Treasures From a Food Snoop


Looking through fellow shoppers’ food carts or picking dinner guests’ brains about their creative cooking experiments may be nosy, but it also leads to some great recipes.

I have a confession to make. I’m a snoop.

I’m a grocery cart snoop. I love to look in other people’s carts at the store and see what interesting items they’re buying. Standing in line waiting to check out is the perfect time to indulge this idiosyncracy.
On occasion, I will actually stop fellow customers and ask them what they are doing with all the unique ingredients in their cart (but only if they look friendly — I may be a snoop but I’m a cautious one!). I’ve gotten some fabulous and interesting new recipes that way and, as a bonus, made a few new friends with the inquiry.
My snooping is not limited to just the grocery aisles. At our Shabbat table I have been known to pick our guests’ brains for creative new recipes, basically snooping into their culinary experiences.
Everyone seems to love talking about food. I ask about what new and exciting dishes they’ve had or come up with recently. Then I think about how to add my own twist to personalize them. I can’t seem to help myself … it’s just so much fun!
I also snoop online for the latest food trends, looking for what’s new and improved in the culinary world. Some people might call that research, but basically — it’s snooping.
I hope you will enjoy the results of my nosy efforts. And if I see you checking out my cart in the store, don’t be shy — feel free to stop me and ask about my selections. Don’t worry. If you’re too nervous to ask me I’ll probably initiate the conversation anyway — after all, I’ve already been snooping in your cart!
Grilled Cholent
This recipe was developed during a Shabbat meal snooping session when one of our guests was talking about some grilled kishke she had. Add some barbecue sauce and you’re good to go.
1 cup cholent bean mix, divided
1⁄2-1 cup barley, divided
3-5 medium potatoes, cut into thirds
2 large onions, sliced into thick slices
1 cholent beef (2 to 21⁄2 lbs.) chuck or flanken)
1 lb. kishke, completely unwrapped
1⁄2 cup tomato ketchup
1⁄2 cup barbecue sauce
1⁄4 cup onion soup mix
nonstick vegetable spray
Spray the inside of a large crock pot insert with nonstick vegetable spray.
Evenly place half the beans and barley on the bottom of the insert. Add half the potatoes and onions. Top with the meat, then layer with the remaining potatoes, onions, beans and barley. Place the unwrapped kishke on top of the beans.
Pour ketchup and barbecue sauce over the cholent. Sprinkle with the onion soup mix.
Cover the entire cholent with just enough water to cover the top of the cholent. Place the temperature of the crock pot on high for 1 hour, then reduce to low to cook overnight until Shabbat lunch.
Serves 8 to 10.
Quinoa With Cranberries, Leeks and Almonds
If you snoop enough, you’re sure to overhear a conversation or find articles about quinoa online. Make sure to thoroughly rinse the quinoa before cooking to remove its waxy coating.
2 cups uncooked quinoa, rinsed until water runs clear
4 cups water
2 Tbsps. olive oil
2 large leeks or 4 medium leeks, thinly sliced
1 cup sweetened dried cranberries
1⁄2 cup sliced almonds
In a large pot, bring quinoa and water to a boil over medium-high heat. When the water comes to a boil, turn off the flame under the pot. Cover tightly and leave on the hot burner for 15 minutes. Uncover the quinoa and fluff with a spoon or fork. Set aside.
While the quinoa is cooking, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks and sauté until the leeks are very soft and partially caramelized.
Add the cooked leeks to the cooked quinoa. Stir to combine. Add the sweetened dried cranberries and sliced almonds and carefully toss to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve warm as a side dish or cold as a salad.
Serves 8 to 10.
Spiraling out-of-Control Fresh Asian Zucchini and Carrot Spiralz
The latest hot gadget craze is the vegetable spiralizer. I bought my original on, and my dear son gave me a smaller, more portable one for my recent birthday. The spiralizer is a cool tool that makes your favorite vegetable into something that resembles spa­ghetti but is much healthier. I often will “spiralize” a zucchini for lunch and top it with pasta sauce and cheese for a healthy meal.
4 large zucchini, spiraled
1 super large carrot, spiraled
3 scallions, thinly sliced
2 Tbsps. black sesame seeds
Dressing Ingredients:
1⁄4 cup toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1⁄2 tsp. ginger
1⁄4 tsp. black pepper
1⁄4-1⁄2 cup soy sauce (or to taste)
Combine the zucchini, carrot and scallions in a large bowl. Set aside.
In a large measuring cup, combine the sesame oil, rice vinegar, garlic, ginger, pepper and soy sauce. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and toss to coat. Top with sesame seeds. Serve immediately.
Serves 4 to 6.
Notes: If you don’t have a spiral slicer, you can shred the vegetables instead.
If you can’t serve this dish immediately and plan to serve it at a later date, add two additional freshly spiralled zucchini to the salad when ready to serve.
If you can’t find black sesame seeds, you can substitute toasted white ones.
Vegetable-Stuffed Manicotti (with options!)
11⁄2 Tbsps. extra virgin olive oil
non-stick vegetable spray
1 large Vidalia onion, diced
1 large stalk celery, thinly sliced
1 large carrot, diced (around 3⁄4 lb.)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 lb. white mushrooms, thinly sliced
8 oz. manicotti noodles (14 noodles)
1⁄2 cup warm water
1 jar (26 oz.) pasta sauce
1⁄2 cup warm water
Spray a 9×13-inch casserole dish with non-stick vegetable spray. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350˚.
Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok. Add the onions, celery, carrots and garlic. Sauté over medium-high heat until the vegetables are soft. Add the mushrooms and continue to sauté until nearly all the liquid is absorbed and the vegetables are soft. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
To stuff the shells, hold a shell with one hand and a finger covering the bottom of the shell opening. This will prevent the filling from coming out while you stuff the other end.
Using a small spoon, place the vegetable filling in a manicotti shell, packing it slightly. You can also do this by hand (I wore disposable gloves).
Place the stuffed shell in the prepared baking dish, slightly angling the shell. Repeat with the remaining shells. I was able to fit two rows of seven shells in the pan.
Pour the warm water into the pan with the shells. Spoon the pasta sauce over the shells, until they are completely covered by the sauce. Seal the pan tightly with foil.
Bake for 60 minutes until the pasta is soft (makes 14 stuffed shells).
This recipe can be easily doubled.
Serves 4 to 6.
Optional additional ingredients:
• Vegetables such as zucchini, eggplant, yellow squash or sweet potatoes, diced.
Sauté with the other vegetables until soft. (Pareve)
•1 lb. extra-firm tofu (I like the Trader Joe’s High Protein Super Firm Tofu), diced.
Sauté with the onions and garlic until browned, then add the carrots and celery and cook until vegetables are soft. Proceed as directed with the remaining ingredients. (Pareve)
• 1 lb. mock meat such as Morningstar Farms (Dairy) or Trader Joe’s (Pareve).
• 8 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
Add to cooled vegetables before stuffing.
• 8 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
Top the finished manicotti with cheese 50 minutes into the baking. (Dairy)
• 1 lb. ground beef
Sauté with the onions and garlic until browned, then add the carrots and celery until soft. Proceed as directed with the remaining ingredients.
• 2 cups cooked and cooled brown rice
Add to the cooled vegetables before stuffing.
Chicagoan Sharon Matten is a freelance pastry chef, kosher food writer, electrical engineer, wife and mom (not in order of importance!). Find Sharon at: or email: [email protected].


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