Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Dips for a Great New Year

There are many different foods that some people have the custom of eating that symbolize different blessings we hope to receive this coming year. Here are three dips that use three different symbolic foods.
Beets - the Hebrew word for beet is selek which is similar to the word for remove. We are hoping that our enemies be removed. 
Gourd - The Hebrew word for gourd is similar to the Hebrew words announce and to rip. We are asking that God rip up any evil decrees and that our merits be announced before Him. 
Leeks - The Hebrew word for leek is similar to the word cut. We are praying that those that wish to hurt us are cut off. 

Beet Chummus 
1 large beet 
2 cloves garlic
1 can chickpeas
1 Tbs lemon juice
3 Tbs tahini paste
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbs olive oil

Wrap the beet tightly in foil and roast at 400°F/200°C for about 45 minutes until tender. Allow the beet to cool completely and then peel. You can also use cooked vacuum packed beets.
In the work bowl of a food processor fitted with an s-blade blade pulse until the garlic is minced.
Cut the beets into chunks and add to the food processor along with the chickpeas, salt, tahini, and lemon juice. Turn the food processor on and with the motor running stream the olive oil in through the feed tube. Puree until smooth. Place the beet chummus in an air-tight container and it will keep in the fridge for a week.

Baba Gourdnoush -  the classic middle-eastern eggplant dip just with gourd  
4 small bottle gourds, halved and seeds removed
1 Tbs kosher salt
2 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs lemon juice
3 Tbs tahini paste

Cut the gourd into one-inch chunks and place in a colander. Sprinkle the salt over the cut gourd and let the gourd strain for about 30 minutes to draw out some of the moisture. Remove from the strainer and pat dry with a paper towel.
Heat the oil in a medium pan over medium heat. Add the gourd carefully as the oil will splatter from the wet gourd. Cover the pan and cook the gourd for 20 minutes then remove the cover and let the gourd cook for another 15 minutes until golden and tender. Let the gourd cool completely.
In the work bowl of a food processor fitted with an s-blade blade pulse until the garlic is minced. Add the gourd and the rest of the ingredients. Puree until smooth. Place the baba gourdnoush in an air-tight container and it will keep in the fridge for a week.

Creamy Leek Dip 
4 leeks
2 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 small clove garlic
1 Tbs mayonnaise
1 tsp lemon juice

Cut the root end and dark green ends off the leek. Slice in half lengthwise then cut into half moons. Fill a large bowl with cold water and place the sliced leeks in the water, swishing around to separate the layers. The dirt and sand will sink to the bottom and the leeks will float on top. Skim off the cleaned leeks and pat dry.
Heat the oil in a pan over medium-low heat. Add the leeks and salt and cook stirring every few minutes for about 25 minutes until the leeks are very soft and caramelized. Let the leeks cool completely.
In the work bowl of a food processor fitted with an s-blade blade pulse until the garlic is minced. Add the cooled leeks and puree until smooth. Add the mayonnaise and lemon juice and puree until combined. Place the leek dip in an air-tight container and it will keep in the fridge for a week.

The leek dip can also be made with onions they will just take longer to caramelize.

Shana tova!!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Pomegranate Bark

This is the perfect sweet treat for Rosh Hashana. It only takes few minutes to prepare, you can customize it to your tastes and the best part (at least for me) it's sweet and salty which is a combination that I just love!

This pomegranate marble bark with pistachios, candied ginger, and sea salt is delicious and so simple to make even when there is so much cooking to be done.

Some people have the custom to not eat nuts on Rosh Hashana so feel free to leave them out. My family does not have that custom and I really enjoy having the nuts in this bark as it sort of masks crunchiness of the pomegranate seeds that not everyone enjoys.

If you want to make this even simpler you can just do the dark chocolate or the white chocolate and skip the marbling step.

The melted chocolate is a blank canvas. Sprinkle on any chopped dried fruit or nuts that you like and you have a customizable treat that you can serve year round.

Pomegranate Bark 

5 bars good quality dark chocolate (100 gram/3.5 oz bars)
3/4 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup pomegranate seeds
1/2 cup pistachios, chopped
2 tsp chopped candied ginger
1/2 tsp sea salt

Break the dark chocolate bars into chunks and place in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave the chocolate at 30-second intervals stirring until melted. Repeat the process with the white chocolate. This can also be done in a heat-proof bowl on top of a pot with a few inches of simmering water.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Spread the melted dark chocolate over the parchment paper.

Using a teaspoon drop dollops of melted white chocolate all over the dark chocolate.

Take a knife, toothpick, or skewer and swirl the white chocolate into the dark chocolate to create a marble effect.

Sprinkle the remaining ingredients over the marbled chocolate.

Using a flat spatula or a clean hand gently press the toppings into the chocolate to ensure that everything really adheres to the chocolate.

Place the tray in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or until the chocolate has hardened. Remove from fridge and break the bark into shards. Place the pieces into an air-tight container between layers of parchment and put in the fridge or freezer until it's time for dessert, but I can't guarantee it will make it that long :)

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Pomegranate Glazed Chicken

Pomegranates really are one of the most beautiful fruits. They're sweet, tart, juicy, and those little jewel-like arils are truly stunning. One of the reasons I think this fruit is really beautiful is because you have to work hard to actually enjoy it which makes you appreciate it even more.

