Tag Archives: Passover

Passover Party Mix

in 3 gold bowls On the next full moon, Monday April 10,  Jewish families, all over the world will gather to hold a Passover Seder. Passover commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt over 3000 years ago, and the formation of the Jewish nation.

The word “seder” means “order” in Hebrew. It refers to the 15 parts of the Seder ritual which are followed in a very specific sequence. In the retelling of the story, the goal is to relive the Exodus, both symbolically and vicariously, with tastes, sounds, sensations and smells. We do this to link our past to our future, to teach the next generation. This is no mean feat and can make for a long night! 

Every family has their own unique customs and traditions. My youngest sister (I have 4) likes to decorate the table  with items that symbolize the 10 plaguesPlastic jumping frogs,  wild animals, cattle, and stale mini marshmallows (plague of hail). One year my mom covered the table in blue, green and purple jelly bellies to represent the River Nile. We have had Cadbury Cream Easter Eggs (much tastier than the roasted egg on the seder plate and the hard boiled egg dipped in saltwater we eat to represent the tears shed by the Israelites in slavery). I fully expect Dark Chocolate Moses this year.

That same sister is fond of making guest appearances at the Seder, dressed in various costumes. Some family members find this humorous. Others do not.Dressup Bunny 2Dressup Mascot 2Dress Up Steph and pigDress Up ProfessorThis year, I’m planning to get the party started by bringing little bags of Passover Party Mix to the table.

Salty, spicy, sweet and addictive. Not normally adjectives associated with a snack that contains matzoh and kosher for passover crispy o’s cereal! But, add mixed nuts, sugar, salt, cayenne, cumin, cinnamon, coriander and smoked paprika and magic happens.Ready to mixWatch the culinary alchemy occur.

Put them out on the table in little bowls, paper cones or little bags and let everyone munch. I doubt anyone will be offended.in gold bowlIn paper conesbags 2

Click here to print recipe for Passover Party Mix.



Kicked Up Matzoh Crunch

4 squares 625 sqI read in the Globe and Mail Food section this week that God gave us cardboard so that we could describe the taste of matzoh. Not this matzoh treat!!

I made this for my sister Bonnie. I slightly adapted the recipe from the April 2015 issue of Bon Appetit. This matzoh crunch is kicked up with a pinch of hot pepper. I wanted to make it with Aleppo pepper because she puts that sh#t on everything! Sadly, if you have been following the news, you will know that Aleppo pepper is almost impossible to get now. The civil war in Syria has virtually destroyed the Aleppo pepper production. (Although the scarcity of Aleppo pepper is the least of their problems.) The citizens of Syria are in my thoughts and prayers.

Aleppo is a dried crushed red pepper. It is slightly fruity, with a whiff of smoke and only moderately spicy. I actually found a forgotten tin of it at the back of my cupboard. Not sure how long it’s been there but it has lost most of it’s potency.

I decided to make a few batches of this treat using a variety of peppers and compare the results.
Maras pepper (sometimes spelled Marash), from Turkey, is a good substitute for Aleppo. It is slightly smokier and hotter. I made a third batch with supermarket red pepper flakes and one final batch with chipotle powder, because that’s my jam!what you'll needBrown sugar, butter and your chill pepper of choice get whisked together over moderate heat until hot and bubbly. Pour over matzoh and spread into an even layer. spreading toffee Bake toffee covered matzoh for about 10 minutes. Top hot matzoh with bittersweet or semi sweet chocolate chips and let sit until they melt. Spread chocolate until smooth.waiting for chocolate to meltTop with toasted chopped pistachios, dried cherries, toasted coconut flakes, coarse salt and cocoa nibs.ready to chillChill and cut into squares.stacked squares 625 sqOr cut into wedges. Any way you slice it, it’s delicious.wedges of crunchThe batches I made with the Aleppo and Maras were not very spicy. The heat was barely noticeable even though I doubled the amount of pepper recomended in the Bon Appetit recipe (I used 1 teaspoon instead of 1/2 teaspoon). The red pepper flakes batch had obvious but not burning heat. It was my favourite. The chipotle was too smoky for my liking. This matzoh crunch is a flavour bomb in your mouth. Sweet (chocolate), salty (coarse salt and pistachios), sour (cherries), bitter (cocoa nibs), spicy and crunchy.

