
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (or dried)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon mustard seeds
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup beer
1/3 cup roughly diced sun dried tomatoes

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 bread or 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. Meanwhile, prepare “Feasting with Friends” chutney: heat a skillet over medium high heat and fry the bacon. Once cooked, remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Drain all but 1 Tablespoon of the bacon grease and add the onion. Cook until transparent, and fold the bacon back in, reduce the heat to medium low and cook an additional 10 minutes. Add garlic and thyme, cook an additional 2 minutes. Add the vinegar, brown sugar, salt & pepper to taste and mustard seeds. Cook 3 more minutes, then add the beer and sun dried tomatoes. Cook for additional 5-10 minutes, until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, set aside and let cool to room temperature.
Bread Roulade with Bacon-Onion ChutneyBread Roulade with Bacon-Onion ChutneyBread Roulade with Bacon-Onion ChutneyBread Roulade with Bacon-Onion Chutney
8. Roll one portion of the dough on it, to a round, thin disc of about 11” (28cm). Spread the chutney all over and fold all sides towards the center. Roll to form a roulade. Oil a 12” (25cm) loaf pan and place the dough in it. Brush the top of the dough with more olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place for about an hour, until the dough doubles.
Bread Roulade with Bacon-Onion ChutneyBread Roulade with Bacon-Onion ChutneyBread Roulade with Bacon-Onion ChutneyBread Roulade with Bacon-Onion Chutney
9. Preheat the oven to 380F (195C). Bake for about 35-40 minutes, or until the bread is golden and if you tap on it it sounds hollow. Let cool to room temperature on a rack, before slicing.
Bread Roulade with Bacon-Onion ChutneyBread Roulade with Bacon-Onion ChutneyBread Roulade with Bacon-Onion ChutneyBread Roulade with Bacon-Onion ChutneyBread Roulade with Bacon-Onion Chutney

Yogurt, Dried Apricots and Pistachios Squares Ronit Penso

Cheese cakes are a favorite of mine, but at the same time, I find them quite heavy and sweet, not to mention it takes quite a bit of time to prepare and bake them properly.

So, I went on a mission to create a quick, lighter and less sweet version of cheese cake. I tried low-fat cream cheeses, but didn’t like the taste or texture. Instead, I’ve decided to try and bake a cake with thick yogurt and just loved the results. This is not to say that I’m over cheese cakes, but when I need something lighter and simpler, this is my go-to recipe from now on. I’m quite sure that if you’ll prepare this cake, you’ll feel the same. It is refreshingly moist, creamy and tangy, not too sweet and best of all, so quick and easy to make.

An added bonus is that the cake is perfect for those who keep a gluten free diet, as it doesn’t have any flour in it. The dried apricots and pistachios add both color and flavor, but you can bake the cake without them, or use raisins and other nuts instead.

Makes: 20 small squares
Prep time: 15 minutes
Baking time: 45 minutes
Chilling time: 2 hours, preferably overnight
Ingredients:
10 dried apricots
½ cup corn starch
3 XL eggs
17.6 oz (500 grams) 2% fat thick yogurt
1 Tbs lemon juice
! Tbs lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup sugar
For the sour cream layer:
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup sugar
½ cup roughly chopped raw pistachios

1. Preheat the oven to 320F (160C). Line a 7”x11” (18cm x 28cm) baking pan with baking paper.
2. Cut the apricots into small cubes (easier with scissors), place in a small bowl and add 1 Tbs of the cornstarch. Mix well and keep on the side.
Yogurt, Dried Apricots and Pistachios Squares Ronit PensoYogurt, Dried Apricots and Pistachios Squares Ronit Penso
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and yogurt. Add the lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla and mix. Add the sugar and corn starch and mix well. Add the cut apricots and mix lightly. Transfer the mixture into the pan. Bake for 35 minutes.
Yogurt, Dried Apricots and Pistachios Squares Ronit PensoYogurt, Dried Apricots and Pistachios Squares Ronit Penso Yogurt, Dried Apricots and Pistachios Squares Ronit PensoYogurt, Dried Apricots and Pistachios Squares Ronit Penso Yogurt, Dried Apricots and Pistachios Squares Ronit Penso
4. Meanwhile, mix the sour cream with the sugar in a small bowl.
Yogurt, Dried Apricots and Pistachios Squares Ronit PensoYogurt, Dried Apricots and Pistachios Squares Ronit Penso
5. Take the pan out of the oven and spread the sour cream mixture over it. Scatter the pistachios on top and return to the oven.
Yogurt, Dried Apricots and Pistachios Squares Ronit PensoYogurt, Dried Apricots and Pistachios Squares Ronit Penso
6. Bake for 10 minutes longer. Take out of the oven and bring to room temperature before placing it in the fridge. When the cake is chilled, cover it with plastic wrap and keep in the fridge for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
Yogurt, Dried Apricots and Pistachios Squares Ronit Penso
7. To cut: holding the baking paper, transfer the cake to a large cutting board. With a large, sharp knife, cut into 20 squares. The squares will keep, in an airtight container in the fridge, for up to a week.
Yogurt, Dried Apricots and Pistachios Squares Ronit PensoYogurt, Dried Apricots and Pistachios Squares Ronit Penso Yogurt, Dried Apricots and Pistachios Squares Ronit Penso

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