The Kosher Gastronome

Livin' the kosher dream

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Quick Vegetable Stock/Soup

Hey remember the other day when I made that one pot noodle thingy, and talked about stock, and how I made a really quick stock? No? Well, you can always brush up on your Gastronome by clicking here.

Soup! What could be more boring, ammiright?

Well, yeah, but you know those nights when you come home and you want some hardy vegetable soup, but you’re not sure how in your laziness laden stupor you can pull it off. Well the easiest way is to have vegetable stock on the ready, and to be honest with you, I actually stock up on boxed vegetable stock (stock up on stock…see what I did there??), and will use it to add to dishes, or to even make soup with; Just add a few vegetables, and you have your own fresh soup. Now I know the snarky ones out there are already trying to figure out how to properly eloquate why or how I’m a complete sham and mockery to society at large, but I’m comfortable with that.

All right so weird rant aside, I’m not here to tell you how to open up a box of vegetable stock, and use it for making soup (you sham and mockery what you are)…what I am here to do is to tell you how to make fresh vegetable stock, on a regular weeknight, and still have time to spare to watch Keeping up with the Kardashians.

Now just to clear the air on some definitions, stock vs soup..what’s the difference you ask? Now I’m no culinary linguist, but the working definition that I go with is this: Stock is basically flavored water. So chicken stock (which I’m sure you’ll no doubt remember) is chicken flavored water; Vegetable stock, is, well, vegetable flavored water. Stock has many applications. One of those applications is Soup, which is the name of a dish, in which we’re consuming some sort of liquid, usually combined with either vegetables, or some other food item, that can be eaten out of a bowl, with a spoon. (Another use of stock can be adding it to anything in place of plain water to get the taste of whatever you’re attempting to do. So for example, you can make rice with chicken stock instead of water to add more flavor…this is another good reason to have boxed/canned stock ready to use, to help spice up random dishes…).

Since stock is just flavored water, the “ingredients” for a stock are whatever flavor you want the final result to be, plus water. Then in order for the whole shooting match (it’s a little weird how often I use that term, isn’t it?) to work, we apply heat, which then allows the water (which is the solvent) to draw out flavor molecules (the solute) to form a solution. The higher the temperature the more readily the solute will dissolve into the solvent, and the faster you have stock. So for all intents and purposes, the hotter the water the faster you’ll have stock. (One problem with this is when making chicken stock, there are some bad flavor molecules that will only dissolve once the temperature reaches over 200ish, so while you can boil a chicken stock, and have it quicker, it’s generally not recommended because of the bad flavors that come with it…however, I’ve done it, and while I haven’t done a blind taste test, it’s a little hard to notice the difference…but more on that another time)…

Anyway, back to vegetable stock, with vegetables, there’s really no concern of harsh flavors associated with higher temperatures, so all you need to do for vegetable stock is cook the heck out of the vegetables, until they’ve given all they can to the water, strain the liquid, and you have yourself vegetable stock.

So traditional vegetable stock is made by dumping a whole bunch of whatever vegetables you want into a pot, covering with water, adding spices, and cooking it until you’ve deemed it ready, and that can usually take up to an hour or so. Now, we’ve discussed increasing the temperature in order to make the stock faster, but there’s another way to make it faster. If you decrease the particle size, then you’re increasing the surface area (ie there’s more of the solvent in contact with the solution), which will decrease the amount of time the water will need to do it’s thing.

I know this all sounds scientific-y, but it’s just common sense. Think of it this way, it takes longer to dissolve one of those sugar cube in hot water, than it does for regular sugar to dissolve, because of the amount of area that’s exposed to the hot water is less in the large cube, than in the regular sugar. Make sense?

Anyway, really short story long, what I’m trying to say is if you take your vegetables, puree them in the food processor until they’re what’s technically called a mush, add your water, spices, and what not, bring it to a boil, it will cook and be done in like 20 minutes (I actually don’t remember how long it took, but I think it was around that). Then all you need to do is strain the mush out, and now you have your quick vegetable stock.

