Monday, February 29, 2016

Baked Ziti




I grew up on pasta, literally... which is exactly why my mom has difficulty believing that I actually have a food blog with a whole bunch of recipes. She remembers me skipping the meat, fish and just craving a pasta dish.

But, there was one time I couldn't even think of eating pasta. I was 25, expecting my first born daughter and struggled with the worst morning sickness ever.  My morning sickness was so strong, even the anti-nausea pills stopped their effect... I chewed on ginger and lemons... still I had to run to the washroom at least 5 times a day for the first 5 and half months of my pregnancy. I remember counting the days, checking off the dates on my calendar until my first trimester would be over. Through it all, oddly, overcoming morning sickness made me a tolerant person, and I had the most perfect little blondie-ny baby a Jewish mother could ask for. 

Today, like many moms, I feed my kids a fair share of pasta and the pasta dish of choice my daughters crave is Baked Ziti.  The most important part of this dish is making sure you use the right cheeses and a quality marinara sauce. You'll notice that I used American cheese, in addition to mozzarella cheese, it's totally done on purpose, it adds texture and depth to the taste.  So if you are a busy  mom on-the-go like myself, be sure to turn to this recipe to feed your family. Enjoy!


BAKED ZITI
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Prep time 10 min | Total Time: 30 minutes | Serves 6 | Dairy 


INGREDIENTS

INSTRUCTIONS

400 grams of pasta of choice penne, rigatoni or macaroni.

5 slices of American Cheese

1 1/2 cups of mozzarella

3/4 cup of ricotta cheese

2 tbsp of butter

2 cups of marinara sauce

Kosher salt and ground pepper,
to taste






1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees, prepare a rectangular baking dish.

2.  Boil a pot of salted water, cook the pasta al dente.

3.  Drain the pasta, add the butter, ricotta cheese and slices of American Cheese, salt and pepper (to taste).

4.  Spread marinara sauce on the bottom of your rectangular baking dish.

5.  Add the pasta in the baking dish, top the pasta with the remaining marinara sauce.

6.  Top the pasta with the shredded mozzarella cheese , ground pepper and cover the dish with tinfoil paper.

7.  Bake in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes until the cheese is nicely melted and even a bit brown around the edges. 

Friday, February 26, 2016

Popcorn Ice Cream with Caramel Popcorn





I know its winter, the snow is still falling down, we are enjoying cozy family moments in front of the TV, maybe even snacking on a little ice cream or some nush. Ice cream is the kind of treat we can all eat 365 days a year, 7 days a week. So when I crossed this dessert, I went for it!

Heston Blumenthal is a scientific culinary artist that has revolutionized the cooking industry. His UK restaurant, The Fat Duck, earned 3 Michelin Stars and was recognized #1 of the top 50 restaurants in the world in 2006.  A huge fan of his out-of-the-box techniques, and especially his mouthwatering desserts, his popcorn ice cream  was one of his creations that got me thinking. After I crossed Yotam Ottolenghi's Popcorn Ice Cream in Nopi, I knew that this would be the next dessert to test out in my kitchen. The results were amazing! The crunch of the caramel popcorn complemented that creamy cool buttery popcorn flavor beautifully.  My kids and I finished the bin in less than an hour. Its the first time this winter I even explored my ice cream maker and I would do it again! Need I say more? TRY IT! You won't regret it!
POPCORN ICE CREAM WITH CARAMELIZED POPCORN
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Prep time 25 min | Freezing Time 2-3 hours or overnight | Makes 1 quart  | Dairy 

Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi


INGREDIENTS

INSTRUCTIONS

2 cups heavy cream



2.5 cups whole milk, divided

140 grams of popcorn kernels

4 tbsp of unsalted butter

5 egg yolks

1/2  cup  sugar

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean


TO SERVE


Caramel popcorn
or store-bought Cracker Jack
Ground Pepper (optional)

CARAMELIZED POPCORN

1/4 60 g cup of superfine sugar


1 1/2 tbsp corn syrup


1 1/2 cup of popcorn














Popcorn Ice Cream
1.  In a medium pot melt your butter  on medium heat, pour your popcorn kernels inside and coat them thoroughly. Cover your pop and allow it to pop.This should take about 10 minutes total.

