Tag Archives: jewish deli brunch

Like it’s 5773


Earlier this week, in order to observe Rosh Hashona, I did something that was long overdue: I disconnected from the world at large.

It’s a new year—5773, to be exact—and the days are solemn, which suits me just fine. They’re days of reflection and awe; of taking stock, making amends and making changes.

I had a long standing joke with a long ago boyfriend that it was a good thing that we were Jewish, we had two chances each year for a fresh start.

I still sort of believe this.

Maybe it’s because the days are slow going. I’ve alluded to it here, with my absence as much as anything else. Two steps in one direction, one in another.

On Monday afternoon, I got out the mixer and set about making challah. In a burst of ambition, I attempted the traditional shape, winding the cord of dough around itself until redoubled, letting it rise and bake up fragrantly and golden brown.

Except. Well, it didn’t quite bake.

Or, bake at all.

Instead, it was a perfectly browned lump of uncooked dough. I thought about using it for Tashlikh but then remembering this particular scene thought the wiser. And, I couldn’t get to the water anyway. No matter, it’s all metaphorical. Perhaps that’s the lesson.

There’s always something to learn from and a way to make sense of a year’s passing. I had an extra challah on hand, made in the more typical braided style. A lesson learned from experiences such as Monday’s. The greater takeaway: plan for the unplanned, if you can. And, if you can’t, go with it.

I meant to share a recipe for apple cake with you here, for the holiday’s sake. I always mean to, and maybe next year I’ll get to it. Instead, another traditional Jewish food—at least in my experience—the potato knish. Naturally, I meant to share this recipe with you months ago.

Forgive me, I’m running behind, as always, although now one step closer to catching up.

Potato Knishes
Recipe adapted from Joe Pastry

For the Dough:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1 large egg, plus 1 yolk set aside (to glaze the dough)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp white vinegar
1/2 cup water, plus 1 tsp set aside
1 large egg yolk

For the Filling:
1.5 pounds russet potatoes (3 medium or 4 small), peeled quartered and boiled
1 cup diced yellow onion
1 TBS vegetable oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground white pepper

To Make the Dough:
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt. Stir to combine, and set aside, forming a well in the middle. In another bowl, combine the whole egg, oil, vinegar, and 1/2 cup of water. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry, using your hands to knead them together until the mixture forms a smooth dough. Place the dough in the large bowl, covering with plastic wrap and set aside for at least an hour. While the dough is resting, make your filling.

To Make the filling:
Boil the potatoes in salted water, starting with cold water and bringing it to a boil with the potatoes in the water and then reducing the heat to medium. This ensures even cooking. The potatoes are done when they are tender. This should take about 20 minutes. When the potatoes are ready, drain them and set them aside to cool.

While the potatoes are cooling, cook the onions by heating a large pan over low heat, adding the vegetable oil once the pan is hot. Add in the onions and caramelize over medium low heat until they are golden brown. This will take approximately 45 minutes. When the onions are ready, in a large bowl, combine them with the potatoes, white pepper and salt to taste. Mash them until they are smooth, then set aside to cool.

To Assemble the Knish:
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Take half of the dough and roll it out onto a floured surface. Roll it out as thinly as possible, forming a square shape that’s approximately 12″ long . Place the potato mixture in the center, so that it is approximately 1″ thick, then roll the filling up within the dough, leaving a little room. You don’t want it too tight or it will open up while baking. Trim the ends of the dough. You want them to be about 1/2″ longer than the potato filling.

Make indentations along the filled dough every 2.5″ and twist the dough at these points, snipping it at each turn and then using your fingers press the ends together to seal tightly, twisting to ensure that it stays closed. Using your palm, flatten the knish. Then, using your palm, press the dough on the top of the knish, leaving it mostly open. You want the dough to run flat against the potato.

Please the knishes on parchment lined baking sheets, taking care to leave at least 1/2″ of space between each one.

Bake the formed knish:
Whisk the egg yolk and 1 tsp water together and using a pastry brush, glaze the top of the knish. Bake for 45 minutes, until they are golden brown.

Allow to cool for at least ten minutes before serving.

Makes approximately one and a half dozen knishes 1.5″ in diameter


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Filed under Etc., Starch & Grains, Vegetables

Here’s what I’ve been up to

I still haven’t told you about my recent trip to California. Truth be told, I haven’t even uploaded my photos.

Here’s the sneak peek: I saw friends, we ate. A lot. Far more is advisable for one person. You’ll hear more about it shortly. And, by shortly, I mean another month from now.

In the meantime, I’m in planning mode. I’ve booked two more trips, one to Boston and another to Edinburgh and London. Both motivated by weddings and both homecomings of some sort. To say I’m excited is an understatement. I’ll get to those details soon enough as well.

I’m taking my time here—bear with me as the first time I didn’t: carnage.

When I was planning the menu for my Jewish Deli Brunch, challah seemed a necessity. And, the recipe I had was simple enough, downright easy because I was using a blender to combine the dough. Nothing I hadn’t done before. Except that I wasn’t paying attention and stuck my hand directly into the blender. I’m putting that in bold to stress just how stupid this was.

What followed wasn’t pretty. Because of the location, the cut wouldn’t stop bleeding. And, as if that wasn’t enough, there was blood was everywhere. And, yet, I still thought that the bread may be salvageable. I was filled with good ideas that morning. And, losing time to pull off what was starting to seem like an impossible task, particularly since I had to meet my sister—we were seeing The Lady from Dubuque. If you know anything about this play, then you’ll know that this is exactly the kind of show you want to avoid when you’re weepy from having nearly severed your finger tip because of sheer stupidity.

I arrived at the theater after trekking through several avenues in the rain—why is it on days like that, it’s always raining?—armed with a first aid kit and, still slightly worse for the wear. Except, when I started to tell her what happened and produced my mummified finger and pack of neosporin, it was all somewhat absurd. And, so, she bought me a coffee and that was that. And, then Edward Albee was in the audience. And, well, by the time the play was over, I was ready to make another challah.

Consider yourself warned: I’m going to get a little Pollyanna-ish and tell you that there’s a lesson here. There usually is, and this one’s important. It’s about knowing what’s salvageable and taking note. The first challah wasn’t, but the day was.

There’s another lesson here, too, albeit somewhat more obvious: don’t stick your hand directly into a food processor.

Recipe adapted from Nick Malgieri

5 cups all purpose flour, plus additional set aside for dusting.
1/3 cup refined sugar
2 tsps kosher salt
1 cup warm water (110 degrees Fahrenheit)
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus more set aside
3 large eggs (2 for the challah, plus one set aside for egg wash)
1 egg yolk

Optional: sesame seeds or poppy seeds

Place water, yeast, 1 TBS of water in a small bowl. Whisk and set aside for approximately ten minutes. The mixture should foam slightly. In another bowl, combine 2 eggs, one yolk, and then oil. Set aside.

Place the flour, remainder of the sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix with a dough hook to combine the ingredients. Add in the yeast mixture, and the egg and oil mixture. Mix with a dough hook on a low setting, until the dough forms a loose ball. Let it rest for five to ten minutes. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead lightly to form a ball. Invert it into a well oiled blow, turning it to cover all sides with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside to rise for approximately an hour, until the dough has doubled in size.

Turn the rested dough out onto a floured surface, pressing with the palm of your hands to deflate. Divide the dough into 3 separate pieces, rolling each into a cylinder 12-15 inches long. Arrange the stands side by side on a parchment lined baking tray. Begin braiding the strands from the center outward. Pinch each end to seal the stands together, turning the pinched ends under the loaf.

Cover with oiled plastic warp and set aside to rise for at least an hour, until it is doubled in size. When the loaf has almost doubled in side, preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, setting the rack at the middle level. Make egg wash, by beating the remaining egg.

Brush the egg wash on the top and sides of the challah. If you are using sesame or poppy seeds, sprinkle them on top of the uncooked challah.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the top of the loaf is golden brown and the internal temperature of the challah is 210 degrees Fahrenheit. Transfer to a rack to cool. Wait at least 30 minutes before cutting.

Makes one loaf

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Filed under Bread, Brunch

In case you were wondering…

.this is what I look like at my most relaxed.

There’s that moment in cooking process when you’re no longer focused on the mechanics of cooking, you’re just doing.

corned beef

Sort of.

If I’m being completely honest, about two hours before this photo, I was on the phone with my mother asking for more precise instructions. I had never cooked corned beef before, and I was hours away from hosting a crowd of fifteen. The chicken soup you see off to the side was my Plan B.

I should know better.

After all, this isn’t the first time, I’ve done such a thing. So, rather than cooking as a form of meditation, this was baptism by fire. Wait—that’s a poor choice of words.

Moving on.

I’d say there’s not much to it—and to a certain degree, that’s true. But, I think that has to do with good instruction. With having someone to guide you. Largely the point for me of cooking the nostalgic foods, in fact.

