Pearl Sofaer (right) works with Frances Kalfus during a Berkeley cooking class. photo/alix wall
At a recent cooking class featuring a few dishes from the family of Bombay-born Pearl Sofaer, the stories threatened to eclipse the food.
“My mother was a secretary of Gandhi,” she said, as a student browned chicken parts on the stovetop. “He gave her a sewing machine. She wanted to take it to the U.S. when we left, but my father wouldn’t let her.”
The class, held at the Berkeley home of Rabbi Yehuda Ferris and his wife, Miriam, was co-sponsored by Chabad of the East Bay and JIMENA (Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa), where Sofaer is on the speakers’ bureau. Sofaer is the author of “Baghdad to Bombay: In the Kitchens of My Cousins.” The 2008 book is very much like the class was, full of stories with some family recipes included. Sofaer learned how to cook from her mother in the United States — because in India they always had a cook.
The author, cantorial soloist, artist, mother and grandmother lives in Greenbrae; she has been in the United States for most of her adult life. While she and her mother were born in Bombay and her father in Rangoon, Burma, all are of Iraqi descent.
“I’m a Mizrachi Jew, who came from between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers,” she said, and then broke into the song about the waters of Babylon.
“When Babylon disintegrated, that’s when they moved to Baghdad, which became a major center. It was where the Hebrew alphabet was first written down, and the sofers (Hebrew for scribes) did that writing. I feel extremely fortunate to be from this heritage because it’s so very rich.”
The food she made was less rich, using no oil at all. While Indian cuisine is heavy on oil and ghee (clarified butter), she said Baghdadi Jews do not cook that way. We made a simple salad of diced tomatoes, dressed only with lemon juice, chopped cilantro and salt and pepper.
Same with a beet salad with caramelized onions; again, it was dressed with lemon juice, a bit of cranberry juice (the addition comes from her cousin in Toronto, not from India), and salt and pepper.
Sofaer was clear that all leaves should be plucked from the cilantro stems. “Never serve your guests cilantro like this,” she said, pointing to the entire stem. “I can’t stand lazy restaurants that do that.”
Before participants plucked, Miriam Ferris put the cilantro through a vigorous wash-and-soak in water and vinegar to make sure it was free of bugs, as kosher law dictates. She then laid it out on a light-box — normally used by photographers — to check it again. It had to go through the rinse process a second time when a bug was found after the first wash.
The main dish was made for the next night’s Iraqi Shabbat dinner. It was an Indian version of hameem (also spelled hamim), a Mizrachi version of cholent, also called t’bith in Arabic.
A whole chicken is rubbed with ground turmeric and cardamom and then browned. Tomatoes that have been parboiled and mashed are added, along with rice. Later, parboiled carrots are added, along with their cooking water, additional water, salt and pepper. The dish is cooked first over a flame and then later in the oven, where it can remain overnight.
Given that Sofaer was born in 1934, there were very few houses in India that had ovens during her childhood. “We had a charcoal brazier, and made hameem the night before,” she said. “We’d cover it with big burlap bags to keep it warm and cook it like that all night, and then eat it when we came home from synagogue for lunch.”
Dana Weiss’s nanny’s version of Gadu Gadu
*Vegetarians can leave out the chicken
3 tablespoons finely chopped onion
I clove of garlic, crushed
2 heaped tablespoons of peanut butter (not sweet)
1 teaspoon cumin
3 teaspoons finely chopped parsley
A few stalks of lemongrass
2 tablespoons soya
½ cup coconut milk
3 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh coriander
3 zucchinis peeled, halved (lengthways) and cut into thin strips
1 cauliflower broken up into florets
1 cabbage cut into thin strips
1 carrot halved (lengthways) and cut into thin strips
3 chicken breasts cut into cubes of approximately 3x3cm
2 tablespoons cornflour
1) To prepare the sauce, place all the ingredients in a pan, except for the coriander, and cook uncovered over a low light for about 30 minutes. Add the fresh coriander and put to one side.
2) In a bamboo steamer, or a pot with straining holes, steam all the vegetables quickly—about 3 minutes, season and place in ice water to stop the cooking process and ensure that the vegetable remain crisp.
3) Heat a wide pan with a little oil and place the cornflour in a flat bowl. When the oil is hot roll the chicken cubes in the cornflour until they are fully covered. Gently shake off any excess flour and fry until browned. Place the cubes on a plate lined with absorbent paper towel.
4) To serve, divide up the vegetables and the chicken onto plates and pour the sauce over them. We recommend serving it with either rice or noodles.
About Dana Weiss: Dana Weiss is the presenter of the weekend news on Channel Two Israel. Previously she was the host of “Meet the Press” on the same channel. She is also a documentary producer, investigative journalist and a lawyer and a guest lecturer at the Sammy Ofer School of Communications at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya.
Recipe and photo: Courtesy of Jerusalem Season of Culture. Photographer: Yael Ilan
1 flat teaspoon of ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon of ground cardamom
1 tablespoon of dried marjoram
½ teaspoon cumin
4 clean boneless chicken thighs
2 carrots peeled and cut into small cubes
2 onions cut into small cubes
2 finely-chopped garlic cloves
1 1/2 cups freekeh (smoked green wheat) or wheat
2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons raisins
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
1 cup water
2 handfuls of freshly chopped parsley
2 handfuls of roasted and chopped pine nuts
Prepare the spice mix
1) To make the freekeh, heat a pan with a little oil. When the oil is hot add the onion cubes and carrot and fry until the onion is translucent—about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and fry for another minute.
2) Add the freekeh and mix well making sure that all of the grain is covered with oil. Add the raisins and about 2/3 of the spice mixture and mix again.
3) Pour in the water and ¾ of the stock. Bring to the boil, cover the pan and cook on a low light for about 30 minutes. Stir intermittently and if needed, adjust the seasoning.
4) To make the chicken, place the chicken in a bowl and rub the seasoning, salt, pepper and the remaining spice mix, into the chicken.
5) Heat a heavy pot on a high light. Pour in a little olive oil and fry the chicken, a few minutes on each side. Add the remaining chicken stock and cook until the liquid is reduced and absorbed into the chicken.
6) Pour the freekeh onto plates, place the chicken on top and garnish with chopped parsley and roasted pine nuts.
About Chef Kamal Hashelmon: Formerly the Head Chef for the St. George Landmark Hotel’s Turquoise Restaurant in East Jerusalem, Hashelmon is a Palestinian chef who specializes in Lebanese cuisine with a twist. His culinary training spanned the Middle East where he studied and worked in a number of different countries including, Beirut, Amman and Cairo, and a four-year term in one of Israel’s top restaurants, “Mul-Yam.”
Recipe and photo: Courtesy of Jerusalem Season of Culture. Photographer: Yael Ilan
In college, Mondays meant falafel. It started when Soom Soom, an amazing Kosher eatery on 72nd St., had falafel happy hour. Two sandwiches for the price of one. My fellow students and I would pair up and walk over for dinner. We’d cram into the tiny joint, bask in half-price falafel yumminess, and enjoy the break from school.
When I graduated and moved out to Brooklyn, I lived within a mile of enough falafel places to keep me on my toes for months: an Israeli bar and restaurant, a gourmet falafel place with delicious doughy pita, and a bright green falafel truck parked right in front of my brownstone whose smells seeped into my living room (in the best way possible), to name a few. I loved them all and always looked forward to Monday dinners.
Living on the farm, I miss my many falafel places. But, since moving away from New York, I have loved making my own. With its basic ingredients being items that I always have on hand (garbanzo beans and various spices) that can be paired with whatever fresh herbs or green leafy vegetables I have at the moment, a homemade falafel is never out of reach. Served with a salad or rice and tahini sauce, it makes for a trusty and tasty meal.
It started with an artichoke. I was in Rome studying food and culture. The day before, I had eaten the best pasta of my life: a simple cacio e pepe sublimely balanced with pepper, cheese, and the most perfectly cooked al dente noodles. But it was a artichoke in the old Jewish ghetto that left me speechless.
That bite became the inspiration for Honey & Schmaltz an ongoing culinary memoir of Jewish food.
Despite being raised by a Reform rabbi, religion and I have never really clicked. But as I bit into that fried artichoke — a food as Jewish as matzo ball soup — I was overcome with nostalgia. I’m not Italian, but somehow I felt a deep connection to my ancestors. I wanted to dig deeper into my own history by way of the lexicon of recipes my people had produced.
Over the last two months I met with and interviewed close to 40 individuals — chefs like Aaron Israel at Shalom Japan, food writers like Joan Nathan and Gil Marks and passionate home cooks. I asked them each to share a recipe with me — one that had been passed down through generations in their family and embodies their heritage. I asked them to cook the recipe while I witnessed, photographing their process in the kitchen, taking down the recipe and sampling the results. As they cooked I heard the stories behind the recipes, where they came from and who made them, when they were eaten and why they are special.
I can never decide what I like better about this Alsatian and southern-German tart: the quetsches (similar to Italian Blue Plums, which are available for a short time in the fall) or the butter crust (called sablé in French and Mürbeteig in German ). On a recent trip to France, I learned a trick for making it: if you bake the tart with no sugar over the fruit, you won’t get a soggy crust. Just sprinkle on a small amount of sugar after baking. Italian Blue Plums are only available in the early fall, so I tend to serve this tart at Rosh Hashanah. If you make it at another time of the year, other varieties of plums can be used.
Reprinted with permission from “Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France”
Yield: 8 servings
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1stick butter 8 tablespoons
1 egg yolk
1/8 teaspoon Salt
1/3 cup plum jam
1 tablespoon brandy
2 pounds Italian blue plums (or greengage plums in the spring)
¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
To make the crust, pulse the flour, sugar, salt and butter or margarine together in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade until crumbled. Then add the egg yolk, and pulse until the dough comes together.
Put the dough in the center of an ungreased 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Dust your fingers with flour, and gently press out the dough to cover the bottom and sides of the pan. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees, and bake the crust for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven to 375 degrees and bake for another 5 minutes. Remove the crust from the oven, and let cool slightly. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.
Mix the jam with the brandy in a small bowl, and spread over the bottom of the crust. Pit the plums, and cut them into four pieces each. Starting at the outside, arrange the plums in a circle so that all the pieces overlap, creating concentric that wind into the center of the pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon and lemon zest.
Return the tart to the oven, and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the plums are juicy. Remove the tart from the oven, sprinkle on the sugar, and serve warm or at room temperature.
Variation: This pie can be made with apricots, peaches, or blueberries.
Prep Time: 30 minutes plus 12 hours for soaking the beans and 1 hour for soaking the rice
Cook Time: 2 hours plus 1 hour 30 minutes for the beans
1 cup (200 g) dried red kidney beans
2 cups (450 g) brown basmati rice
3 cups (750 ml) boiling water
2½ teaspoons sea salt
½ cup (75 g) raisins
3 large onions, finely chopped
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
10 large carrots, cut into thin matchsticks
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
1 head garlic
2/3 cup (160 ml) oil
6 cardamom pods
3 cups (750 ml) water
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Wash the rice until the water runs clear. Drain and pour the rice into a large bowl with 1 teaspoon salt and pour boiling water over it. Mix well and let it soak for 1 hour. Drain and set aside.
In a small bowl, plump the raisins in warm water.
In a large saucepan set over medium-high heat, heat 4 tablespoons of the oil. Sauté the onion, stirring, for 7 minutes, or until softened. Then add the kidney beans, season with 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pat down the mixture with the bottom of your spoon to form a fairly even layer.
Make another layer with the carrots and season with remaining salt and cardamom. Make sure not to combine the carrots with the onions.
Spoon the rice over the carrots, distributing it evenly all over the top.
Bruise the cardamom pods: Place the pods on a flat surface, place the flat blade of a large chef’s knife on top of them and press down on it with the heel of your hand to crush them lightly until the outer husk cracks. Poke some holes into the rice and place the bruised cardamom pods into the holes. Pour 3 cups (750 ml) water and remaining oil over the rice in a circular motion.
Drain the water from the raisins and season with cinnamon.
With a spoon, form a pocket in the rice around the side of the saucepan, and place the raisins into the pocket. In the center of the saucepan, firmly push into the rice, the whole head of garlic.
Place a paper towel large enough to cover the pan on the surface of the rice. The ends will extend outside the pot. Cover tightly with a lid. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 2 hours, or until the rice is fully cooked. (The towel will absorb the steam, preventing the rice from getting too sticky.) Check the rice periodically to make sure that the rice did not dry up. If the water has dried up during the cooking process and the rice is still not done, add ½ cup (125 ml) water.
When the rice is done, use a skimmer to gently transfer each layer onto a serving dish. First, remove the garlic and set to the side of the platter. Then transfer the rice, then the carrots, and finally the beans. Scatter the raisins over the top for a sweet accent.
Photo by Sari Kamin
The mashed beets were another win, though there was a minor quibble or two with the recipe. Three beets are roasted along with one sweet potato and one apple, after being cubed, and then mashed with Greek yogurt and butter or olive oil, and topped with dried cherries, scallions, olive oil and sea salt. Beets are not one-size-fits-all, and Gleeson doesn’t specify what size to use. She also doesn’t say what kind of apple, so I went with a Granny Smith, to add some tartness. Dried cherries also come in tart and sweetened versions, and I happen to like tart, so that’s what I had on hand. The sweetened variety would have detracted from the dish, while the tart ones were the perfect accent.
My larger complaint with this recipe is that it says to roast, not specifying that a beet is harder than a sweet potato or apple, and therefore takes longer to cook. Next time I will put the beets on one tray and the sweet potato and apple on another, and that way I can leave the beets in longer. I tried mashing the veggies while still hot with a hand masher, no chance. I then got out my immersion blender, and still had trouble. The yogurt and butter were not enough, so I had to add some milk, as I would to mashed potatoes, to make them mashable. That did the trick, but the immersion blender was still working overtime.
My finished product turned out much lighter in color than Gleeson’s photo, making me wonder whether my beet ratio was too low; hers is as dark as beets are in their natural state; mine looked more like summer borscht with sour cream already blended in. However, the taste was excellent — with the sweet potato shining and the the sour cherries, scallions and sea salt working excellently as toppings.
Recipes, art and photography from Erin Gleeson’s “The Forest Feast: Simple Vegetarian Recipes from my Cabin in the Woods” used by permission.
The tart is one of those that will get oohs and aahs at a dinner party; it’s not only beautiful and delicious, but also incredibly rich — perhaps why Gleeson serves it an appetizer.
My one fear was that the pine nuts might burn being in the oven as long as it took to cook the asparagus through and puff pastry until brown. I chose to add them at the halfway mark, which might have been erring on the cautious side.
The recipe would likely work well for other vegetables like cherry tomatoes.
Recipes, art and photography from Erin Gleeson’s “The Forest Feast: Simple Vegetarian Recipes from my Cabin in the Woods” used by permission.
Another day, another kale salad. But no. The chiffonade kale is tossed with grated parmesan, pine nuts and store-bought polenta cubes that are fried in olive oil until crispy. The dressing blends Greek yogurt, olive oil, Dijon mustard, and garlic. One dining companion said the polenta croutons were like little delicious surprises.
Dressing: In a blender, add: ¾ cup olive oil, 2 whole garlic cloves, ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, [my adds: salt and pepper]. Blend well. Makes way more than needed for one salad.
This hearty Palestinian soup known as rushtay is more commonly prepared by West Bank cooks than by those in Galilee; I learned how to make it from friends I met in Jerusalem. It is a meal in itself and a favorite among vegetarian patrons of Tanoreen. If you don’t have one of the greens on hand, just substitute more of the others. Don’t skip the squeeze of lemon near the end—it transforms the soup. Serve it with a few olives.
Makes 8 to 10 servings
3 cups brown lentils
1 tablespoon plus 1 pinch sea salt
1 cup olive oil
3 medium red or yellow onions or 5 large shallots, diced
1 poblano or other chile pepper, seeded and diced (optional)
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
41/2 teaspoons ground cumin
41/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
4 stalks celery, diced
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 packed cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 packed cups chopped fresh spinach
2 packed cups chopped kale
2 green or plum tomatoes, diced (optional)
8 ounces fettuccini, broken in half
Juice of 2 lemons (1/4 to 1/2 cup)
Combine the lentils and a pinch of salt in a pot and cover with water by 1 inch. Cover with the lid and boil over high heat for 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Toss in the onions or shallots, and chile pepper, if using, and saute until golden brown, 7 to 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle in the cumin, coriander and black pepper and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Toss in the celery, carrots and cilantro, cover and cook for 5 minutes. Add the spinach, kale, tomatoes, if using, 15 cups of water and remaining 1 tablespoon salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
Pour in the lentils, return the broth to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes more. Add the fettuccini and cook until al dente. Stir in the lemon juice followed by the teklai, if using. Serve hot.
Variation: For a gluten-free version, cut six 8-inch corn tortillas into 1/2-inch strips and use in place of the fettuccini or use gluten-free pasta.
Photo courtesy of “Olives, Lemons & Za’atar: The Best Middle Eastern Home Cooking”.
Brussels sprouts were not part of the Palestinian kitchen when I was growing up. I discovered them here in the States and very eagerly tried to push them on my children. To that end, I did what any good mother would do—I pumped up their flavor by adding a little tahini sauce and sweet pomegranate molasses. It worked!
In fact these Brussels sprouts were so delicious that they made it onto the original Tanoreen menu and I’ve never taken them off.
Makes 6 to 8 servings
Corn oil for frying
4 pounds Brussels sprouts, outer leaves
removed, cut in half
1 cup Thick Tahini Sauce (recipe below)
1 cup low-fat plain yogurt
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1 cup panko (Japanese-style breadcrumbs)
Pinch sea salt
Pour 1/4 to 1/2 inch corn oil in a large skillet and place over a high heat until hot. To test the temperature, slip half a Brussels sprout into the pan; if it makes a popping sound, the oil is hot enough. Working in batches, fry the Brussels sprouts, turning occasionally, until they are browned all over, 2 to 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sprouts to a paper towel–lined plate to drain.
Meanwhile, whisk together the Thick Tahini Sauce, yogurt and pomegranate molasses in a medium bowl. Set aside.
In a small skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high until hot. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the panko and stir constantly until the crumbs are golden brown, about 2 minutes. Stir in the salt and remove the breadcrumbs from the heat. Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate to cool.
Place the Brussels sprouts in a serving dish, drizzle with the sauce and top with the panko crumbs. Serve immediately.
Tahini sauce, a smooth blend of toasted sesame paste, lemon juice, garlic and olive oil, is ubiquitous in Middle Eastern kitchens. It is the condiment. There is hardly a dish that isn’t enhanced by it.
Makes 2 1/2 cups
1 1/2 cups tahini (sesame paste)
3 to 4 cloves garlic, crushed
Juice of 5 lemons or to taste (about 1 cup)
1 teaspoon sea salt
Chopped parsley for garnish
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the tahini, garlic, lemon juice and salt and process on low speed for 2 minutes or until thoroughly incorporated. Turn the speed to high and blend until the tahini mixture begins to whiten. Gradually add up to 1/2 cup water until the mixture reaches the desired consistency.
Transfer the sauce to a serving bowl and garnish with the parsley. Leftover tahini sauce can be stored, tightly covered in the refrigerator, for up to 2 weeks.
Photo courtesy of “Olives, Lemons & Za’atar: The Best Middle Eastern Home Cooking.”
Three years ago, I spent a month living in Ramallah while reporting a story on the Palestinian economy. Yet somehow, save for trips to the corner falafel joint in between frenzied interviews, I managed to barely sample Palestinian food.
When I returned to New York, my regret lifted the moment I walked into Tanoreen, a Palestinian restaurant in Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge. Chef and owner Rawia Bishara’s menu is inspired by her hometown of Nazareth, yet many of her dishes share DNA with the West Bank cuisine I missed out on.
Every time I go to Tanoreen, my vegetarianism flies out the window. My favorite item on the menu is the lamb-stuffed baby squash. The dish is elaborately flavored — the yogurt is sour, the spices sweet, the lamb gamy and the squash earthy.
This interplay of flavors is found throughout Bishara’s menu, and also in her new cookbook, “Olives, Lemons & Za’atar,” published this spring. The tome is as colorful as the cuisine it depicts, with photos of the Nazareth hillsides, family picnics and open-air markets. Under the heading, “The Pantry,” is a list of ingredients — pomegranate molasses, bulgur, mastic sumac and many others — essential for concocting the dozens of breakfast dishes, mezzes, salads, soups, stews, mains, pickles, sauces and desserts found inside the book.
The recipes range from traditional fare like maftoul, or Palestinian couscous, (also featured in the “The Gaza Kitchen”) to experimental dishes such as brussel sprouts with panko. There are several simple recipes in the book, but some are more complex than meet the eye. The brussel sprouts, for instance, calls not for tahini but for tahini sauce (made by mixing tahini with garlic and lemon juice)— directions for which are found later in the book.
For my foray into “Olives, Lemons & Za’atar,” I decided to take the easy road. Instead of replicating my beloved baby squash — the book doesn’t have that exact recipe, but instead several that seem similar, like vegetarian stuffed vegetables or stuffed artichokes with meat and pine nuts — I opted for two simple dishes with ingredients I had at home.
The first was shorabit addas majroosh, the pureed lentil soup that is a mainstay in many parts of the Arab world. One of the great pleasures in making pureed soups is that they enable the otherwise fastidious home chef to be a bit lazy. Instead of fretting over how beautiful the carrots and onions would look in the final dish, I chopped them roughly, sautéed them with oil, coriander and cumin in a soup pot, added the red lentils, and let it all simmer. I then pulsed the mixture in a blender, and served it with lemon wedges, salt and pepper. The resulting soup was plain, but comfortingly so — perfect for the late winter Monday that I made it. Bishara’s recipe is meant to serve six to eight; I ate shorabit addas majroosh all week long.
My next try was salatet zahra, or cauliflower salad. The chopped cauliflower should be briefly boiled before it is roasted or grilled, leaving it with a soft interior and an almost crunchy exterior. After roasting, I tossed the cauliflower with tahini (though it called for tahini sauce) and pomegranate molasses and sprinkled it with chopped cilantro. (The recipe calls for parsley, but I had none on hand.)
Perhaps because I used a very nutty tahini, or maybe it was the crunch of the cauliflower, the dish reminded me a little of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. My dining partner, on the other hand — much more an aficionado of Arab food than I am — declared it a success: an example “nouveau Levantine” cuisine.
I would make either dish again, but not before I scour the rest of the book. After my culinary oversight in Ramallah, I feel I have a lot to make up for.
Photo courtesy of “Olives, Lemons & Za’atar: The Best Middle Eastern Home Cooking.”
James Beard Foundation
This recipe is reprinted with permission from “The Mensch Chef: Or Why Delicious Jewish Food Isn’t an Oxymoron.
This is an approximation of the matzo ball recipe my mother always used. It is based on the one on the matzo meal box, but with a few important modifications to account for my mother’s heavy hand with the schmaltz and her inexact measuring technique. When it comes to making fluffy floaters instead of sodden sinkers, I’ve tried all of the tricks: seltzer, baking soda, and others. But the only thing that seems to make a difference in the finished texture is how you handle them. For floaters, it’s best not to let the mixture sit in the refrigerator more than 30 minutes before shaping. Whatever you do, don’t work too hard to the mixture into balls — rolling the matzo balls around for too long in the palm of your hands compacts and toughens them up. Instead, coax them into a spherical shape, and don’t be too OCD about it. Also, be sure to have the chicken soup simmering when the matzo balls are ready, so you can put them straight into the hot soup. That way they retain their texture after cooling.
Mitchell’s Chicken Soup
Makes 4 quarts, enough for 10 to 12 servings
1, 4 1/2 pound stewing hen or soup chicken, or 5 pounds chicken bones
3 chicken feet, claws removed (optional)
2 pounds yellow onions, about 4, roughly chopped
Top half of a bunch of celery, with leaves
5 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
10 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
1 small turnip, peeled and cut into chunks
1 large parsnip, peeled and cut into chunks
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 point of star anise
1 whole clove
2 tablespoons kosher salt
6 sprigs fresh dill, plus extra for garnish
In a 12-quart stockpot, place the chicken, chicken feet, if using, onions, celery, carrots, parsley, turnip, parsnip, peppercorns, star anise, clove, and salt. Add 5 quarts cold water. Place over high heat, bring to a boil, skim off any scum that floats to the top. Set the cover ajar, turn down the heat to low so the liquid simmers, and cook about 2 hours, skimming occasionally, as necessary. Add the dill, if using, and simmer an additional 45 minutes or so. Turn off the heat and let cool.
Stain the soup through a fine mesh strainer into a clean pot. Remove the cooked chicken meat and reserve for a chicken salad or something. Discard the other solids. Chill the soup and then remove any fat that coagulates on the surface. You can also freeze the soup. If you’d like, you can freeze the soup at this point. To serve, reheat until boiling and add some chopped fresh dill, if you’d like. If you want to add vegetables for garnish, cook carrots, parsnips, turnips and other vegetables separately in a little bit of the soup, and pour it all back into the pot before serving.
(Haaretz) — For the interval between having filled ourselves with hamantaschen and stuffing ourselves with matza brei and matza ball soups, here are three light and airy end-of-winter salads.
Carrot ribbons with harissa aioli
This salad is a contemporary play on the classic Moroccan carrot salad. The carrots here are raw, and shaved into ribbons; the dressing is a homemade aioli mixed with harissa, a Tunisian hot pepper and spices paste available in health food supermarkets, kosher stores and Middle Eastern markets.
1 lb. carrots
1 egg yolk at room temperature
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ cup olive oil
Kosher salt to taste
1-2 teaspoons harissa
¼ cup chopped cilantro leaves
1) Peel the carrots and shave them into long ribbons using a vegetable peeler. This is easier to do when lying the carrots on a cutting board. Place in a bowl.
2) To make the dressing, put egg yolk, lemon juice and garlic clove in a small bowl and whisk well for 1 minute. While whisking constantly, start adding olive oil drop by drop (it is essential to add the oil very slowly) until the dressing is thickened and emulsified. Add salt and harissa to taste.
3) Pour dressing over carrot ribbons and mix gently. Mix in the cilantro. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
What kind of genius came up with the idea that prunes would make a great cookie filling, to be eaten without fail once a year?
Whoever they were, they were wrong.
But have no fear! We have a new hamantaschen option for you this year, and it’s as delicious as a cocktail, without the embarrassment that goes with actually being drunk at your family’s Purim party.
Alison Barnett has come up with a series of cocktail-themed hamantaschen that make regular old flavors seem like a too-sweet, dry and cakey distant memory.
“[The] two main things we consume on Purim are alcohol and hamantashen. I decided to combine the two into a real fun and creative dessert,” Barnett told the Forward. Her flavors include: White Russian, Tequila Sunrise, Mojito, Whiskey Sour and Cosmopolitan.
A mid-day snack tasting session by the Forward’s staff saw some clear favorites emerge: Whiskey Sour, treated with suspicion at first glance because of the ominous-looking maraschino cherry embedded in the crust, was actually a surprisingly pleasant mix of almond-sugar crust and citrus filling — not too sweet, not too tangy; White Russian was, as expected, a smooth combination of Kahlua and coffee flavors (though the extra icing drizzled onto the crust was unnecessary). Finally, Tequila Sunrise packs a citrus kick strong enough to lift any remaining winter blues.
Barnett first started experimenting with the idea three years ago. This is her first year actually selling the final product (to order on Etsy, click here). $21 will get you a dozen of these goodies — try getting that deal at a bar.
According to Barnett, she’s already thinking up new flavors for next year’s round. Irish coffee, anyone?
Until then, try your own version of the Tequila Sunrise at home (and take a few extra sips on the side — we won’t tell).
Serve this curry ladled into bowls over steaming basmati rice or coconut rice (rice where half or more of the cooking water is replaced with coconut milk). If desired, experiment with adding different vegetables to the curry, like cauliflower, green beans or potatoes.
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
4 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ginger powder
½ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 ½ pounds broccoli, chopped into small florets
1 medium sweet potato (about ½ pound), peeled and cut into ¾-inch pieces
1 medium red bell pepper, seeds removed, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
salt and pepper
1 13.5-ounce can coconut milk
½ cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for serving
1) Heat the 1/4 cup oil in a large saucepan set over medium heat. Add the onions, fresh ginger and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the turmeric, cumin, ginger, coriander, cayenne and cardamom, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 1–2 minutes.
