Thursday, April 30, 2009

Creamy sweet and sour dressing

A nice big spinach salad is great anytime: in the spring and summer it serves well as the entire meal, and in the fall and winter it makes a great side dish. Throw in hard boiled eggs, crumbled bacon, thin red onion rings, mushrooms, or whatever else you like. But definitely make sure you serve it with this creamy sweet and sour dressing! Fabulous flavor and no preservatives or additives…and fast!

Even if this salad is going to be your whole meal, along with some good bread, it won’t take longer than thirty minutes to make. This is a great recipe to learn how to make an emulsified dressing too: you’ll love the creamy texture, and you’ll no longer be dependent upon bottled dressings to achieve it!

Creamy Sweet and Sour Dressing

1/2 c apple-cider vinegar
1 t salt and pepper
1/2 t dried oregano
1 clove of garlic, smashed
2 t dried mustard
2 T honey
1 c canola oil (or other light-tasting oil)

Place the vinegar through the honey into a deep bowl or blender, and beat until smooth. While the blender or beater is running, drizzle in the oil slowly. Beat until fully emulsified. Makes enough for several salads.

Feel free to cut or increase the amounts: just maintain a 1:2 ratio of vinegar to oil, and adjust the spices accordingly.

Image: Stock.xchng

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tasty tuna fish sandwich

Hot or cold, this one works either way. I loaded up thick slices of whole wheat bread, wrapped them in foil, and heated them, but they are really good cold too :-)

I’ve never measured the proportions, just mixed the ingredients together until it seemed right.

Tasty Tuna Fish

Soy sauce
Lemon zest
Lemon juice
Mint, chopped
Sesame seeds
Greens, preferably dark like arugula

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Salmon and hard-boiled egg panini

We’ve talked about panini before…those wonderful grilled sandwiches that are all over the place in Italy. These can be made ahead and heated up later, and are a great way to use up leftovers. Here’s a combination that I really enjoy!

Salmon and Hard-Boiled Egg Panini

Good sandwich bread, like long baguettes or round Italian rolls, cut in half
Melted butter with smashed garlic and salt
Fresh dill
Hard-boiled eggs, one per sandwich
Thin slices of leftover cooked salmon

Brush each half of the roll with melted garlic butter. Layer on the dill, capers, eggs, and salmon, and close up the sandwich. Press down hard and wrap in foil. Place either on the grill or in a 350 oven, and heat for about 10 to 12 minutes.

Image: Stock.xchng

Monday, April 27, 2009

Basic basil pesto

There are are a gazillion different ways to make pesto, so here is a very basic recipe along with the how-tos. When basil is plentiful in the spring and summer, that's the time to whip up some batches both for now and for later. Pesto freezes quite well, and you can even freeze very small cubes of it in an icecube tray and store them in a ziploc bag for winter use. Imagine just being able to thaw what you need all through the winter. Does that tempt you to get out your food processor?

Basic Basil Pesto

6 c fresh basil, stemmed
1 c pine nuts, toasted
2 cloves of garlic
1 t each salt and pepper
1 c olive oil

Toast the pine nuts lightly in a skillet or stir fry pan. Process the pine nuts and garlic until finely chopped. Add the basil and chop finely, scraping the sides as needed and adding the salt and pepper. Process in the oil by gradually adding it while the machine is running. Continue to scrape the sides as needed.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Friday, April 24, 2009

Foodie blogging round-up!

Ironstone - Dinnerware with Memories
Mary Emma, at Country Kitchen, relates the memories connected with the ironstone platters her mother used for serving family meals. You, too, can write down your family memories associated with dinnerware past and present.

Looks like Playing with Polymer Clay to Eileen
Eileen challenges you to watch this great YouTube video by “fondant artist”, Robin Hassett, and tell her if it doesn’t look like playing with clay to you. Food can be art too!

