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Archive for the ‘condiment’ Category

I went to Israel on Friday!

Ok, it was just an hour. And it was over Zoom. But the challah workshop I attended truly, truly transported me to Mattat in the Galilee, to the kitchen and garden of Erez Komarovsky. Guided by my friend (and Sababa author) Adeena Sussman and hosted by The Jewish Food Society, dozens of us worldwide baked wild spring challah alongside Erez, whom Adeena calls the godfather of artisanal baking in Israel.

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In his kitchen, at a stone-paved, wood-covered counter and against the soundtrack of chirping birds, Erez kneaded and rolled and braided challah, incorporating greens and herbs and roots and flowers plucked from his garden. Fittingly, he prepared two different versions – one stuffed with artichoke confit, studded with artichoke leaves and flowers and herbs, then showered in rose petals. I’ve photographed my version of the second type – infused with garlic oil, stuffed with garlic confit, and interwoven with root-to-stem strands of wild garlic, green onion, and scallions (he uses freshly dug entire garlic cloves, but I used what I was able to get at the greenmarket and grocery store).

Erez explained that moving to Mattat, just south of the Lebanese border, nearly two decades ago completely changed his life: “I improved my skills as a chef and baker because I live in nature, see seasons, grow my own vegetables.” He laments that baking has been slow to embrace the idea of cooking locally, seasonally, and with terroir. Adeena nicely summarizes that with challahs that come straight from the garden, Erez can bring the essence of nature and one’s surroundings into his bread. And, so could we.

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The virtual audience peppered him with questions to which he and Adeena responded with equal parts technical culinary knowledge, commitment to season and locale, dry humor, and near-continuous laughter.

On the mechanics of challah baking, Erez advises:

… store your yeast in the freezer, it’ll last a year, more than a year, probably longer.

… use the highest protein flour you can find. In Israel there is specialized challah flour, ground from inner part of the kernel, that is less elastic so that when you open the challah (which is how Israelis refer to rolling out the strands), they don’t spring back. Bread flour is nearly as good, AP will suffice if that’s what you have. 

… instead of whole wheat, try spelt, it’s nutty but not as coarse.

… add salt only after kneading dough for a few minutes because it slows yeast growth.

… after rolling out the strands, twist them to give them more strength.

… braid challah loosely to give it room to expand in the oven

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But more fun are his dramatic responses that demonstrate his philosophy on food and life, tempered with an understanding that we each have our own reality and we can’t (unfortunately) all live in Erez’s world:

What if  you can’t find fresh young garlic? If you can’t find fresh garlic, do not make garlic challah. 

Can you use canned artichokes instead of fresh? No. Use what’s in season. You can use mushrooms if mushrooms are in season. If you have good tomatoes, you can roast the tomatoes. Onions, onion confit. You can do peas. You can do mushrooms. You can do chicken liver. 

Do you make sweet challah? Yes, 100%! I love making sweet challah. Now is the season for apricots, so I make knoedel – marillinknoedel – an apricot dumpling. What about using jam? No, too sweet. Well, maybe you can use apricot jam. Or roast the apricots and then drain in a colander. 

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Is there a point in the process when you can freeze the challah dough, so you can bake it in the future? Freezing is good in Wyoming and for the wolves. Freezing challah, why do you have to freeze the challah? Make it fresh. I do not freeze challah. And I know, but really, you can freeze it any time you want. 

How do you store challah, how do you keep it fresh? You eat it. You don’t store it. But, if you want some for tomorrow, if you have some extra, keep it in a paper bag or wrap it in a towel overnight. 

What if  you wanted to make smaller challot? Rolls even? Sure, you can do small, very small if you are obsessive. Go ahead if you have a lot of time because you’re still in quarantine…You can do very small, you can make even microscopic challah if you’d like.

Ahem, guilty:

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And then there’s using baking to honor tradition and history.

What flavor will the rose petals add to the artichoke challah? Smell, and rose flowers do not have a lot of flavor. My grandmother used to make rose jam, so it’s memories here, and my family. 

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After leaving the loaves to rise, Erez and Adeena led us out to the garden. First stop is one of Erez’s several outdoor ovens: This was my first taboon. It’s straw and mud, like in Egypt, by our ancestors. We follow as they meander through the greenery, pausing to look at flowers, pull herbs, taste leaves, pick strawberries, sigh at the views.

