Passover is coming soon. In fact, it begins at sunset on April 19. If you’re cooking a seder for clients or meals for observant Jewish clients you know that there are some basic rules you have to follow. I’m not going to go through it all here, but send you off to a site that outlines what is “chametz” or leavened and what is “kitniyot” or food that traditionally Ashkenazi, or Eastern European, Jews don’t eat during Passover. Sephardic, or Middle Eastern, Jews have somewhat different Passover traditions, which you can learn about here
I thought I’d ask one of our longtime members, Shelbie Wassel for some recipes that might inspire you. She provided three that sound divine: Coffee Brisket, Gefilte Fish, and Passover Profiteroles. I’ll let Shelbie take over from here: 

Shelbie Wassel

As Passover is a sentimental holiday in many regards, my family and clients seem to navigate towards traditional recipes. I think the most requested recipe this time of the year, is the coffee brisket. I found this recipe many, many years ago published in the Baltimore Jewish Times. The “JT”, as we locals call it,  is a weekly magazine that provides local, national and international news pertaining to the Jewish community. One edition had locals submit their favorite brisket recipe and Mrs. Ribakoff”s recipe for coffee brisket was the editors choice. I’ve tweaked it a bit over the years, but I still love the veggie gravy that is created in a blender after cooking. As with any first cut brisket, the trick is to leave a good layer of fat on its bottom side during cooking. After it’s cooked, the fat can be easily removed and sliced cross wise into ( my preference) thin slices.

Another Passover favorite for Seder and then served as either an appetizer or lunch dish is Gefilte fish…  Yes, it’s definitely an acquired taste. Many believe you must grow up with the concept of a fish meatball covered by gel and a monster sized carrot slice. The term “gefilte” is translated from the Yiddish word for “stuffed”. Originally, the ground mixture was stuffed into fish skins. Can’t say I’m sorry that the practice of “ fish skin stuffing” was abandoned somewhere down the pike. (fish pun intended). Now, gefilte fish is stuffed into jars with labels like Rokeach and Manischewitz. Passable in a pinch, the jarred variety is far more filler than fish.
I have concocted a homemade recipe that is less time consuming and less labor intensive than what our grandmothers made. I have also been able to reduce the cost of the fresh fish by shopping at H Mart, the Korean grocery store. Otherwise, the fresh fish can cost a mortgage payment.
Lastly, I am including one non-traditional Passover recipe for dessert. I’ll go on record saying that I loathe many of the traditional Passover desserts. They often use 12 eggs and create a cake that is never meant to leave the pan. ( Passover trifles were created just for this reason.) The other choice is Passover cake meal, which as a derivative of matzoh meal, is the reason stewed prunes became a Passover regular. While I generally do not mix dairy with meat during the Passover Seder, my profiteroles can be made with Almond milk and nondairy chocolate chips to create a parve dessert. These  chocolate profiteroles ( IMHO) are fabulous! Made with potato starch, the custard is rich and creamy… And, the profiterole shell could be used for other ideas.

Mrs. Ribakow’s Brisket
Serves 6

Ingredients
3 ½ – 4 pounds brisket, first cut
2 medium onions cut into chunks
1 bunch of celery, leafy tops only, sliced
1 large bay leaf
1/3-cup ketchup
½ cup black coffee
Salt and pepper

Directions
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the bottom of a roasting pan. Place brisket in the pan and sprinkle top of brisket lightly with more salt and pepper.

Arrange onions and celery around and on top of the brisket.

Drizzle with the ketchup.

Roast meat, uncovered, for 15 minutes to sear.

Reduce heat to 350 degrees.

Add the bay leaf, coffee, and cover tightly with foil.

Continue cooking for approx 2 ½ hours longer. Meat should feel tender when fork is inserted in the thickest part.

Cool before slicing. Refrigerate gravy and veggies. Skim off fat.

