Amerikaner Yapchik – The Ultimate Jewish Food Reinterpreted

Passover is right around the corner, and Jewish cooks everywhere are planning their menus for the holiday. Many families have recipes that are generations-old, lovingly prepared year after year.  Even with the time-honored favorites, there is always room to reinterpret a classic recipe.

yapzik

No one can exactly say where yapchik (or yapzik) originates. The one certain thing is that it is Eastern European in origin, and a recipe that appears on the Sabbath and Yom Tov table of many a Hasidic family. The traditional recipe calls for strips of flanken to be placed in the middle of potato kugel mixture, covered, and baked in the oven for 8 to 12 hours.

DH and I did not grow up Hasidic – we became more religious after we got married and had children, deciding this was how we wanted to raise our family. As a result, at times we experience what I call ‘comedies of error’. This is one of them.

It started innocently enough – I was making potato kugel for Sukkot, and a friend of ours from our neighborhood synagogue sent us stuffed cabbage. Not wanting to look selfish and any less a balabusta (homemaker) I immediately offered to send over a potato kugel after it was done. She didn’t want that, but if I was making yapchik, she would be delighted to have one.

A quick consultation with DH told me that yapchik was potato kugel with meat inside. Considering what I know of cooking, and how I make potato kugel, it only made sense to me to put in pre-cooked meat. After all – if you put in raw meat, and only cook it for 2 or 3 hours (how long I cook my potato kugel depending on time) there is no way it would be cooked. So in my mind, it had to be deli.  Needless to say, she was full of compliments after the holiday, but informed me this was not yapchik as she and her husband was born and raised with.

But it is now a staple on many a Yom Tov in my house, and it a perfect, lighter meat dish. It is meat and potato kugel all in one – serve with a salad and you have a full meal.

Ingredients:

  • 10 lbs Idaho potatoes, peeled and sliced for a food processor
  • 3 large Vidalia onions, also peeled and sliced for a food processor
  • 9 large eggs
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 2 tsp salt plus a little to cover the top
  • 4 tsp black pepper plus a little to cover the top
  • 6 oz navel pastrami
  • 6 oz cooked deli turkey breast
  • 6oz 1st cut corned beef

To Prepare: 

Using the kugel blade (shredder) on your food processor, process your onions and potatoes, starting with an onion and alternating between potatoes and onions. (This helps keep the potatoes white.) There will be a lot of juice – drain as much as possible off now, but you will have to drain it again later. Add eggs, salt, pepper, and oil and mix very well. I would say use your hands (I do) to ensure complete mixing, but you could use a spatula or wooden spoon as well.

To assemble:

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Taking large handfuls of the mixture, press gently to drain excess liquid and make an even layer in the bottom 1/3 of the disposable pan. Add your deli meat, laying the peices neatly so the entire area is covered. (I did pastrami, turkey, corned beef, but you can pick your own deli meats and combos. Just make sure you lay the meat evenly and so the entire surface areas is covered.) Make an even layer of potato mixture over the meat, pressing gently to remove excess liquid, til the pan is filled.

Take a bit of salt and pepper and sprinkle a fine layer over the top of the kugel. Bake in preheated oven for 2-3 hours, or until a knife inserted comes out clean and very hot to the touch. Turn off oven, leave in for another hour or so to cool slightly.
Yield one regular 9”x 13” disposable pan and a bit extra for a small regular potato kugel (6” round) OR one deep 9”x 13”disposable pan)

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Kol Foods: A Series on Duck (Finale) Duck Mujadara

The ducks used in these recipes are from KOL Foods. (http://kolfoods.com/) I received no other compensation – all opinions are my own.

One of the things I love to do in the kitchen is to take ingredients, look at them, and say ”What happens if I…”.  There is two vital considerations I keep in mind at all times. One – it has to make sense to me. Two – it must treat the ingredient with the respect I feel it deserves.  Yes, even if it’s leftovers. Especially if it’s leftovers. In many homes, they are the source of whines and frowns, but in my house, they can sometimes be better than the original meal!

So when I managed (by hook, crook and bribery) to secure a full duck breast (two pieces) for this recipe I knew precisely how I was going to utilize these gorgeous leftovers. Because let’s face it – duck is delicious right out of the oven, but the next day?  It can be some of the best eating ever. The question was how to make the meat stretch enough to feed my now duck-crazy family.

