Category: Dips

Dips & Spreads

Walk into any kosher supermarket and you’re likely to find a display case of wall to wall dips. What is it about Jews and dips and when did this cultural shift happen?

In Sephardic culture, SALATIM have adorned their Shabbos tables for generations. Unlike most mayo-based dips that you find in Ashkenazi cuisine, salatim are usually cooked down for hours (think matbucha!) and are exclusively savory.

Growing up in an Ashkenazi home, dips were not really a THING. And come to think of it, neither was a smorgasbord of salads. Life was a lot simpler back then, and if we had some pickled cucumber salad, chrein (horseradish with beets) and tahini (my dad is Israeli after all) we were happy campers. Perhaps it’s our foodie culture or this generation’s need for abundance that has our Shabbos feasts outdoing the most lavish Thanksgiving spreads. Luckily, I like to play around in the kitchen, so spending my Fridays whipping up multiple dishes isn’t the worst thing. But for those who find cooking overwhelming, Shabbos prep can be a chore, and believe me I get it. That’s where store-bought dips come in handy, and the good news is, you don’t really have to buy them.

I’ve never been that big on prepping dips, probably because they are just a vehicle for eating more challah. We always have hummus and tahini around, and I’ll make (or buy!) olive dip on occasion, but dips for me are an “extra”, a cherry on the top if I’m feeling extra fancy or I want to go all out for special guests.

If I have tomatoes on hand that are too soft for salad, I’ll usually cook down my tomato jalepeno dip (recipe in my book) and we absolutely love garlic confit smeared over challah (recipe also in my book), but in general, I prefer NO-COOK dips that I can just throw into the food processor and be done with it! One of my favorite kitchen hacks for making dips it to cover the bowl of my food processor with plastic wrap before putting the cover on, so the oil or mayo doesn’t splatter all over the top of the machine when I blend, and I can make one dip after another with minimal clean up.

The best part about making homemade dips in the food processor is that amounts don’t really matter. You can throw most things from a jar into your machine with a big dollop of mayo (lemon juice keeps it tasting fresh, and salt is always a given) and you’re good to go. Here are some good combos!

 

Related Recipes:

trio of sweet challah dips

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Hummus Simanim

As the New Year approaches, I always like to evaluate where I stand and think about what changes I want to make for myself in the coming year, both personally and professionally. For years, my goal was to take the necessary steps towards writing my own cookbook, and now that I have met that goal (far beyond my expectations, with our first printing of 15,000 books completely sold out in just 3 months!), I keep asking myself, “What’s next?”.


I’m not the type of person that settles on status quo – I’m always dreaming up the next big thing and finding ways to challenge myself. It’s like they say – “If you’re not moving forward, you’re falling behind” – and I definitely believe in that.


Truth be told, once the book went to print, I was so emotionally and physically exhausted that I couldn’t imagine coming up with new recipes and ideas ever again! But as my workload lightened up this summer, I got back in the kitchen because I wanted to, not because I had to, and I found my groove again! I went back to my roots, the foods and the flavors that I love the most (yes, that means Israeli food!) and this amazing new recipe came to me! It’s simanim on steroids and it is everything you’ve ever dreamed of for your Rosh Hashanah table and more!

Simanim, or symbolic foods, are traditionally eaten on Rosh Hashanah to symbolize our hopes for a sweet New Year. Some simanim include leeks, pomegranate, gourds (any type of squash), dates, black eyed peas or green beans, beets, carrots and fish head (some use ram’s head). These specific foods are eaten because their hebrew translation relates to specific blessings that convey our wishes for the coming year.


When I put the platter together, I couldn’t stop taking photos because, I mean, HOW GORGEOUS IS IT, amiright??? I all but maxed out my SD card and went. to. town. (No- I like seriously went to town, for some fresh pita!). I invited my neighbors over and we stood over my kitchen counter in the mountains, scooping hummus and salad onto blistered bread, the tastes of Israel growing stronger with each bite. It was a simple dish, but it captured everything I love about what I do – channeling my creativity, sharing with friends, cooking with color and putting a twist on tradition.

This dish reminded me how important it is to cook from a place of love – it is, after all, the secret ingredient that makes everything taste better – and that it’s food, family and tradition that brings us all together.

Wishing you all a healthy, happy and sweet New Year with much success in all areas of your lives. May we continue to reach milestones and share good news with each other this year!
Ksiva Vachasima Tova L’shana Tova Umisukah!



Related Recipes:

simanim fritto misto
simanim pasta salad
simanim holiday salad
hummus bassar
chestnut hummus

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Jerusalem Hummus In Jars

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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Simanim Fritto Misto
with Honey Roasted Garlic Aioli

I’m baaaaack!!!! After 2 months of maternity leave, some amazing bonding time with my delicious baby, and lets face it, plenty of adjusting to my new life with five kids (!!!), I’m so happy to tap back in to my creative energy and BRING IT!

