Break-the-Fast

Herbed Feta Cheese with Sundried Tomatoes and Olives

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A few weeks ago I took a quickie trip to Berlin with my daughter. We took a stroll through the Turkish outdoor market, where I saw someone selling a gorgeous hunk of feta cheese, scattered with sundried tomatoes and olives, seasoned with herbs and sprinkled with a drizzle of olive oil.

I noted the ingredients and took a photo. 

It looked so delicious that the moment I saw this cheese thing I knew I had to make it at home.

I did.

It is as good as I thought it would be. I served it to guests last weekend.

They raved.

Here's the recipe. 

Herbed Feta Cheese with Sundried Tomatoes and Olives

  • 1/2 pound feta cheese
  • 3 sundried tomatoes in oil
  • 8-10 imported black pitted olives
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Aleppo pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Cut the feta cheese into thick slices and place on a serving dish. Chop the sundried tomatoes and scatter them over the cheese. Scatter the olives around the cheese and dish. Scatter the parsley over the ingredients and sprinkle with the oregano and some Aleppo pepper to taste. Drizzle the olive oil on top.

Makes 8-10 servings

 

Lullabye Bread

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A few years ago Ed and I were in Berlin and checked out KaDeWe, the city's famous department store that has the biggest food halls in Europe and maybe in the world. They sell every kind of food you can imagine. Gorgeous cakes and pastries. Bountiful, beautiful fruit. Different kinds of eggs, dairy products, chocolates. 

It was all familiar. Pineapples. Peaches. Sachertorte. Macarons. Freshly butchered chickens, and so on.

We stopped counting the different kinds of sausages after we reached 100. Apparently they sell sausages from every region in Germany. 

But we were there for lookin', not cookin' -- so, in the two hours we walked through this place it was more like a visit to an art gallery. 

But then we came to the bakery and there, in the case, was a beautiful, braided loaf called Hefezopf, which is like a challah, but with raisins and almonds.

It was a vision. All at once my mind filled with memories of a lovely shabbat challah mixed with grandma singing rozhinkes mit mandlen, that hauntingly beautiful, classic Yiddish lullabye.

Oh my. My eyes well up even thinking about it.

This was something I had to try at home and get right.

I did, but it took several tries. At first I used my challah recipe and sweetened it a bit, but that just tasted like sweeter challah. The consistency wasn't right.

After doing some research about Hefezopf I realized it was more like brioche -- dense, buttery, dairy-laden, so I started tinkering with my brioche recipe.

Yes. 

A taste is worth a thousand looks.

Try this. It's called Hefezopf, but like to call it Lullabye Bread.

Lullabye Bread (HEFEZOPF)

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 3-inch piece of cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • 2 2-inch strips of lemon peel
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 3-1/2 cups all purpose flour, approximately
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup raisins, optional
  • 2-3 tablespoons chopped almonds, optional

 

Lightly grease a baking sheet. Pour the milk into a saucepan. Add the cinnamon stick, lemon peel, butter and sugar cook over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar, until bubbles form around the edges of the pan and the mixture is hot. Set aside to cool to lukewarm (about 105-110 degrees). Sprinkle the yeast over the milk mixture and whisk the ingredients to dissolve the yeast. Let rest for about 5 minutes or until thick bubbles form. Place the flour and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. Remove the cinnamon stick pieces and lemon peel from the yeast mixture and pour the liquid into the mixer bowl. Add one egg and mix the dough with a dough hook for about 2 minutes. Add the raisins, if used, and mix for another 2 minutes or so, or until the dough is smooth. If the dough is sticky, add more flour as needed. (Kneading can be done in a food processor or by hand.) Cover the bowl and let rise in a warm place for about 1-1/2 hours or until doubled in bulk. Punch the dough down and cut it into 3 equal pieces. Working on a floured surface, roll the pieces to make strands of about 12-inches long. Braid the strands and place them on the baking sheet. Beat the remaining egg with one teaspoon water and brush the egg wash over the surface of the braid. Sprinkle with almonds, if used. Let rise again for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake for about 30 minutes or until puffed and golden brown.

Makes one bread

Passover Spinach Pie

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I can't imagine Passover without this dish. Spinach pie which, during the year I top with buttered phyllo sheets and sometimes with puff pastry, depending on the occasion.

On Passover it gets a matzo crust -- like this one, ready for the oven.

