Summertime and the Livin’ is Kosher

(David Stuck)

(David Stuck)

Ah … summertime is officially here. And so is reading outdoors in the shade.

And what is my favorite read? Cooking magazines, of course! I get many, but my favorite is Joy of Kosher by Jamie Geller.  Other magazines present a challenge to turn nonkosher recipes into kosher ones, but this is summertime, and I want easy. Nothing can be easier than Joy Of Kosher in which every delicious recipe is kosher. Any recipe can be downloaded on a computer, but having the magazine’s color photos in your hands is indeed special.

A hot lazy day will find me reading and combining some of my own classics with the new ones. Here are some examples in which I combine my home-grown tomatoes and Geller’s recipes in some luscious ways.

Geller’s pulled chicken sandwiches are so simple, using the meat from a rotisserie chicken so you get white and tender dark meat as well. The pages reveal another unique take on ceviche (which cooks raw fish in citrus juices) and is a refreshing summer treat. And the easy sushi salad is one of my own go-to pareve menu picks year-round. My patriotic finale is always a layered berry trifle served in a glass trifle bowl — simply layer sliced strawberries and blueberries with real whipped cream and crushed shortbread cookies. I slightly soak the cookies in a sugar syrup or warm orange juice before adding. Yummy!

Ilene Spector is a local freelance writer.

 


JAMIE GELLER’S BBQ PULLED CHICKEN SANDWICHES
(Meat)

4 cups skinless chicken, shredded from a cooked rotisserie chicken
2 cups of your favorite barbecue sauce
4 to 6 challah or kaiser rolls, split in half
1 avocado, pitted, peeled and sliced

Directions: Using your fingers or two forks, pull chicken from the bones, shredding it into medium strands.  Combine chicken and barbecue sauce in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until chicken is heated through.  Arrange the roll halves on a serving platter. (I like to toast one side.) Evenly distribute the chicken among the rolls. When ready to serve, top with avocado slices. I serve these with homemade coleslaw. 4-6 servings.


food2JOY OF KOSHER CEVICHE
(Pareve)

1 pound sushi grade very fresh tuna steaks
½ cup stone fruits, such as plums, peaches or apricots
1 jalapeno, seeded and very finely diced,  optional
⅓ cup fresh mint, chopped
⅓ cup fresh lime juice
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon honey

Directions: Chop tuna and fruit into  half-inch chunks.  Mix with remaining  ingredients and allow flavors to meld  together in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or more.  Serve chilled. 4-6 servings.


EASY SUSHI SALAD
(Pareve)

1 cup uncooked sushi rice (it’s important to use sushi rice)
2 tablespoons seasoned rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 large seedless cucumber, peeled (striped,  so not entirely peeled)
4 to 8 ounces imitation crab meat, shredded style preferred
¼ cup toasted sesame seeds, black or white
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Very scant cup of light soy sauce
½ teaspoon wasabi, optional for some heat
½ ripe, firm avocado, chunks or slices
2 sheets black fresh (nori) seaweed

Directions: In a pot with cover, bring 1½ cups water to a boil.  Add the sushi rice.  Turn heat down to low, cover and cook for 18 minutes. Turn off the burner and let the rice steam in the covered pot for 5 minutes.  Remove the cover and stir in the rice vinegar, sugar and salt. Flake the rice with a fork and let completely cool. Cut the cucumber into small squares. Stir the cucumber, “crab” and sesame seeds in the cooled rice.  In a small bowl, mix the soy sauce, sesame oil and wasabi, if using. Then stir this mixture into the rice, mixing well, coating rice.  Fluff the rice mixture once again. Taste at this point, and add more soy sauce if necessary.  Can be  refrigerated covered for a few hours or overnight. Just before serving, add the  avocado, mixing it in gently. Tear the seaweed into small pieces and sprinkle on top of salad with additional sesame seeds, if desired. The important thing is to get the rice seasoned properly.  6-8 servings.

Celebrating Shavuot … and More

(©istock.com/Craig McCausland)

(©istock.com/Craig McCausland)

Shavuot is a two-day holiday that celebrates the giving of the Torah. Dairy foods are often eaten because when receiving the Torah, the Jewish people could not cook meat in pots that had not yet been kashered. Honey and fresh fruits are served because learning the Torah is equated with much sweetness. It is said that when Moses brought down the tablets, Mount Sinai fully blossomed with flowers.

