appetizer

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

 

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

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

 

An Egg Roll Like No Other

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A few weeks ago I attended a dinner at Six Thirteen, a local kosher restaurant in Stamford, CT. It was a fabulous multi-course offering served as a "pop up" with the fabulous Dini Schuman Klein of "Dini Delivers" doing the cooking.

Dini is a personal chef, a caterer, food demonstrator, blogger.

Yes, she does it all. She's an energetic young woman whose enthusiasm as well as her food ---- delivers!

The entire meal was wonderful. But two courses stand out as memorable. One was a chicken dish that my friend Liz Arronson Rueven will be blogging about.

The other was an egg roll like you've never had egg roll.

With avocado and cumin. Herb marinated mahi-mahi. Pineapple Salsa. Jalapeno peppers.

That kind of egg roll.

Oh my.

I could have eaten 4 of them, but I was trying to be polite and besides I was at a table with several other people, including Liz and her husband as well as Rabbi Yehuda Kantor and Dina Kantor, so I didn't want to appear gluttonous.

But I did ask Dini if she would give me the recipe.

And so she did.

And so, here it is. It's an ambitious recipe, to be sure. But so, so delicious!

Herb Marinated Mahi Mahi-Avocado Eggroll Served with Papaya Salsa, Chili Lime Sace, and Jalapeño Chimichurri

Marinade:

  • 1 large bunch parsley
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 4 medium fillets mahi mahi (24 oz), thinly sliced in 1-inch thick strips

Papaya Salsa:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 papaya peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • salt to taste

Chili Lime Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup sriracha
  • 1/2 cup mayo
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 8 teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder

Jalapeño Chimichurri:

  • 2 jalapenos
  • 1 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  •  salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

To assemble Eggroll:

  • 10 eggroll wrappers
  • 1 avocado sliced
  • pickled onions (optional)
  • canola oil for frying

Directions:

Combine all marinade ingredients in saucepan and bring to simmer. Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes. Add fish and let marinate for 1 hour. 

Meanwhile prepare the sauces:

Papaya Salsa: Saute the onion and garlic in oil in a small pot. Add in remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook uncovered for about 15 minutes until thickened and all the flavors have mixed together. Use an immersion blender to create a slightly smoother salsa. Let chill until ready to serve.

Chili Lime Sauce: Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. 

Jalapeño Chimichurri: Using a food processor, puree all ingredients until well blended. Transfer to a bowl and cover. 

To assemble the eggrolls:

Lay out an egg roll skin with a corner pointed toward you. Place 1/4 cup fish (straining off as much marinade as possible), 2 slices of avocado in the center, and a tablespoon of pickled onions (if using). Sprinkle the avocado with a touch of salt. Fold the corner closest to you over the filling. Fold left and right corners toward the center and continue to roll. Wet the top corner with a drop of water to help seal the egg roll. Continue rolling egg rolls until you've made 10. Place in the oil and fry until golden brown and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and let cool on a rack or paper towel lined plate. Serve immediately with all three sauces. 

Makes 10

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

Does Making it Three-Cornered Mean it's Hamantaschen?

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In short, yes! 

Last year Soom Foods, who produces absolutely fabulous tahini, sponsored a contest which was basically to come up with an unusual or new riff on an old Purim favorite: hamantaschen.

I won!

I won with this idea: Spiced Lamb in Phyllo Hamantaschen with Lemon-Tahini Sauce. Sure, it's not classic cake-dessert hamantaschen with prune or poppyseed filling. But, although I love those (all year, not just on Purim), I don't think hamantaschen has to be a sweet, cakey version in order to qualify. 

My prize for winning was a jar of Soom sesame butter. What could be better when you want to make hummus or tahini sauce or anything else using sesame paste (butter, tahini)?

I've gone through a few jars of the stuff since then.

So here, folks, just in time for Purim, is:

 

Spiced Lamb in Phyllo Hamantaschen with Lemon-Tahini Sauce

  • olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons finely chopped ginger
  • 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1-1/2 pounds ground lamb
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup currants or raisins
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 12 sheets phyllo dough, approximately

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion, ginger and garlic and cook for about 2 minutes, or until slightly softened. Add the lamb and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes or until the meat is completely brown. Stir in the mint, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, currants and pine nuts. Set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. 

