Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Jelly Doughnuts for Chanukah or Any Day

Fingers sticky with jam, powdered sugar frosting my apron and just the wisp of the smell of oil clinging to my hair, I take a bite of my first attempt at making jelly doughnuts. The meshing of the slightly lemony doughnut with the sweet-sharp taste of the raspberry jam center and the sugary hit of the confectioner’s sugar sends me into sensory overload.

How good is this doughnut? Good enough for you to stop what you are doing and start figuring out when you are going to make some jelly doughnuts (also known as sufganiyot – a Chanukah favorite).

I can’t promise you making your own jelly doughnuts will be easy. But it isn’t really hard, it’s just exacting. So, if doughnuts (or donuts if you prefer) fresh from the fryer, dripping with jam and sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar are your destiny, you can do this.

I used a combination of recipes and techniques gleaned from a number of sources, but primarily from Joan Nathan’s “The Foods of Israel Today” (Knopf). I’ve written down exactly what I used and what worked best for me. I’ve also included some notes on making ahead. There are some major changes and adaptations to Nathan’s recipe based on my experiences and tastes, so if you have any issues or problems, blame me. Please check her cookbook if you’d like to make the doughnuts exactly as she specifies.  Looking for a baked, vegan or gluten-free version?  Check out the recipes on this site.

This project came out of the desire of some members of my Temple Beth Abraham congregation to learn how to make sufganiyot (also spelled sofganiyot) for this Chanukah (or Hanukkah if you prefer) as part of an on-going effort to learn new Jewish recipes. We were lucky to have someone experienced with deep frying, but everyone took turns rolling, cutting, frying and filling. It was a great experience and we look forward to more "Cooking Jewish" adventures.

Keep reading for the recipe, links to how-to videos, my very specific instructions (including how to make ahead) and more photos.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Oil Vey! Chanukah Foods From Around the World -- This Thursday in Berkeley

Go Beyond Latkes to Learn About Other Chanukah Foods
 Come to an adult Chanukah (or Hanukkah if you prefer) party, 7 p.m. this Thursday, December 2nd at the Jewish Community Center in Berkeley.  After candle lighting join one of four hour-long talks about Chanukah, including mine about Chanukah foods from around the world.  Everyone gets back together at 8:20 p.m. for chocolate and port.

I've been doing my homework and will have a presentation as jam packed as a sufganiyah (Israeli Chanukah jelly doughnut) full of Chanukah foods past and present as well as a handout of some recipes to for some take home exploration.  I'll be covering Chanukah foods from apples to zvingous and a whole lot of tasty treats in between.

In addition to Oil Vey! Chanukah Foods From Around the World, the other talks are:

Christmas in a Jewish Family (presented by Dawn Kepler of the interfaith family group Building Jewish Bridges)

Oil: Miracle or Finite Resource: An Environmental Perspective on Chanukah (Presented by Ron Feldman of the JCC)

Light and Darkness: A Mystical Understanding of Chanukah (presented by Rabbi Bridget Wynne, executive director of Jewish Gateways)

Admission is free and open to all, but you must be 21 or older.

The Jewish Community Center of the East Bay is located at 1414 Walnut Street in Berkeley.

The event is sponsored by the JCC of the East Bay, Building Jewish Bridges, Oakland Ruach Hadassah and Berkeley Hadassah.

Go to the JCC website for more information.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Daisy Does Christmas -- Daisy Martinez's New Holiday Cookbook

I don't think I would have looked at Daisy Martinez's new cookbook for fall and winter holiday entertaining except that my sister is a big fan of the TV chef.  Since I didn't really know Martinez's work or food, I was pleasantly surprised by the wonderful Latino and Hispanic flavors her recipes offered and enjoyed the snippets of her life she shared. 

"Daisy's Holiday Cooking: Delicious Latin Recipes for Effortless Entertaining" with Chris Styler (Atria Books) is menu based and includes preparation schedules to help reduce some of the stress of cooking these "major" meals. Between the recipes and the color photos I ended up drooling over almost every recipe in the 163-page book.  They all seemed like they would be delicious.

The 10 menus begin with a "cozy festive fall dinner" and end with a New Year's Day "linner" (mid afternoon combo of lunch and dinner).  In between there are holiday buffets, Christmas events and an elegant New Year's Eve dinner. Each meal has its own color-coded section making it easy to find. The recipes are accompanied  by lots of color photos for inspiration.

