Homemade Tomato Sauce

Most people I know in the U.S. do not make their own tomato sauce at home. They rather buy it ready-made in a jar, heat it up, and duct their pasta. Maybe this is a habit they developed since going to college, or maybe they think that making tomato sauce from scratch is involved and takes a lot of work. Whatever the reason, if you like to cook, this should be one of the easiest things you can make, and the result is so much better than the store-bought version.

I like to make large quantities of the sauce (double or triple the recipe below), especially when fresh tomatoes are cheap, and divide into portions. I keep some in the fridge and freeze the rest. This way, we always have the sauce available, and we use it not only as pasta sauce but also as a base (if there is no oregano in it) for other dishes.

If you can’t get your hands-on fresh tomatoes, you may substitute with a large can of pureed tomatoes, and reduce the amount of tomato paste to 1 tbs.

2 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped thinly
5 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
6-7 medium ripe tomatoes, cut into quarters
2 tablespoon tomato paste
½ tsp sugar (optional)
½ tsp dried oregano (optional)
Salt and black pepper

In a medium size pot, heat the oil and sauté the onion and garlic until golden.

Place the tomatoes in a food processor and puree them. Add them to the pot and cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the tomato paste, sugar, oregano, salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook covered for another 20 minutes. If your tomatoes have a lot of liquid in them, leave the pot uncovered and cook until the contents of the pot are reduced to half. You want to end up with a relatively thick sauce, not soup.

Basque Red Berry Pie

I came across this recipe in an Israeli cookbook, about eight years ago. It was love at first sight. I happen to love fruit cakes of almost any kind, and the rustic, homey look of this cake was so attractive, that I immediately knew I had to make it. And I was not disappointed.

Fast forward a couple of years, I decided to bake it as a gluten free version, to sell at my gluten free bakery for Thanksgiving. Between the home baked look of the pie, the red berries (I added cranberries, too), and the fact that it was so fit for a Thanksgiving meal, this pie was a real hit among my customers. And you couldn’t even tell it was gluten free.

So, I thought it would be nice to share the original recipe with you all, so this year you can have this pie at your Christmas table.

3 ½ cups (500g) flour
1 ½  teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ cups (300g) sugar
2 ½ sticks (300g) cold butter
2 eggs
1 egg yolk

¼ cup (60cc) water
½ cup (100g) sugar
21oz (600g) frozen mixed berries (raspberries, blackberries, blueberries)
Zest from one lemon
1 egg yolk + 1 teaspoon water

In a food processor, combine flour, baking powder, sugar and cold butter and pulse. Add the eggs and pulse only until the dough starts forming.

Divide the dough into two pieces – one piece of about two thirds of the dough, and the other piece of one third. Wrap each piece of dough in plastic wrap and flatten it to a disc. Refrigerate for one hour.

In a sauté pan, combine ¼ cup water with ½ cup sugar. Melt the sugar and bring to a boil. Add the mixed berries and lemon zest and sauté for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, chill and strain. (Keep the liquid to use as syrup in some drinks.)

Remove the dough from the fridge and bring to room temperature. Grease a 10” pie pan.

Preheat oven to 375F.

Using a rolling pin, roll out the larger disc of dough to about 14” in diameter and place it in the pie pan. Do not trim the edges. Pour the filling on the dough and spread it evenly.

Roll out the smaller dough to a 12” circle and place on top of the berries. Pinch together the ends of the two doughs. Make a hole in the center of the pie to allow steam to come out.

Brush the top of the pie with egg wash made of 1 egg yolk and 1 teaspoon water. Bake for about 35 minutes, until the dough has browned.

Serve warm or at room temperature with a dollop of sour cream.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Sufganiot Express

Sufganiot in Hebrew means doughnuts, and they are the Israeli food most connected with Chanukah (in addition to potato latkes). But they are a different kind of doughnuts than the ones you find in the U.S. The original recipe actually comes from Central Europe, probably Germany. They look like the jelly doughnuts you see at DD, but they taste soooo much better. I was planning on posting my amazing sufganiot recipe ahead of Chanukah, so that you guys can actually enjoy it during Chanukah, but I didn’t get to it. I promise I’ll have it up here next year.

