Passover Orange Almond Cake

A few weeks ago I was going through my Passover recipes file and came across a recipe for Italian Almond Cake with Poached Fruit from the Jerusalem Post. Unfortunately, it didn't say whose recipe it was. Also I didn't have the second page of instructions.

I made some changes and figured out how to proceed based on similar cakes I've baked.

 First, I converted all the metric measurements. 

I figured out how much, in cups, came from 3/4 cup whole almonds.

I didn't use blanched almonds, figuring that almonds with skin were just as good.

I switched to coconut oil because I don't like margarine. 

I deleted the liquor and used orange juice instead, and added some freshly grated orange peel. 

I separated the eggs and whipped the whites with sugar to provide a lighter texture than I thought the cake would have without fluffed whites.

I didn't serve it with poached fruit (I used fresh oranges and sorbet).

Some would say that with all these changes the recipe is now mine, and I understand that.

Still, the cake was delicious and I would have preferred to give credit!

Btw, it's gluten free!

Here's my version of Passover Orange-Almond Cake.

Passover Orange Almond Cake

  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1 cup ground almonds
  • 6 tablespoons plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh orange peel
  • 1/4 cup potato starch

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using a small amount of the coconut oil, lightly grease an 8-inch round cake pan, line the bottom with parchment paper and lightly grease the paper. Set aside. Melt the remaining coconut oil and set aside to cool. Place the almonds and 6 tablespoons sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and stir at low speed for a minute until the ingredients are well distributed. Add the egg yolks, orange juice and orange peel and beat them in at medium speed for about one minute. Stir in the potato starch. Stir in the cooled coconut oil. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites for 1-2 minutes, going from low to high speed, or until the whites stand in soft peaks. Add the remaining sugar and beat until the mixture stands in stiff peaks. Fold them into the almond mixture. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 25 minutes or until golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Makes 6-8 servings



Beet and Brussels Sprouts Salad

Now that my children are grown, with children of their own, I sometimes think about the “old days” and remember the good times, the festive occasions, the fun we had. The Jewish holidays rank high on my list of best memories, especially the Passover Seders. Whether I’m thinking about the times that my cousin and I would crawl under the table while my uncle recited the Haggadah or last year, when my grandchildren threw the styrofoam “hail” and plastic locusts as we mentioned the Ten Plagues, the memories are good, the kind that I love to deposit in my memory bank.

There are good food memories too, from my grandma’s famous chicken soup to the complaints I got when I first served haroset made with dried apricots, pistachio nuts and cayenne pepper.

My first Seder continues my family's generations long menu featuring matzo ball soup, followed by roasted turkey. Chremslich, of course. In fact, a double portion of that. 

But all the rest is different. Over the years there was one food change after another, little by little as new in-laws came into our family, tastes changed and allergies had to be considered. So these days we have our own family expected recipes -- matzo ball soup and turkey, plus homemade baked cranberries, spinach pie (made with a matzo crust), imam bayeldi, and lots of other vegetables and the now standard spicy dried fruit haroset.

I used to serve flourless chocolate cake, but we had that a little too often, so because Passover is also my grandson's birthday, I will serve homemade macaroons along with a traditional chocolate roll, the one I used to make when my daughter Meredith's birthday fell during Passover. (You can stuff the roll with whipped cream, jelly or parve lemon curd filling).

Every year I add one new dish to my first Seder. One year it was Ratatouille. A few times there was a new version of haroset. I even made matzo farfel chocolates one year.

This year? A new salad! Here it is:

Roasted Beet and Brussels Sprouts Salad

  • 4 medium beets
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 pound (about 30) medium size Brussels sprouts
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (or use Balsamic vinegar)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh orange peel
  • freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Peel the beets and cut them into bite size pieces. Place the beets on a baking sheet and pour one tablespoon olive oil over them. Toss to coat the beets. Sprinkle with salt. Roast for about 20 minutes or until tender. Trim the Brussels sprouts (cut them in half if they are large). Place them on a baking sheet and pour one tablespoon olive oil over them. Toss to coat the sprouts. Sprinkle with salt. Roast for about 15 minutes or until tender. Place the vegetables together in a bowl. Mix the remaining olive oil, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice and orange peel and pour over the ingredients. Let rest for about 10 minutes, place in a serving bowl and sprinkle with salt and black pepper to taste.

Makes 6-8 servings



Hurry Hurry, Eat That Curry

I know there are differences in the traditions among observant Jews as to whether certain ingredients are permitted during Passover. Like beans, which most Ashkenazy Jews won't eat, but if your background is Sephardic, well, then beans are ok.

It's the same for curry powder, which contains cumin, which can be questionable and is generally not on the kosher for Passover list for many.

