Tag Archives: Holidays

Quick and Delicious (and easy!) Apple Strudel

9 Sep

Quick and Delicious Apple Strudel

I like a crisp, slightly tart apple for baking — a Pink Lady or Granny Smith would be my choice.  I love the addition of pecans for the flavour and the texture they add, but they are completely optional.  For Rosh Hashana, many people have the minhag (custom) of not eating nuts and the pecans can be left out and the strudel will still be delicious!

I use oil to keep the strudel parve, but if you want to replace it with melted butter, that would work beautifully.

Serves: 12

  •   2       lbs. Fuji apples — peeled, cored and grated (about 6 apples)
  •   1/3    cup raisins, seedless
  •  1/3    cup chopped pecans — *optional
  •  5       Tbsp. sugar, divided
  •  3       tsp. cinnamon, divided
  •   3       Tbsp. flour
  •   10     sheets of filo dough
  •   3       Tbsp. canola oil

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Prepare the filling by shredding the apples into a mixing bowl.  If they are very juicy, squeeze out any excess liquid.  Add the raisins, pecans if using, 3 Tbsp. sugar, 2 tsp. cinnamon, flour and nutmeg and mix well.  Set aside.

Lay out one sheet of filo dough and lightly brush with oil.  Mix together 2 Tbsp. of sugar and 1 tsp. of cinnamon and lightly sprinkle the filo with some of this cinnamon/sugar mix.  Repeat with another 4 sheets of filo, oiling and sugaring all but the last sheet.

Arrange half of the apple filling in a row along the longer side of the filo – keeping it about 1″ from each edge.  Roll the strudel up, keeping the filling against the edge as tightly as possible.  Give the excess dough on each end of the roll a twist and tuck the dough under the roll. Place the strudel on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and brush it with oil.  Sprinkle on the cinnamon sugar and use a sharp knife to cut diagonal slits every inch or so – just cut through the dough on the top of the roll, allowing steam to escape while it bakes.

Repeat with the rest of the filo and apple filling.

Bake at 350ºF for 30-35 minutes – until the strudel is golden brown.  Allow to cool, slice all the way through and serve.

apple strudel

 

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Buttermilk Cheese Kugel

4 Sep

The High Holidays are fast approaching and it seems everybody I know is in menu-planning mode.  A good cheese kugel is great for lunch during Rosh Hashana or for breaking the fast on Yom Kippur.

I know a lot of recipes call for some sugar, but I prefer to leave it out of cheese kugels — leave it for the apple or other fruit versions.  I like my cheese kugel to have a little tang and will either add sour cream, or in this case, buttermilk to the recipe.  The topping is optional, and it is delicious without it, but perhaps just a little more delicious with it.

Serve with extra sour cream on the side or if you must have a little sweetness, some sliced strawberries in syrup.

buttermilk kugel 2

 

Buttermilk Cheese Kugel

375 grams egg noodles — wide

5 large eggs
2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup melted butter
375 grams dry curd cottage cheese
1 teaspoon salt

Optional Topping
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
pinch salt
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Cook the noodles following the instructions on the package. Drain well and transfer to a large mixing bowl.

In a medium mixing bowl, mix together the eggs, buttermilk, melted butter, salt and cottage cheese. Pour this mixture onto the noodles and stir to thoroughly mix.

Lightly butter a 2 quart (liter)  casserole and pour the noodle mixture into the pan.

If you choose to add the optional topping, mix all of the topping ingredients together in a small bowl and sprinkle the mixture on top of the noodles.

Bake the kugel in a preheated 375º oven for 1 hour, or until the top is golden brown and the kugel has set.

 

 

Hamantashen

12 Feb

Through the years I’ve tried several different types of Hamentashen.  Some of my favorites include almond pastry with apricot filling, gingerbread pastry with pear filling, cream cheese pastry with any fruit filling, yeast pastry and chocolate pastry with cherry filling.  Though all good, sometimes I think there’s nothing better than a plain-old-simple-pastry with assorted fruit fillings.

Here’s my recipe for Simple Hamantashen dough.  You can fill these with anything you want — jam, pie filling, chocolate, etc.  I’ve made my own apricot, pear, poppy seed, prune and other fillings, but there are lots of great fillings out there, ready to go.  Use whatever you like.

