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Feeding the soul while keeping the body healthy

Feeding the soul while keeping the body healthy

Posted on 11 April 2019 by admin

Jewish Passover brisket with savory walnut breading sliced and ready to serve

By Deborah Fineblum

(JNS) Sweet gefilte fish with a dollop of eye-watering horseradish. Fluffy matzo balls floating in golden chicken soup, raisin-dotted matzo kugel, tangy stuffed cabbage, crunchy charoset, mile-high spongecake.
This time of year (Passover — or Pesach in Hebrew — begins at sundown Friday, April 19, also the start of Shabbat), you may come upon recipes faded by the years in the handwriting of beloved mothers or grandmothers tucked into old cookbooks or recorded on yellowed index cards.
These, along with the fragrance of the Passover kitchen itself — and the first taste of matzo smeared with horseradish and charoset — can transport you back to the sights, sounds and tastes of Seder nights a half-century ago.
But when the nostalgia lifts, if you’re not careful, eight days (make that seven in Israel) of these wonderful time-honored Passover foods can also widen your waistline, dull your brain in a perpetual carb-fog and slow your kishkas to a near standstill.
Fortunately, there’s an art to preparing traditional foods that retain the power to pass on to the next generation this beloved family holiday while eating smart, creating a Passover that’s healthful without losing its soul.
Joan Nathan, the Julia Child of Jewish cooking, has updated many of her family’s Passover dishes, including Passover recipes, for her latest, “King Solomon’s Table: A Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World” (Knopf).
“Seder night is a big deal in our family,” says Nathan, who each year hosts as many as 40 guests for the big event and, the week prior, holds a “gefilte-in” for friends to come and cook together.
Beginning with the salad, Nathan adds the key ingredient of creativity to every course, with a special focus on using vegetables to keep the “HQ” (health quotient) high. And she loads her mother’s traditional brisket recipe with plenty of carrots.
Paula Shoyer, author of “The Healthy Jewish Kitchen” (Sterling Epicure, 2017) and “The New Passover Menu” (Sterling Epicure), suggests an easy formula for “lightening up” traditional recipes: Take down the sugar a notch; replace some matzo meal with other kosher-for-Passover options like a mixture of almond and coconut flour; and use coconut oil (look for extra-virgin with a reliable hechsher, kosher symbol) instead of the ever-present margarine.
“And people will find that if they cook from scratch, they’ll avoid all the unhealthy chemicals in the packaged Passover foods — and save money, too,” notes Shoyer. “It only takes a few more minutes to make brownies yourself.” Creating a salad dressing of olive oil and vinegar with spices can help you dodge some of the arguably less healthful oils (peanut and cottonseed among them) long associated with Passover cooking.
Israelis are mad about cauliflower and zucchini, and both of these are spotlighted in Steven Rothfeld’s love letter to Israeli cuisine “Israel Eats” (Gibbs Smith). Note: On Passover Israelis are split between Sephardic tradition, which allows the eating of kitnyot (most notably legumes and rice), and Ashkenazi customs, which consider these things to be not permissible for Passover. (Though in the spirit of what Rothfeld calls “Israeli fusion,” in recent years many Ashkenazim in Israel and elsewhere have opted to spend Passover eating like Sephardim.) Tip to shoppers: You’ll notice that many “Kosher for Passover” products add the word “Kitniyot” somewhere on the package as a warning to consumers whose tradition is to avoid it. (Not sure what’s kitniyot? Arlene Mathes-Scharf of kashrut.com put together this list with the late Rabbi Zuche Blech: https://askcrc.org/item/Passover/186968)
“The best advice I can give for keeping healthy on Passover is to listen to your body,” adds Rothfeld. “Just because it’s a holiday, don’t overeat, and even though it looks amazing, don’t eat it if you’re not hungry.” (Kind of the flip side to the Haggadah notation: “All who are hungry, come and eat.”)
Then there are the folks whose food sensitivities — to gluten, nuts or dairy for instance — make Passover a dietary challenge. When Marcy Goldman’s nut-allergic son longed to eat her charoset, a delicious part of the Seder that calls for nuts, she quickly went to work concocting a version he could safely enjoy. The result? “Paradise Charoset” in her “Newish Jewish Cookbook” (River Heart Press).
Goldman also makes a point of slipping healthful, colorful veggies and fruits into other traditional dishes, creating such treats as her “Three-Level Kugel.”
“You can eat smart over Passover,” she insists. “You don’t have to recycle potatoes, kugels and roast all week. And remember, it only takes one or two Passovers to make your adaptations into your family Passover traditions.”
There is also oat matzo on the market that solves the gluten-free problem (you may need to order them if they’re not available near you), as they’re kosher for making a bracha (“blessing”) over (Note: Not all gluten-free matzos are, just the oat). And those sensitive to nightshades such as white potatoes will have to be vigilant about scouring the labels due to the literally tons of potato starch used in prepared kosher-for-Passover foods.
As for the most common health complaint from Passover — the infamous constipating powers of matzo and its by-products — Nathan says her ancestors were wise enough to build relief right into their traditional holiday recipes. “Our family always serves our krimsel (matzo fritters) with plenty of stewed prunes … even way back then, they understood.”
Joan Nathan’s Favorite Brisket (Meat)
Ingredients:
One 5-pound brisket of beef, shoulder roast of beef, chuck roast, or end of steak
2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 garlic clove, peeled
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 onions, peeled and diced
One 10-ounce can tomatoes, undrained
2 cups red wine
2 stalks celery with the leaves, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1/4 cup chopped parsley
6 to 8 carrots, peeled and sliced on the diagonal

Directions:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Place onions and garlic in a 5-quart to 6-quart casserole. Season brisket with salt and pepper.
In a large skillet, heat oil over high heat and sear brisket until browned, 3-4 minutes on each side.
Place fat-side-up on top of onions. Add tomatoes and their juice, breaking them up with a fork.
Add the wine, celery, bay leaf, thyme and rosemary.
Cover casserole and bake for 3 hours, basting with pan juices every half-hour.
Paula Shoyer’s Chocolate Quinoa Cake
Ingredients for Cake:
¾ cup quinoa
1½ cups water
Nonstick cooking spray
2 tablespoons potato starch
1/3 cup orange juice (from 1 orange)
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons kosher for Passover vanilla extract
¾ cup coconut oil
1½ cups sugar
1 cup dark unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
Fresh raspberries for garnish (optional)

Ingredients for Glaze (Optional):
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 tablespoon sunflower or safflower oil
1 teaspoon kosher-for-Passover vanilla extract

Directions:
Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Place the quinoa and water into a small saucepan, and bring it to a boil over medium heat.
Reduce the heat to low, cover the saucepan, and cook the quinoa for 15 minutes, or until all of the liquid has been absorbed. Set the pan aside. The quinoa may be made 1 day in advance.
Use cooking spray to grease a 12-cup Bundt pan. Sprinkle the potato starch over the greased pan and then shake the pan to remove any excess starch.
Place the quinoa in the bowl of a food processor. Add the orange juice, eggs, vanilla, oil, sugar, cocoa, baking powder and salt, and process until the mixture is very smooth.
Melt the chocolate over a double boiler or place in a medium microwave-safe bowl, putting in a microwave for 45 seconds, stirring and then heating the chocolate for another 30 seconds until melted. Add the chocolate to the quinoa batter and process until well-mixed.
Pour the batter into the prepared Bundt pan and bake it for 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.
Let the cake cool for 10 minutes and then remove it gently from the pan. Let it cool on a wire cooling rack.
To make the glaze, melt the chocolate in a large microwave-safe bowl in the microwave (see above) or over a double boiler. Add the oil and vanilla; whisk well. Let the glaze sit for 5 minutes and then whisk it again. Use a silicone spatula to spread the glaze over the cake.
Garnish with fresh raspberries, if desired.
Marcy Goldman’s Nut-Free Passover Paradise Charoset (Pareve)
Ingredients:
2 cups fresh cranberries
½ cup dried cherries
¼ cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup yellow raisins
2 cups coarsely chopped apples
½ cup sugar
¾ cup water
½ cup water or orange juice
2 tablespoons sweet red wine
½ teaspoon cinnamon

