Sesame Kiddush Cookies

Makes 4 dozen

I keep these in my freezer to serve every Shabbos with fish or dips. They look gourmet and chic and taste both sweet and salty.

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup almond meal or ground almonds (see Note)
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 large egg, beaten
Black and white sesame seeds, for sprinkling

In a food processor, pulse the flour, almond meal, sugar and salt until combined. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture forms large clumps.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead gently until it comes together. Divide the dough in half and press each half into a disk. Roll out each disk between 2 sheets of wax paper to 1/4 inch thick. Slide the wax paper–covered disks onto a baking sheet and freeze for at least 1 hour, until firm.

Preheat the oven to 350° and line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Working with one piece of dough at a time, peel off the top sheet of wax paper. Using a 1 1/2-inch round cookie cutter, stamp out the cookies as close together as possible. Arrange the cookies 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. Lightly brush the cookies with the egg and sprinkle with the black and white sesame seeds.
Bake the sesame cookies for 17 to 20 minutes, until they are lightly browned; shift the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 3 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack and let them cool completely.

Carrot Dip

Makes 9 ½ pint jars

This is a great alternative to traditional tomato or eggplant dip. I serve it with crackers, salmon, or aside grilled chicken. It has great color and flavor and is a great surprise for guests. Its also great on toasted bread.

4 pounds carrots, coarsely shredded (about 18 cups)
6 cups sugar
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
1 cup fresh lemon juice (8 lemons)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Three 3-inch cinnamon sticks
12 whole cloves
Big pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

In a large enameled cast-iron casserole or heavy pot, combine the carrots, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice and salt; mix well. Wrap the cinnamon sticks and cloves in a double layer of cheesecloth and tie into a bundle. Tuck the bundle into the carrots. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Add the nutmeg and 1/2 cup of water to the carrots and bring to a boil. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are shiny and the liquid is syrupy, about 40 minutes. Discard the spice bundle. Let the carrot jam cool to room temperature, then refrigerate.

MAKE AHEAD The carrot jam can be refrigerated for up to 3 weeks.

Herbed Finishing Salt

Makes 4 servings

This is a terrific salt to sprinkle on roasted vegetables, corn on the cob, potatoes, or on any meat. I like to sprinkle it, before or after on grilled meat or chicken. The fresh herbs are subtle but infuse the salt.

1 cup rosemary leaves (1 1/2 ounces)
1 cup thyme leaves and tender stems (1 1/2 ounces)
2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 cup coarse sea salt
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

In a food processor or blender, pulse the herbs and garlic until chopped. Add the salt and pulse until finely chopped. Add the crushed red pepper and pulse to blend. Spread the mixture in an even layer on a large rimmed baking sheet and let stand, stirring occasionally, until dried, about 2 days. Transfer the mixture to a jar or manual spice grinder.

MAKE AHEAD The herb salt can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 year.

Pretzels

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Pretzels are my favorite salty, crunchy addiction. I never tire of them.

I’m a traditionalist and prefer the small twist type but they certainly have a flavor or shape for everyone. Chefs and food trenders have noticed pretzels because they are showing up on restaurant menus and in amazing desserts. It’s that salty sweet trend and I love it.

Here are a few great recipes that use pretzels, as toppings, croutons, or in a sweet treat. There is something for everyone so watch out potato chips, the pretzel is looking to take over.

Pretzel Crusted Tilapia
Cheddar Cheese Soup with Pretzel Croutons
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Pretzel Cookies

Ramen Noodles

Ramen Noodles are all the rage this year. They are not just for dorm room cooking and are showing up in top notch restaurants as well as personal chef menus. Full blown restaurants devoted to ramen and noodles called, Noodle shops are also big sensations. My favorites though are the pop-up places and food trucks nationwide with ramen menu items. I just wish they were all kosher. So inspired by the ramen rage, this week, I’m including a few salad and main dish favorites that feature ramen noodles. They add crunch and saltiness to everything and cook up in just a minute or two. Try them, you will love them, and soon will stock them in your pantry all year long.

Spinach and Romaine Salad with Strawberries and Ramen Crunch
Crunchy Asian Salad with Ramen Noodles
Broccoli Slaw
Beef and Broccoli with Ramen Noodles

Joy of Kosher

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Just in time for Hanukkah, Jamie Geller, best-selling author and GKC friend, is back with a new book that you will love.  Joy of Kosher, Fast, Fresh, Family Meals is filled with gorgeous (so gorgeous!) pictures, and tons of recipes that will go from weekday to weekend.  With her fun flair and great style, Jamie makes everything look easy and delicious.

The book is filled with tips and ideas on how to dress up a dish for Shabbos or dress it down for a terrific quick dinner.  Recipes like Crystal Clear Chicken Soup with Julienned Vegetables and Angel Hair (Dress It Down: Chicken Noodle Alphabet Soup), Garlic Honey Brisket (Dress It Down: Honey Brisket Pita Pockets
), Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese (Dress It Down: Mac and Cheese Muffin Cups)
, and Gooey Chocolate Cherry Cake (Dress It Up: Red Wine Chocolate Cherry Heart Cake). Plus, Jamie offers a whole chapter on the art of making challah, 10 sweet and savory recipes, holiday menus, and a special Passover section.  See the sneak peak recipes at the end of this post.

I love the introduction too.  We get to meet Jamie’s adorable family in photos and see them all at work and play in their home.  Jamie is candid and funny about her life in food and how she has grown from the “bride who knew nothing” to as I call her, the “girl who uses saffron and sumac”.  That’s a lot of progress.

As Jamie says, “This book is for busy parents who want to make tasty food without a lot of fuss and who want to entertain without slaving in the kitchen and always elicit a lot of oohs and aahs.”  I think that makes it for just about everyone!

GKC got to speak with Jamie this week and she even squeezed in some time for some of our pressing questions.  Here is what she had to say.

GKC: What’s your favorite kitchen tool? Least favorite?
Jamie: Tongs – they are an extension of my arm!  Tied with my Wusthof 8-inch Chef’s Knife, also an extension of my arm.   2nd Most Favorite: Dutch Oven – feels homey and “professional” all at the same time.  Anyone that has a Dutch oven is serious (about cooking, or has some serious cash!) and knows what they are doing.  (Well at least that’s what I like to tell myself).  But I really love it because mine is RED – my fave color (after black and white – which are colors to me!). Sorry Elizabeth I know you asked for just one but I can’t help myself.  Least Favorite: My stand mixer.  In truth I absolutely adore it.  I have been known to hug it.  But right now it’s my nemesis because in my new Israeli kitchen I don’t have very much counter space so it lives on top of my fridge – and is such a production to pull down and plug in (to a 10 pound transformer!).  But once it’s doing its thing it falls into my most favorite kitchen tool category.


GKC: Any pantry items you can’t live without?
Jamie: Olive oil.  I live for olive oil, literally.  I don’t measure it (unless I am writing a recipe) I think it’s sacrilegious – as there is almost no such thing as too much good quality, extra virgin, cold pressed, fruity, rich, olive oil.

GKC: What’s your go to dinner?
Jamie: Duck Sauce Chicken with Herb Roasted Red Bliss Potatoes from my first book, Quick & Kosher Recipes From The Bride Who Knew Nothing.  This old habit just won’t die.


GKC: Wow, from the “Bride Who Knew Nothing” to a foodie who uses sumac and saffron, what’s your best advice for someone new to preparing meals?
Jamie: Don’t overdo things.  Start slow, don’t stress and cook with a smile.  Simple can taste good – really, really, really good.  Trust me! I have both built a career and feed my family around this very concept.

And just for GKC this week, a few of Jamie’s recipes from Joy of Kosher.  Garlic Honey Brisket (Dress it Up) and Honey Brisket Pita Pockets (Dress it Down).  AND…WOW! Gooey Chocolate Cherry Cake (super rich and delicious, with a hint of the cherry chunks running through it) and Dress it Down, Red Wine Chocolate Cherry Cake.  Thanks Jamie!

