I don’t know about you but I am just thrilled that September is over and we have moved past the chagim and into a new month. Beyond the happiness I feel for the chaos of the holidays being behind us, like many others I am so happy that it is officially fall and that everywhere I look there are pumpkins! While the temperatures where I live in Boston have remained in the 70’s it is still fall and therefore time for soup.
A few years ago, my husband and I went to New Orleans to visit friends. The wife, who is a fantastic cook, is always trying new recipes and she made us a delicious pumpkin soup. It was a fall version of minestrone soup with totally different flavors than I had tasted before. I happily received the recipe from her, and have been experimenting with her version ever since. Anything with pumpkin is a must try and anything that is easily brought as lunch the next day is also a winner, and I promise, this make a great lunch!
For this recipe, I toast the pumpkin seeds with salt and cayenne pepper to top the soup. It adds extra crunch and flavor.
1 19 oz can of chickpeas
4 carrots, cut into 2-3 large chunks
4 medium potatoes, quartered
2 large onion, quartered
salt and pepper
2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp (less or more to taste) cayenne pepper
7 oz pumpkin, cut into 6-8 large chunks (peeled and seeds discarded)
4 zucchini, cut into 3-4 large chunks
half a green cabbage, quartered
4-5 stalks celery cut coarsely
7 cups of water
I cup prepared Israeli (pearl) couscous
1 bay leaf
Bring salted water to a boil.
Add the carrots, potatoes and onion, season with salt, pepper, paprika, turmeric, cayenne pepper, and bay leaf. Cook 45 minutes until the vegetables are tender.
Add the remaining vegetables and cook for 10 minutes.
Add chickpeas and cook for another 5 minutes.
Add salt and pepper to taste if necessary and remove the bay leaf.
Prepare the couscous according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Place a heap of couscous in a deep dish. Arrange the vegetables on top and ladle the soup around and over the couscous.
This month two big names in the kosher world came out with new cookbooks: The Prime Grill Cookbook by David Kolotkin and Joey Allaham and Joy of Kosher: Fast, Fresh Family Recipes by internet-famed Jamie Geller.
Both are beautiful and packed full of recipe choices but that’s where the similarities end. The Prime Grill Cookbook positions itself as “redefining the kosher experience,” in line with what the upscale midtown Manhattan restaurant has sought to do. While Joy of Kosher features family focused recipes that are easily “dressed up, or dressed down.” It’s sort of a Jewish mom meets Rachael Ray meets “Semi Homemade” guide to weekly family meals.
As a food writer, home cook and all around culinary-obsessed person, the family recipe route has never been what gets me really excited but I can see how the Joy of Kosher enterprise has amassed such a loyal following with their relatable recipes and striking photography.
Geller’s second cookbook is beautiful with fun ideas, but her narrative not only doesn’t speak to me, but kind of turns me off. She writes in the book that she wrote this cookbook at 3:00 am on her phone; all moms and busy working ladies can relate to multi-tasking and getting stuff done at weird times. But at 3:00 am, you better believe I am sleeping, or watching some awful re-run of Real Housewives of New Jersey. She also writes “Yes, I taste test every recipe. That’s why I look this way.” The woman has had 5 kids for goodness sake – she looks great! Jamie, why put yourself down like that girl!? Own your fabulousness!
Aside from Geller’s stories sprinkled throughout the book, there are simple, beautiful-looking recipes and other special features, like a guide to ingredients one will need to make the dishes. I really enjoyed the eye-catching “Fruit, Flower and Mint Ice Cubes” – such a pretty and fun idea for a special meal or cocktails. Other highlights: Hummus Trifle, Wilted Spinach with Crispy Chips, Balsamic London Broil and Caramel Fruit Bites.
If you are looking for family-friendly recipes that are accessible for the everyday cook, true to advertising, this is definitely the cookbook for you.
Joy of Kosher: Fast, Fresh Family Recipes, October 2013, William Morrow Cookbooks
I have been following Chef David Kolotkin’s career for some time and have eaten at several of the Prime Group’s restaurants in NYC, so I was eager to have a look at The Prime Grill Cookbook when it came out last month.
