A Guide To Ancient Grains


June 2nd 2014

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You might notice a strange sensation the next time you are strolling down the aisle at your local supermarket.

A prehistoric flashback?
Caveman-like confusion?

Rice has gone retro. People are going gaga over ancient grains rich in protein and nutrients, minimally processed and cultivated from rare or obscure regional strains that hearken back to the dawn of creation.

Ancient grains are popping up in breakfast cereals, granola bars, soups, salads and sides. I had to see what all the fuss was about so I ventured down to Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s to see what’s new (which is actually quite old).  As if traveling back in time, I started to rediscover the foods that my ancestors used to eat.  I also learned how even common foods are getting more interesting with varietals that are healthier and better tasting than ever before. So where do you start?

Iif you are looking to stir up some creativity or conversation around the dinner table, reach beyond the white rice and dig for something ancient. You’ll discover a whole new world of whole grains and dozens of new ways to remake your favorite recipes. I think you will find, like I did, that a night with Uncle Ben isn’t going to cut it anymore.  Ever since I started playing with ancient grains, things have started to get pretty interesting on the side of my plate.

Here is a quick guide to the most common ancient grains available right now: (Click on the image to make it larger)

A couple of favorite ancient grain recipes:

Greek Wheat Berry Salad

Farroto With Wild Mushrooms


As seen in Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller Magazine (Shavuot 2013) – Subscribe Now.



Cheesey Recipes For Shavuot


May 30th 2014

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This recipe for halibut comes from a fisherman we met many years ago in Alaska. We spent a wonderful day out on his boat halibut fishing, and we caught some huge fish. Since we knew we would be eating halibut from the freezer for months to come we asked the fisherman for his favorite halibut recipe. His answer surprised us. He told us to stuff it with cheese and roll it in bread crumbs.  It was a surprising answer. Up until that point I never would have thought to combine fish and cheese, but we figured that a halibut fisherman must know something about eating fish .  That night I made this cheesy fish in the cramped kitchen of our RV and it instantly became a favorite.  It isn’t an elegant dish, since the cheese oozes all over, but it is do delicious no one seems to mind.  I like to make the dish with halibut but any firm white fish will work just as well.

cheesy fish

Cheesey Fish

One nice thing about having fish for dinner is that you can have a dairy dessert. While I certainly never feel deprived when enjoying delicious parve desserts I have to admit there is nothing quite like a rich and creamy dairy cheesecake. I don’t make cheesecakes very often so when I do I want to make sure they are amazing. This cheesecake is rich and creamy, just like a good cheesecake should be, but its is a bit more interesting because it is made with goat cheese. The goat cheese adds a wonderful tang and earthiness that is perfectly complimented by the herby undertones of the thyme honey. This is one of those desserts where the leftovers will call to you from the refrigerator to come and get one more slice. It is the ultimate elegant cheesecake.   Get the full recipe here.

This post is sponsored by Natural & Kosher Cheese, all opinions are my own.


Kosher Wine for Shavuot


May 29th 2014

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This year at Shavuot, anticipating some serious dairy and the inevitable cheesecake I wanted to lighten things up with our kosher wine selections.  Let’s face it, if you’re going to be up late learning you probably don’t want to be staring across the table at a bottle of Cabernet.  So let’s throw our pretensions aside and enjoy a few “ready to drink right now” wines that are fun and easy to approach.

2013 Or Haganuz Amuka Rose (Israel); $20. Or Haganuz winery was founded in 2005 at the foot of Mount Meron.  A blend of Cabernet Franc (25%), Merlot (25%), Shiraz (25%) and Mourvedre (25%), this semi-dry rosé wine from the northern Galilee was blended from grapes from the Naburia plot in Amuka Vineyard.

2012 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand); $16.  Using grapes harvested in New Zealand’s South Island, this wine is a perennial crowd pleaser. The long, cool growing season and clay loam soils have contributed incredible citrus fruit flavors and a crisp texture to this wine. Serve alongside fish, cheeses, and freshly baked breads.

