Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

05
Sep
12

18th of Elul


Today is the 18th of Elul a pivotal date in the history of Chasidut. Last Evening Rabbi Raphael Benchimol of the Manhattan Sephardic Congregation, led those assembled for a festive dinner with inspiring words of Torah including a siyum Mishnayot of the whole Seder Nashim. He spoke of the Hilula for both Rabbi Abdallah Somekh (the teacher of the Ben Ish Chai) and the famed MaHaRa”L of Prague.

Rabbi Benchimol told a story about the Ba’al Shem Tov‘s (whose birthday was on Chai – 18th – Elul) ascent to the Upper Realms where he came upon the chamber where Moschiach rested. When he asked Moschiach when he would come he was told, “Sheyafutzu mayanotecha chutza – When your wellsprings [of knowledge] flow [are shared] outwardly [influence every Jew].” Ever since, the Ba’al Shem Tov‘s revelation, that has become the mission of every chassid.

Rabbi Benchimol was followed by kollel member Rabbi Yanky Raskin

Speaking eloquently and emotionally he told the story of six year old Yisroel ben Eliezer (the future Ba’al Shem Tov) hearing from his father, on the latter’s death bed that he should never have any fears other than fear of Hakadosh Baruch Hu. His life, subsequently, showed that the orphan learned and applied those words well. His love of fellow Jews, his teachings that spread both like fire and fast flowing rivers throughout the world, became the buttresses that sustain the Torah lifestyle even today.

Rabbi Shalom Sibony followed by explaining the connection between chassidut and Sepharadim.

Rabbanit BenChimol and her kids prepared a delightful dairy repast. Having tasted her cooking before I can attest that this time too the food was worthy of any high end eatery, considering the gusto with which the rest of those in attendance were eating, it was quite obvious they all agreed with me.

Once again, an evening to remember…

CS

29
Dec
11

Napoleon – Gâteau de Mille-Feuilles


Napoleon – Gâteau de Mille-Feuilles.

18
Jul
11

A Cookbook For All Seasons


When I’m doing some serious cooking for a group of family or friends, with a limited amount of time to get the job done, I take a pass on my more fluff-and-glitz cookbooks and gravitate towards the ones that I can rely on to provide me with clear concise foolproof instructions, guaranteed reliable delicious results delivered with relative ease.

And that’s precisely what you can expect from Lévana Kirschenbaum’s new cookbook The Whole Foods Kosher Kitchen – Glorious Meals Pure and Simple.

Though aesthetically the book’s layout is rather ordinary looking, the content is superb. It’s jam-packed with healthy mains, soups, salads, pastas, beads and desserts; aside from the general index, the cookbook includes a Passover index and a gluten-free index, with recipe notations indicating gluten free or gluten free adaptable. The recipes and text reflect a seasoned master chef who poured her culinary heart and soul into this cookbook. All content is meticulously organized and the format though visually lackluster nonetheless delivers the author’s usual witty humor and éclat in a most lively entertaining way.

Truly a hitchhiker’s guide to all things good-for-you and delicious, you’ll get never-ending use out of this comprehensive culinary work. The variations that accompany the recipes are awesome as are the tips and running commentary that weave through the pages. It’s like having a master chef or super balabusta mom right there with you preparing your best. Meir Pliskin’s photographs are tastefully done though the publisher’s cropping and cheap printing is somewhat disappointing. Lisa Young’s nutritional info though not revolutionary in content, serves as a useful reminder of healthy choices.

From the book, on page 171:

Roasted Vegetables GF P

Everyone likes a plate of grilled veggies, to eat as is or to use as a filling for sandwiches. I have chosen to share the most ridiculously simple way. First of all, my “grilled” vegies are roasted, requiring no turning over and no maintenance. Second, the trick is endives, radishes, brussel sprouts and fennel; but you will roast carrots, sweet potatoes, parsnips, potatoes separately because they have a longer cooking time. Roast beets all by themselves so they don’t bleed into your other veggies, or use the wonderful golden beets now available at all good produce stores. For all roasting, remember, one layer, no piling! Lining the baking sheet with foil reduces, or sometimes eliminates, cleaning.

When the vegetables are roasted, go ahead and get a little fancier, if you wish, toss in a little olive oil, chopped fresh basil, a few drops of balsamic vinegar and a little ground pepper. Most often I add nothing at all!

