Author Archives: Tamar Fox

Rosh Hashanah Date Pomegranate Blondies

I like an apple cake as much as the next girl (two favorites are Amy’s Bissel Apple Cake and this Cornmeal Apple Upside Down Cake) but there are two nights of Rosh Hashanah, and once I’ve got my apple cake craving taken care of, I need something else. Enter these blondies. Though blondies might not seem quite fancy enough for a big holiday meal, trust me that these will blow your hair back, and can be gussied up into something truly stunning to look at, and downright delectable to eat.blondies-stacked

The only specialty item called for here is pomegranate molasses, which you can almost certainly find at your local Middle Eastern food store, or you can buy it online here. I love to drizzle some pomegranate molasses over my yogurt and granola in the morning, and it’s also good as an ice cream topping.blondies

 

Date Pomegranate Blondies

Posted on August 29, 2013

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Helping in the Kitchen

People often ask me how I learned to cook, and I never know how to answer. I didn’t ever have cooking lessons, go to culinary school, or anything at all organized or professional. I don’t even have many memories of my mother or anyone else really teaching me how to do anything cooking related―I was just expected to help from a young age, and that somehow resulted in my knowing how to cook and being comfortable in the kitchen.kidsinkitchen

Now that I have a step-daughter, I’m a lot more aware of ways to subtly teach her to cook and to be comfortable in the kitchen. I don’t want to do any kind of formal teaching, but we make a big effort to include her in cooking whenever we can. Here are some of my favorite ways to include a kid in cooking:

Dumping and mixing
Even kids who are too young to measure out ingredients themselves can dump premeasured ingredients into a bowl, and mix them around.

Vegetable prep
Young kids can help with some kinds of veggie prep. The more advanced can peel vegetables, but if your kid isn’t quite there yet, he or she can shell peas, or trim green beans (just snapping off the ends) pull the trunks out of mushrooms, and break broccoli or cauliflower into florets. Bonus: helping with veggies often makes kids more likely to eat the veggies.

Greasing pans and garnishing
Little things like spraying a pan with cooking spray, or adding a dollop of yogurt to a bowl of soup, can be fun and easy ways for kids to help with low stakes.

Anything involving dough
Braiding challah, rolling out pie dough, and using cookie cutters on cookie dough are all fun for people of all ages.

I also like to give kids cookbooks that they might get into. I’ve heard great things about Mollie Katzen’s Pretend Soup and I’m a big fan of this British young man’s cookbook for kids Sam Stern’s Cooking Up a Storm. It’s for teens, technically, but I’ve found younger kids like it, too.

Posted on July 11, 2013

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Butter vs. Margarine

Despite growing up in the Midwest, mine was a margarine house growing up. The only time we had butter in the house was during Passover, when we bought whipped butter to spread on matzah. The butter was kept in the fridge, and as a result was incredibly hard. Trying to spread it on matzah was like trying to spread a piece of cement. Mostly you ended up with many tiny pieces of matzah with butter crumbs on them.butter

My parents bought margarine for two reasons: it was pareve, so it could be used to make desserts for nights we were eating meat, and the conventional wisdom of the time said that it was healthier than butter.

For desserts, margarine worked just fine. I can remember my mother and her friends wondering why the local kosher bakeries couldn’t make good pareve cakes, when they were so easy to make at home using margarine. We made sugar cookies with margarine, and all manner of cakes and pies.

But sometime around grad school, I was making a recipe that called for butter. And I realized that since I was a vegetarian, and didn’t ever need to worry about dairy after a meat meal, there was no reason for me to buy margarine. So I bought butter, and I was completely blown away by how much better it was—as an ingredient it performed better, and the taste. Oh, the taste.

That’s the key argument in the butter v. margarine debate: butter has a taste, a flavor. If you use margarine instead, you’re losing that flavor. Margarine is tasteless. It may function the way you need butter to function in a recipe, but ultimately you end up with something weaker. That’s part of the reason so many kosher cooks now look for recipes that use other fats instead of butter, so that they don’t need to substitute margarine.

