Recipe: Salted S’mores Truffles


Ingredients:

1 pack graham crackers
1 cup of mini chocolate chips
1/2 tsp of salt
1 1/2 cups of marshmallow fluff
4 chocolate bars for melting
Sea salt to top with

Directions:

Empty crushed graham crackers into bowl. 

Add mini chocolate chips, marshmallow fluff, and salt. 

Mix well. 

Roll small hand-fulls into balls. 

Place the truffles onto wax paper and place in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Break the chocolate bars into small pieces and microwave in a non-metal bowl for 1 minute. 

Dip the truffles into the melted chocolate, making sure the whole truffle is covered.

Top the truffles with sea salt and cool. 

Enjoy!

Recipe from Buzzfeed Tasty.

Cake Monkey: Making a show-stealing babka


Eight years is plenty of time to develop solid products and to know your audience. No wonder Cake Monkey’s first brick-and-mortar bakery, on Beverly Boulevard, proved an instant hit, following the success of the baked goods company’s wholesale business.

With an eye-catching pink exterior and cheerful details, the storefront is convenient for neighbors who want to grab a coffee and breakfast pastry as part of their daily routines. The gorgeous cakes, mini-cakes and signature desserts that riff off of classic American packaged goods (think: Ding Dongs, Ho Hos) draw customers from all over Los Angeles who previously could only special-order items from Cake Monkey’s commissary kitchen in North Hollywood. 

Business partners Elizabeth Belkind and Lisa Olin have wanted a physical neighborhood bakery “from the beginning,” Belkind said, but the team instead focused on its wholesale business and custom orders for many years. Then the right opportunity came along in the form of a compact space on Beverly, just east of Fairfax. 

Mini cakes. Photo by Staci Valentine

Childhood photos of Belkind and Olin hang on the wall near a pink neon light that reads “enjoy life eat cake.” Designer Paula Smail took pages from her grandmother’s cookbook and enlarged them to make the wallpaper. Even if this detail isn’t from Belkind’s or Olin’s family histories, it’s an element that further personalizes the space.

Pop pies. Photo by Staci Valentine

A graduate of Bard College in upstate New York who grew up in Mexico City until the age of 10, Belkind attended the California School of Culinary Arts in Pasadena (which subsequently became absorbed into Le Cordon Bleu network, but announced last year it is closing all 16 of its U.S. campuses). She landed a coveted position at Mark Peel’s legendary Campanile restaurant where, after a stint as “the grunt” in the main savory kitchen, she found herself drawn to pastry work. She also couldn’t help but notice then-Campanile co-owner and La Brea Bakery founder Nancy Silverton was keen on nurturing new talent. 

“We have very different backgrounds,” Olin said of her partner’s complementary skills and their different cultural points of view. Belkind’s Jewish-Mexican upbringing — her mother is American, and her paternal grandparents immigrated to Mexico from Poland and Russia in 1923 — meant she didn’t have the same attachment to the classic American treats Olin grew up eating on Long Island and then sought to reinterpret for a sophisticated audience. But with Belkind’s pastry skills, the product line of foil-wrapped, chocolate-dipped, individually sized desserts came together. Belkind and Olin also developed breakfast pastries for wholesale clients around the city, which they can now sell from their own cases, and offer along with locally roasted Forge Coffee. 

Although Cake Monkey isn’t certified kosher nor focused on traditional Jewish desserts, Belkind was recently inspired to re-create a beloved classic. “I saw a picture of babka that was so gorgeous, and was like, ‘We have to have this!’ ” The dense yet delightfully soft, eggy brioche-like cake lined with chocolate and topped with a serious hazelnut brittle is available by the slice. Or if you want to make sure to have an ample supply, order one in advance. 

Cake Monkey Bakery

7807 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles

(323) 932-1142

Elizabeth Belkind’s Nutella babka with hazelnut brittle


Note: At Cake Monkey Bakery, pastry chef and co-owner Elizabeth Belkind makes house-made “Nutella” by combining dark chocolate ganache, pastry cream and pulverized hazelnut brittle. For the purpose of simplicity here, she’s substituted it with store-bought Nutella. 

RECIPE COMPONENTS

  1. Brioche dough
  2. Hazelnut brittle
  3. Nutella filling
  4. Simple syrup

 

BRIOCHE

  • Slightly less than 2 cups high-protein bread flour
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 2 heaping tablespoons sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons cold, yet pliable, butter

 

Combine the two flours, the yeast and the sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer. Using a hand-held whisk, whisk for just a few seconds to distribute the yeast evenly.

Add the eggs and the salt, and with the dough hook attachment of the mixer, mix on low speed for up to 10 minutes, or increase to medium until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. If the dough seems dry, sprinkle a few drops of water into the bowl, one at a time.

Begin to add the butter, a few small pieces at a time, until the butter is incorporated and the dough becomes smooth and uniform again, and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. The dough will be very buttery and very unwieldy at this point. 

Turn the dough out into a greased bowl or cookie sheet. Chill the dough in the refrigerator overnight, or for a minimum of six hours.

[READ: CAKE MONKEY BAKERY STEALS THE SHOW]

HAZELNUT BRITTLE

For this recipe, you will need to have all your equipment ready and within reach. It comes together quickly, and requires that you are ready to act and responsively follow the steps. You will need a half-sheet tray or cookie sheet; two silicone tray liners/baking mats, or two pieces of parchment paper with nonstick vegetable cooking spray, sized as big as or slightly bigger than the tray; and a rolling pin.

  • Nonstick vegetable cooking spray
  • 1 heaping cup raw (not blanched) hazelnuts
  • 7/10 cup sugar

 

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. 

Cover a half-sheet pan or a cookie sheet with a piece of parchment paper, or ideally, a silicone pad (such as a Silpat nonstick baking mat). Spray the pad or parchment sheets lightly with nonstick vegetable cooking spray.

Place the hazelnuts on a cookie sheet and roast for 9 to 10 minutes, or until aromatic. Remove from the oven and set aside. 

Place sugar in a medium, heavy-bottomed, stainless steel pot. Melt the sugar over high heat, stirring occasionally with a tempered rubber spatula to ensure even heat throughout. When the sugar darkens to a rich, dark, caramel brown, add the warm hazelnuts and stir them in with the spatula. Coat all the hazelnuts in the caramelized sugar, then turn them out onto the parchment- or baking mat-lined tray. 

Being careful not to touch any part of the hot, sugar-coated nuts, cover them with another silicone mat or piece of sprayed parchment paper. Using a rolling pin, gently roll out the mixture to flatten it as much as possible. This will make it easier to crush the candy into small pieces to use for topping on the babka.

Allow the hazelnut brittle to cool completely. Once it has, use a rolling pin again to crush it by hitting it, or pressing down on it until you are left with some powdery bits and some bits that are about 1/4-inch (this helps prevent any accidental teeth breakage). 

ASSEMBLE AND BAKE THE BABKA

Spray the inside of an approximately 9-by-4 loaf pan that is about 3 inches deep, then line it with a strip of parchment paper that is the same width as the pan and comes up over the sides just a little. Spray the parchment.

Set aside three cups of the dough. This is best done with a kitchen scale; if you have one, weigh 600 grams of the dough. (You will have a small nub of dough left over, which you can shape into a mini free-form babka to snack on right out of the oven.)

Measure 1 1/4 cup (11 ounces) of Nutella for assembly; this leaves 2 ounces in the smaller standard jar to use on your snack babka.

Measure 1 to 1 1/2 cups crushed hazelnut brittle.

Working quickly, and preferably in a comfortably chilly room, roll the dough into a 9-by-16 rectangle. Spread the Nutella over the dough as close to the edge as possible, but allowing a small strip of dough to remain bare on all sides.

Roll the dough tightly lengthwise. Seal the ends of the roll. Chill the roll for about 10 minutes if it becomes soft and sticky. Otherwise, using a sharp chef’s knife, cut the roll in half down the middle. Seal the ends of both pieces again. Braid both pieces together. Seal the end again.

Place the roll in the loaf pan and tuck it in as needed. Place the pan in a temperate area of your home to rise — not too warm, not too cold. Too much warmth will cause the butter to bleed out of the dough. Allow the dough to rise until it is almost, but not quite, doubles in size. It should not rise so much that it comes out over the edges of the baking pan.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (or 325 with a convection oven). 

When the dough has risen enough, place the loaf pan in the oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes (maybe a little less, about 30 minutes in a convection oven).

While the babka bakes, prepare the simple syrup.

SIMPLE SYRUP

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water

 

Bring the sugar and water to a boil. Set aside.

Remove the loaf pan from the oven and set it on a heat-resistant surface.

Using a pastry brush, generously brush simple syrup all over the top of the babka.

Top the babka with your crushed hazelnut brittle. Be very generous with it. The crunchy topping steals the show!

Place the loaf pan back in the oven and bake for another 10 to 12 minutes. Test the doneness of the babka by tapping the side of the loaf pan. It should sound hollow. 

Remove babka from the oven and allow it to cool, undisturbed, for 25 minutes. Run a knife or small offset spatula along the sides of the pan (not the sides of the babka) to release it from the pan. Invert the loaf pan onto a plate if needed to release the babka completely. Then rest it, right side up, on the plate for a few minutes. 

