Saturday, May 7, 2016

Sweet, tangy Strawberry (or any flavour) Jello in Israel!

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One of the things I missed most when I started keep kosher was JELLO.  Ooey, gooey, jiggly jello.  Mmm, mmm, good.  And totally, totally not kosher.

A few years later, I discovered a REAL and delicious brand of kosher gelatin, which we used to buy often enough in Toronto to keep me happy.

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However, here in Israel, there’s no such thing, just the insipid brands of kosher jello, which are based on vegetable gel and don’t – in my limited experience – set up properly to a shiny crystal-clear texture.

So I’ve started playing with real gelatin since we’ve been here, because it’s cheap and plentifully available – and, as I think I’ve commented before, mysteriously pareve.  There are two kinds; the red package is meat-source and the blue is fish-source.  From bad experience in Toronto, I’ve found that fish gelatin gives a weird tangy taste to everything you use it in.  This would probably be fine in a citrus-themed dessert (as shown on the box), but definitely not fine in a chocolaty dessert, or, perhaps, a strawberry one.

For me, the only real flavour of Jello is strawberry.  Happily, I have discovered a not-too-hard way to make authentic-tasting strawberry jello right here in Israel using an all-important Secret Ingredient…

Kool-Aid!!!

Okay, sure, you can’t buy Kool-Aid locally here in Israel, at least, that I know of.  In Canada either, for that matter; I searched in vain when I was there in March, but they’ve gone over to those “water-flavour” drops which are pre-sweetened artificially.  Ugh.

Speaking of “artificially” – you can use this method to make delicious all-natural jello as well.  I have made jello before using ONLY strawberries, when they’re in season (you can’t get fresh strawberries out of season here).  I boil them in a heavy-bottom dutch oven with a little sugar until they are completely soft and surrounded by delicious, bright-red strawberry liquid.  Yum!

But this time, I really, really wanted the artificial strawberry taste I know and love so much.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Pareve and decadent peanut-butter cookie dough truffles–EASY!

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It may not be summer yet, but we’ve had a few days so far that have really hinted that it’s on its way.  And for summer Shabboses, what’s really nice is an easy no-bake dessert that isn’t tremendously patchkedik (involved, preparation-wise).

These truffles capture the “cookie dough” vibe perfectly – they’re soft inside and not too sweet for a grown-up palate, but not too peanut-buttery and healthy-tasting (okay, they’re not healthy at all!) that kids will turn up their noses.  In other words, they’re just right.  And you can make them with just FIVE things you probably have sitting around your kitchen the week after Pesach – at least, I did.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Spatchcocking a chicken for Pesach: the secret to moist, juicy, kosher chicken

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Has this ever happened to you?  You’ve been cooking up a storm, roasting a chicken, which fills up the house with all kinds of delicious fragrances while it's cooking, and then you bite into the chicken and...

AAAAAACK!!!!  Dry!  Dry!  Dry!

There are some things that taste as good as they smell.  But chicken is often not one of them.  Dry chicken is like the eleventh plague of Pesach.  (Just tying this in here to keep it seasonal!)

And whole roast chicken is the WORST, hands-down.  The breast (my grandmother used to call it the "keel" to be polite, but I don't know if this ever caught on) is up there, proud and tall (we've bred our chickens to be built like this), while the lesser thighs (lots of kosher stores call them “backs” to be polite) bask in all the juices and generally turn out okay.  (This is the bit I usually eat.)

Another problem with roasting a whole chicken?  By the time the thighs (way down at the bottom) are done, the breast (way up at the top) is overdone.  We do all sorts of desperate things to prevent dryness in our chicken.  Cooking it upside-down.  Cooking it in bags.  With fruit.  Sticking a beer can up inside.

Any cook worth her salt will tell you that if you want things to cook evenly, you should make them all about the same size and ensure that they are in even contact with the heat source (in this case, the heat source is the hot air of the oven).  Flat things cook better than misshapen lumpy things like a whole chicken.  If only we could change the basic shape of a chicken!

Oh, wait, there is.  There’s one quick and easy fix to the dry whole “wrong-shaped for cooking chicken” dilemma:  spatchcocking.

Spatchcocking (I think it’s also known as “butterflying”? – or maybe it should be) will…

  • Give you a flat, evenly-shaped bird
  • Cook your whole chicken faster
  • Ensure even cooking, so no parts are over- or undercooked

There is one caveat, however: it's not for the squeamish. If you like to upend your chicken into a pan and pretend it was never part of an animal (let alone a whole animal unto itself), then this is not the prep style for you.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

What's so kosher about kosher salt? Get all the facts, myths, and tips.

