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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

Oregano

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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