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

Chocolate Chip Mandelbrot and Almond Biscotti

Soft, chewy cookies or hard, crisp ones?  As with many foods, over time people develop preferences. I am a firmly entrenched fan of the hard, dry, crisp variety of cookies.  I like them to have enough substance to withstand being dunked in my coffee without melting or disintegrating. In addition to density, I like texture, so I prefer that the cookie includes nuts, chocolate chips, or both. Over the years I have tried various Mandelbrot and biscotti recipes and have found that these two recipes are among my favorites. The Chocolate Chip Mandelbrot recipe is actually a Passover recipe that was given to me by a friend of a friend.  We like it so much that I now bake it all year round. The Almond Biscotti recipe was adapted from one of Judy Zeidler’s cookbooks.  It has a more traditional flavor and is reminiscent of the Mandelbrot that I grew up with.

My mother would often visit family members and end up in their kitchen cooking.  I remember her making schav borscht in Micheline’s kitchen and chopped liver in Tante Marisha’s kitchen.  She enjoyed pitching in and being helpful, and it created a feeling of togetherness.  Although I have cooked in my daughter Shira’s and my cousin Micheline’s kitchens, I sometimes end up transporting challot or cookies from my kitchen in Los Angeles.  It is an expression of my affection, a way to let someone know that I was thinking of them even before I arrived at my destination. This morning I baked both Almond Biscotti and Chocolate Chip Mandelbrot (with Norm’s help) to take to Houston, Texas, where I will be attending my future daughter-in-law’s bridal shower.  As Marcella Hazan the famous cookbook author once said, “After all, what experience of food can compare with eating something good made by someone you can hug?”  Cookies and hugs, perfect.

Almond Biscotti

2 cups flour

1/2 tsp each of baking powder and baking soda

1/4 tsp kosher salt

3/4 ground almonds

1/2 toasted silvered almonds

2 eggs

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 cup sugar

1 egg white

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place dry ingredients in a shallow bowl and mix. Create a well in the center and add eggs, vanilla and sugar and quickly incorporate flour.  Divide dough into two equal portions. Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper and, using oiled hands, form dough into two logs.  Brush with beaten egg white. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden. Move logs to a board and carefully slice on a diagonal. Return to cookie sheet, cut side up, and bake for an additional 10 minutes on each side.

 

Loretta’s Chocolate Chip Mandelbrot

3 sticks margarine

2 cups sugar plus an extra 4 Tbs for sprinkling

6 eggs

2 3/4 cups cake meal

3/4 potato starch

1/2 tsp kosher salt

2 tsp cinnamon

2 – 12 oz. bags of chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Reserve 4 Tbs sugar and mix with 2 Tsp cinnamon and set aside. Cream sugar and margarine. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each egg.  Add dry ingredients.  Divide dough into 4 equal portions and with oiled hands, form 4 loaves, divided between 2 greased cookie sheets.  Sprinkle each loaf with an equal amount of the cinnamon sugar mixture.  Bake for about 45 minutes. Slice loaves and place Mandelbrot cut side up, sprinkling with more cinnamon sugar.  Return to oven and bake another 10-15 minutes per side or till crispy.

 


Enjoy,

Irene

 


Faux Crab Cakes

The 182-183 Street station of the D train that travelled from The Bronx to Manhattan was directly under the apartment building where I grew up.  Going “downtown” was a big deal, not in terms of distance but in almost every other way.  You didn’t throw on a pair of jeans and go downtown, you dressed for the occasion.  Anita, my sister, would take me to Manhattan as part of her continuous effort to expose me to culture and the arts.  She took me to all the wonderful museums, Central Park, the art galleries in The Village, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and everywhere else she could.  We ate roasted chestnuts, Chinese and Italian food, and hot, square knishes from street vendors.  We drank egg creams and hot chocolate.  I still remember getting off the train in Manhattan and experiencing that childlike sense of awe and wonder.  Walking up Fifth Avenue felt as if I had stepped over a threshold into another world.  No delis or bakeries on the corners, no people sitting on the stoops, no noises from the kids playing stickball on the street.  Instead there was elegance, beauty and The Plaza Hotel, straight out of the Eloïse books I adored.

The summer after I turned 16, I walked into Bergdorf Goodman and applied for a job.  I don’t think I would have had the courage to do that were it not for my sister and all those trips to Fifth Avenue.  To my amazement, I was hired, right then and there.  Suddenly I found myself working just around the corner from The Plaza Hotel and the elegant Palm Court where they served things like Cobb Salad and Crab Cakes.  That summer I had lunch there for the very first time.

I am meeting Anita in New York in October and I can’t wait.  I hope we have the chance to stroll up Fifth Avenue so I can re-capture some of the wonder of being in New York with my big sister.  We may even have tea at The Plaza.

Now that you can buy Kosher faux crab meat, I make crab cakes at home.

Faux Crab Cakes

1 lb. crab meat

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 green onion, thinly sliced

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1/ 2 cup bread crumbs

3 dashes Tabasco sauce

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup canola oil.

Coating

1 cup corn flake crumbs

In food processor, using the double blade, add crab meat and pulse a few times till shredded. Place in large bowl and add mayonnaise, green onion, eggs, breadcrumbs, tabasco and salt and pepper. Mix well and form about 12 cakes, making sure they are not too thick.

Place corn flake crumbs on a plate and coat each crab cake. Heat oil in cast iron pan till hot, fry crab cakes till golden brown, about 4 minutes on each side.  Crab cakes are very delicate and fall apart easily so handle with care.

Perfect appetizer for a festive meal.

Enjoy,

Irene

Black Beans

One of the ways that I express my interest and desire to travel and see the world is by cooking foods from other countries.  When I think about the books I choose to read, or the movies that I am drawn to see, they are often set outside of the United States.  Each time I learn a little more about a particular culture and, of course, the food.  It is my personal way of having a mini-adventure.  I can get lost in a cookbook from Israel or a food blog from Mexico.  In the course of a weekend I can read about a family struggling in India, go see a romantic movie that takes place in France, and watch a cooking show filmed in Spain.  My older son recently returned from Guatemala, and my daughter will be going to Colombia and Argentina in the next few months.  That may be the source of my inspiration as I sat and planned what to serve for Shabbat Dinner.  I kept going back to Central and South American food, simple and satisfying, flavorful and made with ingredients that are readily available, especially here in Southern California.
A friend who I work with, Alba, is originally from Guatemala.  We are always talking about food, love, and life.  She calls me “her Jewish Mom” and that is only one of the many reasons that I am crazy about her.  Another is her Black Beans.

Alba’s Black Beans

1 lb black beans

2 large onions

4 cloves garlic

4 Tbsp. olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Place beans in a large pot to soak overnight.  Add a large onion, cut in half, two cloves of garlic, and enough water to cover beans by at least one inch. The next day cook the beans in the same pot of water for several hours over a low flame, until the beans are tender. Beans continue to expand so add water as needed. Remove onion and garlic and discard.

Finely dice  the second large onion and two cloves of minced garlic and sauté in olive oil till golden.  Strain the beans (reserve liquid) and add to onions.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  At this point add as much of the reserved liquid until you have the desired consistency. Cook for another twenty minutes for flavors to blend.

Serve with rice and some fresh chopped cilantro.

Enjoy,

Irene