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Holiday entertaining with a Hanukkah twist

Holiday entertaining with a Hanukkah twist

Posted on 18 December 2019 by admin

Puff pastry stuffed by camembert and berries, delicious food

By Tina Wasserman
You can choose to spend a lot of money on catalog or specialty store prepared food or you can make your own. The following are a few recipes to get you through the rest of the month of holiday parties and Hanukkah celebrations when latkes aren’t the only thing you eat.
The following recipe uses cheese in homage to Judith and her heroic use of cheese and wine to save the Jews in her town from Holofernes’ army
Stuffed Brie en Croute
1 14-ounce wheel of Brie cheese
1 10×10 sheet of prepared frozen puff pastry (1/2 of a 17.3-ounce package)
1 egg
1 tablespoon water

  1. Thaw the sheet of dough for 30 minutes and heat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Roll out one sheet of dough into a 14×14-inch square. Combine the egg and water and brush over the sheet of dough.
  3. Evenly cut the Brie in half horizontally and place one half cut side up on the egg-brushed dough. Place filling of your choice over the cheese and then top with the other half of the cheese, cut side down.
  4. Fold up sides of the dough over the cheese, brushing dough with extra egg wash to “glue” the dough and trimming any excess dough. Press edges to seal and then place seam side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  5. Brush the top and sides of the dough with the egg wash and use any remaining dough to decorate the top. Brush decoration with egg wash as well.
  6. Either freeze at this point, or bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Allow cheese to sit at least ½ hour before serving. Serve with toasted French bread or crackers. Serves 12-15.
    Apple-Cranberry Filling
    1/3 cup sweetened dried cranberries
    2 tablespoons orange juice
    1 small Gala apple
    1 teaspoon unsalted butter
    1 tablespoon Applejack or Grand Marnier
    1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
    1/4 cup chopped toasted pecans
  7. Place dried cranberries in the orange juice and microwave on high for 1 minute. Let sit while you prepare the rest of the filling.
  8. Thinly slice the peeled apple and sauté in a nonstick pan in the teaspoon of butter until slightly golden and soft. Add the soaking cranberries and the juice to the pan and gently sauté until the juice is absorbed.
  9. Add the Applejack and the cinnamon and reduce mixture over high heat until liquor is incorporated into the fruit. Add chopped pecans, stir and set aside while preparing dough.
    Mushroom-Chive Filling
    ½ tablespoon unsalted butter
    1 clove finely minced garlic
    8 medium mushrooms, thinly sliced
    Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
    1-2 tablespoons cream sherry
    6 8-inch stalks of fresh chives, finely chopped
  10. Melt the butter in an 8-inch nonstick skillet. Add the garlic and sauté over medium heat for 30 seconds or until garlic is soft. DO NOT BROWN THE GARLIC OR IT WILL BE BITTER.
  11. Add the mushrooms and salt and pepper to taste and sauté over medium heat until soft and lightly browned.
  12. Add the cream sherry and increase heat to incorporate the sherry and reduce the sauce to less than ½ tablespoon.
  13. Turn off the heat and add the chopped fresh chives. Stir and set aside while you prepare the dough.
    Potato-Mushroom Strudel
    Potatoes don’t have to be in latkes to be enjoyed this holiday season! This delicious dish can be served as an appetizer or a side dish.
    2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (approximately 4 potatoes)
    2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    2 medium onions, diced
    ½ ounce dried Porcini mushrooms
    4 ounces Crimini or Baby Bella mushrooms
    1½ teaspoons truffle-scented flour or all-purpose flour
    2 tablespoons parsley
    1 large egg, lightly beaten
    1½ teaspoons salt
    Freshly ground black pepper to taste
    1 stick unsalted butter, melted
    ½ pound phyllo dough
  14. Cook the whole, unpeeled potatoes in boiling salted water to cover for 25 minutes or until a knife easily pierces the potato. Drain and cool until easy to handle.
  15. Place the Porcini mushrooms in a 16 ounce bowl and cover with water. Microwave on high for 3 minutes. Allow mushrooms to soak for 10 minutes or until soft. Gently squeeze some of the excess moisture out of the mushrooms and reserve the liquid for later. Chop the Porcini into fine pieces. Set aside.
  16. Chop the Crimini into ¼-inch dice. Set aside.
  17. Heat a 3-quart saucepan over high heat for 15 seconds. Add the oil and heat for 10 seconds. Add the diced onions and stir to coat with oil. Cover, and cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Remove the cover and then sauté over medium heat until golden brown.
  18. Add the Crimini mushrooms to the onions and cook for 2 minutes. Add the chopped Porcinis and ¼ cup of the soaking liquid. Be careful to remove the liquid from the top of the bowl to prevent inclusion of sediment from the bottom of the bowl. Cook for 2 minutes and then add the flour. Stir to combine and then cook for 1 minute more. Remove from heat.
  19. Peel the potatoes and mash until smooth. Add the onion-mushroom mixture, parsley, egg, salt and pepper and mix until thoroughly combined. Check for seasonings.
  20. Place one sheet of phyllo dough, short side facing you, on a clean, large towel and brush with some melted butter. Place a second sheet of dough to the right of the first but overlapping the first sheet by 2 inches. Brush second sheet with butter.
  21. Place a third sheet of dough directly below the first sheet but overlapping it by 2 inches and then brush with melted butter. Place the fourth sheet to the right of the third sheet overlapping the bottom of the second sheet and the right side of the third. Brush with melted butter.
  22. Place a 1-inch-thick line of the potato mixture 1 inch above the bottom of the dough and 2 inches in from each side. Fold bottom up over the filling and then fold the sides in over the filling to conceal. Brush the edges with some butter.
  23. Tightly roll the dough up from the bottom and place the log of strudel on a parchment-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Brush top with some melted butter.
  24. Lightly score the dough in 1 inch intervals and then liberally sprinkle water all over the dough so that some of the water pools in the bottom of the pan.
  25. Place in a 375-degree oven and bake for 20 minutes or until strudel is golden brown.
  26. When ready to serve, cut log into 1 inch pieces and serve.
    Phyllo dough can be cut into 2 inch wide strips, brushed with melted butter, and then folded like a flag into filled triangles.
    NOTE: Can be served with some sour cream to which some chopped chives have been added.

Tina’s Tidbits:
• When working with phyllo dough it is important to work fast and protect any remaining sheets that you are not using. The best way to do this is to cover remaining dough with plastic wrap and then cover with a slightly damp paper towel. Do not let the towel touch the dough.
Easy Tahini Sufganiot
I was very lucky to be in Israel before Hanukkah a few years ago. With sufganiot sold everywhere one could try different flavors. My favorite was a sweet tahini-filled doughnut with shredded halvah on top. The following is a recipe I created and just premiered at the URJ Biennial in Chicago. Happy Hanukkah!

1 dozen unfilled yeast doughnuts or 2 dozen yeast doughnut holes

Filling:
½ cup tahini (unflavored, pure)
½ cup honey
½ teaspoon cinnamon or Bharat
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Glaze:
3¾ cups confectioners’ sugar
½ cup tahini
½ cup water
1 tablespoon kosher salt

Shredded halvah for topping

  1. Mix all of the filling ingredients together. Place mixture into a pastry bag with a ¼-inch plain tip.
  2. Puncture a small hole in the side of a doughnut with a straw or small, sharp knife blade.
  3. Twist the end of the pastry bag shut and gently insert the tip of the bag into the opening of the doughnut. Squeeze gently until you feel some pressure on the outside of the doughnut.
  4. Meanwhile combine all of the ingredients for the glaze in a bowl over warm water.
  5. When glaze is smooth, dip the top of the doughnut directly into the glaze, lift it and with a quick little twist turn it right side up.
  6. Place on a rack over a baking sheet or directly onto parchment paper. Sprinkle with halvah and allow the glaze to set for 5 minutes if you can wait that long!

