You Can Win Friends with Salad

Last week, the dreariness of January really got to me.  I was desperate for a taste of sunshine.  That’s why I made Lucas Hollweg’s Chicken and bulgar wheat Waldorf salad with dill and poppy seed yogurt that featured in the September issue of Waitrose Kitchen.  I made a few substitutions: quinoa for bulgar wheat, pecans for walnuts, and orange and lemon instead of just the latter.  This salad was exactly what  I wanted and needed.  Light, refreshing, and full of the promise of spring and sunny summer days.  More importantly, I proved Homer Simpson wrong.  You can too win friends with salad.  My family loved it, especially tiny and these days she doesn’t eat anything but chips.  I’ll be making this one again soon.

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L’Shanah Tovah!

Today is Rosh Hashanah or Jewish new year.  And it has always been one of my favorite feasts.  Typical foods for the celebration include honey, apples, pomegranates, and fish.  Fish heads symbolizing the head of the year.

Recently Henry, my husband, wrote a piece for the Guardian about discovering his Jewish heritage.  You see, he didn’t know about his family’s past until his grandfather’s funeral.  He writes, “What I remember most is something my grandmother, Dorothy Jeffreys, said before the service. She was distraught and, I think, on some sort of tranquilliser and kept insisting Don wouldn’t have wanted the send-off to be in a church, it should have been a synagogue. I asked her why and she said, “Because we’re Jewish.”  

This revelation led to all sorts of questions.  He reached out to older family members who knew his ancestors’ lineage and remembered their stories.  With our two year-old in tow, we drove to see them to learn about our family’s past to better understand the present.

So this year, I wanted Rosh Hashanah to be special for Henry.  I wanted to give him a meal that would help him remember.  Here is what we had:

Pan-fried harissa sea bass.  I marinated the fish in harissa, cumin, and salt for a few hours before dredging with flour and frying until the skin went crispy.  At this point, I flipped the fillets and continued frying for another minute more.

harissa sea bass

Yotam Ottolenghi’s roasted aubergine and basil with pomegranate and saffron sauce

eggplant salad

Israeli couscous salad


Roasted figs with honey and orange juice, orange yogurt, cinnamon and toasted almonds.  I halved the figs, dotted them with butter, and covered them with a mixture that was 2 tablespoons manuka honey plus the zest and juice of one tangerine.  I then baked them for half an hour at Gas6/200C/400F.  When I took them out of the baking dish, I removed whatever liquid was in there and boiled it down until it made a syrup.  I glazed the figs with this.  Then I mixed more orange zest with yogurt and topped each fig with this.  Next, I sprinkled chopped toasted almonds on top then gave them a dusting of cinnamon.

figs glaze figs roasted figs


Honey rum tarte tatin.  All I did was take the elements I liked best from several recipes.  For me, that meant a pastry dough made with sour cream and a deep caramel sauce with honey and Cuban rum.  After transferring the tarte to a plate, I boiled down whatever caramel and apple juice remained.  When it was quite viscous, I poured it over the tarte but only after topping it with toasted almonds.  Then I placed it under the broiler (the grill if you’re in the UK) for a few minutes to get everything really golden.  Of course, I served it with more sour cream.

tarte tatin whole meal


Cuckoo for Cocoa Powder Brownies

People say addiction is genetic.  Well both my daughter’s grandmothers are chocoholics.  My husband can take it or leave it.  I like it but prefer pastries or fruit pies.  Or plain old sour gummy candy.  That said, yesterday I made brownies.  When it came time to clean up, I gave in to the great tradition of handing my child the utensils to lick clean.  It was her first real experience with chocolate.  Madness ensued.  She got a crazed look in her eye then ran around like a happy drunk brandishing her whisk in the air.  Today, I’m painting over all the chocolate handprints that didn’t wash off my pale pink walls.  Below is the recipe.  Use with caution or you too might spend the next day repainting your home.

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1/2 cup butter (1 stick/4oz./113g)

1 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste

2 large eggs

1/3 cup flour

1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds


Preheat oven to 325F/175C/Gas3.

Line an 8″ square baking tin with foil.  Not just the bottom but also the sides so there’s an overhang.  Coat lightly with nonstick spray or a bit of butter and flour.

Melt  the butter over medium heat and let cool slightly.

Whisk sugar, cocoa, and salt in a bowl.  Pour the butter into the dry ingredients and whisk constantly to blend.

Whisk in vanilla.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating vigorously with each addition.

Finally add the flour and stir until just combined.  Then stir in the almonds should you want them.  I always do.  Be careful not to over mix.

Use a spatula to scrape the batter into your pan and smooth the top.  Bake until the top begins to crack and a toothpick comes out clean.  Approximately 35 minutes.

Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely in the pan.