Monthly Archives: May 2012

Wide World of Whole Grains

Cook:
45 minutes

Yield:
2 cups cooked rice


Let’s talk about brown rice. It gets a pretty bad rap. Some people suffer through it because it’s a health food, but most people dismiss it immediately and just stick with white rice or nothing. Rice has been available for human consumption for over 5,000 years. The average American eats about ten pounds of rice over the course of a year. In Asia, that number is closer to 100 pounds. Most of that rice is white.

But I have news: brown rice is actually delicious.

As someone who grew up in a Cuban household, white rice is the go-to starch–black beans and rice, arroz con pollo, albondigas y arroz--the list goes on. And the brown rice you find popping up at restaurants and in the Uncle Ben’s instant packages don’t make me want to ditch the white rice either.

And yet… I know the facts. Brown rice is a whole grain. Because only the hull is removed, brown rice is the healthiest rice product. As it turns out, if you take care of your brown rice and cook it properly, it can be just as tasty as its white bi-product.

Some notes for properly preparing whole grains:

  • Because they still contain the protein-rich germ, whole grains smell slightly sweet or have no odor and need to be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer to keep fresh. If you’re going to use it soon after purchasing it, store it in a cool, dry place.
  • Rinse whole grains in a strainer in a water-filled bowl before using. Change the water repeatedly until it is clear. While rinsing, sift through the grains with your fingers to make sure there are no small rocks in the mix.
  • Toast your grains before cooking them in order to bring out the sweet nuttiness that gives whole grains their special flavor.
  • When cooking whole grains for a salad, like wheat berries, cook in salted boiling water like pasta.

With the bounty of fresh produce that’s coming our way, try serving some of those tasty greens on top of a bed of farro or freekeh this week. Or, check out my recipe for great brown rice below.

Perfect Brown Rice--Every Time

Posted on May 15, 2012

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

Shabbat Recipe Round-Up

This week’s Shabbat menu is the first in a while that isn’t inspired by the season or the calendar. Mostly, I found these Mediterranean recipes inspiring as they popped up in my Google Reader and Twitter feed over the course of the past week. I thought you might like them, too!

Set your table with bowls of this tangy balsamic roasted chickpeas for your guests to munch on while you’re serving the salad and putting the finishing touches on everything.

For those of you with CSAs that are already clogging your refrigerators with leafy greens, this recipe for white beans and chickory is a versatile and delicious way to use the tougher outer leaves. You can also use escarole, kale, and chard instead of the chickory.

Chicken with artichoke and mushrooms adds a bit of a twist and moisture to the standard roasted chicken recipe.

As a side dish, serve Brussels’ sprouts with shallots and hazelnuts to provide texture and zing to the meal.

I am dying to make this Almond Olive Oil Cake from one of my favorite food blogs, Lottie and Doof. I love the nutty flavor olive oil gives to baked goods and it makes for great pareve baking without margarine or Crisco. This recipe does call for a browned butter glaze, so if you’re serving this with a meat meal, consider making the glaze without the butter or just mix powdered sugar, almond milk, and a bit of vanilla.

And don’t forget–you only have until May 16th to enter the contest to win Olive Trees and Honey, a cookbook that is sure to inspire many Shabbat menus to come!

Posted on May 10, 2012

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

Recipe: Marinated Kale Salad


I just read this hilarious Slate piece on kale where the author, Scott Jacobson, talks about the “all kale, all the time” lifestyle in Los Angeles. While I’m certainly not going to advocate for that kind of extremism (check his kale diary at the bottom for an explanation of how that might go wrong), I really do love kale and all of the wondrous things you can do with it.

I have to admit, I wasn’t an early adopter of the kale fad. Like most Americans, I don’t like bitter flavors and leafy greens have never held much appeal for me. I can do without dandelion greens and I used to think my parents’ love of arugula was just a pretentious affectation–how could they actually like that stuff? It must be for show. (Full disclosure: I’ve come around on the arugula issue. In fact, my lunch today was an arugula salad.) But slowly I grew to tolerate kale and then I grew to love it.

It started the way it does for most people: with kale chips. Ripped into bite-sized pieces, tossed with olive oil and salt, and thrown into the oven at 350°F, they’re simple, crispy, and easy on the taste buds.

