Oy Vey! Those New Year’s Resolutions

Food

(By David Stuck)

After the champagne, chocolate, cake and cookies comes the dreaded New Year’s resolutions. Suggestions abound: Eat less. Move more. Write it as you bite it. Use smaller plates. Use different colored plates. Use apps. Be mindful. And on it goes. I believe anything that makes a positive impact on a healthy new year, even small changes, are ideal. Be realistic and exercise, if only to get up and change the channels.

Here are some tips and recipes I’ve collected that remain my tried-and-true food tips for the new year that make eating delicious year-round. The idea is to reward yourself for healthy food. Don’t beat yourself up!

HEALTHIER CROCK POT CHICKEN TORTILLA SOUP
(Meat)
Ingredients:
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips
1 15-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, mashed
1 10-ounce can enchilada sauce (or easy to make your own)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups water
1 14-ounce can reduced sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 poblano peppers, blackened, skin and seeds removed and small dice and/or
2 banana peppers, chopped
1 10-ounce package frozen corn or crispy canned, drained
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro or parsley
7 corn tortillas
Vegetable cooking spray

Directions: Place chicken, tomatoes, enchilada sauce, onion, banana or poblano peppers and garlic into the crock pot. Pour in water and chicken broth. Season with cumin, chili powder, salt, ground pepper and poblano/
banana peppers. Stir in corn and parsley. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or high for 3 to 4 hours.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly coat both sides of tortillas with cooking spray. Cut the tortillas into thin strips and spread in one layer on baking sheet. Bake about 10-15 minutes until crisp. Or you can use coarse baked crushed tortilla chips. Sprinkle over soup just before serving. Can add some thinly sliced avocado on top also. 6 servings.

QUICK TIPS FOR 2017

  • Halve grapefruits; loosen sections, pour honey in centers and sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes.
  • Use healthy King Arthur Sprouted Wheat 100 percent grain flour for challah, waffles, sticky buns, etc.
  • Coat a pan with butter-flavored spray. Sprinkle a light “snowfall” of sugar on cubed potatoes, with or without chopped onions, before roasting at 450 degrees for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Shave fresh vegetables, such as fennel, on a coarse microplane for salads.
  • Always brine poultry before cooking for best flavor. Kosher poultry does this for you and is superior to all others.
  • Always rinse diced onions under cold water and blot dry. This rids them of sulfurous gas that can ruin salsa and guacamole.
  • Use the new store-bought, spiralized veggies such as sweet potato or squash in place of noodles in homemade chicken soup. Cook them in advance, and add to soup last.

LOW-FAT, LOW-SALT SLOPPY JOES
(Meat)
Ingredients:
1 pound ground turkey
2/3 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup diced green pepper
2 jalapeno peppers, optional
1 cup no-salt-added ketchup
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon mustard powder
1/4 teaspoon salt substitute
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Directions: Remove seeds from jalapeno peppers and dice, if using. Saute onion, jalapenos and green pepper in olive oil then set aside. Cook ground turkey, crumbling into little pieces. Drain and return to pan. Over med-high heat add all of the ingredients into the pan. Stir mixture for 3 to 5 minutes. Lower heat to low and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes to blend flavors. Serve on soft hamburger buns. Leave out the jalapeno if you don’t like it hot. If you do throw in two more, try adding petite diced tomatoes. Makes 4-6 sandwiches.

Ilene Spector is a local freelance writer.

An Inherited Taste A Mother’s Recipes Serve Regi’s Well

Alan Morstein (David Stuck)

Alan Morstein (David Stuck)

Restaurateur Alan Morstein has a secret weapon in his gastronomic arsenal: his mother Saundra’s long-cherished recipes.

Native Baltimorean Morstein and his wife, Sande, have owned Regi’s American Bistro for the past 15 years of its four-decade existence.

“My actual role is part-time host, part-time bartender, part-time very good cook … part-time just about everything else,” Morstein joked. “I spend a lot of time greeting guests and a lot of time in the kitchen.”

Morstein said that his multitalented wife helps out as a hostess and is “very involved in the wine list. She has a good wine palate and has learned a lot, [having gone to] many vineyards in both California and Italy.”

The Morsteins’ two children, Ryan and Sheri, worked at the Federal Hill establishment in their youth but have moved onto other cities, other vocations and other lives.

“They left to pursue their careers,” Morstein said about his children who now live in New Jersey and have become involved in the sale of medical equipment. “I hated to see them leave.”

Something of a family affair then, it’s no wonder that one thing that hasn’t left Regi’s is the many delightful menu items that have been inspired by Morstein’s loving mother.

“My mother was a worker,” Morstein said of the retired 96-year-old Saundra, who is  a resident of the Brookdale Pikesville assisted living community.

“She was in the entertainment industry, but she also had a few really dynamic recipes that I’ve cloned,” Morstein added.

Though he said today he’s not particularly observant, Morstein was raised Orthodox and graduated from Beth Tfiloh’s elementary school before finding himself in the creative culinary realm. This exploration at one point did include running his own kosher deli, the first such deli, he claimed, to operate in Ocean City, Md.

Morstein remains as ever enraptured by his mother’s Jewish specialties that he serves at Regi’s.

Saundra’s chicken soup stock, for example, is best described by Morstein as “liquid gold.”

Another favorite of Saundra’s that has made its way into Regi’s repertoire is her mouthwatering brisket, which was featured as part of the bistro’s Christmas dinner this past weekend.

“So many Jewish people come out for Christmas dinner,” Morstein said. “They get tired of Chinese.”

The foundation of Morstein’s brisket is its freshness, which combines with a unique preparation including chili sauce, white vinegar, bay leaves, fresh cracked pepper, sea salt, garlic cloves and for a truly exotic twist, Coca-Cola.

“It’s basically a sweet-and-sour brisket,” Morstein said. “We do that with potato pancakes, which I also learned from [my mom], topped with applesauce.”

Morstein was clearly interested in the restaurant industry at an early age, having worked as a dining room manager at the Pimlico Hotel while attending Baltimore Junior College.

He really caught the bug while he was growing up, creating all manner of culinary concoctions with his mother and maid.

“I was running around and playing ball and everything, but I always had a fondness for the burners,” Morstein said. “I would make certain signature dishes, and they were well  received.”

Saundra, meanwhile, was working as a theatrical agent, booking entertainers such as Jackie Mason and Willie Nelson at conventions and other live events.

She still pops into Regi’s on occasion to enjoy her son’s success and mingle with the customers and staff who all know her by name.