Erez approaches some sunflowers: I also use sunflower leaves, and the sunflowers for baking. It’s very good, it’s kind of nose to tail baking. It’s something I don’t know why we’re not doing it. I use every part. Exhibit 1: his sunflower challah.

Adeena asks, how did you learn to grow these vegetables so well? I didn’t learn. I don’t do it so well. It’s trial and error. You just put down good earth. And give it a good compost, and a lot of sun and a lot of water. 

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I think Erez would appreciate the moniker that a new friend, Eve Sicular (bandleader of Isle of Klezbos and Metropolitan Klezmer) dubbed a photo of my challah: vilde challah*. 

Vilde challah. So perfect.

Erez Komarovsky’s Wild Spring Challah 

I’m not going to recreate Erez’s instructions here because they speak for themselves. Here is Erez’s challah recipe shared by the Jewish Food Society. If you scroll down a bit, you’ll find instructions for artichoke and garlic confits. 

However, I do have to make a confession: I used Adeena’s challah recipeYears ago, my father had lost a good amount of weight using the Diet Center meal plan; when asked by a friend whether he had added exercise to his regimen, he responded, “of course not, I didn’t want to add too many variables. I have no doubt that Erez’s base challah recipe is top notch, but as my father’s daughter, I stick with Adeena’s which has been a constant since receiving her cookbook last year. The confit and leaves and roots provided enough variables for me at one time. 

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* In Yiddish, vilde means wild, and vilde challah is a play on the phrase vilde chaya which translates to wild beast. It’s a term often used to describe a kid who is especially rambunctious. Maurice Sendak’s mother used to call him a vilde chaya, and he went on to write Where the Wild Things Are.

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Spring fruits and vegetables, in the Northeast at least, arrive with exclamation points.

Asparagus!

Morels!

Peas!

Fiddleheads!

Favas!

The exclamation pointiest of the exclamation points is ramps. I mean, ramps! Better yet, RAMPS!

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Because they’re typically foraged and their season is short, these alliums could start a cult with worshipers preparing all year for the few weeks these pungent (and, whew, they are pungent!) guys emerge, praying to the gods of rain and sun and dirt, stalking farmers market for the first hint of these wild leeks that look a bit like scallions but with purplish stems and broad leaves. Mario Batali even made a video about them that’s worth a watch.

When I spied a few bundles on friends’ Instagram feeds, I beelined to my neighborhood farmers’ market. It was the first Friday after Passover and while I was very happy to see She Wolf Bakery and grab the last maple and oat loaf, there was little in the soil-plucked, tree-picked category. The following week, same thing. I brought home a bundle of branches covered in buds and the promise of my own personal cherry blossom festival. To date they’ve only sprouted leaves. Not a single flower yet, but I have faith.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI finally trekked down to the Union Square Greenmarket hoping for something, anything, of the green variety. My schlep was rewarded with an entire table of ramps. I loaded up and then went a little bit crazy. Scallions. Upland cress (which is like watercress, but more peppery: I’ve been chopping it up like parsley and adding it to Israeli salad). A few mint plants for good measure. By the time I got home, my bag reeked but I didn’t care.

The most common ramp recipe I found was for pesto, but I wanted to make something slightly different. In the past I’ve sautéed ramps, and this time I went for a chimichurri-like sauce with a dash of vinegar and some red pepper flakes. While the herbs for chimichurri are usually hand chopped and mixed with oil, I sliced my finger earlier in the week (it’s still healing and not very pretty looking) and decided to just throw everything in the food processor for a smoother puree.

I’ve been slathering this on everything from bread to an omelette to fish. And mixed it with yogurt, a bit of mayo, and a squeeze of lemon to dress cabbage slaw. I’m even thinking about trying to make skirt steak to showcase the sauce (you might have noticed that the only been I ever make is braised – I’m sort of scared of ruining a steak).

Ramp chimichurri

Adapted from Vegetarian Ventures and A Couple Cooks. Make sure to clean the ramps really well – they’re not as gritty as leeks, but they are related. The extra step of blanching the leaves will help the sauce retain a bright green color. 

