Recipe: Passover sweets


Passover is our favorite family holiday — last year we hosted nearly 40 people at our house. It’s also one of the most complicated.

The seder begins at sundown, but the formal dinner won’t begin until we finish reading the haggadah, which is usually late in the evening. Fortunately, small bites are served as part of the seder that help keep the guests from suffering too many hunger pangs. They include the ritual foods of charoset, the Hillel sandwich, matzo, greens and salted egg.

Although there is always someone who complains about how hungry they are, and can hardly wait until dinner is served, I think they secretly nibble on the matzo that is on the table. And even if they don’t, I rest easy knowing that they will soon overeat at a dinner of gefilte fish, chicken soup with matzo balls, lamb shanks and roast turkey with vegetable stuffing.

Then, of course, come the desserts. Because Passover desserts eliminate all leavened foods for the eight-day holiday, baking them has always been a challenge. I have been teaching cooking classes for many years, and the art of making Passover desserts has always been one of my favorite things to teach.

One important rule that’s useful for the holiday when baking cakes: egg whites should be beaten with a whisk until light peaks form, then folded gently into the batter and gently spooned into the cake pan. Treating egg whites this way is also important when making meringue cookies.

Our dessert table will have a few surprise desserts for our family this year. I know the children are going to love the charoset mini cupcakes and the platter of frozen chocolate-covered banana bites. For now, though, let’s keep that a secret between us!

PASSOVER LEMON CUPCAKES WITH CHAROSET TOPPING

  • Central European Charoset (recipe follows)
  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup safflower oil
  • Juice of 2 lemons (about 5 to 6 tablespoons)
  • 1 1/4 cups matzo cake meal
  • Grated zest of 2 lemons

 

Make Central European Charoset; set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix egg yolks and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy.

In a medium-size bowl, combine oil and lemon juice.

Add matzo cake meal to yolk and sugar mixture, alternately with oil mixture.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, using the wire whisk attachment, beat egg whites until light and fluffy soft peaks form.

Using a rubber spatula, fold 1/4 of the beaten egg whites into egg yolk mixture until well blended. Fold in remaining beaten egg whites and grated lemon zest. Fill cupcake liners about halfway with batter. Sprinkle a spoonful of Central European Charoset on top of the batter on each cupcake.

Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Makes about 16 cupcakes or 32 mini cupcakes.

CENTRAL EUROPEAN CHAROSET

  • 2 medium (red delicious) apples, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup sweet Passover wine

 

In a bowl, combine the apples, walnuts, honey, and cinnamon and mix well. Add wine and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Makes about 2 cups.

PASSOVER BANANA NUT SPONGE CAKE

  • 7 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup matzo cake meal
  • 1/4 cup potato starch
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup mashed bananas
  • 1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped

 

Preheat the oven to 325 F.

In a large mixing bowl, beat egg yolks and sugar until light in color and texture. 

In a medium-size bowl, combine matzo cake meal, potato starch and salt. Add this a little at a time to the egg yolk mixture, alternately with the bananas, beating until smooth.

In a large mixing bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gently fold beaten egg whites and nuts into egg yolk mixture.

Pour batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan. Bake for 45 minutes in the preheated oven, until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out dry and the cake is springy to the touch. Invert the pan immediately onto a wire rack and cool. With a sharp knife loosen the cake from the sides and center of the pan and unmold onto a cake plate. 

Makes 10 to 12 servings.

PASSOVER CHOCOLATE GLAZE

  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons marmalade
  • 1 tablespoon strong brewed coffee

 

Melt the chocolate with the marmalade and coffee on top of a double boiler over simmering water or in the microwave, and blend until melted.

Makes about 1 1/4 cups.

PASSOVER MERINGUES

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup nuts, finely chopped

 

Preheat oven to 250 F.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, using the wire whisk attachment, beat egg whites until stiff. Gradually add salt and sugar. Fold in chopped nuts and mix with spatula. 

Drop by the teaspoonful — about 1 inch high — onto a greased baking sheet or a baking sheet lined with a Silpat mat, spacing 1 inch apart. Or use a disposable pastry piping bag with a plain or star 1/2-inch tip to create dots of batter.

Bake in preheated oven for 50 to 60 minutes, until meringues remove easily with a spatula. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

FROZEN CHOCOLATE BANANA BITES

  • 4 bananas, peeled
  • 1 (16-ounce) bar semisweet chocolate, cut into pieces

 

Cut bananas into 1-inch slices and push a wooden toothpick halfway into each. Place on a large piece of wax paper and wrap. Place in the freezer for at least 30 minutes, or until ready to coat with chocolate.

Place chocolate pieces in a 4-cup Pyrex (glass) measuring cup or bowl and place in the microwave, and cook until lumpy. (This also can be done in a double boiler over simmering water.) Remove from microwave and mix well with a spoon until the lumps are melted.

Remove the frozen bananas from the freezer and unwrap. Holding each banana by the toothpick, dip into the melted chocolate. Let chocolate drain a little and place on a large dish lined with wax paper. Repeat with remaining bananas and return to the freezer.

Makes about 24 banana bites. 

65 Years of favorite Passover desserts


This year, I gathered together all of the Passover dessert recipes I have made, dating back to our first seder in 1950 — more than 125. This was in anticipation of compiling them into my new project, a Passover dessert cookbook.

I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorites in advance of the book’s publication, with a focus on some individual desserts, as well as an assortment of cookies and candies.

Many people believe that Passover desserts are a challenge because many normal baking ingredients are forbidden, among them flour, grain, cornstarch, baking powder and baking soda. Remember, you can substitute matzah meal, potato starch and versatile fresh egg whites to make many of your traditional favorites. All of these carefully tested delicacies are fairly simple to prepare and will be a welcome addition to your seder dinner, and the family meals served during the rest of the holiday.

For all the chocolate lovers in your family, there are the Passover Brownies With Chocolate Glaze, everyone’s most requested dessert. For another sweet treat, pass a plate of Rocky Road Clusters. These tasty favorites are made with only three ingredients: chocolate, marshmallows and pecans. Simply melt the chocolate, add the marshmallows and nuts, and fill small colorful paper cups with the mixture. This is a great project to do with the children.

Our family loves my Matzah Farfel-Nut Thins, better known as Florentine Passover Wafers. You can mix the batter and keep it in a covered bowl in the refrigerator throughout the holiday. Then, whenever you want to make them, just spoon the batter onto a baking sheet lined with foil or a silicone baking mat and bake.

Cocoa-Pecan Cookies are another perfect project for the kids. Prepare the dough, and set up an area in the kitchen where they can help by dropping spoonsful of the dough onto baking sheets. If you have leftover dough, keep it in the fridge and a fresh batch of cookies can be baked when needed.  

If you’re truly adventurous, try making chocolate-covered charoset. It’s easy to make — just double your favorite charoset recipe, roll into balls, dip them in melted chocolate, and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Then there’s mandelbrot, the year-round favorite of Jewish families throughout the world. Over the years, I have developed a recipe that you can make during Passover. They are the perfect nosh, especially with coffee or tea, and take so little time to prepare. One recipe makes a large quantity — store them in a sealed container, and you will have them available for unexpected company during the holiday. 

PASSOVER BROWNIES WITH CHOCOLATE GLAZE

  • 3/4 cup oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened dry cocoa
  • 1 cup matzah cake meal
  • 2 tablespoons potato starch
  • 1/2 cup strong brewed coffee
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 1/4 cup ground walnuts or pecans
  • Passover Chocolate Glaze (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In the large mixing bowl, blend oil and sugar. One at a time, add egg yolks, beating well after each addition. In a medium bowl, combine cocoa, matzah cake meal and potato starch. Beat this mixture into oil mixture alternately with the coffee.

Beat egg whites until stiff enough to hold a peak. Mix 1/4 of beaten egg whites into chocolate mixture to loosen the batter. Fold remaining whites gently, but thoroughly, into batter along with chopped nuts.

Lightly oil an 8-inch baking pan and dust with ground nuts. Pour in batter. Bake 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out dry. Serve plain or glazed with Passover Chocolate Glaze.  

Makes 16 servings. 

PASSOVER CHOCOLATE GLAZE

  • 8 ounces Passover semisweet chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons Passover preserves
  • 2 tablespoons strong brewed coffee

Melt chocolate, preserves and coffee in microwave or on top of a double boiler over simmering water. Add additional coffee to make a smooth, thin glaze or frosting.  

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

ROCKY ROAD CLUSTERS 

  • 1 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup Passover miniature marshmallows or large marshmallows cut in quarters
  • 8 ounces Passover semisweet  chocolate, melted

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

In a large bowl, toss pecans and marshmallows together. Add melted chocolate and mix well. Spoon chocolate mixture into candy cups or directly onto a wax paper-lined platter; refrigerate for several hours until firm. Store in refrigerator.  

Makes about 24 servings.

MATZAH FARFEL-NUT THINS

  • 1 cup matzah farfel
  • 1 tablespoon matzah cake meal
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted margarine, melted
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds 

Preheat oven to 325 F.

In a large mixing bowl, combine matzah farfel, matzah cake meal, sugar and salt; mix well. Pour melted margarine over farfel mixture; blend until sugar dissolves. Add egg and vanilla; blend well. Stir in almonds. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes.  

Line a baking sheet with foil or a silicone baking mat. Drop farfel mixture by teaspoonsful onto prepared baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. When cookies are cool, they will peel off foil or baking mat easily.

Makes about 8 dozen.

COCOA-PECAN COOKIES

  • 1 1/2 cups toasted chopped pecans
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened dry 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 Passover semisweet chocolate

Preheat oven to 400 F. 

Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Combine chopped pecans, 1 1/2 cups sugar, cocoa, matzah cake meal and potato starch in a food processor; pulse on and off until nuts are finely ground. Add 1/2 cup egg whites; pulse to blend. Transfer batter to a large bowl; stir in coarsely chopped pecans and chocolate.

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

Drop batter by well-rounded teaspoonsful, 1 inch apart, onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 8 minutes. Cookies should be dull, but very soft. If not dull, bake 1 minute longer. Transfer parchment paper to a rack;  cool completely, then remove cookies from paper. 

Makes about 2 or 3 dozen cookies.  

PASSOVER MANDELBROT

From “The Gourmet Jewish Cook” (1988) by Judy Zeidler

  • 3/4 cup oil
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup matzah cake meal
  • 1/4 cup matzah meal
  • 2 tablespoons potato starch
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • Juice and grated peel of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large mixing bowl, blend oil and 3/4 cup of sugar until light. Add eggs; blend thoroughly. 

In a large bowl, combine matzah cake meal, matzah meal, potato starch, salt and 1 teaspoon cinnamon; blend into oil mixture alternately with lemon juice and peel. Fold in almonds. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour for easier handling.

Divide dough into 3 or 4 portions. With lightly oiled hands, shape each portion into an oval loaf, 2 inches wide and 1 inch high. Place loaves 2 inches apart on greased baking sheets. Bake 30 minutes or until golden brown.

In a small bowl, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. 

Remove loaves from oven; use a spatula to transfer them to a cutting board. Cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Place cut side up on the same baking sheets; sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Turn off oven heat, and return baking sheets to the oven. Leave mandelbrot in oven for 10 minutes per side or until lightly brown and crisp. Transfer to racks; cool completely. 

Makes about 4 dozen.

Judy Zeidler is a food consultant, cooking teacher and author of “Italy Cooks” (Mostarda Press, 2011). Her website is JudyZeidler.com

A reminder: Don’t pass over the post-seder meals


Planning Passover meals is always a wonderful challenge. For the seders, most of us focus on traditional family recipes because they are tried and proven, and because everyone likes them (and often asks for these favorites dishes).

But what about the remaining six days of meals? They must be considered.

Once the big seder meals are done, it’s nice to be able to eat healthy, simple and flavorful meals for the rest of the week. An abundance of vegetables, fruits, poultry, meat, fish and fresh herbs can be incorporated into cooking on Passover.

Here are some recipes that I make on Passover because they are easy to prepare and provide flexibility as to when they can be served — not to mention they are quite delicious.


CARROT-GINGER SOUP
Makes 8 servings

The apple and the ginger give this creamy soup, which is made without any cream, a bit of a bite. The ingredients are always available, so you can serve it in any season at any temperature — hot, cold or room. I must confess, though, that I love it best when the weather is warm.

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, quartered
1 3/4 pounds carrots, peeled and sliced, plus 1 extra carrot for garnish
1 small Granny Smith apple, peeled and sliced
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and sliced
5 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preparation:
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the onion, garlic, carrots, apple and ginger, and saute for 3 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat and cook, covered, about 30 minutes, until the carrots are tender.

Cool a little. Puree the soup in a blender, in batches, until smooth. Return it to the saucepan.

Season to taste with lemon juice, salt and pepper.

To prepare the garnish: Steam the remaining carrot until just tender and grate. Before serving, sprinkle each bowl with the grated carrot.


HALIBUT CEVICHE
Makes 4 servings

Ceviche is a refreshing appetizer that I make with fresh fish marinated in lime juice. The juice “cooks” the fish in a very short time, allowing it to turn opaque and firm. It can be served on a bed of butter lettuce with slices of avocado. It’s a wonderful alternative to gefilte fish for an appetizer or makes a nice, light lunch.

Ingredients:
1 pound skinless halibut cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup lime juice, plus 2 tablespoons
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded, finely chopped
2 scallions, including the green part, thinly sliced
1/4 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
Butter lettuce
Slices of avocado

Preparation:
Place fish in a nonreactive bowl and season with salt. Pour juice over fish and press down so the fish is submerged in the juice. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or until fish is opaque and firm.

Drain off and discard the lime juice. Add peppers, scallions and cilantro to the fish. Just before serving add the remaining 2 tablespoons lime juice and season to taste with salt and pepper.


CHICKEN WITH POTATOES AND OLIVES
Makes 4 servings

I am always pleased to come up with a dish that is a meal in itself, one that combines either chicken or meat with vegetables. This is one of my favorites. I bake it in an attractive casserole so it can go directly from the oven to the table.

Ingredients:
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
9 garlic cloves
Kosher salt
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Leaves from 10 thyme sprigs
Freshly ground black pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 6 ounces each)
5 plum tomatoes
1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, unpeeled, quartered
1/2 cup pitted black olives, quartered

Preparation:
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. With 1 tablespoon of the oil, grease a glass, ceramic or enamel-lined baking pan that can hold all the vegetables in a single layer.

Coarsely chop 4 of the garlic cloves on a cutting board. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and, using a knife, crush them into a paste. Place the paste in a small bowl and combine it with the lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of the oil, half of the thyme leaves and pepper to taste.

Pat dry the chicken breasts with paper towels and season lightly on both sides with salt and pepper. Coat the chicken with the mixture and set aside.

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Drop the tomatoes into the boiling water; bring the water back to a boil and drain. Core the tomatoes and slip off the skin. Cut the tomatoes in half widthwise and squeeze gently to remove the seeds. (Some seeds will remain.) Cut the tomatoes in quarters.

Thickly slice the remaining 5 garlic cloves and spread them in the prepared baking pan along with the tomatoes, potatoes, olives, the rest of the thyme leaves and the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Roast the vegetables, uncovered, for 20 minutes, or until almost tender.

Place the chicken breasts on top of the vegetables and bake, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Turn them over, spoon on some pan juices and bake for another 5 minutes, or until the chicken is slightly pink on the inside. Cover with foil for 1 minute.


ROASTED CAULIFLOWER
Makes 4 servings

Roasting is an easy and delicious way to transform this reliable standby into a wonderful dish.

Ingredients:
1 medium head cauliflower (about 2 pounds)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preparation:
Preheat the oven to 400. Line a baking pan with foil.

Cut the stalk and leaves off the cauliflower and discard. Cut the head into small florets. Place the garlic in the baking pan. Arrange the florets on top; drizzle with the oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes, or until tender.


CHOCOLATE MERINGUE SQUARES
Makes 3 1/2 dozen squares

These meringue squares are like cookies, but they are light, chocolaty and surprisingly low in calories. They can be presented as cookies or cut into individual squares and served with either sorbet or fresh fruit on the side.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon unsalted margarine, for greasing the pan
1/2 pound blanched almonds
6 ounces good-quality imported semisweet chocolate, broken into small pieces
8 large egg whites (see note below)
1 cup sugar

Preparation:
Preheat the oven to 350. Line a 9-by-13-by-2-inch baking pan with wax paper and grease the paper with the margarine.

Chop the almonds in a food processor, in 2 batches, until medium-fine. Transfer to a bowl. Chop the chocolate in the processor until fine and combine with the almonds.

Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Using the balloon whisk attachment, beat at high speed until foamy. Gradually add the sugar and beat until stiff.

With a large rubber spatula, gently fold the chocolate-almond mixture into the egg whites, making a motion like a figure eight with the spatula. Do not overmix.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out almost dry.

Cool on a wire rack. Invert onto a cutting board and peel off the paper. Cut into 1 1/2-inch squares.

Notes: It is easier to separate the eggs straight from the refrigerator, when they are cold. Make sure the whites have come to room temperature before beating.

To freeze the squares, place them side by side in an air-tight plastic container, with wax paper between the layers.

Cooking with wine for Passover


Wine is an important part of the observance of Passover — at least four cups are poured during the seder service. I’m sure we all have noticed how our wine tastes have changed since childhood, when only the sweet, syrupy wines were available.

