Have a SWEEEET New Year!

As the new year approaches, I want to wish everyone a very happy new year full of all the happiness you desire!  May you be able to see the hand of Hashem in every event and moment of your life!
On another note, to bring in the new year, let me introduce you to a delicious apple tart.  I make this a lot and is a nice twist to the classic apple pie.  It’s sweet and tart all at the same time! B’teavon and Shana Tova!

French Apple Tart
12 Servings
Pie Shell (Best Pie Crust In The World!)
2 Lemons (1 1/2 tsp. lemon zest and 2 Tbs. Juice)
4 Granny Smith Apples (2 lbs), peeled and cored (Reserve 2 for top)
4 Golden Delicious Apples (2 lbs), peeled and cored (Reserve 1 for top)
6 Tbs. Earth Balance
1/2 C. + 2 Tbs. Sugar
1 1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1/4 tsp. Ground Nutmeg
1/3 C. Apricot Preserves

Make pie crust as directed and press the dough in a tart pan with a removable bottom.  Bake for 20 minutes with pie weights on top of the crust. 

In a large saute pan, melt 4 Tbs. of butter over medium high heat.  Add sliced apples and cook for 5 minutes. Cover, reduce heat to medium and cook 1 minutes, until the apples are very tender/  Stir in lemon peel and juice,1/2 C. sugar, vanilla, and nutmeg.  Cook, stirring frequently, 25-30 minutes until puree is very thick and reduced to about 2 1/4 Cups. Cool

Preheat oven to 375.  Thinly slice remaining reserved apples.  Spoon puree in tart shell and arrange apple slices, overlapping in concentric circles on the top of the puree. Melt the remaining 2 Tbs. earth balance and brush apple slices with the butter and sprinkle with the 2 Tbs. Sugar.

Bake for 45-50 minutes until the apples are tender when pierced with a knife.  Cool tart and remove side of pan and cool completely.  When cool. brush apple slices with preserves.  If preserves arnt’ thin enough, add the preserves and a little water in a saucepan till slightly warm and spreadable.

Shnitzle, Cholent and CRAB Cakes?!

     To a lot of traditional Orthodox Jews, shabbos lunch can’t get any better than a bowl of hot cholent that has been steaming for 24 hours in a crock pot.  Add that with a piece of potato kugel and they are on cloud nine!  I hadn’t even tasted cholent, or let alone heard of it, untill I was about 12.  I remember, distinctly, trying my first cholent at a friend’s house in Columbus.  Her cholent was Moroccan, so it wasn’t even the norm. It had eggs all up in the meat, potato, bean and barley mixture.  I grew up with a nice traditional vegetable soup sitting in the crock pot for Shabbos day lunch.  We used the crock pot because we wanted something warm to eat on Saturday afternoon, especially in the winter.  Cholent?  What’s that?  My ba’al teshuva parents most definitely did not grow up with heimish Jewish shabbos food on their plates. Chicken matzoh ball soup, potato kugel, herring and gefilte fish after Saturday services was pretty much as far as traditional Jewish food went for them. The truth is, and all you cholent lovers out there don’t beat me down for this, I could do fine without cholent, I actually prefer soup on a Saturday afternoon.

      I don’t know how the modern day Jewish food got its start.  Cranberry-Apple Crisp (Crapple), Sweet Vadalia Onion Dressing (Costco economy sized), Deli Roll…Yes, they all do taste good but are LOADED with fat and calories.  I think we found one of the key factors of obesity in Jewish communities.  If kids, and grown-ups alike, eat that EVERY week, that’s having a dinner and lunch consisting of trans fats and unneeded calories.  Does puff pastry, sugar, margarine, flour, sugar laden fruit and fatty dressing sound like a well balanced meal?

     About a year ago I interned at the obesity clinic in St. Luke Roosevelt hospital.  I was conducting a study (making milkshakes) and the amount of Jewish people I saw going in and out of the hospital for by pass surgery was unbelievable!  Now, I’m all for eating yummy caloric food, but moderately and thought out.  Have your fettuccine alfredo, but with a salad on the side with a nice low caloric vinaigrette!

