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By Molly Yeh
I enjoy being a Chinese Jew.Â I eat plenty of matzah balls and potstickers and I get to celebrate three New Years.
Iâ€™ve often had to convince people that Iâ€™m Jewish, which is amusing and usually results in a new friend feeling like they can connect with me better due to a shared religion. Other than that, I canâ€™t say I really thought about what it meant to Chinese and Jewish while I was growing up.
I recently movedÂ out to rural North Dakota with my Norwegian husband, population six Jews and about 10,000 Scandinavian descendants. Things are quiet here, people are Midwestern nice, and the small town life is pretty darn wonderful.
For the first time in my life, I feel a bit like an oddball, in a sea of light-haired Lutherans, but people embrace me when I introduce them toÂ challah. North Dakotans love challah! And I love their food too, like Lefse and dessert bars of all sorts.
All of my challah here is homemade. As are my latkes, kugel, matzah ballsâ€¦ you get the picture. Thereâ€™s not a deli in sight. Not even a bagel. I do miss bopping down to Zabarâ€™s for babka and bagels, but on the other hand, with the necessity to make everything from scratch comes the opportunity to put my own spin on things and mash up my Chinese/Jewish/Midwesternness.
Brisket in my potstickers, ginger sugar beet latkes, egg rolls with home cured pastrami from a cow that Iâ€™ll one day raiseâ€¦
Iâ€™m getting carried away.
But this recipe is me in bread form! Chinese, Jewish and pretty doughy, whether I can help it or not. Inspired by the scallion pancake, here is an Asian twist on my all-time favorite challah.
Scallion Pancake Challah
Makes one large loaf
Basic challah dough
Based on Food 52â€™s Recipe
Filling and Topping
1. Â In a small bowl, proof yeast in 1/2 cup warm water mixed with 1 tsp. of sugar.
2. While yeast is proofing, mix flour, salt, and remaining 2 Tbsp. of sugar in a large bowl.
3. In a medium bowl, mix remaining 1/4 cup of water, honey, oil and eggs.
4. Once yeast has finished proofing, add it to the flour, followed by the wet ingredients. Mix with a large wooden spoon until dough becomes too thick to stir. Empty dough onto well-floured surface and knead by hand. Knead dough until smooth and no longer sticky, adding flour as needed.
5. Transfer to an oiled bowl and cover with a damp towel. Let rise for about two hours, or until doubled in size.
6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
7. Divide dough into three equal parts and then roll each part into a 1-foot log. Gently flatten each log so that it is about 3 inches wide.
8. Brush each with toasted sesame oil and then sprinkle with salt, pepper, chili flakes, and scallions. Roll them up lengthwise like a jellyroll, and then braid.
9. Place the loaf on a parchment-lined baking sheet and then brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds and black pepper.
10. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the top is golden brown and the challah is cooked through.
This recipe contains alcohol and is for those of legal drinking age only.
Introduce your loved ones to good ol’ fashioned Manischewitz, and reinvent the Jewish holiday staple into the dessert it was always meant to be. This way, you can avoid getting any looks that say “You drink this stuff?” or, “Is this what all Jewish wine is like?” Your loved ones will instead wonder why you’ve been hiding this Manischewitz stuff from them all this time. L’chaim! Cheers!
1 cup sweet kosher wine
1 1/2 cups pear nectar
2-inch piece of ginger
1 lime, zested
1 Tbsp. sugar
1. Slice ginger, add to pot with pear nectar and heat on stove, reducing to 1 cup (25 minutes)
2. Strain out the ginger pieces and add the wine to the juice. Pour mixture into a glass baking dish and freeze for one hour.
3. Remove from freezer and using a fork, scrape the slush off the bottom of the dish. Repeat one to two times, freezing for 30 minute increments.
4. Once it’s frozen to desired slushiness, zest your lime and mix it with the sugar. Scoop out your slushie and top with lime sugar.