“She’s proud as a peacock,” Morstein said. “I had her in the kitchen making matzah balls up until three years ago. She can make the fluffiest matzah balls like nobody’s business.

“It was pretty funny watching her with these cooks in the kitchen,” Morstein continued. “I got her a little fancy apron, and she’s back there telling these cooks who never knew from matzah balls what to do, and she’s got matzah balls flying everywhere. It was really cool.”

“There’s so damn much to tell about me,” Saundra stated proudly. “I’m a very unusual personality.”

Saundra began her long and varied career in the entertainment business singing and acting before hosting her own local television show in the ’50s. She began running her talent booking agency named, not surprisingly, after her son in 1970 and only stopped five years ago.

She was 91 and still personally escorting her eclectic roster of more than 75 popular performers to events in Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Virginia.

Originally from Cleveland, Saundra —“still a nice Jewish girl who lights her candles on Friday” — moved to Baltimore in 1938. She too inherited many of the recipes that have been passed onto Morstein and Regi’s menu.

“My mother was an excellent cook,” Saundra said. “Being an only child, I picked up a lot of her recipes, mentally. On top of this, I am strictly kosher, which is not easy when you’re traveling. And I traveled all over.”

Saundra is indeed quite proud of her son’s work, even to the point of delighting in the little “embellishments” he’s made to her original recipes.

“I think it’s wonderful,” she said. “I’ve given him the recipes, but he knows how to add that little touch. Alan can take from nothing and make a gourmet presentation.”

To this day, Morstein still tries to support as many Jewish food suppliers as possible to  ensure that “touch” he gives has an occasional Jewish flair.

One of his creations, the 21208 Breakfast (a smoked salmon whitefish sandwich on a bagel), is so named “because that’s where all the Jews live in Pikesville.”

A great joy for Morstein is to see his mother come to the restaurant, especially during this celebratory season, and watch as she takes pride in people complimenting her on how much they love the brisket.

“It makes me her feel good,” Morstein said. “And it makes me feel good to see people order something like raisin challah French toast.

“And,” Morstein was sure to note with a chuckle, “it goes really well with bacon.”

mklickstein@midatlanticmedia.com

At Quarry Lake’s Citron, ‘Everybody is a VIP’

citron-3

Susan and Charles Levine (Sachs Photography)

New Quarry Lake restaurant Citron is looking to fill a niche in the Pikesville area by  providing a versatile white-table-cloth experience with  a waterfront view outside of the culinary institutions in Baltimore City.

The restaurant is the creation of Charles and Susan Levine. A chef himself, Charles, who has been in the catering business for 30 years, has been thinking about opening a restaurant for more than a decade.

“It made sense to have this evolution,” he said. “The events that we’ve catered are always tailored to the client. For the restaurant, we thought about what was missing in the  community.”

Citron hopes to appeal to a variety of diners, starting with the layout, atmosphere and fine details of the restaurant down to the wallpaper, silverware and glasses.

Each of its rooms and lounges has a noticeably different feel. The private “club” dining room, which can host a private party of 50, boasts muted acoustics so that dinner conversation is easier to hear. On the other side of the restaurant is a bar with mood lighting and intimate seating arrangements. Bordering that area is a more casual, well-lit lounge that Levine said would be suitable for patrons to work in during the lunch hours.

“At the end of the day, it is about creating a place for people to go for any number of reasons,” he said. “We want this to be the hub for the Baltimore region when you really need to entertain, whether you want to relax and have a great time or want anonymity for a meeting or party. This place has the opportunity to serve a lot of people well. A lot of places don’t have that advantage.”

Susan Levine explained that the acoustics were treated differently in each room.

“Nothing is more frustrating to us than going out to dinner with our family and having to yell across the table,” she said. “We want people to be able to have real conversation. We wanted it to feel upscale and light and contemporary. We want it to feel like you could come here on a date or with your family, that you could come for lunch and want to come back for dinner. Everybody is a VIP here; that’s what we want people to feel like.”

For many patrons, the real draw to any restaurant is its food. While Charles continues to run Charles Levine Caterers out of Owings Mills, executive chef Jerome Dorsch has been keeping things running in  the kitchen. Dorsch has an  extensive culinary career that includes stints as an executive corporate chef.

“To run a facility of this size, you need someone from a corporate environment who can manage two dozen people in the kitchen but who can also put out food that, if it were just a 50-seat restaurant, would be the finest. Yet, we are a 250-person restaurant,” Charles said. “It can be very difficult to find that person. It’s someone you have to really trust who can build the team. We got very lucky.”

“For the most part, I worked with Charles on the menu to pick regional and continental American-type things,” Dorsch said. “The big key is trying to keep it simple, seasonal and easy to execute. So far, the sea bass has been a big hit, and osso buco is definitely a showstopper because it isn’t something that you see very often. The duck is always a popular dish too.”

Charles and Susan broke ground at the Quarry Lake site in July 2015, and Citron opened on Nov. 7.

“We wanted a space that could be warm in the winter and cool in the summer so we could take advantage of every day at the lake,” Charles said of the lakeside area.

In conjunction with Citron, the Levines are also opening an adjoining stand-alone event venue called The Cove, which Charles said will allow the restaurant to continue  operating normally as private events are hosted.

“We don’t think it is fair to our client base that we would have to close the restaurant to host a private event. When you are doing private events, there is a need for lighting and sounds and a view. There is so much that people want, and The Cove has it,” Charles said. “As a caterer, people have said to me, ‘I’d love to have you, but I can’t find a place.’ And this is the right size. Now, we can provide that space.

“What we want is to be the total experience,” he added. “We have planned down to the smallest details. We have the footprint here to really go  beyond what some restaurants do.”

Citron is located at 2605 Quarry Lake Drive. For more information, visit citronbaltimore.com.

dnozick@midatlanticmedia.com

Nacho Latkes? You Bet!

©iStockphoto.com/Arpad Benedek

©iStockphoto.com/Arpad Benedek

In our “blended” neighborhood, we are surrounded by Christmas decorations. Diversity abounds! But when it comes to food, there is one December favorite all the neighbors look forward to: my annual latke party. My latke party is a great way to entertain as well as to spread knowledge of Judaism. I can see the results of my efforts. One of my neighbors now hangs a lighted Star of David in her window in support of Israel. I make my latkes in advance and freeze them — about 100 or more! At party time, my table is laden with assorted menorah candles, chocolate coins and dreidels.

