I have countless recipes that I learned from the women of my family. Though today I mostly use websites and online documents to store my recipes, for years I cooked out of my mother’s recipe boxes, where recipe cards were squished in like sardines, and the recipes came in a variety of difficult-to-decipher scrawls. There was my mother’s handwriting, a loopy, tight cursive, and my grandmother’s a disciplined clear print, plus my aunt’s rounded letters, and some cards written by my Aunt Byrna, or a first cousin once removed. The cards were splattered with stains, and decorated with little pictures of ovens, strawberries, geese, or pies.
Flipping through those recipe cards brings back a tidal wave of memories. Each recipe is strongly associated with the woman whose handwriting is on the card. And there are even more recipes that I know by heart now, taught to me by one of these women. On days when I feel the loss of my mother, my grandmothers, or my aunt, I reach for my mixing bowls to make a recipe that they taught me. For the time that I spend in the kitchen, mixing, sauteeing, baking or kneading, I am keeping their memories alive, nourishing myself and my family with the legacy of food and love these women entrusted me with.
With my mother, it can be hard to choose which recipe to make to conjure up the best memories. But when I’m really yearning for the comfort I found in her kitchen I consistently end up making spanikopita, a dish she was known for making, and one of the first recipes I learned by heart. Crucially, my mom adapted a recipe from a cookbook so that it took significantly less effort than was originally prescribed, and these days I can whip up this wholesome dish in under 30 minutes (not counting baking time). If you find phyllo dough intimidating, or spanikopita sounds too labor intensive for you, this is your solution.
2 10 oz boxes of frozen spinach or 1 large bag of frozen spinach, defrosted if possible (if not no worries)
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons fresh basil, chopped or 1 Tablespoon dried basil
salt and pepper
8-10 oz ricotta or small curd cottage cheese
1 lb feta, crumbled
1 box phyllo dough, defrosted
¼ cup melted butter or olive oil
2 Tablespoons sesame seeds or parmesan cheese (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375F and grease a 9x13 pan.
Defrost the spinach. If it's not totally defrosted, run it under warm water until it's no longer one big brick and you can break it up into reasonably small bunches. Drain. Meanwhile, chop the onion and mince the garlic. If you have time to sautee them with a little olive oil, salt, pepper and the basil, do that. If you don't have time, just toss the onions, garlic, salt, pepper, and basil in a big bowl. Add the spinach once it's reasonably drained (if it's still a little frozen that's fine). Add in the ricotta and feta and mix thoroughly. Add the eggs and mix again.
Take the phyllo dough out of the fridge and unroll it on top of a kitchen towel next to your greased pan. Do not worry if any sheet has broken or torn―no one will ever know or care. Using a pastry brush, grease the bottom of the pan with the melted butter or olive oil. Then put down 2 sheets of phyllo dough, and then brush those with olive oil. (If sheets have broken, just reassemble them as best you can―no one will be able to see them.) Put down two more sheets of dough, brush, and continue like that until you have 8 pieces of phyllo dough (4 batches of 2). Pour half of the spinach and cheese mixture on top of the phyllo dough and spread it evenly using a knife or a spatula. Then resume the 2 sheets of phyllo dough, brush with oil/butter routine until you've put down another 8 sheets of phyllo dough. Pour in the remaining spinach and cheese mixture. Again, put down 2 sheets of phyllo dough, brush, repeat until you've used up the phyllo dough. If the sheets are bigger than your pan some phyllo dough will be hanging over the edges of the pan, so just tuck them back into the pan. Brush the top with plenty of oil or butter, and sprinkle with either sesame seeds or parmesan.
Bake for 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown. This is best served warm with a green salad and some roasted potatoes.
I have been on a bit of a vegetarian streak lately and while I have not cut meat out of my diet, I am happily eating a mostly meat-free diet during the week. Which also means I am now on the lookout for tasty, satisfying, vegetarian-friendly main dishes.
