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Food to Live By

Celebrating the High Holidays

Since Rosh Hashanah (which begins at sundown on September 15) celebrates the birth of the earth, I’m irresistibly drawn to “Food to Live By: The Earthbound Farm Organic Cookbook” (Workman, $21.95) by Myra Goodman, cofounder of Earthbound Farm, which has grown from two and a half acres in 1984 to thousands of acres of organic farms. (Food writer Linda Holland and chef Pamela McKinstry co-author.)
   Ironically, Goodman, whose parents were holocaust survivors, was raised on what her mother deemed “good American food,” like Lucky Charms and TV dinners. “Her idea of a home-cooked meal was minute steak with Accent,” she told me. “The extent of my cooking was toasting Wonder white bread with ketchup and American cheese out of the plastic in the toaster oven. For me, living on the farm was where I really learned to cook.”
   This city girl became a farmer by accident when she and her husband, Drew, tended a small raspberry patch in Carmel to raise money for graduate school. “We fell in love with living off the land and growing food,” she said. Organic was a natural choice from the very beginning. “The former tenant showed us how to use the chemical pesticides,” she recalled, “but we had an instinctive aversion. When you grow up in New York, you get food from the supermarket. You can’t see, smell or taste the chemicals. But it’s different when you’re the one holding them and needing gloves and a mask to use on what’s growing in your backyard to sell to people at your roadside stand.”
   As a child, Goodman spent holiday meals with her father’s only sister to survive the holocaust and her orthodox family in Brooklyn’s Boro Park. “People who went through the holocaust either got more religious or less,” she reflected. “My parents weren’t really focused on Jewish traditions, but when I had kids and lived in a community with a very small Jewish population—and really being into food as our family anchor—I wanted to give them a sense of their religious heritage and set traditions through the pleasure of food.”
   For Rosh Hashanah Goodman suggests Merlot-Braised Short Ribs with Cipollini Onions. Slowly braised until fork-tender, the beef bathes in a rich sauce of red wine, earthy mushrooms, and balsamic vinegar. The homemade beef stock becomes a building block for so many other recipes, but store-bought may be substituted.
   For dessert I’ve found a dish to satisfy the health conscious and indulgers alike: Streusel-Stuffed Baked Apples from Susie Fishbein’s “Kosher by Design Short on Time” (Artscroll, $34.99)
    “On Rosh Hashana you get special dispensation because you’re supposed to be eating sweet things,” joked Fishbein, who spoke to me by phone from her New Jersey home while on the treadmill. “Our blessing for our friends and family is for a sweet New Year.”
    The ebullient Fishbein, who sold 24,000 copies of her first book, “Kosher by Design,” in the first week, began experimenting with baked apples for her diabetic father. “The recipe takes an apple pie and stuffs it into an apple basically,” she explained, “but you’re losing the fat, transfat and crust. Everybody at the table can enjoy this version, whether it’s somebody’s dessert in place of pie or not.”
     Fishbein shared one of her family’s favorite activities for Rosh Hashana: an apple tasting. “The holiday falls at a fabulous time for apples,” she noted. “We have these amazing farms near my house, and we go apple picking. I set out dishes with different honeys and apples, mark them with place cards, and we do a tasting. We used to do it with challah, but we’re moving toward a much more healthful lifestyle now.”
   Fishbein recalled with fondness Rosh Hashanas past. “My grandmother used to bring the kreplach, all those bubbe things that somehow got lost and never quite made it into handwritten recipes.” Her mother’s specialty was caramelized carrot coins. “The Yiddish word for ‘carrots’ is ‘meren’” she explained, “which means ‘to increase,’ so we eat carrots as our blessing for increased health and prosperity.”
    Everyone would contribute a signature dish. “My family would pull up, open the trunk, and there would be this sea of aluminum foil,” she said. “I’ve become one of the sea-of-foil-bearing relatives now.”