If anyone asks me what one of my favorite Middle Eastern dishes are, mujadara is in the top three (shakshuka and lachmagine round out that list). Many varieties of lentils and rice are staples in my home, so this made my choice pretty simple. To avoid a clash of tastes, (the recipe I was taught for this dish has cilantro, which I couldn’t see working with duck) I had to re-tool the recipe a bit. I can say these were leftovers my whole family enjoyed! (This recipe make quite a lot, so divide it easily in half for a smaller amount)

duckmudjarah1

Recipe for Duck Mujadara

3 cups basmati rice 

2 cups green lentils 

1 whole KOL Foods duck breast (two pieces), already cooked and diced

1/3 cup white wine

2 tbsp of lemon juice

heaping 1/2 tsp of turmeric

tiny pinch of cumin

Salt and pepper to taste

Generous splash of olive oil

 4 cups of  duck stock, plus a little more for the lentils. (see this recipe for duck stock )

1) In a large pot, add just the lentils and a mix of water, white wine and duck stock til the lentils are covered and have an additional knuckle of liquid above that. Bring to a boil, then turn off and leave sit for a minimum of 2 hours (check and add a bit more stock if needed) and then simmer on low til prefered doneness. 

2) In another pot, add your rice, 4 C  duck stock, olive oil, a scant handful of salt and a three-finger pinch of pepper. Simmer for 25 mins with the lid tightly closed. Remove from fire and leave sit for 10 mins. (Nearly everyone I know combine steps 1 and 2, but I find either the lentils are not done as I like or the rice is too soft, so until I get a bit better at making mujadara this is how I make it. If you are able to make the lentils and rice together in the same pot, please feel free to do so.) 

3) In a saucepan, add the white wine, lemon juice, tumeric, and cumin to make a sauce. Add the duck breasts last and cook on low heat til the pieces of duck are warmed through. 

4) Combine the rice and the lentils gently, then add the duck pieces and sauce. Using a rubber or silcone spatula, fold the mixture together til well-coated (all the rice should have a bright yellow hue) and serve immediately.

 

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Kol Foods: A Series on Duck part 2

The ducks used in these recipes are from KOL Foods. (http://kolfoods.com/) I received no other compensation – all opinions are my own.

The second part of this series focuses on duck bones. Many people simply throw them into the garbage, and that is a shame. Duck bones, when roasted and then simmered with vegetables and herbs, can make a fantastic stock.

Duck stock, quite frankly, is something to get obsessed with. It has a richness of flavor and a gaminess that chicken stock (which is delicious) does not have.  It compliments both beef and chicken dishes quite well, adding an extra, welcome element of flavor.

Since I tend to use my stocks in more or less the same dishes, (lentils, rice, soups, for boiling pasta or potatoes) I keep the flavors simple so I can add what spices I want when I am preparing my final dish.

Recipe for Duck Stock

Bones from 2 whole KOL Foods ducks, with a bit of meat remaining

1 bunch of celery, chopped

3 large carrots, peeled and chopped

2 large white onions, large dice

2 parsnips, peeled and chopped

handful of garlic cloves, smashed and roughly minced

1/3 of a 750ml bottle of dry white wine

Small amount of olive oil

1) Arrange duck bones on a tray in a single layer. Add a scant handful each of salt and pepper. Drizzle with canola oil and roast at 400F for 1.5 hrs.  Let cool in oven.

duckbones

2) Heat stock pot well, and add olive oil, garlic, celery and onions. Cook until garlic is fragrant and onions are getting soft, about 5-7 mins on high.

3)Lower flame to medium and add carrots and parsnips. Put a lid on the pot and leave sweat for about 15 mins, til you start to see the carrots soften a little and there is some liquid in the bottom of the pot.

4) Add your duck bones – make sure to scrape all the dark bits off the tray- and red wine, mix to combine. Cover and leave this mixture to sweat 15-20 mins on medium- low flame.

duckbonespot

5) Add  COLD water to fill the pot to about 2 inches from the top. Raise flame til water is at a strong simmer, not quite a boil, then lower, stir and leave cook on a low flame for 2 hours at the most, stirring once or twice.

