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May It Be a Sweet Year

September 10, 2009 By:
Louise Fiszer
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BEYOND CHICKEN SOUP

As soon as I see the first fall apples and pears appear in the markets, my thoughts turn to Rosh Hashanah. And by the time you read this column, all my desserts and soup will be sitting in the freezer, waiting for the holidays.

In the days prior to this Jewish New Year, I'll be out of town, so I need to make as many do-ahead dishes as possible. For me, the most time-consuming course for this holiday feast is dessert. Skip it or buy it? Never! It is the thing my family looks forward to, and they would feel cheated if there was only one.

Fortunately, it's also the part of the meal that can be made ahead of time and frozen with little compromise in flavor or texture. Of course, a traditional chicken soup with matzah balls is a great do-ahead-and-freeze dish, but for something different this year try a Zucchini- Pear-and-Spinach Soup. It's perfect for using that excess zucchini and introducing autumn pears.

Every family has it's favorite Honey Cake recipe and ours is particularly freezer-friendly, flavorful and moist.

Here are some freezer facts to remember when storing food. Allow food to cool completely, then double wrap tightly and mark a date on the package. Allow foods to defrost in refrigerator. When freezing liquids, use airtight containers and leave about one inch from the top before sealing, as liquids have a tendency to expand. And check your freezer's temperature. It should be 0°.

Hannah's Honey Cake
(Pareve)

1 cup hot brewed coffee 
2 Tbsps. unsweetened cocoa 
1 tsp. baking soda 
1 cup honey 
1 cup sugar 
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil 
3 eggs 
3 cups all-purpose flour 
1 tsp. baking powder 
1 tsp. ground cinnamon 
1 tsp. ground ginger 
1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg 
1 large apple cored and grated 
12 whole blanched almonds

Preheat oven to 350°.

Grease a 9x13-inch baking pan.

In a small bowl, combine the coffee, cocoa and baking soda. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the honey, sugar and oil until well-blended. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until the mixture looks homogenized.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.

Beat flour mixture into honey mixture alternately with coffee mixture until well-combined. Stir in apple.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Place almonds on top of batter, to mark the center of each of 12 squares.

Bake until golden-brown, about 45 minutes. Cool and wrap air tight for freezing. Cut into squares before serving.

Serves 12.

Zucchini-Pear-and-Spinach Soup
(Meat or Pareve)

3 Tbsps. oil 
2 leeks, white part only, cleaned and thinly sliced 
1 Tbsp. fresh chervil or parsley 
4 medium zucchini, sliced 
2 pears, cored and cut into chunks 
4 cups chicken stock or water 
1 cup fresh spinach 
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, heat the oil. Cook the leeks until soft.

Add the zucchini and pears, and cook about 5 minutes over medium heat. Add stock, bring to a boil, partially cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Add spinach and cook another 3 minutes.

Purée in blender; taste for salt and pepper.

Let cool completely and store in an airtight container. Place in the freezer until ready to use.

Serves 6.

Pear-and-Pomegranate Sorbet
(Pareve)

6 pears 
2 tsps. fresh lemon juice 
1/2 cup sugar 
1/4 cup water 
1/4 cup pomegranate juice 
1 cup pomegranate seeds

Peel, quarter and core the pears. Quickly sprinkle them with the lemon juice to prevent browning. Set on a cookie sheet and place in the freezer.

Bring the sugar, pomegranate juice and water to a boil in a small saucepan over high heat. Let cool.

When the pears have been in the freezer 20 minutes and are about half frozen, place in a blender with the water and sugar mixture. Purée and strain, pressing with a rubber spatula to release the juices. Stir in the pomegranate seeds.

Freeze the strained-pear mixture in an ice-cream machine according to the manufacturer's instructions. Store in an airtight container.

Serves 6.

Apple Upside-Down Cake
(Pareve or Dairy)

1 cup almonds, finely ground 
1/3 cup flour 
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal 
2 tsps. baking powder 
6 Tbsps. margarine or butter, room temperature 
1 cup sugar 
2 large eggs 
1/4 cup fresh orange juice

2 apples 
2 Tbsps. margarine or butter 
3 Tbsps. packed brown sugar 
2 ripe pears peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a medium bowl, combine the almonds, flour, cornmeal and baking powder.

In a food processor, process the butter or margarine and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs, one at a time, processing until well-combined.

Gradually add the flour mixture and orange juice until it has a batter-like consistency.

For the Apples: In a heavy 9- or 10-inch skillet, melt butter or margarine over medium-high heat. Add the brown sugar and cook until bubbly. Add the apple slices in a single layer. Cook in the sugar mixture about 2 minutes, turn apple slices over with tongs and cook another 2 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Pour the batter over the apples directly into the skillet and spread around to cover the fruit.

Bake in the skillet for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in cake's center comes out clean. Let cool. Invert on a large piece of foil; wrap and freeze.

Serves 8.

Louise Fiszer is a California cooking teacher and food writer. E-mail her at:loufiszer@aol.com.

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