Cooking with Joy: Creamy Tomato Penne

 

August 21st 2014

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Part of the excitement of going out to eat is ordering food that you can’t make yourself.

We like going out to eat; we just hate spending money on things that I can make at home — like pasta! Until now, though, I’d never made a creamy pasta dish. That’s why Penne ala Vodka is one of my favorite things to order when I’m at a restaurant.

Well, I no longer have that excuse! This dish hit all the yummy notes, with just the right balance of creaminess and acidity. It’s an incredibly flavorful and satisfying dish, one that I liked better then an average restaurant Penne ala Vodka.

I made it a meal by serving this tomato penne with a big salad. It was like a special restaurant dish in the comfort of our own home. I will definitely be making this again!

 

Creamy Tomato Penne page 130
DRESS IT UP
Creamy Tomato Basil Nests


 

10 End of Summer Recipes

 

August 20th 2014

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August has traditionally been a vacation month for my family.  My parents, along with many New Yorkers, use August as a time to escape the pavement and retreat to the beach.  August is also the time when many retailers begin to advertise for the back to school shopping season.  Even though there is still plenty of sweet summer left, in the back of our minds we are already looking ahead to September.  There are still a few weeks left though! And in that spirit, here are ten summer recipes to enjoy before the air gets cooler and we say so long to the sweet fruits of summer.

 

 

Craving something warm, yet refreshing for those crisp August evenings?  The Sea Bass Nicoise with Saffron Tomato Jus hits the mark.  If you have a few extra tomatoes lying around use them to make the saffron tomato jus that will compliment the freshness of the sea bass.  It’s the simple pleasures that really define summer for me.  A juicy, perfectly ripe tomato begs to be shone off in an equally appetizing salad.  The Heirloom Tomato Salad with Crispy Salmon Skin & Seaweed Dressing would also make a great first course at your shabbos meal.

 

 

Nothing beats corn on the cob when it’s eaten at the peak of sweetness. On Long Island, that happen to be right about now, in mid-August.  When it’s just family or close friends we cook up double batches of corn and pretend that not to see the circus of flying corn kernels that are involved in this spectacle.  For more formal occasions, or to make a few stalks go a lot farther, try the Light Summer Corn Salsa or the Ceviche Tacos with Black Bean and Corn Salsa.

 

 

Keep the grill sizzling hot this summer with two south of the border inspired burger recipes.  Swap ground beef for turkey or go meat-free with black beans, either way both the Mexican Turkey Burgers and the Black Bean Burgers with Avocado-Lime Mayonnaise turn up the heat on the classic patty.

 

 

Fish is one of those ingredients that works well with simplicity and summer is a season when I like to keep the cooking simple and really let the in-season produce shine.  The Lemon and White Wine Broiled Sole could not be any simpler, while the Lettuce Wrapped John Dory is a flexible recipe that works well with most medium-sized white fishes.

 

The berries of early summer and stone fruit July are just delicious in late summer cobblers and crisps.  While the height of ripeness has passed, the fruits are just perfect in baked goods such as the Berry Cobbler Crisp and the Southern Peach Streusel Bars.

 

What are some of your favorite summer recipes?  Share below!

 


 

How To Avoid Lunchtime Letdown

 

August 20th 2014

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I think School lunches are the most difficult meals to prepare. Day in, day out, painstakingly making delicious, healthy and exciting lunch boxes to avoid, G-d Forbid, ‘Lunchtime Letdown’!

Of course, there’s always the mom who remembers to send a ‘you’re special’ note wrapped around a muffin and the mom that includes a chocolate bar everyday! And then, then there’s me! The the mother who stood making bagels, that could dislocate a jaw, it was so packed with meat, pickles and love, who learned only too late that her children were selling these bagels at school to buy ‘sloppy Joes’ at the tuckshop.

But, then of course there was my mother who insisted we use one of those mini cooler bags for our school lunches; “Durban was hot and things went off quickly”! We were scarred for life by our school mates comments. “Class going on a picnic and you doing the catering Sharon?” or “brought you travelling fridge again!” These weren’t like todays funky little insulated bags that fit snugly into your school bag, they were more like the size of a carry on piece of luggage!! Needless to say to this day my mother believes somebody caught onto her idea, made them smaller and made millions.

