from Orange County Jewish Life magazine, March 2012. (Recipes for Layered Hummus and Eggplant with Roasted Garlic and Pine Nuts plus three varieties of Hamantaschen follow the story.)
Every Jewish school child knows the characters: Ahasuerus, the foolish king; Vashti, the spurned wife; Haman, the wicked first minister (sound your groggers now!); Esther, the brave and beautiful maiden; and Mordecai, her honorable protector. Their tale of intrigue is told in the Scroll of Esther (Megillah) as an annihilation plot is foiled and our people saved. Purim, which begins at sundown on Wednesday, March 7, is the holiday of merriment, mirth, and trickery!
To celebrate our deliverance, sweets are the order of the day. Gifts of cakes and fruit (shaloch manot) are exchanged. For Ashkenazim no Purim celebration would be complete without eating three-cornered hamantaschen, traditionally filled with poppy seeds, while Sephardim
enjoy honeyed pastries called oznei Haman (Hebrew for Haman’s ears).
Bulletin! This just in! Taschen means “pockets,” and Haman never wore a three-cornered hat! (You just can’t believe anything you hear these days.)
New Year’s Eve is almost upon us, and you’re having a party. So why does
the thought of celebrating in your own home with your own family and
friends make you nervous? The whole world is throwing confetti, and
you’re already saying to yourself, “What was I thinking?”
“Special occasions and special recipes do not have to be difficult or
fussy,” says Sheila Lukins in “Celebrate!” (Workman $19.95), a cookbook
I turn to again and again for menus and party ideas for every holiday
Beautiful color photos leap off the page as Lukins invites you to
celebrate not just Thanksgiving and Christmas, but a housewarming, a
bridal shower, a new job, glorious summer… 43 holidays and celebrations
The book begins as the year does, with New Year’s, and offers recipes
for a casual New Year’s Day celebration that won’t leave you harried.
Keep it low-key, she suggests, with an open house buffet and food that
will stay delicious throughout the day as friends drop in and out.
“I believe the most memorable celebrations take place at home,” Lukins
writes. “In mine, all celebrations begin in the kitchen, and part of the
fun is deciding what to prepare, creating a menu with appeal, start to
You’ll find a tempting array of dishes to serve 24 as you ring in the
New Year. This sumptuous buffet includes the foolproof, doable, yet
impressive dishes we’ve come to expect from the coauthor of the “Silver
Party pork tenderloins are the centerpiece with a trio of sauces: Pebre,
a fresh salsa verde with herbs, onions, and garlic (similar to
Argentinean chimichurri); Lemon-Garlic Aїoli and Romesco
mayonnaise, a Catalan tomato- and bell pepper-based sauce that Lukins
combines with mayonnaise for body and a splash of orange juice.
I'm making minis this year for our Hanukkah tapas party! Different latkes with different sauces - one can't have too many! See my blog.
Weather a little brisk for you these days? My story in today's Orange County Register extolls the virtues of - you guessed it - soup! Enjoy the recipe for Chicken Tortilla Soup. For a kosher version, use nondairy sour cream. Read the story.
You know those packages that say, “Do not open until Christmas”? If you tend to avoid resolutions until the actual first of the year, then eat, drink and be merry tonight, and save this column for tomorrow.
It’s New Year’s resolution time again, and I’m making the same one I make every year (sigh), to lose those extra pounds. And how I would love to implement my resolve at, say, the world-renowned Golden Door spa, pampered in the epitome of luxury with world-class chefs lavishing me with nutritious, satisfying, and glorious meals.
Ain’t gonna happen.
With the tight economy affecting travel plans, more and more Americans are choosing a staycation instead of a vacation – you know, donning bathing suit, sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat for a luxurious loll in the backyard.
I’m spending my staycation at home with the help of the new “Golden Door Cooks at Home” cookbook (Clarkson Potter, $40) by executive chef Dean Rucker with food writer Marah Stets.
This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of Golden Door with resort spas in Escondido, California, as well as throughout the United States and Puerto Rico.
“It used to be that the term ‘spa food’ evoked images of unadorned dishes without flavor or flair, created to contain as few calories and as little fat as possible without regard for how enjoyable it was to actually eat them,” writes chef Rucker.
No longer. The emphasis now is on a healthy diet and portion control. “And this is made far easier when the food is both delicious and filling,” he says.
Chicken and Scallion Potstickers with Chili Lime Sauce. Pan Roasted Lobster with Basil Potato Puree. Moroccan Spice-Rubbed Lamb Loin with Chickpeas, Feta, and Olives. Warm Flourless Chocolate Cake with Orange Sauce.