To serve: Puree gravy and veggies in a blender. Pour over sliced brisket and heat through.

Shelbie’s Gefilte Fish

Yield: 12 to 13 pieces
Ingredients
4 pounds, non-oily white fish fillets…let’s mix a few (snapper, haddock, cod) preferably on sale.
2 cartons fish stock, available next to the boxed chicken stock
3 large carrots, plus 2 additional large carrots, cut into diagonal slices for garnish
A bunch of celery
One large onion
3 large eggs, beaten
¼ cup matzo meal
Several cups of water
A little bit of bland veggie oil
About 1 ½ – 2T salt
Freshly ground pepper
1T sugar, optional

Directions
In a large stockpot, empty the contents of both cartons of fish stock. Add 1 roughly chopped carrot, a stick of celery, and ¼ of the onion. Bring to a gentle simmer while preparing the fish mixture.

In your food processor, grind about 2 carrots, 3 sticks of celery and ¾ large onion. Scrape the bowl and place the ground veggies in a large prep bowl. Cut the fish fillets into large chunks and add to the food processor. Give a few good swirls in the processor until the fish is nicely ground.
Add the ground fish to the veggies and mix well. Add the matzo meal, eggs, and about one tablespoon of oil. Mix well. Add freshly ground pepper and salt (sugar, if using)
Chill the fish mixture for a few minutes in the fridge to make handling easier.
Remove veggies from the stock and discard. Shape the fish into ovals and gently place into the simmering stock. Once all of the fish ovals have been placed in the pot, add enough water to cover the fish. Cover with a lid and keep at a simmer for about an hour.
 Towards the last 20 minutes, add the carrot slices to the stock. Strain the fish pieces and top with a carrot slice. Pour a little stock over the fish and allow to cool.
Serve with horseradish.

Shelbie’s Passover Profiteroles (Dairy)
Yield: At least one dozen

Choux Pastry
Ingredients
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter or margarine
1-cup water
1cup matzo cake meal
Pinch of kosher salt
4 large eggs

Directions
Place butter, water and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the matzo cake meal all at once and stir vigorously.

Cook, until mixture forma a ball. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.

Using a large spoon, drop about 2 T of batter, roughly 2 inches apart. With wet fingers, lightly create a rounded mound.

Bake 15 minutes at 450 degrees, then reduce heat to 325 degrees and bake for 15 minutes longer or until lightly browned.

Remove with spatula and allow cooling on racks.

Pastry Cream
Ingredients
1/3-cup sugar
3-½ T potato starch
6 lightly beaten egg yolks
2 cups milk or unsweetened almond milk
1 t vanilla

Directions
Mix sugar, potato starch and egg yolks in a saucepan. In another saucepan, heat the milk until bubbles form along the edges. Cool the milk for a minute or so. Slowly, pour the milk over the egg yolk mixture, stirring rapidly with a whisk.

Cook over low heat, stirring until mixture is thick and smooth. Cool and add vanilla. Chill in refrigerator until very cold.

Chocolate Glaze
Ingredients
1-cup semi sweet chocolate chips
2T unsalted butter or margarine
2-3 T milk or almond milk
1 t vanilla or 1 T instant coffee granules

Directions
Combine in small saucepan over double boiler. Mix gently until combined.

Cut cooled pastry in half. Fill with cream and drizzle chocolate on top.

 

Chefs, do you have favorite Passover recipes you create for clients? 

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!

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!

Turning Matzoh into a Meal

Filed under: Holiday Foods , Tags: , , , , — Author: Caron Golden , April 11, 2016

 

Seder plate white3

Jews around the world will begin celebrating the eight days of Passover beginning Friday, April 22 at sundown. Traditionally, the first two nights are organized around the Seder, but you knew that.

