Sunday, December 4, 2011

Guest Chef: An Evening with Omri

Once upon a time, several years ago, one of my multiple day-jobs to support myself while auditioning included part time work at Sabon- an Israeli-based bath and body company. Aside from a great discount on their AMAZING products, I also gained several wonderful friends, including my platonic-lover-for-life, Omri, We bonded over our mutual obsession with food and have remained close ever since. Omri is from Israel (where he currently resides) and I miss him more than I can tell you- fingers crossed that he comes back to NYC soon- hopefully to attend culinary school!

As a fellow maker-of-delicious food, Omri happily agreed to do a guest post of an evening's worth of deliciousness. I hope you enjoy the dishes he selected!


So this is what I had in mind for ya- thinking holidays/ hearty festive dishes that are super easy to make and don't take too much work. 

For starters, I've been making this AMMMMMMMAAAZZZZZZZZING salad for quite some time now, and I grew up on couscous dishes, being the Israeli that I am!

Couscous Salad with Dried Cranberries and Pecans

This combination of pecans, cranberries and couscous has the feel and flavor of a classic Thanksgiving dish. It can also be made a day in advance.

1 cup couscous, preferably whole wheat
2 large carrots, grated
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries
1/4 cup chopped scallions
1/4 cup olive oil, or more as needed
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon, or more juice as needed
1 teaspoon coriander
Pinch of cayenne, or to taste
Black pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage, or 1 teaspoon dried

1. Put the couscous in a small pot and add 1 1/2 cups water and a pinch of salt. Bring the water to a boil, then cover and remove from the heat. Let steep for at least 10 minutes, or up to 20.

2. Put the slightly cooled couscous in a large salad bowl along with the carrots, pecans, cranberries, scallions, oil and lemon zest and juice, and sprinkle with the spices and salt and pepper. Use 2 big forks to combine, fluffing the couscous and tossing gently to separate the grains. (The salad can be made up to this point and refrigerated for up to a day; bring to room temperature before proceeding.)

3. Stir in the parsley and sage. Taste and adjust the seasoning, moisten with a little more oil and lemon juice as you like, and serve.

Yield: 4 servings.

This next soup is getting me all excited- and I just can't hide it! I discovered it several weeks ago when I was going through some recipes for cold fall nights. It's sooooooo hearty and so delicious and incorporates such great flavors of fall, PLUS- SWEET POTATO! DUH. I like it because it can be made with or without sausage- adding the sausage makes it more of an entree. I added the very basic chorizo- you can add any.

Sweet Potato and Sausage Soup 

This hearty soup gets rich flavor from linguiça, a delicious pork sausage from Portugal seasoned with garlic, paprika, and other spices.

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 10- to 11-ounce fully cooked smoked Portuguese linguiça sausage or chorizo sausage, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
2 medium onions, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams; about 2 large), peeled, quartered lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 pound white-skinned potatoes, peeled, halved lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
6 cups low-salt chicken broth
1 9-ounce bag fresh spinach

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add sausage; cook until brown, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Transfer sausage to paper towels to drain. Add onions and garlic to pot and cook until translucent, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add all potatoes and cook until beginning to soften, stirring often, about 12 minutes. Add broth; bring to boil, scraping up browned bits. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until potatoes are soft, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Using potato masher, mash some of potatoes in pot. Add browned sausage to soup. Stir in spinach and simmer just until wilted, about 5 minutes. Stir in remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Season with salt and pepper. Divide among bowls and serve.

This cake is a stone-winner! It's my Dad's favorite ever since I started making it... I make it almost every 
Friday for Shabbos dinner for that reason!

Warm Apple-Apricot Cake

Serve this cake warm out of the oven for brunch, or it’s delicious served at room temperature too.


Nonstick baking spray
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups canola oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup applesauce (a 4-ounce snack pack contains about 1/2 cup)
1/3 cup apricot all-fruit spread (apricot jam)
3 cups 1/4-inch-thick diced pieces of peeled, cored Granny Smith apples (about 5 apples)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Spray a bundt-style pan with nonstick baking spray.

3. Whisk together the flour, salt, cinnamon, baking soda and baking powder in a bowl and set aside.

4. In a separate bowl, whip together the oil and sugar with an electric mixer, increasing gradually to high speed, for a total of 3 minutes. Add the applesauce and apricot spread and mix on high speed for another minute until creamy.

5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix on medium speed until well incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula and continue mixing. The batter will clump together.

6. Add the apples to the batter and mix on low speed until well combined. Pour the batter (which will be very thick) into the prepared pan.

7. Bake in the oven for 60 to 70 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. Test the center of the cake for doneness with a toothpick; the toothpick should come out clean. The cake may take a bit longer to bake if the apples are particularly juicy, because the center will be extra moist. Turn the cake out of the pan onto a cooking rack immediately after removing from the oven.

Yield: 1 bundt cake; 12 slices.