How to Make Your Own Delicious Burgers–and Fancy Toppings–at Home

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ultimate kosher burger with fixins

The hamburger, and definitely the cheeseburger, is arguably the most iconic American food. You would be hard pressed to find a person who doesn’t love a good burger. But can the cheese-less kosher burger compare? In New York recently, gourmet kosher burgers have been all the rage. Three upscale kosher burger joints have opened in the past few years alone to much enthusiasm and even some decent reviews: Amsterdam Burger, Gotham Burger, and most recently Boeuf & Bun.

But aside from the recent surge of upscale kosher burger joints, most kosher burgers (at least for me) just don’t compare to their non-kosher counterpart. Over the past year or so I have dedicated some signficant time working to combat this, at least in my home kitchen, with fun, fabulous, juicy homemade kosher burgers. Creative toppings are part of a great burger experience for me, but also starting with quality ingredients and a few key techniques can really make the difference between average and exceptional.

During my onerous, burger-consuming experiments I realized one of the secrets to what I consider a great burger at home: grinding your own meat. I know, I know – this might sound crazy and way too complicated to attempt, but in fact it is an easy switch that produces a big difference in taste. I have always used my handy meat grinder attachment when making Italian-style meatballs like my mother made growing up, but when I made the switch to grinding meat for burgers, wow was I blown away. It’s only about $30 and what I consider a worthy investment, not just for burgers, but lots of dishes.

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When you grind your own meat, make sure it is very cold. Don’t take it out of the fridge until you are ready to grind it. And if you are so inclined, you can pop it in the freezer 10 minutes before you are ready to grind. You can also place the actual grinder in the freezer. Yes, put the whole contraption right in the freezer.

Don’t buy a lean steak – make sure to get something with some nice marbling. I often use pre-cut stewing meat, since it is already cut into appropriately sized chunks for pushing through the meat grinder. If you cut up a steak yourself for this project, make sure not to cut the chunks too large.

As you grind you will immediately see such a difference in the texture and color of the meat. For more tips on grinding meat check out this great post on what is the best way to grind beef at home.

To make burgers at home, I measure out around 1/3 lb ground beef per person. I form each into a patty, packing tight, but not overworking the meat, and place onto a platter to chill until I am ready to cook. Yes, you can freeze them at this point. I would place them between pieces of parchment paper and then place into a freezer-safe bag. When I am ready to cook the burgers, I take them out of the fridge for 10-20 minutes and then sprinkle each side simply with salt and pepper.

burger patties

We live in an apartment and don’t have regular access to a grill, so I like using a cast iron skillet which is a great investment for any home-cook. Cook the burgers on each side until your desired doneness. The cast iron skillet forms a great crust on each side, while the inside of the burger remains juicy.

But remember when using a cast iron skillet you cannot wash it with soap because you may strip the seasoning.  The Kitchn has great instructions for how to take good care of a cast iron skillet so make sure to read through it if you are using a cast iron skillet for the first time.

Burger fixins

One of the other fun ways I have upped my burger game at home is by trying out lots of different toppings: everything from gribenes and grilled pastrami to veggies and caramelized onions. I have a few ideas below, but the sky is the limit! Invite your friends over and ask each to bring a unique burger topping. Let guests top their own burgers for a completely unique and delicious gathering. The mediocre kosher burger of the past will be all but forgotten.

Some topping suggestions:

 

pinot noir onions

Pinot Noir Caramelized Onions

INGREDIENTS

2 large onions

olive oil

salt and pepper

2 Tbsp sugar

3/4 cup Pinot Noir or other red wine

DIRECTIONS

Heat a large saute pan over low-medium heat. Add a few Tbsp olive oil and once the oil is shimmering, add the onions and season lightly with salt and pepper. Saute on low-medium heat for at least 30 minutes, stirring continually. After 30 minutes add 2 Tbsp sugar.

