Joy of Kosher

Just in time for Hanukkah, Jamie Geller, best-selling author and GKC friend, is back with a new book that you will love.  Joy of Kosher, Fast, Fresh, Family Meals is filled with gorgeous (so gorgeous!) pictures, and tons of recipes that will go from weekday to weekend.  With her fun flair and great style, Jamie makes everything look easy and delicious.

The book is filled with tips and ideas on how to dress up a dish for Shabbos or dress it down for a terrific quick dinner.  Recipes like Crystal Clear Chicken Soup with Julienned Vegetables and Angel Hair (Dress It Down: Chicken Noodle Alphabet Soup), Garlic Honey Brisket (Dress It Down: Honey Brisket Pita Pockets
), Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese (Dress It Down: Mac and Cheese Muffin Cups)
, and Gooey Chocolate Cherry Cake (Dress It Up: Red Wine Chocolate Cherry Heart Cake). Plus, Jamie offers a whole chapter on the art of making challah, 10 sweet and savory recipes, holiday menus, and a special Passover section.  See the sneak peak recipes at the end of this post.

I love the introduction too.  We get to meet Jamie’s adorable family in photos and see them all at work and play in their home.  Jamie is candid and funny about her life in food and how she has grown from the “bride who knew nothing” to as I call her, the “girl who uses saffron and sumac”.  That’s a lot of progress.

As Jamie says, “This book is for busy parents who want to make tasty food without a lot of fuss and who want to entertain without slaving in the kitchen and always elicit a lot of oohs and aahs.”  I think that makes it for just about everyone!

GKC got to speak with Jamie this week and she even squeezed in some time for some of our pressing questions.  Here is what she had to say.

GKC: What’s your favorite kitchen tool? Least favorite?
Jamie: Tongs – they are an extension of my arm!  Tied with my Wusthof 8-inch Chef’s Knife, also an extension of my arm.   2nd Most Favorite: Dutch Oven – feels homey and “professional” all at the same time.  Anyone that has a Dutch oven is serious (about cooking, or has some serious cash!) and knows what they are doing.  (Well at least that’s what I like to tell myself).  But I really love it because mine is RED – my fave color (after black and white – which are colors to me!). Sorry Elizabeth I know you asked for just one but I can’t help myself.  Least Favorite: My stand mixer.  In truth I absolutely adore it.  I have been known to hug it.  But right now it’s my nemesis because in my new Israeli kitchen I don’t have very much counter space so it lives on top of my fridge – and is such a production to pull down and plug in (to a 10 pound transformer!).  But once it’s doing its thing it falls into my most favorite kitchen tool category.

GKC: Any pantry items you can’t live without?
Jamie: Olive oil.  I live for olive oil, literally.  I don’t measure it (unless I am writing a recipe) I think it’s sacrilegious – as there is almost no such thing as too much good quality, extra virgin, cold pressed, fruity, rich, olive oil.

GKC: What’s your go to dinner?
Jamie: Duck Sauce Chicken with Herb Roasted Red Bliss Potatoes from my first book, Quick & Kosher Recipes From The Bride Who Knew Nothing.  This old habit just won’t die.

GKC: Wow, from the “Bride Who Knew Nothing” to a foodie who uses sumac and saffron, what’s your best advice for someone new to preparing meals?
Jamie: Don’t overdo things.  Start slow, don’t stress and cook with a smile.  Simple can taste good – really, really, really good.  Trust me! I have both built a career and feed my family around this very concept.

And just for GKC this week, a few of Jamie’s recipes from Joy of Kosher.  Garlic Honey Brisket (Dress it Up) and Honey Brisket Pita Pockets (Dress it Down).  AND…WOW! Gooey Chocolate Cherry Cake (super rich and delicious, with a hint of the cherry chunks running through it) and Dress it Down, Red Wine Chocolate Cherry Cake.  Thanks Jamie!

I made the Cilantro Corn Cakes (filled with my favorites like, cumin, corn, cilantro and lime) and the Stuffed Baked Onions (yum, stuffing with cranberry and challah and nutty crunch).  Both are easy, beautiful and just my kind of food.

Joy of Kosher is available in bookstores nationwide including Barnes & Noble, Amazon (just $18 on both Amazon and Barnes and Noble), and Jewish bookstores everywhere. GKC has one to giveaway so SUBMIT to win one too.

Q & A with GKC

This week it’s Q and A time. I love hearing from you and sometimes your great questions get posted but only the person who asked it, ever really sees the answer. So this week, I’m answering a few of your questions that I thought you might all be interested in.

