Best of Kosherfest 2013

I attended Kosherfest as a member of the press – I was not paid for my opinions. If you see a product listed and are unsure if the certification is to your standard of kashrut, please do not hesitate to contact your local rabbinic authority.

I went to Kosherfest for both days and these were the products that in my opinion are among the best of the event.

This product generated a lot of buzz last year, and the gluten free variety has everyone talking this year!

This product generated a lot of buzz last year, and the gluten free variety has everyone talking this year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet British Revolution! Blake Hill Farms artisanal lines of jams, marmalades, and chutneys are small-batched crafted in true English fashion. A hands-down favorite of mine.

Sweet British Revolution! Blake Hill Farms artisanal lines of jams, marmalades, and chutneys are small-batch crafted in true English fashion. A hands-down favorite of mine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An espresso strength instant coffee? Be still, my coffee loving heart! This extremely smooth instant coffee will be a staple in my house.

An espresso strength instant coffee? Be still, my coffee loving heart! This extremely smooth instant coffee will be a staple in my house.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A quality, Cholov Yisrael liquid nutritional supplement, Nugen tastes great and also comes Kosher for Passover! Good health always!

A quality Cholov Yisrael liquid nutritional supplement, Nugen tastes great and also comes Kosher for Passover! Good health always!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With a full range of delicious tasting spreads, dips, and salads, Halfa Salads gives Sabra a serious run for their money.

With a full range of delicious tasting spreads, dips, and salads, Hafla Salads gives Sabra a serious run for their money.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I've heard of grape seed oil but grape seed flour? Solio offers gluten free grape seed flour, one of the most innovative of my findings at this year's Kosherfest

I’ve heard of grape seed oil but grape seed flour? Solio offers gluten free grape seed flour, one of the most innovative of my findings at this year’s Kosherfest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jack's Gourmet wowed last year with their signature product Facon. This year, they bring us Facon filled sausage patties, as well as a chorizo  and a sweet Italian sausage patty. As a sworn lover of the sweet Italian, I love this new riff on an old favorite.

Jack’s Gourmet wowed last year with their signature product Facon. This year, they bring us Facon filled sausage patties, as well as a chorizo and a sweet Italian sausage patty. As a sworn lover of the sweet Italian, I love this new riff on an old favorite.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take Greek yogurt, blend til really smooth, cut out at least 50% of the sugar. Norman's does just that with their all new   Greek light yogurts. With all the protein of the original, with less sugar. Another must-have in my fridge.

Take Greek yogurt, blend til really smooth, cut out at least 50% of the sugar, make it 100 calories per container. Norman’s does just that with their all new Greek light yogurts. With all the protein of the original, with less sugar. Another must-have in my fridge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chocolate Marshmallow Candy

The inspiration: Family coming to visit and no dessert in the house!

I’d made everything else for the family dinner (roasted chicken, my version of green bean casserole, mashed sweet potatoes, rice with peas and carrots) but at the last minute I realized I did not have enough dessert. The family was due in an hour and a half, so I had to get something made – and fast!

The innovation: Raiding the pantry to use what I had instead of running to the bake shop.

I really had no idea how this would turn out. I also had to raid my neighbor’s pantry to get some of the ingredients- I now have new staples I need to stock, because this is now a family favorite!

My interpretation: Chocolate Marshmallow Candy

The peanut butter breaks up the sweetness of the chocolate and marshmallow, and the chocolate chips add textural contrast to each bite.

The peanut butter breaks up the sweetness of the chocolate and marshmallow, and the chocolate chips add textural contrast to each bite.

Recipe:

20 oz of semi- sweet chocolate ( I use either Callebaut or Alprose. For Alprose, it’s 2 whole bars)

13 oz marshmallow fluff (1 container)

8 oz smooth peanut butter

6 oz chocolate chips

To prepare:

Using the double boiler method ( pot filled with a few inches of water with a glass bowl fitted over the top) break chocolate into chunks and melt completely over mid-high heat, til chocolate is bright and shiny and there are as few air bubbles as possible.

Mix marshmallow, peanut butter, and chocolate chips together well, then spread onto a parchment- lined tray into as thin of a layer as possible. 

Taking the tempered chocolate, coat the entire surface of the marshmallow mix as thinly and evenly as possible. Be more generous for a thicker layer – that is your preference. Place entire tray into freezer and freeze for about 30-45 mins or until chocolate is hard and matte in appearance.