6) Take a clean pot and put a colander over top. Strain the stock through the colander, and leave sit for 30 mins. Even after you pour the vegetables into the colander, all the liquid doesn’t come out right away. If you want, you can take a potato masher and gently press down on the cooked vegetables to extract as much liquid as possible.

7) Remove colander and dispose cooked veg. Clean out original pot you used, and cover top with cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer (I use a fine mesh strainer). Carefully pour liquid to catch tiny pieces. Your result should be a vegetable stock that is clear, mild-smelling and a light gold in color.

8) Cool completely and refrigerate or freeze. Lasts for a few weeks in the freezer, a week at most in the fridge.

 

 

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KFWE2014 : A review, and a message

Many thanks and special consideration to Monica Gonzalez and Dejha Carrington of Rockaway PR for graciously enabling me to attend both the trade and the evening events gratis. All opinions are my own and are uncensored.

The Kosher Food and Wine Experience is a chance for restaurateurs, caterers, food brands, vinters, and spirit producers to showcase what is up and coming in the world of kosher food.  It is a chance to set the trends and raise the bar.  In my three years attending the event, this year I will have to say that with a few absolutely stunning exceptions, this did not occur.

I believe it is because the kosher food world is undergoing a revolution, and while everyone is eager to be on the forefront, not everyone is perhaps truly prepared or able (or even willing) to be at the vanguard.

I would like to state with as strong a voice as I am able: the world of kosher food is changing, and there is no reason whatsoever for mediocrity in any form as the status quo, to accept anything less than the absolute best from those in the service of hospitality. The excuse ‘well, it’s kosher, so..’ is no longer acceptable. The consumer has a larger sphere of influence and a stronger voice than ever before, and it would behoove every member of the service industry to listen.

I do, however, want to focus on the exceptions. They were few, and they were excellent in every sense of the word. What is my definition of excellence?  It is simple – the food that was presented tasted as it was supposed to, and there were no flaws in technique.

Gemstone Caterers/Got Cholent/Wandering Que was far and away the favorite of the event.  The veal pancetta and lamb bacon (served with hemp seed sweet potato mash), the tofu with smoked carrots and beets, the 18hr oak and apple angus brisket, and the mesquite smoked chicken with avocado crema and lamb belly bacon lardon were indisputably the best eating of the event. Each dish was executed properly, and every single thing tasted incredible. Top marks to the pitmaster from Texas for innovation, technique and taste.

Veal panchetta and lamb belly bacon with hemp seed sweet potato mash

Veal pancetta and lamb belly bacon with hemp seed sweet potato mash

 

Mesquite Smoked Chicken and Avocado Crema with lamb belly bacon lardon

Mesquite Smoked Chicken and Avocado Crema with lamb belly bacon lardon

 

18 hour Oak and Apple Smoked Angus Beef Brisket

18 hour Oak and Apple Smoked Angus Beef Brisket

 

Smoked Tofu with smoked heirloom carrots and beets

Smoked Tofu with smoked heirloom carrots and beets

On the completely opposite end of the culinary world, Silverleaf Caterers also garnered excellent marks in my book for their Euro-with-a slight-twist menu. Presented as if it were a set dinner (appetizer, salad, main, dessert) the entire menu, while more traditional, was executed perfectly – everything tasted as it was supposed to, the ingredients were the best and treated respectfully to enhance their flavor, and the presentation was simple.  Their offerings (nightshade crostini, moschata duchesne salad, lamb polpetine, and choco-caramel-buttercrunch-sea salt covered maztoh) were ones I could not get enough of.

Nightshade Crostini - eggplant, toasted pine nuts, tomato, paprika, olive oil on artisanal crostini

Nightshade Crostini – eggplant, toasted pine nuts, tomato, paprika, olive oil on artisanal crostini

 

Moschata Duchesne Salad - roasted butternut squash, tahini, fresh pomegranate, kale.

Moschata Duchesne Salad – roasted butternut squash, tahini, fresh pomegranate, kale.

