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Posts Tagged ‘Kosher Recipes’

Beyond Fish Sticks

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

No matter how good a cook you are, how apt you may be in the kitchen or how successfully you entertain, there is nothing quite as challenging (or humbling!) as getting your kids to eat new things.   I may be able to flambé, puree, and poach with ease, but get my five-year old, with raised eyebrows and arms crossed, to consider a dinner other than grilled cheese: that, my friends, is tough.

Surely, the exhaustion that follows the nightly struggles with a “picky eater” can leave a parent frustrated and dejected.  For if the job of a parent is to care about what your child eats, then it’s the job of a child to wear a parent down until you find yourself wondering “would it be so bad if I just gave in and made my kids macaroni every night?  C’mon, what would be so wrong with that?!”  Such were the thoughts that went through my mind the other night when defending a delicious chicken dinner.  Then my sanity returned.   With renewed conviction, I reminded myself that balanced nutrition and a healthy exposure to different foods were things worth fighting for.    

Food Neophobia, a reluctance to try new foods, is common in young children.  Up until age 2, most toddlers are open to trying new foods; but as children begin to become more independent, with greater control over what they put in their mouths, most kids experience some neophobia.  Some aversions may be attributed to sensory issues (as a child, I hated tomatoes because they were “slimy”), but new research has found that other taste preferences may be hardwired genetically.  “How much a person prefers sweet and dislikes bitter,” writes Cynthia Sass, M.P.H., R.D, “depends partly upon the number of taste buds and the type of taste receptors he or she inherits….Some people inherit genes for taste receptors that are acutely sensitive to bitterness” (EatingWell Magazine, Feb. 2007).  And that sensitivity might get in the way of consuming some of the healthiest foods associated with cancer and cardiovascular disease prevention, such as Brussels sprouts or kale or even grapefruit.  

Research scientists and nutritionists stress that there are a number of strategies parents can employ to overcome neophobic behavior.

  • DON’T GIVE UP!  It can take 10-15 tastes before a child can learn to appreciate a new flavor (case in point – by the end of a year in Israel exposed to a barrage of Israeli salad, I had become a tomato fan).   Start introducing tastes early – the younger, the better.
  • Try turning tasting sessions into a game as encouragement to try new foods.  Punishing for not eating green beans may be effective in the short term, but will not produce a vegetable lover! 
  • When introducing new or “challenging” foods with your kids, prepare them with sweet or intense flavors.  For example, baked fish is much more appetizing with teriyaki sauce; sauté spinach with something sweet like raisins and pine nuts or sweet roasted red peppers in order to make it less bitter to their palates.
  • Get your kids involved!  A trip to the supermarket to pick a “new” vegetable or ingredient will rouse their interest and might be just what’s needed to inspire more open eating, as well as empower them to feel that they too are a part of meal-time decisions.  If they can’t shop with you, then find ways of involving them in the preparation.  Cooking together is a great way of getting kids excited about what they are going to eat. 
  • Start small and work your way up! If your children won’t eat vegies, then it would be unrealistic to expect them to get excited over Brussels sprouts the first time around.  Start by introducing unfamiliar foods in a familiar way.  If pasta is a staple, try introducing sweet (less bitter) vegetables into the background.  Reintroduce it again in other subtle ways until it is no longer foreign.   If they develop an appreciation of the food, move on to something bigger.
  • When all else fails, the cardinal rule of feeding kids applies: if you fry it, they will eat it!  Kids love the crunchy feel of fried foods, however unhealthy they may be.  As a general rule though, I save this as a last resort or as a treat.

 

Even with these suggestions, some of my children would still be thrilled if they could have a diet of nothing but noodles.  And frankly, if I really discovered the secret to getting kids to eat, I’d be awarded the Nobel Prize.   That there is no magic pill may be true, but by encouraging a diverse diet and exposing them to new tastes, I have to believe that they will one day reap the rewards of both good health and an appreciation of the wonderful world of food that G-d created for them.  At the very least, it’s positive for them to see their parents trying new and interesting things – after all, the best way to teach is by example.