Then I started sauteing kale–ripped into bite-sized pieces, tossed with olive oil and salt, and thrown into a hot skillet. Can’t go wrong with that combo either.

And then came the raw kale salad. One of my classmates made it on improve day (which is basically the Natural Gourmet Institute’s version of Chopped) and I haven’t been able to stop making it. I actually went home and made it for dinner that night. When we presented it to the chef, we called it massaged kale salad. But he thought that sounded kind of gross–who wants to eat a dish that you’ve announced has had your hands all over it? Wilted kale doesn’t have such a fun ring to it. Plus “wilted” usually refers to something that’s been cooked. So we settled on marinated, which is a pretty safe and accurate descriptor.

I’ve tinkered with the recipe a bit since then, but in a lot of ways it follows the same formula for all of my other kale eating: rip into bite-sized pieces, toss with citrus juice and salt, massage the acid and salt into the greens (like a facial scrub), let it sit pressed under something heavy, toss with olive oil, and serve.

I prefer making this recipe with the kale pictured, known as dinosaur kale, Tuscan kale, or lascinato kale, depending on who you ask, but any kind of kale works. This salad is very flexible and is tasty with all sorts of add-ins like sliced fruit, roasted sweet potatoes, nuts, and scallions.

But remember, while addicting and nutritious in so many ways, too much kale, like too much of anything, is not a good plan!

Marinated Kale Salad

Posted on May 9, 2012

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Contest: Win Olive Trees and Honey!

It’s been a while since the last time we gave away a cookbook, so we figured it was time to do it again! I’m so excited that we get to give away one of my favorite Jewish cookbooks–the stunning and incredible Olive Trees and Honey: A Treasury of Vegetarian Recipes from Jewish Communities Around the World by Gil Marks.

This book touches on so many important pieces the Jewish culinary world often misses. For starters: vegetables. We often like to imagine the Jewish culinary heritage as one dominated by meat. I have friends who don’t consider a meal appropriate for shabbat unless it contains at least two different meat dishes. In fact, until relatively recently, meat was more of an accent or side dish than the centerpiece of Jewish meals. Gil Marks reminds us of the importance of vegetables in our culture by making them the showstoppers of this cookbook. From Turkish braised leeks to Syrian pumpkin patties, this book highlights (almost) every possible way that Jews have prepared vegetables all over the planet and throughout history.

The other amazing thing Gil Marks accomplishes is really giving a voice to Jewish communities from around the world. We hear about kugels and borscht all of the time, but we often neglect dolma and paprikash. Olive Trees and Honey really digs deep and looks at the entire Jewish world of food.

Not quite as expansive as his Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, Olive Trees and Honey is still a treasure trove of over 300 recipes for you to play with, sample, and learn from. Just like we do here at The Nosher, every recipe in the book is labeled as pareve or dairy  (no meat labels needed!) and includes tips on how to serve the various dishes. Perfect for vegetarians and meat eaters looking to expand their repertoire, I know you’ll love Olive Trees and Honey.

And it can be yours! All you have to do is post your favorite vegetarian entree in the comments below by May 16th. We’ll pick one at random and send you a copy!

Posted on May 8, 2012

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

Grill it Up This Lag Ba’Omer

Lag Ba’Omer is coming, and with it the ancient tradition of building bonfires on this strange mini-holiday. There is some debate as to why bonfires and torches are connected to Lag Ba’Omer, but the most credible story has its roots in the belief that the day might mark the death of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai, who is credited as the author of the mystical Zohar. His students commemorate the day by converging on his grave with glowing torches. In Israel, bonfires light up the night on Lag Ba’Omer (causing something of an ecological disaster, because the fires can sometimes rage out of control, causing death and/or damage to the environment) and even those who don’t light big fires do like to light their barbecues and enjoy grilled food on this holiday.

Wherever you are this year for Lag Ba’Omer, I highly recommend using this opportunity to kick off the grilling season. Here at MyJewishLearning we have lots of great recipes for your grill, including two kinds of lamb kebabs, grilled peppers and haloumi cheese for the vegetarians, and grilled pineapple. None of those sound like your bag? How about grilled asparagus from your local farmer’s market? Plain old burgers and hotdogs are always good. I love the look of these grilled bleu cheese stuffed tomatoes and these grilled summer squash and zucchini caprese skewers. And for dessert, you can’t go wrong with ‘smores! So get your charcoal and lighter fluid ready…Lag Ba’Omer begins at sundown on Wednesday.

