Yeladim


Goodbye, Jacob, Goodbye

Parshat Vayetze opens with Jacob leaving Be’er Sheva. Everyone feels his absence.

Is there someone who used to live in your neighborhood or went to your school but moved away? How did you feel when they left? Was that person someone who did nice things?

What if you move away? What kind of impression will you leave behind?

Let’s Go Lego

Congratulations to the winners of the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles’ (JCLLA) Lego Bible contest. You can come and see these Lego creations until Dec. 15, at the Slavin Family Children’s Library, 6505 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 120, Los Angeles, (323) 761-8648.

Better than Bought Butter!

Here’s a way to be helpful and have your parents be really thankful to you on Thanksgiving.

Homemade Butter

You will need:

1 pint heavy cream

Directions:

Fill airtight containers half full of cream. Cover securely and shake and shake and shake, until cream turns into butter.

Pour out the buttermilk on top and place butter in serving dish.

It is delicious on dinner rolls.

Zen and the Art of Homemade Gefilte Fish


I added a new experience to my Passover preparation last
year. In addition to counting the haggadahs, practicing the Four Questions with
my daughter, inviting guests, shopping and cleaning the house, I made gefilte
fish from scratch for the first time ever.

Neither my mother nor any of my grandmothers had felt the
need to initiate me into the gefilte fish sorority, even though I know they all
had this experience. After trying it myself for the first time, I think I may
have a good idea why they decided not to pass on this tradition. I went in with
blind and irrational optimism after watching the instructor at a cooking class
make it look so easy. Here’s what I learned.

Don’t bother to clean your kitchen before you make gefilte
fish. The same goes for cleaning your wedding rings. You will have to do the
job all over again as soon as you are finished. Unless my foremothers were much
neater than I am, cleaning the kitchen from top to bottom is a necessity after
chopping five pounds of fish, onions and carrots and then mixing them up with
your hands. OK, I admit, the recipe said to use a chopping blade and a wooden
bowl, but in the end, the only way I could mix in all the required ingredients
was with my (very clean) hands and since the meat grinder was not cooperating,
I ended up using my food processor. If you don’t feel motivated to make your
kitchen sparkle the way any fine Jewish housekeeper would do before Passover,
make gefilte fish. You will have no choice in the matter.

I now know why gefilte fish costs $5 a jar. It costs a
fortune to make it from scratch. The recipe I followed, which created two nice
serving platters of fish, required 5 pounds of salmon, cod and other assorted,
expensive filets. That’s at least $20 worth of fish. Surely the fish factory
doesn’t use the fancy kinds of fish I used, but fish is expensive and they pass
the cost on to you. It may a little cheaper to make it yourself if you stick to
the cheaper fillets, but that’s probably not a good enough reason to do it. The
beauty and taste of salmon gefilte fish may convince you, however, if you have
access to that Northwest specialty.

Homemade does taste better. Homemade is about five times
better tasting than fish in the jars. But frozen gefilte fish isn’t a bad
second choice and having a friend make it in his or her kitchen is an even
better alternative. I know why grandma made it from scratch in the past (she
didn’t really have a choice). I also know why in later years, the jars seemed
fine to her. Who wants to spend that much time preparing one small part of the
seder?

You’ll impress your mother (and your grandmother). I
called my mom the next day to complain that she hadn’t discouraged me enough
from attempting the gefilte fish experience. She told me she was impressed that
I made the effort and was sure it was delicious. I wish she could have had a
taste, but I wasn’t going to mail any fish to Florida. Unfortunately, my last
grandma died a few years ago. I’m not absolutely sure she would have been
impressed with my efforts, but at least she would have been amused by my
stories about the experience.

Your guests will love to bring home leftovers. Don’t
worry, you’ll have plenty to share. I gave away about half of what was left
after the first seder and had plenty remaining in my fridge. My friends said it
would make a great lunch during the week. I hope they enjoyed it. Every time I
tried to eat some more, I remembered the experience of making it and lost my
appetite. Usually it’s my favorite leftover for Passover lunches.

