Tasty recipes and more

Green Falafel Ronit penso

These little chickpea fritters are known around the Middle East, Turkey, Greece and other countries, as a tasty street food. Every country has its own version, but aside from Egypt, where the dish is made with Fava beans, all others use chickpeas as the base for the dish.
The recipe here is influenced by the Israeli version, which was introduced by Yemenite Jews. To this, other flavors were added with time, such as the spicy Moroccan Harissa (red hot peppers paste) and other seasonings.
The fried balls are usually served in Pita bread, with fresh or cooked salads, pickles, and Tahini sauce on top, which makes them a perfect quick lunch.
They can also be served on top of a fresh salad, or, as shown here, as a light snack, served with lemony Tahini dipping sauce.
In any way you choose to serve them, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the crispy crust and the spicy and fresh inner layer.

A few notes:
* The chickpeas are soaked overnight, so you need to start your preparations a day ahead.

* The chickpeas are NOT cooked. Cooked chickpeas (or canned) are NOT suitable for this recipe.

* I prefer to grind the mixture coarsely, for a very crispy texture. If you prefer a smoother one, you can grind it finer.

* After experimenting with both frying and baking the mixture, I came to the conclusion that the fried version is tastier by far. However, the baked version has its advantages, so I suggest to try both and decide what suits you best.

* For best results, fry or bake the balls just before serving, and serve them piping hot.

* As said above, there are many versions for this dish, so feel free to mix and match your own with different seasonings and herbs.

Makes: about 30 (1/8 cup size balls)
Soaking time: overnight
Prep time: 20 minutes
Resting time: 30 minutes
Frying time: 4-5 minutes, ORBaking time: about 20 minutes
Ingredients:
I cup dried chickpeas
4 garlic cloves
½ medium size onion
1 ½ cups packed parsley and cilantro leaves
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp Harissa paste
Oil for deep frying (I use safflower oil), or oil spray for baking
For serving (optinal): lemony Tahini sauce (check in THIS POST or THIS POST for the recipe)

1. Place the chickpeas in a large bowl and cover with water. Let soak overnight (change the water once during this time), until the beans have doubled in size. Drain and keep at room temperature while gathering the rest of ingredients.
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2. Place the drained chickpeas with the garlic, onion and herbs in a food processor bowl, fitted with the metal blade. Process to a fairly coarse (or as fine as you want it) mixture. Transfer to a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients. Mix well, pressing the mixture with your hands. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Cover the mixture with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.
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3. Line a 1/8 cup with plastic wrap. Place a bit of the mixture in it, and press it tightly. Release from the cup and place on a plate lined with plastic wrap. Repeat with the rest of the mixture.
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4. To deep-fry: preheat the oil on medium-high heat, in a medium size pot, or a deep fryer. Add a few balls at a time and fry for 4-5 minutes, until they are dark-brown on all sides. Take out with a slotted spoon and serve immediately.
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5. To bake: preheat the oven to 430F (220C). Line a baking pan with baking paper and spray with oil. Add the prepared balls and spray them with oil. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the bottom is brown and crispy. Turn to the other side and bake for about 10 minutes, until this side is brown and crispy as well. Serve immediately.
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Green Falafel Ronit penso

Buffalo Meatloaf

Buffalo Meatloaf Ronit Penso

Buffalo meat is gaining more popularity in recent years, and in my opinion, rightly so. It is very flavorful, and at the same time it is leaner than beef, as it is mostly raised in free-range farms and is grass-fed.
As the meat is leaner, it can dry fairly quickly when cooked, so I usually serve it raw (check out THIS recipe), or quickly grilled.
However, this time I’ve decided to try and prepare a meatloaf with it, so another method was needed to keep it moist. The solution was to add to the meat a fairly large amount of vegetables, along with mayonnaise and eggs. Another good and tasty trick was to top the loaf with a thick topping.
The result is a very tasty meatloaf. It is different in texture and flavor than beef or pork meatloaf, but it definitely adds another wonderful variation to the meatloaf repertoire.
The meatloaf can be served warm or cold. It will cut better after a few hours in the fridge.

