Kabocha (Japanese Pumpkin) Challah

  

Besides the occasional pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, I didn’t grow up eating a lot of pumpkin-flavored dishes. Instead, the women in my Japanese-American family made stewed kabocha (also called Japanese pumpkin) at this time of year. Whenever I see kabocha at the store, it takes me back to the delicious aroma of sweet kabocha stewed with soy sauce.

When I got to college and started cooking for myself, I tried my hand at the pumpkin soups, pies and baked goods I’d see in magazines at this time of year. Each time, I felt disappointed by the relatively mellow and mild flavor. Even the shade of orange was mellow and mild.

This year, I decided to make a kabocha challah for fall Shabbat dinners. The color is beautifully vibrant and the flavor has more depth and is more complex (savory and sweet at the same time!) than that of its sugar pumpkin cousin. You’ll have extra puréed kabocha left over that you can use to make this kabocha soup, which would be perfect on a Thanksgiving table.

Kabocha (Japanese Pumpkin) Challah

Makes: 2 large challahs
Total Cooking time: 5 hours
Active Cooking time: 1.5 hours

Tools:

  • Kitchen Aid mixer with whisk and dough hook attachments*
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Food processor or immersion blender
  • Candy thermometer
  • Plastic wrap
  • Pastry scraper
  • Cookie sheet
  • Parchment paper
  • Small bowl
  • Small whisk
  • Pastry brush

*can be made without Kitchen Aid mixer

Ingredients:

  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/3 cup white cane sugar
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 6 egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg
  • 2 cups kabocha squash purĂ©e
  • 8 cups bread flour

 

Egg wash:

  • 2 egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp. water

 

Toppings:

  • 3 Tbsp. everything-bagel mix
  • 3 Tbsp. white sesame seeds
  • 3 Tbsp. black sesame seeds

 

 

Instructions:

Cut kabocha1. Take 9 eggs out of the refrigerator.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, pour a half cup of the warm water.

4. Using a candy thermometer, check to make sure it is about 110°F. Pour in the two packets of dry yeast and one Tbsp. of sugar (from the 1/3 cup) into the bowl. Stir gently to dissolve everything into the water. Set the bowl aside for 15 minutes.

 

5. Your yeast mixture should look foamy at the end of the 15 minutes. If it does not, you need to get new yeast and start over or your challah will not rise. Better to find out now, rather than later!

6. Now that your yeast is activated, add the remaining lukewarm water to the bowl, then the remainder of the sugar, egg, egg yolks, honey, oil, salt and spices. Whisk on medium speed.

7. Once everything is evenly incorporated, add your kabocha purée and keep whisking.

8. Once the mixture is smooth, thick and bright orange, change out your whisk for a dough hook.

9. Add each cup of flour slowly on low speed. With a rubber spatula, scrape the bottom and sides down with each addition. When you’re on the seventh or eighth cup, the dough will become too thick for your mixer. At this point, you can start to knead with your hands. When you’re done, the dough should be smooth and stretchy but not super sticky. If you need to, add a bit more flour until you reach this consistency.

10. Oil the entire inside of a large mixing bowl with vegetable oil. Place dough in this bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. I like to put my dough in my oven (but not turn it on).

11. After one hour, punch the dough back down to remove the air and let it rise again for another hour.

12. Once it’s risen again for a second hour, punch the dough down again and knead it into a smooth ball on a floured countertop. Cut the ball in half with a pastry scraper.

13. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Beat the egg yolks and water in a small bowl with a small whisk.

14. Now it’s time for braiding! There are many different ways to braid challah, and I prefer the look of the four-strand braid because it’s simple but still looks impressive! I like to use Tori Avey’s Four-Strand Braided Challah tutorial.

15. Preheat your oven to 375°F. Using a pastry brush, generously apply egg wash to each of your challahs. Generously sprinkle them with everything bagel mix, and black and white sesame seeds in sections (see photo). Alternatively, you can also just season them generously with everything bagel mix and let them rise for 30 more minutes.

