Mar 6, 2017

The Hamentaschen Axiom: Its Always Something

No matter what you do, something is going to be wrong with your Hamentaschen.

Hamentaschen baking and garden planning are always linked in my mind. Even Henry just asked "Is it spring yet?".  Seed Catalogues were my sole companion during last week's Involuntary Arctic Exile, and I stayed busy convincing myself not to plant any number of exotic heirloom varieties. And Amanda and I sent links for Hamentaschen Recipes back and forth in gchat.

Hamentaschen are like Connecticut vegetable gardens. In the garden, either its too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry. Spring is too early, or too late. Its either blossom-end rot, or tomato horn worms. And if its none of those, deer or woodchucks get in. And there are rabbits. Hamentaschen are either tasteless and dry, or tasty and deformed. If you make poppy, people complain that they are not apricot. If you make apricot, you wish you had raspberry. And although you never really had a scrumptious triangular cookie with a Yiddish name and a fruity filling, you always secretly believe that, like a hardy but tasty tomato seed, eventually all will be revealed. Why do we persist?  Seed catalogs and baking hamentaschen are signs that spring is on the way. And Jews and gardeners are nothing if not persistent.

Amanda went with tasty dairy hamentaschen made with a rugelach- like cream cheese and butter pastry. Alas, they did the come-unstuck-flop-open-into-circles- with-blobs-of-jam thing.

I decided to revisit and tweak a recipe that I thought had potential, one that boldly claimed to be "The Best Hamentashen You Will Ever Eat"
Although I wouldn't go that far, they really don't taste too bad. (Jews and gardeners...hopeful).The problem with these is that they are seriously UGLY. Part of the problem is mine-- in my last frenzied stock up at Whole Foods, I bought Organic Cane Sugar- which is significantly coarser than my usual Domino. And thinking that more is more in the taste department of non-buttery baked goods, instead of using my microplane grater, I grated the orange peel coarsely. So the dough was lumpy, ergo lumpy result.
The combo of the coarse sugar and the coarse orange peel, however made for a crisp and flavorful cookie, one that even improved a bit with time.
So take off your glasses and bite into one of these


Adapted from an adaptation from the Molly Goldberg Jewish Cookbook
¾ cup sugar
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
½ cup room temperature shortening, butter or margarine (I used half Earth Balance Sticks, half Fleishman's pareve margarine)
1 egg, beaten
3 Tbs. orange juice
1 tsp. grated orange zest
2 tsp. vanilla extract (or your choice)
1 tsp Princess Flavoring optional

Filling of your choice-- Solo/Lekvar/Lemon Curd/ Jam

Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, orange zest, and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer.

Add shortening or butter in tablespoon-sized pieces and combine with the paddle attachment until the dough has big crumbs.

Combine orange juice, extract, and beaten egg.

Add these wet ingredients to the dough and mix until a dough is formed. I found the dough very dry and added  an extra Tablespoon more juice or soy milk.

Divide into two mounds, and roll each out between 2 sheets of parchment to a thickness of about 1/8 inch.
Chill well-- at least an hour. For more about this see the sugar cookie entry.

Heat oven to 400

Remove a chilled dough sheet from the fridge. Remove top parchment and flip over onto baking sheet.

Using a 3”  round cutter, (or a glass like your "Oma" did), cut dough sheet into circles.

Place  1 (scant) teaspoon of filling in the center of each circle. Fold up the corners and seal well forming triangles.

Place cookies on cookie sheets and bake 12 – 15 minutes, rotating if your oven requires it until light golden brown.

Let cool on sheets about 2 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Yield: about 2 dozen
Easy to double.

Feb 1, 2017

What to serve with Latkes? FLANKENBERRY! Braised Flanken with Pomegranate.

Pomegranate Short Ribs

Everyone has a different idea of what they want to put into their stomach before the fast day of Yom Kippur. Henry, for example liked a big steak and baked potato, and our friend Peter requested boiled beef. Now, boiled beef is not something I have included in my repertoire, so searching for a recipe, I found this one, from Melissa Clark in the NY Times. I especially liked the idea of the pomegranate in this one, because it has a symbolic meaning to Jews, for whom the many juicy seeds represent the 613 commandments in the Torah. I love the idea of serving this dish before The Day of Atonement. I wish all my readers a meaningful fast, and, the wish that we all be sealed in the book of life.

