Warning! These cookies are irresistible.

WARNING!

Do not make these if you are on a diet.

Even if you aren't, hide them from yourself. As for me, as soon as they're cool I store these in my basement freezer so that if I am tempted to get one I at least have to walk down and up a flight of stairs.

These ultra-buttery, pleasurably sweet, satisfyingly crispy cookies are monstrously difficult to resist. 

The inspiration for the recipe -- Dutch Butter cookies -- thanks to a friend, Ro Dekker, z"l, who passed away many years ago. She was a brave, smart, funny, good and righteous woman. She and her children escaped on the last boat out of Holland to America in World War II. (Her husband Mauritz, z"l, was already in the United States.) Everyone else in her family stayed behind and perished in the Holocaust.

I will always think of Ro when I eat these.

 

dutch butter cookies (Jan Hagels)

  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13”x9” cookie sheet with parchment paper and butter the parchment paper. Beat the butter, brown sugar, lemon peel and 1 tablespoon of the egg in the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix at medium speed for about 2 minutes or until well blended. Add the flour and beat at medium speed for 2-3 minutes or until a uniform dough has formed. Place the dough on the parchment paper and press to completely cover the entire pan. Be sure to make the dough as even as possible. Use a small rolling pin or tumbler to make the dough even. Brush the entire surface of the dough with the remaining egg. Scatter the almonds evenly on top of the dough. Mix the sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar evenly over the almonds. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, or until the surface is golden brown. While still warm, cut the cookies in 4 equal parts lengthwise and widthwise, to make 16 large cookies. (Or cut into smaller pieces.)

 

Note: pizza cutter works well for cutting

 

Makes 16 cookies

 

Mock Shak

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It isn't Shakshuka. But this dish is a quick, incredibly satisfying substitute.

Or maybe just it's own thing.

It came about this way: I had some roasted tomatoes left over and wanted to use them in some other way than the leftover reheat.

But I didn't feel like cooking anything extravagant. So I made the leftover reheat.

But then I topped it with sunnyside egg/runny yolks, which I think can make just about any vegetable dish worthier.

This quick Mock Shak is a good bet for lunch, brunch and even dinner when you don't feel like fussing or spending too much time making a meal.

Obviously you can make the tomatoes a day or two ahead and reheat.

Glorious isn't it?

Mock Shak

12 plum tomatoes

tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1-2 tablespoon butter or olive oil

4-8 large eggs

grated Parmesan cheese, optional

 

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise and place them cut side up in a baking dish large enough to hold them in a single layer. Brush the tops with olive oil and scatter the garlic on top. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, basil and parsley. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the tomatoes are soft. Place 6 halves on each of four plates.

When the tomatoes are almost finished roasting, heat the butter in a large saute pan over medium-high heat (or use two pans if making 8 eggs). When the butter has melted and looks foamy, crack 4 eggs into the pan (or 4 eggs into each of the two pans) and cook them, sunnyside-up style until cooked to the desired doneness. Place one or two eggs one each dish over the roasted tomatoes. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, if desired.

 

Makes 4 servings

 

Ruth Bader Ginger Cocktail

A few weeks ago my daughter Meredith told me to check a post on Buzzfeed, in which Amanda McCall blogged about how Ben & Jerry's could solve its "woman problem."

What? Woman problem? Isn't this the company known for its progressive views on social and political issues?

Yes, but.

The company has no ice cream flavor named after a woman. There are, and have been, many flavors named after men. Like Cherry Garcia and Stephen Colbert's Americone Dream and the new Tonight Dough, named for the one-year anniversary of Jimmy Fallon's gig on The Tonight Show.

For what it's worth -- are you listening Ben & Jerry's? -- we women want some recognition!

And we actually eat more ice cream than men.

Ms. McCall said she realizes that creating a new "woman" ice cream won't help the gender pay gap, nor will it help more women win elective office, but it can't hurt, can it?

One of the flavors she suggested is Ruth Bader Ginger. In fact, if you agree, you can sign a petition urging the company to get to it.

Food writer that I am, I thought about creating my own Ruth Bader Ginger ice cream. I've taken cues from the company before -- I invented a version of Ben & Jerry's Charoset ice cream because that flavor is only available in Israel and I wanted to try some for Passover. 

