Flavors of the Sun: Middle Eastern Ingredients from a Century Old Family Business

“Herby and garlicky, with a bright jolt of sumac, this is everything you want in a one-pan meal,” says Christine Sahadi Whelan about her recipe for Sheet Pan Chicken with Sumac and Winter Squash.

         Whelan, a fourth-generation co-owner of Sahadi’s and a lifelong Brooklyn resident, grew up in the James Beard Award-winning specialty grocery store that first opened in 1898. A graduate of NYU with a Degree in Finance and International Business she also trained at the Institute for Culinary Education, she also made mamoul with Martha Stewart. She brings all this to the table as Sahadi’s Culinary Director and now with her new book, Flavors of the Sun: The Sahadi’s Guide to Understanding, Buying, and Using Middle Eastern Ingredients with its more than 120 recipes. The flavors of the Middle East are just steps away from your kitchen with this book.

         Sahadi’s is truly a family affair. Both her children as well as her husband work at the store which is an integral part of their neighborhood and the city of New York as well. Their excellence was recognized as a true American Classic by the James Beard Foundation.

         Whelan notes that the ingredients in her Sheet Pan Chicken like many of the recipes in the book can easily be substituted.

         “Kabocha and delicata squash are good options because they don’t need to be peeled, but acorn squash or butternut work, too,” she says. “I sometimes use a couple of different kinds for visual interest. Either way, you’ll have folks wanting to eat directly from the pan the second you take this out of the oven.”

         The book is an amazing introduction to the wide variety of ingredients such as sumac, pomegranate molasses, aleppo black pepper, and halvah that are best sellers in the store. Whelan shows us how to use them in easily her accessible recipes that are a great way to learn the nuances of Middle Eastern cookery.

Warm Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini-Yogurt Dressing

“We are always happy to share recipes with customers who want to try their hand at our family favorites at home, but we love it even more when customers return the favor! This recipe is a variation on one that came to us from longtime patron Steve Marcus, who devised a hearty cauliflower side dish incorporating all his preferred Sahadi’s staples,” writes Whelan in the introduction to this recipe. “It’s well-spiced and tangy, with a hint of sweetness from dried apricots, and a nice cold-weather option when there aren’t a lot of fresh green veggies to choose from.”


  • 1 head cauliflower
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp za’atar
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp Aleppo pepper
  • ¼ cup tahini
  • ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt, full or low fat
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • ½ tsp ground white pepper
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup chopped Turkish apricots

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Cut the cauliflower into 2 in [5 cm] florets and mound on a large rimmed baking sheet. Toss with ¼ cup of the oil and the za’atar, ½ tsp of the salt, and the Aleppo pepper. Spread the cauliflower in a

single layer and roast, turning once or twice as it cooks, until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes.

While the cauliflower is roasting, whisk together the tahini, yogurt, remaining ¼ cup of olive oil, and the lemon juice in a large bowl. Season with the remaining ½ tsp of salt and the white pepper. Add 2

Tbsp of water to thin to drizzling consistency, adding more by the tsp as needed.

Add the warm cauliflower and toss to coat with the dressing. Gently stir in the parsley and apricots to distribute evenly. Serve warm.

Sheet Pan Chicken with Sumac and Winter Squash


  • 4 lb. chicken pieces, any combination
  • 3 Tbsp sumac
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated with a rasp
  • 1 cup [240 ml] extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 kabocha squash (or ½ kabocha squash and 1 acorn squash)
  • 1 bunch fresh oregano or thyme
  • 3 red onions, peeled and quartered
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced

Pat the chicken pieces dry and, if you are using breasts, cut each in half to make 2 smaller pieces.

Whisk together 2 Tbsp of the sumac with the salt, dried thyme, dried oregano, and garlic in a large bowl. Add the oil and stir until well blended. Add the chicken pieces to the bowl, turning to coat them with the mixture, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours or up to overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut the squash in half through the stem end and remove the seeds.  Cut the squash into ½ inch thick slices and arrange them in a single layer (or overlapping slightly) on a large baking sheet. Scatter the herb sprigs on top, reserving a few for serving. Arrange the chicken on top of the squash, skin-side up, leaving a bit of room between the pieces and tucking in red onion chunks here and there. Dot the lemon slices around the pan. Pour any remaining marinade over everything.

Roast in the center of the oven for 30 minutes. Baste the chicken and squash with pan juices and continue to cook for 15 minutes, or until the skin is browned and the chicken is cooked through. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of sumac and the reserved herb sprigs. Serve directly from the baking sheet.

Sweet and Spicy Nut Brittle

“One of the best parts of working in this business is that I always have top quality nuts available for snacking or baking,” says Whelan. “This is a fun way I like to use them that also doubles as a nice holiday gift.


  • 2 cups roasted unsalted mixed nuts (about 1/2 lb, coarsely chopped 11/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup Amaretto or bourbon
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3/4 tsp Aleppo pepper
  • 1 tsp flaky sea salt

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Spray a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray.

On a separate rimmed baking sheet, spread the nuts in a single layer and toast in the oven for 5 minutes. Transfer the nuts to a large bowl and cover to keep warm. (Warming the nuts helps the caramel flowover them more readily.)

In a 1 quart saucepan, combine the sugar, amaretto, honey, and butter. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan. Heat over medium heat until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves, then continue to boil until the mixture reaches 300°F (hard crack stage).

Carefully pour the sugar mixture over the nuts and mix quickly with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, coating all the nuts. Immediately pour onto the prepared baking sheet and spread in a thin layer.

Sprinkle with the Aleppo pepper and salt. Let cool completely, then break into pieces and store in an airtight container.

The above recipes are excerpted with permission from Flavors of the Sun: The Sahadi’s Guide to Understanding, Buying, and Using Middle Eastern Ingredients (Chronicle Books, 2021) by Christine Sahadi Whalen. Photographs © 2021 by Kristin Teig

Little Book of Jewish Sweets

Cookbook Author Leah Koenig.  Photo © Zivar Amrami

          This February is the celebration of Purim, the Jewish holiday honoring Queen Esther of Persia who in 5th century BCE stopped the massacre of the Hebrew population by acknowledging to her husband, King Xerxes that she was Jewish and asking him to save her people.

          Luckily she had beauty and youth on her side and the King still liked her because she’s credited with stopping the planned entire massacre of Jews.

 Thus Purim is a happy holiday and part of the celebration is eating such traditional foods as hamantaschen, a triangular shaped pastry typically filled with fruit, large rounds of braided challah bread said to be a reminder of the rope used to hang Haman, the King’s grand vizier  or as we would say these days, advisor, who came up with the idea of the executions. 

Challah Bread Pudding with Raspberries and Chocolate. Photo © LINDA PUGLIESE

          Jewish cookbook author Leah Koenig shares recipes commonly eaten during Purim as well as other desserts in “Little Book of Jewish Sweets.” But Koenig isn’t afraid to jazz up old recipes, a type of reinvention of Jewish foods. The author of six cookbooks including “Modern Jewish Cooking: Recipes & Customs for Today’s Kitchen” and her Little Book series, her recipe for challah (which by the way is available at Bit of Swiss Bakery on certain days of the week), becomes a bread pudding with raspberries and chocolate

          “From breadcrumbs and grilled cheese sandwiches to French toast, there are many ways to transform leftover challah into something new—a luscious bread pudding studded with chocolate and juicy raspberries is a particularly delicious one,” she writes in her introduction to the recipe. “Challah has a soft and tender crust, which means there is no need to remove it before tossing the bread into the custard.”

