HOLLA! Sweet Potato Challah

Challah, the braided bread served on Shabbat and most holidays, is delicious, and typically made with many eggs.  We had vegan guests over for Shabbat last weekend, so eggs were out.   I had to learn how to make an eggless challah, and fast, so I turned to Joan Nathan, the Guru of Jewish cooking, and modified a recipe she had for berches.  I had never heard of berches before, so I asked my German grandmother about it.  She explained that berches is just the German word for challah.  Joan Nathan’s recipe is made with potatoes, but according to my grandma, berches can be made with or without potatoes.  How about sweet potatoes?  Well that’s what I had from our CSA, so that’s what was going into my challah.  The sweet potatoes lent a nice sweetness and a beautiful orange hue to the final challah, and everyone loved it… it also made for some killer paninis (see previous post).   Does anyone else have any experience with berches?  Feel free to share in the comments below.

Sweet Potato Berches

Modified from Joan Nathan’s The Jewish Holiday Kitchen. This recipe makes 2 large loaves.

  • 2 pounds bread or unbleached all-purpose flour (8 cups)
  • 2 packages dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • About 3 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes (still lukewarm)
  • 1.5 teaspoons salt
  • Poppy or sesame seeds

  1. Place the flour in a large bowl, making a well in the middle. Stir in the yeast and 1/2 cup water. Add to the well a small amount of the flour, about 3 tablespoons. Cover and place in a lukewarm place until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
  2. Add the potatoes, salt, and more lukewarm water if needed [I didn’t need any]. Knead the dough about 10-12 minutes, until it is as firm as possible. [I had to add more flour–about 1/4 cup–since the dough was mad sticky.] Put the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with a cloth. Place in a medium-warm, draft-free spot, and let stand until the dough has doubled in size (about 3-5 hours). [Joan notes that if you are serving on Friday, you can start the dough Thursday night at 8 O’Clock, and it can rise slowly overnight.]
  3. When the dough is ready, place it on a floured wooden board and split it into 4 parts. Make a long loaf of one of the parts [mine was more of an oblong round…], and divide one other part into 3 pieces. Roll the 3 peices into long ropes and braid them. Place the braid on top of the long loaf, pinching on the edges to attach. Repeat with the other 2 parts. Cover the challah and let rise once more for about 1 hour.
  4. Preheat oven to 350F with a pizza stone inside, if you have one.
  5. When ready to bake, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds.
  6. Bake 45 minutes to an hour or until the challah is nicely browned and sounds hollow when tapped.

Soup and Sandwich

After cooking for guests both Friday and Saturday night, our kitchen is stocked with the makings for some pretty stellar leftover meals. Tonight we had a simple soup and sandwich dinner: Pumpkin soup and grilled cheese on homemade sweet potato challah with arugula and pickled red onions (those onions are making it into EVERYTHING these days).

NOTE: This was a different type of post for us. While we often use Twitter (@alexaweitzman) and Facebook to share pictures of recent meals, cooking updates, and various other deep thoughts, sometimes we want to share these brief posts on the blog itself. Well tonight, we decided to finally go for it. We hope this will improve the experience at Sustainable Pantry by allowing us to post more frequently, and try new things, even if only a picture and a brief thought make it onto the blog. Thanks for reading, we hope you enjoy!

Making a Pantry Staple from Scratch (Quinoa-Stuffed Grape Leaves)

I love stuffed grape leaves (dolmas), and I always have at least a couple of cans stocked in the pantry. While dolmas can technically be stuffed with anything, I’m referring to the grape leaves that are stuffed with rice and various herbs, usually bought canned soaked in oil. Dolmas are one of the few ready-to-eat foods we buy, and I regularly turn to them for a great hors d’oeuvres when unexpected guests stop by, or as a desperate straight-from-the-can snack. I never actually made them though, and the thought hadn’t even crossed my mind until I saw a jar of grape leaves soaked in brine at the supermarket a few months ago. So I bought them, and they sat on my shelf for a while, until I was struck with inspiration on Friday as we were having vegan dinner guests for Shabbat. So with the help of Vefa’s Kitchen, and some extra time on my hands, I concocted a whole grain version of dolmas using quinoa, lentils, raisins, pine nuts and herbs.

Quinoa Stuffed Dolmas

First, the grape leaves need to be rinsed, the stems removed, and the leaves blanched in boiling water, a few at a time, then drained and cooled.

