Tasty recipes and more

Tasty Eats Ronit Penso:

As I’m off on a three weeks’ vacation, ; I’ve decided to use the opportunity to re-post a few of the very first posts in this blog, that didn’t get much attention back then.
I hope you’ll enjoy these posts and please accept my apologies for not commenting on your posts as often and not answering your comments promptly.

Originally posted on Tasty Eats:

chocolate crackle cookies Ronit Penso

I hope that whoever invented Chocolate Crackles cookies (also known as Chocolate Crinkles) received some kind of reward or recognition, for creating these beautiful and tasty cookies. There are many variations for these great tasting cookies, but I especially like the one here, for its’ fairly short list of ingredients and ease of preparation.
The result is chewy and chocolaty cookies on the inside, while the outer snowy-white cracked layer is crunchy and sweet. No wonder they are always a hit with guests of any age.

Makes: about 40 medium size cookies
Prep time: 20 minutes
Chilling time: 2 hours
Baking time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:
For the cookies:
10.5 oz (300 grams) semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 Tbs oil
¾ cup sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
For rolling the cookies:
About 2 cups powdered sugar

1. Melt the…

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Tasty Eats Ronit Penso:

As I’m off on a three weeks’ vacation, ; I’ve decided to use the opportunity to re-post a few of the very first posts in this blog, that didn’t get much attention back then.

I hope you’ll enjoy these posts and please accept my apologies for not commenting on your posts as often and not answering your comments promptly.

Originally posted on Tasty Eats:

Chicken, Carrot and Dried Currants Rice Pilaf Ronit Penso

“Pilaf” is a dish in which Rice is cooked with vegetables and meat, to create an “all in one pot” meal.
There are many different versions of this dish all over the Middle East, Turkey, Greece, Armenia, Uzbekistan, India and more. Each version comes with its different spices, types of meat and vegetables used.
The following is a pilaf that I have prepared for a client of mine, who wanted a lower fat version of a traditional Armenian Lamb Pilaf. I have used chicken instead of lamb, and the result it tasty and fragrant, and at the same time much lighter than the original. The dish is great for entertaining, with a simple green salad on the side.

* Do not be tempted to use chicken breast instead of the thighs, as the result will be too dry.
* I’ve used McCormick’s’ Garam Masala Spice Mix, which contains coriander, black…

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Cranberry, Orange, Almond and Banana Breakfast Muffins Ronit Penso

Fresh cranberries can be now found in the market, and I’ve been playing with ideas for using them other than in the traditional cranberry sauce. In the muffins here, the cranberries are pureed whole, along with other good ingredients like almonds, orange and bananas.
The result is these tasty, colorful, fragrant and moist muffins, which are very easy to make. They are not too sweet and get a great texture from the bananas and the roughly chopped almonds.
Their nutritional value makes them perfect for a quick breakfast, which includes lots of fiber and all the goodness such fresh ingredients can offer. The muffins also make a great snack, and, if you coat them with orange icing, can be served as a light dessert for brunch.

A few notes:
* The amount may seem fairly large, but no need to hesitate about making them, as they keep well in the freezer. For best texture after freezing, place a frozen muffin in the fridge the night before, and in the morning all you’ll need to do is slightly warm it.
* If you prefer sweeter muffins, increase the amount of sugar up to 1 ½ cups. Brown sugar can be used instead of white, but the color will not be as nice.
* The icing gets its intense color from orange zest only! It is quite surprising to see how much color one tablespoon of orange zest can produce. For another tasty icing option, try the CRANBERRY ICING IN THIS POST.

