Sweet Potato Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

As my newsfeed once again fills with reports of another blizzard hitting NY, I can’t help but think about my favorite snow day activities, namely cooking and baking. Of course one would think I do quite a bit of that already, but back when I was in the city, I more often than not was either eating food from work, or got some sort of take out (also I had a microwave and ate a lot of canned beans…). While even then my budget was fairly tight, I did have some leeway and could better afford to not cook all the time. Here, my budget is next to non-existent (I’m on a special program where it’s not impossible to earn money, but it’s not exactly easy), so I do what I can to pinch pennies, which involves cooking almost every day. In fact, as I’ve mentioned before, produce, dried beans, and grains are some of the only things that can really be considered cheap here, so I do what I can to eat as much of those as possible. While veganism is definitely a growing trend (found this article on Facebook today), and vegan specialty items are available (they’re also one of the things I miss the most about NY), they’re completely out of my budget. However, that leaves me to really experiment and master new ways of cooking veggies and beans. My newest project has been, “how many different things can I do with lentils” and thus, Lentil Shepherd’s Pie with Sweet Potato Mash was born.

Whole pie, fresh out of the oven

Whole pie, fresh out of the oven

Despite burning about half of the lentils when I initially cooked them (my beans/grain cooking method is to put it on the stove and forget about it until it’s done…which only works if there’s more than enough water in the pot to begin with…and I can’t forget about them for too long), I managed to salvage most of them, and cooked away the remnants of the charred flavor through a combination of luck and soy sauce. The umami flavors in the soy sauce make this pie really succulent, and the combination of the meaty lentils with all of the hearty veggies make this a perfect dish to eat in the middle of a storm (or on a pleasantly cool February evening in the Middle East as I did). I topped the pie with super creamy and delicious mashed sweet potatoes, which were scented with just a hint of the tropics from the unrefined coconut oil I mixed in. It was a perfectly comforting sweet and savory bite.

A little lopsided, but totally tasty

A little lopsided, but totally tasty

Sweet Potato Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

Filling:

  • 1- 1 1/2 c cooked lentils (I used a combination of brown, black and red. Use whatever combination you like, though I would advise against using all red lentils as they turn to much when cooked)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 large leek, sliced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 large carrots. finely chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 c mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 2 c chopped spinach (or other leafy greens)
  • 1/4 c tamari or soy sauce
  • 1-2 tbsp fresh rosemary, lightly chopped
  • white pepper
  • black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp paprika

Topping:

  • 1 extra large sweet potato, or 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2-3 tbsp oil of your choice (I used a combination of olive and coconut oil)
  • 2 tbsp of cooking water or non dairy milk
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the leek and garlic and sauté about 5 to 7 minutes until fragrant and softened. Add the carrots and celery and sauté a few minutes more before adding the lentils and the mushroom. Add the soy sauce, rosemary, white pepper, black pepper, and paprika, and let simmer, stirring frequently until all the veggies are soft and the mushrooms are nice and browned.

While the filling is cooking, preheat the oven to 375F. Fill a medium sized pot with cold water, and add the diced sweet potatoes. Bring to a boil of medium-high heat, and cook until tender, about 15- 20 minutes.

When the filling is almost cooked, stir in the spinach and let wilt over low heat for several minutes, while you drain and mash the sweet potatoes, with the oil, salt, and pepper. I generally find the sweet potatoes don’t need additional moisture when they’ve been boiled, but feel free to add the extra liquid if you feel it is necessary. Remove the filling from the heat and pour in a small casserole pan. Spread the mashed sweet potatoes on top, and baked until the top is slightly browned (it’s also possible to just broil the top since everything is completely cooked, but if you do so, watch it carefully so it doesn’t burn). Let cool about 5 minutes and serve.

B’teavon and stay warm!

Decadent Brunch for Two

Last night, I found myself once again craving something on the sweet side around dinner time. While I had previously had a small salad as first dinner, I decided to give in and indulge for second dinner. For the past few weeks, I’ve found myself briefly considering pancakes as a breakfast option on a regular basis, before ultimately deciding to go the savory route (usually leftovers), in part due to time constraints. Additionally, I absolutely love corn muffins, but those take even more time, and when my appetite is raging, that’s not a commitment I’m willing to make. In fact, my favorite thing about pancakes is how quickly you can make them, and if they’re just for yourself, you can make some, eat them, and then make the rest (and eat some more).

