This and That

Random bits of my life

Posts Tagged ‘recipe’

Smashed Potatoes: Comfort Food

Posted by Avital Pinnick on January 9, 2018


Last weekend we had heavy rain and strong winds. Naturally, I was preparing comfort foods in the kitchen for Shabbat. “Smashed potatoes” are so easy and so delicious.

Boil a pot of potatoes until tender. Drain and place on a foil-covered baking sheet. Smash gently with a potato masher. Sprinkle with chopped garlic, salt, freshly ground pepper, paprika, or whatever takes your fancy (cheese, fried onion). Drizzle with olive oil and bake in a medium oven until the tops are golden and the edges start to look crispy.

Make lots, because you’ll want to eat some the next day. 🙂

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War and Whooping Cough

Posted by Avital Pinnick on July 20, 2014

Summer ... another war

I haven’t blogged lately because I’ve been too busy with the war in Gaza and the war with whooping cough. My husband caught pertussis first, gave it to me, so we’re both coughing. I’ve learned some interesting things: childhood vaccinations against pertussis do not continue into adulthood. Pertussis can be difficult to diagnose because it starts out with cold-like symptoms and is easily mistaken for flu, asthma, bronchitis, and allergies. It is highly contagious and can be fatal to infants, so if you suspect that you have it (bad cough that goes on for weeks), go to your doctor. A three-day course of azithromycin will greatly shorten its duration and limit the contagion. You’ll still be coughing but not for as much as you would if you did nothing.

Here’s a cough remedy that is all over the Web. I found it helpful. It’s not too unpleasant to drink (like drinking a spicy vinaigrette) and it’s easy to make with kitchen ingredients. I wouldn’t give it to children, though. It’s too strong-flavoured for young palates and unpasteurized honey should never be given to young infants.

Cough Remedy

  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Combine the ingredients in a jar, close, and shake. take by the teaspoon.

I refrigerate mine, but I’ve heard that it’s fairly stable at room temperature. I will also be trying thyme tea, as soon as I can get my husband to pick some up at the healthfood store or the shuk.

We’re slowly getting used to the state of being at war again. August is usually filled with events that we look forward to all year, like the International Arts & Crafts Fair, the Wine Festival at the Israel Museum, various concerts. Almost everything has been cancelled and won’t be rescheduled in the foreseeable future. 😩

One missile fell close to home. I was at work, getting ready to leave for the day, when the alarm sounded in Jerusalem. I grabbed my backpack and went into one of the internal staircases. I waited until I heard a couple explosions (Iron Dome intercepted two of the rockets) and then went out to catch the minibus. At the grocery store I ran into a neighbour who said that the siren had sounded in Maale Adumim, she heard a loud bang, and the ground shook. The rocket landed about a kilometer or two down the road. We’re not protected by the Iron Dome system.

Our son is halfway through his military service. We don’t see much of him these days. He works 12-hour shifts and tries to find time to call us every few days. I’m such a Jewish mother–I live on the top floor of a building that is about as well-constructed as a cardboard box; the other day I called him and demanded to know what the army was doing to keep him (and the other soldiers) safe. He reassured me that most of the time he works underground. During an air raid they all go underground. So even if my knitting goes up in a puff of smoke, at least my little boy is safe! Just kidding, folks. We hope this ends with as little loss of life as possible.

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Recipe: Apple Pecan Cake

Posted by Avital Pinnick on October 7, 2012

Apple Pecan Cake

This is the tried-and-true, much loved apple pecan cake that graces my table during the High Holidays. I would make it more often if someone would invent a self-peeling, coreless apple that dices itself. Since I find the apple-chopping tedious, even with a corer, I only bake it once a year.

I use Granny Smith apples because they’re tart, firm, and somewhat drier than the yellow and red apples at my local store. Because apples vary significantly in water content, you may find that your cake is extremely moist. If so, bake it for an extra 10 minutes to dry it out.

Try to find genuine vanilla extract and fresh pecans. I don’t mean that you have to pick and shell them yourself! Treat yourself to a new bag from the health food store instead of using the package at the back of your baking supplies.

This is a dense, moist cake that freezes well. If you wish to substitute different sugars or whole wheat flour, it will still be delicious. It’s a very flexible recipe.

Apple Pecan Cake
Yield: Two 9×4″ loaves (or two 8×5″ loaves or one 9″ round)

600 gm (= 4) Granny Smith apples; peeled, cored, 1/4″ dice
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup brown sugar
150 gm (3/4 cup) margarine or butter
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup pecans; coarsely chopped

Combine the diced apples, cinnamon, and sugar (this can be done in advance if necessary) in a bowl and stir well. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F). Grease the pans.

In a large bowl, cream the margarine (or butter) with sugar until fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the vanilla extract. Gently stir in the flour and baking powder, until just combined (it’s OK if there are a few dry specks of flour showing but you don’t want big dry patches).

Stir in the apples and sugar, scraping all the juices into the batter. Stir in the pecans. The batter will be very sticky and stiff, so you will need a wooden spoon and a rubber scraper to wrestle it into the pans: pick up a large glob of batter with the wooden spoon and scrape it into a pan. Repeat until both pans are a little over half full. Smooth the tops.

Bake in the middle of the preheated oven for about 40 minutes or until a knife stuck in the center comes out moist but without streaks of raw batter and the center of the cake springs back when pressed gently. If your cake is very moist, bake it for a few minutes longer, covering with foil if the top is getting too brown.

Let the cake sit in the pan for a few minutes. Loosen the edges with a knife and turn out carefully onto a cake rack to finish cooling.


I normally serve the cake plain but if you need something with more pizzazz, bake the cake in a 9″ springform pan. Peel, core, and thinly slice an additional two apples and arrange in concentric circles. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of melted margarine or butter over the top, sprinkle 7 tablespoons of brown sugar and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. Bake for an hour (larger pan), checking for doneness around 50 minutes. The apples on top should be tender. It looks like you slaved for hours in the kitchen, which isn’t far from the truth…. 🙂

If you don’t want to go that far, dust the top of the cooled cake with sifted icing sugar or serve with a scoop of very good vanilla ice cream.

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Recipe: Slow Cooker Pot Roast

Posted by Avital Pinnick on September 24, 2012

Slow Cooker

(Photo: Slow cooker with Picasa fake HDR filter) This is the recipe I pull out whenever I need to cook for a crowd. The slow cooker works wonders on tougher cuts of meat, so I use shoulder roast (#5, in Israel). I made it for Rosh Hashana, but it would be welcome for cool evenings in the sukkah.

I use a mandolin to julienne the carrots but you could use a food processor if it has a julienne blade. If you want to slice the carrots, you’ll have to add them earlier in the cooking process. The garlic may turn a distressing shade of blue-green but it will look normal by the time the meat is cooked.

The roast is not easy to slice while it’s hot. I prefer to cook it a day or two in advance and slice it when it’s cold (I don’t bother thickening the sauce with cornstarch if the roast is going to sit in the fridge).

Slow Cooker Pot Roast
Serves 6-8.

1.5 kg boneless shoulder roast
2 large onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup cider vinegar
2 bay leaves
3 large cloves garlic, finely minced
1 cup julienned carrots
2 cups sliced mushrooms (white button or porcini or a combination)
2 tbs cornstarch, dissolved in 1/4 cup cold water (optional)

Place the meat in the slow cooker and top with sliced onions. Combine brown sugar, soy sauce, and cider vinegar and pour over the meat. Add bay leaves and minced garlic.

Cover and cook on high for 6-7 hours or until meat is very tender.

Add mushrooms and carrots and cornstarch mixture (if using) and cook for another half hour. Serve with rice.

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Recipe: Azzime Dolci, Unleavened Cookies in Venice

Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 18, 2012

Azzime Dolci

Azzime Dolci translate as “sweet unleavened,” so a Google search will take you to a lot of Italian Passover recipe sites (but not these cookies, alas). I took the photo above at the cafe of the Jewish Museum in the Jewish Ghetto of Venice. The lower photo was taken at Panificio Volpe, the kosher bakery around the corner from the Jewish Museum (you can buy azzime dolci there as well, and that’s probably where the Jewish Museum gets them).


