Pascale’s Kitchen: Tu Bishvat is here!

Tasty treats for the holiday of trees.

(photo credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)
For a while I had been pondering which tasty delicacies made with dried fruits and nuts I should prepare this Tu Bishvat. All of a sudden, I remembered that Lori Stern, a chef living in Southern California, makes incredibly distinctive creations using edible flowers. I love browsing through all the pictures of her unique cookies and cakes. What better time of year could there be for making cookies with real edible flowers in them? And making these cookies with children is a really fun experience.
It’s not so easy to find edible flowers to purchase, so I recommend first searching at a nursery near you. Most nurseries don’t have a large variety of edible flowers, so I’m even considering growing some at home.
In addition to the recipe for flower cookies, I’ve also included below recipes for pasta with herbs and easy pecan pies.
Makes 25 to 30 cookies.
150 gr. butter or margarine, at room temperature
180 gr. powdered sugar
½ cup sugar
½ tsp. salt
2 large egg yolks
2-3 drops vanilla extract
2 cups flour, sifted
A variety of edible flowers: violets, dried rose petals and lavender
Put the butter or margarine in a bowl and mix with a whisk or wooden spoon until nice and creamy. Gradually add the powdered and regular sugar and mix well. Add the salt, yolks and vanilla and mix well.
Add the flour gradually and mix until creamy and smooth. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for two hours. Remove from the fridge and place dough on baking paper that has been dusted with flour. Roll out the dough until it’s about 0.5 cm. thick. If the dough is sticking to the rolling pin, add a little more flour, or put a second layer of baking paper on top.
Using a cookie cutter or a cup, cut out cookies from the dough. Place a flower in the middle of each cookie and then gently press them into the dough with the rolling pin. You can also place a sheet of baking paper on top of the cookies, before using the rolling pin on top of the flowers.
Place the cookies back in the fridge for another 30 minutes. It’s extremely important that the dough stay cold while you’re preparing cookies, because otherwise it will be difficult to lift them off the paper.
Remove the tray from the fridge and line a tray with baking paper. Use the cookie cutter or cup to redefine outlines of each cookie and then transfer to baking paper, leaving space between each cookie.
Bake in an oven that has been preheated to 180° for 8-12 minutes or until the edges of the cookies turn golden brown. The middle part should remain white. Remove from oven and let cool before removing them from the tray. Make all the cookies in the same fashion, until you’ve used up all the dough.
Chef Peleg Bechor from Moshav Olesh demonstrated how to use microgreens with pasta.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.
400 gr. durum flour, sifted
4 eggs
80 gr. thyme microgreens
For cooking pasta:
2 Tbsp. canola oil
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
Pasta seasonings:
5 cloves of garlic, sliced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Kosher salt, to taste
A jar of pesto (store-bought or homemade)
In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook, add the flour and the eggs and mix for five to seven minutes.
Transfer dough to a work surface and continue kneading by hand until dough becomes hard. Continue kneading for a few more minutes, then cover and place in the fridge for two hours.
Separate the dough into four sections. Roll out one section and put it through a pasta machine that is set on level 7-8 so that it comes out really thin. Lightly flour dough, if it’s too sticky.
Place the sheet of dough on the work surface. Using a silicone brush, spread a little bit of water on the dough. Sprinkle some of the thyme microgreens in the center of one side of the sheet and fold the other side over on top. Put the sheet of dough through the pasta machine another one or two times on level 6, making sure the thyme leaves stay whole. Prepare the rest of the dough in the same fashion, so that you have four strips of pasta in the end. Using a knife, cut strips that are 1 cm. wide and 10-12 cm. long.
Pour three liters of water into a large pot and bring to a boil. Add the canola oil and salt and bring to a boil. Add however much pasta will fit in the pot and cook for three to five minutes. Remove, drain and rinse with water. Continue cooking another batch of pasta in the same fashion, until you’ve used up all the dough.
To prepare the seasoning, heat olive oil in a large frying pan and sauté the garlic until it’s golden brown. Add some of the pasta and mix. Add kosher salt and a little bit of the water the pasta was cooked in, and cook for one more minute. Transfer to a serving plate and drizzle with a little olive oil.
To prepare pasta with pesto spread, add one or two tablespoons of the pesto spread to a frying pan and sauté for a minute. Add some pasta and mix. Add kosher salt and a little bit of the water the pasta was cooked in, and cook for one more minute. If you feel there’s not enough pesto, add another tablespoon now and mix. Drizzle olive oil on top before serving.
One day when I was walking along Derech Hashalom Street in Tel Aviv, I came upon a store called Bakes, which sells baking supplies. I was so enthralled with the shop that I never arrived at my original destination. Among all the amazing products there, one very helpful item I found was ready-made tart shells, which came in two sizes.
Anyone who likes to bake pies knows that preparing a proper pie crust takes lots of hard work and time. So without ado, I bought two with the intention of sticking them in my freezer until I was ready to make a pie. However, the moment I got home, I realized that preparing an easy pecan pie for Tu Bishvat would be perfect.
Makes 3 medium or 4 small pies.
3 medium ready-made pie shells
or 4 small ready-made pie shells
¾ cup hazelnuts
½ cup walnuts or pecans
2 Tbsp. sunflower seeds
2 Tbsp. pumpkin seeds
1 cup sugar
1 packet vanilla sugar
150 gr. sweet cream
Place all the nuts on a baking tray and roast them for five to 10 minutes. Do not let them burn. Remove from oven and let them cool.
In a medium pot, add the sugar and vanilla sugar and heat until sugar melts into a nice amber-colored caramel.
In a separate small pot, heat the cream until it just about boils. Carefully pour cream into the caramel while stirring and then cook for another two to three minutes until smooth like toffee. Remove from the flame and add the nuts and seeds. Stir until mixed well. Spoon the filling into the pie shells, arrange on a baking tray and put in the oven. Bake for five minutes.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.
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