Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Revisionist Meat Loaf. It's What's for Dinner -- Stuffed Cabbage Meat Loaf and Spanish Kale and Olive Meat Loaf

Stuffed Cabbage Meat Loaf
Meat loaf. Just saying those words seems to conjure a remembrance of a specific meat loaf recipe for most people. For many folks it’s family food, not something special for company, but meat loaf is too good to not get a chance to shine, so here are two untraditional meat loaf recipes to try.

The Stuffed Cabbage Meat Loaf started with my memories of my Eastern European Jewish grandmother’s meat loaf and her stuffed cabbage. In her honor, the meat loaf has a hard-boiled egg core, a cabbage wrapping and a sweet and sour tomato sauce to top it off. This is a good recipe to use with low-fat ground beef, since the cabbage keeps the meat loaf moist.

The Spanish Kale and Olive Meat Loaf features Iberian seasonings and pimento-stuffed olives.

Stuffed Cabbage Meat Loaf
Serves 6-8

6 large, green cabbage leaves
Oil spray
1 1/4 lbs. ground beef
1 cup matzo meal
1 egg, beaten
1 14oz. can diced tomatoes with liquid
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
2 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. ground dried oregano
1/8 tsp. paprika
2 hardboiled eggs, shelled

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Immerse leaves in pot of boiling water, cover, reduce heat to a simmer and cook 4-5 minutes until the leaves are pliable. Drain. Spray large baking dish with the oil spray. Lay 2 largest cabbage leaves stem end to stem end in the center of the baking dish. Set aside.

Combine meat, matzo meal, beaten egg, tomatoes with liquid, onions, garlic, salt, pepper, oregano and paprika. Mound half into an 8”x4” loaf in the middle of the 2 cabbage leaves. Press hard-boiled eggs into loaf end to end. Mound remaining meat on top. Drape 2-3 cabbage leaves over top of meat loaf, filling in gaps with remaining leaves. Fold up cabbage leaves from underneath to enclose. Spray top with oil spray. Bake, spraying cabbage with oil if it begins to dry out or get too brown, for 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours, until firm to the touch and cooked through. Let sit 20 minutes before serving. Serve with sauce (below).

Sweet and Sour Sauce: Plump 1/2 cup raisins in hot water for 20 minutes, drain. In a small pan combine raisins with 15 oz. can tomato sauce, 1 Tbs. brown sugar, 1/4 tsp. dried ground ginger, 1/8 tsp. salt, 1/8 tsp. ground black pepper and 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Taste, adding sugar or vinegar as needed.

Spanish Kale and Olive Meat Loaf
Serves 6

2 Tbs. oil plus additional for greasing pan
1/2 cup chopped red onion
4 tsp. minced garlic
2 cups chopped kale or chard
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1 lb. ground beef
2 Tbs. tomato paste
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup bread crumbs
10 queen-size, pimento-stuffed green olives, cut into fourths

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat 2 Tbs. oil in pan. Sauté onions and garlic until lightly browned. Add kale, red pepper, paprika, cumin, salt and pepper. Sauté until cooked. Oil an 8.5” x 4.5” loaf pan. Combine kale mixture with beef, tomato paste, eggs, bread crumbs, and olives. Put into loaf pan. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour until firm to the touch and cooked through. Let sit 20 minutes before serving.

Originally featured in j weekly.  Also featured on About.com's Eastern European food guide.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Photos at an Exhibition Inspire White Bean, Kale and Cauliflower Salads with North African Flavors

The photography show that inspired these recipes is over now, but the San Francisco Jewish Community Center's "Harissa, Honey & Hyssop: Photos of North African Food" featured the colorful and evocative the work of Nelli Sheffer, an Israeli who specializes in food photography.

The show appealed to me not just for the vivid portrayal of the food but for the life and feeling that seemed to emanate from the people in the photos with the grilled corn, roast lamb and other foods featured in Sheffer’s photographs.  (To see info on this exhibit, please go the JCC's Katz Gallery site. To read a write up about the exhibit with some photos, please see this jweekly article. For Sheffer's site, go here.)

I’ve recreated some of the North African flavors of the exhibition in several cooked vegetable salads, a feature of many of the cuisines of the region.

Briefly cooking the kale in the Kale Salad and Garlic Salad with Lemon helps tame its assertiveness. The cauliflower salad uses the Tunisian condiment harissa in the dressing. Harissa, a chili-garlic paste, is available in many supermarkets and in specialty stores. If you would like to make your own, here’s my recipe. The white bean dish features radishes and carrots, frequent ingredients in Moroccan salads.

Kale Salad with Garlic
Serve s 4-6

1 large or 2 small bunches of Tuscan kale (also known as dino or black kale)
1-2 tsp. minced garlic
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp., packed, minced lemon zest
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/8 tsp. cumin
1/8 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. paprika
1 tomato, chopped into 1/4” pieces

Remove tough bottom stems from kale. You should have about 12 oz. of leaves. Immerse in boiling water. Return to boil. Cover and cook kale for 2 minutes. Kale should be pliable and somewhat tender. Immediately remove from pot, rinse with cold water and drain well. Pat leaves dry with paper towels.
Blotting, rolling and slicing kale
Stack 6-8 leaves. Roll from tip of leaf to stem. Gently squeeze bundle to remove any excess water. Slice into 1/4” strips. Repeat with remainder of kale. Place in large bowl, tossing to untangle kale strips. Dry again with paper towels if there is a lot of moisture.

Combine garlic, juice, zest, oil, cumin, sugar, salt, pepper and paprika. Mix well and toss with kale strips. Garnish with chopped tomato. Serve at room temperature.

Cauliflower Salad with Harissa
Serves 4-6

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. harissa (Tunisian chili-garlic paste)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp. salt plus additional if needed
1 medium cauliflower
1/2 cup 1/4" chunks of red onion
3 Tbs. finely chopped fresh mint
3 tsps., packed, minced lemon zest

Mix juice, harissa, oil and 1/4 tsp. salt. Set aside. Core cauliflower and cut into 1 and 1/2” florets. Steam over boiling water for 4-6 minutes until tender but not cooked through. Immediately toss with harissa mixture and red onion. Mix in mint and lemon zest. Taste and add additional salt if needed. Serve warm or at room temperature.

White Bean Salad with Radishes and Carrots
Serves 4-6

1 and 3/4 cups cooked white kidney beans, rinsed and drained (15 oz. can)
1 cup 1/4" cubes of red bell pepper
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions (white and light green part only)
1/4 cup 1/8” pieces of red radish
1 cup 1/4" chunks of carrot
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/8 tsp. salt plus additional if needed
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbs. finely chopped parsley

Combine beans, red bell, green onions, radish pieces and carrot chunks. Mix lemon juice, 1/8 tsp. of salt, paprika, cumin, garlic and olive oil. Combine with beans and vegetables. Stir in parsley. Taste, adding more salt if needed. Serve at room temperature.
A version of this post appeared in the j. weekly.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Happy New Year to the Trees - Celebrate Tu B'Shevat with Fruit, Nuts and These Recipes

Cherry and Carob Cookies
Many Jews have become more aware of Tu B’Shevat, the New Year for trees, as the practice of celebrating the holiday with Seders and special meals has become more widespread.

Tu B’Shevat begins at sunset on February 7th and continues until nightfall the next day. The holiday was used to set the age of fruit trees for taxes and other purposes. There are several food customs associated with it. One is to eat a new fruit of the season. Another focuses on consuming the “Seven Species,” foods mentioned in the Torah as being special products of Israel – wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates. Some also include other fruits and nuts mentioned elsewhere in the Torah or associated with Israel.

The Seder was created in the 16th century and includes fruits that have several distinct characteristics: an inedible covering (such as citrus, pomegranates and pineapples), fruits with edible coverings but large pits (such as cherries, olives and carob), and completely edible fruits or ones that only have very small seeds (such as grapes).

Some of these Tu B’Shevat traditions are reflected in the following recipes.

Chicken with Olives and Tangerines
Serves 6

Fennel, squash, olives and tangerines combine to create a great dish for company or every day.  The idea came from having made some Moroccan orange and olive salads and really liking that flavor combo but only having Satsumas in the house when I created this.

1 1/2 cups seedless tangerine sections (such as Satsuma)
2 Tbs. grape seed or olive oil
2 lbs. boneless chicken thighs cut in 1 1/2” strips
2 cups of chopped onion
2 tsp. finely chopped garlic
1 1/2 cups chopped fennel bulb
1 1/2 cups chopped red bell pepper
1 1/2 cups of 1” cubes of butternut squash
1 cup water
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup pitted Kalamata olives
2 Tbs. finely chopped fennel fronds, optional

Remove any excess white pith or strings from the tangerine sections. Set aside. Heat oil in large fry or sauté pan over medium high heat. Brown chicken strips, remove. Add onion and garlic, sauté until golden. Add fennel, red bell pepper and squash. Sauté 2 minutes. Add water, stir well, cover. Lower heat to medium and let steam, stirring occasionally and adding more water as needed (do not let the pan go dry), until squash is almost cooked through. Remove lid, raise heat to medium high. Add cinnamon, pepper, salt and browned chicken and sauté until chicken is almost cooked through. Add olives and tangerines. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until chicken is done. Garnish with chopped fennel fronds if desired. Serve on top of cooked bulgur, couscous or barley.

Cherry and Carob Cookies
Makes about 24-30 cookies

These delicious, cake-like cookies are vegan. The carob adds a fruity note, but you could substitute chocolate chips if you'd prefer. Dried cranberries can also be substituted for the dried tart cherries. The cookies are very fragile when warm, plus they taste better when cool, so be sure to let them cool completely before eating.

1 cup non-hydrogenated shortening, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened plain applesauce
2 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup apple juice
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup carob chips
1/2 cup dried tart, pitted cherries (or dried cranberries)
1/2 cup dried, unsweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup walnut pieces
Oil spray

Using an electric mixer, cream shortening and sugar. Stir in applesauce, vanilla and juice. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt. With mixer on medium speed, pour a third of the flour mixture into the shortening one and mix until well combined. Repeat with remaining flour mixture. Stir in carob, cherries, coconut and walnuts. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour or overnight. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray cookie pans with oil spray. Roll batter into 1 1/2" balls. Place on greased baking sheets leaving about 2” space between cookies. Bake until cookies are golden with lightly browned edges, 15-17 minutes. Let cool on baking pans for 3 minutes and then move to cooling rack. Let cool completely before eating.

Pomegranate Juice Squares with Pineapple Chunks
Serves 4

Don't skip serving with the pineapple chunks, they are what makes the dish "come together." Canned pineapple chunks work fine for this recipe.

1 cup white grape juice
1 cup fresh pomegranate juice, cold
2 envelopes Kolatin brand unflavored kosher gelatin (see note below)
8 oz. can pineapple chunks, drained, OR 2/3 cup of 1/2” chunks of fresh pineapple
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds, optional

Heat white grape juice to a boil and keep at a simmer. Place cold pomegranate juice in bowl. Sprinkle gelatin on top, let stand 1 minute. Add hot juice and mix thoroughly until gelatin has dissolved. Pour into 8” x 8” pan. Cover and put in refrigerator until firm (4 hours). Cut into 1” squares. Combine the juice squares with the pineapple in individual dishes just before serving. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds if using. (Note: If using a different brand of gelatin, follow package directions on how to mix with liquids.)
A version of this first appeared as an article the j. weekly.
Other posts on the holiday feature information on pomegranates and recipes for barley-olive tabbouleh salad, pomengranate fish and carob fruit nut bars.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Super Treats for the Super Bowl

Inspired by About.com's Eastern European Food Guide featuring one of my recipes (for stuffed cabbage meat loaf ),* as Super Bowl fare, I thought I would create a wrap up of recipes I think would be good choices for Super Bowl or similar get-togethers.

Here are some of my picks from past posts:

For a different dip try my Pumpkin Hummus
For a little something healthy offer up some Broccoli Slaw
Try these hot dog toppings, including a lentil chili (which would make a great stand-alone dish as well. The other toppings are tomato-onions and homemade relish. Try with my oven-roasted fries.
No one will ask where's the beef when they try these three lighter sandwiches - egg salad, smoked salmon and goat cheese with olives.
Try my version of street tacos with turkey carnitas
Potato knishes make great hand held food
Go for a  Spanish tortilla (a kind of sturdy omelet easy to cut into appetizer pieces) with a secret ingredient - potato chips
Try a five-way Cincinnati Chili
Think about having a soup bar - check out my soup listings for some ideas
My choice are Vietnamese Spring Rolls wrapped in rice paper or even lettuce - pre made or do it yourself - with shrimp or vegetarian
*Note: that meat loaf recipe has not appeared in Blog Appetit yet, though. In addition to about.com, you can find it on line j. weekly. Update: 2/21/12 - that recipe is now posted on Blog Appetit.