♦ At The Table

Dear Shaina,

I am in the throes of a kitchen-trashing cooking marathon for Passover. We got in Monday afternoon after a wedding in Chicago and I got right down to it and made another Chocolate Bomb (I already made two before I left last week). My strategy (I always have a cooking strategy) is to start with the sweets and move on to the sautéed onions and mushrooms while chopping and cooking the Gefilte fish. My strategy revolves around the progressive use of the food processor (from sweet to smelly) and the arrival of the cleaning people (tomorrow); trash the house today, clean tomorrow, fish smell gone by seder time.Image 4-20-16 at 9.59 PM.jpg

I was looking at all the Passover recipes and pictures on our blog; the table, the food, the people. Some of the guests are no longer with us, some will be going to other seders and you will be hosting a seder of your own. I can’t help but feel the void that you’re not being here will create. I remind myself that we will see you shortly, that we can FaceTime during the seder (maybe), that you will be celebrating with friends…blah, blah, blah…I am still and will be missing you at our seder.

Image 4-20-16 at 9.57 PM.jpgOne of the ways I am dealing with it is by cooking like a fiend…13 hours in the kitchen yesterday. I managed to produce one sponge cake, Nahum’s mother’s Poppy Seed Cake (yes, I said a remembrance prayer in her honor even though I never met her), Matza Caramel Chocolate brittle, a sugar free apple crisp, 6 pounds of chopped onions and three pounds of baby Portobello mushrooms sautéed and 85 pieces (yes, I count like Bubbe did) of Gefilte fish. IMG_7806

There were sticky fish pieces on every surface of the kitchen, every pot and bowl I own (almost) was dirty, the house smelled and my sciatica was throbbing. There is nothing that makes you feel more productive and takes you outside of yourself  like immersing yourself in a major cooking frenzy. I hardly even thought about missing you during those 13 hours…except when you texted me for the spinach kugel recipe. It actually made me feel better. There is something comforting about knowing that I will “be” at your seder in the same way that Bubbe continues to “be” at all of ours. Food is transcendent. I’m going to add those sundried tomatoes (per your modification) to my spinach kugel and transport you right into my kitchen.Image 4-20-16 at 10.02 PM.jpg

It is your birthday on the first night of Passover. I hope the Passover sponge cake makes it there in time. You were the only kid I knew who loved having your birthday on Passover…and you still do! You loved having a bunch of people over for dinner, you loved all the matzo delights and you loved the variety of amazing desserts. You actually once claimed (not so long ago) that Passover sponge cake was your favorite cake, any time of the year! Who says that!?

I will still miss you. Maybe you can send us a few seder tips, a relevant question or two, a sharing exercise to stimulate a more nuanced Passover discussion…like you always do. I might almost be able to imagine that you’re right here at the table with us.

Love,
Mom
xoxoxoxooxoxoo

 

Too much boiled chicken (from all that Chicken Soup)?

What’s for dinner the night before the Seder?

What’s in your last sandwich before Passover begins?

Chicken Salad!

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This is my favorite thing to do with the boiled chicken from my Chicken Soup. I usually make Chicken Soup for Passover ahead of time and freeze it until the big day.  I make enough soup to supply two seders and leftover soup for the week.  We can’t possibly eat all that boiled chicken and it won’t hold until the holiday, so I freeze it and have it ready for chicken salad anytime I want some.

As soon as the soup is done, I remove the chicken, let it cool a bit and debone it while its still warm.  I freeze some of the chicken in the soup and save whatever I think we will eat in the next few days. I then divide the rest up into freezer bags that hold about a half of a deboned chicken. When I am ready for chicken salad, I just defrost a bag and make my favorite recipe.

Tarragon Chicken Salad

  • Deboned Cooked Chicken (whatever amount you have)
  • Mayonnaise (amount to taste)
  • 1 Tablespoon Dried Tarragon (or to taste)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Optional: Toasted Pecans or slivered almonds, celery, black olives

Chop  Chicken in a food processor or cut up in small chunks. Add desired amount of mayonnaise, tarragon, salt and pepper and mix together.

Serve as a salad, sandwich or with crackers.

Good for lunch, dinner or appetizers. Also makes a great matzo sandwich.

 

 

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◊ Raw

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Dear mom,

It’s already been a week since I was home for Passover? Yesterday was the weekend? I’ve been living in a computer screen vortex since I left home and every time I look up, I feel further from the world outside.

I’m in post-production mode of three different projects. This means I’m finished collecting puzzle pieces and I’m now ready to sort, order and put them together. Thinking about it makes me dizzy.

