Friday, March 23, 2012

Recipes for Passover

Classic Baked Farfel (ORT, 1972)

1 lb toasted farfel
1 lb fresh mushrooms, sliced
4 tablespoons Kikkoman soy sauce
4 large onions, chopped
1/2 cup butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook farfel in 4 quarts of boiling salted water for 10 minutes. Drain. Saute mushrooms, onions and soy sauce in butter for about 5 to 8 minutes. Combine farfel and mushrooms and onion mixture. Taste and then adjust seasonings with salt and pepper, and more soy if needed. Spray a 13 by 9 baking dish with cooking spray and add mixture, cook at 350 for 45 minutes. Serves 12.

Classic Tzimmes (ORT, 1972)

6 canned sweet potatoes, halved
12 dried prunes, soaked in warm water for 30 min, drain
12 dried aprocots, soaked in warm water for 30 min, drain
1 20 oz can pineapple chunks, drained - reserve juice
1 6 oz can frozen orange juice
1/4 butter
Brown sugar
Maraschino cherries
Chopped pecans (optional)

Mix sweet potatoes and dried fruits. In a sauce pan, mix pineapple and orange juice, heat with butter until melted. Pour over fruit and potatoes. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees for 1 hour, basting occasionally. Garnish with cherries and pecans, if using.

Mock Kishke (ORT, 1972)

1 box Tam Tam crackers
2 large carrots
1 parge onion
2 stalks celery
1/2 lb melted butter or margarine
Salt and pepper to taste

Grind crackers in food processor. Grate carrots and celery. Blend crackers with grated veggetables and mix with melted butter. Season with salt and pepper. Either form in rolls, wrapped in foil, bake for 1 hour at 350 dgrees, or pack mixture in a pan, bake for 10 minutes at 350. Remove from oven, cut into squares, return to pan and heat for 15 when ready to serve.

Passover Almond Cookies
- NO FLOUR, NO MATZO MEAL (The Jewish Gourmet)

1/2 lb whole almonds
3/4 cup or more sugar (remember, taste and adjust for your taste)
1/4 salt
3 egg whites, unbeaten
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Bake almonds on baking sheet for 5 minutes, until warm and slightly darkened. Cool to room temperature. Grind in food processor. Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, blend almonds, sugar, salt and egg whites, and almond extract. Drop batter by teaspoons, two inches apart on to parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until golden. Cool on wire rack.

Amp up your holiday haroseth with these inspiring recipes!
From "The Jewish Gourmet".

Greek Haroseth
2 cups pitted dates, chopped
1/2 cup raisins, chopped
1/2 cup sweet Passover wine
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Sephardic Haroseth
1/2 cup pitted dates
2 cups apples, peeled and cored, chopped
1/2 dried apricots
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Yemenite Haroseth
1 cup pitted dates, chopped
1/2 cup chopped dried figs
1/3 cup sweet Passover wine
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons matzo meal
(Orginal recipe calls also for pinch of coriander, 1 small red chili pepper, seeded and minced OR a pinch of cayenne)

Friday, March 16, 2012

You'll love this! Linguine with Lemon-Garlic Shrimp

With little time on my hands yesterday, this dish came together in a snap. This recipe is so good and easy, you could definitely serve this to company. A hint of lemon, the spiciness from the red pepper flakes, and the light cream sauce, makes this a dish that you will add to your recipe box. My whole family loved. My husband suggested to add vegetables, but I think the only ones that would go would be peas or asparagus. Those would be great additions to this pasta dish. This can easily be doubled. You could also make this with whole wheat pasta. If you do, you may need to adjust the amount of pasta water and mascarpone. I think whole wheat pasta tends to be dryer that regular pasta. The recipe listed serves three. I hope you try this.

Linguine with Lemon-Garlic Shrimp by Fine Cooking

1/2 lb dried thin linguine (1/2 box)
1 small lemon
Shrimp (I used 21/25 per lb, and made as much as each person would eat)
Black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
3/4 cup reserved pasta water, after cooking the pasta
2 tablespoons chopped chives

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook linguine until al dente. Reserve 3/4 cup of the cooking water. Drain pasta, and set aside.
While pasta is cooking, grate the zest of the lemon, and squeeze the juice from half the lemon, and toss the shrimp in this with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/8 teaspoon of pepper. Let marinade for a several minutes.
In a 12-inch skillet, melt butter over medium heat until the foam subsides. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until garlic just begins to brown, about 1 minute or less. Add shrimp and cook until opaque, turning shrimp, about thre minutes. Add wine and squeeze some lemon juice to the skillet, bring to a gentle boil, cook about one minute, reduce heat.
Add drained pasta back to pot. Add some of the pasta water and the mascarpone. Toss well, until mascarpone is melted and sauce begin to thicken slightly. Add more pasta water if necessiary. Add shrimp and all its juices to the pasta. Toss well, until shrimp is coated. Remove from heat. Add chives. Serve and enjoy.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Passover, Past and Present

