Colonial Cuisine


Knishes, brisket, borscht, flanken and overstuffed corned beef on rye.

Imagine American Jewish food, and one envisions Ashkenazi fare brought by the 2.5 million Eastern European immigrants who settled here between 1881 and 1921.

But long before pastrami ever hit a New York deli plate, Jewish cuisine graced American shores; it began with Sephardic recipes prepared by 23 settlers whose families had fled the Spanish Inquisition to Recife, Brazil, and eventually to New Amsterdam in 1654. Instead of cholent, these newcomers cooked Sabbath meals such as beef and green bean stew flavored with allspice and hot pepper from Brazil.

The ensuing 350 years of American Jewish culinary history is the subject of a research project and lecture series by Joan Nathan, the noted Jewish food author (“Jewish Cooking in America” Knopf), and cooking show host. Among the recipes she’s uncovered: a pickled salmon dish from a New York Sephardic family’s hand-written cookbook and sweet-and-sour beef with dried plums, figs and raisins from an 1872 New York Times review of kosher restaurants.

Nathan believes “the history of food is as valid as any other history.” She explores American Jewish cookery before and after Eastern European Jews debuted their unique eats in the late 1880s.

“Jews have always been great adapters, and that extends to food,” she told The Journal from her Washington, D.C. home. “They brought out their old family recipes for the holidays but adapted daily food to life here.”

If America influenced Jewish cuisine, Jewish cuisine also made its mark on America. Early on, Thomas Jefferson praised what he called “Jew fish,” a cod fried in olive oil rather than lard.

In the following century, German Jews, with their superior ovens, baked sophisticated pastry dishes during their great migration between 1830 and 1880. From their kitchens emerged apple kuchen, sweet challahs and recipes such as Dampfnudeln, a brioche-like cake soaked in caramel and served with a vanilla sauce.

“Surely it was no coincidence that Cincinnati, the largest German Jewish city of the time, became the home of Fleischmann’s yeast and Crisco, a vegetable-based shortening for which, according to Procter and Gamble advertisements, the Jews had waited for 4,000 years,” Nathan said in a recent lecture.

As Jews continued to settle throughout the heartland, their family recipes became regionalized, perhaps most dramatically in the South, according to Marcie Cohen Ferris, associate director of the Carolina Center for Jewish Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “Because the Jewish population was small and often isolated, food became extra important,” Cohen Ferris said. “It provided a link to the old world, to family elsewhere, and to relatives who had passed away. At the same time, it was what connected people to their Southern community; if you eat like your neighbors, you are one of them.”

No wonder New Orleans cooks spiked their gumbo with matzah balls; lox and bagels became lox, bagels and grits; and fried chicken graced menus.

Today, the Memphis Orthodox community hosts an annual barbeque contest, with a local grocer, Kroeger’s, providing the kosher beef shortribs.

If Huntsville, Ala., has its own corned beef and pastrami festival, trace that to Eastern European Jewry. Although much Ashkenazi food wasn’t considered Jewish back home, the victuals became “Jewish” in America because members of the tribe introduced them.

Now the culinary popular culture includes challah French toast and the bagel has become almost as ubiquitous as apple pie.

“[I’ve] visited a bagel factory beneath Mount McKinley in the far reaches of Alaska,” Nathan said. “I have … seen a sign at a bagel joint, near Plymouth Rock, advertising that Plymouth is the birthplace of french toast bagels.”

Meanwhile, traditional Jewish food continues to evolve with the flourishing of the ba’al teshuvah movement, resulting in healthier and more gourmet kosher products from coast to coast. There’s mock lobster made of pollock, for example, and kosher bison served at restaurants such as Levana in New York.

“[We’ve] come a long way since the first band of Brazilian Sephardic exiles arrived on our shores 350 years ago,” Nathan said. “Today you’re just as likely to see the proverbial Jewish grandmother taking her cue from watching celebrity chefs … rather than relying on her own tried and true, but slightly tired recipes.”

For recipes, visit www.gwu.edu/~judaic/350/food_conf.htm . “Joan Nathan’s Jewish Holiday Cookbook” (Schocken Books, $29.95) is now in stores.

Hush Puppies (aka “Corn Oysters”)

From Esther Levy’s “Jewish Cookery Cookbook,” 1871.

