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Posts Tagged ‘Naomi Ross’

Grill Season

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

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

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

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

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

 

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

Espresso-Rubbed Rib Steaks with Grilled Pineapple Salsa



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

Serves 4.

Espresso Spice Mix

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

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

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

Grilled Pineapple Salsa

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

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

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

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


-Naomi Ross and the Park East Kosher Family

By Naomi Ross

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Wisdom from the Pesach Kitchen

Monday, April 11th, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Braised Brisket with Horseradish-Parsley Pesto

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

Ingredients

½ cup parsley leaves, lightly packed

3 cloves garlic

½ cup fresh horseradish root, peeled and sliced

Zest of one orange (about 1 tbsp.)

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 (4½ lb.) first-cut brisket

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

3 tbsp. vegetable oil, divided

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

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tsp. dried rosemary

1 cup dry red wine

½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice

2 tbsp. dark brown sugar

1-2 tbsp. tomato paste

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a happy and kosher Passover!

-Naomi Ross and the Park East Kosher Family

By Naomi Ross

 

 

 

 

 

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The Pesach Menu Hotline, Part 2

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

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

Serving a Crowd

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

Menu Considerations

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

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

Lists, lists and more lists!

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

More helpful hints…

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

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

Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup

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

Yield: 12 servings

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

2 beef soup bones

9 cups water or more as needed

1 large onion, sliced

1 (28-oz.) can diced tomatoes

1 (15-oz.) tomato sauce

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

1 large potato, peeled and diced

1 bay leaf

¼ cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)

¼ cup dark brown sugar

1-2 tbsp. tomato paste

½ tsp. freshly ground pepper, plus more to taste

1½ tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste

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

 

By Naomi Ross

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The Pesach Menu Hotline, Part 1

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

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

Getting Organized:

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

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

Passover Menu-Planning: The Real Deal

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

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

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

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

Lemon-Herbed Roast Chicken


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

Serves 4.

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

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

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

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

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

 

By Naomi Ross

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Feast and Be Merry

Monday, March 14th, 2011

“Booooh, Haman!  Booooh, Haman!” my toddler shouted, fingers waving in the air.  He’s only two, but he knows that Purim is coming, and boy is he excited.  Purim, the joyous festival commemorating the turnabout of events that resulted in the salvation of the Jews in Persia from certain annihilation, will be celebrated this coming Sunday.  Each year, we celebrate the day through four mitzvot prescribed by Mordechai in the Book of Esther, four acts meant to engender joy and gladness amongst the Jewish People:  publicly reading the megillah (Book of Esther), giving one another gifts of food and drink, giving charity to the poor and enjoying a celebratory meal.

Feasting and drinking were paramount in the kingdom of Ahashverosh, the king of Persia.  Parties would extend for days and weeks; the extravagance knew no bounds.  Such was the backdrop of Haman’s evil schemes and plans to destroy the Jews.  Purim is about recognizing the hidden miracles threaded throughout the story of our survival, the Divine Hand that can turn the self-same lavish feasts used to plot our destruction into a cause for elation and thanksgiving.  The se’udah (meal) should resemble a feast with all the trimmings: the best of what is within a person’s means.  Traditionally, meat and wine are served, as it says in the Talmud, “Ein simcha elah bebasar…beyayin – There is no real rejoicing without meat and wine.”  The point is not gluttony.  The point is to elevate the mundane, dedicating the physical toward a spiritual end.

Masks and costumes, groggers (noise-makers) in hand, our Purim planning is well under way.   A special day calls for a special dish and I am pulling out all the stops.  Nothing says “banquet” like a big ‘ole rib roast.  There is something regal about the look of rib bones peeking out from the succulent meat, a stunning presentation.  What’s more, you can really choose how big of a rib roast to serve based on the numbers of guests – a smaller roast (with just a couple of ribs) for a few guests, or a large roast (with 4-7 ribs) for a crowd.  The following recipe is easily doubled – don’t double cooking times, though; rather, adjust cooking time based on internal temperature (a meat thermometer is indispensible for this).

Enjoy the day, eat lots of Hamantashen, and have a very Happy Purim!