Brisket and/or chicken schnitzel are main dishes, but the latkes with assorted toppings always take center stage. I also keep some latke batter to make some fresh and hot, as people line up to assemble their plates. I use my electric frying pan (helps spattering grease) and the old electric glass-top hot plate to keep latkes warm.

My go-to latke recipe is a cinch. I use boxes of home-style potato pancake mix and enhance them with refrigerated shredded potatoes. (I use one heaping cupful of the shredded potatoes to one box mix.) Toppings are always pareve sour cream and cinnamon applesauce. I use either homemade or a jar of chunky applesauce that I cut into smaller pieces. Place the applesauce in a deep pot on the stove and add red cinnamon candies. Heat on low light, stirring until candies are dissolved and flavor is achieved. This will turn the sauce a beautiful pink color. Keeps for many days in refrigerator.

Leftover latkes? Use them for the base of recipes such as latke nachos or fried chicken and latkes. I know. Latke nachos. Who knew? Place a layer of halved latkes on the bottom of an oven-proof plate. Top with chunky salsa and lots of shredded cheese. Place in the oven to melt cheese and serve.

Dessert latkes: I drizzle latkes with maple syrup and hot sauce. Stack latkes with any sweetened mascarpone filling in between each latke and drizzle with maple syrup and hot sauce.

ISRAELI-STYLE SCHNITZEL
(Meat)
Directions:
For the marinade:
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 heaping tablespoons of good quality mustard
3-4 garlic cloves, smashed
Fresh ground pepper
2 pounds boneless chicken breast, very thinly pounded

For frying:
2 cups unseasoned bread crumbs
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
Fresh ground pepper and sea salt
Canola oil

For serving:
3-4 lemons, quartered

Directions: Combine eggs, mustard, garlic and pepper in a large bowl. Add the chicken and mix until the chicken is completely coated. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a shallow bowl, mix together the unseasoned bread crumbs and sesame seeds. Season with fresh ground pepper and sea salt. Dredge chicken breasts in bread crumbs, patting slightly to help them stick. Pour oil into a medium skillet (cast iron is best) to about 11/2 inches high. Heat oil on high heat until very hot and add chicken breasts, adding just two to three at a time (depending on their size). Do not overcrowd them in the pan. Reduce heat to medium, and fry until golden brown on each side and chicken is completely cooked through. Repeat with remaining chicken.

Remove chicken from pan with a slotted spoon and place on a serving plate lined with paper towels, until all chicken is fried. Serve immediately with fresh lemon. 6 servings.

ILENE’S FABULOUS JEWISH-STYLE BRISKET
(From a rabbi’s wife’s recipe, tweaked by Ilene)
(Meat)
Ingredients:
1 envelope onion soup mix
1/4 cup fine ground instant coffee or espresso
11/2 cups ketchup
1/2-3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2-3/4 cup or more, to taste, kosher sweet wine (grape or any
berry flavor)
1 whole* or large thick first-cut beef brisket (always look for a thick one!)
1 small bag mini-peeled carrots,
optional but good
1-2 baking potatoes, cut up, optional

Directions: Combine the coffee and onion soup mix.

Rub brisket all over with the mix. Combine next ingredients, mixing well. Pour over brisket, fat side up in a 13-by-9-inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 21/2 hours, uncovered, basting occasionally. Cover loosely with foil and add carrots and potatoes, if desired. Bake another hour or more, until meat is very tender. Remove meat and let cool to room temperature. Meanwhile, refrigerate sauce. When cold, remove fat from top of juice. Slice meat (can also be sliced at room temp) and return to casserole. Cover with sauce. To reheat, bake at 350 degrees, covered, for another 45-60 minutes. Leftovers are delicious cold on a roll as a sandwich (with some sauce). Freezes great! 10-12 servings, depending on size of brisket.

*If you use a whole brisket, trim off some of the thick fat, score the remaining fat, and you may want to go one-and-a-half times the sauce and seasoning ingredients.

“FRENCH PASTRY” DOUGHNUTS
(Pareve/Dairy)
Ingredients:
Use day-old Krispy Kreme (or any thin-glazed) doughnuts
Sifted powdered sugar for garnish
Panini machine

Directions: Press doughnuts, two at a time, in heated Panini grille. Press until they are lightly browned. Carefully remove and place in one layer on a cutting board. When slightly cool, cut in half and sprinkle with sifted powdered sugar. Can be lightly layered on a serving plate. Use for breakfast or dessert. Makes a wonderful and fun “action station”
for guests.

Tips & Tricks

  • Freeze cooked latkes in one layer on a baking sheet. When frozen, place them in a zip-lock plastic bag and mark how many are in the bag.
  • Use grape seed, peanut, safflower or canola oil to fry the latkes. Russet potatoes are the best for browning.
  • Add a little baking powder to batter before frying for some fluffiness. Optional: Add chopped parsley, chopped sweet onion for color and flavor.

Ilene Spector is a local freelance writer.

Parve Nutella and Other Must-Try New Kosher Foods

kosherfest

Participants milling around at the Kosherfest trade show at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus, N.J., Nov. 15, 2016 (Josefin Dolsten)

At Kosherfest, the world’s largest kosher trade show, Yiddish and Hebrew is heard alongside English. Some 6,000 kosher-food insiders packed the massive hall, chatting, networking and tasting samples.

The crowd skews male and Orthodox — in fact, it may be one of the only events where the men’s bathroom has a longer line than the women’s one.

The annual two-day expo being held this week at the Meadowlands Exposition Center here is a food mecca for those who observe Jewish dietary laws.

Among the more than 325 exhibitors are vendors touting everything from the kosher staples — beef salami, latkes and Israeli wines — to new and unexpected foods, such as a line of Korean products.

Here are some exciting and unique kosher products that are new to the market or will be hitting stores soon.

manischewitz

S’mores and a pizza kit are part of a new line of Manischewitz matzah-themed treats. (Josefin Dolsten)

Passover s’mores and pizza kits

Manischewitz is launching a line of matzah-themed treats that will make Passover a bit more fun for kids — and maybe adults, too. Prior to Passover in April, the company will introduce two do-it-yourself food “kits”: matzah s’mores and matzah pizza.

“This year at Manischewitz, it’s all about kids,” the company’s president and CEO, David Sugarman, told JTA. “We sat around and thought about what fun items can we come up with for Passover that would get kids engaged in Passover.”