I made the Cilantro Corn Cakes (filled with my favorites like, cumin, corn, cilantro and lime) and the Stuffed Baked Onions (yum, stuffing with cranberry and challah and nutty crunch).  Both are easy, beautiful and just my kind of food.

Joy of Kosher is available in bookstores nationwide including Barnes & Noble, Amazon (just $18 on both Amazon and Barnes and Noble), and Jewish bookstores everywhere. GKC has one to giveaway so SUBMIT to win one too.

A Trip to the Alexander Winery

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Just recently, GKC friend, Gary Landsman, from Royal Wines took a great trip to Israel and while there, made some time to visit friend and winemaker Yoram Shalom, at Alexander Winery (he also visited Barkan and Segal – are you as jealous as I am? )
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The Alexander winery is located just South of Haifa in Beit Yitzhak and is renowned for some very special wines. Gary arrived just in time for a grape delivery, a new variety of grape, which is part of Yoram Shalom’s winning strategy to making great wine, always creating new wines by experimenting with new grapes and blends.  Gary got right to work (hours of it), sorting the grapes on the ramps before they go into crushing, carefully removing stems and unwanted leaves, and checking for imperfections.  Alexander winery was working these grapes for some of their new blends and particularily a new Rose. How amazing will it be when the wine comes out to know that Gary had a real “hand” in creating the wine?! I think that’s one of my bucket list items!

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We asked Gary what else is new at Alexander.  Great news for all of us, Alexander is planning and currently developing a gorgeous tasting and visitors center.  Stay tuned for grand opening dates.  And Yoram has brought in an experienced winemaker to assist him at Alexander.  Avi Feldstein, formerly of Segal Winery, and noted by critics as “forward thinking, bold, and creative” has joined  Alexander Winery and will surely be another great asset.

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What to drink by Alexander? Gary responded with “really? I have to pick, I enjoy so many of their wines!” But then he added try the Gaston, named from some Russian ancestry, a blend of Cabernet, shiraz, and merlot and is bold, satiating, and smooth. Then for a special wine, add Alexander the Great, Cabernet to your list.  This wine needs some decanting time or breathing time after opened but Wow! Well worth waiting for (btw, it scored a 90 at the International Wine Review).  The wine breathes and becomes a wonderful experience to savor and enjoy the flavors.  And for a more affordable but delicious option try the Sandro.  It’s a Cabernet and Merlot blend with hints of citrus and apples.  I just know it as one of Yoram’s terrific creations where he demonstrates his ability to blend varietals, grapes and techniques to creative wonderful flavors in his wines.

I can’t wait to visit the new visitor’s center on my next trip to Israel.  For now, I’m going to enjoy another glass of the Alexander the Great Cabernet.

Succot Wines


Succot is early this year and as a result there is a good chance there will be some warm days for those Yom Tov lunches. Although many people prefer red wine, especially at a Yom Tov meal, In invite you to consider a deliciously refreshing white.  The Carmel Kayoumi Riesling is a dry and incredible refreshing version of an old sweet favorite.  It was my summer go to wine and I enjoyed it with so many friends and with readers on  GKC too with recipes that pair well with it, check out the post.

If you insist on red during the warm weather, consider something that does well when slightly chilled.  Big tannic red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon don’t do as well chilled and can taste metallic.  Try a lighter red such as the Tzuba Pinot Noir or Shiloh Legend. Whatever you choose, pick wines you enjoy and that pair well with your menus. Check out our wine pairing tips too if you need some guidance.   Chag Sameach.

Wine Braised Lamb with Dried Fruit

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Serves 4, doubles well

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Four 8-ounce lamb shoulder chops (cut 1 inch thick)
Salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon ground coriander
8 garlic cloves, halved
10 thyme sprigs, plus more for garnish
1 cup bold red wine, such as Zinfandel
1/2 cup dried cherries (3 ounces)
1/2 cup dried apricots (3 ounces), quartered
2 cups beef broth or chicken broth

In a large, deep skillet, heat the olive oil. Season the lamb chops with salt and pepper and rub them all over with the coriander. Add the lamb chops to the skillet along with the garlic cloves and 10 thyme sprigs and cook over high heat, turning once, until the lamb chops are browned and the garlic cloves are browned in spots, about 6 minutes.