Question: “ How should I store tomatoes? I heard they should not be refrigerated.”
GKC: Usually refrigeration extends the life of most fruits and vegetables, some produce like bananas and tomatoes can succumb to what is known as “chill injury” (btw, I get that in the winter in NY too J

Ripe tomatoes actually lose flavor in the refrigerator. For the most flavor and longest shelf life, store tomatoes at about 55 degrees (maybe in a wine fridge, or in a drawer in the regular refrigerator with independent temperature control). For those of you like me who do not have that swanky fridge, store them room temperature and use them within 4 days.

Question: “Can you ripen under ripe fruit in a paper bag?”
GKC: Funny but the paper bag method only works with fall and winter fruits that store starch like apples, pears, bananas, mangos (okay, one summer option), and kiwis. At home, you can increase the sweetness of these unripe fruits by putting them in a paper bag with a piece of already ripe fruit. Sorry, doesn’t work for summer fruits, just buy them almost ripe.

Question: “I have a new refrigerator with a “crisper drawer”, what is this and how does it work?”
GKC: I love this question because I also have many appliances that I am not sure how to use all the components so I’m thrilled to demystify this cool feature. Fresh fruits and vegetables are crisp because their cells contain a lot of water. Losing even 5% of this can make things like lettuce wilt. The crisper drawer is designed to retain moisture (not just chill). They do this with vent levers and dials to adjust humidity and air flow. For the crispest vegetables, especially leafy ones keep the vent 1/3 to ½ open, which will ensure a humid environment and still allow some ventilation. For crisp fruit, keep the vent closed to minimize the amount of oxygen that flows into the compartment. Strange but ripe fruit breathes on a cellular level so closing it, slows down respiration and increases storage life of the fruit.

Question: “So many cake recipes call for buttermilk, what can I substitute for that?”
GKC: For every ½ cup of buttermilk, I use ½ cup non-dairy milk or soymilk PLUS 1 tablespoon white vinegar. This really works well and I do it all the time.

Sukkah Hill Spirits Etrog Liqueur

etrog liqueur web image
I love it when someone’s innate talents and passions becomes a terrific business. That’s exactly what happened to friends Marni and Howard Witkin from Los Angeles. Marni, a talented cook and Howard an accomplished computer science and math guy (with two successful companies), year after year collected estrogim from friends in the neighborhood and whipped up a batch of their homemade Estrog Liqueur to share with others. It was just something fun to do with their estrogim. People loved it and begged for more, including a local market owner in LA who said, “If you bottle this, I’ll sell every one of them!” So that’s what they did. And thus Sukkah Hill Spirits was created and the first Etrog hand-crafted artisanal liqueur is now available from Vendome Wines and Spirits and soon in stores throughout the United States. BTW, it’s the only Etrog Liqueur available too.

Lucky for me, I got to speak to Marni and Howard about this new venture. And I got to taste it too! Wow! Fresh, flavorful, smooth, a hint of sweet, and definitely alcoholic (38% alcohol). I can’t wait for you to taste it too. Here’s what Sukkah Hill Spirits shared…

etrog blossoms
GKC: Where do you get your estrogim?
Sukkah Hill Spirits: This started with estrogim from friends in the neighborhood but as we became a real spirits manufacturer, we became expert estrog buyers, purchasing numerous varieties of estrogim, sweet, tangy and juicy.

GKC: How is Etrog Liqueur different from Citron vodka or Limoncello? Can I cook with it?
Sukkah Hill Spirits: The drinks are similar because they are both citrus drinks but also quite different. Our liqueur is made with Etrog not lemon. Just as an orange and a lemon are both citrus but have very different flavors, etrog has its own unique flavor and aroma. The etrog’s aroma is so wonderful, it is traditionally considered to be the aroma of Gan Eden itself. Our Etrog Liqueur is a clear, high proof aromatic sweet spirit. Lemoncellos are lower proof and sweeter and thicker/heavier. A citron Vodka is an unsweetened alcohol/vodka with a generally slightly bitter bite. And yes, you can cook with it.

GKC: I added it to a marinade and it tenderized a roast perfectly and gave my lemon mousse a great kick!

