I had not even heard of Tu Bishvat until college when I attended a seder celebrating the holiday. And while it may sound a bit crunchy to celebrate a holiday for the trees, nuts and fruit, it comes at a time in our lives as modern Jews when appreciating our natural resources and the environment is more important than ever.
You can host a full-on seder, or also just take a moment to appreciate and acknowledge our relationship to the land. You can even make a batch of fruit-filled sangria, though my daughter and I decided to try our hand this year at chewy granola bars packed with dried fruit and almonds in honor of Tu Bishvat. We chose to use a combination of dried cherries, blueberries and raisins, though you could use any combo of dried fruit that you like.
This recipe was inspired by this version from Alton Brown.
2 cups oats
½ cup raw sunflower seeds
¼ cup packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp butter
½ cup honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ cup ground flax seed
2 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup mixed dried fruit such as apricots, raisins, cranberries, cherries, blueberries
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8x8 square pan.
Spread the oats and sunflower seeds out on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, stirring 1-2 times.
Meanwhile heat butter, brown sugar, honey and vanilla in a small saucepan over medium heat until brown sugar has completely melted.
Once the oats and sunflower seeds are done toasting, remove from oven and reduce heat to 300 degrees. Place oats, sunflower seeds, flax seed, cinnamon, salt, almonds and dried fruit into a large bowl. Add melted butter-sugar mixture and combine until completely coated.
Pour mixture into the prepared pan and spread out evenly using an offset spatula. This step is important to ensuring even granola bars.
Bake for 25 minutes.
Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. Cut into bars and store in an airtight container.
Every year when I work on a new recipe in preparation for Superbowl Sunday, I write and reflect on the same fact: I have zero interest in football, but I just love Superbowl snacks. Potato skins. Nachos. Chicken wings. Brisket sliders. All the most delicious and unhealthy bites you can imagine.
I love breaking out my deep fryer for a batch of wings, but it can be time consuming and even a bit messy. Sometimes, you just don’t want a layer of oil all over your kitchen, ya know?
One of the reasons I love this recipe so much, aside from how delicious and fun it is, is that you can improvise to make it any way you like: make a super spicy coleslaw, or your family’s favorite recipe for coleslaw, add corned beef and pastrami, or swap out the regular fries for some sweet potato fries or even tater tots.
You can also make it easy on yourself and just buy a bag of frozen fries. Prepare them as directed and top with chopped corned beef, coleslaw and Russian dressing. No one will be the wiser, and maybe your kitchen will remain that much cleaner. You can also buy Russian dressing, or make your own. I like using this recipe, I just omit the onion.
5 large Idaho potatoes
1 Tbsp caraway seeds
Salt and pepper
1/2 lb chopped, sliced corned beef
1 bag prepared shredded cabbage or coleslaw mix
½ cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp white vinegar
1 Tbsp horseradish (optional)
½ tsp sugar
Salt and pepper
1 batch prepared Russian dressing
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut potatoes into wedges and toss with olive oil, caraway seeds, salt and pepper. Spread out evenly on two baking sheets.
Bake until crisp, around 40 minutes, or to your liking.
While potatoes are cooking, prepare the coleslaw. Whisk together mayo, white vinegar, sugar, horseradish (if desired), salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add cabbage and toss until completely coated.
Heat up corned beef in oven or microwave briefly.
Pile fries on a platter and add warm corned beef, about half the coleslaw and prepared Russian dressing. Serve while warm.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Cuban cuisine is inspired by many different regions, but in my family, there is a clear Spanish influence. This should come as no surprise, as my mother is second generation Cuban-born, by way of Spain. Her grandparents made the trek from the motherland to Cuba, and brought with them their distinguished culinary traditions. Over time, our family recipes have morphed, depending on the ingredients available, as well as personal preferences. No matter how authentically Cuban our dishes may be, I can almost always find a nod to our Spanish origins in each bite.
Recently, while recreating one of my most coveted treats from the acclaimed Cuban bakery Portos (Guava and Cheese Pastry), I developed a new love for all things frozen puff pastry dough. After taking a bite of my sweet creation, and realizing how easy it was to work with store-bought puff pastry, I couldn’t help but imagine how the dough would taste with a savory filling. My mind quickly went to work envisioning different pairings, and finally, I settled on a Spanish-inspired combination. For the first time in the history of my kitchen, I turned the tables, and made a Spanish dish inspired by the flavors of Cuba.
