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'Adventures In Jewish Cooking'

Jeffrey Nathan of the TV show "New Jewish Cuisine" visits The Early Show to offer an alternative to dry brisket and overcooked noodle kugel.
CBS/The Early Show
Jewish cooking is often personified as a schmear of lox on a bagel, some matzoh ball soup, or gefilte fish.

TV personality Jeffrey Nathan has been on a crusade to change the way Americans view Jewish cooking. Since 1998, he has been the host of public television's "New Jewish Cuisine."

He recently published his first cookbook titled, "Adventures In Jewish Cooking." He visited The Early Show to share a few holiday "break fast" recipes.

Yom Kippur is Monday, Sept. 16. The holiday is observed by fasting from sundown Sept. 15 to sundown of Sept. 16. It's a tradition that evening to break your fast by having people over and eating together. Many of the dishes should be made ahead because you are supposed to be in temple observing the holiday not cooking all day.

Terminology:

Rugelach: Bite-size crescent-shaped cookies that can have any of several fillings including raisins or other fruit and nuts, poppy-seed paste, or jam. They are generally made with a rich cream-cheese dough.

Kugel: Traditionally served on the Jewish Sabbath, kugel is a baked pudding usually made with potatoes or noodles, though meat, vegetables, and other ingredients are sometimes included. It's generally served as a side dish, though a sweet version with raisins and spices is equally delicious as dessert.

The following are Nathan's recipes from the book:

Kugel

"Kugel is one of the most beloved foods of Jewish cooking. It can also be one of the most maligned. When a kugel is good, everyone at the table goes nuts. When a kugel is not so good, everyone eats it anyway, but there is plenty of complaining after the party - or simply a lot of leftovers. My new Jewish cuisine version of this favorite is made with a medley of wild mushrooms, cheese, and sour cream. No one will fault this kugel for being too dry (and I doubt you'll have any leftovers)."

Ingredients
12 Ounce medium-width egg noodles.
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small red onion, halved lengthwise, and cut into half moons
1 large leek, white part only, well rinsed and chopped
3 garlic cloves
1 pound assorted mushrooms (such as white buttons, cremini Portobello and stemmed shiitake) thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 cups ricotta cheese or cottage cheese (preferably one cup of each)
1 cup sour cream
5 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs, made from firm white bread or challah

Method:

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 F. Lightly oil a 15-10 inch casserole dish.
  2. Bring a larger pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the egg noodles and cook just until tender, about 8 minutes. Drain well.
  3. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, leek, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are tender, about 6 minutes. Stir in the basil and rosemary.
  4. Whisk the ricotta cheese, sour cream and eggs in a large bowl. Mix in the drained noodles, the mushroom mixture, and the salt and pepper. Spread in the baking dish. Top with the bread crumbs. Melt the remaining 1/2 cup butter in a small saucepan (or use a microwave oven). Drizzle the melted butter over the noodles.
  5. Bake, uncovered, until the top is golden brown and the center feels set, 45 to 50 minutes. Let stand at room temperature for 5 minutes.

Smoked Salmon Cheesecake

"When I first started serving this easy, do-ahead cheesecake, I had a hard time winning over people who were used to sweet cheesecakes. After the first bite, they became believers. Served in thin slices (it's rich!) perhaps with a spoonful of roasted pepper vinaigrette, it works as a dinner appetizer or a brunch main course. (For a real treat, serve it with a slice of Bialy Loaf on page 199.) Offer it on a platter with flatbreads, and it's a great spread---just the thing to come home to for a Yom Kippur break fast."

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons seasoned dry bread crumbs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/3 cup finely chopped onion.
1/3 cup finely chopped red bell pepper.
1/3 cup finely chopped green bell peppers.
1 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.
1.5 pound cream cheese at room temperature
4 large eggs, at room temperature
8 ounces sliced smoked salmon scraps (available at some delicatessens), chopped.
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1/2 cup (4 ounces) shredded cheese
1/3 cup heavy cream
Frisee`(pale curly endive), cherry tomatoes, and finely sliced red onions, for garnish
Crackers, lavish, flatbreads, matzo, or sliced toast, for serving
Red Pepper and Tomato Vinaigrette (p.136) optional.