Continue to saute, stirring occasionally. After another 15 minutes add 1/4 cup pinot noir (or other red wine). Keep stirring, scraping any bits off the bottom. Wine will reduce.

After 15 minutes repeat with another 1/4 cup wine. Scrape and stir once again and allow wine to reduce.

Repeat one last time after 15 minutes and let onions cook until wine is completely reduced and onions are a deep color.

Horseradish Coleslaw

INGREDIENTS

10 oz bag of cabbage or coleslaw mix

1/2 cup mayo

1 heaping Tbsp horseradish

2 Tbsp white vinegar

2 tsp agave syrup

1 tsp dijon or spicy mustard

salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

In a large bowl, whisk together mayo, horseradish, white vinegar, agave syrup, mustard and salt and pepper.

Add bag of cabbage or coleslaw mix until completely covered. Refrigerate for at least an hour before servings.

Spicy Chipotle Mayo

INGREDIENTS

1 cup mayo

2 Tbsp chipotle sauce in adobo sauce

1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, minced

salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

In a small bowl, mix all ingredients together.  Serve with burgers, fries or sandwiches

Posted on April 26, 2015

Lemon Chiffon Bundt Cake–Inspired by Israeli Limonana

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This cake is inspired by the uber-popular Israeli sweet lemonade that’s always punched up with fresh mint called limonana.

limonana cake

Limonana is really just a  simple drink, but it has taken Israel by storm over the last 25 years. It’s a delicious, super sweet lemonade—tooth-achingly sweet—like a good Mississippi sweet tea. What makes it unique is the addition of copious amount of bright, verdant, incredibly fresh mint leaves. It’s a snappy addition that takes the lemonade from good to great.

Israeli Hebrew is often marked with anglicized words, but not this drink. Without even naming it through an official Ministry of Made-up Words (with apologies to Monty Python, it actually has existed), it’s a clear amalgam of lemon in Hebrew (limon) and mint in Arabic (nana), creating a drink word that even chefs Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi could love.

But it’s all about the taste, which is bright and lively and endlessly refreshing. You can find limonana-flavored sorbets and sherbert and the lemon and mint—or even a lime and mint—would be a great foil for a granita.

Light and delicate, this lemony chiffon cake is lovely paired with a minted whipped cream and candied mint.

lemon and mint  limonana cake

A few tips:

Superfine sugar, also called caster sugar, is granulated sugar that has been ground into very fine crystals. It dissolves quickly and is excellent for use in drinks, meringues, puddings, candies and lighter baked goods such as angel food cakes. If a recipe specifies superfine sugar, do use it; it makes a difference. If you don’t have any, just grind your granulated sugar in a food processor for 2 minutes, until it is very, very fine.

To make your own mint oil, heat 1 cup canola oil in a small saucepan set over medium-low heat, add the mint, and cook for about 5 minutes until the oil is very warm (if you have a candy thermometer, it will read about 180°F). It should not boil or sputter; it is, essentially, poaching. Set up a fine-mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth over a medium-sized mixing bowl. Remove the pan from the heat and let stand until the oil reaches room temperature. Then, using an immersion blender, blend until smooth. (You can also do this in a regular blender.) Pour the blended mixture through the sieve and let it slowly drip through. The oil can used immediately, or kept refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

When beating egg whites an impeccably clean bowl is a must; even a bit of grease can keep them from firming up to form soft or stiff peaks.

limonana cake for nosher piece1

Limonana-Inspired Lemon Chiffon Bundt Cake 

INGREDIENTS

For the cake:

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1¼ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp fine salt

¾ cup plus 1 Tbsp superfine (caster sugar, see Kitchen Tips)

4 large eggs, room temperature, separated

¼ cup good quality olive oil

Zest of 4 lemons (about 2Tbsp )

Juice of 4 lemons (¼ cup)

¼ cup lemon vodka or water

Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean pod

½ tsp cream of tartar

 

For the candied mint leaves:

2 bunches fresh mint leaves

1 egg white

½ cup superfine (caster) sugar

 

For the mint whipped cream:

½ cup heavy cream or whipping cream

2 Tbsp superfine (caster) sugar, sifted

½ tsp pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

¾ tsp mint oil, store-bought or homemade

 

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Spray a 7-inch bundt pan with nonstick vegetable oil spray and dust it lightly with flour.

