Gourmet & Kosher

 

Winter Squash Recipes

 

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As the last decorations come down from the Succah –gourds and all – and we prepare to dive into our year’s activities, I can’t help but wonder and ponder…what on earth do we do with these gourds anyway? Not to say that their place as a Succah decoration is an unjust existence, but c’mon…what does one actually do with them? Quite a lot, it seems, or at least so I discovered after doing some research (we love Google!). With over 700 known species, the gourd seems to have infinite craft and artistic possibilities and has been used by people throughout the world for musical instruments, pipes, masks, canteens, water jugs, dippers, birdhouses, bath sponges and as decorative pieces with intricate etched designs. So important were gourds to Haitian people in the early 1800s that gourds were temporarily made the national currency. But this is a cooking article, so I am clearly more interested in the edible possibilities. Some of the most delicious members of the gourd family include squash, pumpkin, cucumber and melons.

With the return of cooler weather, winter squash is back…and may just be the perfect warming ingredient, bound to qualify any dish as “comfort food” with all its sweet, orange creaminess. Though Butternut and Acorn squash happen to be the most common and known supermarket varieties of winter squash available, there are many other terrific kinds worth trying – Sweet Dumpling, Banana, Kabocha and Buttercup varieties, just to name a few. Each type has its own special flavor and texture. Using a new variety or a combination of a few may add a new flavor or dimension to your next squash dish.


 

Simchat Torah Dessert – Apple Blackberry...

 

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Ahhh, Simchat Torah ~ a joyous time to celebrate the end and the beginning. Simchat Torah caps the holiday-packed month of Tishri — the month is filled with days of awe, atonement and newness. The holiday overflows with celebration and happiness as Jews all over the world begin to read anew the Torah.

Simchas Torah literally means “rejoicing of the Torah.” This is not a holiday to celebrate on your own and joy is evident when you celebrate with your temple! Our new year begins and the Torah reading cycle winds down with splendor and intensity. The celebrations in shul are a highlighted by dancing, singing and parading around with Torahs held proudly aloft. Children and adults alike wave the Israeli flag and shout out a hearty “Chag Sameach” and “Git Yomtov”.


 

Autumn Sweet Potato Soup

 

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I’m so happy to have an opportunity to guest post on Joy of Kosher. I met Tamar in New York a few months ago. We had a fun lunch together at a dairy kosher restaurant in Manhattan. When we discussed writing a guest post for Sukkot, my mind began spinning with all of the wonderful dishes I could share. Autumn is my favorite season, and seasonal autumn produce plays a major role in my Sukkot menu. Harvest foods take center stage. That’s why my Autumn Sweet Potato Soup is so perfect for Sukkot. Root vegetables, squash, warm spices, a touch of cayenne—delicious!

This soup’s broth has roots in an African food tradition. Peanut butter is stirred in at the end of cooking, thickening the soup and giving it a delicious flavor. While it might sound a bit strange, trust me on this one. The peanut butter enhances all the other spices, giving this soup layers and layers of delicious flavor. Your guests will never guess the secret ingredient. It’s a substantial soup, perfect for a chilly autumn evening in the sukkah. It’s also super easy to prepare, and can be served as a chunky soup or as a puree.


 

613 Things To Do With Pomegranates (well, almost...

 

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What a response I got when I decided to write about pomegranates!  It seems that everyone has some bit of trivia to share about this funny little fruit!  For instance, in Jewish as well as Chinese lore, the pomegranate (also known as the Chinese Apple) symbolizes fertility.

The pomegranate differs from the fruits we’re most familiar with.  We don’t eat its outside as it doesn’t have edible flesh; we only eat its seeds…and there are 613 of those!  If you’ve got some free time on your hands and don’t mind them being stained red, you can count them for yourself!  Years ago my kids and I tried to count them just to check and that was no easy task! The number 613 might sound familiar since there are as many commandments in the Torah.  In addition to the equal number of mitzvot, there are other pomegranate-to-religion relationships….  Pomegranates once adorned the hem of Aaron’s robes and consequently are often found on the crowns of modern day Torahs.   Pomegranates are said to have been in the Garden of Eden way back when, and are definitely all over Israel now.


 

What To Do When You Have Too Many Tomatoes

 

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My father-in-law and I once had an argument about ketchup. It was August, years ago, and my garden was overflowing with tomatoes. After eating a few too many tomato sandwiches, I needed to do something with the rest of the harvest, so I made ketchup.


 

Peachy Cool No Bake Desserts

 

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When your grill outside is fired up and you’re trying to keep your indoor kitchen heat down, who wants to turn on the oven to make dessert? Many folks opt to grill their dessert too, throwing pineapple, bananas and even watermelon on the fire to create a sweet ending to a summer meal.

Another option in the same no-bake spirit is to create refreshing frozen desserts, a great way to cool down after a hot meal on a hot day. While the frozen aisle at the supermarket offers an array of ready-made frozen treats and popsicles, here are a couple of easy ways for you to create luscious and innovative summer sweets using no more than your stove, food processor and freezer while incorporating the season’s crop of fresh, succulent peaches. These desserts are worth the extra effort, especially when they can be made in advance and can serve a crowd.


