With Shavuot coming up, my mind is on the Seven Species. (You thought I was going to say cheesecake, didn't you?) But while dairy menus figure big for many, I'm really interested in Shavuot's status as a major harvest holiday, and the importance the first fruits once had as offerings in the Temple in Jerusalem.
I concocted these Carob Date Bars on Lag Ba'Omer, when I wanted to find a tasty way to use roasted carob powder. (The carob chips I bought were declared "icky" by the whole family, probably because they look like chocolate, and taste absolutely nothing like it.) In fact, in the interest of expectation management, I refuse to call these Carob Brownies. Yes, they're moist and chewy, and the carob naysayers loved them. But they've got a rich and distinct flavor, and it's nothing like chocolate.
In any case, thanks to the fact that they contain wheat and dates (2 of the 7 species), they may end up on our Shavuot menu. I'll definitely make this Rainbow Slaw, because its sprightly flavor and refreshing crunch make it an excellent counterpoint to the richness of a dairy menu. And just for fun, I may recycle the idea behind these cute little Israeli Flag Sandwiches. They'd make a great kid-friendly holiday craft/snack, especially if we cut the bread to resemble Mt. Sinai, and decorate the cream cheese with flower shapes.
Lag BaOmer is on Sunday, and whether you fall into the picnic or barbecue camp, it's definitely a celebration to take outdoors. So, what will you eat? Think pareve grain salads -- like this Quinoa with Black Beans, Corn, and Zucchini -- which makes a great take-along for picnics and potluck barbeques. A delicious spring salad, dips like hummus and muhammara, and bean salads are also great choices for casual al fresco dining.
As for dessert, you can give a nod to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai with a carob-laced sweet. Or, if carob isn't your thing, opt for this Cherry Pie with Oatmeal Streusel, which can be made either pareve or dairy to match the rest of your menu.
In honor of Yom Haatzmaut (Israel Independence Day) last week, I started compiling a list of some of my favorite giftable food finds from Israel. Some, like chocolate impresario Max Brenner's confections, or Naked Sea's gourmet finishing salts, are produced in Israel. (In an interesting side note, Naked Sea launched via a successful Kickstarter campaign, with the help of backers eager to bring its prototype line of flavored Dead Sea salts to the market.)
SodaStream, on the other hand, maintains factories around the world, so while not all of their nifty eco-friendly soda makers are made in Israel, purchasing one still supports an Israeli company.
Then there's Soom Foods, an American start-up offering exemplary tahini that's pressed in Israel from Ethiopian White Humera sesame seeds, then packaged in the US. All of which simply illustrates how complex and internationally-oriented the modern food manufacturing supply chain has become.
I remember when buying Israeli foodstuffs meant splurging on a box of Jaffa oranges, tracking down a bottle of Sabra liqueur, or begging someone traveling to Israel to bring back a package of mini Egozi bars. The options are far more varied nowadays, though you'll often have to hear about a product's backstory to find out it hails from the Land of Milk and Honey. I'll keep adding great, gift-worthy gourmet finds to the list, including wine, honey, jams and more. If you've got favorites, or know of some gourmet Israeli finds I haven't mentioned, please share your tips in the Comments section, or send them along to firstname.lastname@example.org!
I was still rousing when my husband informed me early this morning that our daughter really wants to serve me breakfast in bed for Mother's Day. But he won't be home Sunday morning, and she's a) still too young to cook unattended, and b) too short to reach the kitchen counter/refrigerator/pantry shelves.
Now, I'm no dummy. She's a determined kid, and I'm pretty sure she'll lug a chair around to reach things she couldn't otherwise (after all, that's how she sidles up to the counter when she helps me cook). And I did the same thing at her age, when I surprised my sleeping parents with cookies from a mix. I used the oven by myself too, because I figured 5 year olds were old enough to do that. I suspect my daughter will "forget" she's not supposed to do the same, unless we surreptitiously make this whole breakfast in bed thing easy peasy.
So I suggested we make something special and breakfasty the night before, and put it somewhere she can reach it. And even though she won't know I know about her surprise, I can spend the rest of the week looking forward to Blueberry Citrus Muffins or Strawberry Sour Cream Muffins for my Mother's Day wake up.
We recently threw a birthday party for my dad, and I called dibs on the cake baking. He's a big Dr. Who fan, and I planned to make an awesome three-dimensional Tardis cake, which -- if all of the online tutorials I'd found were to be believed -- would be waaaay easier to make than many of the other funkily decorated cakes I've made in the past.
