Saturday, September 30, 2006

el corte kipur .... or breaking the fast

while ashkenazi jews tend to break their fast with dairy based foods, this is not necessarily so in the sephardic tradition [though some people may adopt the others' customs]. after drinking something and having pastries [cake] or some cookies perhaps, either savoury or sweet, a meat based meal later often follows.

one of the corte kipur traditions is to make drinks based on seeds or nuts which are considered restorative after many long hours of not eating or drinking. one of these drinks is called pepitada and is what jews with turkish and greek backgrounds prepare a few days before the yom kippur holiday. some people will just drink fresh orange juice or sweetened hot tea in tulip glasses however.

pepitada is made from ground canteloupe or other melon seeds. its taste is remniscent of toasted sesame. it is sweetened with sugar and further perfumed with orange flower or rose waters and served in small glasses.

making pepitada takes some foresight. i begin the process in august when canteloupes abound. of course, any kind of melon seed may be used. i collect, wash and clean the seeds, and let them dry until i have enough. they are stored away safely until a few days before the beginning of the holiday.

and here is how it is made:

pepitada — a ladino "break the fast" restorative

1/2 - 1 cup melon seeds
3 - 4 c water
2 - 3 tsp sugar
orange flower or rose water


these are the seeds after having been washed and dried:

the seeds are placed in a pan on medium heat and stirred until they start to brown slightly and pop. you will hear them crackle. they may jump in the pan!

let them rest until they are cool and proceed to grind them. they smell wonderful after they roast. here is a close up of the seeds:

in a blender or a food processor, grind the seeds finely.

the ground seeds are placed in a muslin bag you tie up extremely tightly. here, i used a tripled new "j-cloth" tied with a string.

after the corners have been carefully collected and tied, you get a little bag [sakito].

place this bag in a glass pitcher and fill with 3 to 4 cups of cold water.

let the bag sit in the water:

leave the bag for an hour and then carefully take it and give it a few squeezes and the water will fast start to change colour and the seeds will exude their "milk".

replace the mixture in the fridge and occasionally give the mixture a squeeze [3 or 4 times]. the next day, wring the bag tightly to exude every last bit of "milk" and discard its contents.

flavour the pepitada with the sugar to taste & the flower water you choose [or don't add if you don't like it].

the finished pepitada. a centuries old tradition.
drink and be restored! l'chaim.

almond cookies

another part of breaking the fast is starting with small cookies or cakes. this recipe for almond cookies is from a [jewish] iraqi friend. it is traditional and generations old. they are redolent of middle eastern flavourings: exotic ground cardamom, deeply scented rose water & beautiful bright green pistachios. she calls these cookies haji badam. there is also another variation using rice flour [also used at passover].

almond cookies

1/2 c almond flour [ground almonds]
1/2 c AP flour
1/3 c sugar
1/8 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp almond extract
1/8 - 1/4 tsp cardamom
1 egg
rose water

note: you can probably use orange flower water instead if you don't like rosewater.


preheat oven to 350 F.

place all ingredients except egg, almond extract and rose water in a bowl.

add the beaten egg & almond extract.

stir well with a wooden spoon to make a rough dough.

make a neat ball of dough. be forewarned, this is a somewhat sticky dough.

take approximate tablespoons of dough and measure out 12 even [more or less] portions to make large-marble sized balls.

wet your hands with rose water and make smooth balls. rewet your hands as necessary. place these evenly on the baking sheet and then press a large green pistachio nut [or blanched almond] in the center of each ball.

with fingers moistened again in rosewater, press down slightly to flatten each ball.

bake the cookies for 15 minutes until slightly coloured. remove from oven and let cool.


Friday, September 29, 2006

shloggen kaporos .... casting your sins

virtual kaparah chicken

as the most important & holiest day in the jewish calendar — yom kippur — quickly approaches [this year lasting from sunday night until one hour after sunset on monday night], we hope for a new year filled with good health, prosperity, & most importantly peace, both within ourselves and across humanity worldwide. G-d only knows we need it.

yom kippur reminds us yearly that we are not without having done wrong in both our own lives and the lives of others around us — be it intentional or not. on this sanctified day however we are also reminded that our lives can be renewed and our spirits refreshed. we reflect upon how we treated others around us and also ourselves. there is hope to make better the coming year.

with all the awful events of the past year[s], we hope for this more than ever.

one of the traditions of yom kippur is the ancient custom, still practiced today by some communities, of casting one's sins before the commencement of the holiday with the ritual offering of a chicken. this ceremony is called kapporot[h] or shloggen kaporos in yiddish.

the chicken is the symbolic & vicarious atonement for our sins. nothing goes to waste and the animal itself is respected in both the way it is offered and used after its death. the meat of the chicken is traditionally eaten at the prefast meal and used in soup. to see pictures of the ceremony look here. it is interesting to note that:

[...] the definitive primary Jewish legal text, the Shulchan Aruch, or "Code of Jewish Law," notes the custom of Kapparot, but disapproves of its practice. The authoritative glosses of the Rama (Rabbi Moshe Isserles), though, which present normative Ashkenazic practice, note that the custom has its illustrious defenders, and maintains that where it exists it should be preserved.

