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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Cholent or Cholnt or Tcholent or Schulent or Hamin - but Cholent by any Other Name is Perfect for Shabbos or any Cold Winter Weekend - Updated Recipe

This is an easy recipe- the active part is about 35 minutes. This recipe is for 10 people, it is easily adjusted as you like. Cholent Recipe - partially from our cousin Chenya Wasilisi, partially  from my mom's memory of how her mom, Meryl Bayroff, made Cholent. Also there are bits and pieces from lots of other people.   
I loved researching Cholent in cookbooks and on the internet. It has a great history. Cholent has been around for thousands of years and according to The Jewish Magazine adding the egg has always been a special part of it. All those years ago people would slowly cook it buried in embers for the same 18 hours we cook it now. All the flavors would mingle and merge slowly for a delicious Shabbos meal. Later, women would put their Cholent together on Friday mornings and carry their pots (often copper pots, sealed with a flour and water paste) to the local baker on Friday before sundown.  Dad would pick it up on the way back from Shul (the synagogue) on Saturday early evening for the Shabbos meal.
Because this is an old recipe, we now use a lot more meat in Cholent now than in days past. Probably the meat was more for flavoring and the beans for substance, as in most peasant or rustic type dishes gone gourmet, like Cassoulet, the French cousin of Cholent. Cholent hasn't quite gone gourmet the way Cassoulet has, but it has a strong, loving following. When I told my friends that I was cooking it for Rosh Hashana, those who knew Cholent lit up! To know it, is to love it. There are National Cholent Competitions in Jerusalem, like the Chili competitions in the US. My sister Meryl even found an International Cholent Society page on Facebook! As of the day I joined it there were 274 members!
I don't have a slow-cooker, but I love cooking in my Dutch Oven, so I doubt I would ever use one. It is your choice, no advice there other than it works well in the Dutch Oven. The only big NO-NO is about the beans. Do not use canned beans. You'll get a bunch of mush.
Mom says that in my grandmother's recipe, rather than adding the eggs, she made a small potato kugle and put it in the middle of the Cholent where it cooked submerged in a bath of flavors. Recipes for Cholent are as varied as Jewish people. Each represents their journeys, traditions, and past.  Just thinking about Cholent, and watching my family eat it, makes me feel like a part of generations past.

Update December 24, 2013:  Thanks to Jennifer Aguglario, I decided to try using a slow cooker to make the Cholent.  I'm sold!  I still love my beautiful Dutch Ovens, but for Cholent and similar recipes, it is the slow cooker from now on. I'll still browned the meat first, and a tip from Kemp Minife (my neighbor and chef from both Gourmet Magazine and Epicurious Blog) is to add the tomato paste  and crushed tomatoes to the frying pan after the meat is browned, during the deglazing.  I think that I will also add the onions and garlic - just for a few minutes.  Then I'll add them to the slow cooker and walk away.

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Pasta e Fagioli - Pasta and Bean Soup

Winter is almost here!  We've got our giant coats ready, the heat is on and it's time for soup.  Yum, this is a great soup for the first cold weather and then again several times during the winter.

In the US most Italian-Americans call this Pasta Fazul. This is probably because most of their ancestors come from the southern tip of the Italian boot, and this is the translation of their dialect.  That pronunciation isn’t Italian.  It is really pronounced Pasta Fa-jo-li.

This is another peasant dish.  Both delicious and nutritious, and no longer just for peasants, you find it in restaurants all over the City.  I love this dish.  It’s perfect on freezing winter afternoons.  Plus, the second day you can either rehydrate it as a soup (the pasta drinks all the liquid) or you can eat it with a fork, it’s a totally different meal.

The pasta you use should hold the sauce.  Great pastas to use are: Conchigliette (small shells), Funghini (little mushrooms), Orecchiette (little ears), Ditalini (small tubes), Quadrefiore (square flowers),  and Gomiti or Chifferi (elbows). Cooking times vary for these, but be sure they are al dente (firm to ‘the teeth’) because they will continue cooking in the soup, and nobody wants mushy pasta.

