Passover Rocks and Cherry-Almond Rocks

For favorite Passover recipes from my kitchen, please see Essential Passover from Scratch: Recipes and Stories from My Mother’s Kitchen

From Nanas recipe card box.

These were my dad’s favorite Passover cookie. I’m going to bake up a batch tonight.

Passover Rocks

Mix together:

  • 2 c. matzo cake meal
  • 2 c. matzo farfel
  • 1-1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 c. raisins
  • 1/2 c. chopped pecans

Add:

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon

Mix in:

  • 2/3 c. butter, melted (and more as needed)

The “dough” is very crumbly. Drizzle in enough additional melted butter so that you are able to press together a small cookie and it will hold its shape.

Drop by teaspoon, bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until nicely browned.

For Cherry-Almond: substitute dried cherries for the raisins, omit cinnamon, and add 1/2 tsp. almond extract with the butter.

Cherry almond rocks (back row), and traditional Passover rocks (front row).

Passover Mandel Bread

My grandmother Mollye’s recipe card box is a family heirloom.

As my grandmother Mollye got older she would ask me to come over to help her bake. Her Passover favorites were mandel bread, rocks, teiglach and ingberlach. Instead of flour, the Passover mandel bread recipe calls for potato starch and matzo cake meal, which give the cookie an extremely fine texture.

 

Ingredients

  • ½ lb. butter
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 Tbs. grated orange rind
  • 1½ c. matzo cake meal
  • ½ c. potato starch
  • 1 c. chopped pecans

Directions

  1. Cream butter and sugar.
  2. Add the eggs and orange rind.
  3. Mix together the cake meal and potato starch and add to the wet ingredients.
  4. Stir in the nuts.
  5. Refrigerate for at least an hour, or overnight.
  6. Hand roll into eight 1″ rolls, placed about 4 inches apart onto greased cookie sheets, then flatten using the palm of your hand.
  7. Bake at 350° for 20–25 mins, or until very slightly browned.
  8. Remove from oven and cut into ¾” diagonal slices; turn each cookie 90° onto a cut edge and return to oven to bake for another 8–10 mins.
  9. Remove from oven and flip each cookie over onto the other cut edge; return to oven for another 8–10 mins.
  10. If you like, sprinkle the warm cookies with a mixture of sugar and cinnamon.

For favorite Passover recipes from my kitchen, please see Essential Passover from Scratch: Recipes and Stories from My Mother’s Kitchen

passover promo shot

 

Counting down to Pesach: Matzo Granola and Matzo Pizza

This is an exceptionally delicious granola, and tastes great dry as a snack, or with milk as a breakfast cereal.

Ingredients

  • 4 c. matzo farfel
  • ½ c. nuts
  • ¾ c. shredded coconut
  • ½ c. honey
  • ½ c. oil
  • ½ c. raisins, dried cherries, dried cranberries, or a combination

Directions

  1. Mix together the matzo farfel, nuts and coconut.
  2. Mix together the honey and oil.
  3. Mix together the two mixtures.
  4. Spread evenly on a cookie sheet, bake at 350° for 15–20 minutes, stirring frequently.
  5. When cool add raisins or other dried fruit. Seal in airtight container.

Rae and I were at it again at temple this morning, showing the high-schoolers some Passover recipes. First we stirred up a batch of granola, and then, while the granola was in the oven, we made some matzo pizzas.

Matzo makes a pretty terrific pizza crust!

Its easy to customize these single-serving pizzas.

For favorite Passover recipes from my kitchen, please see Essential Passover from Scratch: Recipes and Stories from My Mother’s Kitchen

passover promo shot

Gefilte Fish

For favorite Passover recipes from my kitchen, please see Essential Passover from Scratch: Recipes and Stories from My Mother’s Kitchen

I couldn’t end Passover without posting about our gefilte fish and horseradish. I’ve never eaten jarred gefilte fish. My mother and grandmother always made it fresh, so now my sister and I try and duplicate their efforts. This is the batch of 46 pieces that we made this year.

Gefilte fish are fish patties, served cold and topped with prepared horseradish. It’s made from a combination of white fish and pike. We modern women will sometimes include some salmon. The proportions are variable, but 2/3 white fish to 1/3 pike would be a good place to start. If you have a good fish counter at your grocery store, ask if they can take the fish off the bones, grind it, and then give all of it back to you — fish bones, head, tail and all.

Step 1: Make the yuch. Yiddish for broth, the “u” is pronounced with the sound of the “ou” in the word “would.” Make the yuch by boiling up all of the fish bits — skin, bones, head, tail — with an onion, some celery and carrots. The end result is a fish stock. After draining out the yucky stuff, you’re left with the yuch.

Step 2: Mix up the fish. Take the ground fish and mix in egg,  matzo meal, white pepper,  salt and  grated carrot. Mix this up in your mixer. Add just enough water to the mix for it to be a consistency that is slightly wetter than hamburger meat.

