INTRODUCTION Confessions of the Bride Who Knew Nothing
HOW TO USE THIS BOOK
Equipment and Ingredients List
ABOUT THE KOSHER THING
SOUPS AND STARTERS
Crystal Clear Chicken Soup with Julienned Vegetables and Angel Hair
DRESS IT DOWN Chicken Noodle Alphabet Soup
Cocktail Meatballs with Sweet ’n’ Sour Sauce
DRESS IT UP Deconstructed Meatball Bruschetta
Ktzitzot (Israeli Mini Burgers)
DRESS IT UP Hummus-Topped Ktzitzot
Anita’s Lachmagine (Miniature Ground Beef Pies)
DRESS IT UP Pine Nut Lachmagine with Parsley Tahini
DRESS IT UP Eggplant Caviar Crostini
Lemon Lover’s Hummus
DRESS IT UP Tricolor Hummus Trifles
Falafel Poppers with Lemon Sesame Schug
DRESS IT DOWN Falafel Sandwiches
Cilantro Corn Cakes
DRESS IT UP Cilantro Corn Cakes with Avocado Aioli
Tropical Fruit Guacamole
DRESS IT UP Deconstructed Tropical Guacamole
Uputzi’s Vegetarian Chopped “Liver” Pâté
DRESS IT UP Vegetarian Chopped “Liver” Pâté Bread Cups
Baked Herbed Gefilte Fish
DRESS IT UP Baked Carrot-Stuffed Gefilte Fish
Fancy Crudités with Garlic Ranch Dip
DRESS IT DOWN Quick Crudités
Chilled Coconut Berry Soup
DRESS IT UP Fruit, Flower, and Mint Ice Cubes
Baked Sweet Potato Chips
DRESS IT UP Purple, Orange, and White Chips (Dairy)
Cool Cucumber and Avocado Cream Soup
DRESS IT UP Cool Cucumber and Avocado Cream Shooters
Smashed Red Potato Nachos
DRESS IT UP Nacho Potato Bites
Poppy’s Sour Cream Potato Soup
DRESS IT UP Poppy’s Potato Soup Cups
SIDES AND SALADS
Triple Deli Pasta Salad with Creamy Italian Dressing
DRESS IT UP Deconstructed Chef’s Salad
Cranberry Chestnut Challah Stuffing
DRESS IT UP Stuffed Baked Onions
Hearty Mushrooms with Herbs and Wine
DRESS IT UP Mushroom Phyllo Cups
Pastrami-Fry Salad with Creamy Chili Dressing
DRESS IT UP Pastrami-Fry Tomato Cups
Daddy’s Deep-Dish Potato Kigel/ Kugel
DRESS IT UP Pastrami Potato Kugel (Meat)
Spiced Apple Challah Kugel
DRESS IT UP Apple Challah Kugel Towers
Winter Citrus Salad
DRESS IT UP Winter Citrus Brûlée
Red Hasselback Potatoes
DRESS IT DOWN Roasted Red Potatoes
Easy Cranberry and Pine Nut Couscous
DRESS IT UP Cranberry Couscous Squash Bowls
DRESS IT UP Cranberry Couscous Eggplant Boats
Rice Salad with Toasted Nuts, Apples, and Onion Dressing
DRESS IT UP Apple and Nut Rice Ring
Mustard Green Beans
DRESS IT UP Colorful Mustard String Beans
Raw Root Vegetable Salad
DRESS IT DOWN Asian Roasted Root Vegetables
Sweet Potato Casserole
DRESS IT UP Marshmallow-Topped Sweet Potato Casserole
Easy Scallion Cornbread
DRESS IT UP Pretty Cornbread
Avocado Salad with Butter Lettuce and Lemon Dressing
DRESS IT UP Mock Crab Salad in Avocados
DRESS IT UP Yerushalmi Raisin Kugel
Zucchini and Red Bell Pepper Sauté
DRESS IT DOWN Zucchini Coins
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Herb “Butter”
DRESS IT DOWN Garlic and Thyme Brussels Sprouts
Wilted Spinach with Crispy Garlic Chips
DRESS IT DOWN Garlic Wilted Spinach
Latkes with Caviar and Cream
DRESS IT DOWN Sweet Cinnamon Latkes
Creamy Tomato Penne
DRESS IT UP Creamy Tomato Basil Nests
DRESS IT UP Waldorf Salad with Candied Walnuts and Blue Cheese
Greek Pasta Salad with Creamy Feta Dressing
DRESS IT UP Fancy and Fresh Greek Pasta Salad
Chicken Sausage and Sweet Potato Hash with Baked Eggs
DRESS IT UP Pastrami and Sweet Potato Hash Cups
Coq au Vin with Veal Sausage, Thyme, and Merlot
DRESS IT DOWN Quick Coq au Vin
Sesame Chicken “Sushi” with Hoisin Garlic Sauce
DRESS IT DOWN Asian Roasted Chicken and Vegetables
Slow Cooker Turkey Spinach Meatloaf
DRESS IT UP Turkey Spinach Meatloaf Stuffed with Red Peppers and Zucchini
Pretzel-Crusted Chicken Skewers with Herbed Curry Mustard
DRESS IT DOWN Pretzel-Crusted Chicken Nuggets
Sweet and Sticky Citrus Drumsticks
DRESS IT UP Sweet and Sticky Stuffed Cornish Hens (Meat)
Sour Mash Whiskey–Glazed Whole Roasted Turkey
DRESS IT DOWN Sour Mash Whiskey–Glazed Turkey Wings and Drumsticks
Our Family Fricassee
DRESS IT DOWN Fricassee Sloppy Joes
Moroccan Roasted Chicken
DRESS IT DOWN Slow Cooker Moroccan-Style Chicken
Crispy Salt and Pepper Chicken with Caramelized Fennel and Shallots
