The trick to staying, ahem, healthy during Passover is eating as many veggies and fruits as you normally do. If your festive meals are front loaded with more meat than you regularly eat, it’s easy to shift to dairy or vegetarian menus, especially those that allow veggies to shine.
These zucchini boats are matzah- free so expect the filling mixture to be creamy and luxuriant rather than firm. They are best eaten soon after they come out of the oven though they may be eaten warm or at room temperature.
And speaking of matzah- free, this dish is perfect for any non-Passover meal also. It would be super served on a brunch buffet or served alongside a vegetable soup (tomato soup would be great), a green salad, roasted asparagus or peppers.
4 medium zucchini, firm and unblemished
½ lb whole milk ricotta cheese
6 Tbsp Parmesan cheese (or other firm, sharp cheese of choice), shredded. Set aside 3 Tbsp for topping
1 Tbsp olive oil plus extra for drizzling
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 Tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
10 basil leaves, washed and patted dry, chopped. Reserve 2 Tb. for topping
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
4 Tbsp pine nuts (reserve half for topping)
Salt and ground pepper to taste
Canola oil non-stick cooking spray
Wash zucchini and leave whole and untrimmed.
Place zucchini in a large pot of boiling, salted water and cook uncovered for 5 minutes. Do not overcook. They should be just barely tender to the fork.
Remove zucchini from water and place on dishtowel to cool. Pat dry.
Cut each zucchini in half lengthwise, trimming off the tip (I leave the round end but you chose).
With a melon baller, gently scrape out the flesh of each zucchini, leaving enough in the shell so that it can support the filling. Reserve scooped out flesh for another use or discard.
Pat each zucchini boat inside and out, with paper towels, to absorb as much moisture as possible.
Choose a large rectangular Pyrex pan that is large enough to hold all zucchini in one layer. Spray pan with canola oil. Place zucchini halves in pan with cavity side up. Set aside.
In a mixing bowl, place ricotta, Parmesan, EVOO, eggs, lemon juice and chopped basil. Mix until combined and set aside.
In a small non-stick pan, toss pine nuts to brown. (Do not add oil to pan). Remove and add to cheese mixture.
In the same pan add a few drops of oil and sauté chopped garlic for 1-2 minutes. Do not brown. Add to cheese mixture. Season mixture with salt and pepper.
Using a teaspoon, carefully fill the zucchini boats with cheese mixture and top with reserved shredded cheese, basil leaves and pine nuts.
Bake at 350 degrees F on center rack, 20 minutes, until just golden.
By the time January rolls around it’s time to face the music: we’ve indulged in latkes and sufganiyot (It’s only once a year!), avoided insulting co-workers by eating mounds of their homemade cookies, (they stayed up all night baking), and rang in the New Year with a heaping stack of (you fill in the blank) nutty chocolate rugelach made with that cream cheese dough.
It’s time to lighten up, people.
But in the short days of January, when Shabbat approaches in what feels like mid-afternoon, the last thing we want to do is plan a menu of self-denial. I want to be sure there’s plenty of color and big flavors on the plate even if I’m making an effort to cut some calories and load in extra veggies.
We start with this honey whole wheat challah from The Nosher’s Editor Shannon Sarna. It tasted like a sweet indulgent challah, but with the addition of whole wheat flour and even ground flax seed.
This rich, but low cal vegan broth showcases bright orange Pumpkin Matzah Balls. This is great recipe to have up your sleeve for dairy meals or for when you have vegetarian guests at the table.
I chose to serve salmon, the kid- friendly fish. Searching my winter markets I turn to citrus for bright flavor and balance with my favorite local maple syrup. The moist salmon fillets are a perfect foil for a glossy Asian glaze. This dish is fine served at room temperature and will make tasty leftovers.
