Matzah Balls

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All right, so it’s that time of the month when I come out of hiding to contribute to the kosher food blogging world, in this month’s version of the Kosher Connection- Link up. If you’re new to the program, every month there’s a theme, and a bunch of reputable food bloggers, and myself, get together to give their version of that theme. This month’s theme is “Get well Gil.” For the uninitiated, Gil Marks is one of the foremost experts on kosher food, and it’s long history. In fact he even wrote a freaking encyclopedia on it! I happen to love the book, and it only weighs in at a whopping 650ish pages, so you know, it’s typical light reading fare. But in all honesty, the book is incredible, and it literally covers everything imaginable related to kosher food, from Adafina to Zwetschgenkuchen (“a cross between a cake and tart made with Italian prune plums”), I highly recommend taking a gander.

Anyway, I was trying to think what would be an appropriate recipe, and it dawned on me – Matzah Balls! Think about it – it’s the ultimate healing food, plus, it’s one of those foods that epitomizes Jewish cooking (sorry S’fardim, I guess you don’t count!…I joke, next time I’ll make Jachnun, or something scary sounding like that). Onward!

Quoting Gil in the Encyclopedia:

“..By the 12th century, the concept of dumplings, originally made from bread, had spread from Italy to Bohemia, where it was called knodel (knot). From there, the name traveled with variations in pronunciation, to southern Germany, Austria, and France. The term also traveled eastward to the Slavic regions. The most widespread Ashkenazic name for dumpling became knaidel/kneydl, which is better know by the plural knaidlach/kneydlakh

As the medieval period waned, flour began to replace bread as the base…During the 8 days of Passover…Germans discovered that they could substitute matza for the bread or flour, creating the most widely known type..matzah knaidel

It was only in the early 20th century, after Manischewitz introduced packaged matza meal, that this dumpling achieved mass popularization and it’s current status as an iconic Jewish food.

Matza balls consist of only a few ingredients – matza meal, eggs, a little far, a liquid, salt, and pepper. Using matza meal in place of flour, and adding eggs resulsts in a lighter dumpling. Adding fat…produces a more flavorful dumplings…

Now, ever since our post on chicken stock, I’m sure that like me, you also have some chicken shmaltz lying around in the fridge (or maybe some duck fat??), and seriously, what better way than to incorporate it into some matzah meal, with some of that stock…it’s like the circle of life, man. First you make chicken, then with the leftover bones and scraps, you make stock. With that stock you get the base of your chicken soup, and you also have shmaltz to make knaydlach….it’s so deep man.

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I actually used Michael Ruhlman’s recipe for this (I like that everything is by weight…because, you know… a scale…I’m like a broken record over here…), and I took some matzah, and added it to a food processor to pulverize.

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To that I added, the remaining dry ingredients: baking powder, some fresh rosemary (which I had lying around, but you can use whatever you see fit), salt, and black pepper.

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I melted some fresh chicken fat (you can use vegetable oil if you’re a lightweight), added it to 4 eggs and 1/4 cup of fresh chicken stock, and mixed it all together.

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Then I mixed together, the dry and wet ingredients, and after thoroughly combined, I let it sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, to fully hydrate.

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Before you’re ready to go, bring a pot of salted water to a simmer.

Then I rolled it up into golf-ish sized balls (remember, they’re going to grow, so smaller than you expect….I make this mistake, every time mind you).

Dump the kneydels into the salted water, and cook until they’re nice and fluffy,  about 20-30 minutes.

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And there you have it…there might be some of you out there (ahem – Phoenix Fresser..) why not just make this out of a box mix?? Well I’m going to preempt that by saying, Hashem gets angry when you use a box mix (especially duncan hines…but that’s another post).

Anyway, we here at the Kosher Gastronome Headquarters would like to wish a full and speedy recovery to Gil (Yitzchak Simcha ben Baila).

As always with the Kosher Link Ups, click on the funny frog guy below to see what the other peoples are doing.

Matzah Balls:

Ingredients:

  • 4 squares of matzo (ie –  1 cup/140 grams matzo meal), well pulverized in a food processor
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup/60 grams schmaltz, melted (or vegetable oil)
  • 1/4 cup/60 milliliters chicken stock or water
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon chopped rosemary (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and stir until they are all thoroughly mixed. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  2. With damp hands, form the matzo mixture into 8 golf ball-sized orbs (they will double in size).
  3. Bring a pot of salted water to a simmer
  4. Drop in balls, and cook for 20-30 minutes.