I am reminded of the song lyrics “June is busting out all over,” and now Shavuot, graduations and even weddings and showers fill calendars with happy celebrations. Any of these delicious, refreshing recipes are suitable for celebrating June’s special menus.


LEMONY LEMON CAKE
(dairy)
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
3 cups flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Glaze:
1½ cups sifted powdered sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1½ teaspoons grated lemon rind
¼ cup warm lemon juice

> Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugar in mixing bowl until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift together flour, baking soda and salt. Add to creamed batter, alternately with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix in lemon rind and juice. Pour into a  10-inch tube pan that’s been sprayed with nonstick vegetable or butter spray. Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Cool in pan for at least 50 minutes, then invert on a tray. Invert again so the original top is on top. (I poke a few holes with a thick toothpick on top.) Combine all glaze ingredients, and slowly pour over cake. Remove to serving dish when glaze is set. 12-16 servings.


SOY GINGER “CRAB” SALAD
(Pareve)
½ cup fresh lime juice
¼ cup rice vinegar
1¾  tablespoons canola oil
¼ teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
½ teaspoon minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds imitation crab, cut into half-inch pieces or shreds (I prefer shreds)
¼ cup fresh minced parsley
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
¼ cup toasted pine nuts

> In a large bowl, whisk together the lime juice, vinegar, oils, soy sauce, ginger and garlic until smooth. Add the “crab” and toss gently to coat. Add the parsley, sesame seeds and pine nuts, mixing gently. Cover and refrigerate 2 to 3 hours before serving. 8 servings.


DAIRY CORNBREAD-LAYERED SALAD
(Dairy)
1 cup halved grape tomatoes
1 red, yellow or orange pepper, diced
¼ cup chopped parsley
kosher salt
1 cup sour cream
¼ cup mayonnaise
2 scallions, minced
juice of ½ lime
¼ teaspoon chili powder or more to taste
2 cups crumbled or diced baked sweet cornbread
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup frozen or canned white sweet corn, drained
1 cup shredded cheddar or Mexican blend cheese

> Toss the tomatoes, bell pepper, parsley and ½ teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Whisk the sour cream, mayonnaise, scallions, lime juice, chili powder and ½ teaspoon salt in a small bowl.  Assemble the salad in a large glass bowl. Sprinkle half the cornbread in a glass bowl or trifle dish. Top with layering, half each of the black beans, corn and tomato mixture and then half of the sour cream mix and cheese. Repeat layers, ending with cheese on top. Cover with plastic wrap and  refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight. 8 servings.


MEDITERRANEAN CHICK PEA PASTA SALAD
(Dairy)
Dressing:
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
½ teaspoon minced garlic
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

Salad:
1 16-ounce can chick peas, rinsed and drained
¾ cup fresh thin French string beans, blanched al dente, drained and cut into thirds diagonally
½ cup pitted black olives, Kalamata preferred
12 grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup crumbled feta cheese (I like the milder Israeli feta)
¼ cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, torn in pieces
8 ounces bowtie pasta, cooked al dente, rinsed with cold water and well drained

> Whisk dressing ingredients in a large bowl until well blended. When ready to serve, add salad ingredients and mix well. 8 servings.


SOUTHERN PRALINE CHEESECAKE
(Dairy)
1 cup crushed graham cracker crumbs
2 full tablespoons sugar
3 full tablespoons butter, melted
3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1¼ cups dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons flour
3 eggs
1½ teaspoons vanilla
½ cup chopped pecans
6 ounces real maple syrup

> Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine cracker crumbs, sugar and butter, mixing well. Press into bottom of a 9- to 10-inch buttered spring form pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Set aside. Combine cheese, brown sugar and flour, mixing at medium speed until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time and blend in vanilla until batter is smooth. Carefully pour over cooled crust. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove and cool for 15 to 20 minutes. Loosen ring of spring from pan, but do not remove yet. While cooling, brush top gently with real maple syrup and garnish with the pecans. When syrup is set, remove ring and place on serving plate. Refrigerate until serving. 10-12 servings.


Tips & Tricks

• You can freeze lemon or lime slices and store in a tight plastic bag in a freezer. Defrost and squeeze for juice.

