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Feb 2011 01

Pareve ice cream can be a thing of beauty – I kid you not. The little bit of extra effort required to create a gently thickened, cooked custard base is well worth the reward: rich, velvety ice cream that happens to be both pareve and not made of strange chemicals or those ubiquitous “edible oils” (so not my thing)!

So why Chinese five-spice? I have always loved topping vanilla ice cream with cinnamon. There is something about warm spices that works brilliantly with cold, creamy and sweet. As a delicious and unexpected combination of such, this makes this the ideal “winter ice cream,” if such a thing exists.

In this recipe I have you create your own Chinese five-spice powder, freshly ground and deliciously aromatic. Don’t stress out too much if you don’t have all of the spices in whole form, or if you don’t have the ideal equipment for grinding them. If, say, you haven’t got a coffee grinder, use a mortar and pestle to pound the spices. If you have neither, just use pre-ground spices — or, better yet, increase the amounts of the spices slightly and just use them, whole, in the milk. Whichever way you choose to go about it, the idea is to transfer those warm, spicy flavours into the milk, allow them to steep really well, and then strain out any solid spice-bits.

You will need:

-for the five-spice powder-

1 star anise
10 cloves
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp ground ginger (or substitute 1 tsp fresh ginger, grated or minced)
rounded 1/4 tsp cinnamon

-for the custard base-

2 c regular soy milk (I use PC Organics and So Good original)
2 c coconut milk
2 wide strips of orange rind (use a vegetable peeler)
1/4 tsp salt
1 c sugar, divided
1 vanilla bean (or, in a pinch, use 1 tsp vanilla extract)
2 eggs + 1 egg yolk

Place the anise, cloves, fennel, ginger (unless you’re using fresh ginger) and cinnamon together in a coffee grinder. Pulse the spices together to a coarsely ground mix.

In a saucepan, heat together the soy milk and coconut milk over medium heat. While it’s warming up, throw in the orange rind, salt, five-spice powder, and a 1/2 cup of the sugar. If you’re using fresh ginger, add it to the milk now. Make a long slit down the middle of the vanilla bean, and use the back of a knife to scrape the gooey black seeds into the milk mixture. Throw in the rest of the pod as well.

Bring the milk mixture just barely to a boil, then remove it from the heat. Allow it to rest, covered, for 20 minutes (this gives the spices a chance to really steep in the milk). Meanwhile, whisk the eggs and yolk with the remaining half cup of sugar in a bowl.

Strain the milk, then return it to the saucepan and bring it to a gentle simmer. Slowly whisk some of the hot milk into the eggs (not too much, just eyeball about half a cup), then whisk the egg mixture back into the milk in the saucepan. Stir it over low heat until the custard has thickened enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon (but don’t let it come to a boil).

Your custard base is finished! Chill it in the fridge overnight (or at least 8 hours – it should be as cold as possible). When you’re ready, freeze it in your ice cream maker, churning for about 40 minutes, then put it back in the freezer to firm up (about 3 hours).

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Aug 2010 10

Warm summer evenings call for light, easy and slightly alcoholic desserts. This zesty, refreshing pie is just like a cool, creamy cocktail. As one recent taste-tester enthused, “it tastes like Saturday night”.

The recipe is adapted from the Frozen Margarita Pie in this cookbook. I use rum because I like the flavour, but vodka can be used as well. And, to suit the tastes (or average age) of your audience, the booze level can be adjusted significantly. (Hint: I often cut back the alcohol until I’ve poured out the first pie, then I mix the extra rum in for the second adults-only pie, which I mark with a slice of lime so as not to get them confused.)

Putting this together cannot be easier. Using pre-made graham cracker crusts, as I do, makes this a simple mix-and-freeze operation. Since this is a frozen dessert, the recipe here makes 2 pies. Trust me, you will want to pull that second one out not long after the first has been slurped up.

You will need:

2 pre-made graham cracker pie crusts
1 can frozen limeade concentrate (355ml)
2 quarts vanilla ice cream (my favourite pareve brand is Soy Delicious)
zest of 1 lime
juice of ½ lime
100ml rum (or more, if you like)
additional lime slices, lime zest, or whipped cream to garnish (optional)

Leave the limeade concentrate and the ice cream out to soften, about 20 minutes.