And, you probably know that for these eight days Jews are forbidden from eating hametz, or leavened food. That’s why we eat matzo. It’s all wrapped up in the symbolism of the holiday, which commemorates the sudden liberation of the ancient Jews from Egyptian slavery. As children, we’re told of the story of the Jews fleeing Egypt with such haste that there was no time to bake bread that needed time to rise. So the flour and water cracker that is matzo became the staple then and ever since has been eaten every Passover. And, trust me, even though we’re talking two, maybe three ingredients (salt), every family has their favorite brand of matzo. Of course, if you’re feeling ambitious, you can make it yourself.

Even with this dietary restriction, it’s amazing the dishes you can turn out. Matzo offers tremendous versatility and below I’ll share some ways you can use it for Jewish clients who want you to prepare kosher for Passover meals.

Matzoh brei2

Soak sheets of it in hot water, drain the water, break it up and add some beaten eggs, then put in a frying pan with oil or butter and you have matzo brei. Now some people use a 1:1 ratio of matzo sheet to egg and enjoy something more akin to a matzo omelet. My family does a 2:1 matzo to egg ratio. I prefer this style which gives you beautiful crispy puffed out pieces of matzo that, depending on your particular style, can be served with applesauce, sugar or salt. I’m a salt girl myself but our family was split with Mom’s side also going for salt and Dad’s for the sweet stuff. (If you’re Jewish, no doubt you have the same sweet versus savory divide in your family at Hanukah over potato latkes.)

Matzo can also be the basis of a sweet, crunchy “brittle,” as in covering it with chocolate or butterscotch or caramel and nuts, baking briefly and then, when cool, breaking it into bite-size pieces. Google “matzo brittle” and you’ll find scads of recipes with any number of variations. In this case, the matzo essentially is just a delivery system for the sugar, chocolate and nuts. And not a bad one, actually.

Salted Chocolate Matzoh2

And, for those who simply cannot live for a week without their favorite dishes, there are recipes for matzo lasagna, matzo spanikopita and matzo quesadillas. And, yes, even matzo pizza. Thanks, but I can do without for awhile. Of course, if you’re desperately seeking ideas for other things you can do with matzo, you have to watch this wonderful video.

Then there’s farfel, which is basically matzo that’s been broken up. Farfel can be used as a cereal substitute or to make sweets (it takes some imagination, but yes, there are recipes for desserts with farfel like this chocolate nut cluster), kugel (pudding) or stuffing. I know someone on Twitter who is using it to make granola with dried blueberries, apricots, sliced almond and pecans. She’s changing it up from this LA Times recipe.

Matzoh meal

And, finally, if you grind matzo you get matzo meal. And matzo meal itself is endlessly versatile. Use it as a bread crumb substitute or pretty much anything for which you’d use flour. You can buy it in a box or, if you’re feeling industrious, grind it yourself using a blender or food processor.

Of course, if matzo meal is known for anything, it’s for being the basis of matzo balls, but during the week of Passover, once the Seder is history and I have to come up with ways to live without my daily bread, I often turn to matzo meal for cooking. Look on the panel of most boxes and you’ll find a recipe for pancakes, in which beaten egg whites play a prominent role to fluff them up. I also use matzo meal to bread and saute fish fillets or skinless, boneless chicken pieces for oven frying. I mix some with grated Parmesan cheese to top a baked tomato or roasted vegetables. And, even when it’s not Passover, I like to use it as the binder for zucchini pancakes (grate the zucchini and onion, wring out to get rid of the liquid, add a beaten egg, minced garlic, salt & pepper and matzo meal to bind it together, then fry in a little olive oil in a skillet).

zucchini pancakes1

Are these enough ideas to help you help your clients through the week?

Do you make Passover foods for clients? What are your/their favorite recipes?

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!

Clear Chicken Soup: For Easter and Always

Filed under: Bites & Bits,Recipes , Tags: , , , — Author: Caron Golden , April 14, 2014

With Easter coming up this Sunday (and Passover having just started last night), I thought it would be a good idea to go back to basics with a dish that is fundamental to so many cultures: chicken soup. Jewish households will certainly be making this with matzo balls for their Passover seder, but I’ll be making it for Easter dinner, adding lots of fresh seasonal vegetables and herbs, along with shredded chicken.

