The Modern Table: Kosher Recipes for Everyday Gatherings

This Passover, which is celebrated from April 15th and April 23rd , Kim Kushner shows us how to create memorable meals with her latest cookbook The Modern Table: Kosher Recipes for Everyday Gatherings.

         A culinary educator as well as mother of four and author of three other bestselling cookbooks on kosher food, Kushner is one of the leaders in redefining kosher cuisine. The term kosher means fit and is used to describe any foods that comply with a strict set of dietary rules called kashrut. Not all Jewish people follow a kosher diet but for those that do, Kushner works at making the cuisine vibrant and tasty. She does this by emphasizing seasonal and fresh Mediterranean-style dishes.

Modern Table: Kosher Recipes for Everyday Gatherings

Kosher

         As she noted in a previous cookbook, “if the title didn’t say kosher, nothing in this book would make you think it was kosher. This isn’t a kosher cookbook that happens to be great–think of it as a really awesome cookbook that just happens to be kosher.”

         Kushner’s cooking background is complicated which contributes to the many ingredients and flavors found in the recipes she’s created. She was raised in Montreal and taught to cook by her mother who was from Morocco. She spent summers with family in Israel which added another level to her culinary influences. Overall, her cultural identity and heritage is Ashkenazi-Canadian.

Kim Kushner Cuisine

         A graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan, Kushner worked at developing recipes for both Food & Wine and Chile Pepper magazines and has appeared on the Today Show and been featured in numerous newspapers and on TV. 17 years ago, she launched Kim Kushner Cuisine and now teaches cooking around the globe.

Modern Table: Kosher Recipes for Everyday Gatherings

Passover Meals

         “When it comes to Passover cooking, I stick to bright and seasonal ingredients and keep it simple and modern,” she says about her approach to kosher holiday cooking. “Fresh, colorful salads, simply grilled fish and slow cooked meats using garlic, lemons and fresh herbs can take you a long way. “

         Whether we celebrate Purim or Passover or not, incorporating some of Kushner’s recipes into our own cooking repertoire is a way of expanding another cuisine into our daily lives and an entrée into the flavors and traditions of a different cuisine and culture.

         Kushner makes it easy to do just that. Each of the instructions for her dishes offers an introduction as well as tips in the cooking process making these easily accessible recipes even more so for home chefs.

Modern Table: Kosher Recipes for Everyday Gatherings

Recipes

Berry Frosé

Serves 4–6 people

  • 2 cups assorted berries
  • 1 (750-ml) bottle rosé wine
  • 2 cups ice
  • Fresh mint or basil leaves, for garnish

Place the berries, rosé, and ice into a blender. Blend on high speed, until ice is slushy and ingredients are well incorporated. Transfer to chilled glasses and garnish with mint or basil.

Tips

Get Organized Chilling the glasses in the refrigerator or freezer for 30 minutes before serving keeps the frosé slushy and cool.

Optional Frosé can be served in chilled shot glasses as a fun party treat.

Substitutions Frosé can be made with white wine or Moscato.

Sliced Citrus with Pistachio Dust

What in God’s name is pistachio dust? Exactly as it sounds. Pistachios are chopped ultrafine until they transform into a bright green magical dust that adds incredible flavor to ordinary foods such as oranges and grapefruit. Sometimes the simplest desserts are the most loved.

Serves 6

1/4 cup shelled and unsalted roasted pistachios, finely ground

6–8 assorted citrus fruits (oranges, clementines, tangerines, grapefruit, or pomelos)

Using a sharp knife, slice off the top and bottom of the citrus fruit, just far enough to expose the flesh. Place the fruit, cut-side down, so that it is sturdy on your cutting board. Cut away the peel and as much of the white pith as possible by following the citrus’s shape. Turn the fruit on its side and slice into 1/8-inch-thick slices. Repeat with the remaining citrus.

Arrange the citrus on a large platter, slighting overlapped. Sprinkle 1–2 tablespoons of pistachio dust over the citrus slices. Serve immediately.

Tips

Make It Ahead The citrus fruit can be sliced in advance, covered, and stored for up to 3 hours in the refrigerator. Sprinkle the pistachio dust just before serving.

Storage Pistachio dust can be stored in a small glass jar in your pantry or freezer for up to 3 months.

Garlic-Confit Chicken with Lemon and Thyme

“Confit” comes from the French word confire, meaning “to preserve.” Slow-cooking garlic in oil creates a rich yet mellow flavor. For this recipe, you’ll need to first prepare the garlic confit with lemon and thyme, and then add the chicken to cook in the confit.

Garlic confit can be used as a condiment, so I always keep a jar of it in my refrigerator. Once you have the garlic confit on hand, you can have a delicious meal on the table in a fraction of the time.

Ready in 1 hour and 50 minutes

Serves 4–6

  • 20 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 lemon, very thinly sliced and pips removed
  • 5–6 sprigs thyme
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 (3-lb) whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces, skin on and bone in, trimmed of excess skin and fat
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoon honey

Preheat oven to 325ºF.

Combine garlic, lemon, and thyme into a baking dish that is large enough to hold the chicken. Pour in olive oil and bake, uncovered, for 35 minutes, until garlic has softened. Set aside for 10 minutes to cool slightly. Increase the oven temperature to 375ºF.

Generously season chicken with salt and pepper. Using your hands, rub vinegar and honey over the chicken.

