Pear Butter

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When the temperature drops below freezing, and the snow has been falling for hours (or days!), there's no better way to help make the house feel warm and cozy than having the sweet smells of cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg waft through your home. Fruit butter (apple butter, pear butter and the like) takes hours of slow simmering on the stove. It also needs to be stirred every 15-20 minutes or so, so it doesn't get stuck on the bottom of the pot. So when you are staying at home on a snowy day, or just staying at home "because" - that is the time to make this deliciously fragrant and silky pear butter. The original recipe is from my brother, Ari M. Sobel. Ari is a Culinary Institute of America-trained chef extraordinaire! I have adapted the recipe and made some changes that suit my tastes. It's very flexible. You can use whatever fruit you like: apples, pears, a combination of the two. Or, in the summer, use plums, nectarines, peaches. You can add strawberries or blueberries. You can use all the spices I've added, or just cinnamon - or leave them out entirely. Use your imagination!

Oven Roasted Broccolini and Asparagus (or any vegetable!)

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I LOVE roasting vegetables  - ALL vegetables! I find that quick roasting them at a high temperature brings out their flavour like no other cooking method. I used to grill my veggies on my barbecue - but no more. My preferred method is to now roast them at 425°-450° Fahrenheit in the oven on parchment-lined professional-quality heavy-duty baking sheets. I brush the parchment paper with good quality extra-virgin olive oil, brush the tops of the veggies with some olive oil, and depending on the vegetable, will vary the seasoning. I always use sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. I LOVE Penzey's spices: They have a fabulous Tuscan Sunset (salt -free) spice that's great on vegetables, chicken, fish. Their Singapore Seasoning (salt-free) is absolutely fabulous on squash and sweet potatoes. I feel like I could be a p.r. rep for Penzey's at times! If you don't have a Penzey's store near you, you can order online. What's lovely about these veggies, is that you can cook them ahead and serve them at room temperature. They are also great cold the next day in a salad. Sometimes, I'm tempted to eat all of the broccoli at one time! If you make parsnips, make LOTS - they shrink down and go QUICKLY! And if you make beets, use rubber gloves, peel them and then cut them.

Middle-Eastern Scented Vegetable Stew

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In the middle of a New England snow storm that was threatening to shut down New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and New England for up to three days, I was craving something warm, comforting and sustaining - that wasn't going to take all day to cook. I've been trying to eat healthier as well. So I look for ways to pack those vegetables into my meals: green smoothies loaded with vegetables (and very little fruit so as not to up the glycemic index), turkey meat-loaf "muffins" stuffed with shredded broccoli, carrots and zucchini, "zoodles" - zucchini noodles made with a nifty gadget called a "spiralizer." Anyway, last Monday, I developed this delicious and hearty vegetable stew. Caramelizing the onions and roasting the grape tomatoes is key to adding lots of full-bodied, rich flavour to the stew. It's well worth the time and effort. The Middle Eastern spices waft through the house as it cooks. And you can make it as "hot and spicy" or mild as you like.

Betsy Stone’s Carrot Kugel (or Carrot Muffins)

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These taste like the most delicious carrot muffins, but not too sweet. They are a fabulous side dish with a roast beef, or chicken or fish. Kids gobble them up. It can be made in a 9" X 13" pan and cut in squares, or in muffin tins. I love making them in my Nordicware Rose muffin tin, because they just look so beautiful! They also freeze very well.

Roasted Beet and Cilantro Gazpacho

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Summer on the north shore of Long Island is divine! Every day, the Long Island Sound provides breath-taking views, no matter if the weather is sunny or cloudy, rainy or blistering hot. The Long Island farm-stands and CSAs (Community Supported Agricultural collective) are overflowing with the most gorgeous bounty of fresh, Long-Island grown vegetables, fruits, and flowers. CSAs are now popping up across North America. What makes them so special is not only do they allow us to "eat locally," but they also allow us to reconnect with the land, they enable us to try new produce that we not have purchased otherwise, they help create community by introducing us to those around us. Perhaps one of the most important features of the CSA is that often, many CSAs contribute their extra produce to soup kitchens and shelters, providing fresh sustenance to those who usually rely on canned vegetables and fruits. This past Shabbat (Saturday), one of my congregants brought some of her extra CSA produce to our Torah study group. I was the lucky recipient of some beautiful beets: golden yellow beets, candy-cane red-and-white striped beets and ruby-red beets. I had seen some recipes for a beet and cilantro gazpacho, but wanted to try my own version of it. I love a cold soup on a hot summer's day. I think you'll find this version perfect for a summer lunch, brunch, or a light fish/chicken dinner.

Roasted Tomato-Basil Soup

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I set out to create a soup full of tomato flavour, perfect for a wintery day. By combining lots of ripe Roma tomatoes, rich sundried Italian tomatoes and a can of organic fire-roasted whole tomatoes, I was able to ramp-up the flavour and create a full-bodied and delicious soup. I have two secret ingredients that always add that little extra touch to my soups: some lemon juice to add a little brightness, and a touch of maple syrup to round out the flavours and add a little more body and richness. (Just be careful to add both in small amounts at a time and: taste, taste, taste!)

Susie Fishbein’s Tri-Color Matzah Balls

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Susie Fishbein creates dishes that are both delicious and beautiful to look at! These matzah balls are gorgeous, easy to make and you can make them ahead of time, store them in the fridge until you are ready to heat them and serve them in your soup. They make an unusual and special presentation for Pesach (Passover). If you are gluten-free, use gluten-free matzah-ball mix.