Jewish holiday

Classic Dairy Hamantaschen

You can't get through Purim without eating at least one hamantaschen.

It's tradition, and for me, a treat I look forward to every year. Hamantaschen are among my very favorite desserts.

Over the years I've tried dozens of different kinds from a variety of bakeries: the classics, filled with poppy seeds or with prune, apricot or raspberry lekvar, and in recent years some with more contemporary fillings including white chocolate and halvah and fig and rhubarb and so on.

The traditional fillings are the ones I love best. 

I usually buy hamantaschen at a place called The Bakery, in Plainview, New York. It's right across the street from my contact lens doctor, so in the past, whenever I had an appointment with him I'd go to the bakery and stuff my trunk with a dozen hamantaschen (also mandelbread, babka and a few other treats I can't get (as delicious) in Connecticut).

However, this year I had cataract surgery and don't wear contact lenses anymore! A good thing too because my contact lens doctor retired.

So am I going to drive all the way to Plainview, Long Island for hamantaschen when there is no other reason to go?

Well, I might.

But in the meantime I decided to make my own. I never made dessert hamantaschen before (I did make lamb-phyllo hamantaschen for a recipe contest though and won a jar of tahini from Soom Foods!).

Here's my dairy version of classic sweet hamantaschen. The dough is tender and vaguely flaky and very rich. The ones in the photo all got gobbled in a flash.

I will make more for sure. With classic prune and apricot lekvar filling.

Dairy Hamantschen

  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, cut into chunks
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, cut into chunks
  • 1 medium or large egg, beaten
  • lekvar (about one cup)

Place the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer and mix briefly. Add the butter and cream cheese and mix on low-medium speed for a minute or so until the mixture is crumbly. Raise the speed to medium and continue to mix until a smooth dough has formed. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 8 hours. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using small chunks of dough at a time, roll the dough thin (about 1/8th-inch) and cut out circles with a 3-inch cookie cutter. Brush each circle lightly with the beaten egg. Place one slightly mounded teaspoon of lekvar in the middle of each circle. Bring up the sides to shape the circles into a triangle. Press the sides tightly to keep them from opening when they bake. Place the triangles on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Bake for about 30 minutes or until lightly browned.

Makes about 36

Easier Than Pie Fruit Galette

If you're ever in need of a recipe for a gorgeous, fabulous tasting dessert that looks as if you fussed to create a culinary artistic masterpiece when it really was one of the easiest desserts you ever made -- here it is.

Plum galette.

Even the name is fancy. But this one is a cinch to make and guaranteed to please.

President (Empress, Italian-prune) plums are coming to the end of their season, so get them while you can. Use them for lots of recipes, like Plum Tart or  or Clove and Lemongrass Poached Plums.

Or for this easy puff pastry tart. It's a lovely dessert for family, company, Rosh Hashanah, Sukkot, Shabbat or any old time.

Plum Galette with Orange and Rosemary

(If you can’t find frozen dough pastry squares in the frozen section of your supermarket, buy regular puff pastry sheets and cut the sheets into squares.)

  • 6 puff pastry squares (4-inch)
  • 3 peaches or 6 President or Empress (or about 8 Italian prune) plums, cut into wedges (about one pound)
  • 3-4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh orange peel
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the pastry squares on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Prick the dough in a few places. Arrange equal amounts of the fruit on top of each square, leaving a border of 1/2-inch. Mix the sugar, orange peel and rosemary. Sprinkle equal amounts of the sugar mixture on top of the fruit (using the extra sugar if you have a real sweet tooth). Pinch the dough border to make it slightly higher and closer to the fruit. Refrigerate for about 20 minutes. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

 

Makes 6 servings

 

 

Chicken Fricassee, the Un-Brisket Choice for Rosh Hashanah

Chicken Fricassee

Chicken Fricassee

My friends are always surprised that I don't usually serve brisket on Rosh Hashanah. In fact, they used to tell me it is heresy. Everyone knows that brisket is the big, big, popular, festive and impressive-looking main course for the New Year! So they ask -- how come it's not what I do?

