My Favorite Passover Recipes

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Heading to NYC to be with our family but not before sharing a few of my favorite Passover recipes.  If you have a favorite family recipe, please send it in so we can all enjoy.  Family stories welcomed and encouraged!

Marinated Eggplant

Bubelach (Passover Pancakes)

Brownie Meringues

Coconut Macaroons

Imberlach

Matzoh Balls

Matzoh Lasagna

Mushroom Kugel

Passover Pogos

Persian Charoset

Sally’s Moussaka

Chag Sameach and Enjoy,

Irene

Kasha with Mushrooms and Onions (Buckwheat Groats)

Cantor Harry Saiger

Last week my son and daughter-in-law traveled to Toronto to visit my in-laws, Bubbie and Zaidie.  During their visit they went to see an exhibit on the great Cantors of Toronto.  One of the Cantors featured was my husband’s grandfather Harry Saiger.  I can only imagine how touched my father-in-law was knowing that his grandson and wife were going to view the collection but unfortunately it was no longer on display.  The woman in the synagogue was kind enough to give them the photo and biography that had been part of the exhibit and so we too were able to see it.

The elegant photo of Harry Saiger shows him dressed in the dramatic black Cantor’s hat and Tallis.  I stared at it looking for a trace of his features in my children.  I thought about his journey to Canada as a young man, not knowing what his future held.  Harry settled in Toronto, met and married Manya, had five children, and became an accomplished carpenter as well as a Cantor.  I don’t know much else about them (coincidently they shared the same names as my parents, Manya and Harry) but I can imagine that as a cantor he would have been thrilled to know that three generations later his great-grandson became a Rabbi.

I look for those connections because it ties us to our past and keeps our family history alive.  I feel the same way about food.  Preserving the recipes that were handed down from generation to generation and, yes, though we may tempted to update them to our more modern tastes, there is something to be said for preserving the originals, like the photos displayed in the exhibit.

I don’t know what my husband was served on those Shabbat afternoons when he would go visit his Zaidie and Bubie Manya after shul but I imagine that lunch may have included something like Kasha because he seems to love it so much.

Kasha and Mushrooms

1 cup whole Kasha (Buckwheat Groats)

1 egg

2 cups chicken stock

2 large onions

1/2 pound brown mushrooms, sliced

6 oz. bowtie noodles (optional)

2 Tb canola oil

Heat oil in deep sided frying pan and sauté onions till caramelized.  Be patient because this imparts a lot of the flavor to the dish and can take 20-30 minutes before the onions are the right color.  Add sliced mushrooms to onions and sauté for an additional 10 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove mixture to a bowl.  Beat the egg in a small bowl and add Kasha, stirring till grain is completely coated.  Wipe the pan clean and then add egg-coated Kasha.  Saute for several minutes over low flame till grains separate.  Add hot chicken stock, reduce flame to simmer, cover pan and cook till Kasha is tender, about 10 minutes.  Do not overcook or Kasha will turn into mush.  Add onions and mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and serve.  If you want Kasha Varnishkes, then add cooked bowtie noodles to dish.  Serves 4

Kasha coated with egg

Enjoy,

Irene

Latkes for a crowd

Sometimes it really is the little things in life that makes you happy.  Today I had a perfect afternoon.  I came home from work early, planning to make my latkes so I could freeze them, something I don’t normally do but this year I needed to make lots of them.  Unexpectedly it began to rain which only added to the coziness of the kitchen.  I turned on my favorite radio station which plays Christmas songs this time of year, (I happen to love Christmas music) and peeled ten pounds of potatoes.  I know it sounds crazy but to actually have the luxury of spending a weekday afternoon in the kitchen felt decadent.  It took about 3 1/2 hours from start to finish but during that time two friends came to visit, one carrying lattes for each of us.  Rain, that distinctive smell of latkes frying, music, friends, and good coffee.  It doesn’t get better than that.  Happy Holidays.

This recipe made exactly 150 latkes.  If you want a smaller version, here is the recipe I normally use for latkes.

 

Potato Latkes for a crowd

10 pounds Russet potatoes,  peeled and cut into eighths.