It is large, straightforward, not overly-fancy with staged photos of barns and props and sunsets that I just don’t care about. I am in this for the food, and I cannot decide which of the delectable-looking recipes from the cookbook I want to make first: Truffled Deviled Eggs, Potato Gnocchi with Duck Bolognaise and Sage, Falafel Crusted Salmon or the Sweet New Jersey Corn Flan with Sautéed Mushrooms.
I wasn’t impressed with the dessert recipes offered, but I did think that the basic stock recipes, salad dressings and infused olive oils were a great tool for the cook (like me) who likes to whip up everything from scratch when possible. It’s no surprise that the real recipe stand-outs of the cookbook are the meat recipes, which seem accessible enough that they aren’t scary to prepare, but unique enough to provide culinary inspiration.
Adventurous meat-loving home chefs rejoice – The Prime Grill Cookbook is here for you.
The Prime Grill Cookbook, September 2013, Pelican Publishing
The chagim are over, it’s back to school, back to work and officially Autumn. It’s also the perfect time to enjoy some classic cookies now that holiday cooking and baking can be put aside.
A good cookie recipe is hard to come by, but when I found this recipe for Oatmeal cookies I truly fell in love. You can keep them plain, add classic raisins, or like in my version below, add a twist with some chocolate chips and dried cherries! I have also used golden raisins and dried cranberries, but you can really do a little cookie improv based on your own tastes.
Another great part of this recipe – they can be made pareve or dairy! I almost always prefer to bake with butter, but I have made this recipe countless times with pareve margarine and the cookies come out great!
Pro tip: to bring out the sweetness of cookies don’t forget the salt! Combine 1/2 Tbsp thick sea salt with 1/2 Tbsp sanding sugar and sprinkle just a pinch on each cookie. The sanding sugar with make the cookies look beautiful and the salt will really add a depth of flavor and bring out the cookie’s sweetness.
1 3/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup flour
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter or margarine, softened
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 Tbsp thick sea salt (optional)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Combine oats, flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Beat butter or margarine with sugars with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla.
Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients until just combine. Fold in the chocolate chips and cherries (or other add-ins). Don't overmix. In a small bowl combine sanding sugar and sea salt.
Using a cookie scoop, drop cookies on a baking sheet 2 inches apart. Lightly flatten cookies with moistened fingers. Sprinkle a pinch of sea salt and sugar on top of each cookie.
Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden. Let cool for 2-3 minutes on baking sheet and then transfer to cooling racks.
After a few months of gluten-free, lean-protein, low-carb, whole-grain, raw-food living, the taste buds may begin to cry out indignantly: “Why does everything taste the same? Why do we have to be so healthy? Why can’t we have pizza? If we have to eat another leafy green salad dressed in olive oil and vinegar we’re going revolt!
Brown rice and beans is just so darn easy to prepare, and so is oatmeal And shaking up a weekly jar of olive oil vinaigrette is no big deal The wholesome dishes have been a habit for me, but has removed the guesswork, creatiity and flavor after so long. It is health-conscious eating, but mindful masticating?
Something had to give. At a recent Sunday Brunch party inspired by memories of thinly sliced smoked salmon and lox, baskets of bagel and tubs of cream cheeses, I was inspired to create this Bagels ‘N Lox Salad.
It began as many meals had with a layer of the leafy green-of-choice. But then it really started to get good with a few boiled new potatoes tossed in for a tender bite and some toothsome heft. Salty-oily slivers of smoked salmon or lox draped loosely on the leafy bed. Thin ribbons of sweet-tangy pickled red onions layered on more color and exciting flavor. A scattering of capers for even more salty taste. And then a few well-toasted pumpernickel squares added in for a pleasing crunch. It all ended tastily with a piquant drizzle of horseradish-dill crème fraiche dressing (the dedicated health-nuts can easily substitute Greek yogurt).
It might not be as high on the health-o-meter as steel-cut oatmeal or brown rice and beans, but it’s still in keeping with the balanced eating regime. Sometimes we just need some Jewish love in the form of a flavor.
