Tasty recipes and more

Stuffed Cabbage Leaves Ronit Penso

There are so many recipes for stuffed cabbage leaves, from all over the world, each is special and tasty, and it’s hard to choose between them all.
So I’ve decided there’s no reason to choose one, but combine them. The recipe here is a result of cooking Turkish, Armenian, Sephardic, Polish and Russian recipes. I’ve kept flavors and techniques that I liked from each and added some of my own. So far, this is my go-to recipe when it comes to stuffed cabbage with meat. A vegetarian version is on the works as well.

The dish takes a while to make, but the reward is such tasty bundles of soft cabbage with a juicy meat center and caramelized top, and a sweet and sour flavor layer from the cooked plumped plums, no doubt it is worth the effort. Once you make them, you can start creating your own version.

* As you can see from the photos, I prefer to make small bundles, with only half of a large cabbage leave and fold it only once. You can choose to use the whole leaf, and end up with more cabbage in the roll.

* Whenever ground meat is required in a dish, I recommend buying a piece of meat and grinding it, or chopping it in a food processor, at home. This way you ensure the quality of your meat and therefore the flavor of your dish.

* The filling can also be used to fill other vegetables, such as peppers and tomatoes. * Leftover filling can be rolled into small meatballs and cooked in tomato sauce for 30 minutes.

Makes: 30 small
Freezing/defrosting the cabbage: 1 day ahead
Prep time: 1 hour
Cooking time: 30 minutes + 2 hours baking
Ingredients:
30 prepared leaves (from 1 large cabbage head, see below for instructions)
For the filling:
1.5 lbs (700 grams) beef chuck, ground
1 large onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
3 celery sticks, chopped
¼ cup rice (I prefer Basmati)
1 Tbs salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp date syrup (or pomegranate syrup, honey or brown sugar)
1 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs tomato paste
1 Tbs sweet paprika
½ tsp garlic powder
1 Tbs sumac
½ tsp five spice mix
For the sauce:
¼ cup tomato paste
1 Tbs salt
½ tbs freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp date syrup (or pomegranate syrup, honey or brown sugar)
1 Tbs tamarind paste
4 cups beef stock (preferably homemade)
10 dried yellow plums, or apricots

1. Prepare the cabbage: core the cabbage base, wrap in plastic bag and place in the freezer overnight. Take out of the freezer and bring to room temperature. Once the cabbage thaws, the leaves will look “cooked” and soft. Separate them carefully. Line the pot bottom with a few of the outer ones. Place the rest on a cutting board and remove the tough center, so that you’ll get 2 separate parts of cabbage leaves to fill.
Stuffed Cabbage Leaves Ronit PensoStuffed Cabbage Leaves Ronit Penso
2. The filling: mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. Let sit for half an hour.
Stuffed Cabbage Leaves Ronit PensoStuffed Cabbage Leaves Ronit PensoStuffed Cabbage Leaves Ronit Penso. Stuffed Cabbage Leaves Ronit Penso
3. The sauce: in a bowl, mix the tomato paste with the salt, pepper, date syrup and tamarind paste. Gradually whisk in the stock, to a smooth sauce.
Stuffed Cabbage Leaves Ronit PensoStuffed Cabbage Leaves Ronit Penso
4. Filling the leaves: place one prepared cabbage leaf on a cutting board, with the cut side up. Add about 2 tbs of the filling, shaped by hand to an oval meatball, near the edge of the leaf. Fold both sides in, and roll tight. Place in the pot. Repeat with the rest of the leaves, tucking them together them tightly.
Stuffed Cabbage Leaves Ronit PensoStuffed Cabbage Leaves Ronit PensoStuffed Cabbage Leaves Ronit PensoStuffed Cabbage Leaves Ronit PensoStuffed Cabbage Leaves Ronit PensoStuffed Cabbage Leaves Ronit Penso
5. Cooking: add the dried plums or apricots on top and place a large heat proof plate on top, to prevent the stuffed leaves from moving while cooking. Add the sauce and cover the pot.
Stuffed Cabbage Leaves Ronit PensoStuffed Cabbage Leaves Ronit Penso
6. Bring to a boil, over a medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook for 30 minutes. Taste the sauce and adjust seasoning, if needed. Preheat the oven to 250F (120C). Place the covered pot in and bake for an hour. Carefully, uncover the pot and remove the plate.
Stuffed Cabbage Leaves Ronit PensoStuffed Cabbage Leaves Ronit Penso
7. Place back in the oven and bake for another hour, or until most of the sauce is absorbed and the top layer caramelized. Let sit for 15 minutes at room temperature before carefully removing the bundles. The stuffed rolls can be kept, in an airtight container in the fridge, for up to a week.
Stuffed Cabbage Leaves Ronit PensoStuffed Cabbage Leaves Ronit Penso
Stuffed Cabbage Leaves Ronit Penso

