Fish Soup

Fish SoupThis is a nice alternative to chicken soup, and combines the fish course and soup course into one! All the flavour, half the work! This recipe will serve about 12 people.

Ingredients:

⅓ cup olive oil
2 medium onions, quartered
2 large leeks, white part and most of the green part, sliced*
4 stalks celery
1 bulb fennel, quartered (save the fronds for garnish)*
6 cloves garlic
1 large bunch parsley*
2 red peppers, seeded and cut in chunks
Head and tail of a large salmon, tile fish, or any other big fish, quartered, loosely but securely wrapped in cheesecloth
2 (540ml) cans crushed tomatoes
8 cups water
2 large potatoes, cut in small cubes
1 cup dry white wine
½ teaspoon cayenne, or a little more to taste
Good pinch ground cloves
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon paprika
2 good pinches saffron
8 cups fish, cubed, about 1” size (salmon, tile or snapper)

* Click here to learn how to properly clean these vegetables and herbs.

Directions:

In a food processor, coarsely grind the onions, leeks, celery, fennel, garlic, parsley and peppers. You can do this in batches if you have a smaller processor or you find the vegetables are becoming over processed.

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil, and then add the vegetable mixture. Sauté the mixture until the onions and leeks become translucent, about 5 to 10 minutes. Mix often so that nothing sticks and burns.

Next, add the head and tail of the fish (in the cloth), along with the tomatoes, water, potatoes, wine, cloves, bay leaves and paprika. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and let cook for 45 minutes.

Remove the cheesecloth with the fish parts in it, and then add the chopped up fish meat and saffron to the pot. Allow the soup to cook another few minutes until the chopped fish has cooked through. Adjust salt and pepper to taste, and then serve hot, garnished with a few fronds from the fennel.

Bedikat Chametz – The Search for Chametz (9 Days to Go!)

Burnt ToastThe holiday of Passover was made for people with OCD. Think about it; the massive cleaning, the counting of cups and plagues… Even the strict time lines involved in the baking of Matzo (the Matzo only has 18 minutes from the time the water and flour first mix until it is removed from the oven, or it is considered Chametz, or leavened, and not allowed for use on Passover). So imagine, after you’ve done all that cleaning and preparing, you now have to go around your house, the very night before the holiday begins, and purposely put out crumbs of bread!

Okay, this is where my OCD’ers have minor heart attacks. Why? How? Huh? Okay, deep breaths people. Here is why we do it (thanks to Chabad.org for the following explanation. You can learn more by clicking here)

The dispersal of pieces of chametz around the home prior to the bedikat chametz (ceremonial search for chametz on the evening before Passover) is not obligatory — the obligation is to search, not necessarily to find — but has become accepted Jewish custom. Based on kabbalistic reasoning, it is customary to place ten pieces of bread around the home before the search. On the eve of Passover, when the entire home has been spotlessly cleaned, it is highly doubtful that any chametz would be found in the home. These pieces which will now be “found,” will give us “chametz fuel” for the traditional chametz burning ceremony on the following morning. Otherwise, it is conceivably possible for the entire chametz burning tradition to be forgotten.

I hope this helps explain a little bit about why we do it, and why, in Jewish neighbourhoods on the morning of the eve of Passover you can smell burnt toast for miles!

Moroccan Fish

Moroccan FishThis is another alternative to regular gefilte fish, and will work well for people that don’t keep gebrokts (those that don’t mix matzo with liquids), as there is no matzo meal used in this recipe. If you’re not crazy about cilantro (like me) you can use parsley instead and you can cut down on the amount of chili peppers as well if you’re not into the heat. This recipe will serve 8.

Ingredients:

8 boneless fish fillets (best if you use a firm, dense fish like halibut or snapper)
2 bunches fresh cilantro/parsley, cut into large pieces*
2 red bell peppers, seeded and cut into long thin strips
10 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
4-6 large dried red chili peppers (or less depending on preference)
½ teaspoon turmeric
3 cups water
⅔ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 heaping tablespoons paprika
Salt and pepper to taste

* Click here to check how to clean cilantro and parsley.

