postimg
Jan 2014 19

Everyone knows about the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld. Well, here is his infamous soup (or at least, my dad’s version of it). It’s a major upgrade from the usual Friday night chicken soup. Little bits of ground beef and lentils float around and give the broth a little bit of “chew”.  The cayenne gives it plenty of kick – start with the smaller amount, then taste and add more, as much as you can handle. Sometimes I serve this with cilantro matzo balls (which are just regular matzo balls with lots of fresh chopped cilantro in them). But to tell you the truth, it doesn’t need the extras.

You will need:

1 tsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp ground beef
3 tbsp tiny red lentils
3 tbsp yellow split peas
10 cups chicken stock
¼ tsp – ½ tsp cayenne pepper
¼ tsp curry powder
4 whole cloves
4 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick, broken in two
4 peppercorns
1 star anise
Pinch saffron
salt to taste
½ c chopped cilantro

In a large soup pot, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef and sauté until browned. Add the lentils, split peas and chicken stock, then turn heat down to medium-low. Stir in the curry powder and cayenne pepper.

Using a small square of cheesecloth, make a bouquet garnis (sort of a makeshift tea bag) with the cloves, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, peppercorns and anise. Add the bouquet garnis to the soup and cover. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally as the lentils often travel to the bottom of the pot and stick there.  Use a slotted spoon or tongs to remove the bouquet garnis.

Using your fingers, crush the saffron in the palm of your hand, being careful not to lose any.  Add the saffron to the soup and season with salt if needed.  When serving, give the pot a good stir to ensure that every bowl will have a small amount of lentils and ground beef in the broth. Garnish each bowl with a generous sprinkling of cilantro.

Serves 8

postimg
Oct 2010 08

I have to get something off my chest. I love my Persian momma, and I love her Persian cooking, but I’ll be frank. Persian food tastes fantastic, but it’s not the most esthetically attractive cuisine in the world. Take one look at some of Iran’s signature dishes and you’ll see what I mean. Ghormeh sabzi, a light and tangy beef and herb stew, looks like this, and check out our prized tender and flavourful kabob. But by far the most un-Martha looking dish happens to also be the most delicious (I’ll spare you the image… Google it if you really want to see). It is the gem of Persian cuisine, koresh fesenjan: duck stew with pomegranate and walnuts.

I love fesenjan, but I had to find a way to make it a little prettier. So I decided to forego the traditional route of simmering the bird forever in the walnut sauce (which results in a big, brown, tasty mess). Instead, the duck is braised in the pomegranate juice alone, then removed while it’s nice and red and shiny. The sauce is then finished with the walnuts to create that famously rich and complex gravy.

Traditionally, pomegranate molasses is used to make fesenjan, but since that may be hard to find kosher, I use bottled pomegranate juice (i.e., Pom Wonderful) instead. Just be careful to get the pomegranate-only version (with the dark red cap), as there are Poms that include a blend of other fruit juices.

This duck deserves to be served with something bright yellow and slightly sweet – mashed butternut squash or a saffron polenta. Or, if you’re more of a purist, serve it alongside a huge, steaming mound of saffron basmati rice.

You will need:

2 ducks, cut up (bone-in, skin on)
1 1/2 c diced onion
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp pepper
salt, to taste
1/2 tsp ground cloves
5-6 c pomegranate juice (3 bottles of Pom)
1 lb walnuts, lightly toasted
1 heaping tbsp honey
3 tbsp chopped parsley (to garnish)

Heat a large electric wok or dutch oven (add a little oil if substituting chicken; duck doesn’t need the added oil as it own fat will render in the hot pan). Sprinkle the duck pieces with salt. Working in batches, brown the duck on all sides over medium-high heat and remove to a platter. You will end up with a good amount of duck fat in the pan – use a spoon to remove about a third of the fat.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the onions, stirring constantly, until they begin to brown. Stir in the pepper, cloves and garlic, then deglaze the wok with about 2 cups of the pomegranate juice, using a wooden spoon to loosen the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

Arrange the duck pieces back in the pan, layering the legs on the bottom and the breasts on top (with the wings, if using). Add the rest of the pomegranate juice (it should almost cover the duck). Simmer, covered, about 30 minutes.

Remove the duck pieces and set them aside. Add the walnuts to the pomegranate juice and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. The walnuts will soften and the sauce will reduce. Use an immersion blender to puree the walnuts in the juice, until it is as smooth as you like it. Stir in the honey and season with salt to taste. You will end up with a lot of extra sauce, but c’est la vie.

