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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Chag Sameach! Happy Holiday!

Tomorrow evening (Wednesday) marks the start of Passover. I thought it would be fun to get some recipes from a few of my Jewish friends and share them with you.

One thing that I like about the Passover Seder is how important the food is to the celebration. It’s very symbolic and plays a key role to the festivities. It’s all very fascinating to me. If you’d like to read more, this web page has lots of great information.

I will not be preparing a traditional Seder, but I am going to try a few recipes. I’ve got my Kosher ingredients all ready to go! Speaking of which…when I was at Safeway today, I was trying to find some matzoh bread. I’m not Jewish, so I was going to go quietly about my business in the Kosher food aisle and hope no one noticed I didn’t know what I was doing. Well, I couldn’t find any matzohs and overheard a woman ask for it. To make a long story short, Gentile Jane ended up on a store-wide matzoh quest with about 5 other Jewish people. So much for staying under the radar. I just kept my mouth shut, used as few words as possible and hoped people didn’t realize I was an impostor! And, after all of that, Safeway was completely out of matzohs! Oy Vey!

Big thanks to Ciaran Blumenfeld, a dear blogging buddy, for providing us with so many wonderful family recipes!  And another big thanks to my friend Michele Wang for sharing her mother-in-law Sherry’s great Chocolate Walnut Spongecake recipe.

Click “more” to see the recipes, including Jewish Penicillin (intrigued? read on!).  It’s worth a read-through, and Ciaran’s commentary is great! And, as always, if you have your own seder-friendly recipes to share, please do!

Passover Charoseth
From Ciaran Blumenfeld
(Jane note: I’ll definitely be making this tomorrow)
Charoseth (pronounced ha-ro-set) is an important part of the passover meal. It is meant to represent the mortar that the hebrew slaves used in the bricks when they were forced to build for pharoah. It is sweet, to counter the bitterness of their lives. Traditionally this sweet stuff is combined with horseradish as the filling for a matzoh sandwich. It’s very tasty as a topping on toast or other baked goods. Many families pride themselves on their recipes for charoseth and they include very diverse ingredients from poppy seeds, dates and figs, to bananas, sunflower seeds and kumquats. The base always includes nuts and fruit though. Our family recipe is a fairly classic “ashkenazic” (eastern european) version with apples as the fruit base. Every year I wonder why we don’t make it any other time of year!
– 1 cup of peeled and chopped apples (use your fave)
– 1/4 cup chopped nuts (I like toasted pecans)
– 1 tsp honey (plus extra to taste)
– grated rind of half a lemon
– 1 tsp cinnamon
– 2 tablespoons of sweet wine (or port – not technically kosher for passover but tastes good)
– dash of lemon juice

Never Fail Passover Sponge Cake
From Ciaran Blumenfeld
Here is my mom’s SIMPLE never fail sponge cake Passover recipe. She makes this often because it is wheat free. So yummy with strawberries. The trick is in following the steps correctly
– 9 eggs separated
– 1.5 c sugar
– juice and rind of one lemon
– 3/4 c potato starch

1. separate eggs
2. grate rind, squeeze lemon
3. beat egg yolks till light colored, add rind and juice
4. in another bowl beat egg whites with a dash of salt till stiff, continue beating and add sugar, potato starch and egg yolk mixture
5. bake in tall sponge cake pan (they have legs for inverting and a removeable bottom) at 325 for one hr (check sooner though)

Chocolate Walnut Spongecake
From Gourmet Magazine
9 large eggs, separated at room temperature
1 and 1/2 cups sugar
2 Tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup potato starch
1/3 cup matzo cake meal
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup ground walnuts

Separate eggs into two bowl. Set egg whites aside. In a large bowl with an electric mixer beat the egg yolks until they are thick and pale in color, add 1 cup sugar gradually beating and beat the mixture until it is very thick. Beat in the orange juice and the lemon juice and beat the mixture until it is combined well. Into a small bowl sift together the potato starch, the matzo cake meal, and the cocoa powder, add the mixture gradually to the yolk mixture, beating, and beat the mixture until it is just combined. In a bowl with the beaters, cleaned, beat the whites with the salt until they hold soft peaks, add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, a little at a time, beating and beat the whites until they just hold stiff peaks. Stir 1 cup of the whites into the chocolate mixture, fold in the remaining whites gently but thoroughly, and fold in the walnuts carefully. Pour the batter into an ungreased 10 inch tube pan (4 and 1/4 inches deep) with a removable bottom and bake the spongecake in the middle of a preheated 325 oven for 55-60 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Invert the pan over the neck of a bottle and let it cool upside down. Run a thin knife around the edge and tube of the pan and remove the side of the pan. Run the knife under the bottom of the spongecake to release it and transfer the spongecake carefully with 2 spatulas to a serving plate.

