I know I am a bit late with this, and Hanukkah is half over, but I got sidelined with a killer cold for the past week. I was back on my feet just in time for Latke Ball on Thursday and Chinese food with friends tonight. A couple of week ago, some friends and I decided to kick off Hanukkah early and deep fried a turkey. Combined with niner’s football, latkes and beer, it made for a pretty awesome Sunday. While the tradition of deep frying turkey got started in the American South, and most people associate it with Thanksgiving, this culinary trend was ripe for a Hebraic takeover. Hanukkah is considered a minor Jewish holiday but there are three universal practices associated with it: Lighting the menorah, playing dreidel, and eating fried foods. Why settle for simple potatoes when you can fry an entire bird? Now when this idea was first proposed there was a lot of concern that this was a spectacularly dangerous thing to be doing on a small San Francisco balcony. There are a lot of people who have done incredibly stupid things combining a turkey and a deep-fryer and have started some crazy fires. You can even entertain yourself for hours on YouTube watching people do this very thing. I have been lucky enough to have watched the process a few time at my family’s Thanksgiving and got some great pointers from Derek B. Plus a few simple rules can greatly reduce the risk.
- This is not a one person job. You need at least two people or a mechanical pulley system (thanks Alton) to do this safely. Luckily, men really enjoy doing this and I had Ben, Shaun and Sivan on hand to assemble the fryer and do the heavy lifting.
- Have a fire extinguisher handy. (and as Ben helpful pointed out, have it accessible in a place that would not require you to go through any potential fires to retrieve it)
- Totally defrost your turkey. A still frozen turkey = massively splattering oil.
- Don’t over flow the oil. Most of the fires start when the oil overflows the pot and catches the flame which subsequently ignites the rest of the pot of oil. You can do a displacement test with water and your turkey before you unwrap it to determine the amount of oil you need. When you lower the turkey in after you have heated the oil – turn off the flame.
- Last but not least – Get drunk AFTER the turkey comes out.
With the appropriate safety precautions, you will have a fantastic bird and may never roast a turkey again. My crowd of about 15 people cleaned an 18lb turkey down to the bone. The only drawback to this is a lack of leftovers.
Lenils with Walnuts and Pomegranate
I know Sukkot ends on Wednesday so I am sort sneaking this one in under the wire, but as typically happens I start to get a little Jew’ed out by the time Simcha Torah rolls around. I already managed to get in some delicious trayfe-on-trayfe antidote in the form of mussels with pork belly at the latest hot SF pop-up, Mission Chinese yesterday. It was delicious and was accompanied by some blogger dick-wagging with my friend Eric, over who has more hits from the more obscure reference. His is the Stout Scarab, which is the essentially the original mini-van and what he claims is a highly efficient use of vehicular space. I have my doubts. Mine are pashtida and schug (thanks Daf) . I am only mentioning this because it allows me to link to his high traffic post multiple times in an attempt to claim to be a source of his traffic and ultimately get the last word. (Insert evil laugh here)
Sukkot is one of those odd Jewish holidays that I still manage to learn something new about every year. This year I learned while meals should be eaten in the Sukkah, there are actually only six things that may not be eaten outside of the Sukkah. Weirdly, they are the five grains that constitute chametz (or the forbidden grains) for Passover, wheat, barley, spelt, rye and oats, along with grape products. This is further solidifying my believe that while Sukkot celebrates the harvest, Passover only exist because we ran out of the harvest from the fall.
At any rate I was looking for something with grains or legume and pomegranate for Sukkot. I had a bag of dry lentils left over from side dishes for lamb and luckily Cooks Illustrated provided inspiration yet again.
Chicken with Apples and Fennel
Question: How long does it take five young professionals in San Francisco to come to consensus on high holiday plans via email and text? I’ll never know the answer. My friends and I started discussing it at the end of August and went in circles for weeks. It was like the set-up to a bad joke – liberal Jews, raised reform, reconstuctionist, conservative, one a convert, all of us with a slight twinge of traditionalism mixed with egalitarianism, and none of us are currently members of a particular synagogue. We even specifically started “shul shopping” by going to some shabbat services looking for a place with the right mix for all of us. The only thing I learned is that the perfect shul does not exist, but in line with the old joke, the one that each person won’t set foot in, does. Luckily, through an impromptu shabbat dinner, we all ended up at the same table and settled on plans within ten minutes. It was a High Holiday miracle!
The dinner came together because I was looking for a Rosh Hashana recipe and serendipitously one appeared in my inbox. I subscribe to a few recipe list and one for salmon with apples and fennel appeared and I knew I was on the right path. Salmon is a pain to make for a crowd because it can easily get dried out, plus it is expensive, not to mention that my good friend, Sarah, now won’t eat fish because she believes it is all unsustainable and toxic. Chicken is almost always the answer for a meal for a crowd of Jews and what I turned to. Since I was sort inventing this recipe I decided a test run was necessary before my larger Rosh Hashana shabbat dinner and invited my friends to serve as guinea pigs.