4 large onions, cut in chunks

17 eggs

4 1/2 cups matzoh meal

3 Tbs salt

Canola Oil ( Lots )

Pour oil into three large frying pans until oil comes halfway up the sides of the pan.  In the meantime, in batches, fill the bowl of a food processor with potatoes and a handful of onions, and process till mixture is fine.  Pour into large mixing bowl and add 3 beaten eggs, 1 1/2 tsp salt, and 3/4 cups matzoh meal.  Mix well.  When oil is hot, place large spoonfuls of mixture in pan but do not overcrowd.   Fry till golden on one side and flip over.  Serves 35-40 people.

Enjoy,

Irene

Rosie’s Pickled Vegetables (Hamutzim)

My mother had close friends who moved to Israel in the 1940s and settled on a Moshav, Kfar Meishar, near Gedera.  Although she had not seen them since the end of the war they had kept in touch, and when I made my first trip to Israel at age 16,  my mother insisted that I visit them.  Sonia and Manya made me feel right at home even though I spoke no Hebrew and very little Yiddish.  They doted on me, and took turns serving me food that was not only familiar, but almost identical to the food that my mother served.  The women and their families lived in houses that were spitting distance from one another and each day I was asked whose house I was going to sleep in and where I would be eating breakfast, lunch and dinner.  I often ended up eating six meals a day, trying hard not to offend either of them.  They couldn’t do enough for me and the intensity of their affection did not push me away, it drew me in, like being wrapped in a warm blanket on a rainy day.  Sonia and Manya are no longer alive but when either my daughter or I go to Israel, we always visit their children and grandchildren.  Friendships that span three generations are rare and it only happens if everyone makes the effort to keep the connection alive.  I could never imagine visiting Israel without spending time with Sonya’s son and daughter-in-law, Aharon and Rosie.  I know that they will welcome us with open arms and I know that Rosie will have pickled vegetables sitting on her kitchen counter.  It’s nice knowing that there are some things you can always count on.

Rosie’s Pickled Vegetables

1 Kohlrabi, cut in thick strips.

3-5 large carrots, cut in bite size pieces

1 red cabbage, sliced

1 cauliflower, broken into small pieces

1 red pepper, sliced

1 green pepper, sliced

1 Serrano chili, cut in pieces

1 head of garlic, peeled

Place the vegetables in a large jar with a lid.

Brine

4 cups of boiling water

2 cups of white vinegar

2 Tbs salt

1/2 cup sugar

Mix ingredients for brine and pour over vegetables, making sure vegetables are covered with liquid.  Do not refrigerate.  Hamutzim will be ready in 2-3 days.

Enjoy,

Irene

 

Oven Baked Sweet Potato Fries

It all comes down to a few essentials.  I don’t think many people are waiting for the roasted Brussel sprouts (even when they are beautifully presented on the stalk) or the cranberry chutney, and some people don’t really like turkey.  For me it is the dressing (we don’t stuff), the sweet potatoes and the corn bread.  Like most things in my life, you can eliminate the extras and find that there are just a few things that really count.  Family, friends and food.

Here are a few of my favorite recipes for Thanksgiving.  Also some photos taken last year in and around Blue Hill at Stone Barns to  help you get in the mood.

Almost any type of sweet potato dish works, I don’t think I have ever tried a recipe that I didn’t like.

I often boil the sweet potatoes in their jackets till soft, mash with some brown sugar and a little bit of margarine and then place in a baking dish.  Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour.  Today I tried oven baked sweet potato fries.  Good for a small crowd.

Oven Baked Sweet Potato Fries

5 Sweet Potatoes, cut into thin long slices

3-4 Tbsp olive oil

Salt, pepper and garlic salt to taste.

Toss together and bake on a parchment covered cookie sheet at 450 degrees for about 20-25 minutes.  Serves 4-5

Shira’s Corn Pone

We bought a bread cookbook in Amish country when Shira was a little girl.  She makes this recipe for Thanksgiving dinner every year.  It’s great for dinner and cut in half, toasted and served with butter the next morning!!!!

1 c. sugar

1/2 cup butter or  pareve margarine

2 eggs

1  1/2 cup stone ground cornmeal

1  1/2 cups flour

3 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups milk or non-dairy creamer

Cream together margarine and sugar.  Add beaten eggs and mix well.  In a bowl, sift cornmeal with flour, baking powder and salt. Add flour and milk alternately to batter.  Pour into greased and floured 9x 13 baking dish.  Bake at 450″ for 30-35 minutes.  I  think the texture is better if made the day before.  Serves 8-10

Pumpkin Bread, a yearly traditional dessert.  This recipe has spread far and wide and I love that!  Click on the link for the recipe.