Posted on May 7, 2012

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 to Choose A Good Knife

After my first day in culinary school I came home with an armload–two white chef’s coats, two pairs of houndstooth pants, three starched aprons, six towels, a plastic name tag, and a bag of knives. And of all of the things people have asked me about since that day, the question I get the most is–what kind of knives should I buy?

Fortunately for the inquiring minds of my life and now for all of the Noshers out there, knife construction and handling was the first thing on the syllabus after orientation.

1. Material: Most knives are made of one of three types of metal–carbon, high carbon steel, and stainless steel. If you’re looking for a cheap knife that makes clean cuts, go with carbon. But while it is inexpensive and easy to sharpen, it’s not great for humid climates or acidic foods since it discolors easily and it does not hold an edge (i.e. doesn’t stay sharp). Unlike carbon knives, high carbon steel does not corrode, does hold an edge, and looks pretty, but is definitely more expensive and a bit trickier to keep sharp. Stainless steel knives have very strong blades that resist abrasion and discoloration, they’re cheap, and attractive, but it is hard to maintain an edge and the blade rips through food instead of slicing. Stainless steel is usually used for serrated knives since they don’t require the same kind of care.

2. Design: There are two key visual components to look at when choosing a knife–the tang and the rivets. The tang is the metal part that runs from the blade through the handle. The best quality knives are going to have a full tang, meaning it is one solid piece of metal. The number of rivets holding the tang and handle together are also a way to measure quality, with three rivets being the best.

3. Gut: I’m referring to your gut here, not the knife’s. Ultimately, it’s your knife so you need to be comfortable with how it feels in your hand. I like my knives to feel solid and weighty, but not leaden. A friend of mine recently bought a set of knives that, while highly functional, just feel all wrong to me because of their weight (although they are great if you want an easy way to keep them separated for meat, dairy, and pareve jobs). Also, think about how many knives you actually need. Yes, uniform knives in wooden knife blocks look lovely on your countertop, but in reality a chef’s knife, a paring knife, and a serrated knife are sufficient for pretty much any job. (Side note, if you’re looking for a way to store your miscellaneous collection of knives, I use this bamboo knife dock that fits into one of the awkward drawers in my kitchen and keeps my knives organized and safe).

Happy dicing!

Posted on May 7, 2012

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

Margaritas With a Twist

Yield:
2-3 servings


As promised yesterday, today’s post is also a celebration of Cinco de Mayo and all of the many blessings Mexico has brought us. For example, tequila. Don’t get me wrong–for a chef, my alcohol palate is pretty limited and unsophisticated. But I do like tequila, especially in the form of a margarita. And what I’ve learned recently is that margaritas are much easier and cheaper to make at home. If you’re as much of a beginner at mixology as I am, I recommend reading Serious Eats’ extensive guide to all things tequila.

When I realized I would start blogging here at The Nosher during the first week of May, the first thing I did–seriously–was email a few friends to invite them over for a margarita tasting. I had no idea how into it they would get. In my email, I suggested we might do a few more “non-traditional” flavors, like pineapple-jalapeno, and the next thing I knew, my inbox was packed with ideas for Jewish (okay, Ashkenazi) flavored drinks–tzimmes, rugelach, and latke, to name a few.

After a lot of tinkering and laughing (and, of course, eating a great Mexican-themed meal) we came up with two drinks I’m confident you’ll want to try. The first has the making of a great dessert margarita–sweet and smooth. If you’re in the mood for something a bit more adventurous, try the Passover-inspired margarita below. Don’t be afraid–this thing is seriously good.

Sweet New Year Margarita

Posted on May 4, 2012

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Shabbat Recipe Round-Up

Cinco de Mayo is this Saturday. In the United States, it is commemorated as a celebration of Mexican heritage and culture. And, since Mexican food is one of my favorite cuisines, that’s definitely a holiday I can get behind. (Sneak preview: tomorrow’s post will feature a fun Jewish twist on Cinco de Mayo.) Serve these dairy dishes at your Shabbat dinner to add some flare to your meal in honor of this special occasion. Buen provecho!

