Get Your Chick-On

I was sick with a cold last week and of course I was craving some hot chicken soup.  Solution: I made some!  Not the fake stuff that comes in a can with powder, aka MSG, but we are talking the real deal!  In my mind, there is never a  right moment to use that stuff (yes, even for roasted potatoes).  I know it’s simple to resort to MSG to add flavor to soups or dishes, but there are so many natural spices and herbs out there that taste much more amazing.  Leave that fake stuff behind and keep it real! Word!?

We just finished our 2nd part (out of 3) of the first module last week in school (I have 5 modules).   During that month we made over 18 stocks, broths, butters and oils with an assortment of animals and vegetables (shrimp, chicken, duck, lobster, pig, rabbit, lamb, veal, fish, vegetables, mushrooms, etc).  Every time we took one apart, it was thrown into a pot with a few herbs and a ton of water and made into something very delicious.  They smelled incredible!  It was a ton of work though, they usually had to simmer for 6 hours or more in gigantic pots that weighed about 100 or so pounds each!

Since I was already in the zone of making broths and stocks and taking apart animals, I decided to buy two chickens and re-create the classic chicken soup at home using my newly learned techniques and recipes.  I had two very special guests for shabbat, my parents. I made a big pot of chicken soup, adding my little pizazz to the basic recipe my chef gave us.  It was so simple.  If you know how to take apart a chicken, you should definitely buy two whole chickens and cut it into 8ths.   You can use the carcasses and extra fat and bones for the stock as well as make a great chicken dish with the pieces.  You will not be disappointed.  If you don’t know how to cut up your own chicken, come over and i’ll teach you, seriously!   Or you can go to the grocery store and ask your butcher if they have any leftover carcasses, bones or necks from the chickens they cut up.  Those pieces are very cheap, but the flavor is priceless!

Chicken Stock
2 Onions, cut into chunks
3 Carrots, cut into chunks
3 Stalks of Celery, cut into chunks
1 Garlic Head, separated and peel on
2 Bay Leaves
1 tsp. Whole Black Peppercorns
Thyme (Fresh or Dry, 1/3 of the bunch)
Dill, Fresh (1/3 of the bunch)
Parsley, Fresh (1/2 of the bunch)
Pinch of Salt (Add more according to your taste, after soup is done)

2 Chicken Carcasses and scraps

Water, enough to cover about 4 inches above the chicken

Bring Chicken and Water to a boil.  Simmer and skim.  Add rest of ingredients and simmer for 6-8 hours.  Strain. Put in containers and put in fridge.  When cool, skim off the fat.

 One thing  my school tries to teach us is to not waste anything!  Almost anything can be used to make great food.  So don’t throw away those scraps, because a nice chicken broth is waiting to be made! I made a chicken teriyaki salad with the boneless skinless chicken breasts, and I baked the other 12 pieces with a few spices, white wine and olives.

All last month I felt like I was training for a body building competition.  The place sounded like a gym with all the people grunting, lugging and sweating, when lifting and straining those pots of boiling liquid. My arm muscles are rockin’ right now!You can call me Ali Schwarzenegger!


Alcohol, chocolate and coffee…need I say more?
I worked for Chef Levana Kirschenbaum for two years during college as her assistant to her cooking classes.  We made many wonderful dishes inspired from her Moroccan background.  Although this isn’t Moroccan, it is still the best (non dairy) Tiramisu out there!  I made this for my sisters birthday party alongside frozen lemon meringue bars (recipe to come in the future). Big hit!! And it’s kind of addicting…
Makes 10-12 Servings ( I doubled the recipe and put it in a 9 X 13 pan)

1 ¼ Lbs. Sponge Cake
1 Lb Silken Tofu
2 T. Oil
½ C. Sugar
1- 8 Oz. Container Tofu Cream Cheese
¼ C. Brandy or Rum
½ C. Coffee, made
8 Oz. Semi-Sweet Chocolate, grated (I like Trader Joe’s brand)  I grated it in a cuisnart and it grates better when the chocolate is frozen.)

Coarsely chopped chocolate

                                                                    Slice and Bon Apetite!

Preheat oven to 350. Slice the pound cake ½ inch thick and toast in the oven about 15 minutes, until light brown on all sides. Meanwhile,  In a food processor, process tofu with the oil and sugar until smooth.  Add the tofu cream cheese and process a few more seconds. Pour mixture into a bowl.  Mix coffee and brandy in a container. Line a long loaf pan with plastic wrap, letting sides overhang.  Line bottom completely with slices of toasted pound cake, arranged to fit tightly.