It's a versatile dish too. You can make it plain or add mushrooms or make it with cheese. You can also switch to kale or other greens if you prefer.

Nice for a meatless dinner too.

 

SPINACH PIE with MATZO CRUST

  • 2 10-ounce packages frozen whole leaf spinach, thawed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cups cut up mushrooms, optional
  • 8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled, optional
  • 6 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese, optional
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 sheets matzo

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Squeeze as much water out of the spinach as possible and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 2-3 minutes or until slightly softened. Add the mushrooms, if used, and cook, stirring often, for another 2-3 minutes or until the mushrooms are softened. Stir in the spinach and mix well. Remove the pan from the heat. For dairy, add the feta and Parmesan cheeses and mix them in. Add 3 of the eggs, the dill, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well and place in a baking dish. Soak the matzo in cold water to cover for 1-2 minutes or until softened but not mushy. Shake off excess water. Place the matzo on top of the spinach mixture. Beat the remaining egg and brush over the top of the matzot. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes 4-8 servings (as main course or side dish)

Passover Butter Cookies

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As far as I know, my father's Aunt Fanny didn't have any child named after her, but, in keeping with our Ashkenazi tradition, she does have something that bears her name: the family recipe for butter cookies.

We call them Fannies, because these butter cookies were her creation and somehow calling them Fanny's just didn't seem right to anyone but the English majors in our lives.

I have made these cookies so often I can mix the dough and shape them without even looking at what I'm doing. My kids make them. My grandkids even make them. 

Fannies are the ultimate butter cookie. You need look no further to find a better one.

But of course, not during Passover.

Which got me to thinking that -- this recipe is so good, why not try a Passover version?

After a few tries -- voila!

Thank you Aunt Fanny. I named them after you too.

 

aunt fanny's Passover Butter Cookies -- Passover Fannies

  • 1 cup matzo cake meal
  • 1/2 cup ground toasted almonds
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 15 tablespoons unsalted butter, slightly softened, cut into chunks
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • chocolate chips (about 50) (or use lekvar)

Place the matzo cake meal, ground almonds, sugar and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer and mix on low speed for about a minute until the ingredients are evenly combined. Add the butter and mix on medium speed for about 3 minutes. The mixture will be crumbly. Add the egg yolks and vanilla extract and mix for another minute or so until a soft, uniform dough forms. Place the dough in the refrigerator for 30-40 minutes or until somewhat chilled and slightly firmer. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Take small chunks of dough and shape into balls about one-inch in diameter. Flatten the balls in the palm of your hands into disks that are about 1/4-inch thick. Place the flattened balls on ungreased cookie sheets, leaving some space between each cookie (they will spread slightly). Place a chocolate chip in the center of each dough disk (they hold better if you place the chips upside down). Bake for 10-2 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes about 50.

Note: if you use lekvar, make a thumbprint in the center of each cookie and fill the hollow with a small amount of apricot or prune lekvar 

Banana Bread with Dates and Figs

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Every Purim I try new hamantaschen from different bakeries. I've also made my own hamantaschen using a variety of recipes.

But so far, after years and years of buying this one and that one, my favorites are the (parve) ones I get at The Bakery, in Plainview, NY. For me, they are the enduring treats of childhood, never failing to please, never changing, even in a world where innovation is honored.

And so -- I will buy my hamantaschen this year. Old fashioned flavors: prune and apricot. At The Bakery.

Which means that for Purim, instead of creating a completely new hamantaschen recipe or even trying a new pastry recipe with old fashioned filling, I am going to bake banana bread as mishloach manot gifts.

I have a zillion recipes for banana bread. Some with streusel. Some dairy-free. Some loaded with chocolate chips, some with coconut. Some all chocolate-y. Some spicy. And on and on.

This is my most recent banana bread recipe, one I came up with while revising my mother's date-nut bread recipe. 

 

Banana Bread with Figs, Dates and Nuts

  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 large very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup chopped dried figs
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried dates
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-cup bundt pan. Mix the flour, salt, cinnamon and baking soda together in a bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer set at medium speed, beat the shortening and sugar until well blended. Add the bananas and beat them in thoroughly. Add the eggs and beat them in thoroughly. Add the flour mixture and beat for a minute or so until the batter is well blended. Fold in the figs, dates and nuts. 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 15 minutes. Remove to a cake rack to cool completely.

