New Podcast: Chef Todd Gray and Ellen Kassoff Gray

New Jewish TableThe marriage of Chef Todd Gray and Ellen Kassoff initiated Todd into the world of Jewish cooking. In 1999, Todd combined his love for farm-to-table ingredients with his passion for Jewish cuisine by opening the acclaimed Equinox Restaurant in Washington, D.C.

Watch as Todd & Ellen walk us through one of their favorite recipes. Then, sample the finished product!

The New Jewish Table by Chef Todd Gray and Ellen Kassoff Gray explores the melding of two different cooking cultures, seasonal American and Eastern-European Jewish. Todd and Ellen talk about the food they grew up with, their life together, and how rewarding the sharing of traditions— and meals—can be.

Todd Gray is a five-time James Beard Award nominee. He graduated with honors from the Culinary Institute of America and has cooked with some of the nation’s top chefs. Both he and Ellen co-own and operate Equinox Restaurant, Muse at the Corcoran Gallery of Art and Hamill Gray Catering. Todd is also the culinary director for Salamander Hotels and Resorts and the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.

Ellen Kassoff Gray is an award-winning General Manager for all their operations. She is a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier and has received the Women Chefs and Restaurateurs Golden Fork Award for Front-of-the-House Excellence.

Praise for The New Jewish Table:
“Fresh and appealing, this book reflects a unique blend of traditions. Great for families interested in contemporary Jewish cuisine. Highly recommended.” —Library Journal

Click to listen (podcast will begin automatically). To download as an MP3, right click and select “Save Link As.”

Kassoff Gray Podcast

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Bi-Partisan Pecan Pumpkin Pie for the Kosher Thanksgiving Table

By Jean Graubart, Director of  the Leo & Anna Smilow Center for Jewish Living and Learning

November is always reminiscent of family, food and memories.

Thanksgiving is a holiday we enjoy with Americans of all ethnic and religious backgrounds, taking time to be with people who matter and eating delicious foods.  There is a traditional menu set out by the Pilgrims, or so we are told, but each community and family adds their own personal flavors to the general idea of what to have on the table.

Pumpkin pie, because it is generally made with evaporated milk or other dairy product, has been a problem for the kosher meat table.  Years ago, I found Nancy Reagan’s Simple (the key word) Pecan Pumpkin Pie and was delighted that it would be both pareve and combine 2 favorite flavors for pie.  For at least 25 years, this pie has been a part of our dessert table and relished by my guests.  Since today is election day and we are all thinking of the White House, I thought it would be appropriate to add a pie from this auspicious address to your Thanksgiving recipes.  And it is a bi-partisan pie, enjoyed by all of all parties!

Nancy Reagan’s Simple Pecan Pumpkin Pie

INGREDIENTS:
4 eggs
2 cups pumpkin (canned or fresh)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 unbaked (9-inch) pie shell
1 cup chopped pecans

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Break eggs into large bowl. Beat with wire whip. Add pumpkin, sugar, corn syrup, vanilla extract, cinnamon and salt. Stir until sugar is dissolved and ingredients are well blended. Pour into pie shell and cover pie with pecans. Bake for 40 minutes, or until filling is set (knife inserted in center of pie comes out clean).  Can be baked a day ahead and refrigerated for the big day.

And while we are into “P” recipes (pecan pumpkin pie), add this “P” recipe to your Thanksgiving repertoire.  Perfect for the kosher table:

Mashed Potatoes

INGREDIENTS:
5 pounds potatoes (any kind, size or shape–I like Yukon Gold but red and russet are good or mix them up)
6 onions

DIRECTIONS:
Boil potatoes with skins. In frying pan,  heat olive oil. Dice 6 onions and sauté until golden brown.

Mash potatoes with skins on ( they add nutrients and taste and texture) in a large bowl with hand masher, the kind your mother or grandmother used.  Mix in the onions and all the oil and add salt and plenty of pepper to taste.

Use a large rectangular pan and grease with oil all around.  Put potatoes mixed with onions and seasoned into the pan and heat before dinner on 350 or 375 or whatever your oven is on until golden on top.

ENJOY!  They taste like the filling in the best knish you ever had.  And they are Perfect (there’s that P again) with natural turkey sauce (that means no added flour or thickener) and alongside the vegetables (steamed or roasted are best since everything else is so flavorful and their natural taste brings balance to this meal).

Hoping this Thanksgiving, you all celebrate with people who matter, and take the time to count the blessings that make your life meaningful, and may these blessings be bountiful!  CHAG SAMEACH!

Recipes: Symbolic Rosh Hashana Foods and Russian Tea Biscuits

By Jean Graubart, Director of Jewish Living and Learning

Rosh Hashanah, which begins on Sunday night September 16, is right around the corner.*

Every year, as I prepare my menu to share with family and friends, I think of ways to add meaning to the meal.It is the beginning of our New Year and a time we think about our hopes and desires for the year to come, dreams for ourselves, those we love and the world around us.

There are foods we can add to our table that symbolically add good wishes for the new year!

Dates dipped in powdered sugar and served along with the more familiar apples and honey, bring sweetness to the new year.
A prayer to accompany the eating of dates: “As we eat this date, may we ‘date’ the New Year that is beginning, as one of happiness and blessing and peace for all the world.”

Pomegranates are said to contain exactly 613 seeds, the same number of mitzvot, the biblical commandments. These beautiful fruits often decorate the holiday table but cut open and eaten bring a year filled with as many good deeds at the pomegranate seeds.
A prayer said as seeds are tasted: “In the coming year, may we be rich and replete with acts inspired by religion and piety, as this pomegranate is rich and replete with seeds.”

Pumpkin is often served in some form in Sephardic homes to express the hope that, as this vegetable has been protected by a thick covering, we too will be protected. Our family ate the seeds toasted and salted by my nona.
Prayer for eating pumpkin: “May the coming year grow as a gourd in fulness of blessing.  In the year to come, may this pumpkin guard us from enemies.”

Leek is considered a food for luck, something we all need.  In Sephardic cooking, leek is as common as the onion and is cooked and added to meat for keftes, small burgers made with boiled leeks chopped, ground beef or turkey, eggs, matzo meal and salt and pepper to taste, then fried lightly in oil, cooked in tomato sauce with lemon or baked in the oven. For a vegetable side dish or for vegetarians, boiled and chopped to mix with chopped spinach, matzo meal, eggs and salt and pepper and cooked like the meat.
A prayer for this lovely vegetable: “As we eat this leek may our luck never lack in the year to come.”

Beets are a prime vegetable at this time of year.  Roasted with a little olive oil (wrapped in foil and baked at 450 for 40 minutes until soft) or boiled, beets are a beautifully colorful addition to the Rosh Hashanah table. They can be served cold in salad or alone with a little balsamic vinegar.
While enjoying, recite: “As we bite this beet, may those who in the past have beaten us or sought our harm, be beaten in the coming year.”

Recently a friend told me to be sure and add celery and raisins to the holiday table.  This is an easy one, since celery is good in salad and a must in chicken soup, a tradition at the holiday table. For the raisins, add to your favorite apple cake or make these delicious Russian Tea Biscuits, a recipe brought from the “old country” (this time from eastern Europe, an Ashkanazi treat) and filled with raisins and nuts.  Why raisins and celery?  For a raise in salary!

Russian Tea Biscuits

4 1/2 cups flour (begin with a little less)
1 stick parve margarine (butter if for dairy meal)
1/4 cup oil
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tablespoons sweet wine
1/4 cup club soda (this was made when baking soda was not to be found)
1 teaspoon baking powder

Mix margarine, oil and sugar
Add eggs and mix
Add dry ingredients and mix
Put in wine and club soda and mix with wooden spoon
Add flour as needed for dough you can roll out easily
Divide dough into 4 pieces
Roll each into rectangle on floured board or table

Fill, using what you like from below, all or some. This is for you to enjoy, put your signature on it!
Fillings:
2 jars preserves spread on the dough
Chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds)
Raisins (yellow or black)
Dried shredded coconut

Sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on top of filling
Roll like a jelly roll, tuck top and bottom under
With a spatula, place on greased cookie sheet (or use parchment paper)
Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle crumbs on top made with 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 cup sugar and1/2 cup margarine mixed together
Cut half way through the dough, about 1/2 inch apart

Bake 325 (preheated oven) for 1 hour
Cool and slice through
Place in cupcake papers
Can be frozen if made in advance.

As these are very full, we hope for a full and satisfying life. Enjoy as the finish of a wonderful and meaningful Rosh Hashanah meal.

Shana tova, and hopes for a year of sweetness and satisfaction to you and your loved ones!

 

*While this post was supposed to go up a few weeks ago, it mysteriously disappeared into the bloggy ether… Enjoy all the festive foods during these Days of Awe!

Recipes: Summer Desserts – Plum Torte and Ice Cream Strudel

By Jean Graubart, Director of Jewish Living and Learning

I always thought that baking was one of those skills (some say, talents) that skips a generation.

My Ashkanazi grandmother Evelyn made the most delicious pastries stuffed with raisins and cinnamon, which I can still taste so many years later.  My Sephardic grandmother Molly, rolled out wonderful biscochos, always found in her oven (she stored them there) for the grandkids to grab.

But my mother burnt Sara Lee, and at best would make a Duncan Hines cake so dry, it only worked with layers of ice cream in the middle and on top, and we thought this was gourmet.  Who knew?

I would gather recipes from friends, claiming them as my own and giving them a family history.  By making a change or 2, they became my recipe, and have been enjoyed and passed on.

Since it is so terribly hot in the summer, I rarely bake, not wanting to heat the house.  But there are exceptions…

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Summer is when we get the best plums, and I love this plum torte.

Plum Torte

12 Italian or purple plums halved…if large, quarter (and who says you can’t use green or red plums?)
1 cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter (I use parve margarine so we can enjoy this with any meal)
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Lemon juice to taste

Cream butter and sugar together
Add eggs and mix well (hand mixing or electric are fine)
Add flour, baking powder and mix to combine
Spoon into a lightly greased pie pan and cover the bottom and a little way up the sides
Place plums, skin side up, on top of batter, all around
Squeeze lemon on top  to cover and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon

Bake 350 for an hour.
Cool and serve, warm or next day, with ice cream, whipped cream or plain.
This torte can stay in the refrigerator several days, covered (can heat before serving, though I like it cold)
Freezes very nicely, wrapped tightly.  Can defrost on 300 for a few minutes.

My friend has a plum tree and makes this in a square brownie pan with the plums cut up and mixed in.  Since that has worked so well and the cake is so easy to make with 1 bowl only, we have made it with other fruits.

It is great (pie style) with apples or pears on top for Rosh Hashanah.

For more summer treats, use peaches on top if you have a basket from the farm waiting to be used.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

When I was in graduate school, I tasted this delicious strudel which I never thought I could duplicate, but then realized how easy it was.  Why is it summer food?  The main ingredient is ice cream!

Ice Cream Strudel

2 1/2 cup flour
1/2 pound sweet butter
1/2 pint strawberry, peach or any fruit flavored ice cream (I have used vanilla too)  – very soft, almost melted

Blend and refrigerate above over night.
Preheat oven to 325.
Divide into 4 balls and roll in rectangle on floured table (can use powdered sugar instead).
Spread with jam, nuts, raisins, coconut, cinnamon and sugar (Use whatever you like: currants, raisins, mini chocolate chips).
Roll up like a jelly roll, and cut ¾” apart, and ¾ of the way through (seam side down).
Bake at 325 for 30 minutes on greased cookie sheet, seam side down.
When cooled and ready to serve, cut all the way through and put in cupcake holders and freeze in a cookie tin or serve and enjoy with iced tea.

So when those fruity ice cream flavors tempt you, have a bowlful and then prepare this rich and lovely dough.

This is a great dough! You can do anything with it. (It also makes a great dough to cover apples in apple dumplings or baked apples.)

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Yes, summertime and the livin’ is easy, the salads are tasty and the fruit is delicious.

These treats help to balance out the calories and are truly good all year.  They are easy, different and a pleasure to share at a picnic or BBQ.

_________________________

Want to check out past recipes from Jean? Click here!

Recipes: Israel’s Summer Salads

From the desk of Jean Graubart, Director of Jewish Living and Learning

As we head into early summer, the idea of turning on an oven (or even a stove top, for that matter) is almost unthinkable. Besides ice cream in every form, size and shape, salads are the only food that make sense. So I have leafed through my many recipes, especially those I have enjoyed at friend’s and family’s homes here and in Israel, and I am picturing the wonderful Asian produce stores I frequent when in San Francisco. The combination of the vivid colors and the tastes from so many memories are inspiring me to shop for and cook a whole meal of salads.

All I need is for my power to come back on to keep my vegetables chilled and my house cool, so that when I put the salads on the bright summer table with fresh flowers and colorful dishes, they will stay crisp and tasty. Right now they would droop and sag, but I can dream.

Trips to Israel are filled with delicious salad dishes. Enjoy these and taste the flavors of the middle east, knowing they are being enjoyed at tables all across Israel. There is a repeat of many of the vegetables in each dish, making shopping easy and flavors blending.

Serve with grilled meat or fish or as a meal itself, and don’t forget the pita.

B’teyavon!

Moroccan Carrot Salad

1 pound bag of whole carrots (organic are just so much sweeter), peeled and cut into thick round circles
1 bunch of flat leaf Italian parsley, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons olive oil
Cumin to taste
Salt to taste
Red pepper flakes to taste
2 cloves garlic minced

Blanch the carrots for 3 minutes in boiling water
Drain in cold water
Mix in oil, lemon juice, garlic, and spices
Add finely chopped parsley
Mix and chill before serving

Mixed Veggie  Salad

1 large hothouse cucumber or 4 Persian cucumbers
4 large ripe tomatoes on the vine or 6 roma tomatoes
4 scallions (green onions)
Handful of red radishes or large daikon radish (white and spicier)
2 avocados, firm and ripe
2 bell peppers (use different colors, green, red, yellow or orange)
4 medium dill pickles
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
4 tablespoons fresh cilantro chopped
4 tablespoons fresh mint chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste.

Dice all the vegetables into small pieces and put in bowl with greens of choice (mint, parsley, cilantro) and Toss together
Add oil and lemon juice, salt and pepper and toss.
Chill and serve

Tunisian Cherry Tomato Salad with Basil

2 small baskets of cherry tomatoes cut in half
10 chopped basil leaves
2 garlic cloves crushed
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons of roasted shelled pumpkin seeds
2 tablespoon shelled and roasted sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons roasted pine nuts
3 tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil

Place tomatoes in bowl
Warm oil in a frying pay and add seeds and nuts to brown
Add garlic
Mix with tomatoes and add salt and chopped basil
Chill

Green Salad

1 bunch of parsley
1 bunch cilantro
10 leaves basil
10 mint leaves
4 green onions, white and green parts
1 teaspoon salt
Juice of 1 ½ lemons
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup roasted cashews chopped

Roughly chop the greens
Place in a bowl and season
Add cashews when serving

Recipe: Five Israeli Salads

By Jean Graubart
Director, Leo & Anna Smilow Center for Jewish Living and Learning

(c) PBS

Thinking about the beautiful days we are having and the joy of being surrounded by friends, eating and laughing and talking and crying… all that is missing is good food.

When the weather begins to warm up, I picture salads of all kinds and colors and tastes.  Perhaps more than any other food, salads are the typical Israeli dish.  The evening meal is often a variety of salads consisting of many vegetables, grains and fruits.

I remember my days on Kibbutz Rosh Hanikra and Kibbutz Hanaton, working in the communal kitchens there, where I would find freshly picked vegetables and be told, “create a salad.”

The most typical salad – and an accompaniment for most all meals – is the Israeli Salad.  We made bowls of it for breakfast, lunch and supper for the hungry kibbutzniks who piled their plates with this salad.

Little dishes of many tastes is very middle eastern.  It is fun to create various salads, many tastes and highlight the wonderful produce that is part of this season.

There are few other sights in Israel or the world that can compete with the color and clamor of their fruit and vegetable markets.  The produce tastes as good as it looks!

ISRAELI SALAD
3 to 4 cucumbers (the Persian are the best, sweet as sugar and delicious whole or in this salad)
3 firm ripe tomatoes  (grape tomatoes make slicing easy, cut in 1/4s)
3 to 4  peppers (mix yellow, orange, red, green)
6 scallions sliced thinly
1/2 cup fresh parsley chopped

Cut all vegetable into small pieces or cubes Add 1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil, juice of 1 lemon, salt and pepper.
Taste and add whatever your palate calls for

Tehina dressing can also be used:
2 teaspoons tehina paste (available in most markets) Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup cold water
Salt, pepper and paprika.
Mix well and pour over vegetables.

ZA’ELUK SALAD
3 red peppers
3 green peppers

Char peppers on the grill until the skin is black
Remove from the fire and peel
Cut the peppers into strips
Add 3 tablespoons oil, 3 garlic cloves crushed, salt, pepper and juice of 1 lemon

Great on the side of fish, chicken or with other salads!