It’s also spring and therefore time to include peas, asparagus and other seasonal veggies in our cooking!
These were the thoughts swirling around in my head this weekend when I created this hearty, springtime veggie soup, chock full of white beans, peas, asparagus and bite-sized pasta.
Going gluten free? Leave out the pasta!
Like even more stuff in your soup? Add double the amount of peas, add 1/2 cup of corn or add a large handful of baby kale or spinach.
Don’t like cannelini beans? Swap them out for some chick peas or black eyed peas instead!
In short, you can put your own stamp on this soup so add and subtract away!
3 quarts vegetable or chicken stock
1 cup cannellini beans, rinsed
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
1 1/2 cups asparagus, cut into small pieces
1 cup small pasta such as tubetini, orzo or small shells
Bring chicken or vegetable stock to simmer in a large pot. Add peas and beans.
Meanwhile, bring water to a boil in a separate medium sized pot. Add pasta and cook 8 minutes or until al dente. During the last 3 minutes of cooking, add asparagus. Drain pasta and asparagus.
Add pasta and asparagus to soup.Allow to simmer 10-15 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Last week as I was scurrying around trying to feed my dog, feed my daughter and also cook dinner for me and my husband, I had some culinary inspiration (by peering into my fridge) and put together this new recipe for lemon mustard brussels sprouts.
The husband loves most recipes that use mustard as a seasoning, and I love using fresh citrus when I roast chicken or veggies. The combination seemed like a perfect culinary, and marriage, compromise. It takes almost no time to prepare, but the mustard and lemon pack a big flavor punch, so its great for those weeknight, last-minute dinners, or for a super simple Shabbat side dish!
1 bag fresh brussels sprouts (about 3 cups)
juice and zest from 1 lemon
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp dijon or whole grain mustard
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cut brussels sprouts in half and place on baking sheet.
Mix together olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper. Drizzle mixture over brussel sprouts and mix around with hands to ensure brussel sprouts are coated evenly.
Place lemon halves on baking sheet as well.
Roast Brussels sprouts for 35-45 minutes until desired crispiness.
My sister was supposed to join us for Shabbat dinner this week, along with a fellow baker and tweeter, the (original) Jewish American Princess. But sadly, my sister has a commitment at college at the last minute and I had to reschedule until my sister is around to dine with the lovely tweeting princess!
So instead, my former roommate, a hysterical, opera-singing Aussie, and my favorite Persian pal will be joining us for dinner and I wanted to make a super fun menu for them! What says fun more than build your own brisket sandwiches!? Almost nothing I think. Except perhaps for some build your own ice cream sundaes, but I think that will have to wait until Shavuot.
To start, I am serving a simple and refreshing Marinated Cucumber and Dill Salad, one of my family’s favorites, including my 10 month old daughter!
For the main attraction I am serving my Pulled Brisket Sliders served on fresh onion challah rolls. And how can you serve pulled brisket without some classic coleslaw!? Well I will be serving that too.
We need to balance out the the meat and carb factor with some more vegetables, so I will be serving a super easy and delicious side dish, Flash Roasted Broccoli Spears with Spicy Bread Crumbs.
And the sweet finish? I am going to make my classic, go-to chocolate cake from Hersheys. I make this pareve my substituting the milk for almond milk or coconut milk.
Some of the best ideas are made on the fly, and this recipe was one of those. While perusing my local fruits and veggie market I decided it had been far too long since I had made acorn squash – a childhood favorite.
My dad used to roast acorn squash with maple syrup and then let us eat up the the sweet squash with a spoon. But I wanted to try a slightly new spin, and instead of roasting it with maple syrup, I opted to roast it and then finish it with pomegranate molasses and for crunch, some chopped walnuts.
2 acorn squash, cut in half
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp pepper
pinch crushed red pepper
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Mix brown sugar, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper. Sprinkle over each half of squash.
Roast squash for 45-60 minutes or until tender.
