Vegetarian

Watermelon Jicama Salad

watermelon jicama salad

 

A few weeks ago, we had very hot weather on Shabbos.  It was one of those weeks that boasted a potpourri of  weather patterns.  We had rain, cold, overcast skies, bursts of sunshine and then a 40 degree rise in temperatures from Friday to Shabbos.

We just did not have enough time for our bodies to acclimate to nearly ninety degrees F on Shabbos.

I had bought a watermelon to greet the warm weather and Shabbos morning, on the spur of the moment, I decided to serve the watermelon as a salad rather than as a dessert.  I remembered having a delicious watermelon salad at my friend, Sallie’s house several years ago.  I didn’t remember anything about the other ingredients in Sallie’s salad, just that I had really enjoyed her watermelon salad.

I ran the idea of creating a watermelon salad by Ruti, our Shabbos house-guest from Jerusalem.

She had one word for the idea.  Muzar.  Strange.

That didn’t stop me.  I looked in my refrigerator.  I had jicama, mint, scallions and blood oranges in addition to the watermelon.  So, I cut everything up, placed the salad bowl in the refrigerator and waited for inspiration to set in for the dressing.

Inspiration is the mother of invention,  The salad was refreshing, delicious and beautiful.

Oh, and Sallie joined us with her family for Shabbos lunch.  At first all our guests remarked, “So, we’re the guinea pigs for the blog?”, to which I simply said “yes!”.

But then, Sallie tasted the salad and just said, “Wow!”

That made my day.  The ingredient combinations may be muzar, but Sallie’s declaration of wow confirmed that this recipe would be a keeper.

INGREDIENTS

watermelon, cut into cubes (about 4 cups)
jicama, peeled and cut into small cubes
scallions, washed and cut into 1″ sections
mint, soaked and rinsed (optional) (see kosher notes)
2 blood oranges, peeled and cubed

1-2 teaspoons kosher salt
dash of pepper
lemon juice or cider vinegar
drizzle of oil (optional)

SUPPLIES

wavy crinkle cutter

 

DIRECTIONS

Cube watermelon and cut jicama into small strips or cubes using  wavy crinkle cutter. Clean and rinse scallions and mint.  Sprinkle kosher salt and pepper over ingredients. Drizzle with lemon  juice or cider vinegar.  Lightly drizzle with oil.

Enjoy!

KOSHER NOTES

Kosher laws disallow the eating of  any whole insects and therefore most greens require a process of soaking, rinsing and in some cases, pureeing.  Kashrut authorities differ on the proper checking of herbs and some disallow the use of fresh herbs altogether.  This blog was not designed to be your  kosher authority, so please consult your local rabbinic authority regarding using and preparing herbs such as mint.

Firecracker Cauliflower

firecracker cauliflower.jpg

Every once in a while, I want to serve something that surprises everyone.  Cauliflower is one of those side dishes that everyone enjoys and is simply good for you.  When roasted, it has both delicious flavor and texture (see Rockstar Roasted Cauliflower).

This week, I decided to wake everyone’s taste buds up by adding some heat to my typical roasted cauliflower.  This recipe was inspired by Simply Spicy Firecracker Salmon.

INGREDIENTS

1-2 heads cauliflower, separated into florets and cleaned (see kosher notes)
Oil

Kosher Salt
Simple and Perfect Spicy Mayo
Lime juice (optional)

DIRECTIONS

Line baking sheets with parchment paper or greased foil.

Spread cauliflower in a single layer on baking sheet(s).  Sprinkle with kosher salt and lightly drizzle with spicy mayo.  Drizzle lightly with lime juice for a fresh flavor.

Roast at 425 degrees F for 40-50 minutes, checking that cauliflower is sot on inside and just turning brown on outside before removing from oven.

KOSHER NOTES

Kosher laws disallow the eating of any whole insects and therefore cauliflower require a process of soaking, rinsing and in some cases, pureeing. Kashrut authorities differ on the proper checking of cauliflower and some disallow its use altogether. This blog was not designed to be your kosher authority, so please consult your local rabbinic authority regarding using and preparing cauliflower.

Simple and Colorful Rainbow Carrot Salad

rainbow carrot saladI love using interesting and varied fresh ingredients in my recipes.  It used to be harder to find heirloom produce varieties, and I would have to scour farmer’s markets and specialty shoppes to find specialty produce.  In the past few years, our local supermarkets and stores like Trader Joe’s have begun stocking heirloom and specialty varieties of our favorite produce.

Many unusual color vegetable varieties lose their vivid color when heated, so I prefer to use these in salads and in fresh  preparations (Rainbow Carrot Curls: A Wow Garnish). Vegetables like heirloom tomatoes, red basil and rainbow carrots really add a beautiful and colorful wow factor to ordinary recipes.

This salad is hearty, satisfying and simple to prepare.   It can be made with orange carrots instead of rainbow carrots and will be equally tasty with just a few less colors of the rainbow to admire.  It boasts Garbanzo beans (chick peas) for a protein boost and almonds and scallions for color and texture.

This salad is best made several hours ahead and refrigerated until ready to serve.  I prefer to shred the carrots myself since unpeeled whole carrots stay fresher than ready-to-use shredded carrots.

INGREDIENTS

2 pounds of peeled rainbow carrots, or any color carrots, shredded
1/4 cup sliced or slivered almonds
1 can garbanzo beans (chick peas), drained well
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 bunch of scallions, sliced thin

salt
pepper
squirt of mustard
drizzle of honey or agave syrup

DIRECTIONS

Shred carrots using the shredding blade of the food processor or using a hand grater or mandoline.  Add well-drained garbanzo beans, almonds, dried ranberries and scallions.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with mustard and honey.  Toss well and enjoy.

