Author Archives: Jessica Fisher

Shabbat Recipe Round-Up

Heat wave number two has arrived and it’s starting to make me worried. Will I ever want to turn on my oven again? Will I ever want to serve something other than cold soup, raw vegetables, fruit, and ice cream?

Who am I kidding? That menu doesn’t have me worried in the least! I am worried about the environment, climate change, etc., but it’s not so bad to live in a world where vegetables are crisp, refreshing, and satiating. A girl can dream.

Here’s a list of the things I’m making or wish I was making this Shabbat.

I’m always playing with challah–I try to make a different kind every week. But sometimes I like to stray a bit from the norm and make a bread that isn’t actually challah, but still allows me and my guests to say hamotzi. So if I were you and you were feeling adventurous this week I would make this Sour Cherry Focaccia. It speaks for itself

Fig Taleggio Pizza is sweet and pungent and bitter all at once. It’s festive and light.

Since we’ve entered the full swing of CSA season and local crop availability is hitting its peak, my box was crazy heavy this week and snuggled in with the romaine and the chard was kohlrabi. A funky looking vegetable, it’s a great base for a slaw or home fries or any number of other recipes.

Another wonderful light side or main dish is this radish cous cous. You can easily substitute vegetable stock for the chicken stock if you want to make it pareve. I would also recommend my favorite radish for this dish

This blueberry boy bait (I don’t know what boy bait is, but it looks like something I would want to eat a whole pan of) PLUS roasted peaches and lavender ice cream, which is sweetened with honey! If you make these, can I come over for dessert?

Posted on June 28, 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

Arugula Hazelnut Pesto

Prep:
10 minutes


img_0795Summer means a lot of things when it comes to food–berries and cucumbers and tomatoes, to name a few! It’s also a time when herbs are plentiful–almost too plentiful to keep up with. There’s one sure way to tackle this problem: pesto. You can use pesto for so many different wonderful things–pasta (of course), pizza sauce, dip, salad dressing. And you can make vats of pesto and freeze it in usable portions for later (just stop before you add any dairy).

But what if I told you pesto didn’t have to be herb based? While traditional pesto is a combination of basil, garlic, pine nuts, and olive oil, the word is derived from an Italian verb meaning to pound or crush and can really involve any kind of vegetation. So here I’m introducing Arugula Hazelnut pesto. It’s full of flavor and bite, but mellowed out with the subtle sweetness of the hazelnut. If you don’t want quite so much arugula taste, throw in some parsley to balance the flavor a little more.

Arugula Hazelnut Pesto

Ingredients

3 cups arugula

1 cup parsley (optional)

1 clove garlic

1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Over medium heat, toast the hazelnuts until fragrant. Remove from the heat and cool.

Add the arugula and parsley (if using) to a blender or food processor. Pulse for 5 seconds.

Add the garlic, hazelnuts, salt, and pepper.

Gradually drizzle in the olive oil while the blender or food processor is running. Process until smooth.

Taste to adjust seasoning and consistency. If it's too thick, add more oil.

Posted on June 28, 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

Fit to Eat

There has been a lot of talk about kashrut lately. And while some of it has been related to foods actually being certified kosher, a lot of it is simply about whether food is or isn’t fit for consumption.

There’s still a lot of talk lingering from the big news that New York’s Mayor Bloomberg, ever on an anti-obesity crusade, wants to ban supersized soft drinks in the city, meaning drinks that are more than 16 ounces. One of the key arguments–beyond the health implications of these drinks–is that it’s really hard to tell just how much you are consuming and that’s completely intentional. (I recommend the accompanying quiz to prove it.) In other words, New York’s near future may involve a world in which soft drinks are no longer “kosher.”

On Monday, fish markets and grocery stores were selling something new (sort of). For the first time since the March 2011 tsunami that turned into a nuclear disaster, fish caught in the region were available for purchase–in this case octopus and a type of snail, so not kosher, strictly speaking. But, after extensive testing, these fish were determined free of radiation and thus fit for consumption. Other fish, of the more kosher variety, are expected to be available soon, but there are still concerns about radiation.

