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Cooking Jewish

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Photo by Jon Edwards
The saying ‘families that eat together stay together’ fits Judy Bart Kancigor’s family perfectly.  After years of celebrating family events with family recipes, Judy has assembled a collection of more than five hundred of those family recipes into Cooking Jewish.  The recipes in Cooking Jewish reflect the best recipes from Judy’s extended family.  While assembling the collection Judy tested all of the recipes and gathered family stories to go with the recipes.  The result is a collection of great recipes intermixed with an interesting look into the Rabinowitz family.  After a quick look at Cooking Jewish, you’ll find that Jewish food has a lot more to offer than Challah, Matzoh Balls, and Gefilte Fish!   Of course all of the traditional Jewish favorites are present including Kugel, Potatoe Latkes, and lots of desserts. Try Judy’s Shiitake Mushroom Matzoh Balls with her mom’s chicken soup (recipes below) for a glimpse into the scrumptious food Judy and her family enjoy together.

Shiitake Mushroom Matzoh Balls from Judy Bart Kancigor

Reprinted from Cooking Jewish by Judy Bart Kancigor, Workman 2007

Neither of my daughters-in-law ever liked matzoh balls until I came up with this recipe. I doctored up plain old matzoh ball mix - and a fine product it is! - with shiitake mushrooms and scallions for a shtetl favorite with an Asian twist. (Not surprising, Jews have had a long love affair with Chinese food!) Go ahead and double or even triple the recipe (and you may have to!), but be careful not to crowd the pot when you are cooking them. Makes 24 to 30 golf-ball-size balls.

  • 1/4 cup melted chicken fat or vegetable oil
  • 4 scallions, white and half the green part, thinly sliced 3 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, finely chopped (1 to 11/2 cups)
  • 1 envelope matzoh ball mix, such as Manischewitz
  • 1/2 cup matzoh meal
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon kosher (coarse) salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder (see Notes)
  • 2 tablespoons club soda, chicken broth, or water


1. Heat the chicken fat in a medium-size saucepan over medium heat. Add the scallions and mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms are soft, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

2. Combine the matzoh ball mix with the matzoh meal in a medium-size bowl. Add the eggs and mix well. Stir in the mushroom mixture (with the oil), parsley, salt, white pepper, and baking powder. Add the club soda and mix thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour.

3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and lightly salt it.

4. Form the mixture into balls that are a little larger than a marble, wetting your hands if necessary to keep them from sticking. Drop the balls into the boiling water and cook, covered, at a slow, steady boil (not a hard boil) until tender, about 30 minutes (depending on the size of the balls).

5. Carefully remove the matzoh balls with a slotted spoon, and serve in soup.

Notes

For Passover use kosher-for-Passover baking powder, or if unavailable, it may be omitted.

You will find that after cooking these matzoh balls, the cooking liquid is so flavorful, it is almost a soup in itself, particularly if you have used chicken fat. I use this broth instead of water in soups and stews and for cooking rice.

Chicken Soup (Jewish penicillin) from Lillian Bart

Reprinted From Cooking Jewish by Judy Bart Kanciogr, Workman 2007

Open letter to my cousins: Many of you claimed that your mother's chicken soup is the best. My mother's made the final cut for two reasons. First of all, this cookbook was my idea, and when you write your cookbook, you can say your mother's is the best! Second, I am including it because it really is the best, and anyone who disagrees either has never had my mother's chicken soup or is congenitally taste-bud challenged. It is dark golden in color, intensely flavorful, and, in short, an elixir of the gods. I hoard the leftovers to use on special occasions in recipes calling for chicken stock (the real secret of my stuffing and gravy). You see, my mother adheres to the "if some is good, more is better" school of cooking. While this theory usually spells disaster in the kitchen (notably in her meat loaf!), it is the method of choice in making chicken soup. And this is one case where the method is as important as the ingredients.

While her exact ingredients vary as the mood hits her, here is her recipe from a typical day. Serve the soup with matzoh balls and lokshen (thin noodles), or on Passover with mandlen (soup nuts).

Makes about 3 quarts.

  • 2 chickens (3 1/2 to 4 pounds each) with giblets (no liver), quartered
  • 2 pounds carrots (yes, 2 pounds, not 2 carrots)
  • 2 large onions, cut in half
  • 5 large ribs celery with leaves, cut in half
  • 2 large parsnips
  • 1 small sweet potato (6 ounces), cut in half
  • 1 turnip (6 ounces), cut in half
  • 1 rutabaga (6 ounces), cut in half
  • 1 small celery root, cut in half (optional)
  • 1/2 large green bell pepper, stemmed and seeded
  • 1/2 large yellow pepper, stemmed and seeded
  • 2 large bunches dill, coarsely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 bunch curly-leaf parsley (about 1/4 cup)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • Kosher (coarse) salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Chopped dill, for serving (optional)


1. Place the chicken in a 16-quart stockpot and add water to barely cover. Bring just to the boiling point. Then reduce the heat to a simmer and skim off the foam that rises to the top. Add all the remaining ingredients (except the optional chopped dill) and only enough water to come within about two thirds of the height of the vegetables in the pot. (Most recipes will tell you to add water to cover. Do not do this! You want elixir of the gods or weak tea? As the soup cooks, the vegetables will shrink and will be covered soon enough. Eight to 10 cups of water total is plenty for this highly flavorful brew.) Simmer, covered, until the chicken is cooked through, about 1 1/2 hours.

2. Remove the chicken and about half the carrots from the pot, and set them aside.

3. Strain the soup through a fine-mesh strainer into another pot or container, pressing on the vegetables to extract all the flavor. Scrape the underside of the strainer with a rubber spatula and add the pulp to the soup. Discard the fibrous vegetable membranes that remain in the strainer. If you're fussy about clarity (and we're not), you can strain it again through a fine tea strainer, but there goes some of the flavor. Cover the soup and refrigerate overnight.

4. When you are ready to serve the soup, scoop the congealed fat off the surface and discard it. Reheat, adding more dill if desired (and we do). Slice the reserved carrots, add them to the soup, and serve.

P.S. If you think this chicken soup is controversial, wait till you get to the kugels and mandelbrot!
P.P.S. Actual message on my answering machine from my friend Diane Weiss in New Jersey after I sent her a copy of Melting Pot Memories: "Judy? I just made your mother's chicken soup, and my whole family is standing around the pot slurping with a straw!"

Alternate serving suggestion: Allow the matzoh balls to cool somewhat. Cut into bite-size pieces to be eaten by hand. Offer several whole for throwing. Serve my mother's Chicken Soup  lukewarm on the side in a sippy cup.

About Cooking Jewish

ImageGot kugel? Got Kugel with Toffee Walnuts? Now you do.  Cooking Jewish gathers recipes from five generations of a food-obsessed family into a celebratory saga of cousins and kasha, Passover feasts - the holiday has its own chapter - and crossover dishes. Blending the recipes with over 160 stories from the Rabinowitz family - by the end of the book you'll have gotten to know the whole wacky clan - and illustrated throughout with more than 500 photographs reaching back to the 19th century, Cooking Jewish invites the reader not just into the kitchen, but into a vibrant world of family and friends. Written and recipe-tested by Judy Bart Kancigor, a food journalist with the Orange County Register, who self-published her first family cookbook as a gift and then went on to sell 11,000 copies, here are 532 recipes from her extended family of outstanding cooks, including the best chicken soup ever - really! - from her mother, Lillian. (Or as the author says, "When you write your cookbook, you can say your mother's is the best.") Every recipe, a joy in the belly.

Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.

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