Monday, December 10, 2012

Hanukkah Latkes - with a Twist

Happy Hanukkah!!

I came home from the "Latke v. Hamentashen" debate that took place this past Sunday and headed straight to the kitchen!  Although I do have a sweet tooth, my vote is Latke!

Over the past years, I have helped my mother in the kitchen to make lots of different kinds of latkes.  We do potato, sweet potato, and my favorite: potato and zucchini.  Even my mother-in-law told me that she tried a new recipe that was potato and apple!  I love experimenting with all of these different flavors.  It is a fun way to bring my culinary interests into tradition.

This year, I tried something extreme:  I avoided all potatoes AND I didn't fry them!   During Hanukkah we fry our foods (latkes or sufganiyot, doughnuts) to symbolize the miracle of the oil that was found and then lasted 8 days.  Although these latkes are not fried, they still do have oil on them, so I think it counts.  So what did I make my latkes out of, if not potatoes?  Carrots and parsnips!  They were delicious with a bright, fresh, flavor.  In fact, they were so well loved, that they were all eaten before I had a chance to take a photo!

Carrot and Parsnip Latkes
1 lb carrots, peeled and grated
1 lb parsnip, peeled and grated
1 small onion, grated
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup Matzo Meal
1 teaspoon dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
cooking spray

Pre-heat oven to 350.  Grate carrots, parsnip and onion into a large mixing bowl. Squeeze out as much moisture as possible.  Add eggs, matzo meal, thyme, salt and pepper and mix well.  Prepare 2 or 3 large cookie sheets with foil and cooking spray.  Spoon out mixture onto cookie sheets.  Spray more cooking spray over each individual latke before cooking.  Bake for about 15-20 minutes, until browns. 

I hope that you enjoy them!  If you have other fun latke combinations, please post a comment.  I would love to try more!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

My "Lighten Up" Dinner

During November and December, 60 Beth El families generously volunteered to host other Beth El families for a warm Shabbat dinner for a program called "Lighten Up: Friday Night Invites."  Last week, we hosted our own Lighten Up dinner.  We invited two other families and we sat around my dining room table and talked and laughed and ate until very late at night.  Before the end of the evening, we even made plans for all of us to get together at another couple's home for another Shabbat dinner together. 

When I host people at my home, I use it as an excuse to try out new recipes.  I also like to theme my dinners.  It makes it more fun for me as I plan the dinner.  For this Shabbat, I went Sephardic.  I made roasted lamb, homemade babaganoush (eggplant puree), roasted peppers with sumac, and saffron rice.  It was delicious!!

Lamb with Red Onion and Tomatoes
(This recipe is an adaptation from Susie Fishbein's Kosher by Design: Entertaining)

For the marinade -
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons olive oil

2 lbs boneless lamb cubes
cherry tomatoes
1 red onion, cubed

Place all ingredients for the marinade into a large ziplock bag.  Add the lamb, mix around and let sit for a few hours.  Pre-heat oven to 375.  Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray and pour in the lamb mixture.  Add cherry tomatoes and cubes of red onion sporadically throughout.  Cook in the oven for about 25 minutes.


3 large eggplants
2 tablespoons of thaini
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon of cumin
1/2 teaspoon of ground coriander
3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
Salt to taste

Preheat oven to 350.  Cut the eggplants in half, lengthwise.  Place, flesh-side down on large baking sheet.  Bake for about 1 hour, or until very soft.  When eggplants are cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh into a mixing bowl.  You can discard the skins.  Add remainder of ingredients and mix.

Roasted Peppers with Sumac

6 multi-colored bell peppers
1/2 teaspoon sumac
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1 tablespoon of olive oil

Pre-heat oven to 375.  Slice peppers and place on cookie sheet.  Pour oil on peppers.  Sprinkle spices on peppers.  Bake for 15 minutes.

I hope you enjoy the recipes and think about using them in your next Shabbat dinner!  If you want to learn more about Lighten Up, let me know!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Vegetable Pinwheels

Sometimes when I am invited to a friend's house for Shabbat dinner, I take it easy and stop off at the store for a babka or a bottle of wine.  But when I have the time, I prefer to make something to bring.  Last Shabbat, I was asked to bring an appetizer.  Another guest was already bringing salad, and I know that one of my hosts does not eat fish, so gefilte was out.  I needed to think up a fun, pareve, non-fish appetizer to bring over, and I came up with a really fun one!

