Corn dog fritters

IMG_8055.jpg
IMG_8062.jpg

Hey all- it's July 4th, which means you may be feeling somewhat festive (or, at least, someone close to you is feeling festive enough to throw a BBQ. One of my favorite things when we lived in NYC was that Shake Shack would serve the most amazing corn dogs only on Memorial Day, July 4th, and Labor Day.

IMG_8045.jpg

We've tried to recreate them at home and it's sort of a gross process. The smell of frying oil sticks around in my hair long after the dogs have been consumed. And, they require SO MUCH OIL. I mean, I was theoretically aware of how much was required to properly fry something, but doing it yourself is...jarring. 

IMG_8031.jpg

So instead, I tossed some hotdogs into my favorite corn fritter recipe, made a few tweaks, and called it a day. These guys are delicious and require a comparatively scant two tablespoons of oil. Use avocado oil and it's even a good fat! And since I've used corn flour instead of wheat flour, these fritters are naturally gluten-free.

 

IMG_8030.jpg

A couple of notes:
- Swap out the milk for almond or coconut milk to make these dairy-free.
- Cooking times on these fritters or patties vary widely. I made them once and they browned in less than 3 minutes. If I'm impatient about heating the oil, it takes up to 7 minutes for a golden crust to form.
- We've been getting our eggs from a local farm, so the sizes range from small to ostrich. Not really, but some of the eggs are gigantic. One of the giant ones is sufficient for this recipe, but if yours are a regular uniform size, use two.
- If you can, use fresh corn cut from the cob. It tastes so much better.

 

Corn dog fritters

½ cup corn flour
¼ cup fine corn meal
½ tsp salt
¾ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp Aleppo pepper, cayenne pepper, or ½ tsp paprika
2 tsp honey
¼ cup milk
1 extra large egg (or 2 large eggs)
1 cup corn kernels (1 large ear)
1 cup chopped hotdogs (2 large)
2 Tbsp avocado oil for frying

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the wet ingredients and mix well. Let sit for about 5 minutes to let the baking soda activate- this is about the time it takes to get the oil hot.

Heat the oil over a medium-low flame until very hot. Add about ¼ cup of the corn mixture (for large patties) or 1/8 cup of corn mixture (for small fritters) and let them brown on one side before flipping, about 2-4 minutes. Flip and cook on the other side until deep golden brown, again about 2-4 minutes.

Serve with ketchup, mustard, and whatever other dipping sauces you might like.

Yield: 6-7 large patties or 14-16 small fritters

IMG_8043.jpg
IMG_8051.jpg

Almond cookies

IMG_7361.jpg

Easter and Passover fall during the same weekend this year, so why not bake a dessert that fits the bill for both? They're a little like a French Macaron, but with a lot less work. They're also a little merengue-y, but much less tricky and far quicker to bake.

IMG_7329.jpg

I first made these Chewy Almond Cookies for the holidays a few years ago. My mom loves a Linzer torte and my father-in-law loves anything with marzipan, but I needed something a bit simpler to add to the cookie tray. The original version called for store-bought almond paste, but it's expensive and sometimes hard to find, so these cookies sub in almond flour (NOT almond meal) and powdered sugar.

IMG_7341.jpg

Skipping the almond paste also makes these kosher for Passover because the paste uses some kind of gluten-derived syrup as a sweetener.

IMG_7343.jpg

I've fiddled with the technique a bit as well. Adding the egg whites to the food processor first and whizzing them until they're thick and white makes the cookies lighter, airier, and more chewy. You don't need to go for stiff peaks or even soft peaks, but just a frothy milky mixture.

IMG_7337.jpg

The only tricky part of this recipe is getting the texture of the batter right. Too thick, and it's hard to pipe, but too thin and the cookies spread out and get too crunchy. You want to be able to run a finger through the batter and the indentation stays put. (See the photo below.)

