Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Phyllo Lamb Borekas

I have been on the lookout, lately, for recipes that can be made in quantity and then stored piecemeal in the freezer so that we can remove and defrost small bites as the mood strikes, or when company comes unexpectedly and we need something delicious that can be warmed up in a hurry. This strategy is also useful when a picky eater doesn’t like what is being served to everyone else. Personally, I can resist any foods that I shouldn’t eat, like cake and cookies, as long as they are packed away neatly in the freezer. I chanced upon this recipe when I was looking for a use for a pound of ground lamb that I thought I would make into lamb meatballs. I happened to have a box of phyllo that was starting to get old in the freezer and, by coincidence, I had all the other ingredients as well.

The original recipe came from Eating Well magazine, but because they are so concerned with adding even a teaspoon of extra fat or a few more calories, I am making some alterations based on my experience with the recipe and the fact that all the sesame seeds fell off because there was no egg wash to hold them in place after baking.

To work successfully with phyllo, thaw in its original wrapper overnight in the refrigerator, then let stand, unopened, at room temperature for 2 hours before using. After opening, remove only 1 sheet at a time from the stack and keep the remaining sheets covered with a slightly damp, clean dishtowel. Fresh phyllo sheets should separate easily. If they don’t, they may have been too long in the freezer or improperly stored. Don’t struggle with bad phyllo. Get a good box. A wide pastry brush, or 2 to 3 inch-wide, new, clean paint brush works best for this.

Phyllo Lamb Borekas
Yield: Approximately 4 dozen triangles

  • 1/2 cup bulgur
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 1 lb. lean ground lamb
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove elephant garlic, minced
  • 2/3 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs, (mint, basil, parsley, etc.) or a combination
  • 1 lemon, grated rind and juice
  • 2 Tbsp. catsup or chili sauce
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon


  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 24 sheets phyllo dough, thawed
  • 2 Tbsp. sesame seeds
  • 1 egg

To make filling: Combine bulgur and hot water in a bowl. Set aside to soften, about 30 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Cook lamb in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, breaking it up into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until well browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the lamb to a bowl with a slotted spoon.

Add onion and garlic to juices in pan; cook, stirring, until onion is softened and golden, 5 to 7 minutes.

Add the cooked lamb, drained bulgur, broth, raisins, herbs, lemon juice, catsup, salt, pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon. Return to a simmer. Cook, stirring often, until liquid has been absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Let cool.

To prepare pastry and form triangles:

Put oil in a small bowl.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Brush a baking sheet with oil.

Lay 1 sheet of phyllo on a work surface with a short side closest to you. Brush lightly with oil and place another sheet of phyllo on top. Lightly brush with more oil.

Cut phyllo with a sharp, pointed scissors lengthwise into 4 strips.

Place 1 tablespoon lamb mixture at the bottom of each strip and fold one corner of the strip diagonally over the filling to the opposite edge, forming a triangle. Continue folding the filling up in the pastry, as you would a flag.

Place on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining phyllo and filling to form 48 triangles in all.

Beat egg lightly with 1/2 Tbsp. water. Brush tops of triangles lightly with beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake until triangles are golden brown and crisp, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.

To make ahead, you can freeze and store the baked triangles layered between sheets of waxed paper or parchment in a shallow, airtight plastic storage box. Do not thaw before baking, uncovered, at 350°F. until warmed through, about 10 minutes.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Samoa Bars

I was searching the Internet before Thanksgiving for some kind of dessert that could be made ahead which would appeal to my sister-in-law Randi, who is gluten-free because of a gluten sensitivity, rather than having actual celiac disease. She doesn’t like pumpkin desserts or meringues. Flans can only be made a day or two ahead and then have to be eaten within a few days, and I was looking for something that I could store away in the freezer for future use. This recipe not only fit all of my criteria, but I had a small quantity of homemade salted caramel sauce that had been hanging around the refrigerator since we had made our own ice cream, and a small bag of shredded coconut leftover in the freezer from making a Yona Rae Coconut Cake that uses up leftover egg whites from the freezer from baking our family challah each week. Perfect! I also liked the way the bottom crust forms into distinct layers while baking and has no added sugar. Even more perfect! They were a big hit with Randi, who sampled the results even before Thanksgiving. I want to try other flavor combinations of bar cookies using the same base. Freezing them changes the texture a bit, but they are still very tasty. The original recipe, from Katerina Petrovska’s Diethood blog, uses melted store-bought caramels. Randi plans to make it with an organic caramel sauce she gets at Whole Foods.

Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Samoa Bars

(makes 9 to 12 bars)

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup natural smooth or chunky peanut butter
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate, chopped, divided
  • 1 cup easy caramel sauce (see recipe below)
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line an 8x8-inch baking pan with parchment paper; set aside.

Using an electric mixer with whip attachment, beat the eggs at high speed for 8 minutes, or until eggs have tripled in volume.

Heat peanut butter on high setting in microwave oven, in heatproof measuring cup, for 1 minute. Remove and stir.

Slowly pour a thin stream of the warm peanut butter over the eggs while beating until the mixture is thoroughly combined. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Sprinkle 3/4 cup of the chopped chocolate on top of the peanut butter mixture.

Spread 1 cup of the caramel sauce over the chopped chocolate.

Sprinkle shredded coconut over caramel sauce.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Remove and let cool completely to room temperature. Refrigerate until chilled.

Melt the remaining chocolate and drizzle over the chilled bars.

Cut and serve.

Easy Caramel Sauce
(original recipe courtesy of Ree Drummond from the Food Network)

  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 4 Tbsp. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 tsp. Maldon salt
  • 1 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract

Mix the brown sugar, half-and-half, butter and salt in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.

Cook while whisking gently for 5 to 7 minutes, until it gets thicker.

Add the vanilla and cook another minute to thicken further.

Turn off the heat, cool slightly, and pour the sauce into a jar.

Refrigerate until cold.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

G.G. Sima’s Schnecken

One of the recipes that my granddaughters put aside to try this year from my expandable folder is this one that was hand-written for me by Saul’s mother. “Schnecken” can be translated as “snails” in Yiddish or German (which Sami is learning in high school) because of their distinctive shape. G.G. Sima used to make them for us whenever she came for family parties, like Mother’s Day, Hanukkah and birthday parties. She also used to fill large, white, deli-type food buckets with them for her favorite people to keep in the freezer, like her son-in-law Alex, and our friend Larry. She almost always worked without recipes, by feel, so I asked if she would try to quantify the recipe for me and she did, but I never made them myself. It is many years since G.G. Sima herself baked these for us. She died about 5 years ago, and for a few years before that, she developed dementia and was living near Saul’s sister and Jessica at Lion’s Gate, an assisted living and care facility in New Jersey.

I wasn’t sure how well the recipe would work in light of all this, but the results were pretty much as we fondly remembered them. The dough worked very well, and can be sprinkled and filled with whatever you choose. G.G. Sima usually used apricot preserves and chopped pecans, but the ones pictured here were made with either apricot or raspberry preserves, and sprinkled with chopped peanuts because of my mild tree nut allergy. Izzy, Alex, and Yona have allergies to chocolate, but sprinkling with chopped chocolate would be very welcome in some circles. G.G. Sima’s talent and love for baking and cooking will hopefully live on in this recipe.

G.G. Sima’s Schnecken

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 lb. unsalted butter (2 sticks), cut in small cubes
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 packet (2 tsp.) dry yeast
  • non-stick cooking spray


  • 1 jar of apricot or raspberry jam
  • 1 cup ground nuts
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Warm the milk to lukewarm. Sprinkle in the sugar and yeast.

Mix first the butter, and then the egg yolks into the flour using a pastry blender or fork.

Add the milk, beating with a spoon until a dough forms.

Divide the dough in three parts.

Using a rolling pin, roll out each part on a lightly floured surface into a large circle and cut into 16 wedges.

