Passover is coming up at the end of this week. With Passover it’s all about the Seder, right? Complete with a plate of matzoh, a Seder plate holding traditional symbolic foods, and a Haggadah at every plate to read the account of the Jews’ experience in Egypt and their liberation from the bonds of slavery.

Well, yes, Passover is focused on the Seder. But what happens after that when there’s an entire week in which observant Jews are expected to refrain from eating leavened breads along with a variety of grains? Fortunately, Passover coincides with the beginning of spring and with spring comes spring produce—asparagus, strawberries, artichokes, fava beans, and the like. So, why not create a Passover brunch for Jewish clients that celebrates a new season?

Growing up, my parents would treat us kids—and themselves, of course—to matzoh brei, or fried matzoh. My orientation is toward the savory so I have always loved the plump, crispy pieces of matzoh that emerge from the pan sprinkled with salt. To be honest, it doesn’t look like much and there’s just no dressing it up, but trust me, it’s delicious. And this is what I’ve long liked to serve for my Passover brunches with cold poached asparagus and horseradish sauce. And lots and lots of brilliant red juicy strawberries.

Now I’ve seen a lot of versions of matzoh brei that tend to be more of a matzoh omelet than what I make. Not my thing. Fortunately, it’s simply a matter of changing the ratio of eggs to matzoh. I like the matzoh pieces simply coated with egg so the ratio I use is one egg to two pieces of matzoh. All you do is break up the matzoh into bite-sized pieces, put them in a large bowl, and cover with hot water. Let the matzoh pieces soak in the water for a few minutes to soften and before they get too soggy, drain the water. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl and add them to the matzoh, then gently stir the mixture together so each piece of matzo is coated with egg. Heat a large skillet (cast iron skillets are great for this), add vegetable oil to about ¼ of an inch and when a little piece of the mixture sizzles when it’s added to the oil, pour the rest of the mixture in. Stir and break up the pieces as they cook. The matzoh brei is ready when the individual pieces of matzoh puff up and are golden and crispy.

Then comes some decision making. Do you serve the matzoh brei with sugar and/or applesauce or salt and pepper and/or sour cream? It’s the classic Jewish conundrum (think potato pancakes at Chanukah). Resolve it according to taste or be a mensch and put it all out for your guests.

Here’s a different option for the menu: Sweet Matzo Fritters.

These fritters, created by Chef Jeff Rossman of San Diego restaurant Terra, were a fun surprise. I hadn’t used matzoh like this before. Let it soak and soak and the matzoh collapses into a dough-like substance. The recipe calls for raisins but I didn’t have a bag of raisins. I did have a Trader Joe’s medley of raisins, dried cranberries, and blueberries, and they worked just as well. Once I made them and had made up some whipped cream for strawberries, I tried them together and oh my…

Sweet Matzo Fritters
Jeff Rossman, Terra

Yield: 30 fritters, depending on the size you make them

4 ½ standard sized matzot, plain, whole wheat, or gluten free
3 large eggs separated
¾ cup finely chopped almonds or your favorite nut
1 cup raisins or currants
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3 tablespoons matzo cake meal
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup granulated sugar
Vegetable oil for frying

Topping:
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Mix sugar and cinnamon together for topping.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, break up the matzot into small pieces and cover with water. Let them soak until soft, about 15 minutes. Use your hands to squeeze the matzot dry of all excess water. Press the matzot with your fingers or with a fork and completely crush them. With a fork, mix in the egg yolks, almonds, raisins, oil, cinnamon, lemon juice, zest and cake meal.

In a separate mixing bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt until foamy. Gradually add the sugar and continue beating the whites until they form stiff white peaks. Fold the whites in the matzo mixture.

In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, heat enough frying oil so it comes up about ¼ to ½ inch up the sides. Drop generous spoonfuls of the batter into the oil. Fry the fritters until they are lightly browned on all sides, turning them once. Drain them on paper towels. Sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar and serve with creme fraiche or whipped cream.

Now, I know I’ve neglected Easter, but this week I plan to focus on lots of Easter recipes on our Facebook page, so go to the page, “like” it, and you’ll get a full stream of dishes to inspire you.

What kinds of dishes do your clients ask you to prepare for Passover?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

Be Sociable, Share!

The world may fall into two distinct camps: those who love garlic and how it perfumes whatever it touches — and those who detest it.