And so, if you're looking to use up your curry powder here's a goodie for dinner this week.

The other benefit? This recipe has four ingredients (not counting salt and pepper, which are optional) and is so easy that you will be thoroughly grateful for this dish during the tremendously busy time right before the holiday. And also during the year whenever you're busy and need a quick-and-easy dinner.

Also, it's really really tasty. And perfect with rice, which you might be wanting to use up as well. 

Easy 4-Ingredient Orange-Curry Chicken Breasts

  • 4 chicken breasts on the bone (or use whole legs)
  • 1/2 cup orange marmalade
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder, preferably hot curry powder
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the chicken in a roasting pan. In a small bowl, mix the orange marmalade, lemon juice and curry powder together and spoon over the chicken. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Place the chicken in the oven. Roast for 10 minutes. Baste the chicken and turn the heat down to 350 degrees. Roast for another 25-30 minutes, basting occasionally, or until the chicken is cooked through and the skin is crispy.

Makes 4 servings

Breast of Veal for Passover


In my world, Passover is not usually the brisket fest that is typical for so many of the other families I know.

Our usual is turkey. Second night veal.

That's because, growing up, when the Seders were at my grandma's house, and the crowd could be as many as 24 people, she always served a big turkey the first night. The second night, when we were a much smaller group, she would cook a batch of veal cutlets with a crunchy matzo meal crust.

Frankly, I don't feel like frying up a whole mess of cutlets, so my Passover veal dinner will likely be breast of veal, one of my favorites meats to eat. I realize a lot of people think breast of veal is too down home for a festive occasion such as Passover.

I don't agree. Look how beautiful this roast is! Golden brown skin, meaty bones, moist meat, savory vegetables to accompany. Looks impressive to me! And also quite good to eat, for Passover or otherwise.

Roast Breast of Veal with Mushrooms, Onions and White Wine

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 10 ounces fresh mushrooms
  • 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 breast of veal, about 3-4 pounds
  • 1/2 cup white wine

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for about 2 minutes, to soften slightly. Add the mushrooms, garlic and parsley, stir and cook for another 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon the vegetables into a roasting pan. Place the veal breast on top. Brush the top surface of the meat with the remaining olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes. Pour the wine over the meat. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Roast for another 45-50 minutes, basting occasionally, or until the surface is crispy.

Makes 4 servings

Fried Rice is Always Welcome

Ed and I have eaten a lot of fried rice recently. In Hong Kong. In Vietnam. In Cambodia. In the Philippines.

You could say fried rice is a staple in our lives. Just this simple dish: hot rice, vaguely crispy from the fry, lightly salty (but never with added soy sauce) and with a bit of egg, onion (usually in the form of scallion) and cooked vegetables. And that's how we had it (with a change of seasonings, depending on where we were) throughout Southeast Asia.

And that's how we have it at home (only from now on I will add more of the flavorings we recently sampled -- like sliced chili pepper or fresh coriander or star anise).

Because no matter what else I make for dinner, Ed will always welcome fried rice as a side dish.

He will also welcome fried rice as the main dish.

That makes it very easy for me, especially on days when I don't feel like fussing over dinner.

It does take some thinking ahead, because it's best to make fried rice using cold, cooked rice.

After that it's simple. You stirfry the rice and add all sorts of other ingredients from cooked carrots or mushrooms or any other veggie, to frozen peas to canned water chestnuts to fresh scallions to leftover chicken or veal to scrambled eggs -- whatever you have! And season it the way you like.

Like the recipe below, which was a filling, satisfying, delicious one-pot dinner.

Another bonus -- I added some of the Carrington Sriracha flavored coconut oil that I mentioned when I posted about Sriracha-Parmesan Popcorn. I got the oil, among other things at Crafted Kosher, a new website that has an enormous assortment of interesting products. The coconut oil is coming in handy for many of my recipes (stay tuned). Just a small amount makes a huge flavor difference, as it did with this fried rice.

Fried Rice with Egg and Peas

  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha flavored coconut oil
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • 3 cups cooked cold rice
  • 3/4 cup thawed frozen peas
  • 1 cup diced leftover turkey, chicken or veal, optional
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste

Beat the eggs in a bowl and set aside. Heat 2 teaspoons of the vegetable oil in a wok or stirfry pan over medium-high heat. Add the eggs and cook, stirring once or twice until they are set on the bottom. Turn the eggs over and cook briefly until firm. Dish out the eggs onto a chopping board, chop them and set them aside. Heat the remaining vegetable oil and the coconut oil in the pan. Add the scallions and stirfry for about one minute. Add the rice, eggs, peas, optional meat and salt and stirfry for 2-3 minutes to distribute ingredients and heat the rice.

