Purple cabbage salad

By | August 28, 2014

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Gush Katif-style heads of cabbage — meaning, an actual head that doesn’t need to be checked for bugs — might just be my most exciting grocery find ever. I’ve always been frustrated with the pre-packaged shredded cabbage. It’s expensive, lackluster, and tends to go bad after a few days. But I wasn’t about to check a head myself, so I just kept buying the bags and hoping for better results.

The first time we found this kind (where you separate the leaves, soak in soapy water for 3 minutes, rinse, and use), I was shocked at how good it was. I’ve always liked cabbage and loved cabbage salads, but this was crazy! Fresh, crunchy, crisp, and gorgeous — who knew?

This salad is an easy way to enjoy purple cabbage. Baby corn, scallions, and sunflower seeds add color, complimentary flavors, and a bunch of textures. The dressing is all pantry items, really simple, and makes this a knockout salad.

Plus, did you know that cabbage is one of the simanim we eat on Rosh Hashanah? With seven meals over three days, I’m willing to bet there’s a place at your table for a pretty purple cabbage and a couple of accessories.

Mini fried haloumi skewers

By | August 26, 2014

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This recipe and story first appeared in the June 30, 2014 edition of “From Tali’s Kitchen,” my cooking column in Binah magazine.

I had been living in Israel for four months when my mother and sister made their bet official. If I was engaged before June 20, my mother would make my sister a batch of mandarin orange tofu. If I got engaged after June 20, my sister would make it for my mother (welcome to my family). On June 19, I called home with the news that I was booking a plane ticket, and that the man flying back with me would soon be my chasan. They decided that my sister won the bet and began planning the vort.

I’m the oldest child, so my mother had never made a vort or anything like one. Although I thought she could rely on my friends in the community to bring desserts, it made more sense to her to prepare the food herself. Understandably, she didn’t want to invite 80 people to the house without being prepared. So she and my sister, who had just graduated from high school and had a summer job decorating cakes in an upscale bakery, started working on “The Book of Vort,” a binder of the dishes they would prepare for the grand event. And so began a two-week-long cooking and baking extravaganza, the likes of which the kitchen and freezer had never seen. Six thousand miles away, making trip arrangements with my almost-chasan and dreaming of a diamond ring, I had no idea how much work was being done in advance of our arrival.

Of course, most of the focus of the preparation was on food. On the savory side, the list included tuna salad, egg salad, lentil salad, veggie platters with Costco-sized tubs of chummus, skewers with cheese, pickles, tomatoes, and olives (my sister’s invention), garlic rolls, stuffed shells, crispy fried potatoes, mini pizzas, and a couple of quiches, some of which was saved for the post-vort dinner with the relatives from out of town.

On the sweet side, there were caramel swirl brownies, chocolate peanut butter squares, raspberry and apricot crumble bars, frosted cupcakes filled with hazelnut cream, pudding parfaits, and chocolate chip cookies. It was all pretty ironic for a family that as a rule did not keep sugar in the house. Amid all of the homemade food that they’d slaved over was a last-minute addition of spaghetti with jarred tomato sauce. My sister could hardly believe it when one of the guests asked for that recipe, raving that it was the best spaghetti she’d ever tasted.

Crazier than the variety of food was the quantity. Not sure how much we’d need and afraid of running low, my mother and sister made 80 – yes, 80 – servings of most things on the list. Two of my close friends from high school came to the house early to help set it all up. But even with the beloved boxes-under-the-tablecloth trick to add height to the table, and even with all extensions in place to add length, there was simply not enough space. Searching for a spot for the 80 parfaits, my sister cleared off two shelves on the dining room bookcase.

The effort that went into all the cooking astounded me, but what I appreciated just as much were the little touches that made it personal. My vort dress had polka dots, for example, and that was carried through to the dessert decorations via polka dot sprinkles and tiny round candies. And when it came to choosing spoons for the parfaits, they went to the place that they knew would have them in my favorite color: Baskin Robbins. The worker on shift that day seemed to think it odd that someone would ask to buy 100 spoons but no ice cream.

Speaking of personal touches, my father and brothers provided musical entertainment in the form of an original song, “Tali Met Aaron,” which they performed with live instruments to the tune of “Going to the Chapel.” I can still sing the entire thing from memory, though with lyrics like these, that isn’t hard:

There were three things Tali wanted in the man of her dreams
first, he had to really like ice cream
second, he had to live in the Holy Land
and third, he had to like her brothers’ band

That isn’t to say that the boys weren’t involved in the food prep, though. One of the tasks on my mother’s do-ahead list was sorting lentils for a salad, and she asked one of my brothers to take care of that, using a white plate. He heard “wet plate,” thought it seemed kind of weird, and did it anyway.

I got plenty of use out of my polka-dot dress that summer, between our Maryland and Toronto vorts in July and our Israel vort in August. They were all beautiful, but only one included 80 servings of more than a dozen homemade dishes prepared by a devoted duo.

The next time you make a vort, or if you want to send an out-of-the-box dish to a friend’s dairy simcha, consider these mini haloumi skewers inspired by my sister’s version. They look festive but are simple to prepare, and anyone who loves cheese will be hoping for a handful. I’ll leave it you, though, to decide how many to make.

Menu Plan: Week of Aug. 24, 2014

By | August 24, 2014

There were exactly 100 entries in the Dairy Made Easy giveaway, and the winner — picked by random.org, all fair and square — was Fran, who had the 40th entry. Fran said the dairy dish she cooked most recently was baked ziti, which is going on my menu this week. Thanks to all of you who entered, and keep watching for upcoming giveaways for another chance to win something. (Fran, check your email for a message from me so you can claim your prize.)

How has it been a month since I’ve posted a weekly menu? I’m blaming it on Shabbos ending so late. Making a menu for the week and turning it into a blog post used to be my usual motsei Shabbos activity. But when Shabbos ends around 8:00, by the time we’ve made havdala and I’ve done the dishes, fed the baby, grabbed a snack, changed the baby, checked my email with one hand while rocking the baby, and then maybe scanned the contents of the fridge for menu ideas, it’s time for bed.

Chasing my tail every week is not conducive to planning ahead for things like, oh, three-day yom tovs. But I’m not going there just yet. For now, I’m celebrating the fact that I’m about to finish this ordinary menu plan for the final days of August. Come back soon for a simple salad and something fun to do with a pack of haloumi cheese!

This post contains affiliate links. If you buy something on Amazon through these links — anything, not just what I link to in this post — a (very) small portion of your purchase helps support More Quiche, Please. Thank you!

Carrot crisp

By | August 21, 2014

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I love roasted vegetables, but make them often enough and I do get bored. Do you also suffer from veggie boredom? This is the perfect solution: roasted carrots with a crispy herb-and-breadcrumb topping is a dressed-up version of ordinary roasted carrots, but still quick and easy. It’s like the ever-popular apple crisp, except veggie-based and savory. Vegetable crisps! It makes so much sense.

Feel free to mix and match different vegetables and herbs. Cilantro complements carrots really nicely, but if you don’t like cilantro, finely chopped rosemary would be great, and so would your everyday parsley.

Rosh Chodesh Elul is next week (help!), and I’m starting to think about what to cook for Rosh Hashana this year. I only said “think,” by the way. Nothing more than that. If you’re also thinking, or bookmarking, or even planning a bonafide menu, save a slot for this carrot crisp.

This post contains affiliate links. If you buy something on Amazon through these links — anything, not just what I link to in this post — a (very) small portion of your purchase helps support More Quiche, Please. Thank you!