Sunday, September 26, 2010

Cooking the Classics: Not Such a Simple Stew

This year the hubby and I took a vacation to celebrate two big milestones – our 30th birthdays and our 5th wedding anniversary. We decided to head across the Atlantic to Spain. Ever since my brother studied abroad in Spain in college, I have wanted to visit and experience it for myself. To get us ready for the trip, my brother cooked up a Spanish fiesta for an early birthday party.

Then, we got on the plane and headed east to our first stop, Madrid. This was the starting place for our fabulous trip to Spain! For 9 days we ate our way through Madrid, Toledo, and Seville. To make room for all the delicious comida we traversed the cities on foot, visiting museos, mercados, and more.

We didn’t just rely on our guidebooks or the internet in planning our food destinations. One of our friends, a native Madrileno, gave us a great list of restaurants to visit in Madrid. For Seville, I contacted (via twitter) a tapas restaurant that I had visited on a trip to San Diego last year. I had a really nice chat with the bartender while I was there, and knew that a place called Café Seville would point me in the right direction when we visited their namesake city. The suggestions did not disappoint! We found ourselves in places frequented by locals and dined on a variety of delicious foods.

Here are some of the culinary highlights of our trip:

Spain was an interesting destination for us to visit. We love to eat a lot of different foods, but we are not lovers of jamon, langostinos, morcillo, pulpo and other popular Spanish foods. As Jews, we have a different perspective on Spanish history. In religious school we learned about the Spanish Inquisition (and History of the World, Part 1 thanks to Mel Brooks). While the Jewish population in Spain is starting to increase, it seems like so much Jewish heritage was lost over centuries since 1492.

We learned a lot about Spanish history while researching our trip, and throughout our visit. The Iberian Peninsula was home to many cultures: the Visigoths, Moors, the Roman Empire, Arabs, Jews and Christians. Jews had a presence on the peninsula since the arrival of the Roman Empire. However after centuries of tolerating different religious groups, when Ferdinand and Isabella came into power they decided that it was their way or no way. It was fascinating to tour Jewish history sites and see how they addressed the Inquisition. There were no detailed descriptions, you got the sense that “ the Jews were asked to leave”. We toured many religious buildings had been converted to churches after the expulsion of the Jews. The buildings have now been restored to museums that describe the history of the Jewish people in Spain before 1492. Jews had lived on the Iberian Peninsula for a long time, and their influence did not disappear when they left the peninsula. Many Jews who left went Morocco, Turkey, and other parts of Northwestern Africa. Some did stay in Spain, becoming conversos. To make sure that no one could accuse them of false conversion, many of the traditional Jewish dishes were modified.

The cocido, or stew, is one example of this. Our madrileno friend told us it was unthinkable for us to visit Madrid and not try the cocido. In Madrid, the cocido is a slow cooked stew served in two or three parts. First, the slow cooked broth with fideo (vermicelli noodles). Next meat, with garbanzos, potatoes, and what I later discovered to be lard! Third, the server topped the dish off with garlicky cabbage. This, and most, versions of cocido include a combination of beef, pork, and blood sausage.

In researching the dish for this challenge, I discovered that the cocido had its roots with the Sephardic Jews of Spain. It was originally called adafina and was a traditional Sabbath stew. Jewish families would put the stew on a low flame on Friday, and then would be able to enjoy a hot meal on the Sabbath. In some of the material I read, often families would place their pots in a communal oven as not everyone had proper cooking facilities in their homes. When the Jews left Spain, they continued to make this dish in Morocco and their new lands. The name changed to dafina (meaning covered) or hamin. Others may know another variation of the dish as cholent.

For the conversos who stayed in Spain, it was important to demonstrate that they had given up their Jewish faith and adopted Christianity, even though many still practiced Judaism secretly. Modifying their traditional Sabbath stew was an outward symbol of this conversion. The stew came to include pork belly, bacon, sausage, and other non-kosher ingredients.

