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Apr 3 2012

Interviews with Interesting Jews: The Shiksa in the Kitchen

By at 11:55 am

Tori Avey is a food blogger and culinary anthropologist and you would never guess she hasn’t been Jewish her entire life. Tori found that in many ways food brought her to Judaism and she has explored her spiritual path through immersing herself in traditional Jewish cooking which she shares at Shiksa in the Kitchen. She officially converted to Judaism in 2010 and regularly hosts over 40 people at her house for Seder.

1. Jewish holidays like Hanukkah and Purim are easy to share with non-Jewish family, but Passover, the seder in particular, can be intimidating and sometimes confusing. How do you share this traditional meal with your non-Jewish family?

One of my favorite things about food is that it breaks down all boundaries–a yummy meal is something we can all agree on, no matter where we come from or what our background is. Passover is such a food-oriented holiday, which makes it a great opportunity to bring people together. Taking a moment to explain the blessings–and why we’re doing strange things, like eating bitter herbs–helps everybody to enjoy the evening more. My non-Jewish family actually looks forward to the seder. My mom likes to help me cook. Usually I have 40-50 guests for my seder, and many of them aren’t Jewish, but everybody has fun… it’s a festive evening of storytelling, singing, tradition, and incredible food. As a Jewish family, it’s a way for us to welcome others in, to help them better understand our faith. What’s not to like? Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 30 2012

Passover Recipes!

By at 10:07 am

If you’re hosting a Passover seder this year, like me, it’s time to figure out your recipes (maybe past time to figure out your recipes, but hey, we can’t all keep to Joan Nathan’s fancy schedule). I’ve been scouring the internet to find recipes to fill in our seder–specifically, looking for some delicious chicken recipes and a new side dish or two. And dessert. Always dessert.

So if you too are looking for the latest and greatest recipes, here’s a place to start–and please, share your favorites below!

1. We always start our seder meal with matzah ball soup. Here’s a traditional recipe, but Meredith Jacobs also makes a beet matzah ball soup infused with ginger. A little exotic twist on the traditional ball.

2. We’re planning to serve chicken on Friday night, and I’m in search of an easy and delicious recipe (because my go-to is cornflake chicken and needless to say, that’s not exactly on the kosher for Passover list). So far I’ve found a few options–what do you think? I’m leaning toward this lemon chili chicken from The Shiksa in the Kitchen,

or maybe this apricot glazed chicken with sage from Dave Lieberman, or these sweet and sour chicken thighs with apricots from Epicurious. (Please, weigh in on this and tell me what will be EASY and yummy!)

3. Now, the star of many a seder is a brisket. This year we’ll be making my husband’s mom’s recipe, but I also think that this one and this one sound delish. Or try a novel spin on the traditional with this cranberry brisket recipe by Meredith Jacobs.

4. But side dishes also play an important role in a quality Passover seder. There’s the ubiquitous potato kugel (either from the box or from scratch like this one from our friends at MyJewishLearning.com), but try changing it up this year and making a carrot kugel.

I also recently discovered that I adore brussels sprouts, and it doesn’t take much to make them delicious–just roast them as in this Ina Garten recipe.  Or there’s always the classic asparagus, which feels so appropriate for Passover as it’s also a sign of springtime. I like this recipe by Zoe Singer–simple and scrumptious.

5. But when it comes to dessert, it feels like we’re always in search of something that’s actually good (and not just matzah meal dressed up as dessert). A few years ago I came across this Tyler Florence recipe for a flourless chocolate cake that I make year-round (just be aware that it definitely needs the butter). But this year I’m also finding inspiration in these raspberry coconut macaroons from Smitten Kitchen (did you catch our Q & A with Deb Perelman a while back?).

And NotDerbyPie makes these chocolate cookies that she swears don’t taste like Passover cookies. I’m inclined to believe her based on the ingredients and the photo. And since my 2.5-year-old loves to make cookies, we might have to try these ones out before Passover.

Oh, and if you’re on Pinterest, head on over and say hi–and check out our list of Passover recipes there too. (We’re Kveller.com, in case you didn’t guess.)

