Pumpkin Soup with Sage and Challah Croutons

We made it through the first set of the holidays. Congrats to all of us. Of course we look forward to and enjoy the holidays with out families, but they are also exhausting.

And what’s next? Another holiday of course. It’s time for Sukkot.

pumpkin soup with sage and challah croutons1

By the time it’s Sukkot I am ready for lighter meals, which is why a delicious soup with a salad, cheese and crackers is my ideal menu. It’s satisfying, but a little lightened up after the past few weeks of meal-laden celebrating.

Sukkot also coincides with the fall, and my obsession for all things pumpkin. Cakes and pies, grilled and roasted: you name it I have done it or will be doing it. This soup is amazing because when you are roasting the pumpkin and red pepper with the sage you entire house will smell like the warming flavors of fall.

pumpkin soup with sage and challah croutons3

Note: I prefer to roast the red peppers the day before making the soup. The skin comes off more easily with plenty of time for cooling.

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Pumpkin Red Pepper Soup with Sage and Challah Croutons

Posted on October 6, 2014

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Break-the-fast Menu Ideas

Whereas Rosh Hashanah is my favorite Jewish holiday of the year, Yom Kippur is one of my least favorite, only second to Passover when my beloved carbs are rudely snatched away from me for an entire week. Ah, the things we do for our heritage.

Not eating for 25 hours is hard. It sucks. And I am not good at it, despite the meaningful role I believe it occupies in observing such an important, reflective holiday.

But the one thing that makes it better? Breaking the fast of course. So get creative with your break-the-fast menu and try some new dishes this year. Here are some menu suggestions to make that fast a little easier.

break-fast-recipes

Dips and Salads

Homemade Labne

Black Bean Hummus

Israeli Salad

Mollie Katzen’s Grilled Bread and Kale Salad with Walnuts and Figs

Bagel and Lox Salad

Tri-Color Melon Salad with Mint Syrup

Pomegranate Apple Salad with Parmesan Dressing from Dairy Made Easy

Pomegrante&AppleSalad-1

Kugels

Cheese Noodle Kugel

Apple Pear Cranberry Kugel

Cinnamon Noodle Kugel

Apple Noodle Kugel Crumble Cake

apple-noodle-kugel-cake-4

Savory Bites

Homemade gravlax from Vered Meir

Borekas

Spinach and Goat Cheese Quiche with Herb Butter Crust

Smoked Salmon and Goat Cheese Quich from Amy Kritzer

breakfast-quiche-1

Gluten-free 

Gluten-free Apple Kugel from Rella Kaplowitz

Gluten-free Blintzes from Vered Meir

Strawberry Almond Flour Mini Muffins from Whitney Fish

Gluten-free Challah from Vered Meir

A pinch of challah

Sweet Treats

Pumpkin Spice Babka

Sour Cream Apple Coffee Cake from Sheri Silver

Pumpkin Bread from Paula Shoyer

Pineapple Coconut Coffee Cake from Jennifer Stempel

Pineapple-Coconut-Coffee-Ca

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Posted on September 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

Pumpkin Spice Babka

Yield:
3 babka loaves

pumpkin babka

Everyone loves pumpkin these days, eh? Every cafe carries their own version of a pumpkin latte and pumpkin-themed candies overflow on supermarket shelves this time of year. ‘Tis truly the season of pumpkin, and I am not really complaining.

I love finding news ways to cook and bake with pumpkin including white pumpkin cheddar ale soup, pumpkin pizza and pumpkin corn ricotta enchiladas, which is a perfect dish this time of year when pumpkin is first coming into season and fresh corn is still in abundance at local farmers markets. Some other fun pumpkin recipes to try? Pumpkin Flan, pumpkin challah and of course some classic pumpkin bread.

pumpkin babka

As with many recipes I dream up, I was merely staring in my fridge when a leftover can of pumpkin puree sparked the idea: pumpkin babka!

Well, I whipped up a batch of babka dough, impatiently let it rise, and filled it with pumpkin puree, brown sugar and cinnamon. After 35 minutes of baking, my apartment smelled like a perfect piece of autumn heaven, and a new pumpkin recipe was born.

This babka is perfect to serve at your Yom Kippur break-fast, brunch gatherings or just with a cup of coffee for breakfast. Because you can use canned pumpkin, you can make this recipe year-round, so you can enjoy a little slice of pumpkin spice even when pumpkins aren’t in season.

