Friday, December 23, 2011

Say It With Cookies - Happy Holidays

These gorgeous cut-out linzer cookies were made by the wonderful Anita Chu of Dessert First and part of the recent holiday cookie swap at the home of La Vie En Route blogger Annelies Hyatt Zijderveld.

There was lots of good cookies, good cheer and good company, but probably the most fun was had by rearranging the letters left of Anita's cookies once you ate one.  It became kind of a game, if you ate one you had to play cookie anagrams and make sense of the remaining letters.

Happy Holidays to you and yours.
All the best for 2012


P.S. What cookies did I bring?  I brought a version of my peppermint candy cookies.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Nothing Says Chanukah Better than Vegan Latkes

Vegan latkes use flax seeds as binder
Tonight's the first night of Chanukah (or Hanukkah or Hanukah or even Xanuka). It's always very special watching the glow of the menorah's candles in the darkened room surrounded by those I love. (You can find links to all my Chanukah posts here)

Since I'm about 99.9% vegan these days (I do still create and sample non-vegan recipes but I don't inhale), I thought I'd try adapting my latke recipe so I could scarf them up just like everybody else.  The recipe worked well and the non-vegans who sampled the test batch liked them just as much as I did.  The flax seeds gave the latkes a faintly nutty taste that was very pleasant.  Since the symbolism of the fried potato pancake at Chanukah is all about the oil, not about the egg, a vegan latke is perhaps unorthodox but still in keeping with holiday tradition. If you would like the recipe and technique to make the more traditional latkes, please click here.

Vegan Latkes
Serves 6 as a side dish, if this is a main course serves about 4.  If you are feeding folks that like to grab the hot latkes right out of the fry pan for a little taste or nosh, yield will be significantly less.

I use flax seeds that come preground. I don't peel the potatoes. Shredding the onions with the potatoes is alleged to help retard browning, however once the potatoes are fried, any discoloration can't really be seen.

4 Tbs. ground flax
3/4 cup of water
3 lbs. of russet, Idaho or other baking potato, peeling optional
1 large onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
Canola or other frying oil

Mix the ground flax seeds with the water.  Stir or whisk until combined.  Let sit for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until thick and gelatinous.

Shred potatoes alternating with onion.  (Larger shreds produce lacier latkes with rougher edges. Fine shreds or grated potatoes produce more "pancake"-like latkes.)  Squeeze dry and discard liquid.  Stir in garlic, salt, pepper and flax seed mixture.  Mix well.   Let sit for a few minutes so mixture can bind.

In a very large skillet (the heavier the better) over medium-high heat, heat oil that is about 1/4-inch deep until it is very hot. (I drop a bit of batter in to see if it sizzles with bubbles all around.)  Take a handful of the batter (about 1/4 to 1/3 cup depending on how large you want the pancakes) and press the the batter between two hands to make a patty, squeezing again to remove any moisture. Place carefully in the hot oil, pressing down with a spatular on the latke occasionally to flatten it some what.  Do not over crowd the pancakes in the pan. Fry them until browned on both sides and crisp on the edges, adding more oil as needed. Drain on parchment paper (see note below). Repeat until all latkes are fried. Keep cooked latkes warm in a low (250 degree) oven if desired.

Note:  The flax seeds not only "glue" the potato shreds together, they also cause the latkes to stick to paper towels or brown paper bags (the usual medium for draining them).  Use the parchment paper instead to avoid or lessen the problem or pat the latkes with a paper towel and set them directly on the serving platter.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Pot Roast 101 and a Recipe for Pot Roast with Tamarind

Gary likes to shred our pot roast. We served it in its sauce over latkes.
My mother was the queen of the pot roast, so making pot roast is part of my culinary heritage.  It’s a natural for holiday dinners (such as Chanukah or Rosh Hashanah) since your can cook it in advance and just reheat before serving.  In fact, it is almost required to cook in advance. There are two reasons for that. The first is that the flavors just get even better by letting it sit overnight and eating the next day.  The second is that there is absolutely no predicting when the pot roast will be done.  It could take two hours, it could take four.  I had one particularly reluctant specimen take eight hours until it reached the perfect you could cut-it-with-a-fork tenderness.

Making pot roast is really very easy, but here are some tips to help ensure success:

  • Cut away any extra surface fat, but don’t pick a piece of meat that is too lean. (That eight-hour pot roast was very, very lean).  I like to use boneless chuck roast, which I find flavorful and relatively economical.
  • Be sure to use a flavorful liquid and enough of it.  Think of the liquid as your flavor vehicle. In the recipe below I use tamarind and tomatoes for flavoring.  You could use wine and or broth for a more traditional pot roast flavor combination.
  • Be sure to add enough seasoning.  However, if you are using a kashered piece of meat you might want to go sparingly on the salt and season the gravy/sauce to compensate after you taste the cooked meat and sauce.  I find that meat that has been kashered (salted and drained according to the Jewish dietary laws) retains some residual salting and I can’t predict how little or much that will be.
  • Use a heavy enough pan or put a flame tamer or heat diffuser underneath a thinner pot to be sure you have even heat and to avoid burning.
  • Leave yourself enough time.  With a pot roast, meat passes through stages from raw to appearing to be cooked but hard as rock to full submission with the desired degree to tenderness.  The long, moist-heat cooking is breaking down the proteins and connective tissue, so you can’t just give a time for cooking a pot roast.  Keep checking, add more liquid if need be and keep cooking until a cooking fork pretty much glides through the meat.  If your pot roast is recalcitrant and just won’t get to that final stage of melt-in-the-mouth softness, you have two choices. Store it in the cooking liquid overnight and cook it further the next day and see if even more cooking will help or shredding it instead of slicing it against the grain.  Serving the pot roast shredded over mashed or boiled potatoes, noodles, soft polenta or similar is actually our favorite to serve it.

Pot Roast with Tamarind and Syrian Jewish Flavors
Serves about 6

The tamarind adds a slight tart note to the sauce that really complements the rich beef flavor. 

2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 lb. boneless chuck roast
1-28 oz. can whole tomatoes, undrained
½ tsp plus ¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground black pepper
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. brown sugar
4 tsp. plus 2 tsp. tamarind paste or concentrate
1-2 cups of water
2 Tbs. tomato paste

Add oil to a large, heavy pot. Heat over medium high heat and add onion slices.  Sauté until just softened then add garlic and sauté until onions are golden.  Remove onion and garlic from pot and reserve.  Add meat and brown on all sides. Lower heat to medium.  Add back the onions and garlic.  Add tomatoes with their liquid.  Using a spatula break up tomatoes into fourths. Stir. Add ½ tsp. of the salt and the pepper, cinnamon, allspice and stir. Add brown sugar and 4 tsp. of tamarind paste. Add enough water to bring liquid mixture to the top of the chuck roast.  Stir well.  Add tomato paste, stir again.  Bring the meat and liquid to a simmer.  Cover and lower heat to keep at a simmer, mixing sauce and turning meat occasionally until meat is as tender as you like, approximately 2 to 4 hours.  Remove meat to a cutting board until cool enough to handle.  While the meat is cooling, raise the heat on the liquid, add the 2 remaining tsp. of tamarind paste and cook uncovered at a low boil, stirring occasionally until it has reduced down to a gravy or sauce-like thickness. Taste and add in the ¼ tsp. of salt if desired.  Slice the meat thinly against the grain or shred.  Mix the meat back into the reduced sauce and reheat and serve or (preferably) store the meat in the sauce overnight in the refrigerator and gently reheat the next day.