 

The Perfect Pistachio

 

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To me, the pistachio is a hard nut to top. It’s salty, sweet, and extremely healthy (in moderation, of course). I have fond memories of sitting at my Savtah’s kitchen table in Seattle, where I grew up, snacking on a big bowl of pistachios. My mom would tell me to stop eating them because I would finish the entire bowl, leaving a pile of salty shells in my wake. As much as I enjoy them, I always thought the pistachio was an unhealthy snack, but it turns out I couldn’t have been more wrong!

In addition to their taste, all of the health benefits make the pistachio nut an even more appealing ingredient. So why not take this super food to the next level with a menu of all new recipes that feature the wonderful flavor of pistachios! That’s what is so great about being a cook in your own kitchen. You can try new things, bring back old memories while creating new ones, and have a great time in the process.


 

Just Peachy! – 3 Peach Recipes

 

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It’s summertime and gorgeous fruit is plentiful. Bright colors and a garden of aromatic scents fill markets and farm stands. It is easy to go crazy and over purchase when the produce looks so good.

A recent trip to a local farmer’s market found me carrying home more peaches than I could ever eat, even with help from my husband. I couldn’t help it. They looked so good. Plump, rosy cheeked peaches are a weakness of mine.


 

Beat The Heat: Italian Style with Salads

 

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Nothing in the kitchen spells summer and vacation for me the way cold rice and pasta dishes do. When I was growing up in Italy, people were still wary of air conditioners, suspecting that they caused all kinds of ailments, from eczema to pneumonia. In the absence of a serious cooling system, we resorted to a variety of tricks to manage the heat, including an endless variety of dishes to be enjoyed cold.

Among them, rice and pasta salads were probably the most popular – because, with the addition of vegetables and some type of protein, they could easily be made into a one-course meal, packed into the trunk of our Vespas and taken to the beach. Because they keep well in the refrigerator for days.  Because these dishes are also traditional survival staples for working husbands left behind in the sweltering city when their wives and kids are away on vacation.  Try my Vegetarian Rice Salad pictured above.


 

Eggplant Recipes

 

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Eggplant, Aubergine or Guinea Squash is a FRUIT, not a vegetable, and is a member of the Nightshade Family. Once thought to be extremely dangerous to eat, and native to India, eggplant are commonly cultivated all over the world. The eggplant comes in a variety of sizes and colors. The name eggplant is used in the United States, rather than the more common aubergine, is probably due to some varieties of eggplants that are small, goose-egged shape and pale yellow or white.

Raw eggplant can have a bitter taste, but when cooked becomes complex with a mildly smoky flavor. The process of degorging is essential to produce a crispy and not greasy final result.


 

Summer’s Bounty: Home Grown Herbs

 

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Fresh from my garden pickings, and the easy spirit of summertime, my cooking at this time of year is inspired! As much as I can, I bring tastes of the outdoors into my recipes. When the weather is on my side, I like to spend my time outdoors as much as possible–whether I’m barbecuing, relaxing on the patio with friends and family, or dining al fresco in the garden of a favorite restaurant. If it’s me that’s doing the cooking, I choose my summer menus thinking of the great outdoors. I like my foods to reflect the laid-back attitude, and generous supply of fresh grown ingredients of the season.

I’ve used fresh herbs and spices for years in my professional cooking, but it wasn’t until Father’s Day a few years back, that I was introduced to growing my own. On our back porch was potting soil, planters, and starter plants of basil, dill, rosemary, bay leaf, and sage. Since then, I’ve added to the variety and work on them every morning; watering and weeding. I clip them for use in my home and at my restaurant, Abigael’s.


 

Sizzling Summer Snacks

 

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Having a pool means you need food all the time. Because you can’t just invite people over for a swim.

We have a pool at our “new” house, which we bought 11 years ago. The house came with it, it wasn’t something we necessarily wanted, and I never go in because, as I like to say, I am an indoor girl, like Jack called Rose in the movie Titanic.


 

Grilled Desserts

 

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With the 4th of July right around the corner it is time to fire up the barbeque. The perfect excuse to throw some burgers on the grill and sit back with a nice cold drink and the company of good friends. While there are many types of desserts that compliment a barbequed meal perfectly, I think it is fun to take advantage of the hot grill and make a grilled dessert that highlights all that is wonderful about the ritual of the summer barbeque.

Grilled S'mores Sandwich


 

The 411 on Mushrooms

 

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People are often amazed to learn facts and trivia about some of the foods we use every day. Would you be surprised to learn that an olive is actually a fruit; a caper is no more than a flower bud; and soybeans could be used to make crayons?

Beyond those tidbits of data, I’m most amazed about mushrooms! For instance, the mushroom plant isn’t grown from seeds. New mushroom plants start from spores. And they don’t grow leaves, roots or flowers like other vegetation we’re more familiar with. What’s just as fascinating is how the mushrooms nourish themselves. Unlike green plants that make their own food (remember back to photosynthesis), mushrooms take their food from living and decaying plant material in the soil.


 

Four Flavorful Fig Recipes

 

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One of my favorite fruits is just coming into season in the United States and Israel. Figs are one of the earliest cultivated plants with fossils found dating back to Neolithic times. Cultivation of figs predates barley, wheat and legumes. High in calcium, flavenoids and fiber, figs are not only super good for you but are also versatile and can be eaten fresh or dried.

Figs are grown throughout the Mediterranean, Mexico, South America and South Africa with Turkey leading the world’s fig production.