     My sister and I have hosted many shabbos meals, and boy have we learned.  We made wonderful dishes, but realized that people looked at the table full of different types of salads, chickens and grains, with an “I have never seen that vegetable before” look.   We decided to make cholent one week with our usual spread.   Our guests were much more willing to try the unfamiliar food when something familiar was on the table as well. We haven’t veered from our stylish and so called “different” food, but we have incorporated main stream Jewish dishes as well.  We have tried to add healthier touches to those traditional dishes, making cholent with different types of grains (quinoa, wheat berries, etc) and adding little or no sugar to certain dressings and foods.

     In school we are on the cooking methods section.  We have done sauteeing, deep frying and our latest…pan frying! The other day we made potato pancakes with apple sauce and pan fried panko encrusted chicken…A.K.A Latkes and Schnitzle, both traditional Jewish foods.  Watching that food sizzle away was my inspiration for this blog post.   (We also made Crab Cakes, to which i have added my own (and kosher) variation). Think before you eat! 🙂

“Crab” Cakes
Makes about 25 crab cakes
2 Cups of Cod, Tilapia, or Mock Crab, broken into small pieces
1 Cup Mayonnaise 
1/2 Cups Bread Crumbs
2 TBS. Cilantro or Parsley, minced
2 Bunches of Scallions, minced (green part included)
1 Red Pepper, minced
1 tsp. Old Bay
Bread crumbs to roll on crab cakes
Canola Oil 

Mix all ingredients together and coat with bread crumbs.  Heat pan and add oil.  When the oil gets hot, place the crab cakes in the pan for about 4 min on each side.  Drain on paper towel and enjoy with avocado dipping sauce.

Avocado Dipping Sauce
2 Avocados
2 Tbs. Water
Hot Sauce, Sriracha, Red Pepper Flakes, to taste
Blend all ingredients in a blender till smooth.

A thank you goes out to Shimra Barnett for editing this blog post.

Chicken Marbella

I am always asked for chicken recipes.  I completely understand! Chicken has so much potential and is probably one of the most versatile foods out there because of its ability to take on flavors and different types of cooking methods.  The sad news is, once we have a recipe we like, we stick with it over…and over…and over again.  And we all know what happens when we eat the SAME food constantly, no matter how much you like it, it will become boring.  More than any other food out there, I probably can say that I  have the most fun inventing new types of chicken recipes.  I call it “whatever you can find in the fridge put it in the chicken.”  I usually always include a little leftover wine from Shabbat because it gives the chicken such a nice savory flavor.  One of my all time favorite recipes is Chicken Marbella.  The olives, wine, and prunes gives it that sweet and salty flavor making it incredibly juicy and savory.  Enjoy all the flavors this chicken has to offer!

This recipe is great eaten alone, with rice/orzo or potatoes.  And don’t worry if you have leftovers (which you most likely won’t), it is actually better, in my opinion, the day after when reheated or eaten cold.

On another note, I am having this tonight for dinner at my Shabbos table.  This is a sneak peak for anyone coming tonight 🙂

Chicken Marbella

2 Chickens (16 pieces)
1 Head of Garlic, minced
¼ C. Dried Oregeno
½ C. Red Wine Vinegar
½ C. Olive Oil
1 C. Prunes (Or as i like to say, dried plums)
½ C. Spanish Green Olives
½ C. Capers and a bit of juice
6 Bay Leaves
3/4 C. Brown Sugar (or 1/2 C. Agave)
1 C. White Wine
¼ C. Fresh Cilantro or Parsley for garnish
Preheat oven to 350.  Combine all ingredients together (except last 3) and marinate overnight.  Put in pan and sprinkle on the brown sugar and wine.  Bake for 1 hour, basting with the juices.  Sprinkle on the garnish.

Frozen Lemon Meringue

One day, in a very tiny apartment in NYC, my sister and I were enjoying a fabulous piece of fresh lemon meringue pie.  Savoring each bite, we thought “It couldn’t get better than this!”  The tangy lemon filling, contrasted by the sweet meringue top, finished off by the flaky buttery crust. Suddenly an idea popped in our heads…the only way this could be ANY better was if it were FROZEN!! Genius!

It might be a Barnett thing, but the rule is, (almost) any dessert is better frozen.  Chocolate chip cookies (or any kind of cookie), gushers (that ones for my sis Becca), chocolate…
The only thing we regret is not thinking of this sooner.