Reuben Casserole
A new twist on an old favorite.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Polenta...the northern Italian staple

Not that polenta isn’t served in other parts of the country, but it is as common as pasta in the north. And it is amazingly versatile as well. Basic polenta is a snap to make and can be dressed up or dressed down in an infinite number of ways. It can be served with a rich tomato sauce, with or without veggies, sprinkled with parmesan, loaded with meats and onions, topped with tapenade, on and on and on! It makes a great basis for a vegetarian meal, a main dish, or a side dish.

In larger grocery stores, you can buy pre-made polenta in "bricks" that can be sliced. OK, fine, but hardly necessary. It couldn’t be easier to make this basic dish. All you need is cornmeal, water, and salt. Really! The only trick is that you’ve got to stir it constantly while it’s cooking, but it’s done inside of 20 minutes. There’s actually a method for doing it on low in a slow cooker or crock pot and not stirring it at all past the initial mix, but that takes several hours. You might want to try it, though, if you think you’ll be too busy at the end of the day.

Anyway, here’s how I make it. Later, I’ll be sharing recipes that vary this a bit, along with some nice combos of ingredients and sauces to dress it up for dinner. This recipe serves 4 as a side dish: keep the 3 to 1 ratio if you vary the amounts.

Basic Polenta

3 c water
1 t salt
1 c coarse cornmeal

In a large heavy saucepan, boil the water and salt. Pour the cornmeal in slowly, stirring constantly. Drop the heat to low and continue to cook for 15 to 20 minutes or so, still stirring, until the cornmeal mix pulls away from the sides. I like to add a tablespoon of butter to the mix just before it’s finished and stir it in. Scrape the polenta out into a 3 cup covered serving dish and let it sit until slightly cooled. You can put it in the fridge for later and then just heat it up for a few minutes in the oven, or leave it on the counter for a bit. Slice it up to serve it, along with whatever toppings and sauce you want to add. I like to put mine in a round glass dish (see above), and cut it into wedges.

Polenta with sundried tomatoes and blackeyed peas

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Grilled onion, cheese, and prosciutto sandwich

Here's another delicious panini for a busy evening. We hit this one with a bit of balsamic vinegar to knock up the taste even more. Saute the onions in a bit of olive oil, then remove the onions and saute the prosciutto in the same pan. Layer the sandwiches as follows and grill them:

Grilled Onion, Gruyere, and Prosciutto Panini

Rye or wheat bread
Sauted onions
Gruyere cheese, grated
Sauted chopped prosciutto
Balsamic vinegar (optional)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Making basic risotto

Risotto can be made in large batches and either kept for a couple days in the fridge (no longer) or even frozen if you cook it to the barely al dente stage. No matter how complicated the recipe is that calls for risotto, the basics of preparation of the rice are basically the same. Use a good quality Arborio rice, and follow these steps:

* Bring the broth to a simmer and keep it warm (or warm it as needed in the microwave)
* Make sure the wine is at least room temperature, not cold
* Brown the flavoring vegetables (onion, garlic, etc) and meat in olive oil in a large pot. Remove the veggies and meat, setting it aside for later.
* Cook the dry rice in the oil, stirring until it becomes translucent
* Add wine and salt, and cook until absorbed and evaporated
* Add broth, 1/2 c at a time, stirring constantly until each portion is absorbed. This usually takes at least 20 minutes.
* Add the veggies and meat back in.
* Add cheese or any other short-cooking ingredient

It sounds fiddly, but it’s not hard, and the meals that result from this method of cooking are just so fabulous! Make it during your once a week food prep time, or make even larger batches during OAMC. Don’t cook the rice all the way to the soft stage if you’re going to freeze it for later meals. You can keep it in the fridge a couple of days, but not too long in order to avoid dangerous bacteria from spoiling.

Here’s a simple risotto recipe to get you started. Use the directions above to cook it:

Basic Risotto

Olive oil
1/2 c onion, chopped
1-1/2 c Arborio rice (short-grained)
1/3 c white wine
1/2 t salt
5 c (40 oz) chicken broth

Monday, April 20, 2009

Pasta cooking techniques

Pasta is so easy to make, and is such a nice base for so many dishes. Although we often think of pasta as a fall and winter dish, don’t forget about pasta salads, the perfect way to enjoy a filling meal that isn’t too hearty on a hot day. Coming up in a few weeks, I’m going to be sharing a number of thirty minute meals that will use pasta as the base. In preparation for that, I wanted to refresh us all (me too) on the dos and don’ts of pasta cooking.

