Passover Lemon Meringue Pie

Last week I lost two important people in my life, my cousin Robert, who was more like an older brother than a cousin, and my close friend Ruthie.  I went back East for Robert’s funeral and what I experienced over the course of five days was the workings of a family who come together like pieces of a patchwork quilt, all different in design but stronger and more effective as one unit.  Almost my entire immediate family, as well as my extended family, came to Philadelphia where we spent our days cooking, eating, crying and  laughing in the comfort of our cousin Micheline’s home.  Even after both refrigerators and freezers were filled to capacity we continued to cook.  It kept us busy and focused, taking care of each other and everyone around us.

After the funeral we prepared Shabbat dinner for about twenty.  Everyone participated in their own way, some by offering words of comfort to the mourners, some by taking charge of the kitchen, some by providing comic relief.  On Saturday night, the evening before everyone’s departure, Denise (Robert’s daughter) said that it was just the kind of evening her father loved, having the family together, sharing good food and good wine.  The night ended with my daughter Shira, myself, and Denise all sitting around the table sharing a pie which we ate straight from the tin, one spoonful at a time.

Passover is just around the corner, a time when families get together.  May it be filled with joy, and not with sorrow, and with the memories of those we lost but will never forget, and why not make some pie that can be shared straight from the tin.

Lemon Meringue Pie

Crust

1 cup Matzoh Meal

1/4 cup melted margarine

1/4 tsp cinnamon

2 tbsp sugar

1/8 tsp salt

Blend ingredients together.  Press into a greased 9″ pie pan and bake at 375 for 15 minutes or till golden brown.

Lemon Meringue Filling

5 tbsp potato starch

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup sugar

2 cups water

3 eggs, separated

2 tbsp margarine

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tbsp grated lemon rind

Combine potato starch, salt and 1/2 cup sugar in top of a double boiler and then add water.  Cook, stirring over boiling water till thickened. Cover pot, lower heat and cook for ten minutes, stirring occasionally.   In a bowl, combine egg yolks with remaining 1/2 cup sugar.  Spoon a little of the hot cooked mixture into the yolks, stirring rapidly.  Then pour yolk mixture back into the pot. Cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add a drop of water if too thick.  Remove from heat.  Add margarine, lemon juice and lemon rind to filling and allow to cool to room temperature.  Pour into pie shell.

Meringue

3 egg whites

dash salt

6 tbsp sugar

Using a beater, beat egg whites with salt till foamy, gradually adding  6 tbsp sugar till smooth and glossy.  Pour Meringue over pie filling and bake in 325 degree oven for about 15 minutes.  Chill and serve.

Enjoy,

Irene

Brussel Sprout Leaf, Arugula, and Almond Salad

Last week I turned on the Food Network and Giada De Laurentiis had just blanched a pot of Brussel Sprout leaves.  Unfortunately I missed her technique for separating the leaves, but the result looked so appealing that I decided to try to duplicate it.  My friend Sheila had invited us over to try a new recipe that she was testing for Passover, Braised Short Ribs, and I thought that a green salad would be a perfect way to balance the richness of the beef.  Plus it was fun knowing that we were going to be each other’s taste testers in anticipation of Pesach.

Using a very small paring knife, I cut the bottom of each Brussel Sprout and gently trimmed off each individual leaf.  After about 45 minutes, I had enough for a large salad.  The leaves were quickly blanched, strained, and thrown into a bowl of ice water.  There they were, a bowl of delicate beautiful emerald-green leaves which I tossed with arugula and toasted almonds.  The dressing was equal parts olive oil and lemon juice.  The salad was refreshing and lemony, and the preparation was a nice alternative to roasting the Brussel Sprouts.  The short ribs melted in your mouth.

We won’t be in Los Angeles for Pesach this year, we are heading East at the invitation of our recently married son and daughter-in-law.  I will miss our Seder, our friends in L.A., and my sister and brother-in-law, but it will be the first time that both families, (and all the siblings) will join together to celebrate a Chag, and that’s too wonderful an opportunity to pass up.

Spring can’t come soon enough.

Brussel Sprout Leaf, Arugula and Almond Salad

1 lb. Brussel Sprouts, bottoms trimmed and leaves removed

3 cups Baby Arugula

1/2 cup slivered toasted almonds

salt and pepper to taste

Dressing

1/2 cup lemon juice

1/2 cup olive oil

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and toss in leaves. Boil for one minute, strain, and place in bowl of ice water.  Drain and toss Brussel Sprout leaves, arugula and toasted almonds in a large bowl. Dress and serve immediately.  Serves 6

By the way, the Braised Short Ribs were as beautiful as they were delicious, just take a look for yourself.

Enjoy,

Irene

Eggplant Relish

I have something to share about my husband.  He has a tendency to reveal the ending of a play or movie plot before the rest of us have seen it, or share the final score of a sports event when others are watching in a different time zone.  It is something we joke about, and as a family we often censor him just when we realize from the twinkle in his eye that he is about to spill the beans. 

