Eight Charosets with a Different Story

My Syrian dried apricot charoset (listed as #5) has been featured with several other interesting charosets on KosherLikeMe in a post entitled,”8 Charoset Recipes Sure to Spark Chatter at your Passover Seders.” Check out this delicious article, and let me know what type of charoset you plan to make this coming holiday!

Modern Matzah with Old Fashioned Attitude: “Would it kill you to try something new?”

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©Photo by The Matzo Project

A year ago I received an email from Kevin Rodriguez, asking me if I could teach him how to make matzah. He had read about my “Lotsa Matzah” class at the JCC, and had a particular passion for anything matzah. The other day (just one Passover later) I received an email update from Kevin with the exciting news that he and his old summer camp friend, Ashley Albert, had since embarked upon a ragtag “Matzoventure” (as he called it) and were producing their first limited batch of matzah for this upcoming Passover. (I’m hoping to taste some samples very soon…)

Under the title of, “The Matzo Project,” these “guilt-free” matzahs will become available (just Salted flavor for now) starting this Friday, April 15th in five specialty stores in New York City: Greene Grape Shelsky’s, Stinky Bklyn (Chelsea), Peck’s, and Farmigo, and when they’re gone, well, they’re gone. (Kevin told me that not even their parents are getting a box this Passover!)

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©Photo by The Matzo Project: Kevin Rodriquez and Ashley Albert

There are three flavors of matzah at the moment:
Salted, Cinnamon Sugared, and Everything (plus Two Other Things), and each box promises to bring “surprisingly delicious matzo” (without the guilt, for once, suffering optional).

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©Photo by The Matzo Project

You can also pick up a jar of their Chocolate Matzo Butter Crunch, available in 3 flavors:
Milk Chocolate Pecan, Dark Chocolate Almond, and Pecan Cinnamon Bun!

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©Photo by The Matzo Project: Matzo Butter Crunch

Oy, what are you waiting for —
would it kill you to try something — nu?

Charazoti: Georgian Flavors Come Through in their Charoset.

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version of this charoset was described to me by Irina Kazhiloti. The walnuts, which are commonly found in Georgian cooking, are added in a larger quantity than the rest of the nuts, while the addition of pears and peeled chestnuts give it a thick texture similar to a pâté. Try serving this with one or two other charosets at your Seder table this year!

Charazoti 
(Georgian Style Pear and Wine-Soaked Raisin Spread
with Walnuts, Hazelnuts, and Chestnuts)

Yield: Serves 8 to 10 / Makes About 2 1/2 Cups

For Charazoti:
1 cup walnuts
1/2 cup hazelnuts
1/3 cup whole raw almonds
1/2 cup peeled and cooked chestnuts (fresh or packaged)
1 to 2 teaspoons sugar (optional)
Pinch of salt
2 ounces ripe pear, cut into cubes (about 1/2 cup)
4 ounces Red Delicious apple, cut into cubes (about 3/4 cup)
2/3 cup black raisins soaked in 2/3 cup sweet kosher for Passover red wine for 1 to 2 hours
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

For Serving:
2 to 3 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds (or mixture of all three)

STEPS:
1. Pulse walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, chestnuts, sugar (if desired) and salt
in a food processor for about 30 seconds or just until coarsely ground and crumbly
(do not over grind).

2. Add the pieces of pear, apple, raisins (and the wine it was soaked in),
and orange juice and pulse until mixture becomes smooth and thick, almost like a pâté.

3. Place into an air-tight container and chill for 2 hours. Serve in one or two small decorative bowls garnished with chopped nuts. Charazoti may be store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

From Haman to Pharoah: Common symbolism in Purim and Passover.

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The holiday of Purim has some parallels to Passover, and marks the beginning of the 30-day countdown to the Seder. In both cases we retell a time when the Jewish people faced near extermination and were saved. On Purim we read in the Book of Esther, how Haman (the evil vizier of King Ahasuerus) tried to annihilate the Jews and Queen Esther stepped in to save them. During Passover we retell the story of the Book of Exodus when Moses saved our ancestors from the evil Pharoah by bringing us out of Egypt.