Vegetable Pinwheels.  I love making pinwheels.  Puff pastry is delicious, and easily available pareve in all grocery store freezers.  Also, the presentation of the pinwheels is very appealing.  They look very impressive and you don't have to tell anyone how easy they were to make.   I've used the same concept for dairy appetizers and desserts.  Always a crowd pleaser!

Vegetable Pinwheels
1 box of Puff Pastry (2 sheets)
1-2 Medium Eggplants
2 cups of Broccoli Florets
2-3 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
1 Tablespoon Dried Basil
Est. 1 Tablespoon oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Take box of Puff Pastry out of the freezer to defrost.
Pre-heat oven to 350.  Slice eggplants very thin (use a mandolin if you have one).  You might also want to first peel the eggplant.  I did not do this, because I love purple color, but it will make a future step easier).  Arrange slices on a baking sheet, spray lightly with Pam and sprinkle with Salt, Pepper and Basil.  Cook in the oven until soft, about 20 minutes.  Take out to cool slightly.  Meanwhile, prepare the broccoli.  Cut broccoli into very small pieces.  Cook broccoli in a pan, stove top with Salt, Pepper and basil to taste.  After cooked, add the tomato paste and a little oil to thin out.  Mix well, and then let cool slightly.

Carefully un-fold the defrosted pastry sheets.  Lay the eggplant over the whole sheet, and then top thinly with the broccoli mixture.  Starting at one end, roll up the dough into a thick log.  With a very sharp knife, cut slices, about 1/2 inch thick.  (This is where it would be easier without the skin on the eggplant.  Even though the eggplant is pre-cooked, the skin is still difficult to cut and your slices will be prettier if you peel the eggplant first.  However, if you do, make sure to watch the eggplant in the oven.  You do not want to over cook the slices.  They will turn into mush if you do.) Place slices on a cookie sheet, allowing room for each pinwheel to expand.  Bake for about 20 minutes, or until pastry is puffed and golden. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sweet Challah for the New Year

Welcome back to Brisket & Beyond! 

I took the summer off from the blog.  But now Rosh Hashanah is around the corner, and I wanted to start the new year  with a new recipe.

I'm sure the first food that everyone thinks about for Rosh Hashanah is apples and honey, but who needs a recipe for that?!?    I love to go to the bakery and see all of the different flavors of big round challot to start the new year sweet.  My favorite is an eggy, sweet, raisin challah, but I won't turn any challah down. 

When I was living in St. Louis, my friend Mindy would make a cinnamon swirl challah every Friday night.  Luckily, I was invited over to her home often for Shabbat dinners and was able to sample the challah frequently.  Two weeks ago, when I began to think about menu planning for the holidays, I immediately thought about her challah and knew I needed to try it out.  Here is her recipe.

Cinnamon Swirl Challah
4 Cups of flour
3 eggs (one reserved)
2 Tablespoon yeast
1 Cup warm water
1/3 Cup sugar
1/2 Cup oil
1 Tablespoon vanilla
dash of salt

Cinnamon Filling:
3 Tablespoon Cinnamon
3 Tablespoon Oil
3 Tablespoon Sugar

In a small bowl mix water, yeast and sugar together.  Let sit till bubbles (about 10 minutes).

In a large bowl place flour and salt and make a hole in the middle.

Meanwhile, mix together the oil, 2 eggs, vanilla.  Then pour into the hole in the middle of the flour.  Let that mixture sit until the yeast is ready.  Once the yeast rises, add to the center of flour mixture and mix.

Once the dough is formed, cover with a damp towel and place in a warm area (I put it in a turned off oven) and allow the dough to rise for a few hours.

While the dough is rising, mix together the cinnamon, sugar and oil for the filling.

Once the dough has risen, knead down.

To make a round challah, divide the dough into two.  With each half, roll the dough out like a snake.  Press dough down and put cinnamon mixture in the middle and pinch close.  Roll the dough up into a ball (so it looks like a large cinnamon bun) and place it onto a cookie sheet or a round pan.   Lightly brush the dough with an egg wash (the remainder egg mixed with a little water).  Let formed dough rise again for another 45 minutes.

Preheat oven at 350 and bake challah for about 30 minutes, or until done.  This makes two Challot.