• Imitation crab can be purchased in chunks or shredded.

• Dark brown sugar simply has more molasses than light brown to enrich its flavor.

Start Your Summer with Yummy, Healthy Foods

(David Stuck)

(David Stuck)

Memorial Day weekend truly announces the beginning of everything summer. Juicy redberries and blueberries march out in time for our patriotic red, white and blue summer holidays.
Of all the berries looking for attention, those blackberries call out to me the most.  They are simple, dark and juicy, and you can eat them, cook or bake with them or use them to garnish a fruit tray.

Taste them for sweetness first. If they are too tart, sprinkle with any sweetener and let them marinate in the fridge for a few hours. At their prime, blackberries have a short harvest, so grab the fresh ones when you can.

And blueberries are in the beginning of their prime season. Firm and sweet, they are just so versatile and healthy. As for strawberries, the local ones may be smaller and not as sturdy as those brought in from other states. And locals are not guaranteed to be sweeter. If you can, taste one before buying them.


Cheesecake-stuffed strawberries
Dairy or Pareve

Ingredients
A pint or quart of fresh large strawberries (depending on size) or 24 large strawberries
24-ounce container of Philadelphia Cheesecake Filling (dairy) or homemade pareve filling
Mini-chocolate chips, graham cracker crumbs, crushed almonds  or other topping

For pareve filling:
12 ounces pareve cream cheese, at room temperature
1½ teaspoons vanilla
4 tablespoons confectioners sugar
A few drops of milk (use pareve milk  or creamer substitute if making nondairy) to reach consistency for filling berries

Directions
Clean and dry berries as suggested above. Using a strawberry huller or very sharp paring knife, remove the leaves and most of the inside of each berry but do not cut into the bottom. Spoon or pipe the dairy or pareve filling into each berry and gently dip into any toppings. Lay the berries on their sides or upright on a cookie sheet. Cover loosely with waxed paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate a few hours or overnight. To serve, place the berries as upright as possible on serving tray.

> To make pareve filling: Combine all pareve filling ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to use.


Healthy broccoli fritters
Dairy

Ingredients
1 cup cooked broccoli, chopped small
2 egg whites, beaten stiff
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons flour or fat-free pancake mix
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
A few twists of black pepper

Directions
Coarsely chop broccoli into small pieces. Add remaining  ingredients and mix until combined. Coat a nonstick pan with cooking oil spray. Form the broccoli mixture into patties. Place patties in heated pan and press them down slightly. Cook on low to medium heat until brown on one side, about 5 minutes.  Turn and pat down again. Cook until brown on other side, about  5 minutes more. Makes 2-4 servings.


Easy blackberry or blueberry cobbler
Dairy or pareve

Ingredients
4 cups sliced or whole fresh blackberries or blueberries, dry on paper towels
3/4 cup butter, or 11/2 sticks; use margarine if making pareve
2 cups sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
11/2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
11/4 cups milk (I use coconut milk, which is pareve.)
Optional: ice cream or, for pareve, nondairy ice cream

Directions
Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Melt butter in a 13-by-9-inch baking dish as the oven heats. Mix 11/4  cups sugar with 1/2 cup flour. Add blackberries and gently toss. Let it sit so the sugar dissolves a bit. In a separate bowl, mix remaining 11/2 cups flour and  3/4 cup sugar, baking powder and salt. Add milk. Whisk until mixture is smooth. Remove dish with melted butter from oven. Pour batter over melted butter. Do not stir. Spoon berry mixture on top of batter, but do not stir. Bake one hour or until cobbler is golden brown and bubbly. Serve warm. Optional: Serve with ice cream. Yields approximately 24 strawberries.


 

Tips & Tricks
> To clean berries before eating, gently roll them in  a clean damp kitchen or bath towel.
> Rub some sesame oil and sesame seeds on corn before grilling, slowly turning to get grill marks. While hot, season with salt, pepper and a splash  of sugar.
> Wash and dry the perforated bags that grapes come in. Use them for transporting salad greens to your picnic. They keep greens crisp in refrigerator.

Ilene Spector is a Maryland-based consumer, food and travel writer.