6 ears of boiled corn

3 eggs

1 1/2 tablespoons flour

Separate the eggs and beat the yolks well until they are thick. Grate the corn off the cobs, and season with pepper and salt. Mix corn with the yolks and add the flour. Whisk the egg whites to a stiff froth, and then stir them in with the corn and yolks.

Put a spoonful of the batter at a time in a pan of hot butter, and fry until a light brown on both sides.

Thanksgiving’s Sukkot Roots


Did you know that Thanksgiving is really a Jewish holiday? Although Thanksgiving is not on the Jewish calendar, historians believe that Sukkot may have inspired America’s favorite farewell to fall, often nicknamed "Turkey Day."

"The pilgrims based their customs on the Bible," said Gloria Kaufer Greene, author of the "New Jewish Holiday Cookbook" (Times Books, 1999). "They knew that Sukkot was an autumn harvest festival, and there is evidence that they fashioned the first Thanksgiving after the Jewish custom of celebrating the success of the year’s crops."

Linda Burghardt, author of "Jewish Holiday Traditions" (Citadel Press, 2001), said, "Sukkot is considered a model for Thanksgiving. Both holidays revolve around showing gratitude for a bountiful harvest."

Today Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November, but President Franklin Roosevelt didn’t propose this timing until 1939.

It was Abraham Lincoln who made Thanksgiving a national holiday. Roosevelt actually changed Lincoln’s decree that Thanksgiving be observed on the last Thursday in November, which may fall on the fifth Thursday of the month.

The pilgrims’ invited local Indians to the first Thanksgiving during the fall of 1621. Historians speculate that this celebration occurred somewhere between Sept. 21 and Nov. 9, but most likely in early October, around the time of Sukkot.

"Originally, Sukkot entailed a pilgrimage to Jerusalem," said Greene, who believes the two holidays share much in common.

The Puritan Christians who landed on American shores seeking religious freedom were called pilgrims, in deference to their journey from England. Their dream of finding a place where they’d be free to worship as they pleased is a recurrent theme in Jewish history.

After their pilgrimage to Jerusalem, the ancient Israelites lived for a week in temporary huts while giving thanks for a plentiful harvest. Likewise, during their first winter in Massachusetts, the pilgrims dwelled in makeshift huts, wigwams that the Indians helped them build.

While Sukkot remains a seven-day observance, the first Thanksgiving celebration continued for three days, a time frame more similar to the Jewish harvest festival than today’s Thanksgiving dinner, which often begins in late afternoon and ends several hours later.

With its pumpkin pies and cranberry garlands, Thanksgiving mirrors many of Sukkot’s customs and culinary themes.

Burghardt said she is amazed at how many of the same foods are connected to both holidays.

Piping hot casseroles brimming with vegetables and fruit grace the American and Jewish harvest tables, as do pastries that are filled with apples, nuts, pumpkins and squash. Stuffing one food inside another as a metaphor for abundance is the hallmark of Sukkot cuisine.

Yet there’s nothing more opulent than the elaborate bread stuffings found inside Thanksgiving turkeys.

Greene enjoys transforming traditional Thanksgiving recipes into kosher cuisine.

"I like mixing new and old world themes," she said.

One of her favorite recipes is glazed turkey with fruit-nut stuffing. Bursting with so much produce, it’s a one-dish harvest festival. Because the pilgrims and Indians shared roasted corn during the first Thanksgiving, Greene’s double-corn bread is a fitting choice. It is soft and moist, almost like a kugel.

Harvest-time cranberry relish is always a big hit at Greene’s house.

"Several years ago, I invited a family of Russian Jewish immigrants to celebrate their first Thanksgiving. While they adored traditional American foods, they were especially fascinated with the taste and bright color of cranberries."

But since the two holidays are so close in time, is there any reason for American Jews who celebrate Sukkot to pay homage to a second harvest festival six weeks later?

"Participating in Thanksgiving is how we feel American," said Greene, a former food columnist for the Baltimore Jewish Times, who used to submit a Thanksgiving story every year.

She agrees with Burghardt that Thanksgiving is a lovely experience. It’s an easy holiday to include friends and neighbors of other faiths.

"While Thanksgiving is not technically a Jewish holiday, it’s not a Christian one either," Burghardt said. "It’s a great equalizer with a multicultural theme."

Although Burghardt believes that Thanksgiving, with its chocolate turkeys and pilgrims, lacks Sukkot’s depth, Greene feels there’s something spiritual about the whole country partaking in a communal meal, even though menus and customs vary from home to home. At her table, she asks guest to share one thing for which they’re grateful.