White chocolate chip studded cornmeal pancakes, topped with fresh strawberries and chocolate ganache

White chocolate chip studded cornmeal pancakes, topped with fresh strawberries and chocolate ganache

These pancakes are based off of a corn muffin, which I jazzed up by adding some white chocolate chips I had on hand. The white chocolate blends perfectly with the slightly sweet corn cake, adding just a tiny burst of extra sweetness and richness throughout the pancake. I topped these off with strawberries and chocolate ganache (which I happened to have on hand…leftover from a cake!) which would make these a perfect Valentine’s Day brunch treat. Since I was just cooking for myself, I ended up with the perfect amount for two people, but the recipe can very easily be doubled if you’re serving more people (or are extra hungry).

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Frying away

Cornmeal White Chocolate chip Pancakes

  • 1/2 c soy milk
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp silan (brown sugar, maple syrup, or agave all work too)
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 c cornmeal
  • 1/4 c flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 c white chocolate chips

Place the soy milk in a medium sized bowl with the lemon juice and set aside for a few minutes. Add the silan, oil, and vanilla to the soy milk mixture and mix well. In a separate bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and white chocolate chips. Add to the soy milk mixture and stir, taking care not to over mix.

Lightly grease a large skillet, and preheat over a medium flame. Drop heaping tablespoons of the batter, three or four at a time onto the skillet, and fry until golden on each side.

Top with anything from chopped fruit and chocolate, to margarine (or coconut oil) and maple syrup.

Any Veggies Will Do (Soup)

I’ve previously called this soup “Clean Out the Fridge Vegetable Soup” which is a little more accurate to the situation at hand when I made this. The process of choosing what to put in this soup mostly consisted of grabbing all the veggies from the fridge that needed to be cooked immediately and layering them into a deliciously tasty (and warming soup). I also bulked it up with some barley (you can use rice if you’re gluten free) and chickpeas. This is a soup with all the comfort of a winter meal that is healthy to boot. The best part is, it really can be made with whatever you have on hand. Feel free to substitute potatoes for the sweet potato, or squash if that’s what you have. Add spinach instead of the cabbage, and maybe some bell pepper instead of the tomato. Really, it’s up to you!

Topped with some techina and cilantro

Topped with some techina and cilantro

Recently, I haven’t been using premade broth in my soups, rather, I’ve just been adding water and seasoning well with herbs, spices and salt. This way, the flavors of the vegetables you use really come through, and you have even more control over the amount of sodium in your food.

Bubbling away

Bubbling away

Any Veggie Minestrone

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 c carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 c mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 small to medium tomatoes, finely diced
  • 1 stalk of celery, quartered (for easy removal. Chop if you actually like celery)
  • 1/2 of a cabbage, shredded
  • 3/4 c chickpeas, soaked and drained
  • 3/4 c barley
  • 1 tbsp thyme
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the onions and sauté for 5-7 minutes, until translucent.  Add the carrot and the sweet potato and sauté another 5-7 minutes.  Add the mushrooms, sautee until slightly reduced, then add the tomatoes and do the same.  Season each layer with a little salt as you go.  Add the rest of the ingredients and the cover with water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Simmer for about an hour, or until the chickpeas are tender and the barley is cooked.  Adjust seasonings and serve.

Warming Winter Soups

As New York is hit with another blizzard, it seems like a good time to share the soup recipes I’ve been saving since Israel was hit with a five day snow/hail/rain storm.  These soups were designed for the days when I knew I wanted a meal chock full of veggies, but it was just to cold to fathom eating a salad.  While most of the winter here has been absolutely lovely (~60F on average, high of 66F/19C today), the week of the storm was quite a nightmare.  Given my Northeastern upbringing, I’ve definitely experienced much colder weather, but the big difference is that it’s expected that winter will be cold in the Northeast, not so much in Israel (I mean some still think it’s cold…)  Here, apartments are built without insulation or even central heat.  I spent the first few days of the storm huddled under my thick duvet (thus justifying the investment) or cooking, since the kitchen was a little warmer than the rest of the apartment with both the oven and stove going.  Towards the end of the week, my roommate figured out how to get heat through our AC units, which at least made our rooms more bearable.  Although having hot, dry air blown at  you out of a machine is not exactly ideal, it was a much better option in my eyes than braving the storm to buy a small radiator (which would actually use about the same amount of energy).  Additionally, the warmest shoes I had were either ripped up converses, or the rubber ballet flats that had served as my work shoes, and I had to go out and buy a jacket just to attempt to keep warm outside.

