Don’t make it because it’s easier, make it because it’s great! Tamal de cazuela is a “tamale casserole” with all the fabulous flavors of our favorite Mexican tamales baked in a cast iron dish.
Labor-intensive traditional tamales are steamed individually in corn husks or banana leaves, resulting in a fluffy masa. Here, the masa is simply spread in a pan, filled with a meaty mixture, capped with more masa, then baked. It has a denser texture more like a sope, the process makes a terrific pie crust.
I often use leftover meat for my tamales. Have you tried my Hanukkah Tamales made from frozen brisket? This pie is made with my leftover braised short ribs (recipe here). For the filling, you can use any shredded meat (beef, pork, chicken) or even vegetables and beans to make a delicioso tamal de cazuela!
Once the tamal de cazuela is baked, let it cool slightly then slice into wedges. Serve the pie slices on plates and let guests garnish with lots of toppings of their choice:
The complex herbal flavors of shiso (reminiscent of mint, lemon, anise, basil and curiously cinnamon) complement the sweet buttery taste of wild-caught Atlantic sea scallops. Miso aioli adds creamy, garlicky, umami characteristics. A refreshing crisp carrot cucumber slaw balances all those rich notes.
At the last minute, place a spoonful of slaw on top of each scallop, then serve one scallop per person for a palate-pleasing amuse-bouche. Big flavors, bold colors, eclectic textures create a stunning small bite to launch your next elegant dinner party.
Take ordinary (high quality) store-bought hummus and pita to another level. Easily jazz it up for guests with a few items from the garden and the pantry. Edible flowers, lemon, herbs & spices, olive oil, nuts – with very little effort, anything colorful and tasty can take the ubiquitous dip over-the-top for entertaining.
Passover and Vicki’s Beet Salad & Fresh Horseradish
Passover 2018 ends at sundown tonight. As I have for the past 17 years, I traveled to Chicago to celebrate the holiday and cook Passover dinner for my family and friends.
The Seder tells the story of how we were slaves in Egypt before God led us to freedom. Each year at Passover we go on a journey in our hearts from slavery to freedom, from sadness to joy. The 3000 year-old story never changes, and our menu doesn’t change very much either.
Over the years I have been sharing our Passover recipes, this year I am so excited to share my cousin Vicki’s fabulous Beet Salad with Orange, Fennel and Walnuts and her super-popular fiery Fresh Horseradish!
2018 Tables – White Linen with Rainbow Flowers
What does change? The decor. Every year we have a wildly different color scheme. Some of the color combinations from our past Seders include:
And the tables are covered with frogs! Read all about our whimsical Passover Frog Collection here.
The Passover Seder Table is not simply a place to tell the story of the Exodus and to eat dinner. The Table is symbolic in and of itself. It is a place where memories are made and traditions are taught.
It is where we gather with family and friends, and perhaps strangers too, to celebrate our freedoms.
The care with which my sister-in-law Kristy sets her Table reflects the solemnness and seriousness of this holiday. The vibrancy and beauty of the Table reflect our gratitude to God.
Happy New Year Friends! May it be filled with dazzling and delicious dishes. And no shortage of exceptional adult beverages either. We are ringing in 2018 with a couple fabulous appetizers…pairing them with outstanding Champagne and Single Malt Scotch.
Champagne, smoked salmon, and caviar are an undisputed flavor trifecta. Here, premium smoked salmon is stuffed with a dollop of creme fraiche, then tied into an adorable bundle and topped with caviar. Toasted brioche is the perfect vehicle for serving these little beggar’s purses, although a knife and fork are required. Forever elegant NV Billecart-Salmon Rosé is totally enchanting, with flavors of sweet spice and wild strawberries, it continues to be the Champagne that should be married to smoked salmon. And not just because of the name.
Our second appetizer is designed to pair with Scotch Whisky. Rich salty cave-aged English cheddar heightens the sweet notes in the Scotch. Peppery arugula and pickled watermelon radish offer the perfect counterpoints. Talisker Single Malt is from Carbost, Scotland on the Isle of Skye, it’s full-flavored and wonderfully peaty, with compelling flavors and brisk scents of the seashore in every luscious sip.
The dish never fails to bring back sweet memories of my Nana and Aunt Edythe. My 2017 version of Kasha Varnishkes includes mushrooms and walnuts. It has more pasta and vegetables in relation to the buckwheat, and uses plenty of heart-healthy olive oil.
I remember that Auntie Edythe would prepare hers with lots of kasha in proportion to the bows and no doubt used plenty of schmaltz. It was more of a buckwheat dish than a pasta dish. She was such a terrific cook. It has been decades since her passing, but none of us will ever forget her cooking, especially her banana cake…and that she served real whipped cream made from scratch in the 60s when everyone else’s whipped cream came out of a can.
Feeling nostalgic with Hanukkah approaching, I was looking through boxes of my mom’s old photographs and came across the one below. Sadly, everyone in the photo except my cousin Robert has passed away. This image, taken at the iconic Palmer House in Chicago c. 1956, is a true treasure. I believe that we bless them and they, in turn, bless us each and every time we think of them. Our memories keep the people who have passed on forever close to us.
My Nana (paternal grandmother) was born in Kiev, Russia 1894. The family fled to Canada to escape the pogroms when she was a young girl. Her birth name was Vitte but she took her sister’s name, Fanny, after Fanny was killed in some sort of machine accident that was never explained to us as children. And now that there is no one left to ask, it will remain a mystery.
She met my Papa (paternal grandfather) when they were teenagers. Their families were living in the same apartment complex in Montreal. His name was Yitzcok when he was born in Romania in 1891 but changed it to Isadore upon arrival in Canada when he was 13 years old. They said he celebrated his Bar Mitzvah on the boat.
Fanny and Isadore married then made their way to the United States and settled in Chicago where Papa took the more American name of Irving, and they raised their children, (my aunt) Edythe and (my dad) Leonard.
I remember one day when we were kids, my Dad asked us if we knew Papa’s real name. I thought about it and said “Is” because that’s what Nana called him. Then I fell into a fit of giggles, “What kind of name is Is, Dad? That’s a verb!”
Our extended family always called Papa by the name Izzy (from Isadore) and Izzy is now my nephew Jett’s middle name. Jett celebrated his Bar Mitzvah in Chicago this past summer. Jett’s older brother Stone has Leonard as his middle name. Leonard sadly passed away in 1971 when he was just 49 years old. Stone, his would-be first grandson, was born in 2001. By keeping their names alive, we bless them.