Merlot-Braised Short Ribs with Cipollini Onions

1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
5 pounds boneless beef short ribs, or 7 pounds bone-in beef short ribs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
2 ribs celery, coarsely chopped
2 small yellow onions, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 bottle (750 milliliters) merlot
4 cups Slow Simmering Beef Stock (recipe follows) or store-bought low-sodium beef broth
12 ounces cipollini or pearl onions (12 to 16 onions)
1/4 cup good-quality balsamic vinegar

1. Soak dried mushrooms in 1 cup warm water until soft, at least 5 minutes. Drain mushrooms in sieve set over a small bowl. Set mushrooms aside. Strain soaking liquid through paper coffee filter, then set aside soaking liquid. Position rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Dry ribs with paper towels, then liberally season them with salt and pepper.

3. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in large, heavy ovenproof pot or roasting pan over medium-high heat. Working in batches if needed to avoid crowding the pot, add ribs and brown well on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes per batch. Using tongs or slotted spoon, transfer ribs to platter and set aside. Reduce heat to medium and add remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil to pot. Add carrots, celery, yellow onions, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to caramelize, 15 to 20 minutes. Add bay leaf, thyme, and tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently, 5 minutes. Return ribs and any accumulated juice to pot, stacking them to fit, if necessary. Add soaked mushrooms, mushroom soaking liquid, and merlot. Add 3 to 4 cups stock, enough that ribs are covered. Heat ribs over medium-high heat until liquid begins to simmer.

4. Cover pot tightly with lid or aluminum foil. Bake ribs until tender when pierced with a fork, about 3 hours. Check pot about every 30 minutes to make sure sauce is gently simmering but not boiling. If needed, adjust oven temperature to maintain a slow simmer.

5. Meanwhile, fill large bowl of water with ice cubes and set aside. Bring medium-size saucepan of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until their skins loosen, about 2 minutes. Drain onions, then plunge them into bowl of ice water. When cool enough to handle, peel onions, cutting a small sliver off root end and pulling skin off. Set onions aside.

6. Remove ribs from sauce, place them on a platter, and loosely cover them with aluminum foil to keep warm. Let sauce rest for a few minutes until fat rises to surface. Degrease sauce by skimming off fat with a metal spoon or ladle. Pour sauce through a strainer and discard solids, including bay leaf. Wash pot and return sauce to it. Bring sauce to a simmer over medium heat. Add vinegar and onions to sauce, then simmer gently until concentrated and onions are tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Add ribs and let simmer until warmed through, then serve.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Slow Simmering Beef Stock with Red Wine

10 pounds beef or veal bones, preferably with some meat attached
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large yellow onions, unpeeled, cut into wedges
4 celery ribs with leaves, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large carrot, unpeeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
8 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 bottle (750 milliliters) dry red wine
1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

Note: To prevent harmful bacteria from developing, cool stocks quickly after cooking before refrigerating or freezing. Divide stock into small containers, or use an ice bath: transfer stock to a clean pot and place in a pan filled with ice water, stirring occasionally.

1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 450ºF.

2. Place meat bones in a large roasting pan in a single layer and rub olive oil over them. (If necessary, arrange the bones in 2 pans to avoid crowding, which could slow down the browning process.

3. Roast the bones until they begin to brown, about 1 hour. Add onions, celery, carrot, and garlic and continue baking, stirring occasionally, until bones are deep brown, about 45 minutes.

4. Transfer bones and vegetables to a very large soup pot or divide them between 2 pots, if needed. Add wine to the roasting pan and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Pour this into the soup pot and add just enough cool water to barely cover the bones, about 12 cups.

5. Bring liquid just to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to low. Using a large spoon, skim off any foam that accumulates on the surface.

6. Add tomatoes and peppercorns and let simmer gently, uncovered, at least 6 hours or up to 12 hours, adding more water as needed to keep the bones barely covered with liquid.

7. Remove and discard bones. Strain stock through a fine-meshed sieve into a large, clean pot and discard the solids. If the stock tastes weak, bring it to a simmer over medium heat and cook until reduced by a third to intensify the flavor, 30 to 45 minutes.