16. Bake challah for 40 minutes, but set your timer for 30 minutes. At this point, check on your challah to see if it needs to be rotated. If it’s browning quite quickly, you may need to cover it with foil for the remainder of the cooking time.

Shabbat Shalom!

kabocha japanese pumpkin challah

Pecan Pie Babka

  

Indian pudding pecan babka

A babka is like challah dressed up for a black-tie event.  It is rich and glamorous with swirled layers of filling and a syrup-enhanced shine. This Jewish dessert is so decadent that it often only comes out for special occasions. Babka is commonly made with chocolate, cinnamon, fruit or nuts and sometimes a sweet cheese. This babka is filled with the flavors and gooey-ness of pecan pie just in time to start dreaming about your Thanksgiving spread. The dough itself infuses this recipe with the flavors of early Native American cooking from cornmeal and a molasses and maple syrup glaze.

In Britain, pudding is the word for dessert. A quick and easy dessert that the English brought with them to America was a hasty pudding, which is a sweetened porridge cooked down and thickened until it can hold its shape. Once in America, the Native Americans taught the English how to plant local crops and the hasty pudding became Indian Pudding sweetened with molasses and maple syrup and thickened with a coarsely ground flint corn instead of flour. Indian pudding is fairly well known in New England whereas the sweet Southern pecan pie is on just about every Thanksgiving table near and far. Indian pudding is our little New England secret. This culinary mash up takes three cultural staples that are all delicious in their own right and creates a delicate, sweet babka that can be enjoyed with ice cream for dessert or with a cup of coffee for breakfast.

When I first decided to try a babka with a nod to the heritage of this country and the annual Thanksgiving feast, I was a little nervous that it would be a complicated bread to make.  It turns out that the actual forming of the babka is quite simple. I also found a few kitchen hacks that make it even easier. This bread smells exactly like pecan pie. As my mom likes to say, “This babka is very more-ish.” (Which means you always need just one more piece.)

Finished babkas

Indian Pudding Babka with a Pecan Pie Swirl
Makes: 2 loaves
Allow dough to rise overnight in fridge.

Dough Ingredients:

If you have a scale, weight measurements are great for any baking but I have included cups as well. Using a stand mixer makes this much easier. My mixer is very old and has a very sturdy whisk attachment. I would recommend a dough hook or paddle if you are using a modern mixer.

  • 3 eggs, ideally at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup of unsalted butter, at room temperature or softened slightly in the microwave
  • 4 cups of all purpose flour (480 grams)
  • 1/4 cup of finely ground cornmeal (50 grams) & an additional 1/2 cup of finely ground cornmeal for rolling out the dough
  • 1/2 cup of granulated sugar (100 grams)
  • 1 packet of instant yeast
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 tsp. of fine sea salt (not kosher salt. Sea salt has a stronger salt flavor.)
  • spray oil or use vegetable oil to grease pans

 

Pecan Pie Filling Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of pecan halves (chop the pecans very finely. Toasting them first will help bring out the flavor for the pecan pie filling.)
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. molasses
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

 

Indian Pudding Syrup Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 3 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 3 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. molasses

 

How to make the dough

1. In a stand mixer bowl add all purpose flour, finely ground cornmeal, granulated sugar, sea salt, and packet of instant yeast. Using a whisk, mix all the ingredients together. Then, put on the dough hook or paddle attachment to continue making the dough.

2. Add in the eggs and water. Let the mixture come together on low, slowly. The water should bring the dough together. If the dough is not coming together at all, add 1 Tbsp. of water at a time until the dough starts to form. With the mixer back on low, add in the butter and mix until you have a uniform dough.

3. Knead with the dough hook or paddle for 10 minutes. Make sure your paddle can handle the weight of the dough. If not, take the bowl off the mixer and knead by hand. The dough will be quite heavy and sticky. Put the dough into a greased bowl and turn it over once. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

How to make the pecan pie filling

Rolling your babka

A thin layer of filling is all you need. Leave extra room on the far end for the filling that gets pushed up as you roll.