Really, though, there isn’t much to making corned beef well. Just two essential steps: the first boil, designed to get rid of a lot of the impurities, and the final bake, which gives a nice crust. Then, there’s the waiting. It’s worth it, not least if you have a crowd of fifteen waiting hungrily to eat…

Corned Beef

1 beef brisket, fat trimmed (4-6 pounds)
pickling spices (if you buy packaged corning beef, use what’s included. Otherwise, you should use a combination of red pepper flakes, mustard seeds, garlic, and black peppercorns)
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup grainy mustard

Place the beef brisked in a large pot and fill it with water. Bring to a boil. Once the water is at a rolling boil, strain the corned beef from the pot, rinsing it off. Refill the pot with water and corned beef, adding in the picking spices and bay leaves. Boil for 2-3 hours depending on the size of the beef.

In the last half hour of boiling, preheat an oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix the honey and mustard together.

Remove the beef from the pot, pat dry and place in a baking dish, fat side down. Using a pastry brush, cover the corned beef with the honey mustard mixture. Bake 20-25 minutes, until a crust has formed. Allow the meat to rest for ten minutes before slicing.

Serve with rye bread and mustard.

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Filed under Meat

I have no excuses.

It seems sort of ridiculous to be posting another recap when so many others are as of yet unfinished. There was that brunch at the start of the year. Then the East Meets [South] West dinner that I had planned. One of the out-of-towners from the aforementioned dinner has already been back in touch, and I haven’t even begun to share the Sweet Potato Ice Cream Recipe with you. And, there was the dinner party for a friend’s birthday where I neglected to take a single photo.

What can I say? It’s been a whirlwind, at best. And, I’m not good at managing my time.

I’ve managed, however, to do more cooking. You’ll forgive me, I hope, if I share with you a series of photos from the latest—a Jewish Deli Inspired Brunch.

Jewish Deli Spread

What if I give you a cocktail, too? Maybe two.

Ok, good then, that should assuage some of my guilt.

The menu, then:
Chicken Soup with Matzoh Balls (or, Kanidela, as we call them in my family)
Rye Bread
Knishes, two ways (Classic and Spinach)
Corned Beef
Black and White Cookies
Rainbow Cookies (adapted from this recipe)

To drink:
Cel-Ray Tonics
Not quite Manischewitz Cocktails
Assorted Dr. Brown’s Sodas

And, as promised: the cocktails. Almost a year ago, I alluded to my plans for the first in this post. It’s a boozy twist on a deli classic: Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray Tonic.

Cel-ray tonic is one of those things, like violet candies or marmite, that you either get or you don’t. Although I’ll never quite understand the appeal of marmite, I’m firmly in the “for” camp when it comes to the voilets and the cel-ray. Of course, I’m also of the school of thought that there is very little that cannot be improved upon with a good splash of booze. So, consider these Cel-Ray tonics my elevation of the classic. Bright green, floral, and surprisingly refreshing, the gin adds some subtle floral notes, you’ll want to use one with a stronger flavor—I like Tanqueray for this one—otherwise the gin flavor will get a bit lost.

Speaking of which—Manischewitz.

If ever there was an alcohol designed to put me off alcohol, this was it. At my temple, when you were Bat Mitzvah-ed, you were given a Kiddush cup and expected to say the Kiddish at the Shabbat Service the night before your Bat Mitzvah service. I lived in fear of this. It wasn’t the Hebrew—that, I had under control. It was the wine. It was cloying and harsh and the smell—I’ll just say this: I didn’t realize for many years that wine could taste good.

And, yet, as I get older, I’m finding myself more nostalgic—I still don’t want to drink Manischewitz, but the scent takes me instantly back to being thirteen in a sanctuary on Long Island, horrified as my cantor told me that I hadn’t poured enough wine into the Kiddish cup and trusting that I could count on my father to drink the balance. Keep reading for a cocktail that captures the scent and that you’ll actually want to drink.

Cel-Ray Tonic

Cel-Ray Tonics
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 celery stalks, with leaves still attached
1 cup celery juice
1 cup gin

Bring 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar and 2 celery stalks to a boil to make a simple syrup. Strain the celery and refrigerate the simple syrup.

Once the syrup has cooled, combine it with the celery juice and gin in a large pitcher. Top off with seltzer to taste.

Makes 6-8 drinks

Not quite Manischewitz Cocktails
1 oz Concord Grape Vodka
1 oz simple syrup
6 oz seltzer
splash of lime

Mix the first three ingredients together, serve over ice and finish with a splash of lime.

Makes one drink


Filed under Brunch, Etc.