GKC: How do you make this incredible liqueur?
Sukkah Hill Spirits: We start with a mix of etrogim. Each variety brings a different quality to the drink. We have a proprietary extraction method (all natural) for getting the flavor from the fruit, followed by sweetening and getting the proof just right, It is tasted repeatedly 🙂 for quality and bottled and labeled according to each batch. It is completely handmade in small batches of just about 500 bottles per barrel.

etrog liqueur goes home
GKC: What’s your favorite way to drink it?
Sukkah Hill Spirits: Marni likes to mix it with rosemary, lime, sugar and gin. Others rave about it poured over ice cream or in a hot cup of tea. Howard likes it on the rocks with Templeton Rye.

GKC: My two cents is muddle fresh lime, add etrog liqueur, a splash of vanilla vodka and lemonade. We had it in the succah (I called it lemon lime etrog lemonade for adults J

GKC: So what’s next? Did I mention they recently won awards for top artisanal fruit liqueur?
Sukkah Hill Spirits: BESAMIM liqueur. It’s already being bottled and is ready to be sold. We won top awards for this flavor too! Think havdalah spices in a liqueur.

Now I have got to try that too! Thanks Marni and Howard for sharing this fantastic new spirit with GKC. Check out Sukkah Hill Spirits online or on facebook and try some. Get it Vendome Wines and Spirits or ask your local wine store to carry it. And don’t forget to submit to win a bottle too!

2013 Yom Tov Menu Ideas

So many recipe ideas, but what are you going to make? Here are some GKC menu ideas that I hope will simplify your holiday preparations. I’m a list maker for everything and somehow, once I get it all on paper I already feel like I’ve started.

Yom Tov Menu Ideas:
Asian Spiced and Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
Spinach Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette
Pickled Salmon with Sweet Dill Sauce
Sweet and Smoky Ribs
Balsamic Glazed Carrots
Curried Coconut Sweet Potato Mash
Apple Pie Bars

Day Meal:
Chilled Curry Mango Soup
Mixed Greens with Grapefruit and Pomegranate Salad
Wine Braised Lamb with Dried Fruit
Couscous with Lemon and Dried Fruit
Summer Corn and Tomato Salad
Peanut Butter and Honey Cookies
Open Faced Plum Tart

Nighttime Dairy Meal:
Roasted Tomato and Garlic Salmon
Caramelized Onion and Boursin Cheese Pizza
Roasted Broccoli with Seasoned Crumbs
Caesar Salad
Individual Banana Betty

Nighttime Meat Meal:
Red Lentil and Apricot Soup
Salmon Pinwheels
Mango Crunch Salad with Peanut Dressing
Prime Rib with Cabernet Juice
Zucchini with Tomato and Basil
Couscous with Lemon and Dried Fruit
Apple Cranberry Turnovers

And last year we suggested these:
Rosh Hashanah Salad
Roasted Asparagus
Slow Cooker Chicken Tagine
White House Honey Cupcake
more recipes from last year

Choosing, Cutting and Storing Pomegranates


Last year the LA Times ran this article and my friend Sabina saved it to share for Rosh Hashannah. It seemed timely, obviously with Rosh Hashannah around the corner. We are all buying pomegranates this time of year but more often all year long. I hope these tips help all year.

Sweet and tangy as they are, pomegranates are undoubtedly the “un-convenience” fruit. Few other foods demand as much of the eater. Not only do you have to break through that tough, leathery outer shell, but then you have to pry apart the pith to get to the delicious, edible parts.

Even after all that, you may well wind up with all of your clothes stained bright red. That’s probably why you rarely see anyone walking down the street snacking on a pomegranate. There’s an easy way to clean a pomegranate, though. Score the skin in quarters and open it up. Then put each quarter underwater and use your fingers to ream the seeds from the inside. The pith is light and will float to the top; the heavier seedy fruit will sink. Use them as garnishes for salads and desserts.

How to choose: Select pomegranates that are heavy for their size–they’ll be the juiciest. Don’t worry too much about the color of the rind: It can vary from completely red to reddish-brown without it affecting the quality. Do look for deep color though.

How to store: Pomegranates should be refrigerated; they’ll last at least three to four weeks. Once they’ve been seeded, the seeds also can be frozen in a tightly sealed bag.

Want to use pomegranates in some recipes? Try these recipes with pomegranates.

Beyond Honey Cake: Delicious Desserts Sweetened with Honey

Honeycake is traditionally served on Rosh Hashannah to symbolize a sweet new year.  And although my recipe for honey cake is tasty, most people are not too excited about this traditional dish.  So in an effort to sweeten the new year with honey I came up with a few recipes that are include sweet honey but are bigger crowd pleasers than honey cake.  These are so good that we don’t just make them for Yom Tov but include them in our repertoire all year long.