Method:

  1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F. Generously brush an 8-inch springform pan with the melted butter. Wrap the bottom of the pan in a double thickness of aluminum foil.
  2. In a small bowl, mix the Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs. Pour into the pan, and tilt to coat the pan halfway up the sides. Pat the crumbs in the bottom of the pan into an even, thin layer.
  3. Heat the oil in medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and the red and green bell peppers. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 6 minutes. Stir in the salt and pepper. Cool completely.
  4. Beat the cream cheese in a heavy-duty electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-low speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the vegetables. With the mixer running, add the eggs, one at a time, just until blended, scraping the bowl as needed. Add the smoked salmon, dill, Havarti, and heavy cream, and mix just until blended. Spread evenly in the springform pan. Place the pan in a large roasting pan. Slide the rack halfway out of the oven. Pour enough water in the roasting pan to come half way up the side of the springform pan. Slide the rack back into the oven carefully.
  5. Baked until the edges are puffed and golden but the center still seems slightly unset, about 1.5 hours. Run a knife around the edge of the cheese cake to release it from the sides of the pan. Cool completely on a wire rack.
  6. Remove the sides of the pan. Wrap the cheese cake tightly with a plastic wrap. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours or overnight. (The cheesecake can be made up to 2 days ahead).
  7. Cut into thin slices and serve on plates, garnish each serving with frisee, cherry tomatoes and red onions, along with crackers for spreading. Pass the vinaigrette on the side if desired.

Roasting Peppers
"Why bother to roost bell peppers? Several reasons...and each will make your recipes more delicious. Roasting loosens the tough skin, giving peppers a silky smooth texture, and it brings out the flavor, too. Red and yellow bell peppers are the best candidates for roasting, as the procedure doesn't do anything special for green peppers.

To roast peppers, position a broiler rack 6 inches from the source of heat and preheat the broiler. Place the peppers on the rack. Broil, turning the peppers occasionally, until the skin is charred on all sides---take care not to burn through the pepper flesh. Don't worry about a few naked spots, as roasting will still loosen the skin in those areas even if they aren't blackened. Transfer the peppers to paper bag and fold the end to seal. Let cool until easy to handle, about 20 minutes. Using a small knife as an aid, peel off the blackened skin. Don't rinse the peppers under water to help remove the skin---you'll only rinse away flavor, and a few specks of blackened skin isn't a big problem. Remove and discard the ribs and seeds. The peppers are now ready for use...and your kitchen will smell wonderful."

Smoked Whitefish Pinwheels
(Makes about 36 pinwheels)

"As the chef in the family, it's mu job to trim the smoked fish. The larger the number of diners, the more fish that needs to be skinned. So one day, in the middle of cleaning a mountain of fish (and wondering just how many smoked fish there must be in the sea), I threw together an impromptu wrap with the smoked fish and a few other ingredients. It was so tasty it ended up on my menu as an hor's d'oeuvre."

Ingredients:
1/3 cup, plus one tablespoon, mayonnaise
1.5 tablespoon prepared white horseradish
Six 10-inch flour tortillas
2 cups flaked smoked whitefish (from 1 large smoked whitefish, skinned and boned)
2 ounces alfalfa sprouts
1 ripe avocado, pitted and thinly sliced
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1 cup Tomato Salsa (page 155)

Method:

  1. In a small bowl, mix the mayonnaise and horseradish. Spread a tortilla with 1 tablespoon of the mayonnaise. About 2 inches from the bottom of the tortilla, sprinkle 1/3 cup of the whitefish in a thick strip. Layer with a tangle of sprouts, a few avocado slices, and a sprinkle of onion. Top with about 2 tablespoons of salsa. Starting at the bottom, roll up tightly and place on a baking sheet, seam side down. Repeat with the remaining tortillas and filling ingredients. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours.
  2. Using a sharp knife, trim the ends (save for nothing), and cut each roll crosswise into 6 pieces. Arrange on a platter and served chilled.

Gefilte Fish Terrine
With Carrot and Beets Salad

(Makes 16 to 20 servings)
"Talk about not-your-grandmother's gefilte fish! This is absolutely one of the classiest ways you could ever serve the holiday classic. When I made it on my television show, I got hundreds of requests for the recipe. This is only worth making with the freshest fish possible. Do think ahead--the terrine is easiest to slice if it is well chilled."

