Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Chai Chocolate Cheesecake

What inspired this decadence? Well, it is chocolate month at Foodies+! Since chocolate is such a magical ingredient, I really wanted to create something spectacular. I remembered I'd long ago tried a hot chai spiced tea with a squirt of dark chocolate sauce and that it was an incredibly special combination. Then I thought why not try incorporating those flavors into a cheesecake? I had a little trouble at first, using my lemon cheesecake bars as a guide for how long to bake my cheesecake, and at what temperature. I must have forgotten how hot my oven runs, because my first attempt dried out and cracked pretty severely. It tasted fine, but was nowhere near as smooth and luscious as my second attempt. Full disclosure: despite my best efforts my second cheesecake cracked just a bit. But ganache can hide a multitude of sins. Thank goodness it is also a perfect finishing touch on an amazing dessert!

Chai Chocolate Cheesecake

Makes 9” cheesecake

1/4 cup butter, melted
3 Tablespoons sugar
8 (full sheet) chocolate graham crackers, crushed

2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup heavy cream
6 ounces good quality belgian chocolate
10 spice cloves
6 green cardamom pods, gently cracked
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 earl grey tea bag
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
2 jumbo eggs
1/4 cup sugar

3 ounces good quality belgian chocolate
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 Tablespoon clarified butter

1. Assemble the crust: mix together chocolate cracker crumbs and sugar, then add melted butter. Toss until thoroughly combined. Press mixture into the bottom and slightly up the sides of a 9” spring form pan. Cover with plastic wrap and set in fridge for one hour.
2. Chop chocolate for filling and put into a medium mixing bowl.
3. In a larger bowl, use a mixer to cream together eggs and cream cheese.
4. In a small saucepan combine cloves, cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, tea, vanilla and one cup cream. Steep on the lowest possible heat for 20 minutes, watching carefully. If it begins to bubble take it off the heat and stir for a few seconds to cool it back down.
5. Preheat the oven to 350. Fill a roasting pan or large baking dish with 1/2 inch boiling water and place on the lower rack of the oven.
6. Pour the hot cream through a fine mesh sieve and into the chopped chocolate in small amounts, stirring to thoroughly incorporate in between (should take about 5 pours). When all the cream is in, stir until the mixture has become smooth (all chocolate pieces are melted).
6. Combine chocolate and cream cheese, mixing thoroughly. Fold in sugar and corn starch. Pour mixture over crust in spring form. Spread evenly.
7. Bake for 10 minutes at 350, then turn heat down to 300 and bake for another 40 minutes.
8. Allow the cheesecake to chill in the fridge at least one hour and up to six before making the ganache topping.
9. Chop remaining chocolate. In a small saucepan heat cream and whisk in butter. Add hot cream to chopped chocolate and stir until chocolate is thoroughly melted and ganache is smooth and shiny. Pour over cheesecake, spreading with a spatula over the entire surface.


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Passover Food Charoset

I hosted a Seder this Passover and it was a lovely event. Three of my mama friends joined me with their children. For most of them it was their first, or maybe second seder. Wanting to show them the best of me Eastern European roots I cooked quite a bit: roasted beet, chevre and baby kale salad with an orange vinaigrette; homemade matzah ball soup (recipe is on my blog) with schmaltz; a brilliant apple noodle kugel from The New York Times. And of course I prepped the food to be eaten during the seder rituals, all of which is reflected on the seder plate.

My favorite of the ritual foods, Charoset, is a wine marinated apple salad that is meant to represent mortar. Passover is the story of how Moses led the Israelites out of their bondage in Egypt. Several items on the seder plate are meant to represent the bitterness of that slavery. None are as sweet or as looked forward to as Charoset, which varies from home to home, but always includes finely chopped apples, red wine and walnuts. It is eaten with Matzah, a holiday cracker and is a delightful treat. I made mine with a touch of cloves and honey and it turned out fabulous. I’m including the recipe below, along with a picture of my seder plate. Now, you may have already had all of the Seders you’re going to have. Bookmark this recipe and save it for next year and the year after. You’ll have the most delicious Charoset every Passover. For those of you who have a few seders left to plan and have just run out of Charoset, give this recipe a try. If you don’t celebrate Passover you can still enjoy this cold apple salad. It is delicious on its own or with Matzah (or another basic unsalted cracker such as water crackers). Try it with brie on toast.


