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New Year News

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

Did you ever have an epiphany in the kitchen? A sudden moment of questioning everything you always thought you knew about how to prepare a certain dish or ingredient? The proverbial light bulb went off in my head this past week and of course, I welcome you to come along for the ride!

A few weeks back I blogged about the difficulty in understanding certain kosher cuts and where they come from – in that case, specifically, the deckle (click here to read post). Deckle is only one of a bunch of “cheap cuts” that most people group together and relegate to “pot roasting”. Another such cut is the somewhat mysterious kolichel. Go ask around – ask your mother, your grandmother. They’ll tell you kolichel is for pot roasting, for cholent, for any dish that will cook a tough cut long enough until it’s good and tender. Even I’ve written that….until now.

The kolichel is from the clavicle-shoulder area of animal…a highly exercised piece of flesh. Unlike a rib eye or chuck roast, it contains little to no marbling of fat and no sinews or connective tissue within the cut (as you would find in a minute roast)…in other words, an incredibly lean piece of meat. So there I was at my counter, cutting up a kolichel for what I believed would be a long, tenderizing cook. All of a sudden, I got to thinking: if the process of braising breaks down fat and connective tissue in a fatty tough cut, then what’s going to happen if there is isn’t any to break down? Is this actually the right cooking method for a lean cut, albeit a tough one? I started hearing a voice in my head saying “This is wrong. This is all wrong.” Sure enough, eating my stew that night was like chewing leather. There was no fat to keep the meat moist. That was my proof. It was time to go in a different direction, parting ways with generations of bubbies.

As if I were a student in one of my own classes, I heard my own voice questioning: How do we keep a lean cut tender? How do we treat other lean meats? Then the idea came to me: go thin and go fast (a throwback to our discussion on Scallopine from a few months ago). Thinly slicing and pounding to tenderize, followed by a lightning fast cook could yield the same tender results, couldn’t it? In fact, YES! The results were a tender, flavorful, and economical use of this much misunderstood cut…and a good lesson to be bold and try new things in the coming year!

As a side note, this blog has been nominated for “Best Kosher Food Blog” on joyofkosher.com. If you like what you read here, please show your support and go vote. Thanks!

Tender Beef Marsala

Thin slices are crucial for this dish’s best results. See “Cook’s Tip” below for no-fail slicing techniques.

Serves 4-6

1 kolichel (about 1½ lbs.), thinly sliced crosswise no more than ¼-inch-thick
Kosher Salt, to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
6 tbsp. olive oil, divided
¼ cup flour
2 large garlic cloves, minced
¾ cup Marsala wine
1/3 cup beef or chicken stock
½ tsp. oregano
1½ tsp. whole grain mustard
¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Cook’s Tip: For easy, thin slicing, freeze meat for 1-2 hours prior to slicing (meat will be half-frozen). Use a very sharp carving knife to slice crosswise.

Lay slices of meat out in a single layer on a large cutting board in between two pieces of plastic wrap. Using a mallet or rolling pin, pound slices to an even 1/8-inch thickness. Season slices with salt and pepper.

Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Dredge each slice in flour, shaking off excess, and place in pan. Brown on each side, turning once, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to a plate and repeat in batches with remaining meat, adding additional olive oil to the pan if needed.

Reduce to medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to pan, and add garlic. Sauté until golden, about 1-2 minutes. Add Marsala, stock and oregano, stirring and scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a simmer and continue to cook until mixture is reduced by a third, about 4-5 minutes. Whisk in mustard, stirring until well blended. Return beef to the pan, turning to coat with the sauce. Cook for another 1-2 minutes until beef is just heated through. Transfer to a serving platter, sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.

Another Year, Another Latke

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

I’m not sure how it came to be that latkes became the most ubiquitous Chanukah food in America (in Israel, sufganiot are just as popular). Somehow, traditions form an integral part of the experience of celebration; reliving the miracle through edible customs strengthens the associations we have with a given mitzvah. Biting into a crispy latke, our fingertips glistening from oil, for example, reminds us of the menorah, lit in all its glory. We find comfort in returning to those “old school” traditional foods, but it’s also ok to change it up a little bit every now and then to keep things interesting. There are eight nights after all.

People like just about anything fried in oil, as long as it has that crispy-crunchy-salty quality to which we have become entirely addicted. Someone along the way discovered that latkes and sour cream go well together. But if you keep kosher and serve a meat meal, then sour cream is out. Aren’t there any other options? How do we gussie up our little latke with flavor and textural contrasts, especially at party time?

