In case you don’t follow my facebook page, you may have missed out on the exciting news that I started the Culinary Arts program at The Center for Kosher Culinary Arts. It was a great surprise from my husband, who signed me up for the program as a gift for our 10 year anniversary. Best. gift. of. all. time. Do I need to even tell you that?
Having to get three kids ready for school and be out the door by 8AM is not an easy feat. I come home exhausted beyond words, yet, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’ve never been happier to go to school in my entire life. Or to do homework (lots of reading!) I feel so blessed to be able to do what I’m so passionate about, each and every day.
Over the past week, we’ve been doing a lot of work on our knife skills, so our instructor, Chef Avram Wiseman, had us make some pico de gallo. Pico de gallo is a raw Mexican salsa that is a great condiment for dishes like tacos and fajitas. It’s also great on good old tortilla chips!
I can’t wait to share more of what I’m learning, in the meantime, enjoy this recipe! You can also follow my kosher culinary school journey on Instagram, via BusyInBrooklyn :)
CKCA Pico de Gallo
4 plum tomatoes, seeds removed, diced
1 scallion, cut in half lengthwise, diced
2 large cloves garlic, finely minced
1 small red onion, diced
1 jalapeno, diced (use some of the seeds and membrane for more heat)
2 tsp minced cilantro (I have an aversion to cilantro so I use parsley)
juice of 1 lime
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 oz. tomato juice
salt and pepper, to taste
Combine all other ingredients, mix well and season to taste. You can adjust the consistency by adding more or less tomato juice.
Some people seem to think that cranberry sauce it just for Thanksgiving, but I happen to enjoy it all cranberry season! There are so many variations to make, and so many ways to enjoy it. My favorite is mulled wine cranberry sauce.
It you’ve been following my blog for a while, you may remember this celebratory post from my one year blogoversary, featuring mulled wine. I decided to combine two of my favorite holiday foods – mulled wine and cranberries – to create this out of this world dish. I’m sure it will become your favorite too!
For the recipe, hop on over to my blogger friend Mara at KosherOnABudget. I’ve also included lots of ideas for enjoying cranberry sauce. If you love bargains and freebies, her site is jam-packed with amazing deals and discounts for all around the web!
At our local Bikur Cholim gathering last year, we were lucky enough to have Levana Kirschenbaum, the talented caterer and cookbook author, do a cooking demo for us. I don’t remember everything she made, but one thing that really stood out was her chocolate mousse. I’m not one to eat raw egg yolks (like in most mousse recipes), so when I saw her using tofu instead, I was intrigued. That Shabbos, I made her recipe for dessert, and it’s been a regular in my house ever since. The tofu adds a silkiness to the mousse that you’d never dream would come from soy. I started experimenting with silken tofu some more and this peanut butter mousse is one of my favorite outcomes. You can even make a parfait of mousses, and layer the chocolate and peanut butter into dessert glasses (keep it small because they are very rich!). I did that one Yom Tov and topped it with whipped cream and brownie crumbles. My guests nearly fell off their seats!
Thanks to Levana for generously sharing her chocolate espresso mousse recipe below. Make sure to check out her new cookbook, The Whole Foods Kosher Kitchen!
Peanut Butter Mousse
1 lb. silken tofu
3/4 c creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1 1/2 tbsp honey
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt
honey roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
chocolate sandwich cookie crumbs (processed in the blender)
Remove tofu from packaging and drain on paper towels until all excess liquid is absorbed. Add the tofu, peanut butter, sugar, honey, cinnamon and salt to a blender and process until smooth. Refrigerate for a few hours until firm. Pour into glasses and garnish with whipped cream, chopped peanuts and cookie crumbs.
Variation: You can also make a peanut butter pie using this mousse recipe. Just add melted butter to the cookie crumbs and press into the bottom of a pie dish. Bake for 10 minutes to set. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. Pour mousse into pie dish and top with whipped cream. Garnish with chopped peanuts and chocolate shavings.
1 c good quality semisweet chocolate chips (or grated chocolate)
2 tbsp instant coffee powder
1/4 c water
2/3 c pure cocoa powder
2/3 c sugar
1/4 c vegetable oil
2 tbsp unflavored brandy or rum
1 lb. silken tofu, drained
In a small saucepan, on a very low flame, place all but last ingredient, and cook, stirring, until melted. This will take about 2-3 minutes (Or microwave 2 minutes). Transfer the mixture to a food processor, with the tofu, and process one full minute, until perfectly smooth. Pour the mixture into 6 to 8 dessert glasses or cups, and refrigerate until firm, 2-3 hours.
With Shavuous just two weeks away, I thought it would be a good idea to do a little tutorial on making pesto. I’m sure most of you have either tasted it or have at least seen it on a restaurant menu. The popular green sauce is traditionally made from a mixture of basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic, parmesan cheese, and olive oil. Pesto is surprisingly easy to prepare, as well as delicious and versatile. It can be used as a sauce for fish and pasta or as a spread over crackers and bread. It makes the perfect addition to your Shavuous menu.
Because pesto is a sauce made from raw ingredients, it’s important to use those that are fresh and good quality. Fresh garlic (no frozen garlic cubes!), herbs and extra virgin olive oil are a must! It is also a good idea to toast your nuts beforehand as it brings out their natural oils and intensifies their flavor.