In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and ¾ cup of the sugar and  set aside.

In another bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, vegetable oil, lemon juice, vodka or water, lemon zest, and vanilla. Add the flour mixture, and whisk for about 1½ minutes, until smooth and thick.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or, if you are using a handheld electric mixer, in a large mixing bowl), beat the egg whites at medium speed until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and beat for about 1 minute, gradually increasing the speed to high, until soft peaks form (see Kitchen Tips). Gradually add the remaining tablespoon of sugar and beat for about 2½  minutes at high speed until stiff peaks form and the eggs are stiff and almost dry.

Fold one-third of the egg whites into the batter and gently stir to lighten the mixture. Add  the next third, folding carefully, leaving some white streaks. Add the last third and fold gently until the last white streaks just barely disappear. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Using an offset spatula, smooth the top. Bang the pan on the kitchen counter once. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean and the cake is golden.

While the cake is baking, make the candied mint leaves (see Kitchen Tips): Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the leaves on it in a single layer, With a pastry brush, brush the leaves very lightly with the egg white. Sprinkle with half the sugar, allow to dry for 5 minutes. Turn the leaves over, brush with the egg white, sprinkle with the remaining sugar and allow to fully dry.

Remove the cake from the oven and gently invert it, still in the pan, onto a cooling rack and let stand until fully cooled and the pan is cool enough to touch. Turn the pan right-side up. Run a knife between the cake and the side of the pan. Place a serving platter that is slightly wider than the pan over the cooled cake, so that the bottom of the platter faces up. Holding the pan with one hand and pressing the plate firmly onto the pan with the other, invert them so that the plate is on the bottom. Lift up the cake pan to reveal the cake.

Just before you are ready to serve, make the whipped cream (see Kitchen Tips): Using a stand mixer, electric mixer or whisk, pour the cream into a mixing chilled bowl. Whip the cream until soft peaks form. (If using an electric or stand mixer, beat the mixture on high for about 60 seconds.) Add the sugar, vanilla, and mint oil to the cream and whip just to combine.

Serve slices of cake garnished with whipped cream and candied mint leaves.

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Posted on April 21, 2015

Manischewitz Chipotle BBQ Sauce and Other Leftover Hacks

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Ah, Manischewitz. We all love to poke fun at the super sweet kosher wine, and yet I think we all secretly love it, Jews and non-Jews alike.

When Passover comes around and we buy a few bottles, I always catch my husband taking a swig right from the bottle. And while I don’t love drinking it, I do love using it in recipes like my Tuscan-style chopped liver, Manischewitz gin smash cocktail and even this retro wine cheese ball.

I also decided to use the empty bottles this year as festive vases. I mean, why not?

Mani vases

But I still had some leftover wine after the Seders were finished. What to do?

I made a BBQ sauce using the last sweet drops and smothered some chicken legs with it. But there are no shortage of ideas for using Manischewitz in ways other than drinking it from the bottle during Passover. Here are just a few of my favorites. And see below for my recipe for Manischewitz chipotle BBQ sauce.


mojito-2

Blackberry Basil Manischewitz Mojitos from Food Plus Words

Manischewitz Sangria from Challa-peno

Manischewitz Gin Smash Cocktail

Homemade Manischewitz-Flavored Marshmallows from The Cupcake Project


manischewitz-marshmallows-428x642

Manischewitz Cheese Ball from Vinepair

Manischewitz Jello Shots from What Jew Wanna Eat

Easy Concord Chicken from Manischewitz

Manischewitz Brined Turkey from Buzzfeed

Manischewitz Braised Lamb Shank from Tasting Table

Mani BBQ sauce1
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Posted on April 15, 2015

Marbled Rye Challah

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I love when someone I know inspires a new challah creation in my kitchen, and that’s exactly how this marbled rye challah came to be: inspired by a friend and colleague.

