Pascale's Kitchen: Thinking outside of the culinary box

Following, you’ll find three recipes that I recently added to my repertoire, which have passed muster among my immediate family members. 

 NAN BARBARI (Persian flatbread). (photo credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)
NAN BARBARI (Persian flatbread).
(photo credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)

I love trying out new dishes when I’m preparing weekday meals for my family. I know what each family member likes, and I try to accommodate their tastes when experimenting with new things.

I don’t like to attempt new recipes or techniques for important holiday meals when we have guests, since I never know if the dish will be successful or not.

I like trying out new ideas at the beginning of the week. That way, I can see how a specific dish comes out, and I have time to make improvements or changes. By the time the weekend rolls around, I’ve usually mastered the new dish and am ready to serve it to my family for Shabbat dinner

Following, you’ll find three recipes that I recently added to my repertoire, which have passed muster among my immediate family members. 

The first recipe is for chicken patties and vegetables, with a touch of lemony and spicy flavor. For this recipe, I fried the chicken patties on a griddle pan. They came out so light and tasty that they were practically eaten straight off the pan.

If you are short on time, you can place the patties on a tray covered with baking paper and sprayed with oil, and grill them in the oven. Alternatively, you can cook the chicken patties in tomato sauce, after which they come out soft and airy. 

The second recipe is for Nan Barbari, a type of Persian flatbread. I tried out lots and lots of variations before arriving at the ultimate recipe. In fact, I loved this bread so much, and it looked so regal, that I felt it could be used in place of my regular challot for Shabbat dinner. 

Nan Barbari is made from soft, sticky dough and is sprinkled with multicolored seeds and kosher salt or za’atar. Even though the Persian bread looks very impressive, it’s actually really easy to make. The aroma that wafts through your house while it is baking is heavenly, and thankfully it tastes just as good. You will definitely not have any left over by the end of the meal. I baked one large loaf, but you can make a number of smaller loaves if you prefer. 

A Shabbat meal would not be complete without dessert. Whenever my children announce that they’ll be coming for Shabbat, I immediately whip out my little chocolate dessert notebook and browse through the options until my eye catches something special. 

This week, I chose a recipe for an airy chocolate cake that fills the entire house with the most enticing aroma. The cake is topped with a smooth chocolate icing, and then decorated with cream swirls, sesame treats and chocolate shavings. 

Shabbat shalom.

 CHICKEN PATTIES and vegetables. (credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN) CHICKEN PATTIES and vegetables. (credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)

CHICKEN PATTIES AND VEGETABLES

Makes 16-20 patties. 

  • 500 gr. ground chicken breast
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, crushed
  • ½ bunch parsley
  • ½ bunch cilantro
  • 10 sprigs dill
  • 1 slice bread, soaked in water and squeezed well
  • 1 tsp. harissa
  • 1 Tbsp. pickled lemon spread
  • 1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Place all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Place the bowl in the fridge for 30 minutes. 

Pour a little olive oil on a griddle pan and heat over medium heat. 

Take little bits of the mixture and form patties with a diameter of 7 or 8 cm. or a bit larger. Place them on the griddle pan and fry them for 2-3 minutes on each side until they turn brown. Serve hot. 

Alternatively, prepare your favorite tomato-based sauce and add the chicken patties to the sauce once you’ve fried them on the griddle pan. Shake the pot gently so that the sauce covers all the patties well. 

Level of difficulty: Easy-medium

Time: 1 hour

Status: Meat

NAN BARBARI (PERSIAN FLATBREAD)

Makes one large loaf.

  • 2 Tbsp. dry yeast
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 2½ cups lukewarm water
  • 5 cups flour
  • 1 Tbsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder (optional)
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil

Baking soda mixture:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp. baking soda (or 1 cup of soda water, instead of the water and baking soda)
  • 1 tsp. flour
  • ½ tsp. sugar

Toppings:

  • ½ cup white sesame seeds
  • ¼ cup black sesame or nigella seeds 
  • Kosher salt

Add the water, yeast and sugar to a bowl and mix well. Set the bowl aside in a warm place for 5-10 minutes so the yeast can ferment. 

Add the flour, salt, baking powder, olive oil and fermented yeast to the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook. Knead the dough for 10 minutes until it becomes soft and well mixed. If the dough is too dry, add a little water. 

Transfer the dough to a greased bowl. Cover and let dough rise until it has doubled in volume. 

Add all the baking soda mixture ingredients to a pot and mix well. Cook on the stove until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat, stir and let it cool. 

Line a tray with baking paper and place the dough on it. You can separate the dough into 2 sections if you choose. The dough should be soft and easy to work with. Wet your hands, then use your fingers to make several long grooves along the length of the dough. 

Do this again as you add the cooled baking soda mixture all over the top of the dough. 

Sprinkle the seeds on top, then the salt. 

Bake in an oven that has been heated to 200-220° for 20-25 minutes or until the bread turns golden brown. 

Level of difficulty: Medium

Time: 2 hours

Status: Parve

CHOCOLATE CAKE

Use a ring-shaped pan or a wonder pot.

  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 1¼ cups sugar
  • 2 packets of vanilla sugar
  • ½ tsp. rum extract
  • 7 Tbsp. cocoa powder, sifted (can mix with chocolate milk powder)
  • 1 Tbsp. instant coffee powder
  • 1 1/3 cups hot water
  • 1 cup oil
  • 2 cups flour (or spelt flour), sifted
  • 1 packet baking powder

Chocolate icing:

  • 100 gr. butter or margarine
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 1 Tbsp. instant coffee powder
  • ½ cup water
  • 100 gr. bittersweet chocolate

Cream:

  • 1 container (250 ml.) sweet whipping cream
  • 3 Tbsp. powdered sugar (or cream-colored instant pudding powder)

Toppings:

  • 10 ready-made sesame discs, wafers or pralines, etc.
  • 50 gr. bittersweet or milk chocolate, grated

Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer with ¾ cup sugar and the vanilla sugar until stiff peaks form. 

In a separate large bowl, mix the egg yolks with the rest of the sugar. Add the rum, cocoa and coffee. Mix well. Gradually add the hot water and oil while mixing. Mix well, then gradually and alternately fold in the flour and baking powder. Mix gently.

Slowly fold in half of the egg white mixture into the cocoa mixture. Fold in the rest of the egg white mixture, then pour the batter into a greased pan and bake in an oven that has been preheated to 170° for 70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out dry. Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool completely. 

To prepare the icing: Add the butter or margarine, sugar, cocoa powder and coffee to a small pot. Cook over a heat until the butter melts. Add the water and the chocolate and cook until the mixture is smooth and shiny. 

Pour the icing over the cake and let it drip down the sides. 

Using a mixer, whip the sweet cream with the powdered sugar until the cream has firmed up. Transfer the cream to a pastry bag with a serrated tip. Squeeze out cream to form little mounds or star shapes on top of the cake or any shape you desire. Place the sesame discs in the center of the cake or add any other toppings you desire. Sprinkle chocolate shavings on top of the cake. 

Store in the fridge until serving, but make sure to take it out 30 minutes before serving. 

Level of difficulty: Medium

Time: 1.5 to 2 hours

Status: Dairy

Translated by Hannah Hochner.