Monday, April 30, 2007

So Learn Yiddish Already!

Learn Yiddish in New York. This program is the jewel in the crown. It will change your life. You will be able to see colors and discern flavors you never sensed before.

Learn Yiddish in Tel Aviv. This program, now in its second year, has some rave reviews. In the epoch of redemption we will all be speaking Yiddish in Israel. Get some practice this summer.

Learn Yiddish in Vilnius. Leyzer Ran said that Vilna is "the most Yiddish city in the world" (Pack warm clothing).

Learn Yiddish in Ottawa. Outstanding faculty.

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Pineapple Sage

From left to right: garden sage, purple sage, golden sage and pineapple sage

Pineapple sage (salvia elegans) is a revelation. The leaves have the unmistakably vivid and heady aroma of pineapple. How do they do that? The flavor is very like that of garden sage, with just the tiniest bit of the fruitiness promised by the scent. I can think of a few things I would like to try with this new (to me) herb, and I am starting out with strawberries because they, like this sage, belong at once to so many anomalous categories.

Sagacious Strawberries


Fresh pineapple sage leaves (or other sage)


Balsamic vinegar

Wash and hull the strawberries. You may slice them, halve them, or leave them whole. Sprinkle the berries lightly with sugar (or leave the sugar out, if you wish), and add a drop or two of vinegar. Wash a few sage leaves and cut them into a chiffonade. Toss the berries with the sage leaves and serve.

This herb would also be ideal for sage tea and sage lemonade.

Glenna will be rounding up this Weekend’s Herb Blogging at A Fridge Full of Food. Do have a look.

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Friday, April 27, 2007

שליסל חלה (Key Challah)

איך האָב געלײענט (אַ ביסל צו שפּעט) אַ דערמאָנונג צו באַקן אָדער קױפֿן אַ שליסל חלה דעם שבת נאָך פּסח. און געפֿונען אַ פֿרעג װעגן אַ מקור פֿון דעם מנהג צו מאַכן אַ שליסל־חלה נאָך פּסח, דאָס הײסט אַ חלה מיט טײג אין דעם פֿאָרם פֿון אַ שליסל, אָדער אַ חלה װאָס איז געשטאָכן געװאָרן מיט אַ שליסל, אָדער אַ חלה מיט אַן אמתן שליסל אינעם טײג. מיכל הערצאָג האָט אין זײַן בוך די ייִדישע שפּראַך אין צפֿון־פּױלן׃ איר געאָגראַפֿיע און געשיכטע עטלעכע מאַפּעס מיט איסאָגלאָסן פֿון פֿאַרשידענע הלות, אָבער נישט קײן שליסל־הלה, װאָס איז אפֿשר נישט פֿון דער טעריטאָריע. ער דערמאָנט די שליסל־חלה יאָ, אָבער, און ציטירט אַן אַרטיקל אפֿון אוריאל װײַנרײַך װאָס האָט געװיזן אַז די פֿאַרשידענע אין חלה־מינהגים זענען געאָגראַפֿישע װאַריאַנטן.

פּרשהבלאָג האָט צופֿעליק באַקומען אַ שליסל־חלה דאָס יאָר און האָט אַ טעאָריע װעגן אַ תּירוץ אױף דעם.

איך װאָלט זײער געװאָלט אַלײן באַקן אַ שליסל־חלה איבער אַ יאָר, מערצעשעם, אָבער איך בלײַב אַלעמאָל נאָך פּסחדיק אַ פּאָר טעג (אָדער װאָכן) , און װאָלט נישט געװען גרײט אױף חלה־באַקן.

Parshablog has some ideas about possible reasons for the custom associated with the shabes after peysekh. of making a key challah (shlisl khale): a khale baked in the shape of a key, or a khale that has been stippled with a key, or a khale with an actual key baked into the dough. I found the picture above in The Hallah Book by Freda Reider, who writes that this form originated in eighteenth century Ukraine, but offers no citation.

Marvin Herzog’s discussion of the geography of hallah decoration includes mention of traditional hallah ornaments including “birds, ladders, hands, keys, and other objects that might facilitate the ascent of prayers into heaven.” Herzog also cites Uriel Wienreich’s 1962 article “Culture Geography at a Distance: Some Problems in the Study of East European Jewry,” which demonstrates that the distribution of these designs was regional (32). These articles only mention dough shaped like keys, not baking actual keys in the dough.