1. In a large dry pan, over medium-low heat, toast the pecans. They should be in a single layer and stirred frequently so they do not burn.

2. Put the toasted pecans on a cutting board and chop them finely. You should have about 1-1 1/2 cups of finely chopped pecans.

3. In a small saucepan add the maple syrup, corn syrup, brown sugar, and molasses. Cook over medium heat until the brown sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and stir in butter and vanilla. Pour entire mixture into a bowl to cool.

4. Separate the eggs into two bowls. The yolks should go in a small bowl and the whites in a large bowl.

5. Once the sugar mixture has cooled to room temperature or slightly warmer, add in the two egg yolks, whisking quickly. Then, pour in the finely chopped pecans. Stir the mixture together and refrigerate to chill. If you are on day one, then this mixture can chill overnight until you are ready to make the babka on day two.

6. If you are on day two and the dough has risen, you can beat the two egg whites until stiff, but not dry.

7. Fold the egg whites into the chilled nut and sugar mixture.

How to make the babka:

Cut the babka dough

Cutting the dough with scissors makes it much easier than using a knife. Turn the cut side up as you go so that the filling stays in.

How to twist the babka

Keeping the cut side up, carefully place on side on top of the other.

How to make babka

Keeping the cut side up you continue to put one side over the other a few times.

1. Grease two 9″ x 4″ loaf pans with vegetable oil spray or with some oil on a paper towel. Cut parchment so that one piece will cover the bottom and two sides lengthwise. Put a half sheet pan or a toaster oven pan into your freezer.

2. On day two, take your babka dough out of the fridge and cut it in two. Place one of the halves back into the fridge until ready to use.

3. I like to splash a little water on my counter and then lay down some parchment paper on top so it sticks to the counter. Then, sprinkle the parchment with 1/4 cup of finely ground cornmeal. The cornmeal on top of the parchment makes the dough easy to roll out and adds a little texture and flavor to the layers of the bread. Roll the dough 12 inches wide and then as long as you can while keeping the dough not too much thinner than a 1/4 inch. Get a small dish of water and a brush.

4. If you have not done so yet, beat and fold the two egg whites into the pecan pie mixture. Spread half of the mixture on the dough leaving a 1/2 -inch seam on three sides of the dough and a 2-inch seam at the far end. You want a thin layer of the pecan pie mixture.

5. You will now make a 12-inch roll with the dough. Carefully roll the dough from the short end (12 inches wide) with a 1/2-inch seam toward the 2-inch seam. You can also use the parchment to help you with this. Brush water along the seam and pinch the dough together at the seam. It need not seal completely.

6. Freeze the rolled dough for 20-30 minutes. Repeat with the other 1/2 of the babka dough. While the dough is freezing, clean up your work surface, find a pair of kitchen scissors and lay down a new sheet of parchment.

7. Take the babka dough out of the fridge one at a time. Cut the babka dough in half horizontally, carefully turning up the cut sides so that the pecan pie mixture stays inside.Then, overlap both halves, with the cut side always facing up and repeat the overlap at least three or four times. You can gently stretch the dough as you go.

8. Place the dough into the loaf pan, making an ‘S’ shape to fit it all in. If the dough is shorter and doesn’t quite make an ‘S’ that is fine. Repeat with the other part of the dough. Cover both loaf pans with a clean kitchen towel and allow to rise for 90 minutes.

9. Preheat your oven to 375℉. Bake for 30-40 minutes, check after 30 minutes to see if the babka is golden brown. A skewer in the babka should come out clean and should not have any resistance.

10. While the babka is baking, make the Indian Pudding Syrup. Place the water, maple syrup, brown sugar and molasses into a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cook until the sugar has dissolved. Set aside to cool.

When the babka comes out of the oven, brush each loaf with the syrup. The babka can handle a lot of syrup so continue brushing several layers until glossy. Allow the babka to cool in the pan for about 15 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack.