Serve warm if you like, or, after the babka cools completely, cover and serve it at room temperature. If properly covered and stored, the babka will stay fresh for about two days. 

Coffee beyond the cup: Java desserts and marinades


Coffee actually started out as a food, not a drink. A thousand years ago in Africa, the birthplace of coffee, locals would mash the ripe “cherries'' from wild coffee trees to create a dried traveling food packed with protein and nutrients; sort of an early version of the breakfast bar.

While it is the outer “cherry'' fruit of the coffee bean that has protein, it's the inner roasted coffee bean that has the flavor. “All great chefs value the quality of their ingredients and the same applies to coffee,'' says Lynda Calimano, editor in chief of the popular monthly Coffee and Tea Newsletter. “So when using them in recipes, we at the Coffee and Tea Newsletter, can't emphasize enough the importance of organic Fair Trade, shade-grown coffee, seasonally harvested if you want the best flavor and to retain the nutritional elements.''

When asked why, she added, “Because organic coffee is grown without pesticides and harvested in season, which maintains quality, nutrients and protects your health and the environment. Fair Trade, which guarantees a fair wage and other benefits, makes farmers happy and happy farmers produce great harvests.''

I'll drink — and eat — to that!

Italian Mocha Cake (Torta Nera)

From “Dolci: Italy's Sweets” by Francine Segan (Stewart, Tabori & Chang)

Prep time: 5 minutes

Baking time: 30 minutes

Total time: 35 minutes

Yield: 8 servings

This flourless cake has a crisp, macaroon-like top layer and a dense, incredibly moist center. As the cake cools, it collapses just a little, creating a pretty webbing on the delicious crust.

Ingredients

7 tablespoons (3 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, plus more for the pan

7 ounces dark chocolate, 70% cacao or higher

1 ounce freshly brewed espresso or 1 teaspoon granulated instant espresso

1 cup granulated sugar

4 eggs, separated

2 tablespoons potato or cornstarch

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform cake pan.

2. Melt the butter and chocolate in a small bowl, either in the microwave or over a saucepan of gently boiling water. Stir in the espresso.

3. In a large bowl beat the sugar and egg yolks with an electric hand-held mixer until creamy and pale yellow. Add the chocolate-butter mixture and beat until creamy. Add the potato or cornstarch and mix until well combined.

4. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff. Slowly, using a spatula, fold the egg whites, a little at a time, into the chocolate mixture until combined.

5. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for about 30 minutes, until just set in the center.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Recipe: Baked orange-flavored cheesecake with Indian spices


This Valentine's Day, as you look for foods besides oysters and chocolate to woo the object of your affection, consider exploring your spice cabinet.

You'll be surprised at the flavors' powers — as natural aphrodisiacs — to be found there.

To heighten the senses and set the mood, we need fragrance and beauty in our foods.

In fact, Ayurveda — the holistic method of medical treatment in India rooted in Hinduism — traditionally placed a fair amount of emphasis on aphrodisiac terminology. The intent was to ensure that people led healthy conjugal lives and the ruler appropriately produced the requisite heir. There is similar wisdom found in other ancient texts.

So, cull through this list of common spices for your Valentine's Day menu that also may help you spice things up — in other ways — with your Valentine.

First up is cinnamon, whose lustrous and sweet aroma can make you both happy and calm. (And, it's certainly good for your blood pressure.)

Right alongside, you might have cloves, whose essential quality is to uplift your mood and spirits. And then there is nutmeg, also known for its antioxidant and astringent qualities.

An aphrodisiac spice, says 'The Arabian Nights'

To complete the fragrant collection, we also have cardamom, which “The Arabian Nights” extols for its passion-inducing properties.

All of these will find its place in a good garam masala blend. And when meshed with saffron — the exotic spice of the gods — your Valentine's Day collection of aromas will be complete.

When planning your menu, consider a good one-pot dish such as a biryani that will bring to your table all of these spices and more. If that's too complex, try rubbing a chicken with butter and garam masala and serving it roasted to perfection, with saffron mashed potatoes on the side.

But don't forget the dessert. Fortunately, many Indian desserts bring together cardamom, saffron and rose. From the universe of puddings, halwas and burfees, I have dug up a Bengali specialty called the sandesh, which, when done right, can win over the most fastidious of hearts and palates.

A sandesh is a cheesecake of sorts, with the emphasis on a specific cheese: channa, or homemade white cheese. The art of the traditional sandesh rests in the right texture and handling of this channa. Although it is prolific in Indian confectionary shops, we're often hard-pressed to find good sandesh in commercial Indian sweet shops — mainly because of the relatively short shelf life of this delicate sweet.

Spicing up cheesecake the sandesh way

Ricotta cheese, if treated right, can be a substitute for channa. This recipe features a cheater sandesh, using ricotta cheese streaked with saffron and subtly scented with freshly crushed cardamom.

I have created this recipe for days when time does not allow for the making and draining of channa. It's a fairly good facsimile for the steamed sandesh known as bhapa sandesh that my grandmother used to make. In this sandesh, instead of cooking the channa over the stove top, it is steamed with gentle and continuous heat.

In my recipe, I bake it on low heat in the oven and then cool and shape it. If you wish, you can garnish these delicate morsels with pistachios, snipped rose petals and anything else that catches your fancy.

Serve them with some chilled saffron almond milk.

That's bound to warm the cockles of your heart and soothe your senses, all at once.

Baked Orange-Flavored Cheesecake — Bhapa Sandesh

Adapted from “The Bengali Five Spice Chronicles,” by Rinku Bhattacharya

Prep time: 45 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Total time: 1 hour, 15 minutes, plus time for cooling

Yield: 12 servings

Ingredients

For the cheesecake:

  • Clarified butter or ghee for greasing the casserole dish
  • 1 1/2 cups low-fat ricotta cheese (about 30 ounces)
  • 3/4 cup condensed milk (about 12 ounces)
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron strands
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly crushed cardamom (about 2 pods)
  • 6 tablespoons fresh orange juice or tangerine juice (about one medium tangerine)

 

For optional garnishes:

  • Orange sections
  • Slivered almonds
  • Chocolate shavings

 

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 325 F.

2. Grease an 8-by-12-inch cake or casserole dish and set aside.

3. In a mixing bowl, beat together the ricotta cheese and condensed milk.

4. Stir in the saffron strands and cardamom, pour the mixture into the greased casserole dish. The objective is to achieve a streaked effect rather than uniform coloring.

5. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes.

6. Drizzle with the orange juice and cool for one hour.

7. Carefully invert the prepared cheesecake onto a flat surface. This can be cut into shapes using a cooking cutter, or formed into round balls.

8. If desired, garnish with orange sections and almonds, or roll or sprinkle with chocolate shavings.

9. Chill for 45 minutes or longer, and serve.

Taking a modern approach to Passover desserts


At Passover, because tradition rules, I’m willing to bet that, at most seder tables, undistinguished sponge and honey cake, coconut macaroons and probably some dried fruits cooked into a compote are trotted out at meal’s end, met with no discernable oohs and aahs of rapture from those at the table.

Why not bend tradition a bit in the name of making the last course as delectable as the dishes that precede it? Adhering to the albeit fluid rules that proscribe chemical leavening, and flour- and corn-based products, there’s still a whole world of modern and delicious desserts that can grace the Passover table.

Arid though the desert was that our ancestors had to endure during their captivity, dry cakes were not part of the deprivations and don’t need to be today. Pastry chef that I am, I am not content to end the meal on a blah note.

Three factors are key: First, whip the eggs and sugar for the cake bases until they are light in color and fall in wide ribbons from the whisk attachment of the mixer. Second, fold the dry ingredients into the base with a light hand (and I do mean hand — splay the fingers of your hand, and lightly comb through the beaten base as you add the dry ingredients, folding only until the dries disappear into the mix). Third, keep an eye on the cakes as they bake to avoid drying them out by over-baking. Ethereal and moist cakes are the goal.

Here’s a recipe for a pistachio cake with a creamy citrus curd that will leave your Passover guests asking for more.

PISTACHIO CAKE FILLED WITH CITRUS CURD GARNISHED WITH CITRUS FILETS AND SALTED PISTACHIO CRUNCH

This is a moist pistachio-flecked sponge cake (made with matzah cake flour), which is drenched in a syrup flavored with the juice and zest of seasonal citrus (tangerine, low-acid Oro Blanco grapefruit, pink-fleshed pomelo and lime) and filled with a creamy starch-free citrus curd. Filets of the citrus fruits adorn the top of the cake, which is then crowned by a shard of pistachio crunch flecked with bits of sea salt. Complex in taste, simple to execute, this cake is a fitting ending to any seder but is truly a dessert for all seasons. Just choose fruits in season to create the syrup and the garnishes.


FOR CAKE:

1/3 cup pistachios, finely ground (if possible, use commercially made pistachio flour, which is more finely ground and uniform in texture)
Scant 1/2 cup matzah cake flour
Scant 1 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs, separated
Zest of 1 medium lime
Grease an 8-inch round cake pan with cooking spray or flavorless oil. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper. Spray the paper lightly and set the pan aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Sift together the ground pistachio flour and matzah cake meal; discard any larger pieces that remain in the sieve.

In the bowl of an electric mixer outfitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks and half of the sugar until the mixture is light and lemon-colored and falls from the whisk in a thick ribbon. Fold in lime zest.