Peanut Butter and Honey Cookies
Honey Oatmeal Cookies
Lemon and Honey Cupcake with Lemon Honey Frosting
Honey and Dark Beer Chocolate Cake

Peanut Butter and Honey Cookies


Makes 18 big cookies

1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup unsalted margarine, softened
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (mine was slightly chilled)
1 tablespoon honey

2/3 cup finely chopped honey roasted peanuts or roasted peanuts
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar or coarse sugar or regular sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon


In a medium sized mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and salt.

In a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat together peanut butter, margarine, brown sugar, granulated sugar and honey, until creamy, about 1-2 minutes. Beat in egg and vanilla until well combined. Reduce mixer speed to low and gradually beat in flour until well combined. Place dough in freezer for 15 minutes, stir, and freeze for an additional 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling: Sift confectioners’ sugar into a medium sized mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter and honey until well combined. Shape mixture into 18 small balls, and place on a plate. Place plate in refrigerator until ready for use.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Coat a large sheet pan with cooking spray.

Make the coating by stirring together peanuts, turbinado sugar and cinnamon, in a small bowl, until well combined.

Remove bowl from freezer; shape dough into an 11 inch x 2 1/2 inch log. Wrap dough in plastic wrap to shape better. Slice dough into 18 equal pieces. Take each piece of dough, flatten with your hand, place a peanut butter ball in the center, and wrap dough around ball. Roll ball in your hands to shape better. Roll balls in peanut mixture, to coat completely; place on prepared sheet pan. Flatten cookies. Don’t flatten too much.

Bake at 375 degrees F for 13-15 minutes, or until edges of cookies are golden brown. Cool 4 minutes on sheet pan, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Thai Peanut Sauce

One of my favorite cooking ingredients is Peanut Butter because it is awesome in everything from appetizers to desserts. I use it in so many recipes: desserts, salad dressings, as a sauce or marinade, and coated on chicken. Here is one of my go-to Peanut Sauce recipes and then some delicious ideas on how to use it.

Great Go-To Peanut Sauce

Makes 2 cups
1 (1-inch) piece ginger, peeled
1 small garlic clove
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon (packed) light brown sugar
1/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon sesame oil

In a food processor, blend ginger and garlic clove into a until finely chopped. Add peanut butter, soy sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, red pepper flakes, sesame oil and 1/3 cup water and blend, adding more water by tablespoonfuls if needed to thin, until smooth.

Ideas and recipes for Great Go-To Peanut Sauce:
– Use it as a dip for vegetable crudite, or grilled chicken and steak
– Toss with noodles and add cucumbers and cilantro for great Peanut noodles
– Lather it on raw chicken or meat, marinade for 2 hours then bake either in a 375 degree oven or grill
– Add 2 tablespoons canola oil, and 1 teaspoon sesame oil to the sauce and toss with Spinach lettuce, sugar snap peas, mushrooms and almonds for a great salad
– Drizzle it over cooked vegetables like broccoli or spinach
– Top ice cream with it and add chocolate shavings

Grilling Time Chart: Your Time and Temperature Grilling Guide for Meat, Chicken and Vegetables

Grilling is not just for dads anymore. In fact, in our family, I’m the grill girl.  I love it though. I love how fast it is and the numerous flavor combinations that get enhanced from great grilling techniques.  I’ve been working with my new Weber Summit grill (it’s awesome) this summer (we shot some great videos that are coming soon) and have come up with my official “Grill Time and Temperature” charts to help you be a better griller. Print this chart and pull it out every time you fire up your grill. You’ll be able to cook everything exactly right, never too dry or undercooked.  Got a grilling question? Or want me to add something? Let me know, email me here, and I’ll send it out and add it to the chart. Happy grilling.

Grilling Beef
Steaks:  Grill steaks for the time given in the chart or till desired doneness, turning once halfway through grilling time.
Cooking Method: Multi-Level – sear over high heat then finish over medium heat.
For searing, allow 2 minutes for 1-inch-thick steaks and 4 minutes for 1½ – 2-inch-thick steaks. Turn steaks and move to a cooler medium heat to finish grilling, turning once halfway through remaining grilling time. The cooking times in the chart include searing.



Rare (130- 140°)

Medium (140- 155°)

Well (170°)

Flank steak, London broil, minute steak 1-1½ lbs. 10-15 min. 15-19 min.  
Thin strip steaks:

Skirt steak, mush steak,

1 in. 8-10 min. 10-12 min. 12-14 min.
Bone In steaks ¾ in. 5-7 min. 7-9 min. 9-11 min.
Other Steaks:


1 in.

