Ricotta Tart with Lemon and Coconut


Cheesecake? Wonderful! 

But how about cheese pie? Tart?

For Shavuot.

Or anytime at all!

This recipe started with a nut streusel top but I needed something nut-free, so substituted shredded coconut. You can change that to chopped almonds if you prefer.

You need to start ahead on this one so that the cheese can drain and become dry-ish. This gives the filling a tender texture and also helps assure the crust won't get too soggy too soon.

Ricotta Tart

For the filling:

  • 1 pound ricotta cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon or orange peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut

For the crust:

  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon or orange peel
  • 1/4 pound butter, melted

To make the filling:

Place the ricotta cheese in a strainer set over a bowl and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, to drain as much liquid as possible from the cheese. Pace the drained cheese in a food processor bowl. Add the eggs, honey, citrus peel and cinnamon and process until the ingredients are well blended and smooth. Set aside while you make the crust.

To make the crust:

Place the flour in a bowl. Mix in the sugar, salt and citrus peel. Pour in the melted butter and mix the ingredients to form a soft dough. Press the dough onto the bottom and sides of a 9-inch tart pan. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Prick the dough with the tines of a fork. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line the dough with aluminum foil and weight it down with pie weights. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil and weights, turn the oven heat down to 375 degrees and bake the crust for another 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Spoon the filling in baked crust and sprinkle the coconut over top. Bake for about 25 minutes or until crispy looking and the center is set. Serve slightly chilled or at room temperature.

Makes 8 servings

Sweet Potato "fries"


I know that for many people, including my family, Hanukkah is a fried-food-fest. That once-a-year indulgence we look forward to with glee. Whether it's the fried latkes, the doughnuts, the chicken -- whatever -- it's the fried part that counts for us. That crunch! That crust! That crisp!


So, sure, let's enjoy that first round of classic holiday favorites.

But Hanukkah is an 8-day holiday! So -- how about what I like to call "sort-of-fried" for the remaining days (and anytime after).

Mock fried.

That is, food cooked at high heat that gets crispy, liked fried food, but without the calories, the mess, the fuss and the smell. 


I get it.

But it is still really tasty, and with the proper crispiness.

Like these sweet potato "fries."

Try these the next time you want something resembles fried without the frying.

Sweet Potato Fries

  • 3 pounds sweet potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or to taste (or use cayenne pepper)

Preheat the oven to 425F degrees. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into julienne strips about 1/4-inch wide. Place the strips in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Pour the olive oil over the strips and toss to coat them all. Sprinkle the sea salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and pepper on top. Bake, tossing once or twice, for about 15 minutes, or until the strips are browned and crispy.

Makes 4-6 servings.


Orange and Vanilla Scented Cheese Stuffed Dates


Sometimes I think life is a bunch of holidays with not much in between, except for the entire month of January.

I suppose that's a good thing, because holidays are happy and celebratory. Also, there's the food. Except for Yom Kippur, every holiday has food. And even when it comes to Yom Kippur, there's the break-the-fast when it's all over and the break-the-fast is all about food. 

As far as holidays go, at this point of the year, we've just finished Thanksgiving. Next up? Hanukkah!

Hanukkah is a really delicious holiday. Lots of fried stuff like latkes and doughnuts.

It's also a dairy holiday because of the story of Judith. You can read all about it here

So for me, in honor of Judith, in addition to the usual potato latkes and doughnuts, I have served cheese latkes and potato latkes with a yogurt based sauce laced with lemongrassPotato Galette with Caramelized Onions and Cheese has been on my Hanukkah menu and also Almond Crusted Winter Squash and Noodle Kugel

Desserts? I could go with Meyer Lemon Yogurt Pie (you can use regular lemons) or maybe Baked Goat Cheese with Honey Sauce and Cranberries. Maybe even cheesecake. Or some fabulous cheesecake cookies!

And also these stuffed dates! Easy to make, not too sweet (no added sugar), these little morsels are perfect for the holiday. If you don't want to use almonds for garnish, crushed, toasted coconut will do nicely.



