Archive for December, 2010



02
Dec
10

A Freilachen Chanukkah – Chag Chanuka Sameach


In some households wittingly or unwittingly some things may border on imitating goyishe ways with gifts becoming more important than the actual message of Chanukkah. The Menorahs that we light and put by the windows or doorways, whether simple or ornate are a testament that in spite of all our faults, Hakodosh Boruch Hu finds us worthy of being saved. Every mighty empire of yore, conquered us. Every mighty empire of yore found it necessary to torture, kill and try to obliterate us as a people and every mighty empire of yore only has the ruins of its long lost glory to show for all its troubles, as each of these once mighty empires has been relegated to the dustbins of history. And yet, we Jews are still here in spite of our numerous enemies past and present.

The late British historian, Professor Arnold Toynbee referred to the Jew as “the fossil of history.” How hopelessly wrong the good professor was! How absent his understanding of the real force behind history!

A fossil is inert, dead. Look at tiny Israel, it produces more literature, scientific and technical books per year than the whole Arab world together. Its medical advances save lives all over the world… all this in spite of the constant non stop threats and terrorism emanating from the countries that surround it.

Chanukka is not just a time for latkes and sufganyot, not only do we light candles but families come together in ways not always apparent on regular days. To remember our past, to pay homage to the people we are, to celebrate our future we looked for fun items at Kosherfest, items that would help bring the true message of Chanukka alive. We found these 3D cupkake and cake molds in the shape of dreidels from The Kosher Cook. Bake together with your child, it’s fun, it’s educational and it binds both of you. The laughs, the hugs, the delight, the love, those are all part of the message and the rejoicing of Chanukka.

Dreidel Cake mold

3D Dreidel mold

After using the 3D Dreidel mold – we used a cake mix, Duncan Hines’ Devils Food – we put the pieces together and got these results:

Delicious dreidel cupcakes!

The one on the left was decorated with Nut Crunch, the one on the right with Assorted Nonpareils. Not bad!

These molds are available on line at The Kosher Cook, at your favorite Judaica store and kosher supermarkets. Check out the website, they have lots of fun and interesting items. Enjoy cooking with your children and as you light the oil on the menorah rekindle the light of love in your and your child’s heart.

If anyone cares to send us some pictures of things they’ve done with their children, we’ll gladly post them on these pages.

Please send them to: kosherscene@gmail.com

SYR

02
Dec
10

Natural Village Cafe


Warm, welcoming, classy, delicious… these four words give us a faint idea of my impressions of Natural Village Cafe (2 Avenue I – across from Shoprite Supermarket – Brooklyn, NY 11218; Tel: 347.492.5337 or 347. 417.6424). The restaurant is cholov Yisroel and pas Yisroel, with a mashgiach temidi and under the certification of Harav Meir Goldberg of the Va’ad Hakashrus d’Flatbush.

Upscale atmosphere, organic fare, beautiful and healthy in every possible way...

Nina Shapir, who presides over this eatery is truly a fascinating personality, the personal journey that changed her life and motivated her to open this establishment is full of commitment and dedication.

Fourteen years ago, Mrs. Shapir – a very young mother of three – found herself sick and unable to move, unable to cope. It was not a question of being financially overwhelmed, any such concerns were well taken care of. Medical tests and treatments produced no positive results, on the contrary things inexplicably kept getting worse. She met Harav Chay Azoulay, from Herzliya, who told her the real malady was not physical but rather one that affected her neshama. After some thought, trying to make sense of Rav Azulay’s words, she went on a detox diet with the help of healthfood stores, intent on ridding herself of all negative energies. This decision was followed by six very hard weeks before she saw any measurable improvements but soon after she was her old active, curious, intelligent, enterprising self again.

At this stage, Nina decided to help others who, though similarly afflicted, may not be aware of the real source of their health troubles. She went on to study Healing Arts at The School of Natural Healing in Utah from which she graduated. Seven years ago her first organic restaurant opened its doors. Her partner, however, was not frum and it proved frustrating eventually Nina bought her out. In 2008 she moved to the present location which combines her personal philosophy, her exquisite sense of aesthetics and the true love of a foodie for superb fare. She also has an an office adjacent to the restaurant where she treats the many in search of natural healing.

The restaurant sports geometric patterns on its walls and ceiling, with warm earth tones that give us a clue to the owner’s style and personality. Chef Bobby Brabaloni is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America – America’s foremost Culinary School – a fact which becomes obvious when you see the presentation, smell the aromas and taste the wonderful flavors.

My companion and I started our early dinner with a dish of Stuffed Mushrooms

Stuffed Mushrooms

It consists of white mushrooms with sauteed onions, creamy pesto sauce, melted mozzarella and feta cheeses with a kick of chopped parsley. It was a perfect opener to a memorable meal.

We segued with their Village Pizza

Village Pizza

It came in a sesame crust, red onions, mushrooms, two types of mozzarella cheese and their very own red sauce. I know pizza, I’m a pizza addict and I must confess this one ranks among my favorites. My companion also found it delicious.