The Greeks managed to defile not only our precious oils during the time of Chanukah, but the entirety of the Temple in Jerusalem, the heart of our holiness and culture. The victory of the Maccabees symbolizes the freedom to return to our traditional observances, to illuminate a dark time. Such were my thoughts when thinking about pairing a liver pâté with my latkes this year. Follow me here: raw livers need to be handled with care as they are not purchased already koshered. Raw livers are not kashered through a salting process, but rather need to be broiled in order to remove the blood. I thought it both meaningful and tasty to pair one food commemorating our rededication of the Temple (Chanukah literally means “dedication”) with another that requires our current dedication to the observance the Torah’s commandments. And since it goes against my grain to leave well enough alone, this pâté has been updated a bit to complement the latkes’ tart apple flavor. But even if you are a traditionalist (“you’re gonna put what on my latke?”), feel free to serve the pâté as a spread with crackers or crusty bread on your holiday table.

Granny Apple-Potato Latkes with Drunken Cherry Liver Pâté

Granny Smith apples have a crisp, tart flavor that gets mellowed and sweetened when cooked…or fried up as your next latke!

Yield: 22 latkes

2 russet potatoes, peeled
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and quartered
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
1½ tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. ground black pepper
2 eggs
1/3 cup flour
Canola or vegetable oil, for frying

Grate potatoes, apples and onions together (can be done in a food processor or by hand). Squeeze and drain out as much liquid as possible. Quickly transfer mixture to a mixing bowl and add salt, pepper, eggs and flour; mix to blend.

Pour enough oil into a large, heavy skillet so that there is approximately ¼ -inch layer covering the bottom. Heat the oil over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, carefully drop large spoonfuls (about 2 tablespoons worth) into the pan, flattening each into a disc with the back of a spoon (or you can use your hands to form and drop). Fry for about 3-4 minutes per side, flipping when edges are golden brown. Do not move latkes around before they are ready to be turned, as they can stick and tear. Latkes should be a deep brown color on both sides. Immediately transfer them to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Repeat with the remaining batter Serve topped with a small spoonful of Drunken Cherry Liver Pâté (recipe below).

*Cook’s note: If making ahead, refresh uncovered in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes prior to serving.

Drunken Cherry Liver Pâté

Try to find livers that are more pale tan than dark reddish-brown in color. They are more mild tasting and less pungent. Raw livers must be kashered through broiling to remove the blood. See below for directions.

1 lb. chicken livers, trimmed
4 tbsp. olive oil (or chicken fat), divided
2/3 cup finely chopped shallots (about 2 medium)
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/3 cup dried tart cherries, chopped
1/2 tsp. crumbled rosemary
3 Tbsp. cognac (or brandy)
1 tbsp. white wine or sherry vinegar

To kasher livers according to Jewish law, click here for step-by-step instructions. Don’t get scared. It’s not that difficult.

Once kashered, transfer to a mixing bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Chop or mash the livers with a fork or knife. The consistency should be slightly chunky. Set aside.

Heat remaining oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and season with salt and pepper; sauté for about 3-4 minutes, or until they begin to turn golden in color. Add cherries and rosemary and sauté for another minute. Add cognac and stir to blend. Continue to cook until most of the cognac is absorbed, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat. Add cherry mixture to the livers. Mix to blend. Add vinegar and season to taste with more salt and pepper, if needed. Serve room temperature over Granny Apple-Potato Latkes (recipe above) or with crackers or toasts.

Wishing you a joyous and illuminating Chanukah,
Naomi Ross and the Park East Kosher Family

What Your Grandmother Always Knew…

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

Wandering through the meat department of a local kosher grocery, I stand back and watch for a while. A woman leans over, peering over the many plastic-wrapped packages of red meat, each neatly stacked and labeled, one not too dissimilar from the next… a sea of confusion for the average cook. She stands there for a while. Picks up one package, and then puts it down. Picks up another, then returns it to its place. She just doesn’t know what to buy. Lots of different names and cuts abound, some with duplicate names. Distinguishing the cuts and how to prepare them is hard enough, but at least sometimes there are clues to guide us…words like rib, chuck, neck…hints as to which part of the animal the meat came from. That’s not always the case though, especially with certain cuts that have become common in American kosher butchery and referred to by a unique nomenclature. Being a bit farther removed from the slaughtering and butchering than in our grandmothers’ day, we have to put in the effort to ask questions and become educated consumers…we should at least know what it is that we’ve chosen to purchase and prepare!

What in fact is a “deckle” or rather, where does it come from? That’s one I always wondered about. “Deckle” is actually a Yiddish word for “covering”. The deckle is the fatty covering over the side of the rib. It is a tough, cheap cut, perfect for pot roasting. Similar to a brisket, the deckle is a long, flat piece of meat; however, its irregular shape (it has a small section with the grain running in the opposite direction from the rest of the cut) and extra connective tissue make it less select than the coveted brisket. Less select, but not less flavorful. When treated right and given a good slow cook (and lots of love!), the deckle can make a tasty beef supper, especially when on a budget. Be sure when slicing to watch for the change of grain – and always slice against the grain!

Besides the slow cook, acidity also helps to break down the connective tissue and tenderize the meat. That’s why wine or tomatoes are so commonly used in pot roasting. In the following recipe, I use tomatoes and beer. Be sure to serve with mashed potatoes for a very satisfying meal. That’s what I advised the harried woman in the market, anyway…it’s always good to lend a hand!