 

Lamb Polpetine - ground lamb, lemon, coriander, toasted slivered almonds

Lamb Polpetine – ground lamb, lemon, coriander, toasted slivered almonds

 

Unleavened Manna Dessert - matzoh, buttercrunch, chocolate, caramel, sea salt

Unleavened Manna Dessert – matzoh, buttercrunch, chocolate, caramel, sea salt

ETC Steakhouse is a restaurant to watch. From innovation (their chocolate carmel/peanut nougat) to taste and technique, (pink peppercorn crusted ribeye with red amaranth salad, orange zest scallion and pomegranate molasses) I was quite impressed. The first farm-to-table kosher restaurant, this is a venue I would travel to.

Pink Peppercorn Crusted Ribeye - with red amaranth salad, orange zest scallion, pomegranate molasses

Pink Peppercorn Crusted Ribeye – with red amaranth salad, orange zest scallion, pomegranate molasses

T Fusion Steakhouse also impressed. They offered a coffee rub and bbq smoked brisket with blue mashed potatoes and a baby carrot. They also served a chicken roulade with spinach, olives and sun dried tomato tapenade. While the sides with the brisket could have been seasoned better, the brisket was the true star – melt in your mouth tender and full of flavor. I was especially happy with the roulade. Juicy and quite savory, I was pleased –  a roulade can be dry if not prepared and handled properly, and I was initially quite suspicious this would be the case. I can honestly say I was mistaken.

Coffee Rub -BBQ Smoked Brisket - with mashed blue potatoes and baby carrot

Coffee Rub -BBQ Smoked Brisket – with mashed blue potatoes and baby carrot

 

Chicken roulade - stuffed with spinach, olive, sun dried tomato tapenade

Chicken roulade – stuffed with spinach, olive, sun dried tomato tapenade

This year I did indulge a little in the wine and spirits department, and I am glad I did. The wine and spirits component of the event was larger than I ever remember it being, and the few I did sample (I am a complete lightweight!)  were absolutely wonderful. Keep in mind, I took literal sips of each, but even from that small amount I could tell what I had was fantastic.

I tend to go for wines that are semi dry – too sweet and I find it cloying, too dry and I find it overwhelming. With a bit of help from Yosef Silver and Naomi Nachman, I was never steered wrong. I very much enjoyed the Bartenura Asti and Prosecco, and something lovely and red from Or Haganuz. I apologize for my ignorance, but I will confess wine is not my area of expertise. However, from this experience, I would like to change that. The best thing I drank all evening: Drappier Champagne. I’ve had champagne at family occasions before, but nothing compares to this. It is what people dream of – a glass of golden bubbles that hit the tongue in the perfect marriage of sweet and dry. I still taste that champagne.

Bartenura Prosecco and Asti - some of my favorites

Bartenura Prosecco and Asti – some of my favorites

 

Or Haganuz - very delicious reds and whites for every occasion

Or Haganuz – very delicious reds and whites for every occasion

In conclusion, I would say that it was worth it to attend KFWE – and I would go again. I have heard quite a few people say that perhaps it is not worth the travel, or the expense. I am not sure if I agree. Then again, I am also intensely curious to see what will happen, where kosher food will go next. Since kosher (or kosher style, at any rate) appears to be the non-kosher foodie world’s newest trend, I am intrigued to see how this will translate onto the genuinely kosher food scene.

These next few years will change the landscape of kosher food dramatically, and both consumer as well as proprietor will need to be willing to step out of their comfort zone to face this new reality.  Open, positive dialogue on both sides is key.  The world of kosher dining has changed so very much over time, and it has survived -and thrived- with each challenge, each new innovation. I have every confidence that kosher food and wine can and will be on par with its non-kosher counterparts in due course.

I took so many pictures that I want to share, I decided to add a Facebook album of all the pictures that didn’t make this article on my FB blog page. It will be available in the next week or so. Click here  for my FB page for this and other photo galleries, as well as a backseat to many of my other food adventures!

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Blood Orange Screwdriver

The inspiration: Kosher Connection Link-Up Challenge 

This month’s Challenge was to make a cocktail/mocktail. Confession time: DH and I rarely drink – he usually doesn’t like the taste of alcohol (except wine in food or a liqueur in a dessert) and I am a complete lightweight. However, I know even less on how to make a mocktail than I do a cocktail, so cocktail it was.