My savory Manchego and Quince Turnovers seem like second cousins to the guava and cheese pastries I made before. The nutty flavor of Manchego cheese melts together with the slightly sweet quince filling, and the chopped Marcona almonds on top create a pleasant crunchy texture in each bite. If you’re in the mood for something sweet, try the Cuban originals, but if you favor savory flavors, these turnovers will not disappoint.
1 box frozen puff pastry, thawed
4 oz Manchego cheese
8+ Tbsp quince paste
1 Tbsp water
1/8 cup Marcona almonds, chopped
freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Roll out puff pastry on floured surface, and cut into 8 even squares.
Fill each square with ½ oz of Manchego cheese and a heaping Tbs. of quince paste.
In a small bowl, whisk the egg and water to create an egg wash.
Brush the egg wash over the perimeter of the puff pastry squares, and fold one corner over, creating a triangle. Press edges to seal (*note: you can also crimp with the prongs of a fork).
Score tops of triangles to create a small opening for steam to escape during baking.
Brush tops generously with egg wash, and sprinkle with chopped almonds, coarse salt, and freshly ground black pepper.
Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown.
Remove from oven, and after 10 minutes, place pastries on a cooling rack.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
When my husband and I first got married and we started to host Shabbat dinner I was determined to make my own challah. My mom made homemade challah each week and I wanted to do the same for my husband, for our guests and, most importantly, for myself. It felt like a rite of passage in becoming an adult and wife.
I am going to tell you about my recipe, but I have a confession to make: I make challah every week but I let my beloved bread maker do the hard work for me. My bread maker kneads the dough while I am at work. I come home, braid the challah, add any of Shannon’s amazing fillings (my favorite is the balsamic apple and date), and pop it in the oven. My bread machine allows me to make homemade challah every week without stressing about the timing while I am at work.
This recipe came from my mom and I have updated it over the years. It’s delicious and easy, But you don’t have to tell anyone else the secret.
1 cup warm water
½ cup vegetable oil
2 eggs (2 for the dough and 1 for brushing before baking)
1 tsp honey
2 ½ cups bread flour
1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp flakey sea salt
¼ cup sugar
1 Tbsp yeast
Place all the ingredients into machine in order listed and set machine on "dough" setting.
Let sit in machine 60-90 minutes after the machine has completed its cycle.
Remove dough. Cover with a damp cloth. Let rise for another 30 minutes.
Braid dough into desired shape.
Beat remaining egg with 1 tsp water in a small bowl. Brush liberally over challah. Sprinkle with sesame seeds or the topping of your choice.
Bake at 350 degrees about 30 minutes. After the challah has baked for 15 minutes do a second brush with the reserved egg mix - this gives the challah a beautiful, shiny gloss.
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.
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.
one large French-style baguette
2 whole heads of garlic
salt and pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
fresh parsley (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place garlic on a baking sheet or in a oven-safe ramekin. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Roast in the oven for 35-40 ,minutes, until garlic is completely soft and golden but not crisp.
Allow garlic to cool. You can prepare this step a few hours or a day ahead of time.
Cut baguette in half. Squeeze cloves from bulb and smash with a fork. Add olive oil and continue smashing.
Spread half the garlic mixture on one side of the bread, and the other half of mixture on the other side. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and place on a baking sheet.
Bake for 10-15 minutes, until just crisp and golden. Remove from oven and top with fresh parsley if desired.
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).
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.
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.
Photo credit: Liz Reuven
By the time January rolls around it’s time to face the music: we’ve indulged in latkes and sufganiyot (It’s only once a year!), avoided insulting co-workers by eating mounds of their homemade cookies, (they stayed up all night baking), and rang in the New Year with a heaping stack of (you fill in the blank) nutty chocolate rugelach made with that cream cheese dough.
It’s time to lighten up, people.
But in the short days of January, when Shabbat approaches in what feels like mid-afternoon, the last thing we want to do is plan a menu of self-denial. I want to be sure there’s plenty of color and big flavors on the plate even if I’m making an effort to cut some calories and load in extra veggies.
We start with this honey whole wheat challah from The Nosher’s Editor Shannon Sarna. It tasted like a sweet indulgent challah, but with the addition of whole wheat flour and even ground flax seed.
This rich, but low cal vegan broth showcases bright orange Pumpkin Matzah Balls. This is great recipe to have up your sleeve for dairy meals or for when you have vegetarian guests at the table.