I made two batches of the challah so far, but on my second batch, I switched things up a little.  I made a little less cinnamon filling and added lots of raisins to the cinnamon.  I added the cinnamon-raisin mixture just like above.  This would also work for lots of other sweet inserts like chocolate chips or other yummies you want to add to make your Rosh Hashanah sweet. 

L'shana Tova U'Metukah!!!  To a Good and SWEET New Year!!!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Cheesecake for Shavuot

When you are talking about being a "Gastronomic Jew" there are some holidays where the moment you think of them, you immediately know what you are going to eat.  When it comes to Shavuot, its cheesecake and blintzes all the way.  And since I have not yet mastered (or tried for that matter) to make the thin crepes to roll blintzes, I made a cheesecake.

Shavuot is the the holiday that commemorates when HaShem gave the Jews the Torah.  The word Shavuot means weeks, because of the 7 weeks that we count (called the Omer) between the second day of Passover until Shavuot.  One explanation for why it is traditional to eat dairy meals during Shavuot because the laws for kashrut were given in the Torah.  While the ancient Israelites waited for the Torah, they did not want to eat traif, non-Kosher, so they refrained from eating meat.

My very good friend from college is famous for making cheesecake.  Every holiday or family gathering, she makes one.  So when I was planning my Shavuot menu, I went straight to her for the recipe.  She did not disappoint.  This cheesecake was delicious and very easy to make.

I know that this posting is a little late (Shavuot ended yesterday!) but the recipe is so good that I needed to share it.  Bookmark it for next year, or make you next Shabbat dinner dairy so you can serve this for dessert. 

Ingredients for crust:
1 3/4 C. graham cracker crumbs
3/4 C. melted butter
1 T. brown sugar

Ingredients for filling:
24 oz. cream cheese (at room temperature)
4 eggs
1 C sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Ingredients for topping:
1 pint (16 oz) sour cream
3/4 C. sugar

Preheat oven at 325 degrees.  Grease 9 inch spring form pan.  Combine ingredients for crust and firmly line the bottom of the pan with the mixture.  In large mixing bowl (either with a stand mixer or a hand mixer) begin to whip the cream cheese.  Then add eggs, sugar, and vanilla.  Mix very well until smooth.  Pour over crust and bake for about 50 minutes.  Cake should be just a little loose.  If very loose, cook for another 10 minutes, or until cake firms up more.  Cool cake for about 15 minutes and turn the oven up to 400 degrees.
Meanwhile, mix sour cream and sugar very well.  Pour over slightly cooled cake.  Bake again for about 20 minutes.  Watch carefully so that the mixture doesn't bubble over.  Increase cooking time if the mixture looks too loose.  Turn off oven and let cake begin to cool in the oven.  This will help to prevent cracking.  Cool cake completely overnight.  Decorate with fresh fruit.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Arroz con Pollo

Last week, for Cinco de Mayo, I themed my Shabbat dinner.  I wanted to combine the Mexican celebration with Shabbat.  But what was I going to make??  I did not want to make tacos or chips.  I wanted the meal to still fit in with Shabbat.  Then I thought of it: Arroz con Pollo!  Literally means rice with chicken.  It is a great one pot dish that is filled with fragrant spices, vegetables, rice and chicken.  Now the challenge was trying to make it kosher.  Many authentic Mexican recipes call for pork fat.  And here is where I found a little (a lot!) of help from a box.   I found the idea on the Joy of Kosher website.  I made some small changes to the recipe, mostly to increase the spice-factor.  The original recipe can be found here.  Below is my version. 

Arroz con Pollo

1 tablespoon oil
1 large onion, diced
2 bell peppers, diced (preferably different colors)
8 oz fresh sliced mushrooms
1 can diced tomatoes with green peppers
1 chicken - cut into 8 pieces* (I think you could add a few more pieces, there is plenty of rice to accommodate more for leftovers)
2 boxes Near East Spanish Rice
2 1/2 cups of water
2 teaspoons turmeric
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons of paprika

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
In a large pan saute onion, peppers, and mushrooms in oil.  Add can of tomatoes.  Cook down for about 7 minutes, until vegetables are soft.  In a large pot, pour in Near East rice and spice-mix in.  Add vegetables and water.  Stir.
Season chicken with turmeric, garlic and paprika.  Nestle chicken on top of rice.  Place in oven.  Cook for about 1 hour, 20 minutes. 