But these days, our family and friends may choose from a wide variety of kosher Passover wines, not only from California, but also from Israel, Italy, France, South Africa and New Zealand. There are sweet and dry wines — red, white and rosé — and many popular varietals, including chardonnays, Cabernet Sauvignons and Rieslings. You will find lots to choose from in markets and wine stores; even sparkling wines and champagne are available. All Passover wines are marked with a special seal and signed by the local rabbinical authority.

Besides the ceremonial uses of wine, you’ll find wine to be a great way to liven up your Passover menus. Used in cooking and baking, it makes a welcome substitute for the many seasonings, spices and sauces that are not permitted during the eight days of Passover. And remember, when you cook or bake with wine, the alcohol evaporates and only the flavor and aroma remain, so you may serve the food to everyone in the family.

The recipes shared here are not intended as a menu. You may want to serve several of them at a seder or Passover dinner, and, used creatively, they will add pizazz to your holiday menus. 

The California Charoset, developed for our family seder, contains only fruits, nuts and wine grown and produced locally. And the Chopped Liver Terrine is a combination of wine, chicken livers, apples, mushrooms and chopped eggs that makes a delicious appetizer, served with matzah.

There is also a Beet and Horseradish Sauce that’s great to serve with gefilte fish, or with my recipe for Whitefish in White Wine. Our favorite main course is Lamb Shanks Roasted in Red Wine, which gives the shanks the most delicious, robust flavor. The same recipe works well with veal tongues.

For dessert, serve rich Chocolate Truffle Cupcakes topped with apricot preserves.


CALIFORNIA CHAROSET

  • 1 large avocado, peeled and diced
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 4 dates, pits removed
  • 2 figs, peeled
  • 2 prunes, pits removed
  • 1 whole orange, including peel 
  • 2 tablespoons sweet Passover wine or apple juice
  • 2 tablespoons matzah meal

Toss avocado and lemon juice in a bowl; set aside. 

In a processor or blender, place almonds, raisins, dates, figs and prunes; process until coarsely chopped. Cut orange into quarters, leaving peel on; add orange quarters to blender; process briefly to combine. Add avocado and process just 1 minute more. 

Transfer mixture to a glass bowl; gently fold in wine and matzah meal. Cover with plastic wrap, and store in refrigerator. 

Makes about 3 cups.


CHOPPED LIVER TERRINE

  • 1/4 cup peanut oil or olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken livers
  • 4 large mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium apple, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons dry white Passover wine
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Salad greens and cucumber slices for garnish

Heat oil in large, heavy skillet; sauté onions until lightly browned. Add chicken livers, mushrooms and apple; sauté gently, turning livers to cook on both sides. (Do not overcook.) Add wine; simmer 1 minute.

Transfer liver mixture and juices into meat grinder, add eggs, and grind coarsely into a large bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste, and adding additional oil to moisten if needed, stir well. 

Line a loaf pan or mold with plastic wrap, allowing an overhang on all sides. Spoon in liver mixture, cover, and refrigerate. 

When ready to serve, invert terrine onto a serving plate (the plastic wrap makes this easy). Garnish with salad greens and cucumber slices. Serve as an appetizer with matzah. 

Makes 12 servings.


WHITEFISH IN WHITE WINE

  • Green Herb Margarine (recipe follows)
  • Beet and Horseradish Sauce (recipe follows)
  • 1 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 1 cup dry white Passover wine
  • 1 cup fish or vegetable stock
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced (optional)
  • 8 fillets of whitefish or salmon (about 6 ounces each)
  • Lemon slices for garnish

Prepare Green Herb Margarine; set aside.

Prepare Beet and Horseradish Sauce; set aside.

Preheat broiler to high heat. Line a large broiler pan with heavy-duty foil. Place green onions, wine, stock and garlic in the pan. Place fish fillets on top. Top each portion with a slice of Green Herb Margarine. Broil fish, basting once or twice during the first 5 minutes. Continue broiling for about 5 minutes more, without turning fish, until it is tender and begins to brown lightly on top.

Place fish in center of heated serving plates and spoon Beet and Horseradish Sauce on top. Garnish with lemon slices. 

Makes 8 servings. 


GREEN HERB MARGARINE

  • 5 small spinach leaves, stems removed
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon 
  • 1/4 pound unsalted Passover margarine
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Drop spinach, parsley and tarragon into a pot of boiling water and boil for 5 minutes. Drain, dry on paper towels, and set aside.

Place margarine, lemon juice and garlic in a processor, fitted with the knife blade, and process until well-blended. Add cooked spinach mixture and process until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mold into a rectangle (the shape of a stick of margarine), wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate or freeze. Remove plastic wrap and slice.

Makes about 1 cup.


BEET AND HORSERADISH SAUCE

  • 4 medium beets, scrubbed and trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons prepared (bottled) horse- radish with beets or 2 tablespoons freshly grated horseradish
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • Salt to taste

Place beets in a large saucepan; add enough water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, and simmer beets, covered, for 30 to 40 minutes, or until very tender. Drain beets, reserving 2 tablespoons of cooking liquid; slip off beet skins. 

In a food processor, puree beets with reserved cooking liquid, horseradish, vinegar and salt to taste. Transfer to glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill. 

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.


LAMB SHANKS ROASTED IN RED WINE

Double the recipe and use leftover lamb shanks as the base for a hearty lamb stew, boning the shanks and combining the meat with steamed carrots, parsnips and potatoes.

  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 carrots, thinly sliced
  • 2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
  • 1 bay leaf, crushed
  • 3 sprigs fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 1/2 cups dry red Passover wine
  • 1 (10 1/2-ounce) can Passover tomato sauce with mushrooms
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 6 lamb shanks, trimmed of fat
  • 8 mushrooms, thinly sliced

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Heat oil in a large saucepan. Sauté onions and garlic until soft. Add carrots, celery, bay leaf, oregano, rosemary, parsley, wine and tomato sauce; simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer mixture to an oven-safe roasting pan, add lamb shanks, and baste with sauce. Cover and bake in preheated oven for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, basting every 20 minutes. 

Uncover, add mushrooms, and bake an additional 30 minutes or until shanks are tender, turning shanks to keep moist. Arrange lamb shanks on a large platter with vegetables and sauce. 

Makes 6 servings.


CHOCOLATE TRUFFLE CUPCAKES

  • 4 ounces semisweet Passover chocolate
  • 1/2 cup unsalted Passover margarine
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup ground almonds or pistachios
  • 2 tablespoons sweet Passover wine
  • 2/3 cup potato starch
  • 1/2 to 1 cup apricot preserves

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

In a small saucepan, melt chocolate and margarine; remove from heat, and cool slightly. In a large mixing bowl, beat egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy. Slowly beat in chocolate mixture in a thin stream. Add ground almonds and wine, blending thoroughly. Beat egg whites until stiff, but not dry, and spoon over the chocolate mixture. Sift potato starch on top of batter and beaten egg whites. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites and potato starch into batter. 

Place fluted cupcake cups in muffin pans; fill cups halfway. Bake in preheated oven 10 to 12 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out dry. Top with apricot preserves. 

Makes 12 cupcakes (or 24 to 36 if making mini cupcakes). 

Passover: The season of freedom and chocolate


Passover’s causes have always included freedom, peoplehood and monotheism, and Passover’s chocolate layers new concerns onto these age-old themes. 

In the mid-20th century, Bartons Candy bundled kosher-for-Passover treats such as chocolate matzah, matzah balls, and Almond Kisses with educational materials about Jewish life and religion. While the family-owned Bartons company no longer exists, Almond Kisses may still be found. In the Bartons Haggadah issued in 1944, the Orthodox company founder and president, Stephen Klein, explained: “The personnel and management of Bartons Candy Corp. send you greetings at this Passover season. This haggadah is part of Bartons’ program of presenting useful and informative literature for each Jewish holiday — placed in every box of Bartons’ confections.” For Klein and his company, chocolate furthered the cause of Judaism.

More recently, Sarah Gross explained to me that her Brooklyn-based company, Rescue Chocolate, donates 100 percent of its net profits to animal rescue organizations. In previous years, her company has produced “Don’t Pass Over Me” bark, a Passover-inspired chocolate matzah bark that used the holiday as an opportunity to support rescued animals. Through her Jewish education in Sunday school and for her bat mitzvah, Gross learned the basics of kosher laws. That, along with becoming a vegan at age 14, focused her attention on what she was eating and on animals as living beings. Using chocolate to further her pet crusade, Gross features a Passover treat, Don’t Passover Me Cashew Clusters, available on the Rescue Chocolate Web site.

This year, a number of new campaigns responded to the issue of fair trade chocolates. Until recently, no kosher-for-Passover chocolate was certified to be fair trade, made without child slavery, which was a particularly sad irony at Pesach. Finally, there is one that is both ethically and ritually approved, developed by Rabbi Aaron Alexander, associate dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at American Jewish University in Los Angeles. A recent collaboration among Fair Trade Judaica, T’ruah and Equal Exchange Chocolate has created a fundraising program partnership for synagogues and organizations that makes Equal Exchange’s fair trade and kosher chocolate available. 

The Virtual Fair Trade Chocolate at Seder campaign encourages placing some cocoa beans on the Passover seder plate to prompt further awareness of child slavery in the chocolate industry, especially in West Africa. Photos of cocoa beans, a cocoa tree or purchasing a tax-deductible “virtual” fair trade chocolate bar would also help keep in mind the importance of kosher-for-Passover chocolate companies seeking fair trade certification.

I wrote “A Haggadah for a Chocolate Seder” (free download can be found on my Web site at jews-onthechocolatetrail.org), which provdes an entry point to awareness about the issues of slavery, worker’s rights, poverty, economic justice and fair trade in the chocolate business. In it, chocolate becomes the medium for uncovering themes of ethical kashrut, worker equity and food justice, while spotlighting Passover’s underlying messages of freedom, dignity and fairness. The haggadah recognizes those who labor, often in great poverty, to grow and harvest cacao, including thousands of children and adolescents who work in bondage on the cocoa farms of Ivory Coast and Ghana. To highlight these issues, you can select passages from the haggadah to add to your seder celebration or run a full chocolate seder.

Each of these chocolate causes builds on a long tradition of Passover values and Jewish ideals. As we slather chocolate onto our matzah this Pesach, may our chocolate causes and choices advance freedom. 

Chocolate Matzah Brickle

This easy-to-prepare concoction works for Passover or for whenever. We enjoyed combining roasted almonds, candied orange peel, cocoa nibs and candied ginger for added zest.

2 pounds dark chocolate, chips or broken
into pieces 

1⁄4 cup vegetable oil

1⁄2 to 1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract

1 box matzah sheets, broken into quarters

1 cup chopped nuts

1 cup chopped dried fruits

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or waxed paper. Melt the chocolate in a large heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Once melted, thin the chocolate with the vegetable oil; stir in the vanilla or almond extract. Coat the matzah, nuts and dried fruits with the chocolate and spread onto the prepared baking sheet.

Place the sheet in the refrigerator for at least 1⁄2 hour to cool. 

Once cool and hardened, remove from the pan and break into bite-size bits. Store in a closed container.

Makes 10 servings. 

Save the self-pity, choices abound for Passover meals


For the many who feel overwhelmed by Passover because of the demands of cooking without leaven, a word or two: That should not be an obstacle.

After all, on this most celebrated of Jewish holidays, we are allowed to eat fish, meat, poultry, eggs, nuts, fruits, most vegetables and fresh herbs.

All of the recipes featured here  are nutritious, attractive, flavorful and easy to prepare. They emphasize fresh, seasonal ingredients, fewer complicated techniques, and stylish, elegant dishes. What more would you want for Passover?

The seder meals, when we recount the Exodus story, are the most important events of the holiday.  Most people, like myself, favor their own traditional menu. Each year I repeat the seder menu as a way to hold on to cherished family traditions.

The recipes are from the new cookbook “Helen Nash's New Kosher Cuisine” (Overlook Press).

BEET SOUP
With their magnificent color, delicious flavor and vitamin richness, beets are one of my favorite vegetables. In the summer I serve this soup at room temperature; in the winter I like it hot.

Ingredients:
1 1/4 pounds (570 g) beets, plus 1 small beet for garnish
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small red onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 McIntosh apple, peeled and sliced
4 1/2 cups (1.08 liters) vegetable broth
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
Kosher salt 
Freshly ground black pepper

Preparation:
Peel and slice the beets (see note below). Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the onion, garlic and apple, and saute for 5 minutes. Add the beets and broth. Bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat and cook, covered, for about 30 minutes, until the beets are tender. Cool a little.

While the soup is cooking, wrap the reserved beet tightly in foil. Bake in a toaster oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit (205 Celsius) for 30 minutes, or until just tender when pierced with the tip of a paring knife. Cool, slip off the skin, and grate.

Puree the soup in a blender until very smooth. Season to taste with the vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper.

To serve, garnish with the grated beet; makes 6 servings.

Note: I always wear thin plastic gloves when I work with beets, as this avoids staining my fingers with beet juice, which can be hard to remove.

CHICKEN SALAD WITH RADICCHIO AND PINE NUTS
This is a colorful and delicious salad with an interesting mixture of textures and tastes. The currants and pine nuts add an unusual Mediterranean piquancy.

Ingredients: 
1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 6 ounces/170 g each)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil for greasing the chicken
Kosher salt 
Freshly ground black pepper
1 head radicchio, shredded
1 to 2 bunches arugula, leaves torn if they are large
1/2 cup (20 g) loosely packed flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

Preparation:

Place the onion slices in a small bowl and cover with cold water. Let stand for 30 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Place in a large serving bowl.

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and grease with oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Place each chicken breast in the center of a piece of cling wrap and wrap it so that it is completely covered. Place the packages in a steamer, cover and steam over high heat for about 9 minutes. (The inside of the chicken should still be pale pink.) Turn off the heat and let stand for 1 minute.

Remove the chicken and cool, still wrapped. When cool, unwrap the chicken and cut it on the diagonal into thin strips. Place in the bowl with the onions; makes 6 servings.

SWEET AND SOUR DRESSING
Ingredients:
1/3 cup (80 ml) extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup (70 g) pine nuts 
1/2 cup (115 g) raisins or currants
2 tablespoons Marsala wine
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Preparation:
Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the pine nuts and raisins and saute over low heat until the pine nuts are lightly golden. Remove from the heat and add the Marsala and vinegar.
Add the radicchio, arugula, and parsley to the chicken and onions; toss with the dressing. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

MARINATED SALMON
This is a variation on the traditional pickled salmon sold in every Jewish delicatessen. The difference: The salmon is more delicate and less vinegary, and has a richer color. It makes a perfect Sabbath luncheon dish.

Ingredients:
6 skinless center-cut salmon fillets (about 6 ounces/170 g each)
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil for greasing the pan
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preparation:
Preheat the oven to 200 F (95 C). Grease a glass or enamel-lined baking pan that can hold the fillets in a single layer.

Pat the fillets dry with paper towels and season them lightly on both sides with salt and pepper. Place them in the dish and bake, uncovered, for 25 to 30 minutes, or until cooked to your taste.

Remove the baking pan from the oven, cover with foil, and let cool completely. (The fish will continue cooking outside of the oven.)

MARINADE 
Ingredients:
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons rice vinegar (for Passover, replace with white wine vinegar)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 small red onion, very thinly sliced (see note below)
15 dill sprigs, snipped finely with scissors, plus 2 sprigs, snipped, for garnish

Preparation: 
In a medium bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar and salt. Add pepper to taste. Pour the marinade over the salmon, add the onion and sprinkle with the 15 snipped sprigs of dill.
Cover the dish with wax paper, then foil and refrigerate for 2 to 3 days without turning.

To serve: Bring the salmon to room temperature. Place on individual plates along with some of the marinade and onions. Garnish with the fresh snipped dill; makes 6 servings.

Note: I use a mandoline to slice the onion, as it makes the cutting easier.

CHICKEN WITH POTATOES AND OLIVES
I am always pleased to come up with a dish that is a meal in itself — one that combines either chicken or meat with vegetables. This is one of my favorites, and because it is so easy to make, I often serve it at Passover. I bake it in an attractive casserole, so it can go directly from the oven to the table.

Ingredients:
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
9 garlic cloves
Kosher salt 
1/4 cup (60 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
Leaves from 10 thyme sprigs
Freshly ground black pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 6 ounces/170 g each)
5 plum tomatoes
1 pound (450 g) Yukon gold potatoes, unpeeled, quartered
1/2 cup (67 g) pitted black olives, quartered

Preparation:
Preheat the oven to 450 F (230 C). With 1 tablespoon of the oil, grease a glass, ceramic or enamel-lined baking pan that can hold all the vegetables in a single layer.

Coarsely chop 4 of the garlic cloves on a cutting board. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and, using a knife, crush them into a paste. Place the paste in a small bowl and combine it with the lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of the oil, half of the thyme leaves and pepper to taste.

Pat dry the chicken breasts with paper towels and season lightly on both sides with salt and pepper. Coat the chicken with the mixture and set aside.

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Drop the tomatoes into the boiling water; bring the water back to a boil and drain. Core the tomatoes and slip off the skin. Cut the tomatoes in half widthwise and squeeze gently to remove the seeds. (Some seeds will remain.) Cut the tomatoes in quarters.

