Monthly Archives: May 2014

Strawberry Rhubarb Cheesecake

Yield:
8-10 servings

When I look at rhubarb, it reminds me of some sort of alien plant. It’s not really appealing, and yet it is so coveted for spring cooking. I will admit: it does some wonderful things when cooked despite its unusual appearance.

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Others may say that this simple vegetable has genius qualities and a beautiful color. Which is does of course. On its own it can be bitter, but when paired with fruit, especially springtime strawberries, it balances perfectly in many combinations.

Since rhubarb has been in abundance at my local farmer’s market, and because I love trying new things, I decided it was high time I conquered my apprehension around rhubarb. Also my husband loves it, so it’s an easy way to shut him up for a bit.

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Shavuot…rhubarb abundance…it was clear a strawberry rhubarb topped cheesecake was only natural for this time of year.

Some of my other favorite strawberry rhubarb recipes to highlight?

Strawberry Rhubarb Blintzes from Leah Koenig

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble Ice Cream from Naomi Sugar

Rhubarb Rugelach from Tamar Fox

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Strawberry Rhubarb Cheesecake

Posted on May 30, 2014

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

Green Lasagna

Yield:
6-8 servings

I grew up eating lots of very traditional Italian-American lasagna, baked ziti and anything else you could cover in homemade tomato sauce and cheese. And I loved it – I mean who doesn’t!? Garfield the cat was even one of my heroes growing up. I always appreciated his feisty-ness towards his sibling (Odie), his appreciation of napping and of course his love of lasagna.

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In the past few years I have yearned for lasagnas with a little more flair, and a little less sauce. I have made a white pumpkin lasagna, and a white lasagna with spinach and pine nuts. I have included a béchamel, and left it out. I have even experimented with different kinds of cheeses.

As the greens of spring have taken over at my local farmer’s market, a lasagna recipe was once again creeping into my head. Peas, fresh herbs…something was simmering.

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When I suggested a puree of spring peas with herbs basked into a creamy lasagna, my husband was less than enthusiastic. He responded to the idea saying, “Um..ok. I guess let’s see how it turns out.”

I love it when my husband has to admit he was wrong, and in the case of this lasagna, he had to concede defeat as he shoveled another bite into his mouth. And though I actually hate peas, this lasagna is absolutely out of this world, creamy and full of fresh spring flavors. It’s also perfect for a Shavuot celebration. Pair with a crisp glass of white wine and a simple mixed green salad and you have a complete meal especially appropriate for a June lunch.

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I actually ended up making this recipe two ways. Once with regular, store-bough lasagna noodles which was delicious. And a second version with homemade spinach noodles. You can try either – they were both creamy, lighter than you might think and really yummy. It really depends on the amount of work you want to put in. Making your own noodles is delicious, but much more time consuming.

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Green Lasagna

Posted on May 29, 2014

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

Gluten-Free Blintzes

Yield:
14-16 blintzes

Many of us have seasonal associations with Jewish holidays. The High Holidays and Sukkot: crisp, fall weather, a perfect time for a spiritual cleanse before we head into winter, Hanukkah: dark and cold winter, and a holiday of light to brighten the darkness, and of course, Passover: springtime and rebirth to signify freedom from slavery. My personal associations with Shavuot were always about the end of the school year and summer being just around the corner.

blintzes-stamped

As a child, my family usually headed to Atlantic Beach, NY to celebrate Shavuot with my grandparents and revel in the end of another school year. I have fond memories of walking home from shul with my Saba, salty breeze blowing, to devour my Savta’s famous blintzes. The streets in Atlantic Beach are ordered alphabetically and, stomach rumbling, I’d count down: Oneida, Putnam…I just looked at Google Maps, and it turns out the shul was only three blocks away

v at the beach

My grandparents have since passed away, and their house has been sold, but those memories live on. I’d like to think that my Savta would approve of these blintzes, though they are completely gluten-free (sorry, Savta!). The trick to these is a heavy, high-quality crepe pan, to ensure a thin and evenly cooked crepe. I use the DeBuyer Iron pan.

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Gluten-Free Blintzes

Posted on May 28, 2014

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

Dishes for Memorial Day Weekend

The long weekend is finally here and I am ready for some relaxing. I am also ready for the start of outdoor picnics, barbecues and other summer gatherings.