Tina’s Tidbits:
• If you can’t find shredded halvah, just run a fork over a piece of halvah to break it into small strands or pieces and then sprinkle on the glaze while it is still somewhat moist.
• Yeast doughnuts are much easier to fill than cake doughnuts; however, if you don’t want to fill the doughnuts you can glaze and top a cake doughnut instead.

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Caring for the sick, homebound with nourishing food

Caring for the sick, homebound with nourishing food

Posted on 11 December 2019 by admin

Photo: Ethel G. Hofman
“Gesundheit Kuchen” (aka, “blessing” cake).

By Ethel G. Hofman
(JNS) December is a busy month filled with joy and celebration. But every year, it brings sad news, too. Someone may be sick, homebound or otherwise unable to come to the festive table; accidents and emergencies occur that result in hospitalization; deaths occur and shiva needs to take place. In the Jewish tradition, family and friends rally around community members. Bikur cholim, visiting the sick, is a mitzvah and a comfort to others. The Hebrew words serve as a testimony of the Jewish tenets of caring, compassion, devotion and the incentive to heal.
When these situations pop up and there’s no time to cook, I’ve often resorted to bringing a selection of packaged teas or coffee, or some staples like nuts and dried fruits, placed in a basket or similar container. Still, there’s nothing like a homemade soup or casserole to warm those in need or not home to prepare a proper meal.
You won’t be caught short if you plan ahead. Make a soup, casserole or cake, wrap well and place in the freezer for those times when you can be there to give. The “thanks” is built in.

Tips for safe freezing:
*Freezing prevents food spoilage. It doesn’t kill foodborne bacteria, but it greatly slows down their ability to reproduce. Once thawed, it’s time to cook that food.
*Do not use glass. Glass can crack when subjected to rapid temperature changes.
*Freezer and sandwich bags are not the same thing. Freezer bags are made of thicker plastic and should be used for freezing foods.
*Freeze items like soups in smaller containers. It speeds defrosting and avoids waste.
*Cool cooked foods completely before freezing. Putting something hot into the freezer warms the other foods, causing them to defrost and become unsafe.
*Do not defrost frozen meats, fish or poultry at room temperature or using hot or warm water. This can lead to food poisoning. Move to the refrigerator overnight to defrost.
*When there’s an abundance of fresh herbs, snip or chop, mix with a very little bit of olive oil and divide into ice-cube trays. When frozen, transfer to a freezer bag and zip shut.
*To wrap a frozen casserole: Line the casserole dish with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Then add a layer of plastic wrap. Leave several inches hanging at the edges so that it can be pulled over the top to cover later. Transfer the food to the dish and freeze. Once frozen-solid, lift the lined food out of the dish. Wrap it up with the hanging plastic wrap and foil to cover tightly. Place in freezer. Wash the pan and store for another day.
*Label the frozen casserole with heating instructions: Remove the foil and plastic wrap and place in baking dish. Defrost in refrigerator for 24-36 hours before cooking. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover thawed casserole loosely with foil. Bake until heated through and bubbly at edges. The final temperature should reach 160 degrees.
Split Pea Soup With Franks (Meat)
Serves 10-12
Cook’s Tips:
*Squash and onion are available all cut up and ready to cook.
*Beef broth and hot dogs can be purchased in a supermarket’s kosher section or at a specialty store.

Ingredients:
4-5 frankfurters, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1½ cups diced onion or 2 medium onions, diced
1¼ cups dried split peas, rinsed and drained
12-14 baby carrots, cut lengthwise
2 cups coarsely chopped squash
8-10 cups beef broth
Salt and pepper

Directions:
In a large pot, fry frankfurters in hot oil over medium-high heat until slightly browned at edges, about 5 minutes.
Add onion, split peas, carrots, squash and 8 cups broth. Bring to a boil, skimming off any froth. Cover and simmer until vegetables are tender and peas are broken down.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
If too thick, add a little more broth to desired consistency. Cool completely.
Pour into two containers, cover tightly and freeze.
Triple Mac ’n Cheese (Dairy)
Serves 10-12
Cook’s Tips:
*May substitute any other hard cheese for sharp cheddar.
*Substitute Trader Joe’s 21 seasoning for nutmeg.

Ingredients:
2 packages (8 ounces each) elbow macaroni
1/3 cup Dijon mustard
¾ teaspoon nutmeg
4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
3 cups small curd cottage cheese
½ cup milk
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese (divided)
2 large tomatoes, each cut in 12 wedges

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain and run cold water through.
Spray a 9×13-inch baking dish with nonstick baking spray.
In a large bowl, mix the macaroni, mustard, seasoning, cheddar and cottage cheeses, milk and 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese. Transfer to prepared baking dish.
Arrange tomato wedges attractively on top. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese.
Bake in preheated oven till heated through and beginning to brown, 20-25 minutes.
Cool thoroughly before wrapping, label and freeze.
Loaded Chicken, Peppers and Mushrooms (Meat)
Adapted from a recipe generously shared by my friend Shani Feinstein.
Serves 8-10
Cook’s Tips:
*Diced onions and peppers are available in refrigerated section of most markets
*Save time and money by coarsely chopping 3 to 4 onions in the food processor. Then divide into plastic bags and freeze. Ready to use as needed (this tip shared from Patti Saddler, my 80-year-something ElderNet client).
*Rinse mushrooms by running cold water over, removing any soil. Pat dry with paper towels.

Ingredients:
12 chicken thighs (about 3½ pounds), skinless and boneless
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 cup diced onions
2 yellow and green bell peppers, diced, about 1½ cups
2 teaspoons bottled chopped garlic
3 (8-ounce) containers of sliced mushrooms
1½ cups ketchup
1/3 cup wine vinegar
¼ cup water
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
2 teaspoons hot sauce or to taste

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Arrange chicken in one layer in large baking dish. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions, peppers, garlic and mushrooms. Sauté over medium heat until softened.
Stir in the remaining ingredients.
Cool slightly before pouring over chicken. Cover loosely with foil. Bake in preheated oven 1½ hours or until no red juices appear when chicken is pierced with a sharp knife.
Cool, wrap and freeze.
Doc’s ‘Dump and Mix’ Vegetarian Chili Pie (Pareve)
An updated version of Dr. Walter Hofman’s prize-winning chili.
Serves 8-10
Cook’s Tips:
*Personalize: Add dried cranberries, grated tart apple or even a spoonful of creamy peanut butter, if desired.
*Pepperidge Farm puff-pastry sheets are OU pareve.
*Keep those kitchen shears handy. Snip cilantro, parsley or any herbs.

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ cup diced onion
1 can (14½ ounces) diced tomatoes, Italian style
1 can (15½ ounces) great Northern white beans
1 can (15½ ounces) red kidney beans
2 cups bottled Bloody Mary mix
1 package (1.25 ounces) Tex-Mex chili seasoning
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon snipped cilantro or parsley
1 package (12 ounces) veggie ground round
1 sheet prepared puff pastry

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
Add onion. Sauté until soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Do not brown.
Add all remaining ingredients, except pastry, crumbling the ground round. Stir and bring to simmer.
Transfer to a 9×12-inch baking dish. Cool slightly.
Cut the pastry into 1-inch strips. Arrange in a loose lattice pattern on top of chili.
Bake in preheated oven until chili is bubbly and pastry is golden, 25 to 30 minutes.
Cool completely before wrapping, labeling and freezing.

Vegetable Frittata with Tomatoes and Basil (Pareve)
This can otherwise be known as a Sephardic kugel.
Serves 6
Cook’s Tips:
*1 large baked potato yields about 1 cup mashed.

