Passover Sephardic Wine Cookies

I do all of my own baking for Passover and the treats I make are not just “good for Passover stuff” but are delicious – period! I’m always looking for new cookies to try and am especially pleased when I find recipes that I don’t have to adapt to bake them without eggs, which our godson can’t eat. I came across these very easy-to-make cookies in one of my many cookbooks and am only sorry that I didn’t discover them sooner. They won’t replace my all-time favorite Passover Florentine Cookies or Passover Orange Ginger Spice Cookies or my son’s favorite Passover Vegan Chocolate Chip Buttons or Passover Almond Coconut Macaroons but why should we have to choose? Let’s make them all!

Passover Wine Cookies3 (2)

Sephardic Wine Cookies (Masas de Vino) by Gil Marks in The World of Jewish Entertaining

Yield: About 2 dozen 3-inch cookies

Ingredients

1.5 cups matza cake meal

3/4 cup ground almonds (with skins) or almond meal

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

1 cup (2 sticks) of non-dairy buttery sticks at room temperature

1/2 cup granulated sugar plus about 1/8 cup for pressing cookies

1/2 cup sweet Kosher red wine

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets or pans with parchment or Silpat. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl combine the matza cake meal, almond meal, cinnamon and salt.
  3. Cream the non-dairy buttery vegan sticks with the 1/2 cup of granulated sugar. (I used a standing mixer but this can be made by hand.) Add the dry ingredients and the wine and mix well until everything is well combined and you have a moist dough.
  4. Form the dough into 1.5-inch balls. Place them on the ungreased parchment or Silpat. Place the remaining sugar in a bowl or shallow dish. Dip either the bottom of a large glass or a round meat tenderizer into the sugar and then use that to flatten each dough ball into a cookie that is about 3-inches in diameter.
  5. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the edges just barely begin to turn brown. Allow the cookies to stand for 2 minutes on the cookie sheet before removing them to a cooling rack. You want these cookies to cool completely so they can firm up. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container or in the freezer until you are ready to use them.

 

 

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Spiced Apple Cake

I grew up with a mother who cooked and baked and while we did, of course, buy things from a wonderful neighborhood bakery, there was nothing like walking into a house with that smell of fresh baking. I wanted my son to have this experience as well and so even though I volunteered and went back to graduate school and then eventually worked full-time while he was growing up, I still tried to bake as often as possible. When I had time, I might make something more difficult but I always had some easy recipes up my sleeves for those days when time was at a premium. Since both my husband and son were – and still are – such appreciative audiences, it was a pleasure to make this extra effort.

I found this recipe in a wonderful cookbook that I have gone back to over and over again and it was one of my first gifts to Frances and Matthew when they had their own apartment. Not only are the recipes incredibly accurate and easy to follow, but the stories that go along with the recipes are fun – and often enlightening – to read. This is a great cake to make any time but is a wonderful last minute dessert for Shabbat. You could also prepare the topping (except for the apples) the night before along with measuring out your dry ingredients. It will be a snap to throw this together before dinner. Left-overs are great the next day with a cup of coffee, tea or milk.

Spiced Apple Cake by Gloria Kaufer Greene from The New Jewish Holiday Cookbook.

Yield: About 9 servings

Ingredients

Filling and Topping

2/3 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 rounded teaspoon ground cinnamon

A pinch of Kosher salt

1 large or 2 small/medium sweet baking apple(s), like a Golden Delicious, peeled, cored and thinly sliced. Squeeze a few drops of fresh lemon juice over the apples to keep them from darkening.

