April 29, 2016

Baked Matzo Brei with Mixed Greens, Mushrooms and Smoked Herring

1 6.7 oz can smoked herring in oil
1 bunch green onion, white and green parts chopped
8 oz crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 bunch spinach, chopped
1 bunch arugula, chopped
1 sheet egg and onion (or plain!) matzo, broken into 1/2 inch pieces
8 eggs, beaten
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper


Preheat oven to 350.

Pour the contents of the tin of herring in a large skillet. Add the remaining ingredients. Use a spoon to break up the herring into bite-sized pieces and saute until the mushrooms are cooked and the greens are wilted. Allow to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, stir the salt and pepper in the eggs. Fold in the vegetables and matzo. Pour into a greased 8x8 inch baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes or until fully cooked through. Allow to sit 2 minutes prior to slicing and serving.

My thoughts:
Passover is wrapping up but maybe you are like me and still have a bit of matzo to use up. This dish transforms the traditional breakfast dish, matzo brei (basically sweet or savory scrambled eggs with broken matzo), into a dish that is much hardier and can even serve as a dinner, lunch or brunch dish. I used a ton of local fresh greens in this recipe; so much so the whole dish turned nearly green itself. The arugula added a peppery bite which offset the rich, smoking herring. The matzo get rather soft and disappear into the egg except for the bits that peek out of the top, they stay much crispier. Think of it as a Jewish twist on a breakfast casserole, frittata or strata.

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April 27, 2016

Homestyle Chopped Liver

1 lb chicken liver
3 hard-boiled eggs
1 small onion, diced
3 tablespoons schmaltz*
freshly ground black pepper

Heat the schmaltz in a small skillet. Add the liver and onions and cook until the liver is cooked through and the onions are starting to look a bit black around the edges and are very soft and translucent everywhere else. Allow to cool to close to room temperature. Scrape everything from the pan onto a cutting board. Chop the liver, onions and egg until into fine crumbs that start to stick together (thanks to the schmaltz), about 5-10 minutes. Add more schmaltz or olive oil to bind if it is very dry. Stir in salt and pepper. Refrigerate 1 hour prior to serving for best flavor.

*To render chicken fat to make schmaltz: Heat a sauté pan, add the fat, and the small onion, quartered and cook over medium heat until the fat is rendered. Strain into a heat safe bowl or measuring cup. Or use olive oil.

My thoughts:
Growing up my dad would say "what am I chopped liver?" whenever he felt he was being overlooked for something; implying that chopped liver was something no one wanted. Matt on the other hand, grew up eating chopped liver and it was quite an enjoyable thing indeed. Now that we are married, we make chopped liver and it is tasty! We like coarser texture like the one Matt's grandmother made so we do it all by hand versus using a grinder or food processor. Smoother textured chopped liver is okay but not our favorite! We have given chopped liver a lot of thought, possibly more than anyone else has to such a simple dish.  We've had chopped liver at delis that is slightly sweet which we didn't particularly like and found puzzling until I figured out I bet they add wine (a common variation or cognac) and since the delis are kosher, I'm sure they were using kosher wine which can be quite sweet. This is not a sweet or smooth chopped liver but it is delicious and perfect for smearing on a bit of onion and egg matzo.

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April 25, 2016

Spring Matzo Ball Soup with Herb Matzo Balls


for the stock:
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 parsnips
2 carrots
2 stalks celery
1 onion, quartered
1 bunch fresh parsley
3-4 springs thyme
2-3 springs rosemary
several sage leaves
1 large chicken, cut into pieces, skin/fat removed and reserved
2 quarts chicken stock

for the soup:
1 onion, diced
2 stalks celery
3 cloves garlic, sliced
3 carrots, sliced into coins
2 small to medium turnips, diced
1 bunch spring onions, bulbs and greens chopped (not scallions!)

for the matzo balls:
3 tablespoons rendered chicken fat* or olive oil
1 cup matzo meal
1 cup hot water
1 egg
1/4 cup minced parsley, thyme and sage
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

 For the stock:
In a large soup pot, place all of the ingredients for the stock. The broth should be covering the chicken. If not, add water or additional to cover. Over high heat, bring to boil then reduce to low and simmer, partially covered for 1 hour, every 10 minutes, skim any scum that floats to the surface off.

For the matzo balls: (start this when you get the stock going)
Pour the water into a large bowl and top with matzo meal, stir to combine. Add 3 tablespoons rendered fat (if you don't have 3 tablespoons' worth, make up the difference in oil), herbs, salt, egg and white pepper. Stir to combine, refrigerate for 1 hour.

After the stock has cooked for one hour, remove the chicken and place in a bowl. Strain the broth through a fine strainer into another large pot, pressing the solids to release any liquids. Discard solids. Shred or chop the chicken.

