Monday, December 28, 2009

Festive Brunch


New Year’s brunch anyone?

Start the New Year off on the right track with my favorite egg dish. Brunch doesn’t need to complicated-just gorgeous and delicious. Skip the blimpie bagels and cliché cream cheese. Treat yourself and some friends to a zesty Mediterranean egg dish. Sunny-side up eggs poached in spicy tomato sauce with your favorite vegetables and a drizzle of your best olive oil. What could be better? Add some bowls of your favorite condiments, warm pita and a pot of strong coffee and you have New Year’s brunch under control. Now if only the rest of the year would go this smoothly!



Shakshuka

This delicious North African dish has as many variations as there are Jews in Israel! Feel free to add your favorite veggies, cheeses and any other ingredients you like.


Olive oil
1 Spanish onion, diced
5 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
2 roasted red peppers, peeled and chopped
1 28-ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes, drained and crushed-(I like to pour the tomatoes with their juices into a large bowl and crush them with my hands, they don’t end up too mushy the way canned crushed tomatoes can be)
1 5-ounce can tomato paste
3 tablespoons crushed red chilies (you can vary the amount in the recipe-I like it really zippy)
8 eggs
½ cup fresh flat leaf parsley-chopped
2 tablespoons za’atar
Salt and pepper
Optional garnishes: grated cheese, chopped scallions, chopped red onions, harissa, chopped fresh herbs (cilantro, basil), chopped kalamata olives

1. Heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Lightly coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until caramelized (about 7 minutes). Add the garlic and roasted red peppers and lower the heat to medium low and continue cooking until the vegetables are soft but not browned (about 5 minutes).
2. Add the canned tomatoes, tomato paste and crushed red chilies. (Reserve the juices from the canned tomatoes for another use) Stir to combine and cook over low heat until the sauce is thick. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
3. Crack the eggs into the sauce. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with parsley and za’atar. Cover the pan and continue cooking over medium heat until the egg whites are set but the yolks are still soft (about 12-15 minutes). Drizzle your favorite olive oil over the top and serve.
Serve the Shakshuka immediately with warm pita

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Something Else for Jews on Christmas


Forget the turkey, goose or other roasted items gracing the holiday table. We Jews have our own tradition for festive meals on Christmas; Chinese food! The history of Jews eating Chinese food on Christmas comes from the late 1800’s when Chinese restaurants were typically the only places open on Christmas (many Chinese are Buddhist) and welcomed Jews who were looking for an outing on the Christian holiday. The Chinese restaurants also did not discriminate and allowed Jews to patronize their restaurants.

While many neighborhood Chinese restaurants are not serving the unique and exotic flavors that tempted Jews years ago, I still crave the Asian delicacies. I am also never one to break with tradition and this year I will be firing up the wok in my home.

Modern Chop Suey

Chop Suey was once a Chinese dish that was made over in an effort to appeal to Western tastes. Currently the dish is passé. I am on a one-chef campaign to bring it back en vogue. What is out is in again and chop suey is no exception. I am also intrigued by the kitsch of the dish, so I offer you my chop suey makeover for your Christmas dinner.


Essential Sauce No. 1

1 cup chicken stock
1 ounce dried shiitake mushrooms
2 scallions, sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
1 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 star anise
2 teaspoons spicy Asian chili paste (optional)
¼ cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons corn starch
2 tablespoons cold water

Chop Suey

3 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
8 ounces Chicken, turkey or beef, sliced thinly
8 ounces Fresh Shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced thinly
4 ounces Oyster or other exotic mushrooms, sliced thinly
4 Scallions, sliced thinly
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, chopped
½ cup Snow peas
½ cup Green beans, cut into 2 inch pieces
Canned baby corn, drained and rinsed
Bamboo shoots, drained and rinsed
1 small head of bok choy, chopped
Cilantro leaves and bean sprouts for garnish



1. Bring the chicken stock to a simmer and add the dried shiitake mushrooms, scallions, garlic, ginger and star anise and chili paste. Turn off the heat and allow the mushrooms to soften for 20 minutes.
2. Remove the mushrooms and slice them thinly. Add the mushrooms back to the chicken stock mixture. Add the soy sauce and sugar and bring to a simmer.
3. Whisk the corn starch in a bowl with cold water. Add the cornstarch slurry to the sauce and allow the mixture to thicken. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
4. Heat a large wok or sauté pan over high heat. Add the canola and sesame oils. Add the chicken or turkey to the pan. Cook stirring frequently until lightly browned and cooked through. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside. Add the remaining ingredients and stir fry quickly until lightly browned, but still leaving the vegetables crispy. Add back the chicken to the pan and pour some of the Essential Sauce over the stir fry.
5. serve the chop suey over steamed rice and garnish with bean sprouts and fresh cilantro leaves.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

LAST CHANCE FOR CRUNCHY MUNCHY TREATS

Sufganiyot


As the holiday winds down and think you can eat one more fried delectable-I offer you these tasty and simple homemade doughnuts. They puff up light and airy making it all the easier to scarf up more! Don’t worry-there is always next week to get back on the diet. Chanukkah Sameach!