This past autumn, Liz Alpern of The Gefilteria said she would like to come over and bake challah with me. Oh, twist my arm. I was very excited and told her we could create a new flavor, anything she wanted. She said she would love to do something “super Ashkenazy,” and so I mentioned I had always wanted to try a marbled rye challah.  And so that is just what we did.

marbled rye challah

I did some research, in fact, a lot of research, and I was shocked and somewhat confused by all the methods and recipes for rye bread. I came across this recipe which included a starter, a method I really wanted to try. Starters, also known as “mother dough”, are probably most well known in sourdough breads. The fermentation of the flour and yeast for an extended amount of time is what gives it a distinct, sour taste.Some mother doughs can even be hundreds of years old.

But don’t worry, you don’t have to wait years or even weeks for the starter in this recipe to develop. The starter for this challah sits just overnight, and while it may seem weird or even gross, it adds a great depth of flavor and slight tang to this challah.

marble rye challah1

Can you skip this step? Yes absolutely. If you forget to make it the night before, or if it just seems too daunting, don’t worry about it. I tried it both ways, and they were both delicious. Nevertheless, if you are up for the extra step, the starter does add a special depth of flavor.

I’ve always loved deli sandwiches on challah bread, and so this hybrid challah is truly the ideal vessel for some pastrami and mustard.


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Posted on April 13, 2015

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake for Passover

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It’s about this time during the week of Passover – right in the middle of Hol Hamoed, the intermediate days – that all I want to do is shove an enormous pastry or bagel in my mouth. I know Passover isn’t all about the food, but as a baker, I am seriously missing my sweets and carbs.

chocolate chip cheesecake1

Last year I was flipping through cookbooks around this time for inspiration and came up with an idea that combined several of my favorite desserts: cheesecake, ganache and macaroons.

chocolate chip cheesecaake

This chocolate chip cheesecake is really like making any other cheesecake – but instead of a graham cracker crust, you combine ground almonds, shredded coconut, butter and melted chocolate as the base. I mean, what could be bad? Add in some mini chocolate chips and top it all off with deep dark glossy ganache and this is simply a really beautiful gluten-free dessert you can enjoy all year, but especially right about now during Passover.


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Posted on April 8, 2015

Lettuce Wrap Pulled Beef Tacos with Guacamole

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When I started eating a mainly Paleo diet I immediately began to think about how to convert some favorite recipes into Paleo recipes.  It soon became clear that my now favorite recipes are also perfect for Passover.

Beef tacos for Passover1

This year I am overly cautious about the fact that I have to bring lunch to work multiple days in a row but I am excited to make a batch of these tacos served with guacamole and plantain chips.

plantain chips and guac1

Knowing that kitchen supplies are limited during Passover, a few quick things.  I use a crock-pot to make this recipe.  But give directions for both a crock-pot and a Dutch oven.

Two beef tacos with chips

Posted on April 3, 2015

Mock Chopped Liver

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This plant based version of chopped liver dip makes a lovely addition to your holiday meal. Mushrooms and walnuts give this dip a unique flavor that everyone will enjoy.

mock chopped liver

The inspiration behind this recipe was to make a modern and healthy version of this traditional and much beloved Eastern European Jewish dish, I like to serve it with crunchy, fresh celery and matzah crackers.


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Posted on April 1, 2015

Pistachio and Apricot Macaroons

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I am not particularly a traditionalist where Passover food is concerned and yet there is something about coconut macaroons for me. I absolutely must make macaroons when Passover arrives.

pistachio apricot macaroons1

I usually make them pretty simply: plain old macaroons drizzled in some chocolate. And if I want to get really crazy, perhaps some additional salted caramel on top. Just look at those beauties.