quote was taken from Aish and can be read here in its entirety. these days, many people use coins wrapped in a handkerchief as a substitute for this offering.

for more on the rituals and history of yom kippur, read about it in this site.

the foods for erev yom kippur are usually bland, easily digestable and not heavily salted or spiced ... and for good reason. this is so that one will not become overly thirsty or have attacks of indigestion. for 25 to 26 hours there is no drinking of any kind and no eating [though exceptions are made for children and those who are ill, under doctor's care or pregnant/nursing].

while i gave a recipe and demonstration earlier for kreplach, i would like to give a recipe for something called ricciolini — an italian prefast addition to the soup eaten on erev yom kippur. this recipe is from the author of the book La Cucina nella Tradizione Ebraica by author Giuliana Ascoli Vitali-Norsa. the second recipe is a turkey loaf made in the italian way, and is called polpetonne di tacchino. please note that these are difficult recipes and require time to prepare, if you are adventurous & so-inclined to try them.

ricciolini in brodo

2 eggs
2 1/2 cups [250 g] flour
pinch of salt
2 c [500 ml] broth, or more


make pasta as you normally would, adding extra flour to make the dough come out quite stiff

keep dough covered with a damp cloth or it will dry out during the preparation

take small pieces of the dough and roll them out with your rolling pin, not too thinly [between 1/8 and 1/16 of an inch — 2-3 mm]

lightly grease the sheets of dough now obtained with oil or chicken fat and cut them into thin strips about 2 inches (4 cm) long. stretch them out with your hands, rolling them under the ball of your right thumb to give them a curl [the word ricciolino means curl].

cook them in the broth and serve.

*making this is rather lengthy process. you have to roll out the dough a little at a time or it dries out before you've worked it.

polpetonne di tacchino [turkey loaf]
not a beginner's recipe

small turkey with skin, weighing at least 4 1/2 pounds [2 k]
6 eggs
pound [500 g] ground veal
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
3 eggs


hard boil three eggs, set aside.

carefully make an incision up the back of the turkey to cut the skin, and skin the bird, taking care not to tear any holes in the skin [if the skin tears along the wings, sew up the tears].

cut the meat from the bones, selecting the best and cutting it into filets. grind the remaining trimmings with the veal. once you have ground the meat, take the turkey bones, together with beef bones, a piece of beef [if you want], and the requisite herbs -- onion, carrot, and celery -- and make broth to cook the turkey loaf in.

now turn you attention to the filling: combine the ground meat, the remaining three eggs and the nutmeg, and season everything to taste with salt and pepper. next, peel a clove of garlic and rub it over the turkey skin, which you should spread out on your work surface. once you have rubbed, lay down the turkey filets lengthwise, then a layer of ground meat, then a layer formed of the hard-boiled eggs cut in half, then another layer of ground meat, and then sew up the skin, using cotton thread and making sure to seal up any tears that may have formed. you will thus have a large meat loaf; poke it with a thick needle to let out any air that might be trapped within.

let the broth cool before you settle the turkey loaf into it; if you want to be absolutely certain the loaf won't split as it cooks place it in a clean muslin bag. bring the pot to a simmer and cook the loaf for 2 1/2 hours, then remove it, sandwich it between two plates, put a weight on the upper one, and let it cool. then slice it and serve it, with the sauces of your choice.

* * * * *

Thursday, September 28, 2006

when sugar becomes a foodgroup

for years and years, i have loved sugary sweet things. i would take sweet over salty anyday. i love all sorts of things involving my addictive white [and often powdered] substance — cakes, pastries, red licorice, candy and the list goes on. well, not exactly a detailed A-listing of those sweet things i get off on but you get the idea.

it's a wonder i don't weigh 500 lbs. considering all i have consumed over the years, it's also miraculous i haven't become [G-d forbid] diabetic or rotted every last tooth in my head. i guess i have to thank my fast metabolism and genetic make-up.

as my diet and tastes have changed over the years, i have now become a diet pepsi drinker [much better than diet coke, IMO] and am much more conscious about what goes past my lips: i eat more greens, fresh vegetables & fruit, and consume far less meat than i used to.

one day, after thinking about the 12 tsp of sugar one can of coke contains, i figured it was time to make the switch.

at first, i was gagging on it and thinking .... "what the hell am i drinking this sh*t for?" wouldn't water be better?? at least i don't gag on water. would my one of my teeth still dissolve in a can of diet pepsi — or is that just in a can of coke? over time, i got used to it and can now say i even enjoy it ..... but only with food, of course.

i know consuming huge amounts of sugar is bad, bad, bad. i kind of laugh as i seem to undo all the good eating i do [less meat, more greens, more grains, etc.] by using sugar in my cooking and baking.

i hope, this new year, to reform my wicked ways and reduce my usage and consumption of all things sacchararum. hehe, it just dawned on me why i love beets. couldn't i fall in love with a cucumber instead?