But if Ben & Jerry's does this, it would make headlines and history. If I do it? Not so much.

Besides, I had a particularly hectic weekend recently and so I decided to relax with a nice stiff drink and opted to invent a cocktail, rather than an ice cream, to honor Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And it was amazingly good.

I believe it would be even more marvelous with a little dollop of Ruth Bader Ginger Ice Cream in it too.

But for now -- The Ruth Bader Ginger Cocktail.

In honor of one of the most brilliant, thoughtful and progressive Supreme Court Justices of all time.

The Ruth Bader Ginger Cocktail

  • 4-6 ice cubes
  • 3 ounces dark rum
  • 1 ounce ginger liqueur or brandy
  • 2 teaspoons orange juice
  • 2-3 pinches ground cardamom
  • 2 slices of orange
  • 2 mint leaves, slightly crushed

Place 2-3 ice cubes in each of 2 glasses. Place the rum, brandy, orange juice and cardamom in a cocktail shaker or glass jar. Shake vigorously and pour equal amounts in the two glasses. Twist the orange slices slightly to extract a few drops more of orange juice into the liquid, then place the slice on the rim of the each glass. Place one slightly crushed mint leaf in each glass, stir and serve. 

Makes 2 (or one, depending on your mood)

Chinese Cookies

Passover is sort of like the visit from the grandchildren.

Both are joyous, thrilling and celebratory.

You love every precious moment.

It's also so nice when it's over. 

This is not a complaint. Just a statement of reality.

When the kids and grandkids leave after a visit, the house looks like the recycle guy made a mistake and dropped his truck full of stuff in your living room. Ah, the mess (despite your children's tidying up). But it's worth it. You wouldn't have it any other way and anyone who is a grandparent will tell you the same thing.

Besides, after they leave it's suddenly very calm and quiet and you can relax and sip a glass of leftover Passover wine.

When Passover is over you think over the hard work needed to get through the holiday. Cleaning the cabinets, the fridge. Getting out the dishes, setting the table, arranging the bridge chairs, making tons of food.  All the cooking, the matzo balls and chremslich, haroset and flourless chocolate cake were worth it. You wouldn't have it any other way and endless numbers of people will tell you it's worth it.

Besides, after it's over you can relax and sip a glass of leftover Passover wine.

And also, after Passover is over and you clean up from the visit and put away the new groceries, you can start to cook and eat all the foods you missed during the holiday. 

For me, that means cookies. Cookies are always what I miss most during Passover.

Like these almond cookies. When I was a kid these were known as Chinese cookies because they were served for dessert at so many Chinese restaurants in the New York Metropolitan area. Chinese cookies are tender and crumbly, redolent of almond, with a clump of sweet chocolate in the middle and a half almond in the very center.

This rich cookie, giver of childhood memories, is a perfect way to end a Passover diet.

“Chinese” Cookies

  • 2/3 cup shortening
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup ground almonds
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 ounces semisweet chocolate
  • sliced or halved almonds

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Beat the shortening, coconut oil and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer set at medium for 1-2 minutes or until smooth and well blended. Add the ground almonds, egg and almond extract and beat them in. Add the flour, baking powder and salt and mix for 1-2 minutes or until the dough is thoroughly blended and uniform. Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/2-inch thick. Cut out circles with a 2-1/2-inch cookie cutter. Place the circles on (ungreased) cookie sheets. Bake for about 18 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove the cookies from the oven and use a rigid spatula to place each on a rack to cool. Melt the chocolate. Spoon a small amount of melted chocolate into the center and swirl the melted chocolate to form a small circle in the center of each cookie. Place an almond half or slice in the middle of the chocolate. Let dry.

 

Makes about 24

 

 

Mashed Potato, Kale and Feta Cheese Pancakes

See these pancakes? I actually try not to make them too often, because, like the old Lay's ad said: you can't eat just one.

These pancakes are soft and creamy inside, fabulously crispy on the surface and have an earthy, vaguely mineral-y potato flavor plus the tang of cheese. They are among my favorite things to eat ever

Also, they are perfect for Passover because they contain matzo farfel, not bread or bread crumbs. 

They are perfect for Hanukkah when you might want a different kind of latke.

They are perfect for vegetarian meals anytime.

