Thursday, August 18, 2016

Comfort food: brown noodles

Ok, so if noodles implies egg noodles, this should be called brown pasta instead.  This is like rice-a-roni without the rice.   I find it comforting in the way that carbs and fats without much protein and no vegetables can be.  It is also very easy and lots of fun to make.  It is cooked like a risotto, in that you add the liquid a bit at a time.  However, it takes a lot less time than a risotto and the browning of the noodles beforehand helps to keep the noodles more al dente and gives them a great and distinctive flavor. It is the kind of thing that I make when there is nothing else in the house, or when there is wonderful stuff in the house, but these noodles are better.

The proportions below are a dinner for one or side for two or three.  You can double it if you want.  

Brown noodles


  • 2-4 ounces very thin macaroni pasta like capellini, spaghettini or angel hair
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
  • salt or salty seasoning (see below)
  • 1-2 cups boiling liquid (see below)
  • plenty of freshly ground black pepper
  • grated parmesan cheese and chopped parsley (optional)

  1. Break up pasta in a large bowl, which will keep pieces from flying all over the kitchen.  In terms of texture, the pieces should be about 2-3 inches long, but this makes it more difficult to handle in the skillet without burning, so you can break them into much smaller pieces of about 1/2 inch to an inch if you want.
  2. Melt butter on medium heat in an 8-inch nonstick skillet. Add the noodles and cook for about 5 minutes  stirring almost constantly to brown lightly.  Be careful not to burn.
  3. Sprinkle with salt or seasoning.
  4. Turn heat up to high and add liquid 1/2 cup at a time.  If the liquid is  boiling, it will go faster, 
  5. As the noodles absorb the liquid, add another half cup.  You don't have to measure, the dish is very forgiving and the liquid will evaporate quickly.  
  6. The noodles are done when the bend easily -- taste one to be sure.  It should not have a raw center.
  7. Sprinkle with plenty of black pepper and if desired, cheese and parsley. 

Liquid:  This would be great with a homemade stock, whether vegetable or meat.  But it is plenty good made with water.

Salty seasoning:  You could use just a large pinch of salt and plain water, but when I make this I most often use a pareve soup powder like Osem.  I am not proud of this, but it works.  

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Jake Cake: a pareve pear and chocolate cake

Last Sukkot our friend Kobi served us pareve (non-dairy) pear and pecan cake that was really good.
 Since we are always on the lookout for decent pareve desserts, it became part of our rotation.  It is easy to make, and very forgiving.   It began to morph into something rather different, driven by the affinity of pears and chocolate for each other.  If you are not in the mood for chocolate, you can leave out the chocolate and cocoa and will have something resembling the original pear cake.  But we generally prefer it with the chocolate. Since Kobi occasionally uses "Brother Jake" as a monniker, this not too distant descendant of the original cake is named for him as "Jake Cake."

Jake Cake


Fruit and sugar layers
  • 3-4 firm pears
  • 3-4 ounces bittersweet or semi-sweet pareve chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup pecans (ideally raw halves, but toasted bits are acceptable too)
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 3 T cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoon cinnamon, preferably Ceylon
  • 1-3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Wet ingredients:
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 7 ounces (volume) white sugar
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 ounces apple or orange juice or almond or coconut milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Dry ingredients
  • 1.5 cups flour
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. Oil or spray a 8 x 13 or similar sized baking dish. 
  3. Peel and quarter pears, remove cores, and slice thin and place in bottom of casserole.
  4. Combine brown sugar, cocoa and cinnamon in a small bowl (best done with your fingers).
  5. Mix the wet ingredients in one bowl, and the dry ingredients in another 
  6. Mix dry and wet ingredients, stirring lightly to combine to make a batter. Do no overmix.
  7. Top pears with half of the brown sugar mixture, and top with chopped chocolate and half the pecans.
  8. Pour on the batter.  This is best done by spooning on dollops of the batter on top of the other ingredients, and then smoothing them together with a plastic spatula.
  9. Top with the remaining pecans.
  10. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the oil onto the remaining brown sugar mixture, and mix together with your hands until it is dark brown and shiny.  Add up to 2 additional tablespoons of oil if necessary. Sprinkle this over the ingredients in the pan.
  11. Bake 40-55 minutes, testing with sharp knife or skewer to see that it comes out clean. (Or at least relatively clean -- no batter should adhere, but chocolate doesn't matter.) The precise timing depends on the shape and size of the pan and the exact temperature of your oven and the ingredients. 
  12. Serves 12, and is very nice warm with vanilla ice cream or coconut sorbet. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Moroccan brisket, fartaytscht und farbessert