For the pickled red onions:
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
½ cup red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp sugar
For the Crème Fraiche Dressing:
3 Tbsp crème fraiche or Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
1 Tbsp prepared white horseradish
Salt & pepper, to taste
Pinch of sugar, optional
1 pound small new potatoes
2 slices pumpernickel or rye bread
12 ounces torn romaine or mixed greens
6 ounces sliced lox or smoked salmon, cut into bite-sized squares
2-3 Tbsp capers, drained
To make the pickled red onions: Pour red wine vinegar in a small bowl, mix in sugar until it dissolves add the sliced onion, ensuring it is mostly submerged in vinegar. Let sit for at least 30 minutes.
Boil or steam potatoes until just tender; drain let cool for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile make the dressing: In a small bowl mix together crème fraiche (or yogurt), fresh dill, horseradish. Adjust seasonings to taste.
To make the croutons, pre-heat oven to 375F. Cut slices of bread into bite-sized squares and spread evenly on a baking sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Remove and allow to cool
On a large platter evenly spread out lettuce. Space out the boiled potatoes strategically on the lettuce. Drape squares of smoked salmon over potatoes.
Distribute the pickled red onions in equal amounts over the platter. Sprinkle drained capers artfully over salad.
Drizzle salad with horseradish-dill crème fraiche dressing- ensuring that every section gets an adequate amount.
Scatter the cooled croutons evenly over salad platter.
Other suggested add-ins: sliced avocado, radishes, beets, hard-boiled eggs. Store-bought bagel chips are a fine substitution for the pumpernickel croutons.
If you don’t love the fall, well, you may want to examine your sanity. I can think of few things that are better than a crisp fall day with sun shining, leaves turning and the faint scent of spiced cider in the air. I love fall jackets, apple picking and just about ANYTHING made with pumpkins.
Each year I add a new set of dishes to my fall flavors repertoire, which very often combines pumpkin, sweet potato or squash and some kind of cheese. In years past I have created Pumpkin Lasagna, Mac ‘n Sweet Potato Cheesy Sauce and even Pumpkin Pizza with Goat Cheese and Fried Shallots. The Nosher even has a recipe for Pumpkin Challah!
The first pumpkin dish of my Autumn might seem like a weird combination, but I assure you it is savory, satisfying and delicious – Pumpkin Corn Ricotta Enchiladas! This recipe was inspired by a recipe from one of my favorite blogs called “Naturally Ella” which features seasonal, vegetarian food that always looks beautiful and delicious. Erin’s Roasted Corn Ricotta Enchiladas with Chipotle Tomato Sauce easily morphed into my version using pumpkin puree and a short-cut using canned tomato sauce.
This is a great dish to make on a Sunday to eat for dinner during the week, or even for a dairy lunch during Sukkot. After all – enchiladas are “stuffed’ making this (almost) traditional for the festival holiday.
2 ears fresh corn
1 Tbsp olive oil
¼ tsp salt
Pinch fresh pepper
1 cup ricotta
½ cup pumpkin puree (fresh preferably, but canned is fine)
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp fresh lime zest
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro plus extra for garnish
2 ½ cups canned tomato puree
2-3 canned chipotle chilies in adobo, minced
4-6 whole wheat tortillas
½ cup grated cheddar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove corn from the cob and place in a small bowl. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread corn out onto a baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes, or until kernels are soft and starting to turn golden brown. Allow to cool slightly.
Meanwhile, combine ricotta, pumpkin puree, lime juice and zest, salt, pepper, and cilantro. Add cooled corn to ricotta mixture.
In a small sauce pan mix together tomato puree and chipotle chilies in adobo and heat until warmed through. Depending on how much spice you like, you can add more or less of the chilies.
Spread the bottom of an 8x5 pyrex dish or baking pan with ½ cup of the tomato sauce. Spoon around ½ cup pumpkin ricotta mixture in the middle of each tortilla. Roll up gently (but tightly) and place fold side down in pan. Cover with remaining tomato sauce. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until cheese is completely melted and bubbling.
