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No-rush Rosh HaShanah

 
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Just in time for the fall Jewish holidays, Laura Frankel, executive chef of Wolfgang Puck’s kosher restaurant/catering business at the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies in Chicago, has compiled an attractive and useful book called “Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes” (Wiley Publishers, 2009). In the book are 120 “holiday and everyday dishes made easy.”

As a fan of my slow cooker, I was thrilled to find a treasure trove of recipes, as my husband swears everything I make in my crockpot tastes like stew — and he hates stew! The book is easy to use, with a cornucopia of basic and exotic recipes for appetizers, soups, main and side dishes, desserts and breakfast, and sauces. There are also helpful holiday menus.

The Rosh HaShanah menu includes Roasted Parsnip and Jerusalem Artichoke Soup and Poached Fruit Compote (see recipe).

All the recipes are kosher, labeled meat, dairy, or pareve, and have a “seasonal key” noting the use of vegetables and fruits harvested at their peak. Many of the recipes require a large slow cooker — a six and a half quart model — but may be cut in half. The book sells for $24.95.

Here are two nice recipes for the holidays or anytime.

Cholent

Makes 8 servings

Frankel writes that “cholent — a hearty beef and potato stew — feels as familiar and easy to me as my favorite reading chair. While there are infinite ways to flavor this Eastern European classic, I tend to save my more exotic spices and ingredients for other dishes. Some traditions, like this dish, are better left intact, although the modern touch of using the slow cooker makes it much easier to keep the tradition alive. A big pot of cholent is the perfect companion on a long Saturday afternoon with family and friends.”

Olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 pounds chuck roast or brisket, cut into 3-inch chunks

3 large Spanish onions, cut into large wedges

3 garlic cloves, chopped

2 cups dark beer such as Guinness or Aventinus

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 cups dried kidney beans, sorted through, soaked overnight, and drained

1 cup pearled barley

4 large Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and sliced about 1 1⁄2 inches thick

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

8 large eggs in their shells

Kishke [store-bought or home-made, can be added to the crockpot about three hours before serving; Frankel provides a recipe, but we don’t include it here]

1. Preheat a 6 1⁄2-quart slow cooker to low.

2. Place a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Lightly coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil.

3. Salt and pepper the meat on all sides. Place the meat in the heated pan and brown on all sides, in batches if necessary. Transfer the meat to the slow cooker insert.

4. Add the onions to the pan. Cook the onions until they are browned and slightly softened. Add the garlic and cook until the garlic is very fragrant and has softened slightly. Transfer the onions and garlic to the insert.

5. Add the beer to the sauté pan. Scrape up any browned bits with a spatula. Add the tomato paste and stir to combine. Transfer the liquid to the insert.

6. Add the kidney beans, barley, potatoes, salt, and pepper to the slow cooker. Stir with a large spoon to combine. Gently bury the eggs in the mixture. Cover and cook on low for at least 10 hours.

7. About 3 hours before serving, place the whole unwrapped cooked kishke on top of the cholent. Cover and cook until you are ready to eat.

Frankel writes, “While many families serve the cholent right out of the slow cooker, I like to spread out the ingredients a bit. I recommend using a slotted spoon and scooping the kishke onto a platter. Then scoop some of the cholent onto another platter or into a large bowl. Finally, peel the eggs from their shells, slice them into wedges, and add the wedges to the kishke platter.”

Poached Fruit Compote

Makes 8 servings

Frankel writes, “While some swear that eating fresh fruit is the only way to enjoy this delicious seasonal treasure, many fruits definitely benefit from a nice long poach in a fragrant liquid. It is not always easy to find fruit in the perfect stage of ripeness, but when slightly underripe fruits are slow cooked, they soften and become juicy and delicately flavored. I wrote this recipe with the combination of peaches, apples, and plums, but there are no rules regarding which fruits to use. I do recommend that you choose firm, slightly underripe fruits as they will hold up better to the long, slow poach. I served this gorgeous colorful dessert for Sukkot. It was a true celebration of the season and bounty of fruit.

“This delicious compote can be served warm with ice cream or sabayon, or topped with yogurt and granola for a scrumptious breakfast or snack. It is equally delicious cold.

“The compote can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, or frozen for up to 1 month. Once the fruit is gone, the poaching liquid can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks, and used again to poach more fruit.”

3 large peaches (firm, with no
bruises)

2 large apples such as Honeycrisp (firm, with no bruises)

2 large plums (firm, with no bruises)

2 cups sugar

1 bottle (750 ml) sweet white wine such as Moscato

1 large rosemary sprig

6 whole black peppercorns (about 1⁄4 teaspoon)

Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

Suggested Garnishes

Raspberry coulis, sabayon, vanilla ice cream, yogurt, granola

1. Preheat a slow cooker to high.

2. Combine the peaches, apples, plums, sugar, wine, rosemary, peppercorns, and lemon zest and juice in the slow cooker insert. Stir to help dissolve the sugar.

3. Cut a piece of parchment paper that will fit into the slow cooker and cover the surface of the fruits. Weight down the parchment lightly with an empty pie plate. This keeps the fruits down in the poaching liquid as they are quite buoyant.

