Monthly Archives: November 2009

Latkes, In ‘n’ Out style

Animal Style with cheese, onions and fry sauce

Do you live in California, Nevada, Arizona or Utah? Do you know how to get a double-double animal style? If not, you might want to check out this regional fast food. Now, what would happen if the good folks at In ‘n’ Out were of the Hebrew persuasion rather than the decidedly Christian bent?

Well then there might be latkes on the secret menu. Since they aren’t going to make them, I will. I started off with the same potato they use, the Kennebec. Prized for its large size, thin skin and its flavor. They also slice very easily which is a bonus when you have to reduce them for use in latkes.

I decided to keep these simple, plain to the point of boring to highlight these potatoes and their crisp texture. Upon consulting several cookbooks I learned that another key is to rinse the potatoes of their excess starch with hot water and then allow the potatoes to drain so that you reduce the amount of water that ultimately goes into the fat. I also disposed with any notion of going “light” and fried them in a 1/2 inch of oil in the bottom of a dutch oven.

Recipe after the break

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Filed under Ashkenazi, Hannukah

Israeli Couscous… Thanksgiving Style

Thanksgiving Cran-Pistachio Couscous

What more can I say about couscous other than it is delicious and hearty. It is available in both large and small grains; even though both are available here in Israel, in the US “Israeli Couscous” refers to dishes using the large variety.  This starchy dish is so versatile it’s a good idea to always have a pack or two stored away in the cabinet.  I like the small grains as a side under vegetables but prefer the larger kind as there’s more potential to spice it up and add really whatever you like to it.

Usually my Thanksgiving has a pretty Israeli flair to it even when I’m at home. This year I was able to throw together a last minute dinner for my favorite holiday of the year and took the opportunity to run with the Israeli theme. So one of my side dishes was this cranberry pistachio couscous and added subtle autumn harvesty spicing.

for the recipe….

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Filed under Fruit and Vegtables, Israeli, Jewish, Pasta and Grains

Pumpkin Kugel

Pumpkin Kugel for Thanksgiving

How does one combine traditional Thanksgiving flavors with a Jewish food flare? Pumpkin Kugel.

I was lucky enough to cook this week with my brother and mom, and even more lucky to use all of my parent’s fancy cooking accessories and appliances: a souffle dish, egg white folder spatula, super high-tech egg beater and All-Clad pans. Cooking has instantly become SO much more fun… and pretty. While kugel is generally a dish served during the High Holidays and Passover, it has endless potential in flavor combinations that can make it appropriate for any time of year. Example: Thanksgiving

As we brainstormed the ingredients to include in a pumpkin kugel, my mom resurrected my bubbe’s trusty cookbook: The Complete American-Jewish Cookbook by the Homemakers Research Institute. It’s clearly really old. The recipe following is a riff on their egg souffle.

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Filed under Fruit and Vegtables, Holidays, Jewish

Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

Once again I am asking the question “is this Jewish?” I don’t know. Carrot Cake recipes appear in a number of my Jewish cookbook, but not one of them indicates why its Jewish.  A google search on the origins of carrot cake brings up tons of myths and stories but the only thing people seem to be able to agree on is that the version most of us are familiar with, did not become popularized in the United States until the 1960’s. It may have become a popular Jewish dessert because without frosting it can be made parve. One thing I know for sure is that I love it with cream cheese frosting and Jews definitely know what to do with cream cheese.  I was hosting a Big Game party (Go Bears!) and wanted a dessert that was easy to serve and I could decorate with a little blue and gold, and cupcakes fit the bill.  Not one of the recipes I looked at had baking time for cupcakes so  I had to keep a pretty close eye on the first batch. Overall it was pretty easy and my friends‘ 3 year old daughter said they were beautiful and kept opening the fridge all night to make sure they were still there.

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Filed under Deli, Dessert, Fruit and Vegtables, Rosh Hashana

Bourekas ver 1.0

Would you care for a snack?