Beer-Braised Deckle

A modern pot roast redux, this recipe can also be made with top of the rib, brisket, etc.

Serves 6

Spice Mix

½ tsp. cumin
½ tsp. turmeric
½ tsp. garlic powder
1½ tsp. smoked paprika
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. dried mustard
¼ tsp. black pepper
2 tbsp. cornstarch or flour

Deckle

1 (3-lb.) Deckle
3 tbsp. canola or vegetable oil, divided
2 medium onions, chopped
1 celery stalk, diced
1 large garlic clove, minced
Kosher salt, to taste
1 (28-oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 (12-oz.) bottle beer
5 tbsp. mild molasses

Combine all spice mix ingredients together in a shallow dish, whisking to blend. Dredge deckle in spice mixture, rubbing spices to evenly coat on both sides (you may have to cut the deckle in half if very long). Set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over high heat. Place deckle in pan and brown, turning once, about 2 minutes per side (repeat if necessary with other half of deckle). Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Reduce heat to medium-high and add the remaining tablespoon oil to the pan. Add onions, celery and garlic, stirring to blend. Season liberally with kosher salt. Sauté for about 4-5 minutes or until onions are translucent. Add tomatoes, beer and molasses, stirring and scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Bring to a boil and return deckle to the pot. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 2½-3 hours or until tender (meat is done when fork pierces and releases easily). Remove from heat and cool slightly.

To serve: transfer deckle to a cutting board and slice meat against the grain with a sharp carving knife. Transfer slices to a platter. Skim any excess fat from the surface of the sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper, if needed. Spoon sauce over meat and serve.

A Smaller Thanksgiving…

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

I am a kitchen dweller. Of all the rooms of the house, the kitchen feels most like home to me and I’m quite content to spend copious amounts of time there. There are, however, exceptions…by this I mean those “special” jobs worthy of bribing your mother-in-law to do them. And though I’m a sucker for a real Thanksgiving dinner – essentially a comfy eat-fest with all the yummy trimmings – I’d be lying if I claimed that cleaning the bird did not rank high on that list of things I’d rather not have to do (root canal, anyone?). Surely, there must be a way out…a way to have my turkey and eat it too?

For those of you out there overwhelmed at the prospect of cleaning and handling such a large bird (“you want me to put my hand where?!”), it may be worthwhile to review the pros and cons of roasting a whole bird and what your other options may be. Besides the obvious tradition and nostalgia associated with presenting a lovely decorated bird to your guests (assuming you will be carving tableside while wearing a flannel shirt), the main benefit of roasting a large turkey is that it really feeds a crowd…with leftovers! But what if you are having a smaller crowd? Roasting a whole turkey not only takes a lot of prep time to properly clean and prepare (and lots of lead time if you are defrosting a frozen bird), but also hogs up your oven space for several hours before entertaining. If you are bent on roasting the whole bird, see last year’s Thanksgiving guide on the blog for tips. If you are looking for alternative ideas, read on!

One of the biggest obstacles in roasting a whole turkey is the challenge of maintaining the moistness of both the dark and white meat. All too often, by the time the turkey is done, the dark meat may be juicy while the white meat is dried out. Choosing to cook one cut of turkey eliminates this issue completely. Preparing just the breast meat or just the dark meat is an easy way of ensuring the appropriate cooking time to yield juicy results without the fuss. And if your family happens to like drumsticks or wings, the same rule applies…and you can then offer more than just two for Uncle Joey and Grandma Estelle to fight over! Think of it as turkey-a-la-carte…a perfect solution for a smaller crowd (and without the time spent cleaning!)

I’m a big stuffing fan, so I decided to incorporate a stuffing into the following recipe which features a butterflied boneless turkey roast (breast meat). Butterflying the meat opens up the breast via a center incision, cutting almost but not completely through. The two halves are then opened flat to resemble a butterfly shape (Park East Kosher is happy to do this upon request). This allows for ample room to stuff and roll, and a thinner, more palatable thickness. Turkey. Stuffing. Gravy. Done. And I didn’t have to clean a thing!

Pastrami-Wrapped Turkey Roulade with Apple-Chestnut Stuffing

A turkey roast usually retains its moisture from its skin during cooking. Here, pastrami takes the place of skin and adds a crispy, smoky element.

Serves 8.