The s’mores kit, which won Kosherfest’s award for best new kosher-for-Passover product, comes with all the necessary ingredients — mini matzahs, chocolate and marshmallows. The pizza kit, however, contains just triangle-shaped matzah and sauce; moms and dads must provide the cheese and any other toppings.

The kits are so appealingly designed that parents may be tempted to partake.

“We think there’s going to be a lot of adults with kids that are going to be sneaking these items while their kids are off at school,” Sugarman said.

crab-cakes

Dyna Sea surimi crab cakes (Josefin Dolsten)

Faux-crab cakes

Dyna Sea is a pro in the world of imitation shellfish — “surimi,” as it is called in Japanese — having been in business for nearly 20 years. The kosher food company even has Japanese consumers buying its products, according to owner Daniel Berlin.

These imitation crab cakes, which won Kosherfest’s best new product award for frozen foods, are made with imported Alaskan pollock. Berlin said they taste very close to the real deal.

“It has such a beautiful, rich, seafood flavor and a texture, a mouthfeel, that really simulates the real thing,” he said.

And though this reporter has never had a real crab cake, she couldn’t help but go in for a second faux one.

Parvella hazelnut chocolate spread (Josefin Dolsten)

Parvella hazelnut chocolate spread (Josefin Dolsten)

Parve Nutella

Kosher-keeping chocoholics know the pain of overly sweet parve chocolate spreads that lack the richness of Nutella — and never quite hit the spot.

But this new Italian-produced spread — tapped the best new product at Kosherfest — is a game changer. Parvella CEO Gabriele Zarrugh worked for two years to develop the spread, saying he was motivated by the desire to make a delicious kosher product that was accessible to those with dietary restrictions. Parvella is milk, dairy, egg, peanut and palm-oil free.

highland-pop

Highland Pop kettle corn (Josefin Dolsten)

Birthday cake and churro-flavored kettle corn

Highland Pop President Kimberly Cohen has a thing for popcorn.

In 2012, she opened a small popcorn shop in suburban Chicago. Since then, Cohen has developed nearly 100 flavors of the addictive snack, which she is hoping to distribute nationally.

Kosherfest deemed Highland Pop the best new savory snack. Cohen’s inventive varieties accurately evoke their namesakes: The birthday cake flavor is topped with colorful sprinkles; here’s a kick of cinnamon on the crispy exterior of the cinnamon churro kettle flavor.

Cohen uses coconut oil to cook the kernels both for its health benefits and flavor, she said.

“It’s my passion; coming up with a new flavor makes me feel so good,” she told JTA. “This [churro kettle] is my favorite one right now, although next week I’ll probably have a different flavor that I like.”

marzipan

Israeli-made Marzipan rugelach (Josefin Dolsten)

Marzipan rugelach from Israel

The Marzipan shop in Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market has been for decades nearly as much of a tourist destination as the Western Wall.

Once you’re in the shuk, the bakery isn’t hard to locate. The rugelach’s sweet, chocolatey scent wafts its way through the market, enticing visitors to pay a visit and buy a pastry — or maybe 10.

Now the rugelach is available for purchase in the U.S. The chief marketing officer for M Bakeries, its distributor in America, said the company was inspired to get on board after learning that Americans would bring home suitcases full of the pastry from Israel.

“[T]hey got so addicted to this particular rugelach that is considered the best in the world,” Milton Weinstock said.

The rugelach, which is made according to a secret family recipe, is best served warm, said a person working the Marzipan booth.

This reporter agrees: Fresh out of the oven, the chocolate filling and dough become irresistibly gooey.

After the Feast, Scrumptious Leftovers

Whether one day or one week after Thanksgiving, leftovers are still enjoyed by many. Frozen and then defrosted can bring back the memories of a delicious feast throughout the winter months. Chanukah is just around the corner, and many of those side dishes go so well for a latke party!

Cranberry sauce makes a delicious topping choice with apple sauce and sour cream on a latke bar.

And stuffing can become the star entree with my new idea. I use a box of home-style potato pancake mix; mix according to the directions, and add one cup store-bought shredded potatoes (fresh or frozen defrosted), one teaspoon of onion salt and one heaping tablespoon of oil. Using large, well-greased muffin tins, press the potato mixture into individual “cups.” Bake at 375 degrees until crispy, about 40 minutes. Now you have your vehicle for the stuffing filling.

For the “homemade” stuffing, I combine one box of corn bread stuffing with one box turkey stuffing. Follow the directions on the boxes. I add one bag of sauteed frozen, defrosted chopped onions and chopped fresh sage. Customize with any herbs of your choice. Scoop into “cups” and freeze or heat in oven to serve.

And of course, never throw away your turkey frame! Save and freeze it for a snowy day to make the very best turkey soup. I season some matzo balls with chopped fresh sage and add to turkey soup. Leftover turkey meat can also be frozen for later use. Keep a box of refrigerated pie shells on hand. Add leftover shredded turkey with vegetables for a delicious pot pie. Or mix the pie ingredients and cover with mashed potatoes. These freeze great! Any cooked chicken recipe can be substituted with turkey — think turkey tacos or turkey tetrazzini.

Canned pumpkin is seasonal and can be used throughout the winter. It enhances so many wonderful recipes.

gettyimages-170134458

©istockphoto.com/cobraphoto

TURKEY TORTILLA SOUP
(Edited From Manischewitz)

(Meat)
Ingredients:
1 28-ounce can fire roasted diced
tomatoes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 small onion, chopped, or 1 bag frozen chopped onions, defrosted and drained
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon curry powder, optional
3 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon fresh chopped or freeze dried parsley
*1 small carrot, very thinly sliced
1½ cups tomato sauce (or juice)
5 (14-ounce) cans Manischewitz turkey broth (about 8 cups or 64 ounces)
2 cups of cooked shredded turkey
*I’ve been using the new frozen “riced” carrots.

Garnishes:
Tortilla chips, broken up or strips
Sliced avocado

Directions: Pre heat oven to 375 degrees. In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil. Add the onions and saute for a few minutes. Add the cumin, curry powder, minced garlic and parsley and mix well, making sure the onions are well coated. Saute for another minute or two. Add the carrots and mix well. Continue to saute for 5 minutes longer, and then add the chopped tomatoes and tomato juice. Heat the
vegetable mixture until it begins to bubble. Then
add broth. Bring the soup to a full boil. Add the shredded turkey, stirring occasionally. Lower heat and simmer until ready to serve.

