Author Archives: gordon

Gribenes

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.

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Filed under Ashkenazi, Deli, Meat, Snout to Tail

Haman’s Ears – Oznai Haman

Sweet Haman's Ears

There is only one mandatory action on Purim, that is to hear the story of the deliverance of the Jews from the hands of their enemy, Haman. One might debate whether this was due to Esther’s sexual manipulation of the king at her uncle Mordecai’s urging or it was in fact due to divine intervention.

What is not in debate however is the ferocity of the Jewish observance of the event. Jewish custom is to get stinking drunk and yell, scream and stomp every time Haman’s name is read aloud and generally remind everyone that we hold grudges for a very long time.[Don’t believe me, the Jews are the only people to remember the tribe of Amelek- just so we can observe the commandment to blot out their memory. That’s more than 2000 years of holding a grudge because they tried to jump us in the desert.]

This extends into the foods consumed on Purim. Oznai Haman (Haman’s Ears) come in several forms, ranging from stuffed cookies to this interesting fried pasta recipe I found. Of all of the Purim foods I have seen these turned out to be the most life-like and perhaps raising the greatest number of questions for a liberal western Jew to answer as he presents a plate of these fried ears to his kids.

I invite you to offer your own thoughts on consuming something that looks so much like a body part, and remind you that between Haman and his 10 sons (who were all impaled on wood spikes) there would have been 22 ears, snacks for everyone.

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Filed under Dessert, Gadgets and Gear, Jewish, Pasta and Grains, Purim

Ma’amoul – Menena (Walnut & Date Tartlets)

Hot and Tasty Ma'amoul Cookies

The next major holiday on the Jewish calendar is Purim. While we will crank out several variants of the traditional hamantachen (I know Amiee is working on her poppy seed filling) I wanted to try something new. In asking around I was told by my spouse that her co-worker who is Israeli of Egyptian descent makes Ma’amoul for Purim. Intrigued since I had never even heard of them I quickly consulted Claudia Roden who supplied a recipe that I then modified. Roden does not mention a holiday connection, but says her mother kept a box of these around all the time. But, since every good tradition has to start somewhere- I am going say this is indeed a Purim treat, sweet like the deliverance of the Jews from Haman.

Some notes on production. The dough will look loose and crumbly at first, let it rest to firm up. This is traditionally made with rose-water, which I do not keep on hand but feel free to swap out some of the milk for an equal amount of rose-water. Third, you can make any filling you want, Roden says that pistachios were the most prestigious given their price. Last, Roden says her mother made a design on the top with “dented pincers”. Having no idea what that might look like I did a Google image search and found that many people use a mold to create intricate designs that would make any Christmas cookie baker proud. I decided that I would keep it simple, scoring the tops with a fork in the manner of my own grandmother’s sugar cookies.

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Filed under Dessert, Israeli, Purim, Sephardic

Bagel Dogs

A Hot Bagel Dog: you know you want it

Tomorrow, like many Americans, I will be ensconced on my couch enjoying the game and waiting for a commercial that will be worthy of Monday morning water cooler conversation. Since kickoff on the West coast falls in the late afternoon, I will need some snacks to go with my cheap beer.

In thinking about what a Jew should eat during the Superbowl, I asked my Facebook friends for suggestions. The best one I got was football shaped matza balls. That sounded tricky to pull off.

Instead I decided that since watching TV was the eptimome of a lazy man’s approach to  sports, that a lazy food was in order. It should be a energy saving food, one that lets you eat fat, protein and carbs all at once. It should also combine at least two classic Jewish dishes.

I present you with… the Bagel Dog.

This isn’t that hard to do, but make the dough now (on Saturday, wait until after Shabbat if you need to) and then finish them up tomorrow afternoon just before they flip the coin.

Recipe after the break

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Filed under Ashkenazi, Bread, Deli, Meat

Pita with Za’atar

 

Toasty and tasty pita with za'atar

 

Let me start of with a word of caution. If you choose to proof your dough in the oven (as I do) it might be worth your while to attach some sort of tag or sign to the oven controls alerting other household members to the presence of a bowlful of live organisms inside. Those tiny bugs (I speak of yeast here) while hardy will perish once the oven becomes warmer than 140F, which will happen if someone else preheats the oven to do some baking.

