Monthly Archives: November 2011

The Fluffiest Matzoh Balls of Them All

I’ve had a number of friends come calling recently with questions about how to make light and fluffy matzoh balls for chicken soup: a pretty important tool in a Jewish cook’s arsenal. I love making matzoh balls, and I actually believe that it’s my Italian heritage that is the secret to my fluffy matzoh balls. How so? I believe its all in the rolling technique, and I roll my matzoh balls the same way I roll my meatballs.

I know there a lot of people who believe the secret to light matzoh 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 matzoh 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 matzoh 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.

 

Posted on November 8, 2011

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Beyond Jewish Penicillin

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?

Posted on November 7, 2011

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Does Guy Fieri Hate Jews?

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.

Posted on November 7, 2011

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

So What Do Jews Eat on Thanksgiving?

Prep:
10 minutes

Cook:
45 minutes-1 hour

Yield:
8 servings


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…”

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays for so many reasons: I love the Autumn-infused food choices, foliage inspired tablescapes, and of course, is there anything better than stuffing?

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.

Butternut Squash Kugel

Posted on November 7, 2011

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Latkes for Breakfast?

Yield:
6 servings


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.

Latkes Salmon Benedict

Posted on November 7, 2011

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Welcome Fellow Noshers!

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.

Posted on November 7, 2011

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

How Do You Test A Recipe?

Prep:
10 minutes

Cook:
2 hours

Yield:
8-10 servings



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?

Curried Vegetable and Chickpea soup

Posted on November 2, 2011

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy