Black Bean Veggie Burger courtesy BareBurger

Black Bean Veggie Burger courtesy BareBurger

Contributed by Katy Morris

Some say that veggie burger is a laughable oxymoron, but the ones we’ve rounded up here certainly hold their own when it comes to the hearty and tasty All-American sandwich.

 Veggie burgers are diverse and versatile; they vary in consistency, taste, and texture depending on their base (anything from lentils, beans, chickpeas, beets, and more) and spices.

And vegetarians and kosher keepers are thrilled to notice that finally, meat filled restaurants realize that veggie burgers should not be an afterthought on their menus.

So where should you turn to for great versions of the highly revered veggie-based burger?  Here are a handful of our local favorites. 

Be sure to scroll down for an easy vegan recipe if we’ve whetted your appetite and you want to whip up your own!


 Westville, Various Locations in NYC


Liz Rueven

Liz Rueven

Liz fell hard for this burger at a recent tasting at Westville. This crisp, heavenly patty (it is flash fried) chockfull of veggies is served on a lightly toasted, distinctive Portuguese bun and topped with sautéed mushrooms and a dab of their house made spicy tartar sauce. Westville’s eccentric veggie burger is definitely my all-time favorite. And their crispy sweet potatoes fries are definitely something to call home about.


Spotted Horse, Westport, CT


photo courtesy of Spotted Horse

photo courtesy of Spotted Horse

You can dine in a tavern-like, rustic setting while enjoying Spotted Horse’s house made vegetable burger with a Southwestern twist. It’s a grilled black bean and mixed-grains based burger made with corn, tomatoes, brown rice, cilantro, cumin, bread crumbs, and garlic. It’s topped with melted provolone cheese, radish sprouts, roasted peppers, and chipotle sauce. Delish!


The Lime, Norwalk, CT

The veggie burger is just one of many vegetarian options at the Lime in Norwalk.  Made of bulgur whole-wheat flour, grated carrots, zucchini, sesame & sunflower seeds (no salt, no spices), this fried patty is simply superb. I love to have a mixed green salad with their house made tahini dressing on the side of anything I eat there.


Bare Burger, Various Locations, NYC & CT

Bare Burger’s well-known local chain has not just one, but three options for veggie burgers. E. says the one to order is the vegan black bean. According to our trusted source, the flavor-packed black bean patty is super hearty and pairs well with traditional toppings of lettuce, tomato, cilantro lime sauce, and onions. Try it with a lettuce bun versus the brioche to help balance the flavors and reduce calories.


 5 Napkin Burger, Boston, NYC & Miami


image courtesy of 5 Napkin Burger

image courtesy of 5 Napkin Burger

You can find a highly revered healthy veggie burger among all the meaty choices on the menu at 5 Napkin’s. This tasty delight comes on a multi-grain roll and is served with the traditional toppings of pickles, lettuce, tomato, as well as a special house sauce (a tasty take on tartar sauce). The black bean patty is a mix of  brown rice, carrots, barley, beets, jalapenos, sesame seeds and is extremely well balanced – we’re talking pleasantly crisp on the golden-brown outside and warm and moist on the inside. Yum.


Hillstone, NYC

Hillstone’s ginormous (and expensive, at $17) house made veggie burger is savory, hearty, and flavorful. It ‘s packed with black beans, beets, prunes, and brown rice, glazed in sweet soy, topped with melted jack cheese, and served on a house made egg bun.


Hankering to make a great veggie burger in your own kitchen?

We turned to Rachel Carr of Six Main for her beet burger recipe (and check back in a couple weeks for a full post on this fantastic vegan, vegetarian, and raw, farm to table restaurant in Chester, CT). Thanks, Rachel.

Vegan Beet Burger

Vegan Beet Burger

“There is something so satisfying about biting into a great burger with all the toppings, the flavor of the grill, the heartiness of the patty…This vegan beet burger will satisfy that craving, believe me! The cashew cheese makes a great topping for other dishes as well.” – Rachel Carr, Six Main, Chester, CT

This recipe is vegan and pareve.


  • 1 cup onions, minced
  • 1 cup shredded beets
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons chopped mixed herbs (parsley, chives, basil)
  • 1 cup vital wheat gluten*
  • ¾ cup bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • ¼ tablespoon chili flakes
  • ½ tablespoon fennel seed
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast*
  • 2 tablespoon tamari
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas
  • 1 cup cooked brown lentils
  • ½ cup water (or as needed)


  1. Mix everything together in a bowl and form into burger-sized patties.
  2. Bake on an oiled cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, flipping halfway through.
  3. Grill before serving.
  4. Serve on a whole-wheat bun with toppings of your choice, such as mustard, cashew cheese, pickles, tomato and sliced onions.


*Vital Wheat is the natural protein found in wheat. It contains 75% protein.

*Nutritional yeast is an ideal vegetarian support formula and has an appealing cheese flavor.

See Bob's Red Mill brand for both products.

lentil_soup recipe and photo Marcia Selden

Recipe and Photo courtesy of Marcia Selden Catering

While the calendar says SPRING tomorrow (!!) there’s still a nip in the air. If you’re in need of a warm-up, make a pot of hearty lentil soup.  We love this soup because you can basically dump everything into a soup pot, cover and cook and in about an hour and presto! Delicious soup! 

We love lentils because they are a very good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber which helps prevent heart disease and manage blood-sugar. Lentils also provide B vitamins and protein—all with virtually no fat. The calorie cost of all this nutrition? Just 230 calories for a whole cup of cooked lentils.

This tiny nutritional giant fills you up—not out.

Healthy Lentil Soup

This low fat, high protein soup is easy to make and delicious.

Make it vegan and pareve by subbing veggie broth for chicken stock if you like.


  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 C. finely chopped shallot
  • 2 cloves finely chopped garlic
  • 2 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 1/2 lb. dry lentils
  • 8 C. chicken broth (vegetable broth may be substituted)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. each dried thyme and oregano
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbs. red-wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbs. chopped parsley


  1. Heat the olive oil in a deep saucepan. Add the shallots and garlic. Cook briefly, stirring, until they begin to soften. Do not brown.
  2. Add tomato paste, lentils, carrots, broth, salt, pepper, bay leaf, thyme and oregano. Simmer for 30-45 minutes.
  3. Add red wine vinegar and continue cooking for 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, garnish with parsley before serving.


Recipe is courtesy of Marcia Selden Catering, Stamford, CT.


Originally Posted in “Healthy, Easy, Satisfying Lentil Soup


photo courtesy of Doc's Maple Syrup

photo courtesy of Doc’s Maple Syrup

By Katy Morris

Sweet, golden, pure natural maple syrup. Yum, what could be better? Here in New England, it is prime maple syrup season, and that means you get to dress your waffles, infuse your pound cake and glaze your potatoes with locally made, wholesome maple goodness during peak season here in the Northeast.  


How is this stuff made?

Sugar makers prep several months in advance for the “sugaring” season, which runs from early February through late March. Sugar Maple, Red Maple, and Black Maple trees store starch in their trunks and roots just before winter, and then the starch is converted to sugar that turns into sap in the early spring.

At this time, sugar makers drill a hole into the side of the tree to “tap” it and then attach a collection bucket to gather the sap. From there, they filter it and then boil, boil, boil to get rid of most of the water.

A maple tree’s “sap” essentially looks (and actually kind of tastes) like water, but contains about 2% sugar. The best time to “tap” a tree is when nightly temperatures are around 20 degrees and days are around 35-40, which is why the Northeast is a prime spot.

With these temperatures, it creates a bit of pressure within the tree, which then enables the sap to flow from the roots below ground.  It can take anywhere from 4-5 days for a single maple tree to produce roughly 40 gallons of sap which will make about a gallon of pure maple syrup. Phew!

Courtesy of New Canaan Nature Center

Courtesy of New Canaan Nature Center


How should I store it?

It’s always best to keep pure maple syrup in a dark, cool place (your freezer is perfect – don’t worry, pure maple syrup will not freeze), where it should be good for up to 2 years. When you open it, put it back in the refrigerator to keep it fresh.


What do the various grades mean?

Surprisingly, maple syrup grades do not indicate quality; instead, they stand for the syrup’s color which then denotes how potent the flavor is. Grade A syrups are light and mild (and the most popular), while Grade B syrups are thicker, darker, and have a much more pronounced, hearty, and caramel-like flavor.


Where should I buy locally made syrup?

We recommend staying away from the highly processed, imitation maple syrup you’ll find in most major grocery stores; that stuff is made up of corn syrup with as little as 2% pure maple syrup.

New Canaan Nature Center (2)

Always be sure to check out your local farmer’s markets for syrup from your area.

We love the Certified Organic Maple Syrup from Doc’s (made in New York, click here to see where to buy); Lamothe’s Sugar House Syrup from Burlington, CT; Hidden Spring’s Organic Maple Syrup from Vermont; and Sweet Wind Farm from East Hartland, CT.

Check out Fairfield County’s most local source, the New Canaan Nature Center. You can even adopt your own tree there.


Courtesy of New Canaan Nature Center

Courtesy of New Canaan Nature Center

How should I use maple syrup in recipes?

We are thinking beyond the basic pour over warm waffles or pancakes. Consider using it as a glaze, in your oatmeal, in dressing, breads, baked beans, pies, and so much more.

You can also use it as a substitute in some recipes that call for sugar. In baking, sub roughly ¾ cup pure syrup in place of 1 cup of sugar and reduce the rest of the liquid in the recipe by roughly 3 tablespoons. Be aware that the baked good will brown more quickly.

Maple Candied Pecans and Walnuts

Maple Candied Pecans and Walnuts

This snack is extremely addictive!

It is non-dairy, pareve.


  • 1 cup pecans
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • ½ cup real maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic glaze
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/8 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg


  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Toss gently with a large spoon (or your hands) until nuts are evenly coated.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread nuts in a single layer on sheet.
  4. Bake for 9-10 minutes. Be sure to stir the nuts every couple of minutes to ensure equal toasting.
  5. Let cool and enjoy as a snack or salad topping.


Nuts should be completely dry when taken out of the oven.

logo and cover design: Janine Doherty, NYC

logo and cover design: Janine Doherty, NYC

It was only eight weeks ago that I clicked open an e-mail and read an enticing invitation to join three other food bloggers on a fast and furious journey that has resulted in our  collaborative cookbook,  “4 Bloggers Dish: Passover, Modern Twists on Traditional Flavors”. With over 60 recipes in six sections, this book has plenty to offer traditionalists, vegetarians, vegans and those with gluten-free restrictions.  In addition to a wide range of healthy, re-invented and highly original dishes, we break it down with suggested menus so you won’t schvitz a bit when your vegetarian cousin says she’s celebrating this holiday of freedom at your table.

IMG_9364 (1)

Here’s the kicker: the 4 bloggers, Sarah Lasry, Amy Kritzer, Whitney Fisch and I, have never been in the same room together. We have never met as a group and we were not friends when this project was born just eight weeks ago.