Makes 2-4 servings, depending on whether this is a one-dish meal or part of a meal


Roasted Salmon with Harissa

Many years ago Ed and I took our daughters on a cruise to Alaska. At the time they were going through what I think of as the usual teenage disdain for anything their parents liked. So although they went with us on deck to see some of the famous, enormous glaciers, after the first few, when we uncool grownups were still excited to see yet another huge hunk of ice, they stayed in their cabin. And so they missed the Columbia Glacier which, just by chance when we were watching, dropped what we were told was the ice equivalent of a 6-story apartment building into the water.

Okay, so they missed it. I still smile when I close my eyes and think about what we saw that day.

The other thing we all missed was the salmon. Alaskan salmon is world famous, and for good reason -- it's fat and flavorful. And some of the folks on our trip actually went fishing and caught some fish, which the chef cooked them for dinner. And for those who didn't go fishing, well, they got fresh fresh salmon anyway.

Unfortunately our daughter Gillian is allergic to fish, so we never have it on the table when she is with us.

Ed and I have made up for that in the years that followed, when we dine alone or with people who can eat and appreciate fish.

We both love salmon and eat it very often.

And so, in keeping with the political theme of this blog over the past several weeks, I will pay tribute to the Alaska Democratic political caucus coming up on March 26th (the Republicans had theirs on March 1st), and offer one of the salmon recipes we have loved over the years. It's so quick and easy to cook you can serve this any night of the week. And yet, salmon is festive, so it's a good choice for company also.

Roasted Salmon with Harissa

  • 4 salmon filets or steaks, about 6 ounces each
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves)
  • 1 teaspoon harissa
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Place the salmon pieces in a baking dish. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, oregano, harissa and mustard. Spread this mixture on top of the fish filets. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 15-18 minutes, depending on thickness, or until cooked to desired doneness.

Makes 4 servings  

Rich Tangerine-Chili Chocolate Truffles

I love the tradition of mishloach manot -- giving away food to family, friends and even strangers during Purim. Besides the actual mitzvah of giving, it is an opportunity to do what I love: cook a lot and give the food away. It's like having the thrill of eating -- without the calories.

If you make edible gifts for Purim or as a host/hostess gift when you are invited to someone's house or for any other occasion, you might want to try truffles. They take some time but are actually quite easy to make and I guarantee they're rich and tasty and anyone would be thrilled to get them.

Check out the photo and you'll notice that I don't make my truffles perfectly rounded. Candy truffles get their name because they look like the the underground fungi, the ones that are highly fragrant and are dark, small and irregularly shaped. So the sloppy look is actually more authentic.

I made this recipe using tangerine juice and cayenne pepper. I had once tasted tangerine-chili chocolates and thought they were amazingly wonderful. The extra bit of heat pops the citrus and chocolate into one harmonious whole.

Yes, orange juice and peel are fine, though not as flavorful. And you can leave out the cayenne pepper, though I think the truffles are better with the heat.

Pack these in small cardboard or wooden boxes or small cellophane bags (you can get them at most craft stores) and you have a beautiful homemade gift for any occasion.

Or treat yourself and your family. They'll be happy.

Tangerine-Chili Chocolate Truffles

  • 12 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons tangerine juice
  • 6 tablespoons butter at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh tangerine peel
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, approximately
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sprinkles, toasted coconut, ground nuts, etc. (approximately)

Chop the chocolate in a food processor. Heat the cream over medium heat until it is hot and bubbles form around the edges of the pan. With the processor on, pour in the cream through the feed tube and process until smooth and well blended with the chocolate (you may have to scrape the sides of the bowl once or twice). Refrigerate the mixture for 30 minutes (in the processor bowl). Add the juice, butter, tangerine peel and cayenne pepper and blend them in thoroughly. Spoon the mixture into a bowl and refrigerate for at least one hour or until the mixture has firmed enough to form a soft “dough.” Take small pieces of the dough and shape into small balls (they don’t have to be perfectly rounded) (I do this wearing disposable gloves). Place the balls on waxed paper or aluminum foil on cookie sheets. Refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes. Roll the balls in cocoa, sprinkles, etc.

 Makes about 3 dozen. 


Creamy Irish Potato Soup

You know that old ad that says you don't have to be Jewish to eat Levy's rye bread? I feel the same way about Irish food. I'm not Irish, but love Irish food. Especially Irish Soda Bread and Irish Oat Scones

Ed and I visited Ireland several years ago and despite warnings to the contrary we found the food there was scrumptious. We had salmon almost every night, and I remember fondly one dish of broiled salmon with a horseradish crust. So simple, fresh and fabulous for dinner. 

And of course, we had lots of those famous Irish potatoes. Mashed with kale or cabbage. And just plain boiled.

Oh, I do love those earthy, mineral-y potatoes.