Combine last three filling ingredients.

Spread a very thin layer of jam on the dough. This keeps the nuts from sliding off when rolling up the schnecken.

Sprinkle with nut mixture and roll up each triangle beginning with the wide end and rolling toward the pointy end.

Put them on a lightly-greased cookie sheet and let them rest for 20 minutes.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until lightly browned.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Steamed Oatmeal with Berries

This recipe is so simple and so common to me that I have resisted putting it up on my blog. Saul or I make it practically every morning since he retired. This morning, he insisted I put it here because so many of our guests in Florida have partaken, and he went to the trouble of of arranging the berries in his bowl and taking a photograph.

Until recent years, even the thought of eating oatmeal was repulsive to me. As a child, I remember sitting for what seemed like hours in front of a bowl of cold, lumpy, slimy oatmeal because my mother insisted I must finish it before I went out to play. I remember literally gagging on the lumps to get it down so that I would be allowed to get up from the table. Consequently, I avoided eating it most of my adult life. Saul, however, loves the stuff, so when I ran across a method in Cook’s Illustrated Magazine years ago that purportedly produced a fluffy, nutty-tasting, and un-slimy version, I decided to try it out… on him ;o). I had to agree when I merely tasted it the first time that it was not my mother’s oatmeal. For several years, I made it for him alone at least four times a week when he rose before dawn to go off to teach an 8:00 a.m. class at Chestnut Hill College. I always added a handful of Craisins to add a bit of sweetness and because cranberries are supposed to be especially healthy for men. When we visited Seattle with Ari several years ago, we discovered Snoqualmie Falls Lodge Oatmeal. It is our favorite, but probably not enough better than the local brands to justify the cost of having it shipped. Mostly, we buy huge boxes of Quaker Old Fashioned Oats from Costco

Usually, working from home, I would share a cup of tea with milk as Saul ate, and then climb back into bed for an hour or two after he left. Usually, I would not eat again until lunch time. Occasionally, I began to join him in a bowl and made it more palatable to me by adding a spoonful of brown sugar. All that changed about three years ago when I had a routine checkup and discovered that my A1C was highly elevated for the first time in my life. Oatmeal, I eventually discovered, was a good complex carb for diabetics, although not with either sugar, or Craisins. I learned that fresh berries, particularly blueberries, which I love, are very healthy and do not raise the glycemic index. Going without breakfast is also not advisable for diabetics. So, for the last three years, Saul and I, almost every day, eat a bowl of this, with the addition of of handful of frozen mixed berries that we buy at Costco (blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries) with whatever other fresh berries are in season here in Florida. We add low-fat milk to taste at the table, and he likes a lot more in it than I do, hence, the rather soupy photo. In recent years, for their good taste and health benefits, we also top it with a spoonful of hemp seeds which we also purchase at Costco. A few weeks ago, I began adding a half teaspoon of cinnamon and a half teaspoon of turmeric to my bowl for their superior sugar-lowering properties. While turmeric may seem like an odd choice, I have grown to enjoy that spiciness along with the texture and flavor of my steamed oatmeal. If you try this method of cooking oatmeal, you will have a difficult time ever eating instant oatmeal again.

Steamed Oatmeal with Berries
(Serves 2)
  • water
  • 2/3 cup old-fashioned or rolled oats
Healthy Optional Additions: milk, almond milk, coconut milk, rice milk, dried fruit or berries, fresh fruit or berries, pomegranate seeds, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, cinnamon, turmeric, nutmeg

In a 2- or 3-quart pot fitted with a stainless steel collapsible steamer insert, bring enough water to boil over high heat to just cover the amount of oatmeal you are about to add.

When the water is at a rolling boil, add the oatmeal (and dried fruit or dried berries, if desired) and boil on high heat for two minutes. Turn off heat.

Carefully lift the steamer out of the pot into a bowl that will accommodate it.

Pour off all but about 1/4 cup of the boiling water.

Return the steamer insert with the oatmeal to the pot (top with frozen berries, if desired) and cover the pot.

