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I absolutely love Rosh Hashanah and all things High Holiday season. I love fall weather, and I love the changing leaves and a bit of crisp in the air (though having lived in Miami and then Los Angeles for the last five years, I do miss the actual crisp in the air). Rosh Hashanah has been my favorite holiday ever since I was a little kid growing up in Atlanta. But it wasn’t until I learned how to really cook that Rosh Hashanah cemented itself in my heart as a culinary holiday. As I learn more and more about the holidays, I gain a better understanding of just how connected Jewish holidays are to the earth, the season and the harvest for that season. The recipe in this post is a testament to my commitment to honor the fruits and vegetables of the season. Roasted cauliflower and sweet potato is one of my go-to recipes for a quick, healthy and flavorful side dish on any Shabbat dinner table. But I wanted to jazz things up a bit, so I added some roasted garlic and perfectly ripe figs to balance the saltiness of the tahini. Whether you’re hosting a bunch of family this holiday season or feasting alone, do yourself a favor and try this dish. It’s great as a hot side or as a topping on a salad the next day. Enjoy!
Roasted Cauliflower and Sweet Potato with Figs and Tahini
2. Spread the cauliflower florets and sweet potato in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and turmeric. Using a spatula, mix the cauliflower and sweet potato to spread the oil and spices around.
3. Place garlic cloves and remaining olive oil on a small piece of aluminum foil. Wrap garlic and oil in the foil so no oil can escape. Place foil in the corner of the baking sheet holding the veggies.
4. Place baking sheet in the oven and bake roughly 40 minutes, or until cauliflower and sweet potato are crispy on the edges.
5. Meanwhile, prepare the tahini by adding the tahini paste, lemon, kosher salt and garlic
6. Once vegetables are done, let cool for 5 minutes (make sure to open the foil of garlic and let it cool as well). Place all veggies and sliced figs on a serving dish and drizzle with tahini. Serve with an additional topping of cilantro or parsley, if desired.
My last salad took us all the way to Israel, but this summer salad with a twist takes us to the American Midwest and the birthplace of ranch salad dressing. Nebraska is where America’s favorite dressing made its début. Meanwhile in the Northeast, this time of year, Maine is overflowing with blueberries. This salad features blueberries as a sweet burst in the salad mix itself and a purée of blueberries in the ranch dressing.
Summer Blueberry Salad with Blueberry Ranch
Blueberry Ranch Dressing
Summer Blueberry Salad
1. Wash your pint of blueberries. In a small pot add 1/4 cup of blueberries. Put the lid on the pot and cook on low until the juices begin to bubble a little. Squash the blueberries with a fork as they are cooking. Let the blueberries cook for 5-10 minutes over low heat. Put the purée into a small bowl and let it cool. Chill in the refrigerator while you continue preparing the salad.
2. Wash the greens and add them to a serving bowl.
3. In a dry pan over medium heat, toast 1 1/4 cups of walnuts. Once the walnuts become fragrant you will need to watch them closely so they do not burn. Shake the pan to move and turn the walnuts a little. Set the nuts aside to cool.
4. Peel and thinly slice 1/4 of the red onion.
5. Add about 1/2 pint of the fresh blueberries to the greens.
6. Once the blueberry purée has cooled, you can continue making the blueberry ranch dressing.
7. Wash and dry 10 chives and about 1/2 a bunch of parsley. Mince the chives and parsley. You should have about 1/4 cup of minced parsley.
8. In a bowl, combine 1/4 cup of mayonnaise and 1/4 cup of sour cream. Add in 1 clove of minced garlic. Season with salt and pepper: 1/2 tsp of each or to taste. Mix together until smooth and uniform.
9. Add in the chives, the dried dill and minced parsley. Then, stir in the chilled puréed blueberries.
10. Stir in up to 1/4 cup of milk until you have the desired consistency. One quarter cup will make a fairly thin ranch dressing. If you like a thicker dressing, add less.
11. In the serving bowl, add 1/2 pint of the fresh blueberries, the sliced red onion and the cooled toasted walnuts. Drizzle with the blueberry ranch salad dressing and serve.
Some people have strong feelings about the kind of recipe that aims to create a Passover-friendly version of a dish that is typically leavened. Detractors think creating Passover bagels, muffins, and rolls miss the point of the holiday’s specific diet. Those in favor see the practice as helping to make a difficult holiday more bearable. Some will even point to foods like Passover Popovers as an example of Jewish ingenuity.
Personally, I fall somewhere in the middle. I don’t see the point suffering through a week of “I can’t believe you want to call this a bagel.” (But hey, if you can convince yourself that whatever you’ve come up with tastes like a bagel, more power to you. I’ll have eggs for breakfast this week.) On the other hand, when the introduction of matzah into a dish creates a delightful new twist on an old favorite, I’m all for it.
This brings us to Matzah Kugel, a sweet, dairy-filled confection of matzah layered with sweetened cheese. Sure, you could make a kugel with Passover noodles and come up with an almost-but-not-quite-satisfying proxy for the regular version, but you will never forget that it’s not the “real” thing. Matzah kugel, on the other hand, takes the idea of a noodle kugel as a jumping off point and transforms it into something different but equally delicious.
