Bruschetta Mac and Cheese

  

bruschetta_mac_and_cheese_holding_650There’s one dish that will always and forever have a place in my heart (probably literally and figuratively at this point!)—macaroni and cheese. To give you a clue as to just how much I love mac and cheese, for my 30th birthday my husband took me out to a well-known restaurant in Ann Arbor, MI, where I was in graduate school at the time, and ordered a flight of four different kinds of made-to-order mac and cheese. Six years later, I still remember it as one of my most favorite meals.

So when it comes to hosting a vegetarian friend for a Shabbat meal, I see it as an opportunity to embrace my mac and cheese side. I like to get creative and go bananas with mac and cheese. For Sukkot one year, I had some friends over for a mac and cheese bar that included every kind of vegetarian-friendly topping you can think of, and about four different kinds of hot sauces. It was awesome! But when I want to bring out a showstopper, the recipe below is the one I go for. The balsamic vinegar pairs perfectly with the cheeses that have been kissed with a hint of mustard. Plus you can never go wrong with a beautiful, colorful topping like tomatoes, basil and Parmesan. And if your kids don’t like greens or vegetables of any color touching their mac and cheese, you can give them the “untouched” pasta on the side. Everyone wins!

Bruschetta Mac and Cheese Recipe

Ingredients:

Mac and Cheese

  • 13 oz. rotini pasta or other small pasta shapes
  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 ½ cups milk, heavy cream or half-and-half
  • 6 oz. shredded Swiss cheese
  • 8 oz. shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 4 oz. shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard (adjust according to your tastes)
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper

Bruschetta Topping

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 pint red grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • Roughly 8 whole basil leaves, finely chopped (or chiffonade)
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

 Bruschetta Topping

1. In a small skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and stir, lightly frying for about a minute, removing before the garlic gets too brown (it can be golden). Pour into a mixing bowl and allow to cool slightly.

2. Add tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, basil and salt and pepper to the bowl. Toss to combine, then taste and add more basil and salt, if needed. Cover and set aside.

Mac and Cheese

1. In a large stockpot, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain well.

2. While the pasta cooks, melt the butter in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. When the butter has melted and started to bubble, whisk in the flour; cook for 1 ½ minutes, whisking constantly. Gradually whisk in the milk until no lumps remain. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook milk mixture, whisking frequently, until it thickens and bubbles, about 8 minutes.

3. Remove saucepan from the heat, and by the handful stir in the cheeses, allowing all of the cheese to melt into the sauce before adding more. Stir in the mustard and salt. Return the saucepan to the heat and stir in the pasta. Be sure to stir up the sauce from the bottom of the pan and thoroughly coat all of the pasta with sauce. Cook for 1-2 minutes over medium-low heat until heated through.

4. Once complete, either spoon all of your mac and cheese into a serving dish and serve with artfully placed bruschetta topping (this is what I recommend for the wow factor!) or spoon into individual bowls and add toppings.

bruschetta 2_650

Sha-barbecue Cilantro, Lime & Yogurt Chicken Wings

  

wings title horizontal

Gang, summer is coming to an end! We need to embrace all of its delights as much as we can, including swimming and eating as much ice cream as possible, because that’s what summer’s about, right? I think we should also embrace the later Shabbat start times, and one of my favorite ways to do this is by hosting a “Sha-barbecue”! The first time I enjoyed a Sha-barbecue was almost 10 years ago when I was living in Chicago. I was invited over to my friend Taron’s place for Shabbat dinner. When I asked him what I could bring, he casually said, “Well, it’s a Sha-barbecue, so maybe some guacamole and chips?” I loved how casually he said Sha-barbecue, like it was a thing everyone knew about the world over. But never in my whole Jewish life had I heard of or attended a Sha-barbecue! Ever since that fateful night, I have fully embraced the Sha-barbecue. With Shabbat not starting until almost 8 in the summer, I’ve found that as a religiously observant Jew it’s easy to have friends over and enjoy some adult beverages while barbecuing up the main course and then sitting down to a lovely Sha-barbecue meal. You know, like our forefathers and mothers used to do!