Directions:
Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan.
Over low-medium heat, cook the fruit slowly until the apples soften and the cranberries pop open. Stir, ensuring mixture does not burn on bottom. You may have to lower the heat.
After mixture is cooked down and is thicker, adjust tartness to taste with more orange juice and sugar. If it seems too thick, add a touch more water or orange juice. Cool well. Refrigerate after it cools down.
Serve cold or room temperature. (Some of this is used on the Seder plate; a side dish may be offered with the main meal.)
Makes about 1¾ cups.
Best Matzo Balls (with Olive Oil) by Weekend Cook (Pareve)
From Allrecipes.com
Ingredients:
4 eggs
6 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup club soda
2 tablespoons club soda
½ teaspoon salt
1½ cups matzo meal, or more as needed
4 quarts water

Directions:
Whisk eggs and olive oil in a bowl until combined.
Stir both amounts of club soda and salt into egg mixture.
Mix matzo meal into wet ingredients to form a workable dough; if mixture is too wet, stir in ¼ cup more matzo meal. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Bring water to a boil in a large pot.
Wet your hands and form matzo-ball dough into walnut-size balls. Gently place matzo balls into boiling water.
Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer matzo balls until tender, 25 to 30 minutes.
Note: For firm/hard-middle matzo balls, either reduce the seltzer or add ¼ cup matzo meal.
Stuffed Cabbage from Oratorio in Zichron Ya’acov, as published in Steven Rothfeld’s Israel Eats (Meat)
Ingredients:
1 medium green cabbage
1 cup jasmine rice, rinsed
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 small onion, minced
21 ounces ground lamb
½ cup chopped mint leaves
2 medium tomatoes, grated
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
2 tablespoons chopped dried cranberries
1 teaspoon ras el hanout (a Moroccan spice blend)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 generous cup chicken stock or broth
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 large garlic clove, crushed

Directions:
Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Freeze the cabbage for 24 hours to facilitate separating of leaves.
Defrost cabbage. Separate leaves, trying not to rip them. The more whole leaves, the better.
Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add the rice and simmer for 20 minutes. Drain.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the lamb and sauté until browned and no pink remains, 8 to 10 minutes.
Stir in the blanched rice, mint, tomatoes, pine nuts, cranberries and ras el hanout. Season generously with salt and pepper.
Arrange one-fourth of the cabbage leaves in the bottom of a medium-size Dutch oven or heavy pot. Top with a third of the meat mixture. Cover with another fourth of the cabbage leaves. Top with another third of the meat mixture. Cover with another fourth of the cabbage leaves. Top with the remaining third of the meat mixture. Cover with the remaining fourth of the cabbage leaves.
Pour in the chicken stock and lemon juice. Add the garlic clove; season generously with salt and pepper.
Cover tightly and cook for 1½ hours. Remove the lid from the pot. Cover contents of the pot with a plate, then top the plate with a brick or cans as weight.
Refrigerate overnight. Bring the cabbage cake to room temperature. Cut into slices and serve.
Joan Nathan’s Salmon-Gefilte Fish Mold with Horseradish and Beet Sauce (Pareve)
Makes 15 to 20 slices
Ingredients:
2 pounds salmon fillets
1 pound cod, flounder, rockfish or whitefish
3 medium red onions, peeled and diced (about 2 pounds)
3 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
4 large eggs
4 tablespoons matzo meal
2 large carrots, peeled and grated
4 tablespoons snipped fresh dill, plus more for garnish
1 tablespoon salt, or to taste
2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons sugar parsley, for garnish
Horseradish and beet sauce (see below)

Directions:
Have your fish store grind the fillets or pulse them yourself, one at a time, in a food processor or meat grinder. If using a food processor, pulse the fish in short bursts, being careful not to purée the fish; you want some texture.
Heat the oven to 325 degrees.
Grease a 12-cup Bundt pan and fill a larger pan (such as a large Pyrex dish) with 2 inches of hot water.
In a large pan over medium-high heat, sauté the diced onions in the oil for about 5 minutes, until soft and transparent but not brown. Set aside to cool.
Put the fish, onions, eggs, 2 cups water, matzo meal, carrots, 4 tablespoons dill, salt, pepper, mustard and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer equipped with a flat beater. Beat at medium speed for 10 minutes.
Pour the mixture into the Bundt or tube pan, and then put the pan inside the larger water-filled dish (called a bain-marie). Smooth the top with a spatula. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour or until the center is solid.
Remove the Bundt or tube pan from the water dish; allow the terrine to cool slightly for at least 20 minutes. Slide a long knife around the outer and inner edges of the Bundt or tube pan, then carefully invert the terrine onto a flat serving plate.
Refrigerate for several hours or overnight. If any water accumulates on the serving dish, carefully drain it away before serving.
Slice the terrine as you would a torte, garnished with parsley and dill and served with Horseradish and Beet Sauce (see recipe below).
Horseradish and Beet Sauce (Pareve)
Makes about 4 cups
Ingredients:
3 large beets (about 2 pounds, trimmed but not peeled
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces (about 1 cup) peeled and roughly chopped fresh horseradish root
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Directions:
Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Rub the whole beets with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and wrap in foil. Bake the beets for about an hour or until tender in the center when pierced with a knife. Remove from the oven and allow to cool, and then peel and cut into large chunks.
In the bowl of a food processor, mix the horseradish and the vinegar. Process with the steel blade until finely chopped; do not purée. Add the beets and remaining olive oil. Pulse until the beets are coarsely chopped, but not puréed. Transfer to a bowl and add the salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste.
Adjust the seasoning as needed. Cover and refrigerate for at least a day.
Serve as an accompaniment to the Salmon-Gefilte Fish Mold (see recipe above).
Marcy Goldman’s Three-Level Kugel (Pareve)
Makes 8-10 servings
Broccoli Layer:
1 pound broccoli, cooked, chopped fine
3 eggs
½ cup matzo meal
1½ teaspoon garlic powder
¾ teaspoon salt
3/8 teaspoon pepper
Carrot-Squash Layer:
2 cups carrots, shredded
1 cup butternut squash, cooked and mashed
¼ cup brown sugar
1 egg
1½ cups matzo meal
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup orange juice
Cauliflower Layer:
¼ cup canola oil
½ cup diced onion
1 pound cauliflower, cooked, finely chopped
3 eggs
1 cup matzo meal
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line a 10-inch springform pan with parchment paper (bottom and sides). Spray with nonstick cooking spray. Place pan on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
Prepare first layer by cooking broccoli and then combining with rest of ingredients (for that layer) in a bowl. Spread in springform pan.
For the second layer, in a bowl, blend the carrots, with squash, sugar, egg, matzo meal, salt, cinnamon and orange juice. Gently spread over broccoli layer.
For the third layer, prepare cauliflower. In a small skillet, heat the oil and sauté the onion until lightly cooked and golden. Place with cauliflower in a large bowl and stir in the eggs, matzo meal, salt and pepper. Gently spread this over carrot-squash mixture.
Bake 50-60 minutes or until a skewer inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 15 minutes before serving.

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A delicious way to delete your leavening

A delicious way to delete your leavening

Posted on 28 March 2019 by admin

Photo: Dave Carlin
Ruota Del Faraone (Pharaoh’s Wheels)

By Tina Wasserman

The shelves in the supermarket have been moved around. The shamrocks from St. Patrick’s Day are gone, and bunnies abound. But this time the bunnies are not taking center stage. Passover coincides with Easter weekend, and Passover is big business for the supermarkets that are located in predominantly Jewish areas.
Before you can buy all those Passover items, room needs to be made in your kitchen and some ingredients need to be consumed before matzo meal, potato starch and Passover muffin mixes can fill the shelves. You can do this with some pre-Passover-themed recipes to reduce the bread and pasta in your home.
This idea first came to me when I studied Jewish cooking in Florence, Italy. Italian Jews in that city prepare a storytelling pasta dish the Shabbat before Pesach begins. Sauced pasta noodles are twirled into mounds to represent the waves of the Red Sea, and raisins and pine nuts are dotted throughout the dish to look like Pharaoh’s soldiers and horses drowning in the swirling waters.
Pot roast gravy makes this dish very easy to make, but I have included a recipe for a meat sauce to use when pot roast is not available.
Ruota Del Faraone
(Pharaoh’s Wheels)

