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The Nine Days and Tisha B’Av

August 1st, 2011

Tisha B’Av, which this year falls on Tuesday August 9th, is a day of mourning where we fast to commemorate the many tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people, many of which coincidentally have occurred on the ninth of Av.

Tisha B’Av primarily commemorates the destruction of the first and second Temples, both of which were destroyed on the ninth of Av (the first by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.E.; the second by the Romans in 70 C.E.)

Although this holiday is primarily meant to commemorate the destruction of the Temple, it is appropriate to consider on this day the many other tragedies of the Jewish people, many of which occurred on this day, most notably the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492.

Tisha B’Av is the culmination of a three week period of increasing mourning, beginning with the fast of the Seventeenth day of Tammuz, which commemorates the first breach in the walls of Jerusalem, before the First Temple was destroyed. During this three week period, weddings and other parties are not permitted, and people refrain from cutting their hair.

From the first to the ninth of Av, which begins this Sunday evening July 31st till the morning of Tisha B’Av (August 9th) , it is customary to refrain from eating meat or drinking wine (except on the Shabbat) and from wearing new clothing.

In keeping with the tradition of the Nine Days, our chef has created a wonderful array of flavorful fish dishes.  You are also welcome to call our store for our daily list of tasty soups and delectable side dishes. For those whose tradition allows them to eat meat, we will still be cooking a wide variety of savory Chicken and Beef dishes.

Michael, Murray and the entire staff of Park East Kosher would like to wish all our valued customer an easy fast with blessings to end all tragedies, and for all of us to see the coming of the Moshiach (Messiah) in our time. Read the rest of this entry »

American Grill

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!

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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          Baaaa-B-Q!

          June 13th, 2011

          Americans eat a lot of red meat, and by “red meat” what I mean is beef (the kind that went “moo”).  By comparison, we eat far less lamb.  The average American consumes a staggering 65 pounds of beef per year in contrast to ½ pound of lamb.  The question is: why?  Practically speaking, America is not breeding and processing as much lamb as say, Greece, whose culture and traditions are replete with sheep herding, pasturing and culinary tradition.  With less supply and demand in the States, those little baby lamb chops have become an expensive occasional treat, not exactly the norm of every-night cooking.   Despite that, lamb is still a great source of vitamin A, vitamin B6, Pantothenic Acid, phosphorus, and manganese and also very low in sodium content.  So perhaps it’s time to mix it up and enjoy this distinctly tender sweet meat, a flavor all its own especially when grilled or broiled.

          Knowing your lamb…

          Ever wonder what the difference is between lamb and mutton? Lamb and baby lamb?  It’s always good to clarify and know just what we are eating!   A lamb is defined as a young sheep less than one year old; a baby lamb is generally between six and eight weeks old and is prized for its very tender pale pink meat.  Sheep generally breed in the fall and birth in late winter/early spring…which is why Spring is synonymous with lamb.  “Spring lambs” are generally between 3-5 months old when slaughtered.   Age matters in terms of taste – the younger and smaller, the tastier and more tender.  Mutton is meat from a sheep over two years old, and has a much less tender and darker flesh with a gamier flavor (perhaps a reason it has been unpopular in the United States).

          Bring out the flavor…

          I love braising some of the tougher cuts of lamb, like lamb shanks, for a wintry stew, but it’s often a tough sell with kids because of the gamey odor  (“ma, are you cooking my gym shoes?”) infamously associated with lamb cookery.  So if potting your lamb dish, do select the freshest meat you can get.    Pairing lamb with refreshing aromatics also quiets any gaminess and accentuates its true flavor – mint and lamb is a natural marriage, but other herbs and citrus work well, too.  In the spring and summer, I head outdoors and fire up the grill, as open fire cooking seems to eliminate any off-putting odor (and the bugs don’t mind anyhow!).  Well-grilled lamb yields wonderfully succulent results, and my kids ask for seconds and thirds to boot!

          Grilled Lamb Chops with Balsamic-Mint Reduction

          Serves 4.

