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

Panzanella (Tuscan Tomato and Bread Soup). Photos by Morgan Lieberman

Panzanella (Tuscan Tomato and Bread Soup). Photos by Morgan Lieberman

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.

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Living off the land

Vegetables from the garden are basis for tasty, nutritious meals

Jay Farbstein holds a freshly picked squash blossom. Photos by Lynn Pelkey

Jay Farbstein holds a freshly picked squash blossom. Photos by Lynn Pelkey

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. 

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Recipe: Passover sweets

Passover Meringues. Photo by Judy Zeidler

Passover Meringues. Photo by Judy Zeidler

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.

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A Purim feast, Persian-style

Persian chicken with dried fruit and almond stuffing. Photo by Judy Zeidler

Persian chicken with dried fruit and almond stuffing. Photo by Judy Zeidler

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.

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Dishes inspired by Wolfgang Puck are delicious and healthful

Smoked Salmon Pizza. Photos by Lynn Pelkey

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 sedersand 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.

 

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.

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Tu B’Shevat: Celebrate with festive cookies

A selection of Judy Zeidler’s Mandelbrot. Photo by Lynn Pelkey

A selection of Judy Zeidler’s Mandelbrot. Photo by Lynn Pelkey

Tu B’Shevat, known as the Jewish celebration of trees, falls on Jan. 25 this year, in the middle of winter, and marks the time when barren fruit trees begin to spring back to life.

It is customary to eat several kinds of fruits and nuts during the holiday, and over the years it has become a custom to serve an assortment of mandelbread. A crisp, almond-flavored bread-type cookie, they reflect the history and heritage of what families serve during Jewish festivals.

Some recipes for the cookies include walnuts or pistachios as well as dried fruits such as cranberries, raisins, figs, apricots or orange peel, which are appropriate during this holiday.

My Classic Mandelbrot recipe was passed down to me by my mother-in-law, and is traditional in Eastern Europe. Using an electric mixer for this recipe is easier, but making it in a large bowl with a wooden spoon is the way our grandmothers did it in the old days.

Catalon Biscotti, a Sephardic style mandelbread flavored with anise and cinnamon, are a favorite in Spain. These biscotti have two unusual ingredients — powdered sugar and self-rising yeast — which results in very crunchy and shiny cookies.

Italian homes make a form of mandelbread, known as biscotti, filled with almonds and flavored with anise. If I had to choose a favorite, these biscotti would be the one. The recipe contains no oil, butter or margarine and therefore must be made on a wooden board and kneaded like a bread or pasta. The results are very authentic — just like the biscotti found in Italy. I love to pack them up and give them to family and friends or serve at our Tu B’Shevat holiday dinner along with ice cream or sorbet.

CLASSIC MANDELBROT

From “The Gourmet Jewish Cook” by Judy Zeidler

  • 1 cup oil
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange peel
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 cup sliced almonds

 

Preheat the oven to 325 F.

In a large mixing bowl, blend the oil and 1 cup of sugar. Add the eggs, vanilla and almond extracts, and the orange peel. Blend thoroughly.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon. Blend the flour mixture into the oil mixture. Add the almonds and mix well.

Divide the dough into 4 or 5 portions. With lightly oiled hands, shape each portion into an oval loaf shape, 2 inches wide and 1 inch high. Place the loaves 2 inches apart on greased baking sheets. Sprinkle with the remaining sugar and cinnamon and bake for 45 minutes.

Remove the loaves from the oven and, using a spatula, transfer them to a cutting board and cut into 1-inch-thick slices. Place cut-side down on the same baking sheets, turn off the heat and return them to the oven. Leave the mandelbrot in the oven for 10 minutes per side or until crisp. Transfer to racks and cool.

Makes about 6 dozen cookies.

BISCOTTI (ITALIAN ALMOND MANDELBROT)

From “Italy Cooks” by Judy Zeidler

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 3/4 cup toasted, ground almonds
  • 1/2 cup toasted, whole almonds
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon anise or almond extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten

 

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Place the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and fennel seeds in a mound on a floured board. Surround the outside of the mound with the ground and whole almonds. Make a well in the center. Place the eggs, anise (or almond) extract and vanilla extract in the well. Beat the sugar into the egg mixture, blending well. Quickly beat the egg mixture with a fork, gradually incorporating the flour and almonds to make a smooth dough.

Divide the dough into 3 to 4 portions. With lightly oiled hands, shape each portion into an oval loaf shape. Place the loaves 2 inches apart on greased and floured baking sheets. Brush with lightly beaten egg white and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove the loaves from the oven and, using a spatula, transfer them to a cutting board and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Place them cut-side down on the same baking sheet and return them to the oven. Leave the mandelbrot in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes per side or until golden brown. Transfer to racks and cool.

Makes about 6 dozen cookies.

FRUIT-FILLED MANDELBROT

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter or margarine
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon anise extract
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup lightly toasted whole almonds
  • 1/2 cup candied, dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup candied orange peel, chopped
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • Sugar for dusting

 

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. One at a time, thoroughly beat in the eggs. Beat in the anise extract.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt and gradually beat them into the butter mixture. With lightly-oiled hands, knead the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

In a small bowl, combine the almonds, cranberries and orange peel.

Transfer the dough to a floured board and, if it is sticky, knead in additional flour. Divide the dough in half and, with lightly oiled hands, roll it out on floured wax paper into an 8-by-12-inch rectangle. Sprinkle with the fruit-and-almond mixture and, starting at a long edge, roll up the dough like a jellyroll. Crimp the seam to seal it and place each roll seam side down on a greased baking sheet (or Silpat baking mat). Brush the rolls with lightly beaten egg white and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove the loaves from the oven and, using a spatula, transfer them to a cutting board and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Place them, cut-side down, on the same baking sheets and return them to the oven. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes per side or until lightly browned. Transfer to racks and cool.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

CATALON BISCOTTI (SPANISH BISCOTTI)

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground anise (or whole seeds)
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • Zest of 1 lemon, ground
  • 1 1/4 cups almonds, roasted

 

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat baking mat and set aside. In a small bowl, beat one of the eggs and set aside.

In a large mixer, add sugar, flour, ground anise, ground cinnamon, yeast and lemon zest and mix well.

Beat in the remaining 2 eggs, one at a time at high speed, mixing well after each addition. Remove bowl from the mixer and stir in almonds. (The dough will be soft.)

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and divide in half. Lightly flour your hands and shape the dough into 2 slightly flattened cylinders about 2 1/2 inches wide and 12 inches long. Brush off excess flour with a dry pastry brush. Carefully transfer dough cylinder to a prepared sheet pan about 3 to 4 inches apart. Brush with reserved beaten egg.

Bake until crust is shiny and dark brown, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly; slice on the diagonal into 1/2-inch-thick cookies. Transfer biscotti to a wire rack to let cool completely.

Makes 30 to 40 cookies.

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Lotsa latkes for Chanukah

Lotsa latkes for Chanukah

Chanukah, which begins the night of Dec. 6, has always been a joyous holiday celebrated more in the home than in the synagogue. Every year, we invite a minimum of 25 family members and friends to our celebration, and it is always a festive occasion. 

When our guests arrive, we begin with platters of Crispy Potato Latkes that are served with sour cream, applesauce and sugar. Latkes fried in olive oil act as a reminder of the ancient miracle of the oil that burned for eight days in the Temple.

With each course during dinner, we serve a different kind of latke. The Romanian Noodle Latkes, similar to a pasta dish, seem to be everyone’s top choice and are always a special request. We’ll see how they stand up to Salmon Latkes, a new addition to our celebration this year. 

After serving dinner, we take a break before dessert to exchange presents, which usually takes at least two hours. In the past, everyone had lots of gifts to open, but this year, the family has rebelled and decided to have a Chanukah grab bag, for which everyone will bring one present. (Of course, the grandchildren and great-grandchildren will receive more!)

For dessert, serve my Sweet Potato Latkes, a family favorite enriched with dates, raisins and nuts. Or make Apple Latkes dusted with cinnamon and sugar — a suitably sweet way to end the evening.

CRISPY POTATO LATKES

  • 4 potatoes
  • 1 onion, grated
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 4 eggs
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Ground pepper to taste

Peel potatoes or scrub and use unpeeled. Grate potatoes, using food processor or fine shredder.

In large bowl, combine potatoes, onion, lemon juice, eggs and 1 tablespoon oil. Blend well. Stir in flour. Add salt and pepper. Mix well.

In a heavy skillet or an electric frying pan, heat remaining 4 tablespoons oil. Drop potato mixture by tablespoons into hot oil, flattening with back of spoon. Brown well, on both sides, turning once. Cook 3 to 5 minutes on each side. Serve latkes crisp and hot with applesauce, sugar, sour cream or preserves if desired.

Makes about 3 dozen latkes.

ROMANIAN NOODLE LATKES

  • 1 (8-ounce) package fine egg noodles
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted margarine, melted
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

 Cook noodles according to package directions; drain well. Transfer to a large bowl, add margarine and blend well.

In a small skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat and sauté onions until tender, about 5 minutes. Add onions to noodles. Blend in eggs. Add salt and pepper.

In a large, heavy skillet, heat remaining 4 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Drop noodle mixture by tablespoons into hot oil, flattening each spoonful with back of spoon to form thin latkes. Fry on both sides until golden brown and crisp, about 5 minutes per side. (Do not turn latkes until first side is golden and firmly set.)

Makes about 2 dozen latkes. 

SALMON LATKES

  • 1 (15-ounce) canned pink salmon
  • 2/3 cup chopped onion 
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs or matzah meal
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

In a mixing bowl, place salmon and its liquid in a bowl. Add onion, eggs and bread crumbs. Add salt and pepper. Mix well. Set aside for 15 minutes.

With wet hands, shape mixture into latkes. In large, heavy skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add latkes to skillet and fry until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot or cold.

Makes about 12 latkes.  

CARROT AND ZUCCHINI LATKES

di-zucchini-latkes

  • 2 cups grated carrots
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 or 3 eggs
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

In a large bowl, combine carrots, zucchini, onion and eggs; blend thoroughly. (This can be done in food processor with metal blade, using a quick on-and-off motion, just enough to blend, then transfer mixture to a large bowl.) Add flour, baking powder, salt and pepper; mix well.

In a large skillet, heat oil. Drop carrot-zucchini mixture by large spoonsful into hot oil. Fry until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels.

Makes about 3 dozen latkes. 

SWEET POTATO LATKES

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and finely grated
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons ground almonds
  • 2 tablespoons golden raisins
  • 2 tablespoons chopped dates
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/8 to 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Powdered sugar

In a large bowl, combine sweet potatoes, eggs, granulated sugar and enough ground almonds to make a thick batter. Mix well. Fold in raisins, dates and pecans. Add salt.

In a large skillet, heat oil. Spoon heaping tablespoonsful of potato mixture into oil, flattening with back of a wet spoon. Brown on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels. Just before serving, sprinkle with powdered sugar. 

Makes about 12 latkes.  

APPLE LATKES

  • 2 eggs, separated,
  • 1/2 cup milk or liquid nondairy creamer
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted margarine, melted
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 to 4 apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
  • Powdered sugar 
  • Ground cinnamon 

In a large bowl, beat egg yolks until light. Blend in milk. Stir in flour, granulated sugar, margarine and lemon juice. Add salt and beat until smooth. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form, then fold into egg yolk mixture.

In a large, heavy skillet, heat oil to about 375 F. Dip each apple slice into batter. Lift out with fork or tongs, drop into hot oil and fry until brown on both sides, about 2 to 3 minutes. Just before serving, sprinkle with powdered sugar and cinnamon.

Makes 2 to 3 dozen latkes.

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A side of Thanksgiving: Vegan and vegetarian dishes to try

A side of Thanksgiving: Vegan and vegetarian dishes to try

In some ways, I’m pretty traditional when it comes to my family’s Thanksgiving Day meal: I like to plan a lot of old-fashioned farmhouse food for the holiday. 

Who doesn’t enjoy a handsome bronzed turkey with lots of stuffing, an appealing array of relishes and a lavish dessert buffet? We pour apple cider for the children, a robust red wine for the grown-ups, and catch up on all the news while enjoying our family feast. 

It should be noted, though, that not everyone is interested in the traditional turkey. Quite a few guests these days are either vegetarian or vegan, and so we always try to have a menu that will fill their plates and satisfy their appetites. That is why the side dishes are so important.

Our Thanksgiving dinner will begin with bowls of Butternut Squash Soup, garnished with my homemade Salsa and served with toasted pumpkin bread. My vegan grandson, Zane, loves my Carrot-Parsnip Slaw so much he can almost eat the whole batch, so it will definitely be on our Thanksgiving menu in a double portion.

It’s never a bad idea to serve a seasonal veggie, and  because there is always a colorful selection of squash at the local farmers market, it offers the perfect solution. Just cut it into cubes and sauté with onions and tomatoes. For my husband, Marvin, it is his favorite holiday dish.

For dessert this year, I will give our daughter-in-law, Amy, the baker in our family, a recipe for a Vegan Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake to make. I also hope to surprise everyone with scoops of homemade Nondairy Coconut Gelato to serve on the side — and offer them one more reason to give thanks!

BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP

  • Salsa (recipe follows)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted margarine, melted
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 1/2 pounds butternut squash, 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

Prepare Salsa. Set aside.

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

Transfer the cooked squash 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. Taste and correct seasoning with salt and pepper. Garnish with Salsa.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

SALSA

  • 2 large tomatoes, sliced 
  • 1/2 large red onion, diced 
  • 1/2 to 1 cup fresh cilantro, minced 
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice 
  • Salt to taste

In a medium bowl, combine tomatoes, red onion and cilantro and mix well.  Add lemon juice and salt to taste.

Makes about 3 cups.

CARROT-PARSNIP SLAW

  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise (or vegan substitute)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 10 medium carrots, peeled and grated
  • 4 medium parsnips, peeled and grated
  • 1/3 cup raisins, plumped in grape juice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a medium bowl, combine the mayonnaise, lemon juice and sugar and blend well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.

In a large bowl, toss the carrots, parsnips and raisins. Add the mayonnaise mixture and toss until completely combined. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes 6 to 8 servings. 

FARMERS MARKET SAUTEED SQUASH

  • 3 pounds assorted squash (zucchini, yellow neck, summer squash)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

Cut squash into 1/2-inch cubes. In a frying pan, add oil and sauté onion until soft. Add squash, tomatoes and basil, and continue to sauté until desired texture, about 15 to 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Just before serving, transfer to a heated bowl. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

NONDAIRY COCONUT GELATO

  • 2 (13- to 15-ounce) cans full-flat coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup honey, maple syrup or sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Shake the cans of coconut milk thoroughly to incorporate the layers that form in the can. Pour 1/2 cup of coconut milk into a medium saucepan over low to warm heat. Add the cornstarch and whisk until the cornstarch is thoroughly dissolved.

Pour the remaining coconut milk into a large pot, add maple syrup and salt, and warm the coconut milk on medium-low heat, stirring until the maple syrup completely dissolves, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Pour the cornstarch mixture into the warm coconut milk while whisking gently. Heat until the gelato mixture is thick. Pour into a large bowl, and mix in the vanilla extract. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Pour the mixture into the canister of an ice cream maker, and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions.

Makes about 6 cups.

di-gelato-cake

VEGAN PUMPKIN SPICE BUNDT CAKE WITH MAPLE GLAZE

  • Maple Glaze (recipe follows)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup spelt flour
  • 3/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 3 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (15-ounce) can of solid-pack pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar

Prepare Maple Glaze. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Oil and flour a 10-inch bundt pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, spelt flour, coconut sugar, white sugar, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt.

In a separate large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, coconut oil, almond milk, vanilla and vinegar. Add to dry ingredients, whisking just until combined.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean. Let cool for 15 minutes in the pan, then turn out on a wire rack to cool.

Drizzle Maple Glaze over completely cooled cake and let set for 10 minutes. Slice and serve.

Makes 10 to 12 servings.

MAPLE GLAZE

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Up to 2 teaspoons cold water

Whisk together powdered sugar, maple syrup, coconut oil and cinnamon. If it is too thick to drip over the cake, add 1/2 teaspoon of cold water at a time.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

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Recipe: Chopped liver with wine aspic

Molded Chopped Liver with Concord Grape Wine Aspic. Photo by Morgan Lieberman

Jewish cuisine has always gotten a bad rap, and very often I hear the expression that “heavy Jewish food” is not healthy, but we have been cooking nutritious Jewish food for our family for as long as I can remember.

Students in my cooking class always ask me for a healthy recipe for chicken soup that tastes really flavorful. My answer is: the more chicken, the more chicken flavor. Then add lots and lots of veggies and my light, soufflé-like matzah balls.

Chopped liver can be another rich dish because many people overload with lots of chicken fat (schmaltz). We use olive oil and combine the chicken livers with onions, apples and mushrooms to give it a wonderful flavor.

As a child, I used to watch my mother, sitting on the back porch steps, chopping away at beef liver, hard-cooked eggs and chicken schmaltz in a huge wooden bowl. It was really hard work. Now I can whip up a batch of chopped liver from scratch — enough to serve 20 — in less time.

I have preserved the integrity of Mom’s recipe, but enhanced it by using chicken livers and a little brandy for flavor. Use a meat grinder to get the old-fashioned coarse texture, but you can also make it in a food processor, resulting in a finer texture. Top with Concord Grape Wine Aspic to add a gala touch.

MOLDED CHOPPED LIVER

  • Concord Grape Wine Aspic (recipe follows)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound chicken livers
  • 4 large mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium apple, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons brandy or cognac
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

In a large, heavy skillet, heat olive oil and sauté onions until lightly browned. Add the livers, mushrooms and apple. Sauté, turning the livers on both sides, until lightly browned. (Do not overcook.) Add the brandy and simmer 3 to 4 minutes.

Spoon the mixture into a meat grinder with the eggs and grind into a large bowl, making sure to add the juices from the skillet. Add salt and pepper to taste and stir well.

Cover and refrigerate, or line a mold with plastic wrap, spoon in the liver mixture, cover and refrigerate.

The plastic wrap enables you to invert and lift the molded chopped liver out of the bowl, and then it is peeled off.

Top with the Concord Grape Wine Aspic.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

CONCORD GRAPE WINE ASPIC

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups kosher Concord grape wine
  • 1/4 cup wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 ounces frozen orange juice concentrate
  • 1 teaspoon (1 package) gelatin

 

In a small, heavy saucepan over moderate to high heat, simmer the sugar in the water, stirring until the sugar dissolves; continue simmering rapidly until the sugar reaches a caramel color.

In another small saucepan, heat 1 1/4 cups of the wine, the vinegar and the orange juice concentrate. Add the wine mixture to the sugar mixture and stir well. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Soften the gelatin in the remaining 1/4 cup wine.

Add to the hot mixture and stir until dissolved. Pour into an 8-by-8-inch baking dish and chill until set, about 2 hours.

Serve with the Molded Chopped Liver.

Makes about 2 1/2 to 3 cups

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Comfort food for fall

Comfort food for fall

Now that the hot summer weather is behind us, we are looking forward to winter comfort food such as hearty soups, stews or chili — many made with root vegetables.

Cabbage Borscht With Short Ribs has always been one of my favorite cold-weather dishes. Growing up, I remember my great-aunt Mary serving it whenever we were invited to her home for dinner, and I always looked forward to the pungent sweet- and-sour flavors. It is a perfect one-pot meal — and even better when prepared the day before so that all of the flavors are allowed to blend.

Begin dinner by serving the cabbage borscht made with marrow bones in large soup bowls, reserving the short ribs for the main course to be served in the same dish. Don’t forget to pass a platter of the traditional hot piroshkis that are filled with sautéed chicken livers and baked until crisp. You can make them in advance; they will keep for several days in the refrigerator, or they can be frozen until ready to bake and serve. It’s the perfect pairing to help keep you cozy as we head into the heart of the fall season.

Then there are Banana-Pecan Streusel Loaves, a family treasure and standby ever since I can remember — for breakfast, lunch or even dinner, or to take as a gift when visiting friends. When friends pop in unexpectedly, I will microwave a frozen banana loaf and then pop it into the oven to crisp up. (It is impossible, once the loaf is reheated, to tell that it was ever frozen.) On a cold day, serve it with a glass of sweet wine or a cup of hot tea or coffee.

PIROSHKIS WITH CHICKEN LIVER FILLING

  • Chicken Liver Filling (recipe follows)
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 pound unsalted margarine, cut into pieces
  • 1/8 cup cold water
  • 1 egg
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons unsalted margarine, melted

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Prepare Chicken Liver Filling and cool to room temperature. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer or processor, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the pieces of margarine and blend or process until crumbly. Combine the water and egg and pour it into the flour mixture, blending until the dough forms a ball. Do not over-mix. Wrap in wax paper and chill for 10 minutes for easier handling.

On a floured board, roll out dough 1/8 inch thick. With a floured 3-inch-round cookie cutter, cut the dough into circles. Place 1 tablespoon of filling in the center of each circle.  Fold it over and pinch the edges to seal. Place the piroshkis on an oiled baking sheet. Brush them with melted margarine.

To freeze, if desired, place on baking sheets lined with floured kitchen towels, then cover with another towel and place in freezer. When the piroshkis are frozen, peel them off the towels and place in a plastic bag; return to freezer. Remove from freezer and defrost before baking.

Bake the piroshkis for 20 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp.

Makes about 30 piroshkis.

CHICKEN LIVER FILLING

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted margarine
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 pound chicken livers, chopped
  • 2 slices egg bread (crusts trimmed off and discarded), soaked in water and drained
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a medium skillet, melt the margarine and sauté the onion and garlic until soft. Add the chicken livers and bread and sauté, mixing well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cool to room temperature.

Makes about 2 to 3 cups.

CABBAGE BORSCHT WITH SHORT RIBS

  • 1 pound marrow bones, sliced (ask your butcher to do this)
  • 4 pounds short ribs, sliced between the bones
  • 3 onions, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 bay leaf, crushed
  • 1 head of cabbage, shredded
  • 4 uncooked beets, peeled and  julienned
  • 1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes with liquid or 6 fresh    tomatoes, peeled and    chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • Juice of 4 to 5 lemons (about 2/3 cup)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Nondairy sour cream (optional)

In a large pot, combine the bones, short ribs, onions, garlic, parsley and bay leaf. Cover with water, bring to a boil, and skim off the foam from the top. Lower heat and simmer, covered, for 2 hours. Chill and remove layer of fat that forms.

Add cabbage, beets, tomatoes, basil, paprika, brown sugar and lemon juice and continue to cook for 1 to 2 hours. Season to taste with salt and pepper; add additional brown sugar and/or lemon juice to taste. Ladle into large soup bowls and top with nondairy sour cream, if desired.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

BANANA-PECAN STREUSEL LOAVES

di-banana-cake

  • Streusel Topping (recipe follows)
  • 3/4 cup finely ground pecans
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted margarine, cut in pieces
  • 2 cups toasted, chopped pecans
  • 2 cups (about 5 large) mashed bananas
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup nondairy creamer (such as Mocha Mix)

Prepare Streusel Topping. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Grease 4 (7-by-3-by-2-inch) loaf pans (3-cup size); sprinkle them with ground pecans and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, blend the sugar, flour, baking soda and salt. Add the margarine and blend until crumbly. Add the chopped pecans and mix well. 

In a medium bowl, beat together the bananas, eggs and nondairy creamer. Pour the banana mixture into the flour mixture all at once. Stir gently just until all the dry ingredients are moistened; do not over-stir. Spoon the batter into the prepared loaf pans. Sprinkle each loaf with 2 to 3 tablespoons of the Streusel Topping. 

Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the loaves begin to come away from the sides of the pans.  

Makes 4 loaves.

STREUSEL TOPPING

  • 2 cups brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2  teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup unsalted margarine
  • 2 cups chopped pecans 

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and margarine, just until crumbly; do not over-mix. Stir in the chopped pecans. 

Makes about 1 cup.

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Fresh takes on classic entrees and dessert for the High Holy Days

Chicken Fricassee with Turkey meatballs. Photos by Morgan Lieberman

Chicken Fricassee with Turkey meatballs. Photos by Morgan Lieberman

Celebrated close together, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are known as the High Holy Days, but each offers its own special food customs.

Rosh Hashanah, which begins at sundown Sept. 13, celebrates the Jewish New Year. It is a joyous occasion enlivened with a variety of delicious foods, symbolizing a bountiful year to follow. Many traditional dishes include honey and apples to assure “a sweet new year,” accompanied by a round challah, seen by some as representing the cycle of life.

Yom Kippur, on the other hand, is an austere fast day. Not a drop of water or a bite of food passes the lips of worshipers from sundown to sundown, beginning Sept. 22. The pre-fast dinner traditionally consists of bland foods, and after the fast the meal can consist of a light dairy repast or a full-course dinner, accented by the spicy and salty flavors that were absent during the fasting period.

It is an ancient custom to serve fish for both holidays. A symbol of fertility and immortality, the fish is traditionally cooked whole to express the wish for total success. A wonderful recipe that can be made without spending a lot of time in the kitchen is Baked Salmon, especially for the break-the-fast meal.

Chicken is a must in my family for the High Holy Days, and I have a few delicious recipes that are both traditional and modern, and which can be prepared in advance.

The Chicken Fricassee — halfway between a sauté and a stew — combines turkey meatballs with chicken pieces cooked in a tomato sauce until tender and delicious. For a sweet-and-sour taste, add equal parts of lemon and brown sugar. Another of my favorites is a classic Roast Chicken, almost like Grandma made, using lots of garlic, shallots and potatoes.

Serve a light dessert for Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur. The recipe for a Holiday Apple Cake combines apples and honey, symbolizing a sweet year, a tasty tradition that dates back centuries.

BAKED SALMON

  • 1 (3-pound) salmon fillet, skin removed
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onions
  • 1/2 cup minced basil
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine

 

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Place the salmon in a glass or stainless-steel roasting dish and season it generously with salt and pepper. Whisk together olive oil and lemon juice and drizzle evenly over the salmon. Cover and marinate for 20 minutes.

In a small bowl, stir together the onions and basil. Scatter the mixture over the salmon fillet. Pour the wine around the salmon.

Bake the salmon, uncovered, for 15 minutes until firm with just a strip of undercooked salmon in the center. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and allow to rest 10 minutes. Just before serving, cut salmon crosswise and serve hot or cold.

Makes 8 servings.

ROAST CHICKEN WITH GARLIC, SHALLOTS AND POTATOES

  • 1 (3 1/2-pound) chicken, patted dry
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 8 large fresh thyme sprigs, plus extra for garnish
  • 24 small red potatoes, unpeeled pricked
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 large heads garlic, separated into unpeeled cloves
  • 1/4 cup water

 

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Rub chicken with 1/4 cup olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place 4 thyme sprigs in the cavity. Scatter the potatoes, onion, carrots, garlic and remaining 4 thyme sprigs on the bottom of a roasting pan. Sprinkle the water and remaining 1/4 cup oil over the vegetables and season with salt and pepper. Place the chicken, breast side down, on top of the vegetables. Bake for 1 hour or until tender.

Makes 8 servings.

CHICKEN FRICASSEE WITH TURKEY MEATBALLS

  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 egg
  • 1 small potato, peeled and grated
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons breadcrumbs
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 green pepper, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 (3 1/2-pound) chicken, cut in pieces

 

In a large bowl, combine the ground turkey, egg, potato, 1 garlic clove, breadcrumbs and salt and pepper. Shape into balls and set aside.

In a large roaster, heat oil and sauté onions, green pepper and remaining garlic until transparent. Using a wooden spoon, stir in paprika and sauté for 2 minutes until paprika is well blended.  Add tomato sauce and wine, and season with salt and pepper. Simmer mixture over medium-low heat for 5 to 10 minutes.

Place meatballs and chicken into tomato sauce mixture, cover and simmer gently for 1 hour or until chicken and meatballs are tender. Shake pot every 15 minutes to prevent meat from sticking to the pot. Serve in shallow bowls.

Makes 8 to 10 servings. 

HOLIDAY APPLE CAKE

  • Crumb Topping (recipe follows)
  • 5 large tart apples, peeled, cored and diced (about 5 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 cup unsalted nondairy margarine, melted and cooled
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice

 

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Prepare Crumb Topping, cover, and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine apples, lemon juice, honey, cinnamon and 2 tablespoons sugar; set aside for 20 minutes.

In a bowl, using an electric mixer, blend flour, remaining 2 cups sugar, salt and baking powder. In a medium bowl, whisk together margarine, eggs, vanilla and orange juice. Add to flour mixture and blend until smooth.

Brush a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with margarine, line with wax paper and brush wax paper with margarine. Spoon 1/3 of the batter into prepared baking dish and then spoon on half of the apple mixture. Pour half of the remaining batter over the apple mixture, cover with the remaining apple mixture and then remaining batter. Sprinkle Crumb Topping over batter. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden and toothpick inserted in center comes out dry.

Makes about 12 servings.   

CRUMB TOPPING

  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

 

In a food processor, blend brown sugar, walnuts, honey and cinnamon.

Makes about 1 cup.

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Cooking 101: A practical lesson for college students

Smoked salmon and cream cheese panini. Photos by Morgan Lieberman

Smoked salmon and cream cheese panini. Photos by Morgan Lieberman 

Spending a lovely summer back home in the Los Angeles area, Morgan Lieberman was doing what she enjoys most: using her camera to shoot photos. From time to time during those warm days, she found her way into my kitchen — and my heart — shooting photos of food for the Journal and its monthly magazine, TRIBE.

When she returned to the University of Missouri this month, however, Morgan and her longtime friend Caroline moved into an apartment with a tiny kitchen. This is their junior year at the university, and it comes with the challenges of independent living. For one thing, it means an end to the in-house chef who cooked all their meals last year in a sorority house.

But inspired by the food photos Morgan took while working in L.A., she and her roommate are now planning to cook together. They have collected a selection of practical recipes and plan to publish a cookbook to share with their college friends that will focus on easy-to-make dishes.

Some of their ideas include bruschetta, paninis, salads and lots of veggie dishes, plus fun desserts. Who wouldn’t want to end a hard night of studying with a Chocolate-Covered Ice Cream Pop?

BRUSCHETTA (GARLIC BREAD WITH TOMATOES AND BASIL)

It is a perfect last-minute accompaniment to an appetizer tray — unbelievably easy to prepare with ingredients usually on hand.

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 12 slices (1/2 inch thick) crusty Italian bread
  • 5 tomatoes, diced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 12 whole small basil leaves for garnish

 

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the garlic over medium heat. Add the bread slices in a single layer and fry them on both sides until crisp.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine the tomatoes, the remaining 2 tablespoons garlic, the chopped basil leaves, and salt and pepper. Place the bread slices on a large serving platter and spoon the tomato mixture onto each slice. Garnish with whole basil leaves and serve immediately.

Makes 12 servings.

SMOKED SALMON AND CREAM CHEESE PANINI

This sandwich, cut into quarters, makes an elegant appetizer or a simple and delicious lunch.

  • 12 slices sandwich bread or 6 rolls, cut in half horizontally
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese
  • 6 slices smoked salmon
  • 6 slices Monterey Jack cheese

 

Place bread on a cutting board. Spread cream cheese on 6 slices of bread or bottom halves of rolls. Top each with a slice of smoked salmon and a slice of cheese. Top with remaining 6 slices of bread or tops of rolls.

Preheat panini press or grill to medium heat.

Place sandwiches in panini press and close the lid. Grill sandwich until the bread is golden brown and cheese is melted. Slice into halves or quarters and serve immediately.

Makes 6 paninis.

TOMATO, MOZZARELLA AND BASIL PANINI

  • 12 slices sandwich bread or 6 rolls, cut in half horizontally
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 6 slices tomatoes
  • 6 slices mozzarella cheese
  • 6 fresh basil leaves

 

Place bread on a cutting board. Spread mayonnaise on 6 slices of bread or bottom halves of rolls. Top each with a slice of tomato, a slice of mozzarella and a basil leaf. Top with remaining 6 slices of bread or tops of rolls.

Preheat panini press or grill to medium heat.

Place sandwiches in panini press and close the lid. Grill sandwich until bread is golden brown and cheese is melted. Slice into halves or quarters and serve immediately.

Makes 6 paninis.

CHOCOLATE-COVERED ICE CREAM POPS

  • 1 pint ice cream (use your favorite flavor)
  • 1 pound semisweet chocolate, melted
  • Edible gold flecks or colored sprinkles (optional)

 

Line a tray with wax paper and place it in the freezer. Remove the ice cream and the chilled tray from the freezer. Using a small ice cream scoop, scoop out 12 bite-size balls of ice cream, insert a wooden stick in the center of each scoop, and place on chilled tray. Place in the freezer for at least 1 hour.

Remove one ice cream ball at a time and, holding the stick, quickly dip the ball in warm melted chocolate, covering the entire surface. Return the chocolate-coated ice cream balls to the tray and continue with the remaining ice cream balls. Sprinkle with edible gold flecks, if desired. Wrap in wax paper and return to the freezer for at least one hour until frozen solid.

Makes 12 servings.

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Lunch box challenge: Packing a fun meal for junior

Lunch box challenge: Packing a fun meal for junior

(Above) Tuna Salad Sandwich Photos by Morgan Lieberman. Food preparation and styling by Judy Zeidler

If you have children in school, you know that making a lunch that pleases both you and your kids is not an easy assignment. Think of it as the school-lunch challenge. To help, get them involved with planning a meal, because they’re more likely to eat it if they were part of packing it.

My daughter-in-law, Amy Zeidler, remembers when her busy mom made assorted sandwiches such as peanut butter and jelly, then wrapped them in wax paper and stored them in the freezer. In the morning, she would take out one of the sandwiches and pack it in the lunch box with a salad or fruit, and the sandwich would stay fresh until lunchtime. (What a great idea!)

Here are some other ideas on how to make your kids prefer their box lunches over the cafeteria. For protein, there’s good old peanut butter — we prefer the crunchy kind and often add a layer of Nutella, sliced banana or sliced marshmallows — but the kids might also enjoy a Sweet Pea Guacamole dip, Egg or Tuna Salad Sandwich, or even a thermos full of chili.

When serving tuna, egg, chicken or pasta salad, mix in shredded carrots, apples, zucchini, bell peppers, raisins, nuts — anything to add nutrition and fiber without adding lots of empty calories.

And it’s OK to add the ever-popular potato chips to the lunch box. You can choose from many herbs and spiced varieties, and they come in just the right portion size: little bags.

Surprise your kids by making or buying fortune cookies, then putting little sayings in them. Our son Paul always wrote wonderful messages or jokes on the napkins that he put in his kids’ lunch bags. Try it and you’ll see how much they look forward to checking out their lunch boxes. (If you want to get really crazy, write a note with an ink marker on the outside peel of a banana.) 

For a different dessert, try my recipe for Ladyfingers. They are as light as a feather and delicious. Don’t forget to pack a few extra for your kids to share with their best friends. While you’re at it, make sure to include my favorite idea — an apple for the teacher.

DEVILED EGG SALAD SANDWICH

I always keep hard-boiled eggs in the fridge. It is a lunch staple for us, especially when we can’t think of anything to eat. I love adding diced fresh fennel instead of celery, along with red peppers and green or red onions. Don’t forget the tip on freezing the sandwich the night before.

  • 4 hard-cooked eggs, finely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery or fresh fennel, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
  • 2 tablespoons red onions or green onions, minced (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 8 slices bread
  • 4 lettuce leaves, optional

Place eggs and celery or fennel in a mixing bowl. In a small bowl, stir together mayonnaise, mustard, red onion, salt and pepper. Pour mayonnaise mixture over egg mixture and toss gently to combine.

Place 1/2 cup on each of four slices of bread, top with lettuce leaf and then top with remaining four slices of bread. 

Makes 4 sandwiches.

TUNA SALAD SANDWICH

Sweet dill pickles give this Tuna Salad Sandwich a little kick. For a special treat, make your sandwich with thick slices of raisin-nut bread.

  • 1 (6-ounce) can tuna, drained
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon sweet pickle relish (optional)
  • 1 stalk celery or fresh fennel, chopped
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 lettuce leaves
  • 4 slices bread

In a medium bowl, mash tuna with a fork. Add mayonnaise, pickle relish, celery, onion and salt and pepper to taste. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Place about 1/2 cup of the tuna mixture on each of two slices of bread and top with a lettuce leaf and remaining two slices of bread.

Makes 2 sandwiches.

SWEET PEA GUACAMOLE

di-pea-guac

Unless you grow your own peas and can take from the garden, frozen ones work better because the color is more vibrant and you don’t need lemon to keep them green.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves, trimmed of long stems
  • 1 pound frozen (defrosted) peas
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup red onion, finely diced (optional)

Combine oil, lime juice and cilantro in a blender or food processor and blend until cilantro is roughly pureed. Add peas, cumin, salt and pepper and blend until smooth. There will still be some lumps, but this adds to the textural interest of the guacamole. Scrape into a mixing bowl and add the diced red onion. Serve as a dip with potato chips. 

Makes 1 cup.

LADYFINGERS 

  • 3 eggs, separated 
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 3/4 cup sifted flour

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the egg whites with the salt until they begin to thicken. Gradually add the granulated sugar and continue beating until they form a stiff meringue, about 1 minute. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks, vanilla and powdered sugar for 3 to 4 minutes, until thick and light in color. Gently fold the yolk mixture into the meringue. Sift small amounts of the flour on top of the meringue mixture, folding until completely absorbed, but do not over-mix.

Line a baking sheet with foil, then oil and flour the foil. Fit a pastry bag with a plain, round tip (5/8 inch in diameter). With a rubber spatula, carefully fill the bag with the meringue and pipe Ladyfingers 3 inches long and 1 inch wide on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes in preheated oven, or until evenly brown and somewhat crisp. Remove from the oven and use a metal spatula to transfer them to racks to cool. Store in an airtight container. 

Makes about 24 cookies.

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Inspiring salads for today’s health-conscious boomers

<em>Peach Salad. Photos by Morgan Lieberman Food preparation and styling by Judy Zeidler</em>

Peach Salad. Photos by Morgan Lieberman Food preparation and styling by Judy Zeidler

When I think of baby boomers, I begin to realize how instrumental they are in the way people eat today. They have made us more aware of nutrition, healthful food and time-saving recipes. They are setting a trend of eating more organic foods and demanding products that support healthful eating and living. They are becoming much more disciplined in eating three balanced meals a day, and the ingredients they are being served at restaurants and incorporating at home are always a topic of discussion.

Recently, at our Sunday Brentwood Farmers Market, I noticed that at least 80 to 90 percent of the shoppers were boomers. Some were with grandbabies in strollers or walking with children carrying shopping bags and picking out fresh fruits and vegetables. At the cherry stand, a young boomer was selecting fruit while wearing plastic gloves to ward off germs. She told us how to carefully pick the best fruit and explained its relationship to a healthful diet. This was after she had asked the producer if he used a chemical spray on the cherries.

We have always enjoyed shopping at farmers markets, selecting fresh produce and adapting it into nutritious recipes. One of my favorites is a Caesar salad I developed; I remember the first restaurant that served it, and I’m still preparing it the same way. The only dressing I use is extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and mashed anchovies.

Just toss romaine, radicchio or red leaf lettuce in a large bowl and add a generous amount of grated Parmesan cheese. Taste before adding salt because the cheese and anchovies can be salty.

When Chef Michel Richard had his restaurant Citrus in Los Angeles, one of the salads he created was awesome to look at as well as to eat. A large martini glass is filled with layers of finely diced cucumber, tomatoes, avocado and lettuce, and then sprinkled with chopped olives. It’s amazing how a long-stemmed glass can transform an everyday salad into gourmet greens.

We recently revisited Chef Cesare Giaccone’s trattoria in Piedmont, Italy, and enjoyed his creative peach salad; it was just as delicious as we remembered from years ago. It inspired me to create my own salad using the fresh ingredients we have in California, including peaches, avocado, red peppers and corn kernels that combine color, texture and flavor.

Here are some of my favorite recipes for healthful salads that are easy to prepare using veggies available at your local farmers market.

MICHEL RICHARD’S LAYERED SALAD (makes 4 servings)

  • 1 large cucumber, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 2 large tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 avocado, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 cup finely shredded lettuce
  • 1/2 cup minced black olives
  • 4 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
  • 4 basil leaves, for garnish

 

Place the prepared vegetables in separate bowls.

Just before serving, fill martini glasses by carefully spooning a 1/2-inch layer each of cucumber, tomatoes, avocado, lettuce and olives.

Drizzle 1 teaspoon olive oil and 2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar over the top of each serving and garnish with 1 basil leaf.
CELERIAC SLAW (makes 4 servings)

Celeriac, or celery root, is a much overlooked vegetable, although usually it can be found in the produce section of supermarkets or farmers markets. The popular way to prepare it is to make celery root slaw, like this, but it is also delicious boiled and mashed with potatoes.

  • 1 small celeriac (about 2 pounds)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup minced chives or scallions
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cut off the root of the celeriac and peel the thick outside layer; wash it and cut it into julienne strips (or use a food processor fitted with the grater blade). Transfer to a large glass bowl.

In a medium bowl, combine the mayonnaise, mustard, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and sugar.

Add the chives, salt and pepper and mix well.

Add just enough of the mayonnaise mixture to coat the celeriac and toss.

Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 15 minutes before serving.

WARM MUSHROOM SALAD WITH WILD GREENS (makes 4 servings)

  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups assorted mushrooms, cut in half
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 cups mixed greens (arugula, radicchio, loose-leaf) washed and torn into bite-size pieces
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

In a medium nonstick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and sauté the mushrooms over medium heat until tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, toss the greens with the remaining olive oil and the vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Arrange the greens on salad plates and spoon the warm mushrooms in the center.

PEACH SALAD (makes 6-8 servings)

  • 1 avocado, peeled and diced
  • 1 firm peach (preferably white), peeled and diced
  • 1 cup corn kernels
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 4 cups arugula
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a large bowl, combine the avocado, peach, corn, red bell pepper and toss. Add arugula and toss.

Combine the balsamic vinegar and olive oil and mix well.

Just before serving, add the dressing to the salad mixture and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Arrange on salad plates and serve.

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Fire up the grill this year for a delicious Father’s Day

Fire up the grill this year for a delicious Father’s Day

Nationwide, there are all sorts of activities to celebrate Father’s Day, different ways to honor the hard work of dads and their contribution to society. For our family, it is usually a fun party focused on enjoying each other’s company — and a special meal. 

When our kids were growing up we lived on a ranch in Topanga Canyon, and we celebrated Father’s Day by having a picnic and a kite-flying festival. Friends would bring their kites, and the dads and kids would send them skyward until everyone had run out of string. Then it was time to eat, drink, relax and relish the rest of the day.

When you honor dear old dad this year on June 21, try this hearty menu that can be served indoors or out, as lunch or early dinner. It makes a perfect picnic, and some of the food can be grilled at your favorite recreation spot.

The succulent Barbecue-Baked Short Ribs, marinated in a spicy sauce, can be made in advance, easily carried to a picnic site and reheated if necessary. Complement it with a fun Rainbow Cabbage Slaw and serve some Meatless Chili with lots of potato chips (choose a selection that includes interesting herbs and spices). 

Sweet corn, wrapped in their protective husks, can be finished on the stove or wrapped in foil and cooked on the same barbecue. (The sweetest corn is that which is picked, cooked and eaten the same day.) Fathers always seem to enjoy participating in this part of the preparation — in fact, I don’t know a dad who doesn’t like to be in charge of the grill. 

The desserts should be simple, and everyone loves Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Kiss Cookies. Serve them with watermelon wedges and have lots of beverages available, ranging from beer and wine to sodas and lemonade. 

BARBECUE-BAKED SHORT RIBS

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups dry red wine
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 pounds lean beef short ribs, fat and gristle removed
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon powdered mustard
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 cup (about 6) thinly sliced green onions (scallions)

 Preheat the oven to 450 F.

In a large, shallow baking dish, combine the garlic, 1 cup of the wine, olive oil, vinegar, thyme, salt and pepper. Mix well. Add the ribs, turning to coat them. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours. Turn the ribs every hour.

Transfer the ribs to a large roasting pan. Reserve the marinade and store in the refrigerator. Bake the ribs, uncovered, for 30 minutes, turning once. Pour off the fat.

Take the reserved marinade and stir in the ketchup, brown sugar, the remaining 2 cups of wine, mustard, ginger and green onions.

Spoon this sauce over the ribs, coating them thoroughly. Reduce the heat to 350 F, cover, and bake for about 2 to 3 hours, until the meat is tender. Serve with sauce on the side. 

Makes about 12 servings.

MEATLESS CHILI

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
  • 2 (1-pound) cans of tomatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 small red peppers, cored, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Dash of Tabasco sauce
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 (20-ounce) can red kidney beans

 In a large skillet, heat the oil and add the garlic and onions.

Simmer until onions are tender. Add the tomatoes, celery, carrots, red peppers, parsley, wine, tomato paste, lemon juice, chili powder, cumin and Tabasco sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring often, until the vegetables are tender. Add the kidney beans, mix well and continue cooking for 5 or 10 minutes. 

Makes about 12 servings.

RAINBOW CABBAGE SLAW

  • 1 small head green cabbage 
  • 1 small head red cabbage
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and grated
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cut cabbages lengthwise into wedges small enough to fit in feed tube of food processor. Remove core. With slicing disk in place, slice cabbage using moderate pressure on pusher. Or, using a sharp knife, slice cabbages as thin as possible. Transfer sliced cabbage to a large bowl. Add carrots, toss and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, sugar and lemon juice and blend. Add salt and pepper to taste. If needed, add additional sugar or lemon juice to taste. Toss with cabbage mixture to moisten completely.

Makes about 12 servings.

STEAMED CORN IN THE HUSKS

  • 12 ears of fresh corn in their husks
  • 1 quart of water
  • Salt to taste
  • Unsalted nondairy margarine

 Strip off some of the outer husks of the corn, leaving the thin inner husk. With a sharp knife, cut the stalks close to the cob and the tip of the cob. 

In a large, heavy saucepan, bring lightly salted water to a boil and add the corn. With the water at a steady low boil, cook for 10 minutes. Remove and serve at once with margarine and salt, or wrap in foil and finish heating on the barbecue for added flavor and a golden brown color. 

Makes 12 servings.

PEANUT BUTTER CHOCOLATE CHIP KISS COOKIES

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup unsalted nondairy margarine
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 cup chunky or smooth peanut butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 (11-ounce) bag pareve chocolate chips

 Preheat the oven to 350 F. 

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and baking powder. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the margarine on medium-high speed until blended. Add the sugars and mix until well blended, but not fluffy. Beat in the eggs, peanut butter and vanilla; mix thoroughly. With the mixer on low, gradually add the flour and mix until combined and smooth.

Form dough into 2-inch balls and place about 2 inches apart on ungreased, parchment-lined baking pans. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until edges of cookies are light golden brown. 

Remove from the oven and immediately press 2 or 3 chocolate chips in the center of each cookie. Cool on pans for 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. 

Makes about 5 dozen cookies.

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Blintzes and beyond for Shavuot

<em>Stuffed Eggplant Rolls. Photos by Dan Kacvinski</em>

Stuffed Eggplant Rolls. Photos by Dan Kacvinski

The holiday of Shavuot marks the receiving of the Ten Commandments by Moses, but it’s also a kind of Jewish Thanksgiving, when farm bounty and grains — “first fruits” — were brought to the temple. These often included wheat, barley, grapes, figs and dates.

In modern times, Shavuot is a holiday that inspires the preparation of many delicious and traditional recipes that usually feature a variety of vegetarian and dairy foods. Milk, eggs and cheeses of all kinds are used in abundance.

Blintzes are the most popular of the Shavuot foods. They may be served as a side dish, dessert or main course. They are thin pancakes or crepes that are filled with an assortment of dairy or vegetable mixtures. I have adapted a basic blintz recipe to include a spinach-ricotta combination; served with yogurt or sour cream, it adds a perfect dairy accent.

The Vegetarian Lentil Soup is a family favorite. All the ingredients can be sautéed, blended in a food processor and served immediately, or prepared and stored in the refrigerator for two to three days.

Stuffed Eggplant Rolls are another flexible choice for your Shavuot lunch, brunch or dinner. Thin slices of eggplant are rolled around a three-cheese filling that is combined with lightly beaten egg whites. The spicy, garlicky herbed tomato sauce is a perfect accompaniment.

And don’t forget about dessert. One of my special treats for the holiday is an Apricot Cheesecake, along with bowls of fruit, dates and nuts. Together, they are sure to please!

SHAVUOT BLINTZES

  • Ricotta and Spinach Filling (recipe follows)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 3 tablespoons melted, unsalted margarine
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Sour cream

 

Prepare Ricotta and Spinach Filling; refrigerate.

In a large bowl, blend the eggs, milk and 1 tablespoon margarine. Add flour and salt, blending until smooth. (If any lumps remain, pour through a fine strainer, pressing any lumps of flour through; mix well.) Cover and set aside for 1 hour.

Lightly grease a 6-inch nonstick skillet. Place over medium heat until hot. Pour in about 1/8 cup batter at a time, tilting pan and swirling to make a thin pancake. When lightly browned, gently loosen edges and turn out of pan onto towel or plate. Repeat with remaining batter. Cool.

Place 1 to 2 tablespoons of Ricotta and Spinach Filling in center of browned side of each blintz. Fold lower portion over filling. Tuck in ends then roll to form flat rectangle. Place on larger platter and cover with plastic wrap until ready to cook.

In a large skillet, place remaining 2 tablespoons melted margarine. Cook blintzes about 2 to 3 minutes on each side until lightly browned. Transfer to serving plates and serve with sour cream.

Makes about 20 blintzes.

RICOTTA AND SPINACH FILLING

  • 2 bunches fresh spinach
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

Rinse spinach; remove and discard stems. Place leaves in boiling salted boiling water; boil 10 minutes. Drain and cool, then squeeze dry. Chop finely.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine spinach, ricotta, Parmesan cheese, egg yolks, parsley and basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.

Makes 5 to 6 cups.

VEGETARIAN LENTIL SOUP

  • 1 1/2 cups dried lentils
  • 2 1/2 cups warm vegetable broth or water
  • 2 bay leaves, crushed
  • 1/4 cup unsalted margarine
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 4 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 onions, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 4 large tomatoes, finely chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Red wine vinegar to taste
  • Plain yogurt or grated Parmesan cheese for garnish

 

Soak lentils in 4 cups of water 6 hours or overnight. Drain and place in a large, heavy pot with vegetable broth and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, skimming off any foam that forms. Reduce heat, cover partially, and simmer 15 to 20 minutes or until lentils are tender.

In a large skillet, heat margarine and olive oil. Add garlic, carrots, parsnips, onion, celery and parsley. Sauté 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add rosemary and tomatoes, and simmer 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper and vinegar. Remove 2 cups of the cooked lentils and 1/2 cup of the liquid; puree in a processor or blender. Return the puree and sautéed vegetable mixture to the soup pot. Mix well. Bring to boil over medium heat, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, until thick, 30 to 40 minutes. Ladle soup into warm bowls and garnish with yogurt or grated cheese.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

STUFFED EGGPLANT ROLLS

  • Tomato-Basil Sauce (recipe follows)
  • 1 pound ricotta or hoop cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh or dried basil
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 ounces mozzarella cheese
  • 2 medium eggplants
  • Flour
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • Fresh basil leaves for garnish

 

Prepare Tomato-Basil Sauce; refrigerate.

In a bowl, combine ricotta, Parmesan, parsley, basil and egg yolks.

In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. Fold into cheese mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill.

Slice mozzarella cheese into 2-inch-by-1/2-inch sticks. Set aside.

Trim stem end from eggplants and slice lengthwise 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. Dredge in flour seasoned to taste with salt and pepper. Shake off excess.

In a large, heavy skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add eggplant slices and sauté on both sides until soft and lightly browned. Drain on paper towels. Cool.

Place 2 tablespoons cheese filling across narrow end of each eggplant slice. Press stick of mozzarella into filling. Roll up eggplant tightly around filling. Place rolls, seam-side down, in greased baking dish. Cover with foil and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours. (Do not freeze.)

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Spoon some of Tomato-Basil Sauce over each roll. Bake for 15 minutes or until hot and bubbling. With metal spatula, carefully place one or two eggplant rolls on each plate. Garnish with basil leaves. Serve immediately.

Makes about 16 rolls.

TOMATO-BASIL SAUCE

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes with liquid
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh or dried basil
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

In a skillet, heat oil. Add garlic and onion, and sauté until onions are transparent. Add tomatoes, wine, basil, parsley and sugar. Bring to a boil and simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until thick, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a food processor or blender and process until well blended. Transfer to bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.

Makes about 4 cups.

APRICOT CHEESECAKE

 

  • 1 (6-ounce) package dried apricots
  • 1 1/2 cups apple juice
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • Crumbled Sugar-Cookie Crust (recipe follows)
  • Sour Cream Topping (recipe follows)
  • 3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

 

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

In a small saucepan, combine apricots, apple juice and 1/2 cup sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 5 minutes. Cool. Transfer to a food processor or blender and process until pureed. Set aside. Reserve 1/2 cup apricot puree for cookie crust.

Prepare the Crumbled Sugar-Cookie Crust and Sour Cream Topping; set both aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and remaining 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Blend in vanilla and 1/2 cup of the apricot puree. Beat 2 or 3 minutes until light. Pour into crust that has been spread with a thin layer of apricot puree.

Bake in preheated oven for 50 minutes or until center is set and top is golden. Remove from oven and spread with Sour Cream Topping. Return to oven 5 minutes. Cool. Remove from springform pan and garnish with remaining apricot puree. Chill before serving.

Makes 10 to 12 servings.

CRUMBLED SUGAR-COOKIE CRUST

  • 1 1/2 cups crumbled sugar cookies
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted margarine

 

In a large mixing bowl, food processor or blender, thoroughly blend the cookie crumbs and margarine. Spoon the mixture evenly into a 9-inch springform pan and press down firmly to make an even layer on bottom of pan. Spread with a thin layer of the apricot puree. Refrigerate at least 15 minutes.

SOUR CREAM TOPPING

  • 1 pint sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

 

In a small bowl, beat the sour cream, sugar and vanilla until well blended. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Makes 2 cups.

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Potluck gold: A family steps up to the plate for mother’s day

Potluck gold: A family steps up to the plate for mother’s day

Mother’s Day is the traditional celebration honoring all the mothers in the family, as well as motherhood, maternal bonds and the influence of mothers in society. To celebrate this special day — which is May 10 this year — I decided to ask members of our family to submit a dish they would like to share for a potluck extravaganza. We will have great-grandmothers, grandmothers and mothers represented at this first-time event. Potlucks are a fun and easy way to bring people together, and they are one of the least stressful and most budget-friendly ways to throw a party. Enjoying yummy food and wonderful company is delightful on its own, but try these unique ideas to add some festive flair to your Mother’s Day. As with most communal efforts, they work best when everyone works together to plan a menu, because you may not want to end up with 10 extra bottles of wine and not enough food. Find a theme, then contact everyone in the family asking what they would like to bring and how they want to participate. After receiving an overwhelming response from family (some of whom sent notes admitting, “Mom, most of my recipes are from your cookbooks!), I’m already looking forward to when everyone arrives, carrying platters filled with delicious dishes to be placed on the buffet table. Of course there will be a place card in front of each dish with the chef’s name. We might even have a prize for the most creative dish. May the best chef win!

AMBER’S SPINACH-ORANGE SALAD WITH CARAMELIZED ALMONDS

  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 10 ounces baby spinach
  • 15 ounces mandarin orange sections, drained
  • 1 cup thinly sliced celery
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion

Line a 10-inch baking sheet with aluminum foil, lightly grease and set aside. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the water and 4 1/2 tablespoons of sugar to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until sugar turns a golden amber color, swirling occasionally. Add sliced almonds and continue cooking 1 minute. Spread almonds in thin layer on prepared foil and cool completely. In a small or medium bowl, whisk together orange juice, vinegar, olive oil, 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar, orange zest, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper. Place baby spinach, mandarin orange sections, celery and red onion in a large bowl. Break cooled caramelized almonds into bite-sized pieces over the top. Toss salad with dressing. Makes 8 servings.

KATHY’S WATERMELON AND TOMATO SALAD

  • 3 cups (1/2-inch) diced tomatoes
  • 3 cups (1/2-inch) diced watermelon
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
  • 3 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Pomegranate seeds

In a large bowl, gently toss the diced tomatoes, watermelon and basil. Just before serving, toss with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Spoon the salad onto salad plates and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

SUSAN’S CONFETTI POTATO SALAD

  • 12 to 14 medium red potatoes, cooked and diced
  • 6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled, quartered and sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups diced celery
  • 1 orange bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 cups mayonnaise
  • 1/2 to 1 cup finely sliced green onions (scallions)
  • 1/2 cup minced parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Yellow, red and orange bell pepper, diced for garnish

In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, eggs, celery and peppers. Add enough mayonnaise to moisten and toss gently. Add the green onions and parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper; toss gently again. Garnish with diced bell pepper. Makes 8 servings.

AMY’S NOODLE-KUGEL PUDDING

  • 1/4 pound broad noodles, boiled and drained
  • 1/8 pound melted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 heaping tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups crushed cornflakes
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Grease an 8-inch square baking dish. In a large bowl, combine noodles, butter, eggs, salt, milk, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, cottage cheese and cream cheese and mix well. Pour into prepared casserole. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes. In a medium bowl, combine cornflake crumbs, 2 tablespoons brown sugar and cinnamon. Remove casserole from oven and sprinkle with cornflake mixture. Bake for 15 minutes longer. Makes 8-10 servings.

JAY’S SALMON, FAST AND EASY

salmon

  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds salmon filet
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 to 2 cups natural maple syrup
  • 2 whole bananas, peeled, sliced lengthwise into 4 pieces
  • 20 fresh Bing cherries (or fresh frozen), pitted

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Rinse and lightly salt the filet of fresh salmon. Brush generously with Dijon mustard on both sides, and lay it flat in a glass ovenproof dish. Pour enough maple syrup over the fish to almost cover. Cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and arrange the sliced bananas lengthwise on top of the salmon, along with the cherries. Cover with foil and bake the salmon until the maple syrup is bubbling, about 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer the dish to a hot pad and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Makes 6 servings.

ZEKE’S CHOCOLATE STREUSEL COFFEE CAKE

  • Chocolate-Nut Topping (recipe follows)
  • 1/4 pound unsalted butter or margarine, at room temperature, plus more for pan
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange peel
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup finely ground walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Prepare Chocolate-Nut Topping. In the bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Blend in eggs and vanilla. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and orange peel. Add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with sour cream, 1/3 of each at a time. Lightly butter a 9- or 10-inch tube pan and sprinkle with ground walnuts. Pour half of the batter into prepared pan, spreading evenly. Sprinkle with half of the topping. Spoon the remaining batter on top and carefully spread over topping. Sprinkle with remaining topping. Bake until the cake is golden brown, begins to come away from the sides of the pan, and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Makes 12 servings.

CHOCOLATE-NUT TOPPING

1 cup toasted chopped walnuts or pecans 1 cup chopped semisweet chocolate (about 6 ounces) 2 to 3 tablespoons sugar 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon In a medium bowl, mix together all ingredients.Makes about 2 cups.

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65 Years of favorite Passover desserts

<em>Rocky Road Clusters. Photos by Daniel Kacvinski</em>

Rocky Road Clusters. Photos by Daniel Kacvinski

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PASSOVER BROWNIES WITH CHOCOLATE GLAZE

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

Preheat oven to 350 F.

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

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

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

Makes 16 servings. 

PASSOVER CHOCOLATE GLAZE

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

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

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

ROCKY ROAD CLUSTERS

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

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

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

Makes about 24 servings.

MATZAH FARFEL-NUT THINS

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

Preheat oven to 325 F.

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

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

Makes about 8 dozen.

COCOA-PECAN COOKIES

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

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

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

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

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

Makes about 2 or 3 dozen cookies.  

PASSOVER MANDELBROT

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

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

Preheat oven to 350 F.

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

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

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

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

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

Makes about 4 dozen.

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Ancient story, modern meal: Traditional Passover seder gets an update

Ancient story, modern meal: Traditional Passover seder gets an update

We began receiving e-mails and telephone calls in early January from family members and friends asking to be included in one of our annual Passover seders. We usually plan a month or two in advance, but this was unusual — although it did make us so happy to think that everyone is looking forward to sharing our seders.

We can seat about 25 in our dining room, and this year we started thinking about how we could accommodate a few more. The amount of food to prepare is never a problem, and we always have leftovers. In fact, for the last several years, we have invited friends for a third Passover dinner just to help consume the delicious food that is left. 

Our menu is like the Ten Commandments, written in stone. First the seder plate preparation of the ceremonial foods, and the cold, salted, hard-cooked-egg soup. Then gefilte fish, chicken soup with matzah balls, and oven-roasted turkey with my mother’s vegetable stuffing (everyone’s favorite and always on the menu).

Most of our recipes date back to the family seders when we were growing up — or at least as we remember them. But, as my food-oriented husband and I have matured, we have become braver and more creative. We don’t discard the traditional family food choices, we just try to improve on them, and this year we are including a Matzah Farfel Kugel that an Israeli friend shared with me.

During the seders — the first one this year is April 3 — we have a tasting of foods that have been adopted from communities all over the world. The traditional Eastern European charoset we serve — a mixture of apples, walnuts and wine — has evolved to a tasting of charoset from other cultures. A family favorite, the spicy Yemenite Charoset mixture, is seasoned with cayenne pepper, and we have now added a new Contemporary Israeli Charoset — a combination of oranges, figs, raisins, almonds and wine. 

There is always a variety of sweets following the meal, and this Passover, in the center of the dessert table, our guests will find a very light sponge cake flavored with fresh orange and lemon juices and topped with strawberries. 

We serve red and white wines from several countries and always include a sweet Concord grape wine that once was a family tradition. 

This year, to make the seder more enlightening for our additional guests, we will do more than read the haggadah; we will ask our guests to participate by sharing a personal Passover story or a current event that relates to the holiday. And by the time that’s over, we’ll all be ready to eat!

CONTEMPORARY ISRAELI CHAROSET

  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup pitted, chopped dates
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried figs
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 whole orange, peel and sections
  • 2 tablespoons Passover wine
  • 2 tablespoons matzah meal

In a processor or blender, combine the almonds, raisins, dates, figs and cinnamon; process until coarsely chopped. Add the orange peel and orange sections; process briefly to combine. Transfer mixture to a glass bowl; gently fold in the wine and matzah meal. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate until ready to serve.  

Makes about 3 cups.

YEMENITE CHAROSET

  • 1 cup pitted, chopped dates
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried figs
  • 1/3 cup sweet Passover wine
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Pinch coriander
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons matzah meal

In a large bowl, combine dates, figs and wine. Add sesame seeds, ginger, coriander, cayenne and matzah meal; blend thoroughly. Shape into 1-inch balls or serve in a bowl. 

Makes about 24 balls or 1 1/2 cups.

MATZAH FARFEL KUGEL

  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
  • 1/4 cup ground nuts or matzah meal
  • 4 cups matzah farfel
  • Boiling water
  • 1/2 cup unsalted margarine, cut in pieces
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup golden seedless raisins
  • 1/2 cup diced apples
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon-sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F. 

Brush an 8-inch-square baking dish with oil and sprinkle with ground nuts. Set aside.

Place farfel in a colander; pour boiling water over. Transfer farfel to a large bowl. Add margarine, egg yolks, raisins and apples. Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, mix well. Beat egg whites to stiff peaks; fold into farfel mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into prepared baking dish; sprinkle top with cinnamon-sugar. Bake for about 45 minutes. 

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

PASSOVER ORANGE SPONGE CAKE

Passover orange sponge cake

  • 1/4 cup cooking oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup matzah cake meal
  • 1/2 cup potato starch
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • Grated peel of 1 orange and 1 lemon
  • Fresh strawberries for garnish

Preheat oven to 325 F.

In large bowl of electric mixture, blend oil and 3/4 cup sugar. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition. Sift together matzah cake meal, potato starch and salt; add to egg yolk mixture alternately with orange juice, lemon juice and grated peels.

In a large bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form, add remaining 1/4 cup sugar, and continue beating to stiff peaks; fold into egg yolk mixture. Pour batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan. 

Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until cake is golden brown, springs back when touched and a toothpick inserted in it comes out dry. Remove cake from oven, immediately invert cake pan, and let cool completely. Loosen sides and center of cake with a sharp knife; unmold onto a cake plate. Just before serving, garnish with fresh strawberries. 

Makes at least 12 servings.

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Prepare a Purim meal worthy of Queen Esther

Prepare a Purim meal worthy of Queen Esther

What makes the holiday of Purim so special for our family is more than the heroic story of Queen Esther. These days, our celebration wouldn’t be complete without a holiday meal that starts with all the grandchildren and great-grandchildren dressed up in costume to re-create the Purim story and making mayhem, using groggers —noise-makers — from our collection that are part of the table decor.

The menu itself is much less chaotic. According to legend, Queen Esther ate mostly fruits, vegetables, grains and rice, to avoid eating nonkosher foods at the palace. This Purim, in keeping with that tradition, let’s focus on dishes made with rice.

I remember the first time we had Persian rice at the home of our friends Homeira and Arnold Goldstein. It was delicious, and I asked her for the recipe. Homeira, a great gourmet cook, had grown up with this dish and explained that her family never followed a recipe. It was a very long and difficult task, but I worked with her and we developed a recipe that can be made in a typical family’s home kitchen. A special treat is the crunchy layer of well-cooked rice that forms on the bottom of the pan, and it has become one of our favorite Purim dishes.

There is always a jar of grape leaves in my pantry, and I have an ageless recipe for dolmas(stuffed grape leaves) filled with an onion-rice and dried apricot mixture. You can plan to make the grape leaves days ahead, and the rice filling should be prepared and put in the refrigerator at least a day in advance. Then the grape leaves can be stuffed, rolled, steamed and stored until ready to serve. If possible, buy the grape leaves preserved in lemon juice, not brine, because the latter sometimes will taste salty.

I am also including my favorite risotto recipe using Italian Arborio rice, onions and vegetable stock. It is a great dish to serve unexpected company because the ingredients are usually in my pantry, so last-minute shopping is unnecessary. 

HOMEIRA-STYLE SAFFRON BASMATI RICE CRISP POTATOES

  • 1 1/2 cups basmati rice
  • Water
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 small russet potato, peeled and thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 400 F.

In a large bowl, soak rice in 4 cups water for 4 to 6 hours. Drain and wash rice very gently under running water until the water runs clear.

In a medium-size pot, bring 8 cups water to a boil. Add rice, salt, vinegar, and 1 tablespoon olive oil; boil for 7 minutes. Strain rice in a colander under cold running water. Shake well to get rid of excess water; set rice aside.

Using a mortar and pestle, grind saffron threads and sugar into a powder, mix with 1 tablespoon water; set aside. 

Heat remaining 1/2 cup olive oil in a 9-inch cast-iron or other ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Drizzle half of saffron mixture over oil. Arrange potato slices in a sunburst pattern or use your creativity for a different pattern. Cook potatoes for 2 minutes, until edges of potato slices are golden. Add rice gradually, spreading it loosely over potato slices. Cover and cook over low heat 15 minutes.

Transfer to oven; bake 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven; let rest 5 minutes. Remove lid, place a platter over the skillet and turn it upside down away from your body onto the platter. Drizzle remaining saffron mixture over rice. 

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

DOLMAS (STUFFED GRAPE LEAVES)

SONY DSC

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

  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 4 large onions, finely chopped
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup long-grain white rice
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 (6-ounce) packages dried apricot halves
  • 1 (16-ounce) jar grape leaves,  rinsed
  • Juice of 3 lemons

In a large, heavy skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and saute, stirring frequently, until soft, but not browned, about 10 minutes. Add 1/2 cup water, rice, parsley, mint, allspice, salt and pepper. Stir well, cover, and continue cooking over low heat for about l5 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes to prevent sticking. The rice will be undercooked. Remove from heat; cool to room temperature.

Dice 3 ounces of dried apricot halves; add to cooled rice.

Place 5 or 6 grape leaves on the bottom of a large pot. Place remaining apricot halves on top of grape leaves to cover. Set aside.

Snip off and discard stems of remaining leaves. Place leaves on a work surface, vein sides up. Place a heaping tablespoon of rice mixture in center of each grape leaf. Roll stem end over filling, fold in sides, and roll up leaf to enclose rice mixture completely.

Place stuffed leaves seam sides down in neatly packed layers on top of apricots in prepared pot. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup water and lemon juice. Place a heavy oven-proof dish inside the pot on top of grape leaves.

Cover and simmer 20 to 30 minutes, until grape leaves are tender. Serve hot, or, if you prefer, transfer them to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator. Serve on a large platter surrounded by cooked apricots from bottom of pot.

Makes about 60.

TRADITIONAL RISOTTO

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted margarine
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 6 to 8 cups hot vegetable stock
  • 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 margarine until foamy. Add onion; saute over medium heat until soft.

Add rice; mix well with a wooden spoon. Add 1 or 2 ladles of stock or enough to cover rice. Cook, stirring constantly, as stock is absorbed. Continue adding stock a little at a time, cooking and stirring, until rice is just tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Add parsley and cream to 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 rice is tender but firm to the bite, blend in 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese and remaining 2 tablespoons margarine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately in heated shallow bowls. Garnish with some of remaining 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese. Serve remaining Parmesan in a bowl, to be passed separately.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

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Confections with fruits and nuts for a sweet Tu b’Shevat

Confections with fruits and nuts for a sweet Tu b’Shevat

It is the custom to eat fresh or dried fruit for Tu b’Shevat, an ancient agricultural holiday that is often called New Year of the Trees. Although there are no specific dishes that have traditionally been prepared for Tu b’Shevat, the custom of serving dishes that contain fruits and nuts has emerged. With a great assortment to choose from — and a little creativity — there are endless possibilities.