I chose to serve salmon, the kid- friendly fish. Searching my winter markets I turn to citrus for bright flavor and balance with my favorite local maple syrup. The moist salmon fillets are a perfect foil for a glossy Asian glaze. This dish is fine served at room temperature and will make tasty leftovers.
To go along with the salmon, I love these Chinese sesame noodles. This recipe is great with soba noodles, thin spaghetti, rice vermicelli or those super low calorie, gluten-free tofu Shirataki. With a load of crisp veggies tossed in a tangle of irresistible noodles this dish provides a perfect alternative for kids who may snub fish. The noodles benefit from hanging out in your refrigerator for a day or two before serving, so prepare this one in advance.
While beautiful winter salad greens are hard to come by in the northeast, Bibb or Butter lettuce is usually available and perfect for this avocado salad with carrot ginger dressing. Here’s that carrot/ginger dressing that your kids can’t get enough of.
For dessert, I’ve started experimenting with baked apples lately and with good reason. The carved out cavity provides lots of opportunities for fun filings and it’s a guilt free dessert that satisfies. Take advantage of the fact that you’re serving fish and use butter (not margarine) in this easy, granola based filling. Have gluten-free guests at your table? Consider this version of spiced baked apples instead.
And while we’re lightening it up for this dairy Shabbat dinner, you can chose your favorite frozen yogurt to serve on top of these apples. Be sure to serve them warm, if possible.
Turning to dried fruit is another great way to insert color on the dessert plate without adding fat. These spiced apricots dipped in dark chocolate have three ingredients-two if you omit the spicy chili powder. We’re talking easy, super low fat, and kid-friendly.
Yes, it’s a lightened up Shabbat but nobody expects you to finish without a little piece of some baked deliciousness. If we’re already enjoying a bit of dairy in this dinner I’m ready to bake these spiced chocolate oat cookies. They’re thick, deeply chocolaty and brownie-like. That’ll do the trick.
4 salmon fillets
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1 Tbsp sesame seeds
2 navel oranges (for zest and juice listed below)
3 Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic- peeled and chopped
1 two inch piece fresh ginger- peeled and minced
1/3 cup maple syrup (grade B is best for cooking and baking)
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
3 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp orange zest
Rinse and pat dry salmon fillets.
Place on large plate and salt and pepper each piece. Set aside.
Heat a large, cast iron or non-stick frying pan. Do not oil. When the pan is hot add sesame seeds. Stir often and watch carefully to avoid burning. Toast until golden. Set aside in small dish.
Juice orange to fill 1/3 cup and set aside.
Grate or zest orange peel being careful to do so with a light hand. Do not zest white pith (it’s bitter). Measure 1 Tb. and set aside.
Wipe out frying pan and place on medium flame. Heat EVOO until glistening and place salmon filets, skin side down in pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes until golden.
Turn gently and brown the second side. Do not move fish while it is cooking. If skin sticks or falls off, it’s ok. It may be discarded if you like.
Remove fish from pan and set aside.
Place remaining ingredients (except sesame seeds) in pan and stir to combine. Cook 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently, until sauce is reduced and thickened.
If using a cast iron pan, return salmon to the pan and spoon sauce on top of fillets. If using a non-stick pan, place fillets in an ovenproof dish (spray with cooking spray to prevent sticking) and spoon sauce over fish.
Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 6-8 minutes or until fish is cooked to your liking. If you like the salmon, cooked through, it should flake with a fork.
Plate salmon with glaze from the bottom of pan and a sprinkle of sesame seeds.
Note: This dish may be served hot, warm or at room temperature. It makes great leftovers.
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?
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
36 pitted medjool dates (the plumper the better)
4 ounces mascarpone, left at room temperature
1/2 cup full fat Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp honey
pinch of salt
Mix mascarpone, Greek yogurt, honey and pinch of salt in a small bowl. Scoop out mixture and place in a piping or ziploc bag.
Squeeze small amount into each date. Repeat with remaining filling and dates.
Place on a baking sheet lined with a silpat or tin foil. Place in fridge until ready to serve.
Preheat oven to 375. While oven is warming up, place dates in freezer for 5-10 minutes.
Bake dates for around 4-6 minutes, until just warm but before filling begins to ooze.
Sprinkle with flaky sea salt such as maldon salt. Serve warm or room temperature.