Zucchini Mushroom Kugel

zucchini mushroom kugel

Jewish cooking favors the preparation of kugels (casseroles), probably because of their versatility.  Since cooking is prohibited on Shabbos (Sabbath) and is limited on the Jewish holidays, the kugel has become a go-to solution.  It allows for make-ahead preparation and can be served hot or at room temperature.

Although I favor keeping my vegetables raw and simply prepared, this kugel has become one of my favorites.  It highlights a simple list of fresh ingredients and this kugel  is perfect for freezing in advance of a busy Yom Tov (holiday, lit: good day) like Pesach (Passover).  Although zucchini squash has a high water content and usually needs to be squeezed out, the sliced zucchini in this recipe needs no squeezing.  The moisture of the zucchini slices creates a satisfying textural compliment to the other ingredients and make for a soft and juicy kugel.

INGREDIENTS

1 large onion or 2 shallots, diced
2-3 garlic cloves, minced or garlic powder
3 large zucchini, thinly sliced
1 package mushrooms, sliced

1/2 cup potato starch
3 eggs
1/4 cup oil

1 teaspoon salt
dash pepper

DIRECTIONS

Grease a pie dish or line a baking dish with parchment paper.

Saute onions, garlic and mushrooms until soft and starting to brown.

Whisk eggs and combine with oil, seasonings, sauteed onion, garlic and mushrooms. Sprinkle zucchnii slices with potato starch.  Fold egg mixture into zucchini slices until just combined.

Fill baking dish with mixture and bake uncovered at  400 degrees F for 45 minutes to one hour.  Kugel should be golden brown and set when ready.

 

VARIATIONS

Flour and a tad of baking powder may be substituted for the potato starch for non-Passover cooking.

DIY Passover French Baked Onions

french fried onions for pesach

So many of my simple and moist recipes rely on french fried onions.  They add moisture and pizazz to even the simplest and leanest of fish, meats and poultry.  Recipes such as Onion-Battered Baked TilapiaSimple Onion Baked Chicken Cutlets and Low and Slow Oven Brisket require this as a key ingredient.

Year-round, this is a readily available ingredient with so many kosher brands to choose from.  For some reason the smaller packages of French’s do not carry an o-u kosher certification while the 26.5 ounce package of Family size french fried onions is available on Amazon with a reliable o-u certification.

Since these products have flour listed on the ingredient list, I understood that they would not acceptable for Passover use.    However, I was hoping to find a similar product this year that would be kosher for Passover.   Alas, I was unsuccessful.

That meant that I needed to develop a recipe for french fried onions similar enough to the store-bought ones.  I also wanted a recipe that would not require frying.  There is just too much to be done before Pesach (Passover) for me to be frying onions in small batches.

This recipe is good.  It is not as dry and crunchy as the original.  But, it does serve as a good replacement for these recipes.  And, it is simple.

I would love to hear your comments, especially if you found this recipe to be simple to wow.

INGREDIENTS

4 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup potato starch
1/2 cup Passover crumbs
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon pepper
olive oil or cooking spray

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or greased aluminum foil.

Separate thinly sliced onion rings into individual rings. In a large bowl, add the rest of the ingredients and toss to coat the onion rings.

Place the onion rings ton the baking sheet and drizzle olive oil or generously spray with cooking spray.

Bake for 25-35 minutes, frequently checking that the onions do not burn.  When ready, these onions should be just starting to turn golden brown.

Allow onions to come to room temperature before using.

Roasted Sweet Potato and Beet Salad

For our annual Purim seuda (festive meal),  I decided to prepare a new salad.

This salad took inspiration from a delicious battata (sweet potato) salad that I enjoyed at Cafe Greg in Rosh Pina in the Upper Galilee of Israel.  It combined the delicious colors, flavors and textures of roasted sweet potatoes, candied almonds and shredded fresh beets. All these were served atop a bed of arugula and baby kale and then tossed right before serving.

I prepared this salad as my feature salad, reserving my biggest salad bowl for this new recipe.

The only thing that took extra time was roasting the sweet potato cubes in advance.  It was well worth the effort.

It must have been delicious because it was the only item that I prepared for the seuda that was finished within the first hour.

INGREDIENTS

3 cups checked salad greens (see kosher notes)
2 cups roasted cubed sweet potatoes
2 cups shredded fresh beets
1/2 cup nuts
thinly sliced scallions
french fried onions (optional)

4 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons cider vinegar or lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper or greased foil.

Peel sweet potato and cut into small cubes.  Place sweet potato cubes in a single layer on baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil or spray with cooking spray and lightly sprinkle with kosher salt.

Roast for 35-55 minutes checking that sweet potato cubes are crisp on outside and soft on inside before removing from oven.  Cubes may be prepared in advance.  They may either be added to the salad warm or at room temperature.

Peel beets.  Using the shredder disk on the food processor, shred beets.

Combine, process or shake all dressing ingredients together.

Layer greens and shredded beets. Lightly drizzle dressing over the salad. Top with nuts, scallions and french fried onions.  Toss right before serving.

 

KOSHER NOTES

Kosher laws disallow the eating of  any whole insects and therefore most greens require a process of soaking, rinsing and in some cases, pureeing.  I have found that flat-leafed greens like baby spinach and flat-leaf  kale are much easier to check for insects than their curly-leaf counterparts.  Kashrut authorities differ on the proper checking of leafy vegetables and some disallow the use of spinach and kale altogether.  This blog was not designed to be your  kosher authority, so please consult your local rabbinic authority regarding using and preparing greens such as spinach and kale.

 

VARIATIONS

Cubed butternut squash or fresh pumpkin may be substituted for the sweet potatoes.

 

TIPS

When I prepare greens in advance, I place a few absorbent paper towels at the bottom of the bag or dish.  I then layer the greens over the paper towels.  These paper towels will absorb any extra moisture in the greens and will keep the green fresh. roasted sweet potato salad

 

Simple Roasted Cauliflower Lentil Soup

roasted-cauliflower-and-lentil-soup

It is cold outside and the weather is perfect for soup.  On these windy and cold winter mornings, I love to prepare a crockpot soup that will be ready for lunch and then again for dinner.