2.  Remove your popcorn from the pot, using the same pot, pour your cream, milk and vanilla bean or extract on low-medium heat. Stir your liquids for 5 minutes. Avoid boiling your custard. The point is to infuse that vanilla flavor.


3.  Take your hot liquid and pour it into your popcorn. Refrigerate it for 2 to 3 hours or overnight.


4.  Remove your mixture from the fridge and strain it through a fine mesh sieve into a sauce pan. While the milk is being heated on medium heat, beat the egg yolks, sugar, and salt in a separate bowl with an electric mixer on high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. When milk is hot but not scalded, add a cup to the egg mixture and whisk vigorously. Repeat until you have no more milk/cream mixture. 


5.  Reduce heat to low/medium-low. Cook your custard, whisking constantly, until the custard reaches 185°F on an instant-read thermometer and is thick enough to just coat the back of the spoon. Strain the cooked custard through a fine-mesh sieve, if desired.


6.  Chill the mixture in the refrigerator until completely cool. Pour the mixture into your ice cream maker, churn for about 30 minutes. Freeze the custard for another hour to 2 hours. 


7.   Remove from the freezer 5 minutes before serving. Serve with caramel popcorn and ground pepper to taste.


Caramelized Popcorn

1.  In a medium nonstick pot, blend the superfine sugar and corn syrup for 6-7 minutes. Slowly swirling pan from time to time. Reduce heat to low-medium and add the popcorn.

2. Coat thoroughly for 1 minute. Remove from heat and allow to cool on wax paper. Once cooled, break the popcorn caramel apart.  



Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Pumpkin Ice Cream Tart with Dark Chocolate


It's a February evening and my daughters are sitting nearby giggling while watching TV. My daughter and I just finished making our very first lasagna from scratch. She was so cute creating mozzarella hand pies with our leftover pasta dough.

I just want to say how grateful I am for these moments and for this day.

Last Saturday, Shabbat, took me by surprise. I was sitting at home, relaxing in the afternoon, when something bad happened. Craving a little snack, I grabbed a raw vegetable from my fridge, sliced it and ate it, thinking "this is pretty good." Moments later, my throat started feeling itchy. I disregarded it because I never had an allergic reaction. I went to the mirror to check out my throat just in case, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary. I told myself "it's going to go away... " but then I couldn't swallow anymore. "Do I go to the neighbors?" I thought to myself,  I got scared. I was on the phone with 911 when I texted my friend with whom I had coffee that morning, "emergency allergic reaction." I started getting dizzy, as I explained Urgence Sante the circumstances which lead to my allergic reaction. The person on the other line told me to sit down, as I waited by my front door for EMS to show up. "How could this happen so fast?" I thought. But it did. It felt like a movie. One second I am at home reading peacefully, the next I had a swollen tongue and throat, I was surrounded by 3 emergency responders, 3 more paramedics and my dear friend. I got my first dose of Epipen at home, and a second Epipen on my way to the hospital in the ambulance. I counted the seconds. I remember lifting my fingers, they were white as a ghost, my legs were shaking, I was freezing.


The ER was waiting for me, luckily the Epipen reversed the swelling. My parents met me in the ER and I finally felt relief.

In the aftermath, I have an entirely new perspective on children and adults with severe allergies. I want to thank the EMS team, paramedics, my friend (you know who you are) and ER nurses who helped me, all 10 of you. Thank you. 

So today, I share a sweet post I have been wanting to share since September. A post on a vegetable I am happy not to be allergic to, pumpkin. :)

This Pumpkin Ice Cream Tart recipe has become one of my go-to pumpkin desserts. Inspired by Miriam Pascal's Something Sweet, Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream recipe. It's the kind of dessert your guests least expect to eat and are surprised by the spices it displays. You can make it with low-cal ice cream or with dairy-free ice cream. I am positive you will appreciate this recipe.