I use a vegetable base to accompany the tomatoes, but feel free to use a beef or chicken base.  When I have the ends of the Parmigiano Reggiano left I put them in a ziplock bag and freeze them.  When I make the base for Pasta e Fagioli, I throw them in.  They add lots of cheesy flavor.

This is a super dish on cold winter night. Serve it with a crusty Italian pane integrale (whole grain bread) and plenty of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano and if you have any leftovers, don't be surprised to see someone in your family with a bowl of cold Pasta e Fagioli for breakfast! 

I made this with Conchigliette (small shells).  The shells hold the soup like a bunch of little spoons.
Ummmm....  soupy garlic, tomatoes beans and kale - ummmmmm..
Winter comfort


Saturday, September 7, 2013

Chipirone (tiny squid) Salad with Arugula, Grilled Padron Peppers, Grilled Pineapple, Tomatoes & Cucumbers

Chipirones a la plancha are one of my many favorite Spanish dishes

My friend for life, Rocio 
Chipirones are very small squid, one of the smallest in the sea, and I am crazy about them grilled with garlic and a little salt. 

My friend Rocio lives near Bilbao, in Euskadi, the Basque Country in the foothills of the Pyrenees. On a recent visit we decided to make a dinner salad with grilled chipirones and it was delicious!

It's not so easy to find these small squid here, so the next time I made the salad I used regular squid cut into 1/2" circles. The most important thing about cooking squid is the cooking time. I made this salad for my niece Belle, and the squid was too chewy.  I'll update this recipe when I get the exact cooking time for the squid.

Pimientons de Padron (Padron Peppers) are scrumptious peppers from Galica,Spain. You often see them sold as tapas throughout Spain, grilled and sprinkled with course salt. Pimientons de Padron are not easy to find in Manhattan, but they can sometimes be found in Whole Foods or the Union Square Green Market.  We often substitute shishito peppers, which can be found in some Asian Markets (especially Japanese or Korean markets).

Just because it isn't super easy to find some of the ingredients for this salad in this country, it's not impossible, and it's easy enough to find delicious substitutes

Note:  When grilling squid  don't cook it for more than 2 to 3 minutes. If you cook it longer and you want to retenderize it, you have to cook it for a lot longer, maybe even 1/2 hour - anything in between will taste like rubber. 

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Sunday, August 4, 2013

Nephew Eli's Salad

My handsome nephew Eli Gabel-Frank
My nephew Eli Gabel-Frank introduced the family to this salad, well, the family minus his dad Steven who hates, hates, hates avocados. But the rest of us love this delicious salad. I've added a little here and there, but it's still Eli's salad.

Every time I make this, Eli reminds me that he really got this salad from his friend, but to me it's Eli's salad.  And he reminds me that when he makes it he just mixes everything together.  Of course, I like to serve it 'pretty',  and once everyone sees it we can toss it around. It doesn't make any difference, as long as the ingredients are the same it's delicious.

Thanks Eli!

My friend Cathy Rosen Zuckerman (one of my very first friends in my life) introduced me to Avocado Oil - it makes a wonderful addition to this salad. Give it a try! You can usually find it in the organic section of the grocery store.

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Eli's Salad

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Frozen Fruit Pops

There's nothing like a frozen fruit pop on hot summer days.  It makes you feel really good to know that you bought the organic fruit yourself, you used coconut water and you limited the amount of sugar or honey that you added. And it's especially good to know that your delicious treat has NO corn syrup.

I know that some people don't add any sugar or any type of sweetener, and that's great, but I feel that I like the pops better a little sweeter.  When the fruits are frozen they lose some of there sweetness, so, I add sugar.  It's up to you.

I also add some fresh mint, it's such a delicious summer taste. Lime also gives it a nice subtle zing,, but I have to counteract that zing with a little extra sugar. 

My favorite pops are strawberry, blueberry, mint and a touch of lime. Sometimes I add some Stony Field Farms Plain Yogurt to it.  It just depends on what I have in the house.  This weekend I had some cantaloupe, pineapple, grapes, strawberries and kiwis that I had to use or lose, so they all went into the blender with some coconut water.  They're delicious. 

