Archive | April, 2011

Macaroons

22 Apr

Macaroons are a Passover standard.  You’ve gotta have ’em.  I have eaten so many of these tasty treats in the last few days that I might pop.  I’ve had them for breakfast all week.  Don’t laugh, coconut is healthy!  Right!?  Healthy or not these are super easy (and delicious) treats.  One might say stupid easy (and stupid tasty).  You probably have your own well warn recipe for these Passover delights, but I’ve got a new recipe that’ll give your macaroons a little punch.

What?

1 large egg white

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon lemon extract

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 /8 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk

1 (14 oz) bag shredded coconut

How?

Preheat the oven to 300 degree F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  In a medium bowl, whisk the egg white and salt until frothy, about 2 minutes. Stir in the condensed milk, zest, and extracts. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the coconut until well combined. Using a small spring-loaded scoop and your hands, shape the mixture into 1 1/2-inch mounds. Place the macaroons about 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until lightly brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer the pans to wire racks and let cool completely.  You’re really going to want to use the parchment paper…otherwise your macaroons will stick to the pan (no matter how well you grease it)…they’ll break and end up ugly.  Nobody wants an ugly macaroon.

Not my Mamaw’s Chicken and Dumplins

21 Apr

I have been hungry for some good old-fashioned soul food lately.  Let’s be honest, I’m always hungry for good Soul Food.  I could eat my weight in white beans and cornbread and a whole truck load of other Southern treats that I grew up with.  Don’t get me started!  I love love LOVE Southern food!  The trouble is most good old-fashioned soul food isn’t so Kosher, let alone Kosher for Passover.  I’ve been on a quiet mission for a while to get brave and make some of my favorite Southern treats in a Kosh way.  Recently I gathered my cookbooks and courage and got to work.  I made what we’ll call Jewish Chicken ‘n Dumplings AND collard greens.  It doesn’t look like the doughy, sweet and salty treat that my Mamaw makes but it sure tastes good.  Wanna know what else?  It’s KFP!  These recipes will definitely spice up your Passover eating…

Collard Greens:

WHAT?

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium yellow onion (sliced)

1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika (this ingredient is absolutely 100% required…f’real)

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

2.5 pounds collard or mustard greens (2 large bunches)

Cider vinegar

3 smashed whole garlic cloves

How?

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the sliced onion and let cook for a few minutes.  Once the onion starts to cook down add the paprika, cayenne and season with salt and pepper stirring occasionally until the onion is softened (about 5 minutes).  Add 1/2 cup of water to the pot; once the water is simmering, add the greens and your smashed garlic…you’ll have to pack them in.  Season generously with salt and pepper and cover with a lid for about 10 minutes.  Now things become a little tricky.  You’ll want to add a couple of splashes of the cider vinegar to the greens.  Not too much.  Not too little.  Be your own judge here.  You can’t hurt them.  Toss the greens around in the pot.  Give them a taste.  If they aren’t tender enough keep cooking them.  If the water gets low…add a little more water.  Repeat this process until they’re tender.

Next come the Chicken ‘n Dumplings.  This one was a little tricky.  I was looking through Gwyneth Paltrow’s new cookbook and noticed that she has her own recipe for Chicken ‘n Dumplings.  The recipe looks amazing.  The only trouble is that it’s far from Kosher.  No problem there.  I just switched some things around and came up with my own version of her recipe.  I hope you enjoy!

Chicken and Dumplings:

What?

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 table spoons margarine (KFP)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 celery stalks roughly chopped

4 carrots peeled and roughly chopped

1 small leek roughly chopped

1 medium onion sliced

1 dried bay leaf

1 teaspoon thyme leaves

1/2 cup white wine

2 cups vegetable stock

2 cups water

How?