There’s an easier way that’s still authentic. If you ask
around, you can probably find a good grocery store or fish shop where they’ll
grind the fish for you. You may even get to pick out your filets first. Some
places take orders every year before Passover, like the Albertsons in my
community. The finished product will probably taste just as good, but you won’t
have to do the most difficult and messy part of the process. What you’ll miss
out on is the opportunity to complain about how hard you worked and to tell
funny stories about the mess you made.

Your friends will tell you their funny gefilte fish
stories. When I told my friend, Anne, that I made my own gefilte fish this
year, she wrinkled up her nose and asked if I wanted to hear her gefilte fish
story. Before going through the conversion process, Anne had asked our rabbi a
very serious question (I am not making this up). She wanted to know if she
would be required to eat gefilte fish when she became a Jew. The rabbi assured
her that consumption of any particular food (except for one bite of matzah) is
not required of Jews. She was relieved. I’m not positive the rabbi gave her the
correct answer, but Anne has never been concerned about passing as a “culinary
Jew.” I forgot to ask if her husband and daughter eat gefilte fish. This year,
I’ll send them over some leftovers, if they want.

You’ll really enjoy this movie now. If you haven’t seen
the short film “Gefilte Fish” directed by Karen Silverstein, check it out of
your favorite film library. It’s a hilarious documentary in which three
generations of women talk about making gefilte fish. I don’t want to ruin it by
telling you any more. It’s 15 minutes long and distributed by Ergo Media. If
you have trouble finding it, contact the distributor at ergo@jewishvideo.com or
(201) 692-0404.

Zen and the art of gefilte fish making. OK, I admit, I
never did finish that book (“Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”), but I
think I got the gist. There was something about my gefilte fish experience that
made me feel I had really found my place in the chain of Jewish motherhood. It’s
similar to the experience of making challah with my daughter — like time has
stopped and we have truly stepped away from the everyday world. It’s something
I do not feel in my women’s study group or at temple. Even though I am a modern
Jewish woman, and even though I lead the seder as well as prepare the food, it
is the rituals of the kitchen that connect me to the Jewish universe and my
ancestral foremothers.

Eileen Mintz’s Gefilte Fish

Fish Mixture:

5 pounds assorted fillets of fresh fish

Sample assortment, but you can be creative:

1 1/2 pounds salmon

1 1/2 pounds snapper

1 pound black cod

1 pound ling cod or true cod

1 1/2 large sweet onions

4 large carrots

5 large eggs

1 1/2 tablespoons sugar (or a little more)

4 teaspoons salt

4 teaspoons pepper (white)

Paprika

3/4 cup matzah meal (or up to a cup) for binding

3/4 cup ice water

Stock:

2 carrots

3 onions

4 shakes paprika

4 shakes of black pepper

4 tablespoons sugar

To prepare stock, fill two large heavy stock pots full of
water. Slice three onions and carrots, divide equally between pots. Add fish
skins, and heads if so desired. Sprinkle in paprika, salt and pepper and two
tablespoons of sugar. Boil this stock to a medium boil for 10 minutes.

Wash fish and pat dry. Grind the fish, onions and carrots
together, using a meat grinder, food processor or chopping bowl. If you use a
food processor or meat grinder, chop the fish again in the wooden bowl.

Add eggs one at a time. Add sugar, salt and pepper and
continue to chop until very well blended and into very small pieces. Add water
a little at a time throughout this process. Add matzah meal and chop again.
Check to see if mixture is thick enough to bind together and to make an oval
gefilte fish ball. If not, add more matzah meal.

With wet hands, shape the fish balls and carefully drop into
boiling stock. Cover slightly and cook on medium-low heat on the stove for two
hours. When done, let the fish sit in the pot for 10 minutes and then remove
pieces carefully to container. Strain the remaining stock over fish balls, just
barely covering them.

Chill and serve. These will keep in the refrigerator for up
to six days. This is enough fish to serve a large group for the seder and can
easily be doubled to make sure there are leftovers. Â


Donna Gordon Blankinship is a freelance writer living in Seattle.

A Glazed Miracle Happened Here


During the festival of Chanukah, Jews around the world will prepare the traditional foods that represent their individual cultural backgrounds. Families with Eastern European ties will serve fried potato latkes. In Germany, jelly doughnuts called Berliner pfannkuchen are prepared. Italian Jews deep-fry fritters known there as bombolini. In Israel, they make sufganiyot, jam-filled doughnuts, and it is reported that more than a quarter of a million of them are made there every year during Chanukah.

