During the past few years, I have noticed that more than a few of my friends and relatives have become vegetarians (or “mostly vegetarians”). And there’s been a lot of discussion about Judaism and vegetarianism.
I had been a committed carnivore who was busy perfecting several brisket recipes for all the holidays that required brisket. My kids loved meat and I served it once or twice a week but, as I was also health conscious, no more than that. As the kids grew up and left home I began to serve meat less often.
Meanwhile, my kids’ eating habits also changed; both of our sons rarely eat red meat and our daughter serves it infrequently. And that leads me to the holidays and the menus I plan for them.
This year, given that the holiday may occur on a very hot summer-like day, we decided, through polling of my vaccinated friends and relatives, that one of the meals will be dairy, with salmon as the main course and lots of fresh garden vegetable sides. Even my 2-year-old and 4-year-old grandsons love salmon, so we are all excited about the thought of a delicious salmon dinner and a dairy dessert.
My meat-loving relatives — whose response was, “What about the brisket!” — will come the second night. I am sure they also will be happy.
Although I am not ready to take the plunge into total vegetarianism, I’m ready to make one of our holiday meals pescaterian and take another small step into more healthful eating.
Whatever you decide to eat, I wish you all a sweet, healthy and fulfilling New Year. Shanah Tova!
Great Easy Greek Salad (Dairy)
Greek salads are easy to make and look great on a holiday table. They are low fat, if you go easy on the feta cheese, and the dressing is light and simple; often only olive oil and lemon juice. This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled. The simple recipe is also easy to increase. Just be sure to have enough lemons on hand!
2 cloves garlic
2 heads Boston, red or Green Leaf lettuce, or mix them
1 head Romaine lettuce
I bunch celery, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 bunch radishes, sliced
1 bunch scallions, cut diagonally into quarter-inch pieces
1 cucumber, English preferred) peeled and thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
1 carrot, peeled, thinly sliced
2 (10 ounces each) small tomatoes or large ones, cut into wedges
1 to 2 red onions cut in thin slices and rings separated
Oil-cured black olives
OPTIONAL: 1/2 pound feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 2 to 3 lemons
1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, finely minced
1/2 to 1 tsp. fresh oregano leaves
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
OPTIONAL: Jarred pepperoncini, roasted red peppers, croutons (homemade are best)
Cut one of the garlic cloves in half and rub the salad bowl with it. Discard that piece of garlic. Set the other one aside.
Wash the lettuces, dry them and tear them into bite sized pieces. Place them in the bowl. Cut the peppers into thin slices and cut the slices into pieces. Add the rest of the vegetables except the onion rings and olives and toss together.
Mix the olive oil and lemon juice in a small bowl or cup. Add salt and pepper, oregano and parsley and mix well. Right before serving, pour the dressing over the salad and toss. Top with the feta cheese, red onion rings, the olives, and the other add-ons you like. Serves a crowd.
Bruschette with Caramelized Onions and Garlic Roasted Cherry Tomatoes (Pareve or Dairy)
This is a delicious and super easy menu addition or appetizer. Guests can choose either Tomatoes or onions (or both) for the topping and it is delicious warm or cool. Add some goat cheese and maybe some crème fraiche for your guests to add.
1 or 2 loaves of good quality rustic Ciabatta bread (long loaves work best, but not baguettes, which are too thin).
3 to 4 Tbsp. olive oil
5 cups thinly sliced red or white onions
1 tsp. sugar
ROASTED CHERRY TOMATOES:
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 Cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
3 containers (10 ounces each) cherry or grape tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
OPTIONAL: 1 to 2 cups Feta Cheese Crumbles; 1 cup Crème Fraiche
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Slice the bread on the diagonal into slices about one-half inch thick. Brush the bread with the olive oil and rub a cut garlic clove over the bread. Place the bread, oil side up, on cookie sheets. Bake until bread is toasted, 6-10 minutes, but check often to avoid burning. Remove from oven and arrange on a platter.
Heat a large skillet and add the olive oil. Add the onions and cook over medium heat stirring frequently, about 10 minutes, until translucent.
Tongs make turning the onions easy. When the onions are translucent, sprinkle the sugar over the onions, reduce the heat to medium-low, and continue cooking and stirring for another 30 to 40 minutes or so, until the onions are a deep mahogany brown. If the onions begin to stick, add a tablespoon of water at a time, and scrape up the browned bits with a silicon or wooden spatula. This can take up to 45 minutes and can be made a day ahead.
For the tomatoes: While the onions are caramelizing, cut the cherry tomatoes in half and place in a large bowl. Add the minced garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss to coat evenly and pour onto prepared pan. Roast until you see some charred places and the tomatoes have shriveled. Remove from the oven and let cool. Scrape into a serving bowl.
