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
  • ⅓ 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
  • 1¼ cups lukewarm water
  • 1¼ cups Guinness
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp. salt
  • 9¼ 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

Queen Esther’s Crown Purim Bread with Samosa Filling

  

samosa crown

Stuffed breads, like dumplings, exist across many cultures. There are the babkas; the Kurdish Jewish stuffed bread known as kadeh; there are Polish kolaches; and Indian parathas. This year, instead of the usual Haman’s hat (Hamantaschen) for Purim, I wanted to try making Queen Esther’s crown. The pastry ring is supposed to look like a queen’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

cook veggiesIngredients:

  • 3/4 cup of water
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 1/2 cup of peas
  • 2 cups diced potatoes
    (8 new potatoes or 2 large)
  • 1/2 cup onion
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. oil
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. mustard seed
  • 1/4 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp. garam masala
  • 1/8 tsp. fresh ginger
  • 1/4 cup of chopped dried apricot
  • 1 pre-made uncooked pizza dough
  • 1 egg
  • yogurt, optional

 

Directions:

1.  Remove pizza dough from the fridge to let it come to room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400° F.

2.  Peel the potatoes and the carrots and dice them into pea-sized cubes.

Filling3.  Add 3/4 cup of water into a small pot with a lid. Heat 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.  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 sauté for 5 minutes. Add all the spices: salt, mustard seed, turmeric, garam masala and fresh ginger. Stir to combine.

5.  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 ¼-inch strips and add them to the vegetables.

6.  Prepare a pan with a sheet of parchment paper.

7.  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.

samosa

8.  Put the edges together and make a wide crown of dough. It may seem impossible, but stick with it and keep tweaking it. It doesn’t have to be perfectly round and you can adjust it later.

9.  Spoon the filling onto the dough, leaving a small seam 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 and pinch the dough together in the inner circle.

10.  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.  Serve slices with a spoonful of cool, creamy plain yogurt.

Cooked samosa crown

Double Chocolate Mint Hamentaschen

  

Hamentaschen recipe

Purim is one of the most accessible Jewish holidays to celebrate. Like Halloween, a big part of it is dressing up and being silly. (All-night reading of The Scroll of Esther and lots of drinking are the other parts.) Unlike Halloween, there’s a beautiful part of Purim that involves the giving of gifts to friends and tzedakah (charity) to the poor. If you’re just dipping your toes in the holiday for the first time, a great way to celebrate is with delicious food. Hamentaschen, symbolizing Haman’s hat, from the story of Purim (which has an interfaith story line), are cookies traditionally made with jam or poppy seed filling, but who doesn’t love chocolate?

I was inspired to do a hamantaschen based on my favorite Girl Scout cookie, the Thin Mint. It focuses on that sweet, decadent chocolate and the mint is brought in via a subtle peppermint glaze. And, if peppermint isn’t your thing, just leave it out and you have yourself a delicious chocolate hamantaschen that will please all your friends and family and maybe just introduce the holiday of Purim to a newcomer.

unbaked hamentaschen

Ingredients:

Makes 2 dozen (give or take a couple)

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup oil
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 3 tsp. baking powder
  • 6 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon strong coffee
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup large chocolate chips (semi sweet or milk will work. I used milk chocolate)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp peppermint oil
  • 3 tablespoons milk

Instructions:

1. Preheat Oven: 350°F

2. In a medium mixing bowl, mix together eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla.

3. Next, add baking powder and flour to the bowl and mix well to combine. Finally, add the cocoa and strong coffee and give it one more good stir (dough should be thick, almost like bread dough).

4. Knead the dough until smooth.

5. Flour a rolling pin and roll out to roughly 1/8 inch thin on a floured board.

6. Using a round cookie cutter or a drinking glass with a wide opening, cut out circles (use the scraps to make cookies as well, just keep forming into a large ball and rolling out thin and repeat process until dough is done).