2013 Carmel Selected Riesling/Chenin Blanc (Israel); $10.
Semi sweet, tropical fruity flavors, and a cool, clean finish.  Easy on the pocketbook and to drink!  (If sweeter is not your thing, it works well for Sangria too)

2009 Terra di Setta Chianti Classico (Italy); $18.
Perfect accompaniment for pasta, pizza and most any Italian dishes, this ruby red wine is produced from grapes grown on a hill with a breathtaking view of Tuscany. A blend of 95% Sangiovese and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, the wine is smooth and elegant with a rich and fruity bouquet of cherries, wild berries and violet.  Did you know that Terra di Setta is the only fully kosher winery in Tuscany?

Have a happy Shavuot, what wine will you be drinking?



Blue Cheese Pizza with Buffalo “Chicken&...


May 29th 2014

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During the whole month of May we have been showcasing the new line of Sincerely Brigitte gourmet flavored cheeses.  Read all about the cheese and the varieties here and note there are more flavors coming.  We have also been giving away cheese samplers all month with the final winner just announced today.  We will continue to bring you more recipes showing the best ways to use these cheeses to liven up any meal on our Sincerely Brigitte recipe page and we hope all of you will share your own too, Submit Recipes here.  For today’s recipe I am sharing one of my new favorite pizzas, Blue Marble Buffalo “Chicken” Pizza.

I like getting creative with my toppings and I also like finding new ways to prepare seitan or other fake meats.  I often make a huge batch of homemade seitan and use it over a couple of weeks in different ways.  I recently tried it with Hot Sauce and butter to create vegetarian buffalo wings.  Sure you can make a version of buffalo wings without real butter as we all have done to make it kosher, but if you want to try the butter and hot sauce combo it works really well on seitan and you can even dip it in real blue cheese.

Since I wanted to put mine on a pizza I used the Sincerely Brigitte Blue Marble which melted well and gave a nice subtle blue flavor.  Sprinkle on some celery and a little extra sauce and this pizza is sure to wow even the meat eaters at your table.

Get the full recipe for Buffalo "Chicken" Blue Marble Pizza

This post was part of an ongoing partnership with Sincerely Brigitte, all opinions are my own.



Cooking with Joy: Cilantro Corn Cakes


May 29th 2014

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Today was a really busy day for me. We had errands that needed to be taken care of in the morning and then our 5 year old needed to be taken to his swimming lesson. I had exactly an hour in between and knew that the Cilantro Corn Cakes were on the agenda for today. In less then half an hour start to finish these were done!

Really simple recipe to follow- and if I wasn’t in a rush I probably would have even remembered the salt! All jokes aside, I realized that I forgot the salt after tasting the first batch. Luckily I had the rest of the batter waiting in nice little patties and was able to sprinkle some salt on top.

The cakes fried up in no time and stayed together very well. The texture was very nice, with a little crunch from the corn meal.

Hubs topped his cake with mascarpone cheese. As it melted into the warm cake, it made the whole combo so creamy and good.

I didn’t fry up all the cakes at once. I left them covered in the fridge for later in the day.

In my opinion the batter from the fridge actually had a better texture, but that could just be me.

Cilantro Corn Cakes page 49

DRESS IT UP Cilantro Corn Cakes with Avocado Aioli


25 Desserts for Shavuot


May 28th 2014

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In terms of dessert, Shavuot is is known for dairy desserts, especially cheesecakes.  It is a wonderful time to experiment with a new and exciting cheesecake recipe.  In addition to dairy meals, many people make a point to enjoy meat as a way to honor the yom tov.  Here at Joy of Kosher we have hundreds of dessert recipes, the 25 below are a mix of dairy and non-dairy cheesecakes, pareve, gluten-free, no-bake and vegan desserts to help you plan your holiday menu.



Cookie Dough Cheesecake with Milk Chocolate Ganache

Vamp up the classic cheesecake with toppings and flavors that will dazzle your family and guests.  If you’re in the mood for some serious indulgence then try the Cookie Dough Cheesecake with Milk Chocolate Ganache or the Walnut Crusted Caramel-Bourbon Swirl Cheesecake. Or keep it light and zesty with the Low Fat Lemon Cheesecake. On Shavuot we celebrate the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, stay with the theme by incorporating flavors inspired by Israel such as the Milk and Honey Cheesecake or the Creamy Cheesecake with Pomegranate Topping.



Chocolate Turkish Coffee Cake

With the growing number of non-dairy baking products available, it is easier than ever to replicate cheesecake, Pareve Snickers Cheesecake, and even the butter-heavy French desserts such as Pull Apart Brioche and Glazed Pear Tart.  On Shavuot it is tradition to stay up all night studying on the first day of yom tov.  Turkish Coffee Bundt Cake and Limonana Bars provide the caffeine boost which makes these cakes both delicious and practical.



