jewish food

Chopped Salad with Chick Peas, Feta Cheese and Zatar Vinaigrette

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For us, summer means salad. Not just leafy greens and tomatoes for starters to a meal. We eat bulky filling salads for dinner. Like this chopped salad, which of course could be served with other salads or as a side dish to grilled fish. But it’s also satisfying on its own, just like this. Add a crust bread and some fabulous olive oil for dipping and that’s all you need (except for dessert of course).

Chopped Salad with Chickpeas, Feta Cheese and Zatar Vinaigrette

  • 1 large cucumber, peeled, deseeded, and chopped

  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped

  • 2 large ripe tomatoes, chopped

  • 3–4 scallions, chopped

  • 1 (15-ounce) can chick peas, rinsed and drained

  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese

  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

  • 1/2 cup tangy black olives, pitted and halved

  • 3–4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

  • 1/2 teaspoon zatar

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  • Pita bread or crisps, optional

Place the cucumbers, bell pepper, tomatoes, scallions, chick peas, cheese, parsley, and olives in a bowl and toss ingredients gently. Just before serving, mix together the olive oil, lemon juice, and zatar. Pour over the salad. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Salad tastes good with Pita bread or crisps.

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.

Potato Cheese and Spinach Kugel

Tell me Shavuot is coming and my first thought is cheesecake.

Of course. Cheesecake the dish most associated with the holiday. I love it. Make all kinds. Some plain. Some spiced. Some covered with fruit. Some with chocolate.

On the other hand you can't just eat cheesecake. 

Shavuot is generally a dairy holiday.

I love dairy.

Especially if there is a potato involved.

Like in this kugel, which is a wonder all by itself. But also good with salad, other dairy dishes or served with sunnyside eggs on top.

Perfect dish for the holiday.

 

Potato Cheese and Spinach Kugel

  • 4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes (about 1-1/2 pounds)
  • 8-10 ounces fresh spinach
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 6 large eggs
  • 5 tablespoons melted butter
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3/4 cup panko crumbs
  • 2-3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 2-quart baking dish. Peel the potatoes, cut them into chunks and boil them in lightly salted water for about 15 minutes or until tender. Let cool and chop into small pieces. Place the potatoes in a bowl. While the potatoes are cooking, wash and dry the spinach and chop it coarsely. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for about 3 minutes or until softened. Add the spinach and cook for 2-3 minutes or until wilted (if there is liquid in the pan, raise the heat and cook until it evaporates, or drain using a strainer). Add the spinach mixture, the feta cheese and dill to the potatoes and mix gently to distribute the ingredients evenly. Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Mix in 3 tablespoons of the melted butter and pour over the potato mixture. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Gently mix the ingredients. Place the mixture inside the greased baking dish. In a small bowl, mix the panko, the remaining 2 tablespoons melted butter and the Parmesan cheese and sprinkle over the ingredients. Bake for about 30 minutes or until hot and crispy.

Makes 8-10 servings

 

 

Cheese and Vegetable Kugel

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When my kids were young and still living at home, I made kugel a lot. My daughters were not terribly anti-vegetable, but I realized that pairing veggies and noodles would make it even easier to have more vegetables at our meals.

Also, it is a good way to use leftovers -- the recipe below is extremely versatile. Add cut up cooked green beans or asparagus, corn kernels, peas. Like that.

This kugel is filling enough for dinner. Also yummy with a sunny-side egg or two on top of each serving for a meatless (Monday) dinner. And a wonderful choice for dairy-fest Shavuot.

Veggie Kugel

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 10-12 ounces mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 bunch spinach or kale, washed and dried, coarsely cut
  • 2 medium carrots, shredded
  • 12 ounces medium-wide egg noodles
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup grated Swiss cheese
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • paprika

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 9”x9” baking dish. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and mushrooms and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the spinach and cook for another 1-2 minutes or until it has wilted (kale may take a minute or so longer). Add the carrots and cook for another minute. Remove from the heat and set aside. Cook the noodles according to package directions, drain and place in a large bowl. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, the cooked vegetables, eggs, sour cream and 3/4 cup of the Swiss cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir to mix ingredients well. Place in the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the top with the remaining Swiss cheese, Parmesan cheese and paprika. Bake for about 35 minutes or until the top is crispy and brown.