Thickly slice the remaining 5 garlic cloves and spread them in the prepared baking pan along with the tomatoes, potatoes, olives, the rest of the thyme leaves, and the remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Roast the vegetables, uncovered, for 20 minutes, or until almost tender.

Place the chicken breasts on top of the vegetables and bake, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Turn them over, spoon on some pan juices and bake for another 5 minutes, or until the chicken is slightly pink on the inside. Cover with foil for 1 minute; makes 4 servings.

STIR-FRIED SPINACH
This is a delicious recipe that captures the very essence of spinach. Now that prewashed spinach is available in almost every supermarket, you can prepare this dish in minutes.

Ingredients:
20 ounces (570 g) prewashed spinach
1 1/2 tablespoons pine nuts
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preparation:
Break the stems off the spinach leaves and discard.

Roast the pine nuts in a toaster oven on the lowest setting for 1 or 2 minutes, until they are golden. (Watch them carefully, as they burn quickly.)

Heat a wok over high heat until hot. Add the oil. Add the spinach and stir quickly until it is just wilted, no more than a minute. Season with salt and pepper. With a slotted spoon, transfer the spinach to a serving dish. Sprinkle the pine nuts on top; makes 6 servings.

CHOCOLATE MERINGUE SQUARES
These meringue squares are like cookies, but they are light, chocolaty and surprisingly low in calories. I often serve them at Passover.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon (15 g) unsalted margarine for greasing the pan
1/2 pound (225 g) blanched almonds
6 ounces (170 g) good-quality imported semisweet chocolate, broken into small pieces
8 large egg whites (see notes)
1 cup (200 g) sugar

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C). Line a 9-by-13-by-2-inch (23-by-33-by-5 cm) baking pan with wax paper and grease the paper with the margarine.

Chop the almonds in a food processor, in two batches, until medium-fine. Transfer to a bowl. Chop the chocolate in the processor until fine, and combine with the almonds.

Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Using the balloon whisk attachment, beat at high speed until foamy. Gradually add the sugar and beat until stiff.

With a large rubber spatula, gently fold the chocolate-almond mixture into the egg whites, making a motion like a figure 8 with the spatula. Do not overmix.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out 
almost dry.

Cool on a wire rack. Invert onto a cutting board and peel off the paper. Cut into 1 1/2-inch (4 cm) squares; makes 3 1/2 dozen squares.

Notes: It is easier to separate the eggs straight from the refrigerator, when they are cold. Make sure the whites have come to room temperature before beating.

To freeze the squares, place them side by side in an air-tight plastic container, with  wax paper between the layers.

Save the self-pity, choices abound for Passover meals [RECIPES]


For the many who feel overwhelmed by Passover because of the demands of cooking without leaven, a word or two: That should not be an obstacle.

After all, on this most celebrated of Jewish holidays, we are allowed to eat fish, meat, poultry, eggs, nuts, fruits, most vegetables and fresh herbs.

All of the recipes featured here  are nutritious, attractive, flavorful and easy to prepare. They emphasize fresh, seasonal ingredients, fewer complicated techniques, and stylish, elegant dishes. What more would you want for Passover?

The seder meals, when we recount the Exodus story, are the most important events of the holiday.  Most people, like myself, favor their own traditional menu. Each year I repeat the seder menu as a way to hold on to cherished family traditions.

The recipes are from the new cookbook “Helen Nash's New Kosher Cuisine” (Overlook Press).

BEET SOUP

With their magnificent color, delicious flavor and vitamin richness, beets are one of my favorite vegetables. In the summer I serve this soup at room temperature; in the winter I like it hot.

Ingredients:

1 1/4 pounds (570 g) beets, plus 1 small beet for garnish
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small red onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 McIntosh apple, peeled and sliced
4 1/2 cups (1.08 liters) vegetable broth
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

 

Preparation:

Peel and slice the beets (see note below). Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the onion, garlic and apple, and saute for 5 minutes. Add the beets and broth. Bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat and cook, covered, for about 30 minutes, until the beets are tender. Cool a little.

While the soup is cooking, wrap the reserved beet tightly in foil. Bake in a toaster oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit (205 Celsius) for 30 minutes, or until just tender when pierced with the tip of a paring knife. Cool, slip off the skin, and grate.

Puree the soup in a blender until very smooth. Season to taste with the vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper.

To serve, garnish with the grated beet; makes 6 servings.

Note: I always wear thin plastic gloves when I work with beets, as this avoids staining my fingers with beet juice, which can be hard to remove.

CHICKEN SALAD WITH RADICCHIO AND PINE NUTS

This is a colorful and delicious salad with an interesting mixture of textures and tastes. The currants and pine nuts add an unusual Mediterranean piquancy.

Ingredients:

1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 6 ounces/170 g each)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil for greasing the chicken
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 head radicchio, shredded
1 to 2 bunches arugula, leaves torn if they are large
1/2 cup (20 g) loosely packed flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

Preparation:

Place the onion slices in a small bowl and cover with cold water. Let stand for 30 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Place in a large serving bowl.

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and grease with oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Place each chicken breast in the center of a piece of cling wrap and wrap it so that it is completely covered. Place the packages in a steamer, cover and steam over high heat for about 9 minutes. (The inside of the chicken should still be pale pink.) Turn off the heat and let stand for 1 minute.

Remove the chicken and cool, still wrapped. When cool, unwrap the chicken and cut it on the diagonal into thin strips. Place in the bowl with the onions; makes 6 servings.

SWEET AND SOUR DRESSING

Ingredients:

1/3 cup (80 ml) extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup (70 g) pine nuts
1/2 cup (115 g) raisins or currants
2 tablespoons Marsala wine
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Preparation:

Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the pine nuts and raisins and saute over low heat until the pine nuts are lightly golden. Remove from the heat and add the Marsala and vinegar.

Add the radicchio, arugula, and parsley to the chicken and onions; toss with the dressing. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

MARINATED SALMON

This is a variation on the traditional pickled salmon sold in every Jewish delicatessen. The difference: The salmon is more delicate and less vinegary, and has a richer color. It makes a perfect Sabbath luncheon dish.

Ingredients:

6 skinless center-cut salmon fillets (about 6 ounces/170 g each)
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil for greasing the pan
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

 

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 200 F (95 C). Grease a glass or enamel-lined baking pan that can hold the fillets in a single layer.

Pat the fillets dry with paper towels and season them lightly on both sides with salt and pepper. Place them in the dish and bake, uncovered, for 25 to 30 minutes, or until cooked to your taste.

Remove the baking pan from the oven, cover with foil, and let cool completely. (The fish will continue cooking outside of the oven.)

MARINADE

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons rice vinegar (for Passover, replace with white wine vinegar)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 small red onion, very thinly sliced (see note below)
15 dill sprigs, snipped finely with scissors, plus 2 sprigs, snipped, for garnish

 

Preparation:

In a medium bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar and salt. Add pepper to taste. Pour the marinade over the salmon, add the onion and sprinkle with the 15 snipped sprigs of dill.

Cover the dish with wax paper, then foil and refrigerate for 2 to 3 days without turning.

To serve: Bring the salmon to room temperature. Place on individual plates along with some of the marinade and onions. Garnish with the fresh snipped dill; makes 6 servings.

Note: I use a mandoline to slice the onion, as it makes the cutting easier.

CHICKEN WITH POTATOES AND OLIVES

I am always pleased to come up with a dish that is a meal in itself — one that combines either chicken or meat with vegetables. This is one of my favorites, and because it is so easy to make, I often serve it at Passover. I bake it in an attractive casserole, so it can go directly from the oven to the table.

Ingredients:

5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
9 garlic cloves
Kosher salt
1/4 cup (60 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
Leaves from 10 thyme sprigs
Freshly ground black pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 6 ounces/170 g each)
5 plum tomatoes
1 pound (450 g) Yukon gold potatoes, unpeeled, quartered
1/2 cup (67 g) pitted black olives, quartered

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 450 F (230 C). With 1 tablespoon of the oil, grease a glass, ceramic or enamel-lined baking pan that can hold all the vegetables in a single layer.

Coarsely chop 4 of the garlic cloves on a cutting board. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and, using a knife, crush them into a paste. Place the paste in a small bowl and combine it with the lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of the oil, half of the thyme leaves and pepper to taste.

Pat dry the chicken breasts with paper towels and season lightly on both sides with salt and pepper. Coat the chicken with the mixture and set aside.

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Drop the tomatoes into the boiling water; bring the water back to a boil and drain. Core the tomatoes and slip off the skin. Cut the tomatoes in half widthwise and squeeze gently to remove the seeds. (Some seeds will remain.) Cut the tomatoes in quarters.

Thickly slice the remaining 5 garlic cloves and spread them in the prepared baking pan along with the tomatoes, potatoes, olives, the rest of the thyme leaves, and the remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Roast the vegetables, uncovered, for 20 minutes, or until almost tender.

Place the chicken breasts on top of the vegetables and bake, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Turn them over, spoon on some pan juices and bake for another 5 minutes, or until the chicken is slightly pink on the inside. Cover with foil for 1 minute; makes 4 servings.

STIR-FRIED SPINACH

This is a delicious recipe that captures the very essence of spinach. Now that prewashed spinach is available in almost every supermarket, you can prepare this dish in minutes.

Ingredients:

20 ounces (570 g) prewashed spinach
1 1/2 tablespoons pine nuts
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preparation:

Break the stems off the spinach leaves and discard.

Roast the pine nuts in a toaster oven on the lowest setting for 1 or 2 minutes, until they are golden. (Watch them carefully, as they burn quickly.)

Heat a wok over high heat until hot. Add the oil. Add the spinach and stir quickly until it is just wilted, no more than a minute. Season with salt and pepper. With a slotted spoon, transfer the spinach to a serving dish. Sprinkle the pine nuts on top; makes 6 servings.

CHOCOLATE MERINGUE SQUARES

These meringue squares are like cookies, but they are light, chocolaty and surprisingly low in calories. I often serve them at Passover.

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon (15 g) unsalted margarine for greasing the pan
1/2 pound (225 g) blanched almonds
6 ounces (170 g) good-quality imported semisweet chocolate, broken into small pieces
8 large egg whites (see notes)
1 cup (200 g) sugar

 

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C). Line a 9-by-13-by-2-inch (23-by-33-by-5 cm) baking pan with wax paper and grease the paper with the margarine.

Chop the almonds in a food processor, in two batches, until medium-fine. Transfer to a bowl. Chop the chocolate in the processor until fine, and combine with the almonds.

Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Using the balloon whisk attachment, beat at high speed until foamy. Gradually add the sugar and beat until stiff.

With a large rubber spatula, gently fold the chocolate-almond mixture into the egg whites, making a motion like a figure 8 with the spatula. Do not overmix.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out almost dry.

Cool on a wire rack. Invert onto a cutting board and peel off the paper. Cut into 1 1/2-inch (4 cm) squares; makes 3 1/2 dozen squares.

Notes: It is easier to separate the eggs straight from the refrigerator, when they are cold. Make sure the whites have come to room temperature before beating.

To freeze the squares, place them side by side in an air-tight plastic container, with  wax paper between the layers.

Karaite-style Passover recipes


KARAITE MATZAH (From Amy Gazzar)

NOTE: To make sure that dough does not rise, matzah should be put in the oven within 10 minutes of adding water.

2 cups unbleached flour
1/3 cup warm vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup warm water
1 1/2 tablespoons coriander seed

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Mix all ingredients together until dough is soft but not sticky.

Spread on a cookie sheet and cut into squares. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown.


KARAITE MATZAH USING MATZAH CAKE MEAL (From Remy Pessah)

NOTE: To make sure that dough does not rise, matzah should be put in the oven within 10 minutes of adding water.

3 cups (kosher for Passover) matzah cake meal
3/4 cup oil
1 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon coriander seed
1 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 400 F.

Mix all the ingredients together and knead dough until soft but not sticky. Spread on 2 cookie sheets, 12 by 17 inches. Cut dough into 2-by-2-inch squares. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden.


PASSOVER ALMOND COOKIES (LOZETTO)

4 egg whites
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 pound almond powder
Whole almonds (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Beat the egg whites until foamy, add sugar gradually, gently fold in almond powder, and mix with spatula.

Drop by heaping teaspoonsful onto prepared cookie sheet. Top each cookie with a whole almond.

Bake on middle rack for 15 to 20 minutes until lightly browned. Cool

10 minutes and carefully remove from sheets with spatula.


MAROR

1 fresh anise, chopped
1 endive, chopped
1 red lettuce, chopped
1 romaine lettuce,  chopped
1 curly lettuce,  chopped
1 bunch parsley
1 bunch dill weed
2 tablespoons Lemon Juice
2 pickled lemons, diced
1 teaspoon salt

Combine the above ingredients and serve on homemade matzah during the Passover Seder.


ALMOND MERINGUE

5 egg whites
1 cup sugar
4 cups slivered toasted almonds

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Mix egg whites with sugar; add almonds. Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight. Place parchment paper on a cookie sheet and spray with cooking spray.

Scoop out 1 teaspoon at a time, and place the scoops on the prepared cookie sheet, spacing scoops about 1 inch apart.

Bake for 15 minutes.


ORANGE MARMALADE

4 large seedless oranges
2 lemons
8 cups water
8 cups sugar

Cut the oranges and lemons in half crosswise, then into very thin half-moon slices. (If you have a mandoline, this will be quite fast.) Discard any seeds. Place the sliced fruit and their juices into a stainless steel pot. Add water and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring often. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar until it dissolves. Cover and allow to stand overnight at room temperature.

The next day, bring the mixture back to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer, uncovered, for about 2 hours. Turn the heat up to medium and boil gently, stirring often, for another 30 minutes. Skim off any foam that forms on the top. Cook the marmalade until it reaches 220 degrees F on a candy thermometer. If you want to be doubly sure it’s ready, place a small amount on a plate and refrigerate it until it’s cool but not cold. If it’s firm — neither runny nor too hard — it’s done. It will be a golden orange color. (If the marmalade is runny, continue cooking it;  if it’s too hard, add more water.)

Pour the marmalade into clean, hot Mason jars; wipe the rims thoroughly with a clean damp paper towel, and seal with the lids according to the package directions. Store in the pantry for up to a year.

My family’s Karaite-style Passover


Never mind the gefilte fish and brisket, the mass-produced, cardboard-like matzah and the kosher-for-Passover wine. Instead, Passover seder at my parents’ Karaite Jewish home includes a mouth-watering menu of barbecued lamb chops, crisp homemade matzah, sweet raisin juice and chewy almond cookies that stick to the roof of my mouth.

The yellowing, paper haggadah we use relies on biblical Hebrew verses that recount the Israelite Exodus from Egypt chanted in exotic, Oriental melodies. Ironically, the thin booklet was brought from my parents’ native Cairo during the community’s own exodus from Gamal Abdel Nasser’s pan-Arabist regime, more than four decades ago. Because my sister and I were raised in a Reform temple in the far-flung desert town of Barstow, we eagerly chanted the Four Questions and searched tirelessly for the afikomen. It was only much later that we came to know that those rabbinic, or mainstream, Jewish traditions had been conspicuously absent from my parents’ Passover seder in Cairo.

Karaite Jews rely on the Hebrew Bible, the Tanakh, as the sole source of religious law, not accepting the Talmud and later rabbinic works as legally binding or divine. Karaites strive to interpret the Bible according to its “plain meaning” and place this duty on each person. Karaites traditionally remove their shoes before entering a prayer sanctuary and often fully prostrate themselves during prayer. Their siddur, or prayer book, consists mostly of biblical passages, including the Shema, but excludes those not biblically based, such as the Amidah.

Observant Karaites are permitted to mix poultry and dairy products. Many also believe it is OK to mix meat and dairy, contending the biblical prohibition refers only to boiling a young goat or sheep in its mother’s milk — not eating meat and milk together.


Amy Gazzar prepares Karaite Matzah. Photos by Mediha Fejzagic DiMartino

Today, my parents enjoy being active members of a mainstream Conservative congregation in South Orange County, where my father participates in Torah readings and sometimes acts as a gabbai on the bimah, or dais. Both say they feel comfortable with the Conservative congregation and consider some aspects of Karaism to be strict, such as the prohibition against menstruating women entering a synagogue and, among the very religious, cooking.

Despite my family’s integration, my parents have also managed to maintain some of their ancient Karaite customs. In addition to commemorating Passover the Karaite way, they gather occasionally at the home of a relative or friend for Sabbath prayers or a yahrzeit conducted while kneeling on clean, white sheets that serve as makeshift prayer rugs.

In America, there are an estimated 730 Karaite families, including a large community in San Francisco’s Bay Area and more than five dozen families in Southern California, according to the Karaite Jews of America. Israel has replaced Egypt as the modern center of Karaite Judaism and is home today to tens of thousands of Karaite Jews, many of whom have also adopted at least some rabbinical or mainstream Jewish customs.


Amy Gazzar prepares Karaite Matzah. Photos by Mediha Fejzagic DiMartino

Karaites trace their practices to the time of Moses, considering their Judaism to be the Judaism God commanded in the Torah.