Scoop out flesh and mash with a fork until desired consistency. If you prefer very smooth, put through a food processor.
Finish squash with pomegranate molasses and chopped walnuts
Earlier this week I wrote about those Shabbat dinners when you throw together whatever you have lying around in your pantry. And then there are other weeks when you have the time, or occasion, to plan each dish carefully a week or even two weeks in advance – and this week is one of those for me which I actually love.
We are hosting my husband’s parents and siblings this week for dinner, so this called for some advanced planning. Especially with a full week of work for my day job! On Wednesday evening I made the chocolate cake and a marinated cucumber salad like this one from The Food Yenta (I make mine without sour cream).
Thursday night – my husband made his grandmother’s famous salt and pepper noodle kugel while I made my Apple Cider Beef Stew and set the table.
And what’s on tap for Friday’s to-dos? Stuffed mushrooms for an appetizer and two large heads of cauliflower to roast with whole garlic cloves.
For my super simple garlicky cauliflower, I cut up two heads of cauliflower into small florets. In two pyrex pans, spread florets out and drizzle with 2 Tbsp of olive oil in each pan. Sprinkle 1 tsp kosher salt and ½ tsp pepper in each pan. Place 5-6 cloves of whole garlic in each pan. Roast at 400 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until caramelized. The cauliflower becomes so sweet and delicious its almost addictive.
Happy planning, cooking and Shabbat Shalom!
It’s been a little while since I shared my weekly Shabbat menu with you, and so in the spirit of the New Year I decided it was time!
I don’t typically cook very heavy or complicated dishes for Shabbat but this week I chose some of my most healthful dishes since my husband and sister are watching their diets. Hey, its the New Year – prime diet season!
Roasted brussel sprouts with Pomegranate Molasses – perhaps one of the simplest, and most delicious side dishes! I take 3-4 cups brussel sprouts, and quarter them. Place the brussel sprouts onto a sheet pan and drizzle with a few Tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Love garlic? I throw whole garlic cloves, still in their skin, into the mix as well. Then when the dish is done, you get to peel these little sweet morsels of garlic. Yum. Roast brussel sprouts at 400 degrees for 45 – 60 minutes. But tonight, for something slightly different, once the brussel sprouts are done roasting I am going to drizzle Pomegranate Molasses on top for a sweet finish!
What is Pomegranate Molasses? It is a pomegranate juice reduction that is sweet, but not too sweet. It’s a very popular item in Israel and throughout Mediterranean cuisine.
Next up? My super healthful Turkey and Quinoa Stuffed Peppers. Not only is this hearty dish good for you and satisfying, you can also make it for Passover! My husband loves this and so does my sister, so I knew I better make a batch soon. You can follow my recipe here to make them: Quinoa and Turkey Stuffed Peppers.
My brother-in-law is also joining us for Shabbat dinner tonight, and he doesn’t like stuffed peppers, so of course I needed to make another dish. I already had a turkey breast in the freezer, so my Citrus-Herb Marinated Turkey Breast it is – yes it’s a very Turkey-rific meal. I take one orange, fresh rosemary, fresh sage, fresh thyme, garlic cloves, salt and pepper and make a simple marinade. Place turkey breast in a plastic ziploc bag, or pyrex dish, and cover with marinade. Place in fridge for at least 2 hours, but overnight is best if you plan ahead (I didn’t!). Turkey actually takes a little longer to absorb flavors than chicken. Roast at 400 degrees for 45-55 minutes.
To go with the turkey breast I think we need some mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce. Ok, maybe the mashed potatoes aren’t as healthful as say quinoa…but hey, everything in moderation.
Shabbat Shalom and happy cooking everyone!
Everyone loves roasted potatoes for Shabbat dinner or even a weeknight meal. Its cheap, pretty effortless and potatoes are a produce item you can easily keep around to use when you need. Just make sure you keep them in a cool, dark place for the longest “shelf” life.