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They aren’t just any puzzle pieces. They’re heavy. They are other people’s stories, but putting them together comes from my own core. Schoolwork feels like therapy sometimes… My emotional state is raw and being home for Passover only intensified that feeling.

Along with the usual Passover routine – cooking, overeating, taking shots of slivovitz, leaning to the left from too much dessert/the Haggadah told us to – we dove into discussions that shook assumptions of my basic values.

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Dad asked me to come up with a discussion question for our Seder. Before we recited the ten plagues that Moses inflicted upon the Egyptians, he asked it:

Is inflicting hardship upon others in order to gain freedom justified? Is it always tit for tat? What about preemptory strikes? Blood, locusts, boils, wild beasts, death of the first-born…. Is it easier to commit acts of cruelty when god’s on your side?

I thought the questions would spark good debate, but for the first time in the history of our dinnertime discussions, you and Abe agreed – you and I agreed – Abe and dad agreed – we all agreed (whoa!) that we don’t know what we’re capable of until we’re fighting to survive. We don’t know the answer. We analyze risks and benefits, we act as efficiently as we can, and we don’t look back because we know that we made the most thoughtful, conscious decision possible.

When dad asked the question, I’m guessing that some people had ISIS or Israel and Gaza in mind. Initially, I was thinking about salads (duh) — about how every bite may enable slave labor in Florida’s tomato fields. I also thought about other circumstances  in which the stakes feel higher.

I’ve sort of always known that the answer is that we don’t have the answer … That the reason conflicts remain conflicts is that it’s damn easy to be convinced that god is on your side. I’m still fighting with this answer.

The flight is too big for the limited space in my brain right now.

Home already feels like worlds away.

xo,

Shaina

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After I left home, I stuck to a completely raw diet for the rest of Passover and LOVED it. It inspired me to play with new foods and I really needed the intestinal catharsis after all that sponge cake (it’s mostly air, it’s mostly air, it’s mostly air… yeah right). It was a good strategy to avoid matzah too.

Raw Chocolate Hazelnut Orange Chia Breakfast Bowl/Parfait

This recipe contains two components that can be eaten on their own or layered together.

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Cardamom Coconut Chia Pudding

  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • ¼ cup chia seeds
  • dash of cardamom powder
  • honey, maple syrup, other sweetener to taste (optional)

Stir chia seeds into coconut milk and add cardamom. I didn’t add sweetener because I knew I’d be eating it with the plenty sweet chocolate pudding (recipe below). I also kept sweetener out of it so it would more versatile for later breakfasts and snacks. It was perfect topped with a sliced banana.

 Raw Orange Scented Chocolate pudding

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  • 1 medium avocado
  • ½ cup hazelnuts
  • juice of one orange
  • zest of one orange
  • ½ cup pitted dates
  • tsp vanilla
  • ½ cup almond (or coconut) milk
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cacao powder
  • dash of sea salt

A vitamix or other high powered food processor is necessary here. Dump all ingredients into food processor and puree until smooth. Add more nut milk if needed.

FINAL STEP:

Layer the puddings with orange wedges in bowl or jar.  Garnish with crushed hazelnuts and orange zest (and cacao nibs for extra luxury).

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Herbed Raw Almond CheeseIMG_7621

  • 1 cup almonds
  • 3 cups water
  • dash of smoked paprika
  • ¼ cup onions, finely chopped
  • dash dried basil
  • salt
  • fresh black pepper

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Soak almonds in water over night. When ready, drain water from almonds and place into food processor. Add another cup of water and puree until frothy and white.

Place cheese cloth over a bowl or jar, and drain the liquid from the almond meal to collect a nice jar of almond milk. Collect remaining almond meal in a separate dish. Stir herbs and spices into almond meal and store in fridge. Get creative with your herbs!

Yogurt, Apple, Sprouts and Nuts Breakfast Bowl:

(pictured below)

  • 1 apple, chopped
  • 3/4 cup plain organic yogurt
  • handful of cilantro sprouts
  • herbed almond cheese
  • curry cashew cream

Stir yogurt into chopped apples. Top with cilantro sprouts, herbed almond cheese and curry cashew cream.

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♦ 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.

◊ Berkeley Breakfast

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Dear mom,

Beef tenders. Ok. I can handle it. But those photos…

The content of your prep photo could have come out of my intestines. Really mom. How is that food? I’m nauseated at the thought of putting it in my mouth.