 Braised Flanken with Pomegranate
4 pounds flanken ribs
1/2 teaspoon salt, more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, more to taste
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
3 medium celery stalks, diced
2 leeks, white and light green parts, cleaned, quartered lengthwise and chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 shallot, chopped
1/2 cup pomegranate juice
1/3 cup dry red wine
2 cups chicken stock, or as needed
3 thyme branches (see note)
1 rosemary branch
1 bay leaf
3 whole cloves
1 1/2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (optional)
1/3 cup pomegranate seeds
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro.

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Season meat generously all over with salt and pepper. Heat a large ovenproof Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sear meat in batches until dark golden, 3 to 4 minutes a side. Transfer meat to a platter.
2. Add oil to pan and sauté carrots, celery, leeks, garlic and shallot until vegetables are softened and slightly caramelized, about 5 minutes; season lightly with salt and pepper. Add pomegranate juice and wine, and cook, scraping browned bits from bottom of pan, until most of the liquid is evaporated, about 2 minutes. Stir in the stock, thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, cloves, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Return meat to pot. Liquid should reach halfway up sides of meat. If not, add a little more stock or water.
3. Cover pot and transfer to oven. Cook, turning meat every 30 minutes until fork tender, about 2 hours.
4. If you have time, let meat cool and chill overnight. The next day, remove fat from surface, then reheat over low heat. Stir in the pomegranate molasses if using, and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and cilantro just before serving.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings.
Note: You may wrap herbs and cloves in cheesecloth before adding to pot; remove before chilling or serving.

Serve with

Herb Mashed Potatoes

Scrub a couple of pounds of new potatoes, fingerling, or yukon gold potatoes, put in a pan with water to cover and cook until a knife pierces the potato easily.
Reserve about a cup of the cooking water.
Mash the potatoes roughly and add a good drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. Continue mashing, adding the cooking water (or milk, cream, or soy milk) till smooth. Before serving, stir in a handful of chopped fresh herbs like parsley, chives, lovage, thyme, or celery tops. Keep warm until serving.

Sep 26, 2016

Pepper Jelly Hungarian Shortbread

I have a ton of peppers ripening all at once, so I made a lot of pepper jelly. I'll post a recipe, but I just used the recipe on the Ball Pectin package, using a random mixture of bell peppers, nardello peppers, italian peppers, with a couple of jalapenos mixed in. Next time I won't be so shy with the jalapenos.
So the pepper jelly (I bet you have a jar in your cupboard) is one of those things you never really know what to do with, and save, knowing you can spread it on cream cheese and any cracker and have something to serve with drinks.
So I came up with a couple of things to do with it, and one of the best, is just using it on a PB and J sandwich (PB and PJ)! Also; mix a big spoonful into the next vinaigrette you make. 
But then I had the idea to put it in a traditional jam cookie, and had just read about this shortbread from Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan (Morrow, 1996), which uses a different method of making the pastry that does not require rolling it out. Instead you freeze it and grate it into the pan with an ordinary box grater.
The recipe is great if you want to make it as she does with Raspberry Jam, or you can sub in any nice jam or preserve, but the Pepper Jelly version is wild and wonderful.

2 cups flour, plus more as needed
1 tsp. baking powder
18 tsp. fine salt
12 lb. unsalted, uncultured butter, plus more for pan, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
34 cup pepper jelly
Using a sieve over a bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. Cream butter in a large bowl, using a hand mixer on high speed, until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add sugar and egg yolks; mix until sugar is dissolved and mixture is light, about 4 minutes. With mixer on low speed, slowly add flour mixture; mix until dough just begins to come together, about 1 minute.
Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface; bring it together with your hands. Divide dough in half and form 2 balls. Wrap each ball in plastic wrap; freeze for at least 30 minutes or up to 3 hours.
Arrange an oven rack in center of oven; heat to 350°.
Grease a 10" springform pan with butter.
Remove a ball of dough from freezer, unwrap, and grate, using the large holes of a box grater, directly into prepared pan. Gently pat grated dough to even it out. Spread jam evenly over dough, leaving about a 1⁄2" border around edges. Grate remaining dough over jam layer; pat gently until surface is even. Bake until light golden brown, about 25–30 minutes. Let cool completely in pan, on a rack, before cutting into wedges

Sep 18, 2016

Gluten Free, Dairy Free Zucchini Chocolate Chip Bread

Gluten Free Zucchini Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips

This is a terrific and easy recipe that you should try even if you are not Gluten Free or trying to use up giant zucchini from your garden.

