The Jew And The Carrot

Pumpkin Pie Alternative: Marta's Torta di Zucca

By Gayle L. Squires

The recipe was adapted from Marta’s torta di zucca, a winter squash and olive oil cake by Chef Pat Clark. Photograph by Gayle L. Squires

I tested this cake with kobucha squash and butternut squash, and both worked well. A 1½ pound gourd has about 1 pound of usable squash which, shredded, yields 2¼ very tightly packed cups. Use whatever squash you like, just make sure to watch carefully while it roasts so that it doesn’t burn. You can substitute any nut for the cashews — I think almonds or pecans would work nicely. While Clark’s original recipe called for hand-grating the squash, I used my food processor, which yielded slightly thicker pieces of squash.

The bake time for this cake is quite long and will vary depending on your oven and the type of pan that you use. I used a 9-inch round springform pan with high sides and the total bake time was one hour and ten minutes. For the first 30 minutes or so, cover the pan with aluminum foil that you’ve poked holes in — this will allow the cake to bake without letting the top burn. The holes prevent the cake from steaming.

Serves 8 to 10

For the cake:

1½ pounds kobucha squash (or 1 pound pre-peeled and cut butternut squash)
¾ cup cashews
2½ cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for preparing the pan
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1½ teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs
1¾ cups white sugar
1 cup less 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the citrus glaze:

½ cup orange juice
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup sugar
¾ cup confectioner’s sugar

1) Preheat the oven to 425° F.

2) Cut the squash into quarters. Remove the stringy bits and seeds. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the outer layer of your squash. Grate the squash using the large holes on a box grater or a food processor.

3) Spread the grated squash out on a baking tray and flash in the oven for 8-10 minutes to remove excess moisture from the squash. (A little color is okay, but don’t let the squash burn.)

4) Turn the oven down to 350° F. Toast the cashews for about 5 minutes until just slightly browned. Allow the nuts to cool and then coarsely chop.

5) Prepare a 9-inch springform pan with high sides by lightly spraying with oil. Dust the greased pan with flour, covering all surfaces and tapping out the excess flour.

6) In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

7) With a stand mixer on medium to medium-high, paddle together the eggs, sugar, olive oil and vanilla until light and creamy. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula.

8) Add the dry ingredients all at once. Mix on low until just together. Use a rubber spatula and scrape down the mixing bowl again. Add the squash and toasted nuts all at once, mixing on low until just incorporated. Don’t overmix.

9) Poke a few holes in a piece of aluminum foil large enough to cover your cake. Lightly tent the top of the cake, leaving room so it won’t touch the surface of the cake as it rises. Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil tent, rotate cake and bake for 35-45 more minutes. Toothpick test the dead center to make sure your cake is fully baked.

10) While the cake is baking, whisk together the citrus glaze ingredients and leave on top of the stove to fully dissolve sugar. Whisk again prior to use.

11) Cool for 15-20 minutes and turn cake out onto a cooling rack. Immediately use a pastry brush to coat the top and sides with glaze, making sure to use all the glaze. You will think it’s too much, but it’s not. Allow the cake to completely cool before cutting.

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Cooking as Catharsis

By Hillary Berkowitz Nussbaum

Thinkstock

As a college freshman, feeling the pressure of my first ever round of finals, and with no kitchen or supplies of any kind, I found myself yearning to bake. It was a distracting, clawing desire, pulling at the edges of my attention as I struggled in vain to study Rousseau or economic specialization or whatever I was learning in my freshman year introductory classes. I had no resources — no microwave, no mini fridge, not even a hotplate — but I also had no choice; I knew studying would not happen until I made something.

After a little bit of research, I gave up on my books and gave into the urge. We had a variety of “markets” near campus — gourmet, high-end, specialty — but not “super.” With a scarf wrapped around half of my face to keep out the Massachusetts cold, I walked the frigid few miles to and from the nearest real supermarket. I stocked up on cake mix (a last resort, under the circumstances) and the requisite supplies. Then, late that night, a friend snuck me into the kitchen in the basement of her dorm so I could bake — and finally study.

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Stress-Relieving Pumpkin Challah

By Hillary Berkowitz Nussbaum

Photograph by Hillary Berkowitz Nussbaum

It’s a stunningly simple way to a feel a sense of accomplishment and renewal — pick a recipe and execute it. It’s an exercise in presence, in clearing your mind and committing fully to the task at hand. It’s meditative. Cathartic. Next time you’re feeling restless or anxious, pressured or overwhelmed, try giving yourself over to the rhythms and repetitions of this recipe, and let your stress bake away.

I adapted this recipe from the golden pumpkin challah in Maggie Glezer’s “A Blessing of Bread.” I added the raisins, ginger, cloves and nutmeg, and left out cardamom, which was in the original recipe.