½ cup raisins
½ cup pine nuts, toasted
6 ounces turkey sausage, cut into ½-inch rounds, or ground turkey or beef
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons rendered chicken fat (or more oil)
2 large leaves of fresh sage or 1 teaspoon dried sage
4-inch sprig of fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
¼ cup white wine or 1 cup pot roast gravy
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
8 ounces tagliatelle noodles
1 quart water
1 quart chicken broth or 1 quart additional water and 2 Telma chicken bouillon cubes
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon salt
3 tablespoons dry breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon olive oil
1. If raisins are hard, soak them in warm water while you prepare the pasta.
2. If using leftover pot roast and pot roast gravy, skip to step #6.
3. To make meat gravy: Turn the burner on the stove to high and heat a 10-inch skillet for 15 seconds.
4. Add the olive oil and chicken fat to the hot pan, and heat for another 10 seconds. Reduce the heat to medium.
5. Add the herbs and stir once or twice to coat with oil. Add the meat and sauté in pan until meat is no longer pink.
6. Add the wine and cook 1-2 minutes until most of the liquid is absorbed.
7. Meanwhile, in a 4-quart pot, bring chicken broth, water, 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 teaspoon salt to a boil. Cook the noodles according to package directions. When done, reserve ½ cup cooking liquid, then drain noodles in a strainer.
8. Add noodles and reserved cooking liquid to sauce, and gently mix in well. Add drained raisins and pine nuts; gently stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.
9. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 2-quart oval casserole with a little olive oil.
10. Scoop up some noodles into a ladle. Using a fork, twist the noodles into a mound and place it in a casserole dish. Repeat with the remaining noodles until you have lots of mounds that look like waves in the sea.
11. Combine the breadcrumbs with 1 teaspoon of olive oil; sprinkle over the top.
12. Place casserole in the hot oven and bake until breadcrumbs are lightly golden.
Serves 4.

Tina’s Tidbits:
• When frying with chicken fat or butter or margarine, always add oil for part of the fat, to allow frying at a high temperature with minimal splattering.
• Lately raisins have appeared to be very dry, possibly due to a bad raisin crop last year and use of older raisins to meet consumer demand. Soaking in some water or wine will make them more appetizing in dishes.
• Oil is added to pasta water for two reasons: to prevent the pasta from sticking together and absorbing too much of the sauce, and to create surface tension on the water so that the pot won’t boil over (if you haven’t added too much water to the pot)!

Orzo is closely associated with Greece and the Ottoman Empire, but it is actually a form of pasta that, in Italy, means “barley” because of its shape. This recipe can be made with any small pasta, barley or any other grain you want to use up before Pesach. With all the vibrant flavors in this dish, it is amazing how subtle the flavors are in the finished product. Makes a great side for chicken or fish.
Orzo with Dried Cherries

1 cup orzo
¼ teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
2 tablespoons orange juice
Salt to taste
½ tablespoon hazelnut oil
¼ cup dried cherries or raisins
2 tablespoons lightly toasted, coarsely chopped hazelnuts or slivered almonds
1 scallion, thinly sliced

1. Bring 2 quarts salted water to a boil. Add the saffron and orzo, and cook for 7-10 minutes or until orzo is al dente. Rinse under cold water and drain well. Place orzo in a serving bowl.
2. In a small bowl combine orange zest, juice and salt to taste. Whisk the olive oil into the juice mixture until it is incorporated.
3. Toss the dressing with the orzo; add the cherries, almonds and scallion. Serve at room temperature.

Tina’s Tidbits:
• ¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard can be added to the zest and juice before adding the oil to create an emulsion or thick, smooth dressing to coat the pasta.
• Pasta will break down and become soft and mushy if exposed to a high-acid ingredient for a prolonged period, so don’t add the dressing more than a few hours before serving.

Traditionally two challot are served on Friday night, but even one large challah often leaves leftovers. I developed this recipe as a way to use the leftovers, while creating a delicious dessert reminiscent of traditional babka with its crumb topping. Any leftover bread/breads can be used to make this dessert, so it is perfect before Passover cleaning begins (or anytime for that matter!)
Challah Babka Bread Pudding

1 one-pound raisin challah, preferably a few days old
8 ounces Israeli chocolate spread (Crème Chocolate or Nutella)
1 stick unsalted butter or margarine, plus additional for greasing pan
¼ cup light brown sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 ½ cups milk (skim, 2 percent or whole, OK)

Topping:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature, or slightly softened in the microwave
½ cup flour
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
1. Butter a 2-quart oval or rectangular baking dish. Set aside.
2. Slice the challah into 1/2-inch slices.
3. Spread the chocolate filling over each slice of bread, and arrange in the casserole to fit evenly.
4. Melt the butter in a 2-quart bowl in the microwave. Add sugar to the melted butter, and stir to dissolve.
5. Add the eggs and remaining ingredients to the bowl; whisk to combine well.
6. Carefully pour egg/milk mixture over the bread slices. Gently press down on the bread slices to submerge them under the custard. Place a plate or bowl on top of the casserole to weight the challah down. Let sit for 30 minutes while you make the topping.
7. To make the topping, place the butter, flour and sugar in a 1-quart mixing bowl. Squeeze the mixture together with your hands, then fingertips, to evenly combine all ingredients and make a crumble. Spread on top of casserole and then bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 45 minutes or until golden. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Serves 8-12.

Warm Buttered Wine Sauce (Optional)

1 stick of butter (8 tablespoons)
1 cup sugar
1 egg
3 tablespoons Shabbat Concord wine
¼ teaspoon cinnamon

1. Melt butter in a 1-quart saucepan, over moderate heat.
2. Whisk the egg and the sugar together in a 1-quart bowl to a light lemon color.
3. Rapidly whisk some of the hot butter into the egg/sugar mixture, then whisk constantly while pouring the egg mixture into the saucepan.
4. Continue to whisk over moderate heat until the mixture thickens and the butter is completely absorbed into the sauce. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
5. Whisk in the wine and the cinnamon. Pour over warm bread pudding.
NOTE: Sauce may be refrigerated for later use. Slightly rewarm sauce before using.
Tina’s Tidbits:
• This dish can easily be made pareve with the use of coconut milk or oat milk and pareve margarine or coconut oil.
• If using coconut oil, try using the unprocessed variety, which has a subtle coconut taste and adds to the flavors of the dessert.
• If making the sauce, liquor can be substituted for the Concord wine (I just thought it would be fun to have that slight grape taste) and you can eliminate the topping if you wish.

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Tu B’Shevat is nearing, and almonds are budding

Tu B’Shevat is nearing, and almonds are budding

Posted on 10 January 2019 by admin

Photo: Tina Wasserman
Kale, Mango, and Almond Salad with Honey Ginger Dressing

By Tina Wasserman

The temperature was frigid last week, and today it is sunny and in the high 60s. On view from my kitchen window is a large patch of green daffodil stalks playing their annual game of “chicken” with winter.
In Dallas, we always have warmer weather that is interrupted by a week or two of cold weather before spring really appears. Each year, we worry that those daffodils will be destroyed by the cold, and each year, their bright yellow heads show winter who is boss.
In Israel, it is the buds on the almond tree that play “dare” with cold winter weather. When the buds first appear, it is usually four months after Sukkot and time to celebrate the beginning of the spring growing season. This celebration is called Tu B’Shevat, the Jewish Arbor Day.
As children, we were encouraged to give money to JNF to plant trees in Israel, definitely a much-needed purchase in the 1950s to fill in the parched land of the new state. Today, we are encouraged to eat from the seven species of produce mentioned in the Torah. Although not mentioned in Deuteronomy, almonds also figure prominently in this celebration because they are the harbinger of spring.
Almonds are considered to be the oldest cultivated nut, dating back 10,000 years. Some believe that the first documentation of almond cultivation was in the Torah, Numbers 17:23: “…behold the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi had budded, and brought forth buds and bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds.” In truth, only almonds and pistachio nuts are cited in the entire Torah.
Enjoy some of these recipes that incorporate almonds and celebrate the renewal of the land in Israel.
Kale, Mango, and Almond Salad with Honey Ginger Dressing
Kale has gained widespread popularity as a healthy alternative to iceberg or romaine lettuce. A local supermarket started selling a salad that I loved, but it was drenched in dressing, which made the caloric content prohibitive. Here is my delicious salad that you can dress with as much or little dressing as you like, and you can even use peaches or oranges if you don’t want to mess with the mangoes (although they are really worth it).
1 pound fresh kale or 10 ounces baby kale
1 mango
1/3 cup dried sweetened cranberries or cherries
½ cup slivered almonds, roasted
1 ounce candied ginger, about ¼ cup slivered (optional)
Honey Ginger Dressing:
½ cup prepared mayonnaise
2 tablespoons wildflower or clover honey
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar or any light fruit vinegar (apple cider, pear, etc.)
1 tablespoon canola or corn oil
½ teaspoon powdered ginger
1. If using whole kale leaves, pull the leaves off the stems, then layer the leaves on a cutting board. Using a chef’s knife, cut thin strips of kale and place them in a 4-quart mixing bowl. You should have about 12 cups.
2. Carefully cut the mango in half using a 5-inch utility knife or a special mango cutter. Remove the peel and cut the mango into ½-inch cubes. Add the mango to the kale.
3. If using the candied ginger, carefully cut the chunks into slices, then into thin sticks using a paring knife. Add to the kale mixture. Add the roasted almonds, then refrigerate the salad until ready to serve.
4. To make the dressing, place the mayonnaise in a 1-quart mixing bowl. Using a bar whisk, whisk the mayonnaise until it is smooth.
5. Add the remaining ingredients to the mayonnaise and whisk until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.
6. When ready to serve, toss the salad with enough dressing to coat all of the ingredients but not make it soupy.
Serves 6.
NOTE: Cooked chicken, salmon, or grilled tofu can be added to this salad for a main dish.