How to roll babka

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Pumpkin Spice Babka

Posted on September 29, 2014

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Smoked Salmon and Goat Cheese Quiche

Yield:
8 servings

Though most Jews name Hanukkah, Purim or Passover as their favorite of the many (many) holidays, I have always been a little partial to Yom Kippur. For real.

breakfast-quiche-1Daily life can be so hectic, between keeping up with Netflix and waiting in line for your daily Pumpkin Spice Latte, so having a day dedicated to reflection and atonement (in between naps and binge watching The Food Network) is a meaningful change of pace. And of course, at the end of the day of fasting, there’s the food.

breakfast-quiche-3

Our break fast spread was as traditional as they come. Kugels, coffee cake, an assortment of rarely-touched pre-made Italian cookies from the local Jewish supermarket, and the pièce de résistance, the bagel spread. When pangs of hunger set in during the final hours, this is what I focused on. Dozens of bagels, lox, red onions, tomatoes, capers, and an assortment of cream cheeses from chive to strawberry. While others were vying for an end piece of coffee cake, I went straight for the good stuff. Half of an everything bagel, never scooped, schmeared with plain cream cheese, lots of lox, red onions and capers. Always a delicious meal, but especially after a day of fasting.

breakfast-quiche-5

This year, I decided to take all my favorite bagel toppers and put them in a quiche. I love quiche, but hadn’t made one since culinary school. The salty capers and smoked salmon paired with creamy tart goat cheese and sweet red onions is pretty magical. I highly recommend the homemade crust; the flakiness is worth the extra effort. The best part is (okay, besides the eating part) that you can easily make this ahead of time and serve at your break fast.

breakfast-quiche-2

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Smoked Salmon and Goat Cheese Quiche

Posted on September 28, 2014

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New Year Food Resolutions

I think everyone has their favorite holiday—you know, the holiday that gets you giddy and excited. And my favorite Jewish holiday is upon us: Rosh Hashanah.

My family didn’t always celebrate all the Jewish holidays growing up, but we always gathered at my grandmother’s house for Rosh Hashanah. The smell of chicken soup and the site of a beautifully set table always fills me with warmth.

New Year Food Resolutions

Aside from the family memories, I enjoy Rosh Hashanah because I love the idea of starting new: taking a breath, resetting and focusing for the coming year. I wouldn’t go so far to say I make resolutions each year, but I do try to set goals that are realistic and will better myself.

As my daughter gets older (she is now a little over 2 years old) it’s not so easy to pull a fast one on her. I need to curtail my cussing, for fear of scornful looks from her preschool teacher; I need to be diligent about things like bedtime and routine; and I have come to realize that when it comes to cooking and eating, I need to practice what I preach. She wants to do everything that mommy does, and that includes what mommy is eating.

How can I eat junk food or less-than-healthful foods around her, if I don’t want her to mimic that behavior? Well, I can’t. And I shouldn’t, not for her or myself either. As a result of this realization, one of my goals for the coming year is to make sure that I am modeling good eating behavior for my daughter. If I wouldn’t let her eat it, well then I shouldn’t eat it either.

picking fruits and veggies

One of the things I have been doing  quite regularly is bringing her to pick-your-own farms in New Jersey so we can pick fresh fruit and vegetables together. We both love this activity, and I have seen how it has impacted both of us: I spend more time cooking vegetables, and she absolutely loves eating fresh fruit right from the source. She has even been known to take a bite out of a whole pepper or eggplant.

The other thing we have done together is: cook. I have a step stool in my kitchen, which she has firmly claimed as her own, and she stands with me and serves as my “helper.” Sometimes it’s frustrating, most of the time it’s messy, but I can see how much she enjoys actively taking part in this process. And how can I not schep nachas that she wants to be just like me?

So the hardest part? Resisting the urge to order greasy take-out after a long day, and instead, make a colorful salad or roast some vegetables.  Here’s to a better, sweeter and healthier year for us all.

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Posted on September 23, 2014

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Jew Year’s Eve Apples & Honey Punch

Holiday gatherings are always hectic, but Rosh Hashanah seems especially so.  It’s easy to get stressed out with preparations, the start of the school year and the marathon of holidays that continue popping up for the rest of the month.