However, as Scarlett observed, “tomorrow is another day”. On this fine Monday we are making pita. Now, pita is available in every country around the Mediterranean, from the Moroccan r’ghayef to Italian Piadina and of course the many variants of pita ranging from the soft small Greek variety to the large Iraqi pita (called a lafa in Israel).Where good pita is not available is around the Bay. In fact the best thing on offer is pita baked in LA, frozen and trucked up here. Good pita is fresh, as in the restaurant owner just sent a kid running back to the bakery to get more, fresh. After an hour or two they start to harden up and become better suited to throwing than wiping up hummus or holding a tasty bit of kabob.

These pita are inspired by the small Armenian bakery just on the edge of the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem’s old city. This small bakery has served countless Israelis, tourists and religious pilgrims over the years. The specialty of the house is pita baked with a topping of olive oil and za’atar. Za’atar for those of you not familiar is prepared from dried leaves of the hyssop plant, mixed with salt and toasted sesame seeds. Like everything else in the spice rack, freshness is the key. So if you are buying this outside the Levant smell it first and make sure it still smells fresh. Rancid sesame seeds are nasty!

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Filed under Bread, Israeli, Jewish, Sephardic

Israeli Style Ful Medammes (Fava Beans)

Service

“I ate him with some fava beans and a nice Chianti” -Hannibal Lecter

Fava beans are one of the oldest beans eaten in the Western world. In fact it was the only bean known in Europe before the discovery of the Americas (where the common bean is from). The fava bean is eaten all along the Mediterranean basin and well into Asia where they come in a variety of sizes. I can remember eating steamed fava beans with my breakfast in Amman seasoned with salt and herbs that were more than an inch wide.

According to Claudia Roden, fava beans were used in making a traditional Egyptian Shabbat stew that her father called tfadalou. It consisted of whole eggs that were slow cooked with the beans in the still hot ashes of the communal baths or bakeries. It would form the center of a meal with a slew of salads and bread on Shabbat afternoon (a seuda shlitshit or third feast of the Sabbath).

In Israel fava beans are used in a porridge that is simply called Ful (pronounced fool). It is a simple dish that is frequently eaten as a breakfast with hard boiled eggs or as part of a lunch with grilled meat and pita. This dish is a lot like musabacha a warm mix of whole and crushed chick peas. At Humas Said in Akko (or Acre) you can get humas with ful bringing these two similar dishes together.

My personal favorite is the ful at Samir’s in Ramle (located at the top of Detroit Community St. -the things people name streets!). It is a warm mix of stewed fava beans, garlic, salt, pepper and lemon juice. This very simple dish has only one real requirement, that you make it from scratch using dried fava beans.

By the way, if beans give you gas (a byproduct of the oligosacchrides present) then one possible solution is to boil them briefly and then rinse them before continuing to cook in fresh water. A better solution is the traditional one, cook them low and slow to break down those carbohydrates into something your body can actually digest.

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Filed under Israeli, Jewish, Parve, Sephardic

Chocolate Pecan Babka

What you can't see is almost a stick of butter

Babke, is Polish for grandmother. Which is odd because these tasty yeast cakes bear no resemblance to little old peasant women. Rather, it resembles brioche, the bread with the butter baked in and a dough so rich you cannot really make it by hand. Babka are part of the shared culinary legacy of both Jewish and Catholic communities in Eastern Europe. Among the Poles, a babka was prepared for Easter using fruit or rum. The Jewish version however leans towards chocolate. This preference is immortalized by Elaine in Seinfeld season 5 with the line “(the cinnamon babka is) a lesser babka” (this is after they see the last chocolate one get snapped up).

While all of this is terribly interesting, it does not explain why I had to ransack several Jewish and non-Jewish cookbooks to find a recipe for this dessert. One thing I can tell you is that in many cookbooks the first entry in the B’s is bacon (including the ’31 edition of the Settlement Cookbook, written mostly by Jewish housewives). After a fair bit of digging I was able to find a few recipes to work from. The one that provided the most help oddly was the new Gourmet Today published just on the eve of that fabled magazine’s demise.