Apricot-Walnut Hamantaschen. Photo © LINDA PUGLIESE

          With baklava, the classis Middle Eastern and Greek dessert of phyllo dough  layered with walnuts and honey, she goes beyond the typical by adding figs, making, in her words, a confection that is at once familiar and new.

          Koenig does the same for hamantaschens by adding a touch of   lemon zest and cinnamon to an apricot and walnut base.

Fig Baklava. Photo © LINDA PUGLIESE

          Over the years as she’s researched her cookbooks, Koenig says she came to realize how global Jewish cuisine is.

          ‘Jews have lived and cooked pretty much everywhere in the world, maybe barring Antarctica,” she says. “So really the inspiration behind the book was to try to capture how Jews eat today across the world and capture a little bit of the history of how Jews used to eat.”

Apricot-Walnut Hamantaschen

Makes about 3 dozen cookies


21/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter or nonhydrogenated margarine, at room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Water, as needed (optional)


3/4 cup apricot jam

11/2 cups walnut halves

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest

1/4 tsp kosher salt

Make the dough: Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl.

In a stand mixer or with a handheld electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat to fully combine. Add the flour mixture in three additions, beating on low speed and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary, until a firm but pliable dough comes together. If the dough looks too dry, add water, 1 tsp at a time, until the desired consistency is reached. If the dough looks too wet, add additional flour, 1 Tbsp at a time. Knead the dough a few times in the bowl to bring it together, then form into a flat disk. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to overnight.

Make the filling: Place the jam, walnuts, cinnamon, lemon zest, and salt in a food processor and pulse, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary, until a chunky paste forms. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350° and line two large, rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove half of the dough from the fridge (keep the other half wrapped and chilled). On a lightly floured surface, using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough until it’s 1/4 inch thick. Using a 3-inch round cookie cutter or glass, cut out as many circles as possible and carefully transfer them to the prepared baking sheets. Gather the dough scraps, reroll the dough, and cut out additional circles.

Spoon 1 rounded teaspoon of apricot-walnut filling into the center of each dough circle. Fold the left side over on an angle, followed by the right side. Fold the bottom flap up, tucking one end under the side flap to make a pocket (the filling should still be visible in the center); pinch the corners firmly to seal. Repeat the rolling and filling process with the remaining dough.

Bake the cookies until lightly golden and browned at the corners, 15 to 18 minutes. Remove from the oven. Set the baking sheets on wire racks to cool for 5 minutes, then transfer the cookies to the wire racks to cool completely. Serve at room temperature. Store covered in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Challah Bread Pudding with Raspberries and Chocolate

Serves 8 to 10

8 oz challah, cut into 1-in cubes

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

2 cups whole milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

11/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp kosher salt

1 cup fresh or thawed frozen raspberries

1 cup  semisweet chocolate chips

Confectioners’ sugar for serving

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 2-qquart baking dish. Spread the cubed challah in a single layer on a large-rimmed baking sheet. Bake, stirring once or twice, until toasted and dry, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, cream, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a large bowl. Layer half of the bread into the prepared baking dish, and sprinkle evenly with half of the raspberries and half of the chocolate chips. Top with the remaining bread, raspberries, and chocolate chips. Pour the cream mixture over the top, gently pressing down the bread to encourage soaking. Cover the dish with a kitchen towel and let stand for 30 minutes to allow the custard to soak into the bread. Check that the oven is still set to 350°F.

Bake until puffed and golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. If the top is browning too quickly, loosely drape a piece of aluminum foil over the dish partway through baking. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve the pudding warm or at room temperature, dusted lightly with confectioners’ sugar. Store leftovers covered in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Fig Baklava

Serves 8


1 pound walnut halves

1 1/2 cups dried mission figs, stemmed and coarsely chopped

2 tbsp light brown sugar

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp kosher salt

 1-lb package frozen phyllo dough, thawed

1 cup unsalted butter, melted, or coconut oil or vegetable oil


1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

3/4 cup water

1/4 cup  honey

1 cinnamon stick

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 tsp rose water

Make the baklava: Preheat the oven to 350°F and lightly grease a 9-by-13-in baking dish. Place the walnuts, figs, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a food processor, and mix until the walnuts and figs are finely ground.

If necessary, trim the phyllo to fit the baking dish, then place on a flat cutting board and cover with a damp kitchen towel. Fit one sheet of phyllo in the bottom of the baking dish and generously brush with melted butter. Repeat seven times, brushing with butter after each layer to make a stack of 8 phyllo sheets. Spoon half of the nut and fig mixture over the phyllo and spread evenly. Repeat the process with 4 more phyllo sheets, brushing with butter between each layer. Spread the remaining nut and fig mixture over the top and repeat the process with 8 more phyllo sheets.

Bake until the top is lightly golden and crisp, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes, then use a sharp knife to cut the baklava into squares or diamonds in the pan.

Meanwhile, make the syrup: Stir together the granulated sugar, water, honey, and cinnamon stick in a medium saucepan, and set over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often, until the syrup thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice and rose water. Let cool slightly. Discard the cinnamon stick.

Carefully spoon the warm syrup over the slightly cooled and cut baklava, taking care to pour syrup along the cut lines. Let the baklava sit for at least 2 hours before serving to allow the syrup to soften the filling. Serve at room temperature. Store covered at room temperature for up to 3 days.

The above recipes are reprinted from Little Book of Jewish Sweets by Leah Koenig with permission by Chronicle Books, 2019.

Disco Cubes: Ice is a big part of the mix in making great cocktails

Creating artisanal ice for large scale events, private clients and parties in Los Angeles is a continuation of Leslie Kirchhoff’s career as an artist, DJ and photographer for high-end magazines like Vogue. Feeling a little stifled and less than creative in her day-to-day work doing magazine shoots, she hit upon the idea of ice cubes as works of art–albeit not very permanent ones. She also realized that while putting large ice cubes in drinks was trendy, putting something in the ice cube itself wasn’t being done. Using that as a springboard she started Disco Cubes, where she creates handcrafted ice so beautiful and/or unique that it turns a mere cocktail into a showpiece.

         “The cube itself is just the container for whatever you put inside, like a tiny 3-dimensional blank canvas where gravity doesn’t quite exist,” says Kirchhoff who describes great cocktails as similar to multi-sensory sculptures. “Mixologists are truly becoming artists, much like chefs have become. You have the architectural elements, like the shape and texture of the glassware, the color and clarity of the drink. Every element is so carefully calculated that it’s a wonder why more people aren’t experimenting with ice.”

Now Kirchhoff is sharing her ice cube recipes in the recently released Disco Cube Cocktails: 100+ innovative recipes for artful ice and drinks. The name Disco harkens to both a renewed interest in the designs, clothing and aesthetics of that era as well as her own work as a DJ. Kirchhoff also is very much influenced in her ice works by Danish designer Verner Panton who she describes as an inventor as well and the first to make a single-form injection-molded chair.

