Jewish food

Chopped Salad with Chick Peas, Feta Cheese and Zatar Vinaigrette

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For us, summer means salad. Not just leafy greens and tomatoes for starters to a meal. We eat bulky filling salads for dinner. Like this chopped salad, which of course could be served with other salads or as a side dish to grilled fish. But it’s also satisfying on its own, just like this. Add a crust bread and some fabulous olive oil for dipping and that’s all you need (except for dessert of course).

Chopped Salad with Chickpeas, Feta Cheese and Zatar Vinaigrette

  • 1 large cucumber, peeled, deseeded, and chopped

  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped

  • 2 large ripe tomatoes, chopped

  • 3–4 scallions, chopped

  • 1 (15-ounce) can chick peas, rinsed and drained

  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese

  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

  • 1/2 cup tangy black olives, pitted and halved

  • 3–4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

  • 1/2 teaspoon zatar

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  • Pita bread or crisps, optional

Place the cucumbers, bell pepper, tomatoes, scallions, chick peas, cheese, parsley, and olives in a bowl and toss ingredients gently. Just before serving, mix together the olive oil, lemon juice, and zatar. Pour over the salad. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Salad tastes good with Pita bread or crisps.

Makes 4 servings.

 

Matzo Cheese Pancakes

Matzo Cheese Pancakes

Matzo Cheese Pancakes

People sometimes laugh at me because we are a year-round matzo family, year-round matzo-brei family.

I mean -- when something is delicious, why wait for Passover?

On the other hand, when Passover comes, I like to branch out from the usual matzo-brei breakfasts -- for instance, with pancakes like these, which are rich and holiday-festive, and also substantial enough for breakfast, lunch and even dinner. 

 

Matzo Cheese Pancakes

  • 1 cup cottage cheese

  • 1 cup dairy sour cream

  • 4 large eggs

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel or one tablespoon grated orange peel

  • 1/2 cup matzo cake meal

  • 2 tablespoons sugar

  • 1 teaspoon potato starch

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • salt to taste

  • 1/2 cup raisins

  • butter for frying

In a bowl, combine the cottage cheese, sour cream, eggs, vanilla extract and lemon peel and whisk together until well blended. In a second bowl combine the cake meal, sugar, potato starch, cinnamon and salt. Spoon the liquid ingredients into the bowl with the cake meal and whisk until the batter is smooth and uniform. Fold in raisins, if used.

Heat about a tablespoon of butter in a large sauté pan or griddle over medium heat. When the butter has melted and looks foamy, add batter by heaping tablespoonsful and cook for 1-2 minutes or so until browned on the bottom. Turn the pancakes over and cook for a minute or so on the second side or until lightly browned. Add more butter to the pan as needed to prevent sticking.

Makes about 16

Dried Fig and Coconut Charoset

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Every year I make two charosets for our Seders: the family favorite (a Persian style with pistachios, dried fruit and a hint of cayenne), and also a new one.

Last year the newbie was this Dried Fig and Coconut charoset. It was a BIG HIT!

It’s easy to make, you can make it ahead and it is NUT FREE.

Dried Fig and Coconut Charoset

  • 1 cup chopped dried figs

  • 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots

  • 1/2 cup dried cherries or cranberries

  • 1 navel orange

  • 1 cup flaked coconut

  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh ginger

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 cup apricot jam

  • 1/4 cup sweet white or red Passover wine

Combine the figs, apricots and cherries in a bowl. Peel the orange and remove the outer white pith (leaving only the orange flesh). Cut the flesh into small pieces and add to the bowl. Add the coconut, ginger, cinnamon apricot jam and wine and mix ingredients. Let rest for at least one hour (preferably several hours) before serving. May be made a day ahead.

Makes about 3 cups

 

 

 

 

 

Matbucha

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Spring has sprung and for me, that means more salad.

So I got to thinking about that word salad, which I realize means so many things that I was never able to fit all of my salad recipes into a file folder simply marked “salad.” I had to sub-categorize them into files such as “grain salads,” “tomato salads,” “fruit salads” and so on.

Over the years I’ve made salads of all sorts. Some based mostly on greens and some that had no greens at all.