for the "truth" about diet drinks, look here. and i thought i was safe.

i'm glad bureka loves diet pepsi also:

[oddly enough, the little brat likes to drink it too!]

as with anything .... moderation is the way to go.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

wonton ... ravioli ... no, kreplach!

this post is a bit of a continuation of my previous one: mr. chicken's day at the spa [see previous post about chicken soup].

to make sure i am ready for sunday's mid-afternoon meal which is called the "sé'udah hamafseket" [concluding meal (pre-fast)], i try to do a bit of work during the week after rosh hashanah. i have always dreaded this meal as it was the last chance to eat and drink for the next 25/26 hours. what always seemed to follow the next day was the infamous "yom kippur headache" and hunger pangs around 6 pm. in spite of hunger, what always felt worse was not being able to drink. i could handle not eating .... but the not drinking!! now, that was/is killer. more about this in friday's post about yom kippur.

one of the customs of the pre-fast meal is to eat chicken soup with the addition of a dumpling type food, called kreplach [yiddish]. kreplach are basically made from leftover meat/s stuffed into a pasta type dough and simmered in a soup, though they are sometimes fried. they are of a triangular shape and served three times a year: the pre-fast meal of erev yom kippur, hoshanah rabbah [7th day of the holiday sukkoth, which follows yom kippur] & purim.

so what about this funny sounding word, kreplach? where did it come from? here is the answer:

Yiddish kreplech, pl. of krepel, from German dialectal Kräppel, fried pastry, variant of German Krapfen, from Middle High German krapfe, from Old High German krpfo, hook (from their hooklike shape).

i am including a recipe and a little pictorial on how to make them. you may, of course, skip the dough making part if that intimidates you. just use a package of chinese wonton wrappers.

for a quicker version see here.


makes approximately 20 - 24; make filling first and bank on about 2 hrs for making these unless you have help.

recipe from Spice & Spirit
(Lubavitch Women's Cookbook Publications, 1990).

your filling may be made the day before and stored in the fridge.

1 onion, diced
2 Tbsp. oil
1 cup cooked chicken or ground beef
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 egg
1 Tbsp. matzah meal [or bread crumbs]

chop the onion and saute in oil for about 10 min. on med low heat. add the chicken or ground beef & continue to cook for 5 minutes. remove to a bowl and let cool 5 minutes. add the rest of the ingredients and set aside while you make the dough.

* * * * *

cook's tips: if you don't have a 3 inch [pareve] cutter, use a wiped-over 28 oz can of tomatoes to cut out the circles. you don't have to open the can; just press down hard.

the key to making these is rolling a very, very thin dough and letting the dough relax between rollings.

* * * * *


2 c AP flour
1/2 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. oil
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder or soda

mix all ingredients together to make a dough and let it rest 1/2 hr to to 1 hr. 2 options: circles or squares. for circles: cut in 4 pieces and roll out each piece and cut into 3 inch circles and stack. or, cut dough in 2 pieces, let rest, and roll each half as thinly as possible. measure and trim edges to make a square. now use some math skills and figure out how to divide the whole thing equally, roughly based on 2 1/2 to 3 inch squares. cut them like a tic-tac-toe design. make sure they are all of the same size. this is the easiest way and you don't end up with many scraps.

place a krepl [singular of kreplach] on your surface in front of you and place a small teaspoon or so of filling in the middle. have a little dish ready of either water or some egg white reserved from the egg yolks used in the dough. with either your finger or a brush, smear some water or egg white on the bottom half at the edge, as though you were painting a happy face smile.

carefully bend the dough circle in half and press the seam tightly closed [otherwise it may open later].

now that that is done, place the krepl so that the round part is on top. then take one corner and fold it over in half [don't worry about stretching it]. wet it with more water or more egg white. fold the other corner over and press them firmly together so they stick.

and you're done! these should be simmered in salted water for about 15 - 20 minutes and then added to soup. they will float to the top of the water eventually, an indication that they are done or near-done. give a stir at the beginning to make sure they do not stick to the bottom of the pot. if not using right away, remove them and drain them on a tea towel or paper toweling. i freeze mine before i get to the cooking stage. put them on a tray and freeze until firm and then transfer them to a plastic freezer bag. later, just throw them in frozen [no need to defrost] to cook when you need them. you may also fry them after they are drained.

note that if you are using the wonton wrappers, they may be much thinner and require less cooking time. check after each 5 minute interval.
for more about kreplach and its cousins, read this interesting article [recipes included!] entitled, "the wide world of dumplings".