Hail storm in Central Israel, December 2013

Hail storm in Central Israel, December 2013

Thankfully, that weather has passed now, a friend gave me a pair of boots to borrow for the season, and my new jacket is a perfect medium weight jacket to keep me warm when it cools off at night.  I’m also left with a bunch of warming, hearty, but still healthy soups!  Since the first bit of chill was felt in the air here, my roommates and I have consistently kept the fridge stocked with at least one soup per week, ranging from what I like to call “Clean Out the Fridge Soup” to chili, French Onion soup, and even  a curry lentil soup (or two).

Two weeks after the storm there was still some lingering snow on the Judean hills. December 2013

Two weeks after the storm there was still some lingering snow on the Judean hills. December 2013

The first soup I made this season was a broccoli potato garlic soup, inspired by the Cinnamon Snail.  We don’t have any kind of blender or anything here, so we ate it chunky, but if you do own such technology, I say blend away!  It may even be good with a touch of soy or coconut cream added!  (I for whatever stupid reason, did not take any pictures of this soup).

Broccoli Potato Garlic Soup

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ~10 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 head of broccoli, chopped (stalk included)
  • 1 large potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 tbsp rosemary
  • 1 tbsp thyme
  • salt
  • coarse ground black pepper
  • water to cover

In a large saucepan over medium heat, sauté the garlic in the olive oil for about a minute.  Add the onions and sauté about 5 minutes more until translucent.  Add the potatoes and broccoli, saute for another 2 to 3 minutes, add the herbs, salt and pepper to taste and cover with water.  Bring to a boil and then lower the heat.  Simmer about 30 to 45 minutes, until all the veggies are nice and soft.  Adjust seasonings, and puree if desired.

“Soup”-er easy!  Check back soon for “Clean Out the Fridge Vegetable Soup”(I know, really appetizing name).

Earl Grey Chocolate Buttercream: Made for the Stage!

Earl Grey Chocolate Buttercream: Made for the Stage!

Still from the show as Mary (Mimi Tanaman) carries a chocolate cake to a table

Still from the show as Mary (Mimi Tanaman) carries a chocolate cake to a table

My recipe for Earl Grey chocolate buttercream was featured on the English On Stage facebook page today!  What does cake have to do with theatre you may ask? Well, a frosted chocolate cake was a very important prop for our new musical.  Given the number of gags that precipitate on the cake being real (like licking the frosting and blowing out birthday candles), it was important that we have a real edible cake to use during the show. Of course I volunteered for the task, not only ensuring the cake was beautiful, but also that I could eat it myself afterwards!  It also meant that I could have some secret fun with flavors, while still making it look like plain chocolate.

The cake recipe I used was the regular Earl Grey cake recipe I posted several months ago.  One of the things to remember when baking for the stage is that you have to ensure that your props will not only hold up under the lights, but also won’t go rancid in the amount of time it sits on stage (just another reason to avoid dairy!)  In this case, it’s best to use shortening, rather than a melty margarine like Earth Balance (or ya know the margarine that’s really bad for you).

With another show coming up soon, I’m already planning what cool flavors I can slip into our next chocolate cake.

For more information on Tom’s Diner the Musical, click here!  It’s really a fun new show, featuring all of your favorite music from the 1950s and 60s.

And with that shameless plug, I bid you goodnight (and promise to post some new recipes soon, as well as a post all about being in Israel).

Snapshot of a Meal

I know I usually post recipes, but today I just wanted to share my lunch from the other day. No, no, I promise I’m not that person who takes a picture of every meal I eat, just ones I make that I feel I’ve put a good amount of thought or effort into.

One of those days when plating just wasn't my friend

One of those days when plating just wasn’t my friend

This was inspired partially just by my mood, but partially because I wanted something that felt like it would help me kick this little cold I have. So I put together a super colorful meal, packed with veggies, and flavored with lots of garlic, onions, and ginger. It comprised of mashed sweet potatoes with garlic sauteed mangold and caramelized onions, plus a little hint of musky white pepper.