Of course I must thank all my dear friends who filled in for me these past couple of weeks: Amy from WhatJewWannaEat, Sina from TheKosherSpoon,  Melissa from LilMissCakes, Miriam from OvertimeCook, Eitan from CookwithChefEitan, Melinda from KitchenTested and Whitney from Jewhungry! I hope you all enjoyed their recipes and guest posts as much as I did!

Now with Rosh Hashanah just a few days away, I really wanted to highlight the symbolic foods of the holiday, which include carrots, gourd (pumpkin), beets, leeks, green beans (or black eyed peas) and dates. It’s also customary to eat apple dipped in honey, a sheep or fish head, as well as pomegranate seeds. Many people of sephardic decent have a custom to hold a seder, where special blessings are recited over the simanim (symbolic foods) before they are eaten. It is not unusual for all or some of the ingredients to be cooked into separate appetizers, so I thought it would be fun to create one simple, yet sophisticated, dish that would incorporate most of these foods.

I was wracking my brain trying to think of something other than another boring “simanim salad” (you can watch me make an amazing one in this old post) when it came to me in the dead of night (while nursing my babes!); Fritto Misto! Fritto misto is Italian for “mixed fry” and is an assortment of lightly fried foods, often served as an appetizer. I know lots of people get scared off by the idea of frying, but if you do it right, this tempura batter is so light and elegant, and it’s not greasy at all.

The biggest trick to avoid having your food turn out greasy is to make sure it doesn’t soak up the oil. You MUST, MUST, MUST use a deep fry thermometer. It’s imperative to keep your oil at 350 degrees so that when the cold batter touches the hot oil, it immediately begins to fry and crisp up. If the oil isn’t hot enough, the thin tempura batter won’t hold on to the veggies.

Another trick to making perfectly crisp tempura fried veggies is to use seltzer in the batter. The air bubbles in the seltzer help to lighten up the batter. The cornstarch also contributes to a crispy coating.

The last, and equally important thing that contributes to a light, crispy tempura is to use ice cold seltzer and mix the batter in a cold bowl, set over a bowl of ice water. If you’re batter is nice and cold, it will work it’s magic when it hits the hot oil and you’ll get yourself a non-greasy addictive appetizer.

Of course I couldn’t just make a mix of fried simanim, it’s got to have a dip! So I indulged in some amazingly sweet and caramelized honey roasted garlic. How gorgeous??? I mix that all up with some mayo, meyer lemon zest and juice and voila – sweet, light and delicious aioli that pairs perfectly with the fritto misto.

But I couldn’t stop there. Because I had a vision. A vision of the most elegantly set holiday table, complete with individual boxes of Simanim Fritto Misto at each place setting! It’s been a while since I posted table setting ideas (these apple napkins were fun!), and I really wanted to indulge.

Since I left the apple and honey out of the fritto misto, I put out some beautiful farm-fresh apples with an assortment of honeys. I love to serve different flavored honeys, it makes things so exciting and fun! I also skipped the pomegranates in my fritto misto (because I can’t fry teeny tiny little seeds!) so I put out some Vintage pomegranate seltzer instead. We’ve pretty much got everything covered besides for the Sheep’s head. I’ll let you figure that one out ;)

To set your own tables like this, lay a long strip of burlap down the center of the table. Place a cake stand over a large matching platter. Fill the platter with apples and place an assortment of honeys on the stand. Use milk glass or mason jar cups and set out boxes of simanim over coordinating napkins. Tape some neutral colored gift tags onto the boxes, write the name of each guest on their corresponding box and finish with a twine bow. Don’t forget the Vintage seltzer!

I hope you’ve enjoyed my comeback post, there’s a little something for everyone. If you like to be try new things in the kitchen, go for the fritto misto. Hate frying? Make my honey roasted garlic aioli for dipping your Rosh Hashanah challah. Love to set a beautiful table? Take some inspiration from my tablescape. And most of all, have a healthy and happy SWEET NEW YEAR.

Shanah Tova!



This post was sponsored by Vintage seltzer. All opinions are my own. 

Related Posts:

apple stamp napkins
holiday salad with apple and honey vinaigrette
simanim roundup
angel hair simanim pasta salad

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Pepper Crusted Tuna with Pineapple Guacamole & Herbed Crema

I used to hate raw fish. It make me all squeamish. Raw meat too. I mean why would you want to eat raw food, possibly swimming with parasites, if you could eat it cooked, am I right? I was fine with a runny egg or two. Or three. But not the real proteins. Put a fancy plate of beef tartare with a raw egg in the center in front of me and I was out the door.

But then sometime about a year or two ago, I decided I was done being afraid of food and I wanted to try everything. I’m still not a fan of beef tartare but I’ve come to love raw sushi. It’s so much fun to be able to order off the entire sushi menu now, and not just the cooked rolls! You’ll be surprised just how easy it is to prepare pepper-crusted tuna sashimi at home. Just make sure you get the freshest, best quality tuna out there for this dish.

Related Recipes:

pan seared tuna steak
persimmon guacamole
jalapeno crema

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