For starters, connect your meal to its Spanish heritage with a traditional Sephardic challah, pan de calabaza.

I have been dying to try this mushroom and poblano tart since I saw it a year ago. It is a fun, whole grain dish that will definitely take your guests by surprise.

Serve these black bean chilaquiles to appease the die-hard meat eaters at your table with a little more heft and protein. The recipe is vegan, but I don’t think a crumble of feta or queso fresco on top will do anyone harm, right?

As a side dish, this fresh, mayo-free coleslaw with a Mexican twist seems like just the thing to add some crunch and spring flavors to the meal.

I wouldn’t normally advocate serving a fried dessert like sopapillas on Shabbat, but since I’ve done it before, I can offer two pieces of advice: 1) They’re going to be amazing even a few hours after frying and 2) Watch out for the oil! Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Shabbat Shalom and happy cooking!

Posted on May 3, 2012

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

Waste Not, Want Not

Forty percent of food grown in the United States gets wasted. It is left in the fields, doesn’t make it to grocery stores, sits forgotten in our refrigerators, or is pushed to the side of our plates. According to a study by the University of Arizona, in 2004 the average family of four wastes $600 of food every single year–and that was 2004. Where does all of this food end up? Landfills, mostly.

With the arrival of warmer weather, we are embarking on a season that gives us more opportunities to waste food, but also more opportunities to do something about it. With higher temperatures, our bodies are more inclined to crave water-rich produce that will cool our bodies internally, like cucumbers, tomatoes, and lettuce. These cravings will cause us to go to the grocery store or farmers market, buy everything that looks good and take it home, at which point we might get lazy and decide it’s a great night to go out to dinner and the once crisp veggies will start wilting.

Avoiding waste of any kind is a Jewish value, known as bal tashchit, and there are a lot of ways we can easily incorporate these waste-avoiding, and money-saving, techniques into our lifestyles. The most obvious is planning. Take time to think about your week–when you will be able to cook and eat at home or take food with you. Shop accordingly and with a list. Since I am never quite sure what produce will look good before I shop, I usually like to write down the number of times I’m going to need a vegetable in the coming week to give me some flexibility on what I buy.

Storing your food appropriately is a crucial step in minimizing waste. Part of this is about organization and part of it is technique. Always make sure the older food is in eyesight, both in the fridge and in your cabinets. Food52 put out two guides, here and here, to tell you where everything should go to make it last. My favorite–put your fresh herbs in a cup or mason jar with water and loosely cover with a plastic bag. I did this with my cilantro recently–it stayed fresh for two and a half weeks!

Next step: when cooking–save your scraps! Well, some of them. Some scraps and bits, like carrot peels and broccoli stalks, are great for stir fry or making stock. Toss them into a bag and freeze them until you are ready to re-purpose them. Of course, some scraps can’t be eaten, like onion peels and egg shells, but they are great fodder for compost. Find a community garden (which is also a Jewish concept) that wants your scraps. I’ve started taking mine to The Gan Project here in Chicago, which helps me cut back on waste and painlessly contribute to a cause I believe in.

And then, when you’ve sat down, eaten your meal, and realized you cooked for an army–use your leftovers! Take them to work for lunch or turn them into something completely different. The Big Oven is an incredible tool that allows you to plug in your leftovers and then gives you ideas on what to do with them.

Posted on May 2, 2012

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 Our New Nosher

She’s already gotten started with her wonderful Genius Kitchen Tips, but I want to take a minute to give a formal welcome to Jessica Fisher, who’s stepping in as Acting Nosher while our Original Nosher is off resting up and laboring.

Jessica attended the joint program between Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary. While finishing up her undergraduate studies, Jessica enrolled at the Natural Gourmet Institute where she became a certified Natural Foods chef. She now lives in Chicago where, as a PresenTense fellow, she is starting Dinner Around the Table, a non-profit organization aimed at teaching Jewish families how to cook and enjoy food together around the dinner table. You can find her tweeting about all things food, health, and Judaism @JessicaAFisher. You can find her personal blog at orange ideal and you can find her all month, right here on the Nosher.

Join me in giving Jessica a very warm welcome. And pull up a chair—I know she has lots of delicious things to share.

Posted on May 1, 2012

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