BEET SALAD
4 to 6 beets (any color) roasted on a cookie sheet (rub with olive oil) Bake in 400 degree oven for about an hour Cool and slice or dice
1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 to 1 cup vinegar (Balsamic is perfect)
2 small onions (red or white) sliced thinly into rounds
finely chopped parsley or cilantro

Mix and chill.

SMOKED EGGPLANT SALAD
2 small firm eggplants
1/2 cup grated onion
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup tehina
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Grill or broil eggplants 15 minutes turning for even cooking
Test for tenderness and then let the eggplants rest on grill or in the oven
Peel the skin and discard the liquid
Chop the eggplant by hand (not in the processor) so small pieces are formed
Mix the eggplant with all other ingredients
Refrigerate and enjoy with crackers or pita

And what salad table in Israel would be complete without hummus? Make your own easily!

HUMMUS
2 garlic cloves chopped
1 15 oz. can garbanzo beans drained
1/3 cup tehini
1/2 lemon juiced
1/2 cup chopped drained roasted red peppers from a jar salt and pepper

In a processor, drop in garlic and mince, add chickpeas, tehina and lemon juice
Process until mixture is smooth
Add roasted pepper and process until finely chopped
Season with salt and pepper
Transfer to bowl and pour olive oil in a swirl on top
Sprinkle sumac or zahtar to taste

Enjoy these tastes from Israel and surprise family and friends with a table full of healthy and fresh salads to accompany any other foods or as a meal itself.

Summertime means salads!  Start early mastering your favorites!

Recipe: Granola Cheesecake for Shavuot

By Jean Graubart
Director, Leo & Anna Smilow Center for Jewish Living and Learning

 

(image: ynetnews.com)

Not a month has gone by without a Jewish holiday celebration and it is lovely to look at the calendar and see the dates to remind us of our history and traditions.

Shavuot, the Festival of Weeks is on May 26-May 28, the culmination of the SEVEN weeks since Passover.  Mysticism makes everything a little more spiritual and since  the Kabbalists consider the number SEVEN very powerful (a reminder of the week of creation), we feel the impact of the mystics .

As a mother who gave each of her children two names, I like that Shavuot also has a second name, Festival of First Fruits, Yom Ha-Bikkurim.  This was the time that the first grain and fruit crops were harvested.

Just as Pesach brings us to spring, Shavuot ushers in the summer season. But before it gets too hot and in honor of the holiday when we celebrate the giving of the Ten Commandments, the laws given to Moses on Mount Sinai, enjoy this unusual cheesecake in commemoration of the holiday.  It is customary to eat dairy foods as the Torah is traditionally compared to milk and honey, with their ability to nourish and to sweeten our lives.

GRANOLA CHEESECAKE

CRUST
3 cups granola
1 tablespoon brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger (dried)
1 stick butter melted

FILLING
2 pounds cream cheese
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons honey
4 eggs
2/3 cup whipping cream

TOPPING
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
Strawberries or other berries to top off

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease a 9 inch springform pan or a deep dish pie pan.
Grind granola in a processor and put in bowl.
Add sugar, cinnamon, ground ginger and melted butter
Mix and press into the bottom of pan and halfway up the side.
Chill.
Beat the cream cheese, vanilla, sugar and honey until smooth and blended.
Add eggs one at a time beating lightly after each one.
Put in cream and mix briefly.
Pour batter into chilled crust and smooth top.
Bake for an hour, test with toothpick which should come out clean but a little wet.
The center will sink a little and the cake will shrink some from the sides of the pan.
Turn off oven and let cake sit in oven for 20 minutes.
Remove and cool at room temperature.
Set oven to 300 degrees.
In small bowl, mix sour cream and sugar very well.
Pour over the cake and smooth.
Bake 5 minutes.
Remove from oven and cool completely.
Sprinkle with crystallized ginger and chill until firm.
Cover with plastic wrap when firm and chill at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
Remove and enjoy!

Serving suggestion: Top with berries or serve them on the side.

This recipe will delight your friends and family and hopefully sweeten your celebration.

Shavuot is such a special time that I remember my grandmother picked the holiday for her birthday, having no record of her birth date in Turkey.

She said she wanted to be born when the Torah was born.

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