Archive for November, 2013

Chanukah Mac ‘n Cheese

November 27, 2013


About 20 years ago, I made macaroni and cheese to bring to a family Chanukah party. The next year I was asked to bring it again. “It can be a tradition,” my sister enthused, “every year the kids will look forward to your mac ‘n cheese!” I wasn’t so keen on the idea. The idea of making the same thing over and over wasn’t so appealing.

But, here we are all these years later, and I am still bringing macaroni and cheese to the family Chanukah party.

I have posted this before, but it is worth reposting.


Isa’s Chickpea Schnitzel v. Ratner’s Vegetable Cutlets

November 26, 2013


I made the highly praised recipe for chickpea cutlets from Veganomicon.  When I told my husband I made vegetarian cutlets, he said “Vegetable cutlets? Like from Ratner’s? Oh, good–I haven’t had those in years!”

He was a bit let down when I explained that the chickpea cutlets were more like schnitzel: crunchy on the outside like fried chicken and chewy on the inside like seitan. Not at all like the Ratner’s cutlets. So, I told him I would make the Ratner’s cutlets, too.

The vegetable cutlets from the long gone Ratner’s restaurant were basically crustless potato knishes dotted with little bits of vegetables. The restaurant used to serve them smothered in mushroom gravy.

Haute cuisine they are not, but as retro comfort food they have a lot going for them. In fact, the Ratner’s vegetable cutlet has a bit of current pop culture cachet thanks to a brief cameo in Mad Men (see also here).

Ratner’s Vegetable Cutlets represent an earlier era in American Jewish cuisine, an era in which Lou G. Seigal’s (see also this) represented the pinnacle of fine kosher dining and casual kosher dairy restaurants were places like Ratner’s on the Lower East Side, Gross’s in Midtown (where Mr. Broadway is now) and Famous’s Dairy Restauant on the Upper West Side.

There is a recipe for the vegetable cutlets in the Ratner’s cookbook, but I had to tweak it a bit to make them more as a I remembered. Adding a pinch of poultry seasoning gives the cutlets a taste a bit like stuffing, which I rather like. The tomato sauce recipe is nothing like what I remembered, so I went with a recipe for mushroom gravy loosely adapted from Crazy Sexy Kitchen.

Tonight we will have a throwdown: retro Jewish vegetarian chow v. modernishe vegan fare.


No Refined Sugar Apple Cranberry Sauce

November 18, 2013


I love cranberry sauce, but I don’t love the massive amount of sugar that goes into it. My solution was to offset the tartness of the cranberries with sweet fruits.

My first attempt involved cooking the cranberries with orange juice and a super sweet apple. The cranberry sauce was almost, but not quite sweet enough. I needed to add a small amount of sweetener to take the edge off the tartness.

For my next attempt, I used white grape juice and golden raisins. That did the trick. The apples, golden raisins and white grape juice add sweetness without changing the taste of the cranberries.

If you puree this, the texture, from the apple, becomes something between applesauce and cranberry sauce.


Chanukah Hush Puppies

November 18, 2013


A popular theme for Chanukah this year is “Food that is Thanksgiving-ish or Autumnal but still recognizable as Chanukah fare.” Put another way, the question is: What Thanksgiving food can be fried as latkes or sufganiyot?

I offer you hush puppies. It is fried–perfect for Chanukah. It is a traditional recipe from the American South that is a twist on cornbread, a Thanksgiving classic. Basically, hush puppies are mini latkes made from cornbread batter. Or maybe it is more accurate to say that hush puppies are to cornbread what latkes are to kugel.

Why hush puppies are not more popular (outside the South) I will never understand. They are, according to one journalist, “the best fried food in existence.” Hush puppies may be ready to have their moment, though. The New York Times just featured an article about quinoa hush puppies, as served at Market Table. I wouldn’t be shocked if the NYT quinoa hush puppies recipe makes the rounds for Chanukah.

There are a lot of stories about how Hush Puppies got their name. A popular story is that hush puppies were made from cornmeal leftover from frying fish and thrown to the dogs to quiet them.

My husband was reminiscing recently how his mother would make little latkes from matzoh meal/breadcrumbs and egg that was leftover from breading something for frying. I’ve done that, too. You don’t want to throw away the extra egg and breading, right?

That is kind of what hush puppies taste like, those little breading latkes, but there are also little bits of onion, like with potato latkes. Actually, they also kind of remind me of falafel, but cornbread flavored, of course.

Traditionally, hush puppies are served with fried fish and tartar sauce, but I am not such a fan of dipping deep-fried food into a fat-based sauce. I think the hush puppies taste nice by themselves or served with cranberry applesauce.

But serving hush puppies with a rich sauce is apparently the norm. Curious whether anyone else is serving hush puppies for Chanukah, I came across an article about Amanda Cohen chef/owner of Dirt Candy in New York City. Apparently, Dirt Candy has a super popular appetizer consisting of hush puppies with a side of maple Dijon butter. Market Table offers a spicy aioli to go with the quinoa hush puppies, which is a mayo-based sauce. If that appeals to you, follow the links to get the Maple Dijon Butter and Chili Aioli sauce recipes.

There are lots of recipes for hush puppies, but I offer you the recipe I have been making for many years, which comes right off the side of a bag of Indian Head cornmeal.


Vanilla Rugelach

November 11, 2013


Vanilla rugelach sounds not so exciting, as compared to chocolate rugelach, but vanilla rugelach can hold its own any day. The key is to use lots of strong vanilla flavor. Vanilla sugar in the filling and vanilla extract in the soaking syrup imparts an intense flavor that is reminiscent of vanilla pudding. While syrup is optional with chocolate rugelach, it is a must with vanilla rugelach. Adding lemon juice to the syrup gives a dairy taste to the rugelach.

If you want to go with cinnamon or apricot cinnamon fillings, I include recipes for that, too.


Easy Rugelach (aka Babka Bites)

November 11, 2013


Did you know that you can make rugelach from challah dough? Well, you can!

These won’t be super flaky yeast dough rugelach. For that texture, you need what is called a “laminated dough,” or a dough that has layers of butter or margarine rolled into it (like puff pastry, croissant or danish dough). The difference between these rugelach and the super-flaky kind is the difference between doughnuts and cronuts.

If you want super-flaky yeast dough rugelach, take a look at this. If you want something easy to make and trans-fat free (no margarine!) that tastes like bite-sized chocolate babka, read on.



Vayeitzei Challah

November 8, 2013


My kids were home from school and wanted to do a parsha project. This is the challah idea they came up with: challah shaped like a ladder resting on challah shaped like rocks fused together into one large rock (okay, really pull apart challah, but use your imagination).

I took some extra challah dough, pressed it into a rectangle, and added a chocolate filling (coconut oil spread over the dough, sprinkled with pareve Israeli Nesquik and chopped bittersweet chocolate). After folding the dough in half, I slit the dough to make it look like a ladder. I baked it at 375 degrees for 20 minutes and, presto: chocolate ladder danish.

Boozy Blondies

November 3, 2013


Imagine a blondie that tastes like rum balls or like bourbon chocolate pecan pie (with the emphasis on the bourbon and the chocolate). That is what these boozy blondies taste like. They could be an interesting dessert choice for Thanksgiving (well, for the adult guests), but you also might want to save these for Purim (again, for the adults).

I made these for sheva brachos this past weekend, and I am dutifully complying with requests to post the recipe.