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Passover - spring cleaning on steroids!

My grandmother, Mama Hinda, was a burier. No, not an undertaker. Okay, spell it berye. Yiddish for major-domo cleaner extraordinaire. As in white glove test above the door frame. As in you could eat off the floor. As in using the basement oven to keep the upstairs kitchen clean.

And if Mama was thorough during the year, before Passover she was fanatic, whipped to a joyous frenzy to ready the house for the holiday and remove all chometz (bread or any food containing leaven)…every last crumb.

Weeks before she would scrub, scour, scald, polish and shine. As the holiday approached, her Passover dishes – one set for milchig (dairy) and one set for fleishig (meat) – would be brought from the basement and washed. My Aunt Sally remembered, when she was a child in the 1920’s, Mama soaking glasses for three days and burying silverware outside with hot coals for use during the holiday. No closet, no shelf, no corner evaded her purification ritual.

On the night before Passover, Papa Harry and the children would search the already scoured home for any remaining crumbs of chometz, which would be swept up with a feather and burned. (So stringent is the prohibition that Jews are forbidden not only to consume, but even to possess such things as bread, noodles, yeast and other leavening agents, or anything made with flour during the holiday.)

Downstairs in the cold cellar, the earthen crock of rossl (fermented beets) Mama had started weeks before stood ready to infuse her borscht (beet soup), and eggs by the crate awaited her practiced hand to whisk them into ethereal citrus sponge cakes and irresistible chocolate nut tortes.

Posted in Submitted by Judy on Tue, 03/25/2014 - 6:30am.

In tune with the past at Passover

My Passover story in the Orange County Register is a tribute to my mom. This is my first Passover without her! You'll find recipes for Salmon Gefilte Fish, My New Favorite Brisket and Passover Chocolate Chip Mandelbrot. Click here or go to and then click Food.

Mama Hinda's Pesadicke Nut Cake

Molly O'Neill tallks about my Mama Hinda's Passover Nut Cake on - a wonderful site, by the way, for all the bubbes (and zaydies too!) For the recipe and story click here.

Passover Chocolate Chip Mandelbrot

Passover Chocolate Chip Mandelbrot

My friend Dede Ginter tested this recipe for me, and her husband Ed’s AK
/(alter kocker)/Poker Club gave these light and crispy cookies sixteen
thumbs up. If a recipe called for chocolate chips, you could always
count on Aunt Estelle to use lots. She should have named these Passover
Downfall. Enough said. Mom says “ditto.”

Parchment paper or vegetable cooking spray, for the baking sheet
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter or nondairy margarine, at room
2 cups sugar
6 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon Passover vanilla
2 1/2 cups matzoh cake meal
3/4 cup potato starch
4 cups (two 12-ounce bags) semisweet chocolate chips

1.Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a baking sheet, or better yet, line
it with parchment paper.

2.Cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed
until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a
time, scraping the bowl several times. Then beat in the vanilla. Reduce
the speed to low, and add the cake meal and potato starch. Scrape the
bowl, and blend just until thoroughly combined. Stir in the chocolate
chips.(If the dough feels too sticky to handle even with floured hands,
cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate until it is stiff, 30 minutes
to several hours.)

3.Divide the dough into 4 portions. Flour your hands with cake meal, and
form each portion into a log the length of the baking sheet. Space the
logs evenly on the prepared baking sheet, and bake on the center oven
rack until they are golden and the tops are firm to the touch, 30 minutes.

Posted in Submitted by Judy on Sat, 03/30/2013 - 8:55pm.

Stirring the pot of holiday memories


Sally Bower - nee Rabinowitz - has celebrated a lot of Passovers. But the one she remembers most fondly happened 70 years ago in Brooklyn. The Seder was at her boyfriend’s house, and it was the first time she would meet his family. When he opened the door, he had a bouquet for her.

During that evening, he put a ring on Bower’s finger in front of his family - even though the couple had been dating only three months.

Although this story is not in "Melting Pot Memories" by Bower’s niece Judy Bart Kancigor, many other exploits of the Rabinowitz family are. What started as a book written as a family heirloom has become popular across the nation with the book in its fifth printing and more than 3,200 copies sold.

It begins with the story of the Rabinowitz family leaving Slonim, in what is now Belarus, for the United States. It includes a history of the area, the family tree and 600 recipes gathered from 159 family members.

"It’s more of a story than a cookbook," Kancigor says by phone from her home in Fullerton, Calif.

