Menu: Soy Vey! (Vegetarian) Dinner

As part of my study and exploration of kashrut, I have been learning about the importance and traditions surrounding vegetarianism in Judaism. It felt like a great time to host another dinner party with a vegetarian theme. The menu went through several changes in the weeks of planning and, although the meal did not include any soy, I liked the title, so I kept it.

This meal was also in contrast with that of the first dinner party, which included meat and thus could not include any dairy in order to be kosher-style.

I think I have reached a comfort zone in terms of keeping moderately kosher. I no longer eat pork. I was never a huge fan of shellfish, so that hasn't been difficult to replace. The idea of not mixing meat and dairy was initially a challenge, but it has gotten much easier. I don't eat a lot of meat anymore, which has been made easier because I bring my lunch to work, and our staff kitchen is vegetarian/dairy only. And most restaurants don't buy kosher meat, which makes ordering in those places a lot easier.

I also feel like I am making better food choices as a result of these changes. I am eating more fruits and vegetables, more fish, and getting more creative with the things I seek out and prepare.

So, without further ado: 

Nosh: Challah with goat cheese and fig jam

I made a different, simpler challah than my usual recipe. Honestly, this might become my new standard because it's easy and delicious. Its sweetness also only comes from honey, there's no added sugar. Complimented by goat cheese and my uncle's homemade fig jam, it was a perfect pre-dinner nosh.


  • 2.25 tsps. active dry yeast
  • One (1) tsp. honey
  • 2/3 cup hot water
  • Three (3) large eggs
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • Two (2) tsps. kosher salt
  • Four (4) cups bread/all purpose flour
  • Sesame seeds (optional)

1. In a measuring cup, mix the water, one (1) tsp. of honey, and yeast, and let sit until the yeast is activated (it becomes foamy).

2. In a bowl, mix two (2) of the eggs, the olive oil, honey, and salt. Add the yeast mixture and stir until combined. Add the flour, mixing the dough until it forms a smooth ball.

3. Coat a bowl with some olive oil, roll the dough in it, and cover with plastic wrap. Let this rise until doubled in size. Note: I put my dough in the fridge, then remove it in the morning to rise for several hours.

4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

5. Once it has risen, separate the dough into three equal strands and braid it. In a separate bowl, beat the remaining egg, then brush the braided dough with it. Sprinkle with seeds or salt (if desired).

6. Bake for about 37 minutes. The bread will be ready when it is a nice golden brown color, and sounds hollow when you tap it. Let it cool for a few minutes, then enjoy plain, with a little salt, or any toppings you'd like to add.

Nosh: Quick pickles

I love pickles. These were super simple to make, and delicious. You can pick your favorite veggies. I chose okra, cauliflower, beets, green beans, and bell peppers. I also made enough brine that I have some leftover to make another batch, or to repurpose (because there are a lot of creative uses for pickle brine). These pickles are ready the next day, but will last for about one month in the refrigerator. I made these about a week before the party.


  • You will want about 12 oz. each of whatever veggies you choose; for each veggie, you will make a brine with the following ingredients:
  • One (1) Tbsp. mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. whole black peppercorns
  • 1/2 tsp. whole green peppercorns
  • 1.25 cups cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Two (2) Tbsps. kosher salt
  • One (1) bay leaf

1. Clean and prepare the veggies, and put them in glass jars, leaving about half an inch of room at the top.

2. Toast the mustard seeds and peppercorns over medium heat until fragrant, then add the other ingredients. Stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Bring to a boil.

3. Add the brine immediately to the jars. Let them cool to room temperature before sealing. Seal, shake to mix up the contents, then refrigerate until ready to eat.

Appetizer: Spicy watermelon salad with fennel

This salad doesn't necessarily sound like it should work, but it does. Beautifully. Note: The dressing is very spicy, so you should adjust the amount of red pepper as desired.


  • Mixed greens (lettuce, arugula, spinach, kale, etc.)
  • One (1) lb. cut watermelon
  • One (1) fennel bulb
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Four (4) cloves garlic, minced
  • Two (2) Tbsps. crushed red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Crumbled goat cheese (optional)

1. To prepare the spicy dressing, add the olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes to a saucepan. Bring to a low boil, then reduce the heat to low and let simmer for about 30 minutes.