"Like Sukkot, at Thanksgiving you’re supposed to invite people to share abundance with your family," Burghardt said. "You can’t serve too much food. Could there be anything more Jewish than that?"

Glazed Turkey With Fruit-Nut Stuffing

Fruit-Nut Stuffing:

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 celery stalks, diced

1/2 cup orange juice

1/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups cranberries

12 pitted prunes, coarsely chopped

6 dried apricots, coarsely chopped

1 cup raisins

3 medium apples, cored and diced

1 1/2 cups chopped nuts

1/2 cup finely chopped parsley

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

Salt and pepper to taste

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1. In a medium-sized saucepan sauté the onion and celery in oil over medium-high heat, stirring until tender but not browned. Transfer to a large bowl. Set aside.

2. In the same (unwashed) pan, combine orange juice and sugar, bringing mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir in cranberries and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer cranberries, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes, or until berry skins pop.

3. Mix in prunes, apricots and raisins. Remove from heat. Transfer mixture to bowl containing onion and celery. Cool to room temperature. Add remaining stuffing ingredients and mix well.

Turkey:

1 12-14 pound turkey, completely defrosted in refrigerator

Canola oil

1. Clean turkey well and discard giblets. Rub skin with canola oil.

2. Fill the body and neck cavities of the turkey with stuffing, allowing room for expansion. Tuck the legs under the band of skin or tie legs together with heavy cord. Skewer or sew neck skin closed against the body. Place turkey, breast up, on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Roast in a preheated 325 F oven for about three hours.

Yield: 10 servings

Double Corn Bread

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1 cup all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons sugar

4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1/3 cup canola oil

1 (about 15-ounce) can cream-style corn, including liquid.

(Note: Because cream-style corn does not contain dairy products, it is pareve.)

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Coat an 8-inch square baking pan with no-stick spray.

2. In a medium bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the center, and add eggs, oil and canned corn. Beat wet ingredients with a fork to combine them, then incorporate dry ingredients. Stir only until all ingredients are completely moistened and combined.

3. Spoon mixture into prepared pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cut into 16 squares and serve directly from the pan.

Harvest-Time Cranberry Relish

1 medium-sized navel orange

1 12-ounce package fresh cranberries, sorted, rinsed and drained

1 medium-sized apple, cored and cut into eighths

1 medium-sized pear, cored and cut into eighths

1/4 cup walnut pieces

1/4 cup dark raisins

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 tablespoons lemon juice

1. Use a sharp knife to remove the colored part of the orange rind. Set aside. Remove and discard the white pith. Cut orange pulp into chunks.

2. Put orange rind and pulp into food processor fitted with the steel blade with the remaining relish ingredients. Pulse the mixture until ingredients are finely chopped but not smoothly pureed.

3. Chill relish covered for several hours, stirring occasionally until the sugar completely dissolves and flavors blend.

Yield: about 3 1/2 cups

From "The New Jewish Holiday Cookbook," by Gloria Kaufer Greene.

Ease Out of the Yom Kippur Fast With Salmon and Potatoes


Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, is a time when Jews are required to fast for 24 hours. At the end of this period, family and friends gather for the traditional break-the-fast meal.

This year at the conclusion of services our family and friends will arrive at our home at various times, since they are coming from synagogues that stretch from San Fernando Valley to West Los Angeles.

The transition from fasting to feasting should be a gradual one. Light, simple food is best. These two quick recipes are perfect for the holiday. Just add a few side dishes to complete the menu.

The first recipe is a dish I served a recent dinner, individual mini-potato salads topped with smoked salmon and garnished with a zesty mustard-dill sauce. Everyone enjoyed them so much, I decided to include them in our break-the-fast menu. The secret to this dish is that the potatoes are boiled for only eight minutes and they can be made in advance.

The second smoked salmon dish was inspired by a Swedish friend, Kerstin Marsh, a great cook, and she often serves this family specialty as a first course with sliced fresh cucumbers.

These two delicious dishes can be prepared ahead of time and chilled until ready to serve. It is comfort to return home from the synagogue and have the perfect dish ready for your guests.

Complete the break-the-fast meal with a fresh fruit salad and serve it with the traditional honey cake, my family’s favorite holiday dessert.

