This past Wednesday was my husband's birthday. I wanted to make a cake, but I knew that he was going to be out tutoring bar mitzvah students in the evening, so we instead invited people to our house for Shabbat lunch. Our friends decided to make us lunch. (We almost never go out for Shabbat meals because of our zealous fanaticism about our son's sleep.) So I made Friday night dinner and our friend D. made most Saturday lunch. I contributed the cake, the challah and some soup.
For Friday night I made:
baked tofu (this was a sesame ginger one, with black sesame seeds)
roasted cauliflower with shallots
noodle and spinach kugel
Peter Reinhart's challah recipe (plus 3 tablepoons of sugar!)
Are you noticing that I keep making the same food? I am starting to think that blogging is not good for my creativity. The food was great though.
I succeeded with the Reinhart all-white-flour challah again, big time. I liked my braids, I got them fatter in the middle and tapered on the ends. There was none left for making French toast. Our family ate the first loaf and the Saturday lunch guests ate up the second.
The kugel I basically invented on the spot, it was very eggy. I had made another recipe (for the cake, below) that called for three egg whites, and the Reinhart challah calls for brushing the tops of the challah with two beaten whites. Of course you never use up the white on the challah, but there is still some left. So I made the kugel with one whole egg, three yolks and what was left of the egg white from the challah--a LOT of egg. I also used a 1lb. package of skinny egg noodles, a 10 oz. package of frozen organic spinach, a chopped carmelized onion, tamari, black pepper, and wheat germ for the top. It was, unsurprisingly, very good, being so rich.
For lunch, D. made and carted to our house in a shopping cart:
Spinach salad with "smashed" radishes (marinated and sooooo delicious)
puréed squash with ginger, molasses and roasted garlic
strata with tofu, peppers, spinach and some other stuff
roasted eggplant spread
baked bananas in chai
I love D.'s salads, they are always so creative and wonderful. He is a great cook. Unfortunately, the strata--a kind of bread pudding-- got burnt, but fortunately, it tasted good anyway. The bananas were not successful--he used red bananas and therefore couldn't tell that they were quite underripe. They were as astringent as unripe persimmons. Let that be a lesson to us all!
I made a soup in the crockpot out of black beans, french lentils, sundried tomatoes, carmelized onion, and a small piece of chipotle pepper with some adobo sauce. I also put a piece of kombu (that's kelp) and a dried Chinese mushroom in the water to help give the soup some umami flavor. I know my husband doesn't like mushrooms so I fished it out. I though it was an exceptionally good soup, but it wasn't salty enough.
I also made a birthday cake from a recipe in the My Most Favorite Dessert Company cookbook by Doris Schechter. It was fun to make the cake with my electric mixer--in the past I have mainly made cakes by hand, but I have been using the mixer more often lately to make baking easier with my toddler guy. The best part was making an Italian meringue. I set up the eggwhites, started making the sugar syrup--as soon as the syrup was hot, turned on the mixer--and when the syrup was 150 degrees, poured it into the whirling eggwhites. I got meringue everywhere, but it was totally interesting and fun. As enjoyable as it was to make, the cake was disappointing. I saw that Mrs. Schechter usually tells the reader to pour orange syrup over the cake before icing it, but I didn't take the extra step, and the cake was somewhat dry. The icing, which looked beautiful, tasted strongly of the Earth Balance shortening I used to make it. The chocolate, vanilla and sugar in it were not sufficient to drown out the echo of insipid shortening taste, even though I used the wonderful Green and Black's Maya Gold chocolate. It was good cake, just not as good as I had hoped.
I actually prefer the vegan chocolate ganache in the Millenium restaurant cookbook, which is just a ton of chocolate melted into soymilk. Soymilk ganache has the best flavor of any frosting, but it's also really melty so you can't frost the cake in advance. Another good non-dairy frosting I have made was in Recipes from an Ecological Kitchen, it was carob, maple syrup and almond butter, whirled in the food processor. It made a glossy and beautiful icing, but was nearly as messy as the gobs of meringue I had to get off of everything.
In the end there were nine adults around the table, three of whom came for dessert only. Part of our conversation was about dreams. It was pleasant and relaxed and I felt like some people got to know each other better.