Let steam for 15 to 20 minutes before serving, adding milk or additional toppings as desired to your bowl. 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Zucchini (Courgette) Casserole

Last year in London, some of Ari’s friends and co-workers who had spent some time in the U.S. and had a great fondness for our Thanksgiving traditions here, managed to persuade him to invite them over for a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner. Ari, master problem-solver that he is in his real-life profession, set about researching sources, organizing lists, and gathering everything he needed to prepare the kind of dinner that he was accustomed to enjoying. His caterer aunt and mother would always prepare for large family Thanksgiving dinners, usually at Aunt Adele’s home. Another of Ari’s foibles, since childhood, is agonizing over the problem and then waiting to the last possible minute to solve it brilliantly. So it was with Thanksgiving last year. Saul and I spent lots of time in his kitchen, virtually on FaceTime, propped up on his kitchen counter giving him advice as he, night-by-night, tackled each recipe. Almost every recipe was accessible on this blog, but I was surprised that this one had been overlooked. We had to scan it and email the pdf to him. I also realized that I had not made it for so long that I had no photos of it. It was practically the hit of the party last year, so I thought it was high time it appeared. 

The original recipe called for 1 cup of cream of chicken soup, but I prefer to make my own bĂ©chamel, so that is how I modified it myself this year. The family members that kept kosher would generally forego the turkey in favor of all the dairy side dishes and desserts. As for Ari’s Thanksgiving gatherings, the group attending has grown this year as the reputation of last year’s dinner circulated. He was able to handle it all with great aplomb knowing that he had pulled it all together so well once before. I am so proud of him and happy to share this yummy recipe that is one of my favorites as well.

Zucchini (Courgette) Casserole
  • 4 medium zucchini (courgettes) unpeeled, washed and sliced thinly
  • 3/4 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
  • 2-1/4 cups herb cubes (croutons), divided
  • 1-1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. Osem pareve chicken soup mix
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  1. In large frying pan, melt 2 Tbsp. of butter. SautĂ© zucchini over medium heat until crisp tender occasionally stirring gently. Remove to a large bowl with a slotted spoon and set aside. 
  2. In same frying pan, melt in another 2 Tbsp. of butter. Add carrots and onions to liquid in pan and cook until carrots are tender and onions are transparent.
  3. Add all-purpose flour and cook over medium heat, stirring, about 5 minutes. 
  4. Gradually add heavy cream and stir until the mixture begins to thicken, about 5 minutes. Stir in salt, pepper and pareve chicken soup mix.
  5. Turn off heat and stir in sour cream.
  6. Mix all the ingredients adding 1-1/4 cups of the cubes. Spread into a 1-1/2 quart casserole dish.
  7. Distribute remaining cubes on top and dot with remaining butter.
  8. Cover and bake 30-40 minutes at 350°F. Serve warm.

Notes: If you wish to simplify, omit steps 3 and 4 and add 1 cup condensed cream of chicken soup to other ingredients.

Recipe can be doubled.

This casserole freezes beautifully. To serve, defrost and bake at 350°F., uncovered, until bubbly.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Peach/Nectarine Custard Pie

Unlike many stores, Costco did something very smart when we were there recently. They had someone slicing and putting out samples of white nectarines that were dead ripe, juicy and incredibly sweet. Ordinarily, I hesitate to buy peaches and nectarines even here in Florida because if they are soft and ripe, they are usually on the verge of rotten. If they are hard and perfect-looking, they usually don’t ripen properly and are flavorless and mealy when left out to ripen on the counter for a few days; or, they go from hard to rotten before we notice. Although these are among my favorite fruits, I am rarely willing to gamble on the whole case of at least a dozen, the way Costco sells them. This time, I was so impressed with the perfection of these nectarines, that I did buy the whole case even though they were very soft and I knew they would last a few days at most. I turned them into this delectable pie that literally melts in your mouth.

