Friday, August 31, 2007

using up that sauce .....

spicy bean curd salad

this easy-to-make "salad" is one of the things you can throw together with the peanut butter sauce shown in the previous posting. it is best when served right away but can be refrigerated. if you do keep it in the fridge, serve it at room temperature and add a bit more of the sauce to revitalize it. it makes for a good workday high protein salad or side dish.

serves 2 - 4, depending on portion size


1/2 lb extra firm tofu, cubed 1/2" x 1/2"
2 tbsp oil
2 cooked ears of corn (or 2/3 c canned)
1/2 medium onion, chopped
3 tbsp roasted peanuts, chopped
1 to 3 tsp roasted sesame seeds
leaves of a few stalks of cilantro, chopped finely
1/3 to 1/2 c peanut butter sauce


1/2 red bell pepper, chopped or sliced thinly
chopped green scallions

salt, to taste
extra hot sauce (sriracha)
toasted sesame oil


cube tofu and fry briefly over medium heat in about 2 tbsp oil, stirring often until browned on all sides. it will take about 10 minutes. drain on paper towel. it does not suck up tons of oil, so don't worry about frying it.

discard the oil and brown the corn until slightly caramelized/coloured.

in the same pan, brown the peanuts and sesame seeds (golden brown colour) and place on a plate to cool.

chop onion and set aside. chop the scallion and bell pepper if using. then chop the cilantro last.

mix all the ingredients together in a bowl.

add the sauce and mix again.

taste and add salt if necessary. i also add extra hot sauce sometimes (sriracha). let sit about 10 to 15 minutes for everything to blend.


easy multi-purpose asian salad dressing

peanut butter sauces have always been one of my favourites, especially when smothering a plateful of vegetarian pan-fried szechuan dumplings or dressing up a spicy chicken & napa cabbage salad. thankfully, i have no allergies to peanut products like so many people today seem to have. gone are the days when (almost) every kid brought peanut butter sandwiches to school for lunch.

so, if you are in a peanut-friendly house and can safely enjoy sauces and salad dressings like this, it makes for a nice change from the everyday oil and vinegar based kind — especially since this one is considered to be calorie reduced.

tangy 'n spicy peanut butter sauce

this sauce is quite versatile as it can be used as a salad dressing, a sauce for a pasta salad, a dipping sauce for vegetables, a compliment to asian dumplings or whatever else the mind conjures up. quite light, in comparison to other kinds of peanut butter-based sauces, this one is taken from one of the many moosewood cookbooks which, for the most part, always seems to have quite decent recipes. the following version is considered to be a calorie-reduced one as it uses water and tomato instead of introducing any more oil.

makes about 1 cup


4 tbsp smooth peanut butter
2 - 4 tbsp water (start with 2 T)
1 large clove garlic
1 green chili, seeds removed
2 tbsp rice vinegar or regular type
1 tbsp honey or brown rice syrup
1 tbsp soy sauce (dark or japanese type)
1/4 c diced tomato (don't omit)
1 inch cube fresh ginger
2 tsp lemon or lime juice


coarsely chop (or mince if your blender is not that strong) the ginger, garlic and green chili. decide beforehand how hot you want it -- perhaps start with half the chili, if you don't like things too hot.

place all in a blender or food processor and blend until completely smooth. add the extra 2 T of water, if needed. taste and adjust. it shouldn't need salt as it comes from the soy sauce (unless you are using low sodium type).

keep in the refrigerator.


Thursday, August 30, 2007

..... can you please pass the corn chips?

salsa is just one of those things that never seems to go out of style.

always best friends with the traditional corn tortilla chips used to scoop it up, salsa can also be used as an accompaniment to a variety of main dishes, and is especially good with fish. (who knew these best-selling chips were actually an american "invention"!? errr .... well, latino-american, that is).

called salsa cruda in spanish — literally translating to "raw (uncooked) sauce" — there is certainly nothing "raw" about this spicy concoction. it is one of those things that takes almost no time to prepare and uses up tomatoes that are so abundant in the month of august and the first weeks of september (at least where i live!).

the following recipe is just a guideline for the most basic form of this quick and easy appetizer, easily tailored to one's taste with any number of additions. there are myriad recipes for making salsa and everyone seems to have his or her own twist.

so, with that said, put on your dance shoes and salsa your way into the kitchen and whip up a batch today. if you can wait, it always tastes better after a few hours or the next day.

salsa cruda

don't waste your money on store-bought, cooked tasting salsa! only a few everyday ingredients, coarsely chopped and stirred together, result in a piquant mixture which is terribly hard to stop eating, especially where corn chips are involved. as everyone has a different tolerance level for how spicy (hot) they like it, know your audience — flames coming out of one's mouth and nostrils is usually a look best reserved for dragons.