It’s all about frying foods, usually in olive oil. Each dish is a way of remembering the miracle of the one-day supply of oil that lasted for eight days as the Jews processed the new oil necessary for the Temple in Jerusalem many years ago.

Today, many restaurants feature a variety of doughnuts on their dessert menus. Some are glazed, rolled in sugar or filled with preserves, and they are the perfect dish to serve for Chanukah.

Chef Thomas Keller at the French Laundry Restaurant in Napa Valley was one of the first to serve fried pastries at the end of the meal. In his wonderful “The French Laundry Cookbook,” from 2000, he recommends serving them with coffee semifreddo for dessert, and calls it coffee and doughnuts. Sherry Yard, the pastry chef at Spago’s Restaurant in Beverly Hills, has just published the cookbook “The Secrets of Baking.” One of the photos in the book shows a tower of doughnuts, along with the recipe, and variety of toppings. And at the newly opened Grace Restaurant in Hollywood they serve sugar-coated doughnuts with a raspberry sauce on the side.

Bruce Marder the chef-owner of Capo Restaurant in Santa Monica and Brentwood Restaurant in West Los Angeles, offers for dessert a combination plate of mini-doughnuts with a sugar glaze topping and doughnuts that are filled with homemade fruit preserves.

I tested all of these recipes and have selected three that are the easiest to prepare in the home kitchen. One of my favorites is a recipe for Pecan Doughnuts that replaces the yeast with baking powder. Yard’s doughnuts that are served at Spago may take a little more time, but the results are delicious. The recipe from Marder is unusual because you don’t roll out the dough, just shape it into logs and cut them into rounds.

I can’t think of anything more fun at a Chanukah party than serving homemade fried doughnuts with a variety of toppings and dipping sauces for every one to enjoy. Serve them with milk, hot chocolate or — as Keller suggests — with coffee semifreddo.

Chanukah Pecan Doughnuts

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground mace

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans

1 teaspoon grated orange peel

Olive oil or Vegetable oil for deep frying

Granulated sugar or powdered sugar

In the bowl of an electric mixer (or hand mixer) cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, mace, nutmeg and salt. Add to the sugar mixture in batches alternately with milk. Stir in pecans and orange peel. Cover with a towel and refrigerate at least one hour. (Can be prepared eight hours ahead.)

Roll dough out on lightly floured surface to 1/2- to 3/4-inch thick. Cut out rounds and holes using 3-inch floured doughnut cutter. Repeat with scraps.

Heat oil to 370 F. In deep fryer or deep large skillet. Add doughnuts and holes in batches and fry until golden brown, turning once, about two minutes per side. Drain on paper towels. Roll in sugar or dust with powdered sugar.

Yield: About 12 doughnuts and holes.

Capo Restaurant’s Doughnuts

2 packages active dry yeast

1/2 cup warm water

1/4 cup warm milk

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

2 egg yolks

3 whole eggs

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla

Zest of 1 lemon

5 cups flour

1 cup strawberry or raspberry preserves

Combine the dry yeast with warm water and milk, mix well and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend the butter and sugar until fluffy. In a medium bowl, beat the egg yolks, whole eggs, salt, vanilla and lemon zest. Add the egg mixture to the butter mixture and blend well. Blend in the yeast mixture.

Add the flour 1/2 cup at a time until the dough comes together. Place on a wooden surface and knead into a ball. Cover and let rise for 90 minutes.

Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Remove from the refrigerator and divide into four parts. Roll one part into a log (1-inch round) and cut into 1-inch pieces. Place on baking sheet, cover with a towel and continue with the remaining three parts. Let rise for 30 minutes.

Heat oil in deep fryer or large saucepan to 365 F. Add doughnuts three or four at a time (do not crowd) and fry until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Using a pastry bag with a small tip, fill with preserves. Make a small slit in each doughnut while still hot. Insert the tip of the pastry bag into the slit and fill each doughnut with a teaspoon of preserves. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or roll in sugar and serve doughnuts warm or at room temperature.

Yield: About 30 small doughnuts.

