Dairy Matzah Kugel for Passover

  

Matzah Kugel served with gefilte fish and side salad

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

(Serves 9)

Kugel ingredientsIngredients:

  • 6 sheets matzah, broken into large pieces
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 pound cottage cheese
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter, plus additional butter to grease the pan

 

Directions:

Matzah layered in the baking dish1.  Preheat oven to 350°F. In a mixing bowl, beat together the eggs and milk.

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.

The matzah kugel when it's done baking

Gluten-Free Chocolate Hamentaschen

  

baked chocolate hamentaschen

Chocolate-chocolate hamentaschenHamentaschen or “Haman’s Pockets” 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 to 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. Creating 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  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!

Chocolate Filling

For your chocolate filling, you can either follow the instructions below, or use Nutella or Israeli chocolate spread Hashachar H’aole.

Ingredients:

  • ¾ stick of unsalted butter
  • 3 oz. chocolate chips + 1 oz. unsweetened chocolate OR 3.5 oz. bar of 78% cacao
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp. almond extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon rice flour

 

Directions:

1.  Place butter and chocolate in a 1 ½ 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.  Whisk the sugar, extracts and salt into the chocolate mixture. Combine well to dissolve some of the sugar.

3.  Add eggs one at a time, whisking well after each addition.

4.  Add the rice flour and whisk until a smooth, shiny mass is formed and pulls away from the side of the bowl.

5.  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 don’t over heat or it will burn. One tablespoon rice flour is equivalent to two tablespoons flour if gluten is not a concern and you don’t have rice flour at home.

 

Gluten-Free Chocolate Hamentaschen

Makes about 2 dozen hamentaschen

gluten-free hamentaschen ingredientsIngredients*:

  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • ½ tsp. pure almond extract
  • 2 cups Gluten-free flour (Bob’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
  • ½ tsp. xanthan powder
  • confectioner’s sugar
  • filling of your choice

 

chocolate doughFor chocolate cookie dough, do not use almond extract, but instead use 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract. Instead of 2 cups flour, use 1 3/4 cup Gluten-free flour and 1/4 cup Dutch processed cocoa.

 

 

 

 

mixing dough for hamentaschenDirections:

1.  Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

2.  Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until thoroughly combined.

3.  Add the eggs, vanilla and almond extracts, and beat until lighter in color and fluffy.

4.  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.

 

 

 

kneaded dough5.  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.  Place dough between two sheets of parchment paper or waxed paper that have been lightly dusted with confectioner’s sugar. Roll the dough out to about ¼ 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 confectioner’s sugar. Carefully remove the paper on top and, if necessary dust with additional confectioner’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.)

roll out your hamentaschen

cut your dough

7.  Cut the dough into 2 ½ inch circles using the mouth of a glass. Place 1 scant teaspoon of filling in the center of each circle. 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! Pinch the dough together so that the filling is exposed only at the top of the cookie.

shape your hamentaschen

8.  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!

ready to bake hamentaschen

 

chocolate gluten free hamentaschen

Sweet Potato Pumpkin Cazuela for Sukkot

  

SweetPotatoCazuelaSukkot 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 bringing 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, including 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 marshmallows—this is not a dessert, but could be served with any number of other dishes.

Sweet Potato Pumpkin Cazuela

Cazuela ingredientsIngredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter or coconut oil
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. all purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 5.6 ounce can unsweetened coconut milk (about 2/3 cup)
  • 2 eggs
  • 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

 

Directions:

1.  Place the butter or coconut oil in a 2-quart Pyrex bowl and microwave for 45 seconds.

2.  Whisk the sugars, flour and salt into the butter to combine.

3.  Whisk the coconut milk into the mixture until thoroughly blended. Add the eggs and combine.

4.  Add the pumpkin puree and the mashed yams and whisk until a smooth batter is formed.

Spices and pumpkin puree

Pumpkin cazuela5.  Combine the water with the spices in a small glass cup and microwave for 3 ½ 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.  Butter a 2-quart casserole and pour the mixture into the prepared dish.

8.  Bake covered in a pre-heated 350°F oven for 1 hour. Serve hot out of the oven or reheated warm or hot.

Happy Sukkot!

Tidbits:

Sugar pie pumpkins are about 1 ½ 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.

Easy Shabbat Ginger Sesame Roast Chicken

  

Plated chicken and bok choy

When I say “Shabbat Dinner” 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 I’m named for, was known to say “if you can read you can cook” and while I think there’s a bit more nuance involved than that, I do think it’s true—if you can read a recipe you can create a meal. However, we’re told not to “put stumbling blocks before the blind” so those recipes shouldn’t be chock full of unfamiliar, complicated terms and ingredients. If you’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 Garten’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 doesn’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 you’re ready to kick it up a notch, my Ginger Sesame Roast Chicken might become your new go-to Shabbat meal. And if you’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 “secret” to a perfect roast chicken is this: Always buy a kosher chicken. Even if you don’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, they’re harder to ruin (ask my husband!) and even if you cook it a bit too long, it won’t be dry. My second “secret” 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.

I love to serve this with my Baked Sweet Potato Latkes that I featured last month and simple sautéed Bok Choy.

One last hint: If you’re making a roast chicken, why not make two? It takes the same amount of prep and time, and then you’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

Preparation tips:

Chopped ingredients

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 “mis en place” 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 don’t have to do this as you go and you’ll never get to the middle of a recipe and realize that you’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 you’re cooking poultry and you’re concerned about cross-contamination. If everything is premeasured and chopped, you won’t need to worry. You’re going to be rinsing the chicken so make sure that your sink is empty and clean. Invest in an oven thermometer. Most ovens don’t read true, and this is an invaluable tool. But make sure not to run “self clean” on the oven with it in there—you won’t make that mistake twice…

Ingredients

Ingredients

  • 3-4 lb. whole kosher chicken
  • 2 Tbsp olive Oil
  • 1 tsp sesame Oil
  • 1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 12 slices (roughly ¼ in.) of ginger
  • 5 garlic cloves total, 1 minced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 onion cut in half
  • 1 quartered lime
  • 1 thinly sliced jalapeño

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 425°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.
Combined ingredients(This is important, because if there is still water on the skin, the chicken won’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.

Stuffed chicken

6. Stuff chicken with remaining ginger, garlic, onion, half of lime and jalapeño
(Don’t worry about peeling any of this, as it’s not going to be eaten.)

Prepped chicken

7. Roast breast-side-up on cooling rack set into cookie sheet with sides for 1 hour 15 minutes. Half way through add ½ 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 don’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

Chicken resting9. 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.

 

 

 

Bon appetit! Let me know how it goes.

Finished chicken