Place the ice cream and the limeade in the bowl of a large mixer and, using a paddle attachment, mix on low speed until more or less combined. Add the lime zest and juice, and mix until incorporated.

{Note: If you are making one kid-friendly pie, at this point you would pour out half of the mixture into one pie shell, cover with tin foil, and freeze. Then add the alcohol (start with half and add slowly to taste) to the rest of the ice cream mixture, pour and freeze – just don’t forget which is which!}

Otherwise, add all of the rum to all of the ice cream, mix until incorporated, and divide the mixture evenly between the pie crusts.

If you’re so inclined, decorate the tops of the pies with piped whipped cream rosettes, paper-thin lime slices, lime zest twists, icing sugar, or any combination of the above.

Cover the pies with tin foil (to protect whipped cream rosettes, flip the plastic lid from the pie crust over the pie to make a dome, and fold the foil edges over to hold it in place).

Freeze until firm (about 3 hours).

Makes 2 pies, 8-10 servings each.

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May 2010 04

Ok, baalat tshuva true confessions time: I sometimes miss those days when I would run out to the nearest takeout joint for a veggie pad-thai or a steaming bowl of pho. Growing up traditional/Sefardi, I was always eating ”kosher-style”, so nothing crazy… there was never any lobster or bacon or grenouille on my plate. But my tastebuds have stored away in their memory all of the exotic flavours, colours, textures and smells that I had experienced at those non-kosher (!) restaurants in my previous life.

I’ll admit, Spicykosher.com is partly (mostly?) an exercise in rabbinically-approved gastronomic nostalgia – an excuse to try to recreate all of those delicious dishes in my own kitchen (converting them into kosher recipes, of course) so that I can experience all of that goyish culinary genius once again, from the safety of my segregated pots and pans.

So, about the peppers. Back when my husband and I would eat out at vegetarian restaurants, we came across a little hole-in-the-wall joint in Banff Springs called Nourish. There I had a stuffed pepper that was unlike anything I’d known stuffed peppers to be – a seemingly unlikely combination of vegetables, fruits and nuts that made for a moist, spicy, savoury, sweet and tangy experience. It was very “busy”, yet the flavours were still light, bright and fresh. It completely blew the lid off my expectations, and I have since vowed to recreate that dish at home.

The ingredients sound a little strange in combination, but it is something you must try, especially if you’re into sweet & sour flavours. Shavuos is around the corner, and come to think of it, this would make a hearty side dish in a dairy meal – filling enough, especially alongside fish, to carry the Shavuos seuda. And the brown rice: slow-burning complex carbs to keep you energized for a long night of learning! How perfect!

You will need:

4 medium red bell peppers
1 onion, diced
1 tsp vegetable oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c brown short-grain rice
1 c water

1 egg
1 rib of celery, finely diced
3-4 sundried tomatoes, finely diced
3 pieces of dried mango (this brand is OUTSTANDING), diced
2-3 strawberries, diced
3 walnut halves, finely chopped
2 tbsp tomato paste
3 tbsp dried currants (you can substitute raisins), plumped in simmering water for 5 mins
salt and pepper, to taste
pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp lemon juice
pinch salt

Slice the tops off the peppers (about a 1/2 inch from the top) and scoop the seeds and ribs out with a spoon, so that you have a clean cavity. Cut the stems out from the pepper tops and dice up the leftover scraps of pepper.

Heat the oil over meduim in a nonstick pot, and saute the onions until they are golden, then add the diced peppers, season with salt and pepper, and saute until the peppers are soft. Stir in the rice and the water, and bring it to a boil. Then turn the heat down to low, cover the pot and and simmer until the water is absorbed and the rice is more or less cooked (about 40 minutes – during which time you can get busy dicing all of the other ingredients).

Preheat the oven to 350F, then get on with the stuffing. In a large bowl, beat the egg, then mix in the celery, tomatoes, mango, strawberries, walnuts, 2 tbsp tomato paste, and currants. Mix in the cooked rice and season the whole mess with salt and pepper, and if you like a little extra kick, cayenne pepper.

