Easy Fried Sweets For Chanukah

 

December 18th 2014

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Ah, Hanukkah! It’s all about the fried, right?

Well, of course it’s about much more meaningful events, but when it comes to the food part, it’s all about the fried, to commemorate the oil found by the victorious Maccabees when they went to rededicate the Temple.

Fried is one of our family’s favorite foods. Chicken, latkes, onion rings, you name it, we like it fried. Messy, labor-intensive, not-your-healthiest, makes-your-kitchen-smell-awful fried.

Of course we don’t have it very often, but on Hanukkah fried food is a must, and it makes our already joyous and festive freedom celebration that much more indulgent and enjoyable.

I make latkes, naturally. It wouldn’t be Hanukkah without those.

I make doughnuts too, but not the big ones. We prefer small doughnut “holes,” made with choux pastry, the kind you use to make cream puffs, gougeres and profiteroles, only instead of baking the dough as I do for those pastries, I fry it in small blobs. These Lemony Choux Doughnuts   go down easy, take minutes to make and don’t require waiting for yeast dough to rise or rolling out dough or anything involved like that.

We like plain doughnut holes. I add a hint of refreshing lemon peel to the dough and a coating of cinnamon-sugar or confectioners sugar on the crust. But you can add raisins, cranberries, chopped nuts and such to the dough if you wish.

This year I am adding another fried dessert to our menu – my mother’s Kichels. I haven’t made them in years. It’s time. They’ll give us yet another reason to remember Nana and her special ways and her special treats. And her recipe is very easy.

The big trick for fabulous Kichels is rolling the dough as thin as possible. It takes some time and patience, but the result — crispy, puffy, delightfully light cookies with just a sprinkle of sifted confectioners sugar – is so worth it.

Here’s a hint for all Hanukkah fry-chefs: make a homemade pot of potpourri and keep it going on the lowest flame. I crack 2-3 cinnamon sticks, add the peel of one orange, some whole cloves, allspice berries and cardamom pods, cover them with water, heat it up and keep it at a simmer for hours. That’s all there is to it. It not only gets rid of the fried smell, it adds a lovely, fragrant winter holiday fragrance to your house. You can keep adding water; potpourri will last for about a week.


 

Cooking With Joy: Salt and Pepper Chicken

 

December 18th 2014

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You may recognize this picture; it is after all on the cover of the cookbook! Aside from it looking pretty, I think it also says a lot about the recipes in the book. Jamie is giving delicious recipes for families to be able to prepare quickly (for the most part). This recipe is the epitome of that. The prep took minutes and the results were beyond words delicious!

Crispy Salt and Pepper Chicken with Caramelized Fennel and Shallots page 179
DRESS IT DOWN Salt and Pepper Chicken Wings 

After cleaning the chicken, I put it in a bag with flour, shook it around a little and placed the pieces of chicken and vegetables in a baking dish. I’m not gonna lie, Hubs and I were a little worried that this dish was not going to taste very good. How good could it possibly be with just flour, salt and pepper?

Since I skipped browning the chicken in the pan, after it was done cooking I broiled it for 5 minutes just to give it some color on top. The chicken came out AMAZING!!!!!!!! The caramelized fennel, shallot and garlic were divine! Our 6 year old finished his pulky and then helped himself to more chicken off of Hubs plate. He said “Mommy please make this again and again!” Score!!!! There is nothing that makes me happier then knowing that the food I cooked is enjoyed by my family. My personal favorite thing was the caramelized fennel covered in the juice from the chicken. Did I mention how juicy the chicken was? The chicken was moist beyond belief. I guess the trick is to coat it in flour to seal in the moisture. I will definitely be making this dish again!!


 

Classic Sufganiyot (Doughnut) Recipes to Make at...

 

December 17th 2014

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Baked or fried and glazed or filled, doughnuts are a Chanukah tradition and a favorite of probably everybody!  It’s easy to pick up doughnuts from your local kosher market, or at Winn-Dixie if you’re lucky enough to live by one! Or you can try your hand at frying or baking your own at home, leaving you with the freedom to adjust them to your taste.