 2 1/2 cups rolled oats (260g)
1 cup mashed banana (240g)
1 cup  finely grated zucchini, loosely packed (200g)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup oil OR milk of choice
1/2 cup pure maple syrup, agave, or honey
1 and 1/2 tbsp vinegar
optional 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Makes one 9x5 inch loaf pan or 8X8 (brownie) pan

Preheat oven to 350 F, and grease a 9×5 loaf pan or an 8x8 cake pan very well, making sure to go up the sides.
Put the oats in a blender or vitamix and blend until powder forms.
Add all other ingredients (except optional chips) and blend until smooth.
Stir in chips, if using.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, then bake in the middle of the oven for 35 minutes.
Turn the oven off, but DON’T open the oven. Let the bread sit in the closed oven for another 10 minutes. Then remove from the oven and let cool completely before going around the sides with a knife, then inverting onto a plate.

Jun 5, 2016

A Tiny Batch of Strawberry Jam

I was so excited to pick enough berries from the garden to make two jars of jam. If you never made jam before, you might be intimidated, but if you start with just two jars, and get the hang of it, you will be doing it all the time, **promise**. If you are going to eat it right away (within 2 weeks), you can just spoon it into sterilized canning jars. For longer storage, lower the filled jars into a pot of boiling water and boil ("process") for 10 minutes.


  • 3 cups fresh strawberries, sliced (about 1½ pint baskets or 4 cups whole berries or 1 pound)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Option: Add a tablespoon or two of diced candied ginger


  1. Chill a small plate or bowl in the freezer or over ice water. Wash and sterilize 2 jars in boiling water for 10 minutes. Prepare lids and bands if using.
  2. In a 10 or 12-inch wide saucepan, bring fruit, sugar, and lemon juice to boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly and skimming foam as necessary. Cook about 8-10 minutes, until mixture begins to look syrupy and thickens slightly.
  3. Spoon ½ teaspoon of the hot fruit onto the cold plate and let it rest for 30 seconds. Tip plate to one side; jam should be a soft gel that moves slightly. If mixture is thin and runs down side of plate, the gel is too soft. Return skillet to heat and cook jam 1 to 2 minutes longer, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and repeat test.
  4. Cool jam to room temperature before serving. Because a minimum amount of sugar is used, the jam needs to be refrigerated to prevent mold from forming. Refrigerate 2-3 weeks.
  5. For longer storage, freeze or process hot jam in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.**
  6. **Option: If jars are sterilized (heated in boiling water for 10 minutes) it’s possible to use the inverted method to preserve jam: Pour hot jam into hot sterile jar leaving 1/8 inch head space. Wipe rim and apply prepared lid and ring. Screw ring on firmly. Invert jar and leave for 5 minutes. Turn jar right side up and let cool 12-24 hours. The heat from the jam will destroy mold spores. This method is not foolproof, so if you are preparing a lot of jam, or want to make sure it will keep longer, process the jam in a boiling water canner.
Yield: Makes 2 half-pint jars

Apr 5, 2016

Matzo Crack: Time for something (anything) Yummy for Passover

  • 4 pieces matzo
  • 1 cup salted butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups chocolate morsels
  • 1 cup walnuts, pistachios or almonds (optional)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Line a large cookie sheet with aluminum foil. 
Lay pieces of Matzo in one layer on the pan.  Break it into pieces to fit as needed. 
Melt butter with brown sugar over medium heat.  Stir frequently until it bubbles. Pour over matzo and spread to cover.  Put in the oven for a minute or two. 
Sprinkle 2 cups of chocolate morsels on top and return to oven for 1 minute to melt morsels. 
Remove from oven and with a spatula spread chocolate. Sprinkle with nuts if desired. 
Freeze 20 minutes until hard.  Crack into pieces and store in a zipper bag in the freezer.

The Perfect Lemon Meringue pie

The perfect Lemon Meringue Pie
Lemon Meringue Pie with Coconut "Macaroon" Crust

Henry's favorite pie in the world is Lemon Meringue, and over the years I have tried several recipes, but last night, for his birthday (in passover) I believe that I located the definitive recipe. Well, for me at least. What I like about this one is that it is not cloyingly sweet, and the meringue, as well as the filling is deeply lemony.

The recipe is a mash-up of a coconut crust fruit dessert, and the Lemon Meringue pie recipe by Evan Kleiman, food editor for KCRW, the radio station I listen to when I am in LA.

It is a little more complicated than some recipes that I have tried, because it is made with Italian Meringue.

Italian meringue is made by beating egg whites until they reach soft fluffy peaks, then slowly streaming in sugar syrup (boiling sugar) and beating the mixture until it is thick and glossy. In comparison, basic meringue, also known as a French meringue, is made by beating granulated sugar into egg whites until the mixture reaches soft peaks. The hot sugar syrup used to make Italian meringue essentially cooks the egg whites as it is incorporated. This means that you don’t need to cook or bake the meringue before using it. It also means that the meringue is going to be a lot more stable and much less likely to deflate or weep than a simple meringue is. 