2 large zucchini, cut in sticks
2 large red onions, sliced thick
3 large red peppers, cut in large sections
1 large eggplant, cut in sticks
2 large portobello mushrooms, cups and stems separated, stems cut in half
Sea salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 450 F. Line a large cookie sheet (you might need 2) with foil. Spray heavily with vegetable spray. Place the vegetables snuggly and in one layer on the cookie sheet.

Spray heavily again with vegetable spray. Sprinkle with sea salt to taste. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the vegetables look slightly charred. The mushrooms (or string beans or asparagus) might be ready first. Slice the mushrooms on a bias when they are cool enough to handle.

The Whole Foods Kosher Kitchen cookbook is all about eating right without missing out on taste or style. The key is using healthy, wholesome, fresh ingredients combining flavors with such mastery your palate will think there is magic at play. It’s really the years of trial and error honing skills that have truly reached their apex of expertise. Lévana epitomizes her own quoting of Antoine de Saint Exupery’s words (at the bottom of page 17): “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

Don’t miss this essential kitchen tool!

SYR

24
Feb
11

Kosher Food & Wine Experience 2011 – Part 2


Yesterday we spoke of the food at KFWE, today we will give our views on the superb potables… As we entered the exhibit hall we found Walders Vanilla & Vodka, nestled among the food tables.

Grrrrreat tasting!

…we’d heard quite a bit about it and we just had to try it, what a delicious dessert drink! The wine selection was huge, obviously we’d never taste all of it, thus we had to be selective knowing full well we’d likely miss some real jewels. In any case here are our impressions of some  we tasted:

Alexander Winery Alexander the Great Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 – Alexander’s top of the line composed of 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5%Merlot grapes, it has a beautiful dark color with a hint of black. On the nose it shows berries, cherries and tobacco. A full bodied wine, rich and well balanced, a new favorite of mine!

SYR found the Baron Herzog Pinot Grigio 2009 delightful. – With a superb balance of acidity, a not so subtle perfume on the nose followed by tropical fruits, it goes perfectly with light pasta dishes. It proves, unequivocally, that a good wine need not be expensive.

Asaf Paz, at a wine tasting in 2009

Stopping by Binyamina‘s table, we tasted The Cave 2006 and 2007… This wine never ceases to amaze me, it’s consistently good. Aged in a 300 year old cave for 24 months it consists of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot. A world class wine that just happens to be kosher, the 2007 vintage was a bit more balanced in its taste and a bit more aromatic. Asaf Paz, one the two winemakers at Binyamina, was there presenting his wines and passionately discussing his craft. When I saw Binyamina‘s fruit liqueurs I just had to have some of their delicious Sour Apple, truly fruit in a bottle!

At Selection Bokobsa‘s table we tasted their Chateau Guiraud Sauternes 2001… Woooow!!!! With aromas of lilies, mango, peach, honey and apricot, it is an intense, complex dry wine.

We tasted the CAPÇANES Peraj Ha Abib 2008, from Spain. Aged for a year in French oak barrels, from grapes grown on high mountain mineral stony terroir, grapes whose vines yield low amounts of fruit, this is an amazing full bodied wine.

There were more great wines we tasted, but the ones above impressed us the most. Let me also mention some of the liquors I liked. As a kid, growing up in Uruguay, I always wondered why the adults kept on referring to “agua ardiente,burning water… I finally got to taste Aguardiente Antioqueño, from Colombia. Now I understood the oxymoron. The name suddenly made sense and, yes, it was very good!!

Another liquor I’ll mention is San Francisco’s Distillery Number 209‘s Gin. Very fruity aroma, superbly tasting! Before leaving I had some Glengoyne 17 Year Old Scotch Whiskey, extremely smooth with a very concentrated palette of incredible flavors!

As SYR put it, “It was a great evening of food, wines, meeting old friends and finding new ones. A truly amazing evening and I can’t wait until next year’s KFWE!”

CS

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Kosher Food & Wine Experience 2011 – Part 1

12
Jan
11

Darkness, Jewelry, and the Brit Beyn HaBetarim


[Rafi Farber, a friend and faithful blog reader, is a director at zoara.com. In this, his third post on these pages, he continues to expound on the connection between the TaNa"CH and jewelry. CS]

There are always previously un-thought of connections to be made and the map of the Torah never ceases to reveal new patterns as one generation builds upon the preceding one. So here is the connection between the plague of darkness, Egyptian jewelry, and Hashem‘s covenant with Abraham 430 years before the Exodus took place.

