Thursday, August 31, 2017

Squash soup


2 pounds of squash cut in squares 
2 big potatoes
1 carrot
4 celery sticks  
1 red, or orange pepper
1 medium onion
Half a teaspoon crushed hot red pepper/chili 
1 small bay leaf 
8-10 medium basil leaves or 1/2 tsp of dry basil
Fresh parsley to garnish
Salt and pepper 
2 liters of water
8 oz (225 g) heavy whipping cream 


This is not a Romanian recipes, but it can be adapted to Romanian squashes (what we call dovleacel). I discovered this wonderful kind of soup in the United States, and not long after I learned just how many delicious varieties of winter squash there are in this country, each with their own distinctive characteristics that make it hard to choose just one favorite. But that actually makes winter squash soup all the more delightful - you can choose a different variety of squash each time and never get bored!

Take the squash (in this case I used butternut, but turban and other varieties of winter squash also work well), cut it in half, and remove the seeds and stringy parts from inside, discarding them. Cut the rest into squares (roughly 5"x5") and cook them in the microwave (in mine it is 6 minutes per square of squash, but different microwaves will require different cooking times). If you have room, you can cook the two potatoes at the same time.

If you do not have a microwave, you can do this step in a regular oven at high temperature for an hour or so.

Chop the vegetables, then combine all the rest of the ingredients except for the cream and fresh herbs in a pot with a capacity of at least 4 liters. Boil them. I use a pressure cooker because it is faster - this step can be done in 5-10 minutes including cooling time. 

When the squash and potatoes are cooked, remove them from the oven and allow them to cool off. Scoop out the soft parts, leaving the peels behind, and mash them with a potato masher or similar utensil. 

When the vegetable stock is finished cooking, put it in the blender to turn it into a cream. Then combine the creamy stock and the mashed squash and potato back in the large pot. Add the cream and the fresh basil and parsley (chopped).

Monday, June 19, 2017

Homemade Vanilla and Strawberry Ice Cream - No Ice Cream Maker Required!

Once you make your own ice cream at home, using only natural ingredients, store-bought stuff with lots of artificial flavors and sweeteners will seem unappealing. On a hot day that you have to spend inside, why not make yourself an ice cold treat? This can be a great fun project, and it is easy to involve your family in the process. In order to make it, you will need 2 large plastic or glass bowls for mixing and freezing, space in your freezer, a mixer, and for the strawberry ice cream, a food processor. 

Ingredients (to make about 2 pints each of two different flavors, vanilla and strawberry):

4 eggs 
450ml/1 pint heavy whipping cream
300g/1 pint strawberries
250g granulated sugar
16g/2 packets vanilla sugar (or 1 tsp. vanilla extract)

Separate the eggs. Add 50g sugar to the egg yolks and stir them in a bain marie. If you do not have one per se, you can just put a saucepan with water, which you bring to a boil, and then another saucepan placed on top (and into the lower one) with the ingredients, as in this picture:

Stir continually for a few minutes, until the sugar is dissolved and the egg starts to thicken slightly. This will pasteurize the eggs. Don't leave it until it gets lumpy! 

While the egg yolk and sugar mixture is cooling, beat the cream until it is stiff. In the second bowl, beat the egg whites and gradually pour in the rest of the sugar (as if you were making meringues, for those who have done that). When the egg yolk mixture is cool, add it to the egg white mixture and stir it in. Then add the cream and stir it in, until it is homogeneous. Finally, add the vanilla sugar or vanilla essence.

That is the basis for all ice creams, and it is only from this point that they diverge as you may wish to add different flavors, whether chocolate, rum and raisin, crumbled Heath bars or Oreos, or anything else. 

For the strawberry ice cream, the next step is to chop them very finely in a food processor. 

Obviously raspberries, cherries, and other fruits may be substituted. Take half of the base ice cream mixture and mix it gently together with the strawberries. 


You now have a batch of vanilla ice cream and a batch of strawberry ice cream ready to go in the freezer.

After an hour and a half or so, take the bowls out and stir them, before returning them to the freezer. This is crucial to ensuring that they freeze evenly and preventing ice from forming that will make the ice cream's texture less smooth.

Stir them again every hour. The last time I made it, the strawberry ice cream was ready in about 3 hours, and the vanilla in about 5 hours. The difference in time is because of the different compositions (the strawberries contain water) and probably also the different material the bowls I used were made from.

Before they get very hard, transfer them to plastic containers with lids, and they can now stay in the freezer until you are ready to eat them. They shouldn't stay in the freezer for more than a month - not that it is likely that you could wait that long before eating them in their entirety!

Your teenager can help, even with their cellphone in their hand, which is good news, because participating in making ice cream for the first time is precisely the sort of thing they will want to share on Snapchat!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Cold Brew Coffee

I discovered cold brew coffee somewhat by accident. I like to drink iced coffee in the summer, and once at Starbucks I was asked whether I wanted regular iced coffee or cold brew. I hadn't heard of the latter, and so gave it a try, and found I really liked the flavor, which has a smoothness and richness to it, without any of the bitterness that coffee brewed hot and fast sometimes has. It took a while, but I eventually decided to try making it at home, and I have been very pleased with the results - both the flavor, and the fact that I can simply pour myself a coffee in the morning rather than having to make it then.

The procedure is simple. Just use the amount of coffee and water that you usually do for your own tastes. The big difference is that you will not heat the water. When I make it, I grind 2-3 scoops of coffee beans coarsely, and put them in a French press that makes 3 mugs of coffee. I then add cold or room temperature water (depending whether I have filtered water or am using tap water) so that the French press is 2/3 to completely full, corresponding to how much coffee I put in (the recommended ratio is roughly one part coffee to six parts water). I stir it to make sure that all the grounds are wet and hopefully most are submerged. Finally I turn the top so that the spout is closed, and leave it to brew at room temperature for 24 hours.