I was excited to find a recipe for a traditional Adafina on the official website for Toledo (Spain) Sefardi (Sephardic Jews). The site includes a section on the Gastronomia Sefardi and includes recipes for many traditional dishes. When we were in Toledo, we visited the temple, which has been converted back from a church to the Museo Sefardi. Thankfully, much of the building’s interior had been preserved and many artifacts had been returned to be displayed in the museum

The recipe and website are in Spanish, so I pulled out my trusty high school English to Spanish dictionary to look up any words I couldn’t remember. I’ll post my translation and adaptation of the recipe below. The original can be found at I consulted a number of websites in researching cocido, adafina, and the history of Jews in Spain. I’ll include a link to these sites at the end of the post.

I love to use local, seasonal ingredients as much as possible in my cooking. This dish is no exception. My local ingredients include potatoes and onion from my local farmers market and meat from my local butcher shop. I talked to my butcher about the stew and he custom cut both lamb and beef shank for me. The rest of the ingredients are from the pantry.

This is a multi-day recipe. The first night is soaking the garbanzos and the second day is preparing the stew to simmer overnight. This was designed as a one-pot dish that can provide many meals throughout the Sabbath day. It includes vegetables, meat, and hard-cooked eggs which can be eaten at any time.

I started by layering the ingredients in my large Le Crueset red French oven. While the ingredients were coming to a boil, I prepared ‘el relleno’, almost like a meatloaf. I rolled it up in cheese cloth and tied it so there would be individual servings. Then, after 6-8 hours of cooking, I pulled it out of the oven for dinner. The eggs had hard cooked in their shells, taking on a tan hue from the onion skin and meat. The meats were fall apart tender and the shanks had imparted a deep, rich flavor to the broth.

As we enjoyed our adafina, we could imagine the Juderia Sefardi enjoying this dish centuries ago. Food is a wonderful way to connect with your heritage. A simple dish, such as a stew, can show the influence of one group on the cuisine of an entire nation.

Adapted from the recipe found at

Recetas de Ana Benarroch, del libro "La cocina judía. Leyes, costumbres... y algunas recetas sefardíes", Uriel Macías Kapón. Edita "Red de Juderías de España".

2.5 lbs chuck roast, tied with kitchen twine
3 lbs veal shank, cut into 4 pieces
1 piece of beef shank, approximately 1 pound, meat removed from the bone
½ kg garbanzos
20 medium potatoes, peeled (10 whole and 10 chopped)
10 eggs in their shells
1 whole yellow onion with its brown skin, plus skin from second onion
350 ml olive oil
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Salt, pepper
Cold water
Relleno (recipe below)

The day before, put the garbanzos in water to soak
In a stainless/non-reactive pot, add ingredients in this order (leaving a space in the middle): olive oil, drained garbanzos, meat tied with twine, veal shanks and beef bone, eggs in the center, and peeled potatoes whole and chopped
Do not mix
Season with salt and pepper and cover with cold water
Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, skimming the top
Cook until the foam has ‘retired’ or lessened
Add in the relleno
Cover with a lid and place in a 225 degree oven for 6-8 hours (or 170 degree oven overnight)

.5 - .75 lbs beef from the beef shank
200 grams cooked rice
3 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Mince the beef, or chop in the food processor until minced finely
Mix together the beef, rice, eggs and nutmeg (using your hands)
This should be wrapped in a fine cloth (cheesecloth), tied with twine, and shaped like a sausage

Inactive prep time: 8-12 hours of soaking
Active prep time: 20-30 minutes
Active cook time: 30-45 minutes
Inactive cook time: 6-12 hours
Cutting board and knives, vegetable peeler, mixing bowls, spoons, cheesecloth, twine, French oven/heavy stockpot, serving dishes and utensils

Thank you for your support in helping me advance to round two of Project Food Buzz! Project Food Blog is a contest hosted through Foodbuzz. Contestants participate in a series of challenges and a certain number advance through to the next rounds. You can see my official profile and entry by clicking here. Please take a minute to 'like', tweet, and vote! One readers' choice winner automatically advances. 