One of my favorite foods that I remember eating during this holiday is baked apples filled with nuts, cinnamon, raisins, brown sugar and honey. It was almost always served after a family lunch that included several salads and a vegetable soup.

The perfect dessert to make for Tu b’Shevat — which falls on Feb. 4 this year — is Homemade Fig Bars. This recipe is so authentic, the bars look just like the ones in the Fig Newtons package at your local grocery store, only better. They feature homemade fig preserves inside a buttery, orange-scented cookie. Once the filling has been prepared, the Fig Bars are not time-consuming to make.

I love making Old-Fashioned Jam Cookies using a classic recipe from my 1988 cookbook “The Gourmet Jewish Cook” (William Morrow). These thumbprint cookies have been part of the family since our kids were young. I always make the dough in advance — just knead and cover with plastic wrap. When ready to serve, roll them out, dip in chopped nuts, press a hole in the center and bake. Just before serving, spoon dollops of fruit jam in the center.

Another pastry to serve for Tu b’Shevat is apple pie. I used to love the compliments I received, especially from my dad. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream for a special treat.

HOMEMADE FIG BARS

Fig newtons

  • 4 cups dried figs, stems removed
  • 4 tablespoons corn syrup 
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 pound unsalted margarine
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice

Preheat oven to 350 F. 

Line 1 or 2 baking sheets with greased aluminum foil or a Silpat baking mat; set aside.

Place figs in a large bowl. Pour boiling water over them to cover; let stand 10 minutes. Drain off all but 2 tablespoons water; stir in corn syrup and cinnamon.

Puree figs in food processor until a thick paste forms (if too thick or thin to spread evenly, add a little water or flour).

In a medium-size bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream margarine and sugar until fluffy. Add egg, vanilla and orange juice; mix well. Add flour mixture; beat until dough forms.

Transfer dough onto a floured surface or wax paper and knead into a round, flat disc. Wrap in wax paper and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. Take chilled dough from refrigerator and divide into 4 equal portions. On floured wax paper, roll out one portion 4 inches wide, 12 inches long and about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick.

Spread a quarter of fig mixture lengthwise along center of the strip of dough. Gently fold one side over, covering half the fig mixture; fold the second side over the first, so that you are left with a long, 2-inch-wide tube of dough enclosing the fig filling. Using the wax paper as a guide, flip the filled tube onto prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining 3 portions of dough until all 4 dough strips have been filled, folded and transferred to the baking sheet.

Bake 25 minutes or until golden brown. Slice into 2-inch cookie-size segments and cool. 

Makes 3 to 4 dozen.

OLD-FASHIONED JAM COOKIES

  • 1/2 pound unsalted butter or margarine
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • Assorted preserves: strawberry, red raspberry, apricot

Preheat oven to 350  F.

In a large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks and vanilla; blend until smooth. Add flour and salt; blend until smooth. (At this point, you can wrap the dough in plastic wrap and a plastic bag and store it in the refrigerator or freezer.)

Pull off small pieces of dough, shaping each into a 3/4-inch ball; dip each ball in egg whites and roll in chopped nuts. Place dough balls on foil-lined, greased baking sheets. Using your finger or a thimble, gently press an indentation in center of each ball. Bake for 10 minutes. Carefully press down each indentation again and continue baking 5 minutes longer or until golden brown. Cool on racks. Fill center of each cookie with a dollop of jam.

Makes about 4 dozen.

THE BEST APPLE PIE

  • Sweet Pie Crust (recipe follows)
  • 8 large Granny Smith or pippin apples (about 4 pounds)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted margarine
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup cold water

Prepare Sweet Pie Crust; set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Peel, core and cut apples into thin slices, about 1/4 inch thick. In a large bowl, toss apple slices with lemon juice.

In a large, heavy saucepan, combine margarine, both sugars, cinnamon and sliced apples. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until apples are tender and liquid thickens, about 5 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and water, mixing to dissolve. Add to apple mixture; simmer until syrup is translucent, about 2 minutes. Cool.

Spoon filling into bottom pie crust, mounding apples slightly in center. Lightly moisten edge of bottom crust with water; cover with top crust. Press crusts together to seal; crimp edges using fingers or a fork. Using a sharp knife, make a few slits in the center of the top to allow ventilation. Place on baking sheet. 

Bake until crust is golden brown, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

SWEET PIE CRUST

  • 2 cups unbleached flour, plus additional for board
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 pound plus 2 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter or margarine, cut into pieces
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, combine flour, sugar, salt and butter. Blend until mixture is crumbly. Blend in water just until dough begins to come together; do not over-mix. Transfer dough to a floured board and knead into a ball. Divide into 2 flat discs. Wrap 1 disc in plastic wrap; chill.

Roll out remaining disc on a large sheet of floured wax paper to a round large enough to cover and overlap a 9-inch pie pan. For easier handling, cover the pastry with another sheet of waxed paper and fold pastry in half (the wax paper protects the center of the pastry from sticking together). Lift the pastry from the bottom sheet of wax paper and place on half of the pie pan. Unfold pastry and remove wax paper covering it, then sprinkle with the almonds. Roll out the remaining dough disc for top crust. 

Makes a 9-inch double-crust pie.

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Make your Chanukah party one for the ages with a menu for everyone

Make your Chanukah party one for the ages with a menu for everyone

Chanukah is not just for children, but usually they have most of the fun. They open presents, light candles during the eight days of the holiday and get more than their share of cookies and potato latkes. Our Chanukah party will be shared by four generations this year because our two great-granddaughters will be joining us.

In planning a Chanukah dinner for the entire family, I always try to remember who likes, or doesn’t like, certain foods and to make sure that there are always enough vegetables for those who don’t eat meat. It’s usually a good idea to keep the menu simple, with an emphasis on food that can be prepared in advance and won’t be ruined if some of the guests are a little late.

Fried foods are always eaten during Chanukah, which begins the evening of Dec. 16 and commemorates the miracle of the oil that burned for eight days in the Temple. Our appetizers will consist of foods fried in olive oil, like Mini Potato Latkes served with bowls of Tomato Salsa, salmon caviar and our family’s traditional Glazed Apple Slices.

We’ll feature a special Olive Oil Cake for dessert, a recipe from Dario Cecchini, one of Italy’s best-known food personalities. He features this cake at his restaurant Solociccia in Tuscany.

There will be plates of fresh and dried fruits, and — because everyone in our family loves chocolate — my delicious Chocolate-Cinnamon Snaps. It is a tradition in our home to wrap some of these cookies in silver foil, representing the Chanukah gelt (money) given to the children during the holiday — just another reason for them to smile.

MINI POTATO LATKES

  • 4 large potatoes, grated
  • 1 onion, grated
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup flour 
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Salt and freshly ground black  pepper to taste

In a large bowl, combine potatoes, onion, eggs and 1 tablespoon oil. Add flour, baking powder and salt and pepper to taste.

In a large heavy skillet or nonstick frying pan, heat 1/4 inch of oil. With a teaspoon, carefully spoon batter into hot oil; flatten each spoonful to make small, thin latkes. Cook for about 2 minutes per side, turning only once, until golden brown, and adding more oil if necessary. Drain well on paper towels. Serve with Tomato Salsa, salmon caviar or Glazed Apple Slices.

Makes about 6 dozen mini latkes.

TOMATO SALSA 

  • 4 ripe, firm tomatoes, peeled, seeded
  • and chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, finely diced
  • 1 serrano chili, stems and seeds removed, finely minced (optional)
  • 1 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • Salt to taste

In a glass bowl, combine all ingredients. Serve immediately or cover with plastic wrap and chill.

Makes 2 to 3 cups.

GLAZED APPLE SLICES

This versatile recipe offers an elegant change from old-fashioned applesauce for Chanukah. It makes a great light dessert for informal meals or a special treat for family breakfasts. The translucent slices can be used as a pie filling, or in open-faced tarts. Or just drain the slices, add nuts and raisins and  voila!  instant strudel filling.

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup orange marmalade
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 6 large golden delicious apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
  • Juice and grated zest of 1 lemon

In a large, heavy skillet, combine sugar, marmalade and orange juice. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until sugar and marmalade have dissolved. Bring this syrup to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 3 to 4 minutes, just until it begins to thicken.

In a large bowl, toss apple slices with lemon juice and zest (this will prevent apple from turning dark). Then add apple slices, lemon juice and zest to syrup in skillet; toss gently to coat apples. Simmer, covered, 10 to 15 minutes, until apple slices are soft. Transfer to a glass bowl; cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator.

Makes 3 to 4 cups.

DARIO’S OLIVE OIL CAKE

From “Italy Cooks,”by Judy Zeidler. 

  • 1/2 cup plus 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup ground almonds 
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 oranges, finely chopped (use pulp and peel)
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup raisins, plumped in Vin Santo wine to cover (and slightly drained)
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts

Preheat oven to 375 F. 

Brush a 10- or 12-inch springform pan with 3 tablespoons olive oil; dust pan with ground almonds.

In bowl of electric mixer, beat eggs with sugar. Add orange peel and pulp; blend well. Slowly add 1/2 cup olive oil alternately with flour and baking powder; mix until smooth. 

Let rest 10 minutes, stirring from time to time. The oil is light but tends to separate from the batter; mix well. Stir in raisins.

Spoon batter into prepared pan, level it, and sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar, remaining 2 tablespoons oil and pine nuts. Bake in preheated oven 35 to 40 minutes. 

Makes 10 to 12 servings.

CHOCOLATE-CINNAMON SNAPS

SONY DSC

  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup unsalted margarine
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together margarine and 1/2 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Blend in egg. Add melted chocolate and corn syrup; blend well. Blend in flour mixture. Refrigerate 1 hour for easier handling.

Using 1 tablespoon of dough at a time, shape into balls. Roll balls in remaining 3/4 cup sugar. Place about 2 inches apart on foiled-lined baking sheets. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on racks. 

Makes 3 dozen cookies.

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Thanksgiving feast combines tasty additions with old traditions

Thanksgiving feast combines tasty additions with old traditions

The Thanksgiving holiday is the perfect time to invite family and friends to celebrate an American tradition with a home-cooked feast. The essential elements are turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce and yams. And, of course, everyone looks forward to several delicious desserts.

My mother was very proud of her very special veggie stuffing and used it for chicken as well as turkey. She mixed everything together and placed it in the bird uncooked, but I have found that cooking the stuffing first blends the flavors together better. I’ve also added my own flourish — plumped raisins that give it a nice, sweet taste that is especially festive. 

This year, I am adding some new dishes to the meal, and you can, too, combining tradition with creative new recipes. As a first course, try Chopped Liver Bruschetta and Parsnip Soup. Serve the latter with homemade tomato salsa, made with chopped tomatoes, onions and cilantro.

My family loves rhubarb, so this year we’ll include the tangy, sweet and vibrantly colored fruit, serving it alongside the traditional cranberry sauce. Don’t forget to include some Honey Glazed Yams to round out your menu.

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie is the traditional pie for our family Thanksgiving dinner. I always served it when the children were small, because although pumpkin was never their favorite, this dish is especially light in flavor and texture — and absolutely delicious after a big dinner.

TURKEY IN A BAG WITH VEGETABLE STUFFING

From “The Gourmet Jewish Cook,” by Judy Zeidler

  • Mom’s Vegetable Stuffing (recipe follows)
  • 1 turkey (15 to 20 pounds)
  • 1/4 cup safflower or vegetable oil
  • 1 cup apricot preserves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Prepare Mom’s Vegetable Stuffing; set aside.

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Clean the turkey and pat dry with paper towels. Spoon cooled stuffing into both cavities and close with a needle and thread or skewers*. Rub outside of turkey with oil and preserves; sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Grease the inside (seamless unprinted side) of a large paper bag, or use a large plastic baking bag. Place turkey, neck first and breast down, inside the bag. For a paper bag, fold down the top and seal it with paper clips or staples. If using a plastic baking bag, tie with plastic ties supplied in the package. Place turkey on large rack over a roasting pan lined with heavy-duty foil. Bake according to the following guide, about 20 minutes per pound:

10 to 12 pounds = 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours

14 to 16 pounds = 5 to 6 hours

18 to 20 pounds = 6 to 7 1/2 hours

About 30 minutes before the turkey is done, make a slit in the bag under the turkey and let the liquid drain into a saucepan. When all the juices are poured off, remove bag. Return turkey to oven to brown for remaining cooking time. Skim fat that forms from juices, discard fat, and heat juices. Remove stuffing and transfer to a heated bowl. Carve turkey and arrange slices, legs and wings on a large platter. Serve heated juices in a gravy boat.

Makes 15 to 20 servings.

*I always stuff a turkey like my mother did, sewing the cavity closed with a needle and thread. It can be much more difficult these days, however, since the turkey skin is often cut away.

Last year, my daughter, Susan, who was visiting from Portland, Ore., offered a solution after watching me struggle with this problem. A master at quilting and weaving, she grabbed a pair of scissors, cut the excess turkey skin from the neck and patched the cavity with the same technique she uses to makes quilts. In no time, she had the bird all sewed up, a perfect solution.

Judy Zeidler’s daughter, Susan, helps to stuff a turkey.

MOM’S VEGETABLE STUFFING

  • 1/4 cup safflower or vegetable oil
  • 3 medium onions, finely  chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch carrots, peeled and grated
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and grated
  • 2 large zucchini, grated
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins, plumped and drained
  • 8 mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons oatmeal
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons dry breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • Salt and freshly ground black  pepper to taste

In a large, heavy skillet, heat oil; sauté onions and garlic until transparent. Add celery, carrots, parsnip and zucchini; toss well. Sauté for 5 minutes, until vegetables begin to soften. Add parsley, raisins and mushrooms; mix thoroughly. Simmer for 5 minutes. Blend in 1 tablespoon each of the oatmeal, flour and breadcrumbs. Add wine; mix well. Add remaining oatmeal, flour and breadcrumbs, a little at a time, until stuffing is moist and soft, yet firm in texture. Season with salt and pepper. 

Makes about 4 to 5 cups.

CHOPPED LIVER BRUSCHETTA

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound chicken livers
  • 4 large mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium apple, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons brandy or cognac
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • French or Italian bread slices, toasted
  • In a large, heavy skillet, heat oil; sauté onions until lightly browned. Add livers, mushrooms and apple; sauté, turning livers on both sides, until lightly browned. (Do not overcook.) Add brandy; simmer 3 to 4 minutes.

Spoon the mixture into a meat grinder, add eggs, and grind into a large bowl, making sure to add juices from skillet. Add salt and pepper to taste; stir well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Spread on toasted bread slices. 

Makes about 3 cups.

PARSNIP SOUP

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 pound parsnips, peeled and diced
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes (optional)

In a medium saucepan, heat oil. Sauté onion and garlic until soft, about 5 minutes. Add parsnips and curry powder; fry for 2 to 3 minutes to release the flavors. Pour stock over mixture, bring to a boil, and simmer for 15 minutes or until parsnips are soft when pierced with a fork.

Remove from heat, ladle into a blender, and blend until smooth. Add salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Transfer to the saucepan. Reheat before serving. 

Makes 6 servings.

RHUBARB PRESERVES

  • 3 to 4 rhubarb stalks, ends trimmed, cut in 1-inch pieces (about 3 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup cranberry juice
  • 2 tablespoons grated orange peel

Place rhubarb in a medium pot; pour sugar over. Let rhubarb absorb the sugar for 30 minutes. Add cranberry juice and orange peel. Cook over low heat for 20 minutes or until rhubarb is soft. Cool and transfer to a bowl. 

Makes about 3 cups.

HONEY-GLAZED YAMS

  • 2 1/2 pounds yams or sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces (about 7  cups)
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted margarine or olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 F. 

Arrange yams in a 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking dish. In a small saucepan, combine margarine, honey and lemon juice; cook over medium heat, stirring, until margarine has melted. Pour mixture over sweet potatoes; toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until tender when pierced with fork, stirring and turning occasionally, about 45 minutes. 

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

PUMPKIN CHIFFON PIE

  • 1 1/4 cups pumpkin (canned or fresh; if canned, use 100 percent pure pumpkin, not pumpkin pie mix)
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin (kosher)
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1 (9-inch) baked deep-dish pie crust
  • Nondairy whipped topping

In the top of a double boiler, over simmering water, combine pumpkin, egg yolks, 1/2 cup sugar, mace, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt; beat well. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.

Dissolve gelatin in cold water and let stand for 5 minutes. Blend into pumpkin mixture, remove from double boiler; let cool.

Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Add remaining 1/2 cup sugar; beat until stiff. Fold pumpkin mixture into beaten egg whites until combined. Pour into prepared crust; chill in refrigerator until set, 3 to 4 hours. Garnish with non-dairy whipped topping.

NOTE: For those preferring not to consume raw egg whites, Eggbeaters 100% Egg Whites may be substituted.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

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Celebrate Sukkot with autumn’s colorful fruits, veggies and grains

Celebrate Sukkot with autumn’s colorful fruits, veggies and grains

Sukkot is known as the Jewish Thanksgiving. It offers thanks for a bountiful autumn harvest of fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains. Many Jewish families begin building their outdoor sukkahthe day after Yom Kippur and will serve the first meal inside it on the evening of Oct. 8.

The sukkah resembles the small huts that field workers lived in during the harvest season in ancient times. It can be decorated with Jewish New Year greeting cards, bunches of grapes, and baskets of fruit and vegetables, and the roof usually is composed of palm fronds.

Traditionally, food was carried from the home kitchen to the sukkah table; casserole dishes and tureens of hot soup made with autumn vegetables were popular menu choices, along with items featuring whole grains. 

With this in mind, my menu this year will feature Sukkot Veggie Soup, containing a dozen fresh vegetables that are found in local farmers markets and blended into a delicious medley of flavors, and a cornbread made with whole wheat flour and cornmeal.

In true Sukkot spirit, we will have a Stuffed Pepper Casserole with a savory vegetable filling. This stuffing is unusual because the ingredients are sautéed into a rich blend of flavors before the peppers are cooked. The recipe calls for red, yellow and green peppers to provide a colorful visual appeal.

For dessert, there’s Lemon Pound Cake — lemon is the modern-day counterpart of the etrog, a type of citrus and an important symbol that is used in holiday observances. Include a scoop of Lemon Ice on each serving, along with clusters of grapes. 

And speaking of grapes, which are often part of the holiday’s menu and decor, why not select a full-bodied wine to enjoy with your dinner, along with pitchers of grape juice for the children?

SUKKOT VEGGIE SOUP 

  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 6 scallions, thinly sliced (green and white parts)
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 large potato, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 4 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
  • 4 small stalks broccoli, thinly sliced
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 1 yellow crookneck squash, thinly sliced
  • 8 medium mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 2 large tomatoes, peeled and diced
  • 4 to 6 cups vegetable broth
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a large, heavy pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the scallions, shallots, onion and potato; sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, broccoli and parsnip; sauté 5 minutes. Add the zucchini, crookneck squash and mushrooms; sauté 2 to 3 minutes. Simmer gently until vegetables are soft and juices accumulate, 5 to 10 minutes. Add tomatoes and vegetable broth; simmer, partially covered, 45 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

STUFFED PEPPER CASSEROLE

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Stuffed pepper casserole

  • 10 bell peppers (a mixture of green, red and yellow)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped celery, with tops
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup finely ground walnuts
  • 1/2 cup corn kernels
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley 
  • 2 tablespoons minced basil
  • 1 tomato, peeled and chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Cut off top of each pepper; discard stem. Mince tops and set aside. Scrape out and discard seeds and ribs. Blanch peppers in boiling salted water to cover for 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer peppers to a large bowl of ice water. Chill, drain and dry. Cut peppers in half, lengthwise. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat oil. Sauté garlic, onion, celery and minced pepper tops until tender. Add bread crumbs, walnuts, corn, parsley, basil and tomato. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix well.

Arrange pepper halves, hollow side up, in a single layer in a large oiled ovenproof casserole. Place 2 to 3 tablespoons of breadcrumb mixture into each pepper half.

In a heavy saucepan, bring tomato sauce and wine to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 1 minute, stirring until smooth; spoon over pepper halves. Bake 20 minutes or until peppers are cooked through but still firm. Transfer to a serving platter and serve hot.

Makes 20 servings.

CORNBREAD

  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon yellow cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil or safflower oil
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 425 F.

In bowl of electric mixer, combine flour, salt, baking powder, 1 cup cornmeal and sugar; blend well. In another bowl, combine milk, 3 tablespoons oil and egg; pour into flour mixture, beating until dry ingredients are all moist.

Brush an 8-by-8-inch baking dish with remaining 1 tablespoon oil; sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon cornmeal. Pour in batter and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out dry. Cool on rack and cut into 2-inch squares.

Makes 16 servings.

LEMON POUND CAKE

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted margarine, melted
  • 1/4 cup ground almonds
  • 1 cup unsalted margarine, room temperature
  • 1 2/3 cups sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons grated lemon peel
  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Powdered sugar and grated lemon peel for garnish

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Brush bottom and sides of one 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with melted margarine, then dust with ground almonds; set aside.

In bowl of electric mixer, beat room-temperature margarine until soft and fluffy. Add sugar gradually, beating until light and creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in lemon juice and peel.

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt; add it gradually to margarine-sugar-egg mixture, beating until well-blended.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 20 minutes. Slide knife around sides to loosen. Remove cake from pan, set right side up on wire rack, and cool completely. Just before serving, sprinkle with powdered sugar and grated lemon peel.

Makes 8-10 servings. 

LEMON ICE

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups fresh lemon juice
  • Lemon slices

Place sugar and water in a large saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring, until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat; stir in lemon juice.

Pour into a freezer-safe container. Freeze for 4 hours, stirring every 30 minutes, or until mixture becomes slushy. Serve in small bowls, garnished with lemon slices. 

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

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The time of year to get your fill of kreplach

<em>Lorraine and Harris Zeidler prepared more than 150 kreplach, inviting family and friends to their traditional Rosh Hashanah kreplach tasting. Photo by Lorraine Zeidler</em>

Lorraine and Harris Zeidler prepared more than 150 kreplach, inviting family and friends to their traditional Rosh Hashanah kreplach tasting. Photo by Lorraine Zeidler

I am always impressed by the fact that food plays such an important role during the holiest of Jewish holidays, and kreplach — dough wrapped around meat and boiled, fried or baked — is certainly one of these dishes. Traditionally, it is served between Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

During this period, it is believed that the fate of each individual is decided, and then sealed in the Book of Life for the coming year. The custom of serving kreplach alludes to the hope that kindness will overrule any strict judgment we may deserve. There is also the concept that a person’s good deeds are also sealed in the same manner as these stuffed savories.

Kreplach are said to go back as far as the 12th century, and each country seems to have its own version of a filled, egg-noodle dough. It is recorded that meat-stuffed pasta, shaped like ravioli or tortelloni, were served by the Jews of Germany in the early 14th century. Later, a variety of fillings were developed including chicken, kasha, cabbage, cheese and even apples. European Jews also served kreplach stuffed with dried fruit and nuts for dessert.

In Italy, near Mantua, where many Jewish families once lived, they still serve tortelli di zucca. These pumpkin- or squash-filled ravioli are served with butter and Parmesan cheese and said to be one of the foods brought by Jews to the area.

My husband remembers when he was growing up in Boyle Heights, his bubbe (grandmother) made kreplach during the Jewish holidays, rolling out the dough on a wooden board and cutting each square by hand. He reminisced that Bubbe would serve these kasha- and roast meat-filled kreplach in a clear chicken soup.

There seems to be some controversy about the shape of kreplach. At a recent dinner with friends, we discussed the various shapes and sizes that each family made. Some use a 4-inch square of dough that they fill and fold into triangles resembling tortellini. Others begin with rounds of dough, resulting in a crescent shape resembling potstickers. And still others use two squares of dough that end up resembling ravioli.

Whatever the shape, everyone agreed on one thing: They are delicious.

BASIC KREPLACH

Ground Chicken Filling or Kasha Filling  (recipes follow)

3 cups flour plus additional for rolling out dough

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 large eggs

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons water

Directions

Prepare Ground Chicken Filling or Kasha Filling; refrigerate until ready to use.

Place 3 cups flour and salt in food processor fitted with steel blade. Turn processor on and off once. Then, with processor running, drop in one egg and, the instant it is blended in, turn off processor. Repeat with remaining 3 eggs, one at a time, until the dough is crumbly or resembles a coarse meal. Add olive oil and water, processing just until dough begins to come away from side of bowl.

Remove dough to a floured wooden board; knead just until smooth. Divide dough into 3 or 4 pieces for easier handling. While rolling out first piece, cover remainder with an inverted large bowl so dough does not dry out.

Roll each piece out on a floured board into thin sheet. Use plenty of flour to avoid sticking. Cut into 3- to 4-inch squares or rounds. Place a teaspoon of filling on each square. Brush edges with water and fold the corners to meet and seal. Bring 2 corners together and seal like a kerchief. For rounds, fold over, brush edges with water, and pinch to seal. Place a kitchen towel on a baking sheet and dust with flour. Place each kreplach on towel and cover with another towel. Refrigerate or freeze if preparing in advance. Serve in soup or brown in oil.

Makes about 40 kreplach.


GROUND CHICKEN FILLING

3 tablespoons unsalted margarine

2 onions, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1/4 cup chopped green pepper (optional)

1 pound ground chicken, cooked (about 2 1/2 cups)

2 egg yolks

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

In a skillet, melt margarine; sauté onions, garlic and green pepper. Add the chicken, egg yolks, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Filling may be cooked and refrigerated, covered, up to 1 day before using.

Makes about 3 1/2 cups.


KASHA FILLING

4 tablespoons unsalted margarine

1 onion, minced

1 cup whole roasted kasha (buckwheat kernels)

1 egg

2 cups chicken stock

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

In a skillet, melt margarine and sauté onion until tender. Combine kasha and 1 egg; add to onion mixture. Sauté until the grains become dry and crunchy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add chicken stock and cook, covered, for 15 minutes, or until kasha is soft and chicken stock is reduced. While cooking, uncover and stir to prevent kasha from sticking to bottom of pot. Add salt and pepper. Cool.

Makes about 3 cups.   


TRADITIONAL KREPLACH WITH WONTONS

2 onions, sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced

4 pounds chuck roast

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/3 cup olive oil

2 eggs

48 (4-inch) wonton wrappers

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large roasting pot, place 1 sliced onion, garlic and chuck roast. Add salt and pepper. Bake, covered, 2 to 3 hours or until very tender. Sauté remaining sliced onion in 2 tablespoons olive oil until tender.

Remove fat from meat and grind meat with both onions; place in large bowl. Add 1 egg, and salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to fill wrappers.

In a small bowl, lightly beat remaining 1 egg.

Arrange 6 wonton wrappers on work surface. Spoon a scant tablespoon of meat mixture in center of each. Brush two adjacent edges of the wrapper with lightly beaten egg. Fold dry opposite corner over to meet point to form a triangle. Press edges together, forcing air from center. Twist point at one end of fold to meet opposite point of fold, like a kerchief. Moisten point with beaten egg and press points together to stick. Repeat with remaining wrappers and meat mixture. (At this point, kreplach can be refrigerated or frozen until ready to use.)

Heat remaining olive oil in a non-stick skillet; fry kreplach on both sides until golden brown. Drain briefly on paper towels.

Makes about 48 kreplach.


APPLE KREPLACH

Apple Filling (recipe follows)

1 1/2 cups flour plus additional for rolling

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup powdered sugar

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted margarine

3 tablespoons water

1 egg, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/2 cup honey

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Prepare Apple Filling; refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap.

In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups flour, salt and powdered sugar. Using a pastry cutter, or two knives, cut in 1/2 cup margarine until mixture is crumbly. Blend in water until dough begins to come together. Do not over-mix. Knead dough into a ball, wrap in waxed paper, and chill for 5 to 10 minutes in refrigerator.

While dough is chilling, line a baking sheet with foil. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter; use it to brush the foil.

Divide dough into 6 parts. Working with 1 part at a time, roll out on a large sheet of floured waxed paper, 1/4-inch thick and cut out a 6-inch circle, using a cake round or lid as a guide. Place 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the apple filling on half of the dough, leaving a 1-inch border. Carefully fold circle in half, pinching the edges together securely; press edges with tines of a fork to seal. Place filled kreplach on foil-lined baking sheet. Brush tops lightly with beaten egg and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Repeat with remaining dough. (If preparing kreplach ahead, they can be covered with foil and stored in refrigerator or freezer at this point.)

Bake in preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown. Using a metal spatula, transfer to dessert plates. Drizzle honey over the top.

Makes 36 to 48  kreplach.


APPLE FILLING

5 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced

1/3 cup brown sugar, packed

Juice of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon each ground nutmeg and ground cinnamon

Directions

In a large bowl, toss apple slices with brown sugar, lemon juice, flour, nutmeg and cinnamon. Refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap.

Makes about 4 cups. 

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A Twist on Tradition: Enjoy Rosh Hashanah’s Blessings … Vegetarian Style

A Twist on Tradition: Enjoy Rosh Hashanah’s Blessings … Vegetarian Style

When I was growing up in Los Angeles, Rosh Hashanah dinner always meant that my mother spent several days shopping and cooking. But with the current popularity of vegetable-centric menus and plenty of local farmers markets, I’m able to prepare fresh, vegetable-based holiday meals for my family in much less time. 

This year the holiday begins on the evening of Sept. 24. Start your Rosh Hashanah meal with the age-old tradition of dipping slices of apples and challah in honey. This ritual symbolizes hopes for a sweet, healthy and happy New Year and gives everyone the opportunity to exchange greetings. 

Soup is always a good choice for a holiday meal. One soup idea came to me recently while I was shopping at the Santa Monica farmers market, where I purchased fresh sugar snap peas. I boiled them until tender, let them cool, then put them into the blender. This became the base for a delicious soup. There is no need for cream or chicken stock; just add the cooking liquid to give the soup a rich flavor. 

With the variety of fresh produce available, it’s easy to prepare a cold Apple-Spinach Salad — just be sure to wait to combine ingredients until the last minute to keep them crisp. Farmers markets have the sweetest carrots, and I can’t resist making a Carrot Hummus to serve with this salad. 

For the main course, serve a baked eggplant dish adapted from a recipe I discovered at Mustards Grill many years ago on a trip to Napa Valley. Small eggplants seasoned with garlic are baked in a hot oven and served on fresh tomato sauce.

Pomegranates, in ancient lore, were known as one of the first fruits of the season. Their seeds symbolize the 613 mitzvot commanded by the Torah, and they are often enjoyed during Rosh Hashanah. For dessert, transform this traditional fruit into a ruby-colored ice and serve with crispy Sesame-Honey Thins that can be prepared in advance. Find this recipe and others at tribejournal.com. 

Shanah tovah!

SUGAR SNAP PEA SOUP

  • 1 large ear of corn, uncooked
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 pounds sugar snap peas, ends trimmed and strings removed
  • 3 to 4 cups water or vegetable stock
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Using a sharp knife, remove the kernels from ear of corn; place in a small bowl, and set aside for garnish.

Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan. Sauté onion until soft; set aside.

Cut off both ends of snap peas, pulling off the threadlike strings. In a large pot, place snap peas with enough water to cover; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, about 15 minutes. Cool. 

Cut each snap pea in half, removing any remaining strings. In two batches, place snap peas, sautéed onion and cooking liquid in the blender; blend into a smooth puree. 

Pour into pot, add salt and pepper to taste. Just before serving, reheat soup gently over medium-low heat. Ladle soup into heated bowls and garnish with fresh corn kernels for texture and crunch.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

APPLE-SPINACH SALAD

  • 3 apples, peeled, cored and diced
  • 3 green onions (scallions), thinly sliced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 bunch spinach, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds

In a large bowl, toss the apples, green onions and celery with juice of 1 lemon (to keep the apples from darkening); set aside.

In a blender, food processor or a small bowl, blend together the mayonnaise, tahini, honey and juice of remaining lemon; the mixture will be very thick. Toss with the apple mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. 

Just before serving, place spinach in a large bowl, add apple mixture, and toss to coat spinach thoroughly. Garnish with sesame seeds. 

Makes 6 servings.

CARROT HUMMUS

  • 2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into 3-inch lengths
  • 1/2 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • 4 pitted black olives, chopped

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add carrots, cover, and cook over medium-high heat until tender, about 20 minutes; drain.

Transfer carrots to a food processor or blender. Add tahini, lemon juice, garlic, honey, cumin and ginger; process to a smooth puree. Add olive oil, and continue processing until oil is completely incorporated and the hummus is thickened. Season with salt.

Spoon hummus into a serving bowl, and garnish with chopped olives. Refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap. Before serving, bring to room temperature. Serve with challah or crisp toast.

Makes about 3 cups.

BAKED EGGPLANT WITH FRESH TOMATO SAUCE

  • Fresh Tomato Sauce (recipe follows)
  • 8 to 10 Japanese eggplants
  • 1 whole head of garlic, separated into cloves, minced
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400F.

Prepare Fresh Tomato Sauce; set aside.

Wash and dry eggplants. Starting about 1/2 inch from stem end, slice eggplants into fans, cutting them lengthwise into 3 or 4 sections and taking care not to cut through stems.

In a bowl, combine garlic with olive oil, reserving 2 tablespoons oil. Spoon garlic-oil mixture over eggplants, pushing it between the slices.

Line a baking pan with foil; brush foil with remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Place prepared eggplants on foil, spreading them flat in a fan shape. Brush with additional olive oil, and salt and pepper to tastwe. Bake 20 minutes, or until tender.

Spoon Fresh Tomato Sauce onto serving plates; place eggplants on top. Serve immediately.

Makes 8 to 10 servings. 

FRESH TOMATO SAUCE

  • 3 large tomatoes, peeled and seeded
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/4 cup rice or white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chives, minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a food processor or blender, process the tomatoes, garlic and vinegar. Add the oil in a thin stream. Mix in the chives, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Makes about 2 cups

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Packing kid-friendly lunches

When you feel like you are always packing the children’s lunch boxes with the same old boring foods, it is time to branch out with new ideas and ingredients.

I am sure that school lunches can be more creative and exciting than when my kids went to school. In those days, it was peanut butter and jelly day after day.

To make the job easier, plan ahead. Make sure the things you put in your children’s lunch boxes are the things they like to eat at home. Ask them what they would like to have — and then ask them to help prepare it.

If soup sounds good, fill a thermos with hot soup for cold days, and cold soup for hot days, along with lots of their favorite crackers. If there is leftover fried chicken, by all means wrap it up and box it.

But don’t be afraid to try something totally new, like Easy Roll-up Wraps. They are delicious when filled with chicken or turkey and veggies — just wrap with wax paper, and they fit easily into a lunch box. I always include a potato salad or coleslaw, too — a perfect pairing.

Prepare a fruit salad by cutting up your kids’ favorite fruits, mixing them in a bowl and sprinkling it all with orange juice. Use apples, oranges, bananas, plums, peaches, grapes and berries.

And to keep things healthy, don’t forget to pack sliced carrots, celery, sweet peas or cucumbers — and a dip of some kind.

Here is another valuable tip during the warm seasons: To keep cold foods cold, partially freeze juice and boxed drinks; the drinks will thaw by lunchtime, and the foods will remain chilled. Alternatively, use miniature “blue ice” cold packs

As for dessert, a classic that everyone in our family loves are my jam-filled Linzer Sandwich Cookies. Square, round or diamond-shaped, these rich, crumbly nutty cookies are a treat. Put a few extra in the lunch box so your child can share with friends.


EASY ROLL-UP WRAPS

1/4 cup mayonnaise

6 (10-inch) flour tortillas

6 lettuce leaves

1 (8-ounce) package sliced deli-style chicken or turkey

1/2 cup shredded carrots

1 cup minced tomato

Spread mayonnaise evenly over the tortillas; top with lettuce leaves. Arrange chicken slices in even layers on top of the lettuce. Sprinkle the carrots and tomatoes over the chicken slices. Roll the tortillas into wraps. Cut the wraps diagonally into half portions. Secure with toothpicks.

Makes 12 roll-ups.

KIDS’ FAVORITE POTATO SALAD

I always prepare too much salad; cover  with plastic wrap and serve it the next day.

4 medium new potatoes, boiled and peeled

2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled, quartered and sliced

2 stalks celery, diced

1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced

2 green onions (scallions) finely sliced

1/2 to 1 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, eggs, celery, bell pepper and green onions. Add enough mayonnaise to moisten and toss gently. Add parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper; toss gently again. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Pack in small plastic containers in your child’s lunch box.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

LINZER SANDWICH COOKIES

1/2 cup finely ground toasted almonds

1/4 cup finely ground toasted hazelnuts

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup finely ground semolina flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup unsalted margarine

1/2 cup powdered sugar, plus additional for dusting

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups jam

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a bowl, mix together almonds, hazelnuts, flours, salt and cinnamon.

In the bowl of a mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat margarine until creamy. Add 1/2 cup powdered sugar and vanilla; beat until fluffy. Stir in flour mixture until evenly combined.

Turn dough out onto floured surface. Knead to incorporate the ingredients. Shape the dough into a disc; divide in half. Roll each dough half between two pieces of parchment (baking) paper to 1/8-inch thickness. Place on baking sheet and chill until firm, about 30 minutes.

Remove dough from refrigerator one sheet a time to prevent dough from getting soft. Peel off top sheet of parchment paper and use it to line a cookie sheet. Cut the cookies into rounds, using a 3-inch cookie cutter; transfer them to the prepared cookie sheet, using a metal spatula. Using a round 1/2-inch cookie cutter, cut a hole in the center of half of the cookies — these will be the tops of the sandwich cookies. Repeat the process with the other half of the dough.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden on the edges. Cool 5 minutes on baking sheet. Transfer tops to a wire rack. Turn bottoms over and spread each with 1 teaspoon of jam. Dust the tops with additional powdered sugar and gently sandwich with the bottoms. In an airtight container, layer cookies with parchment paper and store for up to 1 week.

Makes about 18 cookies.

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What’s Cookin’, Good Lookin’?

What’s Cookin’, Good Lookin’?

Girls love guys who know their way around the kitchen

There is an old saying that men don’t cook at home. Yet it is also said that women always appreciate men who cook.

Only one of these is true. Can you guess which?

I can’t exactly remember when our son Marc’s passion for cooking began, but he certainly loves to cook. He was always in the kitchen watching or helping me, especially for holiday meals. Even at 12 years old, growing up in Topanga Canyon, Marc entered a cake contest and won first prize.

He also became very interested in wine and has his own wine label, GeekZ, made with Napa Valley grapes. His passion and hobby is food, and he belongs to several wine and food groups with “the guys.” Recently, he even gave his buddies a lesson on making fresh ricotta cheese.

But, as it turns out, Marc’s cooking is a hit with “the girls,” too. His wife, Amy, and her friends have been meeting in each other’s homes for years to play a fun game called Bunco. They all love when it’s Amy’s turn to host, because dinner promises to be awesome; when Marc is cooking, the turnout is always 100 percent. 

One year, the event was held on May 5. The theme was Bunco de Mayo and featured Mexican food. Marc made tortillas and set up a taco bar where there was an assortment of ingredients for everyone to make their favorite taco. For dessert, he made an assortment of ice cream sundaes.

Also, Amy and her office co-workers meet every Wednesday for lunch and a talkfest. Recently Marc made a picnic lunch for them, and because it was National Hamburger Day, there was little question about the main course. The side dishes consisted of Brussels sprouts, sautéed mushrooms and roasted rosemary potatoes.

Marc and Amy both cook at their end-of-the-year holiday party. An extensive buffet is set up in their dining room, and there is always a major selection of wines to taste. At the dessert table, they show off their cooking talents, but Amy’s White Chocolate Brownies are always everyone’s favorite.

Before preparing any meal, Marc does his homework, testing each recipe prior to including it on his menu. The following recipes represent the next dinner menu he has planned for the Bunco girls. I have a feeling you’ll like it — and like making it, too.

SAUTÉED ASPARAGUS WITH EGGS OVER EASY

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 24 large (or 48 thin) asparagus  spears, trimmed
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 6 eggs

In a large skillet, heat olive oil and sauté onion until caramelized. Add asparagus, salt and pepper; sauté for 5 minutes. Add water; cover and steam 1 to 2 minutes, until just tender. Arrange 4 to 6 asparagus spears on each of 6 heated plates; spoon onions on top.

In another skillet, cook eggs over easy or sunny-side up: For over easy eggs, heat additional olive oil and fry eggs on one side until whites are solid, then turn quickly. Using a spatula, arrange an egg on top of each serving of asparagus. Season with salt and pepper.

Makes 6 servings. 

ROASTED GARLIC CROOKNECK SQUASH

  • 4 large yellow crookneck squash, diced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

Preheat oven to 475 F.

In a large bowl, gently toss together all ingredients.

Brush a foil-lined baking sheet with additional olive oil and arrange the seasoned squash on top. Bake for 25 minutes; toss squash, and bake an additional 10 minutes.

Makes 6 servings.

CHICKEN SHEPHERD’S PIE

  • Olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 carrots, diced
  • 2 large stalks broccoli, diced
  • 4 large chicken breasts, diced
  • 1/2 pound mushrooms, diced
  • Mashed Potatoes (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Brush an 8- or 9-inch square baking dish with a small amount of olive oil; set aside.

In a skillet, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil and sauté onions until soft, about 5 minutes. Add salt, pepper, oregano, cumin and garlic. Add carrots and broccoli; sauté another 5 minutes. Add diced chicken and mushrooms; cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through. Transfer into prepared baking dish.

Prepare Mashed Potatoes and spoon them on top of chicken mixture; spread into a thick, smooth layer. Bake for 20 minutes. Just before serving, put under the broiler for 2 to 3 minutes, until potato topping is lightly browned. Spoon onto individual serving plates.

Makes 6 servings.

MASHED POTATOES

  • 3 large Russet potatoes,scrubbed, unpeeled, quartered and boiled until soft
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 1/2 ounces unsalted margarine
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlicpowder

Place cooked potatoes in a large bowl and mash with olive oil, margarine, salt, pepper and garlic powder until smooth.

Makes about 4 cups.

AMY’S WHITE CHOCOLATE BROWNIES

di-brownies

Amy often doubles this recipe; the brownies freeze well.

  • 1/2 cup unsalted margarine
  • 8 ounces white chocolate chips
  • 2 eggs
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • 8 ounces dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Lightly grease an 8-inch square pan; line with foil. Grease foil.

Melt margarine in a small saucepan; remove pan from heat. Add half (4 ounces) of white chocolate chips; do not stir. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat eggs with salt. Gradually add sugar, beating until pale yellow. Add white chocolate mixture, vanilla and salt, beating until combined. Then add flour; mix until just combined.

Stir in dark chocolate chips and remaining 4 ounces white chocolate chips. Spoon mixture into prepared pan; smooth top.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until tester inserted in center comes out almost clean. (Cover with foil if browning too quickly.) Cool completely; cut into squares. 

Makes 16 brownies.

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Cooking with wine: A spirited menu

<em>Frozen Hazelnut Soufflés With Champagne Sauce, photo by Dan Kacvinski</em>

Frozen Hazelnut Soufflés With Champagne Sauce, photo by Dan Kacvinski

The addition of wine to your favorite recipes can impart wonderful flavor, but too much or the wrong style can potentially ruin a delicious dish.

Example: Fish is usually better with the addition of white wine — except when using a pinot noir with a salmon recipe. Red wine can give meat a lot of extra flavor as well as color.

Poultry, meat and fish all are enhanced by a wine marinade, as the French and Italians know so well. It cuts down on cooking time and ensures a tender and juicy result. And because most of the alcohol disappears during cooking or baking, foods cooked with wine are not only delicious but practically non-alcoholic as well.

Begin the meal with a Turkey Terrine in Wine Aspic. The dish is simple, elegant and looks as though it took hours to prepare, although it can be assembled very quickly and then stored in the refrigerator to chill.

Seafood can go into the oven and be on the table in only 20 to 30 minutes, and fish fillets baked with dry white wine and delicate seasonings add a wonderful flavor to the dish.

Tzimmes is a great choice for the busy cook. Lean beef brisket, vegetables and dried fruit are baked in the oven with a full-body Zinfandel or Syrah wine to provide an all-in-one-pot festive meal.

End the meal with a Frozen Hazelnut Soufflé in individual ramekins and topped with a Champagne Sauce. For deeper flavors, experiment by using wines such as port, sherry, Madeira or Marsala in your dessert recipes.


TURKEY TERRINE IN WINE ASPIC

Chilled Tomato Sauce (recipe follows)

3 cups hot turkey or chicken stock

2 tablespoons white wine

2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin

1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

2 1/2 pounds cooked turkey or chicken breast

3 small potatoes, peeled, boiled and cut in  chunks

2 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and finely diced

1 tomato, peeled and finely diced

Salt and pepper to taste

Salad greens

Mustard

INSTRUCTIONS:

Prepare Chilled Tomato Sauce; refrigerate until ready to use.

Combine stock and wine in saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Dissolve gelatin in hot stock; cool.

Line a 1 1/2- to 2-quart loaf pan with plastic wrap. Sprinkle parsley over bottom. Cut turkey breast into strips about 4 inches long and 1 inch thick. Arrange in alternating layers the turkey strips, potato chunks, eggs, tomato, and salt and pepper to taste, until pan is filled.

Pour in gelatin mixture, completely covering ingredients. Cover with plastic wrap and chill until firmly set, about 6 hours. Invert loaf carefully onto platter and garnish with Chilled Tomato Sauce and greens. Serve with mustard.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

CHILLED TOMATO SAUCE

2 pounds tomatoes, peeled, cored and quartered

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon minced fresh basil

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:

Place tomatoes in food processor and process until coarsely chopped. Add garlic, basil and olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill.

Makes about 2 cups.

QUICK BAKED HALIBUT WITH HERBED GARLIC SPREAD

Photo by Dan Kacvinski

Herbed Garlic Spread (recipe follows)

Juice of 1 lemon

1 cup water

3 to 4 pounds halibut fillets (1/2 pound each)

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup finely sliced green onions

2 tablespoons minced parsley

1 cup Riesling or other dry white wine

1/2 cup vegetable stock

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Prepare Herbed Garlic Spread; set aside.

In a shallow bowl, combine lemon juice and water. Rinse halibut fillets with lemon-water. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

In an ovenproof pan, combine green onions, parsley, wine and stock; heat to boiling. Arrange fish fillets on green onion mixture in pan; top each fillet with a small scoop or slice of Herbed Garlic Spread.

Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes or until fish is cooked through. Spoon sauce over fillets and serve at once.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

HERBED GARLIC SPREAD

3 garlic cloves, peeled

1/4 pound unsalted margarine

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon chopped fresh chervil or 1 teaspoon dried

1 tablespoon snipped fresh dill or 1 teaspoon dried

Salt to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:

In food processor or blender, drop garlic in and process until minced. Add margarine; blend. Add parsley, chervil and dill; pulse to puree. Season to taste with salt. Using a rubber spatula, transfer mixture to a bowl, then shape into a log or a cube; wrap with plastic wrap. Chill or freeze until ready to use, then let stand until slightly softened.

Makes about 3/4 cup.

TZIMMES WITH RED WINE

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 onions, sliced

4 garlic cloves, minced

3 cups dry red wine

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 tablespoons brown sugar

6 pounds beef brisket, trimmed

5 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced

2 parsnips, peeled and thinly sliced

2 whole heads garlic, separated into cloves, unpeeled

1 cup dried pitted prunes

1 cup dried apricots

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Heat oil in a skillet; sauté onions and minced garlic until soft. Transfer to a large roasting pan. Add wine, tomato paste and brown sugar; mix well. Place brisket in pan, fat-side up. Surround with carrots, parsnips and whole, unpeeled garlic cloves.

Bake in preheated oven 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 325 F, cover, and bake 2 to 3 hours longer or until meat is tender. Add prunes and apricots; bake 30 minutes longer.

To serve, slice brisket against the grain, transfer to a platter, surround with vegetables and fruit, and spoon sauce over all.

Makes about 12 servings.

FROZEN HAZELNUT SOUFFLÉS WITH CHAMPAGNE SAUCE

Champagne Sauce (recipe follows)

4 eggs, separated

2/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon fruit-flavored liqueur or vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups whipping cream

1 cup finely ground hazelnuts

1/2 cup whole hazelnuts for garnish

INSTRUCTIONS:

Prepare Champagne Sauce; refrigerate.

In a mixing bowl, beat egg yolks with sugar and liqueur until thick and lemon-colored.

In another bowl, whip the cream until stiff peaks form; fold the whipped cream and ground hazelnuts into egg yolk mixture. In separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form; gently fold beaten egg whites into the whipped cream/egg yolk mixture.

Lightly oil six (6-ounce) ramekins. Tear off six sheets of foil. Fold each sheet in half lengthwise; wrap one around each ramekin so foil reaches 2 inches above top rim; tie foil in place with string.

Divide soufflé mixture into six equal portions, spooning into the ramekins to reach top of foil. Cover with plastic wrap; freeze for 6 hours.

Remove string and foil. Serve in ramekins, topped with whole hazelnuts, and Champagne Sauce on the side.

NOTE: If desired, souffle may be removed from ramekins and served on dessert plates. Dip bottom of each ramekin in hot water for 2 to 3 seconds; loosen by running sharp knife around inside. Invert onto chilled dessert plates.

Makes 6 servings.

CHAMPAGNE SAUCE

3 egg yolks

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup Champagne

INSTRUCTIONS:

In top of a double boiler, over simmering water, combine egg yolks and sugar; beat with whisk until thick and lemon-colored. Add Champagne and continue beating until mixture has thickened.

Makes about 2 cups.


WINNING WINES

Not sure which wine to pick? In Southern California, there are several wine-judging events throughout the year. Competitors come from all over the world, and qualified judges are composed of wine journalists, winemakers, restaurateurs and winery owners. Wines are given scores and awarded medals based on color, aroma and taste.

One of the largest such events is the Los Angeles International Wine Competition in Pomona. This year, there were more than 3,000 wines entered from almost 950 wineries, and during the Los Angeles County Fair, which this year takes place Aug. 29-Sept. 28, many of the gold-medal wines will be available to taste.

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Smoked salmon sandwiches, chocolate paninis and more

<em>Bittersweet Chocolate Panini, Photo by Dan Kacvinski</em>

Bittersweet Chocolate Panini, Photo by Dan Kacvinski

Baby boomers have childhood memories of eating all sorts of comfort foods: meatloaf, macaroni and cheese, Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup, french toast and tuna sandwiches.

Over the years, though, Julia Child and the Food Network did a lot to change these food habits, and helped boomers appreciate new, more eclectic food dishes. Macaroni and cheese might still end up on the dinner table once in a while, but now it’s more likely to be made with Roquefort or local goat cheese. And remember Mom’s old-fashioned meatloaf? It’s now lighter and tastier using ground turkey.

The boomer generation has become more adventuresome, more willing to try new food combinations at home. They eat in the swanky new restaurants and, in fact, many young boomers have become creative, celebrity chefs.

Here are some recipes that provide an innovative approach to some of the traditional dishes that were so popular in the past.

Preparing fresh and tasty mushroom soup is quicker than you can imagine by just going to the local farmers market to purchase a selection of exotic mushrooms, and replacing the classic tuna sandwich with a Smoked Salmon Panini is a divine substitute for an old favorite.

I promise that this turkey meatloaf topped with a light tomato glaze will become a family staple, especially when each slice has a hard-cooked egg in the center. And you won’t regret replacing french toast with a Bittersweet Chocolate Panini. It is a perfect breakfast treat when made with raisin-nut bread, or it can be served as dessert.


SMOKED SALMON PANINI

I have upgraded the smoked salmon panini, which are sold at the auto grills in Italy. The bread is sprinkled with olive oil and filled with smoked salmon, vegetables and herbs. The sandwich is then grilled while topped for a few minutes with a heavy plate, or use a panini press. This sandwich, cut into halves or quarters, makes an elegant appetizer or a simple and delicious addition to lunch.

1/2 cup Mustard-Dill Sauce (recipe follows)

12 slices Italian country style bread

12 slices smoked salmon

6 slices red onion

6 lettuce leaves

6 fresh basil leaves

Directions:

Preheat panini press or grill.

Prepare Mustard-Dill Sauce, cover with plastic wrap, and chill.

Spread Mustard-Dill Sauce on 6 slices of bread; top each with 2 slices of smoked salmon and 1 slice of onion, lettuce and basil. Top with 6 remaining slices of bread.

Place the sandwiches in the preheated panini press and close the lid. Grill the sandwich until the bread is toasty golden brown. Slice in halves or quarters, and serve immediately.

Makes 6 paninis.


MUSTARD-DILL SAUCE 

3 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard

1 teaspoon powdered mustard

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon red or white vinegar

1/3 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons chopped or snipped fresh dill

Directions:

In a small, deep bowl, combine the mustards, sugar and vinegar; blend well. With a wire whisk, slowly beat in the oil until a thick mayonnaise forms. Stir in the dill. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes about 1 cup.


MUSHROOM SOUP

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 small leeks, white part only, thinly sliced

1 onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 pound fresh white cultivated mushrooms, thinly sliced

1/2 pound shiitake or porcini mushrooms, thinly sliced

5 cups vegetable stock

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions: 

In a large saucepan, heat the oil; add the leeks, onion and garlic; sauté over medium heat until tender, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the mushrooms and sauté for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Add the stock. Bring to a boil, cover partially, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes over medium-low heat until the mushrooms are tender.

Transfer the soup to a blender or processor; puree. Return soup to saucepan, season with salt and pepper, and mix well. Ladle into heated soup bowls.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.


ROASTED TURKEY LOAF IN TOMATO-WINE SAUCE

Just when you thought this all-time favorite couldn’t get any better, along comes this recipe for turkey meatloaf — filled with sautéed vegetables, and roasted like pot roast with a light Tomato Wine Sauce. It contains a surprise: hard-cooked eggs, hidden in the center. This turkey loaf is also great served cold in sandwiches with a heap of french fries. 

Tomato-Wine Sauce (recipe follows)

3 tablespoons olive oil

3/4 cup finely chopped yellow onions

3/4 cup finely chopped green onions

1/4 cup finely chopped celery

1/4 cup seeded and diced red bell peppers

1/4 cup seeded and diced yellow bell peppers

4 garlic cloves, minced

3 raw eggs

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

3/4 cup tomato ketchup

3 pounds ground turkey

1/2 cup fine bread crumbs

4 hard-cooked eggs, peeled

Directions: 

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Prepare Tomato-Wine Sauce; set aside.

In a large, heavy skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat and add yellow onions, green onions, celery, red and yellow peppers and garlic. Sauté, stirring often, until the moisture from the vegetables is evaporated, about 5 minutes. Let cool.

In a medium bowl, lightly beat raw eggs with cayenne, cumin, nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste. Add 1/4 cup of the ketchup; blend thoroughly.

In a large bowl, combine ground turkey with the cooled vegetable mixture and the egg mixture. Using your hands, knead thoroughly. Add bread crumbs; knead 1 to 2 minutes.

Transfer Tomato-Wine Sauce into a long roasting pan. Dampen hands and shape half of the turkey into a long, flat loaf. Place on top of the Tomato-Wine Sauce in the roasting pan. Place hard-cooked eggs lengthwise along the center of the molded turkey loaf. Place the remaining meat mixture on top of the eggs, pressing to make a firm loaf and sealing the edges. Drizzle remaining 1/2 cup ketchup over top of  loaf. Bake until the turkey is completely cooked through, about 1 hour.

Makes about 12 servings. 


TOMATO-WINE SAUCE

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, thinly sliced

1 pound tomatoes, chopped

1 cup dry red wine

1 head garlic, separated into unpeeled cloves

Directions:

In a saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat and sauté onions until soft, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes with liquid and wine; simmer 5 minutes. Add unpeeled garlic cloves, cover, and set aside.

Makes about 2 cups.


BITTERSWEET CHOCOLATE PANINI

8 small slices raisin-nut bread

1 (8-ounce) bar bittersweet chocolate, thinly sliced using a potato peeler

Garnish with cinnamon sugar, optional

Directions:

Arrange the chocolate on 4 slices of bread, stopping 1/2 inch from edges. Cover with the remaining 4 slices of bread. Place on hot panini grill or in heavy skillet, cover with heavy lid, and grill until chocolate is melted. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Cut in  half and serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

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Summer flavors, savory pastries and rich cheese tarts

<em>Ricotta Cheese Tart  Photo by Dan Kacvinski. Food preparation and styling by Judy Zeidler</em>

Ricotta Cheese Tart Photo by Dan Kacvinski. Food preparation and styling by Judy Zeidler

Let’s have an outdoor summer party!

Whether you have a tennis court, a swimming pool or a great lawn for playing croquet, now is the time to invite friends over for a fun-in-the-sun celebration and an alfresco meal. Or you can take your party to the park.

At our annual summer event, we invite friends to an afternoon bocce tournament and an outdoor dinner just before sunset. The game of bocce dates back to Roman times and was developed in Italy. It evolved from a traditional lawn sport into the modern-day game we know today.

Invitations are sent by email. I enjoy using clip art and a fun typeface that relates to the game. If your guests have never played before, it is a good idea to include the rules so everyone can come prepared for a day of friendly competition.

When everyone arrives, we serve hot and cold finger food to munch on during and between games, along with a cold Campari drink. We set up chairs around the bocce court from which spectators can watch while they are awaiting their turn to play.

To get things rolling, we divvy up the bocce balls and, well, get things rolling.

For the menu, we pick from a list of our favorite foods. Start with individual Baked Cheese Pastries and Open-face Mushroom Bruschetta. Include a cheese and olive tray with a selection of Italian products, and don’t forget to label them.

Begin dinner with a refreshing bowl of cold, raw tomato soup with cubes of fresh mozzarella. Then serve the main course, a big plate of traditional Spaghetti With Spicy Salmon Tomato Sauce.

Finish the day with espresso, a Ricotta Cheese Tart with fresh berries and, of course, a fun trophy for the winning team.


BAKED CHEESE PASTRIES 

From “Italy Cooks,” by Judy Zeidler.

1 cup milk

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

1 cup flour

4 eggs

1 1/2  cups finely shredded Gruyere or Swiss cheese

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

In a heavy saucepan, scald milk. In a medium bowl, knead butter, salt, pepper and mustards together; add to milk, and blend with a wooden spoon. Bring to a rolling boil. Add flour all at once, stirring vigorously, until the mixture forms a ball and leaves the sides of the pan.

Transfer mixture to bowl of an electric mixer and add eggs, one at a time, blending well after each addition. Blend until the dough is shiny and smooth. Add 1 cup cheese and blend well.

Spoon into a pastry bag fitted with a plain round tip. Pipe the cheese puffs in mounds 1/4 to 1/2 inch apart on a foil- or silicone-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese and a few drops of milk. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to bake.

Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until well-puffed and golden brown. Serve immediately.

Makes about 24.


OPEN-FACE MUSHROOM BRUSCHETTA

12 white mushrooms

8 slices whole wheat bread

1/4 cup olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

Place mushrooms on wooden surface, cap-side down. Using a mandoline or very sharp knife, cut mushrooms into paper-thin slices, making sure to keep the stem section attached.

Brush one side of each slice of bread lightly with oil. Place mushrooms in a row on the unoiled side of the bread, overlapping mushroom slices slightly, making 3 or 4 rows to cover the bread. Brush mushrooms with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Place bread, mushroom side up, in a panini-style grill and close grill top over bread, pressing top down to slightly smash bread. Grill about 4 to 5 minutes until bread is golden brown and mushrooms are sizzling and cooked through.

Makes 8 servings.


COLD TOMATO SOUP WITH MOZZARELLA

(From “Italy Cooks,” by Judy Zeidler)

6 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and pureed (about 3 cups)

2 tablespoons sugar or to taste

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon salt or more to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons minced fresh basil leaves

6 ounces soft mozzarella cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes

Extra virgin olive oil, for garnish

Directions:

Strain pureed tomatoes into a glass bowl. Add sugar, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Add the basil and mix thoroughly. Spoon an equal amount of mozzarella into centers of 8 shallow bowls; ladle tomato mixture over each. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.

Makes 8 servings.


SPAGHETTI WITH SPICY SALMON TOMATO SAUCE

1/4 cup olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 tablespoon minced garlic

Salt to taste

Pinch cayenne pepper

5 Roma tomatoes, chopped

1 to 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1 pound salmon fillets, cut in cubes

1 (1-pound) package spaghetti

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook until soft. Add salt, cayenne, tomatoes and 1 cup broth; cook until the ingredients are well combined.

Add basil and salmon; sauté until salmon is cooked through. Stir in some or all of remaining 1/2 cup broth, if needed, to achieve desired consistency.

Fill a large pot with lightly salted water; bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Add the spaghetti, and return the water to a boil. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until spaghetti has cooked through but is still firm to the bite, according to package directions, or about 10 minutes; drain thoroughly in a colander.

Toss spaghetti into sauce, mix thoroughly, and serve immediately, topped with grated Parmesan cheese.

Makes 8 servings. 


RICOTTA CHEESE TART 

4 large eggs, separated

2/3 cup sugar

Pinch salt

1 pound ricotta cheese

2 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup mascarpone or crème fraiche

1 tablespoon lemon zest

Pinch cinnamon

Powdered sugar for dusting

Fresh raspberries and whipped cream

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Butter and flour an 8- or 10-inch springform pan; set aside.

Mix egg yolks, sugar and salt in a food processor. Add ricotta, flour, baking powder, mascarpone, lemon zest and cinnamon; blend well. In large bowl of an electric mixer, beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. Fold cheese mixture into egg whites.

Pour into prepared springform pan. Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until center of tart springs back when lightly touched. Let cool completely; remove springform sides. Slide tart onto a serving plate, dust with powdered sugar, and garnish with fresh raspberries and whipped cream.

Makes 8 servings.

 

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Having a Ball

Having a Ball

This summer, gather your friends for outdoor fun and a feast

Let’s have an outdoor summer party!

Whether you have a tennis court, a swimming pool or a great lawn for playing croquet, now is the time to invite friends over for a fun-in-the-sun celebration and an alfresco meal. Or you can take your party to the park.

At our annual summer event, we invite friends to an afternoon bocce tournament and an outdoor dinner just before sunset. The game of bocce dates back to Roman times and was developed in Italy. It evolved from a traditional lawn sport into the modern-day game we know today.

Invitations are sent by email. I enjoy using clip art and a fun typeface that relates to the game. If your guests have never played before, it is a good idea to include the rules so everyone can come prepared for a day of friendly competition. 

When everyone arrives, we serve hot and cold finger food to munch on during and between games, along with a cold Campari drink. We set up chairs around the bocce court from which spectators can watch while they are awaiting their turn to play.

To get things rolling, we divvy up the bocce balls and, well, get things rolling. 

For the menu, we pick from a list of our favorite foods. Start with individual Baked Cheese Pastries and Open-face Mushroom Bruschetta. Include a cheese and olive tray with a selection of Italian products, and don’t forget to label them. 

Begin dinner with a refreshing bowl of cold, raw tomato soup with cubes of fresh mozzarella. Then serve the main course, a big plate of traditional Spaghetti With Spicy Salmon Tomato Sauce. 

Finish the day with espresso, a Ricotta Cheese Tart with fresh berries and, of course, a fun trophy for the winning team.

BAKED CHEESE PASTRIES 

From “Italy Cooks,” by Judy Zeidler.

  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2  cups finely shredded Gruyere or Swiss cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

In a heavy saucepan, scald milk. In a medium bowl, knead butter, salt, pepper and mustards together; add to milk, and blend with a wooden spoon. Bring to a rolling boil. Add flour all at once, stirring vigorously, until the mixture forms a ball and leaves the sides of the pan.

Transfer mixture to bowl of an electric mixer and add eggs, one at a time, blending well after each addition. Blend until the dough is shiny and smooth. Add 1 cup cheese and blend well.

Spoon into a pastry bag fitted with a plain round tip. Pipe the cheese puffs in mounds 1/4 to 1/2 inch apart on a foil- or silicone-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese and a few drops of milk. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to bake.

Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until well-puffed and golden brown. Serve immediately. 

Makes about 24.

OPEN-FACE MUSHROOM BRUSCHETTA

  • 12 white mushrooms
  • 8 slices whole wheat bread
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

 Place mushrooms on wooden surface, cap-side down. Using a mandoline or very sharp knife, cut mushrooms into paper-thin slices, making sure to keep the stem section attached.

Brush one side of each slice of bread lightly with oil. Place mushrooms in a row on the unoiled side of the bread, overlapping mushroom slices slightly, making 3 or 4 rows to cover the bread. Brush mushrooms with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Place bread, mushroom side up, in a panini-style grill and close grill top over bread, pressing top down to slightly smash bread. Grill about 4 to 5 minutes until bread is golden brown and mushrooms are sizzling and cooked through. 

Makes 8 servings.

COLD TOMATO SOUP WITH MOZZARELLA 

This soup, based on the famous Italian caprese salad, is fresh, colorful and easy to prepare, especially if you have a tomato press. This handy little Italian-made gadget separates the seeds and skins from the pulp, leaving a fresh tomato puree. (From “Italy Cooks,” by Judy Zeidler)

  • 6 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and pureed (about 3 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar or to taste
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt or more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh basil leaves
  • 6 ounces soft mozzarella cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Extra virgin olive oil, for garnish

 Strain pureed tomatoes into a glass bowl. Add sugar, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Add the basil and mix thoroughly. Spoon an equal amount of mozzarella into centers of 8 shallow bowls; ladle tomato mixture over each. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.

Makes 8 servings.

SPAGHETTI WITH SPICY SALMON TOMATO SAUCE

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • Salt to taste
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 5 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 pound salmon fillets, cut in cubes
  • 1 (1-pound) package spaghetti
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

 Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook until soft. Add salt, cayenne, tomatoes and 1 cup broth; cook until the ingredients are well combined.

Add basil and salmon; sauté until salmon is cooked through. Stir in some or all of remaining 1/2 cup broth, if needed, to achieve desired consistency. 

Fill a large pot with lightly salted water; bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Add the spaghetti, and return the water to a boil. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until spaghetti has cooked through but is still firm to the bite, according to package directions, or about 10 minutes; drain thoroughly in a colander.

Toss spaghetti into sauce, mix thoroughly, and serve immediately, topped with grated Parmesan cheese. 

Makes 8 servings. 

RICOTTA CHEESE TART 

  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 pound ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone or crème fraiche
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • Pinch cinnamon
  • Powdered sugar for dusting
  • Fresh raspberries and whipped cream

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Butter and flour an 8- or 10-inch springform pan; set aside.

Mix egg yolks, sugar and salt in a food processor. Add ricotta, flour, baking powder, mascarpone, lemon zest and cinnamon; blend well. In large bowl of an electric mixer, beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. Fold cheese mixture into egg whites.

Pour into prepared springform pan. Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until center of tart springs back when lightly touched. Let cool completely; remove springform sides. Slide tart onto a serving plate, dust with powdered sugar, and garnish with fresh raspberries and whipped cream.

Makes 8 servings.

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Breakfast … Israeli Style

Breakfast … Israeli Style

Kickstart your morning with an amazing kibbutz-inspired meal

Can you imagine sitting down to a breakfast buffet of fresh fruit, yogurt, cheeses, smoked fish and eggs, and an amazing selection of salads, breads and pastries?

For tourists, this is a typical breakfast feast in Israel. This hearty meal most likely originated on the kibbutz or communal farm, where residents woke up at 4 a.m. to work in the fields, then came in at 8 a.m. after half a day’s hard work and sat down for a nourishing meal together.

This dairy breakfast has become a tradition all over Israel, and most of the hotels there serve this gourmet delight. One of our most memorable buffets was at the Dan Carmel Hotel, overlooking the port of Haifa, at the top of Mount Carmel. 

Whatever the season, this meal usually includes home-grown products such as fresh local fruit and vegetables, Jaffa orange and grapefruit juice, various types of hard cheeses, yogurt,leben, cottage cheese, cream cheese, salty goat cheeses, garlic-cheese spreads and bowls of olives. It also features several kinds of smoked fish, sardines, salted cod, fillet of herring rolled around olives and Israeli-style lox — not salmon, but sliced white fish from the Mediterranean dyed red to look like the real thing. And, don’t forget to try the chopped herring!

The spread also includes every kind of salad imaginable: eggplant salad with homemade mayonnaise, tahini salad, cucumber with dill, avocado with egg salad, avocado diced in a vinaigrette sauce, red cabbage salad, carrot salad and chopped Israeli Oriental salad, a special treat. It is all delicious, and it’s arranged buffet-style on platters and bowls on long tables.

Soft- or hard-cooked eggs and scrambled eggs also are available, along with several types of dry or hot cereals. Expect an assortment of pastries and bread served with butter, honey and preserves, and, of course, milk, coffee or tea.

To make your next breakfast an Israeli “breakfeast,” try these special salad recipes

ISRAELI ORIENTAL SALAD

  • 4 tomatoes, diced
  • 2 cucumbers, peeled and diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 6 radishes, sliced
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1/2 head iceberg lettuce, chopped
  • 6 white mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and grated
  • 10 green or black olives, pitted and chopped
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, place tomatoes, cucumbers, green and red bell peppers, radishes, red onion, lettuce, mushrooms, carrots and olives; toss gently, using a large wooden spoon. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss and serve immediately.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

CUCUMBER SALAD

  • 2 cucumbers, peeled and sliced thin
  • 2 green onions, trimmed and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped, or 1 teaspoon dried dill, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Place cucumbers in a colander, sprinkle with salt; set aside for 30 minutes to drain.