There is nothing quite like a hearty winter soup.  Delicious and nutritious soups don’t have to be complicated.  This one is the perfect example.  It is simple and fashioned from Shabbos leftovers.

I used leftover roasted cauliflower from Shabbos, but this soup can easily be made with fresh or frozen cauliflower, as well.  If using fresh or frozen cauliflower, it will require more cooking time in the crockpot and more salt.

I have used red lentils for this soup because they cook quicker and break down more easily into a velvety smooth pureed soup.  You can use green or brown lentils, but the soup will require more cooking time and will result in a soup with a more distinctive lentil texture. For more information on different types of lentils, read my introductory lentil soup post.

INGREDIENTS

3 cups cauliflower florets, fresh, frozen or roasted (see kosher notes)
1 onion, diced and sauteed in oil
2-3 cloves garlic, sauteed in oil or garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
dash of pepper

scallions for garnish (optional)
SUPPLIES

6-quart Crock Pot

metal stick blender

 

DIRECTIONS

Over medium heat, saute onion and garlic in a bit of oil until just turning brown.  Place sauteed onions and garlic in crockpot.

If roasting cauliflower, place cauliflower in a single layer on a baking sheet coated with parchment paper or foil.  Drizzle with oil and lightly sprinkle with kosher salt and garlic.  Cook for 25 minutes  at 375 degrees and then increase temperature to 450 degrees F for 20-25 minutes more, checking that vegetables are soft and browned before removing from oven.

To the crockpot, add cauliflower, red lentils and season with salt and pepper.  Cook for 4-6 hours on high heat.

Blend with a stick blender just before serving.  Garnish with Curly Scallion Garnish

 

KOSHER NOTES

Kosher laws disallow the eating of  any whole insects and therefore cauliflower require a process of soaking, rinsing and in some cases, pureeing.   Kashrut authorities differ on the proper checking of  cauliflower and some disallow its use altogether.  This blog was not designed to be your  kosher authority, so please consult your local rabbinic authority regarding using and preparing cauliflower.

Enjoy!

Simplest Sesame Noodles

sesame-noodlesWhen looking for a pareve and delicious pasta dish, this is my go-to recipe.  It started out as a Kosher by Design recipe and I have adapted and simplified it over the years.  It is still a winner and  the perfect pasta dish.  To upgrade this dish in the simplest way, I use interesting pasta shapes like trumpet-shaped Gigli or hollow Bucatini strands.

INGREDIENTS

1 pound of pasta
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sesame oil
2-3 crushed garlic cloves or 2 tablespoons garlic
drizzle of honey or agave syrup
sprinkle of sesame seeds
3-4 scallions or red onions, sliced or diced(optional)

DIRECTIONS

Prepare the pasta al dente.  Drizzle and sprinkle soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic and honey or agave right on top of pasta.  Toss well.   Sprinkle  sesame seeds and scallions on top before serving.

Enjoy!

The Blessing and Renewal of Tu Beshvat

 

tu beshvat fruit salad with kiwi garnish.jpg

 

Tomorrow is Tu B’Shevat , ט״ו בשבט‎‎, the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat.   This special Jewish day commemorates the New Year of the Trees.

We are  taught that the trees are judged on this date for the fruit that will be produced in the next growing year.  In Israel, this is the beginning of fruit trees emerging from winter dormancy to begin a new fruit-bearing season.

To commemorate this special day, we enjoy fruit, especially fruits synonymous with the Land of Israel.  In the Torah, certain fruits are praised as the bounty of Israel and we make certain to enjoy these fruits on this day.  These fruits of mention are olives, dates, grapes, figs and pomegranates.

Tu B’Shevat reminds us of the dormant potential in the trees and in each one of us.  Just as the trees and their seeds lie dormant during the harsh and cold winter months, often we have times of dormancy.  Our hope is that we recognize the potential in ourselves, our children and those around us, even in the harshest and most challenging of times. Precisely at this time, while it is still cold and unforgiving outside, the trees celebrate their New Year.

May each one of us celebrate this festival of potential, growth and blossoming in our gardens, our families and our hearts.

This fruit salad incorporates some new fruits and some of the fabulous fruits of Israel. We thank G-d when enjoying the vibrant colors, textures and flavors of fruit by reciting this blessing:

Hebrew:

Transliteration
Baruch atah A-donai Elo-heinu Melech Ha’Olam Borei Pri Ha-aitz.

Translation
Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the tree.

When we eat new fruits that we have not eaten for an entire season, we also bless G-d with this special blessing:

Hebrew:Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech haolam, shehecheyanu, v'kiy'manu, v'higianu laz'man hazeh.

Transliteration
Baruch atah A-donai, Elo-heinu Melech Ha’Olam shehecheyanu v’kiyimanu v’higi’anu laz’man hazeh

Translation
Blessed are you, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe who has kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season

This fruit salad incorporates so many of the fruits that I love to purchase at the Machene Yehuda Shuk (Jerusalem open-air market) while we are in Israel.  I hope that it connects you to The Land, to G-d and to the potential that is Tu Beshvat, too.

Happy Tu Beshvat!

INGREDIENTS
dragon fruit
kiwi (see tips)
star fruit
watermelon
persimmon
Asian pears (see tips)
strawberries
dates
pomegranates

SPECIAL SUPPLIES
melon baller
scallop knife
peeler

DIRECTIONS
Was, dice, scoop and cut fruit into small pieces.  Gently toss and optionally garnish with Simple Kiwi Flower Garnish.

 

TIPS 

To keep fruits like Asian pears from oxidizing, place cut pieces in a solution of 4 parts water to 1 part of lemon juice r pineapple juice.