The innovation: Using blood oranges for the orange juice component of the drink.

I decided I’d play it safe and stick to a cocktail that was classic and simple. It doesn’t get much simpler than a screwdriver. Two parts orange juice to one part vodka, and serve. Tiny problem: I had no orange juice in the house. I did, however, have some blood oranges. Since they were a little tart, I decided to rim the glass with a bit of sugar. Splash of lime to add a bit of interest, and it was ready to serve.

My interpretation: Blood Orange Screwdriver

screwdriver

2oz vodka

Juice from 3 fresh blood oranges (about 4 oz, be sure to strain to remove seeds)

Splash of lime juice (optional)

Sugar to rim glass 

Combine ingredients, and serve in sugar-rimmed glass. (I pressed the edge of the glass against the cut-side of the blood orange to wet it then pressed it into the sugar) Best at room temperature. Serves one or two people, depending on glass size.

 


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KOL Foods: A Series on Duck part 1

The ducks used in these recipes are from KOL Foods. (http://kolfoods.com/) I received no other compensation – all opinions are my own.

Nearly a year ago, I was given my first chance to taste and review KOL Foods poultry. I wrote a series of posts back then regarding my experience and opinions on the product (http://foodwordsphotos.com/kol-foods-a-revolution-in-kosher-meat/  and http://foodwordsphotos.com/kol-foods-a-revolution-in-kosher-meat-part-2-review-and-giveaway/). So when I was given this second opportunity to review their duck, I didn’t hesitate to take KOL Foods up on their generous offer.

I was requested to develop recipes for the following: a whole roasted duck, a recipe using the bones to make stock, and a recipe using the leftover meat and stock.  This assignment was right up my street – I am an advocate of using every part of an ingredient as possible. One tiny problem: I’ve never cooked duck before.  But it couldn’t be that difficult, could it?

After asking about, I was seriously beginning to wonder if for the first time in my blogging career I’d bitten off more than I could chew. But the ducks were on their way, I already said I’d do it, and that was that. Enter my pal Simone. For traditional French or Middle Eastern cuisine, I have no better resource. The ideas and recipes I get from her are simply elegant, and incredibly easy to execute.

Duck is delicious when cooked to mid- rare and treated very simply.  Thanks goes to Simone for the majority of this concept and recipe.  The following recipe is for 2 ducks, about 4 lbs each. Add a starch and a vegetable, and you have a fantastic meal for a family.

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Recipe for Roasted Duck

2 4lb KOL Foods ducks

1 bottle of red wine

1 16 oz bottle of Pom Cherry Juice

Salt and Pepper to season

Meat thermometer

Take two 2 gallon Ziploc bags and put them inside each other to form one bag (to make it extra strong) Inside the Ziploc, place your ducks one on top of the other, then add your wine and juice. Lay on its side inside a deep pan, and leave marinate in the liquids overnight, turning once or twice.

The next day, preheat your oven to 400F. Remove ducks from Ziplocs, discarding the liquid. Place ducks breast side down on the rack of a roasting tray (or two trays, if they don’t both fit one one) and remove neck from cavity, setting alongside the ducks on the roasting rack. Using a scant handful of salt and pepper, season your ducks inside and out and tie the legs together and the ends with kitchen twine.

Roast in oven for 1 hr at 400F – about 35 mins in, flip duck over so breast side is up. After one hour, use a meat thermometer to determine temperature. When plunged into the thickest part of the breast, it should be a minimum of 150F. I would not recommend cooking higher than this temperature – as the duck rests it cooks a bit more.

Leave duck rest for about an hour and 15 mins before cutting, then cut lengthwise to serve. Each side can then be cut down into wing, breast and leg pieces.

For my family, I chose to serve the duck with herb-roasted baby potatoes and grilled endive – recipe will be in a future blogpost.

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Death by Chocolate: A Duo of Chocolate Bark

Many, many thanks to all my lovely readers, who have been so patient with me as I have gone on this journey. All photo credit goes to Melinda Strauss of Kitchen Tested

The Inspiration: The start of my artisanal chocolate business,  and a trip to a good friend’s house.