In the meantime, I’m posting a different sufganiot recipe, which is very quick and easy to make, hence the name ‘Sufganiot Express’. In fact, these sufganiot are very similar to Italian zeppole. They have a free- form shape and we don’t fill them with jelly, but sprinkle them with powdered sugar (and serve some jelly on the side, just in case). We love these sufganiot just as much as we love the original ones, and since they are quicker to make, we tend to make them more often during Chanukah.

2 1/2 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
4 tbs sugar
2 eggs
8 oz buttermilk
8 oz plain yogurt
1 tbs brandy
1 tsp vanilla extract
Oil for deep frying

In a large bowl mix flour, baking powder and sugar. Set aside.

In another bowl, mix the buttermilk, yogurt, eggs, brandy and vanilla.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones, stirring them well using a whisk, until you get a smooth batter.

Fill a pot with about 8 inches deep oil and heat on high heat. To check if the oil is hot enough, through in the pot a small piece of carrot. If the oil bubbles around the carrot, it is ready. Lower the heat to medium-high.

Using a spoon or an ice cream scoop, scoop some batter and very carefully slide it into the oil. Fry the doughnuts for about 2 minutes on each side. The doughnuts usually turn on their own, and it is ok. Just make sure they are cooked long enough.

Remove from the oil and place on a plate covered with paper towel.

Tip – You may want to check the first batch by cutting open one or two doughnuts, to make sure they are not raw in the middle. If so, cook the doughnuts longer on a slightly lower heat.

Plate the doughnuts on a serving dish and sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Alternatively, you may mix some sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl, and roll the doughnuts to cover them completely.

Looking for some more Chanukah yummies? Check out my Zucchini Mint Latkes and Chickpea Sambousek.

Enjoy, and Happy Chanukah to those who celebrate!

Spiced Apple and Orange Bread Pudding

A few days ago, I discovered a forgotten raisin challah deep in my freezer. I looked at it and thought that it could be really good for bread pudding because of the raisins. I don’t usually make bread pudding at home. Not that I don’t like it, but it is not one of these dishes that come to mind when I have leftover bread. We usually use the leftover challah (if we even have anything left) to make French toast or grilled cheese sandwiches.

This time, it was destined to become bread pudding. I looked up some recipes for general guidance, and then I looked in my fridge to see what I wanted to add. I found an orange that had been there forever and needed to be redeemed and a couple of apples that I thought would add some nice autumnal flavor. I also added some spices, to make it interesting. Eventually, I collected more ingredients than I actually ended up using (the butter in the pics never made it in the pudding). I guess my recipe can be considered a leftover dish since I used, in addition to the old challah, an orange that had seen better times, and 3 egg whites that were left over from eggs used for another dish. However you look at it, I think I winged something that came out pretty good, and I hope you like it, too.

1 raisin challah bread, cubed
2 apples, peeled and shredded
1 orange, zested and juiced
½ cup sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground clove
¼ tsb ground cardamom
3 egg whites
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbs butter, for greasing

In a large bowl, combine the cubed challah, shredded apples, zest from the orange, sugar, and spices.

In a separate bowl, mix the eggs with the milk, heavy cream, and orange juice (including the pulp).

Pour the liquid mixture into the bowl with the dry ingredients and, using your hands, mix it all well but gently, to make sure the spices and the orange zest are spread evenly.

Generously grease a 13 x 9 ovenproof baking dish with butter, then pour the contents of the bowl into the baking dish, and spread evenly.

While the bread is soaking the liquids, turn on the oven to 350F.

When the oven is ready, put in the bread pudding and bake for 30 minutes.

Enjoy the smells that come out of the oven!!! And later on the flavors, too!

The pudding can be served warm or at room temperature.

Romesco Sauce

Native to the Catalonia region in Spain, romesco sauce was one of my pleasant surprises when visiting Barcelona a few months ago. I have heard the name before but never tasted the sauce. So it required a trip to Spain to get familiarized with this delicious and very unique sauce. Doron, my husband, and I first had it in a neighborhood café in one of the less touristy neighborhoods in Barcelona. We ordered all kinds of tapas and one of them was the famous patatas bravas, a Spanish version of French fries served with romesco sauce. We enjoyed all the other tapas immensely , but the romesco sauce was the highlight of our meal. We were blown away by the complexity of the flavors in the sauce and how much it complemented the potatoes. Of course, I had to get the recipe (I didn’t even know the name of the sauce), but unfortunately, the waiter was reluctant to share it with us. Which only made me more determined to find the recipe for this amazing sauce. We had patatas bravas with romesco sauce in other restaurants while in Barcelona (where I got introduced to the name of the sauce), but none of them was as good as the sauce we had at that small neighborhood café.