          1. 12 Baby Lamb chops (about 1” thick), frenched*
          2. Kosher salt
          3. Freshly ground black pepper
          4. Oil for greasing grill

          Preheat grill on high (to about 450 degrees).  Grease grates of grill (an oil-soaked wad of paper towels and tongs do a good job of this.)

          Season chops liberally with salt and pepper.  Place lamb chops on grill and close cover.  Grill for about 4 minutes per side, turning once during cooking.  Transfer to a platter and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.  Drizzle Balsamic Mint Reduction (a little goes a long way!) over lamb chops and serve.

          *To “French” means to cut the meat away from the end of a rib or chop, so that part of the bone is exposed.  Park East Kosher is happy to do this upon request.

          Balsamic-Mint Reduction

          An intense sauce that can be made ahead and stored for months in the refrigerator.   Decorate a plate with a drizzle for an appealing presentation and real flavor boost!

          1. 1 cup high-quality balsamic vinegar
          2. ¼ cup honey
          3. 2/3 cup fresh mint leaves
          4. Kosher salt
          5. Freshly ground black pepper
          6. 1 tbsp. margarine

          Bring vinegar, honey and mint to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Simmer until mixture is reduced by half – consistency should be syrupy and coat the back of a spoon (about 15-20 minutes).  Add the margarine and whisk until blended.  Strain out leaves and season sauce with salt and pepper.   (If making ahead, rewarm before serving.)

           

          By Naomi Ross

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          The Dairy Catharsis

          June 5th, 2011

          Since Passover, Jews have been counting upwards.   I am referring, of course, to sefirat ha-omer – the counting of the 49 days from Passover up to the holiday Shavuot.  While some might argue that we are counting up to cheesecake and blintzes on what is Judaism’s only dairy holiday, in fact we are anticipating the giving of the Torah.  We mark the holiday with several customs – many learn Torah the entire (first) night, we eat dairy foods commemorating our readiness in the desert to accept the new laws of kashrut (we had no kosher pots at Mount Sinai!), and many adorn the house with fresh flowers and plants representing the blooming springtime mountain that was Mount Sinai.

           

          Although the essence of Shavuot is all about Torah – accepting, learning and keeping the Torah – I would be lying if I didn’t admit that, like many, I get a little caught up in what I’ve often referred to as “the dairy catharsis”.   After a year of serving meat dishes at most formal meals, it’s easy to get carried away.  (What, like making 8 desserts is too much?  You think?)  If I may offer a deeper insight into this custom (and validate my dairy obsession!), consider this idea:  Torah is considered the spiritual food that nourishes our souls.  In other Biblical sources, Torah is compared to milk.  When a child is born, its sole source of nourishment is milk.  Just as a mother displays enormous love and nurturing by nursing her baby, without which he could not survive, so too G-d’s giving of His Torah was an act of complete love and nurturing.   Eating dairy foods on Shavuot is a reminder of this kindness, a symbolic way of recognizing this Gift.  So you see…it’s a mitzvah to eat cheesecake!

           

          With so many rich options, it is often challenging to find balance and to not get caught in the common pitfalls of good dairy menu planning.  The result may be a menu filled with overly cheesy, overly heavy dishes that leave the palate little desire for anything, let alone the hyped cheesecake.  What could be the most enjoyable holiday meals of the year often leave many lethargic and slightly nauseas.  What a shame!  Strike balance with your Shavuot menu; for every heavily creamy or cheesy dish, serve at least one that is not.  Also, go heavy on the salads.  By taking advantage of the fresh produce that springtime has to offer, you will round out and lighten up your menu.

           

          Classic through and through, Poached Salmon is an elegant yet simple entrée choice.  It will also leave you time to prepare the more fattening stuff!  Serve with a green, leafy salad and pair with a glass of Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio.

           

           

          Poached Salmon with Cucumber-Dill Sauce

          A classic appetizer or light entrée, the secret to perfect poached salmon is choosing high-quality fresh fish and not overcooking it…always safer to check sooner than later for doneness!