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup diced onion
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables
1 cup pareve mashed potato
1 tablespoon snipped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried
½ teaspoon salt
3-4 grinds black pepper
6 eggs, lightly beaten
8-10 cherry tomatoes, quartered
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spray an 8-inch-square baking dish with nonstick vegetable spray.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and mixed vegetables. Cook over medium heat until vegetables are tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.
Add the potato, basil and salt and pepper. Mix well.
Whisk in the eggs until combined with veggies. Transfer mixture into prepared baking dish. Arrange tomato on top, skin-side up.
Bake in preheated oven 25 minutes or until firm in center.
Cool completely, wrap and freeze.
New Homestyle Meatloaf (Meat)Serves 6-8
Instead of all beef, the combination of turkey and beef make for a moist, lower-calorie loaf.
Hard-cooked eggs in center, boost protein, look attractive when sliced thickly.

Cook’s Tips:
*21 Seasoning is available from Trader Joe’s. Eliminates measuring out half a dozen seasonings.
*Chili sauce may be substituted for ketchup.
*Keep a supply of latex gloves handy to mix items like meatloaf or to toss a big salad.

Ingredients:
¾ pound ground beef
¾ pound ground turkey
1 cup matzo meal
¼ cup seltzer water
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons 21 Seasoning
½ cup ketchup, divided
2 hard-cooked eggs, shells removed

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, thoroughly mix the beef, turkey, matzo meal, seltzer water, beaten egg, Worcestershire sauce, seasoning and ¼ cup ketchup.
Press half the mixture into a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan.
Place the hard-cooked eggs, end to end, on top. Carefully press the remaining meat mixture on top. Spread the remaining ¼ cup ketchup over top.
Bake in preheated oven, uncovered, for 65 minutes or until juices run clear when pierced with a knife.
Cool completely before wrapping, labeling and freezing.
‘Gesundheit Kuchen’ (Dairy)
A Hofman family favorite, this “blessing” cake recipe was brought over by German Jews in the early 1900s. Rich and moist, it was served at a bris, engagement party and other celebrations.
Serves 15-18
Cook’s Tips:
*Cream cheese no longer comes in 3-ounce packages. Use an 8-ounce package, plus a rounded tablespoon of cream cheese.
*Wondra flour works well. It’s OU pareve. Or sift all-purpose flour before adding.
*No need for a tabletop electric mixer. An electric hand mixer is all that’s needed.

Ingredients:
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
9 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1½ cups sugar
4 eggs
2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking powder
Powdered sugar to sprinkle

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spray a 10-inch Bundt pan with nonstick vegetable spray.
In a large mixing bowl, beat butter, cream cheese and sugar until pale and fluffy, 1-2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, with 1 tablespoon of the flour to prevent curdling, beating after each addition.
Add vanilla, baking powder and remaining flour, ½ cup at a time, beating well between each addition. Spoon batter into prepared Bundt pan.
Bake in preheated oven until cake is golden and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Cool 5 minutes in pan.
Loosen edges with a round-bladed knife before turning onto a wire rack to cool. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Wrap, label and freeze.

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Yapchik: oven-cooked ‘Hungarian cholent’

Yapchik: oven-cooked ‘Hungarian cholent’

Posted on 31 October 2019 by admin

Photo: Emanuelle Lee
Yapchik is the ultimate comfort food.

By Emanuelle Lee
Yapchik is made up of two layers of golden, crispy potato cake — very similar to a kugel — that sandwich a layer of meat. As the fall days get colder, it will welcome you and your guests home like a hug, and warm you up from the inside out. Yapchik has been referred to as a “Hungarian cholent” because it is traditionally cooked in the oven overnight and, while my recipe is a faster version, I have included instructions below for how to do this.
Developing this recipe made me feel closer to the Hungarian grandfather I never knew and brought back memories of the cooking my paternal grandmother spoiled me with as a kid. She celebrated family by always making sure each family member’s favorite dish was available to them — it’s amazing to think of how much work she put into every family meal.
Her cooking methods were unorthodox. Like most Jewish grandmothers, she had an innate sense of what her food needed, despite having no recipe or measurement in sight. I like the idea that my two grandparents came from different sides of the world — from Hungary and Britain — who would have dined on much different cuisines and would have been able to connect over the flavors of this hybrid dish. I think of them both as the yapchik bubbles and crisps, filling the air of my little apartment with its hearty aroma.
Ingredients:
2 medium white onions, very finely chopped
8 large russet potatoes
1 pound flanken steak, cut into small cubes
6 eggs
¾ cup plus 3 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup water
1 tablespoon Telma onion soup powder (optional)
Salt
Black pepper
Directions:

  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Season the meat with a pinch of salt and pepper. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large pan and sear the meat on all sides. Set aside and leave to cool slightly. This stage is optional but adds a lot of flavor to the dish.
  3. Peel the potatoes and shred them with the larger side of a grater or on the grate blade of a food processor.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, ¾ cup olive oil, water and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Add the grated potato, finely chopped onions, onion soup powder and seared meat. Mix well.
  5. Pour the mixture into an oval or rectangular baking dish (approximately 9 by 12 inches).
  6. Bake for 3 hours uncovered.
  7. For the overnight version: Repeat steps 1-5. Bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes uncovered, then reduce the temperature to 190 degrees and tightly cover the dish with aluminum foil. Bake for another 6-8 hours. If you want the top to be crispy, bake uncovered for the last hour of baking.
    This recipe originally appeared on The Nosher.

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Why you should cook chicken soup in the oven

Why you should cook chicken soup in the oven

Posted on 31 October 2019 by admin

Photo: Rachel Myerson
Matzo ball soup, fresh from the oven.

By Rachel Myerson
My mom serves matzo ball soup every Friday night (#momgoals), and she’s always made it in the oven. When I left home and found myself without my weekly fix, I called her for the recipe and followed suit. I didn’t realize that this was unusual until I was well into my 20s — sure, I’d never heard of anyone doing the same, but the soup was so great I didn’t stop to question it.
As I began research for this article, I understood just how unusual our method is. While there are numerous recipes that call for roasting the chicken before adding it to the stock and boiling on the stove, there are very few that cook the entire soup in the oven. In fact, my mom doesn’t even know the original source of this method — only that my grandma did the same. The recipe has never been written down, just passed down the generations by word-of-mouth, so its inception will always remain a mystery.
If this is your first time coming across oven-cooked chicken soup, allow me to introduce you. It is superior for four main reasons:
It gives the soup a rounded, distinct depth of flavor, a sort of stew-like back note that is oh so comforting.
It gives the soup an incredible bronze color that looks so tempting and reflects the complexity of its taste.
It’s so easy! You just stick it in the oven and forget about it until it’s done.
The oven ensures even cooking at a constant temperature, and because it’s so low (300 degrees) the chicken won’t get dry — even the breast, as it essentially poaches.
Also, the vegetables in the soup (specifically carrots and rutabaga) make for great baby food when cooked this way — they’re soft enough to mush and infused with all that Jewish penicillin goodness. I’m convinced that this is the reason I rarely got sick as a kid.
This method will undoubtedly add something new to your go-to chicken soup but, of course, the results will only be as good as your recipe. To ensure success, make sure you follow these tips:
Begin the recipe on the stove — just until the soup has come to a boil and you’ve had a chance to skim off any scum that floats to the top (about 30 minutes).
Cook at 300 degrees for five hours. Don’t skimp — it needs time to develop the flavor.
If serving matzo balls, cook them in the soup at a simmer just before serving.
Note: A crockpot is NOT an oven substitute — I tried it once and it was nowhere near as good.
If you want to recreate my soup exactly (which is basically my mom’s recipe simplified slightly to accommodate for my lazier cooking habits), follow the recipe below.
Ingredients:
2 large leeks
7 carrots, peeled
2 onions (leave skins on if you’re lazy, though my mother never would)
2 sticks of celery
1 rutabaga, peeled
1 chicken (skin off if you don’t like fat floating on top of your soup – though I personally love it)
2 cartons of chicken stock plus 1+ quart water
Salt, according to how salty your stock is
Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Place all ingredients into a large heavy-bottomed pan or Dutch oven. Ensure there’s enough liquid to cover — top with more water if necessary.
  3. Bring to a boil uncovered on the stove, skimming any scum off the top. After 30 minutes, cover and place into oven. Cook for five hours.
  4. Once cooled, strain the soup. Discard the celery. Shred the chicken breast and cut the carrots into thick slices, then add back into the soup. Either add the leeks and rutabaga back into the soup or squeeze them through a fine strainer to release their juice, then discard the remaining pulp.
    Note: If you refrigerate the soup overnight, the fat will solidify on top, which makes it easy to remove — if you choose to. I usually do, then use it to make matzo balls. Serves 10.
    This recipe originally appeared on The Nosher.

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Special ways to enjoy apples for the New Year

Special ways to enjoy apples for the New Year

Posted on 25 September 2019 by admin

Photo: Dave Carlin
Bukharan Chicken Palov
A sweet way to celebrate Rosh Hashanah

By Tina Wasserman
Apples and honey. The words are bound together like peanut butter and jelly and are overflowing with memories. Ask Jewish pre-schoolers what these words bring to mind, and they will shout out gleefully, “Rosh Hashanah!” In the Ashkenazi world, dipping a sliced apple in honey, and in the Sephardi world, eating a sweet apple conserve with bread are universal traditions that express our hope for a sweet and fruitful year. These apple traditions are not based on law or dictates, but rather, are based on customs. Jewish customs often originate as a way of reinforcing Jewish identity and history, and serve to bind Jews throughout the Diaspora to their heritage and homeland. The question is, why apples and honey?
Most associate the apple with Adam and Eve’s mishap in the Garden of Eden, though the Bible never states what fruit was picked from the Tree of Knowledge. However, apples are most often used as a metaphor for affection and association with God.
In Solomon’s “Song of Songs,” the Jewish people are compared to an apple: “As the apple is rare and unique among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved (Israel) amongst the maidens (nations) of the world.” In medieval times, apples were considered so special, that prayers were etched into the skin of the apple before it was eaten. Could this have lead to the custom of using the apple as a symbol of our “wishes” for a fruitful year? Even the Zohar, a 13th-century Jewish mystical text of Kabbalistic writings, states that beauty “diffuses itself in the world as an apple,” and God represented beauty.
May all of you experience a year filled with good health, peace, prosperity and contentment.
Apple Raisin Noodle Kugel
Kugels are part of the Italian and Eastern European Jewish culinary repertoire. This most likely had a great deal to do with the spice trade route between Europe, the Mediterranean and the Far East, where noodles were consumed. Because the following recipe is made with pareve margarine, it can be served with meat, according to Jewish dietary law. It is equally good with pears during the rest of the year.
12 ounces extra-wide egg noodles
½ stick pareve margarine or coconut oil
2 (3.9-ounce) cups unsweetened applesauce or pear/applesauce
4 large eggs (or 3 eggs and 2 egg whites)
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ teaspoons cinnamon
Generous pinch of nutmeg
2/3 cup dark raisins
3 Gala or Jonagolds apples, or fresh D’Anjou pears, pared, cored and sliced into thin semicircles
Additional cinnamon and sugar for topping
Additional margarine or oil spray for topping

  1. Grease a 13×9-inch pan with margarine. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and place in a large mixing bowl with the ½ stick margarine and the applesauce. Stir gently to combine, and allow the margarine to melt.
  3. In a 1-quart bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add this blended mixture to the noodles along with the raisins and sliced fresh fruit. Mix gently but thoroughly and pour into the prepared pan.
  4. Lightly grease the shiny side of a sheet of foil with margarine or spray and then cover the casserole, greased side down.
  5. Bake for 45 minutes and then uncover, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Spray lightly with cooking oil or dot with margarine and return to the oven for 15 minutes more or until lightly golden. Let kugel sit for 10 minutes or so before cutting.

Tina’s Tidbits:
• To cook with apples, you should have a peeler, corer and paring knife. However, if you never want to be intimidated by a recipe that calls for multiple peeled apples, then you should invest in a peel-away, hand-cranked, apple peeler that also can core and slice your apples crosswise. This is not electric, so it is safe for children to use as well.
• Keep a stick of butter or margarine in the freezer for when a recipe calls for “dotting” your dish with fat. Just use a large grater, and grate the frozen fat over the dish to evenly distribute it over the surface.
• Non-cheese kugel should NEVER be assembled in advance. The egg mixture settles, while the top becomes hard and crisp, and the bottom becomes gummy.
• Covering a kugel during part of the baking time helps it stay moist and to “puff” up.
Bukharan Chicken Palov
Bukhara is a region in Uzbekistan, Central Asia, that figured prominently in the spice trade during the Middle Ages. The city was the center for the exchange of western furs and comestibles for the spices and silks from the Orient and India. While it was difficult to travel to, many Jewish traders made their home in this region; that strong Jewish presence was in place until the 20th century. This recipe is traditional for Rosh Hashanah and festive occasions, as fruit and vegetables were often combined in meat dishes.
1½ pounds boneless chicken breasts or thighs
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons corn or peanut oil
1 medium onion, chopped into ½-inch pieces
2 cups coarsely shredded carrots (about 2)
2 apples such as Jonagolds or Gala (if available, substitute quince for 1 apple)
½ cup raisins
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon cinnamon
13/4 cups canned chicken broth
1 cup basmati rice

  1. Remove the fillet from the chicken breasts and lightly pound them to be ¼ to ½ inch thick. Lightly season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  2. Heat a large skillet for 20 seconds. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and heat for 10 seconds. Add the chicken breasts and sauté for 2-3 minutes on each side until lightly golden. Remove to a plate and keep warm.
  3. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the skillet and heat for 10 seconds. Add the onions and sauté until lightly golden.
  4. Add the carrots and apples or apples and quince, and sauté an additional 5 minutes until soft.
  5. Add the raisins and all of the seasonings to the fruit mixture. Add the broth and bring to a boil.
  6. Add the rice and stir to combine.
  7. Reduce the heat to medium; cover the pot and simmer the rice for 20-25 minutes or until rice is tender.
  8. Slice the boneless chicken breasts into ¼-inch slices. Place rice mixture in the center of a serving platter and place the sliced chicken over the rice. Serve.
    Note: You may leave the chicken breasts whole and serve the rice on the side. Another alternative, and a more traditional way, is to slice the chicken before sautéing, then add it to the rice mixture halfway through the allotted cooking time.