The following recipe was created with my “anti-meat” children in mind.  Many thanks to Mordechai, Sasha and her friend Shani for being taste-testers – it must have been good if she asked for some to take home!

Oven-Fried “Lollipop” Chicken

A little less caloric than classic fried chicken, this oven-fried recipe still yields a flavorful crispy crust.

 

Yield: 12 “lollipops”

12 chicken drumsticks

5 slices rye bread or French bread, crusts removed (makes about 3 cups crumbs)

1 large clove garlic

½ cup fresh parsley leaves, packed

½ tsp. kosher salt

½ tsp. ground black pepper

¼ tsp. cayenne pepper

1/3 cup Dijon mustard

¼ cup honey (scant)

1 tbsp. margarine, melted

1-2 tbsp. olive oil

Preheat oven to 425°.  Prepare a rimmed baking sheet with foil and grease with non-stick spray. 

Push the skin and flesh up to the nub of each drumstick, leaving the bone exposed (a natural handle) – a sharp paring knife may be helpful for this or you can ask your butcher to prepare them for you.

Place bread in bowl of food processor and pulse a few times to break up the bread slices.  Add the garlic, parsley, salt and peppers.  Pulse until coarse crumbs are formed, and the garlic and parsley are processed and distributed.  Transfer to mixing bowl.  Toss with melted margarine. 

In a separate small bowl, mix together mustard and honey until well blended.  Dip each drumstick in the honey-mustard mixture, and roll in breadcrumb mixture, pressing the breading onto the drumstick to adhere.   Place each drumstick in the prepared pan.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, turning drumsticks over halfway through baking time.

Serve hot and enjoy!
Naomi Ross and the Park East Kosher Family
By Naomi Ross

 

 

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IN PRAISE OF THE BRAISE, PART II: SLOW COOKING MAGIC!

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

When the Crock-Pot was invented in Missouri in 1960, no one could have foreseen how great the impact of this modern day slow-cooker would be.  It changed the way many women cooked, allowing them to easily prepare early in the day and have a hot dinner magically awaiting them upon their return, hours later!   Indeed, it was a woman’s dream and freed up much time spent at the stove.  From stews to chili, pot roasts to soups, the slow-cooker has enabled the working person to serve up home-cooked food while putting in a full day at the office.  Interestingly, the Crock-pot also transformed the way Jewish women prepared their weekly Shabbat cholent, a dish that was traditionally made and left in the oven or on the stovetop overnight; nowadays, it is pretty much exclusively prepared in a crock-pot.

With slight variation, most slow cooker recipes are quite simple: dump, cover, go!  This simple formula notwithstanding, crock-pot cookery recipes abound, displaying an incredible amount of creativity and ingenuity for what is mostly a hands-off cooking experience.  With that said, here are some helpful guidelines to ensure good crockery cooking:

  • What the crock-pot does best is braising – cooking a food (usually meat or vegetables) in a small amount of liquid at low heat for a lengthy period of time. The long, slow cooking develops flavor and tenderizes foods by gently breaking down their fibers.  The point being:  tough cuts of meat benefit the most from braising (some examples would include flanken, brisket, and shin meat).
  • A tight-fitting lid is very important to prevent the liquid from evaporating. Some people even close the lid over a piece of parchment paper to create a better seal.
  • To brown or not to brown?  Though many crock-pot recipes call for browning the meat as is classically done when braising (see last week’s article!) prior to slow cooking, many do not.  The benefit is that the meat develops more depth of flavor.   Generally, this is a matter of personal preference.  However, browning is a must with ground meat, and enables one to reduce the fat by draining after browning.
  • Spray the inside of your crock-pot with non-stick cooking spray for an easier clean up.
  • Most crock-pots come with low or high settings, allowing YOU to control the cooking time based on your own schedule.  High will cook faster, low will cook slower. The average cooking time for slow cooker recipes ranges between 4-10 hours.  Some slow-cookers have a “warm” setting, helpful for keeping food hot after cooking has completed.

 

With cooler nights upon us, what better way to warm up than by coming home to a hearty stew of Braised Lamb Shanks with Root Vegetables?  Prepare in the morning and forget about it till dinnertime!

