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Jerusalem Hummus In Jars

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

I’ve got to hand this one to a favorite person and a favorite cookbook: Naomi Nachman, and “Zahav“, respectively. Naomi is a foodie friend who’s not quite at my stage in life. She just married off her first child and her youngest is about the age of my oldest. Naomi might be older but she’s got more energy than my five kids put together! She’s always the life of the party and her foodie calendar puts me to shame. She just wrapped her first cookbook, Perfect for Pesach, which I was lucky enough to get some sneak peeks behind the scenes (and test some of the amazing recipes!). She runs a Pesach catering business, a “Chopped” themed party service, writes for various publications and even has her own radio show, Table for Two on the Nachum Segal Network. I love Naomi’s positive energy and I’m proud to call her a friend.

Recently, Naomi managed to squeeze in a trip to Israel amid her crazy hectic schedule, and she brought me back some Hawaj from the shuk. I’d never tried hawaj before, but I knew that there were two types of the Yemenite spice blend – one for soup and one for coffee. The spice was so potent (everything from the shuk always is!) that my whole kitchen smelled of it, even through the Ziploc bag! I wanted to make the most of the spice so I thought about how I could use it to really let it shine. And it hit me – hummus basar!

I had never made meat hummus before, or any REAL hummus from scratch and I was excited to try! I went to the holy grail of Israeli cookbooks, “Zahav” to find the perfect recipe and of course Michael Solomonov’s did not disappoint. What I love so much about Zahav is that every recipe is approachable, and unlike some of the other cookbooks on Middle Eastern cuisine, Zahav is the least bit pretentious. The hummus I made from the book was by the far the best one I had ever tasted and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to go back to store-bought. It is just a whole ‘nother ballgame.

What I learned from Solomonov is that hummus is so much more about the quality of the tahini than it is about the chickpeas. I always thought of hummus as a chickpea spread, but no. It’s a silky-smooth-sesame chickpea spread that will knock your socks off. You start by preparing silky smooth tahini that involves a brilliant garlic hack that I won’t share (buy the cookbook to find out what it is!). Then you take that tahini perfection and add loads of it to butter-soft chickpeas. Oh. My. God. is it good.

Zahav’s hummus recipe is a two step process, but I’ve simplified it here into one. I would definitely encourage you to try the original recipe at least once, but this makes a pretty good substitute. And please do me a favor and don’t put the amazingly pungent and flavorful hawaj-spiced beef over store-bought hummus because that’s like serving homemade shortcakes with canned whipped cream. Just no. And if  you’re feeling up to the task, try Zahav’s pita recipe and bake ’em up in mini to go along with these Jerusalem hummus jars. There’s really nothing quite like homemade pita to go along with homemade hummus.  I’ve made the recipe a few times already and it is super simple and incredibly delicious!

If this post hasn’t already compelled you to buy the cookbook, here’s an excerpt of a review I wrote after I got it:

“Michael brings the beauty of Israeli culture and cuisine to the forefront without the bells and whistles. He lets the food stand on it’s own, humble and beautiful, with clear, easy to fllow recipes that dont require millions of ingredients. And he’s not cheffy about it either….This guy isn’t cooking Israeli food because it’s trendy, he’s just doing what he loves and it comes through on every page. Even though he himself is not kosher….he acknowledges that the rules of kosher define the boundaries of Israeli cuisine and keeps all the recipe in the book (and in his restaurant) free of shellfish, pork and mixing milk and meat. In a culture that thinks that you have to be “treif” to be cool (especially so if you are Jewish), this man has my total respect). ”

Of course this Hummus Basar was made in jars in the spirit of Purim, but feel free to make this recipe and serve Israeli style, in a big bowl with lots of fresh pita for dipping! You can also make the hawaj beef and serve it over rice, it makes for a delicious side dish!

Related Recipes:

chestnut hummus with herbed pita chips
roasted garlic hummus with everything pita chips
chicken shawarma
farro grain bowl with Jerusalem pargiot
sweet tahini dip

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{Falatkes} Falafel Latkes with Harissa Tahini

Monday, November 30th, 2015

There really is no outdoing my poutine latkes from last year. The latkes went so viral, that I cooked them up for the Wall Street Journal and did a latke segment for The Meredith Vieira Show. HuffPost Canada went gaga over them and the rest is history.

