Passover Chocolate Clusters

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Matzo Farfel Clusters

I have been experimenting with new recipes using matzo farfel. That's because I always buy too much of it and then it gets stale and I throw it out.

It can be difficult to find fresh matzo farfel in my neck of the woods (when it isn't Passover). But matzo farfel doesn't last, it gets stale quickly, so I have to use it up while it's fresh.

Here's a good way: candy!

Don't let the cayenne pepper put you off. That tiny bit of heat brings out the best in the chocolate.

Matzo Farfel Clusters

  • 2 cups matzo farfel
  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup shredded, sweetened coconut
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh orange peel
  • pinch cayenne pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the matzo farfel on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, tossing the farfel around once. Remove the pan from the oven and let the farfel cool. Melt the chocolate. Add the farfel, almonds, cranberries, coconut, orange peel and cayenne pepper to the chocolate and mix to distribute the ingredients evenly. Spoon heaping tablespoons of the mixture into clusters on parchment paper or aluminum foil. Let set.

 

Makes about 3 dozen clusters

 

 

Another Seder, Another Haroset

Please see the Note below:

 

Although I usually like to cook new foods and experiment with recipes, when it comes to the Jewish holidays I more or less prepare the same things my mother and grandmother served in their day. For the first night of Passover that means chicken soup with matzo balls, roasted turkey, chremslich and macaroons. And several side dishes, such as braised leeks and tomatoes, roasted carrots, some quinoa dish or other -- and so on.

But I can't help myself, even for this very traditional meal -- I always add a new dish or two or three.

Sometimes it's a side dish, sometimes a dessert.

Sometimes I'll add an additional haroset to my usual one.

That's it for this year. Here's the one: Dried Fruit Haroset with Ginger and Coriander.

NOTE: I understand that not everyone eats sesame seeds during Passover (sesame seeds are kitnyiot). Please follow according to your tradition. The haroset is delicious even without the seeds. If you prefer, scatter the top with chopped toasted almonds.

Dried Fruit Haroset with Ginger and Coriander

 

  • 1 cup chopped dried figs
  • 1/2 cup chopped dates
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander (nutmeg, cinnamon)
  • 1/3 cup apricot preserves
  • 4-5 tablespoons sweet red Passover wine
  • 1 tablespoon lightly toasted sesame seeds

Combine the figs, dates, apricots and raisins in a bowl. Add the ginger, coriander, preserves and wine and mix until the ingredients are evenly distributed. Let the mixture stand for at least one hour before serving.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.

 Makes about 2-1/2 cups

Passover Rhubarb Crisp

We are big rhubarb fans in our family. And unlike many rhubarb lovers, we like the stuff on the sour side, without the sugar overload. It's the way we got used to it as kids, the way my Mom made it.

I suppose she cut down on sweetening food as part of the need during World War II to ration sugar, and then just never went back to the old ways. In any event, she used to cook rhubarb all the time and serve it like applesauce. It was always kind of tart and wonderfully refreshing as a side dish to roasted chicken or turkey. 

Rhubarb is a natural for Passover because that's when the first of the new crop appears. You can get fresh stalks everywhere. We always have so many side dishes at our Seder that I don't cook it up the way my Mom did, to serve with dinner. But it does make a good dessert. Like in this recipe for Rhubarb Crisp.

I usually add a little less sugar than the recipe calls for, just because that's the way we like it. You can cut the sugar to 1/2 cup OR, if you have a real sweet tooth, add a bit more.

You can make this dessert a day or so ahead. It's a nice choice after a typical meat Seder meal, because it's parve (unless you switch to butter), but is also a good choice throughout the holiday.