          Serves 4 for entrée, 8 for appetizer.

          • 1½ lbs. salmon fillet
          • A handful of parsley sprigs
          • A handful of dill sprigs
          • 1 lemon, quartered
          • 1 onion, quartered
          • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
          • 1 bay leaf
          • 6 black peppercorns
          • Kosher salt to taste
          • 2 cups water
          • 2 cups white wine

           

          Place the fish, skin side down in a large, deep skillet.  Add all ingredients, adding more water and wine if necessary to cover fish (it should be immersed in liquid).   Place skillet on stove and bring to a simmer.  Cover and reduce heat to low, simmering fish for about 10-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.  Salmon is done when it flakes easily. Carefully remove the fish with a slotted spatula.  Discard skin and poaching liquid.   Chill until serving time.  Serve with Cucumber-Dill Sauce (recipe below) and garnish with lemon.

          Cucumber-Dill Sauce

          • 1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
          • 2/3 cup sour cream or mayonnaise
          • 3-4 tbsp. chopped fresh dill (or 3-4 tsp. dried dill)
          • 2-3 tbsp. minced onion
          • Juice from ½ lemon (about 1 tbsp.), or more to taste
          • 4-6 tablespoons milk or water
          • Kosher salt to taste
          • Freshly ground black pepper

          Mix all ingredients except milk/water together in a small bowl. Add water/milk gradually to thin until consistency resembles a sauce.  Season to taste with salt, pepper and more lemon juice if needed. Cover and refrigerate.

          (Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep refrigerated.)

          Yield: about 1 1/2 cups.

           

           

          By Naomi Ross

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          Shavuot 2011

          June 1st, 2011

          On Tuesday night June 7th, at sundown, we celebrate the Festival of Shavout. Shavuot which in   Hebrew means “weeks” refers to the Jewish festival marking the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. Shavuot began as an ancient agricultural festival, marking the end of the spring harvest and the beginning of the summer harvest. Shavuot was distinguished in ancient times by bringing crop offerings to the Temple in Jerusalem.

          Shavuot, also known as the Festival of the Giving of the Torah, dates from biblical times, and helps to explain the holiday’s name, “Weeks.” The Torah tells us it took forty-nine days for our ancestors to travel from Egypt to the foot of Mount Sinai (the same number of days as the   Counting of the Omer) where they were to receive the Torah. Thus, Leviticus 23:21 commands: “And you shall proclaim that day (the fiftieth day) to be holy” The name Shavuot symbolizes the completion of that seven-week journey.

          Customs on Shavuot are the reading of the Book of Ruth, which reminds us that we too can find a continual source of blessing in our tradition. Another tradition includes staying up all night to study Torah and Mishnah, a custom called ,”Tikkun leil Shavuot” which symbolizes our commitment to the Torah, and that we are always ready and awake to receive the Torah. Traditionally, dairy as well as meat dishes are served on this holiday to symbolize the sweetness of the Torah, as well as the “land of milk and honey”.

          Shavuot is a time when Jewish families come together to eat, learn, and reaffirm their dedication to the Torah. In this tradition, Park East Kosher will be closed on Tuesday June 7th before sundown and reopen Friday June 10th, so put your orders in early.  Chag Sameach!

          Michael, Murray, and Staff.

           

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          Grill Season

          May 23rd, 2011

          Dust off your lawn chairs and break out the bug spray.  Just when you were convinced that winter would never end, spring has sprung!  And if your allergies haven’t clued you in, then check the calendar because Memorial Day is almost here.  Memorial Day arrives at the height of Spring and inaugurates “grilling season,” a time of year when people enjoy cooking outside, eating outside and just being outside in general.  That, my friends, means we have much to do and much to prepare for a season of outdoor cooking.

          Surely, the appeal of dining alfresco is not just about the menu.  It is the combined experience of being in the backyard with family, friends and great food that conjures only the best of memories.  Those backyard days will be upon us once again, and the chance to create to some new wonderful memories is worth getting excited over.

