Sunday, July 26, 2009

Throw Another Chicken in the Pot!

I went to the local Whole Foods Store near my home and was absolutely awe struck by a huge display of kosher poultry. The local Whole Foods Stores in the Chicago area have always carried kosher poultry. But it was quietly hidden in a corner and if you didn’t know it was there-you would never see it. The display I saw in two stores this weekend (I am a chef and shop a lot) was prominent and abundant. Kosher Valley-a joint venture between two large food producers, features cut up chickens, whole birds, turkeys, cut up turkey and ground product. More importantly the products are Kosher, antibiotic free (ABF), vegetarian fed and humanely raised. WOW!

I am excited and nervous. I am thrilled that Hain-Celestial group (one of the companies) is part of this venture. Hain is long known for high quality products and corporate responsibility to the environment. The wide range of products is exciting. For most kosher home cooks, it is challenging to find variety in any meat and poultry items. It is common for me to go to the store and see what is available before I plan my home menus and purchase the rest of my menu items. I can’t wait for the nine days to be over to check this stuff out.

Here is the nervous part. I worry that folks won’t see the value in a poultry product that costs a bit more than the “other” poultry products. Notice I said “other” not “traditional”-because I am not sure when it became traditional to feed antibiotics and ground up poultry parts to poultry!

I worry that people think that what they don’t see can’t hurt them or the my grandmother ate this her whole life and she lived to be 90 years old syndrome. I am worried that if we don’t purchase these products-Whole Foods and other specialty stores won’t carry them anymore.

Most kosher products on store shelves are not the best quality (there, I said it) and have traditionally been produced to mimic non-kosher convenience items. The non-kosher products weren’t that good to start with-why mimic it? As a small minority of the population-I am thrilled that Hain decided to produce these products. This is top of the line stuff.

I don’t think it necessary for me to get all preachy about ABF, and vegetarian fed poultry-though I certainly could. I could on for eons about kosher food that should be humanely raised. I could also write about free-range farming. I love the idea of my chicken living its chicken life to the fullest before arriving to its final destination. I will save that material for later posts. I think we all know what has been going on in some kosher food production plants and I think we should learn from it. We should learn to always ask questions. Never assume that just because it is kosher-it is really KOSHER!

What I really interested in here is that we are small micro-niche of the population and we have the attention of a high quality food producer and high end retailer. We need to support those companies. Buy the products, send them thank you letters and thank the stores for carrying the products. They don’t have to. They don’t have to take up the enormous amount of cooler space with kosher poultry that I saw today. They did though. I, as a kosher consumer am going to purchase the products and encourage everyone I know to do the same.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Potato Head

I lugged home pounds of fingerling potatoes this week from the farmer’s market. I don’t know when I will actually eat all of these-but I could not resist. Tis the season for fingerling potatoes.
A fingerling potato is a fully mature potato that has a deep, complex and rich flavor. They are not to be confused with new potatoes which are harvested before being fully mature and ripened. Fingerling potatoes have a unique shape that is elongated and knobby-similar to a finger.
Fingerlings can be found in both the starchy and waxy varietals. They also can vary in color from creamy beige to slightly pink and to deep purple or blue. I love them all.

My favorite way to cook fingerlings is to leave the skin on. It helps the potato keep its shape. Fingerlings are versatile. Sometimes I like to roast them with fresh rosemary, olive oil and sea salt and other times I make my favorite hash. Fingerling potatoes will be in farmer’s markets through the fall.


I confess to craving these potatoes fried in duck fat. The earthy potato, sweet caramelized onion and rich duck fat transform this simple side into a feast. I serve the hash with grilled steaks, chops and poultry. When I am eating fish, or my favorite poached eggs, I lighten it up with olive oil and lots of fresh herbs.

Serves 6

2 pounds fingerling potatoes (I prefer French or Banana fingerlings for this recipe)
1 large red onion, sliced thinly
1 clove garlic, minced
1 red pepper, roasted, peeled and cut into julienne
Duck fat or Olive oil
Chopped fresh flat leaf parsley for garnish
Salt and pepper

1. Bring to boil a medium pot of water. Place the potatoes in the water and cook for about 7-10 minutes until the potatoes are easily pieced with a paring knife. Remove from the water and cool completely. When the potatoes are cool, slice them in half lengthwise.
2. Place a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Generously coat the bottom of the pan with duck fat or olive oil. Caramelize the onion until it is dark brown and very fragrant (about 7 minutes). Reduce the heat to medium and add the potatoes and garlic. Cook the potatoes until they are browned and slightly crispy on each side (about 3 minutes). Add the red pepper and continue to cook for an additional 3 minutes. Garnish with parsley.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Cherries A deux

I am still enjoying the Michigan tart cherries I purchased a week ago. They are still as fragrant and gorgeously garnet in their little wooden crib as the day I purchased them from the farmer’s market. I was craving a sweet and tart dessert today so I made this delicious tart. I hope you do too-and yes-there is a slight little piece missing. Quality control you know!

