The holiday of Pesach (AKA Passover) is upon us. This year I decided to take on the seder classic, charoset. I know I am a little late for a seder recipe, but this will work great for the second days of Passover or really any time during the year. Charoset is a paste traditionally made from grated apples, sweet red wine, and nuts. It is designed to take the bite out of your maror (AKA bitter herb/horseradish). Every family has its own traditions when comes to the addition of spices, sweeteners, and other fruits such as dates or raisins. For my traditional charoset, I add honey, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
A Twist on Tradition
For this recipe I wanted to put a twist on traditional charoset, and at the same time expand its function. I was perusing the produce at my provisions provider, and I came across two tropical tastes that I could not pass up. Mangos are one of my favorite fruits and the produce store had a sale on them if you bought a case. I also came across kumquats, the tiny little citrus that I just cannot resist. This lead me down a path to chutney. According Merriam-Webster.com chutney is defined as a thick sauce of Indian origin that contains fruits, vinegar, sugar, and spices and is used as a condiment. Many chutneys contain, apples, mangos, and nuts. The leap from charoset to chutney is but a small step.
1tspBlack Pepper or Red Pepper Flake (if you like it spicy)
1½CupOrange JuiceReserve ½ cup for cooking the chicken
1CupSweet White Wine
¼CupApple Cider Vinegar
1Package4 Chicken Leg Quarters or 8-Peice Cut Up
Add the oil, onions, and salt to large sauce pot and place over medium heat. Sautee until the onion starts to brown.
Slice half the kumquats into thin slices. In a mixing bowl combine the apples, mango, and kumquats. Add the cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and black (or red) pepper and stir to combine.
Add the mango, apple, kumquat mixture to the pot with the onions. Add 1 cup of the orange juice, all of the wine, apple cider vinegar, and honey and stir to combine.
Turn the heat down to low and reduce the mixture to a chunky, jam-like consistency is achieved. Stir in the ground nuts. If you are using this as your charoset, you can stop here.
Pour the sauce into a baking dish and add the chicken. Slice the remainder of the kumquats and top the chicken with them. If the chutney looks dry add a ½ cup of orange juice to the pan.
Cover the pan tightly with foil and bake the chicken at 350°F for an hour. Then turn the oven up to 425°F and uncover the chicken. Continue cooking until the the chicken skin begins to brown and serve.
For Labor Day weekend my friends Ari and Jessica Hoffman invited me to come out an visit them in Seattle. Seattle has been on my high on my list of a places to visit for a long time, so as soon as my wife gave me the OK, I jumped at the chance. This was not just a pleasure trip, that is where the 100 lbs of meat come in, but more on that later.
After a long Uber ride through Chicago’s afternoon rush hour traffic I made it to Midway Airport. You should have seen the looks I got from the gate agents when they weighed my boxes, which of course were a little over weight, and I started pulling out salami’s and throwing them in my carry-on. After bribing the agents with a little 1/2 pound salami that brought with me for just such an occasion, I headed to the gate. After a four hour flight, with a baby screaming in the next row over, I made it to safely to Sea-Tac Airport. The meat made it safely as well, although it came back to me with a lot of TSA tape on the boxes. Ari picked me up in his pickup truck so there was plenty of room for the meat and we headed back to his place. After a quick bite to eat, I crashed for the night.
I woke up Friday to the most amazing view from Ari’s balcony.
I then headed out to explore the city. Unfortunately the streets of Seattle are not as pretty as the view. Seattle has a terrible homelessness problem, with many people living in tents and RVs.
Top on my list of things to see was Pike’s Place Market. According to the website, Pike’s Place Market is Seattle’s original farmer’s market. It is right on the water and is huge. It is about 3 blocks long on both sides of the street and is multiple stories. I literally let myself get lost there for three hours. You can find anything there, from vegetables to video games. They are famous for their fish monger who throws fish from a front display case to behind the counter for wrapping. It was mildly amusing, but somewhat underwhelming.