Recently, with a lot of excitement, I have launched Sweet Life Chocolate. I had my first event with Chef Ari White (of Gemstome Catering and Hakadosh BBQ fame). Chef Ari was generous enough to allow me to make chocolate for a recent event he had in Riverdale, and things are slowly taking off from there.  In a few weeks, I will be on a local radio show program (Table for Two with Naomi Nachman on the Nachum Segal show). I also will be submitting a recipe for a future edition of JCreate Magazine, an online cooking/crafting publication (jcreatemagazine.com). There has even been some talk of someone possibly funding my work, but that is still just in the talking stage.

So it was with a serious need for a bit of downtime and a chance to unwind (if I sold some chocolate it would have been alright too, but I knew I was going spend time relaxing) that I found myself at Melinda Strauss’ house last Saturday night. Melinda is the blogger over at Kitchen Tested  and I fondly refer to her as my partner in crime. We speak via Facebook chat at least five times a week, and we share ideas and flavor profiles as other friends may share fashion tips or where to get the latest accessory.  Our idea of unwinding: cooking something interesting.

Chocolate bark is a simple enough recipe: perfectly temper chocolate, lay it on parchment, add some ingredients, let set til hard, break into pieces. It’s a blank canvas, if you will, and we were determined to come up with something truly delicious. It was a collaborative, conceptual effort we knew would work,  it was a matter of getting it done.

The Innovation:  Using ingredients and spices that one would not normally associate with chocolate.

In a lot of ways, Melinda and I are complete opposites. Melinda is trendy,not afraid to speak her mind, loves bright prints and big, bold flavors, and loves to measure her ingredients. Myself, I play more towards classics, love more subtle self-expression and flavor, and cannot stand to measure unless I must.

The one thing we have in common, and what makes us a great team: a love and respect for flavor and innovation. She pushes the culinary envelope much farther than I do, and she inspires me greatly. We compliment each other, and it shows in this recipe.  She brought maple syrup lamb bacon to the table, I added the pecan touch. After exploring (and tasting) raw spices with raw coconut from her spice cabinet, I decided on toasting dried coconut with vindaloo curry powder. She felt it need a bit of something, so in went the  crystallized ginger.

The Interpretation: Chocolate Bark Two Ways: Maple Syrup Lamb Bacon with Hot Hungarian Paprika Pecans & Vindaloo Curried Toasted Coconut with Crystallized Ginger

Bark broken up

Chocolate Bark:

21 oz of best quality semi-sweet baking chocolate ( I used Alprose)

9×13 sheet pan lined with parchment

In a double boiler, break up and melt completely 14 oz of the chocolate til shiny and smooth, stirring occasionally with a rubber or silicone spatula.  Lower fire to lowest setting and add the remaining chocolate, stirring until chocolate is completely melted, then remove from heat. When lifitng the bowl or insert, make sure to wipe the bottom before pouring the chocolate so it doesn’t seize it. Pour onto the prepared parchment lined sheet, leave set for about 10 mins, then top with one of the following recipes.

Maple Lamb Bacon with Hot Hungarian Pecans

6 oz chopped lamb bacon (you could use up to 8-10 oz with good effect)

2-3 oz best grade maple syrup

2 oz chopped pecans

3 generous dashes of hot Hungarian paprika

Lay the lamb bacon in a single layer on a sheet pan, cook at 400 for 10-15 mins. Drain grease and add maple syrup, stirring carefully. Return to oven for 5 mins more, then set aside to cool.

In a saute pan, add pecans and hot Hungarian paprika, cook on high for about 3 mins or til you start to smell the pecans toasting. Stir constantly to prevent scorching.

Bark sprinkling bacon

When both bacon and pecans are cool, and chocolate is partially set, add to the top of the chocolate, then refrigerate to set completely. 

Toasted Coconut with Vindaloo Curry Powder and Crystallized Ginger

3-4 oz of shredded, dried coconut

4 generous shakes from a spice container of Vindaloo curry powder

8-10 small pieces crystallized ginger, minced fine.

Add the coconut and curry powder into a saute pan, stir constantly til coconut starts to brown, about 5-7 mins on mid-high heat. Remove from fire and let cool. Add the ginger to the chocolate first, then the coconut.