Tina’s Tidbits:
• If you want an apple to hold its shape during long cooking times, such as those used for-jams, pies, and crisps, use firm apples like Gala, Granny Smith or Winesap apples.
• Apples should be placed in a bowl of acidulated water (water with some lemon juice added) if they will not be cooked shortly after peeling.
• If you choose to cook the meat with the rice, you are better off with thigh meat, so it will not dry out during the time it takes to cook the rice.
Apple Bismarck
Here is a recipe whose components can be prepared in advance, then popped in the oven when you want to eat it. This could be used for Rosh Hashanah morning, a snack in the middle of the day between your family lunch and dinner, or even for Yom Kippur break-fast, if your family can begin the meal while the pancake cooks.
2 eggs
½ cup milk
½ cup flour
Pinch of nutmeg
Zest of 1/4 orange
1 stick unsalted butter
1 Jonathan or Gala apple
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup apricot preserves
½ teaspoon vanilla
Pinch of cinnamon
2 tablespoons sugar
Powdered sugar for dusting

  1. Prepare the filling by thinly slicing the peeled and cored apple.
  2. Melt the tablespoon of butter in a skillet and add the apples, apricot preserves, vanilla, cinnamon and sugar. Sauté over low heat until the apples begin to give off some of their juices. Continue sautéing over medium heat until the mixture becomes more syrupy. Cover and keep warm while you prepare the pancake OR cover and refrigerate or freeze for days until needed.
  3. To make the pancake, preheat the oven to 475 degrees.
  4. Combine eggs, milk, flour, nutmeg and orange zest in a blender and blend until smooth and well combined.
  5. Place the stick of butter in a 10-inch ovenproof skillet, cast-iron skillet or 2-quart Pyrex pie pan. Place in the oven and heat until the butter is melted.
  6. Immediately add the batter to the hot skillet. Return pan to oven and bake for 12 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and transfer to hot pad or place pancake on a plate.
  7. Reheat apple mixture in the sauté pan or in the microwave (if mixture was made in advance and refrigerated), adding a little water, apple juice or applejack if the mixture is too thick.
  8. Place apples on top of pancake. Dust with powdered sugar and serve.

Tina’s Tidbits:
• Mix your pancake ingredients in a blender, then cover the blender jar and store in the refrigerator. Just before making the pancake, place the blender jar back on the base and turn the blender on for 10 seconds or until the mixture is well combined.

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A Rosh Hashanah recipe from 1 of Israel’s top chefs

A Rosh Hashanah recipe from 1 of Israel’s top chefs

Posted on 25 September 2019 by admin

Submitted Photo

By Jessica Halfin
Rosh Hashanah menus, while traditional and delicious, can also get a little stale year after year. With Israeli food trending across the globe, now is a perfect time to add some authentic Israeli flavors to your holiday.
Here is a sweet whiskey cocktail to start your year off on a sweet and beautiful note.
Check out four more recipes from Israeli chefs at www.tjpnews.com.
Apple and Honey
Whiskey Cocktail
Milk & Honey Whiskey Distillery,
Tel Aviv
It’s definitely the time for Israeli whiskey on the international scene, and Rosh Hashanah is the perfect occasion to treat yourself to a bottle of the first official batches of the stuff. With at least five Israeli whiskey distilleries having popped up in the past few years, the race is on to see which one can produce the best barrels the fastest. The warm climate in Israel actually speeds up the distilling process.
Milk & Honey’s whiskey has a smooth taste, which just happens to be perfect for blending into a sweet apple and honey cocktail.

Ingredients:
1/4 Granny Smith apple, diced
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons honey syrup
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon Calvados (apple brandy)
3 tablespoons Milk & Honey whiskey or other “New Make” whiskey

Directions:

  1. Make honey syrup: Mix 3 parts honey with 1 part hot water and stir thoroughly until liquid unifies. For example: 10 ounces honey and a little more than 3 ounces of hot water. Bottle and keep refrigerated.
  2. In a cocktail shaker, muddle the apple with honey syrup.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients, fill with ice and shake vigorously.
  4. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with an apple slice.
    Jessica Halfin is an American-Israeli baker, gourmet cook, food and culture writer, and all-around foodie. She is the owner and operator of Haifa Street Food Tours, a company that leads custom foodie adventures in Haifa, Israel, where she lives with her husband and three sons.

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German lemon cake recipe stands the test of time

German lemon cake recipe stands the test of time

Posted on 12 September 2019 by admin

Photo: Dave Carlin
German Lemon Tart

By Tina Wasserman
For most of my professional life, I have made it my mission to keep our culinary heritage alive so it will be a connection to our ancestors and the lives they lived that allowed us to live the Jewish lives we live today. I often finish my lectures about the history of Jewish cuisine with a quote from Ben Gurion, “We Jews must never live in the past, but the past must always live within us.”
As we approach the High Holidays, when we assess our lives and remember our ancestors, I would like to tell you a true story about uncovering roots and the non-palpable connections that sometimes arise from these roots.
One of the joys of being on the local board of AJC is the opportunity to meet representatives from countries from all over the world. This summer, I had the pleasure of hosting a Shabbat dinner in my home for three delegates from the Adenauer exchange. This is an exchange through which a group of young German leaders visits three U.S. cities for a study trip in a partnership between AJC and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.
I thought it would be interesting to describe, course by course, the connection between the foods we were eating and the history surrounding their use. Frankly, I thought it was much better to create this menu rather than give them a classic Shabbat dinner starting with chicken soup and gefilte fish. After all, it was Dallas in July and no one wants to eat hot soup! Needless to say, the conversations often centered on food.
My three guests — Melanie, Matthias and Lucas — were all Catholic. Melanie told us that her college career focused on art history but, for some reason, she said she minored in Yiddish studies because she thought the language was interesting. The discussion then progressed to a story about a recipe for a lemon cake.
Melanie promised to send me the recipe and the story about how the cake impacted her life. The following is the letter she sent me and I would like to share it with you. Perhaps it will move you as it did me.
“I had promised to send you the story of my grandmother and the secret of the ‘lemon cake.’ After my high school graduation, I started to study in Düsseldorf the history of art, antique history and yiddistic. The idea behind it was to work after my magister in a Jewish Museum. In 1990, many Jewish museums were founded in Germany.
“My grandmother lived with us in a small village near Düsseldorf at that time. She had sold her house in Hamburg in 1986 or 1987 to be near to her family. Her husband had already died in the early 1960s. My grandmother carried a closely guarded secret that no one beside her husband knew. Even though she took great interest in my plans, she remained silent.
‘I went for an internship to the Jewish Museum Franken to Fürth (Bavaria) in 2000. The museum is specialized in Jewish cultural heritage of the region. The collection consists of Judaica, items of daily use, Hebrew prints, manuscripts and postcards. The Jewish community in Fürth was once considered the ‘Franconian Jerusalem’ and was one of the spiritual capitals of European Jewry in the 18th century. In the 19th century, Jewish citizens shaped the economic life of the city. After the end of the World War II, nothing was left of the 400-year successful story of the community. In 1933, just under 2,000 Jews lived in Fürth. Only 20 of them survived the Nazi regime.
“The Museum has a small coffee shop where visitors could get beverage, traditional Jewish bakery and kosher sweets. They offered a ‘lemon cake’ according to an old recipe, which was handed down to a handwritten book from the 1890s. The lemon cake has a filling of almonds and lemon juice. It is very tasty. I remembered a cake that my grandmother had baked when I was a small child, which was very similar to this one. So I decided to copy the recipe and showed to my grandmother.
“I can remember very well in the afternoon in 2000 when I showed her the recipe. It was the day she told us her secret. As she held the recipe in her hands and read it, she said: ‘That is the way my mother did.’ It was the first time after 67 years she broke her silence.
“Here is the story: Her mother was born in Thuringia. Her father’s last name was ‘Liebeskind.’ And they were Jewish (I found their names in a register of a small parish near Jena). Her first marriage was with a Protestant. He was a baker of the parish. After his death, she got married again. So she got the name ‘Lieb.’ But he also died after the birth of Alfred, the youngest brother of my grandmother. Because of the death of her husband, and father of her three children, the financial situation of the family was very bad. As I know, her brother migrated to Wisconsin in 1890s. So my great-grandmother decided to follow her brother ‘Liebeskind.’ She took her kids and all her belongings and set off. Her first stop was Hamburg. Here she had to stay for a while, because money was tight. In 1914, shortly before World War I, she had the money for the transfer from Hamburg to New York. She bought the tickets, but the passage did not happen anymore.
“My grandmother, Frida Melanie Lieb, was born in 1906 near the city of Jena. I know that she worked as a nurse. When it became difficult for Jews in Germany to practice their profession, she worked as a nanny for a Jewish family who migrated to the U.S. in the 1930s. They wanted to take her with them, but she remained in Germany — maybe because of love, or more realistic is she was afraid of the dangerous escape over Switzerland and Italy.
“In the meantime, her sister had married an official in the Hamburg Senate Department. This man helped my grandmother to correct her papers. So nothing was in the way for her marriage with Paul Otto Meyer in 1933. She survived under the protection of the Meyers. Her younger brother was less fortunate. He was imprisoned and forced into an ‘Arbeitslager’ (forced labor camp) in the docks of Hamburg harbor. Nobody knows what happened to him. The reason was that the sisters were afraid that someone could expose them as Jews.
“My grandmother died in 2002, two years after her revelation. During my stay in Fürth, I went to the archives of the churches in Jena region to verify the dates and to learn more about my family background. It is a mystery that I was interested in studying Yiddish without the knowledge of the history of my father’s family. The same applies to the recipe of the lemon cake which I have attached.
“Once again, the journey with the AJC was both a privilege and a pleasure. I enjoyed the evening in your house. Many thanks for your help. I am looking forward to seeing you again to continue the dialogue.”
The dialogue continues…
May the New Year be a time to recall the many positive memories of your ancestors and may these be the foundation upon which you build your family’s traditions this holiday and for all the days to come.
The following is the recipe for the lemon cake. I changed the amounts to cups and spoons from grams and added a little bit of water to better hold the dough together. This cake is easily made with commercially ground almond flour. It is like a marzipan but more coarse and lemony rather than having a strong almond taste. In the European tradition, this recipe is not overly sweet and the dough is dense, but I wanted to keep that density for authenticity.
Here is the recipe in its original format:
Lemon Cake
(Original recipe —
measurements in grams)
Ingredients:
80g sugar
160g wheat flour (type 405)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg (medium size)
Filling:
250g ground almonds
150g sugar
4 lemons (peel, juice and pulp)
Egg yolk