Makes: 6-8
Prep time: 30 minutes
Baking time: 45 minutes
Resting time: 15 minutes
Ingredients:
12 oz (340 grams) ground buffalo meat (chuck)
1 small red onion, chopped
1 Tbs oil
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
Dash Cayenne
¼ cup chopped mini peppers
2 celery sticks, chopped
¼ cup finely grated carrots
2 small tomatoes + a handful of cherry tomatoes, pureed
1/2 Tbs Hioisin sauce
1 Tbs soy sauce
½ tsp five spice blend
1/3 cup chopped parsley
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
2 Tbs good quality mayonnaise
½ cup breadcrumbs
2 L eggs
For the topping:
2 Tbs Hoisin sauce
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
1 Tbs ketchup

1. Grind the meat, or, if using pre-ground meat, take out of the fridge and bring to room temperature.
2. In a large pan, combine the onion with the oil, salt, pepper and cayenne. Fry on medium-high heat, mixing occasionally, until the onion is soft.
3. Add the chopped pepper, celery and carrots. Mix and fry for 2-3 minutes, mixing occasionally. Add the tomato puree, mix and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the hoisin and soy sauce and the five spice mix. Mix and cook for 2 minutes. Turn the heat off and add the parsley. Mix and let cool to room temperature. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
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4. Line a meatloaf pan with baking paper. Preheat the oven to 400F (205C).
5. Add the cooked vegetables mix, the mustard, mayonnaise, bread crumbs and eggs to the bowl with the ground meat. Mix well and place in the lined pan.
6. In a small bowl, combine the topping ingredients and spread over the meat mixture in the pan.
Buffalo Meatloaf Ronit PensoBuffalo Meatloaf Ronit PensoBuffalo Meatloaf Ronit Penso6. In a small bowl, combine the topping ingredients and pour over the meat mixture.6. In a small bowl, combine the topping ingredients and pour over the meat mixture.6. In a small bowl, combine the topping ingredients and pour over the meat mixture.
7. Bake for 45 minutes. Turn the oven off and keep the meatloaf in it for 15 minutes longer. Serve immediately, or cool to room temperature and place in the fridge for a few hours.
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Hazelnuts Fennel Biscotti Ronit Penso

These fragrant and tasty cookies are a variation of the classic Italian Biscotti cookies. Their name means “twice baked”, as they are first baked as a log, sliced and baked again until they are completely dry. This way of baking results cookies that can be stored for long periods of time.

As in the traditional recipe, in the recipe here I avoided the newer additions of fat, liquids or large amount of baking powder to the dough. I have also sliced the logs into thinner slices than in these newer variations.
As a result, the cookies are extra crispy and dry, and are at their best when dunked in coffee or sweet wine.

Prep time: 20 minutes
Baking time: 30 minutes + 10-15 minutes
Makes: about 50
Ingredients:
½ cup sugar
1 ¼ cups flour
½ cup hazelnut flour
1 Tbs fennel seeds
½ tsp baking powder
Dash salt
¼ cup roughly chopped roasted hazelnuts
2 XL eggs, at room temperature
For the egg wash:
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tsp milk and sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350F (175C). Line two cookie sheets with baking paper.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, hazelnuts flour, fennel seeds, baking powder and salt.
3. Add the roasted hazelnuts and the eggs and knead briefly to a fairly sticky dough. Do not add flour.
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4. Divide the dough into two equal parts. On a lightly floured work space, roll each into a log about 2” (5cm) thick. Place in the baking pan and brush the top with the egg wash.
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5. Bake for 30 minutes. Take the pan out of the oven and increase the oven temperature to 375F (190C).
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6. Place the logs on a cutting board and let cool slightly. Slice each log with a serrated knife on the bias, while still warm, into ¼” (0.6 cm) slices. Place the cut slices in the pans, and bake for 10-15 minutes, until they are golden on the edges and completely dry. Place on racks to cool (the cookies will harden even more after cooling.) Keep in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.
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 Eggs with Scallions, Cherry Tomatoes and Mini Peppers Ronit PensoEggs cooked with tomato sauce are known in many cuisines. In most recipes, the tomato sauce is heavily spiced and cooked for 15-20 minutes before the eggs are added. While very tasty, the dish can be quite heavy, especially if served for breakfast.
Here is a quicker, and in my humble opinion, fresher and tastier, version. By using scallions, cherry tomatoes and mini peppers, all of which do not require long cooking time, you can prepare the dish in less than 20 minutes from start to finish, without compromising on flavor and freshness.
The dish is perfect for breakfast or brunch, but obviously can also be served as a light lunch or even dinner. Serve with fresh bread, to help enjoy the runny yolk to the fullest.

