Not pictured: freezer burn. Photo by Tess Cutler

Frozen blintzes are for cowards, so here’s how to make them from scratch


Don’t get me wrong. I have at least four boxes of (Streit’s?) cheese blintzes gathering a third layer of permafrost in my freezer right now. I bought them before the glatt marts could jack up the prices because this is not my first go-round, folks. This is my life.

However! I do not expect to unpackage them this holiday. Or, perhaps, ever. That is because after making my own blintzes with the following recipe I have settled on the conclusion that frozen blintzes are for cowards. You can whip up a batch homemade so easily that to buy the little kosher hot pockets from the store would be to impugn—nay, swear off—your integrity in the kitchen.

Not to mention that the frozen kind never cook evenly and don’t taste that great to begin with. Have I ever had a positive frozen blintz experience? The short answer is no. The long answer is, has anyone? Nothing like biting into a blackened potatoey crust that you are certain is cooked all the way, only for the cool dispassion of stubborn icicles to greet you in the interior. Come on now. Let’s just make them from scratch.

First: go shopping!

Here’s what you need that you might not have: good ricotta cheese, sour cream, a lemon, and blueberries. (I take it you have vanilla.) Everything else is below:

You will need:

…for the crepes

1 cup flour
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs
1.25 cups whole milk
1 tbsp vegetable oil

…for the filling

1 lb ricotta cheese (get the good stuff)
3 tbsp sour cream or mascarpone
2 egg yolks
3 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

…for the win

hella blueberries
a tablespoon (or less!) of sugar

Also get out: a big round frying pan, a saucepan, a mixing bowl, a strainer and a stick of butter to play around with.

After you have all your ingredients together, start by making the crepe batter. Take all the ingredients from the first half and whisk them together in a bowl. This should be a relatively thin liquid, thin enough to drip off the whisk when you hold it over the bowl but thick enough that it doesn’t all run off immediately. Okay, now let it sit.

[The life hack here is to double this part of the recipe and save half the batter for breakfast, when you can cook up crepes any other way you like. Thank me later.]

Next, take a look at the ricotta. Is it good and wet, dripping like a baby fresh out the bathtub? In that case, let it towel off in a colander to drain some of that excess liquid. (You can also dry it out in the fridge.) We’re not trying to make soggy blintzes. That’s what Big Kosher wants us to do.

[It’s important, here that we’re pronouncing ricotta “ree-coatt-ah.” It enhances the taste, I guarantee it. Make sure to get that double ‘t’ sound.]

When the ricotta is ready and at room temperature, combine the filling ingredients in a separate bowl and blend until smooth. You should have a nice, heavy whip going.

Okay, now you’re ready to make the crepes!

Heat a non-stick crepe pan or 8 inch skillet.  Grab that stick o’ butter and slather the pan with it. The pan should froth about it as you are merely teasing the main event. So, deep breath at this point. Next is the part where you showcase your elegance and prove your worth as a chef: pour about a quarter-cup of batter into the frying pan as you tilt the pan to spread the batter thin. You’re making broad, thin circles here, about seven or eight inches in diameter.

It should cook in a flash — no more than twenty seconds on each side if your pan is hot enough. Throw it on a plate to cool and repeat. Make a bunch of these and kill the batter, unless you wisely doubled the recipe for later, in which case kill half of it.

All set? Now take the action to the countertop. Spread a crepe out onto a flat surface (cutting board is fine), and drop a couple of tablespoons’ worth of filling into the bottom third of the crepe. Don’t worry about spreading it out—it’s easier to roll up into a lil’ burrito this way. Roll the bottom flap over the filling and tuck it under, then fold over the side leaves, then roll the whole thing forward like a sleeping bag. Honestly, just make a lil’ burrito. Repeat until all the crepes are filled.

Now heat up that pan and smother it with butter again. (Hey, diets don’t count on chag!) Throw your Hungarian blintzes on there 2-3 at a time and cook on each side until golden. Then you’re done.

Oh yeah! Blueberry sauce: take all those blueberries, throw them in a pot, and throw some sugar on top of it, and then just cook it until you get this oozing pot of succulence that looks like it does on the frozen box of Streit’s blintzes. That takes like 10 minutes? Tops.

I have no idea how many this makes because I eat them as I go. Rob, whose recipe this is, says it’s good for about a dozen. Happy Shavuot!

Edited to add: this recipe makes about eight blintzes.

Tuna Garbanzo Bean and Sumac Salad


I know I’ve said this before, but it’s time to say it again: necessity is the mother of invention. This Tuna Garbanzo Bean and Sumac Salad recipe is something that I invented when I absolutely thought I had nothing to eat in the house. What I did have was a couple of cans of Costco tuna, waaay up in my pantry along with a can of garbanzo beans. And in my fridge, I found wilted dill and parsley from last week’s Passover cooking class. I had a couple of lemons, because if I don’t have lemons, then I’m really a slacker. And truth be told, the only reason I had red cabbage was because InstaCart delivered the wrong thing. 

Tuna garbanzo bean and sumac salad

But there’s nothing I would change about this salad, and I think it’s perfect for a potluck, a buffet, or a family-style lunch. Or to feed your employees while you work (which is why it was so urgent that I found something to eat in my house.) 

If you’ve never zested a lemon, you can do it with a microplane. It adds a pop of Italian summer to the salad. Sumac is a Middle Eastern spice that has a tangy taste that’s delicious on all kinds of salads. Good to keep in the house. And there you have it! 

Tuna Garbanzo Bean and Sumac Salad

  • 1 can of organic garbanzo beans
  • 2 7oz cans of olive oil packed tuna (I get Italian tuna from Costco)
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1/8 cup of fresh dill, chopped
  • 1/8 cup of fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • a handful of red cabbage, chopped VERY THINLY
  • juice and zest of 2 lemons
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of sumac
  • salt & freshly ground pepper to taste – the amount of salt you need will depend on whether or not your beans are salted, and how salty your tuna is.

1. Put it all together in a large bowl, and mix thoroughly!

Matzo Balls with Mushrooms and Jalapeños in Broth. Photo by Ellen Silverman

PBS cooking host Pati Jinich’s Mexican-Jewish Passover


Celebrity chef Pati Jinich grew up in Mexico City, where she spent Shabbat dinners at her bubbe’s house.

“When we walked into her house,” Jinich fondly recalls of her grandmother, “the first thing she had was a big, gigantic bowl of guacamole, but it was a Yiddish version, because it was a combination of chopped egg salad and guacamole. Next to that, she would have a big bowl of gribenes” — crisp chicken or goose skin — “with fried onions. And then she already had sliced challah. So you would grab a slice of challah, put the chopped egg guacamole mixture on top, and then you top it with gribenes.”

This Mexican-Jewish fusion runs deep in Jinich’s family, as it does for many other Mexican Jews.

“It’s become fashionable to do a Latin theme on Jewish foods, but a lot of people don’t realize that Mexican-Jewish cuisine is really deeply rooted,” says Jinich, who stars in the hit national PBS cooking show “Pati’s Mexican Table.” “It’s not just, ‘Oh, I’m gonna throw a chili in here, or some spices.’ There’s a full Mexican-Jewish vocabulary that has existed for centuries.”

Jinich’s bubbe also made p’tcha (pickled calf foot), but instead of serving it with horseradish, she served her version with pico de gallo.

Sephardic Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition first came to Mexico more than 500 years ago. Larger waves of Jewish immigrants arrived over the past 150 years, most of them from Eastern Europe, Syria and the former Ottoman Empire. Today, the Jewish population in Mexico  is close to 50,000, most of them living in Mexico City.

So the idea of Mexican-Jewish fusion is not something new for Mexican Jews like Jinich; it was part of life while she was growing up. For example, Jinich points to Gefilte Fish a la Veracruzana, which has a sauce of tomatoes, capers, pickled chilies, olives, cilantro and parsley.

“The Jewish community thought of using it for fish patties — gefilte fish,” she said. “So that’s a standard — a must — in many Jewish Ashkenazi homes. Instead of eating the gefilte fish cold with aspic, which you need an acquired taste to love, Mexican-style gefilte fish is served warm, in that thick, spicy tomato broth. And it’s really irresistible.”

Jinich, 44, traces her roots to Poland and central Europe — her grandparents fled pogroms and immigrated to Mexico City in the early 20th century. As a young adult, she became an immigrant herself, following her Mexican-Jewish husband to the United States 20 years ago. Jinich, now a mother of three boys, lives in Washington, D.C., where her television show, currently in its fifth season, originates in her home kitchen.

Although Jinich is a natural in the kitchen and on camera, she began her career as a policy analyst, focused on Latin American politics. But her passion for food — and especially the cuisine of Mexico — brought her to culinary school in 2005. Before becoming a chef, she taught Mexican cooking to friends and neighbors while living in Dallas in the late 1990s and served as a production assistant on another PBS food series, “New Tastes From Texas,” a show that featured guest hosts such as Mexican food pioneers Diana Kennedy and Patricia Quintana.

Jinich has published two cookbooks, “Pati’s Mexican Table: The Secrets of Real Mexican Home Cooking” (2013) and “Mexican Today: New and Rediscovered Recipes for Contemporary Kitchens” (2016). And her television show, which screens all over the world, has been nominated for two Emmys and two James Beard Awards, the Oscars of the food world. 

Pati Jinich. Photo by Michael Ventura

Pati Jinich. Photo by Michael Ventura

In short, Jinich has become a 21st-century ambassador to Mexican cuisine in the United States. But she brings a modern sensibility to the foods of her native country, which are being rediscovered with renowned chefs such as Denmark’s René Redzepi of Noma, who is opening a satellite of his famed restaurant in Mexico, and Enrique Olvera, who has been featured on Netflix’s popular series “Chef’s Table.”

Jinich sees the culinary world’s recent attention to Mexico as inspiring.

“For a long time, everyone took Mexican food for granted,” she explains. “It took this new cadre of chefs looking at Mexican cuisine and taking all the traditional elements and presenting them in a more sexy, modern way. Not only for the outside to recognize the richness and sophistication of Mexican cuisine, but also for Mexicans. Mexicans are so excited about their own cuisine. Now, it’s going back to the roots — sometimes to the extreme — and really highlighting what makes Mexican food so unique. And I think Mexican cuisine is having a very big moment. There’s so much to explore.”

With recipes such as Asparagus, Mushroom and Goat Cheese Enchiladas with Pine Nut Mole Sauce or Mexican Thanksgiving Turkey, Jinich has an approach that is more accessible than many of the chefs currently helming the Mexican dining scene. She lives by the credo that any home cook can bring the warmth and color of Mexico into the kitchen.

And although Jinich is Jewish, her recipes are, for the most part, Mexican. She did not grow up attending Jewish schools or eating kosher food. At the same time, following in the footsteps of her bubbe, as well as an Austrian grandmother who taught her how to make matzo ball soup (recipe below), she treasures the dishes of her Mexican-Jewish repertoire

“What happened with Ashkenazi food, which is sort of bland, is that it got blessed with all the warmth and colors and flavors of Mexico. It was like a gift to Ashkenazi cuisine.”

“Blessed” is how Jinich also describes her own multifaceted identity. Despite feeling “shaken” by the current political climate in the U.S., she sees herself as simultaneously Mexican, Jewish and American.

“I used to tell my children as Mexican Americans, you’ve been doubly blessed, but you’re doubly responsible,” she says. “You have to be proud about being Mexican, and you have to make Mexico proud, and you have to make your Mexican family proud. And at the same time, you have to be grateful to America and responsible as an American citizen. And one cannot forget the third element, which is about being a Jew and the Jewish values.”

It’s a recipe for life Jinich clearly embraces.

MATZO BALLS WITH MUSHROOMS AND JALAPEÑOS IN BROTH

From “Mexican Today: New and Rediscovered Recipes for Contemporary Kitchens” by Pati Jinich (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016).

– 1 cup (2 2-ounce packages) matzo ball mix
– 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
– 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
– 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
– 4 large eggs
– 1/2 cup canola or safflower oil, divided
– 2 tablespoons sesame oil
– 1 tablespoon sparkling water (optional)
– 1/2 cup white onion, finely chopped
– 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
– 2 jalapeño chilies, seeded if desired and finely chopped, more or less to taste
– 1/2 pound white and/or baby bella (cremini) mushrooms, cleaned,  dried, part of the stem removed, thinly sliced
– 8 cups chicken broth, homemade or store-bought

In a large mixing bowl, combine the matzo ball mix, parsley, nutmeg and 3/4 teaspoon salt.

In a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs with 6 tablespoons of vegetable oil and 2 tablespoons of sesame oil. Fold the beaten eggs into the matzo ball mixture with a spatula. Add the sparkling water if you want the matzo balls to be fluffy, and mix until well combined. Cover the mixture and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

In a large soup pot, bring about 3 quarts salted water to a rolling boil over high heat. Bring heat down to medium and keep at a steady simmer. With wet hands, shape the matzo ball mix into 1- to 1 1/2-inch balls and gently drop them into the water.  Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until matzo balls are completely cooked and have puffed up.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat in a soup pot. Add the onion, garlic and chilies and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes, until they have softened a bit. Stir in the sliced mushrooms, add 3/4 teaspoon salt, stir and cover the pan. Steam the mushrooms for about 6 to 8 minutes, remove the lid and continue to cook uncovered until the liquid in the pan evaporates. Add the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add the cooked matzo balls (use a slotted spoon if transferring from their cooking water) and serve.

Makes 8 servings.

GEFILTE FISH A LA VERACRUZANA

A standard in Jewish homes across Mexico. Courtesy of Pati Jinich.

– Gefilte Fish Patties (recipe follows)
– 3 tablespoons safflower or corn oil
– 1/2 cup white onion, chopped
– 1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
– 3 cups water
– 2 tablespoons ketchup
– 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
– 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper, or to taste
– 1 cup Manzanilla olives stuffed with pimientos
– 8 pepperoncini peppers in vinegar brine/chiles güeros en escabeche, or more to taste
– 1 tablespoon capers

Prepare Gefilte Fish Patties; set aside.

Heat the oil in a large cooking pot over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion, and let it cook for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring, until soft and translucent. Pour the crushed tomatoes into the pot, stir and let the mix season and thicken for about 6 minutes. Incorporate 3 cups water, 2 tablespoons ketchup, salt and white pepper, give it a good stir and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to low, to get a gentle simmer, as you roll the Gefilte Fish Patties.

Place a small bowl with lukewarm water to the side of the simmering tomato broth. Start making the patties, about 2 1/2 inches by 1 inch and about 3/4-inch thick. Wet your hands as necessary, so the fish mixture will not stick to your hands. As you make them, slide them gently into the simmering broth. Make sure it is simmering and raise the heat to medium if necessary to keep a steady simmer.

Once you finish making the patties, cover the pot and turn the heat to low. Cook them covered for 25 minutes. Take off the lid, incorporate the Manzanilla olives, pepperoncini peppers and capers. Give it a soft stir and simmer uncovered for 20 more minutes, so the gefilte fish will be thoroughly cooked and the broth will have seasoned and thickened nicely. Serve hot with slices of challah and spiced-up pickles.

Makes about 20 patties.

GEFILTE FISH PATTIES

– 1 pound red snapper fillets, no skin or bones
– 1 pound flounder fillets, no skin or bones
– 1 white onion (about 1/2 pound), quartered
– 2 carrots (about 1/4 pound), peeled and roughly chopped
– 3 eggs
– 1/2 cup matzo meal
– 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
– 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper, or to taste

Rinse the fish fillets under a thin stream of cool water. Slice into smaller pieces and place in the food processor. Pulse for 5 to 10 seconds until fish is finely chopped but hasn’t turned into a paste. Turn fish mixture onto a large mixing bowl.

Place the onion, carrots, eggs, matzo meal, salt and white pepper in same bowl of food processor. Process until smooth and turn onto the fish mixture. Combine thoroughly.


Lara Rabinovitch Neuman works for Google as a food writer and regularly teaches food culture courses at the Skirball Cultural Center.