Preparation:
Butter the springform and sprinkle with matzo meal.
Knead the dough by hand and then keep some of the dough for the rim and the grid. let it cool.
Then, the dough is rolled out and placed in the springform, making sure that the rim is pressed well.
The filling is easy to stir and then spread on the dough.
Then also roll out the remaining dough and cut into strips about 1 centimeter wide with a dough wheel.
Then, give the upper rim a grid over the whole cake surface.
Finally, the grid and the visible rim are painted with egg yolk.
The oven must not be preheated and the baking process takes 30 to 40 minutes.
Important: No baking either with large top or with intensive bottom heat.

Here is the recipe that I created from these ingredients and instructions. It’s a good lesson in how modern recipes are created from heirloom recipes. Enjoy!
German Lemon Tart
(adapted recipe)
Crust:
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
11/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons water, or more if needed
½ teaspoon vanilla extract (optional-more for Western tastes)
1 egg
Filling:
21/3 cups ground almond meal
¾ cup sugar
Zest and juice from 3 large lemons (about ¾ cup juice)
1 egg yolk for glazing the cake
Coconut oil or cooking spray for greasing pan

  1. Grease a 9-inch springform pan with coconut oil or spray.
  2. Combine all of the dough ingredients in a 2-quart mixing bowl and gently knead with your fingers until the dough forms a ball. If needed, add a small amount of additional water until dough is moist and holds together.
  3. Divide the dough into ¾ and ¼. Cover with plastic wrap and then refrigerate for 20 minutes to let the dough rest.
  4. Roll the larger piece of dough between two sheets of parchment or waxed paper into a circle that is about 1/8 inch thick. Remove one piece of paper and then flip the dough into the pan centering the dough as best you can.
  5. Gently press the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Place pan in the refrigerator while you make the filling.
  6. Combine all of the ingredients for the filling and spread onto the dough in the pan.
  7. Roll out the remaining dough into a rectangle and cut ½-inch strips of dough with a knife or decorative pastry wheel.
  8. Place strips of dough criss-crossed across the filling, pressing the ends into the side rim of dough to seal. Brush with some egg yolk to glaze.
  9. Place the cake pan into a cold oven and then turn the temperature to 350 degrees.
  10. Bake the cake for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown.
    Cake may be served warm or at room temperature.

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Making the best use of end-of-summer produce

Making the best use of end-of-summer produce

Posted on 22 August 2019 by admin

Photo: Dave Carlin
Fresh Corn Salad with Basil

By Tina Wasserman
I’m on vacation. Don’t hate me, but last night the temperature went down to 56 degrees and with the windows open, I was cold. I think I just earned another Al Heit on Yom Kippur.
Produce is abundant this time of year and I am actually missing the first edible crop of figs from my tree. This year is different, possibly because of all the rain or warmer weather. So I started to think of my favorite recipes using the bounty of summer. Enjoy and soon I will be back to shvitz with you too.
I first had fresh corn salad like this when Rabbi Nancy Kasten served it to us at Water’s Edge in the Berkshires. It tastes great wherever you eat it and uses two of my favorite summer produce items.
Fresh Corn Salad with Basil
5 ears of corn
½ cup finely diced red onion
1½ tablespoons balsamic or rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper (15 grinds)
1/3 cup chiffonade basil leaves

  1. Using 2-3 ears of corn at a time, microwave the corn in their husks for 3 minutes each in two batches. Set aside to cool. Corn will continue to steam in the husk.
  2. When it is cool enough to handle, cut the corn off the cob using a sharp knife held at a 45-degree angle to the cob.
  3. Mix with the remaining ingredients.

Tina’s Tidbits:
• The sugar in corn begins to turn to starch as soon as it is picked so use the corn soon after you buy it.
• Another way to cook corn (which is especially good if corn is older) is to shuck corn and then boil in water that has had 2 tablespoons of sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt and ¼ cup milk (optional) added to it. Boil for 3 minutes. Drain and place in cold water to which 8 ice cubes have been added.

The aforementioned fig tree (which, by the way was a Hanukkah gift from my children eight years ago) did give me figs this year before I left and every morning I would go out and pick some from the tree before the birds and squirrels had brunch. Here is the quickest way to enjoy fresh figs short of just popping them in your mouth.
Fresh Figs with Goat Cheese and Honey
12 Calmyrna or Brown Turkey figs, cut in half lengthwise
4 ounces good-quality chèvre goat cheese
3 -4 tablespoons wildflower or clover honey
French bread or crackers (optional)

  1. Place figs on a plate, cut side up.
  2. Spread some of the goat cheese on each fig.
  3. Drizzle with some honey and serve.

Tina’s Tidbits:
• Some fig trivia: Calmyrna figs are actually a variety of fig that originated in Smyrna, Turkey, and then were cultivated in California; hence, its name.
• Mission figs got their name because the Spanish priests who settled in California planted numerous fig trees around their missions.

Watermelon Agua Fresca
Something a little different to cool you off this summer—and make you care less about the heat if you add the alcohol! This is my homage to the hot nights in the Middle East, where rosewater adds a wonderful taste to many foods. Enjoy!
1/4 pound seedless watermelon, cubed (approximately 7 cups)
1 cup sugar
½ cup water
1 teaspoon rosewater
Gin or vodka (optional)
Mint for garnish

  1. Place watermelon cubes in a blender container and blend until mixture is smooth. Place in a clean jar and refrigerate until cold.
  2. Combine the sugar and water in a 1-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring only once to combine the sugar and water.
  3. When mixture is clear, remove from heat. Stir in rosewater and place syrup in a clean jar and refrigerate until needed.
  4. To make a drink, re-stir watermelon puree and pour 1 cup of puree into a 12-ounce glass.
  5. Add 4-5 tablespoons of syrup, depending on sweetness of melon, and stir well.
    Add ice cubes and an optional jigger of gin or vodka.
    Garnish with mint and serve with a straw.
    Serves 4

Tina’s Tidbits:
• Simple syrup can be made in advance and kept in the refrigerator for weeks. Added to fruit salad or drizzled over sorbet, it adds a lovely touch of roses to your dish.