To serve: Ladle soup into bowl(s). Garnish with
tortilla strips and sliced avocado. 8-plus servings.

gettyimages-528429743

©istockphoto.com/nanjan

ANY CELEBRATION PUMPKIN DIP
(Dairy)

Ingredients:
2 cups canned pumpkin puree (1 regular size can)
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, slightly
softened
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice or a dash of nutmeg

Directions: Cream together pumpkin and cream cheese. Add in all other ingredients until well blended. (I use a food processor.) Refrigerate a few hours or overnight. Serve with thin (Anna’s) ginger snaps and/or graham crackers. Can be made a few days in advance and refrigerated. Makes a lot!

PUMPKIN PIE COFFEE CAKE
(Dairy)

Ingredients:
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup sugar
½ teaspoon each: baking soda, baking powder
and salt
¾ cup unsalted butter, cold and cubed
1 large egg

Filling:
¾­­ cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 cups canned pumpkin
1/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of salt

Directions: Prepare a 9-inch springform pan with a circular piece of parchment paper on the bottom
for easier removal to a serving plate. Have all the
ingredients ready in advance for easier prep. Combine flour, ¾ cup sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Cut the cubed butter into the flour mixture using your fingers, a hand mixer
or pastry blender until it’s in small pea-sized lumps. Reserve and set aside ¾ cup of this mixture for
topping later. In a separate bowl, combine the sour cream, egg and vanilla. Stir this into the flour/butter mixture until if forms a loose, smooth dough. Wet your hands slightly with cold water, shaking off
excess, and place the loose dough into a 9-inch lightly sprayed (spray the parchment paper)
springform pan. Try to get an even thickness on the bottom, and press the dough about 1 inch up the sides. In a medium bowl, using a hand mixer, mix
together the cream cheese, sugar, pumpkin, eggs and spices until smooth. Pour this pumpkin mixture into the coffee cake “shell.” Sprinkle the reserved crumb topping evenly over all. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven until center is set and slightly brown around the edges, about 60 minutes. Let cool before removing from pan and store in the refrigerator.
12-16 slices. This is so yummy!

Ilene Spector is a local freelance writer.

My Yiddisha Make Ahead Thanksgiving

Photo Credit: flickr.com/photos/pulaw/6657544211

Photo Credit: flickr.com/photos/pulaw/6657544211

Thanksgiving is a national holiday that Jews can truly embrace. After all, it is not a religious holiday. Spiritually, however, it is reminiscent of Sukkot — a time to be thankful for a bountiful harvest. The secret to planning a successful Thanksgiving feast is to choose a menu with as many dishes as possible that can be made in advance. Since Shabbat comes the day after the holiday, and since Shabbat cooks are used to advance planning, you can easily extend your Thanksgiving feast into Shabbos and beyond. First off, be sure to roast an extra-large turkey so you will have plenty of meat left over. Then on Shabbat, use frozen puff pastry to make succulent turkey pot pies for Shabbat. I always make a large batch of turkey soup and freeze it to serve on future Shabbats with challah.

I also make my mashed potatoes one day in advance. I pour a thin layer of non-dairy creamer on the bottom of my crock pot when serving the potatoes, which keeps them moist and saves oven space. I love to use the bags of small cut carrots. I place them in a plastic bag with a few teaspoons of olive oil, and a little salt and pepper and shake to coat. I then roast them at 400 degrees until they’re soft and starting to brown. This can be done two days in advance. When ready to reheat, place them on an oiled cookie sheet and drizzle with maple syrup; roast in the oven until glazed and brown.

An easy to plan and prepare starter buffet course for Thanksgiving is a Charcuterie Platter. This is pronounced “shar-KOO-tar-e:” and just saying it aloud correctly will make your guests think you attended Le Cordon Bleu! Hard to say, but so easy to do. Using a wooden board makes it look rustic and inviting. Simply place an assortment of olives, grapes, assorted sliced salami, cornichons and other pickled veggies on the platter and serve with whole grain mustard and cocktail or baguette slices of bread.

It is also easy to make pumpkin fillings in advance for rugelach or hamentashen style desserts. How about Pumpkin Spice Krispy treats for the kids? You can find recipes online for variations of the old Rice Krispy Treats. I love the one below. Adding pureed pumpkin certainly makes a gooey sweet a bit healthier!

For Thanksgiving place cards, pick some not-too-dry leaves outside and write names on them with magic markers. Place the “name leaves” on the napkin or above the plate. Forget fancy flowers; place colored fall leaves around candles or a pumpkin for a seasonal centerpiece. We usually go around the table and have everyone give two to three things for which they are thankful before we eat. Jews are all about personal gratitude and this Thanksgiving, make everyone’s known to all your guests.

TIPS:

* Always have a jar or can of store-bought turkey gravy on hand to increase your own.
* Have enough good plastic containers for leftovers. The foam separated ones can be used for guests to take home some leftovers (have the kids decorate them in advance).
* If you’re not into making homemade gravy, go to a deli and purchase a pint of beef and a pint of turkey gravy.  Mix together for a really good substitute!

EASY MAKE AHEAD GRAVY

(Meat)
6 tablespoons butter or margarine
6 tablespoons flour
4 cups chicken broth or 4 cups turkey broth
salt and pepper
pan drippings from turkey

In a medium saucepan, melt butter or margarine and whisk in flour.

Cook over medium-high heat until flour is incorporated and white bubbles begin to form on the top of the “roux.”

Cook the roux for 2-3 minutes after the white bubbles have formed, whisking constantly.

Gradually add the broth, whisking constantly until the gravy is thickened and comes to a boil.

Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.

At this point, you can cool, cover and refrigerate the gravy base for as long as 4 days. Reheat in a medium-sized pan. When turkey is done, skim off fat and pour drippings into gravy base and bring it to serving temperature. Makes 4 cups.

BEAUTIFUL INDIVIDUAL SWEET POTATOES

(Pareve)
4 large sweet potatoes
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup cranberry juice
1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Scrub sweet potatoes; pierce several times with a fork. Bake one hour or until tender. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat butter over medium-high heat. Add onion; cook and stir until tender. Stir in cranberries, syrup, cranberry juice and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, covered, 10-15 minutes or until berries pop, stirring occasionally. Stir in walnuts and mustard; heat through. When cool enough to handle, cut each potato lengthwise in half; sprinkle with pepper and remaining salt. Top with cranberry mixture; sprinkle with chives. 8 servings.
* Sprinkle with the nuts just before serving.

Note: To toast nuts, bake in a shallow pan in a 350̊ oven for 5-10 minutes or cook in a skillet over low heat until lightly browned, stirring occasionally.