Recipes: Around the world on a magic charoset ride


The holiday of Passover, which celebrates the liberation of the Jews from slavery, is a time when families all over the world gather to retell the story of freedom. Customs vary, but during the Passover seder, certain ceremonial foods always are served.

One of the mainstays of the seder plate is charoset, usually a mixture of fruit, nuts, wine and spices. This mixture is chopped and ground together to resemble the mortar that was used by the Jews when they were slaves in Egypt. 

Depending on the ingredients available, it is prepared differently in Jewish communities all over the world. Many people are familiar with the central European version, which consists of apples, walnuts, raisins, cinnamon and wine. Israeli charoset, on the other hand, may include peanuts, bananas, apples, dates, wine and a little matzo meal.

During a recent trip to Cuba, we discovered that because the country is so poor, fruit and nuts are not easily available, but the Cuban Jews have adapted by using a simple mixture of matzo and wine for their charoset. Yemenite charoset is made with dates and dried figs and is spiced with coriander and chilies.

Many years ago, we decided to prepare a variety of charoset for our evening seder, and it has since become a tradition. In order for our guests to know what they are tasting, we serve each kind on a plate with the flag of its country of origin. As part of the fun, we also invented a California charoset, an original family recipe that combines oranges, raisins, avocado and prunes.

At the end of the meal, we serve several types of charoset for dessert. I always make extra Yemenite charoset balls and dip them in melted chocolate as a special treat. They can be made ahead, arranged on plates, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated until ready to serve. Just make sure to have a few extra for Elijah!

YEMENITE CHAROSET

– 1 cup pitted dates, chopped
– 1/2 cup dried figs, chopped
– 1/3 cup sweet Passover wine
– 1 teaspoon ground ginger
– Pinch of coriander
– 1 small red chili pepper, seeded and minced, or pinch of cayenne
– 2 tablespoons matzo meal
– 3 tablespoons sesame seeds

In a large bowl, combine the dates, figs and wine. Add the ginger, coriander, minced red chili pepper and matzo meal and blend thoroughly. Add sesame seeds and roll into 1-inch balls.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups or 20 balls.

GREEK CHAROSET

– 2 cups pitted dates
– 1/2 cup raisins
– 1/2 cup sweet Passover wine
– 1 cup walnuts, ground
– 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Place the dates and raisins in a bowl and blend with the wine. Add the walnuts and ginger and blend well. Shape into a pyramid.
Makes 2 1/2 to 3 cups.

TURKISH CHAROSET

– 1/2 cup dried apricots
– 2 cups apples, peeled, cored and sliced
– 1/2 cup pitted dates
– Juice of 1 lemon
– 1 cup walnuts, chopped

In a small saucepan, combine the apricots, apples, dates, lemon juice and enough water to cover the mixture. Cook until tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and mash with a fork, blending thoroughly. Mix in the walnuts. Spoon into a serving bowl or roll into balls.

Makes about 2 cups or 24 balls.

CENTRAL EUROPEAN CHAROSET

– 2 apples, unpeeled, cored and finely chopped
– 1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
– 2 tablespoons honey
– 1 teaspoon cinnamon
– 1/4 cup sweet Passover wine

Combine the apples, walnuts, honey and cinnamon in a bowl and mix well. Add enough wine to bind the mixture. Serve in a bowl or roll into 1-inch balls and arrange on a serving plate.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups or about 20 balls.

ISRAELI CHAROSET

– 2 apples, peeled, cored and chopped
– 2 bananas, chopped
– Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
– Juice and zest of 1/2 orange
– 15 dates, pitted and chopped
– 1/2 cup peanuts or pistachio nuts, ground
– 1 teaspoon cinnamon
– 1/4 cup sweet Passover wine
– 5 tablespoons matzo meal

In a large bowl, combine the apples, bananas, lemon and orange juice and zests, dates and peanuts and mix well. Add the cinnamon, wine and matzo meal and blend thoroughly.

Makes 3 1/2 cups.

CALIFORNIA CHAROSET

– 1 large avocado, peeled, pit removed and diced
– Juice of 1/2 lemon
– 1/2 cup sliced almonds
– 1/3 cup raisins
– 4 seedless dates
– 2 figs or prunes
– 1 whole orange, zest and sections
– 2 tablespoons apple juice
– 2 tablespoons matzo meal

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

In a processor or blender, place the almonds, raisins, dates and figs. Process until coarsely chopped. Add the orange zest and orange sections and process briefly to combine. Add the avocado and process 1 or 2 seconds more. Transfer the mixture to a glass bowl and gently fold in the apple juice and matzo meal. Cover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.

Makes about 3 cups.

SEPHARDIC CHAROSET
(Island of Rhodes)

– 1/2 cup dates, pitted
– 2 cups apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
– 1/2 cup dried apricots
– 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

In medium saucepan, combine the dates, apples and dried apricots. Add enough water to cover. Over high heat, bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the mixture is tender enough to mash with a fork. Place the mixture in a processor and process, turning on and off the processor until the mixture is blended. Do not puree. Just before serving, fold in the walnuts.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups.

ITALIAN CHAROSET

– 2 apples, unpeeled, cored and coarsely chopped
– 6 dates, finely chopped
– 1 hard-boiled egg, finely chopped
– 1/2 cup almonds, finely chopped
– 1/4 cup walnuts, finely chopped
– 1/4 cup raisins, finely chopped
– Juice of 1 lemon
– 1 to 2 tablespoons matzo meal

In a large bowl, combine the apples, dates, egg, almonds, walnuts and raisins and blend thoroughly. Add the lemon juice and enough matzo meal to bind the mixture. Mound the charoset in a bowl or roll it into 1-inch balls and arrange on a plate.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups or 20 balls.

PERSIAN CHAROSET

– 1 pear, unpeeled, cored and finely chopped
– 1 apple, unpeeled, cored and finely chopped
– 1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
– 1 cup almonds, finely chopped
– 1 cup hazelnuts, finely chopped
– 1 cup pistachio nuts, finely chopped
– 1 cup dates, chopped
– 1 cup raisins, chopped
– 2 teaspoons ground ginger
– 2 teaspoons cinnamon
– 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
– 1 to 2 tablespoons sweet Passover wine

In a large bowl, combine the pear, apple, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pistachio nuts, dates and raisins. Mix well. Add the ginger, cinnamon, vinegar and enough wine to bind the mixture. Transfer to a platter, shape into a pyramid, cover with plastic wrap and chill well.

Makes 5 cups


JUDY ZEIDLER is a food consultant, cooking teacher and author of 10 cookbooks, including “Italy Cooks” (Mostarda Press, 2011). Her website is judyzeidler.com.

Joan Nathan. Photo by Gabriela Herman

Traveling through time in search of Jewish cooking with Joan Nathan


The acclaimed cookbook author Joan Nathan has done more than perhaps anyone to popularize Jewish cooking in America. Her latest book, “King Solomon’s Table,” digs deeper into Jewish history, uncovering connections between cultures to reveal that Jewish cooking is more complicated — and delicious — than we ever realized.

“By having a knowledge of the history, I think I understood what Jewish food was in a different way,” Nathan said in an interview with the Journal in anticipation of the book’s publication and two upcoming local appearances.

[Recipes from “King Solomon’s Table”]

Her journey of discovery reaches back to biblical times and the reign of King Solomon, who sent explorers to various parts of his kingdom to bring back spices and jewels. Nathan finds that Jewish merchants and traders brought these exotic ingredients into their home countries, and these flavors were intermingled with the culinary traditions of their home communities. This culinary cross-pollination resulted in dishes that still are eaten today.

In the universe of Jewish food, Nathan is the Big Bang. Her 10 previous books include six about Jewish cuisine and two on Israeli cuisine. The two James Beard award-winning books, “Jewish Cooking in America” and “The New American Cooking,” have become essential reference books for preparing Jewish meals for holidays and throughout the year. It is unlikely that any hip artisan deli owner or new-wave Jewish food blogger didn’t at some point dig deep into Nathan’s works for inspiration, ingredients or proportions. 

Nathan, 74, lives in Washington, D.C., and on Martha’s Vineyard with her husband, the prominent lawyer Allan Gerson, and is the mother of three adult children. She also hosted a nationally syndicated PBS television series about Jewish cooking, and writes regularly for The New York Times, Tablet magazine and other publications.

Her latest book will be published just in time for Passover, when Jews remember the Exodus story and connect it to other stories of displacement and diaspora. The publication also coincides with stepped-up immigration raids in the United States and a backlash against refugees in Europe.

“Every cuisine is helped by immigrants,” Nathan said. “In writing this book, I began to realize that after 1965, when immigration opened up all over the world — to immigrants from Southeast Asia, from Russia, from all parts of the world — it embellished Jewish food, because we had Afghani immigrants, Uzbek immigrants, Azerbaijani immigrants. And so, in most cases, I tried to go around the world to try this food, but because I couldn’t get to Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan, I could get those in Brooklyn and L.A.”

Her new book includes more than 170 recipes that traverse the globe. They include her takes on classics like Yemenite chicken soup, bourekas, hummus and hamantashen, as well as modern riffs on traditional dishes such as shakshuka, herbed labneh and Baghdadi chicken. There also are recipes that combine cultures, like Syrian-Mexican chicken with apricot, tamarind and chipotle sauce.

Nathan’s voracious appetite for stories shines through every anecdote and historical gem in the book.

Nathan’s voracious appetite for stories shines through every anecdote and historical gem in the book. “King Solomon’s Table” is as much a kitchen reference guide as it is a page-turner about Jewish history and culture told through food.

Take the macaroon, a cookie many enjoy during Passover. The treat has roots in the fertile valley between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, in what is now southern Iraq. It’s made with almonds, sugar, rosewater and sometimes eggs blended together with cardamom. Macaroons have become a Purim and Passover staple for Iraqi and Iranian Jews, though they’ve picked up flavors as Jews have spread across the globe. Nathan’s cookbook includes a recipe for walnut-almond macaroons with a raspberry jam thumbprint.

Nathan leaves no stone unturned when sniffing out Jewish culinary history. Her research trips uncover Jewish connections from China and India to Mexico and Iran. Jews lived along the Silk Road and adopted kreplach from the Chinese wonton. She includes a recipe for Sri Lankan breakfast buns with cinnamon-laced onion confit, adapted from a bun she found at a roadside stand in Sri Lanka, where a small Jewish community once lived.

Another example is chicken paprikash, a favorite dish among Hungarian Jews. In her research, Nathan realized the paprika was probably brought by Sephardic Jewish merchants from the New World. Similarly, knödel originated in Alsace-Lorraine and southern Germany and later became kneidlach, or matzo balls.

“I remember when I was much younger and I was hiking in the Alps and, in a hut at the top, there was this huge knödel in the soup, and I thought, Oh, my God, matzo balls! And the matzo balls that we have in America are not like what they were in Europe,” Nathan said.

At times, it feels like the definition of “Jewish food” stretches so wide that it seems to lose meaning, but, Nathan says, “the core, even if you don’t agree with it, are the dietary laws” along with the foods traditional to the Jewish holidays.

Another thing that sets apart Jewish cooking from, say, Italian cooking, is that Jewish merchants brought back spices from other lands and incorporated them into the foods of their home countries. So the recipes have a multilayered aspect that merges different cultures’ flavors.

The way Jewish food spans place and time was evident during Nathan’s keynote address earlier this month at a symposium called “Jewish Food in the Global South.” She hosted a cooking class and made carciofi alla giudia, fried artichokes Jewish style; fessenjan, a traditional chicken-and-walnut stew made with pomegranate and served with saffron rice; and upside-down fruit cobbler. She also discussed the evolution of schnecken, a kind of sweet bun. In Arkansas, Jews replaced the walnuts used in Germany with pecans.

“King Solomon’s Table” is as much a kitchen reference guide as it is a page-turner about Jewish history and culture

She also revealed a recipe for a Lithuanian stuffed matzo ball she discovered in Mississippi. It was made in a muffin tin and stuffed with meat and cinnamon. “A Lithuanian immigrant brought that recipe in the 19th century and made it in a wood stove,” she said.

In writing the book, Nathan’s voyage of discovery also landed her at the Babylonian Collection in the Sterling Memorial Library at Yale University, where she was able to (very carefully) handle three clay tablets from about 1700 B.C.E. These earliest known “cookbooks” had chiseled on them 44 recipes inscribed in cuneiform in the Akkadian language.

Nathan spends a fair amount of time in Los Angeles, where she interacts with Persian Jews eating fessenjan and gondi kashi, a rice dish filled with spices, herbs, meat, beets and fava beans. Her recipe for sweet-and-sour Persian stuffed grape leaves begins with a delightful anecdote about walking into Maryam Maddahi’s home in Beverly Hills, where she heard Persian music and found 60 family members singing, dancing, talking mostly in Farsi and snacking on platters of pistachios and dates. The grape leaves described in her book come stuffed with raisins, barberries, apricots and golden plums.

Another cross-cultural recipe included in the book is chilaquiles, using fried pieces of either corn tortillas or matzos. Los Angeles Times food critic Jonathan Gold told Nathan he prepares the dish for his family for breakfast, referring to it as “Mexican matzo brei.”

Jewish cooking is not static. Nathan finds infinite variations on traditional recipes. Potato kugel may be of Eastern European origin, but it morphed into noodle kugel in America. Nathan’s recipe calls for adding leeks to potato kugel, and recently she met a woman who says she makes it regularly with sweet potatoes.

“King Solomon said there’s nothing new under the sun,” Nathan said. “Well, let me tell you, we’re using chickpeas the way they used them in the ancient world. We’re using pomegranate syrup. Of course, it’s processed pomegranate syrup, but that’s what they used. Date jam, which is the jam used in the Bible. We are now rediscovering all these ingredients.”

Joan Nathan’s cookbook “King Solomon’s Table: A Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking From Around the World” (Knopf, 382 pages, $35) will be published on April 4. She’ll speak with KCRW’s Evan Kleiman at 2 p.m. on April 6, at the Skirball Cultural Center, and with the Los Angeles Times’ Jonathan Gold at 7:30 p.m. on April 6, at Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s Irmas Campus.

Huevos Haminados Con Spinaci. Photo by Gabriela Herman

Passover recipes from ‘King Solomon’s Table’ by Joan Nathan


HUEVOS HAMINADOS CON SPINACI

Long-Cooked Hard-Boiled Eggs with Spinach

Yield: 12 to 16 servings

– 12 to 16 large eggs, preferably fresh from a farmers’ market
– 4 tablespoons olive oil
– 1 large red onion, peeled and coarsely chopped (1 1/2 cups)
– 1 tablespoon sea salt
– 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
– 1 1/2 pounds spinach, fresh or frozen (thawed and drained if frozen)

Put the eggs in a cooking pot and add water to cover by about 2 inches. Then add the olive oil, onions, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Cool and remove the eggs with a slotted spoon. Tap the eggs gently against the counter and peel under cold running water, keeping them as whole as possible.

Return the peeled eggs to the pot with the seasoned water and simmer very slowly uncovered for at least 2 hours, or until the water is almost evaporated and the onions almost dissolved. The eggs will become dark and creamy as the cooking water evaporates and they absorb all the flavoring.

Remove the eggs carefully to a bowl, rubbing into the cooking liquid any of the cream that forms on the outside. Heat the remaining cooking liquid over medium heat, bring to a simmer, and add the spinach. Cook the spinach until most of the liquid is reduced, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, about 30 minutes, or until the spinach is creamy and well cooked. Serve a dollop of spinach with a hard-boiled egg on top as the first part of the Seder meal or as a first course of any meal.

NOTE: To see if the eggs are really boiled, remove one egg from the water and spin it on a flat cutting board. If it twirls in one place, it is hard-boiled. If it wobbles all over the board, it is not cooked yet and the weight isn’t distributed evenly. The easiest way of peeling a hot hard-boiled egg is to put it under cold water between your hands and rub it quickly until it cracks, then peel under the running water.

To prepare the symbolic egg for the Passover Seder plate, boil the egg in its shell, dry it, and then light a match underneath to char it.

Excerpted from “King Solomon’s Table” by Joan Nathan. Copyright © 2017 by Random House. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Photo of Sherry Mendelson Davidowitz and her husband Fred. Photo courtesy of Sherry Mendelson Davidowitz.

Sharing important memories, recipes


My mother-in-law, Sarah, survived Auschwitz, but at age 76, cancer of the pancreas did her in. Being a physician, I was involved, along with my husband, Fred, in her medical care during the final months. One afternoon, Fred and I attended an oncology appointment with Sarah.

“Mrs. Davidowitz, tell me, when you were in the camps, were there any toxins in the air where you worked?” Dr. Levin asked. 

He threw out the question, seemingly comfortable discussing the concentration camps. The office, cluttered with books, charts and diplomas, smelled of cleaning solution. My mother-in-law, barely 5 feet tall, sat in an oversized chair across the desk from Dr. Levin.

“Oh no, the munitions factory where I worked was clean, very clean,” Sarah said. She peered at the doctor, hoping he would like her response.

“Did you smell chemicals in the air?” asked the doctor.

“No chemicals,” she said.

“Do you remember names of any materials they used in the factory?” he gently prodded.

“Names, I don’t know.  But there was a guard there, one of the bosses. He let me sleep when I was sick and no one was watching. He was good to me,” she said.

“Uh-huh,” Dr. Levin said.

I was surprised that Sarah spoke kindly toward her captors at that moment. She never said much about the camps, but once in awhile something seeped out. When my husband was 11, he was profoundly disappointed when she refused to allow him to join the Boy Scouts. It was only in later years that Sarah told him the uniforms reminded her of the Hitler Youth organization.

This discussion then, was a surprise. I thought that bitterness would emerge, but Sarah chose to emphasize an act of kindness. Dr. Levin surely saw many reactions to impending death. Maybe this was one of them.

Sarah and I didn’t always see eye-to-eye. When I first met her, I was 33 years old, a professional woman, a physician.  Her son Fred, born in a displaced persons camp in Bamberg, Germany, was the first child of an extended family dismantled by the Holocaust. He was the phoenix that rose from the ashes.

One Friday night back then after Shabbat dinner, we sat around Sarah and Irving’s table with Fred’s three children from his first marriage. Fred was divorced. He and I were seriously dating. I thought, as a successful Jewish doctor, I was a good catch for their son. Sarah and I cleared plates and set out teacups and pastries for coffee and dessert. Sweet smelling cookies enticed the children to sit a bit longer.

“So Sherry, how much do you work?” asked Sarah, eyeing me as she spoke.

“About 40 hours a week. It’s taken time to build up a psychiatric practice. Now it’s going well,” I said.

“Uh-huh. Do you cook?” she asked.

“Yeah, some,” I said.

“How’s your brisket recipe?” she asked. 

“I don’t have one. I don’t like brisket. Too fatty,” I said.

“Oh, I see. Freddie, he loves brisket,” Sarah said.

I hadn’t planned on defending my cooking. Maybe I didn’t make a brisket but if anyone needed help with medical problems, then I was your girl. Sarah shifted her gaze to her grandchildren, who squirmed in their seats waiting for dessert.

“Here you go, bubbelehs. Rainbow cookies,” said Sarah to the children. She handed them a box of multicolored cookies, a traditional favorite among the grandchildren.

Now, nine years later, Sarah sat helplessly in her chair facing Dr. Levin and a terminal cancer diagnosis. I still believed she thought of me as a driven professional woman, capable of husband neglect. Fred and I had married and were raising our three young daughters. We shared the raising of Fred’s older children with his ex-wife.

The next time I saw her, Sarah was home under the care of hospice. It was December, the month of her death. She appeared weak, motionless under the covers. Irving slept in another room away from the IVs and the caretaker. Our oldest daughter, Andrea, having just turned 7, joined me for an overnight with Sarah, along with birds of paradise we picked from our garden.

Bubbe, we brought flowers,” Andrea said. She placed them in Sarah’s shrunken hands.

“Beautiful,” Sarah said. “Thank you, a paradise for me. Andrea, bubbeleh, go to the kitchen. Zayde has rainbow cookies.”

Andrea hurried off, looking for Irving and the cookies. Then Sarah turned to me. She took my hand.

“Thank you for coming with Andrea,” she said.

“I’m happy to be here,” I said.

I didn’t know what else to say. We both knew that her end loomed ahead.

“Ah, me too. So Sherry, do me a favor,” she said. “See that Irving takes care of his health.”

“I will,” I said.

Then she looked me straight in the eye.

“And, I want you should have my brisket recipe. Freddie loves brisket,” Sarah said.

“Thank you, Sarah,” I said, wiping away tears.

Sherry Mendelson Davidowitz is a psychiatrist and writer who has written
for Jewish Women’s Theatre and currently is  writing a memoir.

Hamantashen: As easy as one, two, three corners


What makes the Purim holiday so special? Is it the heroic tale of Queen Esther? The children dressing up in costume to re-create the story? The sweet pastries her story inspired?

For all of these reasons, my family loves Purim! It is a time when our grandchildren and great-grandchildren dress up, attend a Purim carnival and feast at our Purim dinner — a reminder of how our children celebrated when they were young.

This year, we will enjoy the holiday with family and friends at one long table in the dining room. A sampling of our Purim groggers (noisemakers) will be arranged down the center. (We can’t include them all because our collection now numbers almost 100.)

The most popular treats for Purim are hamantashen, three-cornered pastries. They are served throughout the world, filled with poppy seeds, prune jams and more. 

I still remember making my first hamantashen using a recipe I received from my mother. Instead of using the traditional yeast pastry, sold in bakeries, she made them with cookie dough filled with poppy seeds and homemade strawberry jam.

Over the years, I have developed many recipes for making these holiday delights. One year, I added chocolate and poppy seeds to the cookie dough and filled it with a mixture of melted chocolate and chopped nuts, resulting in a decadent treat for chocolate lovers.

Another family favorite is a Poppy Seed Yeast Ring; it’s like a delicious coffee cake that doubles as a hamantashen yeast dough. The dough is covered with a towel and refrigerated overnight, then rolled, filled and served hot for breakfast. Or you can make the dough in the afternoon, refrigerate it for several hours, bake and serve for dessert after dinner.

This year I am including a recipe for a hamantashen pastry filled with vegetables, too. It can be served as an appetizer or a main course for the vegetarians among us.

Remember, the dough and fillings usually can be prepared in advance, and stored in the refrigerator or freezer, then baked when convenient.

Now, go get ready to make some noise — in the kitchen and at the table with your Purim grogger!

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE HAMANTASHEN

– Chocolate Filling (recipe follows)
– 3 cups flour
– 1/2 cup finely ground almonds
– 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
– 1/4 teaspoon salt
– 1/2 cup sugar
– 1 cup unsalted margarine
– 3 tablespoons hot water
– 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
– 1 egg
– 1 egg white

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Prepare Chocolate Filling; cover and set aside. 

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine flour, almonds, baking powder, salt and sugar. Blend in margarine until mixture resembles very fine crumbs.

Blend water and cocoa in small bowl and beat in egg. Add to flour mixture and beat until mixture begins to form dough. Do not over-mix.

Transfer to flour board and knead into a ball. Chill 30 minutes for easier handling. Divide into 6 or 7 portions. Flatten each with palms of hands and roll out 1/4-inch thick. Cut into 3-inch rounds with scalloped cookie cutter. Place 1 teaspoon of filling in the center of each round. Brush edges with a little water. Fold edges of dough toward center to form a triangle, leaving a bit of filling visible in center. Pinch the edges to seal.

Place on a baking sheet lined with lightly greased foil or a Silpat mat and brush with egg white. Bake in preheated oven until firm, about 20 minutes. Transfer to rack to cool.

Makes about 5 dozen hamantashen.

CHOCOLATE FILLING

– 1/2 cup cocoa powder
– 1/2 cup sugar
– 1/3 cup coffee, milk or half-and-half
– 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
– In a large bowl, combine cocoa powder, sugar, coffee and walnuts and blend thoroughly.
– Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

In a large bowl, combine cocoa powder, sugar, coffee and walnuts and blend thoroughly.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

POPPY SEED YEAST RING

The dough from this recipe also can be used to make Yeast Hamantashen; see below. From “The Gourmet Jewish Cook” by Judy Zeidler.

– Poppy Seed Filling (recipe follows)
– 2 packages active dry yeast
– 1 cup warm milk (110 to 115 F)
– 1/2 pound unsalted margarine
– 2 tablespoons sugar
– 3 eggs yolks
– 2 1/2 cups flour
– Pinch of nutmeg
– 1/4 teaspoon salt
– 2 tablespoons olive oil

Prepare the Poppy Seed Filling; set aside.

In a measuring cup, dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup of the milk. In a large mixing bowl, cream the margarine with 2 tablespoons sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and beat well.

Combine the flour, nutmeg and salt. Add the yeast mixture to the mixing bowl alternately with the flour. With the back of a wooden spoon, smooth the top of the dough and brush with oil. Cover with a towel and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Divide the dough into 2 portions. Roll out each portion on floured wax paper into a 16-by-20-inch rectangle. Spread half the Poppy Seed Filling over each dough half, leaving a 1-inch margin around the edges. Starting from a long edge, roll up each one, jelly-roll fashion. Bring the ends together to form a ring.

Place each ring in a 10-inch pie pan, sealing the ends together. Brush the top with the remaining milk and sprinkle with poppy seeds. (If you like, you can hold the rings in the refrigerator, covered, for 1 hour.) Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Serve hot.

Makes two Poppy Seed Yeast Rings.

POPPY SEED FILLING

– 3 egg whites
– 1/2 cup sugar
– 1 1/2 cups canned poppy seed filling

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold in the 1/2 cup sugar and poppy seed filling.

Makes 4 cups.

To make Yeast Hamantashen:

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Roll out the dough and cut it into 3-inch rounds with a cookie cutter. Place a teaspoon of poppy seed filling in the center of each circle of dough. Fold the edges of the dough toward the center to form a triangle, leaving a bit of the filling visible in the center. Pinch the edges to seal.

Place the hamantashen on a baking sheet lined with lightly greased foil or a Silpat mat and bake for 10 minutes; pinch edges again to reseal and bake 10 minutes longer or until golden brown. Transfer to racks and cool.

Makes 3 dozen hamantashen.

VEGETABLE HAMANTASHEN

– Carrot or Eggplant Filling (recipe follows)
– 1/2 cup unsalted margarine
– 1/2 cup sugar
– 3 eggs
– Grated zest of 1 orange
– 2 cups flour
– 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
– 1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Prepare Carrot or Eggplant Filling; cover and set aside.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat margarine and sugar until well blended. Beat in 2 of the eggs and zest, blending thoroughly. Add flour, baking powder and salt, blending until dough is smooth.

Transfer dough to a floured board and divide into 3 or 4 portions for easier handling. Flatten each portion with palm of hand and roll out 1/4-inch thick. Using scallop or plain cookie cutter, cut into 2 1/2-inch rounds. Place 1 teaspoon of filling in center of each round. Brush edges of round with a little water. Fold edges of dough toward the center to form a triangle, leaving a bit of filling exposed. Pinch edges to seal.

Place hamantashen 1/2 inch apart on a baking sheet lined with lightly greased foil or a Silpat mat. Brush with beaten egg. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes in preheated oven, until golden brown. Transfer to racks to cool.

Makes about 5 dozen hamantashen.

CARROT FILLING

– 1 pound carrots, peeled and grated
– 1 1/2 cups water
– 1/3 cup sugar
– 1/3 cup ground almonds
– 1/4 cup golden raisins

Combine carrots and water in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer, stirring occasionally until all the liquid has evaporated, about 20 minutes. Add sugar, almonds and raisins. Simmer on low heat until thick and liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Cool.

Makes about 2 cups.

EGGPLANT FILLING

– 1 (1 pound) eggplant, peeled and diced
– Water
– 2 cups sugar
– 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
– 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
– 2 tablespoons lemon juice
– Grated zest of 1 lemon

Place eggplant in a large saucepan and cover with water to cover. Bring to a boil and boil until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Combine sugar, 2 cups water, cinnamon and nutmeg in large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Add eggplant. Remove from heat and cover. Let stand 1 hour.

Remove eggplant with slotted spoon. Cover syrup until thick, about 20 minutes. Add eggplant, lemon juice and zest. Boil until syrup forms into a firm ball when dropped into cold water from spoon, 220 F on candy thermometer. Spoon into a bowl and cool.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups.


JUDY ZEIDLER is a food consultant, cooking teacher and author of 10 cookbooks, including “Italy Cooks” (Mostarda Press, 2011). Her website is judyzeidler.com.

Perfect Oscar party appetizer recipes


So you’re inviting friends over to watch the Academy Awards on Feb. 26, and you don’t want to serve them the same old chips and dip. Not to worry — the Journal asked three local chefs to come up with Oscar-worthy hors d’oeuvres recipes. The results are not only tasty but simple to prepare — and guaranteed to impress your guests.

WINTER CITRUS CEVICHE

Recipe by Matt Sieger and Rikki Garcia Sieger of the kosher Mexican food truck Holy Frijoles!

– 1 cup orange juice
– 1 cup lemon juice
– 1/4 cup lime juice
– 2 bay leaves
– 1 pound 2 ounces white sea bass (or any firm, white local fish), cut into 1/2-inch dice
– 1/2 small red onion, diced
– 1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
– 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
– 2 tablespoons cilantro leaves, picked from the stem and left whole
– 4 tablespoon torn mint leaves
– 1 cup winter citrus (blood oranges, mandarins, grapefruit), cut into chunks
– Kosher salt to taste

Mix orange, lemon and lime juices together in a medium bowl. Reserve half of the liquid and save in the refrigerator. Add bay leaves to remaining juice in a medium bowl. Toss in diced fish. Marinate for 4 to 6 hours in the refrigerator.

Strain off liquid and remove bay leaves from the juice mixture with the fish; discard.
Mix together remaining ingredients. Toss in fish and salt to taste (remember chips will add some saltiness). Serve with tortilla chips.

Makes 6 servings.

TORTILLA ESPAÑOLA

food2

Recipe by Deborah Benaim, owner of dB Catering

– 3 large Yukon gold potatoes
– 1 liter extra virgin olive oil
– 1 yellow onion
– 10 large eggs
– 1 small bag potato chips, crushed by hand
– Salt and pepper to taste

Cut potatoes in half lengthwise and thinly slice them. Fry the potato slices in enough olive oil to submerge the potatoes in a nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat until golden and crispy all over, about 7 to 8 minutes. Set aside in a large bowl.

Pour out all the olive oil except for about 1/4 of a cup in the frying pan just used. Season with salt and pepper and caramelize the onion in the oil over medium heat until golden brown, about 5 to 6 minutes.

Take the bowl of potatoes and mix in the eggs, caramelized onion and hand-crushed potato chips. Season to taste with salt and leave to rest in the bowl for
an hour.

Heat a nonstick frying pan to a medium/hot heat, add a splash of olive oil and pour in the egg and potato mixture. After 3 to 4 minutes, turn the omelet. Finish cooking on the other side for about 3 to 4 minutes. Serve with homemade roasted bell pepper slices or store-bought piquillo peppers and a glass of your favorite
Tempranillo.

Makes 4 to 5 servings.

SICILIAN JEWISH CHICKEN MEATBALL BITES

Recipe by Elana Horwich of Meal and a Spiel cooking school, recipe blog and catering company

– Caramelized Onion and Fennel
– Jam (recipe follows)
– 2 pounds ground dark meat chicken
– 1 onion quartered
– 1 bunch Italian, flat-leaf parsley
– 1 1/2 cups raisins, soaked in warm water for 15 minutes
– 2 heaping tablespoons capers in salt from Sicily (Capperi di Salina or Capperi di Pantelleria)*
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
– 40-60 grinds from pepper mill

* Available in select Italian gourmet shops, such as Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery, or online.

