Tasty recipes and more

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.
Pumpkin Seed and Parmesan Crackers Ronit PensoPumpkin Seed and Parmesan Crackers Ronit PensoPumpkin Seed and Parmesan Crackers Ronit PensoPumpkin Seed and Parmesan Crackers Ronit Penso
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).
Pumpkin Seed and Parmesan Crackers Ronit PensoPumpkin Seed and Parmesan Crackers Ronit PensoPumpkin Seed and Parmesan Crackers Ronit PensoPumpkin Seed and Parmesan Crackers Ronit Penso
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.
Pumpkin Seed and Parmesan Crackers Ronit PensoPumpkin Seed and Parmesan Crackers Ronit PensoPumpkin Seed and Parmesan Crackers Ronit PensoPumpkin Seed and Parmesan Crackers Ronit PensoPumpkin Seed and Parmesan Crackers Ronit PensoPumpkin Seed and Parmesan Crackers Ronit PensoPumpkin Seed and Parmesan Crackers Ronit Penso

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.
Eggplant Salad Two Ways Ronit PensoEggplant Salad Two Ways Ronit PensoEggplant Salad Two Ways Ronit PensoEggplant Salad Two Ways Ronit Penso
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.
Eggplant Salad Two Ways Ronit PensoEggplant Salad Two Ways Ronit PensoEggplant Salad Two Ways Ronit PensoEggplant Salad Two Ways Ronit PensoEggplant Salad Two Ways Ronit PensoEggplant Salad Two Ways Ronit Penso Eggplant Salad Two Ways Ronit Penso
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.
Eggplant Salad Two Ways Ronit PensoEggplant Salad Two Ways Ronit PensoEggplant Salad Two Ways Ronit PensoEggplant Salad Two Ways Ronit PensoEggplant Salad Two Ways Ronit PensoEggplant Salad Two Ways Ronit Penso Eggplant Salad Two Ways Ronit Penso

Pot roasted chicken Sephardic style Ronit Penso

This simple chicken dish, from the fabulous Sephardic cuisine (find explanations about it HERE, or in THIS wonderful blog), is as tasty as it is easy to prepare. The only somewhat difficult part is in the last few minutes of cooking, when the heat is turned up to caramelize the vegetables.
The result is moist and flavorful chicken, with wonderfully concentrated flavors of the caramelized vegetables.
I’m sure that once you’ll make this dish, it will become a classic in your kitchen, just as it is for centuries in Sephardic homes.

Please note: no water is added to the pot – this is not a mistake. The chicken and vegetables are slowly cooked/roasted in their own juices, a process which gives them unique and intense flavors.

Makes: 4
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 50 minutes
Ingredients:
4 medium chicken thighs
2 Tbs light olive oil
1 Tbs Salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 large celery stalks, cut into large pieces
2 large carrots, peeled, cut in half lengthwise then into large pieces
3-4 garlic cloves, peeled, cut in half
6-8 grape tomatoes cut in half, or 2 small tomatoes, cut into quarters

1. Wash and pat dry the chicken with paper towels, and season with some of the salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a heavy pot with a tight lid, large enough to place all vegetables in one layer. Fry the chicken thighs on medium-high heat until golden on both sides. Transfer to a plate and keep in a warm place.
Pot roasted chicken Sephardic style Ronit Penso Pot roasted chicken Sephardic style Ronit Penso Pot roasted chicken Sephardic style Ronit Penso P1110009
2. Add the celery, carrots and garlic to the pot and season with the rest of the salt and pepper. Mix gently to coat with the oil and fat from the chicken. Cook for a minute and place the chicken on top, skin side up. Scatter the tomatoes all around. Cover the pot tightly and lower the heat to low. Do not add water.
Pot roasted chicken Sephardic style Ronit Penso Pot roasted chicken Sephardic style Ronit Penso
3. Cook/roast for 45 minutes. Uncover the pot and turn the heat up to medium-high. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until all liquids evaporate, and the vegetables caramelized. Keep an eye on the pot at this stage – you want the vegetables to caramelize, not burn.
Turn the heat off and let sit in the pot for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the caramelized vegtables, and place on a serving plate, caramelized size up. Add the chicken on top and serve.
Pot roasted chicken Sephardic style Ronit Penso Pot roasted chicken Sephardic style Ronit Penso Pot roasted chicken Sephardic style Ronit Penso

Flourless Coconut, Peanut Butter and Banana Cookies, Ronit Penso

These tasty and chewy cookies started with a minor disappointment: I’ve tried one of the popular recipes for flourless peanut butter cookies (the ones that contain only peanut butter, sugar (or sweetener) and an egg), and the result was not as exciting for me as it was for a lot of the online reviewers. I thought the cookies were on the boring side taste-wise, and found their texture too crumbly to handle.
However, by then I was already in “flourless peanut butter recipe” mood, so I started to add “this and that” to the original recipe. The cookies here are the result of that process.
They are tasty on their own right, but the chocolate drizzle adds another layer of flavor, which goes so well with all the ingredients.
Try them and decide for yourself.