To go along with the salmon, I love these Chinese sesame noodles. This recipe is great with soba noodles, thin spaghetti, rice vermicelli or those super low calorie, gluten-free tofu Shirataki. With a load of crisp veggies tossed in a tangle of irresistible noodles this dish provides a perfect alternative for kids who may snub fish. The noodles benefit from hanging out in your refrigerator for a day or two before serving, so prepare this one in advance.
While beautiful winter salad greens are hard to come by in the northeast, Bibb or Butter lettuce is usually available and perfect for this avocado salad with carrot ginger dressing. Here’s that carrot/ginger dressing that your kids can’t get enough of.
For dessert, I’ve started experimenting with baked apples lately and with good reason. The carved out cavity provides lots of opportunities for fun filings and it’s a guilt free dessert that satisfies. Take advantage of the fact that you’re serving fish and use butter (not margarine) in this easy, granola based filling. Have gluten-free guests at your table? Consider this version of spiced baked apples instead.
And while we’re lightening it up for this dairy Shabbat dinner, you can chose your favorite frozen yogurt to serve on top of these apples. Be sure to serve them warm, if possible.
Turning to dried fruit is another great way to insert color on the dessert plate without adding fat. These spiced apricots dipped in dark chocolate have three ingredients-two if you omit the spicy chili powder. We’re talking easy, super low fat, and kid-friendly.
Yes, it’s a lightened up Shabbat but nobody expects you to finish without a little piece of some baked deliciousness. If we’re already enjoying a bit of dairy in this dinner I’m ready to bake these spiced chocolate oat cookies. They’re thick, deeply chocolaty and brownie-like. That’ll do the trick.
4 salmon fillets
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1 Tbsp sesame seeds
2 navel oranges (for zest and juice listed below)
3 Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic- peeled and chopped
1 two inch piece fresh ginger- peeled and minced
1/3 cup maple syrup (grade B is best for cooking and baking)
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
3 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp orange zest
Rinse and pat dry salmon fillets.
Place on large plate and salt and pepper each piece. Set aside.
Heat a large, cast iron or non-stick frying pan. Do not oil. When the pan is hot add sesame seeds. Stir often and watch carefully to avoid burning. Toast until golden. Set aside in small dish.
Juice orange to fill 1/3 cup and set aside.
Grate or zest orange peel being careful to do so with a light hand. Do not zest white pith (it’s bitter). Measure 1 Tb. and set aside.
Wipe out frying pan and place on medium flame. Heat EVOO until glistening and place salmon filets, skin side down in pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes until golden.
Turn gently and brown the second side. Do not move fish while it is cooking. If skin sticks or falls off, it’s ok. It may be discarded if you like.
Remove fish from pan and set aside.
Place remaining ingredients (except sesame seeds) in pan and stir to combine. Cook 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently, until sauce is reduced and thickened.
If using a cast iron pan, return salmon to the pan and spoon sauce on top of fillets. If using a non-stick pan, place fillets in an ovenproof dish (spray with cooking spray to prevent sticking) and spoon sauce over fish.
Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 6-8 minutes or until fish is cooked to your liking. If you like the salmon, cooked through, it should flake with a fork.
Plate salmon with glaze from the bottom of pan and a sprinkle of sesame seeds.
Note: This dish may be served hot, warm or at room temperature. It makes great leftovers.
This Thanksgiving, I’m adding an array of chutneys to my holiday spread as a way to jazz up the traditional meal with simmered combinations of fruits or veggies. Chutneys are the perfect accompaniment to long roasted, rich turkey or braised meats because their vinegary bases help to balance the fat of heavier proteins and side dishes.
This selection of chutneys cover a range of flavors to please any palate. With that in mind, I simmered one sweet, one savory and one spicy condiment. They make use of seasonal ingredients and readily available herbs and spices. Best of all, they come together in one pot and with little fuss. And each of these combinations will be tastier and more nuanced when prepared in advance.
Sweet Cranberry and Cherry Chutney
This chutney hints at Thanksgiving tradition with ruby red cranberries, nuts and dried fruit. It is believed that cranberries were served at the first Thanksgiving in 1621.
