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All photos byÂ Laurel Street Kitchen
When my now-husband Bryan and I began talking about spending our lives together, we enrolled in Introduction to Judaism classes at a local a reform synagogue in San Francisco. Bryanâ€™s Jewish education had ended at 13 and I was not Jewish, so we both learned so much from those classes.
While I am grateful for the wonderfully welcoming community at our very reform temple, there were also some Jewish rituals I had only heard about and longed to participate in. I found Havdalah for example, the beautiful ritual that utilizes all five senses to mark the end of Shabbat, particularly enchanting.
Earlier this year, we were lucky enough to participate in a meaningful Havdalah ceremony in Jerusalem on a trip with Honeymoon Israel. When we returned, I decided to host a Shabbat walk and Havdalah ceremony at our home with our new Honeymoon Israel community. I found thisÂ InterfaithFamily guide to HavdalahÂ very useful! Since it was early in the evening, I decided to do a spread of small bites.
One new thing I loved learning about in Israel was the Seven Species, seven agricultural products listed in the Torah as being special products to the Land of Israel. Everywhere we went, we saw them featured on everything from challah covers to watercolor paintings. Inspired by this, I decided to create a 7 Species Cheese Spread for our gathering. You can play with the ingredients however you wish. Here are the ingredients and one easy recipe I created using store-bought hummus to create a gourmet platter even if you’re limited on time.
Seven Species Cheese Spread
Arrange cheeses on a cheeseboard or use cake stands for more height and drama. Place pita in a pretty basket or bowl lined with a napkin. Place smaller items like figs, dates and olives into small bowls on or around the cheese board. If your dates and olives are not pitted, be sure to add a small bowl on the side for pits. Right before guests arrive, drizzle a small amount of honey on the mild soft cheese (I recommend a brie). Be careful to only add a small drizzle so it doesnâ€™t drip off the platter! I used honeycomb here instead.
1. Heat oven to 300Â°F and cover two baking sheets with parchment paper. Slice each tomato in half lengthwise and place tomatoes, cut side up onto the baking sheets. Drizzle the tomatoes with a little olive oil and a sprinkle a bit of salt on them. Place them in the oven for 90 minutes, then set them aside to cool. I recommend doing this one to two days in advance.
2. Boil one-and-a-half cups of salted water. When the water comes to a boil, pour in the barley and turn the heat down to a simmer for 30 minutes. Check the barley at this time–it should have some chew to it but be springy and not too hard. It took me about 45 minutes. When the barley is done, rinse with cool water and set it aside to cool. I recommend doing this one to two days in advance.
3. Spread hummus with the back of a large spoon onto a large serving platter. Sprinkle the sumac over the hummus evenly, then barley, then tomatoes, then olives, then chives. Drizzle with olive oil, then sea salt and serve with fresh pita.
Since Sukkot menus are all about the autumn harvest, what could be more festive than starting off the meal with a comforting bowl of pumpkin soup? When I was growing up, one of my favorite recipes was my grandmother’s stewed Kabocha: a Japanese variety of pumpkin or squash. It wasn’t until I went off to college that I tried pumpkin for the first time in a dish, and I’ve always felt the flavor of Kabocha is far superior to the pumpkins we eat here in the U.S. It is sweeter and heartier than that of a regular pumpkin, and it has a fluffy texture similar to that of a potato, which makes it perfect for a purĂ©ed soup. The color is a deeper orange, making it more vibrant and festive, as well!
If you’re having a sit-down meal, you can serve it in bowls as a starter. If you’re throwing a casual happy hour under the sukkah like I am, you can keep it warm in a big thermos pot and pour individual servings in little paper cups with the garlic challah croutons, cream and chives sprinkled over the top. This is the time of year when the air is starting to get a bit crisper, so this soup is a great way to warm up under the sukkah. If you’re serving meat later and would like to keep things kosher, I recommend omitting the milk and cream and instead finishing the soup with a dollop of homemade cashew creamÂ under the croutons, which your guests can stir in.
Kabocha Squash Soup with Garlic Challah Croutons
1.Â Slice Kabocha in half and spoon out the seeds. Cut each half into three wedges. Turn each wedge onto the flat side and remove the green skin. Cut each wedge crosswise into four even squares (see image for what your Kabocha should look like at this point).
2.Â Melt butter in a dutch oven or pot, over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, slide in the sliced onion, curry powder and a sprinkling of salt. Stir the onion continuously for 10 minutes, or until caramelized. Slide Kabocha cubes into the pot, along with another sprinkling of salt and stir for five minutes. Add the chicken broth and bring everything to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and cover the pot for 10 minutes.