1½ in.

2 in.

6-7 min.

10-12 min

15-17 min.

7-9 min.

12-15 min

17-19 min.

9-11 min

15-19 min.

19-22 min.

Roasts:  Place meat, fat side up, in center of cooking grate. Grill indirect for time given in chart. Use a meat thermometer to check meat for desired internal temperature.

Cooking Method: Indirect



Rare (125° F)

Medium (140°)

Well (170°)

Brisket, fresh 5-6 lbs     2½-3 hrs
French roast, boneless

Square roast

Delmonico roast

4-6 lbs 1½-2 hrs 2-2½ hrs 2½-3 hrs

Grilling Poultry
Boneless breast, turkey patties and turkey steaks:  Grill over medium heat for the time given in chart, turning once halfway through grilling time.

Cooking Method: Direct

Type Of Poultry


Medium (170 )


Chicken breasts, skinned and boned 4-5 oz. ea. (pounded to even thickness)   10-12 min.
Turkey patties (ground raw turkey) ¾ in. thick   10-12 min.
Turkey steaks 4-6 oz. ea. (pounded to even thickness)   10-12 min.

Poultry pieces (with or without skin):  Grill over medium heat for the time given in the chart. During the last 10 minutes of grilling time, brush with sauce, if desired.  I recommend marinating it for 2 hours and up to overnight in a sauce (without a lot of sugar – this tends to burn on the grill) to give the poultry some flavor.

Whole birds:  Place whole chicken or turkey, breast side up, in center of the cooking grate. Grill for the time given in the chart or until registers 180°. When checking for doneness with a meat thermometer, insert in the center of the inside thigh muscle, making sure the probe does not touch the bone.

Cooking Method: Direct for pieces.  Indirect for whole birds.

Type Of Poultry


Medium (170°)

Well (180°)

Broiler-fryer chicken, halves 1½-2 lbs.   1-1¼ hrs.
Broiler-fryer chicken, whole 3-4 lbs.

4-5 lbs.

5-6 lbs.

  1¼-1¾ hrs.

1¾-2 hrs.

2-2½ hrs.

Chicken breast halves, thighs, and drumsticks From 3-4 pound bird.  Adjust slightly for larger bird.   35-45 min.
Cornish game hens, halves ½-¾ lb. ea.   40-50 min.
Cornish game hens, whole 1-1½ lbs. ea.   45-60 min.
Turkey, boneless, whole 2½-3½ lbs.   1¾-2¼ hrs.
Turkey, *unstuffed, whole 6-8 lbs.

10-12 lbs.

14-18 lbs.

  1¼-2 hrs.

2-3 hrs.

3-4 hrs.

Turkey breasts, half 3-4 lbs. 1½-2 hrs.  
Turkey breasts, whole 4-6 lbs.

6-8 lbs.

1½-2¼ hrs.

2-3½ hrs


*Be sure to fully defrost turkey before grilling. When defrosting turkey in the refrigerator, allow 24 hours for every 5 lbs.

Cooking Method: Direct over medium heat
The trick with vegetables is getting them to cook through at the same time – not always an easy task since we frequently like to eat a variety of different veggies together but their grilling times vary widely.  Following these guidelines should help.  After a time or two you’ll be able to judge how to apply them to your particular grill and preferred degree of doneness.

Make sure you marinade the veggies or brush them first with oil to prevent sticking.  You may thread them on skewers, use a grilling basket or place them directly on the grill.  Cook them in a closed grill and turn once, halfway through the cooking time.


Grilling Time

Scallions ends trimmed 5 minutes
Tomatoes ½” slices 5 minutes
Summer Squash ¼” slices 10 minutes
Zucchini ¼” slices 10 minutes
Eggplant ¼” slices 10 minutes
Asparagus thick end trimmed 10 – 15 minutes
White Mushrooms whole 10 minutes
Bell Peppers 1″ wide strips or rings 10 minutes
Onions ½” slices 15 minutes
Potatoes ¼” slices 15 minutes


Making of Video


Crazy pic, right? Yes, that was taken this week while shooting video through all sorts of weather, strong sun, wind, and then rain. The results will still be amazing, thanks to the extraordinary efforts and lots of interesting photographer weather gear from the fabulous crew that shoots RECIPEBOXTV with me. They are not only a great film crew but also good tasters !