After working all day and grocery shopping the thought of doing the photography was feeling a bit overwhelming so I called in an old debt and enlisted my good friend Ryan Simon to serve as the official photographer. He has been nagging me to upgrade to an SLR, so this seemed like a good opportunity to let him show me the goods and if it might be worth the investment. All the photos on this post are his, and I threw in a couple of extra because they were particularly good, so I urge you to click and enlarge them.
I also suggest you to look back at some past Rosh hashana recipes as we have a really nice collection going. I personally will be reviewing the how to braid a spiral challah post so I can impress my guest next week. L’Shana Tova!
I realize my recent recipes have been feta heavy. I promise this is the last one I will post for a while, but I just couldn’t resist the watermelons stacked up at the store last week
Like many people, watermelon evokes lots of memories for me. The obvious one being summer but the more interesting is my dear old friend Kelly V. I pretty much can’t see a watermelon without thinking of her. Kelly spent a summer several years ago on a mission trip to Israel and when she returned she was obsessed with a favorite Tel Aviv snack, watermelon and feta. I was a bit unconvinced that this was as delightful as she claimed when she first brought it up, but her enthusiasm and insistence of the wonders of this two tastes together convinced me to try it. Low and behold it is a fantastic combination of sweet and salty, crunchy and creamy and an amazing hot weather snack or side dish. Kelly became so well known for touting this dish a friend bought her an adorable t-shirt with watermelon slices on it, which solidified the connection in my mind even more. When she left Berkeley for Chicago, I sent along to her a old Zionist Congress poster that had once been on display at my old workplace. It was an illustration of a watermelon encouraging people to “Buy Hebrew watermelon”. To my knowledge, the poster graced the wall of the Avodah bayit and now is happily ensconced in the dining room of Moishe House Chicago. I am sure that the visitors to her home know that the sweet friendly feelings that come along with the watermelon on the wall, are the same ones that she expresses to all the people she meets.
A couple of brief asides – I will be at the Hazon Food Conference at UC Davis later this week and will be on the Food Writers Panel with Joan Nathan and Jeffery Yoskowitz. If any of my readers are there, come introduce yourself and be sure check out the panel!
Also, since I know there is one person out there who always reads my posts, a big happy birthday to my Dad today! Thanks for being such a faithful reader and always trying to think of a way for me to make money off the blog.
recipe after the break
Supposedly it is the height of summer, but the only way you would realize this in San Francisco would be by the availability of great summer produce. I had a pile of zucchini that was
dumped on graciously given to me by a friend. Even with plans of zucchini bread I needed some other uses. I decided to continue on with my Israeli theme of late and make some fattoush with a little twist.
Fattoush has it origins in the Levant and the word itself comes from the root fatoot, which translates as anything crumbled. There are a bunch of recipes in the family but fattoush or pita salad is probably the most common and a great way to use up stale pita. It is a middle eastern version of panzella and is pretty much a dressed-up Israeli salad with toasted or fried bit of pita stirred in. There are a ton of versions but all include cucumber, tomatoes, and a lemon-olive oil dressing. I decided to add some bell pepper and a big pile of zucchini roasted with red onion. I fancied up my pita with some sumac and topped it with a generous spinkling of feta, because I never pass up the opportunity to include more cheese in my diet.
recipe after the break
This blog seems to be turning into the story of what I’ve been doing in the increasingly long periods between posts. This time I have a great excuse. I was moving. Between looking for a new place, packing, the actual move and unpacking, two months have gone by. Not only have I not made anything for the blog but I have barely cooked anything at all in that time. I even let one of my favorite Jewish food holiday, Shavuot, pass without a dairy delight emerging from my kitchen. So for my inaugural post from my new kitchen I decided to start the cheese making I have been threatening for at least a year. I actually purchased the book Home Cheese Making at least six months ago, but it took me lending it to my friend Megan to be prodded into finally making some. We made mozzarella and lemon cheese but I had yet to unpack my camera, so I’m starting you off easy with the simplest cheese imaginable, labneh.
Labneh is a traditional middle eastern cheese made by straining yogurt. Israeli’s have embraced it and it has become a staple at breakfast. It is typically sprinkled with herbs, or rolled into balls and then in herbs, drizzled with olive oil and served with bread or pita. It also makes a great condiment spread for sandwiches, or base for a dip and is much healthier than mayo.
As you may have noticed, the Heathens produced quite a few hamantaschen recipes last year for Purim, so I was struggling a bit to come up with something unique. I re-read Marc’s post and was reminded that his mother uses chocolate in hers, and the same day went digging through my freezer. I came across a bag of Oregon hazelnuts, that were given to me by my friends, Penny and Bill, brought back from one of their many trips to Eugene to see family and the Ducks. At that point I recalled of the joy of the ultimate combination of chocolate and hazelnuts: Nutella. The ingredients of Nutella are relatively simple (sugar, oil, hazelnuts, cocoa powder), and I realized I could easily make my own with my unearthed treasure of hazelnuts. I adore Nutella and will put it on just about anything, so filling hamantaschen with it may be the most deliciously evil idea to occur on the blog since the (in)famous animal style latke.