  • 12 medjool dates
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese (4 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange peel
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons crushed toasted almonds (or pistachios or crushed, toasted coconut)

Cut the dates through the center, but not all the way through to the bottom. Remove the pit and spread the date slightly to form a hollow for filling. Mix the cram cheese, yogurt, orange peel and vanilla extract in a small bowl until the mixture is smooth and soft. Fill the dates with the cheese mixture. Sprinkle with the nuts.

Makes 12 

Swiss Chocolate Almond Cookies


I know it's latke season and doughnut season. But in the larger world out there it's also cookie season.

Well, actually, for me it is always cookie season. When I was a kid my Mom baked cookies all the time and when we got home from school we had milk and cookies every day. That was the snack -- before the days of chips (potato, kale or otherwise in little bags) and frozen pizza.

My brothers taught me how to dunk.

So when cookie season comes around I feel nostalgic. Sure, I make the old family favorites. Fannies. Peanut butter cookies. Chocolate Chunk Grand Finale cookies

But occasionally I try something new. I'm not always happy with the results and most often I discard the recipe.

But these were wonderful. And also perfect for dunking.


Swiss Chocolate Almond Cookies

  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 cups finely ground almonds (8 ounces)
  • 2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup sugar plus 2 tablespoons sugar for rolling
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or 1/2 teaspoon orange extract)

In a food processor, pulse the chocolate until almost ground. Add the cocoa powder, cinnamon, salt and cloves and process on pulse to incorporate the ingredients until finely ground and well mixed. Place the mixture into a bowl, add the ground almonds and mix to blend the ingredients thoroughly.

In the bowl of an electric beater, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add the 3/4 cup sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Fold in the extract and the chocolate-almond mixture.

Sprinkle a sheet of parchment paper with the 2 tablespoons sugar. Place the dough on top of the sugar. Place another piece of parchment paper on top. Roll or press the dough to a thickness of about 1/4 to 3/8 inch. Remove the top piece of parchment paper. Let the unbaked cookies air dry for at least 1-1/2 hours. 

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Cut out circles or shapes with a cookie cutter. Place the cut out cookies on the parchment paper, leaving room between each cookie for them to spread. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Let cookies cool on the sheet for 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 36 cookies



Spinach Gnocchi for Break-the-Fast

We never have a traditional smoked fish break-the-fast because one of my daughters is allergic to fish. Instead, we have a vegetarian-dairy feast. My friend Susan brings her famous, not-to-be-missed kugel. Another friend brings dessert, although I usually also make rugelach

The rest is up to me. For years I've served Mujadarah, either made with brown rice or bulgur wheat. Other usuals are Spinach Pie, a tomato salad of some sort, egg salad and hummus.

But this year I'm not doing the Spinach Pie.

No particular reason other than it's time for a change.

But not a huge change.

I decided to make Spinach Gnocchi. It's already in the freezer, ready-to-bake.

Spinach Gnocchi

  • 2 10-ounce packages thawed, frozen chopped spinach
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon grated fresh nutmeg
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Butter a baking dish. Squeeze the spinach to extract as much liquid as possible. Place the olive oil and butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. When the butter has melted and looks foamy, add the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally for 2-3 minutes, or until softened. Add the spinach and cook for 1-2 minutes. Spoon the spinach mixture into a large bowl and let cool slightly. Add the ricotta cheese and mix thoroughly. Add the flour and mix thoroughly. Add the eggs, the 6 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Mix thoroughly to blend the ingredients. Refrigerate for at least one hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. With floured hands, shape the spinach mixture into balls about 1-1/2-inches in diameter. Gently drop the balls into the water. Keep the water at a simmer. Cook for 6-7 minutes or until the balls rise to the top and look fluffy. Lift the balls with a slotted spoon and place them on paper towels to dry slightly. Place the balls in the buttered baking dish. Drizzle them with melted butter and the 1/2-cup Parmesan cheese. Bake for about 18 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and lightly crisped.

Makes 24


Latkes of a Different Kind

Hanukkah wouldn't be right without latkes. And, while classic potato latkes are my favorite and I once made 200 of them for my sister-in-law and brother's annual holiday party, I also like to cook up different varieties.

In addition to fried foods, dairy is also an iconic food for Hanukkah.

So -- dairy latke!

