Haroseth… breakfast of champions!

20 Apr

Also known as:  Charoset, Charoses, Haroset, Charoseth, Haroseth, Haroses.

This is one of the reasons why searching for Jewish recipes online is fun. I am going to use the ‘Haroseth’ spelling. It speaks to me.

Moving right along

Two nights of Passover 2011 are now complete, and I am going to use the next few posts to share some of my favourite recipes and food ideas from this year’s dinners with you, starting with Haroseth.

But first, a shout out to my girl at the Oy of Cooking for her sublime brisket recipe.  Thank goodness there are leftovers!

When I woke up today, to a kitchen full of Passover reminders  (what AM I going to do with that huge plate of leftover Matzoh??)  I had one of those wonderful culinary ‘AHA!’ moments.  You know the ones.  And I just had to share it with you.

Haroseth… the breakfast of champions!

First our family Haroseth recipe. (best made 2 days ahead of consumption)

You will need the food processor for this. Funny… I never used one before meeting my husband, but now it seems indispensable.

Cook Like a Yenta Haroseth:

1 bag MacIntosh apples, peeled and cored

1 cup dates

2 cups walnut pieces

1-2 cups Manichewitz wine

1 T cinnamon

1 t ground ginger

1.  Process the peeled, cored apples in your food processor until quite coarsely chopped.  You may need to do this in stages depending on the size of your processor.  Reserve in a large bowl while you quickly deal with the other ingredients.  If you work fast, the apples will not brown

2.  Process walnut pieces into coarse meal, add to chopped apples

3.  Mix 1 cup of wine and spices together and pour into apple mixture. If it does not look wet enough, or is not sweet enough, add more wine.

4.  Cover and keep in fridge for 1-2 days to let flavours develop.  Voila.  Haroseth!

Serve with matzoh on Passover. (Or anytime, really, why not??)

Now here’s what came to me in my moment of inspiration this morning…

Three Haroseth Leftover Ideas:

1.  Prepare your favourite oatmeal.  (I like organic quick cut oats with nothing in them, microwaved with water for 1 minute 30 seconds… nothing could be simpler) Add 1/2 cup Haroseth and return to microwave.  (or add to your pot)  Warm through and serve.  Delish!  I am eating this as I type.  Seriously yummy!

2.  Pancakes, waffles, or crepes – Haroseth makes a wonderful addition to these breakfast faves.

3.  Greek yogurt and honey – like my favourite Starbucks parfait… 2/3 cup greek yogurt, 1/2 cup Haroseth, and a generous drizzle of honey.

Haroseth.  The cure for the common breakfast.

Enjoy!

Ever crave latkes on a Tuesday night?

11 Jan

Latkes.  Those potatoey, onioney, golden crisp rafts of loveliness.  Perfect for a generous dollop of sour cream, or use them as a platform for an entire meal.  They are worthy.

But what to do when Latkes ‘r’ Us is closed, you have half an hour till dinner needs to hit the table, and you really, really NEED some??  Simple.  Here’s a method to whip some up in a jiffy.

First off, keep that Cuisinart in the basement – no need for it today.  Save it for your high – volume Hannukah latke output next December.

Batter Equipment:  Box style grater, wooden spoon, tarnished silver implement (fork, spoon, whatever… it prevents the mix from browning before you cook it) and a sieve.

Ingredients:

Potatoes – 1 lb peeled baking type (russet is what I use), keep whole

Onions – 1 medium onion per lb of potato

Egg – 1 large

Matzo Meal – 1/4 – 1/2 cup

Salt – 1/2 tsp

Pepper – 1 generous grind

Optional:  Add chopped fresh herbs, dijon mustard, or split the potato mix – 2/3 baking with 1/3 sweet potato for something a little different.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 250F.

Grate potatoes and onions on large side of box grater (doing this under a vent hood will help save your eyes) and sprinkle with salt.  Mix with tarnished silver utensil and set aside for a few minutes while you so something else.

Now return to your mix of potato and onion, and you may notice some juices being shed, collecting in the bottom of the bowl.  Handful by handful, scoop the mix into the sieve and press it with the back of a wooden spoon against the sides of the sieve until most of the potato water has been pressed out.  Reserve the pressed potato onion mix in a separate bowl, and once all of the mix has been squeezed out, add the egg, pepper, and additional seasonings as desired.

The batter at this stage will be too wet to fry well, so sprinkle in some Matzo Meal until the mix resembles muffin batter.  You may need to add more as you fry, and more water is pulled out of the potatoes while the mix is standing by.

