relish/chutney/preserves

Dried Fig and Coconut Charoset

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Every year I make two charosets for our Seders: the family favorite (a Persian style with pistachios, dried fruit and a hint of cayenne), and also a new one.

Last year the newbie was this Dried Fig and Coconut charoset. It was a BIG HIT!

It’s easy to make, you can make it ahead and it is NUT FREE.

Dried Fig and Coconut Charoset

  • 1 cup chopped dried figs

  • 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots

  • 1/2 cup dried cherries or cranberries

  • 1 navel orange

  • 1 cup flaked coconut

  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh ginger

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 cup apricot jam

  • 1/4 cup sweet white or red Passover wine

Combine the figs, apricots and cherries in a bowl. Peel the orange and remove the outer white pith (leaving only the orange flesh). Cut the flesh into small pieces and add to the bowl. Add the coconut, ginger, cinnamon apricot jam and wine and mix ingredients. Let rest for at least one hour (preferably several hours) before serving. May be made a day ahead.

Makes about 3 cups

 

 

 

 

 

Matbucha

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Spring has sprung and for me, that means more salad.

So I got to thinking about that word salad, which I realize means so many things that I was never able to fit all of my salad recipes into a file folder simply marked “salad.” I had to sub-categorize them into files such as “grain salads,” “tomato salads,” “fruit salads” and so on.

Over the years I’ve made salads of all sorts. Some based mostly on greens and some that had no greens at all.

I’ve made beet salads, dinner salads, fish salads and quinoa salads.

I could go on. But really, there is no one way to describe “salad,” even though a dictionary might say something like “a mixture or raw and cooked vegetables served with dressing.”

No.

Because recently I prepared some Matbucha, which is in an entirely different salad category.

Matbucha is a “salade cuit” — that is, “cooked salad.” In fact the word Matbucha, is an Arabic word that means “cooked salad".”

Cooked salad may seem odd to Western thinking except for the fact that most of us actually eat lots of cooked salads, such as potato salad and egg salad too. We just don’t think of them as “cooked salads,” but that’s what they are.

Matbucha is a Moroccan dish, especially popular in the Moroccan Jewish community, which was once large and thriving in North Africa. When good numbers of Moroccan Jews migrated to Israel, they brought their love of this dish with them and it is now wildly popular in Israel too.

For good reason: Matbucha is vibrantly tasty, easy to cook and is ideal for Shabbat because, even though it’s cooked, you can serve it at room temperature. Use it as a salad course or as a side dish with dinner. I’ve always served it with hors d’oeuvre, as a topping for crackers or pita wedges (it works well with other Middle Eastern nibbles and dips such as hummus, raheb, baba ghanoush and so on).

You can make Matbucha 3-4 days ahead. That’s handy isn’t it?

Matbucha

  • 2 large red bell peppers

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 serrano pepper, deseeded and chopped

  • 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped

  • 6 medium tomatoes peeled and finely chopped

  • 1-1/2 teaspoons paprika

  • 1 teaspoon sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste

Preheat the broiler. Place the peppers under the broiler, about 4-6" away from the heat, and 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 peppers, serrano pepper and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, paprika, sugar and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cook for 30-35 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the mixture is thick.

 Makes 1-1/2 to 2 cups

 

Nut-Free Dried Fruit and Apple Haroset

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Passover has it's culinary challenges, it's true, but if you're like me, and have a kid with food allergies you are used to reading labels and figuring out substitutions throughout the year. I actually never minded this part. The fears of what could happen to my daughter if she ate fish or certain nuts, plus the medication and trips to the ER when it did happen were enough to motivate me.

Looked at it in a positive way, the Passover prohibitions plus the allergy no-nos are actually ways that have made my cooking more creative.

I like that.

Obviously, we do not have traditional Ashkenazi haroset at our Seders. My daughter can't even be in the same room as a walnut. She can eat pistachios and almonds, so our usual family haroset with dried fruit includes these.

