Passover Thumbprint Cookies

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As far as I know, my father's Aunt Fanny didn't have any child named after her, but, in keeping with our Ashkenazi tradition, she does have something that bears her name: the family recipe for butter cookies.

We call them Fannies, because these butter cookies were her creation and somehow calling them Fanny's just didn't seem right to anyone but the English majors in our lives.

I have made these cookies so often I can mix the dough and shape them without even looking at what I'm doing. My kids make them. My grandkids even make them. 

Fannies are the ultimate butter cookie. You need look no further to find a better one.

But of course, not during Passover.

Which got me to thinking that -- this recipe is so good, why not try a Passover version?

After a few tries -- voila!

Thank you Aunt Fanny. I named them after you too.

 

aunt fanny's Passover Butter Cookies -- Passover Fannies

  • 1 cup matzo cake meal
  • 1/2 cup ground toasted almonds
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 15 tablespoons unsalted butter, slightly softened, cut into chunks
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • chocolate chips (about 50) (or use lekvar)

Place the matzo cake meal, ground almonds, sugar and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer and mix on low speed for about a minute until the ingredients are evenly combined. Add the butter and mix on medium speed for about 3 minutes. The mixture will be crumbly. Add the egg yolks and vanilla extract and mix for another minute or so until a soft, uniform dough forms. Place the dough in the refrigerator for 30-40 minutes or until somewhat chilled and slightly firmer. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Take small chunks of dough and shape into balls about one-inch in diameter. Flatten the balls in the palm of your hands into disks that are about 1/4-inch thick. Place the flattened balls on ungreased cookie sheets, leaving some space between each cookie (they will spread slightly). Place a chocolate chip in the center of each dough disk (they hold better if you place the chips upside down). Bake for 10-2 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes about 50.

Note: if you use lekvar, make a thumbprint in the center of each cookie and fill the hollow with a small amount of apricot or prune lekvar 

Banana Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Frosting

I am allergic to bananas, so I never eat them or any food that contains banana.

BUT, I buy bananas all the time. Ed eats some and the grandkids eat some. But mostly I buy them because I love the fragrance of a peeled banana and love cooking with bananas just so that I can have a whiff or two.

Over the years I've developed quite a number of banana bread and banana cake recipes, including some dairy-free, some with chocolate chips, some with dried fruit, some with chocolate flavored batter, some with coconut, some with mango, some with streusel. You get the point. I enjoy these goodies vicariously as I watch other people eating them. 

A few days ago, as usual, I had a few unused bananas. I am also trying to use up all the flour in my cabinet before Passover. So there was a double purpose to creating some new banana concoction and the result was cupcakes. My tasters have told me that the cake part is delicious. I tasted the thick and creamy frosting and give it two thumbs up.

 

Banana Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Frosting(P)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh orange peel
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 medium very ripe bananas
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Brown Sugar Frosting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 12-15 muffin tins (or line them with cupcake papers). Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and orange peel in a bowl and set it aside. Beat the sugar and vegetable oil with a handheld or electric mixer set at medium speed for 2-3 minutes or until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Mash the bananas and add them to the sugar mixture. Beat thoroughly until the ingredients are well blended. Add the flour mixture, stirring only enough to moisten the dry ingredients and blend them in. Stir in the orange juice and vanilla extract. Pour the batter into the prepared tins. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the centers comes out clean. Let cool for about 10 minutes. Then remove the cupcakes from the pan and cool on a cake rack. Frost with Brown Sugar Frosting.

Makes 12 large or 15 medium cupcakes

Brown Sugar Frosting (P)

  • 1/4 cup Earth Balance Buttery Spread or pareve margarine
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 6 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1-1/3 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • orange juice (1-2 tablespoons)

In a large bowl or an electric mixer, beat the buttery spread, coconut oil, brown sugar, confectioner’s sugar and vanilla extract together at medium speed for 3-4 minutes or until smooth and thoroughly blended. Gradually add orange juice, using enough to make the mixture spreading consistency.

Perfect for Pesach

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Passover is less than a month away so I've already begun the purge of pasta and stuff and am also trying to use up all my flour and get ready for the holiday.

But there's still snow outside and it's cold here so it's nearly impossible to think spring and all the new beginnings we talk about at the Seder. Even if it is the first official day of spring.

That's why, of all the recipes in Naomi Nachman's new cookbook, Perfect for Pesach, I decided to make the Roasted Tomato Soup. Few recipes are more comforting in the winter than tomato soup and yet it is also spring-and-Passover-friendly.

This recipe seemed especially intriguing because it calls for both roasted tomatoes and canned tomatoes. It is no ordinary tomato soup. And Naomi's book is no ordinary book, which is chock full of recipes that are not only perfect for Passover, but also year round. 

