cold weather cooking

Kosher Baked Beans and "Bacon"

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It’s really cold outside.

Really cold.

And yesterday there was a snow squall. Cold, snowy and blowy with no visibility for about a half hour.

I can’t complain though. It’s MUCH colder in the midwest.

Also my house is nice and warm and toasty.

And I have these baked beans for dinner. Real, authentic Boston baked beans with bacon. Ok, kosher bacon. There are many brands to choose from, but I used Abeles & Heymann’s newish chunk beef bacon because Seth Leavitt, A&H owner, gave me a piece of it a while ago. He said “go experiment.” Which I did. And out came these fabulous beans.

Dinner. Add a green vegetable.

Just like in Colonial times (minus the green vegetable).

Btw, this is a good dish for Superbowl parties — by itself, but it’s also a nice accompaniment to chicken wings.

Kosher Baked Beans and “Bacon”

  • 1 pound dried navy or great northern beans

  • water

  • 6 ounces kosher bacon, cut into chunks

  • 1 medium onion, chopped

  • 1/2 cup ketchup

  • 1/3 cup honey

  • 1/4 cup molasses

  • 4 whole cloves

  • 2 teaspoons powdered mustard

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Place the beans in a large saucepan and cover them with water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat and cook for 2 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat and let the beans soak for one hour. Drain the beans and return them to the pot. Cover the beans again with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat and simmer for 45 minutes. (Alternatively, cover the beans with water and let them soak for at least 8 hours.) Drain. Place the beans in a casserole. Add the bacon, onion, ketchup, honey, molasses, cloves, mustard and salt and mix thoroughly to blend the ingredients. Stir in 3 cups water. Pour the mixture over the bean mixture. Cover the casserole and put it in the oven. Set the temperature at 300 degrees and cook the beans at least 4 hours, or until they are tender, stirring them occasionally and adding water, if necessary to keep the beans moist. 

 Makes 8 servings

Barley with Carrots, Raisins and Almonds

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For me, the appeal of winter foods is their ability make me feel warm and well-nourished. I don’t expect them to be gorgeous. When I look at dishes such as beef stew or a beloved chicken-and-soup, I don’t see art, I see safety and memory and the expectation of comfort.

This is why, when winter comes, I look for side dishes or desserts or an appetizer that can provide some color or add some beauty to the entree or the meal.

This barley casserole fits the bill. It’s a substantial side dish that works with meat, fish and poultry, with stews and hearty winter casseroles and for vegetarian meals too. It’s colorful and makes for an attractive addition to a winter dinner.

Barley with Carrots, Raisins and Almonds

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 2-3 carrots, sliced 1/2-inch thick

  • 3-4 scallions, chopped

  • 1 cup pearled barley

  • 2-1/2 cups vegetable stock

  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  • 1-1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

  • 1/2 cup golden raisins

  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the carrots and scallions and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the barley and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring often. Pour in the stock and add the salt, pepper and thyme. Stir, bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover the pan and simmer for about 50 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed. Stir in the raisins and almonds and toss gently to distribute the ingredients evenly. Cover the pan and let rest for 5 minutes. Spoon into a serving bowl and sprinkle with parsley.

Makes 6-8 servings

 

 

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

Grandma Mac and Cheese

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All of my grandchildren think that I make the absolute most wonderful, bestest, most delicious mac and cheese. And they expect at least one mac and cheese dinner when they come for a visit.

No worries. I always have one in my freezer, just in case there is ever a surprise knock on my door from one of them.

Of course I thought my grandma made the best mac and cheese too. Hers came out of a box and the cheese part were some granules that came in a separate foil package. She was supposed to mix the granules with milk and butter I think, but she never did. She just opened the package and sprinkled it on top of the cooked elbows. 

That's the way all of us grandchildren thought mac and cheese was supposed to taste. And of course, grandma made it best.

It's the way I made it for my kids. Because that was the best.

Somewhere along the way I tasted actual homemade macaroni and cheese. It was a revelation. It was wonderful. Which is NOT to say that grandma's wasn't good. It was just a whole different dish. I still think of it with fond memories. My daughters think of it with fond memories. And, btw, they also made the packaged kind and sprinkled the dry cheesy granules on top for their children. And their children love that too and probably will have fond memories of that dish.

But when they come to visit me, it's the other kind they expect and love. The from-scratch kind.

They're also pretty clear about how they like it too: moist but not overly sauced, with a combo of American and cheddar cheeses and a crispy top. No added things like tomato or cooked vegetables. No crust -- just maybe some extra grated cheese.