2 medium to large sized ripened tomatoes (firm)
1/2 small onion
1 clove garlic
1 small jalapeno pepper (seeds removed, if wanted) OR,
1 - 3 tsp hot sauce (or tobasco sauce, etc.)
several stalks of fresh coriander, leaves and soft stems

1/2 lemon or 1 small lime
1 tsp salt
a few grinds of black pepper (opt)


1 ear fresh corn, cooked OR 1/2 c canned
1/2 c diced green bell pepper


chop the tomatoes into 1/4 inch pieces and place in a bowl.

mince the clove of garlic and chop the onion and chili pepper. if not using the hot pepper, add the hot sauce. place in a bowl.

add the salt.

chop the cilantro, leaves and soft stems, and add along with the lemon or lime juice.

mix well.

add corn and/or green pepper, if wanted.

chill and serve.


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

pink and crunchy!

preserving vegetables, especially when at their best, is something that has been done globally for centuries. while the methods and ingredients to do so range from country to country, the end result is always the same — vegetables of all kinds saved for the weeks and months to come while at the height of their availability and freshness.

one of the easiest preserved vegetables to make are the very popular blushing pink turnips eaten with all kinds of middle eastern mezze and, of course, the very item that makes up the unmistakable crunchy element of falafel sandwiches.

i have heard many people become disappointed when they attempt to make these pickles because they end up with blood red turnips. recipes for this popular condiment often include almost equal amounts of beets in proportion to turnip. this is because the beets are included as a main ingredient and not a colouring agent — the colour of the turnips is besides the point.

if it's that light pink you're after, then ....

most, if not all, recipes for making torshi lift pickles call for inordinate amounts of beets which render the final turnips a crimson red for the above stated reason and not that pink that one is used to seeing (like those served at restaurants). some places, i have been told, actually dye the turnips that colour with a little red food grade colouring. to naturally get a light red or pinkish blush to the pickled turnips, one must not be so heavy handed on the beets, unless of course you like them dark red.

these pickles take a good two weeks (and up to three) to be ready, so make them as a fun sunday afternoon-type project and enjoy watching them go from white to a pinkish red as the days progress. you can also take out the piece(s) of beetroot when you have the colour you like, just make sure to do it with a sterile fork or knife. i'd cut through one of the turnip pieces first to check if it's coloured all the way through, however.

to make these you need a glass jar that can accommodate at least 4 cups of water. it must be perfectly and absolutely clean to prevent possibility of bacterial growth (which almost never happens when things are clean).

one last thing before i forget, the turnips used here are the small white-fleshed ones. don't use the large yellow-fleshed rutabaga type.

pickled pink turnips — torshi lift
טורשי לפת (לפת כבושה) — مخلل لف


3 small turnips (size of a small fist)
1 - 2 smallish sized beets (i highly suggest using only 1)
4 to 5 cloves garlic, whole
1 1/2 tbsp kosher (coarse) salt
3 - 3 1/2 c cold water

note: i do not use vinegar in mine. if you want it, add about 1/3 - 1/2 c of white vinegar, reducing that amount in water.


peel the beets. slice them into 3/4 inch slices.

place the slices on their sides and cut again into 1/2 inch slices. you will have finger shapes and 1/2 moon shapes from the end pieces.

peel the cloves of garlic and then take your knife and cut each clove crosswise but not all the way through (approximately 3/4 of the way through). this gives a more pronounced garlic flavour to the pickles. set aside.

in your jar, place the turnips and then the garlic on top.

now under running water, peel the beet(s) UNCOOKED, but watch it — the water can splash and stain your clothes so wear stuff you don't care about or an apron.

cut the beet(s) in half or quarters OR into slices. you can add the half or the whole beet (or both if using 2), depending on the size. the fewer and larger the pieces, the lighter a pink colour it will be. you'll have to experiment as i can't tell you exactly how much to add. the flip side is that not enough will result in no colour at all. take note that if you cut the beets into 3/8" slices, or something around that thickness, you increase the surface area and release more of the beets' pigment (this is how i most usually do it (with one very small beet only)).

add the beet on top the vegetables.

add the salt and then fill with the cold water. you need enough to cover the vegetables. note that they will float after but don't worry about it.

now tightly seal the jar and shake for a good minute to dissolved the salt.

place on your counter near the window and shake once a day for two to two and a half weeks. store the pickles in the fridge afterwards. they will last several months that way.