I belong to the first camp and so I was naturally intrigued when I learned about black garlic many years ago. Yes, it’s garlic. No, it’s not a unique variety. And, no, it’s not rotten. It’s the same head you’ve been cooking with for years only it’s been aged and fermented for a month to the point where it’s softened, turned black and has taken on a sweeter, mellower flavor. Think molasses or figs. Dark and deep and complex. Some restaurant chefs have figured out how to make it on their own and there are directions on various sites for making it but it’s readily available online at Black Garlic North America, Mondo Food, Amazon, at specialty spice shops, and some Whole Foods stores. And there are plenty of sites with recipes for using black garlic that you can do an easy search for. Basically, though, use it as you would use roasted garlic, understanding that the flavor will be different.

One dish I’ve made with black garlic is pesto. The pesto is your basic basil, parmesan, nut variety but I substituted fresh garlic with the black garlic. The results were a deep dark sauce with nutty flavors but sweet instead of pungent. To offset the sweetness I added red pepper flakes.


Pesto with Black Garlic

3 cups basil leaves
1/2 cup toasted walnuts or pine nuts (I used walnuts this time)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
9 cloves (1 head) of black garlic
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Add all of the ingredients except the olive oil to the bowl of a food processor and let it run until the ingredients have been thoroughly mixed and pureed. Then, with the motor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil.

I expected the pesto to be much darker given the color of the garlic, but it’s still quite green. The pesto will be perfect, of course, with pasta, but with warmer weather on the way, it’s perfect for drizzling over tomatoes and roasted vegetables like fennel. It’s also perfect on pizza and drizzled over fish.

Black garlic is also a perfect ingredient for roasted chicken. Here’s what I’ve done successfully: make black garlic butter. But I upped the flavor by also including fresh ginger. It’s easy to do. Use a mini food processor and puree two tablespoons of softened butter, three cloves of black garlic and about an inch of peeled ginger chopped into a few pieces. Just for myself, with a whole chicken leg I spread half under the skin, added salt and pepper to the skin, threw in a beautiful spring onion I had trimmed, sprinkled a little olive oil on both. The chicken and spring onion roasted at 400 for about an hour.

 

 

With the rest of the compound butter, I sautéed lovely miniature (not “baby”) carrots. These are no more than an inch-and-half long (many even smaller) in colors ranging from cream to orange to red. They have all the flavor of full-sized carrots but are precious on the plate. Once the carrots were cooked through, I added about a tablespoon of brown sugar and a sprinkling of dill and cooked it for another couple of minutes. You can use fresh chopped dill, of course. I had on hand a bottle of dill I had dried on my own (spread the dill fronds on a baking sheet and bake at low heat for about 10 minutes, then turn off the oven and let it sit until the dill is thoroughly dry being careful not to let it burn. Break it up, chop and store.)

What unique ingredient is now your “secret ingredient” and how do you use it?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

 

Be Sociable, Share!

Spring will be here in a week–March 20th. While those of you on the East Coast may still be dealing with harsh storms, eventually the chill will give way to warmth and flowers and sunshine. It’s a time of renewal–so what better activity to engage in than a virtual spring cleaning for your personal chef business!

We have five tasks you should take on to rebirth your business:

  • Examine and update your marketing tools: How long have you had the same style of business card? When was the last time you updated your website? Does it have all the critical information necessary for a potential client to find you and be engaged by your offerings (including the basics, like the geographic area you serve, your latest menu, your name, your phone number/email address)? Is it time to replace your Facebook business page cover photo? All touch points should examined–and ask your friends for their input about their effectiveness.
  • Embrace a new social media platform: If you’re already on Facebook, add Instagram and/or Twitter and/or Pinterest. You can do fun new things on each platform that can show off your offerings. Photos are your big sales tool on social media so be sure you’re posting well-lit, appetizing dishes.
  • Sharpen your knives and do a great cleaning on your tools: You probably give your knives a honing when you use them, but how often do you actually sharpen them? If you have to think about it, it’s been too long. And take a look at your other cooking tools. Are they showing signs of wear or grime? Clean them or replace them. And, hey, that includes your chefs aprons, your towels, your knife roll, and even your footwear. Spiff yourself up.
  • Learn new skills: Spring is a time of feeling energized so take that burst of energy and direct it into something constructive. Take an online cooking course from our partner Escoffier Online International Culinary Academy–or, better yet, sign up for a certificate in culinary arts. Or take a cooking class at a local school. Learn new techniques or global cuisines. Experiment with new ingredients. Learn how to take better food photos and how to style your dishes to help with marketing. Take a writing class and start a blog on your site or write a food column for your local newspaper. Learn how to do public speaking.
  • Volunteer in your community: We talk a lot about networking. One way to network without having to “sell” yourself is to get involved in your community. Spring is the perfect time to look around and decide what group/s could use your skills and enthusiasm. Spend a weekend morning serving meals at a homeless shelter. Volunteer at the local food bank. Or do something outside of your food background with Habitat for Humanity or your local Humane Society if you love animals–whatever moves you. You’re helping your neighborhood, meeting new people, and building your resume.