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To prevent what my mother calls “the crazies,” she serves this festive cocktail as family and friends arrive for our holiday meal. Nontraditional? Yes. Effective? YES.  This Jew Year’s Eve Punch is one of her favorite tricks to ensure a smooth and joyful beginning to the New Year.

Perfect for the High Holiday celebrations from Rosh Hashanah through Sukkot this delicious punch incorporates the sweet flavors of apple and honey into an easy-to-make and easy-to-love drink. You can make this with or without alcohol (we often mix two versions to make sure our guests have a non-alcoholic option) and it is always a hit. Serve your Jew Year’s Eve Punch in a large punch bowl or in individual glasses, garnished with a thinly sliced apple round and honey “swizzle stick” like these.

rh-punch-3

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Jew Year's Eve Apples & Honey Punch

Posted on September 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

Honey Whole Wheat Challah

Yield:
2 small loaves, or one large loaf

honey whole wheat challah

Dreaming up crazy flavors of challah like pastrami sandwich challah, balsamic apple date challah or gruyere and pesto stuffed challah is one of my greatest joys as a baker. But sometimes I do long for a simpler challah, and have even been known to make whole wheat challah. Yes, it’s true. I hope you were sitting for that.

challah-yum
I use a half whole wheat, half all-purpose unbleached flour ratio when making my whole wheat challah. Yes, you could try to use all whole wheat flour, but challah is supposed to be light and fluffy, and whole wheat flour is simply more dense. Because the whole wheat flour is denser, I make sure to be particularly patient when letting it rise: for the first rise I allow 4 hours, and for the second rise another 1 1/2 hours. It may seem like a lot, but the result is worth it. My mother-in-law even commented about this challah, “this is sinful.” Whole wheat challah? Sinful? Well, I will take it. And especially from my mother-in-law!

challah-yum2

I also like to add ground flax seed in the challah for a little extra dose of healthiness which is impossible to detect. And inspired by the beautiful, Israeli challot of Breads Bakery, I love to add pumpkin seeds, whole flax seeds, oats, sesame seeds, black sesame seeds and even sunflower seeds on top for a fun and healthy crunch.

multi

This honey whole wheat challah is perfect for Rosh Hashanah. And instead of a savory topping like the ones I just mentioned, you could add a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar on top for an extra sweet, and healthy, new year ahead.

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Honey Whole Wheat Challah

Posted on September 18, 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

Cocktail Meatballs with Pignolis and Currants

Yield:
80 small meatballs

Albondigas, or meatballs, are a mainstay of Sephardic cuisine. They come in sizes ranging from golf balls to cherries and may be rolled into round or flattened shapes. Chopped onions, garlic, roasted eggplant, fresh spinach, chopped leek and grated carrots have been mixed into meatballs for centuries. These ingredients served to season meat (or poultry) which was then fried or simmered in sauce. Moistened bread bound it all together and served as another way to make these delicious treats an economical choice.

Cocktail meatballs with pine nuts and currants

When I learned that the southern Italians sometimes included currants and pignoli nuts in their meatballs, I was intrigued. Perhaps it’s my Galiciana roots but I liked the prospect of adding a little sweetness (and unexpected texture) to the meat mix. It seemed like a good jumping point for considering how to use honey in my meatballs for Rosh Hashanah.

My intention was to get this mix subtly sweet, with a nod to the symbolism of serving sweet foods to ensure a sweet New Year. I paired citrus with the fruity nectar to balance the sweetness and sparked the flavors with cracked pepper, cumin and turmeric. Tiny, moist currants and rich pignoli provide an unfamiliar twist. For guests who think that meatballs belong in tomato sauce, they will be surprised and delighted by the yin/yang of this mildly sweet and lemony simmer broth.

Because these meatballs are quite small they are a bit of work. Set aside a couple of hours in order to get the task done. It will be time well spent. And you can check another dish off your ‘to do” list by making them in advance and freezing them.

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Cocktail Meatballs with Pignolis and Currants

Posted on September 17, 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

A New Sesame on the Block

Yield:
6-8 servings

Sesame seems to be enjoying a moment in the spotlight recently and I couldn’t be happier. Halva was always a staple in my house growing up, and now as an adult I am always looking for ways to include it in baked goods (like my halva swirl brownies) and other dishes. Earlier this year I was introduced to a sesame-based spread that my daughter and I both really enjoyed. In fact the jar has long been licked clean.

