Kosher Kitchen

Enjoying comforting foods during trying times


I know that this is the food column, a fun and lighthearted fork in the road away from the news of the day. I also know that, lately, I have gravitated towards food columns in the major papers these past weeks. But like during any other stressful time in our lives, we know that food is part of our daily existence, and, despite the stomach-churning news, we have to eat, our families have to eat.

But, perhaps like some of you, I have had no desire to eat much these days. My stomach is tied in knots, the news is so upsetting, and social media is more a stressor than the fun comfort of pictures of friends’ vacations, puppies, and grandchildren. At times, I have absented myself from painful discussions that verge on tense disagreements among friends and relatives. Like you, I fear for my relatives, dear friends and friends’ and relatives’ children and precious grandchildren living in Israel.

But food is not political. It is life. It is a necessity. We must feed our children and shield them as much as possible from news that scares us to our cores. We have to nourish them and provide the cookies they love, the dinners they need-we need, and the lunches and snacks they must have for school each day — even if each bit if food gets stuck in our own throats.

And Shabbat will come each week and we must celebrate and hold on to the hope that by the next Shabbat, peace will miraculously come.

This past Shabbat, I made the simple roast chicken with fruit along with simple mashed potatoes that my mother would make when we were sick. I remember her making a version of this after my grandmother’s funeral — for 30 people! This may even have been my grandmother’s recipe. It is fairly easy to prepare, easy to digest and provides comfort in the simple tradition of a chicken for Shabbat. Comfort foods are necessary sometimes.

In the coming days, make foods that bring you comfort. Meanwhile, we will continue to pray for peace.

Chicken With Dried Winter Fruits (Meat)

2 chickens, cut into eighths

2 cups mixed dried fruits such as apricots, prunes, cranberries, currants, cherries, raisins, peaches, pears, nectarines, Angelino plums, etc. Do not use dried pineapple or apples for this recipe

1 cup orange juice

1 onion thinly sliced; slices cut into quarters

4 to 8 garlic cloves peeled and chopped, to taste

OPTIONAL: 1 (1-inch) piece ginger, peeled, grated, about 2 tsp.

1/4 to 1/2 cup white wine, to taste

4 Tbsp. canola oil

Juice of 1 or 2 lemons

2 to 4 Tbsp. dark brown sugar

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the fruit and orange juice and let sit for 15 minutes. If some of the fruit pieces are large, cut them into smaller pieces. Combine the fruit and juice, the onion, garlic, ginger, wine, lemon juice, brown sugar, salt and pepper and canola oil in a large bowl. Mix to blend. Let sit for 15 minutes. Taste and adjust sugar, juice, wine, etc. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Add the chicken pieces, toss to coat, and pour into a large roasting pan. Arrange the chicken pieces and bake in a preheated oven for 45 to 75 minutes, or until a thermometer registers 165 degrees. Remove from the oven and plate the chicken. Pour the pan juices and fruit into a serving bowl. Skim off the fat and serve. Serves 6 to 8.

NOTE: You can make this with a whole chicken, just make sure there is enough liquid in the pan to prevent burning.

Almost Traditional Macaroni and Cheese (Dairy)

This is the real deal, rich and delicious, with a veggie twist. Use as a side dish with broiled fish and a big salad.

1 stick butter

1/2 cup flour

1 quart skim milk

1-1/2 to 2 cups regular milk (adds extra creaminess

1 pound elbow macaroni

1 large broccoli crown, cut into very small pieces

8 ounces white mushrooms, sliced and then the slices cut into pieces

1 cup shredded carrots, about 2 to 3 carrots

1 bunch chives, minced

1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup bread or cornflake crumbs

4 Tbsp. butter, divided in half

Salt and pepper to taste

*3 cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese

*2 cups grated Monteray Jack cheese

*2 cups grated mild white cheddar cheese

*You can use any cheeses you like except mozzarella.

Optional: 1 onion, finely chopped and sautéed until lightly golden; 1 tsp. to 1 Tbsp. brown mustard mixed in with the cheese sauce

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a large, deep lasagna pan. Set aside. Place the grated cheeses in a bowl and toss to mix them. Set aside.