Stuff the peppers with the stuffing, piling it as high as you can. You may have some stuffing left over, which you can just bake in a seperate little dish (believe me, you won’t want to waste it). In a little bowl, mix the 2 tbsp of tomato paste with the lemon juice and 1/2 tsp of salt, adding a little water as needed to get a nice saucy consistency.

Arrange the peppers in a greased baking dish and pour the tomato sauce generously over the tops of the peppers. Bake uncovered for about 30-35 minutes, or until the tops begin to brown.

You can serve this as a side dish, but all you needs is a big green salad or a bowl of soup to make it a light, satisfying lunch or dinner.

Makes 4.

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Apr 2010 18

I love light, custardy desserts. I love caramel-y desserts. I also love individually plated, pretty “presentation” desserts. Ergo, I love creme caramel – a light, smooth, egg-rich custard bathed in a pool of bittersweet caramel – and it tastes amazing even when “pareved”!

This dessert can be made a day or two in advance and stored in the fridge. I made them in those little disposable aluminum tart shells, but you could just as easily use proper ramekins. I had initially tried this with saffron, but found that the dominant flavour of the caramel cancelled out any saffron taste – a waste if you ask me, considering the fact that saffron is the most expensive spice ever!

Creme caramel ranks about a medium in terms of the level of skill required. The custard part is easy, but making caramel can be tricky. A word of caution. Do not attempt to make the caramel when there are distractions around – curious kids, other things on the stove, etc. ESPECIALLY do not make the caramel with children around! Hot sugar is a gajillion times hotter than boiling water and any contact with skin can leave you scarred for life. (Have I freaked you out yet?)

Don’t be scared, just be organized about it. Clear off your countertops, get your little ramekins lined up. Then, when you are ready to tackle the caramel, put the dog in the basement and stick the kid(s) in the playpen or somewhere else where they can’t escape for 20 minutes. Turn your phones off, pull on some long rubber gloves and make sure your arms aren’t exposed. And NEVER add ANYTHING to the sugar once it has turned into liquid caramel, or it will explode in a very bad way! Hot sugar is scary stuff, you guys! (But when it’s done safely, oh, is it ever worth it!)

While the caramel is cooling, you can get on with the custard (but don’t let the kids roam free again until the caramel is cool).

You will need:

12 ramekins or mini pie shells

1 1/2 c sugar for the caramel

8 eggs
1 c sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
3 c soy milk (vanilla favoured is fine)
3/4 c coconut milk
1/4 c water
1/4 tsp ground cardamom – or 8 whole cardamom pods

To make the caramel, put the sugar into a medium stainless steel pot (preferably one with a long handle) over high heat. Using a long wooden spoon, stir the sugar continuously. After a few minutes, the sugar will start to clump together – that’s how you’ll know it’s working. Keep on stirring, and eventually the sugar will begin to liquify. When the sugar is all liquid, and starts to give off some colour, turn the heat down to meduim and keep stirring until the sugar is a rich golden/light amber colour. Then take the sugar off the heat and pour a little bit – quickly and carefully! – into the bottom of each ramekin, enough to coat the bottoms with caramel.

Then put the pot down, either on the floor or somewhere it won’t be touched or knocked over. After about 15 minutes it will have cooled and you can fill the pot halfway with water and set it on simmer – all of the hard candy will easily dissolve and cleanup will be a cinch!

Hooray, you’ve just made caramel! Give yourself a pat on the back – that was no easy feat! Now you can relax, and leave it all to cool while you get started on the custard.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla. In a pot, whisk together the soy milk, coconut milk, water and cardamom (if you’re using whole pods, bruise them by crushing them a little with the back of a spoon), and place on meduim heat to heat up gently. Keep an eye on it, as soy milk tends to curdle with too much heat.

When the milk begins to steam, remove it from the heat and whisk it into the egg mixture. Then strain this mixture into a large measuring cup, pitcher or bowl. This will ensure that your custard has an even texture and a smooth mouthfeel.

Preheat the oven to 320F. Pour the custard into the ramekins (you can fill them almost to the rim if you have enough).

Prepare a water bath by arranging the ramekins in a large baking/roasting pan (you may need to bake them in batches if your baking pan is not big enough to hold all of them). Then carefully pour water into the pan until it reaches halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

Place the pan in the oven and bake for about 25-35 minutes. The custard will still be slightly jiggly when done, but it shouldn’t look liquidy. Allow the custards to cool and chill them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve them.

