Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Jewish New Year Dinner Recap

A few weeks have passed since the Rosh Hashanah dinner at our house, but the tastes and smells of that evening still linger. This year, I enlisted the help of my brother in law Saar in helping me cook, since the little dude rapidly growing inside me, is slowing me down a bit these days. There aren't many people I like to invite to cook in my kitchen, I am a bit territorial when it comes to this part of the house. But when it comes to Saar, it is a different story.

Over the years he's managed to work his way in to my heart, and I can honestly say he is probably the only person I can tolerate cooking with and near (my husband is always welcome as well of course). Tolerate is actually the wrong word as I do truly enjoy cooking with Saar. He is undeniably one of the favorite and best cooks I know. He's super creative, adventurous with flavors and really knows his stuff. His dishes are always innovative and he manages to put his own twist on even the most basic dishes in a way that blows your mind. And I have now realized that he is somewhat of my muse/cheerleader in the kitchen!
Saar's Chickens Prepped for the Grill
For this particular dinner, Saar was responsible for the chicken dish, mashed potatoes, and a salad. And oh boy did he deliver! These were no ordinary chicken, potato and salad dishes. He made chickens so fine they blew my mind. Watching him prepare these girls for the grill was nothing short of brilliance. He made love to those chickens by rubbing them with a mixture of butter, fresh parsley, fresh thyme, garlic, lemon and a touch of honey, and then grilled them on the BBQ until they were moist perfection.
One of Saar's Succulent Beauties straight off the grill

Mashed Potatoes with Herbs and Olive Oil
The olive oil, herbed mashed potatoes were a flavor explosion all their own. And the salad, which started out as a traditional Israeli tomato, cucumber, onion, dressed in lemon juice and oil, thanks to Saar morphed into something else entirely. This is where his Muse like qualities came in to play. He said "Scratch that, boring, lets make something up"! I hesitated at first, but quickly found myself happily playing along.

Our Special Salad!
He asked for Bulgur (a cracked wheat type grain often used in Middle Eastern Dishes such as tabbouleh), I did not have it, but Red Quinoa was on hand so off we went. Cucumber, tomatoes, garbanzo beans, a little red onion, and dressing of lemon, garlic, olive oil. By this point I was so excited, I suggested we add we add a little anchovy paste, which brought a hint of the perfect salty, sweet impact to the dressing. The end result was tangy, unique and fresh flavors that went very well with the rest of the meal. Even my two year old niece Sophia (granted her palate is somewhat of an anomaly in the family) couldn't get enough!

I was on Brisket Duty this year and it came out incredibly tender and flavourful. Again thanks to Saar who suggested I add a little brown sugar to the brisket sauce when I was reducing it at the end of cooking. This gave it such a luscious punch in flavor and the sweetness came through ever so nicely. The meat was tender and juicy and turns out I was worried about making brisket for no reason.
Brisket with Carrots, Onions, Celery, Herbs, Garlic,
Red wine and Brown Sugar.

 I was a bit afraid to approach brisket after hearing all those scary "be careful to not turn your brisket in to shoe leather" stories. Thankfully mine was not the case. We had an incredible dinner and aside from the traditional apples and honey, enjoyed a rich chocolate fudge cake in honor of my daughter's 5th Birthday which happened to fall on the eve of Rosh Hashanah! I have a feeling this will be a tasty year after such a delicious start.
Lia's Chocolate Fudge Cake

Lia post chocolate cake, being lifted by her Dad on the right
and uncle Tamir and Chef Saar on the left

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

OMG Carrot Soup!

You know the saying that at times dogs resemble their owners? Well I find this old adage to be very true! Just pay attention next time you stroll trough a park or your local farmer's market. Or flip through your cable channels until you stumble upon a random broadcast of a Best in Show competition, you'll see it if you haven't already. Its incredible how often that it happens. Just think of Paris Hilton and her little Chihuahua....OK so here is the reason I am sharing this with you.
The same way that some pets resemble their owners, I believe certain foods resemble, remind and are associated with certain people. In my case this INCREDIBLE carrot soup will forever be associated with my INCREDIBLE sister in law Sherry. No she's not a red head, and does not look like a pretty bowl of soup. I associate this soup with her for several reasons.

1. She is the one from whom I got this recipe and who is notorious for preparing it at our family gatherings whether she likes it or not (I MAKE HER).
2. The soup posseses many of the same characteristics as she does. It is simple yet complex, down to earth, deliciously spicy (Love you Sherry), approachable and everyone is guaranteed to love it as we love her!
3. You can always rely on it to make you feel soothed and loved (as she does)
4. It tastes absolutely AMAZING!