Recipe after the jump

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Filed under Ashkenazi, Bread, Dessert, Goyish, Jewish

(Crock) Pot Roast

Can you smell the beefy goodness?

Pot roast is my father’s favorite dish, for the leftovers. He has a great fondness for cold pot roast sandwiches. Now I could blithely tell you that my father is a Jew, and therefore this is a Jewish dish. But it does in fact appear in a number of Jewish cookbooks, and is usually considered an alternate Shabbat dinner option- for those who could afford to move up from chicken to eating cows.

But the real reason I chose to make this dish was for my friends Sandra and Rona. When I was visiting each of them in Wisconsin a few weeks ago I noticed that they both had shiny new crock pots (or slow cookers in the new marketing parlance) bubbling away on their counters. Crock pots seem to have made a comeback in the last few years. Spurred by the move towards comfort food, the recession pressure to shop further down the food chain and the fresh crop of good looking cookers in sexy colors and styles (including this monster).

Now, I cannot think of a more welcoming site when it has been hovering near zero Fahrenheit for the last fortnight, but like anything this dish benefits from some careful selection of meat and flavor components. First the meat, you want to pick out a large piece of chuck roast. Preferably a chuck-eye roast rather than a seven bone or top blade roast. Different markets will call these different names, so what you want to look for is a large well marbled piece of chuck with no bones and that is at least 2 inches thick. Also make sure it will fit in your cooker.

But my father is right about one thing, it is a great meal for leftovers. I just packed them into the fridge- tomorrow we’ll try those sandwiches.

Recipe after the break

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Filed under Ashkenazi, Gadgets and Gear, Meat

Pastrami

Steamed and sliced

I am not going to go on and on about Katz’s deli again. It is enough to merely point out that if you want REAL pastrami then you must go to a REAL delicatessen. Which brings me to the reason I chose to make this dish. Almost everything that is labeled pastrami in an average market, deli and (and this pains me) every outlet in Israel is not pastrami. In fact if you wander into an Israeli supermarket and ask for pastrami you will be shown to a cooler filled with pastrama a term that is attached to any cooked and sliced meat- much like “ham” is used in the U.S. As for the American stuff, it is usually some version of roast beef with some sort of pepper spice rub on the outside. It bears as much resemblance to real pastrami as a Carl Buddig product does to whole cuts of meat.

Now, pastrami is not a quick thing to make. It is a minimum 5 day process that some extend out to two weeks. Your first decision is whether to use a brine or dry cure. A dry cure is more traditional, but a brine cure will impart the same flavor and also boost the liquid content for a more moist cut of meat. The second choice is whether to seek beef plate or use the more commonly available brisket. The third choice is about smoking. You can in fact smoke without a smoker. By using an oven smoking bag or liquid smoke you can get the same flavor as a smoker. Since I really wanted to play with a smoker, and don’t have one, I waited until I was planning a trip to my parents so I could use theirs.

More after the break.

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Filed under Ashkenazi, Cured and Pickled, Deli, Jewish, Meat, Smoked

Beer, and some cheese

Painstaking research was conducted

What does a Jew do for Christmas? Well this Jew travels to cold weather (which we lack around the Bay) and enjoys the holiday in the company of his non-Jewish relations. I actually did some of the cooking for Christmas dinner this year. I made a roast turkey, gravy from turkey fat, and a Bailey’s Irish cream cheese cake.

But, how could I journey to the heartland of America, Wisconsin and not talk about beer. Now, California has a great beer culture with dozens of small craft brewers offering their wares at Whole Foods and Bev Mo. But during a quick two day run from Racine to Lone Rock took us past several small breweries, all worth the trip.

Most of these places don’t even Pasteurize their beer. This means it cannot not be stored at room temperature and therefore generally doesn’t get shipped more than an hour’s drive away. But if you ever get out to Madison, then point the car west and make a beer and cheese run.

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Filed under Drinks, Goyish, Other Stuff