When the onions are cooked, transfer them to a serving bowl and place the tomatoes and the onions next to the toasted bread. Place a bowl of finely crumbled feta cheese out and let your guests create their own Bruschetta.
Rhubarb Teriyaki Sauce for Salmon or Chicken (Pareve)
I made this up on the spot for a salmon dinner because I had a bumper crop of rhubarb and there are only so many strawberry rhubarb pies and jars of jam I can make! This was really a “taste and adjust” kind of recipe and used a lot of the things I had left from another recipe- a handful of fresh raspberries and two or three tablespoons of red currant jelly. Both added a bit of tartness to the taste. I used some bottled Teriyaki sauce, some apricot jam, and then, at the end, I added some freshly squeezed lemon juice. My family and dinner guests absolutely loved it and it disappeared before the end of the meal! It was their request that I make it for Rosh Hashanah! NOTE: This can easily be doubled.
2 to 3 Tbsp. canola oil
1 small onion, minced
1 large shallot, minced
2 to 4 cloves garlic minced
4 large, long stalks rhubarb, cut into half inch pieces
1/4 cup fresh raspberries
1/3 cup sugar, more to taste
1/2 cup water
1/3 to 1/2 cup bottled teriyaki sauce, to taste
1/3 cup combined apricot jam red currant jelly (I used both)
2 to 3 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
Heat a medium, heavy sauce pan over medium heat, and add the oil. Heat for 10 seconds. Add the minced onion and shallot and mix well. Cook until barely light golden, about 4 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and mix for 1 minute.
Add the cut rhubarb, the raspberries and water and mix well. Add the sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, add the teriyaki sauce and simmer until the rhubarb falls apart, about 5-10 minutes. Add the jam or jelly and mix well. Simmer another 10 minutes, breaking up the rhubarb pieces with a fork so the sauce thickens. Add the lemon juice, mix well, taste and adjust for sweetness or tartness or add more teriyaki. You can glaze the salmon at the end of the cooking time or you can serve the sauce over the cooked fish. This is also delicious over chicken! Makes about 2 cups.
Mushroom-Spinach Strudel (Dairy or Pareve)
I had a version of this at a wedding. I took a picture of it and the next day I recreated it! It has become a favorite of friends and family. I often lave the wine out when my little grandsons are eating it.
1 package phyllo dough
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
3 to 5 shallots, minced
1/2 small onion, minced
1 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
Two 10-ounce packages white button mushrooms, sliced (buy pre-sliced to save time)
4 to 5 small-medium Portobello mushroom caps, peeled and finely diced
1 pound baby spinach leaves, washed and thoroughly dried
2 to 3 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. mixed herbs such as finely minced fresh chives, fresh tarragon, and or basil,
1/2 tsp. mushroom or vegetable bouillon (powder or paste)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup very soft breadcrumbs divided (a slice of challah that has been left out to dry for an hour or so is perfect)
1/2 to 1 stick butter or pareve margarine, melted, for brushing
OPTIONAL: 1/4 to 1/2 cup dry white wine; 1/2 pound mild goat cheese crumbled or 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
Defrost the Phyllo dough in its box while preparing the rest of the recipe.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the minced shallots and garlic and sauté until transparent. Add the Portobello mushrooms and stir for a minute. Add the rest of the mushrooms, stir, and simmer for 5 to 12 minutes, until the mushrooms release and reabsorb most of the liquid. Add the wine, the mushroom bouillon powder (if using), and the herbs and sauté until most of the liquid is reduced. Sift 1 to 2 Tbsp. of flour over the mushrooms and stir well to blend. Taste and season with salt and pepper, as desired.
Rinse and thoroughly dry the spinach leaves. When the mushroom mixture is thickened a bit, add the spinach leaves and stir well to mix. Cover for 1 to 2 minutes, turn off heat, uncover, mix and set aside to cool.
Melt one stick of butter or margarine. Line a jelly-roll pan with aluminum foil and add a piece of parchment. Brush the parchment lightly with the melted butter or margarine.
Unfold the phyllo dough and place two sheets of the dough on the prepared pan. Brush again with the margarine and add another sheet. Repeat until you have 5 sheets. Sprinkle the last buttered sheet with the breadcrumbs. Pour half the filling lengthwise about three inches from one long end, making sure that you leave an inch on each short end.
Roll the three inch edge over the filling and then using the foil, lift the other side up and over the filling. Pinch and fold up the short edges so the filling won’t ooze out. Again using the foil, roll the log over so that the seam side is down. Brush the top with melted margarine and make three or four diagonal slits in the top.
Repeat the process with the other half of the filling and filo. Bake the logs at 375 for 35 to 45 minutes, until golden. Let the log sit for about 10 minutes before slicing. Serves 6 to 8 as a side dish.