Posts Tagged ‘cooking’

A week or so ago, the Cap’n and I were in Beit Shemesh at an engagement party for the daughter of some friends.  (Yes, I guess we’re that old.)  While there, we saw a couple with whom we used to have fairly regular Shabbat and holiday meals.  It was great catching up with them, hearing about their kids, and enjoying their warmth and sense of humor.  In a rare instance of presence of mind, I thought to ask Nate how he used to make the incredible grilled chicken he would serve sometimes.  He said it was really simple, and generously shared his recipe:

1 whole chicken, in parts

Olive oil

Garlic powder

Onion powder


Ground black pepper

Coat chicken pieces in olive oil.  Rub a generous amount of garlic and onion powder, oregano, and pepper into chicken.  (I cut up a whole chicken and left only a sparing amount of skin.  I also used disposable gloves for the rubbing stage.)  Grill until cooked through.  (Neither Nate nor I care for pink chicken near the bone.)

I served this last Shabbat with mashed potatoes, cauliflower-carrot-rice biryani, and cole slaw with Soy Vey Asian sesame dressing (formerly Cha-Cha Chicken Salad Dressing).  With homemade chocolate chip challah, and followed by homemade cherry jello for dessert (the Cap’n and I have been getting threatening messages from the bathroom scale), it was a hit.


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Passover Lemon Pie

I stated in an earlier post that I have officially retired from making fancy desserts for Pesach, but I recognize that that doesn’t mean everyone else has.  To this day, I can still remember our friends in Newton who made salmon crunch pie and salads for lunch, followed by cheesecake baked in a coconut macaroon crust.  I gain pounds just thinking about that lunch.

In glancing through my homegrown cookbook, I found this recipe for Passover Lemon Pie that I tinkered with a few years ago and nearly perfected.  (Somehow my lemon curd never seemed to want to set.)  For those who still make fancy desserts at Pesach, here’s a beauty.  (Makes one 9” pie.)

Lemon Curd and Meringue

6 egg yolks, beaten

1½ teaspoon grated lemon peel

½ cup lemon juice

⅓ cup water

¾ cup sugar

5 egg whites

10 tablespoons sugar

Almond Crust

1 cup ground almonds

2 tablespoons sugar

⅓ teaspoon salt

¼ cup oil

1 egg white

To make the Almond Crust, mix together almonds, sugar and salt.  Beat together oil and egg white; stir into almond mixture.  Press mixture firmly and evenly against sides and bottom of a 9” pie plate.  Bake at 375°F for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool thoroughly.

To make Lemon Curd, combine egg yolks, lemon peel, lemon juice, water and ¾ cup sugar in top of double boiler.  Cook over gently boiling water, stirring frequently until thickened, about 15 minutes.  Remove from heat.  (This stayed gooey instead of thickening; if you have a reliable lemon curd recipe, use it here.)

Make Meringue by beating egg whites until frothy.  Gradually add remaining 10 tablespoons sugar, beating until soft peaks form.  Fold ⅓ of beaten egg whites into warm lemon mixture.  Pour into cooled crust.  Top with remaining meringue, sealing to crust.  Bake at 400°F for 15 minutes, or until meringue is lightly browned.  Cool before serving.

Chag kasher v’sameach.

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Pesach made simple(r)

With Purim over and the kitchen and dining room littered with the refuse and junk food from mishloach manot, it is time to think about Pesach.

Every year I look for ways to simplify the process, use less aluminum foil, and pack away fewer items.  Making aliyah has changed much of how I do things (fresher, more appetizing Pesach food available, fewer days of Yom Tov, and less storage space), but I continue to look for ways to increase my efficiency.

Here are a few things I’ve come up with:

1.       Don’t combine spring cleaning with Pesach cleaning.  I know it’s tempting, but unless you start really early, the price in burnout is just too high.  My neighbor says she tidies and cleans gradually over the month or two in advance and just needs to touch up things a bit before Pesach.  I muck out the fridge a week before Pesach while the kids are still in school so I only have to give it a quick wipe before unpacking Pesach food.  If you’re getting a late start on Pesach prep, let go of the things that can wait until after the holiday.  It’s more important to enjoy Pesach than to have a sparkling house.  (Let the dust and dirt remind you of the desert which was Bnei Yisrael’s home for 40 years.)

2.       Minimize what you store for Pesach.  The only Pesach dishes I keep are my formal meat dishes and my grandmother’s glass goblets for the seder.  If I’m not hosting a seder, I don’t unpack them.  (This makes years when we host a seder all the more special).  I keep cutlery for meat and dairy and a box of everyday glasses (a wedding gift), but that’s it.  We use disposable the rest of the time, using the same plate for breakfast and lunch (which usually just accumulates matzah crumbs), and a clean one for dinner.

3.       Keep menus simple.  I’ve been working to reduce the number vessels and utensils I store from year to year.  The more elaborately you cook, the more stuff you have to store, so think of Pesach as a time to eliminate fanciful food and cook with the simplest ingredients (fresh herbs, fruit, vegetables for soups and salads, eggs, simply cooked meat and fish).  I’ve stopped kashering my KitchenAid mixer and only keep a hand mixer, just in case.  Since Purim involves so many sweets and I find Pesach desserts uninspiring (too many eggs, too much beating, too much matzah meal), I have stopped making desserts except my friend Heather’s farfel clusters (recipe below).  Did our ancestors stand there beating egg whites for half an hour for macaroons?  I think not.  Figure out what you REALLY need to eat during the holiday and just keep equipment for that.

4.       Keep Pesach special.  I know no one bakes desserts with matzah meal during the year, but reserve some tasty recipes just for Pesach so it is something to look forward to.  The Cap’n and I love matzah brei, and the kids love having their first fruit juice pops of the season in the special molds I keep for Pesach.

5.       Don’t move.  Stay in the same house.  This makes it much easier to develop a routine with Pesach things stored in the same place and a kashering method that works quickly and efficiently.  (Also, don’t get pregnant, don’t get sick, and don’t be in graduate school.  These all interfere with Pesach preparation and should be avoided.)

As promised, here are Heather’s Farfel Clusters (via her mother-in-law; with two or three ingredients, how can you go wrong?):  Melt 12 ounces (350 grams) of chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl, or in a double-boiler.  (I use a pyrex dish inside a saucepan of water on low heat.  Don’t heat it too fast or the chocolate will burn.)  Stir in one cup of farfel (lightly toasted in the oven) and 1 cup of nuts or raisins (optional).  Drop by teaspoonfuls onto foil or wax paper and refrigerate until firm.  Store in a zippered bag in the refrigerator or a cool place.

I am always looking for new ways to eliminate fuss at Pesach.  What do you do to minimize Pesach prep fatigue?

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Foods for Purim

Some holidays are necessarily culinary.  Rosh Hashana has its simanim (fish heads, anyone?), Pesach is über-kosher, and lasagna and cheesecake are Shavuot institutions.

The focus on Purim is usually on costumes, Megillat Esther, and mishloach manot.  But this year, I’ve been thinking about the culinary aspect of the holiday, the seudah (festive meal).