Sha-barbecue Cilantro, Lime and Yogurt Chicken Wings

Ingredients:

  • 12 whole chicken wings, tips trimmed and discarded
  • 1 Tbsp. kosher salt
  • ½ Tbsp. pepper
  • ½ Tbsp. sweet paprika
  • ½ Tbsp. cumin
  • ½ Tbsp. garlic powderwings 4

 

Marinade:

  • 1 cup coconut-milk yogurt (plain)
  • 4 key limes, juiced
  • ½ bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. kosher salt
  • ½ Tbsp. smoked paprika

 

For serving:

  • Maldon sea salt
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges

 

Directions:

1. Wash and dry the chicken wings, making sure they are free of any feathers. Next, separate drumettes from wingettes by slicing a sharp knife through the joints.

2. Place the chicken wings in a medium bowl. Add the cumin, sweet paprika, garlic powder, kosher salt and pepper. Toss to coat the wings.

3. In a separate, larger bowl, add all the ingredients for the marinade. Stir to combine, tasting for adjustments in seasoning.

4. Once marinade is complete, place the prepared chicken wings into the marinade bowl,wings stirring to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate for at least 1 hour and up to 6 hours, making sure not to over-marinate, as the recipe includes lime juice, which can break down the meat (and not in a good way).

5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line two large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

6. Using tongs, gently place the wings on the prepared baking sheets, making sure to spread them evenly so they aren’t overlapping. Don’t toss out the remaining marinade, as you will be basting while it bakes.

7. Bake wings for roughly 20 minutes. After the initial 20 minutes, baste each wing with remaining marinade. Bake for another 20-25 minutes, or until cooked through.

8. Sprinkle cooked wings with Maldon sea salt and a squeeze of lime just before serving.

wings 3 horizontal

Buffalo Quinoa Burgers

  

Buffalo quinoa burgers

I was raised on a healthy diet of my mom’s homemade buffalo wings. I remember the first time I had a ‘hot’ wing. She had brought home some leftovers from what would become our favorite wing spot, The Three Dollar Cafe. I remember taking my first bite. I remember my lips seemingly on fire but tingly with joy all at once. What was this spicy wing of deliciousness and where can I get more!?

Luckily for me, my mom was just as in love with hot wings as I was and luckily for us, my mom had gotten a buffalo wing recipe from a random man in a shoe store and so, a family recipe was born. My mom’s wings are hot and tangy and sweet and spicy. They pair perfectly with blue cheese. However, now that I keep kosher, there is no pairing of blue cheese and hot wings. Therefore, I’ve had to come up with alternatives to bring my favorite pairings to life. This vegetarian version is great for bringing to a picnic, serving your family on Shabbat or simply disguising a healthy weekday meal with a punch of flavor.

You’ll see that this recipe does not include blue cheese but I do recommend it. Heck, me being me, I recommend ANY AND ALL CHEESE. I also recommend having fun with your toppings. I enjoy some bread and butter pickles and some classic mayonnaise and maybe some grilled onions. But truly, the best thing about these burgers are that they can be built to your taste buds. Enjoy!

Quinoa burgers with toppingsBuffalo Quinoa Burgers

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked red quinoa
  • 1 cup Cannelloni beans, mashed
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup Frank’s Hot Sauce
  • 1/8 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 3/4 cup Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded
  • 6 Tbsp. Canola oil

 

Directions:

1. In a bowl, combine the quinoa, mashed Cannelloni beans, bread crumbs, egg, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, salt and pepper.

2. Mix well to moisten the ingredients and then mix in the shredded cheddar cheese. Mix well again and form into 4 or 5 balled patties (bigger than a golf ball but smaller than a tennis ball).