We came together because we have admired each other’s food blogs.

After eight weeks of google hangouts at all hours of the night, we’ve created a dream together, strategized, given honest feedback and laughed A LOT.  I can say with confidence that these beautiful and talented bloggers are now my friends.

Orange and Fennel Salad

From now through March 16 at midnight, we are celebrating our eBook launch with a special offer.  “4 Bloggers Dish: Passover” is available for the super low price of $1.99  to encourage YOU, your friends, followers, family members and food loving neighbors to purchase early, even before Purim!


During this period, we will be donating 50% of all sales to Mazon, A Jewish Response to Hunger. If you don’t know about the great work they do, click here to learn more. We will also be contributing to the life changing work of Ohr Naava. Check out their marketplace on 3/23 and 3/24 in Brooklyn. It will be a huge fundraiser of a celebration of food, fashion and design.

To purchase “4 Bloggers Dish: Passover, Modern Twists on Traditional Flavors” click here.

Our book will revert to a non-sale price (still a bargain) after March 16. And if you want to be a super duper friend, please write a review on the Amazon page when you buy this book.  It will help us to spread the word.

To learn more about this project, check our website

Special thanks and big love to Janine Doherty, graphic designer extraordinaire. She listened carefully, showed great patience, and created our beautiful logo and book cover.







Originally Posted in “Our eBook is Published!

adults and kids chillin' together

Lots of laughter, wild costumes, and of course, the re-telling of the Purim victory tale, are all part of the Purim celebration. The hamantaschen, triangular cookies filled with jam, are always a key component.

And while I’ve seen these favorite cookies in bakeries at other times of the year, nothing signals Purim more delightfully than the tradition of baking these sweet treats in your own kitchen. So with March 16 coming up this weekend, I turned to Melissa Roberts for her creative thinking and easy to follow recipes.

Melissa gives the kiddos what they want with chocolate cookies filled with everybody’s favorite Nutella filling. Then she ramps it up for the grown-ups with more sophisticated anise flavored cookies filled with homemade apricot preserves.

anise and apricot Hamantashen

Both recipes are surprisingly simple. Watch for the shortcuts if you want to take the easiest route possible.

And don’t feel like you have to stick with the grown-ups’ hamantaschen if you yearn for chocolate with your chocolate, like I do.

For more on why we eat these triangular sweet treats, read more here. 

If peanut butter and jelly is everybody’s favorite, check out the recipe we posted last year from Lil’ Miss Cakes,  Melissa Kaye, here.

Let these photos guide you to making the best hamantaschen ever.

Wishing you a joyful, jelly sweet, or Nutella filled, delicious Purim celebration!


#1 Roll

#2 cut out

#3 fill

#4 ready to shape

#5 fold and shape

#7 ready to bake


Chocolate Chocolate Hamantaschen

24 cookies

 Chocolate Chocolate Hamantaschen

This traditional cookie treat has been re-thought by Melissa Roberts for Purim 2014. She ramps up the chocolate factor by using every kid's favorite chocolatey spread, Nutella.

These hamantaschen are pareve, dairy free.


  • 1 ¾ cups all purpose flour
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted margarine or butter substitute, preferably Earth Balance, softened at room temperature
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup Nutella or other chocolate nut spread, or strawberry or raspberry preserves


  1. Sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt into a bowl.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together margarine and sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy.
  3. Add eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. Scrape down sides of the bowl and add flour mixture. Mix on low speed until a dough just comes together. Gather dough into a ball and flatten into a disk.
  4. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill until firm, about 2 hours or overnight.
  5. Line 2 large baking sheets* with parchment. Arrange rack in middle of oven and preheat to 350F.
  6. Divide dough in half. On a floured surface, roll one piece of dough with a floured rolling pin to a ¼ inch thickness, dusting surface with flour as necessary.
  7. Cut out as many rounds as possible and transfer to baking sheets, arranging them about ½ inch apart.
  8. Re-roll scraps and cut out more rounds.
  9. Put 1 teaspoon filling in center of each round and fold up edges to form a triangle shape, pinching corners together firmly but leaving filling exposed.
  10. If dough is very soft once formed, chill 1 hour, or freeze 30 minutes.
  11. Bake one sheet at a time (keeping remaining sheet chilled) until cookies are firm, and no longer look “wet”, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool completely on a rack.


*If you only have 1 baking sheet, cool it completely before baking remaining batch.

Cooks’ notes:

*Dough can be made and kept chilled up to 3 days ahead.

*Cookies can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Anise and Apricot Hamantaschen

24 cookies

Anise and Apricot Hamantaschen

These hamantaschen are pareve, dairy free

From Melissa Roberts:

Some combinations match up so well together. Strawberry and almond is one, peanut butter and chocolate another, and less obviously, anise, which has a faint licorice flavor, with apricot. Dried California apricots are dark orange and have a tangier, more intense flavor than Turkish ones. If you’d like the apricot filling but prefer to skip the step of making it, substitute with good quality apricot preserves.