-Naomi Ross and the Park East Kosher Family

Porcini-Crusted Rib Roast with Wild Mushroom & Shallot Ragout

A standing rib roast is a prime cut of meat from the rib section, bone-in.  Its well-marbled meat makes it ideal for dry roasting, leaving a delectable caramelized crust on the exterior, but juicy and moist on the inside. This cut is best served rare, so don’t be afraid when you see pink!

Serves 6.

  1. 2 oz. (about 1/3 cup) dried porcini mushrooms
  2. 6 garlic cloves, peeled
  3. 1½ tsp. chopped fresh thyme (from about 2-3 sprigs)
  4. 1 tsp. kosher salt
  5. ½ tsp. black pepper
  6. 2 tbsp. olive oil
  7. 1 [4-lb.] rib roast (with 2 rib bones), fat trimmed
  8. Wild Mushroom & Shallot Ragout (recipe below)
  9. 1 tbsp. flour
  10. 1½ cups low-sodium beef stock
  11. 1½ cups dry red wine (I like Cabernet here)

 

Directions:

Place mushrooms, garlic, spices and oil in the bowl of a food processor fitted with an “S” blade.  Process until all ingredients are ground up, and consistency resembles a paste.  Rub mixture all over the roast, spreading as even a coating as possible.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Place roast fat-side up on a rack placed in a flameproof 9×13 roasting pan. Roast for 20 minutes.  Reduce temperature to 350 degrees and continue to roast until a thermometer inserted straight down into the top center reaches 130 degrees (for medium-rare), about 1½ hours.  While the roast is cooking, prepare the Mushroom and Shallot Ragout (you will need it for the next steps).

Transfer roast to a cutting board.  Cover loosely with foil and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes. Skim any fat from the top of the pan juices and transfer 1 tablespoon of fat to a small bowl.   Mix 1 tablespoon flour into the reserved fat until a smooth paste forms.  Set aside.  Reserve any juices in roasting pan.

Set roasting pan atop a burner over medium-high heat. Add reserved porcini soaking liquid (from ragout recipe below), broth, and wine; bring to boil, scraping up any browned bits.  Continue to boil until reduced by approximately half (about 8 minutes).  Add Mushroom and Shallot Ragout and stir to blend. Bring mixture back to a boil.  Add the fat-flour mixture, whisking constantly until incorporated.  Continue to cook on medium-high heat until sauce thickens, about 5-7 minutes. Season sauce to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

To serve, either place the whole roast on a serving platter for a stunning presentation, carving tableside, or slice in the kitchen and arrange the slices on the serving platter.  Garnish with fresh thyme sprigs.  Serve with Mushroom & Shallot sauce on the side or spooned over the roast.

Wild Mushroom & Shallot Ragout

This mushroom sauté can be served by itself as a flavorful side dish or used as a wonderful gravy base, as in the recipe above.  Ragout can be made up to a day in advance.

  1. 1 cup boiling water
  2. 1½ oz. (about ¼ cup) dried porcini or other dried mushrooms
  3. 2 tbsp. olive oil
  4. 2½ cups sliced shallots (about 7)
  5. 12 oz. assorted sliced fresh wild mushrooms (oyster, chanterelle, shitake, just to name a few…)
  6. 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  7. 1½ tsp. chopped fresh thyme (from about 2-3 sprigs)
  8. ½ tsp. kosher salt
  9. Freshly ground black pepper

 

Directions:

DO AHEAD: Combine 1 cup boiling water in a small bowl with the dried mushrooms.  Set aside and allow mushrooms to soak for about 30 minutes.  Strain mushrooms, reserving and setting mushroom water aside for later use.  Coarsely chop mushrooms and set aside.

Heat olive oil in large, deep skillet over medium-high heat.  Add shallots and sauté until shallots are translucent and just beginning to brown, about 5-7 minutes.  Add garlic and continue to cook for another minute, stirring to blend.  Add dried mushrooms, fresh wild mushrooms, chopped thyme and salt.  Stir to blend and sauté until mushrooms are wilted and mixture is reduced, about 8-10 minutes.  Season to taste with plenty of freshly ground black pepper and more salt, if necessary.