So let’s go back to what they used to swap their beautiful bagels for and how to to turn Sloppy Joe’s into several lunch ideas or quick hot meals for when they get home from school starving.

If you make a large pot of ground beef mixed with deliciously flavoured tomato sauce it can be sloppy joes for dinner or lunch one day, spagetti Bolognese the next, cottage pie the next, minced meat pies the next and tacos or wraps the next. If they become a little minced out, freeze the meat in little ziploc bags and all you have to do is warm them up.

You can also order some minute steaks and give them steak sandwiches the first day, stir fry the next, beef Schnitzel or toasted steak the next. Chicken breast can be sent grilled or turned into schnitzel or chicken fried in a fat free pan and served in a roll or over a salad or in a stir fry.

When you think about the varieties of breads available for sandwiches your kids will never be bored.  Whether it’s traditional white, brown or rye bread, rolls, bagels, wraps, bagels or pita, each day can be more exciting then the next.

Here are some quick easy ideas to avoid lunchtime letdown with sandwiches:

  • Thinly sliced cold cuts of meat with pickles, mustard and all that jazz!
  • Sliced rare roast with horseradish sauce and mustard
  • Biltong bagel/roll (my favourite)
  • For those who are watching their carbs, wrap the cold meat around a pickled cucumber, a few sticks of celery or carrots.
  • Chicken Mayonnaise, with chopped pickled cucumber.
  • Thin Chicken schnitzel with a layer of mixed mayonnaise and hot sauce.
  • Cream cheese and salmon bagel
  • Chopped boiled egg mixed with a little mayonnaise and fried onion.
  • Grated firm cheese and tomato
  • Tuna mayonnaise
  • Roasted vegetables and avocado dip with humus
  • Chocolate spread or savoury sandwich spread
  • Of course, there’s always the compulsory peanut butter and jelly sandwich which my children had to have daily – almost like a security blanket! Whether it came home or not it always had to be there!
Here are a few of my favorite back to school recipes you can pack for your kids this year or yourselves :)

Back To School Muffins

Pupil’s Pasta Salad

Playground Crunchies Cereal Bars


 

3 Healthy New Breakfast Ideas

 

August 19th 2014

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My clients are always asking for breakfast items that they and their kids can both enjoy. Sugary cereals and breakfast bars aren’t the ideal way to start the day, which is where these recipes come into play. Some of them you can make in advance, and others are better fresh, for the days when you have a little more time. Serve them with a nice fruit smoothie, and you’re all set for the morning!  With  a little planning, you can make delicious, unique, and healthy breakfasts that both you and your kids will crave.

100% Whole Wheat Blueberry Scones

There is nothing better than the smell of butter baking in the oven and for me it’s all about using real wholesome ingredients! These scones are hearty, filling, and bursting with juicy fresh blueberries. Eat them at home or grab one to go while running to catch the school bus!

Nectarine-Coconut Pancakes

 In the summertime, I frequent to the Farmer’s Market. My favorite ingredients are the tomatoes in a rainbow of colors, and ripe nectarines that I can smell from miles away. This week I decided to utilize my Farmer’s Market produce in these summery pancakes. Not only do they look beautiful, but they add a nice, unexpected texture. Coconut pairs beautifully with nectarines which is why I fused the two together to create my favorite new breakfast treat. Enjoy!

 

Roasted Grape Breakfast Farro

 This dish is one of my all-time favorites! Farro is an incredibly healthy whole grain; high in minerals and chock full of fiber that will keep you and your kids full all morning long. Usually seen in savory dishes, I’ve turned this nutty grain into a creamy and sweet porridge. Feel free to add in any roasted fruit you’ve got on hand.


 

Creamy Baked Ziti Video

 

August 18th 2014

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Get the full recipe for my Creamy Baked Ziti here.


