I’m embarrassed to see how long it’s been since I’ve posted anything. Last time I posted, I said something about how I was going to start to (slowly) work on some new cookbooks. I did actually keep that promise, but then my world turned topsy-turvy.
Not long after I posted, a family looking for a new location for their business came to look at Desserts Plus and quickly made us an offer on our building. We accepted for many reasons, and starting looking for a new space. We had no idea how long it would take us.
Since moving our of our building 13 (!) months ago, we’ve had a pop-up store for Passover, rented a kitchen to cater a few major events and even had a booth at a farmer’s market for part of the simmer.
All along we worked on finding our space, which we did last summer. Several delays kept construction from starting until early this year (you can see a lot of our updates on our Instagram account).
In fact, we even have a kickstarter campaign going to try to get the final push we need to finish our space.
(You can read more about our campaign on our Facebook page, instagram or kickstarter.)
Meanwhile, while all of that was going on, I was slowly working on my next cookbook.
Last month I published Pam’s Cookie Collection:
This is smaller than my other books with just 40-something recipes, but I’m proud of this one! It’s got lots of recipes that I’ve been baking at Desserts Plus over the years, along with lots of others that I created in my home kitchen.
You can get copies here:
If you don’t have any of my books but you’ve wanted them, now is a good time to get them! For the next week one of the rewards for our kickstarter campaign is a cookbook collection. You can get one copy of each of my three books – signed if you like! (It’s listed twice – once if you’re able to pick them up at our new café and once if you need them shipped throughout North America.)
I’ll try not to be such a stranger! Thanks for stopping by and reading.
According to daysoftheyear.com, January is National Soup Month. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why this makes sense — for those of us in the northern part of the northern hemisphere, January can be a bitterly cold month and a warm bowl of soup can warm you from the inside out.
Now, I personally don’t believe you need to have a month out of the year set aside to enjoy soup. I’m an advocate of cooking soup throughout the year — there are so many different types of soups you can make that trying to cram them all into one month is impossible. Not only that, but different growing seasons mean that some ingredients just aren’t available in January and you need to take advantage in the spring or summer of what’s readily available.
But just because I don’t like to limit soups to one month, it doesn’t mean I can’t get behind supporting and encouraging Soup Month. I think everybody should make soup all the time. Meat soups, dairy soups, parve soups, hot soups and cold soups. Broths, chunky soups, chowders, pureed soups, thin soups and thick soups. There are so many options.
This weekend I made a big pot of chicken soup. I admit, it’s the soup I make more than any other. First, I like to have some in the freezer to use in other recipes or just to pull out when I need a bowl of Jewish Penicillin. But it’s more than that. I have a strong connection to chicken soup. It’s in my bones. With a pot of chicken soup simmering on the stove top I’m transported to my grandmother’s kitchen. The aromas coming from my pot of soup are the exact aromas that greeted me at the door every Friday night when I arrived at her house for our weekly Shabbat dinner.
It’s been many years since my grandmother was around to make a pot of chicken soup, but the memories have grown to include my own mother’s pot of simmering soup and the vats and vats of chicken soup we make at work. And having moved into a new home myself in the last year, one of the first things I did was make a huge pot of chicken soup (and meat kreplach), creating the same memory in my own kitchen that I have from my grandmother and mother’s kitchens.
I have recipes for Chicken Soup in both my cookbooks, and they’re great for learning how to make it, but once you’ve been making it for years, you can do it by sight, smell and taste.
No Quantities Chicken Soup Recipe (check cookbooks for quantities)
- place lots and lots of chicken bones, wings and necks into a large pot, filling your pot 2/3s with chicken parts
- cover with cold water, and place the pot over high heat
- bring to a simmer, skimming off any scum that rises to the top
- as soon as it’s simmering, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1 hour, continuing to skim the top until there is no more scum
- add yellow onions (peeled, but left whole), carrots (peeled and cut into large chunks), parsnips (peeled and cut into large chunks), celery (cut into large chunks) and simmer, skimming until all of the scum is removed
- simmer another hour
- add fresh dill, and simmer another 30 minutes
- if it’s too watery, simmer longer, letting the liquid reduce, if it’s rich enough, season with salt to taste
- use tongs to remove any large pieces of vegetable and chicken and discard (we’re not using chicken with much meat on the bones, just bones, necks and wings, so there isn’t much worth keeping)
- use a ladle to pour the broth through cheesecloth into clean bowls or pots
- to chill the soup quickly, the night before I make chicken soup, I fill a few small freezer bags 2/3s with water, expel any extra air, close and freeze – once the soup has been strained, carefully place the frozen bags of ice in the broth and leave for 5-10 minutes – the soup should be cool and ready for the fridge (remove the bags before refrigerating)
- leave the soup in the fridge for a couple of hours, then carefully remove any fat from the top of the soup with a spoon
- reheat when ready to eat or freeze for later use
To purchase the 2nd edition of Soup a Kosher Collection (with new recipes), follow these links:
In the USA: amazon.com
In Canada: amazon.ca
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.
