The Kosher Gastronome

Livin' the kosher dream

Spicy Pickled Okra

Well howdy pardner…now that you’ve ventured over these here Mason Dixon lines, you my friend are in the south, and down here in the south we like our okra, and by the south I mean good ole Mrrrrland, the entryway to the south, where we’re just slow enough to considered “southy” but still too brash and rude to know we really belong in the north. Anyway, okra, I hardly knew ya! See what happens when I don’t blog for months?? I just have a stockpile of jokes, and I’m just going to use them all up now…So yeah, Hi, didja miss me?? Good.

The first time I ever had okra was actually pickled okra, from a company called Wickles, and they make these awesome pickled okra, which are just the right amount of spicy and sweet, that it made me want to make them. Luckily I wasn’t inundated with okra beforehand, because if you ask most people they’ll tell you they hate okra because it’s too slimy, which they disgustingly are, but as we’ll soon see, they don’t have to be.

Okra for the uninitiated is this star looking pod, that when cut produces the infamous mucilage that is actually something valuable as a thickener when making gumbo, but otherwise it’s pretty gross. Now there are ways around it. First off, the mucilage only happens when you cut into it, and release some enzymes. So you can either keep them whole, or you can heat them over really really high heat, to denature the enzymes (like if you were to use them in a stir fry…). Here’s an interesting tidbit that I’m pretty sure I didn’t make up, the candy we know of today as marshmallow, was called the “marsh mallow” because when those kooky Frenchies developed it in the early 17th century, they used the mucilage from a specific mallow from a marsh, not very unlike what’s found in okra (in fact I think it was a relative of okra…). Chew on that disgusting fact the next time you eat marshmallows!

Anyway, let’s talk about pickling. When we speak of “pickling” something, we’re usually referring to preservation of said food, without any heat. The idea behind it is: there are some friendly bacteria present on said food that will, in the right conditions, produce anti-microbial stuff (ex – lactic acid, carbon dioxide..), and also metabolize the sugars in the food, so said food will now not only taste differently, but also not spoil. We can either accomplish this by traditional means, which is adding a lot of salt, which will then draw stuff (water, sugars…) out of the food you’re pickling to create an environment that is friendly for the good bacteria to flourish and do their things (ie – no oxygen). Or we can do the non traditional approach, and give those little stupid bacteria some help. The way we do this, is by adding vinegar that kills the bacteria that causes spoilage, and allows the good bacteria to do its thing of metabolizing sugars, yada yada yada….I lost you didn’t I?

Long story short (tl/dr) – pickles can either “ferment” by just adding salt, which will then kill off bad bacteria, or you can quickly “pickle” it by adding vinegar to kill the bad bacteria…..make sense??

For our little application we decided to go the quick route, because contrary to what my verbal diarrhea might imply, I like shortcuts.

Generally you want at least half of the brine to be vinegar, so equal parts water:vinegar works, but I find that upping the ratio of vinegar helps. So I like to go with about 60% vinegar. You can use any type of vinegar you want, and I’ll usually use half regular vinegar and half apple cider (I’ve never tried any of the heavier types of vinegar like balsamic or even red wine, but I’m intrigued…if anyone’s every tried that, I’m curious how it’s come out).

The next step is deciding what other components/flavors you want.

For this spicy pickle, I added about 1 tablespoon salt, 1 tablespoon of sugar, a bunch of dried thai chili peppers, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, and some dried rosemary.

I poured a ½ cup of hot water over top to dissolve the salt and sugar, and re-hydrate the peppers. Added my vinegar mixture (I think it was apple cider and regular vinegar), covered the okra with the liquid, and placed it in the fridge for a day.

So yeah, that’s it for today…It kind of sucks that I’m not the blogger I claim I am. I mean just this summer alone, I’ve already made 4 batches of okra pickles, 1 batch of classically lacto-fermented cucumber pickles. Pickled beets. Pickled red onions…and none of it presented itself on these here interwebs. And I blame you! I still haven’t worked out why or how I blame you, but suffice it to say that I do.

I kid!! I miss you…this was fun, and not at all weird right?? Let’s try to do this more often, ok?

French Toast


How is is possible that I’ve never written a post on french toast?? We’ve done waffles, we’ve done pancakes, but I’ve neglected my true breakfast love. French toast, if you can hear this, please accept this humblest of apologies.