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
1.5 pound skinless whitefish fillet
1.5 skinless pike fillet
1 cup cold water
5 large eggs, lightly beaten
7 tablespoons matzo meal
2 tablespoons sugar
1.5 tablespoons kosher salt
1.5 tablespoons freshly ground white pepper
1 medium carrot, shredded
1 pound carrots, peeled
1 pound beets, peeled

Method:

  1. The day before serving, position a rack in the center of the oven and pre-heat the oven to 325 F. Lightly oil two 8.5- by 4.5-inch loaf pan.
  2. Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  3. In batches, process the fish in a food processor fitted with the metal blade until ground into paste. Combine the ground fish, onion, water, eggs, matzo meal, sugar, salt, and pepper in a bowl of heavy-duty electric mixer fitted with a paddle blade. Mix on low speed until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the shredded carrot. Spread in the loaf pans and cover each with aluminum foil. Arrange the loaf pan inside a larger roasting pan.
  4. Slide the rack half way out of the oven. Place the roasting pan on the rack. Pour enough water into the pan to reach 2 inches up the sides of the loaf pans. Carefully slide the rack back into the oven. Bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of the loaf, reaches 140 F, about 50 minutes.
  5. Remove the loaf pans from the water and cool on a wire rack. When the pans are cool, wrap each one tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours or overnight. (The terrines can be prepared up to one day ahead)
  6. To make the salads, shred the carrots with a mandolin fitted with julienne blade. Transfer to a medium bowl. Shred the beets and transfer to another bowl.
  7. To make the vinaigrette, whisk the vinegar, mustard, horseradish, in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in the oil. Season with salt and pepper. Toss each shredded vegetable with half of the vinaigrette and season again with salt and pepper. (The salads can be prepared up to 2 hours ahead, covered and refrigerated).
  8. To serve, divide each terrine into eight to ten slices. On each plate place a slice of terrine with mounds of the beets and carrots salads. Sprinkle the salads with the chives. Garnish each plate with a small spoonful of horseradish. Serve chilled.

Horseradish Mustard Vinaigrette

Ingredients:
3 Table spoons of balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons prepared mustard
2 teaspoons prepared white horseradish
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil.
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives, for garnish.
Prepared white and beet horseradish, for garnish.

Heritage Recipe

Rugelach
(Makes 45 Pastries)

"My wife's family has been using this recipe to make mountains of rugelach for years. I've never found one that is better...and I doubt that you'll have any complaints, either. Use whatever fruit preserves you like, because the choice of preserves will personalize your batch."

Dough Ingredients:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
One 8 ounce container whipper cream cheese
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups all purpose flour

Filling
3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup dried currants
3 tablespoons sugar
1.5 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 cup fruit preserves, such as apricot or raspberry.

Method:

  1. To make the dough, beat the butter and cream cheese in a bowl of heavy-duty mixer fitted with the paddle blade on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the sugar, vanilla, and salt. On low speed, gradually add the flour and the mix just until combined.
  2. Turn the dough onto a slightly floured work surface and knead briefly just until smooth. Divide the dough into thirds. Shape each portion into a thick rectangle and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour and up to over night.
  3. To make the filling, mix the walnuts and currants in a medium bowl. Mix the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.
  4. Position racks in the center and top third of the oven and preheat to 350 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  5. Place one portion of the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Sprinkle the top lightly with flour, then roll out into 14 6-inch rectangles (if the dough cracks, let it stand at room temperature for 5 minutes to soften lightly, then try again). Spread about 1/4 cup of the preserves over the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch wide border on all sides. Sprinkle with one third of the walnut-currant mixture, then a generous tablespoon of cinnamon sugar. Starting at the long end, roll up into a tight cylinder. Using a sharp knife, cut crosswise into 15 pieces. Repeat with the dough and filling ingredients. Place the rugelach 1 inch apart on the baking sheets.
  6. Bake until lightly browned, about 25 minutes, switching the positions of the sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking. Transfer to wire cake racks and cool completely. (The rugelach can be prepared up to 5 days ahead and stored at room temperature in an airtight container.)

About Jeffrey Nathan:

Nathan has been the host of public television's "New Jewish Cuisine," since its inception in October 1998. It is the only national gourmet kosher cooking series. His formal culinary training began in the United States Navy where he was the ship captain's personal cook while on assignment in the Mediterranean. After his honorable discharge, he attended the Culinary Institute Of America with his G.I. Bill assistance.