Tag Archives: BAM

A Radically Joyous Hanukkah

1 Dec

NEWEdible.Latke.hiresThis year Hanukkah is going to be a little different.  First of all I’m going to be a judge at a big deal latke competition with other Brooklyn foodies at BAM on December 10th.  I was honored to be asked by Liz Neumark, creator and impresario of Great Performances and owner of Katchkie Farms and Sylvia Center.  Everything she touches is magical and meaningful. I’m thrilled to be joining Leonard Lopate, Gabriella Gershenson from Saveur, and Lee Schrager from the New York Wine and Food Festival. We will be sampling 17 different kinds of latkes and you can join me!  Just reserve your spot by clicking here.  Even though I’m not a maven, Hanukkah has always been special.  My family was once featured in a cover story in Gourmet Magazine about my three-ingredient Hanukkah celebration at home.  This month, I have written a story about Hanukkah in my Cooking Light column called Radically Simple.  You can check out the recipes below.  And on December 14th, along with the true food maven Arthur Schwartz, I will be a judge at an applesauce! tasting at Park Slope’s very cool synagogue Congregation Beth Elohim.  As most of you know, Hanukkah is a holiday filled with illuminating rituals:  Eight nights of candle-lighting and gifts, and foods fried in olive oil!   The former refers to the miracle that happened during the rededication of The Temple in Jerusalem in 165 BC, when a tiny bit of oil, enough to last only one night, lasted eight. The latter are edible expressions of the miracle:  Crispy potato pancakes, known as latkes, and jelly doughnuts (known as sufganiyot), traditionally top the list.  But this year, a few new dishes will grace our table at home: nuggets of cauliflower fried in olive oil and served with tahini & pomegranate seeds, and radically simple latkes made with three root vegetables.

Every household prepares latkes differently but grating a little of one’s knuckle into the mixture is often a reality!  Once upon a time, latkes were made from potatoes only but this year, ours include sweet potatoes and parsnips, and a bit of exotic perfume provided by ground cumin.  Another twist?   Instead of ubiquitous applesauce as an accompaniment, I serve these crispy latkes with a dazzling beet puree meant for dipping or drizzling.

For dessert, there is no simpler offering than fleshy dried Calimyrna figs and Medjool dates served…frozen!  They taste like candy and are a delicious with morsels of bittersweet chocolate or gold-foiled Hanukkah gelt, to be eaten one-by-one. Come to the latke tasting!  Try my latke recipes in Cooking Light!  And enjoy.

Photo: Johnny Autry; Styling: Cindy Barr

Photo: Johnny Autry; Styling: Cindy Barr

Crispy Root Vegetable Latkes with Beet Puree
Get the latkes going first, and while they cook, puree the sauce.

2 cups grated peeled sweet potato
2 cups grated peeled baking potato
1 cup grated peeling parsnip
3 ounces all-purpose flour (about 2/3 cup)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
2 large eggs
1 cup grated onion
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon chopped dill (optional)
1 cup chopped, peeled apple
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 (8-ounce) package precooked red beets, drained

1. Preheat oven to 325°.

2. Place first 3 ingredients on paper towels; squeeze until barely moist. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, cumin, 1/4 teaspoon salt, eggs, and onion in a bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until blended. Add potato mixture; beat with a mixer at low speed until combined.

3. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 2 teaspoons oil; swirl. Heap 3 tablespoons potato mixture into pan to form a patty; flatten slightly. Repeat procedure 5 times to form 6 patties. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook 6 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Place latkes on a baking sheet; keep warm in oven. Repeat procedure twice with remaining oil and potato mixture to yield 18 latkes total. Sprinkle latkes with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Garnish with dill, if desired.

4. Combine apple and remaining ingredients in a food processor; process until smooth. Serve with latkes. Serves 6

Photo: Johnny Autry; Styling: Cindy Barr

Photo: Johnny Autry; Styling: Cindy Barr

Fried Cauliflower with Tahini and Pomegranate Seeds
Cilantro gives this a bright, zippy taste and lovely color; the leaves are especially festive when strewn with pomegranate arils over the cauliflower. Serve with hot sauce and cut lemons, if you wish.

1/3 cup cilantro leaves, packed
1/3 cup tahini (roasted sesame seed paste)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves
6 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 cups cauliflower florets (about 1 large head)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup pomegranate arils

1. Preheat oven to 375°.

2. Combine first 4 ingredients in a food processor; process until smooth. Add 6 tablespoons water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until mixture is the consistency of a creamy salad dressing. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt; pulse to combine.

3. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add cauliflower; cook 10 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Place cauliflower on a jelly-roll pan lined with foil. Roast cauliflower at 375° for 18 minutes or until tender, turning once. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Add pomegranate arils; toss to combine. Serve with tahini mixture. Serves 6

The Un-Critic

16 May

In the midst of a week of much exuberance, I experienced three of the worst restaurant experiences I’ve ever had.  Strange that they were bunched together in this way, after decades of mostly wonderful meals, but an unwished-for prophesy is beginning to bear fruit.  As I began this blog over six months ago, I vowed never to be “critical” of people, places or things –restaurants and food, included.  It is simply not my wont; I am not a critic.  Rather, I want to celebrate the creativity of others and share as many positive experiences as I can.

But my premonition — that the nexus of young bloggers (passionate but not informed), vaunted celebrity chefs (whose glory can blind even the most fastidious reviewer), and food as “performance art” — would all lead to the culinary equivalent of the “Emperor’s new clothes,” leaving us scratching our heads to what we were seeing, or, in this case, eating.  But it is difficult not to feel defeated at a new-ish restaurant in Fort Greene, Brooklyn where the food is so over-hyped and inferior as to make you quit after the first course. Or the 4-star French chef’s bistro in midtown where we were kept waiting for our lunch for 1-1/2 hours and could not get anyone’s attention for most of that time.  When the food finally did arrive, it was placed in front of the wrong people, and we never saw our waiter again.  Or, the newly opened three-star restaurant of one of city’s celebrated chefs who rarely puts a foot in his kitchen and whose food is so expensive and overwrought as to make us depressed.  I don’t remember a single thing I ate that night we entertained our friends — none of the food was recognizable — and I felt compelled to apologize for that particular restaurant choice.   As a restaurant consultant (not critic) for more than three decades, I am generally the cheerleader at the head of the table, waving a pom-pom for each creative act or thoughtful morsel.  I love culinary intelligence and whimsy, I love when chefs riff on history, but most of all, I value authenticity and simplicity.

The good news is that I had some wonderful food experiences this week, too:  A rare-for-me press dinner at A Voce (intelligently prepared by chef Missy Robbins) and, a lovely picnic my daughter made for us to eat at intermission of the 5-1/2 hour simulcast of  Wagner’s Die Walkure at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.   I’m smiling.  It wasn’t that long ago that the legendary Joe Baum, restaurateur extraordinaire, would say, “No one knows what a danish tastes like anymore.”   I fear “the death of gastronomy,” for it is one of the greatest cultural institutions ever bestowed upon us — and certainly the most pleasurable.

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