Book and Websites visited in preparing this post:
Larousse Gastronomique, 2001. Page 312, page 1130.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Good Cook Doris' New Adventures

In December 2008, I decided to start writing down what I made for dinner as way to avoid eating the same thing every week. Then I thought, if I'm going to write it down, why don't I take a picture? And if I'm doing all that, why don't I blog about it?  I signed up, started cooking, photographing, and writing!  When I started, I didn't know where blogging would take me. Looking back over almost two years and 165 posts, I am amazed at where I am today. That simple idea to document dinner has developed into a passion to not only explore my creativity in the kitchen, but two take on two very exciting new adventures!

My childhood apron bears a striking resemblance to my current one!

Adventure #1: Turn my passion for all things food into full-time fun

How will I do it? To start, I’ve enrolled in part-time classes in the Masters of Liberal Arts in Gastronomy program at Boston University. I spent many hours last year computing accounting and finance problems in the part-time MBA program, when what I really wanted to be doing was cooking. When it came time to enroll in economics and IT strategy, I decided that if I spend my free time thinking, eating, and reading about food, why not take that passion and run with it! The Gastronomy program is not culinary school – it’s a program about the study of food – food business, marketing, culture, history, tourism, and more.

If you know me, and if you are a regular reader, you know that food is a big part of my life. It starts with my family – we discuss lunch over breakfast, dinner over lunch, and breakfast over dinner. Everyone has a specialty and the family table is a place for laughter and fun. I love to learn about the history of foods (sorry if I’ve bored you about the history of ketchup and bagels – both fabulous books). It makes me happy to share recipes, share food, and share meals with family and friends. I’m fascinated with how something as simple as the bluefin tuna has such wide-reaching impact on every part of the global economy. And isn’t it crazy to think that there are more than 10 different gadgets for mincing garlic? These are just some of the things that I think about.

Who knows where a degree in gastronomy will lead, but I’m excited to start the adventure! If you need to find me this semester, first check the library and then check the kitchen. Where ever you find me, I’ll be happy to share whatever I’m doing with you!

No question about my signature dish - brisket.
 Braised, smoked, on its own or on a biscuit.

Adventure #2: Win the title of Project Food Buzz Next Food Blog Star

That's me with my winner's sash and bouquet
(as I imagine it to be)

Project Food Blog is a contest hosted through Foodbuzz. Contestants participate in a series of challenges and a certain number advance through to the next rounds. You can see my official profile and entry at: Please take a minute to 'like', tweet, and vote! One readers' choice winner automatically advances. 

Why should I be crowned the Next Food Blog Star? If my passion for food didn’t come through in the description of my first adventure above, let me answer a few questions about me, my blog, and why I think I deserve your vote.

Question 1: Is your name really Doris?
No - every great cook in my family is Doris! My Aunt Shirley’s family had a tradition of saying “Good Cook Doris!” after great meals. It turns out that back in the ‘50’s, there was a bread commercial where a little girl makes a little boy a sandwich, and he says “You’re a good cook Doris!” My aunt brought the tradition over to our family and since I was a toddler, every family meal has ended with a rousing “Good Cook Doris!” Inspired by the good cooks in my family, I gladly carry on the moniker and hope my cooking lives up to the delicious family standard.

My brother hard at work in the kitchen.

Question 2: What’s your angle?
My tagline is: Creative Cook, Food Blogger, and Local Food enthusiast.

My approach to blogging is simple, I love to take inspiration from cookbooks, restaurants, and friends and family and get creative in the kitchen. I challenge myself to use local ingredients and try out new-to-me techniques, recipes, and ingredients. My blog is a place to record my successes, my not-so-successful dishes, and my travels. It’s also a place where I share the stories of who grows the ingredients I cook with, the local farmers market scene, and how it really is possible to eat local and seasonal year-round. Every so often you’ll see a guest post from a great cook who has influenced my cooking. You won’t find true restaurant reviews, but sometimes I have such a fabulous experience out that I want to document the experience for the blog. The bottom line is that food = fun and the blog is my way to share that fun with you!

