Eggplant, Mashed Potato and Portobello Gratin

Whenever I need a meatless or dairy meal -- for a meatless Monday (or any other day of the week when I am not in the mood for meat), or for during the Nine Days, or a Yom Kippur Break-the-Fast, or during Passover -- this is one of the recipes I turn to. It's filling enough for dinner (served with a salad) yet not heavy.

Another benefit? Set it up ahead and bake just before you need it.

I change the recipe occasionally, because -- why not! This dish is versatile. Sometimes I use zucchini instead of or together with eggplant. Sometimes I add feta cheese or a layer of cooked kale or spinach or some cooked carrots. But basically this is it.

 

Eggplant, Mashed Potato and Portobello gratin

  • 2 large Yukon gold potatoes
  • 3/4 cup grated Swiss cheese
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 large eggs
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 medium eggplant (or 2 medium zucchini)
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large Portobello mushroom caps
  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Preheat the oven broiler or outdoor grill. Peel the potatoes, cut them into chunks and cook them in simmering water until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes and mash them in the pot. Stir in 1/2 cup of Swiss cheese, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and the eggs. Season lightly with salt and pepper. While the potatoes are cooking, trim the ends from the eggplant. Slice the eggplant lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices. Brush both sides with the olive oil. Broil or grill the eggplant for 2-3 minutes per side or until softened and lightly browned. Place half the eggplant slices in a rectangular baking dish. Cover with the mashed potatoes. Layer the remaining eggplant on top. Slice the mushroom caps about 1/4-inch thick and place them on top of the eggplant. Slice the tomatoes and place them over the mushrooms. Scatter the basil and parsley on top. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cook for 45 minutes or until crispy and lightly browned on top.

Makes 8-10 servings

 

Two Cabbage Cole Slaw

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We're now in the dog days of summer.

Cole slaw weather.

I remember my grandmother making the stuff by hand. She used one of those old grater/shredders and by the time she was done preparing the cabbage and carrots, her hands were rough and red.

This recipe was much easier. It's basically hers, except I use two kinds of cabbage, which I think makes the dish prettier.

And of course, I use a food processor (slicing disc). Better on the hands! Much less time. Much less mess. Tastes the same as I remember.

TWO CABBAGE COLE SLAW

  • 6 cups shredded green cabbage
  • 2 cups shredded red cabbage
  • 3 medium carrots, shredded
  • 2 scallions, shredded
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place the cabbages, carrots and scallions in a large bowl and toss to distribute the ingredients evenly. In a bowl, whisk the mayonnaise, vinegar, mustard, sugar and celery seed together and pour over the vegetables. Toss the ingredients, sprinkle with salt pepper to taste. Let rest for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Makes 8 servings

 

Grilled Asparagus Salad

When the weather is hot and sticky I find myself yearning for fruits and vegetables, not meat. I want salads, cold rice or noodles. Easy food, easy to prepare, easy to digest.

I recently had some grilled asparagus left over and used them for salad the next day. This dish was the perfect accompaniment to a rice salad that had other leftover vegetables in it!

 

Grilled Asparagus Salad

  • 1 pound asparagus
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups mixed cut up salad greens
  • 1 cup halved grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue or feta cheese
  • 2-3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat an outdoor grill (or turn oven to 450 degrees). Trim the asparagus and place them in a shallow dish. Pour about 2 teaspoons of the olive oil over the asparagus and roll the spears to coat them evenly. Grill the spears, turning them once or twice, for 5-8 minutes, depending on thickness. Cut the spears into bite size pieces and place in a salad bowl. Add the salad greens, tomatoes and cheese and toss the ingredients. Mix the remaining olive oil, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar and mustard and pour the dressing over the salad. Toss and taste. Add more vinegar to taste. Sprinkle with pepper and serve.

Makes 6-8 servings

Grilled Baby Vidalias

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During the summer my family likes grilled everything. 

Like these gorgeous baby Vidalia onions. I bought some recently. They are a perfect side dish for whatever else I make for dinner (also on the grill). 

