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Lemon Ricotta & Almond Flourless Torte with Raspberry Coulis

This little torte is perfect for a lighter style of dessert and would be great to end a Passover Seder or any meal with a gluten-free (flourless) desssert option. Don’t skip making the raspberry coulis – the contrasting flavors of tart, sweet, creamy and fruity work really well together.

Ingredients:

Lemon, Ricotta Almond Torte with Raspberry Coulis
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened/room temp (I prefer European butters)
1 1/4 cups super fine sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons lemon rind (use organic, unsprayed lemons)
4 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
4 eggs, separate yolks from whites
2 cups almond flour (make sure the flour is finely textured)
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese (try to buy fresh ricotta and avoid low-fat/skim with its gums and fillers)
1 cup raspberries (frozen) for coulis
1/2 cup fresh raspberries to decorate top of cake
powdered sugar, for garnish and for coulis

 

Directions: Preheat oven to 325 degrees (convection) or 350 standard. Line the bottom of a 9-inch cake pan with parchment paper, grease/butter sides of pan and parchment paper.  Place butter, sugar, vanilla extract into a large mixing bowl and beat with electric mixer until mixture is light and fluffy, at least 3 minutes.  Add lemon rind and lemon juice and beat for 30 seconds until included. Add the four egg yolks and mix for about three minutes until completely combined.  In another clean dry bowl, with clean beaters, beat egg whites until they have reached stiff peaks. (make sure the whites do not have any specks of egg yolk, or your whites will not form stiff peaks).  Fold half of the egg whites into the mixture until incorporated then add the almond flour, gently folding until evenly combined.
Add remaining egg whites and the ricotta cheese, continuing to gently fold batter until all ingredients have come together.  Pour into cake pan and allow to cook for 45 to 50 minutes or until the cake is firm to the touch and when a toothpick is inserted into the center and it comes out clean.  Once done, place cake on cooling rack until thoroughly cooled.  Once cooled remove and place on serving plate.  Dust the top of the torte with powdered sugar, and add raspberries in whatever fashion gives you joy.
While the cake is baking, prepare the raspberry coulis. You can either use fresh or frozen raspberries for this sauce. Puree the 8-10 ounces of raspberries with 2-4 tablespoons of sugar and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. (I do this to taste, as raspberries can be tart and may require more sugar for balance). Strain the solids through a sieve and reserve sauce. Solids can be tossed out.
For plating, I like to pour a small pool of sauce onto the plate, then place a slice of the torte on top.

Baby Boomers Retire In Style: Living The High Life in L.A.

 

W residence hollywood pool

Rooftop pool at The W Residences.

W Residence Rooftop

Rooftop entertaining at the W Residences.

Baby boomers continue to break the mold when it comes to retiring and “downsizing”. This generation wants to remain active, flexible and mobile – and so selling the family house doesn’t mean moving into a smaller condo. Instead many boomers are opting to move into a high-end luxury townhome or condo with all the bells and whistles of a 5-star hotel resort.

Here in Los Angeles, brands like the W and Ritz Carlton Residences are getting in on the act – offering stunning condos in highly desirable locations, like Hollywood, Downtown LA and Santa Monica.  With a 24-hour concierge, valet parking, resort-sized swimming pool, full-scale gym, screening room and other facilities for entertaining including rooftop gardens with views, lounges, fireplaces and wetbars, retirees can enjoy a high quality of life while no longer having to worry about lawn care or home maintenance issues. Having been a guest at the W Residences, I can say that the rooftop views of the Hollywood Hills and iconic Sign, and panoramic views to Santa Monica, are stunning. The rooftop area is fantastic for entertaining and is offered at a minimal cost to the building’s resident/owners.

These condos also allow individuals to be able to simply lock their door and travel without needing to setup any maintenance or management of their home while they are away.  This sort of luxury does not come without a significant pricetag: At the moment, the least expensive unit for sale at the W Residence in Hollywood is unit 6H at a pricetag of $725,000. This 1 bedroom/2 bath unit offers over 1200 square feet of space. The homeowners association dues monthly for this unit runs $1674/month. It sounds hefty, but when you factor in all the amenities included, you actually receive quite a lot of bang for your buck.

If you prefer the energy of downtown Los Angeles, with LA Live, Staples Center, Nokia Theater, the Coliseum, Disney Concert Hall and much more within a short walk or quick taxi/uber ride, the Ritz Carlton Residences offer stunning views, gorgeous amenities and a beautiful rooftop pool area. The least expensive unit there at the moment is Unit 33F, which is a 1 bedroom/2 bath 1078 square foot unit. HOA fees for this unit are comparable to the W Residences, at $1691 per month.  This building also comes with complimentary breakfast each morning for its residences, a Billiard room, plus you can add room service and housekeeping if you don’t want to cook or scrub. The Ritz also has a Wolfgang Puck restaurant in the building and a lovely spa.

