Festive Cooking

April 8, 2010

8 min read


Fabulous recipes from Jerusalem.


Part I

Aish HaTorah recently dedicated its magnificent new building facing the Western Wall. It was a privilege for me to be part of the festivities that included gala dinners, Shabbat meals and a Bar Mitzvah family trip.

It was a great success and here are some of the sumptuous recipes I used.

Cornmeal Fried Nile Perch with Vinaigrette


  • 1 tbsp. minced shallot
  • 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 ½ tbsps. mustard
  • 1 ½ tsps. drained capers
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 2 tbsps. canola oil
  • 2 tbsps. olive oil

Combine shallot and vinegar in small bowl. Let stand 10 minute. Add next 3 ingredients; whisk. Gradually whisk in both oils. Season vinaigrette to taste with salt and pepper.


  • 1 cup water
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 2 tbsps. all purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tsps. coarse Kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 4 6- to 7-oz. nile perch fillets

Beat water and egg in 11 x 7 x 2 in. glass baking dish. Whisk next 5 ingredients in pie dish. Arrange fish in single layer in egg mixture; turn to coat. Dip each fillet into cornmeal mixture to coat on both sides. Place fillets on waxed paper. Can be prepared 2 hours ahead; chill.

Preheat oven to 300°F. Place rimmed baking sheet in oven. Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 fillets. Cook until just opaque in center and crisp and golden on outside, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to baking sheet in oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining fillets.

Divide fish among plates. Drizzle vinaigrette over fish.

Makes 4 servings.

Tuna Sates with Wasabi Sauce

Can be prepared in 45 minutes or less but requires additional unattended time.

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 tsps. soy sauce
  • 1 ½ tsps. sugar
  • 2 tsps. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsps. wasabi paste (green horseradish paste), or to taste
  • a 12-oz. tuna steak, cut into twenty 1-in. cubes
  • ten 8-in. bamboo skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes

In a bowl stir together mayonnaise, soy sauce, sugar and lemon juice. Transfer 2/3 cup soy mayonnaise to a small bowl and stir in wasabi paste. Stir tuna into remaining 1/3 cup soy mayonnaise. Chill wasabi mayonnaise, covered, at least 1 hour and up to 24. Marinate tuna, covered and chilled, at least 1 hour and up to 24.

Prepare grill.

Thread 2 tuna cubes onto each skewer and grill on an oiled rack set 5-6 inches over glowing coals until just cooked through, 2-3 minutes on each side, or bake in an oven on high heat. Be careful not to overcook. Serve tuna sates with chilled wasabi mayonnaise.

Makes 10 sates.

Smoked Whitefish Gefilte Fish with Lemon Horseradish Sauce


  • ¾ cup thinly sliced peeled carrots
  • ¼ cup matzo meal
  • 2 tbsps. olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped green onions
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 ½ lbs. mild white fish fillets (such as sole or flounder), cut into small pieces
  • 2 cups flaked smoked whitefish (about 8 ozs.), carefully boned
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground black pepper

Cook carrots in pan of boiling salted water until very tender, about 8 minutes. Drain, reserving ½ cup cooking water in small bowl. Stir matzo meal into water; let stand 10 minutes. Place carrots in processor. Heat olive oil in medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion and saut? until soft, about 5 minutes. Add green onions and stir 1 minute. Add onion mixture to carrots in processor. Add matzo meal mixture; blend until mixture is pureed and smooth. Using electric mixer, beat 3 eggs and lemon juice in large bowl until foamy and slightly thickened, about 4 minutes. Stir in mixture from processor; do not clean processor.

Blend fish fillets, smoked fish, salt, and pepper in same processor bowl until fish is finely chopped. Add remaining egg and blend to coarse paste. Add fish mixture to matzo meal mixture and mix thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate until very cold, about 2 hours.

Line large baking sheet with waxed paper. Using wet hands, shape ¼ cup fish mixture for each gefilte fish ball into egg-shaped oval. Place on prepared sheet. Cover with waxed paper and chill.

Set up a large pot of boiling water. Do not cover. Place fish balls in boiling water, gently. Cook about 25 minutes. Remove fish balls. Carefully cover and refrigerate until cold.


  • 2 garlic cloves
  • ¼ cup prepared white horseradish
  • 2 tbsps. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup mayonnaise

Push garlic through garlic press into small bowl or mince garlic and place in small bowl. Mix in horseradish and lemon juice. Gradually whisk in mayonnaise. Season sauce with salt and pepper. Cover; chill up to 1 day.