Well, suffice it to say that while The Ultimate Chocolate Cake has served me very well for other sculpted cakes, it was too tender to hold up to vertical building. When I went to retrieve my crumbcoated cake from the fridge, I discovered I had a leaning Tardis on my hands. Extra cake dowels didn't help, and delicious though it was, my Tardis collapsed.
So, I tossed it in a big bowl, called it trifle, and got ready to make another cake. That's when I discovered I was out of dark chocolate. I did, however, have plenty of white chocolate on hand (I'd stocked up to make the modeling chocolate meant to decorate my fallen Tardis). What I didn't have was a white chocolate cake recipe.
I did some quick baking chemistry research, consulted several cookbooks, scribbled down my best guesses at ingredient proportions, and prayed my off-the-cuff recipe would work. Thankfully it did -- and it was delicious. This White Chocolate Cake works beautifully with traditional buttercream (or this pareve vanilla version), but I think I love it even more topped with Raspberry Whipped Cream and fresh berries.
If you're doing a last minute, pre-Yom Tov produce run at Whole Foods, here's a head's up -- you'll find a few other kosher for Passover goodies there, like Fair Trade Fox's U-Bet syrup, organic yogurt, and pareve(!) dark chocolate chips. The latter are supposedly going to be available year-round, but given the dearth of good pareve dark chocolate chips on the market, you may want to grab a bunch before people catch wise, just in case they turn out to be a Passover-only product.
I was halfway through making Passover Pancakes for breakfast this morning when I realized I didn't buy baking powder for Pesach this year. It was too late to turn back, so I proceeded with the recipe, and and am happy to report that it still works.
Now, if you can track it down, using kosher for Passover baking powder will result in fluffier pancakes. But without it, these are still yummy. And as a bonus, I discovered that sans leavening agent, the batter pours thin enough to make a pretty respectable Pesach crepe recipe.
Maybe you're all business, and a Passover grocery list is all you need. Or maybe you're wondering about the difference between cake meal and matzo meal, or trying to find out whether there's a kosher for Passover coconut oil. (There is.)
In that case, you may find this Passover Grocery Shopping Guide helpful. Think of it as an annotated shopping cheat sheet, with recipe ideas and links, definitions, and tips to help demystify shopping for the holiday.
Image © Miri Rotkovitz
Passover begins in just 5 days, which means that if you haven't started stockpiling Pesach groceries already, this is the time to start! Personally, since I use a ton of fresh produce during Passover, I necessarily do a lot of last minute shopping. But I try to get as much shelf-stable stuff as possible now, so I can put it away and not have to think about it at the last minute.
I find that I usually have to hit several different markets to find all that I need, which increases the likelihood of forgetting something. So this year, I've drawn up an extensive chart-style shopping list, and I'm sharing it here with you. There's room to write in items, quantities, and add notes, so you can customize the list to your needs. (You can get the list in printer-friendly format if you click the small printer icon on the upper right-hand corner of the page, underneath the search box.)
The only thing I didn't include was a section for kitniyot foods, for those who eat them. If you'd find this helpful, please email me at email@example.com, and I'll revise the list!
Image © Miri Rotkovitz
Years ago, a couple of days before the Seder, our family friends informed my mom that their young boys -- I think the oldest was maybe 5 at the time -- had suddenly announced that they were vegetarians. They had just seen Chicken Run, and were very adamant about never wanting to eat a chicken ever again.
My sister and I were leaning vegetarian anyway, so I offered to try my hand at a vegetarian matzo ball soup. I've been tweaking the recipe for years, and I've finally hit on a No-Chicken Matzo Ball Soup that I want to make ALL THE TIME. I even tinkered with our family matzo ball recipe, so the soup could have its own special Dill Matzo Balls.
Of course, a girl can't live on soup alone. I look forward to these Passover Hazelnut Chocolate Chip Cookies all year. (True story: I once made them out of empty pantry desperation for a summer cookout. They disappeared very quickly, and I had a bunch of non-Jewish friends begging me for information about Passover cake meal and where to obtain it in mid-summer so they could bake their own.)
Last year, after decades of satisfaction with that one perfect Pesach cookie recipe, I decided it couldn't hurt to have another cookie recipe up my sleeve. Now these Apricot Chocolate Chunk Farfel Cookies get a place of honor on the cookie platter, too.
Image © Miri Rotkovitz