3/4 cup apple cider, at room temperature
1 tablespoon (1 package) dry yeast
4 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 eggs, separated
2 tablespoons canola oil

For the filling
1 cup favorite seedless jelly
sugar and cinnamon for dusting


1. Place the apple juice into the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook. Sprinkle the yeast over the apple juice. Add all of the ingredients in order with the machine running at a low speed. Increase the speed to medium and knead the dough for 3 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic in texture.
2. Cover the bowl with a towel and allow the dough to rise for 1 hour.
3. Punch the dough down, Pull pieces of dough , about the size of walnuts and roll them gently into balls. Place the dough balls onto a sheet pan. Continue until all the dough is rolled.
4. Heat a saucepan with oil to a depth of 3 inches to 350 degrees. Fry the dough nuts in batches in the hot oil. When the doughnuts are completely browned and float to the top, the doughnuts are done.
5. Remove the doughnuts with a slotted spoon and drain on papertowels.
6. Fill a pastry bag, fitted with a small tip, with YOUR favorite jelly. Push the pastry tip into the side of a doughnut and fill with jelly.
7. Roll in sugar and serve.

Makes about 36 small doughnuts

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

HAVE A STRESS FREE HANUKKAH FEAST

Tired of standing over a hot pan of latkes while all your guests are having fun and enjoying festive winter cocktails? Weary of the onion-potato” facial” that you sport while your family scarfs up hot crispy latkes? Try the Latke Bar!
At your next Hanukkah party why stop at topping the fried crispy beauties with just applesauce or sour cream? Have a latke bar. Place a large platter of latkes out and add bowls of toppings. Let your guests customize their own latkes while you relax and enjoy the party.

Eliminate the stress and supplement with store bought goodies as well. You can add purchased chutney, salsa, caviar, chopped onions, chopped chives and fresh herbs.

Make you latkes early in the day and keep them wrapped at room temperature. The latkes will keep for several hours. Storing them in the refrigerator makes them dry and soggy. Reheat the latkes in a hot oven at 400 on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Transfer to a platter and serve with your favorite toppings. Arrive at your own party looking calm, refreshed and without the onion-potato “facial”!


Latke Bar

I only use egg whites for my latkes. Think about it. Yolks make doughs and batters tender and cakey. I want my latkes crispy and crunch (all the better for holding up to some toppings). My latkes are crispy and stay that way longer. Save the yolks for your cakey sufganiyot.

3 cups peeled and grated Russet potatoes
1 large Spanish onion-peeled and grated
2 egg whites-lightly beaten
All-purpose flour about ¼-1/2 cup
Salt and pepper
Neutrally oil for frying-about 3-4 cups (prefer canola or peanut oil)

1. Place the shredded potatoes in a bowl of ice cold water *(this helps keep them from turning rust colored). Let the potatoes sit for about 15 minutes.
2. Place a large skillet or sauté pan over medium high heat. Fill the pan with oil to a depth of about 2 inches.
3. Remove the potatoes from the water. Squeeze as much water as possible by wrapping the potatoes in a towel. There will about a white starchy paste at the bottom of the bowl. Scoop some of the potato starch and add it to the potatoes in a large bowl. Add the onion and eggs. Add enough matzo flour to bind the mixture but not make it too firm. Season with salt and pepper
4. When the oil has reached 350 degrees, scoop the latke mixture with an ice cream scoop or large spoons and gently drop into the oil. Fry until golden brown and turn to fry the other side. remove from the oil and drain on paper towels.
5. The latkes can be made several hours before serving and can be reheated in a 400 degree oven on a sheet pan until crispy. Serve with applesauce or the following recipes.

These are some great toppers for your latke bar. Have a Freylich Hanukkah!
Cured Salmon Remoulade

2 oz cured or lightly smoked Wild salmon slices-diced small
2 T. capers
¼ cup chopped red onion
2 T. prepared horseradish
1 T. fresh lemon juice
3 T. flat leaf parsley-chopped
¾ cup mayonnaise
dash of hot sauce (optional)

1. Mix all of the above ingredients in a small bowl. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Store covered in the refrigerator up to 3 days.


Tapenade

½ cup pitted kalamata olives
1 T. capers
1 clove garlic-chopped
2 T. fresh lemon juice
3 T. Extra Virgin olive oil
2 anchovy filets (optional)
Salt and Pepper

1. Place all of the above ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the mixture is combined but still chunky. Adjust seasoning.


Muhummarah
This delicious Middle Eastern condiment makes a great dip, crust for fish or poultry and perfect topper for the latkes

2 red peppers-roasted
1 cup walnuts-toasted
2 T. tomato paste
¼ cup pomegranate molasses
1 cup fresh bread crumbs-left over challah is perfect
1/3 cup Extra Virgin olive oil
¼ t. chili flakes
1 t. ground allspice
½ t. ground cumin seed
Salt and pepper

1. Place all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the mixture is fairly smooth. You may need to add more Extra Virgin olive oil to adjust the consistency.
2. Place in a container and cover the surface of the muhummarah with plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out. The muhummarah can be kept covered for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.



