Za’atar is one of my favorite ingredients to use when cooking. I roast potatoes with it and chicken too. So it was only a matter of time until I found a way to make a za’atar flavored challah.
I don’t make my own za’atar, but rather buy it in bulk whenever I am in Israel. You can either buy za’atar at a Middle Eastern or specialty spice store, or also make your own. Za’atar is traditionally made with a mix of oregano, sesame seeds, sumac and salt. I actually chose to add extra sumac in this recipe because the za’atar mix I bought didn’t have a strong flavor, but you can leave that out if you prefer.
1 ½ Tbsp dry active yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 ¼ cup lukewarm water
4.5 cups of all-purpose, unbleached flour (preferably King Arthur flour)
½ Tbsp salt
2 Tbsp za’atar spice
1 tsp sumac
1 tsp jarred chopped garlic
¼ up vegetable oil
¾ cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1 tsp water
Additional za’atar, sesame seeds and thick sea salt for sprinkling
In a small bowl, place yeast, 1 tsp sugar and lukewarm water. Allow to sit around 10 minutes, until it becomes foamy on top.
In a large bowl or stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix together 1 ½ cups flour, salt, za’atar, sumac, garlic and sugar. After the water-yeast mixture has become foamy, add to flour mixture along with oil. Mix thoroughly.
Add another 1 cup of flour and eggs and mix until smooth. Switch to the dough hook attachment if you are using a stand mixer.
Add another 1 ½- 2 cups of mixed flour, mixing thoroughly and then remove from bowl and place on a floured surface. Knead remaining ½ cup flour into dough, continuing to knead for around 5 minutes.
Place dough in a greased bowl and cover with damp towel. Allow to rise at least around 3 hours, punching down at least once if possible.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Braid challah into desired shape. Allow challah to rise another 45-60 minutes, or until you can see the size has grown and challah seems light. This step is very important to ensure a light and fluffy challah.
In a small bowl beat 2 egg yolks with 1 tsp water.
Brush egg wash liberally over challah. Sprinkle with additional za’atar, sesame seeds and thick sea salt.
If making one large challah, bake around 27-28 minutes; if making two smaller challahs, bake 24-26 minutes.
It’s that time of year when soup reigns supreme. Fall vegetables really lend themselves to being roasted, pureed and blended with stock. Soup is warming, comforting and an easy meal that is perfect for lunch or dinner and even better as leftovers the next day. Not to mention, my daughter loves soup lately, which she calls “soupy.” So of course a Jewish mother is inclined to feed her kid whatever they ask for, within reason.
Last year I put together 9 satisfying soups, but I wanted to expand the list this year to give you even more delicious ideas for your fall soup consumption. Add your favorite recipes below!
Parsnip and Carrot Soup with Tarragon from The New York Times
Cream of Carrot Soup with Roasted Jalapeno from Meredith Keltz
Pumpkin Red Pepper Soup with Challah Croutons from Leora Kimmel Greene
Hearty Lentil Soup from Liz Rueven
Roasted Eggplant and Chickpea Soup from Martha Stewart
Curried Cauliflower Soup from Food52
Roasted Potato and Leek Soup with Jalapeno Oil from Whitney Fisch
Vegetarian Chicken Soup from Leah Koenig
Cuban Matzo Ball Soup from Jennifer Stempel
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Halloween is almost here, did you know? Hard not to notice with pumpkins, spiders and candy corn everywhere.
And Halloween actually falls on Shabbat later this week, which for some people, I know, will be problematic. Some Jews don’t think we should celebrate Halloween at all. And some Jews think American Jews can and should embrace the celebration.
I fall into the camp of celebrating and I just love making fun treats, especially now that I have a daughter to share in the fun. And last week I made cookies that are equal parts fun for kids and delicious for adults. I brought a batch of these cookies to my share with family this past weekend, and by Sunday, they were totally gone; even all the skinny, dieting women in my family devoured them.
I love baking with dark chocolate usually, but these milk chocolate and butterscotch cookies are seriously delicious. The dark cocoa powder sets off the sweetness of the milk chocolate. I also like to add a pinch of thick sea salt before baking, which really elevates the flavor.