Remember that show, the one about nothing? Well it was very flattered in Israel by a knock-off version whose name I cannot recall and is presently eluding my web searches. In it the Kramer character goes to a new bourekas bakery in his neighborhood (it all takes place in Tel Aviv) and is shocked to discover that the baker has disrupted the unwritten rule of fillings and shapes. For instance a potato boureka is always a rectangle, a triangle is always cheese, a pizza filling is a cylinder, while spinach filled resembles a pastry knot. One can picture the physical reaction of this character as he bites into a triangle shaped boureka and discovers that it is filled with spinach!

I was equally shocked to discover this past week that there are several different doughs that can be used to make this tasty little treats since all of the Israeli versions are made with the same flaky pastry dough. Much like the knish, there are regional variants in dough and filling across the Jewish communities of the near east and south eastern Europe. From Marrakesh to Salonika these small filled pies were popular additions to party menus. The word itself comes from the Turkish word for pie.

I decided to try a traditional Turkish recipe that Claudia Roden offers and filled them with a salmon, onion and cheese filling.

Recipe after the break

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Filed under Israeli, Sephardic

“chello” and challah french toast

as amiee put it, i am also quite *delighted* to join the heathen-jewish-foodie-blogging team!

ah, cooking. as dafna can attest, cooking and i have not always been the best of friends–i.e. trips to the supermarket spent wandering for far too long and failed recipes gathering dew in our fridge were the norm after moving out of the dorms. but after a remedial cook book crafted by momma schneider and lots of practice, it has become my go-to stress relief and secret tool for bringing together all of my favorite people. in the last year my jewish cooking has evolved quite a bit. when i moved to nyc a year and half ago my living situation lent itself to lots of recipe sharing. picture this: twelve jews picked to live in a house, work together and have their lives taped! okay, not that last part…but i did find myself in one of the most religious neighborhoods in brooklyn (aka: midwood) sharing food with 11 other young jewish activists with a huge array of cooking expertise. though i’ve moved a bit north to prospect heights and my overt jewish inspiration has decreased, (not to mention the quantity in which i have to cook) i nonetheless retained a diverse database of jewish food.  good times.

okay, enough with introductions. shall we get cookin’?!

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to honor the shabbat tradition in my crazy, over-crowded house, i want to share with you our favorite: challah french toast. yes, i am claiming this as a jewish food despite its availability at almost any nyc brunch spot. who else would have leftover challah lying around on a sunday morning? challah is asking to be french toast: it’s sweet, it’s fluffy, and it toasts wonderfully. i had the pleasure of cooking with a friend today, and she shared her favorite proportions of the ingredients you will see below…

i started with amiee’s wonderful challah recipe and changed it a bit by using whole wheat flower.

six strand style

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Filed under Bread, Breakfast, Holidays, Jewish, Shabbat

My Mamma’s Lentil Soup

So it’s starting to get a little chilly in Tel Aviv and the fact that I’ll be celebrating my first Thanksgiving away from home is sinking in so I figured it was necessary  to make something homey. So I decided to make my absolute favorite comfort food, lentil soup.

Lentils are a legume and come in a variety of different colors. Typically my mom uses lentils of the brown variety but I decided to experiment and try out the orange lentils. As I’ve learned the brown ones are a little more hearty and will render more of a stew. The orange ones are smaller and when cooked for a while turn into a creamy soup, either way you go you’re gonna make something delicious packed with flavor (not to mention iron and protein!).  For cooking, the only difference is that instead of cooking for 2-3 hours it really only needs 30-45 minutes.

Continue reading for the recipe….

