Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Remedy - Parshat Tazriyah

Hi There! Miss me? Sorry for the hiatus. This week hardly seems like the time to come back, with a portion chock full of bodily maladies, but I've missed it here.

This week we'll read Parshat Tazriyah which appropriately enough for spring, kicks off with babies being born and people getting sick. After a woman given birth she is barred from having relations with her husband for either a week (if she has a boy) or two weeks (if she has a girl) - not sure if any of the women are complaining about this one. And then she is also not allowed to come in contact with the Tabernacle for 33 or 66 says (boy girl difference again here). At the end of this period of time she brings a baby lamb and a small turtle dove for a sacrifice and is reunited with the Tabernacle. Can't decide if I picture here with a baby bjorn on or having left her kids home with a sitter for the ceremony.

There have been a handful of new baby additions to the Boston community that we've been delighted to meet. And in no apparent correlation, a lot of people have been telling me that they're sick just as the new season is upon us.

This is the time of year when I’m so eager for the weather to change from cold, cold to milder spring weather. It’s also the time of year when I’m most likely to catch a cold because I’m dressing for the weather I wish was here instead of what is actually here (there's snow coming this Friday to Boston - geeze). And the only thing to really do when you get a cold at a time like this is to have someone make you a pot of chicken soup that you can continually dip into (when I was sick a few weeks ago, I had to shout directions from the couch to Sam in the kitchen, who had never made chicken soup before).

I also hear, from the new mothers, that chicken soup is prescribed in many parenting books as the best way to rehydrate after childbirth. So I have a chicken soup recipe to share.

My dad is the chicken soup king in our family. He learned from his mom and put his own twist on it – sometimes adding ginger and sometimes adding cilantro. But there is always a lot of dill and a lot of chicken flavor. My dad and I have a sauté vs boil debate when it comes to cooking the vegetables in chicken soup. I think that sautéing all the vegetables - onion, celery, carrots, garlic, with olive oil, salt and pepper - is what gives any soup a deep flavorful base.

Here is my recipe for a small batch - makes four servings - for when you're sick or super thirsty.

And below, some more Passover displays spotted in some local supermarkets - where Kedem grape juice seems to be in high demand - and at Target where they had almost sold out of Passover greeting cards!

Chicken Soup with Ginger

If you want to make a small soup for 4 that’s ready in less than an hour use this recipe – for larger quantities double the amount and the cooking time.

2 Chicken thighs (I'm using grow and behold chickens)
3 cloves of Garlic, crushed
1 onion, peeled and diced
3 carrots, washed and diced
2 stalks of celery, washed and diced
1 tbsp of Ginger, peeled and zested
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 tbs cilantro, chopped
½ cup of dill, chopped

Set a large, thick bottomed pot over a medium flame. Place the cut vegetables, garlic and ginger into the pot with the olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and let them sauté and sweat for at least 10 minutes.

After the onions look translucent and slightly browned cover all the vegetables with water and add the chicken thighs. Add more water until the pot is full to two inches from the brim. Boil for 20 minutes, then add the dill and cilantro and boil for ten minutes more. Serve hot.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Hamantashen Twist

There is a lot of Purim prep going on in our house this week and I ran out of time to tell you about the weekly Portion - so instead I'm going to share my twist on hamantashen this year.

Sam and I are dressing up as Iron Chef America cast members Alton Brown and Cat Cora and our Mishloach Manot (gift baskets delivered to friends on Purim) are themed with the secret ingredient of chocolate. You may have noticed that bacon showed up in a lot of desserts on cooking shows this year - well I've found a kosher way of putting them into hamatashen.

This year I stuffed my mini hamatashen with nutella and kosher imitation bacon bits (which I usually use to sprinkle over salad). They have a great combination of salty, smokey, nutty, sweet tastes.

"Bacon" Chocolate Hamantashen
I like to cut mini hamantashen with the mouth of a shot glass - when there are so many versions of hamantashens to be eaten it's nice to have bite sized ones.