          I just love everything about him,” she says, impressed by Panton’s ability to find a balance between the weird and the practical while have fun doing so.  

         A perfectionist when it comes to cubes, Kirchhoff also read up on the physics of freezing and talks about polishing ice cubes to make them perfect. In other words, Disco Cubes isn’t just cracking open an ice cube tray or putting a glass under the dispenser on the refrigerator.

Some of her recipes have multiple steps and include ingredients we’re not likely to have on hand. Others are simpler and those are the ones I’m starting off with here. If you like them and want to go more experimental, I’ve included the more complicated ones at the end.

Makes 4 Spears
4 fresh herb sprigs [about 4 inches long]
5¼ in clear Collins cube mold

Place one herb sprig into each Collins cube compartment. Fill the mold with water and freeze until solid, about 30 hours.
Remove the cubes from the mold, polish them, and keep frozen until ready to use.
Polishing Cubes
As with metal that needs polishing or wood that needs sanding, ice sometimes needs a little love before it’s ready for its close-up. Cubes may have seams from two-part molds, lumpy tops, or other imperfections you want to smooth out. This process must be done quickly, especially in a warm environment.
Shaping Herbal Spears
A sharp paring knife can easily skim off the seam from an ice sphere. Hold the cube with a microfiber cloth in one hand, while carefully carving with the knife facing toward you, rotating the sphere away from you as you go.

These are easy to make and can be used in drinks such as Bloody Marys, Margaritas and Michelada (chilled Mexican beer mixed with other ingredients such as lime juice and Worcestershire sauce) that require spicing up.
Makes Enough for 10 to 15 Drinks
1 ounce hot sauce
2 cups water
Quarter sheet pan, to use as ice mold

In a glass measuring cup, combine the hot sauce with 2 cups of water. Place a quarter sheet pan in the freezer, and carefully pour the hot sauce mixture directly into the pan. Freeze until solid, about 2 hours.
Pop the entire sheet of ice off the tray and transfer to a 1 gallon freezer bag until ready to use. When ready to serve, with the ice still in the bag, shatter it into various-size pieces [anywhere from 1 to 4 inches, or 2.5 inches in length] using a mallet or rolling pin.

You don’t have to wait until the holidays to serve this one. It can be a cool summer drink as well.
Makes 24 Servings
Four 750 ml bottles prosecco, chilled
24 ounces Peppered Cranberry Syrup (see recipe below)
16 ounces vodka
¾ ounce orange bitters
1 Rosemary Wreath (see recipe below)

In a large punch bowl, combine the prosecco, cranberry syrup, vodka, and bitters. Stir to mix. Gently add the ice wreath and serve.
Peppered Cranberry Syrup
Makes About 24 Ounces
4 cups cranberries [two 12 ounce packages]
1 cup sugar
4 ounces apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons peppercorns, coarsely cracked

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the cranberries, sugar, apple cider vinegar, and peppercorns with 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. Refrigerate the mixture for at least 6 hours, or overnight. Strain it twice through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl and refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to serve, or for up to 1 week.
Rosemary Wreath
Makes 1 Ice Wreath
1 tablespoon dried hibiscus flowers
One 8 cup Bundt pan
1 or 2 bunches rosemary sprigs

In a large heatproof glass measuring cup, steep the hibiscus flowers in 32 ounces of hot water for 5 minutes.
If using a silicone Bundt pan, place it on a quarter sheet pan.
Arrange the rosemary sprigs in a wreath shape inside the pan. Through a fine mesh strainer, pour the hibiscus tea into the mold, then add 2 cups of water. Use the sheet pan to transfer the mold to the freezer and freeze until solid, about 8 hours, or overnight.
Makes 2 Cocktails
2 Radish Cubes
2 cucumber strips
4 ounces Miso Butter Washed Suntory (see recipe below)
1½ ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice
¾ ounce Radish Simple Syrup (see recipe below)

Place 1 Radish Cube in each of two Old-Fashioned glasses to temper. Add 1 cucumber strip to each glass, circling the cube and touching the side of the glass.
In a cocktail shaker filled with plain ice, combine the whisky, lemon juice, and radish simple syrup. Cover and shake for 15 seconds, then double strain into the glasses.
Radish Cubes
Makes 4 Cubes
4 micro radishes, or small red radishes,
stems trimmed so total size is about 2½ inches
2-inch clear ice cube mold
Place 1 radish in each compartment of the clear cube mold. Fill the mold with water and freeze until solid, about 30 hours. Remove the cubes from the mold, polish them, and keep frozen until ready to use.
Miso Butter Washed Suntory
Makes 2 Cups
4 ounces unsalted butter
1 teaspoon sweet white miso paste (can substitute soy sauce instead)
2 cups Suntory whisky (or other bourbon)

In a small pan set over medium heat, melt the butter. Whisk in miso paste to combine. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Combine the melted miso butter and bourbon in a lidded wide-mouth container, then cover and shake briefly to combine.
Let sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours, then transfer to the freezer for at least 6 hours or overnight. Remove the hardened butter from the top of the bourbon and set aside, then strain the mixture through a coffee filter set inside a sieve and into another lidded jar. Store infused bourbon in the refrigerator for up to a month.
Radish Simple Syrup*
Makes about ¾ Cup
½ cup sugar
½ cup thinly sliced radishes

In a small saucepan over high heat, combine the sugar and ½ cup of water. Heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and add the radishes. Cover and let steep at room temperature for at least 2 hours, then strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a lidded jar or bottle.
*Beware the pungent smell of making this simple syrup.
“In 1973, Manu Dibango brought an infec¬tious groove from Africa to the dance floors of downtown New York City with his mas¬sive global hit, “’Soul Makossa,’ which flew off shelves so quickly that even DJs had a hard time getting their hands on a copy,” says Kirchhoff. “The infectious sax riff and vocal chant were covered, sampled, and famously ripped off time and time again, most notably by Michael Jackson in ‘Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’. With these cubes you’ll have a party in your glass faster than you can say ‘ma-mako, ma-ma-sa, mako-mako ssa.’”
Makes 1 Cocktail
1 Tangerine Turmeric Cube (see recipe below)
2 ounces tequila
Soda water or tonic water, for topping off
3 dashes Angostura bitters
Lime wheel, for garnish

Place the Tangerine Turmeric Cube on a cutting board and using a serrated knife cut it diag¬onally through the middle. Place both halves into a white wine glass or Old-Fashioned glass. Pour the tequila over the top, then top with soda or tonic water, bitters, and lime wheel.
Tangerine Turmeric Cubes
Makes 4 Cubes
8 ounces freshly squeezed tangerine juice, strained
2 ounces fresh turmeric juice, strained (see note below)
2 ounces Honey Simple Syrup (see below)
12 dashes of orange bitters
Collins cube tray

In a large glass measuring cup, combine the tangerine juice, turmeric juice, simple syrup, and orange bitters. Pour the mixture into the tray and freeze until solid, about 4 hours.
Simple Honey Syrup
1 cup water
1 cup honey

Combine water and honey in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high, stirring constantly until honey dissolves. Remove from heat and let cool about 30 minutes until it is at room temperature. Store refrigerator in airtight container, it should keep for up to 2 weeks.
Note: Turmeric juice can be found locally at Apple Valley Market in Berrien Springs and GNC in Benton Harbor or if you don’t want to buy it then consider mixing a little ground turmeric with carrot or orange juice.
The above recipes are reprinted from Disco Cubes by Leslie Kirchhoff with permission by Chronicle Books, 2020.
Jane Ammeson can be contacted via email at janeammeson@gmail.com or by writing to Focus, The Herald Palladium, P.O. Box 128, St. Joseph, MI 49085.