So I resorted to looking online, and I found a recipe that I really like. The recipe below is my adaptation of that recipe, and is a great version of romesco, if I do say so myself. It is supposedly close to the old, original recipe. Regrettably though, it does not exactly replicate the flavor of the divine romesco sauce we had in that neighborhood café.

3 red bell peppers
5-6 garlic cloves unpeeled
3 Roma tomatoes or 20 cherry tomatoes
1 slice of good bread
¼ cup slivered almonds, toasted
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp ground anise seeds
½ tsp hot paprika or ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
3 tsp sherry vinegar (red or white wine vinegar are an option too)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Preheat your oven to 375F.

Place the peppers, tomatoes and garlic on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 15-20 minutes until the tomatoes are well roasted and the garlic is soft. Remove them from the oven and set aside. Continue roasting the peppers for 20 more minutes, turning them halfway, until soft or until the skin is charred.

Remove from the oven and place in a covered pot. Set aside to cool.

Turn off the oven and place the slice of bread in for 5 minutes, until toasted. Remove from the oven and break into pieces.

When the veggies are cold, peel their skin off and discard of the pepper seeds. Place the vegetables in a food processor. Add half of the toasted bread, the almonds, spices, olive oil and vinegar and blend into a smooth sauce. If the sauce is too runny, add the rest of the toasted bread and continue blending.

Transfer to a jar and keep refrigerated. Most recipes I followed claimed the sauce would last up to a week. In my fridge it lasted for two weeks and was still delicious.

Apple Poppy Seed Cake

When I started Tali’s Artisanal, my gluten free bakery, my primary goal was to create gourmet gluten free desserts that are as delicious as any other dessert, gluten free or not. I wanted to introduce new interesting flavors that are not mainstream Americana. Flavors that would appeal to people who are looking for unique gourmet products, but also need them to be gluten free. ‘No compromise’ was the name of the game.

This delicious apple poppy cake was one of the recipes I created for my cake business. I was inspired by some Israeli recipes for apple and poppy seed cakes. I could vividly imagine the flavors of Central and Eastern Europe, when combining poppy seeds and tart apples with ingredients such as lemon zest and raisins. I knew I had to make this cake happen. And I did.

The cake has immediately become one of my favorites. Whenever I’m in the mood for some good old European dessert, this cake hits the spot. Unfortunately, it wasn’t one of my best sellers. I guess the American palette prefers other flavors. Some of my customers, though, would come especially for this wonderful cake.

poppy apple

So here is the recipe, not in its gluten free version, although if you want it to be GF, just switch the all purpose flour with some GF cake flour blend (make sure it has xanthan gum in it, or else add ½ tsp of xanthan to the recipe).

Hope you enjoy the cake as much as I do.

¾ cup (70g) almond flour
1 cup (140g) all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup (75g) ground poppy seeds
½ teaspoon salt
1tbs lemon zest
1tsp cinnamon
3 eggs
1 ¼ cups (250g) sugar
½ cup (100g) vegetable oil
½ cup (120g) apple sauce
4 shredded granny smith apples
1/3 (50g) cup raisins

In a bowl, mix the flours, poppy seeds, spices and lemon zest, and set aside.

In a mixer, combine the oil, sugar, applesauce, and eggs and mix for 5 min.

While mixer is still on (on the lowest speed), add in the flour mix, and mix until all flour is incorporated. Add the shredded apples and give an extra stir.

Pour the batter into one 8” round baking pan or two 8”x4” loaf pans, and sprinkle with the raisins on top. Using a spoon or your finger, push the raisins a little into the batter so they don’t burn when baking in the oven.

Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 30 minutes for the loaf cakes and 45-50 minutes for the round cake.

The cake is ready when a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean or with a few crumbs.

poppy closeup