Passover 2003

I love Passover. I know that may seem odd to some. This holiday has many courses and uses many dishes, making setting up and cleaning up a hassle. Passover cooking is a challenge too. I think I have hosted somewhere between 18 to 20 Seders.  Some being more memorable than others.  I recall one of my earlier Seders where I panicked over matzo crumbs everywhere. There was the year I had so many people that I had tables in three different rooms of the house, and I had to set up baby monitors so that we could all hear and follow the service. I remember making dishes that didn't quite turn out as I had wanted, served brisket that wasn't tender, and I remember one year I served leg of lamb, not taking in consideration that all my guests may not even like leg of lamb. Lastly, I remember the year our electricity went out, and I had to finish cooking the brisket outside on the gas grill, and we dined by candlelight, which made it the most beautiful Seder of them all. So, what I have learned about cooking for Passover all these years and how can you make your Seder less stressful? Here are a few tips that I hope will help you to be inspired to host a memorable and stress free dinner.

  • Set your table a day or two ahead. Set out serving platters and serving utensils. I have gotten teased for this, but put a label of what is going in each bowl or on each platter. It helps me to be organized so I don't forget to put something out.
  • If you are having many guests, use place cards. I have found that people feel more comfortable if you choose where they should sit.
  • Dress your table with fresh flowers. It's spring, let your table reflect the season.
  • As for cooking, cook your brisket low and slow until fork tender. This could take hours, but be patient.
  • No ones says you have to make brisket.  It is OK to break tradition and serve something new.  Roasted chicken, lamb, veal or salmon are other options.
  • Test your recipe before hand, if it is something you have never made before. 
  • Make something you know your guests will eat. If you have a vegetarian guest, or someone who may have diet restrictions, don't fear. Find out what they would like. Maybe it is something that everyone would like as well, and you can incorporate it in to your menu.
  • Your side dishes don't have to be dry and tasteless. Cook with fresh ingredients and serve steamed or roasted vegetables. Watch cooking time and taste and season as you cook traditional dishes. Most often the reason that these recipes fail is because they are over cooked or not seasoned well because they contain matzo meal.
    Passover 2002
  • People may ask, "what can I bring?" If you like to cook and have it all under control, let people bring a bottle of wine, or a box of matzo, a bag of ice (I always forget this) or fruit.  Let them bring something, if they ask.  I think people truly want to help, and they are grateful for the invitation to a Seder.  If you need a little help with cooking, then divide the courses and let people bring something from each course. 
  • For desserts, my secret is that I use a little extra sugar than what is called for in some recipes. Flour-less cakes are a great alternative to using matzo cake meal, or there are some recipes that call for very little matzo cake meal, like the recipe listed below.

My advise for this year is, don't let cooking for Passover stress you out. Whether you have hosted a Seder many times, or this is your first, make your table memorable, have patience in the kitchen, and don't sweat about the matzo crumbs.

Banana Sponge Cake

7 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup matzo cake meal
1/4 cup potato starch
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup mashed bananas

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar until light in color and texture. Combine the matzo meal, potato starch, and salt. Ass this a little bit a time to the egg yolk mixture, and alternate with the bananas, beating until smooth.
In a large mixing bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gently fold the beaten egg whites into the egg yolk mixture. Pour batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan. Bake for 45 minutes, or until tooth pick comes out clean when inserted. Cake should be springy tot he touch. Invert the pan on to a wire rack and cool. With a sharp knife, loosen the cake from the side and center of the cake pan.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Mark's Favorite Carrot Cake

My father-in-law, Mark Sherman, past away Tuesday evening, March 6th. He was a great lover of restaurants and food, and he enjoyed the whole dining experience. My in-laws went out to dinner every night, becoming regulars at many restaurants. However, I think Mark really enjoyed it most was when ever my sister-in-law, Diane, or myself cooked for any holiday. He enjoyed what ever we made and he always made sure to tell us how delicious everything was. Mark loved many dishes, and I would like to honor him by sharing with you some of them that he enjoyed so much. Today, I'm sharing my recipe for "The World's Best Carrot Cake", which originally was a Nathalie Dupree recipe, but I have omited a couple of ingredients from the original recipe that made it "Marks Favorite Carrot Cake". Mark couldn't eat nuts, and that is one of the reasons why he loved this cake so much.  I don't have a picture of my own for this cake, but I did find one that closely matches what the cake looks like. I will tell you that this is the most delicious and moist carrot cake ever. The cream cheese frosting makes this a classic. I hope you try it next time you are having people over, or need to bring dessert to a friends house. Enjoy!