Easy tart dough

4 ounces unsalted butter
¼ cup sugar
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 egg yolk
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons ice water

1. In a mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter and sugar until they are light and fluffy. Add the remaining ingredients and mix just until they are combined.
2. Remove the dough from the mixing bowl. Press the dough in a lightly greased 10 inch false bottom tart pan. Make sure that the dough is pushed up the sides of the pan. Place the pan in the refrigerator and chill at least 2 hours.

Cherry-Nectarine Filling

2 cups pitted tart cherries
3 medium ripe nectarines, pitted and cut into medium dice
½ cup sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
pinch of salt

1. Stir all of the ingredients together in a medium bowl.

Almond Streusel

3 ounces unsalted butter
¼ cup light brown sugar
¼ cup sugar
½ cup chopped almonds
¼ cup all purpose flour

Assemble the tart
Preheat oven to 350

Mound the cherry filling into the chilled crust. Sprinkle the almond streusel over the top of the tart.
Place the tart on a cookie sheet and bake for 45 minutes until the crust is lightly golden brown and the filling is bubbly.
Cool completely before cutting. Serve with freshly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream

Friday, July 17, 2009

Lazy Summer Weekend Fare

Summer Vegetable Tian

There is a great time in the farmer’s market when the stalls are overflowing with fresh vegetables and fruits. Each item is at its peak and the abundance of variety is staggering. There are no rules for this dish and I have given my favorite combination for this recipe. By all means, come up with your own favorites. I like this dish at room temperature which makes it a great Shabbat afternoon dish. It can also travel easily to a friends home or weekend adventure in the country. A tian is a French earthenware dish that is traditionally used to bake this casserole. I use a glazed ceramic casserole. Serve the tian with your favorite green salad spiked with lots of fresh herbs such as basil, parsley and tarragon.

3 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed into a puree
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons Dijon style mustard
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
1 bulb fresh fennel, trimmed and cut into thin slices
1 medium eggplant, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 cup fresh green beans, sliced into 1 inch pieces on the bias
1 cup yellow wax beans, sliced into 1 inch pieces on the bias
1 cup fresh shelling beans such as Cranberry beans, Romano Beans, shelled
1 medium zucchini, sliced into 1 inch thick pieces
1 medium summer squash, sliced into 1 inch thick pieces
2 medium carrots-peeled and sliced into 1 inch thick pieces
1 cup sliced grape tomatoes
1 cup Gruyere cheese, shredded (optional)
Extra Virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 300. Place garlic, bread crumbs and mustard in a small bowl. Sprinkle liberally with Extra Virgin olive. Stir the mixture together until it resembles a chunky, slightly wet topping.
2. Lightly rub a casserole or Dutch oven with olive oil. Pile the vegetables except the tomatoes into the casserole. Toss with salt and pepper as needed. Scatter the tomatoes on top of the vegetables. Cover the tian with the bread crumbs and place in the preheated oven.
3. Bake the tian for 45-60 minutes until the breadcrumbs are toasty brown, the tomatoes are slightly browned and the vegetables are tender. Add the cheese if using and return the tian to the oven for an additional 15 minutes.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Bean town

I just spent several days in Boston with my son Ari who is a student at MIT. Boston is an easily maneuverable city unlike Chicago or New York. You can get from point A to point B without much cab fare, train time or stress. I love the cobblestone streets and the monuments on every corner that I HAD to read much to Ari’s displeasure.
You cannot go to Boston without thinking about bean town although I did not see one restaurant that served the sweet-creamy legumes. So, I returned from Boston craving beans which are a childhood summer time BBQ side dish. I did not really think I was going to eat them in Boston-but had sort of expected to see some chef do a menu-play on the classic. I guess I will be that chef. I left in the molasses which is a remnant from Boston’s not so Puritanical past in the rum trade. Molasses adds an earthy deep sweetness that brings out the nuttiness of the beans. I used Navy beans for both their ability to hold their shape as well as their historical use in the classic dish.

I added my favorite pantry spice-Pimenton. This smoked paprika adds an incredible complex smokiness that deepens the flavor of many of my favorite recipes. By adding the pimenton to the bean recipe I achieved an off the grill smokiness and heightened the sweetness of the molasses. Serve this vegetarian dish with your favorite grilled foods or as a protein packed vegetarian entrée.

Sweet and Smoky Baked Beans

2 large red onions, cut into small dice
olive oil
½ cup molasses
½ cup ketchup (I prefer Heinz-organic)
1 cup beer or apple juice
3 tablespoons Dijon style mustard
2 tablespoons hot pimenton*
3 28-ounce cans Navy beans or Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 350 or preheat slow cooker to high

1. Heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Lightly coat the pan with olive oil. Caramelize the onions until they are deep golden brown and have softened slightly (about 7 minutes). Transfer the onions to a large casserole or slow cooker.
2. Combine all of the ingredients in the casserole or slow cooker. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes until the sauce is bubbly. Or cook in the slow cooker for 2 hours until the sauce is bubbly.
Serve with chicken, fish, burgers and dogs or anything!