Close up on mashed sweet potatoes

Close up on mashed sweet potatoes

The second part of the meal was based around this tomato “jam” I made (because I somehow got it in my head that I had to eat a gingery tomatoey jam with my lunch). It was actually very simple with a base of garlic and red onion, then two chopped tomatoes, a few teaspoons of grated ginger, two bay leaves and some rosemary. I sauteed the onion and garlic first, then added the rest of the ingredients, which I let cook until the tomato had become smooth, save for their skins. I realized that tomato jam on top of mashed sweet potatoes maybe wouldn’t be the best texturally speaking, but I didn’t have any bread, and quite frankly, I didn’t really want to add bread to this meal. In a stroke of genius, I remembered we had a bunch of tofu in the fridge, which I quickly dipped in a few tablespoons of tamari mixed with a touch of liquid smoke, and then pan seared to perfection. All in all, quite a delicious late afternoon lunch.

Close up on smokey seared tofu with ginger tomato jam

Close up on smokey seared tofu with ginger tomato jam

One final note on this meal, since I finished the leftovers last night, is that I completely transformed the last of the tomato jam into an asian fusion pasta sauce.  I added some cubed, roasted butternut squash, a splash of Cava, a touch of coconut milk, and a touch of red curry paste.  It was completely delicious, and completely different.  Which I guess is to say that one of these days I’ll do a post on transforming leftovers, but in the meantime, don’t throw them away!

Thanksgivukkuh Recap!

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Almost the whole gang!

First off, I need to apologize for how long it took me to get this written. I’ve been in the throes of opening a show ever since Thanksgiving (which entails quite a bit of craziness), but I’ve wanted to give an update as to how everything went, especially given the complexity and breadth of the menu I’d planned. Most fortunately for me, we got an oven and stove in my apartment a week before the holiday, so I no longer had to worry about where to cook everything. Really the most important piece of advice I can give when it comes to serving large holiday meals is to plan and cook in advance. While I’d written a shopping list and plan of action far in advance, when it came to the week before Thanksgiving, my planner was no where to be found…so I ended up frantically rewriting both my shopping list and action plan on a napkin in a cafe (how J.K. Rowling of me…also, I did end up finding my planner, after the fact).

Original action plan and list compared to make shift action plan and list.

Original action plan and list compared to make shift action plan and list.

I started my week off by taking a long, late afternoon trip to the shuk (the outdoor market, where produce prices are best). After experiencing the absolute craziness that is the shuk on a Friday, it was delightful to be able to go on a Monday afternoon and meander up and down the stalls, looking for the lowest prices. While this dinner was not exactly cheap, I was still amazed at the sheer amount of produce I could get for a relatively small amount of money. Two boxes of mushrooms for example cost about 10 NIS. I think potatoes (or maybe onions) were 4.50 NIS per kilo. After loading myself with as many kilos of produce as I could carry, I (foolishly) walked home (which was about 2 km, not a bad walk, just not when you’re carrying your weight in veggies), and resolved to get the rest of the produce the next day.

Balagan in the kitchen as meal prep begins

Balagan in the kitchen as meal prep begins

So many mushrooms and onions!

So many mushrooms and onions!

I started out, as I usually do by making the cornbread. I also caramelized onions for as many dishes as I remembered needed them (aka I forgot and had to caramelize more the next day), baked the sweet potatoes, and roasted the huge hunk of squash I got for the pumpkin baked ziti. Because my beautiful, new Vitamix had to remain in the US, I didn’t have a blender or food processor of my own, which did make preparations a little tricky. A friend of mine had an immersion blender with food processor attachment, which she kindly let me borrow, so I spent the better part of a day making anything and everything that needed blender, from soup, to the pumpkin, to the french onion dip, the cashew ricotta, the sweet potatoes, hazelnuts, and caesar dressing. Unfortunately, this blender wasn’t exactly what you’d call powerful, so I had to take breaks quite frequently in order to not kill the motor (and then be completely out of luck). This definitely put me a little behind schedule because despite all my planning, I woke up bright and early Thursday morning, only to cook literally until the last moment, with maybe an hour break.