Question 3: What is (are) the most rewarding thing(s) about blogging?
1. Sharing! I’ve been blogging almost two years and one of the benefits I didn’t expect was a wonderful network of new friends who share the same passion as me. It’s wonderful to be able to send a tweet to a fellow food lover and then end up seeing them for dinner every month! Nothing makes me happier than hearing that a post, a recipe, or a tweet of mine has inspired someone.

2. Community Involvement! Boston is a big city with a lot of people. I work in the city, but live in the suburbs. Indirectly, blogging has helped me to feel a sense of community. I visit the same farmers markets weekly and get to know the vendors. When I go out to eat, I support locally owned establishments and try to learn about their history. Every food experience, at home or travelling, is an opportunity to learn someone’s story, learn the local culture, support the local economy, and promote a sense of community.

Me with the Local in Season team.
Hosting a recipe contest at the Farmers Market.
3. Taste testing! I can’t just post recipes that I come up with on paper! The hubby (and my coworkers) have been eating pretty well since I’ve started blogging. Food isn’t any good if you can’t share! I’ve tried new ingredients almost every market visit since I started and the results have delicious (most of the time). I know there are new cuisines, techniques and ingredients out there waiting for me and I’m excited to keep learning and expanding my cooking knowledge.

Grandma's recipe for pecan pie and my own recipe for local red kuri squash pie.

I’d love your vote for me as the Next Food Blog star! I bring passion, a killer polka-dot apron, humor, creativity, and an adventurous spirit into the kitchen and onto my blog every day.

See my official profile and entry at:

Happy cooking, eating and farmers market shopping!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Will Drive for Food - A Saturday Adventure

Last month at the Food Truck Festival the hubby and I were chatting with Michelle of Fun and Fearless in Beantown. She asked us about our weekend and about how far we drove in to enjoy the barbecue brisket at the market.  My immediate reply was, "On Sundays we usually drive for food".  I laughed at how it sounded, but it's really true.  Many of our weekend adventures involve heading to a farmers market, a festival, or an interesting restaurant. We don't eat out during the week (well, maybe we sneak a lunch or two out) and weekends are when we let someone else do some of the cooking.

This weekend I was on my own for my adventure. I knew my starting destination and headed out with no particular agenda or return time. I love to wander, one thing leads to another, and it becomes an adventure!

I fueled up for my adventure with a slice of homemade whole wheat bread topped with homemade fig spread (recipe at the end). With an iced coffee from Red Barn Coffee Roasters in hand I hit the road and in about 30 minutes I arrived at the Harvard, MA Farmers Market.  I'd heard great things about the market and they have an informative and interesting website. There were a lot of new-to-me vendors and I spent some time chatting with all of them and picking up some great things.  I also spent a lot of time taking photos during the day. I'll highlight some of my favorites throughout the post. I hope you check out the slide show included in the post for all of my photos.

A bright yellow booth caught my attention and I stopped by to see what they were selling. I met the lovely Joanna and tasted her delicious biscotti. We started chatting and it turns out that Joanna just started her baking business and this was her second weekend at the market. After careers in marketing and kitchen design, she decided to take her well-tested biscotti recipe to the commercial kitchen and bring it to the public. She has more than 10 flavors. I picked out the orange walnut (with a full pound of walnuts in the 6 oz. of biscotti!). I look forward to trying out  more flavors! Hopefully she'll bring her treats to one of the winter markets in the area. She doesn't have a website yet, but she is in the process of setting it up.

Another fantastic surprise was Bagel Alley. There are bagel places out here in MetroWest, but none that satisfy my craving for chewy, dense, bagels. I picked up a half-dozen of my favorite flavors and asked if I could take a few pictures of the bagels. They seemed a little shocked that anyone would want to photograph their bagels, but they obliged. Here is my ode to my favorite stinky bagel, the everything bagel:

I also picked up a delicious whole wheat plum cherry scone from The Biscuit (from Somerville, MA). I munched on that while I gathered some other goodies like pea tendrils, a whole chicken (no giblets), parsley, spinach fettuccine, and parsnips.  Another new-to-me product was lupine beans. I had never heard of them before - turns out they blend into a flavorful and healthy hummus. After sampling a few flavors, I took home a cilantro flavored hummus. You can read about the lupine beans here.

