Matzo Balls with Mushrooms and Jalapeños in Broth. Photo by Ellen Silverman

PBS cooking host Pati Jinich’s Mexican-Jewish Passover


Celebrity chef Pati Jinich grew up in Mexico City, where she spent Shabbat dinners at her bubbe’s house.

“When we walked into her house,” Jinich fondly recalls of her grandmother, “the first thing she had was a big, gigantic bowl of guacamole, but it was a Yiddish version, because it was a combination of chopped egg salad and guacamole. Next to that, she would have a big bowl of gribenes” — crisp chicken or goose skin — “with fried onions. And then she already had sliced challah. So you would grab a slice of challah, put the chopped egg guacamole mixture on top, and then you top it with gribenes.”

This Mexican-Jewish fusion runs deep in Jinich’s family, as it does for many other Mexican Jews.

“It’s become fashionable to do a Latin theme on Jewish foods, but a lot of people don’t realize that Mexican-Jewish cuisine is really deeply rooted,” says Jinich, who stars in the hit national PBS cooking show “Pati’s Mexican Table.” “It’s not just, ‘Oh, I’m gonna throw a chili in here, or some spices.’ There’s a full Mexican-Jewish vocabulary that has existed for centuries.”

Jinich’s bubbe also made p’tcha (pickled calf foot), but instead of serving it with horseradish, she served her version with pico de gallo.

Sephardic Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition first came to Mexico more than 500 years ago. Larger waves of Jewish immigrants arrived over the past 150 years, most of them from Eastern Europe, Syria and the former Ottoman Empire. Today, the Jewish population in Mexico  is close to 50,000, most of them living in Mexico City.

So the idea of Mexican-Jewish fusion is not something new for Mexican Jews like Jinich; it was part of life while she was growing up. For example, Jinich points to Gefilte Fish a la Veracruzana, which has a sauce of tomatoes, capers, pickled chilies, olives, cilantro and parsley.

“The Jewish community thought of using it for fish patties — gefilte fish,” she said. “So that’s a standard — a must — in many Jewish Ashkenazi homes. Instead of eating the gefilte fish cold with aspic, which you need an acquired taste to love, Mexican-style gefilte fish is served warm, in that thick, spicy tomato broth. And it’s really irresistible.”

Jinich, 44, traces her roots to Poland and central Europe — her grandparents fled pogroms and immigrated to Mexico City in the early 20th century. As a young adult, she became an immigrant herself, following her Mexican-Jewish husband to the United States 20 years ago. Jinich, now a mother of three boys, lives in Washington, D.C., where her television show, currently in its fifth season, originates in her home kitchen.

Although Jinich is a natural in the kitchen and on camera, she began her career as a policy analyst, focused on Latin American politics. But her passion for food — and especially the cuisine of Mexico — brought her to culinary school in 2005. Before becoming a chef, she taught Mexican cooking to friends and neighbors while living in Dallas in the late 1990s and served as a production assistant on another PBS food series, “New Tastes From Texas,” a show that featured guest hosts such as Mexican food pioneers Diana Kennedy and Patricia Quintana.

Jinich has published two cookbooks, “Pati’s Mexican Table: The Secrets of Real Mexican Home Cooking” (2013) and “Mexican Today: New and Rediscovered Recipes for Contemporary Kitchens” (2016). And her television show, which screens all over the world, has been nominated for two Emmys and two James Beard Awards, the Oscars of the food world. 

Pati Jinich. Photo by Michael Ventura

Pati Jinich. Photo by Michael Ventura

In short, Jinich has become a 21st-century ambassador to Mexican cuisine in the United States. But she brings a modern sensibility to the foods of her native country, which are being rediscovered with renowned chefs such as Denmark’s René Redzepi of Noma, who is opening a satellite of his famed restaurant in Mexico, and Enrique Olvera, who has been featured on Netflix’s popular series “Chef’s Table.”

Jinich sees the culinary world’s recent attention to Mexico as inspiring.

“For a long time, everyone took Mexican food for granted,” she explains. “It took this new cadre of chefs looking at Mexican cuisine and taking all the traditional elements and presenting them in a more sexy, modern way. Not only for the outside to recognize the richness and sophistication of Mexican cuisine, but also for Mexicans. Mexicans are so excited about their own cuisine. Now, it’s going back to the roots — sometimes to the extreme — and really highlighting what makes Mexican food so unique. And I think Mexican cuisine is having a very big moment. There’s so much to explore.”

With recipes such as Asparagus, Mushroom and Goat Cheese Enchiladas with Pine Nut Mole Sauce or Mexican Thanksgiving Turkey, Jinich has an approach that is more accessible than many of the chefs currently helming the Mexican dining scene. She lives by the credo that any home cook can bring the warmth and color of Mexico into the kitchen.

And although Jinich is Jewish, her recipes are, for the most part, Mexican. She did not grow up attending Jewish schools or eating kosher food. At the same time, following in the footsteps of her bubbe, as well as an Austrian grandmother who taught her how to make matzo ball soup (recipe below), she treasures the dishes of her Mexican-Jewish repertoire

“What happened with Ashkenazi food, which is sort of bland, is that it got blessed with all the warmth and colors and flavors of Mexico. It was like a gift to Ashkenazi cuisine.”

“Blessed” is how Jinich also describes her own multifaceted identity. Despite feeling “shaken” by the current political climate in the U.S., she sees herself as simultaneously Mexican, Jewish and American.

“I used to tell my children as Mexican Americans, you’ve been doubly blessed, but you’re doubly responsible,” she says. “You have to be proud about being Mexican, and you have to make Mexico proud, and you have to make your Mexican family proud. And at the same time, you have to be grateful to America and responsible as an American citizen. And one cannot forget the third element, which is about being a Jew and the Jewish values.”

It’s a recipe for life Jinich clearly embraces.

MATZO BALLS WITH MUSHROOMS AND JALAPEÑOS IN BROTH

From “Mexican Today: New and Rediscovered Recipes for Contemporary Kitchens” by Pati Jinich (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016).

– 1 cup (2 2-ounce packages) matzo ball mix
– 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
– 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
– 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
– 4 large eggs
– 1/2 cup canola or safflower oil, divided
– 2 tablespoons sesame oil
– 1 tablespoon sparkling water (optional)
– 1/2 cup white onion, finely chopped
– 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
– 2 jalapeño chilies, seeded if desired and finely chopped, more or less to taste
– 1/2 pound white and/or baby bella (cremini) mushrooms, cleaned,  dried, part of the stem removed, thinly sliced
– 8 cups chicken broth, homemade or store-bought

In a large mixing bowl, combine the matzo ball mix, parsley, nutmeg and 3/4 teaspoon salt.

In a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs with 6 tablespoons of vegetable oil and 2 tablespoons of sesame oil. Fold the beaten eggs into the matzo ball mixture with a spatula. Add the sparkling water if you want the matzo balls to be fluffy, and mix until well combined. Cover the mixture and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

In a large soup pot, bring about 3 quarts salted water to a rolling boil over high heat. Bring heat down to medium and keep at a steady simmer. With wet hands, shape the matzo ball mix into 1- to 1 1/2-inch balls and gently drop them into the water.  Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until matzo balls are completely cooked and have puffed up.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat in a soup pot. Add the onion, garlic and chilies and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes, until they have softened a bit. Stir in the sliced mushrooms, add 3/4 teaspoon salt, stir and cover the pan. Steam the mushrooms for about 6 to 8 minutes, remove the lid and continue to cook uncovered until the liquid in the pan evaporates. Add the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add the cooked matzo balls (use a slotted spoon if transferring from their cooking water) and serve.

Makes 8 servings.

GEFILTE FISH A LA VERACRUZANA

A standard in Jewish homes across Mexico. Courtesy of Pati Jinich.

– Gefilte Fish Patties (recipe follows)
– 3 tablespoons safflower or corn oil
– 1/2 cup white onion, chopped
– 1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
– 3 cups water
– 2 tablespoons ketchup
– 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
– 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper, or to taste
– 1 cup Manzanilla olives stuffed with pimientos
– 8 pepperoncini peppers in vinegar brine/chiles güeros en escabeche, or more to taste
– 1 tablespoon capers

Prepare Gefilte Fish Patties; set aside.

Heat the oil in a large cooking pot over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion, and let it cook for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring, until soft and translucent. Pour the crushed tomatoes into the pot, stir and let the mix season and thicken for about 6 minutes. Incorporate 3 cups water, 2 tablespoons ketchup, salt and white pepper, give it a good stir and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to low, to get a gentle simmer, as you roll the Gefilte Fish Patties.

Place a small bowl with lukewarm water to the side of the simmering tomato broth. Start making the patties, about 2 1/2 inches by 1 inch and about 3/4-inch thick. Wet your hands as necessary, so the fish mixture will not stick to your hands. As you make them, slide them gently into the simmering broth. Make sure it is simmering and raise the heat to medium if necessary to keep a steady simmer.

Once you finish making the patties, cover the pot and turn the heat to low. Cook them covered for 25 minutes. Take off the lid, incorporate the Manzanilla olives, pepperoncini peppers and capers. Give it a soft stir and simmer uncovered for 20 more minutes, so the gefilte fish will be thoroughly cooked and the broth will have seasoned and thickened nicely. Serve hot with slices of challah and spiced-up pickles.

Makes about 20 patties.

GEFILTE FISH PATTIES

– 1 pound red snapper fillets, no skin or bones
– 1 pound flounder fillets, no skin or bones
– 1 white onion (about 1/2 pound), quartered
– 2 carrots (about 1/4 pound), peeled and roughly chopped
– 3 eggs
– 1/2 cup matzo meal
– 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
– 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper, or to taste

Rinse the fish fillets under a thin stream of cool water. Slice into smaller pieces and place in the food processor. Pulse for 5 to 10 seconds until fish is finely chopped but hasn’t turned into a paste. Turn fish mixture onto a large mixing bowl.

Place the onion, carrots, eggs, matzo meal, salt and white pepper in same bowl of food processor. Process until smooth and turn onto the fish mixture. Combine thoroughly.


Lara Rabinovitch Neuman works for Google as a food writer and regularly teaches food culture courses at the Skirball Cultural Center.

Joan Nathan. Photo by Gabriela Herman

Traveling through time in search of Jewish cooking with Joan Nathan


The acclaimed cookbook author Joan Nathan has done more than perhaps anyone to popularize Jewish cooking in America. Her latest book, “King Solomon’s Table,” digs deeper into Jewish history, uncovering connections between cultures to reveal that Jewish cooking is more complicated — and delicious — than we ever realized.

“By having a knowledge of the history, I think I understood what Jewish food was in a different way,” Nathan said in an interview with the Journal in anticipation of the book’s publication and two upcoming local appearances.

[Recipes from “King Solomon’s Table”]

Her journey of discovery reaches back to biblical times and the reign of King Solomon, who sent explorers to various parts of his kingdom to bring back spices and jewels. Nathan finds that Jewish merchants and traders brought these exotic ingredients into their home countries, and these flavors were intermingled with the culinary traditions of their home communities. This culinary cross-pollination resulted in dishes that still are eaten today.

In the universe of Jewish food, Nathan is the Big Bang. Her 10 previous books include six about Jewish cuisine and two on Israeli cuisine. The two James Beard award-winning books, “Jewish Cooking in America” and “The New American Cooking,” have become essential reference books for preparing Jewish meals for holidays and throughout the year. It is unlikely that any hip artisan deli owner or new-wave Jewish food blogger didn’t at some point dig deep into Nathan’s works for inspiration, ingredients or proportions. 

Nathan, 74, lives in Washington, D.C., and on Martha’s Vineyard with her husband, the prominent lawyer Allan Gerson, and is the mother of three adult children. She also hosted a nationally syndicated PBS television series about Jewish cooking, and writes regularly for The New York Times, Tablet magazine and other publications.

Her latest book will be published just in time for Passover, when Jews remember the Exodus story and connect it to other stories of displacement and diaspora. The publication also coincides with stepped-up immigration raids in the United States and a backlash against refugees in Europe.

“Every cuisine is helped by immigrants,” Nathan said. “In writing this book, I began to realize that after 1965, when immigration opened up all over the world — to immigrants from Southeast Asia, from Russia, from all parts of the world — it embellished Jewish food, because we had Afghani immigrants, Uzbek immigrants, Azerbaijani immigrants. And so, in most cases, I tried to go around the world to try this food, but because I couldn’t get to Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan, I could get those in Brooklyn and L.A.”

Her new book includes more than 170 recipes that traverse the globe. They include her takes on classics like Yemenite chicken soup, bourekas, hummus and hamantashen, as well as modern riffs on traditional dishes such as shakshuka, herbed labneh and Baghdadi chicken. There also are recipes that combine cultures, like Syrian-Mexican chicken with apricot, tamarind and chipotle sauce.

Nathan’s voracious appetite for stories shines through every anecdote and historical gem in the book.

Nathan’s voracious appetite for stories shines through every anecdote and historical gem in the book. “King Solomon’s Table” is as much a kitchen reference guide as it is a page-turner about Jewish history and culture told through food.

Take the macaroon, a cookie many enjoy during Passover. The treat has roots in the fertile valley between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, in what is now southern Iraq. It’s made with almonds, sugar, rosewater and sometimes eggs blended together with cardamom. Macaroons have become a Purim and Passover staple for Iraqi and Iranian Jews, though they’ve picked up flavors as Jews have spread across the globe. Nathan’s cookbook includes a recipe for walnut-almond macaroons with a raspberry jam thumbprint.

Nathan leaves no stone unturned when sniffing out Jewish culinary history. Her research trips uncover Jewish connections from China and India to Mexico and Iran. Jews lived along the Silk Road and adopted kreplach from the Chinese wonton. She includes a recipe for Sri Lankan breakfast buns with cinnamon-laced onion confit, adapted from a bun she found at a roadside stand in Sri Lanka, where a small Jewish community once lived.

Another example is chicken paprikash, a favorite dish among Hungarian Jews. In her research, Nathan realized the paprika was probably brought by Sephardic Jewish merchants from the New World. Similarly, knödel originated in Alsace-Lorraine and southern Germany and later became kneidlach, or matzo balls.

“I remember when I was much younger and I was hiking in the Alps and, in a hut at the top, there was this huge knödel in the soup, and I thought, Oh, my God, matzo balls! And the matzo balls that we have in America are not like what they were in Europe,” Nathan said.

At times, it feels like the definition of “Jewish food” stretches so wide that it seems to lose meaning, but, Nathan says, “the core, even if you don’t agree with it, are the dietary laws” along with the foods traditional to the Jewish holidays.

Another thing that sets apart Jewish cooking from, say, Italian cooking, is that Jewish merchants brought back spices from other lands and incorporated them into the foods of their home countries. So the recipes have a multilayered aspect that merges different cultures’ flavors.

The way Jewish food spans place and time was evident during Nathan’s keynote address earlier this month at a symposium called “Jewish Food in the Global South.” She hosted a cooking class and made carciofi alla giudia, fried artichokes Jewish style; fessenjan, a traditional chicken-and-walnut stew made with pomegranate and served with saffron rice; and upside-down fruit cobbler. She also discussed the evolution of schnecken, a kind of sweet bun. In Arkansas, Jews replaced the walnuts used in Germany with pecans.

“King Solomon’s Table” is as much a kitchen reference guide as it is a page-turner about Jewish history and culture

She also revealed a recipe for a Lithuanian stuffed matzo ball she discovered in Mississippi. It was made in a muffin tin and stuffed with meat and cinnamon. “A Lithuanian immigrant brought that recipe in the 19th century and made it in a wood stove,” she said.

In writing the book, Nathan’s voyage of discovery also landed her at the Babylonian Collection in the Sterling Memorial Library at Yale University, where she was able to (very carefully) handle three clay tablets from about 1700 B.C.E. These earliest known “cookbooks” had chiseled on them 44 recipes inscribed in cuneiform in the Akkadian language.

Nathan spends a fair amount of time in Los Angeles, where she interacts with Persian Jews eating fessenjan and gondi kashi, a rice dish filled with spices, herbs, meat, beets and fava beans. Her recipe for sweet-and-sour Persian stuffed grape leaves begins with a delightful anecdote about walking into Maryam Maddahi’s home in Beverly Hills, where she heard Persian music and found 60 family members singing, dancing, talking mostly in Farsi and snacking on platters of pistachios and dates. The grape leaves described in her book come stuffed with raisins, barberries, apricots and golden plums.

Another cross-cultural recipe included in the book is chilaquiles, using fried pieces of either corn tortillas or matzos. Los Angeles Times food critic Jonathan Gold told Nathan he prepares the dish for his family for breakfast, referring to it as “Mexican matzo brei.”

Jewish cooking is not static. Nathan finds infinite variations on traditional recipes. Potato kugel may be of Eastern European origin, but it morphed into noodle kugel in America. Nathan’s recipe calls for adding leeks to potato kugel, and recently she met a woman who says she makes it regularly with sweet potatoes.

“King Solomon said there’s nothing new under the sun,” Nathan said. “Well, let me tell you, we’re using chickpeas the way they used them in the ancient world. We’re using pomegranate syrup. Of course, it’s processed pomegranate syrup, but that’s what they used. Date jam, which is the jam used in the Bible. We are now rediscovering all these ingredients.”

Joan Nathan’s cookbook “King Solomon’s Table: A Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking From Around the World” (Knopf, 382 pages, $35) will be published on April 4. She’ll speak with KCRW’s Evan Kleiman at 2 p.m. on April 6, at the Skirball Cultural Center, and with the Los Angeles Times’ Jonathan Gold at 7:30 p.m. on April 6, at Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s Irmas Campus.

Huevos Haminados Con Spinaci. Photo by Gabriela Herman

Passover recipes from ‘King Solomon’s Table’ by Joan Nathan


HUEVOS HAMINADOS CON SPINACI

Long-Cooked Hard-Boiled Eggs with Spinach

Yield: 12 to 16 servings

– 12 to 16 large eggs, preferably fresh from a farmers’ market
– 4 tablespoons olive oil
– 1 large red onion, peeled and coarsely chopped (1 1/2 cups)
– 1 tablespoon sea salt
– 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
– 1 1/2 pounds spinach, fresh or frozen (thawed and drained if frozen)

Put the eggs in a cooking pot and add water to cover by about 2 inches. Then add the olive oil, onions, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Cool and remove the eggs with a slotted spoon. Tap the eggs gently against the counter and peel under cold running water, keeping them as whole as possible.

Return the peeled eggs to the pot with the seasoned water and simmer very slowly uncovered for at least 2 hours, or until the water is almost evaporated and the onions almost dissolved. The eggs will become dark and creamy as the cooking water evaporates and they absorb all the flavoring.

Remove the eggs carefully to a bowl, rubbing into the cooking liquid any of the cream that forms on the outside. Heat the remaining cooking liquid over medium heat, bring to a simmer, and add the spinach. Cook the spinach until most of the liquid is reduced, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, about 30 minutes, or until the spinach is creamy and well cooked. Serve a dollop of spinach with a hard-boiled egg on top as the first part of the Seder meal or as a first course of any meal.

NOTE: To see if the eggs are really boiled, remove one egg from the water and spin it on a flat cutting board. If it twirls in one place, it is hard-boiled. If it wobbles all over the board, it is not cooked yet and the weight isn’t distributed evenly. The easiest way of peeling a hot hard-boiled egg is to put it under cold water between your hands and rub it quickly until it cracks, then peel under the running water.

To prepare the symbolic egg for the Passover Seder plate, boil the egg in its shell, dry it, and then light a match underneath to char it.

KEFTES GARAZ

Syrian Meatballs with Cherries and Tamarind

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

pas-Syrian-MeatballsMeatballs

– 1/2 cup pine nuts
– 1 large sweet onion, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 2 pounds ground beef
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 1/4 teaspoon ground Aleppo or Marash pepper
– 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
– 1 teaspoon ground allspice
– 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
– Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
– 2 large eggs
– 1 teaspoon tamarind concentrate
– 2 teaspoons tomato paste or ketchup
– 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, fresh

Sauce

– 1/4 cup olive oil
– 1 1/2 onions, diced (1 1/3 cups)
– 1 1/2 tablespoons tamarind concentrate
– 2 cups pitted sour cherries or frozen dark red cherries
– 2 cups dried cherries
– Juice of 2 lemons
– 1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
– Salt and pepper
– 1 1/2 cups beef stock
– 1 1/2 cups red wine
– 2 tablespoons chopped parsley or cilantro

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and toast the pine nuts by stirring often, in a small dry skillet over medium heat, until lightly brown, about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove to a medium bowl.

To make the meatballs: Sauté the onions in the oil in a nonstick frying pan until lightly caramelized, about 20 to 30 minutes.

Add the onions to the pine nuts, then add the ground beef, garlic, Aleppo or Marash pepper, cumin, allspice, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Break the eggs into the bowl and stir in the tamarind and tomato paste or ketchup, mixing gently with your hands until just combined, then add just enough breadcrumbs for the meat to become clammy.

Take about 1 1/2 tablespoons of meat and slap the beef several times into the center of the palm of your hand to emulsify. Shape into small meatballs, about 1 1/4 inches in diameter. Put on two rimmed baking sheets and bake for about 20 minutes, or until done but still juicy. You should get about 36 meatballs.

While the meatballs are baking, make the sauce: Heat the oil in a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté until transparent, then add the tamarind, pitted sour or frozen cherries, dried cherries, lemon juice, allspice, salt, pepper, beef stock and wine. Simmer together for about 20 to 25 minutes, until the sauce is slightly thickened.

Mix the meatballs with the sauce and serve, sprinkled with chopped parsley or cilantro, over rice.

NOTE: You can make this dish ahead and freeze if you like. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight, then reheat in a pan, covered, over medium heat until warm.

Excerpted from “King Solomon’s Table” by Joan Nathan. Copyright © 2017 by Random House. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Hamantashen: As easy as one, two, three corners


What makes the Purim holiday so special? Is it the heroic tale of Queen Esther? The children dressing up in costume to re-create the story? The sweet pastries her story inspired?

For all of these reasons, my family loves Purim! It is a time when our grandchildren and great-grandchildren dress up, attend a Purim carnival and feast at our Purim dinner — a reminder of how our children celebrated when they were young.

This year, we will enjoy the holiday with family and friends at one long table in the dining room. A sampling of our Purim groggers (noisemakers) will be arranged down the center. (We can’t include them all because our collection now numbers almost 100.)

The most popular treats for Purim are hamantashen, three-cornered pastries. They are served throughout the world, filled with poppy seeds, prune jams and more. 

I still remember making my first hamantashen using a recipe I received from my mother. Instead of using the traditional yeast pastry, sold in bakeries, she made them with cookie dough filled with poppy seeds and homemade strawberry jam.

