Monday, December 12, 2011


Bling is a slang term popularized in hip hop culture, referring to flashy, ostentatious or elaborate jewelry and ornamented accessories that are carried, worn or installed. This time of year, during the holidays, we are inundated with bling.

From the holiday lights trimming buildings and trees, and all the shiny clothing and accessories that are de rigueur for holiday events to sparkly outfits for our 4-legged friends, indeed, the world is a twinkly, shiny holiday wonderland. Even the holiday foods and cocktails are glitzy and glamorous. In my kitchen at Spertus Kosher catering we are edible gold leafing and shpritzing up cocktails, cookies and anything else we can get our hands on. All that bling just makes everything so merry.

Hanukkah has its share of bling. Beautiful candelabras all lit up with the soft glow of candlelight, chocolates wrapped in silver, gold and blue foil and charming dreidels spinning can make even the most bling-resistant among us feel festive. And then there is the Latke. So much delicious promise, all golden brown with crackling onions and salty potatoes and then, disappointment when topped with boring, beige applesauce pulled out of a jar.

I love Latkes and invented a whole gala last year called LATKEPALOOZA where I adorned and embellished the latke. I had those latkes made with roasted garlic, wasabi, beets, Swiss chard and more. I reinvented the latke, but I guess I left out the bling. So, this year I am gilding the lily by creating easy, delicious and dazzling toppings.

The holiday season is festive and short. Bring out the bling by trying some of these latke toppers.

Apple-Cranberry Sauce

No boring applesauce here. This latke topper is brightly colored and slightly tart.
I have been making this garnet-colored applesauce for years. It is a perfect complement for the crispy latkes. When my kids were younger, I made large batches of this healthy sauce and served it for snacks.

Yields-1 ½-2 quarts applesauce

6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1-cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup sugar
½ cup apple cider or juice
Pinch of kosher salt
1. Place all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan. Cook uncovered over medium heat until the cranberries pop. Continue cooking until the excess moisture evaporates. The applesauce may be stored covered in the refrigerator for up to one week or frozen for up to 2 months.

Pomegranate-Ginger Applesauce

I love all things pomegranate and use my favorite pomegranate molasses to make vinaigrettes, marinades and glazes. The tart, faintly sweet flavor is the perfect foil for fresh out of the pan and slightly greasy latkes (I mean that in a good way). The addition of ginger adds a sharp citrusy, pepper note that just makes the apples burst with flavor. I top my latkes with pomegranate arils (seeds) for extra crunch and dash of bling!

6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped
½ cup sugar
3 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
¼ cup apple juice or water
3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
Pinch of salt
Zest of 1 lemon and 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Garnish: pomegranate arils, candied ginger

1. Cook the apples, sugar, ginger and apple juice or water, uncovered over medium heat until the apples are soft and the moisture has evaporated.
2. Stir in the pomegranate molasses, salt and lemon juice. Store the applesauce, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or freeze up to 2 months.

Horseradish and Wasabi Salmon Schmear

When I want my latkes to be a little more dressed up, I whip up this quick topper. Smoked Salmon and crispy potatoes are a match made in culinary heaven. I kick up the schmear with horseradish and then bling out the whole thing with a wasabi pea. This latke is perfect anytime of the year and is perfect for brunch or as a hors d’oeuvre.

3 ounces Wild Alaskan Smoked Salmon, chopped finely
1 medium shallot, minced finely
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
2 tablespoons mayonnaise (homemade or purchased)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
Freshly cracked pepper
Garnish: wasabi peas, fresh dill, salmon roe, caviar, crème fraiche (for dairy preparations)

1. Combine all of the ingredients together in a food processor. Pulse several times until the mixture is combined, but still has some texture.
2. Dollop the schmear on latkes fresh out of frying pan and garnish as desired. Store the schmear, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Mixed Olive Tapenade

½ cup pitted kalamata olives
¼ cup pitted cracked green olives
1 tablespoon capers
1 clove garlic-chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons 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.


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 tablespoons tomato paste
¼ cup pomegranate molasses
1 cup fresh bread crumbs-left over challah is perfect
1/3 cup Extra Virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoons chili flakes
1 teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon 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.

Corned Beef Hash

Well, why not? Corned Beef hash traditionally has potatoes in it, so why not gild the lily with a modern version of the classic deli item?

1 large red onion, sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 ounces lean corned beef, chopped
½ cup finely chopped dill pickle
1 tablespoon favorite hot sauce

1. Sauté the onion in a lightly greased pan over medium high heat until it is dark brown and caramelized. Add the garlic and continue cooking for another 2 minutes until the garlic has softened and is fragrant.
2. Pulse ¼ cup of the onion mixture in the food processor until it is completely chopped but with some texture remaining. Transfer the onion to a mixing bowl.
3. Add all of the remaining ingredients and fold together.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011



The challenge given to me, by some friends who do not have time to cook and do not want to purchase tons of ingredients and then have to throw out half, was to come up with different recipes utilizing the same ingredients. Well, here are family recipes that include main dishes, sides and first courses.

