comfort food

Honey Orange Chicken Wings

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You can never have too many recipes for chicken wings, whether or not you watch or even care about the Superbowl. 

My latest chicken wing recipe came about recently, after I attended a honey tasting with my friend Liz Rueven, who blogs at Kosherlikeme. We went to Red Bee Apiary in Weston, Connecticut, where all of us were in rapt attention as beekeeper Carla Marina Marchese told us all about different kinds of bees and different kinds of honey. Then we had a feast of single origin honeys with tidbits of food (cheese, fruit and so on) that went best with them.

Of course, everyone knows that there are many varieties of honey and they all have a unique flavor. No different than wine, for example. You don't have to be an expert to understand and appreciate the differences. But it is fun to taste several all in one sitting. So I recommend this place (or one near you if you don't live in Connecticut).

After it was all said and done I bought a few jars of honey and experimented with them.

Buckwheat honey proved to be very interesting to work with. It has a distinct, intense, almost molasses-ey flavor that makes it a big winner for cookies, muffins and similar types of baked goods. Or baked apples. Or mashed sweet potatoes and so on.

But my favorite was this recipe for chicken wings. Just in time for Superbowl. Or whenever.

 

Honey Orange Wings

  • 1/4 cup honey (I used buckwheat honey)
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoon grated orange peel
  • salt and pepper
  • 24-30 dozen wing pieces

Preheat the broiler with the rack at least 6-inches from the heat. Place the honey, orange juice, chives, mustard, orange peel and salt and pepper in a bowl and mix for a minute or so or until well blended. Add the chicken wings and toss them in the liquid to coat all the surfaces. (You can let the chicken marinate for an hour or so if you wish.) Place the wings in a single layer on a baking sheet. Broil the wings for about 15-18 minutes, turning them every 3-4 minutes to prevent over-browning.

Makes 24-30

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

 

Plain Old Meatloaf

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Everyone piles on poor January like it's some cranky old disciplinarian. Like it's January's fault for being on the calendar when it's often cold and gloomy. Like it's January's fault that  after months of indulgence in food, gifts and various and sundry celebrations, we have to get back to some sort of normal.

But we must get back to some sort of normal of course, and we do. In January we face, recognize and take responsibility for our gluttony. It's like some mid-winter al cheyt.

So, on January's menu: simple, easy, homey, plain-old food. 

Frankly, after the Hallowe'en candy and Thanksgiving turkey with stuffing and Hanukkah latkes and doughnuts and New Year's brunch I am ready to make a fresh start. Ready for food like meatloaf.

Actually, that doesn't seem like punishment to me. Just a bit of down home, back-to-basics. I like that.

Here's my simple go-to version.

Plain Old Meatloaf

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground veal
  • 1/2 pound ground turkey
  • 1 cup soft fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup chili sauce
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
  • salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the meats in a bowl. Add the breadcrumbs, 3/4 cup of the chili sauce, soy sauce, eggs, onion, garlic, thyme and some salt and pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly and place the mixture into a lightly oiled 9”x5” loaf pan. Spread the remaining chili sauce over the surface. Bake for about one hour or until the sides of the meat come away from the pan. 

Makes 6-8 servings

Onion Soup with (or without) Cheese Croutes

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I'm looking out the window at the dark sky and a rage of snow. The wind is sweeping it all into deep drifts that I know are going to block my front door.

My husband had the need to walk outside to get the mail (nothing first class, just the usual circulars for cruises and grocery items).

I stayed inside making soup.

This is definitely soup weather.

For example, this onion soup, which is fabulous all by itself, but especially satisfying with a thick crusty, cheese croute on top.

Dinner.

French Onion Soup

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds yellow onions, peeled and sliced
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 6 cups heated vegetable stock (or with beef stock if you serve without the croutes)
  • 1/4 cup sherry, peferably Oloroso type
  • cheese croutes (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over low-medium heat. Add the onions, salt, and sugar. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes or until onions have softened and become caramel-colored. Add the flour and mix ingredients together for 3 minutes. Gradually add the stock, stirring gently. Cook, partially covered, for 35 minutes. Add the sherry and cook another 5 minutes. Serve the soup as is or topped with cheese croutes. 

