I have never made a round braided Challah, mostly because I thought the braiding required the dexterity, that I don't have. Lucky for me, the bread dough is more forgiving then say...a three-year-old's hair.

I worked off a modified recipe, that I changed as well. This makes a small challah, just perfect for about 8 people.

1 cup water
1 tbsp dry yeast
4 1/4 cups of flour
2 extra large eggs
3/4 cup of raisins
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup of honey
1.5 tsp salt
1 egg, for egg wash

Mix warm water with the yeast, let stand until it starts to bubble. For fresh yeast, typically 15 minutes. Mix flour and salt, add in the yeast mix, oil, honey and beaten eggs. Knead to incorporate and create a smooth, consistent dough.
Let sit for 10 minutes and flatten the dough. Spread raisins (plumped in water, drained) and fold dough several times to mix through. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with tea towel and let stand for about an hour. Punch the dough down and let rise for another 30 minutes.

Shape the dough (I did a 4 strand crown braid). Place on parchment lined cookie sheet. Paint with egg wash. Place in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until golden and sounds empty when tapped.

L'Shana Tova!

Lamb Shank and Plum Stew

First occasional days of crisp autumn are enough to encourage me to bring out the dutch oven again. I bought a box of farm fresh plums, mostly for jam, but wanted to try using them in place of dry prunes in a stew for a sweet and sour sauce to add some brightness to the lamb.

2 lamb shanks
12 prune plums
3 carrots
1 yellow onion
1 quart of chicken stock
5-6 potatoes

Braise seasoned lamb shanks on all sides until just starting to brown. Set aside. Roast chopped onion and carrots until turning golden on high-medium heat, about 10 minutes. Add in the pitted plums, cut in half. Reduce the heat, add the lamb back into the pot and pour the chicken stock in. Cover and let simmer for 45 minutes. Turn the meat and add in the potatoes, cut into wedges. Cover and cook for another 45 minutes.

Season with salt, pepper and coriander.


La Mar Cebicheria | New York, NY

Among the traits that my friends have in common, other than enjoying great food and company, is their love for world travel. A few visited Peru at the beginning of the year and regaled us with their stories and pictures. Among some more obvious Peruvian travel destination, they visited a restaurant in Lima called La Mar, only to later find that it had US presence as well (in hopes to repeat the experience). At the time, there was a location in San Francisco and one coming in NY....which brings me to last week.

While staying in New York, a friend reminded me of La Mar, which coincidentally opened in the city just the week before. We snagged a late dinner reservation and took in the space formerly occupied by Tabla.

Alive with buzzing servers, busy bartenders and helpful hosts, it's a little bit of Lima in New York. Strong scent of citrus envelops the bar, with pisco sours being made at a twenty-a-minute rate, and entertainment provided by knowledgeable bar staff (Sal in particular). Though we went on to dine at a table, bar side service is also available.

The food is awesome with spot on, balanced flavors in ceviches. It's the perfect Asian meets Latin meets giant corn, I expected from Peruvian cuisine. Causas are also something to consider; Peruvian whipped potato topped with sashimi...so near and dear to a Russian's heart. Portions are small, tapa style for the ceviches, but entrees are perfect. We concluded with picarones for dessert -Peruvian fritters with banana purée and spiced chancaca honey per Sal's recommendation. He said it made him remember growing up over a bakery --- he was right. Though completely unrelated, this is what I'd hoped churros would be like before ever trying them.

I will be back.