I’ve made beet salads, dinner salads, fish salads and quinoa salads.

I could go on. But really, there is no one way to describe “salad,” even though a dictionary might say something like “a mixture or raw and cooked vegetables served with dressing.”

No.

Because recently I prepared some Matbucha, which is in an entirely different salad category.

Matbucha is a “salade cuit” — that is, “cooked salad.” In fact the word Matbucha, is an Arabic word that means “cooked salad".”

Cooked salad may seem odd to Western thinking except for the fact that most of us actually eat lots of cooked salads, such as potato salad and egg salad too. We just don’t think of them as “cooked salads,” but that’s what they are.

Matbucha is a Moroccan dish, especially popular in the Moroccan Jewish community, which was once large and thriving in North Africa. When good numbers of Moroccan Jews migrated to Israel, they brought their love of this dish with them and it is now wildly popular in Israel too.

For good reason: Matbucha is vibrantly tasty, easy to cook and is ideal for Shabbat because, even though it’s cooked, you can serve it at room temperature. Use it as a salad course or as a side dish with dinner. I’ve always served it with hors d’oeuvre, as a topping for crackers or pita wedges (it works well with other Middle Eastern nibbles and dips such as hummus, raheb, baba ghanoush and so on).

You can make Matbucha 3-4 days ahead. That’s handy isn’t it?

Matbucha

  • 2 large red bell peppers

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 serrano pepper, deseeded and chopped

  • 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped

  • 6 medium tomatoes peeled and finely chopped

  • 1-1/2 teaspoons paprika

  • 1 teaspoon sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste

Preheat the broiler. Place the peppers under the broiler, about 4-6" away from the heat, and broil for 2-3 minutes, until the skin has blistered. Turn the peppers and repeat this process until the entire surface is blistered and lightly charred. Remove the peppers and place them in a paper bag. Let rest at least 10 minutes. Remove the peppers from the bag, peel off the skin and discard the stem and the seeds. Cut the peppers into pieces. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the peppers, serrano pepper and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, paprika, sugar and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cook for 30-35 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the mixture is thick.

 Makes 1-1/2 to 2 cups

 

Wine-Poached Pears

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Purim is a loud, raucous, festive, hilarious holiday. Although its origins are somber - Haman’s attempt to annihilate the Jews of ancient Persia - it didn’t end so well for him. But it did for us and, in keeping with the victory we celebrate!

It’s been one of the traditions of Purim for adults to, let’s say, make merry by imbibing in more alcohol than usual. In fact, some say, we are told to become intoxicated with wine, based on a statement in the Talmud by Rava, a fourth century rabbi, who said:

”A person is obligated to become intoxicated with wine on Purim until he is so intoxicated that he does not know how to distinguish between cursed is Haman and blessed is Mordecai.”

And so, on Purim, count on the fact that wine will be on the menu somewhere.

This year I decided that wine would appear on my dessert menu. I’ll poach some seasonal pears (I prefer comice or bartlett) in a hearty, aromatic wine-based sauce. I’ve made this dessert many times (tastes different each time of course because I use a different wine).

You can make it a day or so ahead; store everything in the fridge. Serve it with the sauce, strained and boiled down to a velvety finish, and maybe a garnish of whipped cream, ice cream or sorbet. Or just by itself.

Wine- Poached Pears

  • 2-1/2 cups red wine

  • 1-1/2 cups water

  • 1 cup sugar

  • peel from one orange

  • 2 2-inch strips of lemon peel

  • 1 cinnamon stick, about 4" long

  • 12 whole allspice

  • 4 cardamom pods, slightly crushed (or use 2 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger)

  • 3-4 pears, preferably comice or bartletts

  •  whipped cream, optional

  • crushed pistachio nuts for garnish (or use toasted coconut or fresh chopped mint), optional

Combine the wine, water, sugar, orange peel, lemon peel, cinnamon stick, allspice and cardamom pods in a stainless steel, pyrex, enamel or other non-reactive saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer the ingredients for 5-6 minutes. While the sauce is cooking, peel the pears and cut them in half. Remove the core and seeds. When the sauce has simmered for 5 minutes, immerse the pear halves and cook them for about 4-5 minutes or until they are barely tender. Remove the pan from the heat; let the pears cool in the liquid. Remove the pears. Strain the poaching liquid and return the plain liquid to the saucepan. Boil the liquid over high heat for several minutes until it has reduced to a syrupy consistency.  Let the liquid cool. When ready to serve, spoon some of the syrup on dessert plates and top each with a pear half. Serve with whipped cream, if desired, and garnish with a sprinkle of crushed pistachio nuts.