Makes one bread, serving 16-18

 

Kaniwa Mujadarah

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Everyone who knows me knows that Mujadarah is among my favorite things to eat. I serve it for my annual break-the-fast. I serve it anytime I have lots of people over for a celebration, like a birthday or a welcome-to-the-world party for a new grandchild.

I've made Mujadarah using brown rice. I've made it with bulgur wheat

Sometimes I add mushrooms (there's a recipe for that in my book, Hip Kosher).

Recently, the good folks at Pereg sent me a bag of Kaniwa. 

What?

Have you heard of kaniwa?

It's similar to quinoa (in fact some call it baby quinoa), but the seeds are much smaller (about the same size as poppy seeds). It is a complete protein, it's gluten-free and high in iron. That is a big big deal when you are looking for nourishing, meat-free recipes.

Unlike quinoa, kaniwa does not have a coating of saponin on the surface, which means it does not have the somewhat bitter, somewhat soapy taste that some find objectionable in quinoa. You don't have to rinse kaniwa (in fact, if you do, these teeny things will fall right through the holes in the strainer!).

I've actually cooked with kaniwa. A while ago I posted a recipe for Kaniwa Salad with Roasted Tomatoes. It's a terrific base for salads. A nice soup filler. You can sweeten it and eat it like cereal, for breakfast.

But me, with my mujadarah love? I made some kaniwa mujadarah! Look how beautiful this is! Perfect dish for a meatless Monday.

 

Kaniwa Mujadarah

  • 3/4 cup lentils
  • water or stock
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 1 cup kaniwa
  • 1-3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 4 large yellow onions, peeled and sliced
  • 10 ounces mushrooms, cut up
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, optional
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin, optional
  • salt to taste

Place the lentils in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil over high heat. When the water starts to boil, lower the heat, cover the pan and cook the lentils for about 25 minutes or until they are tender. Drain the lentils and set them aside. While the lentils are cooking, place the carrots in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil over high heat. When the water starts to boil, lower the heat, cover the pan and cook the carrots for 5-6 minutes or until they are tender. Drain the carrots and set them aside. Place the kaniwa in a saucepan, cover with 1-3/4 cups water and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat, cover the pan and cook for about 15-18 minutes until all the water has been absorbed. While the kaniwa is cooking, heat 5 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until beginning to brown. Add the mushrooms and cook an additional 5 minutes or until the onions and mushrooms are soft and brown. Place the lentils, carrots, kaniwa and most of the onion-mushroom mixture in a bowl. Stir gently to distribute the ingredients evenly. Stir in the remaining olive oil. Add the parsley and cumin, if desired and toss the ingredients. Sprinkle with salt to taste. Top with the remaining onion-mushroom mixture.

If serving at a later time, cover the pan and reheat in a covered baking dish in a preheated 350 degree oven.

Makes 6-8 servings

 

Grandma Hoffman's Skinny Noodle Crusty-Top Mushroom Onion Kugel

Kugel is the kind of food that people can get into an argument about.

The issues can become monumental.

Like -- should it be sweet or salty?

have cheese or not? 

if cheese-- what kind?

And lots more.

Including this biggie -- what width noodles to use!

Skinny? Medium? Wide?

OY!

Here's my answer. Medium or wide for sweet, creamy, dairy-based or fruit-laden kugels served as side dishes with dairy or for dessert, because you want more pasta-surface area to absorb the sauce.

BUT, definitely skinny noodles for a savory kugel because you want it crispy on top to crunch under the pan juices or gravy that come with the tender meat and vegetables.

I grew up in a family where salty kugels were the thing. And ALWAYS made with the skinniest of noodles.

Here's my grandma's recipe. If you make it in a shallow baking pan the entire kugel is one huge crunch. Use a deeper pan if you prefer some soft noodles under the crusty top.

Grandma Hoffman's Mushroom Onion Kugel

  • 10 ounces skinny egg noodles
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or schmaltz
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 10 ounces fresh mushrooms, any variety, sliced
  • 2 large eggs
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • paprika

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook according to package directions, until the noodles are tender but not mushy. Drain under cold water and set aside. While the noodles are cooking, heat the vegetable oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10-12 minutes or until the vegetables are soft. Set aside. Place the noodles in a large bowl. Add the vegetables with any accumulated juices, and stir the ingredients to distribute them evenly. Add the eggs and some salt and pepper to taste and mix them in. Place the mixture inside a baking dish. Sprinkle the top with paprika. Bake for about 25 minutes. Raise the heat to 400 degrees and cook for another 10 minutes or until the top is crispy and browned.