7. Drop a handful of chocolate chips (should be roughly 10 chips or more) into the center of each circle.

8. Have a glass or small bowl of a little bit of cold water near by so that you can dip your fingers in to help fold the dough into three sides over the filling forming a triangle (water acts as a glue to the dough and will help edges stick).

9. Bake at 350°F for 15 minutes on a lined cookie sheet.

10. Once fully cooked, let cool for at least 5 – 10 minutes. While cooling, place the powdered sugar, peppermint oil and milk into a small bowl and stir until milky consistency.

11. Once the cookies are cool, brush the sugar/oil mixture over the tops.

Hamentaschen ready to bake

Glaze the hamentaschen

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Tahini Vanilla Ice Box Cake

  

Tahini ice box cake

Valentine’s Day. How does this fit into a Jewish or interfaith home? Technically, yes, Valentine’s Day is named for a saint. It was first instituted by Pope Gelasius I in 496 C.E. to commemorate the martyrdom of St. Valentine. Yet scholars know almost nothing about this St. Valentine. There is an abundant amount of  literature on St. Valentine but most of it is not historical but based on legend. And, truth be told, Valentine’s Day is not a “religious” holiday. The association of a saint does not necessary make it so. I’m sure some might take issues with the previous sentences but to my estimation, Valentine’s Day is an American “holiday” and perfect for families that celebrate Jewish and non-Jewish holidays.

My kids go to private Jewish preschool. They haven’t come in contact yet with Valentine’s Day. But, our oldest will be headed to public Kindergarten next year and we can almost guarantee that we will be met with Valentines. And I ask you? What’s not “Jewish” about showing your like and care with the giving of sweet cards and yummy treats? But, if you’re like me and you’re still struggling with the concept of bringing Valentine’s Day into your home, then why not make it a little more Jewish with the inclusion of seemingly “Jewish” foods like, I don’t know, tahini!

Therefore, I bring you a simple and delicious tahini and vanilla ice box cake. I love ice box cakes. They’re great for impressing your family and friends while not having to actually cook anything. I mean, what says, “I love you” more than frozen tahini in the shape of hearts set in a pink ice cream cake!?

Tahini Vanilla Icebox Cake

Ingredients for Halva:

  • 2 cups honey
  • 1 1/2 cups tahini, well stirred to combine

 

Ingredients for Icebox Cake:

  • 2 pints vanilla ice cream
  • 2 teaspoons of natural red gel food coloring or 4 1/2 teaspoons red liquid food coloring (optional)
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • (optional) 1 cup rainbow sprinkles

 

Directions for Halva Hearts:

Halva hearts1. Heat honey on medium heat until your candy or instant-read thermometer reads 240˚ F, or indicates the “soft ball” stage of candy making. To confirm that you are at the “soft ball” stage, drop a bit of the honey into a cup of cold water. It should form a sticky and soft ball that flattens when removed from the water.

2. Have the tahini ready to heat in a separate small pot, and once the honey is at the appropriate temperature, set the honey aside and heat tahini to 120˚ F.

3. Add the warmed tahini to the honey and mix with a wooden spoon to combine. At first it will look separated but after a few minutes, the mixture will come together smoothly.

4. Continue to mix until the mixture starts to stiffen, for a good 6-8 minutes. Pour mixture into a well-greased and parchment paper-lined 8 x 8 deep-set baking sheet or loaf pan (it MUST have at least 1 inch sides on the pan you use as it’ll keep the tahini within the pan), or into a greased and parchment paper-lined cake pan with a removable bottom.

5. Let cool to room temperature and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Leave in the refrigerator for up to 36 hours. This will allow the sugar crystals to form, which will give the halvah its distinctive texture.

6. Once done, cut out at least 8 – 10 hearts using a sharp, metal cookie cutter.

Directions for Vanilla Ice Box Cake:

pink ice cream

stir ice creamice cream

 

 

Ice cream over heartsAdd hearts to ice cream1. In a chilled bowl combine vanilla ice cream and food coloring. Cover and freeze for 1 hour or until mixture is spreadable.