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It's taken over the gourmet world.  You pretty much wouldn't write a recipe that includes salt without it.  It's also an annoying fact of life for those of us googling "kosher" recipes - that yummy salt bumps up almost every recipe to the top of the list even if it's a recipe for bacon double cheeseburgers.

First of all, you may already know that "kosher" salt is no more or less kosher than any other salt.  That is, it's kosher, but so is table salt, coarse salt, sea salt, Himalayan pink mountain salt, and every other form of pure salt.

So if you eat kosher and cook kosher, you CAN use kosher salt.  But you don’t have to.

So why is it called kosher?

That’s actually just a mistake.  This flattish crystalline form of salt is actually kosher-ING salt - the kind of salt used to "kasher" meat to make it kosher.

Most kosher salt has air between relatively flat crystals.  So when you're using or substituting kosher salt, use "more" of it - the same amount by weight looks like more on a spoon, so 2 tsp of regular table salt will be just as salty as 1 tbsp or more of kosher salt.  Many people claim it has a “lighter” flavour, but in reality, it tastes the same as any other salt – you’re just using less of it.

Here’s a picture showing a comparison between different types of salt, close-up:

Friday, September 4, 2015

Freeze the lime in the coconut (with just a touch of chocolate, mm-hmm)

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If you’ve ever heard the “Lime in the Coconut” song – don’t worry.  There’s no “bellyaching” here, just a whole fluffy heap of summer-Shabbos deliciousness.

On a hot day, it feels like there is no taste more perfect than lime and coconut mixed together.

Happily, I discovered a couple of years ago that you can WHIP the cream that rises to the top of coconut milk.  Is there anything more perfect, you ask?  No, there is not.

Well, okay... it does get a little more perfect, when you stir in just a small handful of tiny chocolate chips.  Mini chocolate chips work best, because they're awesomely subtle, but really, who's going to complain that their chocolate chips are too big?

Here is the basic premise of this, the easiest and perhaps most perfect of all whipped desserts:

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This isn't exactly a recipe, more like a method.  You'll need well-chilled coconut milk or coconut cream, so stick it in the fridge overnight before you open the tin. 

Only use the coconut cream that's congealed.  Whatever liquid is in there after you scoop out the white stuff is incredibly tasty on chicken, so hang onto it and use it for something else, because it definitely won't whip.

  • Pull out 2 tins of well-chilled coconut milk. 
  • Before it can warm up, skim off the solid white stuff on top and add it to a bowl.
  • Add 2-3 cubes of frozen lime juice (maybe 4-8 Tbsp?), to taste.  If lime juice is frozen, let it thaw a little before starting to whip.
  • Add 1/2 cup of sugar.
  • Whip the white stuff until it gets reasonably firm (it may take a while if it's a warm day, but it WILL whip, so keep going).

Once mixture is fully whipped, gently stir in chocolate chips and transfer to freezer.



That's it - enjoy!!!  Let me know if you love this as much as I do. <3

[lime/coconut photo © Alex Gorzen via Flickr]

Tzivia / צִיבְיָה


Monday, August 31, 2015

Magically healthy panko-baked sweet potato puffs

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Are you sick of kugels but aren’t sure what else you can make to serve on the side of a Shabbos or Yom Tov meal?  Here’s something that’s just as EASY as a kugel, only in tasty, crunchy, bite-sized morsels.
 
Last week, I wanted something like the Alexa brand sweet potato “tater tots,” which by all accounts are absolutely delicious.  We can’t buy them here, so I knew I had to make something from scratch.  My puffs came out totally different, but utterly delightful in their own right.  They’re a great way to sneak even more of that sweet potato goodness onto your family’s menu.
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Plus, they’re terrifically simple:
Bake or boil the sweepoes (I boiled mine), puree them with egg yolks, cornstarch and seasoning, and then coat the mixture with panko before baking.  I added a little melted coconut oil to the sweet potatoes; you could probably leave it out OR substitute canola if you wanted something subtler (there wasn’t a strong coconut taste, however).
 
Everybody loved the taste and texture of these!
 
Here, I’m pureeing the sweet potato.  I added everything in here:  egg yolks, cornstarch, coconut oil, salt and pepper, plus a little cinnamon.  You can leave the cinnamon out if you don’t like it.
 
I let the mixture sit in the fridge for a while in the food processor bowl to firm up a bit before scooping it out.  I think this really helped, though it was still rather mushy.
 
Happily, we had panko (Japanese bread crumbs) in the house.  I mixed in a little melted coconut oil, plus salt and pepper.  Then, I just dropped in the sweet potato mixture by tablespoons-full.  Because they were so mushy, I tossed crumbs over them lightly with a fork to make sure they were completely coated before transferring to the baking pan.

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