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Monday, March 2, 2015

How to turn humble onions into sweet, savory magic: caramelize them.

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Want a secret weapon in your cooking arsenal that you can pull out anytime to make anything taste better?

One that can make the difference between a dish that's good and a dish that's fabulous?  Between so-so and WOW?  A secret ingredient you can toss into almost anything, because it's totally pareve and versatile?

No, it’s not a dream.

Yes, this magic ingredient exists... and it's onions - the caramelized kind.

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Is it magic?  Or science?

Onions are like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  When they're raw, they're hard, sharp, with a nasty sting that makes your eyes tear up.  But when caramelized, they're soft, mellow, sweet and... well, full of all that caramelly goodness.

The word "caramelization" refers to the browning that happens in the onion's sugars.  Sugar in an onion?  You betcha.  Even the most humble yellow onions have plenty of sugar, and the special sweeter varieties like Vidalia have even more.

Did you know that you can actually caramelize onions in the crock pot

Sunday, February 22, 2015

It’s Adar… so let’s get cooking! Kosher Cooking Carnival (KCC)

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Life really does get cooking at this time of year… kind of literally.  I’m usually pulling out of my winter hibernation just in time for yom tov cooking/baking, first in a fun Purim way and then in a dead-serious Pesach way.

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This carnival is about all things kosher and cooking.  If your blog is, too, or if you’ve blogged about kosher food on another blog, then you’re welcome to join us! 

So what’s doing in kosher food?

What we’re eating

First of all, with Pesach on the way, you should be inventorying your food and trying to use up what you’ve got.  If you haven’t already, there’s still time to start, as Batya does at her blog me-ander in Pre-Passover Inventory Time.  She says, “Sometimes I'm totally amazed at what has been stored away all year waiting for a special occasion.”

Latkes, wine, brisket, and a new glatt-kosher meal ingredient home-delivery kit?  (I wonder if they deliver to Israel?!?) It’s all packed into the review of This Week in Kosher Food Trends by Shannon Sarna of The Nosher. “I went home happy, full, a little buzzed and inspired from the innovative approaches to Jewish food.”

On her new macrobiotic cooking/eating/thinking blog, Jerusalem MacroLovers, Klara discusses how cooking is so much more than just having the right recipes in Is Cooking Magical??  She says, “My ideal kind of a cooking class is where first the teacher demonstrates, then the student goes home to practice, then comes back to class and does it again.”

What we’re drinking

When creating Christmas ales has become a tradition

Granola greetings: a perfect way to start the day (dairy)

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It’s sort of like alchemy, really… you take oats, which is essentially horse food, and you turn it into pure, hearty breakfast yumminess.

If you’re thinking of starting to make your own granola, this is one of those “old favourite” recipes you’ll want to keep handy.

This picture here of the ingredients highlights the truly “no-frills” alchemy of this recipe:  crafting a premium product out of all these yellow-label groceries.  (the brown sugar and a couple of other things that aren’t packed in yellow were left out of the photo)

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I’ve made this granola many, many times now.  I’m still searching for a source of milk powder (skim or otherwise) in Israel, because now I miss it… a lot.  Plus, storebought granola is pretty expensive here, while oats are relatively cheap.

I was surprised the first few times that I liked it so much; I’m not a huge granola fan.  Before I made this, I tried the Artisan Bread in Five Granola (the granola is meant to be used to make yummy Granola Bread!), but to be honest, I wasn’t that inspired by it.  This one DID inspire me.

What’s the difference?

In this recipe, it’s the milk powder that MAKES the granola.  It makes the granola sort of clump together the same way Quaker Harvest Crunch does – delicious clusters of pure homemade crunchy deliciousness.  If you don’t have powdered milk or don’t want to make a dairy granola – ie, for baking – then stick with the ABin5 recipe; it’s very good.  Otherwise, try this one – it’s GREAT!

I recommend that you not double the recipe.  The single one makes a decent quantity, and it doesn’t keep long.  Plus, my family gets sick of eating the same thing surprisingly quickly.  This is so fast to throw together that you can always whip up more if it vanishes.  (If you have a big family, I suppose you could double it, but keep in mind that you’ll need to spread it out flat to bake properly in the oven.)

This recipe is adapted from The Tightwad Gazette.