2. Line a 9-inch Pullman or a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with two sheets of plastic wrap, enough to cover the bottom and sides, allowing plastic wrap to extend over sides of pan. Spread half of the vanilla ice cream evenly in the bottom of the pan.

3. Place the tahini stars down the center of the ice cream pressing down so that the bottom points of the stars are completely submerged in the pink ice cream and the tops are just visible, and placing stars so that they are touching. Freeze for 1 hour.

4. Spread the rest of the pink vanilla ice cream in an even layer over the stars to cover. Cover the top of the cake with heaps of rainbow sprinkles. Freeze for 24 hours or until very firm.

5. Use the plastic wrap to lift mixture from pan. Transfer to a serving plate and cut about an inch into the cake to reveal the first heart. Enjoy!

finished ice cream cake

Fresh Start Rice Noodle Bowls

  

In the winter there is something so comforting about a classic Shabbat roasted chicken. Often though, the meal can feel heavy with chicken at the center of heavy starch and vegetable sides. This Rice Noodle Bowl takes either freshly roasted chicken breasts, or some of your leftover roasted chicken and creates a nice, light, customizable meal in a bowl. It’s comfort food with out the gooey heavy cheesiness of, say, mac ‘n’ cheese or chili.

The long noodles also make this a perfect dish to cook for couples and families celebrating Chinese New Year, which just happens to fall on Shabbat this year (January 28 to be exact). Just as we eat honey and apples for a sweet Jewish new year, Chinese tradition is to eat long noodles. It is one of the “lucky foods” meant to represent a long life.

Ingredients

Choose what you like to add into your rice bowl. You can make it with tofu to keep it vegetarian or salmon if you want fish. You can also add some fresh grated ginger or cilantro for extra flavors.

Rice Noodle Bowls with Vegetables and Chicken
(Serves 2)

Ingredients:

  • 1 Rotisserie chicken or 2 skin-on boneless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 pint of mushrooms of your choice (I used Beech Mushrooms)
  • 1/4 cup of vegetable oil (canola or grapeseed oil is best)
    You will have leftover shallot oil that can be used in other recipes
  • 1 shallot
  • 6 heads of baby bok choy
  • 1 bouillon cube with water or chicken stock (for 1 cup of stock)
  • 1 egg
  • 3 scallions
  • 1/2 package of rice noodles (two nests)
  • 1 carrot

 

Directions:

ingredients1.  If you are using a rotisserie chicken, you will just slice 4 slices of the chicken breast and set it aside on a plate. If you are roasting a chicken breast, use this method from Ina Garten; it is simple and tasty.

2.  Pour vegetable oil into a small saucepan and heat it over low. While the oil heats, slice the shallots as thinly as possible. Have a fork or slotted spoon on hand and put a layer of paper towels on a small plate.Turn the oil up to medium heat. Once the oil ripples, you should be able to toss in a piece of shallot and see if it sizzles instantly. Then it is hot enough. If it burns, take the oil off the heat to cool and remove the burnt shallot. Cook the shallots in the hot oil for 10-20 minutes until crispy. Remove the shallots with a fork or slotted spoon onto a plate lined with paper towels. Set the oil aside to cool.

3.  Wash and slice the scallions using both the white and green parts of the scallion about halfway up the greens. Peel the carrot and slice it into thin matchsticks.

4.  Prepare the rice noodles as directed by the package. Typically, the noodles soak in boiling water for about 10 minutes and then rinse in cold water.

5.  Pour the shallot oil into a jar. The leftover oil is great for salad dressings and seasoning. You will not use the entire 1/4 cup.

sautee mushrooms6.  If you are just using a few mushrooms you can sauté them in the oil left behind in the pan. If you are using a lot of mushrooms, use a larger sauté pan and pour in a teaspoon of the shallot oil. You do not want to crowd the mushrooms or they will steam instead of sauté. Clean and slice the mushrooms if they are not pre-sliced. Smaller mushrooms can be left whole.

7.  In a small saucepan, cover the egg with cold water. Bring the water to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat to a simmer for 3 minutes. While the egg is simmering prepare a bowl with ice water. After 3 minutes, dunk the egg in the ice water and let it cool. Once cool, carefully peel the egg.

8.  Empty the water out of the egg saucepan and add in your stock or water and bouillon cube. Bring to a boil and then let simmer. Wash and slice the baby bok choy into halves or quarters depending on how big they are.

cook your bok choy9.  Now you can assemble your rice noodle bowls. On a plate or individual bowls you will put your slices of scallion, crispy shallots, carrots and sautéed mushrooms. Toss the rinsed rice noodles in the leftover oil from the pan that you used to sautée the mushrooms. Just before serving, cook the bok choy in the chicken stock for a few minutes and then heat up the slices of chicken in the chicken stock as well. This will only take a few minutes each.

9.  Divide the noodles into two bowls. Slice the egg and put half in each bowl. Allow people to add the toppings they like to the dish and then drizzle with a little additional shallot oil. Stir it all together and enjoy.

Chinese noodle bowl

 

 

Ponchiki: Polish Cheese Doughnut Holes

  

PonchikiThere are two stories associated with Hanukkah: One tells how the vial of oil that was supposed to last for one day lasted for eight, and the other is the story of Judith and how she saved her town from annihilation at the hands of General Holefernes by getting him drunk on salty cheese and wine until he passed out and was killed. The latter story is not often told in Hebrew school (for good reason!), but the holiday’s culinary tradition of eating foods prepared with cheese is widespread throughout Mediterranean Jewish communities.

Doughnuts, or sufganiot as they are called in Israel, are a Sephardi treat. Ponchiki, however, are traditionally made in Poland and Eastern Europe, the area where Ashkenazi Jews came from. So this recipe not only combines two culinary traditions and two cultural areas of Judaism, it also fulfills the holiday traditions of consuming fried foods and cheese.

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup all-purpose or gluten-free flour
  • ½ Tbsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 7.5-ounce packages Friendship Dairies Farmer Cheese or 2 cups homemade farmer’s cheese (see recipe below)
  • 3-4 cups corn or vegetable oil for frying

 

Directions:

1.  Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a one-quart bowl. Set aside.

2.  Whisk the egg in a two-quart bowl. Add the sugar and vanilla, continuing to whisk until foamy and well combined.

ponchiki: whisk

add the cheese3.  Add the cheese and whisk vigorously to break it down into small particles, thoroughly combining it with the egg mixture.

4.  Add the flour mixture and stir with the whisk or a spatula until no particles of flour are visible.

5.  Heat the oil in a small, deep fryer or in a two-quart saucepan to a temperature of 375ºF. If necessary, add enough oil to come to a depth of about two inches. If you don’t have a deep-fry thermometer, you’ll know the oil is ready when a little bit of dough rolls in the oil and begins to brown.

 

 

Fry your doughnuts6. Using a small spring ice-cream scoop or a tablespoon and rubber spatula, scoop up some dough and drop it into the hot oil. Don’t fry more than six balls at a time so the oil temperature remains constant. Turn doughnut holes over, if necessary, to brown on all sides. Doughnuts will be done after about three minutes. If holes are browning too fast, lower the heat slightly.

7.  Crumple paper towels on a plate to drain the holes of excess oil. While still warm, toss them in confectioner’s sugar or in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar.

They are best eaten warm but will stay crisp for a few hours.

 

Homemade Farmer’s Cheese

Makes about two to three cups.

Ingredients:

  • ½ gallon whole or 2 percent milk
  • 1 quart buttermilk
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • Cheesecloth

 

Directions:

1.  Bring milk and buttermilk to a simmer. Add the salt and continue to cook until the ingredients separate into curds and whey.

2.  Scoop up the cheese with a skimmer or small strainer and place in a large double-mesh strainer or colander lined with three layers of cheesecloth. Let the cheese sit so any excess moisture can drip out, then bring the edges of the cloth together and twist them to force out any leftover moisture.

3.  Refrigerate the cheese until ready to use in a recipe, or eat with jam on toast.

For more Hanukkah recipes, click here