Here is another thing that he loves to do.  Every year at this time, Norm comes home from shul and announces that they began to read from the Book of Exodus.  Can you guess what the next line is??  He casually adds, “that means Pesach is not far off.”  Norm knows that this is not an announcement that elicits a reaction that I might have with a slightly more “fun” piece of news.  Don’t misunderstand, I love Passover but he knows that in mid-January thinking about Passover is pretty much an excercise in anxiety.

I am simply refusing to take heed and am putting Passover out of my mind, at least for now.  Tu Bishvat is around the corner, and though I don’t really do anything to celebrate this particular holiday, it is a reminder that Spring is not too far off, that in Israel the Almond trees will soon blossom, and that the days are once again getting longer.

Last night I made an eggplant relish and added toasted almonds instead of the pine nuts that were called for in the recipe.  (it is an adaptation of an Ina Garten recipe)  It would be a good dish to have for a Tu Bishvat Seudah and will be a perfect accompaniment to matzoh.  Something to think about.

Eggplant Relish

3 Globe Eggplants

8 oz. Jar of Roasted Red Peppers, diced

2 medium Onions, diced

3 cloves Garlic, minced

4 Tb Tomato Paste

1/3 cup Red Wine Vinegar

4 Tb olive oil

1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds

salt and pepper to taste

Chopped parsley for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and roast whole eggplants on a cookie sheet until tender, about one hour.  In the meantime, sauté chopped onions in olive oil till onions are translucent.  Add minced garlic and sauté an additional minute or two.  Remove to bowl and add tomato paste, red wine vinegar and a dash of olive oil.  After the eggplant has cooled, scoop out the flesh and process for a few minutes before adding to onion mixture.  Mix in finely diced red peppers and season with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle with toasted almonds and parsley.  Serves 8

Enjoy,

Irene

Ruthie’s Matzoh Lasagne

Matzoh is often used as a base to make all kinds of pies, both savory and sweet.  This recipe was given to me by my close friend Ruthie. We met at an engagement party about 6 years ago when she marched up to me, introduced herself and called me two days later to join her for dinner.  Talk about determination!  Although her permanent home is in New Jersey,  Ruthie spends several months a year in Los Angeles.  She is one of those women who lights up a room with her sparkling eyes and bright smile.  Ruthie, Chag Sameach, and hang in there kid!!  We love you!

Inside the Streit’s Matzoh Factory

Ruthie’s Matzoh Lasagna

2 lbs. sliced mozzarella cheese

3 lbs. cottage cheese

3 eggs

1 Quart Marinara sauce

salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9 x 13 baking dish with olive oil.  Mix cottage cheese with beaten eggs, and season well with salt and cracked pepper.  Spoon marinara on the bottom of the baking dish and then cover with a layer of matzoh, a layer of mozzarella and a layer of the cottage cheese mixture.  Continue layering till all ingredients are used. Top with mozzarella. Bake for 1 1/2 hours. Serves 12.

Tip: To increase the nutritional value, add a layer of sautéed spinach, or kale.  This is an easy recipe to experiment with.

Enjoy,

Irene

Sponge Cake


Almost there.  The kitchen is converted, not a speck of Hametz to be found.  It is only Friday afternoon and now in addition to planning for Passover, I am trying to figure out what we will eat tomorrow.  Tonight we are going to our synagogue for Shabbat dinner so one less meal to worry about.  Breakfast will be cheese and fruit but the real concern was afternoon tea.  A group of us have been getting together every Shabbat afternoon for many years but the Shabbat before Pesach is a challenge.  At first I cancelled,  but quickly reconsidered  knowing the day is long and, besides, what would  Shabbat afternoon be like without our friends gathered around.

So, last night I went to the Farmers’ Market and bought beautiful strawberries, a cherimoya, golden beets, purple kohlrabi and purple cabbage.  I came home this afternoon and made a Sponge Cake to serve with the strawberries.  I cooked a pot of quinoa to turn into a cold salad with roasted yellow beets, dried cranberries and mango.  I have no idea what I will do with the purple cabbage but I still have some time.

Truth be told the sponge cake looked beautiful when it came out of the oven (see photo).  It was high and golden and I inverted it and allowed it to cool and guess what? As it does every year, it fell.  I will slice it up and serve it with the strawberries on top and nobody will care. Here is the recipe I used which is pretty simple and I know that others have made with success!!!

Sponge Cake

7 eggs, room temperature

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 Tbs Meyer lemon juice

3/4 cup potato starch

dash of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Beat yolks till they are light and fluffy and turn a creamy yellow color. Slowly add sugar and lemon juice and beat till blended. Add potato starch and mix well.

Beat whites with salt till stiff peaks form. Fold into egg mixture and bake in ungreased tube pan. Invert and allow to cool.

Serve with strawberries.

Enjoy,

Irene

Essia’s Apple Cake

I wrote this last night in a state of exhaustion but I was determined to post a  recipe. I don’t know Essia very well but I wanted to add that I have reliable sources who say she is a very good cook.  Essia, thank you so much for sharing this recipe with me. I am definitely going to make it but I might take the liberty of using strawberries and rhubarb as the filling, for color contrast and because I love rhubarb!