Line plates with lettuce leaves. Arrange 1 or 2 fish balls on each. Spoon lemon-horseradish sauce alongside.

Easy preparation tips:

Take frozen gefilte fish, put in meat grinder along with parsley and smoked whitefish. Mix together, add a few eggs and proceed as above.

Makes about 24 Gefilte Fish balls.

Chickpea Salad with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

  • 2 cups (approx. 500 gr.) chickpeas
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 large cloves garlic, finely chopped or crushed
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • ½ tsp. cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 1 ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ cup finely chopped Italian parsley
  • black pepper to taste
  • 3 tbsps. olive oil
  • 1 cup thinly sliced sun-dried tomatoes

Soak chickpeas overnight in enough water to cover. Drain and transfer to pot. Cover with fresh water and add a bay leaf. Bring to a boil and cook over low heat until chickpeas are tender but still firm. Drain and discard bay leaf.


Add remaining ingredients while chickpeas are hot.

Adjust seasoning to taste.

Grilled Eggplant with Caponata Salsa

    • 1 12-oz. container cherry tomatoes, cut in half
    • 2 celery stalks, finely diced
    • ½ cup chopped red onion
    • 5 large green olives, pitted, thinly sliced (about 2 tbsps.)
    • 2 tbsps. coarsely chopped fresh oregano plus sprigs for garnish
    • 1 tbsp. drained capers, rinsed
    • 1 garlic clove, minced
    • Pinch of dried crushed red pepper
    • 3 tbsps. vinegar
    • 1 tbsp. olive oil plus additional for brushing
    • 1 large eggplant (1 ½ to 1 ¾ lbs.), trimmed

Mix tomatoes, celery, onion, olives, chopped oregano, capers, garlic, and crushed red pepper in medium bowl. Whisk red wine vinegar and 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil in small bowl; pour over tomato mixture and toss to coat. Season caponata to taste with salt and pepper.


Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Peel eggplant lengthwise to create alternating 2-inch-wide intervals of peeled and unpeeled skin. Cut eggplant crosswise into 6 slices, each about 1 in. thick. Brush eggplant slices with oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill eggplant slices until slightly charred and very tender when pierced with knife, about 8 minutes per side, or fry eggplant.

Place 1 grilled eggplant slice on each of 6 plates. Spoon caponata over, garnish with oregano sprigs, or serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 6 servings.

Sweet & White Potato Spears

    • 1 ½ lbs. sweet potatoes, cut into spears (about 3)
    • 1 ½ lbs. white potatoes, Idaho (about 3) or russet potatoes, cut into spears (about 3)
    • ¼ cup olive oil
    • ¼ cup vinegar
    • 3 tbsps. fresh parsley, chopped
    • Coarse Kosher salt
    • Crushed black pepper

Preheat oven to 375°F. Toss potatoes with oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet or 15” x 10” x 1” baking pan. Cook 30 minutes. Turn potatoes, and cook an additional 30 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle parsley over potatoes. Salt and pepper to taste.


Makes 8 servings.

Spinach Sprouts and Cherry Tomatoes

This recipe can prepared in 45 minutes or less.

    • 1 red onion
    • 3 tbsps. vinegar
    • 1 ½ tsps. sugar
    • 1 tsp. powdered mustard or 2 tsps. regular mustard
    • ½ cup olive oil
    • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
    • 4 cups sprouts
    • ¾ lb. baby spinach or beet leaves

Halve onion lengthwise and very thinly slice crosswise. While onion is chilling, in a bowl whisk together vinegar, sugar, mustard and salt and pepper to taste and add oil in a slow stream, whisking until emulsified.


Quarter tomatoes and in a large bowl toss with onion, sprouts, spinach and dressing.

Makes 8 servings.

Salmon with Chili-Kiwi Salsa

    • 10-oz. kiwi, peeled
    • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
    • ¼ cup chopped onion
    • 1 tbsp. fresh or bottled lemon juice
    • 2 tsps. minced seeded chili
    • 1 tsp. grated lemon peel
    • 2 tbsps. olive oil
    • 2 6-oz. salmon fillets

Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Combine first 7 ingredients in small bowl; mix in 1 ½ tbsps. oil. Season salsa with salt and pepper. Brush salmon with remaining ½ tbsp. oil. Grill or bake until just opaque in center, about 5 minutes per side. Serve with salsa.


You also can use teriyaki sauce on the salmon for added flavor.

Makes 2 servings.

Next Steps