Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Macaroons, Version 2 and Hot Times in the Desert

I came back with a tan-how's that for a hot opener? It feels so good. And now it is back to the routine, as my father says. I think he lives for the sake of routine. I, on the other hand, have a hard time with that path. Not that I don't have a routine, but mine is always ready to be broken! Phoenix was beautiful and the weather was perfecto. Passover was glorious. My kids were there and what can be more glorious than that?

We had a great Seder with my folks and my brother and then we stayed up until midnight and watched the Lunar eclipse. The blood moon, as some call it. The moon looked like a red clay marble that glowed in the dark sky. It will happen again on the Jewish holiday of Sukkot and also next year on Passover and Sukkot again. It happened previously in 1492, 1948, and 1967. Weird, huh? And no, I don't have photos. This is just one for the memory books. Though I will have to see if Alex got some. He set up his Go Pro on time lapse. The amazing thing was that even my parents stayed awake. Now that was one for the record books!

Our week continued with lots of family events and lots of eating, some spa-ing, some shopping and our second time to view the Chihuly glass at the Phoenix Botanical Gardens. We love Chihuly and though I didn't think this exhibit was as good as the first, we still had a super time. This year there will be an exhibit in Denver and I can't wait!

We came back to gorgeous weather in Denver and the mess of having my kitchen painted. I think it has been at least 18 years since the trim work has been done, so it was definitely time, don't you think? I think it will be finished today, but then it will take a good day before I have it put back together. Painting is sure one way to get things cleaned up around here. And to think I really need to have the rest of the house done, too!

And I almost forgot. My brother told us good bye from this car, that is his baby. His other baby is the driver.

So guess what? Not much cooking going on around here, but I did make these fabulous macaroons to take to Phoenix. I found them in the little food circular, "Relish" that comes in the newspaper. Dan Cohen wrote the Macaroon Bible and this recipe came from that. The funny thing is that is is basically the same as my old macaroon recipe but the ingredients are put together differently. You will have to do a side by side comparison to see which you prefer.

Manservant put it this way: "The original version tastes like it is chewy and full of coconut. It is dense and good. This version tastes like the coconut is more baked in and therefore it is lighter. They are both good and it is hard to choose. It just depends whether you want the more baked in, lighter tasting macaroon or the more dense, chewy macaroon. But they are both chewy in their own way." So, there you have it! No winner-unless you consider yourself the winner, that can't go wrong!

I did make a few new versions this year. They were all a hit! My lemon version was made with the zest of one lemon stirred into about 1/4 of the macaroon mixture and drizzled with a lemon juice confectioner's sugar glaze. The mocha version was basically a heaping tablespoon of espresso stirred into 1/4 of the plain macaroon dough with added chocolate chips. I liked those! And then I took plain ones and dipped them into chocolate.  Last but not least, I added 2 T of cocoa to about 1/4 of the batter and mixed it well. I then made a little well in each cookie and dropped in a scoop of Nutella. Between all these macaroons and some matzoh toffee we were set. Truth be told they barely made it through the week!

Vanilla Macaroons
From: Dan Cohen, The Macaroon Bible
Servings: 24


1 c sweetened condensed milk
1 t vanilla
1 14 oz bag sweetened, shredded coconut
2 large egg whites
1/4 t coarse salt


Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
Combine condensed milk and vanilla in a large bowl. Add coconut and stir until thoroughly mixed. Beat egg whites and salt until stiff peaks form, 2-3 minutes. Gently fold egg whites into coconut mixture. I use wet hands to form mixture into small goldballs golfballs. (Don't I wish?) Do not squeeze to hard and compact the mixture. Place on baking sheet about 1 inch apart. Bake 20-25 minutes. Let cool.

And as for those egg yolks... I put them in a little glass and add a pat of butter. Mix them well. Add some salt. Put them in a microwave for thirty second intervals, stirring in between. Take them out when cooked. Cool. And feed to your waiting and patient dog!

Some Good Easter Recipes:

Friday, April 11, 2014

Cheese and a #Whole Foods #Giveaway

Little did I know that April is grilled cheese month. I'm not that organized and as far as I'm concerned every month is grilled cheese month. For that matter every day could be grilled cheese day...But where did this love of grilled cheese begin? I really don't know. As a child I hated cheese because all we had in our home were slices of American cheese, wrapped in cellophane. I remember my brother loving these, but they weren't very tempting to me. We never had Velveeta, though I do remember a Wisconsin cheese spread in a tub. Really, cheese was not a cusine highlight of my younger days.