Apple-Raisin Chutney
2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 pounds tart green apples (such as Granny Smith), peeled, cored, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
5 large garlic cloves
1 2-ounce piece fresh ginger, peeled, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 1/2 cups (packed) golden raisins
2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds

Place all of the ingredients in a large saucepan and cook over medium heat until the apples are tender and the liquid has evaporated – about 45 minutes.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

NO FEAR OF FRYING


HAVE YOURSELF A CRISPY CRUNCHY HOLIDAY

It is hard not to feel festive this time of year with all of the shining lights, decorations and a general feeling of goodwill toward everyone. It is my favorite time of year. I love the brisk-chilly air and broody-moody sky that December brings. I also love Hanukkah.
Hanukkah is a celebration of oil-lighting it on fire and enjoying the glow and also of frying things in it. What is there not to love? For anyone that thinks that Hanukkah is just a child’s holiday, I give you the following.

There is nothing more pleasing than sitting by the soft flickering flames of the Hanukkiah and scarfing down plates of crispy, crunchy fried things. While it is customary for Ashkenazi Jews to eat latkes on Hanukkah, and who doesn’t like latkes? A properly constructed latke is nothing to trifle with-still, there is a whole world of frying going on out there and we Jews only got eight days to do it. Israelis make sufganiyot, or fried jelly doughnuts; Greek Jews make fritters called loukamades; and Sephardic Jews, originally from Spain and Portugal, make sweet or savory fritters called binuelos. When you think about, the fried possibilities are endless.

There is tempura with its potential for a crispy coating of just about anything; there are all manner of fritters with batters, doughs and any manner of binding ingredients in an effort to make them…well.....fry-able. There are also methods of frying from pan frying, sautéing and the “fry daddy” of all-deep frying. Then there is the oil itself, really-the cause célèbre for the whole festival. You have your good ole stand-by like peanut oil, but with all the allergies these days you cannot really go that route anymore. You can always go neutral with canola oil, or vegetable oil. But why go neutral when can use a tres chic extra virgin olive oil or an Iron Chef-esque pumpkin seed oil? I hope you are seeing what I see with all of the possibilities of Hanukkah. This holiday is the bomb!

I have not even mentioned the ingredients or should I say”fry-ables”? I like to start the holiday with my gourmet or high end ingredients. I am, after all, a chef and author and I have a reputation to uphold. On the first days on Hanukkah, I go with artichokes, heirloom squash, eggplant, fancy mushrooms and local apples. After a few days of pretending to be hoity-toity my frying gets gritty. Have you ever fried gelt? I have! Not bad as long as you remember to remove the foil. I have also gone down the deep fried pickle, olive, candy bar and marshmallow road. I do not recommend the latter as it messes with the oil.

In short-Hanukkah is an eight day fry fest. Yes, there are lessons to be learned from the holiday and meaning to glean from the story of Hanukkah. I, for one will ponder all of that while crunching and munching on fried goodies. Have a Freylich Hanukkah!




TORTELLI DI ZUCCA

These fried purses are filled with pumpkin, rice and cheese. The dough and filling can be made several days ahead of serving. Once the tortelli are assembled, they can be frozen for several months. Before serving, heat your oil to 360, remove the tortelli from the freezer and fry to a golden brown. Have a Freylich Hanukkah and happy frying!

For the pastry

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
¼ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 egg
½ cup ice water

1. Combine the flour, olive oil and salt in the food processor. Pulse several times until the mixture looks like cornmeal. Add the egg and water and process until the dough forms a ball. Remove the dough and knead for several minutes until the dough forms a smooth-elastic dough. Add a little four if the dough seems sticky.

For the filling

olive oil
4 leeks, white part only, minced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
½ cup COOKED Arborio rice or other risotto rice
2 large eggs
1 cup parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper

1. Place a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Lightly coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil. Sweat the leeks until they are very soft and fragrant (about 15 minutes). Add the garlic and continue cooking for 5 more minutes until the garlic is soft. Add the pumpkin puree. Stir to combine. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and allow to cool completely.
2. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Assemble the tortelli

2 cups extra virgin olive oil for frying
Sea salt and parmesan cheese for garnish

1. Using a pasta machine or on a large work surface, roll the dough until it is very thin. Cut the dough into a rectangle about 12 X 20 inches.
2. Scoop walnut size pieces of filling and position them 1 ½ inches apart. Cut the tortelli using a pizza or pasta cutter. You should have 20 tortelli.
3. Heat at least 2 inches of extra virgin olive oil, to 360, in a deep saucepan. Fry the tortelli 3-4 at a time until they are golden brown and puffed (about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese and sea salt.