New Recipes for the Holidays

Happy Thanksgiving! I love to try new recipes for the holidays. Here are a few that are sure to please your family and friends. Add them to your culinary repertoire. They’re great!

Vickie Reh’s Cottage Cheese Salad

Sometimes eating leads to a serendipitous experience, and I get to eat something I consider so fabulous that I want to share it with everyone. Vickie is not a cookbook author, but she is a great chef and famous sommelier who has spent her life researching food and wine traditions.

Her travels have taken her into family kitchens in obscure wine regions, elegant palazzos, modern showcase wineries, and well-known restaurant kitchens from France to California, from Sicily to the Italian Alps, from Portugal to Virginia. These travels have enriched and enlightened her and whetted her curiosity to find out what the people who actually make the wine like to eat.

When not traveling, Vickie has spent years on both sides of the kitchen door with roles as chef, wine director, wine consultant, and tour guide with stints in Washington, D.C., as chef and wine director at Buck’s Fishing & Camping and Via Umbria, and as a wine consultant at Arrowine and Cheese and other Washington, D.C., restaurants.

Vickie described the inspiration for this salad. “I used to watch my maternal grandmother, Grace Tholstrup, make this dish from milk from her own cows.  She was a rarity in the 1940s and 1950s in Kansas.  A farmer’s wife and mother of six, she tended an acre large garden, raised chickens, and cooked for her family and the farm workers during the day.  At night she drove 13 miles into Concordia, Kansas, to work as a cook in the best restaurant in town.  Customers used to call ahead to make sure she was cooking before coming to the restaurant and send back monetary tips to her in the kitchen, something that rarely happens even in this day and age.  Unfortunately, this is not her recipe, which died with her. This is the version that I made every night at Buck’s Fishing & Camping, which is loosely adapted from a recipe from Alton Brown.”

Serves 8. Makes about 3 1/2 cups.

2 gallons nonfat milk

1 1/2 cups distilled white vinegar +1/4 cup more if necessary

1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt, divided

2 cups heavy cream, plus more as needed

1/4 cup finely chopped chives (optional; may substitute scallions)

Freshly cracked black pepper (optional)

Best-quality extra-virgin olive oil (optional)

What you’ll need

4 feet of cheesecloth cut in two

Large colander

Large stock pan big enough to hold two gallons of milk easily

Instant read thermometer

Large spoon

Large kitchen bowl

Strong hands to squeeze the bundle of curds.

Heat the milk in a large pot over medium heat to a temperature of 130°F; do not walk away from the pot, as it’s important not to overheat the milk. If the milk gets a little hotter, you need to wait for it to cool down to 130°F; however, if the temperature exceeds 160°F, it’s best to start over with fresh milk as the higher temperature keeps it from curdling.

Remove from the heat and add the vinegar, stirring for about one minute; a raft of solid curd will form. Cover the pot tightly with plastic wrap and let sit off the heat for 30 minutes.

Line a colander with several layers of cheesecloth. Pour the contents of the pot into the lined colander. Let the drained curds sit for 5 minutes, then compress them in the cheesecloth, twisting it to form a ball. Rinse under cool running water until the core is almost cool, squeezing out as much moisture as you can. Continue squeezing and tightening the cheesecloth to extract as much moisture from the curd as possible. The ball of curd should be quite solid and uniform in texture and color; it should have a slightly translucent look, rather than blotches or veins of opaque white.

An hour before serving, pinch off bite-size pieces of the firm curd, letting them fall into a large bowl as you work. Add 1 tablespoon of the salt and all the chives, if using, then gently fold in the heavy cream one-quarter cup at a time until the mixture becomes slightly thickened to form a creamy cottage cheese.  This may take 10 or 15 minutes so feel free to fold, rest, and then fold some more. Keep some cream aside for finishing the cheese, keeping in mind that as the cottage cheese sits or when it is refrigerated, more of the cream will be absorbed.

Taste for salt and adjust if necessary. Serve slightly chilled, garnished with the black pepper and a generous drizzle of the oil, if desired.

Note:  Occasionally, the first 1 1/2 cups of vinegar do not cause the milk to curdle.  In that case, stir in the remaining 1/4 cup vinegar.

Tip: Garnish with a rainbow of summer tomatoes, basil, and top-quality olive oil (think Caprese salad) or other colorful vegetables; roasted beets are also delicious!

Monday Morning Cooking Club’s Flourless Apple, Almond and Ginger Cake

The Monday Morning ladies think of themselves as their own little melting pot, which is reflected in the books they created.  They all live in Sydney, Australia, but come from different backgrounds. Merelyn Chalmers comes from Perth with Hungarian heritage. Jacqui Israel started her life on the Sydney north shore with an English background. Lisa Goldberg is from Melbourne and is of Polish stock (Lisa is known as the ‘Chief Pot Stirrer’ of the Monday Morning Cooking Club). Lauren Fink immigrated as a child from Pretoria, South Africa. Natanya Eskin is a Sydney girl with Shanghai/Russian roots. Finally, Paula Horwitz is from Durban, South Africa, starting her life here as a newlywed.

They initially came together to create a cookbook to raise money for charity. Monday just seemed to be the day that everyone could do—each of them had to balance family/work/personal commitments to set aside the four hours every Monday.  They made it their mission to take it one step further than the usual charity cookbooks and to actually try to find the best recipes from the best cooks in Sydney’s Jewish community and produce a book that could sit in any bookshop in the world next to the best cookbooks in the world.

In their first book, “Monday Morning Cooking Club” (Harper Collins), they helped a community tell intimate and moving stories of sharing and survival, love and hope, friendship and family through their favorite recipes.

They’re back with a second cookbook, filled with precious family recipes that have been handed down from generation to generation as well as new classics that will become instant family favorites. “The Feast Goes On” (Harper Collins) is all about the connections we make through food, and the importance of preserving favorite and treasured recipes. While all of the recipes are drawn from the Australian Jewish community, the contributors come from many different cultures.

3 Granny Smith apples

1 ounce unsalted butter

1/4 cup sugar

2 whole cloves

1/2 cup raisins

2 1/3 cups ground almonds (almond meal)

1 1/2 cups whole almonds

2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

2 teaspoons baking powder

4 large eggs

1 cup raw or demerara sugar

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

Topping

2 royal gala or golden delicious apples

1/3 cup whole almonds, coarsely chopped

1 3/4 ounce butter, melted

1/4 cup raw or demerara sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and line a 10 1/2-inch springform cake tin.

Peel and core the apples, then cut into wedges.

Over medium heat, melt the butter in a frying pan large enough to fit the apples in one layer. Add the apple wedges, sugar and cloves and toss to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples are well coated, soft and starting to color, about 5 to 10 minutes. There should be no liquid left in the pan. Remove the cloves, add the raisins and cook for another minute or so to soften. Remove from the heat and cool.

Process the ground almonds (meal), whole almonds, ginger, and baking powder in a food processor until coarsely chopped. Set aside.

In an electric mixer, whisk the eggs, raw sugar and maple syrup until pale and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Fold in the nut mixture and cooked apples. Pour into the prepared tin.

To make the topping, core and thinly slice the apples and arrange over the cake batter, overlapping slightly. Scatter the almonds on top, pour the melted butter over and then sprinkle on the sugar.

Bake the cake for about 1 to 1¼ hours until golden and cooked through and a skewer or toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. If the cake is browning too quickly, cover with some foil (maybe after about an hour).

Cool completely in the tin, refrigerate overnight, and serve at room temperature with plain yogurt or vanilla ice cream.

Editor’s Note: For more edible delights by Sheilah Kaufman, go to www. cookingwithsheilah.com.

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