I sometimes — ok, often — envy my friends who cook daring, exotic dishes and throw crazy things like fruit into veggie salads. Innovative stuff like that doesn’t go over so well in my house. I can prepare it, but Hubby will stare down at the unfamiliar thing on his plate with suspicious distaste. He’s a creature of habit, even more so a creature of tradition. Not only does he want to eat the same things, he wants it prepared in the most traditional way. To him, it’s not really Shabbos without classic gefilte fish and chicken soup. And even when its 99 degrees outside, steaming hot cholent and potato kugel better be on the menu.
Defending this bias with his favorite phrase “well, that’s how I had it growing up ” he will insist on chopped liver, even when there are a dozen other sides on the table. Garden salad should be served sans dressing, with multiple bottled dressings standing alongside the salad bowl ‘cuz, “that’s how I had it growing up ” (Never mind that whenI was growing up, bottles on the table were worse than elbows.) Even the salad itself should be boring, made with iceberg lettuce. ICEBERG! No colorful fruit slices, exotic greens, toasted nuts or onions of any color except white, in this nostalgic salad of his childhood.
Listen, I will gladly love and honor Hubby forever, but I go off when he begs for gefilte fish out of a jar, because . Granted, he prefers my homemade version – as long as it’s plated exactly the same way as it was when he was growing up – but those jellied fishballs are his unerring default. To tell the truth, I developed my own addiction to the taste — especially to the jelly itself – but eventually it seemed just too easy. My grandmother probably went fishing herself for the carp or whatever fish you use to make gefilte fish from scratch; how can I just open a jar? Yet when I was a new bride – and all thumbs in the kitchen — I stocked up on this wondrous stuff, knowing that it could last unrefrigerated in my pantry until our 50th wedding anniversary. When friends and relatives would come over to our apartment, Hubby would say, “You have to see this,” and show off our cupboard filled like an aquarium with jars of gefilte fish. Go figure.
But ever since I learned to cook, I got restless. More than restless, I got gutsy. I wanna try new tastes, new ingredients, unusual combinations.
Here is a recipe that takes conventional fare — and adds a few surprises!
Beef Sukiyaki with Noodles
The name says it all! As far from standard kosher cooking as you can get. Bring it on!
This recipe is adapted from Food & Wine magazine. It called for sake, a traditional Japanese wine fermented from rice; I substituted white wine, as it is hard to find kosher sake.
Prep: 9 min, Cook: 15 min, Yield: 8 servings
1 cup soy sauce 1/2 cup white wine 1/2 cup seasoned rice vinegar 4 tablespoons sugar 2 pounds pepper steak strips 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided 2 medium onions, sliced 5 scallions, sliced 1 (6-ounce) package sliced portobello mushrooms 1 (7-ounce) package baby spinach leaves 1 (16-ounce) box fettuccine, cooked according to package directions
Mix soy sauce, wine, vinegar and sugar in a small bowl until sugar dissolves; set aside.
Rinse pepper steak and pat dry.
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add pepper steak and saut? for 2 to 4 minutes, until almost cooked through. Remove from skillet and set aside.
Add remaining oil to skillet and saut? onions, scallions and mushrooms for 5 minutes.
Add spinach and cook for 1 minute, until wilted.
Return pepper steak to skillet with vegetables and add 3/4 of the soy sauce mixture. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 1 minute.
Place meat and vegetable mixture in a large warm serving bowl. Add fettuccine and toss. Drizzle with remaining soy mixture before serving.
The word yaki means “saute” or “grill” in Japanese. The best beef for sukiyaki is a cut that has lots of fat but is still very tender. For a splurge, ask your butcher to slice top chuck French roast into pepper steak-like strips.