 

By Naomi Ross

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Stuck on Salmon

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

Last week’s article (“In a Pickle”) touched on the process of brining.  Just in case you thought I was done exploring the wonders of curing, that transformative art of preserving food with salt – well, I’ve only just scratched the surface.  It’s fantastic to behold the unmistakable flavor that curing produces, whether in your first bite of a corned beef sandwich or of its briny sidekick, the pickle.  But how much more satisfying would it be to have a hand in the process yourself?   If I’m a believer that anything homemade tastes better (you’ve probably guessed that I am by this point), then what’s stopping us from doing our own curing?  So let’s go!

Virtually anything can be cured or pickled.  A classic example and an easy place to start is salmon.  Cured salmon is very similar to lox in texture and flavor, except that it is not smoked.  Home-curing salmon is a very simple thing to do and has the added bonus of introducing your own pick of flavors in the process.  Traditional gravlax is famous for its dill flavor, but there are many other choices as well: citrus, anise, horseradish, etc.  Once cured, you have a delicacy on hand that can be a bold embellishment, gussying up your plainest appetizer, or a subtle accent, incorporated into main dishes and salads to add more complex dimensions of flavor.

Cured salmon tastes best when sliced translucently thin, but it can also be diced up for tartare (normally prepared with raw salmon) without the worry of attaining super fresh salmon that day.  Depending on its thickness, it can take anywhere from one to three days to cure salmon, packed in a large amount of a salt-sugar mix.  The key is in giving enough time to cure the thickest part of the salmon – a thinner, smaller piece will require less curing time.  Since timing can be a crucial factor, plan ahead and leave a little bit of wiggle room. Here are some more tips to ensure home-curing success:

  1. Fresh is best.
    Look for salmon with a bright color, moist and firm in texture, with a clean smell – no fishy odor (if possible, wild salmon is the best!).
  2. Pan size matters. The fish will release a large amount of liquid, which when mixed with the salt will form the brine that cures the salmon.  That’s a good thing!  You want the brine to cover as much of the fish as possible, so choose a pan just large enough to hold the salmon with some extra space for the brine.
  3. Under a brick. Placing weight on the salmon will press out water and speed up water loss (ideally 4-8 lbs. of even weight to 2-3 lbs. salmon).  Try to weight and press the salmon as evenly as possible. A heavy pan, brick or some unopened cans of peas work just fine.
  4. “Paper thin.” A good, sharp, non-serrated slicing knife and a bit of practice is very helpful in yielding paper thin slices, the tastiest way to serve it.

Citrus-Cured Salmon

A fresh and bright tasting cure, this salmon will enhance a wide array of dishes and hors d’oeuvres. Slice paper thin for the best taste and flavor, and enjoy for up to 3 weeks if wrapped well in dry parchment paper in the refrigerator.

Yield: 1½-1¾ lbs. cured salmon

  1. 2 lb. salmon fillet in one piece, not thicker than 1½”, skin on, pinbones removed
  2. ¾ cup kosher salt
  3. ¾ cup sugar
  4. Zest of 2 lemons and 2 oranges
  5. Juice of 1 lemon and 1 orange
  6. ¼ cup Absolut Citron vodka (50 ml. bottle)
  7. 1/3 cup fennel seeds, toasted*

 

Rinse salmon fillet and pat dry with paper toweling.
Mix the salt and sugar together.  Sprinkle half of the mixture over the bottom of a pan or baking dish just large enough to hold the salmon.  Place the salmon on the salt mixture. Drizzle lemon and orange juices and vodka all over both sides of salmon. Cover with the remaining half of salt mixture, then layer the lemon and orange zests, and a layer of fennel seeds.  Cover with plastic wrap.

Place a heavy pan, some cans or even a brick on top of the salmon to weight it down.  Place pan in the refrigerator for 48 hours.  Redistribute curing ingredients over the salmon halfway through curing, as necessary.  Salmon is fully cured when firm to the touch at the thickest part. If it still feels soft and raw, then cover and allow to cure for an additional 24 hours.

When salmon is fully cured, remove from brine, discarding liquid and spices.  Rinse under cool water and pat dry with paper toweling.  Wrap in parchment (or butcher’s) paper and refrigerate (rewrap if paper becomes wet over storing time).

