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.”

SERVES 6 TO 8

  • 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

  • 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

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.

MAKES ABOUT 4 CUPS  

  • 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

Tim Vidrio is New Executive Chef at Chicago’s Michelin-starred North Pond restaurant

After 20 Years, Bruce Sherman Turning Over Kitchen to Chef de Cuisine Tim Vidrio.

Since taking over what was a casual park café in 1999, Sherman has been the only executive chef North Pond.

“It’s with mixed emotions for sure…back then, I couldn’t have dreamt of all we’d achieve here, and I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished. The time feels right, there is a strong team in place and I look forward to seeing what the next twenty years bring – for the restaurant, and for me,” says Sherman.

Under his leadership, North Pond has received numerous awards and honors such as a Michelin star rating for seven consecutive years as well as multiple James Beard nominations and winning Best Chef: Great Lakes in 2012.

While he’ll no longer be running the kitchen, he will, along with longtime business partner Richard Mott, remain a partner. “I want to thank Bruce for all he’s done here. He’s been a great chef, partner and friend and I understand his desire to start a new chapter. We will all miss him, and equally, we’re excited to see Tim grow into this role,” states Mott.

Vidrio joined the North Pond team in early 2011 and for the past three years has been chef de cuisine.  Prior to joining North Pond, Vidrio worked his way through Chicagoland kitchens, including Le Francais, Moto, and NoMi at the Park Hyatt Hotel. He shares Sherman’s philosophy of respectfully and sustainably working with the best of the  season while maintaining close relationships with farmers, producers and growers. John Arents, who worked at North Pond some fifteen years ago, returns in December as Managing Partner/General Manager, and longtime GM Natalie Boschert will return from maternity leave in spring in an operations role.

North Pond serves dinner Wednesday — Sunday beginning at 5:30 p.m.; Sunday brunch service begins at 10:30 a.m. Smoking is not permitted in North Pond. Valet parking is available on weekends at the corner of Lakeview and Deming Streets and reservations are recommended. For reservations or further information, please call 773.477.5845 or visit North Pond.

Chef Sherman’s Winter Spinach-Apple Soup

  • 1 shallot, peeled, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 small onion, peeled, sliced thinly
  • 1 firm, sweet apple, peeled, cored, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove roasted garlic
  • 1 tbl. olive oil
  • 10 oz winter spinach
  • 1/3 heavy cream (optional)
  • 1 c chicken stock or water
  • nutmeg
  • cinnamon
  • cayenne pepper
  • salt and white pepper
  • 3 oz butter, chilled and cubed
Method

Heat a medium size Teflon (non-stick) pan over the fire and place the olive oil in it.
Add the sliced shallots, onion, apple and roasted garlic and stir for 2-3 minutes until softened but not colored.
Next, add in the washed baby spinach- stemmed, if necessary. Add in some salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg and then stir for 1-2 minutes until softened.
Add in cream and reduce by half until thickened.
Add the chicken or vegetable stock and heat until the liquid boils.
Transfer the mixture to a blender, add in the butter and puree until very smooth.
Transfer to a pot to heat through, adjust consistency and seasoning before serving.

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

Ricotta

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.

Herbsaint: A New, New Orleans Classic

I was in New Orleans this fall and stayed at the B&W Courtyards, a charming bed and breakfast on Chartres Street that is a collection of 1854 cottages joined together by cobblestone walkways and courtyards with pretty fountains and within walking distance of the French Quarter. The walking distance was lucky as New Orleans is so full of wonderful restaurants that a lot of walking is required to burn off some of the calories.gallery12

One of the restaurants I wanted to try was Herbsaint which is frequently named one of the best restaurants in the city (no easy feat) and whose executive chef/CEO Donald Link is a James Beard award winning chef.  Located at 701 Saint Charles Avenue it was a long walk from our B&B but New Orleans has a great trolley car system which took us from the French Quarter to Lafayette Square where Herbsaint is located. Link’s first cookbook, Real Cajun: Rustic Home Cooking from Donald Link’s Louisiana (Clarkson Potter) won the James Beard top award for Best American Cookbook. He has a new one out as well, Down South Bourbon, Pork, Gulf Shrimp & Second Helpings of Everything.

gallery8            The restaurant’s name, Herbsaint, comes from a favored New Orleans anise-flavored liqueur which dates back to the early 1930s and like other NOLA drinks such as Sazerac is enjoying a new popularity because of the popularity of vintage cocktails.

