I’ve been doing a lot of heavy cooking with the holidays, so I figured i would do something a little easier this week. I had the good fortune to see Evan and Leo this week and they gave half a loaf of their amazing rye bread. Whenever I get decent rye my thoughts immediately turn to chicken liver and I had some in my freezer. Along with my liver, caramelized onions are always a must. As I started thinking about it caramelized onions appear frequently in Ashkenazi food, and while we have often refered to them as an ingredient we have never shown how to prepare them. Caramelizing onions radically transforms the texture, flavor and appearance of onions with minimal effort through the amazing chemistry of a slow cooking process. They become soft, sweet and full of flavor. Once you have them on hand you will find infinite uses for them. Along with chopped liver, they are amazing addition, in place of sauteed onions, to kasha varnishka, kugel, pashtida, knishes or bialys. One of my most favorite uses is to spread some goat cheese on bread and top with caramelized onions, there are few snacks quite so satisfying.
Tag Archives: onions
Filed under Ashkenazi, Deli, Other Stuff
Bourekas ver 1.0
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
Stuffed Zucchini (Mahshi Cousa)
This is a dish I love, but did not consider Jewish until some recent research. When I lived in Israel I had good friends who are members of the Greek Orthodox Arab community. They are descendants of people who had lived in Israel prior to 1948, and had not fled beyond what were then Jordanian lines. Although they have a lot of cousins in Jordan today- something I learned when they invited me to come to Jordan with them in ’96- that was an incredible experience.
But back to the zucchini, each year Samir and his family would host a huge Christmas party in January (when Orthodox Christmas falls on the Julian calendar). Among the many dishes were platters of stuffed zucchini. They were stuffed with chopped meat, onions and spices and then braised in sauce until you could cut it with a fork. I would attempt to make it myself from time to time, hunting for good looking small squash in the open air market of Ramle, but I was never able to match the flavor.
A week ago I was strolling through the new west side Berkeley Bowl and came across perfect globe shaped zucchini- I couldn’t resist them. Along with some other goodies I took them home and started looking for a recipe. I found, in Claudia Rodan’s cookbook, an entry for stuffed zucchini, which she describes as a dish common amongst the Jews of Egypt, Syria and Lebanon and its use in large festive meals. Using her recipe and making some allowances for my own tastes and some of the seasonings from friend Samir used I came up with something slightly different.
Recipe after the break Continue reading
Chopped Chicken Liver
Liver. In popular American culture this word is usually accompanied by a child making a face of disgust and followed by a sneer of “yuck”. Being the unusual child that I was I have always loved liver although I didn’t always know I was eating it. My mother used to make me liverwurst sandwiches. When I was about 4 I asked her if there was liver in them and when she said no, I asked why it was called liverwurst. She replied that the city of Livermore (the next town over) wasn’t made of liver and I accepted this explanation as totally rational. I never bought the whole tooth fairy thing, but this I believed for a shockingly long time. It wasn’t until I entered 1st grade and started eating lunch at school that I discovered that most children find liver disgusting, but by then I developed a taste for it. As an adult I find myself periodically craving liver (this is probably due to my near constant state of iron-deficiency). I love it when there is one left inside of a whole chicken that I can fry up for a little snack and one of the greatest lunches I have ever had was a fried chicken liver po’ boy at Mahoney’s in New Orleans that Gordon and I split along with a cochon de’lait po’ boy (the ultimate in trayfe). It was a heart attack on a plate, with onion rings and an Abita beer on the side, but it was worth every moment of my lifespan I gave up. Marc and all his food intolerance chickened out and ended up eating a salad somewhere down the street. He may live longer as a result but I still dream of that sandwich.
Chopped chicken liver has been a staple of Jewish delis since they were invented (if you have ever seen the chopped chicken liver sandwich at Katz’s you’ve seen the holy grail of chopped chicken liver) I remember my mother making it once with an old hand-crank meat grinder. At some point everyone realized how bad it is for you and stopped making it, but once or twice a year we would go to Max’s and we would order it. Now that we have discovered that all things that taste really good are bad for you and some of the things we thought were better for you were actually making us obese (hello margarine) I decided that chopped chicken liver was coming out of my kitchen once again. Luckily I had two loaves of rye bread just dying for an accompaniment and two Rocky Jr. Liver Cups in the fridge. The cup is one pound of livers from organic sustainably farmed chickens. It also just sound like the prize to a NASCAR race and I am always trying to think of an event where it can be the trophy.
recipe after the jump
Filed under Ashkenazi, Bread, Deli, Meat, Snout to Tail
With the return of the morning fog to the Oakland Hills, so too has my oven returned. While Gordon slaves away at his bagels, I chose a slightly less labor intensive, but no less rewarding, challenge. The bialy. Bialys, as any good Jewish cookbook, or Wikipedia, will tell you, are a Yiddish specialty that originated in the Polish village of Bialystok (cue Nathan Lane). The onion and poppy seed filling brings you all the goodness of a bagel without all of the annoying boiling. They are very common in New York and San Francisco, but many people in other parts of the country have never heard of them. I can recall encountering them at a very young age. Back when I was still young enough to believe that getting up early on a Sunday was fun, I would head with my Dad to the Bagel King before my older siblings had risen from what my father described as “teenage crib death”. Every once in a while they would have bialys and my Dad would always get a couple and the warm scent of the onions would fill the car on the way home. When my taste buds matured beyond the blueberry bagel with strawberry cream cheese, I discovered the wonder of the caramelized onions on the chewy roll, preferably with a little cream cheese on top, but even plain they are still fantastic.
recipe after the jump