Basic Halva

 

069EE093-B131-4DDD-BB18-9E5EF1D0E7C6.jpeg

Halva is a confection made from raw tehina and sugar, sometimes stabilized with additives.  In Israel, you’ll see halva stalls with huge slabs in every imaginable flavor, from rose water to pistachio to chocolate to coffee.

2 cups sugar
½ vanilla bean, scraped
Zest of 1 lemon
1½ cups tehina
Pinch kosher salt

Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper. Have ready another sheet of parchment paper.

Combine the sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest with ½ cup water in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Then cook, without stirring, until the mixture registers 245 degrees on a candy thermometer.

While the sugar syrup is cooking, place the tehina and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle. Beat on medium speed.

When the sugar syrup reaches 245 degrees carefully stream it into the tehina with the mixer running. Mix until the syrup is incorporated and the mixture begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

Working quickly with a flexible heatproof spatula, transfer the mixture to the prepared pan. Press the top of the halva flat with the sheet of parchment paper and your hands. Let cool completely to room temperature. Cut into squares and store at room temperature, well wrapped in plastic wrap.

Will keep for up to a week.

 

Passover Slow Cooked Brisket with Red Wine and Mustard

In honor of Passover I am offering the delectable version of brisket. To all of those of the Jewish faith Happy beginning of Passover. Of course this dish can be prepared anytime of year.  This version takes some time so plan ahead, it’s worth it.

  • Brisket (about 6 pounds)
  • Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 6 carrots sliced into 3 chunks each
  • 4 large quartered onions
  • 6 ribs celery with the greens in 2-inch chunks
  • 5 cloves smashed and peeled garlic
  • ½ cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 4 tablespoons grated horseradish
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bunch parsley
  • Mushrooms (optional)

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

Season the brisket with salt and pepper, don’t skimp on seasonings. Add a few tablespoons of the olive oil to a braising pan. Warm the pan over medium heat, then sear the brisket on all sides, this takes some time.  When the brisket is mostly browned on all sides, remove it from the pan and set aside. Searing the brisket is really optional, but it is traditional.

There should be enough fat rendered in the pan, but if not add a few more tablespoons of oil. Add 3 of the carrots, the onions, celery, and garlic and sauté for a few minutes, stirring and sprinkling with more salt and pepper.

Stir together the wine vinegar, wine, honey, grated horseradish, and mustard in a bowl, then pour the liquid into the pan and deglaze, gently scraping up any stuck bits with a spoon (preferably wooden). Simmer for about3 minutes, until the sauce is slightly reduced.

Return the brisket to the pot and add enough beef broth to just cover the brisket. Add the bay leaves, thyme, and parsley and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot and put in the oven for about 4 hours. At the end of the fourth hour, add the remaining carrots, and return to the oven for one more hour.

Remove from the oven and let sit until the brisket reaches room temperature.  Cut the brisket against the grain into slices about an quarter of an inch thick.

When ready to serve, remove the fat that has accumulated on top of the brisket. Heat the liquid in the pan and reduce by half, then strain out the vegetables if you want. Return the cut brisket to the pan, heat, ladle the carrots on top, pour the sauce over, and serve.

 

Schmaltz Mit Gribenes: Ashkenazic Rendered Chicken Fat with Cracklings

Schmaltz or schmalts in Yiddish (from the Middle High German smalz, “animal fat”) is the generic Yiddish term for animal fat, but more specifically and colloquially, it denotes melted and purified poultry fat. Schmaltz became to Ashkenazic cooking what olive oil was to Mediterranean food, indispensable for frying and cooking, and as a flavoring agent.”

~ Gil Marks, “The Encyclopedia Of Jewish Food

  • Skin and fat from 8 chicken thighs (or 2 cups reserved chicken skin and fat) *
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 onion, cut into medium dice

Chop chicken fat and skin and add to a small amount of water to begin the rendering at a gentle temperature.  Once the water and the moisture in the fat and skin have cooked off, the fat can rise above 212 degrees and the browning can begin.  When the skin is lightly browned and plenty of fat has been rendered, add the chopped onion.

Be careful not to overcook. It should remain clear and yellow, not brown with an overly roasted flavor.  The browned skin and onion, called gribenes are delicious.  Strain the fat and reserve the gribenes. The schmaltz is ready to use, to refrigerate for up to a week, or to freeze. The gribenes should also be refrigerated or frozen

* Where do I get the chicken fat?