We all know so many ways to use up Thanksgiving leftovers, but the recipes are few and far between when it comes to Passover leftovers. Here is a tasty way to use up what’s left afterÂ your seder. You can make this recipe from scratch, but it’s better with leftovers. If you want meat, you can keep it kosher by skipping the cheese. Add in some of the seder horseradish to give it some spice. You can make your stacks as high or low as you like. I like to have four layers. Whether you stack them high or low, they will be delicious!
1.Â SliceÂ your chilled kugel evenly. The amount of kugel you have left over will determine how many stacks you can make.
2.Â In a pan, heat the vegetable oil. Once the oil begins to shimmer, add the slices of kugel and cook until golden brownÂ on both sides. Set the slices aside on a plate while you prepare theÂ other ingredients.
3.Â Finely chop the shallot. If needed, add a little extra vegetable oil to the pan that you cooked the kugel in. SautĂ© the shallots over medium-low heat.
4. Toss the mushrooms in with the shallots and turn the heat to medium-high. Once the liquid begins to cook off of the mushrooms and they begin to brown, add a pinch of salt. This is your mushroom duxelles.Â If you prefer, youÂ can use the leftover brisket instead and skip the mozzarella on top.
5.Â Turn the broiler on and make sure your rack is low enough that the stack has room to sit under the broiler. On a baking pan lined with foil, place one slice of kugel. Top that with a row of sliced asparagus or green beans. Top that with another piece of kugel and a spoonful of mushroom duxelles (or a piece of brisket). Top with another slice of kugel and add a spoonful of tsimmes or a slice of sweet potato. Top with a final piece of potato kugel and add a slice of mozzarella. Leave the cheese off if you are using brisket. If you need a toothpick or skewer to stabilize the stack, you can push one into the kugel stack being careful that it is not right under the broiler.
6.Â Place the stack under the broiler until the cheese begins to bubble and brown. Enjoy!
Stuffed breads, like dumplings, exist across many cultures. There are theÂ babkas; the Kurdish Jewish stuffed bread known asÂ kadeh; there are PolishÂ kolaches;Â and IndianÂ parathas.Â This year, instead of the usual Hamanâ€™s hat (Hamantaschen) for Purim, I wanted to try making Queen Esther’s crown. The pastry ring is supposed to look like a queenâ€™s crown and with the inspiration of Indian parathas, this one is stuffed with a samosa-like filling. I hope those of you with Jewish and Indian influences in your home will especially enjoy this recipe!
Queen Esther’s Crown Stuffed Bread
1. Â Remove pizza dough from the fridge to let it come to room temperatureÂ for at leastÂ 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400Â° F.
2. Â Peel the potatoes and the carrots and dice them into pea-sized cubes.
3. Â Add 3/4 cup of water into a small pot with a lid. HeatÂ the water to just before a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Add in the diced carrots, diced potatoes and peas. Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and cook until soft, about 15 minutes. Once the vegetables are soft and cooked through but not mushy, take them out of the pan. The water may or may not be completely absorbed.
4.Â Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the mustard seed and cook until you start to hear a popping sound. Add the chopped onion and cook until translucent. Then, add the steamed vegetables and sautĂ© for 5 minutes. Add all the spices: salt, mustard seed, turmeric, garam masala andÂ fresh ginger. Stir to combine.
5.Â Remove the vegetables from the pan and set aside in a bowl to cool. With scissors or a knife, cut the dried apricots into little ÂĽ-inch strips and add them to the vegetables.
6. Â Prepare a pan with a sheet of parchment paper.
7.Â Grease your hands with a little oil and stretch out your pizza dough into a long thin rectangle. I like to hold the dough up high and let gravity help me stretch it. Keep turning the dough so that you get an even stretch.
8.Â Put the edges together and make a wide crown of dough. It may seem impossible, but stick with it and keep tweaking it. It doesnâ€™t have to be perfectly round and you can adjust it later.
9.Â Spoon the filling onto the dough, leaving a small seamÂ at the center of the circle and a larger space on the outer part of the circle. Pull the outside of the crown over the filling andÂ pinch the dough together in the inner circle.
10.Â Brush the crown with a beaten egg. Cook for 25-30 minutes until the crust is golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes.