Manya’s Mushroom Stuffing

1 1/2 lbs. brown mushrooms or a combination of mushrooms
2 large onions
2 large carrots
2 stalks celery
4 eggs, beaten
1 large Challah,  crust removed.
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
2-3 tbsp vegetable oil

Dice onions and sauté in olive oil over low flame until a rich golden color, this can take up to 30 minutes.
Dice carrots and celery and add to onions and sauté for about ten minutes until tender.  Raise heat slightly, add sliced mushrooms and cook an extra 15 minutes.  Allow to cool and place in large mixing bowl.
Remove crust and run challah under warm water until soft.  Then squeeze challah and add to mushroom mixture.  Add beaten eggs, salt and pepper.
Prepare 9×13 pan by adding 2-3 Tbsp oil, make sure bottom and sides are well-greased and place in 350 degree oven for several minutes.  Take out and immediately pour in stuffing  mixture.  Brush with olive oil.

Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes or until golden brown.  Serves 6-8

Please send in your family favorites to share!

Enjoy,

Irene

Kopytka (Polish Noodles)

With Rosh Hashana just a few days away, this morning Norm and I began preparing in earnest.  We made 12 Challot between the two of us, some of which are being shipped to the kids on the East Coast.  Since I already had a cake to send to my daughter, I decided to bake Oatmeal Cookies and Ginger Crinkles for my son and daughter-in-law.

I hadn’t spent much time thinking about a menu for the holidays, although I knew dinner would include some standard dishes, like home-made Challot, chicken soup with Kreplach, fish, vegetables, chicken and some type of beef.  I needed inspiration for the main courses and last week it arrived in unexpected ways.  My Machatenista sent me a link with some recipes, one of which was chicken with dried fruit and honey and so, to my surprise, ( and I am sure to her surprise as well) Nancy ended up helping me with the menu.  Then I had lunch with two old friends, one of whom had just lost her Mom.  We sat and talked about our children, our mothers, the holidays, and food, and that’s when Anna G. shared her recipe for Goulash.  I decided that a stew would help balance some of the sweetness of the meal but I wasn’t quite sure what to serve with it.  Always trying to incorporate a dish that my mother would make, I decided to prepare a thick Polish noodle called Kopytka, which actually means “little hooves”.  It is the perfect size, shape and density for a thick hearty stew, a noodle that can “sop” up the sauce.   I have to warn you, this is not as quick or easy as it looks, but it did make me feel as if my Mom was in the kitchen with me, for hours and hours.

Shana Tovah to all of you. 

 

 

Kopytka

The more common version is made with boiled potatoes but this is the way my mother prepared these hearty noodles.

4 eggs

2 Tbs oil

1 Tbs salt

1 tsp pepper

2 cups water

6 cups flour and more as needed.

In a bowl mix eggs with oil and add salt and pepper.  Mix in water, and gradually add flour till dough is workable.  Dough needs to be firm enough to roll into ropes.  On a floured board, take a portion of the dough and roll into a 1″ thick rope.  Slice on the diagonal, about 1/2″ pieces.  Repeat till you have used all of the dough.  Toss some flour on the noodles so they don’t stick together.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (throw in some Telma or Osem for extra flavor), and throw in the Kopytka, about 10 at a time.  Once they float to the top, cook for an additional 5 minutes.  Remove with slotted spoon and allow to cool in one layer on baking sheet.  Serves 10 -12.

Enjoy,

Irene



 

Persian Rice with Tadig

Rice was a staple in my mother’s kitchen. Always prepared in the most basic way, it was never the centerpiece of the meal but occupied the role of ” the starchy” side dish.  My mother bought Uncle Ben’s and cooked it in salted boiling water.  Period.  There were two ways that it was served, with hot milk and sugar for a dairy meal, and in sort of a sticky mass for meat meals.  The rice didn’t elicit any response when it came to the table, it was like eating white bread, just sort of there.  My mother was a great cook so I attribute this lack of imagination to the fact that she grew up in Poland where I am sure she was raised eating potatoes (which she always prepared well and in numerous ways) but, of course, my sister disagrees.

