♦ Happi-stress

Dear Shaina,

I don’t know which one of us should be scared. Your emotionally-drained, stressed out, exhausted, anxious, overworked, confused, chronically twitching self never looked so good…and happy, I might add. Maybe you have embodied a new state of happi-stress! Whatever…happiness or happi-stress, if you’re happy, I’m happy!

It was pure pleasure having you here for the holidays. Lots of home time, lots of talk time, lots of family holiday time and lots of good eating. The Seders got people talking. IMG_5747The matzah balls were fluffy. The Gefilte fish was my best ever.  I think I finally perfected the recipe after only four years of trying. Gail’s brisket was outstanding. And all the desserts have disappeared. It still brings me great pleasure to watch you nibble down a half of a Passover spongecake in one sitting leaving the crumbs as proof that you actually did not eat the whole half a cake. Not to worry…Passover sponge cakes are 99% air. All the calories lay in those crumbs you left strewn all over the counter.

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Then there was the momentous breakthrough…real chicken broth crossed your lips for the first time in twenty years! And it was good, wasn’t it? What next? I know its not beef tenders!

All in all, it was an exceptional Passover. DSC_0074_2Putting you on the plane was hard. I miss you already. I am comforted knowing that you are returning to your stress-filled, important, thrilling and mostly happy life. The mid to late twenties aren’t the easiest years in a person’s life. It’s a time of figuring out who you are and what’s important to you and, mostly, realizing and accepting that you are the only one who can make that happen. I know its not always fun, but I am proud of you for struggling to figure it all out and owning the responsibility for making it what you want. I love watching you evolve into your grown-up person, while at the same time I am so aware of time moving quickly. I feel like I am in the midst of a multi-character serial with ever-changing plot lines. I cherish each episode and don’t ever want it to end, but can’t wait to know how it will all turn out. That’s life. For now, all good…and I am grateful.

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I am dedicating my recipes this week to Passover. It’s a fun time to experiment with cooking and every once in a while something turns out really good. Since you already took those ridiculous sponge cake pictures, I just have to add the recipe. I am also including my new and improved matzah pizza recipe. It’s a far cry from the tomato sauce and cheese on a piece of matzo toasted under the broiler that was a standard for you and your pre-teen buddies. Once you make the matzo dough, the possibilities and varieties are infinite.

Hmm…just like life. No wonder we like cooking so much!

Love,

Mom
xoxooxoxoxoxoxoxoxoox
Passover Sponge Cake

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This recipe comes directly off of the Manischewitz Potato Starch container. It is gluten free and very light. My mother, Bubbe, made this cake every year and always marveled when the cake rose higher than the edge of the tube pan and came out intact.

Although the recipe is simple, it is a bit of an art to have it rise appropriately 11032844_899514556757905_666511423_nand come out in one piece. In my early years I always ended up making two cakes because one would invariably fall apart and I would use it in a strawberry trifle concoction I made up and try again to bake an intact cake. The strawberry trifle was such a hit that it has become a regular Passover dessert item and I just bake two sponge cakes from the beginning. This year, they both came out! I have arrived!

Serve in a trifle with strawberries and cream or with plain strawberries or lemon curd. Or just nibble on the plain cake. It will be gone before you know it. Just watch those crumbs…
Passover Sponge Cake

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Preheat oven to 350°

  • 7 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar, sifted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup Manischewitz Potato Starch, sifted
  • dash of salt

Separate 6 of the eggs setting aside the egg whites in a separate bowl.
Beat the six egg yolks and one whole egg until light and frothy. Gradually add sifted sugar, lemon rind and juice, beating constantly and thoroughly until light and lemony colored.
Gradually add sifted potato starch, stirring constantly with an electric beater to ensure thorough blending.

With a clean beater, beat the egg whites with a dash of salt until stiff but not dry. Fold gently but thoroughly into the egg yolk mixture.

Place in an engrossed 10” tube pan. (I recommend a two-piece tube pan with a removable bottom for easier cake removal.) Bake in a moderate oven (350°) for about 55-60 minutes or until cake springs back when gently touched with fingers. The top should be lightly browned and have a little crusty top.

Remove from the oven and immediately invert cake over a bottle (like a wine bottle). Cool completely before removing from pan. Cut around sides and tube of pan and separate cake from sides of pan. Cut around bottom of cake and remove tube. If it falls apart, don’t worry…just make a trifle with your favorite fruits or toppings.

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Mushroom and Caramelized Onion Pizza (for Passover)
and then some…

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Passover Pizza Crust

  • 4 pieces of matzah
  • 1 large bowl of very hot water
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or melted butter
  • 1teaspoon salt1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil (optional, it gives the dough a hint of pesto flavoring)

Break the matzah in pieces and soak in the bowl in hot water for about 5 minutes or until soft. Then drain the matzah in a colander and dump the water.

While matzah is soaking and draining begin preparing the toppings.

While preparing the toppings, place the drained matzah for the crust in the large bowl and mix together thoroughly with the remaining dough ingredients. The mixture should be moist and thick, but able to easily spread.

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Use a 12-16 inch non-stick pizza pan. The larger the pan, the thinner the crust will be. Spread the matzah mixture to the edges of the pizza pan being sure to cover the bottom of the pan entirely. I started in the center and spread outward to the edges of the pan with a spatula.

Place the pizza pan in the 400º oven and bake for about 15 – 25 minutes (depending on thickness) or until crust is dry on the top and the bottom.

Remove from oven and set aside.

Passover Pizza Topping
This particular topping was inspired by a pizza we had a chain pizza place that was the best pizza I have had in a long time. The matzah dough is a far cry from the real thing, but the topping almost makes up for it. A traditional margherita pizza topping or any topping you like will work just as well. Be creative.

  • 1 sweet onion, sliced in thin wedges
  • Oil or butter for sautéing
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
  • 12 ounces mushrooms, any variety (I used shiitake and portobello), sliced
  • 2 1/2 – 3 cups mozzarella cheese, grated
  • Truffle oil (optional)

Heat up a large sauté pan at medium heat with a little oil or oil and butter. Add the sliced onions, allowing them to cook slowly until browned and soft, but not mushy. Add a little salt after about 10 minutes of cooking. A little sugar (optional) can also be added to aid in the caramelization process. It could take 20 – 30 minutes for the onions to caramelize. When done, remove them from the pan and set aside.IMG_5641

Place the sliced mushrooms in the same pan and sauté until they are done, adding oil or butter if needed and salt and pepper to taste. Remove from pan when done and set aside.
Grate the cheese.

Sprinkle the grated cheese over the baked matzah crust and top with the mushrooms and onions.

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Bake in the 400º oven for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is melted and crust is crisp.
Remove from oven and lightly sprinkle a few drops of truffle oil over the pizza, if desired.

Tips and variations:
The dough can be made ahead time and ready for toppings at a moments notice. Consider traditional pizza toppings with tomato sauce, mozzarella and leftover roasted vegetables. Experiment with different cheeses and fresh herbs like basil and oregano and any other toppings you enjoy.

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This pizza reheats well in a toaster oven the next day and is a nice treat for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

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