Massive bowl of butternut squash soup

Massive bowl of butternut squash soup

Wednesday night prep complete: all components for the ziti, plus soup and sauces

Wednesday night prep complete: all components for the ziti, plus soup and sauces

Due to time issues, I decided to bake off the stuffing, rather than attempting to fry it while I had hungry guests over, which I think turned out for the best. I also decided to make broccoli instead of brussel sprouts, because I could only find those in the freezer section, and nobody wants frozen brussel sprouts on Thanksgiving. I also couldn’t find fresh or frozen cranberries anywhere, so I used dried cranberries in the apple sauce (as detailed in the soufganiyot post). The last thing I had to coordinate was the reheating of all the food. I live too far from where the dinner was being hosted to have food stay warm, but two of my friends live closer and graciously warmed food in their ovens. I cooked the tempura at my friend’s place in order for it to be hot and crispy when I served it.

Beautiful kale and argula Caesar salad with cashew based dressing and pecans

Beautiful kale and argula Caesar salad with cashew based dressing and pecans

A lone fried string bean with onion dip in the background

A lone fried string bean with onion dip in the background

Cranberry apple sauce isn't very photogenic.

Cranberry apple sauce isn’t very photogenic.

As I expected, literally everyone was running late (we’re on Israeli time after all), but it gave us a chance to complete some last minute preparations. Our guests were a nice mix of Israelis, Europeans, and Americans. I was so happy to be surround by such wonderful, caring people. From my friends who insisted on helping and got the food set up more quickly than had it been just Cathleen and I, to the friends who made me drink, and the friends who made me sit down and eat. Quite a few jokes were tossed around about me actually being a Moroccan mother (whereas in the US we would just say Jewish mother), or else asking me if I thought I made enough food (there was a tray and a half of ziti leftover and I was still worried). In fact, the only thing we actually finished that night were the latkes, though the soufganiyot came close.

2nd night of Hanukkah.

2nd night of Hanukkah.

Pumpkin baked ziti, soup, stuffing and gravy pictured

Pumpkin baked ziti, soup, stuffing and gravy pictured

Friend peruse their options

Friend peruse their options

I do think the soufganiyot trifle was the surprise hit of the evening. Initially I’d planned to fill some with apple sauce and some with a macadamia nut creme, but due to my makeshift filling equipment (ziploc bag with the corner cut off), the creme wasn’t cooperating as a filling. In a stroke of genius (aka great way to salvage dessert mistakes), I decided to turn it into a trifle (pulled the same stunt last year when I had an excess of chai cake). I cut each soufganiyah in half, arranged them on the bottom of the bowl, and proceeded to layer the soufganiyah halfs with the macadamia creme. Right before serving, I dusted the whole thing with powdered sugar. It was so good, some of my friends even went back for thirds! All in all, it was a wonderfully successful meal, with great company, a mix of traditions new and old, and last but not least, I made it all vegan!

Last but not least: soufganiyot macadamia trifle!

Last but not least: soufganiyot macadamia trifle!

The Perfect Breakfast Muffin

Tower of muffins!

Tower of muffins!

These muffins were created as a twist on my new favorite breakfast: quinoa porridge. For whatever reason, I was never into quinoa porridge in all the years I worked at Peacefood. Not that it wasn’t good, it just wasn’t my thing. When it came to having breakfast there, I generally opted for the tofu scramble with roasted potatoes if I wanted something warm (either that or a fresh baked pastry). In the few weeks since I moved into my new apartment here, however, I’ve been craving something warm for breakfast, and being a little too lazy to go out and get oatmeal, I settled on quinoa as my breakfast grain of choice. Generally, I like to cook it in a combination of water and soy milk, though if I’m out of that, I add a little nut butter to add some richness while it cooks. The real secret I find to good quinoa, is to make sure you add salt while its cooking, regardless of whether you are intending the grain for a sweet or savory application. The salt will remove any lingering bitterness that is sometimes present in quinoa, which is especially important for a sweet application such as this. In keeping with Peacefood Cafe’s quinoa porridge, I also add a touch of coconut oil and cinnamon while it cooks. This is where I deviate, and make my breakfast just a little more Israeli. I top the porridge with a tablespoon or so of silan (date syrup) and tehina, which adds a perfect amount of sweetness, as well as a richness of flavor. It is delicious and perfect for this Israeli winter thing.