Makes 6-8 servings

Frozen Dough Hamantashen

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I’ve made all sorts of hamantashen over the years. Cake dough. Cookie dough. Pie dough. With all sorts of fillings from old fashioned apricot, prune and poppy seed to nouveau halvah and chocolate mousse/chocolate chip.

I’ve experimented with savory goat-cheese and chili fillings and also barbecued brisket. I even created a recipe for lamb-in-phyllo hamantashen with lemon-tahini sauce. That recipe won an award in a contest sponsored by Soom Foods.

But, to be honest, I like traditional, sweet, mostly apricot or prune hamantashen the best. And this year I read about frozen-dough hamantashen in a post by Melissa Wilkenfeld whose blog, Little Kosher Lunch features kosher lunch-box meals for school kids (I also follow her on Instagram).

So I used her recipe to bake a pile of hamantashen, which were so good it hurt to give any away. But I actually always give food away to my usual “tasters” — all of whom gave high marks to these.

I don’t have enough left for Purim so I will have to make some more. Which I will, because these are awesome.

I asked Melissa for permission to post her recipe. She agreed, also telling me she got the recipe from a friend (Patti Golden).

So, ladies, thank you both for this recipe. A keeper. I’ve changed the language to conform to the way I write recipes, but otherwise, it is yours. Mazal tov.

Happy Purim.

Frozen Dough Hamantashen

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

  • 1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 2 -1/4 cups flour, sifted

  • milk, water or egg white for sealing

  • Lekvar or jam 

Beat cream cheese, butter and salt in an electric mixer set at medium speed for 3-4 minutes or until smooth and thoroughly blended (or in the food processor with the plastic blade attachment). Gradually mix in the flour on low speed until the dough is a uniform color and pulls together into a ball. 

Form dough into 4 balls, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 3 or 4 hours, or overnight. 

Remove one ball of dough and roll out on a floured surface until thin, about 1/8 inch thick.

Cut out circles with a cookie cutter (or use the floured rim of a drinking glass or jam jar). 

Place about one teaspoon of lekvar or jam in the center of each round.

Moisten the edge of the circle with milk, water or egg white.

Fold up three edges of the circle to form a triangular base, pinching at the corners to secure.

Place the filled hamantashen on an ungreased cookie sheet. Reroll scraps of dough to make more hamantashen. Repeat with all balls of dough.

Refrigerate the hamentaschen until ready to bake, at least 30 minutes after shaping.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until delicately browned.

Cool on racks.

Makes about 4 dozen 

Banana Bread with Raisins and Almonds

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Whenever I bake with raisins and almonds, I am reminded of the old Yiddish lullaby “Roshinkes mit Mandlen,” sung by so many Jewish bubbes to so many babies over so many decades. It’s a lovely song about a goat going to market while an infant sleeps in his young mother’s arms. I remember my parents playing a recording of it sung by Jan Peerce, who at one time was a famous opera tenor. The lullabye is so enchanting, I once made a challah-type yeast bread that included raisins and almonds (in Germany it is known as Hefezopf) and called it Lullabye Bread.

But the other day I had too many bananas. Again. And so I made banana bread with roshinkes und mandlen.

Perfect any time you need a lightly sweet snack. Fitting for Tu B’shevat (which begins at sunset on January 20, 2019).

If you’d like to hear the one and only Jan Peerce singing the lullaby, click here.

Banana Bread with Raisins and Almonds

 

  • 2-1/2 cups flour

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh orange peel

  • 3 large eggs

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 4 very ripe bananas, mashed

  • 1 cup buttermilk

  • 1/2 cup raisins

  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a (10-inch) 8-cup bundt pan. Mix the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and orange peel together in a bowl and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the eggs and sugar at medium speed until thoroughly combined and thick. Add the vegetable oil and vanilla extract and beat the ingredients until thoroughly combined. Add the bananas and buttermilk and beat the ingredients until thoroughly combined. Fold in the raisins and almonds. 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 10 minutes. Remove to a cake rack to cool completely.