Pomegranates are one of the symbolic foods of Rosh Hashana. I remember when I was first grade, my teacher split us into groups and gave us parts of a pomegranate and we had to count the seeds. I'm pretty sure we didn't get the exact number because if I remember correctly some of us couldn't resist the delicious fruit and ate some of this math project. The reason my teacher had us count the seeds is that many people think that the pomegranate has 613 seeds to symbolize the 613 mitzvot/commandments. While this is not the case and every pomegranate does not have the same amount of seeds there are still hundreds of arils inside the pomegranate. We eat this fruit on Rosh Hashana in the hopes that we are blessed in abundance like the abundant amount of seeds in a pomegranate.

During Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur we reflect on our lives and our relationship with G-d. If we look to the pomegranate we can find some inspiration as to how we can improve both. Before you can enjoy a pomegranate you have to cut through a thick outer skin and then you have to remove the arils by peeling away the membranes (see below for links on how to remove the arils). You really have to put in some work before you are able to enjoy the fruit. Sometimes in life, you want to take the easy route, but that might not always be the best thing for you. If you work hard towards fulfilling your goals you will appreciate those sweet hard-earned results even more. When it comes to our relationship with G-d, sometimes you might think that He isn't there and that He isn't listening to you. G-d is always there if you just look past the hardships you're going through you will see that He has been there all along. Even during difficult times, He is there caring for and watching over each and every one of us.

Pomegranate Glazed Chicken Thighs

1/4 cup pomegranate molasses* plus 1 Tbs for drizzling
2 Tbs tomato paste
1 Tbs brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cumin
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 Tbs lemon juice
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
2 lb skin on chicken thighs (you can use boneless just adjust cooking time)
3 large white or red onions, thinly sliced
1 cup pomegranate arils for garnishing
Fresh herbs for garnishing

Combine the pomegranate molasses, tomato paste, brown sugar, spices, lemon juice, garlic and jalapeno in a gallon sized zip-top bag. Add the chicken and really massage the marinade into the chicken. Place the bag in a bowl or baking dish just in case it leaks and then stick it in the fridge for at least 1 hour or up to one day. If you want to make this in advance just stick the bag of chicken in the freezer for up to one month marinade and all.
When the chicken is done marinading preheat your oven to 400°F/200°C and spray a 9x13 pan or sheet pan with non-stick cooking spray. Place the sliced onions in the pan in a single layer. Place the chicken on top. Roast the chicken for about 45 minutes until cooked through making sure to baste the chicken with the juices in the bottom of the pan every 15 minutes.
Transfer the chicken to a serving platter drizzle with pan juices and arrange the flavorful caramelized onions around the chicken. Garnish the chicken with the pomegranate seeds, fresh herbs, and 1 Tbs of pomegranate molasses.

This works great on chicken thighs, but it would also be a great marinade for a roast or duck.

*If you can't find pomegranate molasses you can make your own by pouring 2 cups of pomegranate juice into a pot with 3 Tbs sugar and 3 Tbs lemon juice. Let the mixture reduce over a low flame for about 2 hours until it has reduced by half and has thickened slightly. It will thicken more as it cools.
Alternatively, you can use balsamic vinegar for that tart slightly sweet flavor.

How to seed a pomegranate
In water -
Wooden spoon -
Slicing -

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Roasted Gazpacho

I absolute love tomatoes, I eat them pretty much every day and I always have a big bowl of cherry tomatoes in my kitchen that I munch on while I cook. The funny thing is,  I didn't eat tomatoes when I lived in America. When I moved to Israel I decided I'm going to try to like them because tomatoes are such a big part of Israeli cuisine (I still don't like olives, but I'm working on it). I took a bite of a cherry tomato and as the tight skin snapped and the sweet juices burst from the tomato I instantly fell in love.

I love tomatoes so much that I often buy too many and I'm always looking for ways to use them up. Since it's summer I turned to the cold soup, gazpacho. This chilled Spanish soup is traditionally made with tomatoes as the main ingredient and is served chilled so it is the perfect refreshing dish for a hot summer day. To balance all those bright fresh flavors I chose to roast the vegetables to give a bit of a deeper caramelized smoky flavor to the soup.

The great thing about soup and especially gazpacho that the longer it sits the better it tastes as it gives time for the flavors to really meld together, so this soup is great to make in advance. Make it on Thursday or Friday and serve it at seudat shlishit. Make it at the start of the week and bring it to work with you and since it's meant to be served cold it's the perfect desk lunch.

Roasted Gazpacho 
12 plum tomatoes
3 red bell peppers
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 jalape├▒o, seeded
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbs fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp crushed black pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

To serve:
Greek yogurt or labne
Toasted bread
Fresh Herbs

Preheat oven to 450°F/230°C
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and place the whole tomatoes and peppers on the tray. Roast for about 25 minutes flipping the vegetables halfway until blistered all over. Place the roasted vegetables in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap, this will allow the tomatoes and peppers to steam so the skins can be easily removed. Set the bowl to the side until the vegetables are cool enough to handle. Peel the skins off the tomatoes and peppers and remove the seeds from the peppers.
Place the garlic and jalapen├Á into the work bowl of a food processor fitted with an s-blade or in a blender and pulse until minced.
Add the peeled tomatoes, peppers, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. With the motor running slowly stream in the olive oil. Check for seasoning and add more salt or lemon juice if needed. Feel free to puree the soup as much as you want some like it chunky I happen to like it pretty smooth, it's up to you.
Pour the gazpacho into a container with a tight fitting lid and place in the fridge for up to a week.
To serve, ladle into bowls and top with a dollop of Greek yogurt or labne, a sprinkling of torn fresh herbs and some toasted bread for dunking.