    For filling
  • 1 cup dried California apricots
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • For cookies
  • 2 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon whole aniseed
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted margarine or butter substitute, preferably Earth Balance, softened at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs


  1. Special equipment: parchment paper; a 3 to 3 ½ inch round cookie cutter (the top of a wine or drinking glass also works well)
  2. Make filling:
  3. Combine apricots with water in a small heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring and mashing apricots occasionally, until fruit is very soft and broken down and most of liquid is evaporated, about 10 minutes.
  4. Add sugar and stir until dissolves. Remove from heat and stir in extract. Let cool completely.
  5. Make cookies:
  6. Sift together flour, baking powder, aniseed, and salt into a bowl.
  7. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together margarine and sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy.
  8. Add eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. Scrape down sides of the bowl and add flour mixture. Mix on low speed until a dough just comes together. Gather dough into a ball and flatten into a disk. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill until firm, about 2 hours or overnight.
  9. Line 2 large baking sheets* with parchment. Arrange rack in middle of oven and preheat to 350F.
  10. Divide dough in half. On a floured surface, roll one piece of dough with a floured rolling pin to a ¼ inch thickness, dusting surface with flour as necessary.
  11. Cut out as many rounds as possible and transfer to baking sheets, arranging them about ½ inch apart. Re-roll scraps and cut out more rounds.
  12. Put 1 teaspoon filling in center of each round and fold up edges to form a triangle shape, pinching corners together firmly but leaving filling exposed.
  13. If dough is very soft once formed, chill 1 hour, or freeze 30 minutes.
  14. Bake one sheet at a time (keeping remaining sheet chilled) until cookies are pale golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool completely on a rack.


Cooks’ notes:

*Filling can be made, kept covered and chilled, 3 days ahead.

*Dough can be made and kept chilled up to 3 days ahead.

*Cookies can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.


hummus falafel and pickles

Anyone who has swiped steaming freshly baked pita around a bowl of authentic and creamy hummus knows the real deal when they taste it.

The chickpeas are blended to a velvety smoothness with the help of tehina (sesame paste), seasoned simply with chopped or pureed garlic, freshly squeezed lemon juice, a dusting of paprika and parsley. Done!

Sounds so simple, but it can easily go awry.

 Lucky for us, 12 Chairs gets it just right. And it is so good, that I’ve been there four times over the last couple of months. E. is lucky enough to live in the ‘hood and goes once a week; she simply can’t resist slipping in for sizzling, deep fried falafel under a blanket of garlicky tehina or hummus topped with sautéed onions and mushrooms. That’s the we order it in Israel. AND that’s the point.

Old Photos TA

This casual and low key spot in the South Village in NYC. It has been in the same location for 17 years. The original space was smaller and owned by a Russian gent who made sure the pierogi and borscht were prepared just the right way. There were only a few more than 12 chairs at that time; lucky for us, the space has doubled in size but it’s still small enough to hear your neighbors shmoozing, unhurriedly, in Hebrew.

And you know the deal;  if the native are there to eat, the food is good enough to remind them of home.

Today, the menu is an easy mix of Israeli and Russian basics,  which suited us just fine on a recent frigid day. I brought S. with me, a sophisticated palate but not that familiar with Israeli or Middle Eastern food. Our spread was a perfect primer as we explored uncomplicated classics of two cuisines which can be much more sophisticated and nuanced.

But you come here for the basics and that’s what you get.


12 Chairs serves breakfast all day and includes some American traditions like Blueberry Pancakes and Oatmeal with fresh fruit.  But it’s the Shakshuka that’s the attraction and I noticed lots of sizzling skillets being carefully placed before hungry customers.

 There are many variations on the Shakshuka theme but eggs are always simmered in a spicy tomato sauce alongside onions and whatever else the chef deems worthy. Some include spinach, green chiles, parsley;  this one was topped with creamy white cheese, perfectly salty and familiar. I learned that that 12 Chairs imports a number of Israeli product and serves them here, including the Bulagarit (cheese) and Labaneh.


Labaneh, a bright white creamy yogurt based cheese is served as it is in Israel, surrounding a deep well of olive oil  generously spiced with zaatar and meant to be scooped up with pita bread (super fresh, warm and a choice of wheat or white) or topping your Israeli salad.

 S. ordered Borscht, and we were thankful for this vegetarian version on another searingly cold day in NYC. This Russian classic is available daily, served steaming hot in the winter and chilled in the summer.

vegetarian borscht

Either way, a dollop of sour cream is perfect topping for this melange of blended veggies studded with chunks of beets, carrots and kidney beans. The kidney beans seemed out of place but the sweet/tart ratio was just right and we enjoyed it.

 Baladi eggplant

Baladi Eggplant was one of the specials and we jumped on this perfectly roasted baby eggplant, drizzled (maybe more like BATHED but we didn’t mind)  in tehina and topped with chopped parsley and roasted pine nuts. Baladi eggplant is sweeter, smaller and more tender than the eggplant you know. Roasted til soft, it almost had a creamy texture, even before the tehina topping…Addictive!

 vegetable cous cous

CousCous was offered vegetarian style, with large chunks of carrots, sweet potatoes, zucchini, celery and chickpeas mounded on a huge portion of saffron tinted grain. A soup bowl filled to the brim with a tomatoey broth accompanied it and allowed us to chose how wet we like it. A little heat was great on that day and we both enjoyed our couscous doused in the steaming broth.

 Other standouts from the vegetarian Israeli camp are house made grape leaves, babaganoush, and sabich (a gloriously messy sandwich of oozing tehina, eggplant and hardboiled eggs). From the Russian side, pierogi (too doughy for my taste) smothered in fried onions, blintzes filled with mushrooms or smoked salmon or on the sweet side, with strawberries and cream, round out the offerings.


More than half of the menu is perfect for kosher-keepers like me, with plenty of vegetarian and vegan choices to keep you coming back.  All wines are from Israel and the coffee is served Israeli or American style. The juice presses are working all day, providing fresh orange and grapefruit, just like you love it on a summer’s day on the beach in Tel Aviv.