Sunday, August 26, 2007

moses in a what?!

these aren't exactly hi-brow menu items but they do fit the bill when you have to feed finicky youngsters or want something different for a (kids' birthday) party. being in this predicament not too long ago, i resorted to this always successful stand-by. interestingly, i haven't seen too many adults turn them down, either ;)

but before you stop reading, these aren't JUST for the young'uns .... cut into smaller bite-size pieces, they can make great snacks at a get-together, especially when served with all kinds of interesting sauces and chutneys. served in their full size, they can form part of a simple everyday meal.

taking the same idea from the popular party snacks, chazzer (oink oinks) "p*gs in a blanket", this is the kosher-ized version of it. since calling them pigs just wouldn't go over too well at any (observant) jewish function, someone renamed them as "moshé b'teyváh" which, translated from hebrew, means "moses in a crib (ark)". whatever you want to call them, people eat these up like no tomorrow!

while traditionally made with meat, like sausages or hotdogs, they can also be made completely vegan or vegetarian, depending on the ingredients you choose to use. if you can get hold of a parve (non-animal product) puff pastry and use tofu dogs, the pastries can be sealed and coated with water and a bit of cornstarch instead of the egg. otherwise, use a butter based puff pastry and the egg wash to make a vegetarian version. if using meat, and you follow kashrut, then i don't really have to tell you what to do :)

moshé b'teyváh — משה בתיבה
hotdogs in puff pastry ( נקנקיות בבצק עלים)

serve these alongside some un-fried fries and coleslaw, and you'll feel a bit less guilty enjoying something so good. these easy-to-make pastry-covered "dogs" are simple to throw together and look pretty good too, once all is said and done. all you need to do is roll, wrap & bake!


1/2 to 1 lb puff pastry dough* (parve or regular)
6 to 12 hotdogs or sausages (meat or tofu type)

dijon or regular mustard, optional

1 egg yolk + 2 tsp water (or cornstarch and water)
sesame seeds

*use 1/2 lb for every 6 hotdogs


cut the pastry into two equal sections if using 1 lb amount.

roll the pastry out to a 15" x "10 rectangle (approximately) with enough flour to prevent sticking.

cut the pastry down the center lengthwise.

take one piece of the pastry and fold it up billfold-style to gauge 3 equal sections (i.e fold over left side and then right side on top of that). equalize it so that all the edges meet.

unfold the right side and cut it.

open the remaining piece and cut it right down the center.

stack the pieces. lightly dust with flour in between each one to prevent sticking.

beat the egg yolk with the water or make cornstarch mixture and set aside. get the mustard ready; the kind in a squeeze bottle is easiest. open up and separate the hotdogs or sausages you are using.

have a plate nearby and prepare your baking pan (line it with foil and lightly grease it all over).

place a piece of the pastry on the plate and brush the top and bottom of one side with the egg wash. squeeze out a line of mustard* or spoon it on in the center of the pastry. you don't need a lot and do not go to the ends, leave about a 1/2 inch on either side.

*for adults, you can replace the mustard with a spice mix (or even leave it out), like a hot cajun one. just sprinkle it all over the pastry after coating it with the egg or cornstarch mix and roll it up.

place the hotdog or tofu dog on top of the mustard and roll up the pastry.

place them on another plate for holding if not using right away, smooth side down, or directly on the baking sheet with the overlapping edges facing the bottom. you can make them beforehand, cover and refrigerate until baking. if doing so, flour the bottom of the plate so they don't stick when it comes around to removing them.

otherwise, heat the oven to 400 F.

with the rest of the egg wash, paint the pastry well and coat with sesame seeds.

bake the pastries for about 25 minutes or until done (golden brown).

serving with more mustard and ketchup or any kind of interesting condiment like a sweet and sour sauce or spicy chutney. (these also reheat well, wrapped in foil @ 300 F.)

hot diggity-dog :)


Friday, August 24, 2007

kitchen essentials — making your own self r(a)ising flour

often, i will come across a recipe which asks for self-raising (rising) flour — something which i'd never buy since i don't really ever use enough of it to warrant buying a whole bag and besides, i can make it myself in the quantity that i need. i also don't necessarily trust that the rising agent is at its best.

there are different "recipes" for making your own and all seem to differ slightly. after having tried several variations, i still go back to this one which blends both regular all purpose flour and cake flour.

an important issue with this type of flour is to check to make sure that your baking powder is still efficacious. often, if we don't bake on a regular basis, we buy a batch and it sits in the pantry and goes past its best before date.

