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I like to call Shavuot the â€śNo meat? No problem!â€ť holiday. When brainstorming a recipe for this post, I learned a lot about the history of this holiday, particularly why we focus on dairy dishes instead of meat. Or, more to the point: Whatâ€™s with all the blintzes?
What I learned is that Jews are resourceful when theyâ€™re hungry. So when we were given the Torah on that fateful Shabbat atop Mount Sinai and instructed to start eating kosher, we didnâ€™t wait until we were allowed to â€śkasherâ€ť our meat and cooking utensils. Instead, we decided to make our first kosher meal a dairy one, using the milk weâ€™d set aside for the animals.
Iâ€™m always looking for more opportunities to eat dairy desserts like cheesecake and ice cream, and acknowledging the origin of our religionâ€™s dietary laws is as good a reason as any. Key lime bars are one of my favorite dairy desserts because of their bracing, bright flavor and smooth filling, layered to make a tidy, portable cheesecake. These little squares are so good youâ€™ll want to shout it from the rooftopâ€”or mountaintop, as the case may be.
Key Lime Bars
Makes about 16
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp.Â finely ground graham crackers
5 Tbsp.Â butter, melted
â…“ cup sugar
Â˝ tsp. salt
2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 Tbsp.Â grated lime zest
Pinch table salt
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 egg yolk
Â˝ cup fresh lime juice
1. FOR THE CRUST: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper and spray generously with cooking spray.
2. Combine graham crackers, butter, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Combine until graham cracker crumbs are evenly moistened. Transfer to prepared baking pan and press firmly into bottom of pan. Bake until deeper in color and dry, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and let cool completely.
3. FOR THE FILLING: In large bowl, combine cream cheese, zest, condensed milk, and yolk. Whisk vigorously until smooth. Add lime juice and stir until well combined.
4. Pour filling into crust and use spatula to spread into even layer that reaches to corners of pan. Bake until filling is just set, rotating pan halfway through, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature on wire rack, then cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate at least 4 hours.
Mari Levine is a freelance food writer and an editor for Americaâ€™s Test Kitchen, where she combines her journalism and culinary degrees from Brandeis University and Johnson & Wales, respectively, with her restaurant and lifelong eating experience. When sheâ€™s not working hoisin sauce into everything she eats or binging on anything sandwiched between two slices of bread, she can be found on her bike, engrossed in a documentary, or playing sports that involve throwing and/or catching a ball (the latest: flag football).
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
6 sheets matzah, broken into large pieces
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 pound cottage cheese
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons melted butter, plus additional butter to grease the pan
1. Â Preheat oven to 350Â°F.Â In a mixing bowl, beat together the eggs and milk.
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.
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!
For your chocolate filling, you can either follow the instructions below, or use Nutella or Israeli chocolate spread Hashachar H’aole.
Âľ stick of unsalted butter
3 oz. chocolate chips + 1 oz. unsweetened chocolate OR 3.5 oz. bar of 78% cacao
Âľ cup granulated sugar
1 Â˝ tsp. vanilla extract
Â˝ tsp. almond extract
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon rice flour
1. Â Place butter and chocolate in a 1 Â˝ quart glass mixing bowl and microwave on 80 percent power for 45 seconds; if butter is not completely melted then heat on high for 15 more seconds. Stir contents of bowl until smooth.
2. Â Whisk the sugar, extracts and salt into the chocolate mixture. Combine well to dissolve some of the sugar.
3. Â Add eggs one at a time, whisking well after each addition.
4. Â Add the rice flour and whisk until a smooth, shiny mass is formed and pulls away from the side of the bowl.
5. Â Place mixture in a sealed container and refrigerate until needed. Filling will become firm but not too firm to scoop into little mounds for filling Hamentaschen.
Note: Chocolate often retains it shape when melted, so donâ€™t over heat or it will burn. OneÂ tablespoon rice flour is equivalent to two tablespoons flour if gluten is not a concern and you donâ€™t have rice flour at home.
Gluten-Free Chocolate Hamentaschen
Makes about 2 dozen hamentaschen
2 tsp. vanilla
Â˝ tsp. pure almond extract
2 cups Gluten-free flour (Bobâ€™s Red Mill 1-to-1 to regular flour)
1 stick unsalted butter, Crisco or coconut oil
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
Â˝ tsp. xanthan powder
filling of your choice
*Â For chocolate cookie dough, do not use almond extract, but instead useÂ 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract. Instead of 2 cups flour, useÂ 1 3/4 cupÂ Gluten-free flour andÂ 1/4 cup Dutch processed cocoa.
1. Â Pre-heat oven to 350Â°F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2. Â Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until thoroughly combined.
3. Â Add the eggs, vanilla and almond extracts, and beat until lighter in color and fluffy.