Using a wooden spoon, move the garlic mixture to the sides of the baking dish to create a space in the center. Add the chicken to the center of the dish and spoon the garlic mixture on top of the chicken.

Cover with an ovenproof lid or aluminum foil. Bake for 40 minutes. Uncover the dish and bake for another 20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Discard thyme and serve.

Tips

Get Organized To save time, use store-bought peeled garlic.

Substitutions You can experiment with different herbs.

Omissions Garlic confit can be prepared with or without the lemon and thyme.

Make It Ahead Garlic confit with lemon and thyme can be prepared, cooled, and stored in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator. Before use, bring the confit to room temperature to liquify the oil.

Make It Ahead Garlic-Confit Chicken with Lemon and Thyme can be assembled, marinated, and stored in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. Bring to room temperature before cooking.

Reheat Garlic-Confit Chicken with Lemon and Thyme can be reheated, uncovered, in a 350ºF oven for about 10 minutes.

Mashed Potatoes with Onion Crème

Some of the best mashed potatoes are loaded with butter and heavy cream, but you can make an equally delicious dairy-free version that won’t compromise flavor. The star of this show is the caramelized onion. Laced in mashed potatoes, the puréed “onion crème” imparts an intense creaminess and a pronounced depth of flavor.

Ready in 40 minutes

Serves 6

  • 2 tablespoons light olive oil
  • 3 yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 8 Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed, peeled, and quartered
  • 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus extra to taste
  • 2–3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Heat the light olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and reduce heat to medium. Sauté for 10–15 minutes, until softened and caramelized. Set aside to cool.

Transfer onions to a food processor or blender and purée for 1–2 minutes, until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

Place potatoes and salt in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium. Cover and cook for 15–20 minutes, until they can be easily pierced with a fork. Drain.

Return potatoes to the saucepan and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes. This is called “pan-drying.” Stir in the onion crème, then mash the potatoes and onions together. Season generously with salt and pepper and mix.

Drizzle the extra-virgin olive oil over the mashed potatoes and serve immediately.

Tips

Get Organized “Pan-drying” is a cooking technique where boiled potatoes are cooked in a dry pot for a few minutes to remove moisture and “dry out” the potatoes.

Make It Ahead Onions can be sautéed and puréed in advance and stored in the refrigerator for up to 7 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Make It Ahead Potatoes are best mashed just after cooking and can be mashed 2 hours in advance of serving.

Reheat mashed potatoes in a saucepan over medium heat for 5–10 minutes. You may need to drizzle a little extra-virgin olive oil for added creaminess.

Chewy and Nutty Flourless Chocolate Chip Cookies 

Ready in 20–25 minutes

Makes about 2 dozen cookies

  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips or finely chopped chocolate

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine nuts, sugar, egg, vanilla, and salt and mix well. Stir in the chocolate.

Using a small ice-cream scooper, scoop small mounds of the mixture onto the prepared baking sheets, evenly spacing them two inches apart. Bake for 15–20 minutes until lightly golden. Set aside to cool completely. The cookies will harden as they cool.

The above were excerpted from The Modern Table: Kosher Recipes for Everyday Gatherings by Kim Kushner. Photography by Kate Sears. Copyright © 2022 by Kim Kushner. Excerpted with permission from Figure 1 Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Paul Saginaw Takes Las Vegas at the Circa Casino and Hotel

We may be in Las Vegas, but Saginaw’s Delicatessen located in the posh and very hip 1.25- million-square-foot, $1 billion Circa Casino & Hotel in the trending upwards historic Las Vegas district called the Fremont Street Experience, certainly has a Michigan spirit to it all. Paul Saginaw, who dropped out of graduate school and co-founded Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor almost 40 years ago, helping to grow the little Jewish delicatessen into a business that brings in over $45 million a year and has upwards to 600 employees.

Now at an age when many people are planning on retiring, Saginaw has rented a condo that’s just an eight-minute walk away. That way he can put in 12 to 18 hour days at his deli which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“My friends think I’m insane,” Saginaw tells me over a lunch the includes many of the sandwiches recognizable by those who have eaten at Zingerman’s Deli—such as their corned beef topped Swiss Emmental cheese, coleslaw & Russian dressing on Jewish rye bread, kreplach—the house made chicken broth with a brisket-filled dumpling, latkes, and knishes.

But despite the hours, Saginaw says that owning a place in Vegas is exactly where he wants to be.

Saginaw is a storyteller, often breaking into asides. Talking about growing up in the Detroit area, he says his sisters taught him to dance because he wasn’t handsome. That couples with being able to make women laugh was how he snagged his wife Lori Saginaw decades ago.

I’m torn, wanting to write everything down which is, of courses, why I’m here, but also nibble on the food that’s spread out on the table in front of us. Not exactly sophisticated of me, was it?

But here’s the gist of how our meeting went.

As I take a bite out of Ben Sherman’s Corned Beef & Pastrami, the  house-made Russian dressing drips on my notebook. I’m torn between whether to try to clean it up with a napkin, eat more of the sandwich, or take notes as Saginaw tells me about how as kid, he ground-up chicken livers for his Grandmother Sherman as she prepared Friday Shabbat dinner. That quickly leads him talk about making gribenes from schmalz (chicken fat)—a necessary if complicated step to create what he describes as the most sublime chopped liver dish ever. 

