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!
Grilled Liver and Figs
So I’m still slightly obsessed with figs and was attempting to come up with some creative uses for them. As you may have noticed in previous posts that Gordon and I really like chicken liver. (The rest of the Heathens seem to have escaped this particular affliction) While chopped chicken liver is the more traditional Ashkenazi dish, I felt that the Jerusalem mixed grill gave me a bit of leeway on creating an appetizer that might just be the perfect bit to stave off the hunger pangs of Yom Kippur fasting while awaiting the main break-fast meal. Additionally, this could be a great way to get yourself out in your Sukkah and on the grill while the weather is still nice. I also got a really awesome new infrared gas grill this summer, that I look for any excuse to use. BTW – If anyone has an idea how to put a Jewish twist on pizza, let me know, because this grill converts to an amazing pizza oven.
I started very simply with green California figs as I felt they provided a nice contrast to the dark color of the liver. And while this is a very Mediterranean thing to do I made a simple balsamic vinegar reduction to accompany the figs and liver. I prefer just straight balsamic vinegar but some people like to add a sprig of rosemary or other seasoning. Additionally I used bamboo skewers for the grill but if you are feeling particularly fancy, twigs from a rosemary bush can add a nice bit of flavor. All told this is a sweet, creamy, umami-licous appetizer.
recipe after the jump
Sephardic Pumpkin Bread
As you may have noticed the posting activity around here has virtually disappeared the last several months. It turns out that every single one of the heathens have joined the ranks of the gainfully employed. Given that when we started the blog a year ago all 5 of us of us were most assuredly unemployed I say screw the gloom and doom news on the economy, I do believe this is a sure sign that the economy is looking up. Now that several of us are comfortably in place at our new gigs we are going make more of an effort to post of course just in time for the High Holidays. I know Gordon is working on something of a cocktail nature to ring in the New Year and I am toying around with my favorite fall fruit, figs. Hopefully, when Ariel returns from her Hazon ride she can be cajoled into posting a delightfully sweet baked good. In the meantime I highly recommend reviewing some of our hits from last years High Holidays when we were cranking things out:
Honey and my obsession with it.
Gordon’s amazing instructions on how to braid a spiral Challah
My personally developed recipe for Apple Upside-down honey cake
My brisket, in which I reveal my secret ingredient is none other than Lipton Onion soup mix.
Sephardic Pumpkin Bread for a Spanish Rosh Hashana tradition.
Gordon’s Lox, the perfect start to breaking the fast.
Now that I have put it out to the interwebs and we are also expecting some traffic from our friends over at Zeek magazine, I believe I have firmly committed us to providing you our faithful readers (or just our relatives) with some new content.
An early Shana Tovah to you all!
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
Now that I am veering toward wellness I am going to take you all back one High Holiday to Yom Kippur and my standard Jewish holiday main dish, brisket. This year I had a small group of friends over for a break-fast meal. Almost all of us had fasted, including D. who was fasting and attending services for the first time after marrying a nice Jewish girl last year. He was finding fasting much easier than the rest of us and then he mentioned that he thought it might have something to do with the cafe mocha with whipped cream he had in the afternoon. Apparently, everyone forgot to tell him that drinks were out too. I, for one, was so hungry that I carved up most of the brisket before I remembered to take a photo.
When not enjoying brisket southern BBQ style I go for the slow and low braise of my childhood. Not only that ,but this is one of the rare recipes in which my general disdain for processed foods gets overridden by nostalgia. Yes, I admit it… I use the dry Lipton onion soup mix as brisket seasoning.
Recipe after the jump…
May you be sealed for a good year. As my family sits down to a nice home cooked meal I hope you and yours will be blessed with a year of good fortune, prosperity and happiness. Shana tova.
Bagels, lox, hard boiled eggs and all the fixin's
I am going to take a moment to diverge from my usual cooking banter … After several years of working and attending high holiday services at my former place of employment, I returned to services at my local synagogue, Temple Sinai. One of the most amazing traditions of this congregation is the Yom Kippur Food Drive for the Alameda County Community Food Bank. Every year the food bank brings a full size semi-truck and parks it in front of the Paramount Theater on the morning of Yom Kippur to collect food donations. The youth group gathers in front to help people unload their cars and virtually every family arrives with at least one bag of groceries to donate. Most years they collect around a ton of food. It is really quite amazing. As we spend the day choosing to go without food, take a moment to remember those who are hungry not by choice but by circumstance. This year food banks are struggling with greater demand for their services combined with fewer donations. On this Yom Kippur consider making a donation of food, money, or your time to your local food bank.
Here we are, ready for slicing
This year, break-fast will be bagels and lox. I know Amiee has a whole side of cow on the cooker and I love a good brisket as much as anyone. But I wanted something that would be fun to make and would allow me to bring it all together after coming back from family services in the late afternoon (the joy of children is going to the short services). Since the bagels kettle and bake in less than an hour and the lox is already cured all I have left to do is slice some veggies.
There will be cheese cake for dessert, but more on that later.
Nova lox is yet another one of those little reminders of how poor Jews of Eastern Europe were. Clearly fresh fish was out of the question. Think of the fish that is associated with Jewish food. Smoked whitefish, gefilte fish (which is the tuna helper of appetizers) and of course lox. All of them preserved and all of them far from the caviar and Dover sole that might have graced a wealthier table. Lox has Scandinavian origins but I am not going to get in the middle of any arguments between Swedes, Danes and Norwegians as to who cured the first of these tasty fish.
As I mentioned before when I was a kid we would get our lox at Benjy’s deli. We would buy about 1/4 lb at a crack and it was pretty expensive. When I lived in Israel I realized that aside from canned, lox was the only form of salmon available. In Hebrew it is simply called salmon (say it with a slight Latin accent with an emphasis on the second syllable) Whether it was in the markets or on the menu that word always meant cured or smoked salmon. A pretty typical dish was pasta in a heavy cream sauce with chopped lox.
When I was an Israeli tour guide I would often drop groups in Jerusalem and then make my way home to the kibbutz I lived on. On my way to the bus terminal I would pass through the cavernous Mahane Yehuda markets. I would make my way up the crowded aisles past the fish mongers, butchers and bakeries stopping to pick up a few things to make dinner with. A bit of lox, fresh basil and a bottle of wine made for a nice meal in my own kitchen for the first time in a week.
If I am making bagels (and they are proofing in the fridge as I write this) then I should have some lox to go with it. Since I live in a part of the world where fresh wild salmon is almost a birthright it seems only right to make my own. Cured salmon is a pretty easy thing to do, like most cures it only requires time.
Recipe after the break.
As most of you know Yom Kippur is headed our way on Monday. For many Jews (and most of my family for that matter), this is the one day of the year they end up in a synagogue. We also stay home from work, in order to stick it to the Gentiles, and constantly exclaim at each other things like “you’re watching television? On Yom Kippur?!!” The other main defining feature is the fast. Abstaining from food from sun down to sun down. The general point of this is to spend the day atoning and not be distracted by other facets of life like eating and grooming. I tend to find the opposite effect among my friends and family, in that the fast creates almost unbearable crabbiness and obsession with food. What will the pre-fast meal be and