I packed up my purchases and decided to wander through Harvard toward my absolute favorite fall stop - Bolton Spring Farm. Every fall since I first came to Boston for college, I've made a trip to Bolton Spring Farm. Three things I always buy there: hot apple dumplings, hot apple cider, and a Yankee Candle (apple, pumpkin, or cinnamon scented). They have apple picking too, but it's up a hill, so I usually pick up a pre-picked bag. This trip I got a half peck of Paula Reds, a cider donut, and a 'Be Thankful' candle.

Since I was on Route 117 with no agenda, I headed east toward Verrill Farm. At this point I really didn't need any more veggies or fruits, or so I thought...On my way to Verrill Farm I made a quick detour to Applefield Farm. They were at the farmers market and I decided to stop and see their real farm. I added three hot peppers and a cute green eggplant to my loot and got back on the road.

At Verrill Farm I added fresh figs, a beeswax candle, and an orange to my collection. I know the orange doesn't scream "Hey, it's fall", but my favorite apple cake calls for orange juice. Sometimes you just have to go with it.  When I got home, I laid out my purchases to see how crazy I went. Not too bad! I really love the magnet that I got at the market.

It was a fabulous day! Beautiful weather, friendly farmers and vendors, and of course delicious food. I cooked up a quick dinner from my finds, and ended up making it three more times over the weekend (it was that fresh and good!).

I had a great time taking photos - instead of a post with all of them, I hope you have a minute to watch the slide show below to see what food fun awaits you here in the suburbs.  Recipes from the posts follow the pictures.

Fig Cinnamon Jam
Recipe adapted from a recipe posted by Bob Dunn on Local in Season

1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 pound fresh figs, stems removed and quartered 
1 1.5 inch strip of lemon zest
Juice from 1/4 of a lemon
1 tablespoon ground Vietnamese Cinnamon

Add water and sugar to a small saucepan, heat over medium heat and cook until you have a simple syrup (just a few minutes)
Add the quartered figs, lemon zest, lemon juice, and cinnamon to the simple syrup and mix
Simmer over low heat for about an hour, stirring occasionally
Let the mixture cool and then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator

Farmers Market Late Summer Pasta
Serves 1 (multiply by the number of hungry people you have to feed)
1/4  lb. Fior D'Italia Spinach Fettuccine, cooked to al dente
1/4 cup Wards Berry Farm red & yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 Applefield Farm green eggplant, diced
1 handful of pea tendrils/pea greens, coarsely chopped
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat
Add chopped garlic and cook until just fragrant
Add in halved tomatoes and diced eggplant, cook for about 5-8 minutes until softened but not mushy
Turn off heat and add pea tendrils and greens
Toss ingredients
Top a large bowl of pasta with the veggies and an extra drizzle of olive oil
Yell at yourself for only making one serving
Make again for lunch and dinner the next day and add Parmesan cheese to the top

Where do your food adventures take you? What do you like to do when you have no agenda?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Kosher with a Kick (and friends!)

If you're a food and wine person in Boston and you're on Twitter (or follow any other foodie communication source), chances are you've heard about The Urban Grape in Chestnut Hill.  They've only been open 12 weeks, but they have definitely made their presence known in the community.

My first trip to The Urban Grape was back in July for a Budget-Friendly tasting hosted by Michelle over at The Economical Eater. It was a great introduction to the shop. TJ (the owner) and his staff not only poured great tasting wines, but also taught us a lot! From different grapes to the different regions to the weight of each wine, I felt like I took a crash course in Wine 101 when I left.

I've been trying new roses for the last year, and I asked staffer Kate for some suggestions on new-to-me bottles (or boxes) to try.  I picked up some budget friendly roses, a kicking riesling, and headed home with my purchases.

