Monday
Mar122012

Ktzitzot

Emanuel: In Hebrew the word literally means “patties,” but what we're really talking about is a kind of Jewish meatballs that come in is many variations as there are Jewish grandmas. A lot of recipes include a sauce, or more veggies, or just veggies, and if you google ktzitzot one of the first things you'll find is not ktzitzot at all but a recipe for what is actually mafrum, which is a whole different story stuffed in a potato.

It occurs to me that they're not all the enticing in pictures or writing if you've never tasted them before.

I've also considered the possibility that it's just one of those foods you had to grow up with in order to appreciate, but it didn't take much to get Angela addicted to them, and it's not the kind of thing that would appeal to her on paper.

It's a common theme in a lot of Jewish food. Cholent, kugel, knaidlach (matzo balls); They simply aren't as photogenic as, say, Vietnamese or Mexican food, where bright greens contrast with bright reds, and sizzling chewy bits hang out of a tortilla all seductive and muy caliente.

Ktzitzot are comfort food in the truest sense of the word. They're not sexy. They're probably the opposite of an aphrodisiac, but they'll make you feel full and happy and highly nap-capable.

What I'm trying to say is that the following recipe and pictures may not look all that snazzy, especially with our crappy iPhone photography, but you'll be wise to just trust me on this one.

As far as I know the following is one of the more simple recipes, and I don't feel like it's missing anything at all.

You obviously always want to use the highest quality beef, but ktzitzot, like meatloaf, are great in that you can make do on a budget. For this batch specifically I used Trader Joe's ground beef and it was still delicious.

I used:

a pound of ground beef (85%)

Two medium yellow onions

Two eggs

Paprika

Salt

Parsley (optional)

Olive oil

Butter

Bread crumbs

I'm using Osem bread crumbs which are made in Israel. This is not some hometown pride nonsense nor does it make a difference flavor-wise, but it's better than Progresso, which I do my best to avoid.

The Osem brand has 7 ingredients which sound like they could conceivably belong in breadcrumbs. Progresso has around 30 ingredients, with the second and third being high fructose corn syrup and corn syrup, respectively.

Anyway, you want to start by chopping the onions and frying them in olive oil in a big pan until brown, just before they start to burn.

While that's happening, mix in a bowl the ground beef, eggs, salt, parsley, and paprika, periodically adding just enough breadcrumbs to soak up the liquids. You want the mix to be moist and shiny but not wet. Once the onions are nicely browned, add them to the bowl, using a spatula to incorporate them into the beef mixture. Alternatively, mix with your hands like a badass. 

Use a paper towel to wipe away some of the oil and any stray onion that's still on the pan. Turn the heat to low and melt butter in the pan.

Now you want to make the patties. The crucial tip here is that you don't want to handle the meat too much. Make a small ball and place it on the pan.

 

Don't toss it or compact it in your hands. Just make it into a nice sphere, handling it as least as possible, and place it in the buttered pan. Then use a spatula to flatten it.

 

Once the pan is full with patties you might want to turn the heat up a little. I like my burgers medium, but I find that ktzitzot are better well-done. You can cook them slowly until they're nice and brown, or even until they are almost black and crispy on the outside.

Once the ktzitzot are cooked place them on a plate that's been readied with paper towels to soak up oil.

Done.

Angela: These things are delicious. They're adequately described as "things," I think, because they're really just awkward lumps of beef cooked to magnificence. Now, if you were me--which wouldn't be such a bad thing--you'd ask for these nice and crispy-dark on the outside. Lots of things look good in pink, but ktzitzot isn't one of them. 

Emanuel: If you have the restraint to not eat them all the same day you're in luck. These are just as good if not better straight out of the fridge, and you could always reheat them if you want. They're also great with tahini or yogurt, but most of the time I just add a little salt.

 

Tuesday
Mar062012

Fatted Calf Porchetta Sandwich

Emanuel: They say that there is no point in arguing about taste, but the porchetta sandwich is very near to the top of my list of foods that are objectively tasty.

Pork roast, and fat, and herbs, all wrapped up with crispy skin, offering a thorough and savory survey of the entire pork texture spectrum – it is scientifically yummy. To not love porchetta is to not love thyself.

Such unhappy souls should seek treatment, untangle childhood traumas, and then head over to The Fatted Calf in Hayes Valley for the finest form of oink ever engineered, excluding bacon, of course.

I don't know if the combination of porchetta, arugula, aioli, and caramelized onions originated with Roli Roti or if it can be traced further back, but it's definitely been the model for all of the porchetta sandwiches I've had in the Bay Area.

The Fatted Calf version is a little different in that it uses an onion jam and a foccacia-like bread as apposed to the traditional rustic roll.

The bread was my favorite part about it (aside from it being a fucking porchetta sandwich) because it was embedded with big chunky crystal of sea salt. Just look at them shine:

My only mistake was not taking a few napkins before I headed to the park to devour it. I had to make a shiny-chinned, greasy-handed walk of shame to a public water fountain to clean up, but I regret nothing! 

I would suffer more thorough humiliations for a bite of porchetta. It's always worth it.

Saturday
Mar032012

So You Want To Make Bourekas

Angela: Bourekas! The word itself incites elation.

It means something buttery and flakey and heart-attack inducing. It means the sort of thing that, while baking, fills your kitchen with smells that can convince you you've been fasting for days. 

In other words, there are few things better than bourekas and its family members-- turnovers, empanadas, samosas. I'm convinced every region of the world has its own astronomically delicious version of stuffed pastry. 

AND! They're easy. So easy, my friends, the hardest part is getting out of your pajamas and to the grocery store to cough up a couple of bucks for some pine nuts and goat cheese. So let's begin.

(I adapted this recipe from Shiksa in the Kitchen).

You're going to need:

  • One sheet of puff pastry (get good puff pastry! cheap stuff will not have as much flavor).
  • one handful of chopped parsley, one handful of pine nuts, and 3/4 cup of soft white cheese (I used goat cheese), and salt and pepper to taste-- all to equal a little more than a cup of filling.
  • egg yolk
  • sesame or poppy seeds (optional)

Emanuel: Most Israeli recipes use gvina levana, which is a fresh white cheese, but the goat cheese we used is pretty similar in texture and made for a great substitute. My mom said that feta is also a good option, but that you shouldn't add salt to it.

Angela: Alright. Here's where the fun happens.

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. In a bowl, mix together the pine nuts, cheese, parsley, salt and pepper. 

3. Roll out the puff pastry. It should still be cold, but not frozen.

4. Cut it into a 12x12 inch square. From there, cut out 9 squares, each about 4x4 inches. 

5. Scoop a scant tablespoon of filling into the middle of each square  (I did full tablespoons and some of the filling burst out. This wasn't really a problem--the filling was still extremely edible--but if you want your bourekas clean and pretty, keep your scoops on the small side).

6. Fold one corner of the boureka over to the opposite corner, making a triangle. Pinch the edges tightly closed, either with your fingers or a fork.

7. Place the bourekas on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

8. Whisk the egg with two teaspoons of cold water. With a pastry brush, apply to the tops of the bourekas.

9. Sprinkle the bourekas with sesame or poppy seeds, if desired. 

10. Bake for twenty minutes, until the tops of the bourekas are a beautiful golden brown.

And voila! Dinner is served. If you're shameless like Emanuel and me, you won't be able to move for about an hour after indulging.