I thought it would be fun to share some of Herbsaint’s recipes that we tried. Needless to say, after dinner, we needed the long walk back to our B&B.gallery6

Herbsaint’s Shrimp Bisque

1 tablespoon butter

1 cup onion, chopped

1 cup celery, chopped

1/2 cup carrot, chopped

1/2 cup Scallions

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon cayenne

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups tomatoes, chopped

5 whole shrimp cut up with shells on

1 pint shrimp stock

1 pint Water

1/4 cup rice

1 sprig Tarragon

Dash of Brandy and Herbsaint

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon butter

In a heavy bottom sauce pot, sauté the onion, carrot, celery, and scallion with the spices until soft. Add tomatoes and shrimp and cook until tomatoes break down, about 15-20 minutes.

Add shrimp stock and water and simmer an additional 10 minutes then add the rice and cook another 15 minutes. Add the tarragon about 5 minutes before removing soup to strain. Put soup in small batches in a blender and blend until smooth, then strain.  Return to heat and finish with a dash of brandy and Herbsaint, salt, cream, and butter.

Chef’s note: A little hot sauce never hurts.

Herbsaint’s Coconut Cream Tart with Macadamia Nut Crust

Crust

1 cup dry-roasted macadamia nuts

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1/3 cup sugar

1 large egg yolk

Filling

2 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream, divided

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

3/4 cup sugar, divided

2 tablespoons cornstarch

3 large egg yolks

1 cup medium shredded unsweetened coconut

Purchased caramel sauce

Optional Fresh Fruits

Raspberries

Blackberries

Pineapple

Mango

For Crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread macadamia nuts on rimmed baking sheet. Bake until light golden brown, about 6 minutes. Cool.

Place cooled nuts, flour, and salt in processor. Using on/off turns, process until nuts are finely ground. Using electric mixer, beat butter and sugar in medium bowl to blend. Beat in yolk. Add nut mixture; beat until blended.

Press into 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Trim excess dough overhang. Pierce all over with fork. Cover and chill overnight.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake crust until golden brown, pressing on bottom of crust with back of spoon if bubbles form, about 26 minutes. Cool completely.

For Filling: Heat 1 1/2 cups cream in heavy medium saucepan. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean into pan; add bean. Bring just to boil, remove from heat, cover, and let stand 15 minutes.

Return vanilla cream just to boil. Whisk 1/2 cup sugar and cornstarch in medium bowl to blend. Whisk sugar mixture into vanilla cream. Whisk yolks in large bowl to blend; gradually whisk hot vanilla cream into yolk mixture.

Return mixture to saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat until mixture boils and becomes thick, stirring constantly, about 3 minutes. Transfer pastry cream to medium bowl. Press plastic wrap directly onto surface of pastry cream. Refrigerate until cold and firm, at least 4 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread coconut on rimmed baking sheet. Bake until lightly toasted, about 10 minutes. Cool completely.

Whisk remaining 1 cup cream and 1/4 cup sugar in large bowl until peaks form. Whisk in pastry cream. Continue whisking by hand until thoroughly combined. Gradually stir in coconut. Spoon mixture into cooled tart crust. Cover and refrigerate tart at least 1 hour and up to 8 hours.

Cut tart into wedges and serve with caramel sauce and fresh fruit.

herbsaint.com

 

King Solomon’s Table: A Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World

            For her book King Solomon’s Table: A Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World (Alfred A. Knopf 2017; $35), Joan Nathan, the multiple James Beard award winner, followed in the footsteps of Jewish traders as they circumvented the globe centuries and even millenniums ago. As they traveled, they brought the food cultures from the lands they’d visited before and adapted new ones but keeping close to their dietary laws, traditions and homelands.Joan Nathan (c) Gabriela Herman (1)

            Nathan, who has written almost a dozen cookbooks, recounts the culinary history and geography of these early travelers in her sumptuous new book featuring over 170 recipes.

            It begins at the Paradesi Synagogue in Kochi, Kerala where Nathan spies an inscription indicating Jewish traders might have crossed the Indian Ocean from Judea to India during the reign of King Solomon. Already a world traveler, Nathan next made her way to Chendamangalam, a hamlet 20 miles north of Kochi surrounded by a lush landscape of mango, coconut and cinnamon trees and pepper and cardamom vines.

            “As I walked toward the bank of the nearby Periyar River, which flows into the Arabian Sea, I imagined ancient Hebrew adventurers and traders arriving on the shores and marveling at the lushness of the terrain,” writes Nathan in the introduction of her book.

