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Posts Tagged ‘Naomi Ross’

Another Year, Another Latke

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

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

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

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

Granny Apple-Potato Latkes with Drunken Cherry Liver Pâté

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

Yield: 22 latkes

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

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

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

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

Drunken Cherry Liver Pâté

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Your Grandmother Always Knew…

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

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

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

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

Beer-Braised Deckle

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

Serves 6

Spice Mix

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

Deckle

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

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

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

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

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

A Smaller Thanksgiving…

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

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

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

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

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

Pastrami-Wrapped Turkey Roulade with Apple-Chestnut Stuffing

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

Serves 8.

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

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

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

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

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

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

Cider-Sage Gravy

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

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

One-Bowl-Wonders!

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

By Naomi Ross

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

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

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

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

Easy Beef Udon Noodle Soup

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

Serves 4.

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

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

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

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

The Meal Before…

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

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

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

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

Chicken Paprikash

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

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

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

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

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

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

High Holy Cooking

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

Back to school, back to work, and back to all things routine: that’s how September goes, as we return from leisurely summer days to the pace and rhythm of ho-hum everyday life. That is…until the holidays come just a few weeks later. Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year that kicks off the “holiday season” in the Jewish month of Tishrei. And since repentance, prayer and Divine judgment can really work up an appetite for you and those you love, there’s a whole bunch of festive meals to prepare for this month as well.

Much like an accountant during tax season, I often think of September as “crunch time” – time to regroup from summer, reorganize for the coming year and to physically and spiritually prepare for the upcoming holidays. I make a lot of lists. My messy and tattered lists then give birth to new lists. I may not always know weeks in advance what I’ll be serving for holiday meals (c’mon, I’m not that organized!), but since it’s generally a given that food will be served, it’s a safe bet to pull out those “4F” recipes: family-favorite freezer-friendly. These are the ones worn and stained from years of use, and like an old friend you can rely on, quite a good place to get an early start to holiday cooking. These are often, but not always, cooking-for-a-crowd recipes – dishes which have a large yield or which can easily be doubled or tripled (and if you find yours are, then BONUS!).

MORE FREEZER TIPS FOR THE OVERLY AMBITIOUS BALLUSBUSTA

Moderate batches. When cooking in advance, even if cooking for a crowd, I recommend freezing in moderate portions; you can always defrost 2 small pans of noodle kugel if expecting more guests, but you don’t want to defrost a large tray when only half was really needed. Practically speaking, this is also a much smarter move time-wise as it takes longer to both freeze and defrost larger items.

Know thy freezer. Meaning, know what freezes well and what doesn’t.

            Thou shalt freeze: meats, soups, kugels, cakes and cookies.

            Thou shalt not freeze: vegetable dishes, salads, soft cheeses, fruit pies

The right gear. Make sure you have freezer zip-top bags, freezer-friendly containers (especially if using glass), plastic wrap and foil.

Label, label, label. Writing the date the dish was made is also helpful.

The less air, the better. Squeeze out excess air when freezing in bags – it can cause freezer-burn and takes up more space. Containers should be frozen mostly full. However, some headspace is needed for freezing liquids as they expand when frozen.

Don’t freeze hot food. Allow hot food to cool before freezing (hot food will raise the temperature of the freezer, possibly spoiling all the other food in it). If not completely cool, allow plenty of space around the container when initially frozen so cold air can circulate around it – it will freeze faster and thus taste fresher when used.

Cooking ahead is essential when strapped for time, but also an invaluable way of staying stress-free when entertaining. More than this, before Holiday time, consider advanced preparations an investment into your holiday experience, one which will allow for more time focused on the holiday itself. So as I freeze and label this week, I’ll be reminding myself that on Rosh Hashanah we’ll be crowning G-d as the King of world…and not me queen of the kitchen!

Here is a “4F” (and child-friendly!) recipe for Sweet and Sour meatballs – perfect as a light entrée or as mini-meatballs for an appetizer served over rice.

Mom’s Sweet & Sour Meatballs

These can be easily doubled to serve a crowd.
Serves 6-8

3 pounds ground beef (neck)
3 eggs, beaten
¾ tsp. onion powder
¾ tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. black pepper
¼ tsp. kosher salt
1/3 cup matzo meal or bread crumbs
1 (16-oz.) can whole cranberry sauce
1 (15-oz.) can tomato sauce
½ cup (4 oz.) chili sauce

Combine beef, eggs, spices and matzo meal together in a large bowl, mixing until well blended.
Using wet hands, break off small amounts (about 1-2 tablespoons each) and roll into meatballs. Repeat with remaining beef mixture. Set aside.
Combine cranberry, tomato and chili sauces in a large heavy pot. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring to blend. When sauce begins to boil, carefully drop in meatballs. Return to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer covered for 1-1½ hours. Skim fat from surface, if necessary (if making in advance, this is easily done after refrigerated or frozen as the fat will congeal). Serve hot over rice or couscous.

American Grill

Monday, June 27th, 2011

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

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

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

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

Best wishes for a happy 4th,

Naomi Ross and the Park East Kosher Family

Orange-Soy Marinated London Broil

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

Orange-Soy Marinade

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

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

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

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

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

 

By Naomi Ross

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Grill It Healthy!

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

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

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

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

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

Sundried Tomato Turkey Burgers with Rosemary Aioli

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

Makes 8 burgers.

 

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

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

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

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

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

      Rosemary Aioli

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

           

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

           

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

           

          By Naomi Ross

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          Baaaa-B-Q!

          Monday, 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

          Sunday, 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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