For the stuffing I mixed cooked quinoa with raisins, pinenuts, cooked lentils, diced onion, chopped chives, fresh mint, fresh parsley, dried dill, olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper.

To roll dolmas, place about 1 tablespoon of the filling in the center of a grape leaf and roll up (like a burrito–tucking the sides in as you roll up). The rolled-up dolmas are then placed (seam side down) in a large pan lined with grape leaves, and something is placed on top to prevent the dolmas from unrolling during cooking (I used a large pie plate). Next add boiling water, lemon juice and olive oil into the pan, and cook covered over a low flame for about 40 minutes. When done, turn the heat off, and after about 15 minutes, uncover, remove the pie plate, and transfer the dolmas into another container.

They were pretty good Friday night, but the flavor really developed over the next day, and by Saturday night they were outstanding. Compared with the canned dolmas, these were less oily, and the leaves were slightly tougher, but they were still delicious. Would I make them again? Maybe. I’m a sucker for a dish that you can throw anything into and grape leaves are just another vessel for whole grain goodness. But these were a lot of work…you can bet I’ll still be keeping the canned version in my pantry.

The Pantry Pulls Through (Again)

I was so excited that my cousin dropped by after work tonight, and I wanted to make us a nice dinner.  Our last CSA share was almost three weeks ago, and I haven’t been shopping since we returned from a long weekend away, so our kitchen stocks are sadly low (CSA share comes tomorrow, yay!).  This was an evening where I needed to rely on my pantry and the pantry really delivered.  I had a few of the right things and was able to create something delicious from nothing.

Revived Celery Salad

I didn’t have any fresh greens except for a bit of soggy celery and a some parsley leftover from New Year’s Eve.  To firm up the soggy celery, I just soaked it in cold water for 10 minutes (I use this trick for limp salad as well).   Then, I tossed the chopped celery with a can of chickpeas, some pickled red onions* (also leftover from New Year’s Eve), chopped parsley, extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper.

Garlicky Green Orzo

This is simply my type of pasta: garlic, olive oil and Parmigiano, with some frozen vegetables that I always have on hand thrown in for good measure.

  • Orzo (any pasta will do)
  • Frozen peas
  • Frozen spinach
  • Garlic
  • Parmigiano Reggiano
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  1. Cook pasta according to the package.
  2. Sauté garlic in oil in a large pan, after a few minutes, add cooked orzo, peas, spinach and toss. Season with salt and pepper. Toss with cheese.

*Pickled red onions from Thomas Keller, Ad Hoc at Home. Boil 1.5 cups red wine vinegar, 3/4 cup sugar. Pour over 2 sliced red onions in a quart jar. Cover for at least 24 hours, and up to a month.

A Frittata and Latke, United at Last!

With Winter here in full force, you’d think that that fresh vegetables from a local NY farm would be something we’d have to live without for a few months.  Well Golden Earthworm doesn’t think so, and they’re continuing to deliver CSA shares full of fresh vegetables from their farm all Winter long! Last week we got our first box and it had a whopping 4 pounds of kale.  I guess I had latkes on my mind still from Chanukah, and I came up with a delicious kale creation that’s half lakte and half kale frittata.  I first made a pan-sized latke, and then layered the frittata ingredients on top.  It has the best of both worlds: Crunch potato crust topped with cheesy, eggy, kale-y goodness.

Layered Potato Kale and Cheese Pancake

  • 1 lb potatoes, shredded in the Cuisinart (keep the skin on for texture added and nutrients, just be sure to wash them)
  • 1 white onion, shredded in the Cuisinart
  • 1 lb kale, washed, chopped, and steamed
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup grated cheese (I used asiago, but parmagiano regianno or another hard aged cheese would work great)
  • High heat oil, salt and pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Heat a large heavy bottomed oven proof pan with 2-3 T of oil over medium high heat. Mix the shredded potatoes and onions, and season with salt and pepper. When the pan is hot, add the potatoes and spread the mixture around the bottom of the pan to create an even layer.  Cook for 8-10 minutes until the bottom is golden brown.  Then flip, which is best executed by sliding the pancake out of the pan onto a large plate, then covering the plate with another plate, flipping the plates, then sliding it back in the pan (watch this vintage silent Sustainable Pantry movie about flipping HERE.)
  2. Beat the eggs in a bowl and add the cheese, salt and pepper.  Layer the Kale on top of the flipped potato, and pour the cheese/egg mixture on top.   Put the pan in the oven.
  3. Cook for 10 minutes, until the egg is cooked to your liking.