Archive for January, 2011



06
Jan
11

Olive Oil


Ever since this past Kosherfest, we are getting quite a few questions about olive oil. There were a few olive oil producers at the show and apparently people got very interested in their products. Just as we finally thought we’d better blog, explain and demystify olive oil, we came across this superb post by Chef Laura Frankel – who explains it far better than we could – on her blog:

From lauraskosher.com, Chef Laura Frankel's blog

OLIVE OIL 101

Olive oil is the fruit oil obtained from the olive. Commonly used in cooking, cosmetics, soaps and fuel for lamps, olive oil is grown and used throughout the world but especially in the Mediterranean.

Olive oil is produced by grinding or crushing and extracting the oil. A green olive produces bitter oil and an overripe olive produces rancid oil. For great extra virgin olive oil it is essential to have olives that are perfectly ripened.

Purchasing olive oil and knowing how to use it can be confusing. Add to that, the kashrut factor and it is no wonder that consumers and home cooks are bewildered by the array of products on supermarket and specialty market shelves.

Here is a summary of olive oils and their uses:
• Extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) comes from virgin oil production only, contains no more than 0.8% acidity. Extra Virgin olive oil accounts for less than 10% of oil in many producing countries. The superior fruity flavor makes this oil best used for vinaigrettes, drizzling on soups, pastas for added richness and a fruity taste and for dipping breads and vegetables. Extra virgin olive oil does not require hashgacha (even for Pesach) as it is cold pressed.
• Virgin olive oil comes from virgin oil production only, has an acidity less than 2%. This oil is best used for sautéing and for making vinaigrettes. It is generally not as expensive as the extra virgin olive oil but has a good taste. Does require hashgacha.
• Pure olive oil. Oils labeled as Pure olive oil or Olive oil are usually a blend of refined and virgin production oil. This oil is perfect for sautéing. It does not have a strong flavor and can be used for making aiolis and cooking. Does require hasgacha.

Extra virgin olive oil is the highest quality olive oil. It is typically more expensive than other olive oils. Extra virgin olive oil is typically not recommended for high heat cooking. Every oil has a smoke point. A smoke point refers to the heat temperature at which the oil begins to break down and degrade. An oil that is above its smoke point not only has nutritional and flavor degradation but can also reach a flash point where combustion can occur. You can observe this when you have a very hot pan and hot oil and food is added to the pan and it produces a bluish and acrid smelling smoke or worse yet, catches fire.

Extra virgin olive oil has a very low smoke point of 375. I use my best extra virgin olive oil for making vinaigrettes, adding luxurious fruity flavor to pasta dishes, garnishing foods, baking and dipping breads.
Extra virgin olive oil has a long list of health benefits from reducing coronary artery disease and cholesterol regulation.

My favorite extra virgin olive oil is an unfiltered oil from Spain. It is rich, luscious and smells like artichokes and tomatoes. I recently tasted an oil from France that was rich and buttery. Olive oils like wines have a distinct taste or terroir depending upon where they are grown. I urge home cooks to shop the specialty and gourmet shops for their olive oil. The supermarket oils are often lacking in flavor and are frequently misleading in the origin of the olives. The bottle may say that the oil was bottled in Italy but not mention where the olives were grown. The olives could have come from many different countries and in different stages of ripeness which yields an off tasting oil.
Estate grown oils are picked at the perfect stage of ripeness and pressed right after harvest. This ensures a balanced oil that is luscious.

Baking with olive oil is easy and yields a moist delicious cake. I use Meyer lemons in this recipe. Meyer Lemons are a cross between a tangerine and a lemon. They are sweet and very juicy. They are in season now and can be found at most markets around the country.

MEYER LEMON-OLIVE OIL POUND CAKE

  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon Meyer Lemon zest
  • ¼ cup Meyer Lemon juice
  • ¾ cup
  • 3 cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a tube pan and set aside.

  1. Whisk together olive oil, sugar, eggs and milk.
  2. Gently stir in flour, salt and baking powder until a thick batter forms.
  3. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 50-70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Lemon Glaze

  • 3 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup Meyer lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup or brown rice syrup
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla bean, scraped
  1. Simply combine all ingredients together in a large and heavy saucepan. Stir constantly over low heat until the mixture reaches 110 degrees F on a candy thermometer.
  2. Pour evenly over cooled cake and allow to harden before serving.

Enjoy the cake recipe and your use of olive oil whether in your salads or anything else.

CS

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05
Jan
11

The World of Kosher Cheese – Part 1


I, Vasco de CS – your intrepid kosher Conquistador – in an effort to bring all that’s kosher and great to The Kosher Scene, set about on an journey to find the variety of kosher cheeses available in New York City. Accompanied by Elizabeth Bland a world class cheese expert whom I interviewed last week, (you can hear the recording here) we toured the kosher cheese sections (on Monday afternoon)  sections at Zabar’s on Broadway and 80th – in Manhattan – and at Fairway on Broadway and 74th.

