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Passover Post — No Time to Post

8 Mar

I started off the year well, posting more times in one week than I did in all of 2012. I did well into February until I got buried under Passover prep and all of the sudden I had no time to do anything.  I have a notebook full of recipes just waiting to be typed up and pictures on my phone ready to upload, but they’ll have to wait until after Passover before they get turned into posts. I thought I’d be able to post some great new recipes for Passover, but time got away from me (though there’s still a chance of some posts during the holiday).  Instead, I’ve done a little search online to find my Passover footprints and round them up into a single post here.  Some of the links are recipes on my blog or other websites, some are links to my business and my books and a few of them are links to eGullet.org, where I spent 3 Passovers blogging for the members there during Passover (I look back on those foodblogs now and can’t figure out how I got them done).

These are recipes on my blog:

The three eGullet Passover foodblogs I did over the years:

My family business: So, the reason I’m so busy now is that along with my parents, I own a kosher food store (the only independent kosher food store in the city) and catering company.  Passover is our busiest time of the year, no question.  We turn our store over completely for Passover,  removing all items that are not kosher for Passover from the shelves, freezers and coolers and bringing in well over 1,000 kosher for Passover items (plus beef, lamb, veal, poultry and deli). Starting last week, we’ve been getting truckloads of products delivered almost daily, starting with an initial order that weighed in at 11,600 lbs.  You can take a look at what we sell on our Facebook page, where we posted this album/tour.

On the side, I write cookbooks.  So far, two.  The second book is Passover –  A Kosher Collection. For the three weeks leading up to Passover, my days are spent (among other things) answering questions from my customers.  Younger customers are looking for help with traditional recipes, older customers are looking for new ideas and vice versa.  I realized that there was a need for a new Passover cookbook and went to work on it.  In the US and Canada, you can by it in various Judaica stores, and it’s available on Amazon.com in hard copy or for the Kindle/eReader.  You can also order them from my website, and I’ll ship them anywhere! Around the web – my Passover friendly recipes/articles from other sites:

To all those preparing for Pesach, I hope it’s an easy year for you and hopefully I’ll be back during the holiday with more recipes.  Chag sameach!

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Passover Cheese Blintzes

9 Apr

Every year we turn our kosher food store into a Passover kosher food store.  For over a month, from Purim through Pesach, my days are all about Passover. We pack away all of the  chometz and get tonnes and tonnes (literally) of kosher for Passover food – it takes us days to get everything unpacked and on the shelves. We even rent a 40 foot train container and park it in our parking lot for extra storage.

As soon as that first items hit the shelves (or even before that) our days are filled with customer questions – about the products we sell, about the foods we cook and about recipes and menu ideas.  Some people love cooking for Passover — they love pulling out the recipes that are traditional in there family and/or experimenting with new recipes and ideas.  Others . . . well, others feel differently.  They fear Passover and loathe matzo.  I also hear a lot of complaints about how heavy the food is.  But it doesn’t have to be.

I am firmly in the camp that likes Passover food.  Really. I actually like matzo. I hear people say they think it tastes like cardboard all the time.  I have no problem with a piece of matzo with butter and some fruit for breakfast. In fact, I’m quite happy with it. Seder meals that include soups, starters, at least two meats, several sides, and dessert can weigh you down, but those meals don’t have to, and the rest of the week can certainly focus on other, lighter things.

One of my favourite treats, something that’s good all year round but I tend to cook rarely outside of Passover is cheese blintzes. The delicate wrapper (bletlach) filled with creamy cheese and served with strawberries and a crisp salad make a great dinner — one that I enjoyed  tonight.  They were so delicious I was questioning my decision to keep them as a Passover treat — but maybe that’s part of what makes them so special.

Blintz Wrappers / Bletlach (based on a recipe from my book, Passover – A Kosher Collection)

It may take a few tries to get the hang of making these, but once you do, they’re easy to make. Fill them with cheese, fruit, potatoes or meat.

4 large eggs

1/2 cup cool water

5 Tbsp. potato starch

1/4 tsp. salt

oil for the skillet

Whisk the eggs, water, potato starch and salt together in a large measuring cup and let it rest for a few minutes.  Whisk again, making sure you get rid of any potato starch lumps.  Heat an 8″ non-stick frying pan over medium heat.  Lightly brush the pan with oil — I like grape seed.  Whisk the batter again and pour some into the pan — swirl the pan immediately so that the batter forms a thin layer and pour any excess batter back into the measuring cup.