Lemon, Cherries and Pistachios Cookies Ronit Penso

These extra-tasty cookies are buttery, lemony, fruity and crunchy – all at the same time. They are the perfect indulgence with a cup of hot tea, or cold lemonade. Try them and enjoy!

Makes: 40
Prep time: 20 minutes
Chilling time: 2 hours
Baking time: 15 minutes
Ingredients:
1 stick (115 grams) butter, soft
1 cup sugar
2 XL eggs
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1 Tbs lemon zest
½ tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1/3 cup dried sour cherries, pitted, roughly chopped
1/3 cup raw pistachios, roughly chopped
For the icing:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbs lemon juice
¼ cup raw pistachios, finely chopped

1. In a mixer bowl, combine the butter and sugar. Mix with the mixing hook for 2-3 minutes on medium-low speed. Clean the sides of the bowl with a spatula and add the eggs. Mix for 2-3 minutes, to a light and fluffy cream.
Lemon, Cherries and Pistachios Cookies Ronit PensoLemon, Cherries and Pistachios Cookies Ronit PensoLemon, Cherries and Pistachios Cookies Ronit Penso
2. Clean the sides of the bowl with a spatula, and add the lemon juice, lemon zest, vanilla, flour, baking powder and salt. Mix on low speed, to a soft dough. Add the sour cherries and pistachios and mix briefly. Cover the dough with wax paper and place in the fridge for two hours.
Lemon, Cherries and Pistachios Cookies Ronit PensoLemon, Cherries and Pistachios Cookies Ronit PensoLemon, Cherries and Pistachios Cookies Ronit PensoP1040595
3. Preheat the oven to 350F (175C). Line 2 cookie sheets with baking paper. Shape the dough into 40 balls about 1 inch (2 cm). Place on the cookie sheets, about 1 inch (2cm) apart.
4. Bake for about 15 minutes, changing the sheets position in the oven halfway through. (When done, the cookies will be still pale at the top, so use a spatula to lift one and see if it is golden-brown at the bottom to determine if they are ready.) Let cool completely on a rack before icing.
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5. The icing: mix the icing ingredients in a small bowl to form a soft paste. Dip each cookie, top side down, in the icing. Place on a cookie sheet and sprinkle the finely chopped pistachios on top. The cookies can keep, in an airtight container, for up to a week.
Lemon, Cherries and Pistachios Cookies Ronit PensoLemon, Cherries and Pistachios Cookies Ronit PensoLemon, Cherries and Pistachios Cookies Ronit PensoLemon, Cherries and Pistachios Cookies Ronit Penso
Lemon, Cherries and Pistachios Cookies Ronit PensoLemon, Cherries and Pistachios Cookies Ronit PensoLemon, Cherries and Pistachios Cookies Ronit Penso

Brie, Peppers and Prosciutto Tart Ronit Penso

This easy to assemble tart has layers of flavors and colors: buttery and crispy puff pastry, topped with delicately salted prosciutto, roasted peppers and onions, creamy Brie cheese and crunchy pistachios.

All these layers and textures add up to one tasty dish, which only requires a green salad to become a perfect and elegant lunch or dinner.

Cut into smaller squares, the tart can become an easy and tasty appetizer, or served as finger-food in a buffet dinner.