Garnish with fresh cilantro. Serve with slices of avocado, black beans and Greek yogurt (or sour cream).
Did you know that it is traditional to eat stuffed foods on Sukkot?
Originally, I thought it was just because they tasted good. Not quite content, I did a little bit of research and came up with a few answers.
Some say that we eat stuffed cabbage on Simchat Torah because if you put two of these bundles together they look the two tablets of the Ten Commandments.
This answer didn’t thrill me because two store-bought dinner rolls have the same effect, except they don’t require, blood, sweat, and tears to serve them.
A bit more digging and I uncovered another answer: we eat stuffed foods because they symbolize an overwhelming bounty. Fall is when farmers harvest wheat in Israel. A simple vegetable overflowing with delicious filling reminds us of our desire for a year of overflowing harvest.
In biblical times, farmers would put collecting their crops on hold to sit in a sukkah with their family and celebrate Sukkot. Sitting out on the field studying Torah with their children, these farmers were surrounded by two great desires; one, that this year’s harvest would be plentiful and two that like those vegetables, their year would be bursting with moments like that one, doing what they loved most, studying Torah with who they loved most.
In the year 2013, when most of us do not run out to cut wheat, and the closest thing we’ve done to harvesting is scope out sales at the mall, I think it’s time to give this ancient tradition a modern twist – and what better than with dessert!
This is a healthy autumn dessert that helps you stick to your new year resolutions. Or you can serve it with a side of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. My favorite part about this recipe is that if I somehow end up with leftovers, I can have dessert for breakfast without even the slightest bit of guilt!
5 large apples (whichever variety you prefer)
1/2 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup of crushed walnuts
1/2 cup of almond milk
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup of instant oatmeal
1/4 cup of craisins
1 1/2 Tbsp unsalted margarine cut into five small cubes
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and boil 1 1/2 cups of water.
Place a small pan over a medium heat and toast your spices and nuts. Toast until they become fragrant, around 3-5 minutes. Make sure to keep an eye on them to prevent burning.
This shouldn’t take more than five minutes. Keep an eye on them while you continue with the recipe to prevent them from burning.
While you wait for you ingredients to toast, cut off the top of your apple.
You should cut off about 1/4 inch off the top, enough that it isn’t a wobbly thin slice of apple but a sturdy "hat" you can easily place back on top of your apple later.
Remove the center of your apples creating a hollow circle in the middle of your apple with an inch or so diameter. You can use an apple corer to help you remove the center of your apple. If you don't have an apple corer you can also using a paring knife or any small sharp knife.
Remember the hollowed core of you apple doesn’t have to be a perfect circle as long as you remove all the pits your apple is perfect.
Once your spices and nuts are fragrant, add the almond milk and honey and continue to heat.
Once your almond milk mixture is hot but not bubbling, stir in the oatmeal and craisins.
Cook the oatmeal stuffing for a few more minutes, until most of your almond milk has been absorbed, stirring every few minutes.
Fill your apples with approximately 1 1/2 Tbsp of filling so that they are entirely filled.
Place your apples into a small baking dish.
Put a single piece of margarine on top of each apple's filling and then the top of each apple in order to "seal" the apple closed.
Pour the 1 1/2 cups of boiling water into the baking dish along with the apples.
Cover your baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Bake your apples for 30-40 minutes while basting their stuffing with the cooking water every 10-15 minutes.
They are ready when the apples' stuffing is hot and the apples are soft but not mushy.
Recently a friend informed me, via Slate.com, that the éclair “has surpassed the macaron as the most buzzed about Parisian bonbon of the moment.” (Right, totally. I knew that.) But this isn’t your Parisian grandma’s éclair, missy! It has been fancified with trendy flavors and inventive toppings and, most notably, bold bright colors that would make Crayola proud.
The very same week I went into Nussbaum and Wu’s on the Upper West Side of Manhattan to find trays of “Black and White” cookies in different colors. Besides the fact that there was something funny and now “inaccurate” about these pink and white, or green and white cookies labeled “Black and Whites,” they caught my attention, especially after hearing of the “new” éclair.