In a large bowl, toss drained cucumbers with green onions and dill. In a small bowl, blend together sour cream, vinegar and sugar; pour over cucumber mixture. Toss lightly, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Chill and toss lightly again before serving. 

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

EGGPLANT AND TAHINI SALAD 

  • 1 large eggplant
  • 1 cup peeled and chopped cucumber (approximately 1 cucumber)
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Cut eggplant in half lengthwise and place it cut side down on a baking sheet lined with foil. Bake in preheated oven until skin is charred and inside is tender, about 20 minutes. Allow eggplant to cool enough to handle, then peel and discard skin. 

Place eggplant pulp in a large mixing bowl and mash with a fork. Add cucumber, onion, garlic, 1/4 cup minced parsley, tahini, olive oil and lemon juice; stir. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Before serving, stir thoroughly, then transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with remaining 1/4 cup minced parsley.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

CHOPPED HERRING SALAD

  • 1 (12-ounce) jar pickled herring
  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • 2 hard-cooked eggs
  • 1 green apple, peeled, cored and quartered
  • 2 slices bread, crust removed
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Lettuce leaves

Place herring, onion, eggs and apple in a food processor; blend until coarse. Soak bread in water for a few minutes, then squeeze dry. Spoon herring mixture into a bowl; blend in the bread. Serve on a bed of lettuce leaves.

Makes 6 servings.

HERRING AND ORANGE SALAD

do-orange-salad

  • 1 (12-ounce) jar herring in wine sauce, drained
  • 1 red delicious apple, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 orange, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Sliced oranges for garnish

Cut herring, apple, onion and orange in 1/2-inch slices; toss in a large bowl. Combine sour cream and sugar; pour over herring mixture. Blend thoroughly with a wooden spoon.

Cover and refrigerate overnight. Before serving, toss gently. Garnish with orange slices. 

Makes 6 servings.

CARROT AND RAISIN SALAD

  • 10 carrots, peeled and shredded (3 to 4 cups)
  • 4 tablespoons golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 teaspoons sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, toss carrots with raisins. In a small bowl, blend mayonnaise, orange juice, lemon juice and sugar. Pour over carrot mixture; toss. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Makes 6 servings.

Main photo: Carrot and Raisin Salad. Photos by Dan Kacvinski / Food preparation and styling by Judy Zeidler

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Cooking with wine for Passover

Chocolate truffle cupcakes. Photo by Dan Kacvinski

Chocolate truffle cupcakes. Photo by Dan Kacvinski

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CALIFORNIA CHAROSET

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

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

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

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

Makes about 3 cups.


CHOPPED LIVER TERRINE

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

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

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

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

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

Makes 12 servings.


WHITEFISH IN WHITE WINE

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

Prepare Green Herb Margarine; set aside.

Prepare Beet and Horseradish Sauce; set aside.

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

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

Makes 8 servings. 


GREEN HERB MARGARINE

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

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

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

Makes about 1 cup.


BEET AND HORSERADISH SAUCE

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

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

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

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.


LAMB SHANKS ROASTED IN RED WINE

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

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

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

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

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

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

Makes 6 servings.


CHOCOLATE TRUFFLE CUPCAKES

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

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

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

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

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

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Going Green for Passover

Going Green for Passover

A vegetarian seder can offer special delights

The mainstays of a traditional Passover seder, celebrating the Exodus of the Jews from slavery in Egypt, tend to be a carnivore’s dream: gefilte fish, chicken soup with matzah balls, stuffed turkey and lamb shanks.

Today, though, more and more families are planning a vegetarian Passover seder menu.

It is easy and timely, as the Passover holiday arrives each year at the same time that the first crop of fresh and appealing spring fruits and vegetables appear. They make welcome substitutes for the dried, canned and frozen foods normally used during the Passover observance, which begins this year at sundown on April 14. They also are in tune with today’s interest in more healthful eating.

The ceremonial foods on the seder plate already consist mostly of vegetables. They can include parsley, green onions, celery, romaine lettuce or horseradish to represent the bitter herbs, and we always serve small steamed new potatoes dipped in coarse salt as part of the service, symbolic of the Israelites’ tears of sorrow (the salt) and subsequent rebirth (the potatoes). For many years, we have also included a roasted beet as a replacement for the shank bone.

It’s a small step to infuse the rest of your holiday celebration with veggies in new and interesting ways. European charoset is usually a combination of chopped apples, walnuts and wine, but this year replace them with pears and pecans, or make your own combination. The soup can be a medley of fresh vegetables served in their own cooking broth, or a puree of the vegetables made by blending the mixture in the food processor. Mini Matzah-Parsley Dumplings are a perfect addition.

For the main course, serve cabbage rolls that are filled with zucchini, carrots, celery and parsnips and baked in a fresh tomato-mushroom-wine sauce. And to cap things off, make a Passover Carrot-Apple Sponge Cake — along with fresh pineapple and strawberries dipped in Passover chocolate — to serve with tea and coffee.

PEAR AND PECAN CHAROSET

  • 2 pears, unpeeled, cored and finely chopped
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup minced golden raisins
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup sweet Passover wine

In a bowl, combine pears, pecans, raisins, honey and cinnamon; mix well. Stir in enough wine to bind mixture. Serve in bowl or roll into 1-inch balls and arrange on serving plate.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups or 20 balls.

SPRING VEGETABLE SOUP

  • Mini Matzah-Parsley Dumplings (recipe follows)
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 4 onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced (optional)
  • 4 celery stalks, thinly sliced
  • 6 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3 zucchini, unpeeled, thinly sliced
  • 1 rutabaga, peeled and diced
  • 4 medium tomatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 1/2 quarts water
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Prepare Mini Matzah-Parsley Dumplings; set aside.

In a large pot, heat oil and sauté onions and garlic until soft. Add celery, carrots, parsnips, zucchini and rutabaga. Sauté for 10 minutes, mixing with a wooden spoon. Add tomatoes, bay leaves and water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper. Simmer for 1 hour or until vegetables are tender. (For a thicker soup, transfer to a blender or food processor and blend until thickened.)

Drop dumpling mixture by tablespoonsful into boiling soup. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes; do not uncover during this cooking time. Ladle into hot soup bowls.

Makes about 12 servings.

MINI MATZAH-PARSLEY DUMPLINGS

  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups matzah meal
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced fresh parsley

Put egg yolks, water, salt and pepper in small bowl; beat with a fork. Set aside.

In large bowl, beat egg whites until they form stiff peaks; do not overbeat. Combine matzah meal and parsley. With rubber spatula, gently fold the yolk mixture alternately with the matzah meal and parsley mixture into the beaten egg whites to form a light, firm batter. Cover and let rest for 5 minutes.

Makes about 10 dumplings.

VEGETABLE-STUFFED CABBAGE WITH TOMATO-MUSHROOM SAUCE

  • Tomato-Mushroom Sauce (recipe follows)
  • 1 large cabbage
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup safflower or peanut oil
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced (optional)
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 4 carrots, peeled and grated
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and grated
  • 1 zucchini, grated
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons golden raisins
  • 4 mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/4 cup ground pecans
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Prepare Tomato-Mushroom Sauce; set aside.

Rinse cabbage; cut off about 1 inch from base of  cabbage leaves. Place cabbage in saucepan with boiling water to cover and 1 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook 3 minutes or until leaves have wilted. Remove cabbage from water; drain. Set aside.

In a large, heavy skillet, heat oil and sauté onions and garlic until transparent. Add celery, carrots, parsnip and zucchini; toss well. Sauté 5 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften. Add parsley, raisins and mushrooms; mix thoroughly. Simmer 5 minutes. Blend in pecans and wine; mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sauté 5 minutes, cover; set aside.

Place 1 cabbage leaf on flat surface; shape some of stuffing into a ball, place it on base end of cabbage leaf, and roll up leaf to enclose filling, envelope-style. Repeat until all stuffing has been used.

Place rolls close together in skillet, submerged in Tomato-Mushroom Sauce. Cover, bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes. If skillet is ovenproof, transfer to oven (or transfer cabbage rolls and sauce to an ovenproof baking dish) and bake for 30 minutes.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

TOMATO-MUSHROOM SAUCE

  • 1/4 cup safflower oil or peanut oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic (optional)
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 3 cans (11 ounces each) tomato-mushroom sauce
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In large ovenproof pot, heat oil and sauté onions, garlic and celery until tender. Add tomato-mushroom sauce, wine, honey and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add additional honey and lemon juice to taste. Bring to a boil and simmer 10 minutes.

Makes about 4 cups.

PASSOVER CARROT-APPLE SPONGE CAKE

di-bundt-cake

  • Chocolate Glaze (recipe follows)
  • 9 eggs, separated
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1 cup applesauce
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 3/4 cup matzah cake meal
  • 2/3 cup Passover potato starch
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Prepare Chocolate Glaze; set aside.

In bowl of electric mixer, beat egg yolks and 1 cup sugar until light in color and texture. Add carrots, applesauce, lemon juice and lemon zest; blend well. Combine almonds, matzah cake meal, potato starch, salt and cinnamon; blend into egg yolk mixture.

In large bowl of electric mixer, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Add remaining 1/2 cup sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Fold one-fourth of whites into batter. Add remaining whites and fold in gently until well-blended.

Pour the batter into an ungreased, 10-inch tube pan. Bake until cake springs back when touched and wooden pick inserted in center comes out dry, about 1 hour, 20 minutes.

Remove cake from oven and immediately invert pan to cool. Loosen sides and center of cake. Frost with Chocolate Glaze, slice, and serve.

Makes 1 (10-inch) cake, 10 to 12 servings.

CHOCOLATE GLAZE

  • 8 ounces semisweet Passover chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons apricot preserves
  • 1 cup Passover Concord grape wine

Melt chocolate and preserves in top of double boiler over simmering water or in a microwave. While hot, add wine, and blend well. Add additional wine if the mixture is too thick. Let glaze cool slightly, then pour over cake.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups.

Photos by Dan Kacvinski / Food preparation and styling by Judy Zeidler

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Celebrate Queen Esther with chocolate

Chocolate poppy-seed hamantaschen and chocolate sorbet. Photos by Dan Kacvinski

Chocolate poppy-seed hamantaschen and chocolate sorbet. Photos by Dan Kacvinski

Queen Esther, the heroine of the Purim tale, was quite a woman. Not only did she outwit the evil Haman and save the entire Jewish population of Persia, she did it all as a vegetarian. According to tradition, when she moved into the palace, she became quite a party girl but limited her diet to seeds, vegetables, fruits, nuts and, of course, chocolate.

So, this year, to celebrate her special diet, I am planning to treat my family to a special array of chocolate Purim desserts. The custom of gift-giving to friends during the holiday is referred to as mishloach manot,and my favorite gift when we are invited for dinner to the home of friends is to bring a ribbon-wrapped box filled with homemade chocolates.

There are plenty of other treats to try: I am sharing my recipe here for Chocolate-Dipped Oatmeal Cookie Fruit and Nut Bars and Chocolate-Covered Halvah Truffles.

And don’t forget hamantaschen, the traditional Purim pastry. The first recipe I remember for these came from my mother. Instead of making them with the yeast-based pastry that is found in most Jewish bakeries, she used cookie dough filled with poppy seed and prune preserves.

Over the years I have developed my own hamantaschen pastries. My favorite is adding chocolate and poppy seeds to the dough and stuffing them with a mixture of chocolate and chopped nuts.

Just when your guests think all the desserts are on the table, surprise them with scoops of Chocolate Sorbet. Then you can nosh some hamantaschen!

CHOCOLATE-DIPPED OATMEAL COOKIE FRUIT AND NUT BARS

  • Oatmeal Cookie Dough (recipe follows)
  • 1 1/2 cups whole almonds, toasted
  • 1 1/2 cups hazelnuts, toasted
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted
  • 1 cup diced dry cranberries
  • 1 1/2 cups diced dry apricots
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup cream, warmed
  • 1 package (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate pieces

Prepare the Oatmeal Cookie Dough; bake as directed and set aside.

Mix the nuts and dried fruits in a bowl. Spread the mixture evenly over the baked cookie dough.

Combine sugar and water in a heavy pot; cook over medium heat, stirring gently, until light brown. Remove from heat; add the cream, stirring constantly. Transfer to a large measuring cup and pour over dried fruit and nuts in baked cookie dough. Set aside to cool, then cut into bars of desired size. (See yields below.)

Melt chocolate in a double boiler over gently simmering water or in a microwave. With your fingertips, dip one end of each bar into melted chocolate, leaving the nuts and fruit showing and place on a wax paper-lined platter. Refrigerate until chocolate is set.

Makes 54 bars, 2 by 2 inches each; or 108 bars, 1 by 2 inches each.

OATMEAL COOKIE DOUGH

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 pound unsalted butter or margarine
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 1/2 cups old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats (do not use instant oatmeal)
  • 1 1/4 cups toasted chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the sugars and butter. Beat in vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping sides of bowl after each one.

In a bowl, mix together flour, cinnamon, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Add flour mixture to butter-sugar mixture in two to three additions, beating until just combined. Add oats in two or three additions, stirring until just combined. Stir in pecans.

Roll dough into a ball, flatten with hands, and spread evenly onto a greased, rimmed 12-by-18-inch baking sheet. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown.

CHOCOLATE-COVERED HALVAH TRUFFLES


Chocolate-dipped oatmeal cookie fruit and nut bars and chocolate-covered halvah truffles.

  • 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 unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
  • 1 pound semisweet chocolate, broken into small pieces

In a mixing bowl, stir together the tahini and honey. In a food processor, combine the coconut, wheat germ and sunflower seeds; process until finely chopped. Stir coconut mixture, cocoa and cinnamon into tahini-honey mixture until well-blended and firm. Shape mixture by hand into l-inch balls.

Melt chocolate in a double boiler over gently simmering water. With your hands, dip each halvah ball into the melted chocolate; place on waxed paper-lined plate. Refrigerate until the chocolate is set.

Makes 30 (1-inch) balls.

CHOCOLATE POPPY-SEED HAMANTASCHEN

  • Chocolate Filling (recipe follows)
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup finely ground almonds
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter or margarine
  • 3 tablespoons hot water
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 egg white

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Prepare Chocolate Filling; set aside.

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

Combine water and cocoa in a small bowl; beat in the whole egg. Add to flour mixture, beating until mixture begins to form dough. Do not overmix.

Transfer to floured board and shape into a ball. Chill 30 minutes for easier handling.

Divide dough into six portions. Flatten each with the palms of your hands; roll out 1/4-inch thick. Cut into 3 1/2-inch rounds with scalloped cookie cutter.

Place 1 teaspoon Chocolate Filling in the center of each round. Fold edges of dough toward center to form a triangle, leaving a bit of filling visible in the center. Pinch edges to seal.

Place on a lightly greased foil- or Silpat-lined baking sheet and brush with lightly beaten egg white. Bake until firm, about 30 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool.

Makes 6 to 7 dozen.

CHOCOLATE FILLING

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk, cream or coffee
  • 1 cup chopped, toasted walnuts

Combine all filling ingredients in a bowl; blend thoroughly.

Makes about 2 1/4 cups.

CHOCOLATE SORBET

  • 3 cups unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted
  • 1 cup port or Concord grape wine

Combine cocoa and sugar in a large, heavy saucepan. Add water, a little at a time, in a thin stream, mixing with wire whisk until well blended and smooth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes or until thick. Stir in melted chocolate and port. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for about 4 minutes, or until thick, stirring constantly. Pour into an 8-cup pitcher or bowl and place inside a larger bowl filled with ice and cold water. Stir until cool. Remove bowl from ice water. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Process in an ice cream machine, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer the sorbet to a covered container and freeze for at least 1 hour for flavors to mellow. If frozen solid, soften in the refrigerator and beat until smooth and creamy before serving.

Makes about 2 quarts. 

 

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A Pizza Party for Purim

A Pizza Party for Purim

The festival of Purim is a fun-filled holiday, where the focus is on Queen Esther, who helped defeat the king’s wicked prime minister, Haman, in ancient Persia. It is a time when the children dress up in costumes, representing the characters in the story, and take part in masquerades, singing, dancing, playing games and more. The grown-ups have their rewards, too, because it is the only holiday where a generous intake of wine is encouraged.

This year, the holiday begins on the night of March 15, and it’s all about having a fun time with family and friends. One of our favorite get-togethers, in general, is to enjoy an informal pizza party, and Purim offers the perfect opportunity for one. Pizza dough is almost the same as that used in making hamantaschen, the filled pastry that represents Haman’s hat or pockets, depending on which tale your bubbe told you. And pizza slices are cut into triangles, the same shape as hamantaschen.

For a do-it-yourself pizza party, prepare all the fillings in advance and simply set them out in bowls for everyone to choose their own selections. Make the dough a half hour before everyone arrives, and it will be ready to roll out. Individual pies are a perfect size, and everyone can make their own creation. The dough and toppings can also be prepared in advance, or the day before, and stored in the fridge. Buon appetito!

BASIC PIZZA DOUGH

  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water (110-115F)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 1/2 cups flour

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

In a large mixing bowl, combine remaining 3/4 cup water, 1/4 cup olive oil and yeast mixture. Stir in salt and flour, 1 cup at a time, until the dough begins to come together into a rough ball.

Turn 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.

Makes enough for about 4 individual pizzas.

CLASSIC MARINARA TOMATO SAUCE

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 1 can (28 ounces)
  • whole peeled tomatoes (undrained)
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a heavy skillet, heat olive oil. Add garlic, onions, red pepper, carrots and celery; sauté until onions are transparent. Add tomatoes with their liquid, wine, oregano, basil, parsley and sugar. Bring to a boil and simmer on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until thick, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside.

Makes about 6 cups.

DO-IT-YOURSELF PIZZA

Part of the fun of making a pizza is adding your own toppings. Consider anything from anchovies to sliced mushrooms, sliced onions, sliced zucchini, oven-dried tomatoes or roasted peppers, cut into strips.

  • Classic Marinara Tomato Sauce (recipe above)
  • Basic Pizza Dough (recipe above)
  • Cornmeal
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Prepare Classic Marinara Tomato Sauce; set aside.
  • Prepare Basic Pizza Dough.

Punch down the dough and break off golf ball-size pieces to make 8- to 10-inch individual pizzas. Knead each piece of dough on a floured board for 1 minute, working in additional flour to make it smooth and no longer sticky. Roll it out into a thin circle. Dust a round pizza baking pan with cornmeal and place the rolled-out dough on top.

Spoon a thin coating of the Classic Marinara Tomato Sauce onto the pizza, spreading it with the back of a spoon to within 1 inch of the edge. Add any other toppings you desire. Sprinkle generously with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and bake on the lowest rack of the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the crust is crisp and brown and the cheese is hot and bubbling. Serve immediately.

Makes about 4 pizzas.

ONION-ANCHOVY PIZZA (PISSALADIERA)

do-anchoviepizza

This dish, often served on the Italian Riviera, consists of a thinly rolled pizza dough topped with a savory mixture of slow-cooked onions and garlic, garnished with pungent anchovies and drizzled with olive oil. (From “Italy Cooks,” by Judy Zeidler) 

  • Basic Pizza Dough (recipe above)
  • Olive oil
  • 2 pounds (3 large) onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Flour
  • Cornmeal
  • 1 can (2 ounces) anchovy fillets, drained

Preheat oven to 450 F.

Prepare Basic Pizza Dough. Brush with olive oil, then cover with a clean kitchen towel until ready to use.

In a large skillet, heat 4 tablespoons olive oil. Add onions and garlic. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook over low heat for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Do not allow onions to brown. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.

Punch down dough and divide into 4 pieces. Working with one piece at a time, knead on a floured board for 2 or 3 minutes, working in a small amount of flour, a little at a time, until dough is smooth and no longer sticky. Roll out into a thin circle, about 8 to 10 inches in diameter. Repeat with remaining dough pieces.

Brush a round pizza baking pan with olive oil, dust with cornmeal, and arrange one or two dough rounds on the baking pan (bake as many as will fit on the pan; you may have to bake them in batches). Place one-fourth of the onion mixture on each pizza round. Arrange one-fourth of the anchovies in a circular pattern on each. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden.

Makes 4 pizzas.

THREE-CHEESE CALZONE

  • 1 cup Classic Marinara Tomato Sauce, warmed (recipe above)
  • Basic Pizza Dough (recipe above)
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 bunch (5 cups) fresh spinach leaves, roughly chopped (remove and discard thick stems)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Prepare Classic Marinara Tomato Sauce; set aside.

Prepare Basic Pizza Dough. On a lightly floured surface, divide the dough into 4 equal portions. Working with one portion at a time, roll out and cut or shape into an 8-inch square. Repeat with remaining portions.

In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, spinach, and salt and pepper.

Spoon one-fourth of the filling on one corner of each dough square; fold opposite corner over the filling. Pinch edges to seal. Brush tops of calzones with olive oil.

Transfer calzones to a foil- or Silpat-lined baking sheet and bake until golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Serve with Classic Marinara Tomato Sauce.

Makes 4 calzones.

CHICKPEA PIZZA (FARINATA)

This comfort food from Liguria, the region flanking Genoa along Italy’s northwest coast, is a deceptively simple street food. Farinata is somewhat like a large, thin chickpea crepe or pancake, and traditionally baked in brick wood-burning ovens in pizza pans — crisp and golden on the top, soft and moist on the inside. My method calls for using a skillet on the stovetop, then moving the pizza to the broiler.

  • 2/3 cup chickpea flour
  • 1/3 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped tomato
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons capers (optional)
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the broiler.

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

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil in a 12-inch non-stick ovenproof skillet. Stir batter once, pour about 3/4 cup of batter into skillet. Cook 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 half of the tomato, onion, capers, Parmesan cheese and pepper over the top, and drizzle the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil on top. 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 remaining batter.

Makes 2 farinatas.

Main photo: Three-Cheese Calzone / Photos by Dan Kacvinski. Food preparation and styling by Judy Zeidler

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Love at First Bite

For Valentine’s Day, share your passion for pasta that’s pretty in pink

 We met Suzanne and Don Dunaway on a Valentine’s Day, while sitting at a small table during a reception for Julia Child’s American Institute of Wine & Food. We began talking and discovered that we had many interests in common, but mostly food, wine and traveling.

At the time, Suzanne was an illustrator for Gourmet magazine, focusing on vignette portraits of restaurants and their chefs. The sketches captured them perfectly, but with a bit of humor. Don was a successful screenwriter and film director and had worked in Italy for many years. They lived in the hills above Los Angeles in a contemporary house with a large, open kitchen, where guests could watch Suzanne cook. Her stovetop faced the dining room, and she would usually be boiling pasta using extra-large skillets and pots, even though she was only cooking for six or eight guests.

“We were married on Valentine’s Day so we would never forget our anniversary,” Suzanne said. “We drank Dom Perignon champagne and then took off for our honeymoon to Desert Hot Springs.”

They have been married for more than 30 years, and each year they celebrate their anniversary in a different manner. “Sometimes we would go out to a restaurant, but mostly we stay at home and get a nice-size can of beluga or Osetra caviar to put on toast with sweet butter, along with icy potato vodka or whatever champagne we manage to find,” Suzanne said.

One year she made an all-pink dinner. First, Ravioli Stuffed With Beets and Ricotta — they came out a lovely pink when boiled — topped with butter and toasted sage. Then a Radish and Beet Salad, with thin slices of sweet onion, dressed with extra virgin olive oil and lemon and decorated with pink nasturtium flowers. For dessert, fresh Strawberry Sorbetto With Pink Genoise baked in her mother’s ancient heart-shaped pan and topped with pink frosting.

Suzanne’s real hobby was baking bread, which she would share with family and friends. She made so much that she often showed up at the local farmers markets with a big basket, passing out samples to everyone. This led to the opening of Buona Forchetta, an Italian artisan bakery in Culver City. It was at this time that Suzanne wrote her first self-illustrated cookbook, “No Need to Knead.” Later, they sold the bakery and retired to Rome, where Suzanne wrote her second cookbook, “Rome at Home.”

The couple also live in the south of France, in Collioure, a tiny fishing village near the Spanish border. This past summer, we visited them at their home, where we ate and relaxed on the outdoor terrace with its vegetable garden. We hiked in the hills carrying bags full of bread and carrots to feed to the local donkeys, and picked ripe green figs for dinner. We shopped and cooked together. We ate in the casual village restaurants, and one evening at sunset, at a place called Le Neptune, our table was on the edge of the dock, giving us a look down at the ocean below. Great memories — can’t wait to return, maybe next year on Valentine’s Day.

Beet ravioli

Illustrations by Suzanne Dunaway

1 pound fresh beets
2 cups ricotta
2 egg yolks
3 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Pinch nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh Pasta Dough
(recipe follows)
1/4 cup unsalted butter
12 fresh sage leaves

Wash the beets well and steam in a pot with a little salt until tender, about 15 minutes, or until a fork pierces the beets easily. Drain well and remove skins (they will slip off easily).

In the bowl of a food processor mix the beets, ricotta, egg yolks, grated cheese, nutmeg, salt and pepper, and pulse just until ingredients are blended.

Prepare the Fresh Pasta Dough. Roll it out into 2 long, thin sheets while the sheets are still moist.

Imagine a checkerboard, marked in 2-inch squares, on one sheet of pasta.

Using a pastry bag or a spoon, pipe out or spoon about 1 tablespoon of the cheese filling in the center of each square. Dip a pastry brush or your index finger into a bowl of water and paint vertical and horizontal lines along the checkerboard pattern between the mounds of cheese filling. Carefully place the second sheet of pasta on top of the first, pressing down firmly around each mound of filling and along the wet lines to seal the pasta sheets together.

With a ravioli cutter, pastry wheel or small knife, cut the pasta into ravioli squares enclosing the filling. Place a kitchen towel on a baking sheet and dust it with flour. Place the ravioli on the floured towel. When they are dry on one side, turn them to allow the other side to dry. When thoroughly dry, the ravioli are easy to separate.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and cook the ravioli for about 3 to 4 minutes.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan, add the sage leaves, and cook just until the leaves are toasted. Drain the ravioli and place in warmed bowls. Spoon the sage butter over the ravioli.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

 

FRESH PASTA DOUGH

The quantities and directions that follow require a large-capacity food processor. If your processor has a more limited capacity, make the dough in two or more batches.
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons water

 

Place the flour and salt in the processor fitted with the steel blade. Turn the machine on and off once. Then, with the machine running, drop in one egg and, the instant it is blended in, turn off the machine. Repeat with the remaining 3 eggs, until the dough is crumbly or resembles a coarse meal. Add the olive oil and water and process just until the dough begins to come away from the side of the bowl.

Remove the dough to a floured wooden board and knead just until smooth. Divide the dough into 3 or 4 parts for easier handling. When rolling out the first piece, cover the remainder with a large bowl so the dough does not dry out.

To roll out the pasta with a pasta machine, set the rollers at the widest opening. Divide the dough into 4 parts for easier handling. Working with one part at a time, flatten the dough with the palm of your hand into a thick strip no wider than the machine. Dust it lightly with flour and crank it through the machine. Fold it in half or in thirds, pressing it down with your fingertips, dust with flour, turn it 90 degrees (a quarter-turn) and run it through the machine again. Repeat this process 3 or 4 more times, dusting with flour, until the dough is smooth, elastic and no longer sticky. Now the dough is ready to stretch into a long sheet.

Set the machine to the next opening, bringing the rollers closer together, and run the dough through. This time, do not fold or turn the dough. Set the rollers another notch closer and run the dough through again. Continue rolling the dough with a smaller opening each time, stopping just before the next-to-narrowest setting. (The dough strip will become very long, so allow ample workspace, or cut the dough in shorter sheets as it gets longer.)

RADISH AND BEET SALAD

You may add toasted nuts. You may also use radishes that you have marinated in lemon juice and salt overnight. The lemon juice will turn pink and add more color to the salad. 

1 (8-ounce) package baby lettuce
12 radishes, sliced thin
Salt and pepper to taste
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Several drops balsamic vinegar
4 cooked beets  (skins removed), sliced thin and tossed with a pinch of sugar
1 sweet onion, sliced thin
Juice of half a small lemon

In a salad bowl, toss the lettuce, radishes, salt and pepper with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Arrange the salad on two plates, distributing the beet and onion slices on top. Squeeze lemon juice over each plate before serving.

Makes 2 to 4 servings.

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Eight chefs’ new Chanukah delights, one for each night

 

Bruce Marder's two-tone potato latkes

Bruce Marder’s two-tone potato latkes

This year, Chanukah and Thanksgiving coincide: Chanukah is celebrated for eight days by candle-lighting, gift exchanges and eating foods fried in oil, an ancient custom, commemorating a miraculous event at the Temple in Jerusalem, while the Thanksgiving meal reminds us of our American heritage. Both offer a special time to reflect on our traditions and enjoy a family meal.

Of course, the favorite Chanukah food is latkes, most often made from grated potatoes and served with sour cream, preserves or applesauce.

This year I decided to interview some well-known chefs and restaurateurs for some new and different ideas. The result was more than I bargained for. I never dreamed there could be so many sensational new recipes, and an added bonus was the delicious new sauces these food experts provided to serve with the latkes.

I am featuring eight chefs and their recipes, one for each night of the holiday. Our family is also celebrating Thanksgiving a day early, on the first night of Chanukah, since our family is traveling from Northern California as well as Washington and Oregon to be together for this special celebration.

Michel Richard, who was the chef/owner of Citrus while in Los Angeles, has just opened his new bakery, Pomme Palais, and restaurant, Villard Michel Richard, at the Palace Hotel in New York. Always looking for ways to reduce the use of butter and cream, he developed wafer-thin, super-crisp Oven-Fried Potato Latkes, which have absolutely no resemblance to the old-fashioned, heavier and more caloric ones. They are also a perfect dish to serve with your Thanksgiving turkey meal.

Bruce Marder, the innovative chef of Capo and the Brentwood Restaurant in West L.A., came up with Two-Tone Potato Latkes, made without eggs, which he serves with salmon caviar to celebrate Chanukah and Thanksgiving .

Chef Jonathan Waxman’s restaurant, Barbuto, in New York City’s West Village section, serves Italian-inspired cuisine. Several years ago he shared this Red Pepper and Corn Latkes recipe, served with a creamy corn sauce, which has become a staple for our Chanukah menu.

Michel Ohayon, chef/owner of  Koutoubia in West L.A., offers another substantial main course for Chanukah: Moroccan Ground Beef and Potato Latkes, which he suggests should be served withharissa, a spicy-hot chili pepper sauce that can be found in most Middle Eastern markets.

When your guests arrive, offer them a large bowl filled with thin home-fried potato chips that our foodie friend, home cook Luigi (Lou) Liuzzi created. It is one of his many innovative food experiments that we continue to enjoy.

Chef Brett Swartzman is a chef with passion. Originally a native of Chicago, he is creating his second Chanukah celebration at the Brentwood Country Club.  They love his Potato Latkes With Granny Smith Applesauce, and this year he is going to surprise them with Sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts).

Chef Robert Bell, owner-chef of Chez Melange and Mama Terano, both in the South Bay, prepared an unusual potato latke recipe on my TV show “Judy’s Kitchen” many years ago. Thinly sliced russet potatoes are arranged in layers in a skillet to resemble the pedals of a flower, then baked in olive oil until crisp. It’s always a tasty dish to serve during the holiday.

Josiah Citrin, chef-owner of Melisse in Santa Monica, serves his family’s traditional potato latkes, using a special French cheese. This is a recipe that his French grandmother, Simone, prepared for Chanukah, and she always served it with fig compote.

With these eight exciting latke recipes, it is a perfect time to plan a festive latke party for your family and friends. Keep the menu simple — after all, the latkes are the real stars, and a hearty soup or salad may be the only addition needed. If your latkes are served for dessert, invite guests to drop in after dinner for latkes, tea and coffee.

Preparation can be made easy by using your food processor or blender, and remember, many batters may be made in advance, then fried at the last moment. In planning your Chanukah party, don’t forget to include the traditional songs, the custom of giving Chanukah gelt (foil-wrapped chocolate coins) to the children and exchanging small gifts.


MICHEL RICHARD’S OVEN-FRIED POTATO LATKES 

1 pound (about 4 medium) potatoes, peeled
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Sour cream and diced cucumbers

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Cut the potatoes into long, thin strips, about 1/8-inch wide, by hand or using your food processor’s julienne or shredder blade. Place potato strips in a bowl of water to cover. Before cooking, drain potatoes, then dry well in a lettuce spinner or with a clean kitchen towel.

Place a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add 3 tablespoons olive oil and heat. Add the potatoes and stir-fry until tender, about five minutes. Turn the potatoes out onto a baking sheet and push the strips together to form a rectangle or triangle, about 1/4-inch thick. Roll using a rolling pin to flatten further.

Oil a large baking sheet. Cut into the flattened potatoes by pressing down on a fluted cookie cutter, creating 2 1/2- to 3-inch rounds.  Using a spatula, transfer the latkes to the prepared baking sheet. (This can be done in advance.)

Before baking, season potatoes with salt and pepper. Bake in the preheated oven until crisp and brown on both sides, about 30 minutes, turning the latkes halfway through. Transfer them to a serving platter, using a metal spatula. Serve with sour cream and diced cucumbers.

Makes about 8 servings.


BRUCE MARDER’S TWO-TONE POTATO LATKES

1 large russet potato, peeled
1 large sweet potato, peeled
Salt and pepper
Olive oil for frying
Salmon caviar

Julienne potatoes lengthwise into long matchsticks, either with a knife, food processor with julienne attachment or mandoline.  Place in large bowl, add salt and pepper to taste, and mix well.

In a cast iron skillet or on a griddle, heat olive oil. Shape potato mixture to form pancakes about 2 inches in diameter. Fry on one side until brown, then, using a metal spatula, carefully turn and flatten with the back of the spatula and brown on the other side.

Place latkes on heated plates and serve immediately with salmon caviar.

Makes about 12 latkes.


JONATHAN WAXMAN’S RED PEPPER AND CORN LATKES

Creamy Corn Sauce (recipe follows)
1 red bell pepper
3 eggs, separated
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup flour
Olive oil for frying
Salt and pepper
Salmon caviar (optional)

Prepare Creamy Corn Sauce; set aside.

Roast red pepper in a 375 F oven for 40 minutes, turning once.  Skin will puff and brown. Peel off the skin, remove the stem, and discard seeds. Puree in blender or food processor.

In a large bowl, combine the red pepper puree, egg yolks, milk and corn kernels; mix well. Blend in the flour. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold egg whites into red pepper mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

In nonstick or heavy skillet, heat 1 to 2 tablespoons oil.  For each latke, spoon 2 tablespoons batter into the hot oil and fry on both sides until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Repeat until all batter has been used, adding more oil to skillet as needed to keep latkes from sticking

Serve with Creamy Corn Sauce and top with salmon caviar, if desired.

Makes about 24 latkes.    


CREAMY CORN SAUCE

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup corn kernels
1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup cream
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons minced chives

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet and saute corn kernels until tender, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and saute diced red bell pepper until tender, about 2 minutes. Set aside.

In a saucepan, heat vegetable broth and simmer until reduced to about 1/2 cup. Add sauteed corn and bell pepper.  Blend in cream and simmer until thickened.  Season to taste with salt and pepper, and stir in chives. Serve warm.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.


MICHEL OHAYON’S MOROCCAN GROUND BEEF AND POTATO LATKES

2 pounds potatoes
Oil for frying
1 medium onion, diced
Salt and pepper
1 pound ground beef
1 tablespoon minced onion
1/2 teaspoon each minced fresh parsley and fresh cilantro
Pinch nutmeg
Pinch mace (optional)
Pinch saffron (optional)
1 egg
Harissa

In a pot, boil potatoes for 45 minutes; peel and mash. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet and saute diced onion until soft.  Add to potatoes with salt and pepper to taste. Cool.

In a skillet, brown ground beef, minced onion, parsley, cilantro, nutmeg, mace and saffron, until no juice remains. Cool mixture and transfer to a food processor.

Using the knife blade of a food processor, blend meat mixture with egg.

Using a heaping tablespoon of mashed potato mixture, place in palm of hand and place a teaspoon of ground beef mixture in center. Roll potato mixture around meat mixture.  Flatten between the palms of your hands.

Fry in oil in nonstick skillet, or deep-fry until brown and crisp. (These can be prepared in advance and warmed in the oven, or served cold. ) Serve with harissa.

Makes about 10 latkes.    


LUIGI’S POTATO CHIPS

4 russet potatoes
3 to 4 cups olive, peanut or canola oil for frying
1 tablespoon salt

Peel the potatoes and slice them very thin using a mandoline or a sharp knife. Places the sliced potatoes in a bowl of cold water. Pour oil into fryer or large pot and heat to 375 F.

Dry the potato slices between two clean kitchen towels and place some into the not oil. Do not overload.

Fry for five minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer the chips to a large cookie sheet lined with paper towels and sprinkle salt onto the chips. Continue in batches until all the chips are cooked. Place the chips carefully into serving bowl — do not dump them from cookie sheet, as you do not want pour the excess salt from the sheet into the bowl.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.


BRETT SWARTZMAN’S SUFGANIYOT (JELLY DOUGHNUTS)

2 tablespoons active dry yeast

1/2 cup warm water (100 to 110 F)
1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar, plus more for rolling
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons unsalted margarine, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 teaspoons salt
3 cups vegetable oil, plus more for bowl
1 cup seedless raspberry jam

In a small bowl, combine yeast, warm water and 1 teaspoon sugar. Set aside until foamy, about 10 minutes.

Place 2 1/2 cups flour in a large bowl. Make a well in the center; add eggs, yeast mixture, remaining 1/4 cup sugar, margarine, nutmeg and salt. Using a wooden spoon, stir until a sticky dough forms. On a well-floured work surface, knead until dough is smooth, soft and bounces back when poked with a finger, about 8 minutes (add more flour if necessary). Place in an oiled bowl; cover with plastic wrap. Set in a warm place to rise until doubled, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Using a 2 1/2-inch-round cookie cutter or drinking glass, cut 20 rounds. Cover with plastic wrap; let rise 15 minutes.

In medium saucepan over medium heat, heat 3 cups oil until a deep-frying thermometer registers 370 F. Using a slotted spoon, carefully slip 4 rounds into oil. Fry until golden, about 40 seconds. Turn doughnuts over; fry until golden on other side, another 40 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper-towel-lined baking sheet. Roll in sugar while warm. Fry all dough, and roll in sugar.

Fill a pastry bag fitted with a No. 4 tip with jam. Using a wooden skewer or toothpick, make a hole in the side of each doughnut. Fit the pastry tip into a hole, pipe about 2 teaspoons jam into doughnut. Repeat with remaining doughnuts.

Makes about 24 doughnuts.


ROBERT BELL’S OVEN-FRIED POTATO LATKES

4 russet potatoes, scrubbed and thinly sliced
8 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Brush a nonstick skillet with a small amount of olive oil and arrange the potato slices in a ring, overlapping until the entire surface is covered. Pour a thin stream of olive oil over the potato slices until completed coated (use most of the 8 tablespoons). Repeat with another layer, brush with remaining olive oil, and fry on medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes.

Transfer to the oven and bake for 20 to 30 minutes until potatoes are cooked through. Using a metal spatula, transfer potatoes to a cutting board and cut into triangles. Repeat with the remaining potato slices.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.


JOSIAH CITRIN’S POTATO AND TOMME REBALAISE CHEESE LATKES

2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and grated
1 medium sweet onion, peeled and grated
1/2 pound Tomme Rabelais, grated (Salers or a firm Tomme de Savoie can be substituted)
1 large egg
2 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground white pepper
Olive oil for frying

Place small batches of grated potatoes in the center of dishtowels, and wring excess liquid from the potatoes. Transfer potatoes to a large bowl and repeat the process with the remaining potatoes. Add the onion, cheese, egg, salt and pepper to the potatoes and mix well to combine.

Heat 1/4 inch of oil in a heavy 12-inch skillet (cast iron works best). Add the potato mixture by 1/4-cupfuls to the hot oil. Lightly flatten with a spoon, and cook until golden, about 5 minutes. Turn the latkes over and cook until golden and cooked through, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Repeat process until all of the potato mixture is used. Serve warm.

Makes about 24 latkes.

 

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Ciao, Chanukah!

Celebrate the Festival of Lights with traditional Italian creations

Fried Cheese With Fresh Tomato Sauce. Photos by Dan Kacvinski, food preparation and styling by Judy Zeidler

We are just back from a three-week vacation in Italy, where I had the opportunity to discuss Chanukah foods with members of the Florence Jewish community. Residents shared several of their holiday recipes that include the use of olive oil. This is the major ingredient in the fried foods they serve during the eight days of the Festival of Lights, recalling the miracle of the one day’s supply of oil that burned for eight days in the rededicated Temple.

This year, Chanukah begins the night of Nov. 27, followed by Thanksgiving the next day.

Italy has one of the oldest Jewish communities in Europe, and some of the recipes included on my Chanukah menu are hundreds of years old. One of my favorite discoveries served in Italian homes during the holiday is fried mozzarella cheese topped with a fresh chopped tomato sauce. The cheese mixture may be prepared in advance and cut into cubes when cool, but it is important to fry the cheese just before serving so that it has a creamy consistency. For a more elegant version, the chunky-style tomato sauce can be transformed into a purée with the help of a blender.

Polenta Latkes, delicious by themselves, can be served as a side dish with fish or meat. They are also wonderful as an appetizer topped with sautéed mushrooms or sour cream. In most supermarkets, polenta is sold as cornmeal, and the coarse yellow variety is traditional. Nothing goes to waste in our home — the leftover trimmings from the polenta rounds can be served the next day or are delicious when sautéed in the fresh tomato sauce that is served with the fried cheese.

Pasta Latkes, made with thin egg pasta and fried in olive oil, were described by my Italian friends as the most ancient Chanukah recipe that they continue to prepare and serve today. They’re delicious when fried crisp and crunchy, and served with applesauce.

If you have leftover latke batter, try baking the mixture in the oven, kugel-style, adding two additional eggs, 1/4 cup of raisins and a little cinnamon. Then spoon it into a greased baking dish or muffin pan and bake at 375 F for 20 to 30 minutes until crusty.

For Chanukah dessert, Italian Jews serve Sweet Rice Frittelle (fritters), similar to the sufganiyot eaten in Israel during the holiday. Roll them in sugar, and serve with homemade fruit preserves. These delicious confections make a wonderful treat for family or friends — fill gift baskets with a dozen or so for everyone to take home.


FRIED CHEESE WITH FRESH TOMATO SAUCE

∗ Fresh Tomato Sauce (recipe follows)
∗ 1 pound mozzarella cheese, finely diced
∗ 6 eggs
∗ 1 1/4 cups bread crumbs
∗ 1 teaspoon dried oregano
∗ 2 garlic cloves, minced
∗ 1/2 teaspoon salt
∗ 2 tablespoons dry vermouth or brandy
∗ 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
∗ 2 parsley sprigs, stems removed
∗ 4 fresh basil leaves
∗ 1 cup flour
∗ Olive oil for frying

 Prepare Fresh Tomato Sauce; set aside.

Melt the mozzarella over hot water in a double boiler. Pour it into the large mixing bowl of an electric mixer, and beat in 2 eggs. Add 1/4 cup bread crumbs, oregano, half the garlic, the salt and mix well. Press the cheese mixture into a 5-by-7-inch glass dish. Cover and chill at least 1 hour, or until firm.

In a bowl, lightly beat remaining 4 eggs. Blend in vermouth; set aside. In a food processor or blender, process the remaining 1 cup bread crumbs and remaining garlic, the Parmesan cheese, parsley and basil; set aside.

Cut the cheese mixture into 1 1/2-inch squares (about 15 pieces). Dip each into the flour, then the egg mixture, and finally into the bread crumb mixture to coat evenly. Place on paper towels, and chill 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

In a heavy skillet or deep-fryer, heat 3 inches of oil to 375 F on a deep-frying thermometer. Fry the cheese pieces, a few at a time, until evenly golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Serve at once with Fresh Tomato Sauce.

Makes 12 to 15 servings.


FRESH TOMATO SAUCE

∗ 1/4 cup olive oil
∗ 1 large onion, finely chopped
∗ 3 large, ripe tomatoes, diced
∗ 1 tablespoon sugar
∗ 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
∗ Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a nonstick frying pan, heat the oil. Add the onion and sauté over high heat, until transparent. Add the tomatoes and sugar, reduce heat to medium-low, and sauté until tomatoes are very soft, stirring occasionally. Add parsley, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Cool. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside.

Makes about 3 cups.


ITALIAN PASTA LATKES

∗ 1 (8-ounce) package of fine egg pasta
∗ 2 tablespoons margarine
∗ 1 cup olive oil
∗ 1 small onion, finely chopped
∗ 2 eggs
∗ Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cook the pasta according to package directions; drain well. Transfer to a large bowl. Add margarine, blend well, and set aside.

In a small skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat; sauté onion until tender, about 5 minutes. Add onion to noodles. Blend in eggs, salt and pepper.

In a large, heavy skillet, heat 1/4 inch of oil over medium heat. Drop the pasta mixture by tablespoons into the hot oil, flattening each spoonful with the back of the spoon to form a thin latke. Fry on both sides until golden brown and crisp, about 5 minutes per side. (Do not turn the latkes until the first side is golden and the top is firmly set.)

Drain on paper towels and repeat with remaining pasta mixture, adding additional olive oil as needed. Serve immediately or reheat just before serving.

Makes about 30 latkes.


SWEET RICE FRITTELLE

∗ 1/3 cup medium-grain rice
∗ 2 cups whole milk
∗ Granulated sugar
∗ 1 teaspoon salt
∗ 3 tablespoons orange or lemon zest
∗ 1 tablespoon unsalted margarine
∗ 2 eggs, separated
∗ 1 teaspoon vanilla
∗ 1/4 cup flour
∗ 3 cups safflower oil for deep-frying

In a saucepan, combine rice and milk, and bring to a simmer, stirring frequently to keep rice from sticking to pan. As rice begins to cook, add 1 tablespoon sugar, salt and orange zest. When liquid is simmering, cover pan and continue cooking for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the rice has absorbed almost all the liquid and has reached the consistency of a soft pudding. Stir in margarine; set aside to cool. When rice mixture cools, add egg yolks, vanilla and flour, beating with wooden spoon after each addition.

Heat oil to frying temperature, 360 to 375 F. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, using the whisk attachment, beat egg whites with a pinch of salt until soft peaks are formed. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon sugar over egg whites and continue beating until stiff. Gently fold beaten egg whites into rice mixture. (At this point, you may cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to fry.)

Drop batter by teaspoons into hot oil and fry, turning once, until frittelle are crisp and brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and roll in additional granulated sugar.

Makes about 12 to 14 frittelle.


POLENTA LATKES

∗ 1 cup olive oil
∗ 2 cups chopped onions
∗ 4 1/2 cups vegetable stock or water
∗ 1 1/2 cups polenta or yellow cornmeal
∗ Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

 In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add onions and sauté until tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the vegetable stock, and bring to a boil. Add the polenta slowly, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the polenta comes away from the sides of the pan, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

While still hot, spread polenta about 1 inch thick onto an oiled baking pan. Cool, cover, and refrigerate several hours or overnight, until cold and firm. Using a 2-inch-round, scalloped cookie cutter, cut polenta into rounds and transfer to a large platter.

In a nonstick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and brown polenta rounds, turning occasionally, until brown and crispy on both sides. Drain on paper towels and repeat with remaining polenta rounds, adding additional olive oil as needed. Serve immediately or reheat just before serving.

Makes about 36 latkes.


Tips for Frying With Olive Oil

  • Use a nonstick skillet to reduce the quantity of oil needed.
  • eat oil before frying. This prevents the food from absorbing too much oil and cuts down the time needed for foods to fry.

  • Use extra virgin olive oil. It makes fried foods light, crisp and more healthful.
  • Fried foods should be drained on paper towels immediately.
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Moshe Safdie: Culinary Architect

Moshe Safdie, famed designer of L.A.’s Skirball Cultural Center, displays his creativity in the kitchen, too

FishBranzino Baked in Foil. Photos by Dan Kacvinski. Food preparation and styling by Judy ZeidlerI first met architect Moshe Safdie about 30 years ago, at the base of a barren hill in West Los Angeles, where he envisioned the setting for the Skirball Cultural Center, now the nation’s largest Jewish cultural institution.

It was at that time I discovered that he loves to cook. We talked for hours about his cooking techniques and recipes and the plans he had for the kitchen facilities at the Skirball.

When I contacted Safdie recently, he was on a whirlwind trip to Istanbul, where he has an exciting new project. (Past projects include the 2005 rebuilding of the Holocaust History Museum at Yad Vashem and the Alrov Mamilla Avenue shopping center in Jerusalem.)

The Haifa native, whose family later moved to Montreal, reminisced, “When the girls were growing up, we all cooked together. Now, of course, [my wife] Michal and I still enjoy cooking every day. Unless eating at friends’ homes, we rarely eat out. Michal does the primary cooking at home and is the master of the complex dishes and baking.”

Safdie confessed that he is the primary cook on the grill for meat and fish and sous chef for the rest of the meal.

“I make a superb whole salmon, charcoal grilled, which we often just serve with lemon, a little olive oil and no other sauce. We have now improved on this — it is all about the timing,” he said. “And as the fish cooks on the charcoals, we add some smoked wood, usually juniper, for the last five minutes, so the fish is infused with a smoked flavor. Extraordinary!”

Another favorite fish dish Safdie enjoys preparing is branzino, or European seabass, wrapped in aluminum foil with herbs and olive oil, then roasted in the oven.

“This sounds simple, but the fish takes on an extraordinarily tasty flavor,” he explained. “Again, it is all about timing.”

In 1985, Safdie and his wife, along with their two daughters, bought a 250-year-old house in Cambridge, Mass., where he headed the urban design program at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. At that time, Moshe designed the interior of the house, with special attention to the kitchen. But this year, they totally rebuilt part of the house, with an improved kitchen. Safdie said the remodeled plan was based on many years of cooking in the original small space.

His interest in cooking and dining influences the wonderful settings in all of his projects, especially the new Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark., which we visited a couple of months ago. The restaurant there is breathtaking: You enter through a large archway with windows open to the outdoors and a view of the museum ponds.

It is the most refreshing restaurant space I have ever had the experience of dining in. The same is true with Zeidler’s Café at the Skirball (co-founded by my husband and me), where you can dine inside or outdoors on the open patio.

The Skirball just completed the final phase of a 30-year master plan, and its opening will be celebrated at an Oct. 19 dedication gala. The addition by Safdie includes classrooms, conference spaces, gardens and a grand hall capable of accommodating 1,200 guests. In conjunction with this celebration, a new exhibition, “Global Citizen: The Architecture of Moshe Safdie,” a survey of his work and philosophy, will open at the museum on Oct. 22.

Hopefully we will spend some private time with Safdie while he is in Los Angeles. We plan to invite him for a homemade Italian meal — and maybe even cook together.


SYRIAN STUFFED ZUCCHINI

Safdie grew up on this Syrian specialty, made with lamb. The meat also can be beef.

∗ 4 medium zucchini, trimmed and halved lengthwise
∗ 1 pound ground lamb or beef
∗ 1 tomato, coarsely chopped
∗ 1/4 cup uncooked long grain white rice, rinsed
∗ 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
∗ 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
∗ 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
∗ 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
∗ Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
∗ 1 pound dried apricots

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Using a melon baller or a small spoon, hollow out the center of the zucchini, taking care not to puncture the skin.

In a large bowl, combine the lamb, tomato, uncooked rice, parsley, allspice, cumin, oil, salt and pepper. Divide the filling among the 8 prepared zucchini shells, patting the meat down firmly. Line the bottom of a large baking dish (it should hold all the zucchini) with the dried apricots. Set the stuffed zucchini on top, cover with foil, and transfer the dish to the oven.

Bake for 40 minutes or until the rice is cooked through and the zucchini shells are tender. If the dish seems dry during cooking, add a little boiling water to the baking dish. Serve at once.

Makes 4 servings.


BRANZINO BAKED IN FOIL

Lemon Sauce (recipe follows)

∗ 2 large branzino (European sea bass), 2 pounds each
∗ 1 lemon, thinly sliced
∗ 4 sprigs fresh parsley
∗ 2 garlic cloves, peeled
∗ 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
∗ 1/4 cup olive oil
∗ Salt and freshly ground
∗ black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Prepare the Lemon Sauce; set aside.

Clean the branzino and stuff the inside with lemon slices, parsley, garlic and rosemary, then drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Wrap each branzino in aluminum foil. Place on a baking sheet and bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. To serve, spoon Lemon Sauce on top of fish.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.


LEMON SAUCE

∗ 1 clove garlic, minced
∗ 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
∗ Juice of 1 lemon
∗ 4 tablespoons olive oil
∗ Salt and pepper to taste

In a bowl, mix the garlic, parsley and lemon juice. Drizzle in the olive oil, mixing well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Makes about 3/4 cup.

 

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Let them eat (honey) cake

Pomegranate Ice With Frosted Grapes.  Photos by Dan Kacvinski

Pomegranate Ice With Frosted Grapes. Photos by Dan Kacvinski

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is considered a High Holy Day, but it’s also a happy holiday, full of hope and optimism.

I am always impressed by the fact that food plays such an important part during one of the most sacred of Jewish holidays. The traditional foods — apples, pomegranates, honey, grapes — all have a special meaning, and they symbolize a New Year that will be sweet and prosperous for everyone.

Our family loves the food traditions that are emphasized during Rosh Hashanah, and through the years I have collected an assortment of recipes for many delicious dishes.

The pomegranate in ancient lore is known as “a first fruit” to be enjoyed during the holiday. Serve a refreshing Pomegranate Ice that can be prepared in advance and stored in the freezer. If you don’t have an electric or hand-cranked ice cream maker, just use your refrigerator ice cube tray. The texture may be a little different, but the flavor is no less delicious. For a special treat, garnish with frosted grapes.

Lekakh, or “honey cake,” is the traditional European cake served on the first night of Rosh Hashanah. Perfumed with honey and citrus, this dense spiced cake is one of the significant foods often served at the meal’s end.

I love making a variety of honey cakes during the holiday. On the list this year is an Apple-Walnut Honey Cake and a Honey-Coffee Sponge Cake with a light, appealing texture that comes from the beaten egg whites. Be sure to use strong fresh coffee and a generous measure of spices. I am also sharing a wonderful new recipe, a Honey-Applesauce Cake made without eggs, for those on special diets.

Finally, I have a recipe for a Macaroon Apple Cake that tastes like an exotic Scandinavian pastry, made with apples and strawberry preserves and topped with a crunchy crust made with crushed macaroons and almonds. It has a subtle almond flavor that resembles almond paste. It can be made the day before and stored in the refrigerator.

What better way to start the New Year?

POMEGRANATE ICE WITH FROSTED GRAPES

1 3/4 cups Sugar Syrup (recipe follows)

Frosted Grapes (recipe follows)

2 cups unsweetened pomegranate juice

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 tablespoon fruit liqueur of choice, optional

Prepare the Sugar Syrup; set aside or refrigerate if made in advance.

Prepare the Frosted Grapes; refrigerate until ready to serve.

Combine pomegranate juice, lemon juice, Sugar Syrup and fruit liqueur in a large bowl; blend well. Freeze in an ice cream machine or maker according to directions or, to make without one, pour mixture into ice cube trays or glass bowl. Place in freezer, stirring every hour with fork, scraping sides into center. Continue stirring and freezing until mixture is set. At serving time, scoop Pomegranate Ice into individual bowls; garnish with clusters of Frosted Grapes.

Makes about 1 quart.

SUGAR SYRUP

2 1/4 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups water

Place sugar and water in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Cook over low heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to slow, rolling boil; simmer 5 minutes. Pour into glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill. May be stored in the refrigerator, covered, up to 1 month.

Makes about 2 cups.

FROSTED GRAPES

1 egg white

1/2 cup sugar

1 pound seedless grapes, cut in small clusters

In a small bowl, beat the egg white until frothy. Place sugar in a shallow dish. Holding a cluster of grapes by the stem, dip into the egg white. Shake off excess egg white and roll grapes in sugar mixture until evenly coated. Refrigerate on a rack until the coating is set, several hours or overnight.

Makes 1 pound.

HONEY-COFFEE SPONGE CAKE

1/4 cup oil

1 pound honey

1 cup sugar

1 cup strong brewed coffee

4 eggs, separated

3 1/2 cups flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

3/4 cup sliced almonds

Powdered sugar for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, blend oil, honey, sugar and coffee. Add egg yolks; blend thoroughly. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves and ground ginger; stir into oil mixture, blending well. Set aside.

Beat egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Fold into flour mixture along with sliced almonds.

Pour the batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan. Bake 1 hour, or until a wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out dry. Invert immediately on a wire rack and let stand, upside down, until cool. Loosen sides of cake with a sharp knife and remove to a cake platter. Just before serving, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Makes 10 to 12 servings. 

APPLE-WALNUT HONEY CAKE

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons oil

1/2 cup ground walnuts

2 cups flour

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 eggs

1/2 cup honey

2 tablespoons vanilla

4 cups peeled, cored and thinly sliced apples

2 cups chopped walnuts

Powdered sugar for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a 9- or 10-inch Bundt or tube pan with 2 tablespoons oil, then dust pan with ground walnuts. Set aside.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.

In a smaller bowl, blend together eggs, remaining 1/4 cup oil, honey and vanilla. Add egg mixture to the flour mixture, blending for 1 minute. Stir in apples and chopped walnuts.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 1 1/4 hours or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Loosen cake around the edges. Remove to a wire rack and let stand until cool. Just before serving, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Makes 12 servings.

HONEY-APPLESAUCE CAKE

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons oil

1/4 cup ground walnuts

1/3 cup honey

1/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed

1 cup applesauce

1 3/4 cup flour

1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 cup chopped walnuts, almonds or pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease an 8- or 9-inch square baking pan with 2 tablespoons oil, then dust with ground walnuts.

Blend remaining 1/2 cup oil, honey, brown sugar and applesauce in a large bowl. Combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, then add to the applesauce mixture, blending thoroughly. Fold in chopped walnuts.

Pour into prepared baking pan. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack until cake reaches room temperature.

Using a metal spatula, loosen cake from sides and bottom of pan. Invert onto a rack, cover with a cake platter, and invert the cake right-side up. Before serving, cut cake into 2-inch squares.

Makes 16 servings.

MACAROON-APPLE CAKE

1 pound almond macaroons, toasted and finely ground

1 cup toasted ground almonds

1/2 cup melted, unsalted margarine

8 tart apples, peeled, cored and sliced

3/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 cup raisins, plumped in apple juice to cover

2 (12-ounce) jars cherry, raspberry or strawberry preserves

2 tablespoons toasted sliced almonds

Fresh berries (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl, combine ground macaroons, ground almonds and margarine; mix well. Remove 2 cups of mixture and press onto bottom of generously greased 8-inch springform pan. Set aside.

Place apples in saucepan with sugar and lemon juice; mix well. Cook over low heat until juices appear and apples soften, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain thoroughly; discard liquid. Transfer apples to food processor; process until finely chopped, but do not puree.

Drain raisins, squeeze dry, and add to apple mixture.

Spoon preserves into a bowl; stir well.

Spoon layers on top of the macaroon crust in the following order: half of apple mixture, one-third of preserves, remaining apple mixture, another one-third of preserves and remaining macaroon mixture.

Bake 45 to 55 minutes. Cool on rack, remove sides of springform pan, then cover and refrigerate cake at least 6 hours or overnight. Just before serving, place cake on platter, and garnish with sliced almonds and remaining one-third of preserves or fresh berries.

Makes 8 servings.

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How Sweet It Is

Honey adds special touch to Jewish New Year

BrowniesHoney Chocolate Fudge Bars. Photos by Dan Kacvinski. Food coordinated by Judy Zeidler

The use of honey for Rosh Hashanah symbolizes a sweet year and dates back to biblical times, when refined sugar was unknown. Its sweetness adds a distinctive flavor to a variety of dishes in addition to dessert: It can be used as a glaze for everything from carrots to broiled chicken, adds a special flavor to salad dressing and can even be used in fish recipes. Or you can simply dip sliced apples in it.

When fermented, honey produces a sweet wine called mead.

Many different types of honey are now available. Examples are lavender, chestnut, orange blossom, sage, avocado and wildflower. They can be found in most food stores or from venders at farmers markets.

Cooking with honey as a sweetener is not difficult, and you may want to substitute it for sugar in your favorite recipes. This can be done without any drastic change in the ingredients. I find that cakes and cookies made with honey seem to stay fresh longer, too.

When we gather at home for Rosh Hashanah or break the fast on Yom Kippur, we often surprise our family with some new dishes. One of these new dishes this year will include eggplant. The eggplant is sliced, soaked in milk overnight and then fried in a small amount of oil. The consistency becomes similar to a soufflé and, when drizzled with honey, it is awesome.

In the last few months, carrots of all descriptions seem to be the “in” vegetable on the menus of many restaurants. This year, I am including a recipe for Honey-Roasted Carrots to serve during the holiday.

A fresh fruit salad enhanced with honey and orange juice can be prepared in advance. It makes a perfect first course when family and friends arrive home from the Rosh Hashanah service.

For chocolate lovers, serve Honey Chocolate Fudge Bars, and don’t forget to include Sesame-Honey Thins, a family favorite. You may not want to overdo the taste of honey in every dish, but select several of these recipes for your Rosh Hashanah menu, and save the rest for Yom Kippur.

From our family to yours, we wish you “Shanah tovah” — a very healthy and happy New Year!


FRIED EGGPLANT WITH HONEY AND ROSEMARY

∗ 1 medium eggplant
∗ 2 cups whole milk
∗ 1/2 cup vegetable oil
∗ 1 cup all-purpose flour
∗ Kosher salt to taste
∗ 1/4 cup honey
∗ 1 sprig fresh rosemary, chopped

A day before serving, cut the tops and bottoms off the eggplant, and peel with a vegetable peeler or knife. Slice the eggplant into rounds that are 1/2-inch thick. You should get about 12 slices from 1 medium-sized eggplant. Place eggplant slices into a large container or bowl with enough milk to cover. You will likely have to weigh the eggplant down with a plate to keep it submerged in the milk. Soak overnight in the refrigerator.

In a large frying pan, heat vegetable oil to about 350 F or until a drop of water sizzles. Remove eggplant slices from milk, dredge them in the flour, and tap off excess flour. Drop carefully into hot oil in a single layer (don’t crowd the pan) and fry until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. Flip the eggplant slices during cooking for even browning. Repeat until all slices have been browned.

Sprinkle each eggplant slice with a pinch of kosher salt as it comes out of the pan. Drain on wire rack. Drizzle some honey onto each eggplant slice while it’s on the wire rack. Top slices with chopped rosemary. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

 


HONEY-ROASTED CARROTS

CarrotsHoney-Roasted Carrots

∗ 8 carrots, peeled
∗ 3 tablespoons olive oil
∗ 1/4 cup honey
∗ Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

 Preheat oven to 350 F

Place whole carrots in a baking dish; drizzle with olive oil. Mix until carrots are completely coated with oil. Pour honey over carrots, season to taste with salt and pepper, and mix until evenly coated.

Bake until just tender, or to desired doneness, about 40 minutes.

Makes 4 servings.

 


FRESH FRUIT SALAD WITH
HONEY-ORANGE DRESSING 

Honey-Orange Dressing (recipe follows)

∗ 1 apple, cored and diced
∗ 1 banana, peeled and sliced
∗ 1 avocado, peeled and sliced
∗ 1 orange, peeled and diced
∗ Juice from 1 lemon
∗ Romaine lettuce leaves
∗ 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

 Prepare the Honey-Orange Dressing; set aside.

In a large bowl, toss apple, banana, avocado and diced orange with lemon juice to prevent the fruit from turning brown. Add dressing and stir gently. Serve on a bed of lettuce leaves, sprinkled with pomegranate seeds.

Makes 4 servings. 


 


HONEY-ORANGE DRESSING

∗ 1/3 cup honey
∗ 1/4 cup orange juice
∗ 1/4 cup olive oil or canola oil
∗ 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
∗ 1/4 teaspoon salt
∗ 1/4 teaspoon prepared mustard

Combine all ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Cover and shake well.

Makes about 1 cup.

 


HONEY CHOCOLATE FUDGE BARS

∗ 1/2 cup unsalted margarine
∗ 1/2 cup finely ground walnuts
∗ 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
∗ 4 eggs
∗ 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
∗ 1 cup sugar
∗ 1 cup honey
∗ 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
∗ 1/2 teaspoon salt
∗ 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
∗ 1/2 cup diced candied orange peel or candied ginger

 Preheat oven to 325 F.

Melt 1/4 cup margarine and brush it onto bottom and sides of a 9-inch-square cake pan. Sprinkle with finely ground walnuts. Set pan aside.

Place chocolate and remaining 1/4 cup margarine in the top of a double boiler over hot water on medium heat or in a heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and set aside. (Chocolate and margarine may also be melted in microwave oven.)

In bowl of an electric mixer, beat eggs with vanilla and sugar until very pale and thick. Gradually add honey, then the chocolate-butter mixture, and mix well. Add flour and salt, scraping bowl with a rubber spatula and beating only until each addition is incorporated. Stir in coarsely chopped walnuts and candied orange peel.

Turn into prepared pan; smooth the top. Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out just barely clean and dry. Cool in pan on a rack until cake reaches room temperature.

Using a metal spatula, loosen cake from sides and bottom of pan. Invert onto a rack, cover with a cake platter, and invert the cake right-side up. Before serving, transfer to a cutting board; brush with additional honey. Cut the cake into quarters and then cut each quarter in half.

Makes 16 bars.

 


SESAME-HONEY THINS

∗ 3/4 cup unsalted margarine, cut into pieces
∗ 1 1/3 cups dark brown sugar, finely packed
∗ 1/3 cup honey
∗ 1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
∗ 1 egg
∗ 1/2 cup sesame seeds
∗ 1 cup flour
∗ 1/4 teaspoon salt

 Preheat oven to 350 F.

In large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the margarine. Add brown sugar, honey and vanilla; beat until light and fluffy. Blend in egg and sesame seeds. Add flour and salt; beat until smooth.

Spoon marble-size mounds of dough 2 inches apart onto a foil-lined baking sheet or a silicone baking mat. Bake 5 minutes or until cookies begin to brown around the edges. Cool on baking sheet. When cookies harden, remove from baking sheet.

Makes about 8 dozen.


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

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Lunch and Learn

Some teachers love to get things cookin’ in the classroom

StreudelJudy’s Signature Strudel. Photos by Dan Kacvinski. Food coordinated by Judy Zeidler.

When I think of heroes, I think of schoolteachers. A good teacher can make a big difference in a student’s life. Our daughter Kathy is one of those teachers who I think of as a hero.

When Kathy was a little girl, she had a reading problem, and as with many people with this dilemma, it helped her to become an artist. Cooking also is one of her talents, and she has combined both interests to help teach 30 preschool students under the age of 5 how to create tasty and healthy recipes. Combining art and cooking has been fun for these preschool children. Her students call her Miss Kathy, and they can’t wait to come to class every day. The moms love her, too, and often stay to help and learn.

Recently, someone made a video of Kathy teaching the students how to make pasta. She began with the students sitting on the floor in a half circle around her. She showed drawings from a children’s cookbook on how to make pasta and then divided the class into small groups, where they were given a bowl and the ingredients to make pasta from scratch. It was amazing. Using flour, oil and water they were able to knead it into a ball and crank out tagliatelle (or spaghetti) in minutes.

Kathy‘Miss Kathy’ teaches preschoolers how to make pasta.

During the holiday of Chanukah, she makes potato latkes with the children, and at Passover they make matzah brei, an egg and matzah omelet. They’ve made ice cream — “And it is delicious!” they yelled over the phone into my voicemail — as well as a Nutella-style hazelnut spread with a rich chocolate flavor.

For Chanukah, we gave Kathy an Italian pizzelle grill, similar to a waffle iron. It makes large, thin cookies with a design on both sides. When she brought it to class, the kids made dough in the morning and baked pizzelle the next day. It was served as dessert during lunch, and there was enough for the children to take home.

When Kathy is not cooking with the children, she is making art with them. Some of the projects are colorful hats to celebrate spring, turkeys made out of paper or ceramics for Thanksgiving, even space ships and Fourth of July paper firework decorations. Sometimes she’s able to coordinate art and food, as when the kids bake hamantashen and make groggers (noisemakers) for Purim.

Here are some of Kathy’s recipes. Have fun as you prepare them with your children or grandchildren.

NOODLES FROM SCRATCH

∗ 1 cup flour
∗ 1 tablespoon olive oil
∗ 2 eggs or 1/2 cup water to moisten dough

In a bowl, add flour, olive oil and eggs, or enough water to moisten the dough. With fingers or a fork, mix thoroughly until the mixture comes together into a smooth ball, adding additional flour or water as needed.

Divide dough among the helping hands and thump, bump and mush the dough (knead it) for 5 to 10 minutes, until it is smooth. If it gets sticky, a little more flour won’t hurt. Roll out dough until it is thin as noodles, more or less. Cut the dough into shapes. Let the noodles dry on a rack for a couple of hours.

Cook the noodles in a great big pot of boiling water for about 4 or 5 minutes, depending on their thickness. When they are just al dente (cooked through but still firm, not mushy) remove them from the pot and top with plenty of butter, cheese or red sauce.

Makes about 4 servings.


HAZELNUT SPREAD

Spread∗ 2 cups raw, shelled hazelnuts
∗ 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
∗ 1 cup powdered sugar
∗ 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
∗ 1/8 teaspoon salt
∗ 1 tablespoon hazelnut oil or more as needed.

Preheat oven to 350 to 400 F.

Spread hazelnuts evenly on a cookie sheet, and roast them until they darken and become aromatic, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a damp towel and rub to remove the skins.