A recipe from a member of Temple Beth Am’s Library Minyan.

Essia’s Passover Apple Cake

Batter

6 large eggs

1 cup oil

2 cups sugar

2 cups cake meal

2 Tbs potato starch

Combine ingredients in food processor for several minutes.

Apple Filling

4 large apples (Granny Smith)

1 lemon, juiced

1/2 cup sugar

2 Tsp cinnamon

Peel and thinly slice apples,  toss with other ingredients. Allow to sit for several minutes.

In a 9 x 11 pan, alternate  batter and apples,  beginning with a layer of batter and ending with a layer of apples.

Topping

Combine 2 Tsp cinnamon with 1 Tsp sugar and 1/2 cup ground almonds or walnuts.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.  NOTE:  Essia sent me an e-mail saying she used a springform pan which worked beautifully.

Enjoy,

Irene


Matzoh Balls

When my sister and I get together and reminisce, it is hard to believe that we grew up in the same house with the same parents.  We not only have different memories of the same events, they are sometimes so different that it is even hard for us to believe that we had the same mother.  We can spend hours arguing and laughing over how MY mother prepared a dish in comparison to how HER mother prepared it.  So, it is not surprising that our taste in Matzoh Balls also differs.  My sister prefers small hard matzoh balls, and I prefer the large, soft, fluffy variety.  She may be my older sister, and  l love her, but here is MY version of Knaidlach, which is what my mother called them.

Fluffy Matzoh Balls

4 eggs

1/2 cup oil

1 cup matzoh meal

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

Process all of the ingredients for about 10 seconds. Place in fridge for about an hour. Shape into balls and add to a large pot of salted, boiling water . Cook covered for about 45 minutes.

Makes 12 matzoh balls.

Enjoy,

Irene

Marinated Eggplant

Many years ago I was a volunteer on Kibbutz Usha in Northern Israel.  I asked to be assigned to the dairy and was given the morning shift, working side by side with an Arab named Hasan, a kind and willing teacher.  It was quite an experience for a girl from New York.  For me, the year I spent on Usha was filled with new experiences, but milking 300 cows a day was one of the highlights.  Another was that Norm and I got engaged that year!  The kibbutznikim were warm and friendly and we still have lifelong friends that we met that year.  One couple in particular, Amitai and Tovchik, became like family to us. Tovchik would marinade eggplants and keep them in a jar in her fridge, ready to serve if you ever stopped by for the typical Israeli 4 pm  meal.  It was a delicious snack, (although definitely not low-cal.) Sadly Tovchik passed away several years ago but it has become my tradition to make her eggplant dish every Passover.  It makes me think of Tovchik and my year at Usha with love and a smile.

Tovchik’s Eggplant
2 eggplants
1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled
red wine vinegar
vegetable oil

Lay sliced eggplants on a tray in a single layer and salt liberally.  Let them sit for half an hour and then pat off excess  moisture and salt with a paper towel.  Make sure both sides are dry.
Fill a frying pan with about 2″ of oil.  When oil is very hot, fry eggplant till brown, several minutes on each side.
Take a deep dish and cover with a layer of eggplant.  Then slice 2-3 cloves fresh garlic and toss slices over eggplants.  Lightly drizzle with red wine vinegar.  Add another layer of eggplant, more garlic and more vinegar and keep repeating till all eggplant is used.
Refrigerate and allow to marinate for at least 24 hours.  Serve at room temperature

Enjoy,
Irene

Imberlach

This is a Saiger family recipe for a Passover confection called Imberlach.  The recipe was handed down to my mother-in-law from her mother-in-law, Manya Saiger, my children’s great-grandmother.  My mother-in-law once described Imberlach for a Passover cookbook “watch your cavities or fillings, the imberlach are jawbreakers, but oh so good.”

Imberlach
1 1/2 lbs. honey
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 lb. matzoh farfel
1 Tbs. fresh ginger, grated
1 cup chopped walnuts

Bring honey and sugar to a boil, lower heat and cook for five minutes, stirring constantly.  Add farfel slowly and cook an additional five minutes.  Make sure there is still a little liquid in the bottom of the pot.  Add ginger and walnuts and stir for ten minutes until mixture is brown.  Wet a wooden board with cold water and pour mixture on, carefully spreading with a wet knife. Allow to set for several hours and cut to form diamond shapes. Candy is sticky.

Enjoy,
Irene

Mushroom Kugel

 

My mother would saute mushrooms, onions, celery and carrots and either mix them with challah for her Thanksgiving stuffing or with matzot during Passover.  It is a very simple combination but if the onions are caramelized to the perfect stage and the mushrooms are flavorful, you end up with a really good kugel.

Manya’s Mushroom Kugel

1 1/2 lbs. brown mushrooms or a combination of mushrooms
2 large onions
2 large carrots
2 stalks celery
4 eggs, beaten
6 Matzot
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.
Soak Matzot in warm water until soft.  Then squeeze matzot 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 vegetable mixture.  Brush with olive oil.

Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes or until golden brown.

Enjoy,
Irene