Reuben Egg Rolls
I don’t think we have done anything quite this silly since the In-N-Out inspired Animal Style Latkes and I am fully expecting these to appear on This is Why You’re Fat sometime soon. As I was contemplating a Christmas post my thoughts turned to the sterotypical what-Jews-eat-on-Christmas, Chinese food. I knew I wanted something a little different from standard Chinese fare, that would top my trayfe on trayfe of last year. While the exact path to this absurd idea is now lost to me, after some brainstorming, I came up with the idea for reuben egg rolls, where Jewish and Chinese come together much like the Christmas itself.
Luckily, I now have a pretty consistent supply of deli products from Evan and Leo, who, by the way, after months and months of negotiations, have finally come up with a name for their deli: Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen. I am looking forward to buying something from them soon, but in the meantime I was happy to trade a burrito for the perfect amount of pastrami, pickles, and russian dressing.
Now I have a friend who freaked out at the prospect of a reuben without rye bread. In an attempt to mollify him I did try a few things like dusting the wrappers in rye flour and caraway seeds, but they didn’t stick well and ended up burning in the oil. So unless you want to make wrappers from scratch using rye flour think of these as a super tasty appetizer homage to the famous sandwich.
I’ve been doing a lot of heavy cooking with the holidays, so I figured i would do something a little easier this week. I had the good fortune to see Evan and Leo this week and they gave half a loaf of their amazing rye bread. Whenever I get decent rye my thoughts immediately turn to chicken liver and I had some in my freezer. Along with my liver, caramelized onions are always a must. As I started thinking about it caramelized onions appear frequently in Ashkenazi food, and while we have often refered to them as an ingredient we have never shown how to prepare them. Caramelizing onions radically transforms the texture, flavor and appearance of onions with minimal effort through the amazing chemistry of a slow cooking process. They become soft, sweet and full of flavor. Once you have them on hand you will find infinite uses for them. Along with chopped liver, they are amazing addition, in place of sauteed onions, to kasha varnishka, kugel, pashtida, knishes or bialys. One of my most favorite uses is to spread some goat cheese on bread and top with caramelized onions, there are few snacks quite so satisfying.
Besides being exceptionally entertaining to say, Shakshouka is a simple and homey meal. It can be found in most cafes, breakfast places, and sometimes even dedicated shakshuka spots everywhere in Israel. Equally popular as a Saturday brunch or a breakfast outdoors as a high energy meal before taking down camp. It’s usually served in it’s pan with a bread basket companion. This dish is basically a tomato sauce with eggs easy-over eggs atop. Definitely one of the best “pantry raid”, “one pot meal”, AND “leftover reviver” I’ve ever known. On those lazy nights I always remember my dad (the resident cook in my house growing up) taking stock of the fridge and somehow managing to whip up an always delicious shakshouka that left the whole family satisfied.
One of the many wonderful qualities of this dish is it’s versatility. The beauty of it, in my eyes, is the fact that you can turn out a great shakshouka just with what you have on hand. A great place to use up that extra bit of pasta sauce, the last half of the tomato paste from the can, extra veggies that managed to sneak away to the back of the drawer and aren’t looking so fresh.
In this version of shakshouka we chose it as our “brunch” on a mini picnic to the Ben Shemen forest. Easy to make, even outside, minimal prep time, and it turned out excellently on the small burner we had to cook on.
Here’s how we made it, but really, no shakshouka I’ve never managed to recreate a shakshuka.
Click to read the recipe!
I got really lucky this Hannukah when the folks over at Shmaltz Brewing sent me a couple of their Jewbelation Holiday He’Brews, the Jewbelation 14 and the Vertical Jewbelation. Now these brews have 14% and 10% alcohol, respectively, so I needed a friend to help me with the tasting so I didn’t end up on the floor. Luckily, my friend Katie is always a willing drinking partner. She also has pretty much the most goyisha children on earth, so I decided to inject a little Semitic culture into their world with some latkes and candle lighting.
Both of the brews are called ales but they are very dark, creamy and much more akin in flavor and body to a stout or porter. The Vertical Jewbelation is aged in whiskey barrels and has a very light smokey flavor. The Jewbelation 14 has 14 different kinds of hops and malts, so it was definitely a bit hoppier than the Vertical and had a malty sweetness to it. My typical go-to beer is an IPA, so these were significantly heavier and sweeter beers than I gravitate toward, but they went very well with the latkes. A couple of weeks ago I had the delightful opportunity to eat with the proprietors of Saul’s Deli in Berkeley, where they were holding a Shmaltz Brewing event and I got to taste the Lenny’s RIPA, which was a tasty rye based IPA. Along with that, I got to try Peter’s early foray into salami making at Saul’s, which I am hoping to highlight here after the holidays.
An appetizer of fried olives
It’s not kosher to boil a kid in its mother’s milk (Deuteronomy 14:21). So here’s my question, is it kosher to fry an olive in olive oil?
I was thinking of this a few weeks ago as I sat, tired and recovering from a cold and several days of travel at Palace Kitchen in Seattle where a friend had taken me and insisted that I have some olive poppers before indulging in a really remarkable hamburger. It reminded me of a different take on fried olives that I had loved at a place called Downtown in Berkeley. A week later I walked past and saw that they were gone so I decided that I would try to recreate their tasty feat for the oil drenched holiday of Hanukkah.
Hanukkah celebrates the fact that the oil on hand lasted 8 days, seven days longer than expected. As an aside it also celebrates the defeat of the Selucid Greeks at the hands of the Hasmoneon rebels (aka the Maccabees). But since their descendants had more than a few Rabbis killed our tradition concentrates on the oil.