In a food processor, grind the hazelnuts to a smooth butter, scraping the sides as needed so they process evenly, about 5 minutes. Add cocoa, powdered sugar, vanilla, salt and oil to the food processor, and continue to process until well blended, about 1 minute. The finished spread should have the consistency of creamy peanut butter. If it is too dry, process in a little extra hazelnut oil until the desired consistency is achieved.

Remove to a container, cover and refrigerate until needed. Allow the spread to come to room temperature before using, as it thickens considerably when refrigerated. It will keep for at least a week.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.


PIZZELLE (ITALIAN COOKIES)

∗ 3 eggs
∗ 3/4 cup sugar
∗ 1/4 cup unsalted margarine (melted and cooled)
∗ 1 teaspoon vanilla
∗ 1/2 teaspoon anise (optional)
∗ 1 3/4 cups flour
∗ 2 teaspoon baking powder

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat eggs and sugar. Add cooled margarine, vanilla and anise. Add flour and baking powder, and blend until mixed thoroughly. The batter should be stiff enough to be dropped by spoon. The batter can be refrigerated or stored in the freezer.

Heat the pizzelle iron, and place about 1 tablespoon of batter on each section of it. Cook pizzelle for about 30 to 35 seconds or until golden.

Makes about 10 pizzelle.


JUDY’S SIGNATURE STRUDEL

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

∗ 1 cup unsalted margarine
∗ 2 cups flour
∗ 1 cup sour cream
∗ 6 tablespoons vegetable shortening
∗ 1 (2-pound) jar apricot-pineapple preserves
∗ 1 (1-pound) package shredded coconuts
∗ 3 to 4 cups toasted chopped walnuts
∗ Powdered sugar for garnish

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, blend margarine and flour until crumbly. Add sour cream, and beat until the mixture comes away from the sides of the bowl.

Turn the dough out onto a pastry board lined with generously floured waxed paper. Toss the dough around on top of the floured waxed paper to coat it lightly with the flour. Flatten it with the palm of your hand, shaping it roughly into a rectangle. Then use a well-floured rolling pin to roll it out into a rectangle about 6 by 10 inches.

Drop 6 (1/2 teaspoon) small pieces of shortening equally spaced on top of the pastry; with your finger, smear them down, then fold the pastry into thirds. Turn the pastry 90 degrees with the ends facing you. Roll it out again, dot with another 6 pieces of shortening and fold into thirds again. Turn and repeat this procedure 2 more times. Wrap the pastry in waxed paper and store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces. Roll out each piece on floured waxed paper into a rectangle about 6 by 10 inches and as thin as possible. Spread generously with preserves; sprinkle with coconut and walnuts. Lifting the pastry with the waxed paper as a guide, roll up the strudel jellyroll fashion.

Place the strudel on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until golden brown. Lift the edges of the foil to transfer the strudel to a wooden board; loosen the strudel with a knife if necessary, and carefully roll it off the foil so it rests on the board, seam-side down. Cut it while still hot into 1-inch slices, and transfer them to a cake plate or platter. Just before serving, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Makes about 24 pieces.


CHOCOLATE-COVERED FROZEN BANANA ON A STICK

∗ 16 wooden sticks/skewers
∗ 8 bananas, peeled and cut in half crosswise
∗ 2 pounds semisweet chocolate, melted
∗ Chopped nuts, candy sprinkles or chocolate sprinkles for garnish

Push each wooden skewer through the center of the cut end of the banana, about halfway into its length. Do not push too far or the banana will crack. Wrap it in waxed paper like a bonbon, crimping and twisting the paper around both ends. Freeze for at least 6 hours or overnight.

Using a spatula or flat knife, coat each banana with the warm melted chocolate. If you like, dip the chocolate-coated bananas in nuts, sprinkles or other garnishes. Rewrap the bananas in the waxed paper and return to the freezer for at least 1 hour.

Makes 16 frozen bananas.


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

 

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Empty nest, full fridge

The kids may be gone, but the kitchen still gets a workoutChiles Rellenos

Chiles Rellenos
My son Paul and his wife, Amber, were the original baby boomers, graduating from college in the ’80s, getting married and raising four children.
They both love to cook, and when their kids were growing up, they always ate family dinners together, every night.  The only rule was for the kids to try everything on their plates, and fast food was limited to once a week,
Amber said that she never made separate dishes for the adults or the kids, and everyone ate whatever was served at the dinner table.  The meals were crowded with playmates, teammates, boyfriends, girlfriends and the foreign students the family hosted every summer.
But now the house is empty. One of their daughters is working at dad’s CPA office and has her own apartment; the other daughter is married, teaching high school in Northern California. The two sons also are away — one in Irvine at law school, the youngest at UC Santa Cruz.
Amber and Paul Zeidler. Photos by Dan Kacvinski

It seemed to happen slowly, but all of a sudden Paul and Amber realized how quiet things are at home. Things started to change: Amber, in addition to managing the household, is a very creative artist, and now that the kids are out of the house, she has more time for her art.  And Paul, always an athlete, now has more time to spend on his long-distance running. But for real fun, they both continue to expand their passion for swing dancing.
The couple is still cooking, of course, and, believe it or not, they are still preparing large quantities that become part of the next meal. They find many recipes difficult to reduce, and no one has any scorn for leftovers in their house.  In fact, Paul takes lunch to work every day, preferring home-cooked food to anything he could order at the local restaurants.
Paul and Amber’s weekend shopping trip to the supermarket is a little different though. The cart is no longer filled as they are more selective, unless they are entertaining family or friends.
Amber explains that the main difference in her cooking now is that she no longer has to worry about making things that their youngest son, a picky eater, liked. Now they are preparing more dishes that they prefer, foods the kids never really enjoyed. One of their favorite dishes is Lamb With Almonds, a Turkish-inspired dish served with couscous.
But there’s always one thing they can count on — the kids will still return home from time to time. On those occasions, Chiles Rellenos remains the most-requested dish for family dinners.
Here are some of their favorite recipes, perfect for a pair of boomers enjoying an empty nest or a mom and dad happy to host the whole family again.
AMBER’S CUCUMBER-LEMON SLAW
I love this dish so much, I have to double the recipe if I want leftovers.
1 hothouse cucumber, peeled and shredded
1/2 cup sour cream
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
About 10 minutes before serving, spread shredded cucumber onto several layers of paper towels; top with more paper towels. Let stand 5 minutes, pressing down occasionally to absorb moisture from cucumbers.
Stir together the sour cream, scallions, parsley, lemon zest, salt and pepper and cucumber in a medium bowl.
Makes 4 servings.


AMBER’S PECAN RISOTTO
We try to eat meat only once a week. This is a vegetarian entrée we love. When I’m alone in the house, I stand in the kitchen stirring risotto and singing out loud.  You can prepare this about 1 hour before serving.
1 1/4 cups pecan halves
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
5 cups vegetable broth
1 1/4 cups Arborio rice
1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 cups baby spinach leaves, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a large saucepan, stir the pecans over medium heat until toasted. Remove from pan. Cool slightly, then chop coarsely; set aside. In the same large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon oil. Add mushrooms; cook until the mushrooms are tender.
Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, bring the broth to a boil; reduce heat and simmer. Remove mushrooms from large saucepan; set aside. Wipe pan clean.
In the large saucepan, heat remaining oil over medium heat; add rice, shallot and garlic. Cook just until rice is lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Slowly add 1 cup broth to rice mixture, stirring constantly. Continue to cook and stir over medium heat until all liquid is absorbed. Add another 1/2 cup of broth to rice mixture, stirring constantly. Continue to cook and stir until liquid is absorbed. Add remaining broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until broth has been absorbed and rice is slightly creamy and tender.
Stir in spinach, cheese, pepper, mushrooms and pecans until combined. Serve immediately.
Makes 4 servings.


CHILES RELLENOS
This meatless dish can be an entrée or, as dictated by the amounts called for in this recipe, a side. It reheats well in the microwave.
6 medium poblano chiles (about 4 ounces each)
6 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (1 1/2 cups)
1 cup corn kernels (cut from 2 medium ears of corn)
1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves, chopped
Preheat oven to 350 F.
About 1 hour before serving, place whole poblano chiles in broiler pan and cook under broiler, turning occasionally, until blistered and blackened on all sides, about 10 minutes.
Transfer chiles to large sheet of foil. Wrap foil around chiles and allow to steam at room temperature 10 minutes or until cool enough to handle. While chiles are steaming, combine cheese, corn and cilantro in medium bowl.
Remove chiles from foil. Cut a 2-inch lengthwise slit in side of each chile, being careful not to cut through top or bottom.  Under running cold water, gently peel off skin. Remove seeds and veins from opening; for less-intense flavor, rinse inside and drain. Pat chiles dry with paper towels.
With spoon, fill each chile with about 1/2 cup of cheese mixture. Gently reshape chiles to close opening. Place 3 filled chiles in a single layer on a sheet of heavy-duty foil; bring the sides of the foil up and fold to seal well. Fold over ends to seal in juices. Bake foil packets in the oven for 10 minutes to heat chiles and melt cheese.
Makes 6 servings.


CHOCOLATE CHIP BANANA BREAD
Paul and Amber’s son loves to put chocolate chips in banana bread (which they make using over-ripe bananas). Amber baked a loaf recently and brought it up to him at college. He didn’t have a knife in his dorm room, but he and his friends got through it somehow.
1 3/4 cups flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup unsalted margarine, softened
1 cup mashed bananas
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup pecans, coarsely chopped (optional)
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 eggs, slightly beaten
Preheat oven to 350 F.
In large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut in margarine until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in bananas, chocolate chips, pecans, lemon zest and eggs, just until dry ingredients are moistened. Then spoon the batter evenly into a greased 9-by-5-inch loaf pan.
Bake for 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes; remove from pan and finish cooling on wire rack.
Makes 8 to 12 servings.

LAMB WITH ALMONDS

If you’re planning for a meal featuring meat instead, try this Turkish-inspired dish. It’s nice enough for company, but then you won’t have those yummy leftovers. Serve it with couscous, and you’re done.
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 pound ground lamb
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
1 beef-flavored bouillon cube
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon dried mint (or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint)
Spinach leaves to cover a platter
1 medium tomato, cut into wedges
About 30 minutes before serving, heat canola in a large skillet over medium heat, add almonds, and cook, stirring, until golden brown.  With slotted spoon, remove almonds to plate.
Over medium-high heat, in oil remaining in skillet, cook ground lamb, onions, bouillon cube, salt, garlic salt and pepper, stirring, until meat is browned, about 10 minutes. Add almonds, lime juice and mint. Stir mixture to blend well.
Line platter with spinach leaves; spoon meat mixture onto spinach leaves and garnish with tomato wedges.
Makes 4 (generous) servings.
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Happy Meals

Cooking up kids’ favorites can be delicious and nutritious

mac n cheeseMacaroni and Cheese. Photos by Dan Kacvinski. Food coordinated by Judy Zeidler

Kids can be picky eaters, but there are several dishes that they always seem to enjoy. Among the dishes that seem to be popular from generation to generation: pizza, pasta, macaroni and cheese, peanut butter and jelly and grilled cheese.

Too often, though, these meals are not filled with the nutrition that kids need. Fortunately, I have some recipes for these dishes that are healthy and delicious. Kids also like foods that are colorful and pleasing to the eye.

Pizza: The best-known pizza — Margherita — is usually topped with tomatoes and melted cheese, but if you make your own you have a lot more control over the ingredients. Many grocery stores sell fresh or frozen pizza dough, or you can make the dough yourself. Just roll it out, and fill bowls with different toppings, such as grated cheese, onions, mushrooms, roasted red peppers, zucchini, olives and anchovies, and let the kids create their own fantasy. Then simply bake and serve.

Pasta: I don’t know anyone, especially kids, who would turn down a steaming bowl of pasta tossed with butter or fresh tomato sauce. Pure comfort food for kids and grown-ups alike. Whether made at home or eaten at an Italian restaurant, spaghetti is always a crowd-pleaser. A tomato-based sauce has a lot of potassium, making it a healthy choice. Make it even healthier and different by pureeing additional vegetables, such as sautéed red peppers, zucchini or even eggplant, and blend them into the sauce. Also consider using whole-wheat pasta.

Macaroni and cheese: Penne, bow tie or corkscrew pasta combined with cheese makes the perfect combination for a quick treat that kids love. When our children were small, their favorite dish was mac and cheese made from a store-bought mix, with its powdered “cheese” ingredient. I still remember the Kraft package that I always used, until I found a recipe that was equally delicious, but more nutritious. Add a cup of carrots and peas for added color and flavor.

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches: The classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich has been the family lunchbox staple for years. This popular sandwich is actually a good meal choice, as peanut butter is filled with protein. Try grinding peanuts in your food processor to make your own, and if anyone is allergic to peanuts, you can use cashews or almonds. For a healthier sandwich, use whole-wheat bread and add jelly, but keep it to 100 percent fruit.

Grilled cheese sandwich: When my husband and I are in Italy, we love the melted cheese panini they serve at the Autogrills. They are the closest to a grilled cheese sandwich you can get. A ridged frying pan or electric panini maker is fun and simple to use, and kids will love making their own hot sandwich.

There are plenty of fleishig favorites, too, for others who are in the mood for a meaty meal instead:

Hamburgers: Made famous by the marketers of fast-food franchises, hamburgers can be an occasional food that is fun to prepare at home. You can make them enticing and creative at the same time, by using turkey or a veggie mixture. Top with tomatoes, lettuce and sautéed onions. Experiment with different types of lettuces like arugula, romaine or spinach.

Oven-fried chicken drumsticks: My family loves my oven-fried chicken legs coated with ground almonds or panko crumbs. Dipping these tasty drumsticks into a delicious array of sauces makes them even more fun to eat. Serve them with mashed potatoes, fried sweet potato chips or peas. Making these finger foods at home allows you to bake the drumsticks instead of frying them.


PIZZA WITH CLASSIC TOMATO SAUCE AND CREATIVE TOPPINGS

∗ 2 packages active dry yeast
∗ Pinch sugar
∗ 1 1/4 cups warm water (110-115 F)
∗ 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons
∗ olive oil
∗ 1 teaspoon salt
∗ 3 1/2 cups flour
∗ 1/4 to 1/2 cup cornmeal
∗ Classic Tomato Sauce (recipe follows)
∗ Toppings, such as mushrooms, anchovies, onions, zucchini and roasted peppers
∗ 2 to 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
∗ 1 1/2 to 2 cups grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 or 450 F.

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

In a large mixing bowl, combine the remaining 3/4 cup water, 1/4 cup olive oil and yeast mixture. Stir in salt and flour, 1 cup at a time, until the dough begins to come together into a rough ball. Turn onto a floured board and knead into a large ball, adding enough additional flour until smooth and no longer sticky. Oil the top of dough lightly, and cover with a clean kitchen towel. (You may use the dough at this point or let it rise, kneading every 10 to 15 minutes.)

Divide the dough into 4 or 5 pieces; knead each piece into a ball. Working with one ball at a time, roll it out on a floured board into a thin circle about 8 to 10 inches. Brush a round pizza-baking pan with oil and sprinkle with some of the cornmeal. Place the rolled-out dough on top of the cornmeal.

Spoon a thin coating of the Classic Tomato Sauce onto the pizza dough, spreading it with the back of a spoon to within 1 inch of the edge. Add any other toppings you desire, such as mushrooms, anchovies, onions, zucchini and roasted peppers. Sprinkle generously with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Drizzle with some of the remaining olive oil and bake on the lowest rack of the oven for 10 minutes, or until the crust is crisp and brown and the cheese is hot and bubbling. Serve immediately.

Repeat with remaining balls of dough.

Makes 4 to 5 pizzas, 4 to 6 servings each.


CLASSIC TOMATO SAUCE

∗ 3 tablespoons olive oil
∗ 3 garlic cloves, minced
∗ 2 onions, finely chopped
∗ 1 red bell pepper, chopped
∗ 2 carrots, finely chopped
∗ 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
∗ 1 can (28 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes
∗ 1 cup dry red wine
∗ 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
∗ 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried
∗ 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
∗ 1/2 teaspoon sugar
∗ Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a heavy skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic, onions, red pepper, carrots and celery, and sauté until the onions are transparent. Add the tomatoes with their liquid, red wine, oregano, basil, parsley and sugar. Bring to a boil and simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until thick, about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups.


MACARONI AND CHEESE

∗ Sauce (recipe follows)
∗ 1/2 pound macaroni, shells or other shape pastas
∗ 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
∗ 1 1/2 cups mixed grated hard cheeses, such as aged cheddar, Gruyere and Parmesan
∗ 1/2 cup cream
∗ Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Butter a 9-inch square baking dish or 4 to 6 individual baking dishes.

Prepare the Sauce; set aside.

Bring a large pot three-fourth full of salted water to a boil, add the pasta, and cook until al dente, according to the package directions. Drain, transfer to a bowl, and stir in the butter. Add the Sauce, 1 cup of the cheese and the cream, and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pour the pasta into the prepared baking dish(es) and sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup cheese over the top(s). Bake until golden and bubbling, about 30 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.


SAUCE

∗ 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
∗ 1/4 cup flour
∗ 3 cups whole milk
∗ 1 small onion, thinly sliced
∗ 1/2 bay leaf
∗ Pinch grated nutmeg
∗ Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

 In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in flour and cook, stirring, until the mixture forms a ball, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and whisk in the milk, 1 cup at a time, mixing after each addition, until smooth. Return the pan to medium heat and whisk until the mixture comes to a boil. Add the onion, bay leaf and nutmeg, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 10 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl, and cover to keep warm.

Makes about 2 1/2 to 3 cups.

 

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Shavuot inspires dairy recipes

 

Hoop Cheese Blintzes. Photo by Dan Kacvinski

Hoop Cheese Blintzes. Photo by Dan Kacvinski

Shavuot celebrates the receiving of the Ten Commandments and the arrival of the spring harvest. But, for food lovers, it is noted for the array of dairy foods that are served — delicious combinations of cheese, sour cream, milk and eggs. Also in abundance are “stuffed” foods, such as blintzes with cheese fillings.

For this holiday, I have experimented with dairy ingredients and come up with some unusual results.

Using my favorite recipe for Classic Blintzes, I have developed two new variations. One is a spectacular appetizer — Lox and Cream Cheese Pinwheels, garnished with salmon caviar. They’re great for entertaining at Shavuot or any time. And once you’ve tried this combination, you’ll think twice before serving simple bagels and lox.

The same blintz recipe serves as an “envelope” for a vegetable filling, symbolic of the spring harvest. The vegetables are quickly sautéed and stuffed into the crisply browned blintzes. (I make the classic cheese-filled version as well.)

Borscht is made with fresh beets and carrots, both members of the root-vegetable family, and they taste most harmonious in this rich soup. Fresh ginger offsets the sweetness, and the sour cream garnish adds mellowness with a little tang. Be sure to accompany it with a corn rye bread and sweet butter.

A flavor surprise comes with my Hearts of Lettuce Salad With Warm Cheese Dressing. Crisp, tender hearts of Bibb lettuce and romaine, well-chilled, are topped with a warm blend of brie and blue cheeses and tossed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Simple, but very sophisticated, too.

Cheesecake is a favorite dessert for Shavuot and so easy to prepare. A Carrot-Spice Cheesecake displays a layer of creamy cheesecake atop a crisp Vanilla-Pecan Crust. The taste is truly addictive. The secret: two kinds of ginger, spices and a smooth carrot puree on top of a crisp, nutty crust.

In making the appetizers and the cheesecake, I like to use a pure, natural kosher cream cheese. It’s made without vegetable gum or other additives. This cheese is lighter, smoother and blends more easily with sugar, eggs and other ingredients. It may be purchased at supermarkets or health food stores.

For the salad and cheesecake recipes, please visit this article at jewishjounal.com.

CLASSIC BLINTZES 

1 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 eggs

2 cups milk

2 tablespoons unsalted margarine, melted

1 tablespoon brandy

Additional margarine for frying

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine flour, sugar and salt. In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs, milk, melted margarine and brandy. Gradually pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture, beating until smooth. Strain to remove lumps if necessary. Cover and let stand for 20 minutes.

Heat 2 teaspoons margarine in an 8- or 9-inch frying pan; pour in 3 tablespoons of batter, rotating pan in a circular motion. Pour excess batter back into bowl.

Cook blintzes over medium-high heat on one side only for 30 seconds, until brown around the edges. Add more margarine to the pan as needed. Turn each blintz onto a cloth towel and let cool. Stack on platter with waxed paper between blintzes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.

Makes about 2 dozen blintzes.

VEGETABLE BLINTZES

20 Classic Blintzes

6 tablespoons margarine

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup diced onions

1 cup diced carrots

1 cup diced turnips

1 cup diced zucchini

1 cup diced mushrooms

1 cup diced tomatoes

Salt and pepper to taste

Sour cream

Fresh basil or cilantro

Prepare Classic Blintzes; set aside.

Heat 3 tablespoons margarine in a skillet. Sauté the garlic and onions until tender. Add the carrots, turnips, zucchini and mushrooms; sauté until tender. Add tomatoes and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cool.

Fill the browned side of each blintz with 1 to 2 tablespoons of vegetable filling and roll, tucking ends in. Melt remaining 3 tablespoons margarine in a large skillet and brown filled blintzes on both sides until crisp. Serve with sour cream and fresh basil or cilantro.

Makes 20 blintzes.

HOOP CHEESE BLINTZES

20 Classic Blintzes

1 pound hoop or farmer cheese

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

2 tablespoons raisins, plumped in apple juice

1 tablespoon margarine

Sour cream

Fresh basil or cilantro

Prepare Classic Blintzes; set aside.

Mash cheese in a bowl. Blend in sugar, salt and eggs. Fold in drained raisins.

Fill the browned side of each blintz with 1 heaping tablespoon of cheese filling and roll, tucking ends in. Melt margarine in a large skillet and brown filled blintzes on both sides until crisp. Serve with sour cream and fresh basil or cilantro.

Makes 20 blintzes.

LOX AND CREAM CHEESE PINWHEELS

Cream Cheese Filling (recipe follows)

10 Classic Blintzes

1/2 pound lox (smoked salmon), thinly sliced

1 small jar (3 to 4 ounces) salmon caviar

Minced chives for garnish

Prepare Cream Cheese Filling; set aside.

Prepare Classic Blintzes, browning them on both sides. Place 1 blintz on a work board, spread with some of Cream Cheese Filling, top with another blintz, arrange slices of lox on top, then roll up, jellyroll fashion. Repeat with remaining blintzes. Transfer to a large platter, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Slice into 1-inch portions. Place on a serving plate, cut side up. Top with a spoonful of sour cream, plus a garnish of salmon caviar and a sprinkling of chives.

Makes about 20 servings.

CREAM CHEESE FILLING

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, without gum

1 ounce blue cheese or goat cheese (optional)

1 tablespoon cream

Salt to taste

Few drops Tabasco sauce

1 tablespoon minced parsley

In a processor or bowl, beat the cream cheese, bleu cheese and cream until well blended. Season to taste with salt and Tabasco sauce. Mix in parsley. Cover and chill.

Makes 1 1/4 cups.

BEET AND CARROT BORSCHT

1 quart cold water

1/2 pound carrots, peeled and thinly sliced

1/2 pound baby beets, peeled and shredded

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and quartered

2 nickel-size pieces fresh ginger, peeled

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/2 cup sour cream, for garnish 

Bring the water to a boil in a 2 1/2-quart pot. Add the carrots, beets, onion and ginger. The water should just cover the vegetables. Cover, lower the heat, and simmer until the beets are soft when pierced with a fork, about 10 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables and ginger to a food processor or blender, and puree until smooth. Scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the pureed vegetables to the liquid and stir until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. To serve, ladle into heated soup bowls and garnish with sour cream.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Note: The soup can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days, or in the freezer for up to 2 months.

HEARTS OF LETTUCE SALAD WITH WARM CHEESE DRESSING

2 heads Bibb lettuce, center leaves only, torn into bite-size pieces

2 heads romaine lettuce, center leaves only, torn into bite-size pieces

3 ounces brie-type cheese, diced

3 ounces blue-type cheese, diced

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar

1/2 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Wash lettuce leaves and dry; toss in a large bowl.

Just before serving, place cheeses on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for 5 to 10 minutes, until cheeses melt. Toss the lettuce mixture with vinegar and olive oil. Immediately spoon the melted cheese over the salad and toss again. Place on individual serving plates.

Makes about 6 to 8 servings.

CARROT-SPICE CHEESECAKE 

Vanilla-Pecan Crust (recipe follows)

3/4 pound carrots, boiled and pureed

1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar

3 tablespoons ginger preserves

2 tablespoons candied ginger

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon orange zest

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground mace

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese

4 eggs

1/4 cup chopped pecans

Prepare the Vanilla-Pecan Crust; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the carrot puree, brown sugar, ginger preserves, candied ginger, lemon juice, orange zest, cinnamon, mace and allspice until blended. Add the cream cheese and blend.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until smooth. Pour into the prepared crust and sprinkle with pecans.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until the center is firm and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.

Makes about 8 to 10 servings.

VANILLA-PECAN CRUST

2/3 cup finely ground vanilla wafers (4 ounces)

2/3 cup finely ground ginger snaps (4 ounces)

2/3 cup finely ground pecans (4 ounces)

1/3 cup sugar

4 tablespoons unsalted margarine

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer or blender, combine the vanilla wafers, ginger snaps, pecans and sugar. Add the margarine and mix until the mixture is well-blended but still crumbly. Spoon the mixture evenly into a 9-inch springform pan, and press it down firmly. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool.

 

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Mother’s Day Eats: Easy Does It

Sandwich

Smoked Salmon and Dill Mini Sandwiches. Photos by Dan Kacvinski. Food coordinated by Judy Zeidler

Perhaps the most anticipated family event during May is Mother’s Day. If you are cooking for your wife, mom or mother-in-law for the first time, why not delight her with a delicious brunch, dinner or dessert?

It’s easier than you might think to create a meal she will remember — especially if you can get the rest of the family to help.

Begin with an appetizer served with champagne or Prosecco and perhaps mini sandwiches like egg and arugula or smoked salmon and dill that can be prepared in advance.

And making a good Caesar salad is simpler than you might think. All you have to do is combine chopped romaine lettuce with a generous amount of grated Parmesan, mashed anchovies and olive oil.

Is a raw egg important to your salad? No! But you could add a little balsamic vinegar. Taste before adding salt, as the cheese and anchovies may be slightly salty.

For the main course, consider bouillabaisse, a fish stew, but made the kosher way. It’s easy; just don’t use shellfish, swordfish or any other non-kosher seafood. The fish stew is ideal for a large group — use a larger pot and double or triple the recipe.

I still remember the first time I met Julia Child and explained to her how I made her bouillabaisse recipe with the necessary changes for the kosher requirements. She was delighted at the idea and always spoke of it whenever we met.

Don’t forget to include the rouille that is served on toasted bread. I make the classic version of rouille and sometimes add fresh basil for an extra-piquant taste.

For dessert, strawberries are a favorite that I always enjoy, especially at this time of year. When ripe, they are luscious, beautiful, juicy and sensual in flavor.

Serve them in individual bowls on top of sour cream, yogurt or fromage blanc, a thicker, silkier version of the other two. Drizzle them with lemon-flavored honey, and everyone will be happy.

If you have extra time, consider making everyone’s favorite, chocolate chip cookies. You can make the dough days in advance, and refrigerate until ready to bake. Nothing tastes better served warm, right out of the oven.


SMOKED SALMON AND DILL MINI SANDWICHES

∗ Cream Cheese Mixture (recipe follows)
∗ 12 very thin slices whole-wheat honey sandwich bread
∗ 12 slices smoked salmon
∗ 1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
∗ Fresh dill sprigs for garnish
∗ Prepare Cream Cheese Mixture.

Lay out 12 slices of bread, and spread bread slices with a thin layer of Cream Cheese Mixture. Place smoked salmon on 6 of the slices; sprinkle with minced fresh dill. Top with the remaining 6 slices of bread, cream cheese side down. Place the sandwiches on a baking sheet and wrap with plastic.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Place the sandwiches on a cutting board. Using a very sharp knife, cut off the crusts (optional) and cut each large sandwich diagonally twice to make a total of 24 small triangles. To serve, arrange on plates and garnish with sprigs of dill.

Makes 24 mini sandwiches.


CREAM CHEESE MIXTURE

∗ 1 cup cream cheese, room temperature
∗ 1 teaspoon minced garlic
∗ 2 tablespoons minced scallions
∗ 2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
∗ 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
∗ Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Combine the cream cheese, garlic, scallions and dill in a food processor or bowl using a fork and beat until mixed; do not whip. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Makes about 1 1/4 cups.


THE BEST CAESAR SALAD

∗ 2 heads romaine lettuce, hearts and tender leaves only
∗ 1 cup Toasted Oil-Free Croutons (recipe follows)
∗ 2 tablespoons mashed anchovies (about 8 anchovy fillets)
∗ 1/4 cup olive oil
∗ 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (optional)
∗ 4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Separate the lettuce leaves, and discard any coarse outer leaves. Wash, drain well, pat dry with paper towels, and tear into pieces. Chill.

Prepare Toasted Oil-Free Croutons; set aside.

In a large glass bowl, toss the lettuce with the mashed anchovies, olive oil and balsamic vinegar to coat. Add Parmesan cheese and toss. Spoon onto 6 to 8 chilled salad plates and top with croutons.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.


TOASTED OIL-FREE CROUTONS

∗ 1 loaf good-quality white or egg bread, unsliced

Preheat oven to 250 F.

Remove crusts from the bread, and cut the loaf into 1/4-inch slices. Stack the slices and cut into 1/4-by-1 1/2-inch strips. Place strips in a single layer on a baking sheet, and bake until lightly golden and crisp, about 20 minutes. (Leftover croutons can be stored in plastic bags in the refrigerator or freezer and toasted just before serving.)

Makes about 4 cups.


BOUILLABAISSE WITH ROUILLE (FISH STEW WITH GARLIC SAUCE)

∗ Classic Rouille (recipe follows)
∗ 1/4 cup olive oil
∗ 2 onions, diced
∗ 2 leeks (white and green parts), thinly sliced
∗ 3 garlic cloves, minced
∗ 4 celery stalks, sliced
∗ 2 carrots, thinly sliced
∗ 1 can (28 ounces) whole tomatoes or 3 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
∗ 1 tablespoon tomato paste
∗ 1 teaspoon thyme
∗ 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
∗ 2 bay leaves
∗ 3 to 4 cups dry white wine
∗ Pinch saffron (optional)
∗ 5 cups vegetable broth
∗ 3 to 4 pounds white firm-fleshed fish fillets (such as halibut, whitefish or sea bass), cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
∗ 2 or 3 potatoes, peeled, diced and parboiled
∗ Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
∗ Tabasco sauce to taste
∗ 2 large carrots, cut into julienne strips, parboiled and drained

Prepare Classic Rouille; set aside.

Heat oil in a large saucepan; sauté onions, leeks and garlic until tender but not brown, about 5 minutes. Add celery and carrots; simmer 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, thyme, fennel seeds, bay leaves and 3 cups wine. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 20 to 30 minutes. Add saffron and vegetable broth. Simmer for 1 hour.

Add the fish and potatoes. Season to taste with salt, pepper and Tabasco sauce. Simmer 15 to 20 minutes or until the fish is cooked through; do not overcook. Ladle into hot soup bowls, and garnish with the julienned carrots. Let guests add Classic Rouille to taste.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.


CLASSIC ROUILLE

∗ 4 garlic cloves
∗ 1/2 roasted red bell pepper
∗ 2 slices white bread, crusts trimmed
∗ 2 tablespoons tomato paste
∗ 1 teaspoon paprika (optional)
∗ 4 to 5 drops Tabasco sauce
∗ 1/2 cup olive oil
∗ 1/2 to 1 cup vegetable broth

In a food processor or blender, process the garlic, bell pepper, bread, tomato paste, paprika, Tabasco sauce, olive oil and 1/2 cup vegetable broth, turning the machine on and off for 5 seconds.

Then continue processing 10 seconds to make a smooth paste. Add additional broth if needed.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.


STRAWBERRIES WITH FROMAGE BLANC AND LEMON HONEY

StrawberryStrawberries with fromage blanc and lemon honey

∗ 1 1/4 cups (about 9 ounces) fromage blanc, sour cream or yogurt
∗ 1/4 cup heavy cream
∗ 2 pints strawberries, preferably small
∗ 1/2 cup honey
∗ Finely shredded zest of 1 1/2 lemons

In a bowl, whisk together the fromage blanc and cream until very smooth. Divide the mixture evenly among 6 shallow bowls.

Set aside 6 to 12 small, perfect berries. Hull the remaining berries and halve or quarter lengthwise if large. Scatter the berries over the fromage mixture in each bowl.

In a glass measuring cup, combine the honey and lemon zest; microwave until it begins to bubble, about 30 seconds. Let cool about 5 minutes. Drizzle the warm honey over the berries and fromage blanc. Top each with 1 or 2 of the reserved berries.

Makes 6 servings.


EGG AND ARUGULA MINI SANDWICHES

∗ 2 large eggs, hard-cooked, peeled and chopped

∗ 1 or 2 tablespoons diced fresh fennel

∗ 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh arugula

∗ 3 tablespoons mayonnaise

∗ Salt and pepper to taste

∗ 12 very thin slices whole-wheat honey sandwich bread

∗ 24 whole arugula leaves

In a medium bowl, mash the eggs using a fork. Stir in the fennel, chopped arugula and mayonnaise.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spread 6 bread slices with the egg mixture. Then top each with 4 whole arugula leaves and the remaining 6 bread slices. Using a very sharp knife, cut off the crusts (optional) and cut each large sandwich diagonally twice to make a total of 24 small triangles.

Makes 24 mini sandwiches.


DOUBLE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

I’ve been baking chocolate chip cookies since I was 9 years old, and I know a good recipe when I see one. This version is irresistible to chocolate lovers — dense and incredibly chocolaty, with both chocolate chips and chocolate chunks.

∗ 3/4 pound plus 1 tablespoon margarine, at room temperature
∗ 1 cup granulated sugar
∗ 1 cup light brown sugar
∗ 2 eggs
∗ 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
∗ 12 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
∗ 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
∗ 1 1/2 cups toasted, chopped pecans
∗ 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 F.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, cream 3/4 pound margarine and both sugars. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and beat until light and airy. Blend in the vanilla and chopped chocolate. Add the flour and beat for 20 seconds. Stir in the nuts and chocolate chips, and mix by hand just until well blended. (The chopped chocolate and chocolate chips should not be too soft or the dough will turn brown and not bake properly. Do not overmix after adding chopped chocolate or chocolate chips.) Line baking sheets with parchment paper, aluminum foil or a silicone baking mat. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon margarine and brush it over parchment paper or foil. Use a small ice cream scoop to scoop out the dough, and transfer to the prepared baking sheets. (Bake in batches, if necessary.) Press dough with the palm of your hand to flatten cookies. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour.

Bake cookies 6 minutes in preheated oven, then turn baking sheet for even baking. Bake 6 minutes longer, turn baking sheet again, and bake 3 minutes longer. (Total baking time is 15 minutes.)

Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool.

Makes about 5 dozen cookies.

 

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Bragging Rights: Who Makes The Best Hummus?

hummus

Richard’s Hummus, Lina Style. Photos by Dan Kacvinski. Food coordinated by Judy Zeidler

Who makes the best hummus? Everyone in Israel is passionate about the taste of genuine hummus, and each individual believes deeply that his or hers is the best.

In Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, hummus remains a daily staple. Village streets are dotted with tiny shops that prepare hummus swirled in a brown-and-cream-colored bowl, drizzled with extra virgin olive and sprinkled with paprika or cumin.

Many cuisine-related sources describe hummus as an ancient food. The earliest known recipes for a dish similar to hummus bi tahini are recorded in cookbooks published in Cairo in the 13th century.

Hummus is a simple, wonderfully flavorful dip or spread made from garbanzos (chickpeas) and tahini (sesame seed paste). Its texture is velvety, rich and firm enough to scoop up with wedges of pita bread or crisp vegetables. The taste is robust, nutlike, garlicky and so satisfying that you won’t be able to stop eating it.

One significant reason for the popularity of hummus in Israel is the fact that it is made from ingredients that follow Jewish dietary laws, and it may be combined with either meat or dairy meals. It is seen as almost equally popular among Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs, and as a result, hummus has become a sort of “national food.”

My prize-winning recipe takes as long to make as the time it takes to measure the ingredients and blend them in the food processor. For a change of color and flavor, I sometimes add roasted peppers when blending in the tahini, but the peppers are delicious on their own, too.

Some say that authentic hummus must be thick, so that you can carve deep valleys over its surface and fill them with olive oil. Then just tear off pieces of fresh pita bread to scoop up the pungent dip and pop it into your mouth.

Laurie Harris and Richard Hecht, who teach at the University of California, Santa Barbara, recently returned from four and a half months in Israel. While there, they were determined to enjoy every type of hummus they could discover. They sampled plates in Mahane Yehudah Market, the central shuk in West Jerusalem; along the pedestrian mall that is now Jaffa Road; and in shops in Musrara, not far from the city center and the Old City walls.

Hecht, who wrote “Abu Steve Is Coming Out of Retirement,” a small book about a man who opened a Jerusalem hummus restaurant, said, “Jerusalemites take great pride in the hummus at Abu Shukhri in the Old City. They will tell you that it’s a matter of minor gradations in taste — more garlic, less lemon. Hummus is basically all the same, but in Tel Aviv, they say the best hummus is at the very small restaurant Sultan, in the Arab town of Qalansuwa.”

The very best in Jerusalem, in the opinion of Hecht and Harris, is the hummus at Lina, a restaurant in the Christian Quarter of the Old City.

Hecht has his own ideas about what distinguishes top-notch hummus.

“It begins with the selection of fresh chickpeas in the shuk or market,” he said. “If you can’t find the fresh chickpeas, then use the dried.”

Still, no serious hummus connoisseurs would ever think of using garbanzo beans from a can nor use a food processor. True hummus is prepared in a large pottery cooking vessel with a narrow neck, over a low flame. The beans are stirred gently with a long wooden spoon until the right texture is achieved. Some use mortar and pestle to slowly grind the chickpeas.

Hecht also shares his special recipe for hummus and musabbaha, which is a breakfast hummus, served in the morning as we would eat hot cereal or cooked rice.


JUDY’S HUMMUS

From “The Gourmet Jewish Cook” by Judy Zeidler

∗ 1 can (15 ounces) garbanzo beans, with liquid
∗ 1 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
∗ 1/2 roasted pepper (optional, recipe follows)
∗ 1/2 cup lemon juice
∗ 4 garlic cloves, peeled
∗ 1 teaspoon ground cumin
∗ 1/3 cup olive oil
∗ 6 fresh parsley sprigs, stems removed
∗ 1 to 2 teaspoons salt
∗ Minced fresh parsley for garnish

Place the garbanzos and their liquid in a food processor or blender; process until coarsely pureed. Add the tahini, roasted pepper (if desired), lemon juice, garlic and cumin; process until smoothly pureed. Add olive oil in a thin stream and continue blending. Blend in the parsley sprigs and l teaspoon salt. Add additional salt to taste. Garnish with minced parsley. Serve with hot pita bread and sliced vegetables, such as carrots, zucchini, mushrooms and jicama.

Makes about 3 cups.

Judy's HummusJudy’s Hummus


PEPERONI ARROSTITI CON ACCIUGHE (ROASTED PEPPERS WITH ANCHOVIES)

From “Italy Cooks” by Judy Zeidler

∗ 4 to 6 firm, crisp, red, yellow or green bell peppers
∗ 2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
∗ Olive oil
∗ 1 jar or can (2 ounces) anchovy fillets
∗ Parsley sprigs for garnish

Preheat the oven to 425 to 450 F.

Place a large sheet of foil on the lower rack of the oven. Put the peppers on the rack above, in the middle or top of the oven. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes or until the skin has puffed and darkened slightly on top. Turn each pepper over and continue roasting for 10 to 15 minutes longer.

Remove the peppers from the oven. While they are still warm, carefully peel off the skins. Pull out the stems and discard the seeds. Cut the peppers into segments that follow their natural ridges. Layer the peppers in a bowl with the juices, garlic and enough olive oil to cover. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. When ready to serve, arrange the peppers on a serving dish and garnish with anchovies and parsley. Or place an anchovy fillet in the center of each segment, roll up and place a toothpick in the center.


RICHARD’S HUMMUS, LINA STYLE

∗ 3 cups fresh or dry chickpeas or garbanzo beans, soaked overnight in water in a large pot
∗ 1 teaspoon baking soda
∗ 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
∗ 3/4 cup tahini sauce or paste
∗ 1 large garlic clove, finely minced
∗ 1 teaspoon ground cumin
∗ Salt to taste
∗ 1/4 cup lemon juice or more to taste
∗ 1/4 cup pine nuts
∗ 1 to 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
∗ 1/3 cup finely minced fresh parsley

Drain the chickpeas, cover with fresh water and baking soda, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, until chickpeas are tender, about 50 minutes. Strain and cool about 20 minutes.

Pour 2 cups of the cooked chickpeas into a food processor, reserving the rest to be used later for garnish and the Breakfast Hummus. Add 1/4 cup olive oil and slowly process the mixture, adding the tahini, garlic clove, cumin and salt. Add the lemon juice and the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil. When the mixture is smooth, remove from the processor. If the mixture is too rough, continue blending until smooth. With a rubber spatula, spread the hummus into a shallow dish in circular motion, leaving an indentation in the center of the dish.

In a small frying pan, lightly brown the pine nuts. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil into the indentation in the center of the dish. Place the reserved whole beans into the indentation. Sprinkle the pine nuts and parsley over the olive oil and beans in the center of the plate. Serve with whole warmed pita for dipping.

Makes 4 to 5 cups.


MUSABBAHA (BREAKFAST HUMMUS)

Use the basic hummus recipe, but prepare the following sauce.

∗ 1 cup boiled chickpeas (reserved from Richard’s Hummus, Lina Style)
∗ 3 cloves garlic, minced
∗ 1/4 teaspoon cumin
∗ 1/3 cup tahini or more to taste
∗ Juice of 1 large lemon
∗ 2 tablespoons olive oil
∗ 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
∗ 1/2 teaspoon salt
∗ 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
∗ 1/3 cup finely minced parsley

In a small saucepan, combine the chickpeas, garlic, cumin, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, pepper, salt and chili powder. Simmer gently; do not boil. When the mixture is warm, serve for breakfast or pour into the center of the plate of Richard’s Hummus, Lina Style, and sprinkle with parsley.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

 

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The art of Passover baking

Chocolate Truffle Cupcakes. Photo by Dan Kacvinski

Passover, the Festival of Freedom — also known as the Festival of Unleavened Bread — is celebrated for eight days. Over the centuries, Jewish cooks have produced a rich array of foods for the Passover holiday, and desserts are an especially important course of the meal.

No leavened ingredients may be used, such as flour, grains, cornstarch, baking powder or baking soda. One must substitute matzah meal, potato starch and egg whites to obtain the high-rising baked goods we admire. The good news is that it is not difficult.

Almonds and pistachios are delicate enough to flavor cakes and cookies without overpowering. Walnuts, hazelnuts and pecans go well with chocolate, and spices, and ground nuts are often a perfect substitute for flour.

The selection of dessert recipes that I am sharing will add a culinary sparkle to your family meals. All are fairly simple and will be a welcome addition to the seder, as well as to the brown-bag lunches that many will carry to avoid eating forbidden foods.

Passover would not be complete without at least one sponge cake recipe, as many Jewish households do not use matzah cake meal. I have developed a Spicy Orange Sponge Cake that rises to great heights with the help of egg whites and potato starch. Crisp almonds, spices and a glossy Chocolate Glaze make it extra good, and I predict that when you sample the Chocolate Truffle Cupcakes, you’ll never miss your usual favorites.

When friends drop in during the holiday, serve a glass of kosher wine or tea and pass a plate of Farfel Nut Clusters for another sweet treat, made with toasted matzah farfel, nuts and Passover chocolate. For a special touch, serve homemade Chocolate Macaroons with sliced strawberries that have been marinated in Concord grape wine; they are different from the usual Passover cookies.

Mini meringue shells with a lemon filling make another welcome dessert. They do not contain any dairy products and are just the right conclusion for any menu.

CHOCOLATE TRUFFLE CUPCAKES

 

Apricot Glaze (recipe follows)
4 ounces semisweet Passover chocolate
1/2 cup unsalted margarine
3 eggs, separated
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup ground almonds
2 tablespoons sweet Passover wine
2/3 cup Passover potato starch

Prepare Apricot Glaze; set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Melt the chocolate and margarine in a small saucepan. In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy. Slowly beat in the chocolate mixture in a thin stream. Add the ground almonds and wine, blending thoroughly.

Beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry; spoon them over the chocolate mixture. Sift the potato starch on top of the batter and beaten egg whites. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites and potato starch into the batter.

Place ruffled paper cupcake cups in muffin pans. Spoon batter into cups, filling them half full. Bake for about 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out dry. Spoon Apricot Glaze over hot cupcakes. Serve hot or cold.

Makes 12 cupcakes. 


APRICOT GLAZE

1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons sweet Passover wine
1/2 cup apricot preserves

Combine sugar, water, wine and preserves in a saucepan. Bring to a boil; simmer 2 minutes.

Makes about 3/4 cup.


FARFEL-NUT CLUSTERS

1 pound semisweet Passover chocolate, broken in pieces
1 1/2 cups toasted Passover matzah farfel
1 cup toasted chopped pecans

In the top of a double boiler over simmering water, melt the chocolate. Pour melted chocolate into a large bowl. Add matzah farfel and pecans; mix thoroughly. Spoon chocolate mixture onto a waxed paper-lined baking sheet or into ruffled paper candy cups. Refrigerate until set.

To serve: Peel the clusters off the waxed paper and place on a platter or serve in candy cups.

Makes about 30 servings.


SPICY ORANGE SPONGE CAKE

Chocolate Glaze (recipe follows)
9 eggs, separated, room temperature
1 2/3 cups sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
1 cup Passover potato starch, sifted
1/2 cup finely ground almonds
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
chopped almonds for garnish

Prepare Chocolate Glaze; set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar until light yellow and fluffy. Blend in the orange juice and peel.

In a separate bowl, combine the potato starch, ground almonds, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt. Blend into the egg yolk mixture, combining thoroughly.

In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until firm peaks form. Fold 1/4 of the beaten whites into the batter. Gently fold in the remaining whites until blended.

Pour into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan. Bake 45 to 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Invert the pan immediately onto a platter; let cool. Run a sharp knife around the sides of the pan to release the cake; place it on a serving plate. Frost with Chocolate Glaze, and garnish with chopped almonds.

Makes 12 to 16 servings.

Spicy Orange Sponge Cake. Photo by Dan Kacvinski


CHOCOLATE GLAZE

8 ounces semisweet Passover chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup strong hot coffee
1/2 cup apricot or orange preserves, strained
1 tablespoon sweet Passover wine

In the top of a double boiler over simmering water, melt the chocolate, coffee, preserves and wine together, mixing constantly with a wooden spoon or wire whisk, until the mixture is smooth and well blended. Add additional coffee if it becomes too thick. Spoon dollops of glaze on top of cake and spread over the cake.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.


PASSOVER MINI LEMON MERINGUES

Lemon Filling (recipe follows)
3 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
grated zest of 1 lemon

Prepare Lemon Filling; refrigerate.

Preheat oven to 200 F.

Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Beat egg whites to firm peaks, about 3 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon sugar, and beat one minute longer. Gradually add remaining sugar, and beat until stiff and shiny. Beat in lemon juice.

Spoon the meringue mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch star tip. Pipe mixture onto baking sheets in 1 1/2-inch-diameter pinwheels. Pipe a border onto the outer edge of each pinwheel to form small cups.

Or drop 1 1/2-inch mounds of meringue onto baking sheets at 2-inch intervals. Use the back of a spoon to create a hollow center in each mound, forming a shallow shell.

Bake about 55 minutes or until firm.

Carefully loosen the meringues with a spatula. Turn off the heat, and leave the meringue shells in the oven to dry

Using a teaspoon, fill each meringue shell with Lemon Filling. Garnish with lemon zest.

Makes about 4 dozen.


LEMON FILLING

1/4 cup unsalted margarine
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
grated zest of 1 lemon
3 eggs, lightly beaten

Blend the margarine, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest and eggs together in a heavy-bottomed pan or in the top of a double boiler over simmering water. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened. Chill mixture thoroughly before filling meringues.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.


PASSOVER CHOCOLATE MACAROONS

6 ounces semisweet Passover chocolate
3 egg whites
Pinch salt
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup ground almonds

In top of double boiler over simmering water, melt the chocolate; pour it into a medium to large bowl.

In bowl of an electric mixer, beat egg whites with salt until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, beating until stiff, but not dry. Gently fold half of the beaten egg whites into the melted chocolate. Then fold the chocolate mixture into the remaining beaten egg whites. Fold in the ground almonds.

Spoon the batter into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch tip. Pipe the batter into mounds, 1 inch apart, onto a baking sheet lined with foil or a silicone baking mat. Or, using a teaspoon, spoon the batter into mounds 1 inch apart.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes. Cool, then peel from the foil or silicone mat and transfer to a wire rack.

Makes 3 to 4 dozen.

Judy Zeidler is a food consultant and author of “Italy Cooks.” Her Web site is judyzeidler.com

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Matzah Madness!

Lasagna

Ground Beef and Matzah “Lasagna” (See page 2) Photos by Dan Kacvinski. Food coordinated by Judy Zeidler

Families will gather at sundown on March 25 and begin the eight-day observance of Passover, commemorating the centuries-old flight of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt to their subsequent freedom.

It is also known as the Festival of Matzah, or unleavened bread, because in their exodus, the Jews had little time to allow their bread to rise. It is a very special time for our family to share in the Passover seder that symbolizes so well this fateful period in Jewish history.

Certain dietary restrictions are observed during Passover, and the use of matzah, emblematic of the unleavened dough carried by the fleeing Jews, has inspired me each year to create new recipes that have become our favorites.

Although the Passover pantry sounds very complicated, it really isn’t much of a hardship. There are no restrictions on fresh fruits or most vegetables, and all kosher fish, meats and poultry are permitted. Matzah meal, matzah cake meal and Passover potato starch are good substitutes for flour.

The holiday gives our family a chance to try foods from different cultures — as well as the traditional Passover favorites. In Italy, they make Passover lasagna using whole square sheets of matzah, which replace the usual pasta, combined with layers of ground beef and tomato sauce. This can be served as a main course for the seder or eaten during the remaining days of Passover.

A more familiar use for matzah meal is matzah balls, or knaidlach, that are served in a rich chicken soup. But even these can take on the feel of a special holiday treat when they are stuffed with chopped chicken livers and served in a hearty broth laden with onions, parsnips, leeks and carrots.

After the seder dinner, it is time for dessert, and everyone looks forward to the delicious assortment of cakes, cookies and candies that fill our table. I always include chocolate farfel-pecan clusters. The chocolate is melted and poured into a bowl, and tossed with toasted farfel and toasted pecans. They are easy to make, and knowing the pleasure they bring to everyone when I serve them makes me happy!

STUFFED MATZAH BALLS (KNAIDLACH)

∗ 3/4 cup Chopped Chicken Livers (recipe follows)
∗ 3 eggs, separated
∗ 1/2 cup water
∗ 1 cup matzah meal
∗ 1/2 teaspoon salt
∗ Chicken soup (use your favorite recipe)

Prepare Chopped Chicken Livers; refrigerate until ready to use.

Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Combine egg yolks with water. Gently fold egg yolk mixture into stiffly beaten egg whites alternately with matzah meal and salt. Cover and let stand 10 minutes. Shape matzah meal mixture into 12 balls around a tablespoon of Chopped Chicken Livers mixture. Drop matzah balls into boiling chicken soup, cover and simmer about 10 to 15 minutes or until firm.

Makes about 12 matzah balls.

CHOPPED CHICKEN LIVERS

∗ 2 onions, chopped
∗ 1/4 cup oil
∗ 1 pound chicken livers, lightly broiled
∗ 4 mushrooms, sliced
∗ 1 apple, peeled and sliced
∗ 2 tablespoons dry wine
∗ 2 hard-cooked eggs
∗ Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté onions in oil until lightly browned. Add chicken livers, mushrooms and apple; sauté. Add wine and simmer 5 minutes. Coarsely grind liver mixture and eggs together. Add salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to use.

Makes 2 to 3 cups.

A MATZAH GLOSSARY

Matzah: Unleavened flat bread eaten during Passover. The dough, a mixture of flour and water, is worked very quickly (within 18 minutes) and baked in a very hot oven so it does not have a chance to rise.

Matzah cake meal: Almost powder-fine ground matzah used for cakes and cookies.

Matzah cereal: Resembles cream of wheat. Replaces other hot cereals for Passover; also used to thicken sauces and stuffings.

Matzah farfel: >Coarse pieces of broken-up matzah, resembling corn flakes, that replace pasta and noodles. Delicious when mixed with fresh or dried fruit and milk as a breakfast cereal.

Matzah meal: Coarsely ground matzah used in place of bread crumbs or flour.

Passover potato starch: Finer than matzah cake meal; another replacement for flour.

Shemurah matzah: A round variety eaten by many Jewish families because of the careful processing of the wheat used to make it. It is mixed, rolled and baked by hand from wheat that has been guarded from the time of harvest through the baking process to ensure that the flour does not come in contact with any moisture, which would allow fermentation — or any other type of leavening — to take place.

— Judy Zeidler

GROUND BEEF AND MATZAH “LASAGNA”

∗ 5 tablespoons olive oil
∗ 3 onions, chopped
∗ 1 pound ground beef
∗ 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
∗ Salt and freshly ground black pepper
∗ 1 egg
∗ 1/2 pound mushrooms, chopped
∗ 2 garlic cloves, minced
∗ 4 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
∗ 5 matzah sheets
∗ 1 cup chicken stock
∗ Tomato-Mushroom Sauce (recipe follows)
∗ Sliced mushrooms, sauteed (for garnish)

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat; brown two of the onions and the ground beef, stirring until the meat is crumbly. Add parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat; cool. Stir in egg and set aside.

In a small skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and sauté chopped mushrooms until tender. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

In the same skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and sauté garlic and remaining 1 onion until soft. Add tomatoes and simmer 10 minutes; set aside.

Use remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil to coat bottom and sides of an 8-inch baking dish. Dip the matzah sheets in the chicken stock to soften. Place 1 matzah in baking dish. Layer the meat mixture, mushroom mixture and tomato mixture alternately with the matzah, ending with a layer of matzah on top. Pour the remaining chicken stock over the matzah.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until brown, adding additional stock as necessary to keep the lasagna moist.

Spoon the Tomato-Mushroom Sauce onto heated plates and place a slice of lasagna on top. Garnish with sliced, sautéed mushrooms.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

TOMATO-MUSHROOM SAUCE

∗ 1 tablespoon olive oil
∗ 1 onion, minced
∗ 2 garlic cloves, minced (optional)
∗ 1 (15-ounce) can Passover tomato sauce
∗ 1 tablespoon dry red Passover wine
∗ 8 large mushrooms, quartered

In a saucepan, heat the oil. Add onion and garlic; sauté until soft. Add the tomato sauce and wine; bring to a boil and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Add the mushrooms to the sauce, turn off the heat, cover and let them soften.

Makes about 3 cups.

CHOCOLATE FARFEL-PECAN CLUSTERS

∗ 16 ounces Passover semisweet chocolate
∗ 1 1/2 cups toasted matzah farfel
∗ 1 cup toasted, chopped pecans

In the top of a double boiler over simmering water, melt the chocolate. Pour melted chocolate into large bowl. Add matzah farfel and pecans; mix thoroughly. Spoon chocolate mixture onto a waxed paper-lined baking sheet or into ruffled paper candy cups. Refrigerate until set.

To serve: Peel the clusters off the waxed paper and place on a platter or serve in candy cups.

Makes about 30 servings.

ITALIAN PASSOVER SANDWICH COOKIES

∗ Chocolate Filling (recipe follows)
∗ 1 1/2 cups finely ground almonds
∗ 3/4 cup sugar
∗ 1 cup matzah cake meal
∗ 3/4 cup margarine, cut in pieces

Prepare Chocolate Filling; set aside until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 300 F.

Combine almonds, sugar and matzah cake meal in the bowl of a food processor. Blend well. Add margarine a little at a time, pulsing, until mixture comes away from sides of bowl. Transfer mixture to a board, knead slightly, then pat or shape into a 1/2-inch-thick, 11-inch square. Use palm of hands to smooth down top and sides of dough.

Slice into 1/2-inch-thick strips, then slice cross-wise into 1/2-inch-thick strips. Shape each 1/2-inch square with fingertips, and carefully roll with palm of hands into small balls.

Place balls on cookie sheet 1/4 inch apart. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly brown. Cool.

Spread small dollop of Chocolate Filling on the flat side of a cookie. Top with the flat side of another cookie, forming a sandwich. Place each filled cookie in a miniature paper cup.

Makes about 36 cookies.

CHOCOLATE FILLING

∗ 1/3 cup sugar
∗ 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
∗ 1/3 cup margarine

Blend sugar and cocoa in a bowl. Heat margarine until bubbly; blend into sugar mixture, beating with wire whisk until smooth.

ITALIAN WINE CAKE

∗ 6 eggs, separated
∗ 1 1/2 cups sugar
∗ 1/2 cup potato starch
∗ 1/2 cup matzah cake meal
∗ 1/4 cup orange juice
∗ 1/4 cup sweet Passover wine
∗ Juice and grated peel of 1 lemon
∗ Pinch salt
∗ Zabaglione (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl, beat egg yolks, adding sugar slowly. Continue beating until light and fluffy.

Combine potato starch and matzah cake meal; set aside. Combine orange juice, wine, and lemon juice and peel. Add potato starch mixture to egg yolk mixture, alternately with orange juice mixture, blending thoroughly.

Beat egg whites with salt until soft peaks form. Gently fold beaten egg whites into egg yolk mixture.

Pour batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan. Bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in cake comes out dry.

Remove cake from oven; immediately invert pan and let it cool. Loosen sides and center of cake with a sharp knife and unmold onto a cake plate.

 

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A vegetarian buffet to celebrate Queen Esther

Falafel sandwich

 

What makes Purim so special? Maybe it’s the heroic story of Queen Esther. Whatever you decide, it is still one of the happiest of all Jewish holidays. Filled with accounts of bravery, it tells the story of Queen Esther and how she helped defeat the wicked minister Haman in ancient Persia.

We plan on celebrating the holiday this year with an after-the-Purim-carnival buffet, inspired by the elaborate banquets served in biblical times. One long table can be set for all the guests, and each place setting will have a noisemaker to use during the retelling of the Purim story.

Buffets are especially appealing to children because they can select their own food. Creating a dairy meal is appropriate for Purim as a reminder that Queen Esther, in order to eat only kosher food in the king’s palace, followed a vegetarian diet that consisted primarily of vegetables, seeds, grains, nuts and beans.

Let guests start the evening by helping themselves to cups of vegetarian mushroom barley soup. It is even better prepared a day or two in advance to allow the flavors to blend.

One of the typical foods served at a Purim carnival are pita roll-ups filled with tomatoes, onions, avocado, other vegetables and cheese. Don’t forget to include bowls of tabbouleh salad made with bulgur wheat, tomato, parsley and mint.

Falafel — a spicy combination of bulgur wheat and garbanzo beans, fried until crisp and brown and served on skewers with a sauce of tahini (sesame paste) — is a perfect dish for your buffet table. Another family favorite is a noodle kugel filled with sautéed eggplant and squash, accompanied by a vegetable puree sauce.

Don’t forget dessert: Everyone is going to love hamantashen, rich with chocolate or caramel filling. Be sure to bake enough to share with family and friends for “shalach manot” (from “mishloach manot,” or “sending of portions”), the traditional custom of giving sweets during the holiday.

One other significant addition to a Purim celebration is wine, which plays an important part in the meal. It has been stated that one who does not drink wine does not observe the holiday. Enjoy!

MUSHROOM BARLEY SOUP

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced carrots
1 onion, diced
3/4 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups vegetable stock or water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/8 cup pearl barley
1 tablespoon dry sherry
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Cook celery and carrots, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, 5 minutes. Add onion and cook until softened, 5 minutes more. Add mushrooms and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.

Add stock, soy sauce, barley and sherry. Reduce heat to low, cover partially, and simmer gently for 45 minutes. Add additional stock or water as needed. Add salt and pepper to taste. To serve, ladle into heated soup bowls.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

PITA ROLL-UPS

 

1 (12-inch) round pita bread
2 cups torn romaine lettuce
2 thin slices tomato
3 thin slices red onion
1 thin slice Jack cheese
1 piece roasted sweet red pepper
1/4 avocado, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup alfalfa sprouts

Split pita bread in half and place 1 round half on 18-by-12-inch sheet of parchment or wax paper. Arrange lettuce across center of pita half. Top with tomato and onion slices, cheese, roasted pepper and avocado. Sprinkle alfalfa sprouts on top. Roll up tightly, jellyroll fashion. Place rolled-up sandwich on edge of remaining pita half, seam-side down. Roll up tightly, jellyroll fashion, enclosing completely.

Place sandwich, seam-side down, on an angle, on parchment paper. Then fold corner of parchment paper closest to you over sandwich. Fold two sides of parchment over and continue to roll up tightly, envelope fashion. Using a very sharp knife cut pita in half, through parchment, exposing filling.

Makes 2 servings.

TABBOULEH SALAD

1 cup bulgur, preferably fine-grade
1/2 cup minced green onions
1 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
4 tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 heads romaine lettuce, small center leaves only
1 lemon, thinly sliced, for garnish

Soak bulgur in enough cold water to cover, until tender, 10 to 20 minutes. Drain well and squeeze as dry as possible in double layer of cheesecloth or clean kitchen towel.

Place bulgur in a large bowl. Add green onions, parsley, mint and tomatoes; toss well. In a small bowl, mix together lemon juice, oil, and salt and pepper to taste; add to bulgur mixture and toss gently. Pile salad on large platter and surround with romaine leaves to use for scooping. Garnish with lemon slices.

Makes 8 to 10 servings. 

FALAFEL

Tahini Sauce (recipe follows)
1/2 cup bulgur, preferably fine grade
1 1/2 cups torn chunks pita bread or white bread
2 cups canned garbanzo beans, drained
1/2 cup lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil for frying

Prepare Tahini Sauce; refrigerate.

Soak bulgur in enough cold water to cover, for 15 minutes. Drain and set aside. Soak pita in enough cold water to cover until tender and moist, about 5 minutes. Drain pita, squeeze it dry, and set aside.

Put the garbanzos, lemon juice, garlic, cilantro, parsley, red pepper, cumin, salt and pepper in a food processor or blender. Process until smoothly pureed. Add soaked bulgur and pita, and pulse until thoroughly combined. Moisten your hands with cold water and shape the mixture into 1-inch balls.

Fill a large heavy skillet with oil to a depth of  3 inches; heat oil to 375 F on a deep-fry thermometer. Fry the falafel balls in several batches, without overcrowding, until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes per batch. Using a slotted spoon, transfer falafel to paper towels to drain. Spear each falafel with a wooden skewer and serve hot with Tahini Sauce.

Makes about 2 dozen.

TAHINI SAUCE

3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup tahini
1/2 cup lemon juice
3/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

Process garlic, tahini and lemon juice in food processor or blender. Add enough water to make thin sauce. Add cumin, salt and pepper to taste. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Makes about 2 cups.

NOODLE KUGEL

Vegetable Filling (recipe follows)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 (1-pound) package wide noodles
1/3 cup unsalted margarine
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
2 eggs
Salt and pepper to taste

Prepare Vegetable Filling; set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Bring large pot of water to boil. Add oil and noodles. Boil according to package directions, until tender. Drain in colander. Transfer noodles to large bowl. Add margarine, poppy seeds and eggs; mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Butter a 10-inch oven-proof glass tart pan. Pour half of noodle mixture into pan. Spoon about 2 cups Vegetable Filling on top, cover with remaining noodle mixture. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

While kugel is baking, puree remaining Vegetable Filling in food processor or blender. Just before serving, place in saucepan and heat a few minutes; serve with kugel.

Makes about 8 servings.

VEGETABLE FILLING

1/4 cup olive oil
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 green pepper, sliced in strips
3 tomatoes, sliced
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
1 eggplant, peeled if desired, finely diced
2 zucchini, sliced

Heat olive oil in skillet, add onion and garlic; cook until tender. Add green pepper; sauté a few minutes. Add tomatoes, parsley and oregano. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Add eggplant and zucchini; simmer until tender-crisp, stirring occasionally. Cover and set aside until ready to use.

CHOCOLATE- OR CARAMEL-FILLED HAMANTASHEN

Chocolate Filling (recipe follows)
Caramel-Pecan 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
1/2 pound unsalted margarine
3 tablespoons hot water
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 egg
1 egg white

Prepare Chocolate Filling and Caramel-Pecan Filling; set aside until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

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

In a small bowl, blend water and cocoa; beat in egg. Add to flour mixture, beating until completely blended and mixture begins to form a dough. Do not over-mix.

Transfer to floured board and knead into a ball. Chill for 30 minutes.

Divide into 6 or 7 equal portions for easier handling. Flatten each portion with palm of hand and roll out, 1/4-inch thick. With scalloped cookie cutter, cut into 3 1/2-inch rounds. Place 1 teaspoon of Chocolate Filling or Caramel-Pecan Filling in center of each round. Fold edges of dough toward center to form triangle, leaving a bit of filling visible in center. Pinch edges to seal.

Place on lightly greased foil-lined baking sheet and brush with egg white. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes or until firm. Transfer to rack to cool.

Makes about 5 dozen. 

CHOCOLATE FILLING

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup milk, cream or coffee
1 cup toasted chopped walnuts

In a bowl, combine cocoa, sugar, milk and walnuts; blend thoroughly

Makes about 2 1/2 cups. 

CARAMEL-PECAN FILLING

3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 cups toasted chopped pecans
7 tablespoons unsalted margarine
1/2 cup milk or nondairy creamer
1/4 cup honey

In a heavy saucepan, bring sugar and water to a boil, mixing with wooden spoon, until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add pecans, margarine and milk. Return to heat, stirring constantly, and simmer for 10 minutes, or until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in honey.

Transfer to ovenproof glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until set.

Makes about 3 cups. 


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Cooking is for Lovers

Romantic dinners for two can be fun — and healthy, too

QuinoaQuinoa With Shiitake Mushrooms and Delicata Squash. Photos by Dan Kacvinski. Food coordinated by Judy Zeidler

In a wild wedding party last year at the Hollywood Museum, our granddaughter Giamaica married Steve. They met in Flagstaff, Ariz., at the historic Hotel Monte Vista, where Steve was the chef.

They moved to Pacifica, in Northern California, when Giamaica got a position at Terra Nova High School, teaching beginning and advanced dance classes. She is also the co-chair of the physical education department and advises the dance team and the breakdancing club.

Steve was offered a position as chef at San Francisco Towers, a retirement community. He is on the hot line most of the time, and Giamaica explains that he is really good at making sauces and soups. He works during dinner, which includes cooking for both the cafe and the dining room, as well as preparing trays for residents.

When they arrived in Northern California, they didn’t know anyone, but, as newlyweds who loved to cook, they discovered that it was more romantic cooking together.

At home, they order local produce from Planet Organics that is delivered weekly, and they tend to base their meals on the seasonal vegetables they find at their door.

“Steve has taught me so much about cooking technique and what tastes go well together,” Giamaica explained. “We just sort of break up the work for our main meal and bounce ideas off of each other. We always make sure to taste things as we are cooking and agree on what to do.”

Giamaica also does a lot of singing and dancing in the kitchen to keep things fun.

“We laugh a lot in the kitchen,” she said.

On special evenings, they sit down at a small table in their home. They begin by lighting candles and then toast each other with a glass of sparkling wine. It is a special time when they can just enjoy a few hours of being together and eating their favorite foods.

Giamaica continued, “I think one of the most romantic dinners we have had at home was on one rainy night. We started the evening with a sweet and savory baked brie cheese, a variation of an appetizer my mom makes. We often take inspiration from family favorites and then create our own version, and we both love cheese!”

They like to cook with quinoa, because it is now easily available at most markets. Gaining in popularity, it is also very healthy, and creates a dish that is high in protein and very flavorful. It was the main course, combined with shiitake mushrooms and delicata squash, for their romantic dinner, but you could substitute almost any seasonal vegetables. A sweet potato puree was served as a side dish.

Their neighbor, who has a garden close by, grows lots of herbs that she often shares with them. Giamaica, considered the family pastry chef, loves making desserts, and inspired by the new-wave San Francisco restaurants, incorporates fresh rosemary into a traditional vanilla pudding. It is the dessert that she makes for special occasions, and it is Steve’s favorite.

As Giamaica and Steve enjoy their last bite of dessert, they toast each other with the final drops of champagne and begin looking forward to their next romantic dinner.


SWEET AND SAVORY BAKED BRIE

∗ 1 (8-ounce) package brie cheese
∗ 1 tablespoon brown sugar
∗ 1/4 cup dried cranberries
∗ 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sliced almonds
∗ Zest of 1 orange
∗ Rosemary crackers

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Cut brie wheel in half horizontally; set the top half aside. Sprinkle brown sugar evenly on bottom half of the brie. Sprinkle dried cranberries over brown sugar. Top cranberries with 1/4 cup sliced almonds and half of the orange zest.

Replace top half of brie, and gently press down. Garnish with remaining 1 tablespoon sliced almonds and remaining orange zest.

Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes or until center is creamy. Serve with crackers.

Makes about 6 servings.