But -- why take any chances? Because it's possible that one nut allergy could be a warning against all others, my daughter doesn't eat any nuts, in haroset or anything else. On Passover I always serve a second version that's nut-free.

Here is this year's:

Nut-Free Dried Fruit and Apple Haroset

  • 1/2 cup chopped dried figs
  • 1/2 cup chopped dates
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup apricot preserves
  • 4-5 tablespoons sweet red Passover wine
  • pinch of cayenne pepper 

Combine the figs, dates, apricots, raisins and apple in a bowl. Add the nutmeg, preserves, wine and cayenne pepper and mix until the ingredients are evenly distributed. Let the mixture stand for at least one hour before serving. 

 Makes about 2-1/2 cups

 

 

Easy Peasy Fuss-Free Blueberry Jam

Things are still blooming in my garden. And I'm not usually so lucky when it comes to my produce plantings, so I only planted tomatoes and herbs.

Next year: going to try berries. Strawberries and blueberries.

In the meantime it's store bought for me (including farmer's markets).

So the other day, when Fairway had a sale on blueberries (each dry pint for $1!!!!)I bought 5 (the limit). Even though I already had some fresh blueberries at home.

And then I had to use them.

I made blueberry cake, blueberry muffins and blueberry soup (so refreshing on a summer day!). And a blueberry crisp.

And also blueberry jam.

I like jam, but don't like fussing with sterilizing jars and putting the jars in one of those water-bath things. So I only make an amount that will be used within a couple of weeks and store it in my fridge. For example, for:

Here's the simple recipe:

Fuss-Free Blueberry Jam

  • 4 cups blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange peel
  • 1 cup sugar

Place the blueberries, orange juice, orange peel and sugar in a large saucepan. Bring the ingredients to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir, reduce the heat to medium and cook for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and pressing down on the ingredients with a wooden spoon to crush the berries slightly. When the liquid has thickened to jam-like, remove the pan from the heat. Let cool and spoon into a jar. Store in the refrigerator.

Makes about 1-1/2 cups

 

Celebrate! with Sun-dried Tomato Dip

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A colleague of mine, Elizabeth Kurtz, who blogs at GourmetKosherCooking, has written a beautiful cookbook.

"Celebrate" celebrates not only good food and the beauty of Shabbat, but also benefits an organization called Emunah, a social service agency that helps families in physical or emotional distress -- at-risk teens, lonely seniors, young children who may have been neglected or abandoned. And much more. 

The book is filled with interesting recipes. Like the Everything Bagel Chicken, which I made for dinner last weekend. You know that bagel topping that has poppy seeds and sesame seeds and garlic and all? That's a really good coating for boneless chicken breasts!

I also loved the Butternut Squash Soup with Curry and Sweet Apples, a comforting dish on cold winter days.

There's lots to love here, including the luscious photos.

But my cooking mind is turning to Superbowl this week, so I looked for a recipe that I could bring to my brother and sister-in-law's annual party. I picked the Sun-Dried Tomato Dip -- it's easy to make, you can cook it a couple of days ahead, serve it with crudites or crackers. Elizabeth says it's also wonderful as a spread for challah (I liked it with warm pita) and even as a topping for chicken or salmon (I think it would be terrific, mixed with some mayo, on a burger). I made this for my New Year's Eve get-together and everyone gave it a thumbs up! (I used vegetable stock, not pareve chicken broth).

Whether it's a day of rest, a day together with friends and football, a birthday or anything else, it's always good to celebrate with good food. Like this:

Sun-Dried Tomato Dip (from "Celebrate" by Elizabeth Kurtz)

  • 1 (8-ounce) jar sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil, drained and chopped, 1 tablespoon oil reserved
  • 1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup pareve chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

 

Heat reserved sun-dried tomato oil in a large skillet over medium. Add tomatoes, onion, and garlic; cook 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently until onion is soft and beginning to brown at the edges.

