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Crispy Smashed Potatoes

22 Jan

imageBy special request, this is how I make my Crispy Smashed Potatoes.  They’re not difficult, and this is more of a technique than a recipe — once you’ve made them, you don’t have to worry about quantities, just follow procedure.  But if you’re a stickler for recipes, here are the quantities:

  • 2 lbs. new potatoes, scrubbed well
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 – 1 1/2 tsp. coarse salt

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Place the clean potatoes in a pot and cover with cold, salted water.  Place over high heat and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes or until fork-tender.  Drain very well.  Cool enough so that you can handle — but the warmer they are when you smash them the better.

imageWhile the potatoes are simmering, preheat your oven to  400° F on convection or 425° F if you don’t have convection.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Now, I use a heavy glass for the next step but you can use a can, mallet or anything else you might have to press each potato down until it’s smashed into a disk.  Smash/press them until they’re all the same thickness and line them up on your baking sheet in a single layer (use another baking sheet if there’s not enough room on the first one).

Drizzle 2 Tbsp. of olive oil over the potatoes, making sure each potato gets some.  Sprinkle 3/4 tsp. of salt oven them and then flip them all over.  Drizzle another 2 Tbsp. of olive oil and another 3/4 tsp. of salt oven the potatoes.

Place in the oven and roast for 20 minutes, or until they’ve started to brown.  Flip them all over again and roast another 20 minutes or until they are all browned and crispy.  Serve right away (ketchup is optional).

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Test

3 Jan

In an attempt to post more frequently I just downloaded an app that lets me post from my phone. Let’s see if it works!

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(Photo taken in Palm Springs last week.)

Passover Cheese Blintzes

9 Apr

Every year we turn our kosher food store into a Passover kosher food store.  For over a month, from Purim through Pesach, my days are all about Passover. We pack away all of the  chometz and get tonnes and tonnes (literally) of kosher for Passover food – it takes us days to get everything unpacked and on the shelves. We even rent a 40 foot train container and park it in our parking lot for extra storage.

As soon as that first items hit the shelves (or even before that) our days are filled with customer questions – about the products we sell, about the foods we cook and about recipes and menu ideas.  Some people love cooking for Passover — they love pulling out the recipes that are traditional in there family and/or experimenting with new recipes and ideas.  Others . . . well, others feel differently.  They fear Passover and loathe matzo.  I also hear a lot of complaints about how heavy the food is.  But it doesn’t have to be.

I am firmly in the camp that likes Passover food.  Really. I actually like matzo. I hear people say they think it tastes like cardboard all the time.  I have no problem with a piece of matzo with butter and some fruit for breakfast. In fact, I’m quite happy with it. Seder meals that include soups, starters, at least two meats, several sides, and dessert can weigh you down, but those meals don’t have to, and the rest of the week can certainly focus on other, lighter things.

One of my favourite treats, something that’s good all year round but I tend to cook rarely outside of Passover is cheese blintzes. The delicate wrapper (bletlach) filled with creamy cheese and served with strawberries and a crisp salad make a great dinner — one that I enjoyed  tonight.  They were so delicious I was questioning my decision to keep them as a Passover treat — but maybe that’s part of what makes them so special.

Blintz Wrappers / Bletlach (based on a recipe from my book, Passover – A Kosher Collection)

It may take a few tries to get the hang of making these, but once you do, they’re easy to make. Fill them with cheese, fruit, potatoes or meat.

4 large eggs

1/2 cup cool water

5 Tbsp. potato starch

1/4 tsp. salt

oil for the skillet

Whisk the eggs, water, potato starch and salt together in a large measuring cup and let it rest for a few minutes.  Whisk again, making sure you get rid of any potato starch lumps.  Heat an 8″ non-stick frying pan over medium heat.  Lightly brush the pan with oil — I like grape seed.  Whisk the batter again and pour some into the pan — swirl the pan immediately so that the batter forms a thin layer and pour any excess batter back into the measuring cup.

Cook until the blettle (single bletlach) starts to bubble a little, the top is dry to the touch, the bottom just starts to brown and the edges start to pull away from the pan.  Loosen the edges and turn the blettle out onto a baking sheet lined with parchment.  Continue with the rest of the batter, whisking before each blettle and brushing with oil after every 2 or 3 bletlach — you should get 12-15 bletlach from one batch.  Separate the layers of bletlach with parchment paper.

