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.
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.
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 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
1 egg yolk
thick sea salt (optional)
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.
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Though Passover can be an intimidating time to cook, (two Seders, no chametz, trying unsuccessfully to eat real food instead of just chocolate covered matzah) I love it. I thrive at updating traditions and the challenge of creating recipes so tasty, you’d actually want to eat them post-Passover.Not surprisingly, I try to go where no cook has gone before (though maybe that’s for good reason). Manischewitz Ice Cream and Deep Fried Matzo Balls are some of the twists I’ve experimented with. When it comes to mains, I like to play around too. Sephardic seasoned salmon, tangy short ribs or brisket in a hearty mushroom sauce. I’m salivating just writing this. But the most requested type of main dish that I get? Chicken. Plain, boring chicken. Sigh. I like to give the people what they want, but after tasting this version I’ll admit I was wrong! Chicken can be a wonderful dish when cooked well. This one-pot Passover meal has chicken thighs braised so tender in a white wine sauce you don’t even need a knife. Served with tomatoes, leeks and potatoes so it’s filling and healthy at the same time. That way, you can have more room for macaroons and chocolate-covered matzah.
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 1 ½ pounds), washed, dried and trimmed
2 tsp salt, plus more to taste
1 tsp black pepper, plus more to taste
½ tsp smoked paprika
1/4 cup vegetable oil, divided
4 shallots, small diced
4 small carrots, cut into ¼ inch rounds
2 large leeks or 3 medium links, cut into ¼ inch rounds
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
1 cup chicken broth
5 sprigs fresh thyme, tied with cheesecloth keep together
2 cups red potatoes, cut into quarters
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, rough chopped
Season chicken liberally with salt, pepper and smoked paprika on both sides.
In a large Dutch oven or pot with a lid, head two tablespoons of oil over medium high heat. Add chicken in one layer and sauté until browned and not sticking to the pan. Flip and brown the other side, about 6-8 minutes total. Transfer to a plate.
Add 2 tablespoons oil to the pot, heat, and add shallots,carrots and leeks. Cook until browned, stirring regularly, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for 1 more minute.
Add wine, broth and thyme to the pot. Bring to a simmer while stirring and releasing the browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Then add in chicken, potatoes and tomatoes. Bring back to a simmer, lower heat to medium low, and cover.
Braise until chicken is cooked and tender and potatoes are fork tender, about 40 minutes.
Remove chicken, potatoes and vegetables with a slotted spoon onto a platter. Cover with foil to keep hot. Remove thyme.
Bring sauce to a simmer and reduce for 7-10 minutes until the sauce coats the back of the spoon. Season with salt and pepper to taste if needed.
Pour sauce over chicken or serve on the side and garnish with parsley.
Chopped liver is one of the most iconic Jewish dishes. It’s been consumed spread on top of challah and matzah for generations. But the Ashkenazi version doesn’t really do much to impress me, with only onions to add flavor, I find the taste bland.
I wanted to create something that would enhance the naturally rich flavor of liver. So I looked for inspiration from more Middle Eastern flavors. Ironically, nothing is more Israeli than Turkish coffee. And perhaps also surprising is that the bitterness of the coffee really compliments the liver and apple flavors.
The result is a classic Jewish dish with an elegant twist and a really delicious taste.
1 heaping Tbsp Turkish coffee or instant espresso
2 Tbsp honey
1 lb chicken livers
½ cup warm water
½ tsp ground cloves
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp brown sugar
3 green apples, peeled and diced
Place the Turkish coffee (or instant espresso) and honey in the bottom of a heat proof bowl. Stir in the hot water until the honey dissolves.
Add the livers and let marinate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Heat a small pot over a medium heat along with the cloves, vinegars and brown sugar.
Once the contents of the pot begins to simmer add the apples.
Lower the heat to medium low and cover the pot. Allow the apples to cook for half an hour.
The apples should be soft and darkened slightly when they are ready. After the apples are done cooking, use a slotted spoon and remove them from the pot leaving whatever liquid remains in the pot.
Raise the heat under the pot to medium high and drain all the liquid from the bowl except approximately 2 Tbsp worth of the marinade.
Add the liver and marinade to the pot and cook the livers until there are no more visible pink parts.