 

The Real Heart of the Pesach Seder

food1

Gefilte fish (Photo by David Stuck)

The story of Passover is at the heart of every Seder meal.  It overflows with the rituals and tradition that make this holiday so different from any other.

Passover reminds me of my late mother who stood in line to buy whitefish, pike and rockfish — the only mixture she would use — as she tipped the fish monger for removing the eyes, head and tails and grinding the fish.  I was the  taster of the raw mixture to make sure the amount of pepper was just right.  Little did I know, that was my first sushi tasting.

Recently, on the Food Network, I saw a top chef boiling the eyeballs in broth and eating them as a favorite delicacy.

It was only a few decades ago that the only gefilte fish choices we had were from a caterer or tediously made from scratch like everyone’s bubbie did — a real labor of love.  Today, selections of already-ground, seasoned frozen fish are awaiting your own personal touch to cook terrines, loaves, fish kabobs or traditional oval servings.  It may not be exactly your bubbie’s fish, but a multicolored gefilte fish terrine or kabob might become a family favorite.  And to your kids and grandkids, it will then become their bubbie’s fish.

In produce, try a big hunk of celeriac. Peel, dice and cook in your homemade soup. It gives a sweet, mild celery flavor.  Don’t resist cauliflower, the new healthy “rice.”  Use the accompanying recipe for a delicious, good-for-you side dish to any meal.

Remember the round egg yolk balls your bubbie used to serve in the chicken soup? Try my recipe to make tiny ones that resemble the old-fashioned ones.  One tiny one in a soup serving couldn’t hurt, right?

As you set your table, remember to squeeze in a person or couple who would otherwise be alone for Passover.  It will be your biggest mitzvah and will make your matzoh balls fluffy and your brisket sweet.

 

Easy, Healthy Cauliflower Rice (Pareve)

Sweet and Crunchy Quinoa (Pareve)

Old-Fashioned Egg Balls for Chicken Soup

A Delicious Sauce

 

Ilene Spector is a local freelance writer.

On a Winter’s Day Get out the crockpots and chop and mince

Reprinted with permission from The Seasonal  Jewish Kitchen © 2015 by Amelia Saltsman, Sterling Epicure, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. Photography by Staci Valentine

Reprinted with permission from The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen © 2015 by Amelia Saltsman, Sterling Epicure, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. Photography by Staci Valentine

The recent blizzard certainly smacked some wintry sense into us — Game on! Get out your crockpots and containers. Match up those lids with the bottoms. Be ready to label what you put in the freezer. Chop and prep is what tires me out the most. It’s like shoveling snow — exhausting. But once that part is over, it’s easy!

Chop, mince, brown your ingredients the day before. Then you can simply throw things into the slow-cooker or big pot the following day. All these dishes can be made in part or in total in advance. Then you won’t be too pooped to put some pizazz into presentation such as making twists for ribbon salad. Or serve your favorite chili in corn bread muffins. Scoop out the baked muffins and fill with the chili. Sprinkle a few scooped out crumbs on the tops. And no more excuses to eat unhealthy foods, just because you are stuck indoors.

Amelia Saltsman, a cookbook author, advocates “eating out less” and “cooking more” for a healthy 2016. Her newest book, “The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen,” is focused on tradition and seasonality, inspired by the Jewish calendar. Her diverse Romanian and Iraqi background make for some delicious flavors. Try her unique fish and roasted ratatouille recipes (very yummy!).

AMELIAS “MANTA RAY” CEVICHE
ROASTED ROMANIAN RATATOUILLE
GREEN TAHINI DIP

Tips & Tricks
• Using a sharp veggie peeler, scrape large ribbons for your salad. Zucchini, carrots, cucumbers and even asparagus can be placed flat to get ribbons.
• Look for Minneola or Honeybell oranges that are “in season” now for citrus recipes.
• Make a unique green tahini dip for raw vegetables and/or chicken strips.

Ilene Spector is a local freelance writer.

On a Winter’s Day Get out the crockpots and chop and mince

The recent blizzard certainly smacked some wintry sense into us — Game on! Get out your crockpots and containers. Match up those lids with the bottoms. Be ready to label what you put in the freezer. Chop and prep is what tires me out the most. It’s like shoveling snow — exhausting. But once that part is over, it’s easy!