Smoked Salmon with Mini-Potato Salads

2 medium white rose potatoes, 1/2-inch

dice (1 pound)

1 small carrots, diced

1/2 cup diced red bell pepper

1/2 cup diced fennel

1/2 cup uncooked corn kernels

1/2 cup mayonnaise

Salt and pepper to taste

6 slices smoked salmon (lox)

Mustard-Dill Sauce (recipe follows)

6 sprigs fresh dill

Rinse diced potatoes in cold running water. Bring a large pot of salt water to a rolling boil, drop in diced potatoes and boil for eight to 10 minutes.

Drain into a colander and transfer to a shallow dish to cool. Add carrots, fennel, red bell pepper, corn kernels and enough mayonnaise to moisten, and salt and pepper to taste.

Place a 3-inch ring mold on serving plate and spoon in salad mixture. Trim salmon slices to fit a 3-inch mold. Arrange a slice of smoked salmon on top of salad. Repeat with remaining five serving plates.

Prepare the mustard-dill sauce and spoon around each serving. Garnish with sprigs of fresh dill.

Serves 6.

Mustard-Dill Sauce

This sauce can be prepared several days ahead, Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Try replacing the dill with basil leaves, cilantro, water cress, parsley or sorrel.

3 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard

1 teaspoon powdered mustard

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon white vinegar

1/3 cup oil

3 tablespoons fresh chopped (or snipped) dill

In a small, deep bowl, combine the mustard, powdered mustard, sugar and vinegar and blend well. With a wire whisk, slowly beat in the oil until it forms a thick mayonnaise. Stir in the chopped dill. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes about 1 cup.

Kerstin’s Swedish Potato and Gravlax Casserole

Unsalted butter for the baking dish

Eight (1 3/4 pounds) white or red

new potatoes, steamed, peeled,

and thinly sliced

8 large slices gravlax or smoked salmon

1/2 small yellow onion,

peeled and thinly sliced

2 tablespoons snipped fresh dill

Salt and freshly ground black

pepper to taste

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup milk

1 egg

3 tablespoons bread crumbs

2 tablespoons unsalted butter,

cut into pieces

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Brush an 8-inch square baking dish with butter. Arrange half of the sliced potatoes on the bottom. Arrange the slices of gravlax on top of the potatoes. Sprinkle with the onion and dill. Repeat with a top layer of the remaining sliced potatoes. Season with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, beat the cream and egg and pour over the potato mixture.

Sprinkle the bread crumbs and pieces of butter over the potatoes. Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through. Serve hot or cold.

Makes 6 servings

Note: Whole new unpeeled potatoes, steamed, take about 20 minutes to cook, depending on the size of the potatoes. Peeled and sliced potatoes, boiled, take only five minutes.

Cooking Middle Eastern Memories


"A Fistful of Lentils" by Jennifer Felicia Abadi (Harvard Common Press, 2002).

Reading "A Fistful of Lentils" is like wandering through a family album. Instead of food photos you find dozens of family portraits, touching stories and the fascinating history of a rich and unique culture. In this engaging new cookbook, first-time author Jennifer Felicia Abadi tells the fascinating story of her Syrian Jewish family and reveals the secrets of their little known cuisine.

In 1924, her great-grandmother, Esther (called Steta in Arabic), left Aleppo for America on the crest of a wave of Syrian immigration as the Ottoman Empire crumbled. She brought with her cherished family recipes, passed down from mother to daughter, from the communal kitchens back home, where Arab and Jewish women gathered daily, as they had for centuries, to bake sambussaks (savory-filled pastries) and exchange gossip.

In the 1970s, Esther’s grandchildren (Abadi’s mother and aunt) decided to observe their Steta in the kitchen and carefully recorded her recipes for the family. Thirty years later, Abadi embarked on a project of her own — trying to fill in the gaps by observing her own grandma, Fritzie — and in the process learned as much about her family’s history as she did about their cooking.

Numbering a mere 150,000 worldwide, Syrian Jews descend from a blending of the Spanish Jewish population that fled to Syria to escape the Inquisition and the Mizrahi (Eastern) Jews they found there who had made Syria their home for 2,000 years.

Those who think Middle Eastern cuisine is all falafel and hummus will delight in the exotic tastes and smells of the Syrian kitchen. But what distinguishes the foods of Syria from other Middle Eastern cuisine?

"Syrian cuisine has a strong flavor," Abadi explained, "but as compared to, say, Indian, we don’t use a lot of different spices. We use mainly cinnamon and allspice in tandem together and lots of cumin. And whereas Moroccans, Algerians and Tunisians use couscous, we use bulgur wheat. We love rice, too, but bulgur wheat is our favorite grain."

