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Sep 2010 27

Every year during Sukkos time, we enjoy the same drama: families huddle inside a flimsy outdoor hut, eating, drinking and praying the wind won’t send their schach tumbling down the street. Although this is tons of fun, the weather is cold, and it is often rainy and/or windy. This is why, in my mind, the Sukkos menu begs for a soup course. There’s no comfort we need more, camping outside in the fall, than a piping hot bowl of yummy.

Pho is a great option because, like Sukkos, it is social – meant to be shared among friends and family. It is also lots of fun. A platter of fresh herbs and vegetables is placed in the middle of the table. Everyone is encouraged to mix and match, filling their bowls with colourful ingredients, assembling their own unique combinations. Then, the fun part: boiling hot broth is ladled into each bowl, cooking all of the ingredients in under a minute. (Note that this makes it an appropriate meal for chol hamoed or yontiv, but not for Shabbos.)

If you cannot get beef broth, you can easily make some by simmering beef chuck, marrow bones and onions in lots of water for 3 hours. This is preferable, but if you’re strapped for time you can cheat and simmer a few beef-flavoured boullion cubes in chicken stock for a quick faux beef broth. I promise I won’t tell. 🙂

You will need:

1/3 lb flank steak, london broil, or sirloin

6-7 c. beef broth
5 whole cloves
1 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled
2 tbsp hoisin sauce
juice of 1 lime
salt, to taste

230g (1/2 lb) rice noodles, cooked and drained

plus any number of the following “fillings” (try to include at least 4 or 5 choices):

1/4 c cilantro, chopped
1/4 c mint, chopped
1/4 c basil, chopped
1/4 c green onions, thinly sliced
1 or 2 jalapeno peppers, de-seeded and thinly sliced
1/4 c bean sprouts
1/4 c kohlrabi, thinly sliced or grated (on the large holes)
1/4 c baby bok choy, thinly sliced
1/4 c shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/4 c enoki mushrooms

Place the steak in the freezer (you want to leave it there for 30 minutes). Meanwhile, in a large pot, bring the beef broth, cloves and ginger to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, about 30 minutes. Remove 1/4 c of the broth into a cup or bowl, and whisk in the hoisin sauce. Add this back to the rest of the broth. Add the lime juice and salt, to taste.

Remove the steak from the freezer. Slice the beef across the grain, as thinly as humanly possible. Set aside.

Take out 4 soup bowls and divide the rice noodles among them. Assemble the rest of the ingredients on a platter, including the raw beef.

To serve, heat the broth. Give each person a bowl of noodles and have them assemble their own combinations of vegetables, herbs and beef. When the broth is at a rolling boil (i.e., going crazy), bring the pot to the table and immediately ladle enough scorching hot broth into each bowl to cover all of the ingredients.

Let the soup rest for a minute (to allow the beef to cook) before digging in.

Serves 4.

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Aug 2010 10

Warm summer evenings call for light, easy and slightly alcoholic desserts. This zesty, refreshing pie is just like a cool, creamy cocktail. As one recent taste-tester enthused, “it tastes like Saturday night”.

The recipe is adapted from the Frozen Margarita Pie in this cookbook. I use rum because I like the flavour, but vodka can be used as well. And, to suit the tastes (or average age) of your audience, the booze level can be adjusted significantly. (Hint: I often cut back the alcohol until I’ve poured out the first pie, then I mix the extra rum in for the second adults-only pie, which I mark with a slice of lime so as not to get them confused.)

Putting this together cannot be easier. Using pre-made graham cracker crusts, as I do, makes this a simple mix-and-freeze operation. Since this is a frozen dessert, the recipe here makes 2 pies. Trust me, you will want to pull that second one out not long after the first has been slurped up.

You will need:

2 pre-made graham cracker pie crusts
1 can frozen limeade concentrate (355ml)
2 quarts vanilla ice cream (my favourite pareve brand is Soy Delicious)
zest of 1 lime
juice of ½ lime
100ml rum (or more, if you like)
additional lime slices, lime zest, or whipped cream to garnish (optional)

Leave the limeade concentrate and the ice cream out to soften, about 20 minutes.

Place the ice cream and the limeade in the bowl of a large mixer and, using a paddle attachment, mix on low speed until more or less combined. Add the lime zest and juice, and mix until incorporated.

