Oil you lonesome, tonight…?

In food, one of the simplest concepts is breaking bread. Not only in Jewish traditions, but in all faiths. Breaking bread signifies new beginnings, sharing a meal with friends, and many more hidden secrets. To me, my favorite joy in being Jewish is saying the blessings before tearing the first piece from the challah and sharing it. There is no greater joy, as it’s such a personal act that brings people together. Even in fancier restaurants, breaking bread is considered a gourmet delight, and the bread is usually dipped in a spiced olive oil. Its this spiced olive oil that I look at this week, as we near shabbos. Often, I see bottles of herb-laced olive oil on sale for up to $100 a bottle! No, no, no! You do not have to spend this much money! No, never! So, tonight, I shall share with you how you can make herb-laced olive oil.

The first thing to remember, in making herb-laced olive oil, is the 8:0.5 ratio. In essence, for every 8 ounces of olive oil, you add in 0.5 ounces of herbs. This mix, when shaken, adds the right flavor to the olive oil without there being too many herbs to clutter the oil when poured into a bowl. As for the herbs themselves, we shall start with a basic mix of rosemary, oregano, and basil. This mix, in equal parts, added to a bottle of olive oil will be perfect for most breads. The best part is that you can either store it for later, or enjoy it right away! But, we don’t have to stop there!

There’s also the fun art of INFUSING olive oil! For this, I like to use extra virgin olive oil, myself, just because of the added purity. Now, in my home, we love garlic. So, for a nice garlic-infused olive oil, I’ll peel a whole bulb of garlic and pop all the bulbs into the olive oil. Then, using the same herb ratio as above (8 oz.:0.5 oz.), we add in the herbs and let it sit in the frige for 3-4 days before removing the garlic cloves and serving. (WARNING! Leaving the cloves in is fine, but if you leave the bottle out of the frige for too long if you opt for leaving the cloves in, THROW IT OUT!!! You could get Botulism! Also, the longer the cloves are in the oil, the more they’ll be infused.)

Of course, there’s other variations, both with herbs and with other vegetables and fruit, that can be added to the oil. In fact, you can even opt out of using olive oil and use another oil all together! For example, on the herbs, the sky is the limit. For example, let’s walk thro a dessert dipping oil:

Peach Cobbler in a Bottle

16 oz. Peanut oil
5-6 dried peach wedges
2 sticks cinnamon
1 oz. Freshly shaved Nutmeg

Taking the peach wedges, add them, the nutmeg, and the cinnamon sticks into a salable bottle.

VERY carefully pour the peanut oil into the bottle OVER the peach wedges and spices and cap the bottle.

Keep refrigerated for a week and serve with a dessert bread.

This oil goes great with some muffins, and the peanut oil adds just the right taste to have the same crust taste you find in peach cobbler itself. I even have a friend who likes to pour it lightly over pancakes and waffles! Go figure! But, there’s other ways to handle this, as well! Let’s say you have a big football party coming up, and want a little added kick for when you cook up some meat, or want to put some FIRE into your Asian cooking? Well, your friends and family may hate me for this, but it’s time to unveil my ‘special’ oil for spicy cooking:

Fire-Infused Oil
(Or My mouth’s on fire! Oy, Gevalt! WATER!!!)

16 oz. safflower oil
1 dried Habanero pepper (I use a dried red Savina, when I can get/grow them)
2 dried red Thai peppers
1 oz. Dried Cayenne Pepper seeds
1/2 oz. Crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 oz. Crushed green Jalapeno flakes (Optional)

First off, work in a WELL-ventilated room, ’cause its going to get hot in here!

Taking your oil bottle, pop in the whole peppers & pepper seeds/flakes. (If you wish to, you can opt out of using the green Jalapeno and instead cover the difference with the red pepper flakes.)

VERY carefully pour the oil into the bottle before sealing.

As this isn’t a monounsaturated oil like the olive oil or peanut oil were., you can actually keep this on a shelf until using it. I let it sit for about a MONTH to fully infuse the oil to the proper tear-bringing levels before using it for cooking a spicy stir-fry or any other dish that needs fire. The important thing I’m instilling here is to EXPERIMENT! Now, we’ve done a cooking oil, a dessert oil, but what about one that works equally well for dipping bread, tossing into salads, or even over pasta! Let’s finish off with a bang!