I was hoping to pick up some Britt’s Pickles from their stand while I was there (I am sucker for a good local small batch pickle), but they opened late that day. Luckily Ari and Jessica had some in their fridge and I got a chance to taste them later that weekend. Overall a very tasty pickle, but definitely not traditional. Britt’s Pickles have a whole lot going on in the flavor department. While many pickles have a dominant flavor like garlic or dill, the variety of Britt’s I tried were extremely complex.
I wrapped up my visit to Pike’s Place with a visit to “original” Starbucks, or at least the location where the original one moved to. It is really just another Starbucks like any other, with a longer line.
After finishing up at Pike’s Place I met back up with Ari and we headed to Pabla Indian Cuisine for their lunch buffet, which had a decent selection although not excessive and included some tasty fried dumplings. It seemed like a fairly typical kosher vegetarian Indian restaurant, not unlike Gokul in St. Louis, which I visited with Rachel last year when we went down there for a kosher BBQ competition. The food was tasty overall, and treat coming from Chicago where it is not available, despite the close proximity of the Jewish and Indian populations.
Ari then took me on a quick tour of three different major grocery stores that all had decent kosher sections, although none of them had a full service kosher deli counter. Also, none of them are close to the main Jewish area.
We then headed back to Ari and Jessica’s place to get ready for Shabbat. Jessica prepared a tasty Friday night dinner, and invited several other guests for the meal, making for a great time.
Many of you may know Melinda Strauss of the great blog Kitchen-Tested . What you may not know is she is originally from Seattle and is Jessica’s younger sister. While she currently resides in the New York area, Melinda happened to be in Seattle for the holiday weekend as well, visiting her family. Shabbat lunch was at Melinda and Jessica’s grandmother’s house with the whole family. I had a some great conversations with Melinda about the future of this blog. I am looking forward to attending the Jewish Food Media Conference that she runs, in about a month. I also had a great time talking to Jessica and Melinda’s father, who is an avid cook himself.
There is a very large Sephardic Jewish community in Seattle. The main Sephardic synagogue, Sephardic Bikur Holim was having their annual food bazaar on the Sunday I was there, so know I had to check that out. There was a breakfast which included a couple of different types of homemade borekas, and I love anything with puff pastry.
There was also a lunch which included kosher burgers made by the crew from the local Fatburger, BBQ from KoGo, and cotton candy and popcorn for the kids.
Then it was time to get down to work. The real reason I went out to Seattle was to help Ari’s with his synagogue, Bikur Cholim Machzikay Hadath’s annual BBQ know as “BassarFest” that was held this year on Labor Day. For those of you who don’t understand Hebrew, Bassar roughly translates to meat.
The kosher options in Seattle are somewhat limited and that is why I brought 100 lbs of meat, including hot dogs, Italian sausages, salami and beef bacon produced by Romanian Kosher Sausage Company, from Chicago to Seattle. (Thank you Southwest Airlines for the free bags!) With some great help from volunteers from the synagogue we managed to get all of the sides ready for the next day.
At last the day had arrived. While the event wasn’t until late afternoon, the volunteers and I got started at about 10 AM. It was quite an ambitious menu, but we managed to get it all done just in time:
Sausage and Pepper: A Chicago classic featuring Romanian’s Italian Sausage with grilled green and red bell peppers and onions
Romanian Grilled Salami Sandwich: Romanian’s world famous salami glazed with a house made sweet and savory BBQ sauce served on a bun
Make Your Own Chicago Style Hot Dogs: A plump all beef Romanian hot dog served with yellow mustard, (but never ketchup), onions, relish, celery salt, tomato, sport peppers, and dill pickles on a poppy seed bun
Grilled German Potato Salad: A warm red potato salad topped with Romanian beef fry tossed in a Dijon tarragon vinaigrette
Grilled Chicken Wings: A classic BBQ finger food, tossed in a sweet Kansas City style BBQ sauce
Baked Beans: Sweet and smoky beans with just little kick, including some Romanian beef fry
Homemade Coleslaw: A mix of shredded red and green cabbage, carrots, and fennel, with an apple cider vinaigrette dressing
Grilled Beef Sliders: A great crowd-pleaser of mini hamburgers
We ended up feeding about 300 people and had the perfect amount of food, and thanks to the help of the volunteers, I even had some time to walk around and schmooze with the crowd. The crowd was great and it seemed like everyone was having a great time. Being Seattle, I met what seemed like a dozen software developers, which gave me a chance to geek out at bit. I work in software development for my day job.