 

Chanukah Donuts

You can’t go wrong with Sufganiyot, especially the classic jelly doughnut.  You can mix things up by filling the doughnuts with different jams that you find at your local supermarket and Winn Dixie, or make Whole Wheat Sufganiyot.  You can also try baking your doughnuts, I can’t admit to having tried this, but save some calories with Baked Jelly Doughnuts and Baked Mini Doughnuts.

 

Peanut Chew Doughnut

If you’re looking for even more of a treat, try Baked Molasses Doughnuts with Peanut Chews Filling or Pumpkin Doughnuts with Cinnamon Maple Glaze.  Both take the treat factor to the next level, but can be made without a trip to the gourmet shop.

 

 

zeppole

For a fancy presentation, any of these doughnuts are a choice pick.  The Pistachio Apple Cake Doughnuts with a Cherry Jus, Zeppoles and Beignets make for elegant small bites for dessert, while the Cinnamon Sugar Churros and Sugar Sugar Doughnuts are a fun and refined treat for adults and kids alike.

 

Check out more doughnut recipes here!

This article is sponsored by Winn-Dixie, all opinions are my own.


 

Decorating Donuts

 

December 17th 2014

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No time to make homemade doughnuts but want to make a home run party??

Luckily, there are lots of ways to dress up store bought doughnuts.

Sushi Doughnuts - click for full instructions.
Try serving on a wooden sushi plate or in take-out sushi containers for extra Chanukah cheer!

Stenciled Doughnuts
Easily turn a run-of-the-mill, store-bought doughnut into a work of art!
All you need are glazed doughnuts, designed/lettered or Chanukah-themed stencils and colored powdered sugar*.
Place stencil flatly on doughnut and ever so gently sift colored powder over design.

Doughnut Hole Kebobs
The often overlooked doughnut hole receives an overdue upgrade with doughnut kebobs!
Simply add 5 doughnut holes to a skewer and gently sift colored powdered sugar* over doughnuts.
Traditionalists are welcome to substitute with cinnamon or cocoa powder.

Serve along with chocolate syrup, dulche de leche or fruit jam for dipping!

Ice Cream Sandwich Doughnut
Slice a doughnut in half and add a scoop of Klein’s ice cream for an original, memorable Chanukah treat. Klein’s ice cream is available in pareve and dairy in a variety of flavors. We used Klein’s vanilla frozen yogurt; the tanginess of the yogurt ice cream complemented the yeasty doughnut and rich chocolate sauce.

*Trick to making colored powdered sugar:
Powdered food coloring! It can be found at specialty food stores or baking supplies shops. (Be sure to look for a hechsher.) Very slowly add a few drops of food coloring to a few tablespoons of powdered sugar and mix well. Keep adding until you reach desired colors, bearing in mind that the colored powder will stay soft.

As seen in the Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller Magazine

Chanukah 2013

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5 Things You Never Knew About Latkes

 

December 16th 2014

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Dedicated to the life and works of Gil Marks who shared this article with us last Chanukah in the Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller magazine, may his memory be a blessing.

Judah Maccabee never saw a latke or a potato (or doughnut)… nor did medieval Jews.

1. Pancakes are batters shallow-fried in a skillet or on a griddle. People were already cooking on hot stones and griddles since time immemorial. In the Temple, a minchat machavat was cooked on an oiled griddle. But with the fall of Rome, pancakes, along with many culinary techniques, disappeared from most of Europe. Pancakes reemerged (made from flour and fried in olive oil) in Italy after the First Crusades, then spread north (usually not fried in olive oil). The first record of the English word “pancake” was in 1430.

2. Sicilian Jews introduced ricotta pancakes to northern Italy, called cassola in Rome, as a Shavuot dish and later combin- ing two traditional Chanukah foods – fried and cheese. The association of dairy to Chanukah was first mentioned (c. 1360) by Rabbi Nissim ben Reuben (Ran) of Gerona.

3. The initial association between Chanukah and pancakes (and fried foods in general) was by Rabbi Kalonymus ben Kalonymus (c. 1286-1328) – raised in Provence, but spending his ca-reer in Italy — who mentioned pancakes in a poem about Chanukah.

4. Oil in northern Europe was rare and expensive, so the principal fat for frying was schmaltz – animal fat, being unacceptable for cooking with dairy. Rye and, later buckwheat, commonly substituted for cheese and wheat. The two most prominent Eastern Yiddish terms for pancake became chremsel (from the Western Yiddish vermesel from Latin vermiculos “little worms” – before you get all oooey, vermiculos is also the source of the pasta vermicelli) and latke, derived from the Ukrainian diminutive word for pancake/fritter, oladka (“little oily”), from the Latin oleum (“olive oil,” also the source of the English word “oil”) from the Greek elaion (olive oil).

5. When the white potato arrived in Europe around 1570 from its native Peru/Bolivia, it was considered poisonous, taking centuries to gain acceptance as food. By the end of the 1700s, Germans made pancakes from raw or cooked potatoes. Only with a series of crop failures in Ukraine and Poland in 1839 and 1840 were these tubers consumed there. Potatoes emerged as the staple of the Eastern European Jewish diet and most prominent type of latke.

As seen in the Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller Magazine

Chanukah 2013

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A Little Meat Goes A Long Way *Giveaway*

 

December 16th 2014

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This article and recipes are sponsored by Joburg Kosher.

One of the trends we have seen this year has been to use less meat in our diets for health and for the environment.  The best way to do that is to use very flavorful meat to flavor vegetable filled dishes.  Many non kosher people use bacon and prosciutto in this way, cured meats with a smokey and salty flavor.  We can use salami.  Joburg started as a Boerewors (South African Sausages) and Biltong (South African beef jerky) company.  Recently they have introduced an Old World Beef and Veal Salami.

 

The salami is sold fresh or dried with garlic or spicy.  You can slice up the dried salami and serve on an antipasto plate with a bunch of vegetables or you can chop it up and use it to flavor all your cooking.  Here are two recipes that are perfect for Chanukah or anytime and great to serve a crowd.  They both show how much flavor the Joburg salami can add to any dish.

These Cauliflower Salami latkes are made with the fresh salami that is filled with large peppercorns.  The flavor of the pepper and the fat from the salami works perfectly with cauliflower.  The latkes can also be made ahead, frozen even and reheated in an oven.  Everyone will love these latkes and it is a nice change of pace.

There are so many ways to make stuffed mushrooms, you can make them dairy, meat or parve and with every flavor you can imagine.  The main constant is that you want to pull out the stems, chop them fine and sauté them with aromatics like onion and garlic.  Thyme always goes particularly well with mushrooms, but you can use other herbs as well.  For this recipe I decided to add a little extra flavor with Joburg’s hard salami. When cut small and sautéed with the mushroom stems it acted almost like a bacon with a little extra spice from the peppercorns they stuff inside. These mushrooms were a real hit.

Stuffed Mushrooms with Salami

Cauliflower Salami Latkes

For more about Joburg Kosher and to order or find store locations click here. 

***Giveaway*** Now enter to WIN big with Joburg.   Enter below to win a Salami Sampler pack valued at $65. Prize includes:

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Latkes That Just Happen To be Vegan and Gluten...

 

December 15th 2014

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Every year I try and come up with a new kind of latke.   I know I am not alone in this task, it seems all us foodie bloggers are doing the same, we can’t seem to leave well enough alone and like to find new spins on old classics.  There is always new inspiration too. New trendy flavors, new products and sometimes just new thoughts.

Growing up my mom would always make potato, zucchini and mixed vegetable as her latkes of choice.  She isn’t the type to use a recipe and they always came out great.  When I started making latkes, I am going to be honest, it took me some time to figure out how to get them just right.  Sometimes they wouldn’t really cook through to the middle and I was left with a raw potato taste and sometimes they didn’t stick together.  My first successful latke that my family loves actually comes from Joan Nathan.  Her thin crispy latkes use grated potatoes and eggs only, so they are also gluten free.  I found making them thin was the trick and I love the long strands of potato.  The recipe is so good I actually won a latke making contest quite a few years back.