This one is made with cornmeal and cheddar cheese. Good for breakfast, lunch or as a side dish at a vegetarian meal. Perfect accompaniment to sunnyside eggs, for dipping into runny yolks.

Also, versatile. Add chives, scallions, corn kernels, chili peppers. Whatever.

Also -- make them ahead and rewarm. 


Cornmeal-Cheddar Latkes

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 cups cornmeal
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2-1/3 cups milk, approximately
  • 2 large eggs
  • 5 ounces shredded cheddar cheese 
  • butter for frying
  • optional: 1 small chopped jalapeno or serrano pepper; 1 cup corn kernels; 2 tablespoon chopped chives

Melt the butter and set it aside to cool. In a bowl, mix together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In a separate bowl, mix the milk, eggs and cooled melted butter. Pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture, stirring gently. Fold in the cheese. If the mixture seems too thick, stir in more milk.

Heat about 1 tablespoon butter in a sauté pan over medium-low heat. When the butter has melted and looks foamy, drop 1/4 cup of the batter per pancake and cook for 2-3 minutes per side or until golden brown.

Makes about 24


The Silver Platter Simple Elegance Cookbook

The older I get, the easier my recipes become. Years ago I was willing to trek through a 3-pager with multiple steps. I made dishes such as French Onion Soup only after preparing my own stock. I was willing to put together a long-winded recipe for Paris-Brest.

No longer. I don't have the time, energy or patience -- and will leave those wonderful, worthy chores to younger folks. These days I create recipes that are simple, flavorful and interesting, but without taking shortcuts that would detract from the food.

I also appreciate when other people share the same ideals, which is why I love "The Silver Platter Simple Elegance," a new cookbook from the kitchen of Daniella Silver, with tips and notes from Norene Gilletz, renowned food blogger, cookbook author and matriarch of kosher cooking.

This is not merely a book where you can pick up a good recipe or two. Every recipe is approachable, using ingredients that even novice cooks will find familiar, with selections that are perfect for everyday cooking and many that are suitable for entertaining: Zucchini Dill Soup and Flaked Quinoa Schnitzel and Mustard-and-Garlic Roasted Potatoes and Granola Ice Cream Cake are just a few, glorious but easy finds that will make your family happy at dinnertime.

There's more: at the bottom of each recipe are tips from the master, Norene Gilletz, on such topics as what equipment is best to use, what can be done ahead, what substitutions are appropriate, how to make an everyday dish more company-friendly, and so on. 

The photos are gorgeous too.

The first recipe that caught my eye is the one for Candied Cauliflower. Can you imagine such a thing?! With but 5 ingredients (not including salt and pepper), this sounded too fabulous to miss, and it was every bit as delicious as it looks on the page. (And includes tips on buying cauliflower and nut-seed substitutions.)

Next, the Mango Wild Rice, because I love any dish with mango in it. This recipe is fairly simple, colorful, flavorful and with the bonus that you can cook it ahead. One of Norene's tips is to substitute dried apricots for the dried mango, but I used fresh mango instead. The recipe is versatile too!

Taste for yourself: Here are the two recipes I found particularly worthy. The recipes and photos are reproduced from The Silver Platter Simple Elegance by Daniella Silver with Norene Gilletz, with permission from the copyright holders. ArtScroll/Mesorah Publications, LTD.

Another thought -- this book make a delicious Hanukkah gift for someone who likes to cook.



pareve, Passover, gluten-free, do not freeze, yields 6 servings


Candied cauliflower, drizzled with honey and thyme and topped with sliced almonds, is a beautiful dish that will keep your guests coming back for more. I suggest you double the recipe!



  • 1 large cauliflower, trimmed

  • kosher salt

  • freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 Tbsp minced fresh thyme leaves

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil

  • 3 Tbsp honey

  • ½ cup sliced almonds

  • thyme sprigs, for garnish




1.  Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

2.  Cut cauliflower into 2-inch florets. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. 

3.  Sprinkle florets with salt, pepper, and thyme. Drizzle with oil and honey. Top with sliced almonds. Rub all over to coat evenly. (Can be prepared up to this point and refrigerated.)