 

QUINOA WITH SHIITAKE MUSHROOMS AND DELICATA SQUASH

Delicata squash is mild and not as sweet as other winter squash, so it pairs well with hearty dishes. Delicata’s thin skin is delectable when cooked; there’s no need to peel it.

∗ 1 large delicata squash, diced
∗ Olive oil
∗ Salt and pepper
∗ 1 cup quinoa
∗ 1/2 white or yellow onion, diced
∗ 3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
∗ 2 stalks celery, diced
∗ 2 medium carrots, diced
∗ 1/2 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms
∗ 1 pinch crushed red pepper
∗ 1/4 cup white wine
∗ 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
∗ 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
∗ 2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Toss the squash with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Roast in oven 30 to 35 minutes, until fork-tender and slightly golden.

Meanwhile, prepare quinoa according to package directions, then rinse and drain through a large fine-mesh strainer.

Heat a large pan over medium heat, coat with olive oil, and add onion, garlic, celery and carrot. Cook until slightly softened, about 4 minutes. Add mushrooms, crushed red pepper, and salt and pepper to taste; cook until mushrooms are tender, about 10 minutes. Deglaze pan with wine; cook for 5 minutes until liquid is slightly reduced.

In a large bowl, combine cooked quinoa, onion mixture, delicata squash, vinegar, thyme and basil, mixing gently. Serve hot or cold.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.


SWEET POTATO PUREE

∗ 2 sweet potatoes
∗ 2 tablespoons creme fraiche
∗ 1 to 2 chipotle peppers in adobo
∗ 3 tablespoons maple syrup
∗ 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
∗ 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
∗ 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
∗ Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Roast sweet potatoes in preheated oven until fork-tender. Scoop out flesh and discard skin. Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Puree until smooth.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

ROSEMARY VANILLA PUDDING

Custard

Rosemary Vanilla Pudding

∗ 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
∗ Zest of 1 Meyer lemon
∗ 2 1/2 cups whole milk
∗ 2/3 cup sugar
∗ 1/4 cup cornstarch
∗ 1/4 teaspoon salt
∗ 4 large egg yolks
∗ 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
∗ 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
∗ Additional lemon zest and rosemary sprigs for garnish

In a small saucepan over low heat, steep rosemary and lemon zest in milk for 15 minutes. Strain into a bowl and let cool.

In a large saucepan, off heat, combine sugar, cornstarch and salt. Gradually whisk in milk mixture and egg yolks. Over medium heat, whisk constantly until mixture starts to thicken and you see bubbles. Reduce heat to low and cook another minute. Pour through sieve into a medium bowl. Add butter and vanilla extract, whisking until butter is melted and all ingredients are thoroughly combined. Place plastic wrap over surface and chill. Spoon into bowls and garnish, with lemon zest and rosemary sprigs.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

 

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Joy of Chanukah

Make kids holiday kitchen helpers with Chanukah cookies

 

judy zeidler cookies

Russian Tea Cakes Photos by Dan Kacvinski

 

This year at our family Chanukah get-together, we’re having a cookie exchange. Everyone will bring their favorite cookies to enjoy as part of our dessert after the traditional latke dinner. Then boxes and tins of home-baked cookies will be exchanged as take-home gifts, gaily wrapped in blue-and-white paper and ribbons. This will definitely be a Chanukah that everyone will remember in a very sweet way — especially the children, who will delight in the gifts, parties and festive food it brings.

My children and grandchildren have always looked forward to helping me bake cookies for Chanukah, and I have collected some easy-to-bake recipes over the years that are now family favorites. We also have special cookie cutters that form perfect stars, dreidels and menorahs to help celebrate the holiday.

The boys and girls in my family agree that cooking is lots of fun. Nothing tastes quite as good as a homemade cookie fresh from the oven, especially when it is eaten by its makers. Small hands are remarkably adept at rolling dough into balls, using cookie cutters, decorating with icing and sprinkles and other chores, so they need only a little gentle supervision.

Cooking helps teach children how to follow directions, how to measure and weigh ingredients, how to tell time and other useful skills. And they always love to eat cookies, but especially when they help in the baking.

A chanukiyah can be made out of juice cans, egg cartons or clay, but why not make an edible chanukiyah out of cookie dough and use it for a centerpiece?

I’m sure your children will enjoy baking these seven types of festive cookies as much as my family does.


Brown Sugar Shortbread

BROWN SUGAR SHORTBREAD

More flavorful than the usual shortbread, this four-ingredient recipe is perfect for kids to bake in the kitchen with Mom. Cut into small rounds and wrap in gold and silver foil to resemble Chanukah gelt or decorate with blue-and-white icing.

1 cup unsalted butter or nondairy
margarine, softened
1 1/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring
2 1/2 cups flour
Blue and White Icing (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 300 F.

Beat butter and sugar until creamy in the large bowl of an electric mixer. Add vanilla, then gradually beat in flour, blending thoroughly. Gather dough into a ball, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate about 1 hour until firm.

Divide dough into four parts. Working with one part at a time, roll out dough about 1/4-inch thick on a lightly floured board. Cut with cookie cutters. Place 1 inch apart on a lightly greased, foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes or until firm to the touch. Cool.

Makes about 3 dozen.

BLUE AND WHITE ICING

1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon cream, milk or mocha mix
2 cups powdered sugar
2 or 3 drops of blue food coloring

Blend lemon juice, cream and sugar in a bowl until creamy. Add additional cream if needed to thin icing. Divide icing in half. Add food coloring to half of the icing and mix until completely blended. Place blue icing in a pastry bag (with plain tip) and pipe onto cooled cookies as desired. Repeat with uncolored icing..

Makes about 2 cups.


PEANUT BUTTER BALLS

Practically foolproof, they’re a cinch for little helpers.

3/4 cup unsalted butter or
nondairy margarine
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
1 cup roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
Sifted powdered sugar

Preheat oven 375 F.

In a large bowl, cream butter with peanut butter until light and fluffy, gradually adding powdered sugar. Blend in vanilla and flour. Stir in peanuts; mix well. Shape dough into small balls. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 12 minutes or until brown on the bottom.

While hot, roll in powdered sugar. If desired, re-roll cookies in more powdered sugar when cool.

Makes 4 dozen.


APRICOT HOLIDAY COOKIES

Apricot and orange flavors add a festive note to these cookies. For a variation, replace the apricot preserves with orange marmalade.

1/2 cup unsalted butter or
nondairy margarine, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons orange juice
Grated peel of 1/2 orange
1/4 cup apricot preserves
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Cream together butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Beat in egg. Add orange juice and peel and apricot preserves. Mix well. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Beat flour mixture into the butter mixture until dough comes together.

Drop rounded teaspoonfuls of batter, about 2 inches apart, onto foil-lined, greased baking sheets. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until cookies are brown around the edges.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.


CHANUKAH STAR COOKIES

3/4 cup unsalted butter or
nondairy margarine
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 1/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/3 cups flaked coconut,
finely chopped
Light cream

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy in a large bowl of an electric mixer. Add egg, vanilla and almond flavoring and blend well. Add flour, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Add salt. Stir in 1 1/3 cups of the coconut. Divide dough in three portions, wrap each portion in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Roll chilled dough 1/8 inch thick on a lightly floured board. Cut with a star-shaped cookie cutter. Place on an ungreased foil-lined baking sheet. Brush tops with cream and sprinkle with the remaining cup of the coconut. Bake for about 6 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Transfer to racks and cool.

Makes about 8 dozen.


Almond Meringue Cookies

ALMOND MERINGUE COOKIES

Small children will find it easier to drop dough by teaspoonfuls instead of rolling it out.

4 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 cups coarsely ground almonds
1/2 cup flour

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

Fill a pan halfway with water. Keep pan over low heat.

Beat egg whites in bowl large enough to fit atop the pan without it touching the water. When the whites are foamy, begin beating in the sugar a little at a time. Transfer the bowl to the top of the pan, raise the heat to medium high and continue to beat the white about 5 minutes until they are very glossy and thick.

Remove the bowl from the pot. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the almonds and then the flour, a little at a time.

Using two teaspoons, drop the dough onto the parchment paper, spacing them about 1/2-inch apart.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until the cookies are firm to the touch. Cool for 5 minutes before removing them from the parchment paper to cool completely on a cooling rack.

Makes about 4 dozen.


CHANUKAH FRYING PAN COOKIES (SUFGANIYOT)

Foods fried in oil are a Chanukah must. Adults should take over for the actual frying.

6 tablespoons unsalted butter or
nondairy margarine, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
Grated peel of 1 lemon
Pinch of salt
4 eggs
3 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Oil for deep-frying
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Cream butter and 1 cup of the sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add lemon peel and salt. Beat in eggs one at a time. Sift flour and baking powder; fold into butter mixture to make a dough.

Heat oil in deep-frying pan to 360 F. Shape dough into small balls and drop about 8 at a time into hot oil. Fry for 3 minutes, turn with a slotted spoon and fry for another 2 or 3 minutes or until golden brown.

Lift out cookies with a slotted spoon; drain on paper towels. Combine the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and the cinnamon, and while cookies are still warm, roll in sugar-cinnamon mixture.

Makes about 4 dozen.

RUSSIAN TEA CAKES

1/2 pound unsalted butter or nondairy margarine
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped
Powdered sugar for coating

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Blend the butter and powdered sugar in the large bowl of an electric mixer until fluffy. Mix in the vanilla. Add the flour and salt and blend thoroughly. Mix in the walnuts. Work the dough with your hands into a smooth ball.

Pinch off (or use an ice cream scoop) and roll the dough with your hands into 1-inch balls. Place them about 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets and bake for 15 minutes or until the bottoms are golden brown. Cool slightly, roll in sifted powdered sugar. Let them cool and roll them in sugar again.

Makes about 5 dozen.

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A Brentwood Country Club Chanukah

Chef Brett Swartzman is a chef with passion. The Chicago native started working in his parents’ Jewish bakery when he was 10 years old, making bagels, muffins, cookies, challah and sandwiches.Brett Swartzman, executive chef at Brentwood Country Club, will prepare a special menu for the venue’s Chanukah event on Dec. 9. Photo by Dan Kacvinski

Chanukah was always a big celebration at his grandparents’ home. Coming from a big family, there was always a kids’ table, and because there were so many cousins, Swartzman sat there until he was 17 years old. But while his cousins were busy playing dreidel, he was in the kitchen, helping his grandmother fry latkes.

This year will be his first preparing Chanukah dinner for the Brentwood Country Club.

His experience goes far beyond what he learned from his bubbe. Swartzman went from prep cook to line cook at a Marriott hotel, but decided he needed more training and enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. There he received an associate degree in culinary arts and an additional certification in baking and pastry arts.

Returning home to Chicago, Swartzman landed a job as sous chef at the Deer Path Inn in Lake Forest, Ill. His first executive chef job was at Rolling Green Country Club in Arlington Heights, Ill., where he met his future wife, Sheila Wu, the pastry chef.

Upon moving to California, Swartzman continued his career at Big Canyon Country Club in Newport Beach. Then this young, ambitious and accomplished chef with more than 15 years of food preparation, catering, banquets, à la carte and fine dining experience was offered the position of executive chef at the Brentwood Country Club.

More than 350 guests are expected on Dec. 9. for Swartzman’s first Chanukah event at the Brentwood. A special holiday menu will be served buffet style, with a special buffet table for the kids.

When asked what Chanukah celebrations were like when he was growing up in Chicago, Swartzman explained that the holiday always centered around food, especially the traditional dishes. His grandmother prepared foods fried in olive oil: potato latkes served with applesauce; zucchini latkes; kreplach; sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts) and beef brisket with tzimmes. But the family’s favorite was kishke, a dish he is still trying to perfect.

Everyone at the Brentwood loves his chopped liver. The secret ingredient is lots of chicken shmaltz, and he suggests using a meat grinder rather than a food processor for a coarser texture.

His family’s influence continues to live on in other ways. Swartzman’s mom is a pastry chef at Lake Forest Place, a retirement community in Lake Forest, Ill., and he still uses her recipes for mandelbread, coconut macaroons and rugelach.

 

CHEF BRETT SWARTZMAN’S 

2012 CHANUKAH MENU

 

BRETT’S CHOPPED LIVER

1 pound fresh chicken livers

1 medium onion, sliced

1/2 cup shmaltz

5 hard-boiled eggs

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Rye bread 

1/4 cup chopped

        white onions, for garnish

1 or 2 hard-boiled

       eggs, sieved, for garnish

Sauté livers in 1/4 cup shmaltz until cooked through. Caramelize the sliced onions in the remaining 1/4 cup shmaltz until golden brown. While livers and caramelized onions are still warm, place in food processer or meat grinder, add hard-boiled eggs, salt and peppers; pulse until thoroughly combined. Do not overmix. Chill. Serve with rye bread, chopped onions and sieved eggs.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

 

BEEF BRISKET

1 whole beef brisket 

      (deckle on)

Salt and black pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

2 cups red wine

3 carrots, diced

3 onions, diced

8 ribs celery, diced

5 garlic cloves, chopped

1 (15-ounce) can diced 

      tomatoes, undrained

4 sprigs fresh thyme

4 sprigs fresh rosemary

Chicken stock

 

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Season the whole untrimmed brisket liberally with salt and pepper. Then, over high heat, sear the brisket in olive oil in a roasting pan until deep golden brown. Deglaze pan with red wine, then add carrots, onions, celery, garlic, undrained tomatoes, thyme, rosemary and enough chicken stock to come halfway up the sides of the brisket.

Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake in preheated oven for 3 hours. Turn brisket over, cover and continue cooking for another 1 to 2 hours, depending on the size of the brisket.

Check for doneness with a cooking fork — it should slide easily in and out of the brisket. If it feels like the brisket is holding onto the fork, it’s not done yet. Once done, remove brisket from braising liquid and let rest for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, strain the braising liquid and skim off the excess fat. This will be the gravy. After the brisket has rested, trim it of excess fat, then slice the brisket against the grain.

Makes 8 to 10 servings. 

 

BLACK LENTILS AND RICE WITH SHMALTZ AND ONIONS

1 cup cooked black beluga lentils

1 or 2 bay leaves

2 cups cooked white rice

1 medium onion, diced

1/4 cup shmaltz

Fresh chopped thyme

Salt and white pepper, to taste

Place the lentils in a small saucepan with 3 cups water. Add bay leaves. Simmer slowly until the lentils are just done, al dente, about 20 minutes.

Caramelize the onion in the shmaltz, cooking until deep golden-brown. Add chopped thyme; cooked lentils and cooked rice. Season with salt and pepper.

Can be made ahead of time and reheated in an ovenproof dish.

Makes 6 servings.

 

POTATO LATKES WITH GRANNY SMITH APPLESAUCE
2 potatoes, peeled, shredded, 

       rinsed and drained

1/2 medium onion, shredded

2 eggs

2 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon salt

Pepper, to taste

Shmaltz or oil for frying

Serve with Granny Smith Applesauce 

      (recipe follows)

Combine shredded potatoes, onions, eggs, flour, salt, pepper and flour; mix well. Heat shmaltz or oil in skillet. Drop potato mixture by large spoonsful into schmaltz; fry until golden brown on both sides; drain on paper towels. Can be made ahead of time and reheated in the oven on a cookie sheet. Serve with Granny Smith Applesauce.

Makes 18 to 20 latkes.

 

GRANNY SMITH APPLESAUCE

6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, 

      cored and diced

1 cup sugar

Juice and zest of 2 lemons

1 vanilla bean, split

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in a wide-based pot. Simmer over low heat until apples are falling apart and liquid is reduced, about 1 hour. Remove vanilla bean, transfer apple mixture to food processor, and blend until smooth. Refrigerate.

Makes 2 to 3 cups.

 

SUFGANIYOT (JELLY DOUGHNUTS)

2 tablespoons active dry yeast

1/2 cup warm water (100 to 110 F)

Sugar

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons unsalted margarine, 

      room temperature

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

2 teaspoons salt

Vegetable oil

1 cup seedless raspberry jam

In a small bowl, combine yeast, warm water and 1 teaspoon sugar. Set aside until foamy, about 10 minutes.

Place flour in a large bowl. Make a well in the center; add eggs, yeast mixture, 1/4 cup sugar, margarine, nutmeg and salt. Using a wooden spoon, stir until a sticky dough forms. On a well-floured work surface, knead until dough is smooth, soft and bounces back when poked with a finger, about 8 minutes (add more flour if necessary). Place in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set in a warm place to rise until doubled, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Using a 2 1/2-inch-round cutter or drinking glass, cut 20 rounds. Cover with plastic wrap; let rise 15 minutes.

In deep saucepan over medium heat, heat 3 cups oil until a deep-frying thermometer registers 370 F. Using a slotted spoon, carefully slip 4 dough rounds into oil. Fry until golden, about 40 seconds. Turn doughnuts over; fry until golden on other side, another 40 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer rounds to a paper-towel-lined baking sheet. Roll in sugar while warm. Repeat with remaining dough rounds, frying in oil and rolling in sugar.

Fit a pastry bag with a No. 4 tip and fill bag with jam. When doughnuts are cool enough to handle, make a small hole in the side of each doughnut with a wooden skewer or toothpick, fit the pastry tip into hole, and pipe about 2 teaspoons jam into doughnut. Repeat with remaining doughnuts and jam.

Makes 14 to 16 doughnuts.

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Saluting side dishes

Thanksgiving is a holiday when American-Jewish families can enjoy the best of both heritages — hearty American food and an occasion to give thanks for their blessings. Food has always been the center of the holiday celebration, and I like to plan an old-fashioned farmhouse menu for the holiday.

Everyone has a favorite turkey recipe, usually handed down from their parents — roasted, smoked or brined with lots of stuffing — but what about the side dishes? There are so many choices. My focus this year will be to create a variety of side dishes that will accompany the turkey and enhance the dinner.

A beautifully browned noodle kugel adds a homey, old-fashioned accent to any holiday menu. This dish does not need sugar, because the raisins and apples add natural sweetness. My technique is to use a large casserole and spread the mixture, because the thinner the kugel, the crisper the crust.

Tzimmes, another traditional dish, is a delicious mixture of sweet potatoes, prunes, carrots and assorted dried fruits. Often sweetened and sometimes cooked with meat, it makes a wonderful treat to go with the meal.

The recipe for Kosher Mashed Potatoes that I am sharing is perfect to go with the Thanksgiving turkey. Butter and milk are replaced with nondairy margarine and soy milk, making it a delicious accompaniment that everyone will enjoy.

For a simple yet elegant dish to go with dinner, nothing surpasses a delicate and flavorful purée. Whether roasted, boiled or steamed, vegetables can easily be blended in a food processor or blender with a little olive oil or chicken stock. My favorite is a Parsnip Garlic Purée made with roasted garlic that will add spice to your holiday menu. Its velvety texture is a nice alternative to mashed potatoes, and it pairs well with poultry or meat.

And at our home, Thanksgiving would not be the same without freshly baked biscuits. Served as a savory treat, they are best when heated and topped with honey or preserves.

Don’t forget to decorate your holiday table. Our daughter Kathy has created several small ceramic turkeys that are placed at the center of the Thanksgiving table to make the dinner more festive. Pour apple juice for the children and a young, fruity red wine for the grown-ups, then catch up on all the family news while enjoying the holiday.

 

Noodle Kugel With Raisins

12 ounces flat wide egg noodles (about 7 cups)

8 cups lightly salted boiling water

1/2 cup unsalted margarine or oil

2 apples, peeled, cored and diced

1/2 cup plumped raisins

4 eggs, beaten

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Cinnamon-sugar

 

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Cook the noodles in lighted salted boiling water until tender, 5 to 10 minutes. Place the noodles, margarine, apples and drained plumped raisins in a large bowl. Add the eggs and season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix well.

Spoon the mixture into a well-greased 8-by-10-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar, and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the top is brown and crisp. Cut into squares. Serve hot or cold.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

 

Tzimmes

3 pounds sweet potatoes (about 4 large), peeled and cut in chunks

2 pounds medium carrots, cut into 1/2-inch chunks

1 (12-ounce) package pitted dried plums, halved

1 cup fresh orange juice

1 cup water

1/4 cup honey 

1/4 cup brown sugar, packed

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 cup unsalted margarine, diced 

 

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Grease a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Combine the sweet potatoes, carrots and plums in a large bowl and then arrange in the greased baking dish. Combine the orange juice, water, honey, brown sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl; pour over vegetables. Cover with aluminum foil.

Bake for 1 hour. Uncover; dot with margarine and bake 45 to 60 minutes longer, stirring gently every 15 minutes, until tender and sauce is thickened.

Makes 12 servings.

 

Red Cabbage With Apples 

1 red cabbage (2 1/2 pounds)

2/3 cup wine vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons unsalted margarine

2 apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced

1 small onion, chopped

1 whole onion, peeled and pierced with 2 cloves

1 bay leaf, crushed

5 cups boiling water

3 tablespoons dry red wine

3 tablespoons red currant jelly

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Wash the cabbage under cold water, and cut into quarters. Cut into 1/8-inch shreds. Drop into a large bowl and sprinkle with vinegar, sugar and salt. Toss with a wooden spoon.

 

In a large, 5-quart saucepan, melt the margarine; sauté the apple slices and chopped onion for 5 minutes or until the apples are lightly browned. Add the cabbage, whole onion and bay leaf. Stir thoroughly, and pour in the boiling water. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally, and reduce the heat to simmer. Cook, covered, for 1 1/2 hours or until the cabbage is tender, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon. Remove the whole onion and bay leaf. Stir in the wine and currant jelly, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot.

Makes 6 to  8 servings.

 

Apple-Cranberry Compote 

1/2 cup raspberry preserves

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup cranberry juice

Juice and peel of 1 lemon

6 large tart Pippin or Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced

 

Combine preserves, sugar and cranberry juice in a large, heavy saucepan. Cook over moderate heat, stirring, until preserves and sugar are dissolved. Bring syrup to a boil and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes.

Place lemon juice and peel in a large bowl; add apple slices and toss gently. Add apples with lemon juice to preserve mixture; toss to coat evenly. Simmer until apples are soft, mixing occasionally. Cool. Transfer glazed apples with sauce to a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

 

Kosher Mashed Potatoes 

5 pounds potatoes

1/4 pound unsalted margarine

3/4 cup soy milk

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic

Peel and dice potatoes. Add potatoes to a large pot with enough water to cover; bring to a boil until tender. Drain, then add margarine, soy milk, salt, pepper and garlic. Mash by hand or with a potato masher to desired consistency.

Makes 10 servings. 

 

VARIATION: A nice combination is unpeeled redskin potatoes and peeled Yukon Golds. Add redskin potatoes by washing them well and leaving the skins on, boiling and following directions above.
Parsnip-Garlic Purée

8 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

Olive oil

1 whole head of garlic, roasted (recipe below)

2 medium onions, thinly sliced

1 cup chicken stock

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Preheat the oven to 300 F.

Toss the parsnips with olive oil and arrange them on a baking sheet. Roast the parsnips until they are caramelized and soft, about 45, minutes depending on thickness. Lightly coat bottom of a large sauté pan with olive oil, and sauté the onions over medium heat until they are very soft and translucent, about 20 minutes.

In a food processor, add the parsnips and onions and squeeze out the individual cloves of garlic from the roasted head. Add enough chicken stock to moisten, and blend until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon mixture into a saucepan and, over low heat, stir gently with a wooden spoon until heated through.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

 

Roasted Whole Garlic

1 or 2 heads garlic

2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil

 

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Peel away outer layers of the garlic bulk skin, leaving the skin of the cloves intact. Using a knife, cut off 1/4 inch of the top of the cloves, exposing the individual cloves of garlic. Place the garlic cloves on a sheet of aluminum foil, brush generously with olive oil, and pinch foil to seal.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until the cloves feel soft when pressed. Cool garlic enough so you can touch it, then use a small knife to cut the skin slightly around each clove and squeeze out the purée.

 

Baking Powder Biscuits

2 cups flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons vegetable shortening or unsalted margarine

2/3 to 3/4 cup water

 

Preheat the oven to 450 F.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the shortening and cut it into the flour until the mixture has the consistency of coarse meal. Add water gradually, mixing lightly with a fork, until a ball forms that separates from the sides of the bowl. Turn out onto a lightly floured board, and knead gently for 30 seconds. Roll out or pat out the dough to 1/2-inch thickness. Cut with a 1- or 1 1/2-inch round cookie cutter.

Transfer onto a greased baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Arrange the biscuits on a large platter and top with honey or preserves.

Makes about 2 dozen 1 1/2-inch or 3 dozen 1-inch biscuits.

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A Cornucopia of Sweets

Add a bountiful dessert table to your Thanksgiving feast

Pumpkin breadPumpkin Date Nut Bread. Photos by Dan Kacvinski

Thanksgiving dinner calls to mind roast turkey with stuffing and gravy, sweet potatoes, rolls and cranberries. But the holiday meal wouldn’t be the same without a variety of pies and pumpkin desserts.

My friend, chef Michel Richard, who started his career as a pastry chef, was once asked if dessert is necessary.

“I guess I would call dessert a necessary luxury or maybe a luxurious necessity,” he said.

While each family has their traditional Thanksgiving menu, desserts often change. This year, try some new ideas to provide a sweet ending for the holiday.

Early versions of pumpkin pie treated pumpkins like apples — they were sliced and sometimes sautéed with herbs and spices. I have included two of my favorite pumpkin pie recipes: One is a nondairy version that is similar to the traditional pudding type; the other, Pumpkin Chiffon Pie, is much lighter, but I always use the same pie crust for both.

Children will love the Frosted Pumpkin Cookies, and my family always looks forward to my Pumpkin Date Nut Bread, Pumpkin Bundt Cake and Pumpkin Fritters. The recipe for the Pumpkin Flan, which is nondairy, is from a friend, Meryl, who shared it with me many years ago.

Finally, it would not be Thanksgiving without a Chocolate Pecan Pie. (You can find this recipe and the Pumpkin Fritters recipe at tribejournal.com.)

Each of my recipes has a story and is a reminder of someone who has touched my life or shared their recipe with me. For a special treat, ask your guests to contribute to the dessert table and ask them to bring the recipe to share.


PUMPKIN CHIFFON PIE

∗ Sweet Pastry Dough pie crust (recipe follows)
∗ 1 1/4 cups canned 100% pure pumpkin
∗ 3 eggs, separated
∗ 1 cup sugar
∗ 1/4 teaspoon mace
∗ 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
∗ 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
∗ 1/4 teaspoon salt
∗ 1 envelope plain, unflavored gelatin
∗ 1/4 cup cold water
∗ Whipped cream for garnish (optional)

Prepare Sweet Pastry Dough pie crust; bake and set aside to cool.

Combine pumpkin, egg yolks, 1/2 cup sugar, mace, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in the top of a double boiler, bring to a boil, and simmer for 10 minutes, mixing constantly.

Dissolve gelatin in cold water and let stand for 5 minutes. Add to pumpkin mixture and blend. Cool.

Beat egg whites until they cling to sides of bowl. Add remaining 1/2 cup sugar, and beat until stiff but not dry. Fold pumpkin mixture into egg white mixture. Pour into baked pie crust and refrigerate until set. Garnish with whipped cream.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

SWEET PASTRY DOUGH PIE CRUST

∗ 1 1/2 cups flour
∗ 1/2 teaspoon salt
∗ 1/3 cup powdered sugar
∗ 1/2 cup unsalted margarine or butter
∗ 3 tablespoons water or milk

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

On two large overlapping sheets of floured waxed paper, roll pastry out to a round large enough to cover and overlap the edges of a 9-inch pie pan. For easier handling, cover the rolled-out pastry with another sheet of waxed paper and fold pastry in half. (The waxed paper in the center prevents the pastry from sticking together when folded.)

Lift the bottom sheet of waxed paper from the folded pastry, and place the pastry on half of the pie pan. Unfold the pastry to cover the entire pan, then remove the waxed paper that covers it. (At this point the pastry-lined pan can be covered with plastic wrap and foil and stored in the refrigerator overnight or in the freezer for several days.)

Before baking, bring the pastry to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Spread a light coating of margarine on two sheets of waxed paper. Place one sheet, coated side down, inside the pastry, overhanging outside of pan. Repeat with second sheet, overhanging other side of pan. Fill center of the waxed-paper-lined pie shell with uncooked rice or pie weights.

Bake in preheated oven 15 to 20 minutes, until sides of pastry begin to brown. Carefully remove waxed paper with the rice; continue baking until bottom of the pastry is lightly browned. Remove from oven; let cool completely.

Makes 1 (9-inch) pie crust.


NONDAIRY PUMPKIN PIE

∗ 2 cups canned 100% pure pumpkin (may use one 15-ounce can)
∗ 1 1/3 cups soy milk
∗ 2 large eggs
∗ 1 large egg white
∗ 1 teaspoon cornstarch
∗ 3/4 cup sugar
∗ 1/2 teaspoon salt
∗ 1 teaspoon cinnamon
∗ 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
∗ 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
∗ 1 (9-inch) unbaked pie shell (you may use the Sweet Pastry Dough pie crust recipe, above, but do not bake the pie crust before filling)

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Put pumpkin, soy milk, eggs and egg white in a blender; blend well.

Combine dry ingredients together in a bowl; add to blender. Blend until smooth. Pour mixture into unbaked pie shell.

Bake in preheated oven 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 F and bake 40 to 50 minutes longer or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool.

Makes 8 servings.


MERYL’S PUMPKIN FLAN

∗ 1/2 cup granulated sugar
∗ 3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
∗ 1 teaspoon cinnamon
∗ 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
∗ 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
∗ 1/4 teaspoon salt
∗ 1 cup canned 100% pure pumpkin
∗ 1 1/2 cups nondairy creamer
∗ 5 eggs, lightly beaten
∗ 1 teaspoon vanilla
∗ Toasted pumpkin seeds for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a heavy skillet, melt granulated sugar over very low heat, stirring often, until caramel colored. Quickly pour melted sugar into ungreased 9-inch pie plate. Rotate plate so the caramelized sugar covers bottom and sides. (It won’t stick to pan. It melts!)

Combine brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, salt and pumpkin in medium bowl. Add creamer, eggs and vanilla; mix well. Pour into prepared pie plate.

Set pie plate in larger pan and add hot water (bain marie) until water comes halfway up side of pie plate. Bake 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool. Refrigerate 2 to 3 hours or overnight.

Before serving, loosen sides of flan with knife, and invert onto serving plate. Garnish with a sprinkle of toasted pumpkin seeds.

Makes 8 servings.

PUMPKIN DATE NUT BREAD

∗ 2 cups sugar
∗ 2 cups canned pumpkin pie mix (may use one 15-ounce can)
∗ 2 eggs
∗ 1/2 cup oil
∗ 2 1/2 cups flour
∗ 1 teaspoon baking soda
∗ 1/2 teaspoon salt
∗ 1 teaspoon cinnamon
∗ 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
∗ 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
∗ 1 cup chopped dates

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Brush three 9-by-5-inch loaf pans with oil and dust lightly with finely ground nuts or flour.

In large bowl of an electric mixer, combine sugar, pumpkin pie mix, eggs and oil; blend well.

In separate bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cloves. Add combined dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture; blend well. Stir in walnuts and dates. Pour into prepared loaf pans.

Bake in preheated oven 50 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 15 to 20 minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely on wire racks.

Makes 3 loaves.


PUMPKIN BUNDT CAKE

∗ 1/2 cup unsalted margarine or butter
∗ 1/4 cup water
∗ 2 cups sugar
∗ 1 cup applesauce
∗ 2 cups canned pumpkin pie mix (may use one 15-ounce can)
∗ 2 eggs
∗ 2 1/2 cups sifted flour
∗ 2 teaspoons salt
∗ 1 tablespoon baking soda
∗ 1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
∗ 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
∗ 1/2 cup chopped dates
∗ 1/2 cup raisins
∗ Powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Brush a Bundt pan with melted margarine and sprinkle with finely ground nuts or flour.

In large bowl of an electric mixer, mix together 1/2 cup margarine, water and sugar. Blend in applesauce and pumpkin pie mix. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

In separate bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking soda and pumpkin pie spice. Gradually add to pumpkin mixture, blending well. Fold in walnuts, dates and raisins. Pour batter into prepared bundt pan.

Bake in preheated oven 50 to 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 5 minutes, then invert onto serving plate. Just before serving, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.


Pumpkin cookies

Frosted Pumpkin Cookies

FROSTED PUMPKIN COOKIES

COOKIE BATTER:

∗ 2 1/2 cups flour
∗ 1 teaspoon baking powder
∗ 1 teaspoon baking soda
∗ 2 teaspoons cinnamon
∗ 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
∗ 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
∗ 1/2 teaspoon salt
∗ 1/2 cup unsalted margarine or butter, softened
∗ 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
∗ 1 cup canned 100% pure pumpkin
∗ 1 egg
∗ 1 teaspoon vanilla

FROSTING:

∗ 2 cups powdered sugar
∗ 3 tablespoons orange juice
∗ 1 tablespoon melted unsalted margarine
∗ 1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 F.

To make cookie batter, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt; set aside.

In large bowl of an electric mixer, cream together margarine and granulated sugar. Add pumpkin, egg and vanilla; beat until creamy. Mix in dry ingredients.

Drop cookies by teaspoonsful onto oiled baking sheet or silicone baking sheet and flatten slightly.

Bake in preheated oven 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven, cool a few minutes, then transfer to cooling racks, and let cool completely. Spread frosting on tops of cookies.

To make frosting: Combine all frosting ingredients, adding more orange juice or powdered sugar as needed to achieve a thick consistency.

Makes about 60 cookies.

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A Touch of Purple for Sukkot

Eggplant

Eggplant Marmalade. Photos by Dan KacvinskiThe eggplant has an important place in my kitchen and is one of my favorite vegetables to serve during Sukkot, the seven-day harvest festival that begins this year at sundown Sept. 30. The beautiful, glossy purple eggplant is appreciated and used extensively in Italy, Greece and France, as well as most Middle Eastern countries.

Eggplants come in many shapes and sizes. While most are purple, one mild variety has an ivory colored skin. The slender Japanese eggplants have a more tender skin and are a good choice for recipes that call for unpeeled eggplant. When shopping, look for eggplants that are firm and shiny without any soft spots.

This versatile, often neglected vegetable can be grilled, stewed, sautéed, baked, stir-fried or broiled. It can be served in casseroles, soups, salads, sandwiches, appetizers or main courses.

Several of the eggplant recipes I have chosen for my Sukkot meal also reflect the renewed interest in vegetarian food.

My most recent three-star killer dish is Fried Eggplant With Honey. Slices of peeled eggplant are soaked in milk overnight, coated with flour, fried in olive oil and served with honey. Delicious!

One of our family favorites is an eggplant and tomato appetizer, served either hot or cold. For a variation, use yellow tomatoes, available in most markets.

Many years ago we had lunch at Mustards Grill in Napa Valley, where they served an eggplant dish I often prepare at home. Elongated Japanese eggplants are cut lengthwise, like a fan, not disturbing the stem and not cut all the way through. Then they are covered with chopped garlic and olive oil, baked in the oven and served with a tomato sauce.

Eggplant Soup can be prepared in advance and is a perfect addition to the Sukkot meal. Serve steaming hot, in a large tureen, brought from your kitchen to the outdoor sukkah (booth).

To reflect the spirit of the festival and the autumn harvest, decorate your table as well as the sukkah with fruits, grains and vegetables, which include an assortment of eggplants.


EGGPLANT MARMALADE

∗ 2 large eggplants, about 2 pounds
∗ 4 cups sugar
∗ 4 cups water
∗ 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
∗ 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
∗ 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
∗ Grated peel of 1 lemon
∗ Juice of 1 lemon

Wash, peel and dice eggplant. Place eggplant in a large pot with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes; drain and set aside.

In a saucepan, combine sugar, water, ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon; bring to a boil. Add the eggplant, remove from heat, cover and allow to stand overnight in the refrigerator. The next day, remove the eggplant with a slotted spoon; bring syrup to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes until thick. Return the eggplant to the syrup and add lemon peel.

Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes until the syrup coats the edge of the spoon, or until a candy thermometer reaches 200 to 222 F. Stir in lemon juice. Ladle into hot, sterilized jars and seal according to canning directions.

Makes about 8 half-pints.


EGGPLANT-TAHINI SPREAD

∗ Olive oil for baking
∗ 1 large eggplant, about 1 pound
∗ 1/2 cup finely minced onion
∗ 1 cup minced parsley
∗ 1/2 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
∗ 4 tablespoons lemon juice
∗ 2 garlic cloves, minced
∗ 2 teaspoons water
∗ Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
∗ 1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground cumin
∗ Parsley sprigs for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Line a baking pan with foil or silicone baking sheet and brush with olive oil.

Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise, brush cut sides with olive oil and place them cut-side down on a prepared baking sheet. Bake until the skin is charred and the inside is tender, about 30 to 40 minutes. Let the eggplant cool; peel it and chop finely. Place it in a mixing bowl, add the onion, parsley, tahini and blend well.

In a separate bowl, stir together the lemon juice, garlic and water until well blended.  Stir the lemon mixture into the eggplant mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste with cumin Stir in more lemon juice to taste.  Garnish with parsley.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups.


FRIED EGGPLANT WITH HONEY

∗ 1 large eggplant, cut in 1/2-inch thick rounds
∗ 2 cups milk
∗ Flour for dusting
∗ Olive oil for frying
∗ Coarse salt
∗ 1/4 cup fresh rosemary, chopped
∗ 1/2 cup honey

Peel the eggplant and cut 1/2-inch thick slices. Put them in a large shallow baking dish; add enough milk to cover. Let them soak overnight in the refrigerator; drain.

Place flour in a shallow bowl. Dust each eggplant slice with flour and shake to remove excess.

Heat oil in a large frying pan and fry eggplant slices, turning as soon as one side is brown. Drain on paper towels.

To serve, sprinkle eggplant with salt and rosemary. Place on serving plates and drizzle honey on top.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.


BAKED JAPANESE EGGPLANT WITH FRESH TOMATO SAUCE

∗ 8 to 10 Japanese eggplants
∗ 1 whole head of garlic, separated into cloves and minced
∗ 1 cup olive oil
∗ Salt
∗ Freshly ground black pepper
∗ Fresh Tomato Sauce (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 375 or 400 F.

Wash and dry the eggplants. Starting about 1/2 inch from the stem end, slice the eggplants into fans, cutting lengthwise into 3 or 4 sections, taking care not to cut through the stems.

Combine minced garlic with olive oil in a bowl, reserving 2 tablespoons of oil. Set aside.

Line a baking pan with foil or silicone baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Place the prepared eggplants on the foil, spreading them flat in a fan shape. Spoon the garlic mixture over the eggplants, pushing it between the slices.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes or until tender.

Spoon tomato sauce on serving plates and place the eggplants on top. Serve at once.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

FRESH TOMATO SAUCE

∗ 4 ripe tomatoes
∗ 1/2 cup minced fresh basil leaves
∗ 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley
∗ 3 garlic cloves, minced
∗ 1/3 cup olive oil
∗ Salt, to taste
∗ Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
∗ Pinch of sugar

Peel and halve the tomatoes and chop the tomatoes fine. Transfer to a bowl, add the basil, parsley and garlic, and mix until smooth. Add the olive oil in a thin stream and season to taste with salt, pepper and sugar. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.

Makes about 1 1/2 to 2 cups.


Eggplant and Tomato

Baked Japanese Eggplant With Fresh Tomato Sauce

EGGPLANT AND TOMATO APPETIZER

∗ 1 eggplant, unpeeled, about 1 pound
∗ 1/4 cup olive oil plus 2 tablespoons
∗ 2 garlic cloves, minced
∗ 1 teaspoon basil, minced
∗ 1/2 pound red tomatoes, peeled (optional) and chopped
∗ 1/2 cup white wine
∗ 1 tablespoon tomato paste (optional)
∗ 1 teaspoon salt
∗ 1 teaspoon sugar
∗ Freshly ground black pepper

Cut eggplants into 1/2-inch thick slices. Then cut into 1/2-inch wide sticks.

Heat olive oil in large nonstick skillet; add eggplant and sauté 5 to 10 minutes, or until tender, mixing occasionally to avoid sticking. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and sauté garlic, adding basil, tomatoes, wine, tomato paste, salt, sugar and pepper.

Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes. Add eggplant and simmer until sauce is thick, about 5 minutes.

Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot or cold.

Makes about 6 to 8 servings.


EGGPLANT SOUP

∗ 1 large eggplant, about 1 pound
∗ 3 tablespoons olive oil
∗ 1 onion, thinly sliced
∗ 6 garlic cloves
∗ 2 roasted red bell peppers, diced
∗ Pinch of dried chili peppers (optional)
∗ 3 medium size tomatoes, coarsely chopped
∗ 1 quart vegetable stock
∗ Salt and pepper to taste
∗ Sour cream or yogurt for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Line a baking pan with foil or silicone baking sheet and brush with oil. Cut eggplant in half lengthwise, brush with oil; place cut-side down on baking sheet and bake in preheated oven until soft, about 20 to 30 minutes. Peel off skin and discard. Cut eggplant into chunks.

Heat the oil in large saucepan. Add onion and garlic and sauté until soft. Add eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, stock, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer, partially covered, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat; transfer to bowl of food processor or blender and puree. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

To serve, ladle into shallow bowls and garnish with sour cream or yogurt.

Makes 10 to 12 servings.

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Feasting after fasting

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is a holiday for serious fasting — no food or drink for 25 hours. At the end of the day, our thoughts inevitably turn to what we want to eat at sundown to break the fast.

When I spoke with several friends about Yom Kippur foods they remember from growing up, many said their favorite break-the-fast meal was a variety of spicy, ready-to-eat deli foods. Some dishes were homemade and could be prepared several days in advance, while others were picked up at the local deli.

A deli buffet enables you to serve a combination of deli specialties to satisfy everyone. But you don’t have to buy deli food — the recipes that I am suggesting are easy to prepare. My menu is based on our family favorites that are prepared in advance.

Early in the morning, a buffet table is made ready with plates, cutlery and an assortment of bowls and platters.

When the hungry guests arrive, they are met with welcoming cups of Shiitake Mushroom and Barley Soup. The soup is accompanied by slices of raisin-filled challah.

Several homemade salads, including a Scandinavian Herring Potato Salad and a Cauliflower Anchovy Salad, a cheese platter, pickles, olives and more of your deli selections will reward the dedicated fasters.

Instead of the smoked fish that is usually served for the-break-the-fast meal, I have included a recipe for a Pickled Salmon. The fish is poached with pickling spices and served with homemade fresh Tartar Sauce or Tuna Sauce. What I find particularly appealing about this dish is that it can be prepared the day before and served chilled.

Desserts are my specialty, and I plan to do my own baking. Serve Rugelach and a delicious high-rise Coffee and Spice Honey Cake.

Shiitake Mushroom and Barley Soup

Sautéing all the ingredients before adding the stock brings out the intense mushroom flavor of this robust 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 pareve chicken stock

2 tablespoons soy sauce

3 tablespoons pearl barley

2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme

1 tablespoon dry sherry

Salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

Heat olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Sauté onion, celery and carrots, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 10 minutes. Add shiitake mushrooms (other fresh mushrooms may be substituted) and garlic; cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
Add vegetable stock, soy sauce, barley, thyme and sherry. Reduce heat to low, cover partially, and simmer gently for 45 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. To serve, ladle into heated soup bowls.

Makes 4 to 6 servings. 


Cauliflower Anchovy Salad

Cauliflower’s taste and color are subdued, so the zippy flavor of this salad’s anchovy dressing gives the understated vegetable a dynamic flavor boost.

1 cup Parsley-Anchovy Dressing
(recipe follows)

1 head cauliflower, rinsed
and separated into florets

Prepare Parsley-Anchovy Dressing, cover with plastic wrap, and chill.

In a large saucepan, using a vegetable rack, steam cauliflower until tender when pierced with a fork, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Spoon just enough dressing over cauliflower to moisten and toss. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.


Parsley-Anchovy Dressing

1/4 small onion, diced

1 can (2 ounces) anchovy fillets, drained

3/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 cups tightly packed parsley sprigs, stems removed (about 1 bunch)

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

Blend onion, anchovies, olive oil and vinegar in a blender or food processor fitted with the metal blade. Add parsley, a little at a time, and puree until the dressing is a bright green color. Season with pepper to taste.

Transfer to a glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill.  If dressing thickens after chilling, add additional olive oil and mix well.  This will keep for several days in the refrigerator.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.


Pickled Salmon With Two Sauces

3 pounds salmon fillets

4 bay leaves

1 teaspoon whole peppercorns

3 tablespoons pickling spices

6 cups cold water

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

2 large carrots thinly sliced 

1 stalk celery, thinly sliced

1/4 cup white wine vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon sugar

Tuna Sauce (recipe follows)

Tarter Sauce (recipe follows)

1 lemon, thinly sliced, for garnish

 

Wrap salmon fillets in cheesecloth and tie ends of cloth with string.

Place bay leaves, peppercorns and pickling spices in a separate square of cheesecloth, tying ends with string to form a pouch.

Add water, onion, carrots, celery, vinegar, salt, sugar and bay leaf mixture in pouch to a heavy pot; bring to a boil. Simmer for 30 minutes; remove pouch from broth.

Gently lower the cheesecloth-wrapped salmon into the simmering broth and cook 3 minutes. Cool fish in broth. When cool, remove fish from broth, unwrap, and transfer to serving plate with large spatula. Serve with Tuna Sauce and/or Tartar Sauce, garnished with lemon slices.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.


Tuna Sauce

1 (6-ounce) can tuna packed in olive oil,       drained

5 flat anchovy fillets

3 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons capers, soaked and rinsed

3/4 cup olive oil

 

Blend the tuna, anchovies, lemon juice and capers in a food processor or blender, with the metal blade in place, until smooth. Continue processing and pour the olive oil in a steady, thin stream through the feeder tube until it’s the consistency of a thick sauce. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill.

Makes about 1 cup.

Tartar Sauce

1/2 cup sour cream

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 cup diced red onion

3 teaspoons capers, drained and chopped

3 tablespoons fresh basil, julienned

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

 

Mix together the sour cream, mayonnaise, lemon juice, onion, capers, basil in a medium bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes about 1 cup.


Rugelach

A rolled, filled pastry, rugelach is an old-fashioned European bakery specialty that has found its way into most delis and chic patisseries.

 

3/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

3  1/3 cups pastry flour

2 cups apricot jam

2 cups chopped toasted walnuts or pecans

1  1/4 cups granulated sugar mixed with 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water

 

Using an electric mixer, cream butter, powdered sugar and vanilla in a large bowl. Add cream cheese and blend until smooth. Add flour all at once and blend until mixture comes together. Cover bowl with a towel, and refrigerate 2 hours.

Divide dough into 4 equal portions; work with 1 portion at a time and keep the other 3 portions in the refrigerator, covered with a towel. On a lightly floured board, roll out 1 portion into a 1/8-inch thick rectangle (about 13 by 16 inches).  Spread with 1/2 cup of the apricot jam and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the walnuts and 1/4 cup of the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Roll dough up along the long edge into a log, cover, and refrigerate. Repeat with remaining 3 portions.

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil and grease with butter. Brush the top of each log with egg mixture and sprinkle each with some of the remaining 1 tablespoon cinnamon-sugar mixture. Cut logs into 1-inch slices and place 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake until lightly browned, 20 to 30 minutes. Cool slices on wire racks.

Makes about 5 dozen pastries. 


 

Coffee and Spice Honey Cake

From “The Gourmet Jewish Cook” by Judy Zeidler

Be sure to use strong fresh coffee and a generous measure of spices.  Then prepare yourself for compliments.

 

1 pound honey

1 cup sugar

1 cup strong black coffee

1/4 cup vegetable or safflower oil

4 eggs, separated

3 1/2 cups flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

3/4 cup sliced almonds

 

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Blend the honey, sugar, coffee and oil in a large mixing bowl.  Add the egg yolks and beat until light and smooth. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon salt, cloves and ginger in a large bowl.  Gradually add the flour mixture to the batter, beating until well blended.

Beat the egg whites with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and cream of tartar in a large mixing bowl until soft peaks form. Gently fold the beaten egg whites and the almonds into the batter. Pour the batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan. Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Immediately remove the pan from oven and invert it onto a wire rack to cool.  With a sharp knife, loosen the cake from the sides and from the tube. Remove the cake from the pan and transfer to a large plate.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.


 

Scandinavian Herring Potato Salad

A delectable variation on a Danish favorite, this salad marries the flavors of herring, potatoes, apples and beets, which create a lovely rose hue.

 

1/3 cup Mustard Mayonnaise (recipe follows)

2 large beets

4 large potatoes

2 cups pickled herring, drained and cubed

2 medium red apples, unpeeled, cored  and thinly sliced

1/2 cup thinly sliced onions

 

Prepare Mustard Mayonnaise.

Boil beets and potatoes in separate saucepans until tender. Drain, peel, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes.

Combine beets, potatoes, herring, apples and onions in a large bowl. Toss with just enough Mustard Mayonnaise to moisten.  Chill.

Makes 8 servings. 


 

Mustard Mayonnaise

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons dry mustard

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

Blend mayonnaise, mustard and lemon juice in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover with plastic wrap, and chill.  This will keep for several days in the refrigerator.

Makes about 3/4 cup.

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All you knead for a bounty of challah

Dipping freshly baked challah in honey is a tradition observed during the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. This act combines the Shabbat bread with hopes for a sweet New Year.

The custom is to serve a round or spiral-shaped challah, one of the symbolic foods eaten during Rosh Hashanah. Typical is the challah baked in a circle to signify the desire for a long life, peace and universal redemption. Another type of challah is made in the shape of a crown, braided and twisted into a circle and topped by a smaller circle, symbolizing the ascent to heaven.

Middle Eastern Jews add saffron and raisins to make the bread special for the holiday. Because carrots were one of the few sweet-tasting vegetables accessible to Eastern European Jews, they became a substitute for the candied pumpkin and squash often eaten during the holiday.

Another concept is a break-apart challah. The dough is divided into several parts, shaped into small rounds and placed together in a greased round or loaf pan. Next, it is oiled lightly, left to rise, then brushed with egg and sprinkled with poppy seeds before baking. After this challah is baked, it will break apart easily and be ready to dip in honey.

A round braided challah filled with apples, pears or quince, representing the harvest, is an Italian custom and is included in the recipes that follow.

Potato challah, usually associated with times of grain shortages or a need for economy in the kitchen, was made by Russian and Polish Jews during the Jewish New Year. And for those who could not afford to bake cakes for Rosh Hashanah, there was the delicious bolas, made in Spain from sweetened challah dough, filled with candied orange peel and raisins, rolled into loaves, sliced and baked.

Although challah is easily bought at the bakery, many families are discovering the joy of making it at home. This tradition is important especially during holidays in which it has special meaning. There is pleasure and satisfaction in baking it yourself, and what better way to celebrate the holiday than with the aroma of freshly baked bread. Be sure to reserve some dough for small individual challahs, which will be a special treat for the children. Make it a family project, and allow them to braid and bake their own.

Rosh Hashanah round braided challah

1 package active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water (110-115 F)
Pinch sugar
3 eggs
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup unsalted butter or nondairy margarine, melted
1/8 teaspoon ground saffron (optional)
2 tablespoons brandy
5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup raisins, plumped
Cornmeal
1 egg white, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm water and sugar. Beat together eggs, honey and melted butter in a large mixing bowl. Add the remaining 1 cup warm water, saffron and brandy, and blend well. Blend in the yeast mixture. Add flour, 1 cup at a time with salt, blending with a beater after each addition, until the dough is thick enough to work by hand. Spoon it out onto a floured board and knead for 5 to 10 minutes, gradually incorporating the raisins and enough additional flour to make a smooth and elastic dough. Place dough in an oiled bowl and oil top of dough. Cover loosely with a clean towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down dough and divide into 3 equal parts. Form each one into a rope about 26 inches long. Braid the ropes together and seal the ends by pinching.

Line a large heavy baking sheet with foil or a silicone baking mat. Oil the foil and sprinkle it with cornmeal. Remove the label and wash an empty 16-ounce can; oil its outside and place it in the center of the baking sheet, open end up. Transfer the challah to the baking sheet, forming it into a ring around the can; join and pinch together the ends of the braid. Cover dough with a towel and let it rise in a warm place until doubled, about 40 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Brush the challah with beaten egg white and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a rack.

Serve the challah on a circular tray and set a bowl of honey in the center. Serve with sliced apples for dipping.

Makes 1 challah.

Apple-filled egg challah

1 package active dry yeast
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
4 to 5 cups flour
1 cup warm water (110-115 F)
6 egg yolks
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup unsalted butter or nondairy margarine, melted
3 apples, peeled, cored and diced
Honey
Cinnamon
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon water
Cinnamon sugar

Combine yeast, sugar, salt and 2 cups flour in a bowl. Add warm water and mix well. Blend in 6 egg yolks and oil. Add remaining flour, mixing in 1 cup at a time, adding enough to make soft dough. Gather dough into a ball. Place dough on floured surface and knead 5 to 10 minutes, or until dough is smooth and elastic, adding more flour if needed. Shape dough into a smooth ball, place in an oiled bowl and oil top of dough. Cover loosely with a clean towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down dough and divide into 3 equal parts. Roll each part into a rectangle. Brush with half of melted butter, top with apples, honey and cinnamon as desired. Roll each rectangle into a long rope. Braid the ropes together and seal the ends by pinching. Form braid into a ring on greased baking sheet and seal ends. Cover dough with a towel and let rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Brush the dough with remaining melted butter and egg yolk-wash, then sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

Bake for 30 to 45 minutes. Cool on a rack.

Makes 1 challah.

Potato challah

This challah originated in Eastern Europe, and unlike usual sweet challah, this crusty challah has a robust sourdough taste. A heavy texture makes the bread moist, so it keeps fresh longer.

3 large red or white potatoes, unpeeled
1/4 cup unsalted butter or nondairy margarine, melted
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 packages active dry yeast
1/3 cup warm water (110-115 F)
Pinch sugar
4 eggs
5 cups flour
Cornmeal
Poppy seeds

Boil potatoes in water to cover until tender. Drain, reserving 3/4 cup water. Peel and mash potatoes. Combine potatoes and reserved water.

Transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer, add the melted butter, 2 tablespoons sugar and salt and mix well.

Dissolve yeast in 1/3 cup warm water and a pinch of sugar. Add to potato mixture and blend well. Blend in 3 eggs.

Add flour, 1 cup at a time, blending to make soft dough. Place dough on floured board and knead until smooth, 5 to 10 minutes. Place dough in oiled bowl and oil top of dough. Cover loosely with a clean towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours. Roll dough between palms into a long, thick rope. Brush foil-lined baking sheet with oil and sprinkle with cornmeal. Place rope of dough on cornmeal, coil it like a snail, starting from center and working outward. Tuck end under. Cover dough with a towel and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Beat remaining 1 egg and brush it on the top of the challah. Sprinkle with poppy seeds.

Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 325 F and bake an additional 20 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Pierce loaf several times with a large needle to allow any air to escape. Cool on a rack.

Makes 1 challah.

Food-processor raisin challah

1 package active dry yeast
3/4 cup warm water (110-115 F)
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar
3 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
1/3 cup oil
1/2 cup raisins, plumped
Poppy seeds

Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm water, with 1 teaspoon sugar.

Place 3 cups flour, remaining 3 tablespoons sugar and salt in food processor fitted with knife blade. Pour in yeast mixture and process 12 seconds. While machine is running, add 2 eggs and oil through feed tube and process until blended, about 10 seconds. Add remaining 1/4 cup warm water and process until well blended.

Turn dough out on floured board and knead remaining 1/2 cup flour with raisins into dough until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Place dough in a large oiled bowl and oil top of dough. Cover with a clean towel and let rise in warm place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Divide dough into 4 equal portions. Form 3 portions into ropes and braid. Join ends and seal to make round challah. Divide remaining portion into 3 small ropes and form small braid. Place smaller braid on top of large round braided challah. Pinch in several places to join the two braids.

For miniature challah rolls, divide dough into 36 equal portions. Shape each portion into thin ropes. Starting in center, coil each rope and tuck ends under. Brush with egg yolk. Sprinkle with poppy seeds.

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes for round challah or 15 to 20 minutes for miniature challah rolls, or until golden brown and crusty.

Makes 1 round challah or 36 miniature challah rolls.

Bolas

Raisin Challah dough (see recipe above)
1/2 cup unsalted butter or nondairy margarine, melted
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup candied orange peel
1/2 cup raisins, plumped
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon or ginger
1 egg, lightly beaten

Roll challah dough on floured board into a rectangle, about 1/4-inch thick. Brush generously with some of melted butter. Sprinkle with brown sugar, candied orange peel, raisins, walnuts and cinnamon. Drizzle on remaining butter. Roll jellyroll fashion. Slice into 1-inch pieces.

Brush a foil-lined jellyroll pan with butter. Place slices on pan. Cover with a clean towel. Let rise in warm place, about 30 minutes. Brush with beaten egg.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Bake 20 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

Makes 24 bolas.

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Rosh Hashanah: Old and new favorites

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begins this year on Sept. 16 at sundown. In planning the holiday menu, I like to include some of the traditional recipes that many of us learned in our mothers’ and grandmothers’ kitchens, but I always add some new, modern ideas.

Apple-Meringue Tartlet. Photo by Dan Kacvinski

The symbolic foods for the New Year include apples and honey, representing “a sweet year,” and pomegranates, one of the first fruits of the harvest.

Round loaves of challah promise a well-rounded year, and I have included many of these in my menu.
The traditional round shape of the Rosh Hashanah challah symbolizes unending happiness, and mine gives it a new twist. It is covered with sesame seeds, and honey is added to the dough. Braided and baked in a ring, it has a hole in the center to place a small bowl of honey for dipping. There’s nothing like combining tradition with creativity to sweeten the New Year for your family.

Chopped chicken liver is an old family favorite many of us, remember from our childhood. I used to watch my mother, sitting on the back-porch steps chopping away at beef livers, hard-cooked eggs and chicken schmaltz in a huge wooden bowl. I have preserved the integrity of Mom’s recipe, using chicken livers, apples, mushrooms and a little brandy for flavor as well as for a preservative. It is served with a sweet-tart pomegranate aspic in the French manner.

Roast chicken breasts, the old standby, have both eye appeal and flavor when they are stuffed under the skin with a tangy blend of vegetables. This year, glazed beets will add color to your festive plates.

For dessert, make delicious individual apple tartlets, a perfect Rosh Hashanah dessert. Topped with meringue, they can be made in almost no time at all. The pastry and the apples slices can be prepared in advance and stored in the refrigerator or freezer. For a crispy crust, bake just before serving.

With this holiday menu, serve a Hagafen or Hertzog Chardonnay from one of the California kosher wineries, and include tea with honey to go with dessert.

FESTIVE SESAME CHALLAH
∗ 1 package active dry yeast
∗ 1 1/2 cups warm water (110-115 F)
∗ Pinch sugar
∗ 3 whole eggs
∗ 1/3 cup honey
∗ 1/4 cup melted margarine
∗ 1 tablespoon kosher salt
∗ 1/8 teaspoon powdered saffron (optional)
∗ 2 tablespoons brandy
∗ 5 to 6 cups unbleached flour
∗ 1 cup raisins, soaked in sweet wine and drained (optional)
∗ Yellow corn meal
∗ 1 egg white, lightly beaten
∗ Sesame seeds
Preheat oven to 350 F.

Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm water with the sugar. Beat together eggs, honey and margarine in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the remaining 1 cup warm water, salt, saffron and brandy; blend well. Blend in the yeast mixture. Add flour, 1 cup at a time, blending after each addition, until the dough is thick enough to work by hand.

Spread 2 cups flour onto a pastry board; place the dough on the board and knead for 5 to 10 minutes, gradually incorporating the raisins and enough additional flour to make a smooth and elastic dough. Place the dough in an oiled bowl; oil the top of the dough. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

Divide the dough into 3 equal parts. Form each one into a rope about 26 inches long. Braid the ropes together and seal the ends by pinching. Join both ends to form a ring.

Line a heavy baking sheet with foil; oil the foil and sprinkle with corn meal. Remove the label from an empty 16-ounce can; oil it and place in the center of the baking sheet, open end up. Place the challah onto the baking sheet. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 40 minutes.

Brush the loaf with beaten egg white and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a rack. Serve with a bowl of honey in the center.
Makes 1 extra-large round challah or 2 smaller ones.

CHICKEN BREASTS WITH VEGETABLE STUFFING
∗ 2 tablespoons olive oil
∗ 1 onion, finely diced
∗ 2 garlic cloves, minced
∗ 4 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
∗ 1 celery rib, thinly sliced
∗ 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
∗ Salt and freshly ground black pepper
∗ 8 chicken breasts, skin on
∗ 1 tablespoon each dried thyme and tarragon
∗ 2 cups dry white wine or chicken stock
∗ Vegetable Stuffing (recipe follows)
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Prepare the vegetable stuffing; cool.

Heat oil in a skillet and sauté the onions, garlic, carrots and celery until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Place the onion mixture in a foil-lined baking pan. Add parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Loosen the skin of each chicken breast and spoon some of the prepared stuffing under the skin, spreading it evenly. Place each stuffed chicken breast on top of the vegetables in the baking pan. Sprinkle thyme, tarragon, salt, pepper and oil on top of the chicken breasts. Pour in wine.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until chicken is tender when pierced with a fork; add liquid during cooking, if needed.

To serve, spoon the vegetables and sauce on heated plates and, using a spatula, place the stuffed chicken breasts on top.
Makes 8 servings.

VEGETABLE STUFFING
∗ 2 tablespoons oil
∗ 1 onion, finely chopped
∗ 3 garlic cloves, minced
∗ 2 ribs celery, finely chopped
∗ 4 large carrots, peeled and grated
∗ 1 large zucchini, unpeeled and grated
∗ 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
∗ 1/4 cup raisins
∗ 2 tablespoons rolled oats
∗ 2 tablespoons flour
∗ 2 tablespoons bread crumbs
∗ 1/2 teaspoon each thyme and tarragon
∗ 2 to 3 tablespoons dry red wine or chicken stock
∗ Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large skillet and sauté onions and garlic until soft. Add celery, carrots, zucchini and parsley; simmer until tender. Add raisins; simmer 5 to 10 minutes. Blend in the oatmeal, flour, bread crumbs, thyme and tarragon, and enough wine to moisten the mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and cook for 5 minutes.

Chicken Breasts With Vegetable Stuffing and Glazed Beets. Photo by Dan Kacvinski

GLAZED BEETS
∗ 2 to 3 pounds small beets, trimmed
∗ 2 tablespoons margarine
∗ 2 tablespoons sugar
∗ 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
∗ Juice of 1 orange
∗ Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place the beets in a saucepan; cover with cold unsalted water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat; reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until barely tender, about 25 minutes. Drain under cold water, slide the skin off each beet and cut into 1/4-inch slices.

In a large skillet, melt the margarine. Stir in sugar, vinegar and orange juice; bring to a boil. Add beets and simmer, shaking the saucepan occasionally, until beets are glazed and the sauce thickens. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Makes 8 servings.

APPLE-MERINGUE TARTLETS
∗ 3 cups flour
∗ 1 teaspoon salt
∗ 2/3 cup powdered sugar
∗ 1 cup unsalted margarine or butter
∗ 6 tablespoons water or nondairy liquid creamer or milk
∗ Glazed Apple Slices (recipe follows)
∗ Meringue (recipe follows)
Preheat oven to 375 F.

Combine flour, salt and powdered sugar in a large mixing bowl. Cut in the margarine until mixture is crumbly. Blend in water until the dough begins to come together. Do not over-mix. Knead the dough into a ball, wrap in waxed paper, and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.

(At this point, the dough can be covered with plastic wrap and foil and stored in the refrigerator or freezer for several days. Bring to room temperature before continuing.)

Divide dough into 4 equal pieces. On lightly floured board, roll each piece to about 1/8-inch thickness.

Cut dough into 3-inch rounds; drape one round over each tartlet pan, gently pressing dough into bottom and up the sides of each pan. Press dough firmly around the edge of the pans; remove scraps. Continue with the remaining pans and dough.

Place a sheet of waxed paper on each tartlet pan, overlapping around the outside. Fill the center of the waxed paper-lined pans with uncooked rice or pie weights. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the sides of the tartlet shells begin to brown. Carefully remove the waxed paper with the rice and continue baking until the bottom of the pastry is lightly browned. Remove from the oven and cool.
Arrange Glazed Apple Slices in concentric circles on each pastry. Top with Meringue. Serve immediately.
Makes 12 to 14 tartlets.

GLAZED APPLE SLICES
∗ 1/2 cup sugar
∗ 2 tablespoons honey
∗ 1/2 cup orange marmalade
∗ 1/2 cup orange juice
∗ Juice and grated zest of 1 lemon
∗ 6 large Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced

Combine sugar, honey, marmalade and orange juice in a large, heavy skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar and marmalade have dissolved. Bring the syrup to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 3 to 4 minutes, just until it begins to thicken.

Place apple slices in a large bowl and toss with lemon juice to prevent them from discoloring. Add the apples and lemon juice to the syrup in the skillet and toss to coat the apples. Simmer, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes, until the apples are soft. Transfer them to a glass bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator. Spoon into baked tartlets pastries.

MERINGUE
∗ 3 egg whites
∗ Salt
∗ 1/2 cup sugar

Beat egg whites with salt in a large mixing bowl until soft peaks form. Add the sugar, a little at a time, beating well until stiff peaks form. Fill a pastry tube, fitted with decorative tip, with the meringue. Cover the glazed apple slices with meringue rosettes. Place under the broiler until meringue is lightly toasted or use a flame torch to lightly toast each tartlet.

MOLDED CHOPPED LIVER TERRINE WITH POMEGRANATE ASPIC
∗ From “The Gourmet Jewish Cook” by Judy Zeidler
∗ 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
∗ 1/4 cup olive oil
∗ 1 pound chicken livers (prepared according to kosher dietary laws)
∗ 4 large mushrooms, thinly sliced
∗ 1 medium apple, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
∗ 2 tablespoons brandy or cognac
∗ 2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
∗ Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
∗ Pomegranate Aspic (recipe follows)

In a large, heavy skillet, sauté onion in oil until lightly browned. Add the livers, mushrooms, apple and sauté, turning the livers on both sides, until lightly browned. (Do not overcook.) Add the brandy and simmer 3 to 4 minutes.

Spoon the mixture into a meat grinder with the eggs and grind into a large bowl, making sure to add the juices from the skillet. Add salt and pepper; stir well. Cover and refrigerate. Or line a mold with plastic wrap, spoon in the liver mixture, cover and refrigerate. The plastic wrap enables you to lift the molded chopped liver out of the bowl and invert onto a serving platter; then remove the plastic wrap. Serve with Pomegranate Aspic and crackers or slices of challah.
Makes about 4 cups.

POMEGRANATE ASPIC
∗ 1/3 cup water
∗ 1/2 cup sugar
∗ 1/4 cup tarragon vinegar
∗ 1 tablespoon frozen orange juice concentrate
∗ 1 1/2 cups pomegranate juice
∗ 1 package plain gelatin

Cook water and sugar over low heat in a heavy saucepan until sugar dissolves and syrup thickens, about 2 minutes. Heat the vinegar, orange juice concentrate and 1 1/4 cups pomegranate juice in a saucepan. Add this to the sugar syrup and blend. Simmer for 10 minutes. Soften the gelatin in the remaining 1/4 cup pomegranate juice. Add to the hot mixture and stir until dissolved. Pour into an 8-by-8-inch glass dish and chill until set. When cold, garnish terrine as desired.
Makes about 2 1/2 cups.

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Entertain With Ease

Stracciatella Gelato Photo by Dan Kacvinski


We love entertaining friends. The process is easy: We check our calendar, pick a date and discuss whom to invite, usually eight to 10 guests. It is fun to mix couples who have the same interests but have never met.

At our last dinner party, we bought white cotton fabric to use as tablecloths and had a large selection of crayons and markers available. We then asked everyone to draw their own place setting. Each guest drew the most amazing artwork, and when they finished, we set the table for dinner. We kept these tablecloths and use them for special events.

There is always a theme for the meal, usually Italian, dairy or seafood. We begin with appetizers in the living room; homemade pizza is always a favorite. Toppings can vary — a classic Pizza Margherita with tomato sauce and cheese or an Onion-Anchovy Pizza, a specialty of the Italian Riviera. I prepare the sautéed onions and the pizza dough a couple of hours in advance. Then I roll out the dough, top it with the onions and anchovies and bake it so it’s hot and crisp when guests arrive.

Because fava beans grow in our vegetable garden at this time of year, we serve them as a first course, often in a cappuccino cup with diced fresh pecorino cheese, olive oil, salt and pepper. For a special treat, combine cannellini beans with salmon caviar; in Europe, it’s called “Rich Man, Poor Man.”

Plan a soup that can be made in advance and heated just before serving, or prepare a salad that can be put together earlier in the day and combined with your favorite dressing just before serving. The Watermelon and Tomato Salad is ideal, as the ingredients can be combined ahead of time and tossed with a balsamic and olive oil at the last minute.

Remember to select your plates for each course, and have them stacked and ready to go.

Although some courses are last-minute, have all the ingredients available and prepped. If serving a pasta dish, have the sauce pre-made; then all you have to do is boil the pasta and combine just before serving. Be sure to heat shallow bowls for the pasta course.

Often we will serve several small plates, similar to a tasting menu, and include a delicious dessert to finish the meal. One of my favorite desserts is Stracciatella Gelato (vanilla chocolate chip). If you don’t have time to make it at home, purchase a good-quality gelato. I always include biscotti that are easy to make and contain no butter or olive oil. Serve them alongside the gelato.

Before our guests leave, I love taking a group photo. Even at the most serious dinner party, the guests become a little rowdy, act silly and make funny faces as they pose. The evening always ends on a happy note.