Click here to print recipe for Kicked Up Matzoh Crunch.

Triple Coconut Macaroons

pyramid 2 625 sqThese are my absolute favourite macaroons. That’s macaroon, with 2 o’s – the coconut variety, not the pain-in-the-ass Diva, ground almond and meringue variety, which are macarons, with one o. This recipe for Triple Coconut Macaroons, comes from Cook’s Illustrated Magazine. I have been making these since the recipe first came out in 2000. Why I have waited so long to share with you is a mystery to me. I promise you, I’m reallly not a petty person.

Although I could make them any time of year, I always associate coconut macaroons with Passover. As a child we bought our macaroons from Open Window Bakery in Toronto. They made both vanilla and chocolate coconut macaroons. I preferred the simplicity of the vanilla ones. I found the chocolate ones too chocolatey for me. The cocoa powder masked the flavour of the coconut, which is exactly the point of coconut macaroons. I always felt sorry for those families that had to get their macaroon fix from the can. They were gummy and chewy, in short, just awful.
00091_chocolatemacaroons_10coconut macaroons in can
The quintessential coconut macaroon is slightly crunchy on the outside and chewy in the middle, without being gluey. They should be sweet, but not cloyingly so, and they should be bursting with shreds of sweetened coconut. A final dip in a melted chocolate bath, to cover the lower third of the macaroon would not be a bad thing.
in polka dot bowl
Cook’s Illustrated’s test kitchen discovered that the choice of coconut in the macaroon makes a big difference in both taste and texture. Unsweetened shredded coconut, which is drier than sweetened, solved the gluey texture issue.  Sweetened shredded coconut packed more flavor than unsweetened, and together they worked very well. To add one more layer of coconut flavor, they tried cream of coconut and cracked the coconut macaroon code.

Cream of coconut, is not to be confused with coconut cream or coconut milk. Here is a little coconut product primer:
coconut milkcream of coconutKTC-Creamed-Coconut-Big
Coconut cream is very similar to coconut milk but contains less water. Coconut cream is made by simmering equal parts of shredded coconut and water until frothy,  then straining the mixture through a cheesecloth, squeezing out as much liquid as possible; this is coconut milk. The coconut milk is refrigerated and allowed to set. Coconut cream is the thick non-liquid part that separates and rises to the top of the coconut milk.

Cream of coconut is coconut cream that has been sweetened. It is used most commonly in piña coladas. This is the one you want for this recipe. I usually find it in Asian supermarkets, although some larger stores carry it in the drinks aisle.

Creamed coconut is a compressed block of coconut flesh which has been slightly dehydrated and sold in a waxy lump.

This recipe does contain corn syrup, so if you keep strictly Kosher for Passover, here is a recipe for a corn syrup alternative.

Lately, there has been much written about the evils of high fructose corn syrup. This is not the same as the regular corn syrup you buy for baking. If you are at all concerned and want to know more about the science behind it, this article clears up the confusion.

The canned cream of coconut has liquid at the bottom, so it is best to empty it out into a bowl and mix it up with a spoon before measuring and adding to the batter.
Adding cream of coconutadding coconut
The batter should be chilled for about 15 minutes before shaping macaroons. here is a video demonstrating how to shape them.