1 (4-4¼ lbs.) turkey roast, butterflied and skin removed
¼ cup olive oil
2 cups chopped onion (1 large onion)
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups peeled, chopped Fuji apples (1 very large or 2 small)
1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
1 (5.2 oz.) pkg. whole peeled and roasted chestnuts, chopped
3 tbsp. apple liquor
4 slices day-old bread (crusts removed), cubed (2½ cups)
1 tbsp. chopped fresh sage leaves
8 oz. thinly sliced pastrami
1 cup apple cider
½ cup low-sodium chicken or turkey stock

Cider-Sage Gravy (recipe below):
Special equipment:    6 pieces kitchen twine, roasting rack and pan

Lay turkey out on a flat surface or cutting board. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; sauté for about 2-3 minutes. Add apples and season with 1 tsp. salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Sauté until apples begin to soften, about 3-4 minutes. Add chestnuts and sauté another 2 minutes. Add apple liquor and stir to blend until liquid is mostly absorbed, about 1 minute. Turn heat off. Add bread and sage, tossing until bread is moistened.

Spread bread mixture over turkey and carefully roll breast up, tucking ends in if necessary. Place a single layer of overlapping slices of pastrami crosswise over the roast. Using pre-cut pieces of kitchen twine, carefully slide each piece under the wrapped roast, tying each string to secure the roast at 2-inch intervals. Carefully place tied roast on a rack in a medium roasting pan. Cover with foil and place in the oven. Cook for about 1½ hours or until inserted meat thermometer reaches 165 degrees internally, uncovering during the last 15 minutes to crisp the pastrami. Remove from oven; transfer turkey to a cutting board (reserving pan juices) and allow turkey to rest for 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the Cider-Sage Gravy (recipe below). Using a sharp carving knife, remove twine and carefully slice roulade crosswise. Arrange slices on a platter and serve with gravy.

Cider-Sage Gravy

1½ tbsp. olive oil
1 large shallot, minced
1½ tbsp. flour
1 cup low-sodium chicken or turkey stock
¼ cup apple cider
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1-2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
1½ tsp. chopped fresh sage leaves

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add shallot and sauté for about 2-3 minutes, until translucent. Sprinkle flour over shallots and quickly stir to blend, cooking for another minute. Add pan juices, stock, cider, mustard, and vinegar. Whisk to blend. Bring to a boil and then lower to medium heat, simmering gravy until mixture becomes thickened (should be able to coat the back of a spoon), about 15-20 minutes. Season to taste with black pepper and add salt if necessary. Remove from heat. Stir in sage. Serve hot with turkey.

One-Bowl-Wonders!

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

By Naomi Ross

The click-click-click of my radiator plays its little tune and I hear the sweet, raspy sound of heat coming up on a cool autumn night. The days are getting shorter, and as the leaves slowly descend, so does the realization that whether I like it or not, the cold is coming. And so I go through the list in my head: Winter coats: check. Snow boots: check. Rock salt: check. Really yummy weeknight suppers that will warm and nourish my family: come again?

Now is the time to start thinking and planning for the many cool nights ahead. And why not outfit yourself with a new recipe “wardrobe” for the coming season?! Winter soups and stews are a great place to start. Think “heartiness factor” – by this I mean identifying those essential ingredients which are helpful in making a dish “hearty.” Legumes such as chick peas, beans or lentils add protein and substance to any soup or stew and are a great pantry item to keep on hand. Grains and pastas are filling and add tremendous body either in your soup or as bed upon which to put your stew. I like to keep my pantry stocked with these items the whole year, but especially when the weather gets colder. Meats, whether chunks of beef stew meat or even a turkey wing, are definitely hearty, and although I prefer to purchase meat fresh, it’s never a bad idea to keep a package or two in your freezer for a bad weather day.

I’m a big fan of soups – especially ones that can be a meal unto themselves. This year, I started my own search in my recipe box. Much like shopping in your own closet, I’m often pleasantly surprised at what I might find: in this case, an old tattered paper, folded in four, with the scribbling of my husband’s old roommate. I am suddenly transported back to their apartment years before, and to the day he showed us how to make his mother’s Niku Udon, Japanese Beef Noodle soup, the way he ate it growing up in Japan. BINGO. Thick Japanese Udon noodles, meaty strips of beef and a flavorful broth make this an especially earthy and satisfying soup… a recipe to kick off the cool weather season.

Here is an adapted version of that recipe. You can use any fatty, marbled cut of meat (like rib); however, I prefer skirt steak. Skirt steak is from the diaphragm. It has excellent flavor and texture, but can be salty. For this reason, it is recommended to either rinse or soak the meat prior to use, then pat it dry.

Easy Beef Udon Noodle Soup

Udon noodles are thick Japanese wheat noodles that can be found fresh in the produce section (Nasoya brand) or in the Asian section of the supermarket (such as Eden brand).

Serves 4.

1 (8.8 oz.) package Udon noodles
3 cups water
1½ cups Sake (Japanese rice wine)
2 tsp. sugar
Pinch of salt
3 cups thinly sliced onion (2 medium onions)
1 lb. skirt steak, very thinly sliced crosswise into 2” long strips
4-5 scallions, cut into spears
3-4 tbsp. soy sauce (Kikkoman or Yamasa)
Freshly ground black pepper

Prepare Udon noodles according to package instructions. Rinse, drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, combine water, sake, sugar and salt together in a medium pot (4-quart). Place over medium heat and bring to a boil. Add onions and simmer together until the onions are soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add meat and scallions and simmer until just cooked through, about 2-3 minutes (do not overcook meat or it will become tough). Add 3 tablespoons soy sauce; stir to blend. Season to taste with more soy sauce, if needed, and black pepper.