Interesting store with a big selection of kosher items

Ms. Bland’s encyclopedic knowledge of all things cheese was immediately evident as she explained  the various types of kosher cheese and hechsherim from around the world.

Two partial views of Zabar's Kosher Cheese showcase

There were selections from Israel, France, Spain, Italy, UK, New York State, Wisconsin, etc, etc….. She had tasted every one and had much to say about each. The rich selection was comprised of both cholov Yisroel and non cholov Yisroel types. Made from cow’s milk, goat milk, raw milk, some were very pungent, some were very sharp, some were mild in taste and smell.Elizabeth clarified some major differences amoungst the manufacturers, their aging processes along with those individual aged cheeses that require the halachic  six hours waiting time before eating meat. It was great to find certain cheese companies listed how long the individual cheese had been aged, unfortunately, this is not a universal practice, but it certainly should be! It would make it faaaar easier to determine whether one is required to wait six hours or not.

Elizabeth Bland holding up a cheese by one of her favorite manufacturers, Sugar River Cheese Co.

We then trekked six blocks south to Fairway. It was my first visit to Fairway (we don’t have one in Brooklyn) and while more crowded and with narrower isles than Zabar’s, I found the variety of foods abundant and the clientele diverse. They too had a great selection of kosher cheeses from around the world, and we discovered some that we hadn’t seen at Zabar’s and some were not present here.

There’s nothing like traveling with a seasoned navigator; my outing with Elizabeth was educational  and informative; we plan a follow up with a trip to Brooklyn’s Pomegranate to compare their cheese section with those we visited in the city.

CS

Elizabeth Bland’s post

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Last Week’s Broadcast and This Week’s Upcoming One

Sugar River Cheese Co.

Cheese! Cheese! Cheese! – Part 3

Cheese! Cheese! Cheese! – Part 2

Cheese! Cheese! Cheese!

Les Petites Fermières Plus Organic and Kosher

Naturally Kosher

04
Jan
11

Spelt Bread


[Gil Marks is the author of numerous books, including his latest, the highly-acclaimed Encyclopedia of Jewish Food. CS]

Recently, I’ve been experimenting with various grains in place of common wheat in breads. I’ve made rye bread many times over the years, but always with some wheat flour in the dough. A couple of weeks ago, I baked a 100% rye bread, which turned out rather flat and very dense and with a nutty, fruity flavor. It was perfect with lox. I have some einkorn flour in the refrigerator awaiting use in the near future. Meanwhile, I’ve been enjoying spelt bread the past few weeks.

Triticum spelta L. (Photo from: plants/usda.gov)

Spelt (triticum spelta L.) – dinkel in German and Yiddish; farro grande in Italian; kusmin in Modern Hebrew — is a hexaploid species of wheat (it has 42 chromosomes), like common wheat. Spelt is a hybrid of emmer (a tetraploid wheat with 28 chromosomes) and a wild goat grass (Aegilops tauschii), possibly occurring north of the Caucasus or in Crimea. The kernels are slightly longer and more pointed than those of wheat, somewhat resembling barley in appearance. Spelt is a hulled grain (spelze in German and farro in Italian), meaning the husk remains attached to the kernel during threshing and requires much pounding and effort to extract the grain. (Common wheat and durum wheat are free-threshing grains in which the hulls easily slip off.) Spelt is also relatively low yielding. However, spelt grows well in poor soil and without the need for pesticides, since, as with most hulled grains, it naturally resists fungus and insects.

It was in Bronze and Iron Age (750-15 BCE) Europe where spelt found its greatest popularity, becoming the predominant wheat species of Germany and Switzerland. The word spelta, believed to be of Saxon origin, was first recorded in 301 CE in an edict of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, the Romans possibly introduced to the grain after expanding the empire northward. Romans, however, preferred common wheat, which they spread through their domains. Ashkenazim mistakenly confused spelt with both the Talmudic shiphon (probably einkorn) and the Biblical kussemet (probably emmer or a generic term for hulled wheat, of which emmer was then the most prominent), as one of the Five Species of grain forbidden on Passover and also requiring the removal of challah. (As a member of the wheat family, spelt is still forbidden on Passover and requires challah removal.) Rashi (Pesachim 35a) translated kusmin into Old French as espelte, which is usually translated as spelt, but may actually mean hulled wheats in general, similar to the German Spelzen and Italian farro. Spelt was not grown in biblical or Talmudic Israel or Egypt and there is no archeological evidence for this grain anywhere in the ancient Near East or Egypt.