Makes 1 cup

–  approximately 25 ramps (2 -3 bunches)

– 2 T sherry vinegar

– 1/4 C olive oil, plus extra for storage

– 1 t aleppo pepper

– 1/2 t salt

Wash. Separate the leaves from the bulbs. Swish the leaves in a big bowl of water to dislodge any dirt, draining and replacing the water until it runs clear (this may take quite a few repeats). Cut the roots off the bulbs and then remove the outer slimy layer.

Blanche and shock. Make an ice bath. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Drop the leaves in until they wilt, about 10 seconds, and then transfer to the ice bath. Once cool, squeeze as much water as possible from the leaves.

Puree. In a food processor, pulse the ramp leaves and bulbs, vinegar, oil, pepper, and salt until smooth, but not too smooth.

Store. Cover with a thin layer of oil to prevent browning and refrigerate.

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Well, hello December, also known as birthday month here at Kosher Camembert. This year I’m skipping the house party shindig and the restaurant brunch and just hanging out with my friends and family in more intimate settings.

It’s been a been a busy time – I’m in Orlando right now at a conference on health care quality and it feels really good to be back in the industry while focusing on what I believe might be my true calling, the result of a long meandering career path better explained by serendipity than by design. Then another conference next week, and hopefully a trip to DC as the year draws to a close.

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But before we rush ahead, I have a quick little catch up from November. Because of all the Rosh Hashanah hosting I did, I held back on the cooking for Thanksgiving, and only made cranberry sauce.

Of course, me being me, I had to make two different types.

First up, the boozy one. A traditional cranberry sauce, highly jellied and spiked with sweet sticky port. The alcohol cooks off during a very long simmer, leaving the sauce thick with pectin and tinged with a plummy after note from the fortified wine.

Next, the fruity. Reminiscent of my mother’s favorite method of mixing a can of cranberry sauce with one of mandarins and another of chunked pineapple, this one starts off with a persimmon puree base into which the cranberries melt and then cubed fresh persimmon is mixed in. Don’t let the poor grammar of the previous sentence fool you – it’s a winner.

If you want to learn more about cranberries, harvesting, and operations management, take a look at the HBS case study that we used in business school. Otherwise, just scroll right down for the recipes.

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Boozy cranberry port sauce 

Adapted from Food & Wine but will less sugar, a bit of honey, and a pinch of salt for balance. 

Makes a generous 2 cups

– 3 satsumas (or 4-5 mandarins, or 1 1/2 oranges)

– 12 oz fresh cranberries

– 1/2 C ruby port

– 1/2 C sugar

– 2 T honey

– 1/2 t kosher salt

Prepare. Zest and juice citrus. You want 1/2 cup of juice. Pick out any squished or blemished cranberries and remove any stems and then rinse the berries.

Boil, then simmer. In a saucepan over medium heat, mix all the ingredients and bring to a boil. Lower the heat until the the mixture bubbles gently. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes until the berries burst and the sauce thickens and gels. The longer you cook the mixture, the thicker and more jelly-like the sauce will be.

Serve. Serve at room temperature or slightly warmed.

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Cranberry persimmon sauce

Inspired by Gourmet. Most recipes I found online involved making a simple cranberry sauce and then adding chunks of persimmon to the warm mixture. I wanted more persimmon flavor to infuse the entire sauce, so I first made a persimmon compote, mixed in cranberries to make a sauce, and then added in chopped persimmon for some fresh fruit chunks.

Makes 3 cups

6 Fuyu persimmons, divided

12 oz cranberries

1 1/4 C water, divided

1/2 C  sugar, divided

Prepare. Separate the four ripest persimmons from the two firmer ones. Peel all the persimmons, pull or cut off the green leaves and step, and cut in half. Remove any hard core, and cut into cubes, about 1/4-1/2 inch around – you can be less precise with the softer ones because they’re going to be cooked down. Pick out any squished or blemished cranberries and remove any stems and then rinse the berries.

Boil, then simmer. In a saucepan over medium heat, bring to a boil the 4 softer chopped persimmons, 1/2 cup water, and 1/4 cup sugar. Lower the heat until the mixture bubbles gently. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes until the fruit softens.

Puree. Using an immersion blender, puree the persimmon mix. You’ll have about 1 cup.