Preheat the oven to 400.  Wash and dry your chicken.  Gwyneth wanted me to use the whole chicken, which I was open to until I read the words DISCARD THE BACK AND CUT THE CHICKEN.  I got nervous and nauseous.  So…I went for chicken breasts.  They’re cheap at Wal-Mart.  Whew.  ALRIGHT!  So!  Wash your chicken.  I cut my four breasts in to small bite size pieces.  That’s the way I like it.  Do what you want.  Season the chicken pieces with Kosher salt and pepper.  Heat the margarine and olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat.  Thoroughly brown the chicken pieces (in batches if necessary) for about 7-8 minutes per side and remove to a plate leaving the fat in the pot.  Add your vegetables, bay leaf and thyme and cook for 15 minutes over medium heat until tender.  Return the chicken to your pot.  Add the wine, bring to a boil and let cook for 2 minutes.  Add the stock and water, bring to a boil and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Turn off the heat, cover with a lid and cook in your 400 degree oven for 1 hour.

Meanwhile?  Make your dumplings.  Now, my grandmother made dumpling using milk and flour and a whole bunch of stuff that would render this recipe treif.  The next best thing?  Matzoh balls.  Now don’t start groaning just yet.  I’m not finished.  If you make small, hard matzoh balls they’ll have a texture that is very similar to dumplings.  When I say it’s life changing I mean it, y’all.  Give it a try.

Dumplings:

What?

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 cup matzoh meal

2 tablespoons water

1/4 cup onion small rough chop

How?

In a bowl beat your eggs.  Blend eggs with oil, meal, onions and water.  Let set in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.  If you leave the bowl uncovered you’ll achieve a thicker mixture and thus a harder ball.  If you want to spice up your balls?  Add a dash or 4 of Louisiana Hot Sauce and a tablespoon of black pepper.  Really wanna spice it up?  Throw in a tablespoon of Cajun spice.  I did.  I don’t regret it for a second.  I made two batches of these for our chicken and dumplings.

When your oven alarm goes off after your chicken has cooked for an hour?  Take your dumpling’ mix out of the fridge.  Grab a spoon and scoop spoonfuls of the dumpling mixture into your chicken mixture.  Cover the pot and put it back into the oven for about 10 minutes.  You’re ready for dinner.  There are a lot of steps here.  Sure.  BUT!  I promise that you’ll enjoy this dish and it’s really not as hard as it sounds.

A Word on Pesach

17 Apr

I wasn’t raised in a particularly observant household. I love my childhood connection to Judaism and appreciate the entire journey of life that has brought me to Pesach in Teaneck for the last several years. First night Seder goes well into the late night hours and four full glasses of wine are always enjoyed. I have incredibly fond memories of my mom’s perfectly boiled eggs sitting in just the right amount of salt water and that perfectly formed matzoh ball swimming in harmony with carrots and chicken. I carry these memories with me as I join the Seder at my in-law’s table and though observance level might be a bit stricter, I think I’m finding a comfortable place at each table.

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Living a more observant life tends to naturally call for a stricter observance of holidays and really, well, everything. For the past 2.5 years, as Pesach looms nears, I get a little panicky at the thought of all the cleaning and prep our observance level calls for and don’t even get me started on the dread of saying good-bye to wheat, beans, peanuts, corn, etc. for a week.  It’s not just because my love for pasta rivals that of any full-blooded Italian or the fact that kosher for Pesach food is more expensive than regular kosher food (I’m saving my rant on the high cost of kosher food for another day), but it’s also the fact that I don’t have a cadre of kosher for Pesach recipes in my head like my mother-in-law or a woman who was raised in this kind of observance level.  It’s a bit intimidating actually.   But then my very thoughtful and thought-provoking brother-in-law said something that completely changed my mind about Pesach (and was also one more bit of proof as to why he is such a great Jewish educator).  See, we were talking about how folks run out and by some of the more disgusting,  laboratory-enhanced kosher for Pesach (heretofore known as KFP) foods like KFP Oreos or KFP soy sauce (which is imitation since soy isn’t eaten on Pesach) and fake cereals when he made the statement, “if only people could realize it’s not about what you’re limited to or what you can’t bring into the house but rather what you can bring into the house—fresh fruits, vegetables, pure, whole foods.”  Genius, right?  So while we remember that we were once slaves and now we are free, let’s really BE FREE, no?   Let’s free ourselves from overly processed imitation foods that have that ever-coveted P deeming it KFP.  Let’s free ourselves from the junk that we put in our body in the name of Pesach and instead choose to honor the memory of Moshe and our ancestors who were once slaves in Egypt by eating foods from the earth, not a lab, and allowing ourselves the privilege MOST of us have to be creative, think outside the culinary box and truly be free.