Your Indian Pudding Babka with Pecan Pie Swirl can be served with a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream. It can also be served for breakfast and is delicious with a cup of coffee. The hard part is waiting for the babka to cool before cutting into it!

Perfectly baked babka

Roasted Tomato Soup with Ricotta Matzo Balls

  

Ricotta matzo ball soup

It’s been a while since I had fun with a food-culture mash-up and this roasted tomato soup with ricotta matzo balls is probably one of my favorites to date.

I come from a multi-cultural family, as you’ll see over at my blog, The Little Ferraro Kitchen. I love sharing and learning about different cultures through their food, recipes and traditions. I love it so much that I even married an Italian guy from Southern California` to keep things even more exciting. So needless to say, we have an exciting multi-cultural spread of sorts.

My husband Joe and I adopted this fairly new tradition of eating Sunday supper, Italian style. We play Goodfellas in the background and I usually wince at him as I see him slice the paper-thin garlic as they do in the movie. But we create an entire dinner experience and it’s our favorite time of the week.

As the cooler season approaches, matzo ball soup is always on order. But this time, I wanted to combine our heritages and our cultures into one deliciously comforting bowl of matzo ball soup. Tomatoes, peppers and carrots are all roasted together so they get soft, caramelized and sweet. After a quick blend together, stock is added to make a truly simple tomato soup.

But the cheesy matzo balls are the BEST part. I mean honestly…cheese anything is the best part! And even though I will never turn down a simple classic, this Italian mash-up version gets me all kinds of excited. The ricotta makes the matzo balls light and pillowy and the freshly grated Parmesan gives them a wonderful savory flavor.

Roasted Tomato Soup with Ricotta Matzo Balls
Yields 2-4 servings

Matzo ball soup with ricottaTomato Soup Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. vine or roma tomatoes cut in half
  • 2 red bell peppers (you can also use roasted jarred peppers)
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and stems cut
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • Olive oil
  • 2-4 cups vegetable stock

 

Ricotta Matzo Ball Ingredients:

  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 cup matzo meal
  • ÂĽ cup ricotta cheese
  • ÂĽ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • Fresh parsley leaves, chopped
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ÂĽ tsp. salt
  • Ground pepper

 

Garnish:

  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, for Parmesan chips
  • Fresh basil
  • Olive oil

 

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 400° Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with foil. Add tomatoes, peppers, carrots and garlic and toss with salt and olive oil. Roast vegetables until soft and tender, for about 30 minutes. Once done, remove from oven and allow cooling enough to handle. Then remove seeds from pepper and any charred thick skin and discard.

2. Once vegetables are cool enough, add everything to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. You may want to add a bit of the stock to help thin it out, then transfer to a small pot with the rest of the stock and bring to a simmer. Taste for seasoning and adjust.

3. For the matzo balls, whisk all the ingredients together until well combined and form into medium sized balls. Add to boiling water and cook until matzo balls float to the top, about 30 minutes.

4. To make the parmesan chip, leave oven at 400° Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with parchment or a silpat. Place a heaping tablespoon or two of grated Parmesan cheese and lightly press down so it’s in a circle and replicate with remaining cheese. Bake for about five minutes until the cheese melts and edges are slightly crispy. Once done, remove from oven and allow to cool before removing.

5. Assemble soup by adding matzo balls to roasted tomato soup and garnish each bowl with a Parmesan chip, fresh basil and a good drizzle of olive oil. Buon appetite!

Sweet Wine Slushies

  

sweet wine slushie

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!

Ingredients:

1 cup sweet kosher wine

1 1/2 cups pear nectar

2-inch piece of ginger

1 lime, zested

1 Tbsp. sugar

Directions:

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.