Prepare Caramelized Onion and Fennel Jam; set aside.

Allow chicken to come to room temperature and place in a medium mixing bowl.

Place quartered onion in a food processor and pulse into a pulp. Add to chicken. Place parsley in food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add to chicken.

Drain raisins, add to food processor and pulse until finely chopped and partially pureed. Add to chicken.

Rinse capers and dry. Finely chop them with a knife until some are almost a “powder” and some of them are chunkier. Add to chicken.

Add the salt and pepper and mix up the chicken with your hands until it is completely amalgamated. (You can do this in advance and refrigerate, just bring it to room temperature before cooking.)

Heat a large pan over medium to medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. In the meantime, form 1-inch meatballs; don’t worry about making them perfectly rounded. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan and carefully drop in a first batch of meatballs, making sure they don’t touch one another. Cook on each side about 3 to 5 minutes, or until lightly cooked on the inside and well browned on the outside. Remove from pan, set on a paper towel to drain, add more oil to pan and continue to make more.

Plate the meatballs and top with a touch of Caramelized Onion and Fennel Jam.

Makes 25 meatballs.

CARAMELIZED ONION AND FENNEL JAM

– 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
– 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced into rounds and then cut in half
– 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
– 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Heat a wide sauté pan over medium to medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, followed by the sliced onions. Let them cook until they get quite brown and maybe a tiny bit burnt, too — about 20 minutes, depending on the strength of your heat.

Place the sautéed onions in a food processor and add fennel seeds and balsamic vinegar; bring to a puree.

Makes 1/2 cup.

Mushroom-Barley Soup. Photo by Judy Zeidler

Tu B’Shevat recipes: Savoring winter’s bounty


Tu B’Shevat, the New Year of the Trees, is the time of year in the Mediterranean region when the trees are just starting their early bloom. Called Las Frutas (The Fruit), by the Sephardim, it is observed by planting new trees, and is a time when family and friends celebrate at the table by eating a variety of fresh winter fruits and vegetables.

The ingredients that mark the holiday — which will be celebrated this year on Feb. 11 — include nuts, grains, legumes, dried fruits and winter citrus. They symbolize the cycle of the seasons, and hold the seeds for the future. It is a time to celebrate, as our ancestors did, with fabulous winter meals.

With all this in mind, one can be creative in deciding how to plan the menu with recipes that everyone is going to be able to enjoy, including the vegetarians and vegans among the family.

Begin with Mushroom-Barley Soup — the technique of sautéing all the ingredients brings out the intense mushroom flavor of this robust soup. For the main dish, try Risotto With Mushrooms. There is only one way to prepare an authentic risotto: The rice is not boiled in water but is sautéed in broth, which is added gradually and must be watched constantly. Invite guests into the kitchen to help stir, while you prepare their dinner. Serve in heated, shallow soup bowls — the authentic Italian way.

For dessert, eat everyone’s favorite Tu B’Shevat cookies, Lemon “Shortbread” Cookies topped with creamy Lemon Icing, and sing a hearty “Happy Birthday!” to your trees.

MUSHROOM-BARLEY SOUP

– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 1 onion, diced
– 2 stalks celery, diced
– 2 carrots, diced
– 3/4 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
– 2 tablespoons soy sauce
– 5 tablespoons pearl barley
– 2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
– 1 tablespoon dry sherry
– Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a large heavy pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat and sauté onion, celery and carrots, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 10 minutes. Add mushrooms and garlic and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.

Add stock, soy sauce, barley, thyme and sherry. Reduce heat to low, cover partially and simmer gently for 45 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. To serve, ladle into heated soup bowls.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

RISOTTO WITH MUSHROOMS

– 6 tablespoons unsalted margarine
– 1 onion, finely chopped
– 2 1/2 cups Arborio rice
– 6 to 8 cups hot vegetable stock
– 1/2 cup thinly sliced domestic mushrooms
– 1/2 cup sliced dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in water for 30 minutes
– 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
– 1/2 to 1 cup cream
– 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
– Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a large heavy skillet, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter until foamy. Add the onion and sauté over medium heat until soft. Add the rice and mix well with a wooden spoon. Add 1 or 2 ladles of stock or enough to cover the rice. Cook, stirring constantly, as the stock is absorbed. Continue adding stock a little at a time, until the rice is just tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

In a small skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and sauté the domestic mushrooms until soft.

With a slotted spoon, transfer the porcini mushrooms from their soaking liquid to a bowl. Strain the soaking liquid into a small saucepan; bring to a boil and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, until thick and the flavor intensifies.

Add the sautéed mushrooms, the porcini, parsley and cream to the rice mixture. Mix well and cook 3 to 4 minutes longer. Risotto should be served al dente — creamy and chewy — never mushy, so do not overcook. When the rice is tender but firm to the bite, blend in 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese and the remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Season to taste, with salt and pepper. Serve immediately in heated shallow bowls. Garnish each serving with the reduced porcini liquid, and serve the remaining Parmesan in a bowl, to be passed separately.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.  

LEMON “SHORTBREAD” COOKIES WITH LEMON ICING

– Lemon Icing (recipe follows)
– 1 cup unsalted margarine
– 3/4 cup sugar
– 2 1/2 cups flour
– Grated peel of 1 lemon
– 1 cup toasted ground walnuts or pecans

Prepare the Lemon Icing; set aside.

Preheat the oven to 300 F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until well blended. Add flour and lemon zest and beat until crumbly and moist. Blend in the nuts.

Divide the dough into 4 portions; on a floured board, knead each portion into a ball. With palm of hand, press each ball into a smooth, flat disc 1/4- to 1/3-inch thick. Cut into rounds and cut each round in half. Arrange the cookies on a greased, foil-lined or Silpat-lined baking sheet in symmetrical rows to economize space. Leave space to allow for spreading.

Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes or until lightly brown. Cool on racks. Decorate with Lemon Icing.

Makes about 2 to 3 dozen cookies.

LEMON ICING

– 1 1/8 cups powdered sugar
– 1 egg white, unbeaten
– 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
– 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine sugar, egg white, lemon juice and vanilla. Beat at low speed until the sugar is dissolved. Then beat at high speed until mixture is light and fluffy. Cover with damp towel until ready to use.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.


Judy Zeidler is a food consultant, cooking teacher and author of 10 cookbooks, including “Italy Cooks” (Mostarda Press, 2011). Her website is judyzeidler.com.

Eat, drink and be the perfect New Year’s party host


This year, New Year’s Eve lands — plop! — right on the last night of Chanukah. So at sundown, when Jewish families around the nation sing “I Have a Little Dreidel,” it will be just a warm-up for “Auld Lang Syne” later that night. 

With families raising menorah candles while a shiny silver ball slowly descends in Times Square, it means there’s twice as much reason to end the year with a bang — and a party! 

The key to making your bash a success — no matter how many holidays you’re celebrating — is careful planning, according to Colin Cowie, an event planner and author of “Entertaining With Colin Cowie.” 

 “The simple solution to New Year’s Eve jitters is punctilious planning, having an impeccable checklist with every detail included, and having the right attitude,” he said. “Successful entertaining is about creating an atmosphere of gaiety. That means great music, spectacular cocktails and incredible food.” 

Set the pace of the party with music.

“It’s the tool that shapes the energy flow,” Cowie said. “At first it should be mellow and welcoming — instrumental, jazzy, bluesy.  As energy rises, complement the mood by something livelier. When people are eating, they’re more relaxed. Play mellifluous instrumentals so people can talk. After dessert is served, as it gets closer to midnight, energy rises again, and so should the music.”

Since you’re planning for a long night, serve dishes that are cold or room temperature, such as Brandied Cheese Roll, encrusted with nuts. Place it on top of grapevine leaves for a beautiful presentation for this treat, which should be made a few days in advance to let the flavors blend. For dessert, try the Apple Cobbler With Almond-Streusel Topping.

For drinks, give a special shout out to the colors blue, white and silver. Serve drinks such as Silver Champagne Cocktails, Blue Curacao Midnight Kiss, Blueberry Margaritas, Blue Curacao Martinis or Blackberry-Basil Mojitos — all poured and shimmering on a tray.  

Whatever you decide to serve, relax and set an even, moderate pace.

“Don’t rush through the evening like you’re galloping on a stallion, or worse, crawl around at a snail’s pace,” Cowie said. “Even if you’re running late and people have to pour their own drinks, they’ll be basking in wonderful music, and seductive smells flowing out of the kitchen, and won’t mind a bit.”

So, Happy Chanukah — and Happy New Year!

BLUE CURACAO MIDNIGHT KISS

From Beverly Levitt

– 1 ounce vodka 
– 1/4 ounce Blue Curacao
– 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
– 4 ounces chilled Champagne, or more, if needed

Mix vodka, Blue Curacao and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker with crushed ice. Strain into a Champagne flute. Top with enough Champagne to fill the flute. 

Makes 1 serving.

BRANDIED CHEESE ROLL

Adapted from “The New Elegant but Easy Cookbook” by Marian Burros and Lois Levine (Simon & Schuster)  

– 3/4 pound blue cheese, at room temperature
– 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
– 1 teaspoon minced shallots
– 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
– Salt and white pepper to taste
– 3 tablespoons brandy
– 2 cups finely chopped toasted walnuts, pecans or pistachio nuts
– 1 jar brine-packed grape leaves, soaked in water to soften
– 1/2 cup dried cranberries, blueberries or currants

Using an electric mixer, beat blue cheese and cream cheese together until creamy. Fold in shallots, thyme, salt and pepper and brandy; mix to combine thoroughly. 

Divide mixture in half. Place each half on a sheet of plastic wrap; form into 2 roughly shaped logs, 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter. Wrap tightly; refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. Drain brine from grape leaves; soak in fresh water until softened, about an hour.

When cheese log is firm enough, roll each wrapped log back and forth on counter to shape into a more uniform log. Unwrap and roll in the nuts. Once again, wrap tightly, refrigerate for several hours. 

To serve, bring to room temperature. Spread grape leaves on a platter.  Place cheese logs on top. Garnish with additional nuts and dried fruits.  Serve with crackers. 

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

APPLE COBBLER WITH ALMOND-STREUSEL TOPPING

From “Adventures in Jewish Cooking” by Jeffrey Nathan

– Almond-Streusel Topping (see recipe below)
– 1/4 cup fresh lemon juicee 
– 5 pounds Golden Delicious apples
– 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
– 1/3 cup granulated sugar
– 3 tablespoons cornstarch
– 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
– 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
– 1 1/2 cups golden raisins, soaked in warm water for 20 minutes and drained
– 2 tablespoons brandy
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Prepare Almond-Streusel Topping, set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 F.  

Position rack in center of oven. Lightly grease with margarine a 15-by-10-inch baking dish that is at least 2 inches deep.  

Stir 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice in a large bowl of cold water. Peel and core apples; cut them into 1/2 inch-thick wedges, dropping the cut wedges into the lemon water.  

In a large bowl, mix the brown and granulated sugars, cornstarch, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Drain apples well; add to sugar mixture. Add raisins and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Stir in the brandy and vanilla. Transfer to baking dish.  

Using the large holes on a box grater, grate the Almond-Streusel Topping all over the filling, letting it fall randomly. Do not pack or the topping will not be delicately crunchy when baked.  Bake in preheated oven until topping is crisp and golden brown and the apples are tender, about 1 hour. Cool slightly, then serve warm.

Makes 12 servings.

ALMOND-STREUSEL TOPPING

– 2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
– 1 1/4 cups margarine, cut into thin slices, at room temperature
– 1 cup vegetable shortening
– 4 ounces almond paste, crumbled
– 3 cups all-purpose flour
– 2 teaspoons pure almond extract

Combine sugar, margarine, vegetable shortening and almond paste in a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Blend until smooth. Add flour and almond extract; mix just until combined.  Form into a thick disk; wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until well chilled, about 4 hours or overnight.

Noodles flex their versatility in sweet, savory kugels


During a recent cooking class I was teaching, several students showed an interest in Jewish foods that could be served during Chanukah, aside from the traditional potato latkes.   

Sufganiyot, or jelly doughnuts, are another popular choice at this time of year, but I thought of something else. As far back as I can remember, old-fashioned kugel — one of the basic foods in Jewish cuisine — has been served at our family meals to celebrate the holiday.

In Germany, the name kugel has become synonymous with pudding, and the two words in Europe often are interchangeable. Most kugel recipes are based on noodles, rice or potatoes, and kugel can be served as a side dish, main course or dessert, hot or cold.

While the crisp Classic Potato Kugel is a hearty accompaniment for brisket, pot roast or roasted chicken, my personal favorite is a Noodle Fruit Kugel, accented with apples and raisins. 

Most kugel recipes can be prepared in advance and refrigerated until ready to bake and serve.

And don’t worry, just because kugel is on the menu this Chanukah doesn’t mean your family has to pass on those old-fashioned potato latkes. It’s easy to convert the potato kugel batter into latkes simply by spooning some of the mixture into a nonstick skillet and frying them until golden brown.    

CLASSIC POTATO KUGEL

This recipe also can be used to make Classic Latkes (see below).

1/4 cup olive oil
2 eggs
2 cups peeled, grated potatoes, well-drained and tightly packed (preferably russet)
1 small onion, grated
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Brush bottom and sides of an 8-by-8-inch baking dish with 2 tablespoons olive oil and set aside. 

Beat eggs in a large bowl until fluffy.  Add grated potatoes, onion, remaining olive oil, flour, baking powder and salt and pepper. Spoon the potato mixture into prepared baking dish.

Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake 30 to 45 minutes longer, until golden brown and crisp.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

CLASSIC LATKES

Prepare potato mixture.

Heat 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet.  Drop a tablespoon of the potato mixture into the skillet, then flatten with the back of a spoon for thin latkes. Brown on both sides, 3 to 5 minutes, depending on how hot the burner under the frying pan is. Drain on paper towels.  

Makes about 24 latkes.

NOODLE FRUIT KUGEL

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup Concord grape wine or apple juice
1 (12-ounce) package flat egg noodles
1/4 pound unsalted butter
2 apples, peeled, cored and diced
4 eggs, well beaten
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tablespoon cinnamon-sugar or more to taste (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375 F. 

Brush a 9-by-12-inch baking dish with olive oil and set aside.

In a small bowl, soak raisins in wine for 1 hour or overnight, drain before using.  

Boil the noodles until tender, drain into a large bowl. Combine noodles, butter, apples and  raisins and mix well. Add eggs and mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar, if desired. 

Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 45 minutes, until top is brown and crisp.  Cut into squares. Serve hot or cold. 

Makes about 10 to 12 servings.     

MIDDLE EASTERN RICE KUGEL

2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter
Grated peel of 1 orange
Grated peel of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs
3 cups cooked rice
1/2 cups raisins

Preheat the oven to 350 F. 

Brush bottom and sides of an 8-by-8-inch square baking dish with olive oil and set aside. 

Beat together sugar, butter, orange and lemon peel, cinnamon and vanilla in a large bowl. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until well-blended. Stir in rice and raisins and mix thoroughly. 

Pour into prepared baking dish and bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour. 

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

KUGEL SOUFFLE

2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1/4 pound flat egg noodles
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup warm milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Pinch of nutmeg
4 eggs, separated
1/4 cup minced parsley

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  

Brush an 8- or 9-inch round mold with melted butter. Set aside.

Cook noodles in salted boiling water until tender. Drain and rinse in cold water. Set aside.

Melt 3 tablespoons butter in saucepan. Add flour and whisk until blended. Add warm milk all at once, stirring vigorously with wire whisk. Season to taste, with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Transfer mixture to large bowl and cool slightly. 

Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form and set aside. Beat yolks in separate bowl until foamy and add to cooled butter mixture. Stir in noodles. Carefully fold in stiffly beaten egg whites, then parsley. Spoon the mixture into prepared mold and place mold in a shallow baking pan partially filled with hot water.

Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes or until set. Unmold kugel onto a large platter. 

Makes about 8 servings.


Judy Zeidler is a food consultant, cooking teacher and author of 10 cookbooks, including “Italy Cooks” (Mostarda Press, 2011). Her website is judyzeidler.com.

Core values: Apples are the stars of sweet and savory Rosh Hashanah recipes


During the celebration of Rosh Hashanah, which begins the evening of Oct. 2, ritual foods play an important part at the family meal. Among the foods served to represent our hopes for a sweet new year are apples and honey, and round loaves of egg challah are baked to promise a well-rounded future (with sesame seeds often added to symbolize fertility).

At our home, when family arrives for the holiday meal, custom calls for a perfect apple to be cut into as many pieces as there are people present. Then a slice of the apple is dipped in honey and passed to each person at the table.

Apples go into the making of countless dishes for this festival, and they often are included in every course, so let apples dominate your Rosh Hashanah table.

Apple and Spinach Salad With Tahini is a good place to start because it can be prepared the day before and refrigerated, with torn spinach leaves tossed into the apple mixture just before serving.

Veal Ragu With Apples and Curry is perfect to make for the holiday because this stew can also be prepared in advance and last all week. If you have a large family, then just double the recipe. Remember that the flavor of stews is enhanced by reheating.

Apple-Filled Egg Challah is a delightful bread for Rosh Hashanah. And to carry on the holiday spirit, serve it with apple slices and honey for dipping — along with my Apple Streusel!

There are lots of surprises in these recipes, and you’ll find them easy to prepare. Just remember: During Rosh Hashanah, sour or bitter tasting foods are omitted in keeping with the hope for a sweet new year. 

L’shanah tovah!

APPLE-FILLED EGG CHALLAH

– Apple filling (recipe follows)
– 1 package active dry yeast
– 1/2 cup sugar
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 4 to 5 cups flour
– 1 cup warm water
– 6 egg yolks
– 1/4 cup oil
– 1/4 cup melted unsalted margarine
– 1 egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon of water
– 1 tablespoon cinnamon-sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Prepare Apple Filling; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, blend the yeast, sugar, salt, 2 cups of the flour and warm water, and mix well. Blend in the egg yolks and oil. Add the remaining flour, 1 cup at a time, blending with a beater after each addition, until the dough is thick enough to work by hand. 

Gather the dough into a ball. Place it on a floured board and knead 5 to 10 minutes, adding additional flour, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Shape the dough into a ball and place it in an oiled bowl, and oil the top. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down the dough and divide into 3 parts. Roll each part into a rectangle. Brush with melted margarine, top with the apple filling. Roll each rectangle into a long rope. Seal the ends of the rope together and braid. Form the braid into a ring and place it on an oiled baking sheet. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place for 45 minutes or until doubled in size. Brush with egg yolk wash, then sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Cool on a rack. 

Makes 12 servings.

APPLE FILLING

– 3 apples, peeled, cored and diced
– Juice of 1 lemon
– 2 tablespoons honey
– 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

In a bowl, combine the apples, lemon juice, honey and cinnamon. Cover with plastic wrap and chill. Drain and use for the challah filling. 

Makes about 3 cups.

APPLE AND SPINACH SALAD WITH TAHINI

– 3 apples, peeled, cored and diced
– 3 green onions, thinly sliced<
– 3 stalks celery, diced
– Juice of 2 lemons
– 1/4 cup mayonnaise
– 1/4 cup tahini (ground sesame seeds)
– 2 tablespoons honey
– 1 bunch of spinach, torn into bite-size pieces
– Additional spinach leaves for garnish
– 1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds

In a large bowl, toss the apples, onions and celery. Sprinkle with the juice of 1 lemon to keep apples from darkening.

In a blender or a small bowl, blend mayonnaise, tahini, honey and remaining lemon juice. Mixture will be thick. Toss with apple mixture. Cover and chill. Just before serving, toss salad with the torn spinach. Serve on a bed of spinach leaves and garnish with sesame seeds.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

VEAL RAGU WITH APPLES AND CURRY

– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 2 onions, finely chopped
– 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
– 3 celery stalks, finely chopped
– 4 pounds lean veal, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
– 3 tablespoons curry powder
– 2 apples, peeled, cored and diced
– 1 (28-ounce) can peeled tomatoes, drained
– Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
– 1 cup chicken stock

In a large pan, heat olive oil and sauté onions, garlic, celery and veal for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add curry powder and mix well. Add apples, tomatoes, salt and pepper and simmer 5 minutes. Add chicken stock. Cover and simmer about 1 1/2 hours or until meat is tender. Add additional

salt and pepper to taste. Serve with rice or noodles. 

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

APPLE STREUSEL LOAF

– Streusel Topping (recipe follows)
– 1 1/4 cups flour
– 1 cup sugar
– 1/4 cup cinnamon
– 1 teaspoon baking soda
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1/2 cup unsalted margarine
– 1 cup roasted walnuts, chopped
– 1 cup peeled, cored and grated apples
– 2 eggs, well beaten
– 1/4 cup almond (or other nondairy) milk

Prepare Streusel Topping; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and margarine. Blend until mealy. Mix in walnuts. 

In a small bowl, blend apples, eggs, and almond milk thoroughly. Add to flour mixture and mix until all dry particles are moistened. 

Pour into greased and floured 8-by-4-inch loaf pan, sprinkle with Streusel Topping, and bake for 45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. 

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

STREUSEL TOPPING

– 1/4 cup brown sugar
– 1/4 cup flour
– 1/4 cup cinnamon
– 1/4 cup unsalted margarine
– 1/2 cup peeled, cored and chopped apples
– 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Blend brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and margarine until crumbly. Mix in apples and walnuts and sprinkle over batter before baking. 

Makes about 2 cups.


Judy Zeidler is a food consultant, cooking teacher and author of 10 cookbooks, including “Italy Cooks” (Mostarda Press, 2011). Her website is judyzeidler.com.

Italian food that’s good for your taste buds and body


We just returned from another amazing adventure in Italy, one of many since our first visit 40 years ago. This was a short trip to see the Christo art installation “The Floating Piers” on Lake Iseo in northern Italy. It also gave us an excuse to visit our friends in Tuscany and Lake Maggiore.

One of our special, innovative lunches was at Il Cavaliere Ristorante at the Gabbiano Winery, outside of Florence. We were joined by our dear friend Bettina Rogosky, owner of the Carnasciale Winery in Tuscany, who brought a magnum of her special wine, Caberlot, to enjoy with lunch. 

Also at our table was chef Francesco Berardinelli, whom we have known for many years. He served us several dishes based on healthy, fresh ingredients and explained that they were originally part of Cucina Ebraica (“Jewish cooking” in Italian). He said the early Italian Jews adapted local produce and recipes to comply with dietary laws; for the same reason, vegetable dishes were developed to provide meatless meals. 

Chef Francesco began our meal with fresh-picked string beans from his garden. The beans, chock full of fiber and vitamins that contribute to healthy eyes and bones, were lightly steamed and tossed with a yogurt-lemon sauce, then topped with chopped mint and roasted hazelnuts.

Then he served a cold, thick Tuscan  Tomato and Bread Soup called Panzanella. The ingredients feature cancer-fighting vitamins and also included cubes of fresh mozzarella, lots of shredded fresh basil leaves (a virtually calorie-free source of Vitamin A) and extra virgin olive oil.

My favorite was Farinata, a pizza-pancake recipe made with chickpea flour, which is sold in Italian specialty shops and health food stores. Ideally, the batter — rich in fiber, protein and iron — is prepared a day in advance so it can mature before baking. 

It is interesting to note that chickpeas, also called garbanzo beans, were another food staple that the Italian Jews always served; the dishes reflected the poverty of the Jewish community, which included refugees from Sicily and Southern Italy.

Farinata is now available in downtown Los Angeles at a new restaurant, Officine Brera, where chef Angelo Auriana bakes it in his pizza oven. It is vegan, gluten-free — and delicious! 

PANZANELLA (TUSCAN TOMATO AND BREAD SOUP)

  • 1 cup dried bread
  • 2 pounds ripe tomatoes, cut in cubes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup fresh mozzarella, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
  • Basil leaves for garnish

 

Soak bread in warm water to soften and squeeze out excess water. 

Place tomatoes in a food processor or blender and pulse to blend. Add bread, olive oil, chopped basil, salt and pepper and blend. Transfer to a bowl and mix well. Spoon onto bowls and top with mozzarella cubes and basil leaves. 

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

GREEN BEANS WITH YOGURT-LEMON DRESSING

  • 1 pound green beans, trimmed into 1 1/2-inch lengths
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • 1/2 cup roasted hazelnuts

 

Bring water to a boil in a saucepan. Drop in the beans. When the water returns to a boil, cook the beans for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drop into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking.

In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, lemon juice, salt and pepper, honey and olive oil, and mix well.

Drain the beans and blot them dry on paper towels. Toss with yogurt dressing and top with mint and roasted hazelnuts. 

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

FARINATA (CHICKPEA PIZZA) 

  • 2/3 cup chickpea flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

 

Sift the chickpea flour with the salt into a medium-size bowl. Slowly add 1/4 cup of the water, whisking constantly to form a paste. Beat with a wooden spoon until smooth. Whisk in remaining 1/2 cup of water and, if time permits, cover with plastic wrap and let the batter stand at room temperature for 30 minutes or overnight, then stir in the chopped rosemary.

Preheat the broiler. 

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil in a 10- to 12-inch nonstick ovenproof skillet. Stir the batter once, and pour about 3/4 cup of it into the skillet. Cook the pancake over moderately high heat until the bottom is golden and crisp and the top is almost set, 2 to 3 minutes. Burst any large air bubbles with the tip of a knife. 

Sprinkle pepper over the top and place the skillet under the broiler and cook until the pancake is golden and crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Slide onto a wooden board. Using a pizza cutter, cut into wedges and serve immediately. Repeat with the remaining batter. 

Makes 2 Farinata.

Judy Zeidler is a food consultant, cooking teacher and author of 10 cookbooks, including “Italy Cooks” (Mostarda Press, 2011). Her website is judyzeidler.com.

Recipe: Naturally gluten-free Japanese summer dishes


These days, many are choosing a gluten-free lifestyle. But artificially contrived gluten-free products such as pasta, bread and baked goods can be disappointing. With its rich tradition of rice-based dishes, Japanese cuisine beautifully suits a gluten-free diet. Here are delicious, easy to prepare, gluten-free Japanese rice dishes for spring and summer.

Stir-fried rice with hijiki and Parmesan

Stir-fried rice dishes make use of one- or two-day-old rice and other ingredients that happen to be on hand. This recipe is one I invented for American audiences to showcase hijiki, my favorite Japanese seaweed. Rich in dietary fiber and minerals, it also has a pleasantly crunchy texture and tastes of the sea. It uses the black hijiki along with Parmesan cheese, cilantro and ginger.

The cheese is the secret to the success of this dish, whose recipe was in my first cookbook, “The Japanese Kitchen.” Fifteen years later, hijiki is much more widely available in this country.

Maze-gohan with parsley, shiso and egg

Maze-gohan, translated as “tossed rice,” is a simple dish of cooked rice tossed with flavorings. This version uses chopped parsley, dried purple shiso leaves and scrambled egg — ingredients that elevate the flavor, color and texture of plain cooked rice into a festive dish. Western-style flavorings can be used instead, such as ground black pepper, crisp butter-browned sliced garlic, finely chopped parsley and toasted pine nuts.

Maze-gohan goes well with any protein dish, such as fish, chicken or meat.

Donburi with teriyaki steak

Donburi dishes combine cooked rice with a topping of separately cooked ingredients and sauce. This one is a beef lover's favorite: I cook the steak in a skillet, cut it into cubes and flavor them with a sizzling sauce of shoyu (Japanese soy sauce) and mirin (Japanese sweet cooking wine) to create everyone's favorite teriyaki sauce.

When it's time to serve the donburi, put the teriyaki beef and sauce over freshly cooked rice for a quick, mouthwatering dish. The sauce trickles down and gives its delicious flavor to the rice. A similar dish can be made with chicken teriyaki.

Corn rice with shoyu and butter

This version of takikomi-gohan is my favorite summer rice dish. I toss the steaming hot, corn-studded rice with the butter and shoyu. As the butter melts in the hot rice with shoyu, it creates a rich and savory flavor that everyone loves.

The diverse world of Japanese cuisine contains hundreds of such naturally gluten-free dishes. If you are looking for more recipes, consult my two books, “The Japanese Kitchen” and “Hiroko's American Kitchen.” Both are widely available and contain detailed instructions to make some of the dishes described here.

Corn and Ginger Rice with Shoyu and Butter

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Total time: 35 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 ears corn
  • 2 1/4 cups short or medium grain polished white rice, rinsed and soaked 10 minutes, then drained
  • 2 1/2 cups kelp stock or low-sodium vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 1/2 ounces peeled ginger, finely julienned (1/2 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon shoyu (Japanese soy sauce)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter

 

Directions

1. Remove the corn husks and quickly grill the ears over a medium open flame on a gas stove, turning them until the entire surface becomes lightly golden. Or, boil the corn in salted water for 1 minute.

2. Cut each ear of corn in half. Place each half ear on the cut end in a large, shallow bowl and use a knife to separate the individual kernels from the cob. Repeat with all the pieces. You will have about 1 1/2 cups of kernels.

3. Place the drained rice and the stock in a medium heavy pot. Sprinkle the corn, salt and ginger evenly over the rice. Cover the pot with a lid and cook the rice over moderately high heat for 3 to 4 minutes or until the stock comes to a full boil.

4. Turn the heat to medium-low and cook the rice for 6 to 7 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed. Turn the heat to very low and cook for 10 minutes.

5. Remove the lid and add the soy sauce and butter. With a spatula, gently and quickly toss and mix the rice. Divide the rice into small bowls and serve.

Living off the land


When I think of the original baby boomer, I think of our friend Jay Farbstein. He is an architect specializing in the design of large government buildings, and he lives on his family’s original property off Sunset Boulevard, in a rural area of Pacific Palisades.

He grew up helping his father tend the family vegetable garden, and has maintained it for many years.

The first time we met was at a dinner where the subject was food and wine, and after meeting Jay and his wife, Bonnie, we realized that we all love to cook.

After talking about his garden that night, we were surprised when there was a knock on our door the next day, and he arrived with a care package of seasonal vegetables.

A few months later, we were invited to visit the couple and, as we drove down their driveway, the first thing we came to was the vegetable garden, which is about 2,400 square feet.

At the entrance of the garden, there is a cast aluminum memorial plaque dedicated to his father, Milton, that was installed in 2007. The area is surrounded by a fence covered with passion fruit vines, and when the first fruit is in season we often visit Jay and help with the harvest. 

Nearby is an 8-by-12-foot greenhouse that was a birthday present from Bonnie. It is stocked with seedlings that mature much faster there than in the outside garden, and they are replanted as needed.

For example, the cucumbers mature a month ahead of those planted in the outside garden, and he picks the chili peppers year-round. In the greenhouse, parsley, chives and basil are available all winter, and early tomatoes are an extra bonus.

Recently, we were invited to Jay and Bonnie’s for a dinner. We dined on dishes that featured a variety of seasonal veggies from his garden: Fresh English Pea Soup, Beet and Burrata Salad, and Stuffed Squash Blossoms.

At the root of all of this is Jay’s fantastically green thumb, and he has a number of suggestions for fellow boomers who may want to join him in his hobby — starting with the tools of the trade. There is a special gardening stool that helps avoid bending over a lot. It can be adjusted to sit close to the ground or higher — either 4 inches or 1 1/2 feet off the ground — depending on what you are doing. It has handles and can easily be turned over to flip it upside down. In the future, Jay said he will put in raised beds, to make the work even easier.