The making of cooking videos requires lots of special people. First, my glam girl, Judy from Cheveaux (516-374-2121), she makes me look good even after I’ve cooked 9 items, and sometimes the same thing under hot lights, three different times for three different cuts. And yes, it is more fun to cook with long lashes. Thanks Judy!

Next, much thanks goes to some of our sponsors.  This week we shot 8 grilling episodes with Weber.  I used their powerful and super functional Summit Grill and we made some fabulous food, starting with Grilled French Bread Brushetta, Roasted Garlic Marinated Grilled Chicken, Grilled Vegetable Salad, Coffee Rubbed Steak, and there was more, we used the side burner to make Sesame Noodles, and Homemade Lemonade (then an adult version).  Cuisinart, Kitchenaid, Le Crueset, and Thermapen were involved this week too, and we included some of my favorite products in the shoot like the immersion blender, the digital thermometer by Thermapen, and fantastic cookware by Le Crueset.

I must mention that although we use a crew of people, and this week we had the addition of my fantastic intern Sabina Barbanel and one of my daughters and her friend, this is a seriously intense endeavor.  We spend 8 hours shooting 4 episodes that are about 4 minutes each.  Sound crazy? It’s not, that’s what it takes to create great content, the best photography, live action, and dynamo results.  Having said all of that, it’s really fun and scary to be in front of the camera.  You can sound and feel so natural and then the camera rolls and the words, they just don’t come to you anymore, or the first part of what you wanted to say comes out and your mind is blank for the rest.  Once gain, I’m grateful we have a good production crew (and an amazing editor, thanks Lindsey!) that is patient with me and reminds me that I might want to talk about what we are making J

Stay tuned for more great videos coming on, (coming soon), and tons of sites that are syndicating the video content like aol, yahoo, and Meredith publishing.

Cooking with Emunah of America

Last week I had the great pleasure of presenting a Nine Days Cooking Demonstration to a group of young leaders for Emunah of America.  Not only did they have a terrific turnout but they were a super engaged and fun audience.  It’s amazing for me to see a large group of young women who are excited and eager to learn to cook and so many that already have great skills to share with others.

We had about an hour and a half of active cooking and questions and then plenty of time to enjoy what I prepared.  Being the Nine Days, we first prepared a Roasted Tomato and Garlic Salmon.  Check out the video for that recipe and all my tips and instructions. Next I had to share the best pizza ever, Caramelized Onion, shitake, and Boursin Cheese Pizza.  They were weary of this ingredient combo but those of you who remember how I rave about it for years, know that it may sound crazy but the results are fantastic and it will become a family favorite the first time you serve it. Then we enjoyed an Italian Vinaigrette Salad and a S’mores Pie.  Both incredible, easy to make, and absolutely gorgeous to look at.  Those recipes are in the upcoming book, so stay tuned and I’ll share them with you as soon as possible.  Or invite me to your event and I’ll cook up something fantastic for your group!

Many thanks to Dani for organizing the event and inviting me. And to Michelle for hosting it.  She always hosts events in the most elegant and welcoming way!  And mostly thank you to Emunah of America, who succeed in providing such vital work for so many people in need in Israel.  You name the need, they have it covered in some way.  From educational services, to social services, to crisis management, parenting, day-care centers, children’s residential homes and so much more, Emunah is working to improve the lives of people in Israel.  I am proud that I was able to be a part of their important work.

Menu before the Tisha B’Av Fast

The final days of the nine days culminate with a difficult fast. I have read and written about the best foods to eat before a fast. I’m not sure if any of it works and everyone has their own special twist or tip for surviving a long summer day with no food or drinks. Personally, I find it tough (although I am embarrassed to complain when all we need to do is fast to commemorate such troubling history of the Jewish people) and I stick to some classic hydrating dishes and flavors that I think help, like cold soup, watermelon, sorbet, honey and lemons. Here is my menu, please share yours.

Greek Yogurt Gazpacho
Cedar Planked Salmon with Dill Sauce
Couscous with Pinenuts
Beet, Avocado, Goat Cheese and Arugula Salad
Watermelon Sorbet

Nine Days Recipe Ideas

I actually enjoy testing and tasting recipes that work well during the nine days. I like to keep the meals light and flavorful and leave extra room for homemade or store bought ice cream. Here are a few recipes to add to your repertoire. And don’t forget to check out other great nine days recipes on GKC.

