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Taste of Chicago, Jewish style

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Taste of Chicago, Jewish style photo 

I have to drive past the Taste of Chicago everyday on my way to Spertus. While I am glad that the taste brings business to Chicago and that vendors have an opportunity to lure locals and tourists with their tasty fare, I have to wonder, what does the taste have for a Jew? I do not drink beer, I cannot eat the food. So, other than traffic nightmares, what does the taste do for me?

Well, it has provided me with some inspiration for summer recipes. As we prepare for one of my favorite holidays, July 4th, I have come up with some great Taste of Chicago-Jewish style recipes. The 4th of July is the holiday that we, Jewish Americans, should truly celebrate. This great country of ours allows us to live, pray and eat the way our religion dictates. That is truly something to celebrate. And, how do Jews like to celebrate? We eat!

While the lakefront fills this weekend with crowds swigging beer and eating corn on the cob, I will be enjoying the patriotic holiday, Jewish style.

Borscht Pasta Salad  

This healthy and riotously colored salad started out as a sort of food joke. It turned out to be as delightful and refreshing as its namesake ethnic soup.

Serves 6

2 pounds red beets + 1 pound for cooking the pasta
2 pounds golden beets
1 pound rotini pasta
3 large cucumbers, peeled and diced 
⅓ cup chopped fresh dill + extra for garnish
1 large red onion, diced
¼ lemon juice
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup sour cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 350

1. Rub the beets with olive oil, and wrap them individually in foil. Roast the beets for about 45 minutes or until a paring knife can be easily inserted. Set aside to cool.

2. Grate the 1 pound of red beet into a large saucepan filled with water. Bring to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente (about 8 minutes). The grated beet turns the pasta a “celebratory” red color.

3. Peel the roasted beets, their skins should just slide off. Dice the beets. *chef’s hint: peel and dice the yellow beet first so your cutting board and hands will not be stained red from the intense “celebratory” red beet’s color.  

4. Toss all of the salad ingredients into a large bowl while the pasta is still warm. Chill the salad.

5. Before serving dollop with sour cream, if using, and chopped dill.

Chicken Noodle Salad  

Hot summer nights on the patio and sipping hot chicken soup is just so wrong. Digging into a plate of cool, refreshing chicken noodle salad is just so right!

Serves 6

2 cups chicken stock, (prefer homemade!)
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 pound favorite pasta, I like to use a healthy whole wheat pasta for this recipe
3 celery ribs, peeled lengthwise into ribbons with a vegetable peeler
3 medium carrots, grated
¼ pound fresh green beans, cut into ½ inch segments
½ cup fresh or frozen peas
2 shallots, minced
1 medium zucchini, sliced
1 small hot pepper, minced (yes, I put this in my chicken soup!)
For the vinaigrette
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon style mustard
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Garnishes: chopped parsley, chopped dill

1. Bring the chicken stock to a simmer in a medium sauce pan and gently poach the chicken breasts until firm and cooked through (about 8 minutes). Remove the chicken.

2. Add the pasta to the chicken stock, carrots, green beans and peas and cook until the pasta is al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta and the vegetables.

3. Place all of the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk together the vinaigrette and drizzle over the salad. Chill and garnish with parsley and dill before serving.  

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