Pour half the coffee mixture evenly  over the cake. Pour half the cream cheese mixture over the cake.  Sprinkle half the grated chocolate over the cream cheese.  Repeat: cake, coffee, cream cheese, chocolate.  Cover the whole loaf with the plastic wrap.  Refrigerate a few hours until set.  Unmold and slice.

Enchiladas Are Like Hot Dogs

Some highlights included:
Day 1: Getting lost in Mexico at night and crashing a funeral
Day 2: Seeing one of the 7 wonders of the world, Chicen Itza
Day 3: Buying coconut water in an actual coconut on the side of the road on the Isle of Majarus and crashing a wedding.
Day 4: Shabbos and spending the entire day at the beach
Day 5: Making it home safe and sound
This covers maybe 5 percent of our wonderful vacation!

I really wanted to try some authentic Mexican food, but on the plus side we probably saved money and some trips to the restroom.  Mexicans sell burritos and enchiladas on the street like New Yorkers sell hot dogs.  I can officially say that I am pretty sick of luna bars and peanut butter banana sandwiches.  We also managed to make eggs, grillers, chicken salad, and sauted veggies by bringing along only a pan and a burner.  There are no kosher restaurants in Cancun, but my entire camera is filled with pictures of fresh fruit, vegetables, seafood and food products I found around Mexico.

                    After drinking out of a fresh coconut, I suddenly have a desire to buy myself a coconut knife.

As always, even in a city with no shul or kosher restaurants, we manage to have many encounters with Jews; native and visiting.

Top 3 Jew spottings:
1) Airport at customs (Jewish boys = 3)
2) The dead sea lotion kiosk at the mall (Jews from Israel = 2, Jews from Argentina = 1)
3) The wine store where they had three kosher wines (Jew from Mexico = 1 (she worked there))


Seriously…waffles are where it’s at!!  Always in the mood for them and always a winner!  If you don’t have a waffle maker, go to a store NOW and buy yourself one for 30 bucks (plus 20 percent off at BB and B).  Your life will change…trust me! I made these this past Sunday for breakfast with fresh fruit and coffee. I had a bunch of friends over, including my very good friends from Baltimore and their adorable baby. Add blueberries, walnuts, chocolate chips, bananas…be inventive!! Drizzle with maple syrup or dollop with ice cream! There’s no wrong way to eat a waffle…

Makes 8 Waffles
2 cups all-purpose flour (I use 1 cup white and 1 cup whole wheat)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-3/4 cups reduced fat milk or any kind of milk ( I use almond milk)

6 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large eggs

Place ingredients in a large mixing bowl and combine until well blended and smooth. Let batter rest 5 minutes before using. Add any additions into the batter and mix in. (I used chocolate chip here)
Preheat waffle iron till it has a green light. Add the batter.

 Use a 1/3 Cup measuring cup to scoop up the batter and place in waffle maker.

 Close and when light turns green, take it out carefully.  I like really crispy waffles so I put the setting to 5.

Bon Appetite!!
How do you eat your waffles?? I would love to know!!

                                                                  Me and Esther Frager 🙂

Shrimp…Squid…Lobsters…Oh My!

If there’s one thing that I have learned in culinary school so far, it’s that I am not cut out for killing animals.  I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t kill the lobster. We had to stab it and cut the limbs off while it was still moving.  The chef even said he doesn’t look forward to it and gave us an option not to do it.  There is nothing wrong with doing this halachically because “Ever Min Hachai (look at the bottom of the page)” doesn’t apply to shellfish and fish. I can work with dead ones, no problem, but alive to start…not my cup of tea.  As ugly as it was, I had no reason to kill that little bugger.  I did have a deep debate in my head about this though.
Why did I go to a non-kosher culinary school? Easy answer: To learn EVERYTHING! Crabs, lobsters, pig, shellfish, shrimp, and anything else you can name. I want to touch it, cook it and learn about it! Even if we cook something that is technically “kosher”, it was made in treif/non-kosher pots and pans and therefor is forbidden for me to eat.   Even if I wanted to try and taste it, I wouldn’t be able to get the full flavor unless it hits every taste bud on my tongue (Check out my Halacha section in the blog for more information).  By doing that, it risks actually consuming the item.  It is just really difficult, so I pretty much avoid it.  Guess I gotta practice on a lot of kosher food at home!
So why in the world am I putting myself through this?  Why can’t I just go to CKCA or the Jerusalem Culinary Institute?  Both, kosher culinary institutions.
Ever since I could remember I wanted to go to culinary school, and I promised myself that when I went, I was going to do it the whole way through.  I was going to prove that I can do this within halacha and get the full culinary experience and learn everything there was to know; kosher and non-kosher.  I got the kosher part down and there are Rabbis in easy access to ask questions to along the way.  So if I really want to increase my knowledge I was going to a place that had it all.
I can’t eat anything, and that’s not fun a lot of the time (especially when I’m in class from 6pm – 10pm without break), but that’s life and the end goal is worth it.   Before any orthodox Jew goes into an establishment or even more relevant to a lot of you, a secular work place, you have to be strong in what you believe and have a good grasp on the halachot pertaining to that area.  The techniques and variety of things I have learned and cooked with thus far are unimaginable.  Items which I never thought i would touch or let alone see without being behind a television screen or glass in a grocery store, I am now getting up close and personal with.

