Author Archives: Jessica Fisher

Gift Ideas for your Foodie Father

My dad’s not much of a foodie. Well, he likes food, but he’s perfectly fine sitting back and letting the food come to him. So when I started thinking about where to go for food-related Father’s Day gift inspiration there was only one person to do the job–my Uncle Duke. Below, I’ve listed the top five gifts that would make his foodie-heart sing (take note, Zach, Ali, Lindsay, and Mollie!).

1. Knives. I’ve talked about this before and while I argued (and still maintain) that you only need a couple of knives, it’s still fun to have a new one peeking out of the block. As my uncle put it, “While I have many good to great knives, I am always thinking I could use another.” Besides, the point of Father’s Day isn’t to get him something he needs, but something exciting. What’s more exciting than a really sharp piece of metal?

2. Smoker. You may have noticed from reading my posts that I’m not a big meat eater, but according to the stereotype, men can’t get enough. If you want to go all out on your gift this year (or maybe combine it with his birthday, Hannukah, next Father’s Day…) get your grill-loving dad a smoker. “Great for meat of any kind and many cuts, as well as fish, chicken, turkey breasts, etc.  Low and slow as they say.”

3. Spices, salts, oils, vinegars, etc. Can it be Father’s Favorite Oldest Daughter’s Day? This is a gift I’d be all over. These are “a great way to change up dishes and make them uniquely ‘yours,’ so they are fun to experiment with and make things more interesting.  Some of this can be rather expensive… so [it's a] splurge that many home cooks may not make for themselves!” If your dad is going to be doing some exotic traveling soon or just got back from a trip, this could be a fun way for him to play with regional dishes.

4. Enameled cast iron. Some chef’s swear by cast iron and there’s nothing like it for browning meat or making stews. My uncle actually bought himself a ribbed skillet (“making the best [indoor] burgers we’ve ever had”) and a stock pot with a gift card he got for Father’s Day last year (always a good gift!). “Not typically summer items, but I’m glad I now have them in my arsenal!”

5. Wine. “A great bottle of white wine (or two) to enjoy while you are cooking!  One of my favorite things to do is spend [an] afternoon cooking while enjoying wine and Aunt Stacey, when I can get her, or a friend.” I think he says it all on that one.

While it can be a stressful time for the children involved, Father’s Day is a great time to get creative and give your dad a special treat. Whether you go for any of these ideas or come up with your own, you better get going–Father’s Day is just around the corner!

 

 

Posted on June 11, 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

Planning a Balanced Menu

If you are frequent reader of The Nosher, chances are you like to cook. And not only do you like to cook, but you probably also like hosting. I bet you may even be hosting Shabbat dinner tonight.

A lot goes into hosting a meal and even though we stress about who is going be there and what the table looks like, ultimately the most important part of the meal is, of course, the food.

Making good menus is a work of art. It means everything is tasty and goes well together, but it also means there is balance. You could make corn chowder, tilapia filets, and mashed potatoes that all taste phenomenal, but your plate will be white and your body unappeased.

There are so many ways to think about how to create a complete and wholesome meal. As Jews our menus tend to reflect both the calendar (traditional holiday foods) and our ancestry (matzah ball soup for the Russian Jews and borekas for the Turkish Jews–lucky me, I get both!). The Chinese have a Five Phase model; in Ecuador lunch is always preceded by a soup course and dinner is usually instant coffee; the macrobiotic diet looks at food as expansive and contractive; many people follow the Indian balance concepts of Ayurveda. The Western media typically just labels foods as “good for you” or “bad for you.”

Over the next couple of weeks, I will be posting a few simple checks and balances to help you make delicious and balanced menus for you Shabbat dinner tables and normal weekday eating.

Posted on June 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

Shabbat Recipe Round-Up

Yesterday I got my first summer crop of CSA goodies. Strawberries! Baby lettuce! Thyme! Asparagus! (Okay, I hate asparagus so that’s not making me excited…but strawberries!)

Let your produce shine this Shabbat by making a harvest salad with a light lemon and olive oil dressing. For inspiration, go to one of my all-time favorite lists: Mark Bittman’s 101 Simple Salads for the Season. Come August, I recommend the peach and tomato salad. Highly nontraditional, but fabulous.

Another great way to add some freshness and crunch to your meal: cole slaw! And I’m not talking about your local deli‘s mayo-drenched cole slaw. (Full disclosure: it’s actually my recipe, over at Jewcy.)

When all else fails, Martha’s always got your back. At least that’s my motto. Her chicken with artichoke hearts is moist, flavorful, and takes advantage of the tail end of artichoke season–just leave off the feta!

