Lag B’Omer


On Lag B’Omer, we make bonfires to remind us of the light of the Torah and Zohar taught to us by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. It’s a day of outdoor celebration and outdoor feasting. So it seems like the perfect time of year to dust (or scrub) off the barbecue grill and fire up the coals (or in my case, the gas). Here are some great bbq recipes to get your summer started.

Bourbon Rib-Eyes
BBQ Sliced Steak Sliders
Balsamic Glazed Grilled Portobello Mushrooms
Spinach and Grilled Corn Salad

Persian Food from The Non-Persian Bride


This book showed up on my door step at the perfect moment. I was having a hard time motivating myself to get back in the kitchen. I felt all cooked out!! Pesach seemed to have exhausted my creative spirit. But PERSIAN FOOD from THE NON-PERSIAN BRIDE was just what I needed to restart my engine. I needed something completely different and Reyna Simnegar provided it. As her subtitle (AND OTHER KOSHER SEPHARDIC RECIPES YOU WILL LOVE!) suggests, the recipes were not solely Persian. I tried my hand at homemade Chummus, Babaganoush and Matbucha. They were all a big hit, especially the later two. I’m not in general a big fan of Babaganoush but somehow when I roasted the eggplant myself and it was freshly made, the taste was much more vibrant and flavorful. The Matbucha was superb with diced jalapeno adding a nice kick. I also tried the Moroccan-Style Beet Salad; a big favorite with me especially since I love anything with cumin and cilantro. I don’t really eat meatballs but the rest of the gang really enjoyed the Persian Mega Meatballs (I actually caught someone eating them directly out of the refrigerator!) I’ve always wanted to make Persian rice, with the crusty bottom, but I wasn’t feeling quite that ambitious so I skipped the book’s Persian Rice Tutorial and made instead the Oven-Baked Super-Easy Basmati Rice with Dried Cranberries and Saffron. Super-Easy were the magic words and they were accurate. But it wasn’t just easy, it was delicious also (and I was the one that could be caught sneaking bites as it sat on the counter cooling). I can’t wait to make the Matbucha again (maybe it will become a regular at our Shabbos table) and to try some of her other recipes. I’m especially appreciative that this new cookbook got me out of my slump. Try it; it may work for you too!!

Click here to purchase.

Mother’s Day – Special Treats for a Special Lady

Whether it’s a Hallmark creation or not, all mothers like to be pampered. And while the recipes that the kids churn out are bound to be delicious, she might be in the mood for something a little more elegant and sophisticated later in the day (when she returns from the spa!) Here are a few treats that a more enterprising husband (and some older children) can whip up:

Fudge Tartlets
Chili Chocolate-Covered Strawberries
Rich Pound Cake
Chocolate Bread Pudding with Warm Caramel and Chocolate Sauces

Rich Pound Cake

photo:tasteandseefood.com

Just in case your wife isn’t a chocolate fan, try this simple but oh-so-delicious pound cake. Serve with fresh berries and a dollop of whipped cream. This is a dessert that is much better when made dairy but if that is a problem use margarine instead of butter and soy milk or nondairy creamer instead of the regular milk.

1 pound butter, softened
3 cups sugar
6 eggs
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ cup milk
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Beat together butter and sugar until creamy. Beat in eggs until well combined. Combine flour and baking powder and add to mixture alternately with the milk, beginning and end with the dry ingredients. Stir in almond extract and vanilla and pour into greased 10-inch tube pan. Bake for about 1-1/2 hours. Cool in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove from pan and finish cooling on wire rack.

Fudge Tartlets

photo: minibitescookies.com

½ cup margarine, softened
3 ounces tofutti cream cheese
1 cup flour
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons margarine
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

Frosting:
¼ cup margarine, softened
¼ cup cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons nondairy creamer or soy milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat together margarine and tofutti cream cheese. On low speed add flour until completely combined. Form dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for about 1 hour. Shape dough into 24 balls and press each ball along the bottom and up the sides of ungreased muffin cups.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Melt together chocolate chips and margarine and stir until smooth. Stir in sugar, egg and vanilla. Mix well. Spoon 1-1/2 to 2 teaspoons filling into each pastry-lined muffin cup. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes – filling with puff up but will settle down again upon cooling. Cool in pans for 5 minutes; carefully remove to wire rack to finish cooling.

When tarts are cool, make frosting. Beat together all frosting ingredients until smooth. Pipe or spoon frosting onto tartlets. Mom will be so impressed!

The Kids Make Mother’s Day Brunch

It seems like a cliché, the children making mom breakfast for Mother’s Day. But it doesn’t seem to matter because (most) mothers appreciate the effort and (most) children want to give it a try. If you suspect that your family has a secret brunch in mind, you might want to give them a nudge in the direction of this website so that they can try these simple, elegant recipes. Nudge dad also. Depending on the age of your kids, some of these recipes require his help. And, just in case he doesn’t realize it on his own, we’d like to add our own message to dad and the kids: Mom will really appreciate it if you don’t forget to clean up the kitchen after you make breakfast!!

Ice Blended Coffee Malted
Mother’s Day Goat Cheese and Spinach Omelette
Baked French Toast
Ambrosia
Chocolate Pistachio Bread

Ambrosia

2 (8 ounce) containers Rich’s whip
2 pints strawberries, sliced or 1 (10 ounce) package frozen strawberries, defrosted
1 (19 ounce) can pineapple tidbits, drained
2 (4 ounce) cans mandarin oranges, drained
½ cup coconut, toasted

Beat whip until stiff peaks form. Mix with fruit and refrigerate until ready to serve. Spoon into martini or champagne glasses. Sprinkle with toasted coconut.

Variation: Feel free to add other fruit if you desire. Some people add maraschino cherries or grapes. Some even add miniature marshmallows (Yes, I know, those don’t count as a fruit!)

Mother’s Day Goat Cheese and Spinach Omelette

2 big handfuls baby spinach
2 tablespoons butter
8 pieces sun-dried tomato packed in oil, drained and finely chopped (alternatively, use ¼ cup sliced shitake mushrooms)
2 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fresh basil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 large eggs
2 ounces goat cheese (1/2 a small log), cut into thin slices (or use Alouette or Boursin cheese)
Wash and dry the spinach then chop it coarsely.
Heat the butter in a large nonstick ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Stir in the sun-dried tomato and scallion and cook, stirring, until the scallion is wilted, about 2 minutes. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Stir in the spinach and cook until wilted and all liquid is evaporated, about 4 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, beat the eggs with salt and pepper to taste.
Lower the heat to medium. Pour in the eggs and let them sit a few seconds until they start to set around the edges. Using a plastic spatula push a piece of the set edge gently toward the center. Tilt the pan and let some of the unset egg from the top fill the little gap you just made. Keep going around the edge of the pan like this, until there is no more unset egg on top.
Scatter the goat cheese slices over the top of the omelet. Sprinkle the sliced basil over the goat cheese. Put the skillet under the broiler and leave the oven door open, cook just until the top of the omelet is set and puffed, about 2 minutes.

Chocolate Pistachio Bread

photo: chocolatjuice.com

2/3 cup sugar
½ cup margarine, melted
¾ cup soy milk or regular milk if you want it to be dairy
1 egg
1-1/2 cups flour
1 cup chopped pistachios
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup cocoa
2 teaspoons baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat together sugar, margarine, milk and egg. On low speed, beat in remaining ingredients. Pour into greased 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes. Cool 10 minutes in pan, then remove onto wire rack to finish cooling.

Ice Blended Coffee Malted

Adapted from original recipe by the Hungry Girl

2 teaspoons malted milk powder (find it with the cocoa powder at the market)
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules or instant espresso granules
1 – 3 no-calorie sweetener packets (like Splenda or Truvia) or 3 tablespoons sugar (or more to taste)
1/4 cup light vanilla soymilk
1 tablespoon half and half or whole milk
5 – 8 ice cubes or 1 cup crushed ice
Whipped cream for the top

Put all dry ingredients in a tall glass. Add 2 oz. (1/4 cup) hot water, and stir until ingredients have completely dissolved. Add 5 oz. cold water.