Makes: 6
Prep time: 30 minutes
Baking time: the vegetables: 15 minutes; the tart: 35 minutes
Ingredients:
½ large white onion, sliced thick
1 large red pepper, deseeded and sliced thick
1 large yellow pepper, deseeded and sliced thick
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 Tbs olive oil
14 oz (395 grams) butter puff pastry rolled sheet
4 oz (115 grams) thinly sliced prosciutto
7 oz (200 grams) semi-ripened Brie, sliced medium
1/3 cup raw pistachios, roughly chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 420F (215C). Line a sheet pan with baking paper. Mix the sliced onion and peppers in a bowl and season with salt, black pepper and olive oil. Place in one layer in the pan and roast for 15 minutes, until the peppers and onions are soft. Take out of the oven and let cool to room temperature. Keep the oven on.
Brie, Peppers and Prosciutto Tart Ronit PensoBrie, Peppers and Prosciutto Tart Ronit Penso Brie, Peppers and Prosciutto Tart Ronit Penso
2. Line an 18”x11” (46cm x 28cm) baking pan with baking paper and place the rolled dough in it, pressing the edges of the dough to the sides of the pan, to create a rim. Prick the dough all over with a fork.
3. Layer the prosciutto on top and add the roasted onions and pepper over it. Finish with the Brie and pistachios.
Brie, Peppers and Prosciutto Tart Ronit PensoBrie, Peppers and Prosciutto Tart Ronit PensoBrie, Peppers and Prosciutto Tart Ronit PensoBrie, Peppers and Prosciutto Tart Ronit PensoBrie, Peppers and Prosciutto Tart Ronit Penso
4. Place the pan in the lower third part of the oven (so that the bottom will bake better). Bake for 35 minutes, or until the dough is golden-brown and the cheese is bubbly. Using the baking paper, slide the tart over to a cutting board. Cut into 6 portions with a large cutting knife and serve.
Brie, Peppers and Prosciutto Tart Ronit PensoBrie, Peppers and Prosciutto Tart Ronit PensoBrie, Peppers and Prosciutto Tart Ronit PensoBrie, Peppers and Prosciutto Tart Ronit Penso

Nutty Beet, Orange and Apple Muffins Ronit Penso

With the cold weather and grey colors outside, bright colors can help uplift the spirit. These muffins are bursting with all-natural colors and are full of good things – just perfect for a gloomy winter morning.
The muffins contain no dairy products, which makes them suitable to anyone with lactose intolerance. They are low on sugar, fat and white flour – all while having lots of fiber, color, and, most important, great flavor.

The muffins can be served as is, or – for a less healthy but extra tasty option – they can be topped with cream cheese frosting, butter cream, or orange icing. For an even more indulgent option, increase the sugar to ¾ cup and top with chocolate glaze.

Makes: 12
Prep time: 25 minutes
Baking time: 25 minutes
Ingredients:
2 medium beets, peeled
1 small thin skin orange, washed well
½ medium crisp apple, unpeeled
2 L eggs, at room temperature
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup coconut oil, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup almond meal
1/3 cup unsweetened desiccated shredded coconut
1/3 cup semolina
1 cup flour
1 Tbs baking powder
Dash salt

1. Preheat the oven to 375F (190C). Line a muffin pan with baking cups.
2. Chop the beets in a food processor with the metal blade. Measure 2 cups and set aside. Add the orange and apple to the food processor bowl and chop together. Measure ¾ cup.
Nutty Beet, Orange and Apple Muffins Ronit PensoNutty Beet, Orange and Apple Muffins Ronit Penso
3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the coconut oil. Add the sugar and mix well. Add the chopped beets and orange-apple mixture and mix again.
Nutty Beet, Orange and Apple Muffins Ronit PensoNutty Beet, Orange and Apple Muffins Ronit PensoNutty Beet, Orange and Apple Muffins Ronit PensoNutty Beet, Orange and Apple Muffins Ronit Penso
4. Add the vanilla, almond meal, coconut and semolina. Mix well and add the flour, baking powder and salt. Mix briefly and fill the muffin holes with the batter.
Nutty Beet, Orange and Apple Muffins Ronit PensoNutty Beet, Orange and Apple Muffins Ronit PensoNutty Beet, Orange and Apple Muffins Ronit PensoNutty Beet, Orange and Apple Muffins Ronit Penso
5. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of one muffin comes out almost dry.
6. take out of the oven and let cool in the pan for 3-4 minutes, then place on a rack to cool to room temperature.
Nutty Beet, Orange and Apple Muffins Ronit PensoNutty Beet, Orange and Apple Muffins Ronit PensoNutty Beet, Orange and Apple Muffins Ronit Penso

Chilean Sea Bass with Pecan Bacon Crust Ronit Penso

When I saw this beautiful fresh piece of Chilean Sea Bass at the store, I knew it will result a wonderful dish. This fish has such a rich sweet flavor, and a silky yet firm texture, that can be best described as “buttery”.

As I wrote in THIS former post, Chilean Sea Bass is the commercial name for the Patagonian Toothfish, which is a type of cod. In that recipe, I’ve paired it with the light and fresh flavors of lime and olive oil. The result was perfect for summer. Alas, the weather outside is now far from summery, and so I had to come up with a “warmer” (i.e, heavier) preparation.