Tina’s Tidbits:
• Kale is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family and is a relative of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and bok choy. It is grown in Israel and has become very popular because scientists have discovered its importance in promoting good health.
• The mango tree is a distant relative of the cashew and pistachio trees, and its origins lie in southern India. Today, there are hundreds of mango varieties in the world. Shelly, Omer and the very popular Maya mango were developed in Israel over 60 years ago.
Stir-Fried Chicken
in Hoisin Sauce
Not what you expect for Tu B’Shevat? Think again. Jews have had a presence in China and Asia for over one thousand year, and this is a great way to incorporate almonds into your holiday celebration or anytime. This recipe was always a big hit in my cooking classes.
1 pound boneless chicken breast
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon Cream Sherry
1 tablespoon soy sauce
4 tablespoons oil, divided use
1 medium green pepper, cut into ½-inch cubes
8 water chestnuts, cut into quarters
¼ pound fresh mushrooms, cut into ½-inch cubes
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
¼ cup whole roasted almonds
1. Cut chicken into ½-inch cubes.
2. Place chicken in a large bowl and sprinkle with cornstarch. Toss lightly to coat evenly. Pour in the sherry and soy sauce, and toss again to coat well.
3. Place the above ingredients and the remaining ingredients within easy reach.
4. Set a 12-inch wok or 10-inch skillet over high heat for 30 seconds. Pour in a tablespoon of the oil, swirl it about in the pan and heat for another 30 seconds, turning the heat down to moderate if the oil begins to smoke.
5. Immediately add the green peppers, water chestnuts, mushrooms and salt, and stir-fry briskly for 2-3 minutes.
6. Scoop out the vegetables with a slotted spoon and set them on a plate.
7. Pour the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil into the pan, heat almost to the smoking point, and drop in the marinated chicken. Stir-fry over high heat for 2 to 3 minutes until the chicken turns white and firm.
8. Add the hoisin sauce, stir well with the chicken, then add the reserved vegetables. Cook one minute.
9. Add the almonds. Stir to heat them through, then transfer contents of wok to a heated platter and serve at once.

Tina’s Tidbits:
• When stir-frying in a wok, cut all the foods into similar shapes and sizes to facilitate the cooking process.
• Vegetables are often cooked separately from meat because they require a different amount of cooking time. The separation of foods also ensure that the flavor of the vegetables will be distinct from the flavor of the meat, imparting layers of flavors to the dish.
Tuscan Biscotti
If you think that this is your Bubbe’s Mandelbrot, think again — unless Bubbe’s were very hard and dry. This recipe is probably the original form of biscotti that is very dry and very hard…but very good.
Jews were sea traders in the 16th century, and biscotti were popular because twice-baking dried out the biscotti and made them less likely to get moldy or soggy. Did Jewish bakers create biscotti of this type? Hard to say, but since almonds were brought from Western China by sea traders, and since Jewish cooks used almond meal extensively, it is very possible that this is the forerunner of Mandelbrot (almond bread).
3½ cups flour
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup finely ground almonds
½ cup toasted almonds, chopped into large pieces
1 cup sugar
1 cup vegetable oil, preferably corn oil
3 eggs
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
½ tablespoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1. Combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, soda, salt and ground almonds in a 1-quart bowl and set aside.
2. Cream sugar and oil in a 2-quart bowl on high speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, zest, vanilla and almond extract, and mix until thoroughly combined.
3. Stir in flour mixture and mix well. Add the toasted chopped almonds and combine.
4. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Divide dough into four portions. Lightly oil your hands and gently form each portion into a log 10 inches long and 2 inches wide. Place 2 logs on each prepared sheet. Gently shape the soft dough into a uniform log that is now probably 12 inches long.
5. Sprinkle the tops of the loaves with the cinnamon and sugar mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or until edges are golden brown.
6. Remove the loaves from the oven. Let cool for 5 minutes. Slice each loaf crosswise into ½-inch cookies. Place cookies cut side up and bake for another 5 minutes. Turn slices over and bake for another 5 minutes. Cool and then store in airtight container for 2 weeks or freeze.

Tina’s Tidbits:
• The addition of cornstarch gives the cookie a dense, but smoother, consistency.
• Ground almonds and oil make this cookie very hard, which is perfect for dipping into hot coffee or tea.

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Keeping the Shabbat roast chicken tradition alive

Keeping the Shabbat roast chicken tradition alive

Posted on 27 December 2018 by admin

Photo: Ronnie Fein
Roast chicken is a Friday-night staple in Jewish homes.

By Ronnie Fein

There’s no rule that says Jews are required to eat chicken on Shabbat — that is, no rule was ever handed down from a rabbi or written in the Torah. But it is a long-standing practice for many Eastern European Jewish families to serve roast chicken on Friday night.
Why did it become the iconic Shabbat dinner? Probably because meat is considered a luxury, and therefore a fitting centerpiece for the most sacred meal of the week. While chicken may not have the cachet of beef or lamb, maybe that’s the point: It is sumptuous, and yet much more affordable and more widely available than other kinds of meat.
A family in the shtetls might own a cow, but who would ever think to slaughter an entire cow and the precious source of milk and cheese? On the other hand, there were always a few chickens clucking around the yard. Chickens mature and reproduce quickly, assuring an ample supply of eggs and also a plump bird for a Shabbat dinner.
There’s this, too: Chicken is flavorful but mild. It takes to almost any seasoning. It’s hard not to like because you can cook it so many ways. The great Julia Child — who could cook anything — said it was her favorite dinner. “Roast chicken has always been one of life’s great pleasures,” she said.
But how do you make perfect roasted chicken? It is one of those deceptively simple recipes, not elaborate or difficult, and more about what not to do. You can season it the way you like, stuff it or not, baste it or not, make gravy or not — just don’t overcook it. Overcooked chicken is dry and chewy — “a shame,” according to Child.
First, begin with a plump, at least 4-pound, preferably kosher chicken (because they are brined and immensely flavorful). Keep it whole, because that helps keep the meat moist. There is such a thing as a true “roasting chicken” — which is an older, more flavorful bird — but most markets simply sell a whole chicken. It could be a broiler-fryer or a roasting chicken and you simply can’t tell. A good butcher will know the difference between a roasting bird and others, and you can always ask.
Rinse the bird, discard any debris inside the cavity, and remove the package of giblets (which you can cook with the chicken or save for stock).
Next, dry the surface, rub the skin with vegetable oil or olive oil, and season it with spices of your choice (my master recipe keeps the seasoning simple). You can stuff the bird if you wish, but if you do, increase the cooking time. I don’t bother trussing the legs together. That may make finished chicken look better, but it keeps the dark meat from cooking as quickly and the white meat may dry out before the dark is done.
To help keep the skin crispy, use a pan that holds heat well: metal, ceramic or Pyrex, as opposed to disposable aluminum. In addition, place the chicken on a rack. A rack allows all surfaces to be exposed to the dry heat and also prevents the chicken from sitting in its own rendered fat. If you have a vertical poultry roaster, use that.
Start the roasting at 400 (F) degrees, which helps set the skin to proper crispness. Turn the heat down after some initial cooking, otherwise the meat can dry out too quickly.
Basting isn’t necessary; it doesn’t make the meat moister, but it does add flavor. Use whichever basting fluids suit your fancy (stock, wine, fruit juice). Let the bird cook for about 20 minutes before the first basting, so the seasonings will stay on the skin, then baste every 20 minutes or so until about 20 minutes before you expect the bird to be done. Basting after that point will make the skin soggy.
Roasting time for chicken depends on the bird’s weight. I suggest using a meat thermometer to be sure the chicken is fully cooked. Place the thermometer into the thickest part of the inner thigh. The USDA recommends cooking chicken to 165 degrees (F).
To lock in the bird’s delicious natural fluids, let it rest for 15 minutes before you cut it into pieces.