Braised Lamb Shanks with Root Vegetables

Serve over a bed of Basmati rice or couscous.

Ingredients

 

1 Tbsp. olive oil

5 meaty lamb shanks

1 large onion, thinly sliced

3 large carrots, peeled and cut in 1” chunks

1 fennel bulb, fronds and stalks discarded, halved and sliced crosswise

1 celery stalk, sliced

1 medium potato, peeled and cut into 1” chunks

2 parsnips, peeled and cut into 1” chunks

5 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp. kosher salt or more to taste

¾ tsp. ground black pepper or more to taste

1½ tsp. dried rosemary

1½ tsp. dried thyme

3 Tbsp. flour

3 Tbsp. tomato paste

¼ cup orange juice

2 cups dry white wine

½ cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock

¾ tsp. grated orange zest (optional)

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over high heat.  Sear the shanks on both sides until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes per side.  Transfer to the slow-cooker bowl.  Add onion, carrots, fennel, celery, potato, parsnips, and garlic to the bowl.  Combine remaining ingredients in a small bowl, mixing to blend and dissolve flour.  Pour mixture over lamb and vegetables.  Cover with lid.  Place bowl in slow cooker and turn on “low” setting.  Cook for 8-9 hours.  Skim off fat if necessary, and season to taste with salt and pepper.  

Serves 4-6.

Naomi Ross and the Park East Kosher Family
By Naomi Ross

 

 

 

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In Praise of the Braise

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

When we turned on the heat this past week, the new reality of the cooler weather began to sink in…to my cold hands and feet, that is.  As everyone knows, we are creatures impacted by the seasons, and this applies to our cooking as well.  So it was a natural response when, asked by a friend what recipes I was working on, that I dismissively replied, “recipes for the ‘Braising Season.’”

“The WHAT season?  What was that you said?”

Braising.  Simply put, the perfect cooking antidote for cold wintry nights, bound to warm the body and soul.  Or, if you are looking for a real definition:  Braising is a cooking technique in which the main ingredient is seared, or browned in fat, and then simmered in liquid on low heat in a covered pot.  Also known as “pot-roasting,” this is an essential technique for yielding succulent, tender results from otherwise tough cuts of meat.   By slowly simmering the meat in liquid (often wine or stock), the connective tissue found in more economical cuts of meat (parts of the animal that were well exercised) breaks down and melts into the fabulously flavorful cooking liquid which in turn helps to tenderize the muscle fibers.  The cuts of meat that benefit the most from this cooking method include: brisket, shanks, kolichel and short ribs; however, chicken (bone-in), firm-fleshed fish and vegetables can also benefit from this method with mouth-watering results. 

Beyond the amazing aroma that will fill your home when braising (and jealous neighbors wishing they were eating at your house for dinner!), there’s also some practical benefits to mention.  First of all, one-pot cooking means less clean-up.  Braising is also pretty much hands-off once the meat has been seared and the cooking has commenced.  This means your dinner can be prepared hours in advance and your hands are free to do other things while it cooks away.  

Braising can be done stove-top or in the oven.  I favor a combination of the two – browning the meat stove-top to start, then transferring to the oven for the majority cooking time.  With this approach, a pot that is both stove and oven friendly is particularly helpful – a Dutch oven or LeCrueset type of covered enameled pot/casserole will be great for this.

Comforting and homey, a pot roast will satisfy on the coldest winter night, transporting you back to your grandmother’s kitchen.  In recent years though, some braises have taken the front and center at high-end restaurants.   Here is my take on Braised Short Ribs – perfect for an intimate dinner or a crowd, this rich dish can be prepared in advance if desired.

Braised Short Ribs with Port and Pomegranate Sauce

Serve over a bed of mashed potatoes or parsnips.

Serves 4-6.