3. In a skillet, heat 4 Tbsp. of oil over medium heat. Wait until oil is hot and then add 2 quinoa burger balls in at a time. Using a flat spatula, press down the ball until a thick patty forms.

4. Cook until golden and crisp, about 5 minutes per side. During the last minute or so of cooking add the an optional layer of cheese, cover the pan and cook 2-3 minutes or until the cheese has melted. Add 2 additional tablespoons of oil into the skillet after the first batch of burgers is cooked.

buffalo quinoa burgers and fixings

Indian Grilled Chicken with Cilantro Mint Sauce

  

Indian chicken chutney

Chicken is a mainstay in most Jewish homes. We love our chicken stock (homemade or store-bought and doctored will do) for matzah ball soup. You’ll find chopped chicken livers at the holiday table because every family has those who love it among the haters. For Shabbat, a nice roasted chicken kicks off the weekend and the Sabbath. But when you always cook with the same ingredient it is easy to get in a rut. The good news is that it isn’t that hard to get out of it! Just add a little spice. This summer, go Indian with this Indian spiced grilled chicken served with a cilantro mint sauce. For interfaith families with Indian backgrounds, this is a great way to fuse your cultures!

chicken_chutney_ 700

Indian chicken, uncookedIngredients:

  • fresh ginger, 1 inch knob
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tsp. of salt
  • 1 tsp. of Garam Masala
  • 1/2 tsp. of fennel seeds
  • 1/4 cup of vegetable oil
  • 4 chicken thighs, skin on and bone in

Mint

Cilantro Mint Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of mint
  • 2 cups of cilantro
  • 1 large shallot
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1 tsp. of white sugar
  • 1 tsp. of salt
  • 1/2 jalapeño, minced

Directions:

1.  Into a large bowl, grate the ginger. Add the zest and juice of 1 lime, salt, Garam Masala (an Indian spice mix that can be found at most grocery stores) and fennel seeds (I like to buy whole seeds and toast them on a pan on the stove and then crush them with a mortar and pestle). Pour in vegetable oil and mix together.

Toss the chicken into the marinade and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour. 

2.  Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. Wash and dry the cilantro and mint. You can use a salad spinner or dry the herbs on a towel. They do not have to be bone dry. In a blender, add the mint, cilantro, shallot cut into quarters, the juice of 1 lime, water, sugar and salt. Puree the mixture.  

3.  Carefully slice a jalapeño in half, remove the inner seeds and mince the pepper. Stir the tiny pieces of pepper into the sauce.

4.  Take the chicken out of the fridge so it can lose some of the chill. Then, pre-heat your grill. Cook the chicken on a medium heat grill until done. Timing varies based on size of the chicken pieces, so just refer to your meat thermometer for doneness. Or, cut into the chicken to see that the meat is opaque and the juices run clear.

Serve with delicious summer vegetables.

Honey Zimsterne “Star” Cookies

  

Holiday zimsterne cookiesFood pathways show the influence on recipes from region to region and neighbor to neighbor. In Germany, a recipe for gingerbread men was adapted and adopted by Eastern European Jews to make Zimsterne, or “star” cookies to be served at the end of Shabbat after Havdalah services. Containing the spices found in the Bisomim box used during the close of Shabbat service, the symbolism was to take the sweetness of Shabbat with you into the coming week.

With the holiday season coming up and relatives visiting, this cookie is the perfect bridge between Jewish tradition and Christmas cookie baking. Everyone will enjoy the treat and you can share two celebrations with all family members at one time. Best of all, everyone can help make these soft spice cookies or, you can make them in advance. They keep very well in an airtight container and their flavor gets better, as all spice cookies do, with age.

Happy holidays!

 

 

 

Zimsterne Cookies

Makes 4 or more dozen depending on size of cookie

Ingredients:

ingredients4 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ cup honey

5 cups all purpose flour

3/4 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. cinnamon

½ tsp. ground cloves

½ tsp. ground ginger

Confectioner’s sugar for rolling out dough

Decorative Icing:

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

¼ teaspoon vanilla

1-2 Tbsp. milk

Directions:

1.   Cream the butter and the sugar together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until mixture gets lighter in color. Beat in the honey.