Back in the US, my experience of the seudah was usually the one the shul put on, with fried chicken, salad, and a few other things.  It was simple, kid-friendly, not in any way particular to the holiday.  But in doing a little research, I have turned up two themes to Purim food: hidden and vegetarian.

A couple of years ago, I was working with a friend on a Jewish cookbook (alas, never published) and she told me about why Jews eat hamantashen on Purim.  Since God is never mentioned in the book of Esther, the belief is that God directed the events in the story from behind the scenes, as the hester panim, or hidden face.  Since the filling is largely hidden inside the cookie, this is a reference to the hidden face of God in the story.  My friend suggested serving pigs-in-blankets (pastry-wrapped hot dogs) as kid-friendly food for the holiday, and I have read elsewhere that kreplach, meat-filled ravioli (served alone, with sauce, or in chicken soup) is also served at Purim.  (As an aside, hamantashen, Yiddish for Haman pockets, and the Israeli oznei Haman, Haman’s ears, are traditionally triangular in shape in Europe and Israel, though they were not so in other parts of the world, such as Iraq.)

The second theme of Purim food is vegetarian, especially fruit, nuts, and seeds.  Just as Jews remember Esther’s fast before outing herself as a Jew to save her people, we also remember her time spent in the harem of King Ahashverosh, when she endeavored to observe the laws of kashrut by abstaining from eating meat.  Fillings for hamantashen include dates, prunes, and poppy seeds.  Families mindful of this tradition eat special foods made from almonds (mmm, marzipan), sesame seeds (techina and halva), humous, and dates.

Since my family eats mostly vegetarian aside from Shabbat and holidays, this presents me with some cool ideas for menus.  Split pea soup, red lentil soup, or Moroccan chick pea soup are vegetarian options.  Curried lentils is another.  To incorporate the hester panim theme, one can serve stuffed peppers, stuffed acorn squash, or stuffed baked potatoes.  For those like me who lean toward ethnic cuisine, burritos or enchiladas are Tex-Mex possibilities, as are Italian tortellini and calzones, Indian samosas and pakoras, Chinese wontons or steamed dumplings, Thai or Vietnamese spring rolls, or Japanese sushi or tempura.  Sandwich wraps can be a lighter alternative.  And while I am fond of hamantashen, other dessert options include pies, turnovers, and my childhood favorite, surprise cupcakes (made with chocolate cake batter, with a dollop of sweetened cream cheese and chocolate chips baked in the middle).

So many possibilities for a holiday that comes but once a year.


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When the Cap’n and I got married, I took about $40 of the cash people gave us and bought a Cuisinart ice cream maker.  I thought I’d get into making homemade ice cream, but really, with the availability of good ice cream (Breyer’s and J.P. Licks come to mind), I never got around to it.  When we made aliyah, and I was deciding which appliances I would bring and have to run on a transformer, the ice cream maker didn’t make the cut.

This turned out to be a mistake.  Yes, Israel has some lovely ice cream and gelato in the boutiques, but the stuff in the grocery store (with the exception of the high-priced Ben & Jerry’s) is pretty bad.  As in, doesn’t really taste like ice cream at all.  (There is one exception to this, Strauss’s three-chocolate ice cream, but that’s the only one.)  After we’d been here a couple of years, I couldn’t stand it anymore, and ordered an identical Cuisinart for my in-laws to bring with them last year.  It is a little temperamental on the transformer—sometimes it overheats, needs a 10-minute rest before it will run again, then poops out after just a few more minutes.  But it’s still worth it.  The first thing I did was make a good vanilla ice cream.  Then, when I had made a couple of successful batches of homemade toffee, I made toffee-vanilla.  That was good too.  And once I found peppermint flavoring in a Jerusalem grocery that carries lots of American products, I was set to make the Cap’n’s and my favorite: mint chocolate chip.  To cut a long story short, it was a rousing success.  Peach thinks it’s the best ice cream she’s ever had, ever.  Banana also waxed enthusiastic.  My in-laws inhaled it.  The Cap’n and I were transported.  (Beans didn’t like it, and asked if we had any three-chocolate instead.  But she was the exception.)  No more need to miss Breyer’s mint chocolate chip.  And because I’m such a giving person, here is the recipe for your very own.

1 cup whole milk, well chilled (Israeli 3% works fine here)

¾ cup granulated sugar

2 cups heavy cream, well chilled (I buy the 38% stuff here in Israel)

1 to 1 ½ teaspoons pure peppermint extract

125 grams (or more, to taste) fine quality bittersweet chocolate chips or chunks (I use the 60% cacao chips made by Carmit in Israel)

In a medium bowl, whisk milk and sugar together until sugar is dissolved, about 10 minutes.  (This is a good job to delegate to a kid.)  Stir in cream and peppermint extract.  Turn machine on and pour in mixture.  Let mix until thickened, 15 minutes or so, before adding chocolate.  Mix another 5 minutes, transfer to a plastic storage container, and put in freezer to finish freezing.

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While copying and pasting my recipe for cranberry apple crisp into a comment (for yesterday’s post, Ta’am Gan Eden), I noticed the recipe below it in my “Pies, Tarts & Cobblers” Word file.  It’s for French Apple Pie with Nutmeg Sauce, a serious hit last Sukkot when I had mid-week guests on a cool day in our sukkah.  I also recommend it for a wintry Friday night dessert, when you can keep the sauce warm.  I give the parve version here; if you serve it after a dairy or parve meal, do make the pie and sauce dairy using butter in the crust and milk in the sauce.
8 C. tart apples, pared, sliced
Few drops vanilla
½ C. water
1½ C. sugar
1 crust recipe
1 C. graham cracker crumbs
½ C. flour
½ C. sugar
⅓ C. margarine
Nutmeg sauce
1 egg yolk
½ C. sugar
1 C. rice milk
1 t. nutmeg

Cook apples in water until tender.  Add sugar and mix carefully to retain shape of apples.  Arrange apples in a pastry-lined pie plate.  Combine graham cracker crumbs, flour, sugar, margarine and vanilla; mix until they resemble coarse crumbs.  Sprinkle mixture over apples.  Bake at 425°F for 10 minutes, then at 350°F for 20 minutes.

To make nutmeg sauce, beat together yolk, sugar and rice milk.  Heat to boiling, remove from heat, and add nutmeg.  Serve over slices of pie.

Notes: I cooked the apples for a few minutes on the stove, but left out the sugar and most of the water.  I also left out the flour in the graham cracker topping. Even more delicious.

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…is up at Miriyummy.  Chanukah sameach, and all praise to Hashem for a little rain in Israel today.

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A recipe to die for

Following my post the other day about a cool blog I discovered that explores the art, history, and social commentary of New England gravestones, my friend Mandy sent me the following photograph of an Israeli gravestone.

Where Western burial practice involves burying and setting a flat stone either upright or flat over the head of the grave, Israeli stones cover the entire grave in stone, perhaps to keep scavenging animals from… well, never mind.  This affords the opportunity either for brevity (Theodor Herzl’s grave says simply, “Herzl”) or more fluency of expression.