But roasted potatoes can also get a bit boring, so I am always looking for ways to spice(literally) them up. My za’atar roasted potatoes is my family’s new favorite go-to for weeknight or Shabbat – and I hope it will be yours soon too! I really enjoy slicing the potatoes into rounds, as opposed to quarters – it makes the potatoes feel “fancy” and fun without any extra work.
What is za’atar? Well, its actually a spice mix made up of oregano, salt, sesame seeds and a few other things. I always buy mine when I visit Israel (or more often, when friends bring it back to me from Israel). You can use it on chicken, sprinkle it on top of hummus or thick greek yogurt as a dip.
1 1/2 pounds yukon gold or red potatoes
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp za'atar
tsp lemon zest
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
Cut potatoes into slices 1/2 inch thick (or whatever shape you like).
Toss potatoes with olive oil, salt and za'atar. Roast in the oven for 35-45 minutes, to the your desired level of crispness.
Sprinkle lemon zest on top before serving.
This week we are gonna try something different for our Shabbat recipe round-up: I’m gonna share with you MY Shabbat dinner menu!
I’ll be honest- the last thing I want to do after four straight weeks of holidays is make an elaborate meal. So this week I am keeping things SUPER simple.
We always keep an extra boiler chicken or turkey breast in the freezer, so roast herb turkey breast it is! Either the night before or a few hours before you are ready to serve dinner, combine 1/2 Tbsp dried rosemary, 1/2 Tbsp dried parsley, 1/2 Tbsp dried oregano, 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp garlic powder, salt and pepper with 2 Tbsp orange juice and 3 Tbsp olive oil. Make a paste and spread all over turkey. Cook for one hour at 375 degrees, or until the juices run clear.
My husband was going to make potato kugel over Sukkot but never got around to it, so to go with our turkey breast I’ll throw together some baked potato wedges with aioli. Just slice up some good ‘ol russet potatoes, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, and bake in the oven, at the same time as the turkey, until crispy (a little over one hour, though sometimes longer). To make your aioli extra special? Add 1 Tbsp sriracha.
Roasted brussel sprouts with garlic will round out the meal – quarter brussel sprouts, and toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and about 4-6 whole unpeeled garlic cloves. Roast in oven, at the same time as potatoes and turkey, until brussel sprouts are caramelized and falling apart.
I am a baker first and foremost, but even I get lazy on weeks like this, so my go-to dessert is this chocolate cake recipe from the back of the Hersheys cocoa powder box! Yes, I know it calls for milk, but just replace the 1 cup of milk with either 1 cup almond milk, 1 cup coconut milk or 1 cup vanilla soy milk. I bake my cake using this bundt cake pan from Williams Sonoma, and finish the cake with a dusting of powdered sugar and maybe even some fresh berries. It will look way fancier than the actual time you spent on it.
Maybe next week I’ll feel like cooking a more elaborate meal…but for now this is just fine. My husband should just be happy I cooked anything at all!
Wishing you happy cooking (if you feel like it) and Shabbat Shalom!
The High Holidays quickly approach, and with it, lots of cooking! The last thing you probably want to be doing as you gear up for family-filled dinners is more cooking…but alas, its time for Shabbat!
This week I put together some easy, simple recipes that won’t have you slaving over a hot stove for too long.
I love a good, simple roasted chicken recipe. Put it together, throw it into the oven, and 45 minutes to an hour later you have a perfect, juicy main attraction. Try The Shiksa‘s recipe this week for Honey Herb Roasted Chicken.
What does lemon plus oregano plus potatoes equal? Potato side dish perfection! Try this Martha recipe for Greek Lemon Roasted Potatoes to go alongside that beautiful herb roasted chicken.
And what could be quicker or easier than this Quick and Easy Chocolate Cake. Serve with some fresh berries, and maybe even some soy ice cream!
Happy cooking and Shabbat Shalom!