4. Cover and cook on high for 2 hours.

5. Remove the fruits gently with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool until you can handle them. Peel off the skins. Cut in half and remove any pits or cores using a melon baller. Spoon the fruit into dessert glasses, bowls, or wineglasses. Serve with your choice of garnish.

 
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Stay tuned for the return of comments

 

The Dreydl

I liked him more than any of my friends in kheder or in town. I adored Benny because he was the best looking, smartest, and cleverest of the boys. He was loyal and generous to me and always took my part. Benny was also the oldest boy in our group as well as the richest boy in kheder.

Benny was a chubby, freckle-faced fellow with yellow prickly hair, bulging white cheeks, gap teeth, popping fisheyes where a shrewd smile always lurked. The minute we met—during my first day in kheder—we became fast friends.

I got my first glimpse of the rebbe when my mother brought me to his kheder. A man with thick brows and a pointy skullcap, he was studying Genesis with all his pupils. Without the slightest hesitation the rebbe told me: “Move to that bench over there—between those two boys.”

I squeezed in between the boys and was immediately accepted.

 

Music hath charms to soothe December Dilemma

Hillel Kuttler

PHILADELPHIA — In text accompanying a new exhibition at this city’s National Museum of American Jewish History, Sammy Davis Jr. is quoted on why he converted to Judaism.

“I became a Jew because I was ready and willing to understand the plight of a people who fought for thousands of years for a homeland,” the late entertainer said.

What immediately follows is a curator’s observation: “Davis knew that becoming a Jew also meant recording Christmas songs.”

The comment, while somewhat facetious, has a ring of truth to it: Some of the most popular Christmas tunes were written and/or sung by American Jews — notably the children of immigrants, like Irving Berlin, who composed the iconic “White Christmas,” or in Davis’ case, new to Judaism.

It also encapsulates the theme of the exhibition, which carries a provocative title — “’Twas the Night Before Hanukkah.”

 

Getting gelt was good as gold

LOS ANGELES — What can a buck get you on Chanukah? Maybe a gold mesh bag of chocolate coins or a lighter for your menorah. But Jewish continuity?

At Chanukah time, when we get so wrapped up in gift giving, I propose that it’s a single dollar of gelt that has the power to keep on giving beyond eight nights.

Chanukah gelt — the Yiddish word means money — originally was coins given as gifts to children and adults. Today, gelt brings to mind the chocolate coins wrapped in gold and silver foil that come in a small mesh bag.

But lately, gelt-wise, I’ve been thinking outside the bag, wondering why of all the Chanukah gifts that I received as a child, it is the shiny silver dollars given by my parents that I remember best. I never even spent them.

 

RECENTLYADDED

The Dreydl

I liked him more than any of my friends in kheder or in town. I adored Benny because he was the best looking, smartest, and cleverest of the boys. He was loyal and generous to me and always took my part. Benny was also the oldest boy in our group as well as the richest boy in kheder.

Benny was a chubby, freckle-faced fellow with yellow prickly hair, bulging white cheeks, gap teeth, popping fisheyes where a shrewd smile always lurked. The minute we met—during my first day in kheder—we became fast friends.

I got my first glimpse of the rebbe when my mother brought me to his kheder. A man with thick brows and a pointy skullcap, he was studying Genesis with all his pupils. Without the slightest hesitation the rebbe told me: “Move to that bench over there—between those two boys.”

I squeezed in between the boys and was immediately accepted.

 

Music hath charms to soothe December Dilemma

Hillel Kuttler

PHILADELPHIA — In text accompanying a new exhibition at this city’s National Museum of American Jewish History, Sammy Davis Jr. is quoted on why he converted to Judaism.

“I became a Jew because I was ready and willing to understand the plight of a people who fought for thousands of years for a homeland,” the late entertainer said.

What immediately follows is a curator’s observation: “Davis knew that becoming a Jew also meant recording Christmas songs.”

The comment, while somewhat facetious, has a ring of truth to it: Some of the most popular Christmas tunes were written and/or sung by American Jews — notably the children of immigrants, like Irving Berlin, who composed the iconic “White Christmas,” or in Davis’ case, new to Judaism.

It also encapsulates the theme of the exhibition, which carries a provocative title — “’Twas the Night Before Hanukkah.”

 

What makes Chanukah great in America

As Chanukah nears, let the grousing begin.

Too much is made of a holiday that Judaism ranks as a minor festival — one whose ritual candle-lighting takes no more than five minutes to complete each night — some American Jews will say. Some will complain about the season’s excessive commercialism or materialism.

Yet most Jews also will participate in at least one of the many customs developed by American Jews to augment the holiday’s simple rite and express the enhanced place of Chanukah, which this year falls on December 16, on the American Jewish liturgical calendar.

In addition to exchanging gifts (or giving them to children), they will decorate their homes, eat fried foods, sing songs, listen to holiday music, and attend one or more of the many holiday festivities held at Jewish community centers, synagogues, Jewish-themed museums, and Jewish schools.

 
 
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