Sherry Yard’s Doughnuts

For the sponge

1 envelope (2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

1/2 cup milk, room temperature

1/2 cup flour

1 tablespoons light brown sugar

For the dough

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 eggs, lightly beaten

1/4 pound unsalted butter, softened

For the frying

1 quart safflower, sunflower or olive oil

1 cup sugar for coating or more to taste

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine yeast and milk and whisk until the yeast is dissolved. Let stand for five minutes, then stir in the flour and brown sugar, forming a thick batter. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 30-45 minutes, or until bubbles form.

Add the flour, salt, cardamom and cinnamon to the sponge, then add the eggs. Mix on low speed for two minutes, or until the eggs are absorbed. (Switch to dough hook) increase the speed to medium and knead the dough for five minutes, or until it begins to slap around.

On medium-low speed, add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time. Stop the mixer and occasionally scrape down the sides of the bowl. Knead until the dough is shiny and smooth, about five minutes. Scrape out the dough, wash and dry the bowl and coat it lightly with oil.

Place the dough in the oiled bowl and turn it so that the top is coated with oil. Cover with plastic film and let rise at room temperature until doubled in volume, about two hours.

When the dough has doubled in volume, punch it down by folding it two or three times. Cover with plastic film and let rise at room temperature until doubled in volume, about 45 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Using a rolling pin, roll it out to a thickness of 1/2 inch. If the dough is difficult to handle after rolling, place it in the freezer for 20 minutes. Cut the dough using a doughnut cutter or two round cutters of graduated size. Dip the cutters in flour each time to make it easier. Once cut, the dough can be stored in the freezer for up to one week.

Defrost in the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes before frying in a heavy skillet, wide, heavy saucepan, or deep fryer, over medium heat. Insert a candy thermometer. When oil reaches 350 F-360 F carefully place four or five doughnuts in the oil. Fry for one minute, then use a slotted spoon to flip them over and fry on the other sides for one minute, then flip over again and fry until dark golden brown. Remove the doughnuts from the oil and drain them on paper towels for 30 seconds before coating them with sugar. Repeat with the remaining doughnuts. Serve immediately.

Yield: About 24 doughnuts.

Variations from Sherry Yard:

Cinnamon-Sugar: Combine 1 cup sugar with 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon. Coat top of doughnuts with the mixture while they are still hot and wet with oil.

Powdered Sugar: When the doughnuts have cooled and the oil has dried, sift powdered sugar generously on top.

Glazed: Combine 2 cups powdered sugar, 1/4 cup milk and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract in a small bowl. Drizzle the mixture over the hot doughnuts and let dry.

Chocolate Glaze: Combine 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate and 1/4 pound unsalted butter in a small bowl. Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water and stir until melted. Dip the top of each doughnut into the chocolate. Before the glaze sets, top each doughnut with candy sprinkles, jimmies, chopped nuts or coconut.

Judy Zeidler is the author of “The Gourmet Jewish Cook” and “The
30-Minute Kosher Cook” Her Web site is members.aol.com/jzkitchen

Seder Yummies From Chicken to Chocolate


Passover is my favorite Jewish holiday, and although cooking for Passover requires a lot of preparation, I look forward to it each year. It is a time when our family and close friends join together to share thoughts and exchange ideas as we participate in the seder.

I have a regular routine that begins my preparation for the Passover holiday. The first thing I do is check last year’s guest list with my husband, so we won’t leave anyone out, and then we add friends who will be alone during the holiday. Next, I review my files that are filled with Passover recipes and select the dishes I want to prepare for our seders.

Over the years we have added Passover food traditions from other cultures that are different then what we normally serve, and they have become an important part of our seder menu.

In the past we traditionally dipped sliced spring onions in salt water as the first vegetable of the season, and now we also serve steamed new potatoes dipped in salt.

The children love the idea of including scallions, a symbolic food that the Sephardic Jews use during their seder. They represent the whips used to beat the Jews when they were slaves in Egypt. The children reenact this event during the seder by going around the table and gently hitting the participants with the raw scallions.

The charoset, bitter herbs and matzah are part of the Passover meal, and during our Seder we taste several types of charoset from around the world. Each guest is served a plate with six different charoset and we identify the country that each represents. Oh yes, the next day I roll the leftover charoset into balls and dip them in chocolate to serve as a special treat during the remaining days of Passover.