In a clean, dry bowl with a clean whisk, beat the egg whites until frothy. With the mixer running, add the remaining sugar and beat until stiff but shiny peaks form. Lightly but thoroughly, fold the pistachio flour-

matzah cake meal mixture gently but thoroughly into the beaten egg yolk base. Then fold the beaten egg whites into the yolk mixture. Immediately scrape the mixture into the prepared pan.

Bake the cake for approximately 25 minutes, or until the cake feels firm to the touch and is slightly browned. Do not overbake. Remove the cake from the oven and set on a cooling rack.

When cool, remove the cake from the pan and place it on a cake cardboard set on a turntable. Using a long serrated knife, cut the cake into two even layers and set aside.


FOR CITRUS FILETS:

1 medium pink grapefruit
1 medium white grapefruit
1 medium blood orange or navel orange
1 large tangerine

Using a small serrated knife, cut a thin slice from the top and bottom of each citrus fruit. Then, following the contours of the fruit, remove the white pith surrounding the fruit. Over a bowl to collect the juices, which will be used in the citrus syrup, release each filet from the fruits by working the knife just adjacent to the connective membranes, making the first cut toward the center of the fruit and then next cut away from the center. The filets should then neatly release from the connective membranes of the fruit. Remove and discard any seeds. Continue until all filets have been removed, keeping each variety separate. Store, covered, in the refrigerator until ready to assemble the dessert.


FOR CITRUS CURD:

1/2 cup fresh squeezed citrus juice (a combination of tangerine, grapefruit and lime works well here)
4 large eggs
Generous 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1-ounce pieces, softened

Place the juice, eggs and sugar into a stainless steel bowl set over a saucepan half-filled with simmering water. The bottom of the bowl should not touch the water. Cook the mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly, until it becomes as thick as a thin mayonnaise. Remove from the heat. Press through a fine-meshed sieve into a clean heatproof bowl. Whisk in the butter, piece by piece, keeping the mixture emulsified. When cool, place the curd, covered, into the refrigerator until ready to assemble the cake. (Note: You will have leftover curd to use for another dessert if you use it as a single layer between the two layers of cake, rather than spreading it on the top layer of the cake as well, as noted below.)


FOR CITRUS SYRUP:

1 cup mixed citrus juice, sieved (made from the juice that has collected when preparing the citrus filet garnish)
Simple syrup (1/3 cup each of granulated sugar and water, boiled until the sugar dissolves completely), as needed, to lightly sweeten the citrus juices

Combine the mixed citrus juice and enough simple syrup to lightly sweeten. Brush the layers of cake liberally with the citrus syrup and set aside at room temperature, covered, to prevent drying out. Reserve the remaining syrup in the refrigerator for use when plating and serving the dessert.

Note: Depending on the size of the fruits and how juicy they are, it may be necessary to supplement the juice by extracting the juice from additional fruits.


FOR PISTACHIO CRUNCH:

Generous 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon water
Scant 1/2 cup pistachios, toasted in a preheated 350 F oven for approximately 10 minutes, or until lightly brown and fragrant, and kept warm until combined with the syrup below
Fleur de sel or other sea salt, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Ten minutes before you begin making the pistachio crunch, place a Silpat-lined baking pan into the oven to heat.

In a heavy saucepan, cook the sugar and water, without stirring, until the syrup reaches 320 F on a cooking thermometer. Combine the syrup with the warm nuts and quickly pour the mixture onto the heated baking pan. Return the pan to the oven and bake until lightly golden. Remove from the oven, immediately sprinkle the salt lightly and evenly over the crunch and store in a cool, dry place. Break the crunch into irregular-shaped shards just before plating the desserts.


TO ASSEMBLE THE DESSERT:

Assemble the cake by spreading half of the citrus curd on one cake layer. Top with the other cake layer and press lightly to compact. If desired, spread remaining citrus curd on top of the top layer of cake. Otherwise, reserve leftover curd to serve over berries or lightened with whipped cream for a nice secondary dessert. Chill the cake until just before serving.

To serve, cut the cake into 8 equal portions. Top each portion with a filet of each type of citrus fruit and garnish with a shard of pistachio crunch. Place the portions onto serving plates and pour an equal amount of citrus syrup onto each plate. Serve immediately.

Makes 1 cake, 8 servings.


Illuminated Reflections: On view through May 8, 2011, at the Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd.,  Los Angeles, CA 90049; (310) 440-4500.

Robert Wemischner is the author of four books, including his latest, “The Dessert Architect” (Cengage Learning Inc., 2010). He teaches professional baking at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College. To learn more, visit his Web site, RobertWemischner.com.

For more Passover recipes visit jewishjournal.com/passover_food.

Two Chocolate Passover Desserts


I promised a great dessert to go with my local, sustainable, non-agri-business, healthy Passover meal, and here it is.  You can make this for many people very quickly, and it uses no margarine or that sludge they call non-dairy creamer.  God did not free us from slavery so we could poison ourselves with Mocha Mix and margarine…

The first recipe I adapted from Joan Nathan, which she adapted from “Dulce lo Vivas,” by Ana Bensadón (Ediciones Martínez Roca).  Joan’s recipe uses olive oil. I substitute the freshest nut oil I can find, usually walnut or hazelnut at the local farmers market.

Chocolate and Nut Oil Mousse

Time: 30 minutes plus 24 hours’ refrigeration

11 ounces bittersweet (60 percent cacao) chocolate
8 large eggs, separated
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh walnut or hazelnut oil
2 tablespoons kosher for Passover brandy, marc or grappa

1. In a double boiler, melt chocolate over low heat. Cool slightly. Beat egg yolks with 1/2 cup sugar until light. Whisk in olive oil, brandy and melted chocolate.

2. Using an electric mixer, whisk egg whites until soft peaks form. Add remaining 1/4 cup sugar, whisking until stiff but not dry.

3. Fold whites into chocolate mixture so that no white streaks remain. Spoon into an 8- or 10-cup serving bowl or divide among 8 or 10 dessert cups or glasses. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours before serving.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings.

And here’s the second, a Passover Chocolate Torte adapted from Alice Medrich’s Chocolat, minus the orange.

Here’s the recipe I use, adapted from Cocolat cook book.  I’ve made this for 15 years, and it is very hard to screw up.  You can link to the recipe here, but note my changes:  I do not use orange in the flavoring (yech) and I substitute one-quarter cup olive oil or nut oil for the butter.  If you are serving a non-meat meal or don’t care about such things, stick with the butter.

Chocolate Passover Walnut Torte with Chocolate Honey Glaze

CAKE

1 cup chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup sugar, divided
9 oz. 70% bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/8 teaspoon salt
7 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

 

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly spray sides of 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray; line bottom with parchment paper.

2. Pulse walnuts and 1 tablespoon of the sugar in food processor until very finely ground, being careful walnuts don’t become a paste; place in medium bowl. Wipe excess oil from food processor. Pulse chocolate and 1 tablespoon of the sugar until mixture resembles crumbs ranging from very finely chopped to 1/4-inch pieces. Add to nuts, along with orange peel and salt; stir to combine.

3. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar in large bowl at medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining 1/2 cup sugar, beating until egg whites are stiff and glossy but not dry, 2 to 3 minutes. Gently scrape into large wide bowl.

4. Pour half of the chocolate mixture over egg whites; fold in until nearly incorporated. Repeat with remaining chocolate mixture, folding just until incorporated. Place in springform pan; spread gently to level.

5. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until torte is puffed and golden brown on top and springs back when pressed gently with fingers. (A toothpick inserted in center will emerge moist and stained with a little melted chocolate, but not coated with batter.) Cake may crack slightly. Cool on wire rack 10 minutes. Slide thin knife or spatula around sides of pan; cool completely. Pour warm glaze (below) over cake, smooth with spatula. Let harden. Serve at room temperature. (Cake can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and store at room temperature.)

Chocolate Glaze

8 oz. good quality semi sweet chocolate chips, such as Guittards

1/4 c. olive oil or walnut oil

1-2 Tablespoon honey

  1. Put all ingredients together in the top of a double boiler, over simmering water or in microwave. Cook until nearly all of the chips are melted. Watch carefully whichever method you use. Remove from heat before all the chips are melted.  Stir until glaze is smooth.
  2. Allow to cool so it is thicker but still pourable

8 servings

By the way, here is more or less my menu this year:

Passover 2010

Apple and Wine Charoset

Homemade Horseradish

Homemade Halibut confit with front yard Artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, lucques olives, caper berries, ‘eshman acre’ eggs and Spanish sea salt

Chicken Soup with Dill Matzo Balls

Grilled Young Chicken with Meyer Lemon and Green Garlic

Holly’s Brisket with Fennel and Olives

Potato and Italian Dandelion Torta

Roasted Asparagus with Fig Balsamic Vinegar

Blood Orange, beets and Butter Lettuce Salad

Walnut Chocolate Mousse or Chocolate Torte

Fresh Strawberries

Macaroons

Restoring Moses


It isn’t nice to say, but if I were hanging out in the desert with my friends — all excited about moving in to a land of milk, honey and great falafel — and an old man with a stutter insisted on “speaking into our ears” a weird doom and gloom poem, my likely remark would be: “That dude’s got issues.”

