Lifestyle

Don’t pass over the desserts

Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter Matzo Roca Candy. -
Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter Matzo Roca Candy.
— image credit:

A Jewish holiday’s tasty final course

Eileen Mintz
On Food

What is a Passover Seder? It is a service that retells the Passover story. Seder really means “order,” as this service has 14 parts that are performed in a sequence. The Passover book, which tells the Passover story, is called a Haggadah. The Passover Seder is often held in a family member’s home on the same Hebrew calendar date every year, the 14th day of the month of Nisan. The second Passover Seder during the Passover week is often held in synagogues or Jewish community centers.

When I was a little girl, I remember that we always had a Passover Seder that my Grandpa from Bellingham led. He read Hebrew so quickly that no one seemed to follow along. We talked, giggled, met cousins under the table, but we always tried to follow the Seder and perform all the parts. Grandpa led the blessing over the holiday. We then washed our hands in a ritual manner before the meal. We dipped parsley into salted water and then divided matzo and hid a piece for the children to find. That was the best part for us kids because money was given even if we didn’t find the hidden matzos.

My aunt Lora made the best sponge cake and she was kind enough to make an extra one for my family. Mom never baked a sponge cake but made Matzo Brei and lunches made of matzo, unleavened bread rather than white bread. I started making the Passover Seders with my husband, Dave, when the kids were young, thus starting my own traditions. My mom was always amazed that I make everything from scratch, but best of all, I continued the treat and made the sponge cakes for my mom and dad as my gift when they were alive.

Today, Dave and I are the grandparents. Our Passover Seders are larger than they have ever been. I don’t make one brisket — I make two. Cakes, cookies and candies can be bought at Albertsons or QFC or baked in my home. There are so many young grandkids, nieces and nephews that we are going to have a mini kid’s Seder in my kitchen and the adults afterward in the living/dining room. Passover begins at sundown this year on Saturday, April 19. We all will retell the Passover story and commemorate this time in history. Then we will EAT!

Last month, I had the pleasure of interviewing Judy Bart Kancigor, an author whose newest book, “Cooking Jewish: 532 Great Recipes from the Rabinowitz Family,” was published by Workman Publishing. Kancigor told me of her family and friends’ stories and recipes and shared favorite Passover recipes with me. “That’s not even all the recipes,” she said. This book is a memorable storybook filled with folklore that makes for great reading. Photos are fabulous too. Order it through Island Books.

MARCIA DARE’S PASSOVER UPSIDE DOWN APPLE CAKE

Marcia took my challenge as I let people know that I needed help in testing a Passover apple cake recipe. This originally called for more apples; not sliced ones, but whole. Marcia took it one step further and redid the recipe. She told me that she celebrates every year with her friend and mine, “Cake Lady” Holly Levin and her family. I give Marcia credit. She brings cakes to the “Cake Lady.” Makes one 10-inch round cake.

4 TBS. margarine

2/3 cup brown sugar

4-5 apples, peeled and cored

4 TBS. sliced almonds

4 TBS. golden raisins

4 TBS. dried cherries, chopped slightly

Dash of cinnamon

Juice of one lemon

Batter

5 eggs, separated

5 TBS. sugar

1 tsp. lemon juice

1/2 tsp. almond extract

4 TBS. potato starch, sifted

Prepare each apple by cutting a small slice off the top and bottom and then cutting it in 1/2 to 1-inch slices. Melt the margarine, add the sugar, and cover the bottom of a 10-inch round cake pan with the mixture. Arrange the apples over the sugar mixture in a decorative pattern. Combine the nuts, raisins, cherries and a dash of cinnamon. Fill the core openings with the mixture. Pour the lemon juice over the apples. Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for approximately 30 minutes or until tender.

While the apples are baking, prepare the batter. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until very light. Add the lemon juice, almond extract and sifted potato starch. In a clean bowl, use clean beaters to beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Carefully fold the beaten egg whites into the egg yolk mixture. Pour the batter over the hot apples and bake for an additional 20-30 minutes or until the cake tests done. Let the cake rest on a rack for 10 minutes. It will deflate slightly. Place a large cake plate over the pan and turn it upside down. Let cool before serving.

BARBARA STRAUS’ PASSOVER CHOCOLATE MACAROONS

According to author Judy Kancigor, of Cooking Jewish, these macaroon meringues are rich and chocolaty with the coconut augmenting rather than overpowering the chocolate. Makes around 4-6 dozen, depending on the size you choose to make.

2 cups (12 oz.) semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips

Parchment paper or vegetable spray

4 large egg whites

Pinch of salt

1 cup sugar

2 tsp. vanilla (kosher for Passover) — can leave out

1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 cups sweetened flaked or shredded coconut

Melt chocolate in a double boiler set over simmering (not boiling) water. Remove the pan from the heat and set it aside to cool. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment.

Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until foamy, about 30 seconds. Add the salt and beat until soft peaks form. Add the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, beating for 10 seconds after each addition until stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes total. Fold in the coconut and melted chocolate until thoroughly blended.

Drop batter by teaspoonfuls, 1 inch apart, on the prepared baking sheet. The batter stiffens as stands. Bake on the center oven rack until the macaroons puff up, 10 to 13 minutes. Don’t allow the edges to get brown or they will be overdone. Let the cookies cool on the cookie sheet for about 2 minutes before transferring them to a cookie rack to cool completely.

Repeat, baking and cooling the remaining macaroons.

ROBIN BOYKO’S PASSOVER CHOCOLATE COVERED MATZO TOFFEE

Don’t throw away any of the crumbs, says Judy Kancigor — they are great over ice cream.