Nothing says summer like a sugar snap pea straight from the vine. If you can’t make that happen, you’ll want to go to the store to make this sugar snap and snow pea stir-fry. Appease your vegetarian guests with the protein from the cashews.

Heidi Swanson’s Blueberry-Lemon-Verbena pie sounds lovely and I love that she adds in some rye flour to the crust to make it a little nutty. If you are looking for a pareve recipe, just swap in some solid refined coconut oil instead of butter.

Posted on June 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

Is Gluten Free the New Way to Be?

Yield:
6 cups


Celiac disease and gluten intolerances have been ignored and under-diagnosed for years, but these days it’s hard to miss. Labs have seen a jump in requests for blood tests and it is now estimated that somewhere around 18 million Americans are sensitive to gluten.

Gluten is an insoluble protein in wheat, rye, and barley, among others. Because it is somewhat elastic, it helps to leaven and build structure in baked goods. It’s also hard for the human digestive system to handle. For most people, their bodies persevere and move on with their days, but for others eating or coming in contact with gluten can have a major impact.

Gluten intolerance is a toxic, negative reaction to gluten. It can often be dealt with through slight avoidance, indulging on occasion and not being stringent about gluten in non-food products like toothpaste and paint. Celiac, on the other hand, is an autoimmune disorder, in which the body builds up antibodies against gluten every time the person comes in contact with the protein. After a while, the intestinal villi are destroyed and become incapable of absorbing nutrients, which leads to blood toxicity. In short: if you think you might have a gluten intolerance, it’s a good idea to check it out before it gets out of hand. While many people have jumped on the gluten-free bandwagon as a fad, those who actually suffer from gluten experience a wide range of serious symptoms.

People often are nervous about making food for friends who can’t eat gluten and while it’s true that the diet can be challenging and expensive, it doesn’t have to be so far from the food you are used to. Many who switch to gluten-free lifestyles actually eat healthier, because they make more room in their diets for vegetables, fruits, and wholesome foods. Try the recipe below for a great granola that happens to be “GF”–just make sure to buy gluten free oats for those who have severe sensitivity.

If you’re looking for a new challenge as a baker, pulling off a tasty gluten-free treat is rewarding and much appreciated by people who don’t eat gluten. There are so many incredible whole grain and legume flours out there to experiment with–make this your excuse! Keep in mind that without gluten, breads will need more yeast, eggs are crucial for binding, and you may need more fat or fruit puree to keep it moist. Make sure you eat or freeze your baked goods right away, since gluten-free items have a short shelf life and lose moisture quickly.

Resources to check out:

The Gluten Free Gourmet by Betty Hagman

Gluten Free Baking by Rebecca Reilly

Gluten Free Girl and the Chef by Shana James Ahern

Easy Granola

Posted on June 5, 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 in the News

No matter your news source, food is in every type of media outlet these days. We want to know where our food comes from, what it’s made of, who made it, how to do it ourselves, what to call it… the list of ways to talk and think about food is endless. Here are a few recent stories that span the spectrum of food articles:

NPR put out a story over radio waves about the timeless summer camp/college dorm room debate: Pop, soda, or coke?

Are natural sweeteners like stevia good or bad? Marion Nestle, professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health and professor of Sociology at NYU, takes a look at some of the research in her blog, Food Politics.

Hazon, the organization that is taking on Jewish food systems and the environment, started a new program in the Bay Area last year called Home for Dinner with the goal of encouraging families to cook and eat dinner together and think about their food. Judith Belasco, Director of Programs at Hazon, lays out some of the reasons she thinks this is such an important issue.

Sometimes even tried and true foods need to get a remake, but I can’t decide whether adding peanut butter to hummus instead of tahini is crazy or genius.

New York’s Mayor Bloomberg has never hidden his agenda against soda/pop/coke in New York as part of his anti-obesity efforts. It started with ads picturing cups full of fat in the “Pouring on the Pounds” campaign, now he’s going after super-sized drinks and people aren’t too pleased.

Speaking of New York, pets there are apparently as snobby about food as their parents.

Posted on June 4, 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

Buttered Radishes

Prep:
5 minutes

Cook:
5 minutes

Yield:
2 servings


One of the best things about spring–radishes. It’s like all they want to do is pop out of the ground and jump onto our plates in all of their pink and purple glory. While it’s easy and delicious to eat them raw–crunching into them or tossing them into a salad–cooking radishes is a delectable and under-appreciated treatment.

These radishes are a great side dish on their own, tossed with fresh peas, or served with poached eggs. You can make these with any type of radish, but my favorite are French breakfast radishes.

Buttered Radishes

Posted on June 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

Shabbat Recipe Round-Up

Sometimes it’s not just what’s in season that helps me decide what to eat, but how the season feels. Today was sunny and breezy. The air smelled sweet. Seriously, it did. This menu is all about capturing that feeling in a spring meal.