Add the red wine, dried cherries and dried apricots to the skillet and bring to a boil. Cook over moderate heat until the wine is reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the beef broth and bring to a boil. Cover partially and simmer over moderately low heat until the lamb is tender and the sauce is thick and glossy, about 35 minutes; turn the lamb chops once or twice during cooking. Discard the thyme sprigs. Serve the lamb chops at once, garnished with fresh thyme.

This can be made a day ahead of time. Rewarm before serving.

Couscous with Lemon and Golden Raisins

Serves 6

1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
3/4 cup water
1-1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 (10-oz) box couscous (1 1/2 cups)
½ cup golden raisins
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
Zest from 1 lemon
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste

Cook onion in 1 tablespoon oil in a 2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Add water and broth and bring to a boil.

Stir in couscous and raisins, then cover and remove from heat. Let couscous stand, covered, 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork and stir in parsley, lemon zest and lemon juice. Add remaining tablespoon oil, and salt and pepper to taste.

White Sangria

This sangria is full of citrus flavors, white wine, and apple. I use frozen grapes for flavor, color, and to keep it cool (btw, freeze many more than you need, people are going to munch on them before you have time to use them). Use a good wine for all your drinks. In this one I use white wine and one of my favorite, Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc. It’s a works really well with the citrus flavors in this sangria. Having friends over? This sangria will get it started right.

Makes 12 servings

1(750 ml) bottles white wine, preferably Sauvignon Blanc, but you can use what you have (it adds more sparkle but I prefer Moscato)
¾ cups sugar
1 lemon, thinly sliced
lime, thinly sliced
1 red apple, thinly sliced
2 cups lime seltzer
2 cups lemon seltzer
1 cup frozen green grapes (freeze more than you need; they’re great for snacking!)
Lots of ice

Make this in a large glass pitcher because its pretty to see the floating fruit and bubbles. Pour in the wine, sugar, lemons, limes, and apple in the pitcher. Stir and chill it until you are ready to serve it.

Now, Just before serving, add both seltzers and lots of frozen grapes. Gently stir it, add ice, and pour it into glasses. That’s it!

Use your creativity here and substitute the citrus fruit with your own favorite fruits like strawberries and blueberries, or kiwis and pineapple.

Menu before the Tisha B’Av Fast

The final days of the nine days culminate with a difficult fast. I have read and written about the best foods to eat before a fast. I’m not sure if any of it works and everyone has their own special twist or tip for surviving a long summer day with no food or drinks. Personally, I find it tough (although I am embarrassed to complain when all we need to do is fast to commemorate such troubling history of the Jewish people) and I stick to some classic hydrating dishes and flavors that I think help, like cold soup, watermelon, sorbet, honey and lemons. Here is my menu, please share yours.

Greek Yogurt Gazpacho
Cedar Planked Salmon with Dill Sauce
Couscous with Pinenuts
Beet, Avocado, Goat Cheese and Arugula Salad
Watermelon Sorbet

Bringing Home Cooked Meals on Vacation

For the first time in years my boys and girls have the same vacation week so we decided to go away and get out of the cold weather.  We are off to a vacation but for me that means a few days of meal planning because we are going somewhere that does not have kosher food readily available, that’s right I am not going to Florida, Israel or Los Angeles (which are all great trips too).

I also find it difficult traveling to places that do not have lunches or dinners to purchase but I like to enjoy a variety of destinations so I make it work.  And with a little planning it can still be a vacation.  I prepare dinners ahead of time and freeze them and then each morning I take something out to defrost and I can enjoy the day without worrying about what’s for dinner.   I bring 3 kitchen items that help.  First, I bring a Panini maker for sandwich making, pizza warming and bagel toasting.  I use it to melt tortillas with cheese or make grilled cheese sandwiches.  Second I bring a pot for rice and pasta.  If you add a little starch to any meal, everyone is more satiated.  And third, I bring an electric pan.  This is a large pan/pot that plugs into the wall.  It warms anything in about 5 minutes.  I use it to warm chickens with a little sauce, meatballs, Chinese food and just about anything. I bought one from Costco made by WestBend for about $30. It’s a great item to have especially if you are in a hotel without an oven.

