Tuesday, December 28, 2010

SPARKLE IN THE NEW YEAR



Any Reason to Toast is a Good One


While New Year’s is not a Jewish Holiday-I am always happy to raise a glass and join friends and loved ones in a toast. The collective hope for good health, happiness, peace and prosperity is always welcome and I do not ever hesitate to join in. This past year especially has been a trying one for many people throughout the world and I for one am happy to see the secular year of 2010 pass.

I love celebratory gatherings and do not need my arm twisted to come up with reasons to make a festive meal. The double Whammy of Shabbat and New Year’s is certainly a reason for a fun and delicious meal and I am all in.

Sangria Sparkler
It is citrus season and the fresh and dazzling taste of mixed citrus fruits is like a bright sunny day in winter. Yet another reason to celebrate! I use Prosecco for this recipe-you can also use champagne. Choose a sparkling wine that is dry and not too sweet or the sparkler will be cloying.

Serves 6-8

1 750 ml. bottle of Prosecco or champagne
1 cup fresh squeezed tangerine juice
¼ cup sugar or more to taste
2 cups peeled and sliced citrus fruits (tangerines, blood oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit)
¼ cup fresh mint leaves
Ice

1. Whisk all of the ingredients together in a decorative pitcher. L’Chaim!


Horseradish Crusted Standing Beef Roast

Serves 6-8

Something wonderful happens to horseradish when it is cooked. The pungent root vegetable so tearfully familiar during Pesach becomes sweet and savory once cooked and slathered all over gorgeous beef. The king of all meat cuts is a perfect celebratory gorgeous hunk of meat. It looks intimidating-but is actually really easy and can be done ahead of time and kept warm.

1 4-rib roast (about 9 pounds), cut from the small end or first cut with the chine bone cut off (ask your butcher to tie the bones on to the roast)
2 onions, coarsely chopped
2 red peppers, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
3 plum tomatoes, cut in half
4 tablespoons fresh cracked black pepper
6 tablespoons kosher salt
1 cup prepared white horseradish
2 bulbs of garlic, roasted and the soft garlic squeezed out
1 750 ml bottle dry red wine (I prefer Cabernet Sauvignon)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees

1. Lay the rib roast, bone side down, in a large heavy duty roasting pan. Scatter the vegetables around the roast. These will be the base for wine sauce later.
2. Season the roast with salt and fresh cracked pepper. Mix the horseradish and roasted garlic together.
3. Generously smear the mixture over the rib roast. Place the prepared roast in the pre-heated oven and roast for 20 minutes. Lower the temperature of the oven to 325 and roast for an additional 60 minutes.
4. Insert a meat thermometer into the the thickest part of the roast and when the temperature registers 115 (for rare-medium rare)-remove the roast. Loosely tent the meat with foil and allow to rest for 20 minutes. This will allow the final temperature to be around 125-130. The internal temperature will continue to rise in a process called carry-over cooking.
5. Remove the meat and place the roasting pan over a burner at medium heat. Add the wine and gently scrape up any brown bits with a wooden spoon. Continue cooking until the wine has reduced by ½. Strain out the vegetables and discard. Adjust seasoning with salt and fresh cracked pepper.
6. Remove the bones and slice the meat. Serve on a platter with wine sauce and sautéed mushrooms if desired.
7. To hold the meat for Shabbat-once the meat has reached the desired temperature, turn off the oven and remove the meat as in step 4. After the meat has rested and any carry over cooking is finished-return the meat back to the warm oven-allow the door to stand slightly open and the meat will stay warm for another 30 minutes or more.

Fingerling Potato and Caramelized onion Hash

I love this ooey-gooey potato concoction and serve it all through the winter months.
This easy do ahead dish is the perfect foil to the bold flavor of the beef roast and can be made ahead of time and kept warm


Serves 6-8
3 pounds fingerling potatoes, sliced into to ¼ inch thick coins
Olive oil
2 medium red onions, thinly sliced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large sprig fresh thyme
Several parsley stems
1 sprig of rosemary
½ cup chicken stock
½ cup dry white wine
Salt and freshly cracked pepper

Preheat oven to 350
1. Toss the potatoes with olive oil and salt and pepper and place them in a single layer in a parchment lined baking sheet. Roast the potatoes until they are cooked completely and lightly browned (about 12-15 minutes)
2. Place a large sauté pan lightly coated with olive oil over medium high heat. Add the sliced red onions and sauté them until they are very dark brown but still holding their shape (about 5 minutes). Reduce the heat to medium, add the potatoes and remaining ingredients.
3. Cook, stirring occasionally until the liquid is absorbed. Remove the herbs and adjust seasoning. Keep the potatoes warm in a low oven.



Chocolate Pound Cake

This simple and easy pound cake does not suffer for being pareve. Be sure to use your best and freshest ingredients. I only use Valrhona cocoa powder. It simply the best and can easily be found on line.