But Karaism as a formal movement is widely believed to have crystallized in the late ninth century in the areas of Iraq and the land of Israel, with the merging of elements from various Jewish groups that mostly rejected the Talmud, according to Fred Astren, professor and chair of the Department of Jewish Studies at San Francisco State University and a visiting scholar at the University of Cambridge. “The majority of rabbinic commentators affirm that Karaites are Jews, and that they do not disagree on the fundamentals of Judaism or that the Torah was received by Moses on Mount Sinai, but they do differ in the way they observe the commandments. Where the differences in the commandments could be most pronounced [is] in the calendar and marriage,” Astren said.

Karaite holidays are fixed according to the new moon after the barley in Israel reaches a stage of ripeness, as was done in biblical times; as a result, they can fall on different days from the more commonly used Jewish calendar.

“If you are eating when other Jews are fasting, and fasting when other Jews are eating, that’s pretty strong stuff,” Astren said. Today, however, most Karaites in America (and an increasing number in Israel) follow the pre-calculated calendar used by mainstream Jews.


Amy Gazzar prepares Karaite Matzah. Photos by Mediha Fejzagic DiMartino

Sephardic rabbis have long accepted intermarriage with Karaites. Central Eastern European rabbis traditionally have not, since Karaites did not use a get, or divorce document, in the Middle Ages, though they tended not to get divorced, Astren said. Later, when they did use divorce documents, he added, they were not according to rabbinic halachah.

While living in Israel from 2005 to 2009, I learned that intermarriage between Karaites and rabbinic Jews is common there, as it is here in America. (However, I was told by an Israeli scholar that a Karaite who marries a rabbinic Jew under a mainstream Orthodox rabbi in Israel is required to accept the Oral Law, just as a mixed couple who marries under a Karaite rabbi is required to study and accept the Karaite way.)

Although my older sister and I don’t really practice Karaism, we certainly feel part of this warm and wonderful community that has maintained some of their ancient traditions, teachings and values. My sister married a man of Egyptian Karaite descent, and today their loquacious 2-year-old son chants the Shema in both Karaite and Ashkenazic tunes.


Amy Gazzar prepares Karaite Matzah. Photos by Mediha Fejzagic DiMartino

Karaite Judaism was once considered a serious rival to rabbinic Judaism, inspiring intellectual attacks from great rabbinic minds, such as Saadia Gaon and Maimonides. I find it remarkable that Karaism, particularly in Israel and in the San Francisco Bay Area, has endured in some form and is alive today. Yet, it’s strange and a bit sad to think that despite efforts to revitalize the movement both in Israel and America, many of the Karaite ways are being lost with my generation.

Before my mother left Egypt in 1967, Passover cleaning in their modest Cairo apartment started up to a month in advance and involved rigorously scrubbing their walls, floors and doors with soap and water. If someone mistakenly entered an already koshered room with forbidden food, they would — to my mother’s dismay — have to scrub down the entire room again.

Her predominantly Jewish school, known as the Sybil, which was badly damaged after it was set on fire in the 1950s, would close its doors during the entire week of Passover, she said.

How not to feel like a matzah ball on Passover


It’s April and steel shopping carts clang and collide like bumper cars in the kosher-for-Passover aisle of my local supermarket. Even in this mob I find soul mates, shoppers who share my angst about eating many of the hechshered-for-the-holiday packaged foods. Foods made with what blogger Lisa Rose calls the “four food groups of Passover: cottonseed oil, MSG, white sugar and potato starch.”

Take Elaine Hoffman from Berkeley Heights, N.J., who will buy spelt matzah but little else packaged. Or Robin Polson of Maplewood, N.J., who purchases whole wheat farfel for her granola recipe, but as for much of the rest, she “can live without for eight days.”

There’s a movement here, with no formal name or membership directory. It’s a movement of Jews—from those scrupulous about Passover kashrut to others who celebrate “kosher style”—who eschew what Rabbi Ethan Tucker, rosh yeshiva of Mechon Hadar in New York, calls the “modern affliction” of the Passover diet, eating a “disproportionate amount of food out of boxes and cans.”

That affliction extends to ditching—during Passover only—dietary principles followed year-round.

“I used to buy 20 bags of potato chips at Passover for my kids,” says Rabbi Debra Newman Kamin of Am Yisrael Congregation in Northfield, Ill. “During the rest of the school year I would never buy chips. Ever.”

She attributes our reliance on processed food during Passover to our terror “of being deprived.” Having grown accustomed to a 23-aisle-supermarket lifestyle, today’s Jews find it difficult to relinquish any daily comestible. Rose followed a recent Facebook exchange among Los Angeles Jews “desperate to find Diet Coke” and searching for “which kosher market in town still had some left because it sold out so fast.”

“Do we really need kosher-for-Passover chicken flavoring? Did people forget how to make chicken soup?” Rose asks. Or as Marilyn Labendz of West Caldwell, N.J., puts it, “You have tomatoes. You can make tomato sauce. What’s so limiting?”

Jews in this de facto circle question whether eating a less healthy diet on these eight days is truly halachic (according to Jewish law). Rabbi Noach Valley, former president of the Jewish Vegetarians of North America, points to Deuteronomy 4:9, which entreats us to guard our life and health diligently, and to the Rambam, who writes that matters of health take precedence over all-important ritual.

Valley himself rails against cottonseed oil, “ubiquitous during Passover,” and the byproduct of a cotton crop “inundated with pesticides.” He says that in the past he has contacted heads of kashrut agencies objecting to “injuring Jews in the process of observing Passover.”

Labendz chafes at the thought that anything unhealthy should carry a Passover hechsher. “It’s like smoking,” she says. “It should have a treif symbol.”

Rose, who is kashrut observant, struggles with whether she should lower her standards for certification so that “I can feed my kids what is healthy.”

In my own house we’ve opted to include kitniyot (rice and beans), even though we’re Ashkenazi. Last year I reluctantly started buying non-hechshered organic pasta sauce over Passover varieties containing sugar or cottonseed oil.

For someone like Los Angeles filmmaker Sarah Feinbloom, Passover is about values other than strict kashrut observance.

“The holiday should be a time when you think consciously of what you should or should not be eating,” she says. “I think of spring, of rebirth, regeneration, of bounty, of lots of fruits and vegetables.”

Karen Shiffman Lateiner of Phoenix, Ariz., makes dishes from scratch. Sometimes she’ll “buy a can of macaroons just because it’s tradition. The rest of the stuff—nah.” For her, the most important aspect of Passover is spending time with family and friends.

Eating low on the Passover food chain—fruits and vegetables—doesn’t mean facing eight days and nights of steamed broccoli.

“I am not an ascetic person,” says Roberta Kalechofsky, who has written two Haggadahs and three cookbooks for Jewish vegetarians. She recommended her recipe for Vegetable Nut Loaf from “The Jewish Vegetarian Cookbook.”

“We like good food and I like to serve it,” she says. More important than incorporating foods that don’t violate kashrut are nixing those that “violate the chemistry of the human being.”

Scratch cooking, as these health-conscious Jews advocate, can take time. There are ways to make it easier, though, says cookbook author and New York Times columnist Martha Rose Shulman.

“It’s not so much a question of finding fast foods but getting organized and getting ahead,” she says.

Some things can be made in advance, like vegetable or chicken stock, many salad dressings, or blanched or roasted vegetables.

The Passover recipes Shulman tested for this year’s New York Times holiday food column “aren’t that time-consuming.” A recipe for a Greek lemon soup, for example, calls for breaking up matzah into the broth rather than preparing more effort-intensive knaidlach.

Nava Atlas, author of “Vegan Holiday Kitchen” (2011, Sterling Publishing), suggests making holiday meals that involve entertaining cooperative affairs. “Divide and conquer,” she says. “It’s the only way to do it. And everyone feels they have participated.”

Atlas also praises—as did almost everyone I interviewed—quinoa, which has achieved manna-like status among Passover health foodies in the past decade-plus. When I asked Rabbi Newman Kamin what she does to make the holiday healthier, she answered, “I’ll tell you in one word. quinoa.”

This week, I did a dry run of Atlas’ Quinoa Pilaf from “Vegan Holiday Kitchen”; my dinner guests that night gave it a thumbs-up. So to start you on a healthy-eating chag, here goes:

QUINOA PILAF

8 to 10 servings

Gluten free, soy free and nut free

Adapted by Nava Atlas from a contribution from her longtime reader, Barbara Pollak, this pilaf is attractive when made with a combination of red and white quinoa, but either color can be used on its own. It’s a veggie-filled way to celebrate quinoa’s becoming standard Passover fare. Quinoa is high in top-quality protein, making this a good choice for an entree for vegetarians and vegans at the seder table, and a delicious side dish for everyone else. Don’t be daunted by the length of the ingredient list; this dish is as easy as can be to make.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed
  • 3 cups prepared vegetable broth
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow or red onions, or 1 of each, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 4 to 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bag (16 ounces) shredded cole slaw cabbage
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced
  • 2 cups finely chopped broccoli florets
  • 1 cup sliced cremini or baby bella mushrooms
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh or jarred ginger, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice, or to taste
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh dill, more or less to taste

Preparation:

Combine the quinoa with the broth in a large saucepan. Bring to a rapid simmer, then lower the heat, cover and simmer gently until the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Test to see if the quinoa is done to your liking; if needed, add another 1/2 cup water and simmer until absorbed.Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet or stir-fry pan. Add the onions and saute over medium-low heat until translucent. Add the garlic and continue to saute until the onion is golden.Add the cabbage, carrots, broccoli, mushrooms, ginger, basil, thyme, and lemon juice. Turn up the heat to medium-high and stir-fry until the cabbage is tender-crisp, about 5 minutes.Stir in the cooked quinoa, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the parsley and dill, remove from the heat, and serve.

Elisa Spungen Bildner is co-chair of JTA.

Position yourself for Passover’s traditions


After many years of reciting the Passover story around our dining room table, we made a major change. My family decided to re-create the seders held long ago. According to the haggadah, when people live in freedom, they can eat in a reclining or relaxed manner.

We asked our guests to bring pillows or cushions to lean against as we celebrated Passover with a seder on our living room floor, which began with the symbolic foods of the holiday displayed on the seder plate.

During the first part of the evening, we eat the required foods of Passover that families have eaten for generations. Charoset is one of the few dishes that may require a recipe. A mixture of fruits, wine, nuts and spices, it represents the mortar our ancestors made while laboring as slaves in Egypt. It is prepared differently in Jewish communities all over the world depending on the ingredients available. We prepare several kinds for our seder, and one that we serve is made from a Yemenite recipe, a combination of dates, dried figs, sesame seeds, ginger, wine and a little matzah meal. Included is fresh grated horseradish, a bitter herb that is eaten with charoset and matzah.

A roasted egg, which many families dip in coarse salt, is usually served, but our family’s custom is to prepare a cold, salted, chopped egg soup instead. We eat spring onions or parsley that are dipped in saltwater, as well as boiled small new potatoes that symbolize the coming of spring. Also on the seder plate is the roasted lamb shank, representing the Pascal lamb, but vegetarians may substitute a roasted beet. 

Reclining on cushions and pillows while reading from the haggadah was a wonderful experience, but serving food on the living room floor – especially matzah ball soup – would be difficult. After we finished recounting the Jewish people’s liberation from Egypt, we would move to the dining room table for a traditional Passover dinner.

We begin seder dinner with homemade gefilte fish, followed by chicken soup with matzah balls. The soup is prepared with whole chickens that are tied and put in the pot with a variety of vegetables. When the soup is done, the chickens are taken out and roasted in a tomato sauce to be served for the seder dinner. When cold, it can be made into a delicious chicken salad eaten for lunch or dinner during the remaining days of Passover.

The main course is served buffet style; everyone helps themselves to platters of roasted lamb shanks, sliced turkey with vegetable stuffing and candied sweet potatoes.

After dinner, Passover desserts include sponge cakes, cookies and chocolate-covered fruit. For a special treat this year, I am adding a Chocolate Marble Cake With Chocolate Glaze. The rich flavors of cocoa, strong coffee and chocolate make this cake extra-special. Grape Truffles are an easy addition — seedless grapes dipped in chocolate and then coated with cocoa powder are a surprise when they burst with flavor in your mouth.

Wine is an important part of the seder, and sweet concord grape wine has always been synonymous with Passover. But today, dry Passover wines are gaining in popularity, and the availability and varietals are remarkable. They are available from California, New York, France, Italy, Chile and Israel. At our seder, we provide both sweet and dry wine — as well as grape juice — to satisfy everyone’s taste. 

In recent years, our seders have moved back to the dining room. But as friends and family gather around our table for Passover, they recall with fondness how we reclined on the floor to read the haggadah. I’ve considered moving the seder back to the living room, but on one condition: We keep dinner in the dining room.


YEMENITE CHAROSET

1 cup pitted, chopped dates
1/2 cup chopped dried figs
1 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch coriander
1 small red chili pepper, seeded and minced, or pinch of cayenne 
2 tablespoons matzah meal
1/3 cup sweet Passover wine
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
 
Blend the dates, figs, ginger, coriander, chili pepper, matzah meal and wine in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the knife blade. Mix in sesame seeds and transfer to a glass bowl. Roll into 1-inch balls or serve in a bowl.

Dessert variation: Dip charoset balls into melted chocolate and place on wax paper-lined baking sheet.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups or 12 balls.


GRANDMA GENE’S GEFILTE FISH

Buy whole whitefish. Have it boned, and wrap the bones, heads and skin separately for the Fish Broth. If you’re lucky, you might find roe inside the fish, which you can poach with the fish balls.

Fish Broth (recipe follows)
3 1/2 pounds filleted whitefish
2 yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 small carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 small celery stalks, sliced
2 eggs
1/4 to 1/3 cup matzah meal
1/4 to 1/3 cup cold water
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Lettuce leaves, sliced cucumber, sliced beets and horseradish sauce

Prepare the Fish Broth and keep warm.

Grind the whitefish with the onions, carrots and celery in a food grinder. Put through the grinder again. Place the ground mixture in a large mixing bowl and blend with the eggs and matzah meal. Transfer the mixture to a large wooden chopping bowl and, using a hand chopper, chop the fish mixture, adding the water gradually with 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt and 1 teaspoon pepper as you chop. (Mixture should be soft and light to the touch.) Wet your hands with additional cold water and shape the fish mixture into oval balls. Bring the Fish Broth to a boil over high heat, and place the fish balls in the broth. Cover, reduce the heat to medium high, and cook for 1 hour, or until fish is tender; do not overcook. Cool, transfer to a shallow glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap and foil, and refrigerate.

To serve, arrange a lettuce leaf on each plate; top with fish and garnish with sliced cucumber and beets. Serve with horseradish sauce. 

Makes 24 small fish balls.


FISH BROTH

1 1/2 yellow onions, coarsely diced (reserve peels)
1 large carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup sliced celery tops
1 1/2 pounds fish bones, heads and skin from filleted white fish (wrap in cheese cloth)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 cups cold water

Place the onions, onion peels, carrot, celery tops, wrapped fish bones, heads and skin, and salt and pepper in a large pot. Add water to cover and bring to a boil. Simmer for 1 hour, adding water if needed. When the broth is very flavorful, strain out the fish bones and vegetables and discard. Keep the broth warm.

Makes about 4 cups.

First-ever translation of Yiddish cookbook yields Old World treasures, New World advice


When a rare volume of a 1914 cookbook written in Yiddish for American Jewish housewives came into the hands of Bracha Weingrod, the once popular but forgotten book began its long journey from dusty oblivion to celebrated translation.

The thick, worn copy of “Dos Familien Kokh-Bookh,” now newly translated by Weingrod as “The Yiddish Family Cookbook,” is the only Yiddish cookbook on the market.

It came to Weingrod more than 35 years ago, soon after the native Canadian immigrated to Israel. A friend, a forager of old books, had found it on the bottom shelf of a used bookstore in New York and had brought it for her as a housewarming gift in Jerusalem.

Wingrod was instantly smitten.

“It was like going back to my roots. I did not have to go Russia to the small village where my mother was from,” Weingrod, a retired teacher, told JTA. “I just opened the book and it was somehow there.”

But it was as much a cookbook with Old World tips, like how to stuff a goose (“place it between your legs and open its mouth, putting in as many dumplings as possible”), as it was a practical guide for Jewish women finding their way in the New World with foods such as cherry pie, ice cream and sandwiches transliterated and thoughtfully decoded by the author, H. Braun.

There is virtually nothing known about Braun aside from the authoritative but neighborly tone she strikes as she sets out to educate a generation of Jewish immigrant women who avidly read her cookbook, sailing it through four printings, the last in 1928.

She tried to coax women to liberate themselves from the ways of heavy shtetl cooking and make more careful, considered dishes, introducing them also to French and Italian cuisine modified for a kosher kitchen, like mock turtle soup.

A search by Weingrod about Braun in the U.S. Library of Congress quickly went cold.

But through the translation, Weingrod hopes a new generation will be able to tap into Braun’s knowledge. That includes her boundless advice on nutrition, special focus on digestive issues (“no herring in the summer”) and tips for being a practical, frugal shopper, among them how to select fresh fish.

Included in her suggestions are how to substitute schmaltz for olive oil and lemon juice for salt.

“This book is actually a very practical guide for today’s young people, whether they are part of the new expanding religious communities or back-to-basic green or organic health seekers because all they had were basics,” Weingrod said. “This book provides innovative ideas for preserving and creating foods using long-lasting core ingredients often without need for refrigeration.”

