Gourmet & Kosher

 

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.


 

Strawberry Fields Forever: Summer Strawberry...

 

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You know that summer is almost here when the produce section starts stocking better looking berries, and it’s always a thrill for me to welcome the long strawberry season.  Flavorful, versatile and nutritious, strawberries are one of the most well-liked fruits in the United States and perhaps the most popular of all the berries.  In addition to their sweet juicy flavor and gorgeous crimson color, strawberries are packed with fiber and potassium and have the most Vitamin C of any berry, all at only 25 calories per half cup.

Strawberries have been known since the time of the Greeks and Romans, and cultivation of strawberries began around 1624.  Commercial growing in North America began about 1800 on the east coast of the United States.  Strawberries moved west with the pioneers and now there are more than seventy varieties of strawberries, many of which are grown in California and Florida.  Nowadays the fruit is usually available year round, but peak season is from April to July, when strawberries are welcomingly inexpensive.


 

The Bounty of Breads

 

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After a recent slew of busy days, I knew that Passover was surely over. On my busiest of days, three out of four meals were sandwiches on the go, and I realized what an integral and wondrous component bread can be… and I don’t even mean the wonder of the challah!

Bread is served at every meal. With a glass of orange juice and newspaper in hand, we crunch into toast at breakfast. Lunch on the go is a quick sandwich, and there are endless possibilities for bread at dinnertime. Even if you’re just serving soup and salad – bread is there. As a complement to any meal, choosing the right bread is where the fun begins.