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.
Most of the time I plan my dinner menus in the beginning of the week. I collect links for recipes I want to make, and page through cookbooks, and then make a shopping list. There aren’t many surprises later in the week, since I’ve already planned. But occasionally I get a craving for something, and veer off my plan. Last week, for reasons I can’t explain, I suddenly decided I wanted Cauliflower Curry Pie. Unfortunately, googling around I wasn’t able to find a recipe that came anywhere close to approximating what I was imagining.
Molly Katzen has a recipe for cauliflower pie in the Moosewood Cookbook, but it has a potato crust, and isn’t curried at all. I had just received a gorgeous pie plate, and was itching to use it. It had to be pie, and though I do love a potato crust in this case I wanted a classic savory pie crust.
So, I was forced to make up my own recipe, and I forced the results on my step-daughter, a semi-picky eater who, at 5, is generally skeptical of all vegetables, but is solidly pro-pie. The results were an enormous success. The crust came out perfectly, and the curry was a savory, mildly spicy vegetable medley that I think I’ll probably make again soon, even without the pie surrounding it. Though this recipe involved a bit more work than I’d typically put into a weeknight meal, it was totally worth it, and I’m definitely going to add it to my Shabbat and holiday menus. If you want to cut down on the time and/or you’re pastry phobic, you can use store bought crust.
2 sticks butter, cold, cut into cubes
7-8 Tablespoons ice water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 ¾ cups flour (I bet you could integrate some whole wheat flour, but I didn't try this time)
1 large onion (red onion works fine), chopped
2-4 Tablespoons olive oil (use your judgement)
1 inch knob of ginger, peeled and grated
2 Tablespoons mild curry
pinch garam masala (optional)
1 can coconut milk
1 can diced tomatoes
1 head cauliflower, chopped
2-3 small potatoes, diced
1 8oz box frozen spinach
salt and pepper, to taste
milk to brush on top
parmesan cheese, grated (optional)
Put the flour, sugar and salt in the food processor. Drop the butter cubes into the flour mixture and hit the pulse button. Once all the butter is in the mixture should look like white gravel. Add 6 Tablespoons of the ice water, and run the food processor until a dough forms. If it still seems too dry, add another tablespoon or two of ice water.
Turn the dough out onto the counter and knead with a sprinkling more of flour. Divide into two hunks and shape into hockey pucks. Wrap in wax paper and stick in the fridge for at least half an hour. If making the dough more than a day before the curry, wrap in plastic wrap.
While the dough is chilling, make the curry. Fry the chopped onion in the oil for 5-10 minutes until onions are beginning to soften. Then add the ginger, curry, and garam masala and fry for another 2-3 minutes until it becomes fragrant. Add the coconut milk, tomatoes, cauliflower and potatoes and simmer. Add the frozen spinach (no need to have it defrosted, though that won't hurt) by just plopping the square of frozen spinach in the middle of the pan. Cover and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes, at which point the potatoes and cauliflower should be tender, and cooked through. Taste, and season with salt and pepper as desired. Turn off heat.
Preheat the oven to 400F. Remove the pie dough from the fridge, and roll one of the hockey pucks out on a floured surface. Roll it pretty thin, and then place in the bottom of a pie plate, allowing whatever extra to spill over the sides. Using a slotted spoon, fill crust with cauliflower curry. Leave leftover liquid in pan, so you're left with a moist but not runny curry. Roll out the second hockey puck, and place on top of the curry. Press together the edges of the top and bottom crust, using a fork to crimp the edges together.
Brush the top of the pie with milk, and then make vents in the crust—I like to do this by writing a secret message, and this time my step-daughter requested that the pie say I'm Hungry, so that's what I wrote.
Bake at 400F for 40 minutes, or until golden on top. Sprinkle with parmesan, if desired. The pie is amazing when fresh from the oven, but is also surprisingly good when served cold, as lunch the next day.
Heat wave number two has arrived and it’s starting to make me worried. Will I ever want to turn on my oven again? Will I ever want to serve something other than cold soup, raw vegetables, fruit, and ice cream?
Who am I kidding? That menu doesn’t have me worried in the least! I am worried about the environment, climate change, etc., but it’s not so bad to live in a world where vegetables are crisp, refreshing, and satiating. A girl can dream.
Here’s a list of the things I’m making or wish I was making this Shabbat.
I’m always playing with challah–I try to make a different kind every week. But sometimes I like to stray a bit from the norm and make a bread that isn’t actually challah, but still allows me and my guests to say hamotzi. So if I were you and you were feeling adventurous this week I would make this Sour Cherry Focaccia. It speaks for itself
Fig Taleggio Pizza is sweet and pungent and bitter all at once. It’s festive and light.
