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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.


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

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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“Truffles, not traffic. Chocolate truffles, of course.

“We had heard that the shalach manot may have fallen off the truck, so we dispatched policemen to look for them. We knew people might be inconvenienced, but it was a small price to pay to permit the governor to enjoy a festive Purim, however belated.”


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The holiday kiddush


My gang of pals always called me Dunderhead. Was it because I refused to study? Well, that wasn’t the only reason. Truth is I didn’t want to study. Who does? Did they dub me Dunderhead on account of my wooden head? Maybe. Truth is I was a numbskull. Nothing penetrated, my teacher complained. I had to work my head to the bone before I understood anything.

But, on the other hand, my memory, knock wood, was pretty weak too. I couldn’t remember a blessed thing. In one ear, out the other. Absolutely nothing sank in.


Considering ‘Next year in Jerusalem’

On a recent trip to Jerusalem, my son decided that his favorite color was gold. Whenever he’s asked why, he replies with a wry smile befitting a 5-year-old.

“Jerusalem is the city of gold, of course,” he says.

When we told him our family was moving to Israel this summer, he was quite pleased.

“Ima, will we live there until I’m a grown-up?” he asked.

That’s the idea, we nodded.

While I know what my family will mean when we reach the end of the Passover seder this year and say “next year in Jerusalem,” what do these words mean for those not making the trek to the Holy Land anytime soon? Are we being disingenuous? Or, as the rabbis encourage with every other part of the Haggadah, are we expounding, embellishing, interpreting, and reading ourselves into the story of the Exodus from Egypt?


Love, marriage, motherhood

And other uncomfortable seder table talk

We had just closed our Haggadahs to begin the dinner portion of the Passover seder when the conversation abruptly, yet not surprisingly, turned to my singlehood.

There is a curiosity to some about a single, childless woman in her early 40s, and a guest at the table, a married mother of three, couldn’t hold hers in. The Four Questions all single women of a certain age know by heart were about to begin:

“You’ve never been married?” the woman asked as the youngest of her three children tugged on her sleeve and she sat him on her lap.

“No,” I responded, hoping my frank, curt answer would shorten the conversation.

No luck.

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