A couple of notes:
* Unsweetened, all-natural peanut butter has a fairly coarse texture, which is perfect for these cookies. I’m not sure how well the recipe will work with creamy/sweeter types of peanut butter, and can only assume it will.
* I used coconut palm sugar here, as I was curious about this type of sugar, which is new to me. It worked quite well and the result was not too sweet, as I usually prefer. Yet, another batch, made with soft brown sugar, turned out to be quite similar, so feel free to substitute if you don’t have coconut palm sugar.
* If you prefer sweeter cookies, you can increase the amount to ¾-1 cup.
* Freezing: place the tray with the cookies in the freezer and let them freeze before storing in an airtight container. This way they will not stick to each other.

Makes: about 40 (small)
Prep time: 15 minutes
Baking time: 14 minutes
Ingredients:
For the cookies:
1/3 cup mashed ripe banana (from 1 small)
1 XL egg
1 cup unsweetened natural peanut butter
½ cup unsweetened desiccated coconut
1/3 cup coconut palm sugar (or soft brown sugar)
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp vanilla
1 tsp cardamom or cinnamon
For the chocolate drizzle:
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips
¼ cup heavy cream

1. Preheat the oven to 335F (170C). Line a cookie sheet with baking paper.
2. In a large bowl, mix the egg and banana. Add the peanut butter, coconut, sugar, salt, vanilla and cardamom and mix well. The dough will be quite sticky.
3. With slightly wet hands, roll the dough into about 40 small balls and place in the pan. Press the top with a fork, to flatten the cookies and create a pattern.
Flourless Coconut, Peanut Butter and Banana Cookies, Ronit PensoFlourless Coconut, Peanut Butter and Banana Cookies, Ronit PensoFlourless Coconut, Peanut Butter and Banana Cookies, Ronit PensoFlourless Coconut, Peanut Butter and Banana Cookies, Ronit Penso3. With slightly wet hands, roll the dough into about 40 ping-pong size balls and place in the pan. Press gently on top with a fork, to flatten them and create a pattern.3. With slightly wet hands, roll the dough into about 40 ping-pong size balls and place in the pan. Press gently on top with a fork, to flatten them and create a pattern.
4. Bake for 14 minutes, or until the top is firm and the bottom is golden. Let cool to room temperature in the pan.
3. With slightly wet hands, roll the dough into about 40 ping-pong size balls and place in the pan. Press gently on top with a fork, to flatten them and create a pattern.3. With slightly wet hands, roll the dough into about 40 ping-pong size balls and place in the pan. Press gently on top with a fork, to flatten them and create a pattern.
5. The chocolate drizzle: place the chocolate chips in a bowl. Heat the heavy cream to almost boil, and pour over the chocolate. Let stand for 1-2 minutes and then stir well, until the chocolate melts. Drizzle over the cooled cookies. Let set before serving.
3. With slightly wet hands, roll the dough into about 40 ping-pong size balls and place in the pan. Press gently on top with a fork, to flatten them and create a pattern.3. With slightly wet hands, roll the dough into about 40 ping-pong size balls and place in the pan. Press gently on top with a fork, to flatten them and create a pattern. Flourless Coconut, Peanut Butter and Banana Cookies, Ronit Penso

Cauliflower Patties Ronit Penso

These tasty patties, from the Sephardic cuisine, are a perfect vegetarian snack or an appetizer, served with a squeeze of fresh lemon.
When cooked in tomato sauce and served with couscous or rice, they also make an excellent vegetarian main dish.

This is a dish where “less is more” is once again proven right. By mashing the cauliflower not too fine, adding the minimal amount of flour and breadcrumbs, and using spices sparingly, the wonderful flavor of the cauliflower stays dominant even after frying the patties and cooking them in tomato sauce.
If you’re a cauliflower fan, I’m sure you’ll love them.