I have always thought of Sherry when I think if this soup, and it is hands down one of my absolute favorite soups. Its beautiful not just in its color but taste. I never get tired of making it or eating it, and now that cooler temperatures have arrived, well sort of (it was in the 60's two days in a row and now back up to high 70's) I cannot wait to start having Sherry's Carrot Soup at least bi weekly! I hope you enjoy the recipe below as much as I have over the years. Love you Sherry, THANK YOU for embodying my favorite soup!

OMG-Carrot soup freak-out! (this is how Sherry Titled the email back when I asked her for the recipe). So here goes.

OMG Carrot Soup!

5 lbs carrots peeled & cut (Make your life easier and get 5lbs of baby carrots that have been clened and washed)
8 cans chicken broth
3 stalks of celery chopped
1 large onion chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
salt to taste
cayenne pepper
black pepper to taste
handful fresh dill chopped
juice of 1/2 a lemon
sour cream
1 large red bell pepper

1.) In a saute pan, cook the onion and garlic in a little olive oil, add juice of half a lemon. Cook until golden.

2.) Transfer the onion and garlic mixture to a large soup pot, add the chopped carrots, celery, dill, salt, pepper , a little cayenne (if you wish-we like ours spicy), and 8 cans of chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Let simmer until all the veggies are soft (about 1-2 hours).

3.) Let soup cool in the pot for about an hour.

4.) Puree the soup in small batches using a blender. Transfer back to the pot, reheat, adjust seasonings as and if needed, to taste.

5.) Garnish with a dab of sour cream and slice of red bell pepper before you serve.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A decadent Anniversary Dinner

Things are mellowing out a bit now that "Celebration Filled September" has passed. Last week was filled with festivities and TONS of delicious food. Rosh Hashanah dinner (Jewish New Year) was mouthwatering beyond words. But I will save the details of that feast for a different post as it deserves to stand on its own. I would however like to share another joyous dinner from last week and that was our 9th wedding anniversary dinner at Bouchon in Beverly Hills.

Thrilled to be leaving to a weeknight dinner!

This French Bistro from Thomas Keller (yes the genius behind French Laundry in Napa did not disappoint. We had a solid, decadent meal the highlight of which was definitely the Plat Principaux (main course) in our case the Steak Frites. This pan seared prime flatiron smothered with caramelized shallots and an herb butter was one of the best steaks I have ever had. And this coming from someone who is generally not a meat eater, unless I am pregnant apparently. Yes the meat aversions have clearly passed and I am fully embracing my new found carnivorous ways.

Steak Frites at BOUCHON
We are so conditioned to think that if its not a tenderloin (especially at up scale restaurants) then don't expect it to melt in your mouth. Little do we know apparently, or maybe it was just I who was clueless BUT this cut did melt. With its gorgeous marbling ever so noticeable throughout and this ridiculous topping of caramelized shallot and Maître d'Hôtel Butter (which I learned is simply compound butter with herbs and or seasonings added to it) this steak was special. I am seriously considering writing Mr.Keller a letter begging he consider bottling and selling the shallot mixture. Because if he did, I would spread it on anything I could be it a warm slice of fresh baked bread or my face!

Terrine de Foie Gras de Canard

As you see, the main course left such an impression I am working my way backwards through the meal. Our starters were quite delicious as well. The Foie Gras Terrine in above pic was served chilled with a side of toasted bread. Scooping it out and watching it melt over in to every crevice of the warm toast was hypnotizing and plain incredible. I can't even speak of the taste as I am so bias when it comes to pate of any kind....there is no doing wrong by me. I will also try not to tell my OBGYN that I have slipped up and had pate as I am not really supposed to. Oh well, I am certain the little boy growing inside me was thrilled to have experienced Foie Gras for the first time.

Beet Salad
Another one of our special appetizers was a gorgeous beet salad. Upon arrival at our table, it was seriously so beautiful it took a moment to register that this was the salad. I can't even fully describe the taste. This was the type of dish which when sharing with someone else, the way in which you will experiance it will completely differ from the person you are sharing it with. We did agree that it was unique and delicious in an understated sort of way. The beets possessed an earthiness unlike any I've ever tasted. They were cooked to perfection and seasoned ever so mildly that their true colors (literally) and simple flavors really shone. 


With hardly any room left for desert, I ordered the special of the night Fuji Apple Tart to go (had it in the morning with a few co-workers and it was buttery, sweet goodness). However my husband couldn't stand the thought of leaving without actually consuming something sweet and wonderful right there at the restaurant. He talked me in to the Profiteroles filled with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce and ensured we'd only take a bite. Well that didn't pan out as seeing the warm chocolate sauce poured over the cold wonderful plump ice cream filled pastry, somehow miraculously erased the absurd fullness of our bellies. We ate all three, every single bit and every little drop of sauce. Thanks Bouchon for a wonderful stroll trough Paris and a satisfying, rich and decadent dinner to remember!