The Flavor of Fall

After the light foods of summer, more wholesome fare may be appealing with the coming of fall.

Eggplant Relish
4 servings

Eggplant is a versatile vegetable that can be prepared in a variety of ways. This dish is quite easy to make since the bell peppers are not peeled, just diced. I like to serve this flavorful appetizer warm.

1 medium eggplant (about 1 to 1 1/4 pounds), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 tablespoons sesame oil
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 small jalapeño peppers, seeded and finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar, approximately
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves

Preheat oven to 400°.

Line the rack of a broiling pan with foil. Place eggplant on it and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sesame oil. Spread in one layer. Roast eggplant for 10-15 minutes or until almost soft.

In a medium saucepan with a lid, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and add onion, ginger and jalapeño peppers. Sauté for a few minutes, covered, until onion is soft. Add peppers and eggplant. Cook for a few minutes over medium heat, uncovered, to blend well.

Stir in sugar, soy sauce and vinegar. Season to taste with salt, pepper and vinegar. Add cilantro before serving.

Wear rubber gloves when removing jalapeño pepper seeds.

Napa (Chinese) Cabbage Salad
6 servings

Unlike “regular” cabbage, Napa (Chinese) cabbage has a sweet taste and a soft texture.

2 garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard
1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon Kikkoman Lite Soy Sauce
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 firm head Napa cabbage (approximately 1 1/2 pounds)

Crush garlic cloves with salt, making a paste, and put in a large bowl. Add all remaining ingredients except for the cabbage.

Trim the cabbage, removing and discarding damaged or wilted leaves. Cut the head crosswise into 1/4-inch wide strips. Set aside.

Several hours before serving, add the cabbage to the dressing and toss well. The dressing will penetrate the cabbage and soften it slightly. Drain any accumulated liquid and season to taste.

Chicken with Porcini Mushroom. Photos: James Poster

Chicken with Porcini Mushrooms
4 servings

This convenient dish can be prepared quickly and easily. It is also tasty and nutritious.

1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1/2 cup boiling water
4 medium-size single chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 rosemary sprig, without petals
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Place mushrooms in a small bowl. Pour boiling water over them and cover bowl with cling wrap. Let stand for 15 minutes. Strain through a paper-lined sieve. Reserve liquid and chop mushrooms coarsely.

Preheat oven to 400°. Season chicken with salt and pepper.

Place chicken in a single layer in an ovenproof dish. Combine porcini liquid, mushrooms, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, wine and rosemary. Pour mixture over the chicken breasts and bake for 8 minutes. Turn breasts over and bake for another 7-8 minutes, or until chicken is pale pink on the inside.

Pasta with Cauliflower
4 servings as a main course
6 servings as an appetizer

Cauliflower is available all year round, making this dish easy to prepare. I serve it warm or at room temperature.

1 small head cauliflower (approximately 2 pounds)
1/3 cup olive oil
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
6 flat anchovies, rinsed, patted dry and finely chopped
2 red chili peppers, cut in half horizontally, seeded and finely chopped
2 tablespoons Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound imported penne, or other pasta with similar shape
1/2 cup loosely packed Italian parsley, finely chopped

Separate cauliflower into small florets and steam until tender.

Heat olive oil in a saucepan until hot. Add garlic and sauté over low heat until it is soft. Add anchovies and stir until pasty. Add half the cauliflower and mash with a fork until smooth. Add rest of cauliflower and chili peppers.

Meanwhile, bring 5 quarts of water to a rolling boil in a large, covered pot. Add salt and all the pasta at once; stir well. Boil briskly, uncovered, for about 6 minutes, or until pasta is al dente (tender but still firm to the bite). Pour pasta into a colander and shake vigorously to drain well. Toss with the cauliflower and parsley. Adjust seasoning.

Wear rubber gloves when dealing with chili peppers.

Honey cake

Honey Cake
2 loaves, each serving 12

I couldn’t resist sharing this heirloom honey cake recipe with you. I make this moist, light cake on Rosh Hashanah. It is not too sweet, and, if refrigerated, will stay fresh for many days.

1 tablespoon unsalted margarine
2 1/3 cups unbleached flour, plus some for dusting pans
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar (scant measure)
1 cup dark brewed tea, made with 3 tea bags, cooled
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup honey
1/2 medium ripe banana, thoroughly mashed
Grated rind of one orange
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Grease two 9 x 5-inch loaf pans with margarine and dust with flour. (Wondra flour works well.) Invert pan and tap to shake off excess.

Preheat oven to 325°.

Sift flour, together with baking powder and baking soda, directly into the measuring cup.
Beat eggs in an electric mixer at medium speed, gradually adding sugar until pale and ribbon-like (about 10 minutes). Lower the speed, and add tea, oil, honey, banana, orange rind, cinnamon and cloves. Combine thoroughly. With a rubber spatula, gradually fold in flour, mixing well after each addition; there should be no traces of flour visible.

Divide batter evenly between the two pans. Bake side by side, without touching, in the center of the oven for 15 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 350° and bake for another 25 minutes.
Test with a cake tester in the center of the loaf; it should come out dry. Let cool on a wire rack. Loosen the sides of the loaves with a knife before unmolding.

To freeze the cakes, wrap each loaf in a layer of wax paper, then a layer of foil, and place in a plastic bag.

Helen Nash is the author of Kosher Cuisine (New Jersey, 1995) and Helen Nash’s Kosher Kitchen (New Jersey, 2000). She lives in New York City.

This article was featured in the Fall 2008 issue of Jewish Action.
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