2 tbsp. olive oil

4- 4½ pounds beef short ribs

1 cup chopped carrots

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped celery

8 garlic cloves, minced

¾ tsp. kosher salt

½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1 ½ cups dry red wine (Cabernet or Merlot)

2/3 cup Port

1½ cups (12 oz.) crushed tomatoes 

1 cup low-sodium chicken or beef stock

5 tbsp. pomegranate molasses

1 tbsp. honey (or more to taste)

1 bay leaf

2 tbsp. minced parsley or more for garnishing

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Heat oil in a heavy, large, oven-safe pot or casserole dish, over high heat.  Sprinkle ribs with salt and pepper.  Working in batches, brown ribs, turning occasionally, about 3 minutes per side.  Transfer to plate and set aside.  Lower heat to medium-high.  Add carrots, onion, and celery to the pot.  Season with ¾ tsp. salt and ½ tsp. black pepper.  Sauté for about 5-8 minutes, or until vegetables become tender, stirring occasionally.   Add garlic, stir to blend, and cook for another 3 minutes.  Add red wine, and bring to a boil, stirring and scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Add Port, tomatoes, broth, pomegranate molasses, honey and bay leaf, and stir to blend.  Bring back to a boil, and simmer for about 6-8 minutes and until mixture is slightly thickened.  Return ribs to the pot, and boil for about 5 minutes.  Cover and transfer to oven.  Bake until meat almost falls off bone, stirring occasionally, about 2 hours.

Skim off excess fat from surface if necessary.  Using tongs, transfer ribs to a large bowl.  Return pot to stove over low heat.  Season to taste, adding more salt, pepper or honey if necessary.  Add minced parsley and simmer cooking liquid until slightly reduced, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and top ribs with sauce.  Sprinkle more minced parsley to garnish, if desired.

Naomi Ross and the Park East Kosher Family
By Naomi Ross

 

 

 

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FIGS FOREVER

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

Searching the markets for this year’s “new fruit,” an object to be sanctified and enjoyed by many on Rosh Hashanah, is always an adventure.  Unfortunately, it is often an anticlimactic experience for me.  Much as I enjoy scouting out the exotic cherimoya (out of season and unripe this time of year) or the much sought after star fruit (which looks much cooler than it tastes), I often end up with a misunderstood fruit that commanded a misunderstood price at the center of my holiday table (or likely later in my holiday garbage).   And so, each year I return to the aisles in anticipation of finding that fruit which marks the newness that Rosh Hashanah is all about…and secretly hope that it will taste good, too.

But this year is different.  This year is sweet with inspiration.  I didn’t have to look to the far ends of the earth to find a fruit pregnant with newness; I had only to look in my own backyard – my own Biblical backyard, that is.   This summer, I enjoyed many walks and hikes in Israel, and was frequently reminded of the “shivat haminim” (the seven species including wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates) which the Torah declares are abundant in the Land of Israel.  And indeed they are.   One of my favorites is the fig.  The plump beauties I encountered on my trip bore no resemblance to the crusty, dried Tu B”shvat specimens of my youth.  Dark and dull on the outside, you only had to pull them apart to reveal the rosy-red juiciness that lies within, the myriad internal flowers that are the actual fruit.   It says in the Talmud that Torah is like a fig tree, which has fruit at various stages of ripening; the longer one works at it, the more one finds.  This idea gave me much hope – that each day there is something new to learn, ripe for the picking and filled with blossoms of potential.  That’s an idea to start the New Year with.  That’s a newness to bless.  Move over cherimoya…the fig is back.

Figs are not only delicious to snack on, though; they also lend a terrific element to cooked dishes.  Figs possess a delicate flavor that can add depth and sweetness to your holiday cooking.   Pairing veal with fresh figs worked wonderfully for me when developing the following holiday recipe, infusing the meat with subtle fruitiness.  I hope your guests with think so too.

Roast Veal with Muscato-Fig Reduction 

Serves 6.

A meat thermometer is an invaluable tool in determining perfectly cooked meat.  Be sure to use one in this recipe for perfectly moist veal.