Butternut Squash
Member of the gourd family and is a FRUIT that can be stored for long period of time. Has a sweet, nutty taste

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Serves 6+

Evoo for sauteing
2 medium butternut squash (about 3 pounds total) cut in half lengthwise and seeded
3 leeks, diced (white parts only)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium carrots, diced
Bouquet garni of thyme and parsley sprigs
5 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock
Salt and pepper

1. Season the squash with salt and pepper and rub with olive oil. Place, cut side down, on a parchment lined sheet, cut side down and roast until very soft and cut side is lightly browned (about 45 minutes)
2. Sweat leeks and garlic in a saucepan, lightly coated with olive oil, until very soft and fragrant (about 10 minutes). Add the carrots and continue cooking until the carrots begin to soften, about 15 minutes.
3. Scrape the cooked squash into the pan. Add the chicken stock and simmer until the carrots are cooked through and the flavors have melded (about 30 minutes)
4. Puree the soup, adjust seasoning and serve with herbed croutons.

Curried Butternut Squash and Chicken

Serves 6+

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
1 red onion, diced
3 cups butternut squash (2 medium squash), peeled and cut into cubes
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 heaping tablespoon curry powder
1 15-ounce can coconut milk
1 cup chicken stock
½ cup frozen peas
Salt and pepper

1. Heat a large sauté pan, lightly coated with olive oil, and brown the chicken pieces. Remove the chicken and set aside.
2. Add the red onion to the same pan and cook until caramelized and brown (about 7 minutes).
3. Add the squash and sweet potato and sauté until lightly browned (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic and continue cooking for another 2 minutes.
4. Add the tomato paste and cook until the tomato paste has darkened slightly and is very fragrant.
5. Reduce the heat and add the coconut milk, chicken stock and curry. Simmer until the squash is fork tender (about 20 minutes).
6. Add the chicken to the pan and peas and lemon juice. Continue cooking until the chicken has cooked through (about 8 minutes)
7. Adjust seasoning and serve with basmati rice

(Kale-Lacinato kale, Cavalo Nero, Dinosaur Kale, Black Kale)

Lacinato kale has been grown in Campania for centuries, and dishes with this kale predate the classic pasta and pizza dishes of the region. It is one of the traditional ingredients of minestrone. Sweet and mild, Tuscan Kale will hold its shape, cooks quickly and is considered to be one of the most nutritious vegetables on earth with powerful antioxidants and cholesterol lowering properties.

Sautéed Kale with Caramelized Onions, Fennel and Garlic

2 red onions, julienne
Pinch of crushed red chilies
1 large fennel bulb, julienne
3 cloves garlic
1 pound black kale, stemmed and chopped
Salt and pepper
1. Heat a large sauté pan, lightly coated with evoo. Add the chili flakes and cook briefly until they darken about 1 minute.
2. Add the onions and sauté until the onions are dark brown, soft and fragrant. Add the fennel and cook until the fennel is soft and lightly browned. Add the garlic and continue cooking for about 2 minutes until the garlic has softened.
3. Add the kale and water. Cook until the kale has completely wilted and the water has evaporated (about 10 minutes).
4. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Sautéed Butternut Squash, Kale with Pasta and Mushrooms

Serves 6

1 pound sliced mushrooms (cremini, button, shiitake)
1 red onion, julienne
Pinch of crushed red chili flakes
3 cloves garlic
2 cups of butternut squash, peeled and cubed
3 tablespoons tomato paste
4 ounces black kale
1 pound cooked whole wheat pasta
2 cups pasta water
Salt and pepper

Garnishes (sage-turkey meatballs (for meat preparations, fresh herbs, evoo, parmesan cheese for dairy preparations)

1. Place a large saucepan over medium heat. Generously coat the pan with evoo. Add the chili flakes and cook until darkened (about 1 minute). Add the mushrooms and sauté until the have reduced in size and have crispy edges (about 7 minutes). Add the onion and continue cooking until the onion has softened and is caramelized (about 5-7 minutes). Add the garlic and continue cooking for another 2 minutes until the garlic has slightly softened.Transfer the onion mixture to a bowl.
2. Add the butternut squash to the pan and more evoo if needed. Brown the squash until lightly browned on all sides. Add the tomato paste and continue cooking until the paste has darkened (about 3 minutes). Add the kale and pasta cooking water. Simmer until the squash has cooked to fork tender.
3. Add the mushrooms back to the pan and the pasta. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve with suggested garnishes

Kale Chips

Kale can also be an amazing snack that has to be tried to be believed. The kale becomes crispy in the oven and takes on the flavor of the olive oil. The crunch chips are addicting and really good for you.

-Olive oil
-Sea salt

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat oven to 350 degrees F
2. Make sure the kale is dry or it will not become crispy. Place the pieces on the parchment lined baking sheet. Sprinkle the kale lightly with olive oil and sea salt. Bake to about 15 minutes. Every oven is a bit different.
3. The kale should be slightly dark in color and beginning to crisp up. Remove from the oven-the kale will continue to crisp up once it cools off.