Author Archives: Shannon Sarna

Shannon Sarna

About Shannon Sarna

Shannon Sarna is the editor of The Nosher. Born to an Italian mother who loved to bake, a Jewish father who loved to experiment, and a food chemist grandfather, loving and experimenting with diverse foods is simply in her blood. Her writing and recipes have been featured in Tablet Magazine, JTA News, The Jewish Week, Joy of Kosher Magazine and Buzzfeed. She graduated from Smith College in Northampton, MA with a degree in Comparative Government and Spanish Language and Literature and currently lives in Jersey City, NJ. To see what Shannon is cooking and eating, follow her on twitter @shasarna and on Instagram.

On the Road with The Nosher

The past few weeks have felt like a whirlwind of packing, unpacking, eating, and then packing again. My daughter and I spent the last two weeks of 2014 in Los Angeles, spending time with some of my family, attending a dear friend’s wedding and what else: eating. And we got the chance to eat some pretty great stuff.

donut friend donuts

On of our most important goals in LA was to sample some divine donuts, and I can happily say, we were successful. One of our favorite spots? Donut Friend in Glendale that features largely vegan doughnuts. I was skeptical, but they were delicious, beautiful to look at and the flavors were very creative. We even got to try a vegan “bacon” doughnut made from coconut bacon chips.

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I got to spend a glorious morning chatting, noshing and baking with Nosher contributor Jennifer Stempel right in her Los Angeles home. Our goal, in addition to talking all things food and family, was to try and re-create the guava and cheese pastries from the famous Cuban bakery Portos. It was such a fun exercise and in the end, we got incredibly close to remaking the original. It also inspired a new recipe from Jennifer for a savory version of her beloved pastry, manchego and quince turnovers. Yum!

Here we are taking a selfie in her kitchen. We are pretty adorable.

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Other LA highlights? We visited the famous Canter’s Deli, which opened its doors in 1931! My brother wanted to go because the eatery is featured in an episode of Entourage. I was all about their mish mosh soup, which included matzah balls, kreplach, noodles and rice. I will now only only serve soup in this way. We also hit up a newer spot on the recommendation of several friends called Eggslut, a breakfast spot in Grand Central Market in downtown LA. Doughnuts, matzah ball soup and egg sandwiches: an all around successful trip.

And this week? We are lounging and eating from the beaches of Turks and Caicos, an island in the Caribbean. The views, weather and lowkey pace down here have been definite highlights, and we’ve had a few great eats though mostly we have been cooking and grilling from home. Fresh coconuts right from the trees outside mean lots of coconut cocktails.

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The best thing I have eaten on the island? Would you believe, of all things, it was a doughnut! The custard filled doughnuts from Caicos Bakery in Grace Bay was one of the best doughnuts I have ever eaten. Perfectly fried and with a dusting of sugar, I would have liked to eat several in one sitting. But I stopped at just one.

Next week I am looking forward to being back home, unpacked and working on some new recipes from my own kitchen again. But for now I think there is a coconut with my name on it. Maybe a doughnut too.

Caicos doughnut

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Posted on January 15, 2015

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

Olive Oil Roasted Garlic Bread

Yield:
8 servings

olive oil garlic bread text

Sometimes the simplest recipes are just the best. So often we try to complicate our lives and our cooking by thinking more is better, and simple can’t be good. But I have recently discovered the secret to the best, nondairy garlic bread to accompany a big plate of spaghetti and meatballs, and it’s simplicity may shock you. Ok, maybe I am being overly dramatic. It is just garlic bread after all.

Roasted garlic is one of my favorite flavors. I add whole garlic cloves to lots of my dishes – roast chicken, root vegetables and even challah. I love the slight sweetness of roasted garlic, plus it’s a cinch to prepare and it’s super healthy! Garlic has more vitamin c than even orange juice.

roasted garlic

Recently I roasted a whole head of garlic, added it to a healthy amount of olive oil and smashed it into a baguette for the simplest, most delicious garlic bread. I didn’t miss the butter, or Parmesan that some garlic bread recipes call for. Ok, maybe I missed the butter a little.

I would serve this crispy bread alongside some traditional Italian meatballs or a cozy bowl of soup. You will see – sometimes delicious doesn’t need to be complicated at all.

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Perfect Nondairy Garlic Bread

Posted on January 7, 2015

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

Announcing the 2015 Nosher Monthly Photo Contest!

It’s a new year, so we’re trying out some new things. We love hearing what you’re eating, and we want to hear more. The same way we inspire you with new recipes and news, you inspire us with what you are cooking at home and eating out all over the country (and around the world).

healthy salmon dinner

So starting this first week of 2015, we will be hosting a monthly photo contest to see what you, our wonderful, creative, food-focused readers, are eating.