IMG_7339.jpg

The original recipe also calls for raspberry jam, which is delicious. But I used lemon curd here because it felt more springy. Also, it seemed like an apt use of the leftover egg yolks. However, I confess that I've never actually made my own lemon curd before and my first try was...not great. The taste was delicious, but it was entirely too runny. So, I bought some at the grocery store and called it a day. No shame.

IMG_7355.jpg

Almond Cookies

2 large eggs, white and yolk separated
1 cup almond meal
¾ cup confectioner’s sugar
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ tsp almond extract
½ tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cardamom
¼ tsp salt
2 cups sliced almonds

Preheat the oven to 350.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Make 9 small piles of almonds roughly the size of a quarter. Set aside.

Add the egg whites to a food processor. Whiz on high speed until the whites look frothy and milky, about 1-2 minutes.

Add the rest of the ingredients and whiz to combine. The batter will likely form a ball. Keep processing until the ball smoothes back out. If the batter is too thick (stays in a ball after another minute of processing), separate another egg white and yolk and add ½ of the egg white to the batter and process again.

Add the batter to a large zip lock bag or a piping bag and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or up to 1 day.

Once chilled, pipe about 2 Tbsp of batter in a circle over each pile of almonds. The batter will be thick, so feel free to use your fingers to help it out of the bag.  Don’t worry if the batter looks a little wonky because the cookies spread out while baking.

Top with more sliced almonds.

Bake for 5 minutes and rotate the pan. Bake for 5 minutes more. Be careful not to overbake these cookies. They’re done even when they look slightly raw in the middle. You want just a hint of color around the edges. Let cool for 5 minutes on the pan and move to a wire rack to cool completely.

Yield: 18-20 cookies

IMG_7347.jpg

Halva Hamantaschen

IMG_7199.jpg

I meant to post this recipe yesterday, but after turning my kitchen into a veritable Hamantaschen factory testing different dough recipes, I had to take a break.

I love love love a good hamantaschen, the traditional cookie of Purim. When done right, the cookie part isn't terribly sweet and hovers somewhere between tender and snappy and, most importantly, lets the filling shine. My personal favorite is plain old apricot jam, but I was inspired by Molly Yeh's sprinkletaschen and knishentaschen to make my own frankentaschen with a halva filling.

IMG_7159.jpg

I'm always intrigued by halva, but never really like it. The dry, chalky texture really throws me, but I like all of the ingredients, which is what leads me back time and again. Instead of making actual halva or using a store-bought version, I just used the basic ingredients (honey, tahini) and added some other favorites like lemon zest and pistachios. I also threw in an egg and the tiniest bit of flour and baking powder to make the filling more batter-like.

IMG_7163.jpg
IMG_7176.jpg
IMG_7166.jpg

The real trick was finding a dough recipe that I liked. I nixed all of the cream cheese-based doughs because reviewers complained that the dough often doesn't hold its shape in the oven. I also thought the tang would compete with the filling.

 Helpful!

Helpful!

Next, I tried Bon Appetite's and Smitten Kitchen's hamantaschen doughs. I liked them equally, but I ultimately prefer Smitten's because the technique (with some of my lazy-person changes) is quick and easy.

IMG_7174.jpg

Internet research led me to fiddle with oven temperatures and try resting the formed cookies in the fridge for 20 minutes before baking, but ultimately, neither significantly changed anything for the better. My cookies aren't going to win any beauty contests, but the all more or less stay together.

Halva Hamantaschen

For the dough:
4 Tbsp butter, melted and slightly cooled
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 heaping tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
Heaping ¼ tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
2 ¼ cups + 2 Tbsp flour

Melt the butter in a large mixing bowl in the microwave until just melted. I like to melt the butter about 2/3 of the way and then stir it to let the heat from the melted part take care of the rest. Let cool slightly, about 3 minutes.

Add the sugar and vanilla extract and whisk to combine. Let the teaspoon runeth over slightly to add extra vanilla flavor.

Add the eggs one at a time and whisk each one until fully combined.

Add the salt and baking powder and stir with a spatula.