They are among the easiest side dishes I have ever prepared.

Just a few simple ingredients. You can do this with spring garlic, thick scallions too.

Whatever you're grilling for the 4th of July -- this goes with it.

Grilled Baby Vidalia Onions

  • 1 bunch of baby Vidalia onions (5-6), or use baby leeks or thick scallions
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
  • sea salt

Preheat and outdoor grill or grill pan to medium-high. Trim the onions but leave enough of the root intact so the leaves don't come apart. Rub the olive oil over the surface of the onions. Place the onions on the grill and cook for about 8 minutes, turning them occasionally to cook all sides. After the first turn, sprinkle the onions with the lemon juice and Aleppo pepper. When the onions are browned and tender, sprinkle with sea salt and serve.

Makes 4-6 servings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Bat Mitzvah Chocolate Cake

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Today is the anniversary of my Bat Mitzvah. It took place a LONG time ago! In the 1950s to tell you the truth.

Back in the day Bat Mitzvahs were not such a thing. In fact, I was the first girl from our newly established synagogue to reach this momentous occasion.

I have to confess, our rabbi mentioned the notion when we first joined the synagogue and I told my parents I wanted to learn some Hebrew and prayers and do whatever I had to, not so much because I had any particular religious feelings, nor was it because I wanted a big party -- the big themed events we see today didn't exist back then -- but because my two older brothers had Bar Mitzvahs and I couldn't understand why a girl wouldn't be treated equally.

My mother always said that when I was born I came out a feminist.

Still am. (So was she.)

Girls are equal to boys, women to men. Let's not even contest that one.

Still, my brothers did have a Saturday Shabbat service Bar Mitzvah and I was only allowed to have one on Friday night. I was content with that, it was a start.

We had a small party at home. I was allowed to invite one friend, and of course my family was there -- aunts, uncles, cousins, including my cousin Leslie, who, to this day, is like a sister.

I remember my dress: white with red and black lines. 

I don't remember what my Mother made for food.

But I do remember dessert. Because I made it: a dark chocolate cake with fudge frosting.

I didn't keep the recipe. I don't actually know whose recipe I used. I just remember what it looked like and that it tasted fabulous and that I made the cake for my own Bat Mitzvah.

So today I celebrate with Chocolate Cake. This one is a riff on the famous Hershey Black Cake with a few changes to make it dairy-free, less sweet and more to my tastes (you can change the frosting to dairy using 12 tablespoons of butter in place of the coconut milk and coconut oil). 

This is a good cake for a festive occasion, even one's own Bat Mitzvah.

Black Chocolate Cake

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • water
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup strong, cooled coffee
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • frosting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 3 9-inch cake pans. Pour the lemon juice into a liquid (pitcher) measuring cup and add enough water to measure one cup. Set aside. Place the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer and mix at low speed to combine the ingredients. Add the eggs, the lemon-water, coffee, vegetable oil and vanilla extract and beat the ingredients at medium speed for 2-3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally, or until well combined and smooth. Pour equal amounts of the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 22-25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes. Invert the layers onto a cake rack to cool completely. Frost and serve.

Makes 8-10 servings

Frosting

  • 1-1/2 cups dairy-free semisweet chocolate chips
  • 6 tablespoons coconut milk
  • 6 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • pinch of salt

Place the chocolate chips, coconut milk and coconut oil in a saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes or until the chips have melted and the mixture is smooth and uniform. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the vanilla extract, confectioners’ sugar and salt. Let cool, whisking the ingredients occasionally. Refrigerate until firm enough to be spreadable.

 

Roasted Lemony Brussels Sprouts

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My husband once told me that if I ever made Brussels Sprouts for dinner he would want a divorce.

So, none of that particular vegetable for at least 10-12 years into the marriage.

Then I got an assignment from a food editor at the paper I wrote for, to do an article on --- Brussels Sprouts. I made several recipes.

We hate food waste at our house, so Ed tried them all.

Surprise! He loved them all.