Now, I am not sure how I feel about the éclair of 2013. Or, to a lesser extent, this updating of what many might call “the official cookie of New York,” (which is expected to appear as its names suggests). How far can one veer from an original, from tradition, before you have created something entirely new? Not to mention, these modern éclairs seem to be yet another big city chef’s way of sparking buzz and the salivary glands of local foodies and Instagrammers with what really is something rather common and usually inexpensive—in this case, a sexed-up Euro Boston cream donut (though, I can think of plenty of others: popsicles, cupcakes, rice krispie treats, actual donuts).
Still it seems worthwhile to ponder how color is used to represent innovation and “newness,” especially in the food world. Of course color is important elsewhere. Namely in the fashion world—depending on the season or designer, the “hot look” is either bright colors, no color, or a particular color; and, most apropos of today, in the tech/gadget industry, as just last week the usually monochromatic innovators at Apple unveiled its forthcoming release of two different iPhones—a cheaper version, the 5C, that comes in five bright plastic colors, and a more expensive version, the 5S, that comes in a selection of metallic colors. (Side thought: who decided that “cheaper” equals a children’s paint set, and that those who are willing to pay more, would necessarily want, well, the more boring kind?)
But back to food. Considering that often the colors of an edible object are one of the first ways in which we not only recognize it, connect to our own memories and experiences, and decide if we, in fact, want to consume it, I am surprised any culinary team (of one, or many) ventures to mess with color at all! Especially since it is far from predictable when an unusual color will work and when it will not work. Green (and purple) absolutely did not fly for Heinz ketchup consumers in 2000 when almost nobody jumped on board the EZ Squirt train! Conversely, lack of color is also off-putting, or at least, not very lucrative as Pepsi found when they introduced the world to Crystal Pepsi.
But why? Are we simply slaves to the intersection of tradition, custom, and current trends (be they global or social or cultural)? Bright purple ketchup? No thanks. Black “forbidden” rice and blue potatoes? Sure, for some. Lime green luxury car? Probably not. Electric yellow shoes? Well, at least Beyoncé gives a hell yeah! Can we even compare how color is used and interpreted across all aspects of life?
There might also be a current competing trend in the realm of color and food: to go natural. If Chipotle wants to sell you on its beliefs that fast food doesn’t have to be based on poor quality ingredients or conventional agriculture and production they want a tomato to look exactly like what you expect a tomato to look like (not to mention the whole burrito)! Countless products and other companies count on the fact that the absence of dyes and bright colors are often the visual marks of products labeled with words like “organic,” “artisan,” or “healthy,” and hence the visual cue to the consumer to buy said products based on these claims.
But still sometimes “recoloring” or unexpected color is a success. And maybe desserts, and especially the elevated dessert trend, can more readily get away with something that otherwise goes against our other (better) decisions, and general common sense. I mean, what on earth does common sense have to do with the nutritionally-unnecessary but wildly enjoyable black and white (or mint green and white) cookie? Nothing!
Is there anything worse for a food blogger than fasting? It is perhaps the fasting that makes Yom Kippur that much more difficult, and more meaningful too. Thank goodness I have the break-fast menu to plan in order to keep my food-obsessed mind occupied.
I like to keep my break-fast menu pretty simple: bagels, cream cheese, fresh fruit, coffee (of course), a nice green salad and something warm and cheesy like blintzes or a dairy noodle kugel – things that can be prepared ahead of time and served quickly immediately after sundown.
Here are some of our favorite picks for easy and satisfying post-fast dishes that are sure to leave you in a contented, post-Yom Kippur food coma:
‘Tis the season of endless Jewish holidays, back to school frenzy, an abundance of apples…and also niche Jewish cookbooks. With the releases of The Book of Schmaltz: Love Song to a Forgotten Fat and Nosh on This: Gluten-Free Baking from a Jewish American Kitchen we add two fascinating but narrowly focused cookbooks to the collection.
I love schmaltz, and so I was pretty excited to receive a copy of The Book of Schmaltz. You should know: I keep several kinds of schmaltz in my freezer at any given moment, and love to find ways to incorporate it into a variety of dishes, so this book couldn’t be more perfect for a fat-lovin’ gal like me.