 

  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • ½ small fennel bulb, trimmed and chopped (a scant cup)
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1 3½ lb. veal shoulder roast
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 10 fresh black mission figs, halved
  • 1 cup Muscato (sweet white wine)
  • ¼ cup beef or chicken stock
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch (optional)
  • Kosher salt and Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

 

Preheat oven to 450°F.  Place chopped onion, fennel, garlic, and shallot in the bottom of a medium roasting pan (large enough to fit a rack).  Season with salt and pepper and toss with 1 tbsp. olive oil.  Place rack over vegetables.  Rub remaining tbsp. oil all over the veal roast and season liberally with salt and pepper.  Place roast on the rack.  Place pan in oven and roast for 10 minutes, until browned.  Turn roast over and repeat for an additional 10 minutes.  Remove pan from the oven and reduce oven to 325°.  Drizzle honey over roast and add figs and wine to the bottom of the pan.  Cover with tented foil and return to oven.  Bake for 1 ½ hours or until meat thermometer reaches 155 degrees internally.

Remove from oven and transfer veal and rack from pan to a platter or cutting board.  While veal rests, pour the contents of the bottom of the pan through a sieve set over a small saucepan.  Reserve the figs and set aside.  Press the vegetables against the sieve to release any additional liquid into the saucepan.  Discard vegetables.  

Place saucepan over medium heat, add stock, and bring to a simmer.  Reduce liquid by half, about 15 minutes (sauce should thicken to syrupy consistency – if sauce is too thin, pour off a small amount into a cup, dissolve cornstarch into the liquid and add back into the sauce.  Stir until thickened.).

Slice veal into thin slices, and place onto platter.  Pour sauce over veal (or serve on the side in a gravy boat) and garnish with reserved cooked figs. 

Just when you thought Rosh Hashanah couldn’t get any sweeter, here’s a bonus recipe incorporating another of the “seven species” into the menu, one that is also one of the symbolic foods eaten on Rosh Hashanah: dates.  Two symbolic fruits for the price of one!

On Rosh Hashanah night, we eat dates because the Hebrew word for date is “tamar”, which sounds similar to “tamu”, to consume.  We pray that G-d will consume our enemies and grant us all a very sweet New Year.

Orange-Scented Date Crumb Bars

If you weren’t a date-lover before, you will be after these treats.  Perfect for dessert or tea, these bars are great anytime.

  1. 1 1/4 cups water
  2. ¼ cup triple-sec or orange flavored liquor
  3. ½ tsp. grated orange peel (optional)
  4. 1 1/2 cups chopped pitted Medjool dates (about 10 oz.)
  5. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  6. 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  7. ¾ cup (packed) dark brown sugar
  8. 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  9. 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  10. 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  11. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  12. ¼ tsp. cloves
  13. ¼ tsp. allspice
  14. 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter or margarine, diced, room temperature
  15. ½ cup toasted chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease an 8×8-inch metal baking pan.  Bring water, liquor, and orange peel to simmer in medium saucepan.  Add dates and simmer until very soft and thick, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.  Stir in vanilla.  Cool to room temperature.

Combine flour, brown sugar, oats, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, cloves and allspice in large bowl.  Stir to blend.  Add butter.  Using fingertips, rub the butter into the mixture until moist clumps form. Press half of oat mixture evenly over bottom of prepared pan.  Spread date mixture on top.  Mix chopped pecans into remaining half of oat mixture, then sprinkle the mixture on top of the dates.  Press gently.  Bake until brown at edges and golden brown and set in center, about 40 minutes.  Cool completely in pan on a cooling rack.  Cut into bars and serve.

 

Wishing you a Happy and Healthy New Year,

Naomi Ross and the Park East Kosher Family

 

By Naomi Ross

 

 

 

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TOPS FOR THE 4TH

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

He wipes his forehead, beads of sweat slowly building from the beaming sun above and sweltering smoke below.  Another burger meets the grill.  And another.  The sizzle makes him crack a smile, as he knows that hungry bellies will be happy and sated soon.   Good times.  Family times…they keep him grilling.

That’s a lovely image.  It sure would be a shame if he ruined those burgers.  Dry and rubbery, hockey puck-like burgers are not the stuff great family memories are made of.  A great burger, in all its perfect simplicity, is a beautiful thing – juicy, flavorful and satisfying.  And hey, let’s face it: even if your company leaves something to be desired, at least you’ve been well fed!  Albeit a commonplace American meal at this point, a hamburger is worth taking the time to do right.