 

Back To School Beans

 

August 18th 2014

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Some people get the back to school blues.  You know, the feelings of worry and nervousness before the first day.  The stress of getting back into or starting a new morning routine to get everyone off to school and work on time.  I like to beat the blues with beans.

Beans are one of the best sources of vegan protein.  They are also a carbohydrate that is packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants your body and mind will benefit from.  Beans are satisfying and take longer to digest so they keep you full longer.  This way you won’t be distracted by hunger pains too early in the day.

The real trick to combatting the blues is being prepared and beans are an easy addition to any brown bag lunch.  My kids love plain canned chickpeas or black beans so I always keep cans in the pantry, just in case.   You can mix black beans with some leftover rice and send it in a thermos for an easy lunch idea.  Throw some beans and cheese in wrap.  Or mash up some beans and send it as a dip.  If you are up for a little more prep time then I have a new bean to share that comes to us from Greece.

Gigantes are a large Greek bean you can find in some specialty markets or online, dried.  They are almost double the size of lima beans and taste very different in my opinion.  They are a little pricier than regular beans, but when you think about it is a meal substitute for meat it is still affordable.  They are prepared very simply with tomatoes, garlic and onions.    Gigantes are perfect for school or work lunches because they are really good hot or cold. They are super filling on their own or can be served in a salad, with some bread or with some cheese.  They don’t spoil and everyone loves them.

Along with getting your kids to bed earlier for the whole week leading put to the first day of school, planning for breakfasts and lunches ahead of time and talking to your kids about their fears and nerves try this new recipes for Greek Baked Beans, Gigantes.



 

Brown Bag Lunch Ideas

 

August 18th 2014

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A while back I went looking for brown bags in Israel, not for lunches for a project that I can’t even recall now, and guess what?  I’m still looking.  So if anyone knows where I can find some just say so in the comments.  Maybe by then I’ll remember why I needed them.

But in terms of interesting “brown bag” lunch ideas for our linkup this month we always have dribs and drabs of leftovers in small little cute Snapwear containers in our fridge.  Not enough to feed the whole family for dinner (again) but just enough for one or two lucky customers.

Cream cheese on whole wheat bread is a lunch fave with the kiddies but I am always looking for ways to squeeze more veggies into their diets.  Mommas out there, I know you hear me.  I sometimes add sliced cukes (tomatoes just make the sandwich too soggy for school) but now I like adding leftover grilled veg from last night’s supper.  If you wrap it all up in a tortilla it makes it fun for the kids and feels slightly more gourmet than your standard sandwich cut on the diagonal (I do this when I’m feelin’ fancy).  Try a flavored herbed cream cheese or mix in your own herbs.  Whipped cream cheese makes making your own flavored cream cheese easy.  Check out this video for 3 creative flavored cream cheeses you can make at home including Orange Infused Cream Cheese, Tartar “Sauce” Cream Cheese, and Sundried Tomato and Herb Cream Cheese.

I almost always have washed and checked chopped parsley and scallions and fresh basil leaves in my fridge – all excellent mix-ins to perk up your cream cheese and wrap.  In addition to adding flavor bright green herbs are super healthful and I’ve taken to adding parsley and basil to all my salads.  You can add Creamy Coleslaw to the wrap or send it along in a small little cute Snapwear container (can you tell I love these little guys?!) for a fun “brown bag” lunch for the kids or anyone in your house eating on the road.

Get the full recipe for my Grilled Vegetable Wraps with Creamy Coleslaw here.

 



 

How To Buy Fruits and Vegetables In The Right...

 

August 15th 2014

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Every time I ask my kids what they want me to bring home from the supermarket, the answer is always the same- strawberries. My foreign (non-Israeli)-born kids are still ensconced in that high-speed microchip mentality; all you have to do is want it and it can appear in seconds. They haven’t learned that fruits and vegetables are produced only in certain times of the year, and that it is expensive enough to purchase them in season, much less have them imported from far away and pay even more out of season. They count the days until the start of strawberry season and I purchase several packages every week until the last morsel is gone from the store.

Of course, if you are a frugal shopper you don’t buy them the instant they appear in the supermarket- they are at their most expensive. You wait until the season is more established- then the price drops.

