Passover: Haroset Leftover Heaven

— by Ronit Treatman

Haroset, the fruit and nut paste symbolizing mortar, has a cameo role in the Passover Seder.  This is usually the first and last time that it is consumed all year.  I am very enthusiastic about preparing home-made haroset.  I make a Sephardic, an Ashkenazi and another haroset for the Seder.  I always end up with way too much.  In order to make use of my leftovers, I have found that it is possible to create a whole meal around haroset.

More after the jump.
African DinnerThe appetizer course is a cheese platter, served with Indian halek (walnuts with date syrup) and matzo crackers.  The haroset complements many types of cheeses such as goat cheese, sharp cheddar, and blue cheese perfectly.  

A wonderful main course that incorporates haroset is a Moroccan tagine.  Tagine is meat or chicken that is slowly braised with dry fruits and nuts.  Adding the haroset just cuts back on a few steps when preparing your tagine.  

Chicken, Beef or Lamb Haroset Tagine

  • 2 pounds of chicken, beef or lamb cubes
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup Sephardic haroset
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

  • 1/2 teaspoon Ras El Hanout
  • 1/2 cup minced cilantro
  1. Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot.
  2. Add the meat, onion, garlic, and spices.
  3. Fry over medium heat until the meat browns.
  4. Add 2 ½ cups water and bring to a boil.
  5. Add the cilantro.
  6. Cover the pot tightly, and simmer for 2 ½ hours.

To serve:

  1. Heat the haroset in a microwave safe glass bowl for 3 minutes.
  2. Place the meat on a large serving platter.
  3. Spoon the haroset over the meat.

Such a stellar main dish requires something really special to be a fitting dessert.  A haroset Souffle is up to the task, inspired by the traditional French dessert.

Haroset Soufflé

  • 1 cup haroset
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Vegetable oil
  • Powdered sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F
  2. Whip the egg whites and sugar until stiff and smooth.
  3. Fold in the haroset.
  4. Coat the inside of soufflé ramekins with vegetable oil.
  5. Pour the batter inside the cups.
  6. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
  7. Remove the soufflés, and sprinkle with powdered sugar.
  8. Serve immediately.

Cookbook Review: 4 Bloggers Dish: Passover

When food bloggers become friends, it can lead to an interesting collaboration.

4 Bloggers Dish: Passover: Modern Twists on Traditional Flavors is a wonderful compilation of creative kosher recipes from four women who befriended each other in cyberspace. If you are hoping to freshen up your Seder with bright, healthy, and creative recipes, this book is for you.

Whitney Fisch was a model in Milan when she discovered the pleasures of Italian food. Her website, Jewhungry, relates how she keeps kosher while trying everything.

Liz Rueven shares her kosher vegetarian adventures in Kosher Like Me. I especially admire her thorough research and travel adventures.

Amy Kritzer, the creator of What Jew Wanna Eat, started by preserving her bubby’s recipes. From there, she fell in love with cooking and attended the Cordon Bleu Cooking School in Austin, Texas. She shares both vintage and new recipes.

More after the jump.
Sarah Lasry, creator of The Patchke Princess (the fussy princess), is a chef, owner of Tastebuds Cafe, and cookbook author. She is renown for her creative kosher gourmet cooking.

4 Bloggers Dish: Passover: Modern Twists on Traditional Flavors includes step-by-step instructions and beautiful visuals. It offers helpful tips, such as freezer instructions, prep-ahead rules, and a to-go Guide. This book features recipes such as balsamic-braised short ribs, matzah brie caprese, spaghetti squash with quinoa meatballs, sautéed kale, tomato, and mushroom quiche with a hash brown crust, and cinnamon donut balls.

You may try out their recipe for vegetable frittatine, for Passover. Liz Rueven encourages her readers to use greens such as kale and spinach from their local farmers’ market. These greens pair especially well with sautéed mushrooms and onions. Personally, I preferred minced cilantro and low-fat cheddar. I served it with spicy Mexican salsa.

Vegetable Frittatine (Crustless quiche in individual portions)

Dairy, Non-Gebrokts (soaked matza)
Prep Time: 20 minutes; Bake time: 25 minutes
Makes approximately 12 mini frittate in muffin tins.