I use lemon zest in the recipe because I really love the hint of lemon flavour it adds to the cookies, but you can leave it out and they’ll still be delicious.

image

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup margarine, soft
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • assorted fruit jams, pie fillings or other fillings

image

Preheat an oven to 350°.

Using an electric mixer or a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the margarine and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until incorporated. Add the lemon zest, baking powder and salt and mix through.  Add the flour and mix on low until it’s all combined and a ball of dough forms.

Divide the dough into 2 sections, setting one aside.  Roll the other section approximately 1/8″ thick on a well-floured counter.  Use a cutter to cut out 2 1/2″ – 3″ circles.  You can keep the scraps and re-roll them once.

Place about 1 tsp. of a filling of your choice in the center of each circle.  Bring three sides of the dough together to make a triangle.  Pinch the three corners together and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Continue with the rest of the dough.

Place the hamantashen in the oven and bake 15-17 minutes, or until the bottom and edges are golden brown.

image

You can make the dough the day before you want to make them, keeping it in the fridge, well wrapped.

Makes approximately 4 dozen hamantashen.

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.

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

Latkes

29 Nov

I’ve been thinking about the latkes I’ll be frying for Chanukah this year.  I spend days and days making latkes.   As often happens, when I start thinking about a holiday food it brings back memories of the foods I enjoyed as a kid. I grew up with traditional foods prepared by my mother and grandmothers and though I will always love them, I also like throwing new twists at old favourites.

As I was thinking about using sweet potato, leeks, zucchini, mushroom and maybe some blue potatoes in latkes, the blue potatoes reminded me of my Baba’s (grandmother) blue latkes. No, Baba didn’t use blue potatoes like I was planning. Her pancakes were made from red, waxy potatoes that had turned a purplish-blue as the starches oxidized after they were finely grated. Some people add white vinegar to the potatoes to stop the oxidizing but I always grate the onions first and let their juices keep the potatoes from discoloring.   Baba went au natural and we ate them as they were —  and loved them! But, if I want blue latkes I’ll use those blue potatoes.

Here are a few of my favourite latke recipes.  While I love, love, love potato latkes, it’s nice to have a few variations to have throughout the holiday. Try one or all of them.

Remember – Chanukah is a holiday that calls for eating things fried with oil. So I use oil to pan-fry all of the latkes. If you are looking for a lighter version, you can spray a non-stick frying-pan with vegetable spray – but be warned – the results will not be the same. For crisp on the outside, soft on the inside latkes use the oil. (You are commemorating a miracle!)

Some latke pointers that I shared a couple of years ago and thought it’s time to share again:

  • Use a food processor or box grater to grate vegetables and then squeeze as much liquid from the vegetables as you can. Discard liquid.
  • Use a non-stick or cast-iron frying pan for frying. Heat 1/4” – 1/2“ of canola or vegetable oil over medium heat. The oil should be hot enough for the latkes to sizzle and bubble as soon as they touch the oil, but not too hot or they will burn before they are cooked through.
  • To keep your potatoes from oxidizing grate the onions first. Toss the potatoes with the onion juices as you grate them and it will keep them from turning brown or blue.
  • Drain the cooked latkes on paper towel.
  • Fry one latke and taste it, checking the seasoning before frying the whole batch. If you like things light on salt and pepper cut back my quantities – taste one and add seasoning to suit your tastes.
  • Serve with apple sauce, sour cream, crème fraiche, Greek yogurt or or tzatziki.
  • Latkes are best served hot, right out of the pan (after draining). If you are feeding a group, place the fresh latkes on a baking sheet and keep in a 200º oven as you make them. If necessary, they can be frozen, thawed and reheated on a baking sheet at 350º degrees, uncovered, until warm (about 10-15 minutes).
Potato Latkes (adapted from Passover – a Kosher Collection)
  • 1 lb. | 454 g yellow onion, peeled and grated (2 medium)
  • 2 lbs. | 910 g red potatoes, peeled and grated
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ oz. | 14 g cake meal (or flour) (2 Tbsp. | 30 mL)
  • 1 ½ tsp. | 7 mL salt
  • ¼ tsp. | 1 mL black pepper
  • canola  oil for frying
Grate the onion first, then grate the potato and mix them together. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible from the onion/potato mixture and place in a mixing bowl.
Add the eggs, cake meal, salt and pepper and mix well.
Heat ¼-inch | 5-mm of oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Use two spoons or an ice-cream scoop to gently place batter into the oil (use about 2 Tbsp. | 30 mL of mixture for each latke).
Fry for about 4 minutes, or until the edges start to brown, then turn over and cook another 3–5 minutes until both sides are golden brown.
Transfer to paper towel to drain.  Continue frying the rest of the latkes, adding more oil if necessary.
Enjoy on their own or with sour cream or applesauce.
Makes 12-16