Over the years, I have developed many recipes for making these holiday delights. One year, I added chocolate and poppy seeds to the cookie dough and filled it with a mixture of melted chocolate and chopped nuts, resulting in a decadent treat for chocolate lovers.

Another family favorite is a Poppy Seed Yeast Ring; it’s like a delicious coffee cake that doubles as a hamantashen yeast dough. The dough is covered with a towel and refrigerated overnight, then rolled, filled and served hot for breakfast. Or you can make the dough in the afternoon, refrigerate it for several hours, bake and serve for dessert after dinner.

This year I am including a recipe for a hamantashen pastry filled with vegetables, too. It can be served as an appetizer or a main course for the vegetarians among us.

Remember, the dough and fillings usually can be prepared in advance, and stored in the refrigerator or freezer, then baked when convenient.

Now, go get ready to make some noise — in the kitchen and at the table with your Purim grogger!

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE HAMANTASHEN

– Chocolate Filling (recipe follows)
– 3 cups flour
– 1/2 cup finely ground almonds
– 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
– 1/4 teaspoon salt
– 1/2 cup sugar
– 1 cup unsalted margarine
– 3 tablespoons hot water
– 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
– 1 egg
– 1 egg white

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Prepare Chocolate Filling; cover and set aside. 

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine flour, almonds, baking powder, salt and sugar. Blend in margarine until mixture resembles very fine crumbs.

Blend water and cocoa in small bowl and beat in egg. Add to flour mixture and beat until mixture begins to form dough. Do not over-mix.

Transfer to flour board and knead into a ball. Chill 30 minutes for easier handling. Divide into 6 or 7 portions. Flatten each with palms of hands and roll out 1/4-inch thick. Cut into 3-inch rounds with scalloped cookie cutter. Place 1 teaspoon of filling in the center of each round. Brush edges with a little water. Fold edges of dough toward center to form a triangle, leaving a bit of filling visible in center. Pinch the edges to seal.

Place on a baking sheet lined with lightly greased foil or a Silpat mat and brush with egg white. Bake in preheated oven until firm, about 20 minutes. Transfer to rack to cool.

Makes about 5 dozen hamantashen.

CHOCOLATE FILLING

– 1/2 cup cocoa powder
– 1/2 cup sugar
– 1/3 cup coffee, milk or half-and-half
– 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
– In a large bowl, combine cocoa powder, sugar, coffee and walnuts and blend thoroughly.
– Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

In a large bowl, combine cocoa powder, sugar, coffee and walnuts and blend thoroughly.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

POPPY SEED YEAST RING

The dough from this recipe also can be used to make Yeast Hamantashen; see below. From “The Gourmet Jewish Cook” by Judy Zeidler.

– Poppy Seed Filling (recipe follows)
– 2 packages active dry yeast
– 1 cup warm milk (110 to 115 F)
– 1/2 pound unsalted margarine
– 2 tablespoons sugar
– 3 eggs yolks
– 2 1/2 cups flour
– Pinch of nutmeg
– 1/4 teaspoon salt
– 2 tablespoons olive oil

Prepare the Poppy Seed Filling; set aside.

In a measuring cup, dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup of the milk. In a large mixing bowl, cream the margarine with 2 tablespoons sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and beat well.

Combine the flour, nutmeg and salt. Add the yeast mixture to the mixing bowl alternately with the flour. With the back of a wooden spoon, smooth the top of the dough and brush with oil. Cover with a towel and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Divide the dough into 2 portions. Roll out each portion on floured wax paper into a 16-by-20-inch rectangle. Spread half the Poppy Seed Filling over each dough half, leaving a 1-inch margin around the edges. Starting from a long edge, roll up each one, jelly-roll fashion. Bring the ends together to form a ring.

Place each ring in a 10-inch pie pan, sealing the ends together. Brush the top with the remaining milk and sprinkle with poppy seeds. (If you like, you can hold the rings in the refrigerator, covered, for 1 hour.) Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Serve hot.

Makes two Poppy Seed Yeast Rings.

POPPY SEED FILLING

– 3 egg whites
– 1/2 cup sugar
– 1 1/2 cups canned poppy seed filling

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold in the 1/2 cup sugar and poppy seed filling.

Makes 4 cups.

To make Yeast Hamantashen:

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Roll out the dough and cut it into 3-inch rounds with a cookie cutter. Place a teaspoon of poppy seed filling in the center of each circle of dough. Fold the edges of the dough toward the center to form a triangle, leaving a bit of the filling visible in the center. Pinch the edges to seal.

Place the hamantashen on a baking sheet lined with lightly greased foil or a Silpat mat and bake for 10 minutes; pinch edges again to reseal and bake 10 minutes longer or until golden brown. Transfer to racks and cool.

Makes 3 dozen hamantashen.

VEGETABLE HAMANTASHEN

– Carrot or Eggplant Filling (recipe follows)
– 1/2 cup unsalted margarine
– 1/2 cup sugar
– 3 eggs
– Grated zest of 1 orange
– 2 cups flour
– 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
– 1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Prepare Carrot or Eggplant Filling; cover and set aside.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat margarine and sugar until well blended. Beat in 2 of the eggs and zest, blending thoroughly. Add flour, baking powder and salt, blending until dough is smooth.

Transfer dough to a floured board and divide into 3 or 4 portions for easier handling. Flatten each portion with palm of hand and roll out 1/4-inch thick. Using scallop or plain cookie cutter, cut into 2 1/2-inch rounds. Place 1 teaspoon of filling in center of each round. Brush edges of round with a little water. Fold edges of dough toward the center to form a triangle, leaving a bit of filling exposed. Pinch edges to seal.

Place hamantashen 1/2 inch apart on a baking sheet lined with lightly greased foil or a Silpat mat. Brush with beaten egg. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes in preheated oven, until golden brown. Transfer to racks to cool.

Makes about 5 dozen hamantashen.

CARROT FILLING

– 1 pound carrots, peeled and grated
– 1 1/2 cups water
– 1/3 cup sugar
– 1/3 cup ground almonds
– 1/4 cup golden raisins

Combine carrots and water in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer, stirring occasionally until all the liquid has evaporated, about 20 minutes. Add sugar, almonds and raisins. Simmer on low heat until thick and liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Cool.

Makes about 2 cups.

EGGPLANT FILLING

– 1 (1 pound) eggplant, peeled and diced
– Water
– 2 cups sugar
– 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
– 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
– 2 tablespoons lemon juice
– Grated zest of 1 lemon

Place eggplant in a large saucepan and cover with water to cover. Bring to a boil and boil until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Combine sugar, 2 cups water, cinnamon and nutmeg in large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Add eggplant. Remove from heat and cover. Let stand 1 hour.

Remove eggplant with slotted spoon. Cover syrup until thick, about 20 minutes. Add eggplant, lemon juice and zest. Boil until syrup forms into a firm ball when dropped into cold water from spoon, 220 F on candy thermometer. Spoon into a bowl and cool.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups.


JUDY ZEIDLER is a food consultant, cooking teacher and author of 10 cookbooks, including “Italy Cooks” (Mostarda Press, 2011). Her website is judyzeidler.com.

Noodles flex their versatility in sweet, savory kugels


During a recent cooking class I was teaching, several students showed an interest in Jewish foods that could be served during Chanukah, aside from the traditional potato latkes.   

Sufganiyot, or jelly doughnuts, are another popular choice at this time of year, but I thought of something else. As far back as I can remember, old-fashioned kugel — one of the basic foods in Jewish cuisine — has been served at our family meals to celebrate the holiday.

In Germany, the name kugel has become synonymous with pudding, and the two words in Europe often are interchangeable. Most kugel recipes are based on noodles, rice or potatoes, and kugel can be served as a side dish, main course or dessert, hot or cold.

While the crisp Classic Potato Kugel is a hearty accompaniment for brisket, pot roast or roasted chicken, my personal favorite is a Noodle Fruit Kugel, accented with apples and raisins. 

Most kugel recipes can be prepared in advance and refrigerated until ready to bake and serve.

And don’t worry, just because kugel is on the menu this Chanukah doesn’t mean your family has to pass on those old-fashioned potato latkes. It’s easy to convert the potato kugel batter into latkes simply by spooning some of the mixture into a nonstick skillet and frying them until golden brown.    

CLASSIC POTATO KUGEL

This recipe also can be used to make Classic Latkes (see below).

1/4 cup olive oil
2 eggs
2 cups peeled, grated potatoes, well-drained and tightly packed (preferably russet)
1 small onion, grated
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Brush bottom and sides of an 8-by-8-inch baking dish with 2 tablespoons olive oil and set aside. 

Beat eggs in a large bowl until fluffy.  Add grated potatoes, onion, remaining olive oil, flour, baking powder and salt and pepper. Spoon the potato mixture into prepared baking dish.

Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake 30 to 45 minutes longer, until golden brown and crisp.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

CLASSIC LATKES

Prepare potato mixture.

Heat 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet.  Drop a tablespoon of the potato mixture into the skillet, then flatten with the back of a spoon for thin latkes. Brown on both sides, 3 to 5 minutes, depending on how hot the burner under the frying pan is. Drain on paper towels.  

Makes about 24 latkes.

NOODLE FRUIT KUGEL

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup Concord grape wine or apple juice
1 (12-ounce) package flat egg noodles
1/4 pound unsalted butter
2 apples, peeled, cored and diced
4 eggs, well beaten
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tablespoon cinnamon-sugar or more to taste (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375 F. 

Brush a 9-by-12-inch baking dish with olive oil and set aside.

In a small bowl, soak raisins in wine for 1 hour or overnight, drain before using.  

Boil the noodles until tender, drain into a large bowl. Combine noodles, butter, apples and  raisins and mix well. Add eggs and mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar, if desired. 

Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 45 minutes, until top is brown and crisp.  Cut into squares. Serve hot or cold. 

Makes about 10 to 12 servings.     

MIDDLE EASTERN RICE KUGEL

2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter
Grated peel of 1 orange
Grated peel of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs
3 cups cooked rice
1/2 cups raisins

Preheat the oven to 350 F. 

Brush bottom and sides of an 8-by-8-inch square baking dish with olive oil and set aside. 

Beat together sugar, butter, orange and lemon peel, cinnamon and vanilla in a large bowl. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until well-blended. Stir in rice and raisins and mix thoroughly. 

Pour into prepared baking dish and bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour. 

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

KUGEL SOUFFLE

2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1/4 pound flat egg noodles
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup warm milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Pinch of nutmeg
4 eggs, separated
1/4 cup minced parsley

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  

Brush an 8- or 9-inch round mold with melted butter. Set aside.

Cook noodles in salted boiling water until tender. Drain and rinse in cold water. Set aside.

Melt 3 tablespoons butter in saucepan. Add flour and whisk until blended. Add warm milk all at once, stirring vigorously with wire whisk. Season to taste, with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Transfer mixture to large bowl and cool slightly. 

Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form and set aside. Beat yolks in separate bowl until foamy and add to cooled butter mixture. Stir in noodles. Carefully fold in stiffly beaten egg whites, then parsley. Spoon the mixture into prepared mold and place mold in a shallow baking pan partially filled with hot water.

Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes or until set. Unmold kugel onto a large platter. 

Makes about 8 servings.


Judy Zeidler is a food consultant, cooking teacher and author of 10 cookbooks, including “Italy Cooks” (Mostarda Press, 2011). Her website is judyzeidler.com.

Core values: Apples are the stars of sweet and savory Rosh Hashanah recipes


During the celebration of Rosh Hashanah, which begins the evening of Oct. 2, ritual foods play an important part at the family meal. Among the foods served to represent our hopes for a sweet new year are apples and honey, and round loaves of egg challah are baked to promise a well-rounded future (with sesame seeds often added to symbolize fertility).

At our home, when family arrives for the holiday meal, custom calls for a perfect apple to be cut into as many pieces as there are people present. Then a slice of the apple is dipped in honey and passed to each person at the table.

Apples go into the making of countless dishes for this festival, and they often are included in every course, so let apples dominate your Rosh Hashanah table.

Apple and Spinach Salad With Tahini is a good place to start because it can be prepared the day before and refrigerated, with torn spinach leaves tossed into the apple mixture just before serving.

Veal Ragu With Apples and Curry is perfect to make for the holiday because this stew can also be prepared in advance and last all week. If you have a large family, then just double the recipe. Remember that the flavor of stews is enhanced by reheating.

Apple-Filled Egg Challah is a delightful bread for Rosh Hashanah. And to carry on the holiday spirit, serve it with apple slices and honey for dipping — along with my Apple Streusel!

There are lots of surprises in these recipes, and you’ll find them easy to prepare. Just remember: During Rosh Hashanah, sour or bitter tasting foods are omitted in keeping with the hope for a sweet new year. 

L’shanah tovah!

APPLE-FILLED EGG CHALLAH

– Apple filling (recipe follows)
– 1 package active dry yeast
– 1/2 cup sugar
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 4 to 5 cups flour
– 1 cup warm water
– 6 egg yolks
– 1/4 cup oil
– 1/4 cup melted unsalted margarine
– 1 egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon of water
– 1 tablespoon cinnamon-sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Prepare Apple Filling; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, blend the yeast, sugar, salt, 2 cups of the flour and warm water, and mix well. Blend in the egg yolks and oil. Add the remaining flour, 1 cup at a time, blending with a beater after each addition, until the dough is thick enough to work by hand. 

Gather the dough into a ball. Place it on a floured board and knead 5 to 10 minutes, adding additional flour, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Shape the dough into a ball and place it in an oiled bowl, and oil the top. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down the dough and divide into 3 parts. Roll each part into a rectangle. Brush with melted margarine, top with the apple filling. Roll each rectangle into a long rope. Seal the ends of the rope together and braid. Form the braid into a ring and place it on an oiled baking sheet. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place for 45 minutes or until doubled in size. Brush with egg yolk wash, then sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Cool on a rack. 

Makes 12 servings.

APPLE FILLING

– 3 apples, peeled, cored and diced
– Juice of 1 lemon
– 2 tablespoons honey
– 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

In a bowl, combine the apples, lemon juice, honey and cinnamon. Cover with plastic wrap and chill. Drain and use for the challah filling. 

Makes about 3 cups.

APPLE AND SPINACH SALAD WITH TAHINI

– 3 apples, peeled, cored and diced
– 3 green onions, thinly sliced<
– 3 stalks celery, diced
– Juice of 2 lemons
– 1/4 cup mayonnaise
– 1/4 cup tahini (ground sesame seeds)
– 2 tablespoons honey
– 1 bunch of spinach, torn into bite-size pieces
– Additional spinach leaves for garnish
– 1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds

In a large bowl, toss the apples, onions and celery. Sprinkle with the juice of 1 lemon to keep apples from darkening.

In a blender or a small bowl, blend mayonnaise, tahini, honey and remaining lemon juice. Mixture will be thick. Toss with apple mixture. Cover and chill. Just before serving, toss salad with the torn spinach. Serve on a bed of spinach leaves and garnish with sesame seeds.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

VEAL RAGU WITH APPLES AND CURRY

– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 2 onions, finely chopped
– 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
– 3 celery stalks, finely chopped
– 4 pounds lean veal, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
– 3 tablespoons curry powder
– 2 apples, peeled, cored and diced
– 1 (28-ounce) can peeled tomatoes, drained
– Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
– 1 cup chicken stock

In a large pan, heat olive oil and sauté onions, garlic, celery and veal for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add curry powder and mix well. Add apples, tomatoes, salt and pepper and simmer 5 minutes. Add chicken stock. Cover and simmer about 1 1/2 hours or until meat is tender. Add additional

salt and pepper to taste. Serve with rice or noodles. 

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

APPLE STREUSEL LOAF

– Streusel Topping (recipe follows)
– 1 1/4 cups flour
– 1 cup sugar
– 1/4 cup cinnamon
– 1 teaspoon baking soda
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1/2 cup unsalted margarine
– 1 cup roasted walnuts, chopped
– 1 cup peeled, cored and grated apples
– 2 eggs, well beaten
– 1/4 cup almond (or other nondairy) milk

Prepare Streusel Topping; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and margarine. Blend until mealy. Mix in walnuts. 

In a small bowl, blend apples, eggs, and almond milk thoroughly. Add to flour mixture and mix until all dry particles are moistened. 

Pour into greased and floured 8-by-4-inch loaf pan, sprinkle with Streusel Topping, and bake for 45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. 

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

STREUSEL TOPPING

– 1/4 cup brown sugar
– 1/4 cup flour
– 1/4 cup cinnamon
– 1/4 cup unsalted margarine
– 1/2 cup peeled, cored and chopped apples
– 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Blend brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and margarine until crumbly. Mix in apples and walnuts and sprinkle over batter before baking. 

Makes about 2 cups.


Judy Zeidler is a food consultant, cooking teacher and author of 10 cookbooks, including “Italy Cooks” (Mostarda Press, 2011). Her website is judyzeidler.com.

Blintzes and beyond for Shavuot


The holiday of Shavuot marks the receiving of the Ten Commandments by Moses, but it’s also a kind of Jewish Thanksgiving, when farm bounty and grains — “first fruits” — were brought to the temple. These often included wheat, barley, grapes, figs and dates.

In modern times, Shavuot is a holiday that inspires the preparation of many delicious and traditional recipes that usually feature a variety of vegetarian and dairy foods. Milk, eggs and cheeses of all kinds are used in abundance. 

Blintzes are the most popular of the Shavuot foods. They may be served as a side dish, dessert or main course. They are thin pancakes or crepes that are filled with an assortment of dairy or vegetable mixtures. I have adapted a basic blintz recipe to include a spinach-ricotta combination; served with yogurt or sour cream, it adds a perfect dairy accent.

The Vegetarian Lentil Soup is a family favorite. All the ingredients can be sautéed, blended in a food processor and served immediately, or prepared and stored in the refrigerator for two to three days.

Stuffed Eggplant Rolls are another flexible choice for your Shavuot lunch, brunch or dinner. Thin slices of eggplant are rolled around a three-cheese filling that is combined with lightly beaten egg whites. The spicy, garlicky herbed tomato sauce is a perfect accompaniment.

And don’t forget about dessert. One of my special treats for the holiday is an Apricot Cheesecake, along with bowls of fruit, dates and nuts. Together, they are sure to please!

SHAVUOT BLINTZES

  • Ricotta and Spinach Filling (recipe follows) 
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 3 tablespoons melted, unsalted margarine
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Sour cream

 

Prepare Ricotta and Spinach Filling; refrigerate. 

In a large bowl, blend the eggs, milk and 1 tablespoon margarine. Add flour and salt, blending until smooth. (If any lumps remain, pour through a fine strainer, pressing any lumps of flour through; mix well.) Cover and set aside for 1 hour.

Lightly grease a 6-inch nonstick skillet. Place over medium heat until hot. Pour in about 1/8 cup batter at a time, tilting pan and swirling to make a thin pancake. When lightly browned, gently loosen edges and turn out of pan onto towel or plate. Repeat with remaining batter. Cool.

Place 1 to 2 tablespoons of Ricotta and Spinach Filling in center of browned side of each blintz. Fold lower portion over filling. Tuck in ends then roll to form flat rectangle. Place on larger platter and cover with plastic wrap until ready to cook.

In a large skillet, place remaining 2 tablespoons melted margarine. Cook blintzes about 2 to 3 minutes on each side until lightly browned. Transfer to serving plates and serve with sour cream.

Makes about 20 blintzes.

RICOTTA AND SPINACH FILLING

  • 2 bunches fresh spinach
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

Rinse spinach; remove and discard stems. Place leaves in boiling salted boiling water; boil 10 minutes. Drain and cool, then squeeze dry. Chop finely.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine spinach, ricotta, Parmesan cheese, egg yolks, parsley and basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.

Makes 5 to 6 cups.

VEGETARIAN LENTIL SOUP

  • 1 1/2 cups dried lentils
  • 2 1/2 cups warm vegetable broth or water
  • 2 bay leaves, crushed
  • 1/4 cup unsalted margarine
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 4 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 onions, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 4 large tomatoes, finely chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Red wine vinegar to taste
  • Plain yogurt or grated Parmesan cheese for garnish

 

Soak lentils in 4 cups of water 6 hours or overnight. Drain and place in a large, heavy pot with vegetable broth and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, skimming off any foam that forms. Reduce heat, cover partially, and simmer 15 to 20 minutes or until lentils are tender.

In a large skillet, heat margarine and olive oil. Add garlic, carrots, parsnips, onion, celery and parsley. Sauté 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add rosemary and tomatoes, and simmer 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper and vinegar. Remove 2 cups of the cooked lentils and 1/2 cup of the liquid; puree in a processor or blender. Return the puree and sautéed vegetable mixture to the soup pot. Mix well. Bring to boil over medium heat, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, until thick, 30 to 40 minutes. Ladle soup into warm bowls and garnish with yogurt or grated cheese. 

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

STUFFED EGGPLANT ROLLS

  • Tomato-Basil Sauce (recipe follows)
  • 1 pound ricotta or hoop cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh or dried basil
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 ounces mozzarella cheese
  • 2 medium eggplants
  • Flour
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • Fresh basil leaves for garnish

 

Prepare Tomato-Basil Sauce; refrigerate. 

In a bowl, combine ricotta, Parmesan, parsley, basil and egg yolks.

In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. Fold into cheese mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill.

Slice mozzarella cheese into 2-inch-by-1/2-inch sticks. Set aside.

Trim stem end from eggplants and slice lengthwise 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. Dredge in flour seasoned to taste with salt and pepper. Shake off excess.

In a large, heavy skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add eggplant slices and sauté on both sides until soft and lightly browned. Drain on paper towels. Cool.

Place 2 tablespoons cheese filling across narrow end of each eggplant slice. Press stick of mozzarella into filling. Roll up eggplant tightly around filling. Place rolls, seam-side down, in greased baking dish. Cover with foil and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours. (Do not freeze.)

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Spoon some of Tomato-Basil Sauce over each roll. Bake for 15 minutes or until hot and bubbling. With metal spatula, carefully place one or two eggplant rolls on each plate. Garnish with basil leaves. Serve immediately. 

Makes about 16 rolls.

TOMATO-BASIL SAUCE

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped 
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes with liquid
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh or dried basil
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

In a skillet, heat oil. Add garlic and onion, and sauté until onions are transparent. Add tomatoes, wine, basil, parsley and sugar. Bring to a boil and simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until thick, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a food processor or blender and process until well blended. Transfer to bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate. 

Makes about 4 cups.

APRICOT CHEESECAKE

 

  • 1 (6-ounce) package dried apricots
  • 1 1/2 cups apple juice
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • Crumbled Sugar-Cookie Crust (recipe follows)
  • Sour Cream Topping (recipe follows)
  • 3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

 

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

In a small saucepan, combine apricots, apple juice and 1/2 cup sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 5 minutes. Cool. Transfer to a food processor or blender and process until pureed. Set aside. Reserve 1/2 cup apricot puree for cookie crust.