Combine the liver and cooked apples in a medium bowl and mash until desired consistency. For a smoother consistency you can use a food processor fitted with blade attachment.
When I first tasted the delicious, and later ubiquitous, butternut squash kugel, I thought I was eating something healthy. However, there is a reason it tasted like cake: It was cake.
My Shabbat host readily admitted that that kugel was full of flour, sugar and oil. That was many years ago. Since then, some version of a squash kugel (whether made from sweet potatoes, butternut squash or pumpkin), has graced most Shabbat tables at which I have had the pleasure of eating, including my own. I never could bring myself to make the classic cake-like recipe. Instead, for years I used a Hungry Girl recipe that called for egg beaters and artificial sweetener. As I no longer eat animal products or artificial sweeteners, I had to come up with my own healthy alternative.
I don’t think you’ll find an easier recipe that can be made so quickly and for a crowd. Plus, you can practice your inner Martha Stewart and decorate individual ceramic crocks, as I’ve done here, or one large serving dish.
Cooking tip: if you want to play with the servings, figure that you will use 1 small sweet potato per person or 1 large sweet potato for every two people. In addition, you will want 1 Tablespoon of maple syrup per large sweet potato.
4 large sweet potatoes, cooked until completely soft
¼ cup maple syrup
½ cup-1 cup dried cherries or cranberries
½ cup-1 cup pecans
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
Peel the well-cooked sweet potatoes. If they were cooked earlier, re-heat them for 2 minutes in the microwave in a glass or ceramic dish.
Using a food processor, whip the sweet potatoes and the maple syrup until light and fluffy. You can also use an immersion blender for this step.
Place the mixture into individual ceramic crocks or 1 large serving dish and smooth out the
top. Decorate with dried cherries and pecans.
Place in the oven for 25-30 minutes. Serve warm.
I don’t know about you, but whenever I peak into my freezer, I am overwhelmed by the immeasurable number of bags of leftover challah that I have put away. I hate wasting the leftover challah slices and scraps after Shabbat, and yet I so infrequently find uses for them.
So I decided it was high time to put all that challah to delicious good use, beyond just bread pudding (delicious) and french toast on Sunday (the perfect breakfast).
Here are a variety of ideas for how to use up those leftover morsels that may actually get you excited about all those bags of bread in the freezer.
I didn’t grow up eating kugel regularly. My only exposure to kugel was on the one or two times a year we would all gather around my grandmother’s dining room table for Jewish holidays. My grandmother would serve two kinds of kugel which she would describe as “one sweet, one savory.” I would more aptly describe them as “dry and drier.”
When I was in college and dating “a nice Jewish boy” his mother made an incredible dairy noodle kugel with crushed pineapple, butter and sour cream. Now THAT was kugel. I was in love. And when I met my husband and his family, I fell in love with his Baba Billie’s salt and pepper noodle kugel.
Like everything Baba Billie made, this kugel is not for the faint-hearted, or faint-stomached. This is not a light recipe, but it is good. You may look at the amount of oil and think, come on – really? Yes, really. I don’t make this every day, nor do I suggest making it every day. We make it a few times each year always to rave reviews. Everything in moderation, or so my father always says, and this kugel is no exception.
My husband likes to use regular wide noodles, but I opt for the super-duper extra wide. You can use either variety you like.
Like a little kick? Make sure to use hot paprika on top. If you prefer to play to it safe just use a sweet, smoky paprika instead.
1 12 ounce package of wide or extra wide egg noodles
2 Tbsp jarred garlic
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
3-4 Tbsp olive oil
Special equipment: Pyrex baking dish
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. When oven is heated, add 3-4 heaping Tbsp of olive oil to baking dish and place pan in oven for the oil to heat. This step will make for a crispier kugel.
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook noodles as directed on package, around 7-8 minutes. Drain and set aside.
While noodles are cooking, whisk together eggs, garlic, garlic powder, salt and pepper.
Add cooked noodles to egg mixture and mix gently until completely coated. Remove baking dish with hot oil from the oven and add noodles to the dish. It will sizzle slightly - this is a good thing.
Sprinkle top with paprika. Bake for 40 minutes uncovered or until noodles are desired crispiness. Serve warm or room temperature.