Makes 8 servings

Cheese Croutes:

  • 8 (1"-thick) slices of French bread
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, cut in half
  • 1-1/4 cups freshly grated Swiss cheese
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the bread slices on a cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Brush the bread tops with the olive oil and rub the surface with the cut side of the garlic. Turn the bread slices over and bake for another 15 minutes. Just before serving, place the soup in oven-proof bowls and top each with one slice of the bread. Sprinkle the cheeses evenly on top. Place the bowls on a cookie sheet and bake for about 12 minutes or until the cheese melts and is bubbly.

 

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

 

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

Passover Butter Cookies

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As far as I know, my father's Aunt Fanny didn't have any child named after her, but, in keeping with our Ashkenazi tradition, she does have something that bears her name: the family recipe for butter cookies.

We call them Fannies, because these butter cookies were her creation and somehow calling them Fanny's just didn't seem right to anyone but the English majors in our lives.

I have made these cookies so often I can mix the dough and shape them without even looking at what I'm doing. My kids make them. My grandkids even make them. 

Fannies are the ultimate butter cookie. You need look no further to find a better one.

But of course, not during Passover.

Which got me to thinking that -- this recipe is so good, why not try a Passover version?

After a few tries -- voila!

Thank you Aunt Fanny. I named them after you too.

 

aunt fanny's Passover Butter Cookies -- Passover Fannies

  • 1 cup matzo cake meal
  • 1/2 cup ground toasted almonds
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 15 tablespoons unsalted butter, slightly softened, cut into chunks
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • chocolate chips (about 50) (or use lekvar)

Place the matzo cake meal, ground almonds, sugar and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer and mix on low speed for about a minute until the ingredients are evenly combined. Add the butter and mix on medium speed for about 3 minutes. The mixture will be crumbly. Add the egg yolks and vanilla extract and mix for another minute or so until a soft, uniform dough forms. Place the dough in the refrigerator for 30-40 minutes or until somewhat chilled and slightly firmer. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Take small chunks of dough and shape into balls about one-inch in diameter. Flatten the balls in the palm of your hands into disks that are about 1/4-inch thick. Place the flattened balls on ungreased cookie sheets, leaving some space between each cookie (they will spread slightly). Place a chocolate chip in the center of each dough disk (they hold better if you place the chips upside down). Bake for 10-2 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes about 50.

Note: if you use lekvar, make a thumbprint in the center of each cookie and fill the hollow with a small amount of apricot or prune lekvar 

Perfect for Pesach

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Passover is less than a month away so I've already begun the purge of pasta and stuff and am also trying to use up all my flour and get ready for the holiday.

But there's still snow outside and it's cold here so it's nearly impossible to think spring and all the new beginnings we talk about at the Seder. Even if it is the first official day of spring.

That's why, of all the recipes in Naomi Nachman's new cookbook, Perfect for Pesach, I decided to make the Roasted Tomato Soup. Few recipes are more comforting in the winter than tomato soup and yet it is also spring-and-Passover-friendly.

This recipe seemed especially intriguing because it calls for both roasted tomatoes and canned tomatoes. It is no ordinary tomato soup. And Naomi's book is no ordinary book, which is chock full of recipes that are not only perfect for Passover, but also year round. 

Here's another thing that I love about this book: the recipes are EASY, uncomplicated, accessible. There aren't a zillion steps to get to the final product. All the ingredients are easy to find. Almost everyone will have all the equipment needed to make each recipe.

User friendly.

The older I get the more I like user-friendly, easy, simple. 

I don't know how Naomi found the time to write this book. She is a personal kosher chef, she travels world wide, catering all sorts of events. She hosts her own radio show. She gives cooking demonstrations and MCs at scads of events (including Kosher Chopped).

She is everywhere and always with a big smile on her face.

Kudos to you Naomi! Mazal tov on the book.

 

Roasted Tomato Soup

pareve – yields 10 servings – freezer friendly

Growing up, I always loved tomato soup; my mum used to serve it on Sunday night at dinner. Now that I’ve grown up, I make my own version and I discovered that roasting the tomatoes deepens the flavors.

Method

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

Slice each tomato in half lengthwise; place, skin-side down, on prepared baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and salt.

Roast for 30 minutes or until tomatoes are caramelized; set aside.