Chocolate has been flipped- see the hardened and darker chocolate along the edges. Be sure to coat thoroughly all the way to the edges.

Chocolate has been flipped- see the hardened and darker chocolate along the edges. Be sure to coat thoroughly all the way to the edges.

When chocolate has set, take another parchment paper and place on top of the chocolate. Carefully flip the mixture onto the new parchment paper and then transfer to tray, chocolate side down. Peel off the paper from the marshmallow side, coat with chocolate, then refreeze til new chocolate layer is hard. 

Remove from freezer, and using a sharp knife cut into squares. If chocolate gets too soft, refreeze for 5-10 mins til it re-hardens. Store in a parchment lined container in single layers.

Beef and Lentil Stew

The inspiration – The need for a tasty main dish for the Sabbath

It’s easy to make the same Sabbath foods week after week, and you would even be perfectly justified (and in the majority) to do so.  Some sort of fish, a type of soup, a type of roasted meat, a starch, a veg, and dessert more often than not grace the majority of Sabbath tables. Truth told, there is nothing wrong with this formula – one could even say it is traditional. I cannot speak, nor do I intend to speak for anyone else, but the question begs to be asked- do you ever want to change this? Make something new?

But what do you do when you want something different? For me, it is a luxury to make a meal all in one pot, and a novelty on a Friday night. The meal gets cut to 3 courses instead of four, and the serving and cleanup is much less.

Once in a great while, I’ll make some sort of stew – the main factor is that it must have meat, veg and starch all in one pot, and everyone has to be able to eat something from it.

The innovation – Taking a classic, French -style stew and using lentils and barley instead of potatoes or beans

Since on Shabbat day (Saturday morning) we eat cholent, (a bean and potato based stew  cooked on the stove overnight), I wanted a stew with no beans or potatoes. So with a little thinking, I added some lentils and barley directly to the pot – the stew was not super thick, with a smooth texture to the broth due to the starch in the barley. This was a stew everyone ate!

My interpretation: Beef and Lentil Stew

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Recipe for Beef Stew:

3 lbs large pieces stew beef (I use chuck tender)

8 oz green lentils

6 oz pearled barley

2 small parsnips, cut in half, then diced

1 bunch celery, chopped fine (trim the very tips, use everything, leaves included, til the last 1/2′)

4 carrots, cut into small pieces

1 lg Spanish onion, fine dice

5 garlic cloves, fine mince

3/4 C dry red wine

Olive oil for searing/sauteing

Salt and pepper to taste

To prepare:

In a large saute pan, pat stew beef dry with paper towel, add a tiny bit of salt and pepper, and sear on high heat both sides, about 3-5 mins per side or until you see a nice brown crust forming. You may need to do this in batches – do not scrape pan in between. Set meat aside, and add 1/4 of red wine to deglaze pan and get all the goodness left in the pan. Reserve this as well.

In a 10Q stock pot, add a bit of olive oil, get it hot. Add garlic and onions, let sweat til onions starts to turn clear, about 5-10 mins on meduim high heat. Add carrots, celery, and parsnips, cooking on meduim high heat til the vegetables just start to soften, about 10 mins more. Add the reserved liquid from searing, as well as the red wine.

Add the lentils and the barley now, stirring well and lowering heat. Cover and let sit for about 10 mins, then add water to completely cover, and a bit of salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower to scarcely a simmer and cook for approx. 3 hrs. Meat and veg will be tender, and the lentils and barley will have a bit of bite but will not be hard at all.

Flavor note: In the last 10- 15 mins of cooking, taste the stew. At this point, you may decide to add a bit more wine for a stronger red wine taste – 1/4C will do the trick. Also use this time to readjust your salt and pepper if needed.

 

 

Lazy Leftovers Make Simple Suppers: Sprouted Beans and Rice

The inspiration: Leftover rice and a need for a quick, light yet filling supper.

After all the Yom Tovim ( Jewish Holidays) of Rosh Hashana and Succot. with all the cooking and planning that it entailed, I was exhausted. For a month straight, it was back to back weeks of holiday, with a  few days to shop, restock, and cook again in between. So the Sunday after Simchat Torah (the last holiday) when my family said they were hungry, I could not bring myself to make a large meal for them.  I also could not bring myself to order takeout. Each day when I had been too busy cooking/cleaning/shopping/preparing, DH and the kids had gleefully lived it up eating takeout – pizza and falafel, mostly.  Enough was enough. Time for a home cooked meal, too tired or not.