Place Udon noodles in each individual serving bowl and generously ladle hot soup over noodles to cover. Serve and enjoy!

The Skinny on Scallopine

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

“A little goes a long way”…or so the old adage goes. I think of perfume, cayenne pepper and certainly a kind word. In cooking, this notion can often make or break a recipe. A few drops of vanilla extract make the entire difference between an aromatic, flavorful cake and a bland bunch of crumbs. But the same concept holds true with choices that impact the texture and mouth-feel of a dish. A little too much thickener and your gravy is a gloppy pudding (…yuck!).

No better example illustrates this than scallopine. Also referred to as “scallopini,” this Italian dish consists of thinly sliced or thinly pounded meat that is dredged in flour, given a quick pan-fry, then heated and served with an accompanying pan sauce (often a tomato or wine sauce; or piccata, a lemon-caper sauce). The thickness of the meat is integral to the integrity of the dish; with a maximum ¼-inch thickness, the texture is deliciously tender, allowing one to savor many dimensions of flavor in a delicate way, flavors often overlooked when eating a thick cut of meat.

Dredging the meat in flour prior to pan-frying also greatly affects the consistency of the sauce. That little bit of flour adds thickness and richness to the sauce, giving it an almost silky feel. Additionally, flouring makes deglazing the pan (scraping up the browned bits) a bit easier when the wine is added. Again, the difference between a smooth, creamy dressing and a runny, lumpy goo.

Scallopine is most often prepared with veal, but can also be made with turkey or chicken, trimmed of all fat and sliced or pounded thin. For this reason, scallopine is a great choice as a lean, low-fat meat entrée. And because of the thinness of the slices, it requires a very short cooking time…great for a weeknight supper (I love win-win recipes!).

Try the following version, in the Northern Italian style, served over sautéed spinach (or chard) or over pasta. Use a mallet to pound the veal thin or try Park East Kosher’s extra thin veal cutlets – ready to use!

Veal Scallopine with Cremini and Tomatoes

Serves 2-4

4 thin veal cutlets (“Italian style”), pounded thin (¼” thickness)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup flour
¼ cup olive oil
1 large shallot, chopped (about 1/3 cup)
3 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup dry white wine (like Chardonnay)
¼ cup low-sodium chicken stock
8 oz. Cremini mushrooms, sliced
½ tsp. dried oregano
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
Chopped parsley, for garnish

Lay cutlets out on a flat surface and season with salt and pepper. Place flour in a shallow dish and dredge cutlets in flour. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large, wide skillet over medium-high heat. Place cutlets in the pan and brown on each side until light golden-brown in color, about 1 minute per side (you may need to do this in batches). Transfer cutlets to a plate and set aside.

Add shallots and garlic to the pan and sauté until shallots are tender, about 2-3 minutes. Add wine, stock, mushrooms, oregano, and more salt and pepper to taste. Stir mixture, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook for another 3 minutes, until mushrooms begin to wilt and mixture is slightly reduced. Add cherry tomatoes and continue to simmer for another 2-3 minutes, until tomatoes begin to soften. Return veal to pan, spooning pan sauce over the cutlets. Bring back to a boil and simmer for about 4-5 minutes or until sauce is thickened, adjusting heat if necessary. Remove from heat. Plate each serving of veal scallopine over sautéed spinach or your choice of pasta. Spoon sauce over the top and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

 

 

The Meal Before…

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

The ”High Holy Days,” as Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur have come to be known, are referred to in Hebrew as the “Yomin Noraim” – Days of Awe. I like the word “awe.” Encapsulated in three short letters are all the reverence, astonishment, solemnity and grandeur that is associated with standing in judgment before the Creator. Feeling true “awe” is not unlike a moment-of-truth, an epiphany, an “ah-ha” experience…the catharsis of realizing who you really are and how you fit into the greater scheme of things. As such, we each experience due apprehension as Yom Kippur approaches, knowing we have much to answer for both individually and collectively as a People.

Strangely, despite obvious trepidation, the meal preceding the holiest fast of the year is considered to be a festive, joyous meal. Just as it wouldn’t occur to me to have a lavish banquet prior to a court sentencing, the seudat ha-mafseket (last meal before fasting) seems a bit counter-intuitive, no? But here’s where practical meets spiritual: the practical need to satiate and strengthen ourselves before a day of fasting and prayer is met with the spiritual joy and gladness derived from a chance at forgiveness, of starting anew with a clean slate. That hope, that opportunity is enough to infuse a festive spirit into an otherwise serious time.