Add soymilk, half and half, and ice, and stir well. Top with real whipped cream and a straw.

MAKES 1 SERVING

Schlissel Challah

Here’s how I know that the Almighty has a sense of humor. On the Shabbos after Passover, just when you think you may never want to see the inside of a kitchen again, there is a particular custom to bake schlissel challah. For those whose Yiddish is a little rusty, schlissel means key – and baking a key inside the challah is meant to be a propitious sign for livelihood. That’s the humor. We all want a decent livelihood so how can we ignore this opportunity? Here’s one of our favorite challah recipes to make your forced return to the kitchen especially delicious. If this doesn’t open up the gates of income, I don’t know what will!


Perfect Challah with Sweet Crumble Topping
This is the most delicious challah ever – promise. The only “complaint” expressed is about starting the meal with dessert!

4 teaspoons active dry yeast
4 cups warm water
2 cups sugar
2 cups oil
8 eggs
2 tablespoons salt
12-14 cups bread flour (hi-gluten flour)

In a large bowl pour water over yeast. As it is proofing (bubbling), add sugar. After yeast has tripled in size and is no longer bubbling (about 5 to 10 minutes), add oil, eggs and salt. Whisk everything together. Then begin stirring in flour, 3-4 cups at a time. Continue until it is no longer possible to stir in anymore. Take dough out of the bowl and on a clean work surface, knead dough until it is elastic, about 5 minutes. If it is sticky, add more flour. Sprinkle oil around bowl and roll dough in oil to keep it moist. Cover with a damp towel and let it rise for 2 hours in a warm place. Punch dough down, braid and place in greased pans. Cover again and let braided challahs rise for another hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle loaves with streusel topping. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes.

Optional Streusel Topping:
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
½ cup margarine, cut into pieces (alternatively, you can use ½ canola oil)

Mix sugar, flour, and margarine with fork or in food processor to form a crumble. Sprinkle on top of challah before baking. (I usually double it and just keep remainder in the freezer to use week after week)

Purim is Here

Purim is here…what are you making? What are you sending? And what are you drinking? Share your favorite Purim recipe for the Favorite Purim recipe contest for a chance to win a cookbook

It’s funny though that just as soon as we bring in and send out all this candy, we cannot wait to use it up and get it out to get ready for Passover. So In addition to all these great Purim ideas, GKC has got the answers to what to do with leftover candy in 2011. Last year we suggested:
Candy Bar Blondies
Tootsie Roll Cheesecake
Hershey Bar Banana Treat
Potato Chip Baked Chicken

This year we’ve added a few more suggestions Leftover Candy Cupcakes and Leftover Candy Chocolate Bark. (Remember the local schools love wrapped, marked candy donations to use as treats for the kids – check with your local school. In New York, JEP (the Jewish Enrichment Program) collects the wrapped, marked candy at many of the schools in the tri-state area to use for their kiruv programs. If you do not have a collection at your school you can mail it to them at JEP 110 Rockaway Turnpike, Lawrence, NY 11559.)

Leftover Candy Chocolate Bark

1 pound bittersweet chocolate chips
3 (2.1-ounce) Butterfinger candy bars cut into irregular 1-inch pieces, or other candy bar of choice
3 (1.4-ounce) heath toffee candy bars, cut into irregular ½ inch pieces or other candy of choice
8 (.55 ounce) peanut butter cups, each cut into 8 wedges, or other candy bar of choice
¼ cup honey-roasted peanuts
3 ounces high quality white chocolate, chopped
Reese’s Pieces and/or M & M’s

Line baking sheet with foil. Stir chocolate chips in heavy medium saucepan over low heat until melted and warm (not hot) to touch. Pour chocolate onto foil, spread to ¼ inch thickness (about 12 x 10 inch rectangle). Sprinkle with Butterfinger candy, toffee, peanut butter cups, and nuts, making sure all pieces touch melted chocolate to adhere (or use whatever candy you have leftover).

