Interview with the Authors of Secret Restaurant Recipes (plus recipe for Eggplant Tofu)

December 2, 2014

Secret Restaurant Recipes Cover - HI RES.jpgDisclosure: Artscroll supplied me with a review copy of Secret Restaurant Recipes and gave me access to the authors for an interview. Opinions expressed are my own.

The recently released Secret Restaurant Recipes is an especially attractive cookbook: large 9”x9” format, nicely designed layout and lots of photos of beautifully plated food. Add to this the intriguing theme of recipes “from the World’s Top Kosher Restaurants,” and you have my full attention.

Authors Leah Schapira and Victoria Dwek spent a year getting recipes from popular kosher restaurants and then testing them and adapting them for the home cook. In the book, they reveal that “not everyone believed that we’d be able to complete a book like this, and our publisher agreed that if we could, it would be a great accomplishment.”

I asked Victoria and Leah how the challenge of creating this cookbook compared to their work on their earlier cookbooks. Leah explained that the “most difficult part was getting the chefs to give over the recipes. When we wrote our own cookbooks, we could easily go into the kitchen and create a dish. Here, we had to wait to get each recipe. Once it finally came in, we had to test it. If it didn’t test well, we’d have to get back in touch with the chef to perfect it. We couldn’t just make changes on our own, because it had to be authentic.” “Believe it or not,” added Victoria, “tracking down and testing other people’s recipes is way, way more time-consuming that simply writing our own in our kitchens.”


Read the rest of this entry »

Vegetable Miso Soup for Gil

November 17, 2014


This month’s Kosher Connection recipe link-up is dedicated to cookbook author and food historian Rabbi Gil Marks. To honor him, we are offering up our best “get well” recipes, along with our heartfelt wishes for him to have a refuah shelaimah.

Every kosher food blogger is indebted to Gil for pioneering in kosher food journalism. Before we were all blogging, before there was a Joy of Kosher Magazine, there was The Kosher Gourmet Magazine. Gil was way ahead of his time with this magazine, which he launched in the late eighties. (As you can see from the above photo, I still have back issues of the magazine. I regularly make the cranberry applesauce from the Cheshavan-Kislev 5748 issue. I highly recommend this recipe for Thanksgiving or Chanukah.)

In the late nineties, Gil began publishing a series of cookbooks: The World of Jewish Cooking, The World of Jewish Entertaining and The World of Jewish Desserts. His next collection of traditional Ashkenazi and Sephardic recipes had a twist: all the recipes were vegetarian. This inventive book, Olive Trees and Honey, won a James Beard award.

Gil’s books are characterized not only by a tremendous curiosity about global Jewish cuisine, but also by a scholarliness about the origin of recipes. His most recent book, The Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, is a fascinating read. I treasure my copies of his books for their fascinating information and practical recipes. His book on entertaining has very valuable advice for planning large gatherings (see the chapter, “Guide for the Perplexed Host”).

I had the privilege to take a class with Gil in the late nineties and found him to be a charming as well as knowledgeable teacher.

Back in 2010, when Gil had just released his Encyclopedia, I sent him  a query about a Ukrainian cookie called Kosicky or Koshyky. He was very nice about it. He promptly e-mailed me back, telling me that he hadn’t heard of the cookie, and that he asked his Ukrainian contacts, and was not able to get the recipe from them, either. Rather than give me nothing, he sent a recipe for a Ukranian butter cookie called Kolachka, and gave some sage advice about prying the recipe from my friend’s mother. So kind!

For this linkup, I am offering a quick and easy recipe for vegetable miso soup along with my wishes for Gil to have a speedy recovery.

Read the rest of this entry »

Acorn Squash Stuffed with Applesauce and Raisins

September 21, 2014


This is so easy, you don’t really need a recipe, just an explanation. To make this, cut acorn squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Fill the cavities with applesauce and raisins and sprinkle over some cinnamon. If you like, you can drizzle over some honey. Roast the acorn squash until tender. Done.

This is most charming when made with really tiny acorn squash, so that each person gets a half acorn squash.

This goes perfectly with string beans and rice pilaf.

Other simanin recipes:
Fish: Sesame Salmon (Norene Gilletz)

Leeks: Leek Fritters (Poopa Dweck)

Beets: Golden Beets (Marion Burros, but leave out the vinegar and add a little honey and a cup of mandarin orange segments)

Black-eyed peas:  this salad (I added a little minced ginger, which was nice) or this recipe

Spinach/Dates:  Spinach and Date Salad (leave out the nuts)

Swiss Chard/Squash: Swiss Chard and Zucchini
(other Swiss Chard recipes include Morshan   and Swiss Chard Chips)

Carrots: Tzimmes or Roasted Butternut Squash and Carrots or Einat Admony’s Carrot Salad (instead of following the directions for cooking the carrots, microwave them and then toss them while still warm with the spices, one minced clove garlic, the olive oil and a big squoosh of ketchup instead of the vinegar and tomato paste).