How do you like your hummus? Share in the comments, below.


12 Chairs Cafe

56 Macdougal Street between Houston and Prince


8 Am-11 PM, 7 days a week


Special thanks to Soom Foods for this basic hummus recipe. We love their tehina and wrote about it here.

Easy Hummus

Easy Hummus

Thank you Soom Foods, for sharing this easy recipe with Kosher Like Me. Consider dressing it up with some of the suggestions below. Always serve hummus as fresh as possible, alongside the best quality pita you can buy (or make!)

Serve with green olives, pickles, raw onion slices.

This recipe is pareve and vegan.


  • 16 oz. can chickpeas, drained
  • 2 tbsp liquid from can
  • 4 tbsp Soom tahini
  • juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)


  1. Blend together (blender or food processor), adjusting seasoning to your taste.


Hummus is sometimes topped with sautéed onions and mushrooms or browned chopped meat seasoned with onions, garlic and a sprinkle of cumin.

To dress up this basic recipe, you may add a 1/4 cup of pitted black olives to the mix and blend with other ingredients.

Add color to your hummus by topping it with paprika and a handful of chopped parsley (very dry). If you want to be really authentic, pour a puddle of very good EVOO into a well in the center of the bowl.




photo: Thomas Schauer

photo: Thomas Schauer

Katy Morris

With just a simple dash or a generous sprinkle, you can bring authentic Middle Eastern flavors to your cooking.

Inspired by lots of requests from our readers following our Balaboosta cookbook give-away, we decided to consult the experts on the most oft used Middle Eastern spices.

Here’s how some of our favorite Middle Eastern cooks and chefs recommend you use these spices to elicit authentic flavors in great tasting, Middle Eastern dishes.


photo: Thomas Schauer

photo: Thomas Schauer

Renowned Kosher Chef, Author of The Whole Foods Kosher Kitchen: Glorious Meals Pure & Simple, and Kosher Food Blogger, Levana Kirschenbaum says that there is no spice that she wouldn’t consider, but that “for Moroccan Cooking, which is my first culinary love, turmeric and saffron are the most indispensable in cooked dishes. As important in our cooking as curry is to Indian cooking, we use Ras El Hanout (literally, head, or top, of the shop), a wonderful blend of spices that varies from cook to cook and from shop to shop, but always includes cardamom, nutmeg, anise, mace, cinnamon, ginger, various peppers, and turmeric.”

“The ideal way [to incorporate spices in dishes], since spices and herbs are so packed with flavor at no caloric costs, is to make them an integral part of the dish: in a rub, in a marinade, in the cooking liquids of dishes cooking on a stovetop (soups, stews, side dishes).”

For an example of how to do this, check out her tantalizing Chicken Tajine with Prunes and Almonds recipe, where she incorporates saffron, cinnamon, turmeric, and pepper into the base liquid.

 Favorite Spices: Turmeric and Saffron.

Favorite Uses: Rubs, Marinades, Base Cooking Liquids.



photo: Thomas Schauer

photo: Thomas Schauer

Reyna Simnegar, Persian food Chef, Author of Persian Food from the Non-Persian Bride, and Kosher Food Blogger, is crazy about spices, but she was able to narrow down her top three to turmeric, saffron, and cardamom as the most popular and widely used in the Persian cuisine. “Turmeric is dubbed ‘poor man’s saffron’ since it is much less expensive than saffron. It’s often used with anything that is fried and although it is relatively bland, provides the bright goldeny color of saffron that makes Persian dishes attractive.”


Saffron, which is mainly used in rice dishes, is the most expensive spice in the world since it is handpicked and takes about 40 hours of labor in an orchard about the size of a football field to get about a pound. Luckily, just a little bit goes a long way in a dish. She uses saffron often for savory sauces accompanying poultry dishes, as well as in sweet desserts.

Reyna also emphasized the importance of buying the stems versus ground. “To ensure the quality of the saffron, you should buy the stems so you can grind them yourself [KLM: check out resources below of where to buy from specialty shops]. Check the back of the package for something called the ‘ISO’ which indicates the quality of the saffron – you should not buy one with a lower grade than 190.

Use a simple mortar and pestle to grind the stems, and be sure to have a specific one dedicated to only saffron, as the mortar will absorb the delicate flavor of the saffron.” Check out some of her sample recipes or buy her book for more ideas!

 Favorite Spices: Turmeric, Saffron, Cardamom.

Favorite Uses: Everything – Meats, Sauces, Sweets, Rice.



Photo: Thomas Schauer

Photo: Thomas Schauer

In the Syrian kitchen, Chef and Author of Fistful Of Lentils, Jennifer Abadi relies on the warm, earthy taste of cumin, intricate flavor of allspice, and spicy yet sweet cinnamon in a lot of her recipes to showcase the region’s flavors. “[The Syrian cuisine] is not a spicy ‘hot’ cuisine, but it is a spicy ‘flavorful’ one.

Unlike in Indian cooking (where you might find a long list of spices used in one dish), in Syrian cooking there is usually only one or two main spices used that are meant to stand out in the overall flavor. And there should always be a balance in color, texture, and flavor.” Jennifer was kind enough to share her savory and slightly sweet Roasted Red Pepper Dip recipe with us, which incorporates cumin (essential in Syrian cuisine), fenugreek, and pomegranate syrup (used often in Persian cooking).

Favorite Spices: Cumin, Allspice, Cinnamon.