Prepare the Crumbled Sugar-Cookie Crust and Sour Cream Topping; set both aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and remaining 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Blend in vanilla and 1/2 cup of the apricot puree. Beat 2 or 3 minutes until light. Pour into crust that has been spread with a thin layer of apricot puree. 

Bake in preheated oven for 50 minutes or until center is set and top is golden. Remove from oven and spread with Sour Cream Topping. Return to oven 5 minutes. Cool. Remove from springform pan and garnish with remaining apricot puree. Chill before serving.

Makes 10 to 12 servings.

CRUMBLED SUGAR-COOKIE CRUST

  • 1 1/2 cups crumbled sugar cookies
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted margarine

 

In a large mixing bowl, food processor or blender, thoroughly blend the cookie crumbs and margarine. Spoon the mixture evenly into a 9-inch springform pan and press down firmly to make an even layer on bottom of pan. Spread with a thin layer of the apricot puree. Refrigerate at least 15 minutes.

SOUR CREAM TOPPING

  • 1 pint sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

 

In a small bowl, beat the sour cream, sugar and vanilla until well blended. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Makes 2 cups.


Judy Zeidler is a cooking instructor and the author of “Italy Cooks” (Mostarda Press). Her website is judyzeidler.com.

A reminder: Don’t pass over the post-seder meals


Planning Passover meals is always a wonderful challenge. For the seders, most of us focus on traditional family recipes because they are tried and proven, and because everyone likes them (and often asks for these favorites dishes).

But what about the remaining six days of meals? They must be considered.

Once the big seder meals are done, it’s nice to be able to eat healthy, simple and flavorful meals for the rest of the week. An abundance of vegetables, fruits, poultry, meat, fish and fresh herbs can be incorporated into cooking on Passover.

Here are some recipes that I make on Passover because they are easy to prepare and provide flexibility as to when they can be served — not to mention they are quite delicious.


CARROT-GINGER SOUP
Makes 8 servings

The apple and the ginger give this creamy soup, which is made without any cream, a bit of a bite. The ingredients are always available, so you can serve it in any season at any temperature — hot, cold or room. I must confess, though, that I love it best when the weather is warm.

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, quartered
1 3/4 pounds carrots, peeled and sliced, plus 1 extra carrot for garnish
1 small Granny Smith apple, peeled and sliced
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and sliced
5 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preparation:
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the onion, garlic, carrots, apple and ginger, and saute for 3 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat and cook, covered, about 30 minutes, until the carrots are tender.

Cool a little. Puree the soup in a blender, in batches, until smooth. Return it to the saucepan.

Season to taste with lemon juice, salt and pepper.

To prepare the garnish: Steam the remaining carrot until just tender and grate. Before serving, sprinkle each bowl with the grated carrot.


HALIBUT CEVICHE
Makes 4 servings

Ceviche is a refreshing appetizer that I make with fresh fish marinated in lime juice. The juice “cooks” the fish in a very short time, allowing it to turn opaque and firm. It can be served on a bed of butter lettuce with slices of avocado. It’s a wonderful alternative to gefilte fish for an appetizer or makes a nice, light lunch.

Ingredients:
1 pound skinless halibut cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup lime juice, plus 2 tablespoons
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded, finely chopped
2 scallions, including the green part, thinly sliced
1/4 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
Butter lettuce
Slices of avocado

Preparation:
Place fish in a nonreactive bowl and season with salt. Pour juice over fish and press down so the fish is submerged in the juice. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or until fish is opaque and firm.

Drain off and discard the lime juice. Add peppers, scallions and cilantro to the fish. Just before serving add the remaining 2 tablespoons lime juice and season to taste with salt and pepper.


CHICKEN WITH POTATOES AND OLIVES
Makes 4 servings

I am always pleased to come up with a dish that is a meal in itself, one that combines either chicken or meat with vegetables. This is one of my favorites. I bake it in an attractive casserole so it can go directly from the oven to the table.

Ingredients:
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
9 garlic cloves
Kosher salt
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Leaves from 10 thyme sprigs
Freshly ground black pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 6 ounces each)
5 plum tomatoes
1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, unpeeled, quartered
1/2 cup pitted black olives, quartered

Preparation:
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. With 1 tablespoon of the oil, grease a glass, ceramic or enamel-lined baking pan that can hold all the vegetables in a single layer.

Coarsely chop 4 of the garlic cloves on a cutting board. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and, using a knife, crush them into a paste. Place the paste in a small bowl and combine it with the lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of the oil, half of the thyme leaves and pepper to taste.

Pat dry the chicken breasts with paper towels and season lightly on both sides with salt and pepper. Coat the chicken with the mixture and set aside.

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Drop the tomatoes into the boiling water; bring the water back to a boil and drain. Core the tomatoes and slip off the skin. Cut the tomatoes in half widthwise and squeeze gently to remove the seeds. (Some seeds will remain.) Cut the tomatoes in quarters.

Thickly slice the remaining 5 garlic cloves and spread them in the prepared baking pan along with the tomatoes, potatoes, olives, the rest of the thyme leaves and the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Roast the vegetables, uncovered, for 20 minutes, or until almost tender.

Place the chicken breasts on top of the vegetables and bake, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Turn them over, spoon on some pan juices and bake for another 5 minutes, or until the chicken is slightly pink on the inside. Cover with foil for 1 minute.


ROASTED CAULIFLOWER
Makes 4 servings

Roasting is an easy and delicious way to transform this reliable standby into a wonderful dish.

Ingredients:
1 medium head cauliflower (about 2 pounds)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preparation:
Preheat the oven to 400. Line a baking pan with foil.

Cut the stalk and leaves off the cauliflower and discard. Cut the head into small florets. Place the garlic in the baking pan. Arrange the florets on top; drizzle with the oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes, or until tender.


CHOCOLATE MERINGUE SQUARES
Makes 3 1/2 dozen squares

These meringue squares are like cookies, but they are light, chocolaty and surprisingly low in calories. They can be presented as cookies or cut into individual squares and served with either sorbet or fresh fruit on the side.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon unsalted margarine, for greasing the pan
1/2 pound blanched almonds
6 ounces good-quality imported semisweet chocolate, broken into small pieces
8 large egg whites (see note below)
1 cup sugar

Preparation:
Preheat the oven to 350. Line a 9-by-13-by-2-inch baking pan with wax paper and grease the paper with the margarine.

Chop the almonds in a food processor, in 2 batches, until medium-fine. Transfer to a bowl. Chop the chocolate in the processor until fine and combine with the almonds.

Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Using the balloon whisk attachment, beat at high speed until foamy. Gradually add the sugar and beat until stiff.

With a large rubber spatula, gently fold the chocolate-almond mixture into the egg whites, making a motion like a figure eight with the spatula. Do not overmix.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out almost dry.

Cool on a wire rack. Invert onto a cutting board and peel off the paper. Cut into 1 1/2-inch squares.

Notes: It is easier to separate the eggs straight from the refrigerator, when they are cold. Make sure the whites have come to room temperature before beating.

To freeze the squares, place them side by side in an air-tight plastic container, with wax paper between the layers.

Australia’s Jewish cooking club


In the cookbook collection of nearly every Jewish family sits a sincere yet amateur plastic-ring-bound volume of recipes. A group of women known as the Monday Morning Cooking Club has adopted this tried-and-true sisterhood tradition of culinary anthropology and recipe collecting and brought it into contemporary food culture, via Sydney, Australia. 

Professional food styling and graphic design, plus the backing of a major publishing house, do nothing to diminish the spirit of their debut cookbook, “Monday Morning Cooking Club: The Food, The Stories, The Sisterhood.” Initially self-published in Australia, the paperback has been available in the United States since last month. The group recently passed through New York City and Los Angeles as part of a brief promotional tour.  

Lisa Goldberg, Natanya Eskin and Merelyn Frank Chalmers held court for a few hours at Joan’s on Third recently, where owner Joan McNamara’s endorsement was enough to bring in a steady stream of book buyers. A handful of Aussies — some known to the visitors, some not — came out of the woodwork to get a dose of life back home and hear about how their modern-day sisterhood has influenced current food culture. 

Then Dana Slatkin, a chef, culinary educator and founder of the Beverly Hills Farmers Market, who is also known as the Beverly Hills Farmgirl, hosted the three in her home for a social morning of cooking (or observing, technically) and eating. 

Goldberg explained that the Monday Morning Cooking Club eventually wanted “to create a cookbook that could sit next to any cookbook in the world.” (In other words: No plastic ring binders.) To get started, they began getting together on Monday mornings in 2006. All friends — mothers with flexible schedules that enabled them to meet during the week — they reached out to their community to create a book that would serve as a repository of recipes from Sydney’s best cooks. All the better if they got their hands on recipes that had been passed down among generations. 

For these women, who also include Jacqui Israel, Paula Horwitz, and Lauren Fink, Monday mornings became dedicated to cooking and testing the material that they gathered from friends and relatives, and that came in thanks to word of mouth through Australia’s Jewish community. Given the breadth of the Diaspora (the nation received significant numbers of Jews following the Holocaust, and immigration into the continent still continues, particularly among South African Jews), the collection reflects the diverse influences present in Australian kitchens. Australia’s Jewish population is currently estimated at 100,000. 

The book is essentially “an anthology of 65 cooks” vetted by the six core members, Chalmers said. The recipes, which in sum have a heavily Jewish slant, capture the traditions of previous generations while also reflecting today’s sensibilities. “We don’t necessarily cook Jewish food. It’s food Jewish people in Sydney cook at this time. It’s a snapshot,” she clarified. 

Each contributor’s section features an introduction with personal and family history, and nearly every recipe includes a specific story about that dish. The result is a collective account of the Jewish community throughout Australia, with accessible recipes and plenty of inspiring, gorgeous photos. A second volume is currently in progress; according to Goldberg, when complete, the set will cover almost all the classics of Ashkenazi Jewish cooking, plus recipes that originate in far-flung locales such as Iraq, India, Israel and Burma. 

As Slatkin and the MMCC women — or “girls,” as they refer to themselves — demonstrated a few dishes to constitute an elegant, seasonal, light lunch befitting this particular demographic, their humor and warmth radiated through. Nor do they shy away from healthy disagreements about all things related to cooking. “We love arguing,” Goldberg said. 

Eskin retorted, “Six women together in a kitchen. Can you imagine?”

Eskin touched on some of the research methods and fieldwork involved, noting that with certain women, “every week it would be a different-sized handful” of ingredients. After years of amassing information, “We’ve preserved their recipes forever. It brings tears to my eyes. It’s such a beautiful thing to have.” Most recipes were handed over willingly, but others required persistence. 

All profits from the book and other kitchen items sold on the Web site go to charity, including organizations such as OzHarvest, a food distribution network, and various Jewish causes. In keeping with the Monday Morning Cooking Club’s mission and spirit of generosity, Slatkin donated a portion of the Los Angeles class and book sale proceeds to the SOVA Community Food and Resource Program. 

When the demonstration wrapped up and the participants milled about to get their books signed and eat lunch, Slatkin pointed to one of the Monday Morning Cooking Club’s best, if not necessarily deliberate, accomplishments. “I feel like we’ve bridged generations and oceans with this class.”

One of the recipes Slatkin asked the trio to prepare reflects the reach of the Monday Morning Cooking Club. Maxine Pacanowski’s cinnamon apple pie “is one you could really play with,” Chalmers noted. A pile of sliced apples topped with an egg, flour, oil and sugar mixture and baked in a springform pan, this dessert, which is more of a cake than a pie in the American sense, found a certain notable fan. Cookbook author and TV personality Nigella Lawson learned of the Monday Morning Cooking Club when she was in Australia, ordered a copy of the book back in London, and wrote on her Web site about how she had adapted the cinnamon and apple pie recipe to her own particular tastes. 

Both in reference to the recipe’s overall utility and its celebrity follower, “It’s a superstar cake now,” Goldberg proudly said. Try it and find out for yourself.. 


MAXINE PACANOWSKI’S CINNAMON AND APPLE PIE

  • 6 to 8 Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon-sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups light olive or vegetable oil
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (or experiment with alternative flours, such as spelt)
  • Extra cinnamon-sugar (optional), for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease and line the base and side of a springform cake pan.

Layer the apple slices in the prepared pan so they come about two-thirds of the way up the side. Sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar over the apples.

Make a batter by beating the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the oil and vanilla and beat well; then stir in the flour. Spoon the batter on top of the apples and sprinkle with the extra cinnamon-sugar if desired. 

Bake for 1 hour 20 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan. Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream.

Serves 10


TALIA GOLDBERG’S SALMON WITH A SESAME AND GINGER CRUST

  • 1 heaping tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup sherry
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 1 bunch scallions (approximately 12 stems), finely sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
  • 4 salmon fillets, skinned and boned

Preheat the oven’s broiler to its maximum temperature. Cover a flat oven tray with aluminum foil.

Mix the ginger and garlic in a small bowl, then add the sherry, sesame oil, sesame seeds, scallions and salt. Stir to combine.

Place the salmon fillets on the tray and spoon a thick layer of the sesame mixture on top. You may cook the salmon immediately or cover and refrigerate until you wish to cook it — up to 24 hours.

Place the tray under the hot broiler (on the second to top or top shelf) for 7-10 minutes, or until the fish is cooked to your liking and the topping has blackened a little. 

Serves 4.


CABBAGE SALAD

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • Half small Savoy or half red cabbage (or a mixture), shredded
  • 1/2 cup whole toasted almonds, roughly chopped
  • 1 heaped tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

To make the dressing, put the sugar and vinegar in a saucepan and place over  low heat. Add a drop of water and stir to dissolve the sugar. Allow the vinegar mixture to cool, then place in a large jar with the oil and soy sauce, and shake to combine.

Place the cabbage in a serving bowl and add the almonds and sesame seeds. Pour the dressing over the cabbage and toss to combine.

Serves 6.

Save the self-pity, choices abound for Passover meals


For the many who feel overwhelmed by Passover because of the demands of cooking without leaven, a word or two: That should not be an obstacle.

After all, on this most celebrated of Jewish holidays, we are allowed to eat fish, meat, poultry, eggs, nuts, fruits, most vegetables and fresh herbs.

All of the recipes featured here  are nutritious, attractive, flavorful and easy to prepare. They emphasize fresh, seasonal ingredients, fewer complicated techniques, and stylish, elegant dishes. What more would you want for Passover?

The seder meals, when we recount the Exodus story, are the most important events of the holiday.  Most people, like myself, favor their own traditional menu. Each year I repeat the seder menu as a way to hold on to cherished family traditions.

The recipes are from the new cookbook “Helen Nash's New Kosher Cuisine” (Overlook Press).

BEET SOUP
With their magnificent color, delicious flavor and vitamin richness, beets are one of my favorite vegetables. In the summer I serve this soup at room temperature; in the winter I like it hot.

Ingredients:
1 1/4 pounds (570 g) beets, plus 1 small beet for garnish
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small red onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 McIntosh apple, peeled and sliced
4 1/2 cups (1.08 liters) vegetable broth
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
Kosher salt 
Freshly ground black pepper

Preparation:
Peel and slice the beets (see note below). Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the onion, garlic and apple, and saute for 5 minutes. Add the beets and broth. Bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat and cook, covered, for about 30 minutes, until the beets are tender. Cool a little.

While the soup is cooking, wrap the reserved beet tightly in foil. Bake in a toaster oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit (205 Celsius) for 30 minutes, or until just tender when pierced with the tip of a paring knife. Cool, slip off the skin, and grate.

Puree the soup in a blender until very smooth. Season to taste with the vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper.

To serve, garnish with the grated beet; makes 6 servings.

Note: I always wear thin plastic gloves when I work with beets, as this avoids staining my fingers with beet juice, which can be hard to remove.

CHICKEN SALAD WITH RADICCHIO AND PINE NUTS
This is a colorful and delicious salad with an interesting mixture of textures and tastes. The currants and pine nuts add an unusual Mediterranean piquancy.

Ingredients: 
1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 6 ounces/170 g each)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil for greasing the chicken
Kosher salt 
Freshly ground black pepper
1 head radicchio, shredded
1 to 2 bunches arugula, leaves torn if they are large
1/2 cup (20 g) loosely packed flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

Preparation:

Place the onion slices in a small bowl and cover with cold water. Let stand for 30 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Place in a large serving bowl.

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and grease with oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Place each chicken breast in the center of a piece of cling wrap and wrap it so that it is completely covered. Place the packages in a steamer, cover and steam over high heat for about 9 minutes. (The inside of the chicken should still be pale pink.) Turn off the heat and let stand for 1 minute.

Remove the chicken and cool, still wrapped. When cool, unwrap the chicken and cut it on the diagonal into thin strips. Place in the bowl with the onions; makes 6 servings.

SWEET AND SOUR DRESSING
Ingredients:
1/3 cup (80 ml) extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup (70 g) pine nuts 
1/2 cup (115 g) raisins or currants
2 tablespoons Marsala wine
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Preparation:
Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the pine nuts and raisins and saute over low heat until the pine nuts are lightly golden. Remove from the heat and add the Marsala and vinegar.
Add the radicchio, arugula, and parsley to the chicken and onions; toss with the dressing. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

MARINATED SALMON
This is a variation on the traditional pickled salmon sold in every Jewish delicatessen. The difference: The salmon is more delicate and less vinegary, and has a richer color. It makes a perfect Sabbath luncheon dish.

Ingredients:
6 skinless center-cut salmon fillets (about 6 ounces/170 g each)
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil for greasing the pan
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preparation:
Preheat the oven to 200 F (95 C). Grease a glass or enamel-lined baking pan that can hold the fillets in a single layer.

Pat the fillets dry with paper towels and season them lightly on both sides with salt and pepper. Place them in the dish and bake, uncovered, for 25 to 30 minutes, or until cooked to your taste.

Remove the baking pan from the oven, cover with foil, and let cool completely. (The fish will continue cooking outside of the oven.)

MARINADE 
Ingredients:
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons rice vinegar (for Passover, replace with white wine vinegar)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 small red onion, very thinly sliced (see note below)
15 dill sprigs, snipped finely with scissors, plus 2 sprigs, snipped, for garnish

Preparation: 
In a medium bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar and salt. Add pepper to taste. Pour the marinade over the salmon, add the onion and sprinkle with the 15 snipped sprigs of dill.
Cover the dish with wax paper, then foil and refrigerate for 2 to 3 days without turning.

To serve: Bring the salmon to room temperature. Place on individual plates along with some of the marinade and onions. Garnish with the fresh snipped dill; makes 6 servings.

Note: I use a mandoline to slice the onion, as it makes the cutting easier.

CHICKEN WITH POTATOES AND OLIVES
I am always pleased to come up with a dish that is a meal in itself — one that combines either chicken or meat with vegetables. This is one of my favorites, and because it is so easy to make, I often serve it at Passover. I bake it in an attractive casserole, so it can go directly from the oven to the table.

Ingredients:
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
9 garlic cloves
Kosher salt 
1/4 cup (60 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
Leaves from 10 thyme sprigs
Freshly ground black pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 6 ounces/170 g each)
5 plum tomatoes
1 pound (450 g) Yukon gold potatoes, unpeeled, quartered
1/2 cup (67 g) pitted black olives, quartered

Preparation:
Preheat the oven to 450 F (230 C). With 1 tablespoon of the oil, grease a glass, ceramic or enamel-lined baking pan that can hold all the vegetables in a single layer.

Coarsely chop 4 of the garlic cloves on a cutting board. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and, using a knife, crush them into a paste. Place the paste in a small bowl and combine it with the lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of the oil, half of the thyme leaves and pepper to taste.

Pat dry the chicken breasts with paper towels and season lightly on both sides with salt and pepper. Coat the chicken with the mixture and set aside.

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Drop the tomatoes into the boiling water; bring the water back to a boil and drain. Core the tomatoes and slip off the skin. Cut the tomatoes in half widthwise and squeeze gently to remove the seeds. (Some seeds will remain.) Cut the tomatoes in quarters.

Thickly slice the remaining 5 garlic cloves and spread them in the prepared baking pan along with the tomatoes, potatoes, olives, the rest of the thyme leaves, and the remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Roast the vegetables, uncovered, for 20 minutes, or until almost tender.

Place the chicken breasts on top of the vegetables and bake, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Turn them over, spoon on some pan juices and bake for another 5 minutes, or until the chicken is slightly pink on the inside. Cover with foil for 1 minute; makes 4 servings.

STIR-FRIED SPINACH
This is a delicious recipe that captures the very essence of spinach. Now that prewashed spinach is available in almost every supermarket, you can prepare this dish in minutes.

Ingredients:
20 ounces (570 g) prewashed spinach
1 1/2 tablespoons pine nuts
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preparation:
Break the stems off the spinach leaves and discard.

Roast the pine nuts in a toaster oven on the lowest setting for 1 or 2 minutes, until they are golden. (Watch them carefully, as they burn quickly.)

Heat a wok over high heat until hot. Add the oil. Add the spinach and stir quickly until it is just wilted, no more than a minute. Season with salt and pepper. With a slotted spoon, transfer the spinach to a serving dish. Sprinkle the pine nuts on top; makes 6 servings.

CHOCOLATE MERINGUE SQUARES
These meringue squares are like cookies, but they are light, chocolaty and surprisingly low in calories. I often serve them at Passover.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon (15 g) unsalted margarine for greasing the pan
1/2 pound (225 g) blanched almonds
6 ounces (170 g) good-quality imported semisweet chocolate, broken into small pieces
8 large egg whites (see notes)
1 cup (200 g) sugar

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C). Line a 9-by-13-by-2-inch (23-by-33-by-5 cm) baking pan with wax paper and grease the paper with the margarine.

Chop the almonds in a food processor, in two batches, until medium-fine. Transfer to a bowl. Chop the chocolate in the processor until fine, and combine with the almonds.

Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Using the balloon whisk attachment, beat at high speed until foamy. Gradually add the sugar and beat until stiff.

With a large rubber spatula, gently fold the chocolate-almond mixture into the egg whites, making a motion like a figure 8 with the spatula. Do not overmix.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out 
almost dry.

Cool on a wire rack. Invert onto a cutting board and peel off the paper. Cut into 1 1/2-inch (4 cm) squares; makes 3 1/2 dozen squares.

Notes: It is easier to separate the eggs straight from the refrigerator, when they are cold. Make sure the whites have come to room temperature before beating.

To freeze the squares, place them side by side in an air-tight plastic container, with  wax paper between the layers.

Stuffed recipes: cabbage with meat and vegetarian grape leaves


Below are recipes for Sweet and Sour Stuffed Cabbage and Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves.

