Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Orange Blossom Peach Pavlova with Chestnut Cream & Praline

Shalom foodies :)

I feel like talking to you about Jerusalem today. Not exactly the Yotam Ottolenghi JERUSALEM cookbook, but rather the Jerusalem that resonates in my fondest childhood memories.

In the 1970's, along with thousands of Sephardi families, my grandparents left Casablanca to establish themselves in Israel. They settled in Bayit VeGan Jerusalem, a mountain top neighborhood east of Mount Herzl, ten minutes from Israel's official Holocaust memorial, the Yad Vashem. 

My grandparents had two kitchens...  a  dairy one and a meat one, talk about kosher foodies ;) I was 9 years old the first time I traveled to Jerusalem, and these are some of the best childhood memories I have. The view from my grandparent's dira/apartment was breathtaking, overseeing a sea of Jerusalem stone buildings, and an oval-shaped Knesset beaming out. Every Friday night, the sirens sang to bring in the Sabbath, certain streets, including mine on Harav Uziel were blocked so no cars can drive by for the next 25 hours. There was this little makolet/shop in my grandparent's building where I discovered lebens/milk product for the first-time, and met the owner's daughter, who soon became my vacation buddy with whom I communicated in a Hebglish  (hebrew-english) of some kind lol.

So whats the perk of being a kosher kid in Israel for the first time? You hit culinary jackpot, experiencing food everywhere you go. I felt like singing "FREEDOM!" and taste EVERYTHING! I had my first piece of coca-cola flavored Bazooka gum or artik /ice pops, real-deal street food falafel, shawarmas, sesame baguettes, matzah pizza... and yes Cafe Rimon spaghetti, my favorite restaurant in the entire world, literally.

This one's for Joan Nathan. Mini-me
with the Mayor of Jerusalem, Teddy Kollek.
Famous Jewish food cookbook author Joan Nathan, earned a master's in public administration from Harvard University, and for three years she lived in Israel where she worked for Mayor Teddy Kollek of Jerusalem. In her book "The Foods of Israel Today," she expresses how food is a way to mend bridges and foster peace. And I totally agree, I hope this post can resonate peacefully with all those who come across it.

Eating aside, Mahane Yehuda shouk/market not only had the best quality fruits or veggies one can taste, it was the perfect place for any 9 year old foodie to hone down on her grocery bargaining skills.. though not really applicable in North America for some reason. :) Aside from my fascination with suspended unplucked chickens, I discovered my all-time favorite Israeli delicacy, sweet roasted pecans

A glimpse of Mahane Yehuda Photo credit:
And hear you have it, my inspiration for today's recipe. Yotam shares a nice rose water pistachio meringue recipe in his Ottolenghi cookbook, I thought, orange blossom meringue right away. Then I thought, I need a topping... and my imagination went BERSERK (can't help it)... creme de marron/ chestnut cream, caramelized peaches, whip cream, and of course sweet pecan crunch, UM... UMMMMM! So here you have it, a labor of sweetness, a new age sephardi delicacy. Enjoy a taste of my childhood, inspired by Jerusalem.

Look at these beauties


Serves 8-10

For the meringue, Martha Stewart's recipe
  • 6 large egg whites, room temperature
  • Pinch of cream of tartar
  • 1 1/2 cups superfine sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon champagne vinegar or white-wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoons of orange blossom essence (optional if you are not a fan)
For the peaches
  • 3 peaches, sliced
  • 2 tbsp of sugar to taste
  • 2 tbsp of butter
  • 1/2 cup of chestnut creamI buy this one at Cité Casher
  • 1/2 cup of whip cream (optional), store bought or homemade
For the Praline Clusters
  • 1/3 cup of pecans
  • 1/3 cup of sugar
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • dash of kosher salt

  1. Make the meringue: Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Draw 8 -10 circle shapes  onto a piece of parchment. Turn parchment over, and use it to line a baking sheet. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar with a mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in superfine sugar, then cornstarch and salt, beating until stiff, glossy peaks form. Fold in vinegar and orange blossom
  2. Using drawing as a guide, gently mound meringue on parchment; smooth sides. Bake 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Gage it. Turn heat off, and let meringue cool in oven.
  3. Make the peaches: in a sauteing pan, on medium, melt the butter in a saucepan, sauté the peaches then melt in the sugar, reduce to medium low-heat, you don't want to over cook them. 
  4. Make the praline crunch: melt your better in a sauté pan, melt the sugar so that it caramelizes, once done, toss your pralines and mix well so that they are caramelized. Remove them from place and let cool. Once cool, hammer them! kidding :) Just chop them into bits. not too thin not too small, you want crunch. 
  5. Now the assembly: Take your  meringues, smear chestnut cream, then smear whipping cream, place your peaches and then top them with your pralines, and voila! There you have it, my version of a delicious Sephardi, and Moroccan, yummy dessert!