Israeli quinoa porridge

Israeli quinoa porridge

The only problem with my porridge is that I do have to have time to cook it in the mornings. As my schedule gets more and more hectic with the approaching premiere of the show I’m working on, I’ve spent an increasing number of mornings stopping for a pita and coffee on my way to work. I needed a way to save time and have breakfast ready in advance, as well as to make it portable, so today I decided to make it into muffins.  These muffins are really hearty, packed with rich rolled oat, crunchy quinoa and soft apple bit.  They’re also wonderfully flavored with the slightest hint of sesame and some caramel undertones from the silan.  They really are the perfect breakfast muffin.

Fresh from the oven

Fresh from the oven

Quinoa Apple Oat Muffins

  • 1 1/4 c flour (I used all purpose because that’s what I had, but whole wheat or spelt or even a gf mix would be great)
  • 1/2 c quinoa
  • 1/2 c rolled oats
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 small apple, chopped
  • 3/4 c nondairy milk
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp ground flax
  • 2 tbsp tahini
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c silan (date syrup)
  • 1/4 c melted, unrefined coconut oil

Preheat oven to 350F degrees and fill a muffin tin with liners (or alternatively, grease the muffin tin).

Mix together the dry ingredients in a large bowl, including the diced apples.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the non dairy milk and lemon.  Let sit for a minute, then add the flax, whisk again, and set aside again (this is a great time to melt the coconut oil).  Add the remainder of the wet ingredients to the flax mixture.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and add the wet mixture to the dry.  Mix until just combined.  The batter will be very thick and lumpy, but that is perfect!  Fill the liners about 3/4 of the way full and bake for about 22 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let cool.

The quinoa adds a lot of texture to the muffins, because it stays pretty firm, and slightly crunchy. If you would like it softer, I would recommend soaking the grains in warm water for about 10 minutes, then draining before adding to the batter.

Sweet Potato Soufganiyot with Apple Cranberry Filling

While I really wanted this post to be a Thanksgivukkuh recap of the party last Thursday, I felt like given my time constraints this week—between recovering from Thanksgiving, plus ulpan, and my internship (where we’re getting ready to put up a musical in less than a month)—I wouldn’t be able to do it justice and still get this recipe up before the end of Hanukkah. And, since the end of Hanukkah is imminent, there’s no better time to post a recipe than now (or last week).

Cathleen choosing a soufganiyah at our Thanksgivukkuh party

Cathleen choosing a soufganiyah at our Thanksgivukkuh party

Not that I ever disliked doughnuts, because let’s be honest, there were very few desserts I disliked growing up (except cheesecake. I was always picky about the whole cheese thing), but I feel like I really got into doughnuts when I had amazing, unique doughnuts readily available to me. Aka, when I started working in the city and could get doughnut plant doughnuts on the reg, or when the Cinnamon Snail started parking in my neighborhood on a weekly basis. Surprisingly, vegan doughnuts entered the New York City food scene late in the game. I’d already had the best ice cream ever (from the shop formerly known as Lula’s) and some pretty good vegan cheese, as well as a myriad of other vegan desserts. And yet, the doughnut was fairly elusive. Despite attending the Dun-Well Doughnuts launch party, they weren’t easy to come by, even after they opened their shop (because their shop is pretty much in Bushwick). But once the Cinnamon Snail was in my ‘hood, I found that there was many a Thursday morning, I only got dressed and left the house as early as I did because an artisanal vegan doughnut sounded like a good idea for breakfast. And boy oh boy how I missed doughnuts. Even at work it was a special treat when Kristin made doughnuts.

