Friday, December 21, 2012

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Chanukah Cocktails To Help Light Up the Holiday

From left to right -- The Sufganiyot, The Chocolate Gelt and the Chocolate Egg Cream Shot                  
Check your list of traditional Chanukah foods.
  • Fried Potato Latkes
  • Jelly Doughnuts
  • Choclate Gelt
  • Cheese or Dairy
What's missing?

Something healthy? (Just kidding)
No, something fun to drink.

Now you can add a few liquid delights to the Festival of Lights -- Chanukah Cocktails.

I recently developed some adult drinks for my column in the j. weekly.  These were featured today in a post on The Daily Meal, complete with photos and background information on how I developed the recipes.  The Daily Meal also features a Chanukah mocktail recipe (see below).
The Chanukah Gift
The four cocktails in the j. article are the Chanukah Gift (developed by friend and expert mixologist Sally Ann Berk), featuring Sabra (a chocolate-orange liqueur) and chocolate vodka with a chocolate surprise; the Chocolate Gelt which features a cocoa powder rim, chocolate vodka (which is clear) and Goldschläger (a clear, gold-flecked cinnamon schnapps); the Chocolate Egg Cream Shot, and the Sufganiyot which has a lemon juice and powdered sugar rim and has vanilla and citron vodkas and Manischewitz sweetened blackberry wine.

The Sufganiyot (which refers to the Israeli and now American custom of having jelly doughnuts as a Chanukah celeberatory treat), has a non-alcoholic version on the Daily Meal site.

Check the j. weekly or Daily Meal links for the recipes.  Here is the Sufganiyot Mocktail recipe.

All the fun, none of the booze
Sufganiyot Mocktail
Makes 1 Drink

Use half lemon-lime soda and half plain seltzer for a less sweet version, or try with 4 oz. of lemon-flavored seltzer.

Lemon wedge
Powdered sugar
1 tsp. raspberry flavored syrup such as Torani
1/2 Tbs. vanilla flavored syrup such as Torani
4 oz. lemon-lime soda, chilled

Moisten rim of champagne flute with lemon. Dip into powdered sugar.  Add raspberry and vanilla syrups.  Carefully pour in soda.  Stir gently.

To make a mocktail (or kid-friendly) version of the very cute and tasty Chocolate Egg Cream Shot, substitute  Torani (or similar) chocolate-flavored sugar syrup for the chocolate liqueur in the recipe.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Make a Candy Menorah for a Sweet Chanukah

This year the Jewish festival of lights starts the evening of December 8.  This delicious hanukkiah (Chanukah nine-candle menorah) celebrates eight nights of sweetness, that is if you can keep your child (or inner child) from consuming it immediately.
Making candy and even marshmallow menorahs is not new, but these “candykiahs” have lots of options for customization. Switch the candy candle “flames” to mini marshmallows (colored ones look impressive) or other small treats.   Skip the lollipop and use an additional pretzel stick-gum drop “candle” for the shamesh, or the taller “helper” candle. Use a bit of the icing to attach gold-foil covered chocolate gelt perpendicular to the front of or flat as a base for each marshmallow.  Use additional decorating gel for designs or lettering on the marshmallows.  Spread additional frosting on the marshmallows and scatter with sprinkles, colored sugar or edible sugar glitter.

If younger children are making the menorahs, have them skip the pretzel stick candles and attach the gum drops directly to the top of the marshmallows with a bit of the icing. 

If you plan to move your creation, be sure to use the sturdy, oval heavy paper plate (I used Chinet 12 5/8” x 10” plates).  Other options include foil-wrapped cardboard or a regular dinner plates.  Be sure any base can accommodate nine of the full-sized marshmallows in a row.

A note about ingredients – you can find all the ingredients certified kosher (heckshered).  Local kosher markets and some Whole Foods stores carry the marshmallows or  they can be purchased on online.  I found kosher gum drops and lollipops at Trader Joe’s, but other brands are available locally and online.  The pretzel sticks, icing and decorating gel were purchased at Target and are widely available.
Chanukah Candy Menorah
You might need extra candy if you have nibblers and extra pretzel sticks to accommodate any breakage. 

For each menorah you will need
10 full-sized marshmallows
2-3 Tbs. of blue or white prepared icing or frosting
8 small gum drops
8 pretzel sticks, optional
1 lollipop
Blue decorating gel (from a tube), optional
Large, oval, heavy paper plate

Place nine marshmallows in a straight or curved line to fit on plate or other base.  Make sure the center marshmallow is snuggly touching the marshmallows on each side (needed for added support). Attach each marshmallow to base with a bit of icing.  Top center “helper candle” with just a bit more icing and attach a second marshmallow (don’t use too much or the top marshmallow will slide around). Push and turn the paper stick of the lollipop into the doubled marshmallow until it is secure.
If using pretzel sticks, gently push and turn into the base of the gum drop.  (If necessary, adults can use skewers to make guide holes for the pretzels).  Holding the marshmallow, gently push and turn the pretzel stick with the attached gum drop into the marshmallow.  Repeat for the 7 other marshmallows.

If not using pretzels, top the 8 remaining marshmallows with a dot of icing and attach gum drops.
If using decorating gel, pipe a Jewish star or other design on the front of center marshmallow.
A version of this Chanukah (or Hanukkah)  post appeared in the December 2012 Temple Beth Abraham Omer.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Almost Ethiopian Food -- Recipes for a Kinda Doro Wat (Chicken and Egg Stew) and Kale and Mushroom Saute

Kay's vintage cookbook.
I find my friends Welch and Kay Warren very inspiring in so many ways, but their recent visit to Ethiopia really had a major impact on me. They brought back stories about people, places and food that were vivid and involving. Their connection with Ethiopia goes back decades, since Kay had been among the first Peace Corps volunteers there in the 1960s. She generously shared an Ethiopian-American cookbook she brought back from that experience with me that really added insight into traditional ingredients and techniques.

I've made some adaptations in those traditional ways, however. Berebere, a basic spice mixture, can be hard to find, although more and more markets are carrying it and it is available online from a variety of resources.  Just in case you are like my friend Sam and live far from a specialty market, you can't wait for the spice to be delivered by UPS or you get the urge to cook this when the stores aren't open, I've given an alternative based on chili seasoning.  

An important component of any Ethiopian meal is injera, the teff-based, fermented flat bread used as a platter as well as a way to scoop up the food and eat it.  (Traditionally, Ethopian food  is eaten with one's hands.)  It is available in some specialty stores and can be bought to-go from Ethiopian restaurants, but these dishes taste just as good served with crusty bread, ladled over rice or millet and eaten with a fork.

My local resource for Ethiopian products also has a thriving mail order business for spices and other ingredients and I recommend Brundo very highly.  If you are in the Oakland, CA, area, try Brundo's affiliated restaurant, Cafe Colucci and consider attending one of the organization's excellent Ethiopian cooking classes.  The Brundo website also has many Ethiopian recipes.   I buy my injera from them as well.  I have noticed that local Whole Foods and other specialty supermarkets have started carrying a packaged brand of injera (sometimes spelled enjera) from Sheba Foods of Oakland (watch for the opening of Sheba's online store).

The recipes below were adapted to celebrate the Ethiopian Jewish holiday of Sigd (celebrated earlier this week) which commemorates the acceptance of the Torah.  Accordingly the recipes have been adapted to not mix meat with dairy products.  The chicken recipe is my verison of a wat (also spelled wot), or stew.  The kale dish is based partly on some the the vegetable dishes I've eaten at Cafe Colucci and elsewhere and Welch's description of a dish he ate with gusto during their recent trip to the country.
Chicken and Egg Stew
(Kinda Doro Wat)
Serves 4-6

Although a more authentic recipe would use spiced clarified butter and not offer a substitute for the berbere, this very satisfying dish is firmly rooted in Ethiopian seasonings and cooking technique. 

3 lbs. chicken thighs, bone-in
Juice of 1 lemon
6 cups chopped red onion
1/2 cup water
2-3 Tbs. spice mix (see recipe below) or berbere
2 tsp. minced fresh garlic
1 tsp. minced fresh ginger
1/4 cup spice oil (see recipe below) or canola oil
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbs. plus 1 Tbs. tomato paste
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled

Place chicken in bowl, add lemon juice and cover with water.  Let sit 1 hour.  Place onion in a Dutch oven over medium heat.  Cook, stirring frequently, for 10-15 minutes until onions are softened and beginning to color. (Yes, you cook the onions without oil at first.) Add 1/2 cup water, spice mix, garlic, ginger, spice oil, pepper, salt and 1 Tbs. tomato paste. Mix and add drained chicken (discard lemon water) and stock.  Stir.  Raise heat to high, bring to a simmer, cover and adjust heat.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.  Uncover and keep at simmer.  Mix in 1 Tbs. tomato paste.  Prick eggs with fork, add to stew.  Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until chicken is done. (If necessary, remove chicken and eggs. Boil down sauce, stirring frequently, until it is thick but still a bit soupy.)  Remove chicken skin before serving if desired.
Kale and Mushroom Sauté
Serves 2-3 as main course, 4-6 as a side dish

Beef this vegan dish up by adding 2 cups of cooked lentils when you add the water and tomato paste, adding additional tomato paste and water to taste. 

2 cups chopped red onion
1/2 cup plus 1 cup water
2 Tbs. spice mix (see recipe below) or berbere
1/4 cup spice oil (see recipe below) or canola oil
1 tsp. minced fresh ginger
2 tsp. minced fresh garlic
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 lb. small brown or white mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
1 Tbs. tomato paste
1 bunch (1/2 lb.) kale, chopped
2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes

In a large skillet, cook onions until softened and beginning to color, stirring often.  Add 1/2 cup water, spice mix, spice oil, ginger, garlic, salt and pepper.  Mix well.  Add mushrooms and sauté until just softened.  Add 1 cup water and tomato paste.  Stir. Add kale.  Sauté until cooked through.  Remove from heat and stir in tomatoes.  
Spice mix --  Mix together the following ground spices:  4Tbs. chili seasoning powder, 2 Tbs. paprika, 2 tsp. cayenne pepper, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. each cardamom, dried ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, cloves, black pepper and allspice.  Store in airtight container.
Spice oil -- Heat 1/2 cup canola oil until hot.  Turn off heat.  Add 1 tsp. grated fresh ginger, 1 tsp. chopped fresh garlic, 2 Tbs. chopped onion and the following ground spices: 1/4 tsp. turmeric, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, 1/8 tsp. cardamom.  Once cool, strain, discarding solids.  Store in airtight container.
Adapted from my column which originally appeared in j. weekly.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

World Diabetes Day Awareness -- Plus an Easy (and Healthy) Foil-Baked Steamed Fish Recipe

Today is World Diabetes Day, devoted to bringing awareness to diabetes and its impact on individuals and society.

All well and good, but why am I writing about this on a food blog?

Well, what we eat can be key to preventing and controlling this disease that affects an estimated 346 million people worldwide.

Carolyn Ketchum of the blog All Day I Dream About Food organized this food blog response to the day  and you can view her round up (and information on two giveaways, including a blue Kitchen Aid mixer), here.  You can also view the participating blogs and their posts by logging into Twitter and checking the hashtag #worlddiabetes.

She gave food bloggers the challenge of coming up with low carb, low sugar healthy foods to feature to bring awareness to disease which diet plays such an important role in prevention and or control.

For more about WDD, please check out this World Health Organization site on the day.  The WHO expects the number of diabetics worldwide to double by 2030. 

Type 2 diabetes, once called adult onset, is rising in youths perhaps because of sedentary ways and overly processed, simple carb and sugary carb-laden diets.  This is a true tragedy because with proper diet and exercise, this disease can be avoided or its impact lessened. A proper diet can also help some Type 2 diabetes sufferers avoid using insulin or other drugs to manage their disease. The disease is caused by the body's inability to effectively use the insulin it produces.

Type 1 diabetes, once called juvenile brittle, childhood-onset or insulin-dependent, is usually first seen at a young age and is "characterized by a lack of insulin production" by the pancreas, according the the WHO site.

The third type is gestational diabetes which occurs during pregnancy.

While I'm writing this blog post in an more or less informational, reportorial way, please know that while I do not have diabetes myself, my life has been touched in significant ways by family and friends whose lives have been changed forever by this disease.

As my contribution to the World Diabetes Day food blog round up, I've adapted a recipe for tasty fish fillets baked in individual foil packets.  The dish is very flexible, uses no added fat, is easy to clean, leaves no fishy cooking orders and very delicious.  Plus, when the packets are opened by the diners it creates quite an impact.

I've made many variations of this over the years, including other seasonings and ingredients (adding chopped orange segments works really well), but this is the basic approach.  Serve with sauteed greens (I like chard or spinach best with this dish), mashed or pureed steamed or roasted cauliflower or even quiona or a whole grain (such as brown rice).

Continue reading for my basic foil-baked steamed fish recipe.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Knishing Cousins Share Potato Knish Recipe and History (Oh, and it's Blog Appetit's Seventh Anniversary!)

I can't believe today is Blog Appetit's seventh anniversary - thanks everyone for the help, support, advice and readership over the years.  Watch for a celebration post.  Meanwhile, please enjoy this special post (and potato knish recipe), my 695th. -- Faith

A real San Francisco treat - Mrs. Stahl's New York potato knishes
In a sunny San Francisco kitchen one recent afternoon, two cousins passed on a New York knish tradition.

Toby Engelberg and her cousin Sara Spatz were showing food writer and documentary filmmaker Laura Silver how to make their grandmother’s knishes. Engelberg’s grandmother was no amateur knish maker; she was Fannie Stahl, founder of Mrs. Stahl’s Knishes of Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, New York, one of the city’s legendary purveyors of the stuffed, baked Eastern European savory pastries.

Silver, a New York-based knish historian and expert, had been looking for years for Stahl family members and the recipe for the knishes she had grown up eating. To Silver the plump dough circle is more than just food. It is a “catalyst for talking about memories” and “a vehicle for nostalgia.” 

“It was amazing to find Toby. It went beyond my wildest dreams that I’d be making knishes with a descendant of Mrs. Stahl and in San Francisco,” said Silver, who had come West just to meet Engelberg and learn to make her knishes.

Silver had spent years tracing records and false leads for Mrs. Stahl’s Knishes only to find a clue on an on-line food forum posting by a Stahl relative. Through him, she found Engelberg. They had an “instant connection” and not only did Engelberg have the recipe, she was the family genealogist and was able to fill in the blanks on Silver’s research.
Laura Silver (left), Sara Spatz and Toby Engelberg with knishes
“The fillings are what I remember,” Engelberg said. She prefers the traditional fillings such as potato onion, cabbage or kasha (buckwheat) and is still tweaking her re-creation of her grandmother’s recipe. Working with Silver was “a great chance to get our story correct,” she said.

Engelberg, an architect who moved to San Francisco in 1988, once contemplated making knishes commercially, but she said the market for her hand-made savory pastries was not there. Now she makes the knishes for her annual holiday parties and for friends “who are really into it.” 

A camerawoman recorded Engelberg at work for Silver’s documentary on the Eastern European filled pastry. The dough was stretched out whisper-thin on the slate counter of her kitchen. Engelberg, often consulting with Spatz (who came from New York to participate), would spread a line of filling across the top, brush the dough with oil and turn the dough over until the pastry encased the stuffing. After a few more turns, the filled rope of dough was ready to be cut, shaped and baked into Mrs. Stahl’s famed knishes. With Silver helping out, the cousins made dozens of knishes for a party that night filled with appreciative friends who shared their own knish memories.

Mrs. Stahl began selling her knishes on the beaches and boardwalks of Brooklyn in the 1920s. By 1935 she had opened her shop in the Brighton Beach neighborhood. The cousins, daughters of the youngest and oldest of Stahl’s five children, reminisced about their grandmother’s shop including the machines that stretched and rolled the dough and the workers hand shaping the knishes at giant tables. The shop was sold in the mid-1960s a few years after their grandmother died. Subsequent owners kept the business going until 2005 when it closed for good, although a New Jersey pasta company still markets its frozen knishes under the Mrs. Stahl’s name to food service and other accounts.

In addition to researching knishes connections in New York and San Francisco, Silver has traveled to Minnesota, Poland and elsewhere on the trail of historic and modern knish makers.

“There’s a quote from Isaac Bashevis Singer about Yiddish that says the language is dying but it is never dead,” Silver said. “You can say the same thing about knishes.”

Her work in chronicling and celebrating the knish’s history while trying to introduce new eaters to the pastry has been supported by several organizations, including the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute. Her book, tentatively entitled the “Book of Knish,” is on track to be published late next year by Brandeis University Press. She hopes to have a pilot of her documentary ready to debut next year as well.

Silver is also working on an exhibit about knish history and other projects and invites folks to share their knish stories and local resources. Silver can be contacted at or through her website, .

Below is Engelberg's recreation of her grandmother's potato knish.  For a different style of potato knish, see this post and recipe on Blog Appetit.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Turkish-Inspired Stuffed Eggplant Recipe a Delight

This is a version of an eggplant dish I first ate during a visit to Istanbul.* Like most stuffed vegetable dishes, this one does have a lot of steps, but the entire dish can be made ahead and served reheated or at room temperature. The rich lamb is tempered by the onions, garlic, tomatoes and fresh herbs and its eggplant casing becomes silky soft and delectable as it bakes. Serve with rice, couscous or a small pasta such as orzo on the side.
I should point out that when this recipe first appeared in the j.weekly, a reader from a Turkish background took me to task for saying you could serve this dish at room temperature.  Lamb is never served at room temperature in Turkey I was informed.  That is true so if you want to eat it at room temperature, please do, but understand most folks would not do so in Turkey. I do not recommend eating it cold or chilled, however.
Friends have said they don't eat lamb and asked for substitutions.  Try it with dark meat ground turkey or beef, or make it vegetarian like the dish that inspired this recipe (called the Imman Fainted).  You may want to use more tomatoes to make up for the absence of the lamb.  Or you can chop, cube and fry the eggplant that was removed when you hollowed the vegetables out and add when you would mix the lamb in with the tomatoes and onions.
Afiyet olsun! (Or bon appetit in Turkish.  If you speak Turkish and that's wrong, please let me know!)
Turkish-Style Stuffed Eggplant
Serves 6-8
1 tsp. salt
4 cups very thinly sliced onions (no thicker than 1/8”)
1 Tbs. canola oil
1 Tbs. minced garlic
1 lb. ground lamb
1 lb. medium tomatoes, peeled and seeded (see note)
2 Tbs. tomato paste
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. sugar
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh dill
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh mint
2/3 cup finely chopped fresh, flat leaf parsley
4 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
2 medium eggplants (1 lb. each)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup water
Chopped dill, mint and or parsley for garnish, optional

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, sprinkle salt over onion slices, toss well. Heat 1 Tbs. canola oil over medium high heat in large sauté pan. Add garlic and sauté until golden. Add lamb and sauté, stirring and breaking up any clumps, until just browned, about 2-3 minutes. Drain and discard any excess liquid and add lamb to onions. Cut tomatoes into 1/2” chunks and add with tomato paste, paprika, pepper, sugar, dill, mint, parsley and lemon juice, mix well.

Prepare eggplants. Trim off leaves, but leave stems. Slice in half lengthwise. Use a paring knife or vegetable peeler to remove 3 lengthwise strips (each about 3/4”-1” wide) of eggplant skin from each half, starting at the stem end and leaving the skin intact between strips, creating a striped pattern. If needed, slice a bit off the rounded bottom to stabilize. Use a large spoon to hollow out the eggplants, being careful not to pierce to skin. Leave 1/2" of flesh all around. Reserve scooped out eggplant pieces for another use or discard.

Pack each half with the filling and mound more on top, covering the surface of the eggplant to the edge. Place eggplants skin side down and side by side in a 14” x 9” baking pan. Drizzle olive oil over tops. Pour water down the sides of the pan. Loosely cover with aluminum foil. Bake for about 60 to 75 minutes (timing can vary greatly, so it may take more or less time), until onions are tender and eggplants are very soft. Check every 30 minutes, basting with cooking liquid and adding more water to the pan if necessary. When done, baste once more and remove from the pan, discarding cooking liquid. Sprinkle with chopped herbs if desired. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

Note: To peel tomatoes, cut a cross into the stem end about 1/8” deep. Place in pot of boiling water to cover. Let simmer 2-3 minutes until skin is loosened. Remove, let cool and rub or peel off skin. To seed, slice in half and gently squeeze out seeds.
*I am long overdue for writing up more about my trip to Istanbul last year, including the cooking class were I first made the vegetarian version of this dish.  I'll update this post with a link to those experiences when I finally do the write ups.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Happy National Taco Day

Yes, today is really National Taco Day and Blog Appetit cedes to no one for its love of the Mexican antojito (street snack), particularly the taco-truck style we can get here on the streets of Oakland, CA.

These feature a flavorful filling (grilled, roasted or stewed beef, pork, chicken or offal) on top of 2 small corn tortillas with a spoonful of spicy salsa, a squeeze of lime and maybe a radish, and a pickled carrot slice or jalapeno on the side. My favorite before I began my current mostly vegan diet -- lengua (tongue).

Pictured above is my take on such street fare with turkey (rather than pork) - a turkey carnitas taco.
You can see the recipe here.  The post also includes the quick-pickled carrots and jalapeno recipes and directions for assembling your own.

Or try this smoked chipotle turkey filling for your tacos with roasted onions and cherry tomatoes.

I'm working on a chickpea-kale-potato taco filling but it's not ready for prime time yet.  In the meanwhile, take this virtual tour of Oakland's taco trucks.

What to drink with your taco?  There are lots of choices but maybe go with a vodka.  Nontraditional I know, but today is also National Vodka Day.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Mac and Cheese Cold and Hot to the Rescue for Meatless Monday AND National Vegetarian Day (with Vegan Options)

Can you guess the secret ingredient in this Crazy Mac and Cheese?
Whenever my mother got out the pot to make her version of the “Dirty” Macaroni and Cheese Salad below my sisters and I would go sit outside on our front steps and wait for my uncle to show up. He seemed to have a second sense as to when my mom would be making his favorite salad.

Tasty and easy adaptable, dishes based on pasta and cheese are adult and kid friendly for a meatless Monday or any day, even National Vegetarian Day (Monday, October 1 this year).

Crazy Mac and Cheese is my take on the boxed macaroni and cheeses my sons seemed to prefer to my carefully crafted home-made versions full of stuff they declared “yucky.”  It has lots of cheese, a smooth texture, the requisite orange color and includes a few surprises.

I used a creamy Israeli sheep’s milk feta in the Pasta with Olive Oil, Feta Cheese, Olives and Herbs but any feta would work well in the recipe.
See the recipes for options for making these recipes vegan.

“Dirty” Macaroni and Cheese Salad
Serves 8

Dirty in the title of this recipe refers to using some of the olive brine in the salad. Substitute vegan cheese and mayonnaise to make a vegan version of this salad. I recommend Daiya brand cheddar shreds or wedges (cut in cubes) and like both Earth Balance and Vegenaise brand vegan mayonnaise.
8 oz. dried elbow macaroni
1 Tbs. olive oil
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup chopped green olives stuffed with pimentos, cut in 1/4” pieces
3 Tbs. brine (liquid) from olive jar
1/2 cup chopped green onion, white and light green parts only
1 cup chopped red bell pepper, cut in 1/4” cubes
3 oz. orange-colored sharp cheddar cheese, cut into 1/4” cubes (about a heaping 1/2 cup)
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper, or to taste

Cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain. Toss in oil. Let cool. Stir in all other ingredients. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.

Crazy Mac and Cheese
Serves 4-6

Baking the mac and cheese melds the flavors and makes the squash and cheese combination work. Make your own winter squash puree or find it frozen or as jarred baby food in the supermarket.  I haven't tried it, but there is no reason a vegan version with vegan margarine, soy milk and vegan cheeses wouldn't work. (FYI - I like Earth Balance original spread, Trader Joe's unflavored and unsweetened soy milk and Daiya vegan cheddar shreds.  I don't have a preferred brand of vegan American cheese since I use it so rarely.  If you have one you like, leave a comment below and share.)

Oil Spray
8 oz. dried elbow or shell macaroni
3 Tbs. butter
3 Tbs. flour
1 and1/2 cup skim, reduced fat or whole milk plus additional if needed
4 oz. orange-colored sharp cheddar cheese, grated  
3 slices of American cheese, chopped
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. dry ground mustard
½ to 1 tsp. salt, or to taste
1 cup cooked winter squash puree (such as butternut or acorn)
Vegetable Sprinkles (optional, see below)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray an 8” x8” baking dish or casserole and set aside.
Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and keep warm.
Melt butter in sauce pan over low heat, whisk in flour until well combined. Pour in milk whisking as you pour until well combined. Raise heat to medium. Stirring or whisking often, cook until liquid thickens to about half. Add in cheeses, stirring until melted. Stir in paprika, pepper, mustard and ½ tsp. salt. Mix in puree and stir until combined. Add more milk if needed to keep mixture creamy. Taste and add more salt if needed and correct other seasonings. Mix sauce with cooked pasta. Place in greased baking dish and bake for 20-30 minutes until sauce is bubbling and top is just starting to brown. Serve with Vegetable Sprinkles if desired.

Vegetable Sprinkles – Finely chop raw red and yellow bell peppers, carrots, celery, or other vegetables your family likes. Let kids and others sprinkle atop their servings.

Pasta with Olive Oil, Feta Cheese, Olives and Herbs
Serves 6-8

I don't have a good feta substitute for a vegan version, but I'm thinking some Daiya wedge jack cheese cut into cubes might work.  Or try pressing the mositure out of some firm tofu and cutting into cubes and use those.  Skip the Parmesan cheese and substitute a sprinkle of nutritional yeast on top when serving if desired.

1 lb. dried pasta such as penne or rigatoni
3 Tbs. olive oil
1 1/2 cups drained and crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
6 oz. drained, pitted Kalmata olives, cut into quarters
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
Boil pasta until just tender. Drain. While still warm, mix with olive oil in large bowl. Add in cheeses, olives, parsley, mint, and pepper. Toss well. Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled.
A version of this article first appeared in the j weekly.
For another mac and cheese recipe and more fond memories on Blog Appetit click here.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Son Takes Granola & Goes, Leaves Parents in Empty Nest

Our youngest, once known as the Future Pastry Chef and the Future Architect and now known as the Future Technical Theater Arts Graduate, made a brief touchdown at Chez Blog Appetit recently after his return from his DisneyWorld college internship.

Before leaving to be a junior at University of California-Santa Cruz, Noah had time to sleep, visit friends, rent a house, get a job and watch a lot of television and make himself useful around the house (mowing the lawn, taking out the garbage, etc.).  He also made his own version of his dad's  tasty granola recipe.  He included dried mango, more sweetener and less nuts in his granola. He took the whole bag with him to his new digs, so I didn't get a chance to sample it, but I bet it was delicious. 

I hope he'll share with his roommates, but you can see from the photo above, he already has his granola stash labeled, so maybe not.

Here's Gary's Granola recipe in case you'd like to make your own customized batch.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Suggestions for Delicious and Meaningful Rosh Hashanah Meals -- With Rabbi Frydman's Friend Neal's Brisket Recipe

Some of the symbolic foods of the Rosh Hashanah Seder
Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year, sometimes spelled Rosh Hashana) is almost upon us and I thought I would do a little round up of High Holiday tips and recipes.

The first is my most recent compilation of  holiday recipes from the j. weekly.  At the j's suggestion, I interviewed rabbis who cook for some of their recipes and for some of the ways food adds meaning to their teachings as well as dining tables. The recipes give directions for a salad full of foods symbolic of the holiday blessings, a vegetarian pumpkin and chickpea entree and frosted brownies plus a vegan cholent for the break fast.

I had so many good responses from rabbis in the Bay area, the j. did not have room for all, so I wanted to be sure I got a chance to share Rabbi Pam Frydman's recipe for an easy, tasty brisket recipe.  Frydman was a congregational rabbi and is now director of the Holocaust Education Project of the Academy of Jewish Religion. She is also an author, with several books in the works, including a Holiday prayer book revision. Frydman’s menu for her holiday dinner includes a brisket recipe she got from her friend, Neal.
“Like all Jewish mothers, I make sure there is something appealing for every guest at my table,” she said. Like the other rabbis, she sees serving foods guests of all ages love as “a wonderful way to sweeten their relationship” with the holidays and a perfect recipe for the New Year.
The recipe is below.
Other Rosh Hashanah resources include:
My guide to the Rosh Hashanah Seder -- with a list of symbolic foods and their meanings
Recipes using some of the foods mentioned as having symbolic meaning at the holiday, including leek fritters, chicken tzimmes, chicken with chard, black-eyed peas, a pumpkin-date filo tart and more.
Everyone needs a chopped liver recipe:  here's my original version.  And here is one that is somewhat enlightened with a bit less cholesterol. 
Instead of gefilte fish, maybe try this gravlax recipe for home-cured salmon. Or perhaps this chopped herring salad from my husband's Aunt Lee.  It was so good it had grown men begging for more.
These Greek-Jewish inspired recipes include a fuss-free oregano baked chicken.
Here's a recipe for a one-pot dish -- Chicken with Barley
While I usually make a brisket for the holidays, the technique I use to cook it is in Pot Roast 101 with a recipe for tamarind pot roast.  (Plus a pot roast, which is very much like a brisket without the Yiddish accent, would be just fine for a holiday table.  I like to use a bone-in chuck roast.)
For another pot roast recipe that can be adapted for brisket, check out my zippy pot roast with cranberry sauce.
This grilled lamb would make a nice holiday entree.  It is based on some of the food traditions of the Karaite Egyptian Jewish community.
For an excellent vegetarian "Not Chicken Soup" and some beautiful vegan matzah balls (I call them matzofu balls), check out my recent j. weekly column here.
I'm a big fan of these red peppers stuffed with lentils with two sauces.  I've used it as a main course and as a side dish. (And the garlic sauce you make for it is killer!)
If you are looking for something to plop in the soup that gluten-free guests can slurp up, I recommend these chicken-almond dumplings.
Sweet and sour butternut squash is another side dish that works well for the holiday, plus it is really quick to make since it is based on a convenience food -- those cut-up cubes of butternut squash that are found in bags and plastic cartons in the refrigerated produce sections of most supermarkets now.
There are plenty more ideas throughout Blog Appetit, including lots of posts in the Jewish category.  Take a look around.  Find something you like, try it.  Let me know how it comes out.
Oh, and Happy New Year.
As promised Rabbi Frydman's brisket recipe:
Rabbi Frydman’s Friend Neal’s Brisket
Serves 8-10

3 1/2 to 4 lbs. beef brisket
About 5 peeled garlic cloves
1 oz. packet of onion soup mix
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
Soy sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut off any large chunks of fat from the brisket, rinse meat under running water and place in baking pan with a well-fitting lid. Slice garlic cloves in half lengthwise. Using a paring knife, cut a series of small slits in the meat, spacing them every four inches. Slit should be deep enough to enclose the entire garlic clove half.  Insert garlic clove halves into slits, turn meat over and repeat on the other side. Rub onion soup mix all over top side of the meat. If brisket is large, fold it and slather some of the mix on the top of the folded portion as well. Sprinkle with pepper. Squirt a few thick lines of ketchup on top of the meat from one end of the brisket to the other. Drizzle soy sauce from one end of brisket to the other parallel to the ketchup lines.

Pour water along the sides of the pan until there is a half inch of water along the bottom, being careful not to wash off the seasoning on the meat. Cover pan and place on a rack in the middle of the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove, gently baste meat and add additional water if needed. Repeat every 30 minutes until the brisket is tender and a fork goes in easily. Depending on your pan and brisket, that can vary greatly and take about 2-3 1/2 hours or more.
Remove from oven, let cook, slice against the grain of the meat. Serve or store meat in the cooking liquid. Refrigerate if not using immediately. Warm brisket in reserved cooking liquid in 350 degree oven.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Happy 25th of Elul! Celebrate the First Day of Creation with My Ground Beef, Kale, Olives, Raisins & Almonds Recipe

One of the unexpected bonuses of doing so much writing about Jewish food and the association between food and observance in the religion is that I learn so much about Judaism.

I had a fairly secular upbringing (although my grandmother kept kosher, fed a pushke and pooh-poohed the evil spirits) and I did not receive much of a formal Jewish education.  I did go to some youth services and belonged to the synagogue youth group, went to high holiday services with my father and was raised in a Jewish state of mind (well, a Brooklyn-Jewish-Flatbush-Long Island-Ashkenazi state of mind.  Oh, and did I ever mention my rabbi was comedian Jackie Mason's brother?)

But I digress, my main point here is that researching the recipes and foods associated with Jewish traditions has not just broadened my waist line (I wish that was a joke) but my knowledge about Judaism. 

The celebration of the 25th of Elul (a date in the Jewish lunar calendar) is a good example of this process.

I was looking for something to base one of my recipe columns in the j. weekly on and was searching for a topic other than the impending Jewish New Year celebration.  I looked on the the Jewish calendar and saw it was the month of Elul.  After a little sleuthing about Elul (okay I checked Wikipedia and the Chabad site), I found out that the 25th of Elul (this year that's the 12th of September) is considered the first day of Creation.

No idea.

I always figured  the first day of the New Year (Rosh Hashanah - which starts the evening of September 16th this year) had that honor.   Wrong.  Definitely didn't attend youth services during Elul.  I might have learned the first day of Rosh Hashanah is the day man was created, the sixth day of creation.  But the start, the start was the 25th of Elul.

I got a (big) bang out of that.

If you are wondering about how food fits into this all, I'm getting to that.

Turns out the religious authorities advise us to celebrate the day by having a nice meal, in fact two nice meals – one in the afternoon and one in the evening.   It is considered propitious to consume two meals that day that feature bread and meat. We are also directed to eat something sweet to celebrate the creation and as a wish for a sweet year.

Since there are so many wonderful resources for bread near my home, I rarely bake it, so I didn't have a special bread recipe for the 25th, so be sure to pick up some tender challah or crusty artisan bread to serve with the Ground Beef with Kale, Olives, Raisins and Almonds. The recipe comes together very fast and makes a good dinner for any weeknight, not just the 25th of Elul. It has flavors that remind me of many Sephardic and Cuban dishes.

For something sweet, use your favorite cereal to make my Not-Your-Kid’s Marshmallow Treat Bars. You can see the recipe here.  (Be sure to use kosher marshmallows and parve cereal if you need to make those subsitutions.)

Ground Beef with Kale, Olives, Raisins and Almonds
Serves 8

2 Tbs. canola oil
2 cups chopped onion
1 Tbs. minced garlic
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground red pepper (cayenne)
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 lbs. ground beef (lean or very lean)
6 cups chopped kale, packed
2 Tbs. tomato paste
1-14.5 oz. can of diced tomatoes, with liquid
1/2 cup thinly sliced green olives stuffed with pimentos
1/2 cup blanched, silvered almonds
1/2 cup raisins

Heat oil in a very large fry or sauté pan. Sauté onions over medium high heat until beginning to soften and turn brown, add garlic and sauté until just golden. Add salt, pepper, oregano, cumin, red pepper and cinnamon. Stir for a minute and then add beef.

Brown beef, breaking up any clumps (work in batches if your pan is not large enough and combine when all the beef is browned). Add kale. Sauté until kale begins to wilt, add tomato paste and diced tomatoes with liquid, stirring often until beef and vegetables are cooked through. Lower heat to medium. Stir in olives with pimentos, almonds and raisins. Sauté for a few minutes. Taste and correct seasonings if needed. Serve with bread and over cooked rice, couscous, pasta, grains or mashed potatoes if desired.
The original version of this post appeared in the j weekly.  You can see it here.
About the lack of photo. I apparently didn't take one of the ground beef dish. That happens sometimes. Oh Well.  Photo graphic from Microsoft Office clip art collection, my favorite source of royalty free art.   

Thursday, September 06, 2012

A Tisket, A Tasket - I Like Vegetables Grilled in a Basket


I like to grill cut  up vegetables in my grill basket. Shaped like a saute pan or flat-bottomed wok, it is quicker than threading all the veggies on skewers and gives me all the char and taste.

This batch combines goodies my husband, Gary, scored from the farm stand -- baby eggplants and small, colorful hot peppers -- with onions and whole garlic cloves. You do need to stir and toss the veggies as they grill to prevent them from burning and to get them to cook evenly.

 Once the eggplant was tender and charred, I mixed the vegetables above with a batch of cherry tomatoes (also from the farm stand) I had previously cooked on the barbecue until they were soft and smoky in the grill basket.  I drizzled olive oil to taste, added salt, pepper, minced lemon zest and chopped basil and served as a side dish to my red-wine marinated grilled tofu and the guys' red-wine marinated flank steak.

 I used the marinade from this post.

To cook the tofu, I cut the block of tofu in half lengthwise and then in half crosswise, scored it deeply and marinated, turning often for about an hour before grilling on a greased rack.  I recommend cooking down the marinade and serving as a sauce otherwise it would be a bit dry.

To cook the flank steak, I did as directed in the post.  Be sure to let the steak rest 10 minutes or so before slicing it very thinly against the grain.

For an alternate version of the eggplant dish (made up more like a salsa with a slightly different flavor profile, plus ideas for other variations), please see my post here.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Lentils Sweet and Sour, Hot and Cold with Recipes

Some like it hot. Some like it cold (or perhaps room temperature). These lentil recipes are very obliging and can be served warm or room temperature. I am enamoured with lentils lately and decided to try two new recipes - one by a friend, another by a talented cookbook author and blogger.

Sweet and Sour Lentils is a favorite recipe of the Rosenthal family of Oakland. They even served it at their daughter’s bat mitzvah. Middle Eastern Rice and Lentil Pilaf is an unconventional approach to mujadara from Michael Natkin’s “Herbivoracious” (Harvard Common Press), a new vegetarian cookbook full of vibrant photos and recipes.

Recipes are used with permission (from Lori Rosenthal and Natkin's publisher's pr rep) and have been adapted for style and space as well as to reflect my experience making them.

Sweet and Sour Lentils
Serves 6-8
¼ cup soy sauce
1 bay leaf
3 Tbs. onion powder (granulated onion)
¾ cup vegetable oil
¾ cup honey or to taste
½ cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp. ground allspice
½ tsp. powdered ginger
4 cups water
3 cups lentils, picked over and rinsed
¼ cup chopped parsley

Put soy sauce, bay leaf, onion powder, oil, honey, vinegar, allspice, ginger and water in 4-qt. pot. Mix. Add lentils. Bring to a boil. Stir. Cover and lower heat. Simmer for 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hours, adding water if necessary until lentils are tender but not mushy. Turn heat off and leave pot covered for 15 minutes. Uncover, remove bay leaf and stir. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature garnished with parsley. (Note: Use the brown or green "supermarket" style lentils. Vegans who don't eat honey can substitute agave nectar for the honey.)

Middle Eastern Rice and Lentil Pilaf
From “Herbivoracious” by Michael Natkin
Serves 6

¼ cup vegetable oil
3 lbs. white onions, sliced moderately thin
2 tsp. plus 1 tsp. kosher salt
½ cup white wine, dry vermouth or water
6 cups cooked long-grain white or brown rice, warm (see note)
3 cups cooked lentils, warm (see note)
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground cumin
Freshly ground black pepper
1 small handful of parsley, coarsely chopped
Flaky sea salt

Heat oil in very large skillet over medium low heat. Add onions and 2 tsp. kosher salt and cook, stirring occasionally until very soft, about 45 minutes. Turn up heat to medium high and continue cooking about 20 minutes more, stirring often, until deeply browned and sweet. Pour in wine and stir to scrape up bits at bottom of pan. Mix half the onions with the rice, lentils, cinnamon, cumin, 1 tsp. kosher salt and several grinds of black pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings (see note below). Form a mound of rice and lentils on platter, top with remaining onions, parsley, a grind of pepper and a few grains of the sea salt to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature. (Note: Cook the rice and lentils while the onions are cooking. Use regular brown or green lentils, not red lentils or the small, dark green French lentils. For three cups of cooked lentils, combine 2 cups of water with 1 cup of dried lentils. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes until tender but not falling apart. Drain excess liquid. Natkin notes his recipe makes a milder, earthier mujadara, but he encourages experimentation. For a more assertive taste, try doubling the cumin and cinnamon and or adding ¼ tsp. of red pepper flakes.)

This post originally appeared in a slightly different form in the j.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Happy 100th to Julia Child and My Julia Sighting

It must have been close to 30 years ago when I first dined at Chez Panisse, Alice Water's famed Berkeley, CA, restaurant. Back then I was overly intimated by name restaurants and Alice's restaurant was famed not only for its food and founder but for the impact it was already having on the cuisine of California and elsewhere.

I was prepared to be amazed and delighted and to have the meal I'd remember for a lifetime and I suppose I did, except I remember nothing, absolutely nothing of the meal.  All I remember is the charming, laughing, curly-headed, tall older woman sitting a few tables away who I instantly realized was Julia Child.

Alice herself came over to Child's table and there was much hugging and more laughing and pleasure in being together.  The two certainly seemed to be bon amies. 

Just seeing two of my American idols was enough, I've never been one who needs to ask for autographs or impose on the famous since I've found their golden touch really doesn't rub off, but it is a delicious memory I'll always treasure.

A few years later I was at a women's club meeting in San Francisco.  There a few tables away, was a familiar looking woman - tall, curly-haired, booming voice, good natured.  I kept thinking she looked just like someone I knew.  A tablemate leaned over and whispered, "Oh, that's Dorothy, Julia Child's sister" and the mystery was solved.  Turned out Julia's sister lived in the Bay area.

I did not have any other brushes with Julia (or her sister), but I was always grateful to have had a chance to glimpse her in person.  Back then I didn't need to tell her how she influenced me, but 30 years ago her impact was more based on her cooking and her entertaining personality that the lessons I learned and the person I came to know between the lines of her recipes. (You can read some of that in my post about making Julia Child's lemon curd.)  Her dogged determination, her reinvention not just of herself but of cookery and the American food landscape combine to make a character worthy of being played by Meryl Streep.

One last word, it has been bandied about much that the elderly Child did not care for the Julie & Julia project (where Julie Powell cooked through Julia's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year).  I always felt the nonagenarian was broadsided by the interview. But later reading a post by a L.A. Times reporter and her discussion with long-time editor Judith Jones, I began to have more understanding for her position on it. Jones felt that Child had a generational difference as well as an impatience with such a derivative project. Sarah Moulton, also reported her friend Julia's disdain for those she felt would try to make money off her reputation and name.  I much prefer the report of a family friend who said Julia appreciated her work inspiring others. 

I myself have mixed feelings about the blog and resulting movie, but I'm glad Julia's legacy has been made relevant for another generation of Americans.

Happy 100th Birthday, Julia.
Thanks for the recipes.

Bon Appetit.
Photo credit: Public domain Julia Child signature -- Wikipedia

Friday, August 10, 2012

A Simple Dinner to Eat Outdoors - Grilled Steak, Grilled Lettuce and Brownies (And Maybe Toasted Marshmallows)

I‘ve always enjoyed grilling and eating outside. It somehow seems so special, especially if there is another couple or two, to have a meal outdoors watching for the first signs of sunset (and maybe if there are children involved toasting a few marshmallow over the coals as we waited).

To me the secret of cooking and serving outside is to organize the menu so there is no running back and forth from the kitchen to the grill.  I recommend cooking the steak and salad on the grill, baking some potatoes ahead of time to wrap in foil and reheat on the grill, and making Karen’s Very Chocolate Brownies for dessert (maybe topping them with some of those toasted marshmallows).

Be sure to let the meat rest for 10 minutes before slicing as thinly as possible against the grain (cutting perpendicular to the long meat fibers) for the juiciest and most tender results. The steak can also be cooked indoors under a broiler or in a grill pan or on an electric grill. Last time I tested this recipe I used London broil, but my favorite is with flank steak.  Skirt steak also works well. The marinade also works well on Portobello mushrooms if you are looking for a vegetarian option, but maybe you'd want to switch out the potatoes with a filling and protein-packed side dish such as quinoa
Red Wine Marinated Grilled Steak
Serves 6-8

1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup red wine
4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dried oregano, crumbled fine
2 lbs. flank steak,London broil or skirt steak
Vegetable oil

Mix the olive oil, wine, garlic, pepper, salt and oregano. Reserve 1/4 cup. Place the steak in a glass dish or plastic zipper storage bag. Add remaining marinade. Marinate for 2 hours, turning occasionally. Before preheating grill, brush rack with vegetable oil. Preheat grill to medium high heat, place steak on grill and discard the liquid it marinated in. Grill steak, turning and basting occasionally with the previously reserved marinade. Timing will depend on your grill and the cut of meat you are using. Cook to just slightly less done than you prefer (since it will continue to cook while it rests), remove meat to a cutting board, tent with foil and let rest for 10 minutes before cutting into very thin slices against the grain.

Grilled Lettuce Salad
Serves 4-6

Head of romaine lettuce
Vegetable oil
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt (or to taste)

1/4 tsp. ground black pepper (or to taste)
2 Tbs. lemon juice (or to taste).

Separate and wash lettuce leaves. Shake off excess water and dry. Grease grill rack with vegetable oil. Heat grill to medium. Mix olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss with lettuce until coated. Lay lettuce flat on grill rack. Check and turn regularly until slightly wilted and charred. Take off grill, cut into bite-sized pieces and toss with lemon juice.

Karen’s Very Chocolate Brownies
Serves 12-16

1 cup vegetable oil, plus extra for greasing pan

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, beaten
2 tsp. vanilla
1 -12 oz. package of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 11x14” baking pan. Melt unsweetened chocolate and set aside to cool slightly. In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Without stirring, add the oil and the eggs to the center of the flour mixture. Add the vanilla and melted chocolate. Now stir, starting slowly, then beating well until smooth and dark brown. Add chocolate chips and mix well. Pour batter into pan. Bake 30 to 35 minutes until edges look crisp and have shrunk slightly away from the sides of the pan. Place pan on rack and let cool. Cut into bars or squares.

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

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Old World Foods Get a Fresh Spin in Food Truck (with Chicken Schnitzel and Hungarian Pepper Relish Recipes)

Street food meets Eastern European and Jewish favorites at a new food truck in the Bay area. The Old World Food Truck is Kenny Hockert’s celebration of fresh and seasonal Ashkenazi soul food.
Hockert, a San Francisco resident and a trained chef, mixes his natural, organic and sustainable food experiences with his memories of eating his Grandma Dora’s cooking growing up in Queens, N.Y.

“Jewish and Eastern European food was meant to be street food. It is comfort food, family food,” Hockert said. His “slow food in a fast truck” helps keep dishes such as borscht, pierogis, knishes, deli sandwiches and gefilte fish relevant today. His gefilte fish recipe, for example, incorporates local fish and freshly grated horseradish and beets. “It has the look and feel of something old but when you get a taste, it’s something new and fresh,” he said.

Find out the truck’s schedule as well as info on catering and his regular “pop-up” nights at a San Francisco restaurant by going to his website. Recipes below are by Hockert, are used with permission and have been adapted for space, style and to reflect my experience making them.

Old World Food Truck Schnitzel Recipe
Makes 4 schnitzels

This is hands down THE BEST schnitzel recipe I've ever made.  Just recently I made it again for my fried chicken cutlet loving son and he too declared it was something truly special. 

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup flour
1 cup panko bread or homemade bread crumbs
Canola oil
Lemon wedges and or honey to taste
Hungarian Pepper Relish (see recipe below)

Trim any gristle off of the chicken thighs. Butterfly thighs as needed to make the meat an even thickness. Place the thighs on a cutting board on a sturdy surface. Cover the chicken with plastic wrap. Using the flat side of a meat tenderizering mallet or the base of a mug, pound the thigh until the meat is a uniform 1/3” thick. Mix sugar and salt together and sprinkle on both sides of the thighs. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 400 degrees and lightly oil a baking sheet. Put eggs in a bowl. Spread flour and bread crumbs on separate plates. Pat the chicken in the flour, shake off excess, then dip into egg and finish by patting the chicken into bread crumbs. Repeat. Pour a 1/4" layer of oil on the bottom of a large frying pan or skillet. Heat until the oil reaches 325 degrees on a frying thermometer or until it sizzles a bread crumb. Put one chicken thigh in hot oil, it should sizzle immediately. If not, do not add others until it does. Fry on both sides until golden brown (about a minute a side). Place on prepared pan and put in oven for no more than 5 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Serve immediately with a drizzle of honey and or lemon juice on top and Hungarian pepper relish.

Old World Food Truck Hungarian Pepper Relish
Makes about 2 cups

This tangy relish works well as a condiment to more than the fried chicken.  Try it as a pasta topping or with sausages.

1/2 lb. red bell pepper
1/2 lb. Hungarian gypsy pepper (or use additional bell pepper)
1/2 to 1 small jalapeño (optional)
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, cut into 1/4" pieces
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tbs. paprika
1/4 tsp. salt or to taste
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper or to taste

Seed and cut peppers (including jalapeno if using) into 1/4” pieces. Heat oil in sauce pan, add garlic, peppers and onion. Sauté over medium heat until softened and lightly browned, about 10-15 minutes. Add sugar and vinegar, simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes until the liquids are mostly reduced. Add salt, pepper and paprika. Taste. It should be tangy, sweet and have a nice spice. Adjust seasonings as needed. Transfer to food processor and carefully pulse mixture into a small, chunky dice. Let cool and serve with schnitzels.

A version of this post first appeared in j. weekly.
Artist rending of truck used with permission.
Look for more about Hockert and the Old World Food Truck on Blog Appetit soon.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Holy (Almost) Mole and Any Night Cerviche to the Rescue -- With Recipes (and Suggestion for a Vegan Mole)

Any Night Cerviche
Okay, okay.  So I've made fine moles out of a jar mix (Dona Maria, thank you).  I've made fabulous, unbelievably complex moles from scratch with several kinds of dried Mexican chilies soaked, drained, pureed and then strained.  (For those of you new to moles, they are a style of Mexican or Aztec chili sauce with many variations, including some that include chocolate.) But sometimes you just want a really great mole with homemade taste without staining your entire kitchen (not to mention your hands and nails) red.

That calls for my super hero of the kitchen -- Almost Mole.  True, it starts with ground chilies from the store instead of the soaking, the draining, the pureeing and straining, but despite it's quick start it delivers a rich and slightly tongue tingling taste. This sauce makes a wonderful chicken mole (see below), but combine it with vegetables (such as sweet potatoes, carrots, red pepper and corn) for a great vegan meal as well.  I like to add canned posole (cooked white hominy) to my vegetable moles and make them vegan by using oil instead of chicken schmaltz (fat) and vegetable broth in place of the chicken stock. Serve either vegan or chicken mole over rice and pass the tortillas for mopping up all your fine home-made sauce.

Serve with Any Night Cerviche -- a quick and easy starter with a Mexican flair and a bit of a sharp taste to contrast with the richer mole sauce.

Almost Mole with Chicken
Serves 6

1 recipe spice paste (see below)
2 Tbs. chicken fat or vegetable oil
3 lbs. chicken thighs or other bone-in parts
1 cup thinly sliced onion
4 tsp. minced garlic
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 large can (24-26 oz.) strained tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth or stock with more as needed
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1 8” flour tortilla, processed into fine crumbs.
Finely chopped fresh cilantro, optional for garnish

Make the spice paste and have it ready (see below). Heat fat until melted and hot in a large Dutch oven or heavy pot over medium high heat. Brown chicken pieces (removing skin first if desired), working in batches if necessary. Remove chicken from pan. Add onions, sauté until softened, add garlic, sauté until garlic is golden, add carrots and bell peppers and sauté for several minutes. Add in spice paste, stirring and sautéing until well incorporated with the sautéed vegetables. Stir in strained tomatoes and chicken broth. Bring to a simmer. Add chocolate and stir until melted. Stir in tortilla pieces. Return browned chicken and any accumulated juices to pot. Bring to a simmer, lower heat and cover. Cook at a simmer, stirring occasionally and turning chicken pieces so they are coated in the sauce, until chicken is cooked through. Add additional broth if needed as it cooks. The sauce should be thick but still a bit liquid. Garnish with cilantro.

Spice paste:  In a food processor (or working in batches in a blender), chop 1 quartered onion, 4 garlic cloves, 2 Tbs. sesame seeds, 1/2 cup slivered, blanched almonds, 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, 2 Tbs. ancho chili powder, 1 tsp. chipotle chili powder, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. ground coriander, 1/8 tsp. ground cloves, 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. pepper into a fairly smooth paste.

Any Night Ceviche
Serves 4 as appetizer

1/2 lb. mild, white fish fillets such as tilapia or snapper
1/2 cup chopped tomato (cut in 1/4" pieces)
1/2 cup chopped white onion (cut into 1/4” pieces)
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves
1 tsp. minced, seeded jalapeño  
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
6 oz. fresh lime juice
2 Tbs. canola oil
Diced avocado, optional for garnish 

Rinse and cut fish into 1/4" pieces. Place in glass or other non-reactive bowl. Add tomato, onion, cilantro, jalapeno, salt and pepper. Stir well. Combine juice and oil and pour over fish.  Fish should be just covered.  Add additional juice and oil if needed. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 6 hours to overnight, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasonings. Garnish with diced avocado. Serve on top of lettuce or with tortilla chips.
A version of this article first appeared in the j. weekly

Monday, May 21, 2012

Cake on a Stick or Cake Pops by Any Other Name Could Not Taste Any Sweeter (Partly Because They are Already Very Sweet, but Mostly Because I Made Them with Chessy)

I’m a sucker for projects.  That’s why when Chessy, my very creative, very patient and very cute pre-teen co-conspirator, decided to take me  up on my idea of making cake pops I didn’t blink.  Projects like this don’t faze me, for I am the daughter of the Queen of Arts and Crafts.  I’m also a pantry pack rat so I had most of the necessary supplies on hand and only had to buy the cake mix and frosting.

Cake pops are popular.  Cake pops are cute.  You use a cake mix, prepared icing and commercial candy coating, how difficult could they be?  Well, the answer is a very tricky, even with using the always inventive Bakerella’s brilliant directions for basic cake pops.  We made our cake pops with white candy coating and planned on decorating them with my extensive collections of colored sugars, decorating candies, sprinkles, etc.
Chessy and Cake Pops to Go

There were a few hitches.  I had to improvise a stand when I discovered I had misplaced the styrofoam. I didn’t plan enough ahead and the cake wasn’t cool enough.  Make yours the day ahead.  I probably should have planned on getting more candy melts and working in batches.  Part of the process of successful cake pop process is to dip your stick in the hot candy, stick in the cake ball and let freeze for a bit so the cake ball and candy stick have a chance to bond.  Let’s just say we rushed that step, too, and had more than a few cake balls list or even fall off their sticks. Swirling the cake balls in the melted candy to cover them (somewhat evenly) is also an acquired skill.The whole process also took a LOT longer than I anticipated.

Chessy was in charge of decoration and had a grand time sprinkling, dusting and spraying our arsenal of cake decorating products on our somewhat lopsided and misshapen just-dipped cake pops.  Despite everything they came out looking grand.  We wrapped the best looking ones in colored cellophane for her to pass out proudly to friends and family and snacked on the fallen and lumpy.  We both enjoyed the experience, but I found the final product teeth-achingly sweet, an opinion she did not share. Since cake pops are about, well, the pop not the cake, the final taste didn’t bother me, but if I was making these for adults I might see about using a different mix/frosting or even make my own for a bit more subtle taste.  But really, I mostly wish I had the skill/practice/patience to make ones that looked half as nice as Bakerella’s. 

The best part of the recipe was making them with Chessy (we made these over winter break).  That’s always my favorite ingredient.

(For another resource, the Oakland Tribune, my local newspaper, recently featured info and directions for cake pop making, a recipe from Bakerella and  tips from Bakerella herself)