The innovation: Using frozen sprouted beans to cut down on my cooking time

I rummaged through the fridge to find something the DCs would not turn up their nose to, and thankfully there were not that many leftovers.  I found a half of a 9×13 disposable pan of leftover, plain basmati rice, and I grabbed a pack of frozen sprouted beans. They were mixture of garbanzo, kidney and navy beans. Couldn’t find stock, so water and white wine had to do for cooking with.  Too tired to mince herbs and garlic – so a bit of dried cilantro, salt and pepper came to the rescue. Not the fanciest or most thought out meal I ever planned, but it was good and filling, and at the end of the day, everyone was happy.

My interpretation: Sprouted Beans and Rice

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Recipe:

8 oz raw basmati rice, cooked to package instructions and set aside, or 3 to 4 cups cooked rice

1 12oz package frozen sprouted bean blend

2 to 3 cups water or vegetable stock, plus a bit more (keep some on reserve as you may need to add during cooking)

3 oz dry white wine

Two generous pinches of dried cilantro (substitute with parsley but use a tiny bit more pepper to compensate)

Salt and pepper to taste.

To Prepare: 

Have the rice on reserve. Take a 6 Qt pot and add the water or vegetable stock and white wine. Bring to a boil and add the beans, covering tightly with a lid and cooking on at a low boil for at least 20 minutes. Check at least once to ensure there is enough liquid. When the beans are nearly finished – about 30 to 45 mins – drain almost all the liquid. Add the rice, a bit of salt, pepper, and the cilantro at this point, mix well and cook on medium to low until beans are done and rice is hot all the way through.

 

 

 

Product Review: Voilà! Hallah Part 2 AND September Kosher Connection Challenge: Spread the Joy

Many Thanks to Leah Hadad of Voila!Hallah (Tribes a Dozen)  for the product used in this review. All opinions are my own – the only compensation received was a case of Voila!Hallah for testing

So, remember a little while ago, I did a review on Voilà! Hallah, (see the first part of the review here (http://foodwordsphotos.com/product-review-voila-hallah-part-1) and promised to come back with a second post about experimenting with it? Thanks for bearing with me on this. To everything there is a season, and there was a reason why! I believe if it would not have been for Voilà! Hallah, the following incidents would have never happened.

Imagine a group of Hasidic housewives, dressed in long housecoats with their heads covered with various scarves and kerchiefs waiting in front of their apartment building in Boro Park for their children’s respective camp buses.  It was a Wednesday afternoon, and of course we all are discussing food for Shabbat. Which reminded me..

“Dassi, I’m making my challah that you like so much again, with the seeds. Want me to send you one?” That’s me, asking my neighbor who lives on the other side of my building if she wants my roasted pepita-sunflower seed-zaatar-Hungarian paprika challah. She had it once, on a Shabbat afternoon and loved it.  I never let my guests leave empty-handed, so that time a half- loaf went home with her.

” Sure! I’d love some!  It was really yum, and thanks for sending some home with me last time. My husband ate it the next morning with cream cheese – he said it was so good!” Dassi replied. ” Whoops! There’s my son’s bus – gotta run!”

My third friend turned to me, a funny look on her face. “You OK, Rifki?” I asked her. She just tilted her head and asked me a question I never considered. “How can you say that was challah?” she asked. ” Challah has to have certain ingredients in it for it to be challah. In my house we use seven, to represent the days of the week.” As she went on to list the ingredients, I was puzzled. Thinking for a few moments, I decided to answer.

” I believe that any bread, as long as it is shaleim (perfectly whole) and hamotzi (made with water and flour, versus a dough made with juice) can be considered challah. Why not? I made it in honor of the Sabbath, who says it can’t have seeds and flavors?” I asked her.

” On the outside, sure. But you put it in the inside, that just makes it fancy bread, not challah. Lots of people put sesame seeds, or everything mix (a spice blend of dried onion, garlic, salt. pepper, poppy and sesame seeds)  on the outside. My husband would never eat such a bread for a Shabbat meal” she pointed out.