Ingredients:

  • Canola oil cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 4 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh herbs of choice, chopped (dill, parsley, cilantro, basil)
  • A few twists of freshly ground pepper
  • 5 oz. crumbled feta or goat cheese, or cheese of choice (shredded or crumbled)
  • 1 onion, chopped finely
  • 6 oz. mushrooms, washed and chopped and/or one red (or orange) pepper, chopped finely
  • One generous bunch or one 5-oz. bag of organic spinach or kale, washed and rough-chopped

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350˚F with oven rack in middle.
  2. Spray muffin tin with canola oil.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk eggs with milk. Add salt, pepper and herbs.
  4. Add cheese and mix well. Set aside.
  5. Heat olive oil in large pan.
  6. Add onion and sauté until translucent.
  7. Add mushrooms and/or peppers and sauté until soft.
  8. Add greens and toss until wilted.
  9. Drain pan of any liquid that has accumulated (save for soup stock).
  10. Cool for 5-10 minutes. Add the vegetables to the egg mixture in large bowl. Mix to integrate well.
  11. Spoon 2 tablespoon of mixture into each opening in muffin tin. Mix periodically so that ingredients are distributed evenly.
  12. Bake for 20-25 minutes until frittatine are set and tops are golden.
  13. Remove from oven and allow pan to cool for 10 minutes. Using a small spatula or a tablespoon, gently remove individual frittate from tin and serve.

Tips:

  • Serve Immediately: Because these are really mini soufflés, they are puffy and light when served immediately. If not, they do “fall” but they retain their basic shape and are still delicious. I use them as a protein-rich addition to brunch or as a light dinner with salad and soup.
  • Take to Go:  They make a convenient afternoon snack and a satisfying lunch to go. They are solid enough to pack in Ziploc bags and take along for day trips or school lunches.
  • Freezer: They freeze well in a Ziploc bag. Take them out of the freezer in advance and reheat, gently, in microwave or in oven at 325F for 10-15 minutes or until warmed through. I like them at room temp, too.

Passover Maakouda: Potato Frittata From The Maghreb

— by Ronit Treatman

One of the most popular street foods in North Africa is called Maakouda. It is a type of fritter, made from potatoes or eggplants, sometimes with fish, or cheese.  

Maakouda is the perfect snack for Passover. The basic potato maakouda is parve. It can be served hot, at room temperature or cold.

A verdant sauce, such as the South American chimichurri or Moroccan chermoula enhances the flavor of the Maakouda .

Recipes follow the jump.
Maakouda Batata (Potato Frittata)
Adapted from Christine Benlafquih

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

  • 4 large potatoes
  • 1 large onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup minced cilantro
  • 2 eggs
  • olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 3 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  1. Cube the potatoes.
  2. Boil them in salted water until they are pierced easily with a fork.
  3. Drain the potatoes, mash them, and set aside.
  4. Cut up the onions.
  5. Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy skillet.
  6. Add the onions.
  7. Sauté the onions for 10 minutes, until translucent.
  8. Mince the garlic and add to the onions.
  9. Sauté for one minute.
  10. Remove the skillet from the heat and add the spices.
  11. Pour the onion mixture into the mashed potatoes.
  12. Add the minced cilantro.
  13. Mix well.
  14. Add the eggs, incorporating them into the batter.
  15. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy skillet.
  16. Pour the batter into the oil.
  17. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.
  18. Place the skillet in the oven for about 20 minutes.

While the maakouda is baking, prepare the chimichurri sauce.

Chimichurri Sauce
Adapted from  Marian Blazes

  • 2 cups cilantro
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin, unfiltered olive oil
  1. Place all the ingredients in a food processor.
  2. Pulse until a paste forms.
  3. Process for a couple of minutes.
  4. Taste the chimichurri, and if necessary, correct the seasoning to your taste.

For a Moroccan twist, add 2 teaspoons of paprika, 1 teaspoon of ground ginger, 1/4 teaspoon of saffron, and some cayenne pepper to the chimichurri.  This will transform it into a Moroccan sauce called chermoula.

Remove the maakouda from the oven, cut into squares, and serve with chimichurri sauce on the side.

Karpas Soup


Photo: Candice Eisner. ©Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

— by Ronit Treatman

Passover offers so many opportunities for creativity in the kitchen.  On point of inspiration is the Seder plate.  Its ingredients may form the basis of many satisfying dishes.  Chef Moshe Basson, the proprietor of Eucalyptus Restaurant in Jerusalem, has created a delicious spring soup centered on the karpas, or green vegetable, which is dipped in salt water at the Passover Seder.

This velvety soup begins with fresh celeriac (celery root). Some of the celery stalks are separated from the roots, washed, and displayed on the Seder plate, to be dipped in salt water. The rest of the celery stalks, leaves, and roots are blended with almond or coconut milk to prepare a rich and creamy soup. This versatile soup is inexpensive, easy to prepare, low fat, and vegan.  It complements almost any Passover meal.