Most stones I’ve seen give the deceased’s name, birth and death dates, and parents’ (or father’s) names.  In Poland, I saw Jewish gravestones with engraved icons of broken candlesticks (denoting a woman whose death was untimely), a hand inserting a coin into a tzedaka box (indicating that the person was renowned for giving charity), or a hand pouring water from a ewer over another pair of hands (showing that the deceased was a Levi).  The stone in this photograph has none of that information.  Instead, it has the recipe for “Grandma Ida’s Nut Cookies.”  I kid you not.  (At first I thought it was a Photoshop job, but since I can’t prove it, I’m willing to believe it’s genuine.)  Here’s the recipe:


200 grams butter     1 egg yolk     1 [container?] sour cream

Add 350 grams self-rising flour gradually

Place dough in refrigerator for an hour


300 grams strawberry preserves

150 grams ground pecans  +  vanilla sugar  +  tablespoon cinnamon

Turkish delight cut into thin rectangles


Divide into four [parts] and flatten into rectangles

Spread a thin layer of jam

Sprinkle the nut mixture in a thin layer

Arrange on the edge of the rectangle a border of Turkish delight and roll

Put into an oven heated to 180 degrees for half an hour

Slice diagonally while cookies are still warm

After cooling sprinkle [with] powdered sugar

Some people are stingy with their recipes.  When I once asked a friend how she made her lasagna, she answered, “I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.”  My mom had to figure out for herself how Lois Callahan made her scrumptious bean dip.  And in the movie “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” Gareth’s recipe for duck a la banana dies with him.

I think it’s immoral to withhold good recipes, and I like this family’s style.  Rather than letting Savta Ida take her beloved nut cookie recipe with her to The Beyond, the family had it chiseled in stone for posterity.  Now that’s a legacy.

As for the recipe itself, I’ve never baked with Turkish delight and don’t plan to start now.  But I might get curious enough to make these cookies without it.

The best part, though, will be telling raving fans where I got the recipe.

[Thanks again, Mandy!]

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This is the seventh (and last) in a series on my favorite home cooks.  (Read previous posts about Mimi, Leora, Batya, Ilana-Davita, Sigal, and my mother here.)  I don’t mean to toot my own horn here, but one of the first things the Cap’n and I nixed when we went on an austerity plan (i.e. when we had children and I opted to stay home) was eating out.  The pickin’s were slim in Boston for kosher food anyway, and my tastes ran to slightly more exotic cuisine than deli, pizza, and Chinese.  Since I’ve learned to cook the stuff I like, I can’t help but be one of my favorite cooks.

Please introduce yourself in a few sentences.

I’m Shimshonit, the authoress of this blog.  I was born in Seattle, but lived in 13 houses in six states (in New England, the Deep South, and the West Coast) by the time I was 18 years old.  I have a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother, and underwent Orthodox conversion in 1998.  I’m 42, married with four young children, and live in Efrat (Israel).  I love to read recipes, cook, and of course, eat.

From whom did you learn to cook?  (If not from a person, how?)

The first time I entered the kitchen to do anything other than get a snack or wash dishes after a meal was when my mother had just learned from a friend how to make chicken marsala and decided that my brother and I should learn to make it too.  (I was 20 years old.)  I left home armed with a few simple recipes, but no real idea of cooking technique.  I am largely self-taught, with some help from cookbooks, friends, and—joy of the modern home cook—the Internet.

In what style do you cook predominantly (e.g. Mediterranean, Jewish, Asian)?

When I was young, my family ate out once a week.  In the early days, it was pizza, burgers, and eventually, Chinese.  As we got older and our tastes broadened, it would sometimes take us hours to decide where to eat out.  Mexican? Thai? Japanese? Greek? Moroccan? Italian? Lebanese? Kashmiri?  Once I began to keep kosher, I realized that if I liked ethnic food, I’d have to learn to make it myself.

My day-to-day cooking is vegetarian, centered around lentils, beans, rice, a little pasta, and vegetables, with some grated cheese or plain yogurt on the side.  My style is largely Tex-Mex and Mediterranean, and I go through a lot of onions, garlic, and crushed tomatoes.  For Shabbat meals, I often make chicken and several vegetable dishes.  One of my favorite cooking inspirations was when we lived in Newton (Mass.) and subscribed to an organic farm; whatever vegetables arrived in a large crate on delivery day was what was for dinner.

What dietary guidelines do you observe (kashrut, vegetarian, vegan, Paleolithic diet)?

We keep kosher, and eat very little meat.

What are your favorite foods?  What food aversions do you have?

Mushrooms and green peppers are not to be found in the Crunch household.  Favorite foods include chicken soup with matzo balls, split pea soup, vegetarian chili, salads of all kinds, bittersweet chocolate, and sourdough bread (which I still haven’t got the hang of baking yet).

What is your relationship to your kitchen, to food, to cooking?

My kitchen is small but lovely, with blond maple cabinetry, dark green granite work surfaces, and two enormous sinks.  My oven is small but ample for most of my needs.  However, about one-third of my cooking and baking vessels (including all of my cake decorating supplies) live in the basement in cupboards because my kitchen cannot store them all.

One of the things I realize from the fast days in the Jewish calendar is how much time I spend thinking about food, planning meals, shopping and cooking.  One of my primary roles in the Crunch family is to see that the children take wholesome food to school and eat well at home.  I enjoy having guests on Shabbat, and am willing to undertake any challenge to meet our friends’ dietary needs when coming up with a menu.  (We have friends who are vegans, have Crohn’s Disease, lactose intolerance, food allergies, avoid beans or margarine, and break out in hives if they ingest MSG.)

I waver between feeling like an artist and a slave in my kitchen.  I love to create, and prefer home cooking to eating out.  I like making the food to my (and my family’s) taste, and knowing exactly what goes into it.  On the other hand, my kids can be picky eaters, and I often have to refrain from making things I like because I’ll just have to make something else to suit my kids’ more pedestrian tastes.

What do you think cooking and food say about identity?

I made up this question, but I don’t really have an answer to it.  (I was more interested to see if other people did.)  I do know that any time people are asked to name something that identifies them as being part of an ethnic group, it’s usually something to do with food.  As to the relationship between personality and food, I know some people who only eat 30 things, yet are very open-minded and accepting.  And I know others with very cosmopolitan tastes who are not so open-minded.

I have traveled widely and enjoyed the cuisine of almost every place I’ve visited.  Now that I keep kosher, I am making an unambiguous statement that I am Jewish by only eating food in that category.  But in my heart I am still a world traveler and enjoy a variety of styles of cooking, modifying recipes to fit my dietary limitations.

Please share one of your favorite recipes, either from a blog post or from your own repertoire.

One of the features on the “Bend It Like Beckham” DVD has Gurinder Chadha, the director, cooking aloo gobi (curried potato and cauliflower) under the critical eyes of her mother and her auntie.  The feature was very amusing to watch, and aloo gobi quickly became a favorite with the curry-loving adults in my extended family.  A humorous note: The recipe calls for the whole tomatoes to be grated with a vegetable grater.  In the feature, Chadha says she adds the tomatoes whole and breaks them up with a spoon while they’re cooking to avoid a mess.  Her mother and her auntie shake their heads and say, “Doesn’t matter!” and insist that they must be grated.  Do what you have time and patience to do for this step.