 

*Seeds can be toasted for 5 minutes in 300 degree oven or a small, dry frying pan on medium heat.

 

Cured salmon can be served simply, sliced thin on rye toasts or crackers with crème fraiche or sour cream.  If you want to further explore the possibilities, try the following recipe for tartare – delicious and elegant.

Citrus-Cured Salmon Avocado Tartare

Served spooned on thin slices of English cucumber or red radish, this recipe makes for a refreshing appetizer or hors d’oeuvre.  Simple to prepare, but extraordinary to savor.

  1. 1 cup (about 8 oz.) citrus-cured salmon cut into ¼” cubes (lightly packed)
  2. 1 Persian cucumber, scrubbed and diced
  3. 2-3 tbsp. minced red onion
  4. Juice of ½ lemon, or more to taste
  5. Juice of ½ lime, or more to taste
  6. ¼ tsp. cumin
  7. 2 tbsp. minced fresh cilantro
  8. 1 ripe Haas avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
  9. Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients except for avocado in a mixing bowl.   Fold in avocado, mixing gently.  Season to taste with salt, pepper and more juices, if necessary.  Cover and chill (can be made up to an hour in advance).
Naomi Ross and Park East Kosher Family
By Naomi Ross

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In a Pickle

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011



Very little compares to a good corned beef sandwich: served warm, thinly sliced, with spicy brown mustard on rye, please.  Spoken like a true New Yorker.  My dad insisted the meal was only complete with Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray and a sour pickle on the side.  He would not be alone in voicing strong opinions as far as corned beef is concerned, a meat which has truly become a mainstay in the Jewish delicatessen experience.

What is “corned” beef anyway?  “Corns” of salt, large rock-salt kernels, were used to cover the meat in what is one of the oldest forms of food preservation.  In fact, the term “Corned” first appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary as early as 888 AD!  A simple brining process creates a transformation — firming, preserving and pickling the meat.   The unique, cured flavor that is imparted to the meat bears little resemblance to its un-cured former self, savory and piquant with each bite. Though corned beef was originally an Irish invention intended to preserve meat for travel, its flavor and taste have been celebrated in Jewish-American cooking for well over a century.

Serving glazed corned beef became a popular in the 1950’s, writes Joan Nathan in Jewish Cooking in America, as a “Jewish rendition of glazed ham….where glazed ham was always a centerpiece at holiday buffets, and to avoid serving the forbidden pork themselves, Jews would coat a cooked corned beef with dark corn syrup,…and then bake it as they would a ham.”  Surely graduating this dish to a more elegant status was one of the smartest moves we could make. The delectable contrast of salty-sweet that is found in a sweet glazed corned beef is even more satisfying than the aforementioned deli sandwich.

Nowadays, making corned beef is a very easy thing to do, as butchers today have simplified the process for us.  Whereas in yesteryear, pickling your meat took several days, butchers now sell cuts of meat that have already been pickled and are ready to go – pickling spices included!  You can pickle just about any cut of meat, but the most popular cut for corned beef has always been first cut brisket.  Long, slow simmering (not a hard boil!) will yield both tender results and a leftover cooking  liquid perfect for cooking or moistening any desired accompanying vegetables that can be served alongside the meat (fantastic for cabbage!).

This robust glazed corned beef recipe packs a punch.  Be sure to grab a glass of your favorite Irish red beer and enjoy every bite.

Whiskey Glazed Corned Beef

Molasses provides the gooey sweetness and unmistakable flavor in this recipe. Both unsulphured original and robust varieties of molasses are available in markets.  I recommend using “Original” for this recipe,as “robust”  will lend too strong of a flavor to the dish.

Serves 6.

1 4-lb. corned beef brisket
1 onion, peeled
1 carrot, peeled and cut into chunks
1 stalk celery, cut into chunks
1 orange, sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 bay leaves
7-8 black peppercorns
1½ tsp. pickling spices
½ cup unsulphured molasses
¼ cup whiskey (I use Jack Daniels)
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard

Place the corned beef in a large pot and fill with cold water – enough to cover meat by a few inches. Place pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.  Discard water and refill with fresh water.  Repeat the above steps two more times (discarding the water removes the impurities that have been released from the meat).