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Whipping up a Father’s Day fiesta

Whipping up a Father’s Day fiesta

Posted on 14 June 2019 by admin

Rustic fajita skillet meal with steak and chicken

Cocktails to dessert —and in between, fajitas, Margaritas, pronto!

By Tina Wasserman
Father’s Day is synonymous with grilling, but Dad doesn’t have to do the cooking that day. He should be sitting back, enjoying friends and family, and drinking a cold Margarita or beer. So, here I am going to give you all the tools and tidbits to make a great fajita dinner.
Traditionally, fajitas are a Southwestern/Mexican peasant food made from a cheap, but flavorful, cut of meat.The fajita meat is skirt steak, and skirt steak is the diaphragm muscle (which lies between the abdomen and chest cavity). It’s a long, flat piece of meat that’s flavorful but rather tough. Since the diaphragm is located across the belly of the cow, the cut of meat is called “fajita,” which means belt.
Growing up in New York, skirt steak was referred to as “Romanian Tenderloin.” But one thing skirt steak isn’t, is tender! The trick to making this cut a wonderful addition to your menu is to make sure you marinate the meat to tenderize it a little, and then you must slice it against the grain before serving. This task is actually quite easy, because the skirt steak is a very flat, rectangular piece of meat with a definite muscular grain going crosswise. Slicing the meat at a 45-degree angle will break the sinews and provide a much more tender chew. If you want to taste skirt steak as Romanian Tenderloin smothered with garlic, you’ll have to go to New York, where it is often served with a syrup jar filled with rendered chicken fat to pour on your steak and mashed potatoes with gribben — don’t ask!
Skirt steak is very popular in Japan, and for years a very high percentage of the U.S. supply was shipped there. As a result, it is not readily available in all markets, and when it is available, it’s not so cheap anymore (especially if it’s kosher meat). Other cuts of beef can be substituted, but it will not have the same texture or flavor, and of course, you can make chicken fajitas or vegetarian ones as well.
Fajitas
Many recipes are available for fajita marinades. My recipe uses the fresh flavors of Southwestern cooking, eliminating overbearing elements. Many marinades for fajitas, both homemade and store bought, use soy sauce. Avoid these products if you don’t want your finished product to taste more Teriyaki than Southwest. I prefer to use Worcestershire sauce for that additional “kick.”
11/2 pounds skirt steak or boneless chicken breast
¼ cup peanut or corn oil
3-4 cloves garlic, finely minced
Juice of 1 lime
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste (omit salt if using kosher meat)
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon ground cumin or to taste
Flour tortillas
Pico de Gallo (see recipe)
Guacamole (see recipe)

  1. Marinate the steaks or chicken breast in the oil, garlic, lime juice and seasonings, at least 4 hours or overnight. If it’s 4 hours or less, marinate at room temperature, otherwise refrigerate.
  2. A half-hour before cooking, start your grill. Soak 1/2 cup of mesquite chips in water.
  3. 15 minutes before cooking, add the mesquite chips to the fire.
    *See Tidbits
  4. Grill meat over a hot fire 3-5 minutes per side, or until medium-rare.
  5. Slice into thin strips on the diagonal and serve on flour tortillas with the Pico de Gallo and guacamole.

Tina’s Tidbits:
• The most important thing to remember when making fajitas is never buy meat that is pre-sliced. Your meat needs to be grilled whole and then sliced to preserve its flavor and moisture content. Besides, grilling little slivers of meat is a daunting task and will feed the fire gods many little morsels as you are trying to turn and retrieve the pieces off your grill grate!
• Never marinate beef and chicken in the same bowl. The flavor and color of the meat will alter the taste and color of the chicken.
• If your grill doesn’t have a wood chip pan or smoker box, place the soaked chips in a foil packet and punch holes in it to let out the smoke. Place in the far corner of your grill and proceed with the recipe. Remove when grill is cold and discard.
Portobello Mushroom Fajitas
Sometimes you need a vegetarian option that is just as meaty and delicious. Here is the answer you will love that can be eaten alone or added to the meat in your tortilla.
4 portobello mushroom caps, stems cut flush with caps
1/2 cup beer
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  1. Rinse and pat dry the mushrooms. Scrape out the fins on the underside of the mushroom and discard.
  2. Combine the remaining ingredients in a shallow, non-reactive bowl and marinate the mushrooms for 15 minutes to 1/2 hour.
  3. Grill over hot coals for 4-5 minutes starting with cap side down and turning halfway through cooking time.
  4. Slice into 1/4-inch strips. Serve as above with accompaniments.

Tina’s Tidbits:
• Removing the fins from the portobello prevents the mushroom from bleeding black into your dish. This is especially important when you are mixing these mushrooms into a casserole or rice dish.
Fresh Pico de Gallo
If pressed for time, you can always buy premade pico in local supermarkets, but it will not taste as fresh and vibrant.
1 pound red ripe tomatoes
½ cup finely chopped onion
½ small can of chopped green chilies
1 finely chopped jalapeno pepper (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

  1. Seed the tomatoes and chop into 1/2-inch cubes. Combine with the remaining ingredients and allow to sit for 1/2 hour before serving.

Tina’s Tidbits:
• To seed a tomato, cut in half horizontally. Hold tomato half by the skin and gently squeeze it over the sink. Give a downward shake and all the seeds should fall out.
• It is much easier to cut a tomato with a serrated knife and from the inside, rather than the skin side.
• Pico de Gallo means “comb of the rooster.” Care should be taken to cut the tomato and onion in perfect dice, as they will be visible in this uncooked salsa.
Guacamole
I know, it’s dangerous teaching guacamole in the Southwest, but here’s a recipe for those who generally buy the ready-made version.
2 ripe avocados
Juice of 1 lime or lemon
¼ cup canned Rotel tomatoes or picante sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 or more cloves of garlic, finely minced (or garlic powder)
½ cup finely chopped onion

  1. Mash the avocados, then stir in the remaining ingredients. Store with the avocado pit in the mixture to prevent browning.

Tina’s Tidbits:
• Ideally, the avocado will be ripe when you buy it. If the little step piece comes out easily, then it is ripe.
• If avocados are not ripe enough, put them in a paper bag on your counter and within two days they will be perfect!
Pralines
These are the hard, crunchy variety that you find at Mexican restaurants, rather than the soft, chewy kind.
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups pecan halves

  1. Combine the sugars, butter, milk and corn syrup in a heavy 2-quart saucepan and cook at a low boil for 15-20 minutes. Stir constantly.
  2. Cook the mixture until it forms a soft ball when a small amount is dropped into a glass of water that contains a few ice cubes to make it very cold.
  3. Add the vanilla and stir to combine.
  4. Add the pecans and remove from the heat. Stir to coat the pecans.
    Pour the mixture by spoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet or parchment paper and allow to cool.

Tina’s Tidbits:
• Stirring a sugar mixture while it is boiling creates a crystalline structure when it cools. This is why instructions often tell you to never stir fudge while it’s cooking if you want it to be very smooth.
Frozen Margaritas
1 cup tequila
½ cup Grand Marnier or Triple Sec
1 6-ounce can frozen limeade

  1. Place all of the ingredients in a blender container and add ice cubes to fill the container. Blend until thick and smooth. Serve in salt-rimmed glasses if desired.

