Curry Coconut Chicken with Split Peas

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I didn’t grow up with spices like turmeric, curry or even cumin, but the more I have tried experimenting with these flavors, and losing my fear over cooking with “exotic” spices, the more interesting dinner has become.

And I have been happily surprised to watch my daughter devour dishes with these spices, especially curries. Nothing too spicy, nothing too crazy. But whenever chicken and curry make it to our dinner table, she gobbles up no less than three bowls in one sitting.

coconut curry chicken in process

This dish isn’t just for my daughter though, it was enjoyed all around and was a reasonably easy weeknight meal.  I have no idea whether using split peas is traditional or not, but it’s what I had in my cabinet and it was delicious. You can skip the step of pulling the chicken off the bone and just serve whole pieces or you can also choose to use boneless skinless thighs or breasts if you prefer.

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Posted on May 28, 2015

Grilled Potato Salad with Black Beans and Goat Cheese

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I am lucky. I grew up in a family where both my parents cooked. In fact, my dad’s borscht was deemed to be the best in the family, and that’s saying quite a lot. Food was always a way to show love and hospitality. I’m not sure whether that’s a trait of all Russians or all Jews: I’m both. The first thing you do when someone comes into your home is offer them something to eat and drink.

Growing up in Russia, we had somewhat limited food supplies, and my parents created meals from whatever ingredients they could find in a grocery store or in the fully stocked pantry my dad built for all of my mom’s jams, pickled vegetables and compotes. Cookbooks were rarely used. And that’s exactly how I cook to this day despite the fact that I can pretty much find any ingredient at my local grocery store.

This mayo-free grilled potato salad with black beans and goat cheese came about because of my love of potatoes, a pot of black beans I happened to cook a night before and leftover goat cheese. Although I love mayonnaise sometimes I just prefer a lighter dish. If you don’t have a grill, you can use a panini maker, a grill pan or roast the potatoes. Feel free to customize this recipe by using chickpeas or green beans, feta, and adding other ingredients such as cherry tomatoes and olives.

It’s best to eat this salad while the potatoes are still warm because the dressing gets absorbed better and you get a great contrast between hot potatoes and creamy cold goat cheese.

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Posted on May 26, 2015

Red Quinoa Tabbouleh with Labne

red quinoa with labne

 

Quinoa is not one of my go-to foods. In fact it’s one of my least favorite foods right up there with frisee lettuce and tomato sauce baked fish. Generally I find quinoa pretty tasteless, boring and far too healthy to actually enjoy.

That is until I dined recently at an Israeli restaurant in Montclair New Jersey called Mish Mish. That evening they had a special: red quinoa tabbouleh with grilled fish and labne that I could not stop shoveling into my face. Almost everything else I ate there was equally delicious: perfectly creamy hummus, spicy shakshhuka and braised lamb. But I couldn’t stop raving about the quinoa salad, and so I needed to go home and try to recreate it.

One trip to Whole Foods later to procure some red quinoa, and we were in business. This salad is surprisingly hearty and makes a great lunch. But if you grill or poach some salmon (or an other fish of choice) and serve it right on top with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, you have yourself a dinner that is healthy and delicious. Ugh, I can’t believe I just wrote that, but really it’s true.

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Posted on May 21, 2015

Macaron Cheesecake Bites

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The humor in this dessert is that macarons are considered a very light and low fat dessert. Cheesecake on the other hand is full fat, and honestly one of the more rich and sinful desserts. Once sandwiched, these desserts paired absolutely beautifully together.

Junior’s classic cheesecake recipe is my favorite, and so that’s the recipe I used to make this, although I did cut the recipe in half. If you make the entire recipe you will have batter leftover, which you can turn into a personal-sized cheesecake if you are so inclined. The recipe I use for the macarons is by Johnny Iuzzini.