*Pimenton can be purchased on line at
Pimenton comes either Sweet or Hot. I prefer hot.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Michigan cherries

While I am not a fan of hot weather I do look forward to the local summer produce. Michigan tart cherries are one of my favorites. They are tart and “puckery” in a pleasing way without being too acidic. Their beautiful garnet color makes them an attractive fruit for baked goods and their tartness makes them versatile for savory foods as well. I like to serve this chutney with grilled chicken or roasted duck breast. I slice the duck and tumble the chutney over the top. Serve the chutney chilled or at room temperature. Try it this Shabbat!

This chutney is delicious with chicken, duck, turkey and venison. Scoop up the cherries, while you can, at the Farmer’s market for their season is short. They will last in your refrigerator for 5-7 days.

Michigan Cherry Chutney

1 cup sour cherries pitted and coarsely chopped
¼ cup pickled red onions*, chopped
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon crushed red chilies
¼ cup finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons honey
Salt and pepper

1. Combine all the chutney ingredients in a medium bowl. Stir until combined. Adjust seasoning.
2. Allow the chutney to sit at room temperature for the flavors to meld (about 1 hour).
3. Store the chutney covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

*Pickled Red Onions

1 medium red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
½ cup apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt

1. Place all of the ingredients in a non-reactive pan over medium heat. Allow the mixture to simmer for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and cool.

The onions can be stored, covered in the refrigerator for 5 days

Saturday, July 4, 2009



I have the best job in the world. I am a professional chef and author. Everyday I go to work in my kitchen at the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies in Chicago. I get to work with the best ingredients and create delicious food for hungry guests. Every time I pull a pan of chicken out of the oven with crackling-fragrantly herbed skin, scrape a vanilla bean to reveal perfumed gooey goodness or sear a gorgeous rib eye roast slathered with peppercorns and mustard I am proud and thrilled that I am a chef. I know that I am lucky that I found what I love to do and actually get paid for it!

When I am at home I am the mother of three "mostly" adult children whom I cook for and experiment upon. There is a twist to my job and that is that my professional and home kitchens are both kosher.

I started keeping kosher almost twenty years ago when my oldest son Zachary was about three years old. My husband and I (we are now divorced) wanted to provide a home where any of our friends and children's friends would be comfortable eating. Let's face it-potato chips on a napkin is not exactly a welcoming snack for hungry kids. We consulted with our Rabbi and kashered our home.

I opened my first kosher restaurant-Shallots ® in 1999 in Chicago and created a menu that emphasized seasonal produce driven fare. In 2000 I, and several partners, opened Shallots NY in midtown Manhattan with a similar seasonal menu that featured global ingredients. In 2004, I moved the Chicago restaurant to Skokie-a suburb with a large observant Jewish population outside of Chicago. Shallots NY closed and my first book was published--JEWISH COOKING FOR ALL SEASONS (John Wiley and Sons).

I joined the Wolfgang Puck catering organization several years ago and enjoy the beautiful views of Chicago's lakefront from our gorgeous catering hall in Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies. We cater amazing social and corporate events within the confines of a dazzling building steps from Grant Park or we pack up our kitchen and bring the bash anywhere in the Chicago area. Our kitchen at Spertus is the first full time kosher kitchen in the Wolfgang Puck organization.

My second book--JEWISH SLOW COOKER RECIPES (John Wiley and Sons) is due out next month and our catering organization is crazy busy. I love it!

This blog is a look at modern, bold kosher food that is seasonal, sustainable and ethical.

Sweet Potato Salad with Tahini-Lemon Vinaigrette
Serves 6 plus leftovers

I don’t know why most folks only eat sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving. I love them all year round. I remember the first time I had sweet potato chips as a side. My mother and I attended a birthday party (or was it a bridal shower?) Either way, it was about one hundred years ago and I cannot remember the occasion but I remember the food. We were at an art gallery on the North-West side of Chicago. The meal was a wonderful roasted vegetable and Gruyere cheese sandwich with several sides. The luncheon was great, but the chips were revolutionary to me. They were a lovely shade of burnt orange, piled high, crunchy, perfectly salted and garnished with specks of freshly chopped rosemary. YUM!

Since that day-I use sweets for everything and all year round. My favorite potato salad is bold and colorful and can dress up any burger or piece of chicken.

• 2 medium sweet potatoes (about 12 ounces each)
• 1 small red onion, cut into small dice
• 1 small fennel bulb (save the fronds for garnish) cut into small dice
• 1 red pepper, roasted and cut into julienne
• ¼ cup golden raisins
• 3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
• 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and sliced thinly
• Salt and freshly cracked pepper

Preheat the oven to 350

1. Roast the sweet potatoes in the pre heated oven until you just able to pierce them with a paring knife (about 1 hour). Do not over cook them or they will fall apart and be mushy-you want them to hold their shape. Cool the potatoes completely.

2. Peel the potatoes and cut them into large 2 inch pieces. Combine all of the salad ingredients together in a large bowl. Drizzle with vinaigrette and serve. The salad can be made one day ahead of serving and can be stored, covered in the refrigerator.

For The Vinaigrette

• Juice and zest of 1 lemon
• 2 tablespoons of tahini
• 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• ¼ cup water
• Salt and freshly cracked pepper

1. Whisk all of the above ingredients together. Season to taste with salt and pepper.