They are perfect as a brunch dish for company because you can make them ahead and reheat (preheat oven to 425 degrees F).

Try one! And maybe freeze the rest to keep yourself from overeating. They store nicely in the freezer (wrapped twice in plastic) for up to two months.

The recipe comes from my book, The Modern Kosher Kitchen. The photo is courtesy Glenn Scott Photography.

Mashed Potato, Kale and Feta Cheese Pancakes

  • 2 cups matzo farfel
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cups chopped fresh kale
  • 2 cups mashed potatoes
  • 6 ounces crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • vegetable oil for frying

Place the matzo farfel in a bowl, cover with very hot water and let soak for a few minutes until soft. Drain the farfel and squeeze out as much water as possible. Return the drained farfel to the bowl. While the matzo farfel is soaking, heat the olive oil and butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. When the butter has melted and looks foamy, add the onion and cook for a minute. Add the kale, cover the pan and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-6 minutes, or until the kale has wilted. Spoon the mixture into a strainer and squeeze out as much liquid as possible from the vegetables. Add to the matzo farfel and mix ingredient s to distribute them evenly. Add the mashed potatoes, feta cheese and egg and mix ingredients thoroughly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Heat about 1/2-inch vegetable oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Shape the potato mixture into patties and fry for 2-3 minutes per side, or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.  

 Makes about 16-18 pancakes, 6-8 servings

 

Leslie's Matzo Fritters

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I know lots of people who groan about Passover food. Honestly, I don't get it. I love matzo. I love matzo balls. I love matzo brei. What's to complain about?

I don't miss bread because we don't eat it very often.

Ditto pasta.

I do miss muffins but can live without them for a week.

The rest of what we eat -- meat, poultry, fish, vegetables -- is more or less what we eat all the time, so there really aren't big changes in our meals during the holiday.

BUT ...

It is nice to find some new eats that are kosher for Passover, just to mix things up a bit. Fortunately, this year my cousin Leslie gave me her recipe for matzo fritters. They are delightfully light and crispy and take just minutes to cook. They are fragrant with cinnamon and taste wonderful all by themselves but are superb with sour cream or plain yogurt.

Perfect for lunch or a light dinner.

Thanks Leslie!

Leslie's Matzo Fritters

  • 1/2 cup ground nuts (I used almonds)
  • 1/3 cup matzo meal
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Mix the nuts, matzo meal, sugar, cinnamon and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, beat the water and egg together. Pour the egg mixture into the bowl with the matzo meal mixture and beat vigorously to blend the ingredients. Melt one tablespoon of the butter in a large saute pan or griddle over medium heat. When the butter has melted and looks foamy, pour enough of the batter into the pan to make 4-5 fritters about 3-inches in diameter, leaving space between each fritter. Cook for about 3 minutes per side or until golden brown and crispy. Repeat with the remaining tablespoon butter and the remaining batter.

Makes 8-10

 

 

Quickie Ratatouille

Classic ratatouille is time consuming and labor intensive. Also fabulously delicious.

Unfortunately, I don't have the time or patience to cook the authentic recipe these days. Especially not for Passover.

So, whereas a cartoon rat might win raves for his ratatouille, and my version might not be quite so beautiful as the one in the Disney movie (Ratatouille), here are the benefits to my recipe:

it's easy: about 30 minutes prep time

it's quick (less than 30 minutes to cook)

it's a perfect dish for Seders, vegetarian meals or side dishes, any old dinner

it's fabulously delicious

So here's the recipe:

Quickie Ratatouille

 

  • 1/3 cup olive oil, approximately
  • 8 thick scallions, chopped
  • 6 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 medium fresh chili pepper, deseeded and chopped
  • 2 cups diced eggplant
  • 1 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 2 cups diced zucchini
  • 8 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 6-8 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • salt and freshly ground red pepper to taste

 

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the scallion, garlic and chili pepper and cook, stirring frequently, for one minute. Add the eggplant and bell pepper and cook, stirring often, for 4-5 minutes or until the vegetables have softened. Pour in the remaining olive oil and add the zucchini (add more olive oil if the vegetables start to stick to the bottom of the pan). Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the tomatoes and basil and cook, stirring frequently, for 12-15 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and there is little liquid left in the pan. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

 

Makes 8 servings

 

 

 

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