Homemade Matzah

As Passover 2017 comes to a close, I would like to share a newfound family tradition: homemade Matzah. I have been very proud of our family Passover menu and specialty dishes. My mother’s Matzah ball soup has always been beyond compare. Then, in recent years, I started making homemade gefilte fish. This year, my father helped push us into a whole-new homemade holiday category with our own Matzah made on his grill in his apartment on the upper East side of Manhattan. After lots of research and two weeks of experimenting, he shared the secrets with me.

2017 homemade NYC Matzah

In order to make Matzah, here are some recommended items needed to prepare the recipe: kitchen scale (as Dad says “What is a cup?”), ceramic bread-stone, wooden baker’s bread board, metal cutter, dough docker, & rolling pins. Also, keep in mind that my dad did lots of research about how to blend practicality, Jewish mysticism, and required religious rules. We had a blast making three batches back-to-back for our holiday Seder.

Now, here is the recipe!

Homemade Matzah

What You Need

  • 360 grams of flour (can be any mixture of white, wheat, or even ancient grains)
  • 234 grams water

What You Do

  1. Set grill or oven to 650 degrees with a bread stone.
  2. Mix flour with water.
  3. Set timer for 18 minutes. The Matzah must be put on the grill within 18 minutes from mixing the water with the flour according to Jewish tradition.
  4. Knead the dough until smooth.
  5. Cut five even pieces with the metal cutter.
  6. Using a rolling pin on a bread board, roll out the Matzah (flipping and rotating to keep from sticking).
  7. When as thin as possible, use dough docker to create holes (to ensure no rising).
  8. Place on hot bread stone and bake for 2 minutes.
  9. Flip Matzah and let cook for 1 more minute.
  10. Repeat – reminder to keep an eye on your timer!
Family Matzah making in my dad’s garden in NYC


Getting Ready for Matzah

Passover is around the corner and my mother and I just discussed the plan for the menu.  This is going to be year two for our homemade gefilte fish. My mom is going to make her famous vegetable stew but we might not serve it this year at the first night seder, instead we are going to have asparagus and potatoes. We will eat the vegetable stew during the remainder of the week.

We are planning on the following this year:
– Chopped liver, hummus, and matzah
– 2 varieties of charoset
– Chicken soup with matzah balls
– Homemade gefilte fish
– Spring salad with red wine vinaigrette dressing
– Roasted potatoes
– Roasted asparagus
– Oven braised barbecued brisket

Yum!  I can’t wait for next week.

Christmas Weekend

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday. My sister and I spent a low-key weekend here in the Washington D.C. area with some friends. For Christmas Eve, we went to a great restaurant in Eastern Market, Belga Cafe. It was perfect!

On Christmas Day, we spent the day watching movies, playing with Logan, and cooking. Our Christmas Dinner included the following:

– Baguette(s)
– Roasted Garlic
– Red-Green Salad with Vinaigrette
– Roasted Cauliflower
– Vegetarian Lasagna (same recipe from Christmas dinner last year)
– Winter Fruit Salad (from Smitten Kitchen)

I’m looking forward to the snow and enjoying the rest of the weekend! Hope you are too.

Best Donuts Ever: A Family Tradition

Today is the fourth day of Hanukkah. It has been a wonderful holiday so far and we are only in the middle! Part of what has made this holiday so special has been the two wonderful parties attended this weekend. And, the homemade donuts I made with my roommate.

While planning for Friday’s Hanukkah Party, a friend of mine and I discussed important food groups to bring for the event, including Sufganiot (Hebrew for Jelly Donut). She asked, “Well, can you make them?” The idea had never crossed my mind. I figured I’d go to a bakery or Dunkin Donuts and pick some up. But, why, I wondered, was I so afraid of donuts?

I asked my roommate if she had any ideas. She said to me via email: “If you’d rather stick with a recipe you’ve already chosen, I totally understand, but below is my great grandmother’s donut recipe.”

How could you possibly go with another source if you have a family heirloom recipe?