Of course you can use this to make the one pot dish I posted the other day, or you can try what I did here. I decided to cube up some tofu, and since the food processor was out, I took some random pasta I had, and whizzed it for a little, so I can get pieces of different size pasta in my soup. Cooked the pasta, tofu, and vegetable stock, and I think some soy sauce, for about 10 minutes together, and there you have it, a quick soup. As you’ll notice in the picture all the way on the top, I topped with some sriracha, and headed off to watch Keeping up with the Kardashians.

Sufganiyot – Chanukka 2012

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Yes, I am aware Chanukka is over, but you know what? I decided to turn over a new leaf, and get started on next year. You know me, my motto is you can never be too prepared.

Anyway, back to real life; Sufganiyot, for the un-initiated, are jelly doughnuts, but they really apply to any sort of stuffed doughnuts, like caramel, chocolate, or whatever.

To make the dough, I saw an interesting recipe in the “The Joy of Cooking,” which essentially utilizes the creaming method for this yeasted dough. The reason why I find it interesting is when making any yeasted dough, we take advantage of gas by-products from the yeast to get trapped in a gluten network, which then when baked will expand. When making cookies however, you want some lift, but not too much, and that’s where the creaming method comes in. When you take soft butter and cream it together with sugar, what you’re doing is punching thousands of tiny little holes into the dough, which then expands also, and makes the cookie fluffy. The recipe I used for the sufganiyot, starts by creaming butter and sugar, and then adding some yeast, and some more flour, and allowing it to rise. So by doing the whole creaming thing first, it incorporates all of those air bubbles, which then can add to an even fluffier end result…Well I thought it was cool.

I allowed them to rise overnight in the fridge, which helps develop flavor, without causing them to rise too much (which is a thing), and then the next day, I punched the dough down, and allowed it to rise again.

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When ready to roll, I decided to follow the instructions in the book, and rolled it thinner than normal (1/4 of an inch, as opposed to 1/2”), cut out rounds, placed the jelly filling inside, brushed egg white around, and topped each round with another round. I made some with jelly, some with homemade caramel sauce, and some with chocolate.

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To fry, I brought the oil up to 350 degrees, which if you don’t have a thermometer, or if your thermometer sucks like mine, you can test it with a kernel of popcorn, and when it pops, you’re good to go.

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Let them rest on a cooling rack, and when ready dust the hell out of them with confectionary sugar.

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I did the same thing for the caramel, I placed a dollop of the caramel on one of the rounds, and topped with another

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Now for the chocolate, I tried making a ganache, and doing the same thing, but it didn’t work out as I expected, so I tried stuffing them the classical approach, by injecting the chocolate inside. Well that was quite the disaster. I mean it somewhat worked out, but it made a mess, and then the chocolate pretty much oozed out, as you can see.

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All in all, the dough came out really good. But I didn’t like the laying the two pieces on top of each other. A bunch of them opened up when frying. I would rather stuff them afterwards, the only problem is getting something to make that task easier. (I’ve used a piping bag with metal tip, and a plastic syringe, both didn’t do such a good job).

Well I hope you had a good Chanukka, and that you gained at least 5 pounds strictly from oil, however if you didn’t you can always make a batch of these.

Sufganiyot

adapted from Joy of Cooking (pg – 810)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup water, warm
  • 4.5 teaspoons yeast (2 envelopes)
  • 4.5 cups flour, divided
  • 10 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Oil for frying
  • powdered sugar
  • Jelly, Caramel, Chocolate, or whatever you’re planning on stuffing the doughnuts with

Directions:

  1. Combine warm water, and yeast, mix, and allow to sit until frothy. Add 1 cup of the flour, mix until combined, and allow to sit, covered for at least 30 minutes (It will start to bubble vigorously)
  2. With a paddle, beat butter and sugar on medium until light and creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, waiting until the egg is incorporated before adding the next egg.
  3. Add vanilla, salt, yeast mixture, and remaining flour, and mix until combined. Switch to a dough hook, and knead until the dough pulls away from the bowl, about 10minutes on medium speed
  4. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, tightly cover, and allow to rise for 4 hours, or overnight in the fridge
  5. Punch down dough, and (if risen in the fridge, bring to room temperature, and) allow to rise a second time, around 60-90 minutes.
  6. If you’re planning on placing the filling before frying (like I did), roll out the dough to 1/4”. If you’re planning on stuffing the dough after fried, roll it out to 1/2”
  7. Bring oil to 350 degrees (which is about the temperature a popcorn kernel would pop), and fry, without crowding the pan too much.
  8. Allow to cool on a cooling rack (allowing it to cool on paper towels can lead to soggy-ness), and when ready, dust with powdered sugar.

How To Blog About Thanksgiving

So you want to be a food blogger on this the biggest food day in `Merica, but you’re not sure where to start? Well fear not, because I have the perfect guide for you.

1) Tell people they’ve been cooking their turkeys wrong, and tell them you have a new and improved method – You see every year you somehow manage to screw up your turkey, wanna know why? It’s because you didn’t roast the bird upside downplace an ice pack on top of the breast before raostingplace aluminum foil on top of the breastcook it in parts, Spatchcock (gigidy) your turkeyThat’s the only way to ensure your turkey will come out moist and delicious…this year at least.

My prediction for next year? Deep Fried Turkey! Youtube “deep fried turkey” just to see how easy and simple it is!

2) Make everything “traditional but with a twist of modern” – pumpkin pie is so boring, solution? Delicata squash pie, now there’s an improvement.

Green beans have you down? How about okra!

Mashed potatoes making you frown? Well turn that frown upside down, with mashed celery root!

Can’t stand that poor excuse you call cranberry sauce? Why not try making it fresh instead of plopping it out of a can!

3) Come up with a wine list – This is a little tricky, because some people aren’t that “into” wines, but it doesn’t matter! You can still impress them. All you have to do is say how “_______” (insert name of wine) is the wine that pairs the best with turkey, not even a question. And it helps if it’s somewhat of an odd sounding wine. Beujolais is perfect. But it doesn’t have to be odd, it can be somewhat retro, like rose. What you don’t want to do is say something that’s too well known, like a merlot, or cabernet sauvignon. As long as it’s somewhat less than ordinary, it will work.

Prediction for next year – Moscato!

4) Tell everyone how much you’re making, and then tell everyone to “relax” – one of the best parts about being a blogger is you can lie to everyone, and no one will know! If you can come up with a few recipes that have an ingredient list longer than Anna Karenina that would be ideal, but obviously the more the merrier. And if you can throw in a few things that need specific instructions where to get it (kind of like what Bon Appetit does) that’s even better. Sassafaras root? Hazelnut Oil? Tamarind? Black truffles? Great! But to really top it all off, you have to make everyone feel like it’s super easy, and you have your life in order, and everything is ready to go, and you’re just busy feeding the horses in your stable.

On that note – Happy Thanksgiving! I’m all done cooking for the 17 people we’re having, and I’m going to go take a leisurely walk to my stables to feed my horses.

Enjoy!

Fish Tacos

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For some reason, fish is one of those foods that either you hate or love. There’s really no in between. So if you’re a hater, well then all I can say is – haters gonna hate. You see there are so many different types of fish, and to say you hate fish, is just short sighted. That’s like eating the white meat on chicken, and saying “Bah Humbug (yeah apparently you’re Ebenezer Scrooge in this little ditty), I hate all forms of cooked animal!” Saying you hate fish encompasses tuna, salmon, flounder, halibut (i think you get the point) and all of those taste differently, so how can one make a broad sweeping statement, that they don’t like fish? Well in my meaningless opinion I think it has to do with the fact that most people aren’t treating fish properly. Fish are very technique sensitive that a lot of the times the reason why the fish isn’t good, isn’t because you just don’t like it, but more because it probably wasn’t handled right. The real nutsos will bring a cooler filled with ice to the store, so the fish won’t get below the proper temperature. And the smell? Well fish isn’t supposed to smell. Crazy right? If your fish smells fishy, well then chances are it’s not at it’s ideal.