Root Beer Float

As summer approaches and the weather gets hotter, many of us try to limit use of the oven so as to keep the kitchen cool.  Raw Date Brownies and No-Bake Peanut Butter Chocolate Cheesecake are no-bake replicas of classic desserts.  Because food is such a central part of the holidays, it is easy to indulge at every course in each meal.  But desserts such as Chocolate Avocado Mousse, Water Melon Lime Ice Pops and the classic Root Beer Float are a reminder that you can end your meal on a sweet note that won’t leave you feeling weighed down.



Lemon Cream Cheese Gluten-Free Crepes with Raspberry Sauce

You can be Gluten-Free and still enjoy cheesecake on Shavuot!  Try updated Jewish classics such as Tropical Breeze Mango-Coconut Cheesecake and Gluten Free Almond Mandelbrot, and replicate blintzes with these Lemon Cream Cheese Gluten-Free Crepes with Raspberry Sauce.  Or enjoy indulgent desserts such as the Super Moist Secret Ingredient Chocolate Cake or Gluten Free Magic Layer Bars.



Coffee Halvah

Whether you eat exclusively vegan or are just trying to eat healthier, these desserts are indulgent, yet light and a great way to end a holiday meal.  Chocolate lovers will enjoy the Dark Chocolate Panna Cotta with Balsamic Strawberries, Hazelnut Chocolate Chia Pudding, and, the aptly named, Chocolate Lover’s Napolean.  The Coffee Halvah will give you the caffeine boost you need to stay up all night studying, and the Mean, Green Pistachio Ice Cream is just downright delicious.


Check out more Shavuot ideas here.




Hubby Picked The Shavuot Menu


May 28th 2014

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We usually have meat for some of the Shavuot meals, although I love dairy so this meat menu was picked by hubby.

In the past 6 years I have put together 9 Shavuot menus for you: 3 book menus, 3 magazine menus, and 3 website menus.   After 9 menus it’s kinda (super) hard to keep creative.  Truth is after 8 menus I started having menu block.   Menu block looks like this:  After developing and testing over 200 recipes in under 10 weeks for my new book (my skirt tooooo tight to button), looking into the book is like looking into your closet (busting with shmatas clothes) and screaming feeling like you have NOTHING to wear!!!

Tamar rescued me like the greatest friend and expert menu planner that she is (who do you think comes up with our awesome weekly Shabbat Menus?) and put together the book menus.

Blocked once again I decided to employ the help of another special person.  I volunteered a friendly civilian you all know and love for this year’s Shavuos menu.  Instead of giving you yet another female skewed, goat cheese filled, smorgasbord of holiday recipes I asked Hubby what he wanted to eat.  This way I not only have a fresh and fancy new menu for you but save myself the time and trouble of doing this all over again for the real life version of the holiday.  So here is the menu courtesy of Hubby with the what, when and why of his selections in his own words.

JG: Tell me why you picked this menu.

H: These are just the things I want to eat.

Short Rib Sliders

Short Rib Sliders

Appetizer: Short Rib Sliders

H: Sandwiches are my favorite food.

JG: Tell me more.

H: You make it sound like I bought a home.  It’s just a menu, I picked what I like – after that it’s all kinda fuzzy.

JG:  I am writing this all down.

H:  OK so… we love ribs.  It’s the one thing EVERYONE in this family eats.  And I love sandwiches, which is the first thing I said.

JG: Good.

H:  If you can put it on bread I will eat it.

JG: Good, next.

Southwestern Turkey Breast and Green Chili Stuffing

Southwestern Turkey Breast and Green Chili Stuffing

Main: Southwestern Turkey Breast with Green Chili Stuffing

JG: Talk to me.

H: I’ve got nothing.

JG: (Eye roll)

H: I can see you rolling your eyes.  There is too much build up to this interview already.  Just make something up – you know, artistic license and all.

JG: Come on!

H: I love turkey – it was my birthday meal growing up.

Main: BBQ Meatloaf

H: I just really thought it would go good with the turkey.

Sweet Potato and Carrot Bake

Sweet Potato and Carrot Bake

Side: Sweet Potato Carrot Bake

H: I like this dish – cause it’s light – with the other heavy food I thought this was a nice side, and cause my wife doesn’t like making plain veg.