And, of course, there was the big fuss last week over Hebrew National Hot Dogs, which are actually labeled kosher, but, apparently, are not. As it turns out, ConAgra employees who process the meat have been complaining that the meat involved doesn’t actually meet kosher standards. Now Hebrew National’s new “higher authority” is a federal court in Minnesota where the company is being tried for misleading customers and misrepresenting their product. So even food that we think is fit to eat, might not be kosher.

Posted on June 26, 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

Watermelon Jicama Salad

Prep:
10 minutes

Yield:
6 servings


Wednesday was officially the first day of summer 2012. Earlier this week I went to a farmers’ market for work, where a chef was giving a cooking demonstration to residents of Chicago’s Austin neighborhood. She taught them how to make a cold spaghetti dish with tomatoes, capers, and olives and she introduced them to a new food: jicama.

Native to Central America, jicama is a white tuber with a texture similar to a water chestnut. It’s an ideal food for a hot summer day, since it is almost completely made of water. Jicama does not have much flavor of it’s own, so once you’ve peeled the brown skin, serve it with a dip or dressing. When you go to the store look for a firm, heavy jicama with mostly unblemished skin and store it at cool temperatures.

In Latin America, jicama is served with lime juice, coarse salt, and ground chile. This salad plays on the idea, but adds a sweet and juicy element to it: watermelon. Nothing says summer like watermelon and with this heat, it’s high time we accept the fact that summer has arrived.

Watermelon Jicama Salad

Ingredients

1 jicama

1 small to medium size watermelon

3 tablespoons orange juice

1 tablespoon lime juice (about 2 limes)

3 tablespoons basil, chiffonade

2 tablespoons mint, chiffonade

salt and pepper to taste

crumbled feta (optional)

Directions

Peel brown skin off jicama (some recommend using a spoon). Cut into 1/4 inch strips or into small dice.

Chop up watermelon into bite sized chunks.

Combine jicama and watermelon. Dress with orange juice and lime juice.

Toss with basil and mint. Season to taste.

Sprinkle with crumbled feta if using.

Posted on June 22, 2012

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Shabbat Recipe Round-up: Heat Wave Edition

Unless you’ve been living in an igloo, you may have noticed that it’s really, really hot out. My extensive research indicates that this seems to be happening all over, so I bet it applies even to the igloo-dwellers. Here’s a great group of recipes that will cool you down and taste delicious! The best part: you don’t have to turn on your oven.

Start off with something non-traditional, but refreshing and light. This chilled watermelon soup is full of nutrients and interesting flavors. You do not need to add the sugar recommended in the recipe. If you are serving it with a meat meal, take out the feta and serve it with spiced nuts and diced cucumbers.

Keep the crunchy-sweet-refreshing theme going with mango jicama salad. This has a bit of a kick, but the sweet fruit balances it out. The chile powder plus mango combination makes it feel like a Latin American street food.

Take this opportunity to make a red snapper ceviche. It tastes like something cooked, but all it takes is a hefty dose of citrus juice, plus a few bonus flavors on the side. Serve with chips or just a spoon.

Per usual, I’m going to throw out a Mark Bittman resource here: slaws eight ways. One of these crunchy creative salads will be the perfect vegetable side dish for your ceviche.

For dessert, play with different combinations of macerated fruit. You can never go wrong with strawberries drizzled with balsamic vinegar. (I thought it was gross the first time I heard about it, but, believe me, you’ll like it.)

Posted on June 21, 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

Jewish and Vegan: a Blossoming Love Story

People become vegans for all sorts of reasons–ethical, environmental, health. But recently, a growing number of Jews have begun adopting a vegan diet as an expression of their Judaism, or at least a piece of it.

Veganism entails abstaining from any product derived from an animal–meat, eggs, dairy, leather, and even, for some, honey. The idea of not consuming these products has been around for a while, but it was only given the term “vegan” in the 1940s to differentiate practitioners from vegetarians. Vegan diets have many of health benefits, especially because vegans tend to eat more whole grains, legumes, and produce, but there are some important health considerations to think about.