Roast Chicken

For the master roast chicken:
1 whole roasting chicken, 4-6 pounds
1-2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
Salt, black pepper, garlic powder and paprika
1 cup liquid such as stock or juice

For the lemon-oregano roast chicken:
1 whole roasting chicken, 4-6 pounds
1/3 cup lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried oregano)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the Master Recipe:
1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Remove the plastic bag of giblets from inside the bird. Wash the giblets if you want to roast and eat them. Put them in the roasting pan.
3. Wash the chicken inside and out; dry with paper towels. Place the chicken on a rack in the roasting pan.
4. Rub the surface with the oil. Sprinkle the chicken with salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika. Place the chicken breast-side down on the rack.
5. Put the chicken in the oven. Roast 15 minutes. Reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees. Roast for 30 minutes, basting once or twice during that time with stock or juice. Turn the chicken breast-side up. Continue to roast the chicken for about 45-60 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 degrees (F), or when the juices run clear when the thigh is pricked with the tines of a fork. Do not baste for the last 20 minutes of roasting time. After you take the chicken out of the oven, let it rest for 15 minutes before you carve it.
For the Lemon-Oregano Roasted Chicken:
Follow the roasting procedure directions for roast chicken, but do not prepare the chicken with vegetable oil and spices and do not use the stock, white wine or juice. Mix the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, oregano, basil and salt and pepper in a bowl. Either marinate the chicken for at least one hour before cooking or pour over the chicken when you put it in the oven and use the pan fluids for basting.

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Flaky strudel just like Bubbe made

Flaky strudel just like Bubbe made

Posted on 19 December 2018 by admin

Photo: Chaya Rappoport
Apple Strudel

By Chaya Rappoport

(The Nosher via JTA) — My bubbe is Swiss and one of the best bakers I know. My childhood memories are filled with visions of her glazed schnecken (Swiss buns like rugelach), her rich babkas and her waehes, which are seasonal Swiss fruit tarts.
When I first started baking, I knew I wanted to re-create those recipes from my childhood. But no matter what I did, and how many times I called her for advice and instruction, they never came out quite the same.
One year when she was visiting from Switzerland, I decided to make strudel in an effort to impress her. I should have known right then I was setting myself up for failure.
Strudel, a traditional Austrian pastry filled with apples and raisins that became popular in Eastern European Jewish communities, is made with a notoriously finicky dough similar to phyllo. It needs to be rolled out very thinly, and it’s commonly considered best left to experienced European grandmothers.
Well, an experienced European grandmother I am not, and when I started researching recipes, I got intimidated and decided instead to make something closer to a Danish than a strudel — just as delicious, and far easier, right? Needless to say, my grandmother was not impressed.
“This isn’t strudel, Chaya,” she informed me after a glance at the pretty plaited Danish I’d made. “I’ll have to teach you how to make it.”
I knew she was right. And when my grandmother returned to Switzerland, I decided I’d have to learn how to make it myself. I finally did — and guess what? It’s not at all as hard as it sounds. The apple filling’s as easy as pie (no, but really), the traditional breadcrumbs are simply toasted in butter and the dough has five ingredients and comes together by hand. Stretching it out to get it paper thin can be tricky — but do your best, be gentle and if the dough rips, just patch it together by hand.
It might take you one or two times to perfect it, but even imperfect strudel is still strudel, and there’s nothing a spoonful of schlag (whipped cream) or a scoop of vanilla ice cream can’t fix.
This strudel is insanely flaky, completely authentic and, best of all, I know it will finally satisfy even my bubbe.

Apple Strudel

For the dough:
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ cup vegetable water
2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup water
For the filling:
¾ cup raisins
¼ cup rum
5 large Granny Smith apples
Juice of 1 lemon
½ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
½ cup breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons sugar
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
Lightly sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, for serving
Directions:
1. Combine the raisins with the rum and microwave them together for 30 seconds. Let them sit to plump while you make the dough.
2. Make the dough: Combine the flour and salt in a medium bowl. Add the oil and water and mix with your hands until a rough dough forms.
3. Turn it out onto a lightly floured counter and knead for 10 minutes, until soft and silky.
4. Form it into a ball, place it on the counter and cover with a clean tea towel. Let rest for a half-hour.
5. Meanwhile, make the filling: Peel the apples and slice them into matchsticks. In a large bowl, toss them with the lemon juice, sugar, vanilla and rum raisins.
6. Make the breadcrumbs: In a skillet over medium-low heat, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter. Add the breadcrumbs and sugar. Stir to coat, and cook until crumbs are golden brown and fragrant. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
7. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt the remaining 5 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan; set aside.
8. Roll out your dough. Cover your work surface with a clean tea towel that’s at least 24 by 32 inches. The long side should be horizontal to you. Sprinkle the cloth lightly with flour. Place the dough in the middle, sprinkle it very lightly with flour and roll in both directions, picking it up and moving it around as you go, until it’s 10 by 13 inches or you can’t roll it out anymore. Re-flour the dough if you feel it sticking.
9. Ball your hands into fists, put them under the rolled-out dough and gently start stretching the dough using the back of your hands.
10. Pull the edges of the dough gently with your fingers and continue stretching it with the back of your fists. Continue stretching until the dough is about 16 by 24 inches.
11. Brush the dough evenly with half of the reserved melted butter. On the right side of the rectangle, a few inches from the end, spread the breadcrumbs top to bottom in a thick line, leaving margins at the top and bottom.
12. Pile the apple mixture over the crumbs. Stretch the top and bottom edges of the dough over the apple mixture. Pull the right edge of the dough up and over the filling as far as it will go without tearing. Working carefully, use the towel to roll up the strudel all the way. Place the parchment paper from your baking sheet at the edge of the roll and roll the strudel onto it.
13. Brush the strudel generously all over with the remaining butter. Bake for 25 minutes, then rotate. Bake for another 20-25 minutes, or until the dough is crisp and golden brown.
14. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let the strudel cool on a rack for at least 20 minutes before serving. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and slice into pieces to serve with either whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
Serves 10.
Chaya Rappoport is the blogger, baker and picture taker behind retrolillies.wordpress.com. Currently a pastry sous chef at a Brooklyn bakery, she’s been blogging since 2012 and her work has been featured on The Feed Feed, Delish.com, Food and Wine, and Conde Nast Traveler.
The Nosher food blog offers an array of new and classic Jewish recipes and food news, from Europe to Yemen, from challah to shakshuka and beyond. Check it out at www.TheNosher.com.

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The gift of flavor is always welcome