{Note: If you are making one kid-friendly pie, at this point you would pour out half of the mixture into one pie shell, cover with tin foil, and freeze. Then add the alcohol (start with half and add slowly to taste) to the rest of the ice cream mixture, pour and freeze – just don’t forget which is which!}

Otherwise, add all of the rum to all of the ice cream, mix until incorporated, and divide the mixture evenly between the pie crusts.

If you’re so inclined, decorate the tops of the pies with piped whipped cream rosettes, paper-thin lime slices, lime zest twists, icing sugar, or any combination of the above.

Cover the pies with tin foil (to protect whipped cream rosettes, flip the plastic lid from the pie crust over the pie to make a dome, and fold the foil edges over to hold it in place).

Freeze until firm (about 3 hours).

Makes 2 pies, 8-10 servings each.

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Jun 2010 17

Lime rice, fraternal twin sister to lemon rice, is a staple side dish in many south Indian households. Tangy, yellow-tinged basmati rice is dotted with crunchy mustard seeds, gently roasted almonds and cilantro like fresh, colourful confetti. For a variation, try roasted, unsalted peanuts in place of the almonds. Lime rice pairs refreshingly with spiced ground lamb, either formed into kabobs and grilled, or stir-fried loose, and piled high into lettuce cups.

You will need:

2 c. basmati rice
2 ¾ c. water
½ tsp vegetable oil
½ tsp salt

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp mustard seeds (any type; black are stronger-flavoured, yellow more mild)
½ tsp turmeric
¼ c. whole unsalted almonds
¼ c. lime juice
2 tsp lime zest
2 tbsp chopped cilantro (optional)

In a medium-sized pot, bring the water, ½ tsp vegetable oil and salt to boil. Meanwhile, rinse the rice well in cold water, until the water no longer appears cloudy. Drain the rice and add it to the boiling water, cover, then turn the heat down to low. When the water has been absorbed (about 20 minutes), turn off the heat and fluff the rice with a fork.

In a larger non-stick pot, heat 1 tbsp oil over medium-low heat. Add the almonds and the mustard seeds – they should shimmer in the oil. Keep stirring to roast the almonds evenly. Just when the mustard seeds begin to snap, crackle and pop, whisk in the turmeric, remove the pot from the heat, and whisk in the lime juice and zest.
Add the cooked rice and toss to coat. Stir the chopped cilantro into the rice just before serving.

If you are making this ahead of time (e.g., for Shabbos), then stir in an extra squirt or two of lime juice immediately before serving, along with the cilantro. (Often, when the rice is reheated, the lime flavour dissipates. Adding more lime juice just before serving will revive it, and adding the cilantro at the last second will keep it from wilting.)

Serves 4-6

© Shaby Heltay, 2010

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May 2010 26

This aromatic brisket may be the most tender you will ever have. Forget about leathery, tough slivers of beef – this is so soft you may not even be able to slice it properly, but at any rate, it will fall apart in your mouth, guaranteed.

It is known also as the Wednesday Brisket because, if you’re making this for Shabbos, you start it on Wednesday night. But don’t let that put you off – it is so simple to prepare that it doesn’t feel like cooking at all. And really, it’s not! You just throw everything into your chollent pot (slow-cooker) before bed and let it simmer through the night.

When you wake up the next morning, with the most mouth-watering smell permeating your home, you simply plop the brisket into a baking dish, sauce and all, and leave it in the fridge for the rest of the day. That rest time gives the meat a chance to really soak up the flavours and become even more tender.

Then, on Friday morning, it’s just a matter of slicing the brisket and simmering the sauce a little bit on the stovetop. And that’s really it!

Tender, flavourful, spicy brisket… you’re welcome. 🙂

You will need:

1 large double brisket (about 4-6 lbs)
2 small onions, sliced
1 can of diced tomatoes (28 oz)
1 c water or chicken stock

1 1/2 tsp pepper
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ginger
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp hot paprika
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
pinch saffron threads, crushed
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp chopped parsley or cilantro (optional)

Wednesday night:

Place the brisket in a chollent pot and cover it with all of the other ingredients (except for the parsley). Put the lid on and set it to low heat (it should cook for about 8 hours). Then go to sleep and dream about beef!

