Arugula Salad with Pickled Beets and Preserved-Lemon Vinaigrette

Arugula Salad

The holidays are great, and simply over abundant with food! I like to cut the heaviness of a meal by adding a fresh vegetable to the mix, often in the way of a salad. This one has the added bonus of having beets, which are one of the symbolic foods that we eat. In Hebrew, the word for Beet is סלקא, is closely related to סלק —meaning to depart. So we partake of beets, so that our enemies, haters and those who wish evil upon us shall depart. This recipe will serve up to 8 guests, and they will depart with nothing but good feelings for the chef! Enjoy!

Ingredients:

For the pickled beets:
2 large red beets (about 6 ounces each), scrubbed
2 large yellow beets (about 6 ounces each), scrubbed
2 cups rice-wine vinegar
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups water

For the spiced pistachios:
2 egg whites
1 cup shelled raw pistachios
1 tablespoon Creole or Cajun seasoning

For the preserved-lemon vinaigrette:
2 tablespoons minced preserved lemon
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves finely chopped*
2 pinches salt

For the salad:
10 ounces (16 cups) arugula*
¼ cup good-quality aged balsamic vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper, for serving

*Click here to learn how to clean thyme and arugula

Directions:

To make the pickled beets:
Place each type of beet in its own small pot, cover with water, and simmer until a paring knife can easily pierce the beets, about 30 minutes. Cool the beets, peel, and slice into thin half-moons. Reserve each beet in a separate bowl to ensure that the red beet slices don’t stain the yellow ones. Meanwhile, combine the vinegar, sugar, and 2 cups of water in a small pot. Bring to a boil, remove from heat, and divide the hot brine among the beets. Then let the beets sit at room temperature until pickled, 3 to 4 hours.

To make the pistachios:
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. In a small mixing bowl, whip the egg whites until frothy, then add the pistachios and spices, tossing to coat. Spread the nuts on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until golden and fragrant, about 15 minutes. Nuts will crisp as they cool.

To make the preserved-lemon vinaigrette:
In a medium bowl, mix together the preserved lemon, lemon juice, red pepper flakes (if using), thyme and salt. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Whisk until fully combined.

To assemble the salad:
Arrange the pickled beets on a serving platter. Toss the arugula in the preserved-lemon vinaigrette and place on top of the beets. Sprinkle with the spiced pistachios, drizzle with balsamic, and top with fresh black pepper. Serve immediately.

Roasted Cornish Hens with Apple, Date & Almond Stuffing and Honey Pomegranate Glaze

Cornish Hens

So on Rosh HaShanah we eat many symbolic foods, in order to have a healthy, happy and prosperous new year. This entrée includes 4 of these foods! The apple symbolizes Gan Eden(The Garden of Eden), which according to the Sages had the scent of an apple orchard. The word date in Hebrew is תמרים and related to the word תם – to end. So on Rosh HaShanah we eat dates so that G-d will bring an end to our enemies.

Honey, as you know is sweet, and what could be a better symbol for a sweet new year? Lastly, the pomegranate is full of seeds (some say 613 seeds to be exact, just like the number of laws in the Torah). So we eat pomegranates so that we will be as full of mitzvot (good deeds) and the pomegranate is seeds. This recipe is geared for 8 guests, and will give some extra stuffing and sauce to serve along with your final dish. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

¼ cup unsalted margarine (½ a stick)
8-12 (about 4 pounds) Fuji apples, chopped
20 Medjool dates, pits removed, chopped*
2 lemons, zest and juice**
2 oranges, zest and juice**
1 cup unsalted roasted almonds, chopped
Salt and pepper (to taste)
2 onions, roughly chopped
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
4 stalks celery, roughly chopped
8 Cornish hens (1 ¼ pounds each)
¾ cup dry white wine
⅓ cup chopped shallots (about 1 ½ large shallots or 3 small ones)
1 ½ cups chicken broth
1 ½ cups pomegranate juice
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons margarine

* Click here to learn how to inspect dates.
** Click here for my tips on zesting lemons and oranges.
♦ Click here to learn how to truss a Cornish hen.

Directions:

Melt margarine in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. When sizzling, add apples and sauté, stirring occasionally, until brown but still crisp, about 15-20 minutes. Add dates, zests, and juices; cook for 1 minute more. Remove from heat, cool, and stir in almonds and salt.

Place the chopped onions, carrots and celery in the bottom of a large roasting pan (or divide into two smaller pans) and mix the vegetables so that they are combined.