The plague of darkness was rather setting the ground for the death of the firstborn and the imminent Exodus from Egypt than it was a plague in and of itself. It was one day before the darkness – the tenth of Nissan – when Moses relayed the Divine command to tie a sheep to the bedpost, in preparation for its sacrifice and the death of the Egyptian first born. The Israelites were commanded to tie up the sheep before the darkness set in, so that the Egyptians could clearly see what they were doing.

Further, our sages say that during the plague of darkness, four fifths of the Jewish people actually died – those that did not intend on leaving. They couldn’t be allowed to simply stay behind and cause a desecration of the Almighty’s name, nor could they be allowed to die in sight of the Egyptians and lead to the same. Hakadosh Baruch Hu had other plans in bringing the darkness upon Egypt – to prepare the ground and to take care of some back-issues, so to speak, with Israel.

Ancient Egyptian jewelry - rings, earrings, bracelets pendants and more

But there was one other thing the darkness was made to do, as emphasized by Rabbi S.R. Hirsch in the 19th century. During the plague of darkness, no Egyptian moved an inch. The darkness was so thick it was tangible. If a front door was open, it stayed open. If a gate was unlocked, it stayed unlocked. Everything – every Egyptian possession, treasure, valuable, was available for the taking. And yet, when the darkness cleared and the light of night began to “shine,” relatively speaking (the darkness ended at night), nothing had moved. All valuables were still there, nothing was stolen, and everything was where it should have been. The Israelites didn’t steal a single Egyptian penny.

This, more than anything else, showed the moral superiority of the Israelites. The Egyptians suddenly realized who they had been enslaving, who they had been brutally murdering for the past 210 years. A decent, moral people who wouldn’t steal even from their enemies.

At that point, God makes a request of Moses. He actually says please. “Please,” says God, “Tell the Israelites to ask their neighbors for their possessions, their riches, their jewelry, their clothing, please take it all.

No wonder the Egyptians immediately shoved everything they owned at the Jews. They didn’t take anything during the darkness, but now they were asking nicely? Take it! Take it all!

But why did God say “please?”

RaSH”I explains that Hashem said “please” because He didn’t want Abraham coming to Him accusing Him of reneging on the promise of the Brit Beyn HaBetarim – that the Jews would leave Egypt with great wealth. Therefore, He asked us to cover His back and finish the redemption process.

It’s the same with any redemption. We always have to take the last step. Otherwise nothing works. Without us completing the process, nothing even makes any sense. Ultimately, we’ll finish it, just like we did with the Paschal Lamb and the blood on the doorpost so God would pass over our houses; just like we did at the Red Sea when Nachshon ben Aminadav jumped in; just like we did with the Egyptians’ jewelry and just like we will do, eventually, in the State of Israel.

Rafi Farber

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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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24
Dec
10

The Joy of Cookbooks


There was a time when cookbooks were written dry as a road map, the writing was limited to exact cooking directions, nothing more; in their current generation, cookbooks tell a story – besides presenting us with succulent recipes – we are regaled with personal anecdotes, or the various transformations of the specific dish, something about the region or culture that created it and so on. Quite often the result is very readable and interesting, even if you do not plan to make the specific recipe at the moment, there is something about it that catches your eye, excites your imagination and makes your taste buds salivate.

Food writing, differs from other types and yet it combines so many staple features of all the others. More than any other writing, however, it affords us huge insights into its author’s personality, interests, quirks, likes, dislikes and sometimes, personal life. Oft, you come away with the feeling you reunited with an old friend or that you just met someone you’ll love revisiting time and time again.

From books that trace Jewish influences on a specific country’s cuisine (like Joyce Goldstein‘s Cucina Ebraica), to books that bring us anecdotes, personal stories and more about the author’s or the recipes’ background (like Lévana Kirschenbaum‘s Lévana’s Table), or the incredible well researched Encyclopedia of Jewish Foods by Gil Marks (I’ve only seen a few random pages of the last, but I found it absolutely fascinating!!!), reading food writing – specifically kosher food writing – connects us with our past as a people, connects us with new friends we’d probably never have met otherwise, connects with our traditions. Yes, gentle reader, reading a cookbook is not what it used to be, there is a lot to learn from it – far more than how to prepare a flavorful dish. As Gil Marks so aptly puts it in his Encyclopedia:

Food is more than just sustenance. It is a reflection of the history, culture and values, and this is specially true of the Jewish people–a community that spans the globe. From Brooklyn to India and everywhere in between, Jewish food is represented by a fascinating array of dishes, rituals, and traditions.