Fill with cold water once more, and add onion, carrot, celery, orange, garlic and spices.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, maintaining a simmer.  Cover and simmer for about 2-3 hours, or until tender when pierced with a fork.  Transfer corned beef to a large baking dish.  Discard cooking liquid (or save, if desired, for other uses, such as cooking or moistening vegetables).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine molasses, whiskey and mustard in a small saucepan.  Place over medium-low heat and bring to a boil, whisking until ingredients are completely blended.  Pour sauce all over corned beef.  Bake for 15 minutes; baste liberally with sauce and then bake for an additional 10 minutes.  The reduced glaze should be thick and gooey.   Remove from oven and allow to cool.  For best results, use a sharp, non-serrated knife to make very thin slices.  Arrange slices on a serving platter, and serve with remaining sauce on the side.

Naomi Ross and Park East Kosher Family
By Naomi Ross

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Calling all white-meat lovers…

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Chicken is quite ubiquitous these days.  Affordable and commonly raised, it has become our “go-to” protein for an average dinner.  And while many a great chef approach chicken as a blank canvas upon which to express their culinary creativity, it’s also easy to get stuck in a rut.  Chicken is chicken, you might think.  But I think not.

Not every chicken is created equal.  If you’ve ever had a Cornish hen, sweet and tender, you’d know it was a different chicken.  With its delicious natural juices flowing throughout, this young bird (slaughtered when they are only about five weeks old) is not only flavorful, but a wonderful choice for an elegant dinner.   The Rock Cornish Hen, a 1950’s cross-breed between the Cornish and Rock hens, has attained much popularity both because of its convenient single serving size and because the breeding resulted in a chicken that is mostly white meat.   In addition, a smaller bird means shorter cooking time.  So a succulent whole roasted bird could be on your table in less than an hour (longer, if stuffed).  This is a win-win solution for elegant serving, especially to a crowd of white-meat lovers.

Some more helpful Cornish tips for the best results:

  • Roasting is a great choice for Cornish hens – ideally 400-450 degrees.
  • The average bird size is 1-2lbs.  Figure 1 lb. per person, so a larger Cornish hen can feed 2 people, especially if serving other courses.
  • Cornish hens can easily be served split in half – the bones are weak and can be cut through easily with shears.
  • Cornish hens are delicious stuffed – about ½ cup per bird.  Do not over-stuff or pack tightly as it will affect cooking times.
  • Do not stuff hens until just before you put them in the oven to avoid any potential for salmonella food poisoning.

It’s easy to get yourself unstuck, I find, when fresh and flavorful options are before you.  Try this recipe this week for some new chicken inspiration.

Honey-Glazed Cornish Game Hens with Spiced Compote Stuffing

Aromatic spices make the hen’s sweet meat especially fragrant.  Perfectly accompanied by the dried fruit and nut stuffing that is cooked within, this dish is also gluten-free.    Serve with dry or semi-dry white wine.

Serves 6-8
1/3 cup oil
1½ tsp. paprika
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. allspice
Freshly ground black pepper
4 Cornish hens, pinfeathers removed, rinsed and patted dry
2 cups Spiced Compote Stuffing (recipe below)
½ cup honey
Preheat oven to 400°F.  Adjust rack in the middle of the oven.
Whisk together oil and spices in a small bowl.

Stuff cavities of each Cornish hen loosely with about ½ cup spiced compote stuffing (do not pack tightly or over-stuff).  Place on a rack set in a large roasting pan.  Rub spice mixture all over hens evenly.  Tuck wings underneath body, then secure legs together and tie with kitchen twine.  Try to arrange birds on rack so that they are not touching, in order to ensure good air circulation during roasting.

Roast hens for about 40 minutes, occasionally brushing with pan drippings.  Pour honey over the Cornish hens and continue to roast for another 20 minutes.  Cornish hens are done when juices run clear when a thigh is pierced, and internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.  Remove hens from oven and allow to rest.  Transfer hens to a serving platter, serving halved if desired.