 

PASSOVER RHUBARB CRISP

  • 2 pounds rhubarb

  • 3/4 cup sugar

  • 2 tablespoons potato starch

  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel

  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 2 cups crumbled coconut macaroons

  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds

  • 1/3 cup matzo meal

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar

  • 1/4 coconut oil or butter

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut the rhubarb into 1/2-inch thick slices and place in a bowl. Add the sugar, potato starch, lemon peel and cinnamon and toss the ingredients to distribute them evenly. Spoon the mixture into a baking dish. In a bowl combine the coconut macaroons, almonds, matzo meal and brown sugar. Add the coconut oil and work it into the dry ingredients until the mixture is crumbly. Place on top of the fruit. Bake for 40 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.

Makes 8-10 servings

Irish Oat Scones

   

 

 

I don't make scones very often because I have a difficult time limiting myself to one. I usually eat two. Or three. And then feel guilty and tell myself I will work out more. But of course, I don't do that either.

On the other hand --- tomorrow is Saint Patrick's Day and even though I am not Irish, I figure, why not take an opportunity to celebrate? I love Irish food, especially the scones.

So, here's my recipe. Whatever your heritage, try these on Saint Patrick's Day or whenever.

 

Irish Oat Scones

  • 1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup quick oats
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh lemon peel
  • 3 tablespoons butter, cut into chunks
  • 3 tablespoons shortening, cut into chunks
  • 3/4 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. Combine the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, salt and lemon peel in a food processor (or large bowl). Process briefly (or mix) to combine ingredients. Add the butter and shortening and process on pulse (or mix with your fingers or pastry blender) until the mixture looks crumbly. Add the milk and process (or mix) until a soft dough forms. Place the dough on a floured board, knead briefly and press into a disk about 3/4" thick. Cut out circles with a 3-inch cookie cutter. Place the circles on the prepared cookie sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes or until puffed and lightly browned.

Makes 8

A Vegetarian, Gluten Free Side Dish

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My freezer broke last week.

Fortunately I still have my original, trusted, reliable old freezer from the stone age in my basement. I transferred the meat and soups, casseroles and other goodies that I had cooked. Anything that could be saved.

Unfortunately quite a lot wasn't worth saving, so I threw away lots of stuff. Half a cake that no one liked and made me wonder why I had saved it anyway. Breads with 2 slices left that were stuck together with ice crystals. A chicken leg, freezer burned because the plastic wrap had fallen off. Like that.

It felt so good to get that freezer empty and clean, ready for the repairman, that I started on the cabinets. I discarded anything out of the sell-by date; open boxes of cereal, crackers that I had placed in plastic bins who knows when, 2/3 eaten jars of peanut butter. Like that.

I also cooked some of the stuff that was still good.

The sorghum for example.

In case you haven't cooked with it or know what it is, sorghum is a cereal grain. Easy to use, tasty and gluten free. I had tried some at the Wondergrain booth at the Fancy Food Show last year and then used some for stuffing. I love the texture and the fact that it is so versatile I can use it for so many different kinds of dishes.

Last night I mixed it with vegetables to use as a side dish with dinner. Not only did it taste good, it was colorful and lovely to look at on the plate, which always makes dinner much nicer. Early in the day I stuffed the sorghum-veggie mix into hollowed out tomatoes and baked them several hours later, so this is a good make-ahead dish.

Sorghum Stuffed Tomatoes

  • 8 large tomatoes
  • 1 cup sorghum grain
  • 3 cups vegetable stock and/or water
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 medium onions, sliced
  • 1 small chili pepper, deseeded and chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped cooked vegetables
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

Slice a cap off each tomato and scoop out the insides. Chop the insides and set aside. Place the hollowed out tomatoes upside down on paper towels to drain off excess liquid. Place the sorghum in a saucepan, pour in the stock and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and cook for 35-40 minutes or until the sorghum is tender and the liquid has been absorbed. (If the liquid has not been absorbed and the grains are tender, strain off the liquid.) Set the cooked sorghum aside. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Heat the vegetable oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes or until slightly softened. Add the chili pepper, garlic and tomato insides and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the cooked vegetables and stir them in. Spoon the vegetables and any cooking fluids into the pan with the sorghum. Stir to distribute the ingredients evenly. Stir in the parsley and salt and pepper. Place the tomatoes on a baking sheet. Spoon the ingredients into the hollowed out tomatoes. Bake for about 20 minutes or until hot.