DRESS IT DOWN Salt and Pepper Chicken Wings
Stuffed Veal Rolls with Smoky Tomato Sauce
DRESS IT DOWN Veal Spaghetti and Meatballs
BBQ Short Rib Sandwiches with Avocado
DRESS IT UP Short Rib Sliders with Flavored Mayo on Garlic Toast
Jumbo Meatball Garlic Bread Bites
DRESS IT UP Loaded Jumbo Meatball Heroes
Skirt Steak with Salsa Verde
DRESS IT DOWN Mexican Skirt Steak Salad
Garlic Honey Brisket
DRESS IT DOWN Honey Brisket Pita Pockets
Argentinean Brisket with Chimichurri
DRESS IT DOWN Pulled Argentinean Brisket and Rice
Beer-Braised Holiday Top of the Rib
DRESS IT DOWN Slow Cooker Beer-Braised Top of the Rib
Loaded Burgers with Special Sauce
DRESS IT DOWN Unloaded Burgers
Balsamic London Broil
DRESS IT DOWN Oven-Roasted Balsamic London Broil and Potatoes
Chunky Red Chili
DRESS IT UP Chili Bread Bowls
Somewhat Sephardic Chulent
DRESS IT UP Puff Pastry Sephardic Chulent Cups
Daddy’s Mititei (Romanian Garlic Meat Sausages)
DRESS IT UP Fresh and Fruity Mititei
“Buttery” Crusted Beef Pot Pie
DRESS IT DOWN Mashed Potato Beef Cottage Pie
Mediterranean Lamb Skewers
DRESS IT DOWN Mediterranean Lamb Meatloaf
Classic Tuna Noodle Casserole (Dairy)
DRESS IT UP Creamy Salmon and Tuna Noodle Pie
Teriyaki Scallion Rainbow Trout (Pareve)
DRESS IT UP Whole Stuffed Rainbow Trout
Blackened Tilapia Tacos with Cumin Avocado Sauce (Dairy)
DRESS IT UP Tilapia Tacos with Apple Cabbage Slaw
Miso-Glazed Salmon (Pareve)
DRESS IT UP Avocado-Stuffed Miso-Glazed Salmon
Salmon with Lemon Velvet Cream Sauce (Dairy)
DRESS IT UP Side of Salmon with Seared Lemons
Pumpkin Spice Ravioli with Brown Butter (Dairy)
DRESS IT DOWN Baked Pumpkin Penne
Poppy and Grandma’s Layered Rakott Crumpli (Dairy)
DRESS IT DOWN Rakott Crumpli Bake
Roasted Summer Squash Lasagna (Dairy)
DRESS IT UP Roasted Vegetable Summer Lasagna
Butternut Squash Mac ’n’ Cheese (Dairy)
DRESS IT DOWN Butternut Mac ’n’ Cheese Muffin Cups
Blue Cheese, Pear, and Arugula Pizza (Dairy)
DRESS IT DOWN White Pizza
Country Spinach, Tomato, and White Bean Soup (Pareve)
DRESS IT UP Easy Cheese Twists (Dairy)
Cold Soba Noodles with Sweet Sesame Tofu (Pareve)
DRESS IT UP Soba, Sweet Sesame Tofu, and Vegetables
Sorbet Cups with Strawberry Kiwi Salsa
DRESS IT DOWN Sorbet and Salsa
Nutty Caramel Brownies
DRESS IT UP Toasted Marshmallow Nutty Caramel Brownies
Spiced Pumpkin Mousse
DRESS IT UP Cocoa Cream Pumpkin Mousse Trifles
Sweet Potato Cake
DRESS IT UP Peaches and Jam Sweet Potato Cake
Birthday Pancake Towers
DRESS IT UP Birthday Pancake Cutouts
Holiday Carrot Honey Cake
DRESS IT DOWN Carrot Honey Loaf
Tart Green Apple Pie à la Mode
DRESS IT DOWN Green Apple Crumble
Caramel Apples with Crushed Nuts
DRESS IT UP Caramel Fruit Bites
Big Chewy Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies
DRESS IT UP Chocolate Chip Cookie and Cream Stacks
Salted Almond and Pistachio Bark
DRESS IT DOWN Kiddie Candy Bark
Olive Oil Dark Chocolate Mousse
DRESS IT UP Olive Oil Dark Chocolate Mousse Shots
Cherry Bourbon Hand Pies
DRESS IT DOWN Warm Cherry Topping
Gooey Chocolate Cherry Cake
DRESS IT UP Red Wine Chocolate Cherry Cake
Cardamom-Scented Chanukah Cookies
DRESS IT UP Black and White Chocolate—Dipped Chanukah Cookies
Chocolate Hazelnut Milk Shake Martinis
DRESS IT DOWN Chocolate Hazelnut Milk Shakes
DRESS IT UP Funnel Cakes with Basil Ice Cream
DRESS IT UP Candied-Orange Cheesecake
Black and White Ice Cream Bombe
DRESS IT UP Black and White Sundae Bar
Cannoli Egg Rolls with Chocolate Sauce
DRESS IT UP Cannoli Cones
CHALLAH 1 Dough, 10 Sweet and Savory Recipes
Basic Pull-Apart Challah
Shalom Bayis Pull-Apart Challah
Cran-Rosemary Crown Challah
Sun-Dried Tomato, Garlic, and Herb Braided Challah
Blueberry Apple Challah Rolls
Sea-Salted Soft Challah Pretzel Rolls
Iced Cinnamon Buns
Gooey Pecan Sticky Buns
ALSO BY JAMIE GELLER
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
ABOUT THE PUBLISHER
Confessions of the Bride
Who Knew Nothing
I wrote most of this book on my iPhone at three in the morning. Yes, the touchscreen is very tiny and almost invisible in the dark. My thumbs hurt.