Easy Cherry Curry Chicken Salad

  

Summers are hot, days are long and you want your time in the kitchen to be short. Whether you have a roasted chicken left over from Friday night Shabbat dinner or you pop into the grocery store after an afternoon at the pool and pick up a rotisserie chicken, this recipe will have you craving more. It’s also a nice way to combine the leftovers from a classic Shabbat chicken dinner with some Indian flavor. I find on hot summer days we eat less meat so making something with the leftovers is key. You can set aside some of the mixture before adding the curry powder if anyone likes a milder flavor. Enjoy on a weekend picnic or at the beach!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 roasted chicken, about two cups chopped
  • 1 cup sweet cherries, pitted
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup sliced green garlic or scallions
  • 1 Tbsp. curry powder
  • salt and pepper

 

Directions:

1. You can use whatever chicken is leftover and then adjust how much of each additional ingredient you have. You will want about two cups of chicken. I remove the skin and chop the chicken breast into cubes. I will then do the same with the wing and thigh meat.

2. If you have a cherry pitter, pit the cherries and then slice them in quarters. If not, you can just slice the cherries around the pit into quarters. I cut just to one side of the pit then pop the pit out and slice the cherry.

3. For green garlic, trim the end by the bulb and then slice the garlic thinly up to the green grassy part. For scallions, you can cut all the way up through the greens. I tend to use a little less if I am doing the green garlic as it is more potent than the scallions. Thoroughly wash the cilantro as it can be gritty. Then, chop up the leaves and stems.

4. Toss the mayonnaise with the chicken. I like to use just a thin coating of mayonnaise, but feel free to add more if you like your chicken salad creamy. Then, add in the scallions and chopped cherries. Sprinkle in a generous pinch of salt and several grinds of pepper.

5. For those who don’t like curry, you can take out a portion of the chicken salad now. With the remaining chicken salad, toss in the curry powder (adjust to 1/2 Tbsp. if you took out a lot of the chicken salad to leave plain).

6. Serve on lettuce cups, endive cups or radicchio cups if you want a light, gluten-free lunch or dinner. Serve it with bread for a hearty sandwich.

Key Lime Bars for Shavuot

  

By Mari Levine

I like to call Shavuot the “No meat? No problem!” 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: What’s with all the blintzes?

What I learned is that Jews are resourceful when they’re hungry. So when we were given the Torah on that fateful Shabbat atop Mount Sinai and instructed to start eating kosher, we didn’t wait until we were allowed to “kasher” our meat and cooking utensils. Instead, we decided to make our first kosher meal a dairy one, using the milk we’d set aside for the animals.

I’m always looking for more opportunities to eat dairy desserts like cheesecake and ice cream, and acknowledging the origin of our religion’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 you’ll want to shout it from the rooftop—or mountaintop, as the case may be.

Key Lime Bars

Makes about 16

Ingredients:

CRUST

  • 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. finely ground graham crackers
  • 5 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • â…“ cup sugar
  • ½ tsp. salt

 

FILLING

  • 2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp. grated lime zest
  • Pinch table salt
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ½ cup fresh lime juice

 

Directions:

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.

5. Remove from pan, cut into squares, and serve.

Reprinted with permission from JewishBoston.com. 

Mari Levine is a freelance food writer and an editor for America’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 she’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).

Frittata Flowers for Mother’s Day

  

On Mother’s Day we celebrate mom and/or any other women in your life who have helped to nourish and care for you. Whether it’s the Italian mom who loves Sunday Supper but your red sauce is ordered in or the Jewish woman who spends Sunday in the kitchen all day cooking and no one is allowed in to your sacred space, on Mother’s Day we want her to sit back and put her feet up for a little while. Let the kids into the kitchen with a parent, caretaker, grandparent, babysitter or friend and let them make brunch.

These Frittatas are easy to make with adult supervision (only needed for a few steps), even if it is just the woman of honor and the kids. She can sit with her feet up in the kitchen and let them take care of most of the steps while she relaxes. Try it. She’ll love it.

Mini Brunch Frittatas

Ask a grown up to help you get these ingredients for your recipe. If you have only the first six ingredients you can still make this recipe. The rest is optional.