2. Thinly slice the fennel bulb using a mandolin, then chop into small pieces. Toss with the greens, watermelon, and dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste.  Top with crumbled goat cheese or feta.

Entree: Ratatouille with herbed cauliflower "couscous"

Ratatouille is one of my favorite dishes, though it is not an easy task to prepare. Or so I thought. My standard ratatouille was Julia Child's recipe. So, I was over the moon when I found Smitten Kitchen's version, which I altered only slightly. And the best part is it's based (loosely) off the recipe in the Disney movie, which is a personal favorite.

The way the vegetables are prepared for this recipe, a mandolin will save you a lot of time and effort. Also, use a Dutch oven if you have one.

Note: I doubled Deb's recipe, as I was cooking for about ten people. I ended up having some of the sauce left over, which I used for some pasta.


  • One (1) onion
  • Four (4) garlic cloves, minced
  • Two (2) cans of tomato puree
  • Two (2) Tbsps. olive oil, divided
  • Two (2) graffiti eggplants (smaller, and with marbled skin)
  • Two (2) zucchini
  • Two (2) yellow squashes
  • Two or three (2 or 3) long, red bell peppers
  • Fresh thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • Two medium heads of cauliflower
  • Four (4) Tbsps. unsalted butter
  • One (1) Tbsp. herbes de Provence

1. Trim the ends off the vegetables (onion, eggplant, zucchini, squash, peppers), then slice thinly using a mandolin.

2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

3. Pour once can of tomato puree in the bottom of the Dutch oven. Add half of the garlic, half of the olive oil, some salt and pepper, then stir to combine. Add the vegetables in concentric circles, alternating layers, e.g., one layer of eggplant, one of zucchini, then onion, repeat.

4. Add the second can of tomato puree, the remaining garlic and olive oil, salt and pepper, and some sprigs of fresh thyme (about 2 tsps. worth). Cover the Dutch oven and bake for about 50 minutes.

5. For the cauliflower "couscous", break the cauliflower into florets and put in a food processor. Process until you have little couscous-sized grains.

6. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the cauliflower and herbes de Provence, and mix well. Reduce heat to low, cover, and let cook for about 10 - 15 minutes.

7. Once the ratatouille is ready, serve over the cauliflower. You can garnish with goat cheese if desired.

Dessert: Atlantic Beach pie with a matzoh crust

I wanted to put a "Jewish" twist on this pie - a personal favorite for the summer months - by making the crust out of matzoh meal. Now, the crust didn't turn out perfectly, but the flavor was great. (To compensate, I also served chocolate cake with Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia frozen yogurt, which is an awesome combo.)


  • Ten (10) oz. matzoh meal
  • 1/2 cup softened, unsalted butter
  • Three (3) Tbsps. sugar
  • One (1) can sweetened, condensed milk
  • Four (4) egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup lemon or lime juice - I used 1/4 cup of each
  • Whipped cream and coarse sea salt to garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Mix the butter, matzoh meal, and sugar. Press them into a pie dish, chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes, then bake for 18 minutes.

3. In a bowl, mix the condensed milk and egg yolks. Add the citrus juice and mix until completely combined. Pour into the crust, then bake for 16 minutes.

4. Let cool completely before serving. (I put it back in the refrigerator for several hours.) Garnish with whipped cream and sea salt to serve.

Signature Cocktail: Skip and Go Naked

I like to have a fun signature cocktail for these events. This is a favorite that some friends used to have at all of their parties when we lived in New York.


  • 6-pack of beer (I used Dos Equis)
  • Once (1) can of pink lemonade concentrate
  • 2 cups of vodka

1. Mix the ingredients in a large container, and serve over ice.

This dinner was a lot of fun. My friend Michael led the group in the havdalah service to mark the end of Shabbat. For many of the people at the table, it was the first time they had ever experience havdalah, which made the experience of sharing it with them more meaningful. There was also some great discussion about kashrut, and some ideas for the next dinner party!