For a round up of Chanukah (Hanukkah) recipes and information on Blog Appetit, including recipes for potato pancakes (latkes), check out this post.
For other pot roasts on Blog Appetit - check out the zippy cranberry version or my spicy pot roast with a kick
For pot roast recipes from around the web, check out Kayln's Kitchen's crock pot version, Simply Recipe's several recipes and Pioneer Woman's pictorial tutorial and recipe.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Four New Latke Toppings! Make Your Potato Pancakes Zing with Apple Pear Sauce, Beet-Horseradish Topping, Apple-Red Onion Compote and Apple Cinnamon Sour Cream

Apple Pear Sauce and Apple and Red Onion Compote for topping latkes
For many, latkes need no more than a dripping of sauce from a pot roast or brisket, a spoonful of apple sauce or maybe a shmear of sour cream. Then there are folks who like their latkes sprinkled with a bit of sugar. But for those who want to try something new this Chanukah season (or really any time), below are some recipes to plop atop their potato pancakes.

The Apple and Red Onion Compote adds savory but still sweet flavor to complement the rich taste of the fried potatoes. The Apple, Beet and Horseradish Topping is reminiscent of borscht with all the trimmings. The flavor combination is based on a salad of fresh shredded beets and horseradish I once had in a Ukrainian restaurant on the Lower East Side in New York. Be sure to use the plain, white prepared bottled horseradish without cream or beets. I like the Apple Pear Sauce best with unpeeled fruit, but peeling is an option if you prefer. Finally, the Apple Cinnamon Sour Cream Topping was developed by Green Valley Organics of Sebastopol, CA, for use with its kosher, lactose-free sour cream, but I think it works well with regular sour cream, too.

Apple and Red Onion Compote
Makes about 2 cups

1 medium red onion
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
2 medium apples, peeled, cored and cut into ½” cubes
1 cup apple juice
1 Tbs. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. ground coriander

Slice onions very thinly and then cut slice in half. Heat oil in large pan, Sauté onions over low heat until very soft, add apples and apple juice, raise heat to medium high. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Add sugar, salt, cloves and coriander. Cover and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the apples are very soft but not mushy, about 30 minutes. Remove lid and raise heat to high and cook, stirring, until all the pan juices have thickened and the mixture is no longer liquid. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Apple, Beet and Horseradish Topping
Makes about 2 and 1/2 cups

1 medium apple, peeled and cored
2 Tbs. lemon juice
1-15 oz. can of sliced beets, drained
1-2 Tbs. or to taste plain, prepared bottled white horseradish
1/2 cup sour cream

Chop apple into 1/4” pieces, mix with lemon juice and drain. Chop beets into 1/4” pieces, mix with drained apples. Stir in horseradish to taste. Refrigerate. Just before serving, pour off any liquid and mix with sour cream. Serve immediately.

Apple Pear Sauce
Makes about 3 cups

3 medium apples, peeling optional
2 Bartlett pears, ripe but firm, peeling optional
2 Tbs. lemon juice
3/4 cup apple juice

Core and cut apples and pears into 1” cubes. Toss with lemon juice. Put in medium pot with juice over low heat. Cover and cook at a simmer. Using a heavy spoon, stir, mash and break up pieces of the fruit occasionally as the sauce cooks. Once the fruit is very tender, about 30 minutes, (peeled fruit may require less time). Remove lid, raise heat to high and simmer for 10 minutes to thicken juices. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Apple Cinnamon Sour Cream Topping
(From Green Valley Organics)
Makes about 3 cups

For a non-dairy option, try plain soy yogurt.

1-12 oz. container regular or lactose-free sour cream
2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 Tbs. brown sugar OR 1 Tbs. agave nectar, to taste
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. salt
1 unpeeled apple, cored and shredded

Mix sour cream, applesauce, brown sugar or agave, cinnamon and salt together. Roll shredded apple in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze out excess water. Stir drained apple shreds into the sour cream mixture. Adjust seasonings to taste and refrigerate until ready to serve.
The version of this post originally appeared in the j. weekly.
Need recipes, suggestions, background on Chanukah (Hanukkah) - check out my round up here.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Give the Gift of Peppermint Bark, Chocolate Truffles and Peanut Brittle for a Really Sweet Holiday Season

Rolling chocolate truffle in cocoa before serving or packaging
 When I’m looking for hostess gifts or teacher presents this time of year, I often think of home-made candies. A tin or box of these treats is always appreciated. The candies also are good make-ahead desserts.

Two of these recipes have appeared in the blog before.  My youngest son and I created the Peppermint Bark recipe after he developed a taste for an expensive store-bought version of the candy. Children can help bash the peppermint candies into bits (under supervision, of course). The Cinnamon Almond Truffles evolved from a chocolate frosting recipe when I was looking for a non-dairy dessert. The Microwave Peanut Brittle is new to Blog Appetit and is one of the easiest I’ve ever made (although always be careful when working with hot sugar). The recipe is adapted from the cookbook that came with my first microwave oven. 

(Note: All three recipes are vegan if you use vegan ingredients. Probably the toughest to find is vegan white chocolate, but it is out there. You may need to use chips instead of block chocolate.)

Dress up your candy by putting pieces into colorful candy cups or mini-muffin or cupcake liners. Look in dollar or other stores for inexpensive packaging to gussy up your sweet offerings.

Peppermint Bark
Makes about 1 3/4 lbs. of candy

4 oz. round, wrapped peppermint hard candies (such as Starlight)
1 lb. semisweet chocolate, chopped
12 oz. white chocolate, chopped

Line an approximately 10” by 15” rimmed baking tray with aluminum foil. Make sure the foil lining extends beyond the sides of the pan. Unwrap candies and put them inside doubled heavy-duty plastic zipper-lock bags. Seal the bags, taking care all the air is removed. Place on a cutting board on a steady, durable surface. Hit the candies with a rolling pin, meat tenderizer or hammer until the candies are broken into approximately 1/4-inch pieces.

Melt the semisweet chocolate. Spread the melted chocolate in an even layer across the bottom of the prepared baking tray. Place pan with chocolate in the refrigerator.

Melt the white chocolate. Take pan with semisweet layer out of refrigerator and spread melted white chocolate on top. Working quickly, evenly scatter peppermint candy pieces on top, pressing down slightly on larger chunks to make sure they adhere. Put back in the refrigerator until firm, about a half hour. Using the foil lining, lift the bark out of the pan. Peel off the foil and break into irregularly shaped pieces. Store in the refrigerator in a sealed storage bag or container. Take out about 20 minutes before serving.

Vegan Cinnamon-Almond Chocolate Truffles
Makes about 24 Truffles

If you want to make a more traditional truffle, check out this recipe from the now-defunct Charles Chocolates.  I've also made these with raspberry-almond flavoring by skipping the cinnamon and using half raspberry and half almond extracts.

3 oz. plain unsweetened soy milk
3 Tbs. parve margarine, cut into small chunks
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. almond extract
5 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
Cocoa powder, optional

Simmer soy milk over medium heat. Add margarine, stirring until dissolved. Stir in cinnamon and almond extract. Reduce heat to very low. Add chocolate, stirring constantly until thoroughly melted. Refrigerate covered for several hours until the mixture is solid but pliable (it may be a bit crumbly). Oil hands and measuring spoon if desired. Spoon out about 2 tsp. of the chocolate mixture and using hands and fingers roll, press or pinch into rough rounds. Store covered in refrigerator and take out about 20 minutes before serving and roll in cocoa powder if using.