Cook until the blettle (single bletlach) starts to bubble a little, the top is dry to the touch, the bottom just starts to brown and the edges start to pull away from the pan.  Loosen the edges and turn the blettle out onto a baking sheet lined with parchment.  Continue with the rest of the batter, whisking before each blettle and brushing with oil after every 2 or 3 bletlach — you should get 12-15 bletlach from one batch.  Separate the layers of bletlach with parchment paper.

Cheese Filling

2 lbs. 1% pressed cottage cheese (or paper or baker’s cheese)

4 large eggs

1 tsp. salt

1 Tbsp. sugar

Combine all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix with a spoon until everything is thoroughly incorporated.

Assemble the blintzes by placing one wrapper on your work surface with the cooked-side up.

Place approximately 1/4 cup of the cheese mixture along the bottom edge of the wrapper and roll it up from the bottom so that the filling is covered with the blettle.  Fold the left and right sides in so that both ends are closed then continue to roll up from the bottom, using the whole blettle.  Continue with the rest of the bletlach and filling.

You can refrigerate or freeze them at this point or heat some butter in a skillet and brown on both sides for 2-3 minutes, until golden brown.  Serve on their own or with strawberries and sour cream.

Blintz Strawberries

These strawberries are great with the blintzes or use to top your matzo brei for breakfast.

1 lb. strawberries, hulled and sliced

3 Tbsp. sugar

3 Tbsp. fresh orange juice

1 tsp. potato starch

2 tsp. cool water

Place the strawberries, sugar and orange juice in a pot over medium heat and cook until the strawberries have release some juice and the liquid comes to a simmer — this should take about 5 minutes.  In a small bowl, whisk the potato starch and water together.  Add to the pot and stir through.  Cook another minute, or until the juices have thickened slightly.  Remove from heat. Serve hot of chill and serve cold.

Passover Mushroom And Onion Kugel

16 Apr

According to my blog statistics, a lot of people are getting here because they are looking for a recipe for Mushroom and Onion Kugel.  I do have a recipe for said kugel on this blog, but it’s for a kugel I make for Rosh Hashana.  That one is made with egg noodles.

Since people are looking for it, I thought it would be a good idea to share my recipe for my Passover Mushroom & Onion Kugel.  It’s very similar — simple and tasty, but uses farfel (broken up matzo) rather than noodles.    Can be made ahead and freezes well.

Passover Mushroom and Onion Farfel Kugel (from Passover – A Kosher Collection)

If I had to choose (and it would be hard to decide)  I think this might be my favourite kugel.  Button and crimini mushrooms often get the short end of the stick, but I love them and this kugel shows them off.

4 Tbsp. | 60 mL olive oil

1 lb. | 454 g yellow onions, peeled and diced small (2 medium)

2 tsp. | 10 mL salt

1/2 tsp. | 2 mL black pepper

1 1/2 lbs. | 680 g button or crimini mushrooms, sliced

1 1/2 cups | 355 mL water

8 oz. | 225 g farfel (4 cups | 950 mL)

6 large eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat the oven to 375 F | 190 C.

Place a large frying pan or a pot over medium-high heat and add the olive oil.  Add the onions, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, for 8-10 minutes or until soft and golden brown.

Add the mushrooms and cook another 6-8 minutes, or until they’ve all cooked and have shrunk by about half.  We’re not trying to brown the mushrooms at all, just cook them.

Add the water and bring to a simmer.  Cook for 1 minute.

Put the farfel in a large mixing bowl.  Pour the mushroom/onion mixture over the farfel and stir to mix.  Let rest for about half an hour or until cooled completely. and most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Once cooled, add the eggs and stir to combine.  Pour the batter into a greased 8 x 11-inch | 20 x 27.5-cm pan.

Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown and firm.

A Fresh Passover

10 Apr

I often hear people complain about heavy foods at Passover.  It’s true – with menus that include chopped liver, brisket and kugels it can weigh you down.  And while I like to serve traditional foods during the holidays, there are a lot more options that people don’t associate with Passover menus.

For meals that include these heavier dishes, I always make sure to include a fresh, crisp salad and fresh fruit for desserts.  I also make sure that the week has plenty of lighter meals – a fritatta with salad or maybe my favorite Mediterranean Black Cod served with steamed vegetables.

For a lighter, fresh Passover, here are a couple of my favorite salad recipes (from my cookbook Passover – A Kosher Collection).

Watermelon & Feta Salad

This is one of my favorite salads.  For a different version, replace the mint with basil and the lime juice with balsamic vinegar.