Every year on St. Patrick's Day I make one or more of these recipes, and sometimes Irish potato soup. Classic Irish potato soup usually starts with bacon, but for a vegetarian version of that smoky, bacony flavor, roast some shiitake mushrooms (see below) and add them as a final garnish. But the soup is also wonderful if you skip that step and garnish with some fresh, chopped chives.

Creamy Irish Potato Soup

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 leeks, washed and sliced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 pounds all-purpose potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup cream
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives, optional
  • 6-8 shiitake mushrooms, optional
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil, optional

Heat the vegetable oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the leeks and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes. Add the potatoes, stir for a minute. Pour in the vegetable stock. Add salt and pepper and the nutmeg. Bring to a simmer, lower the heat and cook, partially covered, for 45 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Puree the ingredients in a blender or food processor or with an immersion blender. Return the soup to the pan. Add the cream and heat through. If desired, serve with a garnish of chopped chives or chopped, roasted shiitake mushrooms.

To make the roasted mushrooms: while the soup is cooking, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Rinse and dry the mushrooms and coat them with the 2 teaspoons vegetable oil. Place on a baking sheet and roast for about 25 minutes or until well browned. Chop and sprinkle over the soup.

Makes 6 servings

Classic Dairy Hamantaschen

You can't get through Purim without eating at least one hamantaschen.

It's tradition, and for me, a treat I look forward to every year. Hamantaschen are among my very favorite desserts.

Over the years I've tried dozens of different kinds from a variety of bakeries: the classics, filled with poppy seeds or with prune, apricot or raspberry lekvar, and in recent years some with more contemporary fillings including white chocolate and halvah and fig and rhubarb and so on.

The traditional fillings are the ones I love best. 

I usually buy hamantaschen at a place called The Bakery, in Plainview, New York. It's right across the street from my contact lens doctor, so in the past, whenever I had an appointment with him I'd go to the bakery and stuff my trunk with a dozen hamantaschen (also mandelbread, babka and a few other treats I can't get (as delicious) in Connecticut).

However, this year I had cataract surgery and don't wear contact lenses anymore! A good thing too because my contact lens doctor retired.

So am I going to drive all the way to Plainview, Long Island for hamantaschen when there is no other reason to go?

Well, I might.

But in the meantime I decided to make my own. I never made dessert hamantaschen before (I did make lamb-phyllo hamantaschen for a recipe contest though and won a jar of tahini from Soom Foods!).

Here's my dairy version of classic sweet hamantaschen. The dough is tender and vaguely flaky and very rich. The ones in the photo all got gobbled in a flash.

I will make more for sure. With classic prune and apricot lekvar filling.

Dairy Hamantschen

  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, cut into chunks
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, cut into chunks
  • 1 medium or large egg, beaten
  • lekvar (about one cup)

Place the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer and mix briefly. Add the butter and cream cheese and mix on low-medium speed for a minute or so until the mixture is crumbly. Raise the speed to medium and continue to mix until a smooth dough has formed. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 8 hours. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using small chunks of dough at a time, roll the dough thin (about 1/8th-inch) and cut out circles with a 3-inch cookie cutter. Brush each circle lightly with the beaten egg. Place one slightly mounded teaspoon of lekvar in the middle of each circle. Bring up the sides to shape the circles into a triangle. Press the sides tightly to keep them from opening when they bake. Place the triangles on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Bake for about 30 minutes or until lightly browned.

Makes about 36

Oven Roasted Cheesy-Crusted Potato Sticks


If someone mentions Idaho the first thing you're likely to think is: potato.

Of course.

Potatoes are Idaho's leading crop and Idaho is also first in the nation in potato production.

Why do I tell you this now?

First because of all foods on earth, my favorite is the potato. I've written about it before. 

But also because as I have said, I love the political scene and keep track of all the state primaries and caucuses. Idaho's is coming (Republicans today, Democrats on March 22). And that fact reminded me of potatoes.

As if I needed any reminding.

I decided that no matter which political party or candidate you prefer, if any, at primary/caucus time a good dish to honor Idaho would be this particular recipe for crispy cheesy-crusted oven roasted potato sticks. I could make this dish into dinner all by itself. Maybe with some sunnyside eggs. They're nice as part of a vegetarian/meatless Monday dinner too. 

Oven-Roasted Cheesy-Crusted Potato Sticks

  • 1-1/2 to 2 pounds potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Peel the potatoes and cut them into 1/2-inch thick strips. Place the strips in a single layer on the parchment paper. In a bowl, combine the olive oil, garlic, thyme and paprika. Pour over the potatoes and toss the strips to coat them completely. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Scatter the cheese evenly over the potatoes. Roast for about 30 minutes, turning the strips once or twice.

Makes 4 servings