The first time I tasted Persian rice with Tadig was when my children began attending a Jewish Day School in Los Angeles that had a large Persian population.  The special preparation of this dish produces a tender, fluffy and fragrant rice that is covered with a thick, pale yellow crust (tadig).  The crust is both chewy and crunchy, and since there is only one layer of it, everyone wants to get an even share. 

I was determined to learn how to prepare Tadig and so over the years I have tried various recipes, this being the one that I now use.  For those of us who live in Los Angles, Persian rice is not a particularly unusual or exotic dish, but for those of you who live in other parts of the country, I encourage you to try this.  It may take a little getting use to, but I promise that it’s worth the effort.  You’ll never be satisfied with a bowl of Uncle Ben’s again.

rice after soaking in water

rice formed into a pyramid

rice with lid wrapped in tea towel

 Persian Rice with Tadig

2 cups Basmati Rice

salt

4 cups water

4 Tbs corn oil

1/4 tsp turmeric

2 Tbs water

Rinse rice and place in bowl.  Submerge rice in warm water and let stand for 30 minutes.  Drain and set aside.  Bring a wide-bottomed pot filled with 4 cups of salted water to a rapid boil.  Add the rice and cook for 8 minutes. Drain.

Wipe pot dry with a paper towel.  Place 3 Tbs of the oil in the pot, add the turmeric and stir.  Tilt pan to cover entire bottom with oil.  Pour rice into pan, making sure that the bottom of the pan is covered with rice.  Then gently pull extra rice towards the center to form a pyramid.  Sprinkle rice with remaining oil.  Cover lid with a dish towel and tie on the top.  Cover pot, and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes.  Then lower heat ( as low as possible)  and cook for at least 30- 45 more minutes.  Crust will form on bottom.  Invert and serve with crust on top.  Serves 6-8 people

Enjoy,
Irene

Long Bean Salad with Creme Fraiche Dressing

As a child having an August birthday was always a little disappointing.  Children who were born during the school year had typical parties that included games and home-made birthday cakes, but in the heat of the summer not too many kids were hanging around the Bronx.  It also stemmed from the fact that my parents were not particularly interested in birthday celebrations.  They never quite understood what all the fuss was about, on top of which they believed that once your birthday arrived, that year was over and you were now entering the next year of your life.  Telling your friends that you are finally sixteen was somewhat hampered by my Mom who was busy reminding me that I was no longer sixteen, but now in my seventeenth year.  We didn’t know my father’s actual birthday till he sent for his Polish birth certificate when he was well into his sixties.  We grew up thinking his birthday was December 2nd, and so you can imagine our surprise when the certificate arrived and we realized he was born on February 12th.  He hadn’t remembered that the day, rather than the month, is listed first on European documents.  My mother often reminded us that birthdays were not marked when she was growing up, but were referred to in proximity to holidays, you were born near Sukkot, or on Passover, and that was the extent to which it was mentioned.

All this by way of saying that I love celebrating birthdays, which is no surprise.  It just so happens that there are many August birthdays in our family and one in mid-September, which is close enough.  My youngest son turned 24 today or as my mother would have said, has now entered his 25th year.  Out of bed early this morning, I am spending the day cooking for his birthday celebration, a picnic and concert at the Hollywood Bowl.  Dinner will include slow-roasted tomatoes, cheese (hand delivered from Paris) and a crispy baguette.  Then on to baked salmon, pasta with vine-ripened tomatoes, basil and garlic.  Sides are grilled artichokes, Chinese Long Bean salad, and a green salad with avocado and hearts of palm.  Then champagne grapes, Bing cherries and a home-made two-layer chocolate cake.
Happy birthday Micah,and of course to all of you other August babies, here’s to us!!  Special wishes for my Machatenista who has a big celebration coming up, and to Auntie Clara who is turning 100!!