Here’s what you do:

Olive Oil

1 yellow onion

a few stalks of celery

2 carrots

2 small Tomatoes

(all diced)

Cumin

Salt/Pepper

1 bag lentils

First clean off the lentils running water through them until the water comes out clear. In a large pot let the sliced onion simmer in olive oil until they become translucent.  Add the carrots and the celery and let them cook until they are soft. Add the tomatoes and spices and let simmer for 2-3 minutes as the flavor combine. Then add the lentils to the bottom of the pot and stir. Let the lentils stand for about 2 minutes before adding 4 cups water. Turn the heat up and bring the soup to a boil, come for 5 minutes, then cover the pot, turn down the heat, and let cook for 2-3 hours.

Enjoy!

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Filed under Fruit and Vegtables, Israeli, Jewish, Parve

Delightful

This is the one word I could come up with to sum up the latest (and most likely last) Heathen to join our little clan. Ariel S. will be delighting us with her wonderful baked goods and recipes, some of which I am quite certain will have been passed down from mother to daughter. Ariel was a frequent kitchen companion to all of us, before she headed off to adventures in New York. I can recall the day she attempted to teach me the complicated six strand braid when making challah together. Let me just say there is a reason mine continue to be three stranded, but her’s consistently rise to masterpiece level.  She is an exceptionally creative person and one of the few who I have ever met that is just as comfortable with a sewing machine as she is with a hammer. She even beautifully decorated my hard-hat on a service trip to New Orleans. Ariel has also recently, like the rest of us, become very interested in local and sustainable food production. Between that and her presence in the birthplace of Jewish-American cuisine,  I know she will have a lot to contribute our little corner of the web.

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Kreplach

kreplach in soup

The weather in Nor Cal has turned chilly and I have been nursing a cold for the past few days, which has been making me crave soup. My mother used to make giant vats of vegetable soup on Sundays and then expect me to eat it for the rest of the week, which I found to be somewhat tedious.  Due to this trauma (I’m totally joking, mom), I like a little something of substance in my soups, like meat or seafood, and will rarely eat the same kind two days in a row.  I started the week with creamy tomato with grilled cheese, then Thai Tom Kha Gai, followed by clam chowder, and today I am making kreplach in  chicken soup.  Kreplach are basically Jewish wontons or ravioli. They are a simple egg pasta dough filled with meat, cheese or potatoes. They can either be  boiled in broth and then  served as a soup or boiled in salted water and then sauteed and browned in schmaltz to serve as a side dish. (According to my dad, this was my Bubbie’s preferred method)  Kreplach are popular as a pre-fast dish on Yom Kippur and the cheese versions are traditional at Purim. I made beef stuffed kreplach in chicken soup (aka Jewish Penicillin). Kreplach originated in Eastern Europe as a way to use up leftover meat and sure enough I had all the makings in my kitchen already. I had about 1/2 pound of ground short ribs in the freezer left over from burger making and a gallon bag of frozen chicken stock cubes from my last batch of stock.  (Gordon has a good recipe for chicken stock under his schmaltz post) Every Jewish cookbook I consulted had a kreplach recipe and there was little variation in the dough recipes with the exception of quantity. Some were enough to feed an army but given how finicky I am about soup I went for a smaller portion. The filling variations were endless,  including  chicken liver, and mushrooms, but I went for the basic ground beef.

recipe after the break

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Filed under Ashkenazi, Jewish, Meat, Pasta and Grains, Purim, Soup, Yom Kippur

Chanukah Menu

On Friday night, Dec 11th 2009, Jews around the world will be lighting the menorahs and eating oil filled food, in celebration of Chanukah (I feel like I am teaching 3rd grade again). With Thanksgiving coming in a few days, you might not be able to plan for more than one festivity at a time, but I find myself planning for holidays about one month in advance (I’m cutting it close this year…).

As a slight diversion from the usual topic, let’s talk about menu planning. I see the menu as having four essential components, 1) taste, 2) nutrition, 3) ease of cooking, and 4) seasonality. For sake of not making this a novel, I will only touch on each of them briefly.

Let me lay out what my tentative menu will look like, then I will explain why

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Filed under Fish, Fruit and Vegtables, Hannukah, Jewish, Other Stuff