Despite the thaw we’re experiencing after an intense cold snap, we are still solidly in matzo-ball soup weather. Next week, the humble staple of the Ashkenazi culinary canon will be celebrated at the first official Kneydl Bar, a pop-up in L.A. dedicated to matzo balls.
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While we weren’t intentionally looking for one, a theme quickly emerged at our recent taste test of “The Gefilte Manifesto,” and that theme was: “I don’t usually like” blank, “but I like this.” It started in the very first moments of our gathering, when our friend Fred took his first sip of the Celery Collins cocktail and loved it — despite a decades-long distaste for gin — and ended with all of us practically swooning over the orange-spiced rye honey cake, despite most of us describing our sentiments about honey cake as “meh” at best.
Tzimmes is a sweet Ashkenazi stew in which the ingredients vary depending on family origin and tradition. The dish is often eaten during the Jewish High Holidays to symbolically usher in a sweet new year. This sweet-and-savory chicken tzimmes is an easy dish with a built-in side. The juices of the chicken enhance the flavors of the carrots and prunes. It’s filling when paired with rice or kasha, and it’s colorful and complex enough to serve for the holidays. — Liz Alpern, co-author of “The Gefilte Manifesto.”
Kugel comes in many forms, not just noodles. Liz and I both love savory vegetable kugels, and this cauliflower-mushroom version is lighter and more refined than the ever-popular potato kugel. If you’re lucky enough to live in a place where foraged mushrooms are accessible, get the best you can find. They will only enhance the dish. In Seattle, we made this dish with hedgehog and black trumpet mushrooms foraged from a nearby forest, and it was the best version of this kugel we’ve ever created. Be aware that this kugel has a delicate consistency and serves more like an Italian sformato (vegetable souffle) than the dense kugels you might be used to. Normally we like to make this dish in ramekins and serve it in individual portions, for an elegant look and feel. In Seattle, we found squat 8-ounce mason jars and baked individual kugels in those, but baking in a 9-inch square glass baking dish works well, too—just let the kugel cool slightly before slicing or scooping into individual portions. For Passover, you can swap out the bread crumbs for matzo meal. If you’re making it a dairy kugel, you can use butter and sprinkle it with Parmesan cheese. Serve individual portions topped with crispy fried shallots and garnished with fresh parsley. — Jeffrey Yoskowitz, co-author of “The Gefilte Manifesto”
Mustard is a key player in Ashkenazi cooking. The mustard plant, a member of the Brassica family, has some pretty important relatives in cabbage and horseradish. Can you imagine eastern European Jewish cooking without them? Probably not. And you also probably can’t imagine a hot deli pastrami sandwich without spicy ground mustard. Personally, I can’t fathom life without a hot deli pastrami sandwich.