A few notes:
* The fresher the eggs, the better the dish will taste. Same goes for the cherry tomatoes and mini-peppers.
* Mexican scallions are bigger than the regular scallions and have a more pronounced onion flavor. If you can’t find them, use 3 regular scallions instead.

Makes: 2
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Ingredients:
1 large Mexican scallion
2 Tbs olive oil
1 cup roughly chopped colorful mini peppers
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup colorful cherry tomatoes, halved
2 XL fresh eggs, preferably free-range, at room temperature
Additional salt and pepper, to taste

1. Cut the scallion in half, lengthwise, and chop roughly. Pour the oil into a large frying pan. Add the chopped scallion, peppers, salt and pepper. Mix and fry on medium-high heat for 1-2 minutes, until the scallion and peppers soften.
2. Add the halved cherry tomatoes, season them with salt and pepper, and cook for 2 minutes, until they soften but still keep their shape.
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3. With a spatula, create two wells in the mixture. Break the eggs and gently place one in each well. Season with extra salt and pepper and cover the pan. Cook on medium-low heat for about 5 minutes, until the egg white is cooked and the yolk is still runny. Serve with fresh bread.
Eggs with Scallions, Cherry Tomatoes and Mini Peppers Ronit PensoEggs with Scallions, Cherry Tomatoes and Mini Peppers Ronit PensoEggs with Scallions, Cherry Tomatoes and Mini Peppers Ronit PensoEggs with Scallions, Cherry Tomatoes and Mini Peppers Ronit Penso Eggs with Scallions, Cherry Tomatoes and Mini Peppers Ronit Penso

Red Trout with Grapes and Almonds Ronit Penso

Whenever I want a quick, healthy and impressive main dish, I usually choose a nice fresh fish fillets. A few minutes of prepping, a few minutes of cooking, and you’re ready to serve.
I found this beautiful red trout at the store and got curios, as most of the trout I know have white flesh. I’ve found out that both types are related to salmon, and that the red trout gets its red flesh (or actually, pinkish-orange, similar to that of salmon) by eating shrimps or crayfish. Yet, unlike the large salmon, the smaller red trout needs a very short cooking time. It also has more subtle flavor and it is less oily, which means it needs bold flavors and butter/oil base sauce, in order to bring out the best flavor and texture.
As I had some nice green grapes, I’ve decided to cook the fish with them. The addition of grapes to fish dishes is a French classic (“Poisson Veronique”), often made with sole fillets. However, the classic recipe uses flour and milk (or cream), and the result is fairly thick and heavy, which I find diminishes the wonderful fresh flavor of the grapes. So I’ve decided to omit both and create the lighter and quicker variation that you can find here.

I was quite happy with the results and I’m sure you will too, once you’ll try it.

Makes: 2
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Ingredients:
1 (about ½ lb, 225 grams) Red Trout
1 Tbs butter
1 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs small diced shallot
½ tsp salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs fresh lime juice
½ tsp finely grated lime zest
1/3 cup sliced seedless green grapes
¼ cup roasted slivered almonds

1. Place the trout on a cutting board and remove the head and fins with a heavy, sharp knife. Cut off the center, so that you’ll have two fillets.
Red Trout with Grapes and Almonds Ronit PensoRed Trout with Grapes and Almonds Ronit Penso
2. In a large frying pan, heat the butter with the olive oil. Add the diced shallot and salt. Mix and fry over medium-high heat for a minute, until the shallot softens. Add the fish fillets, skin side up, and fry for about 3 minutes. Gently turn the fish with a spatula. Add the lime juice, black pepper, half of the lime zest and sliced grapes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 2-3 minutes longer, until the fish is done and the sauce and grapes heated through. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
Red Trout with Grapes and Almonds Ronit PensoRed Trout with Grapes and Almonds Ronit PensoRed Trout with Grapes and Almonds Ronit PensoRed Trout with Grapes and Almonds Ronit Penso
3. With a spatula, gather the grapes and place over the fish. Transfer to a serving plate, sprinkle the roasted almonds and the additional lime zest on top and serve.
Red Trout with Grapes and Almonds Ronit PensoRed Trout with Grapes and Almonds Ronit PensoRed Trout with Grapes and Almonds Ronit Penso

Pumpkin Seed and Parmesan Crackers Ronit Penso

These tasty and easy to make crackers, have unique color and abundance of flavor. The color comes from using raw pumpkin seeds as the major ingredient, and from the addition of green Pesto and Za’atar herb mix. Besides color, these herbal additions add wonderful flavors and aroma, which combine so well with the pumpkin seeds, Parmesan cheese and olive oil.
The crackers are perfect for serving on their own as a tasty snack, with cheeses or yogurt based dips, with hummus or with eggplant salads (such as the one posted here last week).

