Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Rabbi in search of a recipe

[Post I'm mulling: Loughner: Schizophrenia or Terrorist at Everyone Needs Therapy]

When I first married the Rebbetzin, I was a passable cook; my portfolio included basic chicken and beef, and a few sides and desserts. I even specialized in a homemade salsa. But all of that changed in the shul rabbinate; the frenzied and unpredictable schedule made cooking, and knowing whether I would be able to eat what I cooked, pretty much impossible.

Enter the kollel, and although I still work long hours – longer, actually, in some ways – the schedule is far more predictable. So I’m back in the cooking business, one day per week.

Why do I want to get back in?
• The Rebbetzin does enough for me, surely I can do something in return.

• I like to try unique tastes, but asking the Rebbetzin to cater to that would be unfair.

• It's a form of chesed for my family; certainly, I could just purchase ready-made food, but as Rav noted (Bava Metzia 86b) regarding Avraham, chesed is best when the hard work is performed personally.

• Tehillim 128:2 – יגיע כפיך כי תאכל אשריך וטוב לך – When you eat the work of your hands, you are fortunate and it is good for you.

The only catch is that I still have very little time: I have a one-hour window from the time my alarm goes off in the morning until the Daf starts, and I’m out from Daf until dinner, so all of the cooking must take place in that rather packed hour. Problem.

Solution: Slow-cooking, aka crockpot cooking. As long as the ingredients are simple, and the prep time is low, I can put it all together and get the food going, and then come back at dinnertime to turn it off and serve.

So far, I’ve tried the following:

• Chicken, apricot jam and salsa – Very good.

• Chicken, VH pad thai sauce – Eh.

• Chick peas (aka garbanzo beans), rice, various spices, soy sauce, horeseradish, a hot pepper, onion, carrot and a sweet potato - Very enterprising. Not very good.

• Chicken, tomato sauce, two quartered tomatoes, an orange pepper, a halved onion. This is in the crockpot as we speak.

So I’m looking for more recipes to try. I’ve bought a bunch of sauces to try, but I can go beyond that if the ingredients are few. I’m chicken-based, because it’s inexpensive and it’s a good anchor for a meal, and I like to avoid starches that stick to the pot, but I’d try vegetarian dishes as well. Please send your recipes my way!

[And while we're on the topic, Rafi at Life in Israel has a post asking Will cholent get people to go to shul?, reminding me that I did have one opportunity to cook over the years - my annual also-ran entry in our shul chulent contest.]


  1. Here are two fish recipes that go over well in our home:

    Get some tillapia.
    Buy some low fat "Ritz" style crackers. Usually the "store brands" are pareve or you could get Leibers or Rokeach.
    Crush those crackers like no one's business. I usually put them in a large bowl and then use a smaller bowl to crush them.
    They should be a bit thicker than Jason's breadcrumbs. Almost the size of Japanese bread crumbs.
    Then, either use I Can't Believe It's Not Butter or just melt some margarine in the microwave until it's a liquid (this is what I do).
    Pour the melted "butter" into the bowl and mix it with the crackers. It should be "wet" enough to pat on top of the tillapia (defrosted).
    If you put in in the over frozen then it's way to liquidy.
    I place mine on a cookie sheet covered with foil (easy to clean, b/c I'm all washing a few things as possible) and spray the foil
    with some non-stick spray.
    Then lay down that tillapia and gently, with love and attention, pat the butter/cracker combo on top of the fish, covering each peice.
    Now, I also sprinkle a schtikel season salt on them, but that's just by choice.
    Cook them until they flake when you attempt to cut a peice. I'd say 375 for about 20-30 minutes.

    Generally we also have rice pilaf or just brown rice with it, maybe something green if I feel healthy.

    Now this isn't as easy as BBQ Salmon.
    To make that you just take fillets of salmon, pour or brush some sauce on them and bake until they flake.

  2. What happens after dinner? If you have time after dinner, you can do a lot of prep work then to throw stuff in the crock in the morning. For example, you can chop vegetables at night (my mom does this for cholent because she has to leave for work so early in the am - potatoes, onions, carrots, celery, all chopped the night before and placed in sealed bags to be dumped into the crock in the morning, beans soaking in a bowl on the counter overnight, cook the cholent on high during the day Friday, turn to low before shabbos and add water if needed before hadlakkat neirot --> a rather tasty cholent ), which will free up some of your time to try other things. Or maybe make rice the night before or something like that for a microwave warm-up to go with the rest of the meal.

    I've not been a big slow cooker chef because I was always out of the house too long to make something like a lasagna in the slow cooker (mine is older, and without a programming function to switch it to low or warm after x amount of time, food would burn), but it can be done - there are LOADS of recipes out there, between slow cooker cookbooks and the internet.

  3. Crock Pot Beef with Broccoli:

    Beef chunks (preferably chuck) in bottled teriyaki sauce. Cook all day.In the last prep for dinner, stir in a paste of cornstarch and water to thicken.

    During that one hour in the morning, put frozen broccoli in the refrigerator to defrost. Microwave at serving time.

    Also in the morning, prepare (brown rice), to reheat later.

    You can also make this with boneless skinless chicken thighs, or dark turkey chunks.

  4. http://www.crockpot365.blogspot.com/

    A Year of Crockpotting

    She did this every day for a year, including recipes, photos, and reviews.

  5. Neil-
    Thanks, but that won't work with the whole prepare-in-the-morning, eat that night option... A good idea if I can find time on a Sunday afternoon, though.

    Anonymous 3:45 PM-
    A good point. Problem is that after dinner comes night seder.
    It's definitely true that there are loads of recipes out there, though.


    Yes, I have her book; she has quite a few recipes I'd like to try!

  6. Hi Rabbi,
    I can give you a few never fail recipes; first there are rules for all these recipes, 1. slice 2 onions and line the bottom of the crock pot with one and the top of the food with the other.2 no extra water is needed unless you use beans/barley/rice-something that absorbs water. 3. you may throw in vegetables if you wish but make sure they are covered by the onions or another water filled vegetable.

    Here goes... take one whole chicken place on onions pore over 1 can mushroom soup (Manischewitz)and 1 package of dry onion soup mix (goodmans)cover with onion - done!
    Next.. one chicken, 12 oz orange soda pop, 1/2 cup soy sauce, cover with onions, done!(from slow cooker cookbook)
    Meat! take one roast, rub with spices, garlic and paprika, cover in ketchup, onions on top, done!
    for a special treat, pickled roast. Slip out of bag, place on top of onions still covered in pickling spices. cover with onions, done!
    I hope this helps
    - Bracha

  7. Bracha-
    Thank you very much! I have my recipe picked out for this week (chicken, duck sauce and some interesting vegetables), but I look forward to trying these as well.

  8. I have the world's easiest vegetarian cholent recipe that could also make a very tasty, inexpensive week night dinner. The night before, put one cup of dried pinto beans in a bowl and cover them with boiling water. Put the bowl in the refrigerator. That morning, drain and rinse the beans. Put in the crockpot with one cup of barley, several generous dashes of season salt, one jar of mild salsa, and lots of water. Cook.

  9. Julie-
    Thanks, that sounds good! Especially as I was getting tired of the chicken...