A few notes:
* While most recipes call for cooking the cauliflower florets in boiling water and straining it, I prefer to quickly steam the cauliflower with a small amount of water, in order to keep as much of the nutrients and flavor in. The only downside to this method is the need to keep an eye on it while cooking, to make sure the cauliflower doesn’t burn when the water evaporates, but it’s really worth it.
* The patties keep, in an aright container in the fridge, for 2-3 days. To reheat and keep them crisp, it is best to use a toaster oven and not a microwave.
* To cook the patties in tomato sauce, make sure they are cold before adding them to the sauce, so that they will not break apart when cooking. Use homemade (recipe HERE) or good quality store bought sauce.

Makes: about 25 patties
Prep time: 20 minutes
Frying time: 15 minutes
Ingredients:
1 medium size cauliflower head
3 L eggs
1 tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
Dash nutmeg
1/3 cup bread crumbs
1/3 cup flour
Oil for frying
Homemade or good quality store bought tomato sauce (optional)

1. With a sharp knife, remove the cauliflower core and separate into florets. Wash and place in a large pot, in one layer. Add 1/2 cup water, cover the pot and cook/steam over medium-high heat for about 5-7 minutes, until the water evaporates and the is cauliflower is cooked. Cool to room temperature and mash roughly with a potato masher.
Cauliflower Patties Ronit PensoCauliflower Patties Ronit PensoCauliflower Patties Ronit PensoCauliflower Patties Ronit Penso
2. Add the eggs, salt, pepper and nutmeg and mix well, trying not to mash the cauliflower too much. Add the flour and breadcrumbs and mix briefly. Let the mixture sit for 10 minutes.
Cauliflower Patties Ronit PensoCauliflower Patties Ronit PensoCauliflower Patties Ronit PensoCauliflower Patties Ronit Penso
3. In a large frying pan, heat the oil on medium-high heat. Lower the heat to medium. Spoon heaped tablespoons of the mixture into the oil, in one layer and a bit apart. Flatten the mixture with the back of a spoon. Fry until golden on both sides. Transfer to a workspace layered with paper towels.
Serve warm or at room temperature, with a slice of lemon.
Cauliflower Patties Ronit PensoCauliflower Patties Ronit PensoCauliflower Patties Ronit PensoCauliflower Patties Ronit PensoCauliflower Patties Ronit Penso
5. To cook in tomato sauce: make sure the patties are cold, so they will not break apart upon cooking. Bring the sauce to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add as many patties as you’re about to serve. Cook for 1-2 minutes on both sides, or until heated through, and serve immediately.
Cauliflower Patties Ronit Penso4. Serve warm or at room temperature, with a slice of lemon. Cauliflower Patties Ronit Penso

Corn Muffins with Italian Sausage and Goat Cheese Ronit Penso

These quick and easy to prepare corn muffins, are the perfect breakfast or brunch bread. They are moist and crumbly, savory and a bit sweet and hot at the same time, and with the added sausage and goat cheese, they make a meal on their own. For brunch, or light lunch, serve them with a green salad, or with a bowl of light soup.

* I chose Italian sausages for the filling, as they are seasoned with fennel seeds, which I think add a lot. Obviously, any other good quality fresh sausage can be used instead.
* If you’re not a fan of goat cheese, substitute it with Feta cheese.

Makes: 12
Prep time: 15 minutes
Baking time: 30 minutes
Ingredients:
6 sun dried tomatoes
3 scallions
½ small jalapeno
1 cup flour
1 ½ cups stone ground cornmeal
1 tsp salt
1 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs baking powder
2 L eggs
1 ½ cups milk, at room temperature
½ cup melted butter, at room temperature
½ cup corn kernels (fresh steamed, frozen and thawed or canned, drained)
2 fresh good quality Italian sausages, cut into 12 pieces x 0.6” (1.5cm)
½ cup crumbled fresh goat cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 360F (180C). Line a 12 hole muffin pan with paper cups.
2. Roughly chop the sun dried tomatoes and scallions. Small dice the jalapeno.
3. In a large bowl, place the flour, cornmeal, salt, sugar and baking powder and whisk to combine.
Corn Muffins with Italian Sausage and Goat Cheese Ronit PensoCorn Muffins with Italian Sausage and Goat Cheese Ronit Penso
4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and melted butter. Add to the flour mixture and whisk to a smooth batter. Add the chopped sun dried tomatoes, scallions, jalapeno and corn kernels and mix briefly.
Corn Muffins with Italian Sausage and Goat Cheese Ronit PensoCorn Muffins with Italian Sausage and Goat Cheese Ronit PensoCorn Muffins with Italian Sausage and Goat Cheese Ronit PensoCorn Muffins with Italian Sausage and Goat Cheese Ronit Penso
5. Fill the muffin holes with ¾ of the batter. Place 1 piece of sausage in each hole, pushing it gently almost to the bottom, but not all the way down. Add the crumbled goat cheese on top and finish with the rest of the batter.
Corn Muffins with Italian Sausage and Goat Cheese Ronit PensoCorn Muffins with Italian Sausage and Goat Cheese Ronit Penso
6. Bake for 30 minutes. Take out of the oven and keep in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool. Serve at room temperature.
Corn Muffins with Italian Sausage and Goat Cheese Ronit PensoCorn Muffins with Italian Sausage and Goat Cheese Ronit PensoCorn Muffins with Italian Sausage and Goat Cheese Ronit PensoCorn Muffins with Italian Sausage and Goat Cheese Ronit PensoCorn Muffins with Italian Sausage and Goat Cheese Ronit Penso