          In some ways, outdoor entertaining is a lot easier than eating indoors.   Quicker clean-up and less prep time (since half of the food is prepared outside during the party) certainly make for a more relaxed kind of entertaining.   Even so, since we spend most of the year dining inside, sometimes we need a little help shifting gears.  Here are some quick tips to help you make the most of your outdoor summer entertaining:

          • Prepare your equipment. Plan ahead and make sure last year’s grilling equipment is in check: propane tank filled (if you have a propane grill), fresh briquettes if using charcoal, good long tongs for safe grilling, steel brushes (or refills) for brushing and cleaning grates.  A small side table (or stacking tray) is helpful to have next to your grill for extra work space.
          • Keep the critters away.  Nothing is more bothersome and unappetizing than trying to enjoy a meal while you yourself are being feasted upon by bugs!  Prepare ahead and get candles made from real citronella oil.  Place them at the perimeter of your patio or outdoor dining area for extra protection and light a half-hour before guests arrive. Try not to place candles too close to food as the scents can be distracting.  It’s probably not a bad idea to set some bee traps as well.
          • Nothing says summer like color.  Choose bold colors – mix up stripes, patterns and bright solids for all of your linens and serving needs.
          • Designate a space (a closet, drawer or storage bin) to store all your outdoor entertaining paraphernalia—fun tablecloths, placemats, caddies, etc.   Entertaining is way easier when you don’t have to go looking for all those items in 15 different places.
          • Develop a theme – whether it’s a Mexican fiesta or a down home Southern BBQ, picking a theme for the menu and even decorations livens up any party.  Make it fun for you and your guests.
          • Simple desserts: Give yourself a break and keep it casual with simple yet delicious desserts.  Grilled slices of pineapple or peach halves are remarkable, especially topped with ice-cream (pareve) or sorbet.  Chocolate fondue is quite simple to prepare and always a crowd-pleaser, surrounded by an array of banana chunks, strawberries, dried fruits, pretzel rods or cubes of pound cake for dipping.  (Don’t forget the skewers — they are easier for dipping than toothpicks!)

           

          Pick easy-to-prepare, flavorful recipes that will allow you to enjoy your time outside as well!  The following recipe is a great place to start…let the grilling begin!

          Espresso-Rubbed Rib Steaks with Grilled Pineapple Salsa



          When warm grilled rib steaks meet a cool bold salsa, it’s satisfying both for the eyes and for the palate.

          Serves 4.

          Espresso Spice Mix

          1. 3 tbsp. finely ground espresso
          2. 1 tbsp. dark brown sugar
          3. 1 tbsp. chili powder
          4. 2 tsp.  paprika
          5. 2 tsp. dry mustard
          6. ½ tbsp. kosher salt
          7. 1 tsp. ground black pepper
          8. 1 tsp. dried oregano
          9. 1 tsp. ground ginger
          10. ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
          11. ¼ tsp. cinnamon
          12. 4 rib steaks, approximately 1 inch thick
          13. oil to grease grill
          14. Grilled Pineapple Salsa (recipe below)

          Combine all spices in a small bowl (DO AHEAD: spice mixture can be prepared up to a week ahead, stored in a tightly covered container).
          Rub one side of each rib steak with a heaping tablespoon of the spice mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

          Preheat grill on medium-high heat.  Carefully oil the grill grates (tongs and oil-soaked paper towels do a good job of this).  Place the rib steaks on the grill, rub-side down, and cover grill.  Cook for about 6 minutes per side, turning the steaks over once during grilling, for medium-rare doneness. Transfer ribs to dinner plates and allow 5 minutes resting time before serving.  Serve each steak with big spoonful of Grilled Pineapple Salsa (recipe below).

          Grilled Pineapple Salsa

          Grilling the pineapple caramelizes the fruit’s natural sugars and intensifies its flavors.  The salsa can be prepared up to 4 hours ahead.

