Sometimes at the end of a long day I just want to go home and watch a nice looking man make me a kugel. My boyfriend’s out of town tonight, so I guess it’s just me and Dave Lieberman and some egg noodles. I might even go crazy and try making this.
When I was a kid I was only aware of one cookbook. Not the Joy of Cooking. Not Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Not Kosher By Design. No, for me it was Alphabet Soup, the cookbook published by my Solomon Schechter school and featuring the recipes of my teachers and my friends’ parents. Later, when I was in college, my minyan put together a cookbook that I still use all the time. I still own both of these cookbooks and they are covered in flour and stains and have notes written in the margins the way any good cookbook should.
I don’t want to knock professionally published cookbooks. I just got Plenty and it’s divine. You’ve already heard me wax poetic about Leah’s Koenig’s Hadassah Everyday Cookbook. It’s drop dead gorgeous and chock full of deliciousness. The Book of New Israeli Food will make you drool. But, there is something so wonderful and authentic about a cookbook full of tried and true recipes from people you trust and maybe even love. That’s why whenever I am at a used bookstore I go to the food section and look for Bnai Brith cookbooks, and recipes collected by the Junior League of Cleveland or what have you.
For years now, the most used recipe source in my life has been a cookbook my sister’s and I made for my mom before she died. It’s called Vixens in the Kitchen (get it? Cuz we’re foxes) and it’s full of recipes that we love and have made hundreds of times. We included pictures, and notes, and used the fancy program at tastebook.com to create something really beautiful. Something that I still use to plan my Shabbat menu pretty much every week.
So what’s your favorite cookbook? And what cookbook taught you to cook?
I grew up in Chicago, and my mother shopped at a variety of kosher butchers. That said, in Chicago, the understood rule is that all kosher hotdogs need to come from Romanian, an old style kosher butcher. Today Romanian is the only kosher butcher left in Chicago (there are lots of places to buy kosher meat, but Romanian is the only real butcher). Watch this fun video about Romanian. I’m not sure if my favorite part is when he admits they have bad service, or looking at the random boxes piled around the store.
Recently I saw a recipe online that looked delicious…but it called for gelatin. One of my all-time favorite Passover dessert recipes calls for several different kinds of dairy, which is problematic when you’ve just finished an enormous meat meal. And then there’s the problem of being a vegetarian, and constantly inundated with beautiful recipes for chicken, Turkey, and even ham.
The number one way to get around the problem is to choose a different recipe, or just leave out the non-kosher ingredient. Google is your friend, and will help you if you need to find, say, a non-dairy turkey recipe, or a recipe for chocolate mousse that you can serve after a meat meal. Alternately, if the non-kosher ingredient is minor, you can just opt to roll the dice and try the recipe without that ingredient. (Ultimately, that’s what I decided to do with the gelatin recipe. Results pending.)
2. Margarine and Butter
When I was growing up, we never kept butter in the house. We only ever had margarine, and that was what we cooked with for all desserts. It wasn’t until I was in grad school that it occurred to me that margarine probably wasn’t any better for me than butter, and that since I was a vegetarian, I should try some butter. What followed was nothing short of a revelation. Butter is amazing. It’s completely fabulous. BUT I had learned growing up that you can make many fabulous desserts using margarine, and while some snobs will adamantly refuse to use a butter substitute under any circumstances, I respectfully disagree. Should you be eating tons of margarine every day? No. But if you’re trying to make a nice dessert (or a Thanksgiving turkey) and you can’t use dairy, it’s okay to get on the margarine train every once in a while. As margarines go, Earth Balance is the best. If you really can’t abide margarine, it’s usually okay to substitute canola or olive oil, about ¼ cup for every ½ cup of butter instructed in the recipe.
3. Milk Substitutes
Many a fine dessert recipe call for milk, buttermilk, or cream. Happily, we live in the days of soy milk, rice milk, coconut milk, and many many other alternative “milks.” I freely substitute these for milk in recipes where I need to make something pareve. I have friends who say that they won’t ever substitute anything for cream, but I’m not that classy—I will use some vanilla soymilk and call it a day.