He also keeps his garden packed with lots of compost. He uses the leaves that fall off the trees for compost and adds them to the soil.
If you have a gardener, be sure to let him do the digging — your back will thank you. Still, Jay insists on doing all the planting, weeding and picking himself.

Jay plants lettuces, carrots, beets and peas in the fall to harvest during the winter and spring. Then, in the spring, he puts in his summer veggies — tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, beans and peppers — which he harvests all summer and into the fall. Which means it’s always a good time for gardening!

FRESH ENGLISH PEA SOUP

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter or olive oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 6 cups fresh peas, shelled
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Crème fraiche and chives for garnish

 

In a sauté pan, heat butter and sauté onion until soft. In a pot, heat vegetable stock and add peas and cook (do not overcook) until tender. Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. Push through a sieve into pot and add salt and pepper to taste.

Chill before serving, ladle into bowls or stem glasses and garnish with crème fraiche and minced chives. 

Makes 12 servings.

BEET AND BURRATA SALAD

  • 6 fresh beets
  • 12 lettuce leaves
  • 1 pound burrata cheese
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup pistachio nuts for garnish

 

Place beets in a pot, add water to cover and boil until beets are tender when pierced with a fork. Remove beets, peel and cool. 

Slice beets into 1/4-inch slices. Arrange lettuce leaves on serving plates, top with a scoop of burrata cheese, arrange beet slices on top and sprinkle with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, and garnish with pistachio nuts. 

Makes 12 servings.

STUFFED SQUASH BLOSSOMS 

  • 12 squash blossoms with zucchini still attached 
  • 1 pound fresh ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1⁄4 cup olive oil

 

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Carefully open blossoms wide; remove the pistils from inside the zucchini blossom and discard. (The pistil is the fuzzy, yellow floret found in the center of the squash blossom.) Set aside blossoms (keep zucchini attached throughout).

To prepare the stuffing: In a large bowl, beat the ricotta, Parmesan, eggs and salt and pepper until smooth. Taste the mixture; it should be highly seasoned. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.

To fill the blossoms, the easiest way is to spoon the filling into a large pastry bag, but a small spoon also will work. Fill the clean blossoms about three-quarters full,
and gently squeeze the petals together over the top of the filling to seal. 

Brush a 10-by-14-inch baking dish with olive oil and arrange the stuffed zucchini flowers in the dish. Sprinkle the blossoms with salt, pepper and olive oil. Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake, in preheated oven, until the cheese is puffy and the juices that run from the blossoms begin to bubble. 

Makes 12 servings. 


Judy Zeidler is a food consultant, cooking teacher and author of 10 cookbooks, including “Italy Cooks” (Mostarda Press, 2011). Her website is judyzeidler.com.

Easy and cool pasta dishes for summer


Everyone loves pasta, but during hot summer days a bowl of steaming pasta doesn't sound that appealing.

Some people make cold macaroni salads, but I think pasta is not meant to be eaten cold and besides, those macaroni salads usually have mayonnaise in them and fill you up too much. The Italians have an ideal solution. Basically it's a dish of hot pasta that cools down by virtue of being tossed with uncooked ingredients. They call it a salsa cruda. This is a raw sauce used with pasta. It's quite popular during a hot summer.

The basic idea behind a salsa cruda is that the ingredients in the sauce are not cooked and are merely warmed by the hot pasta after it's been drained.

Dressed up tuna and vegetables with bowties

In the first dish, farfalle with raw sauce, the salsa cruda is made of canned tuna, fresh tomatoes, fresh basil and garlic. It is tossed with the farfalle, a butterfly or bowtie-shaped pasta.

A first course for a meal with grilled fish

A second idea is fettuccine tossed with a melange of uncooked ingredients such as olives, capers, tomatoes, mint, lemon, parsley and garlic, which is typical of southern Italy and constitutes a raw sauce that screams “summer.” This is a nice first-course pasta before having grilled fish.

Letting your pasta cook its own sauce

In a third preparation, also perfect for a hot summer day, the salsa cruda is made with canned sardines tossed with fresh mint and parsley, and ripe tomatoes that are heated through only by virtue of the cooked and hot spaghetti. It should be lukewarm when served and is nicely accompanied by crusty bread to soak up remaining sauce.

Fettuccine with raw sauce

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Total time: 15 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 3/4 pound spaghetti
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 1 large ripe tomato, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 2 canned sardines in water, drained and broken apart
  • 2 teaspoons capers, chopped
  • Extra virgin olive oil to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

Directions

1. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, salt abundantly then cook the pasta, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is al dente. Drain without rinsing.

2. In a large bowl that will hold all the pasta, stir the garlic, parsley and mint together and then mix with the tomato, sardines, capers, olive oil and a pinch of salt. Transfer the pasta to the bowl and toss with the sauce and abundant black pepper and serve.

Recipe: Bengali lemon coconut fish


Gandhoraj Maach (Bengali lemon coconut fish)

This delicate fish dish is traditionally made with the Bengali lime, called Gandhoraj. I have adapted this recipe using lemons and Kaffir lime leaves, offering a delicate and simple dish perfect for spring and summer.

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

Total time: 55 minutes

Yield: Makes 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup freshly grated coconut (about 1/2 regular coconut)
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 piece fresh ginger, 1 1/2 inches long, peeled
  • 1 or 2 green chilies
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 3 fresh lemons
  • 2 Kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon nigella seeds
  • 2 to 3 dried red chilies
  • 3 tablespoons plus 1 tablespoon chopped coriander
  • 2 pounds halibut or any other firm-fleshed fish
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • Banana leaves (if available) for steaming

 

Directions

Place the freshly grated coconut in a blender with the hot water and blend until smooth.

Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve.

Return the coconut mixture to the blender, with the liquid strained off. Add in the ginger, green chilies and turmeric and blend until smooth. Pour the mixture into a mixing bowl.

Zest 2 of the lemons and add the zest to the coconut mixture. Cut one of the zested lemons in half, remove the seeds and squeeze in the juice. Set aside the other zested lemon and thinly slice the third lemon for garnish.

Add the Kaffir lime leaves to the coconut milk and stir well.

Stir in the nigella seeds, red chilies and coriander leaves. You should end up with a pale yellow sauce flecked with nigella and coriander. Salt the fish, then add it to the coconut milk mixture and mix well.

Heat the oven to 300 F and prepare a large baking dish with about 2 inches of water.

Line a heat-proof casserole dish with banana leaves and pour in the fish mixture.

Cover with a piece of foil and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, until the fish is cooked through.

Cool slightly, remove and taste the sauce. It should be smooth and gently tangy. Depending on your preference, add in a little more lime juice.

Garnish with the remaining coriander and the lemon slices and serve hot, ideally with steaming rice.

Passover dessert: Pistachio and tart cherry chewy cookies


Passover is a Jewish holiday celebrating freedom. The initial meal (the seder) and the way you eat for a week offer a small part of the ancient Israelites’ experience as they journeyed from slavery in Egypt to the complexity of freedom. Breads, cooked on the run during their flight, didn’t have sufficient time to rise. The result? Matzo.

Every year, for the first few days of Passover, matzo seems somehow so new. A fat shmear of Temp-Tee ultra-whipped cream cheese and a tart and fruity jelly on top. Or soaked and fried into a matzo brei (a French-toast-like dish) crunchy with sugar and cinnamon. These are the foods of memory to me.

But the problem is that Passover is a weeklong festival. And when it comes to cooking and eating, it is a very long week indeed. Matzo is eaten all the time. I mean ALL the time. It’s in every food, every dish, every treat and in every course. It’s ground into breading, pulverized into cake flour, crushed into farfel and layered into mini “lasagnas.”

Matzo fatigue and the dreaded matzo-pation set in. Desperation takes over by around day four. But frankly, what bothers me the most is when matzo invades desserts. Folks often cook more on Passover than all year long, often pulling out heritage recipes. Even I, a modernist, will cook up a heritage dish or two along with my flights of imagination and globally influenced dishes.

When it comes to desserts, though, many holiday cooks reach for box mixes. Virtually none taste good. These mixes are often packed with processed ingredients and artificial flavors. As a professional cook and culinary instructor — and honestly, a person with taste buds — I don’t make them and I don’t buy them.

If I want heritage desserts, I buy Passover chocolates. That does the trick.

But making desserts at home? What can you do that tastes great and is still Passover-worthy? Matzo in desserts always makes itself known in taste and texture — and I don’t mean that in a nice way whatsoever. No matter how you cut it (pun intended, sorry), matzo desserts are definitely not what I want in order to make a holiday more special.

My advice? If you can put the time and effort into cooking desserts, fear not. Here is a solution.

Delicious Passover desserts

Offer up some treats that are deliciously Passover-ready AND matzo-free and grain-free. Try a Pavlova, a macaroon, a flourless chocolate cake, ice cream, chestnut-flour crepes, custards, crème brûlée or nut paste-based cookies.

A world of matzo-free desserts awaits you.

Pistachio and Tart Cherry Chewy Cookies

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes

Yield: 24 cookies

Ingredients

  • 14 ounces pistachio paste, King Arthur or another all-natural brand preferred
  • 1 cup (200 grams) sugar
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • Scraped seeds of 1 vanilla bean pod
  • 1 cup dried tart cherries
  • 1/2 cup pistachios, lightly crushed

 

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the pistachio paste until it resembles big cookie crumbs, 20 to 30 seconds. Add the sugar and mix thoroughly. Add the egg whites, cardamom and vanilla. Mix until completely smooth, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the tart cherries.

3. Drop 2 teaspoons of batter per cookie on the sheet, leaving 1 1/2 to 2 inches between the cookies. Sprinkle the pistachios over the top of the cookies.

4. Bake until light brown but still soft, 12 to 13 minutes. (The cookies will firm up considerably as they cool). Store at in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.

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. 

“Cook, Pray, Eat Kosher” is the best of both worlds


Mia Adler Ozair’s new cookbook isn’t just about kosher recipes. It also details the spiritual meaning behind Jewish food and how it can be incorporated into everyday family life.

“Cook, Pray, Eat Kosher: The Essential Kosher Cookbook for the Jewish Soul” (Oakhurst Publishing; Feldheim Publishers) includes Ashkenazic and Sephardic recipes — some of which are appropriate for Passover — as well as explanations of connections between food and the neshamah (soul). There are sections on why blessings are said before and after eating, the spiritual nature of the holidays, the mitzvah of making challah, and quotes from tzadikim (righteous people) and Jewish writings. 

A Purim feast, Persian-style


Purim is the holiday that celebrates the liberation of the Persian Jewish community long, long ago. It is a happy time when families rejoice with eating, drinking, costume parties and singing in a carnival-type atmosphere.

The Purim story transpired in the ancient Persian Empire, with King Ahasuerus at the helm. It was a time when Queen Esther intervened to protect the Jewish people from the wicked prime minister, Haman, who encouraged the king to do away with them.

To remember the holiday, we traditionally invite our family to a dinner inspired by the elaborate banquets that were historically served in biblical days. A long table in our dining room is set, and our antique collection of Purim noisemakers (groggers) is arranged at each place setting for everyone to use during the retelling of the Purim story.

The menu follows the theme that many Persian homes observe: savory pastries filled with meat, whole chickens stuffed with dried fruit and nuts, and a variety of stew dishes. My favorite is a Lamb Stew, baked on a bed of onions and flavored with several exotic spices that include cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.

The dessert at the end of our meal was inspired by an Iranian-American friend. She recently explained that during the holiday, the children in her family always look forward to halvah, their favorite sweet. I have included a variety of halvah desserts that are delicious, and can be made several days in advance. Before you start making noise with your grogger, how about making your own chocolate-covered halvah and surprising the kids with soft and chewy halvah cookies?

PERSIAN CHICKEN WITH DRIED FRUIT AND ALMOND STUFFING

This chicken is different from any I have ever tasted. The special flavor comes from the sweet, tart taste of the dried fruit, combined with the crunchy almonds. Stuff the chicken, and don’t worry about leftovers — it tastes just as good cold.

  • 1 whole chicken, about 4 to 5 pounds
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted margarine
  • 2 onions, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped prunes
  • 1/2 cup whole toasted almonds
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon dried tarragon
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Wash and dry the chicken. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the margarine over medium heat and sauté the onions until transparent, about 5 minutes.

Sprinkle half of the onions onto a foil-lined, large, shallow roasting pan and set it aside. To the onions in the skillet, add the apricots, prunes, almonds, raisins, cinnamon, tarragon, thyme and salt and pepper. Sauté for 5 to 10 minutes, mixing well to blend all ingredients. Let cool.

Stuff the chicken with the onion mixture and then truss. Place the chicken breast-side down on the onions in the broiler pan. If any additional stuffing is left over, sprinkle it around the chicken. Rub the chicken with the remaining margarine. Roast for 30 minutes, until the skin is a light golden brown. Turn over the chicken and continue roasting for 30 minutes more or until well-browned and crisp. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

LAMB STEW

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 pounds onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 pounds lamb shoulder, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup pitted prunes
  • 1/2 cup toasted almonds
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

 

Preheat oven to 450 F.

Heat oil in a skillet, add onions and sauté. Place half of the onions in a roasting pan (roaster). Place meat on top. In a bowl, combine sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg turmeric and salt. Sprinkle over the meat. Add raisins and prunes. Top with remaining onions.

Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 F and bake 2 to 2 1/2 hours longer. Add toasted almonds during the last 15 minutes of cooking. Transfer to serving platter and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

CHOCOLATE-COVERED HALVAH

Like many other exotic foods, halvah is easy to prepare, once you know the secret, and it has lots of wholesome and nutritious ingredients.

  • 1/2 cup tahini (sesame paste)
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened grated coconut
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 1/2 cup unsalted sunflower seeds
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 pound semisweet chocolate, broken into small pieces

 

In the bowl of an electric mixer, stir together the tahini and honey.

In a food processor, combine the coconut, wheat germ and sunflower seeds, then process until finely chopped.

Add coconut mixture along with the cocoa and cinnamon into the tahini mixture and blend well until firm. With wet hands, shape the mixture into 1-inch balls.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over gently simmering water or in a microwave. With your hands, dip each halvah ball into the chocolate and place it on waxed paper. Refrigerate until the chocolate is set.

Makes 20 to 25 1-inch balls.

PERSIAN HALVAH

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate

 

In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt both sugars, honey and water until the liquid reaches a bubbling simmer, about 2 minutes (reaching the consistency of maple syrup). Stir occasionally to avoid burning.

Place tahini and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer and carefully pour in honey-sugar syrup. Beat until the mixture is well-blended and comes away from the bowl.

Transfer dough to an 8-inch loaf pan that has been well-coated with oil. Press down on the dough to fill the shape of the pan. Refrigerate uncovered to cool and harden, about 1 hour. Turn over loaf pan and flip halvah onto a plate.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over gently simmering water or in a microwave, and while still warm, pour over the top of the halvah, spreading with a knife or spatula to cover the top and all four sides. Place in the freezer and let harden, about 1 hour.

To serve, slice into 1/8- to 1/4-inch pieces and arrange on a serving plate. To store, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Makes about 2 dozen pieces.

HALVAH COOKIES

  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup unsalted margarine, softened
  • 1/4 pound store-bought halvah
  • 3 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips (optional)

 

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl, blend the eggs and softened margarine. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend the halvah and tahini. Add the sugars, baking soda, baking powder and flour and mix until it becomes a workable dough. Add additional flour if needed. Mix in chocolate chips (optional).

Drop spoon-sized balls of dough onto a greased baking sheet or Silpat baking mat, 2 inches apart. Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes.

Makes about 5 to 6 dozen cookies.

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

Dishes inspired by Wolfgang Puck are delicious and healthful


I have known Wolfgang Puck since he was about 19 or 20 years old and he was working as a chef at Ma Maison restaurant in West Hollywood. I met him at a cooking class, probably the first one he had ever taught.