Spiced Compote Stuffing

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1¼ cups)
1 shallot, chopped
1 tsp. kosher salt
¾ cup dried apricots, sliced
½ cup dried prunes, sliced
¼ cup dark raisins
½ tsp. cardamom
1 tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. ginger
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup white wine
1 cup whole almonds, toasted and finely chopped

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot and oil is shimmering.  Add the chopped onion, shallot and salt.  Sauté for about 6-8 minutes, or until onions start to become golden.  Lower to medium heat and add dried fruits and spices, stirring to blend for about 1-2 minutes.   Add white wine and continue to cook, stirring often, until the wine is mostly absorbed and the fruit is softened (about 6-8 minutes).  Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the chopped almonds.  Set aside to cool.

Cook’s Tip: Nuts can be toasted in a single layer on a baking sheet for 10 minutes at 325 degrees.

Cook’s Tip: For no fuss slicing, spray knife with non-stick spray prior to slicing dried fruits.

Naomi Ross and Park East Kosher Family
By Naomi Ross

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Super Bowl Spicy

Friday, January 28th, 2011

I don’t know much about football.  I have never understood the game.  I’m not even sure who’s playing this year…that’s probably more than I should care to admit.  I don’t feel that guilty though, because we all know that a good Super Bowl Party is only half about the game.  The other half is about what you’re serving, and how well it satisfies the munchies at half-time (and during the overpriced commercials).  Food, I know; food, I understand.  So I feel quite involved in the success of Super Bowl Sunday, no matter who wins…as long I’ve got it covered from my end and plates come back empty!

Fun, easy and casual fare is what’s needed –so put away your gourmet, high-brow recipes for another day.  If your guests can eat it with their hands, all the better.  And for whatever reason (…not really sure why!), go SPICY!

Just to remind you, here are the most popular serving suggestions for your big fanfest:

  • Chili – there are probably about a 1000 plus chili recipes out there.  Easy to put into a mug or hot cup and eat while watching the game.  Very warming and filling, great with tortilla chips and can be made ahead in your slow cooker.
  • Hot Wings (a.k.a. Buffalo wings) – spicy and finger-licking good are what you’re aiming for (recipe to follow).  And let’s face it – when else is it acceptable to serve something requiring that many napkins at a party?
  • Sub-sandwiches/Hoagies – sub or hoagie rolls work well, or if you have access to ordering a 6-foot long roll, it will be all the easier at assembly time.  Be creative with your fillings –here are some good options depending on your available prep. time:
    • Layer an assortment of mixed cold-cuts,  cut vegetables  and greens
    • Layer slices of thinly sliced grilled chicken and roasted vegetables
    • Layer paper-thin slices of slow-roasted ribeye roast or seared steak and top with caramelized onions and peppers.
  • Chips and Dips – crudités, tortilla chips, bread sticks, etc. can be paired with an array of bean dips, hummus, guacamole, spinach or onion dips, and the list goes on…
  •  Kebabs – pretty much anything skewered and grilled will be appreciated, from meats/poultry to fruits for dessert.

For all the years I’ve enjoyed Buffalo Wings – the perfect marriage of spicy and sticky sweet, tender with a crisp bite — never did I realize that they were so named because ( you guessed it!) they were made famous in Buffalo, NY.   The Anchor Bar in Buffalo made these spicy babies known and loved far and wide.   To this day, Buffalo is a city known for its wings…and I guess by extension, Super Bowl Sunday too. 

Traditionally Buffalo Wings are deep fried, or that’s how they do it in restaurants anyway.  I was able to get deliciously crisp results from roasting them in the oven, sans all the extra fat of deep frying on an already infamously caloric day.  These are also really easy, which is a plus for entertaining.   Win or lose, a sure touchdown!

Red Hot Baked Buffalo Wings

These wings are hot, but surprisingly addictive!  Have lots of napkins and ice water on hand!

Yield:  48 pieces

1 cup flour
1 tsp. paprika
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
½ tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder
24 chicken wings, split in two at the joint

Sauce

This hot sauce can be mellowed by adding a little more margarine (1-2 tbsp.). 