            And so we too are seduced by her journey into exotic lands, looking at how foods and ingredients have crisscrossed the globe originating far from where we first might have thought.

            We chat about Malai, a Romanian cornmeal ricotta breakfast pudding that she features in her book and I tell her how I learned to make a polenta-like dish from my Romanian grandmother.

            “Oh mamaliga,” she says, like everyone knows about mamaliga.  But then what would you expect from a woman whose book contains five recipes for haroset, a thick sauce or paste typically made of chopped fruits and nuts. It, like so many recipes, has morphed, bouncing back and forth between countries and continents, each time being tweaked just a little and Nathan includes a version from Brazil, Persia, Ferrara and, of all places, Maine.

            Asked what recipes she’d recommend for those just starting using her cookbook, Nathan suggests Yemenite Chicken Soup with Dill, Cilantro and Parsley (“a really old recipe,” she says noting that historic records dating back to 12th century the healing power of chicken broth). She also suggests Malai, the Romania dish and Roman Ricotta Cheese Crostata with Cherries or Chocolate, a cheesecake recipe dating back to Imperial Rome in the 1st century. She also included a recipe from her friend, her friend Injy Farat-Lew, an Egyptian-Jew who grew up in Cairo and Paris, for a flourless chocolate cake and one for hard boiled eggs traditionally served ruing Passover on the Seder plate but can be used as a side for any meal.

            “This recipe for long-cooked eggs with spinach came from the island of Corfu, Greece to Ancona, Italy, a seaport on the Adriatic coast,” writes Nathan, who first taste the dish in Rome, in the introduction to this recipe which also exemplifies the convoluted origins of food.

            As she traveled (Nathan says her quest took her to approximately 30 countries over a six-year time span), the scope of her book changed. But it was all part of her culinary journey and one she continues to take.

 

Huevos Haminados con Spinaci

(Long-Cooked Hard-Boiled Eggs with Spinach)

 

Yield: 12 servings

 

12 large eggs, preferably fresh from a farmers’ market

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 cups red onion (about 1 large), peeled and chopped coarsely

1 tablespoon sea salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 pounds spinach, fresh or frozen (thawed and drained if frozen)

 

Put the eggs in a cooking pot and add water to cover by about 2 inches. Then add the olive oil, onions, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Cool and remove the eggs with a slotted spoon. Tap the eggs gently against the counter and peel under cold running water, keeping them as whole as possible.

 

Return the peeled eggs to the pot with the seasoned water and simmer very slowly uncovered for at least 2 hours, or until the water is almost evaporated and the onions almost dissolved. The eggs will become dark and creamy as the cooking water evaporates and they absorb all the flavoring.

 

Remove the eggs carefully to a bowl, rubbing into the cooking liquid any of the cream that forms on the outside. Heat the remaining cooking liquid over medium heat, bring to a simmer, and add the spinach. Cook the spinach until most of the liquid is reduced, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, about 30 minutes, or until the spinach is creamy and well cooked. Serve a dollop of spinach with a hard-boiled egg on top as the first part of the Seder meal or as a first course of any meat.

 

Flourless Chocolate Cake

 

8 ounces good bittersweet chocolate

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter or coconut oil

6 large eggs, separated

3/4 cup sugar

Pinch of salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

Unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting

Raspberries and blueberries for topping

Whipped cream or ice cream (optional)

Directions

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and butter a 9-or 10-inch spring-form pan with spray, or a little of the butter or coconut oil.

 

Melt the chocolate and the butter or coconut oil in a double-boiler or in a microwave for a little more than a minute. Let cool.

 

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer using the whip attachment, beat the egg whites with 1/2 cup of the sugar and the salt until soft peaks form. In a separate bowl, whip the yolks with the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and vanilla. Using a spatula, slowly stir in the chocolate in the egg yolk mixture. Then carefully fold in the egg whites. Don’t overmix or it will deflate.

 

Bake for 28 to 35 minutes, or until the cake is fully set around the edges. You want it to be slightly gooey in the center.

 

Let cool in the pan for a few minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely, and dust with cocoa.

 

Serve topped with berries and, if you like, with whipped cream or ice cream.

 

Yields 8 to 10 servings

 

Above recipes courtesy of Joan Nathan “King Solomon’s Table.”

 

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.

