make ahead dish

Short Ribs with Barbecue Gravy

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Lots of people find January a big disappointment. It can be cold and dreary and sometimes seems like a letdown after months of holidays and celebrating.

But the food is good.

I like to call January cuisine. Filling, nourishing, comforting stuff.

Like short ribs.

 

Short Ribs with Barbecue Sauce

  • 5-6 pounds beef short ribs 
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 medium onions, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped chile pepper
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 stalks celery, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 cup ketchup 
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1 cup beer or ale
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar 
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar 
  • 2-3 thyme sprigs (or 1 teaspoon dried thyme)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Dry the surface of the meat with paper towels. Heat the vegetable oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Working in batches, cook the meat, turning the pieces to brown them, for 4-5 minutes or until lightly browned. (If the oil seems too dark, discard it, wipe the pan and add 2 fresh tablespoons vegetable oil.) Remove the meat and set it aside. Add the onions, garlic, chili pepper, carrots and celery to the pan and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the ketchup. Pour in the stock, beer, cider vinegar and soy sauce and stir the ingredients. Stir in the brown sugar. Return the meat to the pan and spoon some of the sauce over them. Place the thyme sprigs and bay leaf in the liquid. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Bring the liquid to a boil. Lower the heat, cover the pan and cook at a bare simmer for about 4 hours or until the meat is fork tender (or place in the oven at 225 degrees).

Makes 6-8 servings

 

Chestnut Mont Blanc Mousse

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My friend Eva gave me a can of chestnut puree as a gift. She is a Hungarian-American and told me that she, like many other Hungarians, eats chestnut puree straight from the can or jar. 

But my thoughts went straight to "what can I do with this?"

My friend Susan, who is Swiss-American, told me that her favorite dessert is Chestnut Mont Blanc, which is basically sweetened chestnut puree mixed with whipped cream. 

That sounded like a good start.

Mont Blanc is usually served on top of a meringue or genoise. But I didn't feel like fussing, so I decided to go with buttered chocolate cookie crumbs on the bottom. I placed the crumbs in a bowl and spooned what I call Chestnut Mont Blanc Mousse on top.

Then added a blob of schlag.

Of course.

This will be New Year's dessert for us this year.

Btw, this would also do well as a pie or tart: spread the buttered crumbs in a 9-inch pie plate, tart tin or cake pan with removable bottom and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, remove from the oven, let cool and spoon the mousse inside the crust.

Some specialty stores cary chestnut puree and you can buy it online. If you can't find it, you can make your own: in a saucepan, cover a jarful of chestnuts (about 15 ounces) with milk and cook for about 15 minutes or until the chestnuts are soft. Drain the chestnuts but reserve the milk. Puree the chestnuts in a food processor or blender, gradually adding enough of the reserved cooking milk to make a smooth puree. If you make your own puree, be sure to add the sugar in the recipe.

Chestnut mont blanc Mousse

  • 1 cup chocolate cookie crumbs (or chocolate graham cracker crumbs)
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1-1/2 cups chestnut puree
  • 2 tablespoons sugar, optional
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, optional
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum, optional
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • chocolate shavings

Mix the chocolate crumbs and butter together, making sure all the crumbs are coated. Place the crumbs in a bowl or in a pie plate. (If using a pie plate, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake the crumb crust for 10 minutes; let cool before filling.) If the chestnut puree is unsweetened, mix in the 2 tablespoons sugar and vanilla extract. Mix in the rum if desired. Whip the cream with the one teaspoon of sugar. Remove half the whipped cream and fold it into the chestnut mixture. Spoon the mixture on top of the chocolate crumbs (or into the pie crust). Top with the remaining whipped cream. Garnish with chocolate shavings.

Makes 8 servings

Lentils with Roasted Squash and Dried Cranberries

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It’s all turkey talk when it comes to Thanksgiving.

But really – it’s the side dishes that everyone stresses about, right?

What to serve with the turkey.

Back in the day my Mom served the same menu every year: candied sweet potatoes (fabulous but with more sugar than I can even imagine using now!); baked cranberries (spiked with brandy); a green vegetable of some sort; her famous “filling” made with barley-shaped pasta, mushrooms, onions and celery.

I like to mix it up every year, although I stick to tradition too. So we always have some sort of sweet potato dish (sometimes – yes --- with marshmallow, sometimes not); the same baked cranberries my Mom made; lots of vegetables; and stuffing (the kids got tired of Nana’s “filling”).

We also have a vegetarian entrée, usually mujadarah or koshary. And I must be aware of allergies, so, no nuts in the stuffing, plus I try to make an additional vegetarian stuffing.

