‘Homemade’ Mandelbrot Fit for a Seder


When I recently attended Kosher World at the L.A. Convention Center, I saw a wide selection of Passover foods. They presented many interesting new food products: sausages, nondairy ice cream, frozen pizza, burritos, pasta of all shapes and sizes, and large selection of kosher wines from all over the world.

One of the stands that caught my interest was Debbie & Sandy’s Homemade, stocked with well-designed bags of Mandel Bread, Sliced Almond Cookies and Granola. The two women that were handing out samples, Sandy Calin and Debbie Fischl, started this successful business only three years ago, and told me that the Passover Granola was their most popular item — a blend of almonds, pistachios, cranberries, raisins, honey and crunchy matzah farfel.

Calin and Fischl are both attorneys — they met in law school, became instant friends and still practice law. Both single parents, Fischl handles primarily appellate work and mediations, and Calin does litigation for several firms.

They soon discovered that they both shared a passion for cooking and baking, and they often cooked together for their family events.

These two busy women, who worked full time while raising a family, dreamed of opening their own catering company. Their homemade desserts became a favorite at the parties they catered, and everyone asked for the recipes. They talked about producing several commercial products made from their family recipes and thought that they could be sold successfully.

That’s when they finally decided to open their own specialty company, and of course, named it Debbie & Sandy’s Homemade. They could now sell their tasty treats directly to their catering clients as well as the public. All of their products are made kosher, and they make a special package for Passover.

When asked if I could include one of their recipes for this article, they did have some hesitation, saying that they were family secrets that had been handed down from generation to generation. But, after a long philosophical discussion they decided to share their recipe for the Passover Mandel Bread.

Passover Mandlebrot With Chocolate Chips

3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 ounces sugar
4 fluid ounces cottonseed oil
7 ounces matzah cake meal
3/4 ounces potato starch
2 ounces sliced almonds
4 ounces chocolate chips
Sugar mixed with cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs, vanilla and sugar. Add the oil and blend well. Add about 1/2 of the cake meal and potato starch. Mix well. Mix in almonds and chocolate chips. Add the remaining cake meal and potato starch and mix until incorporated.

Shape into loaves about 1/2 inch high and 3 inches wide. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Slice into 1/2-inch-wide pieces at an angle. Return to oven and bake another 15 minutes.

Makes about four dozen.

Their kosher-for-Passover products can be purchased locally and are available at www.debbiesandy.com or by calling (818) 224-2967.

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


The Wines They are a Changin’

When Martin Gerstel, a high-flying company executive from Silicon Valley, and his Israeli wife, Shoshana, refurbished a historic old house in Jerusalem’s Ethiopia Street, they installed a wine cellar and shipped in 30-40 cases of Napa Valley’s choicest.

A decade later, he restocks with the fruit of the vine, Israeli style. “The quality here has improved greatly over the last 10 years,” he says, “particularly the reds. I find them just as good as we had in California. Some of the smaller Israeli wineries have good and bad years, but Golan’s Yarden has excellent quality every year.”

As if to prove his point, an old journalist friend of mine, an Englishman with a French wife, recently took four bottles of Yarden Merlot back to their home in France after sipping the velvety red during a visit here.

Forget the sweet and sticky Kiddush wine of yesteryear. Israeli wine is on the map. And Israelis are drinking it, too. The Promised Land is going yuppie.

Thousands of aspiring connoisseurs a year are taking courses at the Tel-Aviv Wine Academy. Every newspaper worth its “Style” supplement runs a regular wine column. There are two Hebrew magazines devoted to the grape. Every city boasts at least one well-stocked wine store. Tasting clubs flourish in the suburbs.

Tamar Porat, a 25-year-old sabra, works in Avi Ben’s Jerusalem shop where my friend bought his Merlot. “Things are totally changing,” she says. “It’s trendy to drink wine, it’s an OK thing to do. People don’t think it’s an affectation. Young Israelis travel more, they’re exposed to good wine in other countries, and they’re demanding it here too.”

Over the past 15 years, Israeli wine producers have begun to give it to them. Adam Montefiore, Golan’s international marketing manager, was a professional wine buyer in England before making aliyah 10 years ago. “Wine from Israel,” he shudders to remember, “was pretty terrible. I used to wonder if it was made from grapes.”