PUMPKIN SPICE RICE KRISPIES TREATS

(Dairy/Pareve)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine
1/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 10 ounce bag kosher mini marshmallows plus one cup
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of allspice
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of kosher salt
6 cups crispy rice cereal

Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish (or a smaller dish — see Note below).

In a heavy saucepan or Dutch oven, melt butter or margarine over medium-low heat. Add the pumpkin puree and continue to cook until it is warmed through. Fold in 10 ounces of the marshmallows, stirring frequently until almost completely melted. Stir in vanilla, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and salt and remove from heat. Allow the marshmallow mixture to cool 10 minutes; fold in the remaining cup of marshmallows. Continue to cool the mixture for another 20 to 25 minutes until it is room temperature (failure to cool the mixture will result in soggy rice crispy treats.) Add the puffed rice cereal and stir, using a silicone spatula, until combined.

Press the mixture into the greased rectangular baking dish. Let set for 30 minutes before cutting and serving. 12 servings.

• Note: This calls for a 9×13-inch dish here, but I often use an 8×11-inch because I like taller treats. Any size in this range should do.

Ilene Spector is a local freelance writer.

So Fast, Sukkot and Simchat Torah Are Here!

One, two, three, where did it go so fast? Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, break-fast — the fastest meals of the year. Now it is Sukkot and Simhcat Torah to end the High Holidays.

Hoping for good weather, all the meals can be made ahead and reheated for home or travel, inside or outside. My friend, Aliza Friedman, makes the very best shakshooka in Baltimore.  She is  Israeli, and her recipe is one from her childhood as her mother made it. It’­s that seasoned sauce that makes the dish so outstanding.

“I don’t really have an exact recipe, says Aliza, but here goes: two onions, sliced or diced; three large cans of plum tomatoes; three pieces of garlic (or to taste), minced; one tablespoon sweet paprika; and salt and pepper to taste.

Fry the onions; add cut-up tomatoes (use only one-half can of liquid from the canned tomatoes); add all the other ingredients; and cook on medium to low heat until the liquid evaporates. Add one teaspoon of sugar and mix well. Personally, I like to add one-half teaspoon of crushed red pepper. Bake in a large casserole dish until hot. Carefully break the eggs on top and place back in the oven until the whites are done but the yolks are still very soft. Watch carefully! I suggest using tiny quail eggs to get more than 12 servings. Sauce can be made in advance in a saucepan and assembled in baking dish to serve.

And me? My go-to recipe is ratatouille. I can use end-of-summer not-so-perfect produce as well as fall produce. It’s the seasonings that make this dish so originally “Southern French.” And it is a filling main course that reheats even better.

I did notice that those end-of-season delicious tomatoes are turning into everything pumpkin very quickly. A friend of mine has solved that problem by roasting half-inch slices of off-season tomatoes in the oven and using them with her bagels. Great idea! She places them on a flat  nonstick aluminum foil-lined baking sheet and sprinkles them with a little salt, pepper and a very light spray of olive oil, roasting them at 375 degrees until a little brown. They caramelize and are delish. Or why not include a pumpkin kugel?  The accompanying recipe turned out light and delicious.


 

(©iStockphoto.com/Lauri Patterson)

(©iStockphoto.com/Lauri Patterson)

POMEGRANATE SWIRL  CHEESECAKE
(Dairy)
> I see a lot of pomegranate recipes for fall. Why? My spin is that those seeds bring many  delicious blessings!
Ingredients:
16 ounces cream cheese (room temperature)
16 ounces sour cream
2 eggs
1/2 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ready-made 6-ounce pie crusts,  defrosted and placed in 9-inch pie dishes (or use 2 graham cracker crusts)
8 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate for chocolate topping
Pomegranate syrup
Pomegranate syrup:
4 cups pomegranate juice
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed  lemon juice
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

> Bring ingredients to a boil (allowing sugar to dissolve), then lower flame and stir until thickens. Allow sauce to cool off, then combine it with 1/2 cup of pomegranate seeds.

Directions: Combine cream cheese, sour cream, sugar and vanilla extract until smooth. Slowly add in eggs and beat until combined. Divide batter between the two crusts. Using 1/4 cup of pomegranate syrup for each cheesecake, dot the top and swirl around with a knife. Bake at 350 degrees for an hour. Set aside the remaining syrup for serving. Once the cheesecake has cooled off, melt the baking chocolate and cover the top of the cheesecake with the melted chocolate. Once the chocolate has hardened, drizzle the remaining pomegranate sauce on top of the chocolate topping. Makes two 9-inch pies. Each pie serves 8.


 

CROCKPOT  RATATOUILLE
(Pareve)

2 large onions, cut in half and sliced thick
1 large eggplant, sliced and cut into 2- to 3-inch pieces
4 small zucchini, sliced
3 garlic gloves, minced
2 large green peppers, deseeded and cut into thin strips
2 large tomatoes, cut into half-inch wedges
8 ounces large white button mushrooms, cleaned (remove ends of stems)

Seasonings:
1 tablespoon herbes de Provence (important  ingredient)
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
6 ounces canned tomato paste
1/4 cup olive oil

Directions: Combine all the seasoning ingredients, except the olive oil and tomato paste, and mix in a bowl. Layer half the vegetables in a large crockpot in this order: onion, eggplant, zucchini, garlic, green pepper and tomatoes. Sprinkle with half the seasonings.  Dot with half the tomato paste. Repeat the layering process with the remaining vegetables, spices and tomato paste.  Drizzle with the olive oil.  Cover and cook on low-medium for 7-9 hours. Add the mushrooms during the last 2 hours.  Refrigerate to store.  Extra good reheated or freeze.  8 servings.


JOY OF KOSHER PUMPKIN KUGEL
(Dairy/Pareve)
> This recipe is lighter, as it doesn’t have noodles.  The flour takes its place. I also added my own version of a great topping.

Topping:
11/2 cups cornflakes, crushed coarsely
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 to 3/4 cup shelled pumpkin seeds, roughly  chopped
Pinch cinnamon
Pinch nutmeg
Pinch salt

Ingredients:
1 29-ounce can cooked pumpkin (Libby’s brand large can, not  pumpkin pie filling)
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
11/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 eggs
1/2 cup soy milk or nondairy creamer
Dash ground cinnamon

Directions: Beat the pumpkin, white sugar, brown sugar, flour, salt and baking powder together in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and soy milk (or nondairy creamer) together. Fold egg-milk mixture into the pumpkin mixture and blend thoroughly. Pour into a greased 9- by 13-inch pan. Sprinkle with topping ingredients. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until firm. Cut into squares and serve. 12-15 servings.