Jews and vegans have been sharing headlines for some time now. Rav Kook famously promoted Jewish vegetarianism at the turn of the 20th century. Novelist Jonathan Safran Foer took a break from fiction to write about how he came to his decision to be a vegan in Eating Animals (after that, he changed it up again and edited a haggadah). Now the idea of Kosher veganism has come even more directly into the spotlight with the creation of The Shamayim V’Aaretz Institute, which seeks to educate and create leadership around animal welfare activism, Kosher veganism, and Jewish spirituality. Sporting an all-star cast, the Institute was founded by Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz of Uri L’Tzedek and Mayim Bialik. Its board includes noted performer Matisyahu, who recently had a makeover.

Mayim Bialik, everyone’s new favorite Jewish celebrity, has become a vocal advocate of the vegan lifestyle and attachment parenting. Jumping on the s*** people say train, she starred in a video for the Institute called “Stuff Kosher Meat Eaters Say to Kosher Vegans.”

But while the number of supporters for and interest in this lifestyle is growing (check out the 34,000+ views of Mayim’s video), there are still plenty of people who feel Judaism and veganism are irreconcilable belief systems. Sorting through the spam in the comments, there are a few dissident voices. “The fact is that the Halacha DOES require the eating of meat… as with any other Halacha – we have to do things we don’t want to do.” Another commenter wrote, “This is absurd. Torah is inherently incompatible with veganism.” Rav Shmuly has a few answers for these allegations.

If you are a vegan or want to learn more about the concept of Kosher veganism, I recommend checking out the Shamayim V’Aretz Institute’s web site for recipes, resources for vegan clothes and cosmetics, and great videos–like Rav Shmuly and his wife showing off their vegan groceries. The Beet Eating Heeb is also full of resources and commentaries on veganism, Judaism, and the relationship between the two.

Posted on June 20, 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

Food Tips of All Kinds

I won’t beat around the bush: cooking involves lots of work. From store to prep to skillet to plate–it’s no easy task! Here’s a round of tips that will help you (at least a little bit) with each of these steps.

Store: For the past week or so, several Tablet staff members have dared to join the enviable ranks of Birthrighters by staffing and blogging about a Birthright trip while they’re on it. So far, they’ve offered two major pieces of advice in regard to food. The first: don’t order pizza from Domino’s in Jerusalem. The second: “How (not) to Bargain in the Israeli Marketplace.”

Prep: Do you hate it when people serve vegetable platters during cocktail parties or as an appetizer? Do you also secretly wish you could serve one and get away with it? Serious Eats, the ultimate guide to junk food, sandwiches, and helpful cooking tips, is here to help with a “How to Put Together an Awesome Vegetable Platter” guide.

Skillet: I have a confession: making the perfect panna cotta has never been a concern that’s kept me up at night. But, if you are one of the (many?) people with this problem, the LA Times has a solution for you! Read on for the three key elements for “Cracking the Code of Panna Cotta.” Just don’t forget to stock up on Kosher gelatin as you experiment.

Plate: This link actually combines a few different tips, but ultimately it’s about presenting a beautiful layer cake to impress your friends and family. As usual, Food52′s Kitchen Confidence post “Mastering Layer Cakes” does not disappoint, with descriptive prose coupled with step by step pictures of the whole process.

Posted on June 20, 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

Four Rules of Thumb

A little late on the delivery, but, as promised, here is a  follow-up guide to menu planning. An easy way to begin your menu is by picking a theme–anything from spring to grilling to Mexican. But picking a theme isn’t a requirement for a great menu. Follow these four rules and you’re sure to come out on top!

1. Color– a dinner that features foods of many colors accomplishes two goals, one aesthetic and one nutritious. A plate with many bright colors is more attractive and more appetizing than a plate of all brown or white foods. It also means you are hitting a wide array of nutrients by eating the rainbow (not the Skittles variety).