Makes 3 cups

3 Fuji or Braeburn apples, peeled and finely chopped
6 ounces red wine
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground spice cloves

1. Mix all ingredients together. Marinate for up to an hour. Serve on the seder plate (to be eaten at the appropriate time), or any time.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Saag Paneer (Spinach Curry with fresh cheese)

I've been staying out of the kitchen as much as possible since my son had surgery to correct his polydactyly. He's been in a cast all the way up his arm for almost three weeks. (he finally gets it off Wednesday!) The first week he needed extra help and constant attention. As he's gotten used to his cast he has gotten more independent. So, I've gotten the chance to resume planning and cooking weekly menus for my family. Perhaps because I've been away for a little while I went a bit overboard this week. I made Croatian Chicken Paprikash, Shakshuka with the leftovers as well as a loaf of homemade sesame semolina crusty bread to accompany and finally Saag Paneer with homemade cheese. The Saag Paneer was inspired, in a roundabout way, by my son.

Usually we try to get our 17 month old to try whatever we’re eating, but my son is not a fan of spinach. He's willing to eat it in purees, as long as it's disguised by beans and other vegetables. But when I make it the star of a dish, he refuses to eat it. He's not generally a picky eater. After all, he happily eats curry rice noodles and beef koobideh, as well as chicken paprikash... Thankfully, he seems to be willing to try and enjoy a lot of different food. Because he's an adventurous eater, I give him lots of flavors to sample. That is more or less how I started to conceive a baby food cookbook. As I was writing recipes for it I tried to think of a spectacular spinach dish to convince Henry to like it. First I tried baby creamed spinach, with roasted garlic and Greek yogurt. He spit it out. He never spits anything out. I then remembered a friend's fabulously simple homemade paneer recipe and I thought of making Baby Saag Paneer. He didn't like it, either, although he was perfectly willing to eat the paneer on its own and a soft piece of semolina bread dipped in the Saag Paneer gravy. So, I still hadn't convinced him to eat spinach, but me and my husband didn't mind; we eagerly finished the leftovers. This dish was clearly more to adult tastes. And wow was it ever tasty! Using Azlin’s easy recipe for homemade paneer, it was easy. And so delicious you'll be hoping for leftovers, too.

because this was originally conceived for my baby food cookbook you're getting a sneak peek at the photography.

Saag Paneer

Serves 6

18 ounces baby spinach, sauteed and strained (see notes)
2/3 cup greek yogurt
1 cup half n half
3 Tablespoons clarified butter (see notes)
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
Tiny pinch anise seeds
1 small onion, julienned
70 grams paneer (see notes for substitutes), in 1/2 inch dice
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric (optional)
1 bay leaf
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper

1. Toss cheese cubes with 1/2 teaspoon curry powder. In a saucepan over medium high heat, add a Tablespoon clarified butter, a few drops of olive oil, and fry the cheese cubes until they developed color all around the outside. When they are done remove from heat and set them aside.
2. Add remainder of butter and olive oil. Saute onions until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add in spices and ground ginger and cook, stirring constantly, until spices become fragrant (about 1 minute).
3. Turn heat down to low. Stir in half n half and yogurt. When everything is mixed together add spinach and reintroduce cheese. Bring everything up to temperature.

Serve with long grain rice and flat bread.

After sauteeing spinach, press all of the liquid out before continuing to add it to a dish.
To clarify butter, melt it and pour through cheesecloth or a fine mesh sieve.
You can substitute mozzarella, especially fresh mozzarella (rinsed) for panner; you can also substitute tofu.