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.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Matzo Ball & Chicken Soup

What are matzo balls? They are a kind of dumpling made from a holiday cracker called matzo. Matzo is eaten during the Passover holiday to symbolize the haste with which the Isrealites were compelled to flee Egypt (they did not even have time for their bread to rise). During the week long Passover holiday, out of respect for our harried ancestors, we are forbidden to eat all foods which are leavened. Matzo becomes fairly important to a lot of dishes during that week. It is scrambled with eggs and served with jam (called Matzo Brei); it is used as a binder in holiday casseroles (such as savory kugels--a dense casserole resembling a kind of pudding); a very popular use for it is as a dumpling in chicken soup. These dumplings are so popular the dish is named for them: matzo ball soup. Matzo balls can be large or enormous, light and soft or dense and chewy. They are made according to the cook's preference. My ideal matzo ball is on the small side, light and soft with just a little bit of bite.

I may seem like a lot of work for one pot of soup, but this chicken soup is flavorful and immensely satisfying (especially as we start to catch change of the season colds). If anyone in our house has the sniffles I leave the skin on the chicken. This is because of a homeopathic belief that chicken fat has natural antibiotics.

Matzo Ball & Chicken Soup

Makes 16 servings


32 ounces organic chicken stock
1 whole (~5 lbs) chicken, broken down
16 ounces mirepoix
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon thyme
1 bay leaf
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

1. In a stockpot over medium heat, add olive oil. Add mirepoix, thyme, a pinch of salt and pepper and the bayleaf. Saute until mirepoix has softened and become fragrant (approx 5 minutes).
2. Rinse chicken pieces under cold water and add to stock pot. Add stock, then water to cover.
3. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer 20 - 25 minutes, or until chicken breasts are cooked through. Remove chicken breasts and when they are cool enough to handle, remove meat and return bones to the stock pot. Simmer dark meat for another 20 minutes, then remove, pull from bones and return bones to the pot.
4. Cook on the lowest setting for an additional 40 - 60 minutes, skimming the fat off of the surface occasionally.
5. When needed, strain broth and bring to a boil to cook the matzo balls (see below).

Matzoh balls:

4 jumbo eggs
1 1/2 cups matzoh meal
1/4 cup neutral oil*
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
3 ounces carbonated water
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1. Whisk together egg and oil (or schmaltz). Mix in matzoh meal, salt, baking powder and soda water.
2. Set in fridge for 15 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, strain 8 cups of soup into a pot with a tightly fitted lid. Bring to a boil.
4. Form balls approximately 1" diameter.
5. Place balls in boiling soup. Cover and bring to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes. Cook the balls in two batches to give them enough room to expand.

Serve dumplings in broth with chicken meat.

*Substitute schmaltz if you should have some in your pantry

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Parmesan Pepper Roasted Cauliflower (Cacio e Pepe)

Before I apologize for mis-using the term cacio e pepe (an amazing simple pasta preparation with parmesan and black pepper) I have quite a bit of news to announce! It is well into the new year now and I want to share with you what will be upcoming for The Joyous Kitchen. First, the bad news: I’ll be updating with less frequency for a while, probably the better part of the year. However, that is because I will be working hard on two new cookbooks for you to put on your kitchen shelves! That’s right--two cookbooks! Hopefully you’re as excited about my upcoming barbeque cookbook and my upcoming baby food cookbook as I am. I’ll be updating with news on the books from time to time, as well as continuing to share recipes here.

Ok, on to the apology: I am sorry to use the name for my dish of a gorgeous cooking alchemical event whereby the heat from cooked pasta infuses into it the flavors of cheese and spicy sweet black pepper and the starchy cooking water forms a luscious sauce over all. Seriously, if you’ve never tried cacio e pepe pasta, you should. It is difficult to believe that something with three ingredients can be so deliciously sophisticated.

Why have I used the name of this preparation so liberally? Because it struck me just the other day what a sexy combination parmesan and pepper is for roasted cauliflower. Although cauliflower doesn’t exude enough moisture to form a sauce and isn’t porous enough to absorb the flavors in the same way, I still think the combination is good enough that it can borrow the name.

