Quick, easy, delicious but not low cal Chocolate Mocha Passover Brownies

The batter

Very low tech. You mix everything with a large spoon.


I have mixed feelings about posting this recipe, not that it isn’t yummy–these brownies deliver in the taste department and they are easy; you can put them together in less time than it would take to drive to a bakery, find parking and stand in line to pay. Baking your own Passover brownies will save you lots money and you’ll  enjoy a better brownie than store bought. If you’re looking to occupy the kids over Hol HaMoed, baking is a great project. This recipe is so easy that even a five year old could put it together , with minimal  supervision–but they are “F.” not naughty but FATTENING.
I wish I could fix that  . For now, that is until the Messiah arrives and/or the geniuses in food technology discover how to zap the calories out of   oil and walnuts. eat these in small doses–one small square at a time.
Chocolate Mocha Passover Brownies
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup best quality cocoa powder
1/2 cup matzo meal or potato starch (depending on whether you are Hassidic or not)
2/3 cup ground walnuts
2/3 cup Passover oil (not olive)
1 tablespoon freeze dried coffee (also optional but nice)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
Oil a 9-11 or 8 by 10 baking tray. (regular sized foil tray is fine)
Bake in medium oven for 20-25 minutes
Freezes well

Ready to eat

My Mother’s Egg Salad Guacamole

holy moly guacamole
The other day I discovered two left over hard boiled eggs and two soft avocadoes. When I looked at them together the proverbial light switch went off in my brain– avocado plus eggs equals guacamole. I learned that math from my mother. No, it isn’t Hungarian–they didnt have avocadoes in pre War Hungary. My mother discovered this recipe in Mexico where she lived after the Second World War, waiting for a visa to enter the US. It’s a keeper, easy to make and if you use light mayonaisse not even terribly fattening . Spread it inside a tortilla wrap add chunks of fresh tomato and cucumber slices and you’ve got a wonderful light meal.
My mother’s Egg Salad Guacamole
TWo hard boiled eggs
Two medium sized soft avocadoes
One tablespoon mayonaisse
One to two tablespoons finely minced raw onion
Salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste
Peel the hard boiled eggs and cut into chunks. Peel the avocado and cut into chunks.
Mash together or combine using the blade attachment of your food processor. Pulse slowly, otherwise you’ll end up with a smooth baby food like puree. The goal here is to preserve texture. Add the minced onion. Adjust seasonings. Serve with fresh vegies, crackers or as a sandwich spread
Do not freeze
Serves four to six

My husbands’ favorite Ice cream

I’m loathe to post a recipe made with Rich’s whip, the pareve ersatz cream that has become such a great favorite among the kosher set. That’s because Rich’s is a pseudo food. Read the label– HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED COCONUT OIL, PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED PALM KERNEL OIL. Those aren’t things I stock in my pantry. But Rich’s whip has one great advantage—-it works. It is a very accurate non dairy imitation of heavy cream.and if you beat in the right amounts of sugar and eggs you can create a a pretty good stand in for ice cream.
On line (not online but standing on an actual line in a mortar and brick retail establishment) , I overheard a woman describing a dessert she was particularly proud of. It was a runny centered chocolate cake served in tiny individual pans, topped with a scoop of pareve vanilla ice cream.
“Oh how do you do the ice cream? ” I asked. I’m not shy about picking the brains of perfect strangers for cooking wisdom. I tried the recipe as I remembered it and tweaked it a bit and everyone, loved it, especially my husband who says it is as good as the ice cream that his mother used to make–that’s as superlative a compliment as I can ever expect from him. And it you’ve been following this blog, the ice cream is a wonderful use for home made vanilla (see previous post)
Here it is for posterity. Note: if you don’t have a good stand mixer, then don’t bother but if you do this is quick and easy and fun and it’s a great one to know if you need to feed a crowd!
Vanilla Pareve Ice Cream.
One double sized container of Rich’s whip
1/2 cup sugar
4 eggs, separate yolks and whites
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, homemade is best
Whip the egg whites until stiff. Set aside
Whip the Rich’s until still, set aside
Add the yolks, sugar and vanilla to the beaten Rich’s whip (beat together very briefly; a few seconds is enough)The carefully fold in the beaten egg whites. Do this by hand using a large metal or plastic spoon–you want to gently incorporate the whites.
Freeze. After an hour in the freezer remove and stir. Then freeze again
Add ins for extra flavor.
You can improvise. I like to mix in a package of sugar coated nuts–pecans or almonds. Chocolate chips are nice too.
Serves 10-12. Fattening! I scream you scream