Recipe follows the jump.
Karpas Soup
Adapted from Chef Moshe Basson

  • 2 large celeriac roots, with stalks and leaves
  • 2 potatoes
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup unflavored, low-fat almond or coconut milk
  • Ground nutmeg
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  1. Peel the potatoes and celery root.
  2. Dice them into small cubes.
  3. Pour the vegetable broth into a stockpot and bring to a boil.
  4. Add the potato and celeriac cubes.
  5. Boil the vegetables for about 30 minutes, until tender.
  6. Chop up the celery stalks and leaves.
  7. Add the celery stalks and leaves to the boiling soup for one minute.
  8. Remove the pot from the fire.
  9. Pour all of the contents into a food processor.
  10. Blend well.
  11. Add the coconut or almond milk.
  12. Season to taste with salt, black pepper, and ground nutmeg.

Homemade Chocolate Spread

— by Challah Maidel

Sweet or savory, spreads are very addictive. Put a bowl of crackers and a spread in front of me and they both will be devoured within minutes.

I never cared for store-bought chocolate spreads. Overall, I find them to be too sugary for my liking. Nutella happens to be on the top of my favorite spreads, because the sweetness is not as overpowering.

The lack of sugar, minuscule amount of oil, and natural ingredients are what set this homemade chocolate spread apart from most chocolate spreads. This chocolate spread takes minutes to make and can be used as a chocolate frosting or icing.

Adjust the measurements in the following ingredients depending on the consistency you like. You can even add a nut spread to the ingredients if you like.

Recipe after the jump.
Chocolate Spread

  • 4 tablespoons of coconut oil, or trans-fat free margarine
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup of agave syrup or date honey
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  1. Melt the coconut oil or margarine, either in the microwave or in a warm oven.
  2. Add agave syrup and vanilla extract and stir.
  3. Add cocoa powder. Add a bit of water if spread is too thick.

Yields about 1 cup.

Challah Maidel is a blog about healthy kosher eating.  

Queen Esther’s Foods of Seduction


“Ahasuerus and Haman at Esther’s Feast,” by Rembrandt, 1660.

— by Ronit Treatman

How did Queen Esther make King Ahasuerus fall in love with her? By her looks, intelligence, or sense of humor? Or did she concoct some sort of love potion?  

Persian cuisine is known for its complexity and subtlety. A message of desire may be transmitted in a cup of tea.

An ancient legend recounts that a Chinese emperor accidentally discovered tea when some leaves from a tea tree blew into an outdoor cauldron of boiling water. The fragrant brew attracted him, and after his first sip, he was hooked. This new beverage traveled from China to India, and tradesmen brought it from India to Persia.  

Persian tea is steeped from whole dried tealeaves, and is always served piping hot. It is never accompanied by milk. Tea is traditionally flavored with sugar cubes, sour cherry jam, honey, raisins, dry mulberries, dates, or limes.

Two recipes after the jump.
One special type of Persian tea is called “saffron love tea.” In her book Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies, Iranian-American chef Najmieh Batmanglij wrote that when a suitor asks for a woman’s hand, if her parents offer him a cup of saffron tea, then the answer is “yes”!

Perhaps the real secret of Esther’s success in seducing King Ahasuerus was a perfect cup of Persian saffron love tea.

Persian Saffron Love Tea
Adapted from Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies, by Najmieh Batmanglij    


  • 4 cups of filtered water
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons rosewater
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 2 cardamom pods

Place all of the ingredients in a pot, bring to a boil, and simmer for 15 minutes. Serve hot.

The perfect accompaniment to this tea is a type of Persian frittata called kuku. This one is made with pistachios:

Pistachio Kuku
Adapted from Food of Life, by Najmieh Batmanglij  

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup shelled pistachios
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon rose water
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  1. Preheat the broiler.
  2. Grind the pistachios in a food processor.
  3. Heat the rose water.
  4. Sprinkle the saffron threads into the hot rose water.
  5. Place the flour, baking soda, salt, black pepper, eggs and milk in a large bowl.
  6. Mix everything well, and then add the saffron-rose water mixture.
  7. Blend in the ground pistachios and the brown sugar.
  8. Take a heavy, oven-safe skillet and heat the olive oil over low heat in it.
  9. Pour the batter into the skillet.
  10. Cover the skillet with a lid, and cook over low heat for about 10 minutes.
  11. Remove the lid, and place the skillet under the broiler for 1 or 2 minutes, until the top is golden-brown.
  12. Garnish with powdered sugar.