Jewish cuisine is truly international. In every location Jews settled, they brought culinary traditions and also adapted local dishes modifying them to fit dietary laws, lifestyles and tastes. Unique traditions and dishes developed within the cuisines of North Africa, Europe, Persia, and the Mediterranean, but all are recognizably Jewish.

Enjoy your reading, gentle reader, and excite your taste buds.

CS

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Contest!!!

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14
Sep
10

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08
Sep
10

Yom Tov Recipes – Personal Honeyed Chocolate Lava Cake


Pastry Chef Ehud Ezra, gave us this delicious recipe for yom tov. SYR and I got to taste it yesterday, thus, we can attest to it being  truly scrumptious without being overly sweet. One of the joys of this type of post is being in the company of such gifted chefs and bakers. Udi, as his friends and coworkers lovingly nicknamed him, is a warm hearted chemist and chocolate alchemist.  He’s got such a mastery of ingredients and technique mixed with a sensitive spirituality that reflects his soul in everything he bakes. His Rosh HaShana recipe for Honeyed Chocolate Lava Cake certainly demonstrates his unique talents as a master pastry chef.

Honeyed Chocolate Lava Cake

Yields 10 mini 5 ozs. portions made in 4″ muffin molds

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lbs. butter/margarine/Earth Balance
  • 1 1/2 lbs. semi sweet chocolate
  • 2 tspns. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 7 whole eggs
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • Confectioners sugar

Directions

  1. Melt butter, 1 1/2 minutes in microwave, add chopped chocolate, mix until incorporated but not too hot add vanilla extract and honey.
  2. In mixer whip eggs until they form high peaks, about 3-4 minutes.
  3. Fold with chocolate mix.
  4. Spray pans with canola oil. Scoop in batter until the top of pans (batter rises and then deflates).
  5. Put in oven at 400 F, for 12 to 15 minutes, until top is crusted.
  6. Sprinkle tops with confectioners sugar. Serve with 4 scoops of Rich’s whipped cream or vanilla ice cream w/honey on top.

Easy to make and fast to bake, if you make you’ll shine whether with your guests or even with your family.

Enjoy it, gentle reader, we certainly did!

CS

Honeyed Chocolate Lava Cake

x———)o0O0o(———x

KTIVAH VECHATIMA TOVAH!!!
SHANA TOVAH UMETUKA!!!
A GUT GEBENTSHT YOHR!!!

28
Apr
10

Baking Challah for Shabbos?


[Daniel Ronay, baker extraordinaire, shares with us his recipes for both water and egg challahs. Photos by Daniel Ronay. CS]

Dough Formulation

Bread in its simplest form, requires four ingredients: flour, water, yeast, and salt. Any other specialty breads can have ingredients added to enhance the flavor, color, softness retention, etc.

There are 2 main mixing methods I’ll tell you about. The 1st and easiest procedure used by bakers and homemakers alike, called the Straight Dough Method. The straight dough method is a single step process in which all the ingredients are mixed in a single batch. The dough is bulk fermented and can vary from 1-4 hours depending on conditions.

The 2nd method is called the Sponge and Dough. With the sponge and dough method, the major fermentation is done with a preferment called ,“the sponge”, in which normally 50-70% of the total dough flour is fermented as the preferment stage. Bulk fermentation can be 4 -6 hours, then the dough stage. Advantages of this method compared to straight dough: slightly lower yeast levels, yields bread with better flavor, optimum volume. The disadvantage, however, is its longer processing time in comparison.

Water Challah

16 oz or 454 grams – Water
.75 oz
or 21 grams –  Fresh yeast
28 oz
or 794 grams – High Gluten Flour
.5 oz
or 14 grams –  Salt
.13oz
or 4 grams –  Malt Syrup (optional for crust color slight taste)
.5oz or 14 grams – Sugar
.5oz or 14 grams – Shortening or oil

Total weight 2 pounds 14 ounces

Mix about 10-12 min. Ferment @ 80 F. for 90 min. Make up 2 loaves Bake in 425 F. with steam. Easy way to make steam is put ice cubes in a pan on bottom of oven when you first start out.

Egg Challah

1.1 oz or 31 grams – Fresh Yeast
8oz or 227 grams – Water
3 0z or 85 grams – Sugar
.56 oz or 16 grams – Salt
4 oz or 112 grams – Oil
5 oz or 148 grams – Eggs
28oz or 794 grams – Eggs

Mix to development ferment @ 80 F. for 60-80 min Make up to 2-3 loaves proof for approx 45 min bake at 350F.

Daniel Ronay

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