Makes 6-8 servings

 

Stir-fried String Beans with Meat (Ants on a Tree)

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There's an old, ongoing joke about Jews and Chinese food. You know, the Jewish year is 5777 and the Chinese year is 4714; we love Chinese food so how did we get along without it for over a thousand years?

All kidding aside, there is a real connection among the Jews and Chinese going back -- in the United States at least -- to May 1903. 

In April of that year there was a terrible pogrom in Kishinev (now in Moldava) during Russian Easter. Several days of anti-semitic violence took its toll on the Jewish community: 49 dead, 500 injured and about 2,000 homeless. News of the violence reached the United States, where Jewish philanthropists raised money to help the victims.

But a Chinese businessman on New York's Lower East Side felt the outrage too.

His name was John Singleton, who understood the cruelty and sometimes barbarism inflicted upon minority groups. He and three fellow merchants Guy Main (Yee Kai Man), Dek Foon and Jue Chue arranged for a benefit performance at the Chinese Theater on Doyers Street on May 11, 1903.

The program consisted of a short play (performed in Chinese) -- all the Chinese actors donated their time. Then speakers. Guy Main and Rabbi Joseph Zeff (who spoke in Yiddish) talked about the common bond between the two people, noting the atrocities committed by Russians against both. Another speaker expressed Jewish gratitude to the Chinese and wished the United States to welcome them as Americans, a somewhat veiled protest against the Chinese Exclusion Act.

Finally? Dinner at Mon Lay Won, considered the "Chinese Delmonico's." A very special place. The famous Yiddish actress Bertha Kalisch attended, as well as many other prominent Jews. There is no record of the menu, but it was definitely NOT kosher. The restaurant, which usually served featured pork and shrimp, apparently tried to be sensitive to the Jewish dietary laws and didn't serve those items, but we know that among the dishes served were chicken, squab and reindeer.

The event raised about $280 for the Kishinev victims (that's about $7,300 in today's dollars).

Of course this is not the reason that Jews love Chinese food. But the gesture stands, the solidarity cannot be forgotten. And so, on this 114th anniversary of the event, I offer a tasty Chinese dish that's welcome for spring. If you can get Chinese long beans that's perfect, but I make the dish with common string beans. The authentic Chinese version calls for ground pork, but my recipe uses turkey. It's kosher.

Celebrate solidarity, unity, kinship, friendship, respect for all ethnic groups and minorities.

Stir Fried String Beans with Meat

  • 1/2 pound Chinese long beans, green string beans or haricots vertes
  • 3 scallions, shredded
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 ounces ground turkey or veal
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine or sherry
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 dried red chili peppers (or 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger

Wash and trim the beans. Shred the scallions by using a small sharp knife tip and cutting through from the root end through the greens. Cut away the root and set the scallions aside. Steam the beans for about 3 minutes or until barely tender. Drain under cold water and set aside. Preheat a wok or stirfry pan. Pour in the vegetable oil, let it get hot. Add the meat and stirfry for a minute or so, stirring constantly and breaking up the pieces, until the meat is no longer pink. Add the water, wine, soy sauce, sugar, peppers and sesame oil. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until the water has evaporated. Add the scallions and ginger and mix them in. Add the beans and stirfry for a bout a minute, mixing the ingredients to distribute them evenly. 

Makes 4 servings

Lullabye Bread

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A few years ago Ed and I were in Berlin and checked out KaDeWe, the city's famous department store that has the biggest food halls in Europe and maybe in the world. They sell every kind of food you can imagine. Gorgeous cakes and pastries. Bountiful, beautiful fruit. Different kinds of eggs, dairy products, chocolates. 

It was all familiar. Pineapples. Peaches. Sachertorte. Macarons. Freshly butchered chickens, and so on.

We stopped counting the different kinds of sausages after we reached 100. Apparently they sell sausages from every region in Germany. 

But we were there for lookin', not cookin' -- so, in the two hours we walked through this place it was more like a visit to an art gallery. 

But then we came to the bakery and there, in the case, was a beautiful, braided loaf called Hefezopf, which is like a challah, but with raisins and almonds.