Thursday morning:

Transfer the brisket to a baking dish. If there are large deposits of fat on the meat, trim them off now while the brisket is hot. Pour all of the juices into the baking dish too, then cover with plastic wrap and put the brisket in the fridge. Then get on with your day and daydream about beef!

Thursday night:

Do nothing. Ha!

Friday, any time before Shabbos:

Use a spoon to remove the solidified fat from the surface of the sauce.

Transfer the brisket carefully onto a cutting board and slice against the grain. It may fall apart a little bit, because, like I said, it is seriously tender. (Trust me, nobody will complain.)

Transfer the juices to a saucepan or a pot, and simmer, about 20 minutes or until the sauce has thickened a little.

Carefully transfer the brisket slices back into the baking dish, then pour the sauce back over the meat. Cover and warm through in the oven just before serving. Garnish the brisket with chopped fresh parsley or cilantro.

Makes 6-8 servings.

© Shaby Heltay, 2010

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May 2010 04

Ok, baalat tshuva true confessions time: I sometimes miss those days when I would run out to the nearest takeout joint for a veggie pad-thai or a steaming bowl of pho. Growing up traditional/Sefardi, I was always eating ”kosher-style”, so nothing crazy… there was never any lobster or bacon or grenouille on my plate. But my tastebuds have stored away in their memory all of the exotic flavours, colours, textures and smells that I had experienced at those non-kosher (!) restaurants in my previous life.

I’ll admit, Spicykosher.com is partly (mostly?) an exercise in rabbinically-approved gastronomic nostalgia – an excuse to try to recreate all of those delicious dishes in my own kitchen (converting them into kosher recipes, of course) so that I can experience all of that goyish culinary genius once again, from the safety of my segregated pots and pans.

So, about the peppers. Back when my husband and I would eat out at vegetarian restaurants, we came across a little hole-in-the-wall joint in Banff Springs called Nourish. There I had a stuffed pepper that was unlike anything I’d known stuffed peppers to be – a seemingly unlikely combination of vegetables, fruits and nuts that made for a moist, spicy, savoury, sweet and tangy experience. It was very “busy”, yet the flavours were still light, bright and fresh. It completely blew the lid off my expectations, and I have since vowed to recreate that dish at home.

The ingredients sound a little strange in combination, but it is something you must try, especially if you’re into sweet & sour flavours. Shavuos is around the corner, and come to think of it, this would make a hearty side dish in a dairy meal – filling enough, especially alongside fish, to carry the Shavuos seuda. And the brown rice: slow-burning complex carbs to keep you energized for a long night of learning! How perfect!

You will need:

4 medium red bell peppers
1 onion, diced
1 tsp vegetable oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c brown short-grain rice
1 c water

1 egg
1 rib of celery, finely diced
3-4 sundried tomatoes, finely diced
3 pieces of dried mango (this brand is OUTSTANDING), diced
2-3 strawberries, diced
3 walnut halves, finely chopped
2 tbsp tomato paste
3 tbsp dried currants (you can substitute raisins), plumped in simmering water for 5 mins
salt and pepper, to taste
pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp lemon juice
pinch salt

Slice the tops off the peppers (about a 1/2 inch from the top) and scoop the seeds and ribs out with a spoon, so that you have a clean cavity. Cut the stems out from the pepper tops and dice up the leftover scraps of pepper.

Heat the oil over meduim in a nonstick pot, and saute the onions until they are golden, then add the diced peppers, season with salt and pepper, and saute until the peppers are soft. Stir in the rice and the water, and bring it to a boil. Then turn the heat down to low, cover the pot and and simmer until the water is absorbed and the rice is more or less cooked (about 40 minutes – during which time you can get busy dicing all of the other ingredients).

Preheat the oven to 350F, then get on with the stuffing. In a large bowl, beat the egg, then mix in the celery, tomatoes, mango, strawberries, walnuts, 2 tbsp tomato paste, and currants. Mix in the cooked rice and season the whole mess with salt and pepper, and if you like a little extra kick, cayenne pepper.

Stuff the peppers with the stuffing, piling it as high as you can. You may have some stuffing left over, which you can just bake in a seperate little dish (believe me, you won’t want to waste it). In a little bowl, mix the 2 tbsp of tomato paste with the lemon juice and 1/2 tsp of salt, adding a little water as needed to get a nice saucy consistency.

