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Archive for March, 2010

PASSOVER 2010

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

On the 15th day of Nisan, which this year falls at sunset March 29th, Jews throughout the world will celebrate the Holy Festival of Passover.  This holiday commemorates the Hebrew’s escape from enslavement in Egypt.

In 1441 BCE, the Pharaoh became worried that the children of Israel would multiply and grow strong to wage war against Egypt.  He therefore decreed that all Jews be placed into slavery and all male Hebrew babies be killed. A couple named Amron and Yochevet tried to save their son from death by placing him in a basket and floated him down the Nile River.  The Pharaoh’s daughter, who happened to be bathing in the river, found the baby.  She took him as her son and named him Moses, which means “taken from the water”.

Moses was raised by the Royal Family, but somehow showed empathy for the Jewish slaves.  One day he saw an Egyptian Taskmaster beating a slave, and slew him.  He soon found out he was Jewish himself and fled to the desert for forty years to escape the Pharaoh’s punishment.

One day, while working as a Shepherd, the Lord appeared to Moses in the form of a burning bush. G-d commanded Moses to return to Egypt to free the slaves and lead them to the land of Israel.  Moses pleaded with the King to free the Jews, but to no avail.  The Lord sent down ten plagues against the people of Egypt.  The ten plagues are:  Blood, Frogs, Lice, Beasts, Cattle Disease, Boils, Hail, Locusts, Darkness and the Slaying of the First Born.  During the tenth plague, the Hebrew’s marked their doors with Lamb’s blood.  The Angel of Death “passed over” those homes marked with the blood and only killed the Egyptian first born of whom the Pharaoh’s son was included.  This is where the name Passover comes from.

Pharaoh finally granted the Jews permission to leave Egypt.  They gathered all their belongings and in their haste to flee, didn’t have time for their bread to rise.  They took the bread the way it was.  This is why Jewish people eat Matzah during Passover.  As the Jews were fleeing, Pharoah changed his mind and sent his army to bring them back. G-d parted the Red Sea for the Jews to cross.  As soon as the Jews were on the other side, the waters were closed and all the soldiers drowned.  The Jewish people were saved.

We celebrate Passover with a traditional meal called a Seder, where we read the story of how our ancestors were slaves and remind ourselves that we live as free people.  During the Seder we eat traditional foods that remind us of our affliction at the hands of the Egyptians.  We eat bitter herbs to remind us of the bitterness of slavery.  We eat Charoset, which is a sweet mixture of apples, nuts and wine which represents the mortar from which the slaves made bricks.  Another food we eat is a vegetable dipped in salt water.  The vegetable is a sign of rebirth, and the salt water represents the tears of the Hebrew slaves.  The book we read from is called the Haggadah which means “to tell”.  Jewish people look forward to being present each year at the Seder. It is a time for families to get together, tell the story of freedom, and rejoice with good food and wine.

Wishing everyone a Joyous and Kosher Passover from Michael, Murray and the entire staff at Park East Kosher.

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Pesach Memories

Monday, March 15th, 2010

Close your eyes.  Think far back, as far as you can, to your first seder experiences.  Your nose crinkles at the smell of maror (horseradish); the sweetness of the charoset tickles your tongue.  The hustle and bustle reverberates through the house as everyone rushes to take care of all those last minute items. The frenetic energy that comes with knowing that you are planning for something special is contagious.  And though you may not be a kid anymore, that same feeling is revisited each year in the weeks leading up to Passover. 

People are always a bit conflicted at this time with regard to menu planning for the Seder.  On one hand, Passover is all about family traditions and continuity, so how could you not make Aunt Sadie’s famous matzo farfel?  Of course, Passover is also about finding newness and freedom in the mitzvoth (commandments) of the holiday…so perhaps a new take on some of the traditional foods might be in order.

Brisket is a very popular choice for the Seder night, much because it is traditionally prepared by braising it in liquid – a method that is in line with the custom to not eat roasted meats at the seder.  Since we no longer have the Temple in Jerusalem where we would roast and eat the korban Pesach (Paschal sacrifice), we no longer eat roasted meats at the Seder.  Consequently, boiling (like with corned beef), braising, and baking (covered) are the cooking methods du jour.   This year, in the spirit of spicing up old traditions, I’ve decided to go with a French Roast (although I’m not actually “roasting” it).  French Roast, Square Roast, Brick Roast…they’re all the same cut with different names, coming from the “chuck” part of the cow (the top part, between the shoulder and the ribs).   French Roast has slightly less connective tissue than brisket, so it’s lean and tender and slices beautifully after a long braise. 