Chop, mince, brown your ingredients the day before. Then you can simply throw things into the slow-cooker or big pot the following day. All these dishes can be made in part or in total in advance. Then you won’t be too pooped to put some pizazz into presentation such as making twists for ribbon salad. Or serve your favorite chili in corn bread muffins. Scoop out the baked muffins and fill with the chili. Sprinkle a few scooped out crumbs on the tops. And no more excuses to eat unhealthy foods, just because you are stuck indoors.

Amelia Saltsman, a cookbook author, advocates “eating out less” and “cooking more” for a healthy 2016.  Her newest book, “The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen,” is focused on tradition and seasonality,  inspired by the Jewish calendar. Her  diverse Romanian and Iraqi background make for some delicious flavors. Try her unique fish and roasted ratatouille recipes (very yummy!).

  • Reprinted with permission from The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen © 2015 by Amelia Saltsman, Sterling Epicure, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. Photography by Staci Valentine

    Reprinted with permission from The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen © 2015 by Amelia Saltsman, Sterling Epicure, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. Photography by Staci Valentine

    AMELIA’S “MANTA RAY” CEVICHE
    (Pareve)
    1 pound firm-fleshed fish,  skinned, very fresh fillets, such as halibut, mahimahi or white sea bass
    11/2 cups fresh lime juice  (from 6 large limes)
    1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 large lemons)
    1/2 small red onion
    1/4 cup snipped fresh chives, in 1/8-inch pieces
    1 to 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    1 teaspoon ground sumac or more to taste
    1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes or to taste
    1/2 teaspoon sel gris (coarse French salt) or coarse grain salt to taste
    Pita triangles or crackers for serving
    > Pat fish dry. Remove any bones and dark patches. Cut fish against the grain into small thick slices about about 3/4-inch thick. Place in a glass bowl and add the juices,  stirring to mix. Cover and  refrigerate, stirring occasionally until fish is opaque, about 2 to 3 hours. Cut onion in half into paper-thin slices.  Soak the slices in cold water for 30 minutes.  Drain well and pat dry. Drain the fish and place in a clean bowl. Add the onion, chives, olive oil, sumac, red pepper flakes and salt. Toss well. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. 6 servings. Serve with pita triangles or crackers.

  • ROASTED ROMANIAN  RATATOUILLE
    (Pareve)
    2 pounds fleshy sauce tomatoes, such as Roma
    4-6 medium-size green or white narrow zucchini, about 11/2 pounds
    2 medium eggplants, about 11/2 pounds
    3-4 sweet red peppers
    1-2 onions, peeled
    6-8 large garlic cloves, peeled
    1 tablespoon sweet or hot paprika, or a mix
    1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
    2 bay leaves
    extra virgin olive oil
    kosher salt and pepper
    > Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roughly chop the tomatoes, zucchini, eggplants, sweet peppers and onions into about  1-inch pieces. Transfer the vegetables to  a large roasting pan (about 12 inches by 15 inches).  Add the garlic cloves, paprika, cumin, bay leaves and 3 to 4 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 teaspoons salt and several grinds of fresh pepper. Toss to mix and spread in an even layer in the pan.  Roast without stirring until vegetables are very tender and browned and the tomatoes have melted into a thick sauce, about  1 hour. 10 to 12 servings, warm or room temperature.
  • GREEN TAHINI DIP
    (Pareve)
    1 large clove garlic, cut in half
    1 cup green flat-leaf parsley
    11/2 tablespoons lemon juice
    1/2  teaspoon salt
    1 cup tahini
    11/4 cups water
    > Place all ingredients in a food processor.  You may need more water for thinner sauce.  Taste and set aside.  Serve with cooked (fried or baked) chicken strips and/or raw vegetables.  Refrigerate sauce until serving.

Tips & Tricks
Using a sharp veggie peeler, scrape large ribbons for your salad. Zucchini, carrots, cucumbers and even asparagus can be placed flat to get ribbons.
Look for Minneola or Honeybell oranges that are “in season” now for citrus recipes.
Make a unique green tahini dip for raw vegetables and/or chicken strips.

Ilene Spector is a local freelance writer.