I prepared this afternoon tea for my family. The kuku was delicious, crunchy, and not too sweet. The youngest person who tasted the saffron tea said, “It is warm and sweet, just like love.”

Freekeh, Lentil, and Parsley Pilaf

Sometimes, very early on Saturday morning, when the spirit moves me, and I have time, I get on the bike and go exploring the Judean hills.

Since it is Saturday morning the road is quite empty, I only encounter farmers tending to their small plots of land. This is a good opportunity to purchase freshly-harvested local freekeh.  

Freekeh is wheat that is still green. It needs to be roasted before it can be cooked.

The green wheat berries are slow roasted over coals in their hulls. Then, the peel is rubbed off. The roasting imparts a smoky flavor to the freekeh. I cook it like rice. Here is my recipe.

[Read more…]

Blackbird Pizzeria: A Fresh Perspective on Vegan Food

— by Ronit Treatman

How good can vegan pizza possibly be?  

Skeptical omnivore that I am, I was sure that I would leave Blackbird Pizzeria not feeling satisfied. I must admit that I was wrong.

I discovered the pizzeria’s kosher food last year, when I presented at Hazon’s Philadelphia Food Conference, where the restaurant’s offerings were featured at the lunch. My lunch was so good that it inspired me to visit the restaurant.

Full review after the jump.
The restaurant reminded me of the pizzerias I had gone to in Vermont. Everything is made from scratch, using only the finest ingredients.

The chefs are fanatical about the quality of the food they prepare. While conversing with them, I discovered that they are all vegans at home as well.

My pizza and salad were prepared to the highest standards. The chefs use the finest quality high-gluten flour for their pizza crusts, and fresh ingredients for their sauces.

The secret to their success is the Daiya vegan “cheese.” This product is kosher and free of all animal products. The “cheese” on my pizza melted like dairy mozzarella. It had great mouth feel, and I loved the flavor. Their specialty pizza menu is very creative, borrowing flavors from the Far East, Mexico, and Italy.

The restaurant also offers a wide array of vegetarian sandwiches. The bread is very fresh, and each sandwich is layered with crisp vegetables, daiya cheese, seitan, or tofu. It also offers seitan “chicken wings,” which have a wonderfully crunchy exterior, and are very spicy.

The salads at the restaurant are composed of mainly raw vegetables, which taste as though they were all sourced from a local farmer’s market.

I tried the beet salad. It was a beautiful combination of red and golden beets over arugula. Orange segments and smoked shallots added to the flavors, and pumpkin seeds were sprinkled over it for crunch. It came with a delicious shallot-thyme vinaigrette.  

The final surprise came when I tasted their brownie. Although it was baked without eggs or butter, it had a very dense, decadent chocolate flavor. I don’t know how they did it, but I will definitely come back for more!

Blackbird Pizzeria
507 South 6th Street
Philadelphia

Hours: Sunday 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Phone number: (215)625-6660
Website: blackbirdpizzeria.com

Hashgacha (supervision): International Kosher Council (IKC)

Lose Weight the Kosher Way

Oct. 28, 2012 – 220 lb. Maximum weight. Apr. 15, 2013 – 208 lb. Start Medifast. Jul. 15, 2013 – 168 lb. Begin transition. Aug.  5, 2013 – 164 lb. End transition. Mar. 14, 2014 – 158 lb. Attained goal. Jan. 29, 2015 - 160 lb. Current weight.

Oct. 28, 2012 – 220 lb. Maximum weight.
Apr. 15, 2013 – 208 lb. Start Medifast.
Jul. 15, 2013 – 168 lb. Begin transition.
Aug. 5, 2013 – 164 lb. End transition.
Mar. 14, 2014 – 158 lb. Attained goal.
Jan. 29, 2015 – 160 lb. Current weight.

The Medifast diet has been my key to weight-loss success. I lost over 50 pounds and I have kept it off.

As long as I can remember I have had a problem with my weight. I tried a number of diets — including Atkins and Weight Watchers — with some success, but they all required a level of self-deprivation which I could not sustain, and inevitably I would regain any weight I might have lost.

Last Spring, my daughter was pestering me to try the Medifast diet, telling me how well she was doing on it. Needless to say, I was extremely skeptical given my experiences in the past. However, Gabby is quite persistent, so I let her place an order for me figuring I would try it for a few days  and when it failed, I would give any leftover food to her since it was working for her. (She went on to lose 60 pounds or about one-third of her weight!)

Despite my half-hearted commitment to the program, I immediately saw weight loss day after day, and I was surprised by how easy it was.

More after the jump.

On the Medifast diet, you eat low-carb portion-controlled meals every three hours plus a small “lean and green” meal (fresh vegetables and proteins) along with some optional snacks. I soon realized that the only times I was actually hungry was when by force of habit I neglected to eat for three hours.

There are about 70 different pre-portioned meals to choose from. Most of these are certified Kosher by the Orthodox Union. (Note that the “Vegetable Chili” is not listed since it contains beef stock and should be avoided by vegetarians and observant Jews.)

Some food is ready-to-eat (candy bars, pretzels and the like) and some requires preparation in a blender, microwave or stove-top. Each meal has similar nutritional values, so you can pick whichever one piques your interest, or even combine them to increase the variety of possible dishes using recipes that can be found online at fan websites. For example, you can combine pancake mix and brownie mix to make chocolate cake, or banana smoothie mix with pancake mix to make banana bread.

When I would see someone having a high-calorie treat like ice cream, pizza, muffins, pretzels or candy bars, I wouldn’t be jealous. Instead I would say “That is a good idea. I can do that too. I think I’ll grab a Medifast Caramel Crunch Bar” or mix up some soft-serve ice cream with Medifast powder in a blender or fry up a Medifast pancake with chocolate chips. Instead other people would be jealous of me seeing me eat what looks like a candy bar in the middle of the morning or afternoon. People might think I am glutton for eating all the time, but what do I care when I know that I am moving from “obese” to “overweight” to “normal”.

The Kaiserman JCC held their “Biggest Winner” contest during this time and I was proud to take 1st place having lost 14.83% of my weight during the contest.

As I reentered the “normal” zone, I used the Medifast transition plan for about a month, and have now successfully maintained my healthy weight for the last few months.

Gabby has now become a Medifast coach and is helping other people achieve their weight loss goals on her website. The coaching is free. You only have to pay for the food.

Weight loss has changed our lives and we would love to share our success. If you or anyone you know is struggling with his or her weight, please contact me or Gabby. We would be delighted to help.


Links

The New Home-Made Gazoz

— by Ronit Treatman

In primeval times, the earliest humans enjoyed effervescent water from springs in which sodium carbonate from underground rocks dissolved into the water. This created the first natural soda.  

In the 18th century, Joseph Priestly discovered that holding a bowl of water over a vat of beer would infuse the water with carbon dioxide. This was the first homemade seltzer water.

Soda syphons were invented in the 1800s. These were special bottles that could dispense soda without releasing all of the trapped gases, and kept the soda from going flat. Syphons were very popular in the 1920s and 1930s.  

During World War II, the syphon factories in Europe were bombed. Carbonated water began to be commercially bottled and marketed, and soda syphons fell out of favor.

Recipe after the jump.


Soda syphons fell out of favor in Europe after World War II.

In Israel, however, soda syphons remained popular well into the 1960s. The soda they produced was called gazoz. As a special treat, children were allowed to mix the plain seltzer water with a sweetened fruit syrup concentrate.  

Now the pendulum is swinging back: Due to concern for the environmental impact of disposable soda containers, many people are returning to the tradition of making their own seltzer water at home. Instead of adding the sugar-laden syrups of the past, they are flavoring their sodas with fresh fruit.

I initiated the switch in my house by purchasing a soda-making machine from Sodastream. I chose the SodaStream Penguin Sparkling Water Maker. It comes with dishwasher-safe glass bottles. Once it arrived, it was time to get creative and make some delicious sodas.

Some of the most refreshing drinks I know are called aguas frescas, “fresh waters” in Spanish. They are made with natural tropical fruit juices, mixed with cold water. I saw no reason why this would not taste even better with carbonated water.  

Where would I get all the fresh tropical fruits that I craved in February in Philadelphia? I decided to reach straight to the source: Goya Foods sells unsweetened tropical fruit pulp. The fruits are picked at the peak of ripeness, and processed on the spot. The pulp is frozen to lock in the flavor, and then shipped to the U.S.

Here is an easy recipe for aguas frescas. I like my drinks tart, but you may sweeten yours with natural grape or apple juice. Goya Foods sells the pulp of passion fruit, papaya, mango, tamarind, guava, and coconut, among others.  

Passion Fruit Gazoz

  • 1 tablespoon passion fruit pulp
  • 1 cup of sparkling water
  • 1 tablespoon grape or apple juice (or other juice to taste)
  • ice cubes
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a glass.  
  2. Stir well and enjoy!