JG: I don’t.

H: I really just want steamed broccoli.

Caramelized Onion Mashed Potatoes

Caramelized Onion Mashed Potatoes

Side: Caramelized Onion Mash

H: I have turkey, stuffing, meatloaf, gotta have some taters man.

Deconstructed Apple Pie

Deconstructed Apple Pie

Dessert: Deconstructed Apple Pie

JG: You never eat the apple pie.

H: I do on Thanksgiving.

JG: This is not Thanksgiving this is Shavuos.

H: I know.

JG: So are you going to eat the apple pie?

H: Well I started with the turkey thing – that’s how it all started – that’s the inspiration.

JG: Thanks for clarifying.

H: And I eat your puff pastry apple purses.

JG: You’re right.  Okay so we are done.  That’s it; the interview is over, after trying to pin you down for a full week.

H: Ohmigosh you could have done that yourself.

JG:  Wouldn’t have been authentic.

H:  Mark the date people, this is my last interview.

As a bonus for those of you that have my new book JOY of KOSHER Fast, Fresh Family Recipes Hubby put together this mini Shavuot menu, but neither he nor his people could be reached for comment.

Crystal Clear Chicken Soup with Julienne Veg and Angel Hair p.25

Garlic Meatball Heroes with Arugula and Roasted Peppers p.186

Pretzel Crusted Chicken Skewers with Herb Curry Mustard p.161

Colorful Mustard Green Beans p.106

Cherry Bourbon Hand Pies p.28


What do you all think of Hubby’s menus?


Fish Fusilli


May 28th 2014

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Here’s the companion video to my delectable Spinach and Feta Fish Bites. Fish Fusilli is a fast and easy complete meal that will satisfy even the fussiest eaters.

This yummy Quick & Kosher recipe uses frozen gefilte fish. Fill your freezer, because pre-seasoned frozen gefilte fish is a really versatile ingredient that will save you lots of time.

Fish Fusilli Recipe. For more of my kosher cooking videos, please watch the JoyofKosher.com YouTube Channel.

Do you have a wonderful recipe that use frozen gefilte fish? I hope you’ll share it with me by leaving a comment below.


5 Easy Shavuot Crafts


May 27th 2014

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There is something about Shavuot that seems to demand crafts.  Usually they revolve around flowers.  I remember when my children would bring home the tissue paper flowers, or little decorated vases to use a centerpiece for the festive holiday.  I guess it is because it is at a time of year when everything is in bloom and we want to enjoy the bounty of the season. But it is also because Shavuot is an agriculture holiday and very much connected to plants.  We share a few favorite Floral Crafts in this article including a flower pony holder, napkin ring, tissue flowers and decoupage plates, oldies but goodies that never get boring.  Here are some new ideas

These flower decorated pots made by AshleyAnnPhotography are easily done with your favorite floral fabrics.  Get full step by step turotial instructions on ChristineChitnis.com.  Now you have something unique and gorgeous to put your new plants in.

These floral crowns were made for a wedding, but Shavuot would be a perfect time to have fun making and wearing these especially for little girls.  These fresh flower ones might not be as practical, though, so try it with silk flower, instruction here.

I love how simple this dotted vase is to make and inexpensive too.  Any glass vase will work. Get the full instructions from TheCraftedLife.

Learn to make Paper Rosebuds from Creativejewishmom.com, she is always coming up with new and amazing things to make for those of all ages.

Last, but not least, I love this idea for those not as into flowers or maybe more interesting for the boys, DIY Painted Sticks.  Use them as decorating, put a bunch of them together in a vase, as a painted stick bouquet that will never die.


How To Serve A Yogurt Bar


May 27th 2014

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Our Inspiration: The Mamilla hotel in Jerusalem is a culinary experience like no other. While vacationing in Israel with my family this past winter, the Shabbat weekend we spent at Mamilla was one that took our trip to a whole new level. We were surrounded by gourmet dishes bursting with classic and new flavor combinations; it was a veritable feast for the senses.

