December Kosher Connection LinkUp: Fagiuoli all’Uccelletto with Beef and Mushrooms

This month’s linkup topic is Comfort Food. Perfect for this time of year, I’d say, with the cold and wind. It’s the time of year one fires up the stove top and makes dish after dish that simmer for hours to make a meal that warm the home and satisfy both body and soul.

This dish is a compilation of everything I love: it has wine, fresh herbs and garlic, white beans that melt in your mouth and meat so tender you can cut it with a spoon. Fresh tomato sauce reminds me of summer, and the mushrooms add a bit of taste and texture.

The actual preparation of this dish is not difficult at all, but to make all the components from scratch, as I do, you will want to have some time on your hands.  Let me give you the recipe, and then I will include links to recipes on my blog how to prepare the individual ingredients like the stock and tomato sauce.


This recipe makes quite a lot – easily divide in half if you are serving for yourself or a few people. It is quite delicious fresh, but as with a lot of stews and slow cooked meals the leftovers are even better the next day!

You will need:

1 lb dried white beans

2 lbs stew beef

2 quarts tomato sauce

3 quarts stock or water

1 1/2 lb sliced button mushrooms

1 large handful fresh parsley finely minced (leaves only, save stems for stock)

7 fresh sage leaves finely minced  (leaves only, save stems for stock)

14 fresh tarragon leaves finely minced (leaves only save stems for stock)

5 fresh garlic cloves, finely minced

Generous two finger pinch dried orange peel

Salt and pepper to taste

1/3 C dry red wine

Olive oil

1) Take 1 lb of dried white beans and soak in 2 quarts cold water or stock with a generous splash of wine added. Soak for 12 hours. Leaves beans sit as you prepare the rest of the recipe


2) Take 2 lbs stew beef (preferably from the shoulder or chuck) and pat dry. Add a touch of salt and pepper to all pieces. Get a saute pan very hot, add a bit of olive oil. Sear all pieces on both sides for about 3-5 minutes, or until you develop a good browned layer. Remove beef from pan, set aside.  Do not clean saute pan – you will need that for the mushrooms.

3) Drain beans, and add 1 quart stock, 2 quarts tomato sauce, and the stew beef. Bring just to the boil, then lower to a simmer. Stir occasionally, leave simmer for a minimum of 3 hours. It is done when you can smash a bean easily between two fingers, and the meat is soft and tender.


4) With the saute pan from the seared meat, add a tiny bit of olive oil and cook the garlic first, til it starts to brown. Add your mushrooms, herbs, and dried orange peel and cook til there is practically no liquid left – about 30 mins on medium heat. To help in the reduction, remove excess liquid at times and add to the beans and meat mixture. When the mushrooms have shrunk to half their original size, and there is only a tiny bit of liquid in the pan, raise heat to high and add your wine. Reduce til there is barely any liquid, and the edges of the mushrooms start to brown and crisp up.

5) When beans and meat are finished, garnish with a generous spoonful of the mushrooms and enjoy!

Recipe for Vegetable Stock (photo step-by-step as well as recipe)

Recipe for Tomato Sauce (


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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 ( 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?



July Kosher Connection Challenge: The Great Blog Swap (Homemade Disaronno Ice Cream with Hazelnut Chocolate Bark)

The Inspiration: The Great Blog Swap and a Giveaway!

The Kosher Connection, the group I co-founded with Jamie Geller and Tamar Genger of Joy of Kosher (, is turning 1 year old this month! The KC (as we fondly refer to the group) is a group of about 20 kosher food bloggers who are dedicated to the ideal that kosher food can be fantastic. The exchange of ideas, the fact that we are all dedicated to not only the improvement of kosher food, but also of ourselves as bloggers and recipe developers is nothing short of amazing. Unless it is Shabbat or a Yom Tov, not a day has gone by without at least one or two members of the group emailing each other or the group as a whole, using each other as sounding boards -and fully confident in the advice they receive in return.

In addition to the group, there is a monthly cooking challenge (the Kosher Connection Challenge) open to any kosher food blogger.  To celebrate this milestone, what better challenge could there possibly be than to try to step into a fellow blogger’s shoes? Using a random sorting device, each blogger participating was assigned another blogger whose recipe (or style of recipe) they would have to replicate for this challenge.

I was so thrilled to get Sina Mizrahi of The Kosher Spoon ( as the blogger whose recipe or style I had to imitate! Her food always looks delicious, and her photography is stunning.

The Innovation: A recipe similar to what Sina would make for her own blog.

We all know I cannot seem to follow a recipe. No matter how hard I try, it just never happens. There are precisely 2 recipes I follow to the letter – and that is because they are for Passover! The best I would be able to do was to become inspired by something Sina made previously, and hope my interpretation would do her justice. Here is the recipe I was inspired by:

My Interpretation: Disaronno Ice Cream with Hazelnut Chocolate Bark

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Recipe for Disaronno Ice Cream:

14 oz ( 1 can) coconut cream

16 oz (1 container) non-dairy whip topping

32 oz vanilla almond milk (no sugar added)

5 oz vanilla extract

8 oz Disaronno

2 -2 finger pinches of table salt

Combine all ingredients and bring to just below a boil. Stir continually for about 5-7 mins. Whne you taste it, the raw sharpness of the  liquor and vanilla extract should not be present, only the flavor. Cool to room temperature, then pour into a mixing bowl with a whisk and mix at meduim high speed til the top starts to froth and turn foamy. Pour into a 9×13 baking pan ( it will fill it about half way) and set into freezer. You will let it set partially, remove from freezer and reblend 2 or 3 more times, til you get a lot of froth. Then you will return to pan and freeze completely. Remove from refrigerator a few moments before serving so it is easy to spoon out. The texture is more icy than creamy.