Lemon Meringue Pie
Pastry for single pie crust (on bottom)

3/4 C. Fresh Lemon Juice (5 lemons) and 1 T. Peel, zested (1 Lemon) 
1/3 C. Cornstarch
Pinch of Salt
1 C. Sugar + 1/2 C. Sugar
1 ½ C. Water
2 T. Earth Balance Butter
3 Egg Yolk
4 Egg Whites
¼ t. Cream of Tarter
Make dough and chill.  Preheat oven to 425.  Meanwhile, take a 9X13 pan and cover the bottom with foil till it overlaps on all edges (this will make taking the bars out the pan easy).  Spray the foil with Pam.  Take the dough out of the fridge and press it into the bottom of the foil lined pan till it covers the bottom.  Bake 20 minutes till lightly golden.  Turn oven to 400.

Zest the lemon peel and squeeze the lemon juice, reserve for later.  In a 2 QT. saucepan, mix cornstarch,   pinch of salt, and 1 C. Sugar; stir in water.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils.  Boil 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.

In a small bowl, whisk egg yolks, stir in small amount of the hot cornstarch mixture until blended; slowly pour egg-yolk mixture back into the hot cornstarch mixture in the saucepan, stirring rapidly to prevent curdling (no scrambled eggs!).   Place saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly, about 4 minutes, until thick.  Remove from heat and stir in butter, lemon juice and peel.  Pour into cooled pie crust.

In a small bowl, with mixer at high speed, beat egg whites, cream of tartar and a pinch of salt until soft peaks form when beaters are lifted.  Gradually sprinkle in remaining ½ C. Sugar, 2 T. at a time, beating until sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites stand in stiff peaks when beaters are lifted. 

Spread meringue over filling to the edge of the crust (meringue shrinks when cooked).  Swirl the meringue with the back of a spoon to make an attractive top.  Bake 10 minutes, until meringue is golden.  When pie is cool, freeze.  When ready to serve, take the foil out of the pan and cut into bars. 

Best Pie Crust in The World
Makes 1 Pie Crust (I usually make a few batches at a time and freeze them.  They freeze great!)

1 ¼ C. Flour
¼ t. Salt
6 T. Earth Balance Shortening
3-5 T. Ice Water
Process the flour, salt, and shortening in a blender or with a pastry blender.  Sprinkle in ice water till a ball is formed.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes or overnight. 

Frozen Lemon Meringue Pie…Mission accomplished!

On another note: In the culinary world….I finished Module 1!!  Aced my test and I am 1/5 of the way to becoming Chef Ali!

Salsa…It’s more than just a dance.

Salsa is more than a dance or spicy red tomato combination.  The classic dip you eat on tortilla chips or in a burrito can tantilize your taste buds in a lot of different varities.  Go and explore… Salsa can be sweet (mango?), spicy (jalapenos?) or savory…find YOUR favorite kind!


2 Ears Corn, Boiled then simmered for 12 minutes (after done, remove kernels)
1 Red Pepper, diced very small
2 Oz. Red Onion, diced very small
1 Tbs. Cilantro, minced
1 Oz. Sugar
Dash of Tabasco Sauce
Salt and Pepper
(Hint: The entire salsa should be cut the same size as the corn kernels)
Combine all ingredients.

Introducing: TOMATILLO SALSA!!


1 Pound Tomatillos, peeled (the thin paper like skin)
2 Jalapenos (if you want it spicier, leave in the seeds)
3 Oz. Yellow Onion, cut into large pieces
3 Tbs. Cilantro, chopped
1 Tbs. Apple Cider Vinegar
2 Tbs. Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Roast the tomatillos, jalapenos, and onion on grill or in the oven (Dry, no oil).  Chop the tomatillos, jalapenos and onions.  Mix with the rest of the ingredients. (If you want it thinner, run it through a blender)

Food Science!

We made Consomme on Tuesday.  It turns a cloudy broth into a clear, pretty and clean broth.  It’s like magic (or fun food science)!  Watch what happens….

Step 1: Tempered egg whites and raw vegetables are added to the cloudy veal broth.
Step 2: The broth is put on the stove and kept at a simmer.  The egg whites are acting as a sponge in the soup, removing all the impurities to create a “raft” on top of the soup.  Once the “raft” covers the entire area, the broth on the bottom is spooned out slowly to reveal a clearer and cleaner looking and tasting broth.
Step 3: TADA! Ladies and Gentelman…a Consomme!