The next day, a copy of the menu, with the date and guests’ names, is added to a notebook that I have been keeping for more than 30 years. It comes in handy, especially when we are planning our next dinner party and don’t want to duplicate the same dishes for our guests.

All recipes are from “Italy Cooks” by Judy Zeidler.

WATERMELON AND TOMATO SALAD
(From “Italy Cooks” by Judy Zeidler)
Driving down a country road in Italy, we would often come across a stand selling watermelons. You could buy a slice and eat it on the spot or take a whole watermelon home. When we were living in Pietrasanta, there was wild excitement over Italy winning the World Cup. I remember one young man wearing a jersey with red, white and green stripes (the Italian flag) riding his motorcycle while holding a big slice of watermelon (also red, white and green), rubbing it all over his face to express his joy.
3 cups tomatoes, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
3 cups watermelon, cut in 1/2-inch
cubes
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
3 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
to taste
Pomegranate seeds
Gently toss the diced tomatoes, watermelon and basil in a large bowl. Toss with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and salt and pepper just before serving.
Spoon onto salad plates and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
BEANS AND SALMON CAVIAR
This dish, a specialty of Florence, is often called “Rich Man, Poor Man” because beans are considered a poor man’s dish, while caviar, being so expensive, is obviously a rich man’s choice. Whatever you call it, this recipe is an unusual blend of two contrasting flavors and makes a really different appetizer or first course.
2 cups dried cannellini beans
or 2 cans (15 ounces each)
cannellini beans
7 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
to taste
3 ounces beluga, sevruga
or salmon egg caviar
If using dried beans: Soak the beans overnight in a bowl of cold water. The next morning, drain the beans and rinse them under cold running water. Place them in a large, heavy saucepan; add 4 tablespoons olive oil, garlic and rosemary. Add enough cold water to cover the beans by 1 inch. Cover and simmer 1 to 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally, until tender. Add additional water as needed. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cool.

If using canned beans: Place the beans and their liquid in a pot. Add 4 tablespoons olive oil, garlic and rosemary. Add water, if needed, to cover the beans. Cover and simmer 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cool.
To serve: Spoon the cooked beans into individual dishes or cups, drizzle with the remaining 3 tablespoons oil, and top with caviar. Serve cold or room temperature.
Makes about 6 servings.

Spaghetti With Halibut Ragu Photo by Dan Kacvinski

ONION-ANCHOVY PIZZA
In restaurants on the Italian Riviera, a dish called pissaladiere is often served as an antipasto. It consists of a thinly rolled pizza dough topped with a rich and savory mixture of slow-cooked onions and garlic, garnished with pungent anchovies and olives, and drizzled with olive oil. This is a great way to wake up your taste buds.
Basic Pizza Dough (recipe follows)
5 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds (3 large) onions, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
to taste
1 can (2-ounces) anchovy fillets,
drained
1 cup chopped olives (optional)
Preheat oven to 450 F.
Prepare the Basic Pizza Dough.
Heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally to avoid sticking. Do not allow onions to brown.

Roll out pizza dough. Place onion mixture on the pizza round. Arrange anchovies in a circular pattern. Add olives on top, if desired. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil.
Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
Makes 12 servings.

BASIC PIZZA DOUGH
Prepare this basic pizza dough, roll it out, and select your own toppings: sliced onions, anchovies, sliced mushrooms, sliced zucchini, oven-baked tomatoes, roasted peppers cut into strips. This recipe also serves as a base for Pizza Margherita.
2 packages active dry yeast
Pinch sugar
1 1/4 cups warm water (110-115 F)
Olive oil
3 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
Cornmeal
Dissolve the yeast with the sugar in 1/2 cup warm water; set aside until foamy. In a large mixing bowl, combine the remaining 3/4 cup water, 1/4 cup olive oil and yeast mixture.
Combine the flour and salt, and stir this mixture into the yeast mixture, 1 cup at a time, until the dough begins to come together in a rough ball.

Place dough on a floured board and knead until smooth and elastic, then place in an oiled bowl, brush oil on top of dough, cover, and set in a warm place to rise for about 1 hour, until doubled in bulk.
Punch down the dough and break off golf ball-size pieces to make 8- to 10-inch or individual pizzas. Knead each piece of dough on a floured board for 2 or 3 minutes, working in additional flour to make it smooth and no longer sticky. Roll dough out into a thin circle. Brush a round pizza baking pan with olive oil, dust with cornmeal, and arrange the rolled-out dough on top. Spread with assorted toppings.
Makes 3 or 4 pizzas, depending on size.

SPAGHETTI WITH HALIBUT RAGU
I drew inspiration for this spaghetti dish from a seafood pasta we were served at Osteria da Fiore in Venice.
1/2 pound string beans, ends trimmed
Coarse salt
1/2 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
10 anchovy fillets, mashed
2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and
chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 pound halibut fillets, cut in 1-inch
cubes
1 tablespoon minced parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
to taste
1 pound spaghetti
Drop string beans into a large pot of boiling, salted water, and simmer until tender. Drain, reserving water for pasta, and set string beans aside.

Heat olive oil and garlic in a large skillet over medium-high heat; add anchovies. Lower heat to medium-low and cook, stirring until smooth, about a minute. Add the string beans and tomatoes and cook, stirring until tomatoes soften. Add wine and simmer until alcohol evaporates; then add halibut and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes. Add a little water, if necessary, to keep sauce moist. Stir in parsley and salt and pepper to taste.

Bring reserved cooking water to a boil, add spaghetti and boil until tender but firm; drain well. Add spaghetti to sauce in skillet and toss to coat. Serve immediately.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.

VANILLA CHOCOLATE CHIP ICE CREAM
(STRACCIATELLA GELATO)
This recipe, from our first trip to Italy, has become my signature gelato. It is always there in my freezer to be enjoyed — day and night. The milk makes it light, and the eggs help make it creamy. Serve it with biscotti, and top with chocolate sauce for serious chocolate lovers.
Although you can use vanilla extract, a plump, fragrant vanilla bean yields the best flavor. When buying the beans, make sure the exteriors are black and appear moist — signs of freshness.
2 cups milk
1 cup sugar
2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise,
or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
7 egg yolks
Ice water (for cooling custard)
2 cups whipping cream
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted
Combine milk with 1/2 cup sugar in a medium heavy saucepan over medium heat; bring to a boil, mixing until sugar is dissolved. Turn off heat, add vanilla beans, cover, and let steep 5 minutes. (If using vanilla extract, add it later, when adding the whipping cream.) Remove vanilla bean and scrape seeds into milk mixture. Stir until seeds separate; then add pods.

Beat egg yolks and the remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl using a wire whisk or an electric mixer; mix until light and fluffy. Pour heated milk mixture in a slow stream into egg mixture; blend well. Pour egg mixture back into saucepan with milk mixture, mixing to blend well. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, to just below the boiling point (170-180 F), about 5 minutes. Pour custard into a fine strainer suspended over a large bowl set over a larger bowl filled with ice water. Scrape up thickened cream that settles on bottom of pan. Add whipping cream (and vanilla extract, if using), and mix until cooled. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold.

Freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. When mixture is very cold and thick and machine is still running, pour in warm melted chocolate in a thin stream. The chocolate will quickly harden and break up into small pieces. Continue to freeze ice cream. Spoon into plastic containers, cover, and freeze until ready to serve.
Makes about 3 pints.

TWICE BAKED ALMOND COOKIES
(BISCOTTI ALLE MANDORLE)
From “Italy Cooks” by Judy Zeidler
Known as cantucci in parts of Italy, these almond cookies are baked twice, resulting in a crisp, flavorful biscuit. This recipe is versatile. You can substitute some whole-wheat flour for the white. Possible additions include chocolate chips, poppy seeds or dried fruit.
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
3/4 cup ground toasted unpeeled almonds
1/2 cup whole toasted unpeeled almonds
2 whole eggs plus 1 egg white
1/2 teaspoon anise or almond extract
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
Oil
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Place the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and fennel seeds in a mound on a floured board. Surround the outside of the mound with the ground and whole almonds. Make a well in the center. Place the eggs, anise and vanilla in the well. Beat the sugar into the whole eggs, blending well. Quickly beat the egg mixture with a fork, gradually incorporating the flour and almonds to make a smooth dough.

Divide the dough into 3 to 4 portions. With lightly oiled hands, shape each portion into an oval loaf shape. Place the loaves 2 inches apart on greased baking sheets. Brush with the egg white.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove the loaves from the oven, use a metal spatula to transfer them to a cutting board, and cut them into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Place the slices cut side down on the same baking sheet and return them to the oven. Leave the biscotti in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes per side or until golden brown. Transfer to racks and cool completely. Store in plastic containers.
Makes about 6 dozen.

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BBQ Cook-Off


Recently we had guests over for dinner and the conversation turned to how to achieve the best backyard barbecue. Fortunately, several of the people were serious home chefs who love to cook.
Two of our foodie friends, Lou and Stephen, got into a heated conversation about how they prepare meat or fish, how long it takes to fire up the barbecue, different spices to use, and the effort it takes to make a successful barbecue.

After much discussion, we all came to the conclusion that there should be a cook-off. Lou and Stephen both chose to barbecue salmon — Lou opted for Cedar Plank Salmon with veggies, while Stephen marinated his salmon in a sealable storage bag with peanut oil and whiskey.
Salmon is very versatile — it can be cooked whole, cut as either a boneless fillet or a steak, and has the texture needed to hold together during the grilling process. It also has a range of flavor from rich to mild, and can take on a char without losing its unique taste.

We chose a date and location for the cook-off. Guests were required to bring side dishes — roasted peppers with anchovies, potato salad, coleslaw, corn on the cob, beans and an array of salads. For dessert, I volunteered an olive oil cake, a recipe by Dario Cecchini, the famous Tuscan butcher from Italy whom I feature in my new cookbook, “Italy Cooks.” This is the only dessert he serves in his Ristorante Solo Ciccia.

After dinner, each guest was asked to choose the best barbecue chef. Ballots were handed out and we were asked to vote on two categories — taste and presentation. An impartial judge tallied the votes in what turned out to be very close competition. Stephen was the winner in the taste category, and Lou won for best presentation.

PEPPERONI ARROSTITI CON ACCIUGHE
∗ (Roasted Peppers With Anchovies) (From “Italy Cooks” by Judy Zeidler)
∗ 4 to 6 firm, crisp red, yellow or green bell peppers
∗ 2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
∗ Olive oil
∗ 1 jar or can (2 ounces) anchovy fillets
∗ Parsley sprigs for garnish
Preheat the oven to 425 or 450 F.

Place a large sheet of foil on the lower rack of the oven. Place the peppers on the rack above, in the middle or top of the oven. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the skin has puffed and darkened slightly on top. Turn each pepper over and continue baking 10 to 15 minutes longer.

Remove the peppers from the oven, and while they are still warm, carefully peel off the skins. Pull out the stems and discard the seeds. Cut the peppers into segments that follow their natural ridges. Layer the peppers in a bowl with their juices, the garlic and enough oil to cover. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. When ready to serve, arrange the peppers on a serving dish and garnish with anchovies and sprigs of parsley. Or place an anchovy fillet in the center of each segment, roll up and place a toothpick in the center.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

CLASSIC CREAMY COLESLAW
The delicious dressing is prepared with only three ingredients — mayonnaise, sugar and lemon juice. It is best prepared no more than two hours before serving.
∗ 1 cup Mayonnaise Sauce (recipe follows)
∗ 1 large head green cabbage (about 2 pounds), cored and shredded
∗ 2 large carrots, shredded

Prepare Mayonnaise Sauce, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use.
In a large bowl, combine cabbage and carrots. Toss with Mayonnaise Sauce, cover with plastic wrap, and chill.

Makes 8 servings.

MAYONNAISE SAUCE
∗ 1 cup mayonnaise
∗ 2 tablespoons sugar
∗ 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
∗ Salt to taste
∗ Freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a small bowl, blend together mayonnaise, sugar, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap, and chill. This will keep for several days in the refrigerator.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

BEST-EVER POTATO SALAD
Potato salad can always come to the rescue at party time, as it can be made ahead and served with so many dishes, from sandwiches to entrees. I add lots of crunchy, colorful vegetables to a classic recipe to perk up the potato flavor.
∗ 12 small red-skinned potatoes (2 1/2 to 3 pounds)
∗ 1 tablespoon kosher salt
∗ 1 1/2 cups diced celery
∗ 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
∗ 1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
∗ 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
∗ 4 hard-cooked eggs, coarsely chopped
∗ 1 cup mayonnaise
∗ 4 green onions, finely sliced (1/2 cup)
∗ 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
∗ Salt to taste
∗ Freshly ground black pepper to taste
∗ Red and yellow bell pepper slices for garnish
∗ 1/2 cup minced chives for garnish

Scrub potatoes well with a vegetable brush, but do not peel.
In a large heavy pot, cover potatoes with cold water. Add kosher salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, cover, reduce heat, and simmer until tender when tested with the tip of a knife, 15 to 20 minutes (remove smaller potatoes first to prevent overcooking). Cool and dice.

In a large bowl, combine potatoes, celery, diced bell peppers and hard-cooked eggs. Add just enough mayonnaise to moisten ingredients; toss gently. Add green onions and parsley; season to taste with salt and pepper, and toss again. Garnish with red and yellow bell pepper slices and chives.
Makes 10 to 12 servings.

LOU’S CEDAR PLANK SALMON
∗ Dry Rub (recipe follows)
∗ 4 center-cut salmon fillets with skin (4 ounces each), cut 3/4 inch to 1 inch thick
∗ 2 teaspoons salt
∗ 2 carrots, peeled, quartered lengthwise and cut crosswise into four pieces
∗ 2 medium red potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
∗ 1 red bell pepper, seeded, deveined, and cut into 1-by-4-inch pieces
∗ 4 white button mushrooms, cleaned and trimmed
∗ Juice of 1 lemon
∗ 2 teaspoons olive oil
∗ 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
∗ 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
∗ 2 cloves garlic, minced
∗ 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (optional)
∗ Lemon slices for garnish

Prepare Dry Rub.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Sprinkle both sides of salmon with rub, about 3/4 teaspoon per piece; rub seasoning into salmon. Place 2 salmon fillets on their sides, with the skin back-to-back, on the prepared baking sheet, repeat with remaining 2 salmon fillets, and refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 2 hours and up to 12 hours.

Soak the cedar plank in water for 3 or 4 hours. Light charcoal in barbecue and move the charcoal to the sides. Place a drip pan in the center.

Prepare an ice-water bath.
Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil; add 1 teaspoon salt. Add carrots, and cook for 1 minute. With a slotted spoon, transfer carrots to ice-water bath. Place potatoes in a separate small saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer potatoes to ice-water bath. When vegetables are cool, drain and reserve.

Transfer the salmon fillets, with the skin still back-to-back, onto center of cedar plank. In a medium bowl, combine carrots, potatoes, bell pepper and mushrooms. Add 2 teaspoons lemon juice, oil, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, parsley and garlic; toss to combine. Transfer vegetables to cedar plank, surrounding salmon. Sprinkle with remaining lemon juice.

Transfer plank to barbecue over the drip tray. Cook salmon for 8 minutes. Remove from barbecue. Turn salmon over, and return to barbecue. Cook for an additional 6 to 8 minutes, until internal temperature of salmon reaches 120 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.

Remove salmon from barbecue. Serve directly on plank or transfer to plates. Brush with melted butter, if desired. Garnish with lemon slices, and serve immediately.
Makes 4 servings.

DRY RUB
∗ 1 tablespoon paprika
∗ 1 tablespoon coarse salt
∗ 2 teaspoons lemon pepper
∗ 2 teaspoons light brown sugar
∗ 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
∗ 1 teaspoon dried crumbled tarragon leaves
∗ 1 teaspoon dried crumbled basil leaves
Combine all ingredients and set aside.

STEPHEN’S BARBECUED SALMON
∗ 3/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
∗ 1/4 cup Jack Daniel’s whiskey
∗ 2 tablespoons peanut oil
∗ 2 pounds salmon fillets, skin on 1 large sealable storage bag

In a medium bowl, mix soy sauce, whiskey and oil. Place salmon in the sealable storage bag, pour the marinade into the bag, seal, and place in the refrigerator.

After 2 to 3 hours, turn the bag over, and return it to the refrigerator for another 2 to 3 hours.
Remove the salmon from the bag, drain and dispose of the marinade (do not reuse).

Place salmon on grill or barbecue, skin side down, and grill over medium-hot fire for 6 to 8 minutes per side, or until it is opaque throughout or is the doneness you desire.
Makes 4 servings.

ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: DARIO’S OLIVE OIL CAKE AT SOLO CICCIA (SOLOCICCIA TORTA ALL’OLIO)
Solociccia (Only Meat) is the name of Dario’s ristorante, and when he opened it, this was the dessert that he served. One of Dario’s chefs, Simonetta, makes this cake every day; in sharing this recipe, she said the last ingredient is “love for what you are doing.”
∗ Olive oil
∗ 1/4 cup ground almonds
∗ 5 eggs
∗ 2 oranges, finely chopped (pulp and peel)
∗ 4 cups flour
∗ 2 teaspoons baking powder
∗ 1/2 cup raisins, plumped in Vin Santo (an Italian dessert wine) to cover 2 hours or overnight (and slightly drained)
∗ 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Brush a 10- or 12-inch spring form pan with olive oil and dust with ground almonds.
Beat the eggs with 2 cups sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add orange peel and pulp and blend well. Slowly add 1/2 cup olive oil alternately with flour and baking powder, and mix until smooth. Fold in raisins.

Let rest for 10 minutes, stirring from time to time. The oil is light, but tends to separate from the batter; mix well.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, level it, and top it with a little sugar, a little olive oil and pine nuts. Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes.
Makes 12 servings.

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Especially for Mom

Mini Pecan Schnecken Photo by Dan Kacvinski

We all have memories of how Mom made us feel special and loved beyond compare. This month, it’s time to return the favor.

If your mom, or the mother in your life, likes breakfast in bed, then by all means surprise her before she gets up on Mother’s Day (Sunday, May 13) with a tray filled with her favorite breakfast dishes.

If she likes french toast, she is going to love my Best French Toast recipe. Thick slices of bread are drenched in a flavored egg mixture and sautéed in butter until crisp and golden outside and luxuriously soft inside. They are served with homemade preserves and a dusting of powdered sugar.
For blintzes, I’ve included two fillings to choose from. The classic hoop cheese or farmer’s cheese version can be served with bowls of sour cream and preserves. The Italian-style ricotta and spinach filling is served with her favorite marinara sauce.
A favorite of mine is the Smoked Salmon and Caviar Omelet, unabashedly conceived with decadence in mind. We serve it in my home with toasted bagels, and — for the perfect festive touch — champagne, especially for this special day.
I often use an old Swedish-style skillet with shallow wells when making whole-wheat pancakes. When the butter bubbles and the batter is poured in, these mini pancakes become crispy around the edges. Serve with maple syrup and/or preserves.
For something different this year, try fresh homemade ricotta cheese topped with honey. The recipe is from my new cookbook, “Italy Cooks,” and it takes minutes to make, about as long as it takes to bring milk to a boil.
When I lived on a ranch in Topanga Canyon and invited guests for Sunday brunch almost every week, I got the idea for Mini Pecan Schnecken, or German sticky buns. These take some time to prepare, but can be done in steps over one or two days. They keep well in the freezer, if wrapped properly, and taste freshly baked when reheated before serving. They can also be made into larger pecan rolls, but I prefer making the smaller variety in mini-muffin pans.

THE BEST FRENCH TOAST
4 thick slices (1 1/2 to 2 inches) challah
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
3/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Powdered sugar and preserves of choice for toppings
Cut each slice of bread in half into a triangular shape.
Blend eggs, 1 tablespoon powdered sugar, milk and orange zest in a large bowl. Place each slice of bread into the egg mixture and let soak on both sides until the bread absorbs the egg mixture.

Heat butter over medium-high heat in a large nonstick skillet and fry bread until golden brown on both sides and egg mixture is cooked, about 5 minutes. Arrange on heated serving plates, sprinkle with additional powdered sugar, and top with a spoonful of preserves.

Makes 2 servings.

CLASSIC CHEESE BLINTZES
Hoop Cheese Filling or Ricotta-
Spinach Filling (recipes follow)
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
Unsalted butter
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose
flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
Sour cream and preserves
for toppings, or marinara sauce
Prepare the filling of your choice, cover with plastic wrap, and chill.
Beat eggs in a large bowl with an electric mixer. Add milk, 1 tablespoon melted butter, sugar, flour and salt, and blend well. Pass through a fine strainer to remove any lumps that form.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in an 8-inch skillet or crepe pan over medium heat. When butter begins to bubble, pour in about 2 tablespoons of batter to cover the bottom of the pan with a thin layer. Rotate the pan quickly to spread batter as thin as possible. Cook on one side until the edges begin to brown, about 1 minute. Turn onto a tea towel and transfer to a platter. Repeat with the remaining batter and stack blintzes with waxed paper between each. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to fill.

Fill the browned side of each blintz with the prepared filling, and fold, tucking ends in.

In a nonstick skillet, heat 3 tablespoons butter. Cook blintzes on both sides until lightly browned, 2 or 3 minutes on each side. Carefully transfer blintzes with a metal spatula to serving plates. Serve with bowls of sour cream and preserves or with marinara sauce.

Makes about 2 dozen.

HOOP CHEESE
FILLING
2 pounds hoop cheese
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
Mix together all ingredients in a large bowl until blended. Cover with plastic wrap, and chill until ready to assemble the blintzes.
Makes about 3 cups.

RICOTTA-SPINACH FILLING
1 pound fresh ricotta cheese
1/2 pound spinach, steamed,
drained and chopped
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black
pepper to taste
Place ricotta cheese in a strainer for 30 minutes to drain water. In a large bowl, mix drained ricotta with remaining ingredients. Cover with plastic wrap, and chill until ready to assemble the blintzes.

Makes about 3 cups.

SMOKED SALMON AND CAVIAR OMELET
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
3 slices smoked salmon (lox), cut
into pieces
3 eggs, lightly beaten
Salt and freshly ground black
pepper to taste
1 jar (3 ounces) salmon caviar
Heat butter in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and sauté green onions, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add smoked salmon and sauté 1 minute. Pour eggs into the onion mixture and cook until they begin to set around the edges. Gently stir the egg mixture with a spoon, starting from the edge, until it is cooked through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon onto heated plates and top with caviar.

Makes 2 servings.

WHOLE-WHEAT PANCAKES
1/2 cup unbleached
all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup milk
Unsalted butter
Blend both flours, baking powder, sugar and salt in a large bowl, using a wire whisk or an electric mixer. Beat egg, milk and 2 tablespoons melted butter in a small bowl. Add to flour mixture, and stir until moistened.

Preheat a skillet or griddle to 425 F. Add additional butter, melt until bubbly, and brush to evenly coat surface, adding more if needed. Pour in batter (about 1/3 cup for an 8-inch pancake or 2 tablespoons for a 2-inch pancake). When bottom is browned and bubbles form on top, about 1 1/2 minutes, turn pancakes with a metal spatula and cook until bottom is golden brown, about 1/2 minute. Repeat procedure until all the batter is used, keeping cooked pancakes warm in the oven.

Makes about 2 dozen 2-inch or 8 8-inch pancakes.

HOMEMADE FRESH RICOTTA WITH HONEY
1/2 gallon whole milk
1 cup cream
2 teaspoons salt
6 tablespoons lemon juice
Honey for topping
Heat the milk, cream and salt in a heavy saucepan over medium heat until it is about to boil. Add the lemon juice, stir once, and remove from the heat when mixture begins to curdle. Let curds rest for a minute or two. Using a slotted spoon, skim the ricotta curds from the whey and place them in a colander or wire sieve lined with cheesecloth. Drain for 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, with a drizzle of honey.

Makes about 1 pound.

MINI PECAN SCHNECKEN
1 package active dry yeast
Sugar
1/4 cup warm water (110-115 F)
2 cups unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 cup sour cream
3 1/2 cups flour
Cooking oil
2 to 3 cups pecan halves, toasted
Brown Sugar Glaze (recipe follows)
Pecan Filling (recipe follows)
Dissolve the yeast with a pinch of sugar in the warm water. Let it stand until foamy, 2 to 3 minutes.

Cream 1 cup softened butter in the large bowl of an electric mixer. Add 1/3 cup sugar and beat until fluffy. Blend in the salt, eggs, sour cream and yeast mixture. Continue beating until the batter is smooth. Add the flour, about 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Brush the top of the dough with 2 tablespoons oil, and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Refrigerate overnight. Remove the dough from the refrigerator, and let it rise in a warm place for 2 hours.

Brush muffin pans with oil and place 2 pecan halves, flat sides up, in each well. Spoon 1 heaping teaspoon of the Brown Sugar Glaze over the pecans in each well. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Divide the dough into 6 parts; roll out each part on a lightly floured board into a rectangle (4 inches wide, 12 inches long, 1/2 inch thick). Brush with 1 cup melted butter, and sprinkle generously with the Pecan Filling. Roll up the dough lengthwise, jellyroll fashion, and place it seam side down. Cut into 1-inch-thick slices. Place a slice inside each prepared well (cut side up). Cover and let rise in a warm place about 45 minutes.
Place a large sheet of foil on the bottom rack of the oven to catch any glaze that may flow over the sides of the pan. Bake the schnecken for about 12 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven, turn out onto a platter immediately, lift the muffin tin off slowly, and allow the glaze to flow down over the rolls.
NOTE: If preparing in advance, wrap the cooled rolls in aluminum foil, sealing well. Place them in plastic bags, and freeze.
Makes about 6 dozen.

BROWN SUGAR GLAZE
3/4 cup unsalted butter
or margarine
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
1/4 cup water
Combine the butter, brown sugar and water in a saucepan, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 3 to 4 minutes. Set aside.

PECAN FILLING
1 cup golden or dark seedless
raisins, plumped
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 cups pecans, toasted
and coarsely chopped
Combine the raisins, sugar, cinnamon and pecans in a bowl, and mix well. Cover and set aside.

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Position yourself for Passover’s traditions

Grandma Gene’s Gefilte Fish. Photo courtesy of Judy Zeidler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

YEMENITE CHAROSET

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

Blend the dates, figs, ginger, coriander, chili pepper, matzah meal and wine in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the knife blade. Mix in sesame seeds and transfer to a glass bowl. Roll into 1-inch balls or serve in a bowl.

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

Makes about 1 1/2 cups or 12 balls.

GRANDMA GENE’S GEFILTE FISH

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

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

Prepare the Fish Broth and keep warm.

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

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

Makes 24 small fish balls.

FISH BROTH

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

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

Makes about 4 cups.

CLASSIC CHICKEN SOUP WITH MINI MATZAH BALLS

2 whole chickens (3 pounds each), tied with string
3 medium onions, peeled and diced
3 to 4 quarts water (water to cover)
16 small carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
5 celery stalks with tops, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
8 parsley sprigs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Mini Matzah Balls (recipe follows)

Place the chickens, onions and enough water to cover in a large, heavy Dutch oven or pot. Bring to a boil over high heat and, using a large spoon, skim off the scum that rises to the top. Add the carrots, celery, parsnips and parsley. Cover, leaving the lid ajar, and simmer for 1 hour. Add salt and pepper to taste. Uncover and simmer 30 minutes more.

With a slotted spoon, remove chickens, and let the soup cool to room temperature; then refrigerate.

When ready to serve, remove the fat that has hardened on the top, bring the soup to a boil, add Mini Matzah Balls and simmer. Ladle into heated soup bowls.

Makes about 12 servings.

MINI MATZAH BALLS

These tiny matzah balls were inspired by an Italian technique for making the small flour-and-potato dumplings known as gnocchi: The dumpling mixture is spooned into a pastry bag and piped directly into the hot soup.

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

Put the egg yolks, water, salt and pepper in a small bowl and beat with a fork. Set aside.

Beat the egg whites in a large mixing bowl until they form stiff peaks; do not overbeat. Gently fold the yolk mixture alternately with the matzah meal into the egg whites until well blended, using only enough matzah meal to make a light, firm dough.

For each matzah ball, drop a tablespoon of mixture into rapidly boiling soup. (Or spoon this mixture into a pastry bag with a 1/2-inch round tube opening. Hold the bag over the simmering soup and squeeze out the dough in 1-inch lengths, cutting them off at the tip of the tube with a sharp knife.) Cover and simmer 10 minutes. Do not uncover during this cooking time.

Makes 16 mini or 12 large matzah balls.

ROASTED LAMB SHANKS

4 meaty lamb shanks, about 1 pound each
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup olive oil
2 onions
2 carrots, peeled and cut into pieces
2 stalks celery, cut into pieces
1 head of garlic, separated into cloves, unpeeled
1 can (14.5 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes, chopped, with liquid
1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
1 cup red wine
8 sprigs fresh rosemary

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Trim any excess fat from lamb shanks. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat olive oil in a large roasting pan, add lamb shanks and brown on all sides. Remove from pan and add the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, undrained tomatoes and tomato paste. Bring to a simmer and add lamb shanks. Add wine and simmer for 10 minutes. Top with sprigs of rosemary, baste with sauce, cover and bake for 2 to 3 hours, until meat is falling away from the bone.

Arrange on a large serving plate and let guests help themselves.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

PASSOVER CHOCOLATE MARBLE CAKE WITH CHOCOLATE GLAZE

Passover Chocolate Marble Cake With Chocolate Glaze. Photo by Dan Kacvinski


1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup oil
6 eggs, separated
1/2 cup potato starch
1/2 cup matzah cake meal
1/2 cup apple juice, wine or water
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup strong hot coffee or water
Chocolate Glaze (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 325 F.

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

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

In a small bowl, mix together the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, cocoa and coffee and fold mixture into the reserved batter.

Pour the 2 batters alternately (about 1 cup at a time) into a 10-inch tube pan. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until the cake springs back to the touch and a toothpick inserted in it comes out dry. Remove the cake from the oven, immediately invert the pan and let it cool. Loosen the sides and center of the cake with a sharp knife and unmold it onto a cake plate. Drizzle the Chocolate Glaze over the cake.

Makes about 12 servings.

CHOCOLATE GLAZE

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

Place chocolate, marmalade and espresso in the top of a double boiler over simmering water (or melt in a microwave). Using a wire whisk, beat until smooth.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

GRAPE TRUFFLES

8 ounces Passover semisweet chocolate, melted
2 cups seedless grapes (white or red), rinsed and completely dried
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Line a large glass dish or baking sheet with wax paper and set aside.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over simmering water or in a microwave until almost melted with small lumps. Using a wire whisk, beat until smooth and beginning to thicken.

Using a small spoon, dip each grape in the melted chocolate and place on wax paper-lined dish. Chill in the refrigerator. When chocolate has hardened, remove grapes from refrigerator, toss or roll in cocoa powder, and return to wax paper-lined dish. To serve, arrange on a doily-covered platter.

Makes about 3 dozen.

ALMOND MACAROONS

3 egg whites
2/3 cup sugar
5 tablespoons matzah cake meal
1 1/4 cups unpeeled ground almonds
Pinch salt
Grated peel of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 325 F.

Line a baking sheet with foil or a silicone baking mat; brush with oil and set aside.

Beat whites until stiff, not dry. Combine sugar, matzah cake meal, ground almonds, salt and lemon peel in a large mixing bowl and fold into beaten egg whites. Drop batter by teaspoonfuls or from pastry bag onto prepared baking sheet, 2 inches apart. Bake in preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes about 24 cookies.

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Passover’s Just Desserts

Baking desserts during Passover is a challenge. No leavened foods may be used — nor any leavening ingredients, such as flour, grains, cornstarch, baking powder or baking soda. The baker must substitute matzah meal, potato starch and egg whites to obtain a high-rising dessert.


Lemon Meringue Pie. Photos by Dan Kacvinski

Dietary laws covering Passover are strict, and some of them make baking complicated, but the good news is that it is not difficult. Hopefully, these recipes will be a welcome addition during the eight days of Passover, which begin this year on Friday, April 6.

Today’s Passover desserts and confections are more exciting than the predictable sponge cakes and macaroons we remember from our childhood, and these updated versions of old favorites are also perfect for snacking and dining throughout the Passover holiday.

All of these recipes produce delicious results and are fairly simple to make. They will be a welcome addition to your seder, as well as to family meals, and to the brown-bag lunches that many 9-to-5ers will carry during the holiday.

Some Jewish households do not use matzah meal or cake meal, so I have developed a Spicy Almond Sponge Cake that rises to great heights with the help of egg whites and potato starch. Almonds, lots of spices and a glossy chocolate glaze make it extra-special.

You will want to try the Hazelnut Sponge Cake, a delicious, flavorful blend of orange, hazelnuts and chocolate. And a different take on the traditional Florentine Cookies are Crisp Thins, easy to make and the dough can be prepared several days in advance.

For guests who drop in during the holiday, serve a glass of kosher wine or a cup of tea, and pass a plate of Rocky Road Bonbons for another sweet treat. I absolutely love preparing these chocolate clusters. They are fun to make, and knowing the pleasure they bring to everyone when I serve them just makes me happy! The chocolate is melted, poured into a bowl, and tossed with toasted farfel, mini-marshmallows and toasted pecans.

Another of my family’s favorites is Lemon Meringue Pie — yes, the real thing. Hardly anyone thinks of making Passover pies, but this simple recipe, which combines a nutty crust, tangy lemon custard and meringue, is a winner.

And visit Tribe online for a bonus recipe, which I refer to as Charoset Fruit Cake, a combination of dried fruits and nuts that reminds me of the charoset we serve during our seder service.

SPICY ALMOND SPONGE CAKE WITH CHOCOLATE GLAZE
∗ 8 eggs
∗ 1 1/2 cups sugar
∗ 3 tablespoons orange juice
∗ Peel of 1 orange
∗ 3/4 cup potato starch
∗ Pinch salt
∗ 1/4 cup ground almonds
∗ 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
∗ 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
∗ 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
∗ Chocolate Glaze (recipe follows)
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Separate 7 eggs; set whites aside. In a large bowl, beat together the egg yolks and the 1 whole egg until light. Gradually add sugar and continue beating until well blended and light in color. Blend in orange juice and peel.

Combine potato starch, salt, almonds, ground ginger, cinnamon and cloves. Blend potato starch mixture into the egg yolk mixture.

Beat egg whites until stiff in a large bowl. Fold 1/4 of egg white mixture into the egg yolk mixture. Fold remaining egg whites into the egg yolk mixture. Pour the batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan.

Bake for 50 minutes or until cake springs back to touch and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven, invert pan immediately, and let cool. With a sharp knife, loosen the cake from the sides and center of the tube pan. Remove cake from pan, and transfer to a serving platter. Drizzle Chocolate Glaze on top and down sides of cake.
Makes 12 servings.

CHOCOLATE GLAZE
∗ 8 ounces semisweet Passover chocolate, coarsely chopped
∗ 1/4 to 1/2 cup espresso
∗ coffee, cold
∗ 1/2 cup apricot or strawberry
∗ preserves, strained
Combine chocolate, coffee and preserves in the top of a double boiler over simmering water. Mix constantly with a wire whisk until the mixture is melted and well blended. (Or heat in a microwave oven until chocolate is melted.) Transfer to a glass bowl and cool. As it cools, it will thicken. Drizzle over cake or serve hot as a sauce.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

HAZELNUT SPONGE CAKE
∗ 7 eggs, separated
∗ 1 1/3 cups sugar
∗ 1/2 cup orange juice
∗ 2 tablespoons grated
∗ orange zest
∗ 1/2 cup matzah cake meal
∗ 1/2 cup potato starch
∗ 3/4 cup ground hazelnuts, toasted
∗ 3 tablespoons chopped
∗ semisweet Passover
∗ chocolate
∗ Pinch salt
∗ Chocolate Glaze (optional)
Preheat oven to 325 F.
Beat the egg yolks and 1 cup of the sugar in a large bowl with an electric or hand mixer until light in color and texture. Add the orange juice and grated orange zest and blend well. Gradually blend in the matzah cake meal, potato starch, hazelnuts and chocolate. Beat the egg whites and salt until foamy. Gradually add remaining 1/3 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff enough to hold a peak. Gently fold them into the yolk mixture. Pour the batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan.

Bake for 1 hour, or until the cake springs back to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven, invert pan immediately, let cool. With a sharp knife, loosen the cake from the sides and center of the tube pan. Remove cake from pan, and transfer to a serving platter. Drizzle with Chocolate Glaze, if desired.
Makes about 12 servings.

PASSOVER CRISP THINS
∗ 1 1/2 cups chopped toasted
∗ pistachio nuts
∗ 3/4 cup sugar
∗ 3 1/2 tablespoons matzah
∗ cake meal
∗ 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted
∗ margarine, melted
∗ 1/4 cup orange juice
∗ 2 tablespoons Passover
∗ concord grape wine
Preheat oven to 325 F.
Combine pistachio nuts, sugar and matzah cake meal in a large bowl, and mix well using an electric mixer. Add melted margarine, orange juice and wine, and mix until evenly moistened. Transfer to a bowl and chill until mixture is firm, about 1 hour.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Using a rounded teaspoon of dough, form batter into discs, each one the size of a quarter; arrange on prepared baking sheet, leaving 2 inches between cookies.
Bake until well browned, about 10 to 12 minutes. Cool completely and carefully peel each cookie off the foil. Gently transfer cookies to racks in a single layer. Let cool completely.
Makes about 8 dozen cookies.

ROCKY ROAD BONBONS

∗ 8 ounces semisweet Passover chocolate, cut into pieces (do not use dipping chocolate)
∗ 1/2 cup diced Passover marshmallows
∗ 1/2 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
∗ 1/2 cup toasted matzah farfel
Place chocolate pieces in top of double boiler over simmering water (or in a microwave oven) and melt, mixing until smooth.

Combine the melted chocolate, marshmallows, pecans and farfel in a large mixing bowl and mix well. Line a baking sheet with wax paper and spoon mixture in small mounds onto the wax paper, or fill ruffled paper candy cups.

Refrigerate until set. Transfer to a large platter and serve.
Makes about 36 bonbons.

LEMON MERINGUE PIE
∗ 1 Pie Crust (recipe follows)
∗ 3 eggs, separated
∗ 1 cup plus 6 tablespoons sugar
∗ 1/4 cup Passover potato starch
∗ 1/4 teaspoon salt
∗ Grated peel of 1 lemon
∗ 1/2 cup lemon juice
∗ 1 1/2 cups warm water
Bake Pie Crust; set aside.
Place egg yolks, 1 cup sugar, potato starch, salt, lemon peel and lemon juice in a large saucepan. Beat well and cook over medium heat until mixture thickens. Add water, blending thoroughly, and continue cooking until clear and thick, 5 to 10 minutes. Cool.

In a large mixing bowl, beat egg whites until foamy, add remaining 6 tablespoons sugar and beat until stiff peaks form; spoon into a pastry bag.

Spoon lemon filling into Pie Crust. Pipe meringue on top. Place in a preheated broiler, until lightly browned, watching carefully so the meringue does not burn.
Makes 8 to 10 servings.

PIE CRUST
∗ 2 cups walnuts or pecans
∗ 3 tablespoons sugar
∗ 3 tablespoons unsalted margarine
∗ 1/3 cup matzah cake meal
Preheat oven to 400 F.
Place walnuts in food processor and process until finely ground. Add sugar, margarine and matzah cake meal; blend until mixture comes together. Place in shallow 10- or 11-inch pie pan, pressing mixture evenly on bottom and up the sides. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool.
Makes 1 pie crust.

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Poppy seed pleasures

Clockwise from top: Poppy Seed Cheesecake, Purim Seed Crisps, Poppy Seed Hazelnut Cookies, Korjas (Crisp Poppy Seed Thins). Photo by Dan Kacvinski

It all began with Queen Esther, the heroine of the Purim story, who became a vegan when she married King Ahasuerus and moved into the palace. She favored fruits, beans and grains in her diet, and legend has it that poppy seed pastries were her favorite.

Over time, I have developed desserts inspired by the traditional poppy seed hamantaschen that are served during Purim, and my family celebrates the holiday with a variety of Purim desserts, which are either filled with poppy seeds or include poppy seeds in the batter.

This year I am making several cookie recipes, including one that combines poppy seeds with hazelnuts for a crunchy, distinctive flavor — a perfect dessert companion to accompany your Purim dessert table – as well as lacy, flourless Purim Seed Crisps.

My husband Marvin’s favorites are Korjas, paper-thin poppy seed cookies, a traditional family recipe that was given to me many years ago by my friend Della Spector. This recipe makes hundreds of cookies, similar in texture to potato chips. I never cut the recipe in half; the raw dough stores well in the refrigerator or freezer and is ready to roll out and bake at any time.

Poppy Seed Cheesecake is a creamy confection with an almond nut crust that is filled with poppy seeds and topped with sour cream. A small slice is so satisfying that one cheesecake can serve at least 20. For mishloach manot, or Purim gift baskets, make mini cheesecakes using the same recipe and muffin tins.

Start Purim day with a breakfast of Poppy Seed Pound Cake, which can be served toasted and topped with sweet butter or jam. It is a delicious treat that goes well with your morning cappuccino.

A tip for the baker in the family: I bake all my cookie recipes on a silicone baking mat to ensure that the cookies come off easily and never get stuck to the pan. You can store any of the cookie recipes in the refrigerator or freezer before baking; just defrost, roll out, and bake for everyone to enjoy.

PURIM SEED CRISPS

5 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons corn syrup
2 tablespoons whole milk
1/2 cup sesame seeds
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
2 tablespoons millet seeds

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Combine butter, sugar, corn syrup and milk in a medium skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the butter is melted and all the ingredients are combined thoroughly. Mix in the seeds. Transfer to a glass bowl. Refrigerate or freeze until firm, about 15 minutes. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days and stored in the freezer for 1 month.)

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or a silicone baking mat. Using 1 teaspoon of batter at a time, shape batter into rounds the size of a nickel. Place rounds 2 to 3 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet. (Bake six at a time, as the cookies spread significantly.)

Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown. (Watch closely — they brown quickly.) Let cool completely then carefully peel off of the foil, or, if using a silicone baking mat, remove cookies with a metal spatula.

Makes about 5 dozen cookies.

KORJAS (CRISP POPPY SEED THINS)

1 cup oil
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
6 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk
2 ounces poppy seeds
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Add oil and 1 1/2 cups sugar to the bowl of an electric mixer and blend together until fluffy. Beat in the eggs until smooth. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually add the milk alternately with the sifted dry ingredients to the oil mixture, beating after each addition. Blend in the poppy seeds. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 4 days and stored in the freezer for 3 weeks.)

Remove the dough a heaping teaspoon at a time onto a generously floured board or a sheet of wax paper. Roll out the dough into a thin rectangle, about 8 by 11 inches. With a sharp knife, cut the dough into diamond shapes and place them on a greased baking sheet or silicone baking mat. Mix together the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over the cookies.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer the cookies to racks to cool.

Makes about 200 cookies.

POPPY SEED HAZELNUT COOKIES

1 cup unsalted butter or margarine
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup poppy seeds
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped hazelnuts,
toasted

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Add butter and sugar to the bowl of an electric mixer, and blend until creamy. Add egg and vanilla.

In another bowl, stir together flour, poppy seeds, cinnamon, ginger and salt. Gradually add to butter mixture, blending thoroughly. Add hazelnuts, mixing to distribute evenly. On a floured board, shape dough into three or four rolls, each 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap rolls in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours, or until firm.

Using a sharp knife, cut dough into 1/8-inch thin slices: place slices about 1/2 inch apart on a foil or a silicone mat-lined baking sheet.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are golden. Transfer to racks and cool.

Makes about 8 dozen cookies.

POPPY SEED POUND CAKE

1 cup unsalted butter or margarine
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup poppy seeds
Grated peel of 1 lemon
1/2 cup ground almonds

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Cream butter, cream cheese and 1 1/2 cups sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and blend until mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until creamy. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt and add to cream cheese mixture.

Mix together poppy seeds, remaining 1/2 cup sugar, lemon peel and remaining 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.

Coat a 9 1/2-inch bundt pan with additional butter, all of the ground almonds and 3 tablespoons of the poppy seed mixture. Spoon 1/3 of the cream cheese mixture into pan.

Top cream cheese mixture with 1/2 of remaining poppy seed mixture. Spread another 1/3 of cream cheese mixture over the seeds and sprinkle with remaining poppy seed mixture. Top with remaining cream cheese mixture.

Bake for 1 1/2 hours or until cake is dry when tested in the center. Cool in pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely. Wrap in plastic wrap and keep refrigerated until ready to serve. Keeps for at least 2 weeks. Serve at room temperature or warm, sliced thin.

Note: Mixture also may be placed in 6 (5-by-3 inch) loaf pans and baked at 325 F for 1 hour.

Makes 1 (9 1/2-inch) cake, 16 servings.

POPPY SEED CHEESECAKE

Almond Nut Crust (recipe follows)
2 cups sour cream
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
5 tablespoons poppy seeds
4 eggs

Prepare, bake, and cool the Almond Nut Crust; set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Add sour cream, 1 tablespoon of sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1/4 teaspoon almond extract to a small bowl. Blend well, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.

Add cream cheese, remaining 1 cup sugar and 3 tablespoons poppy seeds to the bowl of an electric mixer, and blend until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Blend in the remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla and remaining 1/4 teaspoon almond extract. Pour this filling into the baked Almond Nut Crust.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until the center is set and the top is golden. Remove the cake from the oven. Spread the prepared sour cream mixture on top and return cake to the oven for 5 minutes. Remove from oven, garnish with remaining 2 tablespoons poppy seeds. Cool. Remove from springform pan, and serve.

Makes 1 (9-inch) cheesecake, 18 to 20 servings.

ALMOND NUT CRUST

1 1/2 cups unpeeled whole almonds
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Mix almonds and sugar in a food processor or blender, and blend until the almonds are coarsely chopped. Add the butter and almond extract, and process just until the mixture begins to come together. Press the almond mixture evenly into the bottom and 1⁄4 inch up the sides of 9-inch springform pan.

Bake for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Cool.

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Hats Off to Haman(tashen)!

Photos by Dan Kacvinski

How can you not love a holiday that tells you to dress up in costume, make loud noises with a grogger, forget your troubles, enjoy delicious food and drink lots of wine? Of course, it is Purim — often called the Feast of Esther — and is one of the happiest of all Jewish holidays, marking the liberation of the Jews from the king’s cruel adviser, Haman, through the heroism of the beautiful and good Queen Esther.
By far, the best-known Purim pastry is hamantashen. Some say the triangular shape of these pastries represents Haman’s hat, or his ears, depending upon which tale your bubbe (grandmother) told you.
Every family has its favorite variation, usually sugar cookie or yeast dough, which is rolled out and filled with prunes, poppy seeds or apricot jam; these delicious confections are served throughout the holiday.
My passion is baking, and I enjoy developing new, original hamantashen recipes to share with family and friends. This year, I created one based on a rich poppy seed cookie dough, flavored with orange peel. I love the crunch of the poppy seeds in the pastry. Another recipe uses filo as a wrapper; after baking, while the pastries are still hot, a honey-sugar syrup is poured over them — a technique similar to that used in making baklava.
My husband’s favorite is a soft, puffy yeast hamantashen filled with a puree of poppy seeds, usually found in most Jewish bakeries. If you are watching your cholesterol, the low-cholesterol hamantashen is the one for you. And for a special treat, chocolate lovers will enjoy my recipe for a double-chocolate hamantashen.
Be creative — any of these hamantashen can be filled with an amazing selection of fillings, from traditional poppy seed to a chocolate-nut filling, or even Nutella, the Italian version of peanut butter (a combination of roasted hazelnuts, nonfat milk and a hint of cocoa). Prepare a variety of hamantashen and mix and match the fillings for everyone to enjoy.

POPPY SEED HAMANTASHEN

∗ 1/4 pound unsalted butter or margarine, softened
∗ 1/2 cup sugar
∗ 3 eggs
∗ Grated zest of 1 orange
∗ 2 cups flour
∗ 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
∗ 1/4 teaspoon salt
∗ 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
∗ Poppy Seed Filling or 3 (8-ounce) cans poppy seed filling
∗ Preheat oven to 375 F.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until well blended. Beat in 2 of the eggs and the orange zest, blending thoroughly. Add flour, baking powder, salt and poppy seeds; blend until dough is smooth.
Transfer to floured board and divide dough into 3 or 4 portions for easier handling. Flatten each portion with the palm of your hand and roll it out 1/4 inch thick. With a scalloped or plain cookie cutter, cut into 3-inch rounds. Place 1 heaping teaspoon of Poppy Seed Filling in the center of each round. Fold the edges of the dough toward the center to form a triangle, leaving a bit of the filling visible in the center. Pinch edges to seal them.
Place hamantashen, 1/2 inch apart, on a lightly greased foil-lined baking sheet. Lightly beat remaining egg and use it to brush the unbaked hamantashen. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to racks to cool.
Makes 5 to 6 dozen.

POPPY SEED FILLING
∗ 4 ounces poppy seeds
∗ 1/2 cup milk
∗ 1 tablespoon unsalted butter or margarine
∗ 1/4 cup seedless raisins
∗ 1/4 cup walnuts, pecans or almonds, toasted
∗ 1 tablespoon honey
∗ 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
In a medium saucepan, combine the poppy seeds, milk, butter, raisins, walnuts and honey. Bring to a boil and stir over medium heat until the milk is absorbed and the mixture thickens. Let mixture cool; stir in vanilla. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

APRICOT-COCONUT FILLING
∗ 2 cups apricot preserves
∗ 1/2 cup shredded coconut
∗ 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, toasted
∗ Grated peel of 1 lemon
Combine all ingredients in a bowl; mix well. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate.
Makes about 3 cups.

FILO HAMANTASHEN
∗ 1/2 pound unsalted butter or margarine
∗ 1/4 cup oil
∗ 2 cups finely ground almonds
∗ 1/4 cup sugar
∗ 1 (1-pound) package filo sheets
∗ Filling of your choice (see sidebar)
∗ Honey-Sugar Syrup (recipe follows)
∗ Preheat oven to 350 F.
Combine butter and oil in medium saucepan over low heat, cooking until butter melts.
Combine almonds and sugar and set aside.
Place a clean, damp towel on work area and cover it with a large sheet of wax paper. Work with 1 sheet of filo at a time (keep the remaining filo covered with additional wax paper and a second damp towel). Cut filo sheet evenly into 2-inch strips. Work with each strip on top of the large sheet of wax paper placed on top of the damp kitchen towel. Brush strips with butter mixture and sprinkle with almond mixture. Place 1 teaspoon of desired filling 1 inch from the short edge of each strip. Fold one corner over the filling. Fold up filo, flag fashion, in a triangle along its length to make a neat triangular package. Repeat with remaining strips and filling.
Brush baking sheets with butter mixture; place hamantashen on baking sheets, 1/2 inch apart. Brush with butter mixture. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown and crisp. Remove from oven and spoon Honey-Sugar Syrup over each triangle. Cool on racks.
Makes about 6 dozen.

HONEY-SUGAR SYRUP
∗ 1 cup sugar
∗ 1/2 cup water
∗ 1 tablespoon lemon juice
∗ 1 tablespoon honey
Combine sugar, water and lemon juice in a heavy saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring with a wooden spoon until sugar dissolves. Boil briskly for 5 minutes. Stir in honey. Pour into heat-proof pitcher.

EASTERN EUROPEAN HAMANTASHEN
∗ 1 envelope dry yeast
∗ 1/4 cup lukewarm milk
∗ 1/2 cup hot milk
∗ 1/4 cup unsalted butter
∗ 1/4 cup sugar
∗ 3 eggs
∗ 2 cups flour
∗ 1/4 teaspoon salt
∗ Filling of your choice (see sidebar)
∗ Preheat oven to 350 F.
Dissolve yeast in lukewarm milk. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, combine hot milk, butter, sugar and 2 eggs, and blend thoroughly. Add yeast mixture and blend. Add flour and salt, a little at a time, blending thoroughly to make a soft dough. Place dough on a floured board and knead 2 to 3 minutes, adding additional flour if dough is sticky. Place dough in a well-oiled bowl, oil top of dough, cover with a towel and set in a warm place until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
Roll out half of dough at a time, to 1/4-inch thickness, and cut into 3-inch rounds. Spoon a teaspoon of desired filling in the center of each round and pinch closed on top to make a triangle.
Place hamantashen on a greased cookie sheet. Beat remaining egg lightly; brush hamantashen with the beaten egg. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.
Makes about 2 dozen.

DOUBLE-CHOCOLATE HAMANTASHEN
∗ 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
∗ 3/4 cup sugar
∗ 1/2 teaspoon salt
∗ 1 teaspoon almond extract
∗ 1 egg
∗ 1 1/3 cups flour
∗ 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
∗ 1 teaspoon baking powder
∗ 3 to 4 tablespoons whipping cream
∗ Chocolate-Nut Filling (see sidebar)
∗ Preheat oven to 350 F.
In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter, sugar, salt and almond extract until light and fluffy. Add egg and mix thoroughly. In another bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder and baking powder; add to butter mixture alternately with whipping cream. (More or less cream may be needed, depending on the consistency of the dough.) Turn dough out onto wax paper and form into a flattened disc. Chill for at least one hour.
Roll chilled dough to about 1/8-inch thickness. Using a round cookie cutter dipped in flour, cut into 3-inch circles.
Place Chocolate-Nut Filling in center of dough circles, brush edges with water, carefully fold in the edges to form a triangular shape, and pinch the corners to seal. Place on greased cookie sheet and bake for about 15 minutes, until crust is baked through.
Makes about 2 dozen.

LOW-CHOLESTEROL HAMANTASHEN
These hamantashen can be frozen before baking, so they can be made ahead and baked fresh on Purim.
∗ 7 egg whites
∗ 1 cup sugar
∗ 3/4 cup oil
∗ 1 teaspoon vanilla
∗ 4 1/2 cups flour
∗ 1 tablespoon baking powder
∗ 1/2 teaspoon salt
∗ 1/4 cup poppy seeds
∗ Filling of your choice (see sidebar)
∗ Preheat oven to 350 F.
In large bowl of an electric mixer, beat together 6 egg whites, sugar, oil and vanilla. In separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and poppy seeds. Blend flour mixture into egg mixture; mix well.
Roll out portions of dough on a floured board and cut into 3 1/2- inch circles with scalloped or plain cookie cutter. Place a teaspoon of desired filling in center of each circle of dough. Bring up edges of dough to cover filling and pinch together to form a triangle. Beat remaining egg white; brush it lightly over hamantashen. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden.
Makes about 5 dozen.

CHOCOLATE-NUT FILLING
∗ 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
∗ 1 cup sugar
∗ 1/2 cup milk, whipping cream or coffee
∗ 2 cups chopped almonds, toasted
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl; blend thoroughly. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate.
Makes about 3 1/2 cups.

CARAMEL-PECAN FILLING
∗ 3/4 cup sugar
∗ 1/4 cup water
∗ 2 cups chopped pecans, toasted
∗ 7 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine
∗ 1/2 cup milk or non-dairy creamer
∗ 1/4 cup honey
In heavy saucepan, bring sugar and water to a boil, stirring with a wooden spoon until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add pecans, butter and milk. Return saucepan to heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring constantly, until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in honey; let mixture cool. Transfer to a glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until set. This will keep, refrigerated, for at least 1 week.
Makes about 3 cups.

APPLESAUCE FILLING
∗ 1 cup applesauce
∗ 1/2 cup raisins, plumped in hot water and drained
∗ 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
∗ 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Combine all ingredients in a bowl; blend well. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate.

Makes about 3 cups.

QUICK PRUNE FILLING
∗ 1 (15-ounce) jar cooked pitted prunes, drained, or 2 cups pitted
∗ stewed prunes
∗ 1/4 cup sugar
∗ 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, toasted
∗ 1 teaspoon orange juice
∗ 1 teaspoon lemon juice
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients; mix well. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate.

Makes about 2 cups.

WALNUT-HONEY FILLING
∗ 1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
∗ 1/4 cup honey
∗ 1/3 cup bread crumbs
∗ Zest of 1 orange
In a saucepan, combine walnuts, honey and bread crumbs. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in orange zest; let mixture cool. Cover with plastic.

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Soup’s On

Corn soup. Photo by Dan Kacvinski

The only soups I remember from my childhood are chicken soup and cabbage borscht. But that changed when I got married. My husband, Marvin, loves making soup. When I hear him rattling the pots and pans and using the blender, I know he is making soup.

Soup is my favorite comfort food. It can have as few as three ingredients — the best results come from the quality of the ingredients and the use of ripe vegetables. Onions provide more than just flavor; they form a base that acts as a catalyst for any protein.

Making soup is easy. It requires very little special equipment and can be served in a mug, bowl or even in an espresso or cappuccino cup with a small spoon. It may be served as a snack, an accompaniment for a sandwich, at the beginning of the meal, as a main course or as the entire meal.
When on vacation in Italy, we visit the daily open market — our favorite is in the small Tuscan village of San Casciano, outside Florence. One family has a stand that sells only Parmesan cheese, and when the young son with light blue eyes looks up at his patrons after cutting off a piece of cheese for them, he always asks if they would like some of the outside rind. He explains that when added to a vegetable soup during the cooking, it lends a delicious flavor.

Tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, celery, turnips, parsnips, zucchini, onion, leeks, corn and cabbage are some of the ingredients I use for soup, along with herbs such as rosemary, dill or fennel. Soup is fundamentally the most economical of foods, a means of making leftovers and scraps into a satisfying meal.

Soups, hot or chilled, become more intriguing and a festive presentation when garnished with olive oil, chopped vegetables, fresh-made salsa or grated cheese. Serve with crusty Italian peasant bread that is crisp on the outside, soft and warm inside.
Corn Soup

This recipe is for a dairy menu. For a pareve soup, use vegetable stock or water and nondairy margarine instead of butter.

2 large ears of corn (to yield 2 cups fresh corn kernels)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter or nondairy margarine
1 onion, finely diced
2 cups milk or vegetable stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Salsa garnish (tomato, onion, cilantro)
Shuck the corn, cut the kernels off the cob, and set aside.

Melt butter in a pot; add onion and sauté 3 to 4 minutes until soft. Add milk and bring to a boil. Add corn kernels and simmer 5 to 10 minutes. Spoon onion mixture into a blender or a food processor and blend until desired consistency. Transfer to pot, add salt and pepper to taste and heat thoroughly. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with salsa.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Broccoli Soup
2 pounds fresh broccoli with stems
Water
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, diced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place broccoli in a large pot and add water to cover. Bring to a boil and simmer until broccoli is tender when pierced with a fork. Transfer broccoli to a large measuring cup or bowl and set aside. Reserve cooking liquid. Heat olive oil in a skillet and sauté onions and garlic until soft. In three batches, place broccoli with onion mixture and 2 or 3 ladles of cooking liquid in a blender or food processor. Blend until creamy. Pour broccoli mixture into a pot and continue blending with the remaining broccoli, onion mixture and cooking liquid.

Bring to a simmer, season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve hot.

Makes 10 to 12 servings.

NOTE: You may substitute cauliflower for broccoli for a delicious variation.

Ribollita (Twice-boiled Soup)
From “Italy Cooks” by Judy Zeidler
We became fans of Ribollita, which literally translates as “reboiled,” when we rented a house in Umbria from Italian artist Piero Dorazio and his cook served us this hearty soup. The Dorazios’ vegetable and herb garden made it easy to prepare large amounts of this classic dish for ourselves while we were staying at their villa. Whenever we were ready to have dinner we would simply reheat it. We purchased fresh bread daily, so we always had day-old bread available to thicken this soup.

1 to 1 1⁄2 cups dried cannellini beans or 3 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans
Water
2 large leeks, white and green parts separated, washed thoroughly in cold water
1/4 cup olive oil
10 large leaves cavolo nero (or use kale, chard or spinach)
1⁄2 head red cabbage, thinly sliced
1 large tomato, diced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 slices day-old Italian bread, toasted and cubed
Olive oil for garnish
Grated Parmesan cheese

Soak the beans in a large bowl of cold water for at least two hours or overnight. Drain the beans and add to a stockpot, along with 4 cups of cold water; bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer until beans are tender (at least 1 hour, depending on freshness of the beans), adding additional water as needed (about 4 more cups in all).

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a medium-size pot; add the sliced green part of leeks and boil until tender. Using a slotted spoon, transfer boiled leeks with a little of their liquid to a blender and blend until smooth; set aside. (Reserve the remaining liquid.)

Heat olive oil in a large pot; add thinly sliced white part of leeks and sauté over low heat until tender, about 5 minutes. Add liquid from boiled green leek tops and cook for 5 minutes. Add cavolo nero, red cabbage, diced tomato, thyme and leek puree. Bring to a simmer. Add drained beans and salt and pepper to taste; bring to a boil. (Add additional liquid if needed.) Cook, uncovered, until vegetables are tender and flavors are blended, about 20 minutes. Add bread cubes and cook 30 minutes longer.

To serve, ladle soup into heated bowls, top with a splash of fresh olive oil, and sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.

Makes about 8 to 10 servings.

Mushroom Barley Soup
The technique of sautéing all the ingredients before adding the stock brings out the intense mushroom flavor of this robust soup.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
3/4 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons pearl barley
2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
1 tablespoon dry sherry
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat; 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 6 to 8 servings.

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Chanukah fare with international flair

Sufganiyot (Jelly doughnuts) deep-frying rule

Around this time of year, I think of my grandmother and the stories she told me about making beef brisket and potato latkes for her first Chanukah dinner in America. She loved to cook, and sharing her recipes from Russia brought her such delight.

Chanukah, often called the festival of lights, is a joyous holiday that is celebrated at home instead of taking place in the synagogue. Families light candles and enjoy the traditional foods that are fried in oil, recalling the miracle that occurred in ancient times, when a one-day supply of oil burned in the Temple for eight days.

For many years, we shared Gramma Eva’s brisket recipe with friends at our Chanukah meals, but as our food focus changed, so too did the menu. One year, we served meatloaf and cabbage borscht. After a trip to Brazil, we had a feijoada stew for our Chanukah family dinner, and last year, the main course was fried chicken.

This year, we are going back to our traditional Chanukah fare, but with a few additions. I am roasting Beef Brisket With Prunes in a Wine Sauce, almost like a tzimmes, and serving it with an Italian-inspired green tomato marmalade and crisp potato latkes.

I still remember using a hand-held grater to help my mother make the potato mixture for the latkes. Today, the food processor cuts down on the time it takes to prepare the old family recipe. To make the latke batter in minutes, use the food processor’s knife blade to chop the onions and the shredder blade to grate the potatoes, and then just add them to a bowl with the remaining ingredients.

We begin frying the latkes when family and friends arrive at our home; meanwhile, our grandchildren spin the dreidel, a game that dates back to ancient times. Before dinner, as the guests exchange greetings, we serve Fried Zucchini Sticks. Then we sit down to a salad of shredded lettuce tossed with sliced tomatoes, fresh fennel and topped with fried parsnip chips. The main course — brisket, green tomato marmalade and potato latkes — is served family style, and everyone helps themselves.

Carrying out the Chanukah theme for dessert, we serve homemade jam-filled doughnuts, which everyone loves. Served in many countries during the holiday, they take on different names. In Israel, they are known as sufganiyot; in Italy they are called bombolini, and in Poland they refer to them as ponchiks. No matter what they are called, they are delicious. Simply fry the doughnuts, roll in sugar and serve them with a bowl of melted chocolate for dipping.

The doughnuts can be made in advance, and stored in plastic bags in the refrigerator. Before serving, just reheat and roll in sugar. Make an extra batch for your guests to take home — they are delicious for breakfast the next day.

But the party is not over. After dessert, everyone returns to the living room, where the gifts wrapped in colorful Chanukah paper are waiting to be opened by the children.

GREEN TOMATO MARMALADE
From “Italy Cooks,” by Judy Zeidler.

If you saw the movie “Fried Green Tomatoes,” you may think the only way to cook green tomatoes is to fry them. The truth is they also make a wonderful marmalade that’s a perfect accompaniment to the brisket and potato latkes.

While living in Italy we were invited to a cooking class at Nittardi Winery in Tuscany taught by Kalus Trebes, chef/owner of Gargantua Restaurant in Frankfurt, Germany. He shared this recipe. It is so versatile that I always keep a jar in the refrigerator. Not only is it delicious on toast or a frittata for breakfast, it is also a perfect accompaniment to meat or chicken.

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
8 cups diced green tomatoes (2 pounds)
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice, heated
Grated zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon

In a large, heavy skillet, combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat and simmer until the sugar begins to turn golden. Add the tomatoes, heated orange juice and zest. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the tomatoes are soft and the liquid has reduced to a thick syrup, about 30 minutes. Cool.

Makes about 3 to 4 cups.

BEEF BRISKET ROASTED WITH PRUNES IN A WINE SAUCE

This roast is best served well done. It is important to slice the cooked meat against the grain.

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 onions, thinly sliced
1 (6- to 8-pound) lean beef brisket
5 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
1 (28-ounce) can peeled tomatoes, undrained
1 1/2 to 2 cups red wine
1 head garlic, cloves separated, unpeeled
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound pitted prunes

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Heat the oil in large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add minced garlic and onions and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes.

Transfer garlic and onions to a large roasting pot and place meat on top, fat side up. Add carrots, parsley, tomatoes, wine and unpeeled garlic cloves. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil, cover, and bake for 2 to 3 hours, or until meat is tender. Add the prunes the last 30 minutes of baking.

Transfer the meat to a wooden board and slice. Return to pot and keep warm.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

SUFGANIYOT (JELLY DOUGHNUTS) DEEP-FRYING RULE

The temperature of the cooking oil is very important when frying doughnuts: If it is too cool, the doughnuts will absorb it and be greasy; if it is too hot, the doughnuts will burn on the outside and remain uncooked inside. Use a frying (candy) thermometer to establish and maintain the proper heat.

These doughnuts can be fried one or two days in advance and refrigerated in plastic bags. When ready to serve, heat in the oven and they will puff up as if they were just fried.

1 package active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115 F)
Granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted margarine, melted
1 egg, separated
2 teaspoons orange juice
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup raspberry or strawberry jam
Vegetable oil for frying

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Add a pinch of sugar and set aside until foamy, about 5 minutes.

Blend margarine, egg yolk, orange juice and yeast mixture in the bowl of an electric mixer. Gradually add flour, 2 teaspoons sugar and salt and blend well. Cover with a towel and let rise until the dough doubles, about 45 minutes.

Place dough on a well-floured board and knead into a flat disc, adding more flour if needed. Roll dough out with a rolling pin to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Using a cooking cutter, cut out 2-inch rounds. Top half the rounds in the middle with 1 teaspoon of jam and brush the edges with the egg white. Place plain rounds on top of jam-covered rounds; pinch edges closed to seal. Place doughnuts on a parchment-covered cookie sheet, cover with a clean kitchen towel, and let rise, about 45 minutes.

Reseal each doughnut.

Using a deep fryer or a heavy pot and a frying thermometer, heat about 4 inches of oil to 375 degrees. Fry three or four doughnuts at a time, turning them with a slotted spoon or tongs when one side is browned, and continuing to fry until brown all over, about 2 to 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

To serve, roll doughnuts in 1 cup of granulated sugar and serve immediately, or, to reheat, place on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake at 350 F for 10 to 15 minutes or until heated through.

Makes about 12 doughnuts.

FRIED ZUCCHINI STICKS

These crisp and crunchy zucchini sticks go well with any menu. They are best fried at the last moment. But, if prepared ahead and reheated in a hot oven, they can be just as crisp.

4 medium zucchini, unpeeled
1 cup flour
1 cup bread crumbs
1 teaspoon dried basil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 eggs
Vegetable oil for frying

Slice zucchini lengthwise into quarters; cut in half crosswise and set aside.

Place the flour in a small paper bag and set aside. Place the bread crumbs and dried basil in another small bag. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside. Place the eggs in a bowl and beat well.

Drop 4 to 6 zucchini sticks into the bag containing the flour, shaking the bag to coat. Transfer to a metal strainer and shake off the excess flour. Dip the flour-coated zucchini sticks into the beaten egg and then coat with the bread crumb mixture. Place on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. (You can hold the zucchini sticks at this point for at least 1 hour.)

Preheat oil in a deep-fryer or wok to 375 F.

Drop the coated zucchini sticks into the heated oil and fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Transfer them to a napkin-covered platter and serve immediately.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

FOOD PROCESSOR POTATO LATKES

1 large yellow onion, peeled
4 medium baking potatoes, peeled
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
4 extra-large eggs
3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
Pinch baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Vegetable oil for frying

Chop the onion into small dice with the knife blade in a food processor. Remove the knife blade, insert the shredder blade, and grate the potatoes. Immediately transfer the potato and onion mixture to a large bowl, and add the lemon juice, eggs, flour, baking soda, salt and pepper. Mix well.

Heat 1/8 inch of oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Spoon the batter, about 1/3 cup at a time, into the hot oil and flatten with the back of the spoon to make 2- to 3-inch latkes. Cook on one side until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes; then turn and cook on the other side, about 2 minutes. (Turn only once.) Drain the latkes well on paper towels and serve immediately.

Makes about 2 dozen latkes.

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Delizioso: Chanukah with an Italian flair

Sicilian rice cakes (Risotto latkes)

While enjoying my favorite foods on a recent trip to Italy, I began to think about Chanukah, even though it was only October. This was a natural association, because the Italians love to prepare foods with olive oil, and the traditional dishes served during Chanukah are fried in oil to commemorate the tiny supply of oil that burned for eight days and nights in the ancient temple — a real miracle.

