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Wow your holidays guests with homemade sweet challah

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Shabbat Shalom and Chag Samayach! More holidays. More feasting. These get-togethers with family and friends are so much fun but there’s always time for healthier eating after the holidays end.

I was out on the West Coast earlier this week visiting with family and childhood friends and I had some great meals – poached eggs with smoked salmon, grilled salmon, raw tuna as well as a traditional turkey dinner held the day after Thanksgiving. The food was as memorable as the company.

Since we’re in the last stretch of the holiday season, I’m including Amy Rosen’s recipe for sweet challah, which can be found in her new book, Kosher Style: Over 100 Jewish Recipes for the Modern Cook. Rosen is known for her delicious cinnamon buns, but in her book she says he mother has become “rightly famous for her large, round, sugar topped loaves.”

If you haven’t tried it, there’s still time this Sunday to wow your family and holiday guests by making a round festive sweet challah for Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah.

I think a salmon dish is always welcomed at a holiday meal. My husband used to be a “where’s-the beef?” kind of eater. Now he loves fish, as do two out of my three grown sons.

The Bridget Jones’s Pan-Fried Salmon with Pine Nut Salsa from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Simple is delicious. I often substitute pecans for pine nuts as pecans are more stable nuts – they don’t go rancid as quickly as pine nuts – and they’re also about half the price of pine nuts.

A recipe I’m including this week is Not-Yo-Mama’s Collard Greens from a new cookbook called Detoxelicious: Easy Soul Food Inspired 10-Day Detox Cleanse Recipes and Fitness for Super Busy People by Dena Dodd Perry. I thought this is a good dish to try after all the holiday eating, but it would also be a lovely side dish for a holiday meal. This vegan dish calls for collard greens but kale can easily be substituted.

What’s a holiday meal without dessert? For a dairy meal, cheesecake is the ideal dessert because it’s a universal favourite. Besides, one doesn’t feel as guilty eating a rich dessert on holiday.

The Chocolate Cheesecake recipe comes from Desserts by Bonnie Stern. The book was published in 1988, but more 30 years later, this chocolate cheesecake remains a standout dessert.

Followers of Stern’s multi-faceted culinary career as a cookbook author and food columnist can see her Oct. 24 at 7:30 pm in conversation with Janna Gur, co-author of Shuk: From Market to Table, the Heart of Israeli Home Cooking at City Shul (300 Bloor St. W.). Refreshments to follow. For more information go to https://www.cityshul.com/form/heart.of.israeli.cooking

Mom’s sweet challah (Photo Credit: Ryan Szule)

MOM’S SWEET CHALLAH (Kosher Style by Amy Rosen)

Dough

35 g (1¼ oz) package quick-rise instant yeast

125 ml (½ cup) sugar, divided

680 ml (2¾ ) cups warm water, divided

2¼ L (9 cups) flour

15 ml (1 tbsp) kosher salt

1 egg, beaten

80 ml vegetable oil, plus a drizzle for the bowl

Topping

1 egg yolk mixed with 15 ml (1 tbsp) water

125 ml (½ cup) brown sugar

 

For the dough, in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the yeast with 5 ml (1 tsp) sugar and 60 ml (¼ cup) warm water. Let the mixture stand until frothy, about 10 minutes.

Slowly add the 2¼ L (9 cups) flour, the remaining sugar and the salt to the bowl, then add the egg, oil and remaining 625 ml (2½ cups) warm water. Mix at low speed for 3–5 minutes, until the dough comes together. Increase the mixer speed to medium and knead for 7–8 minutes, until the dough is elastic and no longer sticky.

Place the dough in a large well-oiled bowl, turning the dough over to make sure it’s fully coated in oil, and cover it with a tea towel. Let the dough stand for 1 hour, until it has doubled in size.

Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

Dust the counter with flour and punch the dough down. Divide it into two equal portions, then roll each piece into a very thick rope and coil it around itself a couple of times, starting with the top tucked in and then tucking the bottom of the rope under each loaf, sort of like a squat beehive.

Place each loaf on the prepared baking sheet. Cover them with tea towels and let them rise for another 1½ hours, until they have doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 165°C (350°F). Brush the egg yolk and water mixture all over the loaves. Sprinkle generously with brown sugar and pat the surface to make sure it sticks.

Bake the loaves one at a time, until golden brown and cooked through, about 35–40 minutes. When they are done, the loaves should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Transfer them to to a wire rack to cool completely.

