Ingredient Spotlight

 

Create a Hot Dog Toppings Bar

 

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As we are approaching Lag Baomer, many of us are stocking up on hamburgers, hotdogs, chicken wings, and buns. We are getting countless invitations to BBQs and parties. This year, as I was finalizing my Lag Baomer plans, I started to think about why BBQs and bonfires seem to symbolize this beautiful holiday.

Lag Baomer, literally the 33rd of the counting of the omer, is a day of tremendous celebration. We mourn during Sefirat Haomer (the days between Passover and Shavuot), because of the plague that claimed the lives of 12,000 pairs of students of Rabbi Akiva. We celebrate because on Lag Baomer, the plague finally ended! So why the bonfires and BBQs? After the plague ended, Rabbi Akiva was able to rebuild, this time with only 5 students, among them the great Torah scholar Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, who also passed away during this time, revealed many secrets of the Torah through his study of Kaballah. He brought enormous light into the world through his studies and teaching. Because he passed away on Lag Baomer, the custom of lighting fires and cooking over an open flame symbolizes the powerful light of the Torah.


 

Cooking Brisket – Low and Slow

 

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Brisket is still trending! Something so traditional that can reinvent itself each year, has to be the trendiest cut around. There is always a new brisket recipe being circulated, in fact, I don’t think any cut of meat has been so well utilized as much as brisket. Whether pickled, boiled, steamed, roasted, barbequed or baked, the versatility of brisket cannot be beaten. Now that’s trendy!


 

The Secret Is In the Marmite

 

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People have a love-it or hate-it relationship with Marmite, never have I met someone who sits on the fence when it comes to this ingredient.  Sold as a spread to put on your toast, Marmite is incredibly popular in the UK, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, although Australian’s are more partial to the vegetable based cousin, Vegemite.

Marmite is a yeast-extract spread, rich in vitamin B12, delicious (if you ask me!) on hot toast with melted butter.  I grew up in the UK – marmite was my peanut butter & jelly sandwich growing up!  If putting this tar-like paste on your morning bagel doesn’t appeal, please don’t walk by it sitting on the shelf next time you’re in the store – when added to soups or chilli dishes, Marmite makes a wonderful, rich and delightful stock.


 

The Jew and the Lotus Root

 

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I have long been intrigued by the lotus root.  This odd looking root vegetable, when sliced, shows off a beautiful pattern that is a gorgeous garnish.  I’ve seen it in soups and stir fry dishes and wanted to try it at home.  I recently read about Baked Lotus Root Chips.  I am a huge fan of all sorts of vegetables chips, check out my article from last year when I made carrot, zucchini, kale and butternut squash into tasty snackable treats.  Now it’s time to try the lotus root.

When sliced and baked or fried, it is not only beautiful, but one of the tastiest crunchy snacks I have had in a long time — even without any seasoning.


 

I Say Scallions, You Say Green Onions, Let’s...

 

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Scallions, or green onions, are the most fun, versatile vegetable. You can sear the whole thing on a grill as a succulent, pungent vegetable side dish. You can slice them to put on top of salads raw, or throw into in omelet for some gorgeous bright green color and flavor. You can use the green tip as a string to wrap other vegetables with, as a cute appetizer, much like how chives are used. You can sauté them as you would onions, for a slightly milder taste in a base for soups. They are found most in Asian-style dishes and curries.

Along with their relative shallots, scallions can be traced back to the Greek askolonions, which are believed to originate from the town of Ashkelon, in modern-day Israel. Scallions have a small, underdeveloped white bulb at the base, where the mild onion flavor is most concentrated, and a long green stalk that can be used as a replacement for the [more expensive and less long-lasting] chive. They can last for a week in the crisper drawer of your fridge, or if you are neglectful with your produce like I am, you can simply peel off the outer layer if it starts to yellow or wilt.