Zatilas (Kurdish Grilled Stuffed Flat Breads)

August 18, 2014

Have you ever heard of zatila? It is a grilled stuffed flatbread that is also known as kadeh (Take a look at this post and also this post on the Jewish Food Experience; also look in the comments to this post by Sarah Melamed and also look at this other post by her as well). It is easy to make, delicious and lends itself to endless variations. Even better, leftovers can be packed for lunch.

Two years ago, Shopmiami49 posted a recipe from her mother-in-law for “these Kurdish ‘pastries’” on The recipe has remained popular on that site, with users continuing to post new ideas for fillings.

The idea is this: make a simple bread dough, roll it out thin, fill it with whatever you like, fold it and seal it like a calzone and then grill it on both sides in a hot skillet until the bread is cooked and the filling is heated through. It is best straight from the pan, but it is also good reheated. At least one Imamother poster says zatilas are “great to take to work for lunch the next day.”

The recipe reminds me of gozleme, which is a stuffed Turkish flatbread. According to Ghillie Basan, author of Classic Turkish Cookery, gozleme can be made by (1) cooking the dough as a flatbread and then folding the bread around the filling, or (2) by folding the dough around the filling and then cooking it. Gozleme are filled with (1) spinach and cheese, (2) potato and cheese, (3) roasted eggplant and cheese, or (4) ground beef. I think that these fillings would work with zatilas, too.

Imamother posters have, in fact, tried similar fillings with their zatilas. Most fillings are some variation on (1) sauce and cheese, (2) vegetables and cheese or (3) a hard cheese combined with a soft cheese like feta, cream cheese, sour cream or cottage cheese with or without vegetables. Other options: tuna melt zatilas or (for a fleishig version) ground beef cooked in tomato sauce.

Bonus: After making the recipe for zatila, I found a recipe by Leah Hadad on the Jewish Food Experience.  She got the recipe, fascinatingly enough, from Ariel Sabar, the author of My Father’s Paradise: A Son’s Search for His Family’s Past.  Sabar’s father was from Zakho, an ancient Jewish Kurdish town in Northern Iraq. Sabar sent Hadad his grandmother’s recipe for kadeh.

The recipe makes a similar amount of dough to the recipe and, similarly,  gets divided into 16 pieces. Each piece is rolled into a 5″ circle and is filled with a mixture of feta and gouda (about half an ounce of each per kadeh). Instead of being shaped into a half moon, the dough in wrapped around the filling and then pressed back down into a 5″-6″ circle (kind of like some versions of Georgian Khachapuri).

Read the rest of this entry »

Blueberry Toaster Tarts

August 18, 2014


This is a nice snack to pack for lunch. You can also use it as a take-along breakfast treat on those mornings when a sit-down breakfast just isn’t happening. Made with whole wheat flour and filled with a low-sugar (or no-sugar) blueberry chia jam, these toaster tarts have much more fiber and anti-oxidants–not to mention much more flavor–than store-bought toaster tarts.

Don’t be turned off by the idea of whole wheat flour or the chia jam. These tarts have flaky, tender crusts with a flavorful filling–exactly what handheld fruit pastries should taste like.

Read the rest of this entry »

Chocolate “Salami”

August 14, 2014


Don’t worry–this is a no-bake chocolate cookie, not real salami.  It is called “salami” because the cookies are dotted with bits of crushed tea biscuits in a way that evokes the mottled appearance of salami slices.  Sometimes the chocolate salami log is rolled in powdered sugar, which is meant to be reminiscent of the film of white mold that covers authentic Italian salami. (Don’t think too hard about why someone would want their cookies to remind people of mold covered salami–stay focused and remember that these are yummy chocolate cookies that are super easy to make. In fact, this is an excellent project for your kids to make if they are bored and kvetchy.)

I decided to make this in a roundabout way. First, I was admiring this recipe on My Bisim for no-bake tahina cookies made with crushed tea bsicuits, tahina, honey and coconut. I wanted to make it, but the whole point of the recipe is that the cookies taste like halvah and my kids aren’t that keen on halvah.  Then I thought about adding chocolate and substituting peanut butter for the tahina. And THAT is when I remembered about chocolate salami.

Chocolate salami is usually made with chocolate, cocoa, sugar, butter, eggs and chopped cookies. The first recipe that I ever saw (or tried) for chocolate salami was in a book by Meri Badi called250 Recettes de Cusine Juive Espanol. Recipe 219 is “Gateaux Salami.” It calls for 350 g. petit-beurre biscuits, 125 g. margarine, 2 eggs, 3 spoons of cocoa, 3 spoons of powdered sugar, 4 spoons of milk or liqueur, 5 bars of chocolate (chopped) and 75 g. of nuts (slivered almonds, pine nuts or pistachios).