Put white chocolate in heavy small saucepan. Stir constantly over very low heat until chocolate is melted and warm (not hot) to touch. Remove from heat. Dip spoon into chocolate, wave from side to side over bark, creating zigzag lines. Scatter Reese’s Pieces and M&M’s over, making sure candy touches melted chocolate.

Chill bark until firm, 30 minutes. Slide foil with candy onto work surface. Peel off foil and cut bark into irregular pieces.

Homemade Purim Gifts

Homemade Purim gifts are not only made by adults but also with kids. GKC loves cooking with kids so we tested these ideas on our own children. They each got rave reviews and looked super elegant and sophisticated when wrapped in clear cello bags and tied with big ribbons (my kids like to do that part too). We think your friends will never believe that these gourmet mishloach manot gifts were made by your kids. Try them all.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars
Crunchy Nutty Caramel Popcorn
Easy Chocolate Marshmallow Fudge

Crunchy Nutty Caramel Popcorn


3 quarts freshly popped popcorn
1 cup cashews (or other nut of choice), unsalted and roasted
1 cup salted and roasted macadamia nuts
1 cup whole almonds or pecans
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
½ cup light corn syrup
½ cup margarine
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Spray a large roasting pan with non-stick cooking spray. Combine the popped corn and nuts in the pan, mixing well. Place in the heating oven while preparing the glaze.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the brown sugar, corn syrup, margarine, orange zest and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until l the sugar dissolves. Boil for 4 minutes without stirring. Remove from the heat and mix in the vanilla and baking soda. Gradually pour the glaze over the popped corn mixture, stirring to coat well.

Bake until dry, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven. Using a metal spatula, free the popcorn from the bottom of the pan. Let cool completely in the pan.

Break into clumps. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Easy Chocolate Marshmallow Fudge

Although it is not common to send a Purim gift that is dairy, this fudge is just too good not to post. If it’s PC in your community to send dairy items, try it and wrap each piece individually in tissue with decorative ribbons on both ends. If dairy Shaloch Manot are not for you, save this one to your recipe box and make it for Shavuos.

Makes 8 dozen pieces

12 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 cups toasted walnut, pecan, macadamia, or other nuts, chopped, optional
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
20 large marshmallows
4 cups sugar
2 (5-ounce) cans evaporated milk

Combine the chocolate pieces, nuts (if using), butter, and vanilla in a large heatproof bowl. Set aside.

Place the marshmallows, sugar, and evaporated milk in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil. Continuing to stir, boil for exactly 6 minutes.

Remove from the heat and immediately pour the marshmallow mixture into the chocolate mixture; beat constantly until creamy. Quickly pour into the prepared pan or platter, pushing slightly with the back of a wooden spoon to spread the fudge evenly.

Cool for at least 1 hour before cutting into pieces. Serve at room temperature.

More Homemade Mishloach Manot Ideas

As promised, more homemade mishloach manot ideas. Tell us what you have come up with. As you know we love to post reader-submitted recipes and our readers love to try them. What is your favorite homemade gift item? Submit it here.

Potato Chip Chocolate Toffee
Sweet, Savory and a Little Spicy Chutney
Mixed Nut Brittle
Orange Ricotta Pound Cake
Peanut Butter and Chocolate Pretzel Pops
Mini Cinnamon Buns
Infused Vodkas

Potato Chip Chocolate Toffee

2 sticks unsalted margarine
5 cups thick cut potato chips
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar or white vinegar
5 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Set 1 cup potato chips aside. Break the remaining chips in half if they are large.

Combine the margarine, sugar, vanilla extract and vinegar in a saucepan over medium high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is light amber and a candy thermometer registers 320 degrees, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the 4 cups chips, then immediately pour onto the baking sheet and spread in a thin layer. Gently press the reserved 1 cup chips on tops of the toffee and let cool.

Put about ¾ of the chocolate in a microwave safe glass bowl and microwave 30 seconds. Stir, then continue to microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring between each, until melted. Add the remaining chocolate and stir until smooth, about 4 minutes. Drizzle the chocolate over the toffee. Set aside to harden, about 20 minutes. Break the toffee into pieces.

Mixed Nut Brittle

2 cups sugar
¼ cup water
¼ cup unsalted margarine
¼ cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 cup pine nuts
1 cup sliced almonds

Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and coat with nonstick spray.

