Archive for the ‘Kosher Food’ Category

Shavuot Meals to Remember

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

This coming Friday night is no ordinary Shabbat on the calendar. This Friday night will be erev chag, the eve of the momentous holiday of Shavuot, the anniversary of the giving of the Torah. Come Saturday night, many will celebrate with the traditional custom of learning Torah all through the night. And many will be happy to enjoy (and indulge!) in dairy holiday meals – a custom based on the historical necessity of the time. Having just received the Torah at Mount Sinai, a completely new set of laws to live by, we were not yet equipped for accomplishing ritually kosher slaughter, nor had we kosher vessels to cook in…and thus the first Jewish dairy holiday was born.

It is no secret that I relish the opportunity to put out my finest dairy meals, designing creative dairy menus and pulling out all of the involved (and yes, highly caloric) buttery recipes that rarely have a chance to grace my table the rest of the year. On Shavuot, I feel like a painter with an empty canvas just looking forward to making broad strokes. Fish dishes take center stage (instead of meats) and get the spotlight they deserve; salads get a creamier (or cheesier) treatment; and desserts….well, all I can say is: CREAM!!!

While teaching a recent pre-Shavuot cooking class and fielding a barrage of questions, I realized just how many people feel challenged by preparing fish. It’s easy to cook fish, but very easy to ruin it as well. When people claim that they don’t “like” fish, what they are really objecting to are all of the tell-tale signs of ill-prepared fish:

“It smells fishy.”

“It’s too dry”

“It’s rubbery”

“It’s mushy”

If you’ve ever felt this way about a piece of fish, it was most likely over-cooked or just wasn’t fresh enough by the time it was made. How do I know this? Because good, fresh fish that has been prepared well is moist, tender and flavorful (and no, not fishy). With that said, just a couple of quick reminders to boost your fish cooking attempts before the holiday (and the rest of the year too):

  • A quick cook: Fish are delicate creatures to cook – their flesh cooks quickly, much faster than most people realize. Do not cook your fillets too long or the fish will be tough, rubbery or smelly.
  • Flake it, Baby! Cook the fish only until it flakes easily at the touch of a fork or reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees F° at the center of the thickest part (particularly helpful when cooking a whole fish).
  • TIME IT! Fillets should get the “10-minute” rule – a maximum total of 10 minutes of cook time per inch of thickness (measured at the thickest part). *While this is generally true, some fish, such as tuna, is best served rare, so it should be undercooked.
  • Go Fresh! Make sure the fish you use is as fresh as possible. Look for: glistening flesh, un-cloudy eyes, and a mostly odorless smell.
  • Store it well. If you’re not cooking up your fresh fish that day, take it out of its packaging, rinse and pat it dry, then wrap it in wax/parchment paper and plastic wrap. It can then be refrigerated or frozen until usage. Removing the excess moisture and air will keep it fresher longer and prevent freezer burn.

Even if you are armed with these helpful basics, there are some recipes which can be made ahead and reheat well and some which…well, you’d better just eat it right out of the pan. Choose carefully as far as holiday planning and entertaining is concerned. The following fish recipe can be made ahead and then reheated gently with fairly good results; alternatively, it can also be assembled ahead and then baked immediately prior to serving time.

Whichever fish dish or cheesecake you choose, make it something that your family will enjoy. More than anything, I’m happy to celebrate the holiday with joyous foods, ones that enhance and uplift the day and remind us of the tremendous gift that Shavuot marks.

Mushroom-Stuffed Fillet of SoleShavuot Recipes

Serves 8.

1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 2 tbsp. butter, divided
1 medium onion, chopped
2 shallots, chopped
10 oz. Cremini mushrooms, sliced
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
2 cups (about 5 slices) toasted, cubed bread (crusts removed)
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
8 Sole fillets, cut in half lengthwise
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (juice of 2 lemons)
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
Paprika
Garnishes: Fresh chopped parsley, lemon slices

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13” casserole dish; set aside.

Melt 1/2 cup butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. When butter is melted and begins to foam, add onion and shallots. Sauté for about 5-6 minutes, until onions are soft and translucent. Add mushrooms; season liberally with salt, pepper and thyme. Stir to blend; sauté for another 2-3 minutes or until mushrooms are wilted. Remove from heat. Gently fold in bread cubes, turning to coat well with butter. Add parmesan; mix to blend and distribute. Set aside and cool slightly.

Rinse fillets and pat dry with paper towels. Season fillet pieces with salt and pepper. Place a heaping mound of stuffing mixture (approximately 3-4 tablespoons) in the center of the fillet. Using your hands, wrap the fish around the stuffing, and carefully place the stuffed roll (seam-side down) in the prepared casserole dish. Repeat with remaining fillets. Dot each roll with small pieces of the remaining 2 tablespoons butter.

Combine sour cream, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, garlic, and cayenne pepper in a small bowl. Whisk until well blended. Spoon sauce over each fillet roll; sprinkle with paprika. Bake uncovered for 35-40 minutes – sauce should appear bubbly. Serve stuffed rolls garnished with a sprinkling of chopped parsley and lemon slices.