This is the one:

 

Grandma Macaroni and Cheese

  • 1 pound small pasta such as elbows

  • 3 tablespoons butter

  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 3 cups milk (preferably whole milk)

  • 14-16 ounces mixed American and cheddar cheeses plus extra for garnish, shredded

  • salt to taste

Cook the pasta according to package directions, rinse under cold water, drain and set aside. In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. When the butter has melted and looks foamy, turn the heat to low-medium, add the flour and cook, stirring with a whisk, for 2-3 minutes, but do not let the mixture become brown. Gradually add the milk, stirring with a whisk to keep the sauce smooth. Cook for 4-5 minutes or until the sauce has thickened slightly. Add most of the cheeses, leaving some to top the dish as garnish. Add some salt and continue to whisk the sauce until all the cheese has melted. Add the pasta and mix to coat all the pieces. Eat as is, sprinkled with extra cheese, OR place in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes to crisp the top. 

Makes 6-8 servings

 

Short Ribs with Barbecue Gravy

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Lots of people find January a big disappointment. It can be cold and dreary and sometimes seems like a letdown after months of holidays and celebrating.

But the food is good.

I like to call January cuisine. Filling, nourishing, comforting stuff.

Like short ribs.

 

Short Ribs with Barbecue Sauce

  • 5-6 pounds beef short ribs 
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 medium onions, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped chile pepper
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 stalks celery, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 cup ketchup 
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1 cup beer or ale
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar 
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar 
  • 2-3 thyme sprigs (or 1 teaspoon dried thyme)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Dry the surface of the meat with paper towels. Heat the vegetable oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Working in batches, cook the meat, turning the pieces to brown them, for 4-5 minutes or until lightly browned. (If the oil seems too dark, discard it, wipe the pan and add 2 fresh tablespoons vegetable oil.) Remove the meat and set it aside. Add the onions, garlic, chili pepper, carrots and celery to the pan and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the ketchup. Pour in the stock, beer, cider vinegar and soy sauce and stir the ingredients. Stir in the brown sugar. Return the meat to the pan and spoon some of the sauce over them. Place the thyme sprigs and bay leaf in the liquid. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Bring the liquid to a boil. Lower the heat, cover the pan and cook at a bare simmer for about 4 hours or until the meat is fork tender (or place in the oven at 225 degrees).

Makes 6-8 servings

 

Plain Old Meatloaf

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Everyone piles on poor January like it's some cranky old disciplinarian. Like it's January's fault for being on the calendar when it's often cold and gloomy. Like it's January's fault that  after months of indulgence in food, gifts and various and sundry celebrations, we have to get back to some sort of normal.

But we must get back to some sort of normal of course, and we do. In January we face, recognize and take responsibility for our gluttony. It's like some mid-winter al cheyt.

So, on January's menu: simple, easy, homey, plain-old food. 

Frankly, after the Hallowe'en candy and Thanksgiving turkey with stuffing and Hanukkah latkes and doughnuts and New Year's brunch I am ready to make a fresh start. Ready for food like meatloaf.

Actually, that doesn't seem like punishment to me. Just a bit of down home, back-to-basics. I like that.

Here's my simple go-to version.

Plain Old Meatloaf

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground veal
  • 1/2 pound ground turkey
  • 1 cup soft fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup chili sauce
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
  • salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the meats in a bowl. Add the breadcrumbs, 3/4 cup of the chili sauce, soy sauce, eggs, onion, garlic, thyme and some salt and pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly and place the mixture into a lightly oiled 9”x5” loaf pan. Spread the remaining chili sauce over the surface. Bake for about one hour or until the sides of the meat come away from the pan. 

Makes 6-8 servings

Onion Soup with (or without) Cheese Croutes

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I'm looking out the window at the dark sky and a rage of snow. The wind is sweeping it all into deep drifts that I know are going to block my front door.

My husband had the need to walk outside to get the mail (nothing first class, just the usual circulars for cruises and grocery items).

I stayed inside making soup.

This is definitely soup weather.

For example, this onion soup, which is fabulous all by itself, but especially satisfying with a thick crusty, cheese croute on top.

Dinner.

French Onion Soup

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds yellow onions, peeled and sliced
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 6 cups heated vegetable stock (or with beef stock if you serve without the croutes)
  • 1/4 cup sherry, peferably Oloroso type
  • cheese croutes (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over low-medium heat. Add the onions, salt, and sugar. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes or until onions have softened and become caramel-colored. Add the flour and mix ingredients together for 3 minutes. Gradually add the stock, stirring gently. Cook, partially covered, for 35 minutes. Add the sherry and cook another 5 minutes. Serve the soup as is or topped with cheese croutes. 

Makes 8 servings

Cheese Croutes:

  • 8 (1"-thick) slices of French bread
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, cut in half
  • 1-1/4 cups freshly grated Swiss cheese
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the bread slices on a cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Brush the bread tops with the olive oil and rub the surface with the cut side of the garlic. Turn the bread slices over and bake for another 15 minutes. Just before serving, place the soup in oven-proof bowls and top each with one slice of the bread. Sprinkle the cheeses evenly on top. Place the bowls on a cookie sheet and bake for about 12 minutes or until the cheese melts and is bubbly.