Anyway, so french toast, why aren’t we making this more often? And even better question, why would you ever buy the pre-made frozen crap? I don’t get it. Listen, as much as I don’t agree, I can understand you saying making waffles and pancakes from scratch is a hassle, but there’s no excuse for french toast. The point of what i’m saying is to make you feel bad about yourself, and  for you to reflect on how poor your decisions are…that’s all…I joke! You’re the best, and that’s why you deserve some french toast, so let’s get some stale bread shall we?

It’s actually a pretty amazing thing.. french toast that is…(are you not following??) I mean you take some old bread which has gone stale (more on that in a second), you add some eggs and milk, and fry. If you really delve into it, there are two things going on, first is the bread staling, which the actual technical term is retrogradation, and the other thing that’s happening is we’re cooking a custard.


Let’s start with retrogradation. Bread is made up of starch, which is a long molecule made up of smaller glucose molecules, and how those glucose molecules are stacked makes the starch either amylose or amylopectin, which are the two main starches found in bread. When starch and water meet, they gelatinize, which basically means the starch absorbs water, and once that happens the starch starts to undergo retrogradation, which means the starch starts to gel, and slowly start to expel moisture. Once a bread is done baking the staling process starts, and given enough time, it will expel enough water to make it feel dry. This is essential for french toast, because what we then do, is replace that lost moisture with the custard (ie – the milk and eggs). Now we’re not really going to get into the custard part, because frankly it’s not that important here, and we’ve done it before.

So just to recap – we need to expel the moisture from the starch network, and then replace it with awesomeness. One way to do that is allow the bread to stale by drying it out on the counter, which will allow the moisture to leave naturally. However, America’s Test Kitchen did a study and found that if you allow the bread to dry out in the oven, it actually will release a lot more moisture, because the process of retrogradation isn’t really that great, so we end up with a lot of moisture actually trapped inside. Basically, the best way to dry out bread is in a very low oven. That being said, this batch of french toast I made by allowing to dry out on the counter over night. By the way, if you’re wondering, don’t use the bread you buy in the supermarkets that mysteriously take weeks to go stale. There are so many preservatives that it won’t stale properly.


Once the bread is good and dried, it’s a matter of allowing it to soak up the eggs and milk, and then frying in some butter. So allow the bread to sit in the egg mixture for a minute or two, to make sure it’s sopped up enough liquid, and then fry, over medium heat.


That’s it. Easy as pie.


By the way, after I wrote all this I realized that I kind of did cover this, in my stuffing post. Bread pudding, which stuffing is a form of, is like french toast’s step brother. Also while we’re on the topic, can I air out one grievance? You know that dish that people make called: “french toast souffle?” That drives me crazy. First of all a souffle is a specific type of dish (you’re still reading, and want to know what defines a souffle??? Well since some people want to go back to their real lives, I’ll leave it for the comments, just ask away…as usual, I don’t bite)…and it’s a freaking bread pudding, so let’s call it that! Whodathunk I’m such a stickler.


Anyway, you’re free to go back to real life.

Good Shabbos, Y’all.

Boneless Chicken rollups with Porter reduction


So apparently there are some people who mistakenly think that white meat is better than dark meat. Craziness right? Now don’t get me wrong, white meat that’s properly cooked, and fresh is awesome, and bad chicken is bad chicken no matter what color…however that being said, all things being equal, dark meat is way better. Now there are some that claim dark meat is annoying because it comes with bones, and these people, being the lazy people they are, don’t want to have to go through the trials and tribulations of having to work when they eat, so to these weird people, any sort of impediment in their course to stuffing said food down their gullets in one fluid motion is considered bad, so ergo, bone-in chicken is bad. I know what you’re thinking, who is crazy enough to think this, right?? Well I’m not going to name names (ahem – Dr Shmalexman) but suffice it to say, people like this do exist. Where am I going with this diatribe? Well what if we could take dark meat and remove the bone so even those lazy people out there can enjoy good chicken. I know what you’re thinking, why not just buy boneless dark meat, right? Well the only answer I have is, have you seen how much more they charge you for removing the bone? Just do it yourself, and it’s really not that hard. Onward!