Goal: Use these techniques I learn in school to make kosher food as expansive as possible, in appearance and in flavor/taste!

1)Clam and Muscle Tomato Cream Stew
2)Lobsters before the kill

3) Squid (and its insides), shrimp, scallops (all prepared)
4) Clams, Oysters and Muscles    
Note: I wasn’t supposed to open the muscles before they were cooked. Oops! I was on a roll 🙂

Come Here Fishy, Fishy, Fishy…

Words cannot even describe how much I am looking forward to and dreading these next two weeks. I am looking forward to conquering a fear!  That is one of the most terrifying yet best feelings in the world! “Fabrication” seems like a harmless word, and it is…but I have this ingrained fear in me of taking apart animals. Odd, right? For some yes and for some no. But either way, I am sure you can relate to one of those options 🙂
Yesterday, we began our journey.  We started with fish.  I love fish, I really do!  They taste incredible, especially fresh.  Sushi, fried, baked, grilled, fish is good every way! I never realized though, how gross they really were to prepare fresh.  Just like when i dissected a cat and pig in biology class in college, I had to disconnect myself from the reality.  I will spare the details and pictures of the actual filleting process, but it was successful!  I filleted very nicely.  This skill will hopefully make it’s first appearance in about a week and a half when I go to Cancun.  There isn’t much kosher food there, but I will, nonetheless, eat in style!
Let me just give you an overview on how terrified I was.  For the past month, every time I passed the fish section in my grocery store or the meat department, I would literally stare at the meat and fish in order to desensitize myself.  The men at the counter probably thought I had a huge affinity to dead fish. The only thing I still have an issue with is lobster, I still can’t stop getting chills and looking away.  Also included in my “mission to desensitize”, I pre-gamed the class and bought myself a whole fish, gutted and “filleted” that little guy, and ate it.  A pretty gosh darn good experimental dish came out of it too.

Fish of the Sea: 
2 Bass, filleted and chopped
1 Onion, diced
1 Shallot, diced
1 Lemon, Juiced 
Salt and Pepper
Cherry Tomatoes
Parsley, chopped (garnish)
Wild Rice
Bake all ingredients together, covered, at 325 degrees for about 30 minutes.  Spoon the fish on a pile of wild rice.  Garnish with parsley.   

I filleted and gutted four fish yesterday, of which include: 2 Flounder, 1 Mackerel, and 1 Bass. (Refer to the garlic article) Same reaction on the subway home.  You would be surprised how many people gravitated towards me on the subway.  I thought I smelled, others loved it.  A day later and my hands still smell like fish.  I have rubbed a numerous amount of floral lotion on them to try and mask the smell.  The result? I now smell like a  flowery fish. Mmmmmm…..I should bottle that one up! “Eu Deu Perfume Fishe’ Flowere'”   
People call dibs on the food I prepare before class even begins (even the chef is in the “game” of who gets my food/leftovers).  But not yesterday! I walked away with some leftover fresh salmon and trout.  It’s the first and only thing I have been able to take home since we began! Very exciting time! Just gotta rinse them off and cook em’ for dinner.
The truth is, what really kept me going through this whole process was my mom.  She grew up with Lake Erie literally being her backyard.  She would, along with a boat full of boys, go fishing almost everyday in the summer.  What was her job (besides the fishing)?  The gutter and filleter!  If my mom can do it, so can I!  After all, it’s in the genes…and yesterday that was proven! Mom, you gave me the “guts” to do it!