I didn’t taste the “unleavened bread” (pano azimo = matzah) in the second photo but I did have the Azzime Dolci. They were very tasty, a bit tough, with whole anise seed. I tried to find a recipe on the Web, without success. However, I did find it in my stained copy of Edda Servi Machlin’s Classic Cuisine of the Italian Jews (Giro Press, 1981), vol. 1. It’s a Passover recipe and calls for Passover flour. You probably won’t  have access to Passover flour, so I suggest you use all-purpose flour and make it during the year when it’s not Passover.

Azzime Dolci al Vino (Sweet Wine Matzot)

2-1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 teaspoons anise seeds
1 teaspoon salt

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and form a dough. Turn out over an oiled surface and knead until smooth. Roll into a cylinder; then cut the cylinder into 6 equal slices. Roll each slice down to 1/4-inch thickness. Pinch two concentric rows of holes [see note below] and arrange on a lightly oiled and well-floured baking sheet. Bake in 450°F oven for 15 minutes. Serve as a wholesome snack or breakfast food.

Note: The instructions for making the holes are provided in her recipe for matzah.

To trim the edges: place your thumb at an angle at the edge of the disk and then pinch with thumb and index finger to create a small bump. Repeat this motion at the same angle all around so the bumps are the same distance apart. Now for the holes: a quarter of an inch from the pinched border, attacking the disk from one side, pinch a piece of dough with thumb and index finger, making two holes. Move the index finger into the hole made by the thumb (toward you) and pinch another hole. Repeat all around until the first loop of holes is completed. A quarter of an inch in from the first row, pinch the dough and make another loop of holes.

Yields 6

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Recipe: Vegetable Parmesan Bake

Posted by Avital Pinnick on February 5, 2012

Vegetable Parmesan Bake

I saw a beautiful Vegetable Parmesan Bake photo on Pinterest and was so disappointed to find that the page was no longer available. So I searched for a similar recipe and made it on Friday, with a few adaptations (the original recipe called for so much pasta that we’ll be eating it the rest of this week).

This dish is just a variation of the Provencal tian, with pasta added to turn it into a one-dish main course. You could omit the pasta and substitute leftover cooked rice. Or stir in a cup of cooked chickpeas or black-eyed peas. That’s the beauty of these dishes — they’re really a method rather than a recipe. Omit vegetables that aren’t in your fridge or add ones that need to be used up.

Vegetable Parmesan Bake
Yield: 6 servings

250 gm (= 4 oz) thin spaghetti (spaghettini)
Omit for low-carb variation.

2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion; chopped
3 cloves garlic; minced
1 red pepper; cored and diced
1 cup white mushrooms; sliced
2 medium zucchini; diced
3 cups fresh spinach; chopped (Israeli equivalent: 1 bunch alei selek)

2 tbsp flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1/2 tsp. thyme
1 cup cheese, grated (your choice)
2 eggs; lightly beaten
salt and pepper to taste
3 tbsp Parmesan cheese; grated

Lightly spray 8 x 11″ ovenproof casserole dish with cooking spray.

Cook thin spaghetti according to package directions. Drain pasta and
arrange in pie plate or casserole. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).

In large pot, heat oil over low flame. Add onion and garlic and saute until
soft. Add bell pepper, mushrooms, zucchini, and spinach (alei selek or
Swiss chard) and cook until moisture has mostly evaporated.

Sprinkle vegetable mixture with flour. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Remove
from heat. Whisk in milk, a little at a time. Return to medium-low heat,
stirring until sauce thickens. Remove from heat. Cool mixture slightly;
stir in herbs, cheese, and eggs. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour
mixture over pasta and sprinkle top with Parmesan cheese.

Bake until filling is set and heated through and top is golden, about 30
minutes. Serve hot.


This is a soft casserole. If you want it firm, like a kugel, add extra
cheese to the vegetables and 3 eggs to the pasta.

The vegetable mixture and pasta can be cooked in advance. Run hot water over the cold pasta and drain well if it has hardened into a block.