This dish can function as a side dish or a main course. (It pairs well with a side salad and a piece of gefilte fish.) You can freeze leftover portions: they reheat well in the microwave and even make a delicious and quick breakfast when you just can’t take one more piece of matzah with cream cheese.
Cheese Matzah Kugel for Passover
2. Add cottage cheese, salt, sugar, cinnamon, and butter and mix to combine thoroughly.
3. Grease an 8 inch square baking dish with butter.
4. Arrange half of the matzah so that it covers the bottom of the dish.
5. Pour half of the cheese mixture over it. Repeat with balance of the matzah and cheese mixture. If you wish, sprinkle additional cinnamon and sugar over the top of the kugel.
6. Bake at 350°F for 40 minutes or until set.
If you have just been asked to make the latkes for your child’s classroom during Hanukkah or the family thinks that you should be in charge of making the potato latkes for the first time, do not despair! I promise you this year you will make the best latkes you, or anyone else has ever had (and that was a quote from the head rabbi of the URJ after he thanked me for my “Tina’s Tidbits”!).
Although there are many stories associated with the triumph of the Maccabees and the redemption of the Holy Temple from the hands of the Syrian armies of Antiochus, the story of the one sealed bottle of oil for the Ner Tamid (everlasting light) in the Temple that lasted for eight days instead of one has been the foundation for traditional holiday cooking. Foods fried in oil have become synonymous with Hanukkah celebrations, especially in Europe.
However, most people do not know that potato latkes (pancakes) were created in the late 1700s and really didn’t take on the symbolism until the early 1800s when potatoes were readily available and raised geese were harvested for their meat and oil at the same time that the holiday was celebrated.
The following recipe, if followed step by step, will be easy to make (no peeling potatoes!), will NOT turn black, and will be crisp and fluffy, not thin and greasy.
One last tip: NEVER refrigerate latkes! Either leave them at room temperature until ready to serve in the evening, or freeze them. Either way, reheat the latkes for 7-10 minutes in a 425°F oven just until they are bubbly and crisp. Your family will praise you and your in-laws will be proud of you (and a little jealous!!!).
Watch a video fo Tina making these latkes with applesauce
1. Grate the raw potatoes using the large grating disk on a processor or the largest holes on a grater if doing it by hand. Place grated potato in a colander, rinse with cold water and drain while you grate the onion.
2. Combine eggs, salt, pepper and matzo meal in a 3-quart bowl. Mix thoroughly.
3. Change to the cutting blade on your processor. Add onions to the work bowl. Pulse on and off 5 times. Add ¼ of the grated potatoes to the onion and pulse on and off to make a coarse paste. Add to the egg mixture and stir to combine.
4. Add the drained potatoes to the bowl and mix thoroughly using a large spoon or your hands.
5. Heat a large frying pan or large skillet for 20 seconds. Add enough oil to cover the pan to a depth of 1/4 inch and heat for an additional 20 seconds. Drop mounds of potato mixture into the pan. Fry on both sides until golden. Drain fried latkes on a platter covered with crumpled paper towels. Serve with applesauce and sour cream.
See part two of Tina’s video tutorial
Sukkot 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
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.
5. 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.
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.
As the mercury creeps ever higher on the thermometer, the last thing I want to do is turn on the oven and counteract my hardworking air conditioner. Luckily, we’ve been members of a CSA for the last several years (most recently Red Fire Farm in Granby, MA) and so every week I pick up a huge haul of delicious, organic, sometimes unfamiliar, and sometimes in abundance, veggies.
One of the items we’ve tended to get the most of is cabbage. Napa cabbage, red cabbage, savoy cabbage… lots of cabbage! I was a little intimidated by all these leafy vegetables initially, and opted for cooking up one of my favorite comfort foods–stuffed cabbage. But it takes forever, it’s a little complicated and it requires my summer foe: the oven! I’m not a lover of typical cole slaw as I really don’t like mayonnaise, but a friend’s girlfriend introduced me to a recipe for a peanut slaw a few years back that I’ve worked to recreate. It has since become a summer staple around here.
It’s a great dish to bring to a BBQ or potluck, or to just make a huge batch of and keep in the fridge. It’s especially versatile as it doesn’t contain any dairy or meat so it pairs well with most meals, and without the mayo it’s safe to be out of the fridge for awhile.
Here’s the recipe for what’s sure to become a new favorite in your family as well.
Crunchy Peanut Slaw
1 big bowl of slaw, serves at least 8
2. Toss with the peanuts, cilantro and green onion in a large bowl.
4. Toss with the cabbage. Garnish with a few more peanuts and green onions and serve.
I know that some people HATE cilantro, and in that case, you can substitute a combination of flat leaf parsley and mint. If you’re dealing with a peanut allergy, you can substitute other nuts, or if you’re avoiding nuts altogether, add some shredded carrots for color and sweetness.
You’ll need a large, very sharp knife for this recipe, a good and stable cutting board and a salad spinner, because while organic fruits and veggies are wonderful, they’re often dirty! My favorite method for cleaning greens is to finely chop them and then soak in a large bowl of cold water, then remove to the salad spinner for a vigorous spin, always a fun job for kids!
This bok choy recipe is a companion to my Ginger Sesame Roast Chicken, but pairs well with most meats.