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

bread, beets & pressure cookers

as fall has arrived, it is root vegetable time. one of my favourites is the beet. i recently picked up a huge bag of smallish sized beets for next to nothing and decided to use my pressure cooker that i really only use for cooking vegetables, grains & beans. i am always amazed at how fast and perfectly everything manages to cook — in approximately 1/3 the time. instead of 35 - 40 minutes of waiting, the beets were magnificently done in 12 minutes! i should use this beast more often to cook. it is hardly the frightening and precarious implement i remember my mom using when i was a child. today's pressure cookers are of a new breed and well worth the investment. for a lot more information on them, time charts and recipes for using one, check out Miss Vickie's website.

a recipe involving beets that i recommend:

pink herring salad
with beets, green apple, baby potatoes & sour cream
1 lb beets, cooked [diced]
2 6 oz. jars pickled herring, drained and cut up
1 granny smith apple, diced
1/2 lb baby potatoes, cooked and cut in half
1/2 med. red onion, sliced thinly
1/4 c. white vinegar
2 tbsp sugar [or more]
salt to taste
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 c sour cream or whipping cream
2 hard boiled eggs, sliced in quarters [optional]

in a large bowl mix the cream with the sugar, vinegar, and pepper. add the remaining ingredients and salt to taste. marinate overnight. garnish with the egg slices.

* * * * *

i also spent some time bread baking and really have to catch up on my testing. i am far behind. life in general & the craziness of the holidays put a damper on my progress. below is the wholegrain loaf i made. i liked this one quite a bit and was skeptical at the beginning as the bread was made by combining two fermented doughs. that in itself is not unusual .... what bothered me was that the whole grains dough was very loose and not very doughlike. it was a combination of cooked brown rice, coarse cornmeal [which sent me running all around trying to find], ground flaxmeal, oat bran & some other things which i cannot recall at the moment.

a view of its "innards":

* * * * *

i also made a batch of ciabatta, the rustic way — fait à la main [by hand]. this was a wet dough preparation. think thickened wallpaper paste: a big gloopy & gloppy mass but which miraculously turns into a dough with exceptional results. definitely not a beginners' bread but well worth the effort and sticky hands.

needless to say, it was excellent made into panini sandwiches.

Monday, September 25, 2006

and now for a different kind of food

now that rosh hashanah is over .... on to other things.

* * * *

i have always been fascinated by what people eat, especially the things i could not — or would not — consume [i am talking about the strange and the odd here]. not sure why as most of it would probably be puked back up [lol], let alone make it past my lips. i suspect it connects to my great interest in anthropology & sociology and the countless hours i spent going through magazines like national geographic and watching pbs shows when i was younger.

i still cannot understand why people would eat most of those very odd foodstuffs. [forgive my north american perspective]. perhaps cultural tradition, limited food supply or not allowing anything to go to waste .... or maybe whatever they are eating just tastes good.

some of the "bizarrest" items are those involving the unmentionables of the male. c'mon, would you eat a penis or testicles?! if you would, you are certainly braver than i.

check this out:

and if you're still hungry, maybe you'd like this:


another cool blog to follow, if you like stuff like this, is called Weird Meat and documents this guy's travels and the oddities he eats, along with the photojournalism of his adventures. interesting site.

Friday, September 22, 2006

.... on rosh hashanah it is written

according to the jewish religion, our names are inscribed into the book of life for the new year on rosh hashanah and our fate sealed on yom kippur — the day of atonement, the holiest day of our year, 10 days after rosh hashanah.

the next two days will be busy as jewish families gather, attend services at synagogues and of course, eat! i am leaving you with two recipes involving apples: one is a cake, the other what is called a pudding but is really more of a cake, best served warm.

amazing apple cake

based on recipe from Ohio caterers:
paula levine weinstein and julie komerofsky remer.


(note: original recipe was cloyingly sweet and much too dense; the reworked amounts make a much lighter and more appealing cake in terms of sweetness)

3 c AP flour
1 c vegetable oil
1/2 c 1 ¼ to 1 ½ c orange juice
(or ¾ to 1 c orange juice + 1/2 c applesauce)
1 tbsp baking powder
2 c 1 1/2 c sugar
4 eggs
2 1/2 tsp vanilla
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt

4 - 5 6 -7 apples*, sliced (only use baking apples like macintosh)
1 ½ - 2 ½ tsp cinnamon
2/3 c granulated sugar


you need three large bowls and a smaller one for this recipe.

peel apples and slice thinly, mix with 1 tbsp lemon juice in a large bowl. in another dish or small bowl, mix the 2/3 c. sugar with the cinnamon and set aside also.

mix dry cake ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. in another, mix the wet ingredients together. add the wet to the dry.

beat until smooth.

pour half the batter into a greased 10 inch tube pan with a removable bottom. you can also use a very large pyrex but keep an eye on the baking time.

sprinkle with a little less than 1/2 of the cinnamon sugar.

arrange half the apples with half of the juices, if any, then sprinkle with a little more cinnamon sugar. repeat layer again. the last half of the apples will be on top of the cake.

bake at 300 F for 90 minutes or longer until done. let cool completely as the juices from the apples need to be absorbed by the cake before being removed.