While there are many recipes that would work well for vegetarians this is a meat centric cookbook.  It is also Christmas centric, with no options for other winter religious or cultural celebrations.  That's not surprising, since it is a food memoir of Daisy's own tastes and experiences, but it dimmed its appeal for me as a seasonally based cookbook.  However, most of the recipes would be appropriate throughout the year, so the book is not limited to holiday cooking.  An index by course would have made it easier to use the cookbook year round and increased its versatility. This is special event cooking, so don't expect budget cooking or super-quick recipes, although Martinez does include easier variations to get the same flavors.

Directions are thorough and complete with step by step photos of many techniques such as how to cut up a chicken and  Martinez gives ideas on how to use up any leftovers.

Some of the recipes that caught my eye include Achiote-Rubbed Roast Turkey with Manchamanteles (Tablecloth Stainer Sauce) with a chile-fruit note; Pumpkin-Spice Mantecadas, delectable little muffins; Empanaditas with Huitlacoche, Spinach and Mushroom Filling, small, savory turnovers using corn fungus; Arroz con Pato, a duck variation on a popular chicken dish; Coconut Tapioca with Mangoes, a luscious dessert, and Tamarind Margaritas, with spicy salt rims.

Keep reading for the recipes for the Coconut Tapioca with Mangoes and the Tamarind Margaritas and for links to other recipes from the book.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Potato Knish Recipe and the Best of Jewish Cookbooks (Just in Time for Chanukah Gifting)

For me every recipe tells a story that reflects back on its culture, time and place. And when that recipe is Jewish, there is also centuries if not millennia of tradition and religious observance to understand as well. The best of the new crop of Jewish-themed cookbooks help tell the stories of Jews and the food they ate from ancient Israel to New York's Lower East Side immigrants to  the present day North African Jews in France. Plus any one of these books would make a swell Chanukah (Hanukkah) present.

“It gives you a sense of this is what our ancestors ate,” said Chaim Mahgal-Friedman, owner of Afikomen, Berkeley, CA, of the new edition of Kitty Morse’s “A Biblical Feast: Ancient Mediterranean Flavors for Today’s Table.” All recipes use ingredients thought to be used during the time of the bible in the Jordan River Valley. Mahgal-Friedman also likes how the book has clear instructions on how to go back to basics and make your own goat cheese, unleavened breads and sourdough starter. Morse’s self-published book is “beautifully illustrated” and easy to use, he said.

Afikomen is known for its large selection of Jewish cookbooks. Mahgal-Friedman also recommended “The Book of New Israeli Food” (Schocken) by famed Israeli food writer Janna Gur. Gur’s book is a few years old but gained local attention this past year with a display of Eilon Paz’s stunning food photographs from the book at the Peninsula Jewish Community Center in Foster City and Gur’s appearances around the Bay area.

Another recent book Mahgal-Friedman is excited about is “The Complete Asian Kosher Cookbook” (Targum Press) by the mother/daughter team of Shifrah Devorah Witt and Zipporah Malka Heller. The duo adapts Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Thai and other Asian favorites so they can be made kosher with easy-to-find ingredients but still taste authentic.

Two new books have the attention of Celia Sack of Omnivore Books on Food in San Francisco, CA. She is looking forward to stocking Paula Shoyer’s “The Kosher Baker” (Brandeis), a collection of 160 dairy-free dessert recipes that include such delights as Babbka Cupcakes with Crumb Topping, Cinnamon, Vanilla, & Raspberry Macaroons, and Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse Cakes.

“I think it’s the best thing coming out right now. It's a beautiful book, and I don't think the topic has ever been written about this extensively,” Sack said.

Sack also recommends “97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement.” The author, Jane Ziegelman, is the head of the culinary department at the Tenement Museum in New York City. The museum has restored an 1863 tenement-style apartment house and shares the stories of some of the almost 7,000 people who lived there in the 19th and 20th centuries.

“97 Orchard,” published by Harper Collins this summer, was on several booksellers’ lists. The book details the food ways of five different immigrant families who lived in the tenement on New York’s Lower East Side. It includes 40 recipes from the families’ German, Italian, Irish and Reform and Orthodox Jewish traditions.

Nurit Sabadosh, owner of Alef Bet Judaica in Los Gatos, CA, is also featuring the “New Book of Israeli Food” and is looking forward to stocking the latest book in the “Kosher by Design series. The books, by Susie Fishbein, are bestsellers for Alef Bet and Sabadosh expects the newest one, “Kosher by Design: Teens and 20-Somethings” (Shaar Press), to be popular as well. The book features alternatives to fast food that can be made with no special equipment and little or no cooking skills.