Bearing in mind the “buttery” texture, I’ve decided to use butter as a base for a tasty and crunchy topping. Crispy chopped bacon and pecans were added to the butter, along with some fresh thyme, maple syrup and mustard. For the cooking liquids I chose white wine combined with Grand Marnier, an orange flavored liquor.
In order to keep the topping crunchy, I’ve decided not to cover the dish while baking. However, as the pieces are quite thick, I’ve made a few small horizontal cuts in each, in order to enable the steam to cook the fillets evenly from inside by the time the topping is golden and crunchy.

The result is a wonderful mix of flavors and textures; the butter melts over the fillet, keeping it moist, the topping adds a salty, slightly sweet, smoky-nutty crunch, while the thyme, wine and Grand Marnier add wonderful aroma.
No doubt this is a dish I’ll be making again. I hope you’ll enjoy it as well.

Makes: 2
Prep time: 15 minutes
Baking time: about 25 minutes

Ingredients:
For the fish:
12 oz (340 grams) center cut boneless Chilean Sea Bass, cut in two, at room temperature
Fresh thyme sprigs
¼ cup Grand Marnier liquor
¼ cup fruity white wine
½ tsp salt
For the topping:
1.5 oz (40 grams) butter, soft
3 thin bacon strips, crispy cooked, chopped
1 tsp maple syrup or honey
1 tsp Dijon mustard
¼ cup chopped pecans
1 Tbs chopped fresh thyme
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 420F (215C). Line a small pan with aluminum foil and baking paper. Pour in the Grand Marnier and wine. Sprinkle the salt and scatter the thyme springs on. Place the fish on top and make a few horizontal cuts in each fillet, with a small sharp knife (this will help cook the fish evenly). Dry the top with paper towel.
Chilean Sea Bass with Pecan Bacon Crust Ronit PensoChilean Sea Bass with Pecan Bacon Crust Ronit Penso
2. The topping: gently mix all the ingredients in a small bowl. Divide and spread evenly on top of each fillet.
Chilean Sea Bass with Pecan Bacon Crust Ronit PensoChilean Sea Bass with Pecan Bacon Crust Ronit PensoChilean Sea Bass with Pecan Bacon Crust Ronit PensoChilean Sea Bass with Pecan Bacon Crust Ronit PensoChilean Sea Bass with Pecan Bacon Crust Ronit Penso
3. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 5 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 380F (195C) while the pan is still in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes. Turn the oven temperature up to 420F (250C), while the pan is still inside. Bake for 5 minutes. Turn off and leave in the oven for 5 minutes longer.
4. Serve warm, with thinly sliced roasted potatoes, as shown here, or with any other side dish you prefer.
Chilean Sea Bass with Pecan Bacon Crust Ronit PensoChilean Sea Bass with Pecan Bacon Crust Ronit Penso Chilean Sea Bass with Pecan Bacon Crust Ronit Penso

 

Pearl Onions Sephardic Style Ronit Penso

This simple yet complex side dish is typical to traditional Sephardic cooking: very few ingredients and seasonings, slowly cooked and caramelized in the oven, creating a fragrant and tasty dish.
Granted, this is not a dish you would quickly make, but if you’re home on a cold winter’s day, just place it in the oven and wait for the wonderful results.

The naturally sweet pearl onions’ flavor is enhanced by the “Dulce Y Agro” (sweet and sour) sauce, which is subtle and not as bold as the more familiar Asian sweet and sour sauce, as it relies on tomato paste and lemon for acidity and on a bit of sugar for the sweetness. The finished dish has wonderful deep color and a concentrated sweet-sour-salty-caramelized flavor.

The onions are perfect as a warm side dish with roasted meats, chicken or fish. They can also be used at room temperature as a crostini or sandwich condiment, with cheeses or cold cuts.

A few notes:
* Soaking the pearl onions in boiling water makes peeling them much easier. I highly recommend not skipping this step.
* If you can’t find fresh pearl onions, frozen peeled pearl onions can be used. However, the onion flavor will be less pronounced, the texture will be softer, and they most likely will not keep their shape as shown here.
* The dish can be made a few days in advance and kept in the fridge, in an air-tight container. Bring to room temperature and reheat very gently, so that the onions keep their shape.

More information about Sephardic cooking can be found in THIS POST.