Weingrod has translated some 200 of the original 693 recipes in the book. She said she did her best to preserve the cadence of tone of the original Yiddish.

In the Tel Aviv building that is home to the Organization of Yiddish Writers in Israel, several dozen people recently came to hear Weingrod describe the cookbook and the process of translating it. She began the project after retiring, although the idea for a translation had been in her head for years.

“The kitchen was their life,” she said of the immigrant women for whom the book was written. “That is where they produced, that’s where they created. That is where memory is.”

Joan Nathan, the doyenne of Jewish cooking and a proponent of the new translation, wrote in a blurb, “It is wonderful to have this translation available to those who do not speak Yiddish. ‘Dos Familien Kokh-Bookh’ in English is a fantastic entry to the canon of Jewish cookbooks.”

Hasia Diner, a professor of Jewish history at New York University who has written about the intersection of immigrant women to the United States and food, wrote the translation’s introduction.

“Through the exquisite details included in the recipes, the author introduced Jewish cooks to American standards of nutrition and health,” Diner wrote. “The recipes themselves as well as the commentary introducing each chapter explicitly point out the differences in lifestyle and aspirations between the intended readers’ European past and their American present.”

In their lives in Europe, Braun reminds her readers, food could be scarce, but in America, where food—and food choices—were abundant, she cautions against rich diets and repeatedly returns to the subject of being kind to the “mogen”—the stomach.

Writing about sauces for meat, for example, Braun warns, “It is the sauce that plays a great role in giving many foods their taste, but if not prepared correctly the stomach will protest.” She also mentions coconut butter as a substitute for butter for making such sauces.

In a chapter titled “Caring for a Sick One,” she counsels how to best feed the ill, admonishing, “In no part of the kitchen is there as much art and devoted care as in cooking for a sick one. Everything must be tasty, healthy, and fresh,” she writes. “People who don’t know how to cook for a sick one can very easily make them even sicker.”

Braun suggests serving a variety of food from soups to raw beef sandwiches and always with a white napkin, polished cutlery and “the nicest plates.”

In a chapter on greens, she asserts that no meal is complete without a vegetable, describing how vegetables grown on the ground should be prepared in boiling water but those that grow inside the earth (with the exception of potatoes) should be prepared in cold water.

In her sandwich chapter, Braun describes the “great role” that food plays for Americans where bringing lunch in a pail is not acceptable as it was in the Old Country. She even provides a recipe for making homemade peanut butter, describing it as delicious and cheap.

Among her many recipes are roasted goose, puff pastry, pickled watermelon rind and cornbread. Of course, there are also Jewish staples like honey cake and lokshen kugel (noodle pudding).

In an introduction for her readers that presages what many in the new food movement are saying today, Braun writes, “It is true: we live not to eat but eat to live. It is therefore also true that the kind of food we eat determines the kind of life we lead.”

A recipe from “The Yiddish Family Cookbook” for Honey Cake:

Sieve a quart of honey into a bowl. Here one must note that our Jewish housewives are often cheated in America regarding honey. Instead of honey made by bees, they are given imitation molasses. And so we caution that one must have clean, pure, natural bee’s honey. This can always be found and purchased through better grocery stores.

So, take one quart of clear honey, and add 1/2 pint of sugar and the same amount of melted butter. Dissolve a teaspoon of soda in a 1/2 cup of warm water, grate in half a nutmeg, add a full teaspoon of ginger and sifted flour and mix all together. We do not give the exact measurement of flour because the housewife has to know that this depends on the type of flour. Often the flour is too dry and sometimes it is too fresh. Therefore she must know that just enough flour is needed to make a dough that can be rolled out. The dough should be cut up in thin pieces, like cakes, put on a greased pan, and baked in a hot oven.

More cluck for your passover buck


I have always enjoyed researching and developing new dishes to serve during Passover, but have you ever heard of Mock Gefilte Fish? Because everyone loves chicken, I am constantly looking for new and different chicken dishes to prepare, and I find that each recipe has a story all its own.

Mock Gefilte Fish, made with ground chicken, really tastes like gefilte fish. An ancient and popular dish substituting ground chicken or turkey for the fish, it was served during Passover among the Vishnitz Chasidic Jews, and called falsher or “false fish.” The Chasidim, who were very strict, fearing that fish may have contained some undigested bread, abstained from eating it during Passover.

We like the idea of surprising our guests by serving this just-like-the-real-thing “gefilte chicken” — chilled on a bed of lettuce, with horseradish, at the seder. And it solves the problem for those who cannot or prefer not to eat fish.

 

I can’t imagine a Passover dinner without chicken soup with matzah balls, but the question I am often asked is “How can I make my chicken soup taste like chicken?” My answer is always the same: “The more chicken you put in your soup, the more flavor it will have.” I always make my mother’s matzah ball recipe, which produces the lightest, best matzah balls I have ever tasted.

The secret for flavorful soup is to use whole chickens that have been tied (or trussed) with kitchen string to keep them intact. Add water, lots of vegetables, salt and pepper, bring to a boil, and simmer for 1 hour or until the chicken flavor is intense. When cool, carefully remove the chickens from the soup to be used for other dishes on the seder menu.

The leftover chicken soup that you served for Passover seders can be pureed with the vegetables in it and served during the remaining days of Passover. In addition, you can serve it with a Parsley Pesto Sauce, either drizzled on or mixed in.

We often cut the soup chicken into quarters or pieces and bake them in a rich tomato-mushroom sauce until the chickens have absorbed the flavor of the sauce. Then, just before serving, we transfer them to a large platter to serve as part of our seder dinner. Or, for another meal, spoon the tomato-mushroom sauce onto individual heated serving plates, place the chicken on the plates and top with mushrooms and vegetables.

Another use for leftover chicken is Chicken-Fennel Salad, served on a bed of lettuce for lunch, or as a main course. Bake popular “sliders” using my recipe for Passover Rolls. They can be filled with sliced chicken or chicken salad, and are great for the children to take for lunch.


MOCK GEFILTE FISH

Mock Gefilte Fish. Photos by Dan Kacvinski

2 1/2 quarts chicken broth
2 onions, sliced
5 stalks celery, sliced
5 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds ground chicken or turkey
2 eggs
1/2 cup matzah meal or potato starch
Lettuce leaves
Red horseradish

In a large pot, combine the chicken broth, 1 onion, 3 stalks celery and 3 carrots. Bring to a boil over high heat, lower the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

In a food grinder or wooden bowl, combine the chicken with the remaining onion, celery and carrots. Grind or chop the mixture until well blended. Transfer to a glass bowl. Add the eggs, matzah meal and 1/2 cup chicken broth from the pot. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Blend well. The mixture should be soft and light to the touch.

Wet your hands with cold water and shape the mixture into 2-inch ovals. Place the balls in the chicken broth in the pot. Bring to a boil, cover partially, and simmer for 30 minutes or until done. Transfer to a large glass bowl with the broth. Cool, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Serve on a bed of lettuce with horseradish.

Makes 16 to 18 portions.


JUDY’S PASSOVER CHICKEN SOUP WITH THE FLUFFIEST MATZAH BALLS

2 (3-pound) chickens, trussed
2 pounds chicken necks and gizzards, tied in cheesecloth
4 large onions, diced
1 medium leek, sliced into 1-inch pieces
2 to 3 cups thinly sliced carrots (16 small carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces)
2 to 3 cups thinly sliced celery with tops (5 stalks celery with tops, cut into 1-inch pieces)
3 medium parsnips, thinly sliced
Water
12 sprigs fresh parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a large, heavy Dutch oven or pot, place trussed chicken, necks and gizzards, onions, leek, carrots, celery, parsnips and enough water to cover. Over high heat, bring to a boil. Using a large spoon, skim off and discard the scum that rises to the top. Cover, leave the lid ajar, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 1 hour. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Uncover and simmer 30 minutes longer, until chickens are tender.

Using two large slotted spoons, carefully remove the chickens from the soup and transfer to a large platter. Let soup cool to room temperature, then chill. Skim off fat that hardens on the surface and discard.

Makes 12 servings.


THE FLUFFIEST MATZAH BALLS

3 eggs, separated
About 1/2 cup water or chicken stock
1 to 1 1/2 cups matzah meal
1/8 teaspoon salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper

Place egg yolks in a measuring cup and add enough water or chicken stock to make 1 cup. Beat with a fork until well blended. Set aside.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat egg whites until they form stiff peaks; do not overbeat. In a small bowl, combine matzah meal with salt and pepper. With a rubber spatula, gently fold the yolk mixture alternately with the matzah mixture into beaten egg whites. Use only enough matzah meal to make a light, soft dough. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and let firm up for 5 minutes. Form into balls.

Bring soup to a slow boil. Using a large spoon, gently drop in matzah balls. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 10 minutes (do not uncover during this cooking time).

Makes 8 to 10 matzah balls.


PARSLEY PESTO SAUCE

1 cup finely packed fresh parsley leaves, without stems
1/2 cup tightly packed fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons pine nuts or walnut pieces
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup olive oil
Pinch sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Put the parsley, basil, pine nuts and garlic in a processor or blender. Pulse until finely chopped. With the machine running, slowly pour in the olive oil in a thin stream. Add sugar, salt and pepper.  Pour into a glass bowl, cover and refrigerate.

Makes about 2 cups.


ROASTED CHICKEN IN TOMATO-MUSHROOM SAUCE

1/2 cup olive oil
2 onions, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 can (15 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes, with juice
12 medium mushrooms, quartered
1 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Chickens from soup, cut into pieces
Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a large roasting pot, heat olive oil and add the onions, minced garlic, carrots and celery; sauté until soft. Add tomatoes and mushrooms, mix well, bring to a boil over medium heat, and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the wine and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, adding additional wine or liquid if needed.

Transfer the chicken to the roasting pot and baste with the onion-tomato mixture to coat the chicken. Add the parsley, rosemary and salt and pepper. Bake, covered, 30 to 40 minutes, basting occasionally, until the chickens are heated through.

Makes 10 to 12 servings.


CHICKEN-FENNEL SALAD

Chicken-Fennel Salad

4 cups diced poached chicken
1 cup diced fennel
4 green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1 to 2 cups mayonnaise
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Romaine or iceberg lettuce, for garnish

In a large mixing bowl, toss together the chicken, fennel, green onions and parsley. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add to the chicken mixture and mix gently until combined. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve on a bed of lettuce or tucked into a Passover Roll, resembling a slider.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.


PASSOVER ROLLS FOR SLIDERS

Chicken sliders with Passover Rolls

1 cup water
2 cups safflower or vegetable oil
2 cups matzah meal
1 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a heavy saucepan, bring the water and oil to a rolling boil.

In large bowl of an electric mixer, combine the matzah meal and salt. Pour the boiling water mixture into the matzah mixture and blend well. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, until completely blended. Let mixture rest for 10 minutes, covered.

With well-oiled hands, tear off pieces of dough and shape into rolls. Place 2 inches apart on a well-oiled foil- or Silpat-lined baking sheet. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to cooling racks.

Makes about 12 large or 24 small rolls.


 

Judy Zeidler is the author of “The Gourmet Jewish Cook” (Morrow, 1988) and “The International Deli Cookbook” (Chronicle, 1994). She teaches cooking classes through American Jewish University’s Whizin Center for Continuing Education. Her soon-to-be-published cookbook, “Italy Cooks,” is based on 35 years of travel to Italy. Her Web site is judyzeidler.com.

For more Passover recipes visit jewishjournal.com/passover_food.

The Ultimate Taste Test


Inside Kosher World, the recent “for-the-trade” food show, you had to remind yourself you were in Anaheim. To my left, two gentlemen negotiated a deal in animated Hebrew. To my right, wine connoisseurs swirled, sniffed and sipped kosher-for-Passover premium varietals from Israel and 11 other countries. Behind me, hungry visitors, beckoned by the intoxicating aromas of smoked meat grilling, speared six varieties of kosher sausage. And at what other trade show would you find a curtained section designated “Davening Area”?

While this was the third year for Kosher World, it was the first time the show joined with the ethnic and halal markets, under the umbrella of the World Ethnic Market.

“These foods are no longer limited today to specialty suppliers or people of a particular religion or ethnicity,” said show director Phyllis Koegel. “They’re now routinely available at major food retailers, restaurants, hotels and food service operations.”

About 40 companies exhibited kosher products, ranging from wines to cheese to meat and halvah, but there also were cashews from Dan-D-Pack, a product of Vietnam; halal beef franks from Midamar, and salted lassi from Gulf & Safa Dairies of Dubai.

As usual at such shows, I sampled far too much, but what don’t you do in the name of research? My first stop was Neshama Gourmet Kosher Foods, for the best sausage I’ve ever tasted. My personal favorite is the exotic Merguez line, made from beef and lamb.

“For the first time our smoked andouille and country apple will be available kosher for Passover,” announced vice president Evelyn Baran.

I sampled salad dressing from Mistral — loved the soy ginger — and the yummiest individually wrapped Kugelettes — sure, there were Traditional Golden Raisin, but could grandma dream up Green Chile and Cheese with Salsa?

Next I visited Raphy’s booth, where samples of baba ghanoush, stuffed eggplant and a host of other delicacies, all produced in Turkey — the watermelon peel preserves are to die for — were dished up with flair.

Only fine wine could top off this “balanced meal,” so I headed for Royal Wine Corp., the world’s largest producer, importer and distributor of kosher wines. “When people hear ‘kosher’ and ‘wine’ in the same breath, they think sweet,” said Dennis Bookbinder, the company’s director of sales. “Our slogan is: ‘We produce and import premium varietal wines that happen to be kosher.’ Today you’ll find world-class kosher wines from $200 a bottle on down.”

Many of the company’s 300 wines from 12 countries regularly garner awards and top ratings from the world’s foremost wine critics and publications. And with Passover around the corner, expect a flood of new kosher wines. Petit Castel from the Judean Hills is considered the finest wine from Israel, Bookbinder said. Baron Herzog Jeunesse, as well as premium wines from Segal’s, Barkan and Carmel, are just a few he recommended to grace the seder table.

This year’s show also included the Natural Products Expo in the same building, “because people tend to associate kosher food with natural and organic,” said show director Koegel.

According to analysts, only 20 percent to 33 percent of kosher foods produced worldwide is consumed by Jews, and this is one of the fastest growing segments of the food industry. So just who is buying the rest? Muslims, Seventh-day Adventists, Hindus and others who follow similar dietary restrictions, for starters. With 20 percent of the population lactose intolerant and millions calling themselves vegetarians of one sort or another, plus countless others who are health conscious, it is easy to see why kosher products have wide appeal. The mad cow disease scare hasn’t hurt either; because of strict cleanliness requirements and butchering procedures, there has never been a case of the disease found in kosher beef.

So, as the motto on a banner said at the first Kosher World: “Bringing kosher to mainstream and mainstream to kosher.” Truer today than ever, I’d say.

Judy Bart Kancigor is the author of “Cooking Jewish: 652 Great Recipes from the Rabinowitz Family” (Workman, September 2006) and can be found on the Web at

Don’t Get Plagued by Tricky Desserts


Many a great cook has been sent over the edge trying to produce some beautiful Passover baking. Any other time of the year their kitchens produce perfect pies, crunchy cookies and lovely cakes — but the Passover arrives and the kitchen becomes the enemy: cakes flop and the cookies crumble.
This year plan on easy desserts. After a huge meal (is there anybody out there that doesn’t have a huge seder meal?) why not serve coffee with some fresh fruit and an assortment of cookies.

Amoretti Cookies
2 egg whites
1/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups ground almonds

Preheat oven to 300 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Using an electric mixer with a whip attachment beat the egg whites and salt until frothy. Add vanilla and continue beating on high.
As you beat the eggs, slowly add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time. Continue beating until the eggs are stiff and glossy.
With a spatula, fold in the almonds.
Use two spoons to drop heaping tablespoons of the mixture on the baking sheet.
Place in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, until lightly golden. Cool.

Makes 16-20 cookies.

Chocolate Macaroons
2 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa
2 cups coconut, shredded

Using an electric mixer, start beating the egg whites with the salt until frothy and very soft peaks form. Add the vanilla and continue beating on high.
Add the sugar one tablespoon at a time, continuing to beat until the eggs are glossy and stiff peaks form. Add the cocoa and beat until incorporated.
Add the coconut and fold in.
Use two spoons to drop batter on a parchment lined baking sheet (they should be heaping tablespoons). Leave the macaroons on the counter for at least 30 minutes before baking.
Place in a preheated 325 F oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until the macaroons are no longer glossy.
Remove from oven and cool.

Makes 18-20 cookies.

Pecan Cranberry Passover Biscotti
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups ground pecans
1 cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder — (Passover)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon orange zest
1/4 cup potato starch
1 3/4 cups cake meal
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Use an electric mixer with a paddle attachment to combine the eggs, oil, vanilla, sugar, baking powder, salt and orange zest and mix on medium to combine well. (You can also use a wooden spoon and mix by hand.)
Turn the machine off and add the potato starch, cake meal and pecans. Turn the machine on low to combine and mix until all of the ingredients come together to form dough.
Add the cranberries and mix to evenly distribute throughout the dough.
Divide the dough in half and form into two logs, approximately 3 inches by 12 inches by 14 inches. If you find the dough too sticky, dust your hands with cake meal to work with the dough. Place the formed logs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and place into a preheated 350 F oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes. The biscotti will crack and loose the shine it had when it first went into the oven. Let cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 F.
Carefully slice the logs into pieces, about 3/4 inches each. Arrange on a cookie sheet so that there is space between each cookie and return to the oven.
Bake for 25-30 minutes until dry.
Makes 20-24 cookies.