And so we prepare our menus just the same way. Practically, we minimize the spiciness, reduce the saltiness and prepare foods that are filling, yet easily digested. Spiritually, we set the table with our finest and create an atmosphere of holiday. Were I born of Hungarian roots, I’d imagine myself walking into my would-be Hungarian bubbie’s kitchen, only to be met with a homey dish of Chicken Paprikash before the fast. It just seems like the right thing to have. Also mashed potatoes (I’m all about mashed potatoes before a fast): comforting, nourishing, and fit for a feast. In that alternate Jewish-Hungarian universe, here’s how she’d prepare it…

Chicken Paprikash

Traditionally this dish is made with sweet Hungarian paprika (or sometimes a mix of sweet and hot paprika). Using smoked paprika adds a smoky element of flavor – be sure to look for the highest quality paprika you can find.

8 chicken leg quarters
1½ tsp. Kosher salt, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 large or 3 medium onions, sliced (about 4 cups)
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 tbsp. smoked paprika
1 tbsp. flour
½ cup white wine

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Season chicken with ¾ tsp. salt and a good sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper. Heat oil in a Dutch Oven or large oven-proof pot over medium-high heat. Brown chicken quarters, about 2-3 minutes per side, turning once. Transfer chicken to a plate and set aside.

Add onions, garlic, and bell pepper to the pot. Sauté until onions are translucent and softened, about 6-8 minutes. Season with remaining salt, more black pepper and paprika. Stir to blend and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Sprinkle in flour. Stir and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Add wine and stir to blend. Return chicken to the pot. Spoon liquid over chicken quarters, cover and transfer to preheated oven.

Bake covered, for 1¼ -1½ hours. Serve hot over egg noodles or mashed potatoes.

A Date to Remember….

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Think “dried dates”…what comes to mind? For many of us, it’s the scarring memory of those tough, crusty things passed out at Hebrew school on Tu B’shvat , the Jewish New Year for Trees. In fact, it came as quite the surprise years later to discover that fresh dates are actually good. One of the shivat ha’minim (the seven species of the Land of Israel), dates are a highly symbolic item, whose branches, fruit and honey are mentioned throughout the Torah. But dates are also significant for the start of our New Year and hold a special place on the Rosh Hashanah table.

Rosh Hashanah is a time when wishes and prayers for the coming year are welcome. The Hebrew word for date is “tamar”, which sounds like “she-yitamu” – “that they be consumed.” Hence, we eat this fruit on the night of Rosh Hashanah and pray this year that our enemies be consumed. This is only one out of several symbolic foods whose names allude to good things. The source for this custom comes straight from the Talmud. Although the liturgy of Rosh Hashanah is exclusively dedicated to establishing G-d’s Kingship of the world, we use this small opportunity during our festive meals to pray for ourselves and the Jewish People in a covert way – by hinting to the things that we each deeply wish for. In this way, we acknowledge that the Source of all of the blessings we yearn for is G-d. And since Rosh Hashanah is also called the “Day of Remembrance,” we are asking to be remembered and blessed with good for the coming year.

For several years, I have enjoyed incorporating dates and the other traditional symbolic foods into my Rosh Hashanah menus. This is also a great approach to making certain “less popular” foods tastier as they are prepared in unique and creative ways. For those of you with date-phobia, you will be shocked at the transformation: super-sweet dates mellowed and reincarnated as the basis for a deeply flavorful braising sauce. Medjool dates are the way to go; they have a superior, meaty-moist flesh that holds up well when cooked. Start a day ahead to allow for marinating time.

Top of the Rib with Red Wine & Date Sauce

The rich, caramel flavors of Medjool dates and Silan (date syrup) flavor this wine-braised top of the rib. This recipe can also be made with brisket with delicious results.

Serves 8.

1 (4-lb.) Top of the Rib
1 (750 ml.) bottle dry red wine (Merlot or Cabernet)
2 cinnamon sticks
5 garlic cloves, peeled
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. coriander seeds
12 black peppercorns
5 cloves
1 dried hot red chili pepper
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tbsp. canola or vegetable oil, divided
1½ cups sliced shallots (about 5 large)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, diced
5 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
12 Medjool dates, pitted and sliced (about 1 cup)
1/3 cup Silan*

*Available in Middle Eastern grocery stores.

Place meat in a large deep container or bowl; pour wine over meat and add cinnamon sticks, garlic cloves, bay leaves, coriander seeds, peppercorns, cloves and chili pepper. Cover and marinate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Drain meat from marinade; transfer marinade to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer until reduced by half, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and strain through a fine sieve. Set aside.

Season meat with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over high heat. Place meat in the skillet and brown, turning once, about 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer browned meat to a large roasting pan.

Reduce heat to medium and add remaining tablespoon of oil. Add shallots, onion, celery, and garlic and season to taste with more salt and pepper; sauté until softened, about 5-6 minutes. Slowly pour in strained marinade and bring to a boil, continuously stirring and scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the pan, about 3 minutes.

