Wednesday, December 12, 2012

a candle in the dark, a dinner party & a chanukah blessing

many thanks to all who came to celebrate chanukah with me tuesday night. it was lovely to share the holiday with friends, laugh, chat, have some wine, enjoy good food, and feel the warmth and joy flowing in my home on a cold winter night!

the menu:
- classic potato latkes, using yukon golds
- these ginger carrot latkes, but with the addition of scallions, a little less flour and 1 more egg
- these cumin beet latkes, with less flour but more cumin and coriander
- apricot applesauce
- sour cream
(maybe next year i will explore fun with toppings)
- the roasted cranberry salad  i posted about last week
- caramel sufganiyot, the recipe for which follows below
- my first ever homemade esrog liqueur aka alcoholic candy (thanks to everyone who contributed their esrogim post suckos to this very worthy and noble cause!)
- and varied l'chaim beverages gifted by friends :)

quick caramel sufganiyot:

these are a quick drop doughnut, not a yeast doughnut which you would have to let rise and then roll out, which makes them slightly less pretty but also super easy to make (and yes, these did garner me two marriage proposals at the party). while i do agree that yeast doughnuts have a lovely tang to them these are a good alternative for when you are busy (like when you are frying a lot of latkes at the same time :)

- 2 cups flour
- 1/4 cup sugar 
- 2 t baking powder
- 1 t baking soda
- 1/2 t salt
- 2 eggs
- 3/4 cup milk 
- 3 T unsalted butter, melted
- canola oil, for frying 
- powdered sugar, for dusting the doughnuts
mix all dry ingredients together, mix in all wet ingredients, dough should be sticky but not too wet, heat canola in saucepan, drop in 3 or 4 heaping tablespoonsful of dough at a time, trying to aim for a roughly ball like shape, don't crowd the pot, fry over low heat, turning the doughnuts about halfway through so they get lightly golden on all sides. remove from oil, dust with powdered sugar immediately, and fill with caramel, or other assorted yummy fillings of your choice...
for the caramel:
- 1 cup sugar
- 6 T butter
- 1 cup heavy cream
in a sauce pan, melt the sugar, stirring continuously, til is gets all golden looking, but don't let it burn! whisk in the butter til it is melted and thick, remove from heat, add cream and stir vigorously til well incorporated, let cool to room temp before using.  this will make more caramel then you need for the sufganiyot, but who doesn't want a little extra caramel in the house? to inject the doughnuts with the caramel i used a squeeze bottle and filled each doughnut in a few places, but you can experiment with any injector type apparatus that might do the trick that you have lying around.

so a few nights ago we were gazing at the menorah, reflecting on the lights in the darkness and discussing the question of why, so many years ago, did the holy people who rededicated the beis hamikdah feel the need to light that oil even though they knew there wouldn't be enough for the next day, wouldn't it be a letdown to light up the world the first night and then nothing for the next seven, until more was made? why not just wait a week and do it when you know you could do it right? a lot of thoughts were suggested, but the idea that has been resonating with me is that sometimes you light a candle because you can't exist in a world for another day where a candle is not lit. you don't always know the outcome, you can't see where things are headed, or even that they will work out, but you choose to believe, you choose to bring light into the world right now. it is like the midrash tells us about nachshon ben aminadav who walks into the yam suf up to his nose, he doesn't know it is going to split but he knows he can't stay where he is with the egyptians on his back and he chooses to move forward, because something has to give. it is like all the people post WWII in the DP camps who got married and started families, their worlds were just turned upside down, they had no idea where they would go, how they would live, maybe they had even lost faith in humanity, but they knew that life goes on, and lives can't be lived without love and intimacy. it is like a dear one said to me recently when we were discussing israel politics, i don't know that a two state solution will work, i don't know that there are real peace partners ready to lay down arms right now, but i do know that people are being raised to hate each other, and being raised in fear on both sides of a fence, and that can't go on, i would say we try because we have to believe that something can be different, that things can be better, that things can be joyously shared and lived together even if we don't see how in this moment yet. that is the message of chanukah to me, at least what rings true this year, that in the darkness of winter, in the darkness of night, in the darkness of my own heart, in the darkness of my own fears, i choose to light a candle, i choose to illuminate the world with holiness, i choose to move forward and live and dream, even when i don't see how things will work out yet tomorrow. and somehow, even when they work out differently than i had hoped for, they still always manage to work out in some unexpected and beautiful way that the world has of going where it needs to..... blessing us all to try even when we don't see the path, because trying is really all we have. blessing us all to believe, because it is what inspires us, and while socrates might say that an unexamined life is not worth living, perhaps tonight i will say the same about an uninspired life. blessing us all with the light of chanukah in our hearts and on our minds. as it says in pirke avos, lo alecha hamlacha ligmor, v'lo atah ben chorin lihibatel memenah, the task is not yours to complete, but neither are you free to run away from it. our job is not to know the end, with the end comes a certainty that we are rarely privy to in this life, our job is to walk on the path, and journey forward, one step, one day, one dream, one joy, one belief, one smile, one bit of bravery, one candle in the darkness. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