I posted an earlier, somewhat easier version of this recipe here.  Sometimes, though, it you are going to take on a brisket, which can be a formidable challenge to both wallet and health, you should really do it the best way possible, so I urge you to try it this way.  It is slightly but not much more difficult and basically just adds a browning step, but it is much much better.  We had it for Shabbat dinner
over Pesach and everyone agreed that it was worth the effort, which was my effort in any case.  I make this with a smaller cut of meat, which serves 6.  You can increase the quantity as long as you have a large covered roaster that will hold it in one layer.  I cooked it in a very large dutch oven.

Moroccan-style brisket

  • 3-4 pounds brisket, preferably second cut, or deckel
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 large onions, halved and sliced
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, sliced
  • salt, about 1 teaspoon
  • pinch baking soda, optional
  • Spice mix: 1 teaspoon  fine, freshly ground black pepper, 1.5 teaspoons ground ginger (fresh is very un-Moroccan), 1. teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground cumin,  1 teaspoons of Aleppo or Kirmiz pepper (or a mixture of sweet and hot paprika, since the other peppers are probably not available kosher for Pesach)
  • 20 pitted dates
  • 2 oranges, cut into eighths
  • 12 ounces merguez sausage  (available K for P)
  • 1/4 cup orange juice or water
  • 4-6 carrots, cleaned and cut into 2-3 inch lengths
  1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees.
  2. Dry the meat, heat the oil in a large casserole, and brown the meat in the oil on both sides.  It will probably take around 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, slice the onions and garlic and make the spice mixture.
  4. When the meat is brown, remove and set aside, and add the onions to the fat in the pan.  Add the salt, and the pinch of baking soda (which will help them to brown more quickly).  Cook for about 10 minutes on medium until most of the liquid evaporates and the onions begin to brown.
  5. Add garlic and saute for another minute.
  6. Add spice mix, turn heat to low, and cook for about two minutes.  If the onions seem try, add about 1/4 cup water and deglaze the pan to dissolve the tasty crust forming.
  7. Put the brisket back in the pan, and distribute the onions so that they are more or less evenly distributed on beneath and on top of the meat.
  8. Surround meat with the dates and oranges (and if you like them super tender, the carrots),  cover the casserole, and let it heat for about 5 minutes.
  9. Put the casserole in the oven and cook for two hours.
  10. While the meat is cooking cut the merguez sausage and brown in a skillet.
  11. Set aside, pour out the fat, and deglaze with the orange juice or water  Cook until reduced by around half.  
  12. Taste the brisket for salt and add a bit more if needed, remembering that the merguez will add more salt. 
  13. Top the brisket with the carrots, the merguez pieces, pour in the juice, cover and bake for another 1.5 to 2 hours until the meat is tender.
  14. To serve, slice the meat across the grain on the bias. Place on a large deep platter and surround with dates, carrots, merguez and orange pieces. Taste the juices for salt and add a bit if necessary. If there are lots of juices and they are very thin, reduce them a bit, and pour over the meat. 
  15. Serve with rice, quinoa, couscous or mashed potatoes to around 6 people or 4 teens.  This is also nice with some harissa or even Sriracha for those who like it spicy. 
This can be made in advance, but my preference is not to slice the meat until after you reheat it. Otherwise, it just takes like leftovers.

The meat:  Best for this is a nice fatty cut, like 2nd cut brisket or deckel.  I have made it with first cut brisket to my regret-- it is really too dry.  Your cardiologist will not approve, but how often do you eat brisket?  You might as well enjoy it.  If you can find beef cheeks, they would also probably work well in this recipe, though I have never cooked with them.  If it does end up dry, which may happen if you use a first cut, be particularly careful in the slicing.  Use a very long, very sharp carving knife, hold the meat down firmly with a large fork, and carve of thin (I am talking 1/8 inch here) about 20 degrees off the horizontal,  You will end up with large thin slices.  Topped with the juices, you will be able to pretend that they are not dry.