Dinner usually begins with homemade gefilte fish, but this year I plan on making a Gefilte Fish Terrine.

It is not as time-consuming to make, and the taste is the same. It is baked the oven, in a mold, and does not require poaching in a fish stock.

This is followed by an intensely flavored chicken soup with matzah balls, and it is the one dish I cannot change because it is everyone’s favorite.

Roast turkey is the main course, as well as chicken breasts that are filled with Grandma Molly’s Vegetable Stuffing, rolled and baked. The combination of sautéed vegetables, matzah meal and sweet raisins is delicious, and I always double the recipe, and bake the remainder of the stuffing in a casserole, because there is never enough to satisfy everyone. The glazed apple slices are easy to make and are a perfect accompaniment to serve with the chicken and turkey.

Dinner is always served buffet style and everyone helps themselves to their favorite Passover dishes.

For dessert, the table is set with an assortment of sponge cakes, cookies and chocolate-covered nuts and fruit. The walnut torte sponge cake looks extra-special by simply layering it with a preserve filling and then spooning a chocolate glaze on top.

Wine is an important part of the seder. In the past, sweet Concord grape wine was always served during Passover, but today dry Passover wines have gained in popularity, and the availability, and varieties are remarkable. These wines come from California, France, Italy and Israel, and, at our seder, we provide both sweet and dry wines, as well as grape juice, to satisfy everyone’s taste.

Rolled Chicken Breasts with Grandma Molly’s Passover

Vegetable Stuffing (pictured above)

Grandma Molly’s Vegetable Stuffing

8 chicken breasts (4 whole,

boned and cut in half)

1/4 cup oil

1 onion, thinly sliced

3 carrots, thinly sliced

1 cup chicken stock

1/4 cup dry white wine

Prepare Grandma Molly’s Vegetable Stuffing and cool.

Place a chicken breast, skin side down, on a sheet of wax paper, cover with another sheet of wax paper and using a mallet or tenderizer, gently pound the breast until desired thickness.

Spoon stuffing in the center and roll up the chicken breast, encasing the stuffing and tie with string. Repeat with remaining chicken breasts.

Line a baking pan with foil, brush with oil and arrange onions and carrots on top. Place stuffed chicken breasts on top, brush with oil and season with salt and pepper.

Add stock and wine and bake at 375 F for 20 minutes, increase the heat to 425 F, and bake about five minutes more, or until chicken is tender and crisp. Transfer to a cutting board and slice on the bias.

To serve, arrange sliced chicken breasts on plates and spoon any juices from pan that remain.

Serves 8.

Grandma Molly’s Passover

Vegetable Stuffing

1/2 cup raisins, plumped in 1 cup Passover Concord grape wine

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

4 stalks celery, finely diced

6 medium carrots, peeled and grated

1 parsnip, peeled and grated

2 medium zucchini, unpeeled

and grated

1/2 cup minced fresh parsley

2-3 tablespoons matzah meal

2-3 tablespoons matzah cake meal

2-3 tablespoons Passover cereal

or potato starch

1/4 cup dry red wine

Salt and freshly ground black

pepper to taste

In a large, heavy skillet, heat the oil and sauté the onions and garlic until soft, about three minutes. Add the celery, carrots, parsnip, and zucchini, and toss well. Cook for five minutes until the vegetables begin to soften. Drain the raisins and add them to the vegetables with the parsley. Stir in 1 tablespoon each of the matzah meal, matzah cake meal and potato starch. Add the red wine and mix well. Stir in the remaining dry ingredients, a little at a time, until the stuffing is moist and soft but firm in texture. Season with salt and pepper. Cool.

Makes about 12 cups.

Chocolate Farfel-Pecan Clusters

16 ounces Passover semi-sweet chocolate

1 1/2 cups toasted matzah farfel

1 cup toasted, chopped pecans

In the top of a double boiler over simmering water or in a microwave, melt the chocolate. Pour the melted chocolate into a large bowl. Add the matzah farfel and pecans and mix thoroughly.

Spoon this mixture onto a waxed paper-lined baking sheet or ruffled paper candy cups. Refrigerate until set.

To serve: peel the clusters off the waxed paper and place on a platter or serve in candy cups, along with Passover sponge cakes and cookies. Makes about 30 to 40 clusters