Peel kiwi with a vegetable peeler.  You will preserve more of the fruit.

Please Note:  This post contains affiliate links from Amazon, which means I earn a small commission if you click and make a purchase.

Sweet Potato Butternut Squash Marigolds

A few weeks ago, I invited our new neighbors over for Shabbos lunch.  I was tired of my tried and true recipes so I decided to combine the ingredients and techniques from a couple of my favorite SimpletoWow recipes.  I really wasn’t sure how it would work out.

Luckily, the end-product was a most pleasant and stunning surprise.    What I ended up with were the most beautiful, most delicious and colorful sweet potato-butternut squash marigolds.

For the piped sweet potato  marigolds, I used the Sweet Potato Cupcake Toppers recipe.  I piped the sweet potato flowers atop slices of butternut squash prepared just as I did in Glazed Butternut Squash with Shallots and Grapes.

It was pretty simple.

It was a wow.

But, best of all, the marigolds really held up well and a few were even left over for Sunday left-overs.   They kept their shape and were devoured by our resident vegetarians.

 

INGREDIENTS

1 large butternut squash

1-2 tablespoons oil
1-2 tablespoons honey or brown sugar
kosher salt

black pepper to taste

3-4 sweet potatoes
1 egg
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon syrup, honey or sugar
dash of salt and pepper

 

SUPPLIES

Cuisinart Stainless 14 cup Food Processor

Wilton Large Piping Tip Set

Heavy Duty 16″ Disposable Piping Bags

Wood and Silicone Spatula

 

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Scrub butternut squash.  Using a large knife, cut unpeeled butternut squash crosswise into 1/3 inch to 1/2 inch disks.  Remove seeds from rings at bottom of squash.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place butternut squash disks in a single layer on lined baking sheet.

butternut-squash-sweet-potato-flowers-butternut-squash-disks

Lightly drizzle oil and honey or sugar over butternut squash.  Lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Place small whole sweet potatoes on separate baking sheet or in pyrex baking dish.

sweet-potato-cupcake-toppers-roasted-sweet-potatoes

Roast uncovered for 40-45 minutes. Butternut squash should be soft and just beginning to caramelize. Sweet potatoes should be soft with gap beginning to form between peel and pulp. If sweet potatoes are not soft enough to peel, cook for 10-15 more minutes.

Allow squash and sweet potatoes to cool. Leave the squash slices intact and carefully peel away the sweet potato skins and discard.

Using the s-blade in the food processor, pulse sweet potato pulp, egg, olive oil, sugar or honey and salt until puree is smooth and creamy.

sweet-potato-cupcake-toppers-puree-in-food-processor

Fill sweet potato puree into a large piping bag fitted with a star tip or into a zipper bag.  To do this most easily and without making much of a mess, cuff bag over tall jar or glass.  Use a stiff rubber spatula to load puree into piping bag or zipper bag.

If not using a tip, cut corner of bag. Squeeze air out of the top of the bag and twist top of bag shut.  Push puree to tip or cut corner.

Pipe sweet potato puree onto butternut squash slices.  Bake for 20-30 minutes at 400 degrees.  Marigolds should be slightly firm and dry on top when ready.

butternut-squash-sweet-potato-flowers-two

 

Voila!

 

Please Note:  This post contains affiliate links from Amazon, which means I earn a small commission if you click and make a purchase.

Simple Carrot Cranberry Kugel

carrot-cranberry-individual-kugel

There are some recipes that don’t look beautiful but have that special blend of wholesome ingredients, delicious taste and  perfect texture.  This recipe is one of those.  I have prepared it with a pound of fresh, frozen or canned carrots.  I have prepared this recipe a loaf pan, in a pyrex pie dish, in individual ramekins and in silicone baking molds.  It is one those wonderful recipes that can served as a side dish, as a dessert or as a snack.

The original recipe was in Yeshiva of North Jersey’s cookbook  published during the time my children were in elementary school.  I have changed and simplified the original recipe by reducing the amount of sugar and oil and simplifying the preparation.  It is one of our family favorites.

carrot-cranberry-kugel-slice

carrot cranberry kugel.jpg

 

 

INGREDIENTS

one pound of fresh carrots, shredded (see notes)
1/2 cup oil
2 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2/3 cup craisins

 

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Shred carrots using the shredding blade of the food processor.

Add the rest of the ingredients and combine by pulsing in the food processor using the S-blade of food processor until well combined.  Alternatively, combine ingredients by hand or in a mixer.   Pour into a pie dish or a loaf pan lined with parchment paper.

Bake  for 40-45 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.  Carrot kugel should be golden brown in color when ready.

 

NOTES

Instead of shredded carrots, you can substitute one pound of frozen or canned carrots.  Just mash or pulse in food processor  using S-blade of food processor.  Add rest of ingredients. Pulse a few times until combined.

This can be baked in ramekins or as muffins in large muffin wrappers.  Modify baking time to 15-25 minutes, depending on size of each muffin.

Sweet Potato Gratin with Shallots and Grapes

sweet-potato-gratin-with-shallots-and-grapes-2

A gratin is a dish that is baked or broiled in a shallow dish and has a crispy upper crust. Traditionally, a gratin employs cheese and/or breadcrumbs to achieve that crispy crunchy crust.

This recipe is my own pareve and low-carb version of a gratin.

It is roasted and baked in a shallow dish.  Oh, and it has a delicious caramelized upper crust.  Alas, there is no cheese and there are no breadcrumbs.

Instead, shallots and grapes create that crispy and decadent upper crust.  I think that it is a worthy gratin, albeit pareve and vegan.

I suppose that we can call it a gratin in disguise.

Here it is…

INGREDIENTS

2-3 small sweet potatoes, scrubbed with tough ends removed
3-4 shallots, peeled
handful of green or red grapes, whole

3-4 tablespoons oil
2-3 tablespoons brown sugar, honey, agave or maple syrup
kosher salt
pepper

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Line a casserole dish or deep pie plate with parchment paper.

