Roasted Butternut Squash with Apples and Onions

  

Roasted_Vegetables-FPO_650

Apples, the symbolic fruit for the Jewish New Year, can find their way onto your holiday menu in many ways. This recipe may not have its origins in Europe or the Middle East, but it plays on the tradition of elevating even the simplest of ingredients into a festive dish.

I serve this as a side for brisket or chicken, but you can also combine it with quinoa or barley as a more substantial side dish or vegetarian main course. Although you can buy a whole butternut squash and peel and cube it yourself, I find it’s worth the time and money to buy the squash already peeled and cubed. You might have to cut some of the chunks into smaller pieces if they’re too large, but otherwise this is a fast and easy dish to make. You don’t even have to peel the apples!IMG_2987_650

Roasted Butternut Squash with Apples and Onions

Serves 6-8 as a side dish

Ingredients:

  • 1 large onion
  • 2 apples (Fuji, Honeycrisp or Jonagold)
  • 20 oz. cubed butternut squash (about 4-5 cups of 1-inch cubes)
  • 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. minced fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 Tbsp. balsamic or pomegranate vinegar
  • Kosher salt
  • 20 grindings of black pepper or to taste
  • ½ cup dried cranberries or cherries
  • ¼ cup sunflower seeds or toasted pine nuts (optional)

 

Directions:sliced_onions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Cut onion in half and slice each piece crosswise into ½-inch strips. Place on a large rimmed baking sheet and set aside.

3. Using an apple slicer, cut apple into eighths and then cut each wedge into three or four chunks. Add to the onions, along with the squash cubes.

diced_apples_butternut_squash

4. Add the remaining ingredients and toss well. Arrange in a single layer and bake for 20 minutes. If onions are not yet golden and squash is still firm, gently turn the mixture and return to the oven for another 6 minutes, or until done.

toss_apples_squash

5. Remove from the oven. Sprinkle with dried cranberries and sunflower seeds and serve.

sprinkle_apples_squash_serve

Sweet Potato Pumpkin Cazuela for Sukkot

  

SweetPotatoCazuelaSukkot is synonymous with fall fruits and vegetables which are often used to decorate the sukkah. No specific foods are required but using the abundance of our local harvest replicates the Israelites bringing some of the bounty of their harvest to the Temple in Jerusalem. Making the long trek to the city, the travelers dwelled in temporary huts, or sukkahs, at the base of the Jerusalem hills.

It is customary to sleep and eat in the sukkah for eight days. In many climates this is not advisable, but eating in the temporary hut that has a lattice roof through which to view the stars was mandated in the Talmud on this holiday. Mandate aside, it is customary to invite friends and family to partake of a meal in your own sukkah (or to visit friends who have built one).

Dishes that are easily transported from your kitchen to the table outside are preferred and, of course, including nature’s fall produce is a must. Here is a side dish that can be made dairy with butter or parve (no milk or meat products) if anyone in your sukkah keeps kosher. It is Caribbean in origin, an area of the world where many Jews settled 400 years ago. You can, of course, bake your own sweet potatoes and small pie pumpkin to mash for this sweet potato pumpkin cazuela, but to save time and even allow your young children to help you make this recipe I call for canned pumpkin and sweet potatoes in light or no syrup.

One word of warning: This dish is so very delicious that I would double or triple the ingredients if you are making it for more than four people. And don’t forget Thanksgiving. But, please, hold the marshmallows—this is not a dessert, but could be served with any number of other dishes.

Sweet Potato Pumpkin Cazuela

Cazuela ingredientsIngredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter or coconut oil
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. all purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 5.6 ounce can unsweetened coconut milk (about 2/3 cup)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree (NOT pie filling)
  • 1 29-ounce can of yams in light syrup, drained and mashed
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/8 tsp. ground ginger
  • 2-inch stick of cinnamon broken into pieces
  • 1/4 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 3 whole cloves

 

Directions:

1.  Place the butter or coconut oil in a 2-quart Pyrex bowl and microwave for 45 seconds.

2.  Whisk the sugars, flour and salt into the butter to combine.

3.  Whisk the coconut milk into the mixture until thoroughly blended. Add the eggs and combine.

4.  Add the pumpkin puree and the mashed yams and whisk until a smooth batter is formed.

Spices and pumpkin puree

Pumpkin cazuela5.  Combine the water with the spices in a small glass cup and microwave for 3 ½ minutes. Let the spices steep for 5 minutes. Strain the spiced water through a fine mesh strainer into the pumpkin-potato mixture and stir to incorporate.