I was always sure that you were supposed to add oil to the cooking water to keep the pasta from sticking… Turns out, there are better ways to accomplish that goal!

* Use a really big pot and lots of water. Pasta needs lots of room to move freely, and this is the best thing you can do to keep it from sticking!
* Don’t add oil, either to the water or afterwards. Coating your pasta with oil will cause the sauce to slide right off it and end up in a puddle underneath your pasta! Yuck.
* Don’t rinse the cooked pasta for the same reason: the starch that you are rinsing off helps the sauce to stick. The exception is pasta that will be used for cold salads. You will need to rinse it or the pasta will become too gummy when it’s cooled.
* Salt the water unless someone has a sodium problem. Pasta tastes better when cooked in salted water. That’s the best time to add the salt, not after it’s cooked.
* Don’t overcook the pasta. Start to test it a minute or so before the package says it should be done. Pasta will continue to cook after you remove it from the stove, and especially if you either leave it in the hot water or immediately add it to hot sauce.
* If you want to cook the pasta early and serve it warm or hot later, cook to barely al dente stage and remove it from the pot without throwing out the water. When you’re ready to reheat, boil the starchy water and add the pasta for just one minute, stirring it to release the strands from each other.

Image: Stock.xchng

Friday, April 17, 2009

Lemon-Lime Bars from BHG

Better Homes & Gardens recently posted a batch of delicious and easy dessert recipes and cake baking tips. One recipe that really caught my eye was this easy and delicious-looking batch of Lemon-Lime Bars. A sprinkling of powdered sugar tops off these impressive bar cookies -- ideal for graduation parties and wedding showers.

Visit the following links for more great ideas:
Baking Basics

Foodie blogging round-up!

Add Steaming to Your Culinary Repertoire

… with Jean’s recipe for Steamed Fish with Spinach and Pine Nuts. Do you know the health benefits of steaming your food?

Baking Bread with Auntie
Mary Emma, at Tales of the Trails End Quilters, reminisces about learning to bake bread with her aunt.

In Search Of Guitar Cakes
Guitar cake ideas for a music or guitar hero fan.

Jean’s blueberry quickbread
Delightful, delicious, and even semi-nutritious!!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Jean’s blueberry quickbread

If you want to healthy this one up a bit, you can substitute some whole wheat flour for part of the white, but the flavors are so delicate and sweet in this quickbread that I would just recommend making it with unbleached white flour and planning on it not being 100% healthy!

Note that if you use frozen blueberries, your bread won’t come out clean…it’ll be largely stained blue. Keep that in mind if presentation is really important :-)

Jean’s Blueberry Quickbread

1-3/4 c flour
2/3 c sugar
2 t baking powder
2t lemon peel
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt

1-1/2 c blueberries, unthawed if frozen

8 oz lemon yogurt, or plain yogurt and a splash of lemon juice
1 large egg
2 T oil

Mix flour through salt together in a large bowl. Gently fold in the blueberries. Beat yogurt through oil together and add to dry ingredients, stirring gently until just moistened. Spoon into a greased loaf pan, and sprinkle the top with 1T sugar for decoration if desired. Bake for 50 min at 375. Let cool for 5 minutes, and then remove from the pan to cool.

Image: Flickr

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Salmon and fruit salad

I already told you how much I like the new edition of the The Taste of Home Cookbook. Here’s another recipe from this fabulous book. I used fresh salmon instead of canned, and substituted yogurt for the sour cream. Using the fresh salmon obviously upped the time needed to put this together, but if you chose to used canned, it only takes 10 minutes to prepare!

Courtesy of The Taste of Home Cookbook and website!