Directions:

For this recipe, you will need a sauté pan, it’s like a wide, deep skillet with higher sides. Before you start cooking, reserve a few pieces of the cilantro/parsley for garnish. Place cilantro/parsley, bell pepper slices, garlic and chili peppers in the bottom of the pan to create a “bed” for the fish. Place fish fillets on top of the other ingredients. Season fillets generously with salt and pepper, then sprinkle turmeric evenly across fillets. Add the water to the pan. Cover pan, turn flame on high, and bring to a boil. As soon as the water boils, reduce heat to medium and uncover the pan. Mixture should be simmering lightly at this point. Allow mixture to simmer uncovered for 10-15 minutes, basting fillets periodically, until the water reduces by half and turns yellow.

In a small bowl, mix together olive oil and paprika with a fork. Pour red oil mixture over the fish fillets, coating them evenly. Let the fish simmer uncovered for 20 minutes more, basting frequently. Fish is done when liquid is reduced to about a quarter of what it was originally, and the fish has turned a rich red colour.

Serve the warm fish and bell peppers, drizzled with some of the sauce and garnish with the remaining fresh cilantro/parsley leaves.

10 Days to Go… Who Knows 10?

Matzah Record PlayerSo part of the fun of the Passover Seder is not just the food, or the telling over of the story of the Exodus from Egypt and the reading of the Haggadah, but rather it’s the “after party” so to speak. What? Never been to an after-Seder after party? Let me tell you, it’s where all the cool kids hang out! So what exactly is this party I’m talking about? It all the songs at the end of the Haggadah, which the recital of which, especially after four glasses of wine, can turn into quite the raucous affair.

There are lots of different tunes and melodies that people like to use for the Hallel or Songs of Praise portion, but for me, one of my all-time favourites is the “kid” song of “Echad – Mi Yodeya” or “Who Knows One?”

In “Who Knows One?” the song takes you through a count up and down with repeated verses, each verse getting longer as you include the previous one in the new addition. It starts with “Who knows one? I know one! One is Hashem (G-d) in the Heavens and the Earth!” It continues with the following numbered list:

1 is Hashem – in the Heavens and the Earth
2 are the Tablets that Moshe (Moses) brought (i.e.: the Ten Commandments)
3 are the (Fore) Fathers (i.e.: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob)
4 are the Mothers (i.e.: Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah)
5 are the books of the Torah
6 are the books of the Mishnah (i.e.: the oral Torah)
7 are the days of the week
8 are the days of Bris Millah (i.e.: days until circumcision)
9 are the months before birth
10 are the Commandments
11 are the stars in Joseph’s dream (click here to learn more about this)
12 are the Tribes of Israel
13 are the Attributes of G-d (click here to learn more about this)

So… since we keep adding a verse with each new number, plus we repeat all the previous numbers after adding a new number…well, by the time you get to number 13, you have quite the mouthful! And did I mention that it’s very late at night by this point and you’ve had four glasses of wine? Like I said, it’s quite the party! What are your favourite Passover songs? Let me know!

* photo credit to Matzo Mania on Shtetl on the Shortwave.

Fish Cakes with Citrus “Tartar” Sauce

Citrus Fish Cakes

This recipe will make fish cakes for a crowd, and is a nice alternative to traditional gefilte fish. The citrus in this recipe lightens up the dish, taking away from the fried aspect of it, and would make it a great idea for a lunch meal! Before you start wondering where you’re going to get such small amounts of freshly squeezed juices, simply use the lemon and orange that you just zested!

Ingredients:

Sauce:
1 cup mayonnaise
4 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (from 2 lemons)*
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest (from 1 orange)*
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
¼ teaspoon salt
Pinch sugar
Pinch cayenne

Fish Cakes:
2 pounds carp (or perch or bass) fillets, skinned and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped parsley**
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
⅓ cup matzoh meal
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup or more oil (for frying)
1 tablespoon sea salt

* Click here to see my tips on zesting citrus.
** Click here to see how to properly clean fresh parsley.

