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Some people have strong feelings about the kind of recipe that aims to create a Passover-friendly version of a dish that is typically leavened. Detractors think creating Passover bagels, muffins, and rolls miss the point of the holiday’s specific diet. Those in favor see the practice as helping to make a difficult holiday more bearable. Some will even point to foods like Passover Popovers as an example of Jewish ingenuity.
Personally, I fall somewhere in the middle. I don’t see the point suffering through a week of “I can’t believe you want to call this a bagel.” (But hey, if you can convince yourself that whatever you’ve come up with tastes like a bagel, more power to you. I’ll have eggs for breakfast this week.) On the other hand, when the introduction of matzah into a dish creates a delightful new twist on an old favorite, I’m all for it.
This brings us to Matzah Kugel, a sweet, dairy-filled confection of matzah layered with sweetened cheese. Sure, you could make a kugel with Passover noodles and come up with an almost-but-not-quite-satisfying proxy for the regular version, but you will never forget that it’s not the “real” thing. Matzah kugel, on the other hand, takes the idea of a noodle kugel as a jumping off point and transforms it into something different but equally delicious.
This dish can function as a side dish or a main course. (It pairs well with a side salad and a piece of gefilte fish.) You can freeze leftover portions: they reheat well in the microwave and even make a delicious and quick breakfast when you just can’t take one more piece of matzah with cream cheese.
Cheese Matzah Kugel for Passover
2. Add cottage cheese, salt, sugar, cinnamon, and butter and mix to combine thoroughly.
3. Grease an 8 inch square baking dish with butter.
4. Arrange half of the matzah so that it covers the bottom of the dish.
5. Pour half of the cheese mixture over it. Repeat with balance of the matzah and cheese mixture. If you wish, sprinkle additional cinnamon and sugar over the top of the kugel.
6. Bake at 350°F for 40 minutes or until set.
Hamentaschen, a popular treat for the holiday of Purim, translates to “Haman’s pockets.” Haman is the villain in the story of Purim and in addition to booing whenever his name is mentioned, on Purim we eat sweet filled cookies that are in the triangular shape of Haman’s hat. This is a savory twist on the traditional Hamentaschen and can be served as an appetizer or as part of a Purim meal. It is made with pre-made pie crust, so it is a quick and easy dish to prepare.
1. Preheat oven to 450℉. Thaw the broccoli in a colander by running cold water of it. Then set it aside on a kitchen towel to dry a little. Then, thaw the spinach in a colander by running cold water over the spinach. Once thawed, put the spinach in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze the excess water out of the spinach or push the moisture out through a sieve.
2. Mash the goat cheese, cottage cheese and feta in a bowl with a fork until uniformly mixed. Add the salt, pepper and lemon zest. Scoop out 1/3 of the cheese mix to set aside. The other 2/3 will be mixed with the spinach, broccoli, dill and onion.
3. Finely chop the broccoli and the dill. Slice and mince 1/2 the onion. If the spinach is whole leaf then chop the spinach as well. Stir the broccoli and spinach into the cheese mixture. Set the mixture aside and prepare your pastry.
4. Roll the pie crusts out slightly so they are about 1/8 inch thick. Trim the sides to make approximately a 9-10-inch square. Do not worry if your measurements are off as long as you have a rectangle or square-like shape. You can keep the trim to roll out again later. Cut the dough into 3-inch squares or whatever looks even. You will have about 9 squares per pie dough.
5. With a knife you can score diagonally across the square (or just eyeball it). Then cut a triangle window out of one side of the square with at least a 1/2-inch border. Carefully pull the uncut side of the square over onto the cut side and push along the middle crease. Then flip the dough over so you’ll have a triangle cutout on top of a triangle of dough.
6. With a fork, press down along the edges of the triangle to crimp the dough. Fill each pastry cutout with a small spoonful of just the cheese mixture and then a larger spoonful of the spinach, broccoli and feta mixture piled high in the center. You can pinch the edges to fill out the corners of the triangle.
7. Brush the sides of each hamentaschen with egg and sprinkle with nigella seeds (optional). Bake for 20-25 minutes until the pie crust is a light golden brown.
Comfort food comes in many different shapes and forms. Each culture, each tradition, each household, each individual has a dish that is comforting to them. Comfort foods tend to be soft, warm and not overly seasoned. This Italian gnocchi al forno takes the flavors of a Jewish comfort food: matzoh ball soup, and puts them into a warm, oven-baked, cheesy, saucy dish.
This is made with pre-made gnocchi so it is a quick and easy recipe for any day of the week. The lemon adds brightness to the rich sauce. Italians understand the glory of this fruit and as Italian poet Eugenio Montale wrote: “… now it’s our turn, us poor ones, to have a share of riches/ and it’s the scent of the lemon.”
Lemon Dill Gnocchi al Forno with Roasted Carrots
1. Preheat the oven to 375℉. While the oven is heating up, put a large pot of water on the stove to boil. Peel the carrots and leave them whole. Line a cookie sheet or roasting pan with parchment. Put the carrots on the parchment and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. of salt.