It was a vision. All at once my mind filled with memories of a lovely shabbat challah mixed with grandma singing rozhinkes mit mandlen, that hauntingly beautiful, classic Yiddish lullabye.

Oh my. My eyes well up even thinking about it.

This was something I had to try at home and get right.

I did, but it took several tries. At first I used my challah recipe and sweetened it a bit, but that just tasted like sweeter challah. The consistency wasn't right.

After doing some research about Hefezopf I realized it was more like brioche -- dense, buttery, dairy-laden, so I started tinkering with my brioche recipe.

Yes. 

A taste is worth a thousand looks.

Try this. It's called Hefezopf, but like to call it Lullabye Bread.

Lullabye Bread (HEFEZOPF)

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 3-inch piece of cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • 2 2-inch strips of lemon peel
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 3-1/2 cups all purpose flour, approximately
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup raisins, optional
  • 2-3 tablespoons chopped almonds, optional

 

Lightly grease a baking sheet. Pour the milk into a saucepan. Add the cinnamon stick, lemon peel, butter and sugar cook over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar, until bubbles form around the edges of the pan and the mixture is hot. Set aside to cool to lukewarm (about 105-110 degrees). Sprinkle the yeast over the milk mixture and whisk the ingredients to dissolve the yeast. Let rest for about 5 minutes or until thick bubbles form. Place the flour and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. Remove the cinnamon stick pieces and lemon peel from the yeast mixture and pour the liquid into the mixer bowl. Add one egg and mix the dough with a dough hook for about 2 minutes. Add the raisins, if used, and mix for another 2 minutes or so, or until the dough is smooth. If the dough is sticky, add more flour as needed. (Kneading can be done in a food processor or by hand.) Cover the bowl and let rise in a warm place for about 1-1/2 hours or until doubled in bulk. Punch the dough down and cut it into 3 equal pieces. Working on a floured surface, roll the pieces to make strands of about 12-inches long. Braid the strands and place them on the baking sheet. Beat the remaining egg with one teaspoon water and brush the egg wash over the surface of the braid. Sprinkle with almonds, if used. Let rise again for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake for about 30 minutes or until puffed and golden brown.

Makes one bread

Chicken Soup Burgers

My daughters are not big meat eaters, so when they were young kids and still living at home,  I never made stuff like roast beef or beef stew or meatloaf. They just didn't want any of it.

They didn't even eat hamburgers.

We were basically a chicken and turkey family (including chicken and turkey burgers).

Also, I would make burgers out of all the vegetables I used for chicken soup, which I cooked more often than almost everything.

That was a kid favorite. They still talk about those burgers.

Recently I made some chicken soup because, well, it's been rainy and gloomy in my part of the world and soup is like magic to help get you in a good mood. I used the leftover vegetables for burgers, just for the two of us. Fabulous not-quite-meatless dinner. Of course you can make this a vegetarian meal with regular cooked vegetables not from soup!

 

CHICKEN SOUP BURGERS

  • 8 cooked carrots, cut up
  • 6 stalks cooked celery, cut up
  • 2 cooked parsnips, cut up
  • 1 large cooked onion, cut up
  • some sprigs of cooked dill
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup matzo meal
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • vegetable oil

Place the cooked vegetables and dill in a food processor and pulse to combine them and chop them into very fine pieces. Spoon the contents into a bowl. Add the egg, matzo meal and some salt and pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly to combine the ingredients evenly. Shape portions of the mixture into patties about 1/2-inch thick. Heat about 1/4-inch vegetable oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot enough to make a crumb sizzle, add the patties, a few at a time, leaving space between them in the pan. Do not crowd the pan. Fry the patties for about 3 minutes per side or until golden brown and crispy. Drain on paper towels. 

Makes about 12

 

Latkes of a Different Kind

Hanukkah wouldn't be right without latkes. And, while classic potato latkes are my favorite and I once made 200 of them for my sister-in-law and brother's annual holiday party, I also like to cook up different varieties.

In addition to fried foods, dairy is also an iconic food for Hanukkah.

So -- dairy latke!

This one is made with cornmeal and cheddar cheese. Good for breakfast, lunch or as a side dish at a vegetarian meal. Perfect accompaniment to sunnyside eggs, for dipping into runny yolks.