Each week there will be a new theme to the contest, and the instructions are easy:

  • Post a photo of your dish on Twitter, Instagram or on our Facebook page.
  • Describe the dish briefly – What is it? Why was it delicious?
  • Be sure to use the hashtag #noshthis and tag @JewishFood on Twitter.

Check our Facebook and Twitter for our weekly theme.

Show us your healthful eating for 2015. Not eating healthy this year? No matter, post a pic anyways so we can also enjoy the indulgence.

The winning photo will be featured each month on our Facebook, so get cooking and snapping those pics! We can’t wait.

fig salad

Photo credit: Liz Reuven

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Posted on January 6, 2015

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

A Year in Challah

challah collage2

It’s the time of year when every blog and website is putting up their “best of” list. Instead of going through all our recipes from the past year or naming some of the trends of 2014, I wanted to do something a little more fun, and a little more personal: a review of all the crazy challah I created this year.

In the past few months a lot of people have asked, what’s with the challah? Why do you like creating such crazy flavor combinations?

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I’ve been baking challah since I was 16 years old, not based on a family recipe I use, but from my own that I have worked on over the last 15+ years. We didn’t have a classic challah on our Shabbat table each week (we didn’t have Shabbat dinner at all), so I don’t bring the same challah baggage as others with stronger challah family traditions. It is perhaps for this reason that I don’t mind throwing caution to the wind, and mashing up the classic challah with a variety of stuffings and flavors to suit my mood or the season.

It’s also in part to my involvement with Pop-Up Shabbat that I have taken on the task of creating more and more challah creations. At these bi-monthly pop-up dinners, a brand new Shabbat dinner menu is created on a specific theme, and I am tasked with creating a corresponding challah recipe. It has been such a fun and challenging exercise that has truly expanded even the way that I think about my beloved bread.

So if you’re ready to expand the way you think about challah, check out one of my unique creations of 2014, or even better: create your own.

pastrami sandwich challah

Pastrami Sandwich Challah

Double Chocolate Chip Challah

Summer Pesto and Gruyere Stuffed Challah

Za’atar Challah

Honey Whole Wheat Challah

Halloween Candy Challah

Butternut Squash Challah with Sage

Peppermint Hot Cocoa Challah

Butternut Squash Challah Nosher3

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Posted on December 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

Mascarpone Stuffed Dates with Sea Salt

Yield:
3 dozen

Nearly six years ago, my husband (who was then merely a newish boyfriend in my life) took me out for a lovely meal at a hip new restaurant in Washington, DC called Komi. The dinner was amazing, with course after course of Greek-inspired dishes. I couldn’t tell you exactly what we ate that night except for one absolute stand-out appetizer: mascarpone stuffed dates, which were warm out of the oven and served with a perfect sprinkling of thick, flaky sea salt. I was in love with the sweet, savory, creamy bite and went home to try and recreate it.

mascarpone stuffed dates with sea salt

After several trials, I realized I must be doing something wrong because my mascarpone filling kept oozing out. Still delicious, but it wasn’t quite the recreation I was looking for. I filed the recipe away, and only years later when we went back for another meal at Komi did I try to master the dish once again.

The waiter serving us at our second amazing Komi dinner wasn’t too keen on giving up the secret of the non-oozing mascarpone, but after careful prodding from my husband, we learned that we needed to chill the stuffed dates before baking them to achieve the desired result of a warm date with creamy filling intact. I went home to test it out again, and eureka: it worked.

This dish is one of my favorite appetizers to serve for any kind of party, and great as a small bite with prosecco or other sparkling wine on New Year’s Eve. Or a random Wednesday.

Tips:

  • Make sure to buy the plumpest-looking medjool dates you can find.
  • Don’t want to spend your time pitting the dates? Just buy them already pitted.
  • You can use a regular Ziploc bag with an end snipped off to fill the dates BUT I recommend using a proper piping bag to get the filling all the way into the bottom of the date more easily.

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Mascarpone Stuffed Dates with Sea Salt

Posted on December 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

Peppermint Hot Cocoa Challah

Yield:
1 large loaf or 2 smaller loaves

hot cocoa challah w text

The holiday season is sort of a strange time for me. Like many American Jews, I grew up celebrating both Christmas and Hanukkah. When I decided to firmly embrace my Jewish side, I felt like I had to give up Christmas and some of the secular joys of the holiday season. To complicate matters, Christmas reminds me terribly of my mother who passed away when I was sixteen, and so while it is a connection to her, it is a bittersweet memory.