Remove from heat and pour mixture over and around meat, surrounding meat with vegetables. Distribute sliced dates around meat and pour silan evenly over the top of the meat. Cover and bake for 2½-3 hours. Meat is done when a fork slides easily in and out.

Remove from oven and cool slightly. Transfer meat to a cutting board and slice thinly against the grain; Transfer slices to a serving platter. Skim excess fat off of surface of liquid, if necessary. Pour sauce over meat and serve.

Wishing you a year of sweetness and may we all be remembered for the good in the coming year,

Naomi Ross and the Park East Kosher family

American Grill

Monday, June 27th, 2011

I don’t know how it came to be that our country’s independence became synonymous with mass consumption of grilled meat, but somehow, throwing steaks and burgers on the grill has come to represent freedom and independence here in America (not so for the cows…just saying.).  Not that I’m complaining – any excuse for a BBQ is a good excuse as far as I’m concerned, and here is your chance to master all of the grilling tips you’ve been reading about on the blog for the past few weeks.  For good measure, I’ll throw in a few more important rules to grill by.
It can be very tricky to get a feel for “doneness,” to know how long is long enough, and how long is too long.  Raw chicken is a no-no, and dried-out steak is a waste of money and a chore to chew.  So in honor of the “stars and stripes,” let’s grill and eat well this 4th.  Here are the do’s and don’ts:

  • Do poke your meat (not with something sharp) – a well-trained finger will be able to feel doneness by touch.  Rare is soft and squishy, medium has a spring, and well done is taut and firm.
  • Do Not cut into the meat on the grill to check for doneness – all the juices will pour out.  If you must cut, remove from the grill and allow it to rest for a few minutes (you can always put it back on if necessary).
  • Do consider purchasing an instant read meat thermometer – it will take the guesswork out of grilling.
  • Do Not constantly move the food around on the grill.  Give it a chance to sear and build itself a good crust – this will also minimize sticking to the grates.
  • Do time your grilling – it will give you more awareness of how long you’ve had something on the fire and also more of a feel for the next time you grill.
  • Do allow for a resting period immediately following grilling (prior to slicing).  This will allow the juices to settle back into the meat and stay juicy.  (Resting is not needed for fish).

As much as I enjoy grilling, I like to enjoy my company more, so I don’t want to stand at a hot grill for hours.  I try to make smart choices when entertaining a crowd: either items that are fast on the grill, several of which can be made at once (e.g. burgers and dogs) or a larger item that can be sliced and serve a crowd (see the recipe below for London broil).  And don’t forget to factor in “bone time” – meaning, anything bone-in will take much longer than boneless.

With your tongs in hand and “kiss the cook” apron happily splattered, you’ll grill to the sound of fireworks in the background and a meal that will make your country proud.

Best wishes for a happy 4th,

Naomi Ross and the Park East Kosher Family

Orange-Soy Marinated London Broil

A London broil is a common term for a thick cut of meat that is generally broiled or grilled like a steak, but then thinly sliced across the grain.  Here, a shoulder London broil is tenderized by way of a flavorful Asian-inspired marinade – perfect for a BBQ!

Orange-Soy Marinade

  • ½ cup tamari soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. grated orange peel
  • Juice of 1 large orange (about 1/3 cup)
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
  • 3 tbsp. honey
  • 1½ tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp. wasabi powder (Japanese horseradish root)
  • 1 tbsp. minced fresh ginger
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1-2 lb. shoulder London broil*, about 1½” thick
  • Oil for greasing

Combine all marinade ingredients a large mixing bowl.  Whisk to blend.  Place London broil in the marinade and turn to coat.  Cover and refrigerate, marinating for at least an hour and up to 6 hours. (Allow London broil to come to room temperature prior to grilling –take out of the refrigerator about 20-30 minutes before).

Preheat grill to high heat (about 450 degrees).  Carefully oil the grates of the grill (a wad of oil-soaked paper towels and tongs do a good job of this).  Remove meat from marinade (discarding marinade**) and place on the grill over high heat.  Close cover, and grill for about 8 minutes per side, turning once during grilling for medium-rare, about 125 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, or longer for medium-well done (thicker cuts will also require more time).   Transfer to a cutting board and allow meat to rest for 10 minutes.  Using a sharp, non-serrated carving knife, slice thinly across the grain and serve.

*Park East Kosher is now carrying Kobe-Wagyu beef, prized for well-marbled texture and superior flavor.  Be sure to inquire about a Kobe-Wagyu London broil when placing your order.

**Steak Salad Option: Marinade can be reserved for a salad dressing: simply bring marinade to a boil for 5 minutes in a small saucepan (to kill any bacteria).  Remove from heat and cool.  Slowly pour ¼ cup of olive oil into marinade, whisking constantly until emulsified.  Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Place thin slices of warm grilled London broil over a bed of mixed greens.  Garnish with thin slices of cucumber and radishes.  Drizzle dressing over salad.

 

By Naomi Ross

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Grill It Healthy!