Indian food can be a potchkee, but once you start cooking, it goes quickly.  Eliminate stress by making sure you have everything chopped and measured before you begin cooking.  (I love making aloo gobi because I get to use all those lovely glass nesting bowls I got for a wedding gift.)


Allow extra time for it all to cook, as it takes longer than the directions say.  And remember: “Anyone can make aloo gobi, but who can bend a ball like Beckham?”

½ cup vegetable oil

1 large onion, peeled and chopped

Large bunch fresh coriander (cilantro), separated into stalks and leaves, coarsely chopped

3 or so small green chilies, minced

1 large cauliflower, cut into small florets

3 large potatoes, well scrubbed, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced

1 can whole peeled tomatoes, grated with a vegetable grater

Fresh ginger, peeled and minced (about a 2” or 3” piece)

Fresh garlic, minced (about 4-5 large cloves)

1 tablespoon cumin seeds

2 teaspoons turmeric

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons garam masala

Heat oil in a large frypan.  Add onion and cumin seeds.  Stir together and cook until onions become “creamy golden” (her mother’s words) and translucent.  Add coriander stalks, turmeric, and salt and mix.  Stir in chilies and tomatoes.  Add ginger and garlic; mix.  Add potatoes and cauliflower and a few teaspoons of water.  Stir vegetables to coat with curry sauce.  Cover and simmer 20 minutes or so.  (Stir periodically and check for doneness.  When I make it, it actually takes the vegetables closer to 40-50 minutes to cook.)

Add garam masala; stir.  Sprinkle coriander leaves over.  Turn off heat, cover, and leave as long as possible before serving.  Delicious as leftovers or gently rewarmed for Shabbat lunch.  Chadha says she loves it the next day between two slices of white bread.

Mrs. Bhamra says you'd better finish all your curry or you won't get your kulfi.

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This is the sixth in a series of interviews with my favorite home cooks.  (Read my interviews with Mimi, Leora, Batya, Ilana-Davita, and Sigal here.)

My mother may not have been a fancy cook, but she was my favorite cook for years.  I loved how she put tuna and mixed vegetables into my macaroni and cheese.  I loved her version of scalloped potatoes (which she describes below), with ground beef, potatoes, and tomato soup, layered like a non-pasta lasagna.  To this day, no one makes mashed potatoes like she does.  And when she used to fire up the grill to make a gorgeous marinated flank steak, look out.

She developed an interest in cooking when I was a young adult.  Although she didn’t have much to teach me about gourmet cooking, we have enjoyed learning more about preparing balanced, nutritious meals together, and are forever sharing recipes and looking through each other’s cookbooks.  Her inspiration for fine cooking, her Italian-American friend Elena, has also been my inspiration.  I’m working now on developing a kosher cioppino recipe (tomato-based fish stew) which I’ll share when I have it down.

And now, without further ado, my mother.

I am Shimshonit’s mother and have a great interest in cooking. However, that interest was not always there, and was in fact a long time coming. I have great admiration for young women who are confident and capable in the kitchen early in their lives as that was not my experience and later I felt it had been a significant loss. Now, though, I feel I have almost made up for it and then some.

I grew up in northern Vermont where food was pretty much just meat and potatoes (and vegetables, of course). My mother was a good cook and seasoned things well, but she wasn’t inventive and we never veered away from the traditional fare for that region. When I was maybe ten or twelve years old my cousin, who was a home economics teacher, gave the family a recipe for homemade pizza and when my mother served it for our dinner one night she was actually thrilled and very excited, couldn’t stop talking about it—the first time I had ever seen her do that with any meal she had served. The pizza was her one main adventure, though she used to make some sort of tamale pie which my brother loved and I hated.

My mother did nearly all the cooking in our house. When I was quite young I put together, with her instructions called from the laundry room where she was ironing, tuna noodle casserole. I didn’t enjoy doing it and only repeated that one dish when she asked me to for her own convenience, but at least I did like eating it. My sister (three years older) did only a little bit more in the kitchen than I did.  When she, our brother, and I did dishes together (no dishwasher), it was made a bit more interesting than cooking by our singing rounds which was rather fun.

When I married, I made the few things I had grown up eating and liking, including a dish we called scalloped potatoes, but which in our version had hamburger, onion, and tomato soup with the sliced potatoes instead of a cream sauce. Our menus were boring (my dear children never complained and even their father only once in a great while mumbled something about our having a change) but I just didn’t have much interest in cooking. We managed to survive but it’s a wonder.

And then we moved to California. That was 1981, and in 1982, I went to work in my husband’s business office. A young woman worked in the pathologists’ office next door and we used to gab.  When we found we lived near each other we became very friendly, often walking together at the middle school track in the neighborhood when we got out of work in the afternoons. Our topic of conversation most often was about food, menus, and recipes, a subject I was surprised to find actually becoming much more interesting to me. Elena was fifteen years my junior but she was Italian and a marvelous cook.  One of the first things she taught me was that I did not have a stocked refrigerator unless I had a bag of fresh parsley in there. I henceforth had a bag of fresh parsley always available, and began trying some of Elena’s recipes. She had many, and suddenly I discovered that cooking was fun! Not only that, but my family appreciated my efforts! I had a new attitude toward cooking and found it most enjoyable and challenging.

When we moved to Oregon in 1988, I got a computer. It took a while for me to get the hang of it but once I found how to get into the Web and look up recipes, I was off and running. I don’t think I ever had as much fun as the enjoyment of tracking down what looked like a good recipe and making it successfully. I began keeping them in my “computer cookbook,” which also became a place to enter and store all those recipes from the cards in my recipe box I’d collected through the years from friends and family.  Most of them I’d never used, and typing them into the computer allowed me to read and evaluate them for taste and popularity.  Our family has always enjoyed ethnic food, all kinds, and it was an easy step to begin looking up recipes for some of those dishes as well.

When Shim showed signs of also being interested in cooking, it was fun to share ideas and now she has far surpassed me in exploring new sources for foods and dishes. I think, like me (and  perhaps even more so), she has found cooking to be most gratifying and creative. It gives me great pleasure to feed people food I have given a great deal of thought to and carefully prepared.  If anyone had told me when I was young that I would be such a happy camper in the kitchen I would not have believed them.

The recipe I would like to share is for “15-Minute Chicken.”

4 chicken breasts halves, cut into finger-sized pieces

¼ C. flour

¼ C. olive oil

Salt & pepper, to taste

1 T. rosemary (fresh is best but dried is fine)

3 T. fresh lemon juice, sherry, or any wine (I use a mixture of white wine and lemon juice)

1 T. finely chopped parsley

Roll chicken in flour and cook over high heat in oil for 3-5 minutes, until no longer pink. Stir in salt, pepper, and rosemary. Add liquid to deglaze pan, simmering the chicken slowly for just a few minutes. Sprinkle parsley over the top.