 

Best Wishes for a Chag Sameach,
Naomi Ross and the Park East Kosher Family

 

By Naomi Ross

 

 

 

 

 

Just Hangar-ing Around!

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

One cow. So many cuts. We’ve discussed several cuts in this forum, but never have we explored the elusive hangar steak. And what a great choice it is now that spring is in full bloom! When you are enjoying a lovely day out, the search begins for a lightning fast, throw-it-on-the table supper. And whether on the grill or in the broiler, a thin hangar steak will take less than 10 minutes to cook…can’t get much quicker than that.

First off, a bit of background: hangar steak gets its curious name because it “hangs” from the diaphragm attached to the last rib and the spine near the kidneys. The hangar is a small, V-shaped pair of muscles with a long, inedible membrane down the middle (butchers usually remove the membrane and you end up with 2 pieces). Much like its neighbor, the skirt steak (the outer part of the diaphragm), it has an incredibly beefy, rich flavor with a slightly grainy, thread-like texture and is best served rare or medium-rare; past medium, it will start to get tough. Realizing its delectable juiciness, the hangar steak was often referred to as the “butcher’s steak,” as butchers used to save this small cut for themselves. That said, exercise care with this cut. Keep watching the clock!

Hangar steaks love a good marinade, but much like their salt-retaining neighbor (sorry skirt steak, but I tell it how it is), go easy on the sodium. Despite that disclaimer, the hangar can stand up to wonderfully bold flavors and also benefits from a marinade’s tenderizing effect. The classic French way is to prepare the hangar steak with a red wine and shallot sauce….truly divine. But the marinade – oh, the joys of a marinade – are the rewards of putting in a minimal amount of work earlier in the day when time allows, only to walk in the door at the end of the day and do virtually nothing but a quick grill or broil to yield extraordinary delights. Now here’s where last week’s post on “building block” recipes really comes in handy: with your steak in hand (actually in the fridge, please), here’s your no-time-like-the-present opportunity to whip up a batch of your own homemade teriyaki or chimichurri for a marinade, whose leftovers will hopefully double as a special dip or condiment for that or another dish. Pretty smart, huh?

Hangar Steak with Chimichurri

Argentina’s answer to ketchup, the vinegary herb mélange known as Chimichurri is a must for grilled meats. But it’s also a fantastic marinade – after a few hours marinating in Chimichurri, hangar steak is moist and flavorful, especially on the grill. Serve steak alongside a refreshing Herbed Tomato Salad (recipe below) plus extra Chimichurri for dipping.

Yield: 4 servings

2 cups packed flat-leaf parsley leaves (about 1 large bunch)
¼ cup fresh oregano leaves
Pinch of kosher salt
6 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tsp. hot red pepper sauce (or 1 seeded jalapeno pepper if you like it spicy)
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice (or juice of 1 lemon)
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 Hangar steaks, about ½” thick

Place parsley, oregano, salt, garlic, hot pepper sauce, vinegar and lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the chopping blade (“s” blade). Pulse until pulverized. While motor is running, slowly add olive oil until mixture is uniform and well blended. Season to taste with salt or pepper.

Transfer mixture to a large container or baking dish, reserving ½ cup Chimichurri for serving time. Place steaks in dish, turning to coat with Chimichurri. Cover and marinate for at least 3 hours or overnight. Preheat broiler or grill. Remove steaks from marinate (and discard marinade). Broil (place 5 inches below heat source) or grill steaks on high heat for 3-4 minutes per side, turning once during cooking. Allow steaks to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving. Serve with reserved Chimichurri for dipping and Herbed Tomato Salad (recipe below).

Herbed Tomato Salad

3 medium vine-ripe tomatoes, diced
½ red onion, minced
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 tbsp. minced parsley
1 tbsp. minced fresh oregano
3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, mixing to blend. Adjust seasonings, adding more salt or pepper to taste.
 

By Naomi Ross

 

 

 

 

 

Developing Your Inner Chef!

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

Ever stand in your kitchen when you think no one is looking and try to flip an omelet in the air or perhaps a real sauté (without the use of a spatula!)? “Look ma, no hands!” you think. “I’m just like the chefs on TV,” you think… until, of course, the omelet lands on the floor. In the real world of cooking, many factors separate you, the home cook, from the expert restaurant chef: a culinary education, hours and hours of commercial kitchen experience and a seasoned palate. Notwithstanding these differences, there are several lessons you can learn from a trained chef’s approach to cooking that can be utilized in the home kitchen.

When a plate reaches your table in a restaurant, part of the beauty of the experience (and the reason you’re willing to pay top dollar!) is that you didn’t have to prepare it yourself or even think of all the work it took to create such a dish. But if a patron ever caught a glimpse into the inner workings of a restaurant kitchen, one thing that would become evident is the large scale use of what I like to call “building block” recipes. Used to create scrumptious, memorable dishes, “building block” recipes are those things that aren’t eaten by themselves, but rather are the components used to prepare other dishes. Flavorful chicken stocks provide the basis for exceptional sauces; flavor-infused oils add a burst of spice. Homemade salsas, condiments and purees are used to build different dimensions of flavors in a dish, layer upon layer.

I don’t know about you, but last I checked, I didn’t have a staff in my home kitchen to prepare homemade BBQ sauce and the like just to have at my ready….the average home cook simply doesn’t have time to prepare a constant supply of these secondary recipes to the same degree as in a professional kitchen. Here and there though, building block recipes can be prepared on a smaller scale at home, many of which have a good shelf life or will last for quite a while in the refrigerator. Original spice mixes will last for months in the cupboard; stocks can be frozen in small portions and defrosted quickly for a special sauce. A homemade pesto will last for several weeks in the fridge and is a handy “secret weapon” to spruce up any sandwich or wrap, toss with pastas, or to flavor salad dressings (you can even freeze them in ice cube portions). With most building block recipes, a little goes a long way and will yield greater returns than just for one meal. Pick and choose which items are your own personal homemade favorites to have on hand, substituting others with store-bought versions. Consider that extra time spent a small, yet worthwhile investment toward raising the bar for the distinct quality of food that comes out of your very own kitchen.

This week’s recipe incorporates one of my favorite building block recipes to have on hand – a wickedly good roasted garlic dip, perfect for spreading on crusty bread or as a flavor booster like in the recipe below.

Roasted Garlic Zaatar ChickenRoasted Garlic Zaatar Chicken

A wicked, roasted garlic spread smeared under the skin is the secret to creating this moist, flavorful entrée. The spread can be prepared ahead. Use any leftover spread independently as a terrific accoutrement on breads or toasts.

Yield: 4-6 servings

6 heads garlic
4 tbsp. olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling
1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
1½ tsp. Zaatar spice, plus more for sprinkling
Freshly ground black pepper
8 chicken thighs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Working with each garlic head, peel away the excess “paper,” being careful to keep the garlic heads intact. You should now have very lean looking garlic heads. Cut approximately 1/8”-1/4” off the top of each individual clove on the garlic head. Place the garlic heads on a large piece of tin foil or in a garlic roaster. Drizzle 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil liberally over top of the cut garlic heads. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon kosher salt over the heads. Wrap with foil to cover (or cover garlic roaster). Bake for 1 hour or until garlic is soft when pierced with the tip of a knife. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Working over a bowl, carefully squeeze each garlic clove out of its peel into the bowl – gloves are a plus for this messy job! Transfer squeezed garlic to the bowl of a food processor fitted with an “S” blade. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and Zaatar spice. Process until mixture is smooth, adding more oil to taste. Season to taste with salt and pepper, or more Zaatar if desired. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

Raise oven temperature to 425 degrees.

Rinse chicken and pat dry. Gently run your fingers underneath the skin, creating a pocket of space. Spoon 1-2 teaspoons garlic spread under the skin and distribute with a knife (alternatively, press skin down over spread and smooth out to distribute with fingers). Repeat with remaining chicken thighs and transfer them to a roasting pan.

Rub the outside of the skin of the chicken with a drizzle of olive oil. Generously sprinkle thighs with Zaatar spice, freshly ground black pepper, and a pinch of kosher salt. Roast uncovered for 1 hour, until skin is nicely browned and crisp.

 

By Naomi Ross

 

 

 

 

 

New Year News

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

Did you ever have an epiphany in the kitchen? A sudden moment of questioning everything you always thought you knew about how to prepare a certain dish or ingredient? The proverbial light bulb went off in my head this past week and of course, I welcome you to come along for the ride!

A few weeks back I blogged about the difficulty in understanding certain kosher cuts and where they come from – in that case, specifically, the deckle (click here to read post). Deckle is only one of a bunch of “cheap cuts” that most people group together and relegate to “pot roasting”. Another such cut is the somewhat mysterious kolichel. Go ask around – ask your mother, your grandmother. They’ll tell you kolichel is for pot roasting, for cholent, for any dish that will cook a tough cut long enough until it’s good and tender. Even I’ve written that….until now.

The kolichel is from the clavicle-shoulder area of animal…a highly exercised piece of flesh. Unlike a rib eye or chuck roast, it contains little to no marbling of fat and no sinews or connective tissue within the cut (as you would find in a minute roast)…in other words, an incredibly lean piece of meat. So there I was at my counter, cutting up a kolichel for what I believed would be a long, tenderizing cook. All of a sudden, I got to thinking: if the process of braising breaks down fat and connective tissue in a fatty tough cut, then what’s going to happen if there is isn’t any to break down? Is this actually the right cooking method for a lean cut, albeit a tough one? I started hearing a voice in my head saying “This is wrong. This is all wrong.” Sure enough, eating my stew that night was like chewing leather. There was no fat to keep the meat moist. That was my proof. It was time to go in a different direction, parting ways with generations of bubbies.

As if I were a student in one of my own classes, I heard my own voice questioning: How do we keep a lean cut tender? How do we treat other lean meats? Then the idea came to me: go thin and go fast (a throwback to our discussion on Scallopine from a few months ago). Thinly slicing and pounding to tenderize, followed by a lightning fast cook could yield the same tender results, couldn’t it? In fact, YES! The results were a tender, flavorful, and economical use of this much misunderstood cut…and a good lesson to be bold and try new things in the coming year!