As for margarine being healthier than butter…it depends on the margarine. And it depends how worried you are about transfats. (Butter, like everything else, should be consumed in moderation, particularly if you are worried about your heart health.) But I’ve been converted to butter, and I’m never going back.

Posted on July 5, 2013

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Recipes that Bring Back Memories

Prep:
35-45 minutes

Cook:
45 minutes

Yield:
8-10 servings

I have countless recipes that I learned from the women of my family. Though today I mostly use websites and online documents to store my recipes, for years I cooked out of my mother’s recipe boxes, where recipe cards were squished in like sardines, and the recipes came in a variety of difficult-to-decipher scrawls. There was my mother’s handwriting, a loopy, tight cursive, and my grandmother’s a disciplined clear print, plus my aunt’s rounded letters, and some cards written by my Aunt Byrna, or a first cousin once removed. The cards were splattered with stains, and decorated with little pictures of ovens, strawberries, geese, or pies. Spanikopita

Flipping through those recipe cards brings back a tidal wave of memories. Each recipe is strongly associated with the woman whose handwriting is on the card. And there are even more recipes that I know by heart now, taught to me by one of these women. On days when I feel the loss of my mother, my grandmothers, or my aunt, I reach for my mixing bowls to make a recipe that they taught me. For the time that I spend in the kitchen, mixing, sauteeing, baking or kneading, I am keeping their memories alive, nourishing myself and my family with the legacy of food and love these women entrusted me with.

With my mother, it can be hard to choose which recipe to make to conjure up the best memories. But when I’m really yearning for the comfort I found in her kitchen I consistently end up making spanikopita, a dish she was known for making, and one of the first recipes I learned by heart. Crucially, my mom adapted a recipe from a cookbook so that it took significantly less effort than was originally prescribed, and these days I can whip up this wholesome dish in under 30 minutes (not counting baking time). If you find phyllo dough intimidating, or spanikopita sounds too labor intensive for you, this is your solution.

Spanikopita (adapted by Beverly Fried Fox from The Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen)

Posted on June 27, 2013

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Post-Passover Debriefing

Passover is (finally) over and that means that…it’s time to start preparing for next Passover.

Boxing up the Pesach supplies

Boxing up the Pesach supplies

Okay, now before you kill me for saying that, I just mean that now is the time to evaluate how your food prep held up this year, so you’ll be able to ensure that you’re better prepared next year.

As you’re putting away your Passover pots and pan, or simply throwing out half-used boxes of matzah farfel, here are some questions to jot down answers to. Email the answers to yourself, or put them in a google doc, and you’ll be able to plan next year with the full knowledge that came with this year’s celebration.

What was your shopping list this year? And what were your seder menus?
This will help you get a baseline of what you were shopping for, and how much you got. If you happened to keep receipts and know how much you spent, that is also helpful to know (and I commend you for being way more organized than I was).

What did you have left over at the end of the holiday? This will help you gauge if you need to buy less of something next year. I also personally feel fine saving, say, an unopened box of matzah meal, for next year. My mother was notorious for saving Pesach spices over decades, which I don’t personally plan to do, but it’s an option.

What was the best thing you made or ate this Pesach? Perhaps it was an old classic, that you make and love every year, or maybe it was something new or recently tweaked. For me, it was this no-bake chocolate mousse cake made with avocado. It’s pareve (vegan, even) and devastatingly delicious. I made it twice over Pesach, and the second time I added a teaspoon of cinnamon, which I highly recommend.

This brings me to What adaptations did you make to recipes, and how did they turn out? Besides the cinnamon to the cake, my friend Andrea and I did some major revamping of a stuffed onion recipe, and the results were fantastic. Thankfully, Andrea wrote up what she did after the seders and emailed it to me so that we can use it to go off of next year. I also remembered to write down that while making my aunt’s frozen mousse cake, there is a part where the batter starts to seize up, and while this is terrifying while it happens, it has no negative ramifications on the way the cake actually comes out.

What did you make that’s not worth making next year? Might as well cull the menu now, when you remember how disappointing that kugel was.