Eat Something: A Wise Sons Cookbook for Jews Who Like Food and Food Lovers Who Like Jews

A combination cookbook, Jewish stand-up comedy and family album, Eat Something: A Wise Sons Cookbook for Jews Who Like Food and Food Lovers Who Like Jews by Evan Bloom & Rachel Levin includes recipes from Wise Sons Delicatessen with locations in the San Francisco area as well as Tokyo that Bloom co-founded a decade ago.

“Our lives, as Jews, revolve around food in a way that’s at once fanatical, logical, and comical, and to be honest, kind of pathological,” writes Bloom in the introduction to his book. “Especially when family is in town. Meals are plotted with the care and calculation of a presidential campaign. While spreading the cream cheese on our bagels, we discuss where we should go for lunch; while the Russian dressing drips from our Reubens, we ruminate over dinner reservations; while arguing over the best way to get to the airport in the morning, we wonder if we’ll have time to pick up egg-and-cheese sandwiches on the way. (We won’t.)”

The touch of humor begins when you first open the book to find a page titled: “A Jewish Life in Meals a.k.a the Table of Contents” with such chapter headings as “Visiting the Grandparents in the Sunshine States,” “Dinner with the Goyim In-Laws,” “First Meal Home from College” and “J Dating: “Are you Meeting New People? (I Hope They’re the Right Kind.)”

Besides the recipes and the jokes, Bloom also added family photos and recollections (centered around food, of course), illustrations, food shots of some of the recipes and intriguing tidbits including how frequently Chinese take-out is served in Jewish homes for Christmas Dinner. The later is something Bloom says dates back to at least 1935 when the New York Times ran a story about Eng Shee Chuck, who owned a restaurant in Newark, New Jersey, brought enough chow mein to feed 80 as well as toys wrapped in red ribbon to a Jewish Children’s Home. It’s that kind of book.

The following recipes are reprinted from Eat Something by Evan Bloom with permission by Chronicle Books, 2020

Big Macher Burger

Makes 4 burgers

4 ounces pastrami

1 pound 80/20 ground beef (80 percent lean beef and 20 percent fat)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

4 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt

4 slices American cheese (or Cheddar, if you must)

4 sesame seed challah buns

¼ cup   Russian Dressing (see recipe below)

16 Pickled Cucumbers Bread & Butter Style (see below)

¼ cup chopped yellow onion

2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce

Full sour dill pickle spears for serving

Finely chop the pastrami or pulse quickly with a food processor, taking care not to over process, which will heat the meat. In a large bowl, combine the ground beef and chopped pastrami. Use clean hands to mix the meats together until well combined, but do not overmix. Use a kitchen scale to weigh out four 5 oz [140 g] portions or simply eyeball them, forming each into a smooth round ball between your palms. Gently press each patty into a flat puck, tossing and patting between your hands until you have a nice flattened patty, about 5-inches across and ½-inches thick. Transfer to a large plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to cook. The patties can be made up to 1 day in advance.

Set a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat and coat evenly with the oil. When the oil is shimmering, remove the patties from the refrigerator and sprinkle the tops liberally with half the salt, flip, and sprinkle with the remaining salt. Add two patties to the pan and cook until a light brown crust forms on the bottom and the burger is turning from pink to brown at the edges, about 3 minutes. Carefully flip with a spatula and place a cheese slice over each burger. Cook for 2 minutes more for a medium-rare to medium burger. The cheese will have melted well at this point. Transfer the cooked burgers to a plate or baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining patties.

With the oil and beef fat still in the pan, place the buns, cut-side down, in the pan and cook over medium-high heat for 2 to 3 minutes, until a golden, toasty crust has formed. Flip and cook for 1 minute more to heat the buns completely.

Put a heaping spoonful of dressing on the bottom half of the bun, spreading it out to the edges. Spread out four bread and butter pickle coins on top, and sprinkle with onion. Place the cheese-covered patty on top, and cover with a heap of lettuce. Spread a bit more dressing on the top bun to “glue” it to the burger toppings and use your palm to gently smush everything down. Serve with a sour pickle spear.

Russian Dressing

½ cup mayonnaise

1½ tablespoons ketchup

1½ tablespoons grated yellow onion (use the small holes of a box grater)

1 tablespoon dill pickle relish

½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

½ teaspoon sriracha

Pinch of garlic powder

Freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, ketchup, onion, relish, Worcestershire, sriracha, garlic powder, and a few grinds of pepper until well combined. Store, covered, in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. Makes about 3/4 cup.

Pickled Cucumbers Bread & Butter Style

Makes enough to fill a 1 quart jar

1 recipe Sweet Brine (see recipe below)

12 ounce Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced

1 cup thinly sliced yellow onion

1 teaspoon brown or yellow mustard seeds

½ teaspoon ground turmeric

4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed with the flat side of a knife

While the brine mixture is heating, toss the cucumbers and onions together in a small bowl to evenly combine, then transfer to a clean 1 qt [960 ml] glass jar and add the mustard seeds, turmeric, and garlic. Slowly pour the hot brine into the jar and let the entire mixture cool on the counter until it reaches room temperature. Seal with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate. The pickles will be ready to eat within 24 hours but will get better with age. They will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.

Sweet Brine

Makes about 2 ¼ cups

¾ cup sugar

1 tablespoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt

1 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup water

Heat the sugar, salt, vinegar in water in a small, heavy bottom saucepan over medium heat until the liquid begins to bubble, whisking once or twice to make sure the sugar and salt are dissolved. Cook for 30 seconds more and remove from the heat. 

Wise Sons’ Brisket

Serves 8 (with plenty of leftovers)

1/3 cup spicy brown deli mustard (any mustard will work in a pinch), plus more as needed

4 1/2 tablespoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt

1 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper

One 6 to 8 pounds beef brisket

2 Tbsp vegetable oil

3 cups homemade stock, low-sodium chicken, beef, or vegetable broth, or water

12 ounces bottle of beer (something dark and sweet, like a porter) or ½ bottle dry red wine (such as Cabernet or Zinfandel)

5 whole pitted prunes

2 dried bay leaves

1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar

1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

3 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced

8 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed with the flat side of a knife

2 to 3 tablespoons unsalted butter (optional)

Mix the mustard, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Slather all over the brisket and place it on a baking sheet. Let sit, uncovered, in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight for maximum moistness.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or another large heavy-bottomed, ovenproof pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add the brisket and sear until browned on both sides, about 5 to 8 minutes per side. You want a nice golden crust. Transfer to a platter and set aside.

Increase the heat to medium-high, add the stock to the pot, and bring to a simmer, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pot.

Add the beer, prunes, bay leaves, and brown sugar. Cook until the sugar has dissolved, stirring if necessary. Remove from the heat.