To help you (and my kids) understand what produce can be found in the market each month, I found some great charts from Agrexco that are too big to reprint here but you can get a copy from their web site. They have five versions that apply to Israel:  FRUITCITRUSVEGETABLES,FRESH HERBS, AND GENERAL and you can find Seasonality Charts for the USA Here. Post them in your kitchen and then nobody can complain because you didn’t bring home mango in March or strawberries in September.

I thought it would be very interesting to discuss the differences and/or similarities between the agricultural seasons in the Tanach and today but the information I found was either not from appropriate sources or required a PhD to understand. In the meantime, I found a great chart for planting all types of seeds in Israel- what season, how deep, how far apart, and so on. We haven’t got the garden we used to have in chutz l’aretz, but my husband is slowly expanding our agricultural repertoire. Ours is strictly a leftover garden-we have pineapple from planting the tops, passiflora from leftover seeds, potatoes that sat too long and more.

One of my fellow Israeli bloggers, Bishul Bezol, wrote up a great post about eating according to season. You can read about it  here in Hebrew if you like but she has graciously allowed me to translate it to English. If your Hebrew is strong, I highly recommend her blog. She has great recipes for frugal shoppers with beautiful pictures.

Here is a loose translation of her post- any mistakes are mine, any jokes are hers :)

It is easy to say “buy fruits and vegetables in season”; it isn’t so easy to do. Stores don’t come with a sign that says, “here are the cheap in-season produce”- just the opposite. Plus, just because it is in season, doesn’t mean it is cheap. Produce with a short season or is imported will be more expensive than the alternative. For example fresh pineapple, even when in season, will still be more expensive. When should you buy produce? The same as if you buy clothing- the end of the season will be the cheapest, but you can also buy in the middle of the season. Like clothing, if you see the sign that says “New Collection”- just translate it to “These are the products you pay more for.”

Where do you buy your produce? If for example you go to the local grocer with perfect looking pyramids of produce who peels your lichi fruit and seeds your pomegranate for you, you will pay more, no matter what the season.

So how do you shop? Firstly, LOOK AT THE PRICES. Try to figure out how much those three pitaya will actually cost. Don’t pick recipes unless you know what the prices are in the market. Be flexible. If you have your heart set on a cherry pie and you find that they cost 35 shekels a kilo, change your fruit or change your recipe. As previous stated, don’t buy the “first fruits”- they are the most expensive and since the producers are in competition to be the first in the stores, the taste is not always ideal.


 

Cooking With Joy: Cornbread

 

August 14th 2014

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After reading Jamie’s intro to this recipe I have my own corn muffin story to tell. When I was younger I would often go to work with my Mom. When I would get hungry my Mom would let me go down to the café that was in the building and get a snack. Well Im sure you figured, I would always get a corn muffin, cut in half and toasted, with a side of butter. It warmed me from the inside out, so good!

So when it came time to do this recipe, I decided to turn it into cornbread muffins! Our annual family Purim Seuda was around the corner, I figured that individual mini muffins would be an easier side then just making a big dish of it. I adjusted the cook time to 15 minutes, down from the original 25. And they came out perfectly!

Easy Scallion Cornbread page 112
DRESS IT UP Pretty Cornbread

When the first batch came out of the oven, I couldn’t help myself from diving in. Out came the margarine (had no butter), sliced one in half and devoured it! After eating two or three of them, I stopped to take the picture. The muffins were soft, with a tiny bite from the cornmeal- and oh so delicious.

The one complaint I have is that this recipe only made about 22 muffins. Hubs and I ate so many that I had to make 2 more batches to bring to the seuda! I didn’t mind, this is a labor of love. Everyone loved the muffins! A few people even asked for the recipe! Gee I wonder where I got it from ☺

 



 

8 Back To School Dairy Lunches

 

August 13th 2014

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It is time to start thinking about getting the kids back to school and transition for Summer fun/vacation to our normal busy lives.   One of the things I dread most with school starting is packing my kids lunches.  Sure my school actually offers a hot lunch program, but they are expensive and my kids won’t eat them.  One of my kids won’t really eat anything for lunch, the other makes it easy for me with a standard yogurt, granola bar and fruit and the third could probably eat pasta with cheese in a thermos every day if I let her.  With her and you all in mind I have compiled this list of 25 back to school lunch ideas, no nuts, no seeds and no meat.