Heat a large skillet and add two tablespoons of butter. Add the mushrooms and cook until they exude their liquid. Cook a minute or two more, until they begin to reabsorb the liquid and they turn a bit brown. Transfer the mushrooms to a bowl. Add a bit more butter to the skillet and add the broccoli.

Stir until the florets begin to turn bright green, then add about 1 teaspoon of water to the pan. Cover and steam for about 30 seconds. Add the broccoli to the mushrooms. Add a bit more butter to the pan and add the carrots. Stir fry for about 30 seconds, moving the carrots constantly. Turn off the heat.

Add the carrots to the bowl of veggies. Mince the chives and add that to the vegetables. Stir to mix. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Heat a large pot of boiling water. Add the pasta and cook until just barely al dente. The pasta should still be a bit hard on the inside. Drain and rinse with cold water. While the macaroni is cooking, heat the milk in a large saucepan until just steaming.

While the milk is heating, Place the full stick of butter in another, large saucepan and melt it over medium heat. Add the garlic and mix. Add the flour and whisk for one minute or a bit more. Slowly pour the hot milk into the flour mixture, whisking the entire time. Use a ladle if you can’t lift the pot holding the milk.

When all the milk is in the pot, whisk vigorously for about 3 to 5 minutes or until the mixture becomes smooth and thick and starts to bubble. Turn off the heat and add the cheeses, stirring or whisking constantly until the sauce is smooth. If it is too thick, add a bit more milk and whisk until smooth.

Pour half the macaroni into the casserole dish and add half the cheese sauce. Mix well. Pour the rest of the macaroni into the pot with the cheese sauce and mix well. Set aside.

Spread the vegetables evenly over the macaroni in the lasagna dish and then pour the rest of the macaroni mixture over the veggies.

Melt the remaining butter in a medium microwavable bowl. Add one clove of minced garlic, if you like. Add one cup of breadcrumbs and mix well. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the macaroni and bake at 375 degrees until browned and bubbly, about 30 to 35 minutes. Serves 8 to 12.

NOTE: You can omit the veggies entirely or substitute others like cauliflower, leftover green beans or asparagus, artichoke hearts, roasted peppers, or cooked eggplant or zucchini. Almost any veggie goes nicely with this.

Cheese Veggie Lasagna (Dairy)

You can add any vegetables to this that you like. I have used cooked eggplant slices, roasted cauliflower and roasted red peppers. The more veggies, the better!

1-1/2 (16-ounce) boxes lasagna noodles or no cook lasagna noodles

1 container (2 pounds) ricotta cheese

2 egg yolks

1 egg

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 to 1 tsp. pepper

2 Tbsp. parsley flakes

2 cups grated parmesan cheese, divided

4 garlic cloves, grated or very finely minced

1 small onion, very finely minced 3 zucchini

1 to 2 boxes (10 ounces each) sliced white mushrooms

2 to 3 zucchini thinly sliced on the diagonal

4 to 6 ounces baby spinach leaves

12 to 16 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese

Marinara sauce 1 to 2 jars

If using traditional lasagna noodles, prepare as directed until they are a little firmer than al dente. Place on a rimmed backing sheet that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. OR, use the ready-to-use lasagna noodles that do not require pre-cooking. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the ricotta cheese with the 2 egg yolks and 1 egg. Add the salt, pepper, parsley flakes, and 1 cup of the grated parmesan. Mix well. Set aside.

Heat a large skillet and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Add the mushrooms and cook until they are golden. Add the garlic and mix for 1 minute, until fragrant. Set aside.

Pour about 1 cup of sauce in the bottom of a deep lasagna pan and spread to coat the bottom.

Lay in the lasagna noodles. Dot the noodles with small spoons of the cheese mixture and gently spread them together. Sprinkle with a bit of the shredded mozzarella, about 2/3 cup. Top with the mushroom mixture and spread evenly.

Top with dollops of sauce and then a layer of lasagna noodles. Add more ricotta cheese and mozzarella cheese, and the thinly sliced zucchini. Top with some sauce and another layer of noodles. Add some cheese and the baby spinach leaves. Add sauce and another layer of noodles. Press down gently and top with a good amount of sauce which will help weigh down the spinach leaves.

Cover tightly with foil and place in the preheated oven. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until bubbly. Remove from the oven and remove the foil. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella cheese over the top and sprinkle the remaining Parmesan over that. Place back in the oven just until the cheese melts completely, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, let sit for 10 minutes and serve. Serves 8 to 12.

Hot Spiced Cider (Pareve)

2 quarts fresh apple cider

5 whole cloves

5 whole allspice

2 cinnamon sticks

OPTIONAL: 1 to 2 Aatar Anise, if desired

Peel of 1/3 orange (orange part ONLY)

Peel of 1/3 lemon (yellow part ONLY)

1/4 to 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, to taste

Peel the orange and lemon with a peeler or sharp knife, making sure there is now white part. Place the peels and spices in a piece of cheesecloth or a large tea ball. (Or you may put the spices directly into the cider and strain when done.) Pour the cider into a large soup pot and add the spices and sugar. Stir. Heat until the cider comes to a gentle boil. Simmer for about 10  to 15 minutes. Turn off heat and cool to a pleasant drinking temperature. Serve with appetizers.

If you can’t stand canned cranberries and want something new, I think you’ll enjoy this simple recipe.

Creamy Leek and Potato Soup with Shallots and Chives (Dairy)

This is an easy, lower-fat or decadent, creamy, version of potato soup that uses shallots for fuller flavor.

4 to 6 leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced and washed thoroughly

1/4 to 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 to 1 stick butter

2 to 3 medium onions, diced

6 to 10 shallots, diced

3 pounds white potatoes, peeled, cut into half-inch cubes

2 quarts vegetable broth

3 cups whole milk, or half-and-half

Salt and white pepper to taste

4 Tbsp. finely minced fresh chives

OPTIONAL: 4 to 6 Tbsp. white wine or sherry; Sour cream or plain, Greek yogurt, to taste

Cut up the leeks and place in a large bowl of cold water. Swish to remove any sand. Drain completely. Set aside.

Heat a large soup pot and add the oil and butter. Sauté the onions, shallots and leeks until they begin to soften and turn very lightly golden. Add the vegetable broth and the potatoes and simmer, partially covered, until the potatoes are very soft.

Use an immersion blender and process the soup until it is thick and creamy, adding the milk or half and half as you process the soup. Add seasonings and wine, if desired, and heat until just barely simmering. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Garnish with minced chives. Serves 8+.

Old-Fashioned Caramel Sauce (Dairy)

This is the real deal — rich, gooey and delicious with a hint of burnt sugar that epitomizes good caramel. It is a standard simple recipe that has appeared everywhere forever but is worth repeating. Great with vanilla ice cream or yogurt! A candy thermometer is helpful, but not necessary.

1 cup water

2 cups sugar

1 cup heavy cream

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Pinch salt

NOTE: THE hint here is to NEVER stir the syrup no matter how tempted you may be to do so.

Place the water in a large, heavy saucepan. Pour the sugar into the center of the pan, making sure that no sugar granules fly to the sides of the pan. You want a pyramid of sugar in the center of the water, so to speak.

Cover the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove the cover and hook the candy thermometer to the side of the pot if you have one. Continue to boil the syrup until it becomes a light gold color and is about 300 degrees. This should take about 15 minutes. Reduce the heat and continue to boil until the syrup becomes a deep amber color and begins to smoke a tiny bit and the candy thermometer reaches 350 degrees.

Meanwhile, when the sugar reaches 300 degrees, place the cream and salt in a medium heavy saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. When the cream just starts to show small bubbles, remove it from the heat if the sugar syrup is not at 350 degrees. Return the cream to the heat when sugar syrup reaches 350.

When sugar syrup reaches 350 degrees, set a timer and cook for exactly 5 more minutes. Remove the sugar syrup from the heat.

Spoon a couple of spoons of the hot cream into the syrup. It will bubble vigorously. Let the bubbles subside and add the rest of the cream. Let the bubbles subside and then gently whisk until smooth. The mixture will seize and may harden in places. Just keep the heat at low and constantly stir until the mixture is melted and smooth. Whisk in the butter and let cool until just warm, about 15 to 30 minutes.

Serve warm over ice cream or other desserts. Delicious in hot coffee! Makes about 2 cups.