Israeli hotels are known for their breakfast spreads and Mamilla’s breakfast spread was the best I have ever experienced. The breakfast included an assortment of fresh fruits, vegetables, salads, and an incredible selection of cheeses, fresh breads and pastries. The real standout of the buffet was the  ‘yogurt bar.’ It was so simple,  yet so indescribably delicious. My six- and eight-year  old sons have never been  more excited about yogurt.  We all kept on heading back  for just a little bit more. The fresh, cool and tangy taste of the yogurt together with the homemade and gourmet granola, milk-coated cereal, passion fruit puree, blueberry sauce and fresh fruit was the best way we could imagine starting our day.  Inspired by our growing obsession with yogurt, I knew we would feature this simple idea in our Shavuot issue. You will love how quickly this all comes together, and is fun, elegant and satisfying without the ‘heavy’ feeling which accompanies many dairy meals.

For The Yogurt Bar

The following are some suggestions (recipes linked on the words), but feel free to add anything you love to make a fun, nutritious and yummy buffet that would be great for any meal and any occasion.


Recommended Yogurt – I like to use plain yogurt as a blank canvas for all the flavorful additions. You can also use vanilla or flavored yogurt of choice or a few containers of Greek yogurt if you prefer.

Dessert Option: Use frozen yogurt in place of the yogurt for a fun and modern dessert option.

As seen in Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller Magazine (Shavuot 2013) – Subscribe Now



DIY Craft – Utensil Hanger


May 26th 2014

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Makes 1 hanger

I love to walk through the aisles of the craft store and hardware store and get inspired by the multitude of different materials. This simple project uses various-sized wooden beads and an old wire hanger that I’ve transformed into an object from which you can hang ladles and other kitchen tools.

You will need:

Wire hanger


About 14 big wooden beads

About 63 small wooden beads

Hot glue gun and hot glue sticks or craft glue

S-hook (available at hardware stores; optional)


1. Untwist the wire hanger. Use the pliers to straighten out the twisty ends of the wire.

2. Thread the beads onto the wire, alternating size from time to time.

3. Once you’ve threaded on enough beads to get up to the neck of the hanger, bring the two ends of the hanger together and thread the remaining beads over both of the wire pieces.

4. Thread the beads all the way to the end and bend it into a hook shape.

5. Using a dab of hot glue or craft glue, seal on the last bead. Allow the glue to set, about 1 minute.

6. Display interesting spoons and ladles from the hanger. If you have a tool to hang that does not have a hooked end, use an S-hook to hang it.


Text credit: Excerpted from SWEET PAUL EAT & MAKE, © 2014 by Paul Lowe Einlyng. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

Photo credit: © Alexandra Grablewski.


In The JOK Kitchen with Sweet Paul *Giveaway*


May 26th 2014

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Sweet Paul is the gorgeous and creative blog created by Paul Lowe in 2007.  His blog filled with recipes and crafts with a Scandinavian sensibility turned into a highly praised online magazine in 2009 and then a print quarterly in 2012.  Paul has inspired and influenced countless people with his stylish take on crafts and food.  Paul was raised in Norway and has always been passionate about cooking, crafting and decorating.  He has been a food and craft stylist for more than twenty years and just recently published his first cook/craft book, Sweet Paul Eat and Make: Charming Recipes and Kitchen Crafts You Will Love.  The book is filled with easy to make recipes, most of which just happen to be kosher.   In addition to the recipes that are organized by time of day, Morning, Brunch, Noon and Night, Paul includes easy to do crafts for decorating a table to added kitchen touches, like his utensil hanger, made from every day items, turned into a fun decorative piece.

We are lucky to be giving away a copy of the Sweet Paul book and to also to share this Q&A I got from Paul.

You grew up in Norway, When did you move to NY and What do you miss most about Norway?

Not that much really, my family of course and a few food items but I can say with my hand on my heart that I haven’t felt homesick once.

I love that it is important to you that everything be real and not always perfect, how have you been able to work as a stylist and live by that philosophy?

When I started out all food in magazines and ad’s looked like plastic.  I said from day 1 that I don’t care to do that.  I slowly managed people to see it my way that food needs to look real and not like it came from a factory.

I’m really happy to see that the plastic food has more or less disappeared from magazines and ad’s.

salmon eggs benedict

What is your earliest cooking memory?

My earliest memory is the smell of coffee.  My grandmother would make strong coffee every morning.  The smell of coffee still makes me feel safe.

Of taste would have to be her pancakes that she made paper thin like crepes and filled it with her homemade blueberry jam.