A good burger is half about the burger and half about what you put on top of it.   If the meat is the body of the burger, then the fixings – relishes, sauces, vegetables and the like – are its personality, the accessories which dress up and add style and flair to your meal.

The Burger

Some people try to gussy up their meat with all kinds of seasonings and spices.    I prefer to let the true flavor of the meat speak for itself, adding few spices, if any.   Fat plays a huge role in the flavor and juiciness of a good burger.   Most grilling authorities recommend between 15-20% fat content which, for the kosher consumer, means either ground chuck (about 20%) or ground neck (about 15%).   Extra lean ground beef (usually from the shoulder) may seem like a healthier choice, but does not contain enough fat to sufficiently lubricate the meat as it cooks and will end up producing a dry burger.

A hot, oiled grilled is the perfect place to cook a burger.   Over high direct heat, a burger only takes about 4 minutes per side for medium (less if you like it rare).   And even though the sound of grease meeting the fire is oh-so-thrilling, do your best to restrain yourself from pressing down on the meat – it’s a great way to squeeze out  the juices and dry out your burger.  Like a steak, once the burger comes off the grill, allow 2-3 minutes for the meat to rest so that the juices can settle back in.    Then you can assume the creative task of dressing your burger.

The Fixings

Much like not wearing white after Labor Day, classic American sensibilities dictate that a hamburger comes with bun, lettuce, tomato, pickles and ketchup.   Period.   But in 2010, anything goes:  Caramelized onions, grilled Portobellos, arugula, sweet chutneys, spicy relishes.   Contrasting flavors and textures are what make the burger an open canvas, fully customizable.  Yes, the burger is individualistic food, personal food.    So this Fourth of July, go all out, change it up, and top it with the best…your best!

Lamb Burgers with Mint Chutney and Pickled Red Onions

Beef is so last year!  Ground lamb has a flavor all its own and is the perfect match for mint – a refreshing burger!

Serves 6.

1 ¼ lb. ground lamb

½ tsp. ground cinnamon

¾ tsp. ground paprika

¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Gently mix together all ingredients in a mixing bowl.  Form the mixture into approximately 6 thick patties (about ¾” each).  Do not over-handle.

Preheat your grill to high heat, and carefully oil the grates (a wad of oil-soaked paper towels and tongs work well for this job).

Place the patties on the grill.  Grill for about 4 minutes per side, flipping once during grilling.   Transfer to a plate and serve on a toasted bun with a spoonful of Mint Chutney and Picked Red onions on top.

Mint Chutney

1 cup packed mint leaves

1 shallot

1 large garlic clove

1 tbsp. sugar

2 tbsp. water

¼-½ tsp. red pepper flakes (or more if you like it hot!)

3 tbsp. lime juice (from about 1-2 limes)

1 tbsp. lemon juice (from about ½ lemon)

½ tsp. cumin

¾ tsp. kosher salt

½ tsp. ground black pepper

¼ tsp ground ginger

Place all ingredients in a food processor.  Process until fully blended.  Season to taste.

Picked Red Onions

1 red onion (about 12 ounces), halved lengthwise, cut thinly crosswise

2 whole small jalapeños

2 cups seasoned rice vinegar

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
Place onion and jalapeños in heatproof medium bowl. Mix vinegar, lime juice and salt in a small saucepan. Bring just to a boil, stirring until salt dissolves. Pour over onion and jalapeños. Let stand at room temperature at least 1 hour and up to 8 hours. This can be made 1 week ahead; cover and refrigerate.

Wishing you all a delicious and restful summer,

-Naomi Ross & the Park East Kosher Family

By Naomi Ross

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One Kebab, Two kebab…

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

Few people can resist the allure of open fire cooking.  The scent of caramelizing  juices rising up under your nose is enough to awaken man’s primeval roots.  Where smoky charring flavors meld with the subtle sweetness of delicately spiced meats: that is a meal worth breaking a sweat over.  Put it all on a skewer and the possibilities become endless.   