As a side note, this blog has been nominated for “Best Kosher Food Blog” on joyofkosher.com. If you like what you read here, please show your support and go vote. Thanks!

Tender Beef Marsala

Thin slices are crucial for this dish’s best results. See “Cook’s Tip” below for no-fail slicing techniques.

Serves 4-6

1 kolichel (about 1½ lbs.), thinly sliced crosswise no more than ¼-inch-thick
Kosher Salt, to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
6 tbsp. olive oil, divided
¼ cup flour
2 large garlic cloves, minced
¾ cup Marsala wine
1/3 cup beef or chicken stock
½ tsp. oregano
1½ tsp. whole grain mustard
¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Cook’s Tip: For easy, thin slicing, freeze meat for 1-2 hours prior to slicing (meat will be half-frozen). Use a very sharp carving knife to slice crosswise.

Lay slices of meat out in a single layer on a large cutting board in between two pieces of plastic wrap. Using a mallet or rolling pin, pound slices to an even 1/8-inch thickness. Season slices with salt and pepper.

Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Dredge each slice in flour, shaking off excess, and place in pan. Brown on each side, turning once, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to a plate and repeat in batches with remaining meat, adding additional olive oil to the pan if needed.

Reduce to medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to pan, and add garlic. Sauté until golden, about 1-2 minutes. Add Marsala, stock and oregano, stirring and scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a simmer and continue to cook until mixture is reduced by a third, about 4-5 minutes. Whisk in mustard, stirring until well blended. Return beef to the pan, turning to coat with the sauce. Cook for another 1-2 minutes until beef is just heated through. Transfer to a serving platter, sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.

One-Bowl-Wonders!

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

The click-click-click of my radiator plays its little tune and I hear the sweet, raspy sound of heat coming up on a cool autumn night. The days are getting shorter, and as the leaves slowly descend, so does the realization that whether I like it or not, the cold is coming. And so I go through the list in my head: Winter coats: check. Snow boots: check. Rock salt: check. Really yummy weeknight suppers that will warm and nourish my family: come again?

Now is the time to start thinking and planning for the many cool nights ahead. And why not outfit yourself with a new recipe “wardrobe” for the coming season?! Winter soups and stews are a great place to start. Think “heartiness factor” – by this I mean identifying those essential ingredients which are helpful in making a dish “hearty.” Legumes such as chick peas, beans or lentils add protein and substance to any soup or stew and are a great pantry item to keep on hand. Grains and pastas are filling and add tremendous body either in your soup or as bed upon which to put your stew. I like to keep my pantry stocked with these items the whole year, but especially when the weather gets colder. Meats, whether chunks of beef stew meat or even a turkey wing, are definitely hearty, and although I prefer to purchase meat fresh, it’s never a bad idea to keep a package or two in your freezer for a bad weather day.

I’m a big fan of soups – especially ones that can be a meal unto themselves. This year, I started my own search in my recipe box. Much like shopping in your own closet, I’m often pleasantly surprised at what I might find: in this case, an old tattered paper, folded in four, with the scribbling of my husband’s old roommate. I am suddenly transported back to their apartment years before, and to the day he showed us how to make his mother’s Niku Udon, Japanese Beef Noodle soup, the way he ate it growing up in Japan. BINGO. Thick Japanese Udon noodles, meaty strips of beef and a flavorful broth make this an especially earthy and satisfying soup… a recipe to kick off the cool weather season.

Here is an adapted version of that recipe. You can use any fatty, marbled cut of meat (like rib); however, I prefer skirt steak. Skirt steak is from the diaphragm. It has excellent flavor and texture, but can be salty. For this reason, it is recommended to either rinse or soak the meat prior to use, then pat it dry.

Easy Beef Udon Noodle Soup

Udon noodles are thick Japanese wheat noodles that can be found fresh in the produce section (Nasoya brand) or in the Asian section of the supermarket (such as Eden brand).

Serves 4.

1 (8.8 oz.) package Udon noodles
3 cups water
1½ cups Sake (Japanese rice wine)
2 tsp. sugar
Pinch of salt
3 cups thinly sliced onion (2 medium onions)
1 lb. skirt steak, very thinly sliced crosswise into 2” long strips
4-5 scallions, cut into spears
3-4 tbsp. soy sauce (Kikkoman or Yamasa)
Freshly ground black pepper

Prepare Udon noodles according to package instructions. Rinse, drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, combine water, sake, sugar and salt together in a medium pot (4-quart). Place over medium heat and bring to a boil. Add onions and simmer together until the onions are soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add meat and scallions and simmer until just cooked through, about 2-3 minutes (do not overcook meat or it will become tough). Add 3 tablespoons soy sauce; stir to blend. Season to taste with more soy sauce, if needed, and black pepper.

Place Udon noodles in each individual serving bowl and generously ladle hot soup over noodles to cover. Serve and enjoy!

