buffet food

Matbucha

fullsizeoutput_a219.jpeg

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

 

Kosher Baked Beans and "Bacon"

fullsizeoutput_9da4.jpeg

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

fullsizeoutput_92d5.jpeg

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

 

 

Grandma Mac and Cheese

FullSizeRender-1.jpeg

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

 

Best Hummus

fullsizeoutput_8689.jpeg

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.

Grilled Corn Salad

fullsizeoutput_85e6.jpeg

Now's about the time of year when local corn is at its best. So of course, while corn-on-the-cob is always a good bet, there are reasons to cut the kernels off the cob too:

  • your child or grandchild wears braces
  • your parent or grandparent wears dentures
  • you hate the mess and fussiness of eating corn-on-the-cob
  • you've had your fill of corn-on-the-cob
  • you want a pretty dish to go with whatever else you're serving

Here's what to do: salad. Like this easy one:

Grilled Corn Salad

  • 2 cups grilled or otherwise cooked corn kernels (about 2 large ears of corn)*
  • 1 cup cut up grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon chopped chili pepper, optional
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place the corn kernels, tomatoes, red onion, parsley, thyme and chili pepper, if used, in a bowl and toss the ingredients to distribute them evenly. Pour in the olive oil and toss the ingredients to coat them with the oil. Pour in the wine vinegar and toss. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, toss and let stand for about 15 minutes before serving.

*You can also use raw corn kernels

Makes 4-6 servings

Tropical Salsa

fullsizeoutput_8f15.jpeg

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

White Asparagus with Tomato Vinaigrette

fullsizeoutput_9071.jpeg

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

Roasted Chick Pea and Carrot Salad

fullsizeoutput_8a59.jpeg

This dish, which I have made many ways, with many variations over the years, is a nice post-Passover treat for those who don't eat chick peas or beans during the holiday.

It's also an easy dish to do and goes with just about everything and anything else you might be serving at any time during the year -- roasted chicken, grilled fish, steak.

It's a colorful, filling dish for a meatless Monday or vegetarian meal.

I'd use it (have used it) for Thanksgiving dinner.

All in all, a pretty useful recipe.

As I said, versatile too: use white beans instead of chick peas, wine vinegar instead of lemon juice. Add some red onion, thawed frozen peas. Like that.

 

ROASTED CHICK PEA AND CARROT SALAD

  • 2 cups cooked chick peas
  • 1 pound carrots, sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3-4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or chives

Cook dried chickpeas according to package directions (or drain canned chick peas). Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the chick peas and carrots on a baking sheet. Pour 2 tablespoons olive oil over the vegetables. Sprinkle with salt and cumin and toss to coat the vegetables. Roast for about 15 minutes or until crispy and lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let cool. Spoon the vegetables into a bowl. Pour in the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and the lemon juice. Toss. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with parsley, toss and serve.

Makes 4-6 servings

Kedgeree with Salmon

fullsizeoutput_8834.jpeg
IMG_0018.jpg

My cousin has all sorts of fabulous and interesting eating and serving utensils. She is the only American woman I know who has a set of kedgeree forks.

She and her husband, world-travelers that they are, pick up things here and there and once, while in Scotland, they happened into an antique store and saw the unusual piece in the second photo. 

Now, these two people are not dolts! They know a sardine fork from a herring fork. But they had no idea what this thing was.

The proprietor told them it was a kedgeree fork.

They didn't know what that was either, but learned that it is a Scottish/British dish, basically rice with fish (usually smoked haddock) and seasoned with curry. An old import from India (dating back to "the Raj") and now a standard item throughout the U.K.

Apparently, the original Indian dish (called khichri) was a hodgepodge of cumin-scented rice and lentils (sounds very much like Middle Eastern mujadarah), sometimes with vegetables mixed in. The British added fish and hard cooked eggs and that's the way it's served today. Mrs. Patmore made it for the Crawleys in Downton Abbey and served it to them on a silver, dome-covered tray for breakfast.

Recently I decided to make kedgeree. It was all because I had a lot of salmon leftover from dinner. OK, I know salmon isn't exactly smoked haddock or even close in taste, but so what! I made Salmon Kedgeree. It made a terrific leftovers dinner and I ate the rest for breakfast the next two days (alas, no sterling silver serving utensils, no kedgeree forks and no person to serve it to me).

I've never tasted kedgeree so I have no idea if what I made was the way it's supposed to taste. All I can say is: it was absolutely delicious and I wish I had more and will make this again. 

Salmon Kedgeree

  • 1 cup white rice
  • 1-3/4 cups water
  • 2-3 large eggs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom (or 4 whole cardamom pods)
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped (or 1 cup cut up cherry tomatoes)
  • 2 cups cooked leftover salmon (or smoked haddock)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Place the rice in a saucepan, cover with the water and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil for one minute, stir with a fork, turn the heat to low, cover the pan and cook for 18 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed. Set the pan aside off heat. Cook the eggs and bay leaf in simmering water for about 10 minutes, or until cooked through. Peel, cut into quarters and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 2-3 minutes or until softened. Add the curry powder, salt and cardamom, cover the pan and cook for 5-6 minutes or until the pieces are golden. Add the tomato and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Remove the bay leaf from the rice and add the rice to the pan. Stir to distribute the ingredients evenly. Add the salmon and lemon juice and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the ingredients are hot. Spoon into a serving bowl. Place the quartered eggs on top. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Makes 4 servings