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.

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