Sunday, October 24, 2010

sundried tomato grilled chicken thighs

I want to share a recipe that i made this Shabbos for lunch.  It was delicious both warm and at room temperature. I made a large batch for leftovers going into the week and it was gone by motzei Shabbos.  good sign.
grilled chicken thighs with sundried tomatoes, herbs and pine nuts
12 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, washed and finely chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
Mix all the ingredients except the chicken thighs.
Marinate the thighs in the mix.
Preheat a grill (I use a stovetop one that sits on top of the elements, heats up very well thereby searing the meat nicely and cleans up easily) and then grill the thighs about 5 minutes per side.
Some of the flavourful marinade bits fall off the thighs, but simply scrape them off the grill and add them on top of the thighs.
very easy and very good.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A sharp knife

A good sharp knife skilfully used is the most essential tool in the kitchen-one which makes the preparation of food a keen pleasure, rather than a troublesome chore.

In planning a class teaching knife skills and soups, I started to think, what's my deal with knives?  Being a butcher's daughter I have always been fascinated by blades.  I can remember my late father sharpening the knife against a steel and he always smiled when he did it.  Never in a rush, never cross, simply concentrating. 

Food processors, choppers and mandolines have all found their way into my kitchen and I'm glad I have them.  They certainly have earned their place. (Except the slap chop, but that's another story.)    But they don't come close to calling me to the task at hand the way my favourite chef's knife does. 

Why my endless fascination with a sharp knife and a well worn cutting board?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

lessons on bikur cholim

I had the pleasure today of learning about an organization called Bikur Cholim.  Bikur Cholim involves visiting the sick and as its president, Mrs. Heller, explained the word bikur comes from the word bekeret (?) which means to investigate.  We all agree that visiting sick people is a kindness, an act of chesed, but the obligation or mitzva comes from the investigation of the person's condition.  What other kinds of support might someone recovering from a surgery need?  Does a family have to travel from out of town in order to receive treatment?  Where does the family stay?  How are their needs met aside from the medical procedures, which in and of themselves can break individuals and their families through the burdens, stress and heartache?

I saw what looks like a family home on the outside, but on the inside has a kitchen that delivers approximately 400 meals per month, maintains private apartments for those who travel for medical treatment, houses volunteers who visit those in hospital on a regular basis and much, much more.  I saw kosher meals lovingly prepared, wrapped with a ribbon, waiting for delivery and I imagined the tremendous lift that the visit and the package bring for those who are sick.

It was an education.  Jewish education not only informs, but transforms. 

I learned that when someone visits the sick, it is as if they have alleviated 1/60th of the illness.  I've also been told that a great difficulty of experiencing illness is the loneliness, for the one afflicted and their family.  What a clear message bikur cholim sends to the One Who Heals.  There may be illness, but we will do what can be done, with kindness and focus, to promote a complete and speedy recovery.
To learn more about bikur cholim, visit

Monday, October 18, 2010

sour dough, spirituality and satisfaction

"I at last realized that eating was a spiritual function and that meat, bread and wine were the raw materials from which the mind is made."  Nikos Kazantzakis author of Zorba the Greek

I have been reading a very interesting cookbook called bread matters by Andrew Whitley.  He has owned a bakery in Melmerby, England since 1976 and has made some frightening observations about how bread has been made commercially in the last few decades (when machine made yeast was introduced and certain baking procedures to make bread faster and cheaper) and the rise in gluten sensitivity and coeliac disease (extreme allergy to gluten).

Bread has always been defined by it's ingredients; flour, water, salt and some form of leavening such as yeast (which can occur naturally if flour is left to ferment over time which is what sour dough is).  When you look at the ingredients that go into commercial bread, including enzymes to speed up the entire process and ensure a longer shelf life,  they are present only for the sake of commerce.

When flour is allowed to ferment, certain bacteria develops that is good for the digestion.  If time is missing, and the bread is made according to a tight schedule, the flour looses out on developing its potential.  It is rushed.  To add insult to injury, additives are introduced to do the job that the flour would do, if permitted.  Over 80% of bread made in the UK is now made in this method adopting a modern process called 'activated dough development' (ADD!)

I have too many friends, neighbours and students who increasingly tell me about gluten sensitivities.  For some it affects their children and some are developing it later in life.

It became a commitment of mine this year to teach the importance of eating whole grains.  With this resolve I have been teaching myself how to bake sourdough bread.  I love fluffy, cake-like, sparkling white challa as much as the next person (especially slathered with Nate's avocado spread), but I have heard too many complaints about stomachache and indigestion associated with the Shabbat and yomtov table.  It's enough.  I am not a reactionary person, but I remember as a child that I used to suffer from severe stomachache.  My devoted mother took me to the doctor who diagnosed me a perfectionist and gave her placebo pills to give to me when I complained.  (I still have a hard time trusting doctors.)  I know better now.

"And they were filled", the Bible says.  No simpler words can be written to describe happiness, satisfaction and gratitude."  H.E. Jacob, Six Thousand Years of Bread

Sunday, October 17, 2010

post holiday cooking feedback

We heard such great feedback from the students who took the pre rosh hashana workshop. 
It's very inspiring to see the excitement that comes from learning a new technique and how you incorporated new dishes into your holiday meals.
Many of you tried the stuffed veal and reported it a big hit.  Way to go to Suzanne for adapting the peach galette and making it savoury by filling it with eggplant, mushrooms and onions.

Some of you have been making the roasted eggplant and the avocado mousse from the seared tuna zatar recipe regularly as dips on the Shabbat table.  That smokey eggplant flavour is memorable.

The biggest change for me in the marathon of holiday meals this year was rather than offering many different choices, I prepared what I wanted to cook and the meals were much simpler.  There were the favourite soups and dips that always make a welcome appearance, but because each dish was so well made with such deep flavour it was very satisfying to prepare and eat.  Our meals were more relaxed and our guests appreciated not being stuffed by dish after dish.  My personal favourite recipe was fresh pasta ravioli (based on the stuffed tortellini) that floated in our rich chicken broth.  Thank you to Eran and Efrat for demonstrating the ease with which fresh pasta can be made.  I bought the attachment for my kitchenaid and making it has become a family kitchen activity.  I strongly encourage you to give it a try.