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Not Yo Mama’s Roasted Chicken

10 Apr

You ever get sick of eating? Sometimes, and this is weird because clearly I love LOVE love eating, I just get sick of eating.  I’ve decided that my occasional disinterest in food generally correlates to a lack of creative outlet in my life.  This is not rocket science, I realize that.  Right?  When we’re lacking in passion or creativity in one aspect of our lives it permeates the rest of our lives?  You ever notice that? At work, I find myself buried under paperwork and scheduling and emails and if I’m not careful, the lack of creativity that comes from that kind of work can just suck the life out of everything else (thus the reason for this blog).  I notice this the most around shabbat dinner prep time.  Usually, I start planning the menu around Wednesday so we can go shopping on Thursday evening.  But, those days when all I want to make is salad, roast a chicken and call it a day usually means the creative passion needs a good kick in the pants.  So, last shabbat, that kick in the pants was to liven up said roast chicken.

The husband and I recently made a trip out to Teaneck, NJ to visit the family and ended up stocking up on some of our most favorite items at Trader Joe’s (a wonderful grocery store with a surprising amount of kosher options).  Now granted, Miami has it’s fair share of kosher grocery stores but food is crazy expensive in Florida so a chance to stock up at TJ’s was not to be missed.  One of the items we purchased was their sun dried tomatoes.  Delicious.  So, when the following shabbat came around, armed with chicken and said sun dried tomatoes, I set out to make sundried tomato pesto roast chicken and damn, was it good.

Ready for the oven

Now, let’s keep it real, this is not the most difficult recipe in the world.  But, I figured, with Passover right around the corner and the daunting task of making food taste good and interesting without beans, wheat, corn, etc., I figured I’d share.  The secret to this recipe is freshness and the even spread.  When you’re spreading the sun dried tomato mixture into the chicken, you’re gonna have to get over yourself get in there–I mean get under that skin nice and good.

What?

  • 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup sundried tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 (5-pound) whole chicken
  • How?

    1. In a food processor, pulse basil, pine nuts, garlic, sundried tomatoes, salt and pepper a few times until coarsely chopped. With processor running, slowly add olive oil until combined.
    2. Preheat oven to 400 F.
    3. Place chicken in a roasting pan. Completely cover with pesto, lifting skin on top of breast and rubbing underneath the skin as well. Loosely cover with foil and roast for 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue to roast for about 1 hour.***
    4. Carve into pieces and serve.

    ***I got in there and basted a little bit even though the recipe did not call for basting.  I have a very strong fear of dried out chicken (dried out chicken and heights–what are ya gonna do!?).  I’m not sure this is necessary but the chicken was super juicy and delicious.

    A Runner’s High

    7 Apr

    I’m not sure if running is supposed to make you emotional.  Y’all!  It makes me emotional.  I am serious!  When I take off I begin by complaining to myself about the aches and pains.  My arches hurt.  I can feel my kidneys or lungs or something in there bouncing around uncomfortably.  I can’t do this.  I can’t go any further.  I can’t.  I Can’t.  I CAN’T!  Then something switches.  The Negative Nancy voices go away.  It’s almost like I become a machine.  I focus on the goal of beating how far I ran the previous week and get to the work of moving, of taking one more step.  Today though I might have been a little embarrassing.  Who am I kidding.  I’m always embarrassing when I run.  Please!  I look like Grover from Sesame Street!  I’m not sure if it was that the music went from Eminem to Celine Dion or a runners high or what, but I started crying.  Crying while running!  See?  I’m embarrassing.