Heat enough oil (I use canola) to cover a non-stick frying pan with 1/4″ oil.  Being generous with the oil is important, as it is the oil that really creates that delicious crispy crust.  No one said this food was low cal…

Once the oil is almost smoking, use a large spoon or ice cream scoop to deposit roughly equally sized piles of batter in pan.  Large or small, it’s up to you.  Press the tops of the piles with a spatula until roughly 3/4″ high.

**Note – the higher sugar content of sweet potatoes will cause them to brown very fast.  Be careful not to burn them, and remove as soon as they are golden.  They can finish cooking in the oven

Fry latkes until golden on each side, and place on a parchment covered baking sheet in the oven while you finish.

Serve with sour cream, apple sauce, or a spicy chutney.  Latkes can be very simple, or a blank canvas – serving as a platorm for whatever culinary masterpiece you are inspired to create.  Some suggestions:

Substitute tiny latkes for blini with caviar and creme fraiche

Latkes can serve as a base for stacking – stack wilted spinach or sauteed vegetable mix and some braised beef on top (brisket perchance?!) and dress the plate with horseradish gravy (mix grated horseradish into defatted pan drippings and season and thicken to your liking)

Latke ‘pizzas’ – throw them under a broiler with a melting cheese (cheddar, swiss, raclette) and your favourite toppings until melted.  I like mushrooms, fresh sage, and havarti cheese.  Serve with soup.

Full Disclosure:  Latke making is fun, and ultimately very rewarding.  HOWEVER, your house may smell of latkes for 1-2 days post frying… so open the windows and for goodness sake, use your range hood!

Potluck at the Bergs

16 Jan

Oh no.  They have invited us over and I need to bring something.  What are the rules here?

Let’s see… I know they keep Kosher at home but I have it on good authority that Mr. Berg beat my hubby in an all you can eat ribs contest two years ago.  Hmmm…  are they looking to the token gentile to bring that irreverent plate of shrimp cocktail?  Shake things up a bit? 

Maybe I’ll bring wine.  Copout.

I make the call.  “We’re having dairy if that’s OK.” 

“Great!  What can I bring?”

“Oh… bring anything.  Really.  Just whatever you like… we’re trying to keep it simple.”

Simple.  Right. 

‘Dairy’ means fish.  It’s taken me a while to figure this system out but I think I’ve got the hang of it now. You can have dairy with fish, but you can’t have dairy with meat.  (poultry, beef, lamb, etc).  But, you can have fish with meat.  I think.  As long as there’s no dairy. 

Our Jewish friends all have different standards.  By my husband’s rules for example, Lobster is out of the question unless you are in a restaurant in Halifax, or I, his gentile wife, prepares it for a special occasion.  A cheeseburger is OK… never with a glass of milk.  Bacon is fine.  Confusing, I know.

Another friend of ours keeps Kosher at home but all bets are off the second he leaves the house.  He eats out, mostly.

Back to this potluck.  I will assume that the fish portion will be taken care of by the hostess.  What to bring, what to bring… Salad?  Kugel?!  How obnoxious would that be?  The only non-Jewish wife in the room brings a kugel.  Ha!  Sounds like a minefield I will steer clear of. 

Think I’ll leave my Arthur Schwartz schtick on the shelf and go with a salad. 

Blue Cheese, Pecan, and Pear Salad

2 Pears, ripe but not too ripe, preferably Bartlett

1 t butter

½ cup pecans halves, toasted briefly in oven

1 Head Boston Lettuce (butter lettuce)

1 Box Baby Arugula

1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese (preferably not French, for political reasons I don’t quite understand yet)

¼ cup olive oil

1 T Sherry Vinegar

1 t honey

½ t salt

Cut pears into six slices each.  Fry in a very small amount of butter in a non-stick pan on medium heat until caramelized on both sides and softened.   Let cool.

Wash lettuces and arrange nicely on a large, new, recyclable foil plate. I like to tear the Boston lettuce into large pieces and put around the perimeter, and pile the arugula in the centre. 

Once pears are cooled, add them to plate, then the crumbled blue cheese and pecans. 

Mix components of vinaigrette and bring separately in a new Tupperware container with a tight lid, ready to shake up and drizzle at the last moment.

This salad sends all the right messages.

First off,  it’s lack of crumbled bacon suggests that I know the rules and out of respect for the hostess, intend to follow them. 