All this is not to say that it will be spoiled, and in-edible, but I guess what I’m really trying to say is, with every corner we try to cut the end result is your food won’t taste as great as it could have. I’m a firm believer of this. We all cut corners, but knowing what we do in the kitchen, will greatly help to know which corners can be cut, and which can’t.

There are a few reasons why fish break down much more easily than say chicken or beef. First off, they don’t need the body structure to support themselves considering they have the luxury of lounging around all day in water. So there’s very little connective tissue, and most of their muscles aren’t really used that much. (Think about bottom dwellers like flounder, and how white their meat is, versus a salmon, which has to work pretty hard to go upstream at the end of its life, versus how red tuna is, which exerts a lot more energy to travel the distances it goes). Another nice thing about being in water all day, fish aren’t really subjected to great changes in temperatures, so they can’t really handle when the temperature does drop when you put it in your hot car. Another reason fish break down easily, is most fish tend to have this nasty habit of eating other fish, and in order to properly digest those fish, they need certain enzymes to break them down. Well can you guess what happens when said fishy dies? Yup, it’s own enzymes will have a field day, free food! Which is also why you want to gut the fish as soon as possible. All right so bottom line – fish are temperamental creatures, and are technique sensitive, and it responds greatly to slight changes, so what I guess I’m saying is – Don’t say you hate fish until you’ve tried it prepared properly.

All right, enough of my diatribe, on to cooking, shall we?

I really can’t say much about what traditionally makes a classic fish taco. From what I understand, it was born in the Baja region in Mexica (the little strip that continues south of California). I guess that makes sense, seeing the people of the land were used to eating tacos, and they had a ton of fish around, bingo bango let’s make some fish tacos.

Now which fish make up a traditional Baja fish taco? No idea, probably whatever was available, and whatever was cheap. So it’s probably not tuna or salmon, but I couldn’t tell you exactly which fish is traditional. Although I can tell you it’s probably not bronzini, which is what I used, and guess what? I don’t care! I saw these bronzini (which are apparently also called European sea bass), in my local Whole Foods, and decided it was taco time.

I chopped them up, coated them in flour, and sauteed them in some butter.

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That’s it, well at least for the fish part. From what I understand, fish tacos are traditionally served with something called “crema” which is spanish for “cream,” so again, I’m not 100% sure what constitutes traditional crema, but we’ll try and make something that we can pretend is like it, right? Grrrr-ate.

I pride myself in stocking a pretty good pantry, and one of the things that I’ve seen are pretty useful are dried chilis. I have dried chilis de arbol, New Mexico, and chipotle, and they’re really a great way to add spice to any dish you want. You can re-hydrate them by letting them seep in some hot water, and presto, you got some chipotle peppers. So that’s what I did…I added hydrated chipotle, and new mexico chilis, some sour cream, some mayo, and some milk to thin it out, with some salt and pepper, and whirred it all together, and whaddya know, it was pretty freaking amazing.

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Now it was all about bringing it together.

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Taco + fish + red onions + crema = Fish Taco awesomeness

Fish Tacos

Ingredients:

For the Fish Tacos

  • Fish (duh) – flesh shouldn’t be too firm – cut into chunks
  • Flour for dredging
  • 2-3 Tablespoons butter for frying
  • 1/2 small red onion – thinly sliced
  • Tortillas

For the Crema

  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 3 Tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 Tablespoon milk
  • 1 Chipotle chili (if dried, than re-hydrated with 1-2 tablespoons of hot water, or you can use canned)
  • 1 New Mexico chili (again, if dried, re-hydrate)
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Directions:

  1. Prepare the crema – add all ingredients to a food processor or blender and whir it all together, adjusting to taste
  2. Dredge the fish in the flour, and sautee in the butter
  3. Assemble the taco – put the fish, red onions, and crema, and stuff your face
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