Bene Israel Fish Curry with Fresh Ginger, Tamarind and Cilantro

I mentioned in an earlier post that I made this dish for the Shabbat meal during Passover. Unfortunately, we did not take any photos. However, this is so delicious, I want to share it with you anyway. And to be perfectly honest, it does not make the most spectacular visual presentation, but the taste is amazing and even picky eaters enjoyed it. I saw the recipe  in the Washington Post just before the holiday and because Frances and her sister were also observing Lent, I knew that I needed to make fish as my main course. Since we also wanted to observe the laws of Kashrut where we didn’t mix milk with meat, this opened the door for me to make my Parsley Soup as a starter and to allow dairy in some of my appetizers.

The story of the Bene Israel is an interesting one and I encourage you to read about them. The community, mostly residing in Mumbai, is small, but their food traditions are definitely worth exploring. Some people believe that they are one of the Lost Tribes of Israel.

The only ingredients that you might have to spend a bit of time searching out are tamarind paste and fresh curry leaves. They are both available online and at any good Indian grocery store. Curry leaves have no good substitute and are not the same as curry powder. I bought mine through Amazon and froze what I didn’t use. Since this dish was so popular, I feel confident that I will make use of them in the future. All this dish needed was Basmati rice and some chutneys to accompany it.

Bene Israel Fish Curry with Fresh Ginger, Tamarind and Cilantro from Joan Nathan

Yield: 6 servings (I made enough for 12 people, using 4.5 pounds net of fish – after skinning and boning)

Ingredients

2 pounds whiting, black sea bass or other firm, light-fleshed skinned fillets, cut into 4 ounce chunks (I used halibut)

1/2 teaspoon salt, or more as needed

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon chili powder (I like the one I get from Rancho Gordo)

Juice of 1 lime

3 large cloves garlic

1-inch piece peeled ginger root, coarsely chopped (I would use about 1 Tablespoon of finely chopped or pureed fresh ginger)

1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems

2 or 3 small green chiles, such as serrano, stemmed and seeded if you want less heat (I used jalapeno. Here is where you can control the heat to your personal tastes)

3 fresh/frozen curry leaves

1 Tablespoon tamarind paste

1/4 cup vegetable oil (I used Grapeseed oil)

1 medium onion, chopped (1 cup)

2 vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into small dice (I used grape tomatoes cut in half – for this amount of fish, I would probably use 1/2 pint, but being exact isn’t that important)

1/2 cup water

Directions

 

  1. Place the fish in a nonreactive bowl or container. Sprinkle with the 1/2 teaspoon salt, turmeric, chili powder and lime juice. Gently toss to coat, then cover and refrigerate for no more than a few hours, but at least 2 hours.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the garlic, ginger, cilantro, green chilies (to taste), curry leaves, and tamarind paste in a food processor or blender. Puree to form a paste; transfer to a bowl. It is not the prettiest color but don’t be put off by that!
  3. Line a plate with a few layers of paper towels. Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the fish (working in batches, as needed). Cook for about 2 minutes per side until golden. Use a slotted spatula to transfer the fish to the lined plate. Be gentle with the fish so you don’t break up the pieces.
  4. Wipe out the skillet, then add the remaining tablespoon of oil and heat over medium heat. Add the onion and tomatoes; cook for 5 to 8 minutes until the onion has softened, then stir in the garlic-tamarind paste. Add the water and stir through. Reduce the heat to medium-low; return the fish to the skillet and gently stir to incorporate, trying not to break up the fish pieces.
  5. Once the mixture has warmed through, the fish curry is ready to serve.