Green Kern spelt - Photo from allergome.org

In the late medieval period, as new species of naked wheat became prevalent in central Europe, spelt consequently lost its attractiveness. Nevertheless, spelt remained the predominant grain in southern Germany until the nineteenth century. Still, it retains a degree of popularity in parts of southern Germany and southwestern Poland. Today, spelt’s primary form is husked and kiln-dried, the resulting grains called gruenkern (literally “green kernels”). Harvesting green grains, such as barley for the biblical Omer offering, is an ancient practice devised to collect a small part of a springtime crop while still immature, thereby salvaging at least that portion, in case a heavy storm would potentially damage or rot the entire yield.

Primarily produced in parts of southern Germany and southwestern Poland, gruenkern is rare in America, but found in some specialty food stores. Germans use the greenish-tan kernels in soups, stews, puddings, gruels, breads (mixed with wheat flour), and fritters. Today, many German families, instead of shalet (cholent), slow simmer gruenkernsuppe overnight to commence Sabbath lunch. The first edition of The Settlement Cook Book (1901), the author from a German-Jewish heritage, included a recipe for “Green Kern Soup,” directing “2 qts. soup stock or poultry soup, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, ¼ teaspoon celery, diced, 2 cups green kern, 1 cup Croutons, 2 cups boiling water, 1 teaspoon salt. Wash green kern in cold water, then cook in boiling salted water 2 hours or until tender, add the celery. As water evaporates add soup stock, page 66. If you are making fresh soup take the “top soup” and keep adding it strained to the green kern, until the desired consistency. Season to taste. Serve hot with Croutons, page 81. If you prefer, dry the green kern on back of stove, grind fine and cook until tender in the soup. Just before serving pour on one or two egg yolks well beaten and serve hot with Croutons.”

Spelt is also used in central Europe to make ale, noodles, pancakes, and bread. Spelt contains a lower amount of omega gliadins (proteins) that engender gluten than common wheat and, therefore, can sometimes be tolerated by those with wheat allergies to common wheat, which has been bred to contain a massive amount of gluten. For some, but not all of those who face problems with common wheat (not those with celiac disease), spelt is fine. Otherwise, the fat and amino acid content of common wheat and spelt are similar.

As to my spelt bread, the results were very good. Spelt bread is a bit more crumbly and not quite as high rising as common wheat loaves as well as a light brown hue. But it is still rather fluffy inside, has a crusty exterior, and with a somewhat nutty taste. In many ways, spelt flour can be used similarly to common wheat. However, spelt dough, since its gluten is more fragile and soluble, requires less kneading than common wheat, only 4 to 5 minutes by hand (wheat bread is typically 10 minutes of kneading). Also use less water than in wheat dough (which will weaken the gluten), meaning a firmer dough. However, the dough should not be too dry, or the bread will turn out too dense. I understand that bread machines, which I won’t use anyway, overstress the gluten and produce inferior spelt loaves.

In case you feel like experimenting, here’s my recipe for spelt bread (Dinkelbrot):

Spelt bread (dinkelbrot) - Detail from photo by: thefreshloaf.com

Spelt Bread

(1 medium loaf about 24 ounces)

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons active-dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees (40 to 46 C) for dry yeast
  • 1½ tablespoons honey
  • 1½ tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • About 3¼ cups spelt flour (13 ounces/365 grams)

Directions

  1. To make the dough: Dissolve the yeast in ¼ cup water. Stir in 1 teaspoon honey and let stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the remaining water, oil, salt, and 2 cups flour. Gradually add enough remaining flour until the mixture holds together.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough until smooth and elastic, 4 to 5 minutes. (Less than wheat flour.) Place in a greased bowl, turning to coat. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a towel and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.
  3. Punch down the dough, knead briefly, divide in half, and form into a ball. Place, seam side down, on a parchment paper-lined or greased large baking sheet or in a greased 8-inch round baking pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a damp cloth and let rise until nearly doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
  4. Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (175 C).
  5. With a sharp knife, slit an X in the top. Bake until the bread is golden brown and hollow-sounding when tapped on the bottom, 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool on a rack.

Enjoy!

Gil Marks

03
Jan
11

This Week’s Upcoming Internet Radio Show


Elizabeth Bland, photo from her website (cheesemistress.com/)

Last Wednesday we had a very interesting discussion on cheese and kosher cheese in particular with Elizabeth Bland (we will soon post, on these very pages, a supermarket trip with Mrs. Bland where we will look at various kosher cheeses. Meanwhile you can hear an .mp3 file of our radio show here.