Home Made Vanilla Extract

The last time I was in New York I stared hard at a bottle vanilla beans.I’d never seen them in Israel and I’d heard that they were amazing and I wanted to buy the bottle but…..my sensible self kicked in.
“that bottle is glass. What if it shatters in the suitcase.
My spontaneous impulsive self fought back. I’ll take my chances or use bubble wrap it.
“But you are leaving today and bubble wrapping is such a pain,” my sensible self replied, and the bottle was left behind. But G-d smiled on me and
Two weeks after I got home I discovered loosevanilla beans on sale at Yom Tov’s gourmet market in Jerusalem.(I am told that you can find them in Mahane Yehuda also) at six shekels.Pricey for something that looks like tree bark , (a bit less than two bucks)but I was elated and I bought two.
The next question was what to do with them. Scraping out the insides of the pods adding them directly to cake batter was one option but my sensible self nixed it. It seemed too decadent and two uneconomical a use for something relatively pricey. The next idea was to them whole in a bag of sugar but my senible self pointed out an that ants crawl into my sugar bags with some regularity.Would I really want my precious vanilla beans to end up in the garbage? So I opted for the most sensible choice-making a bottle of vanilla extract.
Until I acquired those two vanilla beans, I didnt realize that vanilla extract could be make at home but thanks to the internet I learned that vanilla extract is a snap to make. It’s a two ingredient recipe. My favorite kind of cooking!
Until Yair Lapid raised liquor prices–to curb underaged drinking, he’s not my favorite politician but on this he has my support–alchohol used to be cheap in Israel. Now it’s not. I paid NIS 26 (about $7) for a miniscule tiny airplane sized bottle of unflavored Absolut vodka but never mind. I was so excited to be able to make my own vanilla.
There is really nothing to it. I split the beans with the tip of a sharp paring knife but you don’t even need to do that. It’s enough to break them into a few randomly sized pieces and scatter them hither and tither in the bottle. . For this, it’s wisest to first empty out the booze, using a funnel, add the broken pods and then funnel the booze back in on top of the broken pods.
After that store in a cool, dark place (not the fridge, but a closed cabinet is fine) and wait about six weeks. Open and voila, homemade vanilla. If you want to be fancy you can strain out the pods, but you don’t have to.
1/3 cup absolut or other unflavored Vodka
Two whole vanilla beans cut into small pieces
Combine and store for six weeks. Use as you would any other vanilla.

Here is what it looks like IMG_0876IMG_0878vanilla

Home Made Sahlab

Until my son Aryeh showed me how I didn’t believe that Sahlab was something I could made at home. Let me correct that. I know that there are sahlab mixes on the market. I’ve used them to make the classic Middle Eastern sweet milk pudding, but how could I make sahlab without a mix? 

“It’s easy and it costs a fraction of the price of that garbage mix, ” Aryeh said. He showed me and he was right.