Make roast chicken once a week. Before you roast it, pull off all the fat you see and trim all the skin you won’t need. Store the fat and skin in the freezer, until you have plenty to render for schmaltz

 

Chicken Marbella

CEE0791A-F162-418C-88B2-5603F7DAE1DF

One of the recipes in The Silver Palate Cookbook published in 1981 was for Chicken Marbella, which was apparently the most popular dish at the Silver Palate. It ended up becoming a Shabbat dinner and Passover Seder staple throughout America.  While that may seem odd, it actually makes a good bit of sense. There’s a strong tradition of pairing fruit and meat in Jewish culinary history, and as a Jew Sheila Lukins was a part of this tradition.  Here is my riff on that recipe for a large group of people.

  • 4 chickens (2 1/2 pounds each), cut up
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1/4 cup of oregano
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup pitted prunes
  • 1/2 cup pitted Spanish olives
  • 1/2 cup capers
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1 cup of good white wine

Marinate chicken with all but last three ingredients in the refrigerator overnight. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Arrange in a single layer.  Sprinkle brown sugar, pour white wine around and bake for 50-60 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon transfer chicken, prunes, olives and capers to a platter.  Moisten with a few tablespoons of pan juices.  Sprinkle parsley over top.  Reduce pan juices and use as a gravy.

Mexican Shakshouka

0A0DD35D-C308-45BA-A32A-679CF996E627.jpeg

Shakshouka typically is a simple and quick North African dish of eggs poached in a spicy stew of tomatoes and peppers.  Here is a riff of the classical dish with Mexican flavors.

  • 1 1/2 pounds sausage
  • butter
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 4-6 tomatoes, diced
  • salt, pepper, sugar to taste
  • cheese, typically cheddar
  • 8 eggs

brown sausage. Add peppers, onions and salsa.  Stir in tomatoes, salt, pepper and sugar to taste.  Place cheese slices on top to melt.  Break eggs over melted cheese.  Cover.

Israeli Style Hummus

24a4d39d-6d73-4033-8473-064a7a5a14a3

** Tehina is the Israeli word for the Greek word tahini.  **

1 cup dried chickpeas
1 teaspoons baking soda
1½ cups Tehina Sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
Paprika
Chopped fresh parsley
Olive oil, for drizzling

Tehina Sauce:

¾ cup lemon juice
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
2 generous cups tehina
½ teaspoon ground cumin

Add the tehina to the lemon juice in the bowl, along with the cumin and 1 teaspoon of the salt.  Whisk the mixture together until smooth adding water slowly to thin it out. Whish until you have a perfectly smooth, creamy, thick sauce.  Add more cumin and salt to taste.

Hummus Directions:

Place the chickpeas in a large bowl and cover with water. Soak the chickpeas overnight at room temperature. Drain the chickpeas and rinse.

Place the chickpeas in a large pot with 1 teaspoon of baking soda and add cold water to cover by at least a few inches. Bring the chickpeas to a boil over high heat, skimming off any impurities  that rises to the surface. Lower the heat to medium, cover the pot, and simmer for about 1 hour, until they are a bit overcooked and a little mushy.  Drain.

Combine the chickpeas, tehina sauce, salt, and cumin in a food processor. Puree the hummus for several minutes, until it is smooth and  creamy.

Serve with a drizzle of good olive oil, cumin and fresh parsley to taste.

 

Chicken Matzah Ball Pho Fusion

 

BDA11052-208C-41EE-B194-8FCEC52A31E5.jpeg

Two amazing soups that were begging to be mashed together.

Pho was created in Viet Nam in the 1880’s under French occupation, influenced by the French taste for beef based dishes. Some even speculate the name comes from the French Feu (fire, as in pot au feu), though others believe that the dish may have inspired by Chinese occupiers from the previous thousand years.

Matzah Ball Soup was likely invented thousands of years ago, from leftover Matzah meal and an egg. Matzah is a flat cracker that is the “bread of affliction” during the Passover Holiday, symbolizing the Israelites hasty escape from Egypt. But the soup we think of as Matzah Ball Soup came to particular prominence in Eastern European Shtetl’s with קניידלעך kneydlach dumplings.

Ingredients

For the broth:

  • 2 medium unpeeled yellow onions, halved
  • 1 large 4”-5” piece of ginger, cut lengthwise in half
  • 5 quarts cold water
  • 1 4-5 lb. chicken, cut up
  • ½ lb. chicken wings
  • 2 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1 Tbsp rock sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 tsp whole coriander seeds
  • 2 Tbsp fish sauce, or to taste
  • 1 small white onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced

For the matzah balls:

  • 1 cup matzah meal
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • ¼ cup oil
  • ¼ cup minced scallion

For the toppings:

  • 1 large bunch of fresh Thai basil
  • limes cut into wedges
  • 3 cups mung bean sprouts
  • 2 jalapeños, sliced thin
  • Hoisin sauce if desired
  • Garlic chili sauce if desired
  • Sriracha if desired