7.  Butter a 2-quart casserole and pour the mixture into the prepared dish.

8.  Bake covered in a pre-heated 350°F oven for 1 hour. Serve hot out of the oven or reheated warm or hot.

Happy Sukkot!

Tidbits:

Sugar pie pumpkins are about 1 ½ pounds and very rounded. Always use them when a recipe calls for cooked pumpkin. Larger pumpkins are more watery.

Coconut milk is not milk or dairy. It is the liquid formed from ground, fresh, hydrated coconut.

Fireworks Picnic Fried Chicken with Maple Dipping Sauce

  

Fried chicken picnic

In many Jewish households, Fridays are for chicken. A roasted chicken for Shabbat is as commonplace as fireworks on the Fourth of July. If you’re creating a Jewish home, or a home with a Jewish flavor, a great way to do so is by sharing a delicious Shabbat or holiday meal. I love gathering with friends and hearing about their grandmothers’ roast chicken or the best roast chicken they had at a friend’s house growing up.

This time of year, it is hot outside and having the oven on for a long time roasting a chicken is less appealing. For Canada Day (July 1st) and Independence Day (July 4th) we’ve got this simple fried chicken recipe, which is perfect for a picnic, and as always, the secret is in the sauce. The dipping sauce for this recipe is all about Canada Day because it’s a sweet maple syrup sauce that explodes with flavor thanks to some Dijon Mustard (a nod to Bastille Day, July 14, perhaps) and some fresh minced garlic.

Picnic Fried Chicken with Maple Dipping Sauce

(serves 6-8)

apple cider vinegarSpecial equipment needed: a candy thermometer to measure the heat of the oil.

Chicken Ingredients:

  • 2 full chicken breasts with the skin on (this will be four pieces)
    If the chicken breasts have the bones ask your butcher to split the breasts and remove the bones for you.  
  • 1 full skinless boneless chicken breast (this will be two pieces)
  • 1 400 ml can of coconut milk, divided
  • 1 cup of water, divided
  • 2 tsp. of smoky paprika (if you only have one kind of paprika just use that twice)
  • 2 tsp. of sweet paprika, divided
  • paprika1 tsp. of salt
  • 1 tsp. of pepper
  • 3 tsp. of cider vinegar, divided
  • additional salt and pepper to season chicken
  • 2 cups of all purpose flour (optional 1 cup rice flour and 1 cup of all purpose flour)
  • 1/2 cup of corn starch
  • vegetable oil for frying: enough to fill your pot about 1 1/2 inches which should be no more than 1/3 of the way up the pot.
    (I like canola or peanut oil)

 

 

garlicDipping Sauce Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 3 Tbsp. maple syrup
    I prefer the dark/grade B maple syrup
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 tsp. of Dijon mustard

 

Note: I make two different soaks for the chicken. One is more child-friendly and is a bit milder. My daughter does not like pepper so the children’s chicken is pepper free. I also make chicken strips for the children that cook quickly and are perfect for little fingers to hold.

The chicken is made in two steps: soak & fry.

Soak

Wet ingredients

1. You will need two bowls: one for the children’s chicken and one for the adult’s. In the larger bowl (adult bowl) mix the coconut milk and 1 cup of water. Whisk the mixture together and then pour 1/3 of the mixture into the other bowl (kid’s bowl).

chicken soaking2.  To the adult bowl, add 2 tsp. of smoked paprika, 1/2 tsp of sweet paprika, 2 tsp. of cider vinegar, 1 tsp. of salt and 1 tsp. of pepper.

3. To the kid’s bowl add 1 tsp. of cider vinegar and 1 tsp. of salt.

4. Whisk the mixtures in each separate bowl until everything is combined.

5. Place the 4 chicken breast pieces that have skin into the adult bowl. If the chicken is not submerged you can add a little bit of water. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, but I prefer to soak overnight.

6. Take the boneless, skinless chicken breasts and cut them into 1-inch strips with scissors or a kitchen knife.

7. Place the chicken strips into the kid’s bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, but I prefer to soak overnight.