” Tell you what. Come over Shabbat afternoon with your kids, and you’ll try it. It is so good, you’ll see why I can say it is challah, and special for the Sabbath.” I told her. My son’s bus came then, so I had to go.

I had made this before, and I wanted to perfect the recipes before using it on my last few boxes of  Voilà! Hallah. Now, usingVoilà! Hallah as the challah dough, I knew the challah would be exceptional.  I was not disappointed.

I had four boxes left, which I did in two batches of two boxes each. One batch got roasted pepitas and sunflower seeds with zaatar and Hungarian paprika, where I oven roasted the raw seeds with the spices til it was rich and fragrant. The second batch got the herbes de Provence treatment – garlic powder, and fresh parsley, sage, tarragon and basil.

My friend Rifky brought her kids that Shabbat afternoon, and she could not stop raving over the challahs. We agreed to disagree, after a bit more discussion, but she said she would make these for a fancy weekday lunch or dinner. She said the pepita challah tasted a lot like pita with zaatar, and the herbes de Provence challah tasted like a really good garlic knot. When I told her my mix for the challah dough came from a box, she was amazed – she said would have never guessed, it was that good!

In the end, she understood my point of view, I understood hers, we respectfully agreed to disagree, and I thought this was a good story to share for the September Kosher Connection Challenge. The theme is ‘spread the joy‘. Food is a universal ground-leveler, peacemaker, conversation-starter. In a way like nothing else can, it can overcome prejudices, cross social-economic divides, and bring healing to both body and soul.  In this case, this lady (myself) from Philadelphia, a semi-recent transplant to Boro Park who only became religious in her twenties and Hasidic a whole lot later started a discussion and gave food for thought to a woman ten years younger than herself, who was born and raised in Boro Park with a strong, European/Hasidic background, who does things the way her great-grandmother did them.  If sharing food and dialogue doesn’t spread the joy, I can’t think what else can. Can you?

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Preserving Cherries

The inspiration: Preserving cherries for the winter

I received these stunning cherries from Stemilt Farms! www.stemiltfarms.com

Stunning cherries from Stemilt Farms!

Cherries are my favorite fruit. I’ll take dried or jarred cherries in a pinch but the best by far are fresh. Nothing compares this fresh fruit, and starting in May, I start watching to see when I can find the sweet red beauties in my local markets.  This year, it seemed as if they would never arrive. When they did, for several weeks the prices were outrageous. This got me thinking – there has got to be a way I can have some form of fresh cherries all the time! I decided I was going to find a way to preserve cherries.

The Innovation: Taking fresh cherries and drying them in the oven

Fresh cherries dried in the oven for 8 hours at 200F

Fresh cherries dried in the oven

 

I had tried simply putting  cherries in a double Ziploc and freezing, and it worked pretty well except they were a little mushy and had a slight bitter taste to them upon defrosting. I also have some cherries that are frozen in whiskey, but I won’t know how they turn out until Chanukah, when I will thaw and air dry them slightly to make boozy chocolates. So after doing a bit of research and experimenting, it seemed to me that the best way to preserve the cherries would be to dry them out.

After winning 4 lbs of cherries from Stemilt Farm, (http://www.stemilt.com) I decided I would use those for drying out. I removed the pits, cut the cherries in half, and baked in a 200F oven for 8 hours. When I removed them, I was concerned they were still not dry enough, so I thought about how to dry them out even more.

My interpretation:  Twice Dried Cherries

Perfectly dried cherries!

Perfectly dried cherries!

 

I’ve heard about how rice dries things out – electronic gadgets, mainly- but I was curious. If I take my dried cherries and put them in uncooked rice, would they dry out more? I took the oven-dried cherries, mixed them in with a few pounds of dry basmati rice, and left the whole thing sit in the back of my fridge for a few days.

Separating the cherries from the rice was a hassle, but my idea worked! They were perfectly dried, almost as well the kind you find in the store. Now not only do I have dried cherries, I also have cherry infused rice that will be prefect for my High Holiday menu.

 

Chocolate in Various Forms

From left: Chocolate covered cherries, chocolate-almond truffles, chocolate peanutbutter squares

Eat your heart out! Top: Chocolate covered cherry Bottom: Chocolate peanutbutter square

Chocolate covered cherries and peanutbutter squares – pick as you choose!

A handful of sweetness -take 2 and call me in the AM!

The Finale: on the tray, ready to go!