The Mexican Corn Salad I Discovered on Kibbutz

Sharon’s Mexican Corn Salad

I met my friend Sharon on my day of arrival in Israel in January 1989. We were both starting a kibbutz ulpan, and we hit it off right away. We managed to stay in touch on and off through the years, and now that she lives back on kibbutz with her husband (who she met on kibbutz) and kids, we are regularly in touch. Theyrecently hosted us for lunch on the patio of their new house, overlooking the Mediterranean sea. Sitting in the fresh sea air gave us all a hearty appetite, so it was just as well that she whipped up a gorgeous lunch. One of the highlights was a crunchy, fresh Mexican corn salad. I couldn’t stop eating it, and took recipe instructions from Sharon before I left (as well as permission to publish here).

I love corn, and when you combine it with red pepper, red onion and fresh coriander, it’s a pretty as a picture and just as good to eat. I used fresh corn that I boiled and cut off the cob. In spite of being a powerhouse of fresh, gorgeous fruit and vegetables, Israel has not quite come to grips with growing good corn. Trips to North America have educated me as to how fresh corn should really taste, and unfortunately, Israel’s just not there. So for those of you living in Israel, I recommend using frozen corn, which is generally much tastier than its fresh counterpart. For those of you who live in countries like the US and Canada, where fresh corn is a dream, please go fresh with this recipe.

Thanks Sharon!

SHARON’S MEXICAN CORN SALAD

Ingredients

About 3-4 cups corn (fresh will be from about 6-8 ears)

1 small red onion quartered and sliced

2 red peppers chopped or about ¾cup of roasted peppers sliced

3-4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Juice of 1 lime or 1 small lemon

¼ cup olive oil

½ teaspoon sugar

Salt and pepper to taste

How to do it

1. For fresh corn, boil the corn until it’s cooked. Allow to cool and then run a sharp large knife down the sides of the corn, as close to the husk as possible, to slice the kernels off. For frozen, defrost using boiling water and drain when soft.

2. Mix the corn, onion, pepper, and cilantro in a bowl.

3. Whisk the lime/lemon juice, oil, sugar, salt and pepper. Pour over the salad and allow to sit for a while before serving. This salad can be made a day in advance. The flavors are enhanced when the salad sits overnight.

Serves about 8.

One year of Kosher Blogging (and a cake recipe too)

One year ago today I posted my first Kosher Blogger post (chicken soup, of course). Hard to believe it, but time certainly flies when you’re having fun. And the past year has been truly fun, sharing my recipes with you, getting your feedback, “meeting” fellow food bloggers, doing lots of cooking and photographing my food.

This one-year milestone is a time to look back on the highlights of the year (thanks to WordPress’ great stats feature) and share some of them with you.

Global followers: The diversity of nations that pop up onto my stats page every day never ceases to amaze me. While most people using my site come from the US, Israel, South Africa and Canada, I love the fact that I have visits from people living in countries such as Bagladesh, Zambia, Qatar, Jamaica, Brunei, and more.

Popular posts: My most popular post was Israeli Flag Cupcakes for Yom Ha’atzmaut, followed by Brisket for Pesach and then Oven Baked Potato Latkes. Clearly, chaggim bring out the cooks in you! Next in line was the Israeli stuffed vegetables.

Sharing the spotlight: One of the nicest aspects of writing a blog is experiencing the generosity of the food blogging community out there. There’s no place for competition here, instead, there’s the warm embrace of fellow bloggers who are happy to share my link and whose links I love having on mine. Sending the most visits to my blog is the wonderful Jewish Hostess. Not only is Marlene so generous in giving me space on her wonderful blog, she’s also inspires me to come up with my own creative table ideas. This being the case, I am so pleased that the Jewish Hostess is the Number 1 destination that my users visit from my blog roll.

Lemon Mousse Cake (the last piece barely saved for a photo)

OK, so enough with the reminiscing and the statistics – time for a recipe! You can’t celebrate without a cake, and for this special day, I wanted to share one of my favorite cakes with you, which, fortunately, can easily be parev. I love lemon desserts. A sweet and tangy light note is a great way to finish a meal. When I first saw this recipe, I was a little intimidated as it seemed a little complex, using more than one bowl, gelatin and with the goal of being alight, mousse cake. I in fact it’s a lot less intimidating than it seems, and it has never failed. I once again have to stress that gelatin is not difficult to use. Just follow my instructions, and you’ll have in in the bag (or bowl). My biggest problem with this cake is saving a slice to photograph. It really does fly off the plate because it’s light and delicious – a great dessert combo and a wonderful way to celebrate a special day.