Most of your crafts use every day items we all have like tart pans or hangers, how do you get inspired for your crafts?

It can come from everywhere.

Like now I have been collecting egg cartons for a year and wanted to do something with them.

I cut one open and it looked like a bird face, so I turned them into bird masks for Halloween.

My best idea is hatched out in the bath tub!

Sweet Paul - Chicken with Olives & Capers

Why did you decide to break up your book for crafts and food by time of day?

Because that’s how we eat and I wanted the book to reflect that.

There are a lot of recipes with eggs in them, what do you like most about eggs?

Eggs are my all time favorite ingredients. I eat 3 eggs every morning.  Never get tired of them.

They are so versatile and I just love using them, scrambles, poached, fried, just stop me…

For the recipes and photos linked to: Text credit: Excerpted from SWEET PAUL EAT & MAKE, © 2014 by Paul Lowe Einlyng. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

Photo credit: © Alexandra Grablewski.

Note – not all the recipes in this book are kosher, but most are or can be adapted for a kosher kitchen, plus the crafts are great for everyone.

***Giveaway***  Now you have a chance to WIN a copy of Paul’s new book.  To enter start by commenting below.  Then enter with Gleam.

Sweet Paul Cookbook



4 Dairy Shavuot Menus


May 23rd 2014

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The count up continues!!  With less than two weeks to go until the holiday of Shavuot we really need to start planning.  I know some people have the custom to eat meat some of the days or some of the meals, but I figure we have enough meat menus on the site, what we are missing is more dairy menus that are nice enough to host company and enjoy as a festive holiday meal.

Here are four menus to take you through the two day holiday, if you live in Israel you get to choose, for the rest of you I got you covered.

Menu 1, first night. 

It is tradition to stay up all night learning on the first night of Shavuot so we really need energy and maybe some caffeine from this meal. I have loaded it up with green tea to begin and end the meal as well as lots of healthy protein to keep you going.  Don’t worry though if you are not staying up, there is not really enough caffeine in these foods to keep you up, sip some Iced Green Tea with Mint for the real caffeine effect.

Beet, Kale and Seaweed Salad

Beet, Kale and Seaweed Salad

Shiitake Mushroom Soup

Kale, Beet and Seaweed Salad with Chinese Green Tea Dressing

Spicy Salmon over Sesame Noodles

Green Tea Ice Cream

Menu 2, Lunch.

For those that stayed awake all night, you probably slept all morning and are just getting up in time for lunch or maybe Brunch is in order.  Start off with something warm and filling and move on to light and sweet.

Apple Buns

Tomato Soup with Eggs In a Hole

Salad with Grapefruit and Goat Cheese

Farro Dried Fruit Garbanzo Salad

Pastrami Gravlax

Apple Buns

Menu 3, Dinner.

By now you should be recovered and have time prepare for a leisurely dinner with the family. How about some fondue? You can transfer a flame to a sterno and just let it burn out.

pesto fondue with polenta

Pesto Fondue with Polenta Cubes and lots of veggies make this a meal.  Serve alongside a Mushroom Salad and Caramel Chomeur or simple dairy cookies for dessert.

Menu 4, Lunch.

For the last meal I will go a bit more traditional for those of you who must have blintzes and cheesecake, this is the menu for you.

pecan pie cheesecake

Walnut Asparagus Puffs

Spinach and Feta Blintzes

Vegetable Fries

Almond Olive Sole

Pecan Pie Cheesecake

Get more ideas for menus and recipes for Shavuot in our full guide, with recipes for all kinds of nachos, blintzes or crepes, brunch menu ideas, Italian menus, Romanian recipes and cheese plates and consider a few more menus:

A Dairy Mexican Menu

An Elegant Dairy Feast

Dairy Indian Menu



4 Fish Recipes And How To Pick Fresh Fish


May 23rd 2014

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It suddenly became clear to me after a year of living in new york city. I was distractedly looking at the menu proposal for yet another fundraising dinner at the non-profit where I worked, and all of a sudden realized that all the fish options were salmon, salmon, and salmon. Baked salmon, poached salmon, smoked salmon, in a hodgepodge of flavors and textures. Had all the hype about its health benefits made us forget about all other types of fish? Or was it fear of the unknown?