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Interestingly enough, the original date when Haman first cast his lot (to choose when to destroy the Jews) was the 13th of Nisan, while the 14th of Nisan (the first eve of Passover) was when Queen Esther called for the Jews of Susa to join her in a 3-day fast before appealing to the King to protect her people. (It was later that the fast dates were set to begin on the eve of Purim — the 13th of Adar.)

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Food in many Eastern cultures, and especially in Judaism, plays an important role in commemorating particular moments in our history. By consuming matzah —
“the Bread of Affliction” — we relive the story of Passover by recalling when our ancestors fled through the desert without having enough time for the bread to rise. During Purim,
we destroy Haman’s evil plan to kill all the Jews by eating stuffed pastries that symbolize his pocketful of lots (for selecting the date for annihilation), or money (to bribe the king). The most well known Purim pastries in the United States (brought over by German Jews) are called Hamantaschen, meaning, “Haman’s pockets” in Yiddish/German, and while we often see them filled with either prune or apricot filling, the original pastries had poppy seeds, and were based upon popular German cookies called, Mohntaschen (meaning, “poppy seed pockets”).

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I decided to prepare Hamantaschen this year as a way to kick off my preparations for Passover, as well as teach my kids how to make them. To give a slight Middle Eastern flavor I added a few teaspoons of orange blossom water to the apricot jam, and I cooked down prunes with dates, cinnamon, and a little sugar for my own homemade prune butter (blending it until very smooth in the food processor). I don’t have a cookie recipe of my own to share, but you can follow one of the hundreds of good ones out there, and try my idea for the fillings.

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Chag Sameach!

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Free Syrian Pistachio Passover Macaroon Demo at the Broadway Panhandler this Saturday, March 19th!

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Come on down this Saturday afternoon for a free demo and tasting of my Syrian Pistachio & Orange Blossom Water Passover Macaroons at the Broadway Panhandler before this legendary store closes its doors for good. (My girls Micah and Sacha will be assisting!)

The Broadway Panhandler
65 East 8th Street
Saturday, March 19th
2:30-4PM

 

Recipe Testing Continues with an Eclectic Menu and an Intimate Crowd.

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On a cold February evening, during the last few days of school’s winter break, I organized a small recipe testing dinner for those few recipes I had left to test and taste. The menu was the following, and although a mix of cuisines and cultures, came together very well at the dinner itself:

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Ethiopian T’ej: Quick Chilled Honey Ginger Wine. (Notes: I added a small amount of a light bodied beer to this version of T’ej to impart a slight yeasty flavor to the wine, and served it very cold at the beginning of the meal.)

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Ethiopian Injera: Quick Yeast “Pancake” Bread with Teff Flour. (Notes: I mixed the traditional Ethiopian teff flour, which is naturally gluten-free, with regular white flour so that the flavor would not be too strong and the final texture would be soft and pliable. Traditionally Injera is supposed to sit for several days to allow the batter to ferment, but because my version is meant to be made quickly at the end of Passover as a way to break the fast of leaven for the holiday, I allowed to sit only an hour before baking in the skillet. The result was a bread that was less yeasty in flavor than the traditional bread, but one that still had a spongy texture and tasted delicious with either savory dishes or spread with honey like a crêpe.

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Ethiopian Chickpea Wat: Spicy Chickpea Stew with Carrots, Potatoes, Ginger, and Berbere Spice Mix. (Notes: Chickpeas are not necessarily prepared during Passover, but I wanted to test another vegetarian Ethiopian recipe that could be served with my Injera bread, and possibly as a savory Passover break-fast option. What I liked about this dish is that it was slightly hot, but not so much so that you could not taste the flavor. I used my own homemade Ethiopian spice mix known as Berbere, made up of black peppercorns, fenugreek seeds, allspice berries, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, cardamom seeds, ground ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, cayenne, red pepper flakes, hot chili pepper, and hot paprika.)