Cheese Filling

2 lbs. 1% pressed cottage cheese (or paper or baker’s cheese)

4 large eggs

1 tsp. salt

1 Tbsp. sugar

Combine all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix with a spoon until everything is thoroughly incorporated.

Assemble the blintzes by placing one wrapper on your work surface with the cooked-side up.

Place approximately 1/4 cup of the cheese mixture along the bottom edge of the wrapper and roll it up from the bottom so that the filling is covered with the blettle.  Fold the left and right sides in so that both ends are closed then continue to roll up from the bottom, using the whole blettle.  Continue with the rest of the bletlach and filling.

You can refrigerate or freeze them at this point or heat some butter in a skillet and brown on both sides for 2-3 minutes, until golden brown.  Serve on their own or with strawberries and sour cream.

Blintz Strawberries

These strawberries are great with the blintzes or use to top your matzo brei for breakfast.

1 lb. strawberries, hulled and sliced

3 Tbsp. sugar

3 Tbsp. fresh orange juice

1 tsp. potato starch

2 tsp. cool water

Place the strawberries, sugar and orange juice in a pot over medium heat and cook until the strawberries have release some juice and the liquid comes to a simmer — this should take about 5 minutes.  In a small bowl, whisk the potato starch and water together.  Add to the pot and stir through.  Cook another minute, or until the juices have thickened slightly.  Remove from heat. Serve hot of chill and serve cold.

Chicken, Corn and Poblano Stew

31 Jan
Typically, winter brings bitterly cold temperatures to my little corner of the world.  We can go weeks without a break, keeping an eye on the thermostat, waiting for it to rise above the -30C mark. So far this winter has been atypical. Sure, we’ve had some cold days where the wind kept us below -30C, but for the most part, it’s been a beautiful, warm winter here.
Those of you living south of the Canadian border may still shudder when I tell you that we’re happy with the temperatures hovering in the 0 to -10C range.  For those of us up here, it’s been a joy.  Even if we’re not shivering away, it is winter and it does call for some meals that warm you (and your home) up.
I make a soup that I love that has poblano peppers, corn, tomatillos and potatoes — the other night I decided to take those flavours and turn them into a chicken stew. This is a great change from a typical beef stew – while still filling and warming, it feels lighter.  The poblano add a little heat, the potatoes add some bulk, the tomatillos add a tang and the corn a touch of sweetness.  If you’re not a fan of cilantro, leave it out.  If you don’t like any spice at all, substitute a couple of bell peppers for the poblanos.
  • 2 poblano peppers, cut in half, cored and seeded
  • 8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • salt and black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • 4 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 8 small tomatillos, husks removed, cored and diced
  • 3 cups good, homemade chicken stock
  • 12 new potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped cilantro

Preheat your broiler.  Place the poblanos on a baking sheet, cut side down and broil for 5-8 minutes, or until the skins are charred.  Transfer to a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Let the peppers cool enough to handle and then peel them, discarding the peel. Dice the peppers and set aside.

Remove any excess fat from the thighs, rinse and pat dry.  Cut into large chunks and season lightly with salt and pepper.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over med-high heat.  Sear the chicken in batches (don’t overcrowd the pan) until it just starts to brown, about 2 minutes per side.  Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Once all of the chicken is seared, add more oil if the pan is dry, reduce heat to medium and add the onions.  Cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes until they start to brown and soften.  Add the garlic, tomatillo and poblanos and cook another 2-3 minutes.  Add the chicken stock and potatoes and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan, making sure that nothing is sticking.

Turn the heat back up to medium-high and bring the stock to a simmer.  Cook for 15 minutes — if it’s boiling too hard, reduce the temperature again.  Return the chicken to the pot and simmer for 5 minutes.  Add the corn and simmer another 2 minutes.  Add the cilantro and stir through.  Taste, checking the seasoning.  Add salt if necessary and serve!

Passover Mushroom And Onion Kugel

16 Apr

According to my blog statistics, a lot of people are getting here because they are looking for a recipe for Mushroom and Onion Kugel.  I do have a recipe for said kugel on this blog, but it’s for a kugel I make for Rosh Hashana.  That one is made with egg noodles.

Since people are looking for it, I thought it would be a good idea to share my recipe for my Passover Mushroom & Onion Kugel.  It’s very similar — simple and tasty, but uses farfel (broken up matzo) rather than noodles.    Can be made ahead and freezes well.