In creating this recipe, I couldn’t seem to deviate too much from the brisket style of my youth, but an aromatic spice rub seemed to do the trick nicely to reinvent our Seder entrée.  What’s more, you can also use a brisket interchangeably with the French Roast in this recipe.  I hope it enhances your Seder and the memories you’ll share and commemorate each year. 

Chag Kasher v’Sameach – a Happy and Kosher Passover!

Spiced French Roast with Dried Fruits

          This braised meat is perfect for Seder night, and is packed with flavor after marinating in an aromatic spice rub prior to cooking.  This recipe can be used interchangeably with Brisket.  Amounts double easily for a larger cut of meat.

Serves 6-8.

  • 2 tsp coarse (kosher) salt
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 3/4 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp ground allspice
  • 3 lb. French roast
  • 2 Tbsp canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 medium onions, sliced (about 3 cups)
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 2 small or 1 large parsnip, peeled and cut into 1” pieces
  • 2 small or 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1” pieces
  • ½ cup whole pitted prunes
  • ½ cup dried apricots
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 1½ Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste

Mix first 7 ingredients in a small bowl.  Place roast in large roasting pan and rub spice mixture evenly over both sides. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven temperature to 325°F.  Heat oil in a very large skillet over high heat. Carefully place roast in the skillet and sear for 1-2 minutes, until browned.  Using tongs, turn roast over and repeat on the other side.  Remove roast from pan and set aside.  Lower heat to medium and add an extra Tbsp of oil to the pan if it looks dry.  Add onions and garlic to the pan and sauté, stirring often, for about 5-6 minutes or until just translucent.   Pour wine into the pan and deglaze, scraping up the browned bits at the bottom of the pan.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 1-2 minutes.  Place mixture in the bottom of the roasting pan, then place roast on top.  Surround roast with parsnips, carrots, prunes and apricots. 

In a separate small bowl, mix together water, honey and tomato paste.  Stir to blend and then pour over the top of the roast, spreading to cover.  Cover pan with heavy-duty foil and bake until tender, about 2 1/2 hours.  Allow meat to rest and cool, about 1 hour.

Transfer roast to work surface. Thinly slice meat across the grain on slight diagonal and  transfer slices to a serving platter.  Place vegetables around meat and cover with pan juices.  Garnish with chopped parsley, if desired, and serve.

 Note: this dish can be made 2 days ahead.  Cover roast and store in refrigerator.  Reheat covered roast in 350°F oven for 20-30 minutes, or longer if chilled.

By Naomi Ross

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Making the Most of a Minute

Monday, March 8th, 2010

I’ve been in a bit of a brawl with my minute roast lately.   Perhaps it’s the name.   It’s a misnomer really, grossly playing on every home cook’s dream of turning out a luscious roast in nearly a minute…the name just plays with our expectations, don’t you think?   The minute roast, a common cut in kosher meat cookery, both because of its great flavor as well as its modest price, is quite versatile.   When split, the minute roast is the source of the much loved London Broil or can be sliced for minute steaks.   Making the most of your minute roast requires a bit of consideration, though.  Coming from the shoulder joint area of the animal, which gets a fair bit of exercise, there is a lot of muscular tissue and sinews, which make for a tougher piece of meat.   A grilled or broiled London Broil is excellent right off the grill or out of the broiler, but wait two hours to eat it and you might as well chew on a riding saddle.  So the choice of how to prepare this cut greatly depends on the needs of the cook: does it need to be prepared right before serving time or can it be done in advance…and will that taste good?  A tough cut such as this can become fall-apart tender when slow-roasted a brilliant solution that can be done in advance.   It may not have the same delectable crusty exterior of a flame-charred roast, but the warming mellow flavors resulting from a long slow cook have a special quality all their own.  In addition, slow roasting has the added benefit of more even cooking and less shrinkage, so your meat will stretch further.

Slow-roasting is best done between the temperatures of 200-250°F.  When roasting conventionally, I usually give my roasts a preliminary sear on a high temperature (like 450°F) for about 20-30 minutes.  In the case of slow roasting though, browning the roast for a minute or two on each side is sufficient to caramelize the exterior of the meat and enhance the flavor, preventing the outer layers of meat from being overcooked. 

When slow-roasting, you can expect very tender results, whether you like it rare, medium or well done.  I’ve even slow cooked a minute roast overnight until all the connective tissue melted away – granted, it was no longer a sliceable roast, but it sure made great sandwich fixings!  

The following recipe for Slow-Roasted BBQ Minute Roast is a great weeknight choice, as it can be started earlier in the day and cook until dinner time…it may take more than a minute, but it’s worth it!