Pan-fried salmon with pine nut salsa (Simple by Yotam Ottolenghi. Photo Credit: Jonathan Lovekin)

BRIDGET JONES’S PAN-FRIED SALMON WITH PINE NUT SALSA (Simple by Yotam Ottolenghi)

185 ml (¾ cup) currants

4 salmon fillets, 500g (1 lb 2 oz), skin on and bones removed

105 ml (7 tbsp) olive oil

salt and black pepper

4 medium celery stalks, cut into 1 cm (½-inch) dice, leaves removed but kept for garnish

30g (¼ cup) pine nuts or pecans, roughly chopped

60g (¼ cup) capers, plus 30 ml (2 tbsp) of their brine

40g large green olives, pitted and cut into ½-inch/1cm dice (about 8)

1 good pinch 2 g (¼ tsp) of saffron threads, mixed with 15 ml (1 tbsp) hot water

250 ml (1 cup) parsley, roughly chopped

1 lemon: finely zest to get 5 ml (1 tsp) then juice to get 5 ml (1 tsp)

 

Cover the currants with boiling water and set aside to soak for 20 minutes while you prep the salmon and make the salsa.

Mix the salmon with 15 ml (1 tbsp) of the oil, a rounded 2 ml (¼ tsp) salt, and a good grind of pepper. Set aside while you make the salsa.

Put 75ml (5 tbsp) of the olive oil into a large sauté pan and place on a high heat. Add the celery and pine nuts and fry for 4–5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the nuts begin to brown (don’t take your eyes off them, as they can easily burn). Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the capers and their brine, the olives, saffron and its water, and a pinch of salt. Drain the currants and add these, along with the parsley, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Set aside.

Put the remaining 15 ml (1 tbsp) of oil into a large frying pan and place over medium-high heat. Once it’s hot, add the salmon fillets, skin side down, and fry for 3 minutes, until the skin is crisp. Decrease the heat to medium, then flip the fillets over and continue to fry for 2–4 minutes (depending on how much you like the salmon cooked).

Remove the salmon from the pan and set aside. Arrange the salmon on four plates and spoon on the salsa. Scatter the celery leaves on top.

Makes 4 servings

 

NOT-YO-MAMA’S COLLARD GREENS (Detoxelicious: Easy Soul Food Inspired 10-Day Detox Cleanse Recipes and Fitness for Super Busy People by Dena Dodd Perry)

 

3 bunches of collard greens or kale* (see below) soaked in warm water, de-stemmed & cut

30 ml (2 tbsp) olive oil or coconut oil

1 large chopped onion

5 ml (1 tsp) red pepper flakes

1 minced garlic clove or 5 ml (1 tsp) granulated garlic

30 ml (2 tbsp) coconut liquid aminos or soy sauce

30 (2 tbsp) balsamic vinegar

1 L (4 cups) vegetable stock

2 tomatoes, chopped

Garlic, salt and pepper to taste.

*Kale is in the same family as collard greens and can be substituted. Kale is more available in grocery stores and it’s easier to clean than collards.

 

Soak the collard greens or kale in a large sink or steel bowl. Pick through the greens and discard yellow leaves and any thick stems. Dry and cut out the thicker stem of the collard greens. Stack 3-4 leaves and roll the leaves crosswise into tiny strips or chop into 1/2 cm (1/4-inch) strips.

In a large pot over medium heat, heat the oil. Sauté the onions until slightly softened, about 4-5 minutes, then add the red pepper flakes, and garlic, cook another minute. Add the collard greens and cook another minute.

Add the vegetable stock, coconut liquid aminos or soy sauce and balsamic vinegar, cover and bring to a simmer. Add water as needed. Cook until the greens are tender, about 40 minutes. Add or garnish with tomatoes and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

READ: UPDATING CLASSIC JEWISH DISHES

 

BITTERSWEET CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE (Desserts by Bonnie Stern)

Chocolate Crust

1½ cups chocolate wafers, crushed

½ cup finely toasted hazelnuts

80 ml (⅓ cup) unsalted butter, melted

Filling

375 g (12 oz) bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

750 g (1½ lbs) cream cheese

250 ml (1 cup) sugar

3 large eggs

5 ml (1 tsp) vanilla extract

250 ml (1 cup) sour cream

Glaze

120 g (4 oz) bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

60 ml (¼ cup) whipping cream

 

Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine wafers, nuts and butter, blend well. Pat into a 25 cm (9- or 10-inch) springform pan. Set aside.

Melt 375 g (12 oz) bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate in a large bowl over gently simmering water. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, until light and smooth.Gradually beat in sugar. Add melted chocolate and eggs, one at a time. Add sour cream and vanilla and stir thoroughly until blended.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared pie crust/ pan and bake for 50 to 55 minutes. Don’t worry if the cake seems soft. It will firm up when chilled.

Remove the cake from the oven and run a knife around the inside edges of the pan. Cool the cake on a rack and then refrigerate.

For the glaze: Melt 4 oz (120 g) chocolate with whipping cream in large bowl over simmering water and stir until the mixture becomes smooth. Cool slightly. Spread over the top of the cake. Swirl with a knife or use a decorating comb. Allow the cake to set. Remove it from the pan and set it on a serving dish. Serve the cake very cold.

Makes 10 to 12 servings.

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