Growing up in Venice, my experience had been different: my mom and her friends always cooked many types of seasonal fish — very simply, with just a handful of fresh ingredients and no sauces that would hide its flavor. This minimalistic sophistication was meant at highlighting ingredients of the highest quality, and finding a good fish was considered at least as important as knowing how to cook it.

Red Snapper In Crazy Water

In fact, one of the hearts of Venice is still the Pescaria, the fish market in Rialto: dozens of stands sprawl under two massive Gothic loggias from the beginning of the 20th century (but the market itself dates back to about 600 years earlier), displaying a dizzying variety of fish and seafood from the lagoon and the nearby sea, and constantly crowded with hundreds of shoppers and a few tourists.

Salmon Roulade

This should be a foodie’s first stop in Venice; the fishmongers at the Pescaria, and not any famous chefs, are the true depositories of authentic Venetian cuisine, proving that fish is only as good as it is fresh. The Venetian standards have always been very high, including sustainability — as shown in a centuries-old carved marble plaque that displays strict regulations for minimum allowable sizes to be fished, so as to preserve the local habitat.

Lettuce Wrapped John Dory

It’s in this incredible place that I received some of my first informal lessons in cooking — starting from the fact that if the ingredients are local, fresh and seasonal, the food will taste good!

As to learning how to pick the right fish, here are a few tips:

1: Find a clean fish market and make friends with the fishmonger, who will help you find the freshest fish available and will clean it and scale it for you if you can’t stomach doing it yourself.

2: LOOK HIM IN THE EYE! (The fish, not necessarily the fishmonger.) A fresh fish should look alive! Its eyes should look clear, its gills should be quite wet and bright red (if they are brown or grayish, your friend was frozen); the skin, flesh and fins should be firm and bouncy, and the scales shiny. It should smell like the ocean, but not too fishy.

3: If you are buying fillets, be aware that brown edges or red streaks show age and should be avoided.  A smaller fish will often have more delicate flesh than a larger one.

4: Try to avoid fish that is sold already wrapped in plastic as it will be difficult to determine how fresh it is. If you have to buy it, at least rinse it very well and pat it dry with paper towels before cooking. However, it’s best to buy fresh fish, or even flash frozen fish* (allow it to thaw slowly in your fridge, rinse and dry it, and then cook it immediately).

5: Avoid at all costs fish that was frozen but is being sold as fresh.

Whole Roasted Turbot

Whole Roasted Turbot


*Flash Frozen Fish: Many fish are frozen on the boat, minutes after they were caught making them fresher than fish at your local market.

As seen in Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller Magazine (Pesach 2013) – Subscribe Now.


It’s Time For Cauliflower To Take Center...


May 22nd 2014

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Vegetables have long been the trusty side kick to steak, chicken and fish.  A sort of companion to the main meal, in the best meals, it can highlight the best of the main, but in many instances it is really nothing, but a forgotten afterthought.  Recently with the farm to table popularity and more interest in vegetarian and vegan foods, vegetables are finally playing a starring role on our plates.

Not just for vegetarians.  In many restaurants around the country, vegetables are assuming the part of the hero with or without meat.  Just because you are highlighting the vegetable doesn’t mean you can’t include a little meat flavoring to enhance it unless you are a vegetarian.  I love getting inspired around the web and I feel like every few months there is a new vegetable taking center stage.  Last month I shared a recipe for Shawarma Carrots which I happened to just serve again with beluga lentils and my kids couldn’t get enough (especially the one that hates carrots and loves meat and spice), I was amazed.

Now, it is cauliflower’s time to shine.  I have always loved roasted cauliflower, but last year when I first tried this raw Cauliflower Couscous I first began to realize the many hidden talents we can exploit with cauliflower.  I learned to use it to make low carb Cauliflower Pizza Crust and now in possibly my favorite cauliflower recipe to date, I am loving Cauliflower Steaks with Tomato Olive Cauliflower Mash.

vegetarian cauliflower steaks

This recipe is enhanced and made easier using Sincerely Brigitte Tomato Olive Cheese* in the cauliflower mash.  That part of the recipe alone is delicious, but mixed with the crispier cauliflower steak and some toasted hazelnuts it became the perfect bite.

Make sure to learn more about these cheeses, find out today’s winner and get one last chance to win your own sampler in our Sincerely Brigitte Month of May Contest.

*Note: This post is part of a paid partnership with Sincerely Brigitte, all opinions are my own.

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