It’s That Time Again! Let’s talk turkey and Shabbat

It’s time to talk turkey. Turkey on Thursday, Thanksgiving Day is the quintessential All-American meal, dating back to the Pilgrims. For those used to poultry on Shabbat, Thanksgiving Thursday sometimes poses a dilemma: Eat turkey on Thursday or wait till Shabbat? When

Pumpkin-Swirled Mini Cheesecakes.

Pumpkin-Swirled Mini Cheesecakes.

For instance, you can have roast turkey on Thursday and “Jewish up” the meal by adding a side dish such as Kasha Chili (delicious recipe below). You can use the leftover turkey on Shabbat for a hearty turkey soup or turkey chili with salad and sides. My sister uses her Thanksgiving turkey every year to make a “one-dish” Shabbat meal. She uses turkey and carcass for the broth, adds chicken or turkey broth (and chicken thighs if not enough leftover turkey) and tons of veggies and finally, barley. Serve with challah, and Shabbat is done.

For me, Thanksgiving turkey, celery, onion, cornbread, sage and pumpkin pie remain essentials. After many years of trial and error, I have perfected my method of serving turkey by slicing it ahead.

112015_food2First, roast the turkey so it will be ready early in the day or the day before. Stop roasting when the turkey is brown but slightly underdone (an internal temp of about 160 degrees). Take it out to rest, and then get your cellphone! Seriously. Now snap a photo of that magnificent turkey. Remove the skin in as large pieces as possible. Now, slice your very slightly underdone turkey carefully. Arrange slices and pieces on a large oven-proof platter, pour over some turkey juice, reserving some juice. Press skin tightly over slices, and cover tightly with foil. Refrigerate and bring to room temp before reheating.  Reheat in a 350-degree oven for about one hour, basting often. Remove the skin and pour remaining juices over slices. You will save time to allow decorating your platter and have moist delicious slices. And remember that photo? You can whip it out to show guests what your turkey looked like before slicing!

Pumpkin pie for your finale is always popular.  My dessert table will have a traditional one as well as some mini-swirled cheesecakes for guests. For place cards, I use mini-pumpkins (or apples) and toothpick flags with guests’ names on each.  And always remember to invite a guest or guest couple who would otherwise be alone on this holiday.
TIPS:
> Fresh fragrant sage is worth the investment; fry it or add raw to stuffing and decorate platters with the leaves.
> Want made-from-scratch stuffing fast? Buy and combine two different flavors of boxed stuffing mix.  Add chopped fresh sage and sauteed chopped onions. Tastes homemade!
> Decorate your turkey platter with fresh sage, kale and raw cranberries or canned sliced apple rings.

VEGETARIAN KASHA CHILI

PUMPKIN-SWIRLED MINI-CHEESECAKES

THANKSGIVING ROLLS 101

From the Kitchen High Holidays bring special delights to the table

NEW-AGE POT ROAST  IN A CROCK POT

NEW-AGE POT ROAST IN A CROCK POT

Smells of a Jewish kitchen at the High Holidays is certain to stir up memories of times past. As sweet as it feels, it is time to update your palate and pantry for the new millennium. All of my High Holiday menus represent tradition, but I also add new gourmet twists that are sure to catch the attention of your kids and grandkids. Who knows? They may even put down their phones.

If your mother was like mine, you never saw her sit down at the table. These days, every
moment spent with busy families is priceless. Now I plan ahead and do lots of prep, so that I can actually talk to my guests when they arrive. For a quick but fancy touch to my table, I take one 14-by-90-inch piece of fabric (from Wal-Mart or a discount fabric store) and coordinate it with my dishes and tablecloth. This “runner” gives your holiday table a whole new look.

I still have wonderful memories of my mother and aunts making homemade gefilte fish and gently (or not so gently) arguing about how much white pepper to put into it. I loved when my mother would talk about her own mother keeping a live carp in the bathtub. But times do change. I need things easier and faster, and frozen gefilte fish fills the bill. There is even a new one already salt-and-pepper flavored! It may not be your mother’s gefilte fish, but it is still fabulous.

Apples dipped in honey don’t seem to thrill the grandkids these days, so I update this staple with dishes of assorted flavored honeys that I ask them to rate from 1 to 10.

If you haven’t incorporated pareve Puff Pastry into your cooking, 5776 is the year! You can wrap almost anything in Puff Pastry. See my easy pot roast recipe served in Puff Pastry shells. It made the biggest hit at a recent Shabbat dinner. You can also wrap slices of semi-frozen gefilte fish in it, brush with an egg wash and bake until brown. This is not your mother’s gefilte fish — but it is sensational.