My mom really got into holidays – all holidays – whether it was Halloween, Thanksgiving or Christmas, she was ready with some tacky earrings, decorative salt shakers and surely an ugly sweater or two as well. She loved Christmas music, and from early December through New Year’s we would be subjected to a rotation of possibly the two worst Christmas albums ever made: Johnny Matthis and Amy Grant. I cringe just thinking about those CDs of hers.

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Nevertheless, the season is bittersweet as I balance my desire to connect to these memories of my mother, participate in some kind of festive activities while maintaining the strong Jewish identity of my family. I admittedly tread a fine line: baking holiday cookies every year for my husband’s office, (though not in red or green or Santa shapes) listening to The Nutcracker with my daughter and combining the flavors of chocolate and peppermint in various forms to pay homage to the season. After all, should Christians really get to drink all the skinny peppermint mochas at Starbucks!?

Two years ago I started making a chocolate peppermint bundt cake that my husband and I absolutely adored. And while I have been whipping up lots of batches of peppermint hot cocoa for my little one, I wanted to take these flavors to the next level by adding them to, what else: challah.

What makes this challah so special is not only the deep dark chocolate dough, or the melty,chocolate chips inside, but also the super gooey marshmallows dotting the top. When my daughter spotted the finished product her eyes lit up and she wanted to break into the chocolaty masterpiece right away. Who am I to say no, especially when it makes for such an adorable picture. And yes, she is wearing her ballet costume because she had been practicing her Nutcracker dance moves.

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It may not be overtly Christmas-y, nor is it exactly what I did with my mother. But somehow creating something new, that touches upon the joy and spirit of the holiday season, brings me comfort, connects me to my past and allows me to create new memories for my family.

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Peppermint Hot Cocoa Challah

Posted on December 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

Michelin Star Latkes and Sufganiyot

I have long considered myself somewhat a latke expert, with several varieties under my belt, and never a single latke leftover when serving to my friends and family. That is until I had the chance to spend time with Michelin Star Chef Bill Telepan and Pastry Chef Larissa Raphael of the acclaimed New York City restaurant Telepan last week.

Chef Bill Telepan isn’t Jewish, though his latkes might indicate otherwise. In truth, Bill grew up in suburban New Jersey eating potato pancakes every holiday season prepared by his Hungarian mother. He carries this tradition on with his own family, serving up a big Christmas breakfast of eggs, bacon, pancakes and, what else, latkes.

Telepan latkes2

But he has also been serving up latkes at his restaurant for nearly ten years, and even won an award for his latkes at the Annual Latke Festival in New York City several years ago. He likes serving them two ways: plain with sour cream and homemade applesauce, or as an appetizer with smoked salmon and creme fraiche (a personal favorite).

So what can a Michelin Star chef teach a nice Jewish girl about frying latkes? Well, a lot. And it turns out I had been making a couple of mistakes.

Bill shared that you want to keep the natural potato starch in the mix, but also need to remove excess liquid. After mixing all the latke ingredients, he allows the mix to sit around 5-10 minutes. Then he drains it, mixes the eggs with the leftover potato starch, and adds that back into the potatoes.

Don’t squeeze out too much liquid: I had been squeezing out the liquid from my latke each time I formed a patty, but Bill told me you don’t want to do that, because then the latkes will be dry. Instead, lightly form a patty using your hands or a tablespoon to keep the moisture in, creating a fluffier and creamier latke.

Onion is key for Bill, who uses a ratio of 1 small onion to every 1 ½ lbs of russet potatoes. When I tried out this ratio over the weekend, my dad immediately said “wow, great onion flavor” so I guess Bill is really on to something.

Another key element is adding enough salt, both in the mix of the latkes, and then a small sprinkle after they come out of the hot oil. While 2 tsp of salt for 1 ½ lbs of potatoes may seem like a lot, Bill pointed out that potatoes really absorb the salt and need a little extra to bring out the flavor.

TelepanDonuts2

In my time at the restaurant I also had the chance to spend time with Pastry Chef Larissa Raphael, who has been serving up some of New York City’s best desserts for years, who decided to try her hand at serving Hanukkah jelly donuts this year for the first time.

You have probably had a jelly donut around Hanukkah time. And they are fine, I mean what is bad about fried dough. But what I loved about Larissa’s Hanukkah donuts is the balance of rich chocolate ganache and raspberry jam filling paired with delightfully light, bite-sized donut “holes.” After all eating several small donuts is way more fun than trying to stuff one enormous powder-sugar covered donut into your mouth.