Next we had their Salmon Salad…

Salmon Salad

A superbly tasting salad fresh romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, grilled salmon, pan sauteed red inions, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms with a subtle teriyaki sauce. A fitting crown to our meal!

Wholesome food, warm ambience, reasonable prices, a nice bakery on premises… I know I’ll be back again and again.

CS

Natural Village Cafe on Urbanspoon

01
Dec
10

Latkes, Latkes, Latkes


Tonight is the first night of Chanukka and our attention to latkes. Few dishes can be so delicious, so comforting as properly made latkes, and yet they do not require long preparation. Many cooks are rather uncomfortable with the idea of deep frying foods. But… what is Chanukka without latkes?!? Besides, even the most health conscious will agree, deep fried food when done right tastes superb! Occasional deep frying will certainly not disrupt any health-based food regimen.

Chef Lévana Kirschenbaum, gives us her pointers for a healthier deep frying and, of course, her superb Latkas recipe with a few variations:

Delectable!!!!

Frying (stir-frying does not fall into this category, as it requires very little oil and minimal cooking) is the nemesis of every health-conscious cook, this one included. However, fried foods are irresistibly delicious. I am happy to provide a few guidelines for frying occasional treats efficiently and safely: consider the following a mini crash course on conquering the fear of frying!
- Keep it dry. Too much moisture will steam food instead of frying it, yielding soggy results. Be sure to dry whatever you are frying thoroughly with paper towels.
- Keep it thick. With a firm (not runny) batter, you will be able to form thicker patties, which will absorb much less oil than thinner ones. The ouside will be crisp and the center will be tender yet cooked through.
- Keep it hot. Less-than-hot oil will seep into your food, making it inedibly greasy. If you are adding oil to your pan while frying, chances are your oil was not hot enough to begin with. When your oil is good and hot, you will need to add very little if any to finish frying an entire batch of food. How hot is hot enough? Drop a smidgen of batter into the oil. If it sizzles and rises to the surface, the oil is hot and ready for frying.
- Keep it steady. Do not crowd the pan. First of all, you will make handling the food more difficult. Also, crowding will bring down the temperature of the oil. Adding what you are frying at steady intervals ensures that the oil has time to return to the desired temperature.
- Keep it lean. I have my mother to thank for this advice. Rather than using spatulas or slotted spoons, work with two forks when frying. Lift each fried item with a fork on each side, and hold it vertically for a second or two over the frying pan: You will be surprised by how much oil drips off it. Immediately place the items on a plate lined with several layers of paper towels, which will absorb any remaining unwanted grease.
- Keep it white. This applies only to potato dishes. Peeled potatoes will oxidate when exposed to air and turn an unappealing gray color. So when making latkes (or a potato kugel), get everything ready and peel and grate the potatoes last, adding them immediately to the otherwise finished batter.
- Keep it fresh and hot. A word about freezing and reheating. If you are entertaining a large group, it won’t be enormous fun spending the afternoon frying while everyone is having a good time. If you must fry in advance, follow all the above guidelines, but fry each item until it is ninety percent cooked through, no more. Store it in a shallow pan in one layer. You can also place the latkas in the pan vertically, like a deck of cards; you will be able to fit quite a few in a pan in this position (again, one layer). Cover tightly. Refrigerate or freeze, depending on how long in advance you are preparing the dish. Reheat uncovered, at about 350*F, for fifteen to twenty minutes if it was frozen, until golden and crisp.

Ingredients:

Makes 24 latkas.

vegetable oil for frying
1 cup flour
4 eggs
1 medium onion, grated in a food processor
salt and pepper to taste
pinch nutmeg
8 large Idaho or russet potatoes, peeled

Instructions:

Heat 1/3 inch oil in a heavy frying pan until very hot. While the oil is heating, place the flour, eggs, onion, salt and pepper, and nutmeg in a bowl, and mix thoroughly. Quickly grate the potatoes in a food processor or by hand, and immediately stir them into the batter, making sure not to squeeze so as not to extract unwanted extra moisture. Work very quickly so they do not have time to get discolored. Form small patties, and lower them into the hot oil, or drop the batter by heaping tablespoons. Fry until golden, about 3 minutes on each side. Remove and drain on paper towels. Serve with applesauce, or plain yogurt.

Variations:

Vegetable latkes: Replace the potatoes with a mixture of zucchini, carrots and parsnips. Add seasonings of your choice such as oregano, minced fresh garlic and basil.
Sweet potato latkes: Substitute sweet potatoes for the regular potatoes, and add brown sugar, cinnamon and ginger to taste.
Potato Kugel: That’s right: What else is it but a giant latka? Add 1/3 cup of vegetable oil to the potato latka batter. Pour the batter into a greased loaf or square pan, and bake uncovered in a preheated 375*F oven for one hour or until the top is golden brown.

Enjoy, gentle reader, enjoy! We certainly will!!

CS




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