LEMON MOUSSE CAKE

Ingredients

Crust

1½ packets of Petite Beurre biscuits crushed (about 2 cups crumbs)

100 g (3.5 oz) melted butter or margarine

Mousse

2 teaspoon gelatin powder

3 tablespoons room temperature water

½ cup fresh lemon juice

¾ cup sugar

4 egg yolks

4 egg whites

1 tablespoon sugar

Pinch of salt

1 cup sweet cream or non-dairy cream

1 tablespoon vanilla sugar or powdered sugar (do not use if using non-dairy cream, which is sweetened already)

How to do it

Crumb base

Crust

1. Line the bottom of a 28 cm (11 inch) spring form pan with baking paper

2. Mix the crumbs and the melted butter and evenly line the bottom of the pan (I use the bottom of a cup measure to flatten the crumbs). Place in the refrigerator to set while you prepare the mousse.

Mousse

Fold the egg whites into the lemon mixture so no white shows

3. Mix the gelatin and the water in a small saucepan. Over low heat, stir constantly until all the gelatin granules dissolve (a few minutes). Set aside to cool.

4. In a small saucepan, whisk the lemon juice, ¾ cup sugar and yolks together until combined. Bring to a low boil (very small bubbles) over medium heat while constantly stirring (about 5 minutes), making sure the mixture doesn’t stick to the bottom of the saucepan. Remove from heat and allow to thicken up a little – about 5 minutes. Add the gelatin, mix well, strain into a separate bowl and allow to cool to room temperature. (Note: By straining this mixture, you will remove all those hard bits of egg that aren’t pleasant to bite into, so it’s worth the little bit of extra effort.)

5. In a mixer, whisk the egg whites, 1 tablespoon sugar and salt until you reach very stiff peaks. On the lowest beating speed, add the lemon mixture and mix till just combined. Remove from the mixer and fold the mixture gently until there is no more egg white showing.

6. Pour the mousse over the crumbs, cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Mousse ready for refrigeration

7. Beat the cream and vanilla/powdered sugar (use sugar for dairy version only) and spread over the top of the cake. Refrigerate until serving.

Tip: Use a knife dipped in boiling water to cut the cake for a smooth slice. Serves about 12-14

Vegetarian Samosas: A Spicy Burst of Flavor

Vegetarian Samosas served with Sweet Chili Sauce

Growing up in Cape Town, South Africa meant eating curries as regular meals and being surrounded by the flavors of Indian and Malaysian spices. Almost every little mini-market (which we called cafes) sold little triangles of crispy dough filled with curried meat or vegetables, known as samosas, which originated in India and South-east Asian countries. This was as common as finding hot dogs on the street corners of New York or falafel on the street corners of Tel Aviv. I loved the kosher versions of these little spicy pockets of flavor when I was growing up. They were always a treat, with their delicious crunch and rush of spice and flavor.

After years of not eating a samosa, I recently stumbled on a recipe that inspired me to take up the challenge. It was a chicken version of a mini curry pie that resembled the samosa of my childhood, so I decided to give it a whirl and adapted as vegetarian because it cut down on the work and, I believe, increased the flavor. I also used store bought puff pastry to cut down on the work, but you can use a home-made dough as well (recipe below), which will take more time.

The result was a batch of really more-ish samosas that my kids loved and we all couldn’t stop eating. Served with a dipping dish of chutney or sweet chili sauce, this is a great little platter to serve with drinks.

VEGETARIAN PUFF PASTRY SAMOSAS

Ingredients

1 kg frozen puff pastry

1-2 tablespoons oil

1 large or two medium-sized potatoes peeled and finely diced

1 small onion finely chopped

1 large carrot finely diced

1 large (or 2 medium) very ripe tomato peeled and finely chopped

½ cup corn kernels (I use frozen)

½ cup frozen peas

1-2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger

2-3 cloves of garlic crushed

2 tablespoons curry powder (you can reduce this amount for a milder flavor)

1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander

1 egg beaten

2-3 tablespoons sesame seeds (optional)

Chutney or sweet chili sauce for serving

The filling

How to do it

1. Remove the puff pastry from the freezer and allow to defrost a few hours before preparation so it is thawed in time for use.

