I’ve had a number of friends come calling recently with questions about how to make light and fluffy matzah balls for chicken soup: a pretty important tool in a Jewish cook’s arsenal. I love making matzah balls, and I actually believe that it’s my Italian heritage that is the secret to my fluffy matzah balls. How so? I believe its all in the rolling technique, and I roll my matzah balls the same way I roll my meatballs.
I know there a lot of people who believe the secret to light matzah balls is seltzer, and I can say, this is not a bad way to go. But I advocate for a few simple steps to ensure the matzah balls of your dreams:
1) Cold water: Keep a bowl of cold water nearby as you prepare to roll your balls. In between rolling each ball, dip your hands in the water to keep your hands pliable and clear from getting sticky with matzo meal.
2) Chicken fat, not just for your bubbe: for me, chicken fat (or duck fat) is an essential kitchen item and I assure you, a little goes a long way. Whatever matzo ball recipe you use, substitute half the oil for chicken fat, and I am sure you will be delighted by the results.
3) The roll: How can I put this, um, delicately – balls should be handled with care and attention. When rolling the balls, please don’t pack down the suckers, or aggressively roll them together. Very lightly roll them in the palm of your hands until they are well formed into a ball and then leave them. A nice delicate touch goes a long way.
I’m at the tail end of a bad cold. I have a bottle of Dayquil sitting next to me on my desk, and earlier this week I had to restock my tissue supply both at work and at home. And through this sickness I have been slurping soups like there’s no tomorrow. Lentil soup, cabbage soup, pumpkin soup, and of course, matzah ball soup (made without chicken, because I’m a vegetarian).
I’m finally at a point where I can contemplate dairy without being grossed out, and where real substantial food looks good. Still, I don’t want to overdo it with something that will make me feel awful afterwards. In these situations, I always end up back with basic Jewish foods. Most of the time I try to be an innovative cook who tries lots of new things and isn’t afraid to patchke. But on the tail end of a cold, I want challah and hummus, yerushalmi kugel, and something made with cooked carrots (which usually gross me out but somehow seem delicious when I’m sick).
What about you? Are there any Jewish foods you need when you’re recovering from a cold or the flu? Is it all chicken soup all the time, or do you have other favorites?
If you are a Food TV lover like I am, then you are also probably an addict to what I consider some of the greatest food porn out there: Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, and the endless supply of mouthwatering, melted cheese covered, greasy restaurant visits made by host Guy Fieri. I am not embarrassed to admit that I love watching Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives as I fall asleep at night, because at least then, I am sleepy enough not to hop in the car and drive to the nearest diner for a late night pig-out fest.
An article from a few weeks ago, found via Queen Blogging Bee Lilit Marcus’ new project Faith Goes Pop, reveals that ultimate nosher Guy Fieri may indeed demonstrate anti-Semitic and homophobic leanings. Gasp!?
The piece is lengthy, though a very interesting read about the evolution of the show. It paints, however, a less than ideal portrait of our spiky haired food lover. The article points to a few statements from Fieri including:
“They were demanding tremendous research from my people, and pictures, but they didn’t want to pay for them,” Page says. “Guy said to me: ‘You know, it’s true: Jews are cheap.’”
Guy Fieri, never one to remain quiet, made a public statement in response to the piece and refuted the claims made in the City Pages piece.
In my view, it is not clear from the pieces whether Guy’s comments were taken out of context or not. Either way, my former guilty pleasure now has a bit of a cloud hanging overhead. Faith Goes Pop points out that, isn’t it Fieri’s brashness that made America fall in love with him in the first place? And that perhaps we shouldn’t be quite so shocked at some of his off color comments. Nevertheless, the jury is still out for me whether my enjoyment of “Triple D” will ever be able to return to its former glory.
When I was in high school, I was dating a lovely (non-Jewish) guy whose parents seemed vaguely confused by my Jewish heritage and always had a slew of questions about Jews. In fact, one time the boyfriend’s sister asked me, “So, what do Jews eat on Thanksgiving?” I was a bit bewildered by her question. I responded, “Um, turkey…”
But is it appropriate to deviate from American classics and infuse some Jewrific food choices into the menu? I imagine many of you already do just this.
During a brief stint working for a law firm in Washington, DC I worked alongside a lovely woman whose family was Filipino. Thanksgiving was right around the corner during the time that we worked 15 hour days together, and so I got to learn a lot about her and her family. One of the most interesting tidbits she shared was that her family never celebrated Thanksgiving with turkey, but rather, with a roast pig, as was a traditional Filipino custom. So interesting! I also know plenty of Italian American families who serve lasagna and meatballs right alongside their turkey and stuffing each year. And in truth, what better way to celebrate this holiday of giving thanks and celebrating an immigrants’ experience than bringing in different cultural culinary traditions into the meal.
My own favorite Thanksgiving recipes include this fantastic, moist and already pareve (non-dairy) recipe for Sweet Potato Cake (you can ignore the icing or not). I also love Tyler Florence’s recipe for Whipped Sweet Potatoes with Bananas and Honey, perhaps as an alternative to the “traditional” sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top. You can also try trading in your white bread for leftover challah in your stuffing.