Here's another thing that I love about this book: the recipes are EASY, uncomplicated, accessible. There aren't a zillion steps to get to the final product. All the ingredients are easy to find. Almost everyone will have all the equipment needed to make each recipe.

User friendly.

The older I get the more I like user-friendly, easy, simple. 

I don't know how Naomi found the time to write this book. She is a personal kosher chef, she travels world wide, catering all sorts of events. She hosts her own radio show. She gives cooking demonstrations and MCs at scads of events (including Kosher Chopped).

She is everywhere and always with a big smile on her face.

Kudos to you Naomi! Mazal tov on the book.

 

Roasted Tomato Soup

pareve – yields 10 servings – freezer friendly

Growing up, I always loved tomato soup; my mum used to serve it on Sunday night at dinner. Now that I’ve grown up, I make my own version and I discovered that roasting the tomatoes deepens the flavors.

Method

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

Slice each tomato in half lengthwise; place, skin-side down, on prepared baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and salt.

Roast for 30 minutes or until tomatoes are caramelized; set aside.

Heat remaining tablespoon oil in a 4-quart soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; sauté for a few minutes, until translucent. Add roasted tomatoes; cook, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes.

Add crushed tomatoes, stock, and thyme; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer for 30 minutes.

Use an immersion blender to process soup for a full 3 minutes, until smooth; add salt and pepper to taste.

Ingredients

  • 8 plum tomatoes
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 large cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes 
  • 8 cups vegetable stock
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste

Cook’s Tip

For a dairy meal, add a handful of shredded cheese to each bowl; stir to melt cheese.

Mashed Potato Pancakes

It has been said that on St. Patrick's Day everyone is Irish.

That's okay by me! I've been to Ireland. It's gorgeous. The people are friendly, the sites are interesting, the weather is glorious, the food is awesome. What's not to like?

The potato dishes are especially good.

Like mashed potato pancakes. You absolutely cannot go wrong making these. A terrific side dish with fish or at a vegetarian dinner. But, ya know, I've had these for dinner just by themselves, topped with sunnyside eggs (and served with some grilled tomatoes) and that's a perfect meal as far as I am concerned.

 

Mashed Potato Latkes

  • 2 pounds boiling potatoes (such as Yukon Golds)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, optional
  • 1 large egg
  • Panko crumbs
  • vegetable oil for frying

Wash the potatoes and cut them into chunks. Bring them to a boil in a large pan in lightly salted water. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Drain and, when cool enough to handle, peel the potatoes. Mash the potatoes in a bowl using a potato masher or ricer. Add the butter and the milk and stir them in. Stir in the chives, if used, and the egg. Make flat cakes, about 1/4-inch thick out of the potato mixture. Press each side of the cake into Panko crumbs. Heat about 1/4" vegetable oil in a cast iron or other heavy heat retaining skillet over moderately high heat. Fry for 2-3 minutes per side or until the pancakes are golden brown and crispy. Drain on paper towels.

Makes about 12

Banana Bread with Dates and Figs

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Every Purim I try new hamantaschen from different bakeries. I've also made my own hamantaschen using a variety of recipes.

But so far, after years and years of buying this one and that one, my favorites are the (parve) ones I get at The Bakery, in Plainview, NY. For me, they are the enduring treats of childhood, never failing to please, never changing, even in a world where innovation is honored.

And so -- I will buy my hamantaschen this year. Old fashioned flavors: prune and apricot. At The Bakery.

Which means that for Purim, instead of creating a completely new hamantaschen recipe or even trying a new pastry recipe with old fashioned filling, I am going to bake banana bread as mishloach manot gifts.

I have a zillion recipes for banana bread. Some with streusel. Some dairy-free. Some loaded with chocolate chips, some with coconut. Some all chocolate-y. Some spicy. And on and on.

This is my most recent banana bread recipe, one I came up with while revising my mother's date-nut bread recipe. 

 

Banana Bread with Figs, Dates and Nuts

  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 large very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup chopped dried figs
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried dates
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-cup bundt pan. Mix the flour, salt, cinnamon and baking soda together in a bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer set at medium speed, beat the shortening and sugar until well blended. Add the bananas and beat them in thoroughly. Add the eggs and beat them in thoroughly. Add the flour mixture and beat for a minute or so until the batter is well blended. Fold in the figs, dates and nuts. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about one hour or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove to a cake rack to cool completely.

Makes one bread, serving 16-18

 

Buttermilk Pancake Day

One of the first newspaper food articles I ever wrote had to do with Shrove Tuesday (tomorrow, February 28th), a holiday my family doesn't celebrate, so at the time I didn't know that it is also Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), and in food circles -- Pancake Day!