 

Winning the Great Sponge Cake Battle


 

It’s that time again. With Pesach here, it’s time for my annual wrestling match with my nemesis, the dreaded sponge cake.

Aunt Estelle was famous for her mile-high sponge cakes. Years ago she sent me her recipe, outlining every step in exquisite detail. Yet every time I try it, mine comes up short.

It seems so simple. Whipped egg whites, trapping tiny air bubbles, expand to six or seven times their volume, creating an ethereal confection. But when I try it, the only thing that gets whipped is me — to a frazzle. This year I’m determined to reach new heights, but I need a little help from my friends. (And as they say, it’s not what you know, but who you know.)

“What am I doing wrong?” I asked Marcy Goldman, author of “The Best of Betterbaking.com” (Ten Speed Press, 2002).

“Are you using a strong, stationary mixer?” she asked.

Check.

“Are you using the size eggs called for in the recipe?” Goldman said.

Check again.

“Separate your eggs when they are cold, but whip the whites at room temperature,” she said. “And make sure your eggs are fresh. Stale whites will not whip up well.”
Hmm, maybe saving money on those five-dozen egg packs that languish forever in the fridge isn’t such a hot idea.

I asked Rose Levy Beranbaum, author of “The Cake Bible” (William Morrow, 1988), why sponge cake recipes always warn you to beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry.

“When egg whites are overbeaten,” she explained, “they start to lose their moisture, airiness and smoothness and break down when folded into other ingredients. And egg whites will never beat to stiff peaks if they come into contact with any grease, either from the bowl, beater or even a bit of broken egg yolk.”

Except on Passover, Beranbaum recommends adding 1/8 teaspoon of cream of tartar for every egg white when they start to get frothy. But, alas, kosher-for-Passover cream of tartar is hard to find and not all that effective.

“Use salt instead,” advised Joan Kekst, author of “Passover Cookery” (Five Star Publications, 2001). “Add 1/8 teaspoon of salt to every four egg whites after 60 seconds of beating, when the whites are foamy and starting to softly peak. Adding salt first delays foaming, and if you add it after beating, it won’t incorporate. And use an absolutely clean, round-bottomed metal bowl, preferably copper.”

Note to self: buy copper bowl!

“Once you start beating the whites, do not stop,” she added. “They won’t mound properly if interrupted.”

Kekst also cautioned against using egg substitutes.

“These are whites with preservatives and color,” she said. “Pure egg whites are usually available for Passover and will work fine for cakes. I’ve even used them for meringue cookies.” When folding in the beaten whites, combine one-quarter into the base mixture first to lighten it and then fold in the remaining whites in three additions.

“Folding should take two to three minutes or the egg whites will deflate,” Kekst said.

“Don’t grease the pan,” said Elinor Klivans, author of “Fearless Baking: Over 100 Recipes That Anyone Can Make” (Simon & Schuster, 2001). “These cakes must climb slowly up the pan as they bake and stay put.”

But perhaps the best advice she gave me was to take your time when baking. Multi-tasking is a great idea in the office, but a bad idea in the kitchen.

“Whenever I try to hurry,” she said, “I find that I have made some sort of major mistake. That is when I see the cup of sugar on the counter that I forgot to put in my cake. Check to see that you have all of your ingredients on hand before you begin. And, most important, have a good time!”

Will my sponge cake reach new heights this Pesach? Oh, well, it’s only a cake. If life gives you lemons, make lemonade. If your sponge cake sinks, do as I do. Cut it in half and frost it!

Aunt Estelle’s Mile-High Sponge Cake

9 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar, sifted
Freshly grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
Freshly grated zest and juice of 1 orange
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon extract
1 tablespoon orange extract
1 heaping cup (packed) Passover potato starch

Preheat the oven to 325 F.
With an electric mixer at medium-high speed, beat the yolks, very gradually adding 1 cup of the sugar until the mixture is very thick and very light yellow, making sure the sugar is completely dissolved. This may take 15 minutes or more. Beat in the lemon and orange juices, lemon and orange zests and extracts. Reduce the speed to low and very gradually add the potato starch until blended. Set aside.
With clean, dry bowl and beaters, beat egg whites at medium-high speed until frothy, about 30 seconds. Gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until stiff, about 90 seconds more. Mix 1/4 of the beaten egg whites into the yolk mixture to lighten it. Carefully fold in the remaining beaten egg whites in 3 additions.
Transfer the batter to an ungreased 10-inch tube pan with a removable bottom. Sprinkle the top with a little sugar if you want a crust on top. (Eliminate this step if you prefer a soft top.) Bake until the cake springs back when lightly touched, about 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Strawberry Filling
1 pint fresh strawberries, rinsed and dried
1 pint Passover nondairy whipping cream

When cake has completely cooled, split in half horizontally. Whip nondairy topping according to the package directions and spread on the bottom layer. Distribute strawberries on top of the whipped topping, leaving some for garnish around the plate. Cover with top half of cake.

Chocolate Frosting
1 cup Passover semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup Passover non-dairy whipping cream
1 tablespoon margarine
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
Combine the chips, whipping cream and margarine in a 2-cup measuring cup or bowl. Heat in microwave on high power one to two minutes, stirring once until smooth and chocolate is melted. Frost top with chocolate and drizzle some down sides of cake. Sprinkle with toasted almonds. Let stand until chocolate is set.

 

New ‘Design’ Adds Flair to the Holidays


 

“Kosher By Design Entertains” by Susie Fishbein (Mesorah Publications, $34.99).

It’s probably already too late. Dishes from Susie Fishbein’s new “Kosher By Design Entertains” are probably gracing Shabbat tables and brunches all over the country. Recipes from her first two books, “The Kosher Palette” and “Kosher by Design,” became ubiquitous, and I fear that when I proudly escort my Glazed Chicken Breasts with Strawberry Salsa to the table, someone will inevitably say, “Oh, page 124, I tried that last week.”

But if you are willing to forego the glow of originality, this fresh and fearless cookbook — which includes a guide for how to make the recipes kosher for Passover — can turn your borscht into Yellow Tomato Basil Bisque.

With flavorful and fun recipes that use ingredients and combinations far from what used to be considered traditional Jewish cooking — think Juniper Berry and Peppercorn Crusted Skirt Steak with Spiced Onions — this book can add flare to a tired repertoire for both connoisseurs and amateurs.

The first “Kosher By Design” (Mesorah 2003), which sold more than 70,000 copies, centered around holiday and Shabbat menus, while “Entertains” tackles lifecycle events or other entertaining opportunities, such as a romantic dinner for two or a housewarming party.

Entertains is a confection of a cookbook, from its frilly fuchsia dust jacket to the polka dots and floral brocades and masculine plaids that frame many of the pages. Flip through the pages of nine sample parties and feel the crisp air at an autumnal picnic spread on a patchwork quilt, or hear the cooing and giggling at a pastel dessert buffet to welcome a new baby, where 4-foot-tall martini glasses filled with jelly beans frolic across the table.

The book is organized by courses or types of food — appetizers to desserts — which makes it easy to use. In between each section are a menu, party plan and set up for different occasions. As always, Fishbein is as concerned with presentation as with taste, so she takes several pages and lots of pictures to describe her techniques for things like creating an heirloom anniversary tablecloth using silk fabric and old photos converted into irons-ons.

While you may not have the time to use colorful clothes pins to clip your Coconut Chicken Strips to disposable wine cups filled with mango and apricot dipping sauces, the selection of recipes offers a wide variety of doable, contemporary dishes that will impress your guests both with the taste and with how great they look on the plate.

Fishbein, a mother of four, has clearly spent a lot of time in a family kitchen, and while some of the recipes are a little involved, enough of them meet my acceptable patschkie (messing around) level, with only three or four steps per recipe. She also favors some time-saving ingredients, like prepared dressing packets or frozen vegetables.

Fishbein also throws in a resource guide that includes Web sites or 800 numbers for unusual kosher ingredients or kitchen tools; a buying guide for the housewares on the book’s tables; a Passover conversion table; and suggested holiday and Shabbat menus using recipes from this book and her previous one.

But you better work fast. I can already smell that Caramelized Apple Cheesecake baking — in my neighbor’s oven.

Cornish Hen With Pistachio Paste
4 (1 pound) baby Cornish hens, butterflied, backbone removed, pressed flat with your palm
2 cups shelled raw unsalted pistachio nuts, finely chopped, divided salt and pepper
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
6 shallots
2 tablespoons fresh thyme or 2 teaspoons dried
12 ounces chicken stock, plus a little extra
4 basil or other brightly colored flat leaves for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Stuff 1/4 cup of the chopped pistachio nuts under the skin of each of the hens. Massage the nuts under the skin to help spread them out evenly. Salt and pepper both sides of each hen.
Heat the olive oil in two large sauté pans (or plan to sear in batches). Sear the hens, skin side down until golden brown. Remove the hens from the pan and place in roasting pans in a single layer. Set aside. Add the shallots to the pan with the hen drippings. Sauté six to seven minutes. Sprinkle in the thyme. Deglaze pan with the chicken stock, use a wooden spoon to unstick any nuts.
Meanwhile, place the hens, uncovered, in the oven. Roast for 30 minutes or until done.
Prepare the pistachio paste. In a deep container, or in the bowl of a food processor, place 1/2 cup chopped pistachio nuts. Add the shallots and pan drippings. Using an immersion blender or food processor blend into a paste. Thin with a little stock if needed.
Dollop 1 or 2 tablespoons of the pistachio paste on a basil or other flat lettuce leaf, place on the side of the hen. Sprinkle all with the remaining chopped pistachios.

Makes four servings.

Balsamic Braised Brisket with Shallots and Potatoes
1 3-pound beef brisket
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
10 cloves garlic, peeled, divided
3 tablespoons margarine, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
6 whole shallots, peeled
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup red wine
1 14-1/2 ounce can crushed tomatoes

Preheat oven to 400 F.
Season the brisket on both sides with salt and pepper. Using the tip of a sharp knife, make sliver cuts all along the brisket. Cut five of the garlic gloves in half. Place a piece of garlic into each slit. Place 2 tablespoons of the margarine and the oil into a large skillet or pot set over medium heat. When the margarine is melted and hot, add the meat. You should hear it sear on contact. Let it cook for eight minutes, don’t move it around. After eight minutes, lift the meat up, add 1 tablespoon of margarine to the pan and turn the meat over. Sear on the second side for eight minutes. Remove the brisket to a baking pan. Surround the brisket with the potatoes, shallots and five whole garlic cloves.
Add balsamic vinegar and wine to the skillet or pan. Add the tomatoes. Turn the heat down to medium and cook for five minutes stirring to combine. While the mixture cooks down, scrape up the browned bits from the pan; a wooden spoon works well here. Pour balsamic mixture over the brisket and vegetables. Add water to just cover the brisket.
Place in the oven and bake for two to two and a half hours, covered. Allow to cool before slicing.

Makes six to eight servings.

Sweet Potato Wedges With Vanilla Rum Sauce
6 medium sweet potatoes, unpeeled
1/2 cup margarine or butter
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon kosher for Passover vanilla extract
1 tablespoon dark rum

Preheat the oven to 375 F.
Cover a large jelly roll pan with parchment paper.
Cut the sweet potatoes in half lengthwise. Cut each half in half again lengthwise. You will have long wedges. Place in a bowl.
In a small saucepan melt the margarine or butter and brown sugar. Stir in the vanilla and rum. Simmer for one minute. Pour over the sweet potatoes and toss to combine.
Arrange the wedges in a single layer on the prepared pan.
Bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes to one hour, checking at the 45-minute mark, until potatoes are soft and caramelized.

Makes eight to 10 servings.

 

Let My Old Passover Programming Go


 

Why is this night different from all other nights?

For one thing, it’s the food — or, rather, the food that’s featured on television. But there’s also plenty of food for thought in the form of Passover-related travel and Jewish news features.

Food for Filling Up

Get Passover cooking with some fresh ideas from the Food Network’s “Essence of Emeril,” “Wolfgang Puck” and “Sweet Dreams.”

On “Sweet Dreams: Passover Favorites,” host Gale Gend and chef Ina Pinkey showcase recipes that are heavy on matzah meal and potato starch to achieve a consistency more like regular desserts. They make apple tea cake muffins from matzah meal, a savory alternative to plain matzah for breakfast. Their practically solid chocolate cake looks rich, while the untraditional Passover cobbler makes for a lighter alternative. The Food Network, April 19, 9:30 a.m.

In “Wolfgang’s Passover Feast,” viewers get a backstage pass into the celebrity chef’s kitchen as he leads a seder at one of his restaurants. The show features commentary on the holiday from Rabbi Arnie Rachlis of the University Synagogue in Irvine. Puck’s contributions are not especially user friendly, though. He fails to give precise measurements for ingredients in his recipes, while also using cooking equipment not found in noncelebrity kitchens. Some of his concoctions are kosher and some not — he shows how to make a not kosher for Passover but tasty-looking matzah with herbs in the dough. Watch Puck for entertainment or concepts, but not specific recipes. The Food Network, April 20, 10 a.m.

Kick your seder up a notch with a Passover segment of Emeril Laggase’s “The Essence of Emeril.” He may be out of his element when pronouncing Jewish foods such as charoset as “ha-ro-SET” instead of “cha-ROH-set.” Or when he tries to explain the seder plate. But he’s the expert when it comes to cooking. In his charoset, he uses practically a whole bottle of Manischewitz, when his own recipe only calls for two tablespoons. I guess good chefs really don’t measure. His matzah farfel kugel looks delish — with plenty of his signature essence. He also does a flavorful recipe for brisket, stuffing garlic cloves in the meat, and coating it with chili sauce and onions. The Food Network, April 21, 2 p.m. All Food Network Passover recipes can be found at foodtv.com.

Food for Thought

While digesting all these new treats you’ve just cooked, continue the Passover theme with Jewish Television Network’s (www.jewishtvnetwork.com) one-hour specials: “Exodus to Freedom” and “A Passover Celebration.”

The thought-provoking tone of “Exodus to Freedom,” hosted by Dick Cavett, would appeal more to adults and older children. It examines the lives of eight extraordinary individuals who overcame oppression. These stories aren’t just about the Jewish experience, but about the universal experience of exodus. Liz Murray grew up homeless with two drug-addicted parents, but turned her life around, eventually attending Harvard (her story was told in a 2003 Lifetime movie, “Homeless to Harvard”). Azar Nafasi led an English literature-reading group in Iran during a time of extreme Islamic fundamentalism. Francis Bok, a Sudanese man, was captured and sold as a slave, before escaping and later immigrating to the United States. Hungarian Holocaust survivor Tom Lantos worked in a forced labor camp during World War II, and now is a Democratic congressman representing the San Mateo area. Airs April 26, 10 p.m. on KVCR 24 in the Inland Empire; Channel 55 in desert cities.

“A Passover Celebration,” hosted by Jeffrey Tambor (“Arrested Development”) embodies a lighter tone. The St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble and New York Concert Singers sing Passover songs from “Chad Gadya” and “Dayenu” to Sephardic and Ashkenazic renditions of “Adir Hu.” Irwin Kula of “Simple Wisdom” narrates Passover tales, as well personal anecdotes of his family’s emigration from Poland to the United States. On the craftier side, TLC host and Jewish Journal singles columnist Teresa Strasser shows how to make various colorful Passover creations. These include a matzah box centerpiece, a clay encased Elijah cup and a reverse-decoupage seder plate to brighten up the Passover table. For the little ones, there’s an “Aleph, Bet Blastoff” segment featuring Dom DeLuise as a comic pharaoh, with a kid-friendly amount of menace. The final segment, a mouth-watering chocolate matzah creation by chef Jeff Nathan, looks simple enough even for the cooking averse. Airs April 24 on KLCS. Check klcs.org for scheduled times.

Kids Meal

The Rugrats get locked in the attic with Grandpa Boris, and he narrates the Passover story as seen through the eyes of 3-year-old Angelica (who takes on the role of a pharaoh who won’t “Let My Babies Go”). “The Rugrats Passover Special” airs April 24, 7:30 a.m. on Nickelodeon. For more information, visit www.nickelodeon.com.

Food to Go

Among other thrills, experience a hot-air balloon ride over the pyramids. (Consider them, in Cecil B. DeMille terms, a testament to the Jewish work ethic.) “Globe Trekker: Egypt,” hosted by Megan McCormick, airs April 21, 8 p.m. on KCET. For more information, visit www.kcet.org.

Yesterday we were slaves in Egypt; today we are free to choose our Passover programming.

 

Have a Ball With Your Soup


The woman who brought to the Shabbat table dishes such as
sweet pea kreplach and honey-and-pecan-crusted chicken with apricot chutney is
tampering with tradition again, just in time for Passover.

Sue Fishbein, author of “Kosher by Design” (Mesorah
Publications, 2003) has released a new recipe for tri-colored Maverick Matzah
Balls, which joins her repertoire of other variegated victuals, including
salmon/dill/traditional gefilte fish, chocolate lovers truffle brownies and
two-tone sweet pea and carrot soup served in a pumpkin shell bowl.