Also, versatile. Add chives, scallions, corn kernels, chili peppers. Whatever.

Also -- make them ahead and rewarm. 

 

Cornmeal-Cheddar Latkes

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 cups cornmeal
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2-1/3 cups milk, approximately
  • 2 large eggs
  • 5 ounces shredded cheddar cheese 
  • butter for frying
  • optional: 1 small chopped jalapeno or serrano pepper; 1 cup corn kernels; 2 tablespoon chopped chives

Melt the butter and set it aside to cool. In a bowl, mix together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In a separate bowl, mix the milk, eggs and cooled melted butter. Pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture, stirring gently. Fold in the cheese. If the mixture seems too thick, stir in more milk.

Heat about 1 tablespoon butter in a sauté pan over medium-low heat. When the butter has melted and looks foamy, drop 1/4 cup of the batter per pancake and cook for 2-3 minutes per side or until golden brown.

Makes about 24

 

Grandma Hoffman's Skinny Noodle Crusty-Top Mushroom Onion Kugel

Kugel is the kind of food that people can get into an argument about.

The issues can become monumental.

Like -- should it be sweet or salty?

have cheese or not? 

if cheese-- what kind?

And lots more.

Including this biggie -- what width noodles to use!

Skinny? Medium? Wide?

OY!

Here's my answer. Medium or wide for sweet, creamy, dairy-based or fruit-laden kugels served as side dishes with dairy or for dessert, because you want more pasta-surface area to absorb the sauce.

BUT, definitely skinny noodles for a savory kugel because you want it crispy on top to crunch under the pan juices or gravy that come with the tender meat and vegetables.

I grew up in a family where salty kugels were the thing. And ALWAYS made with the skinniest of noodles.

Here's my grandma's recipe. If you make it in a shallow baking pan the entire kugel is one huge crunch. Use a deeper pan if you prefer some soft noodles under the crusty top.

Grandma Hoffman's Mushroom Onion Kugel

  • 10 ounces skinny egg noodles
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or schmaltz
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 10 ounces fresh mushrooms, any variety, sliced
  • 2 large eggs
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • paprika

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook according to package directions, until the noodles are tender but not mushy. Drain under cold water and set aside. While the noodles are cooking, heat the vegetable oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10-12 minutes or until the vegetables are soft. Set aside. Place the noodles in a large bowl. Add the vegetables with any accumulated juices, and stir the ingredients to distribute them evenly. Add the eggs and some salt and pepper to taste and mix them in. Place the mixture inside a baking dish. Sprinkle the top with paprika. Bake for about 25 minutes. Raise the heat to 400 degrees and cook for another 10 minutes or until the top is crispy and browned.

Makes 8 servings

Carrots with Pomegranate Jam Glaze

There are several ingredients in my life that I cook over and over.

Salmon. I make it so often for Ed and me that we are turning into fish.

Except that I also cook a lot of turkey, so maybe instead of growing fins and swimming up river we will grow feathers and start saying "gobble gobble."

And carrots. They're my go-to vegetable because most people like them and even people who say they hate vegetables usually say carrots are okay. 

I will definitely serve carrots for Rosh Hashanah. Why?

Tradition!

Pomegranates are also traditional for the holiday, so a while ago I cooked carrots and pomegranates (in the form of pomegranate molasses) together once and the result was really delicious.

But recently I decided to rework my old recipe using pomegranate jam that I bought from Crafted Kosher

It's a keeper.

Also, you can make the recipe up to the point of actually roasting them, so it's one of those wonderful dishes you can make ahead during this crazily busy holiday time.

Carrots with Pomegranate Jam

  • 1/4 cup pomegranate jam
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh orange peel
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • salt to taste
  • 1 pound carrots
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the pomegranate jam, orange juice, vegetable oil, orange peel, cayenne pepper and salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to blend the ingredients, and cook for one minute, making sure the jam has melted. Peel the carrots and cut them lengthwise in half or quarters, depending on thickness. Place the carrots on the parchment lined baking sheet and pour the jam mixture over them. Roast the carrots, stirring occasionally, for 18-20 minutes or until they are tender and well glazed. Sprinkle with mint and serve. 

Makes 4 servings