Passover Mushroom and Onion Farfel Kugel (from Passover – A Kosher Collection)

If I had to choose (and it would be hard to decide)  I think this might be my favourite kugel.  Button and crimini mushrooms often get the short end of the stick, but I love them and this kugel shows them off.

4 Tbsp. | 60 mL olive oil

1 lb. | 454 g yellow onions, peeled and diced small (2 medium)

2 tsp. | 10 mL salt

1/2 tsp. | 2 mL black pepper

1 1/2 lbs. | 680 g button or crimini mushrooms, sliced

1 1/2 cups | 355 mL water

8 oz. | 225 g farfel (4 cups | 950 mL)

6 large eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat the oven to 375 F | 190 C.

Place a large frying pan or a pot over medium-high heat and add the olive oil.  Add the onions, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, for 8-10 minutes or until soft and golden brown.

Add the mushrooms and cook another 6-8 minutes, or until they’ve all cooked and have shrunk by about half.  We’re not trying to brown the mushrooms at all, just cook them.

Add the water and bring to a simmer.  Cook for 1 minute.

Put the farfel in a large mixing bowl.  Pour the mushroom/onion mixture over the farfel and stir to mix.  Let rest for about half an hour or until cooled completely. and most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Once cooled, add the eggs and stir to combine.  Pour the batter into a greased 8 x 11-inch | 20 x 27.5-cm pan.

Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown and firm.

A Fresh Passover

10 Apr

I often hear people complain about heavy foods at Passover.  It’s true – with menus that include chopped liver, brisket and kugels it can weigh you down.  And while I like to serve traditional foods during the holidays, there are a lot more options that people don’t associate with Passover menus.

For meals that include these heavier dishes, I always make sure to include a fresh, crisp salad and fresh fruit for desserts.  I also make sure that the week has plenty of lighter meals – a fritatta with salad or maybe my favorite Mediterranean Black Cod served with steamed vegetables.

For a lighter, fresh Passover, here are a couple of my favorite salad recipes (from my cookbook Passover – A Kosher Collection).

Watermelon & Feta Salad

This is one of my favorite salads.  For a different version, replace the mint with basil and the lime juice with balsamic vinegar.

2 Tbsp. | 30 mL fresh lime juice

2 Tbsp. | 30 mL olive oil

1/4 tsp. | 1 mL black pepper

6 cups | 1.4 L watermelon, seedless, cit into 1-inch | 2.5-cm cubes

4 oz. | 115 g feta cheese, cubed or crumbled

3 Tbsp. | 45 mL fresh mint, finely sliced

3 oz. | 85 g red onion, peeled and thinly sliced (1/2 small)

Mix the lime juice, olive oil and black pepper together in a large mixing bowl.  Add the rest of the ingredients and gently mix together.

Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Can be made several hours in advance.  If you do make it ahead. pour off any excess liquid and taste, checking for seasoning before serving.

Jicima Slaw

This is a great alternative to classic coleslaw.  It’s crisp, light and flavourful.

1 1/2 lbs. | 680 g jicima, peeled and julienned (1 medium)

3 oz. | 85 g carrots, peeled and shredded (2 small)

3 oz. | 85 g yellow pepper, cored, seeded and cut into a thin julienne (1/2 medium)

3 oz. | 85 g orange pepper, cored, seeded and cut into a thin julienne (1/2 medium)

1 oz. | 28 g green onions, thinly sliced (2 large)

3 oz. | 85 g white onion, peeled and sliced paper thin (1/2 small)

3 Tbsp. | 45 mL fresh lime juice

3 Tbsp. | 45 mL fresh lemon juice

2 Tbsp. | 30 mL grapeseed oil (or light olive oil)

1 tsp. | 5 mL salt

2 Tbsp. | 30 mL honey

2 Tbsp. | 30 mL chopped fresh cilantro

1/4 tsp. | 1 mL black pepper

Put all of the ingredients into a mixing bowl and toss together.

Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavours to blend together.

Can be made 4-6 hours before serving.

It’s all about the Charoset

5 Apr

With Passover less than two weeks away, it’s time to make some serious decisions.  The most important decision, in my opinion, is what kind of charoset to make.  I love charoset.  I like that charoset being passed around the table means dinner is about to start.  I love that charoset is symbolic — it’s there to remind us of the mortar used by the Jewish slaves in Egypt to build cities.  And I really love charoset because it’s delicious.