Spiralize sweet potatoes or shred sweet potatoes in the food processor, using the shredder blade.  Sweet potatoes may be peeled or unpeeled.

Pile the shredded sweet potatoes on the lined baking dish.

Thinly slice shallots using slicer blade of the food processor.  Scatter over the shredded sweet potatoes.

Remove grapes from cluster and clean.  Scatter over the shallots.

Lightly drizzle oil and brown sugar, honey, agave or maple syrup over vegetables.  Lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper.

sweet-potato-gratin-with-shallots-and-grapes-2-before-baking

Roast uncovered for 30-35 minutes.  Lower heat to 350 degrees F and bake for 10 minutes longer.  The gratin should be soft and just beginning to caramelize.

Sweet Potato Cupcake Toppers

sweet-potato-cupcake-toppers-unbaked

Sweet potato is a simple and versatile ingredient that is available year-round. Even the humble sweet potato can be easily dressed up. Its gorgeous orange color, its sweet flavor and its creamy smooth texture make this recipe a masterpiece.

I have called this recipe “sweet potato cupcake toppers” because the mashed sweet potato pipes so beautifully that it looks ready to top a cupcake. The elegance of the star-tip piping makes such a beautifully presented side-dish.

But, don’t let the beautiful color and presentation of these toppers fool you.

The elegance of this dish is paralleled only by the impressive taste and texture. The natural sweetness and of the sweet potato is intensified by roasting the raw sweet potato and then adding honey or agave syrup. The baking of these piped cupcake toppers create a light and crispy ouer shell, while the inside retains a soft, creamy texture.

These sweet potato toppers add a touch of elegance to any meal, but are actually simple to prepare. I have used a large star tip to pipe them, but they can be easily piped from a zipper bag with the corner cut, as well.

This recipe will wow your guests and only you will know how simple they were to prepare.

INGREDIENTS
4-5 sweet potatoes

1 egg
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon agave syrup or honey
dash of salt and pepper

 

SUPPLIES

Cuisinart Stainless 14 cup Food Processor

Wilton Large Piping Tip Set

Heavy Duty 16″ Disposable Piping Bags

Wood and Silicone Spatula

 

DIRECTIONS

Roast sweet potatoes at 425 degrees F for 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Sweet potatoes are ready when the outside is soft and there is a gap between the peel and the inside pulp. Allow to cool and then carefully peel away the skin.

sweet-potato-cupcake-toppers-roasted-sweet-potatoes

Using the s-blade in the food processor, pulse sweet potato pulp, egg, olive oil, syrup or honey and salt until puree is smooth and creamy.

sweet-potato-cupcake-toppers-puree-in-food-processor

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Fill a large piping bag fitted with a star tip or a zipper bag with sweet potato puree.  To do this most easily and without making much of a mess, cuff bag over tall jar or glass.  Use a stiff rubber spatula to load puree into piping or zipper bag.

If not using a tip, cut corner of bag. Squeeze air out of the top of the bag and twist top of bag shut.  Push puree to tip or cut corner.  Pipe sweet potato puree  onto parchment paper.

sweet-potato-cupcake-toppers-unbaked

Bake for 20-30 minutes.  Sweet Potato toppers should be slightly firm and dry on top when ready.

Voila!

Please Note:  This post contains affiliate links from Amazon, which means I earn a small commission if you click and make a purchase.

Crockpot Pumpkin-Sweet Potato Soup

This is one of our family favorites.  In fact, when I offer to bring soup to a party or dinner, this soup and my Simply the best chicken soup…ever! are the two most popular favorites.   There is something about the natural sweetness of this soup paired with the velvety smoothness of its texture that is divine.

It is best made in a crockpot and can be adapted to incorporate butternut or acorn squash and carrots as well.  Just roast those ingredients until they are soft and beginning to caramelize and then add to the crockpot with seasonings and water.  The key to the soup is the unique combination of sweet and savory spices.  Cream can be added to the recipe for a delicious dairy version of this soup.

When I prepare this soup with butternut squash or pumpkin, I reserve the seeds and roast them for 20-30 minutes.  They are delicious served on top as a garnish.

pumpkin-soup-with-seeds

INGREDIENTS

1 small whole pumpkin
2 sweet potatoes, scrubbed
1-2 whole onions, peeled

2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon minced garlic or garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon powdered or freshly grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

DIRECTIONS

Scrub and rinse unpeeled sweet potatoes and pumpkin.  Remove any paper tags.   Place whole vegetables on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 425 degrees F. Remove sweet potatoes and onions from oven after 45-60 minutes and pumpkin after 90 minutes.

Place onions in crockpot.  Once cool, carefully remove stem and peel skin from pumpkin and discard.  Carefully,  place clean pulp in crockpot. Carefully peel skin from sweet potatoes and place sweet potato pulp in crockpot.

Add seasonings and fill crockpot two-thirds of the way to the top.  Place crockpot on high setting and cook for 3-6 hours.  Adjust seasonings to taste.

Puree with a stick blender before serving.

Reserve seeds and place in separate pan for roasting.  Roast at 425 Degrees F for 20-30 minutes, checking often to make sure that the seeds are not burning.

SIMPLE SHORTCUT
Skip the roasting of the vegetables. Instead, use 1-2 cans of sweet potatoes or yams and use shredded carrots and raw onions or scallions. Place all ingredients and seasonings directly into crockpot. Allow 5-6 hours to cook in crockpot with seasonings. Puree before serving.