It's been a Brussels Sprouts bonanza ever since. Turns out this is one of his favorite vegetables.

So I am making this for Father's Day.

 

Roasted Lemony Brussels Sprouts

  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh lemon peel
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the Brussels sprouts in half (or smaller, depending on size) and wash under cold water. Drain and place the Brussels sprouts on the parchment paper. In a small bowl, mix the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and lemon peel and pour over the vegetable. Toss the Brussels sprouts to coat all of them. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for about 15-18 minutes, turning the sprouts once or twice during roasting, or until tender and lightly golden brown.

Make 4-6 servings

Herbed Feta Cheese with Sundried Tomatoes and Olives

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A few weeks ago I took a quickie trip to Berlin with my daughter. We took a stroll through the Turkish outdoor market, where I saw someone selling a gorgeous hunk of feta cheese, scattered with sundried tomatoes and olives, seasoned with herbs and sprinkled with a drizzle of olive oil.

I noted the ingredients and took a photo. 

It looked so delicious that the moment I saw this cheese thing I knew I had to make it at home.

I did.

It is as good as I thought it would be. I served it to guests last weekend.

They raved.

Here's the recipe. 

Herbed Feta Cheese with Sundried Tomatoes and Olives

  • 1/2 pound feta cheese
  • 3 sundried tomatoes in oil
  • 8-10 imported black pitted olives
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Aleppo pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Cut the feta cheese into thick slices and place on a serving dish. Chop the sundried tomatoes and scatter them over the cheese. Scatter the olives around the cheese and dish. Scatter the parsley over the ingredients and sprinkle with the oregano and some Aleppo pepper to taste. Drizzle the olive oil on top.

Makes 8-10 servings

 

Potato Cheese and Spinach Kugel

Tell me Shavuot is coming and my first thought is cheesecake.

Of course. Cheesecake the dish most associated with the holiday. I love it. Make all kinds. Some plain. Some spiced. Some covered with fruit. Some with chocolate.

On the other hand you can't just eat cheesecake. 

Shavuot is generally a dairy holiday.

I love dairy.

Especially if there is a potato involved.

Like in this kugel, which is a wonder all by itself. But also good with salad, other dairy dishes or served with sunnyside eggs on top.

Perfect dish for the holiday.

 

Potato Cheese and Spinach Kugel

  • 4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes (about 1-1/2 pounds)
  • 8-10 ounces fresh spinach
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 6 large eggs
  • 5 tablespoons melted butter
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3/4 cup panko crumbs
  • 2-3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 2-quart baking dish. Peel the potatoes, cut them into chunks and boil them in lightly salted water for about 15 minutes or until tender. Let cool and chop into small pieces. Place the potatoes in a bowl. While the potatoes are cooking, wash and dry the spinach and chop it coarsely. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for about 3 minutes or until softened. Add the spinach and cook for 2-3 minutes or until wilted (if there is liquid in the pan, raise the heat and cook until it evaporates, or drain using a strainer). Add the spinach mixture, the feta cheese and dill to the potatoes and mix gently to distribute the ingredients evenly. Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Mix in 3 tablespoons of the melted butter and pour over the potato mixture. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Gently mix the ingredients. Place the mixture inside the greased baking dish. In a small bowl, mix the panko, the remaining 2 tablespoons melted butter and the Parmesan cheese and sprinkle over the ingredients. Bake for about 30 minutes or until hot and crispy.

Makes 8-10 servings

 

 

Cheese and Vegetable Kugel

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When my kids were young and still living at home, I made kugel a lot. My daughters were not terribly anti-vegetable, but I realized that pairing veggies and noodles would make it even easier to have more vegetables at our meals.

Also, it is a good way to use leftovers -- the recipe below is extremely versatile. Add cut up cooked green beans or asparagus, corn kernels, peas. Like that.

This kugel is filling enough for dinner. Also yummy with a sunny-side egg or two on top of each serving for a meatless (Monday) dinner. And a wonderful choice for dairy-fest Shavuot.

Veggie Kugel

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 10-12 ounces mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 bunch spinach or kale, washed and dried, coarsely cut
  • 2 medium carrots, shredded
  • 12 ounces medium-wide egg noodles
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup grated Swiss cheese
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • paprika

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 9”x9” baking dish. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and mushrooms and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the spinach and cook for another 1-2 minutes or until it has wilted (kale may take a minute or so longer). Add the carrots and cook for another minute. Remove from the heat and set aside. Cook the noodles according to package directions, drain and place in a large bowl. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, the cooked vegetables, eggs, sour cream and 3/4 cup of the Swiss cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir to mix ingredients well. Place in the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the top with the remaining Swiss cheese, Parmesan cheese and paprika. Bake for about 35 minutes or until the top is crispy and brown.

Makes 6-8 servings

 

Stir-fried String Beans with Meat (Ants on a Tree)

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There's an old, ongoing joke about Jews and Chinese food. You know, the Jewish year is 5777 and the Chinese year is 4714; we love Chinese food so how did we get along without it for over a thousand years?

All kidding aside, there is a real connection among the Jews and Chinese going back -- in the United States at least -- to May 1903. 

In April of that year there was a terrible pogrom in Kishinev (now in Moldava) during Russian Easter. Several days of anti-semitic violence took its toll on the Jewish community: 49 dead, 500 injured and about 2,000 homeless. News of the violence reached the United States, where Jewish philanthropists raised money to help the victims.

But a Chinese businessman on New York's Lower East Side felt the outrage too.

His name was John Singleton, who understood the cruelty and sometimes barbarism inflicted upon minority groups. He and three fellow merchants Guy Main (Yee Kai Man), Dek Foon and Jue Chue arranged for a benefit performance at the Chinese Theater on Doyers Street on May 11, 1903.

The program consisted of a short play (performed in Chinese) -- all the Chinese actors donated their time. Then speakers. Guy Main and Rabbi Joseph Zeff (who spoke in Yiddish) talked about the common bond between the two people, noting the atrocities committed by Russians against both. Another speaker expressed Jewish gratitude to the Chinese and wished the United States to welcome them as Americans, a somewhat veiled protest against the Chinese Exclusion Act.

Finally? Dinner at Mon Lay Won, considered the "Chinese Delmonico's." A very special place. The famous Yiddish actress Bertha Kalisch attended, as well as many other prominent Jews. There is no record of the menu, but it was definitely NOT kosher. The restaurant, which usually served featured pork and shrimp, apparently tried to be sensitive to the Jewish dietary laws and didn't serve those items, but we know that among the dishes served were chicken, squab and reindeer.

The event raised about $280 for the Kishinev victims (that's about $7,300 in today's dollars).

Of course this is not the reason that Jews love Chinese food. But the gesture stands, the solidarity cannot be forgotten. And so, on this 114th anniversary of the event, I offer a tasty Chinese dish that's welcome for spring. If you can get Chinese long beans that's perfect, but I make the dish with common string beans. The authentic Chinese version calls for ground pork, but my recipe uses turkey. It's kosher.

Celebrate solidarity, unity, kinship, friendship, respect for all ethnic groups and minorities.

Stir Fried String Beans with Meat

  • 1/2 pound Chinese long beans, green string beans or haricots vertes
  • 3 scallions, shredded
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 ounces ground turkey or veal
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine or sherry
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 dried red chili peppers (or 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger

Wash and trim the beans. Shred the scallions by using a small sharp knife tip and cutting through from the root end through the greens. Cut away the root and set the scallions aside. Steam the beans for about 3 minutes or until barely tender. Drain under cold water and set aside. Preheat a wok or stirfry pan. Pour in the vegetable oil, let it get hot. Add the meat and stirfry for a minute or so, stirring constantly and breaking up the pieces, until the meat is no longer pink. Add the water, wine, soy sauce, sugar, peppers and sesame oil. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until the water has evaporated. Add the scallions and ginger and mix them in. Add the beans and stirfry for a bout a minute, mixing the ingredients to distribute them evenly. 

Makes 4 servings