Struggling with what to make? We’ve got some ideas to wow your guests all weekend long. So turn on the grill, open some wine and take a deep breath, And maybe a big sip of a cocktail.

strawberry lemonade martini

Strawberry Lemonade Martini

Peachy Summer White Sangria

grilled artichokes 1Grilled Artichokes

Israeli Salad

Spring Quinoa with Pesto and Greens

Watermelon Corn Salsa

salsa

Spinach Steak Salad with Mango Peach Salsa

Fried Chicken

Ultimate Kosher Burgers

Roast Chicken with Spicy Honey BBQ Sauce

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Pretzel Ice Cream Pie

Berry Crumble Pie

berry crumble pie1

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Posted on May 22, 2014

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

Roast Chicken with Spicy Honey BBQ Sauce

Yield:
1 whole chicken

Summer is almost here. I can feel it. Every time we get a warmer day the women of NYC are giddy with sandal wearing and summertime accessories. The flowers are blooming, the farmer’s markets have returned and the season of grilling is almost upon us.

Growing up, BBQ sauce-slathered chicken was a staple, probably only because covering chicken in a sticky, sweet sauce was a surefire way to get the kids to eat it. But at some point I fell out of love with “BBQ chicken.”

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That is until I started making my own sauce. I have had some great bottled BBQ sauce, and I know some people swear by their go-to brand. But for me, making it from scratch makes all the difference between good chicken, and chicken people can’t stop talking about.

This spicy honey BBQ sauce is really quick to whip up and is inspired by this recipe from Taste of Home, one of my go-to places for tried-and-true home cooked dishes. I kept the coffee in, which really adds just a subtle flavor and balances out the sweetness of the honey and ketchup well.

This chicken is perfect for Shabbat and also for a summer BBQ. I promise, your guests will not stop talking about it.

Note: if you don’t have an upright chicken roaster I recommend investing in one like this. They are really cheap (less than $10) and make such a difference making a super moist chicken with crispy skin.

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Roast Chicken with Spicy Honey BBQ Sauce

Posted on May 21, 2014

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

Black & White Cookie Cheesecake

Yield:
1 9-inch cheesecake

There are two foods that are just quintessential New York City to me. Cheesecake, and black and white cookies. Well, and bagels. And pizza. Is coffee a food? But if we’re talking desserts, it’s cheesecake and black and whites all the way.

Black-and-White-Cheescake-1

I have been known to whip up some brownies on a whim or throw together a dozen cupcakes like it’s nobody’s business. But cheesecake is an all day affair. The long baking time and cooling does not match my impatient manner. Waiting until the next day to dive in? Fuhgettaboutit! So I usually only bake one for special occasions. Like Shavuot, a holiday where you are basically commanded to eat cheesecake. But this creation is a game changer. I’m going to need cheesecake a lot more often. Just in time for boat season.

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I thought about simply decorating a cheesecake in black and white cookies, but I wanted more. I wanted the cheesecake to literally become a black and white cookie. So I started with a cakey crust in place of a traditional graham cracker one. Over that are layers of vanilla and chocolate cheesecake laced with lemon. On top? Oh icing, but of course. Instead of the classic one black and one white side, I made a crazy pattern. Because this is a crazy kind of cake. But you do what you like!

Black-and-White-Cookie-3

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Black and White Cookie Cheesecake

Posted on May 19, 2014

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

Jewish, Japanese, and Delicious

I am all too familiar with a story like Francesca Biller’s, who shares this week what it’s like to be Japanese and Jewish, especially where the kitchen is concerned. As an Italian-Jewish hybrid myself, I love exploring how to create mash-up combinations of classic Jewish food with Mediterranean flavors. Balsamic Apple Date Challah anyone?

Francesca-(Udon)

Franseca grew up with charoset and mandelbrodt served alongside chicken gyoza and udon noodles. What a lucky lady!

And we are lucky too, because she shared two of her family’s Japanese-Jewish mash-ups on the Jewish& diversity blog this week, including Chicken Udon Noodle Soup. Just when you thought chicken soup couldn’t get any better.

