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Jan 2011 17

Don’t be undone by the fancy title – a bisque is really just a pureed vegetable soup. Perfect for this time of year, which, to me, is all about comfort food. It’s when I reach for recipes that are homey and familiar. I don’t want to fiddle with complicated or fancy recipes, I simply want to take solace in the kitchen, lingering over a bubbling pot and mindlessly stirring away at something that will fill my belly with warmth. Sweet roasted garlic, butternut squash with edges tinged caramel, and the earthy fragrance of cinnamon, cumin and coriander – this soup fits the bill perfectly for winter. Serve it with crusty bread and you have a light but sustaining dinner. You can make it dairy by substituting whole milk for the soy milk and vegetable stock for the chicken stock.

You will need:

1 butternut squash (weighing about 2lbs)
1 small head garlic
vegetable oil spray

1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp hot Hungarian paprika
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp curry powder
1½ c chicken stock
3/4 c plain soy milk (I like PC Organics and So Good original)
2 tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 c chopped fresh cilantro or chives (to garnish)

Preheat your oven to 400°F.

If your squash is really tough, puncture the skin with a knife and microwave it on high for 4-8 minutes to soften.

Allow the squash to cool, then cut it in half and scoop the seeds out with a spoon. Spray or brush the cut sides with oil and place, cut side down, on a sturdy baking sheet. Peel the papery outer skin from the garlic bulb (but don’t separate the cloves), slice just the root end off, and wrap the bulb in aluminum foil. Place it on the baking sheet with the squash and bake till both are soft, about 40-50 minutes. Allow the squash and the garlic to cool.

Sqeeze the garlic pulp out of the skins and into a blender. Add the squash pulp (scoop it out with a large spoon) and the spices. Puree, drizzling in the chicken stock and soy milk until you’ve reached a consistency you like.

Transfer the soup to a pot and add the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer over low heat and serve hot, with a sprinkling of choppped cilantro or chives to garnish.

Serves 4, generously.

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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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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 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 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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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

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