Well, my grandma always made turkey. So did my mother. So I guess turkey is the tradition in our family and I just follow suit.

But I have to confess, after all the teasing I've gotten over the years I began to think that turkey was kind of strange and that I was doing something bizarre.

Until recently.

Because I read an article by Joan Nathan in Tablet about this very thing. 

She said that before the Civil War, brisket was not the usual Rosh Hashanah specialty, and that it was only after refrigerated trains could carry meat more quickly and easily across the country that this big hunk of meat became a holiday specialty. Before that, she said, Jewish home cooks might prepare dishes such as chicken fricassee for the occasion.

YESYESYES!

It conjured up glorious memories of my mother's (and grandmother's) chicken fricassee. Did they serve that also during the holidays? I don't remember. All I know is that after I read the article I went out and bought the necessary items for chicken fricassee and made a big batch. I was going to freeze it in portions for the holidays but my daughter Gillian and her kids came for a surprise visit and my fricassee was cooling down before the big freeze.

We ate it for dinner. At first Gillian was reluctant because she and my other daughter, Meredith, refused to eat chicken fricassee when they were girls. "Too soft!" "Too wet!"

They used to make fun of me for loving it.

But that's what I had in the fridge the day of the surprise visit so that's what we ate for dinner that night.

Guess what? Gillian loved it! And said she changed her mind.

Tastes do change over the years.

That's why people eat brisket for Rosh Hashanah now, rather than fricassee. And for some terrific ideas about preparing the best brisket ever, click here.

But maybe it's time to reconsider Chicken Fricassee for the holidays? I will offer it as an option when my family comes.

Chicken Fricassee

  • 16-20 ounces chopped beef, veal, turkey or a combination
  • 1/2 cup plain dry bread crumbs or matzo meal
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 12 chicken wings, cut into sections
  • 3 medium onions, sliced
  • 1 pound chicken gizzards
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 cups water, approximately
  • 4 medium all purpose potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks, optional
  • 4 carrots, cut into chunks, optional
  • 10 ounces coarsely cut mushrooms, optional

 

In a large bowl, combine the chopped meat, bread crumbs and egg and mix thoroughly. Shape the meat mixture into 1-1/2 inch balls and set aside. Pour the vegetable oil into a large saute pan over medium heat. Cook the meatballs for 6-8 minutes, turning them occasionally, or until lightly browned on all sides. Remove the meatballs from the pan and set aside. Add the wings and cook them for 6-8 minutes, turning them occasionally, or until lightly browned. Remove the wings from the pan and set aside. Add the onions and gizzards to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4-5 minutes or until golden and softened. Return the wings and meatballs to the pan. Sprinkle the ingredients with the paprika, salt and pepper. Toss the ingredients gently to season the meats evenly. Pour in 1-1/2 cups water. Turn the heat to low, cover the pan and cook for 35-40 minutes. Add the optional ingredients if desired, cover the pan and cook an additional 50-60 minutes. Check the pan occasionally and turn the ingredients gently. Check fluid levels and add more water if needed.

Makes 8 servings

 

 

Baked Marinated Pineapple with Meringue Top

Marinated Marinated Pineapple with Meringue

Marinated Marinated Pineapple with Meringue

After a big, heavy meal -- like the kind we usually eat for Rosh Hashanah or any other holiday (Thanksgiving, for example) -- I like to serve a fruit dessert. I'll also serve Honey Cake and Plum Torte but not everyone can stuff cake in right after dinner.

So, fruit.

This is a pretty way to serve fresh fruit, festive enough for any holiday table. You can use any cut up fruit you like in addition to the pineapple. 