The gift of flavor is always welcome

Posted on 05 December 2018 by admin

Photo: Tina Wasserman
Gift Mug

By Tina Wasserman

Yes, you can make a batch of cookies and give it to the teacher or your manicurist or doctor, but wouldn’t it be nice to make something that was totally unexpected, delicious and useful?
The following recipes are some of my favorite recipes to make for gift-giving, along, of course, with some baked goods that I can easily make in large quantity for people I didn’t mean to forget but still want to send thanks to.
Although you can always put your goodies on a plastic plate, why not find giant mugs or Ball jars that you can decorate with a square of cloth under the lid? Use your imagination. If these ideas are coming too late for your hectic schedule, consider hitting the after-holiday sales for all items with holiday motifs. Only caveat…remember where you stored them for next year. Have fun.
Spiced Angel Pecans
Get out your Costco or Sam’s card and buy those big bags of pecans. This recipe is fast and totally addictive. They store well, even in the freezer and make a great gift. One warning, those round cans you see at the Container Store are adorable but save them for cookies, otherwise you will find your supply of Spiced Pecans is rapidly diminished!
1 egg white
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pound pecan halves
½ cup sugar
1½ teaspoons cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
2. Place egg white in a 2-quart bowl and beat with a whisk until light and foamy.
3. Fold in melted butter and vanilla into the whites. Add the nuts and gently stir to coat all the nuts with the egg-white mixture.
4. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon, allspice and salt, then gently fold into the nuts to coat evenly.
5. Spread the nuts onto a jellyroll pan lined with parchment paper and bake for 45 minutes, stirring the nuts after the first 25 minutes. Nuts should be very crisp and dry.
6. When completely cool, store in an airtight container or freeze in zip freezer bags until ready to use.
Variations:
For savory nuts: Substitute 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce for vanilla and use 1½ teaspoons Lawry’s seasoned salt, ¼-½ teaspoon garlic powder and ¼ teaspoon curry powder instead of the other spices. Prepare as directed above.
For orange-spice nuts: Substitute 1 teaspoon orange extract for the vanilla and use ½ teaspoon cardamom instead of the nutmeg. Prepare as directed above.
Tina’s Tidbits:
• Recipe can be doubled, but make sure to use two pans for roasting so the nuts aren’t crowded.
• This recipe can also be made with coconut oil, if you prefer them pareve.
Spiced Cranberry Vinegar
Here’s a gift that you can give on its own or add to your gift with your favorite salad ingredients, such as dried fruit pieces, croutons and toasted nuts.
12 ounces fresh cranberries
1 quart apple cider vinegar
7 whole allspice berries
1 stick of cinnamon
2/3 cup sugar
3-inch strip of orange zest
1. Wash and drain the cranberries and set aside for garnish. Pat them dry with a paper towel.
2. Place the remaining cranberries in a food processor work bowl and pulse 8-10 times until the cranberries are coarsely chopped. Place cranberries in a large glass container or plastic container, with a lid, large enough to hold ½ gallon.
3. Empty the vinegar into a 2-quart stainless steel pot. Add the allspice and the cinnamon stick and bring just to a boil.
4. Immediately pour the hot vinegar and spices over the cranberries. Cover and let them sit at room temperature for a day or so (the longer, the more intense the color and flavor).
5. Strain the vinegar into a clean 2-quart, stainless steel saucepan. Press on the crushed cranberries to extract as much of their juices as possible.
6. Add the sugar and heat on medium until the sugar is dissolved. Pour the hot vinegar into clean glass jars or bottles and add some of the fresh cranberries.
7. Using a sharp vegetable peeler, carefully remove only the zest from the orange, running the vegetable peeler horizontally over the orange to remove three or four 3-inch curls that are about ½ inch wide.
8. Add a strip of zest and, if you like, a piece of cinnamon stick to each bottle. Seal, refrigerate and use in any vinaigrette dressing.
Tina’s Tidbits:
• It is very important to use non-reactive pots and jars when you are working with acidic foods like vinegar. Never use aluminum pans.
• You can use a zester to make long strips of orange zest and then add four or five strips to each bottle instead of one large strip.
Homemade Irish Cream
The following recipe makes about close to a fifth of liquor. I would suggest putting it into 8-ounce decorative bottles. The longer the mixture sits in the refrigerator, the richer the taste and thickness but it’s OK to taste-test a little after you make it — just to make sure it is OK.
1 cup Irish whiskey
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
4 eggs
2 tablespoons chocolate syrup
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon coconut extract
2 teaspoons powdered instant espresso
1. Combine all of the ingredients in a blender at low speed to thoroughly blend.
2. Transfer to a clean bottle and store in the refrigerator for up to three months. Shake well before using.
Tina’s Tidbits:
• I generally use Jameson’s Irish Cream, but I have also used Single Malt Scotch (much to my husband’s chagrin).
• If you are lactose intolerant, I found a can of sweetened condensed coconut milk, but I don’t know how available it is in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
• Do not worry about the eggs in this recipe. Prolonged contact with the alcohol “cooks” the eggs to make it safe to drink.
• If you want to add to your gift, you might want to give a pound of coffee or a pint of vanilla ice cream for serving suggestions.
Strawberry Confections
I have had this recipe for over 40 years, and I forget how pretty they are as well as colorful. Instead of “strawberries,” you could shape them more like a dreidel and coat them in blue sugar with a piece of a chocolate Pokey stick pushed into the top.
8 ounces pitted dates
½ cup sweetened shredded coconut
½ cup sugar
4 tablespoons butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 egg
1½ cups crisp rice cereal
½ cup pecans
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 jar red sugar crystals
Green ribbon or leaves
Green toothpicks
1. Grind the dates in a processor work bowl with the sugar and coconut.
2. Add the butter and egg and pulse until butter is incorporated.
3. Empty contents of the work bowl into a saucepan and cook over low heat until mixture begins to bubble and appears thick. Stir frequently so the mixture does not burn. This should take about 7 minutes. Remove from heat.
4. Meanwhile, grind the nuts and the cereal in the processor (there is no reason to wash the work bowl from the date mixture).
5. Stir the vanilla into the date mixture and add the nut mixture. Cool.
6. Scoop a teaspoon of mixture and roll into a ball. Roll this ball into the red sugar crystals.
7. Flatten one side of the ball and, holding all your fingers on one hand together, lightly pinch and shape the other side of the ball to make it somewhat pointed.
8. Cut the ribbon into a 1-inch circle with slightly jagged edges and place on the flat side of the “strawberry.” Place a 1-inch piece of toothpick through the center of the ribbon to look like a stem.
Tina’s Tidbits:
• I prefer to use soft medjool dates, but you can use the Deglet Noor that are commonly found in boxes in the baking aisle. Remember to remove the pits.
• Never use the boxed chopped dates. They are covered in sugar, would not provide enough dates and will provide more sugar for the 8 ounces.
• The recipe can be made with margarine instead of butter. Coconut butter can be substituted as well, but since it is very soft at room temperature, I am concerned that it might be too soft.
White Chocolate Holiday Hash
Why pay $20-plus for a mixture that you can make in a jiffy and reflects the holiday spirit? Delicious and easily made gluten-free with GF pretzels.
2 12-ounce bags of white chocolate chips
5 ounces candy canes or Starlight mints, or one 5-ounce candy cane stick
4 ounces of small pretzels or pretzel sticks
4 ounces sweetened dried cranberries, optional
4 ounces semisweet dark chocolate chips, optional
1. Unwrap candy canes or candies and place in a plastic bag. Pound bag lightly with a rolling pin to break candy into small pieces. Some of the candy will be pulverized; that’s OK. You should have about 1 cup. Set aside.
2. Place pretzels in a plastic bag and lightly pound with a rolling pin until you have very small pieces. You should have about 1½ cups. Set aside.
3. Place the white chips in a 2-quart glass bowl, then place the bowl in a 10-inch skillet that has been filled with 1 inch of water. This creates a double boiler effect. Heat chips over medium heat, stirring often, until chips are melted and mixture is smooth. Remove the bowl from the skillet.
4. Reserve 2 tablespoons of crushed candy. Add the remaining candy, all of the pretzel mixture and the sweetened dried cranberries, if using, to the white chocolate. Fold ingredients together until well combined.
5. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil and then spread the hash with the back of the spatula until it is about 1/8-¼ inch thick.
6. Sprinkle reserved crushed candy over top, then refrigerate until firm. Break into pieces and serve or wrap for gifts.
7. May be stored at room temperature.
Tina’s Tidbits:
• White chocolate does not contain any chocolate liquor or cocoa, just cocoa butter. Care needs to be taken when cooking with this confection. If added to more fat or cooked over high heat, it will separate and become an unusable oily mass.
• Semisweet chocolate may be melted in microwave and then piped in lines through a small round tipped decorating cone over the hash while it is still warm. The biggest problem with this is sometimes the dark chocolate breaks off when it is set or during shipping.

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The definitive latke recipe (and don’t use russets)

The definitive latke recipe (and don’t use russets)

Posted on 05 December 2018 by admin

Photo: Tina Wasserman
Latkes (Potato Pancakes)

By Tina Wasserman

Many years ago, I was making latkes in my daughter’s Sunday School classroom while others were doing the same in their child’s class. People started to come in to see my latkes because they heard that they weren’t gray/black, thin and watery. My recipe is below, with step-by-step instructions to prevent all of the above problems.
One “Tidbit” I can’t save for last is this: I never use russet potatoes. Russets have too much starch and thick skins. When you use white or Yukon Gold potatoes, there is no need to peel. If that doesn’t make you switch your potato choice, I don’t know what would.
Although latkes are a perfect accompaniment to beef or chicken, they can also be made into small rounds and topped with sour cream and caviar for an elegant appetizer.
Latkes (Potato Pancakes)
6-8 large thin-skinned potatoes, California long whites or Yukon Gold (about 3 pounds)
3 eggs, beaten well
1½ tablespoons Kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 medium-large onions (¾-1 pound total), cut into 8 pieces
1 cup matzo meal or cracker meal
Oil for frying
Applesauce, sour cream or caviar for garnish (optional)
1. Grate the raw potatoes using the grating disk on a processor or the largest holes on a grater, if doing it by hand. Place grated potato in a strainer, rinse thoroughly with cold water and drain while you grate onion.
2. Combine eggs, salt and pepper in a 4-quart bowl. Mix thoroughly and set aside.
3. Change to the cutting blade on your processor. Add onions to the work bowl. Pulse on and off five times. Add 1/3 of the grated potatoes to the onion, and pulse on and off to make a coarse paste. Add to the egg mixture along with the matzo meal and stir to combine.
4. Add the remaining drained potatoes to the bowl and mix thoroughly, using a large spoon or your hands.
5. Heat a large frying pan or large skillet for 20 seconds. Add enough oil to cover the pan to a depth of ¼ inch and heat for an additional 20 seconds. Drop mounds of potato mixture into the pan. Fry on both sides until golden. Drain fried latkes on a platter covered with crumpled paper towels. Serve with applesauce and sour cream if desired.