Choose your bento box!! In this article we have bento boxes filled with ideas from Pizza party to Asian themes.

kids veggie sushi

Lila's Lunch Sushi

Sushi is a great lunch idea and you can get really creative with fillings.  All vegetables or use kosher fake crab and avocado, or even canned tuna or salmon mixed with mayo inside sushi with some sriracha if your kids like some spice.

Wraps filled with beans and rice, cheese, avocado, tomatoes made to order for your kids, will sit well in the fridge from the night before.

Bagel sandwiches are a common go to, whether you keep it simply spread with cream cheese or butter or get fancy with this Tuna Nicoise Bagel, they are filling.

Pasta – can be sent hot in a thermos with cheese or sauce or both or room temperature, most kids don’t mind. Try this recipe for a healthy Tuna Noodle Casserole, complete with spinach.

Three Bean Vegetarian Chili

Send leftovers.  Make big pots of soup or chili heat and send in a thermos during the Winter, your kids will love having something hot during the day.  Don’t forget the cheese for this Vegetarian Chili.

passover mini quiche

Crustless Quiche with Asparagus and Oven Rosted Tomatoes

Eggs, frittatas and quiches are all wonderful school lunch ideas.  I love these mini quiches made with your kids favorite fillings for keeping the freezer and last minute lunches are made in seconds.

Mini Pizza Doughnuts

Mini Pizza Doughnuts

Savory doughnuts are another perfect lunchbox item that freezes well too.  Send along some carrot sticks and a fruit for a more complete meal.

What do you like to send for your kids lunches? Any new ideas I haven’t thought of yet?

The main image shows these lunchbox homemade granola bars.


 

Out Of The Dessert Box Grilling

 

August 13th 2014

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Grilled desserts are real showstoppers. The high heat oF the grill greatly amplifies the sweetness of summer fruits. In this recipe, grilled plums make a unique dessert salsa. If the jalapenos are too adventurous for you, use only one, or leave them out entirely– I find that it really punches up the flavor of the salsa. Any stone fruit can be substituted for the plums (apricots, peaches, nectarines).

This recipe uses the grill for 2 components: the plums for the salsa, and the pound cake. A medium-high grill is needed both times. If you make the salsa a day or two in advance, the flavor will only intensify.  To assemble the dessert:

Plate the warm pound cake slices. Cover with a gener- ous spoon of the salsa and a dollop of whipped topping. Garnish with mint leaves, if desired.

Grilled Pound Cake Recipe
Grilled Plum Salsa Recipe

As seen in the Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller Magazine

Summer 2013

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The Best Way To Use Leftover Chicken

 

August 12th 2014

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My husband has this thing he’s always saying. Ready for it?

He’s always telling me to “eat the house”. It really drives me nutso. It just sounds so barbaric. When we were younger my sister always said “busted” when I was caught with my hand in the cookie jar. I always thought “busted” especially the way she delivered it sounded kind of truck driver-ish. And I pretty much thought nothing could annoy me more than her “busted”. Comes along hubby with “eat the house” and I almost forgot about “busted” until now.

Anyone here have any clue what he means by “eat the house”?

“Eat the house” is Hubby’s way of saying “Jamie stop sending me food shopping for obscure expensive ingredients when we have plenty of good food in this house.” But what he is really saying is “Jamie I am not throwing out any more food. I don’t want to be the only one in this family eating leftovers. You also have to eat the leftovers again and again and again until there are no leftovers left. Then eat all those obscure and expensive ingredients you made me buy that are already right here in this house. Those things you had to have but have yet to use”. I know it’s a sin to throw out edible food but I can’t help but cook for an army and there are only so many times I can look at the same food. Right?