2. Roast the carrots in the oven for 30-45 minutes.
3. Once the water comes to a boil, put the gnocchi into the boiling water. The gnocchi take 3-5 minutes to cook. Once the gnocchi float to the top of the water, they are cooked. Remove the gnocchi with a slotted spoon and put them on a plate or baking dish.
4. Grate the mozzarella. Chop the kale into thin slices. Set both aside. Once the carrots come out of the oven, raise the temperature to 400℉.
5. In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the dill to the butter and let the butter cook a little until it is nice and foamy.
Add in the flour and mix it together until you have a paste. Cook the paste in the pan for a few minutes.
Once the paste begins to bubble a little at the edges, add in 1/2 cup of wine, stir and cook down for 3-4 minutes. Add in the zest of 1/4-1/2 a lemon. Then 1 cup at a time, add in the whole milk.
Stir together until the sauce thickens and the flour paste is incorporated. Add in the cheese and stir until the cheese melts completely.
6. In a large baking dish, or several small dishes, put a layer of kale into the bottom of the dish. Top with a layer of gnocchi and then pour a generous amount of the cheese sauce over top. Top the cheese with some freshly ground pepper.
7. Cook the lemon and dill gnocchi al forno uncovered for 30-40 minutes. The sauce will bubble and caramelize slightly. Serve the gnocchi with a side of roasted carrots, and a glass of chilled white wine.
These farmer’s market pizzas take some of the most beautiful gems from the day’s trip to the market and highlight them for dinner. On a hot day, the pizzas can be made with just the toaster oven and on the grill to keep the house nice and cool. Zucchini is plentiful this time of year so, I took the traditional Southern Italian practice of drying zucchini and modified it to get all of the concentrated flavor without the hours of drying. The twist for these pizzas, especially the sweet one, is that they are white pizzas inspired by a classic Jewish treat: the blintz.
Farmer’s Market Pizza
Savory Pizza with Dried Zucchini
1. To dry the zucchini, first wash and slice it into 1/8 inch slices. Then line a baking pan with parchment paper. Sprinkle some Kosher salt over the paper and lay the zucchini over the salt. Sprinkle the top of the zucchini with salt as well. Let the zucchini rest in the salt for at least 30 minutes.
2. After 30 minutes, preheat your oven or toaster oven to 150° F. Rinse the zucchini slices well under a running tap and place them on a clean kitchen towel to pat dry. Then, place the zucchini on a tray covered with tin foil and let it dry out in the oven for about two hours. If you are short on time, you can raise the oven temperature a bit and let the zucchini dry out for a shorter time.
3. Once the zucchini are fairly dry, almost rubbery in texture, drizzle them with olive oil and sprinkle a teaspoon of dried oregano over them. Do NOT add salt, but do grind fresh pepper over the zucchini to taste.
4. Preheat your grill to high or preheat your oven to 450° F. Split your dough in half and create two oblong pizzas on oiled heavy-duty tin foil or on an oiled cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. You can use a spray oil but I prefer to put a teaspoon of Canola oil on the foil and spread it with my hands or a paper towel. Partially bake the dough. This should take 10 minutes or so.
5. Remove the partially baked dough and prepare your cheese.
6. In a bowl, add the 7 1/2 oz of farmers cheese, squeeze 4 cloves of farmer’s market garlic through a garlic press (or mince), add a generous amount of freshly ground pepper and then grate 4-6 Tbsp. of Parmesan to taste. Mix until uniform.
7. Spread the cheese on the two pizza crusts and then carefully arrange the zucchini slices over the cheese. Place back on the grill or in the oven until the cheese is heated through. Slice and serve.
Note: This pizza can be topped with any kind of squash, onions or other fabulous vegetables you find at the farmer’s market. Just prepare the vegetables by cooking them partially first in the oven or on the grill, then assemble the pizzas, heat and serve.
Sweet Farmer’s Market Blueberry Blintz Pizza
1. Prepare the dough as above, but before placing it to cook, brush water over the top of the dough and sprinkle with sugar.
2. Preheat your grill to high or preheat your oven to 450° F. Split your dough in half and create two round pizzas on oiled heavy-duty tin foil or on an oiled cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. You can use a spray oil but I prefer to put a teaspoon of Canola oil on the foil and spread it with my hands or a paper towel. Partially bake the dough. This should take 10 minutes or so.
4. Top the partially cooked pizza crusts with the cheese mixture and return to the grill or oven until the cheese begins to melt slightly and is heated through.
5. Take the pizza off of the heat and top with fresh blueberries. Sprinkle the entire pizza with a dusting of powdered sugar and finish with a little bit more lemon zest.
Note: This pizza can be topped with pitted and sliced cherries, fresh berries and stone fruit that is not too juicy. If you are using stone fruit, I recommend grilling the stone fruit halves separately first and then slicing before topping the pizza.