While pesto is usually made from basil, pine nuts and parmesan, you can make pesto using a combination of any greens, nuts and cheeses. The basic components of any pesto include the following:
–fresh leafy greens (basil, spinach, arugula) or herbs (parsley, mint, cilantro) or mixed
–nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, pistachios)
–cheese (parmesan, romano, cheddar or any dry, hard cheese)
–acid (lemon, lime, red wine vinegar, sherry vinegar)
–oil (extra virgin olive oil, grapeseed, walnut, hazelnut)
–seasoning (fresh garlic, salt, pepper)
Once you have your ingredients, the pesto can be prepared by hand, using a mortar and pestle, or with a food processor or blender.
Basic Pesto Measurements:
3 cups packed fresh leafy greens
½ cup toasted nuts
1/2 cup grated parmesan (omit if making nondairy)
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/3-1 cup extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and pepper, to taste
Pesto Tips & Tricks:
* If you toast your nuts before using (it’s worth the extra step), make sure to cool them off before adding them to the food processor. Otherwise, the heat from the nuts will start to melt the cheese and your pesto will turn gummy.
* To keep your pesto from turning black in the fridge, cover it with an inch of olive oil. Just pour off the excess oil before serving.
* Leftover pesto can be frozen for future use. Just pour pesto into an ice cube tray for individual servings. Once it’s frozen, add the cubes to a ziploc bag.
What are some of your favorite pesto combinations? Share them with me in the comments below!
Spinach, Walnut & Cheddar Pesto
3 cups packed baby spinach leaves
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/3-2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1/8 tsp pepper, or to taste
Add the walnuts to a dry pan and stir over medium heat until toasted and fragrant. Let cool. In the meantime, add the garlic to the food processor and mince. Add the spinach leaves, walnuts, cheddar cheese and salt and pepper. While the processor is running, slowly drizzle in olive oil through the feed tube until all the ingredients are pureed. Start off with less oil and increase until your pesto reaches the desired consistency (you may want thicker pesto to use as a spread, or thinner pesto to use as a sauce). You may need to remove the lid and move the ingredients around to get the mixture going. For a chunkier pesto, pulse your food processor to control the puree. For thinner pesto, blend until smooth.
Funny story. When I was growing up, my mother used to prepare salami sandwiches for my siblings and I every Friday afternoon. She would pack up our sandwiches, and we’d take them to the courtyard of our building to eat lunch. Little did she know, each week we’d head straight for our building’s incinerator and throw our sandwiches down the chute.
I tried to eat those sandwiches, I really did. But those hard white pieces in the salami just made me gag. Fast forward quite a number of years and I’m a married woman. I’m in the supermarket with my husband and he wants to buy, you guessed it, salami. I explain to him that in no uncertain terms am I going to put that stuff into my mouth. But he promises me that his preparation is so delicious, even I will eat it.
So we head home, and true to his word, my husband whips up sauteed salami that is not only swallowable, it’s pretty good. I mean, I’m not about to go crazy over it, it’s still salami, but I can see where some might enjoy it.
Now fast forward quite a few more years, and that same sweet husband who whipped me up a dinner of sauteed salami, bought me some amazing food magazines for Shabbos (I’ll take that over flowers any day!). Among them is the Real Simple magazine and it has a recipe for salami chips. Sounds intriguing. So I whip up a batch according to the magazine’s directions and they come out disgusting. Absolutely, horrendous. I play around with the cooking time and the oven temperature, and finally, after countless batches, I get it right!
Interestingly enough, I have read that salami is often eaten on Purim to commemorate the hanging of Haman (salami is also hung). Salami chips would make for a unique and tasty shalach manos, or, you can serve them up as an appetizer at your Purim seudah.
Salami Chips with Dijon Dipping Sauce
sliced salami (see note)
1/4 cup mayo
1/4 cup dijon mustard
1/4 cup apricot jam
1/4 tsp tarragon
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Place salami slices on a baking sheet and bake until crispy, about 25 minutes. When you see the salami begin to curl up around the edges, watch them carefully to make sure they don’t burn. As soon as you remove the salami from the oven, dab them with paper towels to remove some of the rendered fat from the top. Then, drain them again on paper towels.
Alternatively, you can make the salami chips in the microwave. Place salami slices between sheets of paper towel. Microwave for approximately 40 seconds, or until crispy.
For dipping sauce, melt the apricot jam in the microwave or on the stovetop. Crush the tarragon between your fingers. In a bowl, mix the mayo, mustard, apricot jam and tarragon. Serve alongside salami chips.
NOTE: To make salami chips, the salami needs to be thinly sliced and uniform. You can purchase presliced salami from your deli counter, but I like to buy it whole and slice it myself. The only way to achieve this without an electric meat slicer is by using a mandolin. However, since the salami is soft, it bends as you try to slice it. My solution for this is to freeze the salami for several hours until it is almost completely frozen. Then slice it on the mandoline as you would a cucumber. You’ll get perfect, uniform slices every time.
VARIATION: For sweet and salty salami chips, combine 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar and 1 tablespoon water and melt in the microwave or on the stovetop. Pour sugar mixture over baked salami chips and stir gently to combine. Return chips to the oven and bake for an additional 5 minutes at 350 degrees.