This recipe is based on Martha Stewat’s Milk Chocolate Cookie Recipe, which can be found in her cookbook Martha Stewart’s Cookies: The Very Best Baking Treats to Bake and to Share.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
4 ounces good-quality milk chocolate chips (for melting)
3 ounces good-quality milk chocolate chips (for mixing)
3 ounces butterscotch chips
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
candy eyes (optional)
thick sea salt (optional)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl.
Melt the 4 ounces milk chocolate with the butter in a glass bowl in the microwave for 30 second increments. Stir vigorously after each time until the chocolate-butter mixture is shiny and completely smooth.
Beat the chocolate mixture, sugar, eggs and vanilla together using a wooden spoon or the paddle attachment of a stand mixer. Add dry ingredients.
Fold in milk chocolate and butterscotch chips.
Using a cookie scoop, drop dough onto silpat or parchment paper lined baking sheets. Add candy monster eyes and sea salt if desired.
Bake 13-14 minutes, until cookies are flat and the surface cracks. Allow to cool 2 minutes on baking sheets, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
Every year when the Jewish holidays roll around, we expect the frenzy of excitement, cooking and never-ending meals. And yet by the end, I am still pretty tired of standing in my kitchen cooking and baking.
Now that it is Shabbat again, and time to prepare yet another meal, the last thing I want to do is spend hours in my kitchen cooking, but I still want to have something homemade that we will all enjoy.
What’s a tired cook to do? My solution is to roast. I make a roast chicken, roasted vegetables and not much else. No frying, sauteing, mixing or other excessive patchke-ing in the kitchen. The abundance of fresh fall vegetables makes this as delicious an option as it is easy.
If you haven’t tried my easy, delicious citrus herb roasted chicken, you will see why I call it my BEST roast chicken. You can also try this version of roast chicken which includes veggies and chicken all in one delicious dish.
These sweet potatoes and carrots with apple cider and thyme is simple and delicious. But if even that seems like too much work? Just throw a bunch of seasonal veggies into a baking dish with salt, pepper and olive oil. Roast at 400 degrees for around 45-50 minutes until caramelized. This is one of my favorite ways to prepare cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts and even potatoes.
Last but certainly not least: dessert! I find it hard to enjoy any meal without a sweet finish. My s’mores brownies are so easy, you can whip them up in 5 minutes. Yes, there will be some stirring involved, but you only need one bowl and a pan.
Next week I will get back into some more complicated cooking. Or maybe not. But for now I need a nice glass of wine and my couch for a little while.
Shabbat Shalom! Wishing you an easy, enjoyable Shabbat and weekend.
I’m having a love/hate relationship with food lately. By “love,” I mean, you know, I want to eat yummy food all the time. By “hate,” I mean I don’t have the energy for it any more. And this isn’t just a post-high holiday thing. This is all about trying to find the time and energy to feed a two year-old every. single. day. And I only have one child – I don’t know how the moms with multiple kids balance everything!
For those just joining me in this weird journey, I’m currently living a life of temporary single parenthood. It’s important to note that this set up of mine is, in fact, temporary. I have the privilege of having a supportive and loving husband. We call each other, he offers me emotional support and he comes to visit every so often (more on why I’m in this situation here). The parts of this temporary single parent status that I expected to stink (time has become my most sought after currency. I got up at 5:30am PST just to finish writing this post) but the part of this situation that I didn’t expect is the effect this has had on our meal times.
We used to have family dinners. We’d eat together, the three of us, at least 3 nights a week plus Shabbat. The husband and I committed to that when we had a child. As a social worker and school counselor, I am well aware of the statistics that go along with shared family meals (35% less likely to engage in disordered eating, 24% more likely to eat healthier foods and 12% less likely to be overweight, Hammons & Fiese, 2011). Plus the fact that family mealtime offers uninterrupted time for us to spend time together. Or so I’m told. I have a toddler. Regardless, family mealtime combines my two favorite things: my family and food!
