Tuesday, September 12, 2006
A Rosh Hashanah Feast (including six complete recipes)
Like many of us, I entertain quite often, and it should come as no surprise to you that I find planning the menu almost half the battle. When I plan a festive menu, I ask myself what flavors will knock their socks off. Yes, I mean flavors, not what fancy cuts of meat or what expensive fish or what magnificent cake. I like this approach for several reasons, of which I will mention just a couple: First and foremost, I am a food “chemist,” and zeroing in on the perfect shidduch of flavors and textures is a triumph I have been sharing with thousands guests and demo students for many years running; secondly, putting the emphasis on workmanship rather than on costliness showcases the artist in you; and third, when using the very best and most seasonable, in a simple, natural and unfussy way, you have the guarantee of a sumptuous meal, at no extra cost. Are you still missing that bison rib, that duck breast, that venison, that rack of lamb, that sea bass? Simply order it when you next go with someone you love to… well, you know what I recommend! I just had the most outrageous venison sausages and a wild mushroom appetizer at Levana Restaurant, and my guest had a bison rib, and was swooning. It was a fabulous treat, but a restaurant treat, and home must look and taste like home.
I trust you will find that the following menu will bear out my initial premise: a glorious meal made from glorious yet simple ingredients. Beautiful tomatoes and fresh herbs are your whole commitment to this wonderful soup. A couple days notice is all you need to secure a capon, in my eyes the king of the poultry world, and one of my favorite meats to make for company. Buy an ounce of saffron that will last you the whole year from specialty food stores or Indian, Italian or Indian markets, rather than get ripped off with those tiny exorbitantly prices vials sold at supermarkets and Korean produce stores. Juniper berries are the ingredient responsible for the fabrication of gin, and are easily found in health food or specialty stores. It makes a world of difference what chocolate you use. Chocolate bars or blocks that list sugar first and cocoa second have very little chocolate, so stay away from them with a vengeance. Callebaut is my favorite brand, but in the absence of this brand or any other fancy one, even the institutional (price clubs, supermarket) real chocolate products will yield very good results.
ROASTED TOMATO SOUP
5 pounds tomatoes (7-8 large, or 20 plum tomatoes), split across
3 heads garlic, points sliced off, leaving the cloves exposed
4 medium purple onions, peeled and split across
3 red peppers, halved and seeded
1/4 cup olive oil
coarse sea salt to taste
10 cups water (2 1/2 quarts)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup dry white wine (not cooking wine)
2 cups tomato juice
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 tablespoon paprika
4 sprigs rosemary, leaves only, chopped
6 sprigs thyme, leaves only
2 good pinches saffron threads
freshly ground pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix the first set of ingredients in a bowl, spread on a cookie sheet, and roast for about 45 minutes, until vegetables looked charred. Squeeze the garlic heads until all meat is forced out of its skin. Place all roasted vegetables, plus the second set of ingredients, in a wide heavy pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce the flame to medium, covered and cook 30 minutes. Add the pepper. Cream in a blender or food processor, or with an immersion blender until perfectly smooth. Add ground pepper to taste. Adjust seasonings and consistency (add a little water if it looks too thick). Serve hot. Delicious cold too. Makes 12 ample servings
CIDER ROASTED CAPON WITH ROOT VEGETABLES
1 capon, 8 to 10 pounds
triple thickness cheesecloth .
4 cups unfiltered apple cider.
4 tablespoons juniper berries (health food stores), slightly crushed with a rolling pin.
1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper.
4 sprigs rosemary.
6 to 8 bay leaves.