4. Meat Substitutes
There are so many delicious meat substitutes out there I don’t even know where to start. I love Morningstar Farms, particularly their chicken substitues, and their ground beef substitutes. Many of my fellow vegetarians swear by tofu, but personally, I find it usually kind of unfulfilling. That said, I still use it in a pinch, and if properly marinated and cooked it can be lovely. My favorite, though, is a new discovery—Field Roast vegan sausages. Not yet certified kosher, these sausages are shockingly fantastic. I love them with eggs in the morning, in veggie pies for dinner, and roasted as a side dish. Seitan is also a fantastic meat substitute with a more substantial texture than tofu. The thing is, even though some meat substitutes are great tasting, they don’t really taste like meat, and I don’t think I’d serve any of them solo as a main course the way one could serve a chicken. I say limit meat substitutes to dishes where the meal is part of something greater. And experiment to see which of these you like the most.
5. Cheese substitutes
So, these exist, but I can’t really recommend them. If you’re looking at a meat recipe that calls for cheese, I would just use another recipe. That said, there are some people who love vegan cheese, so it’s worth it to try and see how you feel.
When I was a kid and it was my turn to set the table I usually forgot to put out napkins. Then when we sat down to eat my mom would look at her plate and say, “Well I don’t know about you, but I’m a messy eater.” And that was the cue to go get napkins. (Ironically, my mom was not at all a messy eater, but she was good at making her point.)
As an adult, I have to admit that I am an appallingly messy eater. If you give me paper napkins, I end up needing at least three per meal. It’s a problem. But there’s a solution!
Cloth napkins, people. You need them. I swear on all things greasy and delicious, using cloth napkins will make your life so much better. They work better as napkins. They’re usually bigger. You won’t feel bad about killing trees every time you wipe chocolate off your face. They can be pretty. You can put them in fun napkin rings.
Yes yes, I know that you will have to wash them. It’s true. But even after a big meal, we’re talking 8-10 napkins. That’s like two shirts. Really, not a big deal (and I say this as someone with a very small washer/dryer). Plus, you can use one cloth napkin all week. Unless you are eating something super messy that can hardly be contained with a cloth napkin (I can’t even think what this would be) a dirty cloth napkin will still be good enough to use for a whole week of meals.
You can get napkins for cheap at TJ Maxx, Target, Marshalls, and Bed Bath and Beyond. Or get nicer ones on etsy. Use them forever, and everyone will think you are so posh. (You are!)
The Awl has an interesting post up about a cookbook called Political Pot Luck: A Collection of Recipes from Men Only, published in 1959 by the Peninsular Publishing Company in Tallahassee. The recipes range from sounding pretty good, to sounding obscenely sexist. There’s some good spoon bread, some racist turkey, and a “recipe” for chicken that will make your blood boil.
It got me thinking about Israeli politicians—is there a cookbook of their recipes? I vaguely remembered reading that Golda Meir loved to spend time in her kitchen. Are her recipes available for aspiring politicians and chefs? Turns out…not so much. She was kind of private with her gefilte fish recipe, and mostly drank coffee and smoked a lot. But I did find an article that gives her recipe for “Kibbutz Breakfast.” It doesn’t look particularly exciting to me, but it’s still kind of cool.
Incidentally, it’s hard to google search for recipes by Israeli politicians, because when you search “[Name of Israeli Politician] recipe” you get lots of hits that say “[Name of Israeli Politician]’s plan is a recipe for disaster.” Doesn’t matter which politician you use, they all are apparently recipes for disaster.
For the dressing:
3 tsp lemon juice
3 tsp oil
1 tsp mayonnaise
Salt and black pepper to taste
Head of lettuce,
1 green pepper
3 green onions
1 hard boiled egg
Chop up the green onion and tear the lettuce.
Grate the carrots and the egg and chop up the rest of the vegetables into small pieces.
Put them all in a large salad bowl.
Whip up the dressing ingredients and pour on the salad before serving. Toss gently.
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?
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.