Saturday, May 19, 2012

Teen Cooking Competiton Comes Up with Some Winning and Tasty Indian-Jewish Inspired Treats

Tomato-Mango Bruschetta

Here’s a recipe for some tasty learning about Jewish culture. To a roomful of teenagers add a lesson on Jewish food ways, a kitchen full of ingredients and a dash of competition. The result is Top (Jewish) Chef, where teens explore Jewish food. The class is part of Berkeley Midrasha’s curriculum for postbar and bat mitzvah youth.  The Midrasha program is one of several in northern California.

Teacher Anna Martin has the teens participating in competitions that have included an Ashkenazi/Sephardic Cholent/Dafina cook off as well as a challenge where they created a dish using at least three of the Biblical seven species.

Recently, I had a chance to be a guest judge at the Bene Israel Cook Off. The students had already learned about the Bene Israel Jews of India, so they came to the kitchen of Congregation Beth El, which hosts the Berkeley Midrasha program, prepared to cook. Students were divided into four teams and each had to make a chutney from a recipe provided by Martin and create their own version of malida, a Bene Israel spiced rice dish often served with fruits and nuts.

The teens (age 13-17) had the tough job -- creating and cooking the recipes in about an hour, but I was also impressed on how tough it was to judge a competition such as this.  I had developed a score sheet for originality, compliance to rules, appearance and taste but in the end things were moving so fast I only relied on two things -- fulfilling the assignment properly (making the assigned chutney and creating a dish using at least three of the traditional Bene Israel elements) and how the finished dishes tasted.

Honestly, everything tasted great, but there was a lot of deviation from the assignment. In the end, the winner was a hot, spiced pineapple-mango salad devised by Stefan Moskowitz, Michelle Schiff, Sydney Palmer and Becky Friedman. It inspired me to create the rice pudding below. The team of Jaime Falcone-Juengert, Adin Krebs-Oppenheimer and Leo Pollack combined their sweet and savory tomato chutney with mango and coconut into a bruschetta topping, which also inspired a recipe below.
Pineapple-Mango Rice Pudding
Serves 6
1 can (13.5-15 oz.) light coconut milk
1/2 cup white basmati rice
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. minced fresh ginger
1 cup 1/2" cubes fresh mango
1 cup 1/2” cubes fresh pineapple
1/2 cup chopped strawberries
1/4 cup chopped pistachios or slivered almonds
1/4 cup finely chopped mint
1 Tbs. minced, seeded jalapeño pepper or to taste (optional)

Pour coconut milk in a large measuring cup. Add water until there is 2 1/2 cups of liquid. Mix with rice in medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Stir in sugar, cardamom and ginger. Return to simmer, cover and lower heat to keep simmering, stirring occasionally until mixture is very thick and creamy, about 25-30 minutes. Stir in mango and pineapple chunks. Serve warm or at room temperature in one large or six individual serving bowls garnished with strawberries, nuts, mint and jalapeño (if using).

Tomato-Mango Bruschetta
Makes 16 toasts

1/2 cup finely shredded or grated coconut (unsweetened)
2 lb. fresh plum tomatoes
2 Tbs. olive oil plus extra for brushing on bread
2 Tbs. minced fresh garlic
2 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
2 cups 1/4" cubes fresh mango
2 Tbs. tamarind concentrate or paste
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/8 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 baguette of French or similar bread, about 24” long


Toast the coconut until golden brown over low heat in a dry, heavy, large fry pan or skillet, stirring constantly. Set coconut aside and wipe out pan. Cut tomatoes in half lengthwise, squeezing out seeds. Chop tomatoes into 1/4" pieces. Set aside. Place 2 Tbs. of oil in the pan, raise heat to medium. Add garlic and sauté until golden. Add ginger, sauté for a minute. Add tomato and mango pieces, tamarind, juice, salt, red pepper, sugar, cardamom and raisins, mix well and sauté for about 5-6 minutes, until the tomatoes are just cooked and the flavors have melded. Taste and correct seasonings. Mix in cilantro and remove from heat. Use warm or at room temperature. Just before serving, slice baguette into half lengthwise and then cut each half into 8 pieces, each about 3” long. Brush with oil and grill, broil or toast cut side until just golden. Spoon tomato-mango mixture on top of each slice. Sprinkle with the toasted coconut.
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A version of this post first appeared as an article in the j. weekly.

1 comment:

FJK said...

A reader from the j. weekly wrote me to tell me how much she liked the tomato-mango recipe and how she smoked her tomatoes on the grill which really amped up the flavor.