Bourbon and Southern Cooking at the Historic Beaumont Inn

Robert E. Lee CakeWhen I arrive in the new bourbon tasting room at the historic Beaumont Inn, there are already set-ups of four bottles of bourbon with empty glasses in front of each. Master Blender Dixon Dedman, who with his parents own the inn which has been in their family since 1917, is famed for his bourbon tastings as well as his revival of the bourbon his great great grandfather, Charles Dedman, who in 1880 started up what would become one of the largest distilleries in the state, until before Prohibition shut it down.

In other words, Dedman is a bourbon expert and I am someone who in my college days mixed the spirit with diet cola. But not this evening. Dedman is going to teach me how to taste the “terroir” of bourbon meaning the type of land here—limestone rock and natural springs that give a special flavor to the wheat, corn and rye used to make bourbon. There is, I note, no diet cola anywhere in sight.

“When they char the barrel it releases the sugars and caramelizes it,” Dedman says as he pours Pappy Van Winkle, a 20-year old bourbon named in tribute to Julius Van Winkle by his grandson and great grandson who are carrying on the family tradition.

That’s important because Pappy Van Winkle is a wheated bourbon which means it contains no rye  and thus gets its flavor from the interaction with the barrel.

“Focus on where you’re tasting it,” he says. “That’s how you build your palate.”

Because it’s wheated,  which means, Dedman tells me, you can taste it in the front of your mouth.

Pappy Van Winkle has almost a cult like following says Dedman.

“When they’re going to release it, people sit in their cars in front of liquor stores for two days to get a bottle,” he says.

At this point, I know I can’t ask for a can of diet cola.ky-owl-bourbon-e1505438614307.jpg

The next taste is a sip of Four Roses Al Young 50th Anniversary. Now I remember Four Roses as a cheap bourbon—the kind you do mix with soda pop particularly at college dorm parties but its roots go back 130 years. The brand was allowed to languish and almost disappeared until Al Young, Senior Brand manager with 50 years of experience in the bourbon biz, was allowed to bring it back to its glory. He has several blends which are based on patented yeast strains he’s developed. The taste of this bourbon comes from the yeast strains and rye and Dixon says to pay attention to its finish on the back on the mouth.Cornmeal cakes witht beaten biscuits

When Dixon was working on developing Kentucky Owl he wanted to emulate the complexity of Four Roses. Later this month, he’ll be releasing his Kentucky Owl Batch # 7, the seventh of his limited release bourbons.

“It’s an 11-year old Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey and it’s exactly what a Rye Whiskey should be,” Dixon writes on Kentucky Owl’s Facebook page. “I put this blend together and bottled it at 110.6 proof. It’s a full-flavored rye perfect for the coming fall weather.”

Barrel aging can produce bourbons with a high proof count but then before they’re bottled, they’re watered down to around 80 proof. But Dixon wasn’t about to do that to Kentucky Owl.

“It’s full flavored,” he said about this batch of Kentucky Owl and it sure was. “You can’t hide anything in barrel proofed whiskeys.”

Later, when I’m in the dining room ordering dinner—the Classic Beaumont Inn fried yellow leg chicken, beaten biscuits, country ham—I glance at the bourbon list. I read that Dixon’s Batch #6 costs $40 a glass and am glad I didn’t ask for a diet cola. Not just because I would have looked stupid but also because I had begun to get a sense of how to appreciate a great bourbon.

Beaumont Classic DinnerBut the Beaumont Inn is about more than Kentucky Owl. It was built in 1845 as a girl’s school and was bought by Dixon’s great great grandmother in 1917. Two years later she turned it into an inn. Many of the recipes on the menu and in their cookbook have been favorites since they first opened including, fried green tomatoes, house made pimento cheese, traditional Kentucky Hot Brown, corn meal batter cakes with brown sugar syrup and the General E. Lee Orange Lemon Cake.

The latter, my waiter told me, was such a favorite of the general that he carried the recipe in his breast pocket. I guess that was in case anyone asked if they could bake a cake for him. I, of course, had to order that despite being a northern girl, and it was delicious—very light with a distinct sugary citrus taste. The lightness I discovered later was because the cake flour used in the recipe is sifted eight times.

The food at the Beaumont Inn is so good that a few years ago they won the James Beard America’s Classic Award which is given to “restaurants with timeless appeal, each beloved in its region for quality food that reflects the character of its community. Establishments must have been in existence for at least ten years and be locally owned.”