Tina’s Tidbits:
• If you really want your Margarita to be blue, try adding Blue Curacao instead of Grand Marnier.

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Dads and kids: Easy-to-make Mother’s Day recipes

Dads and kids: Easy-to-make Mother’s Day recipes

Posted on 09 May 2019 by admin

Photo: Dave Carlin
Challah French Toast

By Tina Wasserman

Mother’s Day is upon us and there is no mother alive who wouldn’t prefer a handmade gift from her child to a store-bought one (that’s Dad’s department) The most iconic treat for Mom is being served breakfast that she didn’t make (and maybe even served in bed).
The problem with this tradition is it often requires a lot of work in the morning, and if one has young children, this is almost impossible to achieve unless you are looking at coffee and a bagel.
The following recipes are delicious, impressive and can all be assembled at the very last minute if some preparation has been done the day before. All breakfast categories are covered, so make your choice. But, don’t just make these recipes for Mom. Enjoy them anytime you want for yourself or your company.
Happy Mother’s Day to all!
Challah French Toast
This recipe takes basic French toast to new heights. If you start out with rich challah bread, how can you go wrong? Children of all ages like to make French toast. It requires few utensils, and short attention spans are no problem. Even better: Moms will love it. ‬
I use ice cream in this recipe, because it is more likely that you have a container of ice cream in the house than a container of heavy cream or even half-and-half. Plus, children think it’s funny to have ice cream in their breakfast. This recipe can easily be made with milk and can certainly be doubled, which is not a bad idea if you want to serve more than two people. If your challah is homemade, it will absorb more of the custard mixture.
1 egg
Pinch of kosher salt
1 cup premium vanilla ice cream, half-and-half or milk
¼ cup light brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Challah bread, crust included
2 or more tablespoons unsalted butter
Pure maple syrup, powdered sugar or fruit, if desired
1. Combine the egg and a pinch of salt in a 2-quart bowl.
2. Add the ice cream or milk, brown sugar, cinnamon and vanilla to the bowl and whisk well to combine and fully melt the ice cream, if using. Pour into a 9-inch pie plate or flat-bottom bowl. Set aside while you prepare the bread.
3. Cut the bread into four ¾-inch slices. If desired, use a cookie cutter to cut designs from the center of the slices (heart shape would be perfect for Mommy).
4. Place 2 bread slices or shapes in the egg/cream mixture. Turn slices over to absorb more egg mixture, but be careful they don’t absorb too much, or they will fall apart when transferred to skillet.
Heat a 10-inch skillet over medium heat for 15 seconds. Add 2 tablespoons butter to the skillet, and swirl the pan around to melt the butter and coat the bottom.
5. Using a large metal spatula, carefully lift the bread slices from the egg/cream mixture and fry on one side until bottom of bread is golden brown. Turn slices over and continue cooking until the slices are soft, but evenly golden.
6. Remove to a warm plate and continue frying more bread slices or shapes until all the egg/cream mixture is used. Add more butter to empty pan between adding additional slices.
7. Serve with maple syrup, powdered sugar and/or fresh fruit, if desired.
Serves 2-4, depending on size and shape of bread.

Tina’s Tidbits:
• This is an easy, but fancy, way to make French toast. All ages can make this, but very young children MUST be on a sturdy step stool that will bring the stove to their waist height. I like to hold the child by the waist with my left arm and help them add the bread with my right.
• Two-to-4-year-olds might be intimidated by the stove, so you might wind up doing all of the cooking. That’s OK. They helped with the preparation, and will be satisfied.
Tomato Basil Crustless Quiche
Adapted from Joan Nathan
People often ask me where I get my recipes. Do I make them up, copy them or recreate old recipes? The answer is yes to all, except I never “copy” a recipe without revising it and giving credit to the original author.
The following recipe is originally from my dear friend, and fellow member of Les Dames d’Escoffier, Joan Nathan. Joan and I are among five members worldwide who specialize in Jewish cuisine. Joan discovered this recipe in a Parisian bakeshop. I tried the recipe and loved it. However, this required all preparation just before serving. I felt it was undoable for a brunch or breakfast until I figured out how it could be prepared in advance, and assembled just before baking.
This recipe is perfect for children of all ages to make (with adult supervision, of course) and to serve to Mom on her special day.
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing pan
¼ cup whole fresh basil leaves
6 large eggs
¼ cup plain Greek yogurt (any fat content is OK) or Crème Fraiche
1 cup milk
1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese
4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
20 grindings of black pepper or to taste
2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes
1. Wet a piece of parchment paper larger than your 10-inch springform pan. Squeeze the paper to remove most of the liquid, then line your pan on the bottom and partially up the sides. Grease the paper with some olive oil.
2. Place basil leaves in a small cup, and coat with olive oil, letting them soften. Cover and set aside until ready to bake your quiche.
3. Place the eggs, yogurt, milk, goat cheese, Parmesan cheese, flour, salt and pepper in a blender container. Blend mixture until it is smooth. Cover blender container and refrigerate until ready to bake your quiche; overnight is fine.
4. Place the cherry tomatoes in the prepared pan. Re-blend contents of the blender jar, then pour gently over the tomatoes so they stay in one layer. Place the basil leaves throughout the tomatoes.
5. Place the quiche in a cold oven, and then turn the oven on to 350 degrees. Cook the quiche for about 45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean and the quiche starts to turn slightly golden on top. Remove from pan and carefully transfer from paper to a serving dish, or just trim paper so it is not visible. Serve immediately or at room temperature.

Tina’s Tidbits:
• Parchment paper can always be cut to fit a pan, but wetting and crumpling allows you to mold it to the pan and prevents liquids from oozing out the bottom of a springform pan that doesn’t have a tight seal.
• This can be made in a greased, deep, quiche pan and served directly from the baking dish.
• Mixture should not be mixed in a processor. You need a smooth consistency and cheese solids will hydroplane over the blades of a processor. If you don’t have a blender, whisk all of the ingredients together by hand initially, and before you pour into the prepared pan.
Morning Glory Muffins
Mom not a big breakfast eater? Not a lot of time to make and share breakfast? Here’s a perfect muffin that can be assembled in advance, then mixed and baked just before you treat Mom. “Nothing says lovin’ like something from the oven” and it’s much better and healthier when made from scratch!
1½ cups flour
½ cup whole-wheat flour
2 tablespoons wheat germ
1 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup raisins
½ cup sunflower seeds
½ cup shredded coconut
2 large Fuji or Honeycrisp apples, grated with the skin
3 eggs
2/3 cup oil
1. In a 4-quart bowl, mix together the first 10 ingredients. Cover and set aside until you are ready to bake your muffins.
2. Grate the apples in a processor on the coarse disk, or grate by hand. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use, if not using right away.
3. When you are ready to make your muffins, heat the oven to 350 degrees, and line 18-24 muffin cups with paper liners.
4. In a 2-quart bowl, whisk eggs and the oil until they are completely blended.
5. Add egg mixture to the dry ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula until the mixture is completely moistened. Batter will be stiff, but don’t overmix. Add the grated apples and stir only until thoroughly incorporated.
6. Fill the muffin cups ¾ full and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.
7. Remove the muffins from the tins or turn muffins on their sides to cool.
Yield 24 muffins.

Tina’s Tidbits:
• The apple skin adds nutrients to the mixture and makes this recipe ideal for children. It saves time, as peeling isn’t necessary.
• When oil is the fat in a recipe, combining it thoroughly with the eggs — which contain fat — creates an emulsion much like mayonnaise. The result is a moist and light product. When they are not combined thoroughly your cake or muffins are greasy and heavy.

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