2) Add the tomatoes with their juice and bring to a simmer. Stir in the broth, broccoli, sweet potato and red pepper (it is okay if the vegetables are not submerged); raise heat to medium high, bring to a boil, then cover the saucepan, lower the heat to low, and cook until vegetables are just tender, 8–10 minutes.
3) Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a medium pan set over medium heat. Add the chicken, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add browned chicken, coconut milk and 1/2 cup cilantro to the saucepan; raise heat to medium and bring to a simmer, then lower heat back to low and cook, partially covered, until vegetables are tender but not mushy, and the sauce has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes. Season generously with salt and pepper, and serve topped with more chopped cilantro.
Makes two personal pizzas
1 cup chickpea flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
a few cracks of black pepper
1 cup water
olive oil, to coat the pan
About 2 tablespoons harissa* (this amount may vary depending on your taste and how hot your harissa is)
1/2 large onion, chopped and caramelized
1 cup packed fresh spinach, chopped
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
*For homemade harissa, I recommend “Jerusalem’s recipe. I like using Fresno chiles so that it’s not too hot, which means I can pile it on my pizza.
It probably was only a matter of time before Mayim Bialik put out a cookbook. The actress – who began her career as a child actor on “Blossom” and now appears regularly on “The Big Bang Theory” is also known for a few other things: her PhD in neuroscience; her advocacy of attachment parenting; her blogging for the Jewish parenting website kveller.com; her balancing act of working in Hollywood as an Orthodox Jew; and her diet.
One might assume she is kosher, which she is, but Bialik is also a vegan. Her journey to veganism, she says in “Mayim’s Vegan Table: More than 100 Great-Tasting and Healthy Recipes From My Family to Yours” co-authored by Dr. Jay Gordon, began as a vegetarian college student, but she began cutting back on dairy when she realized her son was having issues with it from breastfeeding. What began out of practicality later morphed into embracing veganism for idealistic reasons, too.
This is not a cookbook with a capital C. It’s not a hardback, and unlike most Cookbooks these days, which have a photo of almost every dish, this one has a small photo section in the middle (with photos taken by Mayim’s friend Denise Herrick Borchert).
Her co-author, Dr. Jay Gordon, is a pediatrician who has been vegan for over 40 years. Bialik and Gordon spend the first third of the book explaining a vegan diet, why one should be wary of the meat and dairy industries, nutritional myths as they see them, especially when it comes to feeding your children — such as that children need milk — how to stock a vegan pantry, kind of like Veganism 101. They also say that they know most people won’t be as extreme as they are, but that any move toward a plant-based diet is the right step.
This colorful salad is delicious as a main course or side dish. The nutritional punch of colors makes it full of beta-carotene, calcium, and a bevy of vitamins. Arrange the ingredients alongside one another and drizzle with the dressing, or mix them all together for a mixed-up delicious rainbow of a salad.
3 tablespoons toasted sesame or sunflower seeds
6 cups red cabbage, roughly chopped (about 1/4 large cabbage)
1 large carrot, peeled then shaved (using the peeler) into 2-3 inch strips
3 celery stalks, leaves removed, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
2 handfuls of fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
4 ounces tahini
1 garlic clove
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 325 F. Using a rimmed baking sheet, toast the seeds for 8 to 10 minutes, watching closely. You can also use a toaster oven until the seeds start to darken, or sauté them without oil in a small pan until they brown and become fragrant, about 5 minutes. Remove and set aside.
Boil 8 cups of water while you chop the cabbage. Slice cabbage in half through the stem. Slice each half in half again and chop roughly. Place the chopped cabbage into a strainer over your sink and pour the boiling water over it. Rinse quickly with cold water. Dry the cabbage roughly with a (dark-colored) hand towel or in a salad spinner.
In a large bowl, mix together the celery, pepper, cabbage, shaved carrot, and parsley.
Place all the dressing ingredients in a blender. Add enough water to make a dressing consistency. Add the dressing to the cabbage salad just before serving.
From Mayim’s Vegan Table: More Than 100 Great-Tasting and Healthy Recipes from My Family to Yours by Mayim Bialik with Dr. Jay Gordon. Reprinted courtesy of Da Capo Lifelong Books.