When I was growing up, charoset was always a mixture of shredded apples, cinnamon, honey, chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans) and some sweet red wine.  Nobody in my family used a precise recipe — we just added what looked right and kept tasting and adjusting until it was perfect.

Eventually I started experimenting and came up with some different flavour combinations that I really liked.  Now I have a few charoset recipes that I love.  Here’s my recipe for date charoset.  I like it so much I make a double batch to use it on matzo throughout the week (great for breakfast!).

Date Charoset

2 oz. | 55 g walnuts (1/2 cup | 120 mL)

8 oz. | 225 g pitted dates (1 cup | 235 mL)

3 oz. | 85 g golden raisins (1/2 cup | 120 mL)

1/2 tsp. | 2 mL dried ginger

1/2 tsp. | 2 mL cinnamon

pinch of ground cloves

3 Tbsp. | 45 mL sweet red wine

2 Tbsp. | 30 mL fresh orange juice

1/4 tsp. | 1 mL orange zest

Toast the nuts. Preheat the oven to 350 F | 175 C.  Spread the nuts out in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast for 8-9 minuets, or until golden brown.  Cool.

Put all of the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the charoset reaches a texture you like.  I like to pulse it until it is mostly paste, with some small chunks remaining.  If you like it chunkier, stop pulsing before it gets too smooth.

Use immediately or cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Makes 1 1/2 cups | 355 mL

* Adapted from my book, Passover – A Kosher Collection

My next cookbook – what should it be?

9 Nov

I’ll be moving soon (by soon I mean sometime between the end of December and at a guess, February) and with visions of my new kitchen in my head, I’ve delayed starting a new cookbook. If all things go as planned, I’ll be able to work in a kitchen I’ve designed myself, the way I want it. So to me, it seemed like a good reason to delay things.

But as I watch the builders progress, (and having just ordered my appliances) I’m beginning to think it’s time to start the planning process. When I’m working on a book the first thing I do is put together two lists. One list contains all of the recipes in my repertoire that fit the subject of the book. List #2 is made up of all of the ideas swimming around in my head. Foods that I’ve eaten growing up or while travelling that I’ve always wanted to recreate. Recipes that I think will work well simply because I have a sense of how the flavours work together. And sometimes ideas that sound ridiculous but I’d like to try anyway.

When I wrote my first book, Soup – A Kosher Collection, I envisioned a series. I imagined there’d be a Salad, Entrée, Sides, Desserts and maybe a Starters. That was put on hold when I realized that so many of the people I know were desperate for some new Passover recipes.

So, to get started on my lists, I need to decide what the focus of my next book should be. Should I go back to my original plan? Do people need a more general holiday cookbook? What about working with my mom? She’s been in the catering/restaurant business for over 25 years so she knows her stuff. We thought it could be fun to do a book where we include both of our takes on recipes. But I really want to know what sort of cookbook is missing from your Jewish/Kosher library?

PS: if you vote and leave a comment, you might just be entered into a draw to win one of my cookbooks.

Media Round-Up

22 Apr

I’m very thankful to the newspaper, blog and website writers for their interest in my little book.  You can read some of the reviews of Passover a Kosher Collection by following these links:

In the Pink
Kosher Eye
Jewlicious
The Canadian Jewish News
The Kosher Scene
The Winnipeg Jewish Review
Kosher Today  (look for the March 22 piece on the increase in sales of Passover Cookbooks)
The Orange County Register
Jewish Women International
Jerusalem Post
Washington Post
The Jewish Georgian (page 24)
Customer reviews on Amazon.com

I know there are some more reviews out there, like in Ottawa’s Jewish paper, but they aren’t online.  If you know of any more links or non-digital reviews, please let me know!  Thanks!

After Passover

13 Apr

Passover has been over for about a week now and I’ve almost recovered.  The last couple of weeks before Passover were a whirlwind of shipping books out, helping customers find everything they needed for Passover, figuring out how to find products that I was shorted or that arrived and turned out to be from last year and finally, preparing food for over 150 families.  We were working flat-out with little time to post updates here.

Now that I’m rested and can post again I wanted to take a moment to thank everybody who bought Passover – A Kosher Collection.  It’s been wonderful to hear which recipes people are trying and I’ve had such a good response to it.  It’s also been getting great reviews (I’ll post a link round-up soon) – I couldn’t have asked for a better response. Thanks to everybody who told their friends about it and posted it on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon and personal blogs.