4. Â Combine the 2 cups flour, baking powder, salt and xanthan in a 1 quart bowl. Add to mixer bowl and mix on medium speed just until the dough starts to hold together.
5. Â Very gently knead the dough on a surface lightly floured with additional flour about ten strokes or until the dough is smooth and holds together. Cover with plastic wrap, flatten into a disc and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
6. Â Place dough between two sheets of parchment paper or waxed paper that have been lightly dusted with confectionerâ€™s sugar. Roll the dough out to about ÂĽ inch thickness.
Carefully remove one sheet of paper (you might have to scrape some of the dough off if it sticks) and then place dough side down on a board that is heavily covered with confectionerâ€™s sugar.Â Carefully remove the paper on top and, if necessary dust with additional confectionerâ€™s sugar and lightly roll to make the surface uniform in thickness. (NOTE: This is only necessary if dough was very sticky and pulled apart when removing paper.)
7. Â Cut the dough into 2 Â˝ inch circles using the mouth of a glass.Â Place 1 scant teaspoon of filling in the center of each circle.Â Using your thumbs and forefingers shape the hamentaschen. Imagine the circle is a clock; place your two thumbs at 6 o’clock and your forefingers at 2 and 10. Gently bring your fingers together and you will have formed a perfect hamantashen triangle!Â Pinch the dough together so that the filling is exposed only at the top of the cookie.
8. Â Bake hamentaschen in the pre-heated oven for 10 minutes or until golden. Can be stored in a plastic bag or airtight container when cool or freeze for later use. Share with friends! Happy Purim!
Sukkot is synonymous with fall fruits and vegetables which are often used to decorate the sukkah. No specific foods are required but using the abundance of our local harvest replicates the Israelites bringingÂ some of the bounty of their harvest to the Temple in Jerusalem. Making the long trek to the city, the travelers dwelled in temporary huts, or sukkahs, at the base of the Jerusalem hills.
It is customary to sleep and eat in the sukkah for eight days. In many climates this is not advisable, but eating in the temporary hut that has a lattice roof through which to view the stars was mandated in the Talmud on this holiday. Mandate aside, it is customary to invite friends and family to partake of a meal in your own sukkah (or to visit friends who have built one).
Dishes that are easily transported from your kitchen to the table outside are preferred and, of course, includingÂ nature’s fall produce is a must. Here is a side dish that can be made dairy with butter or parve (no milk or meat products) if anyone in your sukkah keeps kosher. It is Caribbean in origin, an area of the world where many Jews settled 400 years ago. You can, of course, bake your own sweet potatoes and small pie pumpkin to mash for this sweet potato pumpkin cazuela, but to save time and even allow your young children to help you make this recipe I call for canned pumpkin and sweet potatoes in light or no syrup.
One word of warning: This dish is so very delicious that I would double or triple the ingredients if you are making it for more than four people. And don’t forget Thanksgiving. But, please, hold the marshmallowsâ€”this is not a dessert, but could be served with any number of other dishes.
Sweet Potato Pumpkin Cazuela
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter or coconut oil
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
2 Tbsp. all purpose flour
Â˝ tsp. salt
5.6 ounce can unsweetened coconut milk (about 2/3 cup)
1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree (NOT pie filling)
1 29-ounce can of yams in light syrup, drained and mashed
1/4 cup water
1/8 tsp. ground ginger
2-inch stick of cinnamon broken into pieces
1/4 tsp. fennel seeds
3 whole cloves
1. Â Place the butter or coconut oil in a 2-quart Pyrex bowl and microwave for 45 seconds.
2. Â Whisk the sugars, flour and salt into the butter to combine.
3. Â Whisk the coconut milk into the mixture until thoroughly blended. Add the eggs and combine.
4. Â Add the pumpkin puree and the mashed yams and whisk until a smooth batter is formed.
5. Â Combine the water with the spices in a small glass cup and microwave for 3 Â˝ minutes. Let the spices steep for 5 minutes. Strain the spiced water through a fine mesh strainer into the pumpkin-potato mixture and stir to incorporate.
7. Â Butter a 2-quart casserole and pour the mixture into the prepared dish.
8. Â Bake covered in a pre-heated 350Â°F oven for 1 hour. Serve hot out of the oven or reheated warm or hot.
Sugar pie pumpkins are about 1 Â˝ pounds and very rounded. Always use them when a recipe calls for cooked pumpkin. Larger pumpkins are more watery.
Coconut milk is not milk or dairy. It is the liquid formed from ground, fresh, hydrated coconut.