He recites the entire recipe for his grandmother’s or as its listed on the menu Bubbe’s chopped liver, but by now I’m too busy eating a matzoh ball. Talking about Grandma Sherman leads us next to Saginaw’s great uncle Charles “Chickie” Sherman, the number one Detroit bookie who was first arrested in 1925 and then added at least another 64 to the score before the big bust at Detroit’s Anchor Bar in 1971. That’s when two guys playing pool all of a sudden jumped over the bar and announced, “this is a raid.”  

Chickie and 151 other people including about 15 policemen were arrested. Saginaw tells me he read the transcripts of the wiretaps the Feds made before the raid which ran thousands of pages. But Chickie’s business problems didn’t hurt the bookie’s popularity. When he died three years later, his funeral at the Ira Kaufman Funeral Chapel in Southfield, Michigan set the all-time record for attendance.

As an aside, those who want to take a stroll through Detroit’s mob days, the Anchor Bar is still in business.

Uncle Chickie is a big part of why Saginaw, who co-founded the very famous Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor with Ari Weinzweig back in 1982, is in Vegas.  He’s always wanted to be here since first coming when young and hearing  Chickie ask for chips and the pit boss ordering five big ones be sent over.

Indeed, we may be in Vegas, but really—as I mentioned earlier–there’s a lot of Detroit here as well. Derek Stevens, who owns the Circa, used to eat at Zingerman’s when he was a student at University of Michigan. When he emailed and asked Saginaw to open up a place at his new casino, what could Saginaw do but say yes.  There are other East Michigan restaurants at Circa and as well as Stevens’ The D Las Vegas also part of the Fremont Experience as well including Andiamo Steak House, a high end Italian-inspired restaurant and the family owned American Coney Island. Owners Chris Sotiropoulos and Grace Keros also started up their first new concept Victory Burger & Wings Co in over one hundred years at Circa. The restaurant overlooks Circa’s sportsbook – the world’s largest, in fact.

 As if Saginaw isn’t busy enough, he and partner Steve Mangigian also developed Jack Pots for Circa, a contemporary coffee stand serving their only-at-Circa coffee blend.

Honoring the original Detroit Tiger Stadium in Corktown where Stevens spent a lot of his youth, Circa’s Overhang Bar is located on the top floor of the Sportsbook, which by the way is the largest in the world. It was created to look like one of his favorite overlooks at the sports venue.

 There’s also, though this has nothing to do with Stevens’s hometown of Detroit except that it’s every Michigan sports fans’ dream, a three-story, high-definition 78 million megapixel television screen. Don’t even think about buying one, because it cost approximately $20 million.

All in all—Stevens has brought Michigan to the desert.

“This has been on my bucket list forever,” says Saginaw who says he had a fascination with downtown Las Vegas versus the stretch of casinos on Las Vegas Avenue further south called the Las Vegas Strip.

But it’s not only restaurants that migrated out here. Saginaw brought along a lot of Zingerman’s menu items including the corned beef made exclusively for them by Sy Ginsberg at United Meat & Deli in Detroit.

According to Zingerman’s blog, when they first opened, “Sy delivered our corned beef out of the back of his Volkswagen. Then he’d stick around the deli for a few hours during the lunch rush to help out on the sandwich line. Paul sometimes introduces Sy as ‘the man who made the first corned beef sandwich at Zingerman’s.’”

As for the bread, well, it seems that though we’re still in U.S., there’s enough of a difference between the water and the climate that Saginaw worked for several years with Carlos Pereira, a well-known Vegas baker to perfect the rye bread so it tastes like what you get at the Ann Arbor deli.  Cheeses come from  Zingerman’s Creamery and sweets from Zingerman’s Candy in Ann Arbor along with other items made by their eleven community-based businesses.

The décor at Saginaw’s Delicatessen also reflects Detroit. An entire wall—a very large one—has blown up photos for the family including Great Uncle Chickie, who standing with his wife, doesn’t look like a mobbed up bookie but rather just an ordinary guy. Lori Saginaw was also at the deli the day I was there. She works with her husband and comes out to Vegas regularly. 

“They branded me,” says Saginaw about the big stature of him by the deli’s entrance. Indeed, Saginaw’s name has become so connected with Zingerman’s quality foods, that drawings of his trousers with suspenders, jaunty hat, and black glasses are used in ads. But while Saginaw and Zingerman’s always had a type of hippie-ish ambience going on, there’s a lot of glitz at the new delicatessen in keeping with Circa itself whose tag line is “The Conduit Between the Las Vegas of the Past and the Las Vegas of tomorrow.” 

As for Saginaw—well, he describes it as “a dream come true.”

Some recipes to try from Zingerman’s.

Zingerman’s Curried Chicken Salad

  • 4 cups roasted turkey, diced and packed
  • ¾ cup roasted cashews, chopped
  • ¼ cup cilantro leaves, chopped
  • ½ medium red onion, diced small
  • ½ bunch scallions, sliced
  • ¾ cup plain whole milk yogurt
  • ¾ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp Épices de Cru Trinidad curry blend
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp sea salt

Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir until well combined.

Serve the turkey salad on a bed of greens or your favorite Zingerman’s bread. To do it up Zingerman’s Deli style, place a couple generous scoops of curried turkey salad topped with microgreens between two slices of toasted Zingerman’s Bakehouse pecan raisin bread.

Bea’s Molasses Cookies

  • 2 1/3 cups Zingerman’s Bakehouse All Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 3/4 cups butter
  • 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup molasses

Sift flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice

Cream butter and sugars. Beat in egg and vanilla. Then molasses.

In thirds, add dry ingredients to wet, mixing between additions. Wrap in plastic, chill 30 minutes up to overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat an oven to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Roll 2″ balls of dough, roll in sugar. Place on baking sheets 2-3″ apart, flatten slightly with fingers.

Bake 10-12 minutes. Cool on racks.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Sprinkle the corned beef with a little water, wrap it tightly in aluminum foil and steam it in the oven.

Meanwhile, put the whole loaf of rye bread (unwrapped) into the oven. Bake the bread until the crust is very crunchy, about 15 minutes. Set the bread on the counter and let it cool for about 5 minutes.

When the rye bread is cool enough to handle place it on a cutting board. Hold the bread knife at a 45-degree angle and cut 12 slices.

Take the corned beef out of the oven and unwrap it. Spread each slice of bread with Russian dressing. Layer half of the slices with corned beef, sauerkraut and slices of Swiss cheese, then top the sandwiches with the remaining slices of bread (dressing-side down).

Heat 2 large heavy skillets over medium heat. Brush the bread with butter. Put the sandwiches in the pans and weight them with a lid or heat proof bowl topped with something heavy. Cook until the first sides are crisp and golden about 7 minutes then flip the sandwiches. Cook until the second sides are also well toasted, and the cheese is melted. Lift the sandwiches onto a cutting board. Cut each in half diagonally and serve.

Russian Dressing

Yield: 2 cups

  • 3/4 cups mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 to 3 tablespoons chili sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons chopped curly parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon minced Spanish onion
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon minced dill pickle
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated horseradish
  • 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Combine the mayonnaise, chili sauce, sour cream, parsley, onion, pickle, lemon juice, horseradish and Worcestershire sauce in a bowl and mix well.

Little Book of Jewish Sweets

Cookbook Author Leah Koenig.  Photo © Zivar Amrami

          This February is the celebration of Purim, the Jewish holiday honoring Queen Esther of Persia who in 5th century BCE stopped the massacre of the Hebrew population by acknowledging to her husband, King Xerxes that she was Jewish and asking him to save her people.

          Luckily she had beauty and youth on her side and the King still liked her because she’s credited with stopping the planned entire massacre of Jews.

 Thus Purim is a happy holiday and part of the celebration is eating such traditional foods as hamantaschen, a triangular shaped pastry typically filled with fruit, large rounds of braided challah bread said to be a reminder of the rope used to hang Haman, the King’s grand vizier  or as we would say these days, advisor, who came up with the idea of the executions. 

Challah Bread Pudding with Raspberries and Chocolate. Photo © LINDA PUGLIESE

          Jewish cookbook author Leah Koenig shares recipes commonly eaten during Purim as well as other desserts in “Little Book of Jewish Sweets.” But Koenig isn’t afraid to jazz up old recipes, a type of reinvention of Jewish foods. The author of six cookbooks including “Modern Jewish Cooking: Recipes & Customs for Today’s Kitchen” and her Little Book series, her recipe for challah (which by the way is available at Bit of Swiss Bakery on certain days of the week), becomes a bread pudding with raspberries and chocolate

          “From breadcrumbs and grilled cheese sandwiches to French toast, there are many ways to transform leftover challah into something new—a luscious bread pudding studded with chocolate and juicy raspberries is a particularly delicious one,” she writes in her introduction to the recipe. “Challah has a soft and tender crust, which means there is no need to remove it before tossing the bread into the custard.”

Apricot-Walnut Hamantaschen. Photo © LINDA PUGLIESE

          With baklava, the classis Middle Eastern and Greek dessert of phyllo dough  layered with walnuts and honey, she goes beyond the typical by adding figs, making, in her words, a confection that is at once familiar and new.

          Koenig does the same for hamantaschens by adding a touch of   lemon zest and cinnamon to an apricot and walnut base.

Fig Baklava. Photo © LINDA PUGLIESE

          Over the years as she’s researched her cookbooks, Koenig says she came to realize how global Jewish cuisine is.

          ‘Jews have lived and cooked pretty much everywhere in the world, maybe barring Antarctica,” she says. “So really the inspiration behind the book was to try to capture how Jews eat today across the world and capture a little bit of the history of how Jews used to eat.”

Apricot-Walnut Hamantaschen

Makes about 3 dozen cookies

Dough

21/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter or nonhydrogenated margarine, at room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Water, as needed (optional)

Filling

3/4 cup apricot jam

11/2 cups walnut halves

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest

1/4 tsp kosher salt

Make the dough: Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl.

In a stand mixer or with a handheld electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat to fully combine. Add the flour mixture in three additions, beating on low speed and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary, until a firm but pliable dough comes together. If the dough looks too dry, add water, 1 tsp at a time, until the desired consistency is reached. If the dough looks too wet, add additional flour, 1 Tbsp at a time. Knead the dough a few times in the bowl to bring it together, then form into a flat disk. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to overnight.

Make the filling: Place the jam, walnuts, cinnamon, lemon zest, and salt in a food processor and pulse, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary, until a chunky paste forms. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350° and line two large, rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove half of the dough from the fridge (keep the other half wrapped and chilled). On a lightly floured surface, using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough until it’s 1/4 inch thick. Using a 3-inch round cookie cutter or glass, cut out as many circles as possible and carefully transfer them to the prepared baking sheets. Gather the dough scraps, reroll the dough, and cut out additional circles.

Spoon 1 rounded teaspoon of apricot-walnut filling into the center of each dough circle. Fold the left side over on an angle, followed by the right side. Fold the bottom flap up, tucking one end under the side flap to make a pocket (the filling should still be visible in the center); pinch the corners firmly to seal. Repeat the rolling and filling process with the remaining dough.

Bake the cookies until lightly golden and browned at the corners, 15 to 18 minutes. Remove from the oven. Set the baking sheets on wire racks to cool for 5 minutes, then transfer the cookies to the wire racks to cool completely. Serve at room temperature. Store covered in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Challah Bread Pudding with Raspberries and Chocolate

Serves 8 to 10

8 oz challah, cut into 1-in cubes

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

2 cups whole milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

11/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp kosher salt

1 cup fresh or thawed frozen raspberries

1 cup  semisweet chocolate chips

Confectioners’ sugar for serving

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 2-qquart baking dish. Spread the cubed challah in a single layer on a large-rimmed baking sheet. Bake, stirring once or twice, until toasted and dry, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, cream, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a large bowl. Layer half of the bread into the prepared baking dish, and sprinkle evenly with half of the raspberries and half of the chocolate chips. Top with the remaining bread, raspberries, and chocolate chips. Pour the cream mixture over the top, gently pressing down the bread to encourage soaking. Cover the dish with a kitchen towel and let stand for 30 minutes to allow the custard to soak into the bread. Check that the oven is still set to 350°F.

Bake until puffed and golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. If the top is browning too quickly, loosely drape a piece of aluminum foil over the dish partway through baking. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve the pudding warm or at room temperature, dusted lightly with confectioners’ sugar. Store leftovers covered in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Fig Baklava

Serves 8

Baklava

1 pound walnut halves

1 1/2 cups dried mission figs, stemmed and coarsely chopped

2 tbsp light brown sugar

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp kosher salt

 1-lb package frozen phyllo dough, thawed

1 cup unsalted butter, melted, or coconut oil or vegetable oil

Syrup

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

3/4 cup water

1/4 cup  honey

1 cinnamon stick

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 tsp rose water

Make the baklava: Preheat the oven to 350°F and lightly grease a 9-by-13-in baking dish. Place the walnuts, figs, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a food processor, and mix until the walnuts and figs are finely ground.

If necessary, trim the phyllo to fit the baking dish, then place on a flat cutting board and cover with a damp kitchen towel. Fit one sheet of phyllo in the bottom of the baking dish and generously brush with melted butter. Repeat seven times, brushing with butter after each layer to make a stack of 8 phyllo sheets. Spoon half of the nut and fig mixture over the phyllo and spread evenly. Repeat the process with 4 more phyllo sheets, brushing with butter between each layer. Spread the remaining nut and fig mixture over the top and repeat the process with 8 more phyllo sheets.

Bake until the top is lightly golden and crisp, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes, then use a sharp knife to cut the baklava into squares or diamonds in the pan.

Meanwhile, make the syrup: Stir together the granulated sugar, water, honey, and cinnamon stick in a medium saucepan, and set over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often, until the syrup thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice and rose water. Let cool slightly. Discard the cinnamon stick.

Carefully spoon the warm syrup over the slightly cooled and cut baklava, taking care to pour syrup along the cut lines. Let the baklava sit for at least 2 hours before serving to allow the syrup to soften the filling. Serve at room temperature. Store covered at room temperature for up to 3 days.

The above recipes are reprinted from Little Book of Jewish Sweets by Leah Koenig with permission by Chronicle Books, 2019.

Peas, Love and Carrots

Savory Stovetop Turkey. Photo by Moshe Wulliger.

So, before we start talking about Danielle Renov’s wonderful new cookbook, Peas Love and Carrots (Me’sorah Publications, Ltd. 2020; $28.93 Amazon price) I want to take a few moments to whine. I write a lot about food, I have a food blog, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts where I post about food and travel. I often think it’s lucky I have a large family including cousins who I am able to cajole into following me so I have at least some followers.

Some don’t seem to need large families to get followers. At least four or five times a year, I interview a cookbook author who started with an Instagram or Facebook or Twitter account and ended up with tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands of followers. I’m not saying I’m anywhere near their level of ability and creativity. Far from it, but still—comparatively my numbers aren’t even close. I’m not writing this to make people feel so sorry for me that they follow me—but hey, if you want to it’s okay. it’s just that with Renov I ran into it again. Four years ago, with her husband out of town and her kids tucked away in bed, she decided to start Instagramming.

Tuna Salad A` La Moi. Photo by Moshe Wulliger.

Last year, she had around 43,000 followers. This year, as of May, the number was edging close to 60,000. She now is talked about as a kosher and food influencer—someone who has the audience and credibility to persuade others. To give an example of what that means, Kim Kardashian may be the ultimate influencer with 200 million followers across social media channels. Yes, 200 million. That’s more than half the number of people who live in the United States.

Burnt Cauliflower and Herb Salad. Photo by by Moshe Wulliger.

Renov, who grew up on Long Island, New York and moved to Israel about 13 years ago, deserves her followers. The 254 plus recipes she created for Peas, Love & Carrots reflect her many life experiences, her family’s heritage, her Sephardic and Ashkenazi roots and her own interest in food in her new homeland including her weekly shopping expeditions to the Machane Yehuda Shuk, a sprawling 19th century
market in Jerusalem selling among many other items, a variety of foods. In writing the introduction to her recipes, Renov tells a story about it, often displaying a sense of humor.

“Dinner again?” she writes in the introduction to Crispy Baked Chicken fingers. “I know. it’s crazy. No matter how many times you go through it, it comes back again and again. It’s almost like laundry. Only you can’t eat your laundry, so at least there’s that. This (recipe) is for those days. And since those days happen more than we’d like to admit, I gave you three versions so that you can change things up. You’re welcome.”
But food is also serious for Renov, who returns frequently to New York where she records cooking videos for kosher.com. She wants her recipes to work, to be easily accessible for both kosher and non-kosher cooks and to offer tastes beyond the everyday.

Describing her Savory Stovetop Turkey recipe as an ode to her father who doesn’t eat a lot of read met, Renov says she’s always on the hunt for tasty turkey recipes.

Crispy Baked Chicken Fingers. Photo by Moshe Wulliger.

“What I never saw was a turkey roast recipe where I felt like the turkey was treated like a proper beef roast,” she says, and I have to agree which is another reason why this recipe looks so intriguing. From the photo, and I’ll soon have my own photos too as I’m making it for company tomorrow, it looks like a richly braised beef roast.

“That’s what was aiming for here,” she says, “Turkey that was deeply savory, moist, and extremely satisfying.”

Go ahead and follow Renov, I won’t mind. Really. She posts her recipes, cooking tutorials, lifestyle tips and inspirational ideas for the kitchen, home, and family on both her blog peaslovencarrots.com and Instagram feed @peaslovencarrots.

The following were excerpted from Peas Love & Carrots by Danielle Renov. Copyright 2020 by ArtScroll Mesorah Publications, photos by Moshe Wulliger. Reproduced with permission of the copyright holder. All rights reserved.

Burnt Cauliflower and Herb Salad
Yield: 2+ quarts
Cauliflower
2 (24 oz) bags frozen cauliflower florets
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 1⁄2 Tablespoons)
1 1⁄2 teaspoons kosher salt
1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 1⁄2 teaspoons sumac
1⁄2 teaspoons paprika
1 lemon, halved

Herb Salad
1⁄2 cup chopped parsley
1⁄2 cup chopped cilantro
1⁄2 cup chopped scallions (from about 4 scallions)
2 tablespoons chopped mint, optional
1 small purple onion, finely diced (about 1 cup)
1-11⁄2 Tablespoons white vinegar kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Cauliflower
Preheat oven to 350°F / 180°C. Line a baking sheet with heavy duty foil; coat with 1 tablespoon olive oil.
Toss frozen cauliflower with 2 tablespoons oil, garlic, salt, pepper, turmeric, sumac, and paprika.
Spread out on baking sheet in a single layer.

Roast undisturbed for about 45 minutes (DO NOT OPEN OVEN DOOR DURING THAT TIME!).
After 45 minutes, cauliflower should begin to get crispy and charred.

Open oven door remove baking sheet, and squeeze both halves of the lemon over the cauliflower. DO NOT MIX OR STIR. Just squeeze over the top, return to oven and cook for 5-6 minutes.
Serve and enjoy.

Herb Salad
While cauliflower is roasting, combine parsley, cilantro, scallions, mint, and onion in a large bowl.
When cauliflower is done, add to the herb mixture, tossing to combine. Add vinegar; toss to combine.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve warm or cold.
Note: If not serving the same day, combine herbs with cauliflower before serving time.

Tuna Salad A` La Moi
“This is my favorite lunch salad,” says Renov. “I could eat it, on repeat, every day. I know, mercy. Ok, fine. every other day. It’s filling, the
flavors are punchy, and it’s my absolute favorite way to eat tuna. Make it today, double the recipe, and store it in an airtight container for tomorrow. it is actually better the second day.”

2 cups shredded purple cabbage
1 cup shredded radicchio
1 cup chopped scallions
1 cup chopped cucumber
1 cup finely chopped celery
1⁄2 cup diced purple onion
1 cup parsley, chopped
1 cup chopped preserved lemons
1⁄2 cup chopped capers 15 ounce canned tuna in water, drained,

Roughly chopped juice of 1 lemon, 2 teaspoons paprika, 1 teaspoon, cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1⁄2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper.

Place all ingredients into a large bowl. Toss well to combine.

Let sit for 5 minutes. Toss again.

Savory Stovetop Turkey
1 large whole deboned turkey breast
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 1⁄2 teaspoons granulated garlic
1 1⁄2 teaspoons paprika
1 tablespoon neutral oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 1⁄2 cups dry white wine
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 cups chicken broth
1⁄4 cup duck sauce

In a small bowl, combine salt, pepper, garlic, and paprika. Season turkey breast with mixture on all sides.
Heat a pot over medium heat. Add oil; place turkey top side down and sear for 4 minutes on each side.
Remove turkey from pot; set aside.

Add onion; cook for 12 minutes.

Add garlic and tomato paste to the pot. Cook for 2 minutes until fragrant.

Add wine, bay leaves, and vinegar, stirring to scrape up any bits on the bottom of the pan.

Cook for 2 minutes; add chicken broth and duck sauce.

Return turkey to the pot, spooning some of the mixture over the top.

Bring mixture to a boil, cover pot, and reduce heat to low. Cook for 1 1⁄2 hours, basting every 20 minutes or so. Serve hot and enjoy.
Tips + Tricks
If making in advance, slice turkey when it’s cold, return to sauce, and reheat gently.

Crispy Baked Chicken Fingers:

Crispy Asian Baked Shnitsel
1 package chicken tenders (about 18 pieces) OR 12 thin cutlets
1 cup mayo
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons honey
1-2 teaspoons sriracha (depending how spicy you like it!)
1 Tablespoon white miso
1⁄4 cup soy sauce
3 cups panko breadcrumbs
Barbecue Crispy Chicken
1 package chicken tenders (about 18 pieces) OR 12 thin cutlets
1⁄4 cup mayo
3⁄4 cup favorite barbecue sauce
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon granulated onion
3 cups panko breadcrumbs

Honey Mustard Crispy Chicken
1 package chicken tenders (about 18 pieces) or 12 thin cutlets
1⁄4 cup mayo
1⁄4 cup Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons honey
3 cups panko breadcrumbs
Preheat oven to 350°F

Coat a baking sheet liberally with nonstick cooking spray.
In a large bowl, combine flavoring ingredients (aside from chicken and breadcrumbs) in selected recipe.
Add chicken to wet mixture; mix to coat.
Dip coated chicken into breadcrumbs, then place flat on prepared baking sheet. Spray the top of the chicken pieces with a little more nonstick spray.
Bake for 30-40 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.

Hanukkah 2019

            Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is celebrated on the 25th day of the month of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar and lasts eight days, this year from December 22 to 30.  One candle a night, on a nine-branch menorah, is lit at sunset each of the evenings. The ninth candle, called a shamash meaning helper or attendant, is used to light the other eight. It’s a very touching ceremony. But it didn’t stop me from being a little “grinchy” as I think I’ve mentioned before when I was growing up and Hanukkah rolled around.

Instead of just appreciating my holiday and my best friend Lizzy Cohen’s holiday, I would complain to my mother when I returned home after watching Mr. Cohen light the candle and say the blessing, “Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha’olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tsivanu l’hadlik ner shel Hanukkah” in his deep baritone, that Lizzie got eight presents—one for each night. My mother pointed out that though I got all my presents on one day, if I added them up the total was probably larger than eight. But I chose not to listen to reason. She had other bad news for me as well, telling me we couldn’t convert our faith to Judaism just so I could get more gifts.

          I’m kind of over the Lizzie Cohen thing now—we’re still friends on Facebook and I never mention that I know she’s getting a lot more presents that me.

Now, when I think of Hanukkah, I remember sharing a meal with the Cohens and lighting the candles and appreciate them taking me into their family and sharing their holiday with me.

          Knowing Hanukkah was coming up, I asked my good friend Carrie Bachman if she had any recipes she could share, and she sent me the following which are from the just released Joy of Cooking 2019 . I’ve copied the recipes just like they are in the cookbook with the unique formatting that is so particular to this great book.

VEGAN EGGNOG

About eight 6-ounce servings

This eggnog is quite boozy, which is how we like it, but feel free to scale back on the rum, if desired.

Soak overnight in water to cover:

            1 cup raw cashews

Drain and transfer to a blender along with:

            One 13 ½-ounce can coconut milk

            1 cup water

            ½ cup sugar or maple syrup

            1 tablespoon vanilla

Blend until completely smooth and creamy. Strain into a punch bowl or pitcher and stir in:

            1 cup light rum

            ½ cup Grand Marnier or Cointreau

Serve garnished with:

            Freshly grated nutmeg

If making ahead of time, the eggnog may separate when refrigerated. Simply let it sit for 20 minutes at room temperature, then whisk well or reblend before serving.

               LATKES (POTATO PANCAKES)

About fourteen 3-inch cakes

The high starch content of russet potatoes helps hold the cakes together. Shredded celery root, parsnip, sweet potato, or carrot may be substituted for up to half the potatoes.

Wrap in a clean kitchen towel and wring to squeeze out as much moisture as possible:

            1 pound russet potatoes (about 2 medium), peeled and shredded (about 2 cups)

            1 medium onion, grated

Combine in a bowl with:

            2 large eggs, well beaten

            3 tablespoons all-purpose flour or matzo meal

            1 ¼ teaspoons salt

Preheat the oven to 200°F. Heat in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat until hot:

            ¼ inch or more vegetable oil or butter

Place spoonfuls of the potato mixture into the skillet, in batches, and form them into 3-inch patties about ¼ inch thick. Brown on the bottom for about 4 minutes, reducing the heat to medium if necessary, to prevent scorching. Turn and brown the second side until crisp, about 4 minutes more. Transfer to a plate or rimmed baking sheet lined with paper towels and keep warm in the oven while frying the remaining latkes. Serve at once with:

            Applesauce

            Sour cream or Greek yogurt

            Minced chives

King Solomon’s Table: A Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World

            For her book King Solomon’s Table: A Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World (Alfred A. Knopf 2017; $35), Joan Nathan, the multiple James Beard award winner, followed in the footsteps of Jewish traders as they circumvented the globe centuries and even millenniums ago. As they traveled, they brought the food cultures from the lands they’d visited before and adapted new ones but keeping close to their dietary laws, traditions and homelands.Joan Nathan (c) Gabriela Herman (1)

            Nathan, who has written almost a dozen cookbooks, recounts the culinary history and geography of these early travelers in her sumptuous new book featuring over 170 recipes.

            It begins at the Paradesi Synagogue in Kochi, Kerala where Nathan spies an inscription indicating Jewish traders might have crossed the Indian Ocean from Judea to India during the reign of King Solomon. Already a world traveler, Nathan next made her way to Chendamangalam, a hamlet 20 miles north of Kochi surrounded by a lush landscape of mango, coconut and cinnamon trees and pepper and cardamom vines.

            “As I walked toward the bank of the nearby Periyar River, which flows into the Arabian Sea, I imagined ancient Hebrew adventurers and traders arriving on the shores and marveling at the lushness of the terrain,” writes Nathan in the introduction of her book.

            And so we too are seduced by her journey into exotic lands, looking at how foods and ingredients have crisscrossed the globe originating far from where we first might have thought.

            We chat about Malai, a Romanian cornmeal ricotta breakfast pudding that she features in her book and I tell her how I learned to make a polenta-like dish from my Romanian grandmother.

            “Oh mamaliga,” she says, like everyone knows about mamaliga.  But then what would you expect from a woman whose book contains five recipes for haroset, a thick sauce or paste typically made of chopped fruits and nuts. It, like so many recipes, has morphed, bouncing back and forth between countries and continents, each time being tweaked just a little and Nathan includes a version from Brazil, Persia, Ferrara and, of all places, Maine.

            Asked what recipes she’d recommend for those just starting using her cookbook, Nathan suggests Yemenite Chicken Soup with Dill, Cilantro and Parsley (“a really old recipe,” she says noting that historic records dating back to 12th century the healing power of chicken broth). She also suggests Malai, the Romania dish and Roman Ricotta Cheese Crostata with Cherries or Chocolate, a cheesecake recipe dating back to Imperial Rome in the 1st century. She also included a recipe from her friend, her friend Injy Farat-Lew, an Egyptian-Jew who grew up in Cairo and Paris, for a flourless chocolate cake and one for hard boiled eggs traditionally served ruing Passover on the Seder plate but can be used as a side for any meal.

            “This recipe for long-cooked eggs with spinach came from the island of Corfu, Greece to Ancona, Italy, a seaport on the Adriatic coast,” writes Nathan, who first taste the dish in Rome, in the introduction to this recipe which also exemplifies the convoluted origins of food.

            As she traveled (Nathan says her quest took her to approximately 30 countries over a six-year time span), the scope of her book changed. But it was all part of her culinary journey and one she continues to take.

 

Huevos Haminados con Spinaci

(Long-Cooked Hard-Boiled Eggs with Spinach)

 

Yield: 12 servings

 

12 large eggs, preferably fresh from a farmers’ market

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 cups red onion (about 1 large), peeled and chopped coarsely

1 tablespoon sea salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 pounds spinach, fresh or frozen (thawed and drained if frozen)

 

Put the eggs in a cooking pot and add water to cover by about 2 inches. Then add the olive oil, onions, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Cool and remove the eggs with a slotted spoon. Tap the eggs gently against the counter and peel under cold running water, keeping them as whole as possible.

 

Return the peeled eggs to the pot with the seasoned water and simmer very slowly uncovered for at least 2 hours, or until the water is almost evaporated and the onions almost dissolved. The eggs will become dark and creamy as the cooking water evaporates and they absorb all the flavoring.

 

Remove the eggs carefully to a bowl, rubbing into the cooking liquid any of the cream that forms on the outside. Heat the remaining cooking liquid over medium heat, bring to a simmer, and add the spinach. Cook the spinach until most of the liquid is reduced, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, about 30 minutes, or until the spinach is creamy and well cooked. Serve a dollop of spinach with a hard-boiled egg on top as the first part of the Seder meal or as a first course of any meat.

 

Flourless Chocolate Cake

 

8 ounces good bittersweet chocolate

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter or coconut oil

6 large eggs, separated

3/4 cup sugar

Pinch of salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

Unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting

Raspberries and blueberries for topping

Whipped cream or ice cream (optional)

Directions

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and butter a 9-or 10-inch spring-form pan with spray, or a little of the butter or coconut oil.

 

Melt the chocolate and the butter or coconut oil in a double-boiler or in a microwave for a little more than a minute. Let cool.

 

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer using the whip attachment, beat the egg whites with 1/2 cup of the sugar and the salt until soft peaks form. In a separate bowl, whip the yolks with the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and vanilla. Using a spatula, slowly stir in the chocolate in the egg yolk mixture. Then carefully fold in the egg whites. Don’t overmix or it will deflate.

 

Bake for 28 to 35 minutes, or until the cake is fully set around the edges. You want it to be slightly gooey in the center.

 

Let cool in the pan for a few minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely, and dust with cocoa.

 

Serve topped with berries and, if you like, with whipped cream or ice cream.

 

Yields 8 to 10 servings

 

Above recipes courtesy of Joan Nathan “King Solomon’s Table.”

 

Jane Ammeson can be contacted via email at janeammeson@gmail.com or by writing to Focus, The Herald Palladium, P.O. Box 128, St. Joseph, MI 49085.