Had Moses been able to see a psychologist, imagine the intake sheet:

  • Abandonment issues stemming from parental desertion during early infancy;
  • Subconscious association between water and maternal rejection;
  • Repressed resentment toward stepfather;
  • Recurring identity crisis;
  • Homicidal tendencies;
  • Fear of ridicule due to speech impediment and unconventional spiritual practices;
  • Suspicion of women concurrent with post-traumatic stress disorder (note: subject was circumcised in adulthood … by his wife);
  • Propensity toward introversion (subject at one point spent 40 days alone on a mountain) and anorexia (without eating);
  • Physical insecurity (subject was forced to hide unusual physical radiance with a veil for social acceptance);
  • Severe authority and individuation issues.

It’s remarkable that despite a lifetime of personality-disordering circumstances, Moses maintained his composure as the conduit of God’s word and directive for as long as he did. Only in this last parsha of his life does he begin to go a little meshuggeh.

Into the ears of every member of the congregation of Israel, as well as the sky, Moses insists upon the words “of [his] mouth: “My doctrine shall drop as the rain/my speech shall distill as the dew/as the small rain upon the tender grass/and as the showers upon the herb. For I will proclaim the name of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 32:2-3).

My doctrine; my speech; I will proclaim. This pessimistic prose distinguishes the wounded ego of a man that has consumed the inspired soul of a prophet. His Ha’azinu (literally, “give ear to”) demonstrates how base and mundane his consciousness has become; he is infinitely distant from harnessing the receptivity of listening to the still, small voice of God. Instead, he projects the blaring violence of his own unrequited rage onto the ears of physical world, shouting, “The blemish of His sons/they are a perverse and crooked generation … they shall be sucked empty by hunger, and devoured with burning heat” (Deuteronomy 32:5, 24).

This self-centered diatribe seals his fate: To die before entering the land that he devoted his life to promise.

“God spoke to Moses that same day, saying … behold the land of Canaan, which I give to the children of Israel for possession … because you transgressed against me among [them] … at the waters of merivot [bitterness] in Kadesh … because you sanctified me not in the midst of the children of Israel. For you shall see the land before you, but you will not go there into the land” (Deuteronomy 32:48-52).

I can empathize with Moses’ uncontrollable urge to hit a rock and shout back at the unremitting kvetchfest of dissatisfied Yids. There was a time in my career when a congregant’s complaint that I didn’t pronounce their second cousin once removed’s last name correctly at the oneg could send me blubbering to my shrink. (A therapist would surely seek to reassure Moses that he was still lovable.)

Meanwhile, God’s response to His best employee’s outburst while drawing water from a rock is punishment by unrequited death?

But we must consider: Perhaps God tests against the shortcomings of an individual solely according to their distinct potential.

Not only did Moses lose his temper before the people, disobeying God’s instructions and producing waters of merivot for them to drink, but he never learned the lesson. He never returned to himself, nor to God; rather, he got lost in the noise of his own transgression.

Calvin Coolidge said, “No man ever listened himself out of a job.” Had Moses been able to take, rather than deliver, the command to lend an ear; if he had stopped imposing the vibration of his utterances on water, or questioned the nightmare of false blame disguised as prophecy he was so consumed with articulating; if he had finally realized his only job was to surrender the burden of shouldering faith and understanding of the sanctity of God to the people — he would have been the promise he imagined to be distant from the place he stood.

Alas, he was too injured to listen to anyone in the end, thus the peace that his lifetime of devotion ought to have rendered him remains our responsibility to restore. We are the children who inherited the promise. We are the Israelites in whose midst God must be sanctified. We are the redeemers; the ones whose words of blessing can sweeten the most bitter of waters and whose courage to listen in silence will amplify the gentle whisper of Truth on the wind.

Let us return him to wholeness through fulfilling in our lives what he failed to do in his own. Let us believe in the sustenance we have been promised and provided by the Eternal One. Let us declare and then quietly revel in our deliverance with faith and devotion to the Rock from which miracles stream endlessly forth.


Rabbi Karen Deitsch works as a freelance officiant and lecturer in Los Angeles. She can be reached at karendeitsch@yahoo.com.

A dessert wine with a healthy finish


If you’ve been to the supermarket lately, you’ve probably noticed that the hottest trend in the food industry is pomegranate products.

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Several years before the trend got started, a family in Israel’s Upper Galilee region began working to create a tastier and healthier version of the ancient fruit, only to cross their way into yet another huge food market. Their product: the world’s first pomegranate wine fit to be sold to international wine connoisseurs.

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The story began ten years ago, when father and son Gaby and Avi Nachmias, the third generation of a farming family who were founding members of Moshav Kerem Ben Zimra in the Galilee, began experimenting to create a new strain of pomegranates. Understanding the fruit’s excellent therapeutic qualities, their goal was to engineer a “super fruit” that would be richer in vitamins and antioxidants, sweeter, and deeper in its red color than most pomegranate types.

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By 2003, after several years of growing their new strain successfully, the family tried making 2,000 bottles of pomegranate dessert wine from their crop. Everyone who tasted it loved it, the family says, and they built a production line the following year to produce dry and dessert wines in commercial quantities.

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That batch was also well received, and the following year the family founded the Rimon Winery, named after the Hebrew word for pomegranate, and began producing en masse and for the local and international markets.

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“In general, pomegranates don’t have enough natural sugar to ferment into alcohol on its own,” Leo Open, Rimon’s director of international marketing, said. “In the past, some people have added alcohol to pomegranate juice to create a form of liquor, but no one has successfully made wine. Our pomegranates are the only ones in the world that have enough sugar to do so naturally.”

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Rimon’s orchards also benefit from ideal pomegranate-growing terrain, on a plain of basalt-rich soil high above sea level, just a short distance from the Lebanese border. Starting this year, the company began featuring a product line that includes a dry wine, a dessert wine, a heavier port wine with 19 percent alcoholic content, and a rose wine.

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The family also produces pomegranate vinegar and a line of cosmetics made with oils extracted from the fruit. The winery’s main task for now is building sales, with a strong emphasis on overseas exports.

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“Earlier this year, we started exporting to the Far East, and we are now in touch with people in the United States, Europe and even South America. Getting a product known is a slow process, and there is plenty of bureaucracy, and a long supply chain of importers and distributors to contend with,” Open says.

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“We’re in the very first stages, but things are moving. We expect to be available in U.S. markets before the end of the year.”

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The progress occurred despite the Israel-Hezbollah war, which saw missiles landing near the family’s orchard every day. Open says the company wasn’t too concerned that an attack could destroy its orchard.

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“We were committed to getting through this and moving forward,” he says. “The situation was tough for all businesses in the North, but we continued to make contact with distributors.”

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Pomegranates are one of Israel’s oldest indigenous fruit species, and were mentioned in the Bible’s praises of the land 3,500 years ago. The fruit has a strong place in Jewish tradition, and many have the custom of eating pomegranates on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

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The fruit also features prominently in ancient Greek mythology, and are commonly eaten at Greek weddings and funerals. Nowadays, the sweet and tart pomegranate has become one of the fastest growing trends in the food industry.

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According to product data service Productscan, some 215 new pomegranate-flavored foods and beverages were brought to market in the first seven months of 2006, compared to just 19 for the whole of 2002. Pomegranate flavors are finding their way to everything from natural fruit juices to chewing gum and even sausages.

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The rise in popularity stems partly from growing medical interest in the crimson fruit’s health benefits. Pomegranates are naturally high in polyphenols, powerful antioxidants that are helpful in fighting a variety of health problems ranging from cardiovascular diseases and inflammation to certain types of cancer.

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Studies have even begun suggesting that the fruit may even be helpful in alleviating menopausal and post-menopausal symptoms in women (pomegranate is the only plant known to contain estrogen) and erectile dysfunction in men. Couple that with their naturally high levels of vitamins A, B and C, calcium and iron, and it’s no wonder the fruit is being touted as a health panacea.

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And, Open notes, the antioxidant content of pomegranates is three times higher than that of red grapes.

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Rimon Wineries stands to grab the coattails of the surge in international wine sales. That market has been growing strongly since the early 1990s, and Israeli wines in particular have been undergoing a “revolution” in recent years.

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Both local consumption and exports of Israeli-made wines are growing at more than 10 percent a year, while the rise of quality boutique wineries around the country is helping to increasing international recognition. Pomegranate wine, which is kosher for consumption by religious Jews with none of the rabbinic stringencies of grape wines, looks to fit nicely into this niche.

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The process of making pomegranate wine is similar to that of most grape wines.

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The winery gathers the fruit’s juices into large steel tanks to ferment for about a month, and then ages them in the same types of French oak barrels used by most wine producers before the product is bottled and sold. The only point where the pomegranates need special treatment is at the beginning of production, when a specially-designed machine opens the fruits and scoops out its edible seeds, crushing them for their juice.

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“Like with all wines, the fermentation process is totally natural,” Open says.
That being said, pomegranate wines clearly belong to a different class than the typical reds and whites, and Rimon recognizes that the market has to treat it as such, Open says.

PASSOVER FOOD: Treats to Leaven Desire for Dessert


Passover desserts are a challenge to the cook because so many ingredients are forbidden, among them flour, grain, cornstarch, baking powder or baking soda. So we substitute matzah meal, potato starch and versatile fresh egg whites to bake all of those traditional favorites — and lots of new ones, too.