Now, ladies and gentlemen, what classic Passover recipes am I missing? Please link below!

Mar 27 2012

Cookbooks for Passover

By at 1:08 pm

This year I’m hosting my very first Passover seder. Oh, and did I mention that I have a 2.5-year-old and I’m 8 months pregnant? And my husband is traveling a few days a week every week between now and Passover?

So yes, I’m a bit nervous. I’ve been working on a menu, and though my family and my husband’s family all have our standard favorites, I kind of want to jazz it up a little bit this year. So I’ve started looking at cookbooks–that’s right, real cookbooks. And some websites too, of course, because yes, I work for Kveller and love the internet. I wanted to share with you some of my favorites–and am hoping you’ll tell me your favorites too!

1. The No-Potato Passover, by Aviva Kanoff

No Potato Passover

Because the two things I tend to live on during Passover (besides the ubiquitous matzah, of course) are potatoes and eggs. And I’m really psyched to get beyond that this year! The full-color pages are filled with gorgeous recipes that I think I could actually make. Nice.

2. Passover by Design, by Susie Fishbein

Passover By Design

This one’s written by the same woman who wrote Kosher by Design, and has a nice blend of the quick and easy recipe and the more-work but great payoff recipe. Oh, and did I mention that many of the recipes are gluten-free?

3. The New York Times Passover Cookbook, edited by Linda Amster

New York Times Passover Cookbook

So I’m partial to this one because my husband’s mother got her brisket recipe from the New York Times. But it’s filled with great chefs who write excellent Passover recipes. And yes, it’s been out for a decade, but once a classic, always a classic!

If you’re looking for websites to start your Passover planning, I’ve spent a little time searching on Epicurious, as well as MyJewishLearning.com (be sure to check out The Nosher, their newest food blog), CookKosher, and Joy of Kosher.

So now that I’ve shared some of my favorites, what are yours? What cookbooks am I missing, what websites didn’t I share? And be sure to check out Passover recipes board on Pinterest.


Jan 23 2012

Interview with Interesting Jews: Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen

By at 9:15 am
deb perelmanDeb Perelman runs the website Smitten Kitchen, a food blog with recipes and pictures that will literally make you drool like a little baby. In her own words, she is “the kind of person you might innocently ask what the difference is between summer and winter squash and she’ll go on for about twenty minutes before coming up for air to a cleared room and you soundly snoring.” We spoke with her about failure, toddlers in the “no” phase, and the future publication of her first cookbook.

If you decided to keep kosher, what food or particular dish would be the hardest to say goodbye to?

I confess that I’d probably miss marshmallows to make my salted brown butter crispy treats for parties the most. Kosher ones are so hard to find! Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 28 2011

How to Host Large Holiday Meals (i.e. Lessons from Thanksgiving)

By at 12:50 pm

family mealI hope your Thanksgiving was as good as mine! Thank you so much for all of your help with menu ideas and general support. Below is the recipe and actual recipes for a fail-safe, easygoing Thanksgiving – print it out and feel free to use it yourself next year to come one step closer to becoming an official balaboosta. Also, it’s never too early to start planning your Passover seder. Think about using a similar menu, just substitute brisket for turkey.

TWO WEEKS AHEAD:

  1. Assign duties. It’s called Thanksgiving, not Martyrdom Day. As we all know, if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t no one happy – and you doing all the work may give everyone else something to be thankful for, but what fun is that for you? People are usually so grateful not to be hosting the event themselves that they will happily offer you assistance in the tangible forms of stuffing, sweet potatoes, salad, wine, etc. Let them! Assign parts according to your perception of the guests’ abilities (no need to say that part out loud, of course). If you or your guests have allergies/eating restrictions/kashrut concerns, spell them out so as to have no misunderstandings. And if someone is flaky, make sure they’re assigned a minor part, i.e., one that, if they didn’t show up, it wouldn’t be the end of the world.
  2. Start planning out menu items.  This goes in tandem with item 1. Plan out what you want to serve and how much of it. Planning menu items can also be synced with writing out a shopping list. It’s easiest to get canned/pantry-esque stuff ahead of time.
  3. Buy copy of Leah Koenig’s Hadassah Everyday Cookbook. Great recipes that take kosher considerations in mind for kosher cooks.
  4. Arrange for a babysitter and reserve a table to go out to dinner Saturday after Thanksgiving. Yes, you will have eaten your weight in stuffing already and you will have a refrigerator full of leftovers. But you deserve to be rewarded for everything you’re about to do. Trust me.
  5. Order turkey. Fresh is ideal if possible.