Salmon Salad


  • 2 cans (14-3/4 ounces each) salmon, drained, bones and skin removed
  • 2 celery ribs, sliced
  • 1 large apple, peeled and chopped
  • 5 green onions, sliced
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons snipped fresh dill or 3/4 teaspoon dill weed
  • 3/4 teaspoon minced fresh basil or pinch dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon or pinch dried tarragon


Flake salmon into a bowl. Add remaining ingredients; stir gently. Chill until ready to serve.

Yield: 8 servings.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Artichoke and Spinach Dip

Ah, the glories of fresh vegetables! Fortunately, even when it’s not spring, the frozen varieties work just fine for this recipe ;-)

Artichoke and Spinach Dip

Canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
10 oz package of frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
10 oz package of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed out
1/2 c low-fat sour cream
1/2 c Neufchatel cheese
1/2 c mozzarella cheese, shredded
Salt and pepper
Saute the onions and garlic in oil until softened but not browned. Combine all the other ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Add the onions and garlic and stir in without pureeing. Place in a 9 to 10 inch pie plate, coated with spray or oil. Bake at 375 for about 20 minutes until hot throughout. Serve with crackers, pita, or raw veggies.

[Note - the mixture can be stored for a few days in the refrigerator before heating, making this a perfect make-ahead appetizer for a party!]

Image: Stock.xchng

Monday, April 13, 2009

Cauliflower with nutmeg

Everywhere I go, people are talking about this delicious combination! My mother mentioned it to me first, and since then I’ve heard many references to it. I’ve come up with a couple of cooking variations so that if you’re in a big hurry you can cut some cooking time off the process. The full-blown slow roasted version tastes the best to me, but the others are quite acceptable!

Cauliflower with Nutmeg (slow-roast version)

Full head of cauliflower (I like the orange variety for this)
Olive oil

Put a few T of olive oil into the bottom of a baking pan and sprinkle it with nutmeg. Cut up the cauliflower and place the pieces in the pan, turning them to coat with the oil. Cover and cook at 350 for 30 minutes. Uncover, stir and cook for an additional 30 minutes.

The Hurried Versions

Microwave or steam the cauliflower ahead of time until just starting to soften. Put into a ziploc bag with the oil and nutmeg and store in the fridge until ready to cook. Cook for 30 minutes uncovered at 350, or stir fry for an even faster finish. OK, it’s not roasted, but it’s still pretty tasty!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Peanut butter roll

This recipe originally came from Lancaster County in Pennsylvania, and was shared with me by my childhood friend, Alice. This is a great treat to make with kids since there’s no cutting or cooking involved, and all mixing is done (literally!) by hand. We often make it into the shape of eggs for Easter.

Peanut Butter Roll
2 lbs confectioner’s sugar
3/4 c peanut butter
2 c graham cracker crumbs
1/4 lb butter
1/2 c milk

Mix all ingredients together with hands. Chill if needed before forming into a roll or eggs of any sizes. Can be coated with melted chocolate if desired.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Friday, April 10, 2009

Foodie blogging round-up!

20 Last Minute Spring and Easter Party Treat Ideas
Check these out, they’re not just for Easter several will work for a Spring celebration.

Nighttime Noshing: Success of Sorts
Jean hasn’t lost any more of those ugly extra pounds, but she has some major good news to share from the “battle of the bulge” battlefront.

Real Food Fast!
What’s in season now?

The Joys of Keeping a “Mom’s” Journal
Mary Emma, at Country Kitchen, tells about her enjoyment of journaling about her experiences as a mom.

Easter ham
The perfect honey glazed ham for this Sunday

Passover roast chicken with stuffing

This roast chicken recipe is great for anytime of the year, but it’s specifically designed for Passover because it uses matzo farfel for the stuffing. It can be assembled earlier in the day and then popped into the oven for an hour before serving.

Passover Roast Chicken with Stuffing

Olive oil
Onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1/2 c chopped almonds
3 c matzo farfel

1 c chicken stock or soup
1 egg
1 t salt
Black pepper to taste

Roasting chicken, cut into serving size pieces

Saute the onion, garlic, and celery in oil until tender. Add nuts and farfel, and stir until lightly browned. Combine the stock through pepper in a small bowl and add to farfel mixture. Spread it out in a 9×13 baking dish. Season the chicken pieces with a dusting of ginger and paprika and arrange them over the stuffing. Roast for about 1 hour at 350 until the chicken is browned. Serves 4-6.