 

Carrot Soup with Cloves

Carrot soup is a classic for Rosh Hashanah. One year I cooked some with harissa and coconut and my husband said it was the best soup he ever tasted. There's a slightly different version in my cookbook, The Modern Kosher Kitchen.

But I'm always trying new recipes -- because for us, carrot soup is beyond holiday festive. It's a healer, a comforter. Ok, not like chicken soup.  But still -- it's a dish I make for new moms or when someone isn't feeling up to par or when anyone I know is a little grumpy or sad.

This carrot soup recipe welcomes even before you taste it with its scent of cloves and cinnamon. I used Aleppo pepper for heat, but if you don't like spicy, you can leave it out.

 

CARROT SOUP WITH CLOVES AND PEPPER (P)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium all-purpose potato, peeled and chopped
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh ginger
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1-inch piece cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (or crushed red pepper)
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes, or until softened. Add the carrots, potato, ginger, cloves, cinnamon stick and Aleppo pepper. Stir to mix the ingredients. Pour in stock. Bring the liquid to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes or until the carrots are tender. Remove the cloves and cinnamon stick. Puree the soup. Add the coconut milk, stir to blend the mixture until it is uniform in color and heat through.

Makes 4-6 servings

 

Perfect for Pesach

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Passover is less than a month away so I've already begun the purge of pasta and stuff and am also trying to use up all my flour and get ready for the holiday.

But there's still snow outside and it's cold here so it's nearly impossible to think spring and all the new beginnings we talk about at the Seder. Even if it is the first official day of spring.

That's why, of all the recipes in Naomi Nachman's new cookbook, Perfect for Pesach, I decided to make the Roasted Tomato Soup. Few recipes are more comforting in the winter than tomato soup and yet it is also spring-and-Passover-friendly.

This recipe seemed especially intriguing because it calls for both roasted tomatoes and canned tomatoes. It is no ordinary tomato soup. And Naomi's book is no ordinary book, which is chock full of recipes that are not only perfect for Passover, but also year round. 

Here's another thing that I love about this book: the recipes are EASY, uncomplicated, accessible. There aren't a zillion steps to get to the final product. All the ingredients are easy to find. Almost everyone will have all the equipment needed to make each recipe.

User friendly.

The older I get the more I like user-friendly, easy, simple. 

I don't know how Naomi found the time to write this book. She is a personal kosher chef, she travels world wide, catering all sorts of events. She hosts her own radio show. She gives cooking demonstrations and MCs at scads of events (including Kosher Chopped).

She is everywhere and always with a big smile on her face.

Kudos to you Naomi! Mazal tov on the book.

 

Roasted Tomato Soup

pareve – yields 10 servings – freezer friendly

Growing up, I always loved tomato soup; my mum used to serve it on Sunday night at dinner. Now that I’ve grown up, I make my own version and I discovered that roasting the tomatoes deepens the flavors.

Method

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

Slice each tomato in half lengthwise; place, skin-side down, on prepared baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and salt.

Roast for 30 minutes or until tomatoes are caramelized; set aside.

Heat remaining tablespoon oil in a 4-quart soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; sauté for a few minutes, until translucent. Add roasted tomatoes; cook, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes.

Add crushed tomatoes, stock, and thyme; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer for 30 minutes.

Use an immersion blender to process soup for a full 3 minutes, until smooth; add salt and pepper to taste.

Ingredients

  • 8 plum tomatoes
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 large cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes 
  • 8 cups vegetable stock
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste

Cook’s Tip

For a dairy meal, add a handful of shredded cheese to each bowl; stir to melt cheese.

Roasted Plum Tomatoes

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When it's really really cold outside, (like it is where I live) I think of soup and make a pot or two

But I also dream about summer and sunshine and the garden fresh tomatoes you can only get at the end of August.

Winter tomatoes are not good. Not for salad anyway. They're typically too hard and the flesh is usually too dry.

But a good tomato taste does come out when you cook them, especially if you use Roma (plum) tomatoes. Use them for sauce for spaghetti or in ShakshukaBraise them with string beans as a side dish.

Roasted tomatoes are also flavorful, even if you use winter tomatoes. This dish couldn't be simpler. It goes with any meat protein and also as part of a meatless Monday meal. 

CRISPED ROASTED TOMATOES

  • 4 large plum tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh herbs
  • 2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs
  • cayenne pepper, optional

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise and place them cut side up in an ovenproof pan. Mix the olive oil and Dijon mustard and brush this evenly over the tops of the tomatoes. Sprinkle with the herbs and breadcrumbs. Dust lightly with a pinch of cayenne pepper for more flavor. Roast for 20-25 minutes or until the tops are crispy.

Makes 4 servings