3.Â Using a fork, pierce Kabocha to check for doneness. It should be soft enough to pierce without resistance, but not so soft that it falls apart. If it’s not quite soft enough, stir, cover and cook for another five minutes.
4.Â When Kabocha is cooked through, blend in batches in a blender or use an immersion blender (one of my favorite kitchen tools!) until completely smooth.
5.Â Stir in milk, then heavy whipping cream. Make sure to keep the heat very low and be careful to not let the soup boil at this point.
6.Â Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste. Top with a dollop of the whipped cream, challah croutons and chives.
This is a recipe I came up with when, one Saturday morning, I decided I could not eat any more challah French toast!
1.Â Preheat the oven to 375ÂşF.
2.Â Grate garlic clove into olive oil, stir in herbs and salt. Be very careful to only include very small, microplane-d pieces of garlic. Larger pieces will get burnt and become bitter.
3.Â Cut challah into roughly 3/4″ x 3/4″ cubes. I recommend using a regular knife for a cleaner cut (as opposed to a serrated knife).
4.Â Place cubed challah onto a baking sheet and pour oil mixture over challah and mix well with your hands.
5.Â Spread challah out on baking sheet so it’s just one layer and the challah is not (or just barely) touching.
6.Â Bake for five minutes and check on it. It should be a nice and toasty golden color. If it’s not browning quite yet, bake for another 5 minutes and check on it again. It took me about 12 minutes to achieve this in my oven.
I love Mother’s Day. I know this might seem like a given but I’ve honestly always loved Mother’s Day. There were definitely a few years there (mainly in my 20s) where it was not on my radar but now that I’m a mother of two, let’s be honest… it’s basically a second birthday and if you know me at all then you KNOW how much I love my birthday.
My husband and I created a little ritual for Mother’s Day (since it’s actually only three short weeks after my birthday) where we don’t get gifts (same goes for Father’s Day) but instead, the parent who is celebrating the day gets to sleep in and choose what we do all day. In addition, instead of paying for an expensive gift, we make a donation to a charity that supports parents and/or children (this is called tzedakah in Hebrewâ€”charitable giving). Because honestly, I don’t really need another pair of earrings or a fancy pair of shoes but I do need to sleep and eat breakfast in bed.
Speaking of breakfast in bed, I recently fell in love with malawach all over again. If you haven’t had this Yemenite delight, now is the time to try it. You can find it in any kosher grocery store and in some major grocery store chains (depending on where you live) in the freezer section. It’s essentially just a delicious, buttery flaky bread that does well when paired with just about anything. And since I LOVE Middle Eastern flavors, I paired it with za’atar, an herby spice blend ubiquitous in Israeli cooking.
If the person you’re honoring on Mother’s Day doesn’t like bread for some strange reason, you can also put this white bean salad on a mixture of fresh leafy greens or even a perfectly roasted sweet potato. I hope you enjoy this recipe and if you do choose to make this Middle Eastern breakfast for the amazing woman helping to raise a kiddo with Judaism in their life, don’t forget to bring her some strong coffee and a flower (or succulents!). Presentation is everything. Happy Mother’s Day!
1. Â Combine shallot and vinegar in a small bowl and let sit 5 minutes.
2. Â Meanwhile, mix cilantro andÂ â…“ of the oil in a large bowl to coat herbs. Add beans, cheese and za’atar and toss to combine. Season generously with salt.
3. Â Add shallot mixture to bean mixture and toss gently to combine. Set aside.
4. Â Add the remaining oil to a large frying pan set over medium-high heat. Add frozen malawach to the frying pan and immediately reduce the heat to medium, cookingÂ until the bottom is golden brown with large bubbles forming underneath the dough, 2Â˝ to 3 minutes.Â Flip and cook another 2 to 3 minutes until golden brown all over. Transfer to a plate and cover with a kitchen towel while baking the remaining dough sheet.
5. Â Once both of your malawach sheets are done, top with marinated salad and enjoy!
Team! It’s getting down to the wire! That’s right . . . Passover is right around the corner. My local kosher grocer has put up the outside tent and is changing all the labels on their shelves and covering up the non-kosher-for-Passover stuff like it’s some sort of eye sore. As the first night seder approaches, I’m already starting the process of cleaning out my cabinets of pasta and other delicious goodies that are a â€śno-noâ€ť during Passover.
I’m constantly in search of a quick, yet delicious dinner to serve on a busy weeknight PLUS I need to get rid of my pasta, so I decided to try my hand at a skillet pasta dish and I’m SO glad I did! The recipe below can be adapted to add anything you likeâ€”I used frozen veggies to help clean out the freezer and half boxes of pasta to help clean out my cupboard. What I love about this dish is that it offers a cheesy, delicious meal, plus it helps clean my house, soâ€¦win-win!