We made them on Fri. night and again on Sat. Not only were they amazing (best donuts ever), they were a huge hit with all the guests at both parties and were surprisingly easy to make. Here is the recipe. Please try it! It is fun and a great way to impress friends and party-goers.

Best Donuts Ever (aka Annie Erie’s Donuts, from my roommate’s great-grandmother Annie Erie)

What You Need
– 1 yeast cake (we defined this as 1 tablespoon yeast)
– 2-3 tablespoons warm water
– 1 tablespoon sugar
– 1/2 cup sugar
– 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (use a bit less)
– 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
– 1 egg
– 1 1/4 cups scalded milk (just heat it up in a small pot until it starts to steam)
– 4 1/2 cups flour
– 3 tablespoons butter
– 1/4 teaspoon salt
– 1.5 pints peanut oil (for frying but Annie Erie says “deep fat”)
– 1/2 cup sugar for coating (add more as needed, you can also add a dash of cinnamon here too)

What You Do

1. Heat up the milk.
2. Dissolve the yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in warm water.
3. When milk is steaming, remove from heat and add to bowl. Let cool until lukewarm (you don’t want to kill your yeast).
4. Add 1 1/2 cups flour and yeast mixture and beat well.
5. Let rise until bubbles burst on top (5 minutes). We didn’t see many bubbles burst but we moved ahead after 5 minutes.
6. In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugar.
7. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and egg and beat well.
8. Add the creamed mixture to the batter and beat well (again!)
9. Add remaining flour and knead for 2 minutes.
10. Let rise 1 hour.
11. Roll dough to about 1/2 inch thick.
12. Cut dough into desired size and shape. We used small wine glasses to cut out small circles. To make the jelly donuts we took two circles and put jelly on one and covered it up (making a jelly sandwich). We then pinched the sides to close the donut. With the remaining dough, we made small round balls (which turn into donut holes). You can play with this and actually made donuts with holes in them (move out of the way Dunkin Donuts!) by making a circle and cutting out a hole in the middle.

13. Let rise again for 30 minutes.
14. Heat up all the oil on medium heat in a small dutch oven.
15. “Fry in deep fat”. Which means add one or two donuts (when the oil gets really hot, you can add 3-4 at a time) into hot oil and then let them get golden brown on all sides. Sometimes they will turn over on their own, but you may have to move them around.

16. When golden, remove from oil and let drain on a cooling rack (wire-mesh rack). It’s a good idea to put something under the rack to catch the oil.
17. When cool(ish), shake in a bag of sugar (we used a plastic container). You can use powdered sugar, regular sugar, or a cinnamon and sugar mixture! We used regular sugar on the jelly donuts and a cinnamon and sugar mixture on the donut holes.

Share with friends and family this holiday season! Also, don’t forget to save your oil for another frying adventure.

Thanksgiving: Sides (Brussels Sprouts)

In the end, the only new addition to our Thanksgiving meal was the new variation of brussels sprouts. The rest of the recipes have already been posted to the blog! I love brussels sprouts and I also love balsamic vinegar. Together, as in this recipe, they are amazing.

Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic Vinegar and Caramalized Onions (adapted from Martha Stewart)

What You Need

– 1.5 pounds brussels sprouts
– Salt and freshly ground black pepper
– 2 tablespoon unsalted butter
– 2 tablespoon olive oil
– 2 small red onion, thinly sliced lengthwise
– 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

What You Do

1. Trim outer leaves and stems from brussels sprouts, and discard.
2. Cut brussels sprouts in half.
3. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil, and add salt. Meanwhile, prepare an ice-water bath.
4. Add brussels sprouts to boiling water, and cook until tender but still bright green, about 4 minutes.
5. Remove from heat, drain, and plunge into ice-water bath to cool.
6. Drain well.
7. Heat 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat.
8. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted and transparent, about 3 to 4 minutes.
9. Add vinegar, and stir to loosen any brown bits on bottom of pan. Cook until vinegar is reduced and the onions are glazed.
10. Add remaining 1 tablespoon butter and oil to the same pan, and move the onions to the side of the pan.
11. Add brussels sprouts, and cook, tossing occasionally, until they are brown and crisp on the edges, about 3 minutes (this can take longer).
12. Mix together the onions and the brussels sprouts in the pan until perfect!