Batter

1/2 cup of unsalted butter or margarine, at room temperature

3 large eggs at room temperature

1 rounded teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 cup apple cider or richly-flavored apple juice

2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour (or half whole wheat flour)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease or spray a 9-inch (preferably non-stick) square baking pan.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together the dry ingredients for the topping. I found that throwing the spices, sugar and nuts into a blender and pulsing the mixture to chop the nuts makes fast work of this. Set the mixture and the apple slices aside.
  3. This can be done by hand but I find it makes for a lighter batter if I use an electric mixer. Cream the butter and 3/4 cups of sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs. one at a time and stir until well-combined. Add the spices and beat well. In a medium bowl, mix the flour with the baking soda, baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Alternately add the cider and flour mixture to the batter, beating well after each addition.
  4. Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the batter with half of the nut topping. Arrange all of the apples over the topping. Spread the remaining batter carefully over the apples and sprinkle the remaining topping over the batter. Gently press the nut topping into the batter with your fingertips.
  5. Bake the cake for about 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire cooling rack. Cut into large squares. This can be eaten still warm, but not hot. Cover any left-overs with foil. For extra decadence, serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream.

 

Mediterranean Turkey Burgers

I have been making these burgers for the last year and they are juicy and incredibly flavorful. Make these and say goodbye forever to boring turkey burgers. In fact, personally, I will take these over a beef burger any day. I’m serving these with Israeli couscous, roasted asparagus and a fresh fruit salad with Mandarin Napoleon Brandy .

I am giving measurements below to give you a starting place but normally I just eyeball everything except for the bread crumbs. Do not skip the breadcrumbs. They give the burger just the right mouth-feel, giving that lovely caramelized char that a good burger has.  Please note that NO EGG is needed as a binder for these burgers.

These burgers are also delicious with a simple tahini or yogurt sauce. While normally I like 1/3 pounds of ground meat per burger, I only need 1/4 pound here because of all of the wonderful other ingredients. I like to make enough for left-overs because even reheated in the microwave these burgers stay moist and delicious.

Lisa’s Mediterranean Turkey Burgers

Mediterranean turkey burgers8

Yield: 6 burgers

Ingredients

1.5 pounds ground turkey, preferably 93% lean

1/3 cup finely chopped onion, shallot or scallion

1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, coarsely chopped

1/3 cup sweet, roasted red pepper, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup chopped parsley or cilantro

1/4 cup lightly toasted pine nuts

4 ounces coarsely crumbled goat or sheep’s milk cheese – a feta or even something a bit creamier like a chevre will work

1/4 cup fine dried bread crumbs

1/2 Tablespoon Harissa – green or red (optional)

3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (or fresh, cracked black, but buy yourself Aleppo pepper – you’ll thank me!)

1/4 teaspoon Baharat, hawayij or ground cumin

Hungarian paprika for dusting

EVOO or Grapeseed oil

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven and pan to 425 degrees F. (I like to use a grill pan, but you can use any heavy baking pan, covered with foil for easier cleanup if you wish. This time I roasted my asparagus first, then removed them to a serving platter and using the same pan, including the same foil, I cooked my burgers. I didn’t get the nice grill-marks this way, but they still were delicious and it was one less pan to clean!)
  2. In a glass or stainless steel bowl combine well all of the ingredients listed up until the Hungarian paprika. I find that using my hands works best. If you don’t enjoy touching raw meat then wear disposable gloves. (Whenever I work with raw meat or fish – especially ground meat or fish – I use glass or stainless steel because I know they will clean properly and there will not be any cross contamination with other foods.) 

  3. Using slightly damp hands (cold water) form the patties and place them on a piece of lightly oiled parchment or waxed paper. Dust with the paprika. Then turn the burgers over and repeat.Mediterranean turkey burgers5Mediterranean turkey burgers9When the pan is HOT, add the burgers. No other oil is needed. (If you cook them on a pan that already had oil like I did this time then simply don’t add any oil to the side that you flip over.) Cook for 9 minutes on the first side, then flip the burgers and cook for another 9 minutes on the second side. Turkey burgers are ONLY eaten fully cooked. No rare burgers here. Allow to sit out of the oven for about 3-5 minutes before serving to retain the juices. If you decide you REALLY want a bigger burger, you will have to adjust your cooking times. Mediterranean turkey burgers2
  4. Now eat.