Ritz Carlton exterior

Exterior view of the Ritz Carlton and its location at LA Live, DTLA. The building’s exterior is stunning.

If the beach’s calm and breezy energy is more your speed, I would check out the Azzurra in Marina del Rey. I just helped a client buy a unit in the building, and the amenities are similar in scope to the W. The building has a gorgeous resort-sized swimming pool with cabanas, a rooftop jacuzzi and entertainment area with BBQ, fireplaces, heatlamps and wetbar. The units face the beach or the city, and the building includes 24-hour valet, concierge, a screening room, various sized board and meeeting rooms for work, an amply stocked gym including pilates reformers, and more. The least expensive unit in the Azzurra at the moment is unit 1526, which offers 1 bedroom/1 bath, faces the city (rather than the marina/beach), and is priced at $650,000 with HOA fees of $849/month. The location is fantastic for people who enjoy jogging, walking, cycling, dogwalking. The building abutts the Marina del Rey bike path and footpath, and connects you to beaches both north and south.

 

If money is not an issue, the Azzurra offers several units with stunning views from marina to mountain to city in an array of configurations from 2 to 3 bedrooms, some single level and some two-level penthouse style.

There are several new buildings also coming up in downtown Los Angeles that seek to rival the Ritz in luxe accomodations (and pricetags). Not as many are coming to the beach area of Los Angeles, but that is partly due to very strict development rules in cities like Santa Monica, with an activist community that is against high-rise development in the beach area.

One final note especially for singles – many of these buildings offer regular casual social get-togethers where you can meet your neighbors while wine tasting or other fun activities. No stress, no pressure to go, just opportunities to get to know who you are living next to.

 

 

Short Ribs That Melt In Your Mouth

short-ribs-on-polentaLast night, my spouse and I hosted 20 lovely friends at an intimate gathering to thank them for their charitable support of our beloved synagogue. As a special thanks, I cooked up a multi-course meal, and one of the showstoppers of the night was this dish – Braised Short Ribs served on a bed of luscious polenta. This dish is adapted/modified by me from Daniel Boloud’s recipe which appears on the website SeriousEats. If you have never checked out SeriousEats, I highly recommend it. J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is a food hacker genius and his hard work on cracking recipes is much appreciated by me!

Here are the steps and ingredients required to make this dish…time is also your friend here as I began to prepare the dish 3 days before serving. For this dinner I prepped enough braised short ribs for 20 people; for the recipe below I am providing the appropriate quantities for 4-6 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 4 lb. bone-in short ribs
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 4 stalks celery, roughly chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3-4 stems of fresh thyme
  • Paprika
  • 2-3 cups dry red wine
  • 1 cup ruby port
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4 ounces of double concentrated tomato paste
  • 2-4 cups of good quality chicken stock – preferably low-sodium
  • 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil

Equipment:

  • Dutch oven – I highly recommend this although in a pinch you could also use a slow cooker
  • Sheet pan with rack

Steps:

  1. Place the ribs on the rack in the sheet pan and liberally sprinkle with kosher salt, freshly ground pepper and paprika on all sides
  2. Let the meat rest uncovered on the rack in the fridge overnight
  3. Heat up your dutch oven on the stovetop (if you don’t have this, a regular frypan will do) until very very hot, and add the vegetable oil, then sear off the meat on all sides.
  4. Place the seared beef ribs to rest on a plate; then drain off some of the rendered beef fat (short ribs are a fairly fatty cut)
  5. Add the mirepoix (onions, carrots and celery) to the dutch oven and cook on medium heat until the veggies sweat and soften.
  6. Add the garlic and the tomato paste, and continue to cook until the tomato paste begins to slightly carmelize.
  7. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 325 degrees and place your rack low enough in the oven to accommodate the size of your dutch oven. (Or turn your slowcooker onto high and let it get hot).
  8. Put the ribs back into the dutch oven, and gently mix the veggies around and over the beef.
  9. Pour in the red wine and the ruby port and 2 cups of chicken stock.
  10. Toss in the bay leaves and thyme sprigs.
  11. Bring the dutch oven to a gentle simmer on the stovetop, then cover tightly with the lid and place in the oven.
  12. Let the meat slowly braise for at least 3 hours. Check on it once an hour to baste the meat and if the liquid level gets very low add more stock. The meat does not need to be fully covered with liquid, but make sure that the lid of the dutch oven is sealing in the liquids so that the meat is gently steaming inside the dutch oven.
  13. Remove the dutch oven from the oven and chill the contents overnight.
  14. The next day, remove as much of the solid fat as possible from the top of the ribs, and carefully remove the bones from each short rib.  They should slide out easily.Also remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs.
  15. Gently reheat the braised ribs covered in the same dutch oven in the oven on low heat (300 degrees) until thoroughly hot. Depending on quantity, this can take at least 30-45 minutes.
  16. While the braised ribs are cooking, start on the polenta.
  17. When the polenta is completed, use a large platter or serving dish and ladle the polenta in, then add the short ribs and sauce. Bon Appetit.

