Category Archives: Pasta and Grains

Lentil Salad with Walnuts and Pomegranate for Sukkot

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.

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

Fattoush

fattoush

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

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Barley and Mushrooms for Tu B’Shevat

baked barley with mushrooms

Tu B’Shevat (the New Year for trees) is coming up next week and while it is a pretty minor Jewish holiday, particularly among Ashkenazi, celebrations of it seem to be becoming more common. Kabbalists in the 16th century developed a seder ritual around Tu B’Shevat and these days a lot of Jewish environmental groups host community Tu B’Shevat seders. The seder has a lot in common with the Passover seder, but the symbolic foods are typically the Seven Species of the Land of Israel (pomegranate, wheat, olives, figs, grapes, dates and barley) along with a variety of fruits and nuts… and of course 4 glasses of wine.

In addition to being holiday relevant, barley is also very healthy and super high in fiber, so it is a good addition to your menu to help you achieve any new year resolutions. Keep in mind that is also a key ingredient in the production of beer and whiskey, so it can help you break those resolutions as well.

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Filed under Ashkenazi, Holidays, Pasta and Grains

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

Jerusalem Pretzels

 

Yummy pretzels. Dup in mustard, oil, hummus, or whatever else you may fancy...

 

When I think of pretzels, I think of a Sunday afternoon at the ballpark, with a hot dog in one hand and a pretzel in the other. The pretzel is really scrumptious, though not so nutrious. I’d bet though, you have no idea why it is called a pretzel or why they are usually in that shape…

The pretzel was “invented” in 610AD in southern France/northern Italy. The folded section symbolizes a child’s folded arms during prayer and the three different section symbolize the Trinity. Pretzels, or Pretiola in Latin as they were originally called, were given by monks to children who did well is Bible school. Over the next few centuries the Pretiola migrated to Germany and became the “Pretzel.”

So what does this have to do with Jerusalem (aka Jewish) Pretzels? To be honest, I have no idea. In doing research, I could not find the historical origins of the Jerusalem Pretzel. I found the recipe in Janna Gur’s cookbook, and have eaten them many times in the Old City. She claims post-the-Jews-regaining-Jerusalem, the Jews discoverd that their Arab friends had a tasty treat. Jeruslaem Pretzels, though, are shaped in an oval, presumably because the Arabs and Jews knew the historical roots of the “normal” pretzel. Also, in my research, I discovered the beigeleh, which in Yiddish would mean little bagel. It looks similar to me, but not quite the same. So in sum, pretzels taste good, so just eat them!

Today, I tried making this recipe using weights instead of volumes (ie, 500g and not 1/2 cup). It worked really well, and I recommend it, but I will include the volumes in case you don’t have a scale. So the pretzels are fairly easy to make, but the true ones use no salt and plenty of yeast. They can be enjoyed alone, dipped on olive oil, or even zatar. They are coated with generous amounts of sesame seeds. I recommend eating them immediately; or once they are cooled, freeze them in a ziplock bag and they can be reheated at 350F in the oven.

Recipe…

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Filed under Bread, Goyish, Israeli, Parve, Pasta and Grains

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

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

Kasha Varnishkes (with color!)

IMG_0031There might not be a more boring Asheknazi dish out there. Kasha Varnishkes (or just Kasha as my Mother calls it) is bowtie pasta with buckwheat. The tan of the noodles, with the brown of the grain, along with the white of the onions and the gray of the mushroom might sound bland… and it is. Yet, for some reason, it is a classic family favorite. So where does kasha varnishkes even come from? Great question. Kasha, in Yiddish, means buckwheat, and varnishkes comes from “dumplings” (wait for it…). The Jews used to put the kasha (buckwheat) in dumplings. But over the years, the Jews got lazy, they found out about the wonders of Italian pasta, and voila, now we have “buckwheat dumplings” without the dumplings.

Many people simply add goodies with the cooked buckwheat to the noodles, without use of the oven. This is great, but I find that putting it in the oven for the final step gives the noodles a nice addition: the noodles on the edge turn crispy and delicious. I find this to be critical, but this step, I guess, is optional.

The other day, as I reached for the bowties at the grocery store, there were nice colorful (spinach, tomato, and squash medley) bowties right next to it. I thought, hmm, there will add some color… As I started to make this dish, I couldn’t go wrong. It is so simple. As I took it out of the oven, I had a quick taste, and some was awry. I screwed up! I forgot the add the water. Anyway, I tried to salvage it by adding water after the fact. It finally  tasted ok, although my girlfriend of Russian decent was quick to notice my misstep.

Continue for recipe…

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Filed under Deli, Jewish, Other Stuff, Parve, Pasta and Grains

Noodle Kugel, like your Bubbe never made

Fresh from the oven

Fresh from the oven

Kugel seems to come in two varieties. Boring noodle and boring potato. If there was ever a dish that cried out for a makeover like a Long Island mall rat it’s the kugel. My thinking about kugel started a few weeks ago when I made a nice veggie lasagna for a synagogue pot-luck. Its always heartening to see your dish empty after dinner, but I suspect any carb would have done well amongst the myriad tossed salads on offer. But I got to thinking, is there a Jewish equivalent for lasagna? I started rooting through my cookbooks and learned that there is a theory that Jews brought pasta to central Europe from Italy. That might be, but I think we should have stayed in Italy until we mastered cheese making. I found a lot of uses for ribbon egg noodles but there was nothing that called for the bigger sheets of pasta used in a lasagna.

When I read the many recipes available for kugel the recurring theme was that most kugels were still firmly anchored in the poverty of the past. Somehow in the trend of updating knishes with smoked salmon and coming up with even more extreme versions of the deli sandwich the kugel got left on the side of the road. I decided to change that armed with a version of baked mac & cheese from Gourmet that I had made for co-workers last year. A word of warning, this one is complicated and I had to write my steps down (unusual for me) to keep everything straight. My suggestion, read the instructions before you start the test.

Recipe after the break.

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