 

By Naomi Ross

 

 

 

 

 

The Meal Before…

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

The ”High Holy Days,” as Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur have come to be known, are referred to in Hebrew as the “Yomin Noraim” – Days of Awe. I like the word “awe.” Encapsulated in three short letters are all the reverence, astonishment, solemnity and grandeur that is associated with standing in judgment before the Creator. Feeling true “awe” is not unlike a moment-of-truth, an epiphany, an “ah-ha” experience…the catharsis of realizing who you really are and how you fit into the greater scheme of things. As such, we each experience due apprehension as Yom Kippur approaches, knowing we have much to answer for both individually and collectively as a People.

Strangely, despite obvious trepidation, the meal preceding the holiest fast of the year is considered to be a festive, joyous meal. Just as it wouldn’t occur to me to have a lavish banquet prior to a court sentencing, the seudat ha-mafseket (last meal before fasting) seems a bit counter-intuitive, no? But here’s where practical meets spiritual: the practical need to satiate and strengthen ourselves before a day of fasting and prayer is met with the spiritual joy and gladness derived from a chance at forgiveness, of starting anew with a clean slate. That hope, that opportunity is enough to infuse a festive spirit into an otherwise serious time.

And so we prepare our menus just the same way. Practically, we minimize the spiciness, reduce the saltiness and prepare foods that are filling, yet easily digested. Spiritually, we set the table with our finest and create an atmosphere of holiday. Were I born of Hungarian roots, I’d imagine myself walking into my would-be Hungarian bubbie’s kitchen, only to be met with a homey dish of Chicken Paprikash before the fast. It just seems like the right thing to have. Also mashed potatoes (I’m all about mashed potatoes before a fast): comforting, nourishing, and fit for a feast. In that alternate Jewish-Hungarian universe, here’s how she’d prepare it…

Chicken Paprikash

Traditionally this dish is made with sweet Hungarian paprika (or sometimes a mix of sweet and hot paprika). Using smoked paprika adds a smoky element of flavor – be sure to look for the highest quality paprika you can find.

8 chicken leg quarters
1½ tsp. Kosher salt, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 large or 3 medium onions, sliced (about 4 cups)
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 tbsp. smoked paprika
1 tbsp. flour
½ cup white wine

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Season chicken with ¾ tsp. salt and a good sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper. Heat oil in a Dutch Oven or large oven-proof pot over medium-high heat. Brown chicken quarters, about 2-3 minutes per side, turning once. Transfer chicken to a plate and set aside.

Add onions, garlic, and bell pepper to the pot. Sauté until onions are translucent and softened, about 6-8 minutes. Season with remaining salt, more black pepper and paprika. Stir to blend and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Sprinkle in flour. Stir and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Add wine and stir to blend. Return chicken to the pot. Spoon liquid over chicken quarters, cover and transfer to preheated oven.

Bake covered, for 1¼ -1½ hours. Serve hot over egg noodles or mashed potatoes.

 

By Naomi Ross

 

 

 

 

 

High Holy Cooking

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

Back to school, back to work, and back to all things routine: that’s how September goes, as we return from leisurely summer days to the pace and rhythm of ho-hum everyday life. That is…until the holidays come just a few weeks later. Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year that kicks off the “holiday season” in the Jewish month of Tishrei. And since repentance, prayer and Divine judgment can really work up an appetite for you and those you love, there’s a whole bunch of festive meals to prepare for this month as well.

Much like an accountant during tax season, I often think of September as “crunch time” – time to regroup from summer, reorganize for the coming year and to physically and spiritually prepare for the upcoming holidays. I make a lot of lists. My messy and tattered lists then give birth to new lists. I may not always know weeks in advance what I’ll be serving for holiday meals (c’mon, I’m not that organized!), but since it’s generally a given that food will be served, it’s a safe bet to pull out those “4F” recipes: family-favorite freezer-friendly. These are the ones worn and stained from years of use, and like an old friend you can rely on, quite a good place to get an early start to holiday cooking. These are often, but not always, cooking-for-a-crowd recipes – dishes which have a large yield or which can easily be doubled or tripled (and if you find yours are, then BONUS!).

MORE FREEZER TIPS FOR THE OVERLY AMBITIOUS BALLUSBUSTA

Moderate batches. When cooking in advance, even if cooking for a crowd, I recommend freezing in moderate portions; you can always defrost 2 small pans of noodle kugel if expecting more guests, but you don’t want to defrost a large tray when only half was really needed. Practically speaking, this is also a much smarter move time-wise as it takes longer to both freeze and defrost larger items.

Know thy freezer. Meaning, know what freezes well and what doesn’t.

            Thou shalt freeze: meats, soups, kugels, cakes and cookies.

            Thou shalt not freeze: vegetable dishes, salads, soft cheeses, fruit pies

The right gear. Make sure you have freezer zip-top bags, freezer-friendly containers (especially if using glass), plastic wrap and foil.

Label, label, label. Writing the date the dish was made is also helpful.

The less air, the better. Squeeze out excess air when freezing in bags – it can cause freezer-burn and takes up more space. Containers should be frozen mostly full. However, some headspace is needed for freezing liquids as they expand when frozen.

