It’s Monday. Rosh HaShanah starts Wednesday night. Not only is the deadline very close, but this also means that it’s a Thursday-Friday holiday. Since the next day is Shabbat, that makes it a 3-day Yom Tov. Which means planning and cooking six festive meals. For those with large families or many guests at all meals, that’s 6 Thanksgiving level meals. To be repeated twice more in a month.
This is why Orthodox Jewish cooks think Thanksgiving is a breeze.
This is another in my endless effort to make something interesting out of Shabbat leftovers. This time, I had bone-in, skin-on chicken breast flavored with chili powder, so I thought Chicken Taco Soup would be nice. I found this recipe:. It looked delicious but it would need modifications. It would, however, serve as an excellent jumping off point.
First, of course, I didn’t need to cook boneless chicken breasts since I was using leftovers. I also don’t have soft corn tortillas available to me – I have been unable to find them with kosher supervision. I have never seen Rotel in the stores where I shop, and I didn’t even try to look for cans of green chilis. However, I could get FRESH jalapenos, and cans of diced tomatoes with green pepper and onions, and that would do fine.
I stopped by the grocery store and got what wasn’t already in my pantry – frozen corn, fresh produce, corn chips and the canned tomato products.
I chopped up onion and green pepper and minced jalapeno (did the last with gloves on), and cooked them in a little oil. I took the skin off the chicken and sliced the meat off the bones, and slivered it. Tossed that in the pot, and added the tomato products, the beans and the chicken broth, plus some taco seasoning and a handful or so of frozen corn. I let it simmer for an hour or so.
I served it with diced avocado, thin slices of lime and tortilla chips.
Chicken Taco Soup
2 bone-in, skin-on cooked chicken breasts
One green pepper (can use any color)
One jalapeno (optional)
One can diced tomatoes with green pepper and onions
One small can tomato paste
1 box low sodium chicken broth
One can black beans
1/2 cup frozen corn niblets
Tablespoon taco seasoning (or chili powder or what you like)
Garnish: avocado and lime slices
Chop the pepper and onions and minced jalapeno, and saute in a little neutral oil until soft. Add the shredded chicken and the rest of the ingredients and let simmer.
It should look like this:
Served it with diced avocado and sliced lime.
It added just the right touch of acid.
If you want to make this vegetarian, use seitan and vegetarian broth. In which case, those who keep kosher, like me, can use sour cream or greek yogurt as part of the garnish.
It’s going to be cold tonight and I wanted something yummy and comforting and rich. And I NEVER want to do anything hard. And having something seasonal is always a good idea.
I wanted to make this with turkey stew, but the store was out. It’s a good store with its own butcher on staff, and I could have asked for some. I’ve done that in the past. This time, though, I was perfectly fine with getting a couple of drumsticks instead. But if the cut of meat is important, ASK. It NEVER hurts.
So, I got turkey drumsticks, sweet potatoes, onions, and precut carrots. 4 main ingredients. How hard could that be? Not at all.
I wanted to make this as easy as possible and also as attention free as possible, so I preheated the oven to 350F and used a heavy dutch oven metal handles and metal handles. This is a very versatile pot, something worth having. So many things can be started on top of the stove and finished in the oven.
I put the drumsticks (skin and all) and the precut carrots in the pot and covered them with water and put it over high heat. This gave me time to peel and chop the sweet potatoes and a couple of onions and add them. These are all very sweet, so I needed balance. I like acid. In fact, I LOVE acid. I had a few choices on hand – vinegar, lemon juice, wine – but I chose to use lemon pepper seasoning, which included peel and citric acid plus other flavorings. Why? I wanted the lemon flavor specifically because it works well with the other ingredients, but I wanted something that could stand up to long cooking. Lemon is a bit more volatile. And I like the way this seasoning tastes.
I pretty much dumped that all over. I then added bay leaves because you must add bay leaves. I also wanted spices to complement the turkey and sweet potatoes as well as balance them. To me, that means warm, brown spices – cinnamon, cumin, ginger, cardamon. I have all these spices and I could have added a pinch or two of all of them. But I chose to use garam masala, which has those ingredients and others and is really yummy on sweet potatoes. I just added a couple of pinches. I also wanted just a little heat, so I added a whole dried hot chilli. I added just a little water to make sure it was mixed, brought the whole thing to a boil, covered it and put it in the oven. It’s simmering now.
I intend to take out the drumsticks, shred them and put the meat back in the dish. Green salad would complete the meal.
This could also be made in the crockpot. I would only suggest that if you’re using lemon juice, add it at the end of cooking. Start on high for an hour, reduce to low. Cook for at least six hours. Add very little water.
