Tuesday, February 17, 2015

"Lighten Up" Shabbat Dinner

Last Friday I had the opportunity again to participate in this year's Beth El "Lighten Up: Friday Night Invites."  It is a program that matches Beth El families with other families to create connections and friendships within our community.  It is a great program that has matched over 200 families with each other over the past few years.  (If you want to participate - either by hosting or being a guest, please contact the Beth El office.)  We had over a really nice family over that has a child around the same age as ours.  The kids played great together and the we really enjoyed meeting a nice couple to become friends with.  But this blog is about what I cooked!

I learned about this chicken dish on joyofkosher.com.  I have to tell you, when I read the recipe, I didn't think it would be anything special.  But for some reason, I still really wanted to make it. I am glad I did.  It was delicious and gorgeous.  It was also easier to make than I thought it would be.

Green Bean Stuffed Chicken
6 boneless and skinless chicken breasts, tenders removed
1/2 cup Russian Dressing
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs or matzo meal
1/2 cup cooked green beans
Hot sauce, to taste
Salt/Pepper, to taste

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Pound chicken cutlets to about 1/2 inch thick.  Marinate the chicken in the salad dressing with salt/pepper and hot sauce to taste for 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.  Pour bread crumbs in a shallow bowl or dish.  Press the chicken, one at a time, into the bread crumbs so that one side of the chicken is coated.  Place some green beans (or any vegetable you have on hand) on one side of the chicken and roll the chicken up and place in a deep casserole dish, seam side down.  Repeat for all chicken breasts.  Bake in oven for 30 minutes and enjoy! 

Before cooking:

After cooking:
I wish I could have taken a picture of the chicken cut in half to show you how pretty it looked. 
Now, you will notice that before I mentioned to remove the tenders from the chicken breast.  With the tenders, I coated them in bread crumbs (without marinating in the dressing first) and fried them up as chicken nuggets for the kids in case they wouldn't eat the above.  Well, I'm happy to report that we had the chicken nuggets for lunch the next day because there were no complaints around the table.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Israeli Turkey Meatballs and Chickpea Smash

Tu B'Shevat is next week!  The Jewish New Year for the trees is often celebrated with a Seder consisting of the Seven Species that are described in the Bible as being abundant in Israel.  They are wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates.  Normally I made a meal that has all of these ingredients included.  But this year I am going to take a different route.  I am making something that tastes like Israel. 

I was inspired to make this recipe by seeing a very similar recipe in the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.  The turkey meatballs are moist and delicious.  The addition of the toasted sesame seeds is so simple, but a fun complex element to the flavor.  They are even toddler approved!  The chickpea smash is similar to a "lazy" humus without the tahini.  The chickpeas are not blended until smooth, but instead just smashed together with a potato masher.  I made an Israeli salad of cucumbers, tomatoes, and lemon juice as a side.  This dish is tasty and creative enough for a holiday, but also easy enough for a weeknight meal. 

Turkey Meatballs and Chickpea Smash
Ingredients for meatballs:
1 lb ground turkey
1 egg
2/3 cups matzo meal (or bread crumbs)
1/4 cup water
2 cloves garlic, diced
2 Tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1 pinch cayenne pepper
Olive oil

Ingredients for chickpea smash:
2 cans (15oz) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 clove garlic, diced
1 Tablespoon capers
2 teaspoons sumac
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Olive oil
Handful of parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Mix all ingredients for meatballs in a bowl.  Add enough oil to coat a large frying pan.  With wet hands, make golf-ball size meat balls and brown in frying pan.  Transfer to baking dish.  Finish cooking meatballs in the oven, about 10 - 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, combine the ingredients for the chickpea smash, except the parsley.  With a potato smasher or a large fork, smash together, leaving it textured.  Mix in chopped parsley.  Depending on your desired presentation, you can sprinkle some more sumac on top. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thanksgiving is upon us!  Thanksgiving, although not a Jewish holiday, is a holiday that is very Jewish.  The value HaKarat HaTov, Gratitude, is a very Jewish idea.  There is a Jewish tradition of saying 100 blessings every day.  There is a story behind this.  During the reign of King David, there was a terrible plague that took the lives of exactly 100 people each day.  The rabbis at the time instituted the practice of reciting 100 blessings per day.  The plague immediately stopped.  

There are blessings to show gratitude for almost everything: from seeing a rainbow, to seeing the ocean, to wearing a new special outfit, to eating and drinking.  During this holiday, think about all of the times where you can make a blessing and be thankful.