Bark sprinkling coconut

To serve, break the chocolate with a knife or your hands – the pieces don’t have to be uniform. For best result, store in fridge and bring to room temperature to enjoy.

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Philadelphia Candy Show 2014

Many, many thanks to Shirley Cox, the Show Director, who gave me special permission to take photos. All photos taken with permission. All products are kosher, but for each individual item one should check the package/manufacturer to ensure it is to your standard of kashrus. In case of any questions, please refer to your trusted rabbinical authority.

The atmosphere at this show is completely different to any other show I have ever been to.  It is extremely quiet, very professional, and everyone is incredibly polite to one another. The convention room they used was large, and there was no such thing as pushing and shoving. Photo taking, large handbags, and taking items off displays were strictly prohibited, and there were some security guards walking around to enforce this.

passespcsfwp

As a food blogger, I went to the Show Director and was given special permission to take pictures, but with a warning from the head of security. I was to ask permission before taking any photos, and if anyone complained I would be asked to leave.  After assuring them both I would do as asked, I was free to go about my business.

This show is to show off what the upcoming trends are and what the latest and greatest is in the chocolate/confection/candy industry, from raw chocolate and confections to package design. There were names I knew – Guittard, Callebaut, CK Products, Merckens, Imani Chocolatiers. There were new names I learned-Niagra Chocolates, Kopper’s, Blommer’s.  For someone in the business of making sweets, this was the place to see and be seen.

Let me divide the post up now. First we start with Chocolate. Many of you know I am going into business for myself as a chocolatier, and I went to the show to meet people I would be ordering supplies from.  I also wanted to see what the trends are. In terms of chocolate, I could not be more thrilled. The trend is swinging towards making more products kosher, and with a respect to sustainability. From bean to bar, more attention and more care is going into chocolate production than ever before. I tried a cocoa nib from Guittard (OU Parve) that I wanted to devour by the handful. I spoke with a rep from Callebaut, and was shown some new product they are coming out with – 2 new dark chocolate couverture and one milk chocolate couverture. (OU Dairy)

Callebaut is working incredibly hard in the area of sustainability – improving the areas where they source their beans, making the most of each batch they get. I found this incredible. The one thing that made me sad was that they would not be producing Cholov Yisroel white chocolate this year.

Another sustainable chocolate producer I spoke to was Blommer’s. (OU Dairy) They manufacture organic, kosher chocolate as well as no added sugar and sugar free lines. (http://www.blommer.com/)

pcsblommerfwp

I see this item as something that will catch on. Lang’s Chocolates Karmalicious (LVKC dairy) is a pretzel stick that is wrapped in caramel, then dipped in milk chocolate. All their products (chocolates, and candies) are kosher dairy, and most are gluten free. I spoke with the owner and producer at length and they are researching different kosher certifications so their product would be available to a wider kosher audience. (http://www.langchocolates.com/)

karmalicious

Chocolate is being used to cover anything and everything! Imani Chocolatier (All Pareve, Star-K, CRC and Udvari) makes a full line of chocolate covered cookies, pretzels, nut bars, clusters, and dried fruit. They even chocolate cover dried lemon slices, something I never saw before.  They also carry the full Mimi Sweet Candies – from sour sticks that actually taste good, to candy filled toys, to candy tattoos that go on the tongue! (http://www.imanichocolatiers.com/)

 

imanipcsfwp

 

 

pcsmimicandyfwp

It seems to be that in the world of cake confections, there are two words:  bold, true colors and metallics. At every place I went to that showcased these items, I saw beautiful color and metallic sheen everywhere.

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The biggest breakthrough seems to have come from CK Products. They have a line of luster dust called Crystal Colors that is made here in the USA under the CRC of Chicago certification. Apparently, the best luster dust with the best colors and certification was coming from the UK until now. Luster dust is used in many cake and chocolate creations – it is added to chocolate or chocolate coating to give it color or add detail, and it can be added to gum paste and fondant as well. (http://www.ckproducts.com/)

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Sweet Works Celebration Candies line featured a few types of candies that I found really cute – an assortment of mini candy pacifiers and shiny, colored candy hearts. I am not a cake decorator, but I could easily imagine these on a frosted cake.