Notes:
* For the tastiest result, use fresh, homemade Pesto. Click HERE for a recipe.
* If you can’t find Za’atar mix at your local store, you can order it online. Make sure to choose one that contains sumac and sesame seeds.
* Though here I cut the crackers into squares, they obviously can be cut in any other shape you prefer.
* The crackers can keep, in an airtight container, for two weeks. They are not as dry as most crackers, so if they lose their crispiness, simply reheat them in a hot toaster-oven for a few minutes to re-crisp them.

Makes: about 70 small crackers (1”x1”, 2.5cmx2.5cm)
Prep time: 20 minutes
Baking time: 12-14 minutes
Ingredients:
5 1/8 oz (150 grams) Parmesan cheese, cut into small cubes
2 cups raw no shell pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup prepared Pesto (preferably homemade. Click HERE for a recipe)
1 tsp salt
2 XL egg whites
½ cup water
1 cup spelt flour
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup whole wheat flour
2 Tbs Za’ater mix
1 tsp salt

1. Preheat the oven to 380F (195C). Line cookie sheet pans with baking paper.
2. Place the cheese, pumpkin seeds and salt in a food processor bowl, fitted with the metal blade. Process to a fairly fine texture. Add the pesto, egg whites, water, spelt and olive oil, and mix well. Add the whole wheat flour and Zater and mix again to a fairly sticky dough.
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3. Place a large wax paper sheet on a work surface and put the dough in the center. Cover with another large sheet of wax paper and roll very thin with a rolling pin. Remove the top wax paper and cut with a sharp, heavy knife, into 1”x1” (2.5cm x 2.5cm) squares (or any other shape you prefer).
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4. Place on the baking paper and bake for 12-14 minutes, or until the crackers are browned on the sides and bottom. Cool to room temperature and serve.
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Eggplant Salad Two Ways Ronit Penso

In Mediterranean and North African cuisines, there are many versions for eggplant salads that start with roasted eggplant that is further cooked with additional vegetables and flavorings, and served at room temperature.
In the recipe here I “mixed and matched” my own version. For another tasty option, I added  Tahini (sesame paste) to half of the amount. Both versions have strong lemony flavor, which goes so well with the cumin and the cilantro.
If you prefer more subtle flavors, simply adjust the lemon and spice level according to your taste.

The salad is very versatile – it can be served as is, as a side dish for meats or fish, as a dip or as a sandwich spread. Mixing it with Tahini (sesame paste), contributes a nutty flavor and a thicker texture.

Both versions keep well, in an airtight container in the fridge, for up to 2 weeks, so it’s worth it to make a fairly large batch. Make sure to bring to room temperature and mix again before serving.

* When buying an eggplant, choose one that is plump, with a tight skin, and is fairly heavy.

Makes: about 5 cups
Prep time: 30 minutes
Roasting time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Ingredients:
2 large eggplants
2 Tbs olive oil
½ large green-red pepper, diced
½ jalapeno pepper, diced small
1 ½ tsp salt
2 garlic cloves
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
4 large cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
1 tsp cumin powder
Juice from 1 medium lemon
For the Tahini version:
2 Tbs Tahini
4 Tbs water

1. Roast the eggplant: preheat the oven to 420F (215C). Place the eggplants in a pan and roast for about 30 minutes, until the skin breaks and the flesh is soft. (Other options – roast directly over a grill or a gas flame, or use the broiler option, if you have one in your oven.) Let cool a bit, cut off the ends and carefully removed the charred skin.
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2. In a large pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the pepper, jalapeno and 1 tsp salt. Mix and fry until the peppers soften a bit. Add the garlic and fry for half a minute. Add the cleaned roasted eggplant, the cilantro, tomatoes, ½ tsp salt, cumin and lemon juice, and mix gently. Lower the heat to medium-low. Cook for about 10 minutes, mixing gently occasionally, until most of the liquids evaporate. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
Cool to room temperature and serve.
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3. For the Tahini version: in a bowl, mix the Tahini with 3 Tbs of the water. Don’t worry if it will look like it is not mixing immediately – keep on mixing and it will. Add half of the amount of the cooked salad and mix gently. Add the additional tablespoon of water and adjust seasoning if needed.
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