11.Â Serve slices with a spoonful of cool, creamy plain yogurt.
Some years Hanukkah and Christmas overlapâ€”not only do they overlap this year, but the first night of Hanukkah falls on Christmas Eve! To have a little fun with this intersection of holidays, I made two non-traditional versions of a classic Hanukkah mainstay: latkes. Red and green latkes, to be precise. The red latkes are made from beets and the green latkes are made from broccoli. Italian cooks like to add a little Parmesan to their frittelle di broccoli (broccoli fritters). I left mine plain with just a little ricotta, but feel free to add some Parmesan for an Italian flair.
The beet latkes are like the â€śrich manâ€™s latkesâ€ť from my motherâ€™s cookbook since they donâ€™t have anything added like flour to make them heartier. Theyâ€™re more delicate than the broccoli latkes and are almost lacy when cooked. The broccoli has more moisture, so I added extra flour and some ricotta to make them a bit fluffier.
Latkes Two Ways
1. Â Fill a medium-sized pot with water and salt to blanch the broccoli. Trim the stalk of the broccoli by cutting off the rough end and peeling the rest. Then slice the broccoli into large â€śtrees.â€ť Add the broccoli to the boiling water for 2 minutes. While it blanches, prepare a bowl of ice and water to shock the broccoli after removing from pot. Drain and set aside to cool.
2. Â Grate the onions and squeeze them in a kitchen towel to get as much of the onion juice out as possible. Discard juice.
3. Â Peel and grate the beets on the large-grate side of a box grater. Squeeze them in a paper towel (unless you donâ€™t mind staining a cloth towel) and discard the juice.
5. Â Cut the broccoli stalks down all the way to the very top of the florets so you have tiny florets and stalks. Break the florets up into a bowl (like crumbling feta cheese with your fingers). Grate the stalks on the box grater and add them to the florets.
7. Â Mix in flour, ricotta, one egg, the rest of the grated onion and the remaining Â˝ tsp. salt and ÂĽ tsp pepper. Set aside.
8. Â In a hot frying pan, add 2 Tbsp.vegetable or grapeseed oil and heat over medium-high heat. Take a spoonful of the beet mixture (it will be very delicate), squeeze it slightly and lay it into the pan to fry. Donâ€™t move the beet latkes when placed in the pan until they begin to brown a little around the edges, about 3-5 minutes. Once they begin to darken (if youâ€™re not sure, you can peek underneath after a few minutes), flip and cook on the other side 3-5 minutes.
9. Â While the beet latkes are frying, prepare a plate with paper towels to drain the latkes. Once youâ€™ve fried all the beet latkes, use a paper towel to carefully wipe out the oil (turn off the heat). Then add remaining 2 Tbsp. oil and fry the broccoli latkes, following the same method.
Serve with sour cream or apple sauce (or both!).
For more Hanukkah recipes, click here
Christmas and the first night of Hanukkah fall on the same day this year. Growing up the child of a divorced, interreligious family, this would have blown my mind even more than it does as an adult. While I was raised primarily in my Jewish motherâ€™s home, my brother and I spent every Christmas with my dad, stepmother and half-sister, and we loved it. I mean, loved it. Sure, the extra presents were nice (very nice), but the experience of both holidays was nothing short of warmth.
Now, at 36, as I think back to having to shuffle between houses for holidays, I feel nothing but warmth. I loved lighting the menorah and the smell of the match as it lit a fresh batch of Hanukkah candles. I equally loved the smell of eggnog and the sound of Nat King Coleâ€™s classic Christmas record as I helped my dad and family decorate the tree. I never once felt I was compromising my enriched and grounded Jewish identity as I played along with my dad and stepmom in pretending, for the sake of my beloved half-sister, that Santa and his reindeer were, in fact, on the roof trying to figure out how to get down the chimney.
Somehow, my family figured out how to give my brother and me a safe and inviting interreligious experience growing up and never asked us to choose. It was our normal, and it was perfect. I hope this recipe helps you bring some of that warmth into your home.