          1. ½ ripe pineapple, peeled and sliced lengthwise into ¼” slices
          2. ½ small red onion, minced (about ¼ cup)
          3. 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
          4. ½ red bell pepper, seeded and diced
          5. Juice and zest of ½ large lime (about 1 tbsp.), or more to taste
          6. 2 tbsp. rice vinegar
          7. 1 tbsp. minced fresh cilantro
          8. 1-2 tbsp. olive oil
          9. Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

          Preheat grill on medium-high heat. Carefully oil the grill grates (tongs and oil-soaked paper towels do a good job of this).  Place pineapple slices on the grill.  Grill for about 2-3 minutes per side, turning once during grilling.  Transfer slices to a cutting board and dice into ¼” cubes.   Place diced pineapple in a large mixing bowl, and add all remaining ingredients.  Season to taste with salt, pepper and additional lime juice if necessary.

          Cook’s Tip: To save grilling time, grill pineapple at the same time as steaks.  If preparing salsa ahead, prepare all other ingredients, and then add in warm grilled pineapple while steaks are finishing immediately prior to serving.


          -Naomi Ross and the Park East Kosher Family

          By Naomi Ross

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          Wisdom from the Pesach Kitchen

          April 11th, 2011

          During the past few weeks, I’ve discussed the advanced preparations that can make for an easier Passover.  As the Seder night approaches, other important preparations come to the fore, all part and parcel of the Passover experience.

          When I was a child, I remember begging my mother for a job to do on those momentous days leading up to Passover.  The anticipation in the house was contagious, and I couldn’t help but sense the urgency – something big was coming and I wanted to be a part of it.  Fortunately for me, my mother was adept at putting me to work, getting me involved in the Pesach preparations and effectively igniting a spark in her daughter to experience the joy and excitement of Pesach.  The mitzvah of chinuch habanim (educating your children) of the story of the Exodus from Egypt began there – not at the seder, but before in the kitchen.

          Each part of the Seder is carried out in such a way as to arouse curiosity in the children in order that they might ask questions.  According to the Sages, one should explain the story in the way that will be most understood on their level.  By doing so, you will fulfill the mitzvah of “v’hegaditah l’bincha,” teaching the story to your children.  Children learn experientially.  They need to engage all of their senses to really internalize a concept or lesson.  By drawing your children in and inviting them to take part in the Pesach preparations, you will help stir their interest and make Pesach real for them, enabling them to take ownership of their own holiday experience.

          There are many jobs that are perfect for this purpose and are appropriate for a wide range of ages.  Here are few suggestions:

          • Making CharosesWhen I was a kid, I thought making Charoses was an all-day process.  Peeling, coring and chopping the apples took forever.  And dicing nuts in our little manual glass jar chopper was such hard work for a little kid that by the time I finished, I truly felt as though I were enslaved in Egypt, too!   Truth be told, it was the perfect job – it kept me busy for a long time and I felt very accomplished afterward.
          • Peeling hardboiled eggs – all kids think this is fun.  I have no idea why, but they do…so teach them how and let them.
          • Setting the table – There are many more things to prepare on the Seder table than for a regular meal.  Assembling Haggados and pillows and preparing the Seder plate all take time.  In addition, if your children are creative, perhaps they can create some pretty folded napkins and/or handmade place cards.
          • Cooking and Baking for older kids who are able to follow a recipe (or interested in learning), this is a great opportunity to teach your kids basic lessons in cooking and baking.  I still remember being called over to taste and help season a dish simmering on the stove.  And there is nothing like Pesach baking to teach one how to separate eggs and beat them up stiff.  It was in my mother’s Pesach kitchen that I quickly learned what “stiff peaks” were and what exactly “folding” meant.  (And my mother?  She had to bake no more!).  

           

          No matter how you enlist your child, the real secret to getting them involved is by exhibiting the joy and fun (yes, fun!) of making Pesach yourself.  When your kids see you enjoying yourself and getting into the spirit, then they will follow suit and reflect that joy into your home.

          With the Seder plate in mind, here is one last recipe to share and enjoy.  Because we no longer have a Temple in which to offer the Paschal lamb, it is a strong custom not to serve roasted meats.  For this reason, braised dishes such as brisket have become a traditional choice for the Seder entrée.