As she has done in many recipes, Fishbein adds a modern
flair to traditional fare with these matzah balls, and does so without upping
the patchke factor (messing around in the kitchen) by too much.

Fishbein uses matzah ball mix from the package, than adds
puréed spinach for green, turmeric for yellow and tomato paste for orange.

“Kosher by Design’s” Passover section already has a recipe
for stuffed matzah balls, and in addition to Passover recipes such as tzimmes
soufflé, lemon meringues and flourless chocolate torte, Fishbein includes a
two-page list of adjustments and substitutions to make other recipes comply
with Passover restrictions.

Concerned as much with presentation as with taste (see above
for her tri-color fetish) Fishbein’s Passover section also includes ideas for
the seder table and a sample menu.

Maverick Matzah Balls

 

 Spinach Matzah Balls

2 large eggs, plus 1 egg white

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves

1/2 cup matzah ball mix (usually 1 bag out of a box)

In a medium bowl whisk the eggs and the oil.

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade,
process the spinach until pureed.

Add 10 tablespoons of the puree into the egg mixture. Whisk
to incorporate.

Sprinkle in the matzah ball mix. Stir in with a fork, mixing
as little as possible. Don’t overwork it.

Chill in refrigerator for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile bring a pot of water or chicken stock to a boil. 

Wet your hands in a bowl of cold water. Using your hand, and
manipulating as little as possible, scoop out a pingpong ball size of the
mixture. Form it into a ball with your fingertips, using no real pressure. Turn
the water down to a simmer. Drop the balls into the water. Cover the pot and
simmer for 20 minutes.

Makes six large matzah balls.

 

Tumeric Matzah Balls

2 large eggs, plus 1 egg white

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 cup matzah ball mix (usually one bag out of a box)

In a medium bowl whisk the eggs and the oil.

Add the turmeric into the egg mixture. Whisk to incorporate
to an even yellow color.

Sprinkle in the matzah ball mix. Stir in with a fork, mixing
as little as possible. Don’t overwork it.

Complete recipe as above.

Makes six large matzah balls.

Tomato Matzah Balls

2 large eggs, plus 1 egg white

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1/2 cup matzah ball mix (usually 1 bag out of a box)

In a medium bowl whisk the eggs and the oil.

Add the tomato paste into the egg mixture.  Whisk fully to
incorporate.

Sprinkle in the matzah ball mix. Stir in with a fork, mixing
as little as possible.  Don’t overwork it.

Complete recipe as above.

Makes six large matzah balls.  

The Next Generation Adds Its Own Touch to Seder


When newer, color versions supplanted the 1923 Union Haggadah Revised, Tamar Soloff’s brother and father hoarded enough copies of the original to ensure that their extended families would have a supply of their own.

"That was the haggadah from my childhood," Soloff said. After marrying Martin Brower and starting a family, they departed from Westchester for Newport Beach, taking half of the haggadah stash with them.

Again this month, the Browers will rely on the small, out-of-print books at seders for their family and their Temple Bat Yahm chavurah. Retelling the story of the Jews’ flight from ancient Egypt in English and Hebrew, its pages also transport Brower back to earlier times with songs like "Behold It Is the Spring Tide of the Year" and "Who Knows One?"

"Tradition is what you’re used to," said Brower, who served as the choir director in the Westchester synagogue of her father, Rabbi Mordecai Soloff. "It has the music that I grew up with, and my children grew up with."

The old cliché that change is hard is never truer than when it comes to the Passover seder — whether that means changing haggadah, menu, location or host.

The microcosm of the seder, perhaps like no other ritual of the year, brings into focus all the nostalgia, Jewish identity issues and family dynamics that stay in the fuzzy background the rest of the year.

At no point are those dynamics more in focus than when it comes time for the seder to transition from one generation to the next. The transition occurs for any number of reasons — an aging parent is simply ready to retire, or in more dire circumstances falls ill or passes away. Or perhaps someone moves out of town, or makes religious changes and wants to make the seder her own way.

The question of who is making seder and how becomes symbolic of whatever is going on in a family. Who is not at the table and why — death, illness, conflict, geography — is as important as who is. This intensity of emotion, no doubt, has as much to do with Pesach’s being the most observed Jewish rites of the year as does the rabbi’s brilliance in crafting the rituals of the seder.

Add to that the notion that any change is hard, especially one that is so laden with associations, and you begin to understand why something like using a childhood haggadah becomes so important or passing on a set of seder dishes can serve up a hearty portion of emotion.

Last year, Jeanne Weiner thought she was ready to give her daughter, Joelle Keene, Aunt Leone’s Indian Tree dishes — service for 31, plus serving dishes.

But when it came to actually giving up the china, she balked. And even though this year she is making the transfer, these dishes — more than the Thanksgiving dishes or all the furniture she gave to her daughters — call up a wave of emotion and tears.

"I wanted to give them to her, but I couldn’t. I just had to be ready, because I was making a statement. And that statement was that my husband was gone and I wasn’t going to do any real entertaining of my family anymore and it’s moved on to my children’s homes," said Weiner, a 76-year-old psychologist, sitting at her daughter’s dining room table, the pink and turquoise peonies blossoming on a setting of the dishes in front of them. "It is part of my new life, which is not as satisfying as my old life was."

Adjusting to a new reality has also been part of Passover for Don Goor and his family, and it also came down to dishes.

When his mother, Stephanie Goor, finally stopped schlepping her box of seder paraphernalia — charoset bowls, kiddush cups, candlesticks — back and forth between his home and hers, he knew she had fully let go of making seder.

The transition was a slow one, starting about 10 years ago, when Goor and his partner, Evan Kent, first moved seder into their home. Goor’s mother and grandmother still prepared much of the food and led the seder as they had for years, with Stephanie sticking strictly to the never-changing marks in her leader’s haggadah indicating who got to read which part. Each year Stephanie brought over the box of stuff, and would take it back to her home.

"For a long time it was still their seder but it was in our house," said Kent, the cantor at Temple Isaiah in West Los Angeles, who has been with Goor, the rabbi at Temple Judea in Tarzana, for 18 years. "We used the same haggadah and had the same food, but slowly what happened was we realized that our own friends would join us and it sort of grew and changed."

Discussion became more spontaneous and informal, with the hosts (both clergy, after all) taking the lead. Eventually, the menu evolved, since Kent is vegetarian, though many of the foods — mom’s knaidlach and grandma’s farfel muffins — stayed the same.

Finally, they switched to a different haggadah, and the transition seemed to be complete.

With change coming slowly and organically, Goor said his mother and grandmother never felt pushed aside or left out, and always participated.

"My mother’s way of resisting was to make these little editorial comments along the way about how good seder used to be, or what an unusual way of doing things," Goor said. "My grandmother was more outspoken. She would come out and say ‘I don’t like this haggadah. I liked it better the other way.’"

This year there will be another transition. Goor’s grandmother died at 91 a few years ago, and his mother died just a few months ago at the age of 71. Seder will be a low-key affair this year.

"I’m avoiding it totally. I keep pretending it will happen on its own," Goor said.

It was a slow transition for Jeanne Weiner’s family after Beryl, her husband of 27 years, died four years ago.

Beryl had been central to the family seder since they moved to California from New York more than 30 years ago, after Jeanne’s marriage to Joelle’s father ended.

"Beryl had a real gift for drawing people out and making them comfortable so they wanted to talk," said Keene, the music teacher and newspaper adviser at Shalhevet High School, who lives in Beverlywood with her husband and three teenagers.

After Beryl died, the family seder sputtered a bit, not only because of Beryl’s death, but because Keene and her family became much more observant, scaring away her two sisters and her mother from a seder that they imagined would start late and take forever.

But eventually they gave it a try. Last year the whole family was together again — with adjustment and accommodations to new religious realities, kids of many ages and the absence of Beryl’s guidance.

"Last year was the first time everyone came and we had a really big seder here. I remember feeling that this was like the first real one, because everyone was here," Keene said.

Weiner still does some of the cooking — she’s used the same matzah ball recipe for decades, and the chopped liver stays on the menu. Not only do the plates and bowls come from her, but so does the sense of style and care with which the table is set, and the general love of entertaining she passed to her three daughters.

"Those are things that transitioned down the generations very seamlessly, especially since my mother is here to help us and to congratulate us when we get it right and correct us when we get it wrong," Keene said.

Keene, who is now Orthodox and uses the full text of the haggadah, has tried to replace the haggadah she and Beryl composed when she was 18, but nothing has seemed quite right yet. With kids ranging in age from a baby to teenagers, and religious observance covering the spectrum, coming up with the right balance, timing and tone is challenging.

But Keene is determined to make it work.

"I feel pressure to make seder really wonderful — it should be terrific, fun, uplifting, interesting, relaxed, memorable — the list of adjectives is so long," Keene said. In other words, to make seder just like Mom.

But Weiner encourages her daughter to create a seder that is all her own.

"I think what you are trying to and have emulated is the feeling rather than the fact of our seders — the lasting impression of it, which was that you loved it and it was good, and that is what you are recapturing," Weiner said. "But you are creating your own, and frankly that is as it should be. It’s nice to pass on dishes, but do things in your home the way you want them to be done in your home."

Keene is happy to make it her own, but like any daughter of any age, she still wants Mom’s approval.

"Is there anything good about the seders here?" Keene asks her mom. "You said the food was good."

"No, I didn’t even say the food was good," Weiner answers, deadpan. "I said what was good about the seder was that the family is here. That is the most important thing."

"Well, you said I do a good job on the table," Keene submits.

"You said it and I agreed. Don’t misquote me," her mother fires back.

They go at it for a few more minutes, until finally Weiner caves in with the smile and love that was there all along.

"It’s warm and friendly and welcoming and the food is delicious. The family is here and the table is beautiful. What more could anyone ask?" Weiner says.

"Thanks," says Keene, with a relieved laugh. "Thank you. I needed that."

Andrea Adelson contributed to this article.

7 Days In Arts


Saturday

Interact Theater Company takes “Our Town” beyond the school play, with a rare professional production, playing this weekend only. See Thornton Wilder’s classic all grown up, brought to you by the University of Judaism’s performing arts department.
8 p.m. (Saturday), 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. (Sunday). $32-$38. 15600 Mulholland Drive, Bel Air. (310) 440-1547.

Sunday

Chick rock it’s not. But tonight’s “Kolot Hanasheem – Voices of Women” concert honors women of a different genre who’ve earned it all the same. Los Angeles Jewish Symphony’s Noreen Green conducts the program featuring works by six contemporary female Jewish composers, including Maria Newman’s “The Book of Esther,” and excerpts from Andrea Clearfield’s “Women of Valor.” Performers will include actress Laraine Newman, soprano Hila Plitmann, mezzo-soprano Diana Tash and the Valley Beth Shalom Congregational Choir.
7 p.m. $10-$36. Valley Beth Shalom, 17539 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (310) 478-9311.

Monday

It’s a fine line between the fluffy pareve kosher-for-Passover dessert and a gritty leftover even the dog won’t eat. Students doing their own seders for the first time, as well as adults who learned their lesson the hard way, find the wisdom they desperately seek today, as UCLA’s Yitzhak Rabin Hillel Center for Jewish Life presents a class in Passover confections. Godspeed.
7-9:30 p.m. $5 (UCLA students), $55 (general). 574 Hilgard Ave., Westwood. R.S.V.P., (310) 208-3081, ext. 100.

Tuesday

Political and gastronomic enthusiasts find book signings to suit their niches today. For Bush bashing, head to Sherman Oaks for the last in Valley Cities JCC’s Provocative Speaker Series, where Robert Scheer will discuss and sign his latest book, “The Five Biggest Lies Bush Told Us About Iraq.” Those who prefer to save their appetites head to the Jewish Community Library, where sisters and co-authors Phyllis and Miriyam Glazer present and sign their recent cookbook, “The Essential Book of Jewish Cooking: 200 Seasonal Holiday Recipes and Their Traditions.”
Robert Scheer: 7:30-9 p.m. $20-$25. 13164 Burbank Blvd., Sherman Oaks. (818) 786-6310. Miriyam Glazer: 7:30 p.m. 6505 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 761-8648.

Wednesday

Circle Elephant Art’s “Joel Hoyer: An Exquisite Surface” exhibition continues this week. Moving beyond the medium’s tradition as a purely decorative art, Hoyer’s pieces remain the sort of thing you’d want hanging in your living room, while provoking thought and imagination.
Runs March 5-27. Noon-6 p.m. (Wed.-Sat.). 4634 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 662-3279.

Thursday

A senator, a rabbi and some leading medical authorities walk into Temple Beth Am. Rather than the start of a bad joke, however, they’re hoping it’ll be the start of a healthcare revolution. Tonight, various Jewish organizations co-sponsor a forum on healthcare titled “Zay Gezunt: The Jewish Coalition for Healthcare for All Californians.” State Sen. Sheila Kuehl, Rabbi William Cutter as well as medical authorities discuss the hows and whys of universal healthcare.
7 p.m. Temple Beth Am, 1039 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 552-2007.

Friday

The Skirball turns comedy lounge tonight for another session of “Say the Word,” a showcase of writing and comic talents in Los Angeles, complete with the requisite cocktails and snacks. Tonight’s show for the 21-and-over crowd features George Meyer (“The Simpsons”), Rob Cohen (“The Ben Stiller Show”), Gary Janettie (“Will & Grace”) and Merrill Markoe (“It’s My F—ing Birthday: A Novel”).
8 pm. $8-$15. 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (323) 655-8587.

From Page to Plate


Passover cooking becomes more fun each year with the
publication of glossy new kosher cookbooks brimming with creative suggestions
for elegant and enticing Passover dishes.

Whether you are planning your seder menu, looking for a
memorable Passover gift, or you just want a break from cleaning, salivate over
the scrumptious recipes in these cookbooks from master chefs and food writers.

“The Hadassah Jewish Holiday Cookbook: Traditional Recipes
from Contemporary Kosher Kitchens” (Hugh Lauter Levin, 2003), edited by Joan
Schwartz Michel, is a gorgeously photographed collection of 250 recipes from
Hadassah’s great cooks — Ashkenazic and Sephardic — in America and Israel.
Commentaries on holidays and their foods by Jewish cuisine experts like Joan
Nathan and Claudia Roden precede each section. The extensive Passover section
features seven types of charoset, from a Suriname cherry jam and dried fruit
recipe to the Persian version studded with pistachios, walnuts, almonds,
hazelnuts, dates, apples, pears and gingerroot. Try Traditional Chopped Liver,
Apple-Spiced Brisket or Chicken Marrakesh baked with olives, cumin, thyme,
apricots, figs, brown sugar and pecans. For dessert, whip up an Egyptian
Sephardic-style Orange Cake; or please kids and adults with Matzah Brickle,
Chocolate Pudding Cake and Lemon Squares.  

“Adventures in Jewish Cooking” (Clarkson Potter, 2002)
presents the innovative cuisine of Jeffrey Nathan, executive chef of Abigail’s
Restaurant in Manhattan and host of the PBS series, “New Jewish Cuisine.”
Alongside creative alternatives like Latin American Ceviche instead of gefilte
fish, Nathan offers “heritage” recipes like classic chopped liver. Date charoset
gets an extra kick with the addition of diced mango and quartered red grapes;
chicken soup goes Sephardic with saffron matzah balls; sweet oranges, smoky
trout and raddichio blend in an unusual salad; and wild mushroom-farfel
dressing complements a rack of veal. End on a light note with Banana Cake and
Strawberry Marsala Compote, or go all the way with the crunchy, creamy combo of
Matzah Napoleon with White Chocolate Mousse. Salivating yet?  

“Levana’s Table: Kosher Cooking for Everyone” (Stewart, Tabori
& Chang, 2002), offers 150 recipes from Levana Kirschenbaum, owner of Manhattan’s
kosher gourmet Levana Restaurant. Directions for creating homemade condiments
like preserved lemons and fiery Moroccan harissa will come in handy when adding
pizzaz to the Passover palate. The cookbook is divided by courses
(appetizers/soups/salads and so on, with a section on favorites from the
restaurant and even a kosher wine list), but cull through the book for numerous
recipes that can be made for Passover (some with minor adjustments) like the
nondairy Cream of Broccoli and Watercress Soup and Tricolor Ribbon Salad with
Cider-Shallot Dressing. Her suggested Passover menu: Trout Stuffed With Gefilte
Fish in Jellied Broth; Matzah Ball Soup; Brisket in Sweet and Sour Sauce;
Cider-Roasted Turkey with Dried Fruit Stuffing; Artichokes and Carrots in Lemon
Sauce; Potato Kugel; Almond-Wine Cake; and Poached Pears With Chocolate
Sauce.  

Chef Joyce Goldstein explores Sephardic foods in her newest
cookbook, “Saffron Shores: Jewish Cooking of the Southern Mediterranean”
(Chronicle, 2002). As she traces the crosscultural culinary trail of the diaspora,
Goldstein explores the spice-infused dishes of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya,
as well as Judeo-Arabic recipes. Goldstein introduces the book with an
informative history of Jews in Muslim lands, description of kosher laws and a
selection of menus for holidays. Be aware that Sephardim consider legumes and
rice kosher for Passover. Three Passover menus — two for dinner, one for lunch
— include an emerald soup of pureed peas, beans and greens; a vegetable stew of
artichokes, fennel and celery root; a Sabbath stew (akin to cholent) called D’fina;
Tunisian Fish Ball Tagine, Whiting and Potato Pie; Moroccan Carrot Salad with
Cumin. Oranges, dates, raisins and walnuts star in candied desserts and,
strangely enough, there’s a candied eggplant, too. 