4 matzo boards

2 sticks unsalted butter or non-dairy margarine

1 cup packed dark brown sugar (not golden)

2 cups (12 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup almond or walnut pieces, toasted first and then chopped coarsely.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a 17x11-inch baking pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Arrange the matzo in the prepared pan in a single layer, breaking them if necessary to fill all the spaces.

Combine the butter and brown sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook until thick and syrupy, about 3 minutes.

Pour the toffee mixture over the matzo and spread it out evenly. Bake until bubbly, 4 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle chocolate chips over the toffee layer. Bake for 1 minute more. Then remove the pan from the oven and set it aside until the chocolate has melted, about 5 minutes. Spread the melted chocolate out evenly. Sprinkle with the chopped nuts. Refrigerate until the chocolate is firm, 30 minutes to 1 hour. Cut or break into pieces.

ELAINE EPSTEIN’S FROZEN STRAWBERRY MERINGUE TORTE

The most talked about dessert of last year’s column is Elaine Epstein’s Frozen Strawberry Torte. So because of all the calls and e-mails, I have decided to run it again. Enjoy!

I asked Elaine for her secret to making this torte so high and fluffy. She added one more cup of strawberries. I told her that I like to add in a mashed banana. Either way, it is delicious. Elaine said that her husband, Eddie, usually slices this torte. “He does it the best and always manages to get the crust out perfectly.” Cut it right in the springform pan and have a plate ready, then drizzle on the strawberry sauce over

the frozen piece. Elaine suggests using Manischewitz Strawberry Preserves or Atlas Strawberry spread with no sugar added. It comes with a K-p on it.

CRUST

1 1/2 cups almond macaroons (Purchased kosher for Passover at Albertsons or QFC in the Passover section; you can use chocolate too)

2 TBS. margarine, melted

1/2 cup chopped pecans

FILLING

2 large egg whites (room temperature)

1 cup sugar

3 cups sliced fresh strawberries

1 TBS. lemon juice

1 tsp. vanilla (Passover — skip if you can’t find it)

SAUCE

10-ounce package frozen sliced strawberries

3 TBS. frozen undiluted orange juice

1 TBS. strawberry preserves (kosher for Passover)

1 cup sliced fresh strawberries

To make the crust, process macaroons, margarine and nuts until the mixture holds together. Press lightly into a greased 10-inch springform pan and bake for 7 to 10 minutes in a preheated 350-degree oven. Go on the less side of baking. Cool.

Using a stand-up electric mixer, beat the egg whites, sugar, strawberries and lemon juice on low speed until well blended. Increase speed to high and beat until stiff peaks form (10 to 15 minutes). Pour into the cool crust and swirl the top to make a frosting design. Place uncovered in a freezer until firm (overnight or at least 6 hours). Remove from the freezer. Serve quickly, frozen. Can keep for up to 3 weeks in the freezer, but wrap well. Serve with strawberry sauce.

To make sauce:

Slightly defrost strawberries and orange juice concentrate. Puree berries and concentrate in food processor fitted with a metal blade. Mix in preserves. Remove to a bowl and stir in sliced strawberries. Serve cold. Keep refrigerated overnight.

To assemble:

Unmold torte and cut into wedges. Serve with strawberry sauce.

FAUX POTATO KUGEL

This recipe is from a dear friend and famous Canadian cookbook author, Norene Gilletz, of Norene’s Healthy Kitchen. Serves 6 to 8 people.

1 large cauliflower, cut into florets (about 8 cups)

2 TBS. oil

1 medium onion, cut into chunks

2 large eggs

1 tsp. salt or to taste

1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

1/4 cup matzo meal (whole wheat or regular)

Pour 1 inch of water into a large saucepan. Place the cauliflower florets in the steamer basket and transfer the basket to the saucepan, making sure the florets don’t touch the water.

Cover the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and steam until tender, about 12 to 15 minutes. Drain well and pat dry with paper towels. Let cool.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Pour the oil into a 7x11-inch glass baking dish. Place the dish in the oven and heat until the oil is piping hot, about 5 minutes.

In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, process onion for about 10 seconds until minced. Scrape down the sides of bowl before adding the cauliflower, eggs, salt, pepper and matzo meal; process for 10 to 15 seconds.

Carefully add half of the hot oil to the cauliflower mixture and mix well. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and spread evenly. Sprinkle a little additional oil on top.

Bake, uncovered, for 45 to 55 minutes or until nicely browned. Keeps for up to 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator; reheats and freezes well. When needed, reheat frozen kugel (do not defrost), uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes.

MATZORONI AND CHEESE

Serves 10 people and takes about 30 minutes to prepare and bake. I am going to make this during Passover week and serve it with gefilte fish and a salad.

3 large eggs

3 1/2 cups matzo farfel or 6 matzos broken into small pieces

1 cup milk

1 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

1/2 cups grated mild cheddar cheese

16 ounces sour cream

1 stick of butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 2-quart casserole dish. Beat 2 of the eggs well with a whisk. Pour over the matzo farfel and blend lightly. In a separate bowl, combine milk, salt and pepper. Beat the remaining egg with a whisk and stir into this milk mixture. Cut butter into 16 pieces. Layer ingredients into casserole dish as follows, being sure to distribute each layer evenly; half the farfel mixture, one cup cheddar cheese, half the sour cream (in dabs), half the butter pieces. Repeat. Pour the milk mixture over the top and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheddar cheese. Cover casserole dish and bake 10-15 minutes until lightly browned on top.

Eileen Mintz can be reached by e-mail at eileenmintz@comcast.net or by phone at 232-1984. Next month, Eileen’s column will feature spring recipes from Catering Chef Lisa Odegard of www.odegardepicurean.com. Lisa will teach a cooking class on April 17 at the Mercer Island Community Center from 11:30 to 1:30 p.m. Theme: Celebrate Spring. To register, call 236-3545.

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