I would love to try to make one of these next year, מערצעשעם, but I am usually not sufficiently de-peysekhified to undertake khale baking the first week after.

ETA: I did it!  I made the challahs above in 2018 when we had a whole week between Akharon shel Peysekh and Erev Shabes.  I made one challah with a blank key and another challah in the shape of a key.

Herzog, Marvin I. The Yiddish Language in Northern Poland: Its Geography and History. Bloomington: Indiana University Research Center in Anthropology Folklore and Linguistics. 1965.

Reider, Freda. The Hallah Book, New York: Ktav. 1987

Weinreich, Uriel. “Culture Geography at a Distance: Some Problems in the Study of East European Jewry” In W. L. Chafe (ed) Symposium on Language and Culture: Proceedings of the Annual Spring Meeting of the American Ethnological Society. 1962. 27-39.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Most Anarchic of Vegetables: Jerusalem Artichokes

Get a load of these gnarly tubers. Gastropunk calls them “the most anarchic of vegetables.”

Jerusalem artichokes, also called sunchokes or topinambours, are in season just now. I hadn’t cooked any of these for about twenty years, when they had a brief burst of trendiness. I didn’t see what the big deal was at back then, no more could I discern any resemblance whatsoever to artichokes, but this time, I think I get it. I prepared them as I would artichokes—steamed with vinaigrette—and they had some real artichokey verve.

Jerusalem artichokes vinaigrette

2 pounds Jerusalem artichokes (or as many as you have)

½ cup balsamic vinegar

1 ½ cups olive oil

½ bunch dill

2 or 3 cloves garlic


Peel the Jerusalem artichokes. This will be tricky because of all the bumps, but it is necessary; the peels can be unpleasantly harsh. The peeled tubers will begin to darken very quickly, so drop them into a large bowl of acidulated water. Cut the vegetables to the desired size (about one inch thick by whatever knobbiness they have at that latitude is good). Cook the artichokes in boiling salted water for about thirty minutes, or until tender.

While the artichokes are cooking prepare the garlic and dill vinaigrette. Combine the vinegar, dill, and garlic in a blender and blend until liquefied. With the machine running, drizzle in the oil. Taste for acidity and salt.

Drain the cooked artichokes and put them in a bowl. Pour the vinaigrette over the vegetables while they are still hot. You will have some vinaigrette left over, but there is nothing wrong with that. These can be served warm, at room temperature, or chilled. I like them best at room temperature.

See Sweetnicksfor vegetables of all shapes.

Now that I think of it, I would say that both white salsify and cardoons are at least as anarchic as Jerusalem artichokes, if anarchic means “difficult to peel.” Coincidentally, I strolled over to the anarchist book fair last shabes with my venerable folks, where we saw reproductions of some gorgeous posters and spoke briefly to vegetable enthusiast Arieh Lebowitz at the Jewish Labor Committee.

The Yiddish word for Jerusalem artichoke is ערדבאַר” or “erdbar”, which means “earth-pear.”

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Food and Music; Music About Food

I just heard this show on the radio about the secret culinary lives of rock stars. I have not yet seen the book, but it sounds like it may be more interesting than your typical celebrity-compilation cookbook (and even the most wretched of these have amazing gems--that might be something to examine some day). This is from the Jessica's Biscuit website:

Some recipes are inspired by a particular song in the band’s repertoire, others are taken from real-life experience. Each one bears the often quirky stamp of its source -- while these are thoroughly tested, cook-from-me recipes, Zuaro has left the musicians’ wording and instructions intact, which makes for a collection that’s as much fun to read as it is to use. For example, from Devendra Banhart’s contribution:

RIGHT ON!!!!!! here is my favorite recipe for: AFRICANAS RICAS! you shall require! I>many bananas! I>a box of graham crackers!!! I>two eggs!!! I>SOUR CREAM!! I>HONEY!

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Fish & Quips: English Food is Not a Joke

I had planned to observe St. George’s Day by writing about clotted cream and tea, the two most perfect foods on earth, but I see from Sam’s exhaustive roundup that this subject has been covered folks who know much more than I. Instead I will simply remind you that English food is not a joke because the English air is the perfect medium for making the world’s greatest cheeses, breads, preserves, pickles, and beers and ales. Oh, I wish I had some right now.