If you are looking for a healthy start to your Thanksgiving (or Shabbat) dinner, try this roasted cauliflower soup.  It is very easy to make and delicious.  If you want to make it dairy, use vegetable broth and add 1/3 cup of cream.

Roasted Cauliflower Soup
1 head of cauliflower
2 leeks (whites only)
2 cloves of garlic, diced
4 cups of chicken broth
1 cup of water
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Chop cauliflower into small florets.  Place them on a baking sheet with a little oil, salt and pepper and roast for about 30 minutes.  Meanwhile saute sliced leeks with a little more oil in a large soup pot.  After the leeks become translucent and the cauliflower is cooked, add the cauliflower to the pot along with the garlic and broth.  Cook for another 5 minutes, then blend the soup with an immersion blender.  Season with salt and pepper as necessary.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Roasted Squash and Spinach Gnocchi

Autumn is my favorite season.  The leaves turn beautiful colors, the air is crisp and clear, my birthday...  And also because it is squash season.  I love the versatility of squash.  Spaghetti squash, true to it's name is a great low-carb alternative to pasta.  Acorn squash has a sweet nutty flavor and is the perfect shape to be little edible bowls.  Kabocha squash is so sweet, you can easily use it for a dessert recipe.  And of course, one of the most well-known, butternut squash has such a versatile flavor that it works in so many different recipes.  You can roast it with spicy cumin or sweet brown sugar.  Either way, you have a delicious dish on your hands. 

Last week, I was in the mood for real comfort food and opened my fridge and pantry to see what I could make.  I saw that I had gnocchi and butternut squash.  After just a little googling, I saw a Rachael Ray recipe that I had to try for a creamy spinach and squash gnocchi.  Perfect!  I have actually never cooked with real cream before.  Every time a recipe calls for it, I either omit it completely (to make the recipe kosher) or I use milk.  It always tastes fine, but it never really "wows" me.  This time, I decided to try real cream.  WOW.  There is a real difference in flavor and texture that comes with the cream that I had previously always underestimated.  Lesson learned. 

I made some changes to the recipe that I found online.  I added some more spinach and changed up some of the spices.   The result was delicious and warm and very comforting.  It was also a really easy recipe to throw together and would be great for company, served along side a large salad mixed with dried cranberries and toasted pumpkin seeds to keep the autumn theme. 

Roasted Squash and Spinach Gnocchi
1 package of cubed squash (or about 1.5 - 2 lbs cut up squash)
2 boxes of chopped frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1 package of gnocchi
2 cups of cream
2 cloves chopped garlic
1 teaspoon of dried rosemary (could also use fresh, if on hand)
1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, divided
salt and pepper to taste
grated Parmesan cheese, optional

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.  Toss squash with salt and pepper and some olive oil.  Spread out on baking sheet and roast in the oven for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, boil salted water for the gnocchi to cook.  Separately, in a large pan, saute the garlic in a little oil.  Add the cream.  Bring to a slight boil and reduce the heat to let the cream thicken, about 8-10 minutes.  Add the rosemary, then mix in the spinach.  When the squash and gnocchi have finished cooking, add them to the sauce and serve.  Top with Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Brisket Two Ways

I bought too much brisket for Passover.  I tend to do that.  I get nervous that I won't have enough.  My family tends to eat a lot of it, and though I have been known to invite extra people for Seders last minute, this year was different. I only had family over, and so I was stuck with a lot of uncooked brisket still in the freezer.

I wanted to come up with a new way to make brisket - and the leftovers - since it was just the two of us (and the baby).  Having lots of vegetables on hand from the CSA (community supported agriculture) that I belong, I had an abundance of vegetables that I wanted to incorporate.  For Shabbat, I made a brisket, with a little Asian flare, and then Saturday night, I took the leftovers and made lettuce wraps.  The brisket was delicious. And the lettuce wrap was a great way to make use the leftover meat to have a lighter, quick meal. 

Duck Sauce Brisket
3-4 lbs Brisket
1 cup Gold's Duck Sauce (I used the regular, but the spicy version would probably make it better)
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 small onion, sliced
1 pint mushrooms, sliced
2 bell peppers, sliced (any color)
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Scallions, chopped for garnish (optional)

Combine all ingredients in slow cooker, set on low and cook for 6-8 hours or set on high and cook for 4 hours.  Alternatively, you could cook in the oven, using a Dutch oven. 

The next day....

Asian Brisket Lettuce Wraps
Leftover cooked brisket, shredded
1 cup cooked brown rice
2 Tbsp soy sauce
Large lettuce leaves
Sriracha sauce, optional

Combine leftover brisket and vegetables with rice and soy sauce in a skillet to heat.  Place on lettuce wraps.  Serve with Sriracha spicy sauce for a spicy kick. 