SONY DSC

But this year a dear friend and fellow cook suggested I try pistachio and apricot as a macaroon flavor. Well, as usual she was right, and they were divine. They are also beautiful – the specks of green and orange from the pistachio and apricot are such a welcome sight as spring nears. These light and sweet cookies will be so pretty as part of any Passover dessert spread. Or for breakfast with coffee, which is how I prefer to enjoy them. And they are ridiculously easy to make.

A few notes: this recipe makes exactly 12 macaroons if you use a standard cookie scoop to make them (which I suggest doing), so if you are making them for a crowd, just double the recipe. To make the ground pistachios, just put whole, unsalted pistachios into a food processor fitted with a blade attachment and pulse for 30 seconds. Do not over-pulse – you don’t want to make pistachio butter.

SONY DSC
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Posted on April 1, 2015

VIDEO: How to Make Sephardi Haroset

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Ashkenazi-style haroset made with apples, cinnamon, walnuts, and sweet wine may be the haroset many North American Jews grew up eating. But there is a whole other world of harosets out there, quite literally.

Like so many other Jewish foods, each region where Jews have lived developed their own spin on haroset. Some make it with dates, others with dates and raisins, and even others with apples and dates. The symbolism of the dish is perhaps more important than the actual ingredients, which is why you can really make it any way you like.

But if you are looking to try a different recipe this year, pick your favorite region! I tried out this Moroccan haroset and my family loved it. Here are a few others and a short video on how to make this important (and delicious) Passover dish.

Egyptian haroset

Moroccan haroset

Turkish haroset

Piedmontese hasoet

Italian haroset

VIDEO: How to Make Sephardi Haroset

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Posted on March 31, 2015

25 Vegetarian Recipes for Your Passover Seder

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Brisket. Chicken soup. Chopped liver. These are the traditional foods served at a Passover seder, right? Well what if you’re a vegetarian? Or what if (gd forbid) you just don’t want to eat heavy meat meals two nights in a row, and want to make a healthier choice for your body and the environment?

We get you. And so we wanted to pull together a variety of delicious vegetarian recipes that will make even those brisket-eaters jealous of your non-meat seder. Have other ideas for us? Post below or on our Facebook page!

vegetarian dishes for PassoverAppetizers 

Stuffed Eggs with Chevre and Dill from Epicurious

Manischewitz Cheese Ball from Vinepair

Mascarpone Stuffed Dates with Sea Salt

Mock Chopped Liver

Quick Pickled Cucumber Salad


mascarpone stuffed dates with sea salt

Soups and Salads

Cream of Carrot Soup with Roasted Jalapenos 

Power Greens Matzah Ball Soup from Amy Kritzer

Cucumber Avocado Soup

Chopped Israeli Salad

Shaved Brussel Sprout Salad from Paula Shoyer

Pomegranate Pear Pistachio Salad with Creamy Pomegranate Dressing from Carlsbad Cravings


Shredded Brussells Sprouts Salad

Main Dishes

Asparagus and Two Cheese Quiche with Hash Brown Crust from Epicurious

Fresh Mozzarella, Mushroom and Eggplant Shakshuka from May I Have That Recipe

Grilled Artichokes from Jennifer Stempel

Eggplant Casserole from Mayim Bialik

Dilly Leek Croquettes from Kosher Like Me

Rosemary Roasted Carrots from Oh My Veggies

Spinach and Cheese Lasagna for Passover

Stuffed Zucchini Boats with Ricotta and Pine Nuts from Liz Rueven 


zucchini boats stuffed with ricotta and pine nuts

Desserts

Almond Ricotta Cake from Cakelets and Doilies

Strawberry Lemon Granita

Crustless Chocolate Cheesecake from Master Cook

Coconut Macaroon Twix Bars from Kitchen-Tested

Chocolate Espresso Cookies

Nutella Banana Ice Cream from Busy in Brooklyn

Tri-Color Melon Salad with Mint Syrup


tri color melon salad with mint


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Posted on March 30, 2015