Microwave Peanut Brittle
Makes about 1 1/2 lbs. of candy

1 tsp. butter or margarine plus extra for greasing baking tray
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 cup salted peanuts (not dry roasted)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda

Note: Times are given for 800-1000 watt microwaves. For ovens with a higher wattage, try reducing cooking times by about 1 minute at each stage.

Grease baking tray and set aside. In a 2-quart heat-proof glass casserole dish (do not use plastic), combine sugar and corn syrup. Stir. Cook in microwave on high for 4 minutes Mixture should be beginning to bubble and starting to brown. Stir. Add peanuts. Mix well. Cook on high for 3 1/2 minutes. Stir in butter and vanilla. Cook on high for 1 1/2 minutes. Candy should be browned but not burnt, liquid and bubbly. Remove from microwave, immediately stir in baking soda until light and foamy. Pour onto buttered tray and spread until it is about 1/4” thick. (It spreads easier if the baking tray has been warmed slightly.) Cool, break into pieces. Store in airtight container.

A version of this post first appeared in the j. weekly.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Chanukah (or Hanukah or Hanukkah) Recipes and Background on Blog Appetit

Just one of the many good things to eat at Chanukah -- Jelly Doughnuts
Lots of good food and details about this festival of lights and fried foods here on Blog Appetit.

Here's a run down of offerings from Chanukahs past. Watch for another post with this year's offerings.


Israeli Jelly Doughnuts -- Called sufganiyot, these delicious filled pastries are not that hard to make, but they are exacting.  I give you all the details on how to make them. 

Traditional Latkes -- Potato pancakes are the gold standard holiday food, at least for Jews from an Eastern European background.  This recipe is the one I've been using as long as I've been making latkes and it is tried and true.  Latkes is the Yiddish term. Levivot the Hebrew one.

Shortcut Latkes -- Hey sometimes you just need to not shred five pounds of potatoes, I get it. On those nights, try this recipe. 

While many Jews can live on latkes alone, others of us like to gild the lily by serving it with something more than sour cream and or apple sauce. (A sizable portion of Jews also grew up sprinkling sugar on their latke, but my people are not from that tribe.)

This post has a wonderful cranberry pot roast recipe and lots of suggestions on what to serve with latkes from spiced applesauce to some siracha sauce.  I also like to serve the latkes with my homemade gravlax (cured salmon). Or try my recipe for roasted applesauce with warm spices.

Eating dairy foods is another Chanukah tradition.  This California Kugel with lots of crunchy granola and dried fruits makes a nice light supper, brunch or dessert offering. Or try this cinnamon bun kugel recipe.

For something very different, I combine two cultural traditions into one very special Chanukah dish - spicy tzimmes (beef and dried fruit stew) tamales.

For information on Chanukah foods and traditions from around the world, click here.

History and Observance
Did you know there are 16 ways to spell Chanukah in English?  Check out the info near the end of this post from last year.

For some of the history and background about this holiday, click here.

For tips on how to play the spinning top game known as dreidel (including directions on how to make one of your own), this post is the tops.

Learn how to light the menorah (or more accurately the hanukkiah) here

Feel free to post links to other Chanukah offerings by you or other bloggers in the comments section.

UPDATE: 2011 Chanukah offerings from Blog Appetit
4 New Latke Toppings to Make Your Potato Pancakes Zing
Everything You Wanted to Know about Making a Pot Roast and a Pot Roast with Tamarind Recipe
Make Mine Vegan -- Vegan Latkes

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Adding Meaning (and Jewish Flavors) to the Thanksgiving Table with Recipes for Pumpkin Hummus and More

Pumpkin Hummus with Za'atar Drizzle
I recently had the opportunity to speak about inviting Judaism to the Thanksgiving table.  Other folks were talking about prayers and traditions and I was to focus on the food, but it seemed to me to be a larger issue -- that what we really wanted to do was to add meaning.

My resulting presentation started off with a Thanksgiving trivia game and then I gave a number of resources to help add meaning, explanation and participation to the dinner to make it a more of a home ritual observance beyond friends, family and football without losing its all-inclusive, American nature. I've also ruminated on adding more meaning to the meal (including some suggestions) in this post.

I also developed some recipes to give the food a bit of a Jewish twist.
The Pumpkin Hummus with Za’atar Drizzle is a versatile appetizer with Middle Eastern and New World flavors. It is quick and easy to put together. Make the Challah “Stuffing” Kugel with Fresh Herbs in a shallow baking dish for lots of crusty bits or a deeper dish for lots of succulent ones. Either way, it’s a savory way to serve dressing this Thanksgiving. If the fresh herbs are not available, substitute about a third of the amount of dried, ground sage and thyme. Canned whole berry cranberry sauce is the basis of a Cranberry-Date “Charoset” with pecans and orange zest. It combines North American and Sephardic elements.

Pumpkin Hummus with Za’atar Drizzle
Makes 8 appetizer servings

7-8 oz. container of unflavored hummus
1 cup canned or fresh pumpkin puree (do not use canned pumpkin pie filling)
2 Tbs. za’atar seasoning mix (or use 5 tsp. ground oregano, 1⁄4 tsp. of cumin and 1 tsp. sesame seeds)
1/4 cup olive oil
6-8 flatbreads or pita breads

Mix hummus with pumpkin puree. In a separate bowl, combine za’atar with olive oil and stir well. Heat flatbreads or pitas in dry fry pan or griddle until warm and toasted. Either serve as a topped flatbread or dip. To serve as a flatbread, spread the pumpkin hummus on the bread, drizzle with za’atar mix and cut into triangles. To serve as a dip, stir half of the za’atar into the hummus until just combined and you can still see “streaks” of the herb oil mixture. Drizzle the remainder on top of the pumpkin hummus. Cut the warmed breads into triangles and serve with dip.

Challah “Stuffing” Kugel with Fresh Herbs
Serves 6-8

Tofurky makes an a good vegan Italian sausage. Use that and vegetable broth to make this dish vegetarian.

1 Tbs. plus 2 Tbs. oil
2 cups chopped onion
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped carrots (cut into 1/4” chunks)
1/2 cup chopped celery (cut into 1/4" chunks)
2 cups chopped mushrooms (cut into 1/4" chunks)
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 lb. turkey Italian sausage, removed from casings and crumbled
1 Tbs. minced fresh sage leaves
2 tsp. minced fresh thyme leaves
1 lb. challah, torn or cut into 1” pieces
4 cups chicken stock
4 eggs, beaten
½ tsp. paprika

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a large baking dish or casserole with 1 Tbs. oil. Put remaining oil in large pan, and when heated, add onions and garlic and sauté until softened. Add carrots, celery and mushrooms, sautéing until just softened. Add red pepper, salt and black pepper and stir well. Add crumbled sausage, stirring often to break up clumps until browned. Add minced sage and thyme. Sauté for a minute.
Remove for heat. Combine with challah in a large mixing bowl. Add chicken stock and eggs, mix well. Place in greased baking dish. Sprinkle top with paprika. Bake for 50-60 minutes until top is brown and crusty and kugel is set. (Timing will vary depending on dimensions of baking dish.)

Cranberry and Date “Charoset”
Makes about 2 cups

Besides serving this as a cranberry sauce with the turkey, it makes a great topping for goat cheese as an appetizer.  Serve it with toasted baguette slices.

14 oz. can of whole berry cranberry sauce
1 cup large Medjool dates (about 8 dates)
1 Tbs. sugar
2 Tbs. minced orange zest
2 Tbs. orange juice
3/4 cup pecan pieces (1/4” bits)
1/4 tsp. ground ginger, optional

Break down sauce using a fork, being careful not to mash berries. Pit dates, toss with sugar and chop into 1/4” pieces. Combine with cranberries. Add zest, juice, pecans and ginger (if using), stir well.

A slightly different version of this post originally appeared in j. weekly.

Adding Meaning to Thanksgiving -- A Resource List

An America's Table reader
Here's the list of websites I found to help create readers and other materials for creating Thanksgiving home rituals.  These resources are generally non-religious or ecumenical.

• Eight different “Seders” or readers are available at the American Jewish Committee’s website at

These are readers that highlight America’s diverse roots and shared values. The readers were created after 9/11 and are endorsed by a wide variety of organizations representing the full spectrum of Americans.

• Freedom’s Feast is another approach to the same concept. The founders looked to the Passover Seder model to help bring more understanding and meaning to the Thanksgiving celebration with a service/program suitable for all Americans. The site offers extensive background and other material, including songs and crafts.

• Fifty Thanksgiving story starters to get table conversations flowing:

• Background on the Pilgrims, Native Americans and Thanksgiving myths and facts, with discussion questions and a prayer of Thanksgiving from the Iroquois people:

Photo credit: America's Table

Thanksgiving Trivia Game

Felix the Cat was no turkey

Do you know what character was the first Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon?  Who was the first woman who stepped off the Mayflower onto Plymouth Rock?

You would if you played my Thanksgiving trivia game.

I created this to use an icebreaker at a recent event by sticking labels on attendees' backs. They had to ask others questions about who they were.  When guests come, label their backs and pass out copies of the explanations to help with the questions and answers and add to the learning.  If you have guests who are strong on Thanksgiving facts, you could make it a trivia contest over dessert.

Thanksgiving Trivia and Name Game

Who or What/Description

Squanto/A Wampanoag Indian who traveled to England and was later kidnapped and held to be sold into slavery. He helped the Pilgrims and was a friend of the colony. He helped with food and agricultural practices as well as translation and guiding. He died in 1622. His loss was mourned by the Pilgrims.

John Weymouth/The English explorer who traveled with Squanto and later paid Squanto’s way back to the New World after Squanto was rescued from slavery

Samoset/A member of the Wabanake tribe who Squanto met in England and who traveled back to New England coast with Squanto. He made the actual first contact with the settlers by saying “Welcome.”

Massasiot Ousamequin/ Leader of the Wampanoags. He sent his tribe members back for more food during the celebration when it appeared that the Pilgrims had not realized how many Native Americans would be attending.

Myles Standish/ Military leader of the Plymouth Colony and Mayflower expedition. Supposedly asked John Alden to woo Pricilla Mullens for him. Never a Piligrim, he helped found the town of Duxbury, Mass. The Pilgrims met him in Holland.

John Alden /Said to be the first person to set foot on Plymouth Rock. A ship’s cooper. In Longfellow’s 1858 poem is said to have courted Priscilla on behalf of the widowed Standish, but there is no evidence to that. He had Priscilla have the most descendents of any Mayflower arrival – including John Adams, Jodie Foster, and Longfellow himself

Priscilla Mullens /See above. Only 17 when the Mayflower set sail, her parents and brother died during the first winter. Her marriage to Alden was the third the Pilgrims celebrated in the New World.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow/ American poet and descendent of Alden and Mullens. He based his famous 1858 poem “The Courtship of Miles Standish” on family tradition, although there is no historical evidence. A great-great-grandson of the Aldens did publish the story in 1814

Mary Chilton Winslow /First woman to step upon Plymouth Rock. She later married the brother of a Mayflower passenger, moved to Boston and had 10 children.

William Bradford/ Governor of the colony for more than 30 years. Took major responsibility for arranging Mayflower exodus. One of the founders of the religion the Pilgrims practiced.

William Brewster/ Only one of original Pilgrims to have any university training. Helped organize the separatist religion and helped win approval from the Virginia Company to settle in the New World

George Washington /Created the first “national” Thanksgiving Day in 1789

Abraham Lincoln/ Created the recurring national Thanksgiving Day in 1863 with annual observances after campaign by Hale

Sarah Josepha Hale/ Wrote “Mary Had a Little Lamb” – Writer, editor - She campaigned for national day of Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 03, 2011

A Carrot Cake for Mark -- A Remembrance and A Recipe

Today would be my good friend Mark Rutta’s 59th birthday. Mark passed away from a massive heart attack on April 16th so we won’t get to celebrate this birthday with him or anything else. That’s not the way it was supposed to be. We were supposed to grow old with Mark, cherishing his friendship, support and loyalty, chuckling at his foibles and occasional misadventures, appreciating his help with everything from choosing electronics and troubleshooting sound systems to dropping you off at the airport at 5 a.m. in the morning.

Instead of sharing his favorite carrot cake with him today, we – his sister, partner, family and friends – are still processing his death. This is not how it was supposed to be.

I wanted to write this post after his death and found I couldn’t. I wanted to write it after his memorial service and found I couldn’t and even now this post isn’t going how I planned. That was kind of the way it was with Mark, being with him was a journey that you’d never quite knew where you’d end up, but you knew he’d be there alongside you.

Mostly I am still angry that he is gone. I think many of us are. Mark met my husband, Gary, in college, and later they were roommates. He was one of the best men at our wedding. We’d call him to join us for dinner when I made too much or something special we wanted to share. He loved to hold our babies, never minding if they cried. He wouldn’t pass the screaming infant back to us; he just figured the child needed to cry and that was part of the experience of holding him. He babysat for my toddler son so we could go to Lamaze classes before the birth of my younger one. He was a beaming uncle as they grew up, taking time to really get to know each one. He was there for us during the good times and the bad no matter what else was happening in his life.

I like to think we were there for him, giving him support, guidance, love and friendship, but I don’t think we could ever accept him as unconditionally as he accepted us. That was really a gift. He was never critical, never impatient, never judgmental. How we are and how we wanted to be were one in the same to him. Knowing Mark made me a better person because, well, because that’s how he saw me.

I – we – feel so cheated that he left us just when he had found in Karen a life partner and when we felt we had years to have Mark’s companionship and love to savor. Mark died during a bike ride, a sport he dearly loved. Some sought to ease our souls by remarking that at least he died doing something that he loved, but, too me, that was scant comfort. Art, another ex-roommate, close friend and the other best man at our wedding, put it best at the memorial service.

“I rather Mark lived a long live and died doing something he hated,” Art said. “That way we’d still have him in our lives.”

Part of me still can’t believe I can’t invite Mark to dinner or see if he wants to go to a movie or concert or just call him up to talk. Every time I walk on the street where he used to work, see his photo or have a random memory of him, my eyes still tear up, my throat begins to ache and I feel the loss all over again. I guess I’m still sad. But I’m also so angry. Maybe in time I won’t be sad, won’t be angry, won’t feel cheated, but certain things will always be true. I’ll always love him, value the time we had and miss him.

Happy Birthday Mark. I love you.

About the carrot cake:

Mark didn’t cook many things, but the recipes he made he made well and often. He was famous for his carrot cake and justifiably proud of it. The recipe originated with his sister, Elaine. Mark would make it for his birthday, other’s birthdays, potlucks, office parties, pretty much whenever he felt it was appropriate or requested. It has become the standard all other carrot cakes must meet for quite a number of people. The recipe was even included on his memorial program.

After he passed, his sister, partner and the friends all agreed we need to make the cake for the reception after the memorial service. I not just volunteered, but pretty much demanded that I be the one to make that cake, but everyone asked me to please lighten it up and make it less sweet. I don’t know if we couldn’t bear to have Mark’s exact carrot cake without Mark or if we had all grown older and our taste buds, waistlines and cholesterol levels had changed and we needed the cake to change with them. Below is my adaptation of Mark’s carrot cake. If you make it, please don’t forget to season it with love, kindness, friendship, loyalty and a smidgen of amused exasperation. And share it with someone special.

A Carrot Cake for Mark
Serves a Lifetime of Friends

To know Mark was to eat his carrot cake. Here is a version of it. The original in his sister Elaine’s handwriting is in the photo below.

2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves, optional
1 cup sugar (use 1 1/2 cups for sweeter cake)
1/2 cup oil
1 cup apple sauce
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups grated carrots
8 oz. can crushed pineapple
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 9x12 inch baking pan. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt. Mix well. Add sugar, oil, apple sauce and eggs. Mix well.

Add carrots, drained crushed pineapple and nuts. Mix well. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes or until cake is firm to the touch and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool and serve from the pan if desired.

Cream Cheese Frosting

The cake is delicious without this frosting, but Mark traditionally served the cake with it. Be sure the cake is completely cool before frosting. Mark's recipe calls for the full pound of sugar.  I've found the recipe works fine with half that amount.

½ cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
8 oz. cream cheese
1 tsp. vanilla
8 oz. confectioner’s sugar

Have butter and cream cheese at room temperature. Cream together, gradually adding vanilla and sugar until smooth.

Photo by Mark's friend from the Oakland Yellow Jacket's Club Steve Wedgwood

Monday, October 31, 2011

Inviting Judaism to the Thanksgiving Table -- A Talk on November 13 in Oakland

If you are in the Bay area, I hope you will come hear me (as well as a panel of other speakers) talk about how to add layers of understanding to your Thanksgiving meal.  I'll be exploring some of the roots of this very American tradition and explore how we can bring use some of our experiences with Passover, Sukkot and other holidays to add ritual and meaning without necessarily remaking the holiday as "Jewish" since many of us share the holiday table with friends and relatives of different backgrounds.

We'll also discuss (and sample) some Thanksgiving foods with a Jewish twist.

The event is from 3 to 5 p.m. at Temple Beth Abraham, 327 Euclid Avenue, Oakland, CA.  The event is free to members of Women of Temple Beth Abraham, $18 for others.

Please email me at clickblogappetitATgmailDOTcom if you would like more information or to RVSP. 

Update:  See my post here for the recipes and links to the trivia contest and resource guide I created.
Photo credit: MS Clip Art

Friday, October 28, 2011

Tomatoes, Basil, Olive Oil and Silken Tofu

The above is not ricotta or mozzarella, it's Hodo Soy brand silken "soy custard" tofu with sliced heirloom tomatoes, basil, sea salt, fresh ground pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. I made it my whole dinner one recent hot night, but it would make a lovely appetizer.  The Hodo tofu comes in a tub and is not "pressed" into a cake.  You can also find tofu like this in some Asian markets. (Hodo's tofu is handmade and is really only available now in northern California and is worth seeking out.)

Delicious, simple, healthy and good.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Gift of Apples II -- Roasted Apple Sauce with Warm Spices and a Childhood Memory

I've written before about the gift of the bag of apples from our friends the Gombergs.  The bounty they shared (it must have been more than 25 pounds) was astounding and I had several reactions.  The first was gratitude. I was so delighted that they thought to give us some. The next was a personal challenge -- how many ways I could I use the fruit and what recipes could I create.  The last and most surprising was the memory the apples stirred.

It is not even a real memory or my own memory. It is a memory of mother's.  She once told me that when I was about two she, dad, my grandparents and I went to an apple orchard in upstate New York.  Supposedly, I lifted up a full bushel of apples and hoisted it in the air. Perhaps I even walked a few steps with it.  There are no photos of me doing this, only this hazy memory from my mom, my memories of her in danger of going wispy around the edges as she left us much too young with her mind and senses slowly fogged by disease and dementia.

In my mind's eye it is a breezy but warm day.  The trees around us are filled with Macintoshes, the favored apple of my New York youth.  A small, dark-haired girl in a short white dress with browned arms and legs is lifting a bushel basket full of the apples up into the air, surprised at the attention the adults she loves are giving her for such a simple thing.  She is only trying to help. The basket, probably almost as big as her, is loosely woven out of thin slats of shaped wood and is worn and well used with bits of scuffed green and red paint in spots. The handles cut into the toddler's pump hands.  She takes a few steps towards the adults. Someone reaches to take the basket from her and she plops down on the ground as the weight suddenly shifts.  Before she can cry or even laugh as the grass tickles her thighs, her mom scoops her up and hands her an apple.

The bag of apples from the Gombergs
I can see it so well, it is like it is a snapshot in my mind but it isn't. It is only a story I heard once from my mother who used it as an example of how strong I was as a baby.   Everyone else in that scene is gone now, there is no way to corroborate or color in more details or correct wrong impressions.  I think I prefer it that way.  The story of being strong, being independent and wanting to help others has become part of my definition of myself.  When I think of my re-imagined memory and feel the swoop of feeling for my mother, young and slim, I remember how in kindergarten,  I used to feel sorry for other kids in my class that they did not have a mother like her.  She made me feel like I was the apple of her eye. 

Roasted Apple Sauce with Warm Spices
Serves 4-6

The apples in this sauce retain their shape and just receive a slight mashing.  If you want a more traditional texture, peel the apples before cooking or put the cooked apples through a ricer or food mill. 
By "warm spices" I mean that to me the spices in this recipe (which were inspired by a gift from the McCormick at BlogHer Food 2010 of jars of McCormick's roasted coriander, ginger, cumin and cinnamon) have an essential warming essence.  To substitute for the McCormick products, pan toast the seasonings in a small, hot, dry fry pan for about 20-30 seconds, stirring constantly, until the aroma is released.

The result of the roasting and spicing is a complex, not too sweet apple sauce that works well as a snack or dessert (topped with yogurt or whipped cream and a dash of cinnamon) or as a side dish for grilled or roasted meats or poultry or even a savory bean stew.
The Gombergs gifted us with apples of the Beverly Hills variety, which have a yellow-green skin and are slightly tart.  Pippins or Gravensteins would make a good substitute.

Oil to grease baking dish
3 lbs. apples, unpeeled and cut into 1"-2" chunks (about 8 cups)
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp. roasted ground coriander
1/4 tsp. roasted ground cumin

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 10"x14" baking pan, set aside. In a large bowl, toss the apples with the apple cider vinegar, and then mix with the coriander, cumin, ginger and cinnamon.  Place in prepared pan and put in the oven. Bake uncovered for about 1/2 hour, stirring occasionally.  Cover with aluminum foil, stirring occasionally and bake until the apples are tender (about 1 hour or so more, timing will vary.) Mash lightly.  Taste, add sugar to taste if desired.
For other recipes featuring the Gombergs' apples see:
Apple and Cranberry Pie with Granola Streusel

For a collection of other recipes featuring apples, click here -- including baked, salads, candied and caramel.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Gift of Apples Leads to Apple-Cranberry Pie

The pie all started with a (very) large bag of apples from our friends' tree.  Mo said the apples were a type known as Beverly Hills.  I did a little research and found this is a California-born and bred variety known for its ease of growing and smallish yellow-green skin fruit.  It is crisp, sweet-tart and not as robust flavored as some other apples but ideal for cooking and baking.

And cooking and baking I did.  I hope to post all the recipes here, but we all know how slow I am to do that.  A number of folks have asked for this apple-cranberry pie recipe, so that prompted me to sit down and at least write this post up.

So far I have turned the apples into:

  • Apple, Sauerkraut and Bean Saute served over noodles
  • Roasted Applesauce with Warm Spices -- eaten warm, cold and at room temperature, by itself or with soy yogurt or regular whipped cream as a snack or dessert or plain as a side dish to grilled, smoked turkey. 
  • Shredded Green Apple Salad with Thai Flavors -- as a side dish to the Thai Vegetable Curry Baked in a Pumpkin
  • Apple-Cranberry Pie with Granola Streusel
And I still have some more apples to go. Gary is asking for more of the applesauce and I have some other ideas that are, shall we say, the apple of my eye, to experiment with.

Apple-Cranberry Pie with Granola Streusel
Serves 16 (Makes 2 deep-dish pies)

Use a sweet-tart apple good for baking such as a Granny Smith, Pippin or the northern California favorite - Gravensteins.  I prefer to leave the peel on, which makes the pie preparation very quick.  I had a cup of cranberries leftover from another recipe and tossed them into the pie recipe with very pleasing results.  Gary had just made a batch of his granola and I borrowed some for the streusel topping.  If your granola has raisins that get a bit overcooked when the pie is cooking, just pick them out.

Frozen cranberries are fine, just don't defrost before using.  Be sure to pick a granola that has a cinnamon flavor (as opposed to mango, pumpkin or some of the other versions out there right now).  Better yet, make a batch of Gary's and use some in this recipe.

Feel free to use commercially prepared pie crusts.  If frozen, use without defrosting.

6 cups 1/2" chunks of apple (see note above)
1 Tbs. lemon juice
1 cup fresh, whole cranberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 prepared deep-dish 9" pie crusts

4 Tbs. butter (or non-dairy margarine if desired)
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 and 1/2 cups granola (see note above)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss apple chunks with lemon juice. Combine with cranberries, sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, cloves and nutmeg.  Mix well.  Divide into 2 pie crusts. Make topping. Cream butter (or margarine) with the sugars. Using a fork, mix in flour and cinnamon until crumbly then thoroughly mix in granola.  Scatter streusel topping evenly atop the two pies.  Place pies on baking sheet in middle section of oven.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake another 20-30 minutes until the apples are tender and the filling is bubbling.  Cool in pie pans on rack.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Celebration of Six Years - Thai Vegetable Curry Cooked Inside a Pumpkin

This is Blog Appetit's sixth blog-o-versary. I like to mark my blog's anniversary with either mawkish sentiment or a celebration recipe.  This year I did both. You can read the sentimental part here. Now on to the recipe.

There's a lot of background on this pumpkin curry dish. First I love Thai pumpkin curry in all of its guises and wanted to create my own version.  Next I love baking things in pumpkins -- to date I've made custards, South American corn stew, turkey chilis and soups in pumpkins, so I've got a theme going on. (Unfortunately, none of these dishes are on the blog. Yet.)  I also like cooking with pumpkins and winter squash so you'll find lots of recipes and how tos on the blog for that.  And when it comes to cooking savory dishes in a pumpkin my preference is for the tasty, nutty flesh of the kabocha, also called Japanese pumpkin and a type of winter squash that is reportedly used in Thailand.

Also, aside from whacking off the pumpkin "lid" and cleaning out those pesky strings and seeds (really it should just take you a few minutes), it is a very easy recipe but has a wonderful wow factor making it a perfect celebration dinner dish.  Like for a blog-o-versary.

Thai Vegetarian Curry Baked in a Pumpkin
Serves 4-6

You may be able to “harvest” the cup of squash chunks for the stir fry during your pumpkin prep. If not, use the sweet potato pieces instead. (If you need tips on cutting and cleaning a pumpkin, please check out my pumpkin "boot camp" post.) If you are avoiding animal products, be sure to read the ingredient label of your red curry paste. Some are made with shrimp and many have fish sauce. The level of spiciness varies between brands of curry paste, so you may need to increase or decrease the amount accordingly. This recipe will serve about 4 people if it’s the only main dish but more if there are other entrees or a lot side dishes. I served this over red jasmine rice, but regular white or brown jasmine or other rice would work well.

1 large kobacha pumpkin
15 oz. can regular or light coconut milk
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 ½ cups chopped onion
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. minced fresh ginger
1 large carrot, cut into ¼” rounds
1 cup of ½” red pepper chunks
2 cups of ½” chunks of Asian, Thai or Italian eggplant (unpeeled)
1 cup ½” winter squash or sweet potato chunks
2 cups quartered button or crimini mushroom caps
1 Tbs. (or to taste) prepared red curry paste
2 cups ½” cubes of wheat gluten and or pressed, firm tofu
½ cup fresh Thai or Italian basil, divided.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut top off pumpkin, reserve. Clean out seeds and strings. Pour can of coconut milk into pumpkin. Cover with reserved lid. Put on a rimmed baking dish or pan. Bake for 35-45 minutes until just tender.

While the pumpkin is baking, make the curry. Heat oil in wok or large fry pan. Sauté onions, garlic and ginger until the onions are beginning to brown and soften. Add the carrots and peppers and stir fry or sauté for a few minutes until slightly charred and browned. Add eggplant and squash chunks. Stir fry or sauté until eggplant and squash have begun to soften and brown. Add mushrooms. Stir fry or sauté for a minute then add the red curry paste. Mix well. Add the wheat gluten or tofu and continue to stir fry or sauté for a few minutes. Take off heat and reserve until the pumpkin is ready.

Once the pumpkin’s flesh is just tender (test with a fork), remove the baking pan from the oven, but keep the oven on. Wearing oven mitts, remove top and carefully pour coconut milk into stir fry vegetable mixture. Be careful not to rip or tear the pumpkin shell. Bring vegetables and coconut milk to a simmer, stirring frequently until the vegetables are almost cooked through and the liquid has reduced to a thick sauce. Taste and add more red curry paste if desired. Stir in ¼ cup of the basil, cooking for an additional minute. Spoon curry inside pumpkin until packed, replace pumpkin lid and return to the baking dish and place in the oven for about 30 minutes or until pumpkin flesh is soft all the way through and curry is heated through. To serve, remove the lid, sprinkle with remaining basil and scoop out some of the pumpkin flesh with the curry.

A note about pumpkin size and integrity. If your squash proves to be too small (which has happened to me), just reheat your extra veggie curry and serve alongside the pumpkin encased version, or refill your pumpkin as the contents diminish. I did have an unfortunate tear when I poured out the coconut milk from the pumpkin in the photo above but was able to “mend” the rip with skewers and the squash held together admirably during cooking.

My Blog-O-Versary

Today is my 6th anniversary of Blog Appetit.
I don't know the exact number because I changed over stat aps, but I'm closing in on or have just passed something like 300,000 page views.  It is humbling to have been able to share my ideas, recipes, appetites and passions with so many readers.

I hope to post a special anniversary post with a special recipe or two, but my time for blogging is a bit more limited now than it has been in the past.  Regardless if I get to write that post, I wanted to be sure to take time to thank those of you who read, comment, use my recipes, and support my causes for your time and consideration.  A special thank you to my regular readers and all those who follow me, subscribe to my RSS feed or have me bookmarked and the food bloggers with sites small and large for the support and inspiration they have given me throughout the years.

Thank you all so much.

Update: I did indeed post a celebration recipe -- Thai vegetable curry baked in a pumpkin. Hope you'll try it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Recipes for Side Dishes from Pre-Packaged Produce - Broccoli Slaw, Kale and Bean Salad, Sweet and Sour Squash

Sweet and Sour Butternut Squash
These side dishes were developed to be easy and portable for potlucks or family dinners.  I got the idea for using prepackaged produce as a starting point for some colorful, flavorful and tasty recipes from my friend Yen, who served me a version of the Broccoli Slaw Salad below.

Container sizes vary between brands and small variations won’t matter, but if there is a difference of more than a few ounces adjust the amount of the other ingredients. If you prefer, skip the prepackaged ingredients and cut and prep your own veggies for the recipes. The recipes all multiply well. Larger batches of the kale should be sautéed separately and then combined.

These recipes can be made a day or two in advance and store well in the refrigerator. I think they taste best at room temperature, though.

Sweet and Sour Butternut Squash
Serves 4 as a side dish

If you can make this a day in advance, the flavors have a real chance to meld.

1 lb. package fresh, peeled butternut squash cubes
1/3 cup raisins
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 and 1/2 cups thinly sliced onions
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. salt or to taste
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. dried mint flakes
1/2 tsp. sugar or to taste

Cook squash according to package directions. Soak raisins in vinegar for 20 minutes. Heat oil in sauté pan and cook onions over medium low heat, stirring often until very soft, sweet and darkened to golden brown. Add cooked squash, raising heat to medium high and sautéing for a few minutes. Add raisins, vinegar, red pepper, salt, black pepper and mint. Sauté, stirring occasionally until flavors have melded and squash and raisins are heated through. Taste. Add sugar as needed and correct seasonings. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Kale and White Bean Salad
Serves 6-8 as a side dish

I love this with cooked cranberry beans if you have the time to cook some up. The beans have an almost chestnut-like earthy flavor to them that works well with the strong-tasting greens and garlic.

10 oz. package pre-cut kale
2 Tbs. oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
15 oz. can of white kidney (cannelloni) or great northern beans
1 Tbs. minced lemon zest
1/2 cup red wine vinaigrette salad dressing

Rinse kale and let drain. Heat oil in large fry or sauté pan over medium high heat. Sauté garlic until just golden. Add kale, stir well until coated. Add in 1/2 cup water, stir, cover and let kale steam until leaves are cooked through but not limp or soft and stems still have a bit of crunch, adding more water if needed. Remove lid, add salt, black pepper and red pepper and cook stirring occasionally until water has evaporated. Let kale cool. Rinse and drain beans. Mix drained beans, lemon zest and vinaigrette with kale and gently stir to combine. Serve at room temperature.

Yen’s Broccoli Slaw Salad
Serves 4 as a side dish

When Yen served this salad, I just couldn’t stop eating it. She had adapted the recipe on a container of the shredded broccoli stem and carrot mix and I tweaked it a bit more. Pomegranate seeds are sometimes available packaged if you don’t want to tackle seeding a whole fruit. Dried cranberries make a quick and tasty substitute.  I used a light, low-calorie salad dressing and the agave when I made this last.

1/2 cup balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing
1 Tbs. honey or agave syrup
1 small Fuji apple
8 oz. package of broccoli slaw (shredded broccoli stems and carrots)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds OR dried cranberries

Combine salad dressing with honey and mix well. Cut unpeeled apple into 1/2” chunks (about 1 cup). Toss with dressing. Add dressing and apples to slaw mix. Stir in walnuts and cranberries if using (if using pomegranate seeds instead, stir in just before serving). Serve cold or at room temperature.

A version of this post appeared in j. weekly. The recipes were created to for easy transportation and serving under the sukkah, part of the Sukkot celebration.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Rosh Hashanah 5772 - Jewish New Year's Guide for 2011

I've developed a number of resources for celebrating the Jewish New Year in the home.
These include some history and background for a Rosh Hashanah seder or service before the first night meal and a variety of recipes.

For information on how observance of the Jewish "head" of the year can be included at your Rosh Hashanah dinner celebration, please click here.

For dishes that use many of the holiday's symbolic food, click here for recipes for leek-potato fritters, sweet and savory chicken tzimmes, chicken saute with chard and string beans, pumpkin and date filo dough tart and vegan (and parve) cinammon-almond chocolate truffles.

I've written many other recipes that might be suitable for the holiday table from chopped liver to baklava, please check my Jewish recipe category.

Say it with Food -- Symbolic Foods and Seder Enrich Rosh Hashanah Dinner

Some of the symbolic foods of the Rosh Hashanah Seder
The Rosh Hashanah Seder, one of the oldest the holiday’s food traditions, is now one of its newest trends in celebrating the Jewish New Year.

Eating symbolic foods the first night of Rosh Hashanah dates back to Rabbi Abaye’s instructions in the Talmud to eat five foods that were typical of the season. These foods had names or qualities that represent wishes for health, prosperity and a “good” year. Some sources say what we would now call a Rosh Hashanah Seder, or “order of service” has existed for about 2,000 years.

Sephardic and Mizrachi Jews have a long history of serving and blessing not just the Talmud’s suggestions but a host of foods whose name or appearance supports the observance of Rosh Hashanah.

Jews outside these traditions have adopted the custom of a Rosh Hashanah Seder by adapting some of the long-standing practices and adding new ones ranging from blowing of the shofar to reflecting on goals for the coming year to celebrating the New Year as the world’s birthday.

But even Ashkenazi Jews who have never heard of the concept of a Seder at Rosh Hashanah have long served symbolic foods such as apples and honey and honey cake (for a sweet year), round loaves of challah (symbolic of the crown as well as the circular nature of time) and often a dish containing carrots. (Cut into slices, the carrots recall golden coins and their Yiddish name sounds like the word for multiply.)

Below is information on the symbolism of certain foods and how to create your own Rosh Hashanah Seder and links for more information.

Recipes for Rosh Hashanah 5772 -- Jewish New Year's Recipes

Leek-Potato Patties
 Here are the various recipes I developed for this year's Rosh Hashanah celebration.  For more on Blog Appetit's Rosh Hashanah 5772 coverage, please click here.  Many of these recipes have appeared in the j weekly, the San Francisco Bay area's Jewish newsweekly.

Leek-Potato Patties
Makes 8-3” Patties

These savory pancakes make a good starter course (perhaps served with a smear of Sriracha or other chili paste sauce and or a dab of mango chutney) or a wonderful accompaniment to roast chicken, pot roast or other main course.

Leeks are included in the Rosh Hashanah Seder because their name in Hebrew is similar to the word for cut off and symbolizes defeating our enemies.

1 lb. Yukon gold or similar potatoes
1 Tbs. plus 2 Tbs. vegetable oil
2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts only
1/2 tsp. plus 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. plus 1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. or to taste, minced jalapeno (seeded), optional
2 eggs, beaten

Boil the potatoes in lightly salted water until tender. Cool. Peel if desired. Mash or rice until smooth.

Heat 1 Tbs. oil in fry pan. Add leeks, 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Sauté over medium high heat until softened and browned. Combine with mashed potatoes. Add remaining salt and pepper, jalapeno (if using) and eggs. Mix well. Heat 2 Tbs. oil in a large fry or sauté pan. Oiling hands if desired, take 1/4 cup of the mix and form into a patty about 3” in diameter. Place in hot oil. Repeat until potato mixture is used up. Fry over medium heat about 4-5 minutes a side, until both sides are browned and the pancake is firm when you touch it. (Fry in batches if needed.)

Tzimmes with a Twist -- Savory-Sweet with Chicken
Serves 6

A sweet tzimmes with carrots is a traditional dish. Carrots are symbolic of prosperity. The sweetness is a reminder of the wish to have a sweet New Year. This tzimmes is lighter in color and not as sweet or heavy. Serve over noodles or potatoes.

1 cup dried apricot halves
1 cup dried, pitted prunes
2 cups boiling water
2 and 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 Tbs. canola or other vegetable oil
1 cup thinly sliced onions
1 Tbs. minced garlic
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1 cup 1/4” thick carrot slices
1 and 1/2 Tbs. soy sauce

Cover apricots and prunes with boiling water. Let steep until softened (about 20 minutes depending on fruit). Drain, reserving liquid.

Cut chicken into 1 1/2” chunks. Add oil to large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium high heat. Brown chicken chunks, working in batches if necessary. Remove from pan and reserve. Add onions, put heat on medium low and cook, stirring occasionally until softened, well browned and caramelized about 25 minutes. Raise heat to medium high, add garlic and sauté until golden. Add red pepper flakes, salt, black pepper, cumin, carrots, soy sauce, apricots, prunes, and reserved soaking water and stir well, incorporating any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a simmer. Add chicken pieces and any accumulated juices. Stir well. Cover and keep at a simmer, stirring occasionally until chicken and carrots are cooked through (about 30 minutes). Taste and correct seasoning. For thicker sauce, remove solids and keep warm and raise heat under sauce and cook uncovered until reduced.

Chicken with Chard and Green Beans
Chicken with Chard and Green Beans
Serves 6

This dish is packed with tasty Rosh Hashanah symbols – chard which represents our asking that our enemies be removed, green beans which have come to mean a wish that God will increase our merits and more. It can also be made ahead and reheated just before serving.

2 Tbs. plus 1 Tbs. vegetable oil
1/2 cup plus 1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 Tbs. plus 1/2 Tbs. minced garlic
1/8 tsp. plus 1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. plus 1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. plus 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 tsp. minced fresh ginger
1/4 tsp. dried, ground turmeric
1 cup of 1/2” chunks of zucchini
1 cup of 1” pieces of green or string beans
4 cups, packed, of roughly chopped red or Swiss chard
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup small cherry tomatoes
1/2 tsp. sugar or to taste, as needed

Heat the 2 Tbs. of oil in a large fry or sauté pan over medium high heat. Add 1/2 cup onion and 1/2 Tbs. garlic, 1/8 tsp. of red pepper flakes, 1/4 tsp. of salt and 1/4 tsp of ground black pepper. Sauté until golden. Add chicken thighs, browning on both sides and cooking until almost cooked through, about 7 minutes. Remove from pan with juices and any brown bits. Set aside, covering with foil to keep warm.

Add remaining oil to pan if needed. Heat over medium high heat. Add remaining onions, garlic, red pepper, salt, black pepper, the ginger and turmeric. Sauté about 2 minutes until onions are softened and golden. Add zucchini. Sauté for 2 minutes, add green beans, sauté 2 minutes. Stir in chard, sauté for a minute then add chicken broth, stirring up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add cherry tomatoes, stir well and sauté, stirring occasionally until the chard is softened and the liquid is somewhat reduced, about 10 minutes. Taste and correct seasoning, adding sugar if the greens are too bitter.

Return chicken, juices and cooked onion mixture to pan with vegetables. Stir well. Cook until chicken is thoroughly reheated and cooked through. Serve over rice or couscous.

To Make Ahead and Reheat. Don’t cover the cooked thighs with foil. Store the cooked vegetables and chicken separately in the refrigerator. Allow to come to room temperature before reheating. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place vegetables in baking dish. Place chicken on top of vegetables. Spoon any juices and cooked onion mixture over the chicken. Cover with foil. Cook for about 30-50 minutes until thoroughly reheated and chicken is cooked through.

Black-Eyed Pea Salad
Serves 4-6

Black-eyed peas are an important part of Sephardic and North African Rosh Hashanah tradition, symbolic of our wish that God multiply our merits. If using canned black-eyed peas, no need to cook them, but be sure to rinse and drain them well.

1/2 cup 1/4" dice carrots
½ cup 1/4" dice celery
1/2 cup 1/4” sliced scallions
1/2 cup 1/4” dice red bell pepper
2 cups cooked black-eyed peas, drained
1 Tbs. grated lemon zest
4 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
4 Tbs. canola or other vegetable oil
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. (or to taste) siracha, harissa or other chili paste sauce

Combine the carrots, celery, scallions, red bell pepper, black-eyed peas and lemon zest. Mix. Make the dressing in a separate bowl, combining juice, oil, salt and siracha. Mix well. Stir into vegetables. Taste and correct seasonings. The salad should not taste “hot” but should have a slight zing. Serve at room temperature.

Parve Cinnamon-Almond Chocolate Truffles
Makes About 24 Truffles

Round foods are symbolic of wholeness and continuity.   Parve foods contain neither meat nor dairy.  This recipe is also vegan.

3 oz. plain unsweetened soy milk
3 Tbs. parve margarine, cut into small chunks
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. almond extract
5 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
Cocoa powder, optional

Simmer soy milk over medium heat. Add margarine, stirring until dissolved.  Stir in cinnamon and almond extract.  Reduce heat to very low. Add chocolate, stirring constantly until thoroughly melted. Refrigerate covered for several hours until the mixture is solid but pliable (it may be a bit crumbly).  Oil hands and measuring spoon if desired.  Spoon out about 2 tsp. of the chocolate mixture and using hands and fingers press or pinch into a rough round. Roll in cocoa powder if desired. Repeat. Store covered in refrigerator and take out about 20 minutes before serving.

Pumpkin-Date Filo Tart
Pumpkin and Date Filo Tart
Serves 8

This parve tart features pumpkins and dates, both foods mentioned in the Talmud as part of the Rosh Hashanah food celebration. Pumpkins symbolize our good deeds being called out as well as the plea for any harsh judgments to be torn up and disregarded. Dates symbolize an end to hostility or ill will.

If you are using canned pumpkin puree, be sure you are not using the pre-spiced pumpkin pie filling mix.

2 cups cooked pumpkin puree
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/3 cup pitted, roughly chopped Medjool dates (about 8 large chopped into about a ¼” dice)
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
7 sheets of filo dough
1/4 cup (approximately) vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl combine the pumpkin puree, eggs, juice, sugars, cinnamon and ginger. Mix well. Add the dates and walnuts and stir until evenly dispersed through filling. Set aside.

Make the filo crust. Have ready a package of defrosted filo leaves. Set seven aside covered with a damp paper towel. Repackage and refreeze remainder. Brush the bottom and sides of a 9” round cake pan with vegetable oil. Take out one filo sheet (leaving others covered). Center in the cake pan and brush surface with oil. Take out another sheet, rotate it so the overhanging edges are offset with the first sheet. Brush with the oil. Repeat with four of the remaining sheets. Shred the seventh sheet and scatter across the bottom of the crust.

Fill the crust with the pumpkin mixture. Fold the overhanging edges of the filo back over themselves and tuck into the tart. They should cover the edge of the cake pan and create a bit of an edge. Brush exposed filo with oil.

Place in center rack in center of oven. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes or until exposed filo crust has turned golden brown. Cover exposed crust with strips of aluminum foil. Bake tart for about 50 minutes more or until center is set and a knife inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Remove foil strips and let cool to room temperature before serving.