Makes: 24 medium
Prep time: 20 minutes
Baking time: 28 minutes
Ingredients:
1 cup roasted lightly slated almonds
1 large orange, washed and dried
2 Tbs orange zest
12 oz (340 grams) fresh cranberries (or frozen, thawed)
12 oz (340 grams) very ripe bananas (from about 3 medium ones)
2 XL eggs
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup oil
1 cup white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour, sifted
1 Tbs baking powder
1/8 tsp salt (if not using salted almonds)
For the icing: (optional)
2 Tbs orange juice
1 Tbs orange zest
1 cup powdered sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350F (175C). Place 24 paper baking cups in two muffin baking trays.
2. In a food processor with the metal blade, process the almonds to a coarse meal. Transfer to a bowl and keep on the side.
3. Grate the orange zest and measure 2 Tbs. (Keep the rest for the icing.) With a sharp knife, cut off both ends of the orange and the peel. Cut into thick slices.
Cranberry, Orange, Almond and Banana Breakfast Muffins Ronit PensoCranberry, Orange, Almond and Banana Breakfast Muffins Ronit Penso
4. Add the cranberries, bananas and sliced orange to the food processor bowl and blend together to a coarse mixture.
Cranberry, Orange, Almond and Banana Breakfast Muffins Ronit PensoCranberry, Orange, Almond and Banana Breakfast Muffins Ronit Penso
5. Transfer to a large bowl and add the sugar, oil and eggs. Whisk well and add the almond meal, flours, baking powder, salt and orange zest. Whisk lightly to an even batter and fill the baking cups.
Cranberry, Orange, Almond and Banana Breakfast Muffins Ronit PensoCranberry, Orange, Almond and Banana Breakfast Muffins Ronit PensoCranberry, Orange, Almond and Banana Breakfast Muffins Ronit PensoCranberry, Orange, Almond and Banana Breakfast Muffins Ronit Penso
6. Bake for 28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of one muffin comes out almost dry. Transfer to a rack and let cool to room temperature.
Cranberry, Orange, Almond and Banana Breakfast Muffins Ronit PensoCranberry, Orange, Almond and Banana Breakfast Muffins Ronit Penso Cranberry, Orange, Almond and Banana Breakfast Muffins Ronit Penso
7. The icing: place the orange juice and zest in a bowl. Add the powdered sugar and whisk to a thick yet runny consistency. Pour over the cupcakes and let set before serving.
* The unglazed cupcakes can be frozen, in an airtight container, for up to a month. The glazed ones will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Cranberry, Orange, Almond and Banana Breakfast Muffins Ronit PensoCranberry, Orange, Almond and Banana Breakfast Muffins Ronit Penso P1060545

Asian style Salmon with Steamed Eggplant Ronit Penso

I find salmon and Asian flavorings to be a great match, and here is a dish that demonstrates this. The same goes for eggplant, and the combination of both created a quick, tasty and light dinner. However, you can choose to serve each part of the dish on its own. Another option is to serve the dish with white rice or Soba noodles.

I’ve used wild Alaskan salmon here, which has a wonderful texture and color, but any other type will do. If you use frozen fish (hopefully vacuum packed), make sure to defrost it slowly, overnight, in the fridge.

The eggplant cubes are steamed in the sauce itself, which helps in keeping the flavor and nutritional values. But this method requires keeping an eye on the dish towards the end, when the liquids evaporate, to prevent scorching.

Makes: 2
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Ingredients:
For the eggplant:
1 medium eggplant
1 small garlic clove, chopped
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
For the salmon sauce:
¼ cup soy sauce
1 Tbs Hoisin sauce
1 tsp green curry paste
1 tsp red curry paste
Juice of ½ medium lemon
Juice of ½ medium lime
For the fish:
1 tsp oil
1 oz (30 grams) butter
2 salmon steaks, (5 oz, 150 grams each), boneless and clean of scales, at room temperature
For serving:
Handful fresh mint, cut into strips (chiffonade)
Handful fresh cilantro cut into strips (chiffonade)

1. The eggplant: peel the eggplant and cut into medium cubes. Place in a small pot and add the rest of ingredients. Mix gently. Cover and cook on high heat for 1 minute, to create steam. Turn the heat down to medium-low and let steam for 8-9 minutes, mixing once, until the eggplant cubes are soft and translucent. Keep covered, in a warm place, until serving.
Asian style Salmon with Steamed Eggplant Ronit PensoAsian style Salmon with Steamed Eggplant Ronit PensoAsian style Salmon with Steamed Eggplant Ronit PensoAsian style Salmon with Steamed Eggplant Ronit Penso
2. The salmon sauce: mix all the ingredients in a small bowl. Keep aside.
Asian style Salmon with Steamed Eggplant Ronit PensoAsian style Salmon with Steamed Eggplant Ronit Penso
3. The salmon: combine the butter and oil in a medium frying pan. Place on medium-high heat until the butter starts to foam. Add the salmon steaks, skin side up, and cook for about 2 minutes. Turn the steaks upside down, and cook for another minute.
Asian style Salmon with Steamed Eggplant Ronit PensoAsian style Salmon with Steamed Eggplant Ronit Penso
Add the sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes, until the fish is done and the sauce thickens a bit.
Asian style Salmon with Steamed Eggplant Ronit PensoAsian style Salmon with Steamed Eggplant Ronit Penso
Turn off the heat and uncover the pan. Turn the fish once again, so the skin side is up, and carefully remove the skin with kitchen thongs. (It will come off very easily.) Now turn the fish again, so the skinless side is up. Baste with the sauce and add half of the herbs on top.
Asian style Salmon with Steamed Eggplant Ronit PensoAsian style Salmon with Steamed Eggplant Ronit Penso
4. Assemble the dish: place half of the eggplant cubes on each plate. Add the rest of the herbs, top with the fish and serve.
Turn off the heat and uncover the pan. Turn off the heat and uncover the pan. Turn off the heat and uncover the pan.

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

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