ONE WEEK AHEAD: Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 21 2011

Don’t Cook Like Bubbe

By at 10:12 am

We all talk about wanting to cook like Bubbe, but you know what? Sometimes we really don’t. Or we do, until we find out what her secret ingredients were.

Here’s what I mean: Of all the amazing, delicious concoctions my grandma Rosie made, the one we requested the most – and miss the most – was this incredible, outstanding, lick-your-lips cabbage soup. I know: Cabbage soup? Bist meshugah? But this had a borscht base, contained a cooked-till-it-melts brisket, and was oddly sweet in a way nothing else was.

Before she took her little snooze on outer Long Island, Grandma Rosie imparted the recipe to me, her favorite granddaughter. (Fine, I happened to be the only one who asked. I’m also the only one writing this article, so until you read the comments, I’m the favorite!) When I made the soup a couple years ago, I verified the ingredients with my mom, who added a few I really couldn’t believe.

The first steps were predictable: Brown the brisket with onions. Dump in a jar of Mrs. Adler’s Borscht. Fill the rest of the pot with chicken stock. Throw in the vegetables you have, most likely rounds of carrots, diced celery, and chunks of potatoes. Handfuls of raisins, which plump up into sweet, delicious delights. Add a bit of tomato puree, some vinegar, a bay leaf (of course but DON’T EAT IT, every version of the recipe reminds me, because otherwise I surely would).

And then? The secret ingredients: brown sugar and ginger snaps. Not only that. “I hate to admit it, but if she didn’t have ginger snaps, she’d just pour in some ginger ale,” my mom told me on the phone, because no way was she going to admit such a thing in print. Read the rest of this entry →

May 31 2011

Two Grandmothers, Two Worlds

By at 12:30 pm

Is it strange that I associate my grandmothers with kitchen appliances?

My grandma, Gramma Anna as we called her, was born in Dairyland a child of the Depression, and raised her family on the corner of Main St. in Middletown, NY. My Bubbe, Sala, was born in Lodz, Poland, spent most of her childhood in Nazi death camps, and moved her family from Germany to upstate New York when she was 21 years old.  Both women knew how to make kasha varnishkes and other Jewish staples, both could knit and sew, and both made sure we, their grandchildren, knew how much we were loved.

But these women couldn’t have been more different.

Gramma signed our birthday cards in perfect cursive, “with love,” and Bubbe drew zany pictures of flowers and x’s (kisses) and sunshine all around the words “kisses kisses kisses” and “love you mamale,” words she’d spelled phonetically. Gramma was quiet and contented herself during visits to our house by reading magazines and watching my brother and I play. Bubbe, who lived less than three miles from our house, spent most of her afternoons making stockpiles of cookies and chicken soup for us, helping my mother with the laundry and ironing, and squaking in Yiddish, over the phone, about who amongst the greenes (immigrants) was shtuping with whom.

Gramma taught me how to say “oopsy daisy” when I spilled something. She was dainty. Bubbe cooked in a slip and a sheen of sweat from her forehead to her bosom.

Gramma had great power in her wagging finger. That’s not ladylike was enough to keep me honest in her care. Bubbe reminded me, often, to be a balabusta!– the traditional connotation of this word translates to good homemaker, but she meant it in the sense of being a bring-home-the-kischke kind of woman despite all odds, like starting over in a new country, in a new language, working the night shift at a factory with no air conditioning, and navigating through life without a driver’s license. When she said the word, balabusta!, she said it with her fists clenched, marching in place. Read the rest of this entry →

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