8 Crazy Bites: A Kitchen Kibitz Hannukah Event

On any given night, Jeff Gabel can be found drinking craft cocktails at Trade, dining at Boston’s hottest new restaurants, or at home creating Asian/Jewish fusion dishes such as tom yum matzo ball soup or bagels with gochujang cream cheese and lox.  He may look young, but his name is rapidly rising in the culinary world of Boston, and beyond.  As evidence, he was recently named one of Zagats 30 under 30 which honors “gastronomic game changers” who are “redefining the way we eat, drink and interact with food and beverages across the U.S. – all before their 30th birthdays”.

This award comes from the success of his recent pop-up series called Kitchen Kibitz.  A former NYC resident with experience in the Jewish nonprofit sector, Jeff noticed a dearth of Jewish cuisine in the city of Boston and decided to do something about it…thus Kitchen Kibitz was born!  Kitchen Kibitz aims to put modern and new twists on classic Jewish food in different kitchens/restaurants all over Boston to help reconnect Jewish and non-Jewish locals to Jewish cuisine and traditions.  So far he has hosted several events such as ThanksGivukkah with Zagat 30 under 30 alum, Josh Lewin of Whisk, Southern Schmear with Hungry Mother’s Barry Maiden, and Land of Milk and Honey with Sofra’s Geoff Lukas.

This past Sunday was his 2nd Hannukah event where he teamed up with Stephanie Cmar (former Top Chef contestant, Zagat 30 under 30 2013, and owner of Stacked donuts pop-up) and Chef Steve “Nookie” Postal, of Commonwealth (formerly chef for the Boston Red Sox) who has his own plans to open up a Jewish inspired restaurant, Steinbones.

I had the privilege of being “hired” as the event photographer (will work for food!) and got to work “behind the scenes” as Chef Nookie and Stephanie Cmar prepared multiple variations of latkes and donuts.

The first latke was a purple carrot latke with carrot gel and persimmon.  The sweetness of the persimmon worked perfectly against the salty, fried latke, almost like a play on apple sauce.  And the colors were beautiful!

The second latke was sweet potato with smoked salmon and dill.  Again, this latke played on the sweet and savory combination, this time featuring the sweet flavor in the latke.  The smoked salmon was delicious with the perfect amount of smokey flavor.

Next came artichoke latkes with apple butter followed by my favorite latke of the night: potato latke with Nookie’s special Pastrami and whole grain mustard.  It’s not easy to find good pastrami in Boston, but this was perfection!  I can’t wait until Steinbones is open and I can eat this on a regular basis!

The last latke featured another specialty that will be a mainstay at Steinbones: brisket!  This was a smokey, perfectly tender brisket completed by  Dr. Brown’s black cherry bbq sauce and served atop a parsnip latke.

The meal was rounded out with ice cream sandwiches with hannukah gelt ice cream as well as Stephanie Cmar’s delicious donuts with Manischewitz jelly (yes Manischewitz can actually taste good!).

And of course the meal wouldn’t be complete without the specialty cocktail of the night dubbed “The Chosen One”.

Overall, it was a delicious event that redefined traditional Hannukah cuisine. Check out Kitchen Kibitz for upcoming events in the New Year and Happy Holidays to everyone!

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Chocolate Truffles: Cardamom Pistachio and Mexican Hot Chocolate

The holidays always put me in the mood to make chocolate truffles.  Not only are they festive, but they make great homemade gifts!  While they may seem intimidating to make, they actually require minimal ingredients and effort…as long as you are willing to get a little messy!

The beauty of truffles is that you can make endless flavor combinations with the option to get as creative as you want.  Think mango curry truffles, mojito, honey lavender, balsamic sea salt, raspberry, mint…any flavor that comes to mind!

I, personally, like to infuse the cream with different flavors (such as the cardamom and cinnamon sticks demonstrated below) and will occasionally add other flavors directly to the ganache mixture.  While cocoa is the traditional coating for truffles, I like to have fun with different flavors and textures such as chopped nuts, coconut, or colored sugar.  Enjoy experimenting and happy holidays!

Cardamom Pistachio Truffles (makes about 10 truffles)

1/2 cup + 1/3 cup bittersweet chocolate (60-70%), chopped (or bittersweet chocolate chips)
1/2 cup heavy cream
10 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1/3 cup roasted pistachios, finely chopped

Place 1/2 cup chopped chocolate (or chocolate chips) in a small heatproof bowl.

Heat heavy cream and cardamom pods over medium-low heat until it comes to a low simmer.  Simmer for about 5 minutes to infuse the cardamom flavor.  Strain the milk over the chopped chocolate.  Let stand for a minute and then whisk until combined into a smooth chocolate ganache.