  

½ cup hot red pepper sauce (I use Frank’s Red Hot sauce)
½ tsp. salt
3 tbsp. dark brown sugar
6 tbsp. margarine
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

Directions:

Combine flour and spices in a large Ziploc bag.  In batches, add some of the chicken wings to the bag and shake to coat with seasoned flour mixture.  Shake off excess flour and transfer to a large greased baking sheet or baking dish.  Arrange in an even single layer.  Repeat with all remaining chicken wing pieces.  Refrigerate for one hour.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Bake for 40-45, turning chicken wing pieces over once halfway through cooking time.  Wings should be golden brown and have a crisp appearance.  Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

While wings are cooking, sauce can be prepared.   Combine hot sauce, salt, brown sugar margarine, and Worcestershire sauce in a small saucepan over low heat.  Stir to blend and bring to a boil.  Season to taste with more salt or black pepper, if needed.   Remove from heat and pour sauce over wings (rewarm sauce before dressing wings if already cooled).  Using tongs, toss with sauce until the wings are coated.  Serve hot or warm and enjoy as you root for your team.

 

Naomi Ross and Park East Kosher Family
By Naomi Ross

 

 

 

 

 

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Season, To Taste

Monday, January 24th, 2011

Every now and then, there is something deeply satisfying about returning to simplicity, especially the taste of simplicity.     My grandmother did not have complicated recipes, and did not use fancy ingredients – not that she had access to them either.   White truffle oil and chipotle peppers did not exactly abound in Brighton Beach sixty years ago.   There were no panko crumbs, let alone corn flake crumbs.  Like many cooks of her generation, what she lacked in sophisticated ingredients, she more than made up for in the ability to take basic items, season them well and cook with a yiddishe taam, a personal touch and flavor that was infused with love.  This kind of cooking had no measurements; it was completely dependent on feel and taste.  It did not require a cookbook, but rather an understanding of the food before you, and the attention and patience to see it done right.  Back then, this kind of instinctive cooking – of knowing how to bring out the best from what you’ve got – was the norm, not the exception.  It was passed on, mother to daughter.  The result: fresh, flavorful food, well-seasoned by a caring hand whose sole aim was to nourish and please.    Fast forward a generation or two and you’ve  got a lasting memory strong enough to make a grown man coo with delight at the thought of his grandmother’s fried breaded veal chops.  She served them aside mashed potatoes with schmaltz-fried onions and mushrooms (I said “flavorful,” I did not say low fat!).  Also sautéed spinach.  It probably ranks high on his “last meals” list.   “He,” of course, could be your everyman, an average Joe…or in this case, let’s just call him my husband.

Being a bit inquisitive (in the kitchen anyway), I started digging around for more information about this much adored recipe.  After hearing about it for so many years, I couldn’t help but wonder if they actually were as good as his memory led him to believe, or perhaps it was the last remnant of a tasty childhood time and place.   Perhaps like a fine wine, these chops were improving with age!  It was time for me to see for myself….it was time to taste the truth.   And then, it was time to see just how quickly I could polish off the succulent chop, having gnawed at the bone, leaving it nearly clean with hardly a crumb of crispy breading in sight.

To make such a dish is blissfully simple so long as you remember a few important points.  Namely,

1) Season liberally with salt and pepper (No, I can’t tell you how much.)

2) Invest your love and care into those chops.

3) Serve them straight, hot out of the pan.

4) Apply Rules 1-3 to all things in life.

Fried Breaded Veal Chops

Here’s how the recipe was told over to me (I’ve taken the liberty of including my “translations”)

First cut veal rib chops (one per person)

Kosher salt

Pepper (use freshly ground black pepper)

Beaten eggs (figure about 1 egg:2 chops)

Matzo meal (figure approximately ¼ cup per chop)

Oil for frying (canola or vegetable oil)

Season the chops with salt and pepper (or season the beaten eggs).    Dip chops in the eggs.  Then dredge in the matzo meal – try to get an even coating all over.  Fry until golden brown (Place a large frying pan over medium-high heat.  Add enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan in a generous layer – at least ½ cup.  When oil is very hot – a drop of water sizzling upon contact – add the breaded veal chop.  Fry until deeply golden brown, turning once, about 8-10 minutes per side depending on thickness.  Transfer to plate lined with paper toweling to drain).  Serve immediately.
 

Naomi Ross and Park East Kosher Family
By Naomi Ross

 

 

 

 

 

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