I didn’t make that recipe this time. Instead, inspired by the My Bisim recipe and chocolate salami recipes, I kind of made something up. It isn’t a traditional chocolate salami recipe, but it is delicious, so who cares?  I combined crushed and crumbled tea biscuits with melted chocolate, cocoa, powdered sugar and peanut butter. I formed a log, which I rolled in cocoa and then powdered sugar. I sliced the log after chilling it for a little bit. The result tasted pleasantly like a cross between peanut butter cups and milk chocolate with rice crispies in it.

Read the rest of this entry »

Lidia’s Baked Rigatoni and Zucchini

August 12, 2014


Zucchini, tomatoes and basil tossed with rigatoni–this pasta dish makes excellent use of later summer produce. I have made this pasta  a few times over the past several weeks and have come to prefer it without the cheese (or with less cheese) and with less pasta in relation to the vegetables. Don’t leave out the fresh basil–that is key to the flavor. If you want to replace the fontina with another cheese, you can.

Read the rest of this entry »

Parshat Devarim: “Where We Are, Where We Are Going”

August 1, 2014


Last week, my nephew, Rabbi Roy Feldman, gave a drasha entitled, “Where We Are and Where We’re Going: Reflections on Life in Israel.” It was on Mas’ei, but I think it is relevant to this week’s parsha, as well (which is also a summary of events). In any event, it is well worth sharing. I’m going to give a summary of it, but you really need to follow the link and read the whole thing.

About a month ago, my niece and nephew were in Paris. There, they had the opportunity to visit Synagogue de la Victoire, which, unsurprisingly, is under heavy security. Rabbi Feldman began his drasha with a Hasidic tale that was told over to him by the rabbi of the Paris synagogue, Rabbi Moshe Sebbag.

One Friday eve, in shetl in Czarist Russia, a Rebbe was stopped by a police officer, who demanded to know where the Rebbe was going. The Rebbe replied, “I don’t know.” The infuriated police officer warned the Rebbe to answer or be dragged off to prison. The Rebbe repeated, “I don’t know where I am going,” and was dragged before the local chief of police.

“’How could you say you don’t know where you are going? It’s Friday evening and you’re a rabbi, surely you were going to the synagogue!’

The Rebbe looked up at the police chief and said, ‘When I began my walk this afternoon, headed in the direction of the synagogue, in no way could I have possibly predicted that this evening I would end up in prison. And so you see, chief, we only know where we are, but we never really know where we’re going.’”

Rabbi Feldman points out the relevance of this tale to Parshat Mas’ei, which recounts the travels of B’nei Yisrael in the Midbar. Rashi says that the purpose of this list is to show Chasadav Shel HaMakom (“the kindnesses of the Almighty” ) in that it illustrates that that B’nei Yisrael were not overly burdened during their travels with many short encampments. The list of travel is a “reflection of Hashem’s love for B’nei Yisrael. Even though He punished the people as a result of the sin of the spies and made them travel about the wilderness for 40 years, He nevertheless showed them care and concern throughout this period.”

“But what Rashi doesn’t acknowledge is that at every stop, at each station, no one, including Moshe himself, had the slightest idea of how long the stop would last. Are we here for one year, or for one hour? Should we unpack and build a new tent, a new camp? Or is it advisable to just live out of our luggage and be ready for the next move? It’s an exhausting state of dependence and of reliance. Even more than the rebbe in the story, B’nei Yisrael knew where they were, but they had no idea where they were going.”

It is at this point of the drasha that Rabbi Feldman turns his attention to the Israel, which is where he traveled after leaving Paris. Once in Israel, He was reminded of the story of the Rebbe who knew where he was, but didn’t know where he was going. When he originally planned the trip, he had no idea he would come in a time of war. He then proceeds to describe what is was like to spend Shabbos in Holon, south of Tel Aviv, with sirens constantly going off. (I can’t begin to summarize this–you have to follow the link and read this for yourself.)

Rabbi Feldman also describes how Israelis are pulling together in this crisis. His cousin’s bakery in Giv’at Shmuel ran out of challah mid-day Friday (usually they have challahs leftover at 4:00 closing time) because so many people were hosting friends and family from Ashdod and Ashkelon for Shabbos, to give them respite. Even after the bakery ran out, people kept pouring in hoping to find challah.”We may not know where we’re going, but we know where we are,” notes Rabbi Feldman.