          Braised Brisket with Horseradish-Parsley Pesto

          Inspired by the symbolic foods of the Seder, this brisket gets a boost from fresh horseradish and parsley, and is balanced with bright orange flavors.

          Ingredients

          ½ cup parsley leaves, lightly packed

          3 cloves garlic

          ½ cup fresh horseradish root, peeled and sliced

          Zest of one orange (about 1 tbsp.)

          2 tbsp. olive oil

          1 (4½ lb.) first-cut brisket

          Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

          3 tbsp. vegetable oil, divided

          2 large onions, halved and thinly sliced (about 4 cups)

          3 cloves garlic, chopped

          1 tsp. dried rosemary

          1 cup dry red wine

          ½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice

          2 tbsp. dark brown sugar

          1-2 tbsp. tomato paste

          Directions

          Place parsley, 3 cloves of garlic, horseradish, orange zest and olive oil in the bowl of a food processor fitted with an “S” blade. Process ingredients until finely ground into a paste.  Set aside.

          Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Season the brisket with salt and pepper.  In a very large, deep skillet or enameled, cast-iron casserole, heat 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the brisket and brown, turning once, about 2-3 minutes per side.  Using tongs, carefully transfer the brisket to a platter, fat side up.  Spread an even layer of horseradish-parsley pesto over the brisket and set aside.

          Add remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the pan or casserole and return to medium-high heat.  Add the onions and chopped garlic and sauté over moderate heat until translucent, about 5-6 minutes.  Add the rosemary, season to taste with salt and pepper and cook for another minute.  Add the wine, stirring and scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Add the orange juice, brown sugar and tomato paste, and stir to blend.

          If using a cast-iron casserole, set the brisket, horseradish side up, in the center of the casserole. (Alternatively, if using a skillet, transfer the mixture to a 9×13 baking dish and set the brisket in the center of the baking dish).  Cover and transfer to the oven.  Bake for 2-3 hours or until tender when pierced with a fork. Remove from oven and allow brisket to rest for 20 minutes before slicing.

          Transfer brisket to a cutting board and using a sharp carving knife, make thin slices against the grain.  Transfer to a serving platter, spooning some of the gravy over the brisket and serve with additional remaining gravy on the side.

          Do Ahead: This recipe can be prepared 2-3 days in advance, with the flavors intensifying after marinating in the cooking liquid.  To reheat, skim the fat from the surface of the liquid. Slice the cold brisket, return it to the casserole and reheat gently in a 350° oven. Transfer the brisket to a platter and serve.

          Cook’s Note: For thicker gravy, reduce cooking liquid in a saucepan over medium heat prior to serving until it reaches desired consistency.

          Have a happy and kosher Passover!

          -Naomi Ross and the Park East Kosher Family

          By Naomi Ross

           

           

           

           

           

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          The Pesach Menu Hotline, Part 2

          April 5th, 2011

          The seders of my youth involved long tables, lots of folding chairs and, in general, a lot of guests.  Armed with a stack of Maxwell House haggadahs, an industrial-size can of macaroons and copious amounts of matzah, we who lived in the house knew that more than any other point in the year, it was a time to serve a crowd…to make some new memories and to relive old ones.

          Serving a Crowd

          Anyone who cooks and hosts knows that the dishes and menu choices to accommodate a large crowd may differ from what you might select for an intimate meal.  If large quantity cooking is new to you (or you just need a little refresher), here are some tips to help along your menu planning and preparations.

          Menu Considerations

          Make a list of all the dishes you plan on serving.  Then consider the following: the cost of the ingredients, how much time is required (and how complicated the recipe is), and the yield (i.e. how many it will serve).