So butchery is a great way to take out some aggression, and I highly recommend cutting down a whole chicken at least once, just to get a feel for it (plus, the chicken always comes out neater, and another benefit is you can make chicken galantine, which you should definitely do), anyway, if you decide not to butcher a whole chicken, go grab some chicken legs, and lets start cutting. First you’re going to want to cut the drumstick from the thigh, and the easiest way to do that is to take the bottom, and squeeze the leg and thigh together and start cutting down, and you should be able to wriggle your knife in between the two pieces, and cut right through.

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Once you have the leg, you can slice down directly over the bone to open it up, and then slide your knife under the bone but on top of the meat, to completely separate the meat from the bone. Then kind of do the same thing with the thigh, but I’m sorry, because I don’t have any good pictures, but basically cut along the bone, and then slide the knife underneath to cut meat away, and where the two bones meet you’ll need to cut away, whatever,you’ll figure it out, right? Gravy sauce.


Allright, so now that you have your cut up chicken bottoms (or bought deboned thighs, because I know you guys, and I know that you’re thinking, hey why go through all this work, when I can just buy it…well you’re what’s wrong with our society!)…ok sorry for that.. moving right along…so I took the chicken, and rolled it up so it would be thicker, and more uniform, and decided you know what would be a great application for these pieces of chicken? Braising.

Braising is, in my opinion, a very underutilized technique. The idea behind it is like this – the gentlest and easiest way to cook something is by using water as a heat transfer medium (ie – it’s more predictable to cook something in water, than in air [the oven] because of how well water can transfer heat), but there’s one caveat, high heat develops flavor. So braising combines the best of both worlds, you get high heat cooking, and liquid cooking. The way it works is thusly – first you brown whatever protein you’re cooking, remove the meat, and add whatever veggies. Then you add enough liquid so that it will end up submerging half of the meat, cover the whole thing with a tight fitting lid, and continue cooking.

For our application, I rolled up the boneless chicken, and tied it with some twine. Set up a dutch oven over high heat, and browned the chicken on all sides.


While that was cooking, I mixed some honey, dijon mustard, hot sauce, and porter beer. I removed the chicken, added the liquid to the pot, and scraped the bottom while it was cooking (as the chicken browns, it develops what’s called fond on the bottom of the pan, which is a big source of flavor, so scraping it off the bottom helps). I added the chicken back, covered the pot, and placed in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes…I think.


When it was all done, the porter had reduced by a lot, and made an excellent thick sauce, and the chicken was actually pretty awesome, and I think you should definitely give this a try.

So yeah, that’s all for now, if you have any questions, let’s talk.

I’m not going to lie, I miss you random people I mostly don’t know, so I’m going to leave you with an empty promise that I’m going to try and post more often. I really want to but you know, life and all that gets in the way, so yeah, first world problems…whatever…enjoy the snow.

Flatbread with Kalamata olive oil, and Dukka

Yeah, so the name kind of says it all…I guess I’m not here to tell you how to make something, but more here to give you an idea for supper? Truthfully, I’m not really sure why I’m here, maybe I just need someone to talk to, ya know?

Anyway, can I speak freely here for a second? This whole “dip” craze has gotten a little out of hand. Sure I get the idea that sometimes you want to eat something with your challah on Shabbos, because the likelihood is there’s probably not going to be enough food coming out later, so let’s eat a few loaves of bread with some mayonnaise. I get it. Here’s my gripe…the dips that I’ve had, are anywhere from okay to absolutely terrible. If you’re going to stuff your gullet, at least do it right….I mean, have you tried the so called tomato dip? and dill dip? They taste nothing like their respective predecessors. The dill dip really pisses me off, because the few that I’ve tasted, taste like someone had leftover mayo lying around, and just added dried dill to it. It legitimately upset me.


Long story short, I made challah the other week, and it was pretty bad; It was pretty flavorless (unless you count “yeasty” as a flavor), and all in all, it was pretty bland. I had a lot leftover raw dough, and I froze it, and then let it sit in the fridge for a while to thaw/ferment. This slow fermentation process, allows the dough to change in flavor, and texture. So even though the dough was pretty boring when I made the challah, I knew that it had a chance, if I let it slow ferment, to possibly taste better.