There usually is a cooking competition that goes along with the BBQ, but despite my best efforts in creating a new format for them it failed to attract teams. Ari believes that it was caused by the fact that most of the the people that usually compete were unavailable due to the holiday weekend.
All and all, I had a great time. While Seattle definitely could use some help in the kosher restaurant and grocery department, it makes up for it with a warm community that is dedicated to their local Jewish institutions.
Well folks, it’s been a few weeks since Daniel and I tackled our first ever #Meatyourvegetables pop-up food event and the Indian food was a HUGE success and a big hit overall!
First off, we have to thank the incredible people at Congregation Ezras Israel in West Rogers Park for their help in getting this event planned in only 5 weeks! Becky Goldberg – we literally could not have done this without your vision, your patience, and your incredible hard work so THANK YOU! Thank you also to Zevy Ashkenazy, Randie Chubin, Josh Troppe, Gila Wallach and her son Adiv (for expediting and helping us make extra mango lassi!!), Zev Goldberg, Samantha Lavenda (for helping in the kitchen) and of course, thank you to Rabbi Falk! We felt so welcome at Ezras and G-d willing, we’ll do many more of these pop-ups in the future!
So, let’s start at the beginning, shall we? Like I said…FIVE weeks and this event hit the ground running. Lots of meetings, emails, and even our test prep (check out our earlier posts on our test prep!). The Thursday night before the event was the big shopping spree at Restaurant Depot. It’s amazing how many cans of chickpeas and 20 lb. bags of rice I can fit in my trunk!
Fast forward to Saturday night and the fun really begins. Chopping veggies (thank you Josh for your speedy knife skills), roasting chickpeas, fermenting pickles, and stirring up some fresh mango lassi (who doesn’t love a mango yogurt smoothie, with cardamom and ginger, ya? It is so refreshing)! Two hours of prep done and back at it tomorrow.
Sunday – the big day! 8:30 a.m. bright and early. GIANT pots of rice and lentils on the stove top. And when I say giant, I mean, cooking-for-200-people giant! As those cooked away, time to make the eggplant! Lots of cumin seeds toasting, eggplant and okra cooking down and garam masala added to the lentils until it became mushy (yup, the recipe calls for “mushy lentils”)! By this time, the kitchen smells heavenly – warm, aromatic spices, sweet and savory – garlic, ginger, and cumin. Yum!
Before we knew what hit us, we had 4 large foil pans of each dish. And to re-cap, here’s what we made!
Roasted chickpeas – crispy chickpeas roasted with olive oil and spiced with seasoned salt and paprika (the perfect snack food!)
Seasoned Basmati rice – long grain white rice cooked with cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods and black peppercorns
Tark Dal – slow-cooked yellow lentils, sauteed garlic and onion seasoned with cumin seeds, turmeric, and garam masala, garnished with fresh parsley
Veggie Biryani – Basmati rice with mushrooms and water chestnuts, lightly seasoned with turmeric and garnished with fresh parsley
Matar Paneer – Fresh firm cheese and peas with roasted red peppers in a tomato sauce with cumin, coriander and turmeric
Baingan Bharta – Smokey eggplant and okra in a stewed tomato sauce with cumin seeds, turmeric and coriander, garnished with fresh parsley
Red (hot) and green (mild) sauces on the side – to amp up the volume on any dish!
