Sunday, November 28, 2010

Hash Brown Potato Latkes

This may come as a surprise…you might want to sit down - I don’t make everything from scratch (ask me about my world famous matzoh ball recipe).  When leading a somewhat hectic life something has to give. We are working, raising our families (or trying to), being hosts and juggling 600 different things at once.  Things are a little crazy around here!  So, I propose making life easier when possible, but doing it in a way that NO ONE KNOWS THE DIFFERENCE!  Genius, really.  Save time, still make everyone happy.  It’s a win/win situation. 

Now, with Chanukah coming, one of the MOST time consuming tasks is peeling those tiny potatoes for potato latkes.  In order to make enough latkes for the ravenous crowd you need to peel around 100 of them.  After that you have to grate or grind them, and if you are a purist you will actually use a hand grater to do the job.  Then, because you have made such delicious latkes, the swarm comes and devours them in five minutes flat.  You are left with the joy of knowing that you fed your hungry crowd – until they ask for more!

In a moment of self preservation, the concept of Hash Brown Potato Latkes was born.  Hash Browns come in the refrigerated or freezer section of the grocery store.  They are basically shredded potatoes with minimal added ingredients.  They also come in fun flavors such as southwest or cheddar, giving you additional variety without extra work.  You can still add other grated vegetables such as zucchini or sweet potatoes.  Having time to sit down and enjoy the meal with the family - now that is one of the real miracles of Chanukah!

Made with store bought
Hash Brown potatoes...
but you'd never know it!!!

1          lb                     Hash Browns    (defrosted if frozen)
1          medium            onion, finely diced        
2          large                 eggs
⅓         cup                   flour
1          teaspoon          baking powder
½         teaspoon          black pepper  (to taste)
½         teaspoon          salt (optional)
                                    Canola Oil for frying

In a large bowl mix all ingredients until thoroughly combined.  In a large skillet, heat oil.  Drop large spoonfuls of potato mixture into the oil and fry until golden brown on both sides.  Serve warm with apple sauce or sour cream.


Add 2-3 large grated zucchinis or 2 large grated sweet potatoes to the mix.  Add one additional egg, 2 tablespoons flour, and ¼ teaspoon baking powder to the potato mixture.  Fry on both sides until golden brown.

Use Southwest style hash brown potatoes.  As potatoes are pre-spiced, omit pepper from recipe.  Proceed as directed above.  These can be served with Salsa on the side.

Add 8 ounces of shredded mozerella or cheddar to the latke mix.  Fry on both sides until golden brown.  Serve warm with marinara sauce.

Store bought Hash Browns.
Store bought Hash Browns out of the bag and in a bowl.
Hash Brown Latke mixture.
Latkes in the pan...can't wait much longer!!
Nearly done...all golden brown on one side!!!
Hooray!! Latkes are done! YUM!!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Spaghetti Squash Yerushalmi Kugel

It’s that time of year again, SQUASH SEASON!  They are everywhere you look in a wide, colorful, unusually shaped assortment.  There are the familiar acorn, butternut and pumpkin. Outside a local fruit store recently there were bins of an incredible variety of squash that looked like they had come from another planet!  Some squash can even be disguised as other foods – a sneaky football shaped imposter being the infamous SPAGHETTI SQUASH!  The spaghetti squash is so named because once cooked, the inside of the squash isn’t like your everyday acorn or butternut, but contains strands like spaghetti.   Shocking.  The theory is that you can scoop them out and fool your family into thinking they are eating your run of the mill spaghetti when really they are eating a much healthier alternative.  “Just put pasta sauce on it – no one will know the difference…and it’s so much better for you!”  In the produce section I hear the voices telling me to buy the spaghetti squash and be the responsible, sensible, caring parent.  In the cart goes the large oblong squash.  I cook it up that night and present it with great flourish to my family – here is your dinner!  It’s good for you, it’s healthier, it’s going to be delicious, try it with this great sauce and cheese – it’s just like pasta only better for you.  “CAN WE HAVE PIZZA?”  Suffice it to say that after my husband dutifully ate his serving and eating a portion or two myself, I was left with a large bowl of squash strands.  Staring at me, taunting me.  I was not to be defeated by a squash!  What to do with the rest? 

What can you make with squash…what can you make with noodles?  You have made squash kugel with squash, you have made Yerushalmi kugel with noodles… put the two together and the concept of the Spaghetti Squash Yerushalmi Kugel is born.  The initial concept was received with a “hmm…strange…..”.   In reality, it’s delicious!  The squash really lends itself to the sweet and peppery kugel.  The strands have a slightly sweet taste to them and hold up well when baked.  When served, our Shabbat guests had to be told it was a squash kugel!  They were extremely impressed with this innovative, revolutionary new kugel and it was enjoyed by all – young and old.  I guess when you have lemons you make lemonade – or the new adage…when you have extra spaghetti squash you make KUGEL!


1          large spaghetti squash
1          cup sugar (plus more to taste)
¼         cup water
1          tablespoon corn syrup
¼         cup canola oil
4          large eggs
1          teaspoon salt
1-2       teaspoons black pepper (to taste)

Cook spaghetti squash (either 45 minutes in a 350* oven or 12-20 minutes on high in the microwave) until the sides are soft when pressed.  Cool slightly.  Cut the squash in half and discard the seeds.  With a large spoon, scoop out the squash into a large microwaveable mixing bowl.  Set aside.