Since we’ve entered the full swing of CSA season and local crop availability is hitting its peak, my box was crazy heavy this week and snuggled in with the romaine and the chard was kohlrabi. A funky looking vegetable, it’s a great base for a slaw or home fries or any number of other recipes.
Another wonderful light side or main dish is this radish cous cous. You can easily substitute vegetable stock for the chicken stock if you want to make it pareve. I would also recommend my favorite radish for this dish
This blueberry boy bait (I don’t know what boy bait is, but it looks like something I would want to eat a whole pan of) PLUS roasted peaches and lavender ice cream, which is sweetened with honey! If you make these, can I come over for dessert?
Summer means a lot of things when it comes to food–berries and cucumbers and tomatoes, to name a few! It’s also a time when herbs are plentiful–almost too plentiful to keep up with. There’s one sure way to tackle this problem: pesto. You can use pesto for so many different wonderful things–pasta (of course), pizza sauce, dip, salad dressing. And you can make vats of pesto and freeze it in usable portions for later (just stop before you add any dairy).
But what if I told you pesto didn’t have to be herb based? While traditional pesto is a combination of basil, garlic, pine nuts, and olive oil, the word is derived from an Italian verb meaning to pound or crush and can really involve any kind of vegetation. So here I’m introducing Arugula Hazelnut pesto. It’s full of flavor and bite, but mellowed out with the subtle sweetness of the hazelnut. If you don’t want quite so much arugula taste, throw in some parsley to balance the flavor a little more.
3 cups arugula
1 cup parsley (optional)
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Over medium heat, toast the hazelnuts until fragrant. Remove from the heat and cool.
Add the arugula and parsley (if using) to a blender or food processor. Pulse for 5 seconds.
Add the garlic, hazelnuts, salt, and pepper.
Gradually drizzle in the olive oil while the blender or food processor is running. Process until smooth.
Taste to adjust seasoning and consistency. If it's too thick, add more oil.
Wednesday was officially the first day of summer 2012. Earlier this week I went to a farmers’ market for work, where a chef was giving a cooking demonstration to residents of Chicago’s Austin neighborhood. She taught them how to make a cold spaghetti dish with tomatoes, capers, and olives and she introduced them to a new food: jicama.
Native to Central America, jicama is a white tuber with a texture similar to a water chestnut. It’s an ideal food for a hot summer day, since it is almost completely made of water. Jicama does not have much flavor of it’s own, so once you’ve peeled the brown skin, serve it with a dip or dressing. When you go to the store look for a firm, heavy jicama with mostly unblemished skin and store it at cool temperatures.
In Latin America, jicama is served with lime juice, coarse salt, and ground chile. This salad plays on the idea, but adds a sweet and juicy element to it: watermelon. Nothing says summer like watermelon and with this heat, it’s high time we accept the fact that summer has arrived.
1 small to medium size watermelon
3 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon lime juice (about 2 limes)
3 tablespoons basil, chiffonade
2 tablespoons mint, chiffonade
salt and pepper to taste
crumbled feta (optional)
Peel brown skin off jicama (some recommend using a spoon). Cut into 1/4 inch strips or into small dice.
Chop up watermelon into bite sized chunks.
Combine jicama and watermelon. Dress with orange juice and lime juice.
Toss with basil and mint. Season to taste.
Sprinkle with crumbled feta if using.
Unless you’ve been living in an igloo, you may have noticed that it’s really, really hot out. My extensive research indicates that this seems to be happening all over, so I bet it applies even to the igloo-dwellers. Here’s a great group of recipes that will cool you down and taste delicious! The best part: you don’t have to turn on your oven.
Start off with something non-traditional, but refreshing and light. This chilled watermelon soup is full of nutrients and interesting flavors. You do not need to add the sugar recommended in the recipe. If you are serving it with a meat meal, take out the feta and serve it with spiced nuts and diced cucumbers.
Keep the crunchy-sweet-refreshing theme going with mango jicama salad. This has a bit of a kick, but the sweet fruit balances it out. The chile powder plus mango combination makes it feel like a Latin American street food.
Take this opportunity to make a red snapper ceviche. It tastes like something cooked, but all it takes is a hefty dose of citrus juice, plus a few bonus flavors on the side. Serve with chips or just a spoon.
Per usual, I’m going to throw out a Mark Bittman resource here: slaws eight ways. One of these crunchy creative salads will be the perfect vegetable side dish for your ceviche.
For dessert, play with different combinations of macerated fruit. You can never go wrong with strawberries drizzled with balsamic vinegar. (I thought it was gross the first time I heard about it, but, believe me, you’ll like it.)
It’s been a while since the last time we gave away a cookbook, so we figured it was time to do it again! I’m so excited that we get to give away one of my favorite Jewish cookbooks–the stunning and incredible Olive Trees and Honey: A Treasury of Vegetarian Recipes from Jewish Communities Around the World by Gil Marks.