Even if you don't make this recipe in particular, I encourage (and challenge) you to make something unique and fun with your leftover brisket.  Share your creation in the comment section here.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Dairy Meal for Shavuot

Most Jewish holidays are celebrated with meat: a roast chicken or brisket, to elevate the meal to represent the joyousness of the holiday and to separate it from the norm of everyday meals (this tradition started long before meat was the main focus of most American meals). But on Shavuot the tradition is to have a dairy meal. It is not because Shavuot is a sad holiday - the exact opposite. On this day we receive the Torah! Instead we eat a diary meal because the laws of kashrut were not fully known as the ancient Israelites waited for the Torah. There are other reasons why we eat dairy, such as Torah being likened to milk, "Like honey and milk [the Torah] lies under your tongue" (Song of Songs 4:11). There is also gematria (numerical value) that supports eating diary. The gematria value for the word chalav, milk, is 40 and Moses spent 40 days on top of Mt. Sinai receiving the Torah.

Growing up, for our Shavuot meal, we had tuna fish salad and blintzes from the freezer.  Delicious, yes.  But I wanted something a little more gourmet and fun for this year.  In preparation for Shavuot (beginning Tuesday night, June 3, 2014), I started perusing different websites and cookbooks to come up with a new diary meal idea.  I came across a recipe on the Joy of Kosher website for grilled fish and polenta.  Polenta!  I had never made that before - that was going to be my Shavuot dish!  I did not follow the recipe I found online.  Instead, this is what I did:

Tilapia Filet with Creamy Polenta
Tilapia filets (1 per person)
1 tube of pre-made polenta
1 cup of milk (adjust based on your preference)
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 tsp garlic, diced
1 lb asparagus, trimmed
olive oil or butter for cooking
salt, pepper, and garlic salt for seasoning

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.  Spread asparagus on cookie sheet, top with olive oil and garlic salt and pepper and roast for about 15 - 20 minutes.  Slice the polenta and add to a sauce pan.  Mash the polenta and thin it out with the milk.  Add enough milk so the polenta has similar consistency to mashed potatoes, or as desired.  Add garlic and pepper to taste.  Before serving, add shredded cheese and mix together.  Prepared polenta is already a little salty and cheese also has salt, so do not add salt to this mixture. If you are making fresh polenta (ground cornmeal), then additional salt might be necessary.  Prepare the fish filets by lightly seasoning with salt/pepper.  Cook in a large frying pan with a small amount of oil or butter (or both).  Flip only once.  If making for a large crowd, multiple filets could be cooked in the oven together.   Assemble and enjoy!


Not only is this meal delicious, but it is light enough for you to be able to enjoy cheesecake for dessert without feeling too guilty. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Double Chocolate Cookies for Passover

This year, the first day of Passover is on April 15 (first Seder is Monday night, April 14).  That means, in addition to cleaning our homes, changing over our kitchens, shopping for a whole new pantry, and cooking for multiple guests - we also need to make sure our taxes are done by then too!  Talk about stress!   Thankfully, I have a super easy - and amazingly delicious and decadent dessert for you to share at your Seder.... or maybe sneak one beforehand to relax and indulge.

This chocolate cookie is very simple.  Only 5 ingredients and a bake time of only 10 minutes.  There is no matzo or cake meal in this cookie, so it isn't heavy and doesn't taste like a traditional Passover dessert.  Be careful - they are addictive!

Of course, if cooking for Passover isn't your thing, come to Beth El for our community 2nd night Seder.  Call the office:  301-652-2606 to check for availability.  This year it will be lead by Hazzan Matthew Klein.  It is sure to be a musical exodus!

Double Chocolate Cookies
3 cups powdered sugar*
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2-4 egg whites
1 cup chocolate chips

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Sift or whisk sugar, cocoa powder and salt together in a large mixing bowl.  Add two egg whites and mix.  Consistency should be similar to thick brownie mix.  If you need additional egg whites, add one at a time until the correct consistency.  I find that 3 egg whites works best, but it can vary.  Fold chocolate chips into batter.  Spoon batter onto cookie sheets.  Bake for 10 - 12 minutes, until cookies inflate slightly and tops crack.  Remove cookies from cookie sheet and let cool completely.  Makes 24 - 30 cookies. 

*Kosher for Passover powdered sugar can be found in kosher markets around town, or, it is easy to make yourself.  In a food processor, use the ratio of 1 cup granulated sugar to 1 tablespoon of potato starch.  Blend in food processor until mixture resembles powdered sugar.