When I was in high school, I had the most wonderful English teacher (that’s you, Mr. Scanlon!) who quoted Emerson, roughly, saying that we all contradict ourselves.
I often feel like I am the epitome of contradiction where eating and cooking is concerned. I strive to keep a mostly vegetarian diet, but sometimes I can’t help it. I relish making something fatty and delicious using red meat. And my Pastrami Sandwich Challah fits this bill precisely.
Stuffing my challah with meat all began with my famous challah dogs (stay tuned for that recipe!). But recently I had a hankering to stuff my challah with something else. Ground beef? Seemed messy. Chicken? So dry. But then I thought of the North American classic deli roll—a dish I did not grow up with, and which I find both disgusting and delicious. And the idea for this crazy new challah began to take shape.
If you have a local butcher as an option, please please please go get freshly sliced pastrami. Thin is best—a thick-cut pastrami will not result in the same consistency.
Make sure not to spread the Russian dressing on too thick, or you could end up with a leaky challah. I know that sounds delicious, but it might not make for such a pretty-looking challah.
Let us know if you try this. I’d love to hear modifications!
5 cups of all purpose flour
1/4 cup vegetable oil
½ Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp onion powder
½ cup sugar
1 ½ cups lukewarm water
1 Tbsp yeast
1 tsp sugar
2 eggs plus one egg yolk
1/8-1/4 lb thinly sliced pastrami
3 Tbsp ketchup
1 Tbsp mayo
Dried minced onion
Thick sea salt (optional)
Proof yeast by placing yeast, sugar and lukewarm water in a small bowl. Stir gently just once or twice. 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, onion powder and sugar. After the water-yeast mixture has become foamy, add to flour mixture along with oil. Mix thoroughly.
Add another cup of flour and 2 eggs until smooth (save extra egg yolk for later). Switch to the dough hook attachment if you are using a stand mixer.
Add another 1 1/2 cups flour and then remove from bowl and place on a floured surface. Knead remaining flour into dough, continuing to knead for around 10 minutes (or however long your hands will last).
Place dough in a greased bowl and cover with damp towel. Allow to rise 3-4 hours.
After dough has risen, roll out dough using a rolling pin until it is about ½ inch thick. Mix ketchup and mayo in a small bowl and spread a thin layer all over the dough.
Lay pastrami down in a single layer overlapping pieces only slightly.
Working quickly, start rolling up the dough towards you. Try and keep the roll relatively tight as you go. Pinch the end when you finish.
Create a pinwheel shaped-challah by snaking the dough around and around in a circle around itself. When finished, tuck the end under the challah neatly and pinch lightly. This doesn't have to be perfect - remember, as long as it tastes good, almost no one will care what it looks like.
Allow challah to rise another hour. This extra rise will ensure fluffy challah.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush challah with beaten egg yolk and sprinkle with poppy seeds, dried onion and a touch of thick sea salt (optional). Bake challah for 27-30 minutes or until golden brown on top.
Love challah? Love Chinese food? You can’t believe the luck you’re in: Challah with a Chinese Twist!
Hold onto your challah covers, Noshers!
Molly Yeh, a rocking young Chinese-American Jew and world-class baker just came up with an incredible recipe that celebrates her mixed heritage. And we’re so glad she did!
Find her gloriously easy and delicious recipe here. “Inspired by the scallion pancake,” she writes.
We’re in food-love!
After a few months of gluten-free, lean-protein, low-carb, whole-grain, raw-food living, the taste buds may begin to cry out indignantly: “Why does everything taste the same? Why do we have to be so healthy? Why can’t we have pizza? If we have to eat another leafy green salad dressed in olive oil and vinegar we’re going revolt!
Brown rice and beans is just so darn easy to prepare, and so is oatmeal And shaking up a weekly jar of olive oil vinaigrette is no big deal The wholesome dishes have been a habit for me, but has removed the guesswork, creatiity and flavor after so long. It is health-conscious eating, but mindful masticating?
Something had to give. At a recent Sunday Brunch party inspired by memories of thinly sliced smoked salmon and lox, baskets of bagel and tubs of cream cheeses, I was inspired to create this Bagels ‘N Lox Salad.