The good news is that it is not difficult — all of these carefully tested delicacies are fairly simple to prepare and will be a welcome addition to your seder dinner, as well as for family meals during Passover.

For all the chocolate lovers, the food processor Cocoa-Pecan Cookies will become a favorite. Just prepare the dough and have the children or grandchildren help by dropping them by the spoonful onto the baking sheets. The batter can be kept in the refrigerator and a fresh batch of cookies can be baked each day.

Something new for the holiday, use the charoset ingredients to make a Passover Fruit Cake filled with nuts and dried fruit that offers a tasty and a crunchy treat. It is similar to the Italian delicacy known as Panforte that originated in Sienna. The mixture is tossed together in a large bowl, spooned into parchment-lined baking pans, and baked for an hour and a half. The good news is that these loaves will easily keep for the eight days of the holiday.

During Passover last year we were invited to the home of Alice and Nahum Lainer, who love to entertain. Alice served a delicious Apricot Torte, and I persuaded her to share her recipe for this wonderful pastry. Because some Jewish households do not use matzah meal or cake meal, the combination of egg whites, apricot puree, spices and a topping of apricot jam make an ideal dessert. It is the perfect after-dinner pastry to serve your guests, accompanied by a glass of sweet wine or hot tea.

For another sweet treat, pass a plate of Rocky Road Clusters, everyone’s favorite. They are made with only three ingredients, chocolate, marshmallows and pecans. Simply melt the chocolate, add marshmallows and nuts, and fill small paper cups with the mixture. This is another great project to do with the children.

Bring a platter of the Cocoa Pecan Cookies or Rocky Road Clusters as an edible gift to share with friends and family at the Passover seder meal.

Alice’s Apricot Torte

1 1/2 cups blanched whole almonds, plus 1/4 cup sliced for garnish
1/4 cup melted unsalted butter or nondairy margarine for pan (one-quarter)
1 cup sugar, plus more for pan
1 1/2 cups diced dried apricots
Zest and juice of 1 small lemon
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
8 large eggs, separated
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup apricot jam
Passover powdered sugar (recipe follows, optional)

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Place whole nuts in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet and sliced nuts in a single layer on another baking sheet. Toast nuts until golden and aromatic, five to eight minutes. Shake the pans halfway through toasting to make sure nuts brown evenly. Set aside to cool.

Brush a 10-inch spring form pan with melted butter or margarine, sprinkle with sugar and tap out excess. Set aside.

Place 1/4 cup sugar, whole almonds and apricots in the bowl of a food processor; process until finely chopped, one to two minutes. Add lemon zest, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves and pulse to blend. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk egg yolks and 1/2 cup of the sugar on high speed until light and fluffy. Transfer to a large bowl. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites with salt and lemon juice until frothy. Slowly add 1/4 cup sugar, and continue whisking until peaks are stiff but not dry. Fold beaten whites into egg yolks. Add apricot and almond mixture, and fold in until just combined. Pour batter into prepared pan, and bake for about 50 to 60 minutes, until golden brown and a wooden pick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. If necessary, cover torte lightly with foil to avoid burning. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the torte, and release from pan. Allow to cool completely on wire rack.

Place apricot jam in a small saucepan over medium heat, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, and strain. Brush onto cooked torte. Sprinkle with sliced almonds and powdered sugar.

Makes one 10-inch torte.

Passover Powdered Sugar

1 tablespoon Passover potato starch
1 cup sugar

In the bowl of a food processor, combine potato starch and sugar. Process until very powdery and resembles powdered sugar, about two minutes. Let sugar settle for about one minute before removing processor cover.

Makes about 1 cup.

Passover Fruit Cake

2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter or nondairy margarine
2 cups pitted dates, thinly sliced
2 cups dried apricots, quartered
1 cup golden raisins
1 1/2 cups toasted whole almonds
1 1/2 cups toasted walnuts pieces
3/4 cup coarsely chopped semi-sweet chocolate, optional
3/4 cup matzah cake meal
1 tablespoon potato starch
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla or orange juice

Heat the oven to 300 F. Brush one (5-by-9 inch) loaf pan or two (3-by-7 inch) loaf pans with melted unsalted butter or non-dairy margarine and line with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the dates, apricots, raisins, almonds, walnuts and chocolate, if using. Combine the matzah cake meal, potato starch and sugar and mix well. Add to fruit mixture and mix evenly. Beat eggs and vanilla to blend. Using a rubber spatula or hands, stir into fruit mixture until well blended. Spoon batter into prepared loaf pan and spread evenly, press into corners of pan.

Bake until golden brown, about 1 1/2 hours. Cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes, then turn out of pan. Peel off paper and let cool on rack.

Wrap in plastic wrap and foil. Chill at least one day or up to two months. To serve, place cake on a wooden board, and using a sharp knife, cut in thin slices.

Cocoa-Pecan Cookies

1 1/2 cups toasted chopped pecans
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/4 cup matzah cake meal
1/4 cup potato starch
5 large egg whites
1 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup chopped semisweet chocolate

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Combine pecans, 1 1/2 cups of sugar, cocoa powder, matzah cake meal and potato starch in a food processor and pulse on and off until nuts are finely grated. Add 1/2 cup of egg whites and pulse to blend.

Transfer batter to a large bowl and stir in the nuts and chocolate. In a separate bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the remaining egg whites until soft peaks form, add the remaining sugar and beat until a stiff meringue forms. Using a rubber spatula, mix half of the meringue into the pecan/chocolate mixture and then fold in the remaining meringue.

Drop batter by well-rounded teaspoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheets, leaving 1 inch between cookies.

Bake for eight minutes. Cookies should be dull, but very soft. If not dull, bake for one more minute. Transfer parchment to a rack to cool, before removing.

Makes about two- or three-dozen cookies.

Rocky Road Clusters

1 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
1 cup miniature marshmallows or large marshmallows cut in quarters
1/2 pound semisweet chocolate, melted

Place small paper candy cups on top of a large tray and set aside.

In a large bowl, toss pecans and marshmallows together. Add melted chocolate and mix well. Spoon chocolate mixture into the candy cups and refrigerate for several hours until firm. Store in refrigerator.

Makes about 24.

 

Mommy, Me & Cheesecake Makes 3


OK, mom, so what part of eating that cheesecake is making you feel guilty?

If you fear that little bubbela is annoying the other customers in the bakery, your worries are over.

The Essential Chocolate Collection, a Culver City bakery, is for parents who want an alternative to dragging their babies to Starbucks for an afternoon pick-me-up amid unsympathetic non-parents. Here, moms can indulge while their babies can crawl and play — or make a fuss. It’s OK because Fridays from 1-3 p.m., in the bakery’s annex, are reserved for just this crowd.

“It’s nice to have a latte and not have someone glaring at you,” says event organizer Lara Sanders Fordis, who has an 11-month-old son. Her sister, shop owner Melissa Sanders, has added incentive to be welcoming: newcomers may get hooked on the goodies.

The free get-together (you do pay for drinks and dessert) is called Coffee, Mommy & Me, but it’s not really a Mommy & Me class. Still, the organizers do schedule “programs.” The recent schedule has included “Funtime with Nanny C,” a “Free Organic Baby Food Tasting” and “Mommy Chair Massages.” The Passover event on April 14 is pretty much all about food — featuring chocolate macaroons, chocolate-dipped fruit and other treats. (The ingredients are kosher, but not certified kosher for Passover.)

Participating moms said they appreciated a chance to get out of the house and relax. And it’s safe for baby: There are no sharp edges — especially on the chocolate.

The Essential Chocolate Collection, 10868 Washington Blvd., Culver City. For information on Coffee, Mommy & Me, call (310) 287-0699.

 

A Yummy Hat Trick of Triangle Treats


The traditional shape of the quintessential Purim dessert, the hamantaschen, is a three-cornered filled pastry. Some say it even looks like George Washington’s hat, but I’m certain he wasn’t around in those early days. But, what about the shape? What does it represent? Is it the shape of Haman’s pocket, his hat or his ear? I think it all depends on the story your grandmother told you.

Ever since planning our first family Purim celebration, research into the origin of the traditional hamantaschen dessert has had me a little confused. In Hebrew the triangular pastries are called oznei Haman (Haman’s ears). And yet, the word hamantaschen, when translated means Haman’s pockets. In some countries they are called mohntaschen, simply meaning small pockets of pastry with poppy-seed filling.

I don’t have the answer, but I have always thought it must be shaped after the three-cornered hat that Haman is said to have worn, because that is what I learned at Hebrew school.

Usually hamantaschen are made of cookie or yeast dough and filled with poppy seed or dried fruit and served for dessert. But, this year I thought it would be fun to design a Purim dinner based on the hamantaschen shape. Why not serve a variety of triangular dishes, fitting for the carnival-like atmosphere of the holiday?

One of my new Purim ideas is a grilled sandwich, or panini, as it is called in Italy, where they are served at the autogrill on the autostrada. The display case has at least 10 different combinations of these panini, served on a variety of breads and rolls that come in many sizes and shapes. The basic components are simple: bread, cheese, vegetables or meat and greens. When you make your selection, you are asked if you want it grilled, and in a few minutes you are handed a hot panini, wrapped in parchment-like paper. When cut diagonally they become perfect for your Purim meal.