1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup best quality cocoa powder (I only use Valrhona)
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (I only use Callebaut 71%), melted
3 eggs
½ cup brewed coffee
1 ½ cups packed brown sugar
½ cup canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Lightly grease a loaf pan with canola oil and then dust it with coca powder.

1. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Set aside
2. Mix the chocolate, eggs, coffee, brown sugar and vanilla together in a small mixing bowl.
3. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Be careful not to over mix or the cake will be tough. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake in a preheated oven for 50-60 minutes until a toothpick can be inserted and will have moist crumbs on it.
4. Place the cake pan on a cooling rack and allow to cool for 1 hour. Run a knife around the edge of the cake and unmold onto a plate. Dust with powdered sugar.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

OLIVE OIL 101




Olive oil is the fruit oil obtained from the olive. Commonly used in cooking, cosmetics, soaps and fuel for lamps, olive oil is grown and used throughout the world but especially in the Mediterranean.

Olive oil is produced by grinding or crushing and extracting the oil. A green olive produces bitter oil and an overripe olive produces rancid oil. For great extra virgin olive oil it is essential to have olives that are perfectly ripened.

Purchasing olive oil and knowing how to use it can be confusing. Add to that, the kashrut factor and it is no wonder that consumers and home cooks are bewildered by the array of products on supermarket and specialty market shelves.

Here is a summary of olive oils and their uses:
• Extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) comes from virgin oil production only, contains no more than 0.8% acidity. Extra Virgin olive oil accounts for less than 10% of oil in many producing countries. The superior fruity flavor makes this oil best used for vinaigrettes, drizzling on soups, pastas for added richness and a fruity taste and for dipping breads and vegetables. Extra virgin olive oil does not require hashgacha (even for Pesach) as it is cold pressed.
• Virgin olive oil comes from virgin oil production only, has an acidity less than 2%. This oil is best used for sautéing and for making vinaigrettes. It is generally not as expensive as the extra virgin olive oil but has a good taste. Does require hashgacha.
• Pure olive oil. Oils labeled as Pure olive oil or Olive oil are usually a blend of refined and virgin production oil. This oil is perfect for sautéing. It does not have a strong flavor and can be used for making aiolis and cooking. Does require hasgacha.

Extra virgin olive oil is the highest quality olive oil. It is typically more expensive than other olive oils. Extra virgin olive oil is typically not recommended for high heat cooking. Every oil has a smoke point. A smoke point refers to the heat temperature at which the oil begins to break down and degrade. An oil that is above its smoke point not only has nutritional and flavor degradation but can also reach a flash point where combustion can occur. You can observe this when you have a very hot pan and hot oil and food is added to the pan and it produces a bluish and acrid smelling smoke or worse yet, catches fire.

Extra virgin olive oil has a very low smoke point of 375. I use my best extra virgin olive oil for making vinaigrettes, adding luxurious fruity flavor to pasta dishes, garnishing foods, baking and dipping breads.
Extra virgin olive oil has a long list of health benefits from reducing coronary artery disease and cholesterol regulation.

My favorite extra virgin olive oil is an unfiltered oil from Spain. It is rich, luscious and smells like artichokes and tomatoes. I recently tasted an oil from France that was rich and buttery. Olive oils like wines have a distinct taste or terroir depending upon where they are grown. I urge home cooks to shop the specialty and gourmet shops for their olive oil. The supermarket oils are often lacking in flavor and are frequently misleading in the origin of the olives. The bottle may say that the oil was bottled in Italy but not mention where the olives were grown. The olives could have come from many different countries and in different stages of ripeness which yields an off tasting oil.
Estate grown oils are picked at the perfect stage of ripeness and pressed right after harvest. This ensures a balanced oil that is luscious.

Baking with olive oil is easy and yields a moist delicious cake. I use Meyer lemons in this recipe. Meyer Lemons are a cross between a tangerine and a lemon. They are sweet and very juicy. They are in season now and can be found at most markets around the country.




MEYER LEMON-OLIVE OIL POUND CAKE

1 cup olive oil
2 cups sugar
5 eggs
1 tablespoon Meyer Lemon zest
¼ cup Meyer Lemon juice
¾ cup
3 cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a tube pan and set aside.
1. Whisk together olive oil, sugar, eggs and milk.
2. Gently stir in flour, salt and baking powder until a thick batter forms.
3. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 50-70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Lemon Glaze
3 cups confectioner’s sugar
¼ cup water
¼ cup Meyer lemon juice
2 tablespoons light corn syrup or brown rice syrup
½ teaspoon vanilla bean, scraped
1. Simply combine all ingredients together in a large and heavy saucepan. Stir constantly over low heat until the mixture reaches 110 degrees F on a candy thermometer.
2. Pour evenly over cooled cake and allow to harden before serving.