Until! The Jewel grocery store opened in our giant, tiny metropolis. Though it was the beginning of the end of the Weiner superettes, the cute little groceries and butcher shops owned by my Papa and my uncle, the Jewel introduced us to a whole new world of food that my mother reminded us we should never talk about in front of my grandfather. (We still bought all the staples at the superettes, but things like cheese came from the Jewel.) And boy, did my mom discover cheese. And we discovered cheese through her. 

This cheese era began during my high school years-from what I can recall. This was also the time my father discovered fine wine. And you know cheese and wine go hand in hand. This was the beginning of his wine cellar and the extra pounds around our middles. After all, one can't have a good brie and French bread, after dinner without some cost, right? Yes, after finishing a normal dinner of steak, (We had a lot of beef growing up, because the Weiner superettes were known for their great meat. People came from all over our area to buy their beef) or  bbq chicken, or roast, my mom would bring out her cheese of the day. I have to admit that it was fun, and from that point on, we didn't just have American in the house.

After I went to college, I had a roommate who loved to make cheddar cheese soup from the can. I added real cheddar and beer to it and how I still remember this, I'll never know because I don't think I've eaten it since. Yes, cheese quickly became a part of my life, though I still never ate grilled cheese. I really don't know when I discovered real grilled cheese, but when I started making it for myself I began to see what all the fuss is about. Damn! Grilled cheese is good. I've never really posted about it, because I mean who can't make a grilled cheese? 

Anyway, Whole Foods wants cheese this month. I was happy to accommodate. So I made this. We had it before dinner. We could have had it after dinner. We could have had it FOR dinner. People always make room for cheese! It is fun to make a cheese platter. It is easy to make a cheese platter. But they are like way better to eat. Treat your company. Treat yourself. Start a family tradition and serve a cheese after dinner for dessert, with a piece of fruit. Educate your kids early on. Maybe they will even become a Certified Cheese Professional of which Whole Foods has many. (Yes, this is a real designation.) 

HOWEVER!  If you get hung up on what to buy, you can always ask the knowledgeable staff at Whole Foods. Derek at South Glenn is my guy. I asked him what his favorite cheese is and that was the starting point for my cheese board. From there, I always add a safe cheese, a cheese that is risky or daring, and other great fill ins to keep everyone happy. Derek also recommended the Panzanella crackers and they were great, too.

So get with it people. Go buy some cheese. Unless you are like way lactose intolerant, cheese is good. And good for you. Of course, everything in moderation! So tell me what's your favorite grilled cheese or what's your favorite cheese? I'd love to know!

Whole Foods is giving away 1 $25 gift cards to help fill your basket. Whole Foods does supply me with a gift card also, but no other compensation.  All opinions expressed are mine, baby. All mine. This giveaway is easy to enter as long as you live in the US. Giveaway closes on April 30th. Subscribe if you don't want to miss the announcement of the winner or tune in on May 1st to see if you won! (And please, if you have a common name, you need to give me a hint like Sue from Sioux City or something like that, or an email address to reach you) The winner will be chosen by a Random Number Generator! So now, to enter: (dahdah, dah, dah, de DAH!) Enter once by leaving me a comment and answering the above question. Enter again by following me on Pinterest or Facebook or Twitter. I'd love you to subscribe. Hey, I'll give you 2 entries for subscribing!

Cheese Recipe 
Serves: A lot
Created by: You

I used:  Alta Langa - a cheese made from goat's, sheep, and cow milk. I drizzled it with lavender honey. Lovely, but a bit strong for some.

Mitica Mahon - a Spanish cheese from cow's milk - buttery, slightly salty, the orange color is from paprika rubbed onto the rind.

Point Reyes Blue - Creamy, bright, peppery - perfect with steak or on salad or drizzled with honey and eaten with apricots!

Monti Trentini - Made from Cow's Milk with a hint of truffle - I drizzled with a bit of truffle oil.

Accompaniments: Thin slices of dried chorizo, quince paste which is like a sliceable jam and gives a hint of sweetness to compliment the saltiness of cheese, pistachios, because what doesn't go with pistachios? and some dried cherries. Just because. La Panzanella crackers-yum! 

Some Good Easter Recipes:

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Fudgey and Gluten Free Passover Fudge Cake and My Passover Menu

Ach! Such a crazy title for a very simple cake. I'm not sure when flourless chocolate cake became the rage, only to be followed by little molten lava cakes, but I know that every restaurant seems to have one or the other on their menu. And just like they are everywhere, so are the numerous recipes that extoll their virtues. I'm not sure how old I was when my mother gave me the recipe for her flourless chocolate cake, but I think I was already out of the home-so to speak.

She used to make it quite often and so did I. When I first got married it seems this was THE dessert that I made for everyone. But don't get too excited because I'm not giving you that recipe. I'm giving you a better recipe. It doesn't involve separate beating of the egg whites and egg yolks or melting the chocolate or anything like that. So, look at it this way, I'm giving you the latest and greatest. Not because I didn't love the one my mother made, but because this one is like way simpler.