2. Texture–it’s important to vary the textures in a meal to keep your guests’ mouths and minds interested in the food. While serving a pureed lentil soup, mashed sweet potatoes, and pudding for dinner may hit a variety of colors and nutritional sources (protein, carbohydrate, etc.), it will be boring to eat. Even in a single pureed dish, it might be a good idea to throw something crunchy into the mix, like some spiced nuts on top of the pudding.

3. Cooking method–again, the emphasis here is on variety. You could make a meal of four different types of stewed dishes, but I would recommend mixing it up with something a little lighter, too. It’s also a good idea to have some kind of raw vegetable at every meal, like salad or crudites. By using different methods like braising, sauteing, steaming, boiling, and frying, you’re meal will be more engaging and satisfying.

4. Flavor–of course the most important aspect of a well executed meal is that everything taste good! But just like the other “rules,” you want there to be a mix of flavors as well. While a meal consisting entirely of sweet foods (beet salad, corn, honey-glazed chicken, and babka, for example) sounds delicious and would be fun to eat, most likely you’ll come away from the meal feeling sick and/or unfulfilled. Try to include savory, spicy, sour, bitter, tart, salty, and umami in addition to sweet.

 

Posted on June 18, 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 menu is a collection of recipes that inspired me this week. Sometimes, that’s all it takes.

The best way to impress your guests: homemade gnocchi. It’s a lot easier than you think, but it does take patience. Try this gnocchi with fava beans, garlic scapes, and basil as an appetizer that showcases seasonal ingredients. If you’re making a meat meal, the butter is definitely optional for this recipe.

When it comes to poultry I love dark meat and these grilled mediterranean chicken thighs look flavorful and juicy. Perfect.

Go crazy and fry asparagus. Seriously–it’s amazing. And top it off with a flavorful miso dressing? Hello! Get all of this and more from Nobu’s fried asparagus with miso dressing.

Cool down and take yourself to a tropical paradise with this mango sorbet. The rum keeps the sorbet creamy and adds a subtle depth to the flavor. You can also make popsicles with this recipe. Serve with fresh berries and you’re set!

Posted on June 14, 2012

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Making Your Own Labneh


When I have the urge to travel it’s often motivated by a particular food I’m craving. For example, I would absolutely get on a plane to South America for granadilla. Or to Italy for fresh mozzarella. Or to Cincinnati for Graeter’s ice cream. Or to Israel for labneh.

While you can get frozen granadilla and fresh mozzarella and Graeter’s almost everywhere in the U.S., I’ve been hard pressed to find good labneh on this side of the Atlantic.

Labneh is is a Middle Eastern cheese made from yogurt. It’s commonly rolled into balls, served with extra virgin olive oil, or used as condiment with cucumbers, tomatoes, and pretty much any other vegetable found in the shuk. Both a breakfast staple and an anytime snack, labneh is creamy, tangy, and versatile. Labneh is also full of health-boosters. Since it gets strained, labneh has less sugar and carbhoydrates than other dairy products, while still retaining a significant amount of protein. Because it is made from yogurt, labneh is full of probiotics. It also happens to be the easiest cheese to make yourself.

Many cheeses require heat, thermometers, rennet, or other accessories. Labneh needs only 2.5 ingredients: plain yogurt, salt, and cheesecloth. I say 2.5 because the salt is somewhat optional. I’ve made labneh just by dumping yogurt into cheesecloth and hanging it up in my fridge.

Now that I have my own stash of labneh in the fridge, I have to come up with a new excuse to travel.

Do you have a food you’d hop on a plane for?

Labneh

Ingredients

3 cups yogurt

1 teaspoon sea salt

Directions

In a small bowl, mix the yogurt and salt.

Gently pour the mixture into two-three layers of cheesecloth. Collect the ends of the cheesecloth and tie up the "package," hanging it in your fridge over a bowl.

Serve with a drizzle of great olive oil and a sprinkling of fresh herbs or za'atar.

Leave the pouch hanging in the fridge for 12-24 hours. Store the final product in an airtight container. You can save the whey (the liquid left in the bowl) for future projects.

Posted on June 12, 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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