MY FAVORITE AMAZON SUPPLIES FOR THIS RECIPE

Cuisinart Stick Blender

Stainless Steel 6 Quart Manual Crockpot

Glazed Butternut Squash with Shallots and Grapes

glazed-butternut-squash-with-shallots-and-grapes

Leah recently spent Shabbos at her friend’s house and came back with this amazing recipe.  I simplified the preparation and have prepared this dish over and over again.  It is the perfect combination of smooth butternut squash, shallot rings and grapes that just pop in your mouth.  It is one of those new recipes that you will really enjoy.

Butternut squash is a flavorful winter squash shaped like a bottle.  The seeds are stored in the bottom part of the squash.  Butternut squash has a sweet, nutty flavor with a tan-orange hard skin and fleshy orange pulp.  It is an excellent source of  fiber, Vitamins A, C and E as well as potassium and magnesium.

Many people are intimidated by the shape of this squash and the toughness of the peel.   For this recipe, it is not necessary to peel the butternut squash.  When sliced, the stem portion of the butternut squash yields firm disks and the bottom portion yields rings filled with seeds.  I choose butternut squash with a long stem portion, as the disks that are sliced from the stem do not contain any seeds.

The glaze is applied by just drizzling and sprinkling the glaze ingredients directly over the butternut squash.

The simplicity, texture and sensational flavor of this recipe will wow you!

INGREDIENTS

1 large butternut squash
3-4 shallots, cut into rings
handful of green or red grapes, whole or halved

3-4 tablespoons oil
2-3 tablespoons honey, agave or maple syrup
kosher salt
pepper

scallions (for garnish)

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Scrub butternut squash.  Using a large knife, cut unpeeled butternut squash crosswise into 1/3 inch to 1/2 inch disks.  Remove seeds from rings at bottom of squash.

Peel shallots and slice into rings.  Clean grapes and if they are large, cut into half.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place butternut squash disks in a single layer on lined baking sheet.

Scatter shallots and grapes among butternut squash disks and filling the butternut rings cut from the bottom of the butternut squash with shallots and grapes, too.

Lightly drizzle oil and honey, agave or maple syrup over vegetables.  Lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Roast uncovered for 45-50 minutes.  Optionally, sprinkle with scallions within the last 10 minutes of roasting.  Butternut squash should be soft and just beginning to caramelize. Shallots and grapes should be browned and soft.

butternut-squash-with-shallots-and-grapes

 

Savta’s Sweet Potato Latkes

sweet-potato-latkes

 

Savta loves to make latkes and kugels.  I vividly remember how delicious they were when we were growing up and Savta’s kugel and latkes have become a real delicacy for my children.

This is Savta’s sweet potato latke recipe.  It is perfect.

INGREDIENTS

4 medium red potatoes, peeled
1-2 onions, peeled
1 sweet potato
3  eggs
4 tablespoons  flour
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

olive oil

DIRECTIONS

Using the s-blade of the food processor, process 2 potatoes with the onions, eggs, flour and seasonings. Using the shredder blade of the food processor, shred the remaining potatoes and sweet potatoes. Gently combine all the ingredients together in a large bowl.

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Spoon a ladle-size amount  of  potato mixture into the oil and fry for 2 minutes. Turn the pancakes over and fry for 2 minutes more.  Latkes should be crispy on the outside and golden brown.

Latkes are best served hot from the skillet.

Sweet Potato Roses in Salad Box

sweet-potato-floral-appetizer-up-close

Who said that salads have to be tossed in a salad bowl?

I love the idea of individual salads and especially individual layered salads. There is something wonderful about being served an individual salad, especially when there is a beautiful and delicious garnish to top it off.

Here is one sensational salad appetizer that I created using the simplest of ingredients to create a wow.

 

sweet-potato-floral-appetizer-vegetables-slices-before-roasting-with-peeler-salt-and-oil

INGREDIENTS

sweet potato, onion or zucchini, scrubbed
kosher salt
oil
chives
romaine lettuce leaves
chopped peppers or your favorite chopped vegetables
Simple and Creamy Lemon Vinaigrette or your favorite dressing in a squeeze bottle

SUPPLIES

mandoline or wide peeler
clear square plastic bowls

 

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Thinly slice unpeeled sweet potato using wide peeler or mandoline.

Place thin sweet potato, zucchini or onion slices on parchment or foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with a bit of oil and kosher salt. Roast for 20-30 minutes, just until vegetables are soft with the edges just starting to turn brown.

While roasting the vegetables, soak and rinse romaine lettuce and chopped peppers.

Stand 1-2 sprigs of smallest inner leaves of hearts of romaine at edge of square plastic bowl. Place chopped peppers at the bottom and squeeze scant amount of dressing on top of peppers.

Remove the vegetable slices from the oven and allow to cool slightly.  Roll each slice up to form a rose, using the crispy end to form the middle of the rose bud and wind the softer end around to form a rose.

sweet-potato-floral-appetozer-sweet-potato-rose

Garnish each salad with vegetable roses and tuck  two or three loops of chives between the vegetable roses and the romaine  sprigs.

 

 

 

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Leah’s Parsnip Latkes

Leah has been in charge of preparing Sunday night’s dinner.  Leah has a taste and flair for interesting vegetable combinations.   Delegating the responsibility of preparing dinner frees me and gives others a renewed appreciation for all that dinner preparation entails.  Best of all, it introduces all of us, the diners, to the cook’s creativity and style.

This week, Leah prepared a masterful dinner of salad and parsnip latkes.

Parsnip is a root vegetable with a very unique flavor. Although it looks like a white carrot, it has a sweet, earthy and almost nutty flavor. Leah combined ingredients that we had on hand to wow us with this simple dish of complex flavors, just in time for Chanukah

 

INGREDIENTS

1 large russet potato, peeled

2-3 parsnips, peeled

medium lime, for juice and zest

1/4 cup flour

2 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

oil

 

DIRECTIONS

Zest lime and squeeze out the lime juice.

Coarsely grate potato and parsnips by hand or by using the shredder blade on the food processor. Sprinkle with lime juice and then carefully wrap the shredded vegetables in a kitchen towel to squeeze out as much liquid as you can.  Whisk egg and then add shredded potatoes and parsnips, lime zest, flour, salt and pepper.

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Spoon a ladle-size amount  of  latke mixture into the oil and fry for 2 minutes. Turn the pancakes over and fry for 2 minutes more.  Latkes should be crispy on the outside and golden brown.

Latkes are best served hot from the skillet.

Sliced Carrots with Garlic and Shallots

sliced-carrots-with-shallots-and-garlic-2

Did you ever have one of those marathon days?  This recipe was inspired by that type of day.

I had the whole day planned out perfectly.  I had to drop something off for signature on the way home from the office and there should be plenty of time to pick up some fish and vegetables.  It was Scotty’s last dinner at the house before he headed back to California to resume dental school.  He had been visiting for nearly a week while interviewing for dental residencies throughout the tri-state area.

I wanted dinner to be perfect and perfection takes time.  Only, holiday traffic intervened with perfection.

When there’s no time for perfection, simplicity takes over.  And, simplicity inspired this recipe.

I didn’t even have the time to peel the carrots, so I used a bag of peeled baby carrots, instead of the rainbow carrots that I envisioned.

I had no time to mince the garlic and dice the shallots, so I thinly sliced them both in the food processor right after the carrots.

I just spread the vegetables and sprinkled and drizzled the seasonings and marinade ingredients.

It may not have been perfect, but it certainly was delicious.

And, I think I would do it this way all over again even if I had the time for perfection!

INGREDIENTS

1-2 pounds of peeled carrots or 1 bag of baby carrots
2-3 shallots, peeled
1 head garlic, separated into peeled cloves

3-4 tablespoons oil
2-3 tablespoons brown sugar or agave syrup
kosher salt
pepper

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Line a casserole dish or baking sheet with parchment paper.

Using the slicer blade of the food processor, slice peeled carrots and then shallots and garlic gloves.

Toss gently right in the food processor bowl.

Spread sliced carrots, shallots and garlic in parchment-lined casserole or baking sheet.

Lightly drizzle oil and brown sugar or agave syrup over vegetables.  Lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Roast uncovered for 40-45 minutes.

Enjoy!

Simple Baked Potato Kugelatkes

 

kugelatkes-serving-suggestion

kugelatkes

Traditionally, we eat potato latkes (pancakes) on Chanukah.  We eat foods prepared with oil to commemorate the miracle of the oil in the Beis Hamikdash (Holy Temple) once the Jews were victorious over the Greeks.  After the miraculous war, the Jews entered the desecrated Temple and only found enough pure olive oil to light the Menorah (candelabra) for one day.  The tiny  bit of oil lasted for an entire eight days, enough time for the Jews to get new pure oil to light the Menorah in the Beis Hamikdash, so that the Menorah would be continuously lit.

While latkes are so traditionally linked to Chanukah, there are so many foods that contain olive oil that may just as well commemorate the oil miracle of the Temple.

Truth be told, I hate to fry latkes.

It just takes too much time, too much splatter and it is so hard to manage while entertaining a houseful of guests.

I usually make one batch of latkes just for the first night and find other make-in-advance olive oil alternatives when we entertain guests over Chanukah.

This year, I have adapted my favorite potato kugel recipe to make baked potato kugelatkes.  I made them in a bundt-shaped muffin tin, but they can easily be baked in a cupcake tin, as well.

They are simple to prepare, beautiful and delicious to behold, require no frying and can be prepared well in advance of the Chanukah meal.

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Simple Baked Sweet Potato Cubes

sweet-potato-cubes

When I was a young girl, my Aba (father) would tell me that sweet potatoes were nature’s candy. He would also tell me that sweet potatoes are best when cooked right in their skin. I couldn’t imagine how anyone could compare a root vegetable to candy and why anyone would be interested in preparing sweet potatoes in their ruddy skin.

Now, I finally get it.  Aba is right.  Sweet potatoes are nature’s candy.  And, there are real health benefits to preparing sweet potatoes, especially without peeling them frst.

Sweet potatoes are high in Beta Carotene and contain significant levels of potassium, iron, vitamin B-6 as well as vitamins E and C.   They are a good source of fiber when eaten unpeeled.   They are delicious and nutritious.

This is a very simple and delicious recipe, perfect for a weeknight side dish.

INGREDIENTS

3-4 sweet potatoes, scrubbed
salt
garlic powder
cinnamon
1 teaspoon oil

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F

Cube sweet potatoes.  Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle lightly with salt, garlic and cinnamon.  Bake uncovered in center of oven for 60 to 90 minutes.  Sweet potato cubes should be firm and a bit chewy on the outside and soft on the inside.

 

Enjoy!

Simple Rutabaga and Celery Saute

sauted-shredded-rutabaga

For me, one of the most exciting things about this blog is the introduction of new ingredients to myself and my readers.

It is really about extending one’s comfort zone and affording new ingredients a chance to shine.

For some, it is about exploring new ingredients.  For others, it is about using old-hat ingredients in new and creative ways.  When I meet one of my blog followers, I am often told that through simpletowow.com, they have tried something new that has now become one of their favorites.  That makes my heart swell.

For one of my readers in Chicago, Simply the best salad…ever! has helped her discover so many new tomato varieties. She had always been a one-variety round red tomato consumer. Through the blog, her eyes were opened up to a rainbow of tomato shapes, colors and flavors.

Another one of my readers had never thought to use raw beets in the past.  His experience with beets had only been limited to cooked beets.  Balsamic Beet Slaw: Easy, Fresh and Delicious introduced him to raw beets as a delicious salad ingredient.

Then, there are the ingredients that people love to hate.

Rutabagas falls into that category so easily.