Makes 8 servings

 

 

Coconut Crusted Chicken

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Coconut Chicken with Mango Salsa

I don't remember when chicken nuggets became one of the stock items on childrens' menus. But it's right up there with pizza, pasta and mac n' cheese.

Of course, grownups like chicken nuggets too. I suppose it's the anything crunchy-fried-golden-brown thing.

Most recipes give chicken nuggets a bread crumb crust, but during Passover there are other alternatives. Check out my recipe below, which has a matzo meal and coconut crust. I keep the pieces bigger than standard nuggets so they feel more like dinner to adults, but you can cut the chicken into smaller chunks to make actual nuggets (which are terrific as hors d'oeuvre).

The coconut gives the chicken a lovely sweet taste, which is fine all by itself, but grown up palates might want to balance that with a refreshing, citrusy, slightly spicy mango salsa.

Coconut Chicken

 

  • 1/4 cup potato starch
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup unsweetened packaged shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup matzo meal
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1-1/2 pounds boneless chicken
  • vegetable oil for frying

 

Place the potato starch in a dish. Beat the eggs in a second dish. Combine the coconut, matzo meal, salt, paprika and garlic powder in a third dish. Slice the chicken into strips (about 2-inches long, 1-inch wide). Press the strips, one by one, into the potato starch, covering the entire surface. Immerse the strips in the egg, making sure to cover the entire surface. Press the egg-coated chicken strips into the coconut mixture, making sure to coat the entire surface. Place the strips on a cake rack and let air dry for at least 15 minutes. Heat about 1/8-inch vegetable oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot enough to make a matzo crumb sizzle, add the strips a few at a time, leaving room between each strip, for about 2 minutes per side, or until golden brown and crispy. Drain on paper towels and repeat with the remaining strips. Serve plain or with Mango Salsa.

 Makes 4 servings

 Mango Salsa

  • 2 cups diced fresh mango
  • 1/2 cup chopped purple onion
  • 1 small chili pepper, deseeded and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • salt to taste

Place the mango, purple onion, chili pepper, mint, ginger, garlic, lime juice, honey and vegetable oil in a bowl and toss the ingredients to distribute them evenly. Sprinkle with salt to taste. Let rest for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Makes about 2-1/2 cups

The Gift

One of the loveliest, most heartwarming traditions of Purim is mishloach manot, the act of giving gifts of edible food (and drink) to our friends, neighbors and those in need.

Every year I bake or cook something to give away. This year it was Banana Double Chocolate Swirl Cupcakes. But other times I've given Dried Apricot, Pear and Raisin Chutney, Banana Mango Bread with Chocolate Chunks, Candied Kumquats and lots more.

Yesterday, I got mishloach manot from an unexpected source: NoMoo Cookies!

There, on my front porch was this box of one dozen giant Choco-lift with Cherry Cookies! Just for me.

Now, you may have read my review of NoMoo cookies a while ago. If not, take a look. These are fabulous, dairy-free and kosher.

The Choco-lift with Cherry is a limited edition cookie. I have to say, the cherry part made me think of blooming spring cherry trees, which is quite a lovely image today as more snow is falling on the already 2 or 3 feet of it in my backyard. The chocolate part was rich and not too sweet (over-sweet is one of my pet peeves with most packaged cookies).

I've already finished one. My husband finished one. The rest went right into the freezer because even though these cookies are terrific, fresh from the package, we also like them hard and cold.

That's a good cookie.

Thank you NoMoo. Chag Purim Sameach.

My Husband is Addicted to Celery

For some reason Ed has been devouring celery lately, so I've had to buy a few bunches at a time just to keep up.

I guess sometimes you just get a hankering for some food or other. I remember a time when I had a craving for Banana Cream Pie. 

Celery is healthier than cream pie, of course.