Place the phyllo sheets on a cutting board and cut out circles using a 3-inch cookie cutter (work with about 6 layered sheets at a time; you'll need about 12 sheets in all; some will crinkle and dry and need to be discarded). Keep the cut out phyllo circles in a pile, covered with plastic wrap. Working with three circles at a time, brush each circle with a small amount of olive oil and place a heaping tablespoon of the lamb filling in the center of the circle. Bring up the sides to form a triangle and press the edges together. Place each triangle on a baking sheet. Repeat the process until all the lamb has been used (about 24 filled triangles).

Bake the triangles for about 35 minutes or until browned and crispy. Serve hot with Lemon-Tahini Sauce.

Makes about 24

Make the sauce while the triangles are baking:

 

Lemon-Tahini Sauce

  • 1/2 cup tahini (sesame paste, sesame butter)
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • salt to taste

Stir the tahini in the jar to blend in any oil that has risen to the top. Spoon the 1/2 cup tahini into a bowl. Add the lemon juice and blend it in. Add the water, olive oil, garlic and salt to taste. Blend thoroughly (use a food processor or immersion blender).

Makes one cup

 

 

 

Grilled Sardines

Kids grow up believing all sorts of stuff. Like my niece, who thought french fried potatoes came from a box in the freezer. 
 Okay, she was only 6 years old. She stayed over at my house and I made french fries for dinner. From potatoes. And when her Mom and Dad came to pick her up one of the first things she told them was that “Aunt Ronnie makes french fries from a potato.” 
 It was an understandable mistake and  I made a similar one when I was a kid.  
   I thought sardines came from a can. My mother, who loved sardines, ate them once or twice a week. I remember she made a big deal about opening the can, which had a thin metal top that you had to use a key to roll open.   
 I didn’t realize then that there were  real  sardines, in the fish store, that you could cook and eat. But after I did, and grilled a few, I  understood that they were a completely different item than canned sardines.  
 I like canned sardines. 
 But I love fresh sardines.  
 Grilling sardines couldn’t be easier. We eat them as an appetizer, but you could certainly make more and have them for dinner. 
 By the way, fresh fish is monumentally expensive these days. But not sardines. 

     
  Grilled Sardines  

 8 fresh whole sardines 
 2 tablespoons olive oil 
 1 teaspoon dried oregano 
 salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. 
 one lemon, cut in half 

 Preheat an outdoor grill or oven broiler to medium. Coat the fish with the olive oil. Sprinkle with oregano, salt and pepper. Grill the fish for 2-3 minutes per side or until crispy and cooked through. Squeeze the fish with fresh lemon juice and serve. Makes 4 appetizer servings

Kids grow up believing all sorts of stuff. Like my niece, who thought french fried potatoes came from a box in the freezer.

Okay, she was only 6 years old. She stayed over at my house and I made french fries for dinner. From potatoes. And when her Mom and Dad came to pick her up one of the first things she told them was that “Aunt Ronnie makes french fries from a potato.”

It was an understandable mistake and I made a similar one when I was a kid.

I thought sardines came from a can. My mother, who loved sardines, ate them once or twice a week. I remember she made a big deal about opening the can, which had a thin metal top that you had to use a key to roll open. 

I didn’t realize then that there were real sardines, in the fish store, that you could cook and eat. But after I did, and grilled a few, I understood that they were a completely different item than canned sardines.

I like canned sardines.

But I love fresh sardines. 

Grilling sardines couldn’t be easier. We eat them as an appetizer, but you could certainly make more and have them for dinner.

By the way, fresh fish is monumentally expensive these days. But not sardines.

 

Grilled Sardines

8 fresh whole sardines

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

one lemon, cut in half

Preheat an outdoor grill or oven broiler to medium. Coat the fish with the olive oil. Sprinkle with oregano, salt and pepper. Grill the fish for 2-3 minutes per side or until crispy and cooked through. Squeeze the fish with fresh lemon juice and serve. Makes 4 appetizer servings