With warm weather here to stay, I find myself cooking less and less hearty bubbe food to make way for summer delights. While in past years, the seasonal absence of heavy dishes has been filled by popsicles and ice cream, this year I am most looking forward to tending my very first garden for the freshest of fruits and veggies. (Is this what growing up is? Craving a vegetable instead of ice cream?)
Since having some of the best produce of my life in Israel last summer, I have looked towards that part of the world for inspiration when it comes to fixing fresh vegetables. Compared to what Middle Eastern spices and flavors can do to vegetables, the American ways of jazzing up salads with ranch dressing and mayonnaise are just baffling.
One dish that I cannot wait to make once my garden is fully grown is Fattoush salad. It has roots just north of Israel, in Lebanon, and the star of the dish is stale bread (usually pita). Variations run the gamut from “Jerusalem’s” creamy buttermilk version to a gluten free take that features a chickpea pancake. Sumac, mint leaves, lemon, and chopped vegetables are usual suspects in a Fattoush, and the result is utterly refreshing with a hint of comfort, thanks to the bread.
This version uses the addition of hard boiled eggs to make for a complete meal. Lightly frying the pita crisps it up a bit while leaving it slightly chewy, and a smidge of honey in the dressing gives balance to the lemon. Feel free to add any other goodies that your garden yields and have fun ringing in summer with this delicious, colorful salad.
My love for most traditional carb-loaded Jewish foods began at first bite. Challah, matzo balls, kugel, they’ve all always topped my list for ultimate comfort and I don’t discriminate if they’re store-bought or freshly made from scratch. This has sadly not been the case with cheese blintzes. Until I started making them at home, I really didn’t even understand what all the hype was about.
Growing up, I had only ever had these little guys at brunch buffets, where chances are they were frozen at some point and possibly spent too much time in a warming tray. These are not the right ways to treat a dish that should have a golden brown crispy exterior, inner folds of soft fluffy pancake, and a sweet melty cheese filling. But I’ve learned, there are few things better than a fresh blintz straight out of the pan that hasn’t had the chance to even think about getting soggy.
These unleavened crepe-like pancakes have roots in Eastern Europe. Their relatives include blini, Russian leavened pancakes, and blinchiki, Russian unleavened pancakes which, in similar fashion to blintzes, are often filled with meat, potatoes or cheese. The cheese variety is particularly popular around this time of year because of the dairy meals that we eat in celebration of Shavuot.
The following recipe is for a blintz that’s elevated to a new level by way of rosemary and rhubarb. Rhubarb is at the height of its season right now and has a fresh tartness that blends perfectly with sweet strawberries. The rosemary is subtly infused into the milk which is used in the crepe batter, and its fragrant qualities go beautifully with the fruity sauce. The filling is made of airy ricotta and a bit of tangy creamy cheese, and it’s sweetened with honey.
Now not to take away from the family time or meaning behind the holiday that we’re celebrating, but these elegant blintzes might end up being the life of the party.
There is a sad truth about Passover: Its dessert always falls short. Hanukkah has donuts, Purim has hamantaschen and Rosh Hashanah has honey cake. Poor Passover has no signature sweet.
Perhaps you’ve put in the extra effort to make a kosher for Passover cake for your Seders past, but if you’re like me, you’ve never found one you love enough to sacrifice sweet brisket-braising time to make it each year. But as Julia Child said, “A party without cake is just a meeting.” So, this spring I set out to create a kosher for Passover cake that wouldn’t compromise even a crumb’s worth of quality.
I pulled my copy of Dan Cohen’s cookbook, “The Macaroon Bible,” down from my shelf and got started. Cohen’s recipes call for small batches that produce rich and chewy macaroons that come in flavors like rice pudding and salted caramel. Each recipe highlights the thick coconut shreds and sweet condensed milk that make up its base. His recipes have made macaroons a year-round treat in my home — passing the test of something that’s conveniently kosher for Passover but not designed for it.
This cake batter borrows from Cohen’s recipe and enhances the celebratory qualities of a macaroon. It takes a traditional Passover dessert and morphs it into a beautiful, festive and delicious centerpiece. It’s a Passover cake for all seasons.
Photos by Molly Yeh
I am the child of two very strong pizza traditions. A pizza mutt, if you will. Growing up outside of Chicago, pizza night meant ordering delivery of my beloved deep dish. When I lived in New York, pizza night meant a greasy folded slice at the little old place where the nice owner knew me by name or a Neapolitan pie at any one of New York’s countless exceptional pizzerias. Needless to say, my pizza upbringing spoiled me completely.
Pizza night in my new tiny town is… a sensitive subject.
I have tried to embrace the town pizza parlor, and I’ve even tried to get into the Domino’s culture (if that’s even a thing?), but neither of them cut it for my admittedly snobby pizza tastes and I’ve basically come to terms with the fact that until a friend in Brooklyn sends me a frozen Roberta’s pie, or until I build a pizza oven on the farmstead, my pizza nights will have to take on an entirely new identity.
Which is fine.
I don’t get jealous when all of my New York friends Instagram their amazing chewy doughy pizzas. (Yes I do.)
Photos by Molly Yeh
I love a good fried chicken. I love schnitzel, I love katsu, I love anything fatty and breaded and crispy. If my Valentine presented me with a heart-shaped schnitzel on the 14th, I think I’d propose right then and there.
The problem is, I also love feeling good and fitting into the cute Valentine’s Day outfit that I’ve had picked out for weeks. In other words, I want my Valentine’s Day dinner to be as yummy as a schnitzel but much healthier than one.
Oven frying (baking a breaded cutlet, rather than deep frying it) is an obvious answer but I’ve never been a fan of it. With the fake fried food experience, I feel sad and cheated, and cheated is the last thing anyone wants to feel on Valentine’s Day. So… Za’atar to the rescue! It’s one of my favorite spice blends and I am a firm believer that za’atar, like chocolate, can make anything better.
Let’s also not forget that Valentine’s day falls on Shabbat this year. The amazing earthy flavor of za’atar with the crunchiness of panko on this chicken is a beautiful thing, and it is bound please a crowd for your Friday night dinner or a special date without an overwhelming amount of prep. This dish will leave you feeling great, and you may even gain a whole new respect for oven fried chicken like I did. It’s breaded without being heavy or oily and it’s paired with a sweet balsamic date chutney, to add a little extra sweetness to your night.
Photos by Molly Yeh
May I toot own horn for one tiny second to say that when I make challah, there is never any left the next morning for French toast?
Ok really, the credit should go to my all time favorite recipe. It’s unstoppable. But my point is: how do people let challah go stale in the name of French toast? And is there another way to experience brunch time challah that doesn’t require self-restraint every time you walk into the kitchen and see half a loaf of challah just sitting there, saying “eat me! eat me!”?
The answer is waffles. The quirky brunch middle child that requires its own appliance — an appliance that can also handle a fresh ball of challah dough. Yup. No stale bread needed, and waffles à la challah are so mind blowingly tasty that challah French toast better watch its back.
These waffles take a hint from the Belgian Liège waffle, which is made using yeast-risen dough that’s flecked with large crystals of sugar called pearl sugar. It’s also doughier and chewier than what most Americans think of when they order a Belgian waffle.
Five months ago I moved from downtown Brooklyn to a farm in a small town on the border of North Dakota and Minnesota, population approximately four Jews (read: not enough Jews to support a local deli or even a Zomick’s presence at the town Target). Having lived in or near a city for my entire life, it didn’t occur to me that a town could exist without a pastrami sandwich or a place to get a bagel. But here, there is not a matzo ball in sight.
Celebrating my Jewishness in a sea of Scandinavians (and Midwesterners) has been a wild and rewarding adventure.