Fry

fry the chicken1. Take the bowls out of the refrigerator and remove the chicken from the cold coconut milk soak to a wire rack over a tray. Let the chicken sit for a while so that some of the chill is removed from the meat. The coconut milk will begin to “melt” off the chicken. Let the soak drip off and remove any excess coconut milk before you coat the chicken in flour.

2. Fill your pot no more than 2 inches high with your oil and warm it up over medium heat until it reaches 375 degrees.

3. In a large plastic bag add 2 cups of flour, 1/4 cup of cornstarch, 1 tsp. of salt and 1/2 tsp. of pepper and mix well with a whisk.

4. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Then put the chicken into the flour mixture in batches. Shake to coat.

5. Have a baking tray or plate ready with a double layer of paper towels for the chicken to drain on as each batch is ready.

6. The full chicken breasts take 20 minutes to fry. Once your oil has reached 375 degrees, you can start frying in batches. I like to put a timer on for 5 minutes at a time. Every 5 minutes you can turn the chicken in the oil. After 4 turns the chicken will be ready. Take it out with a slotted spoon or very carefully with tongs and place it on a plate layered with two paper towels. Sprinkle the chicken with a little salt and pepper to finish. The chicken strips take only about 8 minutes and can be done in two or three batches. Turn them every two minutes.

Dip

In a measuring cup pour 1 Tbsp. of honey, 3 Tbsp. of maple syrup, 1 clove of garlic minced, and 1 tsp. of Dijon. Whisk together. Add a pinch of salt to taste.

Happy Fourth of July and Canada Day!

Fried chicken

July Fourth BBQ Sauce

  

When I started dating my husband he was living in Atlanta, and through my visits down south I was introduced to a whole new world of food–barbeque. I don’t want to instigate a war between barbeque lovers and the intricacies of what makes a North Carolina BBQ sauce different from a Kansas City sauce, but, suffice it to say, I think it’s all pretty delicious.

Growing up, BBQ meant chicken breasts covered in store bought sauce, baked in the oven (my mom is from Ohio). And I ate it happily, but after I spent some time eating my way through Atlanta, I’ve learned how much better something can be when it’s fresh and homemade, and I love being able to adjust the seasoning based on what I’m serving or how I’m planning to use the leftovers.

After taste testing many different recipes for BBQ sauce, the ones I liked best have both brown sugar and molasses, with something smokey and spicy to cut the sweetness a bit–in this case chipotle in adobo, one of my go-to-ingredients for chili as well. All of these ingredients work in perfect concert together to create a sweet, smoky, spicy sauce. Whether it’s brisket or chicken, even veggies or tofu, everything tastes better slathered in this amazing and simple sauce.

BBQ Sauce

BBQ Sauce ingredientsAdding the honeyIngredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 6 oz. can of tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. mustard powder
  • 2 Tbsp. chipotle in adobo
  • 4 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper

 

 

Mix the sauceDirections:

1.  Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat.

2.  Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for an additional 3 minutes. It’s important to add the onions first or else the garlic will burn.

3.  Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the rest of the ingredients, the more liquid ones first. Allow to simmer for 20 minutes.

4.  Using an immersion blender, blend, still in pan, until completely smooth.

If you do not have an immersion blender, consider investing in one! It’s great for everything from baby food to soup to sauce. However, if you don’t have one, the sauce would be delicious slightly chunky: Just make sure to dice everything very finely, or you can pour the slightly cooled sauce into a regular blender or food processor and blend until smooth.

5.  For use on grilled meat, let the sauce cool completely and then marinate the meat in sauce for up to an hour before grilling, and then continue to baste with sauce while cooking.

 

Immersion blenderIf using kosher meat, use less salt, as the meat is already salted.

This is fantastic for a typical American style BBQ feast, but can also transport you around the world. Using it on steak that is then thinly sliced is wonderful on top of a Vietnamese Bun. Used on pulled chicken you can create great sliders or tacos. Inside a simple chinese-style crepe pancake, it’s a wonderful start to mu-shu, along with some sauteed cabbage and carrots. The options are really limitless, and help you get a glimpse into the fact that grilled meat is really a staple in most cuisines.

Just another example of how food can bring people together across cultures and continents, when other factors just seem to divide us. What better way to celebrate the melting pot of America on the 4th of July than a recipe that can transcend? Wishing you the best for a Happy Fourth of July!