We used to have this great column years ago called right overs where we took leftovers and remade them into something new and improved and considerably different. That’s why I love this BBQ Chicken Sandwich. You can use leftover soup chicken and/or roast chicken and/or grilled chicken (even dried out chicken that doesn’t have much life left) from Shabbos or last night’s dinner and give it a makeover worthy of a before and after pict. I adore the color, texture and creamy taste of fresh sliced avocado with the sweet saucy shredded chicken. But of course feel free to stretch the meal even further (if you don’t have that much leftover chicken) by piling on lettuce, tomatoes, sprouts, cucumbers or whatever other leftover fresh veg you have in the house.

When I come up with a creative way to “eat the house” I am super proud of myself and it makes hubby’s chorus a little less annoying. Not too much less annoying, but just a little.

What’s your favorite leftover makeover?

Here is the recipe for my Pulled BBQ Chicken Sandwich and here are a few more recipes you can make with leftover chicken:

Chicken Pot Pie

Cashew Ginger Stir Fried Vegetables With Egg Noodles

Chicken Salad

Chicken Bahn Mi Sandwich

 

 

 


 

3 Recipes For The Perfect Burger

 

August 11th 2014

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There is nothing like a juicy burger, all siz- zling and crackling right off the grill to get the appetite going. I love grilling season and will arm wrestle my husband to see who gets to do the honors.

The Perfect Burger

The Best Burger Beef Mix

This mix is my favorite. The beef chuck provides the rich, fatty beefy flavor and the brisket adds a heartiness and dense texture. You can try other beef mixes but be sure to look for well-marbled meat and fat.

The Best Veggie Burger

 

Sometimes a veggie burger just hits the spot, especially when you want a dairy dessert! I added curry spices to my veggie burger as they pair well with the mango-habanero ketchup. If you are not a curry fan, leave them out.

I am not sure why most ketchups have tomatoes in them. Ketchup is actually an ancient Chinese concoction of pickled fish and spices that evolved into the tomato version we all know. As a different topping for my vegetable burgers I thought I would explore other versions of ketchup. Peaches have a dense texture that lends well to a thick burger topping condiment. I love the floral flavor of mangoes and the layer of flavor they lend to the sauce.  I added a fruity habanero pepper to the mix. If you like spicy food, I urge you to try the habanero. Habanero peppers are definitely spicy but have a fruity-complex flavor and not heat.  If you are unsure, just use a sliver of the pepper to try it.

 Salmon Burger

 

Bahn Mi Salmon Burger

Banh mi sandwiches are a byproduct of French colonialism in Indochina, combining French and Vietnamese ingredients and flavors. Banh mi sandwiches are my favorite sandwich and I cannot get enough of the lip-smacking sweet- sour and savory deliciousness. This is my latest Banh mi variation.

I like to use a combination of fresh Wild salmon and smoked salmon (not lox) for my salmon burgers. The briny fresh salmon alone would be “blown away” by the hot smoky grill or even a hot grill pan, but in combination with a smoked salmon, the fresh flavor shines through the smoke and is a brightly flavored alternative to a beef burger.

I use an aioli to bind my ingredients. The fat, in this case the egg yolks and oil, keep the patty intact and add moisture to the mix. I do not use starchy binders like breadcrumbs or flour as the delicate salmon texture would be lost to the gummy starch.

I added lime and ginger to my aioli for my rendition of the classic Vietnamese/French sandwich. I like the bright and “sunshiny” flavors.

 

 

 

 

As seen in the Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller Magazine

Summer 2013

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Burgers 101

 

August 8th 2014

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For such a simple, classic sandwich, there are a surprising number of competing theories on how to make the perfect burger. Chef Mike Gershkovich insists that a true hamburger is made from 100% ground beef. But over at Pomegranate, Brooklyn’s most prestigious supermarket, “meatologist” Ari Heinemann disagrees. At Pomegranate, the most popular ground beef blend is the so-called Perfect Burger, a closely guarded secret recipe involving salt, onion powder, soy sauce and minced onions. And at Wolf & Lamb, Chef Daniel favors a simple mix of salt, pepper, garlic and onion— “seasonings that enhance the natural flavor of the meat, and don’t compete with it,” as Wuensch explained. Both Heinemann and Gershkovich recommend using ground chuck, an affordable and reliable choice.