2.  Combine the baking soda and spices with 1 cup of the flour. Set aside.

3.  With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the remaining 4 cups of flour, mixing well to form a thick dough. If your mixer is powerful, use it to add the reserved cup of flour and spices until well combined. If not, stir the remaining flour into the dough by hand. Make sure that the mixture is thoroughly combined.

4.  Pat dough into a flat round and place in a plastic storage bag or airtight container. Seal and store in the refrigerator for 1 hour or until firm and easy to handle.

Cutting cookies

star cookie cutter5.  Preheat the oven to 300°F. Lightly dust a pastry board with some confectioner’s sugar. Roll the dough out on the board to ¼ inch thickness.

6.  Cut the dough into star shapes using a cookie cutter, and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Allow the cookies to cool for 5-10 minutes while you make the icing.

 

To make the icing:

How to make icing

1.  Place the cup of confectioner’s sugar in a 1-quart mixing bowl. Whisk in the vanilla and 1 tablespoon of the milk until smooth. If the mixture is too thick, whisk in some more milk until the mixture resembles mayonnaise in consistency.

Iced zimsterne cookies2.  Using a pastry brush, brush the icing over the tops of the warm cookies and let sit at room temperature until the cookies are cool and the icing is dry and no longer sticky. Store in an airtight container at room temperature, or freeze until later use.

Tina’s Tidbits:

  • Children love to cut out cookies and transfer them to the cookie sheet. A trick to prevent the dough from dragging on the spatula and losing its shape is to rub a scrap of dough on the spatula and then dip the spatula in some of the confectioner’s sugar before you transfer the cookie onto the baking sheet.

 

  • Using a rolling pin is often challenging for young hands. However, rolling pin bands of varying thickness are sold that fit on the ends of the rolling pin to ensure the dough isn’t rolled unevenly.

 

 

Easy Shabbat Ginger Sesame Roast Chicken

  

Plated chicken and bok choy

When I say “Shabbat Dinner” what comes to mind? For me, it always connotes roast chicken. While roasting a whole chicken can seem complicated and time consuming, I promise you’ll find that it’s not, and there are easy ways to upgrade Grandma’s recipe for today’s taste buds. My grandmother Sylvia, who I’m named for, was known to say “if you can read you can cook” and while I think there’s a bit more nuance involved than that, I do think it’s true—if you can read a recipe you can create a meal. However, we’re told not to “put stumbling blocks before the blind” so those recipes shouldn’t be chock full of unfamiliar, complicated terms and ingredients. If you’re a beginner cook, a roast chicken dinner is actually a great way to hone your skills, become more comfortable in your kitchen and really impress your friends and family.

For the gold standard of the simple roast chicken, I always turn to Ina Garten’s fool proof recipe. While her recipe calls for butter, if you keep kosher or are cooking for those who do, you can certainly substitute olive oil. This recipe doesn’t require any fancy appliances or accessories, and I can tell you from experience that if you skip the step of tying up the legs, the chicken will be no worse for the wear.

But if you’re ready to kick it up a notch, my Ginger Sesame Roast Chicken might become your new go-to Shabbat meal. And if you’re planning to celebrate the Chinese New Year in February, this recipe is a great way to meld these two cultural traditions through traditional flavors.

My first “secret” to a perfect roast chicken is this: Always buy a kosher chicken. Even if you don’t keep kosher. Even if you plan to wrap it in bacon or stuff it with lobster. I promise, it will taste better. Kosher chickens are salted before packaging, and therefore retain moisture better than traditional chickens. Because of this, they’re harder to ruin (ask my husband!) and even if you cook it a bit too long, it won’t be dry. My second “secret” is: Cook the chicken at a high heat. The skin crisps up which is a great contrasting texture to the meat and the flavor is deeper.