Image: Public Domain

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Passover lasagna

Passover Lasagna

Olive oil
2 lbs ground beef

Onion, chopped
Pepper, red or green
1 c mushrooms, chopped
2 cloves of garlic
Salt and pepper
1 t cumin

1/3 c pine nuts
7-8 matzos

6 eggs, beaten

Brown the meat in a large skillet with just a little bit of olive oil. Drain the excess fat and add the vegetables and seasonings. Saute until tender. Remove from heat and stir in the pine nuts.

Grease an 11 x 13 baking dish. Line the bottom with matzos that have been dipped into a bowl of hot water. Spread on half of the meat mixture. Add another layer of matzos and the second half of the meat. Add a final layer of matzos and pour the eggs over the top. Bake at 350 for about 40 minutes, until the top is browned.

Optional - add 8 oz of tomato sauce to the meat mixture. Other vegetables may be added or substituted.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Passover side dishes: chicken livers and charoset

Don’t say yuck until you’ve tried them ;-)

Chopped Chicken Livers

1 lb chicken livers, drained
2 large onions, chopped
1-2 cloves of garlic, mashed
Olive oil

2 eggs, hard boiled
Salt and pepper

Saute the livers, onions, and garlic in oil until the livers are cooked completely through. Keep the heat down so that the vegetables don’t burn. Put all the ingredients into a food processor in batches, and process until it is a paste. Serve on salad or as a spread for matzo.


2 tart apples
1/2 c walnuts (or almonds)
1/2 t cinnamon
1 T honey
1 T sweet Passover wine

Core the apples, but don’t peel. Chop apples and walnuts either by hand or in food processor until they are all finely chopped. Stir in the rest of the ingredients by hand to make a chunky textured mixture.

Charoset is used as a part of the Seder ceremony, but is also really good on matzo at any time. Increase the recipe as much as needed.

Image: Stock.xchng

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Chocolate chip cookies for Passover

Martha's book has the best cookie recipes, although some are just too fiddly for me. This doesn’t happen to be one of the fiddly ones, though! Beautiful chocolate chip cookies that are made with matzo and matzo farfel meals. Good quality dark chocolate. Yum :-) I love this book, and I highly recommend it. When it first hit our public library, I had to fight off a lot of people to even get a look at it!

Martha’s recipe is available on the Martha Stewart website. My only additional suggestion is that you chill the dough before rolling and baking to keep it from spreading too much.

Chocolate Chip Cookies for Passover
Makes 2 dozen

1 cup matzo meal
1 cup matzo farfel
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup nondairy semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir together matzo meal, farfel, sugars, and salt. Whisk together eggs, oil, and vanilla in a small bowl. Stir egg mixture into sugar mixture. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts.
2. Roll dough into 1-3/4-inch balls; space 2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until golden, 16 to 18 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Spinach cheese bake for Passover

Spinach cheese bake is an excellent main dish, or can be served in smaller portions as a side dish with a large salad. It’s very tasty, and can be made with additional vegetables if you want to make it more hearty. Since it takes an hour to cook thoroughly, I’d suggest using thawed frozen spinach to save some prep time, and definitely make sure that all the veggies you decide to use have been pre-chopped during your once a week food prep time.

Spinach Cheese Bake

2 c cottage cheese
8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded or crumbled
10 oz package of frozen spinach, thawed
6 T matzo meal
1 clove of garlic, mashed
Salt and pepper
Sliced mushrooms and/or other vegetables (optional)

6 eggs, beaten

Combine all the ingredients except for the eggs in a large bowl and mix well. Add the beaten eggs and mix again. Pour into a 8×12 greased baking pan. Bake at 350 for one hour, until top is golden brown.