Although rice was plentiful in Persia, Abadi noted, it was brought into Syria later through the trade routes. Originally reserved for the upper classes, the traditional riz (basic Syrian rice) is now considered a staple on the Syrian table. "Basic it is; plain it is not," Abadi writes.

Onions are first sautéed in oil and then combined with soaked and drained long-grain white rice, the mixture boiled and topped with toasted pine nuts. The favorite part of the rice is the prized a’hata, the brown crust scraped from the bottom of the pot, achieved by slowly cooking (and watching) the rice for 50-60 minutes over low heat.

Whereas Moroccans use dates, Syrians prefer mish mosh (dried apricots) in a variety of dishes, from Meh’shi Sfeehah b’Dja’jeh (Stuffed Baby Eggplant with Roasted Chicken) to the colorful and refreshing Mish Mosh m’Fis’dok (Cold Rose Water Syrup With Apricots and Pistachios).

"Many recipes call for rose water or orange water, and that separates us from other Mediterraneans, like the Greeks, who use honey," Abadi continued. "But I think probably our use of tamarind most distinguishes Syrian cuisine from others in the Middle East."

The rich tamarind sauce called ooh, a staple in the Syrian kitchen, is made from the pods of the tamarind tree. It is dark in color and lends a unique tart-sweet flavor to such dishes as Dja’jeh Mish Mosh (Sweet-and-Tart Chicken With Apricots) and Meh’shi Kusa (Stuffed Squash With Sweet-and-Sour Tomato Sauce). Presentation is key to the Syrian table.

"We’re definitely concerned with how the table looks and that all the food is presented colorfully," she said. "What’s nice is to have many little tastings, not just have one thing, and we like to have plenty. There will usually be several main dishes, on the average at least three or four, with a rice and a vegetable stuffed dish and maybe a noodle dish. The maazeh [appetizers] are colorful and done on little plates with lots of different shapes and sizes."

Most Syrian dishes, Abadi said, are easy to prepare.

"It’s peasant food, a home-cooking thing. The dishes are long cooking, but, except perhaps for the pastries, which require more time and skill, they are not that difficult to do."

Case in point, Dja’jeh b’Ah’sal (Chicken With Prunes and Honey), a perfect choice for Rosh Hashanah.

"We use prunes, as well as apricots and dates, not only for their sweetness," Abadi notes, "but because they are round, they represent the cycle of life."

Tired of the same old honey cake? Try the more exotic Ka’ikeh b’Ah’sal (Honey Cake With Sesame Glaze), rich with tahini and sesame seeds, which, Abadi tells us, are used on Rosh Hashanah along with poppy seeds to represent an abundance of good deeds.

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 cinnamon sticks

2 cups cold water

To Serve

1 cup blanched whole almonds, toasted in a dry skillet over medium heat until golden

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 20-30 minutes.

Serve on large platter, garnished with toasted almonds.

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 1-inch wide and serve at room temperature. Do not refrigerate.

De-Stress the Simcha


On Monday evening, we will celebrate Purim, the holiday that
commemorates the liberation of the Jews in ancient Persia, and reminds us of
the triumph of Queen Esther and her uncle, Mordecai, over Haman, the wicked
prime minister.

Purim is traditionally a time when families come together
and celebrate the holiday with a menu of dairy foods, veggies, nuts and seeds
of all kinds because, as the story states, Esther did not eat meat while in the
king’s court.

This year I will serve some family favorites that I recently
taught at a cooking class for the University of Judaism. My students were
enthusiastic and they loved the Beet Borscht and Blintzes, the traditional
dishes that I usually prepare for Purim.

The Sweet and Sour Beet Borscht is easy to make. It can be
prepared several days ahead, served hot or cold and garnished with sour cream
or sliced cucumbers. The addition of balsamic vinegar in the recipe instead of
the usual lemon juice heightens the sweet-and-sour flavor.

Blintzes are very versatile, depending on the filling, they
can be served as an appetizer, a main course or for dessert. In class, I
demonstrated how to prepare blintzes with the traditional hoop cheese mixture,
fry and serve them with sour cream and preserves. Using the same blini recipe,
but filled with ricotta cheese and spinach, they are baked and served with a
tomato sauce similar to Italian Crispelle. Both recipes can be made in advance,
filled, folded and refrigerated or frozen until ready to heat and serve.