If making donuts from scratch seems like a daunting task, Larissa shared that you can actually allow the dough to rise overnight in the fridge, a helpful tip for the busy home baker.  No fancy oil for this frying: just plain old vegetable oil.

So now you can enjoy Michelin Star quality latkes and Hanukkah donuts all from the comfort of your own home.

Latkes and Hanukkah donuts will be available at Telepan from December 16th to 24th and are available both for take-out and in-house dining. Donuts will only be available for the dinner menu.

TelepanLatkes2

Chef Bill Telepan’s Potato Latkes, Yield: 6 latkes

Ingredients:

1 ½ lbs of Idaho (russet) potatoes

1 small onion

2 eggs

2 Tbsp flour

2 tsp salt

Directions:

Using the large hole on a box grater, grate potatoes and the onions into a mixing bowl.

Squeeze the grated potatoes and onion and save the water from the potatoes.  After the water from the potatoes has settled, pour off the water and save the  starch which settled to the bottom.

Beat the eggs and add them to the starch and combine well.  Add the flour and salt and combine all.

Pan fry in a sauté pan in a generous amount of vegetable oil until golden brown and crispy on the outside, and cooking through on the inside.

Larissa Raphael’s Chocolate and Raspberry Sufganiyot

Posted on December 15, 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

Loaded Baked Potato Latkes

Yield:
2 dozen latkes

Loaded Baked Potato Latkes3 w text

Loaded baked potatoes have always intrigued me. There are tons of vegetarian versions to enjoy, but there is something about the classic version that always captured my attention: steaming hot with melted cheddar cheese, a big dollop of sour cream, and of course, crispy bacon on top.

So I decided to take the plunge, and turn my affection-from-afar for the loaded baked potato into a latke version. The classic potato latke got a makeover with some grated cheddar cheese and scallions, and then I topped it all with tangy sour cream, more scallions and bacon bits. Ok everyone, don’t get your panties in a twist. Not real bacon: the fake kind they sell in the salad dressing aisle.

Loaded Baked Potato Latkes1

Of course, what could be bad about this combination of ingredients? Pretty much nothing.

An unexpected surprise of this recipe? The red and green from the scallions and bacon bits create a little Chrismukkah action. So for those of you who might be from interfaith families, or just like getting into the red and green holiday spirit, this recipe has your name all over it.

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Loaded Baked Potato Latkes

Posted on December 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

Peanut Butter & Jelly Donuts

single PB&J sufganiya4

Donuts were never really my thing. That is, until I was pregnant a few years ago and my husband brought me to New York City’s famous Doughnut Plant where I sampled several amazing flavors, including their peanut butter & jelly variety. I was in love, and it wasn’t just the pregnancy hormones.

Check out my elated face.

Shannon w doughnut

So this year when I was thinking about something fun and sweet to make for Hanukkah, I knew I wanted to try my hand at making an Israeli-style sufganiya, but with a classic American flavor pairing. After all, who doesn’t love peanut butter and jelly?! And most importantly, I love it, and I loved making these donuts. They were so delicious I might have eaten two. (I did).

If you have a peanut allergy in your family, you can swap out the peanut butter for almond butter, cashew butter or even sunflower butter. Instead of adding chopped peanuts to the top, add chopped salted almonds or cashews.

PB&J sufganiyot1

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Peanut Butter & Jelly Donuts

Posted on December 8, 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

Pulled Brisket-Topped Latkes

Yield:
4 dozen latkes

I would like to say that this is the first time I have combined brisket and latkes into one recipe, but I would be lying. I just love finding ways to use brisket, like the brisket latkes I created last year and one of my newer creations: brisket-stuffed cabbage.

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Like so many great recipes, this one was created by accident. At a Hanukkah party several years ago I served potato latkes, pulled brisket and some homemade challah rolls. Pretty soon my friends ditched the rolls and started topping their latkes with the brisket. And a new star was born.

If you are asking yourself, “can I use my family’s beloved brisket recipe for this?” The answer is absolutely. As long as the recipe calls for a significant amount of liquid so that it has a bit of sauce to it, whatever recipe you fancy will work great.

You don’t have to stop with brisket as a topping for your latkes. You can make a “top your own latke” party this Hanukkah season, serving up grilled pastrami, pulled brisket, caramelized onions or any other fun topping you like. Watch as your guests get creative with their latkes. You can also shake it up by adding some sweet potato latkes or parsnip latkes into the mix.

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Pulled Brisket-Topped Latkes

Posted on December 1, 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