Secondly, it is delicious and shows effort without being overly fussy. (Never outshine the hostess). 

Thirdly…  it will arrive nicely plated and the dressing, stored in a new Tupperware container I need not ever see again, ensures that my dish needs absolutely no further work in their kosher kitchen… minimizing my chances of messing anything up.  Using the wrong serving plate, for example.  That would be bad.  It could result in a dish having to be buried in the back yard for 10 years, which could be embarassing.  Hence my choice of a new, recyclable foil plate…  which again, shows the kind of respect for their way of life that will guarantee future dinner invitations for years to come.  

Oy vey.

My Ultimate Skor Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe.

19 Oct

Well that came out of nowhere, didn’t it?

I have been channelling my inner yenta lately and have been taking baked goods wherever I go.  You know… I’m one of those people who, when they ask:  “anything I can bring?”… Instead of bringing nothing, as aked, or perhaps a bottle of wine, I bring something homemade too.  I have taken this a bit far now, and take home baking to almost all my business meetings.  Sales are way up!  

This recipe was inspired by Jeffrey Steingarten’s ‘Best Chocolate Cookie Recipe So Far’ from one of his books.  I can’t remember which one it was.  His basic argument was force as much butter into a cookie dough as possible.  He is so right.  I have tweaked the recipe to my family’s tastes, and add Skor bits from the bulk store for fun.

Ultimate Skor Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups ap flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1  lb salted butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar (I use Demerara sugar) 
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1 cup toffee bits – sometimes called ‘Skor bits’ at the bulk store

 

Makes approx. 40 cookies.

 

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

-Let butter come to room temperature, add to sugar and vanilla in a mixing bowl and mix until nicely creamed together and pale in colour

-Combine flour and baking soda in separate bowl.  Blend well with fork

-Add egg to the sugar and butter mix.  While mixing, add flour mixture and chocolate and toffee  bits

-Roll into balls the size of ping pong balls and space out on parchment lined cookie sheets.  Cookies will spread during baking.

-Bake  for 15 – 18 minutes or until cookie edges are crisp and the centres are still spongy and soft.  They won’t look done – but take them out now and let them cool on the sheets.

-This cookie should be a bit chewy.  If you want it crisp, leave them in the oven a bit longer. 

-Once cool, store in airtight container to maintain freshness. 

- This dough freezes well.  Roll into narrow logs and store wrapped in plastic and inserted into a paper towel roll to keep the shape… cut into rounds and bake these from frozen… an extra 2 minutes.

Enjoy!

What to do with your etrog… a week later.

15 Oct

Cocktails!!

The Blue Etrog Fizz (if it’s served in a sherry glass)… or Etrogtini (martini glass):

etrog fizz

 

Recipe:

1 oz Vodka

1/2 oz Blue Curacao

250 ml  of soda water or San Pellegrino.  You can substitute lemonade for a sweeter cocktail.

Squeeze of etrog juice – not as easy as it sounds.  Not much juice in an etrog.

1 Slice etrog – for garnish.

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and pour into martini glass.  Garnish with etrog slice. 

Enjoy!

Jewish is cool. Yiddish is cool. A guy just wrote a book about it. But Yartzeit candles??

8 Oct

So last night, on my way to my Stitch and B**ch (knitting class) I stopped at a cool new local cafe for a quick bite.   Ordered, got my food, sat at a table and noticed THIS:

 

yurtzite

I know, it’s kind of hard to see. 

That candle, nestled next to the hot sauce, is a Yartzeit candle.   To those who may not know, in the Jewish faith these candles are used on  the anniversary of a person’s death as a rememberance and they burn from sundown to the next morning.  The restaurant was burning them  throughout the restaurant to cast a beautiful glow. 

I struggled with the situation I now found myself in.  I remembered when I had my first apartment with roommates,  it was cool to buy these really tall candles in glass jars that had religious figures on them…. kitchy images of Jesus or one of the many Hindu gods.  There was even a  spell removal candle for the wiccans in your life.  You could buy these at dollar stores in a certain area of town.  You probably still can.  But I digress.

The long lasting nature of the Yartzeit  candles was not lost on the owner of the restaurant.  I felt compelled to ask him if he was aware of the significance of them, and he somewhat sheepishly said: “Yes, I know… when we moved in there was a case of them in the basement.  Like a hundred!!!  We tried to peel the labels off bu t it’s really hard.  But they are so great… they burn forever!”