Return the brisket to the pot, fat-side up, and scatter the carrots around the meat. Blanket the meat with the onions and garlic. Cover the pot tightly with a lid or heavy-duty aluminum foil. Transfer to the oven and braise the brisket for about 3 hours, flipping the brisket every hour. Cook until a fork inserted into the center rotates easily, with just a little resistance, but without tearing the meat to shreds.

Remove the brisket from the pot and use a large, sharp knife to cut the brisket against the grain into ¼ in [6 mm] thick slices. Remove the bay leaves from the pot and discard.

Using an immersion blender directly in the pot, purée the jus and the remaining tender vegetables—this will give the gravy a sweet taste and enough body to slick over the brisket. (At this point, the brisket and gravy can be transferred to a roasting pan, ready to reheat, with the brisket fanned out and smothered by the gravy. Or store in separate containers.

Either way, let cool, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

If reheating the brisket straight out of the refrigerator, preheat the oven to 300°F.

Use a spoon to skim off any fat on the surface of the gravy. Cover tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil and warm for about 30 minutes, or until heated through.)

In the deli, we like a thicker gravy. To achieve this, transfer half of it to a small heavy-bottomed pot and bring to a medium simmer. Return the sliced brisket to the pot with the remaining gravy and keep warm on a burner at its lowest setting. Cook the gravy in the small pot until reduced by half, 30 to 40 minutes, stirring as needed so it doesn’t burn. If you like, whisk in the butter for extra sheen, body, and richness, and then a bit more mustard to taste. Transfer the brisket to a platter, spoon the thickened gravy over the meat, and serve.

Grandma’s “secret” recipe . . .

Season a beef brisket heavily with salt and pepper, and transfer to roasting pan, fat-side up. Add a packet of Lipton onion soup mix, a can of Coca-Cola, a bottle of Heinz chili sauce (yes, the entire bottle), a few thinly sliced yellow onions, and some chopped carrots. Cook for 3 hours in a 350°F oven.

Jane Ammeson can be contacted via email at janeammeson@gmail.com or by writing to Focus, The Herald Palladium, P.O. Box 128, St. Joseph, MI 49085.

Abra Berens: Lessons from the farm & James Beard nominee

              For all those who have been opining that Southwest Michigan is indeed become a food-centric destination thanks to our great farmers and the crops they grow in fields and orchards, multiple wineries, breweries, distilleries, chefs and food producers, the biggest proof came last week when Abra Berens, chef in residence for Granor Farm in Three Oaks was nominated for the Best Chef award in the Great Lakes Region by the James Beard Foundation. This coveted honor came about for multifold reasons including her best selling cookbook Ruffage: A Practical Guide to Vegetables (Chronicle Books 2019: $35). The book make veggies easily accessible and tasty. Containing 300 recipes based upon 29 vegetables, the cookbook was on numerous top ten cookbooks for 2019. Then there is also Granor’s Farmhouse Dinners, often featuring celebrity chefs, she prepares. These dinners, based on what’s grown on the farm as well as locally sourced foods, attract people locally but also from Chicago, Detroit and even Indianapolis. For the last two years, each dinner has sold out and has had a waiting list.

“I never thought it would happen to me,” says Abra when I called to congratulate her. “I think the term was gob smacked when I found out. A long time ago I figured it was not my wheelhouse because my food is not fancy food.”

It turns out that Abra heard about the honor from a friend who lives in Pennsylvania and saw the press release from the James Beard Foundation and immediately pulled it up on her phone. It was hard to read but there it was.

Abra Berens’s Vinegar Braised Onions with Seared Whitefish and Arugula

She grew up cooking and has worked in restaurants since she was 16 including Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor and then at Ballymaloe Cookery School and Farm, a 100-acre organic farm in Shanagarry, County Cork, Ireland. In ways Ballymaloe was similar to Granor in that what they grew on the farm was served at its restaurant and guest house.

“It was an education for me—that connection with what a farm is growing and the meals you eat,” she says.

Abra Berens’s Roasted Parsnips w/Fresh Goat Cheese, Pecans and Pickled Apricots

Next stop was Neal’s Yard Dairy, a serious cheese shop where staff people like her worked with some 40 cheesemakers, in selecting, maturing and selling farmhouse cheese made in the United Kingdom and Ireland.  From there, she headed to Chicago where became the executive chef at Stock Café at Local Foods, Vie and the Floriole Cafe & Bakery. As if that wasn’t hectic enough, Abra also co-founded Bare Knuckle Farm in Northport in Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula. That meant a round trip commute of 700 milers on a regular basis for six years

It was worth it, says Abra about those six years, because she wanted to do dinners based on what she grew.

It worked well in Chicago and definitely does in Three Oaks as well.

              Granor Farm is expanding too.

              “We’re adding new space to the kitchen and we’re working to grow vegetables year round by building indoor growing space,” she says. “We’re putting in refrigeration to add dairy such as artisan cheeses from Windshadow Farm in Hartford, Evergreen Lane Cheese and Creamery in Fennville and Capriole Goat Cheese in Greenville, Indiana.”

              They’re also growing heritage varieties of wheat, rye and corn. Their Bloody Butcher corn, a variety grown by Daniel Boone’s brother Squire almost 250 years ago, is used by Molino Tortilleria in Sawyer to make their corn tortillas.  Abra also plans on making and selling bread from these heirloom grains using a wood burning oven.

Tortillas from Molino Tortilleria

              All in all, though she didn’t ever expect it, Abra definitely deserves the James Beard nod. It’s a first for Southwest Michigan and shows all the great things—foodwise—to come.

The following recipes are reprinted from Ruffage by Abra Berens with permission by Chronicle Books, 2019.

“Parsnips are perfect for roasting because they are naturally a bit drier than carrots or sweet potatoes,” she writes at the beginning of this recipe. “I like to roast them pretty hard so that their little chips burn, foiling the natural sweetness of the root. As with all oven roasted things, allow enough space between the pieces on the baking sheet; A convection oven will help develop that crispy exoskeleton on the veggie comma and cook until the roots are tender when pierced with a knife. “

Roasted Parsnips w/Fresh Goat Cheese, Pecans and Pickled Apricots

“Pickling dried fruit heightens its flavor by introducing a serious tang and a touch of salt,” she writes explaining the reasoning behind pickling. “It breathes new life into a pretty standard pantry staple. It works with all dried fruit though Apple chips get weird and soggy. You can also pickle fresh fruit, though this was sometimes soften the flesh to mush so be gentle with the heat. I love this with basil, which is increasingly available from year-round growers. If you can find good looking basil, either drizzle with basil oil or use parsley or mixture of parsley, tarragon, and or mint. “

10 parsnips or about 2 pounds, ends cut off, peeled and cut into obliques1/4 Cup olive oil, plus more for cooking the parsnips

Freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning

1/4 cup Apple cider vinegar

1 half cup dried apricots cut into 1/4 inch strips

4 ounces fresh goat cheese

1 cup pecans, toasted

6 leaves basil, torn

Heat the oven to 400° F. Toss the parsnips with a big glug (about two tablespoons) of olive oil, 2 pinches of salt, and 2 grinds of black pepper. Transfer to a baking sheet and roast until the parsnips are tender and golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes.