Makes 8 servings

Salmon Spread for Easy Summer Entertaining

My mother was one of those women who always had too much food in the house. Just in case.

Just in case company came. You can't just let them sit there and not eat.

Just in case you needed a little something extra for supper. Or as a snack over the weekend.

Just in case you had some leftovers and you didn't want to throw them out.

If you ever took a look in my freezer, my fridge and my kitchen cabinets you would know, like mother, like daughter.

I have a ton of food things.

Just in case.

This past weekend when my cousins came for a sleepover, I discussed this with my cousin Leslie, whose mother was my Mom's sister. She was bemoaning her overstuffed freezer, refrig, pantry. With all the "just-in-case" stuff. 

We are who we are, products of our upbringing, including our need for just-in-case food.

But I did point out to her that with the leftover salmon I made the other day, the dill, lemons, celery and cream cheese I always have on hand, I made this spread. Which is a perfectly easy-to-make, quick-as-a-wink to make hors d'oeuvre to be served with chips or crudites. And I served it over the weekend.

Easy. 

You can do it too. And if you don't have leftover salmon, you can used canned salmon, tuna or sardines. It's also delicious with leftover cooked bluefish.

 

Salmon Spread

  • 8 ounces cooked salmon, crumbled
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Place the salmon, scallions, celery, cream cheese, lemon juice, dill and Dijon mustard in the workbowl of a food processor and process until thoroughly blended. 

Makes about 1-1/2 cups

Banana Spice Cake

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Break-the-Fast desserts aren't typically gooey or loaded with sugar or dripping with icing. This is the time for lighter treats. Babka and Zimsterne cookies rather than chocolate cake with caramel sauce. 

So I made banana cake for the upcoming holiday.

To go with the rugelach, mandel bread and butter cookies

This version is moist and gently spicy to give it a hint of autumn. It's also rich and sweet without being heavy and cloying.

Freezable too. 

Banana Yogurt Spice Cake

  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting the pan
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 very ripe medium bananas, mashed
  • 1 cup plain yogurt

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, nutmeg and cloves together in a bowl and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer set at medium speed, beat the sugar and eggs for 2-3 minutes or until well blended. Add the vegetable oil and vanilla extract and beat for one minute or until thoroughly blended. Add the bananas and yogurt and mix for 1-2 minutes. Add the flour mixture and mix until the batter is thoroughly blended. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes 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 12-16 servings

 

Our Favorite Cookies

Aunt Fanny's Cookies

Aunt Fanny's Cookies

It wouldn't be my house if there weren't some of these in the freezer for the holidays. During Rosh Hashanah and of course, for my Break-the-Fast. These are my Mom's famous butter cookies. They are probably the most-loved, most-baked cookies in my (and once, my Mom's) repertoire.

When I was growing up I didn't know they were butter cookies because my Mom made them with shortening. After I got interested in cooking I asked her why she called them butter cookies and she explained that during WWII she couldn't get butter, but everyone wanted the cookies, and so -- 

We tried them with real butter and never looked back. Except for when I need something dairy-free, and then, of course, I go back to the shortening. These cookies are fabulous, either way, though, to confess, I like the butter ones much better.

Here they are, fresh from the oven.

In our family we never actually called them butter cookies, not because of the shortening but because the recipe came from my father's Aunt Fanny. So everyone in the family called them Fanny's (recipe), which is scrawled out as "Fannies" in all the old family recipe collections.

I don't know if anyone in my family is named for Aunt Fanny, but these cookies give her kind of the same immortality.

Fannies

  • 1/2 pound unsalted butter, cut into chunks (or one cup cold shortening)

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 2 large egg yolks

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • lekvar, jam, nut butter, etc.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat them in an electric mixer set at medium speed for about 1 minute, or until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the flour and mix another 1-2 minutes, or until the ingredients are almost blended. Add the egg yolks, salt and vanilla extract. Mix the ingredients 1-2 minutes, or until a uniform dough forms. Scoop pieces of dough and shape them into balls about 1" in diameter. Flatten the balls between your palms. Press each circle with your thumb to make an indentation in the center. Place the cookies on a cookie sheet, leaving an inch of space between them. Fill the thumb print spaces with a small amount of lekvar, jam, etc. Bake for 22-25 minutes or until the cookies are golden brown. You can freeze these cookies for 6 months.

Makes about 60