Zucchini Leek Latkes (adapted from Passover – A Kosher Collection)
I’ve seen young children who maynot enjoy vegetables gobble these up. They’re a little softer than potato latkes, so be gentle when you flip them over.
  • 1 ½ lbs. | 680 g zucchini, trimmed and shredded
  • 8 oz. | 225 g red potato, peeled and shredded
  • 8 oz. | 225 g leek, washed well and thinly sliced (2 medium)
  • 1 ½ tsp. | 7 mL salt
  • ½ tsp. | 2 mL black pepper
  • 2 ½ oz. | 70 g cake meal  (½ cup | 120 mL) (or flour)
  • 1 tsp. | 5 mL paprika
  • 3 large eggs
  • canola oil for frying
Grate the zucchini and potato and squeeze out any excess liquid. Combine with the remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl.
Heat ¼-inch | 5-mm of oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Use two spoons to gently place the mixture into the oil (use about 2 Tbsp. | 30 mL of mixture for each latke).
Fry for 2–3 minutes, or until the edges start to brown, then turn over and cook another 2–3 minutes, until both sides are golden brown.
Transfer to paper towel to drain and continue with the rest of the latkes, adding more oil if necessary.
Makes 16-18

Wild Rice and Mushroom Latkes

  • 3 cups button/crimini mushrooms – thinly sliced
  • 1 large yellow onion – peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 can (425 g) cooked wild rice – rinsed and drained
  • 1-2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 tsp. pepper
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • canola oil for frying

Sauté onions for 2-3 minutes in oil over medium heat. Add sliced mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms have released their juices and are cooked through, about 10 minutes. Drain and cool.

Place the cooled mushrooms and onions in a mixing bowl and add the salt, pepper, eggs and flour. Mix well.

Heat oil in a frying pan and carefully spoon heaping tablespoons of the mixture into the oil. Fry for 3-5 minutes on each side until golden brown and set.

Drain and serve.

Makes 16-18

Sufganiyot for Chanukah

22 Nov

It’s hard to believe that Chanukah is just around the corner — but it will be here next week. Around here, we usually celebrate Chanukah in the depths of winter and thankfully we’ve had a few solid days of snow so we’re all set for this year.

The most common food for Chanukah is probably the potato latke. Crisp potato and onion pancakes fried in oil and served with sour cream or apple sauce. There is nothing wrong with a good potato latke, and I am sure I’ll be frying up hundreds, but that’s not your only option.

First of all, you can do all sorts of interesting latke recipes and I’ll be sharing a few of my favourites here, before the holiday starts. But you know, I think any good, fried food could be considered a good Chanukah dish.

In Winnipeg, as in Israel, sufganiot or jambusters or jelly-doughnuts are a treat often served for Chanukah. Or at least they have been for as long as I can remember. When I was growing up, boxes of sufganiot were always brought into school at Chanukah and my mother would always picked some up for us at the bakery.

The typical jelly doughnut around here is usually filled with a fruit filling, but you can go crazy and fill them with all sorts of things. In Israel they do go crazy and you can find many interesting fillings. How about caramel? Maybe a chocolate or mocha filling. Green tea? Sure.

If you’d like to try making some yourself, a few years ago I put up a step-by-step how-to demonstration at eGullet.org. The demo includes pictures so you can see how easy the process is — and make them yourself!

Click here for the demo.


Cooking & Tasting

11 Aug

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)
* brownies
* 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.

This little 2-year-old thought the sweet potato and ginger latkes were just fine . . . and she stopped eating them after latke #4 or 5.

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.