2 turkey drumsticks (or lb turkey stew)
One package of precut package or one pound carrots peeled and sliced
Two sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped very coarsely
2 medium onions or one large, chopped
1 large bay leaf
Tablespoon lemon pepper or lemon juice
Pinch spices (cinnamon, cumin, ginger or equivalent spice mixture)
Hot pepper pod
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350F. Place all ingredients except water and salt and pepper into dutch oven. JUST cover with water and bring to boil. Cover and place in oven. Let cook for at least two hours. Remove turkey, bay leaf and pepper pod. Remove the meat from the turkey legs and shred, and replace in the pot. Salt and pepper to taste.
Crockpot instructions – same except skip the lemon juice if using. Put the crockpot on high for an hour, switch to low. Cook for six hours. Proceed as above, adding lemon juice (if using) with the salt and pepper.
This will be picture heavy, as I just got a new camera and I wanted to play with it.
This is a fairly normal day at work – food for M, the brittle diabetic, and food for everyone else. On a sad note, that everyone else is reduce by one, who passed away a couple of weeks ago. I miss him very much.
Let’s start with the arsenal:
That’s the first layer of my knife roll – a vegetable peeler that I know won’t disappear and a Sharpie because I label everything.
My babies. The knife facing left is my meat knife, and I use it more than any other tool I own. The one facing right is my dairy knife and I haven’t used it in months. The steel is in the middle. They’re ten inch blades, which is about the biggest my hands can handle.
Today, I made several puree’d vegetables, mashed potatoes and chicken meatloaf. I also made some non-puree’d vegetables.
I started with the chicken meatloaf since that took the longest to cook. That’s a mixture of spices (parsley, garlic powder, pepper, seasoned salt), oil, minced onions and, of course, ground chicken.
These aren’t the most even cut, I’m sad to say.
The next thing was mashed potatoes. I peeled and cut up about 4lbs of redskin potatoes, and put them into COLD heavily salted water. This is the best way to cook mashed potatoes – it does good things to the starch content.
Then I made the food for my diabetic guy. All of it has to be pureed and measured, none of which looks particularly appetizing, and mostly like this:
This, along with peas and green beans, will be measured into one pound aluminum containers, labeled and frozen. This way the counselors only have to heat it up and serve it to my hug monster.
At this point, the meatloaves were done.
And so were the mashed potatoes.
These are simply potatoes, parsley and onion powder. I’d salted the water heavily enough that I didn’t need to add salt to the dish. That’s right – no fat or milk/milk substitute. They are actually tasty. I took out six half-cups for my guy, and packaged the remainder for everyone else.
The closed aluminum pans are headed for the freezer. The plastic tubs will be used tonight, except for one meatloaf, which was also labeled and frozen. The little container of mixed vegetables is for I, so his counselor can mash them up with a serving of meat loaf and mashed potatoes.
This was the result of three hours work.
While the rest of the US is celebrating Memorial Day, observant Jews will be, well, observing the holiday of Shavuot (Pentecost), when the Torah was given to Israel. We’ve been counting the days. Seriously. Every night, we count. I am writing this on the 46th day since Passover.
The holiday starts Saturday night and ends Monday night, which is why Memorial Day isn’t happening for us. It’s also a three day holiday – but in the most inconvenient direction. It’s a lot easier when it’s two days of holiday followed by Shabbat.
So, I’m faced with several challenges. It starts with the fact that my oven’s Shabbat mode doesn’t function correctly. I can get it to stay on, but I can’t change the temperature. I don’t want a 35oF oven on for three hot days. So I want to avoid using the oven at all. In fact, I want to avoid using the stove if I can. This means I need food that can stay cold, or can be reheated easily on an electric warming tray or is best suited to be cooked on top of the stove.
I also need to be concerned with freshness, since everything needs to be cooked, if possible, on Thursday – Friday at the latest, and was purchased TODAY, Wednesday, to be possibly served Monday. And there’s a Shabbat to cook for as well. The other things to be aware of – can’t have dinner until full dark, the custom of eating dairy food, a guest who refuses to eat any animal flesh (including fish) on the first day) (for no reason we can see, actually) and my family coming on Monday. And that I want to have at least one meat meal during the holiday. Dairy meals tend to be calorically dense.
Shabbat will be chicken, store-bought kugel and veg. My standard Shabbat.
Saturday night – quiche and fruit salad. Easy to make, easily reheated, delicious. Simple.
Sunday lunch (guests) – lasagna and salad. They’re bringing ice cream cake for dessert.
Sunday dinner – chicken filet, potato salad (store bought), vegetable. Top of the stove, fast, easy.
Monday lunch – baked salmon, yogurt-dill sauce, green salad, angel hair pasta salad.
I just cooked the salmon, and I’m going to freeze it, to thaw out on Sunday night. The chicken filet will be frozen and thawed over Shabbat and Sunday to be cooked fresh. Everything else will be cooked Thursday night or Friday. Or purchased.