To serve, loosen the custards by running a knife along the edges. Place a dessert plate upside-down over a ramekin and invert it, then give the ramekin a little jiggle on the plate to release the custard. All you need as garnish is a fresh berry or two – or just serve, as you may prefer, au naturel.

Makes 12.

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Mar 2010 22

It’s that time of year again! The harried quest for a delicious, kosher-for-Passover menu is on. Luckily, one of my favourite desserts (which, hooray, is pareve!) just happens to be great for Pesach, and it’s easy and exotic to boot. I love the way the ginger in this ice cream offers a sharp, slightly spicy balance to the rich sweetness of the mango. This would be perfect as a light and refreshing dessert, just when you need that little pick-me-up before bentching at the end of a long, heavy seder.

You will need:

12 eggs, cleanly separated
1 c sugar, divided
1 c + 1 tbsp vegetable oil (not olive!)
2 ripe mangoes, peeled & diced – you want a heaping cup of diced fruit
scant 1 tsp fresh ginger, finely grated
pinch salt

Start by throwing the egg yolks and half a cup of the sugar into a blender or food processor, along with the oil, mangoes, ginger, and salt. Blend the mixture until the mango has been thoroughly pureed and everything is smooth.

In a mixer with the whisk attachment, or in a very large bowl with a hand mixer, whip the egg whites until they are thick and foamy. Add the remaining half cup of sugar and continue to whip until stiff peaks form.

Carefully fold the mango mixture into the egg white mixture with a whisk until it is more or less incorporated. Pour this into two 9 x 13 baking pans (I use the disposable aluminum ones for Passover) and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Place immediately into the coldest part of your freezer, and allow the ice cream to set, about 6 hours.

To serve, just scoop the ice cream right out of the pan. Bejewel your dessert with a few bright red pomegranate seeds or simply dust the tops with a little shredded coconut.

Makes 10-12 servings

Have a Chag Kosher v’Sameach!

 

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Mar 2010 04

This is the chicken version of lamb tagine, a decadently rich Moroccan stew that is traditionally served on a bed of fresh couscous. I will always prefer lamb, but substituting chicken helps lighten the dish (in both calories and cost), while still retaining the slightly spicy, honeyed sweetness of the original. Don’t be put off by the idea of prunes – when simmered long enough, they practically melt in your mouth, and give the sauce body and richness. Try to use prunes with pits, if you can find them, as the pits keep the prunes moist and tender. The honey in this dish also makes it perfect for Rosh Hashana.

You will need:

2 lbs. chicken thighs (bone-in, with skin)
2 onions, sliced
1 tsp ground (powdered) ginger
1 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp olive oil
1 c chicken or vegetable stock (or, in a pinch, water)
large pinch saffron
3/4 c unsweetened prunes
1/4 c whole unsalted almonds
1/4 c sultana or golden raisins
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp honey
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 – 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
salt to taste
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp chopped chives or cilantro (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a wok or heavy pot. (I often use a wok to prepare this dish, because it allows me to brown more meat at once. A regular heavy pot will do just fine, you just might have to brown the meat in batches.) On medium-high heat, sautee the onions until they are soft, then add the chicken. Sautee them together, sprinkling with the turmeric and ginger, until the meat is browned.

Add the broth, almonds, and prunes to the chicken. Rub the saffron strands between your fingertips to crush them, and add this to the chicken. Cover, reduce the heat to low and allow the chicken to simmer for about 30 minutes. (In the meantime, you can throw together a basic couscous.)

Stir the chicken around a bit, then add the raisins and simmer, covered, for another 20-25 minutes – the chicken should end up very tender. Transfer the meat to a casserole or serving dish and cover to keep warm. You should be left with a pool of sauce studded with fruit and nuts. To this, stir in the cinnamon, honey, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper. Simmer gently until fragrant and slightly thickened, about 2-4 minutes.

Spoon this sauce over the chicken, and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Garnish with an additional sprinkling of finely chopped chives (not green onion) or cilantro, if desired.

Makes 4 servings