 

 

Moroccan Chicken with Dried Apricots, Chickpeas, Butternut Squash and Green Olives

moroccan-chickenOkay, so admittedly I have never been to Morocco so I make no claims to its authenticity. But it is delicious and reheats beautifully.

INGREDIENTS

1 cut-up chicken

1 can of chickpeas drained (or 12 ounces of dried chickpeas soaked overnight, then drained)

1 onion, cut up

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 cup of cut-up butternut squash

2 medium carrots, chopped

1 cup of dried apricots

1/2 cup of pitted green olives

2-4 cups of chicken broth

2 tablespoons paprika

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon ground cinammon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

salt & pepper

2 tablespoons of vegetable oil

 

 

STEPS

Salt and pepper the chicken pieces to taste, while heating oil in the dutch oven. Sear the chicken with its skin on in the dutch oven until all sides are crispy. Remove the chicken from the dutch oven and pour off some of the chicken fat if you prefer a less oily batch. Then sautee the onions in the remaining chicken fat. Once onions are translucent and slightly golden, add the minced garlic and stir for 30 seconds until garlic is aromatic. Then add the spices in and give a stir to wake them up with the heat and fat. After the spices are warmed up, add in the veggies, and return the chicken to the pot (you can remove the chicken’s skin if you prefer).  Pour the chicken broth over the chicken and veggies to cover, then cook low (300-325 degrees) and slow for at least 90 minutes covered. About 30 minutes before the end, toss in the dried apricots and stir in so that they soak up the delicious juices from the chicken and veg.  Keep an eye on the level of liquid in the dutch oven; if it gets too low add a little water or broth.

To serve, place over a bed of steamed rice or couscous. Even though it’s mixing cuisines, I love to serve this with a cucumber yogurt (raita-style) salad on the side to offset and cool the palate from the spices.

This dish also does well cooked the evening before or in a slow cooker, then served.

 

 

 

Israeli Couscous Sweet & Savory

I adore couscous in all its various sizes, but I really think the Israeli style which features a nice large round ball of semolina goodness, is definitely my fave. It’s got a great mouth feel and soaks up all sorts of flavors. Here is a super-easy, very flavorful approach to prepping couscous to go with my Moroccan Chicken or other middle eastern recipes.couscous on fire.jpg

INGREDIENTS

2 cups couscous

2 tablespoons butter/ghee/coconut oil

1 minced shallot

1 cinnamon stick

1 bay leaf

zest of 1 lemon

fresh parsley

1/4 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup pine nuts

salt

 

STEPS

Start by melting the butter or ghee (clarified butter) (or a vegan fat like coconut oil if you prefer) in a medium-sized pot. Once the fat is melted, sautee a small diced shallot until softened, then toss in the couscous, and gently swirl the couscous around so that it gets a little golden and toasty. Once that’s done, add a cinammon stick, bay leaf, a pinch of salt, zest of one lemon, and 4 cups of chicken broth or water or veggie broth if you prefer. I also love to throw in a small handful of golden raisins, which plump up during the cooking. Cook the couscous over gentle heat until cooked through. Once the couscous is cooked,toss the bay leaf out and add a handful of freshly minced parsley. While the couscous is cooking, gently toast a 1/4 cup of pine nuts (pignoli) in a little pan over low heat. Sprinkle the pignoli nuts on top. Pile up on a plate and serve under a saucy dish, like my Moroccan Chicken.

 

 

Raising Our Daughters

By: Natalie & Kim Bergman

Just two days ago, our oldest daughter Abby Bergman, completed one of the most grueling events possible: swimming 20+ miles from Catalina Island to a promontory on Palos Verdes over 11 hours and 11 minutes, much of it done at night. Meanwhile, we sit and write this from our airplane seats headed to Chicago to watch our younger daughter, Jenna Bergman perform in a play, the culmination of a summer spent at one of the top summer theatre institutes in the country as she seeks her own path, forging a trail as a passionate actor/dancer/singer, with dreams of a future in live theater and making her own mark on the world.