Favorite Uses: Various – but focus on 1-2 key ones in a given dish.


Ready to spice up your dishes?

Here are some great sources:

 Online: Zamouri Spices; World Spice; Sadaf; Golchin’s

NYC: La Boite ; Spices and Tease ; Kalustyans

CT: Penzeys Spices 

Quick Tips: Keep in mind that spices do not actually go bad, but they do tend to lose their potency over time. They should be kept away from any light, air, dampness, and heat, so storing them in tightly sealed opaque containers in your cupboard is ideal.


Thank you to Reyna Simnegar , Levana Kirschenbaum, and Jennifer Abadi for helping to spice up this post!

Thank you also, to Lior Sercarz, La Boite, NYC, for sharing the beautiful photos of Middle Eastern spices from photographer Thomas Schauer.


Are you in CT on March 6? Join us as we explore the flavors of Syrian Jewish cooking with Jennifer Abadi as she demonstrates and shares generous tastes.

Where: Chabad of Westport

When: March 6, 7:30 PM

Cost: $36

Click here for more info and to register for this event. This event is strictly kosher. All are welcome.

Muhammara (Syrian Roasted Red Pepper Dip with Toasted Walnuts, Garlic, and Pomegranate Syrup)

1 hour, 30 minutes

3 cups; 6-8 servings

Muhammara (Syrian Roasted Red Pepper Dip with Toasted Walnuts, Garlic, and Pomegranate Syrup)

Savory meets sweet in this beautiful and healthy dip.

vegan and pareve.


  • 1 ½ pounds fresh red bell peppers (about 3 medium size), OR
  • One 24-ounce jar roasted red bell peppers (you will need 1 1/2 cups, without the liquid)
  • 3 ¼ cups walnut halves
  • 6 medium cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon room temperature water
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon walnut oil
  • 1 tablespoon pomegranate syrup
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • 3/8 teaspoon ground fenugreek, optional
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons kosher salt (if using fresh peppers), or to taste (if using roasted peppers from a jar)
  • Garnish
  • Extra virgin olive or walnut oil
  • Crushed, toasted walnuts
  • Peasant bread, sour dough bread, or other thick and crusty white bread


  1. If using peppers from the jar, skip down to step #2. If using fresh peppers, rinse thoroughly under cold water. Preheat the broiler (on “Hi” if using an electric oven). Rub olive oil and a little salt all around each pepper and place on a baking sheet or small baking pan. Set pan under the broiler for about 12 to 15 minutes (skins should start to blacken and wilt), then turn the peppers over and broil the other side an additional 10 to 15 minutes. Keep turning and rotating the peppers until all sides blister. (Note: It is good if they turn black as you will peel these thin skins off, and the char will give a smoky flavor). Remove from the broiler and let cool until lukewarm. Peel the thin skin from each pepper and discard.
  2. If using peppers from the jar, drain liquid and place into a small bowl. Cover with cold water and soak the peppers, 1 to 2 hours, changing the water frequently to flush out the excess salt and vinegar.
  3. Drain well.
  4. Place the walnuts into a large skillet and begin to brown them over a high heat for about 2 minutes.
  5. Lower to a medium heat and shaking the pan frequently to prevent burning, continue to dry-roast the walnuts until dark brown on all sides, about 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and pour onto a large plate or baking pan to cool completely to room temperature, setting aside ¼ cup for the garnish when serving.
  6. Pour roasted and peeled peppers, the 3 cups of toasted walnuts, garlic cloves, and water into a food processor and pulse to combine.
  7. Add the tomato paste, olive oil, pomegranate syrup, cumin, and fenugreek (if desired) and process until very smooth and creamy, about 3 to 5 minutes.
  8. Taste and add the ¾ teaspoon of salt (if using freshly roasted peppers) or to taste (if necessary when using the jarred peppers).
  9. Serve at room temperature drizzled with olive or walnut oil, pomegranate syrup, the extra ¼ toasted walnuts, and a thick, crusty white bread on the side.


Thank you, Jennifer Abadi, for sharing this recipe with Kosher Like Me. Find more of Abadi's Syrian recipes at FISTFUL OF LENTILS.




chicken soup

Katy Morris

Both your doctor and your grandmother concur – there is something to be said for the remedial, comforting power of homemade chicken soup when your immune system is in need of a boost. Although many believe the benefits of chicken soup are psychosomatic (perhaps it elicits consoling memories of your childhood), modern research shows that there is scientific proof that this stuff is the ultimate comfort food and is super healthy.


Chicken soup contains a compound called carnosine, which helps to prevent inflammation that occurs at the onset of a viral infection. In addition, the hot fluid helps to soothe sore throats and eases congestion.  Chicken also has an amino acid in it called cysteine, which helps to thin that yucky mucus that can congest your lungs. Homemade broth, which aids digestion, is very rich in calcium, magnesium, and other easily absorbed, replenishing minerals.

chicken soup ingredients

Add some celery, carrots, leeks, parsnips, rutabaga, and sweet potatoes into your chicken soup, and you will get the added antioxidant benefits of these nutrition-packed veggies that will help fight infections.  Sue Smith, of Prime Health Style, highlights that “root veggies have natural sweetness, and are very satisfying, grounding and warming.”

What other ingredients should you turn to at this time of year?