Serve this Cranberry and Cherry Chutney alongside roasted meat, turkey or chicken. Add a few tablespoons to mayonnaise and use as a spread on lightly toasted challah for turkey sandwiches with leftovers from your feast. Or place this chutney in a small serving dish alongside creamy, mild cheeses as a sweet element on a cheese plate.
Note: This chutney has a very strong vinegar odor when it’s simmering. The first time I made this, I was alarmed by the strength of the vinegary presence. After it’s cooked, cooled and refrigerated, the vinegar- sugar- honey combination settles into a perfectly balanced, slightly sweet condiment for your holiday meal.
2 cups dried tart cherries
½ cup sugar
3 Tbsp honey
½ cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup fresh cranberries (rinsed)
1 Tbsp lemon zest
½ cup finely chopped celery
1 cup raisins or currants
1 cup toasted chopped walnuts
6 Tbsp water (or a little more if the pan appears too dry)
Combine all ingredients in a 2 quart. saucepan over medium heat. Cook 20-25 minutes, stirring well.
Cranberries should burst open. The texture should be slightly sticky and chunky, with little liquid remaining after the simmer. Chutney will continue to thicken as it cools.
Cover and refrigerate for up to one week. Serve at room temperature.
Savory Cauliflower and Lentil Chutney
This vegetable and legume based chutney doesn’t include any added sweetness, making it a welcome savory addition to a holiday meal that tends to include lots of sweet flavors. It’s warm spices and toasted undertones provide unexpected flavors next to traditional dishes like sweet or mashed potatoes. This dish could easily be the star dish for vegetarians at your table.
Serve alongside turkey leftovers or as a condiment with pan-seared fish. If using this as a main dish for vegetarians at your Thanksgiving table, be sure to make stuffing without chicken or turkey broth so that they may enjoy stuffing with this savory chutney.
¼ cup good olive oil
1 large red onion, finely diced
1 large shallot, finely diced
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 tsp ras- el- hanout*
½ tsp mustard powder
1 cup dry red lentils
1 cup dry white wine
4 cups cauliflower florets, small pieces
1 ½ cups canned diced tomatoes
½ cup water
salt and pepper to taste
½ tsp paprika
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves- minced
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
*Middle Eastern spice mix found at well stocked markets like Whole Foods or at online on Amazon
Heat oil and add onion, shallot and ginger until softened, about 4-5 minutes.
Add ras-el-hanout and mustard powder and stir, cooking one minute.
Rinse and examine lentils for particles of debris. Remove if found. Add lentils and wine to onion and spice mixture. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer. Cover pot and cook 10 minutes.
Add cauliflower, tomatoes, water, salt and pepper and paprika.
Cover and cook over medium heat, covered, for 20-25 minutes until lentils and cauliflower are tender but not mushy. Stir occasionally. Add ¼- ½ cup more water if chutney appears dry.
Cool mixture and stir in lime juice and cilantro. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
May be refrigerated for up to one week in airtight container. Serve at room temperature.
¼ cup olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 medium red onion, chopped
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp coriander
⅛ tsp each, salt and pepper
½-1 jalapeno pepper, seeds and veins removed and finely chopped (do not touch eyes or mouth when handling this pepper)
½ tsp cinnamon
⅛ tsp cayenne
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsplight brown sugar
4 fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 cup canned diced tomatoes
2 Tb. apple cider vinegar
2 Tb. dark raisins
1 Tb. fresh cilantro, chopped
1 Tb. basil leaves, chopped
1 lime- juiced
Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.
Add the garlic, ginger, shallots, onion and cook until softened.
Add turmeric, cumin, coriander, jalapeno, salt and pepper, cinnamon and cayenne pepper. Cook for 5 minutes.
Add the honey, brown sugar and raisins and cook for 2-3 minutes until caramelized.
Stir in fresh and canned tomatoes and vinegar. Simmer for 40-45 minutes in uncovered pot. Add a bit of water if mixture appears too dry. Texture should be jammy.
Remove from heat and stir in cilantro, basil and lime juice. Taste to season with additional cayenne, salt or pepper.
Cool and place in sealed glass container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Serve at room temperature.
I suggest serving this chutney alongside turkey or roasted chicken. It’s super as a spread on a brisket sandwich or serve alongside guacamole with toasted pita chips. Consider using this spicy tomato chutney swirled into a half cup of extra virgin olive oil as a sauce over your favorite pasta.
Albondigas, or meatballs, are a mainstay of Sephardic cuisine. They come in sizes ranging from golf balls to cherries and may be rolled into round or flattened shapes. Chopped onions, garlic, roasted eggplant, fresh spinach, chopped leek and grated carrots have been mixed into meatballs for centuries. These ingredients served to season meat (or poultry) which was then fried or simmered in sauce. Moistened bread bound it all together and served as another way to make these delicious treats an economical choice.
When I learned that the southern Italians sometimes included currants and pignoli nuts in their meatballs, I was intrigued. Perhaps it’s my Galiciana roots but I liked the prospect of adding a little sweetness (and unexpected texture) to the meat mix. It seemed like a good jumping point for considering how to use honey in my meatballs for Rosh Hashanah.
My intention was to get this mix subtly sweet, with a nod to the symbolism of serving sweet foods to ensure a sweet New Year. I paired citrus with the fruity nectar to balance the sweetness and sparked the flavors with cracked pepper, cumin and turmeric. Tiny, moist currants and rich pignoli provide an unfamiliar twist. For guests who think that meatballs belong in tomato sauce, they will be surprised and delighted by the yin/yang of this mildly sweet and lemony simmer broth.
Because these meatballs are quite small they are a bit of work. Set aside a couple of hours in order to get the task done. It will be time well spent. And you can check another dish off your ‘to do” list by making them in advance and freezing them.
For the meatballs:
2 pounds lean ground beef
1 medium onion, grated
2 eggs, beaten
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup plain breadcrumbs
3 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
3 Tbsp fresh mint leaves, chopped
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp. turmeric
salt and pepper to taste
½ cup currants
½ cup pignoli (pine nuts)
½ cup canola oil for frying
For the sauce:
2 cups water
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp turmeric
salt and pepper to taste
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients through turmeric. Mix gently with hands. Do not overmix.
Add currants and pignoli to meat mixture and combine.
Shape mixture into 1-1 ½” meatballs, wetting hands with water periodically to prevent the meat from sticking to fingers. Place meatballs on a couple of foil lined trays so they are all ready to fry at the same time.
Divide ½ cup of canola oil into 2 frying pans and heat on medium.
Add meatballs in a single layer until both pans are full but not crowded. Brown meatballs, turning them by using 2 spoons. They should be golden.
With a slotted spoon, remove meatballs when golden on all sides. Place meatballs on plates lined with paper towels so they may drain. Repeat until all meatballs are browned. You may want to save the browned pignoli and sprinkle them on meatballs when serving them.
Combine all ingredients for sauce and bring to low simmer. Taste to adjust for sweetness and salt.
Place all meatballs in sauce (It’s ok if they are not all submerged). Simmer gently for 30 minutes.
Remove meatballs from sauce, plate and serve with toothpicks. Sprinkle with browned pignoli and chopped fresh mint or parsley leaves. Drizzle sauce over the meatballs if you like.
Some of us are blessed with the “D” (designer) gene and well, some of us can cook. Let’s just say that when my BFF arrived for Thanksgiving last year she took one look at my “set’ table and shoo’ed me out of the dining room, telling me she would be glad to make it “all better.” Since I know I’m not the only one challenged in this way, I turned to some experts and asked them to help me out with some simple ideas to help readers get ready to set their holiday tables.
Here’s what we came up with.