Mark's Favorite Carrot Cake

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 teasooons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 lb bag of carrots, peeled and grated
1 8 oz can crushed pineapple, drained
1/2 cup raisins

Cream Cheese Frosting

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 8 oz package of cream cheese, at room temperature
1 16 once package of confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons grated orange peel
1 teapsoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together the flours, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg and ginger. Mix sugars together in a bowl. Stir in buttermilk, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla. Pour in the flour mixture, arrots, pineapple and raisins, stirring until well blended.
Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans (you can do three if you'd like). Line bottoms with wax or parchment paper. Grease and flour paper. Pour batter into cake pans. Bake for 30 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool cake in pans for 10 minutes. Loosen the cake away from the edges and invert onto wire racks. Peel off the paper and cool completely. To make the frosting, beat the butter and cream cheese together in a large mixing bowl until light. Add confectioners' sugar, orange peel, and vanilla, mixing well. Spread frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake. Loosely cover and refrigerate for a while before cutting.

Cooking Class- The Souffle - History, Method and Recipe

Souffles are a great addition to a brunch menu, or as a light dinner, served with a salad.  I came across some interesting information on souffles, in case any of you are curious about the method, and perhaps you would like to test your culinary skills.  This spinach and cheddar souffle, from Ina Garten, is delicious, and was worth the experience.
Souffle is a French word which literally means "puffed up," According to the food historians, modern souffles (both sweet and savoury) were a product of 18th century French cuisine.
---Oxford Compantion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (p. 735)

"Souffles--savory and sweet mixes lightened with an egg-white foam, then dramatically inflated above their dish by oven heat--have the reputation for being difficult preparations...In fact, souffles are reliable and resilient...If you manage to get any air into the mix, an inexorable law of nature will raise it in the oven, and opening the door for a few seconds won't do it any harm. The inevitable post-oven deflation can be minimized by your choice of ingredients and cooking method...The physical law that animates the souffle was discovered a few decades after its invention by--appropriately--a French scientist and balloonist, J.A.C. Charles. Charles's law is this: all else equal, the volume occupied by a given weight of gas is proportional to its temperature. Heat an inflated balloon and the sir will take up more space, so the balloon expands. Similarly, put a souffle in the oven and its air bubbles heat up and swell, so the mix expands in the only direction it can: out the top of the dish. Charles's law is part of the story, but not the whole story--it accounts for about a quarter of the typical souffle rise. The rest comes from the continuous evaporation of water from the bubble walls into the bubbles. As portions of the souffle approach the boiling point, more liquid water becomes water vapor and adds to the quantity of gas molecules in the bubbles, which increases the pressure on the bubble walls, which causes the walls to stretch and the bubbles to expand...Charles's law also means that what must go up in the oven must come down at the table...As the souffle bubbles cool, the air they contain contracts in volume, and the vapor that come from liquid water in the mix condenses back into liquid...A thick souffle mix can't rise as easily, but it also won't fall as easily...Don't worry about opening the oven door. The mix can't fall unless it actually begins to cool down, and even if that did happen, it will rise again when it heats up again."
On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of The Kitchen, Harold McGee [Scribner:New York] 2004, completely revised and updated edition, (p. 109-113)

Spinach and Cheddar Souffle by Ina Garten

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the dish
1/4 cup finley grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for sprinkling
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup scalded milk
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
1/2 cup grated aged Cheddar cheese, lightly packed
1 package frozen chopped spinach, defrsoted and squeezed dry
5 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Butter the inside of one 6 to 8 cup souffle dish adn sprinkle evenly with Parmesan.

Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat.  With a wooden spoon, stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.  Off the heat, whisk in the hot milk, nutmeg and cayenne, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 3/4 teaspoon of black pepper.  Cook over low heat, whisking constanly, for 1 minute, until smooth adn thick.

Off the heat, but while still hot, mix in the egg yolks.  Stir in Cheddar, the Parmesan, and the spinach, and trasnfer to a large mixing bowl.

Put the egg whites, cream of tartar, and a pinch of salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with whisk attachement.  Beat on low speed for one minute, on medium speed for 1 minute, then finally on high speed until firm, glossy peaks are formed.