I find it strange that you hear happiness in my voice. Excitement, stress, anxiety, nerves, struggle, exhaustion… these are the things I feel.

I don’t think they’re the usual indicators of happiness.

Happiness. What a weird thing to calculate. I think I’m annoyed with it. I’m annoyed with smiling Berkley flowy pants and flower-hat wearing vegan yogis who give big hugs. Are you turning into one of them? It sounds like it. (I’d rather you make beef tenders.)

I’m working really hard at school. My chronic eye twitch is still chronic. If I’m not hunched over my computer, I’m hunched over a camera or notes or a big salad. I attempt a work-life balance with hikes and cooking, but I feel stressed and nervous and pressed for time all of the time. But I’m choosing this life and am (weirdly) excited about it.

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The work I’m doing is hard, time-consuming, confusing and emotionally draining. But I feel that it’s important. And yes, it’s stressful, but feeling that I’m doing something important is thrilling.

Is this what happiness looks like for me? I’m scared.

best served with a cold glass of kombucha, duh

best served with a cold glass of kombucha, duh

One thing that makes me happy is my new favorite breakfast inspired by one of my favorite outside of school friends (here’s her food site): sautéed dino kale, baked sweet potato, sauerkraut and a boiled egg sprinkled with sunflower seeds. It’s a meal that will help you understand how your beef pics conjure up images of things that come out of my intestines.

Crossing the line? You asked for it.

xo

Shaina

I usually prep the kale, egg and potato the night before so that it takes 5 minutes to throw it together in the morning.  Gluten free, paleo and perfect for Passover (also a good way to use leftover Seder eggs and will definitely cure a matzah belly).

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Kale and Sweet Potato Breakfast

Makes 3-4 breakfasts

  • 1 head of dino (lacinato) kale, de-stemmed and cut horizontally into 3 inch strips
  • drop of olive or coconut oil
  • 1 tbs grated ginger
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • 4 eggs, boiled
  • 1 cup sauerkraut (can be purchased at most grocery stores)
  • 3-4 tbs sunflower seeds
  • salt and black pepper

*Part 1: Heat oven to 400 degrees and wrap whole sweet potato in foil. Place on baking sheet and place in oven for 30-45 minutes, until soft.

Meanwhile, heat oil in sautee pan and add ginger, turmeric, kale and salt. Cook for 5 -7 minutes until kale is just wilted.

Part 2: Chop sweet potato into one inch chunks. Top with sauteed kale, sauerkraut and boiled egg, and sprinkle with sunflower seeds. Add plenty of salt and black pepper to taste.

*To make my mornings less overwhelming, I do part 1 the night before and part 2 in the morning.

breakfast on the go

breakfast on the go

◊ On My Way Back

 

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Dear mom,

I know I started it, but I REALLY want to change the topic. I’m tired of this working-mom-only-child-guilt back and forth grumble. I just have one thing left to say: I can’t decide whether my lack of embarrassment about you mentioning my green poop in public is an indication of good or bad parenting. I have zero shame about my vibrant digestive tract and blue jello/kool-aid habit.

Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 9.18.39 PMRegardless of how that relates to your parenting skills, let’s give ourselves hardy pats on the back to forgive the mistakes and acknowledge our okay-ness and move the F on. Or do you need more space to process?

Passover is over, Natalya’s wedding is over and the opulent days of cooking, eating and celebrating together have come to a pause. I am now laying on the floor of terminal 4 at JFK, legs up the wall, trying to get some blood flowing before hours of cramped feet on my flight back to Israel.

I was weirdly not looking forward to coming home for Passover and now I’m weirdly not looking forward to returning to Israel for the rest of the semester. I feel disconnected from life there after being away for only three weeks. Whenever I come home, I sleep too much, eat too much, whine too much, throw my clothes on the floor like someone will pick them up for me (because someone most always does) and am reckless at the grocery store. I regress. I just want to crawl back under my big down comforter and go shopping at Whole Foods when I wake up. The energy required to have responsibilities again is daunting.

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Things at home were good. There were no tears at any of the family dinners; yelling in front of strangers was kept to a minimum; we only did one round of shots before each Seder and your gefilte fish was good; conversations were tame. I didn’t even pick up any quotable Abe references. There’s not much to report about Natalya’s wedding either — it was just plain fun.

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So the visit was good and normal, which is strange. Maybe I built up the eccentricities of our family and friends in my head while I was away… but I’m pretty certain that all this normality is not normal for us. Am I disappointed by the lack of crazy? Maybe just bored.