The newest halva spread business on the block is Brooklyn Sesame, started by native Israeli and expert “raw halva” maker Shahar Shamir who has been making and serving his all natural spreads for years for friends and family. Shahar actually never intended to start the small food business. Rather, he wanted to open a café, but when met with several challenges, his friends suggested he started selling his halva spread instead. And so Brooklyn Sesame was born.

brooklyn sesame

In Israel it is common to eat halva or tahini with breakfast, as a snack or for dessert. And while the fat content of tahini has been a turnoff for some Americans, that perception is starting to change as it is more widely acknowledged that good fats from items like nuts and sesame can produce long-term health benefits and even help with weight-loss.

Shahar himself admitted that he gained 7 pounds this last holiday season when he took a break from making his halva spread. There weren’t any open jars lying around, and so he was eating less of the super food.  “When I eat my halva, I am not eating other junk and I believe sesame and honey are great for digestion,” Shahar shared.

 

Brooklyn Sesame’s spreads come in six different varieties including pistachio, cocoa, black caraway seeds and toasted coconut. The high-quality spreads with a “Brooklyn sensibility” have even caught the attention of The New York Times, Food and Wine and Real Simple among many others.

Brooklyn Sesame logo

Have a halva craving? The halva spreads are available in more than 25 stores in the New York area, one store in Massachusetts or you can order from their website.

You can also try whipping up one of Shahar’s signature recipes this holiday season and use some rich, sweet halva spread to usher in the New Year.

The following recipes are courtesy of Jörg Thoene, Leah Koenig and Shahar Shamir.

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baklava-tarts

Apple and Coconut Halva Baklava Tarts

INGREDIENTS

1 small Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and finely chopped

zest of 1 lemon

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1/3 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 cup finely chopped pistachios

1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp cardamom

6 sheets thawed filo dough

6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted (or substitute vegetable or coconut oil)

1/4 cup Brooklyn Sesame Halva Spread with Toasted Coconut, divided

Honey, for drizzling

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and set aside a 12-cup muffin tin.

In a bowl, stir together the apple, lemon zest, lemon juice, and brown sugar; let stand for 10 minutes until it gets juicy. Stir in the pistachios, walnuts, cinnamon, and cardamom.

Place 1 sheet of filo dough on a cutting board (cover the remaining sheets with a damp towel so they do not dry out), and gently brush all over with the melted butter. Place a second sheet on top of the first and continue in this fashion, alternating brushing with butter and stacking filo sheets until there are 6 layers. Use a sharp knife to cut the filo sheet into 12 squares. Arrange 1 square into each well of the muffin tin, pressing it into the bottom and sides.

Spoon 1 teaspoon of Halva Spread into the bottom of each cup, then fill two-thirds of the way with the apple-nut mixture. Brush edges of each pastry with a little more melted butter; bake until the pastry is golden, 15-20 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes in the tin, then carefully remove tarts to a wire rack. Just before serving, drizzle each tart with a little honey.

lamb-stew

 

Lamb Stew with Dates and Black Caraway Halva Spread

Posted on September 15, 2014

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Apple Kugel Crumble Cake

Yield:
8-10 servings

 

apple noodle crumble kugel cake

I love noodle kugel, especially my husband’s salt and pepper noodle kugel, which is always a hit at any Shabbat or holiday meal we serve it. But I really wanted to create a sweetened version of noodle kugel for Rosh Hashanah this year using some fresh, local apples.

I tried this recipe several ways until I found the right balance of apples, sugar, eggs and crumb topping. The result is a kugel that is sweet, but not too sweet, moist but still has a rich, crunchy crumb topping.

It brings together the goodness of a fall apple crumble, with the tradition of a noodle kugel. Oh yeah, and I decided it should get baked in a springform pan so that it looks like a “cake” which is just so much fun. Don’t worry – you can still serve it as a side dish.

apple-noodle-kugel-cake-2

If you decide to bake yours in a springform pan, make sure the bottom is locked in place tightly before pouring the unbaked kugel mixture into the pan. If it isn’t, you could end up with a liquidy mess all over your kitchen. I mean, I am not saying that happened to me (it did), but just making a recommendation.

apple-noodle-kugel-cake-4

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Apple Kugel Crumble Cake

Posted on September 11, 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