Pan pals offer their holiday favourites
I have a Facebook group where people love to share their favourite recipes and treasured food memories – it’s called Norene’s Kitchen! Sometimes people ask a cooking question or post a last-minute request for a recipe for tonight’s dinner. Others want to know how to cook with an unfamiliar ingredient.
I communicate regularly with my Facebook “pan pals” online in Norene’s Kitchen! I’ve even met many of them in person. They form a diverse group, with members from all over the world. I’m amazed at how technology has connected us, regardless of distance, age or gender, through our love of food. My motto is: “There’s always room for one more in my virtual kitchen!”
I’ve asked some of my Facebook pan pals to share a treasured Passover recipe with you, my readers. Enjoy in good health!
* * *
I first “met” Gloria Kobrin of New York on Facebook where we quickly became virtual “friends.” Last October, we met face-to-face in New Jersey at Kosherfest and we connected immediately, as if we had known each other forever.
Gloria has been married to her husband, Richard, for 40 years and they have two children and two grandchildren. She has cooked almost her entire life for groups ranging from four to 100 people. She is the author of the Kosher Cookbook App for the iPhone and iPod. Gloria shares her recipes and cooking tips on her Kosher Cookbook page on Facebook, her blog at www.koshercookbook.blogspot.com and on Twitter.com/Koshercookbook/. She’s an active member of Norene’s Kitchen! where she shares many of her wonderful recipes and her culinary knowledge.
Gloria wrote: “Strange as it may seem, when it comes to Passover, I prefer that the food I’m preparing should not be based on matzah – especially dessert! My Fudgy Flourless Chocolate Cake satisfies that requirement. It is rich, dense and fudgy, without a hint of flour or matzah meal, so it is gluten-free. This is a wonderful dessert for Passover and all year round.”
GLORIA KOBRIN’S FUDGY FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE CAKE (Pareve)
This cake is for the real chocolate lovers amongst you. It is best when made one or two days in advance of serving it. This is a relatively flat, moist, dense cake that packs a lot of flavour.
7 ounces semi-sweet pareve chocolate
1/2 cup very strong coffee, divided use
1 cup non-dairy margarine, room temperature
1 cup sugar
fresh berries to garnish
Preheat oven to 350. Spray an 8-inch spring-form pan with nonstick spray. Wrap foil around the bottom one inch of the pan. Set aside.
Place chocolate and 1/4 cup coffee together in a microwave-safe bowl. Place in microwave and heat for 2-1/2 to 3 minutes or until you can stir the coffee and chocolate together and they are completely smooth. (You can also melt chocolate and coffee together in a double boiler.) Add remaining 1/4 cup coffee and stir again. Let chocolate cool for 5 minutes.
Beat margarine and sugar together in bowl of an electric mixer until light. Add eggs, one at a time, to margarine and sugar, beating well after each addition. Add chocolate mixture and beat again until all ingredients are well blended.
Pour into prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes. The top will rise and separate from the rest of the cake.
Remove cake from the oven and cool on rack. The top will fall after some time out of the oven.
When the cake has completely cooled, unsnap the spring form pan and push the bottom through the ring. (The cake is so moist that I don’t even try to take it off the bottom of the pan!)
Put it on a beautiful serving platter and surround it with berries. Yield: 10 to 12 servings. Serve small slices as it is very rich.
Ruth Heiges of Elkins Park, Penn., and I correspond regularly but we have never met – yet! She lived in Israel for many years but decided to move back to the United States to be closer to her aging parents.
Ruth is looking forward to launching her new website, www.informedkosher.com right after Passover. This comprehensive website will “aggregate the most useful kosher resources of the web into one convenient collection, from kosher food delivery to recipes, all current cookbooks, and restaurants.”
She chose to share her Passover sponge cake recipe, as it has special meaning for Ruth and her family. She wrote: “This recipe hearkens back to when I was in grade school and the measure used by all Jewish homemakers was a “glezel” (i.e., a yahrzeit glass, which evidently was equivalent to a cup). My mother, z’l, didn’t have or need an electric mixer, because she had me there to whisk the whites by hand.
“For my family, having this sponge cake is not a tradition – it’s an imperative.”
RUTH HEIGES’ PASSOVER SPONGE CAKE
10 eggs, separated
pinch of salt
1 cup sugar
grated zest of 1 orange
1/3 cup cake meal
1/2 cup potato starch
juice of 1 lemon
Cut a round of baking parchment or waxed paper to fit the bottom of a 10-inch tube pan. Preheat the oven to 350.
Add the pinch of salt to the whites. Beat the whites in a large mixing bowl until stiff peaks form. Then, gradually beat in the sugar (several tablespoons at a time). The rest should be folded in by hand.