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

When most of us hear “outdoor grilling,” we think of Sunday BBQs, Memorial Day, Father’s Day or July 4th: the highlights of summer entertaining.  Let us not underestimate, though, the greatness of the weeknight grill.  And while we usually associate grilling with fattening foods, let us now embrace some of the healthier options before us.  Besides the obvious benefits of grilling, namely a no-mess clean up (I loathe cleaning up), a quick prep (can you say “15-minute meal”?), and being able to make a sandwich that can be called “dinner,” grilling foods naturally low in fat and cholesterol – such as poultry, fish and vegetables – is one of the most effective ways to bring out flavor while infusing your food with a delicious smokiness and character.

I try to keep it simple when I grill.  Foods with a higher fat content (like a rib steak) generally require little more than a seasoning of salt and pepper to yield extraordinary results, as the fat keeps the food moist and juicy, even under extreme heat.  However, for foods lower in fat or more delicate in nature, a little more care and consideration often has to be given.  There’s a fine line between a juicy burger and a dried out hockey puck.  The trick is staying on the right side of that line!  That’s said, here are a few tips dedicated to healthy grilling:

  • Know when to add fat. (Yes, you read that right).  A little fat goes a long way in terms of flavor and moisture (and practically speaking, to prevent sticking to the grill!).  Don’t worry, we’re not talking about serious calories here.
    • Brush it! Get yourself a paint or pastry brush that can be used to brush on a thin layer of olive oil to low or non-fat items that would likely get dried out (for example: vegetables, skinless chicken breast, etc.).
    • Add it! Ground poultry is very low in fat and can get dried out quickly.  As in the recipe given below, sometimes adding a small amount of fat to the ground mixture (like the aioli below) can ensure the success of the taste and texture of a dish.
  • Know when to add flavor. Let’s face it: fat tastes good.  So when the fat is missing, how do we maximize the flavor?  Spice rubs and marinades can transform food, especially for foods which can be mild in taste, such as fish and poultry.
  • Know when to protect. Open-fire cooking exposes food to intense heat.  Delicate foods like fish benefit from the smoky flavor of the grill, though often also need protection from the heat. 
    • This is where the tradition of grilling a whole fish wrapped in banana leaves comes from.  More commonly, grilling on cedar planks (that have been soaked in water) can impart wonderful flavor without scorching the fish.
    • Indirect grilling can also be helpful here. This is where you grill not directly over fire, but rather on the opposite side of the grill, a gentler method.
  • Know when to take it off. We all suffer from the nervousness of “what if it’s not done?”  Unfortunately, all too often, erring on the side of caution results in over-cooked food.  The more you grill, the more of a feel you’ll get for the timing and texture of cooked meats.  Don’t forget, you can always put it back, but you can never undo over-cooking.

With these tips in mind, I developed the following recipe: a low-fat turkey burger boosted with the zing of sundried tomatoes and aroma of rosemary.  Not sure what to make for dinner tomorrow night?  Read on…

Sundried Tomato Turkey Burgers with Rosemary Aioli

Aioli is a garlicky mayonnaise from the Provence region of southern France.  Here, a Rosemary Aioli has a dual purpose: dressing the bun as an accompaniment, while also lending the turkey meat extra moistness and flavor.

Makes 8 burgers.

 

    • 2 tbsp. olive oil, plus more for greasing grates
    • 1 shallot, diced (about 1/3 cup)
    • ¼ cup sundried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and chopped
    • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
    • 1½-1¾ lbs. ground turkey (white meat)
    • 1½ tbsp. Rosemary Aioli (see recipe below)
    • Hamburger Buns or Multigrain Rolls, sliced in half
    • Baby Arugula

      Heat oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat.  Add shallot and sauté for about 2-3 minutes, until translucent.  Add sundried tomatoes and season with salt and pepper to taste; continue to sauté for another 1-2 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

      In a large mixing bowl, combine turkey, shallot-tomato mixture, and 1½ tbsp. Rosemary Aioli.  Mix until just combined.  Using moistened hands, gently form into 8 patties.

      Preheat grill to high (about 450 degrees).  Grease grates of grill (an oil-soaked wad of paper towels and tongs do a good job of this).  Place burger patties on grill.  Close cover and grill for about 4 minutes per side, turning once during grilling.  Toast bun halves on the grill for 1-2 minutes, until golden brown and grill marks appear.  Remove and transfer to a platter.

      Assembly: Spread bun halves with a small dollop of Rosemary Aioli (see recipe below), then top each with a burger, and a handful of arugula.  Cover with bun top and serve.

      Rosemary Aioli

        • ½ cup mayonnaise
        • Juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tbsp.)
        • ¼ tsp. salt
        • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed (about 2 tsp.)
        • 1 tsp. dried rosemary, crumbled or 1 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
        • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

           

          Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to blend.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

           

          DO AHEAD: Can be made a day ahead and stored in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator.

           

          By Naomi Ross

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