Posted on May 14, 2014

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

S’mores Rugelach

I am always ready to bake up treats for an outdoor picnic celebration. And Lag B’omer, the 33rd day of the Omer, is a time to celebrate friends, families and the change in seasons. It is traditional to have a bonfire on this joyous day, and so what better to have at around the campfire than s’mores rugelach.

Smores-stamp-1

Of course these sweet, gooey rugelach are perfect for any outdoor celebration or summertime gathering, campfire or not. But I must warn you: they are so addictive you may have a hard time sharing.

Smores-stamp-2

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S'mores Rugelach

Posted on May 13, 2014

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

Spring Zucchini Kugel

Yield:
12 servings

I didn’t grow up eating kugel. Ok, maybe let me rephrase that.

My grandmother made noodle kugel, but it was almost always dried out and as a kid I was usually too scared to actually eat it. Thankfully I married into a family with an arsenal of great kugel recipes including my husband’s grandmother’s Salt and Pepper Noodle Kugel and his mother’s Cakey Crunch Sweet Potato Kugel. And now I really love kugel, and have been trying my hand at making kugel more and more.

spring-kugel-2For the last few weeks, green has been everywhere, especially in the abundance of springtime vegetables at the farmer’s markets and grocery store. And as I have been watching the spring veggies arrive, I was trying to imagine how to incorporate the flavors of Spring into kugel.

Zucchini kugel is delicious by itself, but add some fresh, bright herbs like basil and mint, and you have an updated dish perfect for Spring. If basil and mint doesn’t quite appeal to your taste buds, you could also use fresh parsley for a more subtle flavor.

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Note: after sauteing the zucchini, make sure to drain as much liquid out as possible. If there is too much liquid in the zucchini, the kugel will turn out a mushy mess.

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Spring Zucchini Kugel

Posted on May 12, 2014

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

When Mother’s Day Sucks

This week someone asked me what kind of goodies I would be posting for Mother’s Day. And I really wanted to satisfy them and share something decadent, springtime-appropriate, and delicious. Like these banana chocolate chip muffins I posted last year.

But the truth is, I hate Mother’s Day. My mother passed away when I was 16 during the month of April, so springtime has always been the most difficult time of year for me.

Mom and shan on 1st bday

I dread Mother’s Day each year, even now that I have a daughter. Maybe even more so.  I see cute cards, mugs, menu ideas and emails from my favorite restaurants all telling me how exciting it is that Mother’s Day is soon arriving. But I would prefer to crawl into bed, put the covers over my head and wake up the following day. Because not only do I not have my own mother to share the day with, but Mother’s Day is now also a reminder that my daughter doesn’t have my mother as a grandmother.

We are used to hearing about the extreme commercialization of Valentine’s Day, but Mother’s Day shares many similarities: it’s an American, consumer-driven holiday which encourages people to spend money on gifts, flowers, and other items which ultimately can cause those not celebrating to feel extremely disconnected, or even depressed. And it’s not that people shouldn’t express gratitude and love towards their mothers, grandmothers, aunts and other special women; absolutely they should. I think this can happen on lots of occasions throughout the year, not only when the TV, radio, magazine ads and society around us is yelling at us that we MUST do it.

Because what if you are like me, and you don’t have a mother or a special woman in your life you want to celebrate? What if you don’t get along with your mother? What if your mother was abusive, neglectful, or otherwise inadequate?

What if you are experiencing fertility problems and desperately want to become a mother, but can’t? What if you’re single, or divorced, and feel alone in raising your children? What if you’ve lost a child? There are any number of reasons why Mother’s Day can just leave people feeling isolated and sad that they can’t or don’t want to participate in the merriment.

Last year my husband planned a special picnic for just me, my daughter and my younger sister, who I’ve had the joy and struggles of raising like a daughter. And while the day was still tinged with sadness, it was simple and low key enough that it felt just right. Or, at the very least, not contrived.

mothers day w Ella 2013

See, I am even smiling.

This year, weather permitting, we are hoping to make a trip to Alstede Farm in Chester, New Jersey, a favorite new spot for me and my family where we enjoy picking fruit and vegetables and hanging with farm animals all Summer and Fall. So while the day may still be tinged with sadness, at least I can feel close to nature and enjoy some fresh springtime vegetables.

And who knows, maybe I will have a new Mother’s Day recipe to share after all.

Posted on May 7, 2014

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

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