Shrimps with Peppers and Herbs, on Basmati Rice Ronit Penso

After the fairly time consuming stuffed cabbage recipe of last week, it’s time for a quick and easy “all in one pan” kind of dish, that you can fix in almost no time.

This Asian flavors inspired dish is tangy, salty, sweet and spicy all at the same time. It’s full of fresh flavors of vegetables and herbs, combined with the tasty fresh and quickly cooked shrimps. Served on Basmati rice, that cooks while you’re preparing the shrimps, creates a tasty and well balanced meal.

Mix and match the dish according to your liking – if you can’t get fresh shrimps, you can replace them with cubed chicken breast. Another option is to make it vegetarian, by using thick cut mushrooms or cubed eggplants or Tofu.

Makes: 4
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: The rice: 20 minutes; The shrimps: 10 minutes
Ingredients:
For the rice:
1 Tbs oil
1 cup Basmati rice
1 tsp salt
2 cups water
For the shrimps:
About 20 medium size fresh shrimps
2 Tbs oil
1 large garlic clove, chopped
5 red and yellow mini peppers, roughly chopped
1 large scallion, roughly chopped
1” (2.5cm) fresh ginger root, peeled and finely chopped
½ cup mint leaves, chopped
½ cup cilantro leaved, chopped
2 Tbs each: soy sauce, rice wine vinegar
1 Tbs each: Tamarind paste, sweet chili sauce, Hoisin sauce, dark sesame oil
A few drops of hot sauce, to taste

1. The rice: mix the oil and rice in a medium pot over medium heat. Gently fry for 1-2 minutes, stirring gently, until the rice is coated with oil and a few grains change their color to white. Add the salt and water and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and lower the heat to minimum. Cook for 20 minutes and turn the heat off. Keep in the pot, covered, until serving.
Basmati Rice Ronit PensoBasmati Rice Ronit PensoBasmati Rice Ronit PensoBasmati Rice Ronit Penso
2. The shrimps: while the rice is cooking, peel and devein the shrimps and prepare all the ingredients at hand.
Shrimps and Grits with Tomatoes and Thyme Ronit PensoShrimps and Grits with Tomatoes and Thyme Ronit PensoShrimps with Peppers and Herbs, on Basmati Rice Ronit PensoShrimps with Peppers and Herbs, on Basmati Rice Ronit PensoShrimps with Peppers and Herbs, on Basmati Rice Ronit PensoShrimps with Peppers and Herbs, on Basmati Rice Ronit Penso Shrimps with Peppers and Herbs, on Basmati Rice Ronit PensoShrimps with Peppers and Herbs, on Basmati Rice Ronit Penso
3. Heat the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and fry for a few seconds, until it changes its’ color. Add the chopped peppers, scallions and ginger. Mix and fry for 2 minutes. Move the mixture to one side of the pan and add the shrimps to the empty side. Fry for 2 minutes and turn them to the other side. Fry for 2 minutes, until they change their color to white.
Shrimps with Peppers and Herbs, on Basmati Rice Ronit PensoShrimps with Peppers and Herbs, on Basmati Rice Ronit PensoShrimps with Peppers and Herbs, on Basmati Rice Ronit PensoShrimps with Peppers and Herbs, on Basmati Rice Ronit Penso
4. Lower the heat to medium. Add all the rest of the ingredients and mix gently, to create the sauce. Cook together for about 2 minutes until the sauce thickens a bit. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed, and serve over the rice.
Shrimps with Peppers and Herbs, on Basmati Rice Ronit PensoShrimps with Peppers and Herbs, on Basmati Rice Ronit Penso Shrimps with Peppers and Herbs, on Basmati Rice Ronit Penso

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