The best way to make the panini at home, is to use a table-top grill that resembles a waffle iron. But, a frying pan with a heavy weight placed on top of the panini works fine.

Have platters of assorted cheeses, vegetables, smoked fish or meats available, depending on your menu, and let your guests, as well as the children, create their own panini.

For a main course, create and serve individual hamantaschen using filo dough and fill them with roasted veggies, a take-off of a vegetable strudel. After baking, just garnish with a dollop of sour cream, and this will be a new treat for Purim.

Every family has their own preference for hamantaschen pastries, but our family loves the traditional hamantaschen made from cookie dough and enhanced with specks of orange and lemon zest. Fill them with poppy seed or prune fillings, then bake until they are golden brown and crisp. Don’t skimp on the filling, and its OK if it oozes out a little.

When baking for Purim don’t forget the ancient tradition of shalach manot, which suggests that we share the holiday foods with the community. Arrange a batch of assorted hamantaschen to take to friends and also share with others. You’ll enjoy both the good deed and the compliments you receive.

My Favorite Autogrill Panini

The great thing about this panini recipe is that the eggplant, peppers and/or cheese are interchangeable with your own personal favorite veggies. Prepare all the fillings in advance and simply set them out in bowls for everyone to make his or her own selections.

8 slices from sandwich loaf (preferably challah)

1?4 cup unsalted butter or nondairy margarine
4 slices fried or grilled eggplant (zucchini may replace the eggplant, using 2 slices per panini)
4 slices roasted peppers
4 slices Swiss cheese

Spread butter on one side of each slice of bread. Set four of the slices buttered side down and cover each of them with eggplant and roasted peppers. Then top with cheese slices.

As you layer vegetables and cheese be sure to cover the bread and allow some of the vegetables to extend just beyond the edge of the bread so they become crisp while grilling. Put the remaining slices of bread on top of filling, buttered side up. Grill the panini on each side until golden brown and the cheese is melted. Transfer to cutting board and slice diagonally.

Makes four panini.

Veggie Hamantaschen

1 package filo dough
1 pound unsalted butter, melted and clarified
1 cup fine bread crumbs
Vegetable Filling (recipe follows)
1/4 cup sesame seeds or poppy seeds
Sour cream

Prepare the Vegetable Filling and set aside.

Place a damp towel on a work area and cover with waxed paper. Remove one sheet of filo from the package. Keep the remaining sheets covered with waxed paper and a damp towel to prevent drying out.

With scissors, cut the sheet in half lengthwise. Brush one half with melted butter, sprinkle with bread crumbs and top with the other half sheet of filo. Place one-quarter cup of vegetable filling at one end of the sheet, leaving a 2-inch border to fold over the filling. Continue folding it over in a triangle along its length to make a neat triangular package. Place each triangle as it is finished on a baking sheet lined with buttered foil. Repeat with the remaining filo and vegetable filling.

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Brush the tops of the triangles with melted butter and sprinkle with sesame seeds. (The Veggie hamantaschen can be frozen at this point, if you like. Place them in the freezer uncovered, until the butter hardens, then cover with foil, seal and freeze. Defrost frozen ones before baking them.)

Bake for l5 minutes or until golden brown. Serve immediately.

Makes 12 Veggie Hamantaschen.

Vegetable Filling

1?4 cup olive oil
1 cup finely diced onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium eggplant, finely diced
2 medium zucchini, finely diced
1 small red bell pepper, finely diced
1 large tomato, finely diced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and sauté the onion and garlic until soft. Add the eggplant, zucchini, red bell pepper, and tomato, mix well, and sauté until tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and cool.

Makes four cups.

Poppy Seed Hamantaschen

1/4 pound unsalted butter or nondairy margarine, softened
2 cup sugar
3 eggs
Grated zest of 1 orange
2 cups flour
1-2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
3 (8-ounce) cans poppy seed filling

Preheat the oven to 375 F. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until well blended. Beat in 2 of the eggs and the orange zest, blending thoroughly. Add flour, baking powder, salt and poppy seeds and blend until dough is smooth.

Transfer to floured board and divide dough into three or four portions for easier handling. Flatten each portion with the palm of your hand and roll it out to one-quarter-inch thick. With a scalloped or plain cookie cutter, cut into two 2-inch rounds. Place 1 heaping teaspoon of filling in the center of each round. Fold the edges of the dough toward the center to form a triangle, leaving a bit of the filling visible in the center. Pinch the edges to seal them.

Place hamantaschen 2 inches apart on a lightly greased foil-lined baking sheet and brush with the remaining egg, lightly beaten. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to racks to cool.

Makes five dozen to six dozen hamantaschen.

Judy Zeidler is the author of “The Gourmet Jewish Cook” (Cookbooks, 1988) and “The 30-Minute Kosher Cook” (Morrow, 1999).

Her Web site is members.aol.com/jzkitchen.

 

Let My People Merlot


 

In the beginning, there was sweet wine. Really, really sweet wine.

But as the kosher market broadened, a trickle of new wines targeted to a more sophisticated audience began to raise expectations among Jewish wine lovers.

Now kosher wines have entered a third era, in which many are not only passable, they’re praiseworthy. Though winemakers in Israel and the United States still grow the largest numbers of these wines, vineyards all over the globe — from Australia to South Africa to Chile — are joining in, giving Jewish consumers an array of choices to accompany their charoset and brisket.

Passover is the kosher industry’s peak season; virtually all kosher wines are kosher for Passover. In North America, perhaps 50 percent of annual kosher wine sales are made during the holiday or in the weeks that precede it. This percentage is falling, though, as kosher wines gain more year-round acceptance.

The kosher food market is growing by perhaps 15 percent a year, said Menachem Lubinsky, the editor of koshertoday.com and president and CEO of Lubicom, a marketing consulting firm that focuses on kosher brands. He estimates that sales of kosher wines in the United States will reach roughly $160 million in 2005, up from $130 million just two years ago.

Lubinsky said that the number of kosher wines on the North American market is in the thousands, so everyone preparing a seder has plenty of strong choices at a variety of prices.

To make sense of this welter of wines, JTA’s editorial team took upon itself the task of taste-testing 20 kosher wines and picking out some winners. The wines we tested were provided by Royal Wines, one of the world’s largest producers, importers and distributors of kosher wines.

Wines we reviewed that are mevushal, an additional koshering step that involves flash-pasteurizing, are indicated with an “M” next to the price. (To make the testing more fair, we did not know how much each wine cost when we tasted it.)

According to Herzog Wine Cellars winemaker Joe Hurliman, the process changes the way fruit in the wine tastes. Indeed, a handful of nonkosher wineries have begun to flash-pasteurize their wines to capture this distinctive taste.

To best simulate the actual seder experience, our testers ate only Tam Tam matzah crackers for palate cleansing.

Our overall favorites were a pair of inexpensive moscatos that would be excellent choices to accompany desserts, or perhaps spicy foods. Italy’s Bartenura Moscato ($11, M) and Moscato di Carmel ($9) received equally high scores from our reviewers for their light, sweet, extremely fruity flavors. Of the Carmel moscato, one taster wrote, “Smells like honeysuckle, tastes like a party.”

Segal’s Unfiltered Cabernet Sauvignon ($60) is from Israel. This deep red wine is vivid, rich and slightly tart, with an alluringly earthy aroma; it had the most uniformly high scores of any wine in our testing.

Spain is a less traditional kosher wine producer — Spain has less than 40,000 Jews — but the Ramon Cardova Rioja, a Spanish tempranillo ($13), is a terrific dry red, offering a sharp berry taste with hints of vanilla and a potent fruity aroma. It ranks high on our list of best buys.

According to JTA’s testers, several other red wines also deserve a look: The Carmel Appellation Bordeaux Blend Limited Edition ($40) is an Israeli blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot, dark and thick with a spicy aroma and a smooth taste that has notes of both sweetness and tartness. Another nice blend is the Herzog Special Reserve Cabernet/Zinfandel/Syrah ($35), a brand-new California wine from Herzog. It was a bit thinner than many of the reds we tasted, but we appreciated its smoothness, layers of fruit and less acidic finish.

A few of the white wines we tasted stood out. Aside from the dessert wines, the tasters were most impressed by the Francois Labet Puligny Montrachet, a French chardonnay ($55) that is vivid and a bit acidic, with a pleasant lingering finish. Also from France, which is the third largest producer of kosher wine in the world, is the Verbau Gewurztraminer ($15, M), a sweet, fruity wine with a mildness that makes it more versatile than the moscatos.

Of the kosher champagnes we tested, the Nicolas Feuillatte Brut from France ($47) drew the most praise. It has a tempting aroma, earthy taste and crisp aftertaste, though some testers felt it was too heavy.

Our testers intended to include a traditional sweet concord wine in our sampling, but we couldn’t bring ourselves to open it after tasting all these elegant wines. However, concords continue to be strong sellers year after year and cost $5 or less, so perhaps there is a place for one at your table.

Listed prices are approximate retail prices. The less expensive wines — $15 and under — often can be found at retailers for a dollar or two less during the days before Passover.