Thanksgiving: Turkey!

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. As you know, I love this holiday. I love this holiday so much that I celebrated it three times this year. Once at my sister’s friend’s potluck, then again at a pot luck with my graduate school program, and then a third time with my wonderful family in New Jersey. I was really excited because I prepared the turkey for my graduate school potluck, an experience I had yet to do on my own. I found a fabulous local, happy Maryland turkey and picked up all 18 pounds of him on Sunday morning.

I spent a lot of time debated how I would prepare this turkey, looking through food magazines, cookbooks, and websites. In the end, I asked my mom to send me the recipe she uses and I don’t think I will ever stray from it. We also used this recipe to prepare our family’s Thanksgiving meal. It is perfect.

Notes about turkey timing: Directly upon removal from the refrigerator, place the bird in a preheated 450 degree oven. Reduce the heat immediately to 350 or to 325 for large turkeys. After the first half hour of cooking baste frequently with pan drippings. Cook to an internal temperature of 180 or 185. The center of the stuffing should reach at least 165. If not using a thermometer, allow 20 to 25 minutes per pound for birds up to 6 lbs. For larger birds, allow 15 to 20 minutes per lb. For turkeys over 16 lbs, allow 13 to 15 minutes per pound. Add about 5 minutes to the pound if the bird you are cooking is stuffed (we stuff our birds). For our 18 pound bird, we cooked it 5 hours.

Thanksgiving Turkey (with gravy and stuffing) (from my mom adapted from The Joy of Cooking and the Silver Palate)

What You Need

-2 T of vegetable oil
-3 cups of chopped celery with leaves
-2 cups chopped onions
– 2 tart apples cut into 1/2 inch cubes (pealed)
– 1 cup walnuts, chopped
– 1 cup of raisins
– 6 cups stall bread cubes (we use Pepperidge Farm seasoned cubes that come in bag)
– 1 t salt
– 1 t of dried thyme leaves
– 1 t of crumbled dried sage leaves
– group black pepper to taste
– 1 cup tawny port
– 1 cup of chicken stock

Turkey (and gravy)
– A turkey (between 18 – 20 lbs. for this recipe)
– 3 ribs of celery, halved crosswise
– 1 onion quartered
– 1 large carrot, pealed and quartered
– 3 1/2 cups of water
– 8 T of unsalted butter, melted
– 3/4 cup tawny port
– 1/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
– salt and pepper to taste

What You Do

1. First begin by preparing the stuffing.
2. Heat the oil in a large skillet and saute the celery and onions over low heat until softened but not browned, 10 minutes.
3. Transfer the vegetables to a large mixing bowl.
4. Stir the apples, walnuts, and raisins into the mixture.
5. Add the bread cubes and toss lightly.
6. Sprinkle with salt, thyme, sage and pepper. Toss lightly again.
7. Add the port and sock, toss again until well blended.
8. Preheat oven to 450.
9. Rinse the turkey well and pat it dry. Rinse the inside of the turkey with the juice of an orange.
10. Stuff the cavity loosely with about 7 cups of stuffing. Skewer or sew the opening shut.
11. Stuff the neck area with about 3 cups of stuffing. Secure the neck skin flap under the turkey.(Put any remain stuffing in an ovenproof casserole and set it aside.)
12. Arrange a bed of the celery, onion and carrot pieces in a large roasting pan.
13. Gently place the turkey on the vegetables.
14. Pour 3 cups water into the pan.
15. Cover the breast with cheese clothe soaked in melted butter. (You will remove the cheese clothe at the last hour or most likely 1/2 hour of cooking.)
16. Roast the turkey for 4 hours brushing it well with melted butter once an hour.
17. After it has cooked for 4 hours, pour or brush 1/4 cup of the port over the turkey. Bake 15 minutes.
18. Repeat basting with port and baking three more times, until the turkey has cooked a total of 5 hours. (Note: If you have reserved some extra stuffing in a casserole, stir in a bit of the pan juices and put it in the oven during the last hour, loosely covered. Bake for 45 minutes.)
19. Transfer turkey to a platter, cover it loosely with foil and allow it to rest for 15 minutes.
20. While the turkey is resting, strain the pan juices into a saucepan and heat to a simmer.
21. Stir the flour and remaining 1/2 cup of water together in a small brown until smooth.
22. Whisk this into the pan juices and heat to a boil. Simmer 5 minutes.
23. Season with salt and pepper.