This year I am serving this lentil side dish also. It’s sort of like a salad but also like a casserole. And it can be made ahead. It’s a beautiful dish, filled with colorful, seasonal ingredients. It’s vegetarian. It’s a side-dish. It’s nut-free.

 

Lentils with Roasted Squash, Spinach and Cranberries

  • 2 cups diced winter squash (such as butternut)
  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup green French lentils
  • 3 cups water, lightly salted
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2-3 tablespoons orange juice
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the squash and shallot on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Pour one tablespoon of the olive oil over the vegetables, toss and bake for about 20 minutes, tossing the vegetables occasionally. Remove the vegetables from the oven and set aside. While the vegetables are roasting, place the lentils and water in a large saucepan over medium heat. Bring the liquid to a boil, turn the heat to medium-low and cook uncovered for about 20 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Drain the lentils and place them in a bowl. Stir in the vegetables, cranberries and parsley. Pour in the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and toss the ingredients. Add orange juice, season to taste with salt and pepper and toss the ingredients. Add more orange juice if needed for moisture.

Makes 6 servings

Spinach Gnocchi for Break-the-Fast

We never have a traditional smoked fish break-the-fast because one of my daughters is allergic to fish. Instead, we have a vegetarian-dairy feast. My friend Susan brings her famous, not-to-be-missed kugel. Another friend brings dessert, although I usually also make rugelach

The rest is up to me. For years I've served Mujadarah, either made with brown rice or bulgur wheat. Other usuals are Spinach Pie, a tomato salad of some sort, egg salad and hummus.

But this year I'm not doing the Spinach Pie.

No particular reason other than it's time for a change.

But not a huge change.

I decided to make Spinach Gnocchi. It's already in the freezer, ready-to-bake.

Spinach Gnocchi

  • 2 10-ounce packages thawed, frozen chopped spinach
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon grated fresh nutmeg
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Butter a baking dish. Squeeze the spinach to extract as much liquid as possible. Place the olive oil and butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. When the butter has melted and looks foamy, add the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally for 2-3 minutes, or until softened. Add the spinach and cook for 1-2 minutes. Spoon the spinach mixture into a large bowl and let cool slightly. Add the ricotta cheese and mix thoroughly. Add the flour and mix thoroughly. Add the eggs, the 6 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Mix thoroughly to blend the ingredients. Refrigerate for at least one hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. With floured hands, shape the spinach mixture into balls about 1-1/2-inches in diameter. Gently drop the balls into the water. Keep the water at a simmer. Cook for 6-7 minutes or until the balls rise to the top and look fluffy. Lift the balls with a slotted spoon and place them on paper towels to dry slightly. Place the balls in the buttered baking dish. Drizzle them with melted butter and the 1/2-cup Parmesan cheese. Bake for about 18 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and lightly crisped.

Makes 24

 

Carrot Bread with Raisins for Rosh Hashanah

Somehow Labor Day is over and the food thoughts in my head go straight from tomato salad and grilled chicken to pumpkin soup and baked apples

Of course there's still time to enjoy the last of the summer fruits and vegetables, still time for outdoor-cooked grilled, marinated steak

But I'm thinking forward. It's almost a new season and -- yikes! -- the High Holiday season is only two weeks away.

Which leads toady's food thoughts to: carrots, because carrots are traditional during Rosh Hashanah. I usually cook them in soup -- one version or another. But last year I decided to experiment with a few recipes for carrot quick bread.

This is the one we like best. It's moist and sweet, so it can be dessert, and because it is parve, it is a good choice after a traditional holiday meat meal.

But also makes a good snack either by itself or smeared with cream cheese (softened is best and maybe even mixed with some lemon juice).

CARROT BREAD(P)

  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
  • 1-1/2 cups grated carrots
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-1/2”x4-1/2” loaf pan. Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg into a bowl. Set aside. Beat the brown sugar, white sugar and vegetable oil in the bowl of an electric mixer set at medium speed for 2-3 minutes, or until well blended. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in the lemon juice and peel. Add the dry ingredients and blend them into the egg mixture. Fold in the carrots and raisins. Pour the batter into the loaf pan. Bake for about 50 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a rack to cool completely. 

Makes one loaf  

Roasted Potato Salad

Although my Mom was a really good cook, there were a couple of recipes of hers that I absolutely didn't like. For example, her potato salad, made with cooked, cut up all-purpose Eastern potatoes mixed with onions and Miracle Whip.

And because I didn't like that potato salad or even that style of potato salad, I have spent years experimenting with different recipes.

A while ago I tried making potato salad using roasted potatoes and it opened up a whole new range of options. Roasting gives an entirely different texture and flavor to potatoes and, of course to any salad you create with them.

There's a wonderful recipe for Roasted Lemon-Rosemary Potato Salad in my book, The Modern Kosher Kitchen.