Lightly beat the yolks with the orange zest and add to the whites. Fold carefully to combine.
Alternating, fold in the cake meal and potato starch (a few tablespoons at a time). About half-way through this process, add the lemon juice.
Pour into the ungreased tube pan. Bake at 350 for 45 to 50 minutes.
Remove from oven and invert pan until cooled. Yield: 12 servings.
Cake can also be baked in a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan for about 30 minutes. Check to see that the top is golden brown and springs back when touched.
During baking, tread lightly and avoid opening the oven. This kind of cake can “fall.” It often sinks somewhat during cooling.
* * *
Brina Sachs Gonzales loves to cook. She posts regularly on Facebook and her Shabbos menus are always amazing. On her blog www.mikoshercocina.wordpress.com, she explains her culinary philosophy about family meals and memories: “Many of my memories came from preparing food and around the dinner table. Now I let my kids look at food books and magazines and allow them to choose one dish for Shabbos. Food is the universal language. If you’re not dining as a family, then there are no food memories to pass down.”
Pesach preparations are very hectic for both Brina and her husband, Elazer, as he is the kosher food manager at a Cincinnati supermarket and works 13-hour days at this super-busy time of year. With four young children, Brina has learned how to pace herself and deal with the challenges.
Brina wrote, “We don’t use processed foods at Pesach in our house – that’s our minhag (custom), so we have to get creative. Our main ingredients are fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, eggs and potatoes – nothing else. My kids live for fruit smoothies for dessert. We eat so healthy at Passover that I always say that I’m going to continue when it’s over, but I get so tired of peeling that the moment that Passover is over, I’m done!”
BRINA SACHS GONZALES’ SWEET & SOUR MEATBALLS
1 ripe pineapple
1 large or 2 small onions
4 to 6 tomatoes
salt to taste
2 to 3 tbsp. oil (to taste)
3 to 4 lb. chopped meat
Peel all produce (pineapple, onions, carrot and tomatoes). Remove the core from the pineapple. Cut all produce into chunks. Purée in the food processor using the steel blade. Transfer mixture to a large pot. Add salt and oil and bring to a boil.
In the meantime, roll the meat into balls (no additives are needed). Place meatballs in sauce. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 2 hours. Yield: 10 to 12 servings.
Faith Kramer cooks and writes about food in Oakland, Calif., but is a born and bred New Yorker. She serves up “deliciousness” on her delightful blog at www.clickblogappetit.com/, Cooking Local, Eating Global.
Faith sent me the original version of her matzah brei (below), although every time she makes it, she keeps refining it. Feel free to make your own variations. She makes a huge batch and reheats it on school mornings.
Faith says, “You’ll have to make it and decide for yourself if this sweet brunch or dessert version of the classic Jewish Passover favourite is really the best in the world or just the best my kids have ever tasted. They claim it is the best and other relatives concur. My father-in-law has me make it for him even when it is not Passover. A cousin’s son made his family travel from Los Angeles to my home in Oakland for Passover one year just so he could eat it.
FAITH KRAMER’S WORLD’S BEST CUSTARD MATZAH BRIE
“I admit this can be a very rich dish if you make it with whole milk, but you can cut some of the fat by using fat-free milk (which is what I usually do). You could also replace the eggs with egg substitute (which I don’t).”
10 whole matzot
4 eggs, beaten
1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar (or more or less to taste)
2 cups of whole, low fat or fat-free milk
1 tsp. vanilla (kosher for Passover)
2 tsp. grated orange rind (optional)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
grating (or dash) of nutmeg
1 tbsp. unsalted butter (or more as needed for the frying pan)
cinnamon sugar (optional)
Dip whole matzot into warm water until wet on both sides. Drain well and break into small pieces in a large bowl.
In another bowl, combine eggs, sugar, milk, vanilla, orange rind, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg and beat to mix well.
Pour over drained matzah and let sit for 10 minutes to allow matzah to absorb some of the custard mixture. Stir the mixture occasionally.
Heat butter in a very large frying pan over medium heat. Add matzah mixture and fry in butter, adding additional butter as needed. (If you have too much for one pan, cook in batches and keep cooked matzah brei warm in a 250-degree oven. Be sure the matzah brei has room to fry, not steam in the frying pan. If you will be holding the matzah brei for any time, slightly under cook it so it won’t dry out.)
Let the matzah brei mixture set in the hot pan for a minute or two and begin to brown, then use your spatula to break it into chunks and turn it over. Keep turning and breaking up the matzah brei every one to two minutes for a few more times until the custard mixture is absorbed but the matzah is still moist and the outside of the mixture is browned and slightly crisp.
Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, if desired. Serve with syrup, jam or other toppings. Yield: 4 to 6 servings.