Joan Nathan's Sweet and Sour Stuffed Cabbage

Ingredients:

1 head of cabbage, frozen (2 pounds)
2 pounds ground beef
1 medium onion, grated
1 clove garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
1 medium onion, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup brown sugar
Juice of one lemon
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chili sauce
Salt and pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Preparation:

Defrost cabbage the night before cooking. When completely defrosted, separate leaves. Preheat oven to 350. Mix ground beef, grated onion, garlic with salt and pepper in large bowl. Place 1 heaping tablespoon of meat mixture on each cabbage leaf. Tuck ends in and roll up. Arrange cabbage rolls seam side down in a 6-quart, ovenproof casserole. Heat oil in a small frying pan and saute the diced onion for 10 minutes. Stir in brown sugar, lemon juice, raisins, chili sauce and simmer for a few minutes. Pour over cabbage and bake, covered, for an hour. Place stuffed cabbage pieces onto serving platter, spoon sauce over and serve.

Tori Avey's Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves

Ingredients:

1/2 cup pine nuts
1 1/2 cups long grain white rice
1 medium onion, minced
1/2 cup fresh minced dill
1/4 cup fresh minced mint
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 3/4 cups vegetable broth, divided
50 large grape leaves (fresh or jarred)
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
Fresh mint leaves, lemon slices, and olives (for garnish, optional)

Preparation:

Lightly toast pine nuts in medium skillet until brown; reserve. In medium pot, saute onion in 1/4 cup olive oil until brown. Add rice and 3/4 cup vegetable broth, simmer for 10 minutes or until rice is cooked al dente and liquid is absorbed. Do not cook rice completely to avoid mushy grape leaves. Remove pot, add dill, mint, pine nuts, 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper, let mixture cool to room temperature. Boil second pot of salted water, trim grape leaves by cutting stems and trimming any large veins. Place leaves in boiling water for 3-5 minutes until they soften. Drain, cover leaves with cold water. Drain and pat leaves dry. Place shiny side of grape leaf down on flat surface. Place 2 tablespoons of rice filling at base of leaf and fold up like a cigar. Do not roll too tightly. Place any damaged leaves at bottom of saute pan to create bed of stuffed leaves. Place stuffed leaves in saute pan in layers. Pour 1 cup of broth, 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil, and 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice. Invert heat-safe plate on top of leaves, cover pot. Simmer gently, covered, for 30-40 minutes. Serve warm or cold. 

Rosh Hashanah Food: All you knead for a bounty of challah


Dipping freshly baked challah in honey is a tradition observed during the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. This act combines the Shabbat bread with hopes for a sweet New Year.

The custom is to serve a round or spiral-shaped challah, one of the symbolic foods eaten during Rosh Hashanah. Typical is the challah baked in a circle to signify the desire for a long life, peace and universal redemption. Another type of challah is made in the shape of a crown, braided and twisted into a circle and topped by a smaller circle, symbolizing the ascent to heaven.

Middle Eastern Jews add saffron and raisins to make the bread special for the holiday. Because carrots were one of the few sweet-tasting vegetables accessible to Eastern European Jews, they became a substitute for the candied pumpkin and squash often eaten during the holiday.

Another concept is a break-apart challah. The dough is divided into several parts, shaped into small rounds and placed together in a greased round or loaf pan. Next, it is oiled lightly, left to rise, then brushed with egg and sprinkled with poppy seeds before baking. After this challah is baked, it will break apart easily and be ready to dip in honey.

A round braided challah filled with apples, pears or quince, representing the harvest, is an Italian custom and is included in the recipes that follow.

Potato challah, usually associated with times of grain shortages or a need for economy in the kitchen, was made by Russian and Polish Jews during the Jewish New Year. And for those who could not afford to bake cakes for Rosh Hashanah, there was the delicious bolas, made in Spain from sweetened challah dough, filled with candied orange peel and raisins, rolled into loaves, sliced and baked.

Although challah is easily bought at the bakery, many families are discovering the joy of making it at home. This tradition is important especially during holidays in which it has special meaning. There is pleasure and satisfaction in baking it yourself, and what better way to celebrate the holiday than with the aroma of freshly baked bread. Be sure to reserve some dough for small individual challahs, which will be a special treat for the children. Make it a family project, and allow them to braid and bake their own. 


Rosh Hashanah round braided challah

1 package active dry yeast
1  1/2 cups warm water (110-115 F)
Pinch sugar
3 eggs
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup unsalted butter or nondairy margarine, melted
1/8 teaspoon ground saffron (optional)
2 tablespoons brandy
5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup raisins, plumped
Cornmeal
1 egg white, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
 
Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm water and  sugar. Beat together eggs, honey and melted butter in a large mixing bowl. Add the remaining 1 cup warm water, saffron and brandy, and blend well. Blend in the yeast mixture. Add flour, 1 cup at a time with salt, blending with a beater after each addition, until the dough is thick enough to work by hand. Spoon it out onto a floured board and knead for 5 to 10 minutes, gradually incorporating the raisins and enough additional flour to make a smooth and elastic dough. Place dough in an oiled bowl and oil top of dough. Cover loosely with a clean towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1  1/2 hours.

Punch down dough and divide into 3 equal parts. Form each one into a rope about 26 inches long. Braid the ropes together and seal the ends by pinching.

Line a large heavy baking sheet with foil or a silicone baking mat. Oil the foil and sprinkle it with cornmeal. Remove the label and wash an empty 16-ounce can; oil its outside and place it in the center of the baking sheet, open end up. Transfer the challah to the baking sheet, forming it into a ring around the can; join and pinch together the ends of the braid. Cover dough with a towel and let it rise in a warm place until doubled, about 40 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Brush the challah with beaten egg white and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a rack.

Serve the challah on a circular tray and set a bowl of honey in the center. Serve with sliced apples for dipping.

Makes 1 challah.

VIDEO: Rachel Somekh teaches two classic Iraqi Jewish recipes — potato chops and cigars


Rachel Somekh teaches two classic Iraqi appetizers, potato chops and cigars

 

The kreme de la kreme of kosher kooking mix it up


When Michaela Rosenthal threw some leftover gefilte fish into her potato knish recipe, she never imagined it might be worth $20,000.

“I didn’t want to waste the one piece I had left,” said the Woodland Hills housewife and mother of two grown children.

It turned out to be a good move for Rosenthal, whose whitefish and potato knishes in lemon horseradish sauce took one of two first-place spots at the Simply Manischewitz Cook-Off Western semifinal at the Hilton Orange County in Costa Mesa earlier this month.

The veteran of cooking challenges competed against nine other California amateur chefs at the last of three regional contests sponsored by the nation’s largest processed kosher food manufacturer.

She and co-winner Andrea Bloom of Long Beach, who earned accolades from the judges for her savory pea and fennel soup, will fly to New York in February to compete in the finals for a $20,000 grand prize package, including a GE Profile kitchen and cash.

The first-ever national kosher cook-off is intended to demonstrate to consumers the flexibility, speed and convenience of kosher cooking, while showcasing the Manischewitz label.

“When people think of kosher, they think of a slow process, like briskets,” said David Rossi, Manischewitz vice president of marketing. “We wanted to break that mold and give our core Jewish consumers new ideas about how to use our products.”

Thirty recipes were selected from more than 1,000 entries to compete in semifinals in New Jersey, Florida and Costa Mesa this fall. To qualify, recipes had to be original, kosher, limited to eight ingredients, including at least one Manischewitz product, and preparable in one hour or less. A panel of food experts, including Cooking Light magazine’s executive chef, Billy Strynkowski, selected the semifinalists.

Maintaining Manischewitz’s strict standards of kashrut for the multivenue event was no small task for the Secaucus, N.J.-based company.

“A lot goes on behind the scenes in a kosher cook-off,” Rossi said. “We essentially set up 10 kosher kitchens in the ballroom.”

“All stages of preparation for the event and the actual event itself were in accordance with traditional Jewish law,” said Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz, who supervises kashrut for Manischewitz.

Cook-off co-sponsor GE provided 10 stove-top ovens that were kashered and transported cross-country for the semifinals. New utensils and cookware were cleansed in a mikvah and labeled dairy, meat or pareve, and all ingredients were purchased and supervised by local mashgichim. Judges tasted the dairy offerings first and then the pareve and meat ones.

Inventiveness was on the menu, with offerings ranging from modern twists on traditional favorites, like almond milk-infused simcha sweet potato soup served up by Redondo Beach’s Terry Gladstone, to Mexican-influenced dishes, such as Los Angeles resident Ellen Burr’s “zesty Mexi chicken and matzah ball soup.” Organizers and judges got a literal and figurative kick out of the local zest.

“I love the spirit of the contestants and the creativity we’re seeing,” said Jeremy J. Fingerman, CEO of the R.A.B. Food Group, which owns Manischewitz. “We’re seeing different flavors out here than we saw in other parts of the country, more heat, more jalape?os. ‘Zesty Mexi chicken soup,’ you don’t see that in New York.”

Another south-of-the border-inspiration was Lowell Bernstein’s “matzah-males,” a creative take on traditional tamales. The education consultant and only male competitor developed the recipe after mastering Mexican cooking, because he was looking for something “bready” to eat at Passover.

“I substitute matzah meal for corn meal and wrap it in a banana peel, instead of a corn husk. It’s glatt kosher and kosher for Passover. It’s where a matzah ball and a taco meet.”

Bernstein’s creativity was not lost on the judges.

“Tamales made of matzah is close to brilliant,” said OCR Magazines publisher Chris Schulz.

Joining Schulz on the panel was an eclectic group of foodies and nonfoodies, both Jewish and non-Jewish, including cookbook author and Jewish Journal contributor Judy Bart Kancigor. Some, like Cooking Light magazine’s Kyle Crowner, had limited experience with kosher cuisine but were impressed.

“This food is much lighter for the most part,” Crowner said, noting the consumer trend toward flavor without added calories. The contest was further proof that kosher cooking has become mainstream, she added.

While contestants said they had been making their recipes long before they knew of the cook-off, some admitted having tweaked their ingredients to feature more Manischewitz products.

“After I saw the ad for the contest, I added the lemon horseradish sauce,” Rosenthal said. “It went ‘click’ and all fit together. I’ll be serving it with the sauce from now on.”

Simply Manischewitz Cook-Off Western Semifinal Winning Recipes:

Michaela Rosenthal’s Whitefish and Potato Knish

2/3 cup instant mashed potatoes
2/3 cup boiling water
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 can (2.8 ounces) french-fried onions
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
1 jar (24 ounces) Manischewitz whitefish, drained and patted dry
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 box (17.03 ounces) frozen puff pastry, defrosted
2 teaspoons Manischewitz fish seasoning
8 teaspoons Manischewitz creamy horseradish sauce with lemon

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line a large, rimless cookie sheet with parchment paper or grease with butter. Place instant potatoes in a medium bowl. Add boiling water and stir to combine.

Measure two teaspoons of the melted butter and set aside. Add remaining butter to potatoes and mix well. Stir in fried onions and parsley.

Mash fish and add to potato mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.
Remove both pieces of puff pastry onto a floured board. Unfold and cut along natural folds to form six equal rectangles. Remove two rectangles for another use. With a floured rolling pin, roll remaining four rectangles slightly to flatten.

Spoon one-quarter of potato-fish mixture onto each of the four rectangles and level to within half inch of the edges. Fold edges of dough and roll each piece into a log (like a jellyroll). Pinch seam lightly to seal. Trim unfilled dough ends.

It’s Pat — South African queen of kosher cuisine


Smoked duck with papaya salsa. Wild mushroom turnovers. Chicken roulade with sun-dried tomatoes and spinach. Sushi.
Hungry yet? Good.

You keep kosher? Not a problem.

These are just a few of the elegantly presented gourmet dishes created by Pat Fine, of Pat’s Restaurant and Pat’s Catering.
In the nearly three decades since Fine started serving up her dishes in the Southland, the kosher dining landscape has changed dramatically. As David Kamp chronicles in his book, “The United States of Arugula: How We Became a Gourmet Nation,” Americans of all stripes have been tutored in fine dining by a string of successful chefs, food critics, cookbook writers and restaurateurs over the last 30 years. This phenomenon has raised the bar for kosher cooking as well, creating demand for chic kosher dining.

Fine has been — and remains — a kosher cuisine pioneer in Los Angeles. Perhaps Rabbi Meyer May, executive director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and frequent Pat’s customer, sums it up best: “She’s the queen of kosher catering, absolutely top of the line.”

Raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, Fine was one of four daughters. Her mother had very little interest in cooking, so Fine and her sisters were given free reign in the kitchen. Her father, a man who loved to eat, proved an enthusiastic recipient of his daughters’ culinary adventures.

Although had she expressed a desire to become a professional cook, Fine is convinced that her mother “would have freaked.” Cooking was thought of as “such an ordinary job, one that simply wasn’t OK for nice Jewish girls,” Fine said.
As a concession to her parents, Fine went on to university to train and work as a pharmacist.

“I was misguided,” she said. “Someone should have said to me ‘Why don’t you go to chefs school?’ I would have loved to go to Cordon Bleu or somewhere like that. But I didn’t, and I regret that.”

Continuing to live and work in Johannesburg, Fine met her husband, Errol. They married in 1970 and soon started their own family. While Fine’s parents were traditional Jews — they lit candles on Friday nights and celebrated the holidays — her in-laws were more observant.

“They kept kosher, so of course when I married I began to [keep kosher] as well,” Fine said.

As massive riots broke out in Soweto near Johannesburg in 1976, the Fines left South Africa with their three sons to start anew in California.

“I had never left the country until we emigrated; I didn’t even have a passport,” Fine said.

The Fines settled in Los Angeles, where Errol was the financial controller for a chain of men’s clothing stores. Pat was busy at home with their children, but still loved learning about food and creating new recipes, so she spent a lot of time “reading and experimenting on my own.”

Over time, more and more of Fine’s friends asked her to prepare food for celebrations and events.

“I was cooking out of my house. I was doing everything myself — the shopping, cooking, delivery, serving. It became too much,” she said.

Since large trucks were prohibited from frequenting her residential neighborhood, Fine would sometimes send deliveries to her children’s school and then transport items with her own car.

Fine expanded her catering with the purchase of a deli on Pico Boulevard in 1982, which she named Elite Cuisine. She soon opened a second Elite Cuisine deli on Beverly Boulevard near Hancock Park. (Although Fine has since sold both delis, the new owner of the Hancock Park location has kept the name.)

As Fine remembers, “When we started out, there were just places like Nosh and Rye. There was nothing else — just some falafel places, kosher hot dogs, deli food. I would tell people that we’ve got pasta salad and they’d say ‘macaroni salad?’ because that was all they knew.”

When she sold the last of her delis about 15 years ago, Fine consolidated her business, opened the fleishig (meat) Pat’s Restaurant on Pico Boulevard near Doheny Drive and expanded the catering operations. Around the same time, Fine said, she offered her accountant husband a job.

With Errol Fine running the business side — from managing 50 employees to handling details for events as far away as in San Francisco — Pat Fine is free to spend her time focused on food.

“He has a lot of charisma, so he meets with people. I prefer to be in the kitchen,” she said.

“It’s a very good partnership,” she added.

As kosher cooking has become increasingly sophisticated and customer’s palettes have become more refined, Fine said she endeavors to stay ahead of the curve. Inspired by her customers’ knowledge and by other creative chefs, Fine said, “Whatever they’re doing out there, say at Spago’s, we’re doing, but kosher.”

Despite her ongoing love for fine food, one shouldn’t expect an invitation for a home-cooked meal at the Fine residence any time soon. At the end of the workday, her home kitchen is the last place Pat Fine wants to be.

She warned, “If you ask me to make coffee at home it’s a big deal — you’re on your own. The most you’ll get in my house is a bagel and cottage cheese.”

Sinai Dinner Prompts Revamp of Biblical Proportions


In February 2004, chef Ido Shapira of Tel Aviv received an impassioned phone call from the United States.

“I want you to cook for a banquet in Beverly Hills in 2006.” The insistent voice belonged to Irwin S. Field, of Los Angeles’ Sinai Temple, who was planning a lavish dinner-dance to culminate a year of celebrations for the congregation’s centennial celebration.

Although Field, who is also chairman of the board of The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, couldn’t reserve the International Ballroom at the Beverly Hilton more than a year in advance, he wanted to make sure that his favorite Israeli chef would be available.

Field’s hiring of this master caterer with a reputation for exquisite innovative cuisine set the bar for the elegance of the evening. The goal was to treat the 765 Temple Sinai members who ultimately R.S.V.P.’d to the most spectacular social event in the temple’s long history.

“I wanted the menu to be as meaningful as the event, so I sought out the best kosher chefs I knew,” said Field, who co-chaired last spring’s event with Julie Platt.

Joining Shapira would be chef Katsuo Sugiura, in charge of the kosher kitchen at the Beverly Hilton, and Jeffrey Nathan, New York chef/co-owner of Abigael’s restaurant, all of whom were adept at orchestrating banquet-sized meals.

Nathan was also well-known, both in the United States and Israel, through his PBS television cooking show where he introduced a whole generation of viewers to what he calls New Jewish Cuisine.

Almost simultaneously, Shapira and Nathan have been reinventing kosher cuisine. Challenged by the strict dietary laws but not satisfied with serving, as Nathan puts it, “chicken on a plate,” they have made a point of creating dishes that use not only a variety of herbs, spices and unexpected ingredients, but modern cooking styles from all over the world.

Before they were even introduced to one another, they were, as they say, on the same page of the cookbook.

Nathan traveled to Israel to meet Shapira, and the two got on immediately.
Sitting with Shapira’s family in Hertzliyah, the pair of culinary iconoclasts began conceptualizing an exotic array of flavors from Israel, Iran and Morocco, combined with sophisticated dishes served in classic, five-star kitchens in the United States and Europe.

“We realized the menu should reflect the population of Sinai Temple, so we set about developing a mélange of Ashkenazi, Persian and other Sephardic dishes,” Shapira said. “We wanted to make this symphony of cuisines come together with flavors as diverse as the people who would be eating it.”

Shapira foresaw some challenges: He would have to cook in a country where some of his favorite herbs, such as zatar and sumac, are not readily available and some cuts of meat are not available as kosher. He practiced the adage “necessity begets creativity” and relied on Nathan’s experience.

“When Jeff returned to the U.S., we continued working on the menu in real time, Shapira said, referring to the half-day’s time difference between Israel and the United States
“I would e-mail him in the morning. I’d get my answer back at night,” he said with a laugh.

Most importantly, they wanted the meal to embody the bittersweet spirituality of the complicated Sephardic cuisine, forged by Jews who wandered all over the world after Spain’s order of expulsion in 1492. Making homes outside of their homeland, these ancestors incorporated the exotic flavors and unexpected combinations from their new countries with Jewish, Moorish and Spanish cuisine.

Shapira’s tabbouleh would not simply call for a cup of lemon juice sprayed over curly parsley and bulghur wheat. Instead, bits of cubed lemon would add unexpected piquancy at first bite. For the parsley, delete “curly” and insert “flat-leafed.”

His beef would not be baked at the traditional 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes per pound; instead it would be roasted three times longer at a temperature below 200, so the juices would stay inside the meat instead of escaping to the bottom of the pan. Forget the expected mashed potatoes; the dish would be accessorized with a puree sweetened by parsnips and made pungent with Jerusalem artichokes.

The sauce for Nathan’s Sea Bass Nicoise wouldn’t settle for any old olives; only juicy kalamatas, swimming in a sauce of brandy, orange zest and saffron threads would do.

They decided the menu would feature biblical food quotations, which would be printed underneath the name of each dish on the menu. Instead of traditional passed appetizers, they imagined a palatial table of fruits and nuts in the Persian tradition, which translated into a long winding table of beautiful seasonal offerings accentuated with orchids and champagne.

On the menu was a quote from the Bible: “The Lord is bringing you into a land of wheat and barley, of vines, figs and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey.”

Although this menu was assembled for a beautiful party, these recipes are perfect for a lovely erev Rosh Hashanah feast.

The recipes have been adapted to family-sized servings with the help of chefs Jeffrey Nathan and Ido Shapira.

Sea Bass Nicoise with Saffron Tomato Jus
From Jeffrey Nathan, chef/co-owner Abigael’s On Broadway, New York.

1 bulb fennel, halved directly through the core
12 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
1 pound fingerling potatoes
1 medium red bell pepper

For Sauce:

1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1/4 cup brandy
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1/8 teaspoon saffron threads
1 15-ounce can whole tomatoes in juice (pureed with immersion blende)
1/2 teaspoon toasted ground fennel seed
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For Fish:

48 ounces of sea bass fillets
Extra virgin olive oil, as needed
3 tablespoons parsley, chopped coarsely
2 tablespoons thyme, chopped coarsely
2 teaspoons rosemary, chopped coarsely
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
1/4 cup capers

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.Lightly coat fennel in olive oil and place on a greased baking sheet, with the cut side down. Toss garlic cloves, fingerling potatoes and red peppers in olive oil and place on different sections of baking sheet.

Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, until potato is fork tender and fennel, garlic and pepper are fork tender and lightly caramelized. Remove from oven; allow to cool.

To make sauce: In a medium sauce pan combine broth, brandy, orange zest, saffron, tomatoes and fennel seed. Bring mixture to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Add salt and pepper.

Cut baked fennel and red pepper into medium dice, garlic cloves in half, potatoes into 1/2 inch rounds. In a large bowl, combine with olives and capers. Toss with a small amount of olive oil.

To make fish: Place sea bass in a large roasting pan. Dredge one side of fish in fresh herbs. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Pour prepared vegetables and sauce over fish. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes until fish is cooked through.

Makes four servings.

Moroccan Carrot Salad
From chef Ido Shapira, Cutlet Catering Company, Tel Aviv.

2 pounds carrots, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch cilantro, rough chopped
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat a large soup pot of salted water. Bring to a boil and blanch carrots for one minute. Drain and shock the carrots under cold water.

For dressing: In a small bowl, combine olive oil, cilantro, paprika, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper.

Toss dressing with carrots. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Makes eight to 10 servings.

Citrus Pesto
From chef Ido Shapira.
(This is delicious as an accent to vegetables, fish or pasta.)

1 cup flat leaf parsley, stemmed
1/2 cup cilantro, stemmed
3 garlic cloves, peeled
Grated zest from 1/2 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon, strained
1/2 cup olive oil

Prior to preparation chill first five ingredients in refrigerator, along with bowl of a food processor. Place mixture in processor; pulse just long enough so ingredients are thoroughly combined but not mushy. Strain through a chinois into a bowl so pesto remains and escaping liquid can be saved for another use. This pesto may be made ahead of time and kept cold in the refrigerator.

Makes eight servings.

Tabbouleh Salad
From chef Ido Shapira.

2 cups coarse bulgur
1 pound flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 pound mint, chopped
1 bunch chives, chopped
2 red onions, chopped
4 lemons, peeled and cubed
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Soak bulgur in plenty of cold water for 10 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed.