The chocolate should be chopped fairly fine. I melt about 3/4 of it in the microwave on medium power. When it is totally melted, stir in the remaining 1/4 of chocolate. This is a quick and dirty tempering method but it works quite well.chopping milk chocolatemelting milk chocolateadding second amount of chocolate
I like to dip the bottom third of the cookies in chocolate.
dippingput on parchment


Click here to print recipe for Triple-Coconut-Macaroons.

in polka dot bowl


Roasted Chicken Soup and Perfect Matzoh Balls

ladling soup 1Bowl of soup 1Yesterday was the first day of spring. Apparently, someone forgot to notify the Weather Gods of this fact because over 25 centimetres of snow fell on us here in Ottawa! My son, a go-with-the-flow kind of guy, just took it in his stride, embraced the white stuff and went snowshoeing!trails
I also embraced the bonus snow storm, by hunkering down in my kitchen and making a big pot of Roasted Chicken Soup with Perfect Matzoh Balls, just in time for Passover.

There are only two things you need to know to make good chicken soup. The first is that you must use homemade chicken stock, not water, as the liquid. The second is that you must allow enough time to chill the soup, after cooking, so that all the fat can be removed. If you follow these two rules, you will have wonderful chicken soup.

Chicken stock is a mystery to many people.  Exactly what is it and how is it made?  Stock is simply chicken bones, simmered, in water, with aromatic vegetables (typically, carrots, onion and celery) until the bones have given every ounce of their flavour to the liquid.  This usually takes about 2-3 hours. Then you take this flavourful liquid, add some fresh bones and vegetables and simmer for a further 2 hours to get chicken soup.
I have recently discovered roasted chicken stock. Before throwing the chicken bones and vegetables into the pot with some water, you roast them in a hot oven for about 45 minutes until they are deeply browned.roasted bones and vegetablesThen you simmer these browned bones and vegetables with water for about 2 hours.adding waterstraining roasted stockThis gives you a stock with much greater depth of flavour. It is rich, dark and delicious and makes a killer chicken soup. Here is a photo comparing unroasted stock and roasted stock.
2 bowls
Now, onto the matzoh balls. Here are my golden rules for making perfect fluffy matzoh balls. I have tried many different recipes and techniques over the years and the best recipe comes from the Manichewitz box, but with a few adaptations.

  • The recipe on the box instructs you to chill the batter for 30 minutes. Ignore the box, and chill it overnight. If you leave the mixture overnight, the matzoh meal absorbs more moisture, holds together better and cooks more evenly.
  • Eggs, matzoh meal, chicken fat, salt, a bit of water or chicken stock are combined to make the matzoh ball batter.
    cracking eggs
    adding matzoh meal 
  • After you make your chicken soup and chill it, there will be a layer of fat sitting on top of the soup. Do not throw it away! Scrape off that fat layer and use some of it as the fat called for in the matzoh balls, instead of vegetable oil. I know that some of you are already having heart attacks, in advance of even eating this, but Passover comes only once a year, and you will actually only be eating one little matzoh ball, so the chicken fat will not kill you. It adds such flavour and tenderness to the matzoh balls, you will be amazed.removing fat
  • When forming the matzoh balls, wet your hands and gently toss the balls from palm to palm, to form the balls. The size you make them is up to you. I like to make them about 1 tablespoon in size. They will swell in the liquid as they cook.scooping
  • Do not cook the matzoh balls in the chicken soup! It will make your chicken soup cloudy. Cook the matzoh balls in HEAVILY SALTED water. The water should taste like the ocean. As the matzoh balls cook, they absorb the cooking water. If you start with unsalted or just lightly salted water you will have bland matzoh balls. And that would make me very sad.salting water
  • Gently simmer, do not boil the matzoh balls. Cook them in a shallow wide pot, rather than a tall narrow pot, so they will have room to swell. Cover the pot so that they will cook more evenly. If your matzoh balls are large, it could take up to an hour. You will know they are done when you slice one open and they are the same colour all the way through. After cooking, remove with a slotted spoon and set in a single layer on a baking sheet. They can be wrapped and stored in the fridge for up to 3 days. Rewarm them in the chicken soup, before serving.

use a wide pot

Bowl of soup 4a

Click here to print recipe for Roasted Chicken Soup with Perfect Matzoh Balls.