Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Hannukah Happening

Last night I hosted my first "Hannukah Happening". I was happy to dive into my two favorite Jewish cookbooks "Shalom on the Range" and "The Foods of Israel Today", by Joan Nathan and put together an ethnic delight.

For the uninitiated, Hannukah is the "festival of lights". In 165 B.C.E., the Jews led by the Maccabees evicted the Syrian- Greeks from Palestine. Religious freedom was restored and the Temple in Jerusalem, which the Syrian-Greek king Antiochus IV had converted into a pagan shrine, was cleansed, restored and rededicated. Hannukah means "dedication".

Every temple contains an eternal flame and it takes approximately eight days to prepare ritually permitted oil. Hannukah commemorates the miracle of a small amount of uncontaminated olive oil, lasting for eight days while more oil could be prepared. Hannukah is a minor Jewish holiday that seems to gain momentum in the United States the closer it occurs to Christmas. There is no biblical mandate for the celebration of Hannukah.

Nonetheless, I was glad to be able to share this holiday with friends.

The menu:
Herbed potato latkes served with sour cream
salad with basil shallot balsamic vinaigrette
Moroccan Brisket with Olives, tomatoes, onions, and preserved lemons
Moroccan rice
fresh green beans
non-dairy pear torte

This was the best brisket I've ever had. Honestly. Moist, flavorful and pretty on the plate.

10-12 servings

5 to 6 pound beef brisket
5 garlic cloves
salt and freshly ground pepper
5 tbs vegetable oil
4 large onions, sliced (about 8 cups)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
2 bay leaves
1 celery stalk, diced
3 large tomatoes
1 cup water
1 1/2 c. green Moroccan olives, pitted
2-3 preserved lemons, diced
1/4 c. coarsely chopped fresh parsley
1/4 c. coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. With a knife, pierce the skin of the brisket in 5 places and insert the garlic cloves. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tbs. of the oil in a heavy skillet or roasting pan; add the meat , sear on all sides and remove.
3. Add 2 more tbs of the oil to the same pan and saute 3/4 of the onions (6 cups) until they are limp. Add the turmeric, ginger, white pepper, bay leaves, celery, 1/3 of the diced tomatoes, and water to the pan. Stir fry a minute or 2 and let cool.
4. Place the brisket in a baking pan and surround with the cooked vegetables. Roast, covered in the oven for 3 hours or until a fork goes in and out of the meat easily. Remove, cool, and refrigerate, reserving the vegetables. You can prepare this a day ahead of time.
5. The tomato-onion sauce can be done a day in advance as well: heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the frying pan; add the remaining onions and saute until the onions are translucent. Then add the remaining diced tomatoes and simmer, covered for a few minutes. Set aside or refrigerate overnight or until ready to serve the meat.
6. When ready to serve,remove any fat that accumulated on the brisket as it cooled. Cut, against the grain, into slices about 1/4 inch thick. Return the slices to the baking pan along with the reserved vegetables in which the meat was cooked in step 4.
7. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and reheat the brisket, covered, for about a half hour.
8. Add to the tomato-onion mixture the olives, preserved lemons, and 2 tablespoons of each of the parsley and cilantro, and heat in the saucepan.
9. Remove the brisket and some or all of the vegetables to a serving platter and serve, covered with the tomato-onion sauce and garnished with the remaining parsley and cilantro.

I did not use preserved lemons. It takes about a week to make preserved lemons. I used the zest of two lemons, instead. This did not inhibit the flavor.

“Glass City Gourmet” is a chronicle of one woman's attempt to cook, eat, diet and entertain with both flair and whimsy while based in Toledo, Ohio. I encourage you to read on as the "Glass City Gourmet" attempts grand recipes, samples locally owned restaurants, visits indigenous markets and humbly pursues her quest to be formally recognized as the official "Glass City Gourmet".

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