Peeled diced tomatoes would be a good addition.

You can substitute 400 gm cottage cheese for the milk and flour. Stir it in
with the grated cheese and eggs.

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Wouldn’t be Shavuot without Cheesecake

Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 7, 2011


Son is at his yeshiva high school for Shavuot and I wasn’t sure I wanted to make a cheesecake for just the two of us. After all, I had no trouble passing up lasagna! But it doesn’t seem like Shavuot without a cheesecake and cheesecake is so simple to make. Shavuot (the name literally means “weeks”) celebrates the receiving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. It is observed on the 50th day after Passover, after counting the period of the omer, which is 49 days (you count a “week” of “weeks,” i.e., 7×7 days).

A lot of customs are associated with Shavuot:

  • Learning the entire night. Many communities and synagogues set up schedules of lecturers for the entire night, followed by morning prayers and a light breakfast.
  • Reading the Book of Ruth at the morning service
  • Decorating the synagogue with greenery
  • Eating at least one dairy meal (hence, the cheesecake). Blintzes and lasagna are also popular

For explanations about the customs, meaning, family activities, and recipes, see the Aish haTorah page (in English). They have a recipe for a Snickers cheesecake. I kid you not. Too sweet for me but if that’s your thing, go for it. I don’t have a very strong sweet tooth, so I prefer a simple cheesecake that tastes of cheese and cream, not nuts and chocolate.

Simplest Cheesecake

500 grams cream cheese
200 grams sour cream
2/3 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Start with the ingredients at room temperature. Preheat oven to 300 F/150 C.

With an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and sour cream until smooth. Add the sugar gradually, beating thoroughly. Add the eggs individually, beating after each egg so that it is incorporated. Add the vanilla and continue beating until the mixture is thick. If you are using high-fat dairy products, you will get a rich, thick batter. If you are using low-fat, you will get a wimpy-looking milkshake.

Pour the batter into a buttered 9″ springform pan or baking pan (I used a quiche pan because my springform pan started leaking too badly to seal with foil, I tossed it out, and haven’t replaced it yet). Bake for 1 hour or until the cake is just set in the middle (bang the oven gently to see how much the cake ripples) and the sides start to pull away. Let the cake cool in the oven with the door ajar. (This helps prevent the cake from cracking.) When cool, cover loosely with foil and refrigerate.

Serves 10.

You may notice that I did not specify what kind of cream cheese or sour cream. There are so many different types available, with high and low fat content, and you probably know what kind you will buy. All I can say is that the smooth, rich texture and creamy taste come from fat, so if you make your cheesecake with diet products, you’re not going to get the same results. Cheesecake is not a health food, but you probably don’t eat it very often unless you’re one of my coworkers (dry, tasteless cheesecake is one of the standard desserts in the dairy cafeteria). Try to use real vanilla, rather than a synthetic extract.

Chag sameach!

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Leftovers: Steak for Dinner, Date-Nut Loaf for Dessert

Posted by Avital Pinnick on May 18, 2011

Date-Nut Loaf

I had a lot of dates and walnuts left over from Passover, so this was the result. I combined a couple recipes because I wanted a loaf that was easy to make and not too sweet.

Date-Nut Loaf

8 ounces dates, chopped
1 cup boiling water
2 1/4 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
2 tbs vegetable oil
1 cup walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 170C / 325F. Grease a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan. Put dates in a heatproof bowl and pour boiling water over them to soften. Set aside to cool.

Mix flour, baking powder, and salt thoroughly. In a separate bowl, mix sugar, egg, and vegetable oil. To the sugar mixture, add cooled dates with liquid and flour mixture alternatively. Do not overmix. Combine just until you no longer see large dry patches of flour. Stir in the chopped walnuts. Scrape the batter into the loaf pan.

Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and top is firm and golden-brown.