Cacio e Pepe Roasted Cauliflower

Serves 4

One head cauliflower, cleaned and trimmed into florets
1 1/2 Tablespoon olive oil
1 ounce Parmesan cheese
Generous pinch pepper
Salt, to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 400. Toss cauliflower in olive oil to coat. Season with salt and liberally with freshly ground pepper.
2. Grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment. Lay cauliflower florets in a single layer.
3. Bake for 20 - 35 minutes, or until the cauliflower is cooked through.
4. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly. When the florets are cool enough to handle grate cheese over them and toss to coat.

Serve warm.

Monday, January 9, 2017

3 Step Chicken Cacciatore

Happy new year, everyone! I’m posting today to help everyone with their new year’s resolutions--at least the diet related ones. Diet food can be a drag. Bland, or uninspiring, sometimes even downright unsatisfying. Chicken Cacciatore is none of those things! It is a hearty, satisfying peasant dish. More of a concept, really; endlessly customizable, the word Cacciatore simply means “catch.” So it was a stew or a roast made from not only the hunter’s spoils, but also the vegetables one had laying around one’s pantry. That being said, in America Cacciatore (which almost always features chicken) is thought of as something of a specific dish. There are always bell peppers of some kind, and usually tinned tomatoes, mushrooms and/or olives.

Since I've been obsessed with my calorie counting app (especially since the new year) and since you can input your own recipes, I know exactly how many calories this hearty stew is per serving: 337. An excellent number, considering how filling it is.

As i mentioned above, this is a dish that is highly customizable. As such, this recipe is just a jumping off point. Make this dish however you want it to be, however your family likes it. I hope you enjoy my version of it, but don’t be afraid to experiment.

I've made this stew in both my dutch oven and my crockpot. I've used a Dutch oven in this recipe because I find more people have a dutch oven than a crock pot. To cook it in a crock pot simply transfer the sauteed veggies to the bottom of the crock pot between steps 2 & 3. Cook in the crock pot for 3 hours on high or 6 hours on low.

Chicken Cacciatore

Serves 8

3 - 3.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 (28 oz) can chopped tomatoes
2 cups low sodium chicken stock
1/2 cup olives
2 medium green peppers, cut into strips
2 medium orange peppers, cut into strips
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

1. In a Dutch oven or heavy bottomed stock pot over medium heat, saute onions, and peppers in olive oil until they begin to soften.
2. Add garlic, oregano and basil and cook for an additional minute.
3. Add chicken, tomatoes, chicken stock, bay leaf and olives. Season with salt and pepper. Bring stew to a gentle boil, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer, covered, for 90 minutes.

Serve over pasta (we've tried rigatoni and gemelli, with the latter bring our favorite).

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Linguini alla Marcella with Mozzarella

I have to share this recipe with all of you before you make your New Year’s resolutions. Why? Well, it is exquisite in its decadence, clever in its simple execution and I think everyone should taste it at least once. This pasta was introduced to me several years ago by my then roommate and food guru, who based it off of a Marcella Hazan recipe. I made it our special way many times before I learned of her influence. The recipe was initially tweaked by my roommate and I have added my own touches, most notably, the addition of melty fresh mozzarella and a tiny burst of heat to compliment the rich, sweet sauce.

Use whichever type of pasta strikes your fancy. I usually make this with spaghetti, but I had linguine on hand.

Do try to get a dark honey, such as buckwheat. Those molasses notes make an absolutely stunning addition and elevate the tart, brassy flavor of tinned tomatoes. I usually find my buckwheat or wildflower honey at farmer's markets or small specialty grocers.

Linguine alla Marcella con Mozzarella

Makes 8 servings

1 1/2 lbs pasta of choice
1 yellow onion, peeled and cut in half
8 oz. fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2“ pieces
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 - 2 teaspoons buckwheat (or similar) honey
Pinch of crushed red pepper
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

1. In a medium pot over low flame, combine tomatoes, onion, butter and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper. The sauce will need to simmer on low for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally.
2. In the last 20 minutes of cook time for the sauce add honey one teaspoon at a time, until it is as you prefer it (should be just a touch sweet, like a bursting-ly ripe cherry tomato) adjust for salt and pepper. Prepare the pasta according to the package directions.
3. Strain pasta and reserve 1/4 cup pasta water. In a large mixing bowl mix pasta, sauce, mozzarella and pasta water together.

Serve garnished with chopped flat leaf parsley.