....and what exactly is the difference between self-raising flour and self-rising flour?? same thing, different country ;)

making seLF-RAising flour at home

either make as needed or throw a batch together and keep in the fridge or freezer for later use. i wouldn't recommend keeping this on your pantry shelf for more than 3 months as its efficacy will deteriorate, the longer it sits — especially in the heat of the summer or humid conditions.

makes 2 cups


1 1/4 c all purpose flour
3/4 c cake flour*
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp fine sea salt

*note that you can use only all purpose flour but it is, in my opinion, best to include it. the cake flour helps to lower the protein content, giving a more tender finished texture to the baked goods.


mix all ingredients together and use as indicated in your recipe.

you can keep this on hand, in the freezer or refrigerator for longer term use, if you use it regularly in your baking.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

double duty oatmeal cookies

here are two versions for simple oatmeal cookies. both are wonderful. what more is there to say?

oatmeal & chocolate chip cookies

these cookies are a cross between oatmeal (cookies) and chocolate chip ones. they are thin, soft and chewy, like the best chocolate chip cookies always are and take no time, at all, to throw together. it's the kind of recipe that is great to keep in your repertoire — you can even freeze the unbaked cookie dough after measuring it out in tablespoons and pop them in the oven when you need or want them. whether you make them parve (non dairy) or with butter, both taste great! these are at their ultimate best when baked & eaten the same day.

makes about 26


1/2 c shortening or margarine or butter
1/2 c white sugar
1/2 c (light) brown sugar, packed
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 tbsp orange juice or water or milk

1 c AP flour
1 c regular oatmeal (rolled type)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda

(measure all dry ingredients and place in one bowl)

1/2 c chocolate chips or morsels
you can also add nuts, dried fruit, coconut, etc....


measure shortening or butter and place in bowl. also measure the sugars and dry ingredients and set aside.

beat the shortening or butter until light. add the sugar and mix well. then add the egg, 1 tbsp of liquid and the vanilla and incorporate.

mix the dry ingredients all together. add it to the wet mixture in 3 additions. mix just until blended. don't do as i did — answer the phone and forget the egg! well, at least, it went in and wasn't forgotten completely.

if using chocolate chips or the other optional ingredients, add them in until blended.

preheat oven to 350F

on either a lightly oiled baking sheet or parchment lined one, place tablespoons of the batter and flatten it somewhat with a fork. make sure to leave space between the cookies as they will expand quite a bit even though they look quite small in the uncooked state.

bake for exactly 11 minutes. they should hardly change colour. if they are golden brown your oven is too hot. cook them for less time or lower the temperature.

remove from the oven and let sit for about 3 minutes to firm up a bit. they are too fragile to take off the baking sheet immediately. place them on a rack to cool further.

tip: these can be rejuvenated by placing in the microwave for 10 to 20 seconds, depending on the strength of your microwave oven.

* * * * *

special ingredient oatmeal cookies

this version is different from most as it contains a package of vanilla pudding mix. it makes great cookies. some people add raisins — i never do.

makes 3 to 3 1/2 dozen


1 1/4 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 c margarine
1/4 c white sugar
3/4 c packed brown sugar
1 pkg (4 serving size) vanilla pudding* mix
2 eggs
3 1/2 c regular oatmeal

*you can make your own also or just use storebought

(osem, dr oetker, etc are K)

**if making your own mix, as per above, either add a chopped up vanilla bean to the mix (or a few packages of vanilla sugar), or add
~ 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract to the cookie dough mix.


mix flour with baking soda.

combine margarine, sugars and pudding mix in large bowl; beat until smooth and creamy.

beat in eggs.

gradually add flour mixture, then stir in oats (batter will be stiff).

drop by rounded teaspoons onto greased baking sheets about 2 inches apart.

bake at 375F for 10-12 minutes.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

short 'n salty — a buttery teatime snack

these are not really crackers but more pleasantly salty and buttery shortbread pastries, somewhat comparable to cookies. called galettes salées, these delicate moroccan (sephardic) dainties are studded with sesame seeds and aniseed and commonly kept in a tin in many a kitchen. some of my friends' grandmothers usually keep tons of these frozen after their weekly baking frenzies, maintaining a steady supply for always hungry grandchildren (and adults!) .