During the class, the students made hamantaschen, the
traditional Purim pastry that is combined with either poppy seed, prune or a
chocolate-nut filling. But, for a contemporary American version, I often fill
the hamantaschen with peanut butter and jelly, a favorite of my children and
grandchildren.

A Purim custom still observed is called shalach manot (the
giving of food). Just pack your delicious Hamantaschen in colorful gift boxes
and share them with family and friends.

Purim Menu:

Sweet and Sour Beet Borscht

1 pound beets (about 4 medium), tops removed, peeled and
shredded

6 cups water

2 tablespoons unsalted butter or nondairy margarine

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1¼4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1¼4 cup balsamic vinegar

Salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Sour cream, for garnish

Sliced or diced cucumber, optional

 Place beets in a large nonreactive pot and add water. Bring
to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 30 minutes.

In a small skillet, heat butter over medium heat and sauté
onion until softened, about five minutes. Add brown sugar and cook, stirring
constantly, about three minutes. Add to cooked beets along with balsamic
vinegar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer stirring occasionally, about
20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, ladle the soup into cups or soup bowls. Top each
with a dollop of sour cream and cucumber if desired.

Serves 6.

Cheese Blintzes

Usually cheese blintzes are rolled into an oval shape, but I
like to fold the pancake over the filling like an envelope so the result is a
flat blintz. This makes them much easier to fry, and the sour cream and
preserves can’t roll off the top of the blintzes.

1 cup flour

1¼4 teaspoon salt

4 eggs

13¼4 cups milk

2-3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

1 tablespoon brandy

Cheese Filling (recipe follows)

Butter for frying

 In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine flour and salt.
Blend together eggs and milk and add to flour mixture a little at a time,
blending after each addition, beating until smooth. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the
melted butter and brandy. Put through a fine strainer to avoid a lumpy dough.
Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

Prepare the cheese filling, cover and refrigerate.

In a small skillet or crepe pan, melt 1 tablespoon of the
butter over low heat. When the butter begins to bubble, pour in 1¼8-1¼4 cup of
the batter and rotate the pan quickly to spread the batter as thinly as
possible, pouring off any excess. (The first blintz will be thicker than the
rest.) Cook on one side only, until lightly browned around the edges and turn
it out onto a towel to cool. Repeat with the remaining batter, stacking the
cooled blintzes on a platter with a square of waxed paper in between each one.

Makes about 24.

Spoon 1-2 tablespoons of the cheese filling into the center
of the brown side of each blintz. Fold the blintz around the filling like an
envelope, completely enclosing it. Place the blintzes on a large platter, cover
with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To prepare the blintzes for serving: In a large skillet,
heat 1¼4 cup of butter and brown the blintzes lightly, about 1-2 minutes per
side. (Do not crowd.) Repeat with the remaining blintzes adding more butter as needed.
With a metal spatula, carefully transfer the blintzes to serving plates. Serve
with bowls of sour cream, sugar and preserves.

Cheese Filling

2 pounds hoop, farmer or pot cheese

2 tablespoon sugar

1-2 teaspoons salt

2 eggs

In a large bowl, mix the hoop cheese, sugar, salt and eggs
until blended. Cover with plastic wrap, chill in the refrigerator until ready
to assemble the blintzes.

Makes 4 cups.

Crispelle With Ricotta and Spinach

24 Blini (see recipe)

1 pound ricotta

8 ounces spinach, steamed, squeezed dry and finely chopped

Freshly grated nutmeg

Salt, to taste

Prepare blini cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. If
ricotta is very soft, place in a strainer set over a medium bowl for 30 minutes
to drain. Mix the drained ricotta cheese, spinach, nutmeg and salt in a large
bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Makes about 3 cups

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Spread about 2 tablespoons of the
Ricotta-Spinach Filling over the entire surface of each blini. Fold 1¼2 inch of
each side over the filling and roll up tight. Cut each roll into four pieces
and place on lightly buttered baking sheet. Bake until heated through, about
five minutes. 

To serve, heat the tomato sauce and spoon some in the center
of each plate. Arrange four or five rolled crepes, cut side up, on top of the
sauce.

Serves 12. 