Heat the vinegar, salt and brown sugar to boiling. Pour this over the apricots and let them sit for 10 minutes. These will keep for weeks so feel free to scale up and have some on hand.

Drain the apricots reserving the liquid for dressing or making a spritzer with soda water. Remove the parsnips from the oven, toss with the ¼ cup olive oil and let it absorb for a couple of minutes.

Place on a serving platter, dot with the goat cheese, scattered the pecans and apricots over them, garnish with torn pieces of basil and serve.


w/currants, walnuts, blue cheese + burnt honey

10 parsnips (about 2 pounds)

1/2 cup honey

2 tablespoons water

1/2 cup currents

1/2 cup walnuts

4 ounces blue cheese

One sprig rosemary, stripped and minced

After roasting the parsnips, removed them in the oven and turn on the broiler. Combined the honey and water to thin. Drizzle the roasted parsnips with the honey mixture and slide under the broiler to char like a toasted marshmallow. Removed from the oven and transfer to a serving platter. Garnish with the currents pickled (same as for the apricots, if you like), walnuts, blue cheese and rosemary.

w/other roots, garlic mayo + sage

5 parsnips (1 pound)

5 carrots (1 pound)

1 celery root (1/2 pound)

2 sweet potatoes (1 pound)

5 sunchokes (1/2 pound)

½ cup garlic mayo

3 sprigs sage, cut into thin slices or fried in oil until golden and crispy

Roast the roots drizzle with the garlic mayo and garnish with the sage.

Garlic Mayo

For the mayo, combine two crushed cloves of garlic, the juice and a half cup of mayonnaise. 

Vinegar Braised Onions with Seared Whitefish and Arugula

8 shallots or cippolini

Neutral oil salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup red or white wine vinegar

1- 6-ounce filet of white fish per person

4 ounces arugula

1/4 cup olive oil

Heat the oven to 325°F.

Clean the shallots. Cut them in half from top to bottom.

Heat a glug (about two tablespoons) of neutral oil in a medium of improved frying pan until just above smoking.

Sear the onions, cut side down until well charred. Flipping season with a hefty sprinkle of salt and pepper. Char the other, grounded side as best as you can. As long as there is a good char on the cut side, you’ll be good.

Remove from the heat and pour the vinegar over the onions, getting it into the petals of the onion. Be aware it will spit as the vinegar hits the hot pan and will probably make you cough. Cover with foil or parchment paper and place in the oven. Bake until the onions are tender, about 25 minutes. In a large frying pan heat a glug (about two tablespoons) of neutral oil until smoking hot. Blot the whitefish skin dry, sprinkle with salt and sear, skin side down, about 5 minutes.

When the skin releases from the pan, place the whole pan in the already hot oven to cook through, about 4 minutes.

In a medium bowl, dress the arugula with olive oil in a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Serve the fish, skin side up, top with arugula and onions, spooning the onion liquid over the whole thing period.

Every Day Is Saturday: Recipes + Strategies for Easy Cooking, Every Day of the Week

Short on time? Sarah Copeland has a recipe for you.

              Want a dinner that tastes like Saturday night when you’ve had all day to putter around in the kitchen on a Wednesday? Don’t despair. Sarah Copeland, author Feast, has a new cookbook out that’s just right for you.

              In Every Day Is Saturday: Recipes + Strategies for Easy Cooking, Every Day of the Week (Chronicle, $29.95), Copeland, a former food director of Real Simple magazine, restaurant chef and mother of two young children as well as a New York Times contributor, zeroes in time management, maintaining a well-stocked pantry, and cooking dishes that do double duty. She also emphasizes healthy.

              Her recipes with prep time and total cooking time help you decide what fits in with your busy day.

              Reprinted from Every Day Is Saturday by Sarah Copeland with permission by Chronicle Books, 2019



TOTAL TIME: 5 MINUTES or overnight


Quick-to-make chia pudding, with the right touch, can turn an everyday yogurt bowl into something beautiful and irresistibly creamy.

The secret is to keep the chia mixture loose, and treat it like a condiment, rather than the main event. (Chia thickens as it sets in liquid, so you’ll need to add fewer seeds if you plan to let it sit overnight.) Serve this creamy, coconut-milk goodness with loads of fresh fruit, as a quick morning breakfast bowl that’s nearly ready to go when you wake up.

¾ cup whole milk, or almond, coconut, or hazelnut milk

2 to 3 tsp pure maple syrup

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

2 to 3 Tbsp chia seeds

Plain yogurt, for serving

Currants, peaches, berries, honey, or maple syrup, for topping

Combine the milk, maple syrup, vanilla, and 2 tablespoons chia seeds in a mason jar or any glass container with a tight-fitting lid. Give it a shake or a stir and refrigerate up to overnight, or stir in the remaining chia to thicken if you plan to use right away. Spoon the chia mixture over yogurt, and top with fresh fruit and honey or maple syrup.

Sarah Copeland will be in conversation with Jeanine Donofrio of Love & Lemons at Read It & Eat in Chicago on Saturday, June 29, 2019 from 2 to 4 p.m. (773) 661-6158. 2142 N Halsted Street 
Chicago, IL

Cookbooks for Holiday Giving

            I always think cookbooks make great holiday presents and so I asked Carrie Bachman and Joyce Lin, two of my good friends who work with cookbooks all the time, to share some of their favorites with me. I loved the ones they suggested, the only problem was deciding—because of space issues in this column—which ones to highlight.

            I chose Dorie Greenspan’s Everyday Dorie because I have every other cookbook she’s written and I think she’s great and I thought her recipe for Oven-Charred-Stuffed Peppers which can be easily multiplied to serve  whatever size crowd you’re expecting and can be served at any temperature so if they cool down after removing from the oven, it’s no big deal.

            I enjoyed making and serving the Curry Leaf Popcorn Chicken featured in Nik Sharma’s Season. This is the first cookbook forSharma who writes the blog “A Brown Table” and his recipes are exotic but also really easy and delicious. I also like that Sharma offers suggestions I can use in making this dish and others such as shaking the chicken (or even shrimp) in small batches in resealable plastic bags to get a uniform coating of flour.

            Named Amazon’s 2018 Cookbook of the Year, Now & Again: Go-To Recipes, Inspired Menus + Endless Ideas for Reinventing Leftovers by Julia Turshen is wonderful for people like me who have watched leftovers age less than gracefully in my refrigerator before, after serving their time, they get tossed. I won’t have to do that no I have a copy of Turshen’s book. Or at least that’s the plan.

            Taking the leftover thing one step further, Lindsay-Jean Hard in her Cooking From Scraps: Turn Your Peels, Cores, Rinds and Stems Into Delicious Meals—85 Scrumptious Recipe for Zero-Waste Cooking, shows how to make dishes like Carrot Top Pesto Tartlets, Danish Pancakes with Apple Core Syrup and Banana Peel Cake with Brown Sugar Frosting.