I  filled 6 pop molds and then poured the rest into small paper cups and into the freezer they went.  After about 1/2 hour, I put wooded pop sticks that you can buy online or at a craft store, into the middle of the paper cups

Adult Pop  Note: If you want to make adult pops, be aware that liquor does not freeze.  I made Mojito pops, and they were really delicious, but I couldn't get them out of the mold because they weren't totally frozen.  So we scooped them out of the mold, and yummm.  You can pour the mixture into paper cups and serve them from there. 

Note from Jennifer Agugliaro - my friend Jennifer uses pure maple syrup instead of sugar - can't wait to try it!

Did you know that popsicle is a trademarked name?  It is, so I'm just calling them pops. 

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Chicken a la Gabel

Sometimes,  even when you don't eat meat, you cook things for the people you love that you wouldn't normally cook.  Addie and Harold Gabel were my parents dear friends, and they're  my sister Meryl's in-laws, and mispucha to all of us.  So for them, I prepared chicken. 

I tried to think of a recipe for chicken that would fall off the bone, and I got lots of help from my  friends on Facebook. With their help, and my imagination, it was a terrific success.  Even my son Marc, who usually doesn't like chicken on the bone loved it.

This dish had to be special, really special as did the side dishes.  For the sides I made green pea and ricotta puree, super creamy mashed potatoes and an Israeli salad with mozzarella.  Of course, it was served with a big round Italian bread for dunking.  Oh, and the dessert, the dessert was a strawberry/blueberry and mint granita (ices).  Yum.

The chicken fell off the bone, and it smelled so good that after 25 year of not eating meat other than fish, I was tempted to taste it.  But of course, I didn't.  Watching Harold enjoy the chicken was plenty for me!

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Addie and Harold Gabel
with Bob, Kathy, Ted, Mike, Steve, George and Dan Gabel


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Farro Burgers! My New Favorite Food!

Last night, after going to the IMAX to see Star Trek Into the Dark in 3D (it was great) with my friends Debbie, Yayoi and Kylie we went out for some Middle Eastern food.  We walked up Broadway and decided to stop at Nanoosh for our first late night al fresco dinner of the spring.

There was a sign outside the restaurant saying "We Now Have Farro", so that's what we ordered.  I had Falafal over Farro.  Between almost every mouthful we one of us would comment about the delicious-ness of our meal. 

I was so happy that I brought a bag of Farro home with me from Italy and it was still in my refrigerator. YAY!  Today, it was raining and I didn't feel like going to the store, so I had to make something easy, just using ingredients I had in the apartment.  A Farro Burger!  Perfect!. And although you see that the shape isn't perfect (my 2nd attempt will be better), the taste was even better than I'd hoped.  Try them.  They're easy, healthy, and surprisingly nutty and flavorful.

Farro is an ancient grain that was probably the main sustenance of the Roman Armies.  It's grown mostly in parts of Tuscany and Abruzzo in Italy, where it is very popular.  And it's popularity here is growing fast.

Note to my friends who have gluten issues:  Farro is a whole wheat product.

Farro Perlato

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Monday, May 13, 2013

Alessio's Birthday Lasagna - - Lasagne Bianche ai Carciofi, Spinaci e Formaggi - - White Lasagna with Artichokes, Spinach and Cheeses

I had a real fear of artichokes.  I knew that I could never de-heart an artichoke without an artichoke
pro showing me step-by-step and then guiding me through it when I tried to do it on my own.  I thought that person would be Marie November.  She was the mom of my dear friend Ginger and she could cook some artichokes!  But, Marie is no longer with us, and I missed the chance to cook with her.  Oy, another life lesson about putting things off until tomorrow.  With Marie gone, I thought my fear of artichokes would be with me forever.

Then came Alessio Stefano's birthday dinner at my apartment.  I told him that I'd cook anything he wanted for this very important day, and that he should pick something special that his mom would have made for him.  Well, he picked something big alright, he picked Lasagne Bianche ai Carciofi e Formaggi (White Lasagna with Artichokes and Cheeses) Ahhh!!!!