Jewish Penicillin (Chicken Soup)
From Ciaran Blumenfeld
– 1 large cut up chicken plus neck and gizzards (gross! LOL)*
– Celery root
– 3 Parsnips
– 6 Carrots (with greens if you can get them)
– 4 stalks celery plus celery heart
– 1 onion with skin
– Italian parsley bunch
– Dill bunch
– salt
– peppercorns

Rinse your chicken and chicken parts. Place in a very large pot with enough cold water to cover the chicken, plus a couple of extra inches. Turn the heat on medium high and go start chopping the veggies. The celery root needs to be peeled/pared a lot – I like to do this with a knife. That’s one hairy scary root! Chop the carrots and parsnip into rounds, and the celery into chunks. Set aside. Reserve the carrot greens if you have them, and the leafy celery heart to add to the soup. Tie your parsley and dill together in a neat little bundle.

As you are chopping veggies, the soup will be heating up and there will be a scummy looking foam that rises. You will need to skim this off with a mesh skimmer, rinse, repeat and on and on. Prevent the soup from reaching a rolling boil. It takes half an hr to 45 minutes to get all the scum skimmed. You’ll think it is done, and then give a gentle stir and then there will be more! I like to wrap a knife in paper towel and wipe off whatever is sticking to the inside of the pot around the edges. This is the labor intensive part of chicken soup from scratch here. But worth the effort!

When there is no more foam rising to the surface you can add all the veggies and herbs as well as the whole unpeeled onion and as many whole peppercorns as you feel you’d like (less that a tsp is what I recommend!) The amount of salt to add will depend on whether you use kosher chicken and I recommend doing this at the end when you can taste test.

After you add the veggies and the soup comes back to a gentle simmer, you may need to skim again. You may also need to add more water. VERY IMPORTANT: Do not add cold water. This will result in cloudy soup, the shame of a good jewish mother! Clear soup is where it’s at apparently -this recipe was handed down for many generations and I was warned about the peril of cloudy soup repeatedly, lol! So for my ancestors’ sake, boil the water before you add it!

The soup should simmer for about two hours, at which point you must strain it, and serve with matzoh balls, with noodles, or what have you. The chicken can be set aside for salad, or to add back to the soup. The greens (herbs and carrot/celery greens) and onion are discarded. The veggies can also be added back into the soup and served with it.

Some notes I have on making this soup:

1. If you are using a non kosher chicken, the soup will taste better if you faux kosher it first. Basically that means soaking it for an hour or two in icy cold water with a ton of kosher salt.
2. Removing the skin of the chicken prior to making soup results in a far less oily and far easier to skim soup but it may be a little blander ( I skin the chicken when I faux kosher it)
3. If you are using a whole chicken and if gizzards and necks and little bones freak you out as much as they do me, you might want to put them in a cheesecloth or other containment device. I actually have a GINOURMOUS teaball looking thing that I put all the herbs, onion and bony chicken parts in. I can fish that sucker out and toss the insides, saves a ton of time later!
4. If you are not able to get a nice whole chicken or kosher chicken and the bones and gizzards and skin thing really weirds you out, get legs and thighs. The dark meat makes good broth!

Ok so you get that I am a little weird with the raw chicken right? But I love chicken soup!

Some other additions/subtractions/variations:

1. Leave out the dill and stud the onion with some cloves
2. Use a shallot or two instead of an onion
3. Add a leek instead of or in addition to the onion

Resist the urge to add potato, corn, grains of any sort or any starchy items. These should be cooked seperately and added to your (CLEAR!) soup as it is served.

This soup really does have healing properties. If someone is sick it’s worth making a big pot!

Matzoh Balls
From Ciaran Blumenfeld
There are two kinds of matzoh balls… sinkers and floaters. Ours are sinkers, alas, we are peasants. No light fluffy balls for my peeps. We got balls that stick to your ribs.

3 matzohs – crumble, soak in hot water and drain

3 eggs – beaten with salt and pepper (be generous) and add about 1/2 c water. Add matzoh meal to thicken (about 3/4 – 1 cup). Stir in about 2 tablespoons of chicken fat (if you can get it or have it!) or oil and a generous amount of onion powder. Mix well.

Stir in crumbled matzoh, till all is integrated.

Chill this mixture well. Form balls with wet hands. Drop the balls in boiling salted water and cover and cook for about 20 minutes. Balls will rise to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon and serve with your chicken soup.

You can play a trick on your kids and hide a carrot slice or celery slice inside your matzoh balls as a little surprise…


  1. Nice tease with the penicillin. 😉
    The combination of charoseth and horseradish sounds interesting to try.

  2. 2

    I think your story of acting as a Jewish “imposter” in Safeway in search of mahzoh is priceless. Maybe one day a Jewish woman will need help finding the Jell-o, or the hashbrowns used in funeral potatoes, and karma will come full circle. Ah, multi-culturalism…

  3. 3

    I don’t have any recipes myself, but yesterday Martha Stewart had a guest on that made Toffee Chocolate Matzah. It looked both delicious & easy. Happy Holicays everyone!

  4. 4

    Come to New Jersey – there are complete aisles of mahzoh here….

  5. “Gentile Jane!” I got a good laugh out of that one — great story!

  6. 6

    Loved this!!!!

  7. Yeah! I had charoseth once and loved it. I’ve always wanted a recipe. Thank you!

  8. 8

    I documented my soup making as part of our passover seder flickr photostream – including my fave part (not!) – the skimming. You can see it here 🙂

  9. 9

    If ifonrmaiotn were soccer, this would be a goooooal!

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