These are just five ideas that should energize you and give you some momentum in building your business or moving it into a direction that excites you. If you have additional suggestions, please add your voice!

What is a “spring cleaning” task that you’ve found helps you re-energize your business? What have you been toying with doing that you’re finally going to act on?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

Be Sociable, Share!

Have any of you mixed and cultivated your own sourdough starter–and then given it up? I have. Much as I loved baking bread it began to feel like a burden. I just couldn’t keep up. But what I didn’t consider was that sourdough starter didn’t require bread baking to be useful. There are all sorts of other baked goods you can make with it.

There’s also another option. If you haven’t cultivated starter, you need to know that it requires regular feeding with equal parts flour and water–but before you add the new you have to discard much of the old. The Friendship Bread Project, also known as Amish friendship bread, encourages people to share their discarded starter with friends–like a benign chain letter.

But what if on a given week you don’t have anyone to share it with and you don’t want to just throw it away? I did some research and found that there are lots of ways to use discarded starter: pancakes and waffles, cakes, quick breads, muffins, crackers, and crepes. Some you can use with just the weakened starter. For others, like the English muffins I tried that were an epic fail, I learned you need to feed first. My friend Joanne Sherif, who owns San Diego’s Cardamom Cafe & Bakery, has been using hers for cornbread and banana bread, which you can buy at the bakery.

Initially, when I decided to use up my discards before the weekly feeding, I had a limited range of options,  but only because of simple quantity–my first discards were limited to half a cup. When I fed the starter I added four ounces each of King Arthur white whole wheat flour and water. (And note, I add ingredients by weight, not volume.) Unless I need more starter for a big baking project, I’ll add two ounces of flour and water each in the future, let it sit on the counter for several hours until it bubbles up, then store it in the fridge. I put a line on the see-through container that shows the starting point so I can see how much it grows (I still find that hugely exciting). Because it’s being refrigerated I only need to feed it weekly. If left on the counter, it would need daily feeding. I don’t think I have enough interested friends to share discards from that or the time to use it up daily.

As I scoured online resources I came across a site I wasn’t familiar with but that I discovered, along with the ever-reliable King Arthur Flour, is hugely informative: Cultures for Health. The site has an entire section devoted to how to use discarded starter. And from there I found my recipe: Chocolate Sourdough Snack Cake.

Yes, I was lured by biscuits, including biscuits with cheddar cheese, and pretzels, and English muffins… but I didn’t have enough starter. Curious about a sourdough dessert, and honestly getting a little desperate, I clicked on desserts and found this cake. Bingo! It sounded divine–and only needed half cup of starter.

This recipe is super simple and yields a deep chocolate brownie-like consistency. It calls for baking in a cake pan, but I fiddled around with measurements and decided to use a loaf pan instead–and it worked just fine. I also didn’t have non-alkalized cocoa powder and worried that since the recipe called for baking soda there might be an issue. But no, it all turned out well. (I’ve since found–and ordered–natural cocoa powder for when this comes up again.)

I actually didn’t taste much of a sour/tangy flavor from the starter, but the cake benefitted in moistness and richness. And, oh, how wonderful it is with a cup of coffee or tea.

And, really, the point of this bake was to demonstrate to myself that I could relax a bit about having a starter again since the pressure is off to bake bread at a pace I can’t keep up with. In fact, the following week I did  bake crackers–something you could do for clients you’re making appetizers for if you’re catering a dinner party or event.

And, if anyone in San Diego would like my discards, let me know. I’m happy to share when I feed on Sundays.

Chocolate Sourdough Snack Cake
From Cultures for Health

Ingredients

1 cup unrefined cane sugar
1/2 cup butter or coconut oil
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. cold, strong coffee
1/2 cup fresh sourdough starter
1 cup flour
1/4 cup unsweetened, non-alkalized cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts or naturally sweetened mini chocolate chips

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Line an 8-inch baking pan with parchment paper; lightly butter and set aside.
3. Mix unrefined sugar and butter together in a large bowl until sugar is thoroughly incorporated into butter. Beat in egg, vanilla, coffee, and sourdough starter.
4. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.
5. Blend dry ingredients into wet ingredients just until batter is mixed through.
6. Fold in nuts and chocolate chips. Do not overmix.
7. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 30 to 40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
8. Cool on a rack and serve plain or frosted.

Do you keep a sourdough starter? What kinds of treats do you make with it?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

Be Sociable, Share!

Last updated by at .