Shish kebab, literally “skewer” and “roasted meat” in Turkish, may have gotten its start by nomads skewering meat on their swords for a quick and inventive meal, but over time have impacted cooking traditions around the world, from Persia to Japan to India to the United States.   Traditionally, shish kebab are made with cubes of lamb that have been seasoned and marinated.  The speed at which the small pieces of meat cook make for a 10-minute meal-in-one, especially if you throw some vegetables on your stick, too.   Nowadays, whether fish is your fancy or a fruited kebab for dessert, there is no limit to how creative you can get.  Be sure to keep the following top five Do’s in mind when ”kebab-ing” (anything can be a verb, you know! ):

  • DO prepare pieces of meat/vegetables in uniform size pieces – about 1-2 inches to ensure even cooking.
  • DO choose bold flavors in your marinade or herb rub.
  • DO pair vegetables/fruits with similar cooking times to the meat (i.e. onions, peppers, cherry tomatoes, pineapple work well.   Hard vegetables like potatoes or carrots should be parboiled first).
  • DO soak wooden skewers for at least 20-30 minutes before threading and grilling to prevent catching fire on the grill.
  • DO oil your grill first to prevent sticking.

Admittedly a “newbie” to Indian food, I was recently introduced to a whole new world of vibrant flavors and tastes at a kosher Indian restaurant in NYC.    Ever since that memorable meal, Indian spices and ingredients seem to be finding their way into my home cooking, for example in the following Indian-inspired kebab recipe.   

A spicy Tamarind dipping sauce is the perfect complement to these kebabs.   Also known as Indian date, the tamarind is the fruit of a tall shade tree native to Asia and northern Africa and widely grown in India.  Available in Middle Eastern or Indian markets, tamarind paste is the extracted sweet and sour pulp found in the tamarind pod…and quite possibly my new favorite ingredient!

 

 

 

Indian Kebabs with Spicy Tamarind Dipping Sauce

Chicken or Turkey Kebabs work well in this recipe and come already cut and  skewered from Park East Kosher both in white and dark meats.

Serves 4.

1 tbsp. cumin

1 tbsp. coriander

½ tsp. ground black pepper

1 ½ tsp. turmeric

¼ tsp. ground cloves

1/8 tsp. nutmeg

1/8 tsp. cinnamon

¼ cup cilantro leaves (packed)

1 tsp. fresh gingerroot (about ½” chunk)

2 cloves garlic, peeled

4 chicken or turkey kebabs

Place all ingredients (except kebabs) in the food processor and process until uniform spice mixture is formed.   Divide mixture amongst kebabs, about 1-2 tbsp. per kebab and rub into each kebab all around until coated.   Marinate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat grill to high.  Carefully oil grates (I use an oil-soaked wad of paper towels and tongs for this job).   Place chicken kebabs on grill for about 4-5 minutes per side, turning once; Turkey kebabs may take a little longer, about 6-7 minutes per side.

Transfer to a platter and serve over Basmati rice with Spicy Tamarind Dipping Sauce.

Spicy Tamarind Dipping Sauce

¼ cup tamarind paste

¼ light brown sugar

½-1 whole jalapeno pepper, seeds removed (how hot do you like it?)

2 tbsp. water

2 tbsp. fresh lime juice (from 1 lime)

1 clove garlic

1 tsp. fresh gingerroot

1/8 tsp. ground cloves

Place all ingredients into a food processor.  Process until blended and smooth.   Adjust seasonings to taste.

Yield: ½ cup

By Naomi Ross

 

 

 

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‘Grease Lightning!’

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

I try to be honest, so I’m not going to try to convince you that frying is actually good for you.  It’s not. Now that we have gotten that out of the way, I can continue in defense of the crispy, succulent goodness that good frying is all about (we’ll talk about healthy eating next week, ok?).

We have all been traumatized by badly fried food: the oil is oozing, the crust is soggy.  It’s an unappetizing mess and downright bad for you.  If done correctly, however, frying is not as unhealthy as one might think.   In fact, a good fry does not actually cause the food to absorb that much oil at all.  Because I hear you squirming in your seat, let’s start off slow and talk about pan-frying (I’ll leave deep-frying for another time!). 