Yes, it is different. The texture is more fudge like than brownie like. This one slides off your tongue and can be served warmed or chilled. And it only requires one 9" pan. Don't laugh when I say this makes 16 servings. It can easily serve 12-maybe 16. Yes, this beauty is rich. Creamy rich and totally a chocolate lover's dream. Throw a little whipped cream or ice cream on top and even a few berries, and you've got an unbelievable dessert. 

Now I know there are chiffon cake lovers in the bunch and I'm going to give you a link to one of my favorites. This Bon Appetit recipe is good. Very good. I made it way back in 1997. Ach! Where does the time go? Now my friend makes it! But, well, I'm just a girl that loves chocolate; and my Ilse's Passover nut cake, iced with a delectable mocha frosting. What can I say?

Passover is a big meal and it lasts a long time so one must pace themselves, as my father says. It involves 4 glasses of wine and a great story, traditions and singing. Check the link out if you want to know more. This year we are making it easy on my folks and flying to Phoenix to celebrate. Normally we don't celebrate with them because it was too hard to visit when the kids were in school and they never liked coming up here. Alex and Zoe are flying in and it will be the first Passover my nuclear family has had together since their senior year in high school. I am looking very forward to this.  Like way forward. Like I can't wait! My brother will be there to, but alas, only one of them. I'll be doing a lot of the cooking, and that's OK. I enjoy cooking. Can't you tell?

Our Menu!

Chopped Liver

Gefilte Fish - I buy the frozen loaves. I've made it several ways but the frozen are pretty good!
Hard Boiled Eggs
Charoses - I do the Sephardic kind and the apple kind, but this year, just the apples! 
Bitter Herbs and Salt Water
Maror (Horseradish) - Usually I grate my own, but this year simplicity is king!

Roasted Asparagus and Roasted Carrots
Frozen Fruit Cup

Matzoh Toffee - use matzoh, not Saltines
Fresh Berries

And now the fudge cake! Enjoy! And Happy Holidays! Be it Easter or Passover!

Flourless, Gluten Free, Passover Fudge Cake
Yield: 12-16 servings
Time: 20 minutes prep

8 oz unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
4 oz semi sweet chocolate, roughly chopped
1 1/3 c sugar
1 c butter
5 eggs
Pinch of salt
1 t vanilla
Line the bottom of a 9" cake pan with parchment paper. Grease the paper. Preheat oven to 350.
Put both chocolates in food processor. Using the on/off method chop the chocolate until fairly fine.
Bring 1/2 c water to boil with the sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved. With motor running, slowly pour sugar water into chocolate. Add butter 2 T at a time. Add eggs one at a time to incorporate into mixture. Add salt and vanilla.
Pour into prepared cake pan. Place in a bigger pan and fill pan with hot water until the water reaches halfway up the outside of the cake pan. Bake 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out with a few crumbs. Do not over bake. Remove from water bath and let cool. May be served chilled, warm or at room temperature!

Some Good Easter Recipes:

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Matzoh Grilled Cheese with Basil, Anchovies and Lemon!

Where have these been all my life? Growing up, my matzoh sandwiches consisted of butter and matzoh. Maybe some jelly. Probably strawberry or raspberry or apricot. I don't recall our home ever having grape jelly. I do not know why. The grape jelly question came up when my daughter asked why we never had grape jelly. I think she was 16 when she asked it. Apparently that is the most common variety that is shoved between two slices of soft, squishy bread along with peanut butter. But then she never had stick to your teeth bread to spread it between.

And I did not have perfectly white soft bread either, because my mother always toasted our bread.The day my father smelled lard coming from the toaster was the day that began and ended, the short moment of soft squishy bread in my ancestral home. In fact, we never brought  lunch to school and not many kids did back then.  My brother and I were the only two Jews in our elementary school and during Passover we were probably the only two that brought lunch. Certainly we were the only two that brought matzoh sandwiches that consisted of the standard butter and jelly between two matzos.

My kids, unlike me, always took their lunch to school. Though I tried to get them to eat the school's lunch they refused, and I freely admit that I was trying to get out of making lunches. One does hear bad things about school lunches, but I looked at them as a convenience thing. And no, I never liked those lunchables or any of those convenience things either. My kids always had a real sandwich, carrots, an apple, probably chips and something sweet. And I almost forgot the juice!  I'm not sure how much was tossed in the garbage, but that is what they left home with, all the way through high school! 