 Hanukah is the perfect time for sahlab. It’s a sweet dairy treat . Dairy products are eaten on Hanukah to recall the Yehudit the daughter of a High Priest whose bravery was instrumental in the Maccabean victory. Of all of their decrees the the harshest and most hated was the requirement for Jewish brides to cohabit with Greek soldiers before they could wed.  Judaism considers human sexuality  a vehicle for transcendence  and this decree of forced rape was an abomination. To get around it, Jews took to marrying in secrecy  but Yehudit was too well known to slip under the radar. Instead she devised a plan. Carrying a basket of wines and her own home made salty cheeses she  visited the general Holofernes at the Greek army camp. He invited her to his tent where she fed him the cheeses and then slaked his thirst with plenty of wine. When he finally passed out dead drunk, Yehudit ,took out a knife and cut off his head. When the Greeks saw the head roll through their camp they  ran away and this helped lead the Maccabees to victory.

Back to Sahlab here’s Aryeh’s recipe for one cup.

Pour one cup of milk into a small pan. Add  three teaspoons of sugar and one and one half tablespoons of cornstarch (in the UK it’s called cornflour) . Stir every so often until the mixture thickens. Don’t let it boil over. When it’s thick garnish with a pinch of cinnamon, ground nuts and if you like dried coconut flakes. Our you can garnish with a tablespoon of granola.  Eat right away. Delicious.ImageImageImageImage

Five Minute Oregano Infused Olive Oil

My mother’s menu planning method was to go to the produce market, look around and come home inspired. I see that I’m the same way. The other day I was at Osher Ad (Endless Bliss, in English–that name just kills me every time) and I saw something I’d never seen before –fresh oregano leaves!From Gush Katif, that wonderful company that brings us aphid and bug free produce. Bugs aren’t kosher–for this reason orthodox Jews have pioneered bug free hydroponically grown vegetables and kitchen herbs. Parsley, dill, cilantro and green onions are standards–you can find them not only in speciality markets but also in local groceries, but fresh oregano was something new and exciting. I tossed it into my cart without any idea of what to do with it. Add it to spaghetti sauce? Nah, dried oregano would do just as well. Put it over fish? No. The oregano seemed like a miscast actress taking the place of parsley which was fish’s natural herb. So then what?
Thank G-d for Mark Bittman. If you feel like this blog is turning into a paean to that great man of contemporary cooking, you’re right. That enormous red book, “How to Cook Everything” has become my go to cookbook. Leave it to Bittman to come up with a solution. Oregano infused salad oil! Cook up those oregano leaves in olive oil and voila–a, subtly herbal infusion, perfect for the vinagrette which coats our families Shabbat lunch salad.
And it takes about five minutes to make–my favorite kind of recipe. Here’s how.
Pour a cup of best quality olive oil into a small pan. Add a handful of fresh oregano, stems and leaves. (no need to mince) Cook together on low flame for five minutes . That is long enough for the oregano to infuse the oil with it’s wonderful aroma. Cool. Remove the oregano. Pour the infused oil into a clean glass bottle(no need to sterilize) . Refrigerate. The infused oil keeps for up to two months.
You can substitute or add fresh garlic, basil, rosemary, any aromatic you like. This oil is also wonderful when brushed on grilled veggies, chicken or meat. If you have a pretty glass jar, it can also make a lovely gift
Here are some pictures of the process. Here is the fresh oregano  cooking gently with the oil.



The Best Bread Ever

Succoth which is coming up soon is a major bread eating holiday.There are fourteen meals over the course of a the seven day holiday. For Jews a meal means bread. And lots of bread gets eaten in the sukkah.Thre’s also lots of entertaining, actual and metaphysical as every sukkah receives a nightly visit from one of the ushpizin the seven shepherds of Israel.
As guests go, Ushpizin are undemanding . They don’t require chairs or a place setting or even food. They just hang out, letting us bask in their spiritual aura. Night #4 of the holiday belongs to Joseph. Since the Torah calls him the “Mashbir” the provider because he created the world’s first welfare, state, the world’s first food bank and fed the entire planet during a famine, the Belzer Hassidim honor him by serving whole wheat bread. The rationale is that as a very wholesome and complete food whole wheat bread is a fitting memorial for the man who was called “the provider.”
This is a hybrid recipe– part yeast, part sourdough but without starter and including the teeniest bit of yeast (1/2 tsp to over four cups of flour) and a long, long rising time-eighteen hours plus but the result is spectacular–a rich hearty loaf with a light open crumb.
This comes from one of my all time favorites Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything,” Yes this isn’t a kosher cookbook but there’s plenty of food that fits the kosher diet.
Mark calls this No Work Bread and he’s not kidding.
He credits the recipe to Jim Lahey of New York’s Sullivan Street bakery. Please let me know if you love this as much as I do!Thgis is what it looks like. Gorgeous eh?