I highly recommend introducing your vegan (and non-vegan) friends to this Greek challah. As a sourdough novice, I’ve been working on perfecting this recipe for sourdough Pan de Horiadaki. It’s tangy from the sourdough and full of flavor from the olive oil.

Nothing says rejuvenation like fresh mint. Incorporate it into your meal with some lemonade or in a salad, like cucumber and tomato or, if you’re going the dairy route, watermelon and feta.

This pan-roasted, herb-seasoned Greek grilled chicken looks light and crisp. Serve it with some oven-roasted red potatoes and your seasonal vegetable of choice cooked with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt.

Finish off your meal with a refreshing rhubarb granita, i.e. gourmet slushy. You can even revisit your childhood by serving it in playful snow cone cones.

Posted on May 31, 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

Life After a Holiday: Cleanse and Detox

After a weekend full of indulging in cheesecake and late-night snacking, everyone is trying to find a way to swing back to normal.

Here are some of my tried and true methods for restoring balance:

Amaranth. Amaranth is a high-protein, gluten-free grain indigenous to Mexico. Rich in dietary fibers and essential amino acids, amaranth can lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure, boost the immune system, increase energy, and strengthen bones. This amaranth porridge is a powerful way to kickstart the day.

Kombucha. A happy pairing of bacteria and yeast, a good swig of kombucha can bring your digestive system back up to full performance. It’s also chock full of the enzymes our bodies use to detox, helps reverse the effects of candida (yeast) overgrowth, relieves arthritis, and can increase energy levels. As tempting as it may be, keep in mind that you should not shake kombucha before drinking, since that upsets the delicate ecosystem within the bottle.

Miso. While most people hear miso and immediately think “sushi appetizer,” there’s a lot more to this paste than a salty soup. A fermented soy product, miso is full of micro-organisms that help our bodies process proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. It also contains lactic acids that promote a healthy environment for digestion. Miso is a great addition to salad dressing and sauces, but if you want to stick with soup, make sure to add the miso last, once the broth has been removed from the heat, so you don’t kill the bacteria.

Pickles. Consuming lacto-fermented pickles (which don’t have to be cucumbers, by the way) is a great way to bring lactic acid, active cultures, and enzymes into your digestive system. Pickling vegetables also helps reduces the impact of harmful compounds like oxalic acid found in beet greens and increases the bodies ability to absorb minerals like iron by breaking down phytates.

Seaweed. I was hesitant about seaweed when I was first introduced to it, but now I can’t imagine giving it up. Full of a range of vitamins, including the hard-to-come-by B12, seaweed can help your digestion, regulate your blood sugar, strengthen your nails and hair, improve thyroid function, and relive stress, among countless other benefits. One of my favorite seaweed dishes is hiziki (or hijiki) caviar served on a cracker.

What food remedies work best for you?

 

 

Posted on May 29, 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

Shavuot Recipe: Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

Yield:
2 14-inch pizzas


Before you head off into the wonders/horrors of a three day yom tov there’s still time for one more dairy recipe. (Technically, this recipe is pareve, but it makes a great vehicle for dairy foods, i.e. cheese.)

A friend of mine here in Chicago is using Shavuot as an excuse for an interactive lunch: make your own pizza. For the purpose of this lunch, we’ll be eating store bought crusts, but if we wanted to take it up a notch, we could make this great whole wheat dough.

The recipe makes a chewy crust that browns nicely. Like any other recipe for pizza dough, the key to this one is a really hot oven. You can change the proportion of whole wheat to bread flour, but I wouldn’t go more than 50-50. If you are using vegetable toppings remember to put them under the cheese so they don’t burn.

What’s your favorite way to eat a pizza?

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

Posted on May 25, 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: Memorial Day Edition

Lest you think we forgot about Memorial Day with all of the excitement about the dairy-filled weekend ahead, here’s a menu dedicated to barbecued goodness.

Start off your meal with a tangy grilled caesar salad. Feel free to leave off the cheese if you want a pareve meal. Once everyone is crunching into their toasty romaine, serve any one of these great summer drink ideas.

Whip up a batch of my absolute favorite barbecue sauce from Grow and Behold. This sauce is a great marinade for chicken (they recommend wings), but I recently discovered that it makes a delicious boozy condiment for hotdogs.

In addition to tossing your regular onion, zucchini, eggplant, and peppers onto the grill, consider mixing things up with some sweet and spicy grilled pickles. If you want to make things really fancy, make some pickled spring onions.

Finish off the evening by channeling the delights of the campfire with these S’more Truffles.

Posted on May 24, 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