It serves between 6-8 people, depending on how much chicken.  I served this with a side of black beans (spiced up with chili powder) and zucchini flavored with cumin.  It tied the flavors together perfectly.  Although originally for Cinco de Mayo, this is a dish that I will be making more frequently.  It was delicious!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Almond Macaroons

Although many Jewish holidays revolve around food, none more so than Passover.  Eating and food consumes our thoughts as we prepare for the holiday.  We go through our pantry, cooking combinations we never would have thought before, just so we don't have to throw out perfectly good sauces.  We scrub our kitchen and boil our dishes to eliminate all traces of Hametz.  We buy and abundance of kosher for Passover products in varieties and flavors that we would never buy for the rest of the year but, "look, its K for P - we need it!"  And then the cooking.  There is this mixed feeling of both loving the holiday foods we prepare juxtaposed with the fear that we will starve without bread for one week.  All the Ashkenaz are secretly wishing they were Sephardic.

We focus on the meal that we will prepare for Seder so much, but forget we have 10 steps in the Seder starting from "Kadesh" (blessing) before we get to "Shulchan Oruch" (festive meal).  The first steps in the Seder are what Passover is really about.  It is where we retell the story of our Exodus from Egypt and become free. 

With this in mind, here is a dessert recipe that is so easy, it will allow you to focus on the meaning of Passover and will allow you to spend more time with your family instead of cooking.  This recipe is adapted from a recipe from my mother-in-law.   She is a fantastic baker and these are one of my favorites.  It is so good, that I make it all year round. 

Almond Macaroons
16 oz almond flour (about 4 cups)
2 cups sugar
6 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
zest of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 350. 
Mix together almond flour and sugar in a large mixing bowl.  Add egg whites, one at a time, and mix together with a hand mixer.  Should be a a paste consistency.  Add extract and lemon zest and mix a little more.  Chill the bowl for about 10 minutes.  Spoon out mixture on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.  Bake for about 15-20 minutes.  Cookies with puff up a little and turn slightly brown when done. 

The added zest really brightens the flavor of these cookies.  Feel free to experiment with orange zest or different extracts to play with the flavor.  This recipe makes about 4 dozen cookies, depending on size.

Enjoy and have a wonderful Passover!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Barley Risotto

This winter was short, very short.  And although it feels as if it is summer outside already, I haven't eaten enough warm comfort food.  Plus, with Passover quickly approaching, I have to get rid of a lot of open packages of hamatz that are in my pantry.  I have a half of a bag of barley staring at me everytime I open my cabinet.  And for those of you who work with barley, you know that a little goes a long way once cooked.  For those of you who do not eat a lot of barley, you should start.  It is a very healthy whole grain that is high in fiber and a great change from rice or pasta.

Here is my favorite recipe for a barley risotto.  It has a smiliar creamy, starchy, comfort texture that rice risotto has, but much easy - no constant stirring.  You can really play with the recipe and use whatever vegetable you have on hand.  This recipe is parve, but you can add cheese, or make it with chicken broth, depending on the meal you are serving it with.  It works great as a warm side dish, but I also stir in some extra veggies, top it with some hot sauce and call it a meal.

So as you are trying to eat from your pantry in preperation for Passover, try out this recipe!

3/4 cup pearl barley (uncooked)
1 onion
1 teaspoon oil
2 cloves of garlic (diced small)
4 cups of vegetable broth
1 1/2 lb of cubed butternut squash
salt/peper to taste

Turn oven on to 400 degrees.  While pre-heating, sautee onion in the oil and a dash of salt in an oven-proff large saucepan or dutch oven for about 2-3 minutes.  Add garlic and butternut squash, cook for another 2-3 minutes.  Add the barley and stir, let cook another minute together.  Finally add the broth and bring to a boil.  Once at a boil, turn off the heat and cover the pot.  Transfer to the oven and let cook for about 30 minutes.  After about 30 minutes, most of the liquid should be absorbed.  Take out of the oven, keep covered and allow the remainder of the liquid to absorb and cool down a little before serving.  Salt and pepper to taste.

This amount will feed 6-8 as a side dish. 

One great option is to stir in spinach, kale, or other leafy greens at the end.  The heat will wilt the veggies and will add beautiful color to the dish.  If you like heat, this is great with hot sauce. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Hamentashen and Mishloach Manot for Purim

Purim is, hands down, one of the most fun holidays.  We dress up, have a festive meal, have a drink or two, and give and get gifts from our friends.