Cover ganache with plastic wrap and let chill in the refrigerator for about 3 hours until firm enough hold its shape.  Spoon (I like to use a small mellon baller for this) out about 1 Tbs of ganache and roll into a sphere (they don’t have to be perfect, I usually aim for a “rustic” look).  Let chocolate balls chill in the refrigerator for another hour.

Now comes the messy part!  Using a double boiler, or a metal bowl set over a small pot of simmering water, melt the additional 1/3 cup of chocolate.  Roll chocolate balls in the melted chocolate either using your hands (messy option) or using 2 forks (slightly less messy) and then immediately coat in chopped pistachios.  Let truffles chill for an hour to set.

Remove from refrigerator at least an hour before serving to bring to room temperature.  Enjoy!

Mexican Hot Chocolate Truffles (makes about 10 truffles)

1/2 cup + 1/3 cup bittersweet chocolate (60-70%), chopped (or bittersweet chocolate chips)
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 cinnamon sticks
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
ground cinnamon, optional
1/4 cup cocoa powder or hot chocolate powder

Place 1/2 cup chopped chocolate (or chocolate chips) in a small heatproof bowl.

Heat heavy cream and cinnamon sticks over medium-low heat until it comes to a low simmer.  Simmer for about 5 minutes to infuse the cinnamon flavor.  Strain the milk over the chopped chocolate.  Add cayenne pepper and let stand for a minute and then whisk until combined into a smooth chocolate ganache.  At this point, you can add some extra ground cinnamon if you wish after tasting for a stronger cinnamon flavor.

Cover ganache with plastic wrap and let chill in the refrigerator for about 3 hours until firm enough hold its shape.  Spoon out about 1 Tbs of ganache and roll into a sphere.  Let chocolate balls chill in the refrigerator for another hour.

Using a double boiler, or a metal bowl set over a small pot of simmering water, melt the additional 1/3 cup of chocolate.  Roll chocolate balls in the melted chocolate either using your hands or using 2 forks and then immediately coat in cocoa powder or hot chocolate powder.  Let truffles chill for an hour to set.

Thanksgiving Leftovers: Cranberry Ice Cream

I know all 65 of my readers have been anxiously awaiting this post after reading my Thanksgiving special.  Sorry for the delay!  Unfortunately, this post may be a little untimely as last night was probably the last night to safely eat your Thanksgiving leftovers (you can maybe take a risk and stretch it into today…).  Luckily, cranberry sauce is super easy to make (or you can always bookmark this site and save it for next year).

I follow several other cooking blogs and a few of them featured cranberry ice cream recently.  I had never had cranberry ice cream until now, but decided that it was a genius idea for using leftover cranberry sauce.  I was all about repurposing this weekend because what better way to use up Thanksgiving leftovers then to make MORE food!!!  (see pictures below of turkey soup and fried mashed potatoes).  Luckily, I have amazing friends who I coerced to come over and eat repurposed leftovers with me 🙂

The cranberry ice cream turned out to be delicious!  Obviously I started with a Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream base and then just added my leftovers!  The milk and cream really help to mellow out some of the tartness of the cranberries to make this a sweet and festive ice cream.  You can use any cranberry sauce recipe but I have provided my orange cranberry sauce recipe below.  This would pair well with apple or pear pie, white chocolate bread pudding or just on its own, enjoy!

Cranberry Ice Cream

1/4 tsp. kosher salt
3 tbsp. cream cheese, softened
2 cups milk
1 Tbs and 1 tsp cornstarch
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp. light corn syrup
1/2 cup cranberry sauce (see recipe below)

In a large bowl, whisk together cream cheese and salt, set aside.

In a bowl, stir together 1/4 cup milk and the cornstarch; set slurry aside.

In a 4-qt. saucepan, whisk together remaining milk and the cream, sugar, and corn syrup.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 4 minutes; stir in milk-cornstarch slurry. Return to a boil and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 2 minutes.

Whisk milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth.  Next, mix in cranberry sauce.  Mixture may have some lumps from the cranberries. Pour mixture into a plastic bag; seal, and submerge in a bowl of ice water until chilled, about 30 min.

Pour mixture into an ice cream maker; process according to manufacturer’s instructions. Place into a storage container and freeze at least 1 hour before eating.

Orange Cranberry Sauce

1 12 o bag of fresh cranberries
zest and juice of 1 orange
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
~~~~~
Bring all ingredients to a boil over medium heat in a medium sized pot.  Simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until most of the cranberries have broken down.  You may want to add a little water to thin the mixture out.  Remove from heat and cool to room temperature, then chill for at least an hour in the refrigerator before serving (or using for ice cream).