Thursday, May 24, 2007


One thing about being a member of one of the minor religions--there's no large scale buildup for our holidays, especially the lesser known ones. So Shavuot just kind of crept up on me this year, amid the staff meetings, volunteering stints, brake jobs, cell phone outages, and the rest of the many things that went on this week. I mean, I knew it was coming. I've been quietly counting the days since Passover and I knew the seven weeks of counting was coming to an end but I just didn't have it together to celebrate Shavuot in traditional Ashkenazic fashion. I know, I know, I'm a bad Jew.

The result of all this carelessness? No blintzes this year. Shavuot is traditionally associated with dairy foods and cheese blintzes are the height of dairy cooking. They take forever to make: you have to make a pile of tiny crepelike pancakes, wrap them around a filling made of eggs, cream cheese, and cottage cheese or ricotta, and then fry them again in lots of butter without having them fall apart. I serve them with fresh fruit and lots of sour cream.

I am one of many folks who don't handle large amounts of dairy well but I'll gladly take some pills and suffer a stomachache for blintzes once a year just for that perfect combination of buttery/tangy/fruity/creamy that is the ideal blintz. I recently read a great post over at The Jew and The Carrot talking about lactose intolerance and a dairy based holiday. Kind of a niche piece, but I found it interesting.

So...while a full on holiday blintz fest isn't in the cards this year, we do have a birthday brunch coming up this weekend providing a perfect opportunity to serve up blintz souffle, a dish that's never failed me. It uses all the same ingredients as regular blintzes, but it's all layered in a large baking dish and served with fruit on the side. The taste is very similar to real blintzes though without the buttery note that comes form frying up the filled blintzes. But it still had the tangy/creamy/fruity thing going on. My friend Elaine posted the recipe to one of the Jewish food lists ages ago and I'm sure it's fed hundreds if not thousands of happy eaters since then. If you're at a local farmers market and come across some perfect berries, there's no better way to honor them than by serving them up alongside blintz souffle.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Potato Cauliflower Curry

The boys had friends over today for the regular gaming session. Normally I try to feed the crowd something relatively nutritious and am always grateful for whatever snacks other parents bring. Today I was completely uninspired and had nothing better to offer than baked potatoes when I remembered a head of cauliflower in the fridge. Just like that I began dreaming about some kind of aloo gobi, potato and cauliflower curry. I went straight to the ever reliable Madhur Jaffrey and was not disappointed.

I filled the rice cooker with basmati rice along with cinnamon sticks and crushed cardamom pods to flavor the cooking water and then on to the curry. I cut some peeled potatoes into chunks and fried them until golden, likewise an entire head of cauliflower which had been broken into small florets. Once they were nice and brown, I removed them from the oil and then quickly fried a good pile of minced fresh ginger. Back in the pan with the potatoes and cauliflower along with a few basic curry spices: ground cumin, coriander and cayenne. After adding a bit of water and simmering until the potatoes were tender, we had a lovely meal to enjoy in the May sunshine. The picky kids eating baked potatoes had no idea what they were missing!

I fiddled with the recipe just slightly, adding extra water and upping the spices accordingly in order to make a slightly saucier dish than the original. It was a snap to make and quite delicious. Give it a try. The recipe is here.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Not Much Cooking

All those lofty goals about using this blog to focus attention on my need to cook more and eat better? Unfortunately, it hasn't been working. I've made a few things here and there but have mostly been subsisting on kefir and quesadillas and smoothies. And the $2.25 Asian vegetable sandwich at Best Baguette, my new all time favorite takeout place. Crispy baguettes, savory tofu, and pickled veggies--absolutely perfect and an unbeatable price!

I usually try to make an effort on Fridays for our Shabbat dinner. I recently got my hands on a library copy of The Simple Art of Perfect Baking after coming across a reference to it here. It's full of lovely looking things but my first experience was not at all positive. Some of the mistakes were mine and some of it was the confusing recipe, but I'd hoped the lemon tart with blueberries would be considerably more interesting than it turned out to be.

My plan was to double the recipe and make a full sized tart as well as a few dozen tartlettes (tartitos? tartini? tartichki?) to bring to a luncheon Saturday morning. I had trouble with the crust, trouble with the filling, I forgot ingredients, you name it, I found a way to mess up. In the end they were fairly tasty but hardly worth all the hoo-ha.

The cookbook is definitely on the fussy side for my level of baking but I'm going to hang on to it until summer. There's a peach cake made with a brown sugar genoise that sounds like heaven to me.