 4.  Bake, uncovered, for 35-40 minutes, or until cauliflower is golden brown and tender. Serve immediately.


Norene’s Notes:


Variation: Use pecan pieces or coarsely chopped cashews instead of almonds. If you have a nut allergy, substitute pumpkin seeds.


Hot Stuff: Don’t worry about the almonds burning. The steam created during cooking prevents that from happening. If your oven is on the hot side, you may prefer to stir in the almonds during the last 15 minutes of baking.




pareve, gluten-free, freezes well, yields 8 servings


My three girls are in love with mango, and this wild rice dish has become their latest obsession. The nutty flavor of wild rice is a perfect match for sweet mango and red onion. The dried mango plumps up a bit when marinated in the dressing, adding some softness to the texture of this dish.



  • 4 cups water
  • 1½ cups wild rice, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ½ medium red onion, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 12 dried mango slices, thinly sliced into strips
  • ¾ cup dried cranberries
  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • ⅓ cup orange or mango juice
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper




1.  Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Add rice and salt; cover. Reduce heat; simmer for about 45 minutes, or until the grains split and burst. Remove from heat; let stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Drain, if necessary. Transfer to a large bowl; let cool.

2.  Add onion, dried mangoes, and cranberries. Stir in oil, orange juice, honey, parsley, salt, and pepper. Toss to combine. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve chilled or at room temperature.


Norene’s Notes:


Variation: Since wild rice is fairly expensive, you can use ¾ cup wild rice and ¾ cup whole grain brown rice — their cooking time is about the same.

No dried mango? Substitute dried apricots.

Wild rice is gluten-free, fiber-packed, and high in protein and B vitamins. Elegance in health!

An easy way to cut dried mango is to use kitchen scissors.  




Grandma's Blintzes


I feel blessed that my children and grandchildren come to stay over at my house in Connecticut for holidays and birthdays and occasionally just to hang out. It reminds me of when I was a kid and visited my grandma -- almost every weekend -- along with practically everyone else in my mother's family (aunts, uncles and cousins).

That was back in the day before children had so many other activities. Sure, there were brownies and cub scouts, but back then I never heard of things like soccer or gymnastics. Art classes happened during school hours. The only cooking classes for children took place in your own kitchen if you were lucky to have a Mom like mine who let you patchky around.

Weekends were strictly for family activities.

I'm not saying one way of life is better than another. One size does not fit all, as they say. And maybe today's kids are better educated or are more well-rounded than we were.

But I have wonderful memories of that life. 

It was good. I got to play with my cousin Leslie every weekend. She and her family lived with our grandma.

I also got to eat some of my grandma's wonderful food. 

I hope that in years to come my grandchildren will feel happy when they recall their visits to Ed and me. And have good memories of some of the favorite foods I cooked when they came.

Like Macaroni and Cheese. Apple Pie. Matzo Brei.

My grandma also made matzo brei and macaroni and cheese. But one of her signature dishes was blintzes.

She filled the blintzes with cheese, the classic, but, as I learned later, most people made the cheese filling sweet, seasoned with vanilla and/or cinnamon. My grandma's cheese-blintz filling was lemony, with just a hint of sugar.

Also, because there were so many of us, she had no time to fry them a couple at a time and still have everyone eat at the same time. So she placed the blintzes, seam-side down, on a baking sheet, topped each with a little dab of butter, and baked them until they were golden brown.

Me? I still love blintzes lemony and baked. And -- surprise to me! -- so do my grandchildren.

Her recipe is below, but the filling instructions give you the option to make the more popular vanilla version (and also how to fry them). Don't worry if the wrappers don't fry into perfect circles -- you're going to roll them and if they're a little off, no one will ever know.

Grandma Rachelle Hoffman’s Blintzes


  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup milk, approximately
  • 2 large eggs
  • softened butter for frying


  • 1 pound farmer’s cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh lemon peel, optional
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, optional

To make the wrapper, combine the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl and stir to blend the ingredients. Add the milk and eggs and whisk until the batter is smooth and uniform (you may do this in a food processor). Add more milk if the batter seems too thick (it should be the consistency of heavy cream). Set aside for 30 minutes. Place a small amount of the softened butter in a crepe or omelet pan and place the pan over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted and the foam is beginning to separate, add enough batter to cover the bottom of the pan (for an 8-inch pan it will be 1/4-cup), shaking the pan quickly to spread the batter evenly. Cook for a minute or so or until the bottom is lightly browned. Turn the wrapper over and cook briefly. Remove the wrapper and proceed with the remaining batter, separating the cooked wrappers with aluminum foil or waxed paper.