After becoming a substitute teacher, I began to understand why. Many folks talk about the atrocious cafeteria food and I believe them. But what I noticed was the way this "food" was served. In my day, the cafeteria ladies served you (Yes, you read that right) and your lunch was on a real dinner plate. One ate with real silverware and napkins at each place and I even remember salt and pepper shakers on the long, bench sided table. The milk was in a cardboard container. Now, at least from my experience, the food is plopped directly onto an orange plastic tray and liquid items are placed in clear, plastic bowls and served with plastic silverware; that is if you need silverware. I don't care what the food tastes like, let's face it, eating with your eyes just ain't happening in the school cafeteria. And we wonder how we are educating our kids. (Well, you don't want me to get started on that!)

So, now that I've somehow gotten completely off topic, I'll remind you we are talking about Passover. I'll remind you that this was the only time I brought my lunch to school. I'll remind you that no one made me cute little grilled cheese matzoh sandwiches stuffed with fresh mozzarella, anchovies and basil and topped with a lemony, garlic, pepper, olive oil sauce. Maybe it is because one couldn't buy fresh mozzarella when I was growing up, but even if they could, I'm not sure my mom would have ever made these. And I never made these for my kids, because I just didn't think of it.  No, other than egg salad or tuna fish, our matzoh sandwiches just consisted of butter, and jelly and maybe peanut butter. 

Not any more. The times, they are a changin'! I do confess to breaking open the first box of matzoh with anticipatory glee because there is nothing like smearing butter on a giant cracker to celebrate the beginning of our eight day holiday.  I also love toasting my matzoh to give it a very crisp, warm bite. But after eight days of matzoh treats I start missing my bread. However, after this cheesy concoction, I might be able hold off the pangs of sorrow and not miss bread quite so soon.

I  made these grilled cheese sandwiches with that leftover box of matzoh that every good Jewish family has hiding in their cabinet, until they throw it out the next year. But honestly, that matzoh held up fine. And it tasted might fine when filled with basil and melted cheese. Mighty fine. Really fine. Super fine. This is a great combo. Perfect for a light lunch. Perfect for an appetizer. It would also be superb dunked in a bit of marinara sauce and served along side a bowl of soup. I am so happy with this discovery! Not that I'm saying this is great on the calorie count, but it does add some variety to the matzoh world!

Go ahead. Live a little. Make yourself a matzoh grilled cheese. Even if you didn't grow up with large, crispy, flat crackers, you will like this. Yes, I know you could make this with real bread. BUT... It just wouldn't be the same. 

Matzoh Grilled Cheese

Adapted From: Jewish Holiday Cooking by Jayne Cohen
Yield: 2-3 Servings
Time to make: About 30 minutes start to finish

10 whole matzohs, egg or plain
About 1/2 lb of fresh mozzarella, sliced thin
12 fresh basil leaves or more to taste
2 large eggs
Olive oil-for frying

2 t finely minced garlic
1 T olive oil
3-4 anchovy fillets, finely chopped (I will not eat anchovies straight up. However, they are essential to this recipe and you will love them!)
Juice of 1 lemon
About 5 grinds of fresh black pepper

Lemon - to squeeze on top and for garnish

Break each matzoh into four equal pieces. Fill a large shallow pan with well salted water. (It should taste salty.) Dip 2 of the matzoh quarters into the water. Swish them around a bit, but do not let them get too soft. Place a slice of cheese and a basil leaf on one half and top with the other. Make sure the cheese is covered by the matzoh. Let dry slightly while you make the others.

Prepare the sauce. Cook the garlic in a small saute pan over low heat until it is just tinged with gold, about two minutes. The garlic should remain soft, don't let it crisp or brown. Add the chopped anchovies, stirring and mashing until they have melted into the sauce. Whisk in the lemon juice and pepper to taste. Cook, and occasionally stir, for 2-3 minutes so the flavors can blend. Keep warm.

Empty the water from your shallow pan. Add the two eggs and beat well. Heat 1/4" of olive oil in a large, heavy skillet. Just before frying dip each sandwich into the egg, immersing both sides and then let the excess drip back into the pan. Repeat until all sandwiches are coated. Put as many sandwiches as your skillet can hold, into the pan without crowding. Fry until crisp and golden on each side. Avoid turning more than once. Fry in batches if necessary.

Spoon some of the sauce on top. Serve with extra lemon to squeeze on top. I admit that these were good even at room temperature. You could also put an extra anchovy inside if you love anchovies. I am going to make this sauce to spoon over fish. These were so good-and since I am a good Jewish mother, you must take my word on this!

Other Passover recipes:
Chopped Liver
Sephardic Charoses
My Mother's Brisket
Egg Salad
Passover Mocha Nut Cake
Marshmallows and Matzoh S'mores
Fool's Toffee

The winner for this month's Whole Foods giveaway is: KellyR78! Thanks Kelly!