At Wolf & Lamb, the chefs put aside scraps as they trim top-notch meat cuts like rib-eye and ribs, and then grind those scraps into their famous rib-eye burgers— Wuensch recommends home cooks try the same trick for an affordable way to have burgers made of top-quality meat.

Another point of disagreement between our panel of burger experts was the correct ratio of meat to fat
in the beef mixture. Wuensch advocated for a high fat percentage of 30%, while Chef Mike insisted that you need only 15% fat. In general, a good rule of thumb is that well-done burgers require more fat, while rare burg-
ers can be leaner. “In an all-beef burger,” Gershkovich explained, “the fat bastes the meat as it melts away, giving you a lot of flavor.”

The best way to know what is in your ground beef is to grind it yourself, but if this isn’t an option, find a real butcher shop where you can have your meat selected and ground to order. At Pomegranate, where fresh beef is ground daily, Heinemann recommends purchasing beef on the day you plan to use it, and notes that slight color changes on the surface of the meat is not a cause for concern. “Of course, if the meat starts to smell bad, you should start to worry,” he joked, cautioning that ground beef be kept cold at all times until it is cooked. While every chef we spoke to agreed that fresh meat is best, if that is not available in your area, you don’t have to feel deprived.

Jack’s Gourmet offers premium frozen burger patties in grocery stores nationwide. Look for Sweet Italian and Mexican Chorizo, modeled after the two most popular sausage flavors from the popular kosher meat brand, as well as a Facon Burger, made of premium chuck meat with bits of “Facon” beef bacon.

The Beef

Once your beef is ground, gently form it into patties and sprinkle generously with non-iodized salt and coarsely ground pepper. “Don’t over-handle it,” Gershkovich cautioned. “The more you roll and handle it, the tougher it gets.” A gentle touch will help the burger retain its flavor and texture—no additives necessary. A relatively thin patty, no more than 3⁄4 of an inch thick, will cook quickly and thoroughly, but if you want to make sure your burgers remain no more than medium-well on the inside, keep your patties about one inch thick. Pressing a dimple into the center of each patty will help prevent the burger from curling up into an unwieldy oval shape. Finally, patting the meat dry with a paper towel will help it sear properly.

The Cookout

Your next step? “Go outside and grill!” Heinemann and Wuensch both noted that most people prefer the grill, even though it is easier to get juicy, succulent burgers by using a skillet indoors. If you do grill directly over the flame, use a less fatty meat mixture and never, ever press burgers down onto the grates with your spatula. “Don’t try to flip the burger until it comes off the grates or the pan easily,” warned Wuensch. “Don’t play with it more than necessary.” Wait until it releases easily from the cooking surface, then flip, and wait until the other side is cooked thoroughly as well.

Doneness is a matter of personal preference, but for food safety reasons, the USDA recommends cooking ground beef to an internal temperature of 160°F.

Nowadays, the list of topping ideas for your burger stretches far beyond your basic ketchup, mustard, lettuce and tomato. There are aiolis, slaws, truffle oils, non-dairy cheese substitutes— enough options to last you until Labor Day. One particularly popular burger topping at kosher eateries is a fried egg—you can find a sunny- side-up perched on a hamburger at Amsterdam Burger Company, at Wolf & Lamb, and several other restaurants. “I think it’s because it has almost a dairy feeling to it,” explained Wuensch. He noted that after several attempts, Wolf & Lamb had decided against using non-dairy cheeses on their burgers, focusing instead on getting that creamy, melt-like sensation from eggs and egg-based sauces, like hollandaise sauce.