The recipe calls for cream of tartar, which you may or may not use on passover, but according to my rabbi, any OU (kosher) cream of tartar is kosher for passover. You can consult your own rabbi if you don't want to trust mine. 

Passover Coconut Crust:

2 cups unsweetened dried coconut
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg whites
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract. 

Preheat oven to 350° .
Mix ingredients together in a bowl.
Lightly oil a pie pan, or a fluted tart pan with a removable bottom, and pack the coconut mixture evenly, being sure to bring it all the way up the sides.
Bake the  crust for 20 minutes or so until the crust is beginning to brown.
Set the crust aside to cool completely before you add the hot filling.

Leave the oven on, you will need it in a few minutes again to brown the meringue.

5 egg whites room temperature
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon lemon juice

To Make Meringue
Use a small heavy saucepan to make the sugar syrup. 

Put the sugar, water and lemon juice in the pan.  Do not stir.  Cover the pan and bring the mixture to a boil.  Remove the cover when the sugar is completely melted and the mixture is at a lively boil.  Put your candy thermometer in the mixture.  The syrup will be ready to pour into the soft peak egg whites (see below) when it is at soft boil stage or a tiny bit above, 235 – 241°.  I tend to go to the higher temperature or even 242°

Meanwhile, put the room temperature egg whites in the bowl of your mixer and at low speed let the egg whites beat until they are foamy.  Add the cream of tartar.  Turn the mixer up to medium speed and continue to beat until they are at soft peaks.

When the sugar syrup is ready (a soft boil on candy thermometer), turn on the mixer to medium again.  Slowly pour the sugar syrup into the egg whites.  Try to focus the stream in between the beater and the side of the bowl.  When all the sugar syrup is poured into the whites turn the mixer to high and let the whites beat until the mixture froths up into thick, glossy, very stiff peak clouds.

1 cup sugar
4 teaspoons potato starch
1 cup lemon juice
5 egg yolks
2 whole eggs

To Make Filling
Whisk sugar and potato starch together in a medium saucepan.  You want the dry ingredients combined with no lumps. Don’t get crazy about it, but no big lumps.  Add lemon juice and whisk until blended with sugar – potato starch mixture.  Add yolks and eggs.  Whisk well.

Place over medium heat and alternately whisk and stir with heat resistant spatula being sure to sweep the bottom of the pan with the spatula.  First the mixture will thin out and it seems that it will never thicken, then as the mixture heats up it will begin to bubble around the edges and thicken quickly.  Keep whisking/stirring so you don’t get scrambled eggs.  When the mixture is obviously thickened and has come to a boil remove it from the heat and pour into your prepared crust.

As soon as the filling is in the pie crust turn your attention to the meringue.  If it has been sitting for a couple of minutes then beat it again.  In order to avoid weeping you need to seal the filling completely with meringue.  I start with the edge, using a thin pastry spatula or dinner knife to spread meringue so that it covers the seam where the crust meets the filling.  Once that is done you can spoon the rest of the meringue on the pie and go to town making big pillowy swirls and peaks.  The more swirls and peaks, the more browning you’ll have.

Once you’re done playing with the meringue pop it in the oven for 15 minutes or until the meringue is set and browned to your liking.  Let it cool then refrigerate until ready to serve.

The Passover tale of Golda- Lox and The Perfect Matzah Ball

 Here is the tale of Golda-Lox and the three dozen Matza Balls. Nice Jewish girl is in charge of making the seder. She makes a batch of matza balls, but they were TOO hard. Nobody really likes very hard matza balls. So, she tries a different recipe. She mixes them, and chills them, and boils them,but this time they came out TOO soft. They just turned to mush!
What to do? Being a crafty girl she adjusts the amount of matza meal, and, lo and behold, her matza balls were JUST RIGHT.
Here is the final very delicious, just perfect matza ball recipe... Sorry if you tried this earlier and found them too hard:

Lois Magid's Matzah Balls
(Like in the seder, there is a theme of "fours")
yeild: about 16

4 Eggs
4 Tablespoons Chicken Fat
3/4 cup Matzah Meal
4 Tablespoons Chicken Soup
1 Tsp. Salt
White Pepper
(chopped parsley or fresh grated ginger if desired)

Beat eggs slightly, stir in chicken fat, gradually add matzah meal.
Stir in the soup. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.