Abby finishing Catalina 2016

Abby completing the Catalina Channel Crossing: 20+ miles in 11 hours, 11 minutes, most of it swum in darkness, overnight.

We are our daughters’ biggest cheer leaders, and thanks to social media our friends and family get to come along virtually for our daughters’ many adventures. As a result, we  often hear people praise our daughters and tell us what great girls we have. We have been quick to simply agree that we are lucky to have such bright, caring, hardworking and big-hearted daughters. And we are!!!! But the truth is much deeper, and given a little time to reflect, here are some of the parenting keys that have been most vital for our family.

LOVE—Sounds obvious but this is really the foundation upon which we have built our family. We have been together 33 years and have built a relationship based on loving one another with all of our hearts. From the moment both Abby and Jenna were just a plus on a little stick we have loved them fiercely, blindly and with all of our hearts.

CREATE TEAM – We have always been “the girl family”, a foursome to take on the world. We have taught by example and word that by working together anything is possible. Learning how to build, create and lead teams is something we have shown Abby and Jenna right from the beginning. We surround ourselves with people who have some role in causing what we are up to and we put ourselves out there for others. The power of a team to produce results is significantly greater than that of an individual, and both of our girls know that. For Abby to achieve her goal of swimming across the Catalina Channel required all sorts of teams and teamwork over the course of years of devotion and dedication. Our girls know that they can bring people together whom they can count on and who will have their backs.

LISTEN – This seems so simple but is so easy to skip over. How many times as parents, tired and irritable, we wish our kids would go to sleep, or be distracted by a video or good book, so that we have a little precious time to ourselves. Our daughters have from a very young age always had us there listening to them. Being heard is a powerful experience and starts so young. We remember Abby as a tiny little girl, always asking questions as she explored and sought to understand the world around her. What, why, how questions poured from her all through the day, literally. Ask any of her school teachers who would always joke with us about Abby’s questions. And we never fell back on the “Just because” response that cuts off conversation and inquiry. We always sought to answer as clearly and truthfully as possible. Jenna has always loved a good late-night conversation, right before bed, to sort out her day and gain understanding of the events that transpired. Being morning people, a nighttime conversation has often been one of the hardest things for us to hang in there and do, but we recognize that that’s the time she wants to communicate, so we stay up way past our bedtime, so that we do connect and listen and share. Our girls are used to having us listen to them, so they are very comfortable sharing and talking to us.

Jenna jean jacket theatrical

Jenna Bergman, in one of her theatrical headshots

RESPECT – From the time of infancy, our children have gotten our respect. We have always valued our daughters’ thoughts and opinions, and treated their point of view and input as meaningfully and as important as that of an older person. We certainly have not always agreed with every opinion, request or desire, but we have always given them a great deal of respect. And for our girls, respecting others is just part of being human.

SUPPORT – We have always believed in our daughters’ dreams. We exposed our girls to lots of different experiences (soccer, volleyball, gymnastics, dance, painting, etc) and then followed their lead. We encouraged them to try new things but also were not attached if they didn’t like something, just as long as they were willing to give it a try. Then when something did stick, we supported them in every way that we could. When Abby got serious about her swimming, we took turns being up before the sun rose to drive her to swim practice before school. We knew which Starbucks opened at 5am, knew the local homeless folks who took refuge there for warmth, or we would sleep in the car as she swam, when the pool wasn’t close enough to head home. Meeting her with a hot Chai (and always a coffee for the coach). We connected her with a great swim team, drove and sat for hours at swim meets (we do mean hours and hours), just to watch her swim for a few minutes of thrilling competition. Similarly with Jenna, it has meant driving all over Los Angeles for voice lessons, rehearsals, auditions, dance classes, acting training. We have worked to seek out the best possible opportunities for our daughters in their respective areas of passion – the best possible teams, coaches, teachers, advisors, mentors. We were their very willing sherpas!

EXPECTATIONS – We always expect our daughters to DO their very best. We expect them to show up, put in effort, complete what they started, follow through on their commitments. We do not expect them to BE the best and we do not constantly tell them that they ARE the best. What we have always told them is that they are the very best “Abby and Jenna” and that we expect them to bring their best self to all they do. We have never cared if our daughters had a perfect GPA or the fastest swim time, or the biggest role on stage. What has always mattered is that our children put in their best effort, so that they have no regrets and leave nothing on the table. Both Abby and Jenna have developed into incredibly hard workers – with very different styles and approaches. And both are known for how hard they work. We also expect them to be respectful, be generous, be loving to others.