4 cups whole wheat pastry flour (the original recipe calls for all purpose or bread flour but I used Rubenfeld 80 per cent)plus more flour for the second rise
1/2 teaspoon yeast
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups tepid water
2 tablespoons olive oil
Cornmeal or bran ( I used cornmeal)
Mix everything together.
No neeed for a mixer, a wooden spoon will do a fine job. Just use a very large bowl because this will expand
The dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover it with a piece of plastic wrap and let it sit in a warm place (Bittman recommends that it stay at 70 F temperature ) for eighteen hours–yes this isn’t a typo.
Mix the dough in the early evening and by the following afternoon–or even earlier you
ll be ready to bake

When the surface is dotted with bubbles–they really look more like black dots–then add enough flour to form a non sticky dough–do this slowly, one handful at a time. Again, no need for a machine. This is a soft dough. It feels like working with playdoh. This is actually a great project for kids–parts of it at least
Cover with plastic and let the dough sit for another 15 minutes
Dust the dough with cornmeal. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let it rise for another two hours.
When the dough is ready it will have doubled and when you poke a finger inside it, it won’t spring back.
At least a half hour before the dough is ready preheat oven to 450 F or 220 C and insert a three to four quart covered pot with lid into the oven. The pot will function as a kind of steam oven and it needs to be super hot to accomplish this.
Be sure to use oven mitts and keep children away.
Let the oven and the pot heat up for a half hour. Then open the oven door, open the pot and carefully slide dough inside–no need to grease the pan-it won’t stick.
Bake covered for a half hour. The remove lid and bake uncovered for another half hour.
Remove from oven Wait a half hour–Maimonides says that it’s bad for the stomach to eat bread fresh from the oven and somehow Bittman has absorbed thsi teaching.
Then eat . Freezes well. Creates a very large open, crumbed loaf. Delicious.

Quinces and Sugar for Rosh Hashana

quince compot

Though we reflexively translate the Hebrew word “tapuach” as an apple, it isn’t clear that this is accurate. Tapuach which was the fruit of the tree of wisdom and also the paradisically scented fruit described in the Song of Songs may have been a citron, or according to some scholars a quince. “Tapuach” is also  the Talmudic term for the mound of ash from a sacrifice. In the Rosh Hashana liturgy this double meaning is exploited as we eat the “tapuach” fruit as we entreat G-d to remember the would be sacrifice of Isaac.

Quinces which have a pleasingly medieval sound to them as well as a lovely pineapple like scent are botanical cousins to both apples and pear. Heavy and covered with brown fuzz, these fruits which at least in Israel ripen during the early fall are too sour to eat raw. They are also almost impossible to cut. Even my state of the art Global knife was hardly up to the challenge– I might have done better with a hacksaw.  But once they are cooked with honey or sugar quinces redeem themselves. Thye made a wonderful compote–sweet, tart and aromatic all at the same time.,

6 quinces, peeled, pared and cored . Cut them into quarters and then cut through each quarter to form medium sized pieces

2/3 cup of water

1 cup of sugar

pinch of cinnamon

Combine everything and bring to a boil . Then simmer for about an hour and a half until the quinces are soft . Refrigerate and serve cold. Serves eight.