Chanukah favorites include latkes and sufganiyot (deep-fried jelly-filled doughnuts). These and other Chanukah specialties will be enjoyed by many families during the eight-day holiday, which begins at sundown on Dec. 20.

Chanukah is always a festive occasion for my family. We gather together on at least one of the eight nights to celebrate with favorite foods and exchange gifts, and the children spin the dreidel, a game that dates back to ancient times.

This year, a different flavor will be added to our menu by including some of the recipes I collected in Italy with Chanukah in mind.

Olive oil is the oil of choice in Italy and a healthful one, as it is among the highest in monounsaturated fat.

The recipes I have chosen offer a wide variety of authentic Italian flavors. There is even a latke made with polenta (boiled cornmeal). Shaped into pancakes and fried in oil, it can be served with olive paste or your favorite latke topping.

Sicilian Rice Cakes, also called L’Orancini — or, as I like to call them, Risotto Latkes — are made with Italian arborio rice and filled with two Italian cheeses, tomato paste and parsley, and are hearty enough to serve as a vegetarian main course.

For an Italian sweet touch, make Farfallette (Butterfly) cookies. Ribbons of dough are twisted and tied into butterfly shapes, fried in oil and dusted with powdered sugar. Another favorite is Scavatelle, deep-fried pastries. I can’t help but think how perfect these fritters, fried in olive oil and dipped in a honey syrup, would be to serve for our Chanukah celebration.

SICILIAN RICE CAKES (RISOTTO LATKES)

1/2 cup chopped or grated mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
2 tablespoons tomato sauce
1 cup breadcrumbs
Risotto (recipe follows)
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Combine mozzarella, Parmesan, parsley and tomato sauce in a small bowl.

Place breadcrumbs in a shallow bowl. Sprinkle hands lightly with breadcrumbs, scoop up 1 tablespoon of Risotto in your hands and shape into a flat oval; make an indentation in the center of each with your thumb. Place 1 teaspoon of mozzarella mixture in the center and cover the oval with another tablespoon of the Risotto. Mold into 2- to 3-inch ovals, enclosing mozzarella mixture completely. Roll in breadcrumbs to coat.

Heat oil in a nonstick skillet, and fry rice cakes, a few at a time, until crisp and golden brown on all sides. Using a slotted spoon, transfer them to paper towels to drain.

Makes about 12.

RISOTTO

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 1/4 cups arborio rice
3 to 4 cups vegetable broth
1/4 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large, heavy skillet. Add onion and sauté over medium heat until soft. Add rice and mix well with a wooden spoon. Add 1 or 2 ladles of hot broth or enough to cover the rice. Cook, stirring constantly, as the broth is absorbed. Continue adding broth, a little at a time, until the rice is tender, about 15 minutes.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter, whipping cream and Parmesan cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Continue cooking 2 to 3 minutes longer. Cool.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

POLENTA FRITTA (CORNMEAL LATKES)

2 1/2 quarts milk or water
2 1/2 cups coarse yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons salt or to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup olive or vegetable oil
1 jar (6 ounces) olive paste

Bring milk to a boil in a large, heavy saucepan. Pour the cornmeal in slowly, in a thin stream, stirring constantly. Add salt and pepper, reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid has absorbed and the cornmeal is thick, about 30 minutes.

Wet a large cutting board with water; spread the cooked polenta evenly over the surface with a wet spatula to a thickness of 1/2 inch. Set aside until completely cooled.

Cut polenta into 3-inch rounds with a cookie cutter.

In a nonstick skillet, heat 1/4 inch of oil and fry the latkes until golden brown on both sides. Spread with olive paste.

Makes 24 Risotto Latkes.

FARFALLETTE DOLCE (SWEET BUTTERFLIES)

2 egg yolks
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon lemon
juice
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon sweet wine
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Vegetable oil for frying
Powdered sugar

Beat egg yolks in a large bowl. Blend in granulated sugar. Add lemon juice, milk, wine and olive oil. Gradually add flour and salt, mixing well after each addition.

Knead dough on a floured board until smooth. Cover with a towel and let rest for 30 minutes.

Roll dough out very thin. With pastry cutter or sharp knife, cut dough into strips 6 inches long and 3/4 inches wide. Tie each strip into a knot to make butterfly shapes.

Heat vegetable oil to 370 F in a deep fryer or deep, heavy pot. Fry pastries until golden brown on both sides, turning once, being careful not to crowd. Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Cool. Place on a large platter. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Makes 2 dozen.

SCAVATELLE (FRIED PASTRIES)

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
1 cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon olive oil
Peel of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon sugar
Pinch salt
1 cup flour
Honey Syrup (recipe follows)
Olive oil for frying

Place water, cinnamon stick, olive oil, lemon peel, sugar and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 or 3 minutes. Remove peel and cinnamon stick. Add flour all at once and, using a wooden spoon, mix until dough comes together. It will be lumpy.

Spoon dough onto a floured board, punch down, and knead into a flat disc to remove lumps. Pull off pieces of dough and roll out into thin ropes. Cut into 6-inch ropes and, working with one rope, bring one end of the rope around to form a loop, crossing over the other end (leaving 1-inch ends) and pinching to resemble a bow tie. Place on paper towels and cover with a clean, dry dish towel.

Heat oil in a deep fryer or heavy saucepan and fry pastries until browned. Dip in Honey Syrup and serve at once.

Makes about 4 dozen.

HONEY SYRUP

1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon sugar
Peel of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon water

Place honey, sugar, lemon peel and water in a saucepan. Mix well, simmer over low heat, and discard lemon peel.

Makes about 1/4 cup.

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Giving thanks deliciously

Cranberry muffin surprises. Photos by Dan Kacvinski

Whether you call it Thanksgiving or Turkey Day, the holiday is a festive time for American Jewish families to enjoy the best of both heritages — hearty American food and an occasion to give thanks for blessings.

When it comes to the Thanksgiving menu, I like to plan a lot of old-fashioned farmhouse food with a few innovative ideas. Begin your dinner with an espresso-size cup of Pumpkin Soup garnished with a sprinkling of pumpkin or pomegranate seeds. Serve muffins with cranberry sauce in the center — it will be a surprise when your guests break them open.

Everyone enjoys a handsome, golden-brown, roasted turkey. If my family had to choose the stuffing for the turkey, it would be Grandma Mollie’s Vegetable Stuffing. My mother was proud of her stuffing and used it with chicken as well as turkey. She did not cook the ingredients separately, but mixed everything together and placed it in the bird. I have found that sautéing the vegetables first allows them to cook more evenly and gives the flavors a chance to blend. I have added raisins for a sweeter taste that’s especially festive for the holiday.

Red Cabbage With Apples adds a sweet and tangy flavor to the meal, and its purple color is the first thing you notice. Adding a splash of something acidic — vinegar, red wine or lemon juice — helps maintain the purple color, which often disappears during cooking.

The baking and much of the rest of the menu can be started days in advance to allow time to arrange the table with festive Thanksgiving decorations. They can be as simple as autumn leaves in a vase; an assortment of pumpkins and squash; or a cornucopia of polished apples, grapes and nuts.

We pour cider for the children and a light red wine for the grownups, and catch up on all the news while enjoying our family feast.

For the perfect ending to your dinner, serve an assortment of desserts, including Chocolate Raspberry Brownies and a Cranberry Meringue Tart.

PUMPKIN SOUP

Pumpkin soup


3 tablespoons unsalted margarine
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 leek, white part only, cleaned and thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tart apple, peeled and thinly sliced
4 cups peeled and thinly sliced pumpkin (if not available, use banana squash or Hubbard squash)
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
Pinch nutmeg
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup toasted pumpkin seeds or pomegranate seeds

In a heavy saucepan, heat the margarine and sauté the onion, leek and garlic until tender. Add the apple and pumpkin slices and sauté for 3 minutes or until tender. Add the stock, bring to a boil, and simmer for 20 minutes.

With a slotted spoon, transfer the pumpkin mixture into a food processor. Process the mixture, slowly adding the broth 1 cup at a time, until puréed. Return the puréed mixture to the saucepan and simmer briskly for 10 minutes, or until the soup thickens. Season to taste with nutmeg, salt and pepper. Ladle into heated cappuccino cups or soup bowls and sprinkle with toasted pumpkin seeds or pomegranate seeds.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

CRANBERRY MUFFIN SURPRISES

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted margarine, melted and cooled to room temperature
3/4 cup orange juice, at room temperature
1/4 cup unsulphured molasses
1 large egg
1/4 cup whole-berry cranberry sauce

Preheat oven to 400 F. Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine both flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt; blend well.

In a medium bowl, mix margarine, orange juice, molasses and egg with a wire whisk until well blended. Stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture just until combined.

Spoon one heaping tablespoonful of batter into each of the prepared muffin cups. Make a small indentation in the batter with your finger or the handle of a wooden spoon. Carefully fill each indentation with about a measuring teaspoon of cranberry sauce, making sure the sauce is in the center of the batter and not touching the sides of the cups. Gently spoon on the remaining batter, trying not to disturb the sauce.

Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool muffins in the pan for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely, or serve while hot.

Makes 12 muffins.

TURKEY WITH VEGETABLE STUFFING

1 turkey (15 to 20 pounds)
Grandma Mollie’s Vegetable Stuffing (recipe follows)
1/4 cup safflower or vegetable oil
1 cup apricot preserves
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 325 F.

Clean the fully thawed turkey and pat it dry with paper towels. Spoon the cooled stuffing into both cavities and close with a needle and thread or skewers. Rub the outside of the turkey with the oil and apricot preserves and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Grease the inside (unprinted side) of a large brown paper bag, or use a large plastic baking bag. Place the turkey, neck first and breast down, inside the bag. For a paper bag, fold the open ends and seal it with paper clips or staples; if using a plastic baking bag, tie it with plastic ties supplied in the package. Place the turkey on a large rack inside a roasting pan lined with heavy-duty foil. Roast in preheated oven for 3 hours or more, depending on the size of the turkey. (See suggested cooking times below.)

About 30 minutes before the turkey is done, make a slit in the bag under the turkey and let the liquid drain into a saucepan. When all the juices are poured off, remove the bag and turn the turkey over, breast side up. Return the turkey to the oven to brown for the remaining cooking time. Skim the fat that forms from the juices, discard fat, and heat the juices. Remove the stuffing and transfer to a heated bowl. Carve the turkey and arrange the slices, legs and wings on a large platter. Serve the juices in a gravy boat.

Suggested Cooking Time for Stuffed Turkeys:

10 to 12 pounds: 3 to 3 1/2 hours
14 to 16 pounds: 4 to 5 hours
18 to 20 pounds: 5 to 6 hours

GRANDMA MOLLIE’S VEGETABLE STUFFING

1/4 cup olive oil
3 medium onions, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 bunch carrots, peeled and grated
1 parsnip, peeled and grated
2 large zucchinis, grated
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
1/2 to 1 cup golden raisins, plumped in water, sweet wine or apple juice, and drained
8 to 10 mushrooms, chopped
2 to 3 tablespoons uncooked quick or old-fashioned oats
2 to 3 tablespoons flour
2 to 3 tablespoons bread crumbs
1/4 cup dry red wine
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

In a large heavy skillet, heat the oil and sauté the onions and garlic until transparent. Add celery, carrots, parsnip and zucchini; toss well. Sauté for 5 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften. Add parsley, raisins and mushrooms; mix thoroughly. Simmer 5 minutes. Blend in 1 tablespoon at a time of the oats, flour and bread crumbs, until the mixture holds together. Add wine and mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

RED CABBAGE WITH APPLES

1 large red cabbage (2 1/2 pounds)
2/3 cup wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons unsalted margarine
2 apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1 small onion, chopped
1 whole onion, peeled and pierced with 2 cloves
1 bay leaf, crushed
5 cups boiling water
3 tablespoons dry red wine
3 tablespoons red currant jelly
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Wash cabbage under cold water and cut into quarters. Cut into 1/8-inch shreds. Drop into a large bowl and sprinkle with vinegar, sugar and salt. Toss with a wooden spoon.

In a large (5-quart) saucepan, melt the margarine and sauté the apple slices and chopped onion for 5 minutes or until the apple slices are lightly browned. Add cabbage, whole onion and bay leaf. Stir thoroughly and pour in the boiling water. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally, and reduce heat to simmer. Cook, partially covered, 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until cabbage is just tender, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon. Remove the whole onion and bay leaf. Stir in the wine and currant jelly and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve hot.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

CHOCOLATE-RASPBERRY BROWNIES

1/4 pound unsalted margarine
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup raspberry preserves
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup toasted, chopped pecans
Powdered sugar (optional)
Toasted pecan halves for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease an 8- or 9-inch square baking pan and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend the margarine and granulated sugar. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Add preserves and melted chocolate; mix well. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt; blend into the margarine-egg mixture until smooth. Fold in chopped pecans.

Pour batter into prepared baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool. Top with powdered sugar and garnish with toasted pecan halves.

Makes about 16 brownies.

CRANBERRY MERINGUE TART

Cranberry meringue tart


The secret of making a crisp tart is to cook the filling first, then cool it, and spoon it into a prebaked, cooled tart shell. Then top with meringue, place under the broiler or bake in the oven until toasted. If the crust browns too quickly, simply cut a round of foil to fit the tart, cutting a large hole in the center to expose the filling. This keeps the crust from burning.

FILLING:

4 cups fresh cranberries
2/3 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
2 cups light brown sugar

MERINGUE:

3 egg whites
Pinch salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 (11-inch) prebaked Sweet Pastry Tart Shell (recipe follows)
Preheat oven to 350 F.

To make filling: In a large, heavy skillet, combine cranberries, orange juice, orange peel and 1 1/2 cups brown sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring until brown sugar dissolves, and simmer, uncovered, 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cranberries will pop and become very soft. Blend in remaining 1/2 cup brown sugar and continue cooking 5 minutes longer. Cool. Spoon into prebaked Sweet Pastry Tart Shell.

To make meringue: In a large mixing bowl, beat egg whites with salt until soft peaks form. Add granulated sugar, a little at a time, beating well until stiff peaks form.

Fit a pastry tube with a decorative tip; fill the bag with the meringue.

Cover the cranberry filling completely with meringue rosettes, including the edge of the crust.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or place under the broiler, watching carefully, until meringue is lightly toasted.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

SWEET PASTRY TART SHELL

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup unsalted margarine, cut into small pieces
3 tablespoons water or milk

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, salt and sugar. Cut in the margarine until the mixture is crumbly. Blend in the water or milk just until the dough begins to come together. Do not over-mix.

Knead the dough into a ball, wrap in waxed paper, and chill for at least 10 minutes in the refrigerator.

Roll pastry out, between 2 large sheets of floured waxed paper, to a round large enough to cover and overlap an 11-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. For easier handling, fold pastry in half before transferring it to the pan. (The waxed paper prevents the pastry from sticking together.)

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

Preheat oven to 375 F.

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

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How sweet it is

Apple Tart Classique. Photo by Josiah Citron

Apples, honey and a freshly baked round challah are traditionally served at the beginning of our Rosh Hashanah dinner. The shape of the challah represents unending happiness, and foods sweetened with honey symbolize a sweet and happy new year ahead.

Just before Rosh Hashanah, I start thinking of recipes featuring apples and honey, and what better way to combine them but in an assortment of desserts?

Apples come in so many colors, shapes and sizes, and their flavor can range from crisp and tart to soft and sweet. You can use most apples for baking, but the different varieties produce different results. And when it comes to honey, you will find the best selection of honey at the local farmers markets. Even hard-to-find varieties such as chestnut or buckwheat honey, which are dark in color and have a pungent malt flavor, are available.

Over the years, I have prepared many different apple-honey desserts, but this year I have asked chefs, family and friends to share their favorites.

Amy Tidus Zeidler, my daughter-in-law, shared her grandmother’s recipe for their family’s Apple Cake.

“It’s very simple and easy to make,” she said. “Grandma was a great baker and often didn’t use a recipe, but this is what my mom and I have come up with to replicate it.”

Growing up in Los Angeles, she said it was special when her grandparents, who lived on the East Coast, would come to visit several times a year.

“Some of my fondest memories of my grandmother were when she baked for us. My brothers and I loved her cookies and cakes, but the apple cake was our favorite,” she added.

Apple Rosemary Tart is a new find from chef Bruce Marder’s new bakery, Red Rooster, in Santa Monica. A delicious pie crust is filled with sliced apples and rosemary, then topped with crisscrossing strips of pie dough resembling latticework, creating a dramatic effect. As intimidating as it might look, making a lattice pie crust top is actually quite easy to do.

Josiah Citrin, chef/owner of Melisse restaurant in Santa Monica, shares a recipe for Apple Tart “Classique,” from his new cookbook, “Pursuit of Excellence.”” The recipe makes four individual tarts and can be doubled. I have also included his recipe for Crème Fraîche Ice Cream, or it can be garnished with whipped cream.

Our family standby, baked apple, is a perfect Rosh Hashanah dessert and is simple to make. Serve it with a scoop of ice cream on the side, or, for an Italian touch, top it with sabayon sauce accented with honey.

GRANDMA MARTHA’S APPLE CAKE

Grandma Martha’s Apple Cake. Photo by Dan Kacvinski


Topping:
1/4 cup sugar
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Batter:
1/2 pound unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup milk
2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced thinly
4 tablespoons honey

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Brush an 8-by-8-inch pan with butter and flour and set aside.

For topping, in a small bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon and nuts; set aside.

For batter, in the large bowl of an electric mixer, blend the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs and mix well. Combine flour and baking powder and add to batter alternately with the milk; mix well. Pour into prepared pan. Arrange sliced apples over the top, sprinkle with prepared topping and drizzle with honey.

Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

APPLE ROSEMARY TART

Apple Rosemary Tart. Photo by Judy Zeidler


For a flakier crust, it is important to mix the ingredients just until they begin to form a ball (do not overmix).

Pie crust:
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
8 ounces unsalted butter
1/2 cup ice water

Filling:
2 ounces unsalted butter
10 Fuji apples, peeled, cored, diced in 1-inch squares
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
Pinch cinnamon
Pinch sea salt
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon water
Granulated sugar to sprinkle on crust

Preheat oven to 325 F.

For pie crust, in the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, salt and sugar; pulse to mix. Add butter and pulse 6 to 8 times, until mixture resembles coarse meal with pea-size pieces of butter. Add ice water 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing until mixture just begins to clump together. Remove dough from machine and divide in half. Knead each half into a flat disc.

Roll out 1 disc to fit a 9-inch pie dish. Lightly press it into the pie dish, leaving enough dough to hang over the edge. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Roll out the other disc of dough, cut into 1/2-inch strips, and form strips into a lattice top. Arrange on wax paper, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Place a sheet of wax paper on top of crust in prepared pie dish and fill with pie weights, rice or beans. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes. Remove weights and wax paper; bake 10 minutes longer or until golden brown. Let cool.

For filling, melt butter in a large sauté pan. Add apples, lemon juice, honey, sugar, rosemary, cinnamon and salt; sauté for 20 minutes until soft. Mix cornstarch with water, stirring until all lumps disappear, and add to apple mixture; simmer for 10 minutes. Let cool.

Spoon the apple filling into partially baked piecrust. Brush edge of crust with egg yolk/water mixture. Invert unbaked lattice top onto baked crust. Press edges together and trim to fit pie dish. Brush lattice top with egg yolk/water mixture and sprinkle with sugar.

Place tart on a cookie sheet and bake for 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

APPLE TART CLASSIQUE

Crème Fraîche Ice Cream:
4 cups whole milk
11 egg yolks
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
Pinch ground cinnamon
1 2/3 cups crème fraîche

Apple Tart:
1 sheet puff pastry (12 by 12 inches)
4 large pink lady apples, peeled
1/2 cup clarified butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Caramel Sauce:
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 pound unsalted butter, cut into medium dice
2 teaspoons fleur de sel

For ice cream, bring the milk to a boil in a medium pot over high heat. In a medium bowl, lightly whisk together the yolks, sugar and cinnamon. Slowly whisk the boiled milk into the yolk mixture. Strain the mixture through a chinois and into a stainless steel bowl; set that bowl over a bowl of ice. Stir to chill. Whisk in the crème fraîche. Churn the mix in an ice cream maker and reserve in the freezer.

For apple tart, lay the puff pastry on a flat surface. Cut out four circles using a 4 1/2-inch cookie cutter. Place the pastry circles on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, spacing them at least 1 inch apart. Put the tray into the freezer until the pastry is hard.

Using an apple corer, remove the cores from the apples. Cut the apples in half down the core. Slice the apples on a mandolin slicer into 1/8-inch-thick half-rings.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Arrange the apple slices by fanning them out on the frozen puff pastry. Brush each apple tart with some of the clarified butter, and dust with some of the powdered sugar. Bake the tarts for 15 minutes. Brush the tarts again with clarified butter, dust with powdered sugar and bake for another 15 minutes. Repeat this process two more times for a total of four coatings and dustings and 60 minutes of baking time.

For caramel sauce, in a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, honey and water. Put the pan over high heat and let the sugar boil until it turns brown (about 12 minutes). Once the sugar has reached a caramel stage, remove the pan from the heat and, in a gentle stream, carefully whisk in the cream. Whisk in the butter a few pieces at a time. Add the fleur de sel, mix well and strain through a chinois. Keep warm. (If making a few days in advance, refrigerate, then reheat in the microwave when ready to serve.)

To serve, heat the apple tarts in a preheated 350 F oven for 7 minutes. Heat the caramel sauce in a small saucepan. Place a tart on the center of each plate and spoon the caramel sauce around the edge of the tart. Place a quenelle of the Crème Fraîche Ice Cream on top of the tarts and dust with powdered sugar.

Makes 4 servings.

OLD-FASHIONED HONEY BAKED APPLES

Old-Fashioned Honey Baked Apple. Photo by Dan Kacvinski


1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup sugar
6 Granny Smith or Rome Beauty apples, equal size
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 teaspoon-size pieces
1/4 cup honey
1 cup apple juice
6 sprigs fresh mint, optional

Preheat oven to 325 F.

In a small bowl, combine cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar; set aside.

Core the apples, making sure not to puncture the bottom of the apples so the juices will remain. Remove skin from 1/2 inch around top of each apple at the opening. Fill each cavity with an equal amount of the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Top each apple with a drizzle of honey and a teaspoon of butter.

Place apples in casserole dish and pour apple juice and any remaining honey around them. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for about 45 minutes or until tender when pierced with a fork. Remove from the oven, garnish with fresh mint, drizzle with additional honey, and serve.

Makes 6 servings.

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

A version of this article appeared in print.
http://www.jewishjournal.com/food/article/how_sweet_it_is_20110921/

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Break the fast with a buffet

Corn blinis with smoked salmon and salmon caviar. Photos by Dan Kacvinski

As the sound of the shofar officially closes the long day of Yom Kippur prayer, people head home a little weary but spiritually uplifted. It has been a tradition for our family to gather upon returning from synagogue for a break-the-fast meal. It began when our children were growing up, and we prepared a light brunch-style dairy supper.

In many Jewish homes, a favorite way to break the Yom Kippur fast is with a buffet table filled with easy-to-serve appetizers that guests can nibble when they return after a long day of prayer and fasting. Most of the food can be prepared in advance and put on the table quickly. No one wants to spend time in the kitchen while suffering from acute hunger pangs. The transition from fast to feast should be a gradual one. Begin with tea flavored with lemon and honey, or a glass of wine served with challah (egg bread) and honey cake.

Last year, we served mini Russian blini (blintzes) with smoked salmon and salmon caviar topped with sour cream. The recipe for the blini is not difficult and can be prepared in advance. I use a pan with seven shallow wells that is made just for this, but a nonstick frying pan will do as well. Cured or smoked salmon and salmon caviar helps replenish some of the salt lost after fasting for 24 hours.

I still remember what I was told by my parents: “After the Yom Kippur fast, our bodies need salt.” So our break-the-fast dinners always included smoked salmon and pickled herring. I’m not sure whether modern science agrees, but to be safe I’ve included Grandma Gene’s special recipe for Chopped Herring. It contains onion, apple, chopped hard-cooked egg and lots of love.

I can’t resist adding a few new ideas to the break-the-fast menu. This year I will serve a Vegetable Frittata that was inspired by a dish that is served at Cora’s, a small coffee shop in Santa Monica. The frittata is made in advance and heated when ordered. Filled with red peppers, onions and zucchini, it adds color to the buffet table. Prepare the frittata ahead of time, refrigerate, and serve at room temperature or heat in the oven just before serving.

Traditional Honey Cake is a holiday staple, symbolizing a sweet new year, but I continue to develop new recipes to make it better. This is one of the most delicious I have ever tasted, and even if you are not a big fan of honey cake, I think you will enjoy this one.

The children always enjoy crisp cookies at the end of the meal, and these crunchy Sesame-Honey Thins are perfect. I suggest orange blossom honey or any light honey for the recipe, as a strong flavor tends to overpower these delicate, paper-thin cookies. Make the dough mixture in advance, and store them in the refrigerator until baking.

CORN BLINIS WITH SMOKED SALMON OR SALMON CAVIAR

1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels (boiled) or frozen corn, defrosted
3 eggs
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 pound smoked salmon or salmon caviar
1/4 cup sour cream or crème fraiche
3 tablespoons minced fresh chives

Place the corn in a food processor and pulse a few times. Add the eggs, flour, salt and pepper, and process until smooth.

Brush a large nonstick skillet with olive oil (or use a heavy cast-iron skillet with seven pancake wells), and heat over medium heat until hot. Working in batches, drop the batter in by tablespoon and cook until golden brown, about 20 seconds a side.

Top each pancake with smoked salmon or salmon caviar and sour cream. Sprinkle with chives and serve immediately.

Makes about 24 servings.

GRANDMA’S CHOPPED HERRING

For almost every holiday gathering, Grandma Gene would arrive at the front door bearing a large glass bowl filled with chopped herring, along with her corn rye bread. She always finished garnishing the herring when she arrived, and then would serve it with pride. It took many years to convince her to part with the recipe. Finally, I sat there one day when she made it, measuring and taking notes as she prepared the dish.

1 pound schmaltz herring fillets or 1 jar (1 pound) pickled herring fillets in wine sauce
2 slices challah or egg bread
1 medium onion, cut into quarters
1 green apple, peeled, cored and sliced
2 hard-boiled eggs
4 teaspoons vinegar
2 or 3 tablespoons safflower or vegetable oil

Soak the herring in cold water overnight. Drain well. Bone and skin the herring and cut it into pieces. Soak the challah in cold water for a few minutes and squeeze out the water.

Place the herring, challah, onion and apple in a food grinder and grind. Chop the hard-boiled egg whites and combine with 3 teaspoons of the vinegar. Mix the whites into the herring mixture. Spread the chopped herring on a platter. Mash the egg yolks with the remaining 1 teaspoon vinegar and spread over the top of the chopped herring. Cover with plastic wrap and chill. Just before serving, drizzle the oil over the top. Serve with thinly sliced corn rye bread.

Makes about 8 to 10 servings.

VEGETABLE FRITTATA

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 medium zucchini, cut into small cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
6 large eggs
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the olive oil in a nonstick skillet, brushing sides of skillet, over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell pepper and zucchini; sauté until soft. Add salt and pepper, to taste.

Whisk the eggs in a bowl, blending well. Pour egg mixture over hot vegetables in the skillet; stir gently to combine. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, without stirring, until eggs are set on bottom, about 5 minutes.

Sprinkle half of the cheese over frittata. Place under broiler and broil until cheese melts, about 2 minutes.

Sprinkle remaining cheese on top, cut frittata into wedges, and serve.

Makes 6 servings.

NEW CLASSIC HONEY CAKE

Olive oil for loaf pans
1/2 cup finely ground almonds
1 3/4 cups honey
1 cup strong brewed coffee
1/2 cup currants
3 tablespoons brandy
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/4 cups brown sugar, packed
4 eggs
3 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 tablespoon grated orange zest

Brush two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans with olive oil.

In a saucepan, combine the honey and coffee; bring to a boil and cool. Soak the currants in the brandy.

Preheat the oven to 300 F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend the ¼ cup olive oil, brown sugar and eggs. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the honey/coffee mixture to the egg mixture, stirring after each addition. Fold in the currants, almonds and orange zest.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pans and bake for 1 hour; the top will be sticky, but a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.

Makes 2 loaves, 8 to 10 servings each.

SESAME-HONEY THINS

3/4 cup unsalted butter or margarine, cut into pieces
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 cup orange-flavored honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter, brown sugar, honey and vanilla until light and fluffy. Blend in the egg and sesame seeds. Add the flour and salt; beat until smooth. (You may cover the dough with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator or freezer for later use.)

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Spoon small marble-size mounds of dough 2 inches apart onto a lightly oiled, foil-lined or silicone baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes, until the cookies begin to brown around the edges. Cool on the baking sheet. When the cookies harden, carefully peel them off.

Store in an airtight container with foil between the layers.

Makes about 8 dozen.

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A honeyed new year

Apple-studded challah. Photo by Dan Kacvinski

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is a holiday full of hope and optimism as well as apples, honey and round challahs.

Many of the traditional dishes that are served feature honey and apples to assure “a sweet new year.” It is said the custom of eating apples, a fruit whose fragrance is associated with the Garden of Eden, forecasts a New Year that will be smooth, sweet and well-rounded. Other holiday foods with special meanings include fish (immortality) and pomegranates (fertility).

We always serve a round challah, symbolizing unending happiness, along with apple slices dipped in honey to greet our family and friends. I love the way some synagogues now have a ritual of serving apples and honey as the congregants leave Rosh Hashanah services on their way home to their family dinner.

Our traditional round challah has a new look this year. Combined with whole wheat flour — which adds wonderful flavor, texture and aroma — apples and honey, it is covered with sesame seeds, braided and baked in a ring. We leave a hole in the center, where a bowl of honey is placed for dipping.

When I was growing up, holiday dinners meant roast chicken, always baked in tomato sauce, with onions, carrots, celery and potatoes; the recipe never changed. Following the Rosh Hashanah theme, I have included a delicious roast chicken recipe baked with apples and honey. It is a perfect main course, as it can be prepared in advance and served warm or cold.

Kreplach, another traditional holiday food, is said to date back to the 12th century, and each country seems to have its own version of a filled egg-noodle dough, whether fried, boiled in soup or steamed. Some think that the dish originated in China and worked its way via the trade routes to Europe. This year, I am making apple-filled kreplach that are served with honey as an accompaniment to the main course.

My husband and his cousin remember, when they were growing up in Boyle Heights, their bubbe (grandmother) making kreplach during the holidays. She worked in the kitchen early in the morning, rolling out the dough on a wooden board that she put on the kitchen table, and cut each square by hand. They reminisced that Bubbe would serve these kreplach, filled with kasha and roast meat, in a clear chicken soup.

The dessert, Macaroon Apple Cake, tastes like an exotic Scandinavian pastry but can be made the day before and stored in the refrigerator. Apples and strawberry preserves are topped with a crunchy nut crust — made with crushed macaroons and almonds — that gives it a subtle flavor you’d think came from marzipan.

A word about apples

  • Look for apples that are firm and bright in color. Avoid any that feel soft or have bruised areas.
  • Depending on the variety, apples will keep two weeks or more in the refrigerator.
  • After slicing, green apples do not turn brown as rapidly as red apples.
  • Cook apples in a stainless steel, enamel or glass saucepan.
  • Peel apples with a stainless steel vegetable peeler or knife.
  • Granny Smith and Pippin apples are firm and tart and require more baking or cooking time; they also require more sugar.
  • Red or Golden Delicious apples need less sugar and take less time to cook.
  • Rome Beauty apples hold their shape and are good for baking.

APPLE-STUDDED CHALLAH

1 package active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water (110-115 F)
Pinch sugar
3 eggs
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup unsalted margarine, melted
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground saffron (optional)
2 tablespoons brandy
4 to 5 cups unbleached flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup diced apples, tossed with 1 tablespoon flour

Oil
Yellow corn meal
1 egg white, lightly beaten
Sesame seeds
Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm water with a pinch of sugar.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together eggs, honey and margarine. Add remaining 1 cup warm water, salt, saffron and brandy; blend well. Blend in the yeast mixture. Add 1 cup unbleached flour and mix well. Continue adding 1 cup unbleached flour together with 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, blending after each addition, until all the whole wheat flour and enough of the unbleached flour is incorporated to make a dough that is thick enough to work by hand.

Spread 2 cups of the remaining unbleached flour onto a pastry board; place the dough on the board and knead for 5 to 10 minutes, gradually incorporating the apples and enough of the remaining unbleached flour to make a smooth and elastic dough. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, and oil the top of the dough. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

Divide the dough into three equal parts. Form each one into a long rope, braid the ropes together, and seal the ends by pinching, then join both ends to form a ring.

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Line a heavy baking sheet with foil or a silicone baking mat; brush with oil and sprinkle with corn meal. Place the challah onto the prepared baking sheet. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 30 minutes. Brush the loaf with beaten egg white and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a rack. Serve with a bowl of honey.

Makes 1 extra-large round challah or 2 small challahs.

HONEY-GLAZED ROAST CHICKEN WITH APPLES

1 fresh whole chicken (3 1/2 to 4 1/2 pounds)
1 apple, cut in quarters
1 onion, cut in quarters
4 garlic cloves, cut in half
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup olive oil
4 tablespoons fresh rosemary
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 450 F.

Wash chicken under cold water. Place apple, onion and garlic into cavity of the chicken.

In a bowl, mix together honey, olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper; mixture should be a paste-like consistency. Rub this mixture all over the outside of the chicken, turning the chicken to rub the underside, too.

Line a large roasting pan with foil and place chicken in the center. Bake for 45 minutes, uncovered. After 45 minutes, chicken should have a dark brown crust. Cover with foil and roast for another 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes before carving.

Makes 6 servings.

BAKED APPLE KREPLACH

Baked apple kreplach. Photo by Dan Kacvinski


Apple Filling (recipe follows)
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted margarine
3 tablespoons water
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 cup honey

Prepare the Apple Filling, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.

Preheat oven to 400 F.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt and powdered sugar. Cut in 1/2 cup margarine until the mixture is crumbly. Blend in the water until the dough begins to come together. Do not over-mix. Knead the dough into a ball, wrap it in waxed paper, and chill in refrigerator for 5 to 10 minutes.

Divide the dough into two parts. Cover one part with a towel; roll the other part out on a large sheet of floured wax paper to a thickness of 1/8 to 1/4 inch. Cut the dough into 3-inch squares. Place a teaspoon of Apple Mixture in the center of each square; brush the edges with water, and carefully fold the dough into a triangle, pressing the edges with the tines of a fork to seal. Place on a foil-lined or silicone baking mat that has been brushed with margarine. Repeat with remaining dough. (Can be covered with foil and stored in the refrigerator or freezer at this point.)

Just before baking, brush the kreplach lightly with beaten egg and sprinkle with granulated sugar.

Bake in preheated oven 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown. Using a metal spatula, transfer to a platter. Drizzle honey over the top.

Makes 24 to 36 kreplach.

APPLE FILLING

4 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and diced
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons each nutmeg and cinnamon

In a large bowl, toss together all ingredients. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to fill kreplach.

MACAROON APPLE CAKE

Macaroon apple cake. Photo by Dan Kacvinski


1 pound almond macaroons, toasted and finely ground (about 2 1/2 cups crumbs)
1 1/4 cups toastedground almonds
3/4 cup melted margarine
8 tart apples, such as Granny Smith or Pippin
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup raisins, plumped in sweet wine or apple juice
1 (16-ounce) jar raspberry or strawberry preserves
Toasted sliced almonds for garnish
Fresh berries for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl, combine the ground macaroons and 1 cup ground almonds. Brush an 8-inch springform pan generously with 1/4 cup melted margarine; sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup ground almonds.

In a large bowl, combine the macaroon mixture and remaining 1/2 cup melted margarine; mix well. Press 1 1/2 to 2 cups of the macaroon mixture into bottom of springform pan.

Peel, core and slice apples and place in a saucepan with sugar and lemon juice; mix well. Cook over low heat until juices appear and apples soften, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain thoroughly.

In a food processor, chop apples fine, but do not puree. Drain raisins, squeeze dry and add to apple mixture.

Place half of apple-raisin mixture on top of macaroon mixture in springform pan. Spread half of preserves over apple mixture, then remaining apple-raisin mixture and remaining preserves. Finish with the remaining macaroon mixture.

Bake in preheated oven 45 to 55 minutes. Cool on rack, cover, and refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight. Just before serving, use a knife to loosen cake from pan; remove sides of springform. Place cake on a platter and garnish with toasted sliced almonds and fresh berries.

Makes 8 servings.

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Summertime picnic

Summer is a perfect time to share a picnic meal with friends. There is something exciting about eating outdoors, even if you are only heading to the local park.

Gramma molly’s glazed meatloaf

We have had season tickets for the Hollywood Bowl for as long as I can remember. Friends meet up with us there and we enjoy an entire evening sharing a picnic dinner and music under the stars.

One of the most interesting salads we have had was when a guest was asked to bring a Caesar salad to the Bowl. The ingredients were packed individually; when we got to the Bowl, our friends put the romaine, grated Parmesan and anchovy dressing into a plastic bag — shake, shake — and served. It was delicious.

Your picnic meal may be nothing more than tuna salad and a selection of cheeses, but you’re still likely to have a good time, which is probably why many of us remain devoted to the same picnic foods we’ve eaten forever.

Here are some ideas for a successful, frustration-free picnic, which you can enjoy at the Hollywood Bowl, the Santa Barbara Bowl, the Libbey Bowl in Ojai, the beach, a park or in your own backyard.

Begin with Roasted Peppers prepared in a simple, foolproof method and served with anchovies. When not planning to serve the peppers immediately, cover them with oil and garlic, and store them in a bowl in the refrigerator. The olive oil serves as a preservative, and the garlic actually brings out their flavor. Although people may bring store-bought roasted peppers in the jar, they cannot compare with peppers prepared at home.

Meatloaf is a favorite and can be made with ground beef, chicken or turkey. Serving is no problem — heat it in the oven just before leaving for your picnic. Cover tightly with aluminum foil, wrap in several layers of newspaper or a towel, and it will stay as warm as if you just took it out of the oven. During the preparation, I include hard-boiled eggs that I place in the center when shaping the meatloaf. When you cut the loaf, it is very festive to see them in each slice.

Don’t forget to include Potato Salad, which traditionally goes with meatloaf as well as it does with most picnic foods. Spoon into Tupperware or a similar snap-top plastic container, and place on a plastic bag filled with ice to keep cold.

Rich, chewy Chocolate Pecan Brownies covered with a creamy chocolate frosting are a perfect take-along dessert — they can be baked in advance and are easy to transport.

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Say Cheese: Recipes for Shavuot

During Shavuot, it’s a custom to serve dairy foods, such as cheese blintzes, cheese noodle kugels, cheesecake and even ice cream. But have you wondered where this tradition comes from?

There are many explanations, but I like the theory that, at this time of the year, sheep and goats are still feeding their young, and milk products abound.

Dishes prepared with wheat, barley, honey, olives and other “first fruits” of the spring harvest are also customary.

Using many of these ingredients and updating the traditional Shavuot dairy dishes, this menu includes some of my favorite dishes, inspired by my new Italian cookbook, “Italy Cooks.”

When your guests sit down for the holiday meal, welcome everyone by sharing a platter, placed in the center of the table, containing a goat cheese and tomato appetizer. It is a great way to start the evening.

Cold tomato soup topped with mozzarella cheese is a refreshing perfect first course, as it can be prepared in advance, stored in the refrigerator and ladled into soup bowls when you are ready. I developed this recipe while we were renting a house in Italy, where we often picked tomatoes from the garden. Based on the famous Italian caprese salad, it is fresh, colorful and easy to prepare, especially if you have a tomato press. (This handy little Italian-made gadget separates the seeds and skins from the pulp, leaving a fresh tomato puree. The device is made of heavy red acrylic, with a stainless steel strainer and a strong suction cup on the bottom that attaches to any work surface. You can find it at most cookware stores.)

Zucchini squash blossoms are easily found in farmers’ markets at this time of the year. Stuff these delicate flowers with a ricotta mixture and bake in the oven. Serve with a classic marinara sauce. This light vegetable dish makes a perfect small course for a dinner that consists entirely of primi piatti (first plates).

Instead of the traditional farmers cheese-filled blintzes, prepare crepes filled with ricotta cheese and spinach, baked and served with a chunky, spicy tomato sauce. It is an Italian country crepe dish known as Crespelle con Ricotta e Spinaci. This recipe is most appealing with the filled crespelle (crepes) presented on a pool of tomato sauce. Think blintzes, with an Italian accent.

Fried Cheese is another dish that is perfect to serve during Shavuot. This one is so impressive in Italian restaurants, and easy to replicate at home. It’s just a mixture of mozzarella cheese, eggs, breadcrumbs and seasoning, cut into squares. The mozzarella squares should be soft and melted inside, so it’s important to fry them just moments before serving. Have the fresh tomato sauce prepared and ready to spoon onto the individual serving plates, place the fried cheese on top, and serve at once. (Recipe online.)

GOAT CHEESE AND TOMATO APPETIZER

8 ounces montrachet or other goat cheese
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup mascarpone (optional)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chopped basil
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil or more to taste
Classic Marinara Sauce (recipe follows)

Combine the montrachet, cream cheese, mascarpone, garlic, basil, salt and olive oil in the large bowl of an electric mixer. Mix until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add more olive oil if needed for smoother consistency. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

When ready to serve, preheat broiler. Cover bottom of 12 small (3-inch) shallow custard cups or ramekins with Classic Marinara Sauce. Using an ice cream scoop, place a scoop of cheese mixture in the center of each custard cup or ramekin. Heat under the broiler for about 5 minutes, or until top is brown. Do not let the cheese mixture melt. Sprinkle with parsley and drizzle with a little olive oil.

Makes 12 servings.

FRIED CHEESE WITH CLASSIC MARINARA SAUCE

It is important to fry the mozzarella cheese cubes just before serving so they will be soft and melted on the inside. The sauce can be prepared in advance; simply spoon onto individual plates when serving.

1 pound mozzarella cheese, finely diced
6 eggs
1 1/4 cups dried bread crumbs
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons dry vermouth or brandy
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 parsley sprigs, stems removed
4 fresh basil leaves
1 cup flour
Vegetable oil for frying
Classic Marinara Sauce (see recipe)

In a double boiler, soften the mozzarella over hot water. Transfer the softened cheese to the large bowl of an electric mixer and beat in two of the eggs at medium speed. Add 1/4 cup of the bread crumbs, the oregano, half the garlic and the salt; mix well. Press the cheese mixture into a lightly oiled 5-by-7-inch glass dish. Cover and chill at least 1 hour, or until firm.

In a bowl, lightly beat the remaining four eggs. Blend in the vermouth. Set aside.

In a food processor or blender, blend the remaining 1 cup bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, parsley, basil and remaining garlic. Set aside.

Cut the cheese mixture into 1/2-inch cubes (about 15 pieces). Dip each into the flour, then the egg-vermouth mixture, and finally into the bread crumb mixture to coat evenly. Place on paper towels and chill 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

In a heavy skillet or deep fryer, heat 3 inches of oil until it registers 375 F on a deep-frying thermometer. Fry the cheese cubes, a few at a time, until evenly golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Serve at once with Classic Marinara Sauce.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

CLASSIC MARINARA SAUCE

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 small white onions, finely diced
1 can (1 pound, 12 ounces) whole plum tomatoes, with liquid
4 cups peeled, seeded and chopped fresh tomatoes
8 whole basil leaves, sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Minced parsley for garnish
Olive oil for drizzling

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook gently until browned. Add the onions and sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the canned and fresh tomatoes, basil, and simmer until soft, about 5 minutes. Using a wire whisk or fork, mash the tomatoes. Simmer over low heat until the mixture thickens into a sauce, about 45 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Let cool. May cover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days or in freezer for up to one month.

Makes about 4 cups.

CRESPELLE WITH RICOTTA AND SPINACH

24 Blini (recipe follows)
1 pound ricotta cheese
8 ounces spinach, steamed, squeezed dry and finely chopped
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste
Salt to taste
Classic Marinara Sauce (see recipe)

Prepare Blini; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

If ricotta is very soft, place in a strainer set over a medium bowl for 30 minutes to drain. Mix the drained ricotta, spinach, nutmeg and salt in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

To assemble, spread about 2 tablespoons of the ricotta-spinach filling over the entire surface of each crepe. Fold 2 inches of each side over the filling and roll up tight. Cut each roll into 4 pieces and place on the baking sheet. Bake at 350 F until heated through, about 5 minutes.

To serve, heat the Classic Marinara Sauce and spoon some in the center of each plate. Arrange 4 or 5 rolled crepes, cut side up, on top of the sauce.

Makes 12 servings.

BLINI (Crepes)

5 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 3/4 cups flour
Pinch salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

In bowl of an electric mixer, beat eggs and egg yolks. Blend in milk and cream. Add flour, salt, and oil; blend well. Pour into a fine-mesh strainer set over a large bowl and allow to slowly drip through. Or push batter through the strainer with a rubber spatula. Batter should be the consistency of heavy cream. If too thick, add a little more milk. It can be used immediately or covered with plastic wrap, refrigerated, and used the next day.

Brush a well-seasoned crepe pan with butter and heat. Pour in about 3 tablespoons batter; tilt and rotate the pan to distribute it evenly and thinly, pouring off any excess. The first crepe will be thicker than the rest. Cook until underside is lightly browned around the edges, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn and cook on other side 1 to 2 minutes. Repeat with remaining batter, stacking cooked crepes on a dish with a piece of wax paper between each one.

Makes about 12 crepes.

Cold Tomato Soup with Mozzerella

COLD TOMATO SOUP WITH MOZZARELLA

6 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and pureed (about 3 cups)
2 tablespoons sugar or to taste
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon salt or more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil leaves
6 ounces soft mozzarella cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cups diced cucumbers, peeled (2 small cucumbers)
2 cups fresh corn kernels
Extra-virgin olive oil for garnish

Strain the pureed tomatoes into a glass bowl. Add the sugar, balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Add the basil and mix thoroughly.

Spoon an equal amount of mozzarella, cucumbers and corn kernels into the center of 6 shallow bowls and ladle some tomato mixture over each. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.

Makes 6 servings.

STUFFED SQUASH BLOSSOMS

20 to 24 squash blossoms with tiny zucchini attached
1 pound fresh ricotta cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 egg yolks or whole eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 pound gorgonzola cheese, cut in small cubes
1/2 cup olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Simple Zucchini Sauce (recipe follows)

Carefully open blossoms wide; remove the pistils — the fuzzy yellow floret — from inside the zucchini blossom and discard. Set blossoms aside.

In a large bowl, beat the ricotta, Parmesan, eggs and salt until smooth. Taste for seasoning; the mixture should be highly seasoned. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

To fill the blossoms, spoon the filling into a large pastry bag (a small spoon will also work). Fill the clean blossoms about three-quarters full. Push a piece of gorgonzola into the center of the filling and gently squeeze the petals together over the top of the filling.

Brush two 8-by-10-inch baking dishes with olive oil and arrange the stuffed zucchini flowers in the dishes. Sprinkle the blossoms with additional salt, pepper and remaining olive oil. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in preheated 375 F oven until the cheese is puffy and the juices that run from the blossoms begin to bubble.

To serve, ladle Simple Zucchini Sauce into each serving plate and arrange two stuffed blossoms on top.

Makes 10 servings.

SIMPLE ZUCCHINI SAUCE

2 zucchini (16 ounces), cut in 1-inch chunks
Water
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a medium-size saucepan, place zucchini with water to cover. Bring to a boil and simmer until soft. Reserve 3 to 4 tablespoons of the cooking liquid. Cool. Place zucchini in food processor with reserved liquid, olive oil, salt and pepper, and blend until smooth. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to serve. Just before serving, heat the sauce and serve with the squash blossoms.

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

http://www.jewishjournal.com/ shavuot/article/say_cheese_recipes_for_shavuot_20110531/

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Italian cheeses inspire a unique holiday menu

It all started with Signora Grazia, an elderly cheese maker in Panzano, Italy. While vacationing in this Tuscan village, just 30 minutes south of Florence, we walked by her farm early one morning and saw the sign that read “Pecorino and Fresh Ricotta for Sale.”

We hiked up the path and, peering through the open barn door, saw her making hot ricotta cheese in a big copper bowl over an open fire. We bought some and briskly walked back to our villa. While the ricotta was still warm, we enjoyed this delicious discovery for breakfast, topped with dark chestnut honey. However, the dish is equally delicious for lunch, dinner or dessert.

Taking inspiration from my adventures in Italy, I’m skipping traditional Shavuot fare like cheese blintzes and cheesecake this year in favor of Homemade Ricotta, Cheese and Smoked Salmon Panini, Ravioli Filled With Four Cheeses and Ricotta Cake With Zabaglione.

The first time I had grilled panini was at an Autogrill, an extensive cafe/buffet bar at a rest area along Italy’s Autostrada. We found 10 or more different combinations of panini already assembled, using a variety of breads and rolls in many sizes and shapes. If you opt to have your panini toasted, the server hands you a hot, grilled sandwich, wrapped in parchmentlike paper, with melted cheese oozing out the sides. They were so good, we had several for lunch.

Ravioli Filled With Four Cheeses will replace the traditional cheese blintzes at our holiday dinner. The pasta dough, adapted from Chef Jessica’s handmade pasta, which is prepared daily at her Ristoranti L’800 in Argelato, is as easy to make as the blini for blintzes. Boiled for a few minutes, they are tossed in melted butter and served with Parmesan cheese.

Some think serving dairy for Shavuot is related to Shir HaShirim (The Song of Songs). One line of this poem reads “Honey and milk are under your tongue.” Many believe this line compares the Torah to the sweetness of milk and honey, and years ago it was the tradition for children to be introduced to Torah study during Shavuot with honey cakes featuring words from the Torah written on them.

For dessert, in keeping with the Shavuot theme, serve Bruna Santini’s Ricotta Cake With Zabaglione.

Many years ago we were at Dal Pescatore, a three-star Michelin restaurant between Mantova and Cremona, where we ate this delicious cake that was served with a rich zabaglione sauce spooned over the top. It was made by pouring the batter into a heavy cast iron skillet, covered with a lid and placed in the fireplace, where hot coals were raked over the pot to bake the cake. Fortunately, times have changed, and baking this ricotta cake in an oven makes the process significantly easier.

JUDY’S FRESH HOMEMADE RICOTTA
From “Italy Cooks” by Judy Zeidler

Judy’s fresh homepage ricotta (Photo by Dan Kacvinski)

1 quart whole milk
1/2 cup cream
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice

In a heavy saucepan, bring milk, cream and salt to a simmer. Just before it comes to a rolling boil, add the lemon juice, stirring until soft curds begin to form. Remove from the heat and allow curds to form. Using a slotted spoon, skim the ricotta curds from the whey and place them in a colander lined with cheesecloth. Or use a wire sieve or a small plastic ricotta basket. Drain for 15 minutes.

Serve warm or at room temperature with a drizzle of honey.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups of ricotta.

CHEESE AND SMOKED SALMON PANINI
From “Italy Cooks” by Judy Zeidler

Cheese and smoked salmon panini (Photo by Dan Kacvinski)

1/2 cup Mustard-Dill Sauce (recipe follows)
12 slices sandwich bread
6 slices smoked salmon
6 slices mozzarella cheese
Prepare Mustard-Dill Sauce, cover with plastic wrap, and chill.

Place sliced bread on a work board. Spread Mustard-Dill Sauce on six slices of bread and top each with a slice of smoked salmon and a slice of cheese to cover. Cover with remaining 6 slices of bread.

Preheat your panini press or grill to medium heat.

Place the sandwiches in the panini press and close the lid. Grill the sandwich until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is melted. Slice into quarters and serve immediately.

Makes 6 panini.

MUSTARD-DILL SAUCE
From “Italy Cooks” by Judy Zeidler

3 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
1 teaspoon powdered mustard
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon red or white vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh chopped (or snipped) dill

In a small, deep bowl, combine the Dijon and powdered mustards, sugar and vinegar; blend well. With a wire whisk, slowly beat in the olive oil until it forms a thick mayonnaise. Stir in the chopped dill. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes about 1 cup.

BRUNA SANTINI’S RAVIOLI WITH FIVE CHEESES
From “Italy Cooks” by Judy Zeidler

The Santini family at Dal Pescatore is famous for starting trends, and this is one of them. Make your own pasta, fill squares with the five-cheese mixture, and shape them into ravioli or tortellini. They are as light and melt-in-your-mouth as you can get. When a customer orders Bruna’s ravioli, she melts butter in a frying pan, adds grated Parmesan cheese, tosses the ravioli in the sauce, spoons it onto a plate — and voilà!

12 ounces Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1/2 pound ricotta, drained
6 ounces Romano cheese, freshly grated
6 ounces Emmental cheese, freshly grated
6 ounces Gruyere cheese, freshly grated
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 eggs
3 tablespoons grated fresh onion
2 tablespoons minced parsley
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Pasta Dough (recipe follows)
Unsalted butter

In a large bowl, combine the five cheeses, whipping cream, butter, eggs, grated onion, parsley, nutmeg, salt and pepper; mix well.

Prepare the Pasta Dough and roll it out in long wide sheets. Place a teaspoon of filling every 2 to 2 1/2 inches on one sheet of prepared pasta. With pastry brush or fingers dipped in water, moisten all sides and between cheese mounds. Carefully place second sheet of pasta over cheese-filled sheet. Using fingers, gently press sheets together to seal firmly at edges and between mounds of filling. With ravioli cutter or small sharp knife, cut ravioli into individual squares. Place squares on a clean, lightly floured cotton towel, and let rest 1 hour, if possible. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.

Cook ravioli 8 to 10 at a time in boiling water. Remove with slotted spoon to warm buttered serving dish. Repeat until all ravioli are cooked.

Toss generously with additional butter and additional Parmesan. Serve immediately with additional sauce.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

PASTA DOUGH
From “Italy Cooks” by Judy Zeidler

If your food processor has a limited capacity, make the dough in two or more batches.

3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons water

Place the flour and salt in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Turn the machine on and off once. With the machine running, drop in one egg and, the instant it is blended in, turn off the machine. Repeat with the remaining eggs until the dough is crumbly or resembles a coarse meal. Add the olive oil and water and process just until the dough begins to come away from the side of the bowl.

Remove the dough to a floured wooden board and knead just until smooth. Divide the dough into 3 or 4 parts for easier handling. When rolling out the first piece, cover the remainder with a large bowl so the dough does not dry out.

BRUNA SANTINI’S RICOTTA CAKE WITH ZABAGLIONE SAUCE
From “Italy Cooks” by Judy Zeidler

Bruna Santini’s ricotta cake with zabaglione sauce (Photo by Dan Kacvinski)

3/4 cup dried currants
Sweet wine
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup finely ground almonds
1 pound ricotta cheese, pressed through a strainer
2 1/4 cups sugar
5 eggs
3 3/4 cups flour
2 tablespoons rum
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup milk
Zabaglione Sauce (recipe follows)

Plump currants in sweet wine or warm water until soft, 2 hours or overnight in the refrigerator. Drain and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Brush a 12-cup bundt pan with melted butter and sprinkle with ground almonds. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat ricotta and sugar until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Then mix in flour a little at a time. Stir plumped currants into flour mixture along with rum and olive oil. Add vanilla, baking powder, baking soda and milk to soften batter and blend.

Spoon batter into prepared bundt pan. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour, until a wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean and sides begin to pull away from pan. Remove cake from oven and cool. Invert onto a platter. When ready to serve, slice and serve with Zabaglione Sauce on the side.

Makes 12 servings.

ZABAGLIONE SAUCE
From “Italy Cooks” by Judy Zeidler

5 egg yolks
5 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons Marsala wine

Beat egg yolks and sugar until thick, creamy and light in color. Add Marsala and whisk well to combine. Cook in a double boiler, over simmering water, for 10 minutes, whisking constantly.

Makes about 1 cup.

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Flavors of Israel

My fascination with Israeli food started the first time I tasted a falafel laced with tahini at a little sidewalk cafe in Westwood, near UCLA. Inspired by this simple Israeli dish, I began developing a list of Middle Eastern recipes that grew with each trip to Israel.

When visiting the marketplace in Jerusalem, I love watching the pita bakers working at cavernous wood-fired ovens. Rounds of dough are flattened by hand, then tossed against the inside walls of the ovens, where they puff up as they bake.

When I have time, I make my own pita bread, which I smother with garlic-herb butter and bake until crisp. You can also cut pita into triangles and serve for dipping with baked eggplant or hummus.

I enjoy serving a buffet-style Israeli lunch or dinner for friends, and because of the variety of dishes available, it is the perfect food for a family get-together, bar or bat mitzvah, or wedding celebration.

Eggplant, a favorite on the buffet table, is a versatile vegetable used in many recipes throughout the Middle East. My favorite recipe using this beautiful, dark purple vegetable is to blend its delicate yet pungent flavor with tahini, garlic, olive oil and salt for a delicious dip, baba ganoush.

Another of my favorites to serve is tabouleh, a traditional Middle Eastern salad, a combination of cracked bulgur wheat, green onions, chopped parsley, mint and lots of tomatoes. I often improvise, adding sliced cucumber and chopped red bell pepper, and using cilantro instead of parsley.

Serve this Israeli menu indoors or out, depending on the season and the amount of space you have. Most of the food can be prepared in advance, and the salads will keep well in the refrigerator for a day or two, even improving in flavor.

Set up a sweet table, arrange baskets of fresh fruit and bowls of nuts and dried fruit, and include baklava, made with layers of filo dough and chopped walnuts. After baking, pour or drizzle a warm honey syrup over the baklava. Let cool before serving.

Also, many people love halvah, a sweet confection often made from sesame seeds, which can be made even more delicious by dipping it in melted semisweet chocolate. Keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

PITA GARLIC TOAST

Pita garlic toast. Photos by Dan Kacvinski.

1/2 cup (1/4 pound) unsalted butter or nondairy margarine
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
2 teaspoons minced fresh chives, optional
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 to 8 pita rounds, split in half

In a food processor, blend together butter, lemon juice, garlic, parsley and chives. Add salt and pepper to taste. (If not using the spread immediately, mold it into a cube, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate or freeze; let it come to room temperature before continuing with your recipe.)

Preheat oven to 400 F. Spread the inside surfaces of the split pita rounds with the butter mixture. Cut each round into halves or quarters. Arrange the pitas in one layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake until lightly browned and crisp, about 5 minutes. You can also place the pieces under a broiler and broil until crisp. Watch carefully to avoid burning.

Transfer to serving plate and serve immediately.

Makes 12 servings.

EGGPLANT WITH TAHINI
1 large eggplant
1 medium onion, finely chopped, juice squeezed out and discarded
1 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
2 to 3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 teaspoons water
Salt
Dash cayenne pepper
Parsley sprigs for garnish
Preheat oven to 400 F.

Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and place it cut side down on a baking sheet lined with foil. Bake until its skin is charred and the inside is tender, about 30 to 40 minutes. Let the eggplant cool; peel it and chop finely. Place it in a mixing bowl, add the onion and parsley, and blend well.

In a separate bowl, stir together the tahini, 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice, garlic and water until well blended. Stir the tahini mixture into the eggplant mixture. Add salt to taste and cayenne pepper. Stir in additional lemon juice to taste. Garnish with parsley.

Makes about 2 1/2 to 3 cups.

TABOULEH

Tabouleh

1 cup fine cracked wheat (bulgur)
1/2 cup minced green onions
1 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mint
4 medium tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/3 cup lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
2 heads romaine lettuce, small center leaves only
1 lemon, thinly sliced for garnish

Soak the cracked wheat in enough cold water to cover until tender, 10 to 20 minutes. Drain it well and squeeze it as dry as possible by hand or in a kitchen towel or a double layer of cheesecloth.

Place the bulgur in a large bowl. Add the green onions, parsley, mint and tomatoes; toss well. Stir in the lemon juice, salt and pepper. Let the mixture stand for about 30 minutes, to allow the flavors to blend. Stir in the oil.

Pile the mixture on a large platter and surround it with the romaine leaves to use for scooping. Garnish with lemon slices.

Makes 8 servings.

FALAFEL

Falafel

1/2 cup fine cracked wheat (bulgur)
Water
1 1/2 to 2 pita bread rounds or white bread slices, torn into chunks (makes about 1 1/2 cups)
1 can (15 ounces) garbanzo beans, drained
1/2 cup lemon juice
3 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil for deep frying

Soak bulgur in enough cold water to cover for l5 minutes. Drain and set aside. Soak the bread chunks in enough cold water to cover, until soft and moist, about 5 minutes. Drain the bread, squeeze it dry, and set aside.

In a food processor or blender, put the garbanzos, lemon juice, garlic, cilantro, parsley, red pepper, cumin, salt and pepper. Process until smoothly pureed. Add the bulgur and bread and pulse until thoroughly combined. Moisten your hands with cold water. Shape the mixture into 1-inch balls.

Fill a large, heavy skillet with 3 inches of oil and heat to 375 F on a deep-frying thermometer. Fry the falafel in several batches, without overcrowding, until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes per batch. With a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain. Serve hot.

Makes about 36 balls, 8 to 10 servings.

BAKLAVA
Clarified Butter (recipe follows)
1/2 cup oil
1 package (1 pound) filo pastry dough
4 cups very finely chopped walnuts
Sugar and Honey Syrup (recipe follows)

Brush the bottom and sides of a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with the Clarified Butter. Trim the filo sheets to 12 by 9 inches. Place l sheet of filo on the bottom of the dish. Brush its entire surface lightly with clarified butter. Lay the second sheet on top and butter it lightly. Sprinkle it evenly with about 3 tablespoons of walnuts.

Repeat the procedure, using 2 sheets of buttered filo topped with 3 tablespoons of walnuts, until you’ve used all of the nuts and all but 2 sheets of filo. Place the 2 remaining sheets on top, brushing both with butter.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

With a small, sharp knife, score the top of the baklava lengthwise with parallel lines, 2 inches apart and 1/2 inch deep. Then score diagonally across them with parallel lines 2 inches apart to form diamond shapes.

Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to 300 F and bake 45 minutes longer, or until the top is crisp and golden brown. Remove from the oven and pour the Sugar and Honey Syrup evenly over it. Let it cool to room temperature, then cut along the scoring lines into individual pieces.

Makes about 24 pieces.

CLARIFIED BUTTER
1 pound unsalted butter

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Remove the pan from the heat and cool about 30 minutes. Skim off the foam. Slowly pour the clear liquid into a clean container, stopping before the whey (the milky-white sediment) escapes. Discard the whey. The butter will shrink about 25 percent in volume, so be sure you have enough for your recipe. Or, if time permits, place the melted butter in the freezer for a few minutes; the butter will harden and the whey will remain liquid and can be poured off.

Makes about 2 cups.

SUGAR AND HONEY SYRUP
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey

In a heavy saucepan, over medium heat, stir together the sugar, water and lemon juice, cooking until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil, without stirring, and continue boiling until the syrup reaches 220 F on a candy thermometer, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the honey.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

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More cluck for your passover buck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MOCK GEFILTE FISH

Mock Gefilte Fish. Photos by Dan Kacvinski

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

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

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

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

Makes 16 to 18 portions.

JUDY’S PASSOVER CHICKEN SOUP WITH THE FLUFFIEST MATZAH BALLS

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

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

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

Makes 12 servings.

THE FLUFFIEST MATZAH BALLS

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

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

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

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

Makes 8 to 10 matzah balls.

PARSLEY PESTO SAUCE

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

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

Makes about 2 cups.

ROASTED CHICKEN IN TOMATO-MUSHROOM SAUCE

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

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

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

Makes 10 to 12 servings.

CHICKEN-FENNEL SALAD

Chicken-Fennel Salad

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

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

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

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

PASSOVER ROLLS FOR SLIDERS

Chicken sliders with Passover Rolls

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

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

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

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

Makes about 12 large or 24 small rolls.

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

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Passover Argentina Style

In Argentina, although Passover comes in the fall, the celebration is much like that observed by Jews in the United States, and the food is similar to Eastern European dishes, but with a South American flair.

Judy Zeidler, right, visits with Miriam Becker in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Photo courtesy of Judy Zeidler.

Argentina has a Jewish population of more than 250,000, making it the largest in Latin America. Their ancestors immigrated from Poland, Russia, Syria, Turkey and North Africa in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Most of the immigrants spoke Yiddish, formed settlements such as Moisés Ville and Villa Clara, and became gauchos (cowboys).

When we traveled recently to Buenos Aires, which boasts a rich Jewish life that mostly centers on the Once district (pronounced OWN-say), we made plans to take a guided Jewish heritage tour.

We visited the city’s oldest synagogue, the Congregacion Israelita de la Republica Argentina, which also features a small Jewish History Museum. Dedicated in 1932, the Byzantine-style synagogue is known as Templo Libertad because it is located on the Plaza Libertad.

We also toured AMIA (Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina), a center that serves as the headquarters for much of the city’s Jewish community, and a Holocaust memorial installed in the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral. The cathedral’s Commemorative Mural is dedicated to Holocaust victims as well as those murdered in terrorist attacks on the Israel Embassy in 1992 and AMIA in 1994.

After the tour, our guide, Claudia Hercman, explained that her friend Miriam Becker, a well-known journalist who writes about Jewish food, wanted to meet us.

We made arrangements to meet Becker, a lovely woman with a warm, engaging smile, who writes for several Buenos Aires newspapers.

She explained that her father, who came from Russia at age 10, grew up enjoying only Argentine cooking, and her mother arrived from Romania when she was 20. Becker grew up experiencing foods from both worlds.

She became a journalist after graduating from the University of Buenos Aires with a psychology degree. Her first job was writing about public events for the newspaper La Nación. But when she was given an assignment to write a feature story about food, she knew immediately it was her calling.

Her most recent cookbook, “Pasión Por la Cocina Judia” (Passion for the Jewish Kitchen), is filled with traditional and Jewish holiday recipes.

Whether she has a good day or a bad day, Becker is happiest when she is in the kitchen. Like many Argentine Jews, she makes everything herself for the Pesaj seder. Her family gets together on the first two nights of the holiday, and food is either plated in the kitchen or served buffet style.

Gefilte Fish and Chicken Soup With Matzah Balls (Bombitas de Harina de Matza) are staples on her Passover menu, but Becker often adds a cup of chopped, cooked spinach to her matzah balls. They can also be made bite-size, similar to gnocchi, boiled and served in a tomato sauce.

Inspired by her mother’s recipe, Becker’s Polo La Pascua Judia, chicken baked in orange juice with dried fruit, is a perfect Passover main course that feels both traditional and exotic.

She prepares a Honey Torte for dessert, but doesn’t sift the matzah meal, preferring a granular texture that gives it an unmistakable Passover identity.

BOMBITAS DE HARINA DE MATZA (MATZAH BALLS)

Bombitas de Harina de matza. Photo by dan kacvinski.


2 cups matzah meal
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cups hot water
1/3 cup olive oil or nondairy margarine (melted)
3 eggs
1 tablespoon minced parsley
Chicken soup

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, blend the matzah meal, 1 teaspoon of salt, a pinch of pepper and the water. Add the oil, stir until combined, and let the mixture rest for 20 minutes.
Add the eggs to the matzah mixture, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Make small or medium-size balls with moistened hands. Slide them into boiling chicken soup or salted water. Cover tightly, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.
To serve, spoon matzah balls into warm soup bowls and ladle chicken soup over them.

Makes about 20 matzah balls.

POLO la pascua judia (PASSOVER CHICKEN)

Polo la pascua judia. Photo by dan kacvinski.


1 (4-pound) chicken, cut into eighths or quarters
Salt and pepper
3 cups orange juice
2 teaspoons dried thyme
3 bay leaves, crumbled
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 pound mixed dried fruit (prunes, apricots, peaches and pears)
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons sugar
Fresh or dried thyme, to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, and place in a roaster.
Heat 1 cup orange juice and pour over the chicken pieces. Sprinkle with thyme, bay leaves and parsley. Cover and bake for 1 hour, basting frequently.
Place the dried fruit in a saucepan with the honey, sugar, remaining 2 cups orange juice, salt and pepper to taste, and thyme. Bring to a boil and simmer until it becomes a thick sauce, adding liquid if needed.
Remove chicken from the oven, and add the dried fruit with sauce. Return to the oven and continue baking for 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and tender when pierced with a fork.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

LEICAJ DE PESAJ (PASSOVER HONEY TORTE)

Leicaj de pesaj. Photo by dan kacvinski.


6 eggs, separated
Olive oil
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup matzah meal, plus small amount to dust pan
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup ground almonds
2 tablespoons sugar mixed with 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, for garnish, optional

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Brush a 10-inch tube cake pan with oil, dust with matzah meal, place on a baking sheet and set aside.
In the large bowl of an electric mixer, add the egg yolks with 1/3 cup oil, 1/2 cup sugar, honey, lemon zest and vanilla, and beat well. Set aside.
In another large bowl, beat the egg whites with the remaining 1/2 cup sugar until firm peaks form.
Pour the meringue over the egg yolk mixture and, using a rubber spatula, gently but thoroughly fold the beaten egg whites into the egg yolk mixture along with 1/2 cup matzah meal and ground almonds.
Pour the batter into the prepared tube pan and bake for about 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and invert the pan onto a wire rack to cool. With a sharp knife loosen the cake from the sides and center of the pan and unmold onto a cake plate.
Sprinkle with a mixture of sugar and cinnamon.

Makes 12 servings.

For more information about Claudia Hercman’s Jewish tours of Buenos Aires, visit instyleargentina.com.ar.

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Market fresh soups

Fresh ingredients for a soup are a chef’s dream, and the best place to find them is at your local farmers market — fresh fennel, squash, mushrooms, ripe tomatoes of all shapes as well as root vegetables.