Much of the time, I also was balancing my baby on my lap or sitting beside her crib, breathing quietly and praying that she would sleep for an hour or two. I could teach juggling to Barnum & Bailey.
If you and I are already acquainted—maybe you’ve read my other books or my magazine, or we met on line at the supermarket, or online at my website—you already know all about me, and you can skip to the next section. But if my name is new to you, you 11 get more out of this book if we get to know each other right now.
You may as well know that most people call me the Bride Who Knew Nothing. That title might bother some folks, but not me. Because it’s true.
Embarrassing, but true.
So a few confessions are in order. I was raised on takeout, not home cooking. My wonderful mom shared many of life’s secrets with me (mostly about how black makes you look two sizes smaller, and that no woman should be without a classic cashmere sweater), but she’d never be caught in a frilly apron standing in front of a stove, and neither would I. It was policy. Instead, she gave me the vaulting confidence to pursue a high-octane career as a TV producer. That was enough for both of us. That, and her certainty that I would one day become the first Jewish woman president of the United States.
And I wasn’t always kosher. Jewish, yes. Kosher, no. Till I was in my midtwenties, those “old dietary restrictions” never meant much to me. Yet somewhere between covering the Oscars and practicing yoga, I gravitated to Jewish observance, a lifestyle that had been dropped by my family in recent generations. I wanted to marry someone from a traditional Jewish family. When Hubby and I met, we knew this was it! We were engaged in like five minutes, and we were married two months later, before you could say, “What just happened?”
I quickly discovered that being part of his family meant celebrating more than a hundred traditional festivals annually, complete with six-course dinners for the immediate family, the extended family, and a few people they thought were aunts and uncles—not sure. Hubby’s family dinners were entirely homemade, preferably using recipes handed down from Bubby his great-grandma. And they were kosher.
Let’s say I didn’t fit in. Let’s say I was overwhelmed.
But ya gotta know me to understand my reaction. My kindergarten teacher dubbed me a hard worker. (What kind of work is there in kindergarten?) So the Great Kitchen Challenge only spurred me to confront my culinary clumsiness. Hubby was amused. He’s from a family of caterers and had never seen anybody mess up peeling an onion. Well, I was gonna show him. I’d show ’em all.
And I did. Like a runner who didn’t notice the finish line, I didn’t just learn to cook; I sprinted into cookbooks, magazines, a website, and a TV show. Hubby is not laughing anymore except for, well, sometimes.
Now we’re eight years into our beautiful marriage, we have five children, and my corporate image has boiled down simply to Mommy. Like an aspiring actress, I hunger for great reviews, especially when it comes to feeding my family. And the best review is “More please, Mommy.” That’s when I glow. I feel like I’m doing what every mother has done since the first cavewoman lit a fire and burned the woolly mammoth burgers.
But here’s my next confession: I still don’t like to cook.
I love to eat. I love to watch my children eat. And I adore the looks of delighted anticipation on the faces of dinner guests when I bring out a tantalizing dish. But I still want to get out of my kitchen as fast as I can.
Might as well totally ’fess up.
I am not a natural-born killer cook, and my grandfather would say I’m “no balabusta.” That’s a Yiddish word that, like all Yiddish terms, is dripping with unstated meanings. Simply, a balabusta is a homemaker. But a “real balabusta” is someone who serves a ten-course—all homemade, all perfect—meal to fifty people, and she made the place cards and re-covered all the dining room chairs. (She prepared all this last week while taking care of her six kids, making sure they wore matching outfits every day, and chairing the charity bazaar at their school.) And her kitchen is spotless after the party, even before her guests leave.
I’m not one of those. I’m the kind of homemaker who just stares at the dirty dishes in the sink, hoping they will do themselves. I’ll leave the room and come back to check if they’re still there. And then, once it’s clear they ain’t goin’ nowhere on their own, I go to sleep and pray to God that by morning He will make a miracle (akin to the splitting of the sea) in my very own kitchen. And you already know that if this had happened, you would be holding a very different book.
I hope that you and I will become friends. Here’s a little shortcut, a few things you should know about me:
I love olive oil, Hubby, avocados, and my kids, but not necessarily in that order.
Yes, I taste test every recipe.
That’s why I look this way.
Kitchenphobia is an inherited disorder. My mother designed her new house without a kitchen—really.
My career in television taught me that people will believe illusion. That’s how I can keep a straight face when telling my toddler that a kiss will make it all better.
When I became kosher, I was shocked to discover that kosher food is really good, even the wine.
I love Middle Eastern music and food with inexplicable passion.
I’m more at home in a made-for-TV kitchen than in my own.
I’m so self-critical I think that even this confession isn’t enough.
When people argue over whether Jewish mothers or
Italian mothers stuff their kids more, I go out for a sandwich.
If you’re a novice cook,
I feel your pain. If you’re not, can you send me a recipe?
And I want you to meet my
immediate family, the main cast
of characters in the sitcom of my life:
Hubby He’s my idea man, my other half, my soul mate. And a darned good cook.
Little Momma This is my sweet seven-year-old, wise as a grandma, and my number one sous chef, now that she can read the ingredient list and do the math when we multiply a recipe by eight. Sensitive, caring, and so responsible, she makes me feel like I have a deputy mom on board.
Miss Bouncy My six-year-old, who loves life, wakes up with a jump, gets dressed in a flash, and doesn’t stop bouncing all day. It gets a little scary when she holds The Baby and bounces at the same time, but she hugs her so tight, with such love, that I don’t have the heart to stop her. If you happen to be beside her, she’ll reach up to hold your hand, whether it’s to cross a street or to walk four paces into the next room.
Angel Face At four “and a half,” he knows that with his innocent mug, he can get away with anything. He’ll get out of his bed ten times, just to give me one more kiss and hug. He loves “wabbits” and “woosters” and is learning to tie his “thoes.” Irresistible.
Bruiser Almost three, and already a bulldozer, the king of the jungle gym, and one heck of a chunky little linebacker. And he can look fierce despite his long eyelashes, curly blond hair, and coy smiles. Also a great hugger and kisser—must have learned that secret from Angel Face.
The Baby She’s the yummiest butterball on the block, and so happy to be at the party. She already loves food as much as the rest of us. When she coos and lays her head on your shoulder, you never want to put her down.
So you see this book is really about my life, unabashedly including my struggles in the kitchen and the triumph when I overcome the voice inside me that says, “I can’t.” And maybe I talk too much. Hubby asks why I have to tell you everything. I guess its because I want you to understand my message: If I can put really good food on the table, anyone can.
And don’t let the kosher thing throw you. Kosher is not tedious, not limited, and not complicated. My recipes are authentically kosher, but there’s no slaving in the kitchen (slaving over a hot stove is so yesterday), plus no bubby or rabbi is required. My recipes are easy, scrumptious, nutritious (well, except for the ones that aren’t), and fun.
If you don’t believe me, try a few of the recipes in this book. They’re foolproof, actually, because I’m the fool who worked them over and over, and they became go-to recipes for my family meals. I really try to feed my family well.
That’s because food is an expression of love. And it doesn’t matter if you’ve never eaten kosher, always eat kosher, or go “kosher casual.” What’s important is that food brings us together, and we all want to share our best, most delectable meals with the people we love. And when it’s kosher, we’re also pulling in thousands of years of love and tradition.
So join us at our family table. You’ll discover, as I did: You don’t have to be kosher to love kosher. Who knew?
Raw Root Vegetable Salad
How to Use This Book
We’ve all had the experience of trying some fancy new recipe to impress dinner guests; V V often the food looks fantabulous, but the taste is sort of blah. Know what I mean? Think about it. Wouldn’t it be better to take the same recipes you use every day—your best stuff the recipes everyone loves—and dress ’em up? I thought about how to take my super family meals—real food, simple food, great food; the recipes that come out right every time—and make them worthy of entertaining everyone from your next-door neighbor to the Queen of England. (Okay, to be honest, the Queen of England has never come over for dinner. But week after week, my home is visited by the Sabbath Queen, and that’s even better.)
The more than 100 core recipes in this book include either a Dress It Up or Dress It Down complementary recipe. That’s over 200 recipes total—dishes that do double duty for entertaining or everyday.
We all have our go-to recipes that are easy, foolproof crowd-pleasers. Now you’ll have even more. The Dressed Down recipes are quick solutions for fast, fab family dinners. The Dressed Up recipes include simple presentation tweaks, special garnishes, or an extra ingredient or two to take them from everyday to holiday. I promise these recipes will become part of your tried-and-true recipe inventory. In the following pages you’ll find all the tips, techniques, and abracadabra you need.
Along with each recipe, you’ll also find a combination of some or all of the following:
Make It a Meal Suggested pairings with another recipe or two in this book or alternative complementary dishes to create an entire, well-balanced family meal. I thought it through, because you’ve got more to do than figure out what goes with what.
Make It Pareve Food that is neither meat nor dairy is called pareve. Sorta neutral, but not wishy-washy—more like congenially flexible. Water is pareve. Eggs are pareve. Bread (unless made with milk or other dairy) is pareve. Make It Pareve offers substitutions for the meat or dairy component in the recipe to allow more varied uses.
Pair It Because dining is about the entire package, I give you a suggestion for the perfect wine to pair with the dish.
Variation(s) After I finish giving you a recipe, I often think of another way to do it, or an alternative presentation. This is where I share those ideas.
Time-saver(s) You know what those are: little tricks to help you zoom out of the kitchen and into the sunshine.
Quick Tip(s) Things that make the whole job easier, better, faster. Stuff my mother would have taught me, if she had known.
Equipment and Ingredients List
You will need this equipment
(don’t panic—nothing hard to get)
I’m gonna assume your kitchen is stocked with the basics including:
Cheesecloth or T-shirts For your soup. Don’t ask.
Melon baller I call for this in lots of my Dress It Up recipes, for hollowing out onions for stuffing, cucumbers for shooters, potatoes for nacho bites.
Sharp knives Personally, I like using a large chef’s knife for most things, but you should choose knives that make you feel comfortable. Just make sure they’re sharp.
Slotted spoons and wooden spoons I’ve got lots and lots of wooden spoons, could build a tree house for my kids with them.
Stainless-steel skimmer Like tongs, I use this baby over and over again. Great for fishing things out, and of course for skimming the stuff that comes to the top of your soups, stews, and sauces.
Tongs Like having a third hand!
Now here’s an additional list of really handy, not-your-everyday kitchen gear. These tools are not so over the top that you have to search all over to find them. If you’re an online shopper, JoyofKosher.com has links to purchase the equipment and foods listed below. Do whatever is quickest and easiest for you. The idea is to get you to the crazy good food fast.
Bundt pan and tube pan Fancy-in-a-flash bakeware. Amazing what a difference they make in presentation. Watch the eyebrows go up.
Dutch oven I love bright colors, and it can be quite a decorative piece. I once bought the 13¼-quart size. Needed a cart to haul it out of the store, Hubby to help me get it into the oven—and it almost snapped an oven rack. So go a little smaller.
Fine-mesh colander Line it with cheesecloth (or a T-shirt) if you want your soup crystal clear.
Mandoline or julienne peeler That’s mandoline with an e, not the instrument. My third-grade teacher was right: spelling is everything.
Oversize oven-to-table sauté pan Perfect for one-pan meals, cooking in large quantities, and entertaining.
Pastry bags and tips Don’t get all freaked, we’re not decorating cakes! These are primarily used for piping things into things for Dress It Up recipes.
Plastic bowl, large (10-quart) You’ll need this baby to knead your challah dough. A friend told me she uses her laundry bin. Try to avoid that; nobody wants to find a sock in the challah.
Ring molds Individual portions are a key Dress It Up element. Use ring molds to create beautiful single servings.
Springform pan You’ll need one for at least two of the dairy recipes in this book.
Stock pot (l2-quart) If you want to make the entire batch of my crystal-clear chicken soup. Otherwise a 6-quart will do for halving the recipe.
Zester For grating and making decorative curls. Hubby calls this “the zest book” because it has more than a dozen recipes that call for the zest of a lime, lemon, or orange (make sure you’ve got a lot of those on hand, too). He seems to have some sensitivity to orange zest that can’t quite be explained scientifically; his bloodhound nose sniffs it out even when no one else can tell it’s there. So I usually write that orange zest is optional, in case you’re sensitive to it, too.
Ingredients You’ll Need on Hand
A Note About Herbs I often call for dried herbs. (That’s because bugs aren’t kosher, and checking every fresh herb for them is tedious work. Faster and easier to use the dried variety.) Dried herbs and fresh-frozen chopped herbs that come in a tray are great substitutes for fresh herbs. The general rule is that dried is more potent than fresh, so it’s a 1:3 ratio, that is, 1 teaspoon dried = 1 tablespoon fresh. For frozen herbs, 1 cube = 1 teaspoon fresh.
I select frozen herbs over dried when the taste really relies on fresh, especially in things that are not cooked, so you don’t get that papery taste.
If I call for fresh herbs and don’t give a dried equivalent, it’s because there’s really no compromising on that recipe. Many kosher supermarkets (if you’re lucky enough to live near one) carry fresh parsley, mint, and cilantro that have been checked for bugs— although they do cost. Time is money in this case.
Spices Assuming your cabinet is stocked with the basics, these are some additional ones I call for, some quite frequently.
• Ground sumac
• Ground caraway
• Ground white pepper
• Dry mustard
• Ground cloves
• Ground nutmeg
• Ground and whole allspice
• Ground cardamom
And when I say salt . . .
There’s regular table salt, and then there’s the coarse-grained salt known as kosher salt (because it’s used in the process of making meat kosher). I use Diamond Crystal kosher salt. Always. It’s more forgiving than other kosher salts and not as salty so you are less likely to oversalt. If you use Morton’s, for instance, you have to adjust and use less than I call for. I even use kosher salt in baking (except when I call for sea salt).
I call for coarse flake sea salt in certain recipes that benefit from the flavor or texture of large, coarse flakes. Gefen makes a very good coarse flake sea salt from the Dead Sea.
This is just regular white sugar, folks. I say granulated so you won’t confuse it with the light brown or confectioners’—which I also specify where needed, because I’m just that kinda gal.
I’m not a fan of margarine; it’s really artificial. I use Earth Balance Buttery Sticks (which also comes in a nice round tub) in all my nondairy cooking and baking. It’s plant-based, vegan, made without artificial ingredients or hydrogenated oils, and is free of gluten, lactose, and eggs. Now, I personally don’t have anything against dairy, gluten, or eggs, but when I need a substitute for that rich, buttery taste, I prefer to go as natural as possible. Whenever I call for “margarine,” I’m using Earth Balance.
An incredibly creamy replacement for chemical-laden nondairy whipped topping or nondairy creamer. (It’s super for making homemade pareve whipped cream.) I use the full-fat variety.
I like Zen Soy, the creamiest of soy milks on the market. You will also notice that it is completely nondairy, while some other soy milks are made on dairy equipment (indicated by the initials “DE” or “D” next to the kosher certification), and so are considered virtually dairy and cannot be mixed into a meat recipe.
My favorite packaged broth is the Manischewitz line of all-natural broths. Chicken, low-sodium chicken, vegetable, and beef—I love them all because they’re building-block ingredients that make a dish sing. (Try cooking rice in broth in place of water, and you’ll see what I mean.) I always keep a case of chicken broth on hand, and a few boxes of the veg and beef as well.
Almost every recipe starts with it, so stock up.
I keep only three or four in my kitchen:
Olive oil/extra virgin olive oil I’d love to buy the absolute highest quality, but Hubby freaks if olive oil is more expensive than a trip to Italy. So I buy Bertolli extra virgin, in jugs the size of a two-year-old, from Costco, and I use it for everything. Extra virgin olive oil is meant to be used in uncooked preparations, such as salad dressings, or for finishing a dish. For high-temperature cooking, use regular olive oil. I love the rich and fruity flavor of olive oil, so I never use light olive oil; it’s not light in calories or more healthful for you (in fact, cold-pressed extra virgin is the most healthful), just lighter in flavor.
Toasted sesame oil The aroma alone makes me want to dance. Fantastic for Asian cooking and fun for salad dressings, or for sniffing when you’re feeling down.
Canola oil Your best all-purpose oil. I use it for frying and for my challah.
Mustard, mustard, and more mustard
I use ’em all, but not together.
• Honey Dijon
• Country Dijon/grainy mustard
• Spicy mustard
For fun things.
A major building block ingredient; always have a few cans on hand.
Pure vanilla extract
Not that synthetic imitation stuff.
Good quality with a high percentage of cocoa—bittersweet (70% cacao or more) or semisweet (60 to 70%), depending on your taste buds. Keep extra for snacking.
“Cooking wine” is a no-no! Always have a decent dry red and dry white on hand for cooking (and sampling while cooking). No need to splurge, but always use something that you would actually drink.
I recommend these relatively inexpensive kosher wines for most uses. The bottle descriptions below (provided by experts with supersensitive palates) will give you some idea of what they’re like.
On a budget:
Red by W Lively and youthful in color, blackberry and pomegranate on the nose; clean and silky in the mouth, with flavors of grenadine and fresh berries, followed by a crisp finish.
White by W Bright and refreshing, with lively aroma of grapefruit, elegant floral notes, and white peach flavors.
For a refreshing splurge:
Ramon Cardova Rioja Dark berry, oak, and nutmeg aromas with delicious spicy and fruit flavor.
Baron Herzog Chenin Blanc Focused and crisp, with intense passion fruit and citrus flavors; finishes with a touch of sweetness.
Colorful Mustard String Beans
About the Kosher Thing
Kosher refers to preparing foods according to Jewish law and avoiding certain foods altogether. It’s ancient as the Bible, yet totally modern in its application, and millions of people have incorporated this way of thinking about food into their lives. You don’t have to be kosher to enjoy kosher food, just as you don’t need to be a card-carrying member of PETA to eat a vegan meal.
Sophisticated kosher restaurants that impress kosher and nonkosher patrons alike can be found in most major American cities: Japanese steakhouses, Spanish tapas bars, French bistros, and restaurants serving outstanding fare from India, North Africa, and the Middle East. Moreover, a steadily increasing number of kosher wines is winning awards in prestigious international competitions. For instance, Israel’s Carmel Single Vineyard Kayoumi Shiraz won the top Rhone Varietal Wine of the Year award over every top winery in the world, and the 2009 Celler de Capçanes Montsant Peraj Ha’abib Flor de Primavera received a 95 rating from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. Prized by world-class restaurants and home gourmands, the relatively new array of kosher wines makes kosher cooking a viable gourmet choice. The erroneous perception that only people who have a family rabbi want to eat kosher is rapidly evaporating.
Volumes have been written on the details of what makes food kosher, but in short, the rules are:
1. Milk and meat (and their products) are never cooked or eaten together. In a strictly kosher kitchen, in fact, separate pots, pans, cooking utensils, dinnerware, flatware, and even appliances in some cases are designated for meat or dairy.
2. Foods that are neither meat nor dairy (vegetables, fruit, and eggs, for example) are called “pareve” and can be included in either meat or dairy meals. In fact, people who are allergic or sensitive to dairy products know that kosher-certified “pareve” on a food label assures them that there is not a trace of dairy.
3. Pork and shellfish are off the menu.
4. A fish is kosher if it has fins and scales (removed before cooking, of course), which pushes seafood like shark and catfish right outta your kosher kitchen. Fish is intrinsically pareve, but it cannot be mixed or even plated with meat.
5. Meat must be slaughtered in accordance with Jewish law (which is the most humane method of slaughter) and “koshered” by soaking in water and salting to remove blood. Blood of any type is not kosher. In fact, eggs are examined for bloodspots and are discarded if they’re found.
6. Processed foods require rabbinic certification. This means that a rabbi or rabbinic agency expert in these laws has monitored the processing of the foods and guarantees that no nonkosher ingredients are in them. A rabbi does not bless the food. His job is to keep a sharp eye on the process.
Fortunately, the kosher food industry has exploded, making available thousands of ingredients and products previously unheard of by kosher cooks. My recipes will take you beyond the traditional and expected foods and flavors, and they can be made with ingredients that are now readily available.
In short, this book presents darn good food that happens to comply with kosher dietary laws for the convenience of traditionally observant Jews. But this is not an exclusive club. Everyone can enjoy these scrumptious, hearty, elegant, and authentically kosher—not “kosher-style”—recipes.
Think about it. The term “kosher home” evokes the image of a place where family values are paramount, where guests are welcomed any time of the day or night, and the aroma of delectable food is always in the air.
It’s all about family—whether it’s immediate family, extended family, your neighbor’s extended family, or the cousins from abroad whom you’ve never met but you just know you’ll love the instant they arrive at the airport. It’s about thinking of your entire community as your family, too.
Family values are not unique to Jewish homes; they are emphasized in many cultures. If you grew up with these values—or wish you had—you will find this book familiar and uplifting. The connection between family and food is deep and meaningful. And a kosher meal brings it all together.
Friday: 2:00 p.m.
First thing you gotta know . . .
Chicken soups are like snowflakes: no two are alike. A good chicken soup conveys your love and emotions more than any other classic dish. Maybe it has something to do with tradition . . . or kosher salt. Don’t ask me how. I’m not a mystic.
Chicken soup is a luscious example of the way people like my grandparents consistently cooked up perfection without a recipe or measuring spoon. Nowadays, folks are obsessed with precision. Was that ⅛ teaspoon turmeric or ¼? What, exactly, is a pinch of salt? Back in the day, my grandmother (we called her Ma) used measurements like “a mouthful,” “a handful,” “a bissel [a little]” and “a bissel more.” She must be really laughing it up in heaven, watching us squint at our fancy measuring devices. The handful method was good enough for her.
I blush to confess that I pull out the measuring cups and spoons just like everybody else. Since my grandparents never taught me to cook, I try to re-create their dishes from the taste memory archives in my head. There are no recipes, just my palate. Besides, I don’t know if my hand is the same size as Ma’s.
My first soup as a new bride was an immeasurable lesson in humility.
I was preparing for the first Shabbos after my wedding. (Shabbos is generally translated as “Sabbath,” but I prefer the Hebrew term. It’s cozier, and it links me to millions of women who devised special Shabbos delicacies over the past 3,000 years or so.) The whole Shabbos thing was fairly new to me, as was kosher cooking, but I was determined to serve Hubby an authentic Old Country soup he’d never forget. And when I say “Old Country” I don’t mean the Ozarks or Nashville. I’m talking about shtetls with tongue-twisting names like Pshischa and Sighisoara. That’s where they made real chicken soup.
The broth I presented to Hubby that evening resembled machine oil more than anything else, and there were 4-inch carrots standing straight out of the bowl like tree trunks. Hubby bravely dug in. He never even asked for a chainsaw. Now that’s love.
I was right about one thing. He never forgot it. And he never let me forget it.
After the Great Chicken Soup Disaster, I worked like a fiend to find out how to get chicken soup rich, but clear. My mother (who never ever cooked) told me to spill out the water after boiling up the chicken—you know, to get rid of all that stuff that comes to the top. So I’d boil the water, toss it out, and start over with clean cold water. Did that three or four times till I realized I should never trust my mother on these things. I loaded up the water with powdered chicken soup mix to give it a flavor. Who needs a chicken?
Since then, I’ve learned some great tricks. I’ve discovered cheesecloth. But in my opinion, nothing strains the soup as clear as a T-shirt. No kidding. And the secret to perfect broth is lots of chicken, the real stuff, and tons of fresh herbs and veggies. I use a method I call “sacrificial vegetables” Don’t worry, it’s not a cult thing. I cook down every little bit of these veggies, zap the life out of them for all their nutrients and color, then infuse that into my best-ever broth. I feel like I’ve really worked those veggies. After I’ve boiled and simmered them beyond recognition, I toss them (much to Hubby’s dismay) with peace of mind, knowing they have given over all they had to my savory soup.
And yes, scientifically, chicken soup does have healing powers.
Crystal Clear Chicken Soup with Julienned Vegetables and Angel Hair
Kosher Status: Meat • Prep: 15 minutes • Cook: 4 hours • Chill: Overnight • Total: About 12 hours • Yield: 6 quarts, 24 servings at 1 cup per serving
Note: For optimum flavor and results, this soup has to be started the night before.
My grandparents Ma and Uputzi (which means “daddy” in Hungarian) made a phenomenally flavorful, golden, clear chicken soup. (My other grandparents, Grandma and Poppy, favored a dark, rich, earthy soup, with lots of chicken feet. Those scaly feet! They’ll never enter my kitchen.) For about eight years, I struggled, slightly crazed, to re-create that soup. I remember Ma serving it piping hot, along with paper-thin slices of raw daikon sprinkled with salt. We would dip them in our soup and purr. This wasn’t just a bowl of soup; it was an experience. But the actual soup recipe remained a mystery.
Then one fine morning, as I was driving down I-95, talking to my sister on the phone (hands free!), she mentioned that Aunt Debbie actually had the recipe. Nearly drove off the road. Well, thank God for Aunt Debs, because I never would have gotten this right. There’s a green pepper and cauliflower in this chicken soup! Who knew?
1 chicken, cut into 8 pieces (about 3½ pounds)
2 bone-in chicken breasts (about 1 ½ pounds)
4 or 5 beef marrow bones (about 2 pounds)
5 medium carrots, quartered
2 large parsnips, quartered
2 small turnips, quartered
2 medium parsley roots, quartered, or sub in a combo of more parsnips and turnips
1 large green bell pepper, halved, ribs and seeds removed
1 large onion
3 tablespoons kosher salt
20 parsley sprigs
½ head cauliflower, broken into florets
7 garlic cloves
20 black or white peppercorns
4 whole allspice
1 large zucchini, cut into ⅛-inch julienne
1 large carrot, peeled, cut into ⅛-inch julienne
1 large daikon, peeled, cut into ⅛-inch julienne
1 pound angel hair pasta, cooked and drained, at room temperature
1. Place the chicken, marrow bones, carrots, parsnips, turnips, parsley roots, green pepper, onion, and 1 tablespoon of the salt in a 12-quart stockpot. Cover with 6 quarts cold water and bring to a boil over high heat. Skim and discard the foam that forms at the top when it comes to a boil.
2. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons salt, the parsley, cauliflower, garlic, allspice, peppercorns and return to a boil. Simmer, covered, over low heat for 1 hour. Remove the 4 chicken breasts and allow them to cool slightly. Remove the meat from the bones. Shred or chop the meat and store it in the fridge to serve in the soup or for another use. Return the bones to the pot. Continue simmering, covered, over low heat, for at least 2 hours more.
3. Strain the entire contents of the pot through a colander lined with cheesecloth or a clean old T-shirt. Discard all the solids or save them for another use. Chill the broth overnight.
4. To serve the soup, remove the surface fat and pour the broth into a large pot. Bring to a simmer over low heat and cook until warm, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the zucchini, carrot, daikon and the reserved chicken, if desired. Simmer 5 minutes to cook the vegetables and heat the chicken. Be careful to keep the soup over low heat; bringing the soup to a boil can make it cloudy. Season to taste with salt.
5. Place ¼ cup angel hair in each soup bowl and ladle the hot soup over the pasta. Serve immediately.
6. This soup can be frozen after the surface fat is removed. You can freeze the breast meat separately if you want to use it for other dishes.
You will need a 12-quart pot for this recipe. Only have a 6-quart? Simply halve the recipe. If you like marrow bones, don’t toss them. Knock the marrow out onto a plate (that’s what real experts do, but it’s not cheating to use a knife or tiny spoon) and spread it on your bread like butter. That’s how Ma and Uputzi used to serve it to us. There are, of course, those who suck the marrow directly from the bones, but I don’t want to be seen publicly endorsing such an act.
When I first discovered the creative things you can do with a mandoline, I got into using it for everything—until Hubby sliced a finger along with the French fries and our dinner guests arrived just after the ambulance. Warning: Cutting those beautiful julienned veggies can be dangerous. I love using my handheld julienne peeler for jobs like these—it’s easier than pulling out the entire contraption. But if you’re lazy, short on time, or have no mandoline or julienne peeler to speak of, buy the packages of pretty shredded carrots to get the elegant look of beautiful julienned veggies. Then just chop some scallions (carefully) for taste and color, and toss ’em in.
DRESS IT DOWN
• Chicken Noodle Alphabet Soup •
ABC noodles were a treat, and growing up we all fought over the carrots. This spells my childhood—as well as Friday nights at my grandparents’ house—in a bowl.
Replace the julienne veg with ¼-inch diced carrots and the angel hair with a box of alphabet noodles, cooked and drained.