Jewish High Holidays Are Around the Corner

The Jewish holidays are coming very early this year so most of the ingredients for these dishes can be found at farmers markets that offer honey, cheeses, and of course fresh produce. The recipes are from SPICE: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean by Ana Sortun, a James Beard awarding winning chef of Oleana in Cambridge, Ma.

The recipes in Spice offer an explosion of flavors in ingenious Mediterranean recipes. It is a gorgeously photographed book, and Ana shows the readers how to use her philosophy of using an incredible array of delicious spices and herbs used in the Eastern Mediterranean to create wonderful dishes in their own homes. The artful use of spices and herbs rather than fat and cream is key to the full, rich flavored cuisine. The book is organized by spice, detailing the ways certain spices complement one another and how they flavor other foods.

Istanbul-Style Artichokes

Makes 6 Artichokes

6 whole artichokes

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons flour

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 cup dry white wine

12 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half

4 scallions, root ends trimmed and finely chopped

1/4 cup chopped fresh dill

Preheat the oven to 365 degrees F.

Trim the stem end halfway off of each artichoke with a serrated knife, and then cut the top third of each artichoke off. Pull off the dark green outer leaves with our fingers, stopping when you can see the tender yellow leaves.

With a paring knife, clean and shape the base of the artichoke by trimming it down and removing most of the dark green color. You’ll want to keep the shape of the artichoke but pare it down uniformly.

Split each artichoke in half lengthwise and remove the fuzzy insides by scraping them out with a small teaspoon.

Season both sides of each artichoke with salt and pepper and then place the artichokes cut-side down in a heavy roasting pan or Pyrex dish.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk the flour with the honey, lemon juice, and olive oil and pour this mixture over the artichokes.

Add the wine and garlic to the pan and cover it tightly twice with foil.

Bake the artichokes for 30-40 minutes, until they are cooked through. Some of the liquid will evaporate and slightly glaze each artichoke.

Sprinkle the artichokes with scallions and dill and serve them warm or at room temperature with any extra braising liquid for dipping and extra salt and pepper.

Spinach Bundles with Warm Goat Cheese

You can substitute chard leaves for spinach and use 12 instead of 20, cutting the chard leaves in half.

Makes 6 Large Bundles Using 2-ounce Ramekins or 12 Bundles Using 1-Ounce Ramekins

Salt to taste

Ice cubes

20 large, flat spinach leaves, washed (you will have extra for patching)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

15 ounces soft goat cheese

1 tablespoon dried mint

2 teaspoons nigella seeds

Pepper to taste

Bring a small pan of water to a boil on high heat. Add salt.

Prepare a bowl with ice cubes and cold water for shocking and cooling the spinach down quickly.

Add the spinach leaves to the boiling water and cook them until they wilt and are soft; this takes less than 1 minute.

Drain the spinach into a small colander and then tip the leaves into the ice water, enhancing their green color. Let the spinach sit in the ice water for a couple of minutes, stirring to melt the ice.

Drain the spinach leaves in the colander again and squeeze them into a little ball. Pull the leaves apart and place them on a paper towel to drain more.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Brush the olive oil onto the insides of six 2-ounce ramekins.

Line each ramekin with two spinach leaves (smoothest side down), so that they completely line the ramekin and hang over the sides. Use a third leave if two don’t do the job. Place the ramekins on a small baking sheet.

In a small mixing bowl, combine the goat cheese, mint, and nigella seeds and mix well with a spatula or wooden spoon. Season with salt and pepper.

Fill each ramekin with 3 generous tablespoons of goat cheese and fold the spinach leaves over the cheese to make little bundles. Press down to pack them into shape.

Bake the bundles until the cheese is soft and melted, about 12 minutes.

Invert the ramekins onto plates and serve warm with cranberry bean salad, tzatziki, and/or Crick-Cracks (see page 176 of Spice) and a glass of ouzo or raki to slightly wet the lips between bites.

Palace Bread: Syrup-Soaked Bread Pudding with Thick Cream and Pistachios

Serves 8

3 3/4 cups sugar

1 1/4 mild honey

1 tablespoon rosewater

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 large baguette (about 12 ounces), cut into four 6-inch pieces, crusts trimmed and removed

1 cup mascarpone cheese, room temperature

1/2 cup finely chopped, lightly toasted pistachios

In a large, shallow saucepan or saute pan bit enough to hold the loaf of bread, combine the sugar and 1 cup of water. Bring this to a boil over medium-high heat.

Stir in the honey, bring to a simmer, and reduce heat to medium-low. Continue cooking until the honey-syrup darkens to light amber. This will take about 18 minutes.

Add the rosewater and lemon. At this point, the syrup should be quite thick.

Put the bread in the pan and carefully push it down into the syrup with the back of a ladle. Ladle the syrup on top. Slowly simmer the bread in the syrup for 30-40 minutes, continuing to submerge and basted the bread with syrup. From time to time, carefully add small amounts of water to thin the syrup and prevent it from becoming too dark and sticky.

When the bread has turned a translucent amber color all over, remove the pan from the heat and set it aside to let the bread cool slightly and absorb most of the remaining syrup.

Transfer the bread to a cutting board and, with a serrated knife, cut into 8 squares and then again into 16 small triangles.

Serve 2 pieces of bread on each plate, topped with 2 tablespoons of mascarpone cheese and a generous tablespoon of chopped pistachios over the mascarpone.

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