This one was a big hit recently at a buffet get-together at my house. A good choice for a Labor Day picnic.

Roasted Potato Salad

  • 2-1/2 pounds small red bliss or baby Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2-3 teaspoons chopped fresh herbs such as thyme, savory, rosemary, marjoram (or a mixture)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Wash and dry the potatoes and cut them into bite size pieces. Place the potatoes on a baking tray. Pour 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over the potatoes and toss to coat them. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast the potatoes for about 25 minutes or until tender. Remove the tray from the oven and place the potatoes in a bowl. Add the red onion and pour in the white wine. Toss the ingredients and let cool slightly. Whisk the remaining olive oil, white wine vinegar and mustard and pour over the potatoes. Add the parsley and herbs, toss and let stand for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Makes 8 servings

Eggplant, Mashed Potato and Portobello Gratin

Whenever I need a meatless or dairy meal -- for a meatless Monday (or any other day of the week when I am not in the mood for meat), or for during the Nine Days, or a Yom Kippur Break-the-Fast, or during Passover -- this is one of the recipes I turn to. It's filling enough for dinner (served with a salad) yet not heavy.

Another benefit? Set it up ahead and bake just before you need it.

I change the recipe occasionally, because -- why not! This dish is versatile. Sometimes I use zucchini instead of or together with eggplant. Sometimes I add feta cheese or a layer of cooked kale or spinach or some cooked carrots. But basically this is it.

 

Eggplant, Mashed Potato and Portobello gratin

  • 2 large Yukon gold potatoes
  • 3/4 cup grated Swiss cheese
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 large eggs
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 medium eggplant (or 2 medium zucchini)
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large Portobello mushroom caps
  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Preheat the oven broiler or outdoor grill. Peel the potatoes, cut them into chunks and cook them in simmering water until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes and mash them in the pot. Stir in 1/2 cup of Swiss cheese, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and the eggs. Season lightly with salt and pepper. While the potatoes are cooking, trim the ends from the eggplant. Slice the eggplant lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices. Brush both sides with the olive oil. Broil or grill the eggplant for 2-3 minutes per side or until softened and lightly browned. Place half the eggplant slices in a rectangular baking dish. Cover with the mashed potatoes. Layer the remaining eggplant on top. Slice the mushroom caps about 1/4-inch thick and place them on top of the eggplant. Slice the tomatoes and place them over the mushrooms. Scatter the basil and parsley on top. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cook for 45 minutes or until crispy and lightly browned on top.

Makes 8-10 servings

 

Two Cabbage Cole Slaw

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We're now in the dog days of summer.

Cole slaw weather.

I remember my grandmother making the stuff by hand. She used one of those old grater/shredders and by the time she was done preparing the cabbage and carrots, her hands were rough and red.

This recipe was much easier. It's basically hers, except I use two kinds of cabbage, which I think makes the dish prettier.

And of course, I use a food processor (slicing disc). Better on the hands! Much less time. Much less mess. Tastes the same as I remember.

TWO CABBAGE COLE SLAW

  • 6 cups shredded green cabbage
  • 2 cups shredded red cabbage
  • 3 medium carrots, shredded
  • 2 scallions, shredded
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place the cabbages, carrots and scallions in a large bowl and toss to distribute the ingredients evenly. In a bowl, whisk the mayonnaise, vinegar, mustard, sugar and celery seed together and pour over the vegetables. Toss the ingredients, sprinkle with salt pepper to taste. Let rest for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Makes 8 servings

 

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

 

 

Passover Spinach Pie

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I can't imagine Passover without this dish. Spinach pie which, during the year I top with buttered phyllo sheets and sometimes with puff pastry, depending on the occasion.

On Passover it gets a matzo crust -- like this one, ready for the oven.

It's a versatile dish too. You can make it plain or add mushrooms or make it with cheese. You can also switch to kale or other greens if you prefer.

Nice for a meatless dinner too.

 

SPINACH PIE with MATZO CRUST

  • 2 10-ounce packages frozen whole leaf spinach, thawed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cups cut up mushrooms, optional
  • 8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled, optional
  • 6 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese, optional
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 sheets matzo

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Squeeze as much water out of the spinach as possible and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 2-3 minutes or until slightly softened. Add the mushrooms, if used, and cook, stirring often, for another 2-3 minutes or until the mushrooms are softened. Stir in the spinach and mix well. Remove the pan from the heat. For dairy, add the feta and Parmesan cheeses and mix them in. Add 3 of the eggs, the dill, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well and place in a baking dish. Soak the matzo in cold water to cover for 1-2 minutes or until softened but not mushy. Shake off excess water. Place the matzo on top of the spinach mixture. Beat the remaining egg and brush over the top of the matzot. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes 4-8 servings (as main course or side dish)