October 23, 2007

Guilt and Yum.

Hypothesis... People who are masters of guilt tend to be masters of making yummy things. True? False? Is there a connection? Why? Discuss.

Here is a list of some yummy treats I have found recently. Kosher yummy things.

I am not a salesperson, I get no commission here, I am just hungry and staying out of the kitchen tonight. I just don't have room in my gut to feel guilty about anything else.

These are the top 10 specialty items that come to mind immediately.

1. Neshama Sausage

We especially like Breakfast Delight and Country Apple. I make a pareve honey wheat pancake that goes nicely with these on a Sunday morning. And of course, there is always pareve challah french toast. I think it's actually the maple syrup that brings everything together. It's like having the whole country breakfast thing going without the bacon grease.

2. Wise Chicken.

Is this the only company making organic kosher meat? Why is it so hard to find kosher organic meats? Refute. Discuss. List other brands. This chicken ain't cheap, but it's quite good.

3. Graciela Chocolate Souffles

Omygoodness are these yummy... served warm, the center is melty and the outside is brownie-esque, and the whole things is...wait for it....Pareve. Dark, rich and chocolaty.

Did I mention they take only take a minute or so in the microwave, or a few minutes in the oven (the package says 3 minutes, but I think it takes more like 8 or 10). You find them in the freezer section of many kosher food markets.

The only drawback is that I am afraid to keep these in my freezer. I try and only have them around for guests, and can't be alone in the house when I know they are there.

And you can serve the warm souffle with a dolop of cold vanilla Tofutti (see below) for an even more decadent pareve dessert. Great food to eat away emotions with.

4. Miso Master Organic Soy

This is great in marinades and can be used to make salad dressing- and of course it's used in Miso soup. Just find me kosher dashi stock- but that's another rant entirely.

My favorite thing to make is Miso Marinated Fish.
I like Sable (a.k.a. "Black Cod") because it's a meaty, oily fish, similar to Chilean Sea bass (but not over-fished and less expensive).

I use equal parts white miso, sugar and white wine, then add a dash of Sesame Oil and some grated ginger. I let the fish sit in this mixture all day.

I usually prepare the marinade the night before in a zip-lock. Then I get the fish early in the morning, and put the bag in the cooler when I go to pick up the fish. The fish monger will put the fish in the marinade and pack it in ice in my cooler and I am set until dinner that evening.

I bake the fish for about 15 minutes on 400, and then broil the top for another 5 minutes, until the marinade glazes and blackens a little on the top. The fish should flake just a bit. Then I top it it with chopped scallions. This isn't a "budget meal", but it's great for a special dinner, and it's fast and easy. My toddler will eat it.

5. I am going to limit myself to mentioning one very useful, versatile kosher cheese: Gran Duca Grana Padano. This is a less expensive and versatile relative of Parmesan Reggiano. And it's easier to find in our neck of the woods. This is a "staple" cheese for us. It's nice grated on pasta, shaved into salads, or sliced and snacked on alongside a tart green apple.

There are other kosher cheeses that are more luxurious, and more exciting, but this is a nice balance of yum, usefulness, availability and not so much guilt.

Cheese is a painful subject.

Don't get me wrong... there are many options. We can find a lot of basic varieties- Provolone, Brie, Blue, Asiago, Gruyere and Feta. We usually get the cheese needed for a recipe.

But, as a lover of aroma and ash and rind- and the mystery and allure of unknown cheeses- I live knowing there is a whole other world of cheese that for the time being isn't allowed into our house. Not even for a visit. And I miss these stinky, peculiar house guests. The stranger and more exotic the better- and that is the problem with kosher cheese. Part of cheese love is the chase. Strolling into a funky cheese shop and sampling a bunch of enticing, unusual cheeses until you find the most unexpected and sublime treat... having your wedge removed from the larger wheel, discussing the cheese with the shop keeper.... pinpointing the cheese's unique personality and who it should be paired with (we're talking wine here, and I won't even start that rant...)