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I also saw gold and silver metallic star candies. I do not claim to be an expert on candy decorations for cakes, but these impressed me because they were not too big or small and the colors were not garish. (http://sweetworks.net/) The products I mentioned are OU Pareve.

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For the kosher baker, chocolatier, or candy maker, the selection of high quality products available has never been better..and it seems as if the sweet trend is only getting started!

For more information on the Philadelphia National Candy, Gift and Gourmet Show, please visit their website: http://www.phillycandyshow.com/

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Happy 2014! Potatoes and Peppers with beef bacon and fried egg

Happy 2014!  For the sake of your tired and aching heads, I’ll keep this post simple. Let me give you a recipe for the best ‘day-after’ meal. It has everything to cure a hangover – starch, grease, meat, and eggs. Perfect with the other ‘day-after’ remedy: a Bloody Mary.

May 2014 be the tastiest year yet! Let’s get it started right with this recipe for Potatoes and Peppers with beef bacon. Cooked in the fat from the beef bacon and topped with a sunny-side up egg, you’re starting off right!

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Ingredients:

2 lbs baby Yukon Gold potatoes, cut in half lengthwise then chopped into thirds

1 yellow pepper, chopped large dice

1 orange pepper, chopped large dice

6 oz beef bacon

Salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste

Generous dash of hot paprika

1 extra large egg

Recipe:

In a large hot saute pan, fry the beef bacon til almost done, about 2-3 mins per side. Remove from pan and crumble into tiny pieces, but do not dispose of the grease.

Add your potatoes to the grease, and when they are about a third of the way cooked (about 10 mins on mid-high heat) add your peppers. Cook for another 20 mins or until potatoes are soft but not falling apart. If you get a bit of char on them, even better. In the last 5 minutes add your beef bacon and spices, stir gently to incorporate.  Remove from pan into a serving dish.

Using the same pan, add the egg and do not touch it. Leave it cook for about 3 mins, or until the yolk is opaque and the white is solidified.

To serve, take a portion of the potatoes and peppers, top with the cooked egg, and enjoy. The potato-pepper portion of the recipe is enough for 4 people

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Cranberry-Almond Bread Pudding

The Inspiration: A loaf of leftover challah from Shabbat, and a freezing cold day.

I live in a co-op building, and one day this past week they shut off the heat for an entire day to repair the boiler. It was raining, cold, and altogether dreary. I was desperate to bake something to warm my house, but couldn’t decide what.  I found a whole challah leftover from Shabbat, and nothing warms up a house faster than bread pudding. It’s easy to make, bakes pretty quickly, and is delicious right out of the oven.

The Innovation: Using oil instead of margarine to brown the bread.

I hear so much about how margarine is not good for you. Even if it is trans-fat free, there are much healthier alternatives. I wanted to see if I used oil if I would get the same result I do with margarine. I love bread pudding with a gorgeous, toasty crust and a soft center. Finding a bit of cottonseed oil in my cabinet, I got to work.

My interpretation: Cranberry-Almond Bread Pudding:

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I was very pleased with the result – a delicious bread pudding with a crispy, nutty top that is not too sweet, a soft, light center, and none of the greasy mouth-feel that margarine can sometimes leave behind.

Recipe:

6 cups of challah, cut into large cubes (I used water challah, but you can also use egg challah, but leave it to dry first)

1/3 C cottonseed or other light-tasting oil suitable for baking

2 C vanilla flavored almond milk

1 and 1/2 C sugar, plus a 1/4 C for sprinkling

2 capfuls of best quality vanilla extract 

Generous pinch of salt

9 meduim eggs

5 oz dried cranberries

3 oz slivered almonds

Heat a large pot, adding the challah then the oil. Stir repeatedly, to ensure all the bread is well-coated, and lower flame so it will gently toast. Take care not to over-brown; stir til bread is a light golden brown, then turn off flame. Do not remove pot from burner.

Prepare the rest of your ingredients except the slivered almonds in a separate container, whisk well to combine.

Add the wet ingredients to the challah, fold gently to combine well and pour into a oven-safe casserole dish or oven-to-tableware.

Sprinkle the slivered almonds and the sugar on top. Bake in oven at 350F for about 30 mins or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out hot and clean. Leave sit in oven til mostly cooled for best result.

 

 

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