Fridge-Clean-Out Skillet Pasta
1.Â Preheat oven to 425Â° F. In a medium pot of salted boiling water, add entire box pasta plus the frozen broccoli and mushrooms. Cook together until pasta is just shy ofÂ al dente, about 2 minutes less than the package cooking time. Drain, then transfer pasta and veggies to a large mixing bowl. AddÂ 3/4 of the sauce to the pasta and veggies. Set aside.
2. Add olive oil to an ovenproof skillet and cook over medium-high heat. Once smoking, add onions and cook until translucent. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Turn off heat and add pasta to the skillet. Stir to combine pasta and veggies with the onions and garlic. Using a spatula, flatten the pasta so it lays evenly. Add the restÂ of the sauce to the pasta and evenly top with the cheese. Place skillet in the upper thirdÂ of the oven. Cook until cheese is brown and bubbly, about 8 – 10 minutes.
Stuffed breads, like dumplings, exist across many cultures. There are theÂ babkas; the Kurdish Jewish stuffed bread known asÂ kadeh; there are PolishÂ kolaches;Â and IndianÂ parathas.Â This year, instead of the usual Hamanâ€™s hat (Hamantaschen) for Purim, I wanted to try making Queen Esther’s crown. The pastry ring is supposed to look like a queenâ€™s crown and with the inspiration of Indian parathas, this one is stuffed with a samosa-like filling. I hope those of you with Jewish and Indian influences in your home will especially enjoy this recipe!
Queen Esther’s Crown Stuffed Bread
1. Â Remove pizza dough from the fridge to let it come to room temperatureÂ for at leastÂ 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400Â° F.
2. Â Peel the potatoes and the carrots and dice them into pea-sized cubes.
3. Â Add 3/4 cup of water into a small pot with a lid. HeatÂ the water to just before a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Add in the diced carrots, diced potatoes and peas. Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and cook until soft, about 15 minutes. Once the vegetables are soft and cooked through but not mushy, take them out of the pan. The water may or may not be completely absorbed.
4.Â Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the mustard seed and cook until you start to hear a popping sound. Add the chopped onion and cook until translucent. Then, add the steamed vegetables and sautĂ© for 5 minutes. Add all the spices: salt, mustard seed, turmeric, garam masala andÂ fresh ginger. Stir to combine.
5.Â Remove the vegetables from the pan and set aside in a bowl to cool. With scissors or a knife, cut the dried apricots into little ÂĽ-inch strips and add them to the vegetables.
6. Â Prepare a pan with a sheet of parchment paper.
7.Â Grease your hands with a little oil and stretch out your pizza dough into a long thin rectangle. I like to hold the dough up high and let gravity help me stretch it. Keep turning the dough so that you get an even stretch.
8.Â Put the edges together and make a wide crown of dough. It may seem impossible, but stick with it and keep tweaking it. It doesnâ€™t have to be perfectly round and you can adjust it later.
9.Â Spoon the filling onto the dough, leaving a small seamÂ at the center of the circle and a larger space on the outer part of the circle. Pull the outside of the crown over the filling andÂ pinch the dough together in the inner circle.
10.Â Brush the crown with a beaten egg. Cook for 25-30 minutes until the crust is golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes.
11.Â Serve slices with a spoonful of cool, creamy plain yogurt.
Thereâ€™s one dish that will always and forever have a place in my heart (probably literally and figuratively at this point!)â€”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 donâ€™t like greens or vegetables of any color touching their mac and cheese, you can give them the â€śuntouchedâ€ť pasta on the side. Everyone wins!
Bruschetta Mac and Cheese Recipe
Mac and Cheese
Â Bruschetta Topping
1.Â InÂ a small skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and stir, lightly frying for about a minute, removingÂ before the garlic gets too brown (it can be golden). Pour into a mixing bowl and allow to cool slightly.
2.Â 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.Â In a large stockpot, cook pasta according to package directions.Â Drain well.
2.Â While the pasta cooks, melt the butter in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat.Â When the butter has melted and started to bubble, whisk in the flour; cook for 1 Â˝ minutes, whisking constantly.Â Gradually whisk in the milk until no lumps remain.Â Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook milk mixture, whisking frequently, until it thickens and bubbles, about 8 minutes.
3.Â 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.Â Stir in the mustard and salt.Â Return the saucepan to the heat and stir in the pasta.Â Be sure to stir up the sauce from the bottom of the pan and thoroughly coat all of the pasta with sauce.Â Cook for 1-2 minutes over medium-low heat until heated through.