This is why our blog is important … Now, after this small reflection, I am feeling more optimistic about getting back to the streets that no one is allowed to forget that Moses, Jesus, Mohamed and Natalie Portman worshiped… To using physical force against hunchbacked old women in our fight for the best cucumbers in wrinkled veggie bins at the market … To bearing the strength of my elbows as I squeeze my body onto buses. In a few hours I’ll be back to this craziness and more. Until then I’ll muster the will to go back to being in charge of my life. It seems hard and fun and I’ll still miss home.

xo,

Shaina

Below are a few of the Passover recipes I mentioned in our previous post for Passover ideas. I will say that year was our best year for Seder food yet. Especially the Yemini Charozet… yum. IMG_2266

Dvora’s Yemini Charozet

  • 2/3 cup walnutsIMG_2232
  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds
  • 1 1/2 cup pitted dates
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 inch slice of ginger root
  • juice of one orange
  • 1 tbs ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • dash of cayenne powder

 

First, toast walnuts, almonds and sesame seeds separately. Spread nuts evenly on tray and place into toaster oven on 350 degrees for 5 – 10 minutes or until golden and fragrant. All toaster ovens work at different speeds, so check frequently… nuts go from toasted to burnt very quickly (especially the sesame seeds!), so be vigilant.

Once nuts are toasted, dump dates, raisins and spices into a food processor and add orange juice as needed. Add walnuts and almond once the fruit is blended and pulse until nuts are crushed, but not pureed. Once desired consistency has been reached, stir in sesame seeds. If you are nervous about the spices, you can stir them in afterwards. The result should be sweet with a spicy edge. This charozet doubles as a jam – the cumin is a surprising touch. It’s perfect treat to swirled into yogurt or spread over an apple.

 

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Spicy Thai Cucumber Salad

  • 8 Persian cucumbers
  • 2/3 C raw peanuts
  • 1/3 cup toasted coconut flakes
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro (about 3 big handfuls of loose cilantro)

Dressing:

  • 1 tsp chili flakes or ground cayenne (depending on spice tolerance)
  • 1 tbs sesame oil
  • 3 tbs salad vinegar
  • 1 tsp brown sugar or honey
  • dash of sea salt

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Creamy Avocado Quinoa with fresh dill

  • IMG_22883 medium zucchinis, cut into 3/4-inch circles
  • 3 medium yellow summer squash, cut into 3/4 inch circles
  • 
1 1/2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
  • 
dash of sea salt and black pepper
  • 1 large ripe avocado
  • 
zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
  • 
2 cloves grushed garlic
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk or plain yogurt (optional)
  • 
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh black pepper
  • 2 cups quinoa, cooked, room temperature (I use tri-color quinoa)

Garnish with:

  • 
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/4 cup goat feta cheese, crumbled (optional)
  • 
chopped fresh dill

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Preheat oven to 375 on convection setting. Place zucchini and squash coin in large mixing bowl and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread thinly on baking sheet lined with parchment paper and place into oven for 15 – 25 minutes, until outer edges become brown and crisp. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Meanwhile, mash all of the dressing items together with the back of a fork into a creamy sauce. Gently fold dressing and zucchini and squash into quinoa. Garnish with dill, feta cheese and pine nuts. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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♦ Debriefing

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Dear Shaina,

I know it sounded like I got you all wrong, but really, I didn’t. I am proud of your creative resourcefulness, in all matters. I am in awe of your comfort with your being by yourself, your ability to structure your time and accomplish what you set out to do without any prodding from anyone other than yourself…and then turn around and organize a social outing with a few close friends or 80 friends of friends because you’re ready for some fun. You seem to be able to manage what most of us still find very challenging…meeting our alone needs and our social needs without expecting someone else to do it for us. I am proud of you…and of me and Dad for providing the nurturance and opportunities that gave you the space to take your life wherever you chose. And you have chosen well. We are proud!

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My getting it wrong didn’t really have anything to do with you. Every mother has their own vision of the ideal mother they want to be and believe they can be. It doesn’t necessarily comply with the actuality of their mothering or the vision their children have of them. In truth, I never imagined myself as a working mother. My fantasy was that I would be the PTA organizing, cookie baking, field trip driving mom who was always there and never missed a mom-beat. Instead, I was an overbearing, impatient, overprotective worried mother who was pretty bored with the do-the-laundry-while-the-baby-is-taking-a-nap routine. I realized pretty early on that I needed to go to work for your sake and mine. I don’t regret my decision. It proved to help both of us grow into independent, productive and fun-loving women.10257145_10201836219616231_363673777101131976_n

That doesn’t mean that I am immune to the pangs of guilt that all working mothers have, especially when their children are home alone sick. The sticky remnants of our idealized mother-image gnaws at our hearts. If only I had been there…how much I missed not being there…how much I missed even when I was there… It’s never perfect and we keep wishing it were.