And then there is this:

If you were to stand on a hill during any Sunday afternoon in winter and listen carefully you would hear a low, rustling, crunching sound. It is the entire English nation, eating celery.

--Adrian Bailey, quoting his father in The Cooking of the British Isles

Happy St. George’s Day, and be kind to dragons.


Friday, April 20, 2007

צוריק צו דער אַרבעט

ראש-חודש ניסן לײגט מען דעם קאַנטשיק אונטערן קישן; ראש־חודש אײר ברענגט מען דעם קאַנטשיק אַפֿיר.

גוט שבת און גוט חודש!


Friday, April 13, 2007

The Evil Inclination and his Computer

The Wee'an and I never get tired of playing this card game, in which we pair up matching cards and try to avoid getting stuck with the yeytser hore. I only noticed today that it is from the computer he is toting, as much as his eyeball-spears and wheat-grass hair, that we can recognize he is up to no good.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

The Chocolate Lady 2007 Vegetarian Peysekh Survival Guide

Coconut Chips

The Chocolate Lady's 2007 Vegetarian Peysekh Survival Guide


Bananaless Walnut Banana Cake for Passover

I frequently find myself with a surfeit of overripe bananas during Passover. I just always have this moment of panic the day before when I’m sure no amount of bananas will be enough. Last year I thought it would be pretty smart to make a Passover banana cake. I thought perhaps some ground toasted walnuts, orange or tangerine zest, and maybe chocolate were all things that would go very nicely with bananas. Humming gleefully to myself, I toasted and ground up the walnuts and the orange, beat the eggs, broke up the chocolate bars, and mixed the batter. A few minutes after I put the cakes in the oven, their dazzling baking aromas told me I had really hit the nail on the head with this one. It was at that moment that I noticed my bunch of overripe bananas, still sitting untouched on the table. I had forgotten to add them to the cake. It is possible that I indulge in sugar to an even greater extent than normal during this joyful holiday season. But, happy flaw, I had baked a wonderful cake: a banana cake completely uncontaminated by bananas. I am nevertheless determined this year to try the cake with the bananas, nervous though I am about tampering with such a good recipe.

Bananaless Walnut Banana Cake for Passover

4 eggs

1 and ¾ cups ground toasted walnuts

1/3 cup oil

1/3 cup honey

¼ cup sugar

½ of one large orange

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

1 bar (3 ½ ounces) Maestrani Noblesse chocolate, chopped up into chips

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Beat the eggs, and adds the walnuts, oil, honey, and sugar. Remove the seeds from the orange, and grind up the pulp and peel in a blender or processor or hand grinder and mix it into the batter. Stir in the tiny bit of cinnamon. Break up the chocolate bar into chips of the desired size makes half of the chips into the batter. Scrape the batter into a 10 inch cake pan, and sprinkle the remaining chocolate on top. Bake for about 25 minutes, lowering the heat to 350 after the first ten minutes.

The bananas eventually got used in a frozen banana-Sauvignon Blanc zabaglione.

Coconut Chips

These are an intriguing surprise from Seasoning Savvy by Alice Arndt. Salty coconut chips are a useful nibble to have on hand.

Heat the oven to 350. Shave fresh coconut into longish fettuccine. Lay them on a baking sheet, salt generously and bake for about fifteen minutes.

Very Nice Potatoes

These potatoes happened when I was planning to make an elaborate potato and pepper stew last peysekh, but I ran out of time and just put everything in the roasting pan. It was more delicious than I could have imagined. I roasted the potatoes twenty minutes with the cover on and forty minutes with the cover off. They became velvety inside and just a bit brown around the edges

Very Nice Potatoes

2 pounds waxy potatoes such as carolas
1 large onion
1 red pepper
1 yellow bell pepper (or any peppers of your choice)
olive oil and salt

Scrub the potatoes well, but leave them unpeeled. Cut into quarters or sixths or eighths so that they are not much bigger than an inch in any direction. Slice the onion into thin half-moons along the longitudinal lines, and julienne the peppers. Place the potatoes, onions, and peppers in a roasting pan and add water to come up to about half an inch on the sides (about one cup of water for two pounds of potatoes). Add several generous tablespoons olive oil and a gesture of salt. Cover the pan and place in a 400 degree oven. After about twenty minutes, uncover the pan and stir gently. After another twenty minutes, give a few more stirs. Twenty more minutes and they should be just right.