Directions:

To make the sauce:
In medium bowl, stir together all ingredients. Cover and chill.

To make the fish cakes:
Line large baking sheet with waxed paper. Working in 2 batches, in food processor pulse the fish until coarsely ground (do not purée to paste). Transfer to large bowl and add onion, parsley, mayonnaise, egg, lemon juice, and orange juice. Mix gently until well blended, then add matzoh meal, salt, and pepper and mix gently until incorporated.

Using wet hands, roll mixture into 1 ¼ inch-diameter balls and press into ½ inch-thick patties. Arrange on baking sheet with additional waxed paper between each layer of patties. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours.

In large heavy skillet over high heat, heat ¼ inch oil. Working in batches of 5 and adding more oil as needed, fry patties until brown, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with sea salt while still hot. Serve warm with sauce.

Let it Begin…11 Days and Counting!

Pesach ChecklistOkay folks, I hope you’re prepared… We knew it was coming… That’s right, it’s almost Passover! The holiday, that only though it lasts a mere 8 days, we cook, clean and prep as if it is Y2K all over again! During this holiday, Jews all over the world will eat more oil, eggs and matzo than one would think humanly possible (and definitely not healthy!) Is it just me, or does ever Passover recipe start off with “take 6 eggs and a 1 ½ cups of oil”? I would definitely not plan on having your yearly physical scheduled in the 2 to 3 weeks following Passover. Your doctor will be abhorred by your cholesterol levels!

But it doesn’t have to be all bad! Today’s recipes tend to call for a more balanced approach, using more fresh ingredients, and less of the pre-packaged boxed goods. Not to fault those mind you, I mean, those brownies with that thick icing? Yum! Over the next week and a bit I’m going to be posting different recipes to be made over Passover, trying to focus away from mains (don’t worry, there will still be some) and give options for starters, sides and desserts. Plus, don’t forget to pick up a copy of the COR Passover Guide at your local school, synagogue, grocery or Jewish establishment. For those outside of the greater Toronto area, here is a link to our online version!

Candied Espresso Pecans

Coffee NutsI don’t know about you, but I always like to have a crunchy snack on hand… something a little savoury, a little salty and a little sweet. These candied espresso pecans fit the bill! Relatively low in fat and sugar, these caffeine packed nuts will help you power through the afternoon slump. If you don’t have instant espresso powder, you can substitute by using 50% more dark roast instant coffee. Just note that it will have a slightly harsher more acidic taste than the espresso powder, but it might just be okay considering the sugar and cinnamon in the recipe. This recipe will make about 4 cups of candied nuts.

Ingredients:

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
⅔ cup sugar
2 tablespoons finely ground espresso coffee beans
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 large egg white
4 cups pecan halves

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325°F. Spray large rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray. Whisk the sugar, ground espresso beans, espresso powder, cinnamon and salt together in small bowl. Whisk egg white in large bowl until frothy. Add pecans and toss to coat. Sprinkle the pecans with espresso mixture and toss to coat.

Spread coated pecans on prepared sheet in single layer. Bake 5 minutes. Slide spatula under the nuts to loosen them from baking sheet and stir, rearranging in single layer. Bake until the pecans are dry to touch, about 5 minutes longer. Loosen pecans from the sheet again, and then rest to cool on the sheet.

These candied pecans can be made 2 weeks ahead and stored in airtight container at room temperature.

Guatemalan Coffee Brownies with Walnuts

Coffee BrowniesCoffee and chocolate are definitely a no brainer! I mean, just think about Caffé Mochas! The rich, slightly acidic coffee plays well with the sweet hit of cocoa and sugar. For brownies, a full-bodied coffee from Indonesia or Guatemala would pair beautifully with dark chocolate brownies. These brownies call on cocoa, walnuts and ginger, used as a garnish to compliment a full flavoured Guatemalan coffee bean, like an Antigua Coffee would work great! This recipe will make 15 brownies.