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Shaina, each time you come home from whatever far-away adventure you are currently on, I have the sense of meeting someone deeply familiar, yet subtly altered. You seem more settled and happy. The kind of happy that eases a mother’s mind. This Passover was one of our best ever…and not just because all the food was the best ever (even the gefilte fish). Your consistently gentle essence breezed in and drew us into late night talks, kitchen marathons and momentary peeks into the ever evolving world of Shaina. Being with you, shopping with you, debriefing our days (a new habit you picked up from a housemate…thank you thank you!), even cooking with you, was perfect!

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So Shaina, memory is selective and the timing of memories is especially altered. I remember the blue jello dreidles and the green poop and the witches games and the mud pies and all the mac n cheese you ate as a little girl. I remember. I was there. I remember the kitchen experiments when you got older, although more vaguely, because I wasn’t always there. The trashed kitchen memories were vivid as they awaited me when I did get there.

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Today, mother and daughter, we are here together creating new memories….memories that may supersede other memories in their poignancy, their pleasure and in their immediacy…or not. It’s been an incredible holiday and I can’t wait to do it again!

Love,
Mom
xoxooxoxxoxoxoxo

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Passover Sponge Cake

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Shaina, who knew that this was your all time favorite cake, Passover or not?! I have spent the last three years trying to perfect it. Not the recipe. That’s standard…the same cake Bubbe made every Passover since I have been conscious…the recipe on the back of the Manischewitz Potato Starch can. Every year Bubbe would exclaim at the height of her cakes…the higher the better…it has to do with the egg whites. I started making them the last couple years of her life as she sat in my kitchen directing my efforts. They didn’t come out as high as hers and invariably one would fall apart when I took it out of the pan and I would have to make another one, using the crumbled one for strawberry trifle (your Dad’s favorite). One year, I remember making three cakes before I finally got one to hold together…not that anyone was complaining.

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This year, another miracle of Passover occurred. I produced two fully intact, respectably high (although in my memory, Bubbe’s were higher) Passover sponge cakes. And you revealed that this was your favorite all time cake. Will wonders never cease?!

It turns out that this cake is also gluten-free and makes a perfect cake all year round for those gluten free people in your life. It makes delicious strawberry shortcake and goes well with homemade lemon curd (a recipe from a friend).

I guess I’ll be making a third sponge cake again this year for your birthday, Shaina…the day after Passover ends.

Manischewitz Passover Sponge Cake
(from the back of the Manischewitz Potato Starch Can)

  • 7 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar, sifted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup Manischewitz potato starch, sifted
  • dash of salt

Separate 6 of the eggs. Beat the six egg yolks and one whole egg until light and frothy. The key here is to use a regular stand mixer (not a hand-held) and really beat those eggs until they actual change color and become lighter.

Gradually add the sifted sugar and beat thoroughly. Continue beating while adding the lemon juice and zest ( I usually add a little more zest and juice than the recipe calls for up to two teaspoons of zest and two tablespoons of juice). Beat thoroughly together.

Gradually add the sifted potato starch, stirring constantly to ensure thorough blending.

Beat egg whites with salt until stiff but not dry. Fold gently but thoroughly into egg yolk mixture. The key here is to make sure there is not even a drop of egg yolk in the egg whites and that you use a separate clean bowl and beaters. I use a hand held for the white and always keep them far away from the yolk mixture when preparing this cake.

Place in and ungreased tube pan (I like the tube pans that have the detachable bottom). Bake in a 350° oven about 55 minutes or until cake springs back when touched gently with fingers. I bake this cake for 56 -58 minutes. The top should be brown but not burned and a little crusty.

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Invert pan and cool thoroughly before removing cake from pan.  Once you invert the pan (I use wine bottles), do not even attempt to remove the cake until it is absolutely stone cold. Use a sharp knife to go around the edges of the pan and the tube in the center of the pan.

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If the cake does happen to fall apart, it will still be delicious and no one will notice when you serve it layered in a trifle bowl with strawberries or lemon curd or both.