I always make at least one night/batch of those classic latkes, but after that I start to play.  This year, I started to make my own Harissa, based on the peppers you use it might not even be very spicy, but it is flavorful and my family loves it.  Inspired by the Moroccan flavor I figured I would use chickpea flour which binds we’ll enough that I wouldn’t need eggs or flour and my recipe was born. Make them bit size, make them large, whatever you do, mix in the harissa and serve a little extra mixed with light mayo as the ultimate topping.

Here is my recipe for Vegan Gluten Free Harissa Latkes.



 

Free 20 Recipe #WinnDixieKosher Chanukah Ebook

 

December 15th 2014

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4 Ways To Throw A Healthy and Easy Chanukah Party

 

December 12th 2014

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In my biggest, glossiest fantasies I imagine a very specific Chanukah party.

In this fantasy I’m calm and welcoming amidst all the cooking chaos.  (OK, I also want to be wearing my favorite clothes and the earrings my mother gave to me).

The menu: easy to prepare.
The food: gorgeous, delicious, healthy.

Sounds pretty amazing, right?
(A lot better than last-minute runs to the grocery store and post-meal food comas. right?)

After years of holidays that stressed me out and left me feeling bloated and regretful, I’ve finally (finally!) discovered menus and mindsets that make it possible to have the Chanukah we want, with the food and feelings we want.

I’ve started serving plant-based menus to my holiday guests. My meals come together quickly, with easily and affordably sourced ingredients, and I have more time to spend with my family and friends.

Here are four ways to throw a healthy, easy Chanukah.  

1. Keep it to yourself

Try keeping your healthy Chanukah plans a semi-secret. No “Fat-free latkas @my house, PM me if you’re interested” Facebook updates or “Chanukah salad bar @my place” tweets.

Many people are timid with food that’s been earmarked as “healthy.”  Let the gorgeous food speak for itself and think of yourself as a healthy Chanukah secret agent.

2. Flirt a little bit (with the food)

People flirt with food (think the last time you made audible noises while window food shopping.) We want people to flirt with your food – eyeing it and wanting to eat it and we can create flirt-worthy meals by making them beautiful first and delicious always.

Make the extra effort to present the food with thought and style. Beauty is an important part of the food experience, making food and its consumption “special.” My goal is always to make healthy food look twice as beautiful.

When we prepare “healthier” food,  we occasionally take it a bit too far, thinking “whatever is worth doing is worth overdoing.”

Dear reader, you might want to sit down for this but I must be direct: do not limit salt or sugar in your plant-based Chanukah dishes. Salt and sugar give people a lot of pleasure and should be included in your recipes. Let your guests enjoy themselves!

3. Avoid the all or nothing trap

Whole-food, plant-based eating does not have to be an all-or-nothing lifestyle. You can start experimenting in small ways that feel doable and exciting to you, like swapping out a single ingredient in your favorite Chanukah dish or preparing one plant-based recipe for your Chanukah party.

4. Wow them with dessert

Plant-based menus aren’t about deprivation! There are tons of luscious, delicious desserts that don’t include eggs or cup after cup of butter and cream. My family loves my vegan chocolate zucchini cake and there are so many options for sweets that won’t leave you comatose on the sofa.

Repeat with me: simple, fresh, and beautiful. This Chanukah is for us and within our reach.

P.S. People stress the symbolic importance of oil at Chanukah. Nobody said you have to eat the oil! Get an oil candle if it makes you feel more connected to the miracle. Think about it.

Now try my Sweet and Savory Mini Latkes and serve them with homemade Tofu Sour Cream and Chives or Applesauce


 

My 11 Latke Loves *Giveaway*

 

December 11th 2014

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Fried in oil and or dipped in chocolate are two of my general criteria for favorite foods.  Lucky me it’s Chanukah and there will be no shortage of fried in oil (dipped in chocolate) sweet and savory treats.  Here are my 11 latke loves:

 

 

Do not pass go, do not collect $200, in fact do not do anything until you’ve mastered the classic.  This, my grandfather’s latke recipe is the absolute best in the entire world.  Watch how easy and delicious it is to make here: Best Ever Latke Video.