Matzo mix

4 Matzos

1 cup raw nuts (your choice: Walnuts are good)

Olive oil


Cayenne and paprika

Heat oven to 350. Slightly moisten the matzos on each side with cold water. Be careful. Don’t get them wet enough to make matzo braa, just enough so that the oil will adhere to the surfaces. Break up the matzo and toss with nuts, oil, salt and spices. Spread the matzo chips on a baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, mix, another 20 minutes, mix again, and a final 20 minutes. They may seem a bit soft when you take them out of the oven, but they will crisp up as they cool.

Tea eggs

This recipe is not a staple of the peysekh repertoire, but I associate both tea and eggs with the season, and it is great fun.

Simmer eggs for seven minutes. Gently tap the eggs all over so that the shells are lightly cracked all over. Cook the eggs for another several minutes in strong, salted tea. Leave the eggs to cool in the water with the tea leaves. When you peel the eggs, they will have a lovely marble pattern on their whites.

Another version

Dr. Lucia Ruedenberg Wright told me that she recalled making a version of colored eggs in her family by laying delicately shaped leaves such as herbs on the eggshells and then wrapping the eggs in onion skins, tying them with twine and boiling. When you remove the skins, the silhouettes of the leaves remain.

Leaf Silhouettes

I have seen a few versions of this recipe floating around. I think one might not be able to attain the placid state of mind needed to prepare this recipe during Peysekh, but if you can, it would be very impressive.

Matzo Balls and soup

Last year I made entirely whole wheat matzo balls for the first time. I really tried to keep track of quantities, but, well, you know. I used ten eggs, a cup of water (no seltzer in house) ¼ cup butter, and about 2/3 of a pound of whole wheat matzomeal. You need to let whole wheat matzo ball cook longer—about one hour does it.

One of the most urgent goals for vegetarians at Peysekh is the search for a matzo-ballogenic medium. This recipe is a work-in-progress meant more as a bit of inspiration than prescription.

My matzo ball soup

This year I kept better track of soup ingredients. I peeled and trimmed everything before cooking so that I could get a nicer clearer stock, and make a puree of the cooked vegetables.

1 pound carrots

1 pound parsnips

1 bunch parsley roots (about 1 pound) with attached parsley

1 celeriac (about 12 ounces)

1 medium onion

12 cloves garlic

2 fresh red chiles, seeds, and stems removed

Carefully wash, peel, and trim all the soup vegetables. In a large soup pot, make stock by cooking carrots, parsnips, parsley root, celeriac, onion, chiles, and garlic in boiling salted water until they are quite tender, about 40 minutes. Add the parsley tops to the pot towards the end. Strain and set aside.

Olive oil

2 large onions, sliced into thin half-moons

About one bunch (10 ribs) celery, de-stringified and thinly sliced

4 large yellow peppers, peeled and thinly sliced

7 cloves garlic, slced

2 fresh red chiles

Cover the bottom of another large pot with extra virgin olive oil. Add lots of thinly sliced onions and cook over low heat until they begin to turn soft and translucent. Add celery, garlic, peppers, and chlies. I peel the peppers but you are allowed to skip this step. Cook until the vegetables are relaxed and golden and fill the pot with the hot broth. Cook for a while and de-scum the surface. While the soup cooks, chop and add one bundle each parsley and dill. Season with salt, pepper, paprika and dried green herbs to taste. Before serving float a few “eyes” of olive oil on the surface. This soup is a very happy home for matzo balls.

Make lots of matzo balls. More than you think you will possibly need. You do not even need soup to enjoy matzo balls. Lora Brody suggests eating them cold with butter. I like them grilled. You may also cut them into cubes and use as a peysekhdik tofu-substitute.

I finally did it. I measured everything when I made the matzo balls. It’s not that I ever believed it was somehow mystically better to throw together unmeasured quantites—I just always forgot until the moment when everything was in the bowl. Last year I made two eight-egg batches of matzo balls (I used to make a batch with a dozen eggs) and I found the smaller quantity a bit easier to handle. I also used water and have found it is better than seltzer for this recipe.

The Lady’s Matzo Balls

8 eggs, extra large or jumbo

1 cup Streit’s whole wheat matzo meal

1 cup Streit’s white matzo meal

½ cup melted butter or olive oil, or a combination of the two.