2 Tbsp. | 30 mL fresh lime juice

2 Tbsp. | 30 mL olive oil

1/4 tsp. | 1 mL black pepper

6 cups | 1.4 L watermelon, seedless, cit into 1-inch | 2.5-cm cubes

4 oz. | 115 g feta cheese, cubed or crumbled

3 Tbsp. | 45 mL fresh mint, finely sliced

3 oz. | 85 g red onion, peeled and thinly sliced (1/2 small)

Mix the lime juice, olive oil and black pepper together in a large mixing bowl.  Add the rest of the ingredients and gently mix together.

Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Can be made several hours in advance.  If you do make it ahead. pour off any excess liquid and taste, checking for seasoning before serving.

Jicima Slaw

This is a great alternative to classic coleslaw.  It’s crisp, light and flavourful.

1 1/2 lbs. | 680 g jicima, peeled and julienned (1 medium)

3 oz. | 85 g carrots, peeled and shredded (2 small)

3 oz. | 85 g yellow pepper, cored, seeded and cut into a thin julienne (1/2 medium)

3 oz. | 85 g orange pepper, cored, seeded and cut into a thin julienne (1/2 medium)

1 oz. | 28 g green onions, thinly sliced (2 large)

3 oz. | 85 g white onion, peeled and sliced paper thin (1/2 small)

3 Tbsp. | 45 mL fresh lime juice

3 Tbsp. | 45 mL fresh lemon juice

2 Tbsp. | 30 mL grapeseed oil (or light olive oil)

1 tsp. | 5 mL salt

2 Tbsp. | 30 mL honey

2 Tbsp. | 30 mL chopped fresh cilantro

1/4 tsp. | 1 mL black pepper

Put all of the ingredients into a mixing bowl and toss together.

Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavours to blend together.

Can be made 4-6 hours before serving.

It’s all about the Charoset

5 Apr

With Passover less than two weeks away, it’s time to make some serious decisions.  The most important decision, in my opinion, is what kind of charoset to make.  I love charoset.  I like that charoset being passed around the table means dinner is about to start.  I love that charoset is symbolic — it’s there to remind us of the mortar used by the Jewish slaves in Egypt to build cities.  And I really love charoset because it’s delicious.

When I was growing up, charoset was always a mixture of shredded apples, cinnamon, honey, chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans) and some sweet red wine.  Nobody in my family used a precise recipe — we just added what looked right and kept tasting and adjusting until it was perfect.

Eventually I started experimenting and came up with some different flavour combinations that I really liked.  Now I have a few charoset recipes that I love.  Here’s my recipe for date charoset.  I like it so much I make a double batch to use it on matzo throughout the week (great for breakfast!).

Date Charoset

2 oz. | 55 g walnuts (1/2 cup | 120 mL)

8 oz. | 225 g pitted dates (1 cup | 235 mL)

3 oz. | 85 g golden raisins (1/2 cup | 120 mL)

1/2 tsp. | 2 mL dried ginger

1/2 tsp. | 2 mL cinnamon

pinch of ground cloves

3 Tbsp. | 45 mL sweet red wine

2 Tbsp. | 30 mL fresh orange juice

1/4 tsp. | 1 mL orange zest

Toast the nuts. Preheat the oven to 350 F | 175 C.  Spread the nuts out in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast for 8-9 minuets, or until golden brown.  Cool.

Put all of the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the charoset reaches a texture you like.  I like to pulse it until it is mostly paste, with some small chunks remaining.  If you like it chunkier, stop pulsing before it gets too smooth.

Use immediately or cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Makes 1 1/2 cups | 355 mL

* Adapted from my book, Passover – A Kosher Collection

Books Now Available At www.pamelareiss.com

27 Jan

It’s been an interesting week and a half.  Last week I sent over 40 review books out to media — we’ll see if anything comes from that.  The books have been selling out of the store and I’ve received interest from other stores/distributors in the US and Canada.  It’s very exciting to see them going out.  Today the first wholesale order was shipped out and I’m expecting some more wholesale orders from other cities to come in.

In other news, it looks like I’ll be having an official book launch in a few weeks at a great independent book store in Winnipeg. It’s the same store where I launched my first book five years ago and it’ll be nice to have the second one there.  I’ll post more information when dates and times are confirmed.

Finally, we’ve now got an updated website up at www.pamelareiss.com.  If you click on the “books” link at the top-right, we’re set up to accept book orders.  Shipping in Canada and the USA is free and to other countries it’s $10 for one or two books, $15 for three or four books.   If you need a quote for wholesale pricing, please get in touch.

Thanks to all of those who have already picked up a copy (or multiple copies) and for all of the great feedback!

The books are here!

18 Jan

I spent last night tossing and turning. The books were due to arrive today and I was anxious. I was scared to see the books.  It was a completely irrational fear because I knew about all the work that went into them.  Months of recipe testing and writing was followed by edit after edit. When that was done, it was time for proofing, a little more editing and then more proofing.

