appetizer

Roasted Bell Pepper Soup

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I’ve lived most of my life in Connecticut and so I am used to cold winters, snow and all that comes with it. I don’t mind really. I actually love the change of seasons and think it makes life more interesting.

But it’s those first days of chill that take some getting used to as we transition from summer’s heat and the gradual change of temperature when autumn comes..

Those are soup days.

I recently made this Roasted Red Pepper soup. It’s exactly what’s needed when the weather turns.

Also makes a good first course for Thanksgiving dinner.

Roasted Red Pepper Soup

  • 5-6 sweet red, orange and/or yellow bell peppers

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 small onion, chopped

  • 1 carrot, chopped

  • 1 stalk celery, chopped

  • 1 tablespoon freshly minced parsley plus more for garnish if desired

  • 1/3 cup raw white rice

  • 5 cups vegetable stock (or chicken stock)

  • 1-1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste

  • freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the broiler. Place the peppers under the broiler, about 4-6" away from the heat. Broil for 2-3 minutes, until the skin has blistered. Turn the peppers and repeat this process until the entire surface is blistered and lightly charred. Remove the peppers and place them in a paper bag. Let rest at least 10 minutes. Remove the peppers from the bag, peel off the skin and discard the stem and the seeds. Cut the peppers into pieces. 

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery and parsley. Cook, stirring occasionally for 3-4 minutes or until the vegetables have softened. Stir in the rice. Add the peppers and stock. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil, lower the heat and cook at a simmer for 25 minutes. Puree in a food processor or blender.

Makes 6 servings

Curry Kosher (Chicken Wings, et al)

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Back in the day, before so many modern kosher cookbooks hit the market (including my own Hip Kosher and The Modern Kosher Kitchen), anyone who was kosher and wanted to expand home cooking beyond the traditional family favorites would buy a cookbook and adapt recipes in accordance with kashrut.

Although it’s easier now to find contemporary kosher recipes, there is still a whole world of flavors, wonderful foods and good cookbooks out there that are too good to be missed. There’s still a reason to look beyond the obvious kosher cookbook market.

Recently I came across this book: Spice Spice Baby: 100 Recipes with Healing Spices for Your Family Table at my daughter’s house. The author, Kanchan Koya, is a Harvard-trained molecular biologist who blogs about the health benefits of spices at www.spicespicebaby.com and is also a chef-creator for www.Buzzfeedtasty.com.

I found the recipes in this book irresistible. Too good to be missed. They are interesting, intriguing and globally inspired. All include one or more of 15 spices that have health benefits (which she discusses in the book).

I made several of the dishes, changing what was needed for the kosher kitchen. The original recipe here included boneless chicken — I changed it to wings because my family likes them. The sauce contained yogurt, which I changed to coconut milk plus some lemon juice, to mimic the tart dairy taste. But the spices — unchanged. They are a fabulous tasting, intoxicatingly aromatic blend.

This dish was awesome. We gobbled it up, every morsel. The flavors are vibrant, satisfying, and perfect for autumn when the weather turns and there’s a chill in the air.

Check out Koya’s website. Lots of good stuff.

Btw, I was not paid for this post nor did I receive any book or benefit. I included a photo from the book showing the original recipe (photo credit to www.wayne-wong.com) so you can see how different it looks with the chicken wings.  

 

Curry Chicken Wings

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 medium onion, chopped

  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger

  • 4 medium cloves garlic, chopped

  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste

  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin

  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

  • pinch or two of cayenne pepper

  • 1/2 cup coconut milk

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

  • 12-15 chicken wing parts

  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  • 1/4 cup water

  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro or parsley, optional

Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes or until the onions are lightly browned. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for another minute. Add the tomato paste, cumin, coriander, turmeric and cayenne pepper and stir the ingredients into a paste. Stir in the coconut milk and lemon juice. Add the chicken, sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the water, cover the pan, lower the heat and cook for 15 minutes. Remove the cover and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with chopped coriander or parsley if desired.

Makes 4 servings

Best Hummus

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Despite the fact that hummus is the most popular snack and you can buy dozens of different kinds in every supermarket, I still make my own. And every time, a different recipe, always trying for perfection.

I served a version seasoned with zatar and garnished with toasted pine nuts once for an election night get-together.

I've made hummus using dried chick peas and canned.

One year the guests at my annual Break-the-Fast declared that year's hummus the best they ever tasted.

But apparently last year's Break-the-Fast version topped even that! 

So here is the recipe: easy to make, terrific for entertaining, for snacks, as a sandwich spread. Perfect all year, perfect for break-the-fast.

 

Lemony-Garlic Hummus

  • 1 can chickpeas (about one pound)

  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

  • 1/2 cup tahini

  • 2 large cloves garlic

  • 1 teaspoon paprika

  • 1/2 teaspoon zatar

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • cayenne pepper to taste (I use 1/8 teaspoon)

  • chopped parsley, optional, about 2-3 tablespoons

  • zatar, optional

  • pita bread or chips

Drain the chickpeas but reserve the liquid. Place the chickpeas, lemon juice, tahini, garlic, paprika, zatar, salt and cayenne pepper in a food processor. Process until you reach the texture you like, adding 3-4 tablespoons of the reserved chickpea liquid if you prefer it smoother and softer. Spoon into a serving bowl. Sprinkle with optional parsley and zatar. Serve with pita bread or chips.

Makes about 1-1/2 cups.

Tropical Salsa

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In our family, Mother's Day involves a cookoff. Everyone participates in some way. We pick a theme, some people cook, some set the table, some help clean up and so on. Then we all eat what we have cooked and everyone wins a prize for something, like: best looking; most delicious; most unusual.....

It's been so much fun over the years and we all believe it beats going to a restaurant which, because it's a holiday, is usually crowded and noisy and the service awful.

This year's theme was "dips."

My son-in-law and one of the grandkids made a hot French Onion Dip; one daughter and granddaughter made a spicy Red Pepper Dip; another daughter and child made a chocolate dip for dessert.

It was all awesome.

This was my entry, which got the award for "most refreshing" and "most attractive" as well as "most perfect for summer" awards.

It's so easy to make too.

Also, it really is perfect for summer.

And it is actually refreshing and attractive.

So -- for summer company or just for yourself, try my award-winning Tropical Salsa. Serve it on Father's Day. Or July 4th!

By the way, this is also a good side dish with grilled meat, poultry or fish and can be used to top a hamburger.

Tropical Salsa

  • 2 cups diced fresh papaya
  • 2 large mangoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 large avocado, peeled and diced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh lime peel
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • salt
  • corn chips or other favorite chips

Place the papaya, mango and avocado dice in a bowl. Add the jalapeno pepper, lime peel, lime juice and cilantro and toss to distribute the ingredients evenly. Taste and add salt as needed. Serve with chips.

Makes about 3 cups

White Asparagus with Tomato Vinaigrette

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Among the delicious foods I feasted on on our recent trip to Eastern Europe were these: white asparagus, which is in season NOW. In the U.S. too. 

I found these beautiful spears at Fairway and prepared them exactly as I had them for dinner one night in Vienna.

Yes, these were dinner.

Ok, ok, I had a few rolls with a lot of butter too.

And strudel with schlag for dessert.

If you've never tasted white asparagus, you are in for a treat. They are milder and sweeter than the green ones and take a few minutes longer to cook because they are usually thicker. But, if you can't find these, use regular green asparagus (adjust cooking time depending on thickness of the spears).

 

White Asparagus with Tomato Vinaigrette

  • 1 pound white asparagus
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 small tomato, chopped
  • 1 hard cooked egg yolk, sieved or mashed
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Remove the fibrous bottoms of each asparagus spear. Poach the asparagus in lightly salted water for 8-10 minutes, depending on thickness, or until tender. Drain under cold water and set aside in a serving dish. Whisk the olive oil and wine vinegar together until well blended. Add the tomato and egg yolk, stir and pour over the asparagus. Toss to coat every spear. Sprinkle with parsley, salt and pepper. Let rest for at least 15 minutes before serving. 

Makes 4 servings

Brussels Sprouts, Kumquat and Avocado Salad

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My daughter Gillian recently gave me a box of kumquats and I was really tempted to candy them, but candied kumquats are the kind of thing I can't stop eating once I taste the first one, so, no. Not now. Maybe when I lose a few pounds.

I looked around to see what else I had in my fridge and cupboards that I could use with the kumquats: a few Brussels Sprouts, a couple of avocados, some cheese, and came up with this salad (I made half with cheese, half without.) 

Perfect -- plus healthy and low-cal -- use for kumquats.

Perfect for Passover as a symbolic dish of "bitter herbs/greens."

I usually don't save salad overnight because it becomes soggy. But this was so good that I kept it and even with its discolored avocado chunks it made a most delicious lunch item.

Brussels Sprouts, Kumquat and Avocado Salad

  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts
  • 18 kumquats
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion or 2 shallots, chopped
  • 1 medium avocado
  • 1/2 cup crumbled goat or feta cheese, optional
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper, optional
  • 1/2 cup chopped pistachio nuts, optional

Shred the Brussels sprouts in a food processor and place in a bowl. Cut the kumquats in half, remove and seeds and chop the fruit coarsely. Add to the Brussels sprouts. Add the onion. Peel the avocado, cut it into bite size chunks and add to the salad. Add the cheese, if desired, and toss gently to distribute the ingredients evenly. Mix the olive oil, white wine vinegar and maple syrup and pour over the salad. Toss to coat all the ingredients. Add the crushed red pepper and nuts, if desired, toss. Let rest for 10-15 minutes before serving. 

Makes 4 servings

Honey Orange Chicken Wings

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You can never have too many recipes for chicken wings, whether or not you watch or even care about the Superbowl. 

My latest chicken wing recipe came about recently, after I attended a honey tasting with my friend Liz Rueven, who blogs at Kosherlikeme. We went to Red Bee Apiary in Weston, Connecticut, where all of us were in rapt attention as beekeeper Carla Marina Marchese told us all about different kinds of bees and different kinds of honey. Then we had a feast of single origin honeys with tidbits of food (cheese, fruit and so on) that went best with them.

Of course, everyone knows that there are many varieties of honey and they all have a unique flavor. No different than wine, for example. You don't have to be an expert to understand and appreciate the differences. But it is fun to taste several all in one sitting. So I recommend this place (or one near you if you don't live in Connecticut).

After it was all said and done I bought a few jars of honey and experimented with them.

Buckwheat honey proved to be very interesting to work with. It has a distinct, intense, almost molasses-ey flavor that makes it a big winner for cookies, muffins and similar types of baked goods. Or baked apples. Or mashed sweet potatoes and so on.

But my favorite was this recipe for chicken wings. Just in time for Superbowl. Or whenever.

 

Honey Orange Wings

  • 1/4 cup honey (I used buckwheat honey)
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoon grated orange peel
  • salt and pepper
  • 24-30 dozen wing pieces

Preheat the broiler with the rack at least 6-inches from the heat. Place the honey, orange juice, chives, mustard, orange peel and salt and pepper in a bowl and mix for a minute or so or until well blended. Add the chicken wings and toss them in the liquid to coat all the surfaces. (You can let the chicken marinate for an hour or so if you wish.) Place the wings in a single layer on a baking sheet. Broil the wings for about 15-18 minutes, turning them every 3-4 minutes to prevent over-browning.

Makes 24-30

Modern Jewish Baker by Shannon Sarna

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When I got Shannon Sarna’s new book, Modern Jewish Baker, I wanted to run into the kitchen and start baking. It’s that kind of book – based on a few beloved, classic, Jewish bakery basics (challah, bagels, babka and so on) plus an amazing number of inventive variations that sound too seriously compelling to miss.

Exactly my kind of cooking.

One problem. I have to lose weight and get my glucose at normal levels before my doctor’s appointment next month.

OY! Which of these fabulous bakery items should I make and still be on the straight and narrow path until the doctor thing is over?

Challah was out because, ok, I had tasted Shannon’s pull-apart spinach-cheese version at the book launch party and had to stop myself from eating more only because it would have been rude and gluttonous not to leave some for the other guests.

Bagels? No way, because then I’d eat a couple of those fat, crispy-crusted, puffy-inside things, load them with cream cheese and lox and then have to promise to start my diet “tomorrow.”

Rugelach or babka? Tell me the truth -- could you eat just one piece?

Me either. I had several samples at that launch party and – see above for thoughts on my ability to control myself if I had this stuff in my kitchen.

So it was down to either matzo or pita.