But now that it’s just me and the kiddo, the aspects of managing our day-to-day life of work/school/family has driven me to want to collapse when she’s in bed at 8:00 pm. And so, I’ve developed a habit of cooking just for her at around 5:30 and then settling in with a salad and TV for myself after she goes to bed. That salad, of course, consists of things like pre-washed kale, shredded carrots, shredded cheese (neither of which I shred myself, yikes.) Its not as sad as it sounds. OK, it’s a little bit as sad as it sounds. That being said, I realized things had drastically changed when I went from making Shabbat meals with multiple courses to one pot of veggie quinoa soup for the kid and myself and calling it a day. So after roughly the 12th night of the same salad, I decided I needed a change of pace. The kid and I needed to get back to family dinners and I needed to get creative with my meals again. A few tricks that are helping me reach my goal:
- Batch cooking – Each Sunday I make big batches of something, i.e. roasted vegetables, sauce, rice or quinoa, that I can use in various recipes for the remainder of the week
- Remix – Since I have to make my own lunch, I did myself a favor and bought into the kiddo’s kosher school lunch plan. They always send home leftovers (and there is always leftovers), which I remix into something else for her dinner (read: stir fry!)
- The kid stays in the picture – Now that she’s a little over 2, she actually can help me cook, which has been very fun and exciting. She’s officially in charge of all seasoning and can sprinkle cheese on a homemade pizza like nobody’s business. Getting her involved has made cooking fun again and has even forced me to get creative with meal planning.
- Soup – The kid loves soup. I love soup. Soup is always a great way for us to get our vegetables in us. Therefore, I’ve started making a soup that we might both love but dressing it up for me. The perfect example of that is this roasted potato and leek soup recipe. I dress it down for her, though she does get a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. I dress it up for myself by sprinkling cheese on it AND drizzling the jalapeno oil. It’s a win/win!
The kid and I are surviving and at times, we’re even thriving. She’s at that amazing age where she’s starting to have conversations so sitting down together isn’t just about me making sure she’s actually eating, like back in the days of her infancy. Rather, mealtime has become this magical time of actually getting to know the person she’s becoming and I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity to slow down and listen.
For the potato soup:
2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch chunks
4 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts, cleaned of all sand (4 leeks)
5 cloves garlic (4 whole cloves and 1 minced)
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
3 - 4 cups of vegetable stock
¾ cup heavy whipping cream
For the jalapeno oil:
1/2 cup olive oil
1 garlic clove, thickly sliced
1 large jalapeno, thickly sliced
coarse salt, optional
To make the soup:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Combine the garlic cloves, potatoes, and leeks on a sheet pan in a single layer. Add the olive oil, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper and toss to coat the vegetables evenly. Roast for 40 to 45 minutes, turning them with a spatula a few times during cooking, until very tender.
Towards the last 10 minutes of roasting, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven. Saute the onion in the oil until translucent. Add 1 clove minced garlic, 1 tsp of thyme, 1 tsp of kosher salt and ½ tsp of black pepper and saute for another 2 minutes. Once vegetables are done roasting, add them to the stockpot of onions and garlic. Stir and let cook for a few minutes. You may need to add another tbsp of oil to accommodate the addition of the roasted vegetables.
Once everything has sauted together for a couple of minutes, add vegetable broth to the stock pot and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, turn down to low and let simmer for 20 - 30 minutes. After the simmering, check to ensure that the potatoes have begun to soften. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.
Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. Add the remaining 1 cup of stock to thicken the soup. If it still isn’t thick enough, add the final cup a little at a time until desired thickness. Add the cream, 2 tsp salt, and 1 tsp pepper and check the seasonings.
To make the oil:
Heat the oil in a saucepan, over medium-high heat. Lower the heat to medium and add in the jalapeno, garlic and salt.
Stir slowly and constantly, and after a minute or so, lower the heat to low so that you do not burn the garlic. Continue slowly stirring until the garlic begins to brown, remove from heat and allow to sit for 10 minutes or so.
Remove the jalapeno and garlic, and once cooled, store in an air-tight container in the fridge.
It’s autumn, and sure, we all love pumpkin. But there are also an array of other squash and seasonal veggies that are pretty exciting too, including the adorable acorn squash.
Growing up my dad would prepare acorn squash in a very simple way: cut in half and roasted with butter and maple syrup. Nothing bad about that.