 

Lasagna – Kosher Connection LinkUp

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Hey person, remember when I was a functioning member of the blogging world?? Yeah, neither do I…harrumph, either way, me thinks it’s time to get back on track, so enough chit-chat, let’s go make some lasagna.

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For this month’s kosher connection linkup, the theme is “The one food you would want if stranded on an island.” Considering my gluttonous ways, I’d probably be ok, with just about anything. As long as I can shovel it into my mouth we’d be good, but I’ve been meaning to write a post on lasagna, so (Russian accent:) “two birds, one stone!” Onward comrade!

Lasagna, like ogres, is all about layers. You got your cheese, your sauce, and your noodles. The easiest layer is the lasagna layer (that is until one of you very grateful and generous and lucky people would love to sponsor a pasta maker lz”n a loved one). Now, I used to scoff at the idea at using no-boil noodles, but after doing some research, it’s actually a lot easier, and better in my opinion (which is all you’ll get here! Mwahahaha …yeah, so…didn’t you miss this weird blog???). so putting the noodles aside, let’s talk about the cheese and sauce.

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I like to really cheese it up, because I’m just that type of guy. First thing first – a cheese sauce; aka – mornay sauce. Mornay sauce = béchamel + cheese. Béchamel = roux + milk. Roux = fat + flour. So really Mornay= Cheese + (milk + [fat+ flour]). It’s actually pretty simple math. So let’s start by melting some butter, and toasting the flour. As with most rouxs, we go until it turns light blonde, and it’s smelling a little nutty, not very much unlike you (aw snap…). In this case, I also added some shallots to sautee in the butter.

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Just so we’re clear on what we’re doing, the whole idea of a roux is to add a starch to a liquid so it thickens it, but we’re also toasting it, which adds additional flavor. Technically, the more you cook the starch, the less it can thicken a given liquid, but that’s really only a concern, when you make a dark red type of roux, which is common in such dishes like gumbo…but I digress. After adding the milk, you need to cook it until the starch is “activated” and thickens the milk, and once that’s done, you now have your bechamel sauce. In order to complete the mornay experience, we add cheese.

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About the cheese, which I guess is really part 2a of this little layer party. Here’s the thing about cheese, its so diverse and multifaceted, that I don’t even know what to say about it. First thing first, I get it that shredded cheese is convenient and hassle free. I get it..in fact I use it from time to time. But here’s the thing – first of all so much of what makes cheese awesome is its moisture. Except for Parmesan, you want your cheese to be runny and gooey right? And that’s all thanks to moisture content, and by preshredding it, you’re basically removing a lot of the moisture (the second reason why preshredded cheeses are inferior is because they add starches to the cheese to prevent it from clumping [take a look at the ingredients next time], now technically speaking, that’s not as big a deal in this case because it will help thicken the sauce, but it does prevent from achieving maximum gooeyness, which is always a bad call).

So now that you remembered exactly how crazy I am, let’s add some grrrrated cheese to the bechamel. Take your shredded cheese, and add it to the hot bechamel, but off the flame and mix until its all melted and uniform. Now we can set that aside and focus on our sauce.
Tomato sauce is another one of those things where sure you can open a can of marinara sauce and kerplop it down, and that’s what I do many a time, however this isn’t a blog post about how to open a can of marinara sauce! Nay, this is a blog post how to open a can of whoop-ass on some lasagna, and show all of ‘Mrrrrrca what freedom tastes like!

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Oookkk, you still there? Well, for starters, I always keep a few cans of whole peeled tomatoes in the cupboard, because the easiest sauce you can make is to take a few tomatoes, drain the excess sauce, and grind up those tomatoes to the consistency you like, with whatever added spices you want. If you wanted to step it up a notch, sure you can sautee shallots in butter, add some anchovies and cook the tomatoes until reduced and thick, but come on! I know you, you’re still upset that I told you to shred your own gosh darn cheese, dagnabbit. (Maybe well do a post about tomato sauce in the future? Maybe…no promises..)
All right, so now that we have the cheese and sauce, let’s go crazy.

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I like to first put a little sauce in the bottom of the pan, so the noodles have something to stick to.

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On top of the noodles goes cheese sauce and tomato sauce, and guess what Mayor McCheese?? More cheese! Huzzah! Obviously you can use whatever cheese you deem fit. Mozzarella, gouda, colby, and jack are all good options.