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.
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!).
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
I almost forgot the most exciting news of the day!
I went to Amazon.com to order something and as I do occasionally, I checked in to see how Soup was doing. What came up? A listing for the Passover book! It’s now available for pre-orders on Amazon – click!
This is getting exciting.
I think I’ll go work on some edits and get that book done.
Over the last few weeks I’ve spent all my free time editing and working on photos. I mean all my free time — plus a lot of time at work, where I’ve been hiding out in my office trying to get stuff done.
I keep telling myself that I just have to get this one section done, then I’ll have some free time. Ha! What I meant is that I have to get this section done so I can get to the next one.
Anyway . . . I decided to take the pictures myself for this book. By myself, I mean with the help of my mother and sister. Lisa (the sister) helped by building the ‘studio’ for me. We got some lumber and a roll of backdrop paper, and ended up with this ‘photo studio’.
It worked well, and while I cooked and cooked and cooked, Mom and Lisa took turns as stylists/photographers (though I couldn’t help but take a couple of pictures of each dish myself — can we say control freak?). Every Sunday for a month or so, I’d prep 6-8 recipes and we’d snap dozens of pictures.
There will be 16 colour pages in the book (for those of you who have Soup, it will be the same) and we took over 1200 pictures. Do you know how long it takes to go through 1200 pictures? A long time. But I’ve eliminated close to 1000, and now I’m trying to choose the best out of the ones that are left.
The pictures are getting done in between editing the book. So far I’ve had three people (and me) editing and proofing. We’re on edit #4 now, and we keep finding things to change. We’re in the middle of this round, and I think it will take just one more. I hope.
Next up: formatting.
It’s been a busy month. The holidays kept coming and there wasn’t much time to work on the book. Holiday season starts a couple of weeks before Rosh Hashana and (this year) ended with Canadian Thanksgiving on Monday. Each weekend was another holiday and it kept us hopping at the store.
Between holidays, I managed to squeak out enough time to finish testing all of the recipes. I even put everything together in a (really large) Word file. So we’ve moved on to the next step. Right now I have a couple of family members reading through the book doing a basic edit — the first of many. I’m spending my time working on some formatting and photos.
I’m trying to work out what to do with the formatting. When my first book was published I sent in the manuscript for the first round of edits and got a note back that all of the weight measurements needed to be converted to volumes. It’s not uncommon for North American publishers to say no to weights and insist on volumes — in fact, there’s a great discussion topic on this subject over at the eG Forums (click). You’ll see that many of the posts on this topic are strongly pro weight measurements.
Some of the arguments publishers give for going with volume are that most home cooks don’t have scales in their kitchens and that the North American public doesn’t want weights. I’d say the truth about what the public wants lies somewhere in the middle. Many cooks like to use weights because the results are more consistent. Many home cooks use volume. So I’m trying to include both.
The next question is metric vs. Imperial measurements. I plan on including both. The question is how do you include all of that information in a way that’s still easy to read and understand? It’s a lot of numbers to include for each ingredient and I’m trying to figure out the best way to present it.
Do you have a preference?
Last week I took a few days off of work so I could spend the time at home, working on recipes for the cookbook. I got a lot done, but not as much as I had planned.
I’m going through my lists of tested recipes and to-test recipes, trying to figure out what’s left to do. The problem is that I keep thinking of new ideas, so the to-test list isn’t really getting any smaller.
In the last week or so I’ve worked on:
* potato latkes (not just for Chanukah!)
* zucchini/leek latkes
* sweet potato ginger latkes
* matzo balls
* zucchini/spinach/chicken soup (needs a good name)
* meringue cookies with toasted coconut/almonds/chocolate chips
* sautéed eggplant & roasted pepper salad
* an old-school beef flanken recipe
* blueberry coffee-cake
* sweet potato/apple side dish
* roast chicken with roasted vegetables – a little sweet, a little spicy
* matzo brei (can’t have passover without one recipe — will do at least two — one sweet, one savoury and maybe a couple of other variations)
* strawberry/blueberry conserves for the matzo brei ( it would also be good on matzo)
Some of the recipes I’ve been making for years and just needed to be written down. Some are new for me and have to be tried a few times, tweaking things here and there. Some recipes (like a brisket I cooked on Sunday) just don’t work at all and aren’t worth tweaking. Those are the most frustrating.
While I normally count on immediate family members for taste-testing (don’t worry, there are no critiques more honest — sometimes brutally honest — than those of your parents and siblings), I was lucky enough to have some extended family visiting from out-of-town.
The 6 dozen latkes made that afternoon were gone quickly. And it was a lot of fun having the kitchen full of family, grabbing the latkes as soon as they came out of the pan. It’s true — these Chanukah treats are as good in April or August as they are in December.
So I’m moving along in the kitchen, and getting as much typing done as I can between customers. It’s almost time to start thinking about what has to happen when the cooking is all done. Just not yet.
I just realized I should have included this in the previous post. If there are any recipes you’d love to see in a Passover cookbook, let me know and I’ll see what I can do.