Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Dear Goyim in the Kitchen,

This morning I find that I have four half-empty bottles of Manischewitz. What must I do with them?

Dear Reader:
No problem! Buy and chop a few packets of mixed dried fruit, and dump them in a Tupperware with the leftover Manischewitz. Let it stew in your basement until November, when you can use it for your Christmas fruitcake. (I told you I was Episcopalian.)
Love from the goyim

Monday, March 29, 2010

Lead Shot/Matzoh Balls

The thing about matzoh balls is that they tend to hit you like lead shot. To lighten their texture, follow the package directions, but separate your eggs and beat the whites until reasonably stiff. (You don't have to beat them as stiffly as for a meringue, but do incorporate a lot of air.)

Mix the yolks with the other ingredients and proceed as for a souffle: add about a third of the beaten whites to the yolk mixture, stirring tenaciously to mix thoroughly and lighten the yolk/matzoh dough. Then, fold the results gently into the egg whites, making sure there are no large streaks of yolk or white but not overstirring.

Let the batter rest in the fridge for at least a half hour while you fill a large pot halfway with water, salting it as for pasta, and bring it to the boil. Form the matzoh dough into balls smaller than you'd envision -- think rounded teaspoons, not tablespoons -- and drop them into the boiling water. When all your balls are in, cover the pot, turn it to low, and simmer for about a half hour.

These can stay in the fridge overnight and be simmered in the soup next day if you envision a last-minute kitchen rush.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Passover Desserts

I'm more a cook than a baker and have never gotten into the many flourless desserts that are traditional here. Usually after such a long dinner I figure people are happy to have berries. Do top and slice all your strawberries first; everyone's had their fill of table DIY with the Hillel sandwich and won't want to deal with the leafy berry tops.

You want cookies to go with the berries, though. This is your big chance to use up all the egg whites you stuck in the freezer and forgot about last year! Meringues are fine (beat 1/3 cup of sugar into each smartly beaten egg white, and let small dollops dry out in a slow oven for an hour or more), but I have a soft spot for macaroons. Two kinds are good here:

Basic Recipe:
To 1 1/2 cups of ground almonds (No! I don't grind them myself. I have a preschooler who hates loud noises, and am lazy to boot. Use Bob's Red Mill.) add 1 cup of sugar and 2 egg whites. Form into small balls with your wet hand, leaving a good inch and a half or more between each cookie, and bake at 325. I leave teaspoon-sized balls in the oven for 8 minutes. They will look squishy and underdone at that point. DON'T cook them until they look done. They stiffen up substantially upon cooling and you will be left with macaroons that are as dry as the desert of Sinai. Atmospheric for Passover, but not tasty.


Add grated orange zest and cinnamon to the basic recipe.

Add a heaping tablespoon of cocoa powder to the basic recipe. These can be crowded on the cookie sheet a bit more; the cocoa makes the dough a bit more cohesive.

The Gefilte Fish Problem

I don't like gefilte fish except as a vehicle for pink horseradish, even though my fabulous husband makes the best gefilte fish I've had. Nonetheless, it seems like it's as traditional at American Seders as cranberry sauce is at Thanksgiving. What to do? This year we are considering the polpettine di pesce from Cucina Ebraica. Will keep you posted.

Chicken and Its Understudies

Every time I have friends over -- and on at least a weekly basis when I don't -- I roast a chicken. You don't really need a recipe for this other than sticking a chicken in the oven for an hour or two, until the leg joint wiggles freely when manipulated. (Even the oven temperature is obliging! I usually go with 400 so I can caramelize a few vegetables too, but I've done anything from 325 to 425 with no apparent ill effect.)

But, in case you're new to chicken roasting, you should first find a pan that is a bit larger, but not massively larger, than the chicken. Take your chicken, rub it with olive oil and coarse salt, and stick something up its hiney. I recommend one or more of:

An onion half
Garlic cloves, unpeeled
Half an orange, lemon, or two halves of a lime
Ginger root

The onions and garlic go very well together and also with lemon. Lime and ginger is nice, particularly if you're having Asian vegetables with it. I love lemon, orange, and chopped ginger as a stuffing; a little garlic doesn't go amiss there, either.

If you've been responsible for the deaths of too many chickens lately, something even lower-maintenance is:

Pot Roast for Lazy People
Take a good-sized chuck steak.* Slick with a drop of olive oil and sprinkle very lightly with salt and pepper. If desired, add chopped onion, garlic, and celery, and some red wine, to the roasting pan. Place in roasting dish; cover tightly. Cook in a slow oven -- 225 is my norm -- for six to eight hours.

[*A note on this: I don't go for huge portions of meat, but I'd nonetheless buy more than you think you'd need. This cooks down, and you don't want people to leave hungry. Also, you can shred any leftovers and use them for tacos. On the other hand, keep in mind that large crowds of people will eat less than they would at a small party. I've gone with about a half pound per adult eater in the past and this has usually not been too far off.]

Haroset for Protestants

I've been told that my love for haroset is the true mark of an Episcopalian. Anyway, my ardor for it is undying and every year I make about a gallon of it in hopes that we will have leftovers. This year I made two kinds, the traditional one (apples, walnuts, wine, honey) and one I made up on the fly. Here is how I made it:

An apple
Dried figs
Dried apricots
The rest of the bottle of kosher wine you didn't use for the other haroset (I had a kosher muscat that was pretty tasty)

Chop what needs chopping and let the dried fruit soak in the wine for a day or so, if possible. Cook it until it looks like, well, haroset.

Seder Menu

This year we are having:

Matzoh ball soup
Pot roast (I almost always serve chicken. The part of the chicken is being played by chuck steak this year.)
Roasted root vegetables
Another green vegetable, also roasted
Macaroons and berries

Key Disclaimer

I am an Episcopalian with a treif kitchen. I am only tenuously connected to Judaism by marriage. That said, I enjoy cooking, particularly when I can pretend I'm Italian, and thought you might enjoy these recipes.