8. If you are using the stock at this time, let it rest for a few minutes so the fat rises to the surface, then skim it off with a metal spoon or ladle. If not for immediate use, let the stock come to room temperature using the quick cooling method (see Cook’s note). Refrigerate stock, covered, until fat has solidified on the surface, then discard fat. Stock can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 6 months.

Yield: 8 to 10 cups

Source: “Food to Live By’ by Myra Goodman with Linda Holland and Pamela McKinstr

Streusel-Stuffed Baked Apples

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick-cooking or 1-minute type)
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter or margarine, melted
3 medium red apples, such as McIntosh or Cortland
3 medium green apples, such as Granny Smith
1 cup apple juice
1/2 cup honey
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Thick caramel (recipe below)

Ice cream or whipped cream, dairy or pareve (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 425˚ F.

2. Prepare streusel filling: In medium bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, oats, and melted butter or margarine. Pinch to form coarse crumbs. Set aside.

3. Wash apples and, with melon baler, carefully scoop out core, creating a “bowl“ about 2 inches in diameter. Be careful not to go all the way to bottom or break sides. Fill each apple with streusel filling, stuffing them to their tops. Arrange apples in shallow 9 x 9-inch baking dish.

4. In small bowl, stir apple juice, honey, and cinnamon. Pour into baking pan. Bake, uncovered, for 25 to 30 minutes or until apples are tender. If streusel starts to burn, loosely cover with piece of foil. Carefully remove apples to platter or individual dessert dishes. Drizzle apples with pan juices or Thick Caramel and serve warm with a scoop of your favorite dairy or pareve ice cream or whipped cream. 

Yield: 6 servings

Thick Caramel

1/2 teaspoon food-quality Dutch-process cocoa powder, such as Droste brand
2/3 cup nondairy whipping cream, such as Richwhip brand
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup water
3 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice
1 tablespoon margarine
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. In a medium bowl, whisk cocoa powder in whipping cream until completely dissolved, smoothing out any lumps. Add corn syrup, whisk again, and set aside.

2. In a medium heavy-bottomed pot, combine water, sugar, and lime juice. Over medium-high heat, bring mixture to a boil, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves. With a pastry brush soaked in water, brush the sides of the pot clean to remove splatters. Cook without stirring. As the water evaporates, the bubbles will become bigger and slower; start watching for caramel color to appear. Swirl or turn the pot to avoid getting a burned spot and to evenly mix the syrup. Simmer until mixture is an amber color. Go by the color as the heat will differ from stove to stove. Don’t allow the caramel to burn and work carefully so as not to burn yourself.

3. Whisk in whipping cream mixture. The caramel will bubble profusely and may clump. Keep stirring until the caramel is smooth in color and texture. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes or until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and stir in margarine and vanilla. The caramel will be extremely hot, so exercise caution as you carefully transfer to a large bowl and place into the refrigerator. The caramel will thicken as it cools. To use as a topping, reheat in the microwave until syrupy.

Source: “Kosher by Design Short on Time” by Susie Fishbein

Streusel-Stuffed Baked Apples

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick-cooking or 1-minute type)
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter or margarine, melted
3 medium red apples, such as McIntosh or Cortland
3 medium green apples, such as Granny Smith
1 cup apple juice
1/2 cup honey
2 teaspoons ground cinnamo

Ice cream or whipped cream, dairy or pareve (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 425˚ F.

2. Prepare streusel filling: In medium bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, oats, and melted butter or margarine. Pinch to form coarse crumbs. Set aside.

3. Wash apples and, with melon baler, carefully scoop out core, creating a “bowl“ about 2 inches in diameter. Be careful not to go all the way to bottom or break sides. Fill each apple with streusel filling, stuffing them to their tops. Arrange apples in shallow 9 x 9-inch baking dish.

4. In small bowl, stir apple juice, honey, and cinnamon. Pour into baking pan. Bake, uncovered, for 25 to 30 minutes or until apples are tender. If streusel starts to burn, loosely cover with piece of foil. Carefully remove apples to platter or individual dessert dishes. Drizzle apples with pan juices or Thick Caramel and serve warm with a scoop of your favorite dairy or pareve ice cream or whipped cream.

Yield: 6 servings

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