Oven-Charred Tomato-Stuffed Peppers

From Everyday Dorie © 2018 by Dorie Greenspan. Reproduced by permission of Rux Martin Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

Makes 6 servings

About 7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove (ormore, if you’d like), germ removed and very thinly sliced

About 8 sprigs fresh thyme, rosemary, mint and/or parsley

6 fresh basil leaves, torn or chopped

Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper

5 tablespoons unseasoned bread crumbs

8 oil-packed anchovies, minced

1 small lemon

Pinch of piment d’Espelette or cayenne pepper

3 large red and/or yellow boxy bell peppers

1 pint cherry tomatoes (25 to 30), halved

For serving (optional)

Extra-virgin olive oil


Snipped fresh chives or finely chopped other fresh herbs

Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 425 degrees F. Put a deep-dish 9½-inch pie pan (or similar-size baking dish) on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone baking mat. Spread a tablespoon or two of the oil over the bottom and sides of the pan, then scatter over the garlic slices, half of the herb sprigs and half of the basil and season with salt and pepper.

Stir the bread crumbs and anchovies together in a small bowl. Grate the zest of the lemon over and squeeze in the juice from half of the lemon (about 1 tablespoon; precision isn’t important here). Cut 6 thin slices from the other half of the lemon, then cut the slices in half; set aside. (If any lemon remains, squeeze the juice from it over the bread crumbs.) Stir in 1 tablespoon oil and season the crumbs with the piment d’Espelette or cayenne. Taste to see if you want some salt (anchovies are salty, so the seasoning might be just fine).

If you’d like (or need room in the pan), trim the peppers’ stems. Slice the peppers in half the long way and remove the ribs and seeds. Spoon an equal amount of the bread-crumb mixture into each pepper, scatter the remaining basil over and topeach one with 2 lemon slices. Divide the tomatoes among the peppers, placing them as close together as you can, and season with salt and pepper. (I put the tomatoes in the peppers cut side down because I think they look prettier that way, but there is no set rule here.)

Transfer the peppersto the pie pan, crowding them together and cajoling them so that they all fit. One or two might pop up, or their bottoms might not fully touch the base of the pan, but in the end they will be fine. Drizzle over enough of the remaining oil to lightly moisten the tomatoes and then strew over the remaining herb sprigs. (The peppers can be prepared a few hours ahead to this point and refrigerated,covered; let them stand at room temperature while the oven preheats.)

Bake the peppers for about 1 hour (check at the 45-minute mark), until they’re as soft as you’d like them to be — poke the side of one with the tip of a paring knife to judge. The juices and oil should be bubbling and the peppers charred here and there.Remove and discard the herbs from the top of the peppers.

You can serve the peppers straight from the oven, warm or at room temperature. If you’d like, drizzle them with a bit more oil, top them with a little ricotta (adding a dollop of ricotta is particularly nice if you’re serving the dish warm as a starter) and sprinkle with chives or other herbs.

Curry Leaf Popcorn Chicken

From Season by Nik Sharma with permission by Chronicle Books 2018.

Makes 4 servings

Seeds from 4 green cardamom pods

2 teaspoons coriander seeds

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

12 black peppercorns

2 cups buttermilk

2 to 3 serrano chiles, seeded, if desired

6 scallions (white and green parts)

30 curry leaves, preferably fresh

4 garlic cloves, peeled

1½ teaspoons cayenne pepper

1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

¼ cup fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fine sea salt

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

3 cups neutral-tasting oil

4 green Thai chiles, seeded, if desired

Favorite hot sauce for serving

Heat a small, dry skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cardamom, coriander, cumin seeds, and the peppercorns, and toast for 30 to 45 seconds, swirling the mixture occasionally until the seeds release their aroma and start to brown. Divide the toasted spice mixture in half. Transfer one half of this mixture to a spice grinder and pulse to a fine powder. (You can prepare the spices up to 1 week in advance and store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.)

In a blender, combine the remaining toasted spice mixture with the buttermilk, serrano chiles, scallions, 15 of the curry leaves, the garlic, 1 tsp of the cayenne, the ginger, lime juice, and 1Tbsp of the salt. Pulse until completely smooth and transfer to a large resealable plastic bag. Pat the chicken breasts dry with paper towels. Trim excess fat from the chicken, and cut the flesh into 1 in cubes. Add to the marinade. Seal the bag and shake to coat evenly. Refrigerate for 4 hours.

Meanwhile, prepare the dredging mixture. In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the remaining half of the ground spice mixture with the flour, baking powder, baking soda, remaining ½ tsp cayenne, and remaining 1 tsp salt, shaking vigorously to blend. Finely chop 10 of the remaining curry leaves and add them to the dredging mixture. Seal the bag and shake again to mix well.

Once the chicken has marinated, use tongs to lift out half the chicken pieces, shaking off the excess batter, and transfer to the bag with the dredging mixture. Seal the bag and shake to coat evenly. Transfer the chicken pieces to a wire rack. Repeat with the remaining chicken.

In a medium Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat to 350°F. Fry the chicken in batches, turning occasionally, until golden brown and cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or a spider, transfer the chicken to paper towels to drain.

After the chicken is cooked, prepare the garnish: Cut the Thai chiles in half lengthwise. In the hot oil left in the pot, deep-fry the chiles and remaining 5 curry leaves until crispy, 30 to 40 seconds. Drain on paper towels.

Put the chicken on a serving plate, garnish with the chiles and fried curry leaves, and serve hot with the maple-vinegar sauce or hot sauce.

Stuffed Mushrooms with Walnuts, Garlic + Parsley

From Now & Again by Julia Turshen with permission by Chronicle Books 2018.

Serves 4 as a nosh with drinks.

¼ cup walnut halves

A large handful of fresh Italian parsley leaves (a little bit of stem is fine!)

1 large garlic clove, minced

3 tablespoons coarsely grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese

½ teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

12 small cremini or button mushrooms, stemmed

Preheat your oven to 400°F. Line a small sheet pan or baking dish with parchment paper and set it aside.

Put the walnuts, parsley, garlic, cheese, and salt into a food processor, in that order. Pulse until everything is finely chopped. Add the olive oil and pulse to combine.

Use a small spoon to distribute the walnut mixture evenly among the mushrooms, placing it in the cavities the now-gone stems left behind. Line up the mushrooms, stuffed-sides up, on the prepared sheet pan.

Roast the mushrooms until softened and the tops are lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Let the mushrooms cool for a few minutes, then serve warm.

Banana Peel Cake with Brown Sugar Frosting

Cooking From Scraps, (c) 2018 by Lindsay-Jean Hard. Reproduced by permission of Workman. All rights reserved.

For the cake:

Peels from 2 very ripe bananas, stem and very bottom discarded 

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened, plus more for buttering the pans

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

2 large eggs, separated

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 2/3 cups cake flour plus more flour (any type) for flouring the pans

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

For the brown sugar frosting:

1/2 cup butter

1/4 cup milk, 2% or higher

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 3/4 to 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

To make the cake: Cut the banana peels into 1-inch pieces and place them in a small saucepan with 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove thepan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool slightly, then strain the banana peels, reserving the cup of the cooking water.

Meanwhile, butter and flour the sides of two 8-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Butter and flour the pans again to coat the paper.

Transfer the peels and the 1/4 cup of cooking water to a tall, narrow container and puree until completely smooth with an immersion blender (a mini food processor would do the trick, too!).

Cream together the butter and sugar using an electric mixer (or a wooden spoon for an arm workout) until pale and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes.Add the egg yolks one at a time, mixing until incorporated, and scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Mix in the banana peel mixture, then stir in the buttermilk until well combined. 6. In a separate medium-size bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl with the butter mixture and stir gently, just until combined. 

