Sweet carrot ginger soup

By | September 2, 2014

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Sometimes it seems like I shred carrots every day (these are a favorite, as are these), and yet it never occurred to me to use shredded carrots in a soup. When I saw that Levana Kirschenbaum did it, I was intrigued enough to try it, and as you may have guessed, the texture is really cool. It may be the same standard carrot taste we’re all used to, but it’s a different experience than eating sliced or blended carrots. Is it weird that I call eating a bowl of soup an experience?

With the ginger, silan, nutmeg, and cinnamon, this soup is super warm and homey and perfect for Rosh Hashanah. The bulgar bulks it up enough that you could make a meal out of it, but it’s light enough that it also does a great job as a starter. And that’s why I didn’t bother choosing between the two — half the pot became last night’s dinner and half went into the freezer for yom tov. And yes, having exactly one thing cooked for Rosh Hashanah does make me feel 100 times better than I did a few days ago. Who wants to join me?

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30 dishes to freeze for Rosh Hashanah

By | August 31, 2014

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We’re officially in Elul (beyond officially, since it’s been a few days already) and I’m feeling behind schedule. This time last year, I had an epic menu plan and a realistic cooking plan all finalized and my first soup was already in the freezer. I wanted to do even better than that this year. My maternity leave ends today, and I was hoping to have all of my challahs, soups, and desserts done by now — at least for Rosh Hashanah if not also for Succos. Well. That was a funny idea.

For those of you who are more on top of things, here are 30 ideas of dishes you can make now and stick in the freezer for yom tov. If you’re cooking ahead, I’d love to hear about what you’re making. Maybe it will push me to finish my menu plan with enough time to make use of the freezer.

Note: This is just a short list of freezer-friendly dishes, focusing on things that are (1) pareve, (2) appropriate for the fall, (3) likely to be useful for yom tov meals, and (4) somewhat Rosh HaShanah-themed. As always, browse the recipe index for other ideas. And there’s more! Miriam at Overtime Cook and I were apparently thinking along the same lines. Make sure to check out her roundup of 15 desserts to freeze for Rosh Hashanah, too.

Challah & Bread

Soup

Kugels & Other Sides

Muffins & Desserts

Make These Now, Thank Yourself Later

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.