8 to ten whole cloves.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Wash and dry capon thoroughly, removing neck, giblets, and liver and reserving them for another use. Place capon in deep heavy pan just large enough to hold it, breast side down. Cover top of turkey with cheesecloth. Mix all remaining ingredients in a bowl, and pour mixture over the capon, making sure you get the cheesecloth thoroughly moistened with the liquid. Bake 2 hours, pouring cooking liquid over cheesecloth every 1/2 hour. Remove cheesecloth, turn the capon over, breast side up. Bake another hour, or until all juices run clear. Remove capon and let stand 15 minutes before slicing. Transfer the liquids to a small pot and reduce to 2 1/2 cups. Strain into a small bowl, reserving 1/2 cup for the vegetables. Slice the turkey and pour the strained gravy on top. Serve with the roasted root vegetables (recipe follows)
ROASTED ROOT VEGETABLES AU JUS.
a dozen small onions or shallots, peeled and left whole
2 dozen large cloves garlic
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in 1” chunks
2 large carrots, peeled and cut in 1” chunks
2 large heads celery roots, peeled and cut in1” chunks
2 dozen tiny potatoes, scrubbed
2 large parsnips, peeled and cut into 1” chunks
sea salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
reserved 1/2 cup capon cooking liquid
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Mix all but last 2 ingredients in a mixing bowl. Place on 2 cookie sheets and bake until soft and roasted, about 45 minutes. Transfer vegetables to serving platter. Add the reserved cooking liquid and balsamic and toss. Serve hot
WILD RICE MUSHROOM PILAF
style="margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; font-weight: normal;">2 cups wild rice
1/3 cup olive oil
1 large onion, quartered
4 cloves garlic
5 cups packed sliced mushrooms: shitaki (caps only, morels, oyster, cremini, portobello: whatever you can afford)
1/4 cup white miso paste (health food stores)
1 cup dry white wine
2 good pinches saffron
4 bay leaves
ground pepper to taste.
a dozen chives, sliced very thin
Soak the rice in water to cover until ready to use.
Heat the oil in a wide heavy pot. In a food processor, coarsely grind the onion, shallots and garlic, and add mixture to the pot. Sauté until the mixture is translucent. Add the mushrooms and sauté until most liquids evaporate. Drain the rice, and add to the pot. Sauté 2-3 more minutes. Add the miso paste, wine, saffron, bay leaves, salt and pepper, and 6 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium, and cook covered for about one hour, until the grains just begin to open, exposing the white parts. Add the chives and toss. Serve hot.
MIXED GREENS WITH BASIL HONEY DRESSING
1 cup basil leaves
1 medium shallot, peeled.
1/4 cup unfiltered apple cider
1 cup olive oil.
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar.
3 tablespoons honey.
salt and pepper to taste.
mixed greens of your choice, no iceberg
Grind the basil leaves and shallot in the food processor. With motor running, gradually add all other ingredients. Adjust tartness according to taste. Makes about 2 1/2 cups. Pour over the greens just before serving, making sure you use only enough dressing to coat the greens.
Tiramisu 1 1/4 pounds sponge cake, store bought o.k.
1 pound silken tofu, thoroughly drained
2 tablespoons oil.
1/2 cup sugar
1 8 ounce container tofu cream cheese (must be tofutti brand)
1/4 cup brandy
2/3 cup very strong coffee
8 oz very good quality semisweet chocolate, grated.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice the pound cake 1/2 inch thick, and toast in the oven about 15 minutes, until light brown on all sides. Let the slices cool.
In a food processor, process tofu with oil and sugar till perfectly smooth. Add the tofu cream cheese and process a few more seconds. Pour mixture into a bowl.
Mix coffee and brandy in a container equipped with a pout (i.e. measuring cup).
Grease a long loaf pan and line with plastic wrap, letting sides overhang. Line bottom completely with slices of toasted pound cake, arranged to fit tightly (you will use about half the cake). Pour half the coffee mixture evenly and carefully over the cake. Pour half the cream cheese mixture over cake. Sprinkle half the grated chocolate over cream cheese. Repeat: cake, coffee, cream cheese, chocolate. cover the whole loaf with plastic wrap. Refrigerate a few hours until set. Unmold and slice.