Parsley Soup

Parsley soup

As I mentioned in my previous post, I made Parsley Soup as part of our Passover Shabbat dinner. Obviously, this can be made anytime, but the lovely bright green color and fresh vegetal taste just say “spring” to me. The fact that no part of the parsley is wasted is a plus for those who care about creating as little waste as possible. The first step is admittedly a bit tedious if you are making enough for a crowd, but if you have someone to help you and you get busy chatting, the effort passes quickly. It’s something that is also fun to do with children since no knives are needed – nor is perfection. Please use real butter and milk for this dish. It simply won’t taste the same with anything else. Since I was serving fish as my main course, there was no problem in meeting the laws of Kashrut. If you have an immersion blender (EVERYONE should have an immersion blender – greatest gift ever!) preparing the rest of the soup is a snap.

I found this soup on the internet years ago and did not take down the attribution so my apologies to the original author. I did make several changes in the proportions, so here is my version.

Parsley Soup for a Crowd

Yield: About 20 cups

Ingredients

6 large bunches of flat-leaf parsley

2 sticks (16 Tablespoons) of unsalted butter

2 large onions, coarsely chopped

7 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and chopped into large cubes

8 cups of chicken stock (Whether you use stock with salt will depend on how much additional salt you use.)

Kosher salt and white pepper to taste

1 cup of whole milk

Directions

  1. Separate the leaves from the stems. Place the leaves in a large colander and pour boiling water over them and then run cold water over them. This will blanch the leaves, while retaining the lovely bright green color. Gently squeeze any water out of the leaves and wrap them in a kitchen towel and squeeze out any excess water.
  2. Melt butter in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic and parsley stems and cook uncovered over low heat until the stems have begun to soften – about 20 minutes.
  3. Add the potatoes, stock, salt and pepper and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes more. Remove from the heat and allow to cool until it is simply warm. Once the soup has cooled some, add the parsley leaves and with an immersion blender, puree the soup. This can also be done in batches in a food processor, but aside from creating more clean-up, it’s much more time consuming. Get an immersion blender! You will thank me later.
  4. Once the soup has been pureed, add the milk and adjust your seasoning. Reheat the soup gently over a low heat when you are ready to serve. If it is not Passover, you can garnish this with some croutons. Otherwise, a sprig of parsley is all you need. The soup can be served chilled as well, but I prefer it hot.

Passover 2017

Table setting

Today is the final day of Passover and Matthew and Frances have returned to New York. We had a wonderful week of family and good food and already the house seems way too quiet. As I mentioned in an earlier post, we hosted the first Seder and Shabbat. We were also blessed to have Frances’ sister and her boyfriend joining us for Shabbat along with my niece, nephew, their two children, my cousin and sister. Unfortunately, we were so busy preparing and eating that we neglected to take photos for our Shabbat meal. However, I will be including a recipe for our soup and main course anyway since they were such a hit with everyone. Hopefully I can add photos once I make the dishes again.

Passover Shabbat Menu

Beet Caviar

Minty Sweet Pea Spread

Parsley Soup (recipe to follow)

Bene Israel Fish Curry with Fresh Ginger, Tamarind and Cilantro (recipe to follow)

Basmati Rice

Kohlrabi Salad

Viennese Chocolate Hazelnut Torte (recipe to follow)

A Tower of Vegan Desserts

Tower of desserts

The morning after Matza Brei with almond butter and melted chocolate

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Fun Frances Frittatas

So it’s no secret that I love brunch, and this was one of those brunches that came together with just leftovers from the fridge, but that happened to also be from one of my favorite cookbooks, My Paris Kitchen.

Truly simple to throw together, you just need some eggs, feta, basil, paprika and scallions.

  1. Heat the oil in a 10 in cast-iron skillet over medium heat.  Add the potato cubes and 1 tsp of the salt.  Cook, stirring frequently until the potatoes are tender and cooked through, about 12-15 minutes.
  2. A few minutes before the potatoes are done, add the scallions and cook until they are wilted.
  3. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
  4. Mix the eggs in a bowl with the remaining 1/4 tsp salt and the paprika.  Stir the basil into the eggs and pour the mixutre over the potatoes in the skillet.
  5. Crumble the feta over the potatoes, and press the pieces down gently with a spoon.  Cook the “tortilla” or fritatta until the bottom is golden brown and well set, rotating the pan from time to time as it cooks.  It will take 15-20 minutes.
  6. When the crust is browned, slide the skillet into the oven and let it cook until the eggs are set, about 5 minutes.
  7. Remove the skillet from the oven, and either cut and serve – or if you want to add some flair, flip it over into a baking sheet and then serve!

From My Paris Kitchen, David Lebovitz

Lamb Shank Tagine

My father and I share similar tastes when it comes to food, and I’m pretty sure I’ve inherited a cooking gene from his side of the family, as well.  Given this, I enjoy cooking for him whenever I get the opportunity, so this was the elegant “presentation” dish that I made for his most recent birthday.

Thankfully the cooking went well (it’s always hard to tell how something will turn out to begin with, let alone in a different kitchen one is not used to), and it was a hit! lamb shank 1

I highly recommend serving this, as David Lebovitz does in My Paris Kitchen, with this lemon Israeli couscous salad.

Ingredients

3 tbsp EVOO
kosher salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp sweet or smoked paprika (I prefer sweet)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
4 lamb shanks
2 onions, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
Generous pinch saffron threads
1 (14 oz) can or box of chopped or crushed tomatoeS
2 cups chicken stock (or water, but chicken stock adds nice flavor)
1 tsp honey
3/4 cup halved dried apricots
1/2 cup golden raisins
chopped fresh flat leaf parsley or cilantro for garnish

Directions

1. Mix 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, 2 tsp of salt, the cumin, coriander, paprika, cinnamon, pepper, ginger, turmeric, and cayenne in a large bowl.  Add the lamb shanks and use your hands to massage the seasonings into the shanks.  Put the shanks in a large, sturdy resealable bag and close it, pressing out most of the air.  Marinate the lamb in the refrigerator for 8-24 hours.

2. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Sear the lamb shanks in a single layer (if they don’t all fit, cook them in batches, adding additional oil, if necessary) so they are well browned on all sides, 10 to 15 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 325º F.

4. Remove the shanks from the pot, reduce the heat to medium, and add the onions, garlic, and bay leaf; season with salt.  Cook, stirring up any darkened bits (adding a bit of water if they really don’t pick up) until the onions are soft and transluscent.  Stir in the saffron and let cook for another minute to release the fragrance of the saffron.  Add the tomatoes and their liquid, the stock, honey, and lamb shanks and bring to a boil.

5. Cover the pot and place it in the oven to cook for 2 hours, turning the shanks and adding half of the dried apricots and raisins midway through.  After 2 hours, remove the lid and add the remaining apricots and raisins.  Continue to cook, turning the shanks midway through this final cooking, until the sauce is thickened or about 30 minutes.

6. Remove from the oven and skim any fat off the surface.  Serve each shank in a bowl over the couscous.  Sprinkle with parsley.

From My Paris Kitchen, by David Lebovitz.

Passover Menu

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Passover 2017 begins at sundown on Monday, April 10th. Matthew and Frances will be coming in for the week and we will be celebrating with Chicago family at our house for the first Seder and the following Shabbat. Thankfully our niece and nephew are hosting the second Seder.  I always work on my battle plan and menu for weeks ahead of the holiday, checking my serving dishes, wine etc. to note what needs to be ordered or polished. Today my Shmura (“guarded”) matza was delivered by our wonderful Chabad Rabbi along with my new wine fountain, which I ordered from Israel, so I am in full Passover mode now.

Because I am hosting two holiday nights and my niece and nephew are making lamb, I have decided on a beef main course for the first Seder and a fish main course for Shabbat. The Shabbat choice was also partly informed by Frances, who is observing Lent and will not eat meat on Friday. While I am an Ashkenazi Jew on both my mother and father’s side (and proud of it), my palate tends toward Sephardic foods. One challenge that I face, in addition to producing delicious, Kosher for Passover foods, is that I need to have at least some kid-friendly desserts that don’t include eggs, since my niece’s son is allergic. I will post my Passover Shabbat menu during the interim days of Pesach. In the meantime, hopefully this will get you started on a few ideas if you are hosting a Seder of your own. Chag Pesach Sameach!