Rosh Hashanah seems to fast forward right into Yom Kippur break-fast. I wanted to incorporate my Russian roots and experimented making forshmak.  It is a Russian herring dish, and you can often buy it in the Russian stores.  But I made my own and found the secret was to soak the herring in cold water overnight.  It was easy, not salty and a real treat for some old- and new-timers.  L’shona Tova to all for a healthy and peaceful 5776.

NEW-AGE POT ROAST IN A CROCK POT

FROZEN GEFILTE FISH WRAPPED IN PUFF PASTRY

FORSHMAK

AVOCADO DEVILED EGGS

DESSERT APRICOT BITES

Green and Healthy How to tweak your spring salads

052915_foodThe new food movement/trend is eating well and healthy to look and feel better. And what better time than spring to jump-start lighter, delicious eating. From blueberries and strawberries to asparagus and spinach, good choices can improve moods for all ages.

Local fresh foods really are healthier. You will enjoy higher nutrient levels because they are not shipped from around the globe and still labeled “fresh.”  So now is the time to watch for the early openings of farmers’ markets: There won’t be the selections of prime summer, yet it’s a good beginning on cooking or planting with locally grown healthy ingredients.

Salads as entrees are always welcome, and you can customize them to any ethnic flavor. Tweak your salads to include grilled poultry, seafood or meat. Chopped salads are all the rage now, and using different harvest grains such as farro and beans can give your salad a whole new dimension. Add thinly sliced fennel including its lacy, soft frond-like leaves in place of celery. I always top my salads with something crispy, and the choices available are endless for chips, nuts and seeds.

But it is the dressing that is the finishing touch, and it’s so easy to make your own without the preservatives or additives in store-bought varieties. Try a lighter-flavored vinegar, such as rice wine vinegar, with a little sesame oil and a splash of soy sauce and sugar, especially for an Asian theme. A simple oil-and-vinegar vinaigrette can be kicked up by just adding a few extra ingredients such as finely minced shallots or herbs. It will transform a regular ho-hum salad into a four-star meal.

EASY CAESAR SALAD (Dairy)

ILENE’S MEXICAN CORN CHIP SALAD (Dairy)

BOK CHOY SALAD (Pareve/Meat)

BASIC VINAIGRETTE (Pareve)

Sweetness of Freedom Memorial Day weekend welcomes Shavuot

052215_food

(Photo ©Stock photo/Catherine Lane)

Memorial Day brings the holiday weekend that ushers in the beginning of everything summer. And Shavuot occurs at the same time, reminding us of the Exodus from slavery in Egypt. The Torah was given to the Jews, as their journey was one from misery to a country flowing with milk and honey. So, eating dairy on Shavuot commemorates the sweetness of freedom and the new life of the Jewish people.

And food is no exception for both celebrations. Fresh berries are making their early appearance, making me think about using them in dishes from light to hearty entree salads. What about making some good sandwiches for picnics at outdoor games? Don’t forget to try adding sun-dried tomatoes and a pesto spread for your regular turkey or even tuna sandwiches. Bring along some soft pita pockets, peasant bread slices, fresh sprouts, the filling and set up a mini-sandwich bar at your picnic!

Strolling through the produce, I see early strawberries and blueberries, but it’s those blackberries that really catch my eye. They are such a simple fruit — dark and juicy, and there is no question about their ripeness. Easy pickings. Eat them, bake them, and cook them, or simply garnish a fruit tray with them. It’s one of the “short harvest” things such as Honey Bell oranges in winter, fiddleheads and fresh peas. So grab them when you see them.

Here is a “buffet” of sorts to choose from that could enhance or create the holiday weekend menu.

Tips
• Enhance roasted cauliflower with a little sprayed olive oil and curry powder. Serve with fresh peas garnish.
• Warm two serving plates for hot foods by placing on top of your toaster oven while heating something.

YE OLDE BLINTZE SOUFFLE

FRESH BLACKBERRY COBBLER

GRILLED SALMON PESTO WITH ANGEL HAIR PASTA

TUNA, WHITE BEAN AND ESCAROLE SALAD