I love to serve this with my Baked Sweet Potato Latkes that I featured last month and simple sautéed Bok Choy.

One last hint: If you’re making a roast chicken, why not make two? It takes the same amount of prep and time, and then you’ll have chicken ready to be used in everything from quesadillas, casserole, chicken salad, tortilla soup, chili and more!

Ginger Sesame Roast Chicken

Makes 4 servings

Preparation tips:

Chopped ingredients

I love these little plastic cups. They keep everything organized and are also great for bringing salad dressing to work.

Being prepared makes cooking SO much easier. The French call pre-cooking organization “mis en place” and I find it makes everything run more smoothly in the kitchen. Get together all of your ingredients, tools and appliances before you even turn on the oven and then carefully read through the recipe to prep whatever it needs, measure ingredients, chop veggies, spray pans, etc., then you don’t have to do this as you go and you’ll never get to the middle of a recipe and realize that you’ve forgotten something. Work close to a sink so that you can dump scraps and used plates, etc. directly into it as you work.

This type of preparation is especially helpful when you’re cooking poultry and you’re concerned about cross-contamination. If everything is premeasured and chopped, you won’t need to worry. You’re going to be rinsing the chicken so make sure that your sink is empty and clean. Invest in an oven thermometer. Most ovens don’t read true, and this is an invaluable tool. But make sure not to run “self clean” on the oven with it in there—you won’t make that mistake twice…

Ingredients

Ingredients

  • 3-4 lb. whole kosher chicken
  • 2 Tbsp olive Oil
  • 1 tsp sesame Oil
  • 1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 12 slices (roughly ¼ in.) of ginger
  • 5 garlic cloves total, 1 minced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 onion cut in half
  • 1 quartered lime
  • 1 thinly sliced jalapeño

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 425°F

2. Line a pan generously with paper towels. Rinse chicken, remove anything inside, transfer directly to the pan and pat dry with more paper towels.
Combined ingredients(This is important, because if there is still water on the skin, the chicken won’t crisp up as well.)

3. Combine olive oil, sesame oil, grated ginger and minced garlic
(Use a microplane for both the garlic and ginger, or you can throw them both in a small food processor.)

4. Spread half of mixture under skin of chicken, other half on top of skin of chicken.
(To get under the skin, use the back of a spoon to separate the skin from the meat, and then the other side of the spoon to spread the ingredients.)

5. Salt and pepper well, including cavity.

Stuffed chicken

6. Stuff chicken with remaining ginger, garlic, onion, half of lime and jalapeño
(Don’t worry about peeling any of this, as it’s not going to be eaten.)

Prepped chicken

7. Roast breast-side-up on cooling rack set into cookie sheet with sides for 1 hour 15 minutes. Half way through add ½ cup of water to the pan.
(You can use a roasting pan but the important thing is to keep the chicken from touching the bottom of the pan. If you don’t have a rack or cookie sheet, just place the chicken on top of a few thickly slice circles of onions.)

8. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes

Chicken resting9. Slice the chicken and squeeze juice of the other half of the lime over the chicken. You can also try sprinkling fresh cilantro on top, for a delicious garnish.

 

 

 

Bon appetit! Let me know how it goes.

Finished chicken

Sautéed Bok Choy

  

Chicken with Bok Choy

This bok choy recipe is a companion to my Ginger Sesame Roast Chicken, but pairs well with most meats.

Ingredients

  • 3 small heads of bok choy or baby bok choy
  • 1 thinly sliced onion
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. chili flakes (optional)


Directions

  1. Quarter bok choy, remove core, rinse thoroughly (if using baby bok choy, simply cut off about an inch at the bottom instead of quartering).
  2. Slice into 1-inch pieces
  3. Heat olive oil over medium heat in large sauté pan
  4. Add onion, cook until soft
  5. Add bok choy in batches, it will shrink, until it’s all in the pan and softened
  6. Add sesame oil, soy sauce and chili flakes if desired