2. Add water and some salt to a small pot, add the potatoes and bring to the boil. Cook for no more than 10 minutes and drain.

3. In a large skillet or wok, saute the potatoes carrots and onions in oil until they are all cooked through (about 5 minutes)

4. Add the ginger and garlic and saute for about a minute, making sure the garlic doesn’t burn. Add the curry powder and stir through until mixed (no more than half a minute)

5. Add the tomato and allow to cook till soft.

6. Add the peas and corn and stir through for about a minute. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

7. Add the coriander and salt and pepper to taste.

Cut the pastry into squares

8. Unroll the pastry and cut width-ways into three sections. Take one section, and place it on a clean, floured surface. Roll the pastry out (making sure to flour the rolling pin as well) until it is about half the thickness. Using a pizza cutter or very sharp knife, cut squares of about 6×6 cm (2½x2½ inches). Place about one teaspoon of the filling into the center of each piece of pastry. Fold the pastry carefully over the filling, making sure the filling doesn’t touch the ends of the pastry so you have a clean surface to seal, and removing all the air from inside. Press the edges of the pastry closed with your fingers and then use a fork to seal the sides shut.

Place a teaspoon of filling in the center of the pastry square

(Tip: To ensure the filling doesn’t leak out during baking, turn the samosa over to make sure it is sealed closed from both sides. If not, give it another press with the fork from the back side as well.) Repeat for the other two sections of pastry.

9. Pre-heat the oven to 190°C (375°F). Place the samosas onto a baking tray lined with baking paper, leaving about an inch between each. Brush the beaten egg onto each samosa, and sprinkle some sesame seeds on top if desired. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the samosas are golden in color. Serve with chutney or chili sauce.

Ready for baking

Makes about 36

Alternative: Home-made Pastry

You can use the following pastry recipe if you prefer home made pastry. This will give you a less flaky consistency and a more pie-like crust.

Ingredients

½ cup oil

1 egg

1 cup water

3-3½ cups flour (or as needed to make an elastic dough)

3½ teaspoons baking powder

How to do it

Home-made dough

1. In a large bowl, whisk the oil and egg together. Add the salt and water and beat well.

2. Stir the flour into the liquid one cup at a time, and mix slowly until you get a doughy consistency. Then use your hands to add all of the flour so you get a workable, elastic dough that you will be able to roll out. Do not overwork the dough – knead just until all combined and smooth.

3. On a clean, floured surface, take one handful of the dough, and roll it out into a 3mm thick circle, using a floured rolling pin. The dough will spring back, so you can roll it a little thinner than 3mm.

4. Using a round cookies cutter about 8½cm (3½ inches) in diameter, cut circles in the dough. Note: Put the leftover in-between bits of dough back in with the rest of the dough and re-use it.  It’s a forgiving dough that won’t come apart because it’s already been rolled out.

5.Take about 1 teaspoon of the curry filling and place it in the middle of the circle. With your finger tip, dab some water along one half of the circle and close the dough over the filling, using your right thumb to push the filling to the back of the samosas you have a clean surface to seal. Making sure not to leave any air inside, seal the samosa with your finger tips and then use a fork to seal the edges further. Tip: Turn the samosa over and make sure that the bottom is properly sealed. If not, then give it another press with the fork.

Spaghetti Bolognese: The quick after school lunch

Spaghetti Bolognese

Yesterday my kids whined: “There’s nothing to eat in the house!” This usually happens when all the food I cook for Shabbat gets eaten on Shabbat. This past Shabbat was the case, when my son sprang a few very last minute dinner guests on me. Fortunately I always make a lot of extra food for Shabbat so there’ll be leftovers for lunches during the week. But a group of hungry 14-year-old boys meant this was not to be. So to stave off mid-day hunger, I decided that the quickest meal I could come up with with the least effort was Spaghetti Bolognese.

I’ve seen so many recipes for making this simple meat and tomato sauce. Many of them are convoluted and involve a lot of ingredients. But my favorite recipe was one I saw on a TV show several years ago. I don’t even remember who the chef was, but it was a jolly man who was taking a culinary journey (what else?) through Italy, and sharing secrets of authentic Italian cooks. His take on Spaghetti Bolognese was so basic and easy that I tried it, loved it and this is what I’ve been making every since. He dispenses with the extra vegetables, and keeps the flavors simple and to the point, in keeping with the traditional Italian way. The result is a tasty, filling and quick meal.