PUMPKIN ICE CREAM TART WITH DARK CHOCOLATE
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Prep time 15 min | Freezing Time 2-3 hours or overnight | Yields 10-12 | Dairy or Parve

Inspired by Miriam Pascale something Sweet


INGREDIENTS

INSTRUCTIONS

TART SHELL
5 tablespoons unsalted butter or
"I Can't Believe it's Not Butter," melted

1 1/3 cups graham cracker
crumbs

FILLING
3 cups vanilla ice cream or
dairy free vanilla ice cream,
well-softened

1 cup pumpkin puree, canned

1/3 cup light brown sugar,
packed

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp cinnamon

3/4 tsp of ground ginger

1/2 tsp fresh grated nutmeg

1/4 tsp salt

TOPPING
Dark chocolate, shaved
and/or whip cream




1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9-inch tart pan (removable pan) with cooking spray; set aside.
2.  In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter, about 1 minute on high power.

3.  Combine the graham cracker  and the melted butter.

4.  Gently press down the graham mixture into the tart pan, pressing thoroughly around the edges and on the bottom and bake in the oven for 8 minutes, and set aside allowing the  tart shell to cool.

5.  On low speed, mix vanilla ice cream with an electric mixer (or food processor), just until softened.

6.  Add in the pumpkin, spices, brown sugar, vanilla, mix until smooth.

7.  Pour into prepared crust and freeze 3 hours or overnight.

8.  Before serving, shave dark chocolate on top of the tart or add a dollop of whip cream. 



Sunday, February 21, 2016

Challah French Toast with Orange Blossom


This french toast recipe is a perfect dish to serve at a Moroccan-inspired family brunch. I love this recipe because I get to twist-up my leftover Challah bread with one of my favorite Moroccan aromas. The soft and succulent texture obtained when using the brioche-like bread makes challah my bread of choice for French toast. I was excited when I crossed Ina Garten's recipe. The added orange zest coupled with droplets of orange blossom is what modern Sephardi cooking is made of, truly a match made for breakfast! Enjoy!

CHALLAH FRENCH TOAST WITH ORANGE BLOSSOM
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Prep time 10 min | Total Time 30 min | Yields 8 | Dairy

Adapted from Ina Garten: Barefoot Contessa Family Style


INGREDIENTS

INSTRUCTIONS

6 extra-large eggs

1 1/2 cups milk

1 teaspoon grated orange zest

1/2 teaspoon orange
blossom water, plus more
for a light sprinkle on top

1 tablespoon honey,
plus more for serving

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 large loaf challah

Unsalted butter

Vegetable oil

Confectioners' sugar


1.  Heat oven to 250 degrees.
2.  In a large shallow bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, orange zest, 1/2 tsp orange blossom, honey, and salt. Slice the challah in 3/4-inch thick slices.
3.  Soak as many slices in the egg mixture as possible for 5 minutes, turning once.
4.  Heat 1 tablespoon unsalted butter and 1 tablespoon oil in a very large saute pan over medium heat. Add the soaked bread and cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until nicely browned.
5.  Place the cooked French toast on a sheet pan and keep it warm in the oven.
6.  Fry the remaining soaked bread slices, adding butter and oil as needed, until it's all cooked.
7. Serve hot with a light drizzle (not too much, its a very powerful ingredients), confectioners' sugar and/or honey.

Orange Blossom, Banana and Strawberry Smoothie



I love orange blossom water, an aphrodisiac coming from a fragrant orange adding a fruity aroma to sweet dishes. A staple in Moroccan pastries, orange blossom can be sprinkled on couscous, and most commonly in almond meal based desserts. Due to its high concentration, it's important not to pour too much. It adds a really nice "je ne c'est quoi" to your standard smoothie. Perfect for a Sunday brunch smoothie. I hope you enjoy it!


ORANGE BLOSSOM, BANANA AND STRAWBERRY SMOOTHIE
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Total time 5 min | serves 3 to 4

INGREDIENTS

INSTRUCTIONS

1 bananas
1 cup of strawberries
(stem removed & well soaked)
or frozen strawberries
1/2 orange juice or milk
1/3 cup of ice or water
2 tsp of orange blossom
Tiny pinch of salt

1. In a blender or Magic Bullet, blend the banana,    strawberries, liquids and tiny pinch of salt.
2. Add in the orange blossom and give your blended three quick pulses.
3. Pour in a cup and serve.