          • Cost: Some recipes are just not cost efficient for serving a crowd.  For example, braised short ribs are a lovely choice for a small dinner party, but if you are cooking for 20, a large piece of meat (like a brisket or roast) will be a wiser choice.
          • Time: Cooking in large quantities takes longer than small quantities – obviously, it will take longer to peel 20 potatoes than 5 potatoes, so factor in that extra time. Limit (or eliminate!) long or complicated recipes, and if you do choose to make one, consider the timing carefully, breaking down the steps in your cooking schedule (see below).
          • Yield:  Look for recipes that have a large yield.  A recipe can be doubled or even tripled, but beyond that, the numbers don’t always add up, and the quality and taste of the recipe may be compromised.

          Lists, lists and more lists!

          • Once you’ve made your master serving list, write a detailed menu of all dishes, breaking down and itemizing the recipes into individual components (for example, under “Stuffed Chicken Breasts,” list “matzo stuffing”).  This will help you to organize and group your kitchen tasks.  Then make a copy and put it in on your fridge so that you have something to check off as you go (also, when you lose your original or spill brisket gravy all over it, you’ll have a back-up!).
          • Next, review your recipes and create a master shopping list (or multiple lists if shopping at more than one store).  Check it twice.
          • Create a cooking and task schedule: Working backwards from the serving day, decide in advance the order of preparation, based on what can be prepared in advance and what needs to be prepared closest to serving time.
          • Some kitchen work may be done ahead of time, such as chopping vegetables or making soups, braised meats and mixes that can be baked or cooked later (like matzo ball batter).

          More helpful hints…

          • Large quantity storage: Plan ahead to have space in your refrigerator for all you will be cooking. Don’t forget you will also need to store leftovers.  If you have a second fridge/freezer, plug it in and get those big Tupperwares and tins (with covers!) ready.
          • Be sure you have pots, pans and serving dishes large enough to prepare and serve your recipes.
          • When you’re multiplying recipes, keep in mind that cooking times may be different if you change the recipe size – doubling does not mean doubling the cooking time, but adjustments often have to be made with a watchful eye.
          • Delegate, delegate, delegate! Be realistic about how much you can do by yourself. Enlist “helpers” and delegate chores so that others can be involved in the mitzvah of making Passover…and the mitzvah of preventing the host/hostess from being overwhelmed!

          The following recipe is a great choice when serving a crowd.  It’s simple to prepare, makes a ton, is a real crowd pleaser and won’t break the bank (cabbage is cheap and goes a long way!).  A sure win-win for your Passover menu and mine.

          Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup

          Flanken and beef bones give this soup a superior depth of flavor – homey and satisfying with each bite!

          Yield: 12 servings

          1½ lbs. beef flanken, cut into large chunks (slice in between the bones)

          2 beef soup bones

          9 cups water or more as needed

          1 large onion, sliced

          1 (28-oz.) can diced tomatoes

          1 (15-oz.) tomato sauce

          1 medium head green cabbage, shredded (discard tough outer layers before shredding)

          1 large potato, peeled and diced

          1 bay leaf

          ¼ cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)

          ¼ cup dark brown sugar

          1-2 tbsp. tomato paste

          ½ tsp. freshly ground pepper, plus more to taste

          1½ tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste

          Place flanken, bones and water in a Dutch oven or large soup pot over medium-high heat. Slowly bring to a boil.  Using a small sieve or a large spoon, carefully skim off foam and impurities when they begin to rise to the surface.  Add the rest of the ingredients, return to a boil, and lower heat to a simmer.  Cover and simmer for 2 hours.  Taste soup and add additional lemon juice and/or brown sugar as needed to achieve a balanced sweet and sour taste.  Season to taste with kosher salt and pepper.   Ladle soup into bowls with a portion of meat in each bowl.

           

          By Naomi Ross

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          The Pesach Menu Hotline, Part 1

          March 29th, 2011

          No sooner do we put our Purim groggers (noise makers) away, that we take out our Passover menus and brush off the haggadahs.  Passover will be here in less than a month, and my next few blog postings will be dedicated to getting ready and getting organized! (Breathe.  Breathe.)