What kitchen utensils, pots or pans would you like to have for next year? Since this was my first year making Passover by myself, I bought a whole set of dishes, pots, pans, and utensils. I was thrilled with everything, but wish I had thought to get a colander, a rubber spatula, and a few wooden spoons. I’ve already added them to my shopping lists for next year, and can be on the lookout for those items at sales.

What are some recipes that you didn’t get a chance to try, but would like to try for next year? Did you not get a chance to try everything on our communal seder menu? Collect recipes and links in one place so you know where to start looking next year.

With all that done, and your dishes packed away, you can leave Pesach behind―for about another 10 months, before next year’s Pesach frenzy begins.

Posted on April 3, 2013

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Salmon with Maror and Honey

Prep:
5 minutes

Cook:
25 minutes

Yield:
Serves 4 (doubles or triples well)


horseradish salmonMaror is an important part of the pre-meal seder, but there’s no reason you can’t make it a part of your Pesach feast. Some people like a little dot of maror to go with their gefilte fish, but I’m a gefilte fish hater, so I wanted to think of some other way to integrate some strong chrein into my meal. Enter: horseradish salmon. This recipe is incredibly quick and easy, and leads to an amazingly moist and sweet dish, with just a jab of chrein getting you on the finish. Do not be dissuaded by the amount of horseradish called for–it mostly cooks away leaving an amazing spicy aroma layered on a honeyed, flaky piece of fish.

Salmon with Maror and Honey

Posted on March 10, 2013

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Kindergarten Challah Recipe

Prep:
35-45 minutes, plus 4-8 hours to rise

Cook:
35-45 minutes

Yield:
3 loaves

I went to Jewish day school from pre-school all the way through 12th grade, and looking back, there were definitely some lessons that had a much bigger impact than others. Perhaps my most enduring lesson is one I got way back in kindergarten at Solomon Schechter: challah baking. The teachers guided us through the recipe, and eventually gave each child a small mound of dough to shape into a challah that we took home at the end of the day. We also took home a piece of paper with the recipe typed on it, and it has been my go-to challah recipe ever since. kindergarten challah

Since kindergarten I’ve made this challah hundreds of times. I’ve made it on three continents, at four universities, and in half a dozen homes. It never disappoints. I hope it brings as much doughy goodness to your table as it has to mine. Shabbat shalom!

Kindergarten Challah

Posted on March 1, 2013

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A Craving for Cauliflower Curry Pie

Prep:
45 minutes

Cook:
40 minutes

Yield:
1 10.5" pie, about 10 servings

cauiflower curry pie

Pie says, “I’m Hungry!”

Most of the time I plan my dinner menus in the beginning of the week. I collect links for recipes I want to make, and page through cookbooks, and then make a shopping list. There aren’t many surprises later in the week, since I’ve already planned. But occasionally I get a craving for something, and veer off my plan. Last week, for reasons I can’t explain, I suddenly decided I wanted Cauliflower Curry Pie. Unfortunately, googling around I wasn’t able to find a recipe that came anywhere close to approximating what I was imagining.

Molly Katzen has a recipe for cauliflower pie in the Moosewood Cookbook, but it has a potato crust, and isn’t curried at all. I had just received a gorgeous pie plate, and was itching to use it. It had to be pie, and though I do love a potato crust in this case I wanted a classic savory pie crust.

So, I was forced to make up my own recipe, and I forced the results on my step-daughter, a semi-picky eater who, at 5, is generally skeptical of all vegetables, but is solidly pro-pie. The results were an enormous success. The crust came out perfectly, and the curry was a savory, mildly spicy vegetable medley that I think I’ll probably make again soon, even without the pie surrounding it. Though this recipe involved a bit more work than I’d typically put into a weeknight meal, it was totally worth it, and I’m definitely going to add it to my Shabbat and holiday menus. If you want to cut down on the time and/or you’re pastry phobic, you can use store bought crust.