Boil, then simmer. Mix the cranberries, 1/4 cup sugar, and 3/4 cup water into the saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Turn the heat down until the mixture bubbles gently. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes until the berries burst and the sauce thickens. It won’t gel like traditional cranberry sauce because the persimmon puree reduces the impact of the cranberries’ pectin. If you want your sauce to thicken a bit more, you can cook it a little longer uncovered.

Stir. Once the sauce cools, stir in the two remaining chopped persimmons.

Serve. Serve at room temperature or slightly warmed.

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My mother keeps packets of Gulden’s spicy brown mustard in her purse.

There used to be a kosher grocery store in Maryland that my parents frequented and, in the front of the store was a hot dog stand. The stand only provided bright yellow mustard, but my dad likes his mustard deli-style spicy. So he would slip a jar of mustard from the store into my mom’s cart to squirt on the one dog that he’d eat. After this happened a few times, my mom got smart. Even though the store and the hot dog stand are no longer around, she still stashes my dad’s favorite mustard for hot dog emergencies.

It shouldn’t come as such a surprise that I homed in on the recipe for spicy whole-grain mustard in The Gefilte Manifesto: New Recipes for Old World Jewish Foods. I spoke to co- authors and Gefilteria co-founders Jeffrey Yoskowitz and Liz Alpern last month, and you can find our discussion over on The Forward. The conversation and article is peppered with words like gospel and ambassador, and this book gives even more evidence that these two are leading the next generation of Jewish food historians, champions, makers, and fressers.

Their approach to recipe development is as deliberate as their philosophy and, if you wanted, you could buy the book just for the instructions (but why would you?). As someone who has reviewed my fair share of cookbooks, it was clear to me that the recipes were double, triple, quadruple tested and the abundant notes and variations make the book approachable to anyone. That’s not to say that the dishes are quick and easy – in fact, many of them are quite involved – but you can rest assured that if you read the recipes all the way through (beware of long fermentation, soaking, and rising times), you’re in safe hands.

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Before we get to the recipe, a few notes. This mustard is sinus-clearingly intense, and I’ll be giving a jar to my parents over Rosh Hashanah. The recipe requires an overnight soak and then two days to mellow, so prepare for that. If you want to lower the heat, I’ve done a little research and think that substituting milder yellow mustard seeds for brown will help; Jeffrey also suggested upping the honey or trying a more delicate vinegar.

Spicy whole-grain mustard

Reprinted from The Gefilte Manifesto: New Recipes for Old World Jewish Foods

Mustard is a key player in Ashkenazi cooking. The mustard plant, a member of the Brassica family, has some pretty important relatives in cabbage and horseradish. Can you imagine eastern European Jewish cooking without them? Probably not. And you also probably can’t imagine a hot deli pastrami sandwich without spicy ground mustard. Personally, I can’t fathom life without a hot deli pastrami sandwich.

Why make your own mustard? Some store-bought mustard contains thickeners and unnamed “spices.” But more important, homemade mustard is just really good. Liz and I cooked a four-course pop-up dinner one January night at Barjot, a restaurant in Seattle. We made almost everything ourselves, from the schmaltz to the pastries. But we didn’t make mustard because Barjot makes its own. After the meal, a guest pulled me aside and said, “Everything was great, but the mustard is out of this world.” Oof. It was time for us to make our own. This recipe is inspired by Barjot’s.

Ashkenazi mustard should have bite and texture. Smear it on Home-Cured Pastrami (page 210) and Home-Cured Corned Beef (page 207), eat it with savory Roasted Garlic Potato Knishes (see page 195), and use it for salad dressings.

1 cup whole brown mustard seeds

1¼ cups apple cider vinegar

¼ cup mustard powder

2½ tablespoons honey

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1. Place the mustard seeds and vinegar in an airtight glass container and let sit at room temperature until the seeds absorb the vinegar and plump up, at least overnight or up to 24 hours.

2. Pour the seed mixture into a food processor and add the mustard powder, honey, and salt. Process for a minute or two until a paste forms.

3. Scoop the mustard into a glass jar, seal, and refrigerate for about 2 days to allow the flavor to mellow out. Don’t be alarmed if the initial smell is rather pungent. The mustard will keep in the refrigerator for 4 to 6 months.

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