Image: Stock.xchng

Sunday, April 5, 2009

What's in season now? Spring

What’s a person to do when faced with the dizzying array of "fresh" fruits and vegetables in the modern grocery store? Strawberries are now available in the middle of winter, but they also usually taste like cardboard at that time of the year! I’ve had to think through my buying habits very carefully in the last few years, since I spend most of my time and money in the produce aisle :-)

I love to buy organic if possible, especially if it’s an item with thin skin, or an item that I know from previous experience is far superior in taste to the non-organic varieties (like oranges). But organic is not the be-all and end-all of making choices. Some organic growers are huge agribusinesses that are only one step better than non-organic growers. They may not be spraying, but they are just as likely to be depleting the soil and shipping produce long distances.

Sometimes, buying local produce is the better choice, even if the farm is not certified organic. Fresh produce, in season, locally grown…especially if it’s grown on smaller independent farms…may end up being your best choice. Get to know your local farmers and farmstands. Find out what local farms supply your local grocery store.

That means we also have to know what actually is in season! We’ve lost our sense of the seasons over the last decade. Even though it’s probably neither possible nor convenient to eat local, organic, in-season food 100% of the time, most of us could do a lot better job if we simply went back to basics and paid attention!

So here’s my list of what’s available in my neck of the woods. Please feel free to leave more suggestions in the comments, particularly if there are food items available in your local region that I didn’t mention.

Here’s a link to a page with links to many spring recipes using these ingredients. I’ll be adding to it and creating new lists for each season. You can always find this page in the sidebar: What’s in season now?


Crabs, soft-shell crabs, salmon, sardines, shad, shrimp, trout, sole
Lamb, chicken
Artichokes, asparagus, avocados, beans, fennel, morel mushrooms, new carrots, new greens, new potatoes, peas, radishes, scallions, spinach, spring onions, watercress
Apricots, mangoes, rhubarb, strawberries
Chives, dill, mint, parsley

Image: Stock.xchng

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Meat and mashed potato pie for Passover (OAMC)

This is too tasty to save just for Passover! Even though it takes some time to make, since you’ve got to prepare mashed potatoes beforehand, and then it needs to cook for about 45 minutes, the really good thing is that is keeps really well in the freezer. Yup! a make-ahead OAMC recipe for Passover and beyond!

Meat and Mashed Potato Pie

4 c mashed potatoes (3 good sized potatoes should do it)

Olive oil
Onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1-1/2 lb ground meat (beef, turkey, or chicken)
Salt and pepper
1/2 c mushrooms, sliced
In a heavy skillet, saute the onion and garlic until soft. Add the beef, and seasonings, and brown the meat. Add the mushrooms and cook for just one more minute.

Spray a 10 inch pie plate and spread with half of the mashed potatoes. Add the meat mixture, and top with the rest of the potatoes. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Sprinkle with more paprika before serving. Gotta love that paprika!

Image: Stock.xchng

Friday, April 3, 2009

Foodie blogging round-up!

Breakfast On The Go~ Banana Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Muffins
These tasty muffins are easy to make, then pop in the freezer for a quick breakfast or snack.

Nighttime Noshing: Getting on a New Track
Has Jean lost those six pounds that crept up on her last year yet? No, but she has a new weapon in her “battle of the bulge”. LOL

A complete Passover package from Epicurious
From perfect matzoh balls to fabulous flourless desserts, we've got recipes, menus, planning tips, and table-setting ideas for a delicious holiday.

Make it a relaxing Easter with there how-to videos from Epicurious
From marinating lamb shoulder to dyeing eggs, check out our Easter-themed videos.

The Passover Seder

My favorite celebration of the year! We are blessed enough to be able to gather with approximately twenty wonderful people each year to have Seder. Our close friends Gray and Paul are the hosts, and Paul is a gifted leader. They both slave for days to prepare, and one of my favorite parts is arriving early enough to help Gray get the matzo ball soup ready. She will only allow us to bring a token as far as the food goes — my part is a fruit platter — so I always try to help serve during the meal and help with clean-up too.