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Iraqi Plau: Basmati Rice with Tomatoes, Turmeric, Cardamom, Cloves and Cinnamon Stick. (Notes: Jim felt that this was a simple recipe to follow, and was surprised in the technique of steaming the rice over a very low heat with the tomatoes and spices instead of boiling it more like pasta. The guests also commented on the pretty yellow color acquired from the turmeric, and liked that it was served in a long platter as opposed to the more western style in a bowl. The overall flavor was reminiscent of Indian cooking, with the addition of whole cardamom pods, cloves, and cinnamon sticks, which are ingredients that are used in some parts of Iraqi cooking as well as by the Baghdadi Jews that once migrated and settled in India.)

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Iraqi Kubbah Shooendar Hamuth: Sweet & Sour Beet Stew with Stuffed Meatballs. (Notes: Brian said that the recipe was very different from what he was used to preparing, and he was struck by the very bright red color from the beets and its unusual tangy-sweet flavor. He felt that it was a little tricky to stuff the meatballs into the rice dough and then form it into a torpedo shape, and that if he ever did it again, would work on making the outer shell even thinner.)

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Spanish Bolo de Laranxa: Orange-Olive Oil Cake with Ground Almonds, Farina, and Orange Blossom Water. (Notes: Kasaya noted that the recipe was very easy to follow and that she didn’t feel that anything needed to be noted or changed. She was concerned about whether it had been baked properly, but when I tasted it I was very pleased and thought that it was prepared perfectly!)

 

Revisiting the Egyptian Sofrito: Test 3 is the charm.

had neither tasted nor even heard of a sofrito until one year while visiting family in France, my husband and I were invited to the home of Dinah Franco — a Sephardic Jew of Egyptian descent. Sofreír in Spanish means to sauté or “lightly fry,” and in Spanish, Portuguese, Caribbean and Latin American countries, a sofrito is a type of sauce made by cooking a lot of garlic, onions, and spices with various vegetables for a long period of time over low heat, so that it can be used as a base for cooking meat, other vegetables, beans or rice dishes.

The following recipe is one that I recreated after having tasted Dinah’s, which combines nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and turmeric, with a lot of garlic and onions. When I was first developing this dish I focused on getting the right balance of seasonings and ingredients down on paper, and when I later tested my recipe I found that the result was more like a soup than a stew. In this most recent third attempt I used a lot less liquid to braise the meat and cooked it over a lower heat for a longer period of time. The overall result was a thick, rich sauce that took on the flavor of the meat, and more of what a true sofrito should be.

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STEP 1: Gather and prep your ingredients (3 pounds beef stew pieces, 4 cups onions, parsley, 1 to 2 cups coriander leaves and/or parsley leaves, 4 to 5 tablespoons garlic, spices, 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, black pepper).

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THE SPICES: 1/4 teaspoon cloves, 1 teaspoon ginger, 2 teaspoons turmeric, and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg.

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STEP 2: Brown the meat in a large heavy-bottomed pot with a little oil over high heat, then pour into a separate bowl along with all of its liquid.

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STEP 3: Add a few tablespoons of oil to the same pot (no need to wash) and cook onions over medium-high heat until soft and transparent, but not browned. Add the garlic and while stirring, cook for 30 seconds.

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STEP 4: Add the spices, salt, and pepper, mix, and cook over medium heat for about 1 minute.

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STEP 5: Return browned meat and all of its liquid plus about 1 cup cold water to the pot. Add the chopped herbs and mix well. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a medium-low heat, cover, and simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Uncover and cook an additional 1/2 hour until sauce has reduced and meat is so soft it can be easily cut with a spoon. (Note: If you like, you can scatter a few cups of potato pieces over the top and cook it with the meat for the last 1/2 hour as well.)

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STEP 6: Dinner is served.

 

 

 

 

 

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