Pan Roasted Maple Halibut with Herbed Pistou
Mushroom and Spinach Frittata
Crispy Kani Salad with Cucumber and Spicy Mayo by Esther Deutsch
Salmon with Yogurt Zaatar Sauce

Nine Days Pasta – Choosing the right strand

Time for pasta but choosing the right strand is more than just about what you have in the pantry.  Choosing the right pasta depends on the topping.  The shape should be dictated by the type of sauce you are preparing with it.  Here are a few tips to go by:

Tubes: Tubular shapes like penne and ziti are perfect with hearty and thick sauces like meaty tomato based sauces.  Ridged ones capture even more sauce.  Try this Bolognese Pasta with tubes or with spaghetti.  For the nine days, use soy meat instead of beef.

Ribbons: Wide, flat pastas like pappardelle are ideal for sopping up creamy sauces.  Generally, the wider the noodle, the heavier the sauce.  I like linguine with artichokes.

Long strands:  Long, round pasta like spaghetti are best with olive oil and tomato based sauces, which coat each strand evenly.  Go thinner for delicate preparations.  A good one to try is Spaghetti with Red and Yellow Peppers (if you do not cook with wine during the nine days, just omit it and use 4 cloves of garlic with the olive oil).

Shapes: Chunky vegetable sauces absolutely go better with short pastas that have lots of crevices to trap the sauce.  Try this Eggplant and Ricotta Pasta, it’s perfect with shaped noodles.

Try lots of pastas with different types of noodles.  See pasta index here.

Bat Mitzvah

It’s graduation and Bat Mitzvah week in our family (and getting off to camp too).  That means lots to celebrate and a very insane schedule.  So crazy that I am not even sure how I put dinner on the table each night. Somehow, some way, it all comes together thanks to my kids help and some quick and easy recipes each night.  And one more thing. Open a good bottle of wine each night and relax.  This week it was all about Goose Bay.  I chose  a Goose Bay Pinot Noir, its light, and crisp, and the perfect amount of fruity for any of these midweek dinners. It’s a great Shabbos Day wine too.

Here is my crazy schedule, midweek, survival menu….
Sesame Chicken
Chicken Strips with Bow Ties
Easy Weekday London Broil

Chipotle Maple Sauce

Chipotle sauce

Makes 1 cup

2 chipotles in adobo, seeded
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, non-fish
2 tablespoons margarine, softened

In a food processor, combine all of the ingredients and puree until smooth. Scrape into a small saucepan and simmer for 2 minutes, until glossy. Use on chicken, turkey and beef.

Dad’s Day Barbeque Sauces

You can certainly buy any variety of sauces from the market and yes, some are quite good but I prefer to make my own for several reasons. First, most store bought sauces have a lot of sugar and artificial ingredients like liquid smoke. I like to control the amount of sugar and use natural ingredients. I also like to vary the flavors like sometimes I make it spicy with extra adobe chiles and sometimes I add roasted garlic to give it richness or soy for an Asian inspired BBQ. Homemade sauces keep for weeks in the refrigerator and can be used over and over again.

Check out the video on my favorite homemade BBQ sauce here.

Here are a few others that I like keeping in the fridge to use all summer.

Chipotle Maple Sauce
Spicy Peanut Sauce
Honey Mustard Sauce

Honey Mustard Sauce


Makes 1 cup

1 cup prepared yellow mustard
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup white vinegar
Kosher salt to taste
Black pepper to taste

In a saucepan over medium heat, stir together the mustard, honey, brown sugar and vinegar. Season with kosher salt and black pepper. Bring to a boil, and let simmer for 5 minutes. Use as a marinade or dipping sauce for chicken, meat or fish. .

Spicy Peanut Sauce

photo © John Kernick

photo © John Kernick

Makes 1 cup

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup coconut water
1 tablespoon Sriracha
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger
1 garlic clove

In a food processor or blender, combine all of the ingredients and puree until smooth. Use on noodles, chicken, fish or tofu.

How to Juice a Lime

We often hear about how to get more juice out of a lemon, like rolling it with your hand to release the juices inside or squeezing them at room temperature. Juicing limes is a whole other concept and one that is rarely discussed. I think people find it difficult and get so little juice that they choose buying the lime juice in a bottle. So, after squeezing and testing many methods I have the official “My most successful lime squeezing method”. You must try it. I guarantee you will have much more juice and all your recipes will taste amazing with fresh lime.
Here is the basic concept, instead of slicing the lime in half, hold the lime on the cutting board with the top stem up and the bottom on the cutting board. Make a cut on the side of the lime as if there was a center pit, like a mango. Slice through the top to bottom but not at the center, as if the pit was in the center. A lime has a core in it that blocks the juices when you cut it through the center. Turn it around and cut down the other side, again leaving the center core in tact. Now cut two small slices on the two remaining sides leaving the center core as garbage.