I have never made this particular dish before, but as it’s a variation on the tomato sauce/cheese/pasta theme, it didn’t strike me as anything particularly difficult. Plus I’d watched Cook’s Country (Cook’s Magazine) on Sunday making this dish, albeit using a recipe I wouldn’t touch (beef in the sauce! Beef in the cheese! Not in my house!) AND I’d just purchased a new toy AND I had some of the ingredients in my fridge already. And, you know. Meatless Monday. Although meat would probably have less fat and cholesterol.
The Cook’s Country people did something that looked like fun – instead of stuffing the filling into precooked manicotti cylinders, they soaked no-boil lasagna noodles in hot water and rolled them around it. So I bought some of them.
I made my basic pasta sauce – diced onion, red pepper, garlic, oregano, bay leaves, vinegar and tomato paste, plus water to make it work. I normally leave it chunky, which I think works well for both a spaghetti sauce (for which I usually add mushrooms and meat) and for a lasagna/baked ziti sauce (for which I will add spinach and maybe zucchini.) For that matter, it’s a decent base for East Coast style chili, with beans and spices.
I avoid canned and jarred sauces as much as I possibly can, although small cans of tomato sauce have their uses.
For this dish, I thought a smooth sauce would work better. AND I have a new toy. I just got a stick blender with a food chopper attachment. I have a regular blender. Somewhere. It was a wedding present. It’s still in the original box, with the original string around it. I got married over 21 years ago. Yeah.
But I wanted to play, and thought this would work well and be fun. And I was right on both counts. The sauce came out like velvet (I did remove the bay leaves) and the attachment was both fun and easy enough to clean.
I made the filling out of full-fat ricotta cheese leftover from a pasta dish I made last week, plus some new fatfree ricotta, plus an egg, fresh minced garlic, oregano, pepper and finely shredded cheddar and mozzarella mixture that my husband bought in case I wanted to make an omelet for lunch yesterday. (I made salami and eggs instead.)
Layer of my lovely sauce on the bottom of the pan, then I rolled the nicely flexible lasagna around the filling and made five (that’s when the filling ran out) manicotti. I poured the rest of the sauce over that, and covered the top with more cheese. It’s in the oven now, cooking slowly. I’m serving it with salad.
One of the lovely things about the place where I work is chatting with the counselors and managers as I cook – especially the ones who cook. Which, yes, tend to be the women. But they’re Indian and Russian and South American and Puerto Rican and they share their favorite foods and cooking techniques.
Example – if you’re making a curry, cook the curry powder in oil first, and then add water to open it up. It makes an enormous difference.
Last week, while I was making beef stew, L, whose family is from Puerto Rico, told me she loved making it herself. “But I make it Spanish style.”
I, of course, asked her how to make it Spanish style. And she told me. And the first thing she told me about was sofrito. Sofrito is the basis for much of Latin American cooking. It’s a mixture of aromatics, the equivalent of the carrots onions celery of French mirepoix or the Cajun trinity of onions celery green pepper, or the Chinese garlic scallion ginger. It varies very widely per country, though, and probably varies per family, too.
The recipe L gave me, after consulting with her mother, was WHITE onions, red and green bell peppers (she was very firm on that), garlic, cilantro and racao, which is also known as culantro. This is all blended together. She makes it in very, very large quantities and freezes it because she uses it all the time. It’s cooked and then the rest of the ingredients (including adobo spice and quite specifically white package Goya Sason) are added.
She uses it for chicken and rice and bean and – well, all wet dishes, really.
I decided to make black bean soup for dinner on Monday. Black bean soup is a staple in many parts of Latin America and it always sounded delicious to me. I wanted something spicy and smoky and new, you see.
And I knew this was my chance to approximate the sofrito.
I couldn’t find dried black beans in my relatively small supermarket, so I got my favorite brand of canned – organic, no salt added. I also bought a box of vegetable stock, and something my store calls “rauschfleish” – smoked beef. Most of the recipes for black bean soup I’ve seen called for ham or bacon, so I figured this would add the smoky taste plus some meatiness.
And I bought a large white onion, a red pepper, a bunch of cilantro and a couple of jalopenos. I was going to buy adobo spice, but the jar I looked listed “salt, sugar, curry powder.” So I didn’t bother.
I chopped the onion and the red pepper roughly and diced the jalopenos, being careful of the seeds and veins. These I added to hot oil, before adding a teaspoon of curry powder and finely chopped cilantro. I also added finely chopped garlic. When they smelled good, I put in two cans of beans and then about three cups of stock. I also diced the smoked beef and tossed that in.
I brought it to a simmer and then placed it in a 350F oven for a couple of hours, at which point it looked like this:
I served it with soy sour cream and slices of avocado.
I think the heat from the jalopenos and the cilantro made all the differences. Still not totally authenitic, but so, so yummy.