A few weeks later, another favorite blogger of mine Robin (from Doves and Figs), sent out a note that she was hosting a Jewish holiday themed tasting at The Urban Grape: Kosher with a Kick. I'm pretty sure I signed up the same night. Since the hubby is not a wine drinker, I invited our friend Avi to join in the kosher wine fun!

I'd been corresponding online with TJ and Hadley (the lovely, enthusiastic owners) and was excited to get back to the shop for some more learning and wine.  What really kicked the evening up a notch (sorry...) was that The Fireplace provided delicious food pairings for each wine we tasted.  If you haven't been to The Fireplace, you are missing out. Every meal starts with fresh, warm bread. And of course everything they serve after that is also fresh, mostly local, and delicious. Now on to the tasting...

First up, a sparkling wine paired with artisanal New England cheeses, figs, and homemade garlic crackers. I'm pretty sure that Manischewitz doesn't make a kosher sparkler. This was a little sweet, but not Manischewitz sweet. TJ gave us some great information on how kosher wines are prepared and Robin shared some stories of her holiday traditions. She also gave great tips on holiday decorations, since Martha doesn't really have a Jewish New Year decorating guide. You can see her vases of apples in the photo below.

Next up, was a white wine paired with a delicious "gourmet potato chip" topped with smoked salmon. There was more food than people, and I wouldn't turn down a second bite of something so delicious. This wine was  smooth and paired great with the salty chip and salmon. I think Avi liked it too!

While I was snapping photos, we made some new friends who were also enjoying the salmon. We started chatting with Jordan and Noah and found out that they were new to the area and fellow food lovers! Before the night was over we had made plans for a brunch involving smoked salmon and a challenge for me to find a way to serve brisket as part of breakfast (I think I've got an idea...).

The next two wines were paired with two different tarts. The wine served with the first was my favorite of the night - a kosher pinot noir from Italy. Not only was it delicious, it also had a fabulous label. Ask anyone who knows me well, and they will tell you that if it has a spiral design I will buy it!  The second tart served was unbelievable. And as we all agreed, it was the foraged mushrooms that put it over the top. Buttery crust, gruyere, and foraged mushrooms. I think you would describe this as having umami. Savory, rich, umami.

Before we finished up with the dessert course, TJ took some more time to explain what makes a kosher wine kosher and why traditional kosher wines were never that great. In the past, they would bring the wine to a boil and almost pasteurize it, changing the flavor (almost a cooked flavor).  These are considered mevushal wines, meaning that anyone (Jewish or not) can uncork and pour the wine and it still remains kosher. I actually had never heard about this (we always had Manischevitz at our family meals). There are many articles online if you search, this post would be very long if I tried to summarize all the details.  The Urban Grape stocks a lot of kosher selections, and more coming in every day. There are kosher wines from all over the world - and as TJ put it, they are great wines that happen to be kosher. But they do have concord grape in the back if you have a craving for something sweet.

I was intrigued by the dessert pairing - a 10 year single malt kosher scotch with Taza chocolate cake with caramel and whipped cream. I've never really tried scotch, so my take will be very different from an experienced scotch drinker. The first sip made me do a 'wow, that's strong' head shake and scrunched face.

Then, the smokiness hit me. It was like I was standing downwind from a campfire. I gave it a few more sips, but it was just too smoky for me. But the cake was to die for. I love Taza and this cake showed off its unique stone ground deliciousness. Sorry for the bite missing in the photo, I couldn't help myself.

Taza Chocolate Cake and Kosher Scotch

What a wonderful evening! It was great to see Robin and her husband Mark, meet Noah and Jordan, and finally meet Hadley in person! It's always nice to have a face to put with the tweets. I took home refills of the two roses I bought on my first visit plus a bottle of the kosher pinot noir. It's going to be a treat for our Rosh Hashanah dinner on Wednesday night.

Thanks to Robin, The Fireplace, and TJ and Hadley for hosting a fabulous night!

Me, Hadley, and Robin


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