roasted cranberry & spinach salad

so every year on thanksgiving i make the cranberry sauce, it is full of orange juice, vanilla, maple syrup, and a hint of ginger if the mood strikes me, it is divine, so i am told, well, at least by my tanta tovah whose favorite word is divine. but this year i celebrated thanksgiving with friends instead of family, and alas they did not know about the long standing tradition that is me and cranberry sauce. that, coupled with the surprise inclusion of two bags of cranberries with my fresh direct order (happy accident or conspiracy on the part of the cranberry industry?) led to this recipe. in truth i have never cooked with cranberries except in the aforementioned sauce form, and these bags of cranberries having been staring me in the face for 2+ weeks taunting me and mocking my culinary abilities. well, today we made friends, and i am delighted we did because this salad too is divine. the tart juiciness of the roasted cranberries, the crunch of the toasted walnuts, and the creaminess and depth of the blue cheese combine in a way that is an explosion of deliciousness in your mouth.

for the salad:

-1 lb baby spinach, washed and spun dry
- 24 oz cranberries, roasted
- 1/2 lb of blue cheese, crumbled
if you are using kosher i like "the good life" blue cheese out of monsey, ny
- 1 cup toasted chopped walnuts

to roast cranberries, coat in some oil or spray with canola, i like the spectrum high heat canola spray, and spread out on sheet pan/cookie sheet, pop into a 400 degree oven til just soft, about 15 minutes. to toast walnuts spread out on cookie sheet and pop into 400 degree oven til light and toasty smelling, about 8 minutes, keep a constant eye on them, don't let burn! either use pieces or run through a quick trip in the food processor. once the above are done and cooled, assemble everything in a big serving bowl. instead of tossing this salad i would put half the spinach on the bottom of the bowl, then half the cranberries, blue cheese, and walnuts, and then repeat on top of it with the other half, it will make for a cleaner presentation and then there is no need to toss.

for the dressing:

option 1-
a little pink sea salt, fresh cracked pepper and blood orange infused olive oil which i picked up at the olive n grape store in new hope, PA last year. (the olive oil is a first cold press moroccan oil with blood oranges naturally squeezed into it when the oil is crushed, it is an all cold all natural product and as such doesn't need a hechsher.)

option 2-
the second option for the dressing (in case you have not just jumped online and ordered this olive oil, which you really really should) is to whisk together:

juice & zest of 1 orange
3 T maple syrup
salt & pepper to taste
a splash of red wine vinegar
1 T dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil

dress your salad and enjoy! i served this with whole wheat pumpkin bread, and an autumn harvest pasta with roasted root vegetables, shaved romano, pumpkin seeds, and lots of fresh sage and oregano. the meal pairs well with the dalton reserve wild yeast viognier, one of my favorite whites.

happy eating!