This is the most fun and leaves your house smelling delicious. After carving the turkey, you can use the bones to make a wonderful turkey stock by simmering the bones with some onions and carrots in water for 3-5 hours.

Pre-Thanksgiving Weekend

I’m so excited. I’m picking up my turkey for my Friendsgiving tomorrow morning and I have my plan for cooking (thanks to my mom!). I can’t wait.

Off to shop and cook for another Thanksgiving potluck tonight.

Also, my mom and I agreed on our menu for our Thanksgiving meal (more recipes to be posted after we see how they go next week).

– Appetizers from our family friends
– Onion and Fennel Soup (from Gourmet Today Cookbook)
Kale and Apple Salad
– Turkey, stuffing, gravy (my mom’s specialities- to be posted after this weekend) and cranberry sauce
– Brussels Sprouts (choosing between two new recipes)
Sweet potato casserole
– Green bean casserole (not sure about this one yet)
– Pumpkin Pie (from French Women Don’t Get Fat)

Okay, time to run out to the store to get started with the fun.

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

For my roommate’s birthday yesterday, we had a wonderful potluck/cookout. I was excited to make spinach and artichoke dip. I found the best recipe in my 2010 Food and Wine Cookbook. I’m thinking of making this as an appetizer for Thanksgiving. It is very easy to make but more sophisticated and yummy than other spinach dips I’ve tried making. Enjoy!

Spinach and Artichoke Dip (from Food and Wine)

What You Need
– 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
– 1 small onion, finely chopped
– 3 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
– 16 ounces marinated artichokes, drained and coarsely chopped (I used a bit less, just one 14 ounce can, but next time I’d try for a little bit more)
– 1/4 cup dry white wine
– Two 10-ounce packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
– 12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
– 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
– 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
– Tabasco

What You Do
1. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering.
2. Add the chopped onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes.
3. Add the artichokes and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned in spots, about 5 minutes.
4. Add the white wine and cook until nearly evaporated.
5. Add the spinach and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
6. Add the cream cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano and lemon zest and season with Tabasco.
7. Cook, stirring, until the dip is creamy, about 2 minutes.
8. Transfer to a bowl and serve warm (the recipe says you can serve it at room temp but it is much better warm!)

I served the dip with crackers, chips, and bread. The recipe calls for spiced pita chips that would be delicious as well. The dip is great, so it doesn’t matter what you serve it with really.

I hope you are all starting to think about your Thanksgiving menu and turkeys. I am going to be going to a pre-Thanksgiving party the Sunday before Thanksgiving and have been challenged to find a local MD turkey farm that will allow me to pick up our turkey on the Sat. before Thanksgiving. At the Farmer’s Market in Greenbelt, I found it: Ferguson Family Farm. I’m looking forward to working out the logistics for an early pick up of our truly farm fresh turkey.

I love this season!

Kale Salad (The Start of Thanksgiving Menu Planning)

As many of you know, I love Thanksgiving Dinner and I especially love the month prior to Thanksgiving when I spend time menu planning and debating about turkeys. Well, the turkey question has been solved for this year. We are sticking with Goffle Road Poultry Farm located in Wyckoff, NJ (very close to my mother’s house).

With the arrival of the November Food and Wine Magazine, I have started plotting and planning recipes to try out in anticipation of Thanksgiving. Here is a great one tried last week: Kale and Apple salad. While I loved my fall salad I’ve used the last couple years, this is a great twist, with tasty kale! I’m thinking this will have a place at this year’s Thanksgiving table.