Bring large pot of salted water to a REAL boil,
Moisten hands with water, and shape walnut sized balls of the mixture gently, not compressing them too much.
Drop into the salted, boiling water.
Cover the pot tightly, reduce heat to slow simmer, and cook for 25 minutes. DO NOT REMOVE THE COVER OF THE POT while they are cooking.

Don't let the water boil too vigorously, or they will fall apart.
You can make these with olive oil, they won't taste as good, but you might live longer. Try making them half chicken fat and half olive oil and see what you think. Remove to a plate and cover closely with plastic wrap
They can stay warm in the salted water for a couple of hours
They freeze well, or can stay tightly covered in fridge for 2-3 days.
I like to add a couple tsps finely chopped parsley, but some people don't like the look of the "flecks".

A Persian Passover Treat

Sohan Asal, Persian Almond Brittle with Saffron

 These candies, called Sohan Asal in Iran, and are a very traditional Passover treat. They make a terrific addition to any cookie platter, and are quick to make. A candy thermometer really helps.

1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 ½ cups slivered almonds
¼ teaspoon saffron threads, crushed
2 tablespoons rose water (optional)
1/4 cup  chopped pistachios, for garnish

Spread parchment baking paper on a cookie sheet or marble countertop

Cook the sugar, honey and oil together in a heavy saucepan over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.

Add the slivered almonds to the mixture, and continue stirring for about 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture turns a golden color and starts to come together.
Add saffron and rose water and cook for another 2 to 4 minutes, until mixture foams and turns golden. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon until the mixture reaches a golden brown color, and turns very foamy.

If you have a candy or deep-fry thermometer it should read 285 degrees. If you don't have a thermometer, put a few ice cubes in a glass of ice water, drop a small amount of the mixture into the water, if it hardens immediately, it is done.

Place teaspoonfuls of the mixture on the parchment paper at 1-inch intervals, immediately scatter the chopped pistachios.

Allow the candies to cool thoroughly, then remove them from the paper and store in an airtight container for up to a week, between layers of parchment.

Sangria Haroset Style- My recipe in this month's Bitayavon! And our favorite Charoset Recipe

This is one of those recipes that came out of a semi-disaster. One Pesach "someone" got the idea to try a selection of some of the wonderful kosher wines that are plentifully available for Passover.
We had a crowd of college-age kids for second seder that year, so rather than waste the ones that, let's say, weren't all that great, I thought it would be fun to turn it into Sangria, and to tell the absolute truth, I was happy to dilute the alcohol level too.

This is the kind of recipe that begs for improvisation:

  • If your wine is not sweet enough, boil equal parts of sugar and water together, let cool, and use this simple syrup to adjust the sweetness.
  • You can change the brandy to Slivovitz, or anything in that category that works pesach-wise.
  • I liked the idea of the apple juice and the apple slices just to carry over the taste of Charoset, and the pomegranates, well, because they are Pomegranates...but ANY fruit juice will be delicious, pick the level of "symbolic" that works.
  • Feel free to add blueberries...blackberries....

Sangria Haroset Style

2 bottles red wine*
1 cup kosher for passover brandy (Kedem) or Slivovitz
1 cup apple juice
1 cup pomegranate juice
Simple Syrup to taste (about 3/4 cup for dry wine)
Apple Slices
Grapes cut in half
Pomegranate seeds

Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate, airtight for at least 24 hours.

Basic, Ashkenazic Charoset (Haroset) Ingredients:
Charoset Pyramid (Haroset) with Playmobil workers

This is the most basic Charoset in the world. It is the one your grandmother made, and probably her grandmother too.
Making it has always been a big family effort as we make about triple this amount, and we chop it by hand (k'ton-ton style) in a wooden bowl with a half-moon chopper, except for when we are REALLY late on seder prep when we throw it all into the food processor, and lament that its not the same (experience), but agree that it still tastes good. You can gussy it up all you want, throw in chopped dates, orange juice or grape juice instead of wine, use almonds instead of or also.

The most fun thing is to mold it into a pyramid, and decorate it with playmobil or lego people as we have been doing since around 1988.
  • 5 mixed apples, peeled, cored, in chunks
  • 1 cup walnuts 
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon


In a chopping bowl with a chopper, start to chop apples until pieces are about 1/2 inch. Add walnuts and continue to chop until it is well blended, and.. like mortar.
Add the sugar, wine and cinnamon (and any fancy accoutrements). Taste. Add more sugar or cinnamon if you like, the sweetness will depend on the apples you use.