Friday, July 31, 2009

Carrot Side Dish

One of my rules of cooking is: the simpler the better. Not very original, I know, but there are people out there who think a complicated dish is going to taste better and make a longer lasting impression. The stewed carrots I make as a side dish often garner compliments and when asked for the recipe I can honestly reply: "Oh, it's nothing, just carrots and parsley".
This recipe for 6 is from Edda Servi-Machlin's excellent book Classic Italian Jewish Cooking but I added the garlic.

Stewed Carrots

1 1/2 lbs carrots (5 cups)
3 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion
1 large clove garlic
3/4 C. water
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper

Chop the onion and slice carrots while heating the oil. Add the peeled garlic clove to the oil and let it infuse for a few minutes, remove when golden. Add onion and carrots with salt and pepper to taste. Sautee for a few minutes, then add water, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
Uncover the carrots and cook on a high flame until the remaining water has evaporated. Add parsley and let cool.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Crostata alla Marmellata - Pie

Crostata is an Italian desert pie that I don't bake very often, given the amount of butter that goes into a pie crust, but I somehow caught the pie bug yesterday and the result was quite tasty.

300 grams flour (a little less than 3 cups)
2 egg yolks
1 egg
1 1/2 C sugar
150 gr butter
Your favorite jam
Optional: grated rind of one lemon

Combine the flour, sugar and butter softened at room temperature. Add the egg yolks and whole egg and lemon rind. Work the dough for 10 minutes then cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 355 F. Divide the dough in half and lay one half in a pie pan. Spread the jam and use the rest of the dough to form a grid over the jam. Bake for 40 minutes or so.


Monday, July 27, 2009


Vareniky are Russian boiled dumplings filled with potatoes, cheese, berries or anything you might have on hand. You could of course fill them with meat and call them kreplach. The vareniky pictured above were made by my husband and filled with mashed potatoes with plenty of fried onions, and some had a filling of cottage cheese. He served them topped with sour cream and with a side of arugula.
Pilmeny are meat dumplings that are usually smaller than vareniky and I'm told that the main difference between the two dumplings is that the meat in the pilmeny is raw and cooks together with the dumpling, while with vareniky/kreplach you would brown the meat before stuffing.

Some links to vareniky recipes:
Online Cookbook

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Cold Cucumber Soup

Two summers ago, a few hours before my daughter was born, I put together a cool cucumber soup, covered it with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge, not to be seen until dinner time. As it turned out, that was the last I saw of it until over a week later. The c-section I had kept me from going downstairs much of the first week I was home from the hospital and I studiously avoided the kitchen with its piled up dishes. When I eventually ventured down to the kitchen and opened the fridge, I was greeted by my neatly covered cucumber soup, untouched and covered by a layer of gray mold.

Cold Cucumber Soup
(this recipe is in my folder and I think I printed it from

2 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp salt
3 cucumbers
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/4 C mint leaves
1 tbsp red wine vinegar

Peel and crush garlic and place all the ingredients in a blender, blending until smooth. Taste for salt and pepper and serve at room temperature or chilled.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Quick Challah

When we don't have guests I make an easy four-cup-flour recipe that yields two or three small challahs.

2 1/4 tsp. dry active yeast
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 C. oil
3/4 C. lukewarm water
2 eggs
3 3/4 C. flour

Mix yeast with 3/4 c. flour and some of the sugar. Pour water over mixture, mix well and let sit for about 20 minutes until it puffs up. Add oil, eggs, sugar and mix well, then add the remainder of the flour and salt and knead for a few minutes. Add a little more flour if too sticky.
Let dough rise for a couple of hours then form shapes and bake at 350 F for 35-40 minutes.

Sometimes instead of using an egg I sprinkle water over the challah to form a nice crust.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Roasted Red Pepper Soup

This is an easy soup I adapted from a couple of sources and it's easy to play around with and use in different ways.

Red Peppers
Onion, chopped
Basil, chopped/shredded
Salt, Pepper
Olive oil
Optional: broth

Broil the peppers, turning until brown on all sides. Let cool, then peel and seed and cut into strips. Warm olive oil in a pot and add chopped onion. When the onion is transparent add the peppers, garlic, broth and spices. Bring to a boil then simmer for 10-15 minutes. Pour soup into blender and give it a quick blend. Return to pot and serve!

Serving options:

Add cheese before serving
Chill in fridge and serve cold with some sour cream


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

9 Days Panic

The supermarket was unusually packed for a Wednesday afternoon. This day is usually quiet before the Thursday shabbos rush. As soon as I entered the parking lot I drove into a jam and had to wait for cars to maneuver before finding a quiet spot to park.
Inside the store shoppers' carts were overflowing and cashiers were rushing to open additional stations. It occurred to me that people may be buying their dairy supplies for the nine days and I did in fact see lots of traffic in the milchig aisle. I always wonder why people panic and swap so many recipes for the 9 days, do they really eat meat every day of the week during the rest of the year?
I didn't think so.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

What a Waste!

I was thinking about how a greasy slice of pizza is such a waste of money and you're better off baking your own from scratch unless there is a classy brick oven pizza joint where you live. That got me thinking of other classic money wasters:

- Heimishe brand pasta

- Kedem wine (technically this saves you money but if it's real wine you're after you could get Alfasi from Chile which is not expensive and not bad at all and you won't be lying when you call it wine. That was an awful run-on sentence.

- Hiring professional painters: painting on your own is easy, fun and a great workout, not to mention all the cash you save on labor costs.