          Getting Organized:

          Part of the pre-Passover stress can be reduced if you do your menu planning now.  Planning ahead will not only make shopping more manageable and organized, but if you make a large menu plan for all of your holiday meals, the cooking will become easier as well: you’ll be able to create an organized master cooking schedule.  Taking a few minutes to plan now will save you hours later, enabling you to effectively tackle how and when everything will be made.  Perhaps you’ll choose to double a main dish, freeze half and save it for the end of the holiday.  Maybe there is a vegetable dish that, upon further consideration, is best prepared closer to mealtime.

          If you don’t already have one, create a Passover folder for menus, photocopied recipes, important shopping lists (not just for food), cleaning lists and even receipts.  Why reinvent the wheel each year?!  Loose scraps of paper are easily lost or misplaced and it would be a shame to lose all of that information.

          Passover Menu-Planning: The Real Deal

          Each year, another Passover cookbook comes out that we run to purchase without hesitation.  Our secret hope is that it will contain the answer to the real question we are asking: “how can I make the same chometzdik food I make all year kosher-for-Passover…and still taste good?”  The answer to this question is: you can’t.  Instead, let’s shift our mentality and rather ask, “Which are the best recipes to make which naturally do not require chometz* or that require only small substitutions?”  Let’s free ourselves from getting stuck in a rut.  The world is full of wonderful foods that do not require chometz.  If we choose recipes that are innately good and not just “not bad for Passover,” then we will all be happier with the food we are eating and how it comes out.   Roasted vegetables are a simple side dish, but delicious.  Marinated salads can be prepared in advance and are a great way of adding color and balance to what can be the heaviest meals of our year. Your favorite green leafy salad is welcome any time of year.  Start with main dishes and fill in as you go.

          With your folder in hand, you’ll be on your way to freeing yourself from a stressful experience, and better able to focus on the enjoyment of the holiday.

          The following recipe is a great example of an entrée that is innately good in all its simplicity, whether on Passover or the rest of the year.

          *Chometz is leavened or fermented wheat, rye, oats, spelt and barley – forbidden to be eaten on Passover.

          Lemon-Herbed Roast Chicken


          There is something remarkably aromatic and juicy about roasting a whole bird.  This “Julia-style” treatment is my go-to method!

          Serves 4.

          1. 1 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary, plus 2 large whole sprigs
          2. 1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme, plus 3 whole sprigs
          3. ½ tsp. garlic powder
          4. ½ tsp. kosher salt
          5. ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
          6. 1/3 cup olive oil
          7. 1 lemon, zest reserved, and quartered
          8. 1 onion, quartered
          9. 1 shallot, minced
          10. 2/3 cup chicken stock
          11. 1/3 cup dry white wine

          Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

          Clean whole chicken inside and out, removing excess fat or pin feathers if necessary.  Rinse chicken and pat dry.  Combine chopped rosemary, chopped thyme, garlic powder, salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon zest in a small bowl and mix to blend.  Rub this mixture all over the chicken and inside of the cavity.  Stuff quartered lemon, onion, and herb sprigs into the cavity of the chicken.  Using a long piece of twine, tie the legs together tightly.

          Place the chicken back-side up on a V-rack or grate in a frame-proof roasting pan.  Roast for 15 minutes, and carefully turn chicken breast-side up.  Roast for another 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 375 degrees and continue to roast for another 45 minutes-1 hour or until an inserted meat thermometer registers 170 degrees internally.  Remove chicken from the oven.

          Tilt the chicken forward, allowing the inner juices to run into the roasting pan. Transfer chicken to a cutting board. Allow chicken to rest for 20 minutes before serving.  Meanwhile, place roasting pan over medium high heat.  Add shallots and sauté for about 5 minutes, scraping up browned bits from the bottom.  Add chicken stock and wine, and bring to a boil.  Simmer over medium heat, continually scraping up browned bits from the bottom and stirring until they dissolve and the sauce thickens. Skim off excess fat and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Cut up chicken into eighths (e.g. breasts, thighs, drumsticks and wings).  Discard lemons, onions, and chicken back (or save for your next stock). Serve chicken with sauce on the side.

           

          By Naomi Ross

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