I am that thinking donating these to the local synagogue and buying some, oh I don’t know… tealight candles might be a better choice.

Oh – and the guy who wrote the book about Yiddish being cool?  Michael Wex:  http://michaelwex.com/

The Etrog Adventure

1 Oct

Do I have a story for YOU!

As you know I have been on a bit of a scavenger hunt for an etrog.  Somewhat misguided some might say, but I enjoy these little challenges.  Call me crazy.

My very proper waspy mother, when she first sat at the table with my in-laws, whispered to me:  “This is like a Woody Allen movie!!” 

Well mom, you should have seen me today.

First I made a lame attempt and went to the city’s largest fruit market.  In a city such as mine, where there is a large Jewish population, I would have thought that I might find my etrog at one of the specialty fruit vendors.  Not so much.

So I drove to the Jewish neighborhood and parked my car.  All around me were stores that I had never had any reason to go into.  Except of course to get a dozen of the best bagels on earth! 

Now this neighborhood is a blend of the ‘Ultra’ Orthadox, Orthadox, and Conservative Jewish population.  Walking around, not really knowing what I was looking for, I saw a sign!!

sukkahdepot

Now this was promising!  I walked into this Judaica shop and was welcomed by the young lady behind the counter.  Hello!  She said.  The owner of the shop echoed her welcome but the other customers kept their distance.  I could almost hear them thinking:  “What is this person doing here??”

I felt like I needed a story.  Not the true one about my Cook like a Yenta project, but one that made my etrog quest one worthy of their time.  With the whole store staring at me, I panicked.   Forgot about the story.  Blurted out:   “I am looking for an etrog!” 

Silence.

“You see, I am invited to a friend’s Sukkah this weekend and I thought I might bring them something nice.  And I heard about this fruit, so I thought maybe I could give them one as a gift!” 

The owner of the shop smiled in a most understanding way and said:  “I see.  They are upstairs.” 

Up I went.  At the top, there was a small room with many beautifully bound texts and a very studious gentleman with two young men with him, standing around a table of boxes.  Uh oh.  No other customers.  No other non-Jewish people looking for etrogs.  I was completely out of my depth. 

“How can I help you?”  The gentleman asked.  I repeated my story with a bit more flourish and he looked concerned. 

“It is strange to bring an etrog – most homes have one already before they invite people over.  But here, have a look.”

Look at what?  I am thinking.  All I see are boxes with hebrew writing and pictures on them.  He opened one.  “How about this?”

Success!!  I found an etrog.  I was so proud of myself.  “That will be perfect, thank you.”  He turned the box over to show the price.  ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY DOLLARS. 

FOR A FRUIT.

Where am I?  Japan?

I apologized, said I didn’t know they were so expensive.  He took this opportunity to facilitate a learning moment as much for the young boys as for me.  I learned many things about the significance of this etrog.  That the Tree of Knowledge was an etrog tree.  That God intended for all trees to be etrog trees.  I joked that with our winters they might not survive here.  I don’t think he found that funny.

Down the stairs I went and the owner asked me if I had found my etrog.  I explained my predicament, that I could not afford an etrog, and he suggested I visit the ‘cheaper’ Judaica store down the street.  What a guy.

So off to the less expensive store I go.  No big Sukkah Depot signs here.  Nope.  Just a lot of texts and menorahs and, well, Judaica. 

“Can I help you?”  asks the man behind the counter.  This time I had a better story. 

“I am a freelance journalist (sort of true) doing a piece on this fruit….”

“Aha!!  The ETROG!!”  he exclaimed.  Seriously.  I am not overstating his reaction.

He led me to the back room where there were three ladies assembling Sukkah kits that included palm fronds, etrogs, and some branches I couldn’t identify.  And look… right there on the counter… the fruit of knowledge.  A whole bunch of them. 

etrogbasket

He picked one up.  “Would you like to hold it?”  he asked.  Clearly, he shared my enthusiasm. 

As lovely as his etrogs were, I still could not afford the $60 price tag.  I noticed a box by his feet of some etrogs that for whatever reason were not good enough to sell.  Perhaps he would let me buy one for a lower price?

He said no.  That he had to return them to ‘his guy’.  The etrog broker, I assume.   I thanked him for his time.

Just as I was about to leave, he changed his mind.   “Pick one.” 

I did.  And for the low, low, price of $10 is was mine to take home.  It had lost the little knobby bit at the top but was otherwise perfect.

Success!

Now, what am I going to do with this thing?

etrogs

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