The inn itself is beautiful, all polished wood and thick carpets, antique furniture and the timeless grace of a wonderfully kept three-story historic mansion with an exterior of red brick and tall white columns. Located in Harrodsburg, the oldest city in Kentucky, it sits on a rise on several rolling, beautifully landscaped acres. I mentioned Duncan Hines a few weeks ago when I was writing about Claudia Sanders Dinner House in Shelbyville, Kentucky well, Duncan was here quite a bit too and I can see why.

“Now write this down for the people in Kentucky,” he told a reporter back in 1949. “[Say] I’ll be happy to get home and eat two-year-old ham, cornbread, beaten biscuits, pound cake, yellow-leg fried chicken, and corn pudding. And you can say what I think is the best eating place in Kentucky: Beaumont Inn at Harrodsburg.”

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Beaumont Inn

The food here is real Kentucky fare–Weisenberger meal from a seventh generation mill not far from here, Meacham hams which the Dedmans bring to maturation in their own aging house—a process that takes several years and, of course, Great Great Grandpappy’s Kentucky Owl.

The following recipes are courtesy of the Beaumont Inn Special Recipes, their cookbook now in its sixth edition.

Corn Pudding 

2 cups white whole kernel corn, or fresh corn cut off the cob
4 eggs
8 level tablespoons flour
1 quart milk
4 rounded teaspoons sugar
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt

Stir into the corn, the flour, salt, sugar, and butter. Beat the eggs well; put them into the milk, then stir into the corn and put into a pan or Pyrex dish. Bake in oven at 450 degrees for about 40-45 minutes.

Stir vigorously with long prong fork three times, approximately 10 minutes apart while baking, disturbing the top as little as possible.

Country Ham Salad

6 cups chopped aged country ham

1 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup chopped red pepper

1/2 cup chopped purple onion

1.5 cups chopped sweet pickle

2 chopped hard boiled eggs

2 tablespoons of whole grain mustard

Hellman’s Mayonnaise to your liking.

Note: This is great on crackers, finger sandwiches with a thin slice of homegrown tomato, toasted open faced sandwiches with tomato and a melted slice of your favorite cheese or as an appetizer – toasted crostini, ham spread, thin slice of homegrown tomato topped with shredded parmesan cheese run under the broiler.

Corn Meal Batter Cakes

1 cup corn meal

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/4 cups buttermilk

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs, beaten

2 tablespoons bacon drippings or shortening

Sift meal, soda and salt together. Add beaten eggs, then buttermilk. Beat until smooth. Dip a tablespoon of batter (or a bit more) onto a greased hot griddle. Let brown on bottom, then turn quickly and lightly to brown on other side. Serve with Brown Sugar syrup.

Makes about 10-12 good-sized cakes.

Brown Sugar Syrup

2 pounds light brown sugar

3 cups cold water

Mix sugar and water well. Bring to a hard boil for 10 minutes. Do not stir after placing over heating element as stirring or agitating will cause syrup to go to sugar

General Robert E. Lee Orange-Lemon Cake

9 Eggs, separated

a few grains salt

2 cups cake flour, sifted twice before measuring

2 cups white sugar, sift 6 times

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 lemon, juice

Grated rind (yellow part only)

1/2 cup vegetable oil

Beat egg yolks to creamy texture; beat egg whites until stiff. Add baking powder and tartar to flour and sift six times. Mix all ingredients together. Divide batter into four greased 9-inch cake pans. Bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes. Turn cakes upside down on a rack until cool.

Spread Orange-Lemon Frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake. Store in refrigerator until serving time. Garnish with orange slices and fresh mint leaves if desired.

Orange-Lemon Frosting

¼ pound butter, softened

3 egg yolks

2 (16 ounce) packages powdered sugar, sifted

4 oranges, rind of, grated

2 lemons, rind of, grated

4 tablespoons lemon juice

6-8 tablespoons orange juice

Cream butter; add egg yolks and beat well. Add powdered sugar and grated rind alternately with juices, beating well.

Original “Robert E. Lee” Cake

Twelve eggs, their full weight in sugar, a half-weight in flour. Bake it in pans the thickness of jelly cakes. Take two pounds of nice “A” sugar, squeeze into it the juice of five oranges and three lemons together with the pulp; stir it in the sugar until perfectly smooth; then spread it on the cakes, as you would do jelly, putting one above another till the whole of the sugar is used up. spread a layer of it on top and on sides.

638 Beaumont Inn Drive, Harrodsburg, KY. (859) 734-3381; beaumontinn.com