Whisk one-quarter of the egg whotes into the cheese sauce to lighten, and then fold in the rest.  Pour into the prepared souffle dish, then smooth the top.  Draw a large cirlcel on the top with the spatula and place in the middle of the oven.  Turn temperature down to 375 degrees.  Bake for 30 minutes to 35 minutes, until puffed and brown.  Serve immediately.  Serves 4

Monday, March 5, 2012

From freezer to table, be prepared at all times.

Well, if you thought it was tough getting a meal on the table when you're busy, try when you are sick.  When you are the sole cook in the house, and like to cook from grocery to table, trying to get a meal together is a problem.  Sure, my family could boil a pot of water and make spaghetti. They could make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or grilled cheese. They could have gone to the store and picked up something to make. There was another problem here, which was, that they really didn't want to cook. I have spoiled my family with fresh homecooked meals. Take out became king, while the cook was down and out, due to a bad back and a bad cold. This cook should know that you should always be prepared for the unexpected.  To my grandmother, the "unexpected" was guests.  She always kept horderves in the freezer in case someone stopped by. Her preparedness was sort of funny to me, but now I see that she was ahead of her time and I should be a little better prepared myself.  I'm feeling a bit like the grasshopper in Aesop's fable, in that I have failed to have stocked up in the freezer department. One usually doesn't think to prepare for situations like getting a cold or flu, or having their back go out suddenly. Freezing some of the meals I had made, however, would have come in handy the last couple of weeks. There are so many dishes you can make ahead of time and freeze. You can also freeze left overs and package them like t.v. dinners, in containers with compartments.  We all know this, but do you actually do it?  Planning for a raining day, in this case, a day you are unable to cook, isn't a bad idea. Pasta dishes do well frozen and reheated, as do soups, stews and chili.  Meatloaf and brisket hold up to freezing too. I think I will take the advise from the ant, and prepare some foods ahead of time to freeze. If you are planning on freezing any meals in the future, here are some helpful tips from

Before You Freeze

Before freezing hot food, it's important to let it cool down. Heat will raise the temperature of the freezer; and the food will not freeze uniformly, the outer edges of the hot dish will freeze hard quickly while the inside might not cool in time to prevent spoilage.
There are just a few things to keep in mind:
  • Cool precooked dishes as quickly as possible before they are placed in the freezer.
  • For fastest cooling, place the pan of hot food in a sink filled with ice water (or in a larger pan of ice water). If you're cooling a soup, stew, or sauce, stir occasionally to help it cool evenly.
  • Once the dish is cooled, portion it into meal-sized containers or packages. Label and date the containers. Place them in a single layer in the coldest area of your freezer until completely frozen. Rearrange as necessary.

    Tips for Freezing Foods

    Poorly wrapped foods run the risk of developing freezer burn and unpleasant odors from other foods in the freezer. Follow these simple wrapping and container tips to ensure the quality and safety of your food:
    • Use only specialty freezer wrappings: they should be both moisture-proof and vapor-proof.
    • Leave as little air as possible in the packages and containers. When freezing liquids in containers, allow a small amount of head room for expansion. When using freezer bags, be sure to remove as much air as possible before closing.
    • Wrap solids foods like meats and baked goods tightly in foil before you bag them.
    • Use rigid containers with an air-tight lid and keep the sealing edge free from moisture or food to ensure proper closure.
    • Secure wrapped packages and containers with freezer tape, and write the dish and the date on the tape with a marker.
    • In many cases, meats and fish wrapped by the grocer or butcher need no extra attention before freezing. However, meat wrapped on Styrofoam trays with plastic wrap will not hold up well to freezing. If the food you want to freeze was not specially wrapped, then re-wrap them at home.
    • Freeze in small containers with no more than a 1-quart capacity to ensure that freezing takes place in a timely manner (i.e., within four hours). Food that is two inches thick will take about two hours to freeze completely.

      Thawing Frozen Foods

      With the exception of muffins, breads, and other baked goods, do not thaw foods at room temperature. Bacteria can grow in the thawed portion of prepared foods, releasing toxins that are unsafe to eat even after cooking.

      To ensure that your food is safe to eat, follow one of these proper ways to thaw:
      In the refrigerator: This is the slowest but safest thawing technique. Small frozen items might thaw in a few hours, while larger items will take significantly longer--overnight and then some.
      In cold water: Place the frozen food in a leak-proof bag and place in a large container of cold water.
      In a microwave on the defrost setting: Plan to cook the food immediately after it has thawed in a microwave, because some areas of the food might have begun cooking during the defrost cycle.

      Seasonal Foods