Note:  I found a recipe similar to this recently only it called for slicing a few potatoes, cooking them in the microwave, then stirring the slices in with the chicken to brown.

Another note:  Sometimes I like an excuse to use capers in a recipe, and this is one where they are a lovely addition. I omit the rosemary.

Thank you, mother dear.

A very Vermonty-looking room (not my mother's house)

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This is the fifth in a series of posts on my favorite home cooks.  (Read previous interviews with Mimi, Leora, Batya, and Ilana-Davita.)

My friend Sigal is one of my few sabra friends, though from her perfect English one would never guess she was born and grew up in Israel.  She has always amazed me with her delicious Shabbat meals (served on plates she made herself as a skilled potter) and tireless dedication to making her own “processed” foods such as almond paté, nut and grain crackers, and granola.  She and her husband recently decided to become vegan, but it hasn’t slowed her down a bit.

Please introduce yourself in a few sentences.

My name is Sigal I have lived in Efrat for the past 13 years. I am a mother of four, homeschooling three kids and one about to go in the army.

From whom did you learn to cook?  (If not from a person, how?)

I learned to cook from my mom and then anyone else that I felt I could learn from, as well as from cookbooks.

In what style do you cook predominantly (e.g. Mediterranean, Jewish, Asian)?

I don’t think I have one particular style but I do cook a lot of Mediterranean dishes.

What dietary guidelines do you observe (kashrut, vegetarian, vegan, Paleolithic diet)?

I keep kosher and am vegan myself, i.e. no animal products with the exception of honey.

What are your favorite foods?  What food aversions do you have?

Favorite food? Tomatoes, garlic, I can go on but it seems that I like fruits and vegetables A LOT!

What is your relationship to your kitchen, to food, to cooking?

I have a love/hate relationship with cooking. Sometimes I can’t get enough and sometimes I wish we could pop a pill, go on with the day, and not have to think about food shopping, food preparation, cleaning up, washing dishes, etc.

What do you think cooking and food say about identity?

I don’t know what food says about my identity and why would it?

Please share one of your favorite recipes, either from a blog post or from your own repertoire.

This is my homemade granola recipe:

6 – 8 cups rolled oats

4 – 6 cups  mixed nuts, seeds and dried fruit

½ – ⅔ cups oil (sesame or mild olive oil are best)

1 – 1½ cups maple syrup or honey

1 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350°F or 180°C.  Mix all the ingredients except for the raisins and dried fruit.  Line a baking tray with baking paper and spread the granola mixture about ½ – ⅔” deep.  Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until lightly brown.  Take out and mix well.  Put it to bake in the oven for 5 -7 minutes more, remove, and mix again.  Add the raisins and dried fruit and bake for 5 more minutes.  Cool.  Keep mixing the granola and breaking it up until completely cool so it doesn’t form into one lump.  Store in an airtight container in a cool place.

Thank you, dear friend.

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This is the fourth in a series of interviews with some of my favorite home cooks.  (Read my previous interviews with Mimi, Leora, and Batya.)  Ilana-Davita has been one of my favorite bloggers for some time.  She and I share a profession as well as a love of gardening (though her garden is far lovelier than mine), of good home cooking, and blogging, of course.  I also admire her photography and enjoy following her travels around Europe, to her beloved Sweden, and to the Far East.

Please introduce yourself in a few sentences.

I am a French English teacher and have been so for over twenty years; after teaching in a middle school for seven years, I now teach in a high school. I live in a middle-sized town in the North of France. Religiously I consider myself a traditional Jew and attend a Conservative shul when I am in Paris and a small Orthodox one in my town.

From whom did you learn to cook?  (If not from a person, how?)
I learnt to cook from my mother. She is a wonderful and creative cook who always comes up with new recipes and ideas. I learnt by observing her and when I left for college I really started to cook my own food and attempted to find my own style.

In what style do you cook predominantly (e.g. Mediterranean, Jewish, Asian)?
My style tends to vary according to whims and seasons. In the summer, it is more Mediterranean while in the winter it is more traditional. My recipes are also influenced by the places where I have lived (England and Scotland) and by my trips, mostly those to Hong Kong and Sweden. My love for curries certainly dates back to eating lamb curry in an Indian restaurant in England more than twenty years ago (in my pre-kosher years).

Finally I  try to cook healthily – with emphasis on vegetables – and try to avoid buying processed food. Besides I don’t like my food to be bland and always welcome tasty recipes.

What dietary guidelines do you observe (kashrut, vegetarian, vegan, Paleolithic diet)?
I keep kosher and don’t cook meat more than a couple of times a week. I now tend to eat more fish and my meals are often vegetarian in the evenings.  I had never heard about the Paleolithic diet before this interview.

What are your favorite foods?  What food aversions do you have?
I like to eat fish and curries. I do have one food aversion: fat! Food swimming in fat makes my stomach churn.

What is your relationship to your kitchen, to food, to cooking?
I enjoy cooking especially when I have the time to do it, and also to shop beforehand. I love cookbooks and reading recipes. When at the hairdresser’s I browse magazines for new recipes.  I also love to read and adapt the recipes I find on the Internet. Your previous interviewees (Mimi and Leora) are probably those whose recipes inspire me the most.

What do you think cooking and food say about identity?
I’d say that my cooking reflects what is important for me at different stages of my life. Thus at present it probably reflects my concern with health even though I can easily be tempted by less healthy stuff; pizza comes to mind.  I am also fascinated by the influence of history on Jewish cooking and how much it has contributed to forging specific and diverse Jewish identities.

Please share one of your favorite recipes, either from a blog post or from your own repertoire.
Can I suggest a few rather than one?  Since winter is round the corner here is an easy and wonderful soup from Sweden, a carrot soup which is always a success and a recipe for salmon which echoes my taste for Asian food.

Thank you for this series of interviews.

You’re welcome!

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I hope she won’t be offended, but I consider Batya Medad the grande dame of Jewish food blogging.  As the founder of the Kosher Cooking Carnival and a longtime dedicated Israeli blogger (her blogs are called me-ander and Shiloh Musings), she enjoys a dedicated readership and combines her love of food, Judaism, and the Land of Israel in her blog posts.  This is not to say that she is a lover of 20-step recipes; on the contrary, what inspires me about her cooking is its uncomplicated method and blending of flavors that naturally go together.  Remembering a friend describing how her sister dreaded Shabbat because of the volume and formality of cooking, I would love to have steered her toward Batya’s recipes.  (This is the third in a series.  If you haven’t had a chance yet, go back and read my interviews with Mimi and Leora.)

Please introduce yourself in a few sentences.

I’m American born, made aliyah after getting married 40 years ago, so I’m just short of two-thirds of my life in Israel, and since we’re 29 years in Shiloh, close to half my life here.  I wasn’t raised in a religious home.  Got introduced to Torah Judaism through NCSY when in high school and then learned about Zionism from other “Jewish activists” in Great Neck, NY.

From whom did you learn to cook?  (If not from a person, how?)

I learned very basic cooking growing up, nothing fancy.  I’m still a “simple” cook and always will be.  That doesn’t stop me from cooking everything, as you can see on me-ander.

