Book Review: “Culinary Expeditions” Are Always Appropriate

Culinary-Expeditions_FrontCover_Nov20-1

By Ronit Treatman

The members of the Women’s Committee of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology were inspired to collaborate on one of the best books I have had the pleasure of acquiring this year.

Culinary Expeditions introduces its readers to culinary artifacts from around the world, culled from the Museum’s amazing collection. Each artifact is accompanied by a recipe that reflects the culture of its provenance. All proceeds from the sales of this book will directly benefit the Museum.

In our increasingly internationalized world, this book is the perfect gift for any occasion. Learning about each others’ cultures and foods helps us all connect with each other.

[Read more…]

Fried Tomatoes and Eggs

— by Yvette Manessis Corporon

Love for food and cooking is in my Greek woman DNA.

There is nothing better than picking earthy ripe tomatoes from the vine and cooking them over an open fire with freshly hatched eggs from the hen house. But since not all of us live on a Greek island, tomatoes and eggs from the grocery store will be just as delicious.

Please note one thing: No real Greek cook ever measures. Ask a Greek for a recipe, and the closest thing to measurements you will get is “a little of this, a splash of that, and some of this too, for taste.”

Recipe after the jump.

  • 4 medium-sized tomatoes
  • 4 eggs
  • a few splashes of extra virgin olive oil
  • a few leaves of fresh basil or a sprig of fresh thyme, torn into small pieces
  • salt to taste
  1. Dice the tomatoes and drain the extra liquid.
  2. Coat a medium-sized pan with olive oil and add the tomatoes. Cover and simmer on low heat, stirring a few times until they lose their firm texture and are now mushy and thick. It usually takes between 5 and 7 minutes.
  3. Take a spoon and clear four spaces in the pan, pushing the tomatoes aside, so you have places to put the eggs.
  4. Crack the eggs into the spaces you created, and cover the pan. Cook on low heat between 2 and 3 minutes, depending upon how firm you like your eggs cooked. (I like my yolks soft, but not runny.)
  5. Remove the cover, and when the eggs are just about done, add the basil leaves or thyme.
  6. Sprinkle with salt.
  7. Remove from the pan and serve. You can serve with some crusty, toasted bread for dipping.

Baked Ricotta for Shavuot


Photo by jamesonf.

— by Ronit Treatman

Shavuot, the celebration of the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, is a cheese lover’s dream.

Why cheese? The laws of kashrut did not exist before the Torah, so all of the cooking utensils were impure. Jews had to learn how to perform a kosher ritual slaughter before they could consume kosher meat. Therefore, it was easier to make dairy meals.  

The Ancient Greeks are credited with inventing the first cheesecake. It was as basic as possible: just baked white cheese.

A perfect cheese for baking is ricotta: an Italian cheese made from the liquid that remains after milk has been curdled, called whey. Ricotta means “recooked” in Italian.

Recipe after the jump.
The whey for ricotta traditionally comes from the milk of a sheep, goat, cow or Italian water buffalo. An easy and versatile way to entertain your guests during Shavuot is to start with ricotta al forno, “baked ricotta,” as a neutral canvas.

Baked Ricotta

This is the most elementary cheesecake. You may serve it as a sweet or savory dish by spooning the appropriate topping over it. The savory toppings should be presented with warm, fresh, crusty bread on the side.  

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Pour the ricotta into an ovenproof casserole dish coated with vegetable oil. Spread the cheese evenly in the dish.
  3. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes.

Savory Topping Ideas:

  • Roasted red and green peppers, minced cilantro, and minced garlic tossed with extra virgin olive oil, salt, and black pepper.
  • Caramelized onions and sage.
  • Zest from one lemon, fresh thyme, salt, black pepper.
  • Roasted tomatoes tossed with fresh basil leaves, minced garlic, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and black pepper.
  • Roasted asparagus tossed with extra virgin olive oil, minced garlic, salt, and black pepper.
  • Artichoke hearts sautéed in olive oil, minced garlic, salt, and black pepper.
  • Green olives, tomatoes, and minced garlic sautéed in olive oil with white wine, salt, and black pepper.

Sweet Topping Ideas:

  • Wildflower honey.
  • Fresh strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries.
  • One pound of peaches poached in 1 cup of water, 1/2 cup of sugar, 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract, and 1/4 cup of bourbon.
  • Melted semi-sweet chocolate chips.
  • Two sliced bananas sautéed in one teaspoon of butter, 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar, a sprinkling of ground cinnamon, and 1/4 cup of rum.
  • Two tablespoons of orange blossom water, 1 teaspoon of sugar, a few strands of saffron, 1 cardamom pod, and a handful of pistachio nuts heated together.  
  • Fresh cherries (1 cup) simmered in 2 tablespoons water, 1/3 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons cornstarch, a few drops of almond extract, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

The Perfect Greek Side Dish, Appetizer or Sauce

— by Yvette Manessis Corporon

I have a lot of “go-to” traditional dishes in my repertoire, but the one of the things I am asked to make again and again is also one of the easiest.

Tzatziki is the perfect side dish, appetizer or sauce. It is very easy to make and can be used in many different ways, including a dip for pita bread, or as a sauce for any meat or fish.

My recipe for tzatziki is below, and I still can’t bring myself to do precise measurements. It drives all of my measure-loving American friends crazy. But sorry, this is about as close as I can get.

Recipe after the jump.

  • 2 cups of plain Greek yogurt — you can use a 17.6 oz. container of Fage 2% Greek Yogurt (my personal favorite).
  • 1/2 of an English cucumber or 1 large regular cucumber (I prefer the English cucumber; it has a firmer texture than a regular cucumber.)
  • 1 or 2 cloves of fresh garlic
  • a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • a few tablespoons of vinegar, I prefer white balsamic or red wine vinegar
  • salt
  1. Put the yogurt in a medium-sized bowl.
  2. Peel the cucumber.
  3. Grate the cucumber and place the pulp in a dish towel or in several paper towels. Squeeze out as much liquid as you can. Dump the dried pulp in the bowl and mix.
  4. Mince or grate 1 clove of fresh garlic and add to the bowl. You can add the second clove depending on how potent you like the flavor.
  5. Add 2 or 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  6. Add 3 or 4 tablespoons of vinegar. I prefer more vinegar, as I like my tzatziki tangy.
  7. Add salt to taste
  8. Mix everything well. You can serve right away, but I like to refrigerate for at least an hour to bring out the flavors.

Yvette Manessis Corporon is an Emmy Award-winning writer, producer and author. She is currently a senior producer with the syndicated entertainment news show, EXTRA. She is the author of When the Cypress Whispers.

4 Creative Foods to Roast on a Stick for Lag BaOmer

— by Ronit Treatman

Lag BaOmer is a celebration of the Bar Kokhba revolt against the Romans in 132-136 CE. The Roman troops used bonfires as military signals on hilltops, and so the Jews were not allowed to light them. In Israel it is traditional to light the once-forbidden bonfires and to roast delicious snacks over them.

(Don’t know how to light a bonfire? Find out at Survivaltek.)

Four bonfire ideas after the jump.
1) Halloumi Cheese

This Cypriot cheese is made from sheep’s milk. It has a high melting point, which makes it perfect for roasting. The fire gives this cheese a delicious, crackly crust. It maintains its firm texture when it’s grilled. Its charred, salty flavor is very satisfying.

2) Bread

Prepackaged dough makes roasting bread on a stick effortless. Just place the raw dough on a stick, and cook over the heat of the flames. The fire gives it a distinctive smoky flavor.

3) Kosher “Chorizo”

Chorizo is a type of sausage from the Iberian Peninsula. Smoked red peppers are mixed with raw meat and then placed in a casing. This is what  gives chorizo its special flavor.

4) Apples

Apples roasted over a fire are called “singing apples.” This is because they make whistling noises while they cook. The heat caramelizes the sugar in the peel, giving them a beautiful bronze color. These apples taste like apple pie on a stick.

Baked Kale Chips

— by Challah Maidel

Gaining in popularity, kale is an amazing vegetable that is recognized for its exceptional richness in nutrients, health benefits, and delicious flavor.

Also known as borecole, kale is believed to be one of the healthiest vegetables around. Generally speaking, eating a variety of natural and unprocessed vegetables has proven to be beneficial to your health, but eating nutrient loaded kale on a regular basis may provide significant health benefits, including cancer protection and lowered cholesterol.

More after the jump.
Kale belongs to the Brassica family that includes cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, collards, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.

The health benefits that kale provides are primarily linked to the high concentration and excellent source of antioxidant vitamins A, C, and K — and sulphur-containing phytonutrients. Kale also contains eye-health promoting lutein and zeaxanthin compounds. Beyond antioxidants, the fiber content of cruciferous kale binds bile acids and helps lower blood cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease, especially when kale is cooked instead of raw.

Just as addictive and crispy as potato chips, baked kale chips are a low calorie nutritious snack that even the pickiest eaters will enjoy.

Since kale has an acquired taste, I seasoned it with a bit of garlic powder, smokey paprika, chili powder, a drop of turmeric and ground pepper.

Baked Kale Chips

  • 1 bunch of kale
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of smokey or sweet paprika
  • 1/3 teaspoon of turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Wash the kale and dry thoroughly with paper towels.
  3. Pull the leaves off the center ribs in large pieces, and pile on a baking sheet. Discard the ribs.
  4. In a small bowl, mix oil and spices, and pour over the kale.
  5. Use your hands to massage the kale leaves until each one is evenly coated with the spice mixture. Do not drench.  
  6. Lay the kale leaves out flat on 3 or 4 full sized baking sheets. Do not overlap.
  7. Bake for 10-11 minutes until crisp, but still green.
  8. Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet before moving. If some kale chips are still a little flimsy or damp, remove the crisp chips and place the damp chips back in the oven for a few more minutes.
  9. Store in an air-tight container.

Yields 12 servings.

Green Passover Salad


Green Salad by Marisa McClellan.
© Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License

— by Abby Contract

After many months of gloomy weather and eating winter offerings of potatoes and cabbage, I am ready to welcome my spring crop of fresh herbs.  I am especially excited to see the first shoots of dill.  Dill originated in Eastern Europe, and has a high tolerance for cold weather.  This healthy, aromatic herb is high in iron, calcium, and fiber.  It is a very popular addition to salads in Eastern Europe.

For the first Seder dinner, I’ll include the dill in an amazingly refreshing Spring Green Salad which combats the heaviness of brisket, potato kugel and the multiple pieces of matzoh. I’ve made this salad, which has the right balance of crunch and tanginess, for years. It reminds me of a good friend who happens to always be open to new experiences, encouraging others to join in on the fun. And, that’s what Passover should be about – a surprising and ever-changing blend of history, tradition, novelty, openness and joy.

Recipe follows the jump.
Spring Green Salad
Serves 6

  • 16 cups of washed and torn romaine lettuce
  • 1 English cucumber, julienned
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup of minced fresh dill
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • 6 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves pressed
  1. Combine lettuce, cucumbers, green onions, and dill in large bowl.
  2. Whisk olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic in small bowl until blended. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Pour dressing over salad. Toss until evenly coated and serve. Enjoy!

Abby Contract is the creator of Phoodistory, a celebration of Philly’s fanatical history with food.

Passover: Haroset Leftover Heaven

— by Ronit Treatman

Haroset, the fruit and nut paste symbolizing mortar, has a cameo role in the Passover Seder.  This is usually the first and last time that it is consumed all year.  I am very enthusiastic about preparing home-made haroset.  I make a Sephardic, an Ashkenazi and another haroset for the Seder.  I always end up with way too much.  In order to make use of my leftovers, I have found that it is possible to create a whole meal around haroset.

More after the jump.
African DinnerThe appetizer course is a cheese platter, served with Indian halek (walnuts with date syrup) and matzo crackers.  The haroset complements many types of cheeses such as goat cheese, sharp cheddar, and blue cheese perfectly.  

A wonderful main course that incorporates haroset is a Moroccan tagine.  Tagine is meat or chicken that is slowly braised with dry fruits and nuts.  Adding the haroset just cuts back on a few steps when preparing your tagine.  

Chicken, Beef or Lamb Haroset Tagine

  • 2 pounds of chicken, beef or lamb cubes
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup Sephardic haroset
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

  • 1/2 teaspoon Ras El Hanout
  • 1/2 cup minced cilantro
  1. Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot.
  2. Add the meat, onion, garlic, and spices.
  3. Fry over medium heat until the meat browns.
  4. Add 2 ½ cups water and bring to a boil.
  5. Add the cilantro.
  6. Cover the pot tightly, and simmer for 2 ½ hours.

To serve:

  1. Heat the haroset in a microwave safe glass bowl for 3 minutes.
  2. Place the meat on a large serving platter.
  3. Spoon the haroset over the meat.

Such a stellar main dish requires something really special to be a fitting dessert.  A haroset Souffle is up to the task, inspired by the traditional French dessert.

Haroset Soufflé

  • 1 cup haroset
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Vegetable oil
  • Powdered sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F
  2. Whip the egg whites and sugar until stiff and smooth.
  3. Fold in the haroset.
  4. Coat the inside of soufflé ramekins with vegetable oil.
  5. Pour the batter inside the cups.
  6. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
  7. Remove the soufflés, and sprinkle with powdered sugar.
  8. Serve immediately.

Cookbook Review: 4 Bloggers Dish: Passover

When food bloggers become friends, it can lead to an interesting collaboration.

4 Bloggers Dish: Passover: Modern Twists on Traditional Flavors is a wonderful compilation of creative kosher recipes from four women who befriended each other in cyberspace. If you are hoping to freshen up your Seder with bright, healthy, and creative recipes, this book is for you.

Whitney Fisch was a model in Milan when she discovered the pleasures of Italian food. Her website, Jewhungry, relates how she keeps kosher while trying everything.

Liz Rueven shares her kosher vegetarian adventures in Kosher Like Me. I especially admire her thorough research and travel adventures.

Amy Kritzer, the creator of What Jew Wanna Eat, started by preserving her bubby’s recipes. From there, she fell in love with cooking and attended the Cordon Bleu Cooking School in Austin, Texas. She shares both vintage and new recipes.

More after the jump.
Sarah Lasry, creator of The Patchke Princess (the fussy princess), is a chef, owner of Tastebuds Cafe, and cookbook author. She is renown for her creative kosher gourmet cooking.

4 Bloggers Dish: Passover: Modern Twists on Traditional Flavors includes step-by-step instructions and beautiful visuals. It offers helpful tips, such as freezer instructions, prep-ahead rules, and a to-go Guide. This book features recipes such as balsamic-braised short ribs, matzah brie caprese, spaghetti squash with quinoa meatballs, sautéed kale, tomato, and mushroom quiche with a hash brown crust, and cinnamon donut balls.

You may try out their recipe for vegetable frittatine, for Passover. Liz Rueven encourages her readers to use greens such as kale and spinach from their local farmers’ market. These greens pair especially well with sautéed mushrooms and onions. Personally, I preferred minced cilantro and low-fat cheddar. I served it with spicy Mexican salsa.

Vegetable Frittatine (Crustless quiche in individual portions)

Dairy, Non-Gebrokts (soaked matza)
Prep Time: 20 minutes; Bake time: 25 minutes
Makes approximately 12 mini frittate in muffin tins.

Ingredients:

  • Canola oil cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 4 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh herbs of choice, chopped (dill, parsley, cilantro, basil)
  • A few twists of freshly ground pepper
  • 5 oz. crumbled feta or goat cheese, or cheese of choice (shredded or crumbled)
  • 1 onion, chopped finely
  • 6 oz. mushrooms, washed and chopped and/or one red (or orange) pepper, chopped finely
  • One generous bunch or one 5-oz. bag of organic spinach or kale, washed and rough-chopped

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350˚F with oven rack in middle.
  2. Spray muffin tin with canola oil.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk eggs with milk. Add salt, pepper and herbs.
  4. Add cheese and mix well. Set aside.
  5. Heat olive oil in large pan.
  6. Add onion and sauté until translucent.
  7. Add mushrooms and/or peppers and sauté until soft.
  8. Add greens and toss until wilted.
  9. Drain pan of any liquid that has accumulated (save for soup stock).
  10. Cool for 5-10 minutes. Add the vegetables to the egg mixture in large bowl. Mix to integrate well.
  11. Spoon 2 tablespoon of mixture into each opening in muffin tin. Mix periodically so that ingredients are distributed evenly.
  12. Bake for 20-25 minutes until frittatine are set and tops are golden.
  13. Remove from oven and allow pan to cool for 10 minutes. Using a small spatula or a tablespoon, gently remove individual frittate from tin and serve.

Tips:

  • Serve Immediately: Because these are really mini soufflés, they are puffy and light when served immediately. If not, they do “fall” but they retain their basic shape and are still delicious. I use them as a protein-rich addition to brunch or as a light dinner with salad and soup.
  • Take to Go:  They make a convenient afternoon snack and a satisfying lunch to go. They are solid enough to pack in Ziploc bags and take along for day trips or school lunches.
  • Freezer: They freeze well in a Ziploc bag. Take them out of the freezer in advance and reheat, gently, in microwave or in oven at 325F for 10-15 minutes or until warmed through. I like them at room temp, too.

Passover Maakouda: Potato Frittata From The Maghreb

— by Ronit Treatman

One of the most popular street foods in North Africa is called Maakouda. It is a type of fritter, made from potatoes or eggplants, sometimes with fish, or cheese.  

Maakouda is the perfect snack for Passover. The basic potato maakouda is parve. It can be served hot, at room temperature or cold.

A verdant sauce, such as the South American chimichurri or Moroccan chermoula enhances the flavor of the Maakouda .

Recipes follow the jump.
Maakouda Batata (Potato Frittata)
Adapted from Christine Benlafquih

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

  • 4 large potatoes
  • 1 large onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup minced cilantro
  • 2 eggs
  • olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 3 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  1. Cube the potatoes.
  2. Boil them in salted water until they are pierced easily with a fork.
  3. Drain the potatoes, mash them, and set aside.
  4. Cut up the onions.
  5. Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy skillet.
  6. Add the onions.
  7. Sauté the onions for 10 minutes, until translucent.
  8. Mince the garlic and add to the onions.
  9. Sauté for one minute.
  10. Remove the skillet from the heat and add the spices.
  11. Pour the onion mixture into the mashed potatoes.
  12. Add the minced cilantro.
  13. Mix well.
  14. Add the eggs, incorporating them into the batter.
  15. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy skillet.
  16. Pour the batter into the oil.
  17. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.
  18. Place the skillet in the oven for about 20 minutes.

While the maakouda is baking, prepare the chimichurri sauce.

Chimichurri Sauce
Adapted from  Marian Blazes

  • 2 cups cilantro
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin, unfiltered olive oil
  1. Place all the ingredients in a food processor.
  2. Pulse until a paste forms.
  3. Process for a couple of minutes.
  4. Taste the chimichurri, and if necessary, correct the seasoning to your taste.

For a Moroccan twist, add 2 teaspoons of paprika, 1 teaspoon of ground ginger, 1/4 teaspoon of saffron, and some cayenne pepper to the chimichurri.  This will transform it into a Moroccan sauce called chermoula.

Remove the maakouda from the oven, cut into squares, and serve with chimichurri sauce on the side.