Makes: 4-6
Soaking time: 15 minutes
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Baking time: 1 ½ hours
Ingredients:
10 oz (285 grams) gold pearl onions
3 Tbs tomato paste
1 Tbs brown sugar
1 tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 cups water
1 Tbs fresh lemon juice
1 Tbs light olive oil

1. Place the pearl onions in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let cool to room temperature and peel carefully, keeping the onions whole. Place the onions in a wide pot, in one layer.
Pearl Onions Sephardic Style Ronit PensoPearl Onions Sephardic Style Ronit PensoPearl Onions Sephardic Style Ronit PensoPearl Onions Sephardic Style Ronit Penso
2. Mix the rest of the ingredients in a bowl and pour into the pot.
3. Bring to a gentle boil. Lower the heat to medium and cook for 3 minutes. Lower the heat to medium-low, cover the pot and cook for 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
Pearl Onions Sephardic Style Ronit PensoPearl Onions Sephardic Style Ronit PensoPearl Onions Sephardic Style Ronit PensoPearl Onions Sephardic Style Ronit Penso
4. Preheat the oven to 320F (160C). Place the covered pot in it and bake for 1 hour. Uncover the pot and keep on baking for half an hour, or until most of the liquids have evaporated, and the onions are caramelized and soft, but still keep their shape.
Pearl Onions Sephardic Style Ronit PensoPearl Onions Sephardic Style Ronit Penso Pearl Onions Sephardic Style Ronit Penso

 

Carrot, Walnuts, Coconut and Raisins Cupcakes Ronit Penso

There are so many recipes for carrot cupcakes, but it’s seems there’s always room for one more…
In this one, I tried to lower the amounts of sugar and fat by reducing the quantity of sugar by almost one cup, and by replacing half of the amount of oil with unsweetened apple sauce. Half of the white flour amount was replaced with whole wheat flour and chopped walnuts, golden raisins and shredded unsweetened coconut were added for additional flavor and textures.
The result is these dark, moist, flavorful and not overly sweet cupcakes, that I’m sure you’ll enjoy.

The cupcakes are great on their own, for breakfast or as a snack. For more impressive presentation, pipe THIS tasty butter cream on top, or spread with a simple cream cheese icing. The cupcakes freeze well (without the butter cream or icing) for up to 1 month, so no need to hesitate to make a large batch. If it’s still too large for your needs, simply cut all the amounts by half.

Makes: 24
Prep time: 25 minutes
Baking time: 25 minutes
Ingredients:
4 cups grated carrots (from about 12-14 carrots)
4 XL eggs
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
2/3 cup oil
½ cup unsweetened apple sauce
1 cup white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 Tbs baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
Dash salt
1 Tbs cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chopped walnuts
½ cup shredded unsweetened coconut
½ cup golden raisins
Butter cream from THIS recipe (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350F (175C). Line two muffin pans with baking cups.
2. Peel and chop the carrots roughly in a food processor. Place the eggs in a large bowl. Whisk lightly and add the brown and white sugar. Mix well. Add the oil and apple sauce, and mix again.

Carrot, Walnuts, Coconut and Raisins Cupcakes Ronit PensoCarrot, Walnuts, Coconut and Raisins Cupcakes Ronit PensoCarrot, Walnuts, Coconut and Raisins Cupcakes Ronit PensoCarrot, Walnuts, Coconut and Raisins Cupcakes Ronit Penso
3. Add the carrots and mix. Add both types of flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and vanilla and mix well. Add the walnuts, coconut and raisins and mix briefly with a spatula.

Carrot, Walnuts, Coconut and Raisins Cupcakes Ronit PensoCarrot, Walnuts, Coconut and Raisins Cupcakes Ronit PensoCarrot, Walnuts, Coconut and Raisins Cupcakes Ronit PensoCarrot, Walnuts, Coconut and Raisins Cupcakes Ronit Penso
4. Fill the baking cups up to ¾ of their height. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick interested into the center of one cupcake comes out almost dry.
5. Transfer to a rack to cool. Serve as is, or top with icing, if using.

Carrot, Walnuts, Coconut and Raisins Cupcakes Ronit PensoCarrot, Walnuts, Coconut and Raisins Cupcakes Ronit Penso5. Transfer to a rack to cool. Serve as is, or top with icing, if using.5. Transfer to a rack to cool. Serve as is, or top with icing, if using.5. Transfer to a rack to cool. Serve as is, or top with icing, if using.

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