Rice Pudding (Kheer)

Kheer2My husband LOVES rice pudding. In fact, when I first met him almost 35 years ago, one of the very few things that he knew how to cook was a CrockPot version of rice pudding. My father also loved rice pudding and my mother made a wonderful custard-style baked rice pudding. However, a number of years ago, I came across this Indian version of rice pudding that did not use any eggs and is cooked on a stove-top. I won’t lie to you – it’s definitely labor-intensive (although not difficult) because it needs to be stirred very frequently for almost 1.5 hours. But if you love rice pudding and cannot use eggs for health or ethical reasons, then this is the recipe for you. Indians would eat this somewhat more liquidy than I personally like, but I will let you know in the directions when to stop cooking for a traditional kheer and when to stop for a somewhat more custard-like consistency. My husband prefers to eat this warm, although I personally prefer it cold. This is one time when I can report that we are both right! It is often made for special occasions since rice is a symbol of both happiness and good fortune. And who couldn’t use a bit of both?

While this time I did not make this a vegan version – using milk, butter and honey – I have successfully made it using non-dairy milk, sugar or agave syrup and either a non-dairy buttery spread or coconut oil. (My preference is for vanilla soy milk but any creamy non-dairy milk will work.) This version uses Indian flavorings, which we happen to love, but you can easily swap out the cardamom and saffron with 1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract, zest of one lemon or orange and a few drops of a vegetable-based food coloring. Pistachios can be used in place of the almonds or the nuts can be left out entirely. In that case I would double the amount of raisins or whatever dried fruit you preferred.

Rice Pudding (Kheer) from Flavors of India by Shantra Nimbark Sacharoff and tweaked by me

Yield: 8-10 portions

Ingredients

1 cup of uncooked long-grain, white rice (I like Basmati)

8-10 cardamom pods

1/2 teaspoon crushed saffron threads

2 quarts milk

1 cup of sugar or honey (I like to use a nice Greek honey, but any lighter floral honey will do.)

3 Tablespoons of unsalted butter, ghee or coconut oil

1/2 cup of golden raisins (also known as Sultanas)

1/2 cup of slivered blanched almonds (plus about an 1/8 cup additional that have been lightly toasted for decoration (optional))

Directions

  1. Cook rice according to directions in a heavy pot that will be large enough to take the 1/2 gallon of milk that you will be adding to the cooked rice. I like to just under-cook my rice slightly, but mostly you just don’t want it to stick to the pot.
  2. In the meantime, remove the cardamom seeds from their pods and using a rolling pin or bottle turned on its side, crush the seeds. Set them aside with the crushed saffron threads. In a small skillet, melt the butter and saute the almonds and raisins in the butter just until the nuts begin to gain a bit of color. 

  3. As soon as the rice is finished cooking, add the 2 quarts of milk. Turn the heat to medium high, continue cooking with the pot now uncovered and using a non-metallic spoon, stir the milk and rice from the bottom of the pan to prevent the rice from clumping and sticking and the milk from forming a skin. This needs to cook for 1 hour, stirring every 2-3 minutes. (I know it can be a bit tedious, but the end result is worth it. Read a book while you cook!) At the end of the hour, the volume will be reduced by about one third and the milk will have thickened. Kheer10
  4. Now add in your cardamom and saffron and stir well to distribute the seasoning and to color the milk and rice evenly. Then add in your sugar or honey and the nuts and raisins along with any butter to the pan. 

    Continue to cook, stirring frequently for 10-15 more minutes. The rice pudding is done at this point. However, since I like mine to be a bit thicker, I continue cooking for an additional 15 minutes (total of 30 minutes after adding in the raisins and nuts). Kheer3Immediately pour the pudding into your serving dish (glass is best I find) and decorate the top with the optional lightly toasted almonds. Even if you want to eat this warm, it is best if it sits for at least 2 hours before serving. It will continue to thicken some as it sits. Refrigerated it can last up to a week. Kheer