Return the stock to the pot.  Add the soup ingredients. Cook until vegetables are tender, about 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove the matzo meal mixture from the refrigerator and, using wet hands, roll into 1 inch balls.

In a second pot, bring a large amount of salted water to boil. Drop the matzo balls into the water and cook 15 minutes, they should float to the top but this does not mean they are ready, cook the full 15 minutes.

To serve: place 2 matzo balls in each bowl (should serve 4-6) and ladle the soup over. Serve right away.

Store leftover soup and matzo balls in separate containers in the refrigerator. Add the matzo balls to the soup and warm it on the stove top to serve.

*To render chicken fat to make schmaltz for the matzo balls: Heat a sauté pan, add the fat, and the small onion, quartered and cook over medium heat until the fat is rendered. Strain into a heat safe bowl or measuring cup.

My thoughts:
The best part of Passover dining is matzo ball soup. We try to make it every year; it is super simple but time-consuming because it of the rendering the chicken fat to make schmaltz, make a super rich broth, make matzo balls and soup. It takes about 2 hours, (don't tell, but in a pinch you can use rotisserie chicken, store bought stock and olive oil for a passable matzo ball soup) but the end result is worth it. This version doesn't feature the crystal clear broth that we have made in the past, the spring onions turn it a bit cloudy and quite honestly, slightly green but the flavor is magnificent. Plus it uses two of the few vegetables in season this time of year, turnips and spring onions.

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April 14, 2016

Rapini, Smoked Trout and Beluga Lentil Salad


1 large bunch rapini, chopped
1 3.9 oz tin smoked trout in oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons nonpareil capers
8 oz cooked Beluga lentils*
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

Place the rapini in a pot with 2 inches of water, bring to a boil and cook until the rapini starts to wilt and is bright green. Drain and place in a large bowl. Set aside.

Drain the oil from the trout into a small bowl, whisk in vinegar and capers. Pour over the rapini. Chop the trout. Add to the bowl along with the lentils and onions. Serve hot or at room temperature.

*Tip: many stores, include Target, sell these fully cooked in vacuum-sealed packets. Simply heat them according to package instructions.
My thoughts:
One of my favorite leafy greens is rapini and it is just coming into season now. It can be bitter but lightly steaming it yields a more peppery flavor than a bitter one. It is a bit early in the year for a traditional salad so I thought I'd make this lentil speckled one. It is packed with flavor thanks to the smoked trout and capers; a wonderful combination of peppery, smoky and salty. Beluga lentils are one my absolute favorite lentils. Like French du Puy lentils, they hold their shape unlike other lentils which get soft and mushy making them great for salads, side dishes and soup.

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April 12, 2016

Creamy Spaetzle with Kale and Mushrooms

10 oz dried spaetzle
1 lb baby Red Russian Kale
8 oz sliced crimini mushrooms
5 oz crumbled blue cheese
1 onion, halved and sliced
1-2 tablespoons butter
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the spaetzle and kale. Cook according to package instructions, about 10-12 minutes until the spaetzle is tender.

Meanwhile, saute the onion and mushrooms until the onions are nearly caramelized. Add the drained spaetzle and kale, saute 1-2 minutes until well combined. Remove from heat and stir in cheese. Serve immediately.

My thoughts:
I love spaetzle but rarely make it at home. I found a big bag and thought I'd have to change that! The kale and mushroom makes it a full side dish and the cheese is an easy short cut to creamy flavor. A fun and quick(!) alternative to macaroni and cheese.

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April 06, 2016

Salade Niçoise Inspired Tuna Pasta Salad

2 5-oz cans albacore tuna, drained
1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives
2 tablespoons capote capers
1 lb asparagus, steamed and cut into 2 inch pieces
4 hard-boiled eggs, coarsely chopped
1/2 small red onion, diced
10 oz cooked pasta (I used cellentani aka cavatappi)
2-3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper


Toss all ingredients in a large bowl until well combined. Serve immediately. Refrigerate leftovers.
My thoughts:
Despite the somewhat silly name, this is my new favorite lunch in spring. It uses fresh, local skinny asparagus, and a few of my favorite other foods: olives and capers! Honestly, the connection to Salade Niçoise is tenuous at best but it is what I had in the back of my mind when making this dish. It does have a lot of the same flavors as the famous salad though.

I've been trying to make extra hardy and easy-to-pack meals lately because some days due to his class schedule, Matt has to pack both lunch and dinner, He can heat up leftovers for lunch but dinner needs to be cold. Luckily this salad is not only pretty but a full, filling meal by itself. It keeps well for a day or two refrigerated as well.

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