And for a truly Jewey Thanksgiving side dish, I recommend the tried and true Butternut Squash Kugel. This recipe was given to my mother-in-law, by her mother-in-law. I only hope one day I can push recipes upon my daughter-in-laws in the same way (I jest, I jest).
From The Melting Pot, a cookbook put out in the early 1980s by the Hebrew Academy of Long Beach Women’s League.
- 2 10 ounce bags of frozen butternut squash (defrosted)
- 1 stick of melted margarine
- 1 cup of sugar
- 1 cup of flour
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup of pareve milk
Mix all ingredients together in Kitchen Aid, or with electric mixer until blended and smooth.
Grease 9x9 pan (or 9x13 for thinner kugel). Sprinkle top with cinnamon
Cook at 350 until firm (approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour).
I love Hanukkah, but more than celebrating the holiday with friends and family, I relish the excuse to break out some oil and start frying.
These days, Hanukkah ends up being a fun, though harried, time of year – work parties, friend parties, and of course celebrations with both sides of the family. All those latkes and apple sauce, or latkes and brisket as my uncle likes to serve, can get a bit boring for all eight crazy nights.
So why not try a Hanukkah latke brunch? Get out the bloody mary mix, throw together a nice fruit salad, and serve up some latkes and eggs as a fun alternative to the traditional latke spread.
Here is my recipe for a Latkes Salmon Benedict, inspired by Essex House in New York City.
- 5 yukon gold potatoes, peeled
- 1 small onion
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 egg, beaten
- ½ cup unbleached all purpose flour
- 1 Tbsp lemon zest
- Salt and pepper
- Oil for frying
- One dozen eggs
- Smoked salmon
Put potatoes, onion and garlic cloves through a food processor in batches.
In a large bowl, mix together grated potato and onion along with flour, egg, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Let the mixture sit for around 10 minutes, and then strain some of the excess liquid.
In the meantime, heat a few Tbsp of oil on medium high heat in a large skillet. When oil is almost sizzling, put together latke patties, draining excess liquid once again, in your hand. Fry on each side until golden and crispy.
Dust the hot latkes with just a sprinkling of salt while they are still hot. Let the latkes drain on a cooling rack or on plate with paper towel.
When ready to serve, poach or fry eggs.
On a serving plate arrange latkes topped with smoked salmon and eggs. Add dill for a festive garnish.
Yiddish is a difficult language to translate, yet there are endless attempts at expressing these indefinite words that have happily snuck into every day American speak. Nosh is perhaps one of the most commonly heard, yet how can you really describe this term? One definition declares, “nosh: to eat.” Simple enough, but for me it simply doesn’t capture the essence of nosh. The definition goes on: compare to German nashen, to nibble. That seems a bit closer to home. Urban Dictionary defines nosh: “to snack on.”
So what is a ‘nosher’?
I have vivid memories when I was younger of my Uncle Barry, who always kept a snack close at hand – in the car, in his office, in his gym bag – wherever. My grandma Phoebe (think Fran Drescher’s mother from The Nanny meets George Costanza’s mother) would remark about her eldest son, “your Uncle Barry – he’s such a naaaaasher!” And while it might sound like a disparaging remark, indeed, it was said with considerable love, and almost respect, for his affection for snacking.
But a love of nosh goes beyond Yiddish definitions, and beyond mere nibbles or snacks. ‘To nosh’ is about a love of food, keeping food close at hand, and a Jewish connection.
So stay tuned for noshing news, recipe ideas and hopefully a connection to your love of food and love of Jews.
As I’ve mentioned before, over the past week or so I’ve been kind of obsessed with soups. On Monday I had soup for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In the past eight days I’ve been unplugging my crock pot for no more than 12 hours before starting again with a new soup.
But with soups, unlike with almost anything else, I will do a lot of finicking around until I get it exactly right. On Sunday I started with this recipe for Curried Vegetable and Chickpea soup, but I revised as I went, and at the end spent a while seasoning and changing things up before I finally loved it.
So how do you test recipes? Are you ever faithful to the original, or do you feel free to throw other things in willy-nilly, and figure you’ll season and fix as you go?
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1-2 leeks, thoroughly washed and sliced
2 all-purpose potatoes, peeled and diced
1 Tablespoon salt
1 Tablespoon curry powder
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 Tablespoon ginger, peeled and minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno chili (or other hot chili), seeded and minced
2 cups water
2 Tablespoons bullion
2 (16 oz) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 medium head of cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
5-8 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
8 oz baby spinach
1 can coconut milk
1 Tablespoon molasses
1/4 cup honey
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onion and leeks with one teaspoon of salt until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the potatoes and another teaspoon of salt, and sauté until just translucent around the edges.
Stir in the curry, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, and chili and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour in 1/4 cup of water and scrape the bottom of the pan to deglaze. Pour this onion-potato mixture into the bowl of your crock pot.
To the slow-cooker, add the rest of the ingredients. The spinach will probably fill up the crock pot, but don't worry, it will cook down. Make sure the liquid comes at least halfway up the side of the bowl. If it doesn't add water 1 cup at a time. Cover and cook for 4 hours on HIGH. Taste and adjust salt and other seasonings as needed.