Tips & Tricks

  • Asian, Japanese or Chinese eggplants have less seeds and are less bitter. Their shapes make more uniform slices.
  • A bundt or tube pan can be used as a vertical roaster.  Oil and surround with layers of vegetables; place on a cookie sheet and roast.
  • Freeze red or green seedless grapes to chill wine in glasses.

 

Ilene Spector is a local freelance writer.

Some New Twists on the Old Traditions

(David Stuck)

(David Stuck)

All family Jewish holiday dishes have a story: recipes from your mother, grandmother or aunt. The tastes and flavors of our past are what brings us into the  future. I always celebrate the traditional with a few out-of-the-box new recipes for the holidays.

Today, you can find influences of Persian, Asian and Cuban foods on holiday tables. Although meat and/or turkey are usually my entrees, it’s those side dishes that I use to surprise guests. Healthy roasted sweet potatoes can be combined with roasted apples. Add some freshly chopped rosemary, fennel, olive oil and salt and pepper.

Apples are a must, and I recommend the smallest you can get. Here’s how I serve the tiny apples. Cut off the tops and scoop out the apples. Dice the apple “meat” and season with margarine, cinnamon and sugar. Put chopped, seasoned filling back in each apple and bake until soft. After baking, generously drizzle honey over them.  Each person can have their own. Extra slices of apples can surround each plate to scrape up excess honey.

Your honey cake finale can be transformed by using chai tea in place of coffee — a unique and welcomed flavor.

A few days before your dinner, purchase a bunch of grapes, fresh kale and curly parsley to garnish serving platters. Roast the grapes by gently coating them in a plastic bag with a little olive oil and sugar.  Place on an oil-sprayed baking sheet. Bake in a 375-degree oven until they caramelize. Use as a garnish for entrees, side dishes or dessert, cold or warm.

Fish symbolizes the prosperity and knowledge that we hope will come our way in the new year. For gefilte fish, which is usually plated ahead, I like to garnish with something special. Mayonnaise can be enhanced with a variety of flavors. Try adding chipotle chili sauce or simply some lemon juice and fresh dill. “Smear” the sauce across each plate before adding your fish.

As for your chicken soup, you can add a plethora of vegetables to give it some color and zip.  Besides carrots, celery and onion, add turnips, kohlrabi, rutabaga and celeriac. I dice them very small and parboil just to soften, adding at the  beginning of soup cooking (very low simmer, of course). Now comes the best surprise. Use a spiralizer and make “carrot noodles” instead of pasta noodles as a healthier addition to chicken soup.  I parboil them and add the last 60 minutes of simmering soup.

Recently, I watched Bobby Flay make stuffed cabbage on TV.  So I adapted his ideas into my classic stuffed cabbage recipe.  I used savoy cabbage instead of regular and made much smaller rolls.  I added finely chopped pistachio nuts and raw yellow saffron rice to the meat (ground turkey or beef) mixture. In place of regular raisins, I added smaller currants to the tomato sauce. I called it Persian cabbage rolls and got thumbs up for it.

When I have eight or more guests, I always use place cards.  But this year, in order to stimulate some conversation, I will place an appropriate question inside each card for the guest to answer or discuss: ”Why apples and honey? Why round challah?” Write them according to the ages and knowledge of guests.

When the doorbell rings, get out of the kitchen and greet each guest with a big warm welcome! Wishing a good year to you all. May you share plenty of food and family together.

Ilene Spector is a local freelance writer.


ISRAELI CHICKEN
(Meat)

2 chickens, cut into eighths, or equivalent of boneless pieces
2 onions, cut into large chunks
2 lemons
12-16 sprigs fresh oregano
8 cloves fresh garlic, thin slices
Fine sea salt, to taste (I leave it out and it is still good)
Dash of freshly ground pepper
½ cup olive oil
1 cup white wine
1½ cups Kalamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
½ cup Kalamata olives, whole, for garnish

> Preheat oven to 450  degrees.  Place chicken in single layers, skin side up, into two 9-by-13-inch baking pans. Add the onion chunks.  Slice the lemons in half lengthwise.  Squeeze the lemon halves over the chicken.  Cut each lemon half into 4 pieces; add to the chicken.  Set aside 4 sprigs of oregano and strip the oregano leaves from the rest.  Scatter the leaves and the stripped sprigs over the chicken. Add the garlic and season with salt and pepper.  Drizzle with the olive oil and wine. Toss the mixture together.  Sprinkle the chopped olives over the chicken.

Bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the chicken is fully cooked. Transfer to platter and garnish with whole olives and reserved oregano sprigs. 8 servings.

NEW PERSIAN STUFFED  CABBAGE ROLLS
(Meat)

1 very large head Savoy cabbage
2 pounds ground beef or turkey
2 small to medium onions, chopped small
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 carrots, shredded on coarse grater
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
1 cup uncooked yellow or saffron rice
½ to ¾ cup finely chopped pistachio nuts

Sauce:
2-4 tablespoons tomato paste
6-8 cups of your favorite simple tomato sauce, tomato juice or V8 (I like the V8)
¼ cup honey
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
¼ cup small currants, optional

> Cut the core out of the cabbage, but leave it whole. Place it, with the empty core area facing up, in a large bowl. Boil a small pot of water and pour the water over the cabbage, and let it sit for 10 minutes. Or, I freeze the cabbage overnight and then defrost it in the microwave before using. Heat the oil in a very large pot. Cook the onions until they are soft, add the carrot and celery, and sautÈ them for a couple extra minutes — until they are also soft. Season the mixture with salt and pepper, transfer it to a bowl and let it cool a bit. Mix in the meat, rice and pistachio nuts, and season again with salt and pepper. Drain the head of cabbage. Pull off large leaves, and cut out the large vein; if the leaf is very large, you can make two rolls from each; if it is smaller, you can cut the vein out partially and pull the sides to overlap before you roll it into one roll. Pat the leaves dry with towels. Roll about ¼ cup of filling in each small leaf (I like them small) and arrange/carefully layer in a very large, wide pot. Combine sauce ingredients to create a sweet and sour sauce. Taste and add more honey or brown sugar for sweetness. Pour in enough sauce to cover the rolls. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat, letting them simmer, covered on the stove on very low for about 45 minutes. If sauce has thinned a bit, you can heat up any additional sauce you didn’t use and pour it over as you serve the rolls. 8-10 servings depending on size of rolls. Freezes well.