 

Potato Pancakes with Guacamole and Poached Eggs

Potato Pancakes with Guacamole and Poached Eggs

Heaven on earth, your new year-round Sunday brunch.  Get the recipe for Potato Pancakes with Guacamole and Poached Eggs.

Caprese Latke

Elegant, beautiful, fresh, and creamy – skip the balsamic reduction (it’s not traditional anyway) if you don’t have time.  Enjoy Caprese Latkes.

 

Latkes that eat like a meal.  (There are lots of shortcuts you can take to make these on the clock.) South of The border Latkes with Black Bean Topping. 

 cauliflower carrot latke recipe

Cause the only thing better than a potato latke is a low carb latke. Carrot Cauliflower Latkes. 

 Zucchini Latkes with Tzatziki

And the only thing better than a low carb latke is a lower carb latke. Zucchin Latkes with Tzatziki.

 

Potato and Parsnip Latkes

Parsnips are oh so underrated.  Don’t ignore this sweet flavored, creamy colored, root veg. Potato and Parsnip Latkes.

 

Carrot and Apple Latkes

Carrot and Apple Latkes

Slightly sweet and simple.  Carrot and Apple Latkes. 

Sweet Potato Latkes with Brie and Baby Arugula

 Pretty genius if I do say so myself.  Sweet Potato Latkes with Brie Baby Arugula

 

Steakhouse Latkes: Named so, cause they would make a great steak side.

Samosa Latkes

Different and delicious with mango chutney.  Watch how here:

What’s you favorite latke?  Do tell all in the comments below and then enter to win a $100 gift card from Winn-Dixie or a Joy of Kosher Cookbook.

Make sure to view and/or download our free ebook too – 20 Latkes and Doughnuts

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Disclosure: This post and giveaway is sponsored by Winn-Dixie, your neighborhood store, all opinions are my own.


 

/RECIPE/ Apple Cinnamon Latkas (Latkes)

 

December 11th 2014

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This week I was in LOVE with the #joktesters recipe list!!!! So many amazing options! It was great to help get me in the Hanukkah cooking mode. I decided to tackle the Apple Cinnamon Latkes for you all! Ok, so really they sounded amazing to me and I wanted to try them for myself, so I loved the excuse.

On to my review and ideas on this recipe.

First I would not put this recipe into the super easy category. First frying is fun on its own but these turn frying latkes into a whole new experience. They are much more delicate that their potato counter parts. But in the end they are worth it. I did try it fried in the normal and recommended way. I also baked part of the batch, as I generally burn myself less when I bake instead of fry. And yes, you can call me a cheater, but spraying a little olive oil on some of my Hanukkah treats and then baking them in a convection oven makes my holiday cooking go a lot smoother. And safer ;)

When whipping up the batch of latkes {and yes, I mean wh

ipping. A hand mixer would have been smart}I need to mention on the beating of the egg yolks to a “light lemon yellow color” mine are probably darker lemon colored. I purchase farm fresh eggs and their yolks are deeper colored than normal store bought ones. They do want to burn easily when frying. These latkes are much more fragile and need more soft treatment in the frying process. It was a gentle job to flip them. But they are also a nice light sweet treat. The beaten egg whites really make them a nice contrast to the heavier foods that Hanukkah brings {come on carbs!}

 

The verdict on the baked ones. They came out nice and sturdy and not delicate as the fried ones. They were a LOT easier to cook. I baked them on parchment paper {great clean up!} in a 375 degree convection oven. I then served both of them with greek yogurt with freshly ground cinnamon. YUM!

Results- They are a great light treat that require a bit more work than the average. But you can bake them and they come out great there too!

Leave your comments and let me know what you think! I would love to hear how it turns out for you!


 

Cooking With Joy: Spinach Turkey Meatloaf

 

December 11th 2014

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This was another early morning for me. In about 15 minutes the meatloaf was prepped and ready to go into the crock pot. It felt really great knowing that dinner was taken care of before I even left to work. I knew all I would have to cook when I got home was the sauce.