Heat remaining tablespoon oil in a 4-quart soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; sauté for a few minutes, until translucent. Add roasted tomatoes; cook, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes.

Add crushed tomatoes, stock, and thyme; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer for 30 minutes.

Use an immersion blender to process soup for a full 3 minutes, until smooth; add salt and pepper to taste.

Ingredients

  • 8 plum tomatoes
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 large cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes 
  • 8 cups vegetable stock
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste

Cook’s Tip

For a dairy meal, add a handful of shredded cheese to each bowl; stir to melt cheese.

Mashed Potato Pancakes

It has been said that on St. Patrick's Day everyone is Irish.

That's okay by me! I've been to Ireland. It's gorgeous. The people are friendly, the sites are interesting, the weather is glorious, the food is awesome. What's not to like?

The potato dishes are especially good.

Like mashed potato pancakes. You absolutely cannot go wrong making these. A terrific side dish with fish or at a vegetarian dinner. But, ya know, I've had these for dinner just by themselves, topped with sunnyside eggs (and served with some grilled tomatoes) and that's a perfect meal as far as I am concerned.

 

Mashed Potato Latkes

  • 2 pounds boiling potatoes (such as Yukon Golds)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, optional
  • 1 large egg
  • Panko crumbs
  • vegetable oil for frying

Wash the potatoes and cut them into chunks. Bring them to a boil in a large pan in lightly salted water. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Drain and, when cool enough to handle, peel the potatoes. Mash the potatoes in a bowl using a potato masher or ricer. Add the butter and the milk and stir them in. Stir in the chives, if used, and the egg. Make flat cakes, about 1/4-inch thick out of the potato mixture. Press each side of the cake into Panko crumbs. Heat about 1/4" vegetable oil in a cast iron or other heavy heat retaining skillet over moderately high heat. Fry for 2-3 minutes per side or until the pancakes are golden brown and crispy. Drain on paper towels.

Makes about 12

Buttermilk Pancake Day

One of the first newspaper food articles I ever wrote had to do with Shrove Tuesday (tomorrow, February 28th), a holiday my family doesn't celebrate, so at the time I didn't know that it is also Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), and in food circles -- Pancake Day!

Live and learn. It seems that in days gone by, when the Catholic Church imposed stricter rules during Lent, fatty items such as eggs, butter, milk and so on, were forbidden from Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins, until Easter. So the day before Lent everyone tried to eat up all the fats in the house.

Hence, the eating of gras (fat) on that mardi (Tuesday).

What's a delicious, filling, welcome and wondrous way to include eggs, butter, milk and stuff?

Pancakes!

I've made all sorts of pancakes: German Apple, Oatmeal, Lemon-Cottage Cheese and others. But plain old buttermilk pancakes are simple and always fluffy and full of down home pleasure.

Maple syrup goes on top, for sure. But homemade apple sauce is a bit different, less sweet and so easy to make. I like to mix apples and pears for sauce during the winter because there are so many pear varieties available. 

Happy Pancake Day. Mardi Gras. Btw, this also makes a nice dinner on a meatless Monday.

Buttermilk Pancakes with Apple-Pear Sauce

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • butter for frying the pancakes
  • Apple-Pear Sauce

Melt the 3 tablespoons butter and set aside to cool. Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a bowl. In a second bowl mix the egg, buttermilk and melted, cooled butter. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ones and mix to blend them but do not beat vigorously. Preheat a griddle or large saute pan over medium heat. Lightly butter the pan before cooking the pancakes. When the pan butter has melted and looks foamy, slowly pour about 2 tablespoons batter (for small pancakes) or more (for larger pancakes), leaving space between each pancake. Cook for about 2 minutes, or until bottom is lightly browned and bubbles form on the top. Flip the pancakes with a rigid spatula and cook for a minute or until the second side is lightly browned. Serve with Apple-Pear Sauce.

Apple-Pear Sauce

  • 4 apples
  • 3 pears
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

Peel, core and slice the apples and pears and place the pieces in a saucepan. Add the cinnamon, stir, cover the pan and cook over low heat for 25-30 minutes or until the fruit is soft. Stir occasionally during the cooking process. Puree the ingredients in a food processor with a hand blender. Serve hot, cold or at room temperature. Makes about 3-1/2 cups.

Makes 6-8 servings