I will never forget what happened when he rolled out the pastry dough for a raspberry tart. He confidently flattened the dough around a rolling pin and, in one fluid motion, watched it totally fall apart. Then he looked at us and said, calmly, “If this ever happens to you …” and he proceeded to just mold it by hand into the tart shell instead of starting over. 

A longtime fan of Jewish cooking — Puck, a Catholic, has hosted seders and was married to a Jewish woman for 20 years — he inspired me to teach cooking classes using the same method of honesty and creativity that has made him famous. 

Puck went on to open his first restaurant, Spago, on Sunset Boulevard in 1982, and one of the dishes he specialized in was Smoked Salmon Pizza, my all-time favorite. Could a pizza be more Jewish? To make the pizza ahead, bake it for just 5 minutes, then, just before serving, complete the baking and top the pizza with smoked salmon. 

The renowned chef has inspired me in other ways, too. Consider his most recent cookbook, “Wolfgang Puck Makes It Healthy,” which features the methods he uses to prepare nutritious foods. The book includes an inspiring exercise program to follow, and there are photos of Puck, now 66, exercising with his young sons, Oliver and Alexander.

When thinking of healthy cooking, I always include soups and salads that are easy to make. I have adapted several recipes from Puck’s book that can be made in advance, stored in the freezer and served when needed. 

For example, a couple of months ago, my son-in-law, Jay, brought me a large bag of carrots from his garden, and I made a delicious carrot soup, which is similar to the recipe in Puck’s book. It contains only three ingredients — carrots, onions and garlic — and takes only 20 minutes to make. 

His Griddled Potato Pancakes topped with sliced smoked fish are delicious, crispy and healthy. Created simply, the grated potato pancakes are cooked on a nonstick griddle, then topped with smoked fish and low-fat sour cream.

Finally, Puck’s recipe for Vegetable Pizza is really a salad on top of a pizza — a great concept and a meal in itself. What a great way to eat a lot of vegetables! Feel free to vary the vegetable toppings with whatever looks great at the farmers market.

SMOKED SALMON PIZZA

  • Pizza Dough (recipe follows)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup sour cream or creme fraiche 
  • 1/4 bunch fresh dill, minced
  • 3 to 4 ounces smoked salmon
  • 1/2 cup chopped chives
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 4 heaping tablespoons salmon roe (optional)
     

Prepare Pizza Dough and set aside.

Preheat oven to 450 F. 

Divide dough into 4 balls and, on a lightly floured surface, roll out dough into a 9- or 10-inch circle, with the outer edge a little thicker than the inner circle. Brush a round 12- to 14-inch rimless pizza baking pan with oil and sprinkle with cornmeal. Carefully lift dough onto prepared pizza pan, poke holes in the dough with a fork to prevent bubbling, and bake in prepared oven until golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. 

Remove dough from oven and set it on a cutting board. Let dough cool, then use a knife or the back of a spoon to spread the sour cream, covering the inner circle, and sprinkle with dill. Arrange the slices of salmon so that they cover the entire pizza, slightly overlapping the raised rim. Sprinkle the chopped chives  and pepper over the salmon. Using a pizza cutter or a large sharp knife, cut the pizza into 8 or 10 slices. If you like, spoon a little salmon roe in the center of each slice. Serve immediately. Repeat with remaining dough. 

Makes 4 pizzas.

Smoked salmon pizza

Smoked salmon pizzaRECIPE: http://bit.ly/1Svxx1D

Posted by Jewish Journal on Monday, March 7, 2016

 

 

PIZZA DOUGH

  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt

 

Dissolve the yeast with the sugar in 1/2 cup of the water and set aside until foamy. 

In a large mixing bowl, combine the remaining 3/4 cup water, the olive oil and yeast mixture. Stir in the flour and salt 1 cup at a time, until the dough begins to come together into a rough ball. Spoon onto a floured board and knead until smooth and elastic. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, oil its top, cover, and set in a warm place to rise for about 1 hour, until doubled in bulk. Or prepare pizza dough and cover with a towel until ready. 

Makes 4 pizzas.

VEGETABLE SALAD ON A PIZZA

  • Pizza Dough (see recipe above)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1/2 cup zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1/2 cup yellow summer squash, cut  into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1/2 cup each red and yellow peppers,  cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes 
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

 

Prepare Pizza Dough and set aside.

Preheat oven to 450 F.

Heat a large heavy skillet over medium heat, add olive oil. Add eggplant, zucchini, summer squash, peppers, cherry tomatoes and sauté, stirring frequently until vegetables begin to turn tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Season with sugar, salt and pepper to taste. Continue to sauté until tomatoes soften. Transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool.

Roll out pizza, and poke holes in the dough with a fork to prevent bubbling. Top with sautéed vegetables and bake until pizza is nicely brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. 

Makes 4 pizzas.

CARROT SOUP

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted margarine, melted
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 1/2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces (about 6 cups) 
  • 5 cups vegetable stock or broth
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced and
  • mashed with 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1/3 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely minced (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese, optional

 

In a small stockpot, mix oil and margarine. Add onion and cook until tender and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add carrots and stock. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the carrots are tender when pierced with the tip of a small, sharp knife.

Transfer the cooked carrots and broth to a food processor or blender and puree in batches. Return the mixture to the pot and stir in the garlic paste and ginger. Simmer briefly and stir in parsley. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with grated Parmesan. 

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

GRIDDLED POTATO PANCAKE WITH SMOKED FISH

  • 1 pound russet baking potatoes
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, add as needed
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup low-fat sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 pound smoked sturgeon, trout or salmon, skin and bones removed, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup salmon roe for garnish, optional
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives for garnish
  • 1 lemon cut into wedges

 

Preheat oven to 200 F, its lowest setting. Set a baking dish in the oven.

Line a large bowl with a clean kitchen towel.

Using the fine hole of a box grater, shredder or a food processer fitted with a grating disc, grate the potatoes. Transfer to the prepared bowl and grate in the onion. Twist the towel around the potato mixture and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. 

Transfer the mixture to a clean bowl, add egg, baking powder, salt and pepper and stir with a fork to blend.

Heat a large nonstick griddle or skillet over medium-high heat. Brush with olive oil. Using a tablespoon, carefully place spoonfuls of the potato mixture on the griddle, spacing them about 1 inch apart and pressing down on the mixture to flatten to a thickness of no more than 1/4 inch. Cook pancakes until golden brown and crispy, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer pancakes to the baking dish in the oven to keep them warm while you cook the remaining pancakes.  

In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream, dill and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. To serve, transfer potato pancakes to a warm platter or individual serving plate. Spoon a little sour cream mixture onto each pancake and top with smoked fish. Add salmon roe and garnish with chives. Serve immediately with lemon wedges.

Makes about 24 servings.

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

Purim recipe: Chocolate peanut butter Reese’s Puffs hamantaschen


Chocolate and peanut butter unite to create this decadent hamantash garnished with a sprinkle of cereal on top.

Servings: about 22 hamantaschen

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs (for vegan dough use 2 tablespoons ground flax seed combined with 6 tablespoons water)
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup chocolate spread
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup Reese’s Puffs cereal

 

Directions:

Cream together eggs, sugar, oil, and vanilla.

Slowly add flour and baking powder. Mix together.

The dough might be crumbly, use your hands to smooth it out and combine it.

Roll out dough on floured surface (about 1/4 to 1/8 thick. Not too thick since then the circles are hard to shape and will open up. Not too thin since then it will rip when shaping or filling) and cut out circles using a donut cutter or the rim of a large glass cup or mason jar.

Fill center of circle with 1/2 teaspoon chocolate spread and bake on 350′ for about 10 minutes.

Melt chocolate chips in microwave on 30 second intervals.

Melt peanut butter in microwave as well, for 30 seconds.

Allow hamantaschen to cool off then drizzle melted chocolate chips and peanut butter on top and garnish with cereal.

This recipe originally appeared on Kosher in the Kitch!

Recipe: Classic cheese quiche and veggie variations


In the heyday of 1970s vegetarianism, quiche was the go-to dish. Everybody was making them. When I taught vegetarian cooking classes then, quiche (not the classic quiche lorraine with lardons, of course) would be one of the first recipes I'd teach. I made them by the sheet pan for catering jobs; they were extremely popular, even though I now know that the crusts I made in those days weren't very good, and the formula I used for the custard wasn't nearly as satisfying as the formula I use now.

Then quiche went out of fashion. This happened gradually, as Italian food stepped into vogue and Julia Child gave way to Marcella Hazan. I was living in France during this period of time, and since the classics of French cuisine are not fashion-driven, I could always get a good quiche. They were and are standard savory fare at just about every French bakery. I found entire boutiques devoted to savory tarts, and learned a lot about fillings.

I let quiche slide for a number of years myself, as I focused more on Mediterranean pies and chose olive oil over butter. But after working with Jacquy Pfeiffer on his prize-winning book, “The Art of French Pastry,” I became enamored again with the quiche. I learned Jacquy's formula for a rich, savory pie crust that is easy to roll out, and my adaptation, made with half whole wheat flour, rolls out as easily as his. It is luscious, nutty and flaky, quite irresistible. I also learned from Jacquy to let my vegetable filling air out so its moisture would evaporate and not dilute the custard, and to make the custard with a combination of egg yolks and whole eggs. “The yolk's lecithin is a great emulsifier that brings the water and fat together,” says Jacquy, “while the white is a great binder. Using only egg yolks … would give the tart an eggy aftertaste. Using only whole eggs would … make the custard too firm.” Who knew?

My quiches are as much about the vegetables that go into them as they are about the custard, the cheese (I like to combine Gruyère and Parmesan), and the crust. My favorites, the ones I make at the drop of a hat, are filled with spinach or other greens and onion, or with savory pan-cooked mushrooms. Then again I love a cabbage and onion quiche, with a little caraway thrown in; and in spring I'll use steamed or roasted asparagus, spring onions and lots of fresh herbs. There may be nothing new about these pies, but a good quiche never gets old.

Classic Cheese Quiche

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1 (9-inch) whole wheat pâte brisée pie crust, fully baked (recipe below) and cooled
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • ⅔ cup milk
  • 1 to 2 cups vegetable filling of your choice
  • 3 ounces Gruyère, grated, or 1 ounce Parmesan and 2 ounces Gruyère, grated (¾ cup grated cheese)

 

Directions

1. Heat the oven to 350 F.

2. Beat together the egg yolks and eggs in a medium bowl. Set the tart pan on a baking sheet to allow for easy handling. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the bottom of the crust with some of the beaten egg and place in the oven for 5 minutes. The egg seals the crust so that it won't become soggy when it comes into contact with the custard.

3. Add the salt, pepper, and milk to the remaining eggs and whisk together.

4. Spread the vegetable filling (recipes below) in an even layer on the crust. Sprinkle the cheese in an even layer on top of the filling. (If you are making a simple cheese quiche with no vegetables, just sprinkle the cheese over the bottom of the crust in an even layer.) Very slowly, pour in the egg custard. If your tart pan has low edges, you may not need all of it to fill the quiche, and you want to avoid overflowing the edges. So pour in gradually and watch the custard spread out in the shell. Bake the quiche for 30 minutes, or until set and just beginning to color on the top. Allow to sit for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Note: Alternatively, toss the vegetable filling with the cheese and spread in the bottom of the crust rather than layering the cheese over the vegetable filling.

Whole Wheat Pâte Brisée

Ingredients

  • 222 grams French style butter such as Plugrà (8 ounces, 1 cup), at room temperature
  • 175 grams whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour (approximately 1½ cups less 1 tablespoon)
  • 175 grams unbleached all-purpose flour (approximately 1½ cups less 1 tablespoon)
  • 7 grams fine sea salt (1 teaspoon)
  • 92 grams water (6 tablespoons)

 

Directions

1. Make sure that your butter is at room temperature. Place it in the bowl of a standing mixer. Sift together the flours and salt and add to the mixer. Mix at low speed just until the mixture is well combined. Do not over beat. Add the water and beat at low speed just until the mixture comes together. Do not over mix or you will activate the gluten in the flour too much and you pastry will be tough.

2. Using a pastry scraper or a rubber spatula, scrape the dough onto a large sheet of plastic wrap. Weigh it and divide into 2 equal pieces. Place each piece onto a large sheet of plastic, fold the plastic over and and flatten into ½-inch thick squares. Double wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and preferably overnight.

3. Very lightly butter two 9-inch tart pans. If you can see the butter you've used too much. Roll out the dough and line the tart pans. Using a fork, pierce rows of holes in the bottom, about an inch apart. This will allow steam to escape and aid in even baking. Refrigerate uncovered for several hours or preferably overnight.

4. To pre-bake, heat the oven to 325 F. Remove a tart shell from the refrigerator, unwrap and line it with a sheet of parchment. Fill all the way with pie weights, which can be beans or rice used exclusively for pre-baking pastry, or special pie weights. Place in the middle of the oven for 15 minutes. Remove the “faux filling” and return to the oven. Bake for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until light golden brown and evenly colored. There should be no evidence of moisture in the dough. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Mushroom Filling

Ingredients

  • ½- to ¾-pound white or cremini mushrooms, wiped if gritty
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, rosemary, or sage (or a combination), or ½ teaspoon dried, OR 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc

 

Directions

1. Trim off the ends of the mushrooms and cut in thick slices. Heat a large, heavy frying pan over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. When the oil is hot (you can feel the heat when you hold your hand above the pan), add the mushrooms. Don't stir for 30 seconds to a minute, then cook, stirring or tossing in the pan, for a few minutes, until they begin to soften and sweat. Add the remaining oil, turn the heat to medium, and add the shallots, garlic, and thyme, rosemary or sage. Stir together, add salt (about ½ teaspoon) and freshly ground pepper to taste, and cook, stirring often, for another 1 to 2 minutes, until the shallots and garlic have softened and the mixture is fragrant. Add the parsley and wine and cook, stirring often and scraping the bottom of the pan, until the wine has evaporated. Taste and adjust seasonings. Remove from the heat.

Spinach and Scallion Filling

Ingredients

  • 1 to 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (to taste)
  • 2 bunches scallions (about 6 ounces), trimmed and sliced
  • 1 to 2 garlic cloves, to taste, minced (optional)
  • 1½ cups chopped blanched or steamed spinach (12 ounces baby spinach or 2 bunches, stemmed and washed well in two changes of water)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

 

Directions

1. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat and add the scallions. Cook, stirring, until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic if using and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the spinach, thyme, salt and pepper and stir over medium heat for about a minute, until the spinach is nicely coated with olive oil. Remove from the heat.

Copyright 2016 Martha Rose Shulman via Zester Daily and Reuters Media Express

Purim recipe: Nacho hamantaschen


Purim is a joyous day. The food we eat on it, should be as fun and colorful as the holiday we are celebrating. Give the traditional hamantaschen a modern remix with this unique and adventurous recipe.

Nacho Hamantaschen

Crispy hamantaschen filled with meatless veggies crumbles topped with layers of creamy nacho sauce, salsa and guacamole make for a delicious holiday appetizer.

Ingredients:

  • 1 12 oz. package of Mexican Style Veggie Crumbles (Lightlife Smart Ground)
  • Frozen ravioli dough pre-cut into circles, defrosted (or wonton wrappers cut into circles)
  • Creamy nacho sauce (recipe below)
  • Guacamole for serving (fresh or store bought)
  • Salsa for serving (recipe below)

 

Nacho Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

 

Melt butter then add flour and whisk together until well combines and a paste forms. Add milk and over a medium flame whisk until sauce thickens then add shredded cheese and continue whisking until cheese melts and sauce is smooth.

Salsa:

  • 4 tomatoes
  • 1 bunch of cilantro
  • 1 red onion
  • Juice of 1 lime

 

Pulse together in a processor until smooth. Optional, add 2 jalapeno peppers without seeds for spice!

Directions:

Place 1 tsp of veggie crumbles in center of each circle of dough.

Wet edges of dough with water then fold left side over, followed with right side and finally folding the bottom layer over shaping and sealing the triangle.

Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake in oven on 350′ for about 8 to 10 minutes until golden and slightly crispy.