Directions

To make the broth:

  1. Char your onions and ginger.  The onions and ginger should be nicely charred but still firm, this step will deepen the broth’s flavor. Once the onions and ginger are charred, remove the skin from the onions. Rinse the onion and ginger, and use a small knife to scrape off excess charred bits to prevent your broth from getting bitter.
  2. Cut your chicken into parts, separating the breasts, legs, wings and backbone. This will ensure that your chicken cooks evenly.
  3. In a small skillet over medium heat, toast the cinnamon, anise and coriander until lightly browned and fragrant 2-3 minutes. Don’t burn the spices. Add onion, ginger and chicken to a large pot. Fill the pot with 5 quarts of water. Bring the water to a simmer; continuously skim the impurities as they rise to the top.
  4. After about 20 minutes of simmering, or once they’re cooked through, remove the chicken breasts and allow them to cool. Add the toasted spices, salt and sugar to the pot. Continue to gently simmer the mixture for at least 1 hour for flavors to develop.
  5. Remove the remaining chicken parts and strain the liquid through a fine meshed sieve. Bring the liquid back to a simmer until the liquid has reduced by about a quarter. This will deepen the broth’s flavor.
  6. While simmering, shred the chicken meat and reserve for serving. Once reduced, turn off the heat and add the fish sauce to the broth. Taste, and add additional seasoning if desired.

To make the matzah balls: 

  1. While the soup is simmering, in a large bowl whisk together the matzah meal, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Add the beaten egg and oil (schmaltz would be a lovely replacement for the oil.  Schmaltz is rendered chicken fat). Add the scallions. Mix everything together until just combined.
  2. Refrigerate the mixture for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Form the matzah ball mixture into even-sized balls. You can determine the size based on your preference, but they will double when cooked.
  4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Lower to a simmer and gently drop the matzah balls into simmering water. Place the lid on the pot and continue to simmer for 30 minutes. Once cooked store in their cooking liquid.

To serve:

  1. Add the shredded chicken, raw sliced onion and scallions to a bowl. Ladle hot broth into the bowl. Add the matzah balls to the soup.
  2. Serve with Thai basil, bean sprouts, lime wedges, hoisin and hot sauces. Allow people to garnish and customize their pho to their liking.

Noodle Kugel

 

ADD7DA68-1682-4AAE-A453-C363E43F8FA7.jpeg

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1-12 ounce package of wide or extra wide egg noodles
  • 2 Tbsp jarred garlic
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 6 eggs
  • paprika

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Add 3 heaping Tbsp of olive oil to baking dish and place pan in oven for the oil to heat. This will make for a crispier kugel.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook noodles as directed on package, around 7-8 minutes. Drain and set aside.

While noodles are cooking, whisk together eggs, garlic, garlic powder, salt and pepper.

Add cooked noodles to egg mixture and mix gently until completely coated. Remove baking dish with hot oil from the oven and add noodles to the dish. It will sizzle slightly.

Sprinkle top with paprika. Bake for 40 minutes uncovered or until noodles are desired crispiness. Serve warm or room temperature. Enjoy!

Israeli Salad

9B045F40-0FF2-4543-911C-4B826182AD27

Israeli Salad is really a misnomer as it’s Arab, but extremely popular in Israel.  A simple salad that is served at pretty much every meal.

  • 3 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 3 cups chopped cucumbers
  • Chopped onion optional to taste (traditionally no onion)
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Toss well to combine and serve.

Easy Latkes

2E6DE175-74A8-400E-8F74-3EEA1C953D73

This recipe is for a classic, unadorned latkes.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large Russet potatoes (about 1 pound), scrubbed and cut lengthwise into quarters
  • 1 large onion (8 ounces), peeled and cut into quarters
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt (or 1 teaspoon fine sea salt), plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Safflower or other oil, for frying

Preparation:

  1. Using a food processor with a coarse grating disc, grate the potatoes and onion. Transfer the mixture to a clean dishtowel and squeeze and wring out as much of the liquid as possible.
  2. Working quickly, transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add the eggs, flour, salt, baking powder and pepper, and mix until the flour is absorbed.
  3. In a medium heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat, pour in about 1/4 inch of the oil. Once the oil is hot (a drop of batter placed in the pan should sizzle), use a heaping tablespoon to drop the batter into the hot pan, cooking in batches. Use a spatula to flatten and shape the drops into discs. When the edges of the latkes are brown and crispy, about 5 minutes, flip. Cook until the second side is deeply browned, about another 5 minutes. Transfer the latkes to a paper towel-lined plate to drain and sprinkle with salt while still warm. Repeat with the remaining batter.