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Moroccan Butternut Squash Soup with Coconut milk, Pomegranates and Pepitas





It's not my mom's Moroccan Harira soup, nor is it my kid's baboushka chicken noodle or matzo ball soup.This dish is a symbol of something greater.

It's a soup adapted from the food world that surrounds me. There is something grand to be noticed on our online food communities. Food is uniting different cultures in a way that puts foreign policy to shame. 

An Israeli food boom is being embraced. Ever since social media came into the picture, Jewish and Israeli cuisine has gained recognition in skyrocketing ways. Currently, Zahav is taking the cookbook world by storm with Michael Solomonov's sentimental story and his Israeli dish repertoire, even the NY Times is writing about it. You can find hundreds of creative babka related posts like Half Baked Harvest's Salted Chocolate and Marzipan Babka recipe or Food52's comical 11 Recipes to Make While Binge-Watching Seinfeld.


This Buzzfeed Americans Try Israeli Snacks video and 36 Mouthwatering Hamantaschen To Make This Purim post will surely put smiles on anyone who can relate. Even Saveur Magazine's Baking Blogger of 2015, Molly Yeh, blogs about her trip to Israel and Jerusalem Bagels, Harissa Honey Labne, and a Middle Eastern Wine & Cheese Party. Gotta love that girl! 

Although this soup isn't a traditional Moroccan soup my mother would make, it resonated with me because it was coined Moroccan and is loaded with spices like cayenne, cumin, paprika, curry etc.. The fusion of diverse flavors  and ingredients has a distinct and indirect way of uniting people from different backgrounds. This recipe calls for coconut oil and milk, which sounds more thai to me, but regardless we live in cooking world where food fusions are simply booming. I have made this dish 3 times in less than 30 days, and I keep on getting rave reviews from family and friends. Make this soup tomorrow and embrace the amazing world we live in! Beteavon!



MOROCCAN BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP WITH COCONUT MILK, 
POMEGRANATES AND PEPITAS
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Prep 15 MIN |  Cooking Time 45 MIN | Serves 4 
Adapted from author Half Baked Harvest

INGREDIENTS

INSTRUCTIONS
1 head garlic, for roasting
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3 cups butternut squash,
peeled and cubed
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme,
chopped or 1/4 teaspoon dried
1 (14 ounce) can coconut milk (make sure it's thick)
2 cups vegetable broth, (I bought mine this time)
Pomegranate, for topping
Salt and pepper, to taste
Pepitas for topping
Roughly chopped coriander,
for topping

Coconut Ginger Cream
1/2 cup cooled canned coconut milk
1-2 tablespoons fresh ginger



1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Chop off the top portion of the garlic head to reveal cloves. Peel any excess paper/skin off the bulb of garlic.
2.  Pour about one teaspoon of olive oil on top of the garlic cloves and cover with foil. Roast for 45 minutes, or until the garlic is golden brown and soft.
3.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool five minutes. Squeeze garlic out of the paper skin into a small bowl, mash well with a fork and set aside.
4.  Meanwhile, add the coconut oil to a large soup pot set over medium heat. Once hot, add the red pepper and cook for 3-5 minutes or until soft.
5.  Add the cubed butternut squash, curry powder, paprika, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne and thyme. Season with salt and pepper.
6.  Cook for 3-5 minutes then pour in the coconut milk and veggie broth. Bring the soup to boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the butternut squash is fork tender.While the soup is cooking, make the ginger cream.
7.  Add the cold coconut milk and 1 tablespoon ginger to a small bowl.
8.  Taste and add more ginger if needed. Cover and place in the fridge until ready to serve.Once the butternut squash is tender, add the roasted garlic and the crumbled goat cheese to the soup.
9.  Remove the pot from the stove and allow to cool slightly, then puree the soup in a blender or food processor. Return the soup back to the stove and heat through.
10.  To serve, ladle the soup into bowl. Drizzle the coconut ginger cream over the soup and swirl with a spoon.
11.  Garnish with chopped coriander, pepitas and a sprinkle of pomegranate.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Tunisian Chickpea Soup with Za'atar Ezekiel Toast and Poached Egg


Il fait frette, and all I want to gulp is a bowl of soup or coffee.