Live and learn. It seems that in days gone by, when the Catholic Church imposed stricter rules during Lent, fatty items such as eggs, butter, milk and so on, were forbidden from Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins, until Easter. So the day before Lent everyone tried to eat up all the fats in the house.

Hence, the eating of gras (fat) on that mardi (Tuesday).

What's a delicious, filling, welcome and wondrous way to include eggs, butter, milk and stuff?

Pancakes!

I've made all sorts of pancakes: German Apple, Oatmeal, Lemon-Cottage Cheese and others. But plain old buttermilk pancakes are simple and always fluffy and full of down home pleasure.

Maple syrup goes on top, for sure. But homemade apple sauce is a bit different, less sweet and so easy to make. I like to mix apples and pears for sauce during the winter because there are so many pear varieties available. 

Happy Pancake Day. Mardi Gras. Btw, this also makes a nice dinner on a meatless Monday.

Buttermilk Pancakes with Apple-Pear Sauce

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • butter for frying the pancakes
  • Apple-Pear Sauce

Melt the 3 tablespoons butter and set aside to cool. Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a bowl. In a second bowl mix the egg, buttermilk and melted, cooled butter. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ones and mix to blend them but do not beat vigorously. Preheat a griddle or large saute pan over medium heat. Lightly butter the pan before cooking the pancakes. When the pan butter has melted and looks foamy, slowly pour about 2 tablespoons batter (for small pancakes) or more (for larger pancakes), leaving space between each pancake. Cook for about 2 minutes, or until bottom is lightly browned and bubbles form on the top. Flip the pancakes with a rigid spatula and cook for a minute or until the second side is lightly browned. Serve with Apple-Pear Sauce.

Apple-Pear Sauce

  • 4 apples
  • 3 pears
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

Peel, core and slice the apples and pears and place the pieces in a saucepan. Add the cinnamon, stir, cover the pan and cook over low heat for 25-30 minutes or until the fruit is soft. Stir occasionally during the cooking process. Puree the ingredients in a food processor with a hand blender. Serve hot, cold or at room temperature. Makes about 3-1/2 cups.

Makes 6-8 servings

 

Kaniwa Mujadarah

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Everyone who knows me knows that Mujadarah is among my favorite things to eat. I serve it for my annual break-the-fast. I serve it anytime I have lots of people over for a celebration, like a birthday or a welcome-to-the-world party for a new grandchild.

I've made Mujadarah using brown rice. I've made it with bulgur wheat

Sometimes I add mushrooms (there's a recipe for that in my book, Hip Kosher).

Recently, the good folks at Pereg sent me a bag of Kaniwa. 

What?

Have you heard of kaniwa?

It's similar to quinoa (in fact some call it baby quinoa), but the seeds are much smaller (about the same size as poppy seeds). It is a complete protein, it's gluten-free and high in iron. That is a big big deal when you are looking for nourishing, meat-free recipes.

Unlike quinoa, kaniwa does not have a coating of saponin on the surface, which means it does not have the somewhat bitter, somewhat soapy taste that some find objectionable in quinoa. You don't have to rinse kaniwa (in fact, if you do, these teeny things will fall right through the holes in the strainer!).

I've actually cooked with kaniwa. A while ago I posted a recipe for Kaniwa Salad with Roasted Tomatoes. It's a terrific base for salads. A nice soup filler. You can sweeten it and eat it like cereal, for breakfast.

But me, with my mujadarah love? I made some kaniwa mujadarah! Look how beautiful this is! Perfect dish for a meatless Monday.

 

Kaniwa Mujadarah

  • 3/4 cup lentils
  • water or stock
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 1 cup kaniwa
  • 1-3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 4 large yellow onions, peeled and sliced
  • 10 ounces mushrooms, cut up
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, optional
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin, optional
  • salt to taste

Place the lentils in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil over high heat. When the water starts to boil, lower the heat, cover the pan and cook the lentils for about 25 minutes or until they are tender. Drain the lentils and set them aside. While the lentils are cooking, place the carrots in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil over high heat. When the water starts to boil, lower the heat, cover the pan and cook the carrots for 5-6 minutes or until they are tender. Drain the carrots and set them aside. Place the kaniwa in a saucepan, cover with 1-3/4 cups water and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat, cover the pan and cook for about 15-18 minutes until all the water has been absorbed. While the kaniwa is cooking, heat 5 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until beginning to brown. Add the mushrooms and cook an additional 5 minutes or until the onions and mushrooms are soft and brown. Place the lentils, carrots, kaniwa and most of the onion-mushroom mixture in a bowl. Stir gently to distribute the ingredients evenly. Stir in the remaining olive oil. Add the parsley and cumin, if desired and toss the ingredients. Sprinkle with salt to taste. Top with the remaining onion-mushroom mixture.

If serving at a later time, cover the pan and reheat in a covered baking dish in a preheated 350 degree oven.

Makes 6-8 servings

 

Roasted Salmon with Hazelnut Crust

I think I could write a cookbook just about salmon, because we eat it so often and I am the kind of person who likes to change things up and not eat the same old same old for dinner.

So I have lots of recipes for salmon.

This one is among the easiest also. And fast. The essence of "quick and easy."

 

Roasted Salmon with Hazelnut Butter

 

  • 4 salmon fillets or steaks, about 6 ounces each, about 1 1/4 inches thick
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons softened butter
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh lemon peel
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons crushed hazelnuts (or almonds)

 

Preheat the oven to 475°F. Place the salmon in a baking dish. Mix the butter, chives, lemon peel and mustard and spread this mixture evenly over the surface of the fish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and scatter the nuts evenly on top. Roast for about 15 minutes, depending on thickness, or until nearly cooked through but still darker in the thickest part of the center.

 

Makes 4 servings.

 

 

Corn Syrup Free Butter Crunch

I once wrote that if doomsday was coming and there might not be a tomorrow, I would want some butter crunch before it all ended so I could at least die happy.

That's still my choice. I don't think there's a better candy, that gives that same salty-sweet combo better than butter crunch.

I love my original recipe, but recently someone asked me if I had a recipe that didn't include corn syrup. 

I didn't at the time, but do now.

Here it is: crunchy, salty-sweet and tender chocolate on top.

Don't stint on the good stuff. This recipe is too good for cheap chocolate.

Valentine's Day, mishloach manot for Purim, doomsday, whatever. This is a good choice in (or for) any event.

 

Corn Syrup Free Butter Crunch

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped toasted almonds
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate, chopped

Lightly butter a small sheet cake pan (about 10”x7” or a portion of a larger pan). Place the butter, sugar and salt into a deep saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, then cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture starts to bubble. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is golden brown (about 7-8 minutes) (or until a candy thermometer reads 280 degrees). Quickly stir in the vanilla and nuts. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread it out evenly to make a layer about 1/8”-1/4” thick. Immediately sprinkle the chocolate on top. Let it melt briefly, then use a spatula or the back of a large spoon to spread the chocolate evenly over the candy. Keep spreading until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Sprinkle the nuts on top and press them in lightly. Let cool until the chocolate is firm and set, at least 3 hours. Break into pieces.

Makes about 1 pound, enough for one person, or two if you want to share

 

 

Mom's Date-Nut Bread

Tu B'Shevat is one of the lesser known Jewish holidays, but also one of the more delicious ones. From my childhood I remember it as a time when my mom would buy dried figs that came in a wreath of sorts, the figs tied together with string.

I ate dozens of them.

It was also when she made her fabulous Date-Nut Bread. She served the slices like a sandwich, with cream cheese slathered between the layers. 

I ate dozens of those too.

My cousin reminded me that her mother and mine baked Date-Nut bread in a coffee can. Yes, of course! Because our mothers were married young women during WWII, when metal -- and therefore loaf pans and other assorted baking equipment -- was in short supply. So they kept the cans from ground coffee and other foods such as fruit cocktail and used those instead.

I recently made a batch of date-nut bread using my mom's recipe. I used a loaf pan and was a little disappointed. Not in the pan. In the bread. It seemed dry. Maybe I over baked it. Not sure, but I always loved this recipe, so I tried again but made a few changes.

I used less flour.

I also thought it might be a good idea to include some figs (or, frankly, any other dried fruit) with the dates and I also thought the flavor would perk up a bit with a small amount of fresh orange peel. 

My mother added Madeira or sherry, but because I had a lovely sample of Cherry Heering that I got at Kosherfest, I used that instead. She also mixed in walnuts but because of allergies, I replaced them with toasted almonds.

Of course, the bread was completely different with all these changes.

I loved it.

Especially when sliced and slathered with cream cheese.

 

Mom’s Date-Nut Bread New Version

  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chopped dates
  • 1 cup chopped dried figs, apricots, cranberries, cherries, prunes or raisins
  • 1 cup chopped toasted almonds
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh orange peel
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons Orange brandy, cherry Heering, Madeira, Port or Sherry wine
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • cream cheese, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 8”x4-1/2”x3” loaf pan (or a one-pound coffee can). Mix the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt into a bowl. Add the fruits and nuts and toss the ingredients to coat the fruit with the flour mixture. In another bowl, combine the vegetable oil, wine and egg. Pour the boiling water into the fruit-flour mixture and mix thoroughly. Add the egg mixture and blend it in thoroughly. Spoon the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for about 50 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the bread cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Invert onto a cake rack to cool completely. Slice and serve plain or with cream cheese.

 

Makes one loaf