Tina’s Tidbits:
• Grated potatoes turn black when exposed to air. Rinsing the potatoes under running water washes away excess starch and the discoloring culprit.
• Always grate your potatoes separately from your onions; that way, you won’t lose any of the flavorful juice when you drain the potatoes.
• Use an ice cream scoop to get perfectly round latkes. A smaller scoop is perfect for appetizer-sized latkes.
• The best way to drain fried foods is on a plate covered with crumpled paper towels. Crumpling gives more surface area for absorption.
• Never refrigerate latkes.
• Either make earlier in the day and keep at room temperature before reheating in a 400-degree oven.
• Or fry, cool to room temperature, freeze on lined baking sheet and, when frozen, put into a freezer bag. Make sure you use a straw and suck out all the air in the bag so no ice crystals form on the latkes.
• When ready to cook, just place frozen latkes on a parchment-lined baking sheet and reheat in a 425-degree oven until crisp and bubbly around the edges.

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Everything you want to know about pumpkins

Posted on 25 October 2018 by admin

By Tina Wasserman

The first chill has been in the air, and Halloween and Thanksgiving will be here before you know it, so I decided that now is the perfect time to learn about pumpkins.
The pumpkin is a member of the squash family, whose origins can be traced back over 9,000 years to Mexico. They are also thought to be part of the gourd family grown in India, but this isn’t true. The round orange globes are actually related to cucumber and cantaloupe.
Growing on vines up to 12 feet wide, pumpkins are a fruit, not a vegetable. Pumpkin seeds were brought from the “new world” by Columbus to Spain and were initially grown only to feed swine. The widespread Mediterranean use of pumpkin for human food can be attributed to the Jews from Spain and Portugal in the late 15th century.
Initially the Jewish immigrants from Spain were the only people to eat the cheap and humble squash. The golden pumpkin was symbolic of prosperity and fertility, and often found its place on the ceremonial tables during Rosh Hashanah. Most pumpkin recipes that you find in Italian cookbooks owe their ancestry to the Jewish migration.
Human consumption of pumpkin has also been attributed to ancient times in Asia, and it is possible that the Arab armies brought the fruit to its conquered lands as well. It wasn’t until Columbus introduced pumpkin that it got its name and European recognition.
The name, pumpkin, is derived from the Greek Pepon, which means large melon. The French called it “Pompon” and, owing to the nasal pronunciation, the English adapted it to “Pumpion,” and colonists in America called it “Pumpkin.”
When the Native American Indians first introduced the Colonists to pumpkin, they were roasting strips of the fruit over fire as a food and weaving dried strips of pumpkin to make mats.
It was the Colonists who found a diverse use for the pumpkin. Hollowed pumpkins were turned upside down over a person’s head to provide a straight line to follow when cutting hair. That’s how they got the name pumpkin head.
The pumpkin pie finds its origin in the cooking technique of the Colonists, who cut the top off the pumpkin, removed the seeds, filled the inside with milk, honey and spices, then baked it until the meat of the pumpkin was soft and well flavored.
Speaking of cutting a pumpkin, I recently saw a suggestion for preserving the life of your jack-o’-lantern so it doesn’t rot before the end of October. If you cut a large hole in the bottom of the pumpkin and scrape out the insides well, you just need to place the carved decorative pumpkin over the candle on a plate.

Cooking with Pumpkins

All pumpkins may be eaten but it is the smaller, more rounded sugar pie pumpkins or “pie” pumpkins that will yield a dense, drier cooked flesh similar to canned pumpkin. Larger pumpkins will be stringy and more like acorn or spaghetti squash. Always buy a pumpkin whose stems are attached and those that feel heavy for their size.
Pumpkin can be cooked like you would any squash: Peel, seed, cut into chunks and simmer in a small amount of salted water for 20-40 minutes; or peel, cube and season before lightly tossing with olive oil and roast in a 350-degree oven until soft and golden.
To roast pumpkin seeds, rinse them thoroughly to remove any strings, then soak for 15 minutes in salted water. Drain and then roast in a 250-degree oven until golden. Season with a little oil and salt and pepper if you like after you roast or for the last 5 minutes.
If you are displaying pumpkins outside in the sun, bring them in at night, if you can, to prevent rotting. Pumpkins can be ripened off the vine if they are exposed to sunlight.
I love pumpkin pie, but unless the crust is super-delicious and sweet, I feel guilty eating all that fat-saturated dough. Here’s a recipe that is light, less caloric (believe it or not) and can be made in advance without getting soggy, flat or losing its flavor.

Pumpkin Mousse

2 teaspoons unflavored kosher gelatin
2 tablespoons dark rum
1 cup canned unsweetened pumpkin
½ cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of allspice
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup heavy cream
1. Sprinkle the gelatin over the rum in a small Pyrex custard cup and let it soften for a few minutes.
2. Combine the remaining ingredients except the heavy cream in a medium bowl.
3. Place the Pyrex dish with the rum and gelatin in a skillet that contains ½ inch of simmering water. Stir the mixture until the gelatin is dissolved.
4. Whisk the hot gelatin mixture into the pumpkin until thoroughly combined.
5. Whip the cream in a small bowl until it forms soft peaks, then fold it carefully into the pumpkin mixture.
6. Spoon into six 4-ounce ramekins and refrigerate until set, about 3 to 4 hours.

Tina’s Tidbits:
• Gelatin tends to clump when initially hydrated. That is fine, but don’t let the mixture sit for more than a minute, or it will be very hard to successfully dissolve it.
• If alcohol is present in a recipe, it often serves to “cook” the raw egg to prevent it from growing bacteria.

Pumpkin Bread

The following recipe is a variation of the pumpkin bread that Joanne Orlando brought to my classroom when I was her junior high home economics teacher. I threatened to flunk her if she didn’t give me the recipe.
I still have her hand-written index card for a memento, and Joanne, who is now probably 60, did get an A in the class, but not because of the recipe.
This is still the all-time favorite in my house or at any pre-school snack time when I made them into mini-muffins. It is such a good way to get some great nutrients into your family.
This recipe may be doubled and the baked breads freeze beautifully.
1½ cups sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup whole-wheat flour
½ cup raisins
½ cup chopped walnuts, optional
2 eggs
1 stick butter, melted, or ½ cup coconut oil for a dairy-free version
1/3 cup water
1 cup canned pumpkin
1½ teaspoons vanilla
1. Grease 2 coffee cans, or 1 loaf pan, or 2 mini-loaf pans and some muffin tins or a combination of each.
2. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
3. Into a large 3-quart mixing bowl, add the first nine ingredients (eight if omitting nuts). Stir to combine. Combine all of the remaining ingredients in a 1-quart bowl and add to the dry ingredients. Stir until with a rubber spatula until well blended.
4. Pour into the prepared pans and bake as follows:
Mini muffins: 12-15 minutes
Cupcakes: 20-25 minutes
Mini loaf pans: 35-40 minutes
Loaf pans: 45-60 minutes
Coffee cans: 60-75 minutes
Ginger Orange Spread
8 ounces cream cheese
1 tablespoon frozen orange juice concentrate
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon crystallized ginger, chopped
1. Combine all of the ingredients in a processor work bowl and process until smooth.

Tina’s Tidbits:
When buying canned pumpkin, make sure you are not buying pumpkin pie substitute.
• When a recipe calls for combining all of the ingredients into a bowl, always add the dry ingredients first so you don’t activate the baking soda or powder with the wet ingredients until the last.
• Gluten-free flour may be substituted, but xanthan gum does not need to also be added since the pumpkin puree adds fiber and structure to the recipe.