Place baked nacho hamantaschen on a platter lined with parchment paper (for easy cleanup) then layer guacamole, salsa and creamy nacho sauce on top. Optional, top with freshly chopped cilantro.

Serve immediately.

This recipe originally appeared on Kosher in the Kitch.

Hamantaschen for Purim inspires dozens of variations


The most recognizable symbol for the Jewish holiday of Purim is a three-cornered cookie, called a hamantaschen.

Purim, which begins March 4, is a particularly joyful festival, nicknamed the Id-al-Sukkar, or the sugar holiday, by Muslims because sweet treats are plentiful. It is a sweet spirited holiday, notwithstanding the ancient Persian tale associated with it featuring complex plot twists of deceit, prejudice, politics, sexual intrigue and revenge.

Purim is a time for celebratory imbibing of alcohol, vibrant costumes and joyful, raucous parties with comedians cracking jokes all night, called a Purim schpeil.

Now, all that is fun, but honestly, for Jews of Ashkenazi descent — especially those who aren’t particularly religious or observant — it’s all about that triangular cookie — that gloriously crisp sweetness embracing an unctuous, fruit filling.

Or maybe it’s about a plush, thick-rimmed yeast pastry version that is punctuated by the intriguingly textured sweet poppy seed filling. Or maybe it’s a savory three-cornered pastry, perfect as an amuse-bouche.

Hamantaschen, you see, are anything but boring. And they are nothing new. The first version was likely the poppy seed or mohn filling, even giving the cookie its name — ha-mohn-taschen, or haman’s hat (Haman was the villain in the ancient tale). Classic versions are wonderful and worthy of your time, every time, every year.

But like any cookie, the classic recipes inspire tremendous creativity among cooks. A survey of some of the web’s cooks, writers, bloggers, recipe developers and chefs reveals a wide swath of variations so numerous and enticing that it will seduce your palate and leave you eagerly awaiting next year’s treats.

Check out these websites for creative variations of the classic hamantaschen recipe:

Baking with olive oil: Rich brownies and almond and cranberry cookies


Making a healthy start to the year, I went into the kitchen on New Year's Day to cook with olive oil. Now I know there are all sorts of people, chefs among them, who will claim “you can't cook with extra virgin olive oil.”

Where they get this from is a mystery, but it's a myth that's passed around with great regularity. (I have my suspicions as to its origin, but I'm not free to issue a j'accuse just yet.) And the charge against olive oil simply is not true — as I've seen over and over again in kitchens large and small, domestic and thoroughly professional, all over the Mediterranean world, where chefs and cooks alike use nothing else.

It's fine for your spaghetti with clam sauce, your ratatouille, your paella valenciana. But pastries? Cakes? Cookies? Don't they fall apart? Don't they taste peculiarly of olive oil?

Olive oil adds rich dimension to brownies

Not at all! You might detect the taste of extra virgin in the raw batter, but I defy you, once they're cooked, to tell me from the flavor which fat has been used. And there's an advantage too, which was most prominent in the olive oil brownies — a lush, rich, fudgy, almost gooey texture that is such a delicious hallmark of brownie perfection. I found agreement from Leslie Revsin, a wonderful cook and chef who died almost 10 years ago at much too early an age. Writing in the magazine Fine Cooking about her experiments using vegetable oil or olive oil, she said the olive oil versions of classic chocolate and carrot cakes had a strikingly richer, deeper character: “The olive oil seemed to act like an invisible helper,” she said, “somehow coaxing superior savor and clarity from the ingredients, weaving them together to create a richer, more alive whole.”

I'm not going to tout chocolate brownies or cranberry almond cookies as health food, but certainly they are minimally better for us if we use olive oil. And the walnuts in the brownies add a powerful quotient of Omega-3 fatty acids, while the almonds in the cookies are demonstrably heart healthy, loaded with vitamin E and other beneficial nutrients. Truly, though, forget about health food for the moment and just enjoy these luscious treats for what they are, made even more delectable with olive oil.

What olive oil should you use with these recipes? Stay away from aggressively flavored oils and especially from fresh, new oils, which are naturally more pronounced in aromatics than older oils. This is one time when you can look at the date on a bottle and happily use a 2012 or even a 2011 harvest oil — just so long as it has been handled properly and not subject to anything that would develop rancidity or off aromas. If the oil smells good but is perhaps a little bland, if it tastes good but without any immediately discernible flavors — that's the oil you'll want to use.

The source of the oil is not so important. It could be from California or Chile, from Spain or Greece or anywhere in between, and it could be made from a single cultivar like arbequina (noted for its soft flavors) or from a mixture of oils carefully blended by the producer to make an unassertive oil, much as a winery will blend softer, sweeter varietals with rougher wines to create a pleasant assemblage. (And note that I unashamedly use butter for the brownie pan — olive oil just doesn't stick to the sides in the same way.)

Olive Oil Brownies

Makes 16 brownies

Ingredients

  • Butter for the pan
  • 4 ounces dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa)
  • ⅓ cup fruity olive oil
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped walnut meats

 

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter an 8-inch-by-8-inch square pan.

2. Break up the chocolate in small pieces and set it in an oven-safe dish, then put it in the oven to melt thoroughly. When it is completely soft, combine it with the olive oil, beating with a fork to mix thoroughly. Set aside to cool, but do not refrigerate.

3. Beat the eggs until they are thick and foamy, then beat in the sugar, about ¼ cup at a time. When the sugar is thoroughly incorporated and the chocolate mixture has cooled down, combine the two, stirring them together with a spatula or wooden spoon (do not beat).

4. Using a rubber spatula, stir in the flour, vanilla and walnuts. Spread the mixture in the prepared brownie pan and transfer to the preheated oven.

5. Bake 25 minutes or until the edges start to pull away from the pan. Remove from the oven and set on a wire rack to cool completely before cutting into squares.

Mrs. Fancelli's Olive Oil Cookies With Almonds and Cranberries

Feliciano Fancelli runs an oil mill, or frantoio, in the hills behind Assisi in Umbria, Italy. It is one of the last old-fashioned, crush-and-press mills still functioning, and it has been in his family for umpteen generations. Mrs. Fancelli gave me this recipe for a simple cookie that is typical of Italian country sweets. For sweet wine, she uses a local sagrantino passito from nearby Montefalco, but a sweet moscato will do very well instead; I sometimes use a Tuscan vin santo, one that is rather drier than sweet. If you don't want to use alcohol, you could substitute a not-too-sweet apple cider.

Toast the nuts in a 350 F oven until they are golden; when they are cool enough to handle, chop or process briefly in the food processor to make a coarse mix, not at all pasty.

Makes 34 to 40 cookies.

Ingredients

  • 2¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1½ cups chopped toasted almonds or hazelnuts, or a mixture
  • 1½ cups raisins, coarsely chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • ⅔ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ⅔ cup sweet wine

 

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spread sheets of parchment paper on two or three cookie sheets. Have ready a wire rack for cooling the cookies.

2. Toss together in a bowl the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder, then stir in the nuts and raisins.

3. Whisk together the eggs and combine, whisking, with the oil and wine. Pour over the flour mixture.

4. Stir and knead slightly with your hands to mix the liquids thoroughly into the flour.

5. Drop the cookie mixture by tablespoons onto the prepared cookie sheets and transfer to the preheated oven.

6. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly golden. Remove and transfer immediately to the wire rack to cool.

Variations: Use dried cranberries in place of the raisins. Make olive oil Toll House cookies by substituting walnuts and chocolate chips for the almonds and raisins and adding ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract. Or make lemon drops by omitting the almonds and raisins entirely and adding ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract, the grated zest of a lemon (organic, preferably) and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, then top each cookie before baking with 4 or 5 pine nuts

Recipe: Schnitzel strips with green tahini dip


Sports! It’s a time for snacks, chips, dips, beer and 12-foot subs. I’m usually the one hosting because I love creating a huge spread of finger foods. I set up a buffet in the kitchen and everyone grabs a plate, fills it up and goes to sit in the living room to watch the game. I find that it’s so much easier to have finger foods for events like this so no one struggles to eat while sitting on the couch. No need for forks and knives!

These schnitzel strips have been part of my Super Bowl menu for a few years now and they’re always the first thing to disappear. They are easy to make and can be kept warm in the oven while your football guests arrive and snack on the guacamole and chips you have waiting for them.

Note: there will likely be extra green tahini dip left over. You can store this in an airtight container in the fridge.

Schnitzel Strips with Green Tahini Dip

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

  • For the green tahini dip:
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ½ bunch parsley (about 1 cup)
  • 1 ½ – 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup tahini
  • 1 ¼ – 1 ½ cups water

 

For the schnitzel strips:

  • 2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced into 1” strips
  • ½ cup flour
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • ¾ cup breadcrumbs
  • ¾ cup panko
  • 2 tsp sesame seeds (black, white or a combination of both)
  • ½ tsp sweet Hungarian paprika
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • Canola oil for frying
  • Salt

 

Directions

To make the green tahini, place the garlic clove and parsley in a food processor and pulse until very finely chopped. Alternatively, you can chop them finely by hand. In a large bowl, combine the garlic and parsley mixture with the lemon juice, salt, tahini and water. Whisk together well! It will seize at first, but keep whisking! You may need more water depending on how thin or thick you want your tahini sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and lemon juice. Set aside.

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees to keep the schnitzel warm until ready to serve. Set up a cooling rack on top of a baking sheet.

In 3 separate dishes combine the dredging mixes. In the first container, mix the flour, mustard powder, salt and pepper. In the second, whisk together the eggs and Dijon mustard. In the third, combine the breadcrumbs, panko, sesame seeds, paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper.

Heat 1/4 inch of oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat when you’re ready to fry the schnitzel. It’s recommended to do this in batches. Dredge the first batch of chicken strips in the flour mixture and shake off as much excess flour as possible before moving the strips to the egg mixture. Allow excess egg to drip off the strips before moving them to the breadcrumb mixture. Press the breadcrumbs into the strips well. Pressing will help the crumbs stick!

Fry the strips for 3 minutes per side until they are golden brown and cooked through. Remove the strips onto the cooling rack and sprinkle with salt. Place the strips in the oven to keep warm while you fry the rest up. Add more oil to the pan between batches if needed.

Serve the strips with the green tahini on the side.

Danielle Oron is a chef, photographer and writer of the blog “I Will Not Eat Oysters,” the owner of a milk & cookies bakery in Toronto and now a cookbook author.

The Nosher food blog offers a dazzling array of new and classic Jewish recipes and food news, from Europe to Yemen, from challah to shakshuka and beyond. Check it out at www.TheNosher.com.

Recipe: Sardinian tomatoes


Growing up with a father who suffered from cardiovascular disease, I learned at an early age how to eat healthfully. Hot dogs, fried chicken and steaks rarely graced our dinner table. Instead, we ate boatloads of low-fat and vitamin- and mineral-rich seafood, grains and produce.

Among the fish we consumed, sardines still top my list of favorite heart-healthy foods. Available in fresh and canned forms, these oily fish are chock-full of flavor and omega-3 fatty acids.

What's so great about omega-3s? According to the American Heart Association, these fatty acids lessen the risk of abnormal heartbeats and reduce high triglyceride levels that may contribute to atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. They also have a positive impact on high blood pressure and overall cardiovascular health.

“It has long been appreciated that societies who eat diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids have a lower incidence of heart disease. For example, prior to the western influences of fast-food chains, Japan, Korea and Southeast Asia had a diet predominantly of fish and had very low heart disease rates. We discovered that one of the main components of the fish diet that was beneficial was omega-3,” says Dr. Paul Checchia, director of cardiovascular care at Texas Children's Hospital.

Along with sardines' wholesomeness, I love these petite, iridescent fish for their versatility. They go well with an array of other heart-healthy foods, including spinach, tomatoes, red bell peppers, carrots, walnuts, oranges, raisins, kidney beans, black beans and whole grains. They also partner with other omega-3-rich seafood such as anchovies.

Sardines lend themselves to many preparations, flavor pairings

When fresh, sardines can be grilled, broiled, baked, poached, sautéed or marinated. Their dark, oily flesh responds well to direct heat, making them the perfect fit for barbecues and charcoal grills.

Their bold flavor likewise engenders them to simple preparations. Sprinkle ground black pepper, vinegar or citrus juice over your cooked sardines and, in a snap, you've got a delicious repast.

Although they tend to be overlooked by today's home cooks, sardines have a long and storied culinary past. Named for the island Sardinia, where they were found in abundance, they have supported generations of European fishermen.

Sardines live in both Atlantic and Pacific oceans. In fact, from the 1920s through the 1940s, they served as the backbone of America's largest, most profitable Pacific Coast fisheries. Monterey, California's, famed Cannery Row owes its success to sardines.

Canned sardines, in turn, owe their existence to the French and Napoleon Bonaparte, who needed a way to store and transport protein-rich rations for his troops. Through the ingenuity of French brewer Nicolas Appert and British merchant Peter Durand, sardines became the first canned fish and one of the first canned foods.

The French weren't the only ones to benefit from sardine canning. In the 20th century these 10- to 14-inch fish fed American soldiers during two world wars. They also provided jobs for vast numbers of workers.

As is often the case, rampant popularity led to the sardine's downfall. Overfishing and the ocean's natural growth cycle depleted the supply. Without sardines in the supermarkets, shoppers turned to canned tuna for cheap, portable and easy-to-prepare meals.

In recent years sardine populations have rebounded in the Pacific. This is wonderful news for environmentally minded, health-conscious consumers. As small-sized bottom feeders who eat plankton, sardines don't take on heavy metals and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) as other fish do. Low in contaminants and high in protein, vitamins B-12 and D, and omega-3s fatty acids, Pacific sardines have been deemed a “best choice” by Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch.

When shopping for sardines, I have the option of fresh or canned. With fresh sardines, I look for shiny, silvery skins; plump bodies; bright eyes; and firm, pinkish, moderately oily flesh.

Because these fish are fatty, they spoil easily. To ensure my sardines are safe to eat, I do a quick sniff test. If a sardine smells overly fishy or pungent, I skip that fish. Highly perishable, sardines should be cooked the day of purchase.

Packed in thick, clear oil, canned sardines possess expiration dates and should be consumed accordingly. Until I'm ready to use them, I store the cans in a cool spot in my kitchen and periodically flip them so all the fish are coated in oil.

If you peek into my kitchen cupboard, you'll invariably see at least two tins of sardines tucked in there. I use them in everything from bread spreads and vegetable dips to pastas and pissaladières. When I crave an especially heart-healthy entrée, I make the following dish, Sardinian Tomatoes. Featuring lycopene- and beta-carotene-rich tomatoes; fiber- and iron-packed barley; vitamin C- and A-filled red bell peppers; and, of course, sardines, it's a delightfully nutritious meal.

Sardinian Tomatoes

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes

Yield: 8 stuffed tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 8 large, ripe tomatoes
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1/2 small red onion
  • 8 ounces canned sardines, drained and patted dry
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked barley
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for greasing the baking dish
  • 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 teaspoons granulated onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

 

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a large baking dish with olive oil and set aside.

2. Slice off the tops of the tomatoes. Scoop out the seeds, leaving an inch of flesh inside the tomatoes.

3. Dice the red pepper and onion. Slice the sardines into bite-sized chunks and put them, along with the pepper and onion, into a mixing bowl. Add the barley to the bowl.

4. Roughly chop the parsley. Add it, the thyme and black pepper to the bowl and toss to combine. Drizzle the lemon juice and half of the olive oil over the mixture and toss again.

5. In a small bowl combine the bread crumbs, granulated onion and salt. Add the remaining olive oil and stir until all the crumbs are coated.

6. Put equal amounts of sardine-barley stuffing into each tomato, filling each to the top. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the filling. Place the stuffed tomatoes in the baking dish and bake, uncovered, for 12 to 15 minutes or until the tomatoes have softened slightly and the crumbs have browned. Remove and serve warm.