Rinse in colander and toss with parsley, mint, chives, red onion, lemons, olive oil and salt and pepper.

Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Makes eight to 10 servings.

The Ultimate Taste Test


Inside Kosher World, the recent “for-the-trade” food show, you had to remind yourself you were in Anaheim. To my left, two gentlemen negotiated a deal in animated Hebrew. To my right, wine connoisseurs swirled, sniffed and sipped kosher-for-Passover premium varietals from Israel and 11 other countries. Behind me, hungry visitors, beckoned by the intoxicating aromas of smoked meat grilling, speared six varieties of kosher sausage. And at what other trade show would you find a curtained section designated “Davening Area”?

While this was the third year for Kosher World, it was the first time the show joined with the ethnic and halal markets, under the umbrella of the World Ethnic Market.

“These foods are no longer limited today to specialty suppliers or people of a particular religion or ethnicity,” said show director Phyllis Koegel. “They’re now routinely available at major food retailers, restaurants, hotels and food service operations.”

About 40 companies exhibited kosher products, ranging from wines to cheese to meat and halvah, but there also were cashews from Dan-D-Pack, a product of Vietnam; halal beef franks from Midamar, and salted lassi from Gulf & Safa Dairies of Dubai.

As usual at such shows, I sampled far too much, but what don’t you do in the name of research? My first stop was Neshama Gourmet Kosher Foods, for the best sausage I’ve ever tasted. My personal favorite is the exotic Merguez line, made from beef and lamb.

“For the first time our smoked andouille and country apple will be available kosher for Passover,” announced vice president Evelyn Baran.

I sampled salad dressing from Mistral — loved the soy ginger — and the yummiest individually wrapped Kugelettes — sure, there were Traditional Golden Raisin, but could grandma dream up Green Chile and Cheese with Salsa?

Next I visited Raphy’s booth, where samples of baba ghanoush, stuffed eggplant and a host of other delicacies, all produced in Turkey — the watermelon peel preserves are to die for — were dished up with flair.

Only fine wine could top off this “balanced meal,” so I headed for Royal Wine Corp., the world’s largest producer, importer and distributor of kosher wines. “When people hear ‘kosher’ and ‘wine’ in the same breath, they think sweet,” said Dennis Bookbinder, the company’s director of sales. “Our slogan is: ‘We produce and import premium varietal wines that happen to be kosher.’ Today you’ll find world-class kosher wines from $200 a bottle on down.”

Many of the company’s 300 wines from 12 countries regularly garner awards and top ratings from the world’s foremost wine critics and publications. And with Passover around the corner, expect a flood of new kosher wines. Petit Castel from the Judean Hills is considered the finest wine from Israel, Bookbinder said. Baron Herzog Jeunesse, as well as premium wines from Segal’s, Barkan and Carmel, are just a few he recommended to grace the seder table.

This year’s show also included the Natural Products Expo in the same building, “because people tend to associate kosher food with natural and organic,” said show director Koegel.

According to analysts, only 20 percent to 33 percent of kosher foods produced worldwide is consumed by Jews, and this is one of the fastest growing segments of the food industry. So just who is buying the rest? Muslims, Seventh-day Adventists, Hindus and others who follow similar dietary restrictions, for starters. With 20 percent of the population lactose intolerant and millions calling themselves vegetarians of one sort or another, plus countless others who are health conscious, it is easy to see why kosher products have wide appeal. The mad cow disease scare hasn’t hurt either; because of strict cleanliness requirements and butchering procedures, there has never been a case of the disease found in kosher beef.

So, as the motto on a banner said at the first Kosher World: “Bringing kosher to mainstream and mainstream to kosher.” Truer today than ever, I’d say.

Judy Bart Kancigor is the author of “Cooking Jewish: 652 Great Recipes from the Rabinowitz Family” (Workman, September 2006) and can be found on the Web at

‘Design’-ing Woman Comes to Town


“Kosher by Design,” (ArtScroll/Mesorah Publications, $32.99) “Kosher by Design Entertains” ($34.99) and “Kosher by Design Kids in the Kitchen” ($22.99) by Susie Fishbein.

With the frenzied anticipation generally reserved for the appearance of a rock star — or at the very least, Oprah — the Orthodox community of Los Angeles is abuzz with excitement: Susie is coming!

“Susie” is Susie Fishbein, the effervescent author of the “Kosher by Design” cookbooks, who has turned kosher cooking on its proverbial ear. And no wonder she bubbles over. According to Gedaliah Zlotowitz, Mesorah’s vice-president of sales and marketing, more than 160,000 copies have sold with no end in sight.

Fishbein will be making three exclusive appearances this month in Los Angeles (see box), and those lucky enough to get a reservation will watch, kvell and sample as their idol cooks.

“Susie Fishbein has done for Jewish cooking what [rabbi and author] Aryeh Kaplan did for beginning Judaism,” said Rabbi Shimon Kraft of the 613 Mitzvah Store on Pico Boulevard. “They’re buying her cookbooks en masse. She’s a genius at editing and putting everything all together.”

“Our patrons are meshugah for her books,” echoed Abigail Yasgur, director of the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles. “We have over 30,000 resources here, and the most precious part of our collection is Jewish cookbooks. Hers circulate so robustly. They’re fabulous.”

Just what is this revolution in kosher cooking that Fishbein has spawned? As food columnist, cooking instructor and dinnerware designer Debby Segura explained, “Lots of people used to feel tied to a few kosher cookbooks, but so much has happened in kosher food over the last 20 years that just wasn’t being reflected, and if it was, it was too complicated. Susie gives you food styling, kosher tips, kitchen tips. But the big deal about Susie’s recipes is they work.”

Risa Moskowitz, who chairs the event for Emek, added, “When I booked the event, everyone said, ‘Oh my gosh, I live by her cookbooks!’ There wasn’t one person who said ‘Who?’ People who aren’t kosher don’t realize what’s possible for us now, the variety of foods and the way to prepare them. They think kosher means dried-out, salted meat. Her books have had a tremendous impact.”

Toras Emes chair Sara Leah Beinstock agreed: “These are the ultimate kosher cookbooks. There’s nothing close to them on the market. Her recipes are easy to follow, and the food is appetizing and delicious. It’s very exciting to have gourmet Jewish cookbooks.”

Fishbein, an Orthodox Jew and mother of four children ages 3 to 11, understands that today’s observant Jews want to prepare many of the same exciting dishes found on restaurant menus and serve them with style. Those who grew up on Grandma’s Shabbos brisket now embrace her Rack of Lamb with Fig-Port-Shallot Sauce.

“Kosher food doesn’t have to be simple or bland,” noted Fishbein by phone from her New Jersey home. “Just about every ingredient is available out there kosher.”

The luscious table settings and presentation ideas that party planner Renee Erreich and Fishbein created for these books — and that photographer John Uher shot — fairly leap off the pages. But everything is doable.

“The food looks intimidating, but the recipes are not,” Fishbein said. “It’s not about putting on a show. These are recipes the family will want to eat over and over.” And they do. So popular are these dishes that guests recognize them on each other’s Shabbat tables.

Routinely dubbed the Jewish Martha Stewart, Fishbein squirms at the comparison.

“I’m flattered, but it’s not really accurate,” she said. “Martha Stewart is all about a lifestyle. If you want beautiful flowers, you plant them and this is how you do it. We’re busy. We have kids. We have jobs. We’re in and out of the kitchen trying to make fabulous meals. I take shortcuts she would never take. I’m about cutting to the chase to accomplish our goals.”

Beloria Fink, whose sister will be driving from San Diego to join her for the Emek event, observed, “Susie can take a simple recipe and it looks extravagant and elegant, like you’ve really knocked yourself out. She’s taken the bland, traditional Shabbos meal and turned it into elegant cuisine. She shows you how to set a beautiful table for each holiday so you can create a legacy for your own children.”

“Kosher by Design” marries food to holiday traditions in new ways that resonate with those seeking a deeper Jewish experience for their families.

“When I think back to Passover in my childhood,” Fishbein reflected, “I remember my cousin Jeff scrubbing the maror, my aunt cutting sheets of egg noodles and Grandma Mollie making chremslach, because 10 minutes shouldn’t go by without her feeding us something. These memories are like yesterday. It’s a happy place for me. I want that for my kids.”

To accomplish this Fishbein went way beyond “It’s Rosh Hashanah, let’s have honey.” Case in point: Pomegranate Chicken. “I tell my kids, ‘You know why I made this dish, you guys? Pomegranate has 613 seeds corresponding to the 613 mitzvot in the Torah.’ Maybe it’s not my grandmother’s chicken, but it’s incredibly appropriate.”

Similarly, envelope-shaped Won Ton Wrapped Chicken appetizers for Purim are edible reminders of the lots (purim) Haman drew to select the date for the Jews’ extinction.

For Simchat Torah she incorporates the tradition of eating rolled foods to mimic Torah scrolls.

“I thought stuffed cabbage was overdone,” Fishbein noted, “but I’ve got this awesome Chicken Negemaki. Chicken is rolled around scallion and red pepper strips and tied like a scroll with a blanched scallion. True, God never told us to eat Chicken Negemaki, but he didn’t tell us to eat stuffed cabbage either.”

With “Kosher by Design Entertains,” Fishbein moved on to celebrations — a housewarming, dinner for two, an engagement party — nine in all, with spectacular menus and extravagant serving ideas along with the simple, yet elegant recipes she had become famous for.

Now “Kosher by Design Kids in the Kitchen” offers the dishes kids like to eat — and cook — clearly explained, beautifully photographed and coded for difficulty with one, two or three chefs hats (see story p. 49).

How does Fishbein herself explain the hoopla surrounding her books?

“I think I hit a nerve in the community,” she said. “People clearly have had a creative passion in them that was waiting to be unleashed. I’ve unleashed their inner cook.”

Rack of Lamb with Fig-Port-Shallot Sauce

From “Kosher by Design” by Susie Fishbein.

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
2 teaspoons dried minced thyme
2 shallots
2 racks of baby lamb chops, 8-9 chops per rack; have butcher French the bones
1 cup port wine, divided
8 fresh Mission figs or 6 dried figs, cut into quarters
1/2 cup chicken stock

Preheat oven to 450 F. In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, process 2 tablespoons olive oil, rosemary, thyme, and shallots 30-45 seconds or until thick paste forms. Rub herb paste into lamb.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium oven-proof skillet. Add lamb, fat side down, and cook over high heat 5 minutes. Turn lamb and cook an additional minute so that both sides are brown.

Add 1/2 cup port to skillet. Place skillet in the oven and roast 18 minutes.

Remove skillet from oven. Place lamb on a platter; cover with foil to keep warm. Add remaining 1/2 cup port and figs to skillet. Bring to a simmer. Use a spatula to loosen brown bits from pan. Add stock and simmer 3-4 minutes. Sauce will thicken to a nice amber color. Pour sauce over lamb and serve.

Makes four servings.

Additional recipes can be found at ” target=”_blank”>www.cookingjewish.com.

Susie Fishbein will appear in private homes on:

\n

Nathan Takes a Bite Out of Boring Fare


“The New American Cooking” by Joan Nathan (Knopf, $35).

A tempeh Reuben sandwich and guacamole made with mayonnaise may sound like sacrilege to food purists, but not to food journalist Joan Nathan. The author of 10 cookbooks, including the award-winning “Jewish Cooking in America” (Knopf, 1994), Nathan’s latest is “The New American Cooking,” which offers recipes for the way Americans eat today.

“I never think of food as something that’s stationary,” Nathan said on a recent book tour stop in Los Angeles. “Things change, neighborhoods change, food changes, we get new ingredients, people get ideas. And when you come to a country you adapt what you knew to that country.”

Nathan makes no judgments on those adaptations, what matters to her is how it tastes. Her openness is expressed through the variety of the 280 recipes she includes in the book, which contains many cross-cultural meldings. She offers up four dishes for public consumption, some new and some old, at a special dinner at the Skirball Cultural Center this week. The diverse menu will include Roasted Squash Soup With Coconut Milk; Georgian Spinach Salad With Pomegranates; Horseradish-Crusted Bass With Borscht Broth, Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Ragout of Wild Mushrooms With Shallots and Thyme; and a Chocolate Torte for dessert. For fans of Nathan, what is perhaps most striking about her newest book is that the word “Jewish” does not appear in the title.

Nathan was raised in Providence, R.I., and after getting her master’s degree in French literature from Harvard, she went to work as foreign press officer to Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek. The experience inspired her to write her first cookbook, “The Flavor of Jerusalem,” and today she is mostly known for her Jewish recipes, with eight of her previous collections focusing on Jewish or Israeli cuisine.

Although this new, broader American focus might seem like a departure for her, Nathan sees it more as a logical extension of her previous work, specifically “An American Folklife Cookbook” (Schocken, 1984) (her only other non-Jewish title) and “Jewish Cooking in America.”

“The Jewish cookbook was one ethnic group, but within that one ethnic group there is so much diversification,” she said. “Look at the Persian Jews here and the Sephardic Jews and the Israeli Jews. There are all kinds within the Jewish population, and it probably made me more aware of other people around America. And I’m American, so I thought it would be interesting to look at the whole country.”

What she was looking for in particular, she said, were the changes American cooking has undergone in the last 40 years.

She found her answers through the recipes of a range of professional and home kitchens across America, from food stands and restaurants to heirloom family favorites.

The dishes are coupled with stories about their origins, so that what emerges is a sort of travel book and cookbook in one, a text that is as much about who Americans are, as it is about what they eat.

Nathan sees America today as a country changed by technological advances like the Cuisinart, the growth of organics and sustainable agriculture, the integration of ethnic foods and ingredients into the somewhat bland American palate of her 1950s youth, and the rise of the celebrity chef.

But Nathan is aware that not everything in today’s American cuisine is positive.

“I’m not sort of Polyanna-ish,” she said. “I know that supermarkets all over the country have all processed food and apples that look like each other and terrible tomatoes. But I’m not looking at that. I’m looking at what people are doing to make changes. I’m looking at farmers markets, at individuals, and I think these small individuals will get bigger.”

Many of the small individuals Nathan mentions in her book are Jewish, including two trailblazing Southern California women. Along with a recipe for Pomegranate, Mango, and Papaya Fruit Salad with Lime, she includes the story of Lynda Resnick, creator of the pomegranate and pomegranate juice company POM Wonderful. Alongside a recipe for Sugar Snap Peas with Red Pepper, Nathan pays tribute to Frieda Caplan, creator of the company Frieda’s Finest, who first brought kiwis and sugar snap peas to the American public.

And her new American cooking is also still influenced by Jewish recipes, like challah and matzah balls and dishes like the Cuban Jewish casserole Plantains with Picadillo.

Nathan said the number of Jewish contributions in her book has little to do with her own roots. She said Jews play a huge role in the food industry.

But it’s not only that.

“There are a lot of good home-cooked recipes in a lot of Jewish families, especially ethnic ones,” Nathan said, “like that Plantains Picadillo, and the date and nut cake with orange. That’s delicious.”

Joan Nathan hosts “Dinner With Joan Nathan: Jewish Cooking in America,” on Thursday, Dec. 15 at 7:30 p.m. $65-$85 (ticket sales end Dec. 12). Book signing follows. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (866) 468-3399.

 

Cooking Up a Meaningful Plot


“To make really great falafel, crunchy on the outside and smooth and light on the inside, you must use only Bulgarian chickpeas,” British playwright Robin Soans said. “Next, you soak them in water for eight hours.”

Soans, who talks in the sonorous tones of the veteran Shakespearean actor he is, knows whereof he speaks.

He is, after all, the author of the play “The Arab-Israeli Cookbook,” whose characters spend a good deal of stage time preparing a feast’s worth of delicacies, including falafel, humus, gefilte fish, and a dish that combines stuffed zucchini and stuffed vine leaves with chicken.

Despite its title and the food, the play at The Met Theatre employs culinary arts not as an end, but a means to explore the complex and emotional Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“I didn’t want to write an agitprop or political play, but talk about the human condition of everyday people,” Soans said.

Soans developed his storyline shortly after he was approached by two London directors, one Jewish and the other Arab, who were aiming for a different play about the Middle East conflict.

The directors started making contacts in Israel and the Palestinian territories, and last year Soans traveled to the region for five weeks of intensive interviews.

“Both Jews and Arabs are passionate about food,” Soans said. “They have that in common. I thought if I started out talking to them about their love of cooking, I could find out about the daily lives, without getting right away into their hostilities and grievances.”

“I did about four interviews a day and talked to about 80 people, purposely avoiding extremists and politicians,” Soans said. “I never used a tape recorder — it puts people off — and took notes sparingly.”

Blessed with a retentive memory, Soans recreated the conversations and shaped them into a “verbatim play,” a technique he used in his previous works.

The same approach marks his current London play, “Talking to Terrorists,” in which terrorists, hostages and politicians of different nationalities explore what it is that transforms an ordinary man into a mass killer.

“Cookbook” proved a critical success in Britain. The current American premiere is directed by Louis Fantasia, who has staged plays in at least 10 countries.

My cooking skills and interests extend to boiled eggs and barbecued hot dogs, but this drama was still deeply engaging. Without downplaying antagonisms and grievances, the play focuses on the preoccupations of daily life amidst a constant, back-of-the-mind danger and fear of death.

In 10 scenes, nine actors represent 40 characters, with the Arab-Jewish-Anglo-Iranian-Australian cast alternately playing Jewish and Arab men and women.

Partisans of both Israel and the Palestinians will find different segments to affirm or reject.

In one scene, Yaacov (Ric Borelli), a Jerusalem bus driver, notes the incessant strain of sizing up each bus passenger as a potential killer and recalls how a suicide bomber blew up the bus driven by a close friend in front of his eyes.

At another point, an elderly Arab graphically describes the stench, poverty and hopelessness of a refugee camp that holds 15,000 people. In the next scene, the same excellent actor, Ismail Abou-El-Kanater, plays a Jewish guest lifting up his glass in a “l’chayim” at a Rosh Hashanah dinner.

Often, the uncertainty of life is brought home by an off-hand comment. A Palestinian woman proudly shows off her vegetable garden, then points casually to a front gate with 18 bullet holes.

Providing a much-appreciated feisty humor is Rena (Jill Holden), a middle-aged American immigrant, who views the situation through the eyes of an insider-outsider.

“We try to live a normal life on the surface, but underneath there are cracks,” she muses.

Asked why she is not returning to America after her husband’s death, Rena explains that in Israel she has found the profound, deep friendships she never formed in New York.

Soans’ play shows perspectives from both sides of the Green Line, but he acknowledged that the British are not always so even-handed.

“We are a liberal country and tend to side with the perceived underdog, in this case the Palestinians,” he said. “Perhaps we need to be more sophisticated about our sympathies.”

Performances of “The Arab-Israeli Cookbook” are Thursdays-Sundays through June 26 at The Met Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave. (near Santa Monica Boulevard and Western Avenue). Thursday performances are followed by discussion between cast and audience. $15-$20. (323) 957-1152. For additional information, including detailed recipes for dishes prepared on stage: www.TheArab-IsraeliCookbook-LA.com.

 

New ‘Design’ Adds Flair to the Holidays


 

“Kosher By Design Entertains” by Susie Fishbein (Mesorah Publications, $34.99).

It’s probably already too late. Dishes from Susie Fishbein’s new “Kosher By Design Entertains” are probably gracing Shabbat tables and brunches all over the country. Recipes from her first two books, “The Kosher Palette” and “Kosher by Design,” became ubiquitous, and I fear that when I proudly escort my Glazed Chicken Breasts with Strawberry Salsa to the table, someone will inevitably say, “Oh, page 124, I tried that last week.”

But if you are willing to forego the glow of originality, this fresh and fearless cookbook — which includes a guide for how to make the recipes kosher for Passover — can turn your borscht into Yellow Tomato Basil Bisque.

With flavorful and fun recipes that use ingredients and combinations far from what used to be considered traditional Jewish cooking — think Juniper Berry and Peppercorn Crusted Skirt Steak with Spiced Onions — this book can add flare to a tired repertoire for both connoisseurs and amateurs.

The first “Kosher By Design” (Mesorah 2003), which sold more than 70,000 copies, centered around holiday and Shabbat menus, while “Entertains” tackles lifecycle events or other entertaining opportunities, such as a romantic dinner for two or a housewarming party.

Entertains is a confection of a cookbook, from its frilly fuchsia dust jacket to the polka dots and floral brocades and masculine plaids that frame many of the pages. Flip through the pages of nine sample parties and feel the crisp air at an autumnal picnic spread on a patchwork quilt, or hear the cooing and giggling at a pastel dessert buffet to welcome a new baby, where 4-foot-tall martini glasses filled with jelly beans frolic across the table.

The book is organized by courses or types of food — appetizers to desserts — which makes it easy to use. In between each section are a menu, party plan and set up for different occasions. As always, Fishbein is as concerned with presentation as with taste, so she takes several pages and lots of pictures to describe her techniques for things like creating an heirloom anniversary tablecloth using silk fabric and old photos converted into irons-ons.

While you may not have the time to use colorful clothes pins to clip your Coconut Chicken Strips to disposable wine cups filled with mango and apricot dipping sauces, the selection of recipes offers a wide variety of doable, contemporary dishes that will impress your guests both with the taste and with how great they look on the plate.

Fishbein, a mother of four, has clearly spent a lot of time in a family kitchen, and while some of the recipes are a little involved, enough of them meet my acceptable patschkie (messing around) level, with only three or four steps per recipe. She also favors some time-saving ingredients, like prepared dressing packets or frozen vegetables.

Fishbein also throws in a resource guide that includes Web sites or 800 numbers for unusual kosher ingredients or kitchen tools; a buying guide for the housewares on the book’s tables; a Passover conversion table; and suggested holiday and Shabbat menus using recipes from this book and her previous one.

But you better work fast. I can already smell that Caramelized Apple Cheesecake baking — in my neighbor’s oven.

Cornish Hen With Pistachio Paste
4 (1 pound) baby Cornish hens, butterflied, backbone removed, pressed flat with your palm
2 cups shelled raw unsalted pistachio nuts, finely chopped, divided salt and pepper
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
6 shallots
2 tablespoons fresh thyme or 2 teaspoons dried
12 ounces chicken stock, plus a little extra
4 basil or other brightly colored flat leaves for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Stuff 1/4 cup of the chopped pistachio nuts under the skin of each of the hens. Massage the nuts under the skin to help spread them out evenly. Salt and pepper both sides of each hen.
Heat the olive oil in two large sauté pans (or plan to sear in batches). Sear the hens, skin side down until golden brown. Remove the hens from the pan and place in roasting pans in a single layer. Set aside. Add the shallots to the pan with the hen drippings. Sauté six to seven minutes. Sprinkle in the thyme. Deglaze pan with the chicken stock, use a wooden spoon to unstick any nuts.
Meanwhile, place the hens, uncovered, in the oven. Roast for 30 minutes or until done.
Prepare the pistachio paste. In a deep container, or in the bowl of a food processor, place 1/2 cup chopped pistachio nuts. Add the shallots and pan drippings. Using an immersion blender or food processor blend into a paste. Thin with a little stock if needed.
Dollop 1 or 2 tablespoons of the pistachio paste on a basil or other flat lettuce leaf, place on the side of the hen. Sprinkle all with the remaining chopped pistachios.