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Then its just a matter of repeating layers. I always top the whole shebang with more grated cheese, and Parmesan on top.

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Now to cook it, I like to cook it covered at 350 for about 20-25 minutes, and then crank the oven up to 450 for another 10-15 minutes uncovered, so the top gets nice and crispitty crunchitty. (A nice little trick is to spray the side of aluminum that’s against the lasagna with some Pam so it doesn’t stick)
And that my friend is how you win the war on terrorism.

As always, click on the funny looking thing below to see what people who actually know what they’re doing are doing.

Another one pot noodle thingamabob…plus a link up

Quite a catchy title there, I know. Anyway remember way back in the day when I used to post regularly? And one of those awesome posts was about the one pot noodle dishes that was all the rage a few months back? Oh you don’t? Well fear not, relive the experience by clicking here, but don’t forget to come back for some even more awesomeness. So much awesome, its awesome.

Anyway, moving right along, so this month’s link-up Kosher Connection, is all about comfort food. Well just what is comfort food? Well I guess its food that comforts you, duh…but what’s that? Well I don’t know, but who cares, let’s eat.

So ever since I posted that one pot linguine recipe I was talking about earlier, a few people have told me they really liked it, which is always nice to hear. And to be honest, I’ve made a few different iterations of the same dish, but this one stood out, namely because I actually remembered what I put in to it, and more importantly, I had some quasi usable pictures.

It all starts with stock. Vegetable stock to be precise, but not just any vegetable stock, a really quick vegetable stock; like 20 minutes quick. How, you wonder? Well, you’re going to have wait on that one…that post is coming up…eventually…maybe. Who am I kidding…more like don’t get your hopes up.

So anyway, you’ve got vegetable stock, which makes everything better (by they way, you can obviously use plain ole` water, if for some odd reason you don’t have stock handy), now it’s all a matter of throwing a few vegetables and some cheese together.

For this dish, I sauteed cauliflower, then added my noodles (orichetta), spinach (raw), ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper. I added the stock, and let it all cook down.

While the stock was cooking, I took some feta cheese, and mushed it (which is the precise culinary term) with some chopped parsley.

Once the pasta was cooked through, and the stock was cooked out, I topped the whole shooting match with the feta-parsley awesomeness, and obviously some more parmesan, and then proceeded to be comforted.

Wow that was quick…I know you’re sad that that’s all, but if you have any questions type away in the comments below, and as always, click on the funny frog man under this paragraph to see what people who actually know how to blog are doing.

Bobby’s Apple Cake

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We’re up for another round of The Kosher Connection Link up thingamabob, and with Rosh Hashana right around the corner, this months theme is apples. So ever since I was a little kid I can remember my grandmother making this thing we all called apple cake. For some reason, I never really questioned the idea of how this became known as “apple cake,” as you’ll soon see. Well this apple cake really was always made for Sukkos, and my grandmother had this special sheet pan that she used for it, in fact I think it’s the only thing she made in the pan. Anyway, suffice it to say that it was awesome. It would sit behind my kitchen table, half covered in aluminum foil, but really anyone who passed it, for some reason, had this innate need to just even out the edges. You know – a little slice off the edge to make sure the edge was even…all in the name of science. Last year I decided it was time for me to try and make this “cake.”

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The reason I call this a “cake” is because it’s really more like a pie than a cake. There’s whole apples, mixed with spices, sandwiched between two enriched doughs. Sounds like a pie to me, but for some reason, it’s always been known as apple cake in our house

So last year I ventured out to make it, and got the recipe from my grandmother through my sister in law, which means my grandmother probably left something out, so we wouldn’t make it as well as she does. (I once asked my grandmother for her recipe for meatballs, and she pretty much just told me to throw a can of tomato sauce in a pot with the formed meatballs…after I did that with unwavering faith, and the meatballs were terrible, I asked her, and she was like “well what about the ketchup, sugar, and more water? Of course you have to put that in also!”)  Getting a recipe from my grandmother is like playing broken telephone with some one speaks broken english and can’t hear that well. It’s not always easy. Here’s what I ended up with:

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First thing is to make the dough. I said it was with enriched dough, and by that I mean there’s added fat. In general, you can categorize doughs as just plain old flour, water, yeast, and salt; or you can enrich said dough with different types of fats. This enrichment, obviously effects the taste, but it also preserves the dough, and effects the texture of the dough. You can see the difference when you compare homemade bread (without any added fats), and homemade kokosh, or cinnamon buns. There’s an inherent richness to the dough, but the dough will also be fluffier, and actually last longer. (I say homemade dough, as opposed to store bought dough, because all store bought bread will have different preservatives in it…it’s not natural for a loaf of bread to last more than 3 days). There’s also eggs in the form of yolks, which also add richness, along with color, and other properties that I’m not in the mood of getting in to (read: I’m not really sure, and not in the mood of doing the research).