The Best of the Bottles

Though it would be impossible to sample even 10 percent of the thousands of kosher-for-Passover wines on the market there are a number of solid choices we can recommend from the group of wines we sampled with Jay Buchsbaum of Royal Wine, who holds free tastings with many Jewish groups throughout the year.

Mevushal wines are indicated with an ‘M’ next to the approximate retail prices.

Best Values

Bartenura Moscato (Italy, $11, M)
Moscato di Carmel (Israel, $9)
Ramon Cardova Rioja (Spain, $13)
Verbau Gewurztraminer (France, $15, M)
Baron Herzog Zinfandel (U.S., $13, M)

Best reds

Segal’s Unfiltered Cabernet Sauvignon (Israel, $60)
Ramon Cardova Rioja (Spain, $13)
Carmel Appellation Bordeaux Blend Limited Edition (Israel, $40)
Herzog Special Reserve Cabernet/Zinfandel/Syrah (U.S., $35)
Chateau Leoville Poyferre (France, $85)

Best whites (nondessert)

Francois Labet Puligny Montrachet (France, $55)
Verbau Gewurztraminer (France, $15, M)
Binyamina Special Reserve Chardonnay (Israel, $15)

Best for dessert

Bartenura Moscato (Italy, $11, M)
Moscato di Carmel (Israel, $9)

Best champagne

Nicolas Feuillatte Brut (France, $47)

 

Fritter Away Your Time for Chanukah


 

We just returned from a trip to Italy, concentrating on the provinces of Puglia and Campania close to Naples. It is a region that we enjoy because of the diversity of the foods and wines available.

We visited several new places but returned to one of our favorites, La Caveja, a country restaurant with eight rooms, in the village of Pietravairano. It is owned by Antonietta Rotondo and Berardino Lombardo. They hosted us two years ago, when we had a remarkable experience that lasted past midnight, observing just-picked olives being crushed into olive oil.

However, since our last visit, they have remodeled their farmhouse into a wonderful villa. It is a bed and breakfast, and includes six additional rooms. In Italy, it is called an agri-turismo.

We enjoyed a delicious dinner that they cooked in their newly restored kitchen, and for dessert, Antonietta served us honey-glazed fritters fried in olive oil. She called them Scavatelle and said they were made from a traditional recipe that was handed down from her grandmother.

I couldn’t help but think how perfect these fritters fried in olive oil and dipped in a honey syrup would be to serve for our Chanukah celebration. She was happy to share the recipe with me, when I told her that I would like to serve them to our family.

This pastry is easy to make, and it is a project that you can share with your children or grandchildren. Baking helps teach children to follow directions, how to measure and weigh ingredients, tell time and other useful skills. So, let them help in the shaping and dipping of these delicacies.

The dough can be rolled out several hours in advance and covered with a dry towel. Fry and dip in the honey syrup just before serving, so they will be warm and crisp.

Remember, Chanukah begins at sundown on Tuesday, Dec. 7. Happy Chanukah!

Scavatelle (Fried Pastries)

Adapted by Judy Zeidler from Antonietta Rotondo at La Caveja.

Antonietta said that these pastries are traditionally served on a large lemon leaf.

1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons water

1 cinnamon stick

1 tablespoon olive oil

Peel from 1/2 of a lemon

1 tablespoon sugar

Pinch of salt

1 cup flour

Syrup

1/4 cup honey

1 tablespoon sugar

Peel of 1/2 a lemon

1 tablespoon water

Olive oil for frying

In a saucepan, place water, cinnamon stick, olive oil, lemon zest, sugar and salt. Boil for two or three minutes. Remove zest and cinnamon stick. Add flour all at once, and using a wooden spoon, mix until dough comes together. It will be lumpy.

Spoon dough onto a floured board, punch down and knead into a flat disk to remove lumps. Pull off pieces of dough and roll out into thin ropes.

Cut into 6-inch ropes and working with one rope, bring one end of rope around to form a loop, crossing over the other end (leaving 1/2-inch ends) and pinching to resemble a bow tie. Place on paper towels and cover with a dry dish towel.

In a saucepan, place honey, sugar, lemon peel and water. Mix well and simmer over low heat.

In a deep fryer or heavy saucepan, heat oil and fry pastries until browned. Dip in honey syrup and serve at once.

Makes about four dozen.

Antonietta Rotondo and Berardino Lombardo can be contacted at:
La Camere della Locando
La Stalla della Caveja
Via s.s. Annunziata
Pietravairano (ce), Italy
Telephone (0823) 984824, fax (0823) 982977.

Judy Zeidler is the author of “The Gourmet Jewish Cook” (Cookbooks, 1988) and “The 30-Minute Kosher Cook” (Morrow, 1999). Her Web site is members.aol.com/jzkitchen.

 

Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Meal


The apple, even more than the bibical pomegranate, has become the symbolic first fruit to be eaten during Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, which will be observed at sundown, Wednesday, Sept. 15.

During Rosh Hashanah, tradition calls for a perfect apple to be pared and cut into as many pieces as there are people present. A piece of the apple is dipped in honey and passed to each person at the table before the meal begins to symbolize a sweet and joyous New Year.

Apples go into the making of countless dishes in most countries throughout the world for this holiday, and they often are included in every course. So let apples and honey dominate your dessert table this year.

The pie crust for the Apple Meringue Tart is made from a cookie-like dough, which is rolled and baked, then filled with honey-glazed apples and garnished with a toasted meringue topping.

The Apple Upside-Down Cake is a simple version of Tart Tartin, a wonderful French apple dessert.

Everyone loves homemade cookies and the combination of spices — ground cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg — compliment the Honey-Glazed Apple Cookies, making it impossible to eat just one cookie. This recipe makes six or seven dozen depending on the size of the cookies.

To ensure a "good and sweet year" add these apple desserts to your Rosh Hashanah menu, along with the tradition of serving sliced apples dipped in honey.

A Word About Apples

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• Look for apples that are firm and bright in color. Avoid any that feel soft or have bruised areas.

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• Depending on the variety, apples will keep two weeks or more in the refrigerator.

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• After slicing, green apples do not turn brown as rapidly as red apples.

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• Cook apples in a noncorroding saucepan: stainless steel, enamel or glass.

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• Peel apples with a stainless steel vegetable peeler or knife.

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• Granny Smith and Pippin apples are firm and tart and require more baking or cooking time; they also require more sugar.

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• Red or Golden Delicious apples need less sugar and take less time to cook.

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• Roman Beauty apples hold their shape and are good for baking.

Apple Meringue Tart

1 (11-inch) sweet pastry crust (recipe follows)

8 to 10 apples, peeled, cored, sliced

Lemon juice and grated peel

1 cup apple juice or water

2/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup apricot preserves

3 egg whites

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

Pinch salt

3/4 cup sugar

Prepare sweet pastry crust and bake according to directions.

In a glass baking dish, place sliced apples in a single layer. Sprinkle with lemon juice.

In a heavy saucepan, combine apple juice, sugar, apricot preserves and juice and rind of one lemon. Cook over moderate heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Bring syrup to a boil and simmer for five minutes or until thickens. Pour over apples and bake at 350F for 10-15 minutes or until apples are soft but firm. Cool.

Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Add cream of tartar, salt and continue beating until whites are stiff, not dry. Add sugar, a little at a time, beating well until stiff peaks. Fill pastry tube with meringue, using (48) rosette tube.

With a slotted spoon, transfer cooled apple slices to baked pie crust. Cover surface of apples completely with meringue. Bake for 10-15 minutes or place under broiler for a few minutes, or until meringue is lightly browned.

Sweet Pie Crust

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup powdered sugar

1/2 cup unsalted butter

3 tablespoons milk or water

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt and sugar. Cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly. Blend in the milk until the dough begins to come together. Do not over-mix. Knead the dough into a ball, wrap it in waxed paper and chill it for at least 10 minutes in the refrigerator.

Roll pastry out, on two large sheets of floured waxed paper, to a round large enough to cover and overlap an 11-inch flan pan with a removable bottom. For easier handling, cover the pastry with another sheet of waxed paper and fold pastry in half. (The waxed paper protects the center of pastry from sticking together.)

Lift the pastry from the bottom waxed paper and place on half of the flan pan. Unfold the pastry and remove the waxed paper that covers it. (At this point the pastry can be covered with plastic wrap and foil and stored in the refrigerator or freeze for several days.)

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Bring the pastry to room temperature. Spread a light coating of butter on a sheet of waxed paper and place it, coated side down, inside of the pastry, overlapping around the outside. Cover with another piece of waxed paper with the cut ends in the opposite direction. Fill the center of the waxed paper lined pie shell with uncooked rice or bakers jewels. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the sides of the pastry begin to brown. Carefully remove the waxed paper with the rice and continue baking until the bottom of the pastry is lightly brown. Remove from the oven and cool.

Makes one (11-inch) Pie Crust.

Apple Upside-Down Cake

Honey and apples make this simply delicious Upside-Down Apple Cake symbolic of the New Year.

Apple Topping:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing cake pan

2 tablespoons honey

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

3 large tart apples, (Granny Smith or Pippin), peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch slices

Cake

2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

1 egg plus 1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/4 cups flour

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks, room temperature

1/2 cup sour cream

1 to 1 1/2 cups sifted dark brown sugar, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a 9-inch cake pan with parchment paper and brush with melted butter.