Yields 2 loaves

1 package (7g) yeast
2/3 cup warm water
3¾ cups unbleached white flour (you can substitute up to 1¾ cup with whole wheat flour)
½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup pumpkin puree (homemade or canned)
1/4 cup canola oil
1 egg (+ 1 egg for glaze)
1½ teaspoons salt
1/3 cup raisins (optional)
Cornmeal (optional)

1) Preheat oven to 350˚ F.

2) Sprinkle yeast into a small bowl and pour the warm water on it. Let stand for 10 minutes, then stir to dissolve.

3) Mix flour and spices in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in yeast/water mixture. Using a wooden spoon, incorporate some of the flour into the water — just enough to form a soft paste. (Don’t try to completely incorporate — there should be quite a bit of dry flour left at this point.) Cover bowl with a towel and leave until frothy and risen, about 20 minutes.

4) In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar, pumpkin, oil, egg, salt and raisins (if using). Add to the risen flour mixture and combine thoroughly. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5-10 minutes until the dough is pliable. (If it’s too wet, keep adding flour in small amounts.)

5) Let dough rest 2-3 minutes. Meanwhile, lightly oil the bowl, put the dough in it and re-cover with the towel. Let dough rise in a warm place until it has tripled in size, 2-3 hours. Punch down dough, knead it a bit more and cut it into two equal pieces. Cut each of the two pieces into three equal pieces. (You should have 6 total pieces at this point.) Roll each piece into a straight rope. Braid three ropes together and repeat so that you end up with two braided loaves.

6) Sprinkle baking sheets with a little cornmeal, or line them with parchment paper. Place loaves on the sheets, cover and let rise until doubled in size, about 40 minutes. Glaze loaves with extra beaten egg. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

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Bagel Stuffing for Thanksgiving

By Molly Yeh

Photographs by Molly Yeh

If your family is like my family, your Thanksgiving starts with turning on the Macy’s parade, pouring a glass of wine, and toasting a bagel. It doesn’t totally make sense, but when you consider that the parade quickly becomes background noise for a busy day of cooking and “tablescaping,” the wine and energy in the form of noshing on bagels sort of makes more sense.

Because for us, Thanksgiving is as much about the journey of preparing the meal all together as it is about sitting down around a table, gorging on sweet potatoes, and switching between tears and laughter as we all say what we were grateful for this year.

With Thanksgiving recipe planning on my brain right now, stuffing is first. Stuffing is always first. I think I’ve made stuffing with just about every one of my favorite bread-y things: challah, soft pretzels, sufganiyot for Thanksgivukkah… It’s only natural that this year’s stuffing be made with bagels. And what better way to use up bagels leftover from Thanksgiving brunch?

This stuffing pulls from flavors that are present in a classic bagel and lox: red onions, scallions, chives and capers, if you like them. Any savory bagel will do, although I believe that a mix of everything bagels and whole wheat or pumpernickel bagels will give you the most flavor with a pretty mix of color. If you’re down with dairy on the table, you might consider finishing this off with a drizzle of melted cream cheese.

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Thanksgiving Leftovers Get a Shabbat Makeover

By Katherine Martinelli

Katherine Martinelli

With all the cooking that leads up to Thanksgiving — there turkey to prepare, cranberry sauce, all those pies and don’t forget the gravy — no one, not even the most dedicated cooks, wants to exert that energy all over again for Shabbat the following day. But plain leftovers, in the form of a turkey sandwich doesn’t quite seem fitting for Shabbat dinner either. Fortunately, Thanksgiving leftovers can be turned into a flavorful and special Shabbat meal.

Start preparing your Shabbat meal at the same time as your Thanksgiving. While preparing your Thanksgiving feast, for example, don’t throw away all your vegetable ends and peels. Instead, save those herb stems, garlic and onion skins, celery leaves and carrot tops in a sealable plastic bag in the refrigerator or freezer. When it comes time to clean up after dinner, put your turkey carcass along with those vegetable scraps in a big pot and make a soothing and flavorful stock that can become the base for a delicious turkey matzo ball soup (get the recipe below). Even if you don’t use it right away, homemade stock can be cooled and frozen for later use. I like to freeze it in ice cube trays so I can easily use as much as I want.

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A Pastrami Sandwich, in Stuffing Form

By Molly Yeh

Molly Yeh

As cookbook author Melissa Clark says, “Thanksgiving is just one big excuse to eat lots of stuffing.” For me, stuffing is simply a better way to experience the practice of dunking a piece of bread into a bowl of chicken soup. You get more doughy bready goodness, less of a mess, and in my experience, tons more flavor.

Such is the principal behind the following recipe.

This challah and pastrami stuffing is slightly inspired by one memorable midnight trip to Katz’s Deli where I sat happy as a clam and drunk as a sorority girl, dunking my pastrami sandwich into my friend’s matzo ball soup and making a massive and delicious mess. If only I just had a bowl of this stuffing, there might have been one less sloppy drunk girl on the Lower East Side that night.

The pastrami in this recipe is balanced by the sweetness of honey and dried currants. It is truly a delicious mix of flavors, and I hope it will give you something to be thankful for.

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