½ cup water

1 tablespoon salt

Black pepper, cayenne pepper, sweet paprika

Break eggs into a bowl. Season lavishly with salt, pepper, cayenne and paprika. Add water and olive oil or melted butter. Beat the egg mixture and while beating gradually sprinkle in enough Streits matzo meal to make a loose, muddy mixture. You will think that it is too soft, and you will be tempted to add more matzo. Valiantly resist this temptation! It is just right when it looks like it is still too loose. Refrigerate the mixture overnight.

Bring one or two (or three) large pots of wildly salted water to a boil. Roll dough into balls the size of walnuts. Lower the flame under the water slightly so that it is simmering serenely. Gently lower the matzo balls into the water. Leave enough room for the balls to double in size. After a minute or two you may raise the heat to boiling and cook, covered, with n o p e e k i n g, for one hour. If you use all whole wheat matzo meal, cooking time is longer and you will want to add a bit more butter. If you use all white matzo meal, cooking time is shorter.

Root Vegetable Puree

Here’s what I did with the root vegetables with which I made my soup. Amounts are approximate.

1 pound carrots

1 pound parsnips

1 bunch parsley roots (about 1 pound) with attached parsley

1 celeriac (about 12 ounces)

1 medium onion

12 cloves garlic

2 or 4 tablespoons butter

2 7-ounce packages farmer cheese

severa; sprigs snipped dill

salt, paprika, and white pepper to taste

Cook the vegetables in salted water until they are quite tender. Strain, and use the liquid in soup. When the vegetables are cool enough to handle, puree them, and mix in a few tablespoons of butter, the farmer cheese, and dill. This was delicious just like that, and it is just fine if you leave out the cheese. I couldn’t stop there, though.

Root Vegetables Duchesse

6 cups of the root vegetable puree from the previous recipe

7 egg yolks

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Beat the yolks, and stir them into the vegetables. Pipe rosettes through a star tube onto a baking sheet, or just spread the mixture in a baking pan and bake as a kugl.

The Lady’s Chocolate Mousse

With the exception of years when I was utterly disabled, I have made this mousse for every seder since high school. It made its TCLVPSG debut in 2003.

6 bars (21 ounces) Maestrani Noblesse chocolate, broken up

12 eggs, separated

6 ounces hot water

3 ounces Slivovitz or Montaigne cognac or very strong black tea

4 tablespoons sugar

Melt the chocolate over simmering water. Stir in the hot water. Beat the yolks with three tablespoons of the sugar and cognac over simmering water until quite hot and foamy. Next, stir the yolks into the chocolate. Dissolve the remaining tablespoon of sugar in the whites over simmering water stirring rapidly and beat the whites to snow. Stir one quarter of the whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten, and then gently fold in the remaining whites. Pour the mixture into a serving bowl or individual serving cups or glasses. Chill until set.

Makes about 15 servings

The Lady’s Chocolate Coconut Cake

Preheat oven to 325

7 ounces (2 bars) Maestrani noblesse bittersweet chocolate, broken up

6 or 7 ounces unsweetened shredded coconut (since the packages are most often 6 ounces, let it be 6 ounces. I know I should be shredding my own coconut. Maybe next year)

7 ounces sugar

7 egg whites

Grind the chocolate, coconut and sugar in a grinder or food processor. Place the mixture in a large bowl. In another bowl, beat the whites to snow. Fold the whites into the chocolate coconut mix. Pour into a 9 or 10 inch baking pan and bake until firm, about 45 minutes.

This is a wonderful cake. I decided to change the quantities this year to make measuring the chocolate easier. I am a little embarrassed to reveal how easy it is.


8 egg yolks

½ cup sugar

One scant cup Montaigne cognac, cream sherry, or very strong black tea

(for traditional Zabaione, use Marsala)

Place all ingredients in a steel bowl and beat over simmering water until doubled in volume and very foamy.

Khreyn infused vodka

Scrub and peel a four-inch piece of fresh horseradish root. Pour two liters of kosher for Passover vodka into a glass bowl or ice bucket. Add the horseradish and allow to sit at room temperature for about twenty-four hours. Pour the vodka back into the bottles and chill. Oh baby.

And of course, you will be wanting to make a tsimes.

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

חמץ קאָן זיך נישט באַהאַלטן

You thought you could hide.


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