Peach/Nectarine Custard Pie
For Crust (This makes two 9-10 inch shells or one double crust pie)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 8 Tbsp. (1 stick) very cold butter cut in small pieces
  • 3 Tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup ice water

For Pie
  • 1 unbaked nine or 10-inch pie shell
  • 4-5 large nectarines or peaches, sliced (peeled, if desired)
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 large or extra-large eggs
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 4 Tbsp. half-and-half, water, or coconut milk
  • 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • fresh grated nutmeg to taste

Prepare pie shell
In electric mixer, on lowest speed, combine flour, butter and coconut oil just until pea-size crumbs form. Do not overmix!

With mixer at lowest speed, drizzle in the ice water and mix just until a ball of dough forms.

Flour surface and rolling pin liberally, and roll out dough until it forms a circle 2 inches larger than the edge of the pie pan.

Carefully place dough in pan being careful not to stretch it into the corners. Fold overhanging dough under itself at the edge of the pan and flute it decoratively.

Prepare Pie
Fill the pie shell with sliced nectarines or peaches, decoratively.

Sprinkle with fresh lemon juice.

Whisk together eggs, sugar, half-and-half and flour, and pour over the slices.

Sprinkle with nutmeg.

Bake at 450°F for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 375°F and bake for approximately 20 minutes more.

Cool and serve.

Do not freeze!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Fresh Blueberry Pie


Sami called me while Saul and I were in the car yesterday to let me know that I had never put this blueberry pie recipe up on the blog. I was surprised because I have made it many, many times over the last 15 to 20 years and it is my brother’s favorite. Nothing could be done until we returned home from grocery shopping, because I couldn’t remember how much sugar off the top of my head. Thanks to electronic media, however, she had the recipe the minute we walked in the door because I could take a photo on my phone and send it right off to her. The original came from a colleague of Saul’s who brought it to an HSES teachers’ conference and end-of-year, covered dish get-together. Since I wanted to have photos for this post, I picked up enough blueberries to make it myself for dessert. Sami had piles and piles of fresh blueberries from her CSA in New Jersey, and they are still in season here in Florida. This is the best blueberry pie ever! That is because most of the fruit is not even cooked, so it retains its wonderful freshness. I have also been substituting some coconut shortening in my pie crusts (instead of unhealthy Crisco) to wonderful effect, especially in this pie. Sami and I made our pies together, thanks to the magic of Face Time, and, judging from the photos we traded of the finished item, they were fantastic! 

Fresh Blueberry Pie
For Crust (This makes two 9-10 inch shells or one double crust pie)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 8 Tbsp. (1 stick) very cold butter cut in small pieces
  • 3 Tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup ice water

For Pie

  • 1 Nine or 10-inch pie shell, pre-baked and cooled
  • 3 pints fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. cornstarch, potato starch, or tapioca starch
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Prepare pie shell
In electric mixer, on lowest speed, combine flour, butter and coconut oil just until pea-size crumbs form. Do not overmix!

With mixer at lowest speed, drizzle in the ice water and mix just until a ball of dough forms.

Flour surface and rolling pin liberally, and roll out dough until it forms a circle 2 inches larger than the edge of the pie pan.

Carefully place dough in pan being careful not to stretch it into the corners. Fold overhanging dough under itself at the edge of the pan and flute it decoratively.

Cover the crust completely with a square of aluminum foil. Pour in pie weights, dry beans, or uncooked rice to keep the crust in shape while baking.

Bake at 450°F for 10 to 15 minutes until lightly browned and crisp.

Remove foil and pie weights, and cool.

Prepare pie filling
Wash the berries and separate out one cup of the least nice ones.

Spread the rest of the berries on a dry dish towel and blot away any water.

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and starch, and add cold water.

Stir in the one cup of berries.

Cook at medium heat stirring constantly until mixture boils and thickens.

Blend in lemon juice.

Let cool and then add remaining berries. Stir gently until all the berries are glazed.

Pour the mixture into the pie shell and refrigerate until set, about an hour.

Serve with whipped cream or ice cream, if desired.

Do not freeze!