  • Place them straight into the freezer. They are very perishable so freezing is a must. Once the cheesecake bites were baked, they joined the macs in the freezer. This gave an ice cream like texture to the cheesecake that was scrumptious.
  • Grind your almond flour with your sugar for 1-2 minutes to ensure the smoothest texture. Then sift to get all lumps out.
  • Do not over mix or under mix your batter. This will impact the final result of the macarons.
  • Watch YouTube videos of “how to make macarons” they are extremely helpful!
  • Once piped onto baking sheets, tap on a hard surface to get air bubbles out and ensure an even macaron.
  • If it is raining or humid, save the macaron baking for another day. The humidity will cause the batter to become very sticky and hard to work with.
  • Do not preheat oven any earlier than the recipe states. If the oven is too hot, the macarons will puff up too much. I found that placing an empty sheet pan in the bottom rack of my oven to “trap the direct heat” helped.
  • Silpat baking mats are recommended, but not necessary.  You can use a mini muffin pan or silicon mold.

 

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Posted on May 19, 2015

Rugelach Bread Pudding Cheesecake

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I basically made myself speechless with this recipe…and anyone that knows me KNOWS how much I love to talk! I mean, it’s chocolate rugelach and it’s cheesecake and it’s bread pudding and it’s absolutely heavenly.

If you are wondering, no this isn’t just rugelach with cheesecake batter, which really wouldn’t be so bad, would it?!? The batter for this cake has been thinned out with milk to soak into every crevice of the rugelach. Dairy, dairy and even more dairy! If you want to make this completely homemade, go ahead and bake your own rugelach but store bought will do the trick.

Rugelach Cheesecake collage

If you have any cracks after the cheesecake bakes, just cover them with more rugelach. Seriously, make this cheesecake for Shavuot! I dare you!

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Posted on May 15, 2015

Blintz Bonanza: 16 Recipes Just in Time for Shavuot

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Shavuot is just over  a week away and we have had cheesecake on the brain for weeks now. But cheesecake is not the only dairy treat to enjoy during the holiday. Blintzes are also a beloved and traditional Ashkenazi dish to enjoy this time of year.

Sure, you can buy a box of frozen cheese or blueberry blintzes and call it a day (they are delicious and easy). But why not get a little creative and crazy with your combinations? We’ve put together 16 different sweet and savory blintz recipes sure to liven up your holiday table. Blintzes aren’t just for Shavuot either – they make a delicious and comforting brunch treat all year.

Savory Blintzes

Mozzarella and Sundried Tomato Blintzes

Savory Cheese and Zucchini Blintzes

Chickpea Flour Blintzes

Chicken Blintzes with Wild Mushrooms

Ground Beef Blintzes from Arbuz

Potato Blintzes from Epicurious

Grilled Hot Dog Blintzes

Chive Cream Cheese Blintzes with Poached Eggs from What Jew Wanna Eat

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Sweet Blintzes

Classic Cheese Blintzes

Strawberry Rhubarb Blintzes

Cheese Blintzes with Persimmon Syrup

Ice Cream Blintzes from Joy of Kosher

Gluten-Free Blintzes

Cherry Cheese Blintzes from Taste of Home

Chocolate Blintzes with Chocolate Ricotta Filling and Cherry Sauce from Bobby Flay

Salted Caramel Banana Blintzes

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Posted on May 14, 2015

Savory Cheese and Zucchini Blintzes

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Shavuot  is a time for many things.  It’s an all night study-a-thon, reading of the Book of Ruth, a serious look at the Jews’ covenant and the Torah, but to me, it’s all about the midnight buffet. The Kabbalist movement’s effects on Judaism cannot be overstated.

Since the 16th century, the all-nighter has been on the menu at most synagogues and often, hopefully, they serve a wonderful dinner around midnight. Yes, it’s filled with dairy and sweet treats aplenty. But I don’t serve only sweet things. I love serving savory surprises. Yes, studying all night is both enervating and energizing, and the study itself should keep you revived. But honestly, a meal with a cup of something with way too much caffeine and a plate full of fresh food is a respite for body and brain.

Eating, noshing, dining—whatever you call it—paired with studying and learning and, of course, elevated by camaraderie, laughing and talking—it’s a scholarly night worthy of some great food.

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These blintzes are a nice change of pace from the fruit or sweet-cheese-filled versions. The filling is Balkan influenced and a bit spunky. These are best served with a fat dollop of cold sour cream or tart yogurt and sprinkling of fresh dill.

Notes:

This batter needs to rest for 30 minutes before you can fry it. As written, the recipe offers a way to use the resting time by roasting the veggies that will go in the filling. However, you can also prepare the blintzes ahead of time and keep them, unfilled, in the fridge for up to 2 days, or in the freezer for up to 1 month. If you freeze them, you can roast the veggies just before you assemble the blintzes.