I’m not one to rest on my laurels so I had to really blow it out of the water this year. It’s a good thing I had an entire year to think about it! I knew I wanted to go in the Israeli direction, because my food has been really influenced by the amazing flavors and spices of Israeli culture and cuisine. And what’s more quintessentially Israeli than falafel?

When falafel latkes, or as I coined them, FALATKES, came to me, I was beyond excited at the prospect of creating a beanless falafel dish! I prepared my batter, scooped it in the sizzling oil and my brain went crazy. Was I smelling latkes or was I smelling falafel?! I was smelling both!!

And then I took a bite of their crispy goodness and Oh. Em. Gee. I was eating potato latkes. And I was eating falafel. {MINDBLOWN} Poutine latkes – outdone.

If Chanukah wasn’t my favorite holiday before, it is now! Not only was I born on the fifth night, but I got married on my birthday and as I celebrate my 35th birthday, along with my 13th wedding Anniversary, I will be munching on this deeelicious fried goodness. It’s going to be a very happy birthday indeed!

Now, when you create the ultimate Chanukah latke, you have to top it with the ultimate sauce. Tahini is my jam so I made it my favorite way – with delicious spicy harissa mixed in for a deep, rich and spicy flavor. I am legit obsessed with Mina harissa that I tasted at Kosherfest just a couple of weeks ago. It’s spicy, but it’s also kind of sweet, which is never something I expected to find in a harissa. It’s got such a homey small-batch flavor, I just want to slather it on everything! And don’t even get me started on their shakshuka sauce. I can’t wait to create some amazing recipes with it!

If you’re a fan of harissa, don’t forget to try my harissa whipped feta with za’atar eggplant chips. They’re perfect for Chanukah, when it’s traditional to eat dairy foods. You can even fry up the za’atar chips to really get into the Chanukah mood. My confetti latkes with harissa sour cream are another favorite and if you want to go healthy, definitely go for my cauliflower nachos with harissa cheddar sauce. Told you I love harissa.


Of course, if you’re looking for other fun Chanukah recipes, don’t forget to check out my Chanukah category, as well as the Chanukah section in my new RECIPE INDEX!  You’ll find amazing appetizers and desserts that are perfect for you Chanukah party.

In the meantime, here are some great tips for making the ultimate crispy latkes!

1- Make sure to squeeze out as much liquid as possible out of your potatoes and onions using a cheesecloth or kitchen towel.
2- Use little-to-no flour to bind the mixture. The potatoes natural starch is usually enough to keep it together.
2- When the batter sits, it tends to get liquidy, so make sure to squeeze out as much moisture as possible before frying.
3- Use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to scoop out your batter. Pack the batter into the cup and place in the hot oil. Use the bottom of the cup to press down on the latkes, creating crisy, lacy edges.
4- Remove your latkes from the oil with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to drain, but immediately remove to a rack so the latkes stay nice and crisp.

Happy Frying!


This post was sponsored by Mina. All opinions are my own. View Mina’s amazing assortment of harissa and shakshuka sauce here or follow on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram

Related Recipes:

confetti latkes with harissa sour cream
harissa whipped feta with za’atar eggplant chips
cauliflower nachos with harissa cheddar sauce
falafel burgers

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Beer Battered Salami Chips with Beer Mustard

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

Oh yes I did. I made SALAMI. ON. STEROIDS.

And I didn’t have much choice either. I mean, there’s pretty much no outdoing my drunken hasselback salami, so I had to go there. And by there I mean, the deep fryer.

Ever since I read about a not-so-well-known custom to eat salami on Purim (to commemorate the hanging of HAMAN…hanging….salami….get it?), I’ve been banging out salami recipes for the holiday. Truth be told, I have no idea if this is a real thing, or if I happened upon a practical joke, but regardless, this taking-salami-to-the-next-level challenge has been a blast.

And it’s so ironic because I literally hated salami growing up. My mom used to feed us salami sandwiches for lunch every Friday afternoon. She’d smear ketchup on rye and top it with thick slices of salami all wrapped up in a foil package so we could take it along as we played in the courtyard of our building. One at a time, we’d chuck those salami sandwiches down the incinerator, and my mom was none the wiser! Fast forward some 20+ years and here. I. am.