First Seder Menu

Seder Plate with my classic Ashkenazi Charoset

Egyptian Ground Fish Balls – Bellahat

Syrian Kibbe Gheraz

Kohlrabi Salad

Moroccan Beet Salad – Barba

Green Beans with Tomatoes

Passover Florentine Cookies (A Frances favorite)

Vegan Almond Coconut Macaroons

Vegan Chocolate Chip Meringue Buttons

Chocolate Almond Bark

Chocolate Covered Orange Peel

Assorted Grapes

Yarden Heights Wine

Szechuan Dry Fried Green Beans – Gan Bian Si Ji Dou

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I really love Szechuan Green Beans when they are well made – which unfortunately, just doesn’t happen all that often. My husband and I recently visited our local Chinatown and I decided to commit to a few authentic ingredients so I could make this dish and other Chinese foods we like.  I ended up ordering a few ingredients through Amazon that I had forgotten.

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I had mentioned in a much earlier post that whenever I decide to try something for the first time, I read between five and six different versions of the recipe, taking what I like best for my final product. This case was no different. One of the things that had put me off about making this recipe is that I hate to deep-fry foods. It’s messy, the house invariably smells and I always feel that I have wasted oil. So I was very excited when I found a recipe that showed a method for making the blistered green beans using my broiler and only one tablespoon of oil. The end result comes from 2 bloggers and a bit of me. Because this is not going to be part of a multi-course meal, I went a bit heavier on the pork. Some of the recipes showed this without the pork or dried shrimp, but I happen to like both so have included them here. Because you are using preserved foods, this will be a somewhat saltier dish than most.

Szechuan Dry Fried Green Beans – Gan Bian Si Ji Dou – adapted from Leng’s Kitchen Chaos and J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

Yield: Serves 5-6 as a side dish or 3-4 as a main course

Ingredients

1 pound fresh green beans (or long beans), rinsed, dried and ends trimmed
1/2 lb ground pork
2 Tablespoon dried shrimps, rinsed (rinse REALLY well) and soaked to soften, roughly chopped
6 whole, dried red chilies (such as árbol)
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, finely minced
1/2 Tablespoon Szechuan peppers, crushed with a mortar and pestle or with the flat side of a large knife
3 scallions (white and light green parts) thinly sliced
3 Tablespoons finely chopped Szechuan, preserved mustard stems that have been rinsed (rinse REALLY, REALLY well!)
4 Tablespoons cooking oil (I use peanut oil)

Seasoning
1 Tablespoon hot bean sauce
1 Tablespoon Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1.5 teaspoons sugar

Meat marinade
a dash of white pepper
2 teaspoons light soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons corn starch

Directions

Mix the meat with the marinade slightly ahead of time and left refrigerated until ready to cook. With the seasoning, mix all the ingredients in a small bowl and set aside for later use. 

Adjust rack to as close as possible to broiler and preheat broiler to high. Arrange in a single layer on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet or broiler pan. Drizzle green beans with 1 tablespoon oil and season with salt and white pepper.Broil until beans are blistered and very lightly charred, 2 to 8 minutes depending on strength of broiler. Set aside or place in a serving bowl. IMG_3074

Add 2 Tablespoons of oil to a hot wok. Add in the Szechuan peppers and dried chilies and toss, cooking until aromatic. Then add the dried shrimps, garlic, ginger, mustard stems and stir fry for 3-4 minutes and the dried shrimps are slightly browned.

Pushing everything to one side of the wok, add in the ground pork. Stir-fry until the meat changes color, breaking it down into smaller pieces as it goes. Mix well with the rest of the contents in the wok. Toss in the scallions and the seasoning mixture and stir to mix.

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Add the cooked green beans and quickly mix through. I served this with brown rice.