Jamaican Pumpkin Pancakes

These pancakes have always been a hit with my students as well as my family. Not very sweet, but loaded with good taste and lots of good vitamin A. Add a little maple syrup, and you can pretend you’re a Pilgrim, too.
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 eggs
1½ cups buttermilk
3 tablespoons cold water
1 cup pumpkin puree
½ stick unsalted butter, melted
1. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, allspice, salt and cinnamon in a medium-sized bowl. Set aside.
2. Beat the eggs in a large bowl with a whisk until foamy. Beat in the buttermilk, cold water and pumpkin puree. Refrigerate until needed or proceed with Step 3.
3. Add the melted butter to the pumpkin mixture, then fold the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until the batter is smooth.
4. Lightly grease a large skillet with additional butter and allow the pan to get fairly hot. Drop the batter by scant ¼ cups onto the griddle and cook until the pancake is golden on the bottom and air pockets appear on the dry top. Flip the pancakes over and cook one more minute until underside is golden.
5. Serve hot with butter and syrup.

Tina’s Tidbits:
• As long as no liquid comes in contact with baking powder or baking soda, your dry ingredients can be pre-measured the night before.
• If you don’t have buttermilk in the house, add a teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice to milk and set aside for 5 minutes before using in your recipe. Any type of milk may be used.
• Despite its name, buttermilk does not contain fat. It is more like skim milk in fat content.

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This French toast recipe doesn’t loaf around

This French toast recipe doesn’t loaf around

Posted on 26 September 2018 by admin

Photo: Kate Sears
Babka French Toast

By Kim Kushner

(The Nosher via JTA) – This is one of those recipes that sounds super complicated but is actually so simple. Using store-bought babka will make this Babka French Toast Loaf as easy as 1-2-3, but if you happen to bake your own babka, definitely use it.
Instead of serving the babka slices arranged on a serving platter, I transfer the slices into a loaf pan and line them up in a row, so they go back to forming the original “loaf shape.” When you serve the “loaf,” your guests will be pleasantly surprised to see that it is in fact already sliced into crispy, thick slices of toasty, chewy babka French toast.
Make-ahead tip: Babka French Toast Loaf may be prepared up to two days in advance and stored, covered, in the refrigerator. If preparing ahead of time, do not bake in the oven before refrigerating (skip the last step in the recipe).
Can I freeze it? Babka French Toast Loaf may be stored in the freezer for up to one month. If preparing ahead of time, do not bake in the oven before freezing (skip the last step in the recipe).
How to reheat: Babka French Toast Loaf may be reheated, uncovered, in a 400 F. oven for 10 minutes just before serving. The frozen loaf may be thawed in the fridge overnight and reheated as indicated in the recipe above.
Reprinted from I Kosher: Beautiful Recipes from My Kitchen, with permission from Weldon Owen Publishing.
Babka French Toast Loaf
¼ cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
1 babka loaf or cinnamon loaf, about 15 ounces
3 large eggs
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract or seeds from 1 vanilla bean
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1. Preheat the oven to 300 F. Grease a loaf pan with butter and set aside. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Use a large chef’s knife to cut the babka into slices 1 inch thick. Lay out the slices on the prepared baking sheet and set aside.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, vanilla and cinnamon. Dip the babka slices, one slice at a time, in the egg mixture. Coat both sides for about 30 seconds or so, allowing the babka slice to absorb some of the egg mixture without getting too soggy or falling apart. Repeat with all of the slices, placing them back on the parchment-lined baking sheet while you finish.
4. In a large saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon of butter over medium-high heat. Once the butter is melted, add two slices of babka and fry, turning once, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Be careful that the heat isn’t too high to avoid burning the babka slices. Transfer the browned slices to your prepared loaf pan, lining up the slices to re-create the original loaf shape. Continue heating 1 tablespoon of butter at a time in a pan and browning the babka slices in batches, two slices at a time, and transferring them to the loaf pan. Use all of the French toast slices to fill the loaf pan.
5. If serving right away, place the loaf pan in the oven, uncovered, for 5-7 minutes longer. This will heat up all the slices to the same temperature and make them nice and toasty. Serves 8-10.
Kim Kushner’s third book, “I ♥ Kosher: Beautiful Recipes from My Kitchen” (Weldon Owen), will be released in November. She has two previous best-selling books, “The New Kosher” (Weldon Owen) and “The Modern Menu,” (Gefen Publishing). She has appeared on “The Today Show” and been featured in The New York Times, Saveur, The Huffington Post and the Chicago Tribune, among others.
The Nosher food blog offers a dazzling array of new and classic Jewish recipes and food news, from Europe to Yemen, from challah to shakshuka and beyond. Check it out at www.TheNosher.com.

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The Ultimate Stuffed Cabbage Hack

The Ultimate Stuffed Cabbage Hack

Posted on 26 September 2018 by admin

Photo: Chaya Rappoport
Stuffed Cabbage Noodles

By Chaya Rappoport

(The Nosher via JTA) – My mother’s stuffed cabbage is one of my favorite dishes. She makes it with ground beef and rice, and simmers the stuffed cabbage leaves in a rich, savory tomato sauce. I could eat trays of it.
My late grandmother used to make a vegetarian version that included rice, mushrooms and barley. The sauce was sweeter than my mother’s, leaning a little more to the Polish side of tradition, where sweet foods are more prevalent. I could also eat trays of her stuffed cabbage, and I savored the scent of her cooking it up on special days before Sukkot and Simchat Torah.
There are countless delicious ways to make stuffed cabbage, with influences ranging from Eastern Europe to Asia, but all of them are undoubtedly a patchke (a bit of work). The leaves need to be boiled or frozen to become pliable enough for stuffing and wrapping, and the process from start to finish can take a good couple of hours.
It wasn’t until Sukkot of last year when I helped one of my aunts make kraut lokshen, or cabbage noodles, an Ashkenazi cabbage dish made of sautéed cabbage and egg noodles, that I thought of making unstuffed cabbage. Inspired by my aunt’s simple but delicious dish, I realized that instead of stuffing each cabbage leaf separately, I could cook everything together in one big pot, eliminating most of the work but none of the taste.
These unstuffed cabbage noodles combine the best elements of each dish — the cabbage and egg noodles from kraut lokshen, the meat and tomato sauce from stuffed cabbage — for a dish that’s hearty, savory and delicious. Smoky, salty beef bacon adds a layer of savory flavor to the dish, a tablespoon of sugar perks up the tomato sauce and the flavorful sauce is simmered and thickened before being combined with the noodles.
These noodles could never replace stuffed cabbage; what could? But this dish is an easy, tasty twist on tradition for when you don’t have hours to spend stuffing little bundles. Serve them on a chilly fall night, in a cozy sukkah or simply when you need a comforting dinner.

Unstuffed Cabbage Noodles

8 ounces beef bacon, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 medium cabbage, core removed and chopped
1 pound ground beef
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 dried bay leaves
12 ounces uncooked egg noodles
Salt and pepper, to taste
Dried or fresh parsley, for garnish
1. In a large skillet over medium heat, fry the chopped “bacon” until crisp and browned. Remove and place on a paper towel-lined plate.
2. Add the onion, garlic and chopped cabbage to the same skillet with the bacon fat and cook for 7-10 minutes on medium heat, until the onion is lightly browned and softened and the cabbage is wilting. Transfer the mixture and set aside.
3. Turn heat up to high and add the ground beef to the skillet. Cook, breaking up the beef with a wooden spoon as you go, until browned.
4. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, crushed red pepper flakes and bay leaves to the skillet. Stir to combine with the beef, cabbage and onion.
5. Add the beef bacon back to the pan, bring to a simmer, then turn down to medium so it bubbles gently. Cook for 10 minutes uncovered, then simmer for another 10-15 minutes, covered. Remove the bay leaves.
6. Meanwhile, cook the egg noodles according to package directions. Drain and set aside. Taste the beef and cabbage mixture, and season with salt and pepper as desired.
7. Combine the beef and cabbage sauce with the noodles. Garnish with parsley. Serves 6.
Chaya Rappoport is the blogger, baker and picture taker behind retrolillies.wordpress.com. Currently a pastry sous chef at a Brooklyn bakery, she’s been blogging since 2012 and her work has been featured on The Feed Feed, Delish.com, Food and Wine, and Conde Nast Traveler.
The Nosher food blog offers a dazzling array of new and classic Jewish recipes and food news, from Europe to Yemen, from challah to shakshuka and beyond. Check it out at www.TheNosher.com.

 

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