2/3 cup of butter or non dairy buttery sticks
1/2 cup of sugar
1 egg
3 tbsp orange juice
1/2 tsp of vanilla
3 cups of flour
Bacos (fake bacon bits)

Cream the butter with sugar and egg until smooth. Add the orange juice and vanilla. Stir in the flour until a ball forms. Wrap in saran wrap or keep in covered bowl and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Roll out the dough and cut into circles with a shot glass (or a regular sized glass if you prefer).

Drop a 1/4 tsp of nutella in the middle of each dough circle. Sprinkle the mound of chocolate with a pinch or two of bacos. Dip your finger in water and run it around the outer edge of the hamatashen to help it stay closed and then pinch three corners.

Put on a silpat lined baking sheet and bake for ten minutes or until golden. Cool on a wire rack and wait to eat or you'll burn your tongue on the jam.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Soft Side - Parshat Vayikrah

I was tempted to just tell you to read last year's post on this week's portion, Parshat Vayikrah (the beginning of a new book!), but I've actually got a new idea to share.

In the portion a vegetarian sacrifice is offered. Unusual, you might say. But there were actually two non-meat items that were offered up on the alters of the Tabernacle/Temple - wine and bread. The bread appears several times in this portion, called a mincha (gift) offering. It consists of flour, oil and spices - kind of an oily pita bread. The priests could choose to prepare this offering, brought in the form of raw dough or loose ingredients by the Israelites, in several ways - bake it in an oven, grill it on a griddle or fry it in a pan. The priests would break off a piece of the baked mincha and burn it on the alter - the rest they got to eat as payment for their leadership of the nation.

When I studied in Israel for a year after gradating from high school, a teacher of mine had our class make mock mincha offerings in each of the three different preparations. It was a messy endeavor, with toaster ovens plugged into the walls of our classrooms and oily frying pans sizzling on top of individual, electric burners. But it made the room smell delicious, and each version tasted great. The only thing that was missing was an interesting salt.

Last year we talked a bit about the strange mention of the salt covenant in the portion. This obscure covenant refers to the fact that the mincha offerings of these pita like breads always had to be accompanied by salt. I shared one interpretation about the symbolism of salt last year, and this year dug a bit deeper. Both value and mystical aspects are attributed to salt. Salt was a form of currency, a preservative, a staple in our diet and signifies permanence and durability.

In trying to recreate some of the flavors of this vegetarian offering, and mainstay of the priestly diet, I came up with a whole wheat soft pretzel, covered in flavored salt. I still have that salt shaker from last year and have been using it on top of my challah lately. Well let me tell you that it goes very nicely over home made soft pretzels as well.

Last week Weight Watchers came to my office and 16 of my colleagues and myself are counting points and keeping each other accountable. When I brought in a batch of these soft pretzels I made sure to tell them they were 4 points each and I'm going to try and include point values for the new recipes here. My goal is to get to my goal before Passover - especially since one matzah is 3 points. I see that Whole Foods is not only stocking up early on matzah this year, but may be targeting the weight loss community with it's organic "light" matzah from Israel. I have no idea how matzah could ever be described as light, nor was I able to discern how much lighter this product was than it's comparisons.

Whole Wheat Soft Pretzels and Flavored Salt
Recipe adapted from
4 points

1 1/3 cups warm water
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp olive oil
3/4 tsp salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tbsp flavored salt (such as an herb mix or the Trader Joe’s Everyday Mix)
1 egg yolk

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm water and let it sit for 5 minutes in a warm place. It will get foamy.

Stir in the oil, salt and flours.

Cut the dough into 12 sections and roll/stretch into ropes. Shape each rope into a pretzel – start out by making a U shape and hold the ends the rope and cross them strands over each other then bring each end down and stick to the bottom of the U.

Cover is a damp towel, and let the pretzels rise on lined baking sheet for about 45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 475 degrees.

After the pretzels have rise, mix the egg yolk in a cup and brush onto the tops of each pretzel. Sprinkle the pretzels with flavored salt.

Bake for about 12 minutes. Cool and enjoy warm or at room temperature.