CHAI HONEY CAKE
(Pareve)

3 large eggs
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
½ fresh grated lemon rinds
⅓ cup vegetable oil
1 cup honey
1 cup warm strong chai tea
3¼ cups all-purpose flour, sifted
2½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1¼ cup flat almonds for garnish

> Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan. Place the eggs, lemon juice, lemon rind, oil, honey and coffee in a bowl of an electric mixer. Mix on low speed until well blended. In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cream of tartar, sugar and cinnamon with a fork until mixed. Gradually add the flour mixture to the eggs mixture, mixing for about 5 minutes or until well blended. Pour the batter into the tube pan. Bake in the oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour or until a toothpick  inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

 

It’s the Big Hello, Goodbye for Summer Eats

Late summer is truly the best time for produce. Those heirloom tomatoes are plentiful, corn is the sweetest, and all other fruits and vegetables give us their best, as they say goodbye until next year. As Elvis once sang, “It’s Now or Never” — to enjoy the best of Baltimore’s local crops. Unfortunately, all of our best locals are late this year. Blame the weather: a long warm spring; too much rain; not enough rain … whatever. I now have a new respect for farmers who must rely on the weather to keep their crops pristine. But better late than never!

This summer, I learned a lot about roasted chilies and peppers. Fresh chilies and bell peppers can be roasted over a gas flame or on a baking tray under the broiler. The secret is to keep turning them until they are evenly and completely charred. Then place the hot cooked peppers in a plastic bag and close tightly for 15 to 20 minutes. Peel them, scraping off the black char, cutting stems, seeds and veins. The veins are the spiciest part of the peppers. Never rinse them under running water. I wipe with a wet paper towel.

I also bought a cast-iron skillet and use it more and more, in and out of the oven. Although heavy to handle, cast iron makes browning meat, chicken and fish taste crusty and delicious.

My friend, Elaine Lowen, is famous for her delicious lemon squares. The recipe I’ve included is from the book “Cook, Pray, Eat Kosher,” which is exactly how Elaine lives her life.

This may just be the right time for a  delicious pot-luck picnic, as many students are also saying goodbye to summer and hello to school. Here are some suggestions for a successful farewell to summer.


Lemon Squares (©istockphoto.com/enushkab)

Lemon Squares (©istockphoto.com/enushkab)

Luscious Lemon Squares
(Pareve)

Crust:
¼ cup unsalted margarine
⅓ cup powdered sugar
1½ cups flour
Filling:
3 eggs
1½ cups sugar
3 tablespoons flour
⅓ cup lemon juice
Garnish:
lemon zest

> Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish.
Cream margarine, powdered sugar and flour in mixer and press into glass dish. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Filling: Beat eggs until fluffy. Slowly add sugar flour and lemon juice. Pour onto crust and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Cool and refrigerate to congeal. Before slicing to serve, sprinkle top with sifted powdered sugar and garnish with lemon zest. Freezes very well. 15 to 20 squares.

Grilled Corn and Poblano Salad with Chipotle Vinaigrette
(Pareve)

3 ears of corn, roasted or cooked on a grill to brown kernels
1 fresh poblano chili pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 fresh limes, juiced
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, chopped*
½ teaspoon salt
1 ripe, firm avocado, pitted and cut into chunks
½ cup fresh chopped parsley or cilantro
½ cup red onion, thin half slices

> Cut kernels from corn and place in a large bowl. Cook poblano pepper until the skin blackens all around. Place in a plastic bag to steam. Peel and seed the poblano, cutting into half-inch pieces. I rinse the poblano and pat dry after removing skin and seeds, or not if you like a lot of spice. Add to the corn. In a smaller bowl, whisk the olive oil, lime juice, chipotle pepper and salt together, and pour over the corn mixture. Add avocado, parsley and red onion, and toss gently to coat. 4 servings.

Roasted Chicken (©istockphoto.com/zhekos)

Roasted Chicken (©istockphoto.com/zhekos)

Roasted Chicken Thighs with  Late-Summer Veggies and Pan Sauce
(Meat)

6 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (2½ to 3 pounds)
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ pound green bean, stems removed (I like the French ones) (2 cups)
10 ounces grape tomatoes (I use assorted colors)
½ large red or sweet onion, cut into half-inch thick slices
½ cup pitted Nicoise or Kalamata olives
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and sliced about 1/8-inch thick
¼ cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon pareve margarine, optional
½ cup loosely packed basil leaves, sliced into half-inch strips

> Generously season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Position 2 racks near the center of the oven and heat oven to 425 degrees. Heat a heavy (cast-iron) oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat on stove. Pour 1 tablespoon of the oil into the hot skillet and swirl to coat. Arrange the chicken skin side down in the pan and cook until skin is golden brown, about 7 minutes. Turn chicken over. If a lot of fat has accumulated, spoon it off and discard. While chicken browns, toss the beans, tomatoes, onion, olives and garlic in a large bowl with the  remaining oil. Season with ¼ teaspoon salt and several grinds of pepper. Spread the vegetables on a rimmed baking sheet. Place the skillet and chicken and the vegetable pan in the oven, with chicken on the higher rack. Roast the chicken until a thermometer in the center of a thigh registers 170 degrees, about 18 to 20 minutes. Continue to roast vegetables until very soft and beginning to brown, maybe another 8 to 12 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate, discarding as much juice as possible. Place chicken back into skillet. Set over high heat, add the wine, and boil until reduced to about a quarter-cup sauce, 4 to 6 minutes. Swirl in the margarine, if using (I do). It should be syrupy.  Remove the vegetables from the oven and toss with the basil. Place vegetables on a serving plate or individual plates, and arrange the chicken thighs on the vegetables. Drizzle with the pan sauce. Serve immediately. 4 servings.


Tips & Tricks
• Make edible salad bowls! Take shredded parmesan cheese and spread all over one hot small to medium nonstick pan. When light brown, turn over on a bowl and shape it for a salad bowl. Pack separately for a picnic or travel. Be careful. They are fragile.
• When a recipe calls for “grilled corn” kernels, I often use Trader Joe’s frozen roasted corn. Defrost, pat dry, and it works great.
• For a great sandwich (or challah) spread, finely mash two ripe avocados. Mix in a little lemon or lime juice and salt and pepper to taste. For more spice, add some powdered ranch dressing mix.

Ilene Spector is a local freelance writer.