Ingredients:

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
2 cups sugar
1 cup minus 1 tablespoon (2 sticks minus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons finely ground Antigua coffee beans
½ teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
¾ cup walnut pieces
1 cup bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon freshly brewed Antigua coffee
30 thin strips crystallized ginger

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 13x9x2-inch metal pan with nonstick spray. Combine sugar, butter, cocoa, ground coffee, and salt in large metal bowl. Place bowl over saucepan of simmering water and whisk until butter melts and ingredients are blended (texture will be grainy). Remove bowl from over water; cool mixture to lukewarm if necessary. Whisk in eggs and vanilla. Sift flour over and fold in. Mix in walnuts.

Spread batter in prepared pan. Bake brownies until tester inserted into centre comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool brownies in pan.

Place chocolate chips in small bowl. Bring brewed coffee to simmer in small saucepan; pour over chips and stir until melted and smooth. Let ganache stand until cool and beginning to thicken, about 1 hour; spread evenly over brownies. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; let stand at room temperature.) Cut brownies into 15 squares. Top each with 2 ginger strips.

Salty Coffee Chicken

Salty Coffee ChickenThis recipe will make enough for 6-8 people to eat. I would suggest serving it up with green beans and mashed potatoes, or serving it cold, picnic style. Either way, it’s delicious! Just make sure to use low-sodium soy sauce, or it might be just a bit too salty!

Ingredients:

1 ⅓ cups reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup cooking sherry*
½ cup strong brewed coffee**
½ cup olive oil
12 chicken legs
ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

In a medium, nonreactive container, mix the soy sauce, brown sugar, sherry, coffee, and 3 tablespoons olive oil. Place chicken legs in the mixture. Cover, and marinate in the refrigerator 3 to 4 hours. Remove chicken from the marinade mixture, and set aside. Transfer the marinade to a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil. Heat remaining olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Season chicken with pepper, and brown on all sides in the skillet. Pour the hot marinade mixture into the skillet. Reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink and juices run clear. Cool slightly before serving.

* If you don’t have any sherry on hand, or wish to make this dish alcohol free, substitute by using ¼ cup vinegar + 1 tablespoon sugar + ¼ water OR 1 tablespoon vinegar, plus chicken stock or water to make ½ cup.

** For strong brewed coffee, I suggest using 1 ½ times the amount of coffee to water that you usually use to brew a cup.

Ash-e-jow (Iranian/Persian Barley Soup)

Persian Barley Soup

This soup was a hit at last night’s Purim celebration. The addition, that I think was brilliant, that my mother added was some cooked shredded chicken. She also shredded the carrots, rather than diced them. You can leave it out the chicken (meat and stock) and use vegetable stock instead if you wish to make this a non-meat dish. This soup will serve 6-8 people.

Ingredients:

3 quarts chicken stock
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup diced (or shredded) carrots
¾ cup uncooked pearl barley
1 tablespoon turmeric
½ teaspoon saffron
1-2 cooked chicken breasts, shredded
1 lime, juiced
¼ cup tomato paste
salt, to taste
ground black pepper, to taste
½ cup non-dairy sour cream
1 cup chopped fresh parsley*
8 lime wedges

* Click here to see how to clean parsley.

Directions:

Heat the chicken stock in a pot to a gentle simmer.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large pot over medium heat and sauté the onion, carrots, saffron and turmeric until the onion becomes translucent. Add the pearl barley to the pot and stir for one minute. Stir in the hot chicken stock, shredded chicken, lime juice, tomato paste, salt, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 1 to 1 ½ hours, until the soup has thickened and the carrots and barley are tender. If the soup is too thick, add hot water, one tablespoon at a time.

Place the sour cream in a small bowl. Slowly pour ½ cup of hot soup mixture into sour cream, whisking constantly. Gradually add the sour cream mixture into the soup pot, whisking constantly. Stir in the fresh parsley. Serve with fresh lime wedges.