The book contains recipes for all the classics you would expect including traditional chopped liver, chicken soup with matzo balls, and kreplach. Some of the more surprising recipes included in the book are schmaltz-roasted potatoes with onion and rosemary, chicken sausage and even oatmeal cookies with dried cherries (I will be trying this recipe very soon).
Ever heard of helzel? Well I hadn’t until I saw it listed under “Traditional Recipes.” Ruhlman’s version calls for stuffing kiskhe into chicken skin – yum! Though when my husband and I called the grandmothers to consult about this long–lost dish we heard that their versions of traditional helzel was prepared by stuffing a turkey neck. In fact, my Grandma Phoebe shared that her grandmother (my great-great grandmother) would include helzel in her weekly Shabbat cholent .
But before James Beard Award-winning author Michael Ruhlman gets into the recipes themselves, he actually gives a easy-to-follow guide to making your own homemade, perfectly rendered chicken fat – very useful indeed especially for the schmaltz virgin.
What a great gift for any of your family or friends who loves traditional Ashkenazi fare and isn’t afraid a little fat.
The Book of Schmaltz: Love Song to a Forgotten Fat, Michael Ruhlman and Donna Turner Ruhlman, (August 2013)
Schmaltz is not the only ingredient I gush over: I also gush for gluten. I have written before about my distaste for the gluten-free fad we are currently experiencing. But I do feel for my fellow gluten lovers who are unable to consume gluten-laden products due to medical reasons, which includes authors Lisa Stander-Horel and Tim Horel, two bakers dedicated to high-quality gluten-free baked goods. Their cookbook Nosh on This was also just released.
“The tragic irony is that we Jews are a people with an extensive repertoire of high-gluten delicacies, many of which we regard as cultural icons. We even have special prayers that we say before eating pastry.”
I never thought of it in this way but it is true: we are a people who value breads and sweets. So what is a gluten-free Jew to do!? In Lisa Stanger-Horel and Tim Horel’s case, they perfected a wide range of baked goods including Jewish classics like chocolate babka, honey cake, challah, rugelach and hamantaschen. Some other stand-outs? “Marizipany Gooey Brownies,” apple pie, and even éclairs and tiramisu.
Love eating matzo at Passover but can’t handle the gluten? They’ve got a recipe for that too.
For the Jewish baker the ultimate compliment is always, “it’s so good, it doesn’t even taste pareve.” These recipes look as mouth-watering as their gluten-laden counterparts. What a wonderful cookbook for the baker in your life who needs to stay away from gluten.
Nosh on This: Gluten-Free Baking from a Jewish American Kitchen, Lisa Stander-Horel and Tim Horel (September 3, 2013)
Pomegranate truffles are a popular dessert in my Rosh Hashanah table. Persians are addicted to pomegranates; they even use pomegranates in stew! Hence, it seemed logical to use them for dessert as well. I love how tangy and sweet these truffles are, not to mention how well they go with a cup of tea (instead of using sugar).
I am proud that pomegranates are native of Persia – they are packed with nutritional value and antioxidants that protect against cellular damage. Mulberries, my husband’s favorite dried fruit, are a great source of iron and vitamin C. They also have an antioxidant present in red wine that has the potential of promoting a healthy heart. Hence, these truffles are not only absolutely fabulous to taste but packed with superfood qualities!
1 cup walnut pieces
1 cup pitted Medjool dates
½ cup pomegranate powder
¼ cup mulberries or golden raisins (optional)
Gold decorating dust, cocoa powder, chocolate sprinkles
Place walnuts in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Process until a paste forms.
Add pitted dates, salt and pomegranate powder and continue to pulse until well mixed. The dough will be crumbly and moist but easy to mold into truffles about 1-1/2 inches diameter.
Optional step: Place a golden raisin or a mulberry inside the truffles and reshape as a sphere.
Dip truffles into gold decorating dust for a whimsical look, or cocoa powder and sprinkles for a more traditional truffle look.