Add water, broth, vinegar, wine, sugar, thyme, salt, and pepper to skillet; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook 30 minutes. Uncover and continue simmering another 5 to 10 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated and mixture is the consistency of jam.

 With an immersion blender or food processor, puree until blended but still a little chunky.

Serve warm or at room temperature with pita chips or vegetable crudite. Store refrigerated in a clean glass jar (the one from the sun-dried tomatoes works great!) if not using immediately. It will keep 2 weeks.

Makes 1-1/2 cups

 

No Easier Cranberry Sauce than this one

Sometimes all you have to do is change one ingredient in a recipe and the entire dish tastes different. Like this one. I've made cranberries the same way for years -- bake them with sugar, let them cool, then add brandy.

This year I added some freshly grated orange peel. Huge difference! If you like the orange-cranberry duo, this recipe is for you. Plus -- this recipe is the next easiest thing after opening a can.

Baked Orange Scented Cranberries

  • 12 ounces fresh cranberries (3 cups)
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh orange peel
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice (or use brandy or rum)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Wash and drain the berries and place them in a single layer in a baking dish. Add the sugar and orange peel and toss to coat all the berries. Cover the dish tightly with a lid or aluminum foil. Bake for 45-50 minutes. Remove the cover and stir thoroughly. Let the berries cool. Stir in the juice. Chill thoroughly.

Makes 6-8 servings

Pear and Green Tomato Chutney

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I was always a "late-bloomer" so I was not at all surprised that my tomato plants are too. It's the way it is with me. The plants bore fruit in October rather than at the end of August, when they are supposed to (in my part of the world anyway).

As for me, well, my mother always said "what's the rush?" and of course she was right. I eventually did lose that first tooth, need a bra, learn to ride a bike.

But the tomatoes were a different story. A hurricane was coming (or so I thought). I wasn't about to let the wind and rain destroy those beautiful, slowly-ripening green things. Not after an entire summer of tending to my garden and kvelling when the tiny yellow flowers finally turned themselves into real, would-be tomatoes.

I left a couple on the vine -- just in case the storm passed us by. (It did!)

But with the rest? Some are on the windowsill waiting to ripen. The others became chutney.

Late-bloomers do hold their own in the world in some magnificent way.

 

Pear and Green Tomato Chutney

 

  • 3 pounds ripe but firm pears (about 6), peeled, cored and sliced

  • 1 pound yellow onions, peeled and chopped

  • 3 large green tomatoes, cut into chunks (or use 3-4 cups halved green cherry tomatoes)

  • 1-1/2 cups raisins

  • 3 stalks celery, sliced about 1/4-inch thick

  • 3 cups brown sugar

  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger

  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • 2 teaspoons salt

  • 2-1/2 cups apple cider vinegar

  • 6 whole peppercorns

 

Place the pears, onions, tomatoes, raisins, celery, brown sugar, ginger, cayenne pepper, salt and apple cider vinegar into a large saucepan. Wrap the peppercorns in cheesecloth (or inside a muslin bag) and add to the pan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly to mix the ingredients. Lower the heat, cover the pan partially and cook for 30 minutes. Remove the cover and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3 hours or until thick.

Makes about 5 cups

 

 

Turkey Burgers with Avocado Ketchup

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A long time ago I read that ketchup began in the far east as a kind of fish sauce and it was ages and ages later that some smartie decided to make it with tomatoes.

The rest, as they say, is history. When you say "ketchup," most people picture the thick, red, viscous condiment.

In my family we don't argue over what ketchup means. We don't even argue about what kind to buy, because even though I've cooked my own tomato ketchup from time to time, our brand is Heinz. 

But I do make other kinds of ketchup too. Plum ketchup, for example. They're sort of like smooth chutneys that go well with grilled chicken, beef, lamb and so on. 

So recently, now that it's outdoor grill season, I made avocado ketchup, which is the perfect condiment for turkey burgers. No cooking involved (except for the burgers).