When I say â€śShabbat Dinnerâ€ť what comes to mind? For me, it always connotes roast chicken. While roasting a whole chicken can seem complicated and time consuming, I promise you’ll find that it’s not, and there are easy ways to upgrade Grandma’s recipe for today’s taste buds. My grandmother Sylvia, who Iâ€™m named for, was known to say â€śif you can read you can cookâ€ť and while I think thereâ€™s a bit more nuance involved than that, I do think itâ€™s trueâ€”if you can read a recipe you can create a meal. However, weâ€™re told not to â€śput stumbling blocks before the blindâ€ť so those recipes shouldnâ€™t be chock full of unfamiliar, complicated terms and ingredients. If youâ€™re a beginner cook, a roast chicken dinner is actually a great way to hone your skills, become more comfortable in your kitchen and really impress your friends and family.
For the gold standard of the simple roast chicken, I always turn to Ina Gartenâ€™s fool proof recipe. While her recipe calls for butter, if you keep kosher or are cooking for those who do, you can certainly substitute olive oil. This recipe doesnâ€™t require any fancy appliances or accessories, and I can tell you from experience that if you skip the step of tying up the legs, the chicken will be no worse for the wear.
But if youâ€™re ready to kick it up a notch, my Ginger Sesame Roast Chicken might become your new go-to Shabbat meal. And if youâ€™re planning to celebrate the Chinese New Year in February, this recipe is a great way to meld these two cultural traditions through traditional flavors.
My first â€śsecretâ€ť to a perfect roast chicken is this: Always buy a kosher chicken. Even if you donâ€™t keep kosher. Even if you plan to wrap it in bacon or stuff it with lobster. I promise, it will taste better. Kosher chickens are salted before packaging, and therefore retain moisture better than traditional chickens. Because of this, theyâ€™re harder to ruin (ask my husband!) and even if you cook it a bit too long, it wonâ€™t be dry. My second â€śsecretâ€ť is: Cook the chicken at a high heat. The skin crisps up which is a great contrasting texture to the meat and the flavor is deeper.
One last hint: If youâ€™re making a roast chicken, why not make two? It takes the same amount of prep and time, and then youâ€™ll have chicken ready to be used in everything from quesadillas, casserole, chicken salad, tortilla soup, chili and more!
Ginger Sesame Roast Chicken
Makes 4 servings
I love these little plastic cups. They keep everything organized and are also great for bringing salad dressing to work.
Being prepared makes cooking SO much easier. The French call pre-cooking organization â€śmis en placeâ€ť and I find it makes everything run more smoothly in the kitchen. Get together all of your ingredients, tools and appliances before you even turn on the oven and then carefully read through the recipe to prep whatever it needs, measure ingredients, chop veggies, spray pans, etc., then you donâ€™t have to do this as you go and youâ€™ll never get to the middle of a recipe and realize that youâ€™ve forgotten something. Work close to a sink so that you can dump scraps and used plates, etc. directly into it as you work.
This type of preparation is especially helpful when youâ€™re cooking poultry and youâ€™re concerned about cross-contamination. If everything is premeasured and chopped, you wonâ€™t need to worry. Youâ€™re going to be rinsing the chicken so make sure that your sink is empty and clean. Invest in an oven thermometer. Most ovens donâ€™t read true, and this is an invaluable tool. But make sure not to run â€śself cleanâ€ť on the oven with it in thereâ€”you wonâ€™t make that mistake twice…
3-4 lb. whole kosher chicken
2 Tbsp olive Oil
1 tsp sesame Oil
1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
12 slices (roughly ÂĽ in.) of ginger
5 garlic cloves total, 1 minced
Salt and pepper
1/2 onion cut in half
1 quartered lime
1 thinly sliced jalapeĂ±o
1. Preheat oven to 425Â°F
2. Line a pan generously with paper towels. Rinse chicken, remove anything inside, transfer directly to the pan and pat dry with more paper towels.
(This is important, because if there is still water on the skin, the chicken wonâ€™t crisp up as well.)
3. Combine olive oil, sesame oil, grated ginger and minced garlic
(Use a microplane for both the garlic and ginger, or you can throw them both in a small food processor.)
4. Spread half of mixture under skin of chicken, other half on top of skin of chicken.
(To get under the skin, use the back of a spoon to separate the skin from the meat, and then the other side of the spoon to spread the ingredients.)
5. Salt and pepper well, including cavity.
6. Stuff chicken with remaining ginger, garlic, onion, half of lime and jalapeĂ±o
(Donâ€™t worry about peeling any of this, as itâ€™s not going to be eaten.)
7. Roast breast-side-up on cooling rack set into cookie sheet with sides for 1 hour 15 minutes. Half way through add Â˝ cup of water to the pan.
(You can use a roasting pan but the important thing is to keep the chicken from touching the bottom of the pan. If you donâ€™t have a rack or cookie sheet, just place the chicken on top of a few thickly slice circles of onions.)
8. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes
9. Slice the chicken and squeeze juice of the other half of the lime over the chicken. You can also try sprinkling fresh cilantro on top, for a delicious garnish.