Step 3: Shape the patties. With a bowl of water near your pot of simmering stock, wet your hands, form the patties and then gently place them in the stock. Cover and let cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Transfer to a container to let cool. You can freeze the stock and use it later for bouillabaisse or other fish-based soups.

The finished product on our Seder table.

Making the horseradish was quite an experience! We started with a fresh horseradish root, peeled it, chunked it and put it in the food processor with some apple cider vinegar, some sugar, a little salt and a can of beets. Add and taste, add and taste. It did, as they say, clear our sinuses.

Here’s the recipe for gefilte fish:

Ingredients

For the fish

Order 5 pounds whole fish*, to include whitefish, trout, and northern pike, filleted and ground, with approximately the following breakdown:

  • 2½ pounds whitefish
  • ½ pound trout
  • 2 pounds northern pike (carp or salmon may also be used)
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tbs. matzo meal
  • ¼ tsp. white pepper
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 c. water
  • For the broth
  • fish trimmings
  • 2 onions
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 2 carrots

*When you order the fish, ask to have it ground. Also ask that they reserve the tails, fins, heads, bones and skin—you will need all to make the fish broth.

Directions

1. Prepare the fish: If the fish store is not able to grind the fish, remove it from the bones and grind it in a food processor or meat grinder. Even after it’s filleted (by either you or the fish store) there will be fish left on the bones, so scrape off as much as you can, and combine with the rest of the ground fish.

2. Make the fish broth: Peel the onions and cut in half, peel the carrots and celery and cut them in half. Place the vegetables along with all of the fish trimmings into a large pot, and cover with about 4 quarts of water. Add 2 Tbs. of salt. Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for 2–3 hours.

3. When the broth is nearly ready, prepare the ground fish: In a large bowl, or mixer, combine all of the ground fish, the grated carrot, the eggs, matzo meal, pepper, salt, and water. Mix well.

4. Strain the broth: Set a strainer inside a large pot. Pour the fish broth through the colander to strain out the solids. Set aside the carrots; toss the rest of the solids. Bring the broth back to a simmer.

5. Prepare the fish patties: Fill a small bowl with water—you will use this to wet your hands as you work. Take about ½ cup of fish mixture into the palm of your hand, and form into a smooth, oval patty. Place gently into the simmering broth. After all patties are made, cover the pot and cook gently for 45 minutes. Remove from broth into airtight container, cool and serve with slice of cooked carrot and a dollop of ground horseradish.

Matzo Apple Soufflé

For favorite Passover recipes from my kitchen, please see Essential Passover from Scratch: Recipes and Stories from My Mother’s Kitchen

My mother baked this once a year, using the recipe as a way to use up leftover Passover charoset. If you don’t have that then use some grated apples and cinnamon.  We loved it as kids, looking forward to it every year.  And now my kids do too! It’s an apply souffle, but don’t be scared off by the word souffle since it’s simple to make.

 

Ingredients

  • 2 pieces matzo (or 1 heaping c. matzo farfel)
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 2 c. charoset

or

  • 2 c. peeled, grated apple
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon (omit if used in your charoset)
  • ¼ c. oil
  • ¼ c. sugar

Directions

1. Crumble up the matzo in a bowl. Run warm water over the matzo until wet, then drain.

2. Mix together all of the ingredients except the egg whites.

3. Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold into the mixture.

4. Bake in a greased, 2-quart round soufflé dish at 350° for one hour or until golden brown. Serve hot.

 

Nicole’s Charoset (and the art of making guest cooks feel welcome)

For favorite Passover recipes from my kitchen, please see Essential Passover from Scratch: Recipes and Stories from My Mother’s Kitchen

I became an aunt when I was still a teenager when the idea of someone calling me “Aunt” Dori felt terribly wrong to me. My sister suggested her kids just call me Dori, and so it has been all these years. Now, at 52 years-old I wish I were that lovey-huggy-Auntie, complete with the honorific. And now, thanks to my new niece, Nicole, I am a born-again aunt, Aunt Dori.

Nicole married my nephew Ari in August. They are freshly minted newly weds. Raised in an Orthodox family, a daughter of South African Jews, I imagine that Nicole’s first Passover away from home as a married woman might be a little lonesome. I asked if there was a food that she’d like to have at our Seder, something that she would ordinarily have at her family’s celebration, and she suggested this charoset. Her mother, Jane, sent the “recipe,” which, in true Jewish mother tradition, is nothing more than a list of ingredients: dates, figs, almonds, dried apricots, honey and wine, with sometime the addition of raisins, apples or walnuts. With no set quantities, I went to our local organic food shop and bagged and labeled the various ingredients. Laying the plastic bags with their long, white, coded twist ties on the counter, all in a misshapen jumble, I thought about how inelegant this would be to work with. Nicole was arriving the next day and would assemble the charoset in my kitchen. Embracing my Auntie-ness I emptied the items each into their own mason jar and arranged them in the pantry. I loved the effect so much that I then emptied out  onions and sweet potatoes from their  bags and made a little arrangement in the big red bowl in the butler’s pantry. I loved how inviting the kitchen looked, ready for the women to work together, to share some old traditions as well begin some new ones.