Makes four servings.

Balsamic Braised Brisket with Shallots and Potatoes
1 3-pound beef brisket
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
10 cloves garlic, peeled, divided
3 tablespoons margarine, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
6 whole shallots, peeled
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup red wine
1 14-1/2 ounce can crushed tomatoes

Preheat oven to 400 F.
Season the brisket on both sides with salt and pepper. Using the tip of a sharp knife, make sliver cuts all along the brisket. Cut five of the garlic gloves in half. Place a piece of garlic into each slit. Place 2 tablespoons of the margarine and the oil into a large skillet or pot set over medium heat. When the margarine is melted and hot, add the meat. You should hear it sear on contact. Let it cook for eight minutes, don’t move it around. After eight minutes, lift the meat up, add 1 tablespoon of margarine to the pan and turn the meat over. Sear on the second side for eight minutes. Remove the brisket to a baking pan. Surround the brisket with the potatoes, shallots and five whole garlic cloves.
Add balsamic vinegar and wine to the skillet or pan. Add the tomatoes. Turn the heat down to medium and cook for five minutes stirring to combine. While the mixture cooks down, scrape up the browned bits from the pan; a wooden spoon works well here. Pour balsamic mixture over the brisket and vegetables. Add water to just cover the brisket.
Place in the oven and bake for two to two and a half hours, covered. Allow to cool before slicing.

Makes six to eight servings.

Sweet Potato Wedges With Vanilla Rum Sauce
6 medium sweet potatoes, unpeeled
1/2 cup margarine or butter
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon kosher for Passover vanilla extract
1 tablespoon dark rum

Preheat the oven to 375 F.
Cover a large jelly roll pan with parchment paper.
Cut the sweet potatoes in half lengthwise. Cut each half in half again lengthwise. You will have long wedges. Place in a bowl.
In a small saucepan melt the margarine or butter and brown sugar. Stir in the vanilla and rum. Simmer for one minute. Pour over the sweet potatoes and toss to combine.
Arrange the wedges in a single layer on the prepared pan.
Bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes to one hour, checking at the 45-minute mark, until potatoes are soft and caramelized.

Makes eight to 10 servings.

 

Let My Old Passover Programming Go


 

Why is this night different from all other nights?

For one thing, it’s the food — or, rather, the food that’s featured on television. But there’s also plenty of food for thought in the form of Passover-related travel and Jewish news features.

Food for Filling Up

Get Passover cooking with some fresh ideas from the Food Network’s “Essence of Emeril,” “Wolfgang Puck” and “Sweet Dreams.”

On “Sweet Dreams: Passover Favorites,” host Gale Gend and chef Ina Pinkey showcase recipes that are heavy on matzah meal and potato starch to achieve a consistency more like regular desserts. They make apple tea cake muffins from matzah meal, a savory alternative to plain matzah for breakfast. Their practically solid chocolate cake looks rich, while the untraditional Passover cobbler makes for a lighter alternative. The Food Network, April 19, 9:30 a.m.

In “Wolfgang’s Passover Feast,” viewers get a backstage pass into the celebrity chef’s kitchen as he leads a seder at one of his restaurants. The show features commentary on the holiday from Rabbi Arnie Rachlis of the University Synagogue in Irvine. Puck’s contributions are not especially user friendly, though. He fails to give precise measurements for ingredients in his recipes, while also using cooking equipment not found in noncelebrity kitchens. Some of his concoctions are kosher and some not — he shows how to make a not kosher for Passover but tasty-looking matzah with herbs in the dough. Watch Puck for entertainment or concepts, but not specific recipes. The Food Network, April 20, 10 a.m.

Kick your seder up a notch with a Passover segment of Emeril Laggase’s “The Essence of Emeril.” He may be out of his element when pronouncing Jewish foods such as charoset as “ha-ro-SET” instead of “cha-ROH-set.” Or when he tries to explain the seder plate. But he’s the expert when it comes to cooking. In his charoset, he uses practically a whole bottle of Manischewitz, when his own recipe only calls for two tablespoons. I guess good chefs really don’t measure. His matzah farfel kugel looks delish — with plenty of his signature essence. He also does a flavorful recipe for brisket, stuffing garlic cloves in the meat, and coating it with chili sauce and onions. The Food Network, April 21, 2 p.m. All Food Network Passover recipes can be found at foodtv.com.

Food for Thought

While digesting all these new treats you’ve just cooked, continue the Passover theme with Jewish Television Network’s (www.jewishtvnetwork.com) one-hour specials: “Exodus to Freedom” and “A Passover Celebration.”

The thought-provoking tone of “Exodus to Freedom,” hosted by Dick Cavett, would appeal more to adults and older children. It examines the lives of eight extraordinary individuals who overcame oppression. These stories aren’t just about the Jewish experience, but about the universal experience of exodus. Liz Murray grew up homeless with two drug-addicted parents, but turned her life around, eventually attending Harvard (her story was told in a 2003 Lifetime movie, “Homeless to Harvard”). Azar Nafasi led an English literature-reading group in Iran during a time of extreme Islamic fundamentalism. Francis Bok, a Sudanese man, was captured and sold as a slave, before escaping and later immigrating to the United States. Hungarian Holocaust survivor Tom Lantos worked in a forced labor camp during World War II, and now is a Democratic congressman representing the San Mateo area. Airs April 26, 10 p.m. on KVCR 24 in the Inland Empire; Channel 55 in desert cities.

“A Passover Celebration,” hosted by Jeffrey Tambor (“Arrested Development”) embodies a lighter tone. The St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble and New York Concert Singers sing Passover songs from “Chad Gadya” and “Dayenu” to Sephardic and Ashkenazic renditions of “Adir Hu.” Irwin Kula of “Simple Wisdom” narrates Passover tales, as well personal anecdotes of his family’s emigration from Poland to the United States. On the craftier side, TLC host and Jewish Journal singles columnist Teresa Strasser shows how to make various colorful Passover creations. These include a matzah box centerpiece, a clay encased Elijah cup and a reverse-decoupage seder plate to brighten up the Passover table. For the little ones, there’s an “Aleph, Bet Blastoff” segment featuring Dom DeLuise as a comic pharaoh, with a kid-friendly amount of menace. The final segment, a mouth-watering chocolate matzah creation by chef Jeff Nathan, looks simple enough even for the cooking averse. Airs April 24 on KLCS. Check klcs.org for scheduled times.

Kids Meal

The Rugrats get locked in the attic with Grandpa Boris, and he narrates the Passover story as seen through the eyes of 3-year-old Angelica (who takes on the role of a pharaoh who won’t “Let My Babies Go”). “The Rugrats Passover Special” airs April 24, 7:30 a.m. on Nickelodeon. For more information, visit www.nickelodeon.com.

Food to Go

Among other thrills, experience a hot-air balloon ride over the pyramids. (Consider them, in Cecil B. DeMille terms, a testament to the Jewish work ethic.) “Globe Trekker: Egypt,” hosted by Megan McCormick, airs April 21, 8 p.m. on KCET. For more information, visit www.kcet.org.

Yesterday we were slaves in Egypt; today we are free to choose our Passover programming.

 

It’s All About the Olive Oil


 

“I like to have fun in the kitchen,” said Susie Fishbein, a stay-at-home mother of four — three girls and a boy — who became an overnight success with the publication of her cookbook, “Kosher by Design: Picture-perfect food for the holidays & every day” (Mesorah, 2003).

While some food writers automatically push the same old latke and brisket menu at Chanukah, Fishbein offers a lighter touch by mixing in Mediterranean fare. And although she tweaks culinary tradition, she honors it. Fishbein believes in presenting beautiful food in unique ways.

Because Fishbein never attended culinary school, she has empathy for the home cook who is working blindly from a stranger’s instructions and, maybe, a picture. Her recipes are easy to follow; even novices can achieve professional results.

Although she is playful and adventurous, Fishbein is serious about finding inspiration.

She talks to lots of people, asking them about their favorite foods. She reads restaurant menus the way some people study the stock market. She’s never just eating; she’s figuring out what ingredients she’s tasting and which flavors compliment each other. Her aim is to keep ahead of the kosher curve.

“Creating recipes is my forte,” she said. To invent novel ways of preparing food, she spends huge amounts of time experimenting in the kitchen. She asks her husband and children to test her creations.

“Through trial and error, I attempted a new dish several months ago,” she said with a laugh. “It went through three phases before my family said: ‘Give it up! It just isn’t any good.'”

With a bubbly personality, Fishbein describes a recent December when a Hadassah chapter on Long Island invited her to demonstrate how to make beignets, a type of French fritter.

“Beignets are fresh and exciting at Chanukah,” she said. “A change of pace from jelly doughnuts.”

Because she expected 200 Hadassah women at the demonstration, Fishbein asked her mother for assistance.

“Ironically, I don’t come from a long line of good cooks,” she said. “My ancestors were amazing women, bold beyond their time. But we gagged on their food.”

Watching Fishbein whipping up the beignet batter and frying fritters, her mother said: “Those aren’t beignets, they’re punchkis!” She then claimed that Fishbein’s grandmother used to make an Ashkenazi rendition of this French confection. “It’s the one thing that Bubbe made well!”

Fishbein found this hiliarious, because she had searched long and hard for this upscale idea. Then, through a series of missteps followed by corrections, she perfected her version of the recipe, only to find something similar had been in the family for decades.

Every Chanukah, Fishbein throws a block party and includes all of her neighbors. Inviting 18 adults and 14 children, she serves many of the recipes from “Kosher by Design,” especially the ones calling for olive oil.

Olive oil, a precious commodity in Jerusalem during the Second Temple period, is at the heart of Chanukah cooking. After the Maccabees prevailed in a series of bitter battles, there was only a 24-hour supply of oil left to light the Temple menorah.

This created a crisis, because it took eight days to replenish lamp oil. But, miracle of miracles, one day’s worth of oil lasted eight days. Paying homage to this joyous event, no Chanukah menu would be complete without food fried in oil.

True to this theme, Fishbein serves family and friends Rigatoni ala Norma, a scrumptious Italian dish made with red sauce riddled with fried eggplant and basil. Her Parmesan Crusted Grouper is a remarkably easy recipe that yields amazingly delicious results.

A perennial favorite, Greek Tomato-Spinach Pizza is surrounded by phyllo dough and layered with fried veggies and ricotta and mozzarella cheeses. Fishbein likes these two dairy recipes because of the role cheese plays in the Chanukah story.

Aware that food is mightier than the sword, Judith, an unsung heroine, entertained an enemy general and plied him with salty cheese. To quench his thirst, he consumed far too much wine. After he fell asleep from the wine, Judith cut off his head with his sword, helping her people prevail against the enemy forces.

Today, the Festival of Lights remains a joyous occasion. In accordance with the holiday’s spirit, there’s a photo of a glittering table flooded with glowing candles and blue and gold accouterments in the Chanukah chapter of “Kosher by Design.”

Fishbein knows how to turn an ordinary dining room into a dazzling scene that impresses guests. She has become the doyenne of Jewish entertaining. As a matter of fact, she’s publishing “Kosher by Design Entertains” in time for Passover.

No matter what your home looks like, Fishbein suggests firing up your imagination when setting holiday tables (see page 50). Last Chanukah, her house was under construction. “We had bare walls down to the studs,” she said. “The place was a disaster zone.” Yet at her annual Chanukah party, she overshadowed chaos with extravagance.

“Would you believe the photo from my cookbook was actually my table — taken during the demolition,” she said. “It goes to show, you can create ambiance anywhere.”

But how do the creatively challenged get started? Fishbein suggests beginning with the best food. Yet, she says, it’s not only what you serve, but how you serve it.

A simple garnish creating contrast, an offbeat tablecloth such as a quilt, an Oriental pot filled with flowering plants — these things elevate the mundane to the magnificent. Search your house for lovely objects long forgotten. Mix and match things representing different styles and adapt them when you entertain.

“Above all, enjoy yourself,” Fishbein said. “Let each meal be a wonderful journey — the sharing of something special with people you care about and love.”

Rigatoni Ala Norma

6 medium Asian eggplants, unpeeled and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices crosswise

Salt to taste

1 1/4 cups or more olive oil

Freshly ground pepper to taste

4 large cloves garlic, roughly chopped

2 (28-ounce or 32-ounce) cans whole plum tomatoes, drained and chopped

1 tablespoon sugar

3-4 fresh basil leaves, chopped, plus ex

tra for garnishing

1 pound rigatoni, uncooked

Paper towels

Lay eggplant slices in a single layer. Lightly salt both sides. Cover with paper towels. Let sit for 20 minutes. Press on paper towels occasionally to soak up water that will come from eggplants.

In a large frying pan, heat 1 cup, or more, of olive oil over medium high heat. Make sure you have at least an inch of oil, so it will cover the slices and eliminate the need for flipping each piece over. When oil is hot, carefully add the eggplant in batches and fry until golden on both sides. Add more oil, if necessary. Transfer to clean paper towels and drain. Season generously with salt and black pepper.

Place 1/4 cup olive oil in a large pot. Add the garlic and sauté until golden. Add the tomatoes and any accumulated juices. Add the sugar and simmer about 15 minutes. The sauce will thicken. Add the chopped basil leaves and simmer three to four minutes longer.

While the sauce simmers, prepare the pasta according to package directions until al dente (chewy). Drain, reserving one cup of the pasta water in case sauce needs thinning.

Toss the pasta with the eggplant and sauce. Garnish with fresh basil leaves.

Makes six to eight servings.

Greek Tomato-Spinach Pizza

1/4 cup olive oil

2 cups chopped onion

3 garlic cloves, minced

3 (10-ounce) boxes frozen chopped

spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

2 teaspoons dry oregano

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

15 ounces ricotta cheese

10 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed

1/4 cup butter, melted

4-6 fresh tomatoes, evenly sliced

1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 400 F.

In a skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic. Sauté about five minutes, or until onion is transparent.

Add spinach and saute until all excess moisture has evaporated. Add oregano, basil and pepper. Mix well. Remove from heat. Mix in ricotta cheese. Set aside.

Grease a large jelly roll pan (the kind with a small rim). Lay one sheet of phyllo in it. The phyllo may be just a little bigger than the pan. Brush phyllo with melted butter. Top with a second phyllo sheet and brush with melted butter.

Repeat process until all ten sheets are buttered. Roll the ends of phyllo into themselves to form the “pizza crust.” NOTE: Phyllo dough dries out quickly, so keep sheets covered with a damp cloth until use.

Using a spatula, spread the spinach ricotta mixture in an even layer over the phyllo. Arrange tomatoes over this layer. Sprinkle with mozzarella. Bake 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. When cool enough to handle, cut into squares.

Makes 12 servings.

Parmesan Crusted Grouper

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/3 cup butter, softened but not melted

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 scallions, thinly sliced

4 small (1-inch thick) grouper fillets

1 lemon

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat broiler to high.

In a small bowl, combine Parmesan, butter, mayonnaise and scallions. Reserve.

Place grouper fillets on a lightly greased boiler pan. Squeeze juice from lemon over fillets. Sprinkle with black pepper.

Broil 6 inches from heat for 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Spread tops of the fillets with cheese mixture. Return to oven and broil for two minutes longer, or until topping is lightly browned and bubbly. Remove fillets to platter.

Makes four servings.

Beignets

4-6 cups vegetable oil

1 cup milk

1 cup water

1 large egg

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

4 teaspoons sugar

confectioners’ sugar

Pour oil into a deep pot to a depth of 3-4 inches. Heat oil to 370 F.

In a large bowl with the mixer at medium-high speed, combine the milk, water and egg. Add the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Mix until batter is smooth.

Using a 1/8 cup measure, drop the batter into the hot oil and fry about 3-4 minutes. Don’t make them much bigger or the inside won’t cook properly. The beignets will float to the surface. Turn them a few times, until the beignets are golden on both sides. Remove and drain on paper towels. Use a strainer to sprinkle confectioners’ sugar on all sides. Serve hot.

Makes 20-24 beignets.

Recipes from “Kosher by Design: Picture Perfect Food for the Holidays & Every Day,” by Susie Fishbein (Mesorah).

 

Works of Renewal and Celebration


The Chasidic masters had a custom of creating short lists of practical spiritual advice for their followers, and some of the devotees would write these on small pieces of paper and carry them in their pockets as frequent reminders. These spiritual practices, or hanhagot, is a genre of Chasidic literature that hasn’t received much attention from scholars or seekers, as Or Rose explains in the introduction to his new book, "God in All Moments: Mystical & Practical Spiritual Wisdom from Hasidic Masters," edited and translated by Rose with Ebn D. Leader (Jewish Lights).

"These brief teachings are designed to aid the devotee in applying the Hasidic ideals to daily life," he writes, noting that Chasidic rebbes emphasized the possibility of encountering the Divine everywhere, whether in traveling, the marketplace or in conversation.

Often, these hanhagot — dating back to the late 18th and early 19th centuries — are found appended to other texts. Rose, a doctoral candidate in Jewish thought at Brandeis University, culled, selected and translated them from Hebrew, and organized them thematically, from "Awakening and Renewal" to "In Speech and In Silence." Translations appear on one page, and a facing page includes commentary. Rose says — using contemporary language — that the hanhagot would be used for spiritual centering. Included is guidance on dealing with conflicts, fear, arrogance, sexual relations and prayer; the reader sees that even the most righteous people sometimes have problems with concentration in prayer.

At present, the tradition or writing hanhagot continues. At the back are two neo-Chasidic hanhagot, by Hillel Zeitlin, a writer and martyr of the Warsaw Ghetto, and Arthur Green, a contemporary scholar and theologian, who is the author’s mentor.

Rose speaks of the power of these texts, particularly helpful at a time of introspection, like this period of preparing for the holidays. This might be a good book to tuck away and bring to synagogue as supplementary reading.

While there have been many books on the subject of forgiveness, there are few focused on apology. Aaron Lazare, chancellor, dean and professor of psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, has written "On Apology" (Oxford), a wise analysis of the vital, powerful interaction that is transformative, a process at once simple and entangled. For Lazare, apology is the acknowledgement of an offense followed by an expression of remorse and, often, expressions of shame and acts of reparations.

Lazare quotes the talmudic teaching that says that God created repentance even before creating humankind: "I take this statement to mean that the sages who authored this sentiment were acutely aware of the fallibility of humankind and the need for religion’s prescriptions to heal offenses. Repentance (or its secular approximation of apology), therefore, would be so important for sustaining a just and livable society that an infinite and all-powerful God would put it in place before creating mankind."

His own interest in the subject grew out of an unpleasant personal experience. He looks at the relationship between apology and forgiveness, and focuses on both the individual level of apologizing and also at groups and nations, citing Abraham Lincoln’s apology for slavery, and the German government’s apology to the victims of World War II.

In China, as he notes, there are several apology companies and radio talk shows centered on apology on state radio. It’s possible to hire a paid surrogate to write letters, deliver gifts and offer explanations.

"Apples and Pomegranates: A Family Seder for Rosh Hashanah" by Rahel Musleah, illustrations by Judy Jarrett (Kar-Ben) is a book for the holiday table. Musleah, who grew up in Calcutta (her family traces their ancestry to 17th-century Baghdad), presents the seder that her family would conduct on the eve of Rosh HaShanah: saying blessings and eating traditional foods in a prescribed order. The tradition dates back 2,000 years to a custom suggested in the Talmud, that at the beginning of the new year people eat certain foods that grow in abundance and symbolize prosperity. The Rosh Hashanah seder is practiced in communities around the world, particularly in Sephardic communities from Spain, Portugal, North Africa and the Middle East.

The book includes blessings, folk tales, activities, crafts and recipes for pumpkin bread, beets in ginger and honey, fruit salad with pomegranate, roasted leeks and other dishes featuring traditional foods. In her introduction, Musleah explains that the blessings may be based on a particular characteristic of the food to be emulated (i.e. the sweetness of the apple) or wordplay. She includes the traditional Hebrew blessings, although in the translations, she adds "positive wishes for peace, friendship and freedom."

She writes: "You might have to wait a few extra minutes before you eat dinner, but in that time you can literally ‘count your blessings.’"

Musleah, a Jewish educator, singer, writer and storyteller who lives in Great Neck, suggests these wishes for friendship in connection with leeks: "May it be Your Will, God, that our enemies be cut off. (She points out that karti, the word for leek, sounds like yikartu, the word for "cut off.") Without enemies, we hope for the blessing of friendship. Like we eat this leek, may our luck never lack in the year to come."

Serve Up Something Different in 5765


Food is the centerpiece of every Jewish holiday. For Rosh Hashanah especially, our traditional foods are a kind of ritualistic prayer where we ask that the coming year be better than the last. During a time when are lives are weighed and measured, we dip the apple in honey and eat the head of a fish (or broiled cow tongue in certain Sephardic households) to ask for the next year to be sweet and prosperous. Every Rosh Hashanah you probably expect your mom’s famous roast, or the traditional honey cake, but why not make this year about trying new recipes with similar flavors. Sweet is the theme for this season and new cookbooks are varying the holiday fare by borrowing from other culinary cultures and serving up some traditional favorites with a twist. Before you gather around your table this year, check out these latest cookbook offerings and surprise your family and guests with something a little bit different.

It’s so easy to refer time and again to the family recipe book to create your Yom Tov menu, but it’s more exciting to bring other culinary traditions to your holiday table. Dispersed across the globe for centuries, Jews have adopted much of the cuisine of their host countries and incorporated local and available ingredients. Jewish cookbook queen, Joan Nathan, in her book, "Joan Nathan’s Jewish Holiday Cookbook" (Schoken, $29.95), has updated the recipes from her two classic books, 1982’s "The Jewish Holiday Kitchen" and 1997’s "The Jewish Holiday Baker," and invites you to prepare classic dishes from Jewish households all over the globe, making this year’s holiday a cross-cultural feast.

Right before the High Holidays, the bakery is always the last place you want to be shopping. This year, instead of taking a number and waiting in an endless line, opt for the simple pleasure of making your own challah. In her book, Nathan includes an authentic Moroccan family recipe for Pain Petri (challah) to spice up your holiday table.

For the main course, go with Persian Fesenjan, a chicken stew made with walnuts and pomegranates — another fruit traditionally eaten on Rosh Hashanah at the beginning of the meal with all of the other symbolic foods. The many seeds of the pomegranate are a sign of fertility, and serving an entrée that incorporates its juice is an original way to further indulge in the seasonal fruit.