Mix sugar and corn syrup in large heavy saucepan. Add margarine and corn syrup. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves and margarine melts. Attach a candy thermometer to pan side. Increase heat, and cook without stirring until mixture is deep golden brown, bubbling thickly and thermometer registers 350 degrees, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat. Remove thermometer. Using large wooden spoon, stir in salt and then all nuts.

Turn mixture out onto the prepared sheet. Using large offset spatula, spread to ¼ inch thickness. Cool completely. Break into pieces of desired size. Can be made 2 weeks ahead and store in airtight container at room temperature.

Sweet, Savory and a Little Spicy Fruit Chutney


Use on roasted turkey, lamb, chicken or even as a dip on your favorite chip. Divine!

3 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 shallot, chopped
1 pinch chili flake
1 Serrano pepper, chopped (or jalapeno pepper for a milder version)
3 pears, peeled and diced
4 apples, peeled and diced
1 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup white wine
2 bay leaves
1-3/4 cups Dijon mustard
Salt

In a large heavy bottomed pot, over high heat, add the sugar, water and juice of half a lemon and cook until a medium-dark caramel is achieved, about 8 minutes. Add shallots and the chilies to the caramel. Immediately add all of the fruit, wine, and bay leaf. Cook gently until the fruits are tender and remove from heat. Add the Dijon when the fruits have just been removed from the heat, taste for salt. Let cool to room temperature. Store refrigerated in a covered container or in individual canning jars.

Homemade Gourmet Mishloach Manot Ideas

Each year, we rack our brains trying to think of the most creative, delicious and cost-effective ways to send mishloach manos to friends and family members. Purim baskets have become more than just a way to fulfill the mitzvah of mishloach manos; they are a way to connect with the people we love, show our creative sides and bring smiles to the neighborhood. But for many of us, the sheer amount of mishloach manot we need to prepare makes this a rather exhausting task, and one that we would much rather outsource somehow, even at great expense. These homemade mishloach manot ideas will not only help you save money as you cook your own food, but they will turn the “work” into a fun experience for the whole family. Each year GKC reviews and tests numerous recipes to find the ones that we think make great gourmet gifts. Try these out and stay tuned for more ideas next week.

Orange Ricotta Pound Cake
Peanut Butter and Chocolate Pretzel Pops
Mini Cinnamon Buns
Infused Vodkas

Peanut Butter Pretzel Balls


½ cup creamy peanut butter
¼ cup plus1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon margarine, room temperature
1 cup crushed pretzels
2 cups chocolate chips

Stir together the peanut butter and confectioners’ sugar. Add margarine and stir in the crushed pretzels. Form into 1 inch balls. Freeze for 30 minutes. Melt chocolate in pot or in a double boiler over a very low flame, stirring often or alternatively, in the microwave cook it in 30-second intervals and stir after each interval.

Dip the balls in the melted chocolate and refrigerate until set.

Ricotta Orange Pound Cake

Adapted from original recipe by Giada De Laurentis
1-1/2 cups cake flour
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) butter, room temperature, plus more to grease the baking pan
1-1/2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
1-1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 orange, zested
2 tablespoons Amaretto
Powdered sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 by 5 by 3-inch loaf pan with butter. In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir to combine.

Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter, ricotta, and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. With the machine running, add the eggs 1 at a time. Add the vanilla, orange zest, and Amaretto until combined. Add the dry ingredients, a small amount at a time, until just incorporated. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick comes out clean and the cake is beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 45 to 50 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Using a mesh sieve, dust the cooled cake with powdered sugar.

Optional: Include a card that says Serving Suggestions

1. Eat in the morning, afternoon, evening or all of the above
2. Definitely enjoy with coffee or tea.
3. Extra delicious with strawberries. Instructions: Remove stems, wash and quarter 1 pint strawberries
Place the strawberries in a small bowl with 1 tablespoon sugar. Let sit until the juices have pooled around the strawberries.
To serve, slice the cake and serve with a spoonful of strawberries and their juices over the top of the cake.