Sunday, November 20, 2011

Nemesis - Definition 1

According to, the definition of nemesis is as follows:

nem·e·sis [nem-uh-sis]
noun, plural -ses  [-seez]
1. something that a person cannot conquer, achieve, etc.: The performance test proved to be my nemesis.
2. an opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome.
3. (initial capital letter) Classical Mythology . the goddess of divine retribution.
4. an agent or act of retribution or punishment.

Nemesis is also the name of a (not very good, in my opinion) Phillip Roth novel.  Per Amazon:

In the "stifling heat of equatorial Newark," a terrifying epidemic is raging, threatening the children of the New Jersey city with maiming, paralysis, lifelong disability, and even death. This is the startling theme of Philip Roth’s wrenching new book: a wartime polio epidemic in the summer of 1944 and the effect it has on a closely knit, family-oriented Newark community and its children.

That's right.
Maiming. Paralysis.
The corrupting influence of fear.
Jewish guilt and loss of faith.
The war.
Lots of death.

Subject matter that could have been the nemesis...
[Definition 1: something that a person cannot conquer or overcome]
...of an eager first time book club hostess*.

But I was not afraid.
I made comforting food.
Jewish-ish food.
Lots of food.
I conquered.

Spicy Mediterranean Salad with Israeli Cous Cous
Inspired by this recipe on Food52.  The combination of peppery arugula and radishes with the tangy dressing, sweet cherries, briny feta cheese and the crunchy spiced pecans makes this salad a standout.  I may have been stretching the connection to the theme a bit, but I really wanted to serve this.  Great as a lunch entree on its own, or with grilled chicken.   Don't be intimidated by the long list of ingredients. Feel free to swap in or out as you like.  And if you aren't reading Phillip Roth, definitely try it with other grains, too!

1 1/3 c. dried Israeli cous cous or quinoa, prepared per package directions (to make about 4 c. cooked)
1/2 c. olive oil
1 Tbs. walnut oil or grapeseed oil
1/4 c. freshly squeezed orange or tangerine juice
3 Tbs. sherry vinegar
1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs. honey
2 Tbs. shallots, finely minced
freshly ground black pepper
kosher salt, to taste

1/4 c. fresh mint leaves, sliced thinly into ribbons
1/4 c. Italian parsley, finely chopped
2 Tbs. fresh tarragon, finely chopped

1/2 c. crumbled feta cheese
1/2 c. dried cherries
1/2 c. Sweet & Spicy pecan halves (from Trader Joe's)

1 c. baby arugula leaves
1/3 c. thinly sliced radishes

Cook your grain as directed on the package.  While that's cooking, whisk together the oils, juice, vinegars, honey, shallots, pepper and salt to make the dressing.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  When grain is cooked, allow to cool slightly, then stir in about half of the dressing.   Cool completely.  Stir in the mint, parsley and tarragon.  Cover and refrigerate until about 30 minutes before serving, at least an hour but as long as overnight.  Store extra dressing separately.

Stir in the feta, cherries, nuts, arugula and radishes.   The grain will have absorbed much of the vinaigrette that you added before, so add in some or all the extra dressing, as much or as little as you like.  Season with salt and fresh pepper, and serve immediately.

Click to print this recipe!

Combining recipes from Williams-Sonoma Cookies, Martha Stewart Cookies, and my own crazy ideas.  Rugulah are cream cheese pastry cookies that usually have a filling made from dried fruits and nuts.  I got to thinking about all the various jars of preserves, fruit butters and jams I had in the fridge, and the whole project just spiraled from there.  (Ha ha).  Wonderfully hearty and not too sweet, these are almost like little mini pies, where the fruit is concentrated and thick, and the crust is rich and crumbly.  

1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, softened
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
generous 1 c. flour
3 tbs. sugar

Fillings of your choice
Finely chopped nuts of your choice
2 Tbs. heavy cream, for brushing
Finishing sugar of your choice

Makes about 18-20 cookies.  I recommend doubling the recipe so you can try lots of different fillings!

In a medium mixing bowl with an electric mixer, or a food processor fitted with the dough hook, combine butter and cream cheese.  Add in flour and sugar, and mix on low speed or with a wooden spoon just until combined.  Don't overwork the dough!

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  It will be sticky!  Using floured hands, form dough into two equal sized discs, about 1/2 inch thick and 4 inches around. Place in plastic bags and refrigerate for at least an hour and preferably longer.

Preheat oven to 350.

Working with one disc at a time, place between two pieces of waxed paper and roll out into a rectangle, about 5 inches tall and as wide as the size of your disc allows. The 5 inch side should be the short side of your rectangle, and the dough should be a little less than 1/4 inch thick.   Return to fridge, still between the waxed paper, and repeat with the other disc.  Keeping the dough cold is key, as it becomes sticky and difficult to work with as it softens.

NOTE:  The recipes in my cookbooks called for the dough to be rolled out in a circle, cut into wedges, then forming the cookies into crescent shapes by rolling up the wedges.  I gave up on that after the first batch.   Forming a long roll and slicing it was infinitely easier, and the cookies were just as delicious.  But if you want to try crescents, by all means!

Take the first flattened piece of dough out, and remove the top piece of waxed paper.  Spread a thin layer of your filling on top of the dough, leaving a small part of each of the longer sides clean.   Sprinkle with the nuts or chocolate pieces you are using.

Working from the long side, carefully roll up the dough into a long jelly roll, with the final edge down (underneath the roll) when you are done.  Using a sharp knife, cut the roll into 1 inch sections, and place on a Silpat or parchment covered baking sheet, keeping that edge at the bottom of the cookies.

Brush each cookie with a little of the heavy cream, then garnish with a finishing sugar.

Bake for 20-22 minutes, until cookies are golden brown.  Cool on baking racks.  If desired, you can dust with a little powdered sugar before serving.

Filling options:

Dried Fruit:
generous 1/2 c. dried apricots, prunes, cherries or other tart dried fruit
About 3/4 c. of water (can use part dessert wine, if you like. I like)
2 Tbs. sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
pinch of salt

Bring fruit and water to a simmer in a small sauce pan.  The water should easily cover the fruit.  Allow to cook over low heat for 15 minutes, or until fruit is plump and water level has dropped.  Puree in a food processor until smooth.  Stir in the sugar and the cinnamon.  As a filling, this goes well with walnuts or pecans, plain or spice-dusted.  Use mix of cinnamon and raw sugar to finish.  Extra filling is great on toast!

Golden Raisin-Rosemary-Ginger
Proceed as above except use 1/2 c. golden raisins, add 1 Tbs. chopped crystalized ginger, and submerge a small sprig of fresh rosemary in the fruit mixture as it simmers.  Remove rosemary before pureeing.   Goes well with pistachios, chopped pecans, or toasted pine nuts.  Can also use finely chopped crystalized ginger in place of the nuts.  Use a mix of raw sugar, a dash of smoked salt and chopped rosemary to finish.

Fig & Chocolate
Use prepared fig jam.  Replace nuts with finely chopped semi sweet chocolate.  Use Trader Joe's Coffee/Cinnamon/Chocolate sugar to finish.

Fruit Butter & Spicy Nuts
Use prepared fruit butter (pumpkin, apple, cherry) straight from the jar.  Use finely chopped Sweet & Spicy pecans from Trader Joe's.   Sprinkle filling with cinnamon sugar before rolling up.  Use cinnamon sugar to finish.

Click to print this recipe!

* I've struck gold again, with another wonderful group of women inviting me into their group.  And at least this time, I hadn't been responsible for the book choice.  No guilt!

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