For the doughnuts:
For the filling:
1. Â Place all doughnut ingredients, except the butter, into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Work on a low speed for about 4 minutes, or until well-combined and elastic.
2. Â With the mixer still running, add the butter piece by piece, until itâ€™s all worked in and incorporated. There should be no visible pieces. This will take about 5-8 minutes.
3. Â Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in size.
4. Â While the dough is rising, make the filling. Place the cream, milk, vanilla and gingerbread-spice mixture into a small saucepan over medium heat.
5. Â In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch. When the milk begins to bubble around the edges, remove it from the heat and slowly whisk it into the egg mixture.
6. Â Pour the mixture back into the pan over medium heat, whisking constantly. Cook until it boils and becomes very thick, about 1-2 minutes. Once the mixture is the consistency of soft butter, scrape it out into a bowl, cover and set aside to cool completely.
7. Â When the dough has risen, punch it down and scrape it out onto a well-floured surface. Make sure your hands are properly floured and pat the dough into a rectangle, about Â˝-inch thick, and cut out nine doughnuts using a well-floured 2.5-inch round biscuit cutter or large glass. Place the doughnuts on a lined baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rise for 45 minutes, or until puffy.
8. Â When the doughnuts are finished their second rise, place about 2 inches of oil into a high-sided pan (or use a deep fryer) and heat over a low flame, until it reaches 350 degrees (or until a small piece of dough dropped in the oil bubbles and rises to the surface).
9. Â Fry the doughnuts a few at a time (donâ€™t crowd the pan) for about 1 minute each side, or until golden brown and cooked through.
10. Â Drain on paper towels and toss in the Â˝ cup sugar.
11. Â To fill the doughnuts, I use a flavor injector, like you would use for a turkey. I find this the easiest way to get the cream in. Alternatively, you can place the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a ÂĽ-inch nozzle. Press the piping bag into the side of each doughnut and squeeze until you can feel the weight of the doughnut increase slightly.
Find more Hanukkah recipes here
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 holidayâ€™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 donâ€™t see the point suffering through a week of â€śI canâ€™t believe you want to call this a bagel.â€ť (But hey, if you can convince yourself that whatever youâ€™ve come up with tastes like a bagel, more power to you. Iâ€™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, Iâ€™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 itâ€™s not the â€śrealâ€ť 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 canâ€™t take one more piece of matzah with cream cheese.
Cheese Matzah Kugel for Passover
2. Â Add cottage cheese, salt, sugar, cinnamon, and butter and mix to combine thoroughly.
3. Â Grease an 8 inch square baking dish with butter.
4. Â Arrange half of the matzah so that it covers the bottom of the dish.
5. Â Pour half of the cheese mixture over it. Repeat with balance of the matzah and cheese mixture.Â If you wish, sprinkle additional cinnamon and sugar over the top of the kugel.
6. Â Bake at 350Â°F for 40 minutes or until set.
Hamentaschen or â€śHamanâ€™s Pocketsâ€ť are the traditional dessert of Ashkenazi Jews on the holiday of Purim. Originally containing poppy seed filling in medieval Germany, it later became popular to fill the Hamentashen with prune filling. This tradition was started in 1731 toÂ honor a Jewish prune jam merchant named David Brandeis. David was acquitted after being charged erroneously with trying to poison the magistrate of Jungbunzlau in northeastern Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic). To celebrate his acquittal the people in his community filled Hamantashen with his plum jam and called it Poivadl (plum/prune) Purim. Today Hamentaschen are filled with many different flavors of fruit jams, nuts and even chocolate.
It is difficult for people suffering from Celiac Disease and others whose bodies are sensitive to gluten to participate in many food customs when one’s diet is restricted in this way. CreatingÂ recipes that allow people on restricted diets to participate fully in the enjoyment of Jewish culinary traditions is a very important goal of mine. The following two recipes can be made dairy free as well as Â gluten-free if you so choose and it is delicious either way. Choose either to make chocolate cookie dough or traditional sugar cookie dough, both with delicious chocolate filling. Enjoy!