Artichoke-Infused Olive Oil
16 oz. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 cup diced artichoke hearts
1/4 oz. Oregano, dried
1/4 oz. Thyme, dried
1/4 oz. Basil, dried
1/8 oz. Rosemary, dried
1/8 oz. cilantro, dried

Taking ANOTHER oil bottle, add in the artichoke and herbs.

Add the oil carefully before capping.

Give the bottle a good shake to mix it up before tossing it into the fridge for 2 days (minimum).

This oil is wonderful for whatever your heart desires! Add it to salad with vinegar for a healthy dressing! Toss it into pasta and top with a your favorite cheese for a nice main dish in a dairy meal! Use it in cooking for a nice added flavor of artichokes and herbs! Pour it into a small bowl and dip bread into it! In closing, let’s look over the best herbs and spices to use in said experiments. Your best bet is to find herbs and spices that are dried, and that blend well together. Though, if you wish, you CAN use fresh sprigs of your favorite herb to infuse the oil with and supplement with dried spice mixes. Also, it’s best to use dried fruits, and vegetables with as little moisture as possible. This way, the flavor of the vegetables & fruits can best infuse the oil.

Also, as stated before, olive and peanut oils need to be refrigerated, but oils that are not monounsaturated (Like Saffron, sunflower, or other vegetable oils), they can be kept out in the open. The only exception to this, as I said before, is when using garlic or any other fruit/vegetable that has to be kept refrigerated. We don’t want sick families and friends! Until next time, Shalom and Good Cooking!


May 19, 2006. canning, recipes. 2 comments.

Mother’s Day is Coming…

Okay, I hate to admit it, but THIS CUTE ANIMATION has possessed my mind. it has food, anime, a catchy tune… For those curious, the song’s actually Leva’s Polka by Loituma and can be downladed here. But enough polka! It’s time to throw on some techno and tear open the kitchen. Why? Because soon it’s MOTHER’S DAY! yes, that day of the year you’re supposed to be NICE for your mother, though as we ALL know every day should be Mother’s Day. But none of MY readers surely forget to call their Mother, right?

Well, you have gotten her a gift for this weekend, right?
My word! Well, today’s article is for YOU! First off, I’m going to suggest a nice dinner that’s simple, easy, and ANYONE can make! Husbands, this is good for you if you haven’t planned something for your wives yet. GET BACK HERE! Yopu’re not going to get out of it this year, if I have to tie you down and force you to cook myself! Now then, ladies, you run off and relax while I get the guys cooking a meal that won’t leave you with a sinkfull of pats & dishes. First off, let’s look at a simple main dish using our favorite fish: Salmon!

Filled Salmon Steaks

1 cup wild rice
2 1 pd. salmon fillets, de-skinned & de-boned (I prefer Wild Sockeye or Wild Pacific, myself.)
1/4 cup diced mushrooms
The juice of one Lemon
About 2 ft. of butcher’s twine

Start by taking the bucher’s twine and soak it in some water. TRUST ME ON THIS!

Prepare the wild rice as you normally would. I use my rice cooker, myself, which is 1 cup of water & 3/4th a cup of rice in the cooker until it’s finished, usally. BUT, i suggest using the package’s suggestion.

When it’s finished cooking, transfer to a large bowl and add diced mushrooms.

Wash dishes that have piled up so far.

Taking the fillets, lay them out flat and fill about half of the fillets wit the rice & mushroom mixture and fold over.

Take the butcher’s twine out of the water and keep it in hand. Now, you COULD do a full net around the salmon to keep it sinched, but I suggest just two-three loops around the salmon’s open sides before tying each loop shut & cutting off the excess string. Whjen finished, it shound be held snug, but not painfully squeezed.

Set the salmon in a glass cooking pan. Now, BEFORE COOKING, remember my trick about cooking salmon from my Pesach article? Take the juice of the lemon, and then just baste the fillets with it. This will help bring out the full flavor as it cooks, and will also keep it moist!

Opening your over that’s been preheated to 350 degrees Farenheight, set the salmon on the center of the middle rack and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the pink starts to turn whitish pink.