Don’t freeze hot food. Allow hot food to cool before freezing (hot food will raise the temperature of the freezer, possibly spoiling all the other food in it). If not completely cool, allow plenty of space around the container when initially frozen so cold air can circulate around it – it will freeze faster and thus taste fresher when used.

Cooking ahead is essential when strapped for time, but also an invaluable way of staying stress-free when entertaining. More than this, before Holiday time, consider advanced preparations an investment into your holiday experience, one which will allow for more time focused on the holiday itself. So as I freeze and label this week, I’ll be reminding myself that on Rosh Hashanah we’ll be crowning G-d as the King of world…and not me queen of the kitchen!

Here is a “4F” (and child-friendly!) recipe for Sweet and Sour meatballs – perfect as a light entrée or as mini-meatballs for an appetizer served over rice.

Mom’s Sweet & Sour Meatballs

These can be easily doubled to serve a crowd.
Serves 6-8

3 pounds ground beef (neck)
3 eggs, beaten
¾ tsp. onion powder
¾ tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. black pepper
¼ tsp. kosher salt
1/3 cup matzo meal or bread crumbs
1 (16-oz.) can whole cranberry sauce
1 (15-oz.) can tomato sauce
½ cup (4 oz.) chili sauce

Combine beef, eggs, spices and matzo meal together in a large bowl, mixing until well blended.
Using wet hands, break off small amounts (about 1-2 tablespoons each) and roll into meatballs. Repeat with remaining beef mixture. Set aside.
Combine cranberry, tomato and chili sauces in a large heavy pot. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring to blend. When sauce begins to boil, carefully drop in meatballs. Return to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer covered for 1-1½ hours. Skim fat from surface, if necessary (if making in advance, this is easily done after refrigerated or frozen as the fat will congeal). Serve hot over rice or couscous.

 

By Naomi Ross

 

 

 

 

 

American Grill

Monday, June 27th, 2011

I don’t know how it came to be that our country’s independence became synonymous with mass consumption of grilled meat, but somehow, throwing steaks and burgers on the grill has come to represent freedom and independence here in America (not so for the cows…just saying.).  Not that I’m complaining – any excuse for a BBQ is a good excuse as far as I’m concerned, and here is your chance to master all of the grilling tips you’ve been reading about on the blog for the past few weeks.  For good measure, I’ll throw in a few more important rules to grill by.
It can be very tricky to get a feel for “doneness,” to know how long is long enough, and how long is too long.  Raw chicken is a no-no, and dried-out steak is a waste of money and a chore to chew.  So in honor of the “stars and stripes,” let’s grill and eat well this 4th.  Here are the do’s and don’ts:

  • Do poke your meat (not with something sharp) – a well-trained finger will be able to feel doneness by touch.  Rare is soft and squishy, medium has a spring, and well done is taut and firm.
  • Do Not cut into the meat on the grill to check for doneness – all the juices will pour out.  If you must cut, remove from the grill and allow it to rest for a few minutes (you can always put it back on if necessary).
  • Do consider purchasing an instant read meat thermometer – it will take the guesswork out of grilling.
  • Do Not constantly move the food around on the grill.  Give it a chance to sear and build itself a good crust – this will also minimize sticking to the grates.
  • Do time your grilling – it will give you more awareness of how long you’ve had something on the fire and also more of a feel for the next time you grill.
  • Do allow for a resting period immediately following grilling (prior to slicing).  This will allow the juices to settle back into the meat and stay juicy.  (Resting is not needed for fish).

As much as I enjoy grilling, I like to enjoy my company more, so I don’t want to stand at a hot grill for hours.  I try to make smart choices when entertaining a crowd: either items that are fast on the grill, several of which can be made at once (e.g. burgers and dogs) or a larger item that can be sliced and serve a crowd (see the recipe below for London broil).  And don’t forget to factor in “bone time” – meaning, anything bone-in will take much longer than boneless.

With your tongs in hand and “kiss the cook” apron happily splattered, you’ll grill to the sound of fireworks in the background and a meal that will make your country proud.

Best wishes for a happy 4th,

Naomi Ross and the Park East Kosher Family

Orange-Soy Marinated London Broil

A London broil is a common term for a thick cut of meat that is generally broiled or grilled like a steak, but then thinly sliced across the grain.  Here, a shoulder London broil is tenderized by way of a flavorful Asian-inspired marinade – perfect for a BBQ!

Orange-Soy Marinade

  • ½ cup tamari soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. grated orange peel
  • Juice of 1 large orange (about 1/3 cup)
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
  • 3 tbsp. honey
  • 1½ tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp. wasabi powder (Japanese horseradish root)
  • 1 tbsp. minced fresh ginger
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1-2 lb. shoulder London broil*, about 1½” thick
  • Oil for greasing

Combine all marinade ingredients a large mixing bowl.  Whisk to blend.  Place London broil in the marinade and turn to coat.  Cover and refrigerate, marinating for at least an hour and up to 6 hours. (Allow London broil to come to room temperature prior to grilling –take out of the refrigerator about 20-30 minutes before).