But I have been searching for other ways to prepare the cute squash. Finally a few weeks ago I came across this recipe for Orzo and Cheese Baked in Acorn Squash and I thought: ok, I have to make this! Not only is it cheesy and easy, but making a stuffed dish during Sukkot was also Jewishly appropriate.
I didn’t have orzo, but I did have Israeli couscous, a favorite ingredient. I also wanted to get in a little extra vegetables in this dish, so I added some onion and pepper. Want to make this healthier? You could substitute whole wheat couscous, quinoa and even add some lentils.
2 small acorn squash, halved and seeded
¾ cup water
¾ cup uncooked Israeli couscous
¾ cup water
Salt and pepper
½ onion, diced
½ red bell pepper, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and pepper
Pinch red pepper flakes
¼ cup milk
½ cup grated cheddar cheese
2 Tbsp Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice off a piece from each half of acorn squash so they will lie flat in the pan when baking later.
Place squash open side down in a baking pan. Add 3/4 cup water to pan. Cover tightly with foil. Bake for 35 minutes. Remove from oven and discard water. Turn squash open side up. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook another 15 minutes until tender.
Bring the ¾ cup of water to a boil. Add couscous and salt and pepper, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 10 minutes.
In a large sauté pan add a few tbsp olive oil. Cook onions and pepper for 4 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and continue cooking until soft and translucent, another 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat and add to a large bowl. Add cooked couscous, cheddar cheese, milk and 1 Tbsp Parmesan cheese. Mix thoroughly.
Remove squash from oven. Spoon couscous cheese filling into each squash. Top with additional Parmesan cheese, fresh parsley and a drizzle of olive oil. Bake until top begins to brown, around 25 minutes.
It’s no great secret that I hate pareve desserts. Or perhaps I should more accurately say: I hate bad pareve desserts. Some might even say I have made it my mission in life to dream up pareve desserts that don’t suck. And this brownie recipe is one of those.
While I generally prefer boxed brownie mixes (gasp!), this brownie recipe is nearly a match. But if you would rather use a boxed mix in this recipe, you can and should. No one will know you didn’t whip it up from scratch. If you do make it from scratch, you will be surprised how easy this recipe is to throw together, even at the very last minute.
I love enjoying these brownies with a relaxing cup of tea after dinner, with a glass of milk as an indulgent afternoon treat and they are especially delicious if you store them in the fridge so they are cool and fudgy. Did I mention these brownies are great when made nondairy? Your guests won’t even know they are pareve.
This recipe is based on Martha Stewart’s recipe for Fudgy Chocolate Brownies.
1/2 cup margarine or butter
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
4 large eggs
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup marshmallow fluff
1/2 cup smashed graham cracker crumbs
thick sea salt (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line an 8x8 square with parchment paper or tin foil. Grease the pan with cooking spray.
Place butter and chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 30 second increments, stirring well in between, until butter and chocolate is completely melted and consistency is smooth and shiny. Allow to cool slightly.
Stir sugar into cooled chocolate mixture. Add eggs one at a time, then vanilla.
Whisk together flour, salt and cinnamon. Add flour mixture to wet mixture.
Pour half the batter into the prepared pan. Spoon large dots of marshmallow fluff on top of batter and sprinkle with half the graham crack crumbs.
Pour remaining batter on top. Sprinkle remaining graham cracker crumbs on top and a light sprinkle of thick sea salt if desired.
Bake for 40-45 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool before slicing into squares.
Next to pumpkin, apple cider might be one of my favorite flavors of fall. I like it hot and spicy, spiked with bourbon or just plain out of the container on a cool and sunny autumn day.
But I also love cooking with it. For the past few years I have been making a fall favorite apple cider beef stew which is perfect for Sunday supper or Shabbat dinner. But I am always looking for savory recipes to use this beloved ingredient.
This past week I came across this recipe for Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Carrots made with orange juice and herbs among other flavors. I thought, if you could roast root vegetables with orange juice, why not apple cider?
I tested it out, and it was a hit. This is a perfect side dish for any kind of dinner this time of year.
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 medium-large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch rounds
1 small red onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 whole garlic cloves
1/4 cup apple cider
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Place your cut sweet potatoes, carrots, red onion and garlic cloves on a baking sheet and spread them in a single layer.