In what style do you cook predominantly (e.g. Mediterranean, Jewish, Asian)?

I cook healthy, simple, kosher, Ashkenaz Jewish Israeli.  Very me.

What dietary guidelines do you observe (kashrut, vegetarian, vegan, Paleolithic diet)?

We’re strictly kosher, and I’ve been low carbohydrates for almost two years.

What are your favorite foods?  What food aversions do you have?

I love vegetables. I can live without carbs.  When I eat them I have no control.  Since I changed my way of eating I’ve done some diet coaching and would like to do more.  My favorite food I shouldn’t eat is Haagen Dazs 5 mint ice cream (or regular mint chip.)  Actually I love ice cream, not chocolate, and can eat ridiculous quantities so I’ve made a rule: I limit myself to my Haagen Dazs mint when abroad, in the States.  I can polish off an entire pint on my own as a meal. When in Arizona it’s convenient, since proper kosher meals aren’t easily available.

What is your relationship to your kitchen, to food, to cooking?

Strange question.  I didn’t know much about kitchen design when we built the house, but we do have some good things, like slightly lower upper cabinets so I can reach both shelves.  Most Passover stuff is in the kitchen in the second tier of upper cabinets.  We have a very useful “pantry wall.”

I try not to obsess about food. I was a vegetarian for 25 years and drove people nuts, so now I try to be nicer.  I do like things clean and cringe when seeing how people touch food without washing.  I was cook in the baby day care center for four years and there were no cases of food poisoning nor stomach trouble from the food.  I’m a lazy cook, simple and easy recipes for me.

What do you think cooking and food say about identity?

I’m not out to prove anything, compete in terms of  fancy or quality.  I’m more secure about my cooking than I used to be.

Please share one of your favorite recipes, either from a blog post or from your own repertoire.

My “fancy vegetables”  and also my vegetable soup.

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Today’s post is the second is a series about my favorite home cooks.  (Click here to read the first.)  Today’s favorite foodie is Leora, whose beautiful photos and paintings inspire the mind, and whose healthful, family-friendly, palate-pleasing recipes inspire my own cooking.

Please introduce yourself in a few sentences.

Professionally, I build and maintain websites.  In my “spare” time, I’m a mom of 3, wife, and daughter (my eighty-year-old father lives two blocks away).  I would love to be more of an artist or a potter again – my plan for when my kids are a bit older, especially my youngest.  I was born in New York City and grew up in Newton, Mass. – 17 years in New Jersey hasn’t taken the New England girl out of me.

From whom did you learn to cook? (If not from a person, how?)

My first teacher was my mother (z”l).  At first, she taught us how to make various recipes. When we were teens and she went back to work full-time, she showed me where my favorite recipes were listed, so I could make them for the family.  She had many cookbooks, and I learned how to vary recipes to meet one’s needs (or the ingredients available in the house).  My favorite recipes as a kid were lasagna and chocolate mousse.

In what style do you cook predominantly (e.g. Mediterranean, Jewish, Asian)?

I will call my style the “accommodating” style.  If my kids want beef, I make beef.  If they want tuna noodle casserole, we make that.  When they developed a taste for Chinese food, I learned how to make homemade wontons.  My husband likes bake goods, so I have learned many cake recipes since I got married.  To “accommodate” myself, I’ve been making a variety of vegan dishes, especially cooked salads like umeboshi radishes or cole slaw with ginger or mustard.  I also enjoy making soup – I make a variety of pareve soups, and my family’s favorite is my chicken soup.

What dietary guidelines do you observe (kashrut, vegetarian, vegan, Paleolithic diet)?

We keep kosher.  I am lactose intolerant, so I rarely cook with milk.  I never use trans fats in cooking.

What are your favorite foods? What food aversions do you have?

Favorite – those cooked radishes seasoned with umeboshi paste.  Also, organic chicken cooked with orange and herbs and served on a bed of brown rice.  Food aversion to milk – it makes me gag.  This has been true since childhood, when “they” told me that white smelly stuff was somehow supposed to be good for me.  My boys have been trained to empty their cereal bowls before putting them in the sink, so my contact with milk can be minimized.

What is your relationship to your kitchen, to food, to cooking?

“If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” – I don’t like much bought food, anyway, so I might as well enjoy being in the kitchen.  Blogging about food helps me connect with others who feel similarly.

What do you think cooking and food say about identity?

“You are what you eat, from your head to your feet.” That’s from Pajama Sam, one of the software programs my kids used to play.  I do spend a lot of time monitoring what I eat, for health reasons.  But I also get tempted easily by fatty meat or by chocolate… yum.  I love my own cakes, especially blueberry or peach cake.  As we go to a Sephardi shul, I have learned about foods from some of those countries, like from Turkey or Morocco.  I can never remember the names, but food is a wonderful way for Jews from eastern countries to keep their traditions.  The foods from Eastern Europe, well, I’m not exactly a kugel lover.  My mother, who was born in Russia, used to sometimes make borscht; my contribution to the Russian tradition of beet-making is fresh beet salad.

Please share one of your favorite recipes, either from a blog post or from your own repertoire.

I have 77 posts with recipes, and you ask me to pick ONE?  Oh, dear.  Here’s a post with soup recipes, which has a wonderful illustration (by me):

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Since it’s finally achrei hachagim, I am settling down to do a series on my favorite foodies.  Some are bloggers, some not.  Some I know personally, some not.  But all have something about their cooking that I admire and have learned from.

Today’s featured foodie is Mimi of the Israeli Kitchen food blog.  I love how Mimi combines her love of wholesome food, food history, and Israeli food and culture into her posts.  Here is what she had to say:

Please introduce yourself in a few sentences.

I’m Mimi of the Israeli Kitchen food blog. I’m American/Israeli, married, religiously observant, mother of four, and blissful grandmother of three. What I like to do is make food from the most basic scratch, then write about it. For this, I sometimes get paid.

From whom did you learn to cook?  (If not from a person, how?)

I learned cooking from my mother, who is an light-handed home cook with a fine palate.

In what style do you cook predominantly (e.g. Mediterranean, Jewish, Asian)?

Hard to answer that one, because I’ve lived in many countries and absorbed something of each cuisine. Foods like  American apple pie with a flaky crust – or Brazilian fish baked in coconut milk- or Middle Eastern majadra,  take turns on my table regularly. I guess you could say that I predominantly cook garlic. On a recent visit to the States, my siblings thought the amounts of garlic I used up were hilarious.

What dietary guidelines do you observe (kashrut, vegetarian, vegan, Paleolithic diet)?

I keep kosher and avoid sugar.

What are your favorite foods?  What food aversions do you have?

I love peasant foods like black beans, a crisp-skinned, juicy roasted chicken seasoned with herbs (and garlic). And bread, all kinds of breads, although nowadays I limit the amount I eat for the sake of my health. Good, green olive oil – fresh local vegetables – and fresh fish. Lamb, in season, is a treat.