Notes: a) You can use white or whole-wheat flour or a combination. If you use whole-wheat flour, keep an eye on things during baking and lower the oven temperature if the loaf browns too quickly. b) Dates are easier to chop if you dip the knife in boiling water, which keeps them from sticking to the blade. c) If you don’t want to chop walnuts with a knife, put about a quarter cup in a plastic bag and bash it with something hard, like a rolling pin or a small pot. d) I used a longer, narrower cake pan called an “English” pan in Israel. The baking time is about the same. e) My recipe has a lot of walnuts because I’m nuts about nuts. The original quantity was 3/4 cup.

Steak and Vegetables

The sliced steak and vegetable dish below was also made from leftovers. I froze a few small pieces of entrecote that I’d barbecued on Yom Atzma’ut/Israel Independence Day. In the fridge I found one and a half roasted red peppers that I’d grilled with the steak. They weren’t being eaten and they had to be cooked with a meat dish, so this is the result.

Sliced entrecote, mushrooms, roasted peppers in wine sauce

Quantities aren’t given because this is more of a suggestion than a recipe. SautĂ© chopped onion and minced garlic in olive oil until tender. Add sliced fresh mushrooms and sliced roasted red pepper and cook over medium heat until tender. Add sliced steak and any red wine lurking in the fridge. Cook until the liquid is reduced. Serve with rice.

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World’s Most Delicate Lemon Squares

Posted by Avital Pinnick on December 12, 2010

World's Most Delicate Lemon Squares

You can’t tell from the photograph but these lemon squares are still warm. They are so delicate, they make other lemon squares look like soggy bits of lemon meringue pie without the meringue. They literally dissolve in your mouth. They freeze well and are incredibly easy to make. What could be better?

Lemon Squares
Yield: 40 squares

3/4 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup powdered sugar (icing or confectioners sugar)
1 1/2 cups flour

3 eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tbs flour
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
Powdered sugar for sprinkling on top of filling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use a heavy 9″x13″ baking pan (I use a heavy, non-stick, metal Farberware pan, which doesn’t need greasing).

In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, pulse the butter/margarine, powdered sugar, and flour until crumbly. Press evenly into baking pan. Bake 20 minutes or until light golden brown. It should look like a huge shortbread cookie.

While the base is baking, mix filling ingredients in food processor until well blended. Take the base out of the oven and pour the filling onto the hot crust immediately. Return pan to oven and bake 15 minutes, just until set.

Cool for 10 minutes. Sprinkle powered sugar evenly over filling, using a fine-mesh sieve (if you buy icing sugar in 100 gm bags, you will only need 1 bag and you will have plenty to sprinkle on top). Loosen around the edges of the pan with a thin knife and cut into squares (5×8) while still warm.

Update from Jan. 10, 2011: They also freeze well. Arrange them in single layers with parchment paper or plastic wrap between. Wrap in foil or a freezer bag. Then hide them very well because some people actually prefer eating frozen lemon squares. 🙂


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Chicken Salad Improv

Posted by Avital Pinnick on August 5, 2010

The time: Shabbat morning
The weather: Bloody hot
The menu: Um, can we change the subject?

Chicken Salad Improv

My original plan was to heat some chicken for Shabbat lunch but it was just too hot. So I threw together this chicken salad using ingredients I had in the fridge and served it with rice. It was very popular and I’ll definitely make it, or a variation on the theme, again. This salad was made with the hind quarters of a roasted chicken.

A couple comments : Don’t forget to remove the bits of gristle and cartilage from the chicken. I recently ate a chicken salad made by someone who chopped the ingredients without removing the inedible bits. Everyone was chewing very carefully…

Do take the time to chop the carrot and pepper finely. It gives a much better texture to the salad, even though it’s more work. Raw carrot, in my opinion, is too coarse in a salad if the pieces are large.

Curried Chicken Salad

4 servings

1 1/2 cups diced chicken
1 1/2 tbs. mayonnaise
1 medium carrot, peeled finely chopped
1/2 red pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 cup raisins

Combine ingredients and chill.

Variations (what I would have added if I’d thought of it or had them in my fridge): 2 finely sliced green onions. A sprinkling of chopped pecans or slivered almonds would add a nice crunch, but then I’ll eat almost anything if it’s covered with nuts. I adore nuts on almost everything. Maybe everything.

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