 

BAKED MARINATED PINEAPPLE WITH MERINGUE TOP

·                1 large pineapple

·                1 cup berries and/or grapes or cut up peach/plum/apricot

·                1/3 cup confectioner's sugar

·                3 tablespoons rum or orange juice

·                3 tablespoons brandy or orange juice

·                4 large egg whites

·                1 cup sugar

·                1/2 cup melted apricot preserves

 

Cut the pineapple in half, keeping the leaves intact. Cut out the flesh (use a spoon to scoop portions you don't reach with the knife). Reserve the pineapple shells. Cut away and discard the hard core in the center of the flesh. Cut the pineapple into bite-sized pieces and place in a bowl. Add the berries, confectioner's sugar, rum and brandy. Toss the fruit and let rest for at least one hour in the refrigerator. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Beat the egg whites until foamy. Gradually add the sugar, beating constantly until the whites stand in stiff, glossy peaks. Place the fruit and accumulated juices back into the reserved pineapple shells. Spoon the meringue on top, spreading it to the sides, making sure to seal the edges. Place the pineapple halves on a cookie sheet. Cover the leaves with aluminum foil. Bake for 6-8 minutes or until the meringue is lightly browned. Remove the foil from the leaves. Drizzle the melted apricot preserves on on a serving platter and place the pineapple on top or serve the sauce separately.

Makes 6 servings

 

 

For Tu B'Shevat: Date-Orange Muffins

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In case you didn’t know, today is Tu B’Shevat.

Huh?

It’s one of the lesser-known Jewish holidays. I mean, talking about this to the world at large makes me feel like Barbra Streisand in The Way We Were when she cooked a brisket and wished her non-Jewish-Robert Redford husband a “Happy Rosh Hashanah.”

But this is really a good holiday because it focuses on conservation, the earth, preservation. Some call this The New Year of Trees, because it traditionally begins a season of tree planting in Israel. But at the bottom of it all is the notion that we must take good care of the earth, not waste it or trample on it or abuse it to death.

Not a bad notion, that.

Also, Tu B’Shevat food is pretty good. You know there’s a food for every Jewish holiday. That’s just the way we are. There is no particular dish that’s traditional, like a Thanksgiving turkey. This holiday is mostly about fruit, fresh or dried. Anything goes, from chips with fruit salsa to lamb shanks with dried apricots to date-orange muffins.

Date-Orange muffins are wonderful for breakfast or snack but you can also use them as a bread for dinner.

Date-Orange Muffins

4 tablespoons butter

1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons sugar

1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoons grated fresh orange rind

3/4 cup buttermilk or plain yogurt

1/4 cup orange juice

1 large egg

2/3 cup chopped dates

1/3 cup chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease 9-10 muffin tins. Melt the butter and set it aside to cool. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Stir in the orange rind. In a separate bowl, mix the buttermilk, orange juice, egg and melted butter. Add the liquids to the dry ingredients and stir to blend but do not mix vigorously. Fold in the dates and pecans. Spoon the dough into the muffin tins, filling them 2/3 full. Bake for about 25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Makes 9-10

Barbecued Brisket with Mango Barbecue Sauce for Memorial Day

Judging by the traffic, Memorial Day weekend started yesterday, when it took me an extra half hour to get where I was going. I hate driving in traffic, but it did give me a chance to think about what to serve now that the weather is great and I will be out at the grill more often.

One of my favorites is Texas-style barbecued brisket. I make it a couple of times during the summer and everyone I know, even the people who say they never eat beef, eat this because you just can’t say no to it.

I don’t know if it’s the sauce I use — my own mango barbecue sauce — or the meat, but this dish is a winner.

You have to pre-braise the brisket, otherwise it gets hard as a rock on the grill. If you don’t want to bother with that, you can use the sauce for flank steak, skirt steak and also chicken parts or boneless breasts, without first pre-cooking.

Here’s the recipe for the Mango Barbecue Sauce:

Mango Barbecue Sauce

  • 1 large ripe mango
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup bottled chili sauce
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Peel the mango and puree the flesh in a food processor. Heat the vegetable oil in a nonstick saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for one minute. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the mango puree, chili sauce, orange juice, molasses, soy sauce and cayenne pepper. Stir to blend the ingredients thoroughly. Cook over low-medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until slightly thickened. Let cool.

Makes about 2-1/2 cups