I chose pita because matzo means butter. Lots of it, or matzo brei loaded with sour cream, so, no.

Pita it was, because then I could have it with the hummus I could make with the recipe from the book and that’s healthy, right? Also, how much pita can one person eat? It's plain old bread, no chocolate or cheese or other extras.

Believe it or not, one person can actually eat quite a bit of plain old pita when it’s this good. Plus, it is really a thrill to see those yeasty rounds come out of the oven and actually look like packaged pita! (But taste much fresher and better). I felt like a triumphant teenager who had baked her first cake. Who knew you can make pita at home?! I’ve been at this cooking thing for years and years and never did it before.

But I will again! This stuff is not only tasty, but fun to make.

And the hummus was quite good too!

I’ll start the diet tomorrow.

This book is a winner.

Bonus recipe from the book -- Classic Hummus (Modern Jewish Baker):

  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and shells removed
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 whole garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup olive oil plus additional for serving
  • 2-3 tablespoons water
  • Paprika (optional), for garnish
  • Za'atar (optional), for garnish

Place chickpeas, tahini, cumin, salt and garlic cloves in a food processor fitted with a blade attachment. Puree for 30 seconds. Add olive oil and process until smooth. Add water one tablespoon at a time until desired smoothness. Spoon onto plate or into a bowl. Top with paprika or za'atar and an extra drizzle of olive oil for serving.

Can be kept in an airtight container for 5-7 days in the refrigerator.

Makes 4-6 servings

 

 

Fresh Tomato Puff Pastry Pizza

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Year after year I failed at growing tomatoes. They bloomed too late because I planted them too late, so by the time the tomatoes on the vine were big and green, a frost would come and everything was ruined. 

Last year I decided to plant them earlier than usual. Also in a different spot in my garden.

Perfecto!

So this year I did the same.

Perfecto again!

I got lots and lots of tomatoes! Enough for salad and sandwiches. Enough for homemade sauce.

And also these fabulous puff pastry pizzas.

So easy, such a good lunch, brunch or even hors d'oeuvre (cut smaller). 

Fresh Tomato Puff Pastry Pizza

  • 3 large or 4 medium tomatoes, sliced about 1/4-inch thick
  • salt
  • 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped basil
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the tomatoes slices on a board, sprinkle with salt and let rest for about 30 minutes. Wipe the slices dry. Place the puff pastry on a floured surface. Cut lengthwise once and widthwise twice to make 6 smaller pieces. Place the pieces on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with equal amounts of the mozzarella cheese, leaving a border of about 1/2-inch. Top with equal amounts of tomato slices. Sprinkle with equal amounts of Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle with equal amounts of basil. Drizzle with olive oil. Refrigerate for about 20 minutes. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes 6

 

Three Tomato Three Pepper Salad

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IMHO, three of the best things about summer are these:

1. fresh, local, tiny, sugary, fragrant strawberries

2. fresh, local, plump, fragrant peaches and nectarines

3. fresh, local (like my garden!), tender, fragrant tomatoes.

Yes, you can get strawberries, peaches and tomatoes all year, but they don't taste like strawberries, peaches and tomatoes.

So feast now, while the feast lasts. This fruit is perfect, as-is, without anything. Not one of them needs sugar or salt or dressing or whipped cream. On the other hand -- if you have a hankering for more, try these:

1. chocolate dipped strawberries

2. Roasted Nectarines with Oat Crumbles

3. This salad:

 

THREE TOMATO THREE PEPPER SALAD

  • 4 cups halved mixed cherry or grape tomatoes, or cut up regular tomatoes
  • 1/4 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
  • 2 finely chopped scallions
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cut up the tomatoes and place them in a bowl. Place the Sichuan peppercorns in an unoiled pan and cook over medium heat, shaking the pan often, for about 2 minutes, or until they are fragrant. Remove the pan from the heat and crush the peppercorns on a flat surface with a rolling pan or with the bottom of a glass or mug. Sprinkle the crushed Sichuan peppercorns over the tomatoes. Add the Aleppo pepper, scallions, mint and garlic and toss the ingredients. Whisk together the olive oil, wine vinegar and mustard and pour over the tomatoes. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Toss ingredients. Let rest for about 15 minutes before serving.

Makes 4-6 servings