Is it really just a simplified form of guacamole, pureed to a fare-thee-well?

Maybe. But I call it ketchup.

 

Turkey Burgers with Avocado Ketchup

 

  • 1 large, ripe avocado, peeled and pitted
  • 2 sun dried tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 2 medium scallions, finely chopped
  • 1 medium Serrano pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, optional
  • 8 slices toasted bread
  • 2 tomatoes, sliced

 

Cut the avocado into chunks and place the pieces in a food processor. Add the tomatoes, cumin, olive oil, lemon juice and some salt and pepper and process until thoroughly blended and uniform in color (mixture should have the consistency of ketchup). Set aside. Place the turkey, scallions, Serrano pepper, garlic and lemon juice in a bowl and mix to combine the ingredients evenly. Shape the mixture into 4 burger patties. Grill the burgers on an outdoor grill OR heat the vegetable oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Cook the burgers for about 2 minutes per side or until crispy and cooked through. Place 4 slices of toasted bread on each of four plates. Place tomato slices over the bread. Top with the burgers. Top with equal amounts of the avocado ketchup. Cover with remaining toast slices.

 

Makes 4 servings

Some like it hot

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Do you think that so many SuperBowl foods are hot and spicy because football weather is often so cold, snowy and blowy? And maybe eating things like Buffalo wings and Chili makes us feel warm and cozy as we watch the men running around outside?

Or maybe it's that spicy food is energizing and that helps make the game more exciting?

Whatever the reason, a lot of people serve at least one spicy item during the event.

Here's mine: a persimmon salsa with serrano peppers and lime juice to add a little kick to your menu. Best with corn chips.

Persimmon Salsa

  • 2 Fuyu persimmons
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped serrano or jalapeno pepper
  • 2 medium scallions, chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • salt to taste

Chop the persimmons into small pieces and place them in a bowl. Add the mint, serrano pepper, scallions and garlic clove. Pour in the olive oil and toss the ingredients. Add the honey and lime juice, sprinkle with salt and toss the ingredients. Let rest for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Makes about 2-1/2 cups 

Haroset with Pistachios and Pepper

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Charoset (Haroset) is more than a blob of stuff that sits on the Passover Seder plate. Sure, we talk about it during the Haggadah reading. It’s there to symbolize the mortar used between the bricks that Jewish slaves used to build the pyramids for the ancient Egyptian pharaoh.

But it’s also food. In our family, another fabulous side dish, more like a relish, that we eat plenty of during the meal.

None of us ever really loved the old fashioned apple-wine mixture that most of us Ashkenazi Jews of Eastern European descent grew up with. It always tasted a bit sour and it got brown and ugly and besides, my daughter Gillian can’t eat walnuts and somehow almonds didn’t taste right in the mixture.

So, years ago I experimented with lots of recipes and found one I liked. It was a “Persian” recipe that I changed over and over until I got it the way I liked. At first my kids refused to eat it saying they would rather eat real mortar than this new charoset. But over the years they gradually came to love it and now insist they always did or at least can’t remember when they didn’t.

I double the recipe I am going to post here because it’s so good we eat a lot of it and besides, this relish lasts a while in the fridge so you can keep on having it all during Passover.

Haroset with Pistachios and Pepper

  • 1 cup chopped dried apricots

  • 1 cup chopped dates

  • 1/2 cup raisins

  • 1 cup shelled pistachio nuts

  • 1 cup chopped almonds

  • 2 tart apples, peeled, cored and chopped

  • 2/3 cup sweet red Passover wine

  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh orange peel

  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh ginger

  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • 1/2 cup orange marmalade

    Combine the apricots, dates, raisins, pistachio nuts and almonds in a bowl and toss ingredients to distribute them evenly. (You can prepare this much a week ahead). Add the apples, wine, vinegar, orange peel, ginger, cinnamon, cayenne and marmalade and mix ingredients. Let rest at least 4 hours before serving. May be made 3 days ahead.

Makes about 6 cups.