When I was younger, Purim was all about the carnival for me. But now, my favorite part is the Mishloach Manot, packages of food gifted to friends and family.  Giving mishloach manot on Purim is one of the 4 mitzvot for the holiday.  The other 3 are: to hear the Book of Esther read; give Matanot La'evyonim, gifts to the poor; and to have a Sudah, a festive meal.

To fulfill the mitzvah of Mishloach Manot, one must include at least 2 ready to eat foods and give them to at least one person.  The most common food to include is hamentashen!  Below is a traditional recipe for this delicious, tri-cornered cookie.

4 C flour  + more for rolling
1 C sugar
2 teaspoon baking powder
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 sticks of butter (or margarine)
1 teaspoon vanilla
orange zest (optional)

Mix together all dry ingredients in large bowl
Add butter, eggs and vanilla to dry ingredients, mix well.  Dough will be sticky.
Chill dough for at least 30 minutes.  Working with no more than 1/4th of the dough at a time, roll out dough on a floured surface till about 1/8 inch thick.  Cut 3-inch circles out.
Fill each circle with 1 teaspoon of filling of your choice (apricot, prune, poppy, chocolate, etc) and fold into a triangle, pinching corners together.
Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes.
I got about 60 Hamentashen out of this recipe.  Amounts will vary due to thickness and cookie-cutter size.

This year, I made blueberry Hamentashen.  However, with my last batch I had some fun.  Instead of adding some extra flour to reduce the dough sticky-ness as I worked with it, I added graham cracker crumbs and filled the hamentashen with chocolate spread and marshmallow fluff making a S'more Hamentashen.  Delicious!

After my cookies cooled, I started to assemble my Mishloach Manot packages.  I themed my packages "coffee".  Ironically, I did not include any coffee in the package.  I bought coffee mugs and filled them with hot chocolate mix, tea bags, biscotti and hamentashen.  Below is a picture of the final product.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Fun Salads

This past Shabbat was especially lovely.  Why?  Because I was invited out!   As much as I love hosting my friends and family for meals, I welcome the opportunity to take it easy and enjoy someone elses hospitality.  I always like to offer to make something to make it easier on my host, and this time I was asked to help with salad.  Perfect for me because I was just talking to a good friend from college about fun salads.   I made a Butternut Squash salad to bring over for Shabbat.  This salad can also be served for Tu b'Shevat this week.  Some of the 7 species are included (olive oil, pomegranate seeds) and you can also substitute the dried cherries for chopped dates, figs, or raisins.  If you are interested in making the salad for Tu b'Shevat, the 7 species traditionally eaten on this holiday are wheat, barley, grapes, pomegranate, dates, figs, and olives.  These are the 7 species that are native to Israel and named in the Torah. 

Butternut Squash Salad with home-made balsamic vinaigrette

Mixed Greens
Carrots, cut into bite sized pieces
Dried cherries
pomegranate seeds (optional)
slivered almonds
Butternut squash, cubed
Sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar
1 T olive oil
*if served with a dairy meal, goat cheese is a delicious combination with the squash

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  On a lined cookie sheet, spread out the cubed butternut squash, sprinkle with olive oil, sugar and cinnamon.  Roast squash for about 15-20 minutes until tender.  Allow to cool.  Mix all salad ingredients together.  Serve with balsamic vinaigrette (below).

Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette
4 T balsamic vinegar
2 T honey
2 T oil
2 T water
1 T dijon mustard
freshly cracked pepper to taste

Mix together well.  The mustard serves as an emulsifier and the oil will not separate from the vinegar.  Recipe might need to be doubled if you are making it for a large crowd. 
I wanted to share one more fun salad recipe.  This is a really easy and very delicious salad that works great for a pot luck, side dish, or if you just want a salad with a twist. 

Carrot Slaw
1 package of shredded carrots
1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 large handful of dried cranberries (I used raisins this time because I ran out of cranberries.  Both taste good, but I like the dried cranberries better)
Homemade honey mustard dressing:
*1 T honey
*1 T olive oil
*1 T mustard
*about 1/2 t of onion powder
*salt and pepper to taste

In a large serving bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the dressing.  While whisking, disperse dressing around walls of the bowl to assist with tossing the salad.  After whisked, fold in the carrots, parsley and dried cranberries.  Carefully mix to coat.   This will produced a very lightly dressed salad.  If you prefer more dressing on your salad, make more dressing first, before tossing in the vegetables.