What you need:

The Wet Stuff:

  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup honey

Friday, February 20, 2015

Kosher Kinda-Caribbean Rice & Beans – easy, creamy & delish (and pareve, too)

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I've been on a bean kick this winter.  So when I wanted an out-of-the-ordinary side dish that would double as something appealing and warm that I could offer the kids when they came home on a blustery, rainy day, I decided this Caribbean-style rice would be incredible.

I'm calling it “Caribbean-style” (sorta Caribbean) because I've never had ACTUAL Caribbean rice.  And I didn't follow the recipes I found online (mainly this one) to the letter. 

Most of the recipes I found are spicier than my family likes, although one I found suggests cooking the pepper without opening it (do not peel, seed, chop etc, just toss it in whole), which apparently adds  warmth without spicy violence.  Sounds like a great hack if I ever feel like pushing the envelope.

The flavour I was going for, however, was more warm, comforting and robust than just… hot.  And I think I hit it perfectly.  The kitchen smelled beautiful while this was cooking.

I used kidney beans, which I’d soaked (even though you don’t have to soak your beans) and this rice turned out a beautiful comfort-food blend of creamy (but pareve), savoury and delicious.  The creaminess reminded me a lot of a risotto, but it comes from the coconut milk, meaning this is anything but a reduced-fat kinda dish.  (If you want lower-fat, use Arborio rice, chicken soup and a pressure cooker to make real risotto.)

You could probably use any beans you like, because they’re precooked, so cooking time doesn’t matter.

You can vary the quantities of ginger and garlic according to your tastes.  I really like them, so I used quite a lot, as you can see where I’ve dumped them in here.  (I started making this in the cast-iron skillet, because it’s better for frying, but quickly realized I was going to have an overflow situation on my hands once I added the liquids.)

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So I quickly shifted the whole thing to my big dairy soup pot.  Perfect!  I would also have used more beans.  You can barely see them in the pictures… so I’ll throw more in next time I make this.   And there WILL be a next time, I assure you.

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By the way, I didn’t tell my family it was Caribbean rice at all.  I just said, “There’s rice.  It’s good.”  Why scare them with unfamiliar terminology before they’ve had a chance to fall in love with it.  Right?

Why not taste it and see for yourself?

What you need:

Sunday, February 15, 2015

My daughter’s new favourite soup: Creamy Zucchini-Potato (pareve)

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I know I’ve been doing a lot of soups lately.  Forgive me… it’s winter and I could not be happier. 

Before we moved to Israel, we got used to inaugurating Soup Season at Sukkos and finishing sometime after Pesach.  Here, Soup Season is way shorter – more like December to February than October to April.  So little time, and so many soups to cram in while we’re still shivering.

This Zucchini-Potato Soup is pareve because it gets its creaminess from pureeing potatoes.  It is super-fast, mainly because you make it in a small batch.  It can easily be doubled, tripled, etc., to serve a crowd. 

Did I mention that my daughter is nine?  She found this herself in the cookbook and has actually made it entirely by herself, except for the pureeing part at the end.

If you are just starting out on the soup-making journey, this is the perfect soup for you to start with.  It can be anything you want it to be.  You don’t taste the zucchini, which is perfect, because most of us here don’t love zukes. 

If you want something with a stronger flavour, add broccoli and boil it a little longer.  For a bit of colour, add a carrot instead.  This soup essentially cannot be ruined.

It’s adapted from Gatherings: the Netivot HaTorah Day School Cookbook, which is a terrific, sensible cookbook now published by Feldheim.  I am actually mentioned near the back – under my previous name - because I was on the original committee.  (I don’t think I actually did anything, but it’s nice to get credit!)

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Thinking outside of the Triangle: 26 zany new hamentashen you’ll “flip” for in 5775!

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The theme of Purim is “venahafoch hu” – it was overturned.  Everything is flipped around at this busy, zany, fun time of year… including the tedium of using the same traditional recipes, year in and year out. 

There’s a time for “moon and prune” (the traditional poppy and prune fillings), of course. 

But why not turn to one of these jaw-dropping new creations to discover a brand-new favourite you can proudly share with family and friends?  There’s certainly plenty here to choose from…

1. Gingerbread / chocolate hamentaschen

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2. Rainbow hamentaschen

3. Nutella hamentaschen

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4. Black sesame hamentaschen

5. Yeasty hamentaschen

6. Candy-cane cheesecake hamentaschen

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