This fall, I have been seeing waxed turnips in the produce market.  Waxed turnips are also called rutabagas or swedes and have a very unique flavor and texture.   They are an excellent source of potassium, vitamin C and manganese, and are a great source of fiber, thiamin, vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus.

rutabaga-half-peeled

The taste of a rutabaga is difficult to describe.  It has a sweet earthy bitterness that I find to be delicious and most interesting.  Technically, rutabaga is a cross between cabbage and turnip.  Rutabagas are usually waxed, hence they are also known as waxed turnips. Using a sharp paring knife, it is important to remove the peel of the rutabaga along with the wax coating before using it as an ingredient.

Rutabaga is one of our family’s new favorite ingredients.  I hope that you will learn to love it, too.

This quick saute is one of our simplest and most favorite rutabaga preparations.

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Rockstar Roasted Cauliflower

Last week, I roasted cauliflower as a weekday side dish.  It is one of our favorite sides and it is the perfect accompaniment for most any main dish.  I have served it with all types of fish, poultry and meat.  It is always a star side dish, so well received at my table.

But, at last week’s dinner table, the roasted cauliflower was a rockstar.

rockstar-roasted-cauliflower

Each cauliflower floret was soft and velvety on the inside and crunchy and toasty on the outside.  Everyone around the table commented that it was a whole new level for roasted cauliflower.

And, I scratched my head to try and figure out just what made it so delicious.

I replayed the dinnertime meal preparation in my head.

It had been one of those hectic weeknights.  I had been working in my home office and instead of roasting the cauliflower on high heat from the beginning, I placed it in the oven on medium heat to cook alongside the Baked French Fried Onion Chicken until the chicken was ready.  Once the timer for the baked chicken sounded, I removed the chicken from the oven and increased the heat for the cauliflower to my normal 450 degrees F roasting temperature.

That seemed to be the magic.  I had started the cauliflower off at medium heat and had increased the heat after 25 minutes until it was finished.

I was determined to recreate the superstar cauliflower the next night.  And, I did!

 

INGREDIENTS 

1-2 heads cauliflower, separated into florets and cleaned (see kosher notes)
Oil
Kosher Salt
Granulated or fresh minced garlic (optional)

 

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper or greased foil.

Spread cauliflower in a single layer on baking sheet(s).  Drizzle with oil and lightly sprinkle with kosher salt and garlic.

Cook for 25 minutes and then increase temperature to 450 degrees F for 20-25 minutes more, checking that vegetables are soft and browned before removing from oven.

 

KOSHER NOTES

Kosher laws disallow the eating of  any whole insects and therefore  cauliflower require a process of soaking, rinsing and in some cases, pureeing.   Kashrut authorities differ on the proper checking of  cauliflower and some disallow its use altogether.  This blog was not designed to be your  kosher authority, so please consult your local rabbinic authority regarding using and preparing cauliflower.

Roasted Rainbow Skewers

Rainbow vegetables are a side dish staple in our home.  I prepare several trays of roasted vegetables just about every Friday.  I leave some trays of roasted vegetables on the counter for an Erev Shabbos (Friday afternoon) treat and save the rest for the Shabbos meal.  Most of the roasted vegetables are enjoyed before Shabbos even begins.

I usually choose vegetables that are in season and easy to clean.  My favorites are peppers, zucchini, beets and sweet potato.  My recipe for Simple Rainbow Roasted Vegetables is simple and yields beautiful and deliciously caramelized vegetables.  My kids have grown up with this “vegetable candy” as part of their Erev Shabbos (Shabbos eve) experience.

Recently, I have been preparing cabbage in different ways.  I saute cabbage (Colorful Confetti Cabbage), prepare it in kugels (Simple Cabbage Kugel and Kale and Cabbage Kugel: a Pareve Souffle) and use it in a myriad of salad combinations (Colorful Red Cabbage Quinoa Salad, no oil necessary and Asian Red Cabbage Salad…Simple and Wow).

Cabbage has many health benefits.  It is low in calories and carbs and high in fiber and vitamins. Cabbage is low in saturated fat and boasts high levels of vitamin C and vitamin K.  Best of all, it is inexpensive and available year-round.

For this recipe, I skewer wedges of red and green cabbage as well as zucchini. Once skewered, I drizzle olive oil and sprinkle garlic and kosher salt before roasting.  The skewers are simple and just delicious!

rainbow-skewers-on-plate

 

rainbow skewers ingredients.jpg

INGREDIENTS and SUPPLIES

1/2 head red cabbage, cleaned and cut into small wedges
1/2 head green cabbage, cleaned and cut into small wedges
2 zucchini, scrubbed and sliced

heavy skewers

SEASONINGS

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Granulated or fresh minced garlic
Kosher Salt

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper or greased foil.

Skewer cabbage wedges and zucchini.  Spread skewers in a single layer on baking sheet(s).  Drizzle with olive oil and lightly sprinkle with kosher salt and garlic.

rainbow-skewer

Roast for 40-45 minutes, checking that vegetables are soft and browned before removing from oven.

rainbow-skewers

VARIATIONS

Lightly drizzle balsamic vinegar in addition to olive oil and kosher salt for a zesty alternative.

Colorful Confetti Cabbage

confetti-cabbage

Cabbage is one of those under-rated ingredients.  It is available year-round, is low-carb and can be delicious in a saute or salad.  This recipe is one that I prepare often and one that my family really enjoys.  It is a simple recipe that started out as a mistake…

Before one of the holidays, I had purchased quite a bit of produce.  I turned on my extra refrigerator and stored my overflow vegetables in that refrigerator, not realizing that the refrigerator temperature setting had been set to maximum.

When I went to retrieve the cabbage from the refrigerator, I realized that the cabbage had frozen.  It was no longer suitable for salad, so I tried to think of another use for the frozen cabbage.  I had a batch of onions that had just been sauteed, so I used some of the onions as starter.  I then added the frozen cabbage to the saute pan with garlic, salt and pepper.   (more…)