This book touches on so many important pieces the Jewish culinary world often misses. For starters: vegetables. We often like to imagine the Jewish culinary heritage as one dominated by meat. I have friends who don’t consider a meal appropriate for shabbat unless it contains at least two different meat dishes. In fact, until relatively recently, meat was more of an accent or side dish than the centerpiece of Jewish meals. Gil Marks reminds us of the importance of vegetables in our culture by making them the showstoppers of this cookbook. From Turkish braised leeks to Syrian pumpkin patties, this book highlights (almost) every possible way that Jews have prepared vegetables all over the planet and throughout history.
The other amazing thing Gil Marks accomplishes is really giving a voice to Jewish communities from around the world. We hear about kugels and borscht all of the time, but we often neglect dolma and paprikash. Olive Trees and Honey really digs deep and looks at the entire Jewish world of food.
Not quite as expansive as his Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, Olive Trees and Honey is still a treasure trove of over 300 recipes for you to play with, sample, and learn from. Just like we do here at The Nosher, every recipe in the book is labeled as pareve or dairy (no meat labels needed!) and includes tips on how to serve the various dishes. Perfect for vegetarians and meat eaters looking to expand their repertoire, I know you’ll love Olive Trees and Honey.
And it can be yours! All you have to do is post your favorite vegetarian entree in the comments below by May 16th. We’ll pick one at random and send you a copy!
This is another recipe from our favorite vegan, Mayim Bialik. Mayim claims she’s not usually an eggplant girl, but that this dish tastes incredible.
1 large onion
3 Tablespoons oil
1 medium eggplant, peeled and then cut into cubes
1/4 cup diced green pepper
11 oz tomato-mushroom sauce (or any jarred Kosher for Passover sauce you want)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 large tomatoes, diced
1 1/2 cups matzah farfel (don't cringe, just wait!)
Saute onions in oil until tender. Combine onions, eggplant, green pepper, tomato-mushroom sauce, and seasoning. Cook, covered, for 15 min or until eggplant is tender. Stir in tomatoes. Alternately layer vegetable mixture and farfel, beginning and ending with the vegetable mixture in a 2 quart baking dish (I use the 9 x 13 size).
Bake at 350 uncovered for 25 min.
Mayim calls this recipe “ridiculously rich and decadent” and promises you won’t be able to tell that it’s kosher for Passover and vegan. And if you don’t trust Mayim, who do you trust?
1/4 cup almond meal - or just finely grind almonds in a processor to 1/4 cup worth!
1/4 cup matzo cake meal
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 lb plus 1 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped (do NOT exceed 61% cacao which I know you all want to!?)
6 Tablespoon plus 1 Tablespoon unsalted pareve margarine
3 large eggs where 1 egg = 2 tbsp water + 1 tbsp oil + 2 tsp baking powder (best cheap egg replacer for pesach ever!)
3/4 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon finely grated orange peel
Sliced almonds, lightly toasted
Preheat oven to 350F. Coat 9" glass pie dish with margarine. Whisk almond meal, matzo cake meal and salt together in a bowl.
Combine 1 lb chocolate and 6 Tablespoon margarine in microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 20-30 sec intervals until smooth, stirring often. Set aside to cool.
Beat "eggs" with sugar and vanilla about 2 min. Beat in orange peel, then chocolate mixture. At low speed, beat in dry ingredients. Transfer to pie dish, place on rimmed baking sheet because it will drip a bit!
Place sheet with pie in oven and bake until cracked on top and tester comes out with most crumbs attached, 45-50 min. Cool to room temp; center will fall, this is NORMAL! Don't freak out.
Combine 1 ounce chopped chocolate and 1 Tablespoon margarine in microwave safe bowl in 15 second increments until glaze is smooth, stirring often. Drizzle over pie! Sprinkle with almonds. CAN BE MADE 1 DAY AHEAD, CHILL UNTIL COLD, TENT WITH FOIL AND CHILL!
I highly recommend with eat this with strawberries tossed with a little sugar (2 Tablespoons per 1 1/4 lbs hulled strawberries works nice). Add 1 teaspoons of orange zest if you're feeling frisky. And you will be after tasting this!!!
It’s almost time for Purim, so no better way to start Shabbat than with this creative recipe for Hamantaschen Challah!
I love classic roasted chicken for Shabbat dinner, but sometimes you need something a little different. Try this Spinach Stuffed Roasted Chicken from Overtime Cook as a new twist on classic Friday night chicken.
No matter how many times I make brussel sprouts, or how many recipes I come across, I simply cannot get enough! This week I came across this simple, tasty recipe for Zesty Fried Brussel Sprouts, which makes a perfect veggie side.
Shabbat Shalom and happy cooking!