Ingredients:

  • 1 red pepper, green pepper, orange pepper OR yellow pepper
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup of whole milk, heavy cream or non-dairy milk
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • Vegetable oil or vegetable oil spray
  • 3 Tbsp. of freshly grated Parmesan
  • 3 Tbsp. of grated cheese of your choice: Gruyere, Cheddar, Swiss, Monterey Jack, Gouda, Feta (crumbled instead of grated is OK)
  • 1 small bunch of herbs. Let the kids choose what they like the smell of: basil, parsley, thyme, chives, oregano (they can choose more than one type)
  • Baby spinach

Watch a video on how to make this recipe!

Directions:

1.  Wash your hands. Ask a grown up to turn the oven on to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

2.  Find a big bowl, a cutting board a whisk or a fork, scissors, a 2 cup glass measuring cup with a spout, and a muffin tin.

3. Put the muffin tin into a clean sink and spray each cup with cooking oil or pour a little oil into a cup and brush the inside of each muffin cup with oil on the bottom and up all the sides with a pastry brush.

4.  Tap the egg on the counter near the glass measuring cup. Then over the cup, carefully try to pull the egg apart with your thumbs near the cracked shell. Pull the shell apart and let the egg fall into the measuring cup. If any shell falls in, scoop it out with the egg shell in your hands. Then pour the egg into the big bowl. Do this for all 8 eggs. Pour the 1/2 cup of milk into the big bowl with the eggs. Mix the milk and eggs together with the whisk or fork until the whole mixture is smooth and light yellow.

5.  Grate the Parmesan cheese until you have enough to fill one regular muffin cup. Then grate the same amount of the other cheese. You can measure it right into the muffin tin but then scoop it out and set it aside on a corner of your cutting board.eggs for frittatas

6.  Add the pepper and salt to the egg mixture and stir it all up. Over the sink, pour the egg mixture into your measuring cup. Carefully pour the egg mixture halfway up each muffin cup.

7.  Wash a handful of each herb and a handful of the spinach under cold running water. Then dry the herbs and spinach on a kitchen towel. Herbs with little leaves can just be picked off the stem and put in a pile on your cutting board. The herbs with big leaves can be cut into little strips with your scissors.Cut spinachYou can use your children’s scissors instead of sharp kitchen scissors just make sure they are washed with dish soap and water first. 

8.  Sprinkle the herbs and cheese into the muffin cups on top of the egg mixture. You can leave some plain if you like or make some just with cheese or just with herbs. You make what your family likes. Then, wash the green, yellow, red or orange pepper.

Cut your peppers

…This is the grown up part.

Grown ups: Put the muffin tin in the oven and to set a timer for 10-12 minutes. Ask your little chef for the pepper. Trim the top and take out the core, then slice the pepper into rings. Take the muffin tin out when the timer goes off. The frittatas will look slightly under-cooked in the middle but are just right. If the frittatas are still wet in the middle after a minute out of the oven, put them back in for two more minutes. Using a rubber spatula remove the frittatas from the muffin tin and place them on a plate.

Kids: You get to finish this off. Put some of the rest of the spinach on a large plate or platter. Place the frittatas on top of the spinach and put a pepper ring around each frittata to make them look like flowers. Then it is time to eat and celebrate!

Tips for nervous adults:

Grate your cheese

  • For the cheese, put a fork into a wedge of cheese and the children can hold the fork to grate the cheese, keeping their fingers away from the sharp grater.
  • Put a damp paper towel or kitchen towel under the mixing bowl so it doesn’t slide around while the children are trying to whisk the eggs.
  • Use a larger than usual bowl to help kids avoid splashes over the edges as they mix.
  • Let there be a little mess and trust the kids. If you let them know how to use kitchen tools carefully they will surprise you with their skills.

Frittata flowers!

Mother's Day frittatas

Matzah Chilaquiles

  

Matzah chilaquiles
If you’ve never heard of chilaquiles, well, you’d basically be me until about three years ago. Shockingly, of all the places I’ve lived and traveled to, I hadn’t heard of this traditional Mexican dish until I moved to Los Angeles in 2014. Not surprising, I fell in love with the flavorful breakfast dish at first taste.

You will absolutely love chilaquiles if you love shakshuka. Stewed tomatoes and eggs are truly a match made in heaven. I honestly don’t understand what took me so long to adapt my favorite chilaquiles recipe for Passover. Shockingly, I’m not a fan of matzah brei (I’m also not a fan of French toast so this makes sense). Matzah chilaquiles is a welcome break from the Passover breakfast staple. My hope is that once you’ve made this recipe, you’ll be a matzah chilaquiles eater too.

Matzah Chilaquiles

Ingredients:

  • 1 28-ounce can of whole tomatoes with juice
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup cilantro and stems
  • 1 small white onion, chopped (saving about 2 Tbsp. worth for garnish)
  • 1 Tbsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 Tbsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 Tbsp. kosher salt
  • 3 Tbsp. canola oil, divided
  • 3 sheets of matzah, coarsely broken up
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • cilantro to garnish
  • lime wedges for garnish

 

Runny eggDirections:

1. Preheat oven to a low broil. Combine first eight ingredients into a food processor or
large bowl and, using an immersion blender, blend until coarsely blended.

2. Heat one tablespoon of the oil in a large, heavy nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, and add 3/4 of the tomato puree and cook, stirring, for roughly 10 minutes, until the sauce darkens and thickens. Season to taste with salt.

3. Turn the heat to low, and simmer, stirring often, for about five minutes, until the sauce coats the front and back of a spoon. Taste and adjust salt.

4. Add broken-up pieces of matzah to a large mixing bowl. Cover with the cooked tomato puree. Stir until all pieces of matzah are combined.

5. Return half of the covered matzah to the skillet. Flatten and cover with half of the shredded cheese. Top that with the rest of your covered matzah, cover with the last quarter of your tomato puree and the rest of your cheese.

6. Place the skillet of your cheesy, tomato matzah in the oven and broil until cheese is golden and melted, 4–5 minutes.

7. Meanwhile, pour the last tablespoon of oil into a nonstick skillet to lightly coat. Heat over medium heat. Add eggs and fry until whites are set but yolks are still runny, about 4 minutes.

8. Top chilaquiles with chopped onion, cilantro and lime wedges. Top with fried eggs and serve with remaining sauce alongside.

Matzah chilaquiles

 

Pre-Passover Fridge-Clean-Out Pasta

  

Skillet Pasta baked with cheeseTeam! It’s getting down to the wire! That’s right . . . Passover is right around the corner. My local kosher grocer has put up the outside tent and is changing all the labels on their shelves and covering up the non-kosher-for-Passover stuff like it’s some sort of eye sore. As the first night seder approaches, I’m already starting the process of cleaning out my cabinets of pasta and other delicious goodies that are a “no-no” during Passover.

I’m constantly in search of a quick, yet delicious dinner to serve on a busy weeknight PLUS I need to get rid of my pasta, so I decided to try my hand at a skillet pasta dish and I’m SO glad I did! The recipe below can be adapted to add anything you like—I used frozen veggies to help clean out the freezer and half boxes of pasta to help clean out my cupboard. What I love about this dish is that it offers a cheesy, delicious meal, plus it helps clean my house, so…win-win!

Fridge-Clean-Out Skillet Pasta

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups uncooked penne or corkscrew pasta
  • ​​​​​​1 cup frozen broccoli
  • 1 cup frozen sliced mushrooms
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely diced
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 jar favorite marinara sauce
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 tsp. Maldon salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper

 

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 425° F. In a medium pot of salted boiling water, add entire box pasta plus the frozen broccoli and mushrooms. Cook together until pasta is just shy of al dente, about 2 minutes less than the package cooking time. Drain, then transfer pasta and veggies to a large mixing bowl. Add 3/4 of the sauce to the pasta and veggies. Set aside.

2. Add olive oil to an ovenproof skillet and cook over medium-high heat. Once smoking, add onions and cook until translucent. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Turn off heat and add pasta to the skillet. Stir to combine pasta and veggies with the onions and garlic. Using a spatula, flatten the pasta so it lays evenly. Add the rest of the sauce to the pasta and evenly top with the cheese. Place skillet in the upper third of the oven. Cook until cheese is brown and bubbly, about 8 – 10 minutes.

Guinness Challah for St. Patty’s Day

  

By Mari Levine

challah

I know the obvious connection between Jews and St. Patrick’s Day is corned beef. But that seemed like the safe choice for this week’s post, and I was feeling adventurous. I was also feeling like drinking beer.

So when I googled “Jewish recipes for St. Patrick’s Day,” I wasn’t expecting much besides the aforementioned corned beef recipes and maybe some random tips on how to incorporate green food coloring into traditional Jewish dishes. But the luck of the Irish was with me. In the middle of my search—as if sent from a leprechaun himself—a dear friend sent me an email with the subject line, “Jewish take on St. Patty’s.” She had sent me a link to a recent post on a blog called She Makes and Bakes, in which the blogger had introduced her recipe for Guinness challah. Um, genius.

I love cooking with beer. (I’ve made this beer ice cream recipe several times and it’s always a huge hit.) But I’d never tried baking with it—and I’m not a confident baker to begin with. So for my version, I decided to use a trusted recipe as the base—Claudia Roden’s challah recipe from “The Book of Jewish Food”—and work Guinness into it as part of the liquid in which you dissolve the yeast.

This worked really nicely. The challah has no hint of booziness (I might use all beer next time instead of cutting it with water, or even reduce it to concentrate its flavors), but the Guinness certainly lends the challah a pronounced sweetness.

And if you’re worried about people missing the St. Patrick’s Day connection to challah, there’s always green food coloring.

Guinness Challah

Inspired by She Makes and Bakes and Claudia Roden’s challah recipe in “The Book of Jewish Food”

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. active dry yeast
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1ÂĽ cups lukewarm water
  • 1ÂĽ cups Guinness
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp. salt
  • 9ÂĽ cups flour
  • Poppy or sesame seeds (optional)

 

Directions:

1. In medium bowl, stir together water and Guinness. Dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon of sugar in water-beer mixture and set aside until foamy, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, grease a large bowl and two baking sheets with cooking spray and set aside.

2. Using a kitchen spoon or stand mixer, beat 4 of the eggs in another large bowl, then beat in salt, remaining sugar, and ½ cup oil. Add yeast mixture and beat until well combined. Gradually add flour, mixing until dough is stiff.

3. Using dough hook or your hands, knead dough until smooth, about 15 minutes. Shape dough into a ball and transfer to prepared bowl. Cover with a damp kitchen towel or plastic wrap and set aside, in a warm spot, to let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1½ hours.

4. Turn dough out onto a very lightly floured surface, divide into 12 equal pieces, and shape each into a ball. Set dough balls aside about 2 inches apart, cover with a damp kitchen towel or plastic wrap, and let rise for 10 minutes. Then roll dough balls into 12-inch long ropes.

5. To make the six-strand braided loaves, line up six of the ropes lengthwise on each large baking sheet, or, to make the three-strand braided loaves, line up three of the ropes lengthwise on each medium baking sheet. Position baking sheets perpendicular to you. Join ends of ropes at top of baking sheet and pinch together. Braid each loaf, join ends of rope at bottom of baking sheet, pinch together, and tuck ends under on both ends of loaves. Loosely cover loaves with damp kitchen towels or plastic wrap and let rise for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees and set oven rack in middle position.

6. Beat the remaining egg and 1 teaspoon water together in a small bowl. Brush tops of loaves with some of the egg wash, sprinkle with poppy and sesame seeds (if using), then bake until loaves are deep brown and hollow sounding when tapped, 45-60 minutes. Set loaves aside on rack to cool.

Reprinted with permission from JewishBoston.com.