Add 1.5 cups of flour and stir until just combined. Add the other 3/4 cup of flour and stir again. Add the final 2 Tbsp and, either working hard with the spatula or using your hands, mix until just combined. The dough should feel very dense and not sticky.

Divide the dough into two discs, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and chill for 20 minutes in the freezer.

 

For the halva filling:
1 cup raw, shelled pistachios, toasted
¼ cup tahini, well mixed
5 Tbsp honey
1 large egg
¼ tsp baking powder
1.5 Tbsp flour
Zest of 1 large lemon

Preheat the oven to 350. Toast the nuts for about 5 minutes or until they become fragrant and slightly darker. Transfer to a food processor

Add the other ingredients and pulse until the mixture becomes a paste. Some of the pistachios will remain whole or in large pieces, which is absolutely fine. The batter will seem too loose, but don’t worry: This is about to chill in the fridge while you roll out and cut your cookie dough and will tighten up quite a bit.

 

To assemble the cookies:
Preheat the oven to 350 (if not already done when toasting the nuts).

Roll out your cookie dough on a lightly floured surface or a piece of parchment paper until about 1/8 inch thick. You want the dough thin-ish because it puffs up in the oven, but not see-through because it will become crunchy.

Cut out 2 ½ inch circles. Each disc of dough should yield about 24 circles. I would discard the rest because it will likely be overworked and have too much flour after being rolled 2-3 times.

Transfer the circles to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place 1 SCANT tsp of the halva filling in the center of the circle and then pinch all three sides together to form a triangle. Pinch the corners tightly so that no seems are left and a fair amount of the filling is covered by dough to avoid spillage during baking.

Sprinkle the tops generously with coarse sugar (demarara or turbinado work best) and bake for 110-12 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking. You are looking for light browning on the corners and a puffed up, dry-looking center. These cookies go from perfectly cooked to overbaked quite fast, so if your oven runs hot, you may want to check them at 8 minutes.

Yield: 48 cookies

IMG_7210.jpg
IMG_7205.jpg

Raspberry buckle

IMG_7028.jpg

Let's talk about the idea of healthifying desserts, shall we? Because I'm not totally sold on this strategy even though I keep doing it. Part of me thinks that boosting nutrition and finding balance (you can eat coffee cake, just make it a spelt coffee cake with less sugar, less gluten, and more protein!) is always good. But alternatively, might I actually indulge less if I just ate a small amount of the high fat, high sugar baked thing instead of trying to make spelt happen? Am I just kidding myself that a whole grain, barely sweet version is going to cut it when my real craving is for the doughy, crumbly, buttery, brown sugary coffee cake of my summer-on-the-jersey-shore dreams?

Ugh. If only there was one straightforward strategy that would always work.

I guess a wiser person than me would just accept that what we need from day to day or hour to hour can change. But I like predictability and this isn't cutting it.

IMG_7001.jpg

But, for now, we have an ever-so-slightly healthified raspberry buckle that is legitimately delicious on its own merits. I started with a recipe from King Arthur Flour and swapped out spelt flour for most of the white flour and reduced the amount of overall sugar.

I mostly left the crumble topping alone. I always want the first bite to pack more of a punch, which masks some of the healthier swaps later.

IMG_7012.jpg

I've made this cake without fruit which produces a straightforward coffee cake that's light and airy and not too sweet. I've also swapped coconut sugar for the brown sugar in the actual cake and it's good, but not great. The texture and bake time are the same, but I could really taste the coconut sugar and I didn't completely love it.

IMG_7021.jpg
IMG_7022.jpg

This recipe also works best in a 9x9 pan. If you only have an 8x8, reduce the amount of batter in the pan by about 1/2 cup and either bake the extra in a ramekin or toss it. Or, if you have a deeper 8x8 pan (one with higher sides), you can bake the whole recipe, but may need a few extra minutes at the end.