Candy's chicken soup2

So, why focus on a recipe for something most of us having been making since forever? Because, surprisingly, a lot of people do it wrong. I can’t tell you how many times I see directions for making stock that calls for bringing the liquid to a rolling boil, then turning the temperature down and simmering for hours. They have the last part right, but if the end game is to enjoy a clear, clean-tasting broth, bringing it to a boil won’t get you there.

Instead, try low and slow–as in starting with the heat medium low, waiting until the broth just approaches a simmer, covering, reducing the heat to low, and then giving it several hours to fully cook and develop its flavors. It takes more  time, yes, but the result is exquisite–so much better than boiling. With this technique you’re coaxing flavors, not forcing them.

You can also successfully make stock in a slow cooker at the lowest heat level.

This is such a loving process that honors the ingredients and starts you off on the right foot for whatever dish you wish to prepare.

Good stock rocks!

Happy Easter!

Candy Wallace’s Clear Chicken Soup
Serves 6 to 8
(printable recipe)

Clear broth was always required for soups being served in my grandmother’s restaurant. In order to achieve clear stock you must always heat low and slow, never allowing the stock/soup to actually boil. My chicken soup is an example of this visually delightful stock process. I actually use a combination (50/50) of homemade chicken stock and water to make the soup.

Ingredients
Start with an organic chicken for the soup. Place breast down in the pot.
Add:
4 cups homemade clear chicken stock*
4 cups water
1 medium chopped yellow onion
3 quartered carrots
3 quartered celery stalks
2 to 3 fresh bay leaves
A handful of fresh thyme stems (6 or 8)
Salt
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 small yellow onion, chopped
3 to 4 fresh thyme stems
Other vegetables you enjoy

*Candy’s Chicken Stock
Stock is chicken parts or a whole chicken, chicken bones, vegetables you have on hand and want to use or lose, plus carrots, celery, and onion (mirepoix), fresh herbs, and salt (no pepper–it can turn your stock acrid) slow cooked over low heat, strained, cooled, and stored. (But remember the old adage of garbage in/garbage out, so don’t use your stockpot instead of your garbage disposal.) Also, always start with cold water and use enough of it to just cover the chicken and vegetables–about four inches over. Skim often if needed, but you don’t need to stir often. Just cook low and slow for hours.

Directions

1. Add stock, water, onion, carrots, celery, thyme, and salt to the pot with the chicken. Heat on medium low flame and allow it to just begin to simmer before cover, reducing to lowest heat and continuing to cook for several hours. This process produces almost no scum on the top of the soup, but if it does produce any foam or scum, simply skim it off and discard.

2. When the chicken in the pot is cooked through and falling apart, remove it from the pot so the skin can be removed and the chicken boned and shredded. Cool it and store it separately.

3. Pour the stock through a sieve or chinois to separate the mirepoix  and thyme from the stock, leaving the enhanced clear stock base.

4. Cool and store separately. When soup is fully cooled, you may skim the layer of fat that rises to the top.

5. Add the carrots, celery, and onion to the broth for the final soup, along with three to four stems of fresh thyme and any other vegetables you care to add to the soup, like small florets of cauliflower or broccoli, haricot vert, spinach, or whatever you enjoy and have at hand.

6. Once again, bring soup to a simmer on low heat, stir in the shredded chicken and allow to simmer until the vegetables reach the level of firmness you enjoy. If you wish, you can add pre-cooked whole wheat pasta, brown rice, or pearl barley at this point and serve with hot rolls, a fresh salad, and cheese board.

Candy's chicken soup1

What are your favorite Easter dishes? What is the journey that led you to becoming a personal chef? Please leave a comment and let us know.

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.

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