Seder Salad

For favorite Passover recipes from my kitchen, please see Essential Passover from Scratch: Recipes and Stories from My Mother’s Kitchen

Making a Passover Seder meal generates a lot of disparate left-overs. This curried chicken salad made delicious use of the following:

  • Chicken used to make the matzo ball soup stock.
  • Green onions. My sister introduced a new Seder activity this year whereby we whipped each other with green onions to simulate the slaves being whipped. The kids, as you might imagine, enjoyed this.
  • Lettuce left over from decorating the gefilte fish plates.
  • Apples from the charoset ingredients.
  • Hard boiled eggs. We boiled some extra for a certain appetizer that never quite got assembled. Maybe next year?

I really hadn’t planned what to make for dinner until about 6:15 tonight. I stared in the fridge and the left-overs told me what to do. I know it’s soup night at the Walker Cafe, so we also had some of last night’s left-over asparagus soup — something else made from Seder extras.

“I can’t believe it’s not pasta” Pasta Night: Matzo Lasagna

For favorite Passover recipes from my kitchen, please see Essential Passover from Scratch: Recipes and Stories from My Mother’s Kitchen

This matzo lasagna is melt-in-your mouth delicious. Prepared essentially the same way as a traditional lasagna, you might not realize that there is matzo in this instead of noodles. It’s very light and holds its shape really well when you cut it.

For this version I mixed a large carton of small curd cottage cheese with three eggs and some Parmesan cheese. I placed a mixture of muenster and mozzarella on top of that blended cheese. Layer it as you would a regular lasagna. For the matzo layers, briefly run the full-sized pieces of matzo under warm tap water before layering. I threw in some wilted fresh spinach on one of the layers. Bake it for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

A Big Tzimmes

For favorite Passover recipes from my kitchen, please see Essential Passover from Scratch: Recipes and Stories from My Mother’s Kitchen

I was raised by the china queen. My mother had more sets of china than I can remember. Many of those now reside inside the two china cabinets in my dining room. I inherited my grandmother’s small mahogany china cabinet, along with the weathered breakfront from my childhood home, which has my name scrawled into the side with a ball point pen (I was four). We now own the floral service for 18 which I only saw every couple of years when my grandmother would unlock her big china cabinet and show me my inheritance; the blue and gold set which my grandmother bought in the 1920’s from a woman whose mother had owned them during the civil war; some Haviland china which I don’t ever remember my mother using because it was just too delicate — the light shines through the cups when you hold them up; and my husband’s grandmother’s white with gold-rimmed Noritake stamped with “Made in occupied Japan,” which she never used and were still in the original box along with the receipt when we inherited them.

Passover Seder is the night when everything comes out of the china cabinet. The beauty of the ceremony of the Seder meal is matched by the beauty of the table. Our family and friends join us as we read from the Haggadah, with just the right balance of solemnity and fun. We eat the strangest combination of foods which we religiously prepare according to our mother’s recipes — recipes which for the most part have not been written down.

This year’s event was spectacular, but not because of the place-settings. It was spectacular in the process:

— My sister, Maralee, came down a day early so that we could cook together. We made the family’s traditional tzimmes topped with potato kugel. It’s an eye-popping mammoth dish which we make year after year but have come to realize that no one particularly cares for it. It’s a bad habit. We think that my dad likes it and that’s why we made it this year. But we’re considering the possibility that he also finds it bland and is just being polite.

— We made horseradish by blending together pieces of raw horseradish root with apple cider vinegar, sugar, canned beets and a pinch of salt. You know you’re alive when you survive this experience. It makes peeling onions feel like a walk in the park.

— My friend Jennie had exquisite center pieces made and dropped them by the house in the afternoon so we could put them on the table in advance. How thoughtful to think to tell the florist that she wanted to be able to see over the tops of them!

— Our friends down the street walked the pot of kosher chicken soup to our house, and the day before they dropped by the extra cooked chicken in case any of our house-guests wanted some kosher chicken salad.

— My cousin Sheri took over the duty of making the fruit platters which were alive with color of berries and melons, and her husband Mike, the gourmet, made chocolate cake so good that I’ve hidden the two extra pieces in the back of the refrigerator. I’m posting this late so that I can get to the cake before my kids read my blog entry.

— Kate was assigned a matzo farfel kugel, had never made one before, and brought a mushroom kugel so delicious that Max had seconds even though he hates mushrooms.

— Leo drove the Weber grill down from Woodstock and made a smoked turkey out back that made the entire neighborhood smell wonderful.

— My new niece Nicole flew here from San Fransisco with her husband, my old nephew Ari, just to come for Seder. Nicole made a recipe from her family, charoset that we’d never had before with dates, figs, apricots, almonds, honey and wine. I think next year we’ll be adding this to our regular line-up and  scratching tzimmes from the menu.

Our house was spectacularly alive with 22 friends and family. That’s a lot for a table to live up to, and I think we did alright.