Pain Petri (Moroccan Challah)

Note: You can either make this by hand or using a food processor.

7-8 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/3 cup sugar

3 eggs plus 1 yolk

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

1 tablespoon anise seeds

1 1/2 scant tablespoons (1 1/2 packages) active dry yeast

1 1/2 cups warm water

Place 7 cups of flour in a huge bowl. Make a well in the center and place the sugar, three eggs, 1/3 cup of oil, salt and sesame and anise seeds in the well. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water, then add it to the well.

Using your hands, gradually work in the flour with the ingredients in the well. Add more flour as needed. When a medium-stiff dough is formed, knead on a wooden board for about 20 minutes.

Form the dough into a ball, turn it in a greased bowl to coat the surface and cover with a towel. Let rise in a warm place for 30-40 minutes, or until doubled in size. Punch down and knead once more. Divide the dough into five pieces. Either shape each into a round ball or make a long piece of it and twist it into a spiral with the end of the dough at the high point in the center. Cover and let rise for about 1 hour, until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil.

Remove the dough to the cookie sheet. Brush with the remaining egg yolk mixed with the tablespoon of oil and bake for 35-45 minutes.

Persian Fesenjan (Pomegranate-Walnut Chicken Stew)

One 3 1/2-pound chicken, cut up

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cups walnuts, ground

1/3 cup hot water

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 cups pomegranate juice or 1/2 cup pomegranate molasses

1 tablespoon tomato paste

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons sugar

Brown the chicken in the oil and remove to drain on a paper towel. Brown the chopped onion in the same oil.

In another pan, brown the walnuts, stirring constantly, without using any shortening. When brown, add the onion. Then slowly add the hot water so that the mixture does not stick. It should not be too liquid — more like a paste. Then add the lemon juice, pomegranate juice, tomato paste, salt and pepper to taste and sugar, stirring with a spoon. When well-mixed, add the chicken.

Bring the mixture just to the point of boiling (not a fast boil). Decrease to a simmer and let cook, covered, until the chicken is very tender, about 45 minutes. If the sauce is not thick enough, remove the chicken and boil the liquid down until the desired thickness is reached, stirring as it cooks.

For a holiday menu rich in fruit and vegetables, a vegetarian cookbook is a great source to draw from on Rosh Hashanah when on the hunt for new recipes. Try a soup with sweet fruits and vegetables to change up the first course. Vegetarian cookbook veteran Nava Atlas, in her new book "The Vegetarian Family Cookbook" (Broadway, $17.95), offers tasty recipes for the die-hard vegetarian or for anyone looking to enrich their diet with more fruits and vegetables. With the plethora of junk food at our fingertips, it is more tempting to reach for potato chips than carrot sticks to satisfy hunger. Inspired by a lack of healthy food choices for adults and children, Atlas compiled a cornucopia of wholesome meals and snacks for even the pickiest eaters. Her Creamy Butternut Squash and Apple Soup is a great starter for the Rosh Hashanah feast, or a fabulous meal by itself when opting for a lighter lunch after days of endless holiday eating.

Creamy Butternut Squash

and Apple Soup

1 large butternut squash

2 tablespoons light olive oil

1 large red onion, chopped

4 cups peeled, diced apple, any cooking variety

4 cups prepared vegetable broth, or 4 cups water with 1 vegetable bouillon cube

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 cups low-fat milk, rice milk, or soy milk

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Halve the squash lengthwise with a sharp knife and scoop out the seeds and fibers. Place cut side up in a shallow baking dish and cover tightly with foil. Or, if you’d like a more roasted flavor, simply brush the squash halves with a little olive oil and leave uncovered. Either way, bake for 45-50 minutes, or until tender. Set aside until cool enough to handle.

Heat the oil in a soup pot. Add the onion and sauté over medium-low heat until golden, eight to 10 minutes.

Add the apples, broth and spices. Bring to a simmer, then cover and simmer gently until the apples are soft, about 10 minutes.

In a food processor, puree the squash with 1/2 cup of the milk until completely smooth. Transfer to a bowl.

Transfer the apple-onion mixture to the food processor and puree until completely smooth. Return to the soup pot and add the squash puree; stir together. Add the remaining milk, using a bit more if the puree is too thick.

Bring the soup to a gentle simmer, then cook over low heat until well heated through, five to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve at once or let the soup stand off the heat for one to two hours, then heat through as needed before serving.

Serves six.

Honey cake is a great way to end the meal, but Lise Stern’s "How To Keep Kosher" (Morrow, $24.95) offers a great variation you might want to serve after a light pareve or dairy lunch. The sponge honey cake is a tradition not to be forgotten, but Stern livens it up hers with some honey frosting and tops it with caramelized apples. Her creation is one of the many kosher recipes she features in her book which is primarily meant to educate and excite her readers about the fundamentals of kashrut, its origins and modern-day practices.

Honey Layer Cake With

Caramelized Apples

1 large egg

1 cup honey

1 cup plain yogurt, stirred until smooth

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

Oil for the pans

Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray or lightly grease two 8-inch round cake pans.

Combine the egg, honey, yogurt, melted butter and vanilla in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat on medium speed until well blended.

Put the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a sifter. Sift half the flour into the honey mixture. On low speed, blend until fully incorporated. Sift in the remaining flour and blend in until smooth.

Divide the batter into the prepared pans. Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes, until pale gold in color and a tester inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean.

Cool in the pans for 20 minutes, then remove and cool on racks.

When fully cool, spread Honey Cream Frosting (see recipe below) between the layers and on the top of the cake (not on the sides). To serve, slice into wedges and put on individual plates. Top each slice with a spoonful of Caramelized Apples (see recipe below).

Makes 12 servings.

Honey Cream Frosting

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

2 tablespoons salted butter, at room temperature

Pinch salt

3 tablespoons honey

1 1/2 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar

Cream together the cream cheese, butter and salt until smooth, using an electric mixer or a wooden spoon. Blend in the honey, then the confectioners’ sugar. The frosting should be of an easily spreadable consistency. If it seems too thin, add additional sifted confectioners’ sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Caramelized Apples

2 tablespoons salted butter

3 apples (preferably pink lady or gala), peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch chunks

1/4 cup light brown sugar

Melt the butter over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Add the apples and sauté for two minutes. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the apples. Bring to a simmer, then lower the heat, and simmer over low heat for five to 10 minutes, until the apples are softened but still hold their shape. Serve warm; the compote may be reheated.

If the thought of slicing into a rich cake is a bit unbearable after a long meal, opt instead to prepare a helping of Yetta’s Stewed Summer Fruits. Former actress and neophyte cookbook author Pamela Hensley Vincent compiles treasured family recipes in her new scrapbook cookbook, "The Jewish-Sicilian Cookbook" (Overlook Press, $24.95). So much of our history is in our culinary heritage and Vincent offers a glimpse into the lives of her immediate family and the recipes for which they were famous. Yetta’s — short for Henrietta, Vincent’s maternal grandmother — stewed fruit is a light desert that fits neatly into the sweet holiday theme.

Yetta’s Stewed Summer Fruits

4 to 6 peaches, peeled, pitted and quartered

12 plums, pitted and quartered

12 apricots, pitted and quartered

1 pound fresh cherries, stemmed

Juice of 1 lemon (or 2 limes)

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 cup dark rum

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Put the peaches, plums and apricots into a pot. Add the cherries (whole & un-pitted). Add the water, lemon or lime juice, brown sugar, rum and cinnamon. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover the pot, and simmer for about 40 minutes. Allow to cool. Then pour into a glass jar and store in the fridge.

Yields four to six cups.

Not Your Grandma’s Honey Cake


It wouldn’t be the second night of Rosh Hashanah if our friends didn’t come for dinner, contributing a cornucopia of dishes, especially divine desserts. There are enough pastries covering the buffet to keep judges at the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest busy for a week.

I always bake a chocolate and yellow swirl bundt cake, my daughter’s favorite dessert. One year, a friend came with an apple pie and a plum torte, which she placed on the buffet next to my cake. A towering pyramid of brownies vied for attention with white chocolate chip cookies and a plate of lemon squares. The intoxicating smell of a warm pear crisp tempted people who were piling their plates with pastries. When they reached the homemade honey cake, though, they made bee-lines back to their seats. Feeling embarrassed for Alice, who’d baked this wallflower, I moved the honey cake to a more prominent position and cut it into slices. Still there were no takers.

“I told you not to bring it,” Alice’s 8-year-old daughter cried. “Honey cake is boring. Nobody wants it.”

To be kind, I took a couple of slices. But Alice’s daughter was right. The cake tasted overbaked. I had been warned that dryness is a problem with honey cake, which is why I never attempted to make one. Yet I felt guilty shunning the only Rosh Hashanah dessert on the buffet. I realized honey cake had become the dowager of New Year’s celebrations, revered but seldom consumed.

“A dry honey cake will send people away for years,” said Marcy Goldman, author of “Jewish Holiday Baking” (Broadway Books, 2004). Conventional wisdom on the subject maintains that if honey cakes are removed from the oven at exactly the right time –whatever that is — the dreaded dryness will be avoided. But Goldman disagrees, explaining that many recipes call for only one-quarter cup of oil, which is not nearly enough fat to yield chewy, moist texture.

And so she began experimenting with different honey cake recipes. First, she upped the fat content. Then she realized that she had to add some sugar; using enough honey to sufficiently sweeten the cake can make it too sticky to rise. Later she addressed flavorings, adjusting their levels depending on which type of honey cake she was baking.

“If I make one honey cake, then I have to make 10 different kinds,” she said. Among her repertoire, Goldman has developed a Chocolate Velvet Honey Cake, an Eastern European Bee Sting Tart and a Definitive Moist and Majestic Honey Cake.

The whole honey cake hullabaloo started because Goldman is fussy about honey and will not buy just any kind. In recent years, she has enlisted Elmer, a retired stockbroker-turned-beekeeper, to fill her honey needs. Elmer produces a nonpasteurized kosher honey, known to taste exquisite.

“Most honey is just sweet; it lacks rich honey flavor,” Goldman said.

Honey comes in thousands of varieties. There are more than 300 such varieties in the United States alone. They range in color from pale blond to dark walnut, and in flavor from mild and floral to herbal and robust.

The taste of this natural sweetener depends on the types of flowers its black-and-yellow creators frequent. In the United States, the most common floral destination for bees is clover, but the possibilities are endless, depending on climate and growing conditions. Like wine, honey is a truly local product that varies from region to region.

Equally enthralled by the range of honey flavors, food writer Jayne Cohen takes her family on vacation every August with a mission. As a segue between the carefree days of summer and the fall holidays to follow, they spend their vacations searching market after market for honey.

“We always bring a fragrant honey back from every trip,” said Cohen, who, along with Lorie Weinrott, is co-author of “The Ultimate Bar/Bat Mitzvah Celebration Book” (Clarkson Potter, 2004). She joyfully describes creamed lavender honey from Provence, wild blueberry honey from Maine, chestnut honey from Italy and honey scented with hibiscus and frangipane from Bermuda.

“Every year, we open a lovely new honey, and that has become our Rosh Hashanah tradition,” she said.

Last year her family vacationed in Sicily, where they found the most marvelous honey carrying the aroma of pistachio flowers.

“I prepared an elaborate Rosh Hashanah dinner for family and friends,” Cohen said. “But nobody could stop dipping apples and challah in that pistachio honey.”

It was so popular that three of her friends later visited Sicily and returned with jars of honey of their own.

While in Sicily, Cohen’s daughter, Alex, purchased a three-pack of honeys: chestnut, wild flower and thyme. Attending college in California, Alex couldn’t come home for Rosh Hashanah. Instead she bought a challah and went to a farmer’s market for tart apples. Inviting friends to her dorm room, they dipped the challah and apples into the three Sicilian honeys.

“Alex liked the idea of beginning the school and Jewish year wishing for sweetness,” Cohen said. “It was nice to see her repeating our family tradition.”

Honey has long been important to the Jewish people. Since biblical times, honey has been a symbol of abundance. Addressing Moses from the burning bush, God announced his plan to bring the children of Israel out of Egypt to a land flowing with “milk and honey.”

Back then, “milk and honey” were dietary staples, so in essence God was saying that Canaan would be a promising place to settle. In fact, the land was teeming with goats and swarming bees abounded. Canaan’s fertile soil supported grapevines and date trees, which produced a syrup also known as honey. Date syrup is similar in viscosity and texture to honey, and is equally sweet.

This abundant land offered prosperity and sweetness, which have come to represent Rosh Hashanah ideals.

During her career, Cohen has specialized in tweaking traditional Jewish recipes to create marvelous alternatives. With Rosh Hashanah in mind, she developed Honeyed Cigars with Date-Pomegranate Filling, a phyllo pastry with a Sephardi influence.

“Besides being a traditional Rosh Hashanah fruit, pomegranates have a tart taste,” said Cohen, adding that you don’t truly appreciate sweetness without contrast. For that reason, Jews from some Sephardi cultures mix pomegranates with honey. Cohen’s recipe calls for pomegranate molasses, which can be found in Middle Eastern, specialty-food and gourmet markets.

Cohen highly recommends baking with a quality honey, preferably one that carries a flavor you find pleasing. Look for honeys such as orange blossom or lime blossom at farmer’s markets. At specialty stores, you can sometimes find Greek thyme honey or lavender honey.

If you can’t locate fragranced honey, mix flavors you like into commercial honey. Almond extract or a small amount of strawberry jam work well, also.

While the Rosh Hashanah dessert course should be the moment for honey to shine, it has lost out to Blondies and Mississippi Mud Pie over recent decades. There was a time when Ashkenazi Jews eagerly anticipated the holiday because it promised honey cakes galore. Every family had a bubbe or aunt who baked them. Yet a dwindling number of people recall this distant memory.

Now, just in time for Rosh Hashanah,
“I love baking,” Goldman said. “But even better than that, I love it when someone else derives pleasure from repeating my recipes, because with Jewish cooking and baking, you’re talking about more than just a recipe. You’re passing on your whole culture.”

Along with the chocolate desserts people crave, this Rosh Hashanah try baking a pastry so full of nectar that even the most ardent honey cake haters will have to admit they’re wrong.

For more tempting Rosh Hashanah baking ideas, visit Cohen’s Web site, www.ultimatebarbatmitzvah.com, which features Apple Challah Bread Pudding, along with other seasonal pastries.

Goldman revives honey cakes and other holiday confections on her Web site: www.betterbaking.com.

Marcy Goldman’s Definitive Moist and Majestic Honey Cake

3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1 cup vegetable oil

1 cup honey

11/2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

4 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup warm coffee or strong tea or Coca-Cola

1/2 cup fresh orange juice

1/4 cup rye or whiskey (or substitute orange juice or coffee)

1/2 cup slivered almonds

This cake is best baked in a 9-inch angel food cake pan, but you can also make it in one 9- or 10-inch tube or bundt cake pan, a 9-by-13-inch sheet cake, or two 5-inch loaf pans.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly grease pan(s). For tube and angel food pans, line the bottom with lightly greased parchment paper, cut to fit. Have ready doubled up baking sheets with a piece of parchment on top

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves and allspice.

Make a well in the center. Add oil, honey, white sugar, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, coffee, tea or cola, orange juice and rye or whiskey.

Using a strong wire whisk or in an electric mixer on slow speed, stir together well to make a thick, well-blended batter, making sure that no ingredients are stuck to the bottom.

Spoon batter into prepared pan(s). Sprinkle top of cake(s) evenly with almonds. Place cake pan(s) on two baking sheets stacked together. (This will ensure that cakes bake properly.)

Bake until cake springs back when you gently touch the cake center. For angel and tube cake pans, 60-80 minutes; loaf pans, about 45-55 minutes. For sheet-style cakes, baking time is 40-45 minutes.

Let cake stand 20 minutes before removing from pan.

Marcy Goldman’s Chocolate Velvet Honey Cake

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup cocoa

1 tablespoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 to 2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1 cup vegetable oil

1 cup honey

1 cup white sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

3 eggs

2 teaspoons pure vanilla

1 cup Coca-Cola

1/2 cup coarsely chopped semi-sweet chocolate

1/3 cup slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 350F. Generously spray a 9- or 10-inch tube pan or angel food cake pan with cooking spray. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cloves.

In a food processor, add in the oil, honey, white sugar, brown sugar. Blend well about 30 seconds. Add in the eggs, vanilla, and Coca-Cola. Blend well for another minute.

Fold in the dry ingredients and blend for about two minutes, until smooth, stopping the machine once or twice to ensure that ingredients are all blended and not stuck at the bottom.

Fold in chocolate chips. Spoon or pour batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle with almonds. Place cake on baking sheet and bake until done, about 60-75 minutes, until cake springs back when gently pressed with fingertips.

Cool 10 minutes before unmolding from pan.

Dust cake with confectioner’s sugar, or cocoa. Or, drizzle on melted, semi-sweet chocolate.

Garnish with confectioner’s sugar, cocoa, drizzled melted semi-sweet chocolate, or the decadent Microwave Ganache Glaze (recipe below).

Microwave Ganache Glaze

1/2 cup water or heavy cream

1 cup coarsely chopped, semi-sweet chocolate (the best quality you can find)

1 tablespoon honey

Place water or cream in a microwavable bowl and heat on high until bubbly.

Remove from microwave and whisk in the chocolate and honey, blending until smooth and glossy.

Refrigerate about two to three hours until it has thickened but is still spreadable. If it is quite stiff, warm it slightly until you can drizzle it on the cake. You can also add one-two tablespoons of unsalted butter or margarine to make it more pliable.

Jayne Cohen’s Honeyed Cigars With Date-Pomegranate Filling

Pastry:

About 12 sheets of frozen phyllo, plus several extra to allow for tearing

1/2 cup light, fragrant honey

1/2 cup avocado, sunflower, walnut, or other mild oil

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Filling:

1 1/2 cups (tightly packed) Medjool or other soft, moist dates, pitted and coarsely chopped

3 tablespoons avocado, sunflower, walnut, or other mild oil

1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses

1 tablespoon hot water

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 pinch of salt

1 cup walnuts, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped, plus extra for sprinkling

Additional honey to brush on after baking

Thaw phyllo sheets slowly in the refrigerator overnight. Remove the unopened package from the refrigerator two hours before you begin the recipe to allow sheets to come to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment.

In a small saucepan, warm 1/2 cup honey. Slowly add 1/2 cup oil, stirring until well incorporated. Stir in cinnamon. Remove pan from heat.

Prepare the filling. In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, blend dates, oil, pomegranate molasses, hot water, cinnamon, and salt to a smooth paste. Add walnuts, and pulse until just combined. Transfer to a bowl.

Remove phyllo sheets from the package and carefully unroll them on a damp kitchen towel. Using kitchen scissors or a sharp knife, cut the stack of sheets in half from short end to short end, forming rectangles approximately 6-by-17-inches (exact size will depend on brand of phyllo used). Immediately cover the cut phyllo sheets with a large piece of plastic wrap and another damp towel to prevent them from drying out.

Work with one sheet at a time, keeping the rest covered with the plastic wrap and a towel. Remove one sheet from the stack and brush it lightly and quickly with the honey-oil mixture. Carefully fold the sheet in half, bringing the short ends together and pressing down gently. Brush the new surface, now exposed, with the honey-oil.

Scoop a heaping tablespoon of the filling, roll it into a little sausage, and place it along the short bottom edge of the phyllo, leaving a one-inch border at the sides. Fold the bottom edge toward the center so that it just covers the filling, then fold the sides in, so the filling won’t ooze out. Brush the new phyllo surface that is exposed with more honey-oil, and continue to roll, jelly-roll fashion, brushing each new, dry phyllo surface with more honey-oil as you go.

Brush the finished cigars lightly over all surfaces with the honey-oil and place seam-side down on the prepared cookie sheet. Sprinkle lightly with chopped walnuts. Keep the cookie sheet lightly covered with plastic wrap as you work.

Continue making cigars with more phyllo and filling, stirring the honey-oil mixture when necessary if it separates. (You can refrigerate the unbaked cigars at this point, well wrapped, up to one day before baking.)

Bake the cigars for about 20 minutes, or until golden and crisp. While still hot, brush them very generously with honey. Let cool. Serve as is or cut each cigar on the diagonal into thirds.

Yield: 20-24 cigars, or if cut, three times as many bite-sized pieces.

7 Days In Arts


Saturday

Interact Theater Company takes “Our Town” beyond the school play, with a rare professional production, playing this weekend only. See Thornton Wilder’s classic all grown up, brought to you by the University of Judaism’s performing arts department.
8 p.m. (Saturday), 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. (Sunday). $32-$38. 15600 Mulholland Drive, Bel Air. (310) 440-1547.

Sunday

Chick rock it’s not. But tonight’s “Kolot Hanasheem – Voices of Women” concert honors women of a different genre who’ve earned it all the same. Los Angeles Jewish Symphony’s Noreen Green conducts the program featuring works by six contemporary female Jewish composers, including Maria Newman’s “The Book of Esther,” and excerpts from Andrea Clearfield’s “Women of Valor.” Performers will include actress Laraine Newman, soprano Hila Plitmann, mezzo-soprano Diana Tash and the Valley Beth Shalom Congregational Choir.
7 p.m. $10-$36. Valley Beth Shalom, 17539 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (310) 478-9311.

Monday

It’s a fine line between the fluffy pareve kosher-for-Passover dessert and a gritty leftover even the dog won’t eat. Students doing their own seders for the first time, as well as adults who learned their lesson the hard way, find the wisdom they desperately seek today, as UCLA’s Yitzhak Rabin Hillel Center for Jewish Life presents a class in Passover confections. Godspeed.
7-9:30 p.m. $5 (UCLA students), $55 (general). 574 Hilgard Ave., Westwood. R.S.V.P., (310) 208-3081, ext. 100.

Tuesday

Political and gastronomic enthusiasts find book signings to suit their niches today. For Bush bashing, head to Sherman Oaks for the last in Valley Cities JCC’s Provocative Speaker Series, where Robert Scheer will discuss and sign his latest book, “The Five Biggest Lies Bush Told Us About Iraq.” Those who prefer to save their appetites head to the Jewish Community Library, where sisters and co-authors Phyllis and Miriyam Glazer present and sign their recent cookbook, “The Essential Book of Jewish Cooking: 200 Seasonal Holiday Recipes and Their Traditions.”
Robert Scheer: 7:30-9 p.m. $20-$25. 13164 Burbank Blvd., Sherman Oaks. (818) 786-6310. Miriyam Glazer: 7:30 p.m. 6505 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 761-8648.

Wednesday

Circle Elephant Art’s “Joel Hoyer: An Exquisite Surface” exhibition continues this week. Moving beyond the medium’s tradition as a purely decorative art, Hoyer’s pieces remain the sort of thing you’d want hanging in your living room, while provoking thought and imagination.
Runs March 5-27. Noon-6 p.m. (Wed.-Sat.). 4634 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 662-3279.

