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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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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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Mar 2010 22

It’s that time of year again! The harried quest for a delicious, kosher-for-Passover menu is on. Luckily, one of my favourite desserts (which, hooray, is pareve!) just happens to be great for Pesach, and it’s easy and exotic to boot. I love the way the ginger in this ice cream offers a sharp, slightly spicy balance to the rich sweetness of the mango. This would be perfect as a light and refreshing dessert, just when you need that little pick-me-up before bentching at the end of a long, heavy seder.

You will need:

12 eggs, cleanly separated
1 c sugar, divided
1 c + 1 tbsp vegetable oil (not olive!)
2 ripe mangoes, peeled & diced – you want a heaping cup of diced fruit
scant 1 tsp fresh ginger, finely grated
pinch salt

Start by throwing the egg yolks and half a cup of the sugar into a blender or food processor, along with the oil, mangoes, ginger, and salt. Blend the mixture until the mango has been thoroughly pureed and everything is smooth.

In a mixer with the whisk attachment, or in a very large bowl with a hand mixer, whip the egg whites until they are thick and foamy. Add the remaining half cup of sugar and continue to whip until stiff peaks form.

Carefully fold the mango mixture into the egg white mixture with a whisk until it is more or less incorporated. Pour this into two 9 x 13 baking pans (I use the disposable aluminum ones for Passover) and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Place immediately into the coldest part of your freezer, and allow the ice cream to set, about 6 hours.

To serve, just scoop the ice cream right out of the pan. Bejewel your dessert with a few bright red pomegranate seeds or simply dust the tops with a little shredded coconut.

Makes 10-12 servings

Have a Chag Kosher v’Sameach!

 

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Mar 2010 09

I have to be honest about the provenance of this salad, as I cannot claim it to be authentically Tunisian; rather, it is a modified, modernized variation on a simple Tunisian salad comprising thinly sliced fennel marinated in lemon juice. If you’ve never tried fennel, the flavour is somewhat surprising: it looks like celery but tastes like anise (liquorice), and is crisp and refreshing. You can make this salad as is, or you can toss it with a mixture of salad greens (frisee, mache and arugula, for instance) if you’re into “leafy” salads – just add a little more dressing. It is important that the apple you use here is tart – so don’t settle for anything less than the green (granny smith) variety. This salad is also perfect for Rosh Hashana – pomegranate adds colour and crunch, its plentiful seeds reminding us to increase our mitzvot for the coming year.

You will need:

2 bulbs fennel
1 pomegranate
2 granny smith apples
1 lemon
2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Begin by trimming and discarding the tough green stalks, as well as the root ends, of the fennel. Cut the bulbs in half lengthwise and wash the sections, then slice the fennel as thinly as you possibly can. Core the apples and cut them in half, leaving the bright green skins intact. Slice the apples thinly and add them to a bowl with the fennel.

Cut open the pomegranate and separate the seeds from the membranes. You can use whatever method you like, but I find the easiest (and most fun) way is to first cut the pomegranate in half crosswise (i.e., so that you end up with the stem end on one half and the flower end on the other). Then, holding one half cut-side down over a large bowl, whack the top of the fruit repeatedly with something heavy – a soup ladle or a rolling pin should do the trick. Be patient, and you’ll find that eventually, the seeds will rain down into the bowl while the membranes will miraculously remain in the shell.

Add the pomegranate seeds to the fennel and the apple. Add the juice of a lemon, then add the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss the salad to coat, then allow it to marinate in the fridge for several hours before serving.

Makes 4-6 servings

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Feb 2010 05

What I love about this salad is that it’s potato, yes, but so light and refreshing and good for you that the potatoes themselves completely lose their bad-carb stigma. Chickpeas are full of protein and fibre, and their starchy plainness so well-matched to the potatoes as a blank canvas for the dressing, but don’t let that stop you from omitting them altogether on days when all you want is a potato salad – the lack of mayonnaise alone makes this “health food” in my book, chickpeas or not. If you’re not so into cilantro, feel free to substitute any combination of herbs you fancy. I’ve enjoyed this salad tremendously with tarragon, parsley, and basil, respectively. The only absolutes here are that you use Yukon Gold potatoes, and that the lemon juice you use is freshly squeezed: the bottled version from concentrate defies the whole point of this salad, which is the bright, sour flavour of the dressing and the grassy freshness of the herbs.

You will need:
3 large Yukon Gold (yellow-fleshed) potatoes
1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
¼ c. chopped fresh cilantro (coriander)
¼ c. chopped chives
Juice of ½ a lemon
¼ c. rice vinegar
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Peel and dice the potatoes into 1cm cubes, roughly (you don’t have to be perfect).  Drop them into the boiling water and cook between 5-8 minutes, or just until done. Be careful not to overcook these, or they will end up mushy! Drain the potatoes in a colander and set them aside to cool.
Meanwhile, toss the chickpeas into a large bowl with the cilantro and chives. Only when the potatoes are cool may you add them to the chickpeas (otherwise their heat will effectively “cook” the herbs), then dress the whole thing with the lemon juice, rice vinegar and olive oil. Toss to coat evenly, and taste it before adding salt and pepper, as the potatoes will likely already be somewhat salty from the cooking water. Add salt and pepper accordingly, and give it another toss. This tastes great the next day, as the flavours really marinate well together in the fridge.
Serves 6 as part of a meal

© Shaby Heltay, 2009

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Nov 2009 10

I’ll let this dish speak for itself, save to mention that it has become an exceptionally popular add-on to my Shabbos meals, and is an easy, tasty option for Passover. In greater quantities it can stand alone as a main dish, when served alongside a mound of plain basmati rice – though I much prefer the cutesy presentation of the little lettuce boats, which give a crisp, refreshing contrast to the richness and sharp heat of the lamb.

You will need:

1 lb (450 g) ground lamb
4 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, sliced
2 red chillies, chopped (or 1 tsp cayenne pepper)
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. peas
½ bunch cilantro, chopped
1 head iceberg lettuce, or romaine heart

To prepare the lettuce, simply tear off the leaves, selecting the most boat-shaped leaves as your receptacles for the lamb. To further perk them up, after washing, submerge the leaves for several minutes in a sink full of very cold water, then drain well. They should be curved, crisp, and cold. Set aside (preferably in the refrigerator).
In a wok or a large pot, heat the oil on medium. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until they are soft and golden. Add the chillies, salt, ginger, and garlic, and stir well.
Increase the heat to high. Add the lamb and stir-fry for about 10 minutes, or until it is cooked through and most of the water has evaporated. Add the peas and tomatoes, then reduce the heat to medium-low, and let the mixture cook another 3 or 4 minutes.  Stir in most of the cilantro.
To serve, simply scoop the hot lamb into the lettuce cups, arrange them on a platter, and sprinkle over the remaining cilantro.

Serves 4-6, as part of a meal

© Shaby Heltay, 2009