Jamie said that it could be left on low by adding a little chicken stock into the pot. About eight hours later when I walked through the door, the aroma that met me was amazing! The kids even said how yummy the house smelled!

The sauce was also really simple to prepare. The incredible scent of garlic sautéing always makes the house smell great. I let the sauce reduce a little before tasting it, man was it good! The acidity of the tomatos, along with garlic and basil made a perfect quick sauce.

 Oh I should mention that I used ground meat instead of ground turkey. If you recall- ground poultry is one of the things that I “don’t do”.

Slow Cooker Turkey Spinach Meatloaf page 157
DRESS IT UP Turkey Spinach Meatloaf Stuffed with Red Peppers and Zucchini

The meatloaf itself did come out a little dry, even with the swap out of proteins, but the flavors were all there. I served the meatloaf with rice pilaf and gave everyone a hefty drizzle of the sauce over the top of the plate. We really enjoyed this yummy weeknight supper.


 

Latkes: Stuffed, Topped & Paired to...

 

December 10th 2014

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This past shabbos someone asked me what to do for her Chanukah event asking “Aren’t people tired of latkes?”.  I staunchly replied no; Chanukah hasn’t even started, how can people be tired of latkes!  In some ways she was right, though, serving the same plain latkes year after year can make things feel a bit cliche or even kitschy.  It doesn’t take much to make latkes exciting, I mean fried potatoes alone (when done well) are pretty appetizing on their own.  Breathe new life into your Chanukah latkes by stuffing them, topping them with exciting sauces or dips, and even creating a meal around them.

 

Sweet Potato Latkes with Brie and Baby Arugula

Sour cream and applesauce are easily identifiable toppings for latkes, if they taste great why change them right?  Take these tried and true toppings and instead stuff them into the latkes with Cheddar and Potato Latkes with Spiced Applesauce, Apples and Sour Cream Stuffed Latkes, Baked Sweet Potato Latkes and Gingered Sour Cream or Mushroom and Sour Cream Stuffed LatkesIt is a custom for many to have a dairy meal on Chanukah, so why not make latkes even more delicious by stuffing them with dairy  with these Rosemary-Mascarpone Potato Latkes, Low-Fat Gluten Free Cheese Latkes, Sweet Potato Latkes with Brie and Baby Arugula or this Italian inspired mozzarella topped Caprese Latke.

 

 

Zucchini Latkes with Tzatziki

Change things up by making exciting dipping sauces to alongside traditional and modern latkes and by mixing different vegetables or meats into your latke batter.  Zucchini makes for a great latke in these Zucchini Latkes with Tatziki Sauce and Zucchini Latkes with Yogurt Curry Sauce.  Other great vegetable latkes are Cauliflower Carrot Latkes, Brussels Sprout Latkes, Savory Curried-Coriander Pumpkin Latkes, Beet and Carrot Latkes and Herb Leek Pancake with Light Mayo and Roasted Eggplant Sauce.  Or try these comfort food latkes, Mashed Potato and Kale Latkes and Pastrami Latkes with Sweet-Chili Mayo Sauce.

 

 

Pick a theme and plan your meal around a festive latke.  Some of these latkes are meals on their own, such as the Salmon and Green Goddess Stuffed LatkesSouth of the Border Latkes with Black Bean Topping, and Pulled Brisket + BBQ Sauce Stuffed Latkes.  Or try these themed sides: Scallion Potato Latkes with Ginger Dipping Sauce, Wasabi Potato Latkes, Sweet and Spicy Sweet Potato Latkes, and Cajun Potato Latkes.

 

 

Check out more latke ideas here!


 

The Secrets Behind Israeli Street Food

 

December 10th 2014

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Who hasn’t eaten a delicious dish at a restaurant or fast food counter and tried to replicate it at home?

When it comes to the replication of a dish from an elite restaurant, it is actually not as complicated as you might expect. Yes, it involves much preparation, buying special ingredients, but the cooking techniques, even if they look complicated, can be learned at any cooking school, through books, and even through online videos. Sometimes, chefs generously provide a pretty accurate recipe.