Thank you, and enjoy!


Posted on August 24, 2015 .

Recipe: Sweet-and-sour Cucumber Salad

Anyone who knows me, knows that I love cucumbers. Like, a lot. Whether raw with just a dash of salt, pickled, skin-on or skin-off - doesn't really matter. So, when I found this article, I had to try at least one of the recipes immediately. And I'm glad I chose this one. It reminds me of the cucumber salad my mom used to make, though this one has a depth that makes it a knockout.


  • Five (5) medium cucumbers, sliced into thin rounds
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • One (1) small onion, cut in half then sliced into thin strips
  • 1/3 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1/3 cup filtered water
  • Two (2) Tbsps. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • Additional salt, and pepper to taste

1) Mix the cucumber, onion, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.

2) In a separate bowl, mix the vinegar, water, sugar, and paprika. Pour this mixture over the cucumber and onion, then cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

3) Enjoy!

Posted on August 2, 2015 .

Menu: Sweet and Savory Dinner

Entrée: Honey Chicken with Fruit

This recipe, though slightly modified, comes from "Matzoh Ball Gumbo: Culinary Tales of the Jewish South" by Marcie Cohen Ferris.


  • Two (2) cups orange juice
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • Two (2) Tbsps. fresh lemon juice
  • One (1) Tbsp. grainy mustard
  • 1.5 tsps. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • Eight (8) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • One (1) cup pitted prunes
  • One (1) cup dried apricot halves

1) Whisk together the orange juice, honey, lemon juice, mustard, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Wash the chicken breasts and lay them in a single layer in a large baking dish. Add the marinade, cover, and let sit in the fridge for at least two hours, or overnight if preparing in advance.

2) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Scatter the dried fruit on top of and around the chicken. Bake for about 45 minutes, making sure to baste the chicken once or twice with the juices. The chicken will be ready when the thickest part is no longer pink.

3) Serve with the fruit and marinade.

Side: Green Bean Salad


  • One (1) lb. fresh green beans, trimmed
  • Three (3) medium tomatoes, quartered
  • One (1) medium onion, chopped
  • Two (2) cloves of garlic, minced
  • Two (2) Tbsps. Earth Balance brand vegan "butter" spread
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Two (2) Tbsps. fresh lemon juice

1) Heat the "butter" over medium heat. Add the garlic, green beans, salt, and pepper. Sautee until the green beans are cooked but still have a little crunch.

2) In a large bowl, mix the green beans, tomatoes, onion, and add the lemon juice. Cover and let cool in the fridge until ready to serve.

Side: Cauliflower "Rice"

I love rice, but I wanted to try something new and different. And it was worth it!


  • One (1) small head of cauliflower
  • Two (2) cloves of garlic, minced
  • One (1) Tbsp. Earth Balance brand vegan "butter" spread
  • Salt and pepper to taste

1) Shred the cauliflower into rice using a grater or food processor.

2) In a medium pan, heat the "butter", garlic, and cauliflower rice over medium heat. Add salt and pepper. Cover and let simmer for about ten (10) minutes, until slightly browned.

3) Put a couple of large of rice on a late. Top with the chicken, fruit, and sauce. Add the cooled green bean salad on the side.

4) Enjoy!

Posted on August 2, 2015 .

Recipe: Stuffed Tomatoes

I was inspired to come up with this recipe after looking through some of the recipes featured in "The Vilna Vegetarian," a cookbook I just bought and will be incorporating into this project, and after I made this recipe from my friend Kirsten's blog. I made these for a vegetarian/dairy Shabbat potluck dinner, and they were a hit.


  • Six to eight (6 - 8) large tomatoes
  • Two (2), eight (8) oz. packages of sliced mushrooms
  • Three (3) stalks of celery, washed and chopped on an angle
  • One medium onion, diced
  • Five (5) Tbsps. unsalted butter
  • Two (2) Tbsps. olive oil
  • One (1) Tbsp. rosemary
  • Salt and pepper to taste

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2) Cut the tops off the tomatoes, then remove the insides, making sure to get all of the seeds out. Discard. Grease a large baking dish, and place as many of the tomatoes as you can in a single layer. Bake the tomatoes for about 15 minutes to soften and dry them out.

3) Melt the butter in a large pan. Add the mushrooms, onion, celery, salt, and pepper. Mix so they are thoroughly coated in the butter. Let this braise for about ten (10) minutes. Cover and let simmer until the liquid has mostly cooked down.

4) Brush the inside of the tomatoes with the olive oil and rosemary. Bake for about ten (10) minutes, then remove from the oven.

5) Add the mushroom mixture to the tomatoes. Serve hot. (I refrigerated the tomatoes overnight, and simply reheated them in the oven before serving.)

6) Enjoy!

Posted on August 2, 2015 .

Recipe: Baked Tofu with Broccoli


  • Eight (8) oz. extra firm tofu
  • Eight (8) oz. broccoli florets
  • One (1) onion, chopped
  • Two (2) cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Two (2) Tbsps. olive oil
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. five spice powder
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. mustard powder
  • 1/2 tsp. sesame seeds (optional)

1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2) Drain the block of tofu. Then, wrap in an absorbent cloth, and apply some weight. (I put it on a cutting board and placed a pan with a bag of lentils in it on top.) Let this sit for about 15 minutes to allow more liquid to be pressed out.

3) Remove the tofu and cut into small cubes. Place the cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 25 minutes. The tofu should turn golden brown and puff up a little. Remove it from the oven and let it cool.

4) Mix the soy sauce, five spice powder, ginger, and mustard in a small bowl. Add the cooled tofu and let marinate for at least 15 minutes.

5) In a medium skillet over medium heat, cook the onion and garlic in the olive oil until the onion turns slightly translucent. Add the broccoli, salt, and pepper. Once the broccoli is cooked, add the tofu and marinade, stir, and let simmer.

6) Garnish with sesame seeds, and serve hot. Enjoy!

Posted on July 29, 2015 .

Recipe: Avocado-baked Eggs with Soyrizo-and-Tofu Hash


  • Eight (8) oz. extra firm tofu, cut into small cubes
  • Six (6) oz. soy chorizo - I used Trader Joe's brand
  • Two (2) Tbsps. olive oil
  • One (1) onion, chopped
  • Two (2) cloves of garlic, minced
  • One (1) avocado, cut in half lengthwise
  • Two (2) large eggs
  • Salt and pepper to taste

1) Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

2) Add the olive oil to a medium skillet on medium heat, and add the garlic and onion. Add salt and pepper, and stir occasionally until the onions start to become translucent. Add the tofu and soy chorizo. Turn the heat up to medium-high, stir, and let the mixture get slightly charred.

3) Place the mixture in the bottom of a baking dish. Put the two avocado halves side-by-side on top of the hash. Crack one egg in each half. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes. (I do not like runny eggs, so I baked my eggs longer ... Too long, actually, as the picture above shows.)

4) Place an avocado half on a plate, add some of the hash, top with your favorite hot sauce (if desired), and enjoy!

Posted on July 29, 2015 .

Quick Bites Review: New York Bagels

My new job has some great perks. High on the list is the bagels from New York Bagels that we are treated to every Wednesday morning. The morning minyan has breakfast after service, and they give us the leftovers. The bagels are true to the name, in that they are reminiscent of the bagels I used to get in New York.

I look forward to these every week, so New York Bagels is obviously doing something right. Highly recommended.

Posted on July 27, 2015 .

Menu: Jerusalem Dinner

I've been playing it a little fast and loose with the part of this project that was oriented toward cooking my way through three cookbooks I chose for their emphasis on different types of Jewish food. So, one weekend, I decided to make a couple of dishes from Yotam Ottolenghi's "Jerusalem: A Cookbook". I previously made the Shakshuka recipe from this cookbook.

I'm a big fan of beets, so I started with:

Recipe: Spicy Beet, Leek, & Walnut Salad

 Unfortunately, I was too excited to eat to take an actual photo. So here's a photo of the photo in the book.

Unfortunately, I was too excited to eat to take an actual photo. So here's a photo of the photo in the book.


  • Two (2) cans of peeled, canned beets (about 28 oz.) - the original recipe calls for fresh beets, but I used canned
  • Four (4) medium leeks, cut into 4-inch segments use the white part of the leeks
  • 1/2 oz. cilantro, coarsely chopped - I forgot to include this and, tbh, it wasn't missed
  • 1 1/4 cups or arugula
  • 1/3 cup pomegranate seeds - none of the three groery stores I went to had pomegranate or pomegranate seeds, but I'm sure they would add a lot
  • Dressing: Emeril's Simple Balsamic Vinaigrette
  • Add one (1) cup of chopped walnuts
  • Optional: Add red chili flakes to prepared salad

1) Drain the beets, then cut them into quarters and set aside in a bowl.

2) Put the leeks in a medium pan with salted water, bring to a boil, and let simmer for about ten (10) minutes, until they're just-cooked. They should be tender, but not fall apart. Drain the pan, then run the leeks under cold water. Cut each segment into three (3) smaller pieces, pat dry, then place in a bowl. (If you put them in the same bowl with the beets, the leeks will leach some of the color, just FYI.) If you're using cilantro, you will mix that with the leeks (and beets, if together).

3) Add the walnuts to the dressing and mix.

4) To serve: Place some arugula on the plate, top with the leeks and beets, then coat lightly with the dressing.

Recipe: Roasted Chicken with Jerusalem Artichoke & Lemon

 Photo courtesy of David Miller

Photo courtesy of David Miller


  • Two (2) cans of artichoke hearts (about 28 oz.), drained - the recipe calls for Jerusalem artichoke but, again, couldn't find them or fresh regular artichokes anywhere
  • Three (3) Tbsps. lemon juice
  • Eight (8) bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • 12 shallots, halved lengthwise
  • 12 large cloves of garlic, sliced
  • One (1) tsp. saffron threads - expensive!
  • 3.5 Tbsps. olive oil
  • 2/3 cup of cold water
  • 1.5 Tbsp. crushed pink peppercorns
  • 1/4 cup of fresh thyme leaves
  • One (1) cup of chopped tarragon leaves - tastes like anise/fennel/licorice
  • Two (2) tsps. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

1) Put the artichokes and half of the lemon juice in a medium saucepan, and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then lower the temp and simmer for about 10 - 20 minutes until tender. Then drain the water and let cool.

2) Put the artichokes, as well as the remaining ingredients - minus the lemon juice ad half of the tarragon - in a large bowl and mix together by hand. Cover with plastic wrap and let marinate for at least two (2) hours. (But, in my experience: the longer, the better.)

3) Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Arrange the chicken, skin side up, in a large baking dish or roasting pan. Spread the remaining ingredients around the chicken, and bake for 50 minutes. Remove, cover with aluminum foil, then roast for another 15 minutes.

4) Remove from the oven, add the remaining lemon juice and tarragon. Stir, add salt and pepper (if needed), and serve.

Marcella's Butter Almond Cake

This recipe actually comes from a recently-published memoir by Jessica Fechtor, and was featured in The Forward, which is where I discovered it. It is one of the best desserts I have ever had.


  • Three (3) Tbsps. sliced almonds
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 1.5 cups of granulated sugar, plus one (1) Tbsp. for finishing
  • Two (2) large eggs
  • 1.5 tsps. almond extract
  • 1.5 tbsps. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1.5 cups of pastry flour
  • A pinch of coarse sea salt

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a pie dish with oil or butter.

2) Place the sliced almonds in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for about 5 - 7 minutes, until slightly browned and fragrant.

3) Whisk together the sugar and melted butter. Add the eggs, almond extract, vanilla extract, kosher salt, and mix well. Add the flour and mix with a spatula.

4) Spread the batter in the pie dish. Spread the toasted almonds, coarse sea salt, and one (1) Tbsp. of sugar over the top of the batter. Bake for about 35 minutes, until a toothpick or knife can be inserted and removed cleanly. Cool for a few minutes on a rack, then remove from the pie dish and serve.

5) Enjoy!

Posted on July 27, 2015 .