Spices , jarred

Sue Smith and Health Coach, Amie Guyette Hall, also specified that pungent and spicy ginger root is another must have for immune strengthening, and given its high concentration, you need only a little bit to reap its many benefits. Not only does it help to alleviate gastro intestinal discomfort, it is also a super antioxidant, has extensive anti-inflammatory effects and helps heal dizziness and nausea.

ginger shots Catch a Healthy Habit, Fairfield

Simply add fresh ginger to a mug of hot water for a quick, homemade ginger tea, and you will soon have a settled stomach. Catch A Healthy Habit’s 2 oz. ginger shot is another great way to enjoy the healing benefits of ginger. You gotta be brave though: it packs a hot punch!

Tynne, at Catch A Healthy Habit, highlights cinnamon as well: “Cinnamon strengthens the cardiovascular system and acts as a blood-thinning agent, which increases circulation and in turn acts to warm the body.”


Turmeric is another healing remedy to check out, according to both Smith and Guyette Hall. Used in Asia for medicinal purposes, turmeric is a potent antioxidant and contains curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory effects. It also has been proven to reduce pain and fever, and aid digestion.

Guyette Hall has some great resources on her website for warming drinks, including a Creamy Turmeric Tea.


She also mentioned that cayenne pepper is a key spice to include in warming dishes this winter. Not only is it an anti-cold and flu agent, cayenne has also been proven to ease upset stomach, sore throats, coughs, and to stimulate circulation.

B.O.C. breakfast of champions- The Stand

The Stand in Fairfield and Norwalk clearly understands the health benefits of this spice; they incorporate cayenne in their nutrient-packed juices and avocado toast sandwich.

If you’re seeking a traditional Chicken Soup recipe, see Liz’s below. “I’ve made chicken soup for my family forever. What’s changed is the range of ingredients I add to it. Traditional Jewish chicken soup is simply chicken, carrots, celery, onion and parsnips. After watching my Israeli mother-in-law add other veggies like zucchini and cauliflower, I began to add them in also, but in the last half hour of cooking. I add tomatoes for a little extra hit of vitamin C and for the beautiful golden color they add to the broth.”

” I was honored to be asked for my chicken soup recipe by my daughter-in-law! I never gave a thought to how I make it, other than to try to load it with tons of veggies, always organic. It was fun to pause and actually think through it.”

Liz eliminated the  messy straining by tying up the aromatics, garlic and onion and whatever else she doesn’t want floating in the bowl, in cheesecloth.  Before cooling the soup, simply lift out the pouch and allow it to drain over a colander so none of the golden broth is lost. What’s left in the pot is the magical broth, plenty of chicken and the veggies she and her family wants to eat.

soup sock

For a full selection of great spices, head on over to Penzey’s in Norwalk, La Boite in NYC, or the Savory Spice Shop online to pick up these great warming, healing spices.

Liz's Homemade Chicken Soup

serves 10

Liz's Homemade Chicken Soup

This chicken soup is a basic Jewish chicken soup recipe with a few additions and one great improvement that eliminates straining.

Tie up aromatics and any veggies you don't want in your soup bowl, in a Soup Sock or cheesecloth. When the soup is finished, pull out the cheesecloth, drain well so that no broth is lost, and discard.

I was honored to be asked for this recipe by my new daughter-in- law during this long, cold winter. Her husband (my son) has been known to eat this for breakfast with a healthy helping of thin noodles or orzo floating around in this rich, golden broth.

Enjoy! xo Liz


  • One chicken, cut in 1/8th's, rinsed and trimmed of extra fat and skin.
  • 1 onion, quartered (I remove them at the end)
  • 4-5 carrots, scraped and sliced into bite size pieces
  • 1 turnip, scraped and cut into big chunks (I remove it at the end)
  • 4 stalks celery, washed and cut into bite size pieces
  • 3-5 cloves garlic, chunked (optional)
  • 1 zucchini, washed and cut into bite size pieces (optional)
  • 1 handful fresh dill, washed and rough chopped
  • 1-2 tomatoes, chopped (optional)
  • 1 heaping tablespoon soup enhancer, like Osem chicken or vegetable powder


  1. Place all ingredients, except dill and zucchini, in a large pot.
  2. Add cold water to a level about 2 inches above the ingredients. DO NOT add too much water or the soup will not be rich enough. This is the trick!
  3. Slowly, bring liquid to boil and immediately turn it to simmer. Keep an eye on the simmer, making sure it is low and slow (boiling will toughen the chicken). Leave the lid cracked open a bit so it doesn't overflow.
  4. After about 10 min, skim the surface of the soup of any gunk. Continue simmering with the lid cracked, for about 1.5 hours.
  5. In the last 30 mins. of cooking, add the fresh dill and zucchini. Bring the soup back to simmer for 30-45 mins.
  6. Remove from heat, uncover and allow to cool. Pull out the chicken and cool separately so it doesn't continue cooking.
  7. Refrigerate over night and remove any accumulated fat before serving.


Boil orzo, alphabet noodles (we call them ABCD's) or thin noodles to serve with this broth. Keep noodles in a separate container.

I'm a big believer in always having at least one container of chicken soup in my freezer at all times. Ya just never know who will need it and when!

Greek Stuffed Japanese Eggplant


Recipe and Photo courtesy of Marcia Selden Catering

The eggplant can get a bad wrap.  Those shiny purple orbs can often seem intimidating, but fear not, our baked stuffed eggplant is perfectly delicious!  This self- contained dinner with its crunchy top and flavorful feta packed filling will leave everyone smiling.

"Greek Style" Baked Stuffed Eggplant

4 servings

This recipe was generously shared by Marcia Selden Catering, Stamford, CT.