This coming Wednesday – January 5, 2011 – our guest will be Gill Marks. Gill recently published the Encyclopedia of Jewish Food. What are Gill Marks credentials? What qualifies him to talk or write about food? As his website states:

Gill Marks, at The James Beard Foundation. Photo from gilmarks.com

An author, rabbi, historian, chef, and social worker, Gil Marks is a leading authority on culinary subjects in general and Jewish cuisine in particular. Among his published books are Encyclopedia of Jewish Food (Wiley: 2010), James Beard Award-winning Olive Trees and Honey: A Treasury of Vegetarian Recipes from Jewish Communities Around the World (Wiley 2004), and James Beard Award finalist The World of Jewish Cooking (Simon & Schuster, 1996). Marks was included in the Jewish Forward’s annual “Forward 50,” a list of the fifty most influential Jewish-Americans in the year 2010. http://www.forward.com/forward-50/

A self-taught chef, Marks entertained at his New York City home, earning a reputation as a gourmet cook. He began moonlighting for several caterers before branching out on his own. Some of his early jobs involved baking 150 apple pies for a cooking spray promotion, an all-dessert bat mitzvah, and a health food wedding. In 1986, Marks combined his interests in food, history, Judaism, and writing to become founding editor of Kosher Gourmet magazine, a position he held for six years. After leaving Kosher Gourmet, Marks turned his attention to writing fiction and biblical research as well as continuing his work on culinary subjects. His efforts include two plays, Therapist, and, in collaboration with Stanley Allan Sherman, The Golem of Gavah. His other books are The World of Jewish Desserts (Simon & Schuster, September 2000) and The World of Jewish Entertaining (Simon & Schuster, 1998) and he was also among the international team of contributors to the prestigious Meals in Science and Practice: Interdisciplinary Research and Business Applications (Woodhead Publishing, 2009).

Marks has also written articles for numerous magazines; served as a guest lecturer at the Culinary Institute of America,HazonKosherfest, and Drisha Institute; acted as consultant for various companies and organizations; and given presentations throughout the world, including the 92nd Street Y, Macy’s DeGustibus Cooking SchoolThe Learning Annex, the Kislak Adult Center, and the Fresh Start Program at New York’s Rikers Island. Marks continues to write, research, lecture, and perform cooking demonstrations for groups across the country and make appearances on various television and radio programs.

When I first contacted Mr. Marks to arrange the radio interview I thought it would be a short call, instead I was totally fascinated listening to his stories and the call was rather a long one. He is a captivating repository of anecdotes and history, this upcoming show promises to be a very interesting one!

Please, listen in on Wednesday at 8:00pm on Jewish Radio Network. Click on the red “here” under the white “Radio,” then wait about 90 to 180 seconds for the application to start streaming.

CS

02
Jan
11

The Greater Joy of Cooking and the Perfect Sesame Chicken


The pace, pressures and responsibilities of our daily lives often make us feel like life is running us instead of the other way. Thursday night was a fortunate slice of moments lived well. I got some precious time with my teenage son who had returned from Yeshiva for the weekend. He was hungry and was in the mood for something different. Hunting through cookbooks and the net, he opted for sesame chicken.

We followed an easy recipe he found on allrecipes.com. As we prepared, mixed and measured, we schmoozed and caught up on our week. We waxed philosophical, we laughed, retuned and and cooked a wonderful meal that was gone in record time.

Perfect Sesame Chicken

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dry sherry
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 dash sesame oil
  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast meat – cubed
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon chile paste
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 quart olive oil for frying
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Directions

  1. Sift flour, 2 tablespoons cornstarch, baking soda, and baking powder into a bowl. Pour in low-sodium soy sauce, sherry, 2 tablespoons water, vegetable oil, and a dash of sesame oil; stir until smooth. Stir in chicken until coated with the batter, then cover, and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, bring chicken broth, sugar, vinegar, dark soy sauce, sesame oil, chile paste, and garlic to a boil in a saucepan over high heat. Dissolve 1/4 cup cornstarch into 1/2 cup of water, and stir into boiling sauce. Simmer until the sauce thickens and turns clear, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low, and keep sauce warm.
  3. Heat olive oil in a deep fryer or large saucepan to a temperature of 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  4. Drop in the battered chicken pieces, a few at a time, and fry until they turn golden brown and float to the top of the oil, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain on a paper towel lined plate. To serve, place fried chicken pieces onto a serving platter, and pour the hot sauce overtop. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds to garnish.

Serve with rice – Yields 6 servings.

We had some sauce left over and a chicken was on the counter destined for the Shabbos table. Instead of spicing it my usual way, I used the leftover sesame chicken sauce to baste and baked it at 375 F. till golden – about 90 minutes. It tasted moist,  sweetly delicious, with a balanced chili powder kick. Everyone loved it! Bypassing the fatty fried part of this classic sesame chicken recipe while retaining the essence of it’s  flavor was a cool guilt-free variation. Im a big believer in Ms Frizzle’s (The Magic Schoolbus) famous mantra “take chances, makes mistakes. Get messy!

Susie Fischbein certainly had the right idea about spending time with your kids in the kitchen, we’ve been doing it for years and it’s a chilled way to catch up, bond, create new memories spiced with the joy of being together.

Enjoy!

SYR

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