Put the egg whites in another bowl (make sure it’s clean and dry!)and whisk until soft peaks form—either by hand or with the whisk attachment onan electric mixer. If using an electric mixer, start slowly and gradually increase speed to medium-high. You’ll know you’re done when you pull out the whisk or beater and a soft peak is formed, but immediately collapses. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter and divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans.

Bake for about 25 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through, until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake pulls out with dry crumbs rather than wet batter. Let the cakes cool completely in the pans.

When the cakes are completely cool and you’re ready to assemble it, make the frosting. Melt the butter in a medium pan over low heat. Stir inthe brown sugar and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Stir in the milk,raise the heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring constantly until the mixture boils. Remove from the heat, and let cool until lukewarm. Gradually whisk in 1 3/4 cups powdered sugar, beating until smooth. Add the additional 1/4 cup powdered sugar if the frosting is too loose. Use the frosting immediately, asit will begin to thicken and stiffen as it sits.

When the cakes are completely cool, remove from the pans and peel off the parchment. Put one layer of the cake on a serving platter and spread about one third of the frosting evenly over the top. Set the other layer on top, and spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake.

The Vintage Baker: More Than 50 Recipes from Butterscotch Pecan Curls to Sour Cream Jumbles

VintageBaker-HiRes-IMGS23I’ve been doing some major remodeling on my condominium including getting rid of the orange—and yes, it really was an orange sherbet color–Formica countertop (I kept waiting for this 1960 trend to come back in style but when it became apparent that wasn’t going to happen, out it went), tearing down walls and pulling up carpeting that had seen way too many spills by my daughter and her friends including the time she did some sign painting inside. Believe me, that did not work out well.

During all this renovation, I had to pack up just about everything in the condo including all my kitchenware and though the project was just going to take a couple of months–well, you know how that goes—I am just beginning to unpack boxes.

One of my latest discoveries is my KitchenAid stand mixer, which I really, really missed. Opening the box that contained the mixer, buried under a bunch of other stuff, coincided with my friend Joyce Lin sending me a copy of The Vintage Baker: More Than 50 Recipes from Butterscotch Pecan Curls to Sour Cream Jumbles by Jessie Sheehan (Chronicle Books 2018; $24.95). Sheehan, who worked as a junior baker at Baked, a bakery in Brooklyn, New York, was also an avid collector of vintage recipe booklets (there’s one included in her cookbook) and The Vintage Baker is based upon those recipes, albeit with Sheehan’s adaptations to modernize them.

She did so by adding such intriguing twists as making her popovers using pecorino Romano cheese and black pepper as well as black pepper and rum in a butterscotch pie and mixing thyme in the ladyfinger recipes she used in creating her own take on the classic Charlette Russe, layers of cookies or ladyfingers, cake and a cream filling.

Watch Jessie Sheehan on TikTok

“My go-to chocolate-chip cookie recipe is full of Kellogg’s Rice Krispies and I was over the moon to discover how frequently cookies with cereal surfaced in my booklet collection,” Sheehan writes in her introduction to her recipe for Cornflake Macaroons with Chocolate Drizzle, noting that a recipe from “55 Recipes for Hershey’s Syrup” (1945) formed the base for her macaroon. “Adding salt to the batter proved essential–so many of these original recipes don’t call for salt. I drizzled the cookies with chocolate after baking, rather than combining it with the batter, allowing these cornflakes to truly shine.”VintageBaker-HiRes-IMGS7Rediscovering my KitchenAid stand-mixer made me so happy that I made several of the recipes from Sheehan’s book. Here are a couple that hopefully you’ll enjoy baking as well including one for an old fashioned ice box cake.


Cornflake Macaroons with Chocolate Drizzle

3 egg whites

½ cup granulated sugar

1½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

½ teaspoon table salt

2½ cups cornflakes

1½ cups sweetened shredded coconut

Flaky sea salt for sprinkling

2 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted

In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites until frothy. Add the sugar, vanilla, and salt and continue whisking until thoroughly combined and thickened. Fold the cornflakes and coconut into the egg whites using a rubber spatula. Once combined, and using your hands, crush the cornflakes in the bowl, mixing all of the ingredients together, until the mixture stays together when you squeeze it in your hand. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 3 days, covering the bowl with plastic wrap. The mixture will be much easier to scoop once it has been refrigerated.

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Scoop 1 to 1½ tablespoons of dough with a small cookie scoop or measuring spoon, making sure to really pack the batter into the scoop/spoon. Place on the prepared pan and bake for 23 to 25 minutes, until nicely browned. Sprinkle with the sea salt and let cool. Place the melted chocolate in a zippered plastic bag, cut a very tiny hole in one corner of the bag, and drizzle the chocolate over the cookies. Let the chocolate harden before serving.

The macaroons will keep in an airtight container on the counter for up to 3 days, but they get less crunchy with each day.

Coconut-Chocolate Icebox Cake with Toasted Almonds

3 (13 1/2-fluid-ounce cans full-fat coconut milk

1/2 to 1 teaspoon almond extract

3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut, toasted

9 ounces crisp chocolate wafer cookies

1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Place the cans of coconut milk in the coldest spot in your refrigerator upside-down and leave them there for 24 hours. This will allow the coconut cream in the milk to solidify and separate from the liquid.

Line a 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap that hangs slightly over the sides of the pan.

Flip the cans of coconut milk right-side up, open the cans, and, using a rubber spatula, carefully scrape the solid coconut cream into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Save the liquid for another purpose. Add the almond extract and confectioners’ sugar, and whisk on medium speed until smooth and thick. Add the heavy cream and whisk on medium-high speed until the cream holds stiff peaks, about 2 minutes. Add the toasted coconut and fold it into the cream with a rubber spatula.

Using a small offset spatula or the back of a spoon, spread a thin layer of the whipped cream on the bottom of the lined pan. Cover as much of the cream as possible with a layer of wafers, filling any gaps with broken wafers, to create a solid layer of wafers.

Continue layering whipped cream and wafers until you run out or reach the top of the pan, ending with a layer of wafers. Gently cover the surface with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 to 8 hours, or preferably overnight. If you have whipped cream left over, store this in the refrigerator along with the cake.

Remove the cake from the refrigerator prior to serving and peel off the plastic wrap. Place a serving plate over the pan and invert the cake onto the plate. Carefully remove the pan and plastic wrap lining and, if using, thinly spread the remaining whipped cream over the sides and top of the cake. Re-whip the cream if it looks too soft to spread. Sprinkle the cake with the toasted almonds, lightly pressing them into the cake.

Using a serrated knife, cut the cake into slices and serve. The cake will keep, lightly wrapped with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.


When buying coconut milk, gently turn the can up and down in the store to make sure the contents sound full and solid. If it sounds watery and seems like the can is filled only with liquid, grab a different one.


What: Author Talk Jessie Sheehan: The Vintage Baker

When: Sep 17 at 6:30 p.m.

Where: Read It & Eat, 2142 N. Halsted St., Chicago, IL

FYI: 773-661-6158; readitandeatstore.com

For more information:

The Vintage Baker

Jesse Sheehan