For Topping: In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, place butter and cook over medium-high heat until foamy. Add honey and sugar and stir to combine, cooking until sugar dissolves, swirling pan occasionally. Add apples and fold with spatula to coat apples. Cook until apples have softened slightly Remove pan from heat and transfer apples, to a flat plate. Return pan to heat and cook syrup until thick and reserve. When apples are cool enough to handle, arrange apples in the prepared pan in a circular pattern.

For Cake: In a small bowl, whisk together the whole egg, egg yolk and vanilla and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, place flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt and mix well. Add butter and beat until crumbly, then add sour cream and beat until dry ingredients are moistened. Add egg mixture and beat until batter is well blended and fluffy.

Spoon batter over apples and gently spread out to an even layer that covers apple. Bake until cake is dark golden brown, and a wooden pick comes out clean when inserted in center, 35-40 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack and let cool for five minutes. Loosen sides with a sharp knife.

Place serving plate over top of pan and invert cake so apples are on top. Let cake sit inverted for about 1 minute. Gently remove pan and peel off parchment paper. Just before serving sprinkle with sifted brown sugar, place under the broiler and broil until sugar begins to turn dark brown.

Serve about 10.

Honey-Glazed Apple Cookies

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 cup unsalted butter or margarine, room temperature

1 1/3 cups brown sugar

1 egg

1 cup roasted, chopped walnuts or pecans

1 1/2 cups chopped apples (1 large apple)

1 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup apple juice

Honey-Apple Juice Glaze (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Prepare the Honey-Apple Juice Glaze and set aside.

In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg and set aside.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter until soft and smooth. Then beat in the brown sugar until the mixture is fluffy. Beat in the egg. Add half of the flour mixture, then walnuts, apples and raisins and mix well. Blend in apple juice then remaining flour mixture, mixing well. Drop, by rounded tablespoonful, 2 inches apart, onto greased baking sheets. Flatten the mounds slightly with a rubber spatula.

Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until golden brown. While cookies are still hot, spread thinly with Honey-Apple Juice Glaze.

Makes about five- to six-dozen cookies.

Honey-Apple Juice Glaze

1 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon softened unsalted butter or margarine

Pinch salt

2 1/2 tablespoons apple juice

In a small bowl, blend powdered sugar, honey, butter, salt and apple juice until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside. Makes about 1 cup.

B’nai Mitzvah Planning 101


So you’re going to have a mitzvah — whether it is a bar or a bat, the planning begins early. Way before Hebrew school age, you will hear at least one grandfather wistfully thinking aloud at about age 5, "In eight years, we will have a bar mitzvah."

From there it continues directly to the child. "You’re 7 years old? Why, in only six years, you will become a bar mitzvah."

As the months go by, there will be similar remarks followed by, "I know, papa. Only six more years."

About two years before, the parents will begin to pay attention. The first thing to do is set the date. Once the community calendar has the date, usually around the child’s 13th birthday, you are on your way.

Never had a bar or bat mitzvah before? It’s a piece of cake (usually pareve, even if you don’t keep kosher, in the case of a meat meal).

First you have to decide: Do you want to do what everyone else is doing, or are you going to be different?

The next step is to choose the caterer. If the affair will be held at the synagogue, you will need someone approved by your board. Set those dates and choose your menus. You will usually need something for after service Friday night as well as Saturday noon. Some choose a Saturday evening meal as well.

The bar mitzvah usually consists of a Friday night service and kiddush afterward. Held in the synagogue, we usually assume the people have had a meat meal for Shabbat and will prefer a pareve dessert. The caterers have a wonderful selection of pareve desserts — gooey or not. Along with this, the actual bar mitzvah cake might be on display. Most popular are trays of fruits and small cakes, cookies, cupcakes.

Friday night, after services, also includes coffee, tea and sodas.

Some people have a luncheon and others have a dinner; some have both. For example, some synagogues allow music during the day. In that case, you might have a very celebratory luncheon, along with a band or DJ, and cut the cake along with cutting a rug.

Where music is not allowed in the synagogue, some people choose to take the affair to a restaurant, in which case the rabbi and teachers probably cannot participate. Others wanting to celebrate the bar mitzvah with everyone will have a quiet luncheon and come back to the synagogue — after sundown — for the big celebration with music.

For the luncheon or dinner, after the menu with the caterers is selected, the next step is flowers. You should offer one or two arrangements for the bima. After services, they can be brought down by the caterer or florist to be placed on the stage of the banquet room. Instead of flowers, some choose to have two big baskets filled with food items for the local food bank. What better time to do a mitzvah than when you are having your own mitzvah. Count your blessings by sharing with others.

Are you going to spend a fortune on centerpieces? Does your 13-year-old care about the flowers? Some choose to have the boy or girl’s favorite cake as a centerpiece. You can be sure that a centerpiece of a strawberry shortcake or a half sheet cake of a baseball diamond with bases loaded is very well appreciated by the teen set. When you use the cake theme, each table has a cake big enough for the people at that table.

You can choose to have music or not — and, most important, you can dance to your own tune.

A Sweet Dream Come True


The tip jar at CremaLita in Santa Monica reads, “Make Me Fat,” which is the opposite of why patrons frequent this new, kosher fat-free ice cream chain in Los Angeles.

The trendy, Manhattan-based company dishes out more than 60 flavors — including peppermint and espresso — averaging 60 calories per four-fluid-ounce serving. Its three Los Angeles stores are part of a low-fat craze that has infiltrated the kosher market, with retailers reporting “dramatic” interest in not-so-naughty desserts, such as Colombo Chocolate Sorbet, according to Kosher Today. In Los Angeles, Baskin-Robbins and other franchises offer kosher low-fat fare, although CremaLita is perhaps the only chain in which the stores, as well as the product, are kosher certified, said Rabbi Eliezer Eidlitz of the Kosher Information Bureau.

As for why Jeffrey Britz founded CremaLita with his daughter, Allison, in 2001: “We’re weight lunatics,” he said. The 58-year-old entrepreneur — who rises at 4 a.m. to exercise most days — had sold his physical-therapy business when his thoughts turned to ice cream in January 2001. For years, he’d trekked to a soft-serve joint twice a week to pick up quarts of low-fat dessert. As that brand became a staple for chic Manhattan dieters, he analyzed the competition, opened his first store and soon drew a following. The cast and crew of “Sex and the City” bought 100 cones one afternoon; Us magazine ran a cartoon of that show’s Kristin Davis enjoying CremaLita; and 2001 Miss USA Kandace Kreuger called the brand her “secret weakness.”

But a recent New York Times story suggested the snack might not be entirely guilt free. The article alleged that samples of CremaLita and another brand had more calories than advertised, partly because of oversized servings and insufficient air beaten into the product. The piece referenced that “Seinfeld” episode in which Jerry and Elaine gain weight after pigging out on “diet” fro-yo.

In response, Britz said signs in his stores warn that size matters, but customers don’t seem to care.

“If we serve a strict four ounces, they feel cheated,” he said.

Besides, a big cup of CremaLita is still more virtuous than Häagen-Dazs: “At least it’s a large portion of something that’s low calorie and low fat,” Allison Britz said.

CremaLita stores are located in Santa Monica, WestHollywood and Sherman Oaks. For addresses and information, visit www.cremalita.com .

Celebrate with Cheesecake


On the first night of Chanukah, the family always gets together at our home for a special evening. We enjoy lighting the Chanukah candles, eating traditional foods and exchanging gifts.

Dessert is always a highlight of the evening, and this year for Chanukah, I am going to surprise everybody with a special cheesecake. I discovered the recipe on a recent trip to the wine country when we visited the Redwood Hill Goat Farm near Sonoma. After touring the goat farm, we attended a cooking class where the focus was cooking with goat cheese.

The dessert that was prepared for the class was a cheesecake using goat cheese in place of the usual cream cheese. Not overly sweet, the texture was cake-like, rather than the traditional creamy version I usually make. Although the original recipe did not have a crust, I chose to create one using finely ground granola.

Before serving, sprinkle with powdered sugar and top with an orange juice syrup. It is the perfect dessert for a dairy dinner, great as a breakfast treat, or to serve friends that visit during the eight days of Chanukah.

Goat Cheese Cake with Granola Crumb Crust

  • 3/4 pound (soft) goat cheese (room temperature)
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • Orange Juice Syrup

Prepare the Granola Crumble Crust

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend the goat cheese with 3/4 cup of sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, incorporating each one completely before adding the next.

Turn the mixer to low and beat in the flour.

In another bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks. Add remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar and beat until firm. Fold one-third of the egg whites into the cheese mixture. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the cake is deep golden brown, 45 to 50 minutes. (Do not underbake.) Cool for 15 minutes on a rack.

Remove cake from the pan and cool completely. Serves 8 to 10.

Granola Crumb Crust

  • 1 1/2 cups granola
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place the granola and sugar in a food processor and blend until fine crumbs. Add butter and blend until mixture comes away from the sides of the bowl. Press the mixture into the bottom of a lightly greased 9-inch spring form mold.

Bake for about six minutes, or until crust is golden brown. Cool before filling.

Orange Juice Syrup

  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar

In a saucepan, combine the orange juice, lemon juice, and sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves, and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, until thick. Cool.

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