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.
Warm, seasonal and tasty Pumpkin Soup
The prevalence of New World fruit and vegetables Old World cuisine in is a continual source of wonder to me.
Stop and think for a moment what Italian cooking would be like without tomatoes, Szechuan, Indian or Thai cooking without the various forms of chili peppers, and of course some much of the cooking of Northern Europe would feel empty without the ubiquitous potato. We should add to that list the pumpkin. A member of the squash family, it finds many places in the cuisine of North Africa. From the many slow cooked stews served with couscous to the wonderfully sweet and satisfying pumpkin soup. [For more pumpkin ideas check our our kugel, pie and challah]
As you try to add a bit of Jewish flair to your Thanksgiving celebration, let me urge you to chuck those poor, tired (and perhaps even huddled) matzo balls and whip a bit of this seasonal soup that was a staple of the Sephardic kitchens of Morocco, Libya and Tunisia. This soups appears in several forms in both Joan Nathan and Claudia Roden’s cookbooks and even makes an apprearance in Gourmet’s last collection of recipes published just before the magazine was shuttered.
In this recipe I added butternut squash to the mix, but feel free to experiment with what is in season and tastes good. Some recipes call for chunks of meat- if you go that route, use something tough and fatty that will braise in the soup. Beef chuck, or veal shoulder are both great choices. Stay away from turkey though- except for the legs, it really doesn’t braise well and you should really save that for the entrée.
Garlic Rosemary Mashed Potatoes, goes with everything
I really cannot type the word potato without thinking of Dan Qualye. For those of you born after the Reagan years, he was the Vice President for Bush I (aka Old 41 or George Herbert Walker Bush). He was doing a school visit and conducting a spelling bee type contest for elementary school kids when he suggested that a child needed to add an E to the end of potato. Now, in his defense the cue card in his hand apparently had a typo but let me tell you, it did nothing to improve his intellectual gravitas.
Meanwhile back here at dinner we need a starch to go along with all of the roast chicken, grilled meat and pot roast. I grew up with baked potatoes, and it wasn’t until I was older that I discovered the joys of a good mashed potato. As it climbed in popularity in my repertoire I set out to perfect this deceptively tricky dish.
There are two aspects you want to get right. One is the mouth feel of the potatoes. They should be moist, not sticky or clumped. The second is a consistent flavor profile. There is nothing worse that a dish that tastes like garlic, only when you get a chunk of garlic. Fortunately the answer to both problems lies in the use and introduction of fat. By steeping the aromatics in the fat we get an even distribution of the flavor compounds. By adding the fat to the potatoes before adding other liquids (this is important) we allow the fat to bind with the starches and prevent any clumping or lump formation in addition to spreading the flavors evenly.
Last week we were contacted by Alicia from SBS Food, the Australian public television network, to be their “Featured Foodies”. Since we will do just about anything to get readers beyond our own family, Gordon and I eagerly agreed to be interviewed for a tie-in to an episode of Food Safari focused on Jewish food. I am secretly hoping we become a phenomenon among the Aussies and I get to make regular trips down there again, but even if that doesn’t happen, we had a lot of fun doing the interview.
L'chaim and a Sweet New Year
A proper New Year’s celebration often includes the symbolic consumption of a fruit that you have not yet tasted this season. Pomegranates are often used as they are just reaching their full ripeness at the end of summer. Often this involves messy digging about in the flesh of the pomegranate for the small seeds or arils that are the only edible part. While my kids love this (and often make a huge mess- this stuff stains!) I am ready to move on to something a bit more elegant.
As this thought was rolling around in my head, one of the food blogs I follow ran a short piece on doing infusions using a whip cream dispenser. Since I have one around that I never use, I thought it would be time to find a new use for it. Before I give you the link to the infusion post, let me recommend that their post on wild meat should be avoided if the sight of whole cooked animals makes you queasy.
Now, this whole infusion business has become the trend of the moment (witness the NYT’s is telling you that it is) and I hate to pile on… no I don’t.
First a few words about pomegranates in Jewish life. Regarded as one of the Seven Species on the Land of Israel (the others being wheat, barley, olives, figs, grapes and dates) they pop up frequently in the bible. The shape was (and still is) used on decorative pieces. The head of the high priest’s staff was a pomegranate as are the decorative handle covers of a Torah cover. The pomegranate is said to contain 613 seeds, corresponding to the number of commandants (or mitzvot) in the Torah. Of course you know you have a Jewish pomegranate when the calyx (or tip) is a perfect six pointed star.
On a more prosaic note. The English word grenade is a corruption of the Spanish for pomegranate- granada (as in, granada de mano or hand grenade). In Hebrew the same cognate is used and both the fruit and the weapon is a rimon. So be careful what you ask for at the market!
Links of raw sausage
“It tastes like chicken”- how any times have you heard that? The implication of course is that chicken is so tasteless that any bland tasting meat (rabbit, squab, etc) could be easily substituted for it. Just take a look at the chicken sausages that populate the supermarket with their array of strong seasonings (basil garlic, Gouda apple, teriyaki). This runs counter to the principle of a good chicken soup. A good soup tastes definitively like chicken. My question was could I create a sausage that tasted that much like chicken that there would be no mistake about what it was made from.
Bouchon, just what you want after Passover is over
A few weeks ago I was visiting my folks (and getting some snow time in- Ski Alta!) and as I was packing up to go home my mother handed me a bag of what looked like chocolate muffins and said that I should take them to my kids. Upon arrival back in California I opened them up and discovered that they were bouchons, which are like chocolate brioche. When we had eaten them all a few days later I sent my mom a note thanking her and she sent me back the recipe. In the interest of letting my Jewish mother share her baking skills with the world, I present you with her version of this very tasty treat. You should have a batch on hand when Passover ends later this week.
Korech, Hillel’s sandwich at the Temple. It is said that when the Temple still stood in Jerusalem Hillel would combine matza, maror and the Pesach lamb into one in order to observe the mitzva of eating the sacrifice on matza and maror (Numbers 9:11). It might also be the case that he was hungry and dinner was still being organized in the kitchen.
Now, what if we still had a temple? What if we still made the sacrifice? What would a modern chef do with such a sandwich? I think the answer would be the kosher for passover BLT. I put this to the test by taking some of the lamb saddle from our butchering class and curing it with pink salt. Cured and smoked I then sliced it up and placed it on some homemade matza, with fresh parsley, horseradish mayo and of course fresh tomatoes.
Hillel would have asked for seconds.
These are best enjoyed with a nice IPA
A few weeks ago Amiee and I went to learn how to butcher a lamb. It was fun and we learned a great deal about breaking down whole quadrupeds. But on a more immediate level we got to try some of Ryan Farr’s chicharrones. Now there is a Jewish version of this, gribenes. I have made them before, usually a result of using chicken thighs for something where the skins weren’t needed and I would slowly render them down and feed them to the kids (my son calls them “chicken chips”). But recently I was breaking down a whole chicken for sausages (post on the way) and I thought that I would try to remove the skin in one go and then render that down. The results were astounding, so I am sharing the results here. By the way, its kosher for passover and you get about a half a cup of nice clean fat (schmatlz) to boot.