If your French press has a really good filter, you might not need to use a coffee filter, especially as the grounds need to be coarse. But if your French press has seen better days and tends to let particles through, then filter the coffee through a paper coffee filter (note the way to fold the bottom and side so that it opens conveniently so as to fit in the filter holder).

You can enjoy the coffee then, or put it in a jar in the fridge to enjoy on a later occasion. Cold brew is served diluted - I drink it 2/3 cold brew and 1/3 milk and the taste is exquisite!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

May Memory

I hope you won't mind me sharing another holiday story rather than a recipe. This one is very precious to me...

I remember lining up with other parents who were waiting for our children to be released from preschool, quite a number of years ago now, when my son was only 4 years old. I heard a lot of kids' voices through the door, all of them sounding eager to see their parents. The teacher was trying to settle them down. At some point I overheard my son saying to the teacher that his mom's birthday was coming up in May, and the teacher told him that her birthday would be in May as well. I and the other parents were surprised, since I did not think that he knew when my birthday was. When he came out, I asked him how he knew when my birthday was, and he said that he saw it written on the calendar in the classroom. Now I was really surprised, and puzzled! And so I went to take a look, and saw what he had seen: the words "Mother's Day," which he assumed meant his mother's birthday, and not a day celebrating all mothers!

Sunday, April 2, 2017


This recipie is a mix of Romanian and American approaches to making donuts. Romanian donuts are called 'gogosi'. They are spherical and empty inside made from yeast dough. I like the shape of American donuts better, since frying them evenly is easier. And in case you didn't know, that was why that donut shape was invented in the first place!

Here are the ingredients: 

500 g all purpose flour
1 package dry yeast (10 g)
50 g melted butter
2 eggs
250 lukewarm milk 
1/2 teaspoon salt
1teaspoon sugar 
1 spoonful yogurt
Vegetable oil (for frying)

Mix together yeast, milk, sugar and a third of the flour. Let it stay covered in a warm place for 15 minutes or until it becomes foamy. Then add all the other ingredients and start the kneading. I mixed mine for around 10 minutes (at speed 2 if you are using a KitchenAid stand mixer). 

Cover the dough and let it rise in a warm place for an hour, or until the dough has doubled in size. Then take it from the mixing bowl (as a whole big lump all at once) and stretch it on a wooden board that had been greased in advance with vegetable oil.

Cut the donuts as shown in the picture above. If you do not have a donut cutter, you can use a glass and a thimble (or better, a one-inch plastic container of the kind used for rolls of film) to create the shape. Remove the dough from the donut holes and in between the donuts. Make that extra dough into a ball, place it back in the mixing bowl, and let it rise again for half an hour, and at that time repeat the above steps with that dough. Also leave the now-separated donuts to rise for half an hour.

In the meantime, heat oil to medium-high - in a small saucepan if you want to make them one at a time, in a Dutch oven or frying pan if you want to fry more than one at a time.

Place the unfried donut in the oil, being careful not to splash. Use a fork to turn and then flip the donut. A minute or at most two should be enough time for it to fry on a given side. Then take it out and put it in a glass or ceramic dish so that any excess oil can drip off from it. Repeat these steps until all the donuts are fried.

When they are cold, you can roll them in powdered sugar (to make them really good, add a little vanilla to the sugar). Or you can make icing. Here are the recipes:

Maple icing:

1 cup confectionary sugar (with cornstarch)
a drop of maple flavor
1 dessertspoonful of milk

Mix them together to make a paste.

Place it in the microwave for 10 seconds, then spread it on the donuts.

For chocolate icing, use the above recipe but substitute a level teaspoon of cocoa powder in place of the maple flavoring.

Let the icing cool if you can bear to wait...

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Homemade hummus

Here is a very simple recipe for a very tasty snack or appetizer. I had it even for breakfast in Israel and Jordan last summer. Here is a picture of the ingredients I used for my hummus:

You need  2 cups of boiled and cooled chick peas (canned ones are good too)
                 4 tablespoons of tahini
                 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
                 Juice from one lemon
                 2 teaspoons of ground cumin
                 1 piece of garlic (crushed)
                 A half cup of water (not in picture)

All the ingredients will be pureed in a food processor. If you like it creamier, you can add a little more water. You can find all the ingredients in most supermarkets and grocery stores, with the exception of tahini, which may require a trip to an international food store, or even a specifically Middle-Eastern or Mediterranean one. But even large supermarkets may have it in their ethnic food section, and it really is worth getting some - you can make hummus without tahini, but it will not have that distinctive sesame taste that is characteristics of hummus made in the Middle East.

Chick peas are better if you buy them dried in a bag. If you start with dried chick peas, to end up with 2 cups of chick peas, soak 1 cup for at least 5 hours in a large bowl with enough water to cover them even as they expand. Strain the water and boil them in enough fresh water to cover them, for half an hour in a pressure cooker. If this sounds like too much hassle, then just buy canned chick peas! 

Strain the chick peas and measure two cups (or adjust the other ingredient amounts to correspond to the amount of chick peas you have). Place them in a food processor and puree them. Next add the tahini and puree again, then olive oil, then lemon juice, then cumin and garlic, pureeing again after each new ingredient is added to combine them. Add a little water between steps if the consistency is too hard. Finally add salt to taste and stir.

To serve, sprinkle paprika and olive oil on the finished product, as shown. 

Enjoy with pita bread, crackers, fresh vegetables, or anything else you'd like. In the Middle East, they add this alongside everything!