Author Archives: Shannon Sarna

Shannon Sarna

About Shannon Sarna

Shannon Sarna is an avid baker, blogger and all around food-lover. Born to an Italian mother who loved to bake, a Jewish father who loved to experiment, and a food chemist grandfather, loving and experimenting with diverse foods is simply in her blood. When she isn't tweeting, eating, or tweeting what she's eating, Shannon spends her time in Jersey City, NJ with her daughter, her husband, and her rescue dog, Otis.

Nutella Babka

Yield:
three loaves

I didn’t grow up baking or even eating babka. Coffee cake, definitely. Banana bread was a staple. But babka just wasn’t something around. When I did finally taste babka as a teenager, I thought: “Where have you been all my life?” Chocolatey, chewy and slightly gooey—it was a perfect Shabbat morning breakfast treat with a cup of tea or coffee.

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Recently I’ve been itching to recreate babka at home. I mean, I bake challah every week. Why shouldn’t I tackle babka? But it was harder than I thought. I tried the recipe from Jerusalem. And it was great. But not quite what I was hoping to create.

And then I came across two other recipes: one from Orly Ziv’s Cook in Israel and one from a blog I came across on Instagram: Ba-Li cravings.

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My recipe is really a combination of Orly’s genius idea to stuff a babka with nutella, Ba-li’s tried-and-true dough which I have updated only slightly and a technique from Jerusalem that ensures that ooey gooey babka taste and texture we all crave.

This recipe is easily pareve-erized. (Yes, you can make this nondairy.) You can either buy a nondairy hazelnut spread or you can also make your own using a recipe like this one.

It’s perfect to enjoy with a cup of tea of coffee. Or, if you’re like my daughter, you’ll just dig right in.

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Nutella Babka

Ingredients

4 ½ cups flour

1/3 cup sugar

1 Tbsp yeast

1 tsp sugar

½ cup lukewarm water

¾ cup plus 2 Tbsp butter or margarine, melted

½ cup milk or almond milk

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla

1 tsp cinnamon

Chocolate hazelnut spread such as Nutella

2/3 cup water

1 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla

Directions

Place yeast and sugar in a small bowl. Add lukewarm water and set aside until foamy, around 5-10 minutes.

In a stand mixer fitted with dough hook, mix together flour, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon.  In a separate bowl, mix together melted butter (or margarine) and milk (or almond milk).

Put mixer on low and begin adding the water yeast mixture, then the butter-milk mixture. Add the eggs one at a time.

When the dough begins to come together, after about 3-5 minutes, raise the speed to high and mix for another 5-10 minutes until the dough is shiny and elastic.

Place dough in a greased bowl with a damp towel on top. Allow to rise until it has doubled, about 1-2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut dough into three equal parts. Roll out dough until it is a rectangular-like shape. Spread with chocolate-hazelnut spread. Working from the longest side, roll up dough using quick fingers, like you would in order to make cinnamon rolls.

Once the dough is a long log, cut it straight down the middle so the filling is exposed. Secure the ends on one side, and twist both the pieces . Pinch and secure at the other end.

Place in a greased loaf pan.

Bake for 35 minutes.

While the babka is baking, combine 2/3 cup water, 1 cup sugar and 1 tsp vanilla in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Once it comes to a boil, remove from heat and swirl around to ensure all the sugar is dissolved.

About 20-25 minutes into baking, spoon about half the syrup onto the baking babkas.

When you take the babkas out of the oven after they have baked completely, immediately drizzle or brush the remaining syrup on top of all three babkas. It may seem like a lot of syrup, but this ensures a moist and gooey babka.

Posted on May 5, 2014

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Wedge Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing and Challah Croutons

Yield:
4 servings

My husband’s family is very male-centric and even though they love to eat, they can be a bit difficult to satisfy. They don’t like fancy desserts, eggplant, anything with nuts or “girly” salads. Whereas my mother-in-law love salads with fruits, nuts and lots of chopped veggies (like me!), the guys in the family don’t want much to do with a nice spinach salad.

So after racking my brain I decided to try making this classic wedge salad, sans the bacon that is traditionally included, for a dairy Shavuot meal last year. And thankfully, my father-in-law loved it and it was a big hit all around.

wedge-salad-2It is hearty, beautiful to look at and its the kind of salad that can be changed around depending on your tastes. Need some more protein? Add some beans or a grilled piece of fish and it becomes a main dish. Blue cheese too strong for you? Substitute a creamy ranch dressing instead. Want to get in some extra veggies? Add chopped cucumber and avocado.

But it’s the homemade challah croutons that really take this dish to the next level. They are crispy and buttery, adding crunch and a whole lot of satisfying flavor, especially for this gluten-loving gal. When making the croutons, don’t skimp on the olive oil.

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Classic Wedge Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing and Challah Croutons

Ingredients

1 head iceberg lettuce

2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered

4 hard-boiled eggs

2-3 cups leftover challah

2-3 Tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper

½ cup crumbled blue cheese

½ cup buttermilk

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

Salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut challah into small cubes. Toss challah with olive oil and salt and pepper. Bake for 10-25 minutes until crispy, golden brown. Allow to cool slightly.

In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, olive oil and lemon juice. Add crumbled blue cheese and stir, breaking up any large clumps as you go. Set aside dressing.

Remove core from iceberg lettuce. Cut into four large wedges. Place on a large platter and assemble salad with cherry tomatoes, hard boiled eggs, croutons and salad dressing.

Posted on May 1, 2014

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Blogger Spotlight: This American Bite

The blogging world can be a little female-heavy, especially where Jewish food blogs are concerned. Not that that’s a bad thing, being a female Jewish food blogger myself. But it was a lovely change of pace to chat with Yosef Silver a few weeks ago of This American Bite, who definitely has some unique perspectives on cooking and blogging. I learned his home is largely gluten free and dairy free: I could never survive.

But as I chatted with Yosef, I also learned about his life in Kansas, his “whole” approach to feeding the kids and his adventures cooking with Iron Chef Judge Simon Majumdar.

Stay tuned for Yosef’s recipe for eggplant dip tomorrow, and in the meantime enjoy learning more about this daddy food blogger based out of Kansas City.

eggplant dip preview

I noticed your blog describes your style as “whole food cooking.” How do you define “whole food?”

We eat real food. We don’t believe in “kid food” or processed food. We are very particular about what our kids will eat and we don’t want to buy too many items that come from a factory. We are also gluten free and dairy free out in our home. My wife, who is a nutritionist, has really influenced the healthy eating side of me. It amazes me how much people don’t want to cook. Food isn’t just about the food for me: it’s also about family dinner, togetherness. Wholesomeness.

Why did you start blogging?Yosef Silver - This American Bite

When I was waiting to receive my green card and wasn’t working, I was cooking a lot. And at some point I wanted a way to record what I was making, and what was good. I began writing for myself, and people enjoyed it. I am not sure at what point it really grew. I don’t write for an audience, although I am conscience what my readers enjoy because I love sharing.If I am not enjoying what I am making, then the quality of my food suffers.

You are originally from England – how does that influence your cooking?

I was raised by mom and it was just the two of us. No matter how busy my mom was, there was always a home-cooked meal. We always had dinner together no matter what was going on. And we continue that tradition for our kids.

We also love having guests at the house. It’s our normal.  When we don’t have guests for Shabbat dinner, our kids are like, “um what is going on?” Shabbat for me is very much about community and enjoying a special meal together. If I am cooking for you, it’s a statement of our relationship. If I am angry with someone, I have a hard time cooking for them.

Is that how your wife knows you are mad at her?

Ha, she will eat anyway.

scotch eggs

I noticed you recently collaborated on a recipe with Melinda from KitchenTested and used Marmite. I always thought that was an Australian thing?

Marmite = British. Vegemite = Australian

Marmite gives dishes a real beefy, stocky flavor. For example, I put it in my chicken soup and my split pea soup.

When my mom comes from Israel she brings me like 10 of them. And so I gave one to Melinda and we decided to collaborate on a dish when I visited NY in February.

We were brainstorming what we were going to do with it. And when we came up with the aioli, I wasn’t sure it was going to work. But the result, Scotch Eggs with Honey Marmite Aioli, was delicious. For me it reminds me of my childhood. It’s the kind of thing that people love or hate, there is no middle ground.

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What advice would you give to someone else who wants to blog?

Just do it. Don’t worry about your domain, or what it looks like. Just start writing. Even if you write in a google doc and start sending out to your friends for the first couple of months, just start doing it. And if your content and recipes are awesome, then it won’t matter what it’s called.

What’s on the horizon for This American bite and Yosef?

I ask myself this all the time. I would love to write a book.

I love the connections I am making through writing about food, like Melinda of KitchenTested and Whitney of Jewhungry. I love the online marketing field, and I love food. I love anything that combines both. Not sure where it will take met yet.

Posted on April 29, 2014

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Key Challah

Have you heard of the tradition of baking a shlissel challah, or key challah, the Shabbat after Passover? I hadn’t either until last year when I started noticing pictures of key-shaped challot and challot with keys baked somewhere in the loaf last year on Facebook and instagram.

Liz key challahI googled and finally found out the reason. A shlissel challah is a good omen, or a segula, for livelihood, parnassa.

Melinda from Kitchen Tested has a great explanation of this tradition:

The key challah is supposed to bring “segulah for parnassah” or a blessing to their home. Why right after Passover? On the high-holidays, we ask G-d to open the gates of heaven for our prayers and on Passover, we ask G-d to recall how He opened the gates for the entire nation of Israel in the days after the Jews left Egypt and were welcomed in to the “promised land.” When the challah is made to represent a key, we are asking for the key to unlock the gates for us as well.

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So what do you think – will you try your hand at making a key challah as a good omen? Koshereye has video instructions to help if you’re up for the challenge.

A special thank you to Liz Morley, aka mama Morley, for sharing her picture of shlissel challah with The Nosher.

Shabbat Shalom!

Posted on April 25, 2014

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Double Chocolate Chip Challah

Yield:
One large loaf or two smaller loaves

I always say that I loathe Passover, but there is a part of me that also enjoys it. Or at the very least, appreciates its value. It’s a week where we are challenged to be even more thoughtful about the food we eat and where it comes from. And it’s almost like our own version of a Spring cleanse. Bye-bye carbs, hello vegetables and creative use of potatoes. I do feel lighter after a week without bread and pasta, despite my bitching and moaning all the way through. And believe me, my husband can vouch for my constant kvetching.

choc-challah-stamp2But the time has come to indulge in some carbs once again, and I can’t wait to get back to my Friday routine of baking challah with my daughter.

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And do you know what’s better than challah? Chocolate chip challah. And perhaps even better than chocolate chip challah? Double chocolate chip challah laced with cinnamon, vanilla and dark cocoa powder.

I swear by Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder and highly recommend you keep it stocked for cookies, cakes and sometimes even challah.

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Double Chocolate Chip Challah

Ingredients

1 1/2 Tbsp active dry yeast

1 1/4 cup lukewarm water

1 tsp sugar

5 cups all-purpose unbleached flour

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 Tbsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp vanilla

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 large eggs

1/3 cup Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa Powder

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided

1 egg yolk

thick sea salt (optional)

Directions

In a small bowl, place yeast, 1 tsp sugar and lukewarm water. Allow to sit around 10 minutes, until it becomes foamy on top.

In a large bowl or stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, mix together 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and vegetable oil. After the water-yeast mixture has become foamy, add to flour mixture. Mix thoroughly.

Add another cup of flour and eggs until smooth. Switch to the dough hook attachment if you are using a stand mixer.

Remove approximately half the dough and place in a large bowl. Add cocoa powder and 1/2 cup flour and mix. Add half the chocolate chips another 1/2 cup-1 cup of flour and knead on a lightly floured surface until dough is smooth and elastic. Add more floured if needed. Set aside.

Add the remaining chocolate chips and 1/2 -1 cup flour to the plain dough and mix into dough. Add another 1/2 cup flour and continue knead on a lightly floured surface for around 10 minutes or until the plain dough is also elastic and smooth. Add more flour if needed.

Place both doughs in separate greased bowls and cover with damp towel. Allow to rise 3-4 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combining dough from both the plain and chocolate challah, braid into one large loaf or two smaller loaves. If attempting a six braid, I like this video tutorial.

Allow challahs to rise another 30-60 minutes, or until you can see the the size has grown and challah seems fluffy and light to the touch.

Beat 1 egg yolk and brush liberally over challah. Sprinkle thick sea salt on top if desired.

Bake for 27-30 minutes, or until middle looks like it has just set, and the color is golden.

Posted on April 23, 2014

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Nosher Seder Menus 2014

We know menu planning can be tough, especially at Passover, so each year we like to help make the Passover prep a bit easier by providing some of our favorite dishes.

Check out our three sample seder menus below. Make the whole menu, or pick and choose based on your taste and dietary needs! We know it will be delicious no matter what.

Chag kasher v’sameach and a very happy Passover to all our readers.

matzo balls2

Traditional Seder

Haroset

Marinated cucumber salad

Matzo balls and chicken soup

Passover rolls

Brisket

White wine-braised chicken thighs with tomatoes and potatoes

Mini potato kugels

Flourless chocolate cake

White-Wine-Braised-Chicken-Thighs-with-Leeks,-Potatoes-and-Tom-4

Vegetarian-ish Seder

Moroccan haroset

Homemade gravlax

Vegetarian chopped liver

Cream of carrot soup with roasted jalapenos

Eggplant casserole

Salat tapuz

Crispy asparagus with minced egg

Sweet potato pie with macaroon crust

 

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Unusual flavors seder

Candied walnut and pomegranate haroset

Cuban matzo ball soup

Tuscan chopped liver

Fennel celery salad

Short ribs with orange and honey

Coconut crusted chicken with plum sauce

Mashed sweet potatoes with shallots

Almond butter & jam mousse trifles

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Posted on April 10, 2014

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Almond Butter & Jam Mousse Trifles

Prep:
24 hours

Yield:
6 mini trifles

During Passover each year, I really like to keep things simple. My husband and I make mostly the same dishes for our seder, stock the fridge with all our favorite produce and dairy products and try to keep things basic, fresh and delicious. But of course, I also rack my brain trying to come up with fun new ideas that are scrumptious but not too difficult to execute.

Last year I made Rachel Khoo’s cheese and potato nests with brie (no bacon) and this year I am going to make some zucchini noodles with a hearty Bolognese sauce (made with my new spiralizer – have you ordered one yet!?)

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And I also dreamed up a light but delectable new dessert recipe. Of course it isn’t really peanut butter & jelly, since I know most American Ashkenazi Jews don’t eat kitnyot. But it has the same richness as peanut butter and tastes like a bread-less PB&J sandwich. Adults and kids will love it, and it’s a nice break from all the flourless chocolate cake and macaroons.

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If you don’t have mini cups, you can use individual plastic cups to make the trifles or also use a large trifle dish for family-style serving. After all, Passover is definitely a holiday all about family. So grab a spoon and dig in!

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Almond Butter & Jam Mousse Trifles

Ingredients

For the pie crust:

1 cup sliced almonds

4 Tbsp melted butter or margarine

2 Tbsp brown sugar

2 Tbsp almond meal

¼ tsp sea salt

For the almond butter mousse:

2 14 ounce cans full-fat coconut milk, or 1 can coconut cream

¾ cup almond butter

¼ cup sugar

4 egg whites

2 cups raspberry or strawberry jam

Whipped cream (optional)

Fresh berries (optional)

Directions

Make sure to chill the coconut milk overnight.

To make the crust:

In a sauté pan over medium heat, toast almonds until fragrant, around 3-4 minutes. Be careful not to toast too long or almonds will burn and taste slightly bitter.

In a food processor fitted with blade attachment, pulse toasted almonds, butter or margarine, brown sugar, almond meal and salt. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse sand. Set aside.

To make the mousse:

Using an electric mixer, whisk egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the ¼ cup sugar, whisking until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

Remove lid of coconut milk without shaking or tipping the can. Scoop out the solid cream and place into a chilled bowl. Leave the liquid in the bottom of the can and reserve it for soups, smoothies or other recipes. If cream has not come to top, put coconut milk through fine mesh sieve and discard liquid.

Using a hand mixer, beat until creamed together, around 1 minute.

Add almond butter one tablespoon at a time and mix until smooth.

Gently fold egg whites into almond butter mixture a few tablespoons at a time until incorporated. There shouldn’t be any streaks.

Layer individual cups or trifle dish with pie crust crumbles, then mousse, then jam and repeat.

Garnish with whipped cream and berries if desired.

Posted on April 10, 2014

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yield:
2 dozen cookies

I love it when people taste my pareve desserts and say, “Wow—this is pareve!?”

It’s the same rule with Passover dishes and desserts. Which is why I am on a never-ending search for the perfect Passover desserts that are good enough to eat all year and just happen to also be Passover-friendly.almond-butter-chocolate-chip-stampIn one of my searches I came across this recipe for Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies which I realized could easily be made Passover-friendly just by swapping out the peanut butter for almond butter. I adjusted a few ingredients and the result is a super tasty, chewy cookie that is good enough to enjoy all year. Your guests are sure to ask incredulously, “Are you sure these are kosher for Passover?” Truly the ultimate compliment.

Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients

1 cup almond butter

1 egg

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup chocolate chips

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

thick sea salt (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together almond butter, egg, brown sugar and vanilla.

Fold in chocolate chips and walnuts.

Spoon out tablespoon-sized mounds onto ungreased cookie sheet. Sprinkle with pinch of thick sea salt on top if desired.

Bake for 11 minutes, and then allow to cool for 5 minutes while cookies remain on the baking sheet. Transfer to baking rack to cool completely.