Recipe for Hazelnut Chocolate Bark

20 oz finest quality semi-sweet chocolate ( I used Alprose in this particular recipe)

8 oz chopped hazelnuts ( I used raw, you can use toasted or toast for 5 mins in oven at 350F)

2 -fingered pinches of Dead Sea salt

1 large baking sheet covered in parchment paper.

Using double boiler method, temper chocolate til there are no lumps, no air bubbles, and the chocolate has a high gloss. Working quickly, remove from heat, pour entire bowl in the center of the papered tray, and spread out, leaving room at the edges of the paper so you can cut and remove pieces later. When chocolate is evenly spread but still liquid, sprinkle hazelnuts evenly over chocolate. Then add the sea salt, and refrigerate on a level shelf til set. Take a sharp chef’s knife and dip the blade in boiling water, then dry. Working quickly so the chocolate does not melt or smudge, cut into peices of desired size. If chocolate does not cut easily, re-dip knife in boiling water. If chocolate gets too soft, re- refrigerate until its sets once more. Store in a plastic container, with parchment paper in between the layers, in your fridge.

And now for the giveaway…remember to enter everyday for a chance to win these amazing prizes from Emile Henry! The contest winners will be contacted via email. They will have 48 hours to respond before other winners are chosen. This contest is open to United States residents over the age of 18. Contest is sponsored by Joy of Kosher.

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Cold Soup: June Kosher Connection Challenge

The Inspiration: A Kosher Connection Monthly Challenge

This month’s Challenge is to make a cold soup.  It would have been so simple to make a traditionally cold soup, such as a fruit soup or a form of a gazpacho. I decided I wanted to do something a little bit different. I wanted to take a soup that is traditionally served hot and re-work it slightly so it would be delicious cold.

The Innovation: Cold Minestrone Soup with Homemade Pasta

I figured if I added more vegetables and pasta, less beans, and let it simmer for a longer period of time, I’d get a lighter soup with a rich broth and softer beans. By cutting the vegetables in smaller pieces, they don’t become as hard when eaten cold. By using different types of vegetables, I got a soup that was filling but not heavy – perfect hot or cold, winter or summer.

My interpretation:

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Recipe for Pasta:

10  oz all purpose flour plus extra for dusting

3 extra large eggs

Generous pinch of salt


In a clean, dry bowl, dump the flour and salt in the middle of the bowl. Using your knuckles, make a ‘nest’ in the middle of the pile and add your eggs. Fold the flour in from the outside in, til you have a pebbly-type dough that just stays together. Turn out onto floured counter and knead, using the heel of your palm to flatten, turning the dough over onto itself until it is a bit sticky and smooth. Wrap in Saran Wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.


After the dough has rested, unwrap and cut into 4 pieces – re-wrap the other pieces until you are ready to work with them. Flour your dough, work surface, and rolling pin lightly. Roll in one direction at a time, turning the dough and rolling, until it is as flat as you can possibly make it. Trim into a large square for equal size and shaped pieces – reserve scraps for another batch. Cut into thin strips, separating as you go, and leave out to dry on a sheet tray – you will need these later. Repeat this procedure with the remaining dough, or save for another application.

Recipe for Soup

3 C dried beans, soaked for at least 4-6 hours

Handful of peeled garlic cloves, minced fine

Large handful of fresh parsley leaves, minced fine

Handful of fresh sage leaves, minced fine

1 heaping tablespoon of pesto (or small handful of fresh basil leaves and an extra garlic clove)

1 leek, cleaned and chopped as fine as possible

3 large carrots, cut into half-moons

2 parsnips, cut into half-moons

Half-bunch of celery ( I prefer the inside, with the leaves, just cut the very tops and the bottoms) finely chopped

1 large green zucchini, peeled and chopped

1 package white button mushrooms, thinly sliced

4 whole, peeled tomatoes and 1/2 C extra of juice ( I used canned, be sure to crush tomatoes before adding)

10 oz dry white wine

1 generous splash lemon juice

Olive oil for sauteing

Salt and pepper to taste


In a large stock pot ( I used my 10Qt and it was more than half-way full) add a bit of olive oil and heat. Saute the garlic, fresh herbs, and leeks for a few moments. Then add all the remaining vegetables except the tomatoes, as well as the wine and pesto. Let vegetables sweat til they start to soften (keep covered) for about 15 mins on mid to low flame. Add tomatoes and beans, let all combine for about 10 mins, then add salt, pepper and lemon juice (these are to taste). Cook for at least 2 hours at a steady simmer, checking periodically and giving a quick stir. About 5 mins before beans are done, add pasta ( as much or as little as you like – I made the above recipe, cut it into quarters, and only added one to my soup mixture). Cooking is done when pasta is cooked (it will be a bit more chewy and different tasting than dried pasta), and the beans are very tender.

Using the bain-marie (water-bath) method, take a pot that will hold your stock pot and fill with ice and ice water half way. Put your stock pot inside, and stir soup rapidly for several minutes to stop the cooking process. Leave cool in bain-marie til water is no longer cold, and leave cool until it is safe enough to refrigerate. Chill completely before serving.