- Lots of baby products that we think we must buy because of great advertising, a subject discussed in the great book Parenting, Inc. Did babies not sit before Bumbo chairs?

- Shopping in stores you can't really afford because you have to keep up with the Schlesingers.

Got any more?

Fridge Pasta Sauce Pics

Monday, July 20, 2009

Fridge Soup and Pasta Sauce

Fridge Soup is what I make when I don't want to run to the store and realize I might as well use what I have, because even when I feel 'there is nothing to eat' the kitchen is never truly empty and our fridge is always overflowing. A quick vegetable soup served over rice or couscous or your carb of choice is a perfectly filling meal that you can serve up relatively quickly.

I do the same with pasta sauces and tonight I plan on using some of the leftover chicken soup from shabbos and the ingredients of the vegetable drawer for a sauce.

Stir fry/sauce:

One large onion
Fresh garlic
Butternut squash
Chicken broth
Salt, pepper, parsley, paprika, bay leaf
Optional: flour or cornstarch for thickening
Optional: dry white wine

Slice carrots, zucchini and onion and cut the squash into medium cubes. Saute onion in deep pan then add the other vegetables. Peel garlic, smash it lightly with a knife to help release the flavors and add to pan. Add spices and sautee veggies for 8-10 minutes until al dente. Add chicken broth, bring to a boil, then minimize the flame and let the broth boil down to desired sauce consistency, checking for spices once in a while.
Cook your pasta until one minute less than it says on the box. Add it to the sauce to finish cooking for a minute or two, then serve immediately. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Fishy Business

From time to time I avoid the ridiculously high prices of fresh fish by opting for the frozen variety (don't tell my husband). I've had success with Dagim's flounder fillets that come in a bag. I defrost them in cold water, pat dry with paper towels and fry in bread crumbs or a beer batter.
I tried Dagim's frozen sole fillets in a box and they were awful, I had to throw them out.

Beer Batter for Fish:

About equal parts beer and flour, add salt, pepper and other spices you might prefer, mix well and dip fish, letting excess batter drip off before frying.

Cleaning Monopoly

Around here not having a clean lady is pretty unheard of and even something you might not want to mention in public. Futhermore, there seems to a monopoly of sorts on good cleaning ladies. My friend tells me that once someone finds a woman who can really clean, this someone, Mrs X, becomes an unofficial broker for this woman and anyone who wants to 'borrow' her must first go through Mrs. X who 'discovered' her. The whole thing doesn't sit well with me.

Cleaning your own house does save some money although I have no problem with people who leave the cleaning to someone else. My home is not always as clean and neat as I would like it (I do have a toddler and my husband and I both collect books and possible (read: probably not) antiques we find at yard sales, so there goes the 'neat' part) but I do try to clean a little every day. Somone who came over for a shabbos meal walked in and said 'Well this looks like a house that is lived in'! I knew exactly what she meant because i've seen homes in the area that were spotless and without a toy or book in sight. Of course they probably have a playroom in the basement, but sometimes too clean is a little eerie, especially when there are kids living there.

Free Reads

This is going to sound cheap because you might say, how much does a magazine subscription cost anyway? But the simple truth is that it all adds up. We do purchase two subscriptions but I get the rest at no cost off freebie forums such as There is no scam or fraud involved since publishers actively try to bump up their readership for advertising or other purposes, which I read about once but can't be bothered to summarize it all what with the humidity today, I'm just waiting for something to cook so I can escape the kitchen. Yes, my laptop is in the kitchen and it's pretty convenient when looking up recipes, although my two year old already thinks she owns the computer so it's difficult to get a turn. What, you thought I was the boss around here?

Sorry, am I rambling? Back to the magazines, you can easily get free subscriptions for a few issues or even a year or two, all you have to do once the time is up is cancel.

Frugal Shabbos, or: Another Beef 3 in 1

A couple of weeks ago I decided to purchase one package of ground meat for shabbos instead of 1 pack chicken and 1 pack meat. I made soup with meatballs, also known as frikadelka, frikadela or frikadelle depending on the language. I seasoned the meat and formed small meatballs which I sauteed with onions, then added carrots, zucchini, and a potato, all diced. I used the rest of the ground beef for cholent and meat patties.

This week we're doing everything with one chicken.

Three in One

Having been reminded that the 9 days were about to fall upon us, I resolved to make a meat dinner and headed to the store with a clear mission.

Tip #1: if the belt is tight do not enter the store without a clear plan, be it a shopping list or any particular strategy you may have perfected.

I approached the meat aisle and quickly settled on a package of fresh ground beef, weighing in at about 2.13 lbs if I recall correctly. Once home, I removed a little over half of the meat and froze the rest. Dinner was to be a meatloaf with sweet and sour sauce with sides of mashed potatoes and a quick salad. Hearty comfort food, possibly too heavy for July but hey, nobody was complaining. Dinner was a success and the following day I warmed up the potatoes in a pan with some olive oil and added the leftover meatloaf slices, briefly searing them.

Day three was upon us and I still had 2 slices of meatloaf to get rid of. I removed the extra ground beef from the freezer allowing it to thaw on the counter until I was ready to make dinner, which was going to be beef lasagna. I browned the beef, let it rest on a plate while I sauteed onions, carrots and mushrooms then added canned crushed tomatoes and the browned beef with spices. After bringing the sauce to a boil I added and broke up the remaining meatloaf slices and constructed my lasagna.

I am contemplating warming up the rest of the lasagna for the third course on Friday night. A bit unconventional but it tastes good and this is no time to waste some good food, is it?