Preheat grill to high heat (about 450 degrees).  Carefully oil the grates of the grill (a wad of oil-soaked paper towels and tongs do a good job of this).  Remove meat from marinade (discarding marinade**) and place on the grill over high heat.  Close cover, and grill for about 8 minutes per side, turning once during grilling for medium-rare, about 125 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, or longer for medium-well done (thicker cuts will also require more time).   Transfer to a cutting board and allow meat to rest for 10 minutes.  Using a sharp, non-serrated carving knife, slice thinly across the grain and serve.

*Park East Kosher is now carrying Kobe-Wagyu beef, prized for well-marbled texture and superior flavor.  Be sure to inquire about a Kobe-Wagyu London broil when placing your order.

**Steak Salad Option: Marinade can be reserved for a salad dressing: simply bring marinade to a boil for 5 minutes in a small saucepan (to kill any bacteria).  Remove from heat and cool.  Slowly pour ¼ cup of olive oil into marinade, whisking constantly until emulsified.  Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Place thin slices of warm grilled London broil over a bed of mixed greens.  Garnish with thin slices of cucumber and radishes.  Drizzle dressing over salad.

 

By Naomi Ross

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Grill It Healthy!

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

When most of us hear “outdoor grilling,” we think of Sunday BBQs, Memorial Day, Father’s Day or July 4th: the highlights of summer entertaining.  Let us not underestimate, though, the greatness of the weeknight grill.  And while we usually associate grilling with fattening foods, let us now embrace some of the healthier options before us.  Besides the obvious benefits of grilling, namely a no-mess clean up (I loathe cleaning up), a quick prep (can you say “15-minute meal”?), and being able to make a sandwich that can be called “dinner,” grilling foods naturally low in fat and cholesterol – such as poultry, fish and vegetables – is one of the most effective ways to bring out flavor while infusing your food with a delicious smokiness and character.

I try to keep it simple when I grill.  Foods with a higher fat content (like a rib steak) generally require little more than a seasoning of salt and pepper to yield extraordinary results, as the fat keeps the food moist and juicy, even under extreme heat.  However, for foods lower in fat or more delicate in nature, a little more care and consideration often has to be given.  There’s a fine line between a juicy burger and a dried out hockey puck.  The trick is staying on the right side of that line!  That’s said, here are a few tips dedicated to healthy grilling:

  • Know when to add fat. (Yes, you read that right).  A little fat goes a long way in terms of flavor and moisture (and practically speaking, to prevent sticking to the grill!).  Don’t worry, we’re not talking about serious calories here.
    • Brush it! Get yourself a paint or pastry brush that can be used to brush on a thin layer of olive oil to low or non-fat items that would likely get dried out (for example: vegetables, skinless chicken breast, etc.).
    • Add it! Ground poultry is very low in fat and can get dried out quickly.  As in the recipe given below, sometimes adding a small amount of fat to the ground mixture (like the aioli below) can ensure the success of the taste and texture of a dish.
  • Know when to add flavor. Let’s face it: fat tastes good.  So when the fat is missing, how do we maximize the flavor?  Spice rubs and marinades can transform food, especially for foods which can be mild in taste, such as fish and poultry.
  • Know when to protect. Open-fire cooking exposes food to intense heat.  Delicate foods like fish benefit from the smoky flavor of the grill, though often also need protection from the heat. 
    • This is where the tradition of grilling a whole fish wrapped in banana leaves comes from.  More commonly, grilling on cedar planks (that have been soaked in water) can impart wonderful flavor without scorching the fish.
    • Indirect grilling can also be helpful here. This is where you grill not directly over fire, but rather on the opposite side of the grill, a gentler method.
  • Know when to take it off. We all suffer from the nervousness of “what if it’s not done?”  Unfortunately, all too often, erring on the side of caution results in over-cooked food.  The more you grill, the more of a feel you’ll get for the timing and texture of cooked meats.  Don’t forget, you can always put it back, but you can never undo over-cooking.

With these tips in mind, I developed the following recipe: a low-fat turkey burger boosted with the zing of sundried tomatoes and aroma of rosemary.  Not sure what to make for dinner tomorrow night?  Read on…

Sundried Tomato Turkey Burgers with Rosemary Aioli

Aioli is a garlicky mayonnaise from the Provence region of southern France.  Here, a Rosemary Aioli has a dual purpose: dressing the bun as an accompaniment, while also lending the turkey meat extra moistness and flavor.

Makes 8 burgers.

 

    • 2 tbsp. olive oil, plus more for greasing grates
    • 1 shallot, diced (about 1/3 cup)
    • ¼ cup sundried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and chopped
    • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
    • 1½-1¾ lbs. ground turkey (white meat)
    • 1½ tbsp. Rosemary Aioli (see recipe below)
    • Hamburger Buns or Multigrain Rolls, sliced in half
    • Baby Arugula

      Heat oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat.  Add shallot and sauté for about 2-3 minutes, until translucent.  Add sundried tomatoes and season with salt and pepper to taste; continue to sauté for another 1-2 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

      In a large mixing bowl, combine turkey, shallot-tomato mixture, and 1½ tbsp. Rosemary Aioli.  Mix until just combined.  Using moistened hands, gently form into 8 patties.