Aversions? For some reason, I lost the taste for beef years ago. I dislike nutmeg and anything in the liquorice/anise tribe, although a friend converted me to fennel roasted in a little olive oil. I have political issues with foods made from genetically-modified sources: soy, canola, corn. Highly processed foods or chemical-laden edibles like “pareve dairy” are abhorrent.

What is your relationship to your kitchen, to food, to cooking?

Nourishing family and guests fulfills me deeply. It’s that ancient equation, food and love. There is also a mystical aspect: I believe that food is an expression of G-d’s relationship to His creation. But from a purely selfish point of view, cooking is an absorbing creative process for me. I might eat my lunch alone, but I’ll cook it with care because the food is worth it.

As far as my kitchen, it’s small, but I manage to fill it up with equipment, cookbooks, jars full of fruit macerating in vodka, bins overflowing with spices, honeys, vinegars, oils… I spend a lot of time in my kitchen and want to have the exact wooden spoon or spice at hand when I need it.

It makes me happy to work on projects that start from the ground up, like home-curing olives. If I could grow my own olives and press the oil myself, I believe I’d be even happier.

What do you think cooking and food say about identity?

In spite of my preference for local cuisine wherever I’m living, I understand the real need people have to continue eating foods from their home countries, their own cultures. It goes deeper than enjoying particular flavors; it’s Mom and Dad and the grandparents and friends. It’s group memories and how you see yourself in that context.

On another note, I find it interesting that folks get judgmental about others who eat differently than they do. I think that it has something to do with identity. Like: if you eat (or don’t eat) foods other than what I consider normal, I can’t identify with you. You’re possibly not worth getting to know. A narrow-minded point of view, but many people have it and aren’t conscious of it.

Please share one of your favorite recipes, either from a blog post or from your own repertoire.

Sure. Here’s my recipe for haricot beans with Mediterranean seasonings.

Thank you!

You’re welcome. I enjoyed answering these questions. Thank you.

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted a recipe.  With the kids home, though, I’ve been thinking of things they can make with me that involve simple chopping, measuring, and mixing.  I’ve also been teaching them that many of the things we tend to buy in stores ready-made can be made more wholesomely, deliciously, and cheaply at home.  I’ve also been thinking of sweet, comforting food in the midst of dealing with some of my more stodgy, anti-kid neighbors who arranged for large boulders to be placed in the middle of the neighborhood park to prevent children from playing there.  My spirit and my soul have needed a good nourishing, and the food that popped into my mind this time was not chocolate, homemade toffee, or ice cream (though those are three great tastes that taste great together).  It was simple, homely granola.

Here’s a recipe my mother gave me ages ago in the first version of her homemade cookbook that has since gone through many editions in my hands.  It’s called “New Granola,” but it’s a golden oldie with me.

5 cups oats

1 cup chopped apple (I chop ¾ cup dried apple)

1 cup coarsely chopped pecans (sweet caramelized pecans work nicely here)

1 cup raisins

¾ cup melted butter

½ cup packed brown sugar

1½ teaspoon cinnamon

While I usually skip this step, you can toast the oats first on a cookie sheet at 350ºF (180ºC) for 10-12 minutes.  Combine the oats with the rest of the ingredients and mix well.  Spread on a cookie sheet and bake at 350ºF (180ºC) for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Store in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator.  Serve with milk or yogurt.  Or just eat it straight out of the container.

Peace, love, and granola, man.

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Challah for the masses

Last Thursday, 8-year-old Beans was assigned a parashah project to present on Friday.  (This takes the place of the Ima-shel-Shabbat role on gan Fridays.)  Her mission: to choose a theme from the week’s parashah and create a game, a presentation, or a project which explores that theme.  Beans loves to bake and enjoys making things with her hands, so choosing the theme of challah (i.e., the mitzvah of taking out a portion of the dough with a blessing) appealed.  We discussed the mitzvah as described in the Torah (Num. 15:17-21), why we do it, how it is one of three mitzvot specially designated for women, and the process of preparing the dough and taking challah.  When the dough reached the stage before shaping, she stood on a stool next to me, we took a portion of the dough, and said the blessing together.  Then we got down to the business of shaping it—her favorite part.  It is customary for whichever kid is doing the parashah project to provide some sort of kibbud (refreshment); Beans took small, individual challot to each kid and teacher.

Most people have a favorite challah recipe.  I have two that I work with, and both are successful.  The recipe I used last week for Beans’s project is based on a recipe given me by Ilana Epstein.  I increased the amount of dough by 50% and made several adjustments to the recipe to aid rising, make it moister, and give it a distinctive flavor.  Here is my recipe for several week’s worth of moist, sweet challah:

Flour (around 16 cups; I used 2 cups whole wheat flour, about a cup of bread flour, and the rest all-purpose)

4 tablespoons yeast

1½ cup demerara sugar

½ cup canola oil

3 eggs

4 cups warm water

1-2 T. salt

Start by combining about 6 cups flour with the yeast and sugar in a large mixing bowl.  In another bowl, mix the oil and eggs together.  Add oil and eggs to the dry ingredients and mix well.  Add warm water and another 6 cups flour.  Knead on a well-floured surface, sprinkling salt gradually into the dough as you knead, and adding flour to the dough slowly to remove the stickiness.  (This takes about 10 minutes).

Place the dough in a large, oiled bowl.  Cover with a dish towel or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for about an hour, until the dough has expanded by 50%.  Turn out gently onto kneading surface and knead another few minutes before returning to the oiled bowl.  Let rise for another hour.

Since this makes such a large batch of dough, one separates challah with a blessing.  Before turning the dough out to shape it, take a lump of dough about the size of a golf ball, raise it up, and say, “Zot challah.”  Then say the blessing: “Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha’olam, asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu lehafrish challah min ha’issah.”  Set the lump of dough aside to be burned in the oven once the challah loaves have been baked and taken out.

Divide the dough and shape or braid as desired.  Place loaves on baking paper on cookie sheets, coat lightly with beaten egg, and bake in a 375 degree Fahrenheit oven for about 17-20 minutes, or until dough is lightly golden brown and the bottoms of the loaves sound hollow when tapped with a wooden spoon.  (The amount of yeast I used in this recipe eliminates the need for another rising; dough puffs up nicely while baking.)  While challah loaves are cooling, raise the temperature of the oven and burn the lump of dough set aside; give it until it’s blackened and no good for eating.  Double-wrap carefully before discarding.

As I mentioned, Beans and I baked these challot on Thursday night for her to take to school on Friday, and I bagged them as soon as they were cool.  They still tasted fresh and soft on Friday night when we ate them, and were still soft and delicious at lunch on Saturday.  Challah for the masses… the gift that keeps on giving.

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The Kosher Cooking Carnival for the month of Sivan (and in advance of Shavuot) is up at Leora’s blogBon appetit!

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Lag B’Omer, which begins tomorrow night, is a huge event in Israel.  While the air is filled with barbecue smoke during the day on Yom HaAtzma’ut, the smoke that lingers in the air from bonfires the night of Lag B’Omer lasts a few days.  (Be sure to bring in your laundry if it’s hanging outside.)