Micah's Birthday Cake

Chinese Long Bean Salad with Creme Fraiche Dressing

1 pound Chinese Long Beans, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2″ pieces

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil

3-4 cloves minced garlic

2 tablespoons crème fraîche

2 tablespoons honey
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
Cook cut long beans in rapidly boiling salted water for 1-2 minutes.  Do not over cook.  Drain and plunge into bowl of ice water and allow to cool.  In a large bowl, combine basil, garlic, honey and crème fraîche.  Add beans and toss.  Taste and adjust seasonings.
Serves 6
Enjoy,
Irene

Nopal Salad

Several months ago I had the pleasure of spending the morning at the SLS Hotel in Los Angeles listening to several innovative chefs and speakers discuss food.  One of the speakers was  Michael Stern, the author of  Roadfood, who shared humorous stories about his search for great meals while “on the road.”  He reflected on the difference between fine dining and dining on local fare,  and encouraged the audience to embrace all the small diners, stands, and dives where the ambiance may be lacking, but the food more than makes up for it.  Don’t trade taste for a tablecloth.  Michael Stern urged us to look for “regional experiences” when travelling, and to try dishes that the city or town is known for.  Lobster in Maine, Deep Dish Pizza in Chicago, Mexican Food in Los Angeles, and BBQ in Texas.  For some of us that may mean kosher Fried Chicken in Atlanta, vegetarian Dim Sum in NY’s Chinatown,  and…. BBQ in Texas…. (where I am spending this weekend.)

In order to do that, you have to be willing to expand your horizons and be open to experience food prepared by people who have been eating and serving those dishes for generations.  Food that may be unfamiliar, strange, and different from what you are used to.  Allow yourself to have a gastronomic adventure and, who knows, you may just discover that you love cilantro after all.

Here were some of Michael Stern’s tips for hunting out places on the road where you may end up having a memorable meal.  Look for police cars or truckers parked outside a restaurant.  Use your nose and follow something that smells good till you get to the source.  (A close friend of my father’s, who lived in Paris, once told me the same thing) Think about where you are!  Do you really want to eat Mexican food in Connecticut??  Be open, leave your judgement and your prejudices at the door, and enjoy!

Grace’s Nopal Salad  (Cactus Paddle Salad)

1 pound Nopales (cactus) cooked and sliced  (these can be bought pre-prepared in Los Angeles)

1 whole fresh tomato, chopped

2 green onions, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 lime, juiced

1 -2 finely chopped Serrano chilis

1/4 tsp dried oregano

3 Tbs olive oil

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

salt and pepper to taste

Put nopales in a bowl and add green onion and chopped tomato.  Whisk together remaining ingredients and pour over cactus.   Serves 4-6.

Enjoy,

Irene

Succotash

Here are some of my memories of the 1960s.  Standing on a line that curved around the block as I waited to see West Side Story.  Watching American Bandstand on T.V. and then looking on as my sister practiced the dance steps using the refrigerator handle as her dance partner.  Seeing the Beatles for the first time on The Ed Sullivan Show, during which my mother remarked that they would “ruin America.”   (I think it had something to do with their long hair)  Watching the coverage of the anti-war rallies on the evening news and listening to my father as he ranted against the protesters.  It was not surprising that he thought his adopted country could no wrong.

Despite a world that was “rapidly changing,”  life in our home moved at a much slower pace.  Fads and trends were not supported in the Graf household and certainly our diets did not vary very much over the years.  (It was at least 20 years later when my Mom met her very first vegetarian, my husband)  With two children and a husband, no car, and few conveniences, my mother was too busy to spend her time worrying whether we needed more vegetables or fewer carbs.  Meals were balanced and colorful, dessert was never offered, but fruit was always available.  Basically as long as our diet included the two foods that my mother felt were critical to good health, she wasn’t overly concerned.  The items were milk and meat, but never served together of course.

Today as I walked through a local Persian market, the summer vegetables were in all their glory.  I couldn’t decide what to make so I picked a few vegetables of various colors and made a version of Succotash, a dish I never had growing up but SO American that my father would surely have approved.

Succotash (without the shell beans and adapted from Bobby Flay)

2 pounds Mexican Squash, cut in chunks

3 Tbs olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

3 cloves minced garlic

1 red bell pepper, diced

4 ears of corn

3 Tbs lime or lemon juice

1 tsp cumin

2 Tbs cilantro

salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion in  olive oil till translucent.  Add minced garlic and cook for several minutes and then add diced red pepper, turning heat to high, allowing pepper to caramelize.  After about 5 minutes add the Mexican squash and cook for an additional 10 minutes on medium heat.  Cut kernels off husks and add to pan along with salt, pepper, and cumin.  Allow flavors to combine for several minutes and remove from heat.  Add lemon juice and chopped cilantro.  Serves 4-6

Enjoy,

Irene