Poppy Seed or Chocolate Filled

Hamantaschen

1¼4 pound unsalted butter or non-dairy margarine, softened

1¼2 cup sugar

3 eggs

Grated zest of 1 orange

2 cups flour

11¼2 teaspoons baking powder

1¼4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon poppy seeds

3 (8-ounce) cans poppy seed filling

Preheat the oven to 375 F. In the bowl of an electric mixer,
beat butter and sugar until well-blended. Beat in two of the eggs and the
orange zest, blending thoroughly. Add flour, baking powder, salt and poppy
seeds and blend until dough is smooth.

Transfer to floured board and divide dough into three or
four portions for easier handling. Flatten each portion with the palm of your
hand and roll it out 1¼4 inch thick. With a scalloped or plain cookie cutter,
cut into 21¼2-inch rounds. 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
them.

Place hamantaschen 1¼2 inch apart on a lightly greased
foil-lined baking sheet and brush with the remaining egg, lightly beaten. Bake
for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to racks to cool.

Makes 5 dozen-6 dozen.


2003 Passover Recipe ContestContest

The Jewish Journal is once again sponsoring a Passover
recipe contest. Send in your favorite kosher-for -Passover recipe with a brief
story. The winning recipes will appear with the chef’s photo in an upcoming
Jewish Journal. The winners will also receive a personally autographed copy of
Judy Zeidler’s cookbook “Master Chefs Cook Kosher.”

All entries must be received by April 1 .

E-mail recipies along with yout name and phone number to
marnil@jewishjournal.com; or write to: Passover Recipe Contest c/o Marni Levitt,
The Jewish Journal 3580 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1510, Los Angeles, CA 90010.

No phone calls, please.

The Festival of Lite


Yes, the time of the fatty foods is upon us. But eight days of latkes and jelly doughnuts can be the least of problems for those who celebrate their holidays by eating out.

“The bad news is, most restaurant meals are high in calories and fat,” said nutritionist Anita Jones. “If you’re like most people in Southern California, we tend to eat out a lot.”

Even “heart healthy” or “light” menu options can be filled with hidden fat, sodium or other dangers for those on special diets or trying to eat healthy. While nutrition labels have been required by federal law on all packaged foods since 1994, the secrets of a meal prepared in a restaurant kitchen stay in the kitchen.

At a recent seminar for patients at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Jones laid out some ways to get healthy food at favorite restaurants. “It’s really about consumer demand,” she said. “You have to speak up and let them know you want healthier dishes.” She also recommended common-sense alternatives like sharing or taking home portions of large entrees, or requesting that salt, oil and other undesired items be left out of the prepared foods.

The recent trend toward keeping down carbohydrate intake has left many diners still unaware of potentially dangerous levels of fat in their restaurant meals, Jones said. Even pasta or chicken dishes labeled with a heart or other “healthy” symbol can contain upwards of 70 grams of fat — approximately equal to one stick of butter — when they are cooked and drizzled in oil. She cited olive oil in particular as a common, healthy ingredient that diners should still watch out for if they are concerned about fat intake. “What looks healthy may not be,” Jones said. “On many menus, salads can be the highest fat options.”

Since 1991, Jones and her colleagues have been analyzing the nutritional content of restaurant meals throughout Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties.

The result is the “Healthy Dining in Los Angeles” restaurant guide (Healthy Dining Publications, $19.95), with weight and health-conscious options from more than 80 restaurant menus, from the Acapulco in Azusa to the Whole Foods Market in Woodland Hills, in addition to coupons and 40-plus recipes from restaurant chefs. Broken down according to fat, cholesterol, sodium, protein and carbohydrate content, the menus allow diners to plan ahead and eat healthy meals out. The menus also make clear which special requests are necessary to make the meals healthier, particularly items that patrons should ask that no added salt or less oil be used in preparation.

At the Cedars-Sinai seminar, representatives from a handful of local restaurants offered samples of recommended dishes. Real Food Daily restaurant offered some of its vegan fare, while Chaya Brasserie chef Shigefumi Tachibe showed off his Organic Tofu Caesar salad. Tachibe said that based on customer requests for healthy dining options, the lower-fat and lower-sodium dish has replaced a more traditional mix as the standard Caesar salad at his restaurants.

“Restaurants are the weakest part of the whole nutrition world,” Jones said, who added that the trend is changing as savvy diners are asking for healthier food. “Chefs are artists, they’re creators and they are really rising to this challenge.”

With the right information and an accommodating kitchen, even your favorite restaurant experience this Chanukah can be a festival of lite.