Rosh Hashana Fritters

I can’t believe that Rosh Hashana is only a week away. One of my favorite parts of this holiday are the symbolic foods–especially these latkes which are so yummy you might be tempted to eat them all year round. Here are recipes for two.
Gourd or snake squash which is called kra in Aramaic has a double yehi ratzon prayer. That is because the word “kra” has two meanings. Kra can translated as as “to tear”. In one yehi ratzon prayer we ask G-d to tear up any evil decrees (kra roa gzar deneinu).
Kra can also be translated as “to read or to proclaim.” In the other yehi ratzon we that our good deeds be read or proclaimed (veyikriu lefanecha zechuyoteinu).
Like karti (leek) and silka (beet green), kra is customarily grated into patties or latkes.
1 medium-sized gourd
1 small onion
3 eggs
¼ cup matzo meal
Salt and pepper to taste
Peel gourd, remove seeds and cut into chunks. Cut onion into chunks. Process all chunks using blade attachment together with other ingredients. Heat a thin film of oil in skillet and fry until golden brown. Approximately 2 minutes for each side. Drain on absorbent paper.
Yields 20 silver dollar sized pancakes. You can freeze, but it’s best fresh.
Leek or Karti
Leek, Aramaic as karti is on the table because of a word play. Karti sounds like karet, to cut off, or its future plural form “sheyikartu”. On the leek, karti we say “sheyikartu soenu,” may our enemies be cut off. Some people may say this is violent or even blood thirsty, but when you consider Jewish history, this bit of edible revenge is well deserved.
Leek patties
1 medium-sized leek.
5 eggs
⅓ cup matzo meal
Salt and pepper to taste
Vegetable oil for frying
Split leek lengthwise. Separate leaves and run each leaf under cold water to remove dirt and pebbles.
Place leek pieces in food processor along with all other ingredients. Process everything together using blade attachment until you’ve created a lumpy paste—just a few pulses. You want to preserve some texture.
With wet hands, form palm-sized patties and fry until brown on both sides (about two minutes per side). Eat immediately. You can freeze these, but you’ll sacrifice a great deal of the flavor.
Yields 30-35 patties

Magical Marvelous Marble Cake

During the dark ages before kosher sushi, marble cake was a fixture at the Shabbat morning after services kiddush. I haven’t been able discover why. I suspect the reason is that marble cake slices well and can be laid out easily and attractively on trays without too much fussing. It also goes well with the traditional kiddush libation–a tiny shot glass of whiskey.
By the way, marble has nothing to do with the old fashioned kiddie game. It refers to the dark veins shot through the cake yellow sponge which resembles the veins marble stone. Today the veins are flavored with chocolate but in the old days before chocolate was widely eaten the veins were made of a combination of mollasses and spice.
Sadly, homemade marble cake has become a forgotten treat. That is because commercial bakers have coopted the recipe and turned it into a pale replica of its former self. But this recipe, which comes from South Africa where many Lithuanian Jews settled and cooked traditional fare is delightful. It comes from my ex neighbor_MG_9401 Shoshana Levy, who is a professional harpist and a wonderful baker
Magical Marvelous Marble Cake
Seven eggs separated
3 cups of flour (use white or whole wheat pastry flour)
2 1/2 cups of sugar (use white)
3/4 cup of oil
1 and 1/2 cups of water
4 level teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 tbsp best quality cocoa
Preheat oven to 350 F or 175 C

Beat the egg whites until stiff
Combine flour, baking powder and salt
Beat egg yolks, water and oil together. Add in the sugar, flour, baking powder and salt.

Gently incorporate the egg whites

Remove a cup of the batter and combine with a tablespoon of cocoa
Coat a bundt pan or a tube pan with non stick cooking spray. Also spray one thin loaf pan and or a few cup cake holders to accomodate any left over batter. This is a big cake. When I made it the batter produced enough to fill one standard sized bundt pan, one thin loaf pan and three cupcake.
Pour in batter alternating between the yellow and the chocolate batters. Gently insert a knife into the batter to create swirls
Bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out dry
Freezes well. Serves 16
If you leave out the chocolate this is a wonderful sponge cake on it’s own.