Spa food? Hardly.
It’s resolution time again! According to USA.gov, the most popular New Year’s resolution is (drum roll please) lose weight! What a surprise.
If, like me, you make this same resolution every year, two new books may turn things around, and then maybe next year we can all resolve to reduce carbon emissions and promote world peace.
In The Portion Plan: How to Eat the Foods You Love & Still Lose Weight (DK, $17.95) TV and radio personality Linda Gassenheimer says the key to losing weight and keeping it off may lie in the palm of your hand. Love that burger? A healthy portion is palm sized. Your baked potato should be the size of your fist. And you don’t have to give up French fries if you eat what will fit in two cupped hands (about 20).
“The portions of foods we are eating have ballooned,” writes Gassenheimer. “Restaurants serve extra-large amounts of food, yet we still clean our plates, just as we were told to do when we were children.” This “portion distortion” has completely perverted our sense of normalcy.
Take the bagel, for instance. “Originally the size of a hockey puck, bagels now have the circumference of a CD,” she says. Stick to a palm-size portion and use reduced-fat cream cheese and save 382 calories.
Seeing is believing, and “The Portion Plan” offers dozens of life-size food photos of ideal and not-so-ideal portions of common foods so we can make wise food choices. And learning to distinguish between what Gassenheimer calls “the good, the bad, and the ugly” (choices to savor, choices to watch and choices to avoid) will assure we’re not only losing weight, but maintaining a healthy lifestyle as well.
The book also includes a seven-day eating plan with recipes, an eating-out guide and oodles of tips for delicious alternatives to calorie-laden foods.
My Christmas story for The Orange County Register contains a recipe for a Swedish pastry called Lussikatter. It's a wonderful eggy sweet bread reminiscent of a saffron-scented challah. Read the whole story.
By JUDY BART KANCIGOR
The Orange County Register
September 17, 2009
An old saying goes, ask two Jews a question and you'll get three opinions.
Controversy, controversy. In politics you expect it, but it's true even in
Take the much maligned, yet oh, so beloved Jewish appetizer that graces
every holiday table from the weekly celebration of the Sabbath to Rosh Hashana,
the Jewish New Year: Gefilte fish.
In the Middle Ages Jewish mystics viewed fish as signaling the coming of the
Messiah. No wonder it is served for every holiday. Fish was expensive in
Europe, and the recipe was developed as an economical way to stretch it so that
every family member could get a taste.
The word gefilte is actually German for "stuffed." The original
recipe called for seasoned, ground boned fish mixed with eggs and fillers, such
as vegetables and crumbs, which was then stuffed back into the fish skin and
cooked. Over the centuries, the skin was eliminated, with cooks shaping the
mixture into balls or patties and poaching them.
But wherein lies the controversy? Do we open a jar or make it ourselves…or
"doctor" the jarred variety? Do we like it sweet or peppery? With
some guests adoring it and others repelled at the very sight, do we even serve
it at all?
I don’t come from a long line of pie bakers. I don’t think my grandmother, Mama Hinda, ever baked one…I know my mother never did. Yet to my mind as a young bride, nothing epitomized consummate homemaking skills as much as the baking of pies, something I would not even attempt for decades.
For many years I lived with a dough phobia, the result of a kitchen disaster I call the “kreplach incident.” I had rolled out the dough for these little meat-filled dumplings, carefully placed them in boiling water and they exploded! That experience created a fear of all things rolled that spilled over to piecrusts and pastries and lasted over thirty years.
Although in the ensuing years I rolled cookie dough and turned out homemade knishes by the dozens with ease, somehow pie baking I thought of as a magical gift bestowed from birth on some, but never to be attained by others. Genetics, perhaps?
“I’m just not a dough person,” I would lament… until testing recipes for my cookbook forced me to face my fears (and without a support group). Recipes needed to be tested. I cooked. I baked. I even perfected the dreaded kreplach! The pies I left for last.
Finally, in an “Aha!” moment of the kitchen kind, I realized…I roll cookie dough, I roll knish dough. Now I even roll kreplach dough! Surely I can roll pie dough.
Enter cooking instructor Barbara Shenson, whom my daughter-in-law Tracey met when Shenson was teaching for Home Chef, a cooking school and store in San Francisco. Her pie-making tips put that last notch in my belt.
“My crust always shrinks,” I whined. Read the whole story.