Makes one bread, serving 12-16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Orange-Vanilla Flavored 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. So what’s 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, which you can read about it here

For our family, in honor of Judith, I make lots of dairy items in addition to the usual potato latkes and doughnuts. I have served cheese latkes and potato latkes with a yogurt based sauce laced with lemongrass. And also Potato Galette with Caramelized Onions and Cheese and Almond Crusted Winter Squash and Noodle Kugel (actually that one’s a favorite). 

Desserts? Maybe Meyer Lemon Yogurt Pie (you can use regular lemons) or 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.

Btw, these make a nice tidbit for New Year’s, either as hors d’oeuvre or late night snack. 

 

Orange-Vanilla Flavored Cheese Stuffed Dates

  • 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 cream 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 

Plum Streusel Cake

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Even though it happens every year, somehow I am always sort of surprised that the Jewish holidays come in such a jumble. We celebrate one holiday on top of another and are busier than ever, observing and celebrating.

Not to mention — LOTS of food. 

I don't want to even count the calories.

And there's still Sukkot to come. 

This year I didn't make my usual Plum Torte for Rosh Hashanah. I needed a change of some of my menu items.

But I still can't resist those once a year Italian-style prune plums (President/Empress plums), so I decided to use them for this Plum Streusel Cake. It turned out to be one of my favorites during the holiday.

If you are still looking for a fabulous dessert for Sukkot -- try this one. Btw, you can make this with any variety of plum. But plum season is almost over, so do take advantage while you can.

 

Plum Streusel Cake

Streusel:

  • 1/4 pound unsalted butter

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar

  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Melt the butter and set it aside to cool. Place the sugar, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl and mix until well blended. Pour in the butter and blend it in. Let stand for 4-5 minutes, then crumble the mixture using your fingers. Set aside.

Cake:

  • 1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 1 tablespoon baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon peel

  • 2 large eggs

  • 1 cup milk

  • 6-8 Empress plums, sliced, pit removed (President plums, 10-12 Italian prune plums)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Make the streusel and set it aside. Lightly grease a 9-inch springform pan. Melt the butter and set it aside to cool. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and lemon peel in the bowl of an electric mixer. In another bowl, combine the eggs, milk and melted butter. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ones and stir only to combine: do not overbeat. Turn the batter into the prepared cake pan. Top with the plum slices. Cover with the streusel. Bake for about 45 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove the outer ring from the pan and let the cake cool completely.

Makes one cake serving 8

Best Hummus

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Despite the fact that hummus is the most popular snack and you can buy dozens of different kinds in every supermarket, I still make my own. And every time, a different recipe, always trying for perfection.

I served a version seasoned with zatar and garnished with toasted pine nuts once for an election night get-together.

I've made hummus using dried chick peas and canned.

One year the guests at my annual Break-the-Fast declared that year's hummus the best they ever tasted.

But apparently last year's Break-the-Fast version topped even that! 

So here is the recipe: easy to make, terrific for entertaining, for snacks, as a sandwich spread. Perfect all year, perfect for break-the-fast.

 

Lemony-Garlic Hummus

  • 1 can chickpeas (about one pound)

  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

  • 1/2 cup tahini

  • 2 large cloves garlic

  • 1 teaspoon paprika

  • 1/2 teaspoon zatar

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • cayenne pepper to taste (I use 1/8 teaspoon)

  • chopped parsley, optional, about 2-3 tablespoons

  • zatar, optional

  • pita bread or chips

Drain the chickpeas but reserve the liquid. Place the chickpeas, lemon juice, tahini, garlic, paprika, zatar, salt and cayenne pepper in a food processor. Process until you reach the texture you like, adding 3-4 tablespoons of the reserved chickpea liquid if you prefer it smoother and softer. Spoon into a serving bowl. Sprinkle with optional parsley and zatar. Serve with pita bread or chips.

Makes about 1-1/2 cups.