As the fish cooks, do the dishes.

Taking each fillet out of the pan, set them on a plate before snipping away the strings. Serve with an additional lemon wedge, if desired.

Enjoy a nice meal, and afterwards clear the table and do the dishes.

This nice light main dish goes well with a light salad, some challah, and spending the meal listening to what the mother you’re honoring has to say. Yes, I know it’s not that fancy a meal, but trust me, she’ll enjoy it! If you prefer, and you have a plank for your BBQ or gas grill, you can cook the salmon outside. Just give it about 7-8 minutes on each side, and it should turn out perfect. Now, keep an eye on it, if you use this method, as some grills cook faster and slower than others. So, if it looks ready to flip it, FLIP IT! You know your grill best of all. Anyhow, I hope this article helps you get ready for Mother’s Day. If you can’t cook, you can always call up proflowers.com or something to send flowers. But, from what I’ve seen, good food is always appreciated as a gift. Shalom and Good Cooking, and Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers in the world.

May 9, 2006. advice, main courses, recipes. Leave a comment.

Spring, ah…

Okay, so I’m being a geek and listening to Jewish World Radio as I plan for a catering gig I’m doing tonight. Nothing fancy, just a nice gourmet romantic dinner for two friends’ Anniversary. My main thought on dinner tonight is Spring, the season of birth and new beginnings. Concidering we’re counting the Omer, this is especially important. You see, during this time, the Jewish People were being reborn, awaiting the law, and is in memory of wandering in search of the holy land. What better expression of this time of year can you find than enjoying some of spring’s most delicious foods?

First off, I reccomend a good spring greens salad as something to refresh the body and mind. You can find pre-made starter bags of spring greens in most grocery stores, but I prefer to make it from scratch!

Spring Greens Salad

2 cups baby spinach
1/16th cup radish sprouts
1 cup young kale
1/4 cup baby carrots
1/4 cup cauliflower and broccoli flourets, diced

Wash all the vegetables, and toss together in a salad bowl. Serve with a light vinaigrette (I prefer a nice raspberry vinaigrette, myself.)

For the dressing, you can either make it from scratch using the OU’s recipe, or you can look to Heinz for their kosher vinaigrettes. Either way, another use of this dressing is to take a loaf of gifilte fish and coat it with 2 cups of the vinaigrette before baking as normal, as well as adding in some fresh raspberries around the loaf in the pan. This infuses the flavor into the gefilte, and gives it a unique taste that is hard to beat!

Now, another special spring delight is strawberries. They are just coming into season now, and much joy is brought to the table with these sweet berries. Now, traditionally, many will look to the classic chocolate-dipped strawberries to woo that loved one. These are easy to make yourself. Simply find some kosher dipping chocolate (Or use a fondue pot to melt some kosher chocolate), dip some large strawberries into the chocolate, and set them on a plate or platter to chill in the fridge to solidify. Try to use large berries with a nice long stem so that you have something to hold onto when dipping & eating.

But, as wonderful as this simple yet romantic dessert is, I prefer a more classic nod to youth, Strawberry Shortcakes! Now, I’d post a Kosher Strawberry shortcake recipe, but The Kosher Blog beat me to it! Furthermore, there’s even a Kosher for Pesach recipe floating around, as well. But, what I CAN do is reccomend a variation I use to liven it up a bit. Washing and dicing the strawberries up, I like to add in some fresh blueberries and diced kiwis into the mix for a bit of extra flavor, then using an ice cream scoop, I set the fruit mixture atop of a kosher shortcake (See above for baking one yourself, or check in your local grocery stores for kosher shortcakes. They DO exist!) before topping with freshly whipped cream. Another variation, for a true treat, is a dollop of dairy-free frozen vanilla yogurt, or even a dollop of strawberry sherbert! Either way, both of these alternatives are excellent for when serving this dish after a meat meal, so as not to break kashrut. The same fruit mixture could also be served in a tart shell, mabye adding in some mango, as well, to create a light dessert that most can eat with no worry! I hope this helped my readers to want to explore the wonders spring has in store for them, food-wise. Until next time, Shalom & Good Cooking!

May 1, 2006. dessert, recipes, salad. 1 comment.