Indian spice blend! A homemade blend of green cardamom pods, black peppercorns, cumin seeds, cloves, cinnamon
Mango Lassi – Mango, yogurt smoothie seasoned with ginger and cardamom
The doors opened at 5 pm and the rush of hungry folks rushed into the room towards the buffet tables. Food was being served, and we could hear the collected “mmmm’s” coming from around the room. Every time I peeked into the full social hall, I got lots of thumbs up and lots of mid-bite OMG-this-is-so-good comments. Feeling good so far!
Next came time for the food demo! I must admit, even though we had rehearsed this part previously, we were a bit rushed because trying to expedite in the kitchen was a little crazy – it just seemed that all of the food needed to be replenished all at the same time! But through the hustle and bustle, we demo’d both the Indian spice mixture and the quick pickle (utilizing the spice mixture – how multi-purpose of us, right?). Click here to watch our live food demo!
So that’s it, folks! All in all, a fantastic event, with lots of satisfied and no-longer-hungry patrons.
Thanks again for everyone’s support for this awesome albeit busy adventure and stay tuned for more events coming up in the near future!
Folks, we are in the period known as “The Nine Days“. Historically it is a time of mourning for the Jewish people, and traditionally many of us do not eat meat. We used this as an opportunity to do a test cook for our upcoming Indian pop up night at Ezras Israel Synagogue. Please join us on Sunday the 29th of July for this culinary adventure. Rachel and I spent pretty much the whole day this past Sunday shopping and cooking. We made a rice dish, an eggplant dish, a paneer (Indian firm cheese), and a lentil dish. Below is the recipe for the paneer dish and Rachel also posted a recipe for the eggplant dish: Baingan Bharta an Indian Eggplant Dip and Cookbook Giveaway
Before we get to the recipe, a tip to all our readers: be sure to check out our cookbook giveaway at the bottom of this post.
Kosher paneer can often be found in Costco, but unfortunately mine did not have it in stock. I ended up finding it at my local Restaurant Depot, in 5 pound blocks. I realize that might be a large amount for most people, as this recipe calls for a third of a pound for 4 servings. Doing some quick math, 5 pounds would make about 60 portions.
Matar Paneer roughly translates to: peas with cheese. I put my own spin on this Indian classic by adding roasted red peppers for some sweetness and color. If you don’t like peas, a common variation on this recipe uses spinach instead of peas. The Paneer cheese I was able to get my hands was extremely firm and does not melt. It also could use some help in the flavor department. In those ways it is very similar to tofu. For those reasons I suggest cutting the paneer in fairly small cubes and marinating it for at least an hour to overcome some of the blandness and soften it up a bit.
A twist on a vegetarian North Indian classic. Great as a main dish or a side. It can be ready in about 15 minutes in case you have a surprise vegetarian guest, using things that can be kept in your freezer and pantry.
Main Course, Side Dish
Author: Daniel Peikes
1/3lbPaneer CheeseAbout a cup
1tspWhole Cumin Seed
1 1/2CupsFrozen Peas
1Red Bell Pepper
Kosher SaltTo Taste
1Sliced Green Chile Pepper Jalapeno will work (optional)
Turn your oven broiler on high and put the red pepper (on a lined sheet pan) in until the skin starts to blister, turning to make make sure you get some color on all sides. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Remove the top and the seeds and slice into strips.
Dice the cheese in to 1/2" cubes and marinate it in 1/2 the crushed tomatoes and the chopped garlic.
Add 1/2 the olive oil to a heavy saute pan and place over high heat. Add the paneer to the hot pan. Cook on each side until it starts to brown, about one minute per side. Remove the cheese from pan to a plate lined with a paper towel.
Turn the heat down to medium and add the rest of the oil to the pan along with cumin seeds and fenugreek. Once the cumin begins to darken, add the water, the rest of the crushed tomatoes, turmeric, and coriander to the pan and simmer for five minutes.
Add the peas, pepper strips, and the optional jalapeno to the pan and saute until they just begin to soften. Season with the salt and sugar.
Turn off the pan and add in the paneer, and mix it into the vegetables. Move to a serving bowl, top with the cilantro, and serve immediately.