Born and raised in Quebec, I can attest I've experienced my fair share of slushy driving conditions and gliding-through-rush-hour-traffic tales....  I've got plenty of winter car stories! I won't forget January 2015, I was on my way home back from work on schedule to get the kiddies from school, and out of nowhere my car went clunk... clunk.. clunk. "No-o-o-o!" That 'clunk' turned into a flat tire that left me stranded downtown in front of Square-Victoria in the World Trade Center's taxi-only zone during rush-hour. Two hours later, road-side assistance came to my rescue; luckily, Starbucks being everywhere,  I spent my time savoring an evening cup of coffee, making back-up plans for my kids, and roaming on my phone - ouch that Fido bill! I slept like a real mama that night only to wake-up to my usual morning routine until I hit a pot-hole, "BAM!" And there I was, stranded on Saint-Jacques Street with yet again, a second flat tire in less than a day. Luckily, I walked over to Tim Hortons for my morning cup of coffee waiting for my road-side assistance (that made it to me within the hour). Sometimes, I just want to get re-married so someone can manage my flat-tire and prep my car for winter driving (lol, just kidding).

Winter driving aside, there is nothing more refreshing than a winter walk, especially during a pleasant snowfall, gazing at an untouched and twinkling snowy landscape.  On a beautiful evening in December last year, my daughters and I opted for an evening walk under the stars at Centennial park. It wasn't too cold, we had just finished dinner and we were looking forward to get some fresh air 'of some kind'. That night, the only sound that resonated was our laughter echoing in the park while making snow angels, and trailing a trio of boot tracks. We climbed-up to the mini mountain where we began body sledding over and over and over again, à la queue leu leu and solo, "one more time Mommy!" The girls begged "Ok girls, one more time..." X 10, it was fun. That's what I love about being a mom, these kids spark fun and warmth. 

After the winter outdoors, all one craves is a nice warm bowl of soup. I've been exploring all kinds of soup recipes in the past weeks, and opted for a Tunisian chickpea soup. Whether you are a Sephardi from Tunisia or Morocco, no matter how cold it gets, our traditional foods come in handy 365 days a year. Enjoy this  classic!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Smokin Sweet Potato, 'Bacon' and Maple Syrup Soup






I had to. I just had. I needed to get a taste of bacon in a kosher kind of way.

While I have no clue what real bacon tastes like, I can only imagine. So when I crossed a bacon sweet potato soup recipe, I totally digged the idea of turning it into my own. I must say, that the challenge was deliciously met using Clubhouse bacon bits. The toppings truly rock the soup with crunch, sweetness and smokin flavor.  So hear it is balabustas, a 'bacon' and maple syrup soup that kosher foodies can enjoy!



INGREDIENTS
 50 minutes | Serves 4

  • 2 tbsp of olive oil 
  • 4 sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes 
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped 
  • 3 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • ½ teaspoon smoked salt (kosher salt will do if you don't have it) 
  • Pepper, to taste 
  • 1/3 cup of simulated bacon bits, plus more for garnish - I  used Clubhouse Simulated Bacon Bits
  • 2 tbsp of maple syrup, plus more to drizzle on top 
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg 
  • 1 cup of milk 
  • 4 strands of chive, finally chopped 
  • Grated parmesan, to garnish 



INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Heat a medium heavy pot over medium heat. 
  2. Add 2 tbsp of olive oil, and tip and tilt  the pot to coat. 
  3. Add the onion, sweet potatoes, bacon bits stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon for about 4 minutes. 
  4. Season with smoked salt and pepper, then stir in the cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  5. Pour in the vegetable stock and simmer for about 25-30 minutes until the sweet potatoes are softened. 
  6. Pour the milk and with an immersion hand blender blend the soup. If you do not have an immersion blender, allow the soup to cool and then ladle it in batches into a blender.
  7. Whisk in 2 tbsp of maple syrup into the soup and reheat gently over low heat.
  8. To serve, pour the soup into bowls, garnish with bacon bits, a drizzle of maple syrup, and chopped chives. You can also top it with grated Parmesan cheese as well. 
  9. Slurp,  savor, crunch the bits and enjoy this sweet and smokin soup!