they are fairly simple and straightforward to make but do take a bit of patience as there is mixing, rolling, cutting and docking involved, not to mention baking! don't let that deter you from trying your hand at these, however. using a food processor makes a fast and painless execution of putting everything together. if you don't have a processor, they can still be made by hand or standard mixer.

the following recipe is from a cookbook (a joan nathan one, i think — have it [recipe] scribbled on a recipe card) and almost exactly identical to my original, given to me many years ago by a good friend's aunt. as i seem to have misplaced that one, this will be second best — but in no way less worth making. there is virtually little, if any, difference in taste when all is said and done. this recipe has 2 tbsp of the now considered no-no of shortening (transfat blah blah blah; haven't died yet from it and 2 tbsp won't kill you). i'm not sure what the result of using only butter will be but i'm quite satisfied with the outcome of the ingredients listed below, transfat or no transfat.

and now for the recipe ....

les (petites) galettes salées

good for those times when you want something savoury rather than sweet, these are buttery , salty and short-crusted ..... quite different from your normal snack. what makes them north african (moroccan) is the use of both sesame and anise seeds, common in many such baked goods, from breads to both sweet and savoury cookies and pastries.

makes 22 to 24 galettes (i suggest doubling or tripling recipe)


4 tbsp butter*, unsalted (@ room temp)
2 tbsp vegetable shortening
2 tsp sugar

*you can use parve margarine; it turns out good but don't expect the same final flavour you'll get from butter

1 egg yolk

2 tsp sesame seeds
1 - 1 ½ tsp anise seeds
3/4 tsp (kosher) salt
2 tsp baking powder

1 c flour, divided in 1/3 cups

2 tbsp very cold water


in processor or with mixer, cream together the butter, shortening, and sugar.

add the egg yolk, seeds, salt, and baking powder and mix well until incorporated.

add the flour in three additions.

by the end of the third addition, it should be a sandy and crumbly mixture.

add the water in two additions and PULSE the mixture until it comes together. do not overwork the dough. if using a mixer, mix enough until it comes into a ball, more or less.

after second tablespoon of water (pulse only 2 or 3 times):

it is important for the final texture that you don't knead the dough at all.

place the dough in a bowl and refrigerate it, covered, for 25 to 30 minutes.

preheat oven to 400 F.

take the dough and shape it into either a round or a rectangle or square.

place it on a well floured surface, and roll out the dough until it is about 3/8" thick. you may find it more convenient to roll out the dough on the piece of parchment you'll be baking on. you can also use an extra piece of either wax paper or parchment to cover the dough and roll it out. this is a little easier for the beginner or those who have problems making pastries.

either use a knife or a fluted pastry roller (cutter) and square off the rough edges. place the scraps in a bowl and cover it. to use them up, see the end of this recipe.

cut out your shapes — you can make squares, rectangles, fingers, or diamonds (if you've rolled it out in the round). you can also use cookie cutters.

take a fork and dock the galettes all over. you can also take a knife and make little cuts to make a pattern. you must either dock or cut the dough so it will not puff in the oven. there is a special cutter for galettes which looks like a pastry wheel and is used to decorate these kinds of pastries; it is a specialty item (not available in north america that i know of), so just use a knife or prick all over with the tines of fork.

separate the galettes carefully and place them equidistant on your baking sheet. bake the galettes for only 20 minutes or just until they are lightly browned and golden coloured. they must not brown.

let the galettes cool. be careful, as they are very delicate until they cool.

usually served with tea.


i suggest keeping these in the fridge or freezer to keep them at their best. they don't fare too well, taste-wise, sitting out in a warm kitchen for several days, in my opinion.

burekaboy's recipe extra:

how to use up those scraps effectively

this method for reworking scraps of pastry is good for all kinds of dough (pie dough, cookie dough, etc) . it does not incorporate any extra flour and is the least brutal on the dough with respect to rolling, two things which often result in inferior secondary baked goods. if your dough is very high in fat or moisture, you may need a bit of flour, however. key to success is keeping the scraps somewhat chilled and not working the pastry remnants at all.

take a piece of wax paper, no flour needed in this instance, and fold it in half (place the scraps in a little mound).

fold the wax paper or parchment over and start to roll. DO NOT KNEAD THE SCRAPS BEFOREHAND!

roll it out to the appropriate thickness.

open up the wax paper, recut the dough and proceed as explained above or in your recipe.

neat, clean, easy ;)