Posted on April 2, 2014

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Latke-Crusted Chicken Breasts

Yield:
4 servings

A few years ago my dear friend and fellow food-enthusiast Rachel traveled to the Czech Republic to explore her father’s family roots. While there she experienced some amazing native and Jewish-inspired food including a chicken schnitzel wrapped in potato pancakes.

STOP THE PRESSES.CHICKEN WRAPPED IN POTATO PANCAKES. YUM.

When I heard about latke-crusted chicken, I was enamored. In love. I had to recreate this masterpiece.

latke-chicken-3So as I was thinking about Passover and something new to make this year, it dawned on me that this chicken dish could easily be Passover-friendly. And while I don’t normally use matzo meal or potato starch in my Passover cooking, this recipe does require small amounts of both. But it’s so delicious, it’s worth it.

latke-chicken-1Flipping the chicken with the potato latke crust is probably the trickiest part, so just do it carefully using a good spatula and you will be fine.

Latke-Crusted Chicken Breasts

Ingredients

4 medium Yukon gold potatoes

1 small yellow onion

¼ cup matzo meal (or flour)

1 egg

2 tsp sea salt

½ tsp pepper

½ tsp garlic powder

Pinch paprika

¼ cup potato starch (or flour)

2 eggs, beaten

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Oil for frying

Directions

Using a food processor fitted with the shredding disk or a hand-grater, shred potatoes and onion. Place in a large bowl. Add egg, matzo meal, salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika. Stir until combined. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Squeeze excess liquid out of potato latke mixture.

In a large pan, heat oil on medium-high heat.

Coat each chicken breast in potato starch, then beaten egg. Place thin layer of potato latke mixture on one side of chicken and place potato-side down in frying pan. Add additional layer of potato mixture on top of chicken while the first side is cooking.

Cook for around 4 minutes, or until potato side is golden brown and starting to crisp. Carefully flip to other side and cook another 3-4 minutes.

When both sides are golden brown, place pan into oven or place chicken onto a baking sheet and cook in oven 15 minutes or until cooked-through. This may vary depending on thickness of chicken.

Serve hot.

Posted on March 26, 2014

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Passover Cookbook Roundup

There are no shortage of Jewish cookbooks out there these days, and Passover is no exception. With the holiday fast approaching, I am furiously recipe testing, menu planning and pouring over the stack of Passover cookbooks that has collected on my desk.

Here are a few of my favorites and a few new releases special for Passover 2014.

4 bloggers dish

4 Bloggers Dish, Amy Kritzer, Liz Rueven, Whitney Fisch, Sara Lasry

This e-book cookook exclusive is the collaborative effort of four prominent Jewish food bloggers including Liz Rueven of Kosher Like Me; Amy Kritzer of What Jew Wanna Eat, Whitney Fisch of Jewhungry and Sara Lasry of The Patchke Princess. The photos are beautiful and the recipes are innovative. And at less than $5, you’re not likely to have buyer’s remorse.

Passover made easy

Passover Made Easy, Leah Schapira and Victoria Dwek

The first thing I noticed about the Passover Made Easy cookbook was how beautiful it was. The second thing I noticed was that there is potato starch in nearly everything, which is not my my personal preference in how I approach Passover cooking.

I like some of the special touches in the cookbook such as a brief wine guide at the beginning, some pretty plating ideas for Seder dinners and a replacement index to provide alternatives to different ingredients. I wasn’t too keen on the idea of meatballs in blueberry sauce, which sounds like something my 2 year old might suggest for dinner, so I probably won’t be giving that one a try.

But the brisket egg rolls, citrus beet salad and potato flanken kugel sound like my cup of tea, so can’t wait to try them out.

No Potato Passover, Aviva Kanoff

Tired of potatoes during Passover? Aviva Kanoff was too which is why she wrote the No Potato Passover cookbook. The recipes are no frills, but simple enough for most cooks. The photos of Aviva’s recipes and travels are stunning. You can read more here about Aviva’s journey as a cookbook author and check out her recipe for Spaghetti Squash Kugel.

Taste of Pesach_dust jacket-2.inddA Taste of Pesach, multiple contributors

If your family loves meat and kugel, then this is the cookbook for you. There are so many kinds of roasts, steak and kugel in this cookbook, it will keep you busy all week long. The dessert selection features several mousse recipes, a personal favorite during Passover as well as an intriguing Tri-Color Sorbet Ring that is striking if only in appearance. And while many of the recipes seem like they could also have featured prominently in a Sisterhood Synagogue cookbook, there are also some surprising recipes like the White Velvet Soup with Honeyed Chestnut Garnish and Rhubarb Compote.

Posted on March 25, 2014

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

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