Raspberry buckle
 

For the streussel topping:
4 Tbsp butter, melted
3 Tbsp brown sugar, packed
2 Tbsp white sugar
½ cup AP flour
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt

For the cake:
2 Tbsp butter, melted slightly
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
½ cup milk (I use whole, but any will do)
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup apple sauce
1½ cups spelt flour
½ cup AP flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries (do not defrost)

Preheat oven to 375. In a medium bowl, melt the 4 Tbsp of butter in the microwave for 30 seconds. Cut up the butter and add the rest of the streussel topping ingredients. Mix with a fork until the mixture is fully combined and the texture of wet sand. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, melt the remaining 2 Tbsp of butter for 20 seconds in the microwave. Add the sugar and stir to combine. Measure the milk. Add the egg and whisk lightly. Add to the sugar and butter and stir well to combine. Add the vanilla and apple sauce and stir again.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix just until no streaks of flour remain.

Gently fold in the raspberries.

Pour the batter into a greased 9x9 pan and top with the streussel mixture.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Yield: 16 squares

IMG_7025.jpg
IMG_7033.jpg
IMG_7049.jpg

Mujadara soup

IMG_6799.jpg

Well, we closed out 2017 with a bang. And by "bang," I mean, trip to the emergency room. Someone had horrible stomach pains that looked like appendicitis or a hernia because someone has been holding it rather than going in the potty. I was like, "Ethan, come on. You're an adult. just poop in the damned potty." So, I was more than glad to welcome 2018 this morning. (Did we think for one second I was making it to midnight last night? That's hilarious.)  

In honor of a more auspicious start to this year, I'm posting a lentil soup recipe that combines two of my favorite mujadara recipes from Deborah Madison and Madhur Jaffrey. (I've also seen it spelled moudjendra or muhjadarrah.) My dad and I ate this dish a lot when I was a teen. I went through a vegetarian phase and he went through an only-eating-lentils-because-heart-disease phase.

IMG_6774.jpg

There is something so warm and comforting to me about this Middle Eastern dish. While it's usually eaten as a side, it's hearty enough to eat as a main course or, as I've done here, to turn into a one-pot soup that makes a great lunch with a piece of crusty bread or toasted pita.

IMG_6784.jpg

And, of course, eating lentils (or any round bean, really) is supposed to be good luck for the new year and eating anything green (the color of money) ushers in a prosperous new year.

You know what else this soup has? Lots and lots of fiber. So if your New Year's resolution has anything to do with gut health, potty training, weight loss, overall health, or home cooking, here's a soup for you. If you didn't make any resolutions and this is just another day, then make it "just another day" featuring delicious soup. If this straightforward, but somewhat time consuming dish isn't your bag, check out last year's lentil recipe.

 

Mujadara soup

2-3 large onions (4-5 small ones), sliced into 1/4 inch rounds or half-moons
1 Tbsp salted butter, olive oil, or ghee
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
2 large cloves garlic
1 1/4 cup green lentils
3/4 cup long grain brown rice (basmati is great)
10 cups chicken or veggie stock (homemade if possible)
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 bunch lacinto kale (also called dinosaur or Tuscan kale)

Heat the butter and oil over a medium flame. Slice your onions and chop your garlic. Set garlic aside. Turn the heat down to medium low and add the onions and salt. Saute the onions until they are a rich brown color, about 20-30 minutes.

While your onions are caramelizing, measure and rinse your lentils and rice and set aside. Check the onions every few minutes and adjust the temperature as needed to avoid burning them.

Once the onions are browned, add the garlic and saute for one minute, or until fragrant.

Add the lentils and the stock and bring to a boil. Turn the heat back down to medium low and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

Add the rice, cover, and continue simmering on medium-low heat for 30 minutes.

While the soup simmers, wash and chop your kale.

After 30 minutes, check the rice for doneness. I, personally, like a bit of bite left in the rice, but if you like it done more, cook for another 5-10 minutes, or to your liking. (Bear in mind that the rice will cook more upon reheating the soup as well.)

Add the kale and simmer for 5 more minutes. Add the lemon juice and stir. Taste for seasoning and thickness and add more salt or stock as needed.

Yield: 64 oz or about 8 cups of soup

IMG_6803.jpg