Still, it can become boring to eat it as is, splashed with olive oil and freshly ground black pepper, which is the way Ed prefers to eat it. So I decided to embark on a few celery-based side dishes. Here's one for braised celery that went over well.

Consider this one for Passover because it goes so nicely with just about any main dish you might serve, and also makes a good side dish for vegetarians.

 

Braised Celery with Toasted Hazelnuts

 

  • 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts
  • 1 bunch celery
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh marjoram or oregano
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3/4 cup sweet white wine
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and roast for about 25 minutes or until the nuts are golden brown and tasty. Set aside. Wash and trim the celery, peel the stalks and slice them. Set aside. Heat the vegetable oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the celery and shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, for 6-7 minutes, or until golden brown. Sprinkle the ingredients with the marjoram, salt and pepper and pour in the wine. Lower the heat, cover the pan and cook for 8-10 minutes. Remove the cover, raise the heat to medium–high and cook for another 4-5 minutes or until the sauce is reduced to a glaze. Dish out and sprinkle with chives and the toasted nuts.

Makes 4-6 servings

 

My goose is finally cooked!

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Every year, sometime during the Hanukkah holiday, I make a roast goose dinner for our family. The menu is almost always the same: goose, braised red cabbage, potato latkes and some green vegetable or other.

Unfortunately, for one reason or another, we just never got to it last December and so, when my kids and grandkids came up for Ed's birthday weekend, we had our Hanukkah meal. 

I cooked the bird a little differently this year, basting it with sweet white wine several times as it roasted. That tiny change sweetened up the pan juices.

A good meal was had by all.

PLUS, I made stock with the bones.

PLUS, I strained all the fat, which is snow-white when it hardens, and froze it all.

If you've never had roasted potatoes in goose fat or matzo balls made with goose fat, well, folks, you've been missing something awesome.

Looking forward to that Passover matzo ball soup.

 

Roasted Goose

  • 1 10-12 pound goose
  • lemon juice
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup sweet white wine

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Rinse the goose and remove excess fat. Rub the goose with lemon juice and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Prick the skin all over with the tines of a fork. Place the goose, breast side up on a rack in a roasting pan. Pour the water into the pan. Roast for 45 minutes. Lower the oven heat to 325 degrees. Turn the goose breast side down. Pour the wine over the goose. Roast for 45 minutes, basting once during this time. Turn the goose breast side up again and roast for another 30-60 minutes, basting once or twice, or until the juices run clear when you prick the thickest part of the thigh with the tines of a fork (a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast should read 165 degrees). Let rest for 15 minutes before carving. 

How Many Servings Was That?

Last night my sister-in-law Eileen and brother Jeff were supposed to come over for dinner and watch the Oscar show with us, but she has a cold and needed to stay put at home.

I had already prepared dinner -- breaded some turkey cutlets, cleaned some string beans, mixed the batter for vegetable fritters and fried them to a crisp.

Ed came in to the kitchen and sampled a hot fritter fresh from the pan and declared it fabulous.

About a minute later he came back for two more.

I was about to say something trite like "you know, these are for dinner," but realized we had plenty and why should it matter if he eats them first instead of with ....

The recipe makes about 10 pieces, (serves 4-5 people) and now there would only be the two of us to eat the remaining 7.

We finished them all. 

Vegetable Fritters

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup vegetable or chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-1/2 cups chopped cooked vegetables (I used carrots, broccoli and sauteed mushrooms)
  • vegetable oil for frying

Mix the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a medium bowl. In another bowl, beat the egg, stock and olive oil. Pour the egg mixture into the bowl with the dry ingredients and stir until smooth. Fold in the vegetables. Heat about 1/8-inch vegetable oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Pour about 1/4-cup of the batter into the pan for each fritter, leaving about 1-inch space between the pieces. Cook for about 2 minutes per side or until browned and crispy. Do not crowd the pan. Repeat with remaining batter. Drain the fritters on paper towels.

Makes about 10 pieces