Now when I think about this recipe, I have to admit, it’s like the ultimate guy food. It’s got beer, salami and it’s fried. I mean, seriously, could you ask for anything more?

Apparently you can. Because, not only did I come up with the ultimate finger food, I even made a beer dipping sauce, just to take the whole Purim thing over the top. Because that’s the way I roll. Or hang, apparently.

I’ve never made mustard from scratch before so I was excited to give it a try. There’s something really interesting I discovered about mustard in this recipe creation process. When mustard is exposed to heat, it loses it’s potency. (Same goes for horseradish and wasabi by the way)! I learned this by trying the same mustard recipe two ways – one used a bit more beer so I reduced it over heat, and the other I blended in the food processor to thicken, using no heat. The results were astounding! The blended mustard is super hot, while the cooked mustard is mildly sweet with little heat. Pretty awesome, right?

When the crispy salami and beer mustard meet, it’s the ultimate marriage. And it’s not just any salami, by the way. I used my favorite brand, Abeles & Heymann, because after visiting their factory a few months ago, and watching the salami-making process with my own eyes, I know their salami is made with the highest quality ingredients from start to finish!

And I wouldn’t think of coating that salami in anything less than the perfect crispy batter – which is what you get from beer batter. It’s super light and crisp, and let’s not forget, easy! Beer batter is just flour and beer and that’s it. Because the salami is packed with flavor, I don’t add much else, but you can always add a pinch of cayenne for some heat, if you’d like.

Now that we have the ultimate party food, lets discuss the Jewish holiday of Purim for a second! The Purim celebration is based upon the biblical Book of Esther, which recounts the story of Queen Esther and how she saved the Jewish people from annihilation at the hands of Haman (after whom the HAMANtasch is named). We celebrate with a festive feast (where these salami chips must make an appearance!), sending food gifts to family and friends, drinking until we don’t know the difference between the evil HAMAN and the righteous MOREDECHAI, and of course, dressing up as characters in the Purim story.

Growing up, Purim was always our favorite holiday, and you can imagine why. We got to dress up, deliver goodies to our friends and gorge on hamantaschen. As an adult, I love to put my own twist on the holiday with creative themes on my food gifts, fun twists on holiday cocktails and of course, crazy spins on salami!

If you live in Brooklyn, Queens or The Five Towns, be sure to check out my other salami recipe in the all new FYI Magazine! I’m so excited to join the team of FYI as the food editor, with a column for Fast & Fresh recipes as well as a Nutritious and Delicious section. This month, I’ve got a quick and easy salami quiche as well as a Persian twist on dried fruit truffles – perfect for your Purim feast or your Mishloach Manos.

Whether you choose to take on the Purim salami tradition or not, just remember to have fun and be joyous, because that’s what this holiday is all about! :) Happy Purim!

Salami making at the Abeles & Heymann factory with owner, Seth Levitt! This is the first and last time you will see me in a lab coat and hairnet ;)

This post is sponsored by Abeles & Heymann. Follow them on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter

Other Salami Recipes:

drunken hasselback salami
baked salami chips with dijon dipping sauce

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Sachlav Rose Water Pudding

Sunday, May 12th, 2013

Sachlav (also pronounced sahlab, salep, or saloop) is a popular warm winter drink in the Middle East. Even though I spent an entire year living in Israel, this light rose water pudding made it past me somehow and my first taste of it was actually in a restaurant in Brooklyn, named Bissale. I was reminiscing about my Bissale experiences in this recent post, and the fragrant rose water drink just came back to me.

I thought a rose water scented pudding would be the perfect way to celebrate the holiday of Shavuot, when Jews commemorate the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. It is told that Mount Sinai was covered in roses at the time the Torah was received, so many communities have a custom to decorate their homes and synagogues (as well as Torah scrolls) with roses. Persian Jews even refer to this holiday as the Feast of the Roses and in some Sephardic synagogues, it is customary to sprinkle rose water on the congregants.

Rose water, which is made by steeping and distilling fresh rose petals in water, is featured in many Sephardic desserts and pastries. It can be purchased at most Middle Eastern and specialty food stores.