Use those family heirlooms and consider moving it all outdoors.
If you have family silver or china, take it out and use it. Examine all of your pieces in advance and determine what needs to be polished. If you don’t have enough place settings, consider borrowing from your sister or a friend. Mixing patterns makes the tablescape more interesting anyway.
If you love the look stylist Lauren Kreter nailed here you may want to shop tag sales and consignment shops for odd pieces. She wasn’t concerned with a color scheme for the whole table; she simply wanted each dish to play nicely with others at the same setting.
If you yearn to dine al fresco and the weather allows, consider using folding tables (inexpensive to rent) and bring the celebration outside. Everybody loves to extend the summer and Rosh Hashanah often graces us with perfect weather.
After you decide to use your good china and flatware, mix in elements from natureso your table doesn’t look stiff and formal. We kept the white linens basic (read: inexpensive) and layered a topper of bright green moss over a burlap runner. Both can be purchased at craft stores.
When you handle burlap or moss it can shred and be messy. Just be brave, place them down once and build your setting around them. Note that we kept goblets and napkins basic, allowing the brightly colored china to star.
Incorporating gifts into your table setting will delight your guests. In keeping with the tradition of eating sweet foods on Rosh Hashanah, consider sharing single origin artisanal honeys with your guests. Mix and match flavors like wildflower, blueberry blossom and red currant so they can imagine flavor notes and trade with each other.
It’s OK to leave your dining table undressed!
For our second table, we decided to leave the dining table bare. If you have a protective coating on your wood surface (and don’t have little ones around the table) this allows the mellow tones of the wood to contrast with your crisp bright china.
Here, we coordinated family china with other mix and match plates with silver elements. Florist,Meg Greenberg, incorporated more silver elements by placing cascading bunches of crimson grapes and pale peach roses with honeysuckle vines tucked neatly into a silver basket she discovered while thrifting .
Want to assign seats and keep family rivals from creating a ruckus? Place pomegranates or apples onto each place setting and poke place cards into the fruit. That way, YOU determine who should sit next to that difficult cousin.
If you place your flower arrangement and it looks dwarfed by the length of your table, consider setting it into a tray to expand its perceived size. Fill the tray with edible elements (crab apples, pomegranates, walnuts, grapes, figs) that will tie it all together.
While looking for more ways to use the silver theme, we rummaged through my sideboard and found chunky napkin rings we threaded with white linen napkins. We even found a little extra room to tuck in some olive wood honey dippers. More searching revealed an oval silver dish.
Instead of placing the hand rolled beeswax tapers (wouldn’t you love to receive those?) at each place setting as a gift, they looked better piled into that dish, adding interest to that end of the tablescape.
Your “every day” stuff is ok!
Finally, we wanted to show how to use your everyday porcelain or ceramic dishes and stainless flatware on a holiday table. It’s fairly easy to create a holiday look, especially if your dishes are basic white.
Here, we searched for a starting point to inspire us. We found this gold rimmed, antique china bowl that I had tucked away from my Mom’s collection of such things. While we oooh’ed and aaah’ed over the brilliant green and generous shape, we were inspired to bring it all outside again and connect it to the green tones in the landscape.
Finding simple, solid napkins that connect to the color of your object of inspiration is an easy way to brighten the table. Sticking with the honey and apples theme was a natural so we piled the heirloom bowl with bright green local apples and snipped off the rose heads to fill in around them. Pile it all in there so it makes a strong statement, without spending a lot of bucks.
If you can find objects around your home, like these tall 1950’s iced tea glasses (and their caddy) see how they work into your plan. By taking your everyday ware and mixing in one or two unique items, you can easily set a beautiful table that honors the importance of the day.
Tu Bishvat is the perfect holiday for locavores, school kids and home cooks, alike. It’s a fruit-focsued holiday with plenty of room for creative cooking and connecting more deeply with the land as Spring approaches.