I decided to shape the dough like a flat bread. Flat breads can be viewed as a sub-category of dough in it’s own right, and can encompass many different types of breads (naan, pita, matzoh, to name a few), but generally flat breads, are high water content doughs (ie – a flour:water ration in the realm of 70%, [whereas most "bready" doughs are in the area of 60-65ish...these estimates are pretty much all made up, but that's my take]…and this flat bread is not baked in some sort of container, it can be yeasted, it can have added fat…and on and on….now besides this sentence being possibly the longest run on sentence within parentheses (I’m going for the world record…[I'm also going for the record of most parentheses] {these brackets make 10!}) I also don’t know what else to say parenthetically about flatbreads, so let’s get back to the dish at hand). The type of flat bread I had envisioned, I’m not quite sure of the name, and I think it would just be called a …”flatbread” was more like a wet-ish dough that would be spread out on a baking sheet, dimpled with my fingers (to create texture, and pop some rogue yeast bubbles), spread some spices (that wouldn’t burn with the long cooking time), and bake in a preheated 400 degree oven.

For this particular dish, I decided to spread the dough on a baking sheet, spread some coarse salt, ground mustard, and black pepper, nothing too crazy, whatever, I keeps it real. I decided to bake the dough in the baking sheet on the floor of the oven for the first 10-15 minutes to get a nice crust, and then finished it through, at about 350.

After the bread was done, I allowed it to cool on the counter, I cut it up in pieces, and then preceded to dunk the bread in kalamata olive oil (more on that in a second), and dip in some Dukkah, and it was just so dern tasty, that I thought to myself, I should really spread the word, so here I am.
Now about the olive oil. Oil in cooking, can generally can be viewed in three different ways, 1) great for high heat cooking, but pretty flavorless, 2) so-so for high heat cooking, with so-so flavor or 3) absolutely a terrible idea for high heat cooking, with (most likely) a lot of flavor. In general the more an oil has a flavor to it the less stable it is, and the more likely it is a terrible idea for high heat cooking (for one, you’re more likely to burn the oil, and two even if you aren’t burning the oil, you’re more than likely cooking out the flavor associated with that oil). So vegetable and canola oil are great for high heat cooking (and are pretty flavorless), whereas toasted sesame oil is a terrible idea, but is very tasty. Olive oil comes in a few different varieties, and you’re regular run of the mill supermarket brand “extra virgin olive oil” really probably isn’t a terrible idea [mainly because it's not really extra virgin olive oil...but that's for another post] but it’s also not a great idea. Meaning, you’re probably not going to burn the oil, but you will cook out the nuances. So normally, if I’m cooking something over high heat (roasting, frying…) my first choice wouldn’t be olive oil, and if you have non extra-virgin olive oil, that would be a better choice. Now if you have a good extra virgin olive oil, that you paid good money for, and has a very distinct flavor to it…for sure don’t cook with it. Instead use it fresh, so you can taste it. This kalamata olive oil (that I picked up in some random place I can’t remember…but I did see available with a hechsher in Trader Joe’s) is a good example of olive oil that has a distinct flavor to it, and shouldn’t be cooked.

Instead, dip your bread in some, and eat it. If you happen to be weird and are against the idea of dipping bread in oil, but would dip bread in mayonnaise, I think you’re fundamentally lacking an understanding of what mayonnaise is, and it would be my honor to explain…actually, maybe I’ll have a post on that in a bit…hang tight. But if you pulled your head out of the sand for a second, and tried it, you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Now since I’m not one to leave well enough alone, I decided to heed the advice on the side of the dukkah container, and then proceeded to  dunk the oil laden bread into the spice blend, and boy was that a great idea. It was like a flavor attack from flavor ninjas that were simultaneously flying flavor rocketships in my mouth. It was awesome, and I’m trying to spread the dukkah gospel now.

By the way, dukkah is this Ethopian spice blend that is readily available in Trader Joe’s also with a hechser. I saw it for the first time on the kosher blog – This American Bite, but Yosef Silver, when he made Dukkah crusted Salmon, and knew I needed to try it. When I brought it home, the spice blend said to try it like we did, bread dipped in olive oil, and then dipped in the spice blend, and it didn’t disappoint.

Anyway, that’s all for now. I hope next time you’re planning on buying dips for your shabbos table, try this instead.


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