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Remove and discard the giblets and necks from the hens. Rinse the hens under cold water and then pat dry. Trim off any excess fat. Season each cavity with salt and pepper, and then loosely stuff with apple mixture. Truss the hens♦. Place the hens, breast-side up, on top of the chopped vegetables.

Boil the wine and shallots in a heavy small saucepan until most of the wine has evaporated, about 4-6 minutes. Add the broth, pomegranate juice and honey. Boil again until the sauce has reduced to about 1 ¾ – 2 cups, about 7-9 minutes. Whisk in the margarine and then remove from the heat.

Brush the hens with the honey-pomegranate sauce. Roast the hens at 475 degrees for 15 minutes, and then reduce the heat to 400 degrees and cook for an additional 35 minutes, or until juices run clear. While the hens are roasting, baste them occasionally with more of the sauce, about every 10 minutes or so. Serve the hens with any remaining stuffing and remaining sauce.

Safety Note: Before serving the remaining sauce or giving a final basting to the fully cooked hens, put the sauce back on the stove and bring it back up to a quick boil. The reason for this is because you have been dipping your basting brush back and forth between the hens while they were cooking, and therefore at various stages of rawness, and then dipping the brush back into the sauce pot. You want to eliminate any chances of salmonella or other food borne pathogens from contaminating your final dish. The re-boiling of the sauce will kill off these pathogens. Safety first!

Mini Apple & Honey Upside-Down Cakes

Apple Honey Upside Down Cake

Well, it’s that time of year again, Rosh HaShanah! The Jewish New Year is just 5 sleeps away! Now is definitely the time to get out there and start stocking up on apples and honey, amongst other traditional New Year’s treats, some of which I will be giving out recipes for this week!

For today’s recipe, a co-worker of mine showed me a recipe for mini honey cakes with apples, and I thought that it was so clever to serve up cute little portions instead of a traditional loaf style cake. But then I started thinking, hmm… let’s break out even further from the traditional and make a mini upside-down cake, with apples, honey and a touch of orange zest! So here you go readers: A recipe for mini upside down apple & honey cake that will make 8 portions to serve up this new years! Enjoy!

Ingredients:
For the caramel:
½ cup toasted whole almonds, coarsely chopped
1 ½ large Granny Smith apples
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 1 large lemon)
3 tablespoons unsalted margarine, plus more for coating the ramekins
¾ cup granulated sugar
⅓ cup orange blossom honey
¼ teaspoon fine salt

For the cake:
1 ⅔ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoon packed finely grated orange zest (from 1 large orange)
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon fine salt
1 ½ cups unsalted margarine (1 ½ sticks), at room temperature
¾ cup orange blossom honey
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs, at room temperature
¼ cup soy milk/non-dairy creamer, at room temperature
non-dairy ice cream for serving, optional

Note: If you wish to make this as one large cake, instead of mini individual ones, follow the directions as outlined below, but then bake the cake in an 8-inch cake pan for 45 minutes or until cooked through when tested.

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and arrange a rack in the middle of the oven.

For the caramel:
Coat 8 (6-ounce) ramekins with margarine and evenly space them on a baking sheet. Divide almonds among the ramekins.

Peel, core, and cut the apple into medium dice. Place in a medium, non-reactive bowl, add 1 ½ tablespoons of the lemon juice, and toss to combine; set aside.

Melt margarine in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat until foaming. Add sugar, honey, and salt and stir to combine. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until mixture just starts to turn a light caramel colour, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining ½ tablespoon lemon juice and stir to combine.

Remove the pan from heat and carefully place about 2 tablespoons of the caramel in each ramekin. (Work quickly—the caramel will start to set after a few minutes.) Divide the apple pieces among the ramekins, leaving any juice in the bowl; set the ramekins aside.

For the cake:
Place flour, orange zest, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk to aerate and break up any lumps; set aside.

Place the margarine in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium high until light in colour and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add honey, sugar and vanilla and continue to beat until incorporated and fluffy, about 3 minutes more. Add eggs one at a time, letting the first incorporate before adding the second. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle with a rubber spatula.

Return the mixer to low speed, add the soy milk/non-dairy creamer, and mix until just incorporated. Add the reserved flour mixture and mix until just incorporated, about 30 seconds; do not overmix. Evenly spoon the batter over the apples and smooth the tops. Bake until a cake tester comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Immediately run a knife around the perimeter of each cake. Using a dry kitchen towel to grasp the ramekins, invert the hot cakes onto serving plates. Top with non-dairy ice cream and serve.