We’ve been going to Gray and Paul’s since the year that our son Nate was born, so this will be our 23rd year at their house! Now that’s the kind of hospitality that Jews are famous for! Our daughter Dani has been going since before she was born, and this year she will be unable to attend since she’s studying in Italy. She says that’s the only thing that could keep her away :-)

“Seder” means the “order of the service” and refers to the sequence that the rituals take place as we retell the sory of the Hebrew exodus from Egypt. The most iconic part of the preparations is the removal of all leavened products from the house. During the Passover festival (8 days in most of the world, 7 days in Israel), no leavened products and only foods that are kosher for Passover are served. Some Sephardic Jews allow the use of corn, rice, and legumes during Passover, but the Ashkenazi Jews (my family) eliminate these as well as leavened products. I’m not sure exactly how that developed over the years, but I’m sure I could google it if I were so inclined!

Anyway, the Ashkenazi cuisine centers around lamb, chicken soup with matzo balls, gefilte fish, matzo-based kugels and casseroles, vegetable tzimmes, lots and lots of horseradish (fresh ground, of course!), and delicious desserts. Even though the food list is restrictive, the menu can be quite varied: after all, this is a feast time and a festival!

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Passover (Pesach)

This year, Passover begins at sundown on April 8

The LORD’s Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. On the fifteenth day of that month the LORD’s Feast of Unleavened Bread begins; for seven days you must eat bread made without yeast. On the first day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. For seven days present an offering made to the LORD by fire. And on the seventh day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. (Leviticus 23:5-8)

Celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. In the first month you are to eat bread made without yeast, from the evening of the fourteenth day until the evening of the twenty-first day. For seven days no yeast is to be found in your houses. And whoever eats anything with yeast in it must be cut off from the community of Israel, whether he is an alien or native-born. Eat nothing made with yeast. Wherever you live, you must eat unleavened bread.” (Exodus 12:17-20)

Observe the month of Abib and celebrate the Passover of the LORD your God, because in the month of Abib he brought you out of Egypt by night. Sacrifice as the Passover to the LORD your God an animal from your flock or herd at the place the LORD will choose as a dwelling for his Name. Do not eat it with bread made with yeast, but for seven days eat unleavened bread, the bread of affliction, because you left Egypt in haste—so that all the days of your life you may remember the time of your departure from Egypt. Let no yeast be found in your possession in all your land for seven days. Do not let any of the meat you sacrifice on the evening of the first day remain until morning. (Deuteronomy 16:1-4)

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Salad with bruschetta dressing

Whether you make your own bruschetta topping or buy a delicious brand like Trader Joe’s, you can make a quick and easy salad dressing from it that adds zest to any meal. I served this one recently with Prosciutto-Wrapped Fish, and the combination was wonderful!

Technically, bruschetta is the grilled bread, but for some reason we’ve attached the term to the tomato-based topping. Maybe someday I’ll try to figure that out, but not today…I’m hungry!

Salad with Bruschetta Dressing

Herb mix or spring green mix salad
Kalamata olives
Feta cheese, cut into small cubes

2 T tomato bruschetta topping
2 T olive oil

Mix the bruschetta and oil together, not thinning it too much. Toss with the other ingredients.

Image: Stock.xchng

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Roasted spring carrots

These carrots are amazing! Make sure that you choose young organic carrots, preferably with the tops still on. Do NOT use those so-called “baby” carrots for this dish! Twenty minutes from start to table is all it takes, and most of the time is in the oven so that you can be preparing whatever main dish you want to serve. We had these last night with leftovers from the weekend. It made the leftovers really special to have one freshly prepared dish, especially one this colorful :-)

Roasted Carrots

1 lb fresh young carrots

2 T butter
2 T lime juice
Red pepper flakes, crushed

Heat the oven to 425. Scrub the carrots and cut off the greens and tips. In a cast iron skillet, melt the butter on the stove top. Add the lime juice, and sprinkle with cumin, red pepper and salt. Add the carrots and heat for a minute, rolling the carrots back and forth to pick up the mixture. Place in oven and roast for 15 minute, rolling the carrots occasionally.