To make the filling, place the cheese, egg, sugar and lemon juice in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Add the lemon peel OR vanilla extract and mix in thoroughly.

To fill each wrapper: use the first fried side as the inside of the blintz. Use about 2 tablespoons of filling for an 8-inch wrapper and place the filling in the center of the wrapper. Fold the bottom side up, over the filling. Fold the left side, then the right side over the filling, then roll up to enclose the filling. Fry the blintzes seam side down first over medium heat (using the same method as for frying the wrappers – let the butter melt and become foamy). Or, you can bake the filled blintzes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the blintzes in a single layer on a jelly roll pan, top each with a tiny piece of butter. Bake for about 10 minutes.

Makes 8 8-inch blintzes

Savory Herb and Cheese Sufganiyot


I've always been more of an hors d'oeuvre person than a dessert person. So, given the choice (if I HAD to choose) of franks-in-blankets or potato puffs versus chocolate cake, it would definitely be the franks-and-potatoes for me.

This does not mean I am immune to dessert and during Hanukkah I do love to get my fill of sufganiyot, especially the tiny fried choux puffs that I make with a bit of sugar and lemon. And also a jelly doughnut or two. Or three.

But, I am who I am, so this year I decided to make savory sufganiyot.

Can that really be a thing?

Anyway, it went over bigtime at my house. I had thought about serving them with a bourbon before dinner, but it got late and we were hungry so we actually ate these as a side dish with some roasted salmon and broccoli. 

Either way, for cocktails or with dinner.

We polished these off.


Herb and Cheese SufganIYot

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 pound unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh mixed herbs, or 1-1/2 teaspoons dried
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • vegetable oil for frying

Place the water and butter in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted, add the flour and salt all at once. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture is well blended and begins to come away from the sides of the pan. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool for 2-3 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, blending well after each addition. Mix in the herbs and cheese. 

Heat about 1-1/2-inches of vegetable oil in a large, deep frying pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot enough to make a tiny piece of dough sizzle, drop mounded teaspoons-worth of dough into the pan, cooking about 8 at a time. Move the puffs around using a wooden spoon, for about a minute or until the bottoms are golden brown. Turn the puffs over. Cook another half minute or until golden brown. Lift the puffs out with a large frying basket or other tool onto paper towels. Repeat with the rest of the puffs. When all the puffs have been fried, refry all of them for about one to 1-1/2 minutes, moving them around in the pan with a wooden spoon (alternately, you can fry the puffs, lift them out for 15-20 seconds and put them back in the pan for the second fry, then repeat with the rest).

 Makes about 60



Pear and Ginger Crisp

I always buy bananas. They don't get eaten, so then I make a variety of banana breads.

Recently I have been buying pears. They don't get eaten, so I've been making sauce and baked pears and crisps.

What is this? Do Ed and I just not like fresh fruit?

I guess so, when, at night, I see that we are munching on popcorn and nuts instead.

But I keep trying. Meantime, the banana breads and the fruit crisps are very tasty. 

I just bought a lot of grapefruits. Let's see what happens.

Anyway, here's a recipe for a delightful pear crisp.


Pear and Ginger Crisp


  • 6 ripe pears
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped or grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • pinch of salt


  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons butter, cold margarine or firm coconut oil


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 

To make the filling: peel, core and slice the pears and place them in a bowl. Add the lemon juice, ginger, cinnamon, brown sugar, flour and salt. Toss the ingredients gently and place in a baking dish. Set aside.

To make the crust: combine the flour, oats, brown sugar and salt in a bowl. Add the fat in chunks and work into the dry ingredients with hands or a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Scatter over the pear mixture. Bake for about 35 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Let cool slightly before serving. Best if served warm.

 Makes 6-8 servings