Americans like to roast weenies around a fire; Israelis roast potatoes wrapped in foil.  But EVERYONE loves marshmallows.  Kosher marshmallows in America aren’t easy to come by.  They’re ubiquitous in Israel, but taste disgusting.  It’s almost impossible to find plain, white, vanilla-flavored marshmallows here.  For some reason, whoever makes them thinks that sicky pink wannabe-strawberry-flavored ones are better.  For those who think marshmallows taste awful to begin with, this is no great loss.  But for those of us who like to spear a fluffy, white sugar-gelatin-corn syrupy puff on the end of a stick and toast it, pull off the outer skin, eat it, and repeat, it is a crime.

Last winter, my friend Ilana Epstein decided to make her own marshmallows (to accompany her rockin’ spiced hot chocolate).  She assured me it was easy, so I gave it a whirl myself.  Besides the ingredients and a pot, the only fancy things one needs are a stand mixer and a candy thermometer.  (I did it the first time without the candy thermometer, testing often to see at what stage the sugar syrup was, but don’t recommend it.)  The following is Fine Cooking‘s recipe for marshmallows (with glosses by Ilana and me).  Prep time takes about half an hour, the marshmallows stand for 2 hours, then turning out and cutting takes about 10 minutes.  Pretty easy, and the results are so good, you may never go back to store-bought again.

3 (¼ oz) envelopes granulated, unflavored gelatin (1.5 packages of the bovine gelatin we get in Israel; I used 2 packages of fish gelatin yesterday with success)

2 cups sugar

1 cup corn syrup

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup + 2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar (plus lots more for coating and cutting)

Pour ¾ cup cold water in the mixer bowl with the gelatin and fit with the whisk attachment.

Clip a candy thermometer in a saucepan.  Boil the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and ¾ cup water until it reaches the firm ball stage, about 15 minutes.  (On a candy thermometer, this is 250 degrees Fahrenheit or 120 degrees Celsius.  If you don’t have a candy thermometer, test by dipping a finger or spoon handle in ice water, then syrup, then ice water again; it should form a ball of chewy syrup.)

On low speed, pour the syrup into the gelatin in a slow, thin stream.  Add the vanilla, then increase speed to high and beat 5 minutes, until the mixture is thick and the bottom of the bowl is just warm to the touch.

Lay a heavy coat of icing sugar on the bottom of a glass 9 x 13” pan.  Pour the marshmallow mixture into the pan, then sift more sugar on top.  Let sit until firm, about 2 hours.

Loosen edges with a knife dipped in icing sugar, then turn out onto a cutting board.  Cut with a knife or a roller pizza cutter dipped in icing sugar, then roll each individual marshmallow in icing sugar.  Keeps a month in a ziplock bag.

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Welcome to the 53rd Kosher Cooking Carnival!  The brainchild of Batya from Shiloh, it is a monthly compendium of blog posts on kashrut in Jewish law, reviews of kosher restaurants and cookbooks, Shabbat and holiday menus, and kosher recipes.  (To submit a post for the next blog carnival, click on the Blog Carnival link here.)

To view previous editions, click on any of the following links: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, KCC Meta Carnival, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, and 52.

The next edition will be on Rosh Chodesh Sivan (May 13), hosted by Leora.

And off we go!

Recipes and menu suggestions

Pesach may be over but for those with leftover matzah, Blog d’Elisson offers a new twist on matzo brei, bourmalikas, which he says can be eaten either sweet or savory, and which he says he would welcome any time of year.  (I definitely like the look of the grape tomato-mozarella ball-basil salad he eats with his!)

Esser Agaroth shares two refreshing, Latin-flavored spring salads: salsa and guacamole.

Ilana-Davita has a flavorful version of shakshuka, with a link to an eggless version too.

Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner‘s Individual Chocolate Fondue looks like a double-dipping delight for Shabbat dinner.

Batya at Me-Ander suggests a Simple Sliced Fruit Plate for dessert: easy, nutritious, and suitable for diabetics (and, I would add, the gluten-averse and vegans).  She also points out that consuming enough fruit can satisfy her cravings for sweets—a good health tip.

She also has a recipe for Easy and Tasty Tofu and Vegetables which looks healthful and delicious, and insists that even festive Shabbat meals should be easy to prepare, providing photos but refusing to list ingredients.  YOU decide what goes into these scrumptious-looking meals.

Mottel at Letters of Thought has a recipe for Sweet Mustard Chicken and Quinoa.  Not only does the dish have serious appeal, but Mottel includes an interesting discussion of the ingredients that go into it.

Mrs. S. of Our Shiputzim is a self-proclaimed charoset snob, and while Pesach 5770 is over, I’m taking note of her recipe for charoset (which she dubs “The Chumus of Pesach“) for next year.

For those still struggling to make gefilte fish, Batya trouble-shoots crumbly gefilte fish in Cooking Questions, Just Ask and offers her own recipe suggestions for this most Jewish of dishes.

Leora at Here in HP offers a recipe for mushroom paté, suitable for Pesach and all year.

For anyone who is fed up with the price of bagels at the bakery or supermarket and wants to try making them at home, Ilana Epstein at Kosher shows you how in Bagel Revolution.

Mother In Israel’s Cooking Manager blog provides a recipe for pot roast, a great way to dress up an inexpensive cut of beef to make a delicious festive meal.

Ilana-Davita‘s salmon and fennel looks light, nutritious, and absolutely delicious.

Mimi of Israeli Kitchen has a recipe for stewed chicken and gravy with a decidedly Middle Eastern flair, good for colds (a solid alternative to chicken soup), Shabbat dinner, and anytime one needs to raise one’s spirits.

And in honor of Yom HaAtzma’ut next week, Ilana Epstein offers us the Mish-kebab, a dainty sampler of grilled meats for the holiday.

Restaurant and cookbook reviews

Batya rates Jerusalem’s Best Bar and Grill, The Lion’s Den.

While I love browsing cookbooks, the best cookbook I own is the one I compiled myself.

Essays and photo-essays

Batya dreads cleaning in general, and Pesach cleaning particularly, and shares her memories of why in Traffic Will Only Get Worse Until… and Unpleasant Memories.

I, on the other hand, find cleaning a satisfying, rewarding experience, especially when I think about what happens in the kitchens of people who DON’T clean every year, and the food relics that turn up in their pantries, refrigerators, and freezers.

Yoav B at Israeli Soldier muses about the meaning of Pesach—freedom—and writes about paying the price for others’ freedom.

The Real Jerusalem Streets provides a wonderful photo essay on the bustling holiday week in Jerusalem.

And on to post-Pesach thoughts, Devo K. at  In the Middle, On the Right shares some wisdom about the segulah of baking shlissel (key) challah.

Soccer Dad photographed the fruits of his post-Pesach baking binge.  (Is that Silpat underneath those cookies?  This is a SERIOUS baker.)

Jamie at Kosher.Com writes about honoring her culinary grandparents who were also Shoah survivors.

Esser Agaroth discusses the old-new Middle Eastern delicacy, locusts.  (Which a chef who prepared them recently claims taste like Bissli.  Uh huh.)

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