This dish is Vegetarian and Dairy


  • 3 Japanese eggplant (about 1 lbs. each), split lengthwise
  • 4 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 c. cooked quinoa or brown rice
  • 1 ½ C. chopped onion
  • 2 Tbs. diced garlic
  • 1 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1C canned (San Marzano) diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 C. chopped fresh leaf parsley
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 Tbs. julienned basil
  • 1 C. panko bread crumbs
  • 3 Tbs. toasted pine nuts
  • 1 C. crumbled feta
  • ½ C. shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 C. sliced Kalamata olives


  1. Halve the eggplants lengthwise and with a sharp knife scoop out the pulp with a spoon, leaving a 1/2-inch shell, being careful not to pierce the skins. Chop the pulp.
  2. Place the eggplant shells on a greased baking sheet and lightly brush the inside of each half with about 1 teaspoon of olive. Bake until the shells are softened but not brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
  3. In a heavy skillet heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat.
  4. Add the onions and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add quinoa and cook, stirring, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, eggplant, salt and pepper, and cook until the eggplant is soft, 3 to 4 minutes.
  5. Add the tomatoes and olives and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the parsley, oregano and basil, and stir well.
  6. Remove from the heat. Stir in 3/4 cup of bread crumbs and mix well into the vegetables. Stir in the feta and pine nuts, and re-season as needed.
  7. Divide the filling among the eggplant shells, and sprinkle the remaining ¼ cup of bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese over the tops.
  8. Bake until the tops are golden and the stuffing is heated through, about 30 minutes. Drizzle with a bit of quality olive oil before serving.


Originally Posted in “Greek Style Japanese Eggplant


photo: Ben Alsop

photo: Ben Alsop

contributed by Katy Morris

Have you heard about Blue Hill Yogurt yet?

This trailblazing stuff is brilliant! Made with milk from 100% grass-fed cows from family-owned farms in the Northeast and flavored with simple, fresh ingredients, all natural Blue Hill Yogurt is available in 6 VEGGIE based flavors, beet, carrot, sweet potato, butternut squash, tomato, and parsnip. And they’re all gluten-free.

Launched in 2013 by the owners of one of my favorite farm-to-table restaurants, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Blue Hill Yogurts have taken the Northeast by storm.

photo: Kyle Orosz

photo: Kyle Orosz

My initial skepticism of the veggie based yogurt quickly dissipated with a couple of tastes; all of the bright-colored unique flavors are pleasantly smooth and very well balanced. The vibrant pink beet yogurt starts out tangy and sweet but then releases earthy overtones (this is my favorite of them all).

The savory butternut squash yogurt vaguely reminded me of pumpkin pie and I could easily identify the warming spice combination of cinnamon, sage, clove, and nutmeg.

photo: Kyle Orosz

photo: Kyle Orosz

Their carrot flavor was very sweet and you can really taste the carrot come through. Tart and suitably acidic, the tomato flavor is distinctive; I couldn’t imagine eating this as a morning breakfast, but think this would be fantastic used in one of the many recipes they suggest on their website, like the Farro and Cherry Tomato Salad.

The parsnip was packed with a sweet-earthy-malty flavors, and the sweet potato, while similar to the butternut squash, was pleasantly sweet (from the maple sugar) tangy, creamy, and savory.

photo: Ben Alsop

photo: Ben Alsop


As a locavore who appreciates knowing where my food is coming from, I loved the whimsical way Blue Hill introduces us to the cow under the lid. While the yogurt is enjoyable straight from the cup, some of the recipes (and video tutorials) offered on their website are too good to pass up. These include Sweet Potato Cheesecake, Minted Carrot and Cabbage Slaw, and Carrot Oatmeal Muffins – yum!

Although Blue Hill Yogurts are not certified kosher, they are made in a kosher facilityMaple Hill Creamery .

Blue Hill yogurts are available in Whole Foods Markets and smaller grocery stores throughout the Northeast.  To find the closest place to you, go to their website’s store locator.

Their Roasted Beet Salad with Fresh Herbs, Feta and Pine Nuts looks particularly tantalizing.  Check it out, below.

Thank you, Noey, at First Press PR, for your help with this post.


Roasted Beets with Fresh Herbs, Feta and Pine Nuts

Roasted Beets with Fresh Herbs, Feta and Pine Nuts

Blue Hill veggie yogurts are great on their own and add bright flavors in salads and other recipes you'll find on their website.

This DAIRY recipe is courtesy of Blue Hill Farm.

Photo: Blue Hill Yogurt


  • 2 pounds medium red beets, trimmed and scrubbed
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • Fine sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1 (6-ounce) container Blue Hill Yogurt - Beet
  • 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped shallot (1 medium)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped mint
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped dill
  • 5 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (1 1/4 cups)


  1. Preheat oven to 400F with rack in middle.
  2. Layer 2 large sheets of foil; place beets on top. Drizzle beets with oil and season well with salt and pepper, then tightly wrap in the double layer of foil and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast until beets are tender when pierced with a knife, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.
  3. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, toast pine nuts over medium-low heat, tossing occasionally, until lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let cool completely.
  4. Remove beets from oven, then carefully unwrap and transfer to a plate. When cool enough to handle, peel beets, discarding roots and stem ends, then cut into 1-inch cubes. Place in a bowl; refrigerate to cool completely.
  5. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together yogurt, horseradish, vinegar, honey, 1/2 teaspoon salt and generous pinch pepper. Stir in shallot, mint and dill, mixing well to combine.
  6. Add beets to dressing, then stir well to combine. Gently stir in nuts and cheese. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Originally Posted in “Blue Hill Yogurt Takes Savory Turn