Sachlav was traditionally made with ground orchid tubers called sahlab. The tubers of the orchid were dried and ground up to create a fragrant powder that thickens the milk into a pudding. Nowadays, cornstarch, which is cheaper and easier to find, is used to thicken the drink. Sachlav is usually finished with a touch of orange blossom or rose water, but some prefer to forgo the fragrant waters and garnish it with coconut, cinnamon and/or nuts and raisins.

Sachlav is usually served in the winter, like a Middle Eastern hot chocolate. Personally, I have a weakness for hot pudding (I always eat chocolate pudding boiling hot, right out of the pot) so I’m good eating it all year long. If you prefer a cold pudding, you can set the sachlav in the fridge, and serve it up like traditional malabi.

So what’s malabi? It’s a cold rose-water-scented milk pudding, that is pretty similar to sachlav, except it’s usually garnished with raspberry syrup and pistachios. If you’d like to turn this recipe into malabi, simply pour into serving glasses, let cool and then refrigerate until set. You might want to garnish it with my strawberry rhubarb compote for a seasonal garnish that would compliment the rose water really well.

1 year ago: pesto & goat cheese crostini
2 years ago: sundried tomato olive tapenade

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Baklava Hamantaschen

Sunday, February 17th, 2013


“Good, better, best; never let it rest till your good is better and your better is best.” 

Have you ever heard that quote before? Well I don’t know who came up with it, but it should be my motto. Ever since I can remember, I’ve been trying to outdo myself. It’s like I’m in competition with me. And the funny thing is, I’m not even a competitive person. I couldn’t care less what the next person is doing. I just want to outdo ME.

Nothing brings this out more than Purim. I spend an entire year thinking about what kind of crazy, amazing. blow-your-mind kind of idea I can come up that will outdo what I’ve done the year before. Since last year’s sushi hamantaschen were such a huge hit, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. It had to be a twist on a classic, a creative reversal of the expected, and it had to resemble hamantaschen. Not an easy feat, I tell you!

I surfed pinterest for inspiration, flipped through cookbooks for ideas and wracked my brain until I hit the finger-‘lickin jackpot. BAKLAVA HAMANTASCHEN – oh. em. gee.

To really capture the spirit of the story of Purim (set in Persia in the year 3392), I turned to a classic Persian recipe: baklava. Traditional Persian baklava uses a combination of chopped almonds and pistachios spiced with cardamom and a rose water syrup. Since I really wanted to turn things upside down (VeNahafoch Hu, right?), I switched up the rose water for apricot jam syrup (a’ la classic hamantaschen) and cut my baklava into true hamantasch shapes. The result is a decadent sweet and adorable treat that will be the talk of your Purim seudah!

Now if you’re the type who doesn’t mess with tradition, you may go ahead and prepare your baklava a’ la classique, rose-water syrup and all. Just make sure to cut them into hamantasch shapes, to really capture the Purim spirit.

Now tell me, how on earth will I outdo myself next year?!


1 year ago: sushi hamantaschen (onigiri)
2 years ago: savory puff pastry hamantaschen

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Gefilte Fish Patties in Tomato Sauce

Friday, July 29th, 2011

If you follow my blog, you’ve probably realized by now that my family is big into gefilte fish. I’ve already posted quite a few variations. This one however, is even closer to home – it’s a family recipe. My mom has been been making her gefilte this way ever since I can remember, and my Bubby before her. My kids love these patties so much that I even make them for dinner every now and then. They like it without the sauce, so I just leave some out. These are best served fresh and warm because they fluff up in the tomato sauce. They can also be served at room temperature with or without the sauce.

NOTE: These patties freeze very well. If you are like me and don’t like to fry a lot, just make a double batch and freeze half of the patties. When you are ready to use, just defrost, cook up the tomato sauce and add the patties. They’ll taste as fresh as the day you made them.

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Gefilte Fish 3 Ways

Friday, January 28th, 2011


Gefilte Fish comes in stiff competition with cholent as #1 on the Jewish food list. We all make it. Most of us like it. But gone are the days when we have to scale our own carp to prepare it (maybe just on Pesach!). While I do make salmon, tilapia and flounder on occasion, gefilte fish is a Shabbos staple at my house. So I like to get creative with the preparation, both in preparing, and in plating. This is my most popular way of serving, and I always get the oohs and aahs from my guests when I set it on the table. You need two different types of preparations to plate this way. I am posting three different recipes for your choosing.


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