Cauliflower Curry Pie

Posted on January 31, 2013

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It’s All About the Kugel

kugel_yerushalmiI have been on kind of a kugel kick lately. And by lately, I mean for the past four months, with no signs of stopping. I have made kugels with noodles, kugels with quinoa, and kugels with bulgur. I’ve made sweet kugels that should really be classified as desserts, and savory kugels that have nothing whatsoever to do with the Eastern European heritage suggested by the word kugel (which means ball, but which I also apply to my square-shaped kugels).

What I love about kugels is how versatile they are, and how comforting they are. The perfect food to get excited about when the weather is cold and wet. You can make a kugel for dinner three times a week and never feel like you’re doing the same thing over and over. It’s also a great vehicle for camouflaging vegetables if you need to shoehorn some into your children or partner’s diet.

Here at MyJewishLearning we have recipes for Potato kugel, Sweet Potato Kugel, Cheese Lockshen Kugel, Yerushalmi Kugel, Gluten-free Apple Kugel, Zucchini Kugel, Carrot Kugel, Onion Kugel, Cinnamon Noodle Kugel, Apple Pear Cranberry Kugel, Broccoli Kugel, and the Love Potion Kugel

I also highly recommend all of the kugel recipes recently printed in the New York Times as part of their “kugel challenge”: Carrot Quinoa Kugel, Sweet Millet Kugel with Apricots and Raisins, Cabbage, Onion and Millet Kugel and finally the Sweet Potato and Apple Kugel.

I’m also a big fan of the recipe from TheKitchn from Mom’s Simple Savory Kugel  and this Butternut Squash Noodle Kugel from food52.

What’s your favorite kugel recipe?

Posted on January 16, 2013

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Slop Nuggets: Cookies You Make Without a Recipe

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When I was growing up I read a series of young adult mystery books about a girl who saw ghosts and solved mysteries as a result. The girl was named Nina Tanleven (she goes by Nine) and I loved the books, though I can’t tell you much about them today, since I haven’t cracked one of them in about 15 years. One thing I do remember from them is that Nine and her father (her mom had died, I think) liked to make cookies that they called slopnuggets. Slopnuggets were basically cookies made without a recipe. You just put things in a bowl that you thought should be in cookies, and stopped when it looked like cookie dough. Bake, and enjoy. Nine said that slopnuggets always turned out differently, but were generally delicious. And I remember that in the brief author biography of writer Bruce Coville, he noted that the books were fiction, but slopnuggets are real.

peanut butter molasses slopnuggets

Since I read the books I’ve been wanting to try my hand at slopnuggets, and this week I finally did it. When my washer broke and I needed to use a neighbor’s I decided to make her cookies as a thank you, and didn’t have time to look for a recipe, so it was time to get sloppy.

Turns out, making slopnuggets is really fun, and has generally yummy results (I say generally because in my second batch I accidentally used salt instead of sugar…and that was an unfixable error). Here are my tips for making successful slopnuggets, a perfect treat for a day when you’re cooped up inside because of a hurricane or a heat wave.

Start with dry ingredients:
You’ll probably want to use some kind of flour or oatmeal or a combination

Baking powder or soda
Spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cocoa)

Then add:
Sweetener of some kind
(sugar, brown sugar, molasses, honey, maple syrup, agave)

Then add:
Fat and liquids of some kind (oil, butter, peanut butter, pumpkin, yogurt, eggs, milk, juice)

And extract (vanilla, mint, lemon etc, depending on your mood and what you have on hand)

Once it’s the consistency of cookie dough, taste, adjust as needed, and add chocolate chips, raisins, nuts, and/or any other add-ins you’d like. Then drop by rounded tablespoons onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake at about 350F for about 15 minutes.

The con: you can’t give the recipe away when someone asks if you can share your maple walnut cookie recipe.

One of many pros: you never have to worry that you won’t have the ingredients necessary to make slopnuggets. It’s whatever you happen to have in the pantry.

A couple of hours ago I made a truly wonderful batch of peanut butter molasses cookies. I’m sure I could come up with a lovely fancy name for them, but I’m just calling them slopnuggets.

Posted on October 30, 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

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