Thursday

A senator, a rabbi and some leading medical authorities walk into Temple Beth Am. Rather than the start of a bad joke, however, they’re hoping it’ll be the start of a healthcare revolution. Tonight, various Jewish organizations co-sponsor a forum on healthcare titled “Zay Gezunt: The Jewish Coalition for Healthcare for All Californians.” State Sen. Sheila Kuehl, Rabbi William Cutter as well as medical authorities discuss the hows and whys of universal healthcare.
7 p.m. Temple Beth Am, 1039 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 552-2007.

Friday

The Skirball turns comedy lounge tonight for another session of “Say the Word,” a showcase of writing and comic talents in Los Angeles, complete with the requisite cocktails and snacks. Tonight’s show for the 21-and-over crowd features George Meyer (“The Simpsons”), Rob Cohen (“The Ben Stiller Show”), Gary Janettie (“Will & Grace”) and Merrill Markoe (“It’s My F—ing Birthday: A Novel”).
8 pm. $8-$15. 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (323) 655-8587.

A Buffet Fit for Your Kings and Queens


My family loves Purim. It is a time when our grandchildren dress up in biblical costumes to act out the story of Esther and attend Purim carnivals, just as our children did when they were young. As in most holidays, we all look forward to the traditional foods that are part of the celebration. During Purim, hamantaschen, the three-cornered pastries filled with poppy seeds or fruit preserves, are always served.

This year, the family is invited to an “after-the-Purim-carnival buffet” inspired by the elaborate banquets that were served in biblical days. One long table in the dining room will be set for all the guests, and our collection of Purim groggers (noisemakers) will be arranged at each place setting for everyone to use during the retelling of the Purim story.

This dairy menu will feature hot, crispy Cheese Kreplach, a savory version of hamantaschen using a quick pizza dough, filled with three cheeses and flavored with fresh herbs.

A big bowl of Hummus will take center stage, accompanied by pita bread and an assortment of fresh vegetables for dipping. This garlicky dip, which originated in the Middle East, is based on chickpeas, one of the earliest Purim foods. Using a food processor, this is a quick and easy dish to prepare, just combine all the ingredients in the recipe and blend. The results can be as smooth as you like.

Include platters of grilled mushrooms in your buffet. I still remember when mushrooms were not easy to find. But, with the wonderful array of fresh mushrooms now available at the local open-air markets, it’s fun to create your own unusual mushroom recipes The Grilled Stuffed Mushrooms have an intense flavor as well as a slight crunch. Prepare them in advance and broil just before serving.

Forget chopped liver, instead, serve healthy Fennel “Caviar,” a fresh fennel pâté with a delicate anise flavor, easy to prepare, and delicious when spread on toast. On the buffet table include Skewered Eggplant, a dish that I discovered on a trip to Bali. It will lend an exotic touch to your buffet table. Drizzle the Peanut Sauce over the eggplant or serve it on the side.

This buffet will appeal to everyone, especially the children because they can make their own selections. Also, this menu is especially appropriate for Purim because it reminds us that Queen Esther, in order to eat only kosher food in the king’s palace, followed a vegetarian diet, which consisted primarily of seeds, grains, nuts and beans.

Purim would not be complete without hamantaschen, filled with as many interesting mixtures as your imagination allows. Besides the classic poppy seed filling, my family likes an apricot-nut mixture and a pureed prune filling. Below you will find an easy-to-prepare recipe with a filling of pecans, figs and raisins.

Cheese Kreplach

(Quick Pizza Dough)

1 recipe Quick Pizza Dough (recipe follows)

1¼4 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons cornmeal

2 cups mozzarella cheese, julienned

8 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon fresh oregano or 2 teaspoons dried oregano

Freshly ground black pepper

2 eggs, lightly beaten

Prepare the Quick Pizza Dough.

Preheat the oven to 450 F. Brush a 10×14-inch baking sheet with olive oil and sprinkle with cornmeal.

In a bowl, combine the three cheeses, oregano and pepper and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside. Divide the dough into four pieces. Roll out each piece and cut into 4-inch rounds with biscuit cutter or the rim of a glass. Place the cheeses on one half of each round, sprinkle with herbs, and season with pepper. Drizzle with a few drops of olive oil. Brush the edges of the rounds with the beaten egg. Fold the dough over the filling to form a half-moon and press the edges of the dough firmly together. Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Makes about 12 (6 servings).

Quick Pizza Dough

2 packages dry yeast

Pinch of sugar

11¼4 cups warm water

1¼4 cup extra virgin olive oil

31¼2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

In a small bowl, combine the yeast, sugar, and 1¼2 cup of the warm water. Set aside until yeast becomes frothy, two to three minutes.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, or using a hand mixer, combine the remaining 3¼4 cup water, olive oil, and the yeast mixture. Add 1 cup of the flour and the salt, blending well. Add the remaining flour, 1 cup at a time, gradually blending until a rough ball forms. Transfer to a floured board and knead until the top of the dough is smooth and elastic, and springs back when pressed with a finger. If using immediately, cover with a towel and tear off desired pieces of dough. Or at this point, place in a plastic bag, seal and refrigerate; (it will keep for up to four days.)

Garbanzo Bean Hummus

Hummus is a simple, wonderfully flavorful dip or spread made from garbanzos (chick peas) and tahini (sesame seed paste). Its texture is velvety, rich and firm enough to scoop up with wedges of pita bread or crisp vegetables. The taste is robust, nutlike, garlicky and so satisfying that you won’t be able to stop eating it.

l can (15 ounce) garbanzos, with liquid

1 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)

1¼2 cup lemon juice

4 garlic cloves, peeled

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1¼3 cup olive oil

6 fresh parsley sprigs, stemmed

1 to 2 teaspoons salt

Place the garbanzos in a processor or blender and process until coarsely pureed.

Add the tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and cumin, then process until smoothly pureed. Add olive oil in a thin stream. Blend in the parsley leaves and l teaspoon of salt. Add additional salt to taste. Serve with hot pita bread and sliced vegetables such as carrots, zucchini, mushrooms and jicama.

Note: Tahini (crushed sesame seeds) is available at natural food and Middle Eastern grocery stores and at most supermarkets.

Fennel “Caviar”

2 medium fennel bulbs

1¼4 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 shallot, minced

2 tablespoons minced yellow onion

Pinch of fresh thyme, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Toasted rounds of French bread

Cut off the feathery tops of the fennel bulbs, and remove any tough outer layers. Cut the fennel into 1¼4-inch dice, to yield about 3 cups.

In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil and sauté the garlic, shallot, and onion about four minutes, or until soft. Add the fennel and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the thyme, salt and pepper, and let cook for five more minutes. Transfer to a wooden board and chop until well blended, or place in a food processor and pulse once or twice for a finer consistency. Spoon into a covered bowl or crock and refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve with toast rounds.

Makes 2 cups (about 16 servings).

Skewered Japanese Eggplant with Peanut Sauce

Japanese eggplants are very small and tender and usually come in a beautiful lavender shade, although you may find white and purple skinned varieties. If you don’t have time to make the peanut sauce, pick up a kosher version available at some markets.

Peanut sauce (recipe follows)

1 cup flour

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

4 Japanese eggplants, unpeeled and sliced 3¼4-inch thick

Olive oil, for sauteing

Cilantro sprigs, for garnish

Prepare the Peanut Sauce; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

In a shallow medium bowl, mix the flour with salt and pepper. Dip the eggplant slices on both sides in the flour and shake to remove excess. In a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high, heat the olive oil and brown the eggplant rounds on both sides about two to three minutes, or until tender. Thread two or three eggplant slices through wooden skewers, lollipop fashion. Arrange on a large platter, garnish with cilantro, and serve with Peanut Sauce.

Makes about 4 servings.

Peanut Sauce

2 tablespoons minced yellow onion

1 garlic clove, minced

1 stalk fresh lemongrass, white

stem only, minced (optional)

1 tablespoon light brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1¼2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1¼8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1¼2 cup vegetable stock

1¼2 cup chunky peanut butter

1 cup coconut milk

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a small saucepan, combine the onion, garlic, lemongrass (if using), brown sugar, coriander, pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, vegetable stock, peanut butter, coconut milk, and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring until smooth; reduce heat and let the sauce simmer four minutes. Remove from the heat and pour into a medium serving bowl. Cool and cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate up to four hours. Bring to room temperature before serving. Add additional vegetable stock if needed to thin the sauce.

Makes about two cups.

Hamantaschen

1¼2 cup vegetable oil

11¼2 cups sugar

3 eggs

1¼2 cup orange juice

6 cups flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

Pinch salt

Fig-Pecan Filling (recipe follows)

1 egg white

In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend oil, sugar and eggs, until light and fluffy. Add orange juice a little at a time until completely blended. Add flour, baking powder, and salt to oil mixture and blend well. (Do not over-mix.) Divide into four parts and knead each part into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for several hours.

Flatten each portion with the palms of your hands and roll out to 1/4-inch thickness on a floured board. Cut into 3-inch rounds with a cookie cutter. Place 1 heaping teaspoon of filling in the center of each round. Fold the edges of the dough toward the center to form a triangle, leaving a bit of the filling visible in the center. Pinch the edges to seal.

Place the hamantaschen on a lightly greased foil-lined baking sheet and brush with egg white. Bake at 350 F for 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Transfer to racks to cool.

Makes about six-dozen hamantaschen.

Fig and Pecan Filling

4 cups dried figs

1 cup raisins

Apple juice

1 cup toasted chopped pecans

In a large bowl, place figs and raisins with enough apple juice to cover. Refrigerate for three hours or overnight. Place fig mixture in medium saucepan and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until soft, about 10 minutes. Cool and drain, reserving syrup. In food processor, blend figs and raisins with 1¼4 cup of reserved syrup. Transfer to a bowl and mix in pecans. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to fill hamantaschen.

Makes about 6 cups.

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

Mizrachi Options to Liven the New Year


While apples and honey are de rigueur among Ashkenazim for celebrating the New Year, Middle Easterners turn to the more exotic, like dates, quinces or pomegranates during the High Holidays. So if you’re looking for some unique recipes this High Holiday season, you might want to turn to Faye Levy’s latest cookbook, "Feast from the Mideast: 250 Sun-Drenched Dishes from the Lands of the Bible" (HarperCollins, $29.95).

Levy lived in Israel for nearly 12 years, where she met and married her husband, Yakir. A cooking novice until her mother-in-law took her in hand, she soon developed a love for the varied, bold flavors of her adopted home. She went on to train at the renowned La Varenne in Paris and to produce more than 20 cookbooks and writes with authority and passion on the cuisine of the Middle East.

"It is amazing how all these people who can’t get along eat the same things," observed Levy, whose cookbook highlights cuisines of over ten countries.

"Eating together and discussing food and recipes is a great way to bring people closer," Levy continues. "Arabs and Jews share a lot of the same food. The Islamic rules of halal are similar to our laws of kashrut. We both don’t eat pork. Arabs do eat shellfish, and they don’t have a problem mixing milk and meat, but they hardly ever do it.

While the book explores the foods of all faiths and nationalities of the region, so many of the dishes are perfect for Rosh Hashanah because of the Middle Eastern fondness for incorporating local fruits, a perfect way to wish guests a sweet New Year.

"Sephardic Jews begin the Rosh Hashanah meal with dates, just as we do with apples and honey," Levy noted. "And in Greece, Turkey and Morocco, all around the Mediterranean really, quinces are really important for Rosh Hashanah. Moroccan Jews do dip apples in honey, then dip them in sesame seeds, symbolizing our wish that our people be numerous. Pomegranate seeds are traditional for the same reason."

Chicken in Pomegranate Walnut Sauce, a classic dish of the Persian kitchen, is appropriate for the holiday, Levy said.

"Pomegranate juice and paste are available in Middle Eastern and gourmet markets, because a lot of American chefs, like Bobby Flay, have suddenly become very excited about them. It has become trendy," she said.

If you can’t find either, Levy advises using pomegranate juice, now readily available in supermarkets, and adding less water.

Traditional holiday foods vary from country to country and from family to family. Some people avoid sour tastes for the holiday, like lemons and vinegar.

Persians, however, favor tart over sweet and love a splash of lemon juice on many dishes, Levy noted.

"In fact, I have a friend from northern Iran who says that the pomegranate paste available in this country is too sweet, so he asks his relatives from Iran to bring some from home when they visit." Some people avoid black ingredients for the New Year, so they use golden raisins instead of dark and do not serve eggplant. Since the word for leeks in Hebrew means "destroyed," many serve leeks to convey the wish that our enemies be destroyed.

Some people will not eat walnuts, but will use almonds; others eliminate nuts altogether.

"In our family we always have rice with toasted almonds and dried fruit for Rosh Hashanah," Levy said. "Middle Eastern cooks have so many delicious ways to do rice, and some, like Almond Apricot Basmati Rice, are so good you could consider them a dessert, a side dish or a main course.

"Sweetness for Rosh Hashanah is more of an Ashkenazi thing," she said, "though certain Middle Eastern Jews do it, too. Moroccans often serve vegetables sprinkled with sugar, but sometimes instead of making food sweeter, they might just tone down the spiciness."

For example, fish is traditional for Rosh Hashanah, particularly served with the head.

Moroccans might make Foil Baked Trout with Red Pepper and Garlic, but omit the jalapeño and lemon for Rosh Hashanah.

"It really depends on your family’s tradition," Levy said.

For Ashkenazim, Rosh Hashanah would not be complete without honey cake, but Sephardim of the Mediterranean may choose Citrus and Spice Quinces with Cranberries or Date Pinwheel Cookies. Honey isn’t found necessarily in desserts in the Middle East, Levy said, though some might use it as syrup on cake. Fruit with Honey, Figs and Dates will appeal to both camps as a sweet ending to the Rosh Hashanah dinner.

"It’s perfect for the season and really easy. And it goes well as a topping for traditional honey cake, too."

Dja’jeh b’Ah’sal (Chicken With Prunes and Honey)

Sauce:

2 cups pitted prunes, soaked in 1 cup cold water for 15 minutes

1/4 cup honey

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Chicken:

5 to 5-1/2 pounds chicken pieces (white and dark meat), skinned

1/4 cup olive oil

1 cup finely chopped yellow onions

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Three 3-inch-long cinnamon sticks

2 cups cold water

Prepare the sauce. Place the prunes and soaking water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Add the honey and cinnamon. Mix well and simmer until the prunes absorb some water and soften (they should be soft yet retain most of their shape), about five more minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Prepare the chicken. Rinse the chicken under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Place on a plate.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and cook the onions, stirring, until golden and soft, three to four minutes. Add the chicken pieces and brown, cooking for two to three minutes on each side. Add the salt, pepper, cinnamon sticks and water, stir well, and bring to a slow boil over medium-high heat. Pour the sauce over the chicken. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, for one hour.

Uncover the skillet and cook until some of the excess liquid cooks off and the sauce has thickened to a gravy-like texture, an additional 20 to 30 minutes.

Serve on large platter, garnished with one cup blanched whole almonds, toasted in a dry skillet over medium heat until golden.

Ka’ikeh b’Ah’sal (Honey Cake With Sesame Glaze Cake)

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/3 cup tahini (sesame paste)

2/3 cup honey

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

Glaze:

2/3 cup honey

1 tablespoon tahini

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Prepare the cake. Combine the beaten eggs, tahini, honey and vanilla in a large bowl until smooth.

In a medium-size bowl, combine the flour and baking powder. Add to the wet mixture and mix well.

Pour the batter into a greased 9-by-13-inch baking pan or 9-inch Springform pan and bake until a toothpick or knife inserted into the center comes out clean, 25-35 minutes.

When the cake is ready, remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 45 minutes. With a knife, loosen the edges of the cake. Place a large plate on top of the cake pan and flip the pan upside down.

Prepare the glaze. Combine the honey and tahini in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until blended to a smooth consistency, four to five minutes. Add the sesame seeds and mix well. Remove from the heat and immediately pour the hot glaze over the top of the cake, allowing the glaze to soak in. Let cool for 30 minutes.

Cut into diamond shapes about two inches long and one inch wide and serve at room temperature. Do not refrigerate.

Faye Levy will be signing "Feast from the Mideast" at the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles on Tuesday, Oct. 21 at 7 p.m.

For more information or to R.S.V.P., call (323) 761-8648.

Judy Bart Kancigor, author of “Melting Pot Memories,”
can be found on the Web at

Comfort Food for Rosh Hashana


For Rosh Hashana this year, I am sharing three chicken dishes that you can prepare for your family holiday meal. Every family has their own recipe for roast chicken, but if you’re looking for something new and different to serve on Rosh Hashana, try one of these.

Two of the recipes I have selected came from unexpected sources — one via chef Jonathan Waxman, who recently opened Washington Park Restaurant in New York, and the second from Neela Paniz, who owns The Bombay Cafe in Los Angeles.

But, let’s start with one of my favorites. I remember when I was growing up, I looked forward to my mother’s Shabbat dinner. It always consisted of chicken, roasted in a tomato sauce with potatoes and lots of vegetables. The potatoes are cooked in the sauce with the chicken — a very old technique in Eastern European kitchens, and it gives them a wonderful flavor. On special occasions, she would stuff the whole chicken with her famous vegetable stuffing, and fill the neck of the chicken with the same mixture, to be served separately.

So when we started our family, on Friday night and special Jewish holidays, the highlight was roasted chicken. I began experimenting with ways to update my mother’s recipe, and one of our family favorite dishes became roast chicken breasts flattened, then stuffed in the center with finely chopped sautéed vegetables, rolled up like a sausage and tied with string. Any leftover stuffing (that didn’t fit in the chicken breasts) is baked in an oiled loaf pan. This is an easy dish to serve, since no carving is necessary, and the cooking technique allows the breasts to stay very juicy.

When Waxman worked in Los Angeles, he demonstrated his version of Chicken in the Pot as a guest chef on my television program, "Judy’s Kitchen." I had never tasted chicken prepared like this before; it practically bursts with flavor.

His recipe combines chicken and vegetables; it is a spinoff of his grilled chicken and vegetable dish that became one of Waxman’s signature dishes. The chicken and vegetables are served in a shallow bowl with a mustard sauce.

If your family enjoys curry, you will love Paniz’s Authentic Chicken Curry recipe. Don’t let the number of ingredients in this dish frighten you. It’s really easy to prepare and well worth the effort. If you like it spicy, just add more cayenne. Since Rosh Hashana begins at sundown on Friday, this dish could be your answer to the traditional Shabbat cholent, which is prepared before the Sabbath and kept warm for the Saturday meal.

These three dishes are perfect for Rosh Hashana; the only decision you must make is which of them to serve. Whatever recipe you choose, make enough so your family can have a cold chicken lunch on Saturday when they come home from the synagogue, or serve the leftovers in the evening as an interesting chicken salad.

Dessert should be simple and refreshing. Serve a fruit salad topped with a scoop of fruit sorbet and your favorite honey cake.

Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Molly’s Vegetable Stuffing

Chicken Breasts

  • 8 chicken breasts (4 whole, boned and
  • cut in half)
  • 1¼4 cup oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1¼4 cup dry white wine

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 prepared 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, then increase the heat to 425 F and bake about five minutes more, or until chicken breasts are 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.

Molly’s Vegetable Stuffing

  • 1/2 cup raisins, plumped in 1 cup
  • 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 flour
  • 2-3 tablespoons bread crumbs
  • 2-3 tablespoons oatmeal
  • 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.

Authentic Chicken Curry

  • 1 piece (1 1¼2 inches) of ginger, peeled
  • 5-6 garlic cloves
  • 2 serranos
  • 1¼3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 small Spanish yellow onions,
  • finely chopped
  • Hot water
  • 2 black cardamom pods (see note)
  • or 2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 2-3 pieces cassia or cinnamon sticks
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 4-5 cloves
  • 5-6 whole black peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons ground coriander
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1¼4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1¼4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 small chicken, skin removed and
  • cut into 8 pieces (1 1¼2 pounds)
  • 1 1¼2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves, for garnish

Mince the ginger, garlic and serranos in a food processor and set aside. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and brown until they turn a deep red-brown color, about five minutes. Add the ginger mixture and sauté for one minute. Add 1-2 tablespoons hot water to stop the browning of the onions and mix into a paste. Add the cardamom, cassia, bay leaves, cloves, peppercorns, coriander, cumin, turmeric and cayenne. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons hot water. Brown for two to three minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook over high heat until the oil is separated from the paste, about two minutes. (May be prepared one or two days in advance.)

Add the chicken and cook over medium heat until golden brown. Add the salt and 1¼2 cup hot water.

Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and almost falls off the bone when pierced with a fork. To serve, garnish with chopped cilantro. Serves 4.

Chicken in the Pot

  • 1 jalapeño chili, roasted and seeded
  • 1 Anaheim chili, roasted and seeded
  • 1 roasting chicken (4-5 pounds),
  • trussed with string
  • 2 medium onions
  • 3 shallots
  • 1 head garlic, cloves separated, unpeeled
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves, crumbled
  • 6 small red or white new potatoes, unpeeled
  • 4 fresh shiitake mushrooms
  • 4 small turnips, peeled
  • 2 parsnips, peeled
  • 4 small carrots, peeled
  • 2 stalks fennel or celery, cut into chunks
  • 8 radishes, stems removed
  • 1 large leek (white and green parts),
  • cut in half and soaked in warm water
  • 1 small bunch fresh parsley,
  • tied with a string
  • 1 small bunch fresh tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 medium roasted red bell pepper
  • 1¼2 cup whole-grain mustard
  • 1 French baguette, thinly sliced and toasted

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Peel onions, place them in a baking pan lined with aluminum foil, and roast until golden brown, about 30 minutes.

In a large pot or Dutch oven, place chicken, roasted onions, shallots, garlic cloves, peppercorns, bay leaves and roasted chilies. Add enough water to cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes, partially covered. Add potatoes and continue cooking 15 minutes. Add mushrooms, turnips, parsnips, carrots, fennel, radishes, leek, parsley, tarragon and 1¼2 teaspoon of the salt. Continue cooking until chicken is tender when pierced with fork, about 30 minutes.

Remove cooked chicken to a platter and keep hot. Transfer vegetables to a large bowl and keep warm in 2 cups of the broth. Strain the remaining broth into a saucepan, reserving garlic cloves. Bring both to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes, partially covered.

In a blender or food processor, blend the roasted red pepper, mustard, eight of the garlic cloves from the soup, 1¼2 cup of the broth, and the remaining 1¼2 teaspoon salt. Pour into a bowl.

Cut chicken into serving pieces; arrange in large individual heated soup bowls, surrounded by broth and vegetables. Serve with the toasted baguette slices and the mustard sauce. Serves 8.