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Passover Potato Knishes

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Bubbe used to make special Passover Potato knishes that looked like round balls of potato with a glossy outside but no dough. They tasted a little liker the insides of her regulars potato knishes. I never bothered to get the recipe because there were always so many other things to make on Passover. This year I wanted to make a gluten free Passover appetizer and decided I would try to replicate at least the concept of a Passover Potato Knish. The don’t look or feel like my Mom’s but they were such a huge hit, I think Bubbe would be proud!

  • 2 pounds sweet yellow onions
  • oil for sautéing onions
  • 5 pounds red potatoes
  • Lots of salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 – 4 tablespoons of canola oil
  • 4 eggs*
  • oil for brushing tops

*Egg whites can be substituted for whole eggs. Use 2 egg whites for every egg called for. I usually do half and half.

 

Chop onions and sauté in olive or Canola oil until very browned and reduced. This step can be done ahead of time. When I have a big cooking event coming up, I will chop up a whole bag of onions and sauté them and put them in the fridge. As I am cooking over the next few days I have a ready supply of sautéed onions for any recipe that calls for them.
Boil whole potatoes in salted water until done.
Rinse in cold water and peel off skins while potatoes are still hot, but you are able to handle them. I usually skin them while rinsing them under the cold water.
Mash the potatoes, adding in 1/4 cup canola oil, sautéed onions to taste (the more the bettering our household) and plenty of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Lightly beat eggs and add to potato mixture, blending thoroughly.
Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Wet hands with water and spoon potato mixture into hands to form a golf-ball sized potato mound. Place potato balls onto baking sheet. brush tops of balls very lightly with a little oil.
If serving at a later time, bake at 375° for about 15- 20 minutes until firm and lightly browned. Let cool completely and remove with a spatula. Store in a sealed container separating the layers with waxed or parchment paper. they can be frozen. To reheat, return to baking sheets covered with parchment paper and reheat in a 375° oven until browned and crisp around the edges, about 15 minutes.
If serving immediately, bake in 375° oven for 25 minutes or until browned and slightly crisp.

Passover Ideas From Both of Us

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Reunited at last! Mom and daughter are under the same roof for Passover — daughter is FREAKING OUT at the abundance behind the kitchen cabinet doors and mom is a little nervous about the havoc about to unfold. They both know that it will be delicious.

photo 3Some of you may be struggling to put together your Passover seder menus, especially if you’re hosting vegetarians. We don’t get it, but we’re happy help with ideas. Passover is our favorite food holiday – its restrictions inspire new techniques and flavors and neither of us are afraid. Mom’s biggest fear is deciding what not to make so we don’t end up with twenty different dishes that none of our seder guests recognize and can’t decide which to try.

This morning, mom and daughter went to yoga together. The instructor encouraged them to tap into their child-like imaginations because grown-ups often neglect their imaginative abilities in exchange for harsh reality. Daughter notes that she does not need to go to yoga to learn this and wonders about the status of her grown-up-ness. Mother notes her appreciation for the reminder.

Imagination. It’s really important for Passover food… for any food… for life. We have a lot of ideas for the upcoming days of redemption. From seder-table staples to luxurious vegan breakfasts, here are some of our Passover plans:

Daughter’s Passover to-concoct list:

  • Grilled zucchini quinoa with fresh dill and creamy avocado dressing
  • This rosemary almond olive oil cake
  • Spicy thai cucumber salad with toasted coconut
  • Cashew thai red curry
  • Fresh squeezed grape juice
  • Creamy amaranth breakfast porridge with coconut milk
  • Lots of big kale salads with tahini dressing muled in from Israel
  • Spicy Yemeni charozet from Dvora

Mom is sticking mostly to the tried and true classics.

Mom’s Passover classics:

Mom made her first (of many more to come) foray into the grocery store today to check out the options and pick up a few goods.  Neither Mom nor daughter shop by lists, often proving to be unpredictable, but exhilarating adventures.  Both Mom and daughter shop by sight, smell and touch, and of course, what’s on sale. It’s great fun, stimulates the imagination, and turns out overstuffed refrigerators, freezers and food pantries. Mom is also FREAKED OUT by the abundance of stuff in the cabinets waiting to be transformed into everything delicious!
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It’s time to get on with the cooking and Passover prep… We’ll be back soon with tales from the shared counters. Best of luck to all those hosting seders, we would love to hear about your menus and beyond!

 

– mom and daughter

… And in case your imagination needs some inspiration, below are some of our Passover-friendly favorites from the Recipe Index:

 

Mains:

Salads:

Soups:

Sides:

Sweets: