Its getting to be that time of year again.
You know what I mean. Its not about buying notebooks or seeing warm woolies on store shelves. Im talking about major cooking marathons, filling your freezer with stacks of foil pans while peeling, slicing and dicing till your fingers are ready to fall off. Yup, the yomim tovim are coming, which means its time to dust off those family favorite recipes while searching out new and exciting items to add to your holiday menus. To the rescue come our good friends at Israel Bookshop and Feldheim with a pair of gorgeous new books, chock-full of stunning pictures and tempting recipes that are just waiting to be made.
First up, Kosher Classics by Gitta Bixenspanner. With an author who is a certified nutritionist and hails from Montreal, Kosher Classics starts the year off on the right foot, taking readers through a full years worth of health-conscious recipes. Kosher Classics starts with a Shabbos chapter and then goes through the months one by one beginning in September, with recipes that are matched either to a particular yom tov or season.
Since I am writing this column in August, I found myself starting at the last chapter of the book, which has a fascinating section on preserving those extra fruits and vegetables that seem to multiply with alarming frequency. Stock up on canning jars because you are going to find yourself making Hungarian pickles, pickled cucumbers and compote. Have an overabundance of tomatoes? Dry them in your oven and use them year-round in salads, pizzas, sauces and other dishes. But the most interesting recipe for me was one for cheese, made with milk that has started to go bad. I confess, as of this writing I havent tried this one yet, but next time I have a carton of milk that starts to smell funny I might just be tempted to make my own cheese. There is also a nice section here on cookies that you can make ahead and stash in your freezer, lightened up with trans fat-free margarine. Bixenspanner also includes a recipe for one of my go-to simcha recipes: praline cookies made out of graham crackers that are baked in a syrup of melted margarine and brown sugar and topped with melted chocolate. While Bixenspanner suggests cutting them into strips, I like to decorate mine with pearlized gold sugar and break them into irregular pieces for a really beautiful-looking (and super easy) praline bark.
Looking ahead to September, there is a great selection of intriguing lunches your kids might actually be willing to eat, recipes for some of the more commonly-eaten Rosh Hashanah simanim and a fun-looking chocolate spice cake that is a great way to use up the leftover bottle of Coke that has been sitting in your refrigerator all week. If you want to start cooking ahead for Sukkos, Kosher Classics has a particularly healthy Chol HaMoed menu and I am going to have to run out and buy hazelnuts because Bixenspanners soup with toasted hazelnuts, butternut squash, carrots and zucchini is definitely calling my name.
Be sure to check out Kosher Classics section on crock-pot cooking (November), melava malka recipes (January), shalosh seudos menus (June) and summer barbeque (July). An Israel Bookshop publication, Kosher Classics is full of year-round suggestions, advice and, of course, recipes that may soon become family favorites.
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Kosher Taste, an all-new cookbook by Amy Stopnicki, is my kind of cookbook it contains recipes for food that is yummy, pretty and easy, with an emphasis on easy. There are plenty of cookbooks that stress simplicity but all too often they are just, well, boring. I want recipes that are fun and intriguing, things that you look at and say, Oh my gosh, I have to make that, but have neither the patience, the interest, nor the desire to spend endless hours in the kitchen fussing over a million little details that need to be executed with military precision. Give me a book loaded with recipes that are tempting, yet not too complicated, and I am one happy camper.
Those of you who know me or follow me on Facebook know that I share my kitchen with my teenage daughter, a budding foodie. She read Kosher Taste before I did and, coming into my office, handed it to me saying, You are going to love this one.
Smart girl, that one. She was right. I do.
While Stopnicki compiled and edited the recently-published Gathered Around the Table, Kosher Taste is her first solo cookbook. From the opening pages it is obvious that she, like so many of us, is a busy individual who plans ahead for maximum efficiency. She shares with us healthy meal planning strategies, freezing and defrosting tips for a variety of items, a veggie grilling and roasting guide, three weeks of suggested menu, and a Pesach index.
Leafing through Kosher Taste to see how the recipes were divided, I find some of the usual entries. Soups and Salads. Sides. Mushrooms.
Wait did that say mushrooms? Yet another reason why I love Kosher Taste it has an entire chapter devoted to everyones favorite fungus. In no time at all, my mind raced ahead to the basket of fresh mushrooms in my refrigerator and I started planning my Shabbos menu in my head. (Bad idea, by the way. Always write your menus down because if you dont you will either forget to make something or neglect to serve something. Or both. Trust me.)
Anyway, back to the mushrooms. Should I make mushroom focaccia? Stuffed mushrooms? Balsamic mushroom and spinach salad? I add another item to tomorrows to-do list: go to Costco and buy more mushrooms, because there is no way I am going to be able to pick just one recipe.
Continuing on, there are sections for Fish & Dairy, Mains (with a very impressive 31 recipes) and Trendy Recipes, a fun section that ventures into slightly more exotic territory. Am I brave enough to try carrot and daikon salad or faux shrimp stir-fry? Possibly. The garlic tofu with pistachios looks like a great meat-free supper, one that I look forward to trying on some night when my husband isnt home for supper and it is just us tofu-loving girls at home.
And then, of course, there are the desserts. Tying the Mains section with 31 recipes, this is the chapter that most calls my name. Brownie mousse cake, reverse chocolate chip cookies and kitchen sink chocolate bark are all must-tries (surely you know by now that I adore all things chocolate). Rounding out Kosher Taste is a section called Odds & Ends, featuring chutneys, dressings, salsas and other yummies that are definitely worth a second look.
A Feldheim publication, Kosher Taste has more than 100 all-new recipes and is 300 pages of yum.
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Plan: The sauce for this chicken can be made and stored for later use. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week or frozen for up to three months. The chicken can be grilled, if you prefer.
8 chicken breasts, sliced in half horizontally
2 tbsp canola oil
Salt and pepper to season chicken
2 tbsp canola oil
1 onion, sliced
16 oz. mushrooms, cleaned and checked, sliced
cup soy sauce
cup white wine
2 tbsp flour
1 cup cold water
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350F.
Coat chicken with oil, salt and pepper.
Bake for 10 minutes on each side, or until chicken is cooked through.
To prepare mushroom sauce, heat oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet.
Saut onions until translucent.
Add mushrooms and saut for another 5 minutes.
Add soy sauce and wine, and let reduce for an additional 5 minutes.
Mix in flour and cold water, adding slowly to mushroom mixture in stages.
Mix continuously until sauce thickens. Pour over chicken.
Serve this for a weekday or Friday night dinner. Always add sauce directly before serving. It can also be served over your favorite steak or salmon.
Quoted with permission from Kosher Taste (distributed by Feldheim) by Amy Stopnicki.
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Elephant Garlic Soup
Dairy or Pareve
Elephant garlic falls somewhere between a leek and an onion. While not actually garlic, it gives a light, mild flavor that makes this soup perfect every time. This soup is delicious and creamy and may be made pareve by using soy milk or pareve cream. Freezes well.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
12 cups water
3-4 large potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
8-10 cloves elephant garlic, peeled
1 tbsp flour
1 cup milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Green onions, cleaned and checked, chopped (for garnish)
Sour cream (for garnish)
In a large stockpot, heat oil over medium-high heat.
Add onion and cook until soft.
Add water, potatoes and garlic and bring to a boil. Simmer for 1 hour, partially covered.
Blend soup with an immersion blender.
Combine flour and milk in a separate bowl and blend until smooth. Add to soup.
Season and continue cooking, partially covered, for 5 minutes before serving.
This soup is great served with chopped green onions or a dollop of sour cream. I like to serve it as a first course for Shavuos.
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Watermelon Ice Pops
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
What can be better and healthier for everyone than real fruit on a stick? Kids will love the taste of these popsicles and you can dish them out freely knowing the ingredients are wholesome and healthy!
2 cups seedless watermelon chunks
5 tbsp lime juice or to taste
1 tbsp honey or agave nectar or to taste
You will also need
Blend all ingredients together until completely smooth. Taste and adjust flavors as needed. Strain through a sieve and pour into popsicle molds; insert handles. Freeze for 5 hours until set, preferably overnight.
To serve, run the molds quickly under warm water for 15 seconds and then gently twist the stick to release. Serve immediately. Teach your children to remember the golden rule: lick, dont chew!
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Savory Chicken and Apple Bake
This dish is delicious and very appropriate for the season. This recipe lends itself either to chicken pieces or chicken breasts. Choose whatever suits your taste.
4 tsp olive or canola oil
2 tart apples, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic (optional)
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 cup apple juice
1 tbsp cider vinegar/lemon juice
1 tbsp cornstarch
Salt and pepper, to taste
In a heavy skillet, heat 2 teaspoons oil over medium heat.
Cook apples, onion and garlic for about 4 minutes until just tender but still a bit crisp. Remove to a bowl and set aside.
Add remaining 2 teaspoons oil to the skillet. Braise chicken, turning once, for 2 to 4 minutes or until golden brown on both sides. Reduce heat to medium-low.
Set 1 tablespoon apple juice aside and pour remaining juice into the skillet along with the cider vinegar or lemon juice. Cover and simmer for 6 to 8 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and juices run clear.
With a slotted spoon, remove chicken to platter. Keep warm.
Combine cornstarch with reserved tablespoon of apple juice. Stir into skillet along with juice and cook over high heat, scraping up any browned bits for 2 minutes or until thickened.
Return apple mixture to pan and heat through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon apple mixture around cooked chicken
Note: For chicken pieces, follow the same instructions, but cook the chicken for 1 hour total until tender.