“The outpouring of chesed in Israel to the families affected by the rockets and the soldiers involved in both the Iron Dome system and later the ground invasion in Gaza is unimaginable and unparalleled.” The hospital he visited in Petach Tikvah had received so many donations cake for wounded soldiers that even after giving it to the soldiers and to the rest of the patients, they still had too much.  Going to donate blood–on the same day a call went out asking for donations for wounded soldiers at Beilinson Hospital–he found out that the appointments for giving blood were booked through to the next week.

Rabbi Feldman concludes by observing that “We know where we are, we don’t know where we’re going” is the way to “sum up the feeling in Israel during this war.”

“No one has any idea how or when this will end– I remember on the fifth day of the operation, every commentator on every major news channel in Israel was saying ‘we are closer to the end than we are to the beginning.’ Obviously, they were wrong, but they had no idea. Nevertheless, the feeling in Israel is clear. By the end of our trip, the restaurants in Tel Aviv were full again, if not by tourists, by Israelis. We have to continue living our life, and we have to give tzedakkah to and do chesed with those who are most significantly impacted by this situation. Even though we don’t know where we’re going, at the very least, we need to know where we are.”

Lemony Barley Salad with Kale Pesto, Tomaisins and Israeli Innovation

July 30, 2014


This recipe proves how important one ingredient can be, especially if it is a intensely flavored condiment. I spotted this recipe in the August issue of Food and Wine Magazine and it sounded so good: nubbly barley tossed in a lemony kale pesto dressing.

The recipe said that the addition of chopped preserved lemon was “optional,”  so I left that ingredient out and added in lots of fresh lemon juice. Even with using a whole lemon instead of the measly 1 Tbl. of juice the recipe called for, the salad tasted bland, very, very bland. Mostly, the salad had a strong herbal taste from the kale.

I went down to Sarah’s Tent in Deal, New Jersey to rectify the situation. I came home with a pint of preserved lemon slices, floating in spicy oil. I went straight to the kitchen and pulled out the leftover salad and tried to fix it by adding in the lemon and also some craisins.

The recipe called for currants, but I felt the recipe needed a more acidic dried fruit. Ideally, I would have added in these dried grape tomatoes that my sister-in-law brought back from Israel. They look like giant craisins, but taste like really, really sweet tomatoes. Those would have been perfect in this salad.

Not to digress too much, but these Israeli dried tomatoes are astonishing. My sister-in-law told me that they have no added sugar. They were so super candy sweet that I just didn’t believe her.

I’m still not sure that I believe it, but I looked online and found out that there is something called the Tomaccio, the “sweet raisin tomato.” Bred in Israel from wild Peruvian tomatoes, the Tomaccio is super sweet, so sweet that it turns into something like a raisin when it is dried.  It took Israeli nursery Hishtil twelve years to breed this variety of tomato. Another Israeli company, 2Macho (pronounced the same as Tomaccio?) created another kind of cherry tomato raisin.  And yet another Israeli company, Tomaisin, bred a cherry tomato that dries on the vine and has twice the sweetness of regular tomatoes (see also this).

On top of being really sweet and having a pleasant raisin texture, these tomaisins are supposed to have much more lycopene than regular tomatoes. Yummy and healthy–my favorite combination.

So, anyway, back to the barley salad. I added in the chopped preserved lemon and, WOW! The flavor of the salad went from blah to something that exploded with spicy lemony flavor. This is a salad to serve at a fancy simcha because the colors are beautiful, the texture is very appealing and the flavor is intense.

The recipe for this salad was contributed to Food and Wine by up and coming chef Jessica Koslow, of Sqirl. The key to its success is aggressive seasoning.

Bonus: Someone else found this salad a bit bland without the preserved lemon (“somehow kale plus olive oil and a bit of salt and lemon was just sort of meh.”). Here is how Lynne Ireland jazzed it up.

Another bonus: the preserved lemons I bought were in slices, seasoned with paprika, hot pepper (other spices?) and oil. Here is a similar sounding recipe from chef Shaya Klechevsky.

Read the rest of this entry »

Roasted Cauliflower with Lentils and Dates

July 30, 2014


If you want a main dish for the Nine Days that is hearty and filling, but not laden with dairy products, consider this salad. It is packed with super nutritious ingredients like lentils, spinach, tahina, dates, almonds and cauliflower.  It has a small amount of olive oil and only a teaspoon of honey. It feels light because it is a salad, but the lentils, coated with a tahina dressing, give it an almost meaty heft that will leave you completely sated.

It is the kind of unusual and exciting combination of ingredients that I usually associate with an Ottolenghi recipe, but this salad comes from Food and Wine Magazine contributors David Frenkiel and Luise Vindahl. David and Luise are a Stockholm-based couple that have a beautiful vegetarian blog called Green Kitchen Stories.

Read the rest of this entry »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 65 other followers