DISCIPLINE – We discipline without shame. We are very clear about what we expect from our girls but we also know that they are not perfect, that they will make mistakes. We don’t take it personally when they mess up, but we do expect them to clean up their messes. We are softies by nature so we’ve never been harsh, and sometimes we fold when we shouldn’t, but our girls know that there are lines that can’t be crossed.

ETHICS -We are Jewish, and we have raised our daughters on the foundation concept of “Tikkun Olam” – which means the repair of the world. For us this means asking ourselves, how can we make the world a better place? How can we make a difference and contribute? In our family this includes the act of Tzedakah – giving to charities in meaningful ways. Our daughters have always given to charities that matter to them. Abby raised money and bought a chair at our synagogue in the name of her grandfathers who had passed away – she paid for it little by little over a few years from her allowance and from gift monies she received. For one birthday as an elementary schoolgirl, she raised money to donate to the local aquarium, as the ocean and sea life have always been a passion. Both of our daughters volunteer for a variety of causes as often as they can. Jenna most recently, has phone banked at Planned Parenthood Los Angeles to help Hillary Rodham Clinton be elected and to protect a woman’s right to reproductive freedom. Jenna cannot pass a homeless person without buying them dinner or a cup of coffee. We always feed and take care of our girls’ coaches, mentors, teammates—letting them know that we have THEIR backs, just as they have our girls’ backs. Our girls are not spoiled but they are privileged, and we have always taught them that it’s their responsibility to give back, to pay it forward to help others. They know this at a cellular level. Kim’s grandmother had a saying, “always be the good one” and we have passed that onto the girls.

FAMILY and COMMUNITY – We are so lucky to have a wonderful and close family—of origin and of creation—who surround us with love. We have taught our girls to care deeply about our community, and we actively seek ways to connect with others.  We are involved locally in our home neighborhood, building friendships and relationships with our neighbors. We are involved in our city. We are involved in our professions, in our synagogue. Our daughters are used to being surrounded by loving family, community and even strangers. Our family is our team.

POSSIBILITY – We live that anything is possible. We know that sometimes there are challenges but we continually teach our girls that the world is full of possibilities to create and own. We have always taught our girls that they can lead with intention. That they can set their minds to something and reach for it. We have taught them to be bold.

—————

We are almost completely “empty nesters” and it is really true that the time flies. We are not perfect parents by any means and we were blessed with two amazing kids. We probably over parent them at times, we certainly overindulge them, we are often too forgiving, we put them first more than we maybe should and looking back we are not even sure how we had the energy to parent as intensely as we did. We spent more time and money on our kids than many would choose to do, or could do. We probably didn’t say no as much as we should have. We are headed to a time that will be just the two of us, like the 10 years we had before Abby was born, and we look forward to that time together. But we have no regrets. We have always parented Abby and Jenna with our whole hearts and souls, a bit of magic, a great deal of good luck and wonderful fortune, and mostly just always, no matter what LOVE.

Kim and I 2016

Killer Banana Bread

Banana Bread fresh out of the ovenSo, having a few bananas getting to the point where they were almost beyond redemption – so ripe the skin has darkened and thinned out – is the perfect opportunity to magically turn it into a delicious banana bread.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of ripe bananas, mashed
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream or whole plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon of high quality vanilla extract
  • 1 cup brown sugar (or sub your preferred sweetener)
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 stick unsalted butter (European style butter preferred such as Plugra or Kerrygold)

Optional Add-Ins:

1 cup mini bittersweet chocolate chips, or toasted & chopped up pecans or walnuts

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (180 Celsius)
  2. In a medium bowl mash bananas, add dairy and vanilla
  3. In a separate bowl, sift the flours, flaxseed, salt, baking powder and baking soda
  4. In the mixer using a paddle, cream the butter, then add the brown sugar until fully incorporated and somewhat fluffy
  5. Add the egg and beat until mixed in
  6. Add the flour mixture and beat until mixed. Make sure to stop the mixer and scrape the paddle and scrape the sides and bottom so that batter is fully incorporated.
  7. Grease and flour a standard baking breadpan; pour in batter which will be quite thick).
  8. Tap baking pan on counter a couple of times to remove air bubbles.
  9. Place on central baking rack in oven and bake for 45-50 minutes, until a lovely golden crust develops and the inside is no longer wet with a toothpick tester.
  10. Pull out of the oven and let it cool on a rack. Turn out onto a platter, slice and serve.

Bon Appetit!