For the latest, trendiest and most decadent burger topping, try bacon. Or rather, its nearest kosher equivalent–Facon, from the Jack’s Gourmet line of meat products. We spoke to chef and Jack’s Gourmet founder Jack Silberstein about the wildly popular, and surprisingly authentic-tasting, kosher beef bacon, but he insisted that the authentic taste should come as no surprise at all. “Regular bacon is cured and smoked pork belly,” explained Silberstein. “The meat is dry-cured with salt and sugar, which pulls out moisture and concentrates the flavor, and then it’s smoked. Our facon is made of beef plate, the equivalent cut to pork belly on a steer. We cure it using the same dry-cure, and then cook it with smoke. There are no other tricks!” The result is satisfyingly crispy and smokey- tasting, making it a perfect burger topping–in fact, it is the brand used by Amsterdam Burger Company and many other restaurants. Jack Silberstein recommends the “ultimate breakfast” of a burger with Facon and a sunny-side-up egg, or suggests wrapping strips of Facon around small slider-size burgers for a unique appetizer.

Whether you choose to top your burgers with sauces and slaws, or stick to ketchup and mustard, make sure your toppings and buns are ready before the first burger hits the grill. “People wait for food; food doesn’t wait for people.” Chef Mike repeated this mantra several times, stressing that it is perfectly ok—even preferable—to have your guests wait and get their burgers one at a time as they come sizzling off the grill. “Good food is worth the wait,” he said with a smile. And when you hand your guests a burger so delicious and juicy that it will seem like a professional chef is hiding in the kitchen, they will be inclined to agree.

Read more from our chefs in A Better Burger.

As seen in the Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller Magazine

Summer 2013

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A Better Burger – Talking With Chefs

 

August 8th 2014

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Picture yourself at a barbecue on a lazy summer afternoon. With one hand, you hold a frosty beer; with the other, you bite into a thick, juicy hamburger. Soft bun meets juicy tomato, crunchy pickle and savory, beefy burger in that one perfect bite — THE TASTE OF SUMMER…

That is, at least in theory. Far too often, the burgers I find at backyard barbecues are little more than crusty, blackened pucks of meat drowning in ketchup and mustard. Meanwhile, the humble hamburger is enjoying a haute-cuisine revival at kosher restaurants in New York and across the country.

Prime Grill Porcini Burgers

Prime Grill Porcini Burgers

Restaurants such as Rare in Miami, Shilohs and La Gandola in Los Angeles, and Shallots and Ken’s Diner & Grill in Chicago, create gourmet burger offerings that are worth trying out. At Amsterdam Burger Company, a new Manhattan restaurant run by Chef Mike Gershkovich, there are five variations on the classic beef burger, plus burgers made with tuna, chicken and lamb. At Pardes, in Downtown Brooklyn, a miniature burger is topped with a red wine onion jam, bacon and chicken liver. Midtown stalwart Wolf & Lamb serves burgers made of rib-eye steak. With this wave of popularity and reinvention, it seems like it’s the right time to take a second look at the homemade burger.

Our Favorite Burger From Wolf & Lamb

What is it about a burger that keeps us flipping them onto the grill every summer, and ordering them every time we eat out? “Burgers are nostalgic,” said Wolf & Lamb co-owner Zalman Wuensch. “Everyone remembers burgers from childhood — that Sunday afternoon barbecue, that family time. A satisfying burger takes you back to that—it’s more than just a meal.”

“We are living in a time where basic things, simple preparations, are valued,” said Chef Mike Gershkovich of Amsterdam Burger Company over lunch at his restaurant. “A hamburger is the definition of good eats.” Straight- forward as it may be, it takes skill, care, and a few secret tips to make a restaurant quality burger at home.

Amsterdam Burger

The secret, Gershkovich revealed, lies in simplicity and attention. “If your raw ingredients aren’t good, no additions or doctoring is going to make the final result taste good.” The key is starting with quality ingredients, handling them carefully, and paying close attention to even the smallest details. “Toppings are accessories,” he insisted. As for his own personal favorite burger topping? “A fresh cut slice of red onion. That’s it.”

Chef Daniel Espinoza, the chef at Wolf & Lamb agrees. It’s ironic, of course, that the head chefs at these two Manhattan eateries known for their creative burger toppings both insist that the best burger is a simple one, but it is a testament to their shared conviction in putting quality first.

Click here for more from our chef burger experts in our Burgers 101.

As seen in the Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller Magazine

Summer 2013

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