      Preheat grill to high (about 450 degrees).  Grease grates of grill (an oil-soaked wad of paper towels and tongs do a good job of this).  Place burger patties on grill.  Close cover and grill for about 4 minutes per side, turning once during grilling.  Toast bun halves on the grill for 1-2 minutes, until golden brown and grill marks appear.  Remove and transfer to a platter.

      Assembly: Spread bun halves with a small dollop of Rosemary Aioli (see recipe below), then top each with a burger, and a handful of arugula.  Cover with bun top and serve.

      Rosemary Aioli

        • ½ cup mayonnaise
        • Juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tbsp.)
        • ¼ tsp. salt
        • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed (about 2 tsp.)
        • 1 tsp. dried rosemary, crumbled or 1 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
        • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

           

          Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to blend.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

           

          DO AHEAD: Can be made a day ahead and stored in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator.

           

          By Naomi Ross

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          The Dairy Catharsis

          Sunday, June 5th, 2011

          Since Passover, Jews have been counting upwards.   I am referring, of course, to sefirat ha-omer – the counting of the 49 days from Passover up to the holiday Shavuot.  While some might argue that we are counting up to cheesecake and blintzes on what is Judaism’s only dairy holiday, in fact we are anticipating the giving of the Torah.  We mark the holiday with several customs – many learn Torah the entire (first) night, we eat dairy foods commemorating our readiness in the desert to accept the new laws of kashrut (we had no kosher pots at Mount Sinai!), and many adorn the house with fresh flowers and plants representing the blooming springtime mountain that was Mount Sinai.

           

          Although the essence of Shavuot is all about Torah – accepting, learning and keeping the Torah – I would be lying if I didn’t admit that, like many, I get a little caught up in what I’ve often referred to as “the dairy catharsis”.   After a year of serving meat dishes at most formal meals, it’s easy to get carried away.  (What, like making 8 desserts is too much?  You think?)  If I may offer a deeper insight into this custom (and validate my dairy obsession!), consider this idea:  Torah is considered the spiritual food that nourishes our souls.  In other Biblical sources, Torah is compared to milk.  When a child is born, its sole source of nourishment is milk.  Just as a mother displays enormous love and nurturing by nursing her baby, without which he could not survive, so too G-d’s giving of His Torah was an act of complete love and nurturing.   Eating dairy foods on Shavuot is a reminder of this kindness, a symbolic way of recognizing this Gift.  So you see…it’s a mitzvah to eat cheesecake!

           

          With so many rich options, it is often challenging to find balance and to not get caught in the common pitfalls of good dairy menu planning.  The result may be a menu filled with overly cheesy, overly heavy dishes that leave the palate little desire for anything, let alone the hyped cheesecake.  What could be the most enjoyable holiday meals of the year often leave many lethargic and slightly nauseas.  What a shame!  Strike balance with your Shavuot menu; for every heavily creamy or cheesy dish, serve at least one that is not.  Also, go heavy on the salads.  By taking advantage of the fresh produce that springtime has to offer, you will round out and lighten up your menu.

           

          Classic through and through, Poached Salmon is an elegant yet simple entrée choice.  It will also leave you time to prepare the more fattening stuff!  Serve with a green, leafy salad and pair with a glass of Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio.

           

           

          Poached Salmon with Cucumber-Dill Sauce

          A classic appetizer or light entrée, the secret to perfect poached salmon is choosing high-quality fresh fish and not overcooking it…always safer to check sooner than later for doneness!

          Serves 4 for entrée, 8 for appetizer.

          • 1½ lbs. salmon fillet
          • A handful of parsley sprigs
          • A handful of dill sprigs
          • 1 lemon, quartered
          • 1 onion, quartered
          • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
          • 1 bay leaf
          • 6 black peppercorns
          • Kosher salt to taste
          • 2 cups water
          • 2 cups white wine

           

          Place the fish, skin side down in a large, deep skillet.  Add all ingredients, adding more water and wine if necessary to cover fish (it should be immersed in liquid).   Place skillet on stove and bring to a simmer.  Cover and reduce heat to low, simmering fish for about 10-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.  Salmon is done when it flakes easily. Carefully remove the fish with a slotted spatula.  Discard skin and poaching liquid.   Chill until serving time.  Serve with Cucumber-Dill Sauce (recipe below) and garnish with lemon.

          Cucumber-Dill Sauce

          • 1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
          • 2/3 cup sour cream or mayonnaise
          • 3-4 tbsp. chopped fresh dill (or 3-4 tsp. dried dill)
          • 2-3 tbsp. minced onion
          • Juice from ½ lemon (about 1 tbsp.), or more to taste
          • 4-6 tablespoons milk or water
          • Kosher salt to taste
          • Freshly ground black pepper

          Mix all ingredients except milk/water together in a small bowl. Add water/milk gradually to thin until consistency resembles a sauce.  Season to taste with salt, pepper and more lemon juice if needed. Cover and refrigerate.

          (Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep refrigerated.)

          Yield: about 1 1/2 cups.

           

           

          By Naomi Ross

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