At Dayneu, a Judaica store in San Francisco, CA, co-owners Eva-Lynne Leibman and Hiroko Nogami-Rosen also carry the Kosher by Design series. They say they are looking forward to “Quiches, Kugels and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France” (Knopf) by Joan Nathan, author of long-time favorite “Jewish Cooking in America” (Knopf). The book traces culinary influences as Jewish food in France evolved and then influenced general cooking in France.

Another stalwart of Jewish cuisine also has a new book on Jewish food out. The “Encyclopedia of Jewish Food” (Wiley) by Gil Marks, rabbi, chef and historian and author of “Olive Trees and Honey: A Treasury of Vegetarian Recipes from Jewish Communities Around the World” (Wiley) and other books, is part comprehensive food history book, part cookbook, part cultural anthropology text and more. It explains not only what foods such as ajin taimani (Yemenite bread), kichel (Ashkenazi egg cookie) and yakhna (a Persian meat stew) are but why they came about, where they migrated from and how they changed over time, often with recipes. The book also contains listings for Jewish holidays, food customs and a Jewish food history timeline. Marks’ background as a chef, rabbi and historian shines through in this well-written book.

For anyone who wants to learn more about Jewish tradition and life it is a valuable resource. For those of us who enjoy exploring our own and others Jewish food heritages it is an invaluable one.

Take for example the potato knish. Marks’ listing for knish opens with a quote from writer Sholem Aleichem, describes its origins as a medieval Polish fried patty and traces its evolution into “a small, round, fried, filled pastry” and then to a baked form similar to what we know today. The knish’s importance increased as the availability of home ovens did and the importation and cultivation of the New World potato into the Old World created the potato filling I so fondly remember. The entry goes on to detail the changes to the knish and prominent events in its history after it crossed back to the New World and concludes with the role the pastry now plays in Israel.

Here is my adaptation of Marks’ recipe for “Ashkenazic Filled Pastries,” or knishes, from the "Encylopedia of Jewish Food." 

Potato Knishes
Makes about 8 large or 36 small knishes

Note: Marks does not specify what kind of potato to use. I used large creamers, similar to new potatoes. While I loved the rich onion taste of this traditional recipe, I also liked my spicier Southwestern variation below with roasted green chilies and cheese.

¾ pound potatoes
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening or margarine
1 teaspoon salt
About 3 cups all-purpose flour

1 pound of potatoes
2 Tbs. oil
2 cups chopped onion
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Egg wash (1 large egg beaten with 1 Tbs. water)

Make the pastry: Boil potatoes in lightly salted water until tender. Cool. Put through a food mill or slip off skins and mash. Use 2 cups of the mashed potato for the dough. Reserve extra for another use.

In a large bowl, combine the mashed potatoes, eggs, shortening and salt. Slowly add in flour and stir until soft dough forms and the no more flour is absorbed. Mix the dough with your hands if needed. Knead the dough for a minute or two on a lightly floured surface. Cut into fourths, shape each into a round and wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Make the filling. Prepare the potatoes as described above. Use 2 ½ cups for the filling.

Heat the oil in a large fry pan and sauté the chopped onions over medium heat until golden brown. Stir into the potatoes. Add salt and pepper. Cool. Taste and correct seasonings. Stir in the egg.

To assemble: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a large baking tray or line with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/8” thick. For large knishes, cut 5” by 4” rectangles. For small ones, cut into 3” squares. Put ¼ cup of filling in each larger knish and about 1 Tbs. filling into the smaller ones. Draw edges together and pinch to seal. Put seam side down on baking tray. Brush with egg wash. Bake until lightly browned, about 20-25 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Southwestern Variation: Use 2 cups of mashed potato for the filling. Add 2 cups of shredded cheese and ¼ to ½ cup of roasted, peeled and chopped green chilies to the filling mixture.
This post was adapted from a new cookbook round up and a piece on potato knishes I wrote that appeared in the j. weekly.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Bad, bad Blogger (the service, not this author)

My apologies, for some reason Blogger hiccupped and my front page posts are now all in capsule form with only thumbnail photos. I hope Blogger will fix whatever it did asap. (Although, I'm nearing a month without the navbar search at the top of the page working right).  I have changed nothing so I am clueless why this has happened.  If you are reading this and you are seeing full posts, this means Blogger has fixed it, so never mind.

Update: Seems to be okay now, but in case it reverts you know why (kinda).