While preparing the caramel, warm the squash in the microwave for 5 minutes.  It is important that the squash be warm before pouring the caramel over it or the caramel will harden into brittle in the kugel.  If necessary, drain additional liquid from the bowl.

In a 2 quart saucepan combine the cup of sugar, water, and corn syrup.  Stir to combine.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until sugar is completely dissolved.  Increase temperature to medium/high heat and cook without stirring until the syrup is a deep amber color.  Watch the syrup closely, it can burn.  Quickly remove from heat and stir in the oil. 

Preheat oven to 350* F.

Pour the caramel mixture over the warm squash.  Quickly stir until the sugar is completely blended with the squash.  Add the salt and pepper.  Taste the mixture.  Some spaghetti squash is sweeter than others.  You may need to add additional sugar to taste. 

Blend in the eggs until completely combined.  Pour into a greased 9x13 inch pan.  Bake for 45 minutes until golden brown. 

Inside the cooked squash.

Squash in the bowl (double recipe).

Boiling sugar mixture - not ready yet....
This is what amber looks like!
All mixed together in a bowl.
The Final Kugel!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Kosherfest - The kosher food experience

I'm back from Kosherfest.  After hearing about Kosherfest for so many years I had built it up so much in my mind that I was a little worried that it couldn't possibly live up to my expectations. The thought of going to a kosher food convention where I could find new and innovative kosher products, and sample them made my heart race.  I am truly a "foodie" at heart.  The thought of getting up at 4 AM to catch the first flight into LaGuardia didn't even phase me!

Arriving at the Kosherfest convention center, I pulled out my camera (ok, so I'm a Chicago tourist) and actually took a picture of the Kosherfest banner hanging over the entrance.  I had pre-registered so I got my badge quickly, got scanned by the security people and entered the huge Kosherfest convention room.  Harps played and angels sang as I entered the room!  SO many booths!  

My companions and I had a plan:  Dairy samples in the morning...meat samples in the afternoon.  It sounded like a great plan...until I was so full that I realized that meat samples weren't going to happen on the first day!

I figured that the only way to get to all the booths was in a systematic way...start at the first row and make my way across the room.  I started with the Luck Chen booth - soy Chinese products.  When I got home my family pointed out the cleverness of the name - Luck Chen (lukshen - noodles).  YUM! There was a bagel place right next to it with samples and cards that explained what a good bagel was.  Did you know that a bagel should fit in the palm of your hand, should be crispy on the outside but soft and chewy on the inside, and if you press on the bagel it should return to its original position immediately?  This was information I could get only at Kosherfest!  I strategically washed and made hamotzi and continued over to the Gus pickles guy from the lower east side of NY.  He had barrels of different pickles for people to sample.  I asked which was the best one.  "Where are you from?" he asked.  "Chicago" I answered.  "Then the sour ones will be too sour for you...take a half sour", he recommended.  The Chicagoan in me took that as a challenge!  Too sour?  We Chicagoans are just as tough as anyone else I thought as I sampled the really sour pickle!  I have to admit - that was the sourest pickle I have ever had in my life! Sometimes you have to finish the pickle on principle!

My companions lost me around 3 booths into the show.  There was so much to see and taste, and so many interesting people to talk to.  I had come prepared with a binder with sheets for business cards and pockets for brochures.  It was full by the time I left.  There were vendors for sauces, gluten free products, cheese, meat, all different kinds of soy products, cakes, cookies, knishes - you name it.  If you saw it in a kosher was at Kosherfest!

Representatives from every kosher certification were there also.  I was glad to see my "landsmen" from the Chicago CRC there.

There were people making hot fresh samples of different yummy foods.  Susie Fishbein was there making pies using the new gelatin product she represents.  The best way to sample a new kind of sauce or dressing is to taste it on a delicious stir fry or salad!

There were businesses that were launching their new products and companies at Kosherfest.  Mishpacha magazine is launching a new kosher cooking magazine.  There was the company from Belgium that had the best crepes I have ever had in my life!  We kept coming back and asking for more samples of the brown sugarmelt in your mouth crepes.  My careful diet was completely out the window!  There was the Chasidic gluten free company where the owners wife had made the best lokshen kugel - and it was gluten free!  There was the company that made a kosher for Pesach cake that was similar to a Yodel - they knew me by name by the end.  I also met the nicest gentleman from Indiana that made outstanding Iced Tea (from the James Tea company).  By the end of the second day he had given us gallon tea containers to take home!  

One of the Kosherfest highlights was having the privilege of having the absolutely best spicy sausage I have ever had!  It was from a new company that will be distributing in a few weeks.  So sad...until I found out that they actually sell them at Ken's in Skokie!!!  Who want's to come with me to lunch???

What was apparent at Kosherfest was that each vendor loved their products and believed in them.  The new companies had incredible optimism.   Even their descriptions tasted great!

I ended up spending two days at Kosherfest.  It was a good thing that it wasn't longer or I wouldn't have fit into the clothes that I had brought with me.  It really was everything I had hoped it would be.  I left with a sense of excitement and motivation not only to try the new products I found but to create new ones as well.

360 days until next years Kosherfest....