Street food, however, is an entirely different story.

Preparation skills are passed on from father to son and are really threatened to become extinct from the world.  Secret spices especially are a lot of the mystery.

This is where I come in.

I love to cook, love to eat. Everything. But mostly I love street food.

But if there is something that really brings me satisfaction it is to crack the secret behind street stalls everyone pilgrimages to, the one that immortal dishes have entered the Israeli Pantheon of food.

So before we get into the thick of things, I want to reveal the greatest secret. Yes, yes right away.

Think Cheap!

I know that with all the progress in food culture and cooking in this country, we have started to get used to using ingredients of the best quality we can achieve, vinegar Jerez from Spain, Atlantic salt collected by old French maids only during a full moon, and amazing flour imported through no man’s land from the land of the boot and sold for antique pennies.

So no, I’m not saying buy tomatoes that have seen better days, but I can assure you that if the guy from the Sabich, the tasty one, is debating between buying fresh black peppercorns, and using standard ground black pepper, the price will decide and the answer is obvious.

So yes, it will be expressed in the taste, but for the better, because I promise you that it will taste exactly the same as the street vendor’s. The taste you long to return to time and time again, the same flavor you’re trying to achieve at home.

So start to think cheap.

Let’s talk a moment about burekas.

Why burekas, you’re probably asking?

Why not to crack the immortal hummus or the secrets to the falafel or the fresh pita?  Do not worry friends, even their secrets we will reveal, but on the way we will debunk some myths and mistakes that have taken root.

As a child, my father used to take me to downtown Haifa, to the sailors, to buy counterfeit jeans for pennies. I tried on the jeans behind a curtained booth in the middle of the busy street. A rather dubious experience, but what didn’t we do to wear brand names.  To sweeten the experience we would go to the Burekas stand next door. There, on a heated plate on coals, lay wonderful burekas. Not made from store-bought phyllo dough or puff pastry, God forbid, but authentic Turkish dough stretched by hand into almost transparent leaves, a skill passed from generation to generation.

Later I found out this wonderful dough goes by the name of YUFKA. The seller would break off a golden bureka and serve it on paper with a hard boiled egg and pickles next to it. A bite here, a bite there, the pickles were always finished before the burekas, but I was ashamed to ask for more. Later there were competitors to that original burekas cart, all good, but that downtown burekas cart will always have a soft spot in my heart.

When I grew up, in my “wild” days, after a night of playing Snooker, I would go to the burekas cart at the Kiryat Ata intersection, savoring the meat burekast, but mostly watching the same Turkish guy, who did not know a word of Hebrew, but amazingly stretched the ball of dough, as he swung it in the air, until it became a transparent mat, and folded, filled, and sent it to the oven. Every time I would look at him and wait for the magic to happen. Watching and studying the movements, counting the number and type of folds, waiting with him for the smell to envelope the place and the toasty burekas to come out of the oven.

For twenty years I’ve been trying to recreate that unforgettable memory in my home kitchen. Tried and failed, replaced dough, oils, and types of filling. Only the technique has remained the same. At first I tried to get fancy. I’ll make Burekas filled with regular ground beef? Only the best for me! Only Lamb shoulder, ground once, a coarse grinding. Add a bit of pistachios, freshly ground black pepper, even a little cardamom … we’ll bring the burekas to new heights, the original burekas vendor didn’t even dream of. So… no. And do not get me wrong, it always came out good, but simplicity always wins. Regular ground beef from the supermarket, regular ground black pepper that gives a different spiciness than coarsely ground pepper and LOTS of onion. That’s about it. Have we mentioned you should think cheaply?

So there it is, the big secret of the meat burekas from the burekas cart. And as a bonus, attached is a recipe for pickles with a taste of the past, ones that together with a boiled egg and a little freshly grated tomato, will accompany the Burekas and bring tears of joy to your eyes. Guaranteed.

Try my recipe for Homemade Authentic Borekas and Pickles From Saba.

Article and recipes translated by Yael Davidovics.