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Allright, let’s get some margarine a-melting. About 1 pound of fat, which is 4 sticks of margarine/butter. Once the melted margarine is cool, whisk in the eggs. Set aside, and work on the rest of the dough. Add the flour and sugar, and whisk together, and combine remaining sugar, yeast, and tepid water, and whisk to combine. Add yeast mixture and fatty fat fat mixture to the flour, and using the paddle attachment (or a wooden spoon) to mix until it just comes together, and then switch to a dough hook, and knead until it pulls away from the bowl, and a tacky, but not sticky dough forms. Allow that dough to rest in the fridge over night (or up to 3 days).

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On the day you’re ready to make your apple cake, allow the dough to come to room temperature for at least an hour. While the dough is coming to terms with it’s surrounding, make the filling. My grandmaw’s recipe calls for 10 apples, 1/2 cup of sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and lemon juice. You shred the apples, and wring out any excess liquid, and then mix everything together. DSC_3641

You then roll out half the dough, put it on bottom of the sheet pan, place the apple mixture in (leaving about a half inch around the borders) cover with other dough, and crimp the whole thing shut. Brush some egg over top, and let it bake until golden brown and delicious.

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So I actually made this last year for Sukkos, and luckily was able to dig through the archives of all the food I take pictures of (it’s a lot…like, I take pictures of everything, and then I’m too self conscience to post anything about it…but I’ll just save that last part for the couch…aaaanyway…), and if I could critique it, I would say, I would treat this “cake” more like a pie, and would definitely add some sort of thickening agent; flour, corn starch, potato starch, tapioca, whatever. Also, I would consider mixing the apples with sugar, allowing it macerate, and then taking the liquid, and cooking it down and adding that concentrated apple flavor back in. Those are the modifications I’ll probably do this year.

As usual, click on the funny frog looking guy right below this paragraph to see what actual talented people did.

Bobby’s Apple Cake

I know that when I made this last year, I ended up with two whole apple cakes, but I can’t remember if that was because I doubled the recipe. So if you see that there’s a lot of dough, then instead of using half to line the sheet pan, use 1/4…knowwhatimsaying?

Ingredients:

For the Dough:

  • 5 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons yeast
  • 1/2 cup tepid water
  • 4 sticks margarine
  • 4 yolks
  • 1 whole egg

For the Apple filling:

  • 10 apples (I like to use a mixture of yellow, green, and another apple, to get a good mix of texture and flavor out of the apples), shredded
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg

Directions:

For the Dough:

  1. Combine flour, and 1/2 cup sugar in a bowl, and whisk to combine. Combine the vanilla extract, remaining 1/2 cup sugar, yeast, and water in a bowl, and stir to combine until frothy.
  2. Melt the margarine, and when cool, add the yolks and egg, and whisk to combine.
  3. Add the flour mixture, the yeast mixture, and margarine mixture to bowl of a mixer, and with the paddle attachment, mix until everything is combined. Switch to the dough hook, and knead on medium-low until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
  4. Place dough in an oiled container, cover, and place in the refrigerator over night and up to 3 nights
  5. On the day of baking, allow the dough to come to room temperature for at least an hour before handling.

For the filling:

  1. To shred apples, peel and core the apples, and run through food processor’s shredding blade.
  2. Combine apples, sugar, and lemon juice, and let sit over colander set in a bowl for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Take reserved apple juice, and set in a pan over medium-high heat and reduce liquid until syrupy.
  4. Add syrup back to apple-sugar mixture, along with corn starch, cinnamon, and vanilla extract, and mix to combine.
  1. Divide dough in half, and roll out half the dough, and spread on baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.
  2. Spread apple mixture over bottom half of dough, leaving a 1/2 inch space around the borders
  3. Roll out other half, and cover everything cinching it all closed.
  4. Whisk remaining egg, and brush over dough
  5. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven until golden brown and delicious (I can’t remember how long it took, but if I had to guess, it was probably 30 minutes? I dunno, let your nose decide)