4.Â 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.
Potato kugel is always a hit at holiday meals. Traditionalists enjoy simple potato kugel like their grandmothers used to make, but even so there are debates about whether the kugel should be crunchy and light or soft and compressed. This particular version has a pumpkin custard-like topping and is a mix of sweet and savory. You end up with a little crunch around the edges and a soft filling in the middle. It also lends itself to experimentationâ€”add cumin or zaâ€™atar for Middle Eastern flavors, or turmeric or garam masala for an Indian-inspired version.
Potato and Pumpkin Kugel
1.Â Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.Â Peel onion and potatoes and coarsely grate with a box grater over a clean kitchen towel.Â (Here,Â I used 3 small potatoes as one large potato.)
3.Â Over the sink or a bowl, squeeze the towel of grated mixture as hard as you can to extract as much liquid as possible.
4.Â Add 2 Â˝ Tbsp. oil to a deep pie plate. Put the plate in the oven to heat.
5.Â Add onion and potato mixture to a bowl. Sprinkle with starch, salt and Â˝ tsp. pepper.
6.Â Make a well in the middle of the mixture and crack one egg into it. Beat the egg with a fork and mix well.
7.Â Remove the pie plate from the oven, scooping out Â˝ Tbsp. hot oil. Set aside.
8.Â With a fork, add the potato mixture to the pie plate. Build up the sides of the pie plate to form a crust. (If you like lots of crunchy potato, make your sides wide.) Drizzle remaining hot oil on top.
9.Â Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, until edges begin to brown.
10.Â Mix pumpkin purĂ©e with evaporated milk. Add remaining eggs, cinnamon and sugar.
11.Â With a measuring cup or ladle, pour pumpkin mixture into potato pie until it reaches the top of the potato edges. (Any extra mixture can be used to make sweet pumpkin flan!)
12.Â Add remaining Â˝ tsp. pepper and additional spice, if using, to pumpkin mixture, stirring lightly with a fork to prevent overflow.
13.Â Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. If the edges begin to get too dark, cover with foil; the moisture from the pumpkin should help it stay crisp.
14.Â To make sweet pumpkin flan, add 3 Tbsp. sugar to leftover pumpkin mixture. Pour into oven-safe ramekins and bake for 30 minutes.
15.Â After removing kugel from oven, let cool slightly and serve with sour cream.
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 wasnâ€™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 youâ€™re hosting a bunch of family this holiday season or feasting alone, do yourself a favor and try this dish. Itâ€™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.Â Spread the cauliflower florets and sweet potatoÂ 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.Â Place garlic cloves and remaining olive oil on a small piece of aluminum foil. Wrap garlicÂ and oil in the foil so no oil can escape. Place foil in the corner of the baking sheet holding the veggies.
4.Â Place baking sheet in the oven and bake roughly 40 minutes, or until cauliflower and sweet potato are crispy on the edges.
5.Â Meanwhile, prepare the tahini by adding the tahini paste, lemon, kosher salt and garlic
6.Â 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.
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 itâ€™s worth the time and money to buy the squash already peeled and cubed. You might have to cut some of the chunksÂ into smallerÂ piecesÂ if theyâ€™re too large, but otherwise this is a fast and easy dish to make. You donâ€™t even have to peel the apples!
Roasted Butternut Squash with Apples and Onions
Serves 6-8 as a side dish
1.Â Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.Â Cut onion in half and slice each piece crosswise into Â˝-inch strips. Place on a large rimmed baking sheet and set aside.
3.Â 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.
4.Â 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.
5.Â Remove from the oven. Sprinkle with dried cranberries and sunflower seeds and serve.
MyÂ last salad took us all the way to Israel, but this summerÂ 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 dĂ©but. 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 purĂ©e of blueberries in the ranch dressing.
Summer Blueberry Salad with Blueberry Ranch
Blueberry Ranch Dressing
Summer Blueberry Salad
1. Wash your pint of blueberries.Â 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 purĂ©e into a small bowl and let it cool. Chill in the refrigerator while you continue preparing the salad.
2.Â Wash the greens and add them to a serving bowl.
3.Â 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.Â Peel and thinly slice 1/4 of the red onion.
5.Â Add about 1/2 pint of the fresh blueberries to the greens.
6.Â Once the blueberry purĂ©e has cooled, you can continue making the blueberry ranch dressing.
7.Â 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.Â 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.Â Add in the chives, the dried dill and minced parsley. Then, stir in the chilled purĂ©ed blueberries.
10.Â 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.Â In the servingÂ 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.