For me, this is the very quick alternative to spaghetti and meatballs, which take more effort, and isn’t a 15-minute meal. It’s also a great easy cook for those starting cooks looking for the quick and easy recipes.

Needless to say, my kids stopped whining about the lack of food, and tucked into a hearty mid-day meal with gusto, insisting that I cook like this more often. They really aren’t very difficult to please.

SPAGHETTI BOLOGNESE

Ingredients

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion finely chopped

2-3 cloves of garlic crushed

500 g (1 lb) ground beef

1 800 g (28 oz) can of crushed tomatoes

100 g (3.5 oz) tomato paste

½ cup dry red wine (optional)

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

Salt and black pepper

1-2 teaspoons sugar (to taste)

500 g (1 lb) spaghetti (I use at least Number 5 size for a nice bite)

How to do it

1. In a large skillet or wok, heat the olive oil and saute the onions until they are soft (do not brown them)

2. Add the garlic and saute for less than a minute (make sure not to let the garlic burn)

3. Add the ground beef and fry until all the meat is browned (no pink pits are left)

4. Add the crushed tomato and tomato paste and mix well.

5. Add the spices and the wine (optional). Mix together. Bring to the boil and then turn down the heat and allow the sauce to simmer for up to 20 minutes until the sauce is thick and any liquid has cooked down. (If you aren’t using the wine, you can simmer for less time as you will not have to cook off the liquid from the wine.)

6. Cook the spaghetti according to the instructions. Drain and add the sauce, mixing well.

Serves about 6.

Easy, Yummy Thai Fish Curry for the last Days of Succot

Thai Fish Curry

I love it when the chaggim fall in the middle of the week, and we get a little more vacation than usual. The downside is that I feel like I am constantly cooking meals. The key here is finding quick and tasty meals to make so we can spend less time in the kitchen and more time enjoying our time in the Succah.

My clever husband was meandering through the supermarket a couple of weeks ago and stumbled on fresh limes from Tekoa Farms, purveyors of exotic, specialized fruit and vegetables. This was an exciting moment as I’ve always wanted to be able to get hold of limes in Israel, and this is the first time. When life gives you limes, you make Thai food!

Look out for these packaged limes by Tekoa Farms in your supermarket’s produce refrigerator

As this is the season of Succah entertaining, I had stocked up on the recently readily available South African hake fillets imported by Sunfish (another exciting moment in Israel’s food retailing history). This firm, white fish is perfect when matched with the tangy tastes of Thai curry. The recipe I threw together on the fly was so quick to make and the results spoke for themselves – a very empty serving dish within minutes.

The hake fillets are great for us Israeli and South African cooks, but any firm white fish fillet will work well with this recipe.

THAI FISH CURRY

Ingredients

1 kg (2 lbs) white fish fillets cut into individual serving-sized pieces

2-3 teaspoons oil

2-3 tablespoons freshly chopped or grated ginger

5 cloves of garlic crushed

1 mild red or green chili finely chopped (according to taste – this curry is not a spicy one.) Note: Do not touch the chili with your bare hands. Either use gloves or use a fork to hold the chili as you chop it. If you do get any on your hands, wash them very well before touching any part of your body. Chili residue burns like crazy!

500 ml (17 fl oz) coconut milk

Juice of 1 lime or a small lemon

½ teaspoon of turmeric powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

3-4 peeled and chopped fresh tomatoes (don’t use canned for this)

3-4 chopped green onions

¼ cup freshly chopped coriander leaves + a few whole coriander leaves for garnish

Green and pretty and ready for the wok

How to do it

1. Heat the oil in a wok

2. Add ginger and saute for a few minutes. Add the chili and saute for another few minutes, making sure they don’t start to burn. Add the garlic and saute briefly, making sure the garlic doesn’t burn.

3. Add the coconut milk, lime/lemon juice, turmeric, salt, sugar and tomatoes, stir and bring to the boil. Allow to simmer for a few minutes. (Tip: You can make the sauce ahead of time and reheat it and cook the fish just before you want to serve it.)

Cook the fish in the simmering curry

4. Bring the liquid to the boil and add the fish. Reduce the heat until the liquid is simmering, cover and cook until fish is tender, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add coriander and green onion and pour into a serving dish.

5. Garnish with the fresh coriander leaves and serve with white rice.

Serves about 6.