    Somewhere in my run today I started thinking about my biological mom.  She died when I was very young, so I didn’t know her very well.  I have only a child’s remembrance of her as a person.  But!  I know two things about her for sure.  I know she loved to read and I know that she loved to run.  I was running my little heart out and suddenly I felt her.  I felt her with me today.  I don’t mean that in a I’m a loony tune sense.  I didn’t see her right next to me.  Don’t start calling the authorities.  I mean I felt a powerful connection to her in a loving way.  Maybe it was a runner’s high.  Maybe my blood sugar was low.  Call it whatever you want.  I started to cry.  Sure, it was while I was running and that’s maybe not the cutest thing ever.  I cried, not because I was sad.  I was crying because I was full of gratitude.  Gratitude for my Mom and a whole host of other things.  Has that ever happened to you?  Have you ever been so overwhelmed with feelings of gratitude and love that you cried?  I did today.  Maybe the running turns everything else off so I can tune in to the things that really matter?  Maybe I’m a crazy person who should listen to something other than Celine Dion and Joni Mitchell.  What are you grateful for?  Where and when are you sending out an attitude of gratitude?  Maybe you should take a run?

    Runners need pasta, y’all!  Here’s a pasta casserole that I kinda sorta made up and/or put together from a Food Network Magazine article.

    What?

    1 lb. of pasta  (I used Farfalle because it’s cute)

    2 tablespoons of olive oil

    4 garlic cloves

    pinch of red pepper flakes

    28 oz can of plum tomatoes

    15 oz can of plum tomatoes

    3 zucchini sliced

    1 small box of mushrooms

    1 small box of frozen spinach (get fresh if you’re feelin’ fancy)

    1 large yellow onion

    1 cup fresh ricotta

    3 cups fontina cheese (or something similar…provolone, asiago, mozzarella..whatevs)

    1 cup of shredded parmesan

    How?

    Preheat the oven to 450.  Bring a large pot of salted water to boil; cook pasta until it’s ready.  In a large pan (I used a big stock pot).  Heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add sliced onion and cook until tender.  Repeat with the zucchini, mushrooms and spinach.  Then slice the garlic cloves and toss in with the veggie mix.  You don’t want to have the heat too high here because garlic burns pretty quickly.  Open your tomatoes and crush them by hand and toss into the pan.  Rise out the cans with a half a cup of water and then toss the water into your sauce.  Simmer all of this uncovered until the sauce s thickened.  This took me about 15-20 minutes.  Then?  Add the ricotta.  Stir that around and get her blended really good.  Your pasta is probably ready, so drain the water off and add your sauce to the pasta along with half of your fontina and parmesan cheese.  Stir the pasta around to make sure everything is blended really well.  Get out a baking dish.  I used a lasagna pan.  Butter or spray the pan with some sort of non-stick spray.  Throw in your pasta, spread evenly around the pan.  Top your casserole with your leftover cheese.  Pop it into the oven until the cheese is melted on top; probably about 15 minutes.

    The great thing about this dish is that you can use any vegetables you want. Add Bell Peppers.  Leave out the spinach.  If you love carrots and hate zucchini?  Swap ’em out.  Whatever.  Add veggies that you like.  My favorite thing about cooking Kosher is that I’m forcing myself to eat and shop for vegetables.  I feel like I’m eating a gazillion times better.  Sure.  One day I’ll get brave and cook a whole chicken.  For now?  I’m crying while running.  Maybe I’ll just stick to my dairy and veggies?

    Silly Jake

    4 Apr
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