Now squeeze the slices. You will be amazed at how much more juice you get from these smaller pieces. The juice is pungent and smells wonderful and adds zing to everything. I love it in guacamole and in Won Ton Cups with Smoked Salmon and Avocado Salad

Jalapeno Pepper

I am here to personally defend the jalapeno pepper. Dubbed super spicy and often removed from recipes this flavorful pepper needs some assistance. Most people do not realize that jalapenos, especially those that are larger than 2 inches long and on the plump side are not spicy at all and more like a strong green pepper (btw, the smaller the pepper, any color, the spicier it is, so watch out for those cute adorable and little habaneros or scotch bonnets, they have a super spicy punch).

The heat in a jalapeno lives in the white center membrane and on the seeds inside. So if you like spice, buy smaller jalapenos and chop them with the seeds and membranes and add it to your recipe. If you prefer mild flavors, don’t omit the pepper! Just cut it properly so that you can remove the spiciness and then get all the great jalapeno flavor and no spiciness. To cut them, slice them in half, and then scrape out the white membrane and seeds with a pairing knife. Do not use your fingers or you will end up with strong spice on your hands which will transfer to your eyes or nose if you touch them. After the seeds are removed, just chop them like any other pepper. Make sure you wash your hands with warm soapy water after working with jalapenos. Of all the peppers, jalapenos are so easy to work with because you have so much control. They add such depth of flavor and a hint of Mexican seasoning to any recipe. I vote to give the jalapeno another chance! I’d love to hear from you and let me know if you gave them a try. Two of my favorite recipes to use them in are Creamy Asian Coleslaw and Tortilla Soup.

Chag Sameach

Just a few days to go and I am sure your cooking has begun. Here are a few more extra recipes for those dairy meals. Each are not only delicious but are quick and easy and sure to be a crowd pleaser. I love the sweet potato gratin. The tanginess of the goat cheese and the sweet potatoes pair so well. The pecan streusel bars are just plain addicting. My kids love the rustic look and taste of the pesto smashed potatoes and everyone loves my Aunt Thelma’s Chilled Strawberry Sour Cream Soup.

Chag Sameach!


GKC loves cheesecake and we have over 40 cheesecakes in our index waiting for you to make for Shavuos!  Seriously how could you decide which one to make? Oreo cheesecake, one of my all time favorites, The White House Special Cheesecake, Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake, or classic or so many other choices.  Share which cheesecake you are making and share the recipe too so we can try it and add it to our collection.

This year we added a few more to try out and enjoy.  Both are spins on the traditional with a little zing.  I loved testing and tasting them and now I’m even more confused about what to make on Shavuos!

Three Cheese No Bake Cheesecake
Caramel Pear Cheesecake Trifle


The Recipe Box

Here it is, the GKC video series which we are calling The Recipe Box. The videos were so much fun to make. Special thanks to SW and MH for lending me their awesome kitchens. We have completed about 20 episodes and I can’t wait to share them with you. Let me know what you think, what you want to see me make and catch the others on

The New GKC

Did you see our new look? In an effort to make GKC more fun, easier to use, and full of content that you read, enjoy, and use, I have updated the look of GKC. What do you think?
So here is what is new and different. Each week I will feature one new recipe in the recipe of the week section (sometimes more in the blog too) but one recipe that is carefully tested and photographed. I’m trying to appeal to all palates so hang in there when its not to your taste but comment and send out (yup via email, facebook, twitter, instagram) the ones that you like (GKC is only as strong as my audience so help us to continue to grow!). Also weekly, I will share a blog post, a food thought, an insightful tip or yes, finally a cooking video (did you see me on . I have cleaned up and streamlined the index so you can find the recipes you want faster. We still have our terrific Wine section, Great Products, Cooking With Kids, and Giveaways but they will alternate week to week. I love hearing from you and creating recipes that you are excited to try so keep up the great comments, questions, and share some of your recipes too! Your recipe box is still saved, you just have to login to access it (no worries, we can reset anyone who forgot their info). While we enhance the site, please be patient with the technical difficulties but let me know if something is not working right.

Thank you for your terrific enthusiasm and support for GKC. Your great energy is what keeps it going! Happy cooking!