*this cake actually tastes better the next day; the juices from the apples flavour the cake further;

*you need to use apples which will break down while baking like macintosh apples (or other similar kinds; see apple info post for other varieties);

*this cake has to be baked in a tube pan or in a very large pyrex.
this recipe is named for the connection with the apple & the garden of eden, and is from british cookery author Evelyn Rose:

eve's "pudding" [a light, saucy apple cake]
1/3 c soft margarine [or butter]
1/3 c sugar
1 1/4 c self-raising flour [see note in post about israeli honey cake]
pinch extra baking powder
2 eggs
1 tbsp water [or milk]

for the fruit:

4 large baking apples
1 tbsp lemon juice
4 tbsp water
1/3 c. sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

preheat oven to 350F

peel and core the apples and slice thinly. place in a large bowl and acidulate with the lemon juice and water. add the sugar and cinnamon and stir to make sure everything is coated.

in another bowl, combine butter and sugar. add remaining ingredients and mix well. the batter will be thick.

in an 8 in well oiled baking dish, lay the apples down with any juices that are in the bottom. taking spoonfuls of the batter [grease your spoon and it will slip right off] over the apples. it may look like there is not enough but there is. taking a greased spoon again spread the batter all over the apples, don't worry if there are apples poking through or little spaces.

bake this for 45 - 50 minutes until browned and bubbling. serve warm.
see you on Monday.

shanah tovah — happy new year.

שנה טובה בריאה ומתוקה לכולם

a day at the spa for mr. chicken

[otherwise known as my soup pot!]

today was chicken soup, *kugel & challah making day. what would the holidays be without these things?
[*kugel = a type of baked vegetable or noodle dish/casserole]

there are a million and half, and indeed many more, recipes for chicken soup. each family has its own way. here is my basic version. uncomplicated and never-fail, it is a staple — holidays, the sabbath or just any day.

as most jewish cooks know, the best chicken soup always starts with a kosher chicken. seek one out, if you can. they really do taste different.

my chicken soup
1 whole [kosher] chicken, with the skin on
2 medium onions, peeled
3 stalks celery
3 carrots
2 parsley roots [optional but makes a difference]
2 bay laurel leaves
several black peppercorns

first the chicken needs to keep its skin on. removing it detracts from the final flavour of the broth. don't worry about "fat" content. you can always, and most probably will, remove most of — if not all — the fat in the end. this is simply done by refrigerating the stock and removing the solidified fat from the surface and discarding it.

wash the chicken well and let it drain, removing any leftover pin feathers [often found on the kosher chickens]. cut off any chunks of fat that are visible and either keep for another purpose or discard.

prepare the vegetables: peel carrots, parsley roots and onions & clean the celery. cut the celery and carrots into 2 1/2 to 3 inch pieces and leave the onions whole.

here are the ingredients all together —

once the chicken is prepared, put only the chicken into a large dutch oven and cover it with cold water only until it barely reaches the top of the chicken. i used a very large le creuset as the chicken was big.

let the chicken come to a boil on medium low heat. bringing it to a fast boil causes much more of the proteins to be released. cover the pot and check on it every once in a while. this is a slow process, not to be rushed. you may need to leave the cover slightly open if you have boil-overs.

after a while, you will start to see build-up on the surface. carefully skim this off and discard.

this is how it should look after you have done a good job ;-p

now is time to add the vegetables and your bay leaves and peppercorns. you may of course add whatever else you want. salt is not added now but that is up to you. i don't do it until much later. at this point, you may refresh with boiling water if too much has evaporated during the first stage [you shouldn't have to].

now cover the pot and let it simmer for 4 to 5, even 6, hours. keep it at just above minimum heat. check on it every once in a while.

here it is after several long hours:

one half hour before it is finished simmering, add salt to your liking and add a good bunch of fresh, vivid green dill or "kreep" as we call it in yiddish. taste and adjust accordingly.

the next step is to cool everything off and then remove the vegetables into one bowl. you may re-add these later or discard them or reserve for another use.

then very carefully remove the chicken [in pieces, if necessary] into another bowl. the chicken is shredded for adding back into the soup and for making kreplach [jewish ravioli] for the next holiday in one week from now, Yom Kippur.

place the stock in the fridge and let it sit overnight and gel. the next day you will have a layer of chicken fat which can easily be removed. skim it off in pieces and discard or use for cooking.

the stock is then reheated and very carefully strained to remove all impurities to leave you with a glimmering, golden rich chicken stock.

et voilà.

this stock can be used as soup or as a base for other preparations. freeze it in one or two cup measures to have on-hand when you need it. an essential kitchen stock item.

i decided to make a moroccan-style potato kugel this holiday. it is made with mashed potatoes rather than shredded, as in the typical ashkenazi preparation. here is what the finished dish looks like:

moroccan style potato kugel — batata bil firan

2 pounds peeled baking [russet] potatoes
4 teaspoons kosher salt [or 2 teaspoons table salt]
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 onions, diced
1 to 2 cloves garlic, chopped
6 large eggs
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon hot paprika [optional]
1/2 teaspoon ground white or black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 carrot, cooked until tender and diced
1/3 cup chopped cilantro or fresh parsley

peel and quarter the potatoes and put in a large pot. add cold water to cover by 1 inch and 1 teaspoon of the table salt or 2 teaspoons of the kosher salt. add carrot cut into two pieces.

bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer, uncovered, until fork-tender, about 25 minutes. carrot may be done before the potato. do not over cook. drain and put potatoes, while still warm, through a food mill or ricer — or you can return the peeled potatoes to the cooking pot and mash them. add the eggs, one by one mixing after each addition. cover this and proceed to cut the carrots and add them and the lemon juice to the potatoes also.

preheat the oven to 350°F.

in a large pan heat the oil over medium heat. add onions and sauté until lightly golden approximately 15 minutes, adding the garlic and sautéing near the end of the cooking time. add the onions, parsley and spices to the potatoes.

generously oil an 8-cup baking dish, such as 8-inch square. heat in the oven until hot, about 5 minutes.

carefully spoon the potato mixture into the baking dish and dust the top with paprika. bake until golden about 50 to 60 minutes.

serve warm or at room temperature. 6 to 8 servings.

best eaten the day it is made. do not freeze.

recipe based on gil marks'
challah is asleep in the fridge until tomorrow morning. see you later!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

there's a carp in my bathtub!

rosh hashanah is, apart from passover, the time of year when kitchens everywhere — for those who still even make it — are busy preparing large amounts of gefilte fish.

this post is all about fish and memories —

first, some information about a film [short documentary] i think is historically significant, and quite à propos:

photo: boris lehman

Silent as a Fish

From pond to plate, we are shown the journey and destiny of one carp among many. This particular carp will be eaten stuffed during a family meal.

Carp stuffed «in the Polish fashion», also called in yiddish «Gefilte Fish» is a traditional dish eaten by Ashkenazi Jews. It is cooked, sweetened and served as a cold dish at the start of the meal. The head is reserved for the head of the family.

The film, set in Brussels, on the day of the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah), aims to show the culinary preparation together with the accompanying prayers and ritual. It focuses particularly on the sacrifice of the fish and on the issue of mass extermination.

film de / by Boris Lehman
Caméra / Antoine-Marie Meert
Son / Henri Morelle
Montage / Daniel de Valck
Mixage / Antoine Bonfanti, Jacques Clisse
Assistants à la réalisation / Daniel Lehman, Gérard Preszow, Nadine Wandel
Générique et banc-titre / Corneille Hannoset, Gaston Roch
Scénario, réalisation et production / Boris Lehman
Co-production Wallonie Image Production (W.I.P.) Liège, Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (Z.D.F.) Mainz, Radio-Télévision Belge (R.T.B.F.) Bruxelles, Dovfilm Bruxelles
Avec l'aide de / Le Ministère de la Communauté française de Belgique

16 mm. couleur
Durée: 38 minutes
Année de réalisation: Mai 1987
Version yiddish / allemande / française / anglaise.

GEFILTE FISH (yiddish song)

What do Jews love to eat?
Both at home and abroad which is neither «parve» nor «milchig» nor «fleishig»?

A dish which all Jews love
And which all women strive to make
we love it and we know why
It is a traditional Jewish dish
which we eat on each shabbat eve

Gefilte Fish
Gefilte Fish

It is a delicious dish
I tasted it a while ago at my mother's
It is extraordinary, it is marvellous
It is a blessing for the Jewish people.
When you eat it, it melts in your mouth.
Gefilte Fish, that's yiddish.
Back from the synagogue, we say the «Kiddush»
At home everything's nice and clean We sit at the laid up table
where Gefilte Fish is served.

Gefilte Fish
Gefilte Fish

Hungarians love Gulash with paprika
Poles love pork meat with bread
Russians can't go without red borsht
Germans love rye bread
Romanians malaliga
Georgians shashlik.
But what is there in all those things
That's something no one knows.
Tell me Jew what is good?

Gefilte Fish
Gefilte Fish

Gefilte Fish, that's good.

information borrowed from:

for those of you brave enough, you can see a little extract of the film as the lady dispatches the carp. oy vay iz mir, is all i can say. and yes, that is a tattoo on her forearm from the holocaust. click here and go to bottom of page to "extrait du film".

anyone know the words in yiddish? being written in yiddish, it obviously loses much in its translation [not to mention probably sounds a lot better]. let me know.

and last, but not least, for a good laugh, read this.

* * * * *

memories die hard...

i have a friend who still has vivid memories from her childhood of coming home to find the live carp that her mother bought at the fishmonger's swimming freely in the bathtub before their time was up. the fish would be painstakingly prepared with a hackmesser [jewish equivalent of a mezzaluna knife] in a rounded wooden bowl. no food processors back then — you were the food processor! this is now but just a memory for many people. those days are now long gone and gefilte fish is bought, out of convenience, from the delicatessans and supermarkets.

making your own is not as hard as you think, especially if you buy the fish already ground. the following recipes are pretty much foolproof and easy. try making them, especially with a family member or friend.

as we all know, tastes differ. some versions are more sweet, as in the polish way of making it or more peppery and stuffed back into the fish body as in the lithuanian tradition. also, key to making a good gefilte fish is what is called the "yoch" — that gelatinous broth that forms and is served along with the fish once it is cooled and refrigerated.

i am giving three different ways to prepare it. and also check out here for some pictorial help if you have never made it or seen it made the "usual" way.

gefilte fish, the usual poached way * [source: norene gilletz]

For 1 lb of fish

1 large onion
1 small carrot, scraped
1 lb. fish, minced or fillets
2 eggs
1 tbsp matzo meal
1/4 c. cold water
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp sugar [what?!! MORE!!]

For 1.5 lbs of fish

2 medium onions
1 large carrot, scraped
1.5 lbs fish, minced or fillets
3 eggs
1 1/2 tbsp matzo meal
6 tbsp cold water
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
3/4 tsp sugar [what?!! MORE!!]

for both amounts:

cut onion, carrot and fish into 2 inch chunks [if using fillets]. in a food processor, process the vegetables until finely minced. add fish chunks and process until very smooth. if using minced fish add now and process to incorporate everything. add remaining ingredients and process until blended.

stock [yoch]:

the head, skin & bones from the fish [optional]
4 c cold water [approximately]
2 onions
2 carrots, scraped
1 tsp sugar [MORE!!]
1 tsp salt

put head, skin & bones from fish into a large pot. add enough cold water to barely cover. slice up vegetables and add to pot, then add the seasonings. simmer this for about 1/2 hour covered. bring to a boil before adding the fish balls, then turn down heat to simmer and discard the trimmings from the fish.

to make the balls: moisten your hands with water. shape into small balls that would the size of a small tennis ball and add to SIMMERING liquid, not boiling. carefully place these in the pot and then cover and simmer for 2 hrs. remove the cover during the last half hour to reduce liquid. cool everything in the pot and then refigerate.

this can also be made into loaves and wrapped in parchment [crinckled and run under the tap for a few seconds and wrung dry before stuffing] & then poached in the broth.

garnish with the carrots when serving fish.

N.B. [IMPORTANT]: test the fish for seasoning before putting it in the pot to simmer by taking small amounts and microwaving them for a few seconds to cook through. taste and adjust your seasonings. taste the broth also beforehand and adjust accordingly.

gefilte fish, the newer baked way * [source: norene gilletz, again]

no stock necessary for this one.

Use the 1.5 lb amount and place the mixture into a very well greased ring mold or make two 1 lb batches to equal 2 lbs to use in a 12 c bundt pan.

bake this at 325 F for 1 hour and 15 minutes [or so]. edges will brown a bit and knife inserted in middle will come out clean. cover the top of the pan with tin foil during the last 1/2 hr of cooking or it will dry out.

carefully unmold the fish using a long spatula or knife on an inverted platter and let cool then refrigerate until serving.

another option is to make this into a loaf shape and cook it in a loaf pan.

do not freeze or it will get watery.

gefilte fish, the british fried way * [source: evelyn rose]

will serve: 8 [16-20 patties]

fish mixture:

1-1/2 pounds skinless cod fillets
1/2 pound skinless haddock fillets

2 medium onions, cut into eighths
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vegetable oil [optional]
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
4 to 6 tablespoons matzo meal
Vegetable oil for frying Coating [optional]:
1/2 cup matzo meal
1 tablespoon flour
Salt and ground white pepper to taste

cut the fish into pieces and finely grind it in a food processor [steel blade] or with a food grinder. grind the onions in the same manner and add them to the fish. mix in the eggs, 1 tbsp. oil, salt sugar, and white pepper.

add just enough matzo meal so that the fish mixture can be easily handled and is not sticky. form the fish mixture into plump patties, using about 1/4 to 1/3 cup mixture for each one.

if a coating is desired, put the coating ingredients into a large plastic bag, close the top, and shake until mixed. to coat each patty, put it into the bag, close the bag, and shake gently until lightly coated.

to fry coated or uncoated patties, heat oil that is about 1/4" deep in a large skillet over medium-high heat. fry the patties until they are lightly browned on both sides. drain them on paper towels.

refrigerate the patties until serving time and serve them chilled, with horseradish.

whichever way you choose to make it, don't forget to serve with hrein — horseradish, as strong as you can take it!

as usual, more later....

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

busy bees & honey cakes

First off, a little joke:

Buzz Off

One day, two bees are flying around what's left of a rose bush.

"How's your summer going?" asks the first bee.

"Not too well," says the second bee. "Lotsa rain, lotsa cold. Not enough flowers ... not enough pollen."

The first bee gets an idea. "Hey, why don't you go down to the corner and hang a left? There's a bar mitzvah going on. Plenty of flowers and fruit."

Bee two buzzes back, "Great, thanks!" and takes off. An hour later, the bees bump into each other again.

"How was the party?" asks the first bee excitedly.

"Great!" replies the second.

The first bee, however, notices a small circle on top of his friend's head, and asks, "What's that on your head?"

"A yarmulke," he answers. "I didn't want them to think I was a WASP."

and now from bees to honey cakes ....

important notes [if you don't already know]:

if you measure the oil for these recipes first & then use the same measuring cup to measure the honey, it will slip right out.

some people do not eat nuts during Rosh Hashanah because the hebrew numerical value for "nut" is the same as that for "sin" {and not to mention more and more people with allergies to nuts}. The cakes below provide for the optional inclusion of them and are equally delicious without the almonds.

a great baking tip:

Use a strand of uncooked spaghetti to test a cake for doneness when a toothpick isn’t long enough, or if you don’t have any toothpicks in the house.

Honey cake
photo: taken from
a contest was run in The Jerusalem Post newspaper to find the best honey cake recipe. this was the winning submission.

simple israeli honey cake {suzanne quintner's}
4 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup honey
1 cup double strength black coffee
350 g [12 oz]* self-raising flour
[or make it yourself with this basic formula: 1 cup all-purpose flour and add 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt]
1 teaspoon allspice and 1 teaspoon cinnamon

*i highly suggest using 3 c (USA - type) of flour


Beat eggs, oil and sugar until sugar has dissolved. Add honey and coffee and then beat in the flour mixed with the spices gently.

Bake in a large round fluted tin [bundt/tube pan] at 170 [338 F] degrees for 1 hour or til tested it is cooked in the center. (it took mine longer to bake by up to 30 min extra).

—> after trying this recipe, i suggest using either 2 (large) loaf pans lined with parchment paper; when trying the cake with the exact measurements stated in the recipe, it resulted in a very sticky batter (which is why i say to increase the flour to 3 full cups). the cake is definitely excellent tasting and worth making.
This one is from A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking by Marcy Goldman and is one of the better recipes I have come across. Marcy is also from Montreal and has a great website which you can visit @ [while it used to be free, you can still get the very basic features at no cost. it really is, however, worth the subscription — an excellent site.]

Majestic & Moist New Year's Honey Cake
Serves 8 to 10
3-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup honey
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup warm coffee or strong tea
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup rye or whisky
1/2 cup slivered or sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 350 F & lightly grease the pan you are using [see below].

This cake is best baked in a nine- or ten-inch angel food cake pan, but can also be made in a 10-inch tube or bundt cake pan, a 9 x13-inch sheetpan, or if you wish, in three 8 x 4-1/2-inch loaf pans.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. Make a well in the center, and then add the oil, honey, sugars, eggs, vanilla, coffee, orange juice and rye or whisky. With an electric mixer on slow speed or whisk, combine the ingredients to make a thick batter. Spooning the batter into the prepared pan, sprinkle the top of the cake evenly with the almonds. Bake until the cake springs back when you touch it gently in the center.

For tube or bundt (or angel) cake pans, bake for 60 to 70 minutes. They can be made into loaf cakes also and baked for 45 to 60 minutes. If making a sheet-style cake the baking time is 40 to 45 minutes.

The batter is a liquidy depending upon your oven, extra time may be needed. Let the cake stand for 15 mintues before removing it from the pan. Afterwards let cool on a wire rack completely.note: If you do not like or want whiskey, replace it with orange juice or coffee.

another very, very good cake is from levana kirschenbaum, from her book Levana's Table. her version is a little different in that it uses cardamom. i often bake this by halving the ingredients and adding 1/8 tsp allspice, 1/8 tsp ground cloves, 1/8 tsp black pepper & omit the cardamom [sometimes i also include it]. here is a picture of my version, the recipe cut in half for a loaf pan. you may leave the spices out too if you don't like them.

Levana Kirschenbaum’s Honey Cake
Makes 1 10-inch tube/bundt cake
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon ground cardamom
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons cinnamon
4 large eggs
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 cup honey
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup very strong warm tea [2 tea bags steeped in 1 cup boiled water]
1/2 cup ground almonds, optional
3 tablespoons sliced almonds [add if using the ground almonds]

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon and ground almonds, if using. set this aside.

Mix the remaining ingredients except the sliced almonds. add the flour mixture to this in increments til well blended. do not over mix.

Pour the batter into a greased 10-inch tube or bundt pan. Top with the sliced almonds, if used.

Bake for 1 hour or until a tester inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Invert cake onto a rack to cool.

and finally, one last cake for you to try:

Runi Hyman's [Oregon’s Kosher Maven's] Honey Cake
Makes a 10-inch tube cake

this one is from a jewish lady who used to provide meals for transient & kosher meal-seeking portlanders from the late 1920's until almost 1970. apparently Runi was a phenomenal kosher cook.

3 large eggs
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Grated rind of 1 lemon
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup honey
1 cup warm black coffee
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tarter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup slivered almonds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan.

Place eggs, lemon juice & rind, oil, honey and coffee in a bowl of an electric mixer. Mix on low speed until well blended. In another separate bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cream of tartar , sugar and cinnamon with a fork until mixed. Gradually add the flour mixture to the eggs mixture, mixing for about 5 minutes or until well blended. Fold in the slivered almonds. Pour the batter into the tube pan. Bake in the oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.