Our first experience with open-air markets was on a trip to Italy in the early ’60s. We walked excitedly through the marketplace looking at the fresh fruit and vegetables, then when we discovered that every village had its own market day during the week, we tried to visit all of them. The melons were sweet, the figs perfect, and the tomatoes, while ripe, still had a little green on them, but they were delicious.

When farmers markets began popping up in Southern California in the early ’80s, we were eager to see what each vendor had to offer. Today we often drive up the coast on a sunny Saturday morning to visit my favorite, in downtown Santa Barbara, which features the most amazing selection of fresh produce and handcrafted objects.

During a recent trip to the Old Town Calabasas Farmers Market, I was surprised by the amazing variety of mushrooms at Dirk Hermann’s LA FungHi stand, including crimini and shitake, which are just right for a Tuscan Mushroom Soup. Bread is the ideal accompaniment to serve with soup, and a few yards away, the Old Town Baking Co. offers an assortment of hearty breads to chose from — squaw, olive, nine-grain, sourdough, Italian, shepherd’s, rye and country harvest, to name a few.

I have a passion for creating and collecting recipes for vegetable soups, and one of my most recent discoveries, Fennel Soup, comes from a dear friend, Bettina Rogosky, who has a vineyard in Tuscany. During our last visit, she served us this delicious simple soup whose only ingredients are fennel, olive oil, water or vegetable broth and Ricard Pastis, an anise-flavored liqueur. Although it has a creamy consistency, it does not contain an ounce of dairy. Bettina served it with tiny croutons and chopped fennel tops.

At home, when friends come over for a casual supper, I love serving Minestrone Soup. A tossed green salad, warm crusty bread and a glass of red wine complete the menu.

Fresh herbs are an easy way to enhance the flavor of dishes. If you don’t have herbs in your garden, you can always find them at the farmers market. The addition of herbs, such as oregano, marjoram or sage, is an easy way to add an intense flavor to soups. Basil, mint, tarragon, cilantro, chives and parsley are often used raw, sprinkled on top of a dish just before serving. Try experimenting to find the flavors you like best.

TUSCAN MUSHROOM SOUP

1/2 cup olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
1 medium stalk celery, diced
1/4 cup minced parsley
12 ounces assorted mushrooms (crimini and shitake), cleaned and thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup dry white wine
4 small ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and sliced (about 1 cup)
4 to 5 cups vegetable broth or water
Parmesan cheese for garnish

In a large pot, heat olive oil; add onion, celery and parsley, and sauté until onion is lightly browned. Add the mushrooms and sauté for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring often with a wooden spoon. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the wine and allow it to evaporate completely.

Add the tomatoes and the broth, bring to a boil, and cook over medium heat, covered, for 20 minutes.

Ladle into a blender or food processor, and blend to a puree. Return to pot and heat.

To serve, ladle into soup bowls and drizzle with additional olive oil, and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

BETTINA’S FENNEL SOUP WITH CROUTONS

3 large fennel bulbs (about 5 cups)
1/4 cup olive oil
4 to 5 cups vegetable stock or water
4 to 5 tablespoons Ricard Pastis or Sambuca
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup croutons (recipe follows)

Cut tops off fennel bulbs and reserve. Cut bulbs in half, remove core and discard. Cut bulbs into thin slices. Mince the reserved fennel tops, spoon into a small bowl, and set aside until ready to serve the soup.

In a large, nonstick skillet or pot, heat olive oil and sauté fennel until tender (do not brown). Add the stock and simmer until very soft. Add additional stock if needed.

Transfer the mixture to a large bowl or measuring cup. Ladle 1/3 or 1/2 of the mixture, with liquid, into a blender or food processor and blend to a fine puree. Pour into the large pot and repeat with the remaining mixture.

Simmer over medium heat, add Ricard Pastis and salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, ladle into heated serving bowls. Garnish with the croutons and minced fennel tops. Serve immediately.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

CROUTONS

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
3 (3/4-inch-thick) slices Tuscan or French bread, cut into cubes

In a large sauté pan, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in garlic, cook and stir for 1 minute. Add bread cubes, and toss to coat. Spread on a baking sheet, and bake in preheated 350 F oven for 15 minutes, or until crisp and dry. Check frequently to prevent burning.

FARMERS MARKET MINESTRONE SOUP

1/3 cup olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion, diced
3 carrots, diced
2 parsnips, diced
1/2 cup diced turnips
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 potato, peeled and diced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup fresh, peeled, diced tomatoes (or canned)
1 bay leaf
1 large fresh sage leaf
1 piece of Parmesan cheese rind (optional)
1 can (15 ounces) cannellini beans, drained
1 cup shredded kale or chard
1 cup (4 ounces) small elbow macaroni
Grated Parmesan cheese

In a large heavy soup pot, heat olive oil and sauté garlic, onion, carrots, parsnips, turnips, celery and potato for 5 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables start to soften and brown slightly. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add tomatoes, bay leaf, sage, Parmesan cheese rind (if using) and enough water to cover the vegetables by 2 inches (about 5 cups). Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Add cannellini beans and kale; simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Just before the soup is ready, bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil, add the macaroni, stir well, and cook until al dente, according to package directions. Drain well and add to the soup. To serve, ladle into heated soup bowl, drizzle with additional olive oil and sprinkle generously with the grated Parmesan cheese.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

PARMESAN RINDS

When purchasing Parmesan cheese in an Italian market, they will often give you a piece of the rind. This adds richness and complexity to soups. You can save the rind when you buy Parmesan cheese — wrap it in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator or freezer.

FARMERS MARKETS IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

Agoura Hills
5835 Kanan Road
Sundays, 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
ccfm.com

Encino
17400 Victory Blvd.
Sundays, 8 a.m.-1 p.m.
onegeneration.org/farmers-market

Old Town Calabasas
23504 Calabasas Road (across from Sagebrush Cantina)
Saturdays, 8 a.m.-1 p.m.
ccfm.com

Malibu
Malibu Civic Center
23519 Civic Center Way
Sundays, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
malibufarmersmarket.net

Northridge
Northridge Fashion Center
Wednesdays, 5-9 p.m.
coastalpacific.info

Oak Park
Oak Park Plaza Shopping Center
Kanan and Lindero Canyon roads
Saturdays, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
coastalpacific.info

Ojai
300 E. Matilija Street
Sundays, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
ojaicertifiedfarmersmarket.com

Oxnard, Downtown
Plaza Park
Fifth and B streets
Thursdays, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
coastalpacific.info

Oxnard, Channel Islands
2805 S. Harbor Blvd.
Sundays, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
coastalpacific.info

Santa Barbara
Downtown Santa Barbara and Cota streets
Saturdays, 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
sbfarmersmarket.org

Simi Valley
Simi Valley Town Center
1555 Simi Town Center Way
Fridays, 3-8 p.m.
coastalpacific.info

Thousand Oaks
Oaks Shopping Center
East Parking Lot
Thursdays, 1:30-6:30 p.m.
vccfarmersmarkets.com

Topanga
Pine Tree Circle Shopping Center
120 S. Topanga Canyon Blvd.
Fridays, 8 a.m.-noon
sfma.net

Ventura, Midtown
Pacific View Mall
Wednesdays, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
vccfarmersmarkets.com

Ventura, Downtown
City Parking Lot
Corner of Santa Clara and Palm streets
Saturdays, 8:30 a.m.-noon
vccfarmersmarkets.com

Westlake Village
2797 Agoura Road
Sundays, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
ccfm.com

http://www.jewishjournal.com/ tribe/article/market_fresh_soups_20110215

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Appetizing oscar night

It will be a night of glitz and glamour, surprises and speeches. From red carpet hits and misses to backstage interviews with the winners, the Academy Awards is Hollywood’s biggest night. Celebrate the 83rd Oscars on Feb. 27 with an award-worthy viewing party.

Whether you invite 10, 20 or 30 guests, the real key to any fabulous event is to have a great mix of friends and delicious foods. Feel like a star chef by keeping your Oscar party food simple — serve a variety of hors d’oeuvres and movie snacks.

While at lunch with chef Bruce Marder, owner of Capo, Cora’s, Brentwood and House restaurants, he mentioned that he was planning a comfortable Oscar party at home this year with his wife and eight friends. The Marders have a family area with a large television screen adjoining the kitchen, where guests can watch the Oscars and sample an assortment of delicious food.

His menu of favorite finger food includes a Yogurt Dip served with spears of Persian cucumbers, Blue Fin Tuna Ceviche Crostini and a panini filled with cheese and green onions that is grilled until the cheese is oozing out the sides.

Chef Jason Ivener, owner of Artful Foods Catering, also shares two of his favorite crostini recipes, which would be perfect for an Oscar party. The first, Mushroom Crostini, features a combination of button and oyster mushrooms sautéed and spooned onto slices of French baguette, which is then topped with cheese and heated in the oven. The other, Charred Vegetable Crostini, is a mixture of charred vegetables accented with balsamic vinegar, currants and sun-dried tomatoes.

Two of my favorite appetizers are: Tiropita, a filo dough pastry filled with Monterey Jack and Swiss cheeses, and Gougère, light pastries made with gruyere cheese. (Both can be prepared in advance and stored in the freezer on baking sheets. Simply defrost and bake just before serving.)

Nothing says “the movies” quite like popcorn. Savory Popcorn tossed with grated Parmesan cheese and homemade Caramel Popcorn are the perfect munchies for Oscar night. They’re simple to make, going together in minutes.

Also, be sure to set up an open bar area, where guests can select from white or red wine, a large pitcher of champagne punch and soft drinks.

GOUGÈRE

From Judy Zeidler

1 cup milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1 cup flour
4 eggs
1 1/4 cups finely shredded Gruyere or Swiss cheese

Place milk in a heavy saucepan over medium heat and scald.

In a medium bowl, knead butter, salt, pepper and mustards together. Add to milk, and blend with a wooden spoon. Bring to a rolling boil. Add flour all at once, stirring vigorously, until the mixture forms a ball and leaves the sides of the pan clean.

Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer and add eggs, one at a time, blending well after each addition. Blend until the dough is shiny and smooth. Add 1 cup shredded cheese; blend well.

Spoon into a pastry bag fitted with the plain round tip. Place a silicone mat onto a baking sheet and pipe gougère in mounds 1/4 to 1/2 inch apart. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheese and a few drops of milk. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to bake.

Bake in a preheated 400 F oven for 35 to 45 minutes or until well puffed and golden brown. Serve immediately.

Makes about 24.

YOGURT DIP WITH PERSIAN CUCUMBER SPEARS

For this recipe, Bruce Marder likes to use FAGE, a thick Greek-style yogurt, which is available in many local supermarkets.

8 ounces Greek-style yogurt
1 tablespoon chopped dill
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
Salt to taste
1 teaspoon coarsely grated black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 to 2 Persian cucumbers, sliced lengthwise into sticks

In a bowl, mix together yogurt, dill, garlic, salt and pepper. Add olive oil and mix well. Transfer to a bowl and serve with cucumber spears.

Makes about 1 cup.

BLUE FIN TUNA CEVICHE CROSTINI

From Bruce Marder

Blue fin tuna ceviche crostini

1/2 pound blue fin or sushi-grade tuna, chopped
1/3 cup minced white onion
1 tablespoon Japanese yuzu or lemon juice
1 teaspoon wasabi
1 tablespoon minced chives
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small French baguette, thinly sliced and toasted

In a large bowl, mix together the tuna, onion, yuzu, wasabi and chives. Add salt and olive oil and mix well. Spoon onto toasted baguette slices.

Makes about 24 crostini.

MUSHROOM CROSTINI

From Jason Ivener

Olive oil
1/2 white onion, cut into small dice
1/4 pound white button mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/4 pound oyster mushrooms, thinly sliced
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground white pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon black truffle peelings (optional)
1 small French baguette, thinly sliced and toasted
1/4 pound Tallegio or smoked mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced

In a medium sauté pan, heat 3 teaspoons olive oil and brown onions over medium heat for 2 minutes. Increase heat to high, add additional olive oil and mushrooms and sauté until soft, mixing well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add black truffle peelings, if using. Remove from pan. Cool. Reserve at room temperature.

Place baguette slices on baking sheet, sprinkle with additional olive oil, salt and pepper; bake in a preheated 375 F oven for 8 to 10 minutes until lightly toasted.

To serve, place 1 tablespoon of mushroom mixture on each toasted baguette slice, cover with cheese, and bake for 5 minutes to melt cheese. Serve hot.
Makes 20 crostini.

CHARRED VEGETABLE CROSTINI

From Jason Ivener

Olive oil
1/2 small onion, cut into small dice
2 zucchini (8 ounces), cut into small dice
1 red bell pepper (4 ounces), cut into small dice
1 small Japanese eggplant (4 ounces), cut into small dice
Salt to taste
Freshly ground white pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon each dried thyme and oregano leaves
1 to 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup currants (soaked in warm water 5 minutes and drained)
1 jar (8 ounces) sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, cut into small dice
1 small French baguette, thinly sliced and toasted
5 1/2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

Filling: In a medium sauté pan, heat 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium-high heat and sauté onion, zucchini, bell pepper and eggplant for 5 minutes, until lightly charred. Season with salt, white pepper, thyme and oregano. Transfer to a bowl and cool. Add balsamic vinegar, currants and sun-dried tomatoes, mixing well.

Season slices of baguette with additional olive oil, salt and pepper. Arrange on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated 375 F oven for 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly toasted.

Arrange baguette slices on a platter, place 1 tablespoon vegetable mixture on each slice, and top with crumbled goat cheese. Serve at room temperature.

Makes 24 crostini.

TIROPITA

From Judy Zeidler

This recipe has the best filling I have ever tasted for these crisp pastries. The combination of cheeses, scallions, fresh dill, eggs and baking powder all add up to a wonderful puffy texture and exciting flavor.

3/4 pound Swiss cheese, grated
3/4 pound Monterey Jack cheese, grated
1/2 cup minced green onions
1/2 cup minced parsley
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill or 1 teaspoon dried dill
6 eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 pound filo dough
1 pound unsalted butter, clarified
1/2 cup sesame seeds

In a large bowl, combine the cheeses with the green onions, parsley and dill. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the baking powder.

Work with one sheet of filo at a time, keeping remaining filo covered with wax paper and a damp towel. With scissors, cut the sheets crosswise into 2-inch-wide strips. Brush each strip with melted butter.

Place l teaspoon of the cheese mixture 1 inch from the end of the strip. Cover the filling with the end of the filo to make a neat triangular package; continue folding until the dough strip is completely incorporated into the triangle. Place each triangle as it is finished on a baking sheet lined with buttered foil. Repeat until all filling is used.

Brush tops of triangular packages with melted butter and sprinkle with sesame seeds. (Can be frozen at this point. Defrost before baking.)

Bake in a preheated 375 F oven for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve immediately.

Makes about 9 dozen.

SAVORY POPCORN

Savory popcorn

Vegetable oil
1/2 cup unpopped popcorn kernels
4 to 5 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a large heavy pot (with a tight-fitting lid), coat the bottom with vegetable oil and heat over low flame. Drop in the popcorn kernels and cover. When the kernels begin to pop, shake the pan continuously until the popping slows. Take the pan off the heat.

Transfer popcorn to a large bowl and drizzle with the melted butter, sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese, and toss until completely coated.

Makes about 8 cups.

CARAMEL POPCORN

12 cups popped popcorn
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

In a large saucepan, combine brown sugar, corn syrup, butter and salt. Stir constantly until it comes to a boil. Allow the mixture to boil, without stirring, for 5 minutes. Take the pan off the heat. Add baking soda and stir. Pour over the popped popcorn and toss until evenly coated.

Makes 12 cups.

http://www.jewishjournal.com/ tribe/article/appetizing_oscar_night_20110127

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O, Chanukah! Looking beyond latkes

When I was growing up in Los Angeles, the highlights of our Chanukah celebration included visiting with extended family — uncles, aunts and cousins — lighting the Chanukah candles and eagerly awaiting the platters of fried potato latkes. In our home, the potato latkes were served crisp and topped with sour cream, sugar or apple sauce.

Most families have a favorite latke recipe that is made year after year. The real quandary is what to serve with the latkes.

In planning a Chanukah dinner, it’s usually a good idea to keep the menu simple. The emphasis should be on foods that can be prepared in advance and will hold up if guests arrive late. Every year, our menu changes. One year, we served Cabbage Borscht With Short Ribs. Another year, it was beef brisket with prunes, almost like a tzimmes, in a wine sauce. It’s fun to serve something new during Chanukah to surprise the family.

If meat is on your menu, Cabbage Borscht With Short Ribs is a winner. Made with beets, tomatoes, lemon juice and brown sugar, it is a hearty meal. The short ribs may also be served as a separate meal with potato latkes.

Another perfect main course for the family during Chanukah is Baked Sea Bass With Black Olive Sauce. Prepare the fish in advance and store in the refrigerator; it only takes 15 to 20 minutes to bake, which means you can put it in the oven when guests arrive.

When it comes to latkes, consider serving condiments like Green Tomato Marmalade, Chopped Olive Spread, Red Onion Marmalade, Red Pepper Jelly, Fresh Tomato Salsa or smoked salmon—and don’t forget the guacamole. For dessert, simply top your latkes with cinnamon and caramelized apple slices for a special treat. And if you are feeling ambitious, make the traditional Israeli dessert, nondairy sufganiyot (doughnuts), served with raspberry preserves.

CABBAGE BORSCHT WITH SHORT RIBS

2 pounds marrow bones, cut in 2-inch pieces, optional
4 pounds short ribs
3 onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 bay leaf
Water
1 head green cabbage, shredded
4 beets, peeled and sliced
1 (12-ounce) can tomatoes
or 6 fresh tomatoes, peeled
and chopped
1 teaspoon fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/3 cup brown sugar
Juice of 6 lemons
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
to taste

In a large pot add bones, short ribs, onions, garlic, parsley and bay leaf. Cover with water, bring to a boil and skim froth from the top. Lower heat and simmer, covered, for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Add cabbage, beets, tomatoes, basil, paprika, brown sugar and lemon juice; simmer for 1 to 2 hours. Add additional sugar, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.

The short ribs may be served in borscht or as a separate course with potato pancakes.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

BAKED SEA BASS WITH BLACK OLIVE SAUCE

4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup pitted and chopped black olives
1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano
or 1 teaspoon crumbled dried
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
or 1 teaspoon crumbled dried
2 tablespoons minced parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper,
to taste
2 pounds sea bass fillets
1/2 cup vegetable stock
1/2 cup dry white wine

In a small bowl, stir together garlic, olives, oregano, basil and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spoon the garlic mixture on the bottom of a 13-by-9-inch baking dish, spreading evenly. Arrange the sea bass fillets, skin side up, on top of the garlic mixture. Pour the vegetable stock and wine around the sea bass. Bake in preheated 425 F oven for 15 to 20 minutes, basting with the juices, until cooked through. To serve, arrange fillets on heated serving plates and top with the garlic mixture.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

JUDY’S CLASSIC POTATO LATKES

1 large onion, peeled
4 russet potatoes, peeled
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
4 extra-large eggs
3 tablespoons matzah meal or unbleachead all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Salt and freshly ground black pepper,
to taste
Olive oil for frying
Using the knife blade of a food processor, grate the onion; replace the blade with the shredding blade, and grate the potatoes. Transfer onion and potatoes to a large bowl, and squeeze the grated mixture between your fingers to wring out as much liquid as possible. Add lemon juice, eggs, matzah meal, baking powder, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.

Heat 1/8 inch of olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Drop the batter by large spoonfuls into the hot oil, flattening with the back of the spoon to make 2- to 3-inch latkes. Cook on one side until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes; turn and cook on the other side, about 2 minutes. (Turn once only.) Add oil to pan as needed to prevent latkes from burning. Drain well on paper towels and serve immediately.

Makes about 2 to 3 dozen latkes.

GREEN TOMATO MARMALADE

1 1/2 to 2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
2 pounds green tomatoes, diced
(8 cups)
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
Grated zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon

In a large, skillet, combine sugar and water and bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat and simmer until sugar begins to turn golden. Add tomatoes, orange juice and zests, and simmer until tomatoes are soft and liquid has reduced to a thick syrup, about 15 minutes. Cool.

Makes 2 to 3 cups.

CHOPPED OLIVE SPREAD

1 cup pitted black olives
1 cup pitted green olives
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons minced parsley

On a wooden board, chop the olives coarsely; transfer to a glass bowl. Add olive oil and parsley; toss well.

Makes 2 cups.

RED ONION MARMALADE

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 large or 3 small red onions, finely diced (about 3 cups) or thinly sliced
1/2 cup orange juice
Grated peel of 2 oranges

Place sugar and water in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat and simmer until the sugar begins to turn golden. Add the onions, orange juice and peel, reduce heat to low, and simmer until the onions are soft and the liquid has reduced to a thick syrup, about 20 to 30 minutes. Cool.

Makes about 2 cups.

RED PEPPER JELLY

1 1/2 pounds sweet red peppers
(about 4 large peppers)
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chili powder or
1 small red chili
5 cups sugar
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
6 ounces liquid pectin

Wash and cut up peppers, discarding seeds and stems. Place pieces, a few at a time, in food processor and chop fine. In a large pot, combine chopped peppers, vinegar, salt and chili powder. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Add sugar and lemon juice, mixing until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil. Stir in pectin and bring to a boil, stirring constantly, for exactly 1 minute. Remove from heat and skim off foam with metal spoon. Ladle into hot, sterilized jars; seal immediately.

Makes about 6 to 8 (8-ounce) jars.

FRESH TOMATO SALSA

4 firm ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded
and chopped
1/2 onion, finely diced
1 Serrano chili, stems and seeds
removed, finely minced (optional)
1 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
Salt to taste

In a glass bowl, mix the tomatoes, onion, chili, cilantro and salt. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes about 2 cups.

CARAMELIZED APPLE SLICES

1/2 cup apricot preserves
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup apple juice
Juice and peel of 1 lemon
6 large tart Pippin or Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, thinly sliced

In a large, heavy saucepan, combine preserves, sugar and apple juice. Cook over moderate heat, stirring, until preserves and sugar are dissolved. Bring syrup to a boil and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes.

Place lemon juice and peel in a large bowl and toss apple slices. Add apples with juice to preserve mixture and toss to coat evenly. Simmer until apples are soft, mixing occasionally. Cool. Transfer glazed apples with sauce to a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes about 3 cups apple slices.

SUFGANIYOT

These doughnuts are traditionally filled with raspberry preserves before frying. For an easier approach, fry the doughnuts unfilled, and serve the preserves as an accompaniment on the side.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup nondairy soy milk
Oil for frying
1/2 cup sugar mixed with 1 tablespoon
cinnamon
1 (16-ounce) jar raspberry preserves

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, blend olive oil and sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add egg, beat well; stir in vanilla.

Mix together flour, baking soda, nutmeg and salt; add to sugar mixture alternately with soy milk. Stir until well blended; dough will be soft.

In deep fryer, heat oil to 365 F. Using a small ice cream scoop or teaspoons, scoop out dough and drop into hot oil. Fry only enough doughnuts to fit in fryer without crowding and keeping oil from cooling down. Drain on paper towels and roll in sugar-cinnamon mixture. Serve with raspberry preserves on the side.

Makes about 18 doughnuts.

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

http://www.jewishjournal.com/ chanukah/article/o_chanukah_looking_beyond_latkes_20101123/

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Chanukah’s the time for lots of latkes

Salmon latkes. Photos by Dan Kacvinski.

There is something special about Chanukah, a time when all of our children and grandchildren gather from across the country to celebrate the holiday, which begins this year at sundown on Dec. 1. Lighting the candles, followed by family meals, singing songs, exchanging gifts and playing the dreidel game all add up to quality family time.

What makes Chanukah such a festive occasion? Perhaps it starts with the aroma of potato latkes permeating the house. The crispy golden pancakes frying in the kitchen have come to symbolize the Festival of Lights, when we celebrate the miracle of one day’s supply of consecrated olive oil that kept the Jerusalem Temple’s lamp burning for eight days.

Unfortunately, most latke recipes rely on what seems like an eight-day supply of oil—or trans-fat-laden shortening – poured into the pan to achieve the desired flavor and crispness.

Healthy tips for frying with olive oil

  1. Use a nonstick skillet to reduce the quantity of olive oil needed.
  2. Check the suggested use date when purchasing olive oil.
  3. Use extra-virgin olive oil. It makes fried foods light, crisp and more healthful.
  4. Heat oil before frying — this prevents the food from absorbing too much oil and cuts down the time needed for foods to fry.
  5. Fried foods should be drained on paper towels immediately.
  6. Once used, dispose of frying oil; do not reuse.

But celebrating Chanukah doesn’t have to raise your cholesterol. This year I have created lighter latkes that are baked with a minimum amount of olive oil. I call them fry/baked. The olive oil is lightly spread on a very hot silicone or other nonstick baking sheet, small spoonfuls of the potato mixture are dropped on, and then they go into the oven to be baked until golden brown on each side.

Growing up, I remember helping my mother make the potato mixture using a hand-held grater. Today, latkes take much less time to prepare. To save time, use the knife blade in your food processor to chop the onions and then the grater blade to shred the potatoes. In addition to using potatoes, follow my recipe for zucchini latkes that are made with egg whites and grated onion.

At one time, Salmon Latkes, made with canned salmon, were Gramma Gene’s specialty. When our kids were growing up and they visited, she would always serve salmon latkes and blintzes for lunch.

Through the years, Gramma’s Gene’s recipe has taken on a few extra ingredients, but they blend together in no time at all. Simply mix the ingredients in a bowl and sauté in olive oil. Serve them with lemon or lime wedges and a simple yogurt-cucumber-dill sauce.

Another of our favorite latkes originated in Romania and is made with egg noodles. You can also bake the mixture kugel-style, adding 1 or 2 additional eggs and 2 or 3 tablespoons of raisins. Spoon the mixture into a greased baking dish or muffin pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes or until crusty.

We begin the Chanukah dinner with a do-it-yourself salad. Let everyone choose from bowls of roasted peppers, carrots, celery, jicama, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, mushrooms and zucchini. Toss the salad and serve with warm, crusty bread, along with a selection of latkes. Serve crisp cold white wine for the adults and apple juice or milk for the younger group.

SALMON LATKES

1 can (14 3/4 ounces) pink salmon, undrained, skin and bones removed
2 eggs
1/2 large onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup matzah meal or bread crumbs
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Olive oil for frying
Yogurt-Cucumber-Dill Sauce (recipe follows)
Lemon or lime wedges
Fresh dill sprigs, for garnish

Put undrained salmon into a large bowl. Separate salmon into flakes and mash with a fork. Add the eggs, onion, matzah meal, dill and parsley. Using a fork, mash the ingredients until well blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper and mix well. Set aside for 10 minutes. With wet hands, shape the mixture into latkes. (Mixture can be made 1 hour ahead.)

In a large, nonstick skillet, heat 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil. Place latkes into the hot oil, in a single layer, being careful not to crowd in the pan and gently press down with spatula or fork to flatten. Cook 3 to 4 minutes or until brown, flip, flatten again, and cook until brown and crispy, about 3 to 4 minutes more. Remove to a paper-towel lined ovenproof plate. Serve immediately or keep warm in 250 F oven. Repeat with remaining mixture, adding oil as needed. Serve hot with Yogurt-Cucumber-Dill Sauce (recipe follows) and lemon wedges, garnished with dill sprigs.

Makes about 2 dozen latkes.

YOGURT-CUCUMBER-DILL SAUCE

1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1 cup peeled, seeded and grated cucumber
3 tablespoons minced fresh dill

In a bowl, combine yogurt, cucumber and dill. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes 1 1/2 to 2 cups sauce.

Noodle latkes.

ROMANIAN NOODLE LATKES

1/2 pound egg noodles
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine
2 eggs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Olive oil for frying

Cook the noodles according to the package directions; drain well. Transfer noodles to a large bowl, add the butter, and toss gently until butter melts and noodles are coated; set aside to cool. Add the eggs, salt and pepper to taste, and mix well.

In a large, nonstick skillet, heat 1/4 inch of the oil over medium heat. Drop the noodle mixture by tablespoons into the hot oil, flattening each spoonful with the back of the spoon to form a thin latke. Fry on both sides until golden brown and crisp, about 5 minutes per side. (Do not turn the latkes until the first side is golden and the top is firmly set).

Makes about 30 latkes.

LOW-FAT LATKES

1/2 onion
2 pounds russet potatoes
1 egg
1/4 cup matzah meal or bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons minced parsley, optional
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
Apple sauce
Nonfat or low-fat sour cream

Preheat oven to 450 F. Place a silicone or other nonstick baking sheet in the preheated oven.

Using the knife blade of a food processor, grate the onion. Replace the blade with the shredding blade, and grate the potatoes. Transfer the grated mixture to a large bowl, and squeeze the mixture between your fingers to wring out as much liquid as possible. Add egg, matzah meal, baking powder, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste.

Drizzle olive oil on hot baking sheet and spread with a wax-paper-covered wooden spoon. Shape small tablespoons of potato mixture into balls, place on the prepared baking sheet, and flatten to form 1 1/2-inch latkes, leaving 1 inch of space between the latkes. Bake-fry the latkes on the lower rack of the hot oven until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes per side, turning once with a spatula.

When you turn the latkes, flip them onto areas of the baking sheet that still have olive oil. Transfer to plates or platters and serve immediately with applesauce and sour cream.

Makes about 2 dozen latkes.

MARVIN’S ZUCCHINI LATKES

1 pound zucchini, grated
2 egg whites
1/2 onion, grated
2 tablespoons matzah meal
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Olive oil for frying

In a large bowl, combine the zucchini, egg whites, onion and matzah meal; mix well. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

In a large, heavy, nonstick skillet, heat olive oil. Drop zucchini mixture one tablespoon or more at a time into the hot oil and flatten with back of wet spoon. Fry on both sides until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

Makes about 20 small latkes.

http://www.jewishjournal.com/ tribe/article/chanukahs_the_time_for_lots_of_latkes_20101119/

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Thanksgiving: Let the next generation take over

After 55 years of celebrating Thanksgiving in our home with family and friends, our son Zeke and son-in-law Jay announced that they wanted to take over the responsibility for Thanksgiving dinner.

Our first reaction was to say no, but we reconsidered. Maybe it was time for a change.

Their first attempt was almost a disaster. We received a telephone call just as we were leaving the house: “Mom, when do we put the turkey in the oven?”

It was a late dinner, but everything went well.

Jay does a great job roasting the turkey, baking it in a brown paper bag, allowing the necessary four or five hours. And Zeke makes the stuffing using Gramma Molly’s Vegetable Stuffing recipe.

We were thrilled that they served all of our traditional Thanksgiving favorites, and each member of the family participated by bringing a potluck dish to share.

Our family dinner usually begins with Chopped Chicken Liver Salad, a recipe handed down from Gramma Gene, which is served with Red Pepper Jelly, along with Jay’s favorite fruit salad.

For those who don’t eat turkey, Jay roasts a salmon, brushed with mustard and maple syrup, along with baked mangos and apple slices.

Of course, apple and cranberry sauce are always on the menu, and Zeke bakes a sweet potato casserole, using fresh sweet potatoes, apple juice and honey.

Our son Marc is assigned to bring wine — an easy task since it is his hobby. Our daughters-in-law, both great bakers, are asked to bring a nondairy dessert — Amy makes pumpkin bread and an Apple Crisp With Rosemary, and Amber’s chocolate peanut butter heirloom cookies are always a treat.

Thanksgiving has turned out even better — not like the old days, when we prepared the dinner for our kids. Now it’s fun to sit back and enjoy having them cook for us. We kvell as we watch how our passion for cooking has inspired them to continue holiday traditions.

It is a special time to be together with family and friends, enjoying good food, conversation and sharing experiences.

GRAMMA GENE’S CHOPPED CHICKEN LIVER SALAD WITH RED PEPPER JELLY

This is one of the basic Jewish favorites I remember from my childhood. I used to watch my mother, sitting on the back porch steps, doing the hard work of chopping away at beef liver, hard-cooked eggs and chicken schmaltz in a huge wooden bowl. I have preserved the integrity of Gramma Gene’s recipe but enhanced it with apple, mushrooms and a little brandy. I use a meat grinder to get an old-fashioned coarse texture, but you can also make this with a food processor, resulting in a finer texture. The Red Pepper Jelly adds an extra sweet-spicy flavor.

2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
1 pound chicken livers (prepared according to kosher dietary laws)
4 large mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 medium apple, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons brandy or cognac
2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Cucumber slices for garnish
Red Pepper Jelly (recipe follows)

In a large, heavy skillet, sauté onion in olive oil until lightly browned. Add the livers, mushrooms and apple; sauté, turning the livers on both sides until lightly browned; do not overcook. Add the brandy and simmer 3 to 4 minutes.

Spoon the mixture and the eggs into a meat grinder; grind into a large bowl, making sure to add the juices from the skillet. Add salt and pepper to taste and stir well. Transfer to a bowl or mold lined with plastic wrap, cover and refrigerate.

When ready to serve, lift the molded chopped liver out of the bowl, invert onto a serving plate, and peel off the plastic wrap. Garnish with cucumber slices, and serve with Red Pepper Jelly and challah.

Makes 3 to 4 cups.

Photo by Dan Kacvinski

RED PEPPER JELLY

Photo by Dan Kacvinski

Serve as a condiment with chopped chicken liver, cold meats, poultry or goat cheese. It may be made in advance and refrigerated.

1 1/2 pounds sweet red peppers (about 4 large)
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chili powder or 1 small red chili
5 cups sugar
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
6 ounces liquid pectin (kosher)

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Rinse peppers and cut into pieces, discarding seeds and stems. Place pieces, a few at a time, in food processor and chop fine. In a large pot, combine chopped peppers, cider vinegar, salt and chili powder. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add sugar and lemon juice, mixing until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil. Stir in pectin and bring to a boil, stirring constantly, for exactly 1 minute. Remove from heat and skim off foam with metal spoon. Ladle into hot, sterilized jars and seal immediately.

Makes 6 to 8 (8-ounce) jars.

TURKEY IN A BAGWITH GRAMMAMOLLY’S VEGETABLE STUFFING

1 turkey (15 to 20 pounds)
Gramma Molly’s Vegetable Stuffing (recipe follows)
1/4 cup safflower or vegetable oil
1 cup apricot preserves
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Rinse the turkey; pat dry with paper towels. Spoon the cooled stuffing into both cavities and close with a needle and thread or skewers. Rub the outside of the turkey with the oil and preserves and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Grease the inside (unprinted side) of a large brown paper bag, or use a large plastic baking bag. Place the turkey, neck first and breast down, inside the bag. For a paper bag, fold the open ends and seal it with paper clips or staples; if using a plastic baking bag, tie it with the plastic ties supplied in the package.

Line a large roasting pan with heavy-duty foil. Place the turkey on a large rack in the roasting pan. Bake in preheated 325 F oven according to the suggested cooking times below.

About 30 minutes before the turkey is done, remove it from oven, make a slit in the bag under the turkey, and let the liquid drain into a saucepan. When all the juices are poured off, remove the bag, and return turkey to the oven to brown, uncovered, for the remaining cooking time.

While turkey finishes cooking, heat the juices in the saucepan, skimming off and discarding the fat that forms on top.

When turkey is done, remove from oven, and transfer stuffing to a heated serving bowl. Carve the turkey and arrange the slices, legs and wings on a large platter. Serve the juices in a gravy boat.

Suggested Cooking Time for Stuffed Turkeys

10 to 12 pounds: 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours

14 to 16 pounds: 5 to 6 hours

18 to 20 pounds: 6 to 7 1/2 hours

Photo by Dan Kacvinski

GRAMMA MOLLY’S VEGETABLE STUFFING

Photo by Dan Kacvinski

My mother was very proud of this very special stuffing and served it in chicken as well as turkey. She did not, however, cook the ingredients, but mixed everything together and placed it in the bird. I have found that sautéing the stuffing first allows it to cook more evenly. I have also added raisins, which gives it a nice sweet taste. It is especially festive for Thanksgiving.

1/4 cup safflower or vegetable oil
3 medium onions, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 bunch carrots, peeled and grated
1 parsnip, peeled and grated
2 large zucchinis, grated
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
1 cup golden seedless raisins, plumped in sweet red wine and drained
8 to 10 mushrooms, chopped
2 to 3 tablespoons rolled oats
2 to 3 tablespoons flour
2 to 3 tablespoons breadcrumbs
1/4 cup dry red wine
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

In a large heavy skillet, heat the oil and sauté the onions and garlic until transparent. Add the celery, carrots, parsnip and zucchini; toss well. Sauté for 5 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften. Add parsley, raisins and mushrooms; mix thoroughly. Simmer for 5 minutes. Blend in the oats, flour and breadcrumbs, 1 tablespoon of each at a time. Add the wine and mix well. Add the remaining dry ingredients, a little at a time, until the stuffing is moist and soft, yet firm in texture. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Makes about 4 to 5 cups.

APPLE CRISP WITH ROSEMARY

FILLING:

6 large Granny Smith apples
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary

STREUSEL TOPPING:

1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup unsalted nondairy margarine, cut in pieces

Brush an 8-inch square baking pan with 1 tablespoon softened margarine; set aside.

For Filling:
Peel, core and thinly slice the apples; place in a large bowl with the lemon juice.

In a small bowl, mix together the sugar, flour, cinnamon and rosemary. Add sugar mixture to apples in large bowl, toss lightly to coat apple slices with sugar mixture. Transfer apple mixture into prepared baking pan and set aside.

For Streusel Topping:
In large bowl of an electric mixer, blend the oats, flour and brown sugar. Add the margarine and blend until crumbly. Sprinkle topping evenly over apples in baking pan.

Bake in a preheated 375 F oven for 45 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

http://www.jewishjournal.com/ tribe/article/thanksgiving_let_the_next_generation_take_over_20101025/

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Celebrate with Simchat Torah favorites


Photo by Dan Kacvinski

Simchat Torah translates as “rejoicing with/of the Torah,” and it is one of the most joyful of all the holidays.

Congregants sing and dance in synagogues as the Torah is carried around the bimah seven times, and children are encouraged to join in the festivities by waving flags and carrying miniature Torahs.

This year, to celebrate the tradition, I developed a cookie recipe made in the shape of a flag. Allow the children to participate by helping decorate the cookies with blue and white icing in the shape of a Jewish star.

Cabbage, one of the oldest cultivated plants, is the traditional vegetable served during the holiday. Franco-German Jews used it in sauerkraut, soups, noodle dishes, pastry fillings and salads.

Serve Cabbage Strudel as your main course, using a sweet cabbage filling wrapped in filo dough, topped with sour cream and dill, instead of cabbage rolls, which are also served on Simchat Torah. The Cabbage Strudel can be made several days in advance and stored in the freezer. Bake just before serving.

During the holiday, we serve some of our children’s favorite foods. Include egg noodles with Parmesan cheese on your menu, a dish the children always enjoy. This is just the beginning possibility of another pasta dish — go one step further by adding sautéed mushrooms, tomatoes, zucchini or tomato sauce for the adults.

Another dessert that is a favorite with the children is dipped strawberries. Serve the berries on a large platter with bowls of brown sugar, sour cream and melted semisweet chocolate.

CABBAGE STRUDELWITH SOUR CREAM AND DILL SAUCE

1 package (about 1 pound) filo dough
1 pound unsalted butter or margarine, melted
2 cups fine bread crumbs
Cabbage Filling (recipe follows)
Sour Cream Dill Sauce (recipe follows)
Dill sprigs

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

Fold the filo leaves in half like a closed book and unfold one page. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle lightly with bread crumbs. Continue turning the pages of the filo, brushing with the butter and bread crumbs until you come to the center. (Do not brush the butter in the center yet.) Close the second half of the book over the first and work backward: Open the last leaf and continue spreading the butter and crumbs until you come back to the center. Now brush the center with the butter and sprinkle with crumbs.

Depending on how thick a strudel you want, spread 2 to 3 cups of the Cabbage Filling lengthwise on the open filo book, 2 inches from the edge closest to you and 2 inches from the sides. Cover the filling with the closest edge and fold the sides over. Brush the sides with butter and continue rolling up the filo, jellyroll fashion.

Cover a baking sheet with foil and brush the foil with butter or place a nonstick silicone baking mat on a baking sheet. Place the strudel on the foil or baking mat, seam side down, and brush it with butter. Using the point of a sharp knife, make three or four small cuts through the top sheets of the strudel. Refrigerate uncovered until the butter hardens, 15 to 20 minutes. (The strudel can be frozen at this point.)

Repeat with 4 more sheets until all of the filling is used. This should make 3 to 4 strudels.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown. Slice immediately and serve hot with Sour Cream Dill Sauce and garnish with sprigs of dill.

Each strudel makes 4 to 6 servings.

CABBAGE FILLING

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons paprika
3 cups finely chopped onions
4 quarts shredded cabbage
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Melt the butter in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and, using a wooden spoon, stir until dissolved. Add the paprika and mix well. Add the onions and continue cooking for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking.

Add the cabbage, brown sugar and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer, partially covered, for 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown. Stir occasionally. Remove from the heat and cool. This mixture can be made a day ahead and stored: Transfer to a glass bowl, cover, and refrigerate.

SOUR CREAM DILL SAUCE

2 cups sour cream or nondairy sour cream
1/8 cup snipped fresh dill

In a bowl, combine the sour cream and dill. Cover and chill.

Photo by Dan Kacvinski

BUTTERED EGG NOODLESWITH PARMESAN CHEESE

Photo by Dan Kacvinski

12 ounces egg fettuccini noodles
12 cups water
Salt
6 to 8 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a large pot, bring salted water to a rolling boil. Add the noodles and cook until tender, about 5 to 10 minutes. Reserve 1 cup water and drain noodles.

In a large sauté pan, melt butter, add drained noodles to pan and toss, coating thoroughly with butter. Add Parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper to taste; mix well, adding additional reserved noodle water if needed. Spoon onto serving plates and top with additional Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

Variations: Add sautéed mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, zucchini or tomato sauce.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

SIMCHAT TORAH FLAG COOKIES

2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch salt
1/2 pound unsalted butter or margarine, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon almond extract
Wooden sticks
Powdered Sugar Frosting (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 300 F.

Line a baking sheet with foil and brush with butter or line baking sheet with silicone baking mat and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend the flour, sugar and salt. Add the butter or margarine and almond extract; blend until the dough begins to come together, about 2 or 3 minutes.

Knead until smooth, then shape into a 2-by-3-inch rectangular log. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to bake.

Cut 1/4-inch slices from the log. Gently push a wooden stick into the bottom end of each cookie. Arrange them about 1/2 inch apart on the baking sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool on racks.

Decorate with Powdered Sugar Frosting.

Makes 2 to 3 dozen.

POWDERED SUGAR FROSTING

2 cups powdered sugar
4 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons cream or milk
1 tube blue decorating icing

In a bowl, blend the powdered sugar, lemon juice and cream until smooth and creamy. Add additional powdered sugar if needed. Using a spatula, spread a thin layer of frosting on top of each cookie. Decorate with blue frosting.

Makes about 2 cups frosting.

http://www.jewishjournal.com/ tribe/article/celebrate_with_simchat_torah_favorites_recipes_20100923/

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Dip into honey for new year inspiration

Photo by Dan Kacvinski

Photo by Dan Kacvinski

Rosh Hashanah, literally translated as head of the year, begins this year at sundown on Sept. 8, ushering in a 10-day period for reflection on the past year and making resolutions for the new one. It is a time when families come together for festive meals and where sweet foods are traditionally eaten, symbolizing hope for happiness and a sweet life in the coming year. In some homes, families follow the ancient custom of substituting sugar in salt shakers to be used during the holiday.

Honey, because of its sweetness, is an important ingredient in Rosh Hashanah cooking and baking. It is customary to dip slices of challah and apples in honey at the beginning of the meal. A tradition in our family is to hollow out a large apple, fill it with honey, and place it on a platter surrounded with sliced apples that can be dipped and eaten when guests arrive. The recipes I am sharing feature honey and apples, and any can be included in your holiday menus.

Using honey as a sweetener is not difficult, and you can substitute it for sugar in your favorite recipes. The general rule is to use one-quarter less honey than you would sugar, then reduce the amount of liquid by one-quarter as well. I have found that cakes made with honey seem to stay fresh longer.

There are many varieties of honey available. A few examples are orange blossom, chestnut, lavender and wildflower, and each has its own distinctive flavor.  It is fun to experiment and use the taste you prefer.

Honey cake is a delicious dessert to make for this holiday. Over the years, I have experimented with many recipes, and this delicious, high-rise Spice and Coffee Honey Cake has a light, appealing texture, the result of folding in beaten egg whites. Try it once, and you’ll never buy another store-bought honey cake. If you are invited as a guest to a Rosh Hashanah dinner, it will make a wonderful holiday gift.

A round challah, signifying a long and full life, is the traditional shape to bake on Rosh Hashanah. Sweetened with honey and baked with apples and raisins, Fruit-Filled Holiday Challah is perfect for serving at dinner or toasted for dessert. An added plus: Because it has no egg yolks and very little oil, it is low in cholesterol.

The Apple-Spinach Salad With Sauteed Salmon follows the theme of combining apples and honey. Made with diced apples, tahini and honey, it is an ideal dish to serve during the holiday. The dressing can be prepared the day before and refrigerated. The spinach leaves are tossed with the mixture and topped with the sautéed salmon just before serving.

In many homes, a “first fruit of the fall season,” such as figs, grapes or pomegranates, is eaten. I have included an Apple-Pomegranate Sorbet recipe garnished with pomegranate seeds. The uncooked apples give it a delightful crisp texture; serve a scoop with the honey cake.

Have a healthy and happy New Year. L’Shanah Tovah.

APPLE-SPINACH SALAD WITH SAUTEED SALMON

1/2 pound Sauteed Salmon, cut into chunks (recipe follows)

3 apples, peeled, cored and diced

3 green onions (scallions), thinly sliced

3 stalks celery, diced

Juice of 2 lemons

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)

2 tablespoons honey

1 bunch fresh spinach, torn into bite-size pieces

1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds

Prepare salmon; set aside.

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

In a blender, food processor or small bowl, blend together the mayonnaise, tahini, honey and juice of the remaining lemon; the mixture will be very thick.  Toss with the apple mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and chill.

Just before serving, place spinach in a large bowl, add the apple mixture, and toss to coat the spinach thoroughly. Arrange sauteed salmon chunks on top and garnish with sesame seeds.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Variation: Substitute poached chicken for the salmon. Dice and mix with the apple mixture for a chicken salad and arrange on spinach leaves.
SAUTEED SALMON

2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 pound salmon fillet, cut into chunks

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a skillet, heat olive oil and sauté salmon chunks, tossing until lightly browned on all sides. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

Photo by Dan Kacvinski

FRUIT-FILLED HOLIDAY CHALLAH

1 package active dry yeast

1 1/2 cups warm water (110 to 115 F)

Pinch sugar

1 tablespoon salt

3 tablespoons honey

1/4 cup safflower or vegetable oil

5 egg whites

6 to 7 cups flour

Cinnamon-sugar

Apple Filling (recipe follows)

Yellow corn meal for baking sheet

Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup of the warm water with a pinch of sugar; set aside until foamy.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the remaining 1 cup warm water, salt, honey, oil and 4 egg whites. Blend in yeast mixture. Add 4 cups flour, 1 cup at a time, blending with a beater after each addition. Spoon remaining flour on a wooden board. Pour dough onto flour and knead 5 minutes, incorporating enough flour to make a smooth elastic dough. Place dough in a greased bowl and grease 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 in half.  Working with one half at a time, divide into three parts. Roll each part into a rectangle. Brush with oil and top with an even layer of Apple Filling. Roll each rectangle into a long rope. Seal the ends of the 3 ropes together and braid. Gently work the braids into a circle and pinch the ends together to form a round challah.

Repeat with remaining half of dough.

Sprinkle corn meal on a large oiled baking sheet or two 8- to 9-inch round cake pans and place braided challah on the baking sheet or in the cake plans. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place for 45 minutes or until doubled in size.

Brush with remaining egg white, then sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar. Bake in preheated 350 F oven for 30 to 40 minutes.  Cool on rack.

Makes 2 round challahs.
APPLE FILLING

5 apples, peeled, cored and diced

Juice of 1 lemon

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup honey

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

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

Photo by Dan Kacvinski

SPICE AND HONEY CAKE

1 pound honey

1 cup sugar

1 cup strong black coffee

1/4 cup vegetable or safflower oil

4 eggs, separated

3 1/2 cups flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

3/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

In a large mixing bowl, blend honey, sugar, coffee and oil. Add the egg yolks and beat until light and smooth.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon salt, cloves and ginger. Gradually add the flour mixture to the honey mixture, beating until well blended.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Gently fold the beaten egg whites and almonds into the batter.

Pour batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan. Bake in preheated 350 F oven for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Immediately remove pan from oven and invert it onto a wire rack to cool. With a sharp knife, loosen cake from pan’s sides and tube. Remove cake from pan and transfer to a large cake platter.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.
APPLE-POMEGRANATE SORBET

1 1/2 cups unsweetened pomegranate or grape juice

1 cup sugar

3 large golden delicious apples, peeled, cored and pureed

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Pomegranate seeds for garnish

Place the pomegranate juice and sugar in a heavy pot over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a slow, rolling boil, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes.  Transfer to a large bowl and chill.

Combine the pomegranate juice mixture, pureed apples and lemon juice; blend well. Freeze in refrigerator-freezer, electric or hand-crank freezer.

For refrigerator-freezer, pour the mixture into flat-bottomed ice cube trays without their dividers or a freezer-proof glass bowl. Place in freezer and stir with a fork every hour, scraping from the sides into the center. Continue stirring and freezing until the ice is set, 3 to 4 hours.  Or follow the directions on your electric or hand-crank freezer.

Scoop into individual bowls and garnish with pomegranate seeds or serve with slices of honey cake.

Makes 1 quart.

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

http://www.jewishjournal.com/ high_holy_days/article/dip_into_honey_for_new_year_inspiration_recipes_20100824/


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Easy cooking for the holidays

 By Judy Zeidler
(Photo by Dan Kacvinski)
(Photo by Dan Kacvinski)

If you are in a dilemma about what to serve your family for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot, expand your menu options to include dishes that can be served in both the dining room and the sukkah.

Rosh Hashanah (Sept. 8-10) usually occurs during the warmest days of the year, so I plan to serve a refreshing and delicious cold Apple-Spinach Salad With Sautéed Salmon as the main course. This recipe is made with a combination of diced apples, tahini and honey; it’s perfect because apples and honey are traditionally served during this holiday to ensure a sweet new year. The dressing can be prepared the day before and refrigerated. The spinach leaves are tossed with the mixture and topped with the sautéed salmon just before serving.

This year, Yom Kippur begins at sundown Friday, Sept. 17, and the break-the-fast meal is on Saturday evening. As with any Shabbat or Yom Kippur meal, most of the work for this menu can be done beforehand and carried to the table as the guestsarrive.

The transition from fasting to feasting should be a gradual one. Begin with challah to dip in honey. Serve a refreshing glass of lemonade, apple juice, tea or a glass of chilled rosé wine; that way, if family and friends arrive at different times, they can satisfy their thirst and hunger. Cold deli food is a great way to go — it allows you to serve an assortment of delicious cold dishes: platters of cheeses, potato salad, coleslaw, pickles, olives, cream cheese, lox and bagels. But the surprise will be a warm main dish, a Potato and Lox Casserole, which features a savory blend of potatoes, lox, onions and dill. Prepare the casserole in advance, store in the refrigerator, and reheat in the oven.

During the harvest festival of Sukkot (Sept. 22-29), children look forward to building the outdoor sukkah, where the traditional holiday meals are served. Many of the Sukkot main dishes include stuffed vegetables and casseroles of various kinds, which makes them easy to transport outdoors. Cabbage rolls baked in a rich tomato-wine sauce are a family favorite, especially when stuffed with a filling of ground chicken mixed with onions, garlic and grated potato.

Honey cake is the perfect dessert for all three holidays. Over the years, I have experimented with many recipes, and this delicious, high-rise spicy honey cake has a light, appealing texture, the result of folding in beaten egg whites. Try it once and you’ll never buy another store-bought honey cake.

A variation, especially for Sukkot, is to frost the honey cake with lemon icing and garnish with lemon peel; the lemon represents the ancient etrog, or citron, which is part of the holiday tradition.

APPLE-SPINACH SALAD WITH SAUTÉED SALMON

1/2 pound salmon, sautéed and diced
3 apples, peeled, cored and diced
3 green onions (scallions), thinly sliced
3 celery stalks, diced
Juice of 2 lemons
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
2 tablespoons honey
1 bunch spinach, torn into bite-size pieces
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds

Prepare salmon and set aside.

In a large bowl, toss the apples, green onions and celery with juice of one lemon to keep the apples from darkening. Set aside.

In a blender, food processor or a small bowl, blend together the mayonnaise, tahini, honey and juice from the second lemon; the mixture will be very thick. Toss with the apple mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and chill.

Just before serving, place spinach in a large bowl, add the apple mixture, and toss to coat the spinach thoroughly. Arrange diced sautéed salmon on top and garnish with sesame seeds.

Variation: Substitute poached chicken for the salmon.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

(Photo by Dan Kacvinski)

STUFFED CABBAGE ROLLS

2 heads cabbage

Filling:
2 pounds ground chicken
2 eggs
1/4 cup finely diced onion
3 tablespoons minced garlic
1 small potato, peeled and grated
1/4 cup uncooked white rice
2 to 3 tablespoons bread crumbs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

 

Sauce:
1/4 cup safflower or vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped
3 tablespoons minced garlic
1 celery stalk, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1 can (28 ounces) whole tomatoes, coarsely chopped (reserve liquid)
1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
1 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
Juice of 2 lemons
Salt and pepper, to taste

Cut away the core of each cabbage. In a large saucepan, steam the cabbage over simmering water until soft enough to separate the leaves and fold them without tearing or breaking.

For Filling: In a large bowl, combine the ground chicken, eggs, diced onion, garlic, potato, rice and bread crumbs; blend well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.

For Sauce: In a large ovenproof pot, heat the oil and sauté the chopped onion, garlic, celery and green pepper until tender. Add the tomatoes and their reserved liquid, tomato sauce, wine, brown sugar and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt, pepper, additional brown sugar and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer while preparing the cabbage rolls.

Place a cabbage leaf on a flat surface, shape the chicken mixture into a ball, place it on the root end of the cabbage leaf, and roll it up to enclose the filling, envelope-style. Place the cabbage rolls close together, submerged in the pot of tomato sauce. Cover the pot, bring to a boil, then reduce heat, and simmer for 1 hour.

Transfer the pot to a preheated 350 F oven and bake the cabbage rolls for 30 minutes.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

(Photo by Dan Kacvinski)

POTATO AND LOX CASSEROLE

8 (1 3/4 pounds total) white or red new potatoes, peeled, thinly sliced and boiled
8 large slices lox (smoked salmon)
1/2 small red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fresh dill
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons bread crumbs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Coat the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking dish with butter. Arrange half of the sliced potatoes on the bottom. Arrange the slices of lox on top of the potatoes. Sprinkle with the onion, dill, and salt and pepper to taste. Repeat with a top layer of the remaining sliced potatoes. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Pour the cream over the potato mixture. Sprinkle the bread crumbs and pieces of butter over the potatoes.

Bake in preheated 400 F oven for 25 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through. Serve hot or cold.

Makes 6 servings.

COFFEE AND SPICE HONEY CAKE

1 pound honey
1 cup sugar
1 cup strong black coffee
1/4 cup vegetable or safflower oil
4 eggs, separated
3 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

In a large mixing bowl, blend honey, sugar, coffee and oil. Add the egg yolks and beat until light and smooth.
In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon salt, cloves and ginger. Gradually add the flour mixture to the honey mixture, beating until well blended.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Gently fold the beaten egg whites and almonds into the batter.
Pour batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan. Bake in preheated 350 F oven for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.
Immediately remove pan from oven and invert it onto a wire rack to cool. With a sharp knife, loosen cake from pan’s sides and tube. Remove cake from pan and transfer to a large cake platter.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

http://www.jewishjournal.com/ tribe/article/easy_cooking_for_the_holidays_20100820/

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The Joys of Summer Fruit

BY JUDY ZEIDLER

Photo by Dan Kacvinski

Whether you are taking a picnic to the beach, a local park or the Hollywood Bowl, desserts made from fresh fruits — peaches, apricots, plums, cherries and all kinds of berries — are a refreshing complement to your summer menu.

One of the places to find the best summer fruit is at an open-air farmers market. I love standing in the middle of a crowd of shoppers at our local farmers market trying to decide between buying nectarines or a box of ripe figs to complement a family meal.

A selection of fruit can be turned into a simple salad; in Italy, this is referred to as Macedonia. There is no recipe necessary — just cut up your favorite fruits and add whole or sliced berries. Although the fruit makes its own juices, the secret to creating a great fruit salad is the addition of sugar syrup, and maybe a small amount of orange juice.

Another easy fruit dessert that needs no recipe is simply cutting a ripe cantaloupe in half, scooping out the seeds, and filling it with a sweet wine; Port is a perfect addition.

A little more time consuming, but worth the effort, is a Raspberry Crostata, bursting with fragrant juices (if peaches or plums are your favorite, then by all means replace the raspberries with either).

If working with pastry is not your favorite thing, then the Fresh Peach Crisp is a perfect dessert. The combination of sweet, soft, juicy fruit with a crunchy, buttery brown sugar toping is irresistible.

Old-Fashioned Strawberry Shortcake is a crowd favorite, and you can experiment with the different varieties of strawberry available. If your family likes fresh blueberries, add a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream to Blueberry-Buttermilk Coffee Cake for a special treat.

And if you have never made gelato (ice cream), you are going to love Strawberry Gelato. Although you can use an electric ice cream machine, the hand-crank kind is more fun; just add ice and salt and have all the children take turns until it is ready.

OLD-FASHIONED STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE

Buy strawberries just before you want to eat them; store the berries on your kitchen counter or a cool place, and give them a quick rinse just before eating. When shopping for strawberries, try to taste when you can, and discover your own favorite varieties. Very red berries tend to be the sweetest.

3 pints fresh strawberries
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/4 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup unsalted butter or nondairy margarine
1 egg, lightly beaten
2/3 cup milk
2 cups whipped cream

Preheat the oven to 425 F. Grease and flour one 8-inch round cake pan.

Slice strawberries and toss them with 1/2 cup sugar. Set aside.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, combine flour, baking powder, 2 tablespoons sugar, salt and butter or margarine. Blend until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

In a medium bowl, combine the egg and milk and blend. Stir into the flour mixture until just combined.

Spread batter into the prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool partially in pan on wire rack.

Slice in half, making two layers. Place half of the strawberries on one layer and top with the second layer. Top second layer with remaining strawberries and cover with the whipped cream.

Makes 8 servings.

Photo by Dan Kacvinski

FRESH RASPBERRY CROSTATA

Bake the crostata until it is golden brown and it will stay crisp for breakfast the next day.

1 1/2 cups flour
5 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter or nondairy margarine, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 tablespoons ice water
2 cups fresh raspberries
1 tablespoon toasted sliced almonds
Confectioner’s sugar for dusting

In the bowl of a food processor, using the knife blade, blend flour, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, lemon zest and salt. Add the butter or margarine and pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add ice water bit by bit, pulsing until moist clumps form. Gather the dough into a ball; flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour, or freeze for later use.

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Roll out the dough on a large sheet of floured wax paper to 11 inches round. Place a sheet of wax paper over the pastry, fold in half and carefully transfer to a silicon- or parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon granulated sugar. Toss raspberries in 1 tablespoon granulated sugar. Leaving a 1 1/2-inch border all around, cover the dough with the raspberries, stem ends down. Starting in the center, work your way toward the outside in concentric circles. Most of the berries will fit on the shell in one layer; mound any extra berries in the center. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon granulated sugar. Raise the dough border to enclose the sides of the tart, letting it drape gently over the fruit, pleating the crust loosely and pinching to seal any cracks in the dough.

Bake the crostata until crust is golden, about 25 to 30 minutes. Put the baking sheet on a rack to cool for 10 minutes, slide a metal spatula under the crust to free the crostata. Cool to lukewarm. Sprinkle with almonds and dust with confectioner’s sugar. Transfer to a platter and serve.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

FRESH PEACH CRISP

Filling

10 to 12 peaches, washed, pitted, cut in wedges
1/2 cup sugar (adjust to sweetness of fruit)
2 tablespoons flour

Streusel

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
Pinch salt
1 cup uncooked oatmeal
2 sticks unsalted butter or nondairy margarine

Preheat oven to 350 F and butter a 12×8-inch or 13×9-inch baking dish.

To prepare Filling: In a large bowl, toss sliced peaches with sugar and flour. Spoon into prepared baking dish, smoothing top.

To prepare Streusel: In the large bowl of an electric mixer or food processor, combine flour, cinnamon, brown sugar, salt and oatmeal. Add butter and blend until butter is in pea-size pieces. Mixture will be lumpy. Scatter on top of filling.

Bake for 1 hour or until crisp is browned and bubbly. Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream.

Makes 10 to 12 servings.


BLUEBERRY-BUTTERMILK COFFEE CAKE

1/4 cup melted unsalted butter
1/2 cup ground walnuts
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups sugar
10 tablespoons unsalted butter or nondairy margarine
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 to 1 1/2 cups blueberries tossed with 1 tablespoon flour
Streusel Topping (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Brush an angel food cake pan with the 1/4 cup melted butter and dust with ground walnuts.

In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In the large bowl of electric mixer, beat sugar with the 10 tablespoons butter until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.

Beat in flour mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat just until batter is smooth, occasionally scraping bowl with rubber spatula. Fold in 1/2 cup blueberries.

Spoon batter into prepared pan, spreading evenly. Sprinkle with remaining blueberries. Sprinkle with 1/2 to 1 cup of Streusel Topping (freeze remaining streusel for next time).

Bake coffee cake 40 to 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cake in pan on wire rack for 1 hour to serve warm; cool completely to serve later.

Makes 12 servings.
STREUSEL TOPPING

2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
4 tablespoons unsalted butter or nondairy margarine, cut in pieces
In the bowl of an electric mixer or food processor, combine brown sugar, flour, walnuts and butter. Blend until crumbly. Refrigerate until ready to use.

STRAWBERRY GELATO

Strawberry Compote

4 pints strawberries, hulled
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

Ice Cream Base

2 cups heavy cream
2 cups milk
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
8 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar

To prepare Compote: In 2-quart nonreactive saucepan, combine strawberries, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla bean. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, about 30 to 40 minutes, skimming off foam that forms on top. Lower heat and cook until compote thickens, 15 minutes longer. Set aside.

To prepare Ice Cream Base: In a large saucepan, bring to a boil the cream, milk and vanilla bean with its scrapings. In a large heatproof bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. Whisk the cream mixture into the yolks and return to saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the mixture coats the back of the spoon. Strain quickly into a clean bowl and stir in the reserved compote. Chill over ice cubes and water.

Freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions. Spoon into chilled containers, cover and place in freezer. If ice cream is frozen overnight, remove from freezer to refrigerator about 1 hour before serving.

To serve, place 1 or 2 scoops in a chilled bowl. Serve with sliced strawberries.

Makes about 2 1/2 quarts.

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Topanga Days

Judy’s Signature Strudel Photo by Dan Kacvinski

In the early 1960s, we bought a 45-acre ranch with a big, sprawling house in Topanga Canyon, not far from Pacific Coast Highway. The lush panorama seemed to stretch for miles into Malibu. Our rambling ranch house was a dream come true. From our living room, we had a view of the canyon, with Shetland ponies grazing below, framed by a big bay window.

Prior to buying the house, my husband and I had never been to Topanga before. We were living in a contemporary home in Brentwood when a real-estate friend told us about the ranch, which we had trouble locating at first. Once we found it and walked the property, we were sold.

We were young and adventurous, raising four children, with another one on the way. I don’t think we realized it then, but Topanga changed our life. And those memorable days included several firsts for me as a professional cook.

Topanga was a different place to live — a close-knit community, where neighbors were always available if anything went wrong. There was no daily mail delivery; instead, we had a box at the Topanga Post Office, near a small market, the Topanga Creek General Store, where we could pick up everyday necessities.

When we were typical city folk, the only animal we had was a cat. In Topanga, we kept sheep, chickens, ducks, goats, Shetland ponies, horses and dogs. We even had a peacock, which acted like a watchdog, shrieking when anyone arrived at our front gate; during molting season, we would race to find its long, colorful feathers.

Our children adapted easily to the country lifestyle, with after-school chores that included caring for the animals and collecting chicken and duck eggs from the coop for breakfast the next morning.
Soon after we moved to the ranch, a neighbor taught me how to bake bread, which kicked off a weekly ritual of making challah for Shabbat.

After we joined a synagogue in the San Fernando Valley, I was asked to help plan a lunch for the sisterhood. I was consulted on the menu — Caesar salad, fillet of sole, which was rolled and baked, and for dessert my Aunt Betty’s orange juice bundt cake. I invited the other members to my kitchen to teach them how to prepare the recipes. It would be my first of many cooking classes.

Down the road from us was the Discovery Inn, an organic restaurant that was also a gathering spot for Neil Young, Jimi Hendrix and other artists from Topanga’s music scene. When the owners tried my homemade strudel, they were hooked and commissioned me to make it for the restaurant — my first entry into the professional food world. When guests asked where the strudel came from, the owners would answer, “Oh, a little old lady in Topanga made it.”

During the summer, friends from the city would drop by with the excuse that they just happened to be in the area or on their way to or from the beach.

Among our summer Topanga highlights were our annual Kite Festival and a Labor Day Campout. At the kite-flying event, about 200 people arrived bringing kites, blankets and their own picnic lunches. We provided the drinks, homemade pita bread, hummus and dessert. We would all gather near the barn on a hilltop covered with grapevines, hoping for wind. The parents taught their kids to fly kites, but some children had trouble getting their dads to relinquish the kites. We had contests and gave out trophies for the most innovative, largest and highest-flying kite.

During our Labor Day Campout, we invited friends to camp overnight at the ranch. Guests would take care of their own breakfast needs and we would provide lunch and an evening barbecue. After dessert, everyone would gather for a campfire sing-along.

Our family treasures those 15 unforgettable years and the lifestyle we enjoyed together in Topanga Canyon.
HOMEMADE PITA BREAD

2 packages active dry yeast
Pinch sugar
2 1/2 cups warm tap water (110-115 F)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
6 cups unbleached flour

Dissolve the yeast with the sugar in 1/2 cup of the water. Let stand in a warm place a few minutes, until foamy.

In a mixing bowl, stir together the remaining 2 cups of water, the olive oil and salt. Add the yeast mixture and then the flour, one cup at a time, beating until the dough comes together.

Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead until shiny and elastic, 5 to l0 minutes. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, and oil the top of the dough. Cover the bowl with a towel and let the dough rise in a warm place until it doubles in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Punch the dough down and knead it until smooth and springy to the touch, about 5 minutes. Roll the dough into a log. Cut it into l5 equal pieces and knead each piece into a ball.

Roll out each ball on a floured board to a diameter of 6 to 6 1/2 inches and a thickness of about 1/4 inch.

Place the pitas on individual pieces of foil or parchment paper, cover with towels and let them stand for l hour.

Preheat the oven to 500 F. Bake the pitas on foil on the lowest shelf or the bottom of the oven for about 5 minutes, just until they start to brown and puff like balloons. Remove immediately and serve hot.

Makes about 12 to 14 pitas.
HUMMUS

The red bell pepper adds a special flavor and gives the hummus a rosy tint.

1 can (15 ounces) garbanzo beans, with liquid
1 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
1/2 roasted red bell pepper
1/2 cup lemon juice
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/3 cup olive oil
6 fresh parsley sprigs, stemmed
1 to 2 teaspoons salt
12 small pitas, cut in wedges

Place the garbanzos, with liquid, in a processor or blender and blend until coarsely pureed.

Add the tahini, roasted red bell pepper, lemon juice, garlic and cumin. Blend to a smooth puree. Add olive oil in a thin stream and continue blending. Blend in the parsley and l teaspoon of the salt. Add additional salt to taste. Serve with hot Homemade Pita Bread.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.
CAESAR SALAD

Caesar salad — a mixture including crisp romaine, pungent anchovies and grated Parmesan cheese — is an all-time Southern California favorite.

2 heads romaine lettuce, hearts and tender leaves only
Mustard Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
1 tablespoon minced anchovies (about 4 anchovy fillets)
1 tablespoon mashed anchovies (about 4 anchovy fillets)
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Prepare Mustard Vinaigrette and set aside.

Separate lettuce leaves and discard coarse outer leaves. Wash, drain well, pat dry with paper towels, and tear into pieces.

In a large glass or stainless-steel bowl, toss lettuce with minced anchovies.

Just before serving, mix vinaigrette with mashed anchovies. Add Parmesan cheese and toss. Serve on chilled salad plates.

Makes 6 servings.


Mustard Vinaigrette

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 cups olive oil
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a bowl, combine mustard and lemon juice and mix well. Using a small whisk or fork, add olive oil and blend well. Season with salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and chill. This will keep for several days in a refrigerator.

JUDY’S SIGNATURE STRUDEL

1 cup unsalted butter or margarine
2 cups flour
1 cup sour cream
6 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1 jar (2 pounds) apricot-pineapple preserves
1 package (1 pound) shredded coconut
3 to 4 cups toasted chopped walnuts
Powdered sugar for garnish

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, blend the butter and flour until crumbly. Add the sour cream and beat until the mixture comes away from the sides of the bowl.

Turn the dough out onto a pastry board lined with generously floured waxed paper. Toss the dough around on top of the floured waxed paper to coat it lightly with the flour. Flatten it with the palm of your han