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appetizer

Indian Samosas

By: 
Tina Wasserman

Did you know that India's Jews come from four distinct groups and can trace their roots there back to ancient times? As in all Jewish communities around the world, Indian Jews translated their culinary tastes and the laws of kashrut to embrace the foods of the region.

Is it possible that potatoes are the number-one culinary choice for stuffing, or does the choice of filling have more to do with the cost of food and being frugal? Whatever the answer, potatoes show up in India as well for wonderful little packets of spicy potato and pea filling. There is no need to make your own dough when wonton skins are readily available. Serve with some raw mango chutney.

Ingredients: 
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger
1 teaspoon chopped fresh garlic
1 medium onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 medium Yukon Gold, California whites, or russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
2 cups water
One 10-ounce package frozen peas, thawed
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 pound wonton skins
Oil for frying filled dough
Directions: 

Yield: 1-2 dozen

  1. Heat the 2 tablespoons oil in a large frying pan, and add the red pepper, ginger, garlic, and onion.
  2. Sauté for 5 minutes or until the onion is golden. Do not burn the garlic.
  3. Add the salt, potatoes, and water, and stir to combine. Cover and cook for 20 minutes over medium heat, until the potatoes are tender.
  4. Add the peas and the curry powder, and cook until the peas are hot and any excess water is evaporated.
  5. Brush the edges of the wonton skin with a little water. Place a teaspoon of the filling in the center and fold over into a triangle, sealing the edges well. Continue with the rest of the dough and filling.
  6. Heat the oil to 375°F in a frying pan or wok to a depth of 2 inches. Do not let the oil smoke.
  7. Fry a few samosas at a time in the hot oil until golden. Drain on paper towels and serve.
Tina's Tidbits: 
  • Stir potato mixture occasionally, using a rubber spatula so that the potatoes don’t break up. Yukon Golds or California long whites break up less than russet potatoes, which are the traditional choice.
  • Do not use too much filling or the wontons will open in the hot oil and lose their contents.
  • Use only enough water to dampen the edges so that they stick together. Too much water will cause steam when the samosas go into the oil and the wonton skins will open.
  • Do not try to fry too many samosas at a time. If the samosas are not crowded when they are frying, the temperature of the oil won’t drop and the dough won’t absorb excess oil. The finished product will be light, crisp, and not greasy.

Cheese Straws

By: 
Rabbi Linda Henry Goodman

This recipe is from the Garden City Jewish Center's cookbook: Sharing Our Favorites.

I've never been to a house party or Oneg Shabbat in Georgia that didn't display a huge bowl of cheese straws. We New Yorkers don't know what we're missing!

Thanks to my mother-in-law Rayna Goodman for sharing her recipe.

Ingredients: 
1 stick butter or margarine, room temperature
1 pound New York sharp cheddar cheese, room temperature
2 cups flour
cayenne pepper, to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, optional
Directions: 
  1. Grate the cheese and beat together with butter or margarine until smooth. Add flour and baking powder. Add pepper to taste.
  2. Put through a cooked press with a "star" tip. Squeeze out straws to a length of 3-4 inches each. Alternatively, you can also squeeze out a long line and then cut it into the desired lengths. You can make them straight or form an "S" shape. 
  3. Bake at 350°F for 12 minutes for the first batch and then 10 minutes for the rest. Watch them carefully during baking to make sure the bottoms don't burn.

Note: I added the baking powder from another recipe, although Rayna usually leaves it out when she makes these. Try it both ways and see which way you prefer.

Watermelon Gazpacho

By: 
Rabbi Linda Henry Goodman

Good friends of ours made this soup as part of a delightful Shabbat lunch in Jerusalem... perfect for a summer day! The recipe comes from the Garden City Jewish Center's cookbook: Sharing Our Favorites.

 

Ingredients: 
7 cups fresh watermelon, rind discarded, cut into chunks
1 1/2 cups ice cubes
3 ounces whole almonds with skins
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
8 slices firm white sandwich bread, crusts discarded, torn into pieces
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Directions: 
  1. Seed 1 cup watermelon chunks and cut into small dice.
  2. Purée remianing watermelon in blender or food processor, in batches if necessary. Pour purée through a medium mesh sieve into a large bowl, pressing on solids; discard solids.
  3. Blend juice with ice, almonds, and garlic, in batches if necessary, until smooth.
  4. Add bread, vinegar, salt, and pepper to taste and blend.
  5. With motor running, add oil in a slow stream, blending until smooth.
  6. Ladle soup into bowls and serve topped with diced watermelon.

Note:  You can omit the ice cubes and put in in less oil.

Homemade Pita Chips with Za'atar

By: 
Kim Kushner

My friends are always popping in to say hello and have a drink. This is a great recipe for a five-minute appetizer. I serve these toasty, salty pita chips alongside hummus and guacamole, and they're also a wonderful accompaniment to wine and cheese. I simply top the pitas with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of za'atar before toasting them in a hot oven. 

Za'atar is a Middle Eastern spice blend that typically includes oregano, thyme, savory, and sumac, along with toasted sesame seeds and salt. I use it a lot in my cooking because of its sharp, nutty taste. This recipe is a perfect example of when homemade just completely crushes the store-bought equivalent. I keep bags of pita in my freezer in case I need to whip these chips up quickly. They're light, crisp, and delicious, and everyone seems to love them, especially the kids!

Ingredients: 
4 pita breads
1/4 cup (2 fl oz/60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 tablespoons za'atar
Directions: 
  • Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C)
  • Split each pita bread horizontally along the outside edge and separate into 2 rounds. Place the roundsm, cut side down, on a baking sheet. Drizzle the oil over the pita rounds and sprinkle with the za'atar.
  • Bake until lightly toasted, about 5 minutes, watching the rounds closely as they can burn quickly. Let cool, then break into smaller pieces and serve. The pita chips will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.  

Yield: about 32 chips

Reprinted with permission from The New Kosher by Kim Kushner (Weldon Owen, 2015)


Raised in Montreal, Canada, Kim Kushner learned to cook from her Moroccan-born mother and spent summers with family in Israel. A graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan, she has developed recipes for Food & Wine and Chile Pepper magazines and has worked a a private chef. In 2005, she launched Kim Kushner Cuisine and now travels the world teaching cooking classes.

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