Sure, you can find decent kosher cheese, but nothing you will struggle to describe, or daydream about once it's gone.

I could go on and on about cheese. I recommend you listen to someone who knows more- even makes cheese- check out the cheese posts at Kosher Blog.net.

6. Bartenura Balsamic Vinegar and Balsamic Vinegar Glaze.

How could one live without a decent balsamic vinegar?

We can only find this in specialty kosher markets, but it's worth the finding.

Obviously you can make a zippy vinaigrette with it, but a good Balsamic really gets around. It gets brushed on a roasting portabello mushroom, drizzled on fresh tomatoes, basil and mozzarella... a little might might find its way into a simmering tomato sauce, or into so many marinades.

We make Balsamic Rosemary Chicken with it (extend it with Heinz Red Wine Vinegar and a dash of soy). Braise chicken, halved garlic heads, and quartered onions. Add rosemary.

7. Tofutti Pints - I love the Vanilla Almond Bark

I have eaten this pareve ice cream substitute after dairy meals. I keep this around more than ordinary ice cream because I enjoy it, and it's simplifies the freezer. Tofutti is just where I want to be on the calories vs. decadence curve. Ice cream purists may scoff, but they are going to get really fat.

This particular flavor is very vanilla-y. The plain vanilla comes in handy for topping off other pareve desserts, like baked peaches (which I make a lot when peaches are in season).

An incredibly yummy and simple dessert is made by taking Grape Nuts Cereal (which is a favorite versatile ingredient, and a post in itself), and toast it in the oven with a touch of honey. Roll a very cold scoop of frozen vanilla Tofutti in the baked cereal mixture and sprinkle the ball with cinnamon. It makes something like a quick and dirty "fried ice cream".

Note- I am pretty sure Grape Nuts are dairy, but you can do this with regular ice cream if you are too cool for Tofutti.

8. Dr. Praegger's Spinach Pancakes

Find them... anywhere. These little life saving patties get spinach into my 2 year old boy, so they had to make the A-list. They are my friend.

They are fast, yummy, and my son eats them as if they were big green cookies filled with sugar crystals and not diced onions.

A nice lunch is to top them with leftover salmon. Unfortunately, there is no such a thing as leftover salmon.

9. Kashi TLC "Trail Mix" Bars

These are good to toss into my bag in case I am stuck somewhere with a certain toddler that screams "cookie" whenever he sees something round. And, because it's not round, I am not really giving him a cookie, am I?

The kind shown is very tasty and satisfying for 140 calories per bar, and I am only eating the last bite of his bar, anyway.

10. Smart Balance Spread

Does regular margarine give you nightmares? Me too.

Well, this is not your "mother's margarine".

It's organic. It's 100 % Vegan. It's Non-dairy. It's non-GMO. It's non-hydrogenated. It has no Trans Fats. It's Gluten Free. It has no MSG. And yet you don't fear it. It's edible. It what the devil *is* this stuff, you ask?

An expeller pressed natural oil blend (palm fruit, soybean, canola and olive). But don't think about that too much. Would, I, during a dairy meal, smear it all over brioche instead of little pat of real butter? Not really, No. But it's doable, and better than margarine. And most major supermarket chains seem to carry it.

11. Chirardelli Intense Dark Twighlight Delight, 72% Cocoa

Did I say top 10? Did you ever see the movie "Spinal Tap"? If not, never mind. This list goes to 11.

I saved the best for last. Mmmmm... "Twilight Delight". What a great name. I want to meet the person who named this chocolate. I want to know what they named their children. I wonder if they have special access to lots of chocolates like this. I wonder if I could befriend this person.

Sometimes I bring a small handful of whole almonds, and alternate bites between the chocolate and the almonds. Usually I just eat a square or two. A little goes a long way, and utterly cures even a PMS-level chocolate craving.