To serve, reheat the duck in the oven, covered. Spoon the hot walnut sauce into the middle of the plate (or on the bottom of a large serving platter) and arrange the duck on top. Garnish the duck with chopped parsley, and pass the remaining walnut sauce around in a gravy boat.

Serves 6-8.

postimg
Mar 2010 04

This is the chicken version of lamb tagine, a decadently rich Moroccan stew that is traditionally served on a bed of fresh couscous. I will always prefer lamb, but substituting chicken helps lighten the dish (in both calories and cost), while still retaining the slightly spicy, honeyed sweetness of the original. Don’t be put off by the idea of prunes – when simmered long enough, they practically melt in your mouth, and give the sauce body and richness. Try to use prunes with pits, if you can find them, as the pits keep the prunes moist and tender. The honey in this dish also makes it perfect for Rosh Hashana.

You will need:

2 lbs. chicken thighs (bone-in, with skin)
2 onions, sliced
1 tsp ground (powdered) ginger
1 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp olive oil
1 c chicken or vegetable stock (or, in a pinch, water)
large pinch saffron
3/4 c unsweetened prunes
1/4 c whole unsalted almonds
1/4 c sultana or golden raisins
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp honey
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 – 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
salt to taste
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp chopped chives or cilantro (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a wok or heavy pot. (I often use a wok to prepare this dish, because it allows me to brown more meat at once. A regular heavy pot will do just fine, you just might have to brown the meat in batches.) On medium-high heat, sautee the onions until they are soft, then add the chicken. Sautee them together, sprinkling with the turmeric and ginger, until the meat is browned.

Add the broth, almonds, and prunes to the chicken. Rub the saffron strands between your fingertips to crush them, and add this to the chicken. Cover, reduce the heat to low and allow the chicken to simmer for about 30 minutes. (In the meantime, you can throw together a basic couscous.)

Stir the chicken around a bit, then add the raisins and simmer, covered, for another 20-25 minutes – the chicken should end up very tender. Transfer the meat to a casserole or serving dish and cover to keep warm. You should be left with a pool of sauce studded with fruit and nuts. To this, stir in the cinnamon, honey, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper. Simmer gently until fragrant and slightly thickened, about 2-4 minutes.

Spoon this sauce over the chicken, and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Garnish with an additional sprinkling of finely chopped chives (not green onion) or cilantro, if desired.

Makes 4 servings

postimg
Mar 2010 04

Tandoori chicken is a classic Indian dish, and the perfect introduction for those new to Indian cuisine. The tandoor, for which the dish is named, is the traditional clay oven in which this crimson-coloured chicken is roasted – at home, a barbecue is the closest you can get to replicating the effects of the tandoor. In India, tandoori marinade is typically prepared with yogurt, which helps to tenderize the meat. My father’s kosher version uses pureed onion instead, creating a tremendously flavourful and pungent sauce. Don’t worry if you can’t handle “spicy” foods – the heat level can be adjusted to your taste, simply by adjusting the amount of cayenne pepper, as the tandoori spice itself, though fiery red, is not spicy.

You will need:

3 to 4 lbs skinless chicken thighs
1 large onion
4 cloves garlic, peeled
3 tsp minced fresh ginger
¼ -1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp tandoori spice*
4 tbsp lemon juice
½ c. vegetable oil (not olive)
lemon wedges, to garnish

Throw everything except for the chicken and the lemon wedges into a food processor and whiz until smooth. Taste the marinade – you may want to adjust the seasonings, adding a little more of this or of that, according to your taste. Marinate the chicken in this mixture at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight, in your refrigerator. (If you’re trying this with salmon, don’t let the fish sit longer than 4-5 hours in the marinade, as the acid in the lemon juice will “cook” the fish for you.)

Heat your grill, and oil it lightly. Shake the excess sauce off the chicken and grill on medium-high heat, about 10 minutes per side, or until juices run clear when pierced with a fork. Alternately, if you’d like to bake it, do so in a 400°F oven, sauce and all, for about 20 minutes, turning once. The sauce you’ll have left in the baking pan is insanely delicious over plain basmati rice. Either way, serve the chicken with basmati rice and, if you’d like to get fancy, with a wedge of lemon.

Serves 4

*The best Kosher Tandoori masala in the GTA can be obtained in Thornhill, at Bulk World. 1470 Centre Street Thornhill, Ontario 905-886-1300