I’ve been on a MAJOR okra kick right now, which works well in this Indian classic. You’re probably thinking, “wait, isn’t this an eggplant dish”. And you’d be right. But first let me back up and profess my new found love for okra first.
I know okra gets a bad rap – that weird, slimy texture is not to appealing to a lot of people and unless you’re a gumbo aficionado, most people just aren’t on the okra train. To be honest, I had okra for the first time only a few years ago (I know, for a vegetarian, you’d think I’d have tasted every vegetable on the face of the earth, but we just didn’t grow up with it at all)! Granted what I had was the fried okra with garlic aoli at Milts BBQ for the Perplexed, here in Chicago, but honestly, what can you fry that ISN’T good? But I was searching for a low-carb “chip” alternative that wasn’t zucchini.
All I do is slice the okra down the middle, trim the tops, drizzle with avocado oil and sprinkle a ton of spices (just anything I have on hand – onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, hot paprika, rosemary, really…anything goes) and roast at 425F for about 20 minutes and you get crispy, crunchy and not-at-all-slimy okra chips! Ahh, my mouth is drooling already just thinking about these! Dipped in spicy guac, it’s the perfect snack food for me!
So what better way to incorporate my new favorite ingredient than into some Indian food! And no, this dish is primary accented with peas, not okra, with eggplant as the star of the show, but isn’t the fun of cooking to make it your own and experiment? After all, okra is a common staple in Indian cuisine!
So, here we are in – in the midst of “the 9 days” before Tisha B’Av, which means it’s time to be meat-free (and that’s every day, in my world). And while some are cooking up a dairy-lovers paradise in their kitchen, Daniel and I wanted to mix it up a bit and bring a warming, yummy vegan Indian dish to you! And speaking of Indian food…this recipe is a sneak peek to what you’ll get at our upcoming Pop-Up food event on July 29th, 2018!
In case you missed it, Daniel and I will be doing the cooking and food demos for the first International food pop-up at Ezras Israel! You can register for the event here!
This may sound intimidating but not to worry, we’ll go through it together! Though hard to pronounce, this Indian eggplant dish called “Baingan Bharta” (BANG-IN, BARTA) is similar to baba ghanoush so it’s a perfect appetizer to make for a party, Shabbat meal or even a picnic, since it’s mayo-free!
This chunky dip would be great served with naan (Indian flatbread), pita, crackers or simply scooped up with some warm challah! The warm aromatic spices will make your kitchen smell like a spice market! And if you’re not a fan of okra, just substitute the traditional peas in this dish, or frozen spinach instead (just make sure to squeeze out all of the water if you’re using frozen spinach, otherwise you’ll end up with a super watery dish)! Also, if you love spicy food like me, feel free to add in some diced green chilies – but if you prefer it mild, then this recipe is perfect for you!
Hope you can join us at the Indian popup food event!
To make the roasted eggplant: Pre-heat oven to 425F. Coat the eggplant with a bit of oil and salt and pierce all over with a fork. Roast for 30 minutes, or until blistered and a bit charred (but not burnt).
Remove the stalk of the eggplant and scoop out the flesh into a bowl. Using a fork, mash it well and place it to the side.
Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat and add the cumin seeds, coriander and turmeric and cook for about 30 seconds until the spices get a bit darkened and warm and fragrant. Add the onion and ginger garlic paste and cook for about 8 minutes. (if you don't have ginger garlic paste - you can easily make your own: just add some freshly peeled ginger and garlic in a blender with some olive oil and puree until a paste forms. If you don't have fresh, just sub 1 tsp ground ginger and 2 cloves of garlic, minced).
Add the petite diced tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes.
Slice the okra in small pieces and add to the pan. Cook for another 5 minutes until the okra is tender and a little crispy.
Add the eggplant to the pan and cook for another 4-5 minutes until the eggplant has warmed through with the spices and tomato, onion mixture.
Scoop the dip into a big bowl, drizzle with some more olive oil, squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice and top with fresh parsley. Garnish with more lemon or lime slices.
Serve hot with fresh naan bread, pita, or gluten-free crackers!