Tonight's the Night for Dine Out for Meals on Wheels

I'm looking forward to eating at Italian Colors tonight, which will be donating 10 percent of its proceeds to the Alameda County Meals on Wheels. Other Bay area restaurants will be doing the same.  It's not too late to join in.  Here's my post with more information. Or go to http://www.dineoutnow.org/ for more info.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Easy Oregano-Lemon Baked Chicken Recalls Greek Roots (Plus Side Dishes)

When I write my j. weekly column, the most frequent feedback I get is on recipes that are easy to prepare but offer something a bit different for entertaining. This Greek-inspired oregano and lemon baked chicken (with side dishes of leek-mint fritters and orzo with tomatoes and greens) seemed to strike a cord with readers recently.

I developed these recipes after talking to Nora Rousso, the proud inheritor of many northern Greek Jewish food traditions. The Los Gatos resident can trace her heritage back to the Ottoman Empire and the fabled Sephardic city of Salonika. From her grandmother, mother and aunt she learned to appreciate and cook recipes that resonate with meaning for not just her family, but for many others who share a similar heritage.

One of the dishes special to the Salonika table was leek fritters or patties. “They are like latkes, only tastier,” she says. “When my aunt made them they were half gone before they even got to the table. Before we sat down every one would sneak out to take one.”

On holidays, her grandmother might make small homemade noodles called “fideos.” Normally boiled in water, for special occasions the noodles would be cooked with chicken broth and stewed tomatoes.

Rousso says the traditional cooking she grew up mostly relied on salt and pepper for seasoning but that chicken was always baked in olive oil, lemon juice and “a ton of oregano.” She also has found memories of horta, a dish of cooked greens, usually dandelion greens with lots of lemon and olive oil.

Based on Rousso’s memories, I’ve put together a Salonika inspired meal. My j. weekly write up is here.

Leek and Mint Fritters
Serves about 6

I’ve added some mint for the fresh taste and bright green color as well as a dash of crushed red peppers. They would make a nice variation from potato latkes (pancakes) at Passover as well. I enjoyed the leftovers drizzled with tangy Greek-style yogurt the next day.

6 large leeks, white and light green parts only
2 cloves garlic, minced.
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
4 eggs, beaten
¼ cup matzoh meal
¼ cup chopped fresh mint
¼ cup vegetable oil or more as needed

Trim, cut leeks and half lengthwise and clean. Place in boiling water and cook until softened. Drain and cool. Finely chop by hand or in a food processor. Combine with garlic, salt and peppers. Mix well with beaten egg. Mix in matzoh meal and mint. Let batter rest 5 minutes. Stir and drop by ¼ cupfuls into hot oil over medium high heat in large fry pan. Fry about 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown. (Do not crowd pan). Remove to paper-towel lined plate and serve warm.

Oregano and Lemon Baked Chicken
Serves 4-6

Cutting back on the oregano to 1 tsp. gives a much milder oregano flavor if you prefer.
¾ cup fresh lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup water
1/8 tsp. crushed pepper flakes
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
¼ tsp. salt
1 Tbs. dried oregano leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs. vegetable oil or oil spray for pan
4 pounds chicken breasts and/or thighs on the bone

In a large, non-reactive container, combine lemon juice, oil, water, peppers, salt, oregano and garlic. Mix well. Add chicken, turn to coat and marinate for 1 hour. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Coat a large roasting or baking pan with oil or oil spray. Place chicken bone down in pan. Pour marinade over top of chicken. Roast, basting with pan juices every 10 minutes or so, until chicken is done when you cut into it and there is no pink at the bone but meat is still very moist. (Timing will vary depending on chicken part and thickness, a very thick chicken breast took 45 minutes.) Remove from oven, let sit 10 minutes. Serve with pan juices.

Orzo with Tomatoes and Greens
Serves 6

I combined several of Rousso’s food memories for this dish. It makes an excellent side dish for the baked chicken recipe. I used dandelion greens, but for a milder flavor Swiss chard works, too.

4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups orzo pasta
1/8 plus 1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 plus 1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 cup chopped onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups chopped tomatoes (in ½” chunks)
4 cups chopped dandelion or turnip greens
½ tsp. sugar (optional)
Lemon wedges

Heat broth to boiling in large sauce pan. Add orzo and 1/8 tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, lower heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is done but not mushy. (About 8-10 minutes.)

In a large sauté pan over medium high heat, heat the oil. Sauté onions until light brown. Add garlic, sauté until golden. Add tomatoes and sauté until just beginning to soften. Add in greens and remaining salt and pepper. Sauté until greens are tender (adding a bit of water if needed), about 10 minutes. Mix in cooked orzo and any leftover cooking liquid. Turn heat to low and cook until well combined and all liquid is absorbed. Taste. If the greens taste too bitter, add the sugar. Add more salt and pepper if needed. Serve warm with lemon wedges to squeeze over individual portions.