It was a challenging meal.  I was totally stressed out about it, yet it came together.  I can now cut the heart out of an artichoke without a second thought.  I can de-choke it, the whole bit.  No damn artichoke is going to get the best of me!

And it's all thanks to you Alessio.  Thank you for the challenge although you had no idea you were challenging me!  Who knows, maybe I'll even go home tonight and cut out some artichoke hearts, just for the hell of it! And here's to you Marie November, the artichoke queen.

There was one serving left and I saved it for my son Marc.  Since he is my toughest critic, I was really glad to have some for him to try.  He loved it!  All the fears were well worth it.  Truly happy.

TIP - If you have a grapefruit spoon with serrated edges, it's really helpful to scrape out the choke.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Fish Tacos for Cinco de Mayo (with Pico de Gallo and Salsa Verde)

My boy Marc
My Cinco de Mayo gift!
Cinco de Mayo is one of my very favorite days of the year.  Not because I have a proud Mexican heritage and I want celebrate my country’s victory over Napoleon’s French troops. I might raise a glass in solidarity, but I’m not Mexican.  It’s not even because I love to go to my favorite Mexican Restaurant in the City and drink Margarita’s and eat guacamole (which I do love) but that’s not it.  It is because Marc Anthony Guidetti, my son and the love of my life, was born on May 5th, Cinco de Mayo.  For me, that’s the perfect reason to celebrate!
Fish Taco’s are an easy, casual, inexpensive meal.  Three great adjectives together, what could be bad?  Nada. I use Mahi Mahi sometimes because it's delicious, but I often use cod or tilapia, because they're easy to find, and the price is pretty reasonable.  But I’m not wedded to any of them at all.  I also marinate the fish for about 15 or 20 minutes before I grill it.  Served with roasted corn chowder and some guacamole, it’s a great lunch or casual dinner with family and friends.

Fish Taco's for Cinco de Mayo and Marc's Birthday dinner at
Gabel-Frank house in the Pocono's - DEEElicous!!

I serve the Fish Taco’s with 2 choices of Salsa: Pico de Gallo (tomato salsa) and Tomatillo Salsa Verde (Green sauce).  Pico de Gallo is easy and fast to make while the Tomatillo Salsa Verde is a little work, it is still pretty easy.  There are several ways to prepare tomatillos for the salsa, lots of people prefer to roast them, some boil them, and many make them just the way I have it in my recipe.  I'm giving you a suggestion, but cooking is an art, and it's up to you to explore your own design.

And yes, Fish Taco's really are authentic Mexican food for the areas of Mexico near the sea.  The fish is almost always fried, which I'm not going to do (we're not big fryers in Manhattan), but fish tacos are real Mexican food none-the-less.
A GIANT thank you to my wonderful, beautiful niece-in-law Tanya Swartz for showing me how to make Mexican Crema.  It's so easy and so delicious!  No more plain sour cream for me with Mexican dishes!

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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Fish Tagine - with tomatoes, potatoes, olives, peppers and figs. Why did I wait so long to attempt this wonderful Moroccan dish?

My friend Setty asked me if I cooked in a Tagine. I told her that I never had, but I would learn and I’d invite her for dinner.  Within 2 days I had a Tagine, and a Tagine cookbook delivered to my apartment, and I invited friends for a late lunch / early dinner on Sunday.  

My first Tagine!  I was a little nervous about it, but it turned out just great!
I was a little nervous about the spices, where would I get them?  But, I’m in Manhattan, we have just about everything, so I went online and found a store downtown on Lexington near 28th Kalustyan's .  Wow, what a place.   They had everything I needed and more.  If you don't have a store like that near you, you can always order from Zamouri Spices.
I bought the Chermoula (wonderful spice mixture for marinating fish) and Ras el Hanout (this means “head of the store” or the best spice mixture a merchant has to offer) with the spices already mixed.  This store seemed authentic enough that I didn’t have any fear that the spices wouldn’t meet my expectations.  I was right.  My friend Karima told me that every home in Morocco has their own special Ras el Hanout recipe, and my Tangine cookbook said the same thing, but  I don’t have an old family tradition for Ras el Hanout, so I bought it already made.  I also bought preserved lemons (lemons preserved in lemon juice and salt), and Harissa paste (hot, hot, hot) and couscous, which they had from every couscous eating country!  It was an adventure. 
I served it with a shredded carrot salad and a tomato, cucumber and onion salad – and of course, couscous.  Don’t forget the mint tea at the end!