Slow-Roasted BBQ Minute Roast

A flavorful homemade BBQ sauce glazes this tender roast, adding a boost of flavor.  Baste every hour or so.  As it reduces during the long cooking time, it will become deliciously concentrated.

  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 large onion, chopped (about 1 ½ cups)
  • ¾ cup red wine vinegar
  • 1½ cups ketchup
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 1/3 cup water
  • ½ cup bourbon
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. black pepper (scant)
  • ¾ tsp. dried thyme
  • 3-4 lb. minute roast
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Place 1 Tbsp. oil in a large, heavy saucepan and heat over medium-high heat.   Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 6 minutes.  Add vinegar, ketchup, molasses, water, bourbon, salt, pepper and thyme.  Stir to blend and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes to blend flavors.  (Sauce can be prepared one day ahead.  Cover and refrigerate.)

Preheat oven to 225 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place 1-2 tsp. oil in a large skillet on high heat.   Place minute roast in skillet and brown each side for about 1 minute per side.  Transfer roast to a rack and place in a roasting pan.  Rub remaining oil all over the roast and season with freshly ground black pepper.  Pour sauce over roast and cook uncovered for 4-5 hours (or longer if you like it well-done), basting about once per hour.  For best results, test for doneness with a meat thermometer: 145°F= rare, 160°F =medium, 170°F =well.

Remove from oven and tent foil over roast, allowing roast to rest for 15-20 minutes.  Slice roast and serve with remaining sauce from the roasting pan.

Serves 6-8.

By Naomi Ross
 

 

 

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Warming up the Hearth

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

Brrrr…it sure is cold outside.  Though it may have taken its time to arrive, winter is certainly upon us now.  There is something downright debilitating about the cold weather.  When it is biting outside, the cold seems to go right through your body.  It chills your bones, numbs your senses.  And so, beyond hibernation, when the thermometer drops I delight not only in big bushy woolen sweaters, but in hearty soups and stews bound to warm the soul.

“Marak” – Hebrew for “soup”- is derived from the word “mareik,” which means to cleanse.  When a soup is being cooked, the ingredients are cleansed, and the impurities are released.  Think of your chicken soup – the scum rises to the top and is then skimmed off.  Take it a step further.   Perhaps consuming soup cleanses a person’s ailments.  Chicken soup, the classic home remedy goes back way further than one could imagine.  The Talmud mentions Rabbi Abba, who was said to have consumed fowl that was soaked in hot water as a remedy (Shabbos 145b).  Maimonides prescribed chicken soup as a cure for individuals suffering from hemorrhoids (Treatise on Hemorrhoids).  And to this day, what nurses the common cold better than a bowl of mom’s chicken soup?

Hot and satisfying, a good soup can restore your health and mood on the coldest of days, arming you with renewed strength and energy.  The following recipe is one of my favorite winter soups and is certainly hearty enough to be considered a meal all by itself.   It features “flanken”, a Yiddish term referring to a small, juicy and tender rib.  The best soups are made with the best ingredients, so look for the freshest vegetables and the leanest flanken you can find, and don’t forget to freeze a container to warm up a cold night to come.

Meaty Mushroom and Barley Soup

White mushrooms can be used exclusively in this soup, but a combination of mushroom varieties will add more depth of flavor.  Cremini and/or baby bella mushrooms are wonderful choices in addition to the white mushrooms.

  1. 1/3 cup dried porcini or wild mushrooms
  2. 1 ½- 2 lbs. beef flanken, cut into 6-8 pieces
  3. 3 quarts (12 cups) water
  4. 2 medium onions, chopped
  5. 2 large celery stalks, sliced
  6. 2 large or 3 small carrots, peeled and sliced
  7. 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  8. 2 lbs. fresh mushrooms, roughly chopped
  9. 1 cup pearl barley
  10. 1 Tbsp. kosher salt
  11. Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  12. ¼ cup chopped parsley, for garnishing

Soak the dried mushrooms in enough hot water to cover for 20-30 minutes.  Strain the mushrooms in a sieve, reserving the water.  Coarsely chop the dried mushrooms.

Place 3 quarts water (not the mushroom water) and flanken in a large soup pot (at least 8-quart) over medium heat.  Bring to a simmer and skim off the foam that rises to the surface.  After all the impurities have been removed, add all of the remaining ingredients, including the chopped dried mushrooms and the reserved mushroom water.  Stir and raise heat until soup is boiling.  Reduce heat to low, cover with lid slightly ajar and simmer for one hour.  Season to taste with plenty of salt and freshly ground pepper.   If the soup is too thick, add some additional water.

Ladle soup into bowls, giving each serving a generous portion of the flanken.  Garnish with a sprinkling of chopped parsley.

Serves 12.

By Naomi Ross

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