Kirmizi pepper is a mixture of sweet and hot peppers that have been crushed, salted, dried, ground to flakes and then coated with olive oil and roasted. The mixture originated in Turkey. The flavor is a combination of fiery heat, salt, and sweetness.

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Posted on May 13, 2015

Chocolate Dipped Cheesecake on a Stick

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I’m sure you read that title and blinked twice. I did. Because decadence has a name and it is most certainly cheesecake dipped in chocolate, covered in candy and nuts and served on a stick. This recipe is so  delicious and creative that I would love to take credit for it. But in truth I was inspired to create this recipe from a post I saw on @batteranddough’s Instagram account last year.

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Close your eyes and think of a thick, creamy, silky-smooth cheesecake. We’re talking doorstop dense, with a buttery shortbread crust.  Then, slowly dip in into a pool of warm, milk chocolate and sprinkle it with your favorite topping. (Stop it! I cant! It’s too good!) And for the final flare, put it all on a stick so the only thing that gets messy here is your mouth. It may take a lot of patience and time to make these but think of it this way: your house will smell divine and your friend won’t stop raving about these decadent treats.

I recommend baking the cheesecake a day ahead to allow the cheesecake to completely chill, and then dipping it in chocolate the next day. Just make sure your are alone when you eat the final product, otherwise you know your going to have to share.

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Posted on May 8, 2015

My Mother’s Ultimate Chocolate Babka

Stir Market chocolate babka

My mom grew up in New York and went on the hunt for the perfect babka she remembered from the Jewish delis and bakeries that used to be all over the city. Now there are barely any great bakeries left, so, other than perfecting her golf game, she enjoys retirement by experimenting in the kitchen. If you don’t know, babka is a beloved cake with Eastern European roots, made famous by a Seinfeld episode at Zabar’s Market in New York. This babka is the one that consistently generates rave reviews from all of our family for its irresistible combination of rich chocolate and other indulgent flavors, and I love that we can honor my mom this Mother’s Day by sharing her original recipe with you.

A few notes: this recipe makes approximately 3 babkas in 9” loaf pans. Bake one or all three at once or store extra dough in the freezer, defrosted, and then baked off individually. This recipe has 3 components: the dough, the filling, and the topping. I recommend making the dough first and, while that rises, making the other components. I use a stand mixer, but you can also use a large bowl with a hand mixer plus some hand kneading.

This recipe is written by Caren Libit, Bryan’s mom.

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Posted on May 7, 2015

Chocolate Chunk Cranberry Cookies

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I’m a busy mom with three little girls and I love to cook. When I found out that two of my daughters had severe food allergies, I had to rethink all of my recipes, but that didn’t stop me from making beautiful, yet delicious and simple dishes. In fact, it gave me the creative push I needed to come up with a whole new repertoire of dishes that use healthy ingredients and simple techniques to produce spectacular results.

Eventually, I realized that I wanted to share my culinary journey with moms and cooks around the world. But how? Where could I begin? I knew I wanted to produce a book — something tangible that could be passed down from mother to daughter, through the generations, just like the cookbooks that my mother passed down to me, but I had no idea where to start or how to go about it. So I turned to the cook who had inspired me since childhood: kosher culinary guru Norene Gilletz. My mom has been preparing Norene’s recipes since I was a just a kid, and the idea of working with her was an absolute dream! I was nervous and scared to call someone of her stature, but my determination to share my story and recipes won out, and I gave Norene a call.

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We instantly clicked. Norene later told me that I reminded her of herself at my age: a young mother, full of energy and ideas, and involved in the community. It’s been two years since we started to work together, and Norene has become my mentor, co-author, and friend. We just launched our joint cookbook, The Silver Platter: Simple to Spectacular. Our book showcases the best that each generation has to offer. There are fresh, modern ideas and recipes from me, as well as a complete wealth of cooking knowledge and advice from Norene, in the form of tips that she provided for each recipe.

In honor of Mother’s Day, thank your mom with a batch of one of my favorite cookies: chocolate chunk cranberry cookies, a sweet recipe from my new book that are non-dairy, can be made gluten-free and most importantly, are absolutely delicious.

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Posted on May 5, 2015