A few other tips for traveling with food include:

  • • Speak to friends about what they have done and what worked for them
  • • Make sure that you are traveling to a destination that allows food to be brought in, meaning be careful about bringing prepared foods to other countries, some have strict regulations about what can be brought in.
  • • Freeze food in double aluminum and then wrap two layers of aluminum around the entire tray in case it leaks out the sides.
  • • I put the aluminum trays in a plastic bag before putting them in boxes or suitcases.
  • • Most items will remain frozen through a flight because the cargo area is freezing.

Here are a few recipes I used this year:
Turkey Strips with Mushrooms and Wine
Soda Meatballs
Salmon Croquettes
Beef or Chicken Lo Mein
Potatoes with Sauce and Cheese
Chicken Marsala

Enjoy!

Pecan Caramel Monkey Bread

Serves 12

I saw this recipe in a magazine and adapted it a bit and it came out ooey and gooey and delicious. It’s definitely fun food. I used pareve caramel sauce (it works but not as good as the real deal!) and pizza dough and it came out great.

1 (12 ounces) bottle caramel sauce, I used the no sugar pareve version and it worked
1 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 stick (1/4 pound) unsalted butter or margarine, melted
3 (7.5 ounces) packages refrigerated biscuit dough or pizza dough

Preheat oven to 350°F. Thoroughly grease a 10-inch tube pan.

Spread 1/3 cup caramel in pan. Sprinkle with 1/3 cup pecans. In a shallow dish, mix sugar and nutmeg. Pour butter or margarine into another shallow dish.

Unroll one package biscuit dough. Cut each biscuit into 4 pieces ( alternatively, break off golf ball size pieces of pizza dough and continue) Roll each piece in melted butter and then in sugar mixture. Drop each into pan, covering bottom. Drizzle with 1/3 cup caramel and sprinkle with 1/3 cup pecans. Repeat, layering remaining dough, caramel and nuts, ending with 1/3 cup caramel.

Bake until top is golden brown and a bit crisp, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately turn out onto a large serving plate. There won’t be a piece left!

Minestrone Soup with Leftover Turkey

Serves 8

Take hearty minestrone soup and add leftover turkey or chicken and make it into a meal! The turkey soaks up all the great flavors of the soup. Use any vegetables of your liking in the soup.

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 onion, chopped

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried thyme

3 carrots, peeled and sliced

1 pound mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

¼ pound string beans cut into bite-size pieces

1 green zucchini, cut into thin half circles

5-½ cups beef broth (best to use parve bouillon cubes)

1 potato, peeled and cut into cubes

½ cup uncooked macaroni noodles

½ cup corn or 1 bag frozen mixed vegetables

2 ribs celery, chopped

1 (16-oz) can red kidney beans

1 (16-oz) can chopped tomatoes with juice

2 cups water
2 cups diced leftover turkey or chicken

Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, garlic, basil, thyme and oregano. Add zucchini, carrots, celery, mushrooms, string beans, corn and potato. Cook for 5 minutes. Add water, beef broth and tomatoes with juice. Cook 15 minutes. Boil. Add beans with liquid and pasta. Cook 10 minutes. Add turkey and heat until cooked through.

Brussels Sprouts with Maple Syrup


Serves 8

I saw this in the October Bonappetit magazine. Brussels sprouts are tough to clean so check with your local rabbi on how to kasher them.

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling
2 pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed, halved lengthwise
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted margarine, room temperature
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1-1/2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh chives
1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh sage

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches and adding 2 more tablespoons oil between batches, cook brussels sprouts, cut side down, in a single layer in skillet until deep golden brown, 4–5 minutes. Season brussels sprouts with salt and pepper and toss; cook until tender, 3–4 minutes longer. Transfer to a large bowl.

Remove skillet from heat; add maple syrup, margarine and herbs to pan. Once margarine is melted, add brussels sprouts to skillet and toss to coat. Transfer brussels sprouts mixture to a large serving platter and drizzle lightly with oil.