But many of the recipes are from Bower, who was one of the tribe’s better cooks. She learned her way around the kitchen from her mother, who made a mean challah, and her mother-in-law, who had prepared meals for bar mitzvahs and weddings in the old country.

She remembers her mother soaking glasses for three days and burying the silver outside with hot coals for purification. The house was cleaned and any remaining crumbs of chometz - leaven - were searched out with a feather and burned.

Then there were the fish. The live ones kept in the bathtub so they’d be fresh when it was time to make the gefilte fish.

Posted in Submitted by Judy on Tue, 03/26/2013 - 3:47pm.

Passover: Celebrating now, remembering then

My Passover story in the Orange County Register features recipes for Rack of Lamb with Fig Marsala Sauce, Honey-Pecan Crusted Chicken, Zucchini Leek Latkes, and Chocolate Drenched Stuffed Fruit. Chag Sameach!!

Too good to call Passover cake bête noire

Too Good to Call Passover Cake Bête Noire
(Flourless Chocolate Cake)

8 ounces unsweetened chocolate, very coarsely chopped
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, very coarsely chopped
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small pieces
5 extra-large eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan (not a springform), line it with a round of parchment paper, and butter the paper.

2. Place both chocolates in a food processor and process until chopped.

3. Combine the sugar and ½ cup water in a saucepan and bring to a rolling boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar.

4. With the processor on, add the boiling sugar syrup to the chocolate through the feed tube. Add the butter, piece by piece, followed by the eggs. Process only until very smooth.

5. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan. Set the pan in a larger baking pan, and fill the larger pan with warm water to reach halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Carefully transfer the pan to the oven, and bake on the center oven rack until a sharp knife inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the cake pan from the larger pan and transfer it to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.

6. Run a sharp knife around the edges of the pan. Cover the pan with plastic wrap, and invert it onto a baking sheet. Lift off the pan and peel off the parchment paper. Then invert a cake plate over the cake, and invert the plate and baking sheet together, so the cake is now right side up. Remove the plastic wrap.

7. Serve the cake warm, cold, or at room temperature. It will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Serves 12 or more

Helou Hindi (Candied Coconut with Pistachios)

Source: “Aromas of Aleppo” by Poopa Dweck

2 pounds fresh coconut meat, shredded (about 2 to 3 coconuts), or store-bought unsweetened coarsely shredded coconut (see cook’s note)
3 cups sugar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon orange blossom water
1 cup pistachios, shelled, blanched, and peeled

Cook’s note: If you use store-bought unsweetened coconut, place it in a mixing bowl and add cold water. Gently fluff the coconut with your hands and let stand for 1 hour to plump and moisten the flakes. Drain before using.
1. In a medium saucepan, combine coconut meat, sugar, lemon juice, 1 cup water, and orange blossom water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
2. Reduce heat to low and simmer 8 to 10 minutes, stirring the mixture occasionally with a wooden spoon. While coconut mixture is still hot, stir in pistachios. Mix well, and cool before serving.
Yield: 40 servings (2 quarts)

Stuffed Eggplant with Quince

Source: “Aromas of Aleppo” by Poopa Dweck

2 dozen very small eggplants, cored
2 recipes hashu (recipe follows)
3 quinces, cored, peeled, and cut into 6 pieces each

For the sauce:
3 tablespoons tamarind concentrate, homemade or store-bought (see Cook’s notes)
Juice of 1 lemon (about 3 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
6 pieces candied quince (recipe follows), for garnish

Cook’s notes: While Sephardic Jews eat rice for Passover, Eastern European Jews do not and will enjoy this dish after the holiday.

Tamarind concentrate is sold in Middle Eastern stores. If you cannot find kosher for Passover tamarind concentrate, you can make your own (recipe below).

Posted in Submitted by Judy on Tue, 04/22/2008 - 6:30am.

Yemenite Haroset Truffles

Yemenite Haroset Truffles

1/3 cup (2 ounces) pitted dates
1/3 cup (2 ounces) dried figs
1/3 cup (2 ounces) raisins
1/3 cup (2 ounces) dried apricots
2 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 cup toasted coarsely chopped pecans
3/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1 1/2 tablespoons orange liqueur

1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted and finely ground

1. Combine the dried fruit, honey, and spices in a food processor
and pulse until smooth. Add the pecans, slivered almonds, and orange
liqueur, and process until well combined.
2. Form the mixture into balls 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Roll them
in the ground almonds, and place them in individual fluted foil or
paper candy cups. Refrigerate, covered, until firm, at least 3 hours.
These will keep for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.

Makes 16 to 20

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