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Saturday, March 9, 2013

Al Frank's Horseradish - It's not Passover without it!

Dad and I in intense conversation
The horseradish root is a little funny
My dad made the horseradish for Passover, and he was great at it. His horseradish was always red, colored with a beet.  When we knew dad was making horseradish, it always made us smile, but nobody smiled a bigger smile than dad.  I can picture him in the kitchen, his eyes sparkling blue with tears, and a smile that made the room light up.  
Growing up my family didn't eat spicy hot food, but my dad's Passover horseradish was the exception.  It was only perfect if it cleared our nasal passages and brought tears to our eyes. There was always an unofficial contest to see who  could pile the most horseradish on their gefilte fish and pretend it wasn't too hot for them.  And every year, without fail, our Uncle Al Klein would say through teary eyes and some sweat on his brow "So this is why the Jews have suffered all these years".  And every year, we would all laugh.

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Keep the horseradish refrigerated in tightly closed glass jars. Plastic jars will absorb the smell
and it won't go away easily.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Zuppa di Polpettine (Mini-Meatball Soup - aka Italian Wedding Soup)

Marc Guidetti -my boy - at Grandma & Grandpa's house
at about 2 1/2 years old.  A real meatball soup loving kid!
I hadn’t thought about Meatball Soup for years, but for some reason I have been thinking about it a lot lately.  The original recipe was passed down from my son Marc's great-grandmother who was from southern Italy, and wow, was it delicious.  Of course, not believing in the expression "if it ain't broke, don't fix it", I changed it. I kept the basics, but I still needed to make it mine.  

When Marc was a baby, this was his favorite soup.  Before he was 1 year old he would try to grab the bowl with the freshly grated cheese and stuff handfuls of it into his mouth. 

I can’t help smiling when I think of little Marc, stinking like garlic and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and loving it!

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Sunday, February 3, 2013

Chocolate Truffles

The delicious-ness scale for chocolate truffles goes up and down based on the chocolate used to make the truffles.  The better the chocolate, the better the truffles.  It's like cooking with wine, when you cook with a wine that you don't think is delicious, that's exactly what you'll get from your food - something not so delicious.

I recommend getting something that is 60% cocoa or more.

The liqueur you choose depends on the taste you're looking for.  Since Cointreau is from the town in which I lived in France, Angers, I am partial to it's strong orange flavor.

This recipe makes about 50 scrumptious super chocolatey melt-in-your-mouth treats. 

Hint:  Gently shake the truffle after you roll it in the cocoa, too much cocoa powder can leave an itchy sensation in the back of the throat.

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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Cacio e Pepe Pasta (Black Pepper and Cheese)

This is a simple dish.  About as minimalist as a pasta dish can get.  No chopping garlic, no measuring, just easy and so very delicious.  It's made with Cacio di Roma cheese (a sheep cheese from Lazio, Italy).  I sometimes use Pecorino Romano, although it is older and less smooth than Cacio di Roma, but it's easier to get at my local grocer when I want a last minute Cacio e Pepe pasta.  Cacio di Roma is available in most places where there is a decent cheese selection. It's usually available at Fairway and Murray's. 

It can be made with whatever pasta type you chose, but it often served with bucanti, linguini or spaghetti.  I don't like bucantini, so I usually choose linguini, spaghetti, gemelli or bavette. Although last night I made it with trofie because I had it in the house.  Trofie is usually reserved for Pesto Pasta, but it was delicious.

In my recipe, I've added something that is not part of the standard recipe.  I added Cannellini beans.  I toast them with the black pepper and I love it.  I often find a way to add some protien to my dishes since as a pescatarian, I add it where I can. 

People love this pasta.  Give it a try, you'll understand why.