Kale and Apple Salad (adapted from Food and Wine)

What You Need
– 2 cups pecans
– 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
– 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
– Kosher salt
– 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
– 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
– 2 tablespoons caper brine (from a jar of capers)
– 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
– Freshly ground black pepper
– 2 apples, cut into matchsticks (the recipe calls for Granny Smith)
– 1 large head radicchio, shredded (we didn’t use this, but I will next time!)
– One 8-ounce bunch kale—stems discarded, leaves finely shredded
– 3 tablespoons snipped chives (we didn’t use this, but I will next time)
– 1 tablespoon chopped tarragon (we didn’t use this, but I will next time)
– 2 ounces shaved pecorino (we didn’t use this, but I will next time)

What You Do
So, here is how the recipe asks you to prepare the pecans:
1. Preheat the oven to 350°.
2. In a bowl, cover the pecans with water.
3. Transfer to a sieve and shake out the water.
3. In another bowl, whisk the confectioners’ sugar, cayenne and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt.
4. Add the pecans and toss.
5. Transfer to a sieve and shake off the excess coating.
6. Arrange the pecans on a parchment paper–lined baking sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the sugar is lightly caramelized and the pecans are golden.

Here is how I did it. I’m going to try their way next time and see which one is best for Thanksgiving:
1. Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a pan.
2. Add 3-4 tablespoons brown sugar and melt.
3. Add and toss pecans for 1 minutes.
4. Arrange coated pecans on parchment paper until cool.

Then, make the dressing:
1. Whisk in the olive oil, vinegar, caper brine and maple syrup and season the dressing with salt and black pepper.

And finally, assemble the salad:
1. Add the apples, radicchio, kale, chives, tarragon and pecorino and toss. Mound the salad on plates, garnish with the pecans and serve.

Rosh Hashanah Meals, Including a Vegetarian Casserole!

For Day One of Rosh Hashanah, we kept the meal light and vegetarian. We made some salads, a kugel, and an eggplant and zucchini casserole. My mom and I both made the casserole again the following week, it was so good and easy to make.

Layered Eggplant, Zucchini and Tomato Casserole (from Food and Wine)

What You Need
– 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing and brushing
– 3 medium zucchini (1 1/2 pounds), sliced lengthwise 1/4 inch thick
– 2 long, narrow eggplants (1 1/2 pounds)(the recipe says to peel them, but I didn’t, I also used a variety of eggplant not just narrow ones) sliced lengthwise 1/3 inch thick
– Salt and freshly ground pepper
– 1 large shallot, minced
– 1 pound plum tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
– 3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (3/4 cup) (I used more!)
– 1/4 cup chopped basil (I used more)
– 1/3 cup panko or coarse dry bread crumbsWhat You Do
1. Preheat the oven to 425°.
2. Oil 2 large rimmed baking sheets.
3. Put the zucchini slices on one sheet and the eggplant on the other. Brush the slices all over with oil and season with salt and pepper.
4. Arrange the slices on each sheet in a slightly overlapping layer. Bake for 15 minutes, until tender.
5. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil.
6. Add the shallot and cook over moderate heat until softened, 3 minutes.
7. Add the tomatoes and cook over high heat until slightly softened and bubbling, 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper.
8. Oil a large, shallow baking dish (about 10 by 15 inches).
9. Lay half of the eggplant in the dish and spread one-fourth of the tomatoes on top.
10. Scatter with half of the feta and basil.
11. Layer half of the zucchini on top, followed by another one-fourth of the tomato and the remaining basil, eggplant and zucchini.
12. Top with the remaining tomato and feta.
13. Mix the panko with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and sprinkle over the casserole.
14. Bake in the upper third of the oven for 20 minutes, until bubbling and crisp.
15. Let stand for 5 minutes, then serve hot or warm.

For the second day of Rosh Hashanah we had a more traditional meal with roasted potatoes, brisket (sweet and sour, refer to old post), honey glazed carrots, and grilled veggies.

It was a delicious holiday!