Peppermint patty and smore's doughnuts from the Cinnamon Snail.  NYC, June 2012

Peppermint patty and smore’s doughnuts from the Cinnamon Snail. NYC, June 2012

Here in Israel, especially at this time of year, soufganiyot proliferate, but there is nary a vegan one to be found. While doughnut making isn’t exactly my favorite thing to do, as a once a year Hanukkah treat, it’s really not so bad. I was in finals during Hanukkah last year, so I didn’t get a chance to experiment, and oddly enough, though I know I made some the year before, I can’t at all remember what kind they were, or even which recipe I used. Regardless, (as I say every year) this year’s batch was the best to date. Of course, as I’ve written about for the last month or so, I had to up the ante and not only make doughnuts, but make something special to celebrate the convergence of two major holidays. And thus, the sweet potato soufganiyot (aka doughnut) was born. I actually wanted to have two Thanksgiving inspired fillings: cranberry sauce and macadamia nut creme (paying homage to my family’s tradition of macadamia nut pie). Unfortunately, I couldn’t find fresh or frozen cranberries here, so I settled for making one big batch of cranberry apple sauce for both soufganiyot and latkes, made with a mix of fresh apples, dried cranberries, and a hint of cinnamon. The macadamia nut pudding, I did manage to execute to an extent. It turned out to be an utterly delicious creme with a little brown sugar and some crunchy macadamia nuts; however, for fear of ending up with macadamia nut concrete, I under thickened, and my pudding was a little too runny for filling (especially with my make-shift equipment). In the end, I did what any good housewife would do, and turned it into soufganiyot trifle. It was a hit, and in good form, I finished it for breakfast this morning.

Young doughnuts, getting ready for their hot oil bath

Young doughnuts, getting ready for their hot oil bath

Now onto the recipe! I combined two recipes I found, one for vegan doughnuts, and one for non-vegan sweet potato doughnuts, originally found here and here. The result was a divinely soft and fluffy doughnut, with the faintest hint of nutmeg, and a little bit of natural sweetness from the sweet potato. It was the perfect compliment to both the creamy pudding and the sweet and tangy apple sauce.

Sweet Potato Soufganiyot:

  • 1 package yeast
  • 1 c lukewarm non dairy milk
  • 1/2 c non dairy milk plus 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 6 tbsp margarine
  • 1/2 c +2 tbsp brown sugar
  • sweet potato puree (from about 1 medium sweet potato)
  • 4 c flour+ extra for flouring the board
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp nutmeg
  • a least 1 quart of oil for frying

Combine half the warm non dairy milk with the yeast in a small bowl or measuring cup and let sit. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the starch with the 1/2 c milk and cook until thick like pudding, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add the margarine and stir to melt. Then incorporate the sugar, and the remaining almond milk. Combine with the yeast mixture, stirring gently.

Add half the flour, salt, and nutmeg and mix in with a wooden spoon (or dough hook if you have one of those fancy contraptions). Add the rest of the flour, one cup at a time, until the dough is no longer wet and sticky. You may have to add a little extra because of the sweet potato. Knead the dough until it’s just smooth. You don’t want to over knead, or else you will have bready doughnuts.

Place in a greased bowl and cover. Let rise about an hour, until doubled in size. I actually made the dough the night before and let it rise fully, then punched it down and let it rise halfway again and put it in the fridge overnight. In the morning, let the dough come to room temperature. Don’t punch it down, but flour your work space and lightly pat the dough with flour. Roll out until it is 1/2 in to 3/4 in thick. Using a cookie cutter or glass that measures about 3 in in diameter, cut out the doughnuts, then set aside to rise. When you finish cutting out the doughnuts, begin heating the oil in a dutch oven over medium heat until the oil reaches 365 degrees. You can test this by pinching off a little piece of dough and dropping it in the oil (if you don’t have a candy thermometer). If the oil bubbles around the dough, and the dough floats to the top, the oil is ready.

Fry the doughnuts 3-4 at a time (you don’t want to crowd the pan) several minutes on each side, til both are a beautiful golden brown. Drain on a tray lined with paper towels or brown paper bag and let cool.

Hot tub shot

Hot tub shot with latkes frying in the background

Cranberry Apple Sauce

  • 2 (or more) tart apples (depending on how much you wanna make), peeled and chopped
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1/2 dried cranberries
  • 1 c hot water
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Place all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until everything is evenly mixed. Bring to a bowl, then lower to a simmer. Cook until the apples are completely soft, and pretty much turn to mush just by stirring. The cranberries will have plumped up, and then hopefully broken down a little more. Using a spoon, mash the apple mixture around the pot. Remove from heat when thick and saucy. This apple sauce is on the tart side, but feel free to add some sweetener if you’d like. Let cool.

Pile of freshly fried soufganiyot

Pile of freshly fried soufganiyot

To assemble:

  • small paring knife
  • piping bag
  • powdered sugar

Take doughnuts and use the knife to cut a small opening in the side, making sure you push the knife all the way through, but not breaking out of the other side. Fill the piping bag with the apple sauce, and squeeze into the hole you made in the doughnut, until the doughnut feels significantly heavier. Repeat with the rest of the doughnuts. To serve: dust with powdered sugar.

Pumpkin Baked Ziti, Your New Noodle Kugel

My family has never been one to make kugels, noodle, potato or otherwise.  In  fact there’s really only been one noodle kugel I ever liked, which a friend of my parents used to bring to our break fast parties after Yom Kippur.  It was sweet and creamy, absent of devil’s spawn (raisins) and topped with ethereally crunchy shredded coconut.  This was the dish that first turned me on to coconut, though people who know me now will be hard pressed to imagine a time I didn’t like the rich, nutty tropical fruit.  Baked ziti–essentially an Italian version of noodle kugel without all the eggs–was another dish I wasn’t particularly fond of, due to the presence of grainy ricotta cheese.  Going vegan freed me from those terrifying shackles, by presenting me with alternatives to both, namely a sweet and savory, but creamy baked pasta dish.

Pumpkin baked ziti with pecans in the bread crumbs. Cape Cod, November 2009

This recipe comes straight from the ranks of Veganomicon.  I’m including it on my Thanksgivukkuh table this year because it’s an appropriate combination of Thanksgiving flavors, with loose ties to the more traditionally Jewish (ok Ashkenazi) kugel.  It’s also a total crowd pleaser, and can be easily multiplied for a larger number of guests.  Pasta is coated in a creamy mixture of pureed pumpkin and sweet cashew tofu ricotta, delicately spiced with nutmeg and white pepper.  What really makes the dish though, are the caramelized onions that are added to the mix.  Pumpkin and caramelized onions is almost as classic as pumpkin and sage after all, but not to be outdone, sage is featured in the homemade bread crumbs.  The topping also includes crushed walnuts for a nutty finish on top.  I usually use pecans or hazelnuts, since I’m not the biggest fan of walnuts.

Ziti next to pumpkin based challah for post-Thanksgiving Shabbat. Cape Cod, November 2009

Pumpkin Baked Ziti from Veganomicon

  • 3/4 lb uncooked ziti or penne pasta
  • 2 onions, sliced very thinly
  • 1 recipe Cashew Ricotta
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • white pepper and cayenne, to taste
  • 2 c pureed pumpkin or 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree (don’t use pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1/4 c vegetable broth

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly grease a 9×13 in lasagna pan with olive oil (you can also use two smaller pans).

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box.  Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again.  Set aside.  While the pasta is cooking, start the onions.  Preheat a large, heavy-bottomed pans (cast-iron is great for this) over medium heat.  Add the oil, then the onions, and saute until the onions are very brown and caramelized.  I like to add some salt, to help release the liquid, and then cover.  Slow caramelized onions do take about 45 minutes to be properly done, but you can speed up the process some by increasing the heat.  Just take care not to burn the onions. Set aside.

Place the Cashew Ricotta (recipe to follow) in a bowl and fold in the pumpkin puree, nutmeg, pepper, cayenne, and vegetable broth and stir to combine.  Add the onions and pasta, mixing until thoroughly coated with the sauce. Pour into prepared pan, and press lightly with a spatula to distribute it evenly. Top with the sage breadcrumbs (recipe also to follow) and bake 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is golden brown.  Let cool about 10 minutes before serving.  This can also be made in advance and reheated.

Cashew Ricotta

  • 1/2 c raw cashew pieces (about 4 ounces)
  • 1/4 c fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves fresh or roasted garlic
  • 1 lb firm tofu, drained and crumbled
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt

In a food processor, blend together the cashews, lemon juice, olive oil and garlic until a thick creamy paste forms.  Add the crumbled tofu to the food processor, working in two or more batches if necessary, until the mixture is thick and well blended.  Blend in basil and salt.

Sage Breadcrumbs

  • 2 1/2 c plain bread crumbs (homemade are great here)
  • 1/3 c pecans or hazelnuts, chopped until resembling coarse crumbs
  • 1/4 c vegan margarine
  • 2 tsp dried rubbed sage
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Melt the margarine in a large heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat. Stir in the breadcrumbs, nuts, herbs, paprika, and season with salt and pepper.  Stir constantly 3-4 minutes until evenly coated.  Remove from heat and sprinkle evenly over the ziti.