It began as many meals had with a layer of the leafy green-of-choice. But then it really started to get good with a few boiled new potatoes tossed in for a tender bite and some toothsome heft. Salty-oily slivers of smoked salmon or lox draped loosely on the leafy bed. Thin ribbons of sweet-tangy pickled red onions layered on more color and exciting flavor. A scattering of capers for even more salty taste. And then a few well-toasted pumpernickel squares added in for a pleasing crunch. It all ended tastily with a piquant drizzle of horseradish-dill crème fraiche dressing (the dedicated health-nuts can easily substitute Greek yogurt).
It might not be as high on the health-o-meter as steel-cut oatmeal or brown rice and beans, but it’s still in keeping with the balanced eating regime. Sometimes we just need some Jewish love in the form of a flavor.
For the pickled red onions:
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
½ cup red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp sugar
For the Crème Fraiche Dressing:
3 Tbsp crème fraiche or Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
1 Tbsp prepared white horseradish
Salt & pepper, to taste
Pinch of sugar, optional
1 pound small new potatoes
2 slices pumpernickel or rye bread
12 ounces torn romaine or mixed greens
6 ounces sliced lox or smoked salmon, cut into bite-sized squares
2-3 Tbsp capers, drained
To make the pickled red onions: Pour red wine vinegar in a small bowl, mix in sugar until it dissolves add the sliced onion, ensuring it is mostly submerged in vinegar. Let sit for at least 30 minutes.
Boil or steam potatoes until just tender; drain let cool for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile make the dressing: In a small bowl mix together crème fraiche (or yogurt), fresh dill, horseradish. Adjust seasonings to taste.
To make the croutons, pre-heat oven to 375F. Cut slices of bread into bite-sized squares and spread evenly on a baking sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Remove and allow to cool
On a large platter evenly spread out lettuce. Space out the boiled potatoes strategically on the lettuce. Drape squares of smoked salmon over potatoes.
Distribute the pickled red onions in equal amounts over the platter. Sprinkle drained capers artfully over salad.
Drizzle salad with horseradish-dill crème fraiche dressing- ensuring that every section gets an adequate amount.
Scatter the cooled croutons evenly over salad platter.
Other suggested add-ins: sliced avocado, radishes, beets, hard-boiled eggs. Store-bought bagel chips are a fine substitution for the pumpernickel croutons.
For anyone who has been following me on Instagram you know I’ve been a tad obsessed with cooking whatever is fresh at my local Jersey City farmer’s markets.
It’s like my own Top Chef-Chopped challenge every week – what is at the farmer’s market today, what do I have in my fridge, and what can I whip up for dinner? Which mostly means, we have been eating a lot of salads, pasta, and more salads over the past few weeks, much to my meat-preferring husband’s chagrin. I am happy to report that he seems to be surviving.
I have made countless salad combinations with my fresh finds the past few weeks, but my Orecchiette with Kale Basil Walnut Pesto has been the real recipe winner to result from my farmers market shopping. Orecchiette is a great pasta when you want to really taste the sauce because the little “ears” really get coated, making a super flavorful pasta.
I like to leave pesto without cheese in it so that if I decide to marinate some chicken breasts or steak, I still have that option. And this batch of pesto makes enough for another pasta dinner, for some grilled veggies or for a quick chicken dinner.
1/2 pound orecchette pasta (or pasta of your choice)
2 cups fresh kale
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup olive oil
reserved pasta cooking water
parmesan cheese (optional)
In a saute pan on low-medium heat, slowly toast walnuts until just fragrant, around 4-5 minutes. Make sure they do not burn.
In a food processor fitted with a blade, add kale, basil, walnuts, garlic and a few Tbsp of the olive oil. Begin to pulse. Slowly add the remaining olive oil until smooth. You might want to add a touch more olive oil depending on your preference.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to directions. Reserve one cup of pasta cooking water.
Drain pasta and set aside. Return pot to low-medium heat on the stove, and add half the pesto to the pot. Add a few Tbsp of cooking water and stir.
Put drained pasta back into pot and mix until pasta is completely covered. Add more pasta water to loosen sauce if needed.
Serve with parmesan cheese and fresh basil for garnish.