salsa

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

 

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

Easy Guacamole

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Recently I posted a recipe for an Avocado, Egg and Tomato Sandwich with Pesto Mayonnaise, in which I mentioned that I eat a lot of avocados. In fact there are always 4-5 avocados in my house, some in the crisper bin of the fridge, others ripening on the counter top.

Besides eating avocados as a snack, I find that when I am at a loss for a vegetable side dish or when I am rushed, stressed or busy, an avocado comes in really handy (not to mention delicious and also healthy). Just peel and cut it up and serve with anything: chicken, beef, eggs, whatever. Maybe sprinkle a little lime juice on top.

But of course, as I mentioned in that previous post, there's always Guacamole! One of the tastiest, easiest, well-loved dips there ever was.

Here are some ideas for guacamole in addition to serving it with chips:

1. spread on top of toast for a sandwich (by itself or with tomato slices, chicken or turkey)

2. use instead of ketchup for burgers

3. use to replace the butter on a baked potato

4. tuck inside eggs within an omelet 

5. stuff inside hollowed tomatoes

Here's my easy recipe for guacamole. It will take you far.

Guacamole

  • 2 medium avocados
  • 1 large tomato
  • 1 small serrano chili pepper, deseeded and chopped
  • 1 medium clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro, optional
  • 3 tablespoons lemon or lime juice
  • salt to taste
  • chips

Peel the avocado and scoop the flesh into a food processor (or bowl or molcajete). Chop the tomato and add the tomato pieces, chili pepper, garlic, cilantro, if used, juice and salt to taste to the food processor. Process to desired texture using pulse feature (or mash with a fork or tejolete). 

Serve with corn chips.

Makes about 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

 

Coconut Crusted Chicken

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Coconut Chicken with Mango Salsa

I don't remember when chicken nuggets became one of the stock items on childrens' menus. But it's right up there with pizza, pasta and mac n' cheese.

Of course, grownups like chicken nuggets too. I suppose it's the anything crunchy-fried-golden-brown thing.

Most recipes give chicken nuggets a bread crumb crust, but during Passover there are other alternatives. Check out my recipe below, which has a matzo meal and coconut crust. I keep the pieces bigger than standard nuggets so they feel more like dinner to adults, but you can cut the chicken into smaller chunks to make actual nuggets (which are terrific as hors d'oeuvre).

The coconut gives the chicken a lovely sweet taste, which is fine all by itself, but grown up palates might want to balance that with a refreshing, citrusy, slightly spicy mango salsa.

Coconut Chicken

 

  • 1/4 cup potato starch
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup unsweetened packaged shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup matzo meal
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1-1/2 pounds boneless chicken
  • vegetable oil for frying

 

Place the potato starch in a dish. Beat the eggs in a second dish. Combine the coconut, matzo meal, salt, paprika and garlic powder in a third dish. Slice the chicken into strips (about 2-inches long, 1-inch wide). Press the strips, one by one, into the potato starch, covering the entire surface. Immerse the strips in the egg, making sure to cover the entire surface. Press the egg-coated chicken strips into the coconut mixture, making sure to coat the entire surface. Place the strips on a cake rack and let air dry for at least 15 minutes. Heat about 1/8-inch vegetable oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot enough to make a matzo crumb sizzle, add the strips a few at a time, leaving room between each strip, for about 2 minutes per side, or until golden brown and crispy. Drain on paper towels and repeat with the remaining strips. Serve plain or with Mango Salsa.

 Makes 4 servings

 Mango Salsa

  • 2 cups diced fresh mango
  • 1/2 cup chopped purple onion
  • 1 small chili pepper, deseeded and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • salt to taste

Place the mango, purple onion, chili pepper, mint, ginger, garlic, lime juice, honey and vegetable oil in a bowl and toss the ingredients to distribute them evenly. Sprinkle with salt to taste. Let rest for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Makes about 2-1/2 cups