Arrange the peppers in a greased baking dish and pour the tomato sauce generously over the tops of the peppers. Bake uncovered for about 30-35 minutes, or until the tops begin to brown.

You can serve this as a side dish, but all you needs is a big green salad or a bowl of soup to make it a light, satisfying lunch or dinner.

Makes 4.

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Apr 2010 18

I love light, custardy desserts. I love caramel-y desserts. I also love individually plated, pretty “presentation” desserts. Ergo, I love creme caramel – a light, smooth, egg-rich custard bathed in a pool of bittersweet caramel – and it tastes amazing even when “pareved”!

This dessert can be made a day or two in advance and stored in the fridge. I made them in those little disposable aluminum tart shells, but you could just as easily use proper ramekins. I had initially tried this with saffron, but found that the dominant flavour of the caramel cancelled out any saffron taste – a waste if you ask me, considering the fact that saffron is the most expensive spice ever!

Creme caramel ranks about a medium in terms of the level of skill required. The custard part is easy, but making caramel can be tricky. A word of caution. Do not attempt to make the caramel when there are distractions around – curious kids, other things on the stove, etc. ESPECIALLY do not make the caramel with children around! Hot sugar is a gajillion times hotter than boiling water and any contact with skin can leave you scarred for life. (Have I freaked you out yet?)

Don’t be scared, just be organized about it. Clear off your countertops, get your little ramekins lined up. Then, when you are ready to tackle the caramel, put the dog in the basement and stick the kid(s) in the playpen or somewhere else where they can’t escape for 20 minutes. Turn your phones off, pull on some long rubber gloves and make sure your arms aren’t exposed. And NEVER add ANYTHING to the sugar once it has turned into liquid caramel, or it will explode in a very bad way! Hot sugar is scary stuff, you guys! (But when it’s done safely, oh, is it ever worth it!)

While the caramel is cooling, you can get on with the custard (but don’t let the kids roam free again until the caramel is cool).

You will need:

12 ramekins or mini pie shells

1 1/2 c sugar for the caramel

8 eggs
1 c sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
3 c soy milk (vanilla favoured is fine)
3/4 c coconut milk
1/4 c water
1/4 tsp ground cardamom – or 8 whole cardamom pods

To make the caramel, put the sugar into a medium stainless steel pot (preferably one with a long handle) over high heat. Using a long wooden spoon, stir the sugar continuously. After a few minutes, the sugar will start to clump together – that’s how you’ll know it’s working. Keep on stirring, and eventually the sugar will begin to liquify. When the sugar is all liquid, and starts to give off some colour, turn the heat down to meduim and keep stirring until the sugar is a rich golden/light amber colour. Then take the sugar off the heat and pour a little bit – quickly and carefully! – into the bottom of each ramekin, enough to coat the bottoms with caramel.

Then put the pot down, either on the floor or somewhere it won’t be touched or knocked over. After about 15 minutes it will have cooled and you can fill the pot halfway with water and set it on simmer – all of the hard candy will easily dissolve and cleanup will be a cinch!

Hooray, you’ve just made caramel! Give yourself a pat on the back – that was no easy feat! Now you can relax, and leave it all to cool while you get started on the custard.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla. In a pot, whisk together the soy milk, coconut milk, water and cardamom (if you’re using whole pods, bruise them by crushing them a little with the back of a spoon), and place on meduim heat to heat up gently. Keep an eye on it, as soy milk tends to curdle with too much heat.

When the milk begins to steam, remove it from the heat and whisk it into the egg mixture. Then strain this mixture into a large measuring cup, pitcher or bowl. This will ensure that your custard has an even texture and a smooth mouthfeel.

Preheat the oven to 320F. Pour the custard into the ramekins (you can fill them almost to the rim if you have enough).

Prepare a water bath by arranging the ramekins in a large baking/roasting pan (you may need to bake them in batches if your baking pan is not big enough to hold all of them). Then carefully pour water into the pan until it reaches halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

Place the pan in the oven and bake for about 25-35 minutes. The custard will still be slightly jiggly when done, but it shouldn’t look liquidy. Allow the custards to cool and chill them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve them.

To serve, loosen the custards by running a knife along the edges. Place a dessert plate upside-down over a ramekin and invert it, then give the ramekin a little jiggle on the plate to release the custard. All you need as garnish is a fresh berry or two – or just serve, as you may prefer, au naturel.

Makes 12.

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