In a small bowl, whisk together apple cider, olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper. Drizzle mixture all over vegetables and toss to coat evenly.
Roast for 35-45 minutes, until vegetables are caramelized to your liking. Serve immediately.
With the holidays quickly approaching, we find ourselves yet again in the kitchen preparing daily feasts for our families and friends. Whether we are cooking traditional foods or new recipes, we sometimes get lost in the idea that the more complicated the recipe, the tastier and more impressive it is. In my own cooking, I find that it’s usually the simpler recipes using fresh and seasonal produce are the most delicious and healthier to boot. Let’s put the healthy back into the new year and cook fresh, seasonal foods and this butternut squash gnocchi is healthful and delicious.
Aviva Kanoff’s new cookbook “Gluten Free Around the World” comes out November 1, 2014.
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 large egg
¾ tsp salt
1 ½ cups all-purpose gluten-free flour, plus more for hands and work surface
3 Tbsp butter
¼ cup fresh sage leaves
sea salt to taste
Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)
Boil butternut squash in 4 cups water until soft, then strain. Mash or puree in a food processor.
Set a large pot of water to boil. In a medium-sized bowl, combine butternut squash, egg and salt. Add flour in 3-4 separate additions, stirring to combine after each addition. Continue adding flour until dough is firm enough to handle, but still somewhat sticky.
With floured hands, pinch off about a quarter of the dough. Roll between palms and on floured work surface to make a 1-inch thick rope. Cut rope into bite-sized pieces. Repeat with remaining dough.
Drop gnocchi into boiling water and cook until they rise to the surface, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large, heavy saucepan. Add sage leaves and cook, swirling frequently, until butter browns. Set aside.
Drain gnocchi on paper towels, then add to brown butter and toss. Sprinkle with sea salt and Parmesan cheese if desired.
We made it through the first set of the holidays. Congrats to all of us. Of course we look forward to and enjoy the holidays with out families, but they are also exhausting.
And what’s next? Another holiday of course. It’s time for Sukkot.
By the time it’s Sukkot I am ready for lighter meals, which is why a delicious soup with a salad, cheese and crackers is my ideal menu. It’s satisfying, but a little lightened up after the past few weeks of meal-laden celebrating.
Sukkot also coincides with the fall, and my obsession for all things pumpkin. Cakes and pies, grilled and roasted: you name it I have done it or will be doing it. This soup is amazing because when you are roasting the pumpkin and red pepper with the sage you entire house will smell like the warming flavors of fall.
Note: I prefer to roast the red peppers the day before making the soup. The skin comes off more easily with plenty of time for cooling.
2 sugar pumpkins
3 red peppers
1 yellow onion, chopped
6 cloves of garlic, minced
20 sage leaves
2 medium yukon potato, cubed
½ cup olive oil plus olive oil for brushing the pumpkin
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
4 cups water
1 tsp of maple syrup
1 tsp cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp dried sage
leftover challah, cut into cubes
Split the pumpkins in half, rub inside with 4 tablespoons of olive oil and the maple syrup. Place 16 sage leaves inside and roast on a baking sheet at 375 degrees for 1 1/2 hours until inside of pumpkin is tender.
When there is a half an hour left, place the whole red peppers in the oven. Peppers should roast until the skin is crisp and a little black.
Once the pumpkin is out of the oven, discard the sage. Place the roasted red peppers in a paper bag. After the peppers have cooled, peel the skin, remove seeds and cut into pieces.
Scoop out the flesh of the pumpkin using a large spoon. Discard the skin.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Add the
Add potatoes and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the roasted red pepper, the pumpkin flesh, and the remaining sage leaves. Sauté all veggies for another 5 minutes until the potatoes are soft.
Add the liquid and bring to a boil. Once boiled turn down to low and let simmer for 20 minutes.
Use an immersion blender to blend until smooth. Add salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. If you don't have an immersion blender, you can puree in batches in a food processor or regular blender.
Spread the challah cubes on a baking sheet in a single layer and drizzle with olive oil. Toss with dried sage and minced garlic.
Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes until golden and crispy. Remove from baking sheet and allow to cool.
Serve soup with challah croutons and sage as garnish if desired.