When pan-frying, the food is semi-submerged in hot oil in a pan on the stove top and flipped halfway through cooking. Foods that benefit from this method would include naturally tender cuts of poultry or veal, delicate fish fillets, and vegetables. 

Free yourself of your frying fears!  Follow these tips for perfectly crisp-on-the-outside, moist and tender on-the-inside results that cook lightning fast!  

  • Choose your cooking oil carefully. You want one with a high ‘smoke point’: in other words, one which won’t break down at high frying temperatures. Peanut oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil and canola oil are some good choices (olive oil is not because it has a low burning point).
  • Choose a deep, heavy pan for frying.  Leaving a headspace (space at the top of the pan) of at least one to two inches allows for a safety margin when the oil bubbles up as the food is added.  A good heavy pan with a thick bottom will also conduct heat better, saving you from unevenly cooked, burnt food.
  • Make sure that the food you are going to fry is dry.  Oil and water do not mix, especially at such high temperatures and burns from splattering oil are not fun.
  • The best temperature for frying is 350-375 degrees F.  When deep-frying, the best way to make sure you’ve got it right is with a fry thermometer; but with pan-frying, the shallow depth of oil in the pan may preclude this.  You can tell that oil is ready when a 1″ cube of white bread dropped into the oil sizzles upon contact and browns in 60 seconds. 
  • The food should be less than an inch thick (thin cutlets work best).  If too thick, the surface of the food will burn before the center is cooked.  The oil should be no more than half as high as the food so that the same area is not fried twice when you flip it.
  • Don’t overcrowd the pan! Carefully add the food, leaving lots of space around each piece so the food will cook evenly. If you add too much food at once, the oil temperature will drop and the food will absorb fat.
  • Watch the food carefully as it cooks, regulating the heat if necessary to keep the oil temperature steady. When the food is evenly golden-browned on both sides, it’s done. Remove it with a slotted spoon with a long handle. Drop it onto paper towels in a single layer to drain.
  • Don’t reuse the cooking oil after it cools. Some sources say you can strain it and reuse it, but the oil has already begun to break down from the heat, and undesirable compounds have formed. Let the oil cool completely, and then discard safely.  I pour it in a jar and throw it in the garbage.  Don’t pour it down the drain!

 The following recipe is a very flavorful, Indian twist on classic fried chicken cutlets.   Eaten hot and right out of the pan, there is nothing like it…and your kids will ask for more!

MURGI CHICKEN

This recipe can easily be doubled.  Cut chicken into smaller strips and make the best chicken fingers ever!

 

1 medium onion, quartered

2 tsp. chopped fresh ginger

2 garlic cloves

½ tsp. ground turmeric

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. pepper

2-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (cutlets)

¼ cup flour

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup cornflake crumbs

peanut or corn oil

1)  Process the onion, ginger, garlic, and spices in a food processor until pureed.

2)  Tenderize chicken breasts until they have an even thin thickness.

3)  Marinate chicken breasts in the onion mixture for 2-3 hours in the refrigerator.

4)  Prepare 3 bowls – one with flour, one with beaten eggs, and one with cornflake crumbs. 

5) Dip the chicken in flour, then egg and then Cornflake crumbs. Place on a plate until frying time.

6)  Heat oil in a large skillet until very hot (drop of water sizzles upon contact).

7)  Fry cutlets on both sides, about 5 minutes per side or until breading is golden brown.

8)  Transfer to paper towels or brown paper to drain.  Serve hot and enjoy!

Serves 4.
By Naomi Ross

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Pesach Memories

Monday, March 15th, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

Spiced French Roast with Dried Fruits

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

Serves 6-8.

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Naomi Ross

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Making the Most of a Minute

Monday, March 8th, 2010

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

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

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

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

Slow-Roasted BBQ Minute Roast

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

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

Directions

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

Preheat oven to 225 degrees Fahrenheit.

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

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

Serves 6-8.

By Naomi Ross
 

 

 

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Warming up the Hearth

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

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

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

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

Meaty Mushroom and Barley Soup

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

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

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

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

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

Serves 12.

By Naomi Ross

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