“Sephardic Israeli Cuisine: A Mediterranean Mosaic,” by
cooking instructor and author Sheilah Kaufman (Hippocrene, 2002) treads the
same ground, from an Israeli perspective. Following an historical overview,
Kaufman offers tasty recipes, many of which can be made for Passover.
Specifically for the holiday, there are Turkish and Portuguese haroset
recipes-both date-based; Meat and Leek Patties; fava bean Soup; Moroccan
apricot lamb shanks; spinach bake; sweet potato cake, and sponge cake.

“Tastes of Jewish Tradition: Recipes, Activities &
Stories for the Whole Family,” by Jody Hirsh, Idy Goodman, Aggie Goldenholtz
and Susan Roth (JCC of Milwaukee, 2002) provides a complete family-friendly
holiday experience. Before the pages of 125 recipes even begin, parents and
grandparents are invited to delve into each holiday through stories, cartoons,
games, activities, craft ideas and a special “Kids in the Kitchen” page. For
Passover, there’s Matzah Pizza as well as directions for making seder plates, afikoman
bags, frog hats, Burning Bush table centerpieces and more. In the recipe
section, try Sweet and Sour Meatballs, Easy Eggplant Dip; Honey Pecan Crusted
Chicken; Salmon with Brown Sugar and Mustard Glaze; Passover Popovers; Cherry
Muffins; Greens Salad Garnished With Fresh Strawberries; “Macaroni” (i.e.,
farfel) and Cheese; Flourless Chocolate Cake, Mandel Brot and Brownies.

I don’t know about you, but suddenly I’m raring to get into
the kitchen. With these guidebooks and a little creativity of your own,
Passover dishes can be delicious, eclectic, elegant, easy and appetizing.  

Gramma Gene’s Gefilte Fish


Passover is a special holiday for me and brings back many wonderful food memories. One of my favorites occurred many years ago, when I was invited to a Passover seder at the home of my husband-to-be. I still remember that evening, and especially the taste of the gefilte fish my future mother-in-law had made.

The next year, a few days before Passover, I found myself walking with her on Fairfax Avenue. We were on our way to the fish market to purchase the ingredients necessary to make her famous gefilte fish. We waited in line for about 45 minutes — it was crowded and seemed like everyone in the neighborhood was there to buy fish.

The women were gossiping and discussing their family recipes and the way they make gefilte fish. When it was finally our turn, Gramma Gene picked out four or five different kinds of whole fish: one she used for its fatty quality, one gave it more flavor, one was for color and another for texture. Everything was fresh except the turbo, which at that time was only available frozen. She instructed the fish store owner to remove the skin, head, and bones of all the fish and wrap them separately.

We returned to Gramma Gene’s house to begin the process of making gefilte fish.

First a large white pot was filled with water, vegetables, the fishskin, heads and bones and brought to a boil. It then was simmered for about one hour. Then we strained the liquid and added onion skins, which give the fish a golden color. In the meantime, using a hand grinder, we ground the eight to 10 pounds of fish fillets along with onions, carrots and celery, and then added eggs and matzah meal.

The ground mixture was then transferred to a wooden bowl and the chopping began, adding water, salt and pepper in small amounts as we worked. I loved watching her chopping technique, which continued until the mixture reached a magical consistency. "Is it ready to shape into balls?" I asked. "Not yet," she answered, "First we must taste it for the proper seasoning." Finally she approved. We moistened our hands with cold water so the ground fish would not stick to them, shaped the mixture into balls and placed the fish into the simmering broth. The pot was covered with aluminum foil, and in less than one hour, we had made the most delicious gefilte fish I had ever tasted.

Over the years, as we cooked together, I learned to take notes. I recorded the different kinds of fish we bought — it changed from year to year — the measurements for the matzah meal, the amount of water and eggs used and how long to simmer the fish broth. I was almost prepared several years later, when she and I made the gefilte fish in my home for the first time.

I especially remember that Passover, because Gramma Gene had broken her arm and was unable to cook. She sat on a high-stool overseeing everything and gave me instructions, while my husband, Marvin, helped. I thought it was a success, but unfortunately we oversalted the fish and had to add potatoes to the pot to help take away some of the salty taste. At the seder that night, no one knew of my near-disaster. They all complimented me on how delicious the fish was — and my mother-in-law never revealed our secret.

She is no longer alive, but when I make gefilte fish, she is always in my thoughts. It is almost as though she is sitting there beside me encouraging me to continue the tradition she taught me. With all the modern kitchen conveniences available now, she would be surprised at how much easier it is to make. I now use the grinder attachment to my electric mixer, but I still chop the fish mixture in her wooden bowl, using the same method she did when adding the water, salt and pepper.

I love teaching Passover cooking classes and find it very rewarding, especially as I relate my food experiences to the students and show them how to make Gramma Gene’s gefilte fish. At the end of the class, they always comment that they are anxious to go home so they can make it themselves and begin their own Passover family tradition.

Gramma Gene’s Gefilte Fish

Fish Broth

3 yellow onions, coarsely diced (reserve skins)

2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced

1 cup sliced celery tops

2 pounds fish bones, heads and skin from filleted white fish

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cold water

In a large pot, place the onions, carrots, celery tops, fish bones, heads and skin, and salt and pepper. Add water to cover and bring to a boil. Simmer for one hour, adding additional water if needed. When the broth is very flavorful, strain out the fish bones and vegetables and discard. Keep the broth warm. Prepare the fish broth and keep warm.

Gefilte Fish

7 pounds white fish and pike, filleted (bones, heads and skin reserved)*

2 yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced

4 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced

4 celery stalks, sliced

3 eggs

1/2 cup matzah meal

1 cup cold water

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Fish roe (optional)

Garnish with lettuce, sliced cucumber, sliced beets and horseradish sauce

*If possible, buy whole white fish. Have it boned and wrap the bones, heads and skin separately. If you’re lucky, you may find roe inside the fish, so you can poach it with the fish balls.

In a food grinder, grind the fish with the onions, carrots and celery stalks. Put through the grinder again. Place the ground mixture in a large mixing bowl and blend with the eggs and matzah meal.

Transfer the mixture to a large wooden chopping bowl and, using a hand chopper, chop the fish mixture, adding the water gradually with 1 tablespoon kosher salt and 2 teaspoons pepper as you chop. (Mixture should be soft and light to the touch.) Wet your hands with cold water and shape the fish mixture into oval balls.

Bring the broth to a boil over high heat, add reserved onion skins and place the fish balls in the broth. Cover, reduce the heat to medium high, and cook for one hour, or until fish is tender; do not overcook.

Cool, transfer to a shallow glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap and foil, and refrigerate until ready to serve. Fish can stored for up to three days and can be frozen.

To serve, arrange a lettuce leaf on each plate; top with fish and garnish with cucumber and beets. Serve with horseradish sauce. Makes about 50 fish balls.

Remembrances of Passover Food Past


Ruth Reichl, Gourmet magazine’s editor in chief, reminisced about the versatility of matzah brie in her memoir, "Tender at the Bone."

Likewise, Elizabeth Ehrlich wrote of her longing for the salty gefilte fish of her childhood, comparing it to her mother-in-law’s sweeter variety in "Miriam’s Kitchen," her memoir on kosher cooking.

Although neither of these dishes achieved the renown of Marcel Proust’s madeleines, the memories of these authors resonated for millions of readers.

Many people feel passionately about foods associated with Passover, the Jewish holiday claiming the largest number of courses per meal, but not everyone has the talent to weave tasty morsels into literature. Although gefilte fish and matzah ball soup are most often linked to the holiday, there are other foods connected to peoples’ cherished memories.

Family and friends who gather for Passover at attorney Lorraine Abraham’s apartment in Fort Lee, N.J., anticipate a tangy treat when she ladles soup from a tureen on her table.

Abraham also initiated another Passover tradition — pickled salmon. Her recipe is practically foolproof. It involves freezing salmon for 48 hours to knock out dangerous organisms, before submerging fillets in pickling brine for several days.

Juggling a demanding career with Passover preparations, Abraham makes the salmon the weekend before the holiday; it holds for at least a week. It is faster and easier to finesse than its competition — gefilte fish. "I gravitated to pickled salmon 20 years ago, because it’s delicious and I’m forever pressed for time." She describes a zesty marinade of spices and thinly sliced onions, claiming she whips up twice as much fish as she needs. Not one spec goes to waste, because her sons, 30-something bachelors, consume leftovers with gusto. "They even love the onions, which they pull from the marinade and place on plain matzah."

While some people dedicate certain foods exclusively to Passover, other families partake in dishes they enjoy all year.

"If you like the crunch of freshly fried latkes, you’ll love my potato kugel," says Nelly David, a retired shopkeeper living in Boca Raton, Fla. "When I was a girl in Germany, my mother taught me how to make this recipe." By now it has been passed down through four generations of women in her family.

When David’s daughters were growing up, she lit Shabbat candles every Friday night and served roasted chicken, chicken soup and, because her family loved it so much, potato kugel. This delectable dish always graced her seder table.

"My children would die if they didn’t have potato kugel at Passover," says Manhattan resident Lynda Sobel, one of David’s daughters. She prefers it when her mother visits at Passover because she prepares the holiday kugels.

"If my mother is not here, I make her kugel recipe, but it never tastes the same," says Sobel, explaining that her mother sprinkles in love as she grates potatoes by hand. Sobel cheats and uses a food processor, which turns potatoes watery.

During the flourless chocolate cake craze of the 1980s, I began baking a chocolate almond torte, which achieves its loft from whipped egg whites instead of starch of any kind. Although I always cover my sideboard with a variety of homemade desserts, my torte is so popular that I must bake two of them to get through one seder.

My daughter claims that she could survive without the four kinds of charoset I serve, the special way I brown hard-boiled eggs and soften matzah so it tastes like pasta in vegetable lasagna. But, my daughter said, "It wouldn’t be Passover without the bittersweet chocolate of your almond torte."

Yet, before I introduced this dessert, she had adored my marzipan macaroons, meringue cookies and lemon chiffon sponge cake, too. Over the years, I kept collecting recipes and adding more marvelous foods to our family’s Passover traditions.

Between ridding the household of leavened foods and the amount of cooking Passover generates, the holiday is labor intensive. This accounts for the popularity of bottled gefilte fish, canned macaroons and packaged foods on supermarket shelves, although manufacturers can never duplicate the magic that people infuse into delicacies they prepare at home.

The events of the past fall have catapulted home-cooked foods to the front burner, as people have become increasingly nostalgic for a less stressful past. Passover, the most cherished of Jewish holidays, is the perfect time to please loved ones by renewing castoff culinary traditions or by adding new recipes to your repertoire. Tantalizing aromas and warm feelings will fill your dining room, and if you’re lucky, a budding writer at the table will immortalize your Passover fare.

Pickled Pink Salmon

Marinade

2 1/2 cups white vinegar

1 1/2 cups water

6 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons salt

3 cloves garlic, whole

1 stalk celery, halved

1/8 teaspoon white pepper

Place ingredients in a saucepan and stir. Boil for five minutes. Cool to room temperature. Remove garlic and celery.

Reserve.

Salmon

2 pounds salmon, skin and bones removed

2 tablespoons pickling spice

5 bay leaves

2 medium-sized Vidalia onions, sliced thin

Garnish: one seedless cucumber and 3 tablespoons minced dill

1. Freeze salmon for 48 hours.

2. During defrosting, while fillets are still partially frozen but slightly flexible, cut into 1-inch-by-3-inch pieces.

3. Spread a layer of fillets on the bottom of a large glass bowl. Sprinkle with half the pickling spice, bay leaves and onions. Repeat for a second layer. Pour marinade over the top. Cover.

Refrigerate for four days.

4. Drain salmon and remove bay leaves and pickling spice. Serve cold on a platter surrounded by sliced cucumbers. Sprinkle dill over fillets and cucumbers.

Yield: 20 pieces.

Cooking with Chocolate


I absolutely love preparing chocolate desserts for Passover, and now that chocolate is considered a health food, it will give you all the more reason to include it in your Passover recipes. Chocolate desserts are easy to make, and you can create a variety of non-dairy chocolate desserts for Passover that will bring pleasure to everyone.

Over the years, I have created new chocolate recipes for my family to enjoy at our Passover dessert table. They include Passover florentines covered with chocolate, a chocolate-glazed marble cake with a texture similar to pound cake, Passover “French toast” and a chocolate espresso soufflé, made without butter or cream. All of these recipes conform to the Passover food restrictions.

The Chocolate soufflé recipe is adapted from my cookbook “Master Chefs Cook Kosher” and was created by Chef Ken Frank on my TV show. Hot, it rises to the occasion, and when cold, it becomes a rich, dense chocolate cake.

An assortment of chocolate Passover desserts will add something special to your seder. I serve them year-round and often fill a box to take as a gift when invited out to dinner.

  • Ken’s Chocolate Espresso Soufflé
  • Unsalted butter or non-dairy margarine for coating the dishes
  • Granulated sugar for coating the dishes
  • 4 egg whites
  • 3 tbs. Passover powdered sugar*
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup freshly brewed espresso coffee, warm
  • 6 ounces Passover semisweet chocolate, melted and warm
  • Passover powdered sugar for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400° F.

Coat six to eight (depending on the volume of beaten egg whites) 1/2-cup soufflé dishes evenly with margarine and dust with sugar. Set aside.

Whip the egg whites in a clean, dry mixing bowl until frothy. Add the powdered sugar and continue beating until soft peaks form.

Combine the egg yolks, espresso, and chocolate in another bowl and mix well. Using a rubber spatula, quickly fold the egg-yolk mixture into the egg-white mixture. Carefully pour the mixture into the prepared soufflé dishes up to the rim without disturbing the sugar lining. Bake for 8 minutes, until cooked through and crisp on top. To serve, sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve at once. Serves 6 to 8.

*If Passover powdered sugar is not available, powder the same amounts of granulated sugar in a blender or food processor and add 1/2 tsp. potato starch.

Passover Chocolate Marble Cake With Chocolate Glaze

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup matzah cake meal
  • 1/2 cup potato starch
  • 1/2 cup apple juice, wine or water
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup strong hot coffee or water

Chocolate Glaze (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 325° F.

Blend 3/4 cup of the sugar with the salt and oil. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition. Sift the potato starch and matzah-cake meal together. Add them to the egg-yolk mixture alternately with the apple juice, wine or water.

In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff enough to hold a peak. Fold the beaten egg whites into the egg-yolk mixture. Pour half of the batter into another bowl and reserve.

In a small bowl, mix together the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, cocoa powder and coffee, and fold this mixture into the reserved batter. Pour the two batters alternately (about 1 cup at a time) into a 10-inch (ungreased) tube pan.

Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until the cake springs back to the touch and a toothpick inserted in it comes out dry. Remove the cake from the oven; immediately invert the pan and let it cool. Loosen the sides and center of the cake with a sharp knife and unmold it onto a cake plate. Drizzle the Chocolate Glaze over the cake, allowing it to run over the sides.

Chocolate Glaze

  • 8 ounces Passover nondairy semisweet chocolate, cut into pieces
  • 1/4 cup orange marmalade or apricot preserves
  • 1/2 cup espresso coffee, cooled

Place chocolate, marmalade and espresso in the top of a double boiler over simmering water (or melt in a microwave) and using a wire whisk, beat until smooth. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Passover Florentines (Farfel-nut Thins)

  • 1 cup matzah farfel
  • 1 tablespoon matzah cake meal
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup melted unsalted butter or pareve margarine
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla or 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds
  • Chocolate Glaze (see recipe, above)

Preheat the oven to 325° F.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the matzah farfel, matzah cake meal, sugar and salt, and mix well. Pour the butter or margarine over the farfel mixture and blend until the sugar dissolves. Add the egg and vanilla or orange juice and blend. Mix in the almonds. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 10 to 15 minutes. Line a baking sheet with foil and drop the farfel mixture in teaspoons onto the foil, about 2 inches apart. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely before lifting from the foil. Drizzle chocolate glaze over cookies. Makes about 8 dozen.

Passover “French Toast” with

Chocolate Sauce

  • 6 to 8 (1-inch thick) slices Passover Sponge Cake
  • 1/2 cup milk or orange juice
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel or orange peel
  • Unsalted butter or non-dairy margarine
  • Cinnamon-sugar (1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • to 1/4 cup sugar)
  • Chocolate Sauce (recipe follows)

In a large, shallow bowl, combine the milk, eggs and lemon or orange peel and beat well. Soak the sponge cake slices in the milk mixture.

In a skillet, heat the butter. Fry the cake on both sides until brown. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Serve with Chocolate Sauce.

Chocolate Sauce

  • 8 ounces Passover semisweet chocolate cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup strawberry or raspberry preserves, strained
  • 1/2 cup espresso coffee, cooled

Place chocolate, preserves and espresso in the top of a double boiler over simmering water (or melt in a microwave) and, using a wire whisk, beat until smooth. Makes about 2 cups.