School kids love the field trips to plant trees while home cooks and chefs dream up new ideas for integrating the seven edible species mentioned in the Torah:
When M. returned from a quick trip to visit his parents in Israel, he brought back a tightly wrapped disc of plump, moist figs in his backpack. I immediately turned to Mollie Katzen’s latest vegetarian book The Heart of the Plate for inspiration on how to integrate these beauties into a dish where figs would be the stars while I stay true to eating within the growing season here in the Northeast.
5-6 ripe figs (dried are fine)
1-2 Tbsp fresh lemon or lime
3 ounces parmesan cheese
1 loaf ciabatta or sourdough baguette (fresh or day-old)
1 large or 2 small bunches lacinato kale (1/2 pound total)
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 small red onion, cut in half and then into 1/4 inch thick slices
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, lightly toasted
lemon or lime wedges
Stem the figs and slice them lengthwise into about 5 wedges apiece. Place them in a medium dish and sprinkle with lemon or line juice. Toss gently to coat and set aside.
Shave strips of parmesan from the block of cheese, using a sturdy vegetable peeler. Lovely cheese ribbons will ensue. Set aside.
Slice the bread into approximately a dozen thin (as in almost see-through) slices. Larger slices from ciabatta can be halved for easier handling and consumption. Set aside.
Hold each kale leaf by the stem and use a very sharp knife to release the leaf from the stem (it's OK to leave the narrow part of the stem that blends into the leaf farther up).
Make a pile of leaves, roll them tightly, and cut crosswise into thin strips. Transfer to a large bowl of cold water and swish around to clean. Spin very dry and transfer to a large bowl. Set aside.
Place a large deep skillet over medium heat for about a minute. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Turn up the heat to medium-high and add the onion and 1/8 teaspoon of the salt.
Cook, stirring and/or shaking the pan a little, for 2-3 minutes, until the onion becomes shiny and is still this side of tender.
Transfer the hot onion to the kale in the bowl and stir everything around for a bit, then return the entire bowlful of kale-plus-onion to the pan. Stir-fry quickly - for just a minute or so - over medium-high heat until the kale turns an even deeper shade of green and wilts slightly.
Return it all to the bowl, tossing in the remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt. You can add some of the parmesan ribbons at this point, if you like them to melt in slightly.
Remove the pan from the heat, wait a minute or two, then add the vinegar to the pan (stand back - it will sizzle), swirl it around, and pour what's left of it onto the kale. (It will most likely evaporate.)
Without bothering to clean the pan, return it to the stove over medium heat. Wait another minute, then add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and swirl to coat the pan.
Add the bread slices in a single layer and grill on each side until lightly golden and perfectly crisp.
Transfer the toasts to the kale, along with the figs and all their juice.
Toss quickly (no need to get things uniform), adding the remaining cheese and walnuts as you go.
Serve right away, passing a pepper mill over the salad and offering wedges of lemon or lime to be squeezed over the figs.
This warming lentil soup is thick and robust with bold flavors from artfully balanced spices. It’s even better after the first day and it freezes well, too.
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 6 oz. package beef-flavored Facon, trimmed of fat and minced (optional)
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1 14 ounce can of peeled, chopped tomatoes
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp turmeric
salt and pepper to taste
2 quarts vegetable or chicken stock
2 cups green or red lentil, rinsed and examined for unwanted particles.
chopped parsley or cilantro for serving
Sautee onions until translucent, 5-7 minutes. Add garlic, stir and cook lightly for another 3-4 minutes. Add carrots, celery and canned tomatoes to pot. Bring to a low simmer.
Add all spices, adjusting to taste. Add vegetable or chicken stock, holding back 1-2 cups if you prefer thicker soup.
Add cooked Facon and lentils and simmer for 1.5 hours, stirring periodically. Add more stock as the lentil break down and thicken, if you prefer a looser soup.
Ladle into individual bowls and garnish with fresh parsley, dill or cilantro. Stay warm and enjoy!