First thing this morning, we cleared out a hallway at work. Chairs and tables leftover from our restaurant days usually reside here, but they had to make way for the books! And then they arrived.  And I’m so happy with them.


Again, my irrational fear was that they wouldn’t look like real books. I can’t really explain this, because it makes no sense, but this is my first attempt at self-publishing and I was scared they wouldn’t look as good as Soup.  They look great! I’m thrilled with how they turned out.

So that’s 254 boxes of books, to the left.  It’s a whole lotta books. Good news is they all fit in the hall. I was concerned we’d have to fill the storage rooms and that we’d have rows of boxes stacked in the store aisles.  At the moment it’s not a problem, but we have to start moving some out soon.  As we approach Passover, we turn the entire store over and sell only Passover foods — and we need every inch of space we can get.

We sold 3 books out of the store this afternoon and I have orders that need to be shipped out tomorrow.
I also have to start packaging up the press kits and sending them out.  We’re on our way — just another 5990-odd books to go!

If you’re in Winnipeg, books are available at the store (Desserts Plus) for now, with more stores to follow.  They’re also available at amazon.com. We hope to have www.pamelareiss.com set up for book orders by the end of the week.

The books are coming!

15 Jan

Happy new year!

I took a much needed break over the new year, getting away to the States for a week. It was the first week off from working on the book since Passover 2009. I had a great week, lots of shopping and relaxing and general road-trip fun.

My parents also went away and were out of town for another week, so when I returned to Winnipeg I had to deal with the 5-door freezer that broke down in our store while we were all gone. (The freezer was full of meat. Interesting fact, the zoo won’t take meat that’s been thawed. It all had to be trashed.) That, along with other fun things at work kept me running around in circles.

In the middle of the work mishugas, I had to approve final proofs for the book and get some items checked off the book-business to-do list (bank stuff, GST numbers, etc.). I’m also trying to get my website revamped with all of the heavy lifting being done by my sister. But stuff had to be written and organized for that.

While it’s been a bit stressful since I’ve been home, it’s also been exciting. I got my first orders from Amazon.com and have corresponded with some Jewish book distributors who are interested in handling my book. On Monday, my printers told me that they were printing the cover and text. The image insert pages were due to be printed later this week. Today the books were set to be bound and I should be receiving them next week.

I’m excited and nervous. First issue: Where will I put 6000 books? But that’s a small issue that’s easily resolved (just involves a lot of schlepping). I’m nervous because this time, the experience is much different from the Soup experience. With that book I tested, wrote and edited my words but everything else was done by the publishers. They had people doing the layout. They hired a food stylist and photographer to do the photos. The one thing that is consistent is the printer. Both books have been printed by the same company. The biggest difference may be that I have to figure out how to get them all sold.

So less than a week and they’ll be here. I can’t wait.

Have a great weekend.

What a week!

17 Dec

Happy Chanukah! I can’t believe the holiday is almost over and I haven’t posted anything. It’s been a crazy, exciting week, so maybe it’s not that surprising.

On Monday, the files for Passover a Kosher Collection were due at the printer, so every spare moment leading up to Monday was spent proofing and worrying and making small changes here and there. We’ve had some problems with colour management — the colours as they appear on my monitor are not the same as the colours as they print on my laser printer, which are different from the colours that print on my ink jet, which are different from the colours on the proofs from my printer (which, btw, are different depending on which printer they use – high resolution proofs versus lower resolution proofs). So I’ve spent a lot of time tweaking colours.

I knew I’d be receiving a proof of the book soon, but I wasn’t expecting it until next week. It arrived this morning! It is extremely cool to see it printed in a way that’s close to what the actual book will look like. There are a few issues — the images in the book were printed using a low-resolution printer, so the colours are still off. I’m now waiting for them to send me some copies of the pictures done with the high resolution printer. Some of the words on the cover are the wrong colours — it’s not bad as it is, but it’s not how it was designed. And the whole thing has to be proofed one more time.

The thing is, it was really exciting when it came today. It